Coming Up for Air

Friday, October 24, 2014



Over the last month or two, I've found myself uncomfortably busy. We had an engineer on our team resign, and I ended up picking up all his accounts. This was fair, as I'd been complaining for months that I didn't have enough to do. But it fast turned into a "be careful what you wish for" kind of deal, as the new accounts are very high maintenance, and I've resumed traveling more than I prefer.

However, the vacant engineering req has now been filled, and it looks like some relief is in sight. I've begun establishing some limits with my new account teams, and begun restricting the calls I'm willing to take in order to free up my calendar for actual engineering work.

For example, a call I'm willing to take: "Discussion surrounding network requirements for the deployment of multi-site on-demand video solutions." A call I'm not willing to take: "A discussion of periodic payments based on the financial vehicle used to purchase this project." In my experience, implementation teams will suck me into every call they schedule, regardless of the applicability to my actual job function. So I have to ensure they'll take "no" for an answer, if the answer is applicable.

I still have a bit of trouble with some of my newer sales teams in that they don't know how the sales process works at our company. This means they assume that sending me an e:Mail will result in the magical manifestation of a bill of materials, a professional services contract, a scope of work, and a financial vehicle for them to present to the customer without them having to perform any of the mundane tasks associated with this work. Note: This is not their fault when all they receive is the "go do it" training. But I do expect them to learn and remember when I provide guidance.*

So I'm getting more of a handle on my professional life, and I hope to reduce my travel, as well. I dislike not getting a chance to spend time with that dude I live with - I kind of like him. And the fuzzy head-case, too.

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*Because I'm a bloody optimist, that's why. Shut up.

The Merits of Flying with Bail Money

Wednesday, October 22, 2014
I fly a lot. Not as much as I used to, but a significant amount. And every time I fly, people's sense of entitlement makes me want to hit them in the face with the Shovel of Doom.

Flying sucks. It's cramped, there's no room for your stuff, the constant violation of your 4th Amendment rights and airlines who know they have you over a barrel (and act like it) make the experience a bloody nuisance. But here's the thing: it's a nuisance for everyone. TSA pre-check makes it slightly less of a nuisance for frequent travelers, but it's still a pain in the ass.

So why do some people think they're entitled to do as they wish, regardless of its impact on fellow passengers? These unique little snowflakes think it's perfectly fine to take up an entire overhead bin for their oversize suitcase, as well as their personal item. They think they're  entitled to congregate at the front of the aircraft while waiting to use the bathroom. They believe that only they are inconvenienced when a plane is late or a flight cancelled. They're convinced that a crying baby in the cabin is screaming only to irritate them personally.

Newsflash: You're not. You're just not. The world doesn't revolve around you, the community of flyers has no obligation to accommodate your unreasonable requests. You're entitled to be treated politely and respectfully - just like everyone else.

So when the flight attendant announces that peanuts are prohibited on your flight because there's a child who suffers from anaphylactic allergies on board, just shut the fuck up about how your civil rights are being violated by the airlines. They're not, and this child's health and safety are far more important than your ability to eat your snack.*

Every time I fly I get closer to confronting these types of people. I suppose I should start traveling with a bail fund, just to be prudent.

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*True story, I shit you not, witnessed by yours truly. What the fuck is wrong with people?

Fearbola

Monday, October 20, 2014
I'm sure I'm not the only one who's getting sick to death of the constant fear-mongering associated with the current outbreak of the Ebola virus, aggravated by the fact that a number of cases have been diagnosed here in the U.S. Some of the doozies from social media:

1.    The terrorists are using Ebola to spread plague in the U.S. in order to strike terror in the hearts of God-fearing Americans. I think our own stupidity manages that just fine on its own, thankyouverymuch.
2.    The President is using Ebola to kill all the white people in the U.S., presumably by killing a bunch of black Africans first - the very people such conspiracy theorists claim he's working for.
3.    People with Ebola should be euthanized to ensure the spread of the disease is stopped. Perhaps we should page Dr. Mengele, as well, as long as we're at it.
4.    Communities with Ebola should be napalmed from the air to prevent the spread of the disease. Because nothing could go wrong with that plan.
5.    If we don't close ALL the borders, EVERYWHERE, then we're all going to DIIIIIE. Because that's what happens, I guess.
6.    Ebola is actually an air-born virus, but the government doesn't want you to know, because it would ruin their plans for death camps and the destruction of the conservative base. Because conservatives are so likely to hang out with black Africans from the West Coast of Africa?
7.    The government has a vaccine for Ebola, but won't release it to general public because... reasons?
8.    The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control are intentionally allowing the epidemic to spread in Africa so the U.S. will be induced to increase foreign aid. Because really, sacrificing people to a horrible death in order to induce more donations is what all people whose life's work is the eradication of disease do. It just makes sense.
9.    Ebola was genetically engineered as a weapon by nefarious unknown persons, as opposed to the claim of those elitist scientists who insist the virus reservoir is actually bats, transmitting to bush meat animals. I myself suspect Russia.
10.  Ebola is a punishment from God to punish the wicked. I guess the wicked only live in Africa where the consumption of bush meat is common. Funny, that.

I could go on...and on...and on. The Drivel. Never. Ends.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I have a hard time taking the pearl clutching and hand-wringing seriously when every other outbreak of this horrifying disease has resulted in a yawn and a resumption of watching The Real Housewives of the Amish or whatever. This pattern of behavior leads me to believe such health crises only matter when there's a chance that it will affect actual, you know, WHITE PEOPLE, instead of those 3rd world brown folk. I'm strongly reminded of how people "reacted" to the AIDS crisis when they thought only those icky HOMO-SEXUALS were at risk and getting sick.

I'm not saying that appropriate precautions shouldn't be taken by all nations. Nobody wants this scourge inside their borders, and managing the public health is everyone's responsibility. And it will absolutely take a Herculean effort to contain the spread in Western Africa - an effort that should be taken up out of common decency in addition to an attempt to prevent the epidemic from leaving the continent. But this isn't a conspiracy. It's a string virus, spread to the human population through zoonosis.

Get a grip on yourself.

A Failure of Leadership

Friday, October 17, 2014
There's something about corporate culture (and especially sales culture) that just baffles me. And that's the expectation that employees should just suck it up and take whatever abuse is offered from customers and executives.

I'm not talking about confrontations related to poor service, poor performance or poor management. Such conversations are seldom enjoyable, but they're occasionally necessary to ensure expectations are being met. They're inevitable, and grown-ups approach them as a part of working in America, and try to manage them without becoming emotional hooked.

No, what I'm referring to is actual abuse. Name-calling. Yelling. Personal attacks. Threats. Such behavior isn't acceptable in personal interactions, so why is it perfectly fine when it happens in the professional arena?

There are a lot of failures of leadership out there. Bosses who are willing to throw their employees under the bus at any time if it serves their own ambition or hides their incompetence. Bosses who assume that an employee who has performed well during their entire tenure suddenly turns into a dirtbag because an executive asks about a project they're involved with. Bosses who take pleasure in laying off the employees with whom they don't get along.

But asking an employee to take verbal abuse just because the abuser happens to represent a customer? When one of your corporate "values" is respect? Asking an employee to roll over when some highly placed muckity-muck incorrectly assumes that a customer complaint is automatically the fault of the employees rather than the customer, and acts on that assumption?

Shameful. That's what it is. A complete failure of courage and leadership, and a moral disgrace. So why do so many companies think it's acceptable? I wish I knew, but I believe that a culture that encourages treating people like commodities gives us a pretty good place to start. When that's the culture, it takes a strong and moral personality not to be corrupted by it. Which is why you see so few true leaders in director roles. By the time they get there, their personal values have been beaten out of them, and they often feel they had no choice because of their financial obligations to their families.

But the fact of the matter is this. If you behave like a little weasel at work, and treat your employees poorly in order to serve your own ambition, that makes you an asshole. Not an "asshole at work." Just an asshole.

Grief Process: An Update

Wednesday, October 15, 2014
It's been over a year since Moe died. I'm still subject to spontaneous crying jags. Little things will set me off - a song, the Baskin Robbins where we used to go for ice cream after her gymnastics classes, news of how the institutional discrimination against the LGBT community is crumbling. I suspect I'll be subject to these triggers for the rest of my life.

But really, I'm not the best judge of my own mental health. I still take Wellbutrin for depression in addition to my standard anti-anxiety medication. For the most part I sleep pretty well. And people who care for me and I trust tell me that now that I'm past the first year they believe I'm doing better.

As for me, I believe that some days are better. I've started to take an interest in my own health and well-being, where before I couldn't bring myself to care. I can laugh and enjoy events. I don't hate myself as much now as I did before. I'm trying to find things to look forward to, and enjoy the anticipation. And I'm trying to resume writing.

And some days aren't. I still have some trouble with focus, concentration on complex tasks, and occasional aphasia. I still blame myself. I still have nightmares. I'm still wearing the same raggedy old slippers which are several years old and worn down to the nubs because Moe gave them to me for Mother's Day and to replace them would be a betrayal of her memory. I'm still showing a lack of interest in learning new things. Sometimes I still I despair at my own failure. I have days when I think my volunteer and charity work are futile and mean nothing in the larger scheme of things. Days when I still want to crawl out of my skin because doing otherwise means I have to accept that she's dead.

But the only thing I can do is keep moving forward, one agonizing step at a time. Moving toward the light.

Task Saturation

Monday, October 13, 2014
I was bitching the other day on Facebook about people who are apparently incapable of reading instructions and then acting on them. But then the Smart Man's cousin pointed out that many problems like this are a direct result of a concept called "Task Saturation." I think everyone knows what this means, even if they don't know what it's called.

Task Saturation occurs when there are simply too many tasks to be performed by too few people. The result is mistakes, and lots of them. People don't feel they have enough time to do their tasks thoroughly, so they end up half-assing it in order to get the "queue" down. This causes stress in everyone up and down the process chain, but especially in those groups who can never, ever get caught up.

Which brings me to the one piece of corporate-speak that always, ALWAYS makes me apoplectic with rage: "We'll just have to do more with less!"

I want to ask if these people took basic science in High School, or even basic arithmetic. Stupid motherfuckers, the only thing you can do with less is less. Less work, less quality, less job satisfaction. Why is this so hard for corporations to understand? I'll answer my own question: Because they think people are disposable, that's why.

Standards for Public Safety Officers

Friday, October 10, 2014
What the hell is the deal with the lack of physical fitness standards for Police Officers? Our own small department appears to have some, as every officer I've ever seen has been trim and looked strong. But the Denver Police? Crap on a cracker, these people need to put down the fork and get on the treadmill.

Lest you think I'm being judgey and fat-shaming these officers, be aware that I don't consider an officer's physical appearance to be important. What I'm talking about is physical ability. Fire Departments and the Armed Forces have such standards. They have them because being physically able to perform their duties is a condition of employment. Policing is sometimes (but not always) a physical job, requiring the ability to run and the ability to physically control a situation without shooting someone or beating them with a baton.

So. Standards. Get some, Police Departments.