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small green square Today for the first time since winter I ate lunch at the cafeteria, but I didn't do the salad bar - instead I got a big, fried, fresh fish, with asparagus & yellow rice.

small red square On-Hold Hell: I thought the worst was bad music interrupted by a commercial at regular intervals; today was even worse - nice music (Mozart, I believe) but via a loose connection: a second of music, three seconds of silence; two seconds of music, two of silence; ten seconds music, two of silence, etc. This experience brought to you by the friendly skies of United Airlines.

small gray square From Slate's "The Week/The Spin", concerning the Kip Kinkel shootings in Oregon, the last of their eleven possible spins on this story:

"The best way to stop these school shootings, Speaker Newt Gingrich asserted on CNN's Late Edition, is to stamp out teen-age drug abuse, which "has risen dramatically under Clinton and Gore." Host Wolf Blitzer asked whether there was evidence that Kinkel had been on drugs. "I can't talk about this particular assailant," Gingrich replied dismissively, before resuming his spin."
I've heard that the kid was, in fact, on drugs, legal drugs (oh excuse me that makes it "medication"): Prozac. The treatment was suggested by previous behavior. All this talk about Drug-Free Schools, and busting kids for being in possession of Advil - and yet half the student body is on Ritalin for ADD? My brain implodes.

small cyan square Since yesterday is over I'm going to do some bitching about work. I'm caught just now between two conflicting bosses - each giving me different direction. One is reasonable, but the other (who has the final veto power) is not. This one wants the application to do something it doesn't do now, something I don't think it can do without a major redesign, and he should know this because he's been responsible for the whole thing much longer than my time on this project. (The problem I'm faced with now seems to be the result of hasty decisions made which changed the system's architecture before my arrival.) And my explanations have been so far without effect - what's most discouraging is his unhelpfulness. (I understand a lot of people are having the same difficulty with this guy.) After about 45 minutes of dialog yesterday he still doesn't understand the problem I'm having, and my reaction in this kind of situation is to just lay low and wait for the end. This is something I've learned, with age: Everything Ends, and often you can just wait out an unpleasant situation. No matter what, they'll let you go home eventually. Then the next day will be slightly different. Repeat and fade.

small violet square Actually neither of these guys is my real boss, nor is the other one I frequently describe as my co-worker/supervisor. (Who is your real boss?) In my world it's the guy who approves your time and does your Performance Review: a yearly ritual which begins with the employee filling in a form where he describes his job <1>, any achievements, and goals. The manager then writes in his comments <2>, and a month or two later (after the secretaries have retyped everything) the actual "review" occurs: in a small office the manager gives the employee the filled-out form, allowing him to read it, and then both sign. Gung-Ho managers can really get into the next phase, where both the company's and the employee's goals are discussed, and how to realize them. Others (the cynical and the lazy) realize it's all a sham, so this step is glossed over, perhaps even omitted. Finally, the payoff - either right then or in a few days the manager gives the employee his raise slip, which states percentage of increase, former salary and new salary (and, rarely, old title/new title). It's well known that there's very little linkage between the figure and job performance - a pay pie is given to each organization, which decides who's getting what slices independent of this little exercise. (In fact, once, several years ago, I heard of a manager being chastised for even suggesting such a connection existed.) So. My real boss, who's based in New Jersey, will be flying out next week to do my review (and also attend some other meetings). More onerous social chores will accompany his presence, but he's a nice guy, cavalierly near retirement so that won't be too bad. One of the meetings he'll be here for is a 'quarterly review'. Normally my co-worker/supervisor would be the speaker to present our task, but he'll be on vacation so it'll be my duty to standing up by the overhead projector, droning on as I flip through some view-graphs. Since my job so rarely requires a performance of this sort I try enjoy the opportunity of being "on-stage" again (in high school I was in all the plays.) Speaking of the overhead, in Software Runaways by Robert Glass it says that "In spite of the tens of millions of dollars spent on new computers for AAS, the most important piece of equipment on the project was the overhead projector." <3> (I now work on an Air Traffic Control system NASA is building for the FAA.)

small yellow square Humorous sort-of working-related bumper sticker I saw recently:


AAS - Advanced Automation System <4>
ADD - Attention Deficit Disorder
FAA - Federal Aviation Administration
NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration

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<1> This always gets me - the ultimate bit of delegation. Rather than Management knowing and documenting the employee's task, what he's supposed to be doing; make the employee guess! Back

<2>Sometimes there's even a little report-card section, with (for example) judgements between Excellent, Fully Effective and Unacceptable, and the following "General Performance Factors:

Ability to define problem areas and develop innovative solutions
Willingness to coordinate activities with others to meet overall project objectives
Ability to project a professional, ethical and efficient image of the company to customers, employees, and the public through high standards of business conduct and appearance
Yeah, right. Back

<3>from a chapter called "Why (Some) Large Computer Projects Fail" by Robert N. Britcher Back

<4> enormous FAA computer project which was canceled after a decade's work Back