Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Customer Service: Information Systems Style

Here in Information Systems, we like to go on and on about how important customer service is. What we mean, of course, is that customers are a royal pain in the ass and our jobs would be much easier without them. All users want to do is find ways to fuck up our systems anyway. Better if they got nothing but paper reports, like back in the good ol' days. Now most of those I work with try to over-come this attitude and actually help make our customers' jobs easier/faster/more accurate/whatever. However, some people just don't seem to get it.

Take the person in charge of the hospital's e-mail system. She simply refuses to believe that the e-mail system is for the use of everyone with a valid e-mail account. Instead, she firmly believes that it is her system to do with as she sees fit. If she allows an e-mail through the filters, well, count yourself lucky. If she doesn't, tough shit. Your e-mail will simply disappear without a trace. According to this individual, if you don't get an e-mail, just call the help desk, have them open a ticket and assign it to her. Then, when she has time, she will go through the deleted e-mails, read yours and determine if it is appropriate for you to receive. Protests that, because there is no notification that an e-mail has been sent to the bit bucket, it is impossible to know when an e-mail has not made it through, fall on deaf ears.

All that as a lead-in to this, which I sent to a few co-workers. This version has been edited to remove the identities of innocent by-standers and make it slightly more intelligible to the non-geek.

If I Treated My Customers the Way She Does
(A play in one act)

CFO: We need intercompany accounting set up between Subsidiary A and Subsidiary B.

Me: Why?

CFO: Um, so we can enter invoices in SubA and cross-charge to SubB.

Me: Why? What are you trying to accomplish?

CFO: I'm trying to eliminate manual journal entries that the accountants have to make every month.

Me: Why are you making journal entries? Why don't you just enter the invoices in the correct subsidiary?

CFO: Sometimes a single invoice needs to be spread over multiple subsidiaries.

Me: Why not hand-calculate the split and enter the invoice as two separate invoices in the proper subsidiary?

CFO: Because a) that would play havoc with our cash management, and b) that is a ton of extra work.

Me: You should contact the vendor and have them reissue the invoice as two separate invoices.

CFO: Why would our vendor go to all that extra work just so you don't have to do your job?

Me: (spoken in a loud, high-pitched, nasal voice) Don't you realize how busy I am? Do you have any idea how much work that is to set that up, then re-set it up a half-dozen times because I screwed the pooch on the first six attempts? Why are you trying to wreck my system anyway? I can't just do whatever you ask; you have to bring this to the weekly IS meeting and have it assigned to the project office, then they will assign it a priority and put it in my work queue. I think I have an opening in January. 2008.

CFO: How much time will it take you to do this once you start working on it?

Me: Less time than I've spent arguing with you about how I'm too busy to do it. But that's not the point! If I bypass the system to do this favor for you, then the next person, then the next person, and the next and the next, do you know what the result would be?

CFO: Satisfied customers?

Me: (grabbing a spork and waving it around frantically) AAAAAAEEEEAEEEAAAAAAEEEE!!!!

CFO: Um, never mind....

Monday, December 26, 2005

There Truely Is Nothing New Under The Sun

The Discovery Institute constantly shops Intelligent Design as a radical new idea. It is not. The Cutest Biologist on Earth shows just how old ID is, and that it was just as easily refuted then as now. It has to be genetic. There is no other explaination for how a percentage of the population can hold to a widely discredited idea for centuries. Many people are just ignorant, in the true meaning of that word. I know I was. The question of origins just wasn't important enought for me to spend time researching it. I was too busy going to college, getting drunk, trying desperately (and unsuccessfully) to get laid, working dead-end food service jobs; important stuff. But as soon as I took the time to look at facts, the truth was obvious. How people as educated as Behe or Dembski can believe the shit they say is beyond me. Or they say all that shit about God just as a way to fleece the gullible.

The money quote:
The Discovery Institute tries to play this as an “academic freedom” issue: that by criticizing ID, we’re scientific “McCarthyites”. So, where is *our* academic freedom to say that we feel ID is a load of garbage? No one has said Gonzalez shouldn’t be able to research ID, should he actually manage to find some way to do so. No one has said he can’t believe in it. No one has questioned his credentials as an astronomer. What has been said is that we don’t believe that ID is suitable for teaching in science classes, and that ID “theory” is intellectually vacuous. It’s a dead end. ID proponents have repeatedly said it’s not a theory of mechanism, so even once it has been established that something has “been designed,” there’s no way to determine *how* it was designed; and it’s a question of theology, not science, to ask “why” The Designer created it that way.
Until the Discovery Institute starts spending some portion of its $7 million-a-year budget on actual research that leads to something useful, even if it's just a question that leads to additional research, ID is not science. Period. Full Stop. Saying that does not violate anyone's academic freedom. If the ID "scientists" want to silence their critics, then get your fat asses in the lab and do some fucking work!!

Yes, I do feel better now. Thanks for asking.

Merry Fucking Christmas

Well, everyone I give a shit about (why is hard to say) seem to be working together to guarantee that this is the worst Christmas of my entire life. I guess I should be grateful as it makes what comes next just that much easier to do.

So to all my friends and family: Up yours!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Random Spew

I probably should break this up into multiple posts with meaningful headings, but I'm too damn lazy to bother. Anyone that has a problem with it can volunteer to do my posting for me.

And yes, I'm slightly pissy due to Christmas roaring down on me like a fucking out-of-control freight train.

I watched Heaven last night on one of the networks (don't really know or care which one). The biggest thing against it was that it was Barbara Walters doing most of the talking with her uppity, east-coast, better-than-everyone-else, nasal drone. I was also pissed that the most interesting idea, research into a gene that makes people more prone to religious fanaticism, got such short shrift. Good mental filler while I did an essentially mindless task, but nothing to jump up and down about. In other words, pretty much what the networks have been giving us for decades.

Vox Day bangs out a couple on marriage. This is important for women to understand; it isn't just about the sex, but sex is more important than pretty much everything else. I can forgive a woman for being a hideous cook, an overly-permissive parent, or for leaving the house in squalor as long as I get shagged on a routine basis. Remember women, men have lots of options that don't include you.

Vox also scores a hit on feminism's basic tenent: that men and women are equal. They are not. Failing to meet unrealistic expectations results in contempt. This shouldn't be news to anyone, but it seems to be beyond the comprehension of the average feminist.

And last but not least, KipEsquire explains the priorities of churches. Organized Christianity lost sight of its original reason for existence less than a century after its inception. Now it's just all about the money.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Stake in the Heart of the Intelligent Design Vampire

Judge John Jones spanked the shit out of the former Dover school board and the Discovery Institute. Most court decisions are about as interesting to read as a phone book, mostly because there is a conscious attempt to avoid language that could be considered emotional. But Judge Jones lets fly with this:

The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by members of the Board who voted for the ID policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.... Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The [breathtaking] inanity of the Board's decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop.... The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better.
Sweet!!!! I love the smell of roasted snake-handler in the morning.

And the Dover schools already have better: the entire school board was replaced in the latest school board election. Humiliation stacked on top of humiliation. The Discovery Institute won't see it that way, and in fact is already trying to play the "activist judge" card. That doesn't hold water because a) Judge Jones anticipated the attack and defanged it in the text of his decision, and b) Judge Jones is a GW appointee with solid right-wing credentials. According to Bill Dembski:

Judge John E. Jones on the other hand is a good old boy brought up through the conservative ranks. He was state attorney for D.A.R.E, an Assistant Scout Master with extensively involved with local and national Boy Scouts of America, political buddy of Governor Tom Ridge (who in turn is deep in George W. Bush's circle of power), and finally was appointed by GW hisself. Senator Rick Santorum is a Pennsylvanian in the same circles (author of the 'Santorum Language' that encourages schools to teach the controversy) and last but far from least, George W. Bush hisself drove a stake in the ground saying teach the controversy. Unless Judge Jones wants to cut his career off at the knees he isn't going to rule against the wishes of his political allies. Of course the ACLU will appeal. This won't be over until it gets to the Supreme Court. But now we own that too.
GW may very well have driven a stake in the ground, but Judge Jones, his own appointee, just yanked it out of the ground and drove it through the heart of creationism. Sorry Mr. Bill; the only person cut off at the knees appears to be you and your friends over at the Discovery Institute. Oh, and Mr. Bill? You might want to buy your good friend Michael Behe a beer so he can put out the flames. Judge Jones, whom you so arrogantly presumed would give a shit about what you and your conservative hacks think, torched the fuck out of him.

Ha!! Love!! It!! Woohoo!!

P.S. Can anyone read that Dembski quote and fail to understand what an arrogant, not to mention un-Christian, prick he really is? What an assclown.

"It's a bad time to get sick."

I just overheard this phrase while walking through the cafeteria. Question: Is there a good time to get sick? Has anyone ever, upon waking up puking up their socks, said, "Damn, this is a great time to be sick!"? How many fewer words would the average person speak if the verbal garbage was eliminated? My personal experience is that the average woman's output of verbal garbage greatly exceeds a man's, which likely explains the wide disparity in the "bit rate" between men and women (women speak, depending on the study, five to ten times as many words a day as a man). There are places in the world that are known for being quiet, even in the middle of a busy city. Maybe the people there only speak when they have something to say that another rational human would want to listen to.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


I've reached a decision. Well, actually a whole, interrelated list of them. My life will change dramatically for the better over the next six months. So will several other people's lives, although I doubt many of them will see events in that light. I just know that things cannot continue as they have. I've been in one place too long. I expect things to get ugly before they get better, but if I "stick it out" and try to "work through things," it will get even uglier. I know myself. I know the symptoms. An explosion is imminent.

Why Am I Doing This?

Once again, Fred dares to ask the questions that no one else does. Maybe it's because I have to be analytical to do my job, but I find myself asking why do I do what I do? Some jobs have visible outcomes. An author can point to a stack of books and say, "I did that." My dad used to drive us kids around town showing us the buildings he helped build. Even a food service worker can look at a tangible, if short-lived, product. What do I do? What do the majority of cube rats do? We push around paper. We go to meetings. We fill out forms to account for the time we push around paper, go to meetings, and fill out forms. Somewhere in there, we might accidentally get some "work" done, but what does that mean? I push around bits in a computer all day in an effort to make another group of people more efficient at pushing numbers around, which themselves are nothing but bits in a computer. Those numbers are used as a metric to compare the hospital's "performance" against the "budget," itself an essentially arbitrary bunch of numbers being pushed around as bits inside a computer by a different group of people. I've been doing this for 20 years in various capacities and in various industries, yet I still couldn't tell you what any of this has to do with reality. Example: Last year we had fewer heart patients than what the arbitrary "budget" said we should have. Now you would think this a good thing. You would be wrong. Layoffs and cutbacks resulted. This year, we have more heart patients that what the arbitrary "budget" said we should have. This has the entire hospital administration dancing in their cubicles.

Got that?
Less people sick and dying = BAD!!
More people sick and dying = GOOD!!

If you don't believe me, I can show you the numbers that prove the above is Absolute Truth (TM). At least, I think that's what they show. One can never really be sure....

Angry Women

Vox Day quotes someone telling a story that I see day after day, everywhere I go. It reminds me of something a minister said several decades ago when the whole equality thing first started. Whenever a pendulum starts to swing, it is unreasonable to expect it to simply stop at the mid-point right away. Instead, it will oscillate back and forth for some period of time before finally settling. His point was that it was very likely that society would over-shoot the mark, probably numerous times, in a series of actions, reactions, and counter-reactions, with respect to gender and racial equality. I certainly hope that we are at one of those turning points, because I'm not sure how much more strain a society can take. My fear is that we have people trying to push the pendulum farther than it would go under its own power, which will simply make the resulting swing in the opposite direction faster, harder, and more radical than anything we have seen.

Something for the black "leadership" to think about: Whites outnumber blacks 4-to-1. Who do you think would come out on top if whites start to seriously push back? And for the feminist "leadership," here is a question for you: What percentage of the sisterhood would instantly drop from the upper- and middle-class into poverty if their husbands/boyfriends stopped subsidizing them? Do you really want equality in everything? How many women has this already happened to because the man simply refused to take any more abuse and walked away?

Personal example: My paycheck covers the house payment, house insurance, property taxes, utilities, groceries, and gas for me to get back and forth to work. Her check covers the car insurance and gas for her to get back and forth to work. (Yes, there are other expenses, but these are the primary ones.) When I dump her on her ass next month, who will be hurting more?


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Too Damn Cold

I'm sitting here in my office slowly freezing to death. No, there isn't any malfunction in the heating system. This is just life in the north. At least for me since I passed by 35th birthday. I am cold all the time from the first of December until sometime in April. Right now, I am wearing a winter coat, yet I cannot feel my fingers. My feet are two blocks of ice. I wear hat and gloves in the house and wrap up in blankets, and still I am cold. I sleep under so many blankets that the weight makes it hard to even breathe, but I'm still cold.

It didn't used to be this way. I grew up in a house that used wood heat. My dad hated the utility company and would go to any length to keep the furnace from ever running, which included keeping most of the house around 50 degrees F. On cold nights, I could actually see my breath in my bedroom. Not a problem. More recently, I would go to deer camp with some friends and live for a week in a tent with minimal heat in below-zero temperatures. It would get so cold at night that I would wake up in the morning with a layer of "snow" on my sleeping bag from the moisture in my breath freezing on contact with the air. No big deal.

Then I hit 35 and everything started to go to hell. Every winter I layer on more clothes. Now I even wear a stocking cap to bed. This year is the worst yet. Nothing works to keep me warm. I'm done with this. You can call me a pussy if you want to, but you will have to yell really loud if you want me to hear you; this time next year, I will be sitting in a nice warm place.

Holiday Cheer

Stories like this are why I want to just crawl into a cave the Friday after Thanksgiving and not come out until after New Years. I consciously avoid public places this time of year, but I am still subjected to an endless stream of assholes. Just driving back and forth to work has become a constant battle to not get killed by morons who can't seem to grasp simple principles like two bodies cannot occupy the same space. That means if my car is here, yours cannot be. Get over it. Maybe it's my own depression due to the crappy weather. Today is the first time this month that I have seen the sun. Maybe people are jackasses all the time and it just gets to me more this time of year.

Waiter has the right idea: alcohol. Mass quantities of alcohol.


I love it when people way smarter than me agree with stuff I say. It seems I'm not the only one suspicious of police involvement in the Mirecki assault. Why else was he treated like a criminal when he reported the assault? If someone beats the crap out of me and I call the police to report a crime, I may not know exactly what to expect, but having property seized and being held for "questioning" for five hours would definitely fall into the "what the fuck" category.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Religion is Stupid, Part III

If people want to screw up their own lives with their religious nonsense, I really don't care. Either they have the mental capacity to escape (It took me 40 years, which probably says a great deal about 1) my mental capacity or 2) how effective the brainwashing techniques used by churches can be. Personally, I'd go with option 2) but I'm sure many who know me would disagree.), or they languish in a prison of their own making. Most of them seem happy to have their lives carefully circumscribed by someone else, so I really don't have a problem with it. But when you decide to kill innocent children with your intentional ignorance, then lie about it to try to get your sorry ass off the hook for killing your own daughter, I start caring. Anyone who knows me knows that I am politically libertarian with a strong anarchistic bent. But if I am going to have 40% of my paycheck stolen from me, I would think somewhere in all those chair-polishers there would be someone paying enough attention to notice this. At the least, her fellow church-goers should have taken action. How fucking stupid do you have to be to stand by and watch a small child wither away and die?

Oh yea. About as stupid as someone willing to believe in a 6,000-year-old earth and the book of Revelation. My bad.

I wonder if it would be constitutional to sterilize all fundamentalists at conversion?

The Assclowns Circle the Wagons

The more that comes out about the Mirecki beating, the more sordid it sounds. For one, it looks like the police were either actively involved or at least sympathetic to the cowards that jumped and beat Mirecki. I'm old enough to remember a time when the police were the good guys. That is no longer true. You have to assume that if it wears a uniform, it is a prick.

[Aside: I was in a comedy club with some coworkers and our significant other's. One was married to a cop. The comedian told the old joke about how you tell a cop car from a cactus (the cactus has the pricks on the outside). We all laughed a lot more than the joke warranted, which lead the comic to ask if there were any cops in the audience. We all yelled, "Yea!" and pointed him out. Everyone was laughing, except the cop who sat there all pissy for the rest of the night. At that point in my life, I still entertained the notion that the police were on the good guys' side, so I was a little more than somewhat annoyed at his attitude. I mean, I have to listen to geek jokes all day; every blond woman I know (other than the sexless drones I work for) can reel off blond jokes for hours; my Polish relatives know all the latest and best Pollack jokes. Who the hell does this asshole think he is? Well, I have since become a lot wiser: he thinks he is God, Jesus Christ, and Luke Skywalker all rolled into one.]

In any case, like the recent Air Marshall shooting, this is looking more and more like a cover-up.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Talk, Talk, Talk, Talk, Talk

What is it about women that makes them think every problem can be solved by talking about it endlessly? Why does the same damn ground have to be covered over and over and over? My favorite part is the Q&A bullshit. She asks my opinion. I don't have one. She begins ranting: "Surely you have some sort of answer!" So finally, in the interest of getting back to my book/movie/web site/random thinking, I give one. It is, of course, the wrong answer.

Sweet Jesus.

1. It is hard for women to understand, but men are fully capable of being in an "empty" mental spot. There is a book that should be required reading for every female over the age of 10 titled Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti. When you ask a man what he is thinking and he answers "Nothing," he is likely telling the truth. Not being deliberately uncommunicative. Not fantasizing about having sex with the neighbor's 15-year-old daughter. Not hating your mother/hair/clothes/manicure/pedicure. (In fact, the only item on that list he has likely even taken notice of is your mother, and then only if she happens to be in the room at that exact moment.)

2. If you don't want to know, don't ask. Sometimes I will be fantasizing about having sex with the neighbor's 15-year-old daughter, and will tell you that I am not thinking about anything. Which would you prefer? "Nothing" or "I wonder if Stacey gives good head"?

3. If you want a pre-determined answer, tell me what I am supposed to say. Better yet, buy yourself one of those digital voice recorders and use it to give yourself all the affirmation you need. That way, you're not interrupting my fantasies about Stacey.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Fun Begins

A professor who was teaching a course critical of Intelligent Design was attacked and beaten. I'm sure the attackers were full of the love of Jesus.

Once again, if Christians in general want to be taken as anything other than complete nutjobs, they have to loudly and publicly distance themselves from this sort of depravity. They won't, of course, because every last one of them secretly wishes they had the balls to take such direct action.

Time to get out while you can.

Monday, December 05, 2005

God is Dead?

Yes, I realize the question is hardly original, but it is something that I have been thinking about lately. After many years of serious health problems that she was more-or-less born with, a 29-year-old woman in my ex-church died last week. This post is a record of what has been rattling around in my head. It probably made more sense when I thought it than I will be able to convey here, but it's worth a shot.

As I see it, the starting point of this analysis consists of two facts:

1. An entire congregation was praying for Wendy to live. Obviously, I don't have a hard and fast number, but I'd guess that on any day, a minimum of 50 people were praying for her.

2. In spite of that, Wendy is in fact, quite dead.

What can we draw from these two facts? There are many possibilities that have flitted about in my brain, but I will try to keep the list short by only including the more well-formed ones:

1. There is no such person as God and prayer is an exercise in futility.

This is the standard atheist answer and is obviously at odds with the Bible. It is an answer that I am not comfortable with at this point in my life, but it is the direction I find myself heading, largely because it is supported by reality. If you doubt that, read a newspaper.

2. There is a God, but he is impersonal and cares not one wit for the fate of an individual person, or even humanity as a whole.

Here we have a deistic answer, and one I have recently gained a great deal of sympathy for. Again, it has no support in the Christian Bible, but it allows for "purpose" while acknowledging that life is basically a slog through endless shit that ends badly.

3. God "hears" the prayers of humans, but ignores them.

This describes a callous or even malicious God; Gene Roddenberry's Q Continuum from ST-TNG. A being capable of helping, but simply declines to unless it serves its own purposes or amuses it. Interventions are meant less to improve the lot of humanity than to cause tail-chasing. Even a casual reading of the Old Testament would lend support to this view, but by the New Testament, God seems to have converted to Christianity, and become all squishy, other than his back-sliding predicted in Revelation.

4. A faction of the church was praying for Wendy's death, so God was forced to choose which group of prayers got the nod.

Given that in a life-time of church attendance, I have never heard anyone pray for someone's else's death, other than in one extremely rare circumstance involving an elderly, terminally-ill brain cancer patient who died in horrifying pain, I find it unlikely that any individual, not alone the majority of the church, would take this route. I may have lost a lot of respect for church folk over the last few years, but even in my most cynical frame of mind, I can not imagine this to be the case.

5. God "hears" the prayers of humans, but is incapable of complying with some of the requests.

A powerful, yet not all-powerful God certainly seems to be a viable option given reality, but hardly makes sense in view of the doctrine of an omnipotent God. However, I'm not sure that doctrine is all that well-supported anyway. The Bible certainly describes a very powerful being capable of unimaginable feats, but it also describes a being that is talked out of a course of action by a human (Numbers 14:11-20), is sorry for past actions (Genesis 6:5-6), and is not above cheap parlor tricks (Judges 6:37-40). Hardly what one would expect from the omnipotent, omniscient creator of the universe.

6. God "hears" the prayers of humans, but may or may not grant the petitions due to his ability to "see the big picture."

The party line I was raised on. Ask God for whatever you want; if you get it, it's because God is such a great guy and loves you. If you don't get it, God knows that giving you what you want will hurt you. He is still a great guy and loves you. Heads I win, tails you lose. Every church I have been in teaches this. There is only one small problem: it is contradicted by the plain words of scripture that says we can get anything we ask for (Matthew 7:7-11, 18:19, 21:18-22, Mark 11:24, John 14:13-14, 15:7, 15:16, 16:23-24). There are no qualifications on these statements stating God denies requests that don't fit in with some unknowable divine plan. The equation is very simple: if two (or presumably more) agree on a request, or ask in Jesus' name, or ask while "abiding" in Jesus, it will be granted. Period. Full stop. In this particular case, you can't even argue that the church was asking with wrong motives (James 4:2-3): they were praying for a young woman to have a normal life, not for a million dollars to fall from the sky.

So is God dead? Or is he just uncaring or impotent? I managed to type that without my PC catching fire or lightning striking me down. It's not looking good for you, God.

[Five minutes later: I'm still here, God. Are you paying attention?]

[Ten minutes later: I'm getting ready to drive home; everyone else on the road may want to be on the lookout for a Silverado 3500 being chased by lightning bolts....]