Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Golden Rule

"These books denigrate Christianity, thrash the Catholic Church and sell the virtues of atheism," said Bill Donohue, president and CEO of the Catholic League.

So quotes a Fox News Online article on the Philip Pullman series of books from which "The Golden Compass" film has been adapted. The raving is that this is some nefarious atheist conspiracy to steal the faith from American children.

I knew there was a reason I wanted to see this film.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Hands of Blue

Went to see Blue Man Group last night, my first time ever going to a rock concert. As a drummer myself (high school marching band and continuous foot tapping and leg drumming) the beat was great. I wanted to get on stage to play with the instruments.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Help Desk Quote of the Day

Executive: "Someone who's paid as much as I am shouldn't have to put up with these problems."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Thanks. Bye.

I was asked by Team Lead R if I could stay to work an extra half-hour. I agreed, whereupon Team Lead R thanked me for my support. . . and then left for the day.

I took 104 calls for the day. He took 3.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Don't bother calling

The Bank has been encouraging employees that need to access systems from home to get the VPN software installed on their home PCs. Using remote desktop, they can then access their PC at work and do all the things they need to do.

For The Bank, it saves them the expense of buying these user's laptops. It also keeps them from spending any money on support. Note the document below that they are required to sign when they choose to use remote access:

In consideration of The Bank’s grant of access to the Remote Access System, you agree to the following:

1. The Bank will provide you with (i) software that will enable your use of the Remote Access System and (ii) documentation explaining how to install such software. The software and documentation are provided to you 'as is,' without any warranties, express or implied.

2. You are solely responsible for the acquisition of all equipment necessary to run the software and use the Remote Access System. The Bank will not be responsible if the software does not run properly on your equipment.

3. You are solely responsible for the acquisition of any services necessary to connect to the Remote Access System, including, without limitation, internet access or telephone dial-up services. The Bank will not provide such services.

4. You are solely responsible for the installation of the software. The Bank will not provide support in the event you have problems with the installation.

5. Your use of the software and the Remote Access System is at your own risk. The Bank will not be responsible if the software or Remote Access System directly or indirectly cause any damage to your equipment or to any other software installed on your equipment. You agree not to file a suit or make any claim against The Bank or otherwise seek damages from The Bank in the event any such damages occur.

6. You agree that you will not use the software or the Remote Access System in a manner that is inconsistent with any provisions of The Bank’s Electronic Media Policy, as set forth in the The Bank's Code of Ethics. This obligation applies whether or not you are an employee of The Bank. You agree to review The Bank’s Electronic Media Policy before using the software or the Remote Access System. The Bank's Electronic Media Policy is accessible via The Bank’s intranet. If you cannot access The Bank’s intranet, it is your responsibility to request a printed copy.

7. You agree that you will not use or install other unlicensed Bank software. Standard desktop products which licensed by The Bank and are also allowed to be installed on a home PC without an additional license are limited to: Lotus Notes, Sametime, and Symantic AntiVirus.

8. In the event any portion of these Terms and Conditions of Use is deemed to be unenforceable in its current form, such portion shall be enforced to the maximum extent permitted by law, and the remainder of these Terms and Conditions of Use shall remain in full force and effect.
So, to sum it up. . . use this software, use only this software but we're not going to help you use it, make sure it works, take any responsibility if it doesn't work or otherwise help you in any way.

Good luck. . . suckers.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Ubuntu Miscellanea

I wanted to upload some more music to my iPod but the gtkpod application wouldn't see my iPod from my laptop where the particular MP3s were. (The CD-R of music I had would not play or rip to MP3 on my desktop but would on my laptop.) Ubuntu would mount the iPod as a volume but the application couldn't see it. When I went to my desktop machine I found that it wouldn't recognize the USB drive that I store all my MP3s on. The Win98 drive plugged into the desktop will see the USB drive without issue but Ubuntu won't anymore. I wonder what might have changed since the last time.

I updated my OS from Feisty Fawn (7.04) to Gutsy Gibbon (7.10) on both machines without any issues whatsoever. That didn't resolve my iPod and USB drive issues, however.

I had some issues with my laptop loosing network connectivity. I still had full bars on the wireless AP but just didn't have the connection. Looking in the system log I saw the system repeatedly trying to get an IP address and failing. I reconnected to the AP, inserted the WEP key and got a good connection that seemed to hold. I suspect that it had to do with the fact that we have two wireless routers. In any case, that issue is resolved.

I uploaded some flickr pictures and discovered that when I use the Gimp graphic editor in Ubuntu, the EXIF data (camera, focal length, shutter speed, date and time, etc) is retained to be uploaded to flickr automatically, whereas when I use the Paint Shop Pro software on my Win98 machine, that information is stripped. Yet another reason for me to migrate to Ubuntu.

That is, if I can solve my iPod and USB drive issues.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Interlopers

There was evidence that we rodent invaders in the house so the traps went out. Got one on Friday and another one today. I took him out back of the house into the woods to let him go. Those deer mice are kind of cute, when they aren't pooping on the kitchen counter.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Project Pterosaur


http://www.objectiveministries.org/creation/projectpterosaur.html


This parody site would be hilarious if it didn't hit so close to the truth of the "science" done by IDiots.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Call the helpdesk

It used to be that new branch users underwent training that included how to signon to their systems. Occasionally the passwords they were provided didn't wok and they had to call the Help Desk for a reset but, all in all, passwords were a part of training.

Well, not anymore. User's are sent to their new branches with absolutely no clue how to signon to the machine and what password to use. The mail program is a standard initial default, set to the same thing for everyone, and you would think that at least one trainer out there might know to give that to the users but, no. Nothing. Call the Help Desk.

There are callers who don't know what the time sheet system is. They don't know how to get login screens for various applications. I've even had users call not knowing their login id. They were just told to call the Help Desk.

We are not branch trainers. This is not our job. There are people called trainers who are currently being paid to do this and they are not.I'm sick of picking up their slack.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

World War W

The President: "I’ve told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from have the knowledge necessary to make a nuculer (sic) weapon."

You're warning us of World War III if we allow Iran to have the KNOWLEDGE of nuclear weapons??? Hell, I have the knowledge necessary to make nuclear weapons. Go to any frelling public library or search the Internet and you can have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon. Is W going to attack Iran because they know something that's almost public domain?

No, he's going to use that knowledge as AN EXCUSE to attack Iran. He talked about "actionable intelligence" and needing FISA gutted to allow him to get actionable intelligence but really, he doesn't need it. He doesn't even want it. He's got a hard on to attack Iran just like he was jonesing to attack Iraq even before he got himself elected president. He's using the talk of WW3 to scare people into giving him carte blanche again.

I hope it doesn't happen this time. Of course, all of Congress's noise about not giving the president everything he wants really isn't much compared to what the president keeps doing in spite of the noise. I have no doubt that W believes that he can attack Iran at any time and that there's nothing anyone can do to stop him.

Monday, October 15, 2007

STFU

Team Lead J: "Geis, I am getting some complaints from other analysts concerning the volume of your voice. It is affecting their ability to hear their own callers. I know we have had this conversation before and I realize it is your natural speaking voice, but please take whatever measures you can to provide a more quiet environment for your neighbors."

So, let me get this straight. . . I report to management that employees and a Team Lead are using bigoted, belittling, sexist and otherwise offensive language and nothing is done about it for two months until someone notices that pornography is also involved and you are censuring me because of the VOLUME of my voice?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Paintball

I played paintball today with my sister's family and friends at Riverside Renegades. To put some of this in perspective, I've been playing paintball since about 1985 or 86. Back then, it was Splatmasters, PGPs, no maximum velocities, no organized fields and no full face masks. There was a time when I was playing regularly but that group has moved on and I simply don't have the time or the circle of friends to keep in practice. Even so, I can tell my nephew that I have experience from before he was born so I am something of a legend in that sense.

Today, I had a chance to try my camera. I couldn't mount it on the mask so I ended up strapping it on the side of my gun, an older Spyder Compact. I won't go into all the games, just the video highlights.

We were advancing on a 3-walled fort with the flag. There was at least one defender inside and I had some support up on the hill to keep his head down. The walls of this particular fort (DJ's DMZ) do not reach all the way to the ground so I advanced, almost casually, fired a few round to keep the defender's head down and then. . .



. . . shot his feet out from under him. Oooh, he hated me for that. I grabbed the flag and ran back and then started down the hill. I passed the flag off to one of my younger teammates to get it back to our fort. There were still plenty of defenders to lay down fire and slow his return. I don't know if we won that round or if time ran out.

A later game and we were advancing down the hill towards the enemy's flag in a fully enclosed fort with a floor (Dragon Scales). There were to begin with at least three defenders inside but eventually they were picked off, leaving, I thought, only one. Everyone else was sort of hanging back so I continued past them down the hill, reaching a bunker below the fort without opposition. I then turned and came up from behind.

This fort has an access up through the floor in the back, tricky to get to if someone is watching the back. . .



I popped up through the floor and fired one shot. I then moved around the front, thankfully not taking friendly fire, and took out another defender on the right.



I grabbed the flag and passed it off to one of my younger comrades who had followed me to let him run up the hill. I yelled at him quite a bit to just go up the hill but he insisted on taking the long way. I walked up the middle in full view to see if I could draw any fire and gauge the remaining enemy numbers. I took no fire and eventually the kid got back to our fort and won that game.

Another game found that my gun wasn't working properly. I play with a 4 ounce tank, which isn't a lot of CO2 but it should last for more than one game. I think it was getting too cold from firing and the gas was liquefying. Anyway, with my primary gun out of action almost immediately, I headed towards the exit, which was right past the enemy fort (Jared's). When I reached a ref, I told him that my primary gun was out of air but I wasn't calling myself out. My sidearm, a vintage Sheridan PGP, was still full. I walked right by the fort with paintballs flying past on either side. I hadn't raised my hand to signify I was dead and so any of the enemy would have been well within their rights to shoot me, but they didn't. On the far side, just near the exit, was another fort with a single defender.

Once I walked past him, I set down my useless primary gun, drew my sidearm and fired right at the middle of his back. The gut went off but there was no paintball. He didn't seem to notice so I cocked the gun, stepped up beside him and pressed the barrel of the gun against his arm.

"Do you want to surrender?"

"Aren't you out?"

"That gun is empty. This one isn't. Do you want me to shoot you now?"

He surrendered. A few moments later, three defenders came over from the fort. They moved so casually that I thought they might have been out but the took up defensive positions inside the fort I was in.

I'd like to say it was like shooting fish in a pond but it didn't work that way. I shot one guy in the back but the ball didn't break. I shot the second guy but I don't think a ball dropped into the chamber because I cycled too fast. I shot the third gut in the chest and it broke. My fourth shot went off just at the same time they realized something was terribly wrong and someone shot me in the hand. My ball didn't break so he survived.

I love carrying a sidearm.



Finally, something unrelated to paintball. Buddy, the guy who runs Riverside Renegades is something of an ass. He wears the moniker with pride, I should think. That sort of behavior encourages that sort of behavior and at some point one of my sister's friends whispers to me that he was about to use the term "Buckwheat" before he realized that one of the players on the field was black.

"Not a good thing to say," he said, referring to the circumstances.

"Never a good thing to say. Ever," I responded.

And later, Buddy was going of on one of his rants about women and the trouble they are, and he said, "If I had it to do all over again, I would be a stone faggot." Everyone laughed, my sister, my brother-in-law, my nephew, and everyone else in attendance. I didn't laugh.

Sometimes my family embarrasses me and I wonder how I was able to escape to turn out the way I did.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Liberal Media

I have been a long time and loyal listener of WDUQ public radio. I've been a member on and off over the years, mostly depending on how my finances happen to be when pledge time rolls around, but DUQ is on my radio almost all the time. (Except when Music from India is on, then I prefer opera on QED.) But this evening there was a report that shook my support.

You may have noticed that Planned Parenthood has been underwriting DUQ programming this week. I know that I noticed it. And Duquesne University noticed it too. The Catholic university, which licenses WDUQ and claims to give them editorial and financial independence, came down upon them like a ton of bibles and ordered that the spots be pulled and the money returned.

The claim is that Planned Parenthood doesn't meet with the "Christian" ideals of Duquesne University and, since a gift to DUQ is also a gift to Duquesne University, they could not accept the gift. So, how independent is DUQ that the university theocrats can step in and dictate who they can accept donations from?

When I heard the Duquesne University spokesperson explaining why they couldn't accept a gift from Planned Parenthood ("and we have a stack of legal precedent to back us up, nyaa, nyaa, nyaa") I also heard her saying why they couldn't accept a gift from me. I support women's reproductive rights so my money isn't welcome.

Oh, I'm sure that they would actually take my money, even knowing I was an atheistic anarcho-collectivist disestablishmentarian, because they could do so anonymously. They don't have to acknowledge on the air that they took money from a heretic such as myself.

The journalistic integrity of WDUQ has been compromised. Was that recent epic-length report about the installation of the new bishop in Pittsburgh honest journalism of interest to the community or was that influences by the Duquesne University higher ups?

I just got a raise recently and, since my finances were looking better, I was going to be renewing my DUQ membership. The operative word in that sentence is "was" because now, that money is going to be sent to Planned Parenthood.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

As expected

So, Boss, how's that Voluntary After-Holiday Overtime working for you?

Not so well, apparently. The Helpdesk fielded 2380 calls yesterday, 1000 more than on a typical busy Monday or the typical day after a holiday Monday. I took 107 calls and at least three other analysts took over 100 calls as well. This is unprecedented. I don't recall any day ever when more than one person has taken 100 calls, to have four do so tells me that there isn't enough staff to handle the call volume.

I have every expectation that the day after Veteran's Day we will be returning to the Mandatory Overtime protocol.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Passage Party

Last night I attended Tim's 16th annual Passage Party and, as always, it was enjoyable and enlightening.

What is a Passage Party? The basic format is that guests read a 10 minute passage from a book, article, poem or other literary work. It is completely freeform although graphic violence, sex, political and religious propaganda are encouraged. No kids are permitted but children's books have been read from. There's about three hours of this, an hour to eat a pot-luck dinner, then another three hour of readings. Then, there is several hours of conversation and finishing up the food.

Many times, there are passages read that prompt me to go out and obtain said book to read the rest. Most of the selections I have chosen to read from have been humerus stories (to reference a Mark Twain passage on the subject that was read last night) though some have not been intended as such. Last night, there was time for me to get in two passages.

"The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins. Chapter 6: The Roots of Morality, wherein Dawkins describes a statistical study of Harvard biologist Marc Hauser. Participants were asked their response to a number of moral dilemmas and the results between religious people and atheists found no difference in response. The conclusion being that faith does not make us good or bad.

"Critical Mass: Bicycling's Defiant Celebration" by Chris Carlsson (Editor). The Great Bicycle Protest of 1896 describing the massive bicycle advocacy rally in San Francisco at the turn of the century and how that movement, in agitating for and creating better roads for bicycles actually lead to their marginalization once the automobile came along a took the streets.

In past years, I have also read:

"Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae" by Steven Pressfield

"Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766" by Fred Anderson

"A Walk in the Woods - Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail" by Bill Bryson

"War of the Worlds" by H.G.Wells

"Tarzan of the Apes" by Edgar Rice Burroughs

"Stephen Hawking Builds Robotic Exoskeleton" from The Onion

"The Atlatl Hunt that got Weird or Blunt Trauma" by Bob Berg from "The Atlatl" 2002, Vol. 15, No. 2

Friday, October 05, 2007

Overworking

Two weeks ago, my Team Lead sent out an email asking what shifts people worked. It seems a bit, I don't know, incompetent to ask this. Isn't it a manager's job to define when people work? In any case, I took that opportunity to bring up that I had been working the so-called "Mandatory Overtime Mondays" since May when Team Lead D and 6 of his cohorts were fired. I noted in that email that the overtime was supposed to be interim until staffing levels had been increased and, while that seems to have happened, I was still working as hard if not harder. I also noted that I seemed to be one of only a few that were actually working the overtime.

I received no response.

Last week, the Tactical Manager sent out an email about how upcoming holidays were going to be handles. Columbus Day I was going to work 4 hours and Veterans Day I was going to have off. I responded with a question about the standard "Mandatory Overtime" after holidays. I also made mention to him about the "Overtime Monday" question.

I received no response.

Today, there was an email from the Tactical Manager that Tuesday, the day after Columbus Day was going to be a VOLUNTARY overtime opportunity. So, if staffing levels are so good that they only need extra staff voluntarily, then why am I still working overtime on every Monday?

I went to his cube and asked and he said that t had been decided to
minimize overtime costs and there were no longer Mandatory Overtime Mondays.

"When was this decided?"

"This week."

Which is a better answer than I get most of the time when I ask these questions and find out that decisions had been made weeks before and we just hadn't been informed about it. In this case, the decision had been made only earlier in the same week and they hadn't informed us about it. In fact, by the end of the day, we still hadn't actually been informed about this change in policy. Since only about 5 of the 40 analysts here were still doing the Mandatory Overtime Mondays-thing, I suppose they didn't feel they needed to make an announcement.

This is, of course, part of the regular cycle. In getting rid of the overtime to save money, they will soon discover that they don't have enough staff (because five of the people they hired for the big rush last month have skipped). We will be working our asses off, the queues will climb and we'll start to miss our metrics. The Bank will complain and they will have to go back to mandatory overtime or hire more people.

On an unrelated note, we got name plates for our cubicles today. In eight years of working here, this is the first time I've ever had a name plate. Wow, a raise and a name plate, it's just like if we were professionals.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Help Desk Quote of the Day

User: "Yous guys always fix this when I call. Ain't you know what you're doing?"

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Cavemen

The new ABC show "Cavemen", based on the series of Geico commercials, to me had a certain potential. Much like the half-white/half-black characters in Star Trek's "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" episode, the cavemen have the opportunity to address racism in a television landscape in ways that just aren't seen in a typical fall lineup. They could address ignorance of history and science. The could go head-to-head against creationism and it's ugly stepchild intelligent design.

I was able to tolerate about 90 seconds of the program.

Perhaps some of that potential shone through later in the episode but the first part gave me the impression that it was produced by a team of network hacks and this was going to be just another sitcom.