the forking path

August 4, 2013

Kustomer Serbice

Filed under: Random Thoughts — don @ 9:25 pm

Once upon a time, I was transferring money between a couple of my accounts, when I noticed something. There is a field in the online transaction tool for you to add a description. So I entered an English normal sentence – commas, period.  Sort of a message I would write any time.  I received the response:

The transaction description you have entered is invalid. A transaction description 
can be entered in letters A-Z, numbers 0-9 and special characters /, #, $, % and @.
Please re-enter the transaction description information. 

So I sent them a note, to wit:

In transfer, there is a space for a note or comment, theoretically to help your customers know why they transferred that money. I have worked in IT for 30+ years, and I am stunned that this is not a pure text field.

Specifically, the bulk of “special” characters (like, for instance, those used in this parenthetic example…) are not allowed. What could you possibly be gathering there – assumptively, you are using this field for some business intelligence or sorting routine.

Just professional curiosity.

And, yes, they did respond (sic):

Dear D Otis:

Thank you for contacting Wells Fargo. My name is Bob, and it is my pleasure to assist you today.

I your message regarding the description field for Online Transfers.

We appreciate and value customer feedback and suggestions to make our products and services better. The description field was added based on customer requests for the ability to enter notes regarding their online transfers.

On behalf of Wells Fargo, thank you for your business. We are happy to have you as our customer and appreciate the opportunity to assist you today.

Sincerely,
Bob H
Wells Fargo Online Customer Service

If you have another question about this subject, please click the Reply button at the bottom of the page. To ask a new question, click the
Contact Us link at the top of the page.

And I thought, “no, really? It’s for TEXT?”  So, now I know that the reason the text field has restrictions on the characters you can use is because it is text field.

March 20, 2013

Filed under: Random Thoughts — don @ 7:24 pm

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American WestBury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they never kept but one; they promised to take our land, and they took it.”

Thus ends the story, as you know it did, if you stayed awake in history class. Treaty after treaty, mile by mile, Western Man propagated genocide on the huge canvas of the United States.

The spread of the lies, torture and murder is brought to meticulous life by Dee Brown, an inescapable tsunami of change that certainly colored the West.

Read the book.

View all my reviews

April 8, 2012

Chilly Water

Filed under: Random Thoughts — don @ 7:30 pm
Tags: , ,

Tonight, the weight of all my yesterdays and tomorrows seems awfully damned close; all the worse for there being more of the former than the latter. It’s funny how that one sneaks up on you – one day you are 25 and have the world by the tail, the next your arm hair is turning white. White? Traitors! Anyway, I am kind of standing around, throwing lids, feeling like, “how did I get here?”

Of course, by “throwing lids”, I mean doing my night job, which in this case, tonight, means feeding the machine that supplies the lids to the filler downstairs – or, rather, down ‘man-lift’:

Who uses stairs when you can ride a conveyor belt through the floor? On a good night – and this is a good night, much better than yesterday, when the Alvey (our palletizer) went down, shutting down our start-up so cold we almost had to re-sanitize the filler station – any way, a good night is us running near the 4,000 30-pack cases of Coors Light an hour rate. I mean, we are flying; just a little arithmetic shows that you need 120,000 can lids an hour to do that, so the machine needs attention. In this case, me, methodically slamming paper sacks of stacks of lids at 600 lids a sack, pulling off that paper, and making sure everyone is right-side-up, throwing away the paper and moving on.

OK, look, repetitive work, yeah, nearly hard work, yeah, but not mentally that challenging. You mind can wander off the track just a bit, as long as you stay focused on the job at hand. If you don’t, you get the joy of having a sack of lids hit the deck – a mess I can never have again and still have it be too soon. I am afraid tonight I am wondering really close to home – that is as to how companies use and treat contract employees.

Obviously, the big attraction to contract, or “temp” workers is multifold: you can fire them with no fanfare; they do not show on your “personnel costs” line; they are somewhat cheaper, in that they do not cost you the same in benefits (although, typically, the salary is the same, just that their company gets a share of it, not the worker); and so on. The problem is that “temp” workers are not always so “temporary” – I have personally known contractors who worked for years at IBM. In fact, many companies have gotten in trouble by treating temps basically the same as regular employees, which causes the government to ask questions like, “aren’t you basically lying to us?”. Which is uncomfortable for businesses. And LOTS of companies got caught a few years back for just that – de facto employees being paid differently, accounted for and reported differently, and all in all being a tax dodge.

In my experience, there is a not-quite-but-almost abuse of temporary employees by regulars – not all regulars, but lots of them. You are just a temp in their eyes, and it really doesn’t matter if you have equivalent experience or training, you are somewhat less. Which is how it should be, at least as far as the IRS is concerned. When it is you who is “less”, well that feels a bit different. The truth is, though, in this environment, you don’t say anything about it, because you are just glad to have a job. Even if the job is, by need, one of two or three jobs you have to have to make ends meet. Because, truth is, you gotta make those ends meet, somehow.

I keep seeing news pieces and advertisements about how we (the US) are “coming back”, and maybe so. But, I look at the people who have jobs now, and you know that their Walmart/Burger King/Contract Job is not really a career move – it is an act of desperation. There are a lot of desperate people out there, hoping that they can make it through the year, keep their house, feed their kids. And all the glad handing, back slapping, grits eating politicians wearing their jeans to show just how much like us they are don’t change a damned thing about that. Somehow, we have to get to the point where people are not in survival mode, and get them to a point of hope. I do not see how we can do that without our politics and social environment getting beyond finger pointing and get back to working together.

February 23, 2012

Redefinition In Midstride

Filed under: Insights — don @ 7:40 am
Tags: , ,

I stepped out of the warm and cozy beer factory into a winter wonderland. The entry for packaging, where we fill the umpteen freeking cans of beer, pop on lids and wrap them in nifty packaging to send to you is a good city block or so from the stairs to the parking lot. And, seriously, for the last 6 hours, all I did was feed this machine caps – 500 caps in a package, take one off the pallet, put it in the slot, take off the paper, do another… It could have been hailing frogs outside, I wouldn’t have known; I was just doing my best to not spill can lids all over the stinking’ floor (only about 1300 or so hit the ground; average for a new guy, they say…).

Well, it wasn’t frogs, but it was a good 8 inches of snow. It wasn’t even that cold, just, like, snow. Everywhere. Who knew?

Life is kind of like that, you get sort of heads down in it; whatever, you are raising kids, or you are caring for a parent, or you are a this or a that, and shit just kind of sneaks in. The good and the bad startle us in the midst of our “important work”. Someone I thought of as a dear friend passed just this week, and I hadn’t seen him for a while. Taken in retrospect, again I have to ask, who knew that when we passed for a few moments at the folks’ house, that would be my last handshake? And the truth is, you don’t know. You never know.

The ugly truth is, I have reached that age where it could just as well be me that doesn’t come back. It’s not a bad thing, but facts is facts – I am closer to the end of the road than the beginning. Doesn’t matter, here, what you think happens when that road ends, it does. And, it is a funny road. I will be damned if I saw myself as a factory worker at my age, but here I am; you drive the road you get. You can plan all that you like – I think that the Powers What Be enjoy our little plans and goals and daily affirmations. That is why They throw curveballs at us.

I am trying really hard not to drift into cliché, here, but things are cliché because often they are obvious (in hindsight) truths, often as not. I know that you, like me, are doing the best with the hand you were dealt. I know that, sometimes, you feel like you are over your head, that there is too much stress, like you are forgetting something important. It’s OK, we all are there. Take a deep breath, remember who you love, why you are doing what you do; clear your head for just a minute. If what you are doing isn’t right, it is OK to stop. If what you are doing is right, it is OK to do it. Living your life is the hardest thing you will ever have to do, so give yourself a break.

Oh, and the next time you say goodbye to someone you love, be sure they know that you mean it.

February 20, 2012

A Small Wonder

Filed under: Memories — don @ 7:12 pm
Tags: , ,

So, the thing is, there are things you can do when you are young, and there are things you can do when you get older. If you are like me, you should be ashamed of yourself. I mean, really, stand up sometimes or something. I have driven a desk for a long time. Long, long time. You were probably still a baby, man.

So, there I am in a truck bay, unloading cans, running up and down stairs; great job, if I was 26. But, alas, 26 is a number with little meaning in my life now. 26 was another man, living another life, who could no more imagine my life than I can relive his. So, with great misgivings, seeing as I have not had so much as a nibble for these years, since the great layoff at IBM, I went to turn in my gear.

Quite seriously, this was as hard of a decision as I have had to make in a couple of decades. You do not – DO NOT – walk away from guaranteed overtime, indoor(ish) work when times are hard. While we do some great work at e426, and while I love the job, I have also burned through the savings of our 30 year marriage since ’09. The fact that I didn’t have to touch my 401k or pension funds is more a testament to my lovely wife’s frugality than to my earnings.

So, I walked in pretty much knowing that this was the exit door. I had already cleared my locker, had all my gear ready to turn in, and we went through the dance – all but saying that I am too damned old to do this. I was resigned to my fate, wondering if I could get a lower paying but maybe easier job over at the emissions testing place. We shook hands, I started for the door. Then I remembered.

See, I think I got it bad, but there is this cat I hired in with, and he had a choice between his mortgage and his car insurance. So, he parked his car, and is taking the bus to work. That isn’t the worst; hell, I rode the RTD for nearly 15 years, and… Oh, yeah, that sucks really bad. On like his second day, he missed the bus by a couple of minutes, ended up walking home. Just a couple miles. After a 12 hours shift, on his feet, on the go. I gave him my phone number, told him not to do that. Last night, knowing I was going to do this today, I remembered that this cat had a buddy who wanted my slot. Now, I don’t really know either of them, but I highlighted the paper, and put it in my pocket this morning. All I could offer was the guy I know’s name, and that he had a buddy who wanted to work the 12′s, and that he was afoot and that could work out good for him.

And then, the boss said, “So, what was the worst again?”. And I said, you know, it is this unloading business, this working in the truck bays, in the weather, lifting and toting and running up stairs. And he asked if I could stand, well, the standing; that is something that I can do. Well. It seems, there is a job opening at the brewery, in the capping and cartoning area. It starts tomorrow. It is a quiet place, with some lifting no stairs, no outdoors, no trailers.

Now, maybe there is no link between me trying to help someone I just met and the bosses change of heart. Maybe there is nothing to it, only what you read into it. Maybe. But I don’t believe it. When I went in, it was cold, the wind was blowing and the clouds were out. And, when I left, the sun was shining.

What I do know – never miss the chance to help someone. You just never know.

An Old Dog…

Filed under: Insights — don @ 7:11 pm
Tags: , ,

As in a dream, you awake one day to a world that you could never foresee, happier than not to take the job of a younger man, and wondering how you can, at the same time.

This is a strange world. I suppose the truth is, I never expected to be this old, to begin with. I was an idiot when I was young; I expected to pay. Somehow, it just happened. My hair started to come in silver and white, my skin started to get thinner, my eyes got both better and worse, my hearing faded in places…

I worked at this place, it doesn’t matter so much now where, but I thought it was somehow important, and I had what I thought were friends there. It wasn’t, they weren’t, and it was over and gone, stealing something from me that I didn’t know I had to lose, making me mistrust all that came after. That proved to be valuable, because the pattern repeats, the pattern is the way of the world…

And the world grew more twisted, all my John Wayne and Father Knows Best childhood blacks and whites fading themselves into grays, and who can tell the bad guys from the good guys any more? The CIA sells heroin and cocaine to the ghettos, and Presidents lie, we arm a tyrant when we need him, then invade his country and kill him when it suits us.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I don’t know where exactly we took the wrong turn, but it was not supposed to be this way. The song is wrong, the soundtrack is off half a second to the video, the words are spoken correctly, but it is the wrong script. We all see that. We all know that starving children are bad, that poverty is bad, that war is wrong, that equality is right, but we don’t care enough to change the world.

We are just dumb enough to keep at it, knowing that we are ass-backward wrong, that we are fucking up the whole fucking enchilada, not just for us, but for everyone and everything, for now and for all time. We will just keep telling ourselves that we can not make a change, that we can’t change the world, that it is not our problem, that we are just trying to get through one more day. But that is a lie, too, and we know that just as well, a sweet little lie to ease the pain.

And then here we are, smack dab in a world that everyone tries to paint in stark blacks and whites. Oddly, though, each person paints-by-number differently, and what is white to one is black to another, or white, but for a different reason, and we are painted by every side as traitors if we don’t believe in the same things in the same ways as they do. And there is no way that anyone can work with anyone else, no way we can move forward as a group – every man for himself, this is a zero sum game, after all.

Phillip Dick was right, we live in a Black Iron Prison, and it is up to us to break out, to validate each other, and recreate the world where everything that you do which enlivens you, which brings you joy, brings me joy, and the converse – a state of consensual bliss, wherein everyone gets to live the life they dream of living.

We have proved that we can make hell on earth, we have done that more than once. Maybe it is time to try and make heaven on earth. I mean, if even this old dog can learn new tricks, maybe there is hope for us all.

November 2, 2011

So, there I was, doing someone else’s work…

Filed under: Insights — don @ 3:44 pm

Look, it doesn’t matter what it was, ok?  I am not going to point at an individual business and call them out in public, point out their every flaw.  We could all do that – from a restaurant that gave you poor service, to a auto shop, you local super market, the City, State or Federal Government, we have all had service that made you say, “and I paid for that?”.  Maybe you have seen even more recently.  The thing is, I had to just get angry enough to think it through.  Because, you know, I have been there.

This is not a anti-capitalist rant, but let’s take a look at the world as it really is.  Let’s say you have a business of your own.  You know that you have to pay your employees, pay your bills and insurance and such, you have to have some reserve in case you need to buy a new computer or van or furniture, you have to have some reserve so that you can work toward growing your business, and you, yourself, have to get paid.  There is not really a requirement that you make a certain percent over what you made last year for the same period, you just really have to, well, make enough that you aren’t losing dough, since last years’ money is worth less than this years’.

However, if you are a public company, you do have to make a very clear percent more than last year, period to period.  That is how you get judged in the horse race that is the Market. This is not a good thing or a bad thing, this is just the way that works.  A company that can show continued growth and good margins is a company you (or I) will put my 401k / stock choices / investment money into; one that is flat year-to-year, well, not so much, right?  No one bets on the horses that run the wrong direction on the track.

Unfortunately, there has been a downturn.  I know, some of you missed it, maybe because it is not that hard to get a Medical Marijuana license or something.  The rest of us have – hell, that is ALL we have seen, and we are all looking at these guys in office with a “you want to FIX this, dudes?” look on our face.  I am sure glad I am not running for re-election based on the progress we have made in the last four years.  Anyway, I digress – those of us with a little (or a lot) less discretionary income, well, we have stopped buying things.  I think that my family has cut back maybe 50% since the good old days of three years ago.  We buy more what is on sale, we put off what we do not need, and we focus on what we do need.

My dad would say that we “shoulda been doin’ that all along”, and it is hard to argue with that.  Being native Coloradoans, we know about the boom and bust cycles of the West; having that mindset is what saved my family.  But that doesn’t save businesses from the need to show profit year-to-year.  So, what do you do?  Well, I can tell you what we did years and years ago.

Back when the Earth was still cooling, we had a bust cycle.  We needed to continue to make money, so we did what we had to.  First, you fire the deadwood (at least, the deadwood that did not have their nose up a manager’s butt), and you cut out the fat – no free coffee, no office parties, all that.  When that was not enough, then you start cutting the live wood, and taking off meat.  Your management (read “salaried employees”) get to work a shift and a half, with no extra pay.  Corners are cut, and you do the best you can.

If things get better, you get to rehire that half a person or what not, and life is rather back to normal.  Although, it always seemed that things taken away were seldom given back.  That’s the problem – if your managers can make it doing 60 hours a week, cutting it to 55 is a benefit, and yeah, not that hard to sneak it back up to 60 or 70 hours a week.  If your staff is ok paying for coffee, maybe you could take their breaks from 15 minutes ever 4 hours to the 10 minute minimum.  And, maybe if you fire someone that was doing just “ok” work, you can scare the others into doing more and bitching less.

The guys at the top, and the stockholders, they are just fine that you have been able to “fine tune” your processes so that you can do more with less, and so a whole bunch of guys (who were sure smarter than me) wrote a bunch of books on how to do just that.  And it became a part of our process – do more with less is a mantra, and one that is taken to extremes even when it does not help.  And then comes a dip – not just a little dip, but a “bridge is out” recession the likes of which we have not seen since the 30′s.

Recession Job Recovery

Comparative job recovery after recent US recessions.

Everyone is already doing more with less; now, they have to learn how to sell the fact that they have to do less with even less.  So, the restaurant that used to have two bus boys on a busy night has none, the waitstaff are the bussers, and yeah there are less of THEM, too.  The mechanic at that auto shop is doing the work of two guys, pulling off the clock overtime just to keep his job.  Your local super market is having to contend with people who buy less, and shop around more, and they have cut a quarter of their staff.

And that is why “mediocre” is the new “good”.

October 14, 2011

I was talking to a homeless drunk about religion…

Filed under: Random Thoughts — don @ 1:16 pm

I was talking to my friends, and it seems like we just can not get a break.  Another how many hundreds lose their jobs this month? Next?  Where is the work going to come from, how are we to feed our children?  What about their kids?  

Time and again, we talk to our politicians, and they say they feel our pain.  As if.  As if their entire existence is not just a means to get reelected, to raise the money, to court the rich, to do something small that they can feed to the dogs that they surely think we are.  And the rich, in their gated communities, thinking that we are of no matter, that they can do whatever they want, because just what can the poor do?  How do you work your entire life to have it come down to some bean counter that says this line item is too expensive, delete it.  No need to see if it would work for less just to keep working,  we can hire cheaper elsewhere, and with no baggage.

We talk, and we talk, and they do not listen.  I have personally received the begging notes, yes or no, Donald, will you help us or not?  A simple yes or no, is it? Well, then, no. Does no work for you?  Do you wonder why no?

I can tell you, it is because you lie to me and tell me you care, that I matter, but that is bullshit, and we both know it.  I am one of the 15% which has been created by Democan’t get anything done, even when they held the House, the Senate and the Presidency. I am one of those who has lost their future because the Republiwon’t do shit to help the little guy, they will only help their rich friends.

I was happily employed by IBM, and I well remember Barack patting old Sam Palmisano on the back for all the good he had done for the country, way back in 2009. Did you know, right then, while Sammy smiled his smarmy little smile, that he had just laid off 15,000 workers in the US, for a total lose of at least 20,000 in 2009? No, that didn’t matter, as we both well know – money talks, and laid off people do not matter.  I was one of those laid off. Since I see you got out of college in 2001, I can easily say that I have worked for all of your life, and never had a break where there just wasn’t work. My longest time between jobs was two weeks, and that was 36 years ago. I had never been discriminated against because I knew too much, or because I was over that magic 50 year number. But, all things change.

A Colorado 99′er, I used up all the money I had invested in unemployment a long while back. For the last two and a half years, we have worked our asses into the ground, trying to build a start up in the worst time of our countries life in two generations. We have made some progress; we might even be halfway to the black this year. Who knows, if my luck holds, I might even make enough money to stay in my house for another 5 or 6 months.  So, that puts me at, maybe, if I am lucky, $20 – 25,000 for three years of work. For a family of three. Yeah, goodbye savings, it was fun.

Now, here you come again, beggin’ for change. I have responded to you for these three years, telling you what the problem was; I have sent direct mail to the White House, I have called the White House, I have sent letters to my Senators and Representatives, I have responded to you and your ilk, but you never respond. This is because you don’t care. You don’t have to. My kind will die early, because we can not get the kind of simple humanitarian health care that we need. My kids have nothing to look forward to but trying to pay off the debt of a do nothing government. And you never respond, except to ask for more money.

So, I don’t expect a response now, and I don’t expect anything to change - that was a catch phrase, not a promise. And, you know, that is too bad, because real change at the level of the people might have forestalled the Civil War that is coming.

My gods, to have lived to see such times.

September 23, 2011

Wow, what a week…

Filed under: Random Thoughts — don @ 11:51 am

So, anyway, back at the homestead after an exhaustive / exciting / involving / motivating / meditative / innovative / liberating / fascinating / firehose of a week in LA.  Wow, what a trip it was – taking 60 (ish) people to Sony Studios, with another 70 – 85 (hey, it varied) on line people, just some of the brightest minds on this sphere, and then letting them play their way to answers.

There we so many highlights for me – meeting Richard Taylor in person, one of my strange heroes as we say; seeing Paul Casson’s 3D Dome - and I got a special tour, too, nyah – nyah – nyah!; Neville Spiteri’s fabulous vision of a living ocean on the web!; actually getting to work with Harry Karidis - the wizard behind the camera; the attendees, my team at work, the nights talking, the days running, and the icing of a trip to Mindshare LA, where my kind of people gather, if you catch my drift. What a blast!!!

I am beyond wow - I am in that space that happens right after your mind gets blown, I mean, just totally electrified, and you see all of those things that have fallen out of the akashic field into your hands to grow or not, where you know you have been touched by the Godhead, and you can take that forward or let it die.  I am trying not to be too excited, because it scares the children.

One thing comin’ soon, I am moving to a new space, where I can be who I want to be.  But, that comes later, I will let you know, I have work to do today, then off to get my child for a fun weekend in the Indian Summer of Colorado Autumn days.

 

 

 

September 11, 2011

Always Remembered

Filed under: Memories — don @ 8:00 am
Tags:

Ten years ago, the world as we knew it changed, and probably forever. An act of war; a new KIND of war, one we really did not then know how to fight. A kind of war that maybe we can never really know how to fight. It is like the War on Drugs, it is people who live with and look like their neighbors, who hide behind innocents and mix with the population. Nukes don’t work for shit in an environment like that.

20110910-100529.jpg

Fatalities included the following:

Everyone aboard the four hijacked planes. Excluding the hijackers, this includes 76 passengers and 11 crew members aboard American Airlines Flight 11; 49 passengers and 11 crew members aboard United Airlines Flight 175; 53 passengers and 6 crew members aboard American Airlines Flight 77; 33 passengers and 7 crew members aboard United Airlines Flight 93.

    2,606 in New York City in the towers and on the ground:

  • This includes 343 New York City Fire Department firefighters, including one FDNY Fire Chaplain, Franciscan Fr. Mychal Judge, 23 New York City Police Department officers, and 37 Port Authority Police Department officers. Casualties of the 9/11 attacks also included 15 EMTs and 3 Court Officers. Approximately 2,000 first responders were also injured in the attacks.
  • 1,366 people died who were at or above the floors of impact in the North Tower (1 WTC); according to the Commission Report, hundreds were killed instantly by the impact while the rest were trapped and died after the tower collapsed (though a few people were pulled from the rubble, none of them were from above the impact zone).
  • As many as 600 people were killed instantly or trapped at or above the floors of impact in the South Tower (2 WTC). Only about 18 managed to escape in time from above and in the impact zone and out of the South Tower before it collapsed.
  • About 292 people were killed at street level by burning debris and falling bodies of those who had jumped from the World Trade Center’s windows.
  • Of those who worked below the impact zones, 110 were among those killed in the attacks. The 9/11 Commission notes that this fact strongly indicates that evacuation below the impact zones was a success, allowing most to safely evacuate before the collapse of the World Trade Center.
  • A bomb sniffing dog named Sirius.
  • 125 in the Pentagon.

Always Remember ~ Practice Forgiveness ~ Never Forget

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