Nothing to complain about in November except my Quality scores at work.
Yesterday I got to my desk, and there was a red rose below my monitor. That sort of surprised me, as you can imagine (at the beginning of December), and I rolled over to my supervisor Lisa's desk... and she had a yellow rose. Neither of us knew who gifted us, though I said to her "let's see, a boy and a girl have been given roses – that sounds like the work of Kimberly." She laughed. Kim, you should know, was named Scott until a couple years ago, when she still had all the guy parts (and a marriage to a cute woman plus two children). I fetched two cups with warm water and perked our flowers up. A few hours later, Kim came by and asked me how I liked my rose, then did the same to Lisa. I leaned over her right shoulder when she was talking to Lisa to say "See, I told you!" The roses came from her garden, which is pretty amazing with our weather.
So today I went on lunch break and sat next to her and one of my team- mates, and the three of us talked about whatever stuff. When I was done with lunch, I took a few calls then Lisa had me come chat with her for that monthly evaluation, and she had praising things to say except about my quality scores – which actually DROPPED ten points rather than go up. I have no idea how that happened! But she said I'm not going to be on an action plan in December (heh heh heh, good, I would have really truly had a problem if she'd followed through on it in November!) because she sees I'm trying hard, success or lack thereof aside. After we got the work-related stuff out of the way, she leans forward and says quietly, "I thought you'd want to know because she's a friend of yours: Kimberly has been let go." Sacked?! I said, "I just had lunch with her an hour ago, she must not have known at the time!" She didn't say what the issue was, but hinted it was something to do with how she communicated with people in the office ("did she have words with someone?" I asked, and she'd only say "it must have had something to do with unbusinesslike conduct, but I don't know and probably could not tell you the details if I did"). She followed that by saying that Kim was still a temp so she'll be given another job by her agency in the near future [this isn't what I've seen in my own experience but it most likely depends upon what the company told the agency]. Right before she told me about this termination, she stood up and leaned forward, picked up the yellow rose and cup off the edge of the desk, and dropped them in the garbage. I'm keeping my rose on my shelf for another day or two.
Goodbye, Kimberly... sorry to see you go, you will be missed. --#2
I've talked to a few people lately, including my old buddy Tom and R.A.T. #1 Chrome, about the state of the government and how loud the flush will be when this nightmare known as the Bush Junior Administration finishes sending the country down the toilet. I said that the thing that amazes me most about the standing president is that most high leaders are concerned about their legacies – what people will think of them after they've left office. In the case of the current schmuck there isn't much good to say (or by intelligent sane people who pay attention to the world around them), and in fact if this were any other position than the Commander In Chief there's a good chance that the retired leader wouldn't survive the first year outside office. [Go fuck yourself with a running chainsaw if you somehow misconstrue the above statement as being a threat. There was a story in the news today about a kid and his teacher who got a visit from the Secret Service over a photography assignment relating to The First Amendment... which should tell you both that the Constitution is being undermined by the current administration and that you shouldn't get your photos developed at Wal-Mart.] I could not for the life of me figure how he can stand to be around himself every day and how he will face the world in the years of repairing the damage that will follow. I'd be afraid of flying anvils and falling pianos, if it were me and I were in a cartoon. But the guys I was talking to offered a reason why he seems unconcerned about running the nation into the ground:
I had to agree. There can be no other reason. The guy who keeps getting mistaken for a Christ-figure (by himself as well as by as much as 25% of the US population) doesn't expect to be here after 2008, it seems, because he'll get Called Forth By The Almighty in a blaze of glory. Hmm, I don't seem to recall reading in the Bible that the End Times were scheduled for this decade. I also don't recall it saying that you should destroy the world in the meantime; most religions say quite the opposite, to be good to each other and to the earth because we have to live among/upon them. I'm reminded of a Dennis Miller routine, from back when he was still funny, where he said that it scared him being on an airplane with a group of evangelical Christians once because since everyone else there knew that greater glory would come after death, he was the only one who cared if they hit a mountain. This sounds just too 'doomsday cult' for me, as though come the first week of November 2007 or third week of January 2008 (election day or inauguration day) there will be a group of people on a hillside lead by Curious George chanting and waiting for Something To Happen since it didn't transpire previously, then either wandering away disappointed and confused like the Adventists of a hundred years ago who kept making predictions when the world would end, or taking matters into their own hands and going haywire like the cults of recent history did when they found their calculations mistaken. I do not look forward to the citizens of this great country having to mop up the mess in 2008-onward created by bad leadership – bilked gasoline prices and continued dependance on fossil fuels, lowered environmental protection standards, official paranoia about people travelling and speaking their minds, an endless war that has little to do with the group it was supposedly waged on, and so forth – and I already know that the next guy in office (especially if he's a Democrat) will take all sorts of heat (especially from Republicans, who caused this mess) if he can't fix everything to pre-2001 standard or better, which is a tough job since this administration turned a large surplus into an impossibly huge deficit.
Shifting gears, here's a different rant on the same subject. There was an article in the paper the other day about how the Government Accountability Office has determined that Bush Administration staff broke the law by buying good press regarding its "No Child Left Behind (Some Exceptions Apply)" policy, by spreading 'covert propaganda' via paying Armstrong Williams to say nice things and creating video 'reports' for the nightly news using an actress called Karen Ryan, in violation of a statuatory ban on government involvement in producing news stories. The revelations of buying good press are nothing new, that story came out months ago, but the GAO's report brings to the front page what had been softly spoken in the mainstream press. Okay, now for my complaint here: The story makes for great news, but I couldn't help but ask, "okay, now what?" Yes, they're guilty of breaking the law; whatcha gonna do about it? Anything? I read all eighteen column inches of the story and it doesn't say anywhere punitive action will be taken, just... yup, they broke the law. Where is the accountability again?
That's as far as I care to go with this Rant, two items which haven't been given as much overtime as Bush's nonreaction to Hurricane Katrina (other than to cut the funding for Army Corp of Engineers services in the area prior to the event which would have lessened the destruction). You don't need me to tell you stuff you already know on that matter. But I have wanted to say this for a bit, speaking of hurricanes and here I am shifting gears again: I've heard some folks talk about bilking people at the pump and blaming hurricanes. (Which might be true closer to the damage areas, the price didn't change much up here in Washington.) My response the first time I heard that was, "Gee, you noticed that two cents but are completely forgetting the previous totally unjustified dollar?" Short memory. Anyhow, do stay tuned for 2008 and see if 51% of the nation gets spirited away or if they have to lie in the bed they helped make. And bring a mop and bucket. --#2
I forgot to write in September? Sorry...
I have one pet peeve that I try not to talk about, but it comes up constantly at my present job. Most people never notice this but it just glares to me, and I'm trying to come up with some way to handle this in a manner that won't cause a crimp in the karma of others... or some form of deduction in my QA score at work. I'm game to suggestions from the readership if you are bothered by the following situation as much as I am and have found a solution, I know I'm not the only one that is bugged by this:
I hate it when people say "how are you?", "how you doin'?", and the like when they don't know you or actually seek an answer.
It's an absolutely useless phrase between strangers, and it's seldom actually a question between friends or associates either. George Carlin did a routine once which touched on the stupid questions we ask people we meet, and Tom Leykis replies to that question on his radio show with, "do you care?" I'm not claiming I don't ask that question myself – usually in the form of how the hell are you? or the Canadian how's it goin', eh? – but when I ask it, it's to people I know and probably haven't seen in awhile; it is a genuine question and I am seeking information, and would like more details than "good!" Carlin's bit mentioned that people aren't expecting a truthful answer, speaking of "good!" (which he points out isn't grammatically correct), and don't know what to do with a reply like "I'm not unwell" or "I have this dull ache on my right side". I work in one of those places where a computer system monitors talk time, and I save at least 3 seconds by not asking or answering that ersatz inquiry... gimme your identification or get on with your business, but leave me out of your game.
The French as a matter of course ask a similar question, but as far as I know it's still intended as a question and doesn't require much work: one person asks "Ça va?" and the other replies "Ça va". [it goes? it goes.] I used to ask the directly related question "how goes it?" to friends, which usually garnered a useful answer or, like with the also related "how's it goin'", doesn't require an answer because it's just a form of hello. But how we Americans use the question "how are you?" is just... useless! Please stop! Honestly, the other day I had the following non-conversation: this customer service drone called and introduced herself by name with too much spike in her punch, I replied with one word after a two second pause – "great" – and she continued with, "I'm fine, thank you for asking." You could practically see the WTF? thought bubble over my head.
I've been doing one of three things when the question is asked of me by complete strangers on the phone: #1, an extended gutteral sound then a nudge in progress' direction (how are you? "eeeeuuuuhhhhhhhhhh, so what can I do for you?"); #2, blowing the question off completely (how are you? "your name and phone number, please?"); #3, if I'm in a good mood and she sounds cute, I quote a summer camp song for a reaction (how are you? [too-perkily] "Alive, awake, alert, enthusiastic!"). People I pass in the hall who ask that get a bewildered, verge of brain-damaged, "uhhh... I'm fiiiine.... I think?" as I put my forearms on top of my head. The people who know me already think it's funny; the people who don't aren't sure whether that's really how I am – and maybe they'll not ask me again. Those folks' visual reactions are priceless.
If I can impart anything to you, my intelligent and adorable readers, it is that you don't need the conversational icebreaker of pretending to ask about the other person's well-being. If you don't mean it, don't do it. If you don't know the person, don't ask. The world will be a better place. If you do mean it and know the person, be sincere when you ask and give acknowledgement that this matters to you when you respond. And if it's me you're talking to, don't ask unless you haven't had contact with me for at least a month and you kinda wondered what I've been up to. --#2
I met my new next-door neighbors yesterday. They are rather strange people, I think, which is not helped by them being really rabid Mormons. The first thing she said to me was, "Oh, where are you from? You have such a nice foreign accent." What the hell? I don't have an accent. I've lived in the USA my entire life. Yes, maybe my west coast English is a little different than her coloquial South Idaho/Utah dialect, but I do not have a foreign accent. It is highly probable that I sound much more Canadian than she does, but I don't see that it makes me "foreign." The next words out of her mouth were, "Your husband looks much older than you." What the hell is that supposed to mean? He is 5 years older than me. I'm 24, he is 29; that is hardly "Much Older." Yes, lady, I wear a scarf on my head. That doesn't mean that I am from some strange third-world country where I have been forced to marry some jackass who is 20 years my senior. Hell, women from the Hasidic Jewish community wear scarves too. At least I accepted your muffins, if I were an Hassidic Jew, I wouldn't even have done that. Then to top it off, and remember this is the first time I've said anything more than 'hello' to her, she starts telling me about this book she's writing and how it will guide people to the "True Gospel of Jesus Christ." Gaaaaaahhhhh!!!! Please do me the courtesy of at least getting to know me a little before you start trying to convert me.
Ignorant Idaho Mormons! Your misconceptions should not skew the reality that I neither have an accent nor have a husband 20 years my senior. Yes, I do cook Indian food frequently. I happen to like Indian food, it very tasty (and some claim spices increase libido). Indian food is slowly becoming the new national cuisine of Britain, so I hardly see how me cooking it is a bad thing. Oh yes, those muffins you cooked me had way too much margarine. And it took me quite a bit of effort to get out of your cult religion in the first place, and don't fancy giving it another go, thank you very much.
[#2 wants to add two items here: First, as mentioned in the Daybook, Emmer was born into the LDS church (ergo knows of what she speaks) and has nothing against the people... it's the beliefs and the way some folks try to force them down others' throats that she can't stand. Second, I want to wish the person who threw a rock through the back window of my car yesterday with such force that it was capable of putting a small hole in the front window as well a case of rampant gangrene in his raisin-sized penis... his raisin-sized brain is already rotten.]
When I was only a lad, the President of the United States of America authorized the break-in and bugging of the Democratic Party office at the Watergate Hotel. Somebody using the pseudonym 'Deep Throat' spilled the beans about President Nixon's involvement, and for the last thirty years that person has been unknown. Several people have been guessed as the person down through the years but all have been denied. Then the real 'Deep Throat' came forward recently to clear the air (and W. Mark Felt does kinda look like Hal Holbrook, who played him in All The President's Men). Shortly after, the man who had run against Nixon in the presidential election, George McGovern, made a public statement that the current administration could use its own 'Deep Throat' to take down the lying, cheating, false prophet George W. Bush – somebody high up who knows the reasons for the war were completely fabricated, among other truths.
While I agree completely with the former Senator, there's just one fly in the ointment: America doesn't care about the truth anymore. Only sex scandals blip on the radar anymore. OJ Simpson is a free man and the cops that attacked Rodney King got off with Innocent verdicts despite videotape of them doing it. There have been enough top-level officials who've told the truth to the media that you could say there are a dozen 'Deep Throats' who have chimed in, and enough evidence from other reliable sources to prove anything and everything. There are few secrets left, his agenda is crystal clear. And yet 50% of the country voted for him anyway. The only way half the country is going to get outraged is if someone bursts in on him in bed with some terrorists or a bevy of fat chicks (it worked on Clinton better than the actual dishonesty of Whitewater did). Oh yeah, he's already metaphorically 'in bed' with the Saudis, so not even getting buttrammed by terrorists works.
Those who don't pay attention to history are doomed to repeat it. That sucks massively but at least we've seen the movie before so know how it ends... as well as where the exits to the theatre are. --#2
The column may be the Rotating Rant but today it's going to be a reflection of a column I wrote occasionally in college for their newspaper, The Bitching Post: I'm still trying to get a job here. I keep getting high-signs and green lights from one particular staffing agency, but every time they give me a date as to when I'm going to be starting something – two or three weeks away from the date I'm sitting with them – they either put it off for another month or the employer decides they don't want me (even if I'm probably the most qualified candidate they've had come through their door) due to irrelevant past history. I'm not blaming the agency, they've been really great to me and are more proactive [eww, hate that word] than any other I've encountered, and realize the retractions and date changes are due to their clients and aren't their doing. But this keeps happening, and it's really no way to live. Some of you reading this will say, "but Mush, if that's not panning out, go somewhere else!" There is nowhere else. That's what I've been trying to make clear for the last two years, that my opportunities and options (as far as I can find them) are limited, so whatever comes my way and responds favorably to me gets my attention. Last year's good deals, such as the agency that got me the bank jobs then stuck me with a shit thing I didn't want so they wouldn't have to give me unemployment benefits, or the agency which kept losing my paperwork after an employer I'd been with for three days told them not to send me back because my last slacker-jackoff boss worked in the next position below where I was training for, are no longer options. Other chances exist, I don't deny that, but I haven't any idea where they are. Anyhow, back to the original thought: I keep getting put off for this thing I'm told I nearly-absolutely have in the bag, then either get put off s'more or cut loose. This does nothing to help pay the bills, and I think my agency might realize that (after shifting a May 9 start date to June 6) because they said they'd call me with something temporary, and I hope that call comes tomorrow since it wasn't today. Ahh. There, that feels better. --#2
[addendum 5/10: They called me back with something after I called them on the 4th -- and they offered me the May 9 start date again. I've been in training for two days, hurray! And they did call me today with something temporary and local, but, um, I don't feel like giving up something up my alley and permanent albeit distant for a two-week gig working with a program I have never touched before thus ain't qualified for. :)]
Was too lazy/distracted in April.
Once upon I time I had a job. This provided money, the reason why anyone gets a job, and bills got paid whenever I remembered to send them out. I haven't been so priviledged as to have a job, partially my fault and partially a lousy local economy (Washington had a 10% unemployment rate), so money hasn't been so fluid. At the present time there is roughly enough income to keep in balance but there's one small defect in the timing: The auto insurance comes out on the 17th of the month, but my wife's paycheck that covers that sum ($252) doesn't get deposited until the 21st of the month. Our bank covers it, but as you know an NSF will cost you $25 a pop. Which might be lower than one of those payday loan places charge you for essentially the same service, but it doesn't look good plus is $25 you could have spent on groceries. The first thought one has when presented with this data is, "how about having your payment date moved up a week?" Dandy idea but Progressive says no, and goes on about how there's going to be a computer system change in the future ("but I can't say the *near* future because we don't know") so they want all the data to be intact when it goes down. This change will allow a customer to change their own date, hurrah, but until then y'all screwed. And before you imitate any of the popular ads on TV... Geico costs more than what we have. Or did when we tried to switch to them because the previous carrier dropped us without notice a few years ago, so there was a three-day lapse in coverage they felt the need to charge us a fee for. So that's my Rant, being four days behind in the insurance payment with no means to adjust the date.
Though one could inject a bigger rant out of that mention of my being unemployed in Washington; the news the other night cheered the fact that the unemployment rate is now 5.5% – yet many of the people who were out of work earlier still are. The theory here is that they are counting the folks who are collecting benefits. After a year your claim ends, so you fall off the headcount and are no longer a sorry statistic – but are no less sorry, possibly even more sorry than before. I could be wrong, but you're going to have to prove that I was counted in that 10% when I couldn't get benefits and that I'm counted in that 5.5% now before I'll believe you. --#2
I'm going to only spend half of the column on a rant this time, and the other half is something I'm happy about.
Rant: Here's one of my big pet peeves, and this can be applied to quite a few situations. I absolutely hate it when the human resources person or whomever you are being interviewed by tells the following glad-handing lie: "I will call you on Wednesday and let you know how things turned out." It does not ring all day. If you're sitting by the phone and are a bit paranoid, you might even pick up the receiver a couple times during the day to make sure you've got a dialtone and the phone connected to the line. Look, if you are only going to call the winning candidates, say so. I have only had one situation in my working life where someone said, "if you don't hear from us by Thursday morning, consider the position filled." It may not be what people want to hear but it's a heck of a lot more honest than someone shaking your hand and saying twice, "we WILL contact you."
Back in Yakima I interviewed at a maker of cardboard packaging, and before I could talk to the interviewer I had to fill out four pages of application forms. So half an hour after I got there, with a mild case of writers' cramp, I took a tour of the plant with a portfolio of filled-out papers in hand, and learned more about the job. After about 45 minutes of talking and looking around, the gentleman said he'd let me know what decision was made. I raised the bundle of application materials still residing in my right hand and said, "don't you need this stuff first?" He said "no, that's fine." Looks like I knew the score before I hit the door. I had to wonder why they made me do all that work for nothing. It didn't build my character, for your information. This story came to mind because at this writing I am through waiting for a call that should have come yesterday but didn't, and I was told to bring a copy of my résumé to the interview I had last Friday but it wasn't collected from me. But I suppose things could be worse – consider the management paperback junkie from the May 9, 2003 Daybook entry who liked to play headgames with prospective employees during the interview. No matter how you slice it, it's dishonesty!
Rave: No matter how many times I've been told through the years I should do this, I finally am: I'm going to start a computer repair business called Geekery, Ltd. out of my bedroom. I've done some research on how to start a business, I have the paperwork and weblinks to do the filing, and now all I need is my tax refund so I'll have the capital to pay for the filing and business cards. Soon after I can then set up an email account, a webpage, and a bank account. I can pick up and drop off computers, customers can pick up and drop off computers, or I can go to their houses and do the stuff right there. Fixing hardware and software issues, virus and spyware removal, tweaks and upgrades and tuneups. Tutorial on how to use a computer, Windows or Mac OS, and various programs. The limited part refers to the fact I'm not going to give emphasis to box-building, server work, network administration, web design, or anything I don't want to do frequently – this will be computer fix-it and technical support for the home user and possibly SOHO/small businesses. The jobs for tech geeks may have gone overseas but the computers themselves are still right there on people's desks.
Wish me luck on this endeavor, since I have never faced self-sufficiency with such barebones data on how to start. If you happen to live in the Tacoma, Washington area (I'm willing to travel a bit, especially toward the small towns within 30 miles) you can do more than merely wishing me well; you can contact me [presently through writerat @ doitnow.com] about whatever ails you or your machine, and I'd greatly appreciate the clientel and some promotion. --#2
My New Year's resolution was to get serious about looking for a job, because I've slacked off on the effort for a couple months. (December is NOT when you want to be low on cash; that happens anyway with heating bills and Christmas gifts.) I called my employment agency a few times in the span of the last two weeks, and each time my representative has been "out of the office." She must work as often as I do, meaning 'not since last October.' Anyhow, I finally got in contact with her a few days ago, and she gave me the name of her replacement because she's going to be transferring to the Redmond [home of Microsoft et aliis] office to focus on IT placements... implying that she'd no longer have material that suited me.
I am in IT and would love to work in the Redmond area, I reminded her.
"Oh yeah... you worked for me in Seattle at an ISP, didn't you? Okay, I'll keep you in mind when I come across stuff," she said, in her best seamless transition between contradictory statements. I don't buy it. Geek friends around the world tell me that their employment agencies are rather doting, because even if they're just playing headgames with their people they do keep in touch with them constantly because they are rated by their contacts. I wish that were the case here; I'd love to be a statistic on someone's sheet and jerked around regularly, it'd give more of an illusion that someone's actively trying to place me. --#2