Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I Figured It Out

Dear blogger folk-support,

My profile is now back at the top of the page, no thanks to you. I went back to the post where it first happened and discovered what happened.

In Absolutly Useless Rant, I put in a web site for the NC Drivers' Handbook that extended into the margin. I took out that link, and all was restored.

Now, if I can figure out from your spare, assuming much of the blogger, instructions on how to put in links, I won't have to put the whole address in the body of the post.

Learning is good; frustrating your customers is not wise. Wise up!

BRB is Write (and back in business)
So Where Is My Profile?

If you have stumbled across this blog, you may wonder who is this journalist? You need to scroll all the way down to the last entry on this page, and Bingo! There I am.

Click on the profile, and whoa, there is something there. Previously it was empty, a void in the blogger universe. I was the mystery wrapped in an enigma. Pride of mystery and cloak of obscurity I was. (Backward speak I can.) But no more. The most you can learn about me I have revealed.

Actually, the real reason I added something to my profile was that I thought that if I updated the profile, the Profile and Archive titles might resume their rightful place at the TOP of the page. Never happened. Sigh. I am not a victim. I just don't know why it sank to the bottom, and how to get it back in place. (Does Blogger have a floation device?)

But I will move on. Labor Day is coming. I smell a blog. I think I'll compose it starting with a blues progression in the first few bars.

BRB is Write (and exposed)

Friday, August 25, 2006

Looking Back Looking Forward

This past year I've been using the power of the net, and my meager search skills to try to reach back to people I've known. These would be people who I liked, who had some positive influence on me, or were just fun folk. I've found a few. What is more, I have surprised the be-Jesus out of them by trying to contact them and actually reaching them. I'm not sure why I'm doing this; it must be some sort of self-inflicted therapy.

Some I knew in the army I located on my old unit's web site. (http://www.ov-1.com/73rd_SAC/first.html) I have e-mailed several of these old acquaintances, and have heard from none of them. Perhaps then, I was a bigger ass-hole than I remember. I correspond with one guy who was there at the same time, but we didn't know each other then. That's probably why he replied.

Several folk in Canada have responded favorably to my reaching back to them, and we have a sporadic exchange. One is, of course, The liberal, feminist, union organizer from The Great White North. Wise lady.

The only undergraduate professor whose name I remember, I found. Sent him an e-mail. He responded by saying how glad he was to hear from a former student from so long ago. I offered to go to the West coast to meet him, and he asked me how many of his books I've read. Never heard from him again. Oh well.

Looking forward is a lot harder. Everything on the net is either current or history. I can't find any help there. Looking forward is hard. PDB has said that I have no dreams. How can a son be so wise? Actually I do have some dreams, but most are really short-term.

I want to visit my Mom. I want to see my first grandchild. I want to see PDB get store #2,#3,etc. I want to see mathman succeed. I want to see us to never retire. I want a job.

Are these wants or dreams? Are these means to reaching dreams? Sometimes I cannot tell the difference. I have spent a lot of time looking back. Perhaps I need to do that to find out what my dreams could be?

I have had dreams in the past: Marrying Ms CPB, raising a family, being an English professor, being a Moravian minister, always providing for our family whether it meant raising vegetables and pigs to earning money. Looking back, I have no regrets. Dreams that didn't happen are ok, and those that came true, were better than I ever expected. I guess that's a bonus.

But what about now? Dreams or means to dreams. I was never a career person. I wanted to be, or I thought I wanted to have a life career. But I had to try many things; I had to see what was down this or that road; what is past that forest I can see in the distance. I have not lost that desire. What I have lost is the ability to get out of familiar ruts.

I think I can find it again.

That is why BRB is Left Right Left

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Right Margin is Back

But it is not where it used to be. To anyone of my few readers, the archives and post titles are a long scroll DOWN. Not where I would have put it, but I am at the mercy of computer geeks.

Ms CPB says that I should try a blog entry without being whiny or grumpy.

This ends this entry.

BRB is Write(and will not admit to being grumpy or whiny)

Friday, August 18, 2006

Dear Blogspot:

What the hell happened to my right hand margin, which includes a list of past posts?
Absolutely Useless Rant

But I'm going to do it anyway. Journals are therapeutic to the journalist.

This is about trying to educate Carolina drivers. I've had several goes at it, so has PDB(www.pdb.blog-city.com). But here I go again.

Dear Carolina driver,

That stalk on the steering column that flashes a little green light on your instrument panel that you inadvertently hit from time to time is called the directional signal. On my Toyota, if I tap it down it flashes an arrow pointing left, and at the same time flashes a light on the front and rear left side. This means I am going to make a maneuver to the left be it a turn or a lane change. Conversely, if I tap it up it signals a maneuver to the right. Please get used to it.

Turn signals are not optional equipment, nor is their use optional by statute. I realize that this might confuse some drivers as to why I am honking at them when they fail to recognize my flashing turn signal and cut me off, turn in front of me or do something else equally as stupid. I will also guarantee this: my car is older than yours. My car costs less to repair, and your insurance company will pay.

It is nearing the time when school buses will again clog the roads. Please obey the rules and give them all a break. Many of you are over cautious and will stop for a school bus stopped heading the opposite way on a four-lane or greater road with a divider or median or fifth lane turn lane. Please don't! This will confuse those of us who have read the rules concerning school buses. Read it for yourself: http://www.ncdot.org/dmv/driver_services/

Also, Carolina drivers, please pay attention when you are driving. Most close encounters I have with others involve no one paying attention, either me or them. Driving is fulltime. We have many distractions while driving, phones, stereos, children, dogs, food, smoking; I have been distracted by all of the above, so have you.

One more thing: I don't care how much power your car stereo has. I have heard some that need enough power to supply a small city. I am not impressed. If you are gassing up next to me, shut the damn thing off.

I invite your comments, and you can do it anon.

BRB is Write (and grumpy and nearly got crushed earlier today)

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Final Fantasy: Epilogue

We all said goodbye this week. The Major University with the Major Medical School and the Major Athletic Program gave us the finale. I missed Thursday. I had the choice of visiting a dead workplace or having dinner with many of my family members. It was not too tough to make that choice. I told my supervisor I had transportation problems. What's one more lie among liars?

Friday was entirely bizarre. We who were left had some cake provided by the MU with the MMC and the MAP. I was prepared; I had dinner before going in. Nice touch, cake, I reckon. We heard that some administrators had been in to visit the day-shift. Message: They will work with all diligence to have our workplace up and running by Feb 07. We were also told that said administrators came back at 5pm to talk with the evening shift. Too bad no one told them that the evening shift that day started at 6pm. They left. Their message was delivered by the remaining supervisor.

That supervisor takes very poor minutes of meetings. Also, I got a goodbye, nice knowing you card from a very nice co-worker. Also I got a $5 gift card from whom I'm not sure, but it was in a thank you for all the hard work card. The card was from the above supervisor. I had to sign for it. On the list of gift cards and signatures were various denominations of said cards, from $20 to $5. What am I to think? Is this just more indifference, incompetence, carelessness, or contempt? Did all surplus workers get a gift card? (The card is good at one of the poorest grocery stores in the area. $5 is just about enough for a six-pack.)

I stayed two hours and made a few calls. No surveys completed, but I talked with a lot of old folks. If any of the surplus employees are invited back, it will take months to get all the completions needed to satisfy the head investigator.

However, BRB will rise above it all. I see that the MU with the MMS and MAP has some openings for positions I am qualified for. I can tell them that I understand the funding cycle and grant awarding process. I won't expect cake with the bad news.

I made a lot of friends through it all. I'll still never understand business; academic, commercial or otherwise, it will remain a mystery. However, experience of any kind makes us who we are. It's how we grow, and how we mature.

This is not a whine. It's a post mortum.

BRB is Write

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Pinhead Final Fantasy Part III

This should all be over soon. This is my last week doing phone surveys for a Major University with a Major Medical School and a Major Athletic program.

I've told you about no business plan, and no funding. I've told you about the center resurrecting itself early next year. I've mentioned lies and damned lies. So the following may seem minor and rather petty.

All employees got an e-mail on Sun. advising all that the center will be providing lunch and dinner all week. Well, that's nice I thought. Mon it was pizza. Tues bagels and donuts. Wed. doritos, salsa and nacho cheese and fruit still in the Wal-Mart bags. Wed evening surplus employees took up a collection for some fried chicken and sides for Thurs. I chose not to participate. Dinner as defined by the powers at the center is good enough for this surplus guy. Hey, they have stood by me all this time.

I don't know if this last debacle shows insensitivity, incompetence, or just contempt for the rest of us remaining until the very end. I suspect the last. And I am walking away with much the same feeling for the remaining, anonymous powers.

Also, I have learned from sources that shall remain unnamed, that a CHOSEN few of the surplus will be CALLED to finish up some remaining business after the rest of us are gone. I wish them well. Many are called, but few are chosen.

I hope that this is the final whimper of a once resourceful, imaginative, and competent workplace.


BRB is Write (and sad)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

More Random Observations

I have never seen any smiling shoppers at Wal-Mart. Have you? Ever seen any happy kids at that place? Have you ever thought, "Oh boy, we're going to Wal-mart!"?

One question you will never hear a cashier ask: "Did you find everything you were looking for?"

Wal-Mart knows that you will put up with a lot because of low prices. We shoppers are not taking advantage of them; they are taking advantage of us.

Tailgaters: get off my butt! I will NOT go faster just 'cause you are enraptured with the back end of my Toyota. If conditions allow, I ALWAYS exceed the speed limit. But if all I can see in the mirror are wide eyes, you on the cell phone, and if I cannot identify your vehicle by the shape of the windshield, count on this: I will slow down. I will slow down and irritate you further. I hope you have no kids riding with you. If you back off, I'll resume exceeding the speed limit.

There are, out there in the real world, people who are totally oblivious to others; some that are totally oblivious to what effect their actions have on others. They think that ordinary rules of behavior NEVER apply to them. You have encountered them. The guy who parks his SUV in front of the convenience store and blocks 3 parking spaces and one set of gas pumps; the woman who parks in the fire lane outside the Harris-Teeter to go in and get just a few items are only two.

I hate to pick on drivers, but I encounter those the most. However, how about grocery shoppers that leave the cart in the middle of the aisle; how about seniors who crowd in front of the line at elevators, in the bank, or any other place I happen to be in?

People, pay attention. The world is getting smaller, the roads and shopping aisles are getting more crowded, the vehicles are getting larger. I am getting older and more cranky. (That's another rant)

BRB is Write (and grumpy)

P.S. When was the last time you drank tap water?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Dissent is the highest form of patriotism--Thomas Jefferson

This was going to be a rant about patriotism; who owns the word; who has highjacked the concept, but I've changed my mind.

This is about my Dad. I looked in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 1940 edition, for the Jefferson quotation. (I like to verify things when I can. If I have a book to look in, I will, before trying google.) This book was my Dad's. On every single blank space on all of the fly leafs, he had written or pasted cutouts of other quotations that grabbed his interest. From Don Mclean(American Pie) to Sartre to Henry Gibson (Laugh In) there must be dozens of them.

I never used this book while living at home, but took it with some others after he died . PDB (look him up. www.pdb.blog-city.com) found this book extremely fascinating, and it lived with him as he grew up.

I should mention that Dad wrote in the margins of every book he owned, and every magazine he read. He would sit in front of the TV with the rest of us and watch Ozzie and Harriet or Lawrence Welk, with Time Magazine on his lap and a fountain pen in his hand. I think he was a lot smarter than us. When he lifted his head to pay attention to the show, he just couldn't stay with it.

My Dad was a reader. He grew up as a reader and was encouraged by his Mom and Aunt. He was also a keeper of a journal, and in later years, the journal turned into family letters.

But the wide variety of quotations that he thought fit to paste or write into his Bartlett's tells much about him. I knew he was a life-long Democrat. He had a federal job and then a federal pension. But he judged the candidate as an individual, and voted for some local Republicans because he thought that they had local interests as a priority. He couldn't bring himself to vote for Nixon or Reagan, but despaired about the poor quality of the Democratic candidates.

Back to the quotes:

"And so I hold it is not treason
To advance a simple reason
For the sorry lack of progress we decry.
It is this: instead of working
On himself, each man is shirking
And trying to reform some other guy." Harvard professor Babbit

"I am goddamned tired of listening to all this babble for reform. America is a hell of success." Joseph G. Cannon

"I was a lonely, teen-age broncin' buck
With a pink carnation and a pick-up truck." Don McLean

Sometimes he was really hard to figure out. He took me fishing; he supported my interest in sports. He could be really hard on me about my homework, getting it done, getting it right; I had to keep my shoes shined and wear my suit on Sunday. When I did something really stupid, he couldn't understand why I did it. At times I sneered at him as teens will. Other times I was in awe.

This story may take a while to set up, but it shows much of his character. I played baseball as a kid in our L.A. suburb. This was pre-Little League in our area. We had no tryouts. All the names went into a bin and were drawn: 15 kids to a team. We had caps and tee shirts with our team name, and had to return the shirt at season's end. The rules were regular baseball rules. Runners could lead off; pitchers had to pitch from a stretch with runners on base. We all learned what a balk was. We played 7 inning games. Each kid had to play at least 3 innings. A pitcher could only pitch 4 innings. So with this rule, most managers started their best pitcher and let him go 3 innings. Then that kid would play at some other position until the seventh inning, when he would come in and finish up the game. Any player who left the game had to stay out.

So one afternoon our team was getting killed 15-0; did I mention no mercy rule? My Dad was a parent helper, coaching on third base this day. We couldn't get a sniff of a hit against their best pitcher. When he left to play right field and we faced another pitcher, we got a few hits and some fly-outs, but no score. In the 7th inning they trot out this monster pitcher again. (I don't think anyone checked his birth certificate.)

Dad was livid. "Hey, let the kids try to hit! You're winning 15-0! What's with bringing this kid in again? and several other choice phrases. Dad, above all, wanted the kids to play and have a good time. I didn't think he was very competitive. How wrong I was.

Their catcher was not very good, and couldn't really handle those pitches, just as we could not hit them. Lots of passed balls and dropped third strikes gave us a number of base runners, but all were still there when out 3 came.

So here we are, bottom of the 7th. I come up and strike out, but get to first on a passed ball. I eventually ended up on third. Always the observer, Dad said to me: "The pitcher and catcher are really very cocky, and not paying any attention to you. The catcher just lobs the ball back every time. Just walk off the base and down the line when he throws the pitch. Take off for home when the catcher lobs the ball back." So I did what he said, and stole home. We lost 15-1, but because Dad wanted a little consideration for the kids, and didn't get it, he settled for a little justice. He cost that other team a shutout.

He thought more about others than himself. He went to all the ball games my nephews played in, just as he did with me. When I left home, he would look for neighborhood kids to take fishing.

But the variety of those quotes? I wish I knew what he was thinking when he pasted and penned them into that book. Obviously he thought them all important. But which did he agree with and with which did he disagree? I think I know, but he was private that way. I guess I'll never really know. We should have talked more. But I'm a lot like he was, we can be enigmatic, private and erupt at times.

I know it drives the whole family crazy. It's who I am and who he was.
The last post does not allow comments. I changed the settings back to where they should be, and now I will test it.

It works. I still cannot get the previous post to accept comments, so if you want to leave a comment do it on this post.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

SURPLUS: Pinhead Business Part Last

How do you know when your office, plant, workplace is deemed defunct, dead, redundant, closing? When you arrive, everything that is not nailed down or painted has a Surplus label stuck on it. They are going to save the furniture, but not the workers. That must say something about business values, but I'm not sure what.

This is the latest and possibly the last episode of pinhead business. Back in early June I described the situation at my workplace. Again, I work part-time for a Major medical school attached to a Major university with a Major athletic department. (Too many Majors may be part of the problem.)

We had a meeting a few weeks ago. Some administrators showed up and tried to tell us what was happening and why. But they had no information to give us. They asked us to understand the grant-awarding cycle. Translation: no funds are available to keep us going. They asked us to understand how research works. Translation: no one had gone out and gotten new business. They praised us for our dedication and professional work.

Some of the thirty of us who were there started making suggestions on how we could get more business. Again, we had to understand the nature of research. Some others started to praise the workplace; what a great place it was, the wonderful co-workers, the wonderful supervision,blah, blah. I was going to retch if I didn't speak up. So I did.

I said I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Here we have a roomful of highly trained, highly motivated people who love their work, sophisticated computer and phone systems and you have NO PLAN to keep this center going. You have explained the grant-awarding cycle and the lack of marketing. We are out of a job. What are you doing about it? No answer. Silence.

Then I heard "I understand your disappointment." I sat quietly. I did not explode, I did not walk out.

Weeks pass. We hear that the administrators have saved the center, and we will have jobs next Jan at the latest. We keep getting extended to finish our current research project. Well and good.

Next comes the revelation that we have been deceived by management. What a shock! I cannot go into details, but suffice it to say that we have been telling our participants a big lie. Everything about this research process is totally confidential we say. We have selected you at random. Not so. By clicking one part of the screen, I have your address complete with zip code. The only random part of the big lie is the order in which the respondents are selected.

Others have said that I have over-reacted. Perhaps I have, but who likes having managers tell them the big lie?

And now we have the SURPLUS labels stuck all over everything. I put one on my forehead. I put them on co-workers. One senior staff member told me: "I guess we just have too many academics in charge." Amen.

It's a sad ending to, if not a noble experiment, at least a good idea. We will establish a survey research center at a Major medical school attached to a Major university with a Major athletic program. It turned out to be "I know, let's put on a show and raise money to save...whatever." Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland could not save this show.

And, damnit all, I enjoyed the work.

BRB in mourning