Acting Up

My musings, thoughts, rants, and discoveries. - Scott Maddock

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Location: Redmond, Washington, U.S. Inc. (Formerly U.S.A.)

Allie's Journey

For the next several months this will be dedicated to information pertinent to Allene M. Maddock. Her care has been assumed by Hospice as of 06Apr12.

Please feel free to call or write her. If you call be patient and take time to explain who you are. Currently she remembers, but you have to help her focus so she truly knows who she is talking to at the moment. We have to do this too, and I frequently say something like, "Yes this is Scott, your oldest."

Her phone is area code two-zero-six, and the number is 216 3816.

Her Address:
Allie Maddock
c/o Queen Ann Manor
100 Crockett Street
Seattle, Washington
    98109

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Eat Worms

I've been quiet a while. I was on vacation from the 13th to the 22nd, and...

One of the things I've finally learned the last few years is to not bury and internalize all my feelings. Like anyone, I still suppress some things, but no longer as a rule. I've not been having fun at work lately. I've been analyzing my frustration and anger the last few weeks.

Well, there's the obvious. I turn fifty next Friday, and that may be bothering me more than I'm letting on to myself. I've had crap going on in my personal life before, much worse just in the last year, but I still enjoyed coming into the office, which makes me think that isn't much of it.

In the latest executive initiatives I've felt the company as a whole may not be moving in the best direction, but I know I have a limited and probably naive perspective so I've always discounted that.

In the latest office move I felt treated without respect. I enjoy sharing an office with another person, and as a result didn't ask for a private office when it was determined I qualified for one over a year ago. I'd have my own office now if I'd requested it at the time, as they were too lazy to do anything but move singles to singles, and shared to shared. We were warned if we asked questions or made any requests that we'd get the worst digs conceivable. The admins were too busy. I met my prospective office mate, and I figured no problem as we got along very well.

Being crammed into an office so small you can't both move you're chairs a couple inches to stand up at the same time made me feel like I have no intrinsic value to the company. I told myself it was nothing personal, then responded to myself that is in fact the problem. We had our desks converted to very small tables, so that was dealt with for now while giving me an excuse to shred all the old docs I'd filed, and my manager offered to switch in a month or so giving us better digs. Right now he is sharing an office too. So this is a temporary situation, but the capricious nature irks me when I've never made an issue about my digs at work out of a spirit of cooperation.

The latest two straws were other matters of respect, but this time personal. I'm working on a couple projects with critical time lines outside my control and created by the parties involved. I actually delayed solidifying my vacation plans until the day before I left as I felt I could delay my visits if needed for either project.

One is a case of a fellow employee attempting to move to another company without a blotch on his record. I sympathise as I assume he is stuck dealing with a vendor that is inflexible rather than an unwillingness on his part. The vendor has been incomplete if not downright inaccurate with their specs. As a result 80% of the work has been scope creep. At one point my manager asked if we should pull the plug. I said I thought we could manage it.

The short timer overreacted to a routine E-mail exchange I had with the tester, thinking a test setup problem meant the sky was falling, and called me thirty seconds after the E-mail. I finally told him after more than ten minutes I couldn't analyze the situation, much less fix it, and fully explain it, while I was being randomized. I tracked down the problem in less than two minutes, and before I even had time to let the tester know how to fix the stale test data she was working with he sends me an E-mail saying if this problem delays the project it will have to be canceled and important people will be bent out of shape. My humor circuit kicked in for that one. I told him I understood the problem, that my personal feeling was we should find a technically competent vendor moving forward, and that I had already prevented my manager from taking me off the project which would have pulled the plug on it. I'm sure he missed the humor, but I expect he got the hint that I'd gone to bat for him to keep the project alive. I haven't heard from him, much less further dire threats without substance for making up for delays which were coming from his arena. He's basically a pretty good guy, and I know the disrespect there was unintentional, just a bit of panic.

The other project is one where I created a design, and some of the internal data consumers needed changes to the design. We came to a nice compromise, I updated the design, got a conditional buy off, which would be confirmed within two days and I coded the solution. Two WEEKS later and several days after my vacation the internal data consumer decides he can't possibly live with the solution. More meetings, in which I am shouted down to the point, where I had say stop interrupting, let me finish my thought so you know what it is I'm asking or proposing, then you can dismiss it. Twice I had to do this. Then I made a technical explanation, and then I made a layman's explanation. Neither was listened to, rather they were willfully ignored resulting in bizarre interpretations. Imagine saying something like, "These shoes are pinching my feet." Then the reply is "You need to walk a mile behind a camel." It was that surreal. Then after being ignored, shouted at, interrupted, and ordered about (by puffins) the most obtusely arrogant of the bunch said, "That was a pretty good meeting, wasn't it?"

I'm good at communicating ideas, but it is a special challenge when there is not a whit of desire to understand or return respect on the other side. I was not able to scale that wall. Virtual shouting matches are not something I find productive or enjoyable, and when I realized it was a pointless exercise I relented. (For anyone familiar with enterprise data systems, having reporting system folks demand data transformations on production systems defeats the whole purpose of having a data warehousing process. It's way beyond idiotic.) A follow on meeting was much the same the next day.

I've coded what seemed goofy requirements from my perspective before. I've run into situations where there was no flexibility from other the side before. It's never gotten me really angry before, just a passing "Geesh." I've never had a situation in this business where I was deliberately dismissed and demeaned. If we weren't up against the wall with regards to meaningful deadlines I would escalate. I might after the fact.

Is this all a perfect storm? I hope so. As a result I haven't been referring people to my employer as a terrific workplace lately, which I usually do all the time. For the first time since I started working here over three and a half years ago I didn't give a recruiting inquiry a polite brush off. As out of sorts as I feel, I'm hoping, expecting it is a short term thing. So I forwarded the opportunity to a few people, and suggested checking back with me in a month. Plus, I have a reminder on my calendar for a month from now.

I am really distressed with the current situation. I've had three and half wonderful years here, and frankly the only reason I put off the recruiter for a month is because of my new manager and my old manager. I've had terrific managers here, and I feel I can be pretty forthright with them. Hence my loyalty to them. Another round of complete disrespect like this last, and immediately I will be active in exploring options despite my high regard for my peers and managers. Once might be an anomaly, twice in a short period of time unacceptable, and if there is a third occurrence I'd better damn well be in the midst of interviews. I know from the past I can't tolerate those who abuse their arbitrary power. I tend to internalize the other person's apparent disregard. I'll never do that again if I can help it. It may be that I lived in that mode of despair for so long that I'm more sensitive to it, and would walk away from an otherwise good situation rather than damage myself. My resume, reputation, and long term goals also preclude letting myself feel demeaned.

The institutional disrespect is easy to deal with. I was in the Navy for ten years, and worse, an IT contractor at Microsoft nearly that long. (Ironically IT folks at MS are treated like crap, and contractors worse -- making me appreciate all the wonderful managers and co-workers I had.) It's the personal disrespect I don't tolerate well.

I pray I'm doing nothing more than venting here. I still remember my first interview round here. I'd left a contract at Microsoft rather suddenly thanks to a political spat, and my manager there felt so incensed about the situation that he proactively got me leads, one which got me to that interview. I was only half interested in starting a new job so soon. I had planned for a bit of a break. As I was waiting for the last person in that interview loop I realized I was getting very excited about the prospect of working here. That certainly bumped up the stakes for me. I was delighted to accept the offered position. That same excitement has been with me for most of my time here. There's the conflict. It creates a great deal of loyalty. It also creates an expectant desire for that kind of a healthy work atmosphere. See the rub? The great environment creates loyalty, but it sets an expectation as well.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Soap, Soap, Everywhere

Okay, I feel like there is a lot of catch up to do here. Silly and general.

First for the generally silly. I got a nice gift basket from my sister's family for Christmas. What makes their baskets nice is they put them together themselves. There was a little woven basket, a antique pewter looking metal(?) with a reed like appearance, not more than a few inches square. An attractive little thing perfect for a dresser or bathroom counter.

It had three chocolate coins and a little white chocolate frog bust. The coins were nice, though in the last year of dark chocolate only I now prefer the dark. I figured it wasn't enough dairy to bother me so it was a worry free test. I wasn't so sure about the white chocolate, but it didn't have ingredients on it and I'd had a good healthy meal so I threw caution to the wind. Nothing. It seemed to have a coating, maybe something wax to prevent oxidation so I just let it slowly melt. Finally a hint of something very tasty, but only for a small fraction of a second. Then lanolin and something very slightly, but unpleasantly caustic. My damn sister washed out my mouth with soap!

I thought it was very funny, even as I rinsed the foul taste from my mouth. I didn't think of it much until now, a week or two later. Gold coins and a cute little soap in a darling little basket, nothing nefarious there. Ah, but this is my sister. The same little sweetheart who prepared a special cookie with my brother and Mom as a surprise when I was home on college break or military leave one day. They'd stuffed a cookie full of Copenhagen chewing tobacco. A guy in his twenties, I of course gobbled the cookie. And as I started the next one, "Hmm, that tasted a little strange." They hadn't intended I'd swallow it, but most of the egregious stuff had been baked out, and with a pretty heavy habit my system didn't notice.

The old tobacco cookie makes me just a little suspicious. I still think it is most likely the luring me into soap consumption was unintentional. Still, I'll be very accusatory in a good sibling manner. She and my nephews will love hearing that on the answering machine, which I get 19 out of 20 calls. The rest of the time they spend in the alien probulator lab and fun emporium. (They like Futurama too.)

Another bit of old memories. I was over at my folks place in Port Orchard a few weekends ago. Went to their Kiwanis fund raiser, an auction where I got several things and more than my share of wins from the raffle. I spent the night, and we drove over together for the Intiman on Father's Day, which I talked about several weeks ago. Well, I was getting a bit scruffy, so it was time to shave my face and head again. I've kept a bushy mustache this Summer for fun. I remember my razor, but the little shaving cream can was dead. A slow leak and dried goo inside the cap was all there was.

Dad didn't have any shaving cream, but he did have an old shaving brush and I used that with a bar of soap. Wow. Easier, smoother shaving, without the artificial foam. Not only is it a more comfortable shave you can see better without the shaving version of crappy Cool Whip smeared about. I have no idea where my old brush is, so I got a new one and shaving is much nicer again. I can't use an electric razor, as they tear up my face and scalp, especially the second time around without more than a week between shaves.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Shhzzoom

That's a forgotten experience. Washing a car and having it look better. It may sound like a semantic distinction, but my recent vehicles looked less bad when washed. Time between washings were generally over a year. The last car I had was the seven or eight year old Corvette I got when I was in flight school. It's been a while. It was replaced by the pickup truck, but I've always considered those true utility vehicles.

Yup, I'm still enjoying my new wheels. It's a nice breath of fresh air, given the depredations of our leadership. That makes me like the car all the more, since the less petroleum, the less money to those who own our leadership.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Re-Onions

We had a party at Trina's, an informal reunion of our ETI class of last year. Eight of us, only five couldn't make it. I had a terrific time. We teased, reminisced, gossiped, and talked of life and what we are doing now.

I watched some of the Meisner program last week, the year long ensemble I did three years ago. It's a funny thing. It was less than a third of the time commitment compared to ETI. Yet, on that last day when we did our recital I felt more mourning at losing the regular contact with my classmates. Last year I didn't feel the same pang when we wrapped up ETI, though I knew I was even closer to them. Sunday showed I wasn't alone. None of the get togethers for Meisner alums went off. I expect the relationships from last year's ETI conservatory will last longer. They'll still fade and morph as all relationships. These are deeper for me.

And now, for my 31st high school reunion. The 30th was a dud. It was a great idea, a simple picnic instead of the overpriced affairs of the past. My desire to reconnect was never enough to trump my desire to skip a dry formal affair with people I don't really remember much about. So I went to the county park last year, but nobody thought to put up a sign. It was in the upper 90's, hot anywhere, but especially in our neck of the woods. I walked around the park at Horseshoe Lake several times to no avail. So I met my Dad, and we enjoyed the overly sultry day watching Pirates II. The a/c was great.

A few days later my high school buddy who had told me about the picnic asked why I didn't come. Well, I was embarrassed because I'd left my cell phone at home and couldn't find the group or give him a ring. He says, "We were by so and so's Mustang!" Not something I would remember or even think of looking for 30 years later.

My buddy was a simple guy. In high school he taught me you don't have to be smart to be a good person. Later he has taught me, that being a good person in high school may not translate into being a good person later in life. I remember the one thing which bothered me as a kid was his affinity for racist slurs. He said he wasn't prejudiced, he just learned the words from his Dad. Thirty years later, the blatantly racist E-mails he forwards have me on the cusp of blocking his E-mail, something I've not done to someone I know before. Anti immigrant E-mails espousing persecution and fear of minorities, while still wanting underpaid slaves to keep roofing and WalMart prices down. Basically, they should stay in their place, serve us, but not expect benefits or recognition. Then there's passive/aggressive religious and white supremacist ecstasy over the massive casualties for non-white 'heathens' in Iraq.

I don't have bonds to my old buddy any more, nor any real feelings. The terminal incident for me happened when I cited my combat experience as my primary reason for opposing the war as unjustifiable, and he accused me of lying. He was simply the most recent contact I'd had with my high school class which sadly doesn't increase my desire to reconnect. Still, I'd set August 4th aside, and was finally starting to look forward to seeing people. Then one of the organizers sends out a short angry note at 1am this Monday morning. He feels dissed and shut out and is quitting the organizational meeting, which in itself is understandable.

By the time I get to work Monday morning my inbox is stuffed with bitching E-mails. The quitter had flamed, and left the committee members off the recipient list, but my old buddy still kissing up to people he thinks are cool apparently stoked the flames by forwarding the E-mails to them. How many screw-ups can you count? One, the quitter bitching to 90(!) addressees about his dismay at the committee he's quitting. Two, the quitter not having the character to copy them, opting for backstabbing. Three, my buddy stoking the flames, by backstabbing the quitter. With very little effort you can think of more. So five or six people arguing, ninety pissed off at the pissing contest.

I went from disinterest for thirty years, to "Yeah, that'd be nice." Now the very worst of high school politics and social infighting is flooding our inboxes. Too damn bad. I got to the point to where I was looking forward to seeing people, and now it looks like it won't happen. I think I was the first to ask them to stop. These people don't know me either, so I was surprised to have a couple people send me positive responses. Here is my quip. (Okay, so others would call it bitching.)
I don't care if there are two get togethers on August 4th if the times don't overlap, so I can visit with people at both. Simple solution which serves the attendees, while still letting the opposing organizational parties to take their ball and go home. I do sympathize with the frustration on both sides, but deep down I don't care a bit. I was looking forward to seeing people I've not seen since we graduated, not reliving playground arguments about who stepped over the tether ball line.

If forced to make choice between concurrent events I'll skip the thing altogether.

Please, please, those of you in the organizational debate, drop those of us not involved from the recipient list. I don't need to see any more he-said/she-said/I'm-telling-mommy spams.
Aside from two more E-mails later in the day asking the bickerers to take it off line, that stopped the flood. Probably the most important lesson is one any person who is E-mail savvy already knows. Don't send out an E-mail when you're angry. Wait and read it with a cool head, and see if that is really how you want people to think of you. I don't think "The quitter" is as little as he appears. However, I don't remember him from school, though it may be that I'd recognize him in person. All I know about him is his E-mail, and even though I know you're not your best at 1am when you're pissed off, it is still all I have with which to know this person. Hence I think of him as "The quitter" instead of "The resigner". Was it his intent to make the moderate appearing member of the committee quit? Well I just got an E-mail that half of the remaining members have quit as well.

Two reunions touched me this week. Both give rise to tears, for vastly disparate reasons. Guess which group I'm looking forward to seeing later this Summer? I turn fifty the day before the reunion. The following weekend I'm planning to reserve a pavilion at one of the parks, and inviting my theatre and work friends and acquaintances. They generally have fun interacting.

Well now I've got to get back to work. A few small things to do so I'm caught up. Maybe then I'll remember to reserve a park if it's not already too late.