Friday, March 30, 2007

Makin' copies. Not.

The Ex in FedEx/Kinko's is supposed to stand for Express. It doesn't. At least, not at the Monroeville store. I went there tonight to make get some copies made. I waited, second in line for over 5 minutes. There was one person who looked like she was making copies. Another had her back to the customers working intently on what I assumed was some sort of desktop publishing project and a third guy doing. . . something. I don't know what but it wasn't making copies and it wasn't waiting on customers.

Geis: "Ten pages. Ten copies. Collated and stapled. One page. Seven copies on my own label paper."

Kinkoid: "They should be ready in 30 minutes."

Geis: "Half an hour?!?! . . . I'll be back."

Fourty minutes later I returned and my originals were still sitting there uncopied. Recognizing that I had returned at the appointed time and my copies hadn't been done, the Kinkoid made my copies. It took her 90 seconds to do them wrong. She had to do them again.

It then took me 15 minutes to trim my label sheets. When I left the store, there was one person making copies. The other employees were nowhere to be seen and the same half dozen customers that were waiting for copies when I got mine were apparently still waiting.

I worked at Kinko's for five years in the Oakland store. The Monroeville store is easily three times the size of the Oakland store but with a third of the staff. When I was the delivery driver, I got to see all the stores and even way back then (15-odd years ago, now) Monroeville was woefully understaffed. Or, at least, under-performing. You can't blame staffing levels. I distinctly recall working one Sunday when I was the only person in the Oakland store. I had customers waiting. I had three machines running. I was taking care of everyone. Nobody was griping.

One might think that in 15 years, Monroeville might have caught onto that "customer service thing" but it never has.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Misuse of Scripture

The fundamentalists like to point out that the Bible is absolutely clear that homosexuality is an "abomination" by quoting Leviticus, chapter 18, verse 22.

Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

What they never quote is just a few chapters earlier in Leviticus 11:10

And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you:

And, if that isn't enough, it goes on for two more verses.

They shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcases in abomination.

Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you.

Yea, though the Sodomites are abominations that will surely burn in Hell for their immoral behavior (but, since we don't mention wet, lesbian action, it's kosher), an even lower circle of torment is reserved for ye who dare partake of the three-times abominable Red Lobster shrimp feast. Lo, the very name of the place is an affront to all that is Holy (or Wholey) and these dens on inequity should be banished from this Christian Nation.

So, I ask you religious fundamentalists and bible literalists. . . how do you justify eating shrimp, lobster and surely violating a whole slew of other biblical laws while holding up other favored laws as The Immutable Truth™? If you can somehow explain away some laws, why can you not apply the same reasoning to the other laws? For if you can question the passages you don't want to follow because you like lobster, crab, scallops, catfish, eel, oysters or caviar, then everything else, every other passage, is also open to those same questions.

You are not fundamentalists or literalists. You are hypocrites! Hate mongers like Fred Phelps and Jack Chick, you don't follow The Law™ or The Word of God™, you merely pick and choose those passages that support your own narrow, self-serving and dare I say evil purposes and wrap it up in the lie that is your faith. Don't insult my intelligence by quoting scripture to me because by your own words you make it clear that you don't even believe it yourself.

All in good fun

The following conversation occurred on intra-helpdesk IM:

Team Lead R: "Can everyone who is in aux and should not be please either go available or explain to the Tactical Manager why your in aux."

Analyst W: "I am in aux because I don't know any betta"

Team Lead D: "this why we need to meet with you @ 14:45 in the Site Manager's office."

Analyst W: "Oh, I gotta go see the principal"

Analyst A: "you in BIG trouble. i'm telling!!!"

Team Lead D: "quit while you're ahead....please"

Tactical Manager: "May I see you back at my cubicle for a moment?"

At this point, there was a collective "Ooooooohhhhhhhh" from the floor, the kind of juvenile behavior of elementary school kids when someone got caught doing something wrong.

Team Lead D: "we need to do that more often.....W went to see the Tactical Manager and people got out of AUX.......hmmmm???"

This little exchange pointed out just the thing I had warned about last week when I said that the "banter" using IM would go to far. I sent an email to the Tactical Manager.

"You should recall from the end of last Summer when I was solicited for my opinions as to why morale was so poor here at the helpdesk. In that I pointed out Team Lead D's tendency to use public humiliation as a management technique was a significant factor. The message to have a disciplinary meeting with an analyst, even for so minor an issue, is really not appropriate to broadcast to the entire helpdesk.

You fell into the same trap by broadcasting this to the entire helpdesk and the public ridicule that was heaped on Analyst W for being "called to the principal's office" was juvenile and unprofessional but not wholly

And finally, there was Team Lead D's affirmation of the successful use of public embarrassment as a management technique.

Really, NONE of this should be going through IM to everyone. And that it went out not once but multiple times from a number of managers is really unprofessional. Doesn't anyone notice these things and think that maybe this sort of thing shouldn't be broadcast? I've been called into the office for being overheard talking about things management doesn't think I should be talking about. To have management then turn around and broadcast this sort of thing in a forum that is not only helpdesk-wide but can also be saved and documented really doesn't speak to a whole lot of fairness going on here."

The Tactical Manager responded:

"I did not see it the way that you articulated - as it was nothing more to me than an affirmation to Team Lead R of accountability to everyone for going into Aux unnecessarily.

I didn't fall into a trap - I wanted to participate as the majority found great humor in this. Not a whole lot of that going around lately - so I took advantage of what appeared to be a harmless reply to have Analyst W explain his IM to me.

It was a very effective method of expressing a very profound truth to the floor - by utilizing humor to cushion the blow - everyone needs to stay available - which in turn resulted in the 10 people in Aux going immediately available.

I'd say it worked - there is always room for improvement - and this provided a different approach that I took advantage of."

This really pushed all of my buttons.

"No doubt, Team Lead D thought he was being humorous when he sent the IM commenting on the way I smelled. And so, perhaps I am being overly sensitive.

But, no. I don't think so. It is because I have been the specific target of this sort of humiliation that I can recognize it for what it is. Using a public instant message to everyone to call one analyst into a managerial meeting is inappropriate no matter how much humor is attempted to be injected into it. It's not funny, it's harassment. And just because the majority thinks it's funny does not make it acceptable.

This humorous banter has shown me some disturbing trends. I have noticed that IM is being used more and more often for analysts to ridicule one another. Sure, much of it is supposedly good-natured ribbing but that environment has gone too far. Not everyone likes being harassed in this way. I have heard from behind my cubicle walls a disturbing increase in talk reflecting homophobia, sexual harassment, bigotry, outright racism and general ignorance.

This kind of behavior is dangerous. It is a lawsuit waiting to happen. And as a manager you should be very careful in endorsing this kind of behavior."

I included screen shots from last week's "eating paint chips" and "reporting them to INS" commentary as examples. I didn't get a response from him after that so perhaps my language (especially the words "sexual harassment" and "lawsuit waiting to happen") finally cut through his "all in good fun" attitude.

Monday, March 26, 2007

City Paper

While I was in DC, I picked up a City Paper. I didn't get the chance to read it until getting back home, though. It's the same format, same idea as Pittsburgh's City Paper, but with significant differences.

First off, it's a thicker paper. No surprise as Washington is a bigger
city, it's city paper would list a lot more things to do and thus need about twice as many pages to present it.

And while the content is pretty much the same sorts of things across the board, I was not expecting the vibrator advertisement on page 19. All of the adult ads in the Pittsburgh version have a lot of suggestion but this add had the product clearly presented for exactly what it was.

I'm pretty sure that wouldn't fly here in Pittsburgh.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Mount Vernon

One last thing before finishing our spring "vacation" was a visit to Mount Vernon. We did the tour of the grounds and mansion but one of the things that stuck out the most to me was in the museum. There were three rooms dedicated not to George Washington but to his friend and ally the Marquis de Lafayette. I was reminded of an article on NPR that spoke of the national fervor that occurred when after the Revolution, Lafayette returned to tour the young United States. This man was a genuine hero the likes of which are seldom seen. I was tempted to buy a Lafayette biography at the gift shop but actually have a number of books in my reading queue. I'll probably pick one up at the library.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Rock Creek Trail

Today's riding was along the Rock Creek Trail, 20 miles of pavement running north from Georgetown. It started with me getting a bit fed up with the misalignment of my brakes and attempting to adjust them. I learned that most of my problems were caused by a broken spoke (my second this year) and I had trouble adjusting the others to make up for the missing one because the nipples had gotten rusted.

The Rock Creek Trail is roughly three sections. The lowest end is along the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway. The trail crosses the creek several times, past the National Zoo and eventually gets up to Peirce Mill. The second section is along Beach Road until the DC border. There are some sections that are actual trail but most of it is on the road itself. On weekends and holidays the Park Service closes Beach Road to motorized vehicles which must be nice because I had to share the road with cars. It's too bad because the creek is very pretty along this section and I had to pay attention to the road rather than sightsee.

After 5 miles of this you reach the Maryland border and you're off the road again for the rest of the 14 miles to Needwood Lake. There are a number of marshy areas but no boardwalks like the Mt. Vernon Trail. There was an excellently constructed beaver dam just south of Needwood Lake.

When I got back, H**** and I walked up to Dupont Circle, specifically to look in an interesting bead shop she had seen on our long trek of the previous night. We ate at Zorba's Cafe, the Greek menu, music and atmosphere somewhat diminished by the Spanish-speaking staff.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Mt. Vernon Trail

After walking H**** to her meeting a couple of blocks from the hotel, I set off down M Street, through Georgetown, across the Key Bridge and to the Mount Vernon Trail. Starting from Roosevelt Island and running mostly between the Potomac River and the Mount Vernon Parkway it's about 18 miles of narrow pavement to Washington's mansion. There are plenty of twists and turns and because it's by the river there are a large number of boardwalks to keep the trail up out of the marshes.

Gravelly Point is right off the end of runway 19 of the Reagan National Airport and everyone stops here to watch that planes. When I was there, they were coming in to land. As soon as one touched down, another pulled in right behind if on the taxiway to take off. As that was happening, you could see the next one lining up to land as soon as the runway was cleared.

Every few minutes, there was a "boom" that came from the aircraft. Sort of like a backfire I'm guessing that it was the engines revving up and the exhaust going hypersonic. A true airplane geek would be able to tell me if my guess is right.

On the way back, I saw one who would probably qualify as a geek. He had his lawn chair. A pair of binoculars and at least two radios beside him. I assume they were tuned to air traffic or ground frequencies. I suppose there are different types of plane watchers just as there are different types of bird watchers.

I had lunch in the food court and browsed the gift shop at Mt. Vernon. I had read that the whole package of touring the mansion, grounds and museum can take up an entire day and plan to come back on Saturday for that.

The weather was terrific. 75 degrees and sunny. I even got sunburned on this the second full day of Spring. What I don't fully understand is how I could have a headwind both down and back.

When I got back into town, there was still some time before H**** was done so I rode around some to log a few geocaches. When H**** called on the cell to see she was done and was going to head back to the hotel I was just across the street and we walked back together.

We were met later by FuzzFace, whom H**** knows through mutual friends and his Bomb Shelter Radio webcast. So, after my riding 50 miles, we walked all over DC with his running commentary on local politics. Eventually H**** and I were very hungry and ended up at the Capitol City Brewery. I cannot wait for Pittsburgh to finally start enforcing their smoking ban. I'll be going to places like this more often once I know I'll have clean air.

Walking back there was more wandering about before we finally got back to the hotel. What is this, the Mythbuster's Channel?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

What's in your wallet?

Worked half a day and got the hell out of there so I could drive down to Washington DC. H**** has some sort of business related training meeting going on and I decided to share the hotel room and bike some of the local trails. The DC Comfort Inn was an interesting contrast to the Millenicon Ramada experience of last week. Where that hotel had a large room that, while supposedly non-smoking, was not, this hotel was genuinely non-smoking but quite small. The room in Cincinnati cost $70-something a night and the DC room nearly half its size, cost nearly $200. The price you pay for being in the Nation's capital, I suppose.

Valet parking was a usurious $25 a night. I'm glad H****'s employer is footing the bill. To spend a few days down here on my own funds would bankrupt me. If I had to, I would park the car out near Potomac, MD, ride my bike down to the C&O at Great Falls and camp at the Swain's Lock hiker/biker campsite. It would involve riding the bike 20 miles each way into town but at least I'd still have some money for important things like food.

And speaking of food, it can be tough to find a place to eat in the evening. Many of the restaurants are open for breakfast and lunch but not for dinner. The streets don't roll up as badly as they do in Pittsburgh, though. We found a hole-in-the-wall Indian place.

On the walk back, we saw an interesting historical building and I was sure that there was a plaque on the front explaining it's history. I would have learned more than it was where the first transmission of Alexander Graham Bell's photophone occurred were it not for the huge rats loitering about the building. We didn't feel like staying that close to the local fauna and so retreated to the safety of our expensive hotel room.

Basic cable TV in DC sort of sucks.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The public forum

I have noticed a disturbing trend recently in the use of Instant Messenger for intraoffice banter. Some of it can be quite full of ridicule that's supposed to be good natured but tends to go too far. There have been occasional missives from Management saying that IM is to be used for business purposes but the Team Leads seem to be leading this latest wave of mis-use so I don't expect it to change.

Analyst J: "WTF?????? did everyone who is calling in eat paint chips today or what?"

We've all had difficult users to deal with and while I like to think that most of the difficult users are merely ignorant about computers but sometimes we run into people that are incapable of understanding simple instructions or questions and you are left to wonder how they actually do their jobs. OK, we sometimes express our frustration about these stupid users. Not a big deal. Usually.

Analyst W: "I feel like calling INS on these people"

This response came immediately after the one above and rather than merely showing frustration, exposes an underlying racism. The Bank employs a lot of people in a lot of markets and, as a nation of immigrants, a significant percentage of employees are foreign born or, if native born, have accents. This offensive statement assumes that "these people", deemed foreign only by their accents, are here illegally. That sort of assumption is simply repulsive.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Opting out.

On Thursday April 26, 2007, children across the country will participate in Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. This annual event was created to encourage young girls and boys to think about their dreams for the future for both work and family.

The Bank Operations business leaders have unanimously agreed to opt out of the event across all business lines this year because of issues related to privacy, production, security and safety.
Sure they talk about privacy, security and safety but really, those are non-issues. Kids aren't running around unsupervised, hacking customer accounts and raiding the vaults. There are no dangerous chemicals or heavy machinery to protect them from. We all know that bank profits are more important than our children's dreams for the future.

Now, before you give The Bank the benefit of the doubt on the safety
issues, know that a year after 9/11 when a city ordinance required that all building occupants participate in building evacuation drills, The Bank decided that the Help Desk and the Call Center were going to "opt out" of the drill, as if it were optional rather than required by law. Clearly they are not so concerned with safety as they are with keeping the machines running and the money flowing. They were unconcerned that this was illegal and simply took the fine issued by the Fire Marshal as the cost of doing business.

If The Bank is willing to break the law to make money, their children's dreams don't stand a chance.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Arrrrr, I got me a pirate sword.

I bought a pirate sword at Millennicon. I hadn't intended to purchase anything of the type but a friend of mine was looking to buy a baldric from a sword/chain mail/leather dealer. She asked if $50 was a good price and, based on what I was seeing when I was shopping for pirate garb, yes, $50 was a good price for this particular piece. With the con drawing to a close, I had convinced myself that it was such a good deal that I shouldn't pass up the opportunity to get one for myself. I found one that fit but a true fitting requires a sword. I tried a rapier but I wouldn't be carrying a rapier so he brought out a cutlass. He said that it was normally $40 but if it was purchased with the baldric he would knock another $10 off of it. It also had some cosmetic scuffs on the scabbard so he was willing to knock another $10 off. A $50 baldric plus a $20 cutlass? Sold.

Once I got home, I checked up on things and pretty much found what I
expected. The baldric was a pretty good deal for $50. The sword normally sells for $40 but I saw them on e-Bay for bids starting at $20 or Buy-it-now for $30. I didn't get a terrific deal there but I didn't get ripped off.

Friday, March 16, 2007


"The purpose of torturing your prisoner is to get him to confess that he is the queen of England."

I believe this statement by a former Military Intelligence friend of mine to be true, supported by all the evidence of years of confessions obtained under duress. That six years later, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed confessed to planning the 9/11 attacks is dubious. For him to also confess to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, an aborted 2002 attack on Los Angeles' U.S. Bank Tower, the Bali nightclub bombings, the attempted assassination of every living US President stretches credibility. And to finally confess to personally beheading Daniel Pearl, well, I don't buy it.

Keep interrogating him and I'm sure they'll be able to get him to confess to the Lindberg kidnapping, to being the shooter on the grassy knoll and for assisting in the escape of John Wilkes Booth.

A confession obtained under duress isn't convincing. Show me EVIDENCE. If you have any real evidence of the horrible crime you have accused him of committing then present it in a court of law. Don't waste my time with this crap.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Secrets of the Workplace

The resubmission of my request for Friday off was approved on the condition that I keep it a secret. You see, that's how businesses work. If someone were to find out that I got Friday off then, well, that wouldn't be fair for me to get a day off when everyone else's request was rejected.

Don't make me laugh. This is never about fairness. It's about dissent.

When a new employee who was getting $10.00 an hour learned that people who were even newer were getting $11.00 he made a stink. Instead of addressing that inequity, the Corporate Overlords decided to repost the job on without the pay rate. This didn't solve the problem but it did prevent anyone else from finding out about it so that the undercurrent of dissatisfaction did not spread.

I could go on about it and how many times I've gotten in trouble because I couldn't keep my mouth shut but I have to get some sleep so that I can take advantage of my secret day off and drive to Cincinnati.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Don't fear the Ides of March

Today was being billed as "D-Day." The day that new password complexity rules went into effect. Vacation time was canceled and a spree of hiring was implemented to fill seats in anticipation of an incredible call volume. Managers were visibly stressed. Conference calls with support we ready to go at a moment's notice.

All for naught.

Today went pretty much like any Wednesday. In fact, I think I had fewer password calls today than I did yesterday. I think this is the lightest Wednesday we've had in months.

So, I have pointed that fact out to my Team Lead and re-submitted my request for Friday off. Why should I be punished when the reason to have my time off rejected has just evaporated? Of course, if my request is rejected again I'm still not coming in of Friday, but I may be able to avoid that particular act of insubordination.

That is, if reason and fair play somehow takes hold.


Not Spider-Man

The Spiderflex on my bike
I received my Spiderflex bike saddle this week and have been testing it out. Several days of commuting and plenty of adjustments have led me to the conclusion that it's just not going to work for me.

The initial intention was that, without the horn, the Spiderflex would completely eliminate the occasional circulation problem the previous seat caused. Instead, the seat changed my balance, put a lot more weight on my hands and turned an occasional numbness problem there into a more regular, nearly constant occurrence.

Lifting the pressure off my hands causes me to slide forward. Without a horn on the seat I'm pretty much sliding off. More weight on my legs means they are not only working to pedal but also expending energy to keep me in the seat. Wasted energy. I lowered the seat to try to mitigate this sliding-off issue but that changed the geometry of my legs, keeping me from getting the full extension.

I had upgraded to the previous Serfas Rx saddle from the Terry Liberator because the gel gave me more cushion for extended riding. The Spiderflex was a return to the more solid seat and I noticed it in 30 to 45 minutes. I would not look forward to 10 hours of that. In addition, the Spiderflex is has a fairly flat profile. Since my ass is not flat, this only increases the pressure on the ischium (the bottom "pointy" parts of the pelvis).

When I stand up on the pedals, to either take pressure off my backside or to better handle rough terrain, there is no horn for me to stabilize the bike by holding the saddle between my thighs. I don't like not having this control.

Another loss of control is when I take one hand off the handlebars. Because more pressure is on the hands, lifting one hand tends to turn the handlebars if I'm not careful.

The benefit does not balance out the negatives so I'll be sending it back.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Still springing

The stats compiled from yesterday show that the helpdesk took some 1,500 calls, 37% of which were Daylight Savings Time related. Again, we were all thankful that the worst of it was that the DST patches needed to be installed manually.

There is a definition of insanity variously attributed to Albert Einstein that says it is "the belief that one can get different results by doing the same thing." There were plenty of calls today from people who spent all of yesterday repeatedly setting their clocks ahead only to have the server set them back. These are the same people that reboot their machine over and over again hoping that the error they are having will mystically disappear or that the password that they just know is right will suddenly start working on the 5th or 6th try.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Spring ahead

Help Desk the Monday after Daylight Savings Time didn't go as badly as it could have considering that support was still rolling out patches as late as Friday afternoon. I had a few calls first thing in the morning about the time not rolling over wherein the user would set the clock forward to have it automatically fall back 15 minutes later. (The PCs were getting GMT time stamps from the server and adjusting because they hadn't received the patch.) This went on for a few hours before we finally received an e-mail with instructions on how to install the patch manually. This is the kind of thing we should have had before the day even started.

Even better, none of the "time stamp critical" systems, such as fax machines receiving market trades, seemed to have issues. Or, at least, I didn't field any of those calls and didn't see panicked warning appear on Instant Messenger.

All told, the call volume was not atypical for a Monday morning with about 16% of my calls devoted to Daylight Savings Time issues. A fairly painless rollout.

Wednesday may be a different matter when they roll out the long anticipated increase in password complexity. Passwords will now require several special characters. All vacation time has been canceled for the next week in anticipation of high call volumes.

Of course, this will not prevent me from skipping work on Friday to go to Millennicon.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Captain America Punished

First, a personal flashback. . .

Years ago, I was involved in a fantasy role playing game. In this game, my character was part of a party of heroes where were marginally employed by the King as a sort of secret service. The kingdom was facing a nebulous threat from a cult but couldn't gather enough evidence or even good intelligence to take any action. There may have been conspirators within the royal court. We were therefore the mercenary outsiders who were going to figure it all out.

Except we couldn't. Oh, we killed a few cultists and gleaned some slight information by scrying the corpses but, all in all, we weren't very successful. Then, all hell broke loose. The crown prince, while making a public appearance was mortally struck by an arrow fired from a distant rooftop. The royal guards attempted to chase down the assassin but he was able to escape into the crowd. He left behind a clue, however, a cloak with a badge that identified him as a member of a minor religion that, up until this point, was only suspected of being complicit in this cult.

Enraged at this affront, the kingdom leapt into action. Soldiers kicked in doors, rounded up cultists left and right, executed the leaders and put a stop to the conspiracy.

Except, that it was me up on the roof and the "mortally" wounded Crown Prince was wearing a hidden breastplate with fake blood packs. Since we couldn't get solid evidence, we dressed up our flimsy evidence in a faked assassination attempt and gave the King the excuse he needed for his pogrom.

Flash forward to when I heard that Captain America had been shot by a sniper at the end of the Civil War mega-series of comics. I had honestly lost interest in the whole Civil War plotline after J. Michael Straczynski stopped writing for Spider-Man and Fantastic Four and so hadn't been paying much attention anymore. Even so, aside from knowing that no one ever permanently dies in comic books, I knew there had to be a spin.

The Punisher.

I remember flipping through a comic on the comic shop shelves and saw that Frank Castle, The Punisher, had joined the rebellion with Captain America. It all fell into place. I'm betting that Frank put three bullets into Cap and left the rifle behind just as I had put an arrow into the Crown Prince and left the cloak and badge behind. It's a set-up. A professional assassin wouldn't be stupid enough to leave behind the rifle. I have no doubt that the trail of evidence leading back from that rifle will not lead back to the man who actually pulled the trigger. It will lead to someone else and only after that plot has revealed itself and justice is mettled out to the true villain will it be revealed that Steve Rogers has been convalescing in some undisclosed location and returns to reestablish justice.

OK, so that's my prediction. The Punisher shot Captain America. Cap isn't dead. Someone else is being set-up. Marvel will probably take a year to sort out that mess before bringing Captain America back.

Check back in 2008 to see if I was right.

of the people

When the preamble of the Constitution says "We the People", does it refer to all the people or does it refer only to those in the government who were writing the document?

When the First Amendment talks about "the right of the people peaceably to assemble," does it refer to all of the people or does it only convey that right to those that have submitted the proper forms to hold a rally or only to those in Free Speech Zones? When the Amendment goes on to say that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion," does that apply to all religions equally or are some religions more equal than others? When it talks about the freedom of the Press, does that include bloggers or does it only apply to major media news organizations?

When the Fifth Amendment says "No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury," does this apply to all people or does it only apply to those the government decides it should?

When the Fourth Ameddment says "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated," does this apply to all of the people?

So, if all of these rights "of the people" apply to everyone, why is it that it has taken two centuries for the courts to rule on the Second Amendment and say that "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms" applies to everyone?

Ahhh, there is that pesky first part:

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

Many have taken the phrase "well regulated Militia" to mean that this only applies to the Militia, the Reserve or National Guard. This is simply not true.

Everything in the Bill of Rights is about individual rights. The Ninth Amendments spells it out in saying, "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." These are all about the rights of the people that cannot be taken away and then says, in essence, "If we forgot to mention something that is generally considered Common Law and the rights of the people, then they are still rights."

The government doesn't grant us these rights, they are already ours and the Bill of Rights is spelling that out.

It would be absurd to include in this Bill of Rights a guarantee of the right of the government to have weapons for its army, and make no mistake, today's Guard and Reserve are part of the standing army. Just ask any reservist that has been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. The 18th Century concept of the Militia was every able bodied male between the ages of 18 and 60 who could pick up a gun and defend his home or town from attack.

But finally, a Federal Appeals Court has ruled on the Second Amendment in overturning the Washington DC gun ban, saying the activities protected by the Second Amendment "are not limited to militia service, nor is an individual's enjoyment of the right contingent" on enrollment in a militia.

The Second Amendment, like all the other Amendments in the Bill of Rights, are the rights "of the People." Not just of some of the people. Not just for certain authorized arms of the government. All of us.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Dancing the dance

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

---Macbeth, Act 5 Scene 5

Yesterday, I made the mistake of talking to some of the newer coworkers about the Help Desk. These poor, naive kids were finally let in on the fact that no one here had received a raise in 4 years and the prospects of anyone receiving a raise in the foreseeable future were virtually nonexistent. I told them a little about how the company that previously "owned" the Help Desk screwed up and ended up being bought by the current Corporate Overlords.

Today, I was called into the new Site Manager's office to receive a talking to about how unprofessional this is.

I knew that eventually I would actually have a discussion with the new Site Manager and am actually surprised that it took this long for it to happen. He started off with an attempt to make me understand how this sort of talk is inappropriate. I countered that I was frustrated and those frustrations will occasionally overflow so much that I forget that management wants me to just sit down and shut up instead of daring to voice my observations. He didn't want to characterize it as "sit down and shut up" but, given the environment, I pointed out that there really isn't a place for me to constructively voice my concerns. He said that I could come into his office and voice my concerns to him but I said that I had been doing that for years to no appreciable improvement so there really was little point in that. I told him the whole sordid story; the public humiliations, the being kept in the dark about my own "firing" from being the trainer, being persona non grata, and all the things that have lead me to skepticism about the likelihood of change.

He wanted me to understand that he sees many of the things that concern me, especially the "not getting a raise in four years", and he is working on it. He even had the temerity to say that I should expect good news in the near term.

"You know, your predecessor said exactly the same thing. His predecessor said the same thing. And even HIS predecessor said exactly the same thing about the changes that were on the horizon but that horizon has never gotten any closer. Nothing they ever said was coming ever actually came. I have absolutely no reason to believe, in spite of your words to the contrary, that this time will be any different than the last three times."

He said he wanted me to understand and I said I understood but couldn't promise anything any more than someone can promise they will never be involved in an auto accident.

"My behavior is a result of frustration. And the thing about frustration is that if it is not alleviated, it eventually leads us to say and do things that are not in our best interests. I've been in this office numerous times for exactly the same thing. And in all those times Management said the same things, made the same promises of change. We do this little dance all the time and nothing has changed. Nothing except the person sitting behind the desk. I can't promise you that it will never happen again because it will happen again. I guarantee it. UNLESS. . . something changes. And not just talk of change. Actual change."

We went round and round for a full hour. Ultimately, like all Managers before him, I was left with the impression that he didn't want my understanding, he wanted my compliance. And, being the ethical, honest and probably delusional realist that I am, I never said. "OK. You're right. I'll never do it again." If I had, it would have been a much shorter meeting. Of course, then I would have been lying and would have had to justify my not keeping my promise the next time I was called into the office. I, at least, save myself that hypocrisy.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

An apolgy to Comcast

After the absolutely awful speeds of this morning, it was decided we had had enough. But before complaining to Comcast, I recommended connecting a PC straight into the cable modem because I knew that whatever tech drone we got a hold of at Comcast was going to say that they didn't support the network and we would have to do it anyway. So, having done that, our speeds improved dramatically.

It was our router all along.

Now, in my defense, We were fooled by two things. Firstly; the dramatic slowdown in performance came at exactly the same time as our migration from Adelphia to Comcast. We assumed that Comcast was the problem because we saw that as the only thing that had changed. We assumed that there was a correlation when, in fact, it was merely coincidence.

Secondly; after spending all day troubleshooting other people's problems, we came home disinclined to do any more work. We assumed that Comcast was the problem because we saw that as the only thing that had changed.

We are, admittedly, bad customers. We are exactly the kind of people we would have to have call us for support.

So, sorry, Comcast. Sorry for maligning your reputation on unverified evidence.

Comcastic dialup

This morning's speed test turned in an abysmal 36kbs. That's no better than dialup speeds. I'm sure Comcast would say something about usage by other people brings down speed but really, how many people are on at 5:30 in the morning? And my upload speed is still a consistent 359kbs, I have these kind of results on five different pc's running four different operating systems and two different browsers.

It's Craptacular.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

That's so gay.

A few weeks ago, one of the newer analysts revealed his ignorance when, in talking about soy sauce he commented, "That's so gay." Later, during some conversation about fashion that I wasn't paying attention to, he again used the "That's so gay" description. I'm glad that there was a high cubicle wall between myself and this biggot who seems to have taken "gay" as a favorite derisive adjective.

I utilized the anonymous comment box that they have placed in the Help Desk to point this behavior out to management.

"I find this sort of hate-filled language to be offensive, distracting, inappropriate and unprofessional. Management must address this."

Apparently, they actually did because today, when the conversation was about "Lost" and somehow turned to "Seinfeld", he uttered; "Seinfield is gay. I mean, it's garbage. Seinfeld is garbage."

Not a particularly elegant save but at least he realized his mistake and it had been pointed out to him that it was a mistake.

What repulses me more than having to deal with this crap in the confines of my workplace is that the blatherings of hate-mongers like Ann Coulter go unpunished. In fact, the garbage she spews actually earns her speaking engagements with collective morons like the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). She earns her living off of her hatred of other people.

Actually, according to Crooks and, it looks like some of the advertisers on Coulter's website are pulling their ads. "Oh, boo-hoo," they say. "Our freedom of speech is being oppressed by the blogosphere." That's bullshit, and you know it. You only support free speech when it's your speech. You want all the rest of us to shut the hell up.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Falcons are back

I had heard that the falcons were back in town but today was the first time that I actually saw them on the cameras (I hadn't been checking in).

Word is that the University of Pittsburgh is going to go ahead with a $4.8 million dollar cleaning and repair project come spring. Normally, such a project would begin at the top and work it's way down but Pitt is going to start at the bottom so as not to disturb the nesting falcons. By the time they get to working near the nest near the top, the new clutch will have fledged and moved out into the world on their own.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Acute numbness

I've spent a lot of time, effort and money in an attempt to prevent numbness while riding my bike, and for the most part I have been successful. The best gloves I've been able to find so far are the Trico Handshock 1000 which, for the most part, prevents numbness in my hands (although I still think the padding could be better distributed). My saddle is a Serfas RX which helps prevent circulation problems. . . elsewhere.

Today, with the riding season approaching, I put my bike up on the trainer and rode it stationary for several hours. Even though the bike geometry was the same and my geometry is the same as when I'm riding on the trail or the road, there was enough different that I experienced not only numbness in my hands and. . . elsewhere, my knee also bothered me some. All things being equal, things are not equal.

I've been thinking of getting yet another seat. I've gone through four saddles looking for the best one and have settled on the Serfas RX but think that perhaps I should do away with the horn all together. If having the seat between my legs causes circulation problems, do away with it. The Spiderflex bike saddle has no horn. It also costs $90. They have a 30-day money back guarantee so at least I get a chance to try it out. I get paid on Friday so I might order it and give it a go.