Thursday, April 29, 2004

A Slow Banking Turn
I was told I would hear “something today” from the bank on when I would start, and so on. There is something about institutions where a fairly zen approach to such terms is taken. “Today” may mean this week, within the same Martian day of 24 hours and 37 minutes (yes, I have that memorized – yep: Dork factor eight, Mister Sulu), or some dog-year equivalent or something to do with Microsoft or game company release dates. I’m sure somewhere in the universe is a planetary system where everything works on corporate time. Unfortunately, their corporations are working on a strict 24-hour day and 365.25 day year, and their population is just as screwed.

Kerry and Rhetoric

Politics alert. Bear with me, or skip this section. I’m just really frustrated with what passes for logic in the public circle, and I’m not even seeing professionals on either side catching these pop flies.

I’m rather stunned about this whole mess between the parties on Kerry being patriotic. He was patriotic for six months over thirty years ago, and has trashed the military rhetorically and fiscally ever since. It’s like saying “no one who isn’t married can criticize my marriage. I was a great husband for the first six months. I served my time and got great wedding presents. Of course, after that I heaped verbal abuse on my wife for the next several years. Eventually we divorced and I fought like hell to keep her from getting any alimony or child support. But no one can criticize me who hasn’t been there, and knows the hell that marriage is!”

I haven’t served, either. But at least I don’t mind tax dollars going towards systems to keep my country safe, or body armor to keep the troops safe. I may not have spent six months of my life in the military, but I can safely say that even at 35, I’ve spent more than six months of my life earning nothing but tax money to keep the Defense Department funded. That alone should count for something in terms of representation. It’s also my freedom on the line if the military is mismanaged – that also counts for something.

I’m amazed that they claim that an attack on Kerry is an attack on all veterans of all wars. Good grief! How much acid do you have to drop to believe that? It’s like saying Hitler was a bad man after he was a painter, so if you criticize Hitler you are criticizing artists everywhere. It would be doubly so if Hitler’s first act on leaving the art world was to spend the next few years attacking artists as genocidal villains, then defunding the arts through his entire time in government.

I'm reminded of early episodes of South Park where Mr. Garrison is giving lectures on History. I think Kerry's invoking a non-existent pope for a non-existent theological statement to justify himself was pure Garrison.

Compare John Kerry and Mr. Garrison's "And in 1970 Engerbert Huperdink became the first American to land on the moon".

And how does an old guy like Kerry snowboard, let alone with shrapnel supposedly still lodged in his butt? That alone makes me want to personally haul his butt into an x-ray lab. If he becomes president, and his medical exams from Bethesda are public, will doctors be sworn to secrecy if they don’t find the wounds he’s been flaunting for years?

It’s perfectly simple to put this to rest – Kerry needs to moon a conservative radio host. He’s been doing it rhetorically, anyway. If the pictures I’ve seen of him are any indication, it’s not the most undignified thing he’s done in public.

And if it is true, anyone who picks up that much shrapnel in that short a time has a bit of a red shirt factor. In an era of terrorism, do we really want Mister Explosion Magnet in a prime government building? It reminds me of the old joke about “Missing: Lost dog. Leg missing, blind in one eye, deaf, deep scar in hip from being hit by truck. Answers to Lucky.”

Thanks. Just needed to vent.

Someday, I'll have to do a post on being a South Park Republican in a family of Ted Nugent Republicans.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Sorry for the many delays in posting. The following is a condensation of several posts that could not be sent earlier.

--April 16--
Mindgames Prep.
This weekend is Mensa Mind Games, and Theo, Janet the vet, Howard the bodybuilder, and I are all in the kitchen all weekend keeping 200 Mensans fed and happy, we hope. A lot depends on how well cooked spaghetti freezes. The dry weight of all the spaghetti we have made so far is 40 pounds. And then there's rice - 12 boxes of it, that Janet is cranking through today. At least A) I don't have to pay for anything since I'm helping and B) I won't be stuck reviewing games (most of which suck) for 18 hours a day all weekend.

--April 19--
October Sky in April
I got a call Monday morning from Laurel. Apparently Homer Hickam (yep, the October Sky dude) is speaking at Northwestern in Evanston this Wednesday at 7 PM. I have no details beyond that, but she is going to look into it and call me with more. Theo can't go.

MindGames in Review
Too little sleep and too much work this past weekend. Fed 200 people and had food available 24 hours. We did hobbit meals, breakfast, early lunch, late lunch, snack, early dinner, late dinner, dessert, snacks till dawn, breakfast, where's my shower?, etc. Theo's blisters have blisters, literally. She took the day off Monday. I did manage to play a few new games. They were Trime, Hexchess, Who? What? Where?, Whaddaya Know?, Campaign Secrets, and Cogno. A couple of the games I played with Amy. She’s one of the very, very few people our age who has been in Chicago Mensa a long time. She had long, thick, natural red hair to her waist. Until this weekend, when it was bobbed - it took some getting used to. Fortunately, she has the face to pull it off. It’s odd to spend so many years with someone and then play games with them for almost the first time so closely together. You learn a lot about people that way. As for the games themselves, they were not as sucky as I remembered. There were 60 games, and I only heard complaints about maybe five or ten of them. At least 20 were excellent. All but one or two were professionally produced.

I also met some really cool people and a lot of old friends. They are far too numerous and I suck at names, so I’ll leave this at that.

Both times Chicago has hosted, we've done great food. I didn't realize what an anomaly that was until everyone told us how they starved them at other MindGames conventions. The spaghetti, by some miracle, turned out really well.

The only issue is we never went home this weekend. I went from work to O'Hare and stayed last night as well, then directly to work this morning. I dread what my rugs look like, or will look like once the "Oh Daddy, I'm so glad you're safe and home! Now never leave again, ya bastard." cat fits start. We apparently were on Channel 9 news Saturday night. I'll see the tape Sunday if not before. (Update – actually, it’s April 28 and I still haven’t seen it).

At Allstate, it seems every day I get a month-long assignment, or one that could take that long. This morning was no exception. The odds on being extended went up slightly, but only slightly. Any fast-moving prospects I'm forwarding to Nicole until she's working. I'll have to keep all the ones that I think I can start at the beginning of June.

--April 22--

Bank Shot
As mentioned, I got a call from Steve, my old boss at the bank. They want me back at the bank as a contractor until at least September, probably longer.

--April 23--
We’ve started the ball rolling on this job shift. I’ve let my supervisor know here, and my consulting firm. I’ve also given them notice that this may take a while (the bank doesn’t move quickly no matter who is pushing).

--April 26--

Corporate America
A friend used the term Corporate America disparagingly in e-mail recently. Here is part of the response I didn’t send, mainly because the letter was too long and this was a rabbit hole that had nothing to do with the emotion and thought I was trying to convey. There are times when the mind is philosophical but the mouth must just shut up and deal with friendship as friendship.

There are big companies (Motorola, SBC, etc.) who ban the re-hiring of old employees. They are the ones who suffer for it in the long run. They are stagnant because no one comes back with new ideas. "Corporate America" is nuts, but I think it's no worse than any other stagnant institution. Corporate Italy can't make a VCR to save its life. Government America has this bad habit of blowing up space shuttles.

That said, Corporate America's flaws are frequent and well documented. I suspect that a hundred years from now, they will look back on the Internet and see its biggest benefit as being the central clearinghouse for institutional criticism.

--April 28 (today)--

Adventures in Drug Testing
I sent the letter below to my account manager at the consulting firm today. She called yesterday to let me know I should start with the drug screening and other paperwork. She said the project was nearly ready to go.

Oh dear, dear Lord, was that an adventure.

The road was closed to the office in Wheeling. The bypass takes you about ten miles in a circle. I got there and waited at least a half hour. I did my part, then the guy didn't have the special lids that allow the desktop analyzer to check the sample. He also didn't have the paperwork to send in the sample. So he sent me to the Elk Grove office. I went through a drive-through en route to restock the sample, so to speak, realizing later this was like loading water ballast in the Titanic. After some adventure on the phone finding the office (the guy didn't give me directions when I asked, other than "It's a half hour away." and pointing at a card with the address and phone number on it), I found it, waited another 20 minutes, dropped the cup, got another cup, left the sample, and found out that all the guy had to do at the Wheeling office was find the form online and print it.

I got home at 9:45, changed three litter boxes, emptied six waste baskets, packed two city garbage bags, went to bed, woke up early to take Theodora to the airport, dealt with several DSL outages while trying to get her itinerary, and finally took her to O'Hare and got back to Allstate.

Now I can rest.

Lessons of the day -
1) Dundee doesn't go through for now at the railroad tracks.
2) Russians have a very charming accent when open a statement with, "You're going to kill me, but..."

Her response was :

OH MY GOSH! I feel so bad!!! The good news is you tested NEGATIVE! We already have your results…thank you!

I joked with her that it would cost her a nice lunch. She was in the habit of dining me anyway in our past business relationship, so that was no big deal.

Hitting a Fog Bank
I returned a call today from the person in charge of the consulting system, who asked “would I be interested in the position?” I said yes, I’d already done the drug screening for the position, and she became slightly incensed and called my account manager and chewed her out. If this person costs me this job, I will happily publish her number in a future blog.

By the way, Nicole starts Monday on a multi-year contract. She seems happy about it so far. At least she’s taken care of.

Monday, April 26, 2004

A short post on a chaotic subject.

I got the call to come back to the bank until at least late September as a consultant. For 25 percent more that I was making as an employee.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

First Post from Work

This morning, trying to force MS Word 2000 to do something found apparently only in later versions. I found myself ready to say "[expletive] Microsoft!", as I would have for the past twenty years.

That is, until I remembered that for the past six working hours I've been working for Microsoft.

The resulting mental trainwreck could be summarized as...
"[expletive] Microsof... Ip! Ip! Eeep! Dammit!!!"

I think it took me two hours to recover.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Returning To Active Duty

I signed the paperwork for starting work Monday. Due to meetings, they want me to start at Noon.

The irony is that I can car pool with Theo, provided she drops me off on the way there and back. With her working 12 hour days on frequent occasion, I'm thinking either A) I will be doing a lot of overtime or B) the Earth Return Vehicle project will get some dedicated time each evening.

The Spaceship
My next step is a weight, balance, and power consumption spreadsheet. Every component, down to the microwave oven, will be integrated in a series of horizontal slices through the vehicle drawn in Visio, and integrated into a spreadsheet showing their location as X, Y, and Z moment arms. All will be averaged to show the center of gravity of the vehicle, and the total mass. In parallel will be power consumption peak, average, and so on. Any warnings or limitations can be worked out from there (such as "crew members should not use the microwave and waste disposal system at the same time").

The job is with a company that contracts to Microsoft that contracts to an insurance firm. I'll refrain from mentioning the end points, but Microsoft is kind of key to the whole thing. When Theo and I were first in Mensa, we had friends who were die-hard, make-an-excuse-for-any-crime Democrats - you know, Carville without the accent. Chicago Democratic Machine purebreds. For any atrocity committed by a democratic politician, they had an excuse for it - it was seriously awe-inspiring to watch. They missed their calling as criminal lawyers. Anyway, conversation was usually about 10-15 minutes of verbal sparing over Clinton's and Gingrich's latest gaffes followed by a collective attack on a mutual enemy - Microsoft. Due to some ethical gaffes of their own, we've long since lost touch with these guys.

Once it came up that I would be working there, Theo jokingly has asked me little probing questions about selling my soul, and so on. I responded that some years ago when I did work for a company that handled telemarketing lists, my soul was probably already gone. Granted, one of the functions of this company was implementing Do Not Call lists long before they were legally fashionable. They were a mix of both the best and worst people I've ever worked with. After a few years, you even miss the bad ones.

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor working for telemarketers nor working for Microsoft, nor anything else in all creation, can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. But I'm not so sure about the telemarketers part." - Romans 8:38-39, New Internet Version

I found a Theo's old Microsoft coffee cup in the cupboard earlier this morning as I made coffee, Theo's breakfast, and Yakko the cat's insulin shot. I believe she got it during her certification training some years ago. I was wearing my glasses to let my eyes recover from having the leave-in-a-month contacts in a bit too long. I decided to have some fun. I was still unkempt from having just woken up, so this worked quite well.

After pouring coffee for myself in this MS Coffee(TM) cup, I went to Theo and stated "ya know, just because I'm going to be working for Microsoft, you act like I'm slowly going to turn into Bill Gates or something."

She laughed. "You WILL take a shower today", she demanded sweetly.

Back in the Eighties, I actually went to a seminar where Bill Gates spoke. This was just at the tipping point where he was telling IBM what to do, rather than the other way around. For the PC Revolution, this was a great victory. It was the very fulfillment of Steve Jobs dream, albeit done by someone else. Who would have realized then that eventually Lotus and IBM OS/2 Warp would be the underdogs used by independent-minded people, and that Microsoft would be considered the empire?

One also wonders, would it have been that much different if Steve Jobs would have won? Considering the way he ran his company, would a Jobs-driven IT infrastructure have been that much less cruel? Granted, software would be less buggy, hardware standards tighter, and so on. The overall code base would have ran better and faster, but there would have been far less of it.

The quality pyramid takes center stage, after all. Just the jokes would have been different.

Friday, April 09, 2004

I posted to another blog a while ago - a Caption the Kerry contest. It took me three days to find it again.

I'll find out Monday who won.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Floating Into The Martian Night

Theo is propped up watching Golden Girls on Nick at Nite, I believe. I’m listening to a Kraftwerk track I downloaded from iTunes (yep, that nerd thing kicking in again).

Speaking of nerd stuff, I did some searching on the liberation point where the gravity of Mars and the Sun cancel out. I need this for part of the ERV overall project plan. For better or worse, the satellite I was planning on putting there was already the subject of someone else’s paper. However, the much more detailed work this other group had done had more to do with a communications system, whereas mine had to do with a solar observatory. They mentioned a solar observatory function on their system in passing, however.

This is often a problem of mine. I get a great idea, and several months later find someone else has published it. It’s often an idea I’ve never spoken to anyone, yet it happens a lot and has since I was a kid. Apparently I had an inventor Uncle with many of the same issues. He came up with a number of ideas and didn’t tell anyone outside of the family, like using oil in solar collectors and steam injection to improve efficiency of engines. Of all his ideas, over the years I’ve found them all in print from other sources. Generational curse, maybe? Seriously, it is odd. I don’t know whether to find it defeating, since it seems no matter how clever I am, I’ll never get credit for it. Conversely, it’s validating that some of my weirder ideas are experimentally practical, and someone else did all the work without me paying them to prove that it would work. Of course, they get all the profit, but nothing’s perfect.

The bottom line - The liberation point is 1,081,000 km above Mars, and varies because of the eliptical orbit. And thankfully, I don't have to try to do the math on the gravitational mechanics. That much is very, very good.

Of Wife and Teeth and Blind Workdates

Today was Escort Wife To Oral Surgery Day. Theo had her wisdom teeth pulled early this afternoon. First, she had to go into work to do a job interview for a new programmer. She did this during her pre-surgery fast and was already grumpy hours before. God help that poor man.

During the interview, I ran by the old job site and said “Hi” to some of my old friends. I had a funny feeling I wouldn’t be in a position to see them for lunch next week, but that’s what we planned.

Then we were off to Elgin for tooth extraction. By now, even though I was not denied breakfast, I too was starving. I was tempted to slip out during the blessed event to find a vending machine, but the procedure was only 45 minutes, and I had an article on the planet Mercury in the waiting room that demanded my attention.

Yep – space nerd. Guilty. But also very concerned about being too far from Theo while she was having parts of her mouth removed. I had mine removed in high school, and it’s a pretty solid memory after these years, especially the waking up part.

Before the procedure, they put Theo’s wrap-around x-ray on the light panel to show us details. Spread out like that, she looked a bit like Terminator. However, with the black background and black and white toothy spread, it looked much more like Aliens. Regardless of your sci-fi imagery, it was a spooky thing to have looking down on the assembly. Fortunately the doctor was about as gentle as an elderly angel. He is someone who makes all well just by walking into the room - a good skill for someone in his position.

The bottom line, if you get this impression from your dental x-ray, don't take it personally. Even the lovely and talented wife stuff can be made to look a bit scary when viewed transparently and warped 180 degrees.

As he walked in, my cell phone rang. I had a job. I’d never met the consulting firm, or the firm they were working with, or the client. But they saw my resume, salary requirement, and the agreement I finally signed after blowing it off for eight hours, and I had a flippin’ start date of Monday. After so many job contacts this week, I was racking my brain trying to remember ANYTHING about where I was to work or what I would be doing. One thing is certain – these people are decisive, my resume is impressive, and I’m probably not asking for enough money.

I went to the waiting room and called Nicole. She was critical of me for getting offered a job I knew nothing about. I could see where she was coming from. She had a recent nightmare contract at another company with a project manager who seemed to make more enemies than deadlines. The desire of a company to fill a position without an interview makes contractors suspicious. It seems to be a strong indicator of a nightmare boss or a nightmare project being somewhere in the mix.

When I got home, I found the e-mails telling me what to sign and where to bring it tomorrow (Friday). I only found one sentence describing the actual work. I’ll be asking a lot of questions tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Job Hunt and Thoughts on The Naked Tax

I had an interview yesterday with a start up. Long hours, downtown, but nice people – very cool. I have a good feeling about this, but it’s very tempered with both experience and reality. Also, am I ready to invest 50 hours a week plus twenty commuting by car, train, and foot for a company that may collapse? It is a relatively short contract, but it may go full time. As always, with job hunting, open all floodgates until someone gives you a financial reason not to, in writing.

This pretends I will be selected, and that if selected they want me full time. That said, it’s been a good week – I’ve been submitted by two different consulting firms for bank-related tech writing jobs. That doesn’t suck.

After organizing everything in the home office except the music CDs, I organized them today. I think we have over 300, but I’m not really counting. This does not include the ones Theo has somewhere randomly placed. I think there is a stack in the garage I missed, plus the dozen or so in her car. I’m realizing the number of CDs without cases and cases without CDs that may never return to their mates. Does this mean it’s safe to throw out the cases if the CD hasn’t made an appearance in a year? Is this the quickest way to make a CD appear?

I’m also using the term “organized” very loosely. There is an upstairs collection and a downstairs collection. The downstairs collection is the stuff you would admit to owning, or that you wouldn’t necessarily mind your spouse playing, or that is Christmas related and may actually be played at a party once a year. The upstairs collection is largely one hit wonders and other flotsam, like the last two Rush albums you bought to fill out the collection before you realized that this was jumping the shark in a big way. Fortunately I bought them used. Unfortunately they suck so badly that the money would have been better spent on a Big Mac Extra Value Meal.

Speaking of Canadian rock, I saw parts of an article on the Canadian Music Awards. They seemed to give an award to every Canadian band I’d ever heard of, and many I hadn’t and probably never will. It’s as if they said “Hey, we didn’t say GOOD Canadian Music Awards, did we?”

It came up because Alanis Morrisette came out in a body suit with fake breasts and presumably pubic hair and made a “big” speech about how Americans are afraid of nudity. Damn right we are. I have a theory that the more the government allows public depictions of nudity, the higher they can raise taxes and get away with people thinking they have great freedom.

Look at Europe. In Paris on our 1999 honeymoon, there were full frontals on billboards going down the highway and on commercials, interspersed with ads for children’s cereal. It’s quite surreal.

In Sweden again full nudity everywhere and tax rates that can exceed 100 percent.

In Britain, less suffocating taxes, though outlandish by American standards. Breasts are shown in some newspapers and briefly on television, but not much else.

Miraculously, the more feminine nudity, the higher you can raise taxes without revolt. It’s as if the public is too busy staring to realize that six out of eight hours a day, they are working for the state and not themselves. It’s like being a sharecropper… no wait... they keep half. Yep, slavery is roughly it. The only thing worse is a labor camp, but Sweden’s tax rates seem to approach the later.

It's not restricted to women in France. It seems men are not merely allowed, but encouraged and in some ways required to urinate in public. How else could you explain the picture window, at crotch height, next to the urinals in the Autostar rest room. Or the doors being removed from all the stalls in a restroom in a downtown Paris mall.

Recently someone said that they allow breasts on Canadian Television, though Alanis denied this. She did glory in it being "censor-free" up in the Great White North. Perhaps that explains why everything costs 10-50 percent more than in the US (except drugs, of course - a nation has to have priorities). I thought this was a function of transport across so much empty space at first. I thought Alaska would be the same. When we got to Alaska on a road trip in 1987, the prices plummeted. So we bought as much as we could in Alaska before our brief foray back into Canada and hoped to hold out from Prince Rupert, BC, until arrival in the US slightly East of Seattle.

When asked about the costs, Canadian shopkeepers become very argumentative. Maybe arrogance is linked to tax rates as well.

So Alanis freaks out about US Congressional hearings on public nudity on the airwaves. I rather consider it good government. It is the function of the congress to set federal tax rates, and as such, to determine exactly how much nudity we can deal with in broadcast television.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Offshore Outsourcing – Half the Argument

I’m sure by now you’ve read protectionist/union/information worker arguments against offshoring of industry, and the managerial/economic arguments in favor of it. We are hearing the same argument from the Seventies in manufacturing again. Unfortunately, like armies training for the last war, we are missing the point on both sides.

Most economic arguments in favor of offshoring involve Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand. Basically, supply and demand naturally force costs down and productivity up over time as technology moves forward. In the case of labor, work naturally flows into economies where labor is cheaper. Therefore labor flows from the United States to India and from Europe and Japan to the United States. Apparently in manufacturing this is a net gain for the US. I highly doubt it is a net gain for information services, however. Counter-protectionists seem to always lump them together.

Many alarmists behind this argument in favor of offshoring state that we cannot become protectionist, because by doing so we will block jobs coming into the US as well as out of it. There is a big apples-to-oranges problem with this argument. We could still construct “roach motel” standards that allow jobs to check in from Europe and Japan in the manufacturing sector but not check out so much to India in the IT sector. Since they are different continents and different sectors, why would this be so difficult? Will Europe punish us for what we do to India? I doubt it. And even if they try, can we not punish them in return? Isn’t it at least worth trying?

Europe already wants to punish us with tariffs for having “abnormally low taxes” and stealing their jobs, so I truly doubt any US policy towards India makes a difference to them. Europe doesn’t need an excuse to hate us – envy does quite nicely. France, despite recent clammor to the contrary, has hated us for liberating their "godlike" nation since they kicked American troops out in the Sixties. But that's another topic.

There is a second issue that is far more dangerous, and far more insidious, that makes Adam Smith’s argument from The Wealth of Nations (1776) a tad obsolete. In his time, all was labor and material – just as a materialist would have told you all was energy and matter. Today, both in the fundamentals of economics as well as cosmology, there are actually three vectors – labor (energy), material (matter) and INFORMATION. While the crafts of 200 years ago contained innovation and product secrets and so on, they were minimal compared to the information-heavy infrastructure of today. Adam Smith has no place in his theories for it, or for what it does to the economic and military security of a nation.

In a slightly extreme example – let’s assume I’m an Islamic extremist who has recently taken over Pakistan. Since I “ran on a platform" of using the nuclear arsenal in the service of Allah, where will I get the most bang for the buck in terms of nuclear target? If I nuke a US city, I risk retaliation on a region wide scale. I could target a major Indian city, since they are the hated enemy of my nation. How about both? I could target Bangalore, wipe out a thriving part of India’s economy, and take out a vast amount of the West’s information architecture in a single blow.

There are other issues, much softer of course, in this track. Do we really trust someone in another nation with medical records, banking records, and so on? Blackmail and identity theft are hard enough to control within our borders – what about in a third world nation with minimal extradition and investigative ability?

A Modest Proposal

The first two have to do with simple security. The last four have to do with basic disaster recovery. Both are highly regulated in banking, yet supposedly the top ten banks offshore - fancy that. (Truth told, Bank One's CEO froze all offshoring some time ago, but since then they were taken over by another bank that is strongly in favor of offshoring. Source: Chicago Tribune)

1) Ban the offshoring of medical and financial information for consumer protection purposes. A democratic politician in California is catching hell for simply suggesting that companies that offshoring medical information DISCLOSE that they are doing so. That is, they can still do it; they just have to admit to it. As a conservative Republican who feels truth is important; I back her 100 percent on this issue.

2) Ban the offshoring of military and finance information for security purposes. Basically – if it’s covered by The Patriot Act, don’t take it outside the US. The Clinton administration was justly criticized for giving away the store in terms of military secrets to the Chinese – something they had to steal by forcing down a E2B spy plane after he left office. But I suppose that’s “politics by other means”, isn’t it? That said, aren’t corporations doing the same thing now with other critical data and processes?

3) No company, subject to audit, may offshore a working HUMAN knowledge of how its internal processes work, practically down to the line of code. The company must have human knowledge of how to restore and maintain that capacity within its US offices.

4) All code, processes, and documentation must be backed up within the US.

5) Projects done offshore must be documented at a minimum ISO 900x standard and the processes recorded and audited in the US. In other words, the audits must take place here, not there. No fox guarding the henhouse.

6) A recovery scheme must be in place to A) function without the offshore facility immediately if it becomes cut off and B) can be replaced within the United States before the lack of support becomes an issue impacting the company economically or in terms of security.

This simple common sense – the extension of disaster recovery and ISO standards to offshore work. To do otherwise is to fix a fence in your yard while letting your children play in the street.

In a related security issue, we have already let the barn door wide open when it comes to chip manufacturing. Taiwan is a much lusted-after target of the Communist Chinese, who would love to both consolidate their grip on the last of the Republic and take out the vast majority of our microchip industry in a single pounce. I’m sure we would be several years just getting the basics of chip manufacturing restored in the US if we lost Taiwan. If you are THAT upset about labor costs, fine, put it in Jamaica or somewhere close, but FOR GOD’S SAKE, at least have 10-year-old chip foundry equipment in a in a salt mine somewhere. Perhaps there should be a regulation that if the electronics fail, the car, truck, or train still operates using cruder methods. Only aircraft have this security built in by using WWII technology.

What military incompetence does quickly, a politicians and capitalists can do slowly with sufficient pointy-haired boss-ness and lack of moral prospective. Capitalism is like Democracy – it doesn’t need regulation when it has wisdom. But where wisdom is lacking, regulation needs to limit the influence of foolishness and in some cases evil, both from within and without. Now if we could just regulate the foolishness of the legal profession. However, the two can play against one another. If all law were put to this standard, that of limiting foolishness and evil or not existing, we would have far fewer laws that make far more sense, and would move us forward as both an economy and a civilization with minimal drag.

But law is an issue for another day.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Welcome to my world.

Such as it is...

I was downsized from a large bank a month ago today. I hugged my remaining staff (named Nicole) goodbye and carried out my last bag of stuff (a box of Earl Gray teabags, a folding cube with company loyalty terms, and my coffee mug). I went to my Grand Am and drove the hour and twenty minutes home.

The next day, I went to a freelance gig for a two-week project at a company where I’d worked for eight years prior to the bank. Then I filed for unemployment. The first check arrived today.

Yes, my job effectively went to India. The projects I worked on were offshored, and while technical communications (my field) is hard to offshore, the programmers for the projects are effectively out of the picture, so my job was as well. The rationale by upper management was that “the business analysts can do the documentation”. However, in my experience A) business analysts suck as writers, let alone technical writers, and B) they are too busy doing the work of three business analysts, since the BA staff was downsized as well.

I’m not allowed by my severance agreement to say where I worked in context with any criticism, so to avoid the risk, don’t expect such posts until March 2, 2005.

I am considering a web site with a countdown clock, however…
And videos… and a parody song or two… and a lot of commentary…
Yet it was the best group of people I’ve ever worked with, and we still cry like Israelites being dragged to Babylon.

While I was working at the aforeunmentioned bank, I never seemed to get out of the office on time to hear the one hour of Hugh Hewitt every night from 5PM to 6PM, which is all they carry in Chicago. Now that I’m home, I listen to all three hours on the web. Today they discussed blogs, and had my favorite blogger, James Lileks, as a guest. At the very end the mentioned this site, and so I decided to finally put out a blog. As a writer, the idea of blogging is something I’ve toyed with since the advent of the Internet but never done. As an unemployed writer, I really need to keep typing before my writing skills suffer. I promise not to subject you to technical writing in its boring sense.

My adventures this summer will include designing an Earth Return Vehicle for a contest hosted by The Mars Society. The Kepler Prize has nine international teams competing, of which I’m 95 percent of the work for one. I hope to score in the top three. I have until June to get my design fine-tuned and put into a 100-page paper, but it’s been slow going. Next week I’m going to work earnestly on weight and balance calculations from the nose to the tail. I’m also working out power requirements.

My other main adventure involves finding a job in Chicagoland. Chicagoland is the term for Chicago proper and its 400 or so suburbs and older cities. My definition of older cities are ones that existed as long or longer than Chicago and have been either engulfed or edged-up to by suburbs, so a city that’s been around 30 years is next to a city that has been around since the Lincoln-Douglas debates and to the new resident are indistinguishable on the map. I live in St Charles, an older city. I grew up downstate in Canton, Illinois. This is also an older city, but one in deepest decline.

Finding a job… Yes. This will consist of roughly equal mix of interviews, Odd Todd adventures, and the guilty pleasures of the intellectual, such as downloading Jules Verne novels as computer-voiced MP3s from Project Gutenberg and listening to them for six hours at a stretch.

My wife, Theodora, is a director of software engineering who, despite some time as a catalog model in her younger years, scored higher than ANYONE she knows on The Nerdity Test (82.4 percent, if you are wondering). And no, gentlenerds, you can’t have her.

Right now, the Austin Powers song "BBC" is playing in iTunes on the laptop, which is putting out the sort of graphics that are A) deeply appropriate to the Sixties, and B) a strong indication that the 1970’s Apple job application question “How many times a week do you drop acid?” is probably still in play on some level.

Despite the current situation of being stuck at home with three cats my life is interesting - at least at the thought level. A child character from a novel wandered away from his usual place in school and was asked by a concerned teacher, “where is your classroom?” His response was basically “Where is my classroom? On the farthest star, in the smallest atom, within the woods and cities, among the friendly.” I’ve misquoted that entire thing and frankly at the moment can’t even remember the novelist, though my friend Jonathan has this memorized. Perhaps that version is mine.

I grew up among woods downstate under very starry skies – the son of a former test pilot turned banker and an artist. Growing up in the middle of nowhere with a formerly great pilot as a father, we both flying Cessnas now and then, made Luke Skywalker's life very much my story. Father not in great health, and has gotten to the point where he cannot remember conversations from the day before, so I’m thinking whatever adventures he’s carried all these years are already lost. Fortunately, I have interviews with him on video tape for the grandkids.

Until these days, he has reminded me of that line from Blade Runner “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the Shoulder of Orion... … all those moments will be lost in time… like… tears… in rain.” His face is still there and he still loves me and I love him. But I think those moments are lost. He remembered the fuel capacity of the tail tank of a B-47 until last summer, at least, after his last flight in one fifty years ago.

I soloed when I was sixteen, but shelved it until after college. On my second "first" solo flight in my early twenties, I flew over my hometown as it was shrouded in the light foglike haze. A few hundred fireplaces were putting smoke trails through the haze before they each joined it at roughly the same altitude. On the flight towards my farmhouse going away from the sun, this was unremarkable. On the flight back to the airport, into the sun, the haze glowed with sunlight that was interrupted by a forest of smoke columns above each house. It was amazingly beautiful and utterly impossible to paint or draw, since it was a play of transmitted rather than reflected light. I saw something the people in those houses wouldn’t believe. There was a beauty in the skies above them they each contributed to and yet of which they were completely oblivious. They sat in their homes, played with their children, argued, watched television, threw in more logs, and got romantic, but they had no idea, to a soul, of the forest of smoke columns extending hundreds of feet above them playing on November afternoon light and shadow.

I think of the moon landings and how the memories of those steps will be lost in time. That is part of the reason even a small push towards the moon and mars is needed. Once those soils are touched, should no one know what it is to touch them?

So welcome to my world, such as it is. Or worlds, as the case may be.

By the way, I call it Earth Return Vehicle for multiple reasons. The first is obvious. The second is a reference to this particular crash-down in my career. There are more. You will see.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?