[The President] should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole.
Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile.
To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.
Editorial in the Kansas City Star, May 7, 1918
Monday, January 29, 2007
Sunday, January 28, 2007
I really hate public transportation. And I don't think it's the fault of public transportation. I blame the Port Authority. Out of the disaster that was public transportation in Pittsburgh in the 50s, they built a system that was doomed to failure. Their "everything goes downtown" routing system was not prepared for suburban growth. They killed the trolleys. They replaced them with a subway has only two downtown stops and ignored the Downtown-Oakland-Squirrel Hill corridor that would most benefit from a light rail transit system. Fares have continued to climb while service keeps getting slashed. The drivers are some of the highest paid in the nation. Now, they are building an extension of the LRT to the North Side UNDER the river based on the dream of revitalization that the stadiums have never produced and the casinos seem unlikely to supplement while at the same time, raising fares and cutting service again.
They are disemboweling themselves and I think we should let them die. Perhaps out of those ashes, a new system will arise that will actually work.
Today's Post-Gazette had just such an idea. Robert Firth and the staff of Informing Design, Inc. produced a full page presentation on the Brazilian model of a public transportation system that would work. Instead of the "everything goes downtown" model which never worked, they propose a system with local hubs connected by express routes.
It makes perfect sense and, at the same time, will never work because the Port Authority will not die. They will continue to plod along like a bureaucratic zombie, squeezing just enough out of governmental authorities to keep doing things the way they always have. And those authorities will continue to bleed themselves upon the Port Authorities altar because they are unwilling to break the legal monopoly they granted half a century ago.
Friday, January 26, 2007
There is a Help Desk procedure wherein new branch users who are not set up in the system have a ticket open for them. Originally, we would send these users to their Regional Managers. Then we were to tell the users to call a certain support person. When she got overwhelmed by these calls she changed her phone number in The Bank address book (really) and pleaded with us not to have users call her anymore. We were to open tickets.
So, today I got one of those calls and directed the user to her Regional Manager. The Regional Manager called the support person (who didn't want people calling her). She sent the following to the Help Desk Management:
Here we go again. What does it take? This example was definately in need of a ticket. The active directory had an error in it. Had the agent/agents (they called twice) opened a ticket . . .
And so on. Having that, D****, Team Lead and Arch Nemesis sent me the following with a CC to my Team Lead, the Site Manager and the Support Person:
Would you please explain why you're not generating a problem ticket after I've sent out multiple communications instructing everyone to generate a problem ticket for anything regarding access for a branch user?
Please reply to all with your response.
His management style again shows through. He is essentially dragging me to the front of the room so that I can be embarrassed in front of everyone. Look how stupid Geis is. See? He can't do his job right. Let me just put the dunce cap on him.
So, I sent the only response I could:
I made a mistake.
I half expected more from him but I'm sure the response deflated him somewhat. I wasn't going to fall into the trap he laid for me, as he has done before. I didn't apologize, debate, refute, rationalize or otherwise make any sort of deal about it. I goofed. Period.
Later, my Team Lead sent to me:
He saw what D**** was trying to do and approved of my response.
*Sigh* I guess I'll have to go to the Site Manager and say something along the links of "I know there's a lot of other people who make a lot more and bigger mistakes than I did on this one. Does D**** parade them out to embarrass them by name in front of The Bank's support people? Is this appropriate to have this dirty laundry hung out in front of the client like this? Is D**** empowered to publicly humiliate analysts like this?"
Thursday, January 25, 2007
After getting my cables, bottom bracket and chain replaced a week and a half ago, I found that my chain was slipping in the highest three gears. I gave it some time thinking the cables might stretch a little and settle in but it never did. Taking it back I found that the freewheel cassette was worn out.
I had bought a chain tool to measure chain wear and was changing my chain at the recommended time in an effort to extend cassette life and, at best I was able to get 2000 miles out of it.
What kind of crap are bike parts made out of these days? Twenty years ago I bought a Schwinn Sierra from a friend of mine. In 13 years of riding that machine I changed the chain every year. I think I changed the cassette once during that time. Maybe twice. That maintenance was sufficient to keep that machine running and I was putting as many miles on the bike then as I am now. With my five year old Giant Cypress, I paid five times as much as I did for the used Sierra and am changing the chain twice a year and freewheel every year, just to keep it working.
At the rate I'm spending on maintaining my bike, replacing "consumables" like the freewheel and chain, replacing cables and the bottom bracket and other things that wear out, I could buy a new bike every couple of years or so. Have bike part manufacturers given up on building quality parts for anyone other than the highest-end purchasers; those that pay thousands of dollars for their bikes? Do the more expensive bikes have lower maintenance costs? Should I just buy a $300 bike, ride it until it doesn't work anymore then just leave it in a ditch and get a new one?
The first step in making that determination is by doing the math to find out how much it actually costs me for maintenance.
Freewheel cassette, $25.00 / 2,000 miles = $0.0125 / mile
Chain, $22.00 / 1000 miles = $0.022 / mile
"Consumables", that is, those things that will wear out regularly and need replaced, total $0.0345 / mile. And at about 2,500 miles / year, that's $86.25 / year. (Or a new Giant Cypress every 3.5 years) And that's assuming I buy the tool to change the freewheel myself. I haven't been as careful keeping track of when other things went wrong and how much they cost to repair or how often tires wear out but estimates of that could bring the total up to $0.05 / mile or more.
I need to gather more information from other cyclists such as how much they are paying to maintain their expensive bikes. Only by comparing those numbers will I be able to determine if I should continue to maintain my bike, throw it away and replace it regularly with another modestly priced bike or but a higher end model.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
In March, H**** is going to a business related training session in Washington, DC and she has invited me along since the company is paying for the hotel room. (Or, at least, will reimburse her.) So, while she is working, I'll be riding my bicycle on bike trails around the capital. (Which is why she invited me along.)
I think that my primary objective will be the Mount Vernon Trail, a 20 mile paved trail from the Key Bridge across from Geotgetown to Washington's Mount Vernon home south of Alexandria. I've been reading up on the excellent BikeWashington.org website and noticed an interesting tidbit of information. When talking about the parking lots along the trail, he notes: "There is a 2-hour parking limit, to discourage commuter parking."
Interesting that they go to all this trouble to make a bike trail which would be perfect for people to park and then ride bicycles into an otherwise traffic-congested metropolitan area but then they create a parking time limit to keep people from using it. In fact, with the bike trail being 20 miles long, two hours isn't enough time to ride out and back. Two hours isn't enough to do any sort of sightseeing around a sight-rich environment like the nation's capitol. Do they think bicycles are ONLY for recreation and then for no more than 2 hours of exercise? It's as if they don't actually want people to use the trail.
Where I've been parking off of Second Avenue at the end of the Eliza
Furnace Trail there are several signs that states parking is "for Trail Recreational and Commuter Use." This was prompted by the neighboring lot owner (Codename P) threatening to have people towed because he didn't want people parking all day to commute and not be paying to use HIS lot. Thankfully, the city took a dim view of that behavior and, thanks to the advocacy efforts of Bike-Pgh, got the signs installed that make it clear that it is a free lot for trail users, whether they are recreating or commuting.
Granted, Pittsburgh is nowhere near as large an area as Washington, DC and so parking is less of a big deal but one would think that anything to reduce congestion, such as bike trail park-and-ride, would be encouraged. That is, unless what they REALLY want is to generate revenue by charging commuters for parking, the same attitude that lead Codename P to resort to vandalism at the Eliza Furnace lot. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to find those attitudes in our nation's capitol. And here in Pittsburgh when the City doubled it's parking tax the local lots in some cases tripled their rates, so the revenue generating attitudes are not limited just to DC.
This is actually academic because when I go down in March, the car will be parked in a lot somewhere (at company expense) and I'll be riding my bike from the hotel to the trailhead.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
A year ago when I was unceremoniously dropped from being the trainer, the person who apparently was given my job would not bring the new analysts by my cubicle to introduce them, something I had made a point of doing when I was trainer. Eventually, he no longer seemed to be doing training and one of the Team Leads had apparently taken on that responsibility. Several times I heard him going around the cubicles and introducing new employees but he rather conspicuously never dropped by my cubicle. I was persona non grata, an exile in my 48 square foot gulag.
Well now someone else seems to have been made trainer and he actually introduced me to four new analysts. I'll admit that I was a curmudgeon and introduced myself as "Geis, the disgruntled minion."
Am I now part of the team again? Probably not. More likely, the new trainer wasn't let in on the managerial secret of why I was no longer the trainer.
Yea. I'm a little bitter.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
I took what I thought was my dead power supply to CompUSA and determined that, yes indeed, it was the power supply that had expired.
Back home. Installed. Plugged in. Powered on and The ID10T Files is back on the air.
And while I had the machine all discombobulated, I installed a drive swap cartridge so I can take out my primary Win98 drive and exchange it for a drive onto which I will be installing the Ubuntu flavor of Linux.
When we were installing a new entertainment system we purchased from a friend the outlet died. It didn't trip a breaker and the rest of the circuit works so somewhere behind the wall there is a dead connection. In the upstairs bathroom the light fixture died. Different circuit but the same issue. After pulling the medicine cabinet off the wall I could not understand how the pinhead who wired it ran the wires and so couldn't find the fault. Again, a broken wire somewhere behind the wall. HR has again neglected to deduct the City's Occupation Tax from my paycheck. The radiator on my car overheated because I think one of the fans isn't working. I was going to take it to the shop on Monday because of the holiday but I didn't get that day off so now I have to spend PTO to go to the shop. I spent $100 fixing my bike and the new chain is slipping. I can't seem to adjust it to work right and haven't had time to take it back to the shop. Monday I was working a holiday that everyone else had off. Tuesday was a 10 hour day to handle the extra calls that always come after a three day weekend. Yesterday I took even more calls than I did on Tuesday. Getting home and working on my computer, it suddenly shut off and was accompanied by a burning smell. After an hour and a half of dismantling things I'm hoping that it's only the power supply that I have to replace to get it working. Then, the laundry room drain is clogged. Invariably that leads to nightmares as we know the plumbing under the floor has issues that will eventually cost thousands of dollars to repair. Thousands we don't really have.
I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed as all these things pile one upon another.
A coworker has said things like, "That just proves that God has a sense of humor."
If God is getting his jollies inflicting this petty suffering upon me, then he is a demented little fuck and I'm glad I believe in his nonexistence. I much prefer living in an uncaring universe where this series of unfortunate events come together only as a coincidence. The electrical problems in the house could well be related in that the house was crappily wired years ago and the forces of entropy have finally caught up but their concurrent failure is not the result of a divine creator setting up a second-rate situation comedy.
But knowing that this is not fate or destiny or divine intervention does not make me less mopey or tired of it.
Monday, January 15, 2007
Working this holiday was interminable. A few VPN calls throughout the day but otherwise slow and boring. At least I brought a book to read.
But here's some old news that I had heard rumors about at the time but only just learned the details of: the Corporate Overlords announced back in November that they are "offering more than 300 of its outsourced information technology workers raises of $1 to $3 per hour in exchange for a termination of all benefits except participation in the company's 401(k) retirement plan."
"Customers are looking for non-benefited solutions," the CFO was quoted as saying. "We're trying to be responsive."
No. Customers are looking for cheap solutions, they don't care whether benefits are involved or not, they just want it to cost less money. And the Corporate Overlords have been delivering on that by underbidding themselves. They have been providing product and services at a price below what it costs them to produce, ensuring that their balance sheets end up in the red. I imagine they believe that doing this for their current clients will allow them to land new clients but, when a new client came along, they underbid that as well. The Corporate Overlords are hemorrhaging money and expecting the employees to take up the slack. It's no wonder The Corporation's stock has lost over a third of its value.
Of course, I hadn't heard about this because I was not on the list of privileged employees to whom this offer would be made. I'm on the list of employees that haven't gotten a raise in four years and will probably never get any sort of offer that involves an increase in pay.
I have an interview on Friday and a fellow Geocacher says that his company is going to need to fill some slots because of retirements. Perhaps the tide is finally turning.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Yesterday morning I dropped my bike off at Iron City Bikes to have some work done. It was due to have the chain replaced and, while I could do that myself, since I needed a broken spoke replaced and wanted to have the cable runs redone, I figured I'd let them complete the whole package. I had set up an "appointment" earlier in the week and had thought that it would be done by the end of Saturday but, with other things in their shop, they said to come back Sunday. They said they would call me when it was done.
Well, I didn't get a call. When I showed up at 3pm I learned that they had broken the front brake while trying to change the cables. I had wrecked the bike once and damaged the brake in such a way that, to change the cable, they had to break a piece of it. OK, I can understand paying the $15 to replace the brake since I had damaged it in the first place, but why didn't they call me yesterday when they figured it out so that I could authorize the work? This isn't a toy that I only use occasionally and can wait another day to have fixed, it is my primary transportation to and from work. I gave my cell phone number but they didn't even try to contact me.
well, it was an hour before closing so they could put it on the rack and do it by 4:00. In addition, the bottom bracket was worn and probably needed to be replaced. When I last had it in the shop it was showing signs of wear but replacement was something of an option at that time. I put it off then but decided to have it done now.
All told, the bill was $126.79.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
The Internet censors at The Bank have added flickr to their list of banned and blocked websites. While there is certainly no business reason for accessing the photo sharing website, it is just one less thing I have available to occupy my mind during the mind-numbing moments between calls.
And yet again, the Corporate Overlords have screwed up and not deducted the City of Pittsburgh Emergency and Municipal Services Tax from my first paycheck of the year. I went through a long, involved circus last year when I realized that they had never in 6 years deducted this tax from my paycheck. I didn't seem to get any action on that until I ratted them out to the City Auditor. I wonder at what point ignorance and ineptitude becomes tax evasion?
Looks like I'll be calling to auditor again.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
We had a big meeting today. Each team had their chance to go to the conference room and hear the new Service Delivery Manager give us the rundown on the changes he's going to be bringing to the Help Desk.
He talked about a new focus on communications but considering it took his being here three weeks before I even learned his name and another month on top of that before he sent out an e-mail introducing himself and his business being here I am not overwhelmed with his commitment to communication. A newsletter, bulletin board and daily stat reports from the Site Manager (now demoted to a so-called "tactical" position) is not communications.
He talked about new incentive programs, apparently to replace the incentive program we had up until last year that was secretly done away with (again, that communications thing). This will include some sort of career development. I've heard that noise before and nothing came of it. And I haven't received a raise in four years. How's that for development?
He's ordered a suggestion box that should arrive tomorrow. Oh, boy. We used to have a suggestion box. In fact, my cubicle now occupies the space where the suggestion box sat ignored. If I've got a suggestion, you'll hear about it in an e-mail.
And what did we get for all this hot air? A donut and my lunch time delayed for 2 hours while everyone else cycled into their own meeting with the new boss.
I've heard these winds of change speeches before with the arrival of each new manager. None of those introductions ever amounted to anything either as the real power isn't on site, it's held by the Corporate Overlords who are more interested in lining their own pockets. At least in the past, they had the courtesy of introducing themselves in the first few days instead of waiting a month and a half to let us know what the hell he has in mind.
The Great Communicator.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Last week, D**** was asking for volunteers to work the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, leading me to believe that I would not be working because there was no way was going to be volunteering if I could have the day off. I have to take both my car and my bike to the appropriate shops.
Yesterday, I sent an e-mail to the Operations Manager asking for confirmation of how the schedule was going to be and how the time sheets were going to be taken care of because I well remember last year when I though the schedule was going to be a certain way only to learn at the last minute that it wasn't and I would have to work, necessitating canceling hotel reservations and missing out on time with my family.
Well, no surprise, it's happened again. I had no response all day yesterday from the Operations Manager but found a schedule in my mailbox this morning indicating that not only do I have to work on Monday but I am required to work a ten hour shift on the following day, supposedly to make up for the increased call volume that comes after three-day weekends.
The last time I worked a ten hour shift for that, I took one call with that extra morning hour. One. A complete waste of time.They didn't do this for the day after New Years, a day that we know for sure that there is going to be an increased call volume. Last Tuesday we took 150% of our typical call volume and no one worked extra hours. And they want us to work an extra two hours for MLK? Sure, were going to have a slightly higher call volume but nothing like what we had last week and nothing that warrants an extra two hours of overtime out of each of us. And then, those extra hours are typically going to come at the beginning and the end of the day when what we really need are extra bodies during the critical 8-10 slot in the morning. Of course that means solving their high turnover problem that has been hiring steadily since last year yet we still have the same number of empty seats.
The Operations Manager eventually responded to my rant and we had a little meeting. Not much satisfaction there. Lots of excuses about how busy things are and how they're doing their best, yadda, yadda, yadda. And, in spite of her words that I should be confident that the schedule won't have any surprises come President's Day, I am not convinced. I could hear it in the tone of her voice that she knew that she really lacked to authority to make any promises. I feel lied to.
Of course, I should be used to that by now.
Monday, January 08, 2007
A Washington Post article over the weekend indicates that the National Rifle Association "is being pressured by its membership to distance itself from President Bush's energy policies that have opened more public land for oil and gas drilling and limited access to hunters and anglers." It seems that NRA members, who have thus far supported the Republicans lock-step, are fed up with the Bush Administration giving away public land to private interests who then close it off to hunting and fishing.
It's about time.
When was it that the Conservatives became the champions of the Second Amendment and the Liberals because anti-gun? I mean, what could be a more liberal interpretation of the Second Amendment than to say that it guarantees the rights "of the People" to access the very tools that could be used to overthrow the government. To say that the phrase "a well ordered militia" means that the Second Amendment only guarantees the rights of the National Guard to have weapons is an extremely conservative and absurd interpretation. When did the world turn upside down and black become white?
Was it because Democratic demigod John F. Kennedy was assassinated and the Democrats had to take action by passing the Gun Control Act of 1968 even though the provisions of that law would not have had any effect on Oswald's ability to do what he did, even if the rules were in effect before the assassination. Somehow, even that doesn't seem enough to redefine the words Liberal and Conservative to mean their exact opposites.
As a life member of the National Rifle Association, I believe they need to get over their steadfast support of the Republican party. The Republican's support the Second Amendment while seemingly hell-bent on subverting all the other rights and freedoms afforded by the Constitution does not help the NRA's agenda. The NRA needs to teach Democrats that the Second Amendment is another one of the liberal rights "of the People" that they should be supporting.
And as a member of the Sierra Club, I think they need to get over their preconceived notion that the NRA walks lockstep with the Republicans on all issues. Gun owners are very often hunters and they very much want to protect America's wilderness from development. If they can accept the NRA as allies on this issue, they will find their 3 million members a tremendous benefit.
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
Furthermore, If you're one of the individuals that are resetting password violations, you still need to verify the user's identity. Quite frankly, it is unknown to me how this became SOP because it's not. Originally, this was only to be done if the user was an executive because they have so many other responsibilities. It was decided that we would not put them through the hassle of trying to create/remember a new password. When you remove password violations, you're just giving the individual five more chances to guess the password.
This passage was taken from an e-mail sent out by Team Lead D**** addressing the issue that an increasing number of Help Desk Analysts are not verifying user's security information before changing password or reducing the numbers of violations on accounts.
What shocks me the most is the statement in the middle about how doing such a thing for an Executive Staff member because "they have so many other responsibilities." Are we to ignore security procedures just because it inconveniences the Big Wigs? In point of fact, it is even MORE important to verify this information for Executive Staff because these people typically have access to greater value information and thus, should the procedure be violated, the potential harm is greater. I wonder if the Information Security Department thinks that Executive Staff are somehow exempt from verification.
Secondly, it became SOP because people are not being trained to do it. When you say it to analysts once and then throw them out on the floor to change passwords, they are going to forget or take shortcuts. When I was doing training, I would take two days to work through all the password procedures and security verification was regularly mentioned throughout that process. It was also mentioned when dealing with severity level procedures as they relate to Executive Staff and also conflict resolution training as Executive Staff, or rather the assistants to Executive Staff, are those most likely to ask you to violate security procedures for their convenience.
We should never, EVER subvert security procedures for the sake of convenience. Not because they have "so many responsibilities". Not because we don't want to "put them through the hassle". Not because they are in a meeting and their assistant needs to do their job for them. Not because they whine, cry, complain or threaten. Never.
When I was training, I took security seriously. I still do. If someone has decided to exempt Executive Staff, then they are not and they should not be involved in the training process.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
The Post-Gazette had a replay of the oddest stories of 2006:
Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Feb 13. Airport Baggage screener found a human head with teeth, hair and skin in the luggage of a woman who said she intended to ward off evil spirits with it., authorities said. Myrlene Severe, 30, a Haitian-born permanent U.S. resident, was charged with smuggling a human head into the U.S. without proper documentation.
Makes you wonder what the proper documentation would be.
I purchased an iSun solar cell charger. About the size of a paperback book, it will power just about any small electronic device (2 watts output) or, with it's battery pack, charge 10 AA batteries. I haven't had a chance to really play with it but I wanted it so that I could be sure not to run out of power for things like my GPS or cell phone when I'm out on the trail riding my bike or hiking for days at a time away from civilization.
Solar panels can be somewhat delicate so I wanted to get a bag to carry and protect it. During lunch I went to a luggage place on Liberty Avenue because I know they have plenty of bags of all sizes. There were some things that were close but either didn't have enough for the cables and other accessories or was too large. The salesman had a few other things but eventually came up with a bag that was nearly perfect.
That's insane! I'm not going protect my sensitive electronic equipment with a bag worth more than the device. I'd need to get a bag to protect the bag.
So, I went next door to the Broadway Army-Navy Store and immediately found something that was wholly adequate.
Monday, January 01, 2007
Yesterday I went out to take advantage if the unseasonably warm weather to ride one last bit of bike trail before the rain came in the afternoon. I started at Saltsburg and headed east on the West Penn Trail to scout out the new section connecting the trail through State Games Lands 328 to the Conemaugh Dam. 6 miles each way. Then I headed west as they completed building the bridge over Blacklegs Creek, opening up a whole new section of trail to Avonmore. About 5 miles each way. Then it was south along the Westmoreland Heritage Trail and back. 2.5 miles each way.
At the end of my riding, my bike's odometer read 2,494 miles for the year.
I don't feel any particular disappointment that I wasn't able to to come up with 6 more miles to roll it over to a nice round number like 2,500, but I had set a rough goal of topping 3,000 miles for the year. Not because the number itself means anything in and of itself but because it is representative of the amount of exercise and sightseeing I would like to accomplish.
I also downloaded the logs of my Geocaching and ran them through a statistical program. That revealed that I had only found 37 caches in 2006 when in previous years I had logged closer to 70. Again, this isn't a contest and I don't win by finding more caches than anyone else but the numbers show that I'm not getting out as much as I used to. I'm not riding the trails as much. I'm not hiking as much. I'm not exploring as much. And that is what it is about.
So, herein I make my New Year's Resolution (tm) to ride 3,000 miles on my bike and find at least 70 geocaches.
The 3,000 miles should be relatively easy. Since Codename P has been caught and promised to not vandalize my car anymore, I no longer have to park at the Swineborne lot it hopes of gathering more evidence against him. I can go back to parking at the top of Schenley Park. That should just about double my daily commute. That's easily an additional 1,000 miles right there.
Geocaching may be a little more of a challenge to bring those numbers back up. It will take dedicating a certain amount of time on weekends to the endeavor. Much of it can be combined with bike riding, especially on trails I haven't already ridden yet, but mostly it will require a dedication to getting out at least once a week.
And remember, the numbers aren't the goal. Getting out is the goal. The numbers are just a measure of that.