Archive for October, 2009

No Hope

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Yesterday I was called into a back room for a highly secret unofficial conversation. The subject was a friend of mine. The stated goal was to explain to me why he was in danger of getting fired and why that option was not currently being pursued. But I think the unstated reason for the conversation was a desire to keep me from getting angry over the whole deal.

The underlying subtext was “We are trying to be as nice to him as we can be. So don’t get angry with us if we have to do what we have to do.”

In a perverse way, I was vaguely flattered that my opinion matters enough that people should feel compelled to explain themselves to me. On paper, I am nobody. So there is no reason for anyone to tell me these things, much less to try an justify themselves to me. But for some reason, they feel that it is worth some effort to keep me from getting angry. Even if the stuff they are telling me is none of my business.

So I put on my best poker face, made sympathetic sounds, and expressed my distress at the whole affair. And I tried to think of what I should do.

If I thought my friend was innocent, I would be on the warpath already. But I am pretty sure he is not. From what I know of him and from what I have heard from multiple sources, I am pretty sure he has done some dumb things.

So I guess that argues for him sinking or swimming on his own.

The only problem is that I feel that he has been more sinned against than a sinner as the old saying goes. It should make people wonder when a guy gets rave reviews from all over under a couple of different supervisors only for that to change with a particular change in supervision.

Moreover, I don’t think anyone realizes this guy’s true worth. He is more talented in almost every way then myself. But he is not recognized as such because he does not have my social skills.

And I guess those things are arguments for trying to help him out.

Expect for the fact that I don’t have the foggiest idea of how to do that.

No reward for virtue

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

Today I tried to be safe and do all the right things, but it still seemed like everything was conspiring to go wrong.

For example, I was trying to fix an outlet that had suffered physical damage. Not only the was the outlet itself damaged, but the wire-mold box that that outlet was in had been smashed hard enough that it was no longer attached to the wall. Using a circuit tracer, my partner in crime and I located that breaker that powered this outlet. We turned the breaker off and verified that there was no power going to the outlet.

Having done everything more or less by the book, my partner in crime left to get some parts while I began to remove the outlet. To make a long story short, I got shocked. It was not a really bad shock. But it woke me up.

How did I get shocked when I had made sure that power was off to this outlet? Simply put, the people who wired this building used the same neutral for multiple circuits.

Now, I have been told that a long time ago this was accepted practice. But even granting the people who wired the building that, I still would like to know why they had to make the connection between the two neutrals in the outlet itself instead of pig tailing off a junction.

At any rate, if you have a big enough load on a circuit, you can get shocked off the neutral. And if you share a neutral between several circuits, you will have a big enough load on the neutral to shock someone.

But the load that was on that neutral was nothing compared to the load on a neutral that I came across while working on another outlet later on in the day. I made sparks fly big time and caused various other problems.

And I was still trying to do everything right.

Breaking The New Guy In

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Today a man was told by our HR department that they made a mistake when the hired him. They were kind enough to tell him that they would try to figure out a way to save his job. But they made no guarantees.

Seeing as he was only hired two weeks ago this was a bit of a shock to him. Considering he left a previous job when he was offered the one he holds now, he had reason to expect that his employment here would last longer than two weeks. And regardless of what he gave up to come here, no one would be thrilled to find out that bureaucratic mistakes might cost one’s job before one had time to learn the names of one’s co-workers.

One would imagine that they will find a way to save his job. They have lots of practice at fixing these kinds of mistakes. But if they don’t, one has to think that he has reasonable grounds for a law suit. Granted, it was probably made clear to him when he was being interviewed that they could fire him for any and all reasons during his first year. But he could still make the argument that he was falsely lead to believe that our wonderful human resource department had the authority to hire him. And given that he left his previous employment, it would seem that he could make a good case that he suffered personal loss as a result of this false representation.

But all of that aside, this was a good way to break a new guy in. Some people have to work here for a year or two before they get that kind of education.

Of course, that valuable learning experience will be wasted if they don’t figure out how to save his job.

I can only handle the truth in small doses

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Today I almost wish that the guy who got fired did not get fired. It was a selfish sort of wish. Him getting fired was the best thing that ever happened to him. If getting fired does not benefit him, nothing that a human being could give him will ever help him. Though sometimes I think that a good stiff beating once or twice a week until his behavior modifies might be worth a try.

But I digress. Getting fired might have been the best thing that ever happened to him, but it sure has created a lot of work for me. And what really bothers me is that the work seems to be unending.

For example, today I was doing various inspections that he used to do. While I was in the process of performing inspections, a lady asked me if I also inspected the drop down female plugs that were all over the place. These plugs were mounted on various sliders so that they could be used to power equipment wherever it was needed on the floor.

Now whether I was supposed to inspect these drop down outlets was a little bit of a grey area. Normally I would have been all for inspecting them. But I had already found so many problems that I was going to have to fix that I was a little scared of looking for anymore problems. But since she asked. . .

The first one had no ground to speak of. The second one I tested had the polarities reversed.

After that I quit testing them.

Hiding in plan sight

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Today I was reading about Imhotep.

I had things in particular that I was looking for. Things that I pretty much already knew were there. But if you want to stay in a state of knowing everything, you have to refresh your memory every once in a while.

By all accounts, Imhotep was a pretty extraordinary man. He made such an impression on the Egyptians that they deified him a couple thousand years after he died as the God of Healing. Some modern scholars still argue that he is the father of medicine as we know it today.

But that stuff does not interest me, as it is a little dubious. What does interest me is the full list of Imhotep’s titles….

Chancellor of the King of Egypt, Doctor, First in line after the King of Upper Egypt, Administrator of the Great Palace, Hereditary Nobleman, High Priest of Heliopolis, Builder, Chief Carpenter, Chief Sculptor and Maker of Vases in Chief.

Now if your knowledge of ancient Egypt is a little lacking, there are some things that might not jump out at you. For example, do you know what Heliopolis was? From Wikipedia……

As the capital of Egypt for a period of time, grain was stored in Heliopolis for the winter months, when many people would descend on the town to be fed, leading to it gaining the title place of bread.

Now Heliopolis is how you write out the name by today’s conventions. But in Biblical Hebrew, Heliopolis is called “On” (or at least that is how they transliterate it into English). If you don’t immediately recognize where “On” is mentioned in the Bible, think “Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On”.

Incidentally, in ancient Egypt Heliopolis was the center for the worship of Atum. Atum was at that time was seen as the creator God through whom all other things were created (Egyptians religious views fluctuated through time, but this seems to have been the prevailing understanding of Atum at the time of Imhotep).

And those are some random facts from a man who spends to much of his life reading (I blame my father).


Friday, October 23rd, 2009

Today was the first day in a long time that I got everything done that I wanted to get done. That was not too hard since my goal today was to tie up lose ends that I meant to get done yesterday and the day before.

I have way more stuff to do at work right know then I can possibly get done. In and of itself, that does not bother me. It simply means that a lot of stuff is not going to get done. And I have made it very clear to all the responsible parties what it is that is not going to get done (otherwise known as whining).

What does bother me is that the stuff that I am doing is the stupid stuff that I don’t really want to do. And the stuff that I do want to do is the stuff that is not getting done.

In part this is unavoidable. A guy got fired and somebody needs to pick up the work that he did. And since a lot of what he did was required by various regulatory bodies, it is kind of important. And since it is important, my Boss asked me to make sure that it all got done. He also made it clear that I did not have to do it all myself.

But since he is so overloaded himself, he has not taken a hands on approach in directing people to do this or that. Instead he has left it up to me to find my own help. And since I have no real authority, that means the only person who is really helping me is my partner in crime. And he has a lot of his own work that he needs to be working on.

You have to agree on worth before you can talk about equality

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

Today I wrote this in answer to a comment on my post…

To be honest, I do not believe most of the things that I argued in the above post. Truth be told, I would never seriously argue about equality at all. I only wrote the post for the fun of playing devil’s advocate.

To me it is absurd to talk about equality because equality means different things to different people. You can not determine what is equal to what until you first determine what the value of things are. The thing that bothers me about people who talk about “equality” generally and Charlie Whitaker post in particular is that they don’t even recognizes the assumptions about values that they make in order to determine what is equal and what is not.

For example, people like Charlie Whitaker typically look at income as being the primary measure of how “equal” a country is. By his measure, I am one of the people in America who suffer from its great inequality. I am an uneducated blue collar male who works in the trades. Yet I feel that a lot of people who make double or triple what I make are far worse off then I am.

For example, if I really wanted to, I could almost certainly get a job in New York City that pays double what I am making right now. And I might even be able to do better then that.

But from my perspective, such a move would be huge lowering of my living standards. Here I can buy decent house and some land on what I make. In New York City I could make triple what I make and still only be able to rent a small apartment.

To me, making that trade off is inconceivable. But other people who value whatever it is that people value about New York City might make that trade off in a heart beat.

Given that people have such wildly different choices based on different values how can you use income to measure equality?

What is equal to you is not equal to me. That is what tends to turn all arguments about equality into a farce.

The beneficiary of injustice

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

Yesterday I wrote a rather melodramatic post. Hey, it was late and I was tired.

But I want to point out that I am not only one who feels as if I am sailing through life. Yesterday an old boss of mine was telling my brother how I have not been listing to some of the things that he has been trying to tell me. In a nut shell, he thinks I am not listening when he tells me that I am not ready for a promotion.

Now why would he try to convince me of something like that? He is no longer in my direct chain of command and his opinion would mean nothing in any possible promotion opportunities I might have in this life. Furthermore, there is no promotion opportunities for me that are open currently. And there is none that are likely to come open in the near future. And even if one was to come open in the near future, it is very unlikely to go to me (it would take a couple of well aimed lighting strikes for it to become even a possibility).

So why is he trying to convince me that I am not ready for promotion? He says that he does not want me to get in over my head and at the same time he does not want me to get “bitter” if I am passed over. But I can’t help feeling that he has a different reason.

He has told me many times of how long and hard he struggled to get the job he has now. To him, the position he has now is a vindication of his true worth after the world had overlooked it for so long. And I think that I threaten that vindication in his mind.

I could be wrong. But that is the impression I get from the fact that he tells me that he had to work for almost as long as I have been alive to get the position that I have now. He tells me how grateful I should be that I have it and how I should settle in and mature in it for a while. He has taken great pains to explain to me how little being smart matters when it comes to being a supervisor. And maybe it is just coincidence, but I can’t help noticing that all these lectures started when I pass a hurdle that technically qualified me for his job.

There is no danger that I will take his job from him. I think what bothers him is that I am sailing through life getting everything he worked so hard for handed to me on a golden platter. And he does not think that is fair.

And it is not.

Waiting for the Summons

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

Today I climbed up and down so many flights of stairs I lost count. I was thinking that my life has a kind of twisted resemblance to Kafka’s novel “The Trial”. I suppose that the fact that climbing lots of stairs makes me think of “The Trial” just proves that I am irredeemably weird.

And I can not really account for why I made the association in my mind. But I can say that the way I was feeling today made me see my life as dreary and bureaucratic and repetitive. And I felt like the the fact that I knew how everything is going to turn out was not stopping everything from happening excruciatingly slowly.

But my life has a twist that makes it different from the sufferings of poor old Josef K. It sometimes seems to me that I am just sailing through life while other people around me are ones who are doing the real suffering. I just inhabit courtroom and everyone else is on trial.

Just in the last week, one guy was fired, one guy had a heart attack, one guy had his wife died on him unexpectedly (she was in her 30s and had school age children). And those are just the events that everyone notices. It does take into account all the people around me who are struggling me with depression, drugs and alcohol, stress, and various other forms of hopelessness.

I think the reason that “The Trial” has become a classic in spite of being very depressing and unfinished is that it speaks to small part of ourselves that realizes that we were found guilty from the moment we are born. We just spend are lives proving the justice of the verdict in spite of our protestations of innocence. But maybe that thought is just more proof that I am I am irredeemably weird.

At any rate, I am always looking around trying to figure out when my summons is going to come. It does not seem right that I should be exempt.

Basic lesson never learned

Monday, October 19th, 2009

Yesterday I started reading this series of stories in the New York Times about David Rohde and his experience in captivity. The series is not finished yet, but what I have read so far just blows my mind and disgusted me at the same time.

The articles have not taught me anything new about the Taliban or about how they are operating. Instead, I have been amazed and disgusted by David Rohde’s understanding of how the world works. I can’t believe that a grown man could travel around the world and still believe the things that he believes.

I know I should find none of what David Rohde express in the articles surprising. But I just can’t help thinking that nobody really believes the PC crap that they spout off all the time. When I am faced with evidence to the contrary, it still manages to shock me. Take this quote from the story for example,

” I wept, hoping it would create sympathy, and begged them to release us. All of my efforts proved pointless.”

What grown man thinks that weeping is going to get him sympathy with other men? As a general rule, a male who weeps in fear in front of men who are intimidating him only succeeds in de-humanizing himself in their eyes.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to make fun of him because he was weeping. Who knows how I would respond to the kind of stress that he was under.

The thing that bothers me is his casual assumption that it is reasonable to think that weeping might get you sympathy from your fellow males. On what planet did he grow up?

Now when I first read that I tried to be charitable. I tried to think that he was just trying to cover for the fact that stress got to him and he started crying. But latter on he goes on to say….

Tahir stared back, unmoved. Pashtunwali — an ancient code of honor practiced by ethnic Pashtuns in Afghanistan and Pakistan — prevented each man from showing fear and losing face.

Pashtunwali has nothing to do with the human male’s general attempt not to show fear in face of danger when that danger comes from another man. You could read about young men in America’s inner cities doing the same thing. Heck, most of us have witnessed the same sort of thing played out in real life or been part of the drama ourselves.

Experience teaches most males that showing fear is one of the best ways to encouraging a guy who wants to use violence to manipulate and control you.

Now that is not to say that you should be defiant or play the hero when you are surround by men with guns. The US military teaches its soldiers the to try to become “grey men” when they are captives. In other words, it trains them that they should try to act as if they have no fear, no defiance, no hope, no desire.

It is a difficult thing to describe with out writing a whole post on the subject. Best example I can think of that is familiar to everyone is how Jesus is portrayed as acting when he was a captive.

But the bottom line is that even when it is not smart to try to play the he-man, it still is not smart to play the coward. And I thought that this was a lesson most men learned at a very early age.