Thursday, October 26, 2006

Thursday - Just as Anticipated

Things went exactly as I assumed they would yesterday. Late in the day, my contract was terminated. It was not a surprise; it was unpleasant.

I really am not in a position to post stories about being stupid anymore. I've lost the use of one of my favorite words. I learned a valuable lesson about trusting anyone in the workplace. I've learned a valuable lesson about my ability to judge character, and my approach to making anyone anywhere feel "a part of the group."

I will not say anymore about this matter, I think. I have the support of a great many people with whom I worked, and I have very valuable references and the condolences of those who understand the situation. I am not thought of as less of a person due to these events by any of the people that know me the best, and I want to publicly thank them for that support. May God bless you all, and know that if I ever have the opportunity to return the favor, I will. Without hesitation.

My work spoke for itself and my character came through to everyone else in the organization with whom I had contact. I can take great satisfaction in having established myself in that regard, and I will bear no ill will toward anyone. I will carry this forward and do my utmost to put it behind me, gone but not forgotten. Lord help me, not forgotten.

So ... it's over. And things looked very promising today. I will continue to pray and thank the Lord for what He's done.


Monday, October 23, 2006

Monday - Don't you hate it when ...

... You spend your time decrying the rampant, ravaging vulture of stupidity just before you find out that you, yourself, decrier of stupidity, have done something stupid?

Thus is my day.

Today, I discovered that I've done something really heinous to someone, without even trying. I did it without effort, without malice, without intent, and yet, here I am again. I'm in the soup, and this time it's probably
not going to just blow over and be all right. The person involved doesn't strike me as a "let it blow over and be all right" kind of person. I'm not angry or anything, but I'm very frightened about the prospect of what consequences may bring.

Most likely, I'm going to lose my job. I'm probably going to be fired because I've now presented myself as a liability that exposes the company I'm working for to a great financial risk, in one context. On the other hand, what I did was done in the spirit of jocularity and in the same tone that I've shared with all of the other members of this department. I don't exactly mean to say there's one in every crowd, but I assumed a level of familiarity and comfort toward an individual with whom I had absolutely no business being comfortable, and with whom I
certainly wasn't familiar. That mistake, made over a period of a couple of months at least, has come back to roost in spades, and it has allowed me to present myself in a position of liability to the company I worked so hard to impress.

As things are right now, I won't be terminated immediately. The company's recommendation is "no action" at the moment. That's because the department is running on a skeleton crew, and every member is a crucial component. If we lose any
more people, the department is in danger of not being functional. I perform a function that involves routing work and assisting with problems in completing requests from our customers (internal only). Since there is no one that can easily assume that position as well as maintain their own responsibilities, it behooves the company to retain me. That is, until such a time as a replacement can be located.

The manager's been interviewing. I imagine that appeasing the individual in question involved asking them if the situation was tolerable until that replacement could be obtained, and at that time I will be released.

Now, I'm guilty as charged in all the things alleged; I made sure that I was clear about that, and about not wanting to minimize the severity of the allegations or the individual's feelings about the events in question. I didn't want to try and make the situation less than it was, neither the individual who felt this way about me. I was also clear regarding my intent -- or lack thereof -- in the situation(s) and the circumstance(s) involved. In the end, I was told that, perhaps nothing would come of the situation; it was possible that things would just "move forward". That's the phrase that seemed to be today's corporate buzz-word: "move forward". Moving forward means, of course, that I am to proceed as though
nothing occurred whatsoever, and I am not to apologize for any reason, and I am not to speak about this situation to friends, family or co-workers. Mm-hmm. I see.

What this all means is that I'm to sit down, shut up and say nothing until the client company is in a position to replace me. I spoke of staying home from work tomorrow and looking for a job; they advised against that course of action. They "recommended" that I come in to work tomorrow. Not showing up would be an indication that everything is
not all right and dandy, and that would not bode well for me. It would look bad for me, they said. So, I can sit tight and wait for the company to bide it's time and get rid of me, or I can become proactive and begin my own job search so as not to be caught flat-footed. Again, this was discouraged. Of course, the final judgment is, the decision is yours. But we would recommend you take the slow poison so that it won't look bad for you and you won't be terminated before you're terminated.

Of course, I
could call that bluff; I don't believe that I'll be terminated before a replacement can be found. So staying home tomorrow would get me a good talking-to from someone -- likely my manager -- about just "moving forward" and what I need to do to make that happen, but I'm willing to bet the client wouldn't allow the placement firm to let me go. Not yet; they're not ready to pull that trigger yet.

I actually had delusions of being hired on full-time with this company. My performance has been exemplary, I've tried to provide "above-and-beyond" service, and I've worked for my clients (all internal of course) and have provided as much assistance and instruction to my teammates as I could. I thought that, if there were a chance of a full-time position coming open, I'd be a forerunner for it. Now, of course, I'm going to be the next one out the door.

As usual, the accuser has basically assumed the position of power in this entire situation; nothing can be done to that person in any way, or the threat of litigation will loom large indeed. And that person
is popular with the manager, who believes that the job being done by this individual is being done well. I can't speak to that; it seems to me that this is someone who needs a lot of management to get the simplest things done, but I'm an outsider in that. Simple concepts like replacing headcount are beyond their grasp, but perhaps what matters is what I don't see. Frankly, I don't care; for me, this assignment is over.

And nothing, naturally, that I say will have any influence or impact. I've seen how stories like this one end. For the accused, it's going to end badly. In this case, it's just a matter of
when that bad ending will come.

Nothing like anencephalic behavior to bring home irony, is there? The worst of it is, I know better; I'm not some young, inexperienced whelp who's still wet behind the ears. I've been in corporate America long enough to have known better, and I did it anyway. I didn't mean to, but my complacency, my laziness, my lowered guard, allowed me to take this one right on the chin and it's the biggest one I've ever taken. My job here isn't the only thing impacted; this could potentially follow me for the rest of my life.

I bid you adieu. When this is all settled, I'm going to name names and state allegations, because I can. And it makes me feel better. Pbbbt.


Saturday, October 21, 2006

Saturday - Musings

My daughter is an extremely clever little girl.

She's not 15 months old yet, but she's learned a lot in those months. She's become adept at things that probably would take an average adult longer to learn.

For instance, she's very adept at alerting you to her needs. Her needs. She's learned that all eyes in the room -- or the building, depending on the situation -- will invariably lock on her location if she screams. And scream she does; it's not an ear-drum vibrating, rattling sort of scream; it's an avian, high-pitched caw of a scream that races from the top of the illiac crest up the spinal cord and lodges like a rusty iron spike in the base of the brain. The sound causes an involuntary response in the nervous ambulatory system and adults move toward the sound immediately. The sound itself is issued from the front of the mouth, echoing through the nasal cavities and reverberating in the chambers of the skull, then pushes forward like a sonic pulse from a Sperm whale. The tone is something like a tight, clear operatic note with the flatness of the wail of a murder victim.

The screaming doesn't normally begin until after I go to bed. The rules of the game seem clear to me; as long as daddy's awake, there's no sense in screaming. There's no fun in watching the angered reaction of someone irritated by the sound. It's much more amusing to wait until he's likely drifting from hypnagogic states into delta realms, when the adrenaline impact will be greatest. The sound is clear, high-pitched and piercing; it's like living with a pterodactyl.

She's also learned a thing or two about getting the necessary nutrition her growing body requires. For instance, she's still a nursing baby, so mommy is still supplying much of her nutrients and vitamins, along with those vital immuno-defenses that only breast milk contains. But she's also got a mouth full of teeth, and likes using them, so things like hot dogs, pretzels, potato chips, crackers and other sundry items of varying texture and taste are mostly fair game at this point. However, there is no treat greater than that food which is on mommy's fork.

The rules of the game again seem clear; whatever mommy's eating must, by virtue of her eating it, be better than whatever she has on her own plate. This is true even if the items are identical.

In order to ascertain whether mommy's food is or isn't better, the child has learned to position her mouth on an intercept course between the plate and mom's mouth. She can lean impossibly far forward, mouth agape, and never have her eyes leave mommy's face. The fork or spoon, therefore, cannot pass from plate to diner without being placed into baby's mouth. The decision can then be made as to its superiority or inferiority to her own food; equality is simply not an option.

Climbing is also a new-found and oft-exercised skill. It began with a soft, foam-based "princess chair" that daddy bought her so that she wouldn't take brother's miniature plastic patio chair from him. The princess chair is ruffled and pink, made entirely of foam rubber, and coated with a silky fabric that's pleasant to touch. But, sitting on the chair was boring after a fashion, so toppling it and climbing on, over or around it was much more amusing. She then graduated to things like the bed; not climbing up so much -- no need for that when a simple issuance of the "hiccuping frog" sound causes mommy to lift one to places too high to climb -- but climbing down. She turns her feet to the edge of the bed, lays on her tummy and scoots backward by pushing with her arms until gravitational assist kicks in.

Now, however, the chair is passe. The walker she once needed for mobility has become a tiny jungle gym, offering thrills and excitement as someone that still has a large soft spot on her skull spiders precariously about on an unstable, light-weight plastic device meant for sitting while poised dangerously close to coffee table corners and breakable lamps. And of course, the real challenge, which has not yet successfully been overcome, is to sit in the walker and then get out of it again. Instead, she usually drops only her glutei into the walker's bucket-like seat, with her feet ending up beside her cheeks and her arms lacking the necessary muscular development to lift her body weight sufficiently to emerge from the turtle-on-its-back position. No matter -- a few frog hiccups or perhaps a pterodactyl screech should do the trick.

She's also learned the value of drama. Nothing that goes against her will can be allowed to occur without notifying any and all that this is upsetting; the solution? Simple -- fling yourself upon the ground (GENTLY - that lesson came hard and often early in life; floors don't give like mattresses do) and bury your face in your arms while crying to demonstrate the degree to which you are disappointed. If this doesn't illicit sufficient sympathetic cooes, or better yet get you what it is you sought to begin with, no problem -- pterodactyl it. That always works, but save it as a last resort or its effect may be dulled.

Yes, the cognitive powers of my toddler are astounding. I'm sure that one day I'll remember those subtle behaviors with great fondness. That is, if I don't perish from an adrenaline-induced heart-attack first. For now, however, I'll simply deal with them the way that I've been dealing with them. Unless, of course, my neighbors complain about my bellowing.


Friday, October 20, 2006

Friday - Anencephalic Behavior, Part 2

Okay, back by special request from the wonderful Ms. Animatrixie, I present to you a second installment of "what the heck were you thinking?"

Without a long, drawn-out explanation of what I'm doing, here we go ...

When I was young, my father became ill. He had chronic asthma, as do I, but after he turned 40 or so, it came back upon him with a vengeance and fervor as in no time before in his life. He actually had a sudden respiratory arrest episode complete with emergency room code blue calls and that tunnel-of-light thing so many have claimed to experience. After this, he spent many days in the hospital, some of them in ICU with a mobile-base oxygen tank so he could use the bathroom.

Anyway, on one of my visits to see him, I assisted him to the bathroom, and then went to find my way to the cafeteria for something to drink.

As I wandered through the antiseptic hallways, in those days still painted stark white, I followed the ambiguously labeled signs toward the cafe. Of course, the signs become more and more jargon-laden as I entered the bowels of the hospital, and I quickly realized that I'd probably drifted into an area in which I wasn't supposed to be. There were laboratories and testing rooms, patients huddled under faded robes, clutching them closed at the neck and rocking back and forth with sunken jaundiced eyes. The corridors echoed with soft moans of suffering and sickness above the constant hum of the fluorescent lights. I knew I'd definitely made a wrong turn somewhere, and as I was starting to worry about contracting something viral and fatal, I saw an orderly ambling about near a junction of two hallways.

He was opening doors and shuffling in, taking things off a cart with him into each room, then he'd return a moment later and push the cart forward to the next room. I started toward him, and as I approached him, he eyed me suspiciously while he opened a door beside us.

"HEY!" a voice cried from inside the room.

The orderly jumped about half a meter in start to the sudden bellow, and we both looked into the room.

There was a man, lying on his back, with a white tube running from what I can only describe as a bucket of paint up his -- well. You get the image. It was a charming scene, with a heavy-set, elderly man with his back covered in gray, matted hair, his hospital gown spilling uselessly down the sides of the examination table, liver spots and wrinkles displayed in all their splendor for us to see, with a white tube protruding from between his flabby butt cheeks.

"CLOSE THE DAMNED DOOR!" he shouted at us, his flabby second chin waggling wildly as he flailed one gnarled hand at us.

"What the hell you doin' in here, man??" the orderly countered.

Now, I ask you -- implore you -- what kind of a question is that?!

I couldn't resist.

"His ass stopped in for a milkshake, and he came along for the ride," I said flatly. Then I walked away, leaving the orderly dumb-struck and the angry barium enema patient shouting again for privacy.

I never found the cafeteria, but I did find a vending machine.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Wednesday - Using your Head

You know, each and every one of us came with a brain.

It's a great piece of equipment. It's capable of tremendous, astounding feats of calculation and expression beyond any computer -- or network of computers -- mankind can create. AI is really a great concept, but it's only a concept. God gave you something we can't even completely apprehend, never mind comprehend.

And yet, so few of us use them.

I've seen some really dumb things in my 4 decades. I mean, really dumb. I've probably pulled some of them, too, but some of the ones I've seen -- firsthand, mind you -- really would astound you.

Let me give you some case studies:

In the San Francisco Bay Area, there's an electric light rail system called the Bay Area Rapid Transit system -- BART. The BART system was to be the area's answer to New York's subway system or Chicago's Elevated Rail System (or the "EL" as the natives call it fondly). It's a nice train system -- the cars are pretty comfy, with nice air conditioning and heating systems to keep riders comfortable, relatively plush, comfortable seats for your sitting pleasure, tinted glass on the windows to cut down that awful afternoon glare, and full wall-to-wall carpeting. It's major weaknesses are expense (it's not cheap to ride it) and it's not very extensive (only 4 or 5 major branches that go to the four major "corners" of the Bay Area).

As a young man just out of high school, when you wanted to get from where I lived -- in the far eastern suburbs, some 40+ miles from SF -- to the city itself, the most efficient way was the BART system. You didn't have to pay for parking at the stations, the trains ran into the night, and you didn't have to deal with traffic (no kidding, that's a big deal). So, I often would go to the city and spend my days either in the wharf or on one of the north point beaches on the western peninsula. The more "artsy" area of SF is also readily accessible with just a cable car ride up the street, and beyond that the tourist-traps of fisherman's wharf and Pier 39.

I also knew a few people that I liked hanging out with down in that area, and they could often pick me up at the BART station or meet me in SF and spend the day.

One particular autumn day, I was riding the mid-morning train from my end to the SF end. I just stared out the window, letting my mind wander, occasionally doing some people-watching or eavesdropping on nearby conversations. Just waiting for the train to reach the destination is a journey in itself.

As I stared out the tinted windows, I noticed someone approaching me from behind. His reflection in the window caught the corner of my eye.

It was a man that was the classic, mid-80's "power exec," with his shiny, clearly silk suit, buttery-soft Italian leather shoes, gleaming gold and sparkling diamonds, exquisitely coifed and groomed in every detail, with coordinated but not matching tie. Over his arm was draped a very expensive trench coat and he was just pulling the high-end Ray-Bans from his eyes when I viewed his reflection in the sienna pane.

He leaned forward politely, seeing that I hadn't turned to face him, and gently but firmly, said, "Excuse me."

I turned to face him then, and lifted my eyebrows in acknowledgement of his inquiry.

"Are you reading that newspaper?" he asked mildly.

I was dumbstruck for a moment. I didn't have a newspaper. I looked at my hands briefly to ensure that I hadn't somehow picked one up without realizing it; then I looked around by my feet. Nope, no paper. As I swiveled my head about trying to figure out what this man was talking about, a flash of newsprint and a crinkle of paper caught my attention.

I was sitting on a newspaper.

I couldn't believe it. I looked at his earnest expression, and there was no trace of a smile on his face. I was completely dumbfounded. He was serious.

So, I assumed he wanted an answer. I decided to give him one.

I stood up, turned the page, sat back down and said "Yes."

He blinked once, then twice, then thrice. He drew himself up to his full height, then slowly hung his head and walked silently away. I heard the rush of air as he opened up the divider doors and exited the car in favor of another one.

Now, I realize that may have been rude, but be serious -- did he really think I was reading the paper? I mean, he walked into that one.

Over the next couple of days, I'm going to try and remember some of these stories that my wife so dearly loves and post them here. I hope any other visitors I have -- if indeed there are any -- will enjoy them too.

God bless, and don't forget to turn on your brain before you turn on your mouth.


Saturday, October 14, 2006

Saturday - The Problem with a BLOG is ...

... That you have to keep it up.

See, more than that, you have to keep it interesting. No one wants to stop by a boring blog. Since "blog" is actually a contraction of "web log," you need to have something worth saying to even have one. That was probably my first mistake; I assumed that I'd be interesting enough to amuse the visitors that happen to stop at this tiny mat of the universe. I couldn't have been more wrong.

Basically, my wife and I are pretty boring. We're stay-at-home, watch-TV, spend-time-with-the-kids sort of people. We're not tell-an-erotic-story-about-last-night's-date, have-an-interesting/insightful-political-view, research-and-post-an-interesting-or-unique-fact kind of people. We have things to say about nearly everything, but not everything we have to say is worth reading. And often, it's not worth taking the effort to post it, because it would be a long and drawn-out process just to get that far.

So, what am I to do with this blog space, then? To what end shall it come?

I could post fiction, I suppose. I seem to have more to say about things that aren't than I do about things that are. I'm not up on current events, so I can't comment on news. And for whatever reason, I find it difficult to post my opinions about things; it strikes me as impolite, or something like that. I can't put my finger on it. I guess I don't want to deal with the myriads of other opinions that may want to debate something I don't have enough interest in debating. For instance, I can talk all day about theology, but I'm out of practice with debating theology, so until I sharpen that knife again, I don't want to use it.

So I quandary day in and day out about what I'm going to post here. I'd like the one or two people that I know stop by occasionally to have something interesting to glance at when they do stop by, but ... meh. I don't think a blog should be hard work.

I could just journal here, I suppose. On the other hand, those entries tend to be meandering and sometimes are deeply personal. I'm not sure how much of that is worth reading, and how much I want read.

I could turn this space into an eBook, and just write something for you all to read, but now I'm back to fiction, and I should charge for reading my work. Then, even if you didn't like what you read, it's too late. I have your money and your stuck with it. Heh.

In the meanwhile, I have nothing to do or say. So this space collects dust. I suppose I can do some research on topics of interest and publish what I find. Then I'd have a permanent (well, as long as Blogger exists, I guess) record of what I've learned about that topic and can share it with anyone reading this page at the same time. What would I research, though? And in what format would I publish it? Outline? Narrative? What's interesting enough to me to hold my attention for that long? Science? Theology? English grammar? A new language? (I've been kicking around the idea of learning Japanese with my wife for months, but she's not a serious student about anything, and I don't feel right investing that much time/money into something strictly for me. Besides, being a Japanese translator doesn't pay what it used to, so if I can't profit from it, why do it? Personal reward only goes so far.)

So what? What should I do with this space?

I'm too boring to log on the web; I don't know if I deserved a blog. I think Blogger should screen people better and protect their server space, you know?

Hmm. Well, if anyone's reading, give me a "hollah," and let me know what suggestions you have for utilizing this space (without taking up my entire life, of course).

I'm going to watch TV.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Wednesday - Creeping from the Shadows

So … the ugliness of my past will not die, and I am again hounded by the slathering wolves that pursued me from whence.

It seemed so easy, once -- all I needed to do was weather the storm, wait out the hounds, and be free. No such is true, however. It is now clear that, irrespective of time and distance, regardless of my endurance, my Past will not lie dead and let my future form unhindered. I fear now that the egg is so handled, so harassed, so disturbed from incubation that peace will never hatch. It will be stillborn and never pierce the shell.

The light of day shines on the darkness in the corners and exposes it. The hideousness of where I’ve been and what has occurred for me is constant rising again so I can’t stare too long in one place without seeing it. There’s nothing I can do to escape, it seems. Every debt that I’ve left is coming back with a vengeance. There is no hiding, there is no fleeing, and there is no being left alone.

Why am I condemned to be punished for circumstance I couldn’t control? Why must I be ground down and hunted like an animal for things I didn’t choose, didn’t want and never sought? What is it in me that makes the world despise my laughter, my smiling, my rest? Why am I not able to just exist, content to live free of what was and hopeful of what may be? What is it in me that draws the evil forth to confront me?

“Evil” is probably too strong a word. The point is not; I’ve not known peace and calm in all areas of my life for years now, and there is no indication that I will soon. There truly is no rest for the wicked, whether they chose to be wicked or had it thrust forcibly on them. I am destined to forever be tortured in mind and spirit, ever seeking respite, never finding it. Elusive joy, where are you when I seek? Why do you not answer when I knock? Why do you give to me when I ask?

I cannot escape. I cannot retreat. I cannot fight. I have only one option, and it may be too late for that choice as well.

It infuriates me to live this way. It angers me to worry ceaselessly, about everything that may strike out against me. It maddens me to live always in fear, constantly sleeping with one eye open, restless mind churning, wondering, watching. When will I lay my head and dream? When will I close my eyes and see only darkness? When will my heart not flutter, my veins not burn with acidic adrenaline, my ears not ring with the pounding of my own pulse? When can I finally finish with all that shackles me, and run with abandon ahead? I don’t want to live this way; I do not want to have my family live this way. I want only for what I see so readily in everyone around me -- peace. Contentment. Living for the sake of the day, enjoying the moment, not looking out for what may yet lay in wait.

I want the impossible, it seems.

Here we go again. Those who pray, please do; if you are not one who prays, then I shall pray for you.