Hit Coffee is the story of Will Truman (trumwill),
transplant in the mountain west with an IT background who bides his time
substitute teaching while his wife brings home the bacon.
This site is a collection of reflections
on the goings-on in his life and in the world around him. You will probably
be relieved to know that he does not generally refer to himself in the
third-person except when he's writing short bios on his web page.
Greetings from Callie, Arapaho, a red town in a red state known for growing
red meat. And from Redstone, Arapaho(Aw-RAH-pah-hoe), a blue city with blue collar roots that's been feeling blue
for quite some time.
Nothing written on this site should be taken as strictly true, though
if the author were making it all up rest assured the main character
and his life would be a lot less unremarkable.
This website is maintained by Guy Webster (web),
who also contributes from time to time.
Web hails from the midwest and currently lives
in Truman's home city of Colosse, Delosa. He works as a utility IT person at
Southern Tech University, their alma mater.
Also contributing is Sheila Tone (stone) a West Coaster, breeder, and lawyer
who has probably hooked up with some loser just like you and sees through
your whole pathetic little act.
Something strange has happened since I started this site almost a year ago. You may not know it by reading my litany of complaints here, but my contempt for the company has subsided to a great degree. Indeed, reasons to be contemptful of the company have actually declined. Good stuff doesn’t make for nearly as interesting posts, though, so I haven’t said much on the matter.
I only started realizing this during the company meeting the other day. I am becoming, in many ways, sorry that I will be leaving this place in six months. A lot of it has to do with things that have nothing to do with the company. My job titles here have been getting progressively better. My current job is a headache-and-a-half sometimes, but it’s good enough that I’ve stopped looking for other work (and would stop even if I weren’t leaving in June), and I only have reason to believe that the job will get better once we’re over our current hump.
But not all of it is the job. Some of it is the company itself. Upper management has slowly been changing. It used to be that the top two people were Fallons, CEO Don and his brother, COO Dave. When Dave left and was replaced by Gary Hansen, this company was injected with a new outlook. I was suspicious of Gary at first. I still am, to a degree, but whatever problem I have with him is alleviated a great deal by the fact that he comes into this job with a solid business and IT background.
Prior to Hansen, Falstaff viewed itself as a sales and service company. It was the account managers and salespeople that won all the awards and accolaides. The fact that the core of our income was generated by software and text programmers was lost. Hansen was previously a CTO elsewhere, his brother is our CTO, and his has made a small, but tangible, difference. But mostly the difference is that Hansen is a businessman, and his presence here has come at the expense of the boys club. The sectors of the company lead by Hansen’s picks (and/or another Hansen) are noticeably different than those lead by Fallon’s picks.
In Fallon sectors, people are often hired or fired based on things such as personal stature. People connected to the Fallon family moved up the company quite rapidly, and still do in Fallon sectors. But Hansen and his people have been calling for an examination of rationales behind decisions the company makes. Mickey Holden was a friend of Don Fallon’s who was turning in half-day after half-day as the Accounts Chief, but under Hansen he was fired. Cliff Simmons was an HR director that had no experience in HR, did an awful job, and was a longtime family friend of the Fallons. He’s been replaced.
Also, the most amazing thing has happened in the last month: we have a woman in senior management. I honestly never thought I would see the day, but the new Sales Chief is a woman. The only previous marginally executive position held by a woman was the HR director, which they took so seriously as to replace with part-time, no-experience Simmons when she abruptly left. I told Marc about this over lunch about the woman in management and he thought I was joking.
That’s not to say that things are perfect. Quite obviously they are not. The things I don’t like about the company may still outnumber the things I do. However, three-quarters of the change I’ve seen has been in the right direction.
Finding love at the office is more likely and less taboo than in the past, suggest two new surveys on workplace romance to be released Thursday. Forty percent of employees reported being involved in such a romance at some point in their careers, says a poll conducted jointly by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and CareerJournal.com, TheWall Street Journal’s online career site.
Another survey, conducted by Opinion Research Corp. for America Online, found that 54% of single men and 40% of women said they would be open to dating a co-worker.
“People realize they’re going to be at work such long hours, it’s almost inevitable that this takes place,” says Jessica Collison, manager of the SHRM survey program.
In my mind, it takes a special kind of mean employer to forbid any and all romantic entanglements at the office. Once you get out of college, finding a romantic partner becomes a lot more difficult. Depriving people who spend 40-50 hours a week working of the one place where they are often surrounded by people seems to simply be an exercise of sadism on the part of the employer. Yes, I’m aware of the problems that it can cause. Yes, I do think that employees should think twice before embarking on such a thing.
But one thing employers sometimes need to work at is becoming more than just jobs. They often lecture employees that they want people who want careers at the company and not job. That means encouraging socialization. Letting work be a social hub will often make people more reluctant to leave. I know that one of the things I will miss most about Falstaff is the people. I’m obviously not in the relationship market, but if I were the fact that there is a constant flow of single young ladies would not escape my attention (though there would also be the problem that they’re LDS and 10 years my junior, but you get the idea).
Many workplaces are inconducive to it. Wildcat was over 80% male and 0% unmarried-female-below-40. But the Hellion-Employer-I-Have-Not-Named in Colosse and Falstaff, on the other hand, are not that way. In fact, Marcel was an OSI programmer and Suzanne a copychecker when they met. They’re now married and because of that Marcel came back to work for us part-time when we needed it. Before Suzanne, Marcel and Teddy Forbes were competing for another copychecker. Life goes on.
Of course, this can all be taken to a ludicrous extreme. Bregna, the hellion-employer-I-formerly-had-not-named, did just that. They encouraged interoffice romance. In fact, if two employees there got married they would throw a huge party. Of course, if one person left they would expect the other person to leave, as well, because they discouraged friendships with former employees and strongly discouraged romances. If they could prohibit it they would. They went beyond wanting a social hub towards wanting your life to be dedicated to this company both professionally and personally.
FastCompany consults with Hit Coffee favorite Despair.com to investigate the question of what works better: motivation or demotivation. Not in the sense of carrot versus stick, but rather whether management should try to instill motivation or just not care. Despair, truly the product of Generation X, leans towards the latter.
The long-awaited Instant Messaging limitations are now upon us. Sort of. As I had suspected, they were unable to stop IMs from going outside the firewall while keeping them functional inside. And as I suspected, their ultimate solution was to kill IMing altogether. Except that they are claiming that was their intention all along.
I found out about the coming IM limitations through Willard and c0nfirmed it all through Del, a former programmer who is now the junior IT dude. The only reason I found out is because I am now lower-level management. The only person I told was Simon. Everyone else was in the dark until one morning earlier this week when they couldn’t get on to MSN Messenger. For reasons I can’t quite put my finger on, MSN Messenger is the primary IM used up here. Back in Delosa my former home state it’s AIM by a longshot. I had actually only recently created an MSNIM account for work purposes. Ironically, that was the only one that was cut off. So I was free to email my friends, but not my coworkers.
They were claiming at this point that they had blocked all IMing. I ended up breaking the bad news to Del that they hadn’t. Talking it 0ver with my friend Tony, who is a network admin for a similarly sized company in Colosse, apparently AIM and Yahoo !nstant Messenger is more difficult that you would figure. He wasn’t surprised that they came up short. Now, when I say they were “claiming” that they blocked all IMing, they were not claiming this to everyone. In fact, no one had told the rank-and-file that this was going to happen and no one had told them when it already happened.
Finally this morning they blocked Y!M. It took less than two minutes for someone to figure out that all we had to do was re-set the port. They still had not told us of the new policy, much less why it was in effect. Willard finally filled everyone in at 10 or so. Apparently, their rationale was not that it was being used for non-business-related purposes, but that they wanted to put an end to our account managers talking to our clients that way because it was “unprofessional” or somesuch. IMing, like talking on the phone or in person or email, is a medium. I don’t understand why some people can’t get it through their heads that like any other communication medium, there are things that it does better than other media (informal inquiries, for instance) and there is nothing inherently unprofessional about it.
Personally, I blame the danged tweeners and their inability to type the words you, be, are, and hahaha. They may have ruined IMing for the business world forever.
When I first got to Falstaff, there was absolutely no IMing at all. The thing is that it didn’t require IT putting their nose to the grindstone. It didn’t require elaborate technical solutions. It only required management saying “No IMing” and we didn’t. It’s rather amazing how effective directness can be when you give it a chance. Instead they started blocking it without telling us about it. Instead of treating us like adults, they chose an alternate route. And this time we took an alternate route. It wasn’t until they actually explained the new policy and its rationale that we finally stopped beating the system.
Even now I’m keeping it installed and will use it whenever I’m staying late or getting their early enough that prying eyes are not around. I may also use GMail’s neat little window that is somewhat hidden in the browser. Not sure. Feeling pissy enough about it all, though.
I knew that this was coming. To be honest, I’m not really that upset about it. From a business standpoint, eliminating IM may be the better move. It’s certainly within their rights to do so. But they screwed this up like they screw up so many personnel decisions: a lack of transparency met with condescension. Even when they did tell us what they were doing, they lied about what they did when they said that all IMing has been knocked out and told us not to dare to try to find a workaround (which we already had with Y!M and was unnecessary with AIM and GoogleTalk because they never stopped functioning!). They made this so much worse than they might have. Even Simon is agitated, and he used IM maybe twice a week and only to talk to me.
To continue on their roll, they have also implemented some internet monitoring and blocking software. They were quizzing one of the copycheckers over a site that she visited 124 times the other day. They weren’t mad, just curious. Turns out that it was an email site and she was just moving emails around (which would take a lot of clicks). Curiously, the only site I have found that it actually blocks is BugMeNot. I don’t know whether it will become more aggressive as time passes. If they go after webmail, that will hit me where it hurts. Both the copychecker nor the BugMeNot things were good things on the whole… because it’s the only way that I was informed of the new software.
As with IMing, the company has every right to monitor Internet usage. I don’t even begrudge them that. However, disclosure matters. If the point of monitoring is to discourage poor use of resources, keeping it quiet is actually counterproductive to those ends. I wasn’t curtailing my surfing a few days ago even though the moniters were on. I curtailed it today because now I know what they’re doing.
This is the same IT department that emails us when the Internet is going to be down for 5 minutes at 2 in the morning. But they can’t email us on major changes like this. Well actually, they could but they understandably left it to the department supervisors. The supervisors, as is often the case, completely dropped the ball. Just like with job openings. And other rules and regulations. You only find out about them when it’s too late.
Anyway, end result of all this is that there will be no or limited IMing. I will no longer be accessing the site from work under any circumstances. For the most part I’ve been writing the posts at night and posting them during the day, but now I’m going to have to start posting them at night. Some of the relatively few posts I did write during the day will not be written anymore, so posting may decline marginally. I will also not be able to respond to comments until the end of the day. Remember that I work long hours and I am in the Mountain Time Zone, so the end of my day is later than the end of yours, so be patient.
Everybody in my family was pretty sure that OJ did it. No one moreso than Mom, who was glued to CourtTV throughout the entire trial. When OJ was acquitted, as we were all pretty sure he would be, Mom trotted out that familiar line “God’ll get’im.” The belief that all that is wrong will be made right in the afterlife is what drives the faith of many. It’s what Mom used whenever she was having to tread through some injustice or persistent irritation.
I had a conversation with Melvin, Adam, and CIO Bill Darden. They were talking about how impressive the new compiler was supposed to be. I commented that I thought that our current compiler was pretty impressive itself. Cocked-eyes all around. “You ever driving down the road and you see a mufflerless ‘83 pinto that’s spitting out black smoke as it sputters along and you think to yourself, ‘Wow, it’s impressive that car still manages to run.’ It’s not that our Compiler is unimpressive… it’s just impressive in a different way… that it manages to work at all.”
One of the banes of our department’s existence has been The Compiler. Some of you may recall of a couple of whines posts about a guy named Andre that swiftly made it from OSI programmer to software developer in no time flat because he has a temple recommend and an important brother. His brother Sid Colby works in internal development and his job for the past several months has been to redesign our software compiler from scratch (for the non-technical among you: a compiler takes code and turns it into something useful, like an application or in our case reports such as payroll).
The compiler has a long and somewhat tortured history. It was developed a few years back by a programmer of only marginal dedication to the company. When the compiler started regressing (being able to handle less different styles of programming than before, rendering certain products useless), he was ordered to fix it but declined. He was promptly fired, to which he replied, “So do you want to buy the sourcecode from me?”
One of the dangers of an IT-driven company started by someone without an IT (or legal) background, I suppose, is not realizing how important some of the intricacies of an employment contract for a programmer can be (made all the more ironic by the fact that we produce such contracts for other companies… and the fact that I’ve been here for two years and still have not actually signed an employment contract). They paid him off and he went his merry way. His replacement got halfway through an overhaul and quit. The next guy was literally two weeks from a launch date when he quit.
What’s why Sid was so impotant, and probably how he was able to use his influence in the company to get his brother Andre promoted to development despite little practical experience. I’m not sure how good or bad Sid is as a programmer, but it is well-known within the company that he was chosen in large part because they knew he would stick around. He’s been plugging away at it for months, starting from scratch yet again. He’s popped his head in the department a few times to ask questions such as “Would you prefer a space before the example tables like it has now, or would you prefer flexibility and having to put the space there yourself?” and “Do you see any need for tables within unordered lists?”
Nearly every time we have been confronted with a problem with our current limitations, the solution has always been “That won’t be a problem with the new compiler, so work around it for now.”
It has since become our department’s equivalent of “God’ll get’em.”
Somewhere in a scrapbook
there’s a rose you gave to me
and a photograph that’s torn in half
and all that’s left is me. Patty Smyth
Despite being together for over three years now and being married for two-and-a-half, Clancy and I spent our first Valentine’s Day together tonight.
Last VD she was on an out-of-town rotation and I spent it with an ex-girlfriend whose husband was out of town on business (what’s the ex-girlfriend doing in Deseret? long story). The year before that I was in Colosse I spent it with my ex-girlfriend Julie, who was still smarting from her breakup with Tony and could use the company. The year before that (when Clancy and I were together, but before we were married) it was spent with… someone else. A lonely VD for her, a dark and haunted one for me.
Interestingly, the last time I haven’t had a date (platonic or otherwise) for VD was 1995, I think. Dumb luck, usually. Even when my then-girlfriend made other plans for Valentines Day about five years back, I stumbled onto a date with someone else. Clancy, on the other hand, hasn’t had one in some time. Dumb luck there, too, particularly with one of us always being somewhere else.
So anyway, despite the importance of it being our first VD together, it had additional importance for her. There are certain demons within us all and it’s on and around VD that Clancy’s surface. This was the first time in a long time that they were not in the picture. And instead she had me. And flowers.
One of the things I appreciate most about Clancy is how direct she is. Julie used to dance around what she wanted, abstractly mentioning something about it six weeks prior and then be sent into shock and doubt if I didn’t remember it when the time came. Julie would get mad at me if I forgot some important date… Clancy just reminds me of what the date is. Not trying to pick on Julie here, but in the Julie-to-Clancy spectrum, more women seem to fall closer to Julie’s tendencies.
So yesterday when she was on call and we were talking about what to do for VD, she mentioned that she was working on getting a gift together for me. I told her that I didn’t exactly have anything in that regard. She pointed out that I can’t go wrong with flowers. I got flowers. She’s happy. I’m happy that she’s happy. It’s amazing what can happen when one party in a relationship (usually, though by no means always, the female party) lets go of the notion that their significant other shouldn’t have to have everything spelled out for them.
But this was the first time that she had ever gotten flowers on the holiday. The first time she’d ever gotten a dozen roses ever. Many years ago she got flowers on VD from her mother when she was released from a hospital. She got a couple flowers from a boy who liked her way too much a few years back on a day that wasn’t VD. But this was a break for her. She got a dozen roses on Valentine’s Day from her significant other. The right boy at the right time with the right gift. Just the way things are supposed to be… but never seem to have been.
And it marked a break for me. Julie didn’t just want flowers. She wanted bigger and better flowers than she got last time. She didn’t say this directly because she didn’t say much of anything directly, but the disappointed tone of her voice spoke volumes even as she spoke softly. Towards the end I felt like I was walking on eggshells just trying to get her a gift.
Then there was her successor… the one that found another date when we were together and then a couple years later stood up a date with her then-boyfriend to pay me a visit. I gave her flowers three times, each one of them unknowingly on the onset of a disaster. The first time she decided to stick with her boyfriend for another month. The second time it prompted her to indicate to me that she was considering leaving. The third time was in Fall of 2001 and the tectonic plates between us were already shifting. As the plates continued the shift the morning she got the flowers, two towers in Washington DC were falling and the Pentagon was on fire. My best friend’s father wrote him after not speaking to him for five years. It was the kind of times that we reached out to the ones we love. She reached out to someone else and our relationship ended.
I don’t know if it was a conscious decision, but after 9/11/2001 and the ensuing events I stopped giving anyone flowers. Maybe I thought it was bad luck or maybe I was getting lazy. Thankfully, Clancy told me what she wanted. It helped her get over her demons, and gave me another opportunity to step over mine.
Tonight she emailed her parents to commemorate the first Valentine’s Day without the taint. And I write this post, thrilled at being able to be a part of that for her. And relieved that there isn’t another shoe to drop.
Clifford Simmons, our HR person, is no more. Well, he still is, he is just now a sales manager at one of the car lots of Dave Fallon, our CEO’s brother. This is a good and joyful thing because I can say without hesitation that Clifford Simmons was the worst HR director ever. I never thought I would feel visceral hatred at the site of an HR director, but there you go.
In his first meeting with us he openly declared that we were all replaceable:
To give you an idea of the tone and nature of the discussion, he said that if you miss days without company permission (or take more than three sick days) that your job is at risk. He went into what came across as a tirade about how if they wanted part-time workers, they would hire part-time workers, but this company doesn’t hire part-time workers for a reason. At least six people in the room were designated part-time employees. But the essential gyst was “You are replaceable. If you don’t want to do things exactly our way, we’ll find someone else that will.”
He also proceeded to remind us of dress code stipulations that did not exist. He told us that if they hadn’t cut off our Internet already they were going to. Over six months later our dress code has actually been relaxed and we still have Internet access (including IM, so far).
After that meeting he constantly patrolled our area to make sure that we were working. Every week at our team meetings Willard would announce that “someone” has seen us not working during business hours and that needed to not happen. This person claimed that we were playing video games on company time… I have never seen anyone play any computer game at work, on the clock or off, but I suspect he saw something he didn’t recognize it because it was unfamiliar to him and all we kids do is play video games all the time anyway. He glared at us suspiciously when we were talking about work (such as a QA person explaining to a QA person what needed to be corrected).
None of this was his job. None of this had anything to do with his job. An HR director’s job is sometimes to handle hiring and firing, but its usually a matter of handling paperwork and working with management to set some policy - but not to enforce said policy. Not to be a supervisor for the entire company. Not to threaten to fire anybody. Not to reiterate policy that was not only never iterated in the first place, but isn’t even policy (such as not hiring part-time people). When we’d complain to Willard, he said to sit tight and that he wouldn’t let anything happen to us. That was fine and good, but we had enough morale problems without a whipboy hovering over us. Eventually he was moved back to corporate headquarters and the complaints about us not working during working hours magically ceased.
A week or so before the company meeting where he made his announcement, I saw a planned itinerary for the meeting in which he was going to give us a “call to arms.” I mentioned it to Simon and we both laughed. Cliff was not only uninspiring, he was anti-inspiring. He made me want to do nothing because he made me hate the company. I guess between the itenerary and the meeting itself, he was transferred and so he never gave the speech. That made the transfer all the more wonderful.
Last week we had our not-monthly-anymore company meeting. Our company has expanded beyond the point where we can have it in the breakroom. They let us have a vote as to whether to have the meeting before work or after. It was literally a matter of a couple votes for us getting our rears there at 6:30 in the morning (forcing me to get up at 5ish). Somehow, I actually made it there a little earlier than most and just about everyone made it on time.
They did the employee of the month award and somehow someone from our department had actually won. To give you an idea of the significance of this, the RLC department had so given up on ever winning the Employee of the Month that they briefly set up a EotM award for our department alone. When Tobias (who was then the head of the ANG team within the department) won one month and then Willard the next, the department award vanished. This is still the first time that an actual OSI or ANG programmer (or QA associate) actually won. The winner was Freddie, who I’ll talk about more in the future.
Freddie, though not undeserving, actually got it by chance. Willard asked me, out of the blue, to name a number between one and three. I thought it was a riddle because the only number between one and three is two. It turns out that he had three people in mind to nominate for the honor and I was choosing between the three (he didn’t say betweek 1 and three inclusive… he just said between 1-3). For my ego’s sake, I assume that I was one of the three. The randomness of it, however, demonstrates they were prime to give it to our department.
Bill Darden, the CIO and Willard’s supervisor, has despaired over the lack of morale within RLC. We have a ton of jokes about how worthless we are considered within the company dating back to certain department heads of over groups willingness to take less qualified pe0ple from the outside than more qualified people in our department. Darden said it was his mission to change this and I guess, in this sense, he delivered.
Unfortunately he was not privy to the speach that COO Gary Hansen was going to give. In the speech, Gary wanted us to know that he believed that he thought we had the best people in the business. We had the best lawyers, best sales people, best this, that, the other thing. There was only one group that he left off: us. Even though we make the reports and legal documentation that is the core of the company’s income. None of us were disappointed, much less surprised. It was just unfortunate that Hansen’s motivational peptalk flew right over the group that has the biggest need of motivation. And since that came after Freddie’s award, it stuck in our minds longer. The COO actually took time out of his busy schedule to apologize to us for that and explain what happened, but the damage was done.
They also talked about our stock options and new avenues the company plans to explore. Company President Don Fallon’s brother (and former Falstaff COO) Dave is a rather big car dealer in the state (#3, actually, though they expect to be #2 by the end of the year). Because the CD player in my car doesn’t do well in sub-freezing temperatures, I’ve periodically had to listen to the radio. It’s strange listening to the radio and hearing a former bigwig in your company on the radio talking about a BIG BIG BIG SALE!!!!!!… sounding enthusiastic instead of constantly angry… and actually sounding personable rather than caustic. I’m not sure if it’s a Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde thing or if he’s just that good. Considering that he was the motor behind Falstaff’s founding while building his car dealership while the local LDS bishop, I suspect it’s that he’s just that good.
The reason that I bring up Dave is that Don said that he planned to exploit Don’s standing in the automotive trade as leverage to enter that market. Right now we only tend to the HR needs of companies in a particular industry. Last time we tried to expand it didn’t quite work out, but by this time next year we should be tending to the HR/software needs of two industries. They are also tumbling forth ever vigilantly on C2, the New Compiler. John Hansen, our CTO (the brother of our COO), gave the speech dressed up as Superman (because our new c0mpiler and the software system surrounding it will be “fast and bulletproof”).
It was all a pretty impressive presentation that actually got me thinking. More on those thoughts to come.
Yeehaw. I just got a cease-and-desist letter from an entity that calls itself “Dixona Transport.”
I am evaluating my options as we speak.
Addendum: Here is the letter:
I am writing to inform you that “Dixona” is a registered trademark of Dixona Transport, a Limited Liability Corporation in the State of Florida, with all rights reserved. Your web-site makes enough references to “Dixona” to appear first on a search using Google or Yahoo and this could cause potential customers to confuse an affiliation between your site and my company.
I respectfully ask that you remove all references to “Dixona” from your site. If you do not I will contact the following organizations about taking your site down or obtaining your identity to take you to court: Domains by Proxy your domain host, GoDaddy.com its parent company, and EV1Servers your site host. I will also consider taking other actions such as finding any other copyright or trademark violations on your site and contacting the holders of those copyrights or trademarks.
I appreciate your cooperation on this matter,
President, Dixona Transport [street address withheld]
St. Petersburg, FL 33703
Note: The name of the state has been changed from Dixona to Delosa.
The RLC Department decided to have a p0t luck dinner on Friday. Well, it was mostly the ANG side that wanted to do it. OSI remains populated almost entirely by guys in their twenties. I’m not sure who all’s in the pot luck demographic, but it’s not unmarried guys in that age group. ANG is now half-male also, also predominantly unmarried. So the girls all thought of something creative that they would bring and half of the guys all volunteered for chips and dip.
The fact that almost nobody in OSI agreed to participate was a point of irritation for Carol Goddard and Mallory Hardin, who had organized this. They decided that only those that brought something would get to participate. The night before Clancy and I made a midnight run to the convenience store and I decided to pick up some easy cheese, cream cheese, and crackers of a couple sorts. It wasn’t particularly creative, but I figured that it wasn’t chips and dip and it wasn’t cheap so it couldn’t be too easily disregarded.
So Friday it was on. Carol’s husband and an ANG programmer, complimented by junkie-cheesy contribution. I commented that it was great for occasions like this because I enjoy eating it, but a whole can of easy cheese or bar of cream cheese is simply too much. This way I can have some without having a lot. He agreed with my logic.
Carol had to make a run to the grocery store to pick up some more stuff when Ulysses entered the picture. Ulysses asked if he could have some and Willard said “sure.” So Ulysses was eating some when Frank approached him and told him that the food was for ANG only. Ulysses thought he was joking. I actually assumed that he was, too. But something in the manner that Frank charged back to his desk told Ulysses that he wasn’t.
Ulysses is a salesman. He’s one of very few black people in the Mocum area. True to stereotype, he was a linebacker at BYU. His sales region is the South. The degree of unselfconsciousness required in all these things is indicative of how much of a people-person he is. His business is in being likeable. He really doesn’t like being unliked.
So he gave me the rest of his plate, apologized to Frank and told him that he wasn’t trying to be a freeloader. Frank was not impressed. Ulysses offered Frank a couple bucks to pay for the foot he ate and told Frank that he had given the rest of the plate to me. Frank tossed the money into the trash can and muttered “Will didn’t bring anything, either.”
This had me concerned that my contribution didn’t count. Granted the cheese and crackers wasn’t really elaborate, and I hadn’t announced that I was going to bring it (because I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get anything), but I didn’t get any of the cheap stuff and it went in excess of $10, worth more than anything I would eat twofold. I knew that Frank knew that I had brought something because he and I had a conversation.
When Carol got back, I asked her if my contribution counted and she assured me that it had. It was a selfish question considering all that was going on, but it at least provided a seque into explaining all that had occured. Frank was huddled in his corner. Not talking. Not eating. Just sitting there. Ulysses, still feeling bad, went to the store and brought some Diet Lime Coke to contribute. He offered it to Frank, but Frank declined. And sat there untalking and uneating. Ulysses ended up giving the drink to me, which worked out well because Clancy is a huge Diet Lime Coke fan.
I like Frank. He’s a good guy and a very hard worker. He was supposed to be the first of the ANG team to be transferred to my team because of his current superviser/subordinate relationship with his wife. I was looking forward to it. But this whole chain of events underscored a petulent side of him that had not gone completely unnoticed before.
Carol and Frank eventually had a showdown of sorts. They were in the breakroom having a heated conversation for well over an hour. It was another illustration of having married coworkers (particularly of the superviser/subordinate variety).
Everything eventually calmed down. Frank talked to me Monday to let me know that there was some sort of miscommunication and that he knew I had brought something. He apparently apologized to Ulysses, too. Ulysses apologized again, though it had been evident from the get-go that he felt bad about the whole thing.
At first I was sorry when Carol said that there wouldn’t be any more pot luck lunches. Then I thought about it and was relieved.
Whether you’re a fan of pop country or not (I’m generally not), I strongly suggest you check out a song called “Didn’t Have To Be” by Brad Paisley. An ode to his stepfather, it may be one of the most original and touching songs to have come out that year.
My friend Tony and his ex and future wife Lara are apparently going to buy a house. It was something they always talked about in their first marriage but things were always too turbulent. Now that they’re together again, I guess they believe new beginning warrant taking chances. They’re probably right.
The website he showed me that had pictures of the house also had pictures of his family at the Colossal Kingdom amusement park. I had never met the kids before and never seen him with them. It was extremely odd to see my friend, younger than I, as being the Dad. He’s one of only two of my friends to have kids so far. His are the only ones out of diapers. But there was no mistaking it in the pictures.
They were an odd combination. Tony was 19 and barely a year out of high school. Lara was a nearly thirty year old divorced mother of three living in a welfare complex. I never learned much about the father(s) of Lara’s children, but I gathered that (t)he(y) was/were never a significant part of the kids’ lives. At 19, Tony was a father with two sons and a daughter not five years younger than he. It was difficult to wrap my hands around then and it’s still difficult now.
There was no mistaking it in the Colossal Kingdom pictures. Biological or not, he was Dad. From what I understand, Lara was pretty directionless when they met. She was on welfare with little likelihood of getting off any time soon. She was overwhelmed by her children — particularly their problematic daughter. He stepped into a tempest and managed to keep it all together for a couple years. Unfortunately, it was the conflict about their oldest that drove the wedge that cracked their marriage wide open. Having gotten this family all at once, I think that made it all the more harder to let go of when that time would come.
My coworker Simon is also a step-dad in all but marriage-license. He was relating to me the other day how disturbed he was about the family finances. Family. Finances. Like Tony, Simon also stepped into a relationship and immediately became a father. In some ways I think he has had a more difficult task than Tony did. Paige was apparently pretty clueless on how to take care of her kids and it was Simon, who’d been a dad for all of a couple months, who actually came up with a disciplining regimen. Prior to that, Paige was rewarding whichever son it was that hadn’t done something wrong. The oldest son would talk back, the youngest son would get ice cream. This lead to endless tattling and even more acrimony than is usual between brothers.
Things were apparently so bad that Paige told me a while back that she was considering giving the oldest one up to the state. A couple years later and they’re now stable, relatively speaking.
As I contemplate whether or not to embark on fatherhood and consider all of the challenges therein, I can’t help but admire those around me that not only stepped right into fatherhood, but into unstable situations and made the most of it.
Several years ago I was at a party where I met two young ladies. They had apparently graduated high school, moved out to Hollywood to become actresses and instead came back mothers. I was mildly interested in one of them for a little while. At some point, however, it donned on me as she was talking about her kid, I realized how much the kid was at best an ornament and at worst a chore. And I saw how she insisted on not letting the kid hinder her ability to enjoy her youth. It wasn’t what she said as much as how she said it… as though the ability to go out with friends and get drunk were a civil right and the baby was a little John Ashcroft trying to trample on it.
It was a bizarre realization that left a pretty bad taste in my mouth. I lost interest almost immediately thereafter. As envious as I may be of Tony’s role as Dad to two strappin’ young boys and as admiring as I am of Simon’s work with Paige’s kids, I determined then that wasn’t a role that I really wanted to be in. Had I fallen in love with a woman with a woman that had kids my views might be different. But the thought of parenthood is scary enough. The thought of step-parenthood or unplanned parenthood is even worse.
So hat’s off to all those that became the parents they didn’t have to — or didn’t want to — be.
My eyes desperately wants to look away, but they can’t. Look forward. Look forward. Look forward.
OH MY GOD THAT HURTS!
Numbness. I get about five seconds of it. 5. Look to the left. Look to the right. 4. Look up. Look down. 3. Look to the right. Look to the left. 2. Roll your eyes twice. 1. Stand there like a dear in the headlights. 0.
OH CRAP IT’S BACK!
I start jumping up and down, tripping over the trashcan. I don’t know whether opening my eyes of closing them hurts more. I can’t even muster the energy to keep one open and the other closed. Tears come rushing out. The water and saline actually makes me feel better, but I know that it’ll just make the second round harder. I feel like I need to hold my eyes open to get used to the light again, but my lids slip from my fingers and they shut again.
No choice but to lay down and wait it out.
The right one is always the harder of the two. Sure enough, the first time is a painful failure. The second time I blink and it is smashed. More fluid, more tries. Each time I’m worried that some eyelash or something has gotten onto it. It goes in better dry, but risk of infection is considerably greater without the cleaning fluid.
Poke. Hold, Look ahead. Disregard pain.
I would jump, but I know there is a knocked-over trashcan around my feet somewhere. I don’t know where because I haven’t been able to see out 0f both eyes since making contact with my left one. Learning from the last one, I head straight for the bed and wait. And wait. And wait.
Contacts, how I loathe thee.
Then, before I know it, I am ready to open my eyes again. I wipe the tears away and suddenly I can see. I mean, really see. Suddenly everything is so sharp. It’s as though I am looking through some special camera that can focus on everything at once. I squint because my eyes have a little difficulty taking in all the colors and shapes the way that it has trouble taking in the Sun outside. Once I’ve adjusted I walk outside.
It’s always the best when there is water on the ground, and today there was. I can see streetlights ricochet off the puddles. The wind causes mini-waves and I can even see those.
Contacts, how I love thee.
For some reason it’s easier for my right hand to aim on the left eye.
I was emailed by account manager Geoff three times about a set of work orders. For reasons that I cannot quite figure out, between 8 this morning and 5 in the afternoon they made almost zero progress. They started the day numbers 8-11 in the QA queue… and they ended 7-10. I’m guessing that we got a host of WO with earlier due dates through today and so they cut in line. Geoff’s were due today, so the others must have either been backdated or were elevated.
In any case, I could not leave them untested, so I stuck around for a couple hours and tested them.
Thus keeping up the illusion that we are not desperate for more people.
Do you ever get the feeling that people that get an MBA are taught that if someone tells you that a task or project can’t be done you should tell them that it must be done and whatever obstacle in the way of accomplishing that task will suddenly disappear?
A long time ago Willard was in charge of a product line that had run its course. It was tied up in a database that had become so unwieldy and weighed down with temporary fixes that it was impossible to move forward with it. Don Fallon, the company’s owner and president, found this unacceptable. He recalled a scene in the movie Apollo 13 wherein a bunch of engineers had to find a way to plug up a square using the contents of the space doohickey. Fallon said that he needed Willard to be those engineers and figure out a way.
“You don’t understand, Don,” Willard responded, “the shuttle has blown up and the astronauts are dead.”
Two months later over half the customers left the product line, the project was killed, and our project, OSI, was born.
The OSI Team is running into a near-indisputable personnel shortage. We have the most experienced team that has ever existed in the two years that I’ve been here. Our weekly output has busted through all previous records as well as the goals that Willard set at the beginning of the year to obtain by the end of the year. This despite being down two people since November. After all of this work, we have fallen about four days further behind (1000 requests in, 850 out).
We have unfilled work orders from last August. Our skewed priority system means that they will stay at the bottom indefinitely. This was deemed unacceptable by the Deputy Accounts Chief, as well it should be. So CIO Bill Darden has asked us to dedicate a person or two towards filling out the backlog. We can do that, but we have been stretching ourselves just to keep up with the Code Red and Code Orange requests. Over 9 of every 10 work orders that we’re getting in is either Red or Orange (an “emergency” or an “urgent”). I can’t remember the last time I have seen a request that was actually marked Yellow (a “normal” request). It has gotten bad enough that I pulled Richie off of his special project and have even thrown a few Oranges Charlie’s way.
You’ll notice that I said “almost indisputable”… I said almost because, when confronted with the above body of evidence, Darden in fact did dispute our request for additional personnel. He said, as he often does, that the problem here is prioritizing and processing. That may have been true at some point, but right now we are behind on every single priority level. No matter how it’s counted or what order it’s done, 1000-850 is still going to be a positive number.
But in some ways, Darden’s request that we start working on the backlog has been a godsend. I put Charlie on the project because it involves requests that are not time-specific. Because I try not to give him anything above Light Orange (meaning an Orange requests that’s due a week or more out) it won’t hurt our ability to keep up with the important stuff. Unfortunately, I also had to dedicate part-time QA guy Marcel, which means that QA, which is already our bottleneck, will drop further behind.
So how is this a godsend? It’s going to break the camel’s back and I’ve gotten tired working 11-hour days holding it up. I’m tired of dedicating more and more of my working on every step of the process because overtime is only approved for those that don’t want it (Simon and Melvin) and someone that comes in early rather than works late (Freddie). And with this… even if I work 12-hour days, it won’t be enough. So with a goal I cannot accomplish, I don’t have to try so hard to accomplish it.
I hate the idea of important things not getting done. That’s why I’ve been so willing to stay after and work on it. But if letting important requests slide and even losing a customer or two is what is required, it’s about all I can do.
The real test is whether or not, when six rolls around tomorrow, I can convince myself to leave undone things undone.
It’s the next closest thing to free. It is the embodiment of capitalist enginuity that a full meal (such as it is) can be bought and sold for ten cents a pop. It gives me a strange faith in The American Way.
One meal. Ten cents. God Bless America.
It’s okay, though, because I discovered that spam and refried beans (along with some Taco Bell brand queso) make for outstanding grub.
Yes I eat ramen and spam and yes my wife is a doctor. Why ever do you ask?
In the comments section of a previous post, I mentioned how difficult it is to get fired at Falstaff.
When I first got to Falstaff, I was self-conscious because I didn’t know the company’s never-fire-anybody governing philosophy. And I felt I was pretty slow on the uptake. I did not realize at the time that Simon and the others were commenting on how I was the fastest learner they had ever seen (Melvin would later take that title from me, however). So I was worried that I wouldn’t get it in time. But luckily there was Martha.
As slow as I was, she was abysmal. I don’t know who it was that decided that someone that did not know how to use Microsoft Word (no joke) would make a good computer programmer, but that was what they decided. Martha was very nice, but to say she “didn’t get it” would be a pretty powerful understatement. In the point system at the time, the average person got somewhere between 10-30 points a day. In her first two months, Martha got 8 points. As long as she was around, as The Gator Theory went, I knew I was safe.
Finally at the end of the third month they transferred her to the front desk, where they learned that she was not being modest when she told them that she didn’t know how to use Microsoft Office. Once every few days I could get a call forwarded to me that was meant for someone else, so that wasn’t her specialty either. Then they moved her into a position as an office assistent for Legal Standards and Compliance. All she had to do for that position was print stuff out. That’s it. She could manage that.
However, do to a misunderstanding, she was inadvertantly fired. They decided not to fix the glitch.
She was fired by a guy named Billy Coulton. Coulton had the shortest tenure as an Accounts Chief that this company has ever seen, and there have been four in the past two years. He lasted less than a week. His first decision upon getting promoted from regular account manager to the chief of account managers was to clean house so that he could put more of his own people in there. The problem is that he did not have the authority to fire anyone. Further complicating matters is that he fired Martha, who wasn’t even in his department. He had, for some reason, assumed that he was also in charge of LSC as well.
Such extraordinary lack of judgement could not even be overlooked by Falstaff. He was promptly dismissed and three of the four people that he let go were immediately asked back and even offered more money for their trouble.
The last person to get fired at Falstaff was Coulton’s successor, incidentally. It took six months of clocking twenty hours on a full-time job to finally get the axe.
I am told that before I was hired on that there was a guy who used company servers to run a porn site.
That’s about what it takes to get fired at Falstaff, apparently.
A while back I wrote in irritation about having to babysit bottom-dwelling Charlie as he stumbles through his programming chores. Since being elevated to supervisor, this has unsurprisingly become a more pressing issue.
As a general rule, I do not give anything to Charlie that does not need to be done in a reasonable amount of time. That’s not to say that Charlie doesn’t work. His output is noticeable, ableit only half as voluminous as anyone else on the team. It’s that you never know how long it will take for him to get a particular task done. It’s the difference, I guess, between working on a really slow computer versus a computer that reboots randomly. You never know what’s going to hold him back… and therefore you do not under any circumstances want a looming deadline with a project in his hands.
Unfortunately, some assignments jump up in priority, and one of the projects I gave him was declared due at the end of the day. I seriously considered taking it right out of his hands and putting into someone else’s. But it seemed about as easy as a project gets. You’re simply going in and changing some formulas and fields — a simple cut-and-paste job.
Every now and again, though, we get what I like to call a poison pill. It’s something that looks like it ought to be really easy except that due to certain limitations in our compiler and the nature of the programming language(s) we use, it can be a lot more difficult than it appears. Such was the case with A302. So the more I looked at the project, the more patient I was that it was taking him a long time to do. Though once it was 7 I decided to start doing it myself just in case he was going to perpetually randomly reboot.
He turned it in at 8 and left. Now generally a programmer is not supposed to leave until the document has been tested by a QA person. But it was 8, I knew he had a family at home, and it would have been faster for me to make any corrections than it would to give it back to him. So I let him go. In return, he left me the most gawd-awful report I have ever seen in my entire life. Reluctantly, I called Michael and told him that I would probably be working until midnight correcting this. He informed me that the report wasn’t actually that important and that they just elevated it to see if we could back up grandiose promises made by account managers. Noticing that our customer was the lowest rank - which means that we’re losing money on them - I had thought that might be the case.
He told me to go home. I worked a couple more hours and made most of the corrections. I was an hour away from finishing when I finally left. The next day the balance of the report was to be completed by Charlie. I figured if it would be an hour or so for me he should finish around lunchtime. I was mistaken. He turned it in to me at 5:45, by which point several people had pressed me for the document and I had to pretend that I didn’t know that it wasn’t actually an important thing and it was for a very unimportant customer.
Once again, the document was in terrible shape. He had fixed the things I told him to fix, but in the process had ruined just about everything else. It was so toxic that I didn’t even touch it. I just backtracked to my work from the previous night and pretty much negated his entire day. But it was right. I turned it in and went home. That was last Thursday and it still hasn’t been looked over by Legal Standards and Compliance because, after all, it’s an unimportant document for an unimportant customer.