The Gentle News

Don't shit where you eat.

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Maybe I Wasn’t Clear

December 13th, 2009 · Potpourri

This ain’t fiction. This is an update on how Corporate Farris is currently doing.

The cast:

Boss (VP) – Goal-driven guy wants results. He’s “not interested in micro-managing” us, but he does want us to show our work. Figure that one out. Claims to hate meetings. Loves to schedule very long and unnecessary ones.

Larry, Moe, and Shemp – The IT team. I’m not sure which one is me, except that I ain’t Shemp. Shemp is the new guy. Yeah, I started this job two weeks ago, and I am not the new guy.

Foreign Office (R&D) – I’ll lump them all together here, because they have not only been the most consistently helpful player in this torrential rodeo, but I haven’t met enough of them to know who’s really calling the shots.

The Ladies (Sales) – The smiling face of the company. The ones who make the promises that we Stooges must somehow keep. They are, however, fairly forgiving and understanding when I tell them their proposed schedules are unreasonably short.

Scene 1:

Larry and Moe have never installed the company’s product anywhere, and suddenly receive word from on high that the first time we do so will be a new, untested, unreleased version. We’re given the product on a Thursday afternoon and asked to have it installed and tested that afternoon in order to discuss it with R&D Friday morning. When Larry and Moe ask where we should install it, VP says “on our production server.” Larry, Moe, and Shemp look over at R&D with heavy jaws as R&D says exactly what we’re all thinking: “ARE YOU FUCKING CRAZY? INSTALL IT ON A CLEAN TEST ENVIRONMENT!”

So we look at the hardware available. It’s ALL production hardware. Thursday morning, R&D agrees to move the meeting to the following Tuesday so that we can sort out resource allocation and run through the installation ourselves a few times. R&D makes it clear that they cannot meet with us Monday, which is totally fine with the Stooges, since we won’t even have it installed until Monday. I spend Thursday and Friday juggling around the least important servers to some hastily converted virtual machines. My team puts in an order for some RAM so we can beef up two existing servers to move all possible non-production machines to virtual machines.

Saturday morning I get the test servers we need for this installation setup on one of those virtual hosts. Then I make the mistake of checking my email. There is a long thread in which Sales asks VP if we can let them use the test servers on Wednesday. No problem there, we’ll have tested it on Monday and discussed it with R&D on Tuesday.

Boss says “Let me see if I can get R&D to meet with the Stooges on Monday instead so that Sales can try it on Tuesday.”


Me: “Maybe I wasn’t clear: We just now got the proper machines to test them. We have never installed this product, one that R&D honestly tells us is very convoluted and difficult to understand. I have spent a large chunk of my weekend preparing so that we can meet these deadlines and follow a very risky 3-day schedule. Now you want to shorten it to a 2-day schedule? No. Setup a meeting on Monday if you want, but I won’t be there. I’ll be getting the shit done rather than talking about it without even knowing what the hell it is I’m supposed to be talking about.”

Boss: “OK.”

In these two short weeks, this has happened over and over again. I have to spell out every detail of every step in order for my already-pushing-it schedules and plans to be trusted or appreciated without someone meddling and thinking they know my job better than I do.

This sounds harsh and bitter I’m sure. But it’s not much different than other jobs. I know I’m not in Hell here, and that international business is flooded with this sort of “get it done yesterday, no matter what you don’t know” attitude. But I cannot and will not allow it to get to me this time.

And not just because they’re not paying me enough to give a shit.

OK, mostly because they’re not paying me enough to give a shit.

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The Third Option

November 23rd, 2009 · Stories

George was a simple man, which is not to say that he was an unintelligent one. On the contrary, he knew quite well that he was overqualified for the job he had served for ten short years. His IQ was much higher than the average blue collar schmuck, but he enjoyed the freedom of a constant position with a ceaseless revolving door of one clueless supervisor after another.  He was the type of custodian who could finish his daily routines on auto-pilot without conscious thinking, but he chose to leave his brain in the on position nonetheless.

The dog park of Shimmering Oaks Community was his afternoon task. The executives and trophy wives spent their mornings showing off how much they cared for their animals by letting them run around the gated gardens while they sipped peppermint mochas and discussed how scary the economy was with other tapas-fed white people. They didn’t pay the complex a monthly grounds-keeping fee to have to pick up their own dog’s crap.

George had a map in his mind of which hills and shrubs needed to be scooped and when so as to make the sweep of the area efficient and thorough. The last stop on his “brown rounds,” as he called it, was the Arbor. This was a special area of the park added when the board of trustees at SOC became concerned that they weren’t green enough and might be paid a visit by some hemp-wearing hippies with a petition to reduce their carbon footprint. George always grinned at the thought of management naming a quarter-acre of sod with three transplanted tallow trees and a stone waterfall “the Arbor.”

It was the last leg of brown rounds because it was the trickiest. As part of the greening of the area, it was decided that the turf would not be raked. Letting the leaves land where fate leads them gave the photographs a more natural look and distracted from the fact that the red brick wall was the only thing separating the Arbor from the Northbound Expressway. Being so noisy and already covered in brown, it was difficult to discern the leaves from the leavings.

Since most of the residents never paid much attention to the Arbor except to yell over the traffic to call back Poochie, George ended brown rounds with a game of “Turd or Leaf.” He would stand in the center of the field and perform a circular scan of the area, rotating slowly like a radar antenna. After two three-hundred-sixty degree passes, he had a mental matrix of the Arbor that he could then use to spiral outward and snatch up the pellets. When he reached the outer perimeter, he would return to his central lookout and make one last visual sweep for leftovers, but he rarely missed.

“Shitty job, huh,” George heard from over his shoulder as he stalked along the edge of the area. Residents did not usually speak to him while he was on brown rounds, so he was startled and lost his place.

“Yeah, no shit,” George coughed as he stepped backward and rescanned the immediate area. Residents knew that George wasn’t afraid to speak to them as if he were in the same tax bracket. Frank Reed didn’t spend much time in the park, but he made it a point to stop in and say hello to George whenever he was out smoking a cigar and ruminating over a risky investment. “How’s money treatin’ ya, Mr. Reed?”

Frank stopped his long drag of his Cohiba and said, “George, if you call me Mr. Reed one more time I’ll have to have a talk with your supervisor, whoever the hell it is this week. You take more than your fair share of crap from people here, and you and I both know you belong somewhere else. Somewhere you can put that degree of yours to use.”

George didn’t lose his place again. He kept on digging for gold and gave no immediate response. “I wouldn’t cut it as an engineer, Frank. I hate making mistakes, and you can’t really do that sort of thing without planned and constant wrongness.”

“That’s silly,” Frank spat, “but to each his own I guess. When you get over your silliness, I hope you come to me first. That brain of yours is pure capital, my man.”

George’s face glowed. “Mighty kind of you, sir, but don’t bet any money on it happening.” By this time George was already on his way back to mid-field for his final quality assurance check. The spot in the leaves where he would stand was easily recognizable by the indentation from months of daily use.

Frank was saying his goodbyes and starting to walk away when he heard George damn himself under his breath. “Problem?” Frank inquired.

“See,” puzzled George, “this is what I’m talking about. I hate this. When I first walked up to the field I counted sixteen piles. There are fifteen in my bag, and they’re all gone now. I know the original count was correct.”

“Who cares?” encouraged Frank. “If you can’t find it, I doubt it will offend any delicate ears or noses around here.”

“I care!” George grumbled, his usually assuring baritone approaching an excited tenor. “You see, if I don’t pick it up now, I’ll never find it.”

Frank again assured that this was not something George should let ruin his day. “Look at it this way: if it really is out there, by tomorrow it will be dried out and less of a bitch to pick up. Come on, let’s take a break at the Pond Bar. I’ll buy you a Fresca.”

George ignored him. “There are only two possibilities. Either my count was wrong, which isn’t likely, or someone else picked it up when I wasn’t looking.”

“Who else would pick up a dog turd around here? Look around. It’s all pearls and Armani. No friggin’ way.” Frank was really trying to take George’s under-appreciated mind off this ridiculous quest.  Lowering his gaze Frank added, “Besides, there is a third option.” With this Frank gave a bemused shrug and walked away.

“Son of a bitch!” George kicked the air and began his shameful limp over to the water hose, one boot pinched between his thumb and index finger at the end of his fully extended arm.

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An Open Apology For Anyone Who Wants It

November 17th, 2009 · Potpourri

We are broke. Flat-fucking-broke. As in, if I don’t sell a ton of shit or get some invoices paid THIS week, we will not have enough to cover the mortgage or power bill or any number of other payments already scheduled via online banking.

So, what am I apologizing for? This:

Fuck you.

There. Sorry about that. I wish it could have been avoided, but it was coming out one way or another, and at least I can control it here. If I made a mess, I’ll clean it up.

I’m much better now.

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Keeping Your WIP to Yourself

November 11th, 2009 · Daily

Most people have a series of good ideas in varying frequencies. Some of us tend to think that most of our ideas are great ones and announce them all to the world. Blogs give the more gregarious of us the ability to elaborate on them at length. Twitter and FaceBook let us spit them out in rapid succession. For those who consistently go beyond mere idea generation and actually take action on a significant number of ideas, these tools are informative and exciting to all.

But they backfire on people whose timing is off. A good handful of us tend to come up with these ideas, broadcast our intentions via the internets and then sit on them for a while. Our friends comment on them, and the hesitant idea machines allow those responses to affect, usually to the detriment of said idea’s completion, their approach to getting it done.

A few months ago I mentioned selling off most or all of my musical equipment and starting from scratch. This was a good idea, and I should have done it. There isn’t a single piece of significantly valuable equipment I own that is in any way sacred to me. I could live without it all, and from a practical standpoint I already do. A good friend joked about how it would decrease my status as a rock star if I reduced my gear so drastically.

So I’m blaming my failure to actually do it on him. I doubt he’ll mind.

I have to stop announcing my plans to everyone. I need to just DO STUFF.

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What’s in a name?

September 23rd, 2009 · Potpourri

In a way, Farris Goldstein is my real name. I decided over a decade ago that, as much as I embrace technology, putting my thoughts out on the wires should probably be guarded by some kind of pseudonym. Those who know me understand that I’m just a silly guy who enjoys individual role playing, even if I bristle at the thought of rolling a bunch of dice and slaying imaginary dragons all weekend in a room full of other nerds.

I’ve been accused with everything from schizophrenia to multiple personality disorder to just plain batshit crazy. But I know I’m not crazy. I know the name I was given, and I love it. I also know that, for as long as I can remember, I’ve used internal creativity to successfully stave off the development and diagnosis of all those scary disorders.

Now I’ve actually been published on those wires with my real name, and I’m having a tiny identity crisis. Ever since I realized I was a writer I’ve worried about whether to finally just be Me and let the various avenues of my craft point to the same name. It would make putting together a portfolio much easier, but it’s just not that fun.

I have two such irons already in the fire, one of which actually pays a financially negligible but tangibly rewarding income. In addition, I have two Big Ideas that I want to remain passionate about, but since they’re targeted to mutually exclusive audiences, the more perverse one will definitely require a fake name.

But the other one… Oh, man, I wish I could say more about the other one, but it’s something that all sources say I should keep under my hat until it’s close enough to complete that I can’t help but put my John Hancock on it and show it off to everyone like a Heisman trophy. That one will definitely get my real-real name on it, possibly even with a pretentious middle initial.

Dammit, since when do I use sports references? Gotta nip that in the bud/butt.

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