Thursday, June 28, 2007

Three Fifths

It turns out that our bonus will be $200 (or rather, about $150 after taxes). While any additional money is welcome, this is nowhere near the $500 a quarter we used to receive and in no way whatsoever makes up for the salary freeze that has been in effect for four years. There has also been nothing as to whether this will be a quarterly bonus, semi-annually or perhaps even a one-off event. There was nothing as to how the bonus was decided.

Something is better than nothing. But this is not a lot of something.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The following is entirely inappropriate.

So, I went to this website that rates your blog much like a movie rating (G, PG, PG-13, etc). I thought it odd that my blog earned a PG-13 rating not for my repeated use of the word fuck and asshat but instead got flagged for using crap.

So, I made a page that I could test a few things with. I started with the FCC's Seven Words You Can't Say on TV; shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits. I added a handful of other things I thought fairly common. Whore earned an R rating. I removed it. Slut rated a PG-13. Removing that earned a PG rating because of the word cocksucker.

This shows me that their program doesn't show you all the reasons it rates your site the way it does, just a few.

Getting rid of a few more and I finally earned a G rating with the words shit, piss, motherfucker and tits leftover from the original seven. It thought cum was a bad word but it didn't frag my G rating because of it. With motherfucker, tits, bugger and cumshot it gave me the message "No bad words were found."

This shows up some very serious flaws in their rating system. It got me thinking about how perverse, depraved and offensive a blog one could write while still earning a G for General Audiences rating. With motherfucker, tits, bugger and cumshot available, it sounds like it would be fairly easy.

Whats my blog rated

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


The Help Desk will be moving to a new office across town at the end of July or early August. Of course, I heard about this from Building Security over two months ago. The Site Manager mentioned the "rumor mill" but it isn't a rumor if it turns out to be true. It's called a secret.

At the end of the day, the Site Manager asked me into the office. He was concerned because, after our meeting of three weeks ago he asked me to submit a training plan of some sort and he hadn't received it.

"I sent it. On the following Monday."

He said that he had a issue with his mail and they were supposed to have restored all his messages but apparently missed some. What I wanted to ask, but didn't, was why it had taken nearly three weeks for him to think about asking for this.

There's that pesky "commitment to communication" thing again.

Sunday, June 24, 2007


So, I found a website that rates my blog as if it were a movie:

This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:
* crap (3x)
* dead (2x)
* gun (1x)

Crap? They rate me PG-13 because I used the word crap a few times? And dead? And the word gun once?

What about the two times I used the word fuck and one use of the word asshat? Doesn't that set off your little censorship flags? (and that's in only the front page. The site doesn't spider the site to find the many other uses of those words.) Clearly, this website is as accurate in rating websites as the MPAA is at rating movies. And the only good thing about it is that this website at least tells you why they are rating your website the way that they are (even though the methodology is flawed). This is unlike the MPAA which is a secret organization that does not allow it's methods to be released and, according to "This Film Is Not Yet Rated", does not actually have any standards. Just a bunch of conservatives who watch a film and arbitrarily decide on a rating.

And if you look at the ratings and the movies attached to them, the MPAA loves violence but hates sex (especially gay sex). Many terribly violent and disturbing movies get themselves an R rating but any movie that dares to even show human genitals is going to get the dreaded NC-17 rating.

Ratings for movies, TV and video games are valuable, if they use standards that are understandable or, at the very least, public. If you know how a decision was made then you can make your own decision about whether your kids should be exposed to it. But, when the process is hidden (or in the case of this website, inherently flawed) then the rating is useless. In fact, it's worse than useless, it's prejudicial and discriminatory.

Friday, June 22, 2007


On Wednesday evening, I added air to the tires on my bike. The front tire was rated for 60-80 psi and the back was rated at 75-100 psi so I loaded them up to about 77 psi. Well within specs.

When I got up on Thursday morning, the rear tire had sprung a leak. I had a spare so I changed it out before leaving for work.

Leaving work on Friday, the rear tube had gone again. There was an 1/8" blowout. I tried patching it but the patch didn't hold. I carried my bike through town to the Golden Triangle Bike and Blade underneath the "T" Station on First Avenue. I didn't have a lot of hope that they would have the 700x38c tube that I needed because on two previous occasions when I had flats, they had nothing.

My premonition was correct as they didn't have what I needed. This would mean the long walk back to my car. I didn't get far up the trail when one of the guys rode up and offered to loan me a bike so that I could ride to REI to get a tube.

Nothing highlights the benefits of a well-tuned bicycle like riding a rental. While there was nothing inherently wrong with the bike, it's geometry was all wrong, and by the time I went out and back to REI I had a headache from the wrongness of it.

$8 for two tubes and an additional hour and a half to my day.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Dun dun duuuunnnn!!!!!!

It was. . . .
. . . . MURDER!

Root cause

Things have sucked here at the Help Desk all week. Mostly because of a string of system failures. On Monday a number of mail servers went down at the same time that our ticket generation and mainframe went down so we couldn't create tickets or change passwords. On Tuesday there were print spooler issues. Yesterday there was an issue with anti virus definitions being out of date. The heavy call volumes for all three days have completely screwed the metrics for the month so that now we are being told that scheduled breaks are canceled for the rest of June.

One of the Corporate Overlords sent a message (inappropriately, to everyone at the Help Desk) in response to this three days of crap: "Without understanding a root and/or systemic cause, going 3 days in a row with these metrics is unacceptable"

So, let me explain the "root and/or systemic cause". . . the Help Desk is staffed to just barely handle a normal call volume. To have extra staff would cost too much money when the call volume is low. Management despises having employees not being busy. But when something goes wrong and the call volume climbs, we never have the staff necessary to handle it. Have a widespread issue and we miss our metrics for the day. Have several and we miss our metrics for the month.

So really, YOU are the systemic cause in not allowing the Help Desk to be staffed sufficiently to handle things when things go wrong. Really, that's what we're here for, to fix things when they go wrong. And if you're too cheap to hire enough of us to handle the call volume, that's YOUR fault, not ours.

The Plan (finally)

Pittsburgh just opened its first real bike lane that actually goes
somewhere. Beechwood Blvd. has had a "bike lane" for many, many years but it doesn't go anywhere, just sort of a half-loop near Frick Park. And while a bike lane such as they have now through East Liberty is supposed to enhance safety, before the paint was even dry I heard of an SUV cutting off a cyclist who was riding in the lane. (And threw in an obscene gesture just for fun.)

The article at the Pop City website has something at the end of it
mentioning that "the City will hire a full-time bike-ped coordinator, who will oversee Pittsburgh's Pedestrian Improvement and Bicycling Plans, and advise officials on pedestrian and cycling needs as they relate to infrastructure projects." The thing is, this job was set out in the City's Bicycle Plan published in 1999 and the position has gone unfilled since then, even through the supposedly bicycle friendly Murphy administration.

While I am very glad that something is happening finally, there is still a long way to go to make Pittsburgh safe for bicycles and begin changing the City's transportation habits. And a seven year gap between the plan and the implementation of a key element of that plan does not give me a lot of confidence in the forward momentum.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Day One

My new Dell-Ubuntu laptop arrived yesterday afternoon (I called off work so I could be home to sign for it). I've been playing with it and am generally pleased. Here are a few things I've learned in the last 24 hours.

I hadn't realized that it had an SD card slot. I can just pull the card out of my camera and plug it in. It even prompts that it discovered a photo card and asks if I want to download everything.
I had expected that the DVD player wouldn't work right out of the box. I've installed Ogle and Gxine and will be experimenting with various formats, controls and such. Part of the plan is to have the laptop play videos for the Confluence video program. Several things I want to show I have only been able to find as AVI files.

The touchpad is nice enough but I want a mouse. I have a little travel mouse but it's too small. I want to get a more standard size unit.

The batery charging light doesn't come on when the battery is charging. Not a big deal. I just added the Power Manager icon in the system tray. The history feature is pretty neat.

I've had some strangeness with the wireless connection. Yesterday it connected to the access point upstairs without any problem. Today, it wouldn't. Instead, it wanted to connect to the one downstairs. In either case, I need to program it as a specific selection otherwise it's going to ask me for the WEP key every time I connect.

I also received a strange message when I was setting it up about a default keyring password. I gave it a password but now every time I connect at home I'm prompted to enter that password.
I'm not sure what's that's all about yet.

During lunch, I attempted to connect to Pittsburgh's free wi-fi. I could see the access point but what was supposed to happen, the signon page coming up, didn't. I select a nearby hotel access point and got their login page so it's not something inherently wrong with my wireless, Ubuntu or Firefox. But it would not surprise me if the hosts built their page with IE in mind and it just wasn't clicking with my machine. I'll have to look into that further, as well.

My PC still has that Windows button between the Fn and Alt keys. It doesn't do anything (of course). I have to look into how I can remove the logo.

I found that system76 has free Ubuntu stickers. All you have to do is send then a self-addressed stamped envelope. I sent them one so that I can get the sticker on my machine. Dell should put them on just like they pimp the "Designed for Windows" logos.

Monday, June 18, 2007


Yo, asshat! Yeah, I'm talking to you in the beat-up blue sedan with Ohio plates at Forbes and Peebles in Wilkinsburg at the tail end of rush hour. You pulled up to the intersection and tried to toss your empty 32oz plastic cup down the storm drain. Really, what the fuck is wrong with you? Are you evil or just plain stupid?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

There and back again

My intention was to get up early and head out to Meadowcroft for the World Atlatl Association event there this weekend. I didn't sleep well last night and slept in a little so I didn't get going as early as I first meant to but I was expecting to be there all day and camp out into tomorrow. The delay wouldn't matter.

It mattered even less than I first thought when, on arrival, there was a sign indicating that Meadowcroft was closed until the fall. Back home, I saw that the event had been canceled but I saw no indication as to when that happened. I don't recall seeing it in the newsletter.

Well, that's a three hours wasted of my weekend.

Friday, June 15, 2007


My intention was that after work I would get back to my car and then head off to Meadowcroft for an atlatl competition. It didn't turn out that way because, after getting my car and trying to bypass the traffic on Second Avenue, I can across a car-into-a-bike accident at the end of the Swinburne Bridge.

It had happened only moments before and I could hear several people with their cars stopped and calling on their cell phones. I decided to attend to the victim, as no one else did. She had been sitting up but laid down so I figured her spine and neck weren't too bad. She had a nasty gash on her chin and plenty of scrapes all over. I asked her where it hurt and for each place she said I noted the injury there and didn't find any signs of anything broken.

The woman who had hit her was parroting what is probably the most common phrase uttered by drivers who have his cyclists; "I didn't see you." I had seen another cyclist rolling down Greenfield Avenue at a pretty good clip. I suspected that this woman had been not far behind him, also riding down the center of the lane like the cyclist ahead of her and as any car would. The scrapes on the driver's door and the vehicle in the middle of the intersection told me that the car had pulled right out in front of the cyclist.

"I didn't see you."

It turns out that the cyclist I had seen moments before was the husband and I said that I would go fetch him. I jumped back in the car and got turned around just as he was running his bike back up the hill. With the traffic all jammed up he knew something bad had happened and was running flat out.

All things considered, I didn't think she was seriously injured and, in any case, didn't need another person looming over her now that her husband was there so I did my part directing traffic. Mostly, I didn't want cars to be in any sort of gridlock that might keep the cops and paramedics from arriving. They arrived in a minute or two of that.

A firefighter took over traffic control (but I think I was doing a better job) and I grabbed my camera to take pictures. Of course, before I took the first picture I asked the husband if he wanted pictures for the insurance company or courts. I would be glad to email them to him. He consented and I started with the pictures.

I offered to take the bikes somewhere if he wanted but he locked them to a street sign and said he lived just up the hill but the bikes were the least of his worries. I told him that I would be glad to take even that small concern off his mind if he wanted.

So, instead of going to Meadowcroft, I ended up going home so that I could email those pictures right away.

More than rumors

Last week was the offer from Management for me to return to being the Help Desk trainer. This week, there was an email from the Site Manager hinting that raises may be in our future:

"I do not have a date as to when this will become a reality, however, we are very close."

Ever since our bonuses were taken away in April of 2003 and the salaries were frozen a month later, we were told that the situation was only temporary. The company was bought by another. The top management of that company changed. There have been a string of Site Managers and all have blown the same wind about getting bonuses back and salaries increased. Now, four years later, now that my salary has slipped against inflation to the point where I'm making what I was when I started, these are encouraging, very positive statements.

But I've heard it all before and all the sound and fury signified nothing

Today we received this email:

"I am pleased to announce that you will be seeing a bonus in your next pay check."

Sure, the statement "you will be seeing a bonus in your next paycheck" sounds pretty definitive but that paycheck is two weeks from now. I've been burned so many times before that I can't truly believe it until I see the numbers direct deposited to my account. And, even then, I have room to be skeptical. Is this bonus a one time payoff for all the crap we've been putting up with or is it the merit based quarterly bonuses we once had? Will this be a return to the $500 a quarter that we were getting four years ago?

Time will tell.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

It's not like it's the end of the world

One would think that working for a major financial institution with 30,000 employees wouldwide all seeming to be calling me for their computer woes, I would have noticed something was amiss earlier in the day. Nope, missed it. When the call volume dropped to almost nothing in the afternoon I just figured the weather had gotten nice and people were cutting out early.

On a Wednesday.

It could happen.

One would think that the bicycle commute home would have tipped me off but, no. People were driving like lunatics. Jaywalkers were out in shambling droves and the parkway was at a standstill. Not unlike any other Friday.

Except it was Wednesday.

It's astonishing how your perspective can change one you're in a car. Encased in tempered glass and steel my mind was no longer occupied by the dangers of the commute and it was allowed to wander an notice things around me that I hadn't noticed before when I was concerned for my life:


Damn, I hate zombies. Well, it'd been almost a year since my daughter caved in the fender, so I wasn't concerned about any additional damage as clipped a few of the walking dead in Wilkinsburg. I had really wanted to get to bed early tonight because, even though I had intended to last night, it didn't quite happen. It's no fun being sleep depped when you're fighting the undead.

I got home without too much trouble and the sudden thundershower was a bonus. As I'm sure you are well aware by now, zombies often key off the sound of human activity and will begin walking towards that sound until they find someone to gnaw on. Rain, thunder and lightening kind of overwhelm that so they just sort of wander in circles or stand in place. My family had already barricaded most of the doors and windows with the pressboard from the uncompleted attic flooring project. I didn't bother checking my email and catching up on webcomics like I normally do when I get home but instead broke out the arsenal.
Of course, this isn't everything but some of the other stuff I had (like the bullwhip and the wooden stakes) really isn't useful against zombies. The two-handed sword is ok for loping off heads if you're out in the open but not really good for urban combat. And the bow, axe handle and machete was still out in the car.

Next, was to gather supplies should we have to use that car for an escape. There seems to be some debate amongst scholars about, when dealing with a zombie infestation, whether to make a run for the mountains or barricade oneself. If I were stuck downtown I would say, "Get the fuck out of there." Well, wait. If it happened during business hours, then Pittsburgh would be a smorgasbord and, yes, get out. But after 5pm, the city empties out and one could probably move about without too much trouble. Then, one of those buildings could be a veritable fortress.

But, out here in Churchill, it's the reverse of that. During the day, all the commuters are in town, working for the man and getting eaten by the undead while the only people out in the suburbs are stay-at-home moms and home-school kids. Once they are zombified, there aren't enough of them to mount an effective siege.

So, there it is. We stay. The storm masking our presence until we can secure the perimeter, douse the lights and wait it out. If things get a bit dicey it's a fast sprint to the car and off to the Laurel Highlands.

So, the final thing on the list is to choose what to do while waiting for the military to napalm downtown.
It could take a few days, so why not study up with the reference manuals. The wife hasn't seen Shaun of the Dead yet. That's a great film. I've seen it three or four times and showed it at last year's Confluence video room. And Hot Fuzz was terrific as well. I'm not sure which I liked better.

Mentioning Confluence reminds me that I have to work out the scheduling for this year's programming. I'm featuring pilot episodes of a lot of SciFi shows. I expect a larger attendance because of the nostalgia factor. And we've got a bigger hotel this year. I borrowed a projector as well but haven't tested it out yet. I was sort of putting it off so that I could test it with my new Dell Ubuntu laptop that should be coming soon.

This is, if the UPS guy hasn't had his brain eaten.

Well, might as well put the DVD in, sit back and relax.

It's going to be a long night. Again.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Programming sleep

My initial intention was to go to bed early last night because I hadn't slept well the night before. Unfortunately, I was up until 1:30 this morning watching Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society on the SciFi Channel. A coworker had given me a downloaded copy of GitS:SSS but it wouldn't play on my PC properly. About mid-way through the sound would get out of sync so that the dialogue would come two minutes ahead. I really wanted to see the rest of the movie and didn't realize that it was going to take me until 1:30AM to do it.

Damn their new "Ani-Monday" programming schedule.

I'm going to go to bed early tonight. Really.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Marvel Super Hero RPG, Game Session 2

This week's scenario (two game weeks after the bank robbery of the last session) began with my character Damon making a delivery and pickup at Warner Center. Well, not actually Warner Center just like the game is not actually taking place in Pittsburgh. Sort of a Marvel version of Pittsburgh (just as Gotham and Metropolis are DC versions of New York). Anyway, this version of Warner Center was actually a decent urban mall and several of the other characters witnessed me entering the mall. They followed me in.

As I went from the one customer to the next, I finally noticed that someone was calling "Hey, Fire-Man." Since I had revealed myself to be self immolating, I eventually figured out it was me.

"What do you want?"

"You have superpowers."

"And you don't. Bye."

The Christian Soldier (As a player, I've learned his superhero name) demonstrates his powers by causing a wind to blow through the mall, blowing up the skirt of a nearby nun. I suppose I can appreciate that so I offer to meet them upstairs in the food court in five minutes (intending to just walk out the front door instead).

But then automatic gunfire erupts somewhere in the mall. I run up the escalator, looking for action, when I find them hesitating in front of the toy store. I run by them, past the polar bear (a minimum-wage teen with her mascot costume caught on shelving), down the isle and deliver a flying tackle to the person spraying the store indiscriminately with bullets.

It turns out to be a kid with a real gun hidden inside a toy gun. At the end of another isle there is more gunfire so I run and tackle a second kid. Meanwhile, the other two (Christian Soldier and the plant guy) have pulled some people out of the store and are questioning the manager, who is ranting about some movie merchandising.

When the cops show up, they begin explaining what was going on.

Christian Soldier says, "When I saw the kids with guns, my first thought was Islamic terrorists."

When a cop finds me in the back of the store investigating the box that the guns came in, he asks if I was with them.

"With those freaks? No."

I duck out of the store when no one is looking. Unfortunately, the other "heroes" have also been able to extricate themselves from the situation. The hulking plant guy herds us into the elevator and we make our exit. Christian Soldier says "I'm Brad and this is Scott. We want you to join our team." Scott (now transformed out of his plant form) smacks himself in the forehead at his partner's stupidity. Brad gives me his phone number so we can keep in touch. I give them my name (Why the hell not?) and a number they can call at the messenger service to get me on the radio for a "pick up."

That evening, I get a call to meet them at a Chinese restaurant. I'm told that they are going to meet God, who has been talking in Christian Soldier's head. On the second floor in a dingy apartment is an old man in a wheelchair and hooked up on oxygen."

"Well, that's a bit anticlimactic. I was hoping for Morgan Freeman."

Not really. But the story he spills is of Nazi scientists brought to the US after the war. Secret formulas. Rogue scientists. A greater battle between the forces of Good and Evil.

"Man, I am so outta' here."

The old guy reveals that he knows who I am and ties me into this whole mess. He gives a sword to Christian Soldier (who, in the last gaming session was whining about how weak his super powers were and we recommended that he get himself a holy sword) that I recognize the style of. (The GM doesn't reveal the details but I suspect that it's a truly holy relic.) The old man again comes back to me and is really cryptic as to my purpose but I get the picture, I am going to have to help prevent the end of the world.

"No, really. I'm done here."

And I get out.

I'm going to have to get in contact with the GM before the next session to spell some things out so that he doesn't write a stupid background for my character. Also, since we were playing in Bill & Walt's Game Shop, I spent some time sifting through HeroClix figures looking for something appropriate. I found a Human Torch figure that looked cool. I also found a demon chick I figured I could pull the wings off of and attach to the back of the Torch. But the check had the cool demon feet so I thought of doing some more hacking. In the end, I decided to take a knife and file to the breasts of the chick to turn it into a guy and see how that turned out. Many fewer modifications that way. I think it turned out pretty well (except that the picture makes him seem more orange than red). I can't wait for the "reveal" when Christian Soldier discovers that the bike messenger he's been working with is actually a demon.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Jumping the gun.

I've been receiving e-mails from the Tactical Manager today sent to the "Training Group". I have apparently been added to the team. Hopefully they realize that there is a world of difference between "I'm interested" and "Yes" when they offered me the position as trainer. The Operations Manager has been interviewing new recruits which means they're probably going to be brought on board in a week or two. Management is really going to be surprised if they tell me to begin training and I don't have something in writing that there's going to be a change in my paycheck.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Dude, I'm gettin' a Dell.

My laptop is on the way:

Inspiron E1505 N
Intel® Pentium® dual-core proc T2080(1MB Cache/1.73GHz)
Ubuntu Edition version 7.04
15.4 inch Wide Screen XGA Display with TrueLife™
1GB Shared Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 533MHz, 2 Dimm
120GB 5400rpm SATA Hard Drive
8X CD/DVD Burner (DVD+/-RW)
256MB NVIDIA® GeForce® Go 7300 TurboCache™
85 WHr 9-cell Lithium Ion Primary Battery
Intel PRO/Wireless 3945a/g

With the discount I got from the cost is going to be $722 plus shipping.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Second chances.

The Site Manager made the offer today and, in an encouraging sign, he spoke about money very early on. He has apparently put in a request for additional funding to give me a raise in exchange for me doing training again.

Is all forgiven? All indications say yes. Of course, I have no way of knowing how far Team Lead D's tendrils reached up the chain of command. It was certainly enough to keep management from even harboring the possibility of my being in any was associated with training for a year and a half. Now that he's been gone for less than two weeks, there's no way of knowing yet whether things have truly turned the corner. So far there is only a lot of noise and encouragement.

The Site Manager wants me to write up something of a proposal; the way that I see training at the Help Desk. That will be pretty easy. I'll just write up the way I did it the first time. Hopefully, it won't be an exercise in futility as, before I start doing any actual extra work, I will have to see the money.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Music of Erich Zann

I have finally figured out the problem with getting my iPod to be recognized by Ubuntu.


My USB hub was working well enough for Ubuntu version 6 to recognize and mount my iPod but something mysterious happened when I upgraded and the PC could not longer supply enough power to the hub for it to recognize the iPod. It was enough for every other USB device but not for the iPod. Plugging in the external power supply to the hub got it to be recognized. I deleted a few file entries that I had previously made in an attempt to solve the problem and it all came back.

Now, I can again immerse myself in the evil that is the iPod.

Friday, June 01, 2007


I only just today learned how much power Team Lead D. held at the Help Desk when Team Lead R. asked to talk to me at the end of the day.

He was giving me something of a head's up concerning the possibility of the Site Manager approaching me to do training again. So, in a year and a half since I discovered that I was no longer the Trainer, one week with my arch nemesis gone and the pendulum may be swinging back.

In a year and a half, Team Lead R. never talked to me but now he's saying conciliatory things like "I never had anything bad to say about you."

In six months of being here, the Site Manager has never even hinted that I could be involved in training and even in one conversation seemed to state that the door to that path was closed at a higher level than he could open yet now those doors seem to be opening.

The question, of course, is what might be waiting on the other side. I've been burned and burned very badly so I'm not going to just step on through. Before I invest that emotional capital, I must know that I am going to compensated. I want a title and the pay that goes along with it or, at the very minimum, more pay for my greater responsibilities. That point is non-negotiable. I will not invest myself for nothing.

And I won't accept the promise to "look into it." That happened the last time to no results. There have been too many empty promises. This time I want something real. I want it in writing.

These are strange days, indeed.

Credible Threats

How many bomb threats called in actually turn out to be real? The best answer I could find to that question is somewhere around 1%, and that only related to schools where bomb threats and pipe bombs seem much more prevalent than in the general public. So what is it that got the City to take yesterday's very rare and likely non-credible call about a bomb in a Parkway tunnel so seriously as to close down two tunnels right at the peak of rush hour?

The caller had a foreign accent. Maybe.

First off. . . you're morons. The South Side, source of the hoax call, is full of foreign accents. Many of those accents are from native, second generation residents. It's an integral part of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. Giving a threat credibility only because of an accent is racist. Second, hennyone kan easily fake an accent. Dere are even vebsites dat kan help hyu. Or chust vatch enough bad action films vith schtereotypical bad guys. Third, the South Side has more bars per capita of any neighborhood in the country. That should give you a clue as to the type of calls you might get from there. Fourth, only a cut-rate amateur terrorist would phone in his bomb threat an hour before it was set to go off. Terrorists prefer to, you know, terrorize people, and while being backed up on the Parkway for an hour with the tunnel closed may be inconvenient, it doesn't quite qualify as terrifying. Fifth, any foreign terrorist who had successfully gotten into the United States would not plant his bomb in a Pittsburgh tunnel. The tunnels might seem vitally important to us but in the international list of important things worth blowing up, the Squirrel Hill Tunnel is small potatoes. Very small potatoes.

This sort of nonsense is driven by fear. Not the fear of a terrorist by the general public (though there is too much of that as well), but the fear officials have of loosing their jobs should the rare call actually turn out to be true. Or rather, if the public finds out that some idiot made a prank call and the authorities didn't treat it like the real thing. They say they err on the side of safety but they are actually erring on the side of their own continued employment. That's why the Mooninite scare in Boston was such a clusterfuck.

We need to get on with our lives, not because it defies the terrorists (a common politico catch phrase) but because there aren't actually many terrorists to begin with and the world really isn't all that different than it was before 9/11. I'm more likely to get run over by a car or slip and fall in the shower than I am to be a victim of a terrorist bombing. Hell, odds are I'll be struck by lightning before I'm caught in a bomb blast so quit wasting my time and tax money by blowing up every gym bag left at a bus stop.


The Site Manager brought in a few bags of Snickers bars as a reward for all our hard work. The IM alerting us described it as "The sweet taste of success." How about those raises we've been waiting four years for?

That would be sweet.