Month: November 2005

I gave at the office.

Community is good. Community is important. Community needs people’s support. However…

At present on the bulletin board (in Outlook) for my office for the month of November the following items have been added:

  • community gift-wrapping
  • parents selling chocolate bars for their kids
  • parents selling raffle tickets for their kids
  • parents selling batteries for their kids
  • United Way
  • Angel Tree
  • coupon books.

Those are the “charity” or “support a worthy cause” items. Additionally, there are sales postings for Avon (x 2), buckwheat “wraps”, PartyLite, and “Home & Gift Collection” catalogues. In one month. Some months are much busier (though since December starts tomorrow, I’m sure the charities and “do your Christmas shopping” posters will ramp right up).

The United Way has been in the office this week, and, in fact, has set up a kiosk in the cafeteria. We received info packs and pledge forms on our desks. We received a company-wide email about the Angel Tree in the lounge (which, as a side note, was so embarrassingly badly written that we made fun of it for our own amusement for a good hour).

Most of these endeavours are “pull”-based. If you’re interested, you go talk to the person in charge and you buy/donate. Some, like the United Way drive, are more “push”-based. They come to you. Every week they have a “50/50 Draw” at work, and the person with the winning ticket splits the proceeds with whatever charity of the week is on the books. Two people wander around the whole office selling tickets. We have monthly campaigns all year, on behalf of everything from the Humane Society to “Send ’em Off Smiling”. And each time a campaign is run, there is pressure to “beat our record”. For things like Food Bank drives, they like to try to pit departments against each other. Raise money, have fun, boost morale. I get it.

Thing is? It’s not a right. No one has a right to my money but me. Not co-workers, not bored-looking volunteers at the mall, not homeless people on the sidewalk. How I choose to spend my money is up to me, and if I decide to donate to your “cause” or purchase your goods or services, then bully for both of us. But if I say no? Fuck off. Perhaps I have no cash on me right now. Perhaps I question whether your “charity” is legit. Perhaps I don’t support the goals of your organization. However, oftentimes, and I pick on workplaces because most of us spend the better part of our days there, the people in charge of selling or fundraising act like it is their right. Like I, or anyone else, is a bad person if I choose not to open my wallet. Often, they’ll start the hard sell. Then, you’re just going to make me angry.

This office is better than some places I’ve worked at. There are no respites from the calls for cash, but the sell is usually fairly soft. However, the campaigns are often poorly thought out. In the letter we received for the United Way campaign, it outlines what your donation can do in increasing amounts (it recommends setting up a weekly donation plan that comes off your pay automatically). I almost laughed out loud when it got to the donation it REALLY recommends, which comes to over $1000/a. Particularly since the largest group in the company is call centre associates who make so much money that I know of a number of them who have second jobs. On top of the donations and sales, chances are your work life also includes things like team lunches, bon voyage gifts, mat leave/baby shower gifts, birthday gifts, engagement/wedding gifts, funeral bouquets, etc. We determined at my last office that there is no physical way you could get married enough times, have enough children, or kill off enough relations to even break even on the gifting. Most of the time it’s not a big deal, but what about people who choose to never get married or have children? Sherry once suggested throwing her own “I am never going to have those life events” party. Hell, you can even set up a registration for anything these days…

I read a rant from a person today, who, along with her co-workers, was basically commanded to take part in selling draw tickets by her boss. The boss had even divided up who was selling how many tickets, and to which groups. My, how organized. Guess what? No. Not in my job description? Not related to team or corporate goals? Fuck you. In fact, it could be argued that such tactics (which are purely political and for good publicity and intended to make the execs feel good about themselves and their ever-so-personal generosity) are harassment and create an uncomfortable work environment, especially if you disagree not only with “donating” your time, effort and money to a charity, but also with the charity’s raison d’etre itself. Certainly, saying no would unleash a political shitstorm. (Even if 99.9% of your co-workers secretly agree with you.)

I have no problem with supporting charities and with fostering a sense of community. However, what seems to inevitably be the case is that the situations where the donors end up embittered are the situations where the organizers seem to forget the goals of the campaigns are about helping others, not themselves, and that “charity” is a synonym for “entitlement”.

Ladies and Gentlemen…

May I present the last eight months of my life…

21 Brubacher Street.

Will make sure pictures get up on the listing, and I will be putting together a Before & After gallery here, too.

Oh, and if I know you, and sent you the listing link, or told you about it? Congratulate me. Seriously. Just do it. It will make me happy, and if you don’t, I might just kill you.

Centricity.

I got into a conversation at work last week that included the comment, “You never really do leave high school, do you?”. And the longer I’m in the business world, and the more I see of it, the more utterly convinced of that I am.

Mark kindly reminded me of that when he posted this article about Google and its culture and business strategies (or lack thereof). The most telling part of the article are the last five paragraphs. A snippet:

The suits inside Google don’t fare much better than the outside pros. Several current and former insiders say there’s a caste system, in which business types are second-class citizens to Google’s valued code jockeys. They argue that it could prove to be a big challenge in the future as Google seeks to maintain its growth. They deem the corporate development team as underpowered in the company, with engineers and product managers tending to carry more clout than salesmen and dealmakers.

A caste system is a good description of it. Just like high school. Except now it’s been reversed. Another example: this Penny Arcade sketch. In school the geeks get beat up and picked on and have their heads dunked in toilets. And now? In the fairy tale scenario, they’re worth billions. And they can hire or fire every jock, prick, and asshole who ever so much as smirked at them in the hallway. So what kind of business strategy do geeks embrace as a result? Revenge. We run the ship now. Fuck you.

Problem is, very, very few people have sets of BOTH business and technical skills. I can count on one hand with fingers left over the number of people I’ve ever met who do have both skillsets. So companies need geeks, and they need suits. That’s just how business works. (I am not saying this is a good thing; I’d rather hang out with the geeks any day of the week. I’m just saying that’s how it is.) The geeks make the product and keep the machinery running, and the suits get the product to the world and manage the relationships necessary to get and keep the money rolling in. However, despite the fact that for business to be successful long-term, balance is required, underlying all of that is a continuing contempt and disrespect on both sides. A “suitcentric” company is going to fail. Suits can’t build product or fix computers. A “geekcentric” company is going to fail. Geeks don’t make PowerPoint decks and do lunch and get sales. Substance or style. “States of being”, to quote Mark. Pick one. And so everyone is hamstrung.

In a situation like Google’s, thanks to the gigantic pot of gold just out of the suits’ reach, no one’s willing to take their toys and go home. They will put up with a “lack of respect” because kowtowing to the geeks in this case is potentially very, very lucrative. In the rest of the world they do get enough respect to keep their egos healthily plump and their Porsches nice and shiny. And the geeks? In Google’s case, they’re living in fucking Candyland. ‘Nuf said. But for the average geek, they deal because they need jobs, too, and last I checked, pure R&D gigs or professional gaming careers are pretty hard to come by.

Guess which origin I’m endorsing?

The origin of the word “beagle” is uncertain, although it has been suggested that the word derives from the French begueule (meaning “open throat”, or more colloquially, “loudmouth”) or from an Old English, French, or Welsh term beag, meaning “small.” Other possibilities include the French beugler (meaning “to bellow”) and the German begele (meaning “to scold”).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beagle

Clothes make the man.

My parents are going away this winter on vacation. I was sworn to secrecy about it last week for some reason understood only by my mother, who is insane. However, let us say that Isaac and Captain Stubing would not be out of place on this vacation, nor would a Panama hat…

Anyway, this type of vacation requires one to dress in certain ways at certain times (and, of course, eat obscene amounts of shrimp). This is not a problem for my mother, who is the girliest of girls, and who, I swear, would graft more fingers onto her hands to hold more rings if she could. My father, however, is a different story. Unlike Mom, he does not like to dress up. He also gets hot easily. Typically on vacations he is happy as a clam if he can wander around in shorts and muscle shirts. (What is a muscle shirt, you may be wondering? It’s a loose-fitting tank top with really big arm holes favoured by body builders and the like. It has never been fashionable. Not even in the 80s. My father owns many of them.)

Now, in Neustadt, there is little to no risk of my father ever making a fashion faux pas. Mullets and leather jackets with fringe still make appearances. However, on mystery vacations, it’s basically printed on your tickets how you have to dress when. And one of these stipulations for men is wearing a dark suit for dinners. (If I could get my father pimped out in a cream linen suit I’d pay for it myself just to take pictures, but I digress…) However, while my father has owned any number of pairs of dress pants over the years, as well as sport coats and dress shirts, he does not seem to like suits. By my mother’s calculation (admittedly, her memory for the administrivia is not as good as mine, but in this case I believe her), the last suit Dad owned/wore was to his wedding. In 1967. When the Leafs last won the Stanley Cup. Remember that? Me, either.

So on Saturday when I was at Bakers’ Acres (yes, there is a sign at the end of the driveway – I am almost old enough for it to not shame me anymore…) for Dad to put the snow tires on my car and for me to fix the computers (my parents are hardcore – they have TWO computers!), when I arrived Dad was sitting at the kitchen table, wearing a baseball cap with an unbent peak *sigh*, looking through (I believe) the Sears catalogue. At that point Mom hadn’t told me about the vacation and the dress code, so I didn’t know what he was looking at. Even so, horror and fear struck my heart when I heard him utter the words: “What is rayon polyester viscose…?”

In the short time that I had before I had to head back to KW, I did what damage control I could in trying to convince Dad that a synthetic would be uncomfortable and hot and not breathe at all in a hot climate, and that something in a light wool would be much nicer. Of course, until I hear definitively that he’s bought a suit, I live in fear…

The best laid plans…

Well, a 12-hour work day, but not quite done, as hoped. Mid-afternoon I was starting to think someone somewhere was doing it on purpose. The word “clusterfuck” was uttered. Broken car (Chad’s, not mine), incompetent CAA dispatchers, forgotten keys, ill-fitting door, wrong light fixures, carpet guy couldn’t come…

Ahh well, no matter. Progress was still made. All the new fish are still alive. The kitchen floor is clean enough to eat off of. One of the two new doors is up. The new light fixtures look fabulous. Daryl’s crap is out of the living room. And the tow truck driver was hot. Quite my cup of tea, too: tall, dark, handsome, and wicked of grin. Alas, we both had places to be… And really, when one has been scrubbing for six hours already and is wearing no makeup, a paint-covered t-shirt and a Haliburton dinner jacket, one is not at one’s most alluring. 🙂

Had an amusing domestic moment mid-evening. My brother was coming up from the basement and I was in the kitchen, and he asked me to get him a beer from the fridge. As he finished asking he got to the kitchen doorway and saw that I was, in fact, on my hands and knees wielding a scrub brush. Needless to say, my reply was, “I’m on my hands and knees scrubbing your goddamned kitchen floor, and you holler at me to bring you a beer? What are we, fucking married?” to which he giggled and hollered, “Get me a beer, woman!” A year ago, this would NEVER have happened.

In lieu of triumphant hollering, please accept this photo, taken this afternoon at the Timmy’s at Fischer-Hallman and University (where I spent quite some time), of Santa. With a package. (No, not that kind of package…)

Santa with a package.

Stained

Sometimes “input” sneaks up on you. You will see something or hear something or read something that becomes part of your mind and psyche. If it’s something bad, you can’t unsee or unhear or unread it. Though it’s intangible, it conjures up an extremely vivid mental image, and will cause a physical reaction when you think about it. The kind of thing that, if it comes into your head when you’re trying to go to sleep at night, forces you to open your eyes and look around and mentally scramble for something else to think about.

I had one of those moments yesterday. Something linked from a blog I recently started reading. I won’t link to it here. I don’t want to be responsible for putting that into anyone else’s head. It involves child porn, sex slavery, and murder. It is now actually rivalling something I read in a Michael Marshall Smith book (Only Forward, I think) for worst thing I’ve ever read. It made me unhappy to be a member of the human race for the day. Fortunately, I was treated to a personal human interest story later in the day that restored a good part of my equilibrium. (It involved saving the lives of puppies, which, for me, is exactly the right formula to make me happy.)

I don’t like being affected by most media, at least not intentionally. There are some things that, even if plastered with warnings, the human mind simply cannot process or shrug off. I don’t like finding out just how over the top information has to be to penetrate my shell. It makes me feel like a product. A ball of person clay that’s been moulded and sculpted by the last 30 years of North American culture. Like there is no me. Like I am not in control of what becomes part of my mind.

However, it’s not like I can stop reading. And it’s not like I know when the next input ambush will occur. I just know that it will.