Disappointment but Also Liberty

I did not get the science marketing writer job that I tried valiantly for. Someone bested me, and that's disappointing. It is rare that I make it to an in person interview and then do not get a subsequent job offer. In fact, this is the only time I can ever remember it happening. That makes it all the more poignant, because I actually really wanted to get that job. It wasn't just acceptable, it was awesome. The company was cool and the subject matter (epigenetics) was a great fit to my education and skills. I studied very hard before the interview and learned the company's mission and vision pretty comprehensively, even watching a few YouTube clips specific to the subject matter. I thought it could be a place for me to call home and envisioned it being the job that carried me to retirement.

But clearly, it was not, because they rejected my awesomeness in favor of something else. So I have no regrets and I am able to let it go. The mistake is theirs to make and now my path is clearer. I am in fact freer than I was before.

You see, I have a new position already, doing technical writing. I was offered this position just prior to interviewing for the science writer one, and I accepted the terms, because I desperately needed to find a more satisfactory workplace than the place I was at, which was filled with incompetence and douchebaggery. I also needed to hedge my bets in case the science writing job fell through. I was wise to do so, and now that the science writer job is off the table, I can focus on my new role and rock it harder than anyone has ever rocked before. It's liberating, because now I can commit and not have one foot out the door. Admittedly, if the science writer job had panned out, I am certain I would have taken it, backing out on the technical writer job, and probably burning a bridge as a result. But now I do not have to burn that bridge at all.

I am on a holiday break from the technical writing job for almost two weeks. I have been working at it for about a week, mostly getting training on various tasks and processes. They run a tight ship and it is a refreshing change from the half assed improvisational approach of my former employer, whom I "fired" right after Thanksgiving. Conversely, there is a ton to learn and know and you really have to cross your Ts and dot your lower case Js. But that is part of the thrill. What I really dig is that all the people are nice and the business is pretty strict about people not putting in overtime. So you work your day and get out. I don't bring any work home and that means I can focus on writing and music in my copious spare time. I am going to learn some mad skills and get some great experience actually working with real professionals who know what they are doing.

At my last job, they decided to put incompetent engineers in charge of documentation. They had zero subject matter expertise and totally effed everything up as a result. Good riddance.

On the other hand, it was an easy job to blow off, because no one knew what they were doing nor what was expected of the technical writers there. So we goofed off a lot and gave ourselves a lot of raises.

My New Job

I am not sure why my new employer wanted me to start the week before Christmas. I think that was premature. As it turns out I don't even have an official boss yet, just an unofficial one. I probably could have started after the new year with no ill effects. I am getting a lot of training this week, which means I won't have to do as much of that after the new year. By the same token, I am going on a week and a half of vacation after this week, during which I fully expect to forget a lot of what I learned. Anyway, the new job is pretty good and I am working with competent and professional people for a change.

I Fired My Boss

Whenever I take a new job and fire my former employer, I am always amazed how surprised my coworkers and management are.

Like, did you not see how badly management was screwing up? Did you think a high quality technical writer like myself was just going to settle for mediocrity, when there are so many better opportunities out there?

Get a clue.

Why I Now Hate Tuesdays (but Only the Mornings)

I used to not totally despise Tuesday mornings. My documentation team had a Tuesday morning meeting with our douchebag manager on the books. Even though it is a total waste of time and illustrates the utter incompetency of this manager when it comes to docomentation, my team at least got to kill an hour while establishing our weekly work priorities. Plus the meeting was at 9:30, so I could take my time getting into work. I usually come in around 9 to avoid the worst of the rush hour traffic, but let's face it, I am not going to get much work done between 9 and 9:30, so the time is usually better served by just taking it easy.

We used to have a totally lame meeting on Monday afternoons that I usually skipped because it was so lame. But some brainiac engineer proposed the idea of moving that meeting to Tuesday mornings at 8:30 and having attendees bring breakfast snacks. First of all, I am not bringing shit to any meeting unless the corporate overlords are subsidizing, which they aren't. There is a passive psychological coersiveness to encouraging people to bring snacks, since it makes people who don't bring them feel guilty when other people bring them. Apparently, I am the only one who sees that or cares. But the bigger problem is that this new lame meeting time is in conflict with my desire to avoid traffic and get into work at a more comfortable time. It is also a meeting run by the same incompetent douchebag that oversees my team meeting at 9:30. So I have to suffer through his banal idiocy for much longer now on Tuesday mornings than I care to.

On the bright side, this violation of my civil rights has to be compensated. Since I am tormented for almost two hours on Tuesday mornings, I am fully within my rights to reclaim that as comp time. I usually leave an hour early on Tuesday afternoons so I can practice for Tuesday jazz night, and come in an hour late on Wednesdays so I can get a little extra sleep after Tuesday jazz night. Tuesday jazz night goes kind of late. The Tuesday morning angst also translates into more unleashed rocking at jazz night as I convert the frustrations into energetic bass grooves, so that's a plus. I wish it didn't have to be that way, but it does.

Being Nice vs. Being a Douche

I think if you asked my writing team who they would rather have leading them, they would choose me over the current meddling middle manager that oversees us. Don't get me wrong, I am in no way looking for a team lead or management role. I just want to use this thought question to illustrate what makes a more effective leader.

Likeability is a very important factor. People are more likely to willingly follow a leader the sincerely like. They are also more likely to passive aggressively resist one they don't like. I am nothing if not pretty likeable. Our boss, however, is a bit of a sociopath and a bully. My team doesn't like him because he gets his way by bullying and harassment rather than encouraging desirable outcomes by being nice.

Of course, likeability is necessary but not sufficient for good leadership. You also have to be competent. My team does internal quality system documentation for an FDA regulated biomedical company. You can't slack off on quality when it comes to governmental regulations and auditing. Thus, any process improvements that make quality system documentation easier and better benefit the company and improve the performance of my team. My team consists of three creative and intelligent subject matter experts on quality documentation. We know how to do the job better than anyone, including our boss, who is not a documentation specialist. A good leader asks his subject matter experts what will improve the processes and the quality of the work output. Our boss has never once asked us what would be the best process improvements for my team's quality documentation work, and when we told him anyway, he rejected our ideas in favor of an expedient one that is going to cause a world of pain down the road, when it is too late to undo it. If I were the team lead, I would do the right thing, not the expedient thing.

A good leader also needs to be a facilitator, helping his people do their jobs and removing obstacles, as well as understanding work life balance and having empathy. You are either for the team or against the team and a team that thinks you are fighting for them is much more inclined to willingly go along with your plan and vision. I am almost to a fault supportive of my work team. I want them to have all the tools to do their jobs efficiently and effectively, and I want to minimize obstacles and hassles in their paths to success. I don't want them to do busy work and I don't want them to be harassed by lazy or incompetent clients (like many of the engineers we perform documentation for). We have quality standards for a reason and no one is immune to them. Incompetency or ignorance are not excuses. You would not believe how many times our customers plead ignorance when they know full well what they are supposed to do. Our current boss is essentially a customer who favors expediency over quality. But his quest for expediency comes at the expense of our ability to do our jobs efficiently and effectively.

Last but not least, always be nice to people. You will get a lot more cooperation that way than being a douche. My team provides a service and the engineers need my team absolutely far more than we need them. In fact, we don't need anything from them most of the time. But if they have documentation needs, they need to be nice to us and provide the expected resources without question and with smiles on their faces. Otherwise, our hands are tied.

Standing Up to Bullies

People talk a good game about having zero tolerance for bullying but it is mostly lip service for two reasons. First, no one in a position to actually enforce the zero tolerance guideline actually does, possibly because such people are often bullies themselves, having bullied their way into their roles. Second, most victims of bullies don't have the balls to stand up to bullies, and so the bullies carry on their bullying under the radar of those who might be able to protect people from bullies.

What is this business about employers bullying potential job applicants into giving up social media passwords? That is totally unacceptable and sociopathic. Using the coersion of threatening not to hire someone if they don't give up that information is highly unethical and clearly bullying behavior. If, as a society, we really want to have a zero tolerance policy for bullying, we need to end such practices or disenfranchise the organizations that engage in them. Social media is not the purview of employers. It is none of their goddam business what their employees do on their own time, as long as everyone is professional and productive at work. Where I work, we have a coworker who drinks alcohol on the job and is highly unproductive. He probably doesn't even have social media, but if he did, it would in no way be correlated with his incompetence at work. Pictures of yourself totally shitfaced on the weekends have no bearing on your day job. Your behavior at work has to be judged on its own merits. I actually find this guy and several other coworkers highly offensive and I want nothing to do with them socially. I don't come to work to be friends with people I don't like, I do it to get a job done. I keep my professional and personal lives partitioned. My boss tries to coerce my team into being social outside of work with our shitty coworkers. No thank you. I choose my own friends. That said, I have other coworkers that I like as people and that I am friends with outside of work. Even then, we are friends first and coworkers second. We are able to recognize the difference between work and play and when we are at work, we are a well tuned machine, professional and productive. When we go out socially, we have a rule that we don't talk about work. It would be a travesty to discuss work outside of work.

My boss is a bully. I don't think my company has a policy on bullying, much less a zero tolerance one, otherwise my boss would have been long gone. But my boss also bullies under the radar, and his boss, who might be considered to be in a position to do something about bullying, is a spineless functional illiterate, who himself is completely under the thumb of my bullying boss.

I, however, do have a zero tolerance for bullying and it is my policy to stand up to the schoolyard (workplace) bully, unconditionally. This has led to some dynamic interactions with my boss, who has lost all credibility as a leader by lying, manipulating people, and not supporting my team. I see right through it and I don't tolerate it.

Always stand up to a bully. They act tough, but that is just a facade to hide their insecurity and often, incompetence. A true leader doesn't have to bully. They get things done by supporting the team, facilitating their work, and giving them the tools they need to do their jobs efficiently and effectively. True leaders are effective because the people under them respect and trust the leader and feel compelled to work toward the common vision and goal.

Bullies have selfish agendas and small minded goals and they often don't care about any grander vision except how they can get ahead and look good. They also try to undermine others to get ahead. Bullies often act unilaterally without consulting others. This can be disastrous at the workplace where team effort is often required and subject matter experts are the best ones to make important decisions. Bully bosses often ignore the advice of subject matter experts to achieve their own selfish goals, thinking they know better than anyone else, and putting expediency before quality.

I had to stop caring about my job, my boss, and my employer because their decision making is misguided. I do my job well and it is pretty easy, but I do it exclusively for the ridiculous cash they pay me to do it. Otherwise, I would already be elsewhere. They consistently ignore the subject matter experts on my team and undermine our ability to do effective documentation work. They don't care about quality, only expediency. And I am perfectly at peace with that.

You see, I can't invest myself in caring too much or proposing new ideas, because I know my boss and management don't give a crap and they will screw it up. Documentation processes should never be left to engineers who are the clients and who know zero about how to do quality documentation.

I have gone so far as to warn management about the consequences of their bad decision making. I don't know if they are ignorant or just blindly optimistic, but it is clear they will have to learn by trial and error. I think my conscience will be clear when the shit hits the fan during the next big documentation project. I have done all I can as a subject matter expert and there is no sense in me getting worked up or caring to much about something that is going to fail because of mismanagement and incompetence. They had the chance to do the right thing. To their credit, they even recognize that they are doing the expedient, rather than the quality, thing. I guess they just optimistically hope the quality part will magically work itself out. Good luck with that.

I don't expect to be at this job too much longer. The money is good but the job satisfaction sucks. As soon as something better comes along, my bullying boss can kiss my perineum.

In a situation like mine, it is critical to stand up to bullies to maintain your integrity and self respect. Your boss is not better than you. They just have a different role and job function, which they can do competently or incompetently. The same goes for your role. It would be irresponsible and incompetent for you to go along with policies and procedures that you know are damaging or wrong. If you have no power to do anything about it, you at least have to speak out against it. Then you are on the record and you can have a clear conscience when the shit hits the fan.

The Inner Circle

I have an inner circle at work. This is a group of coworkers and friends who stick together and support each other at all times, having fun at work while keeping common threats, like middle management, out of our way.

I am brutally loyal to my writing team at work, and my inner circle network in general, which includes some work peeps and some external peeps. I will actively fight against any threat to the well being of my inner circle and its members.

You are either WITH the inner circle, or AGAINST it. If you are against it, you can never be in it and you are persona non grata.

If you are for it, you still won't necessarily be in it, but you can still be an ally and enjoy the goodwill of the IC. If you F with the IC or any of it's members, though, BADwill is what you will be served up with.

To be in the inner circle, you have to earn the loyalty, trust, and respect of the people in the inner circle. This is usually by helping others and doing good work so the team looks good, and everyone else looks like weak sauce by comparison.

There is an unspoken oath that the inner circle comes first, before work or stupid rules of society (corporate society, in the case of work). That is not unlike the philosophy of the fictional Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club.

Enemies of the inner circle at work include middle management and hateful or dickhead coworkers.

A good leader has to support and advocate for his or her team, without question. If they undermine or betray the team, they are working against the team and the inner circle is closed to them forever.

The inner circle is filled with good people and good leaders, and those are the people who make the rules as far as IC members are concerned.

The actual managers and bosses are not the recognized leaders, because they are not respected or trusted. They have lost their right to be leaders because they work against the team, being divisive and micromanaging (which undermines autonomy and trust in the team to be responsible for their lives). Sometimes we are forced to obey them or be punished by them, in the same way that a motorcycle club is sometimes forced to follow society's rules, rather than their own, or face jail.

Always stand up to the schoolyard (or workplace) bully. It is never the wrong thing to do.

My inner circle does not drink the corporate Koolaid. It is suicide for the soul. We also do not explain ourselves to anyone outside the inner circle. We follow our own code.

The inner circle is kind of like a motorcycle club, except without the drugs and guns and crime. Basically, everyone in the inner circle looks out for and protects other members. Anyone who tries to hurt or undermine the inner circle is the enemy of the inner circle and they are dead to us.

No Fear: Standing Up to the Schoolyard (and Workplace) Bully

Today I had to throw down with a manager at work who I have never recognized as a competent or particularly credible person.

The circumstances are inconsequential. He was being a douche about some stupid corporate rules. Whatever.

But it was great, because I stood up to him, with no fear, and I did not back down. At all.

He came way too close to overstepping his boundaries with me and I had to set him straight. I knew I was right, and that helped.

The guy is a bully and he tried to get up in my face, IN MY CUBE no less, about whatever the dumbshit thing was. He was totally invading my personal space.

I am taller than him and that was enough. I stood up, looked him right in the eyes, and said firmly, “We are going to have to agree to disagree.”

It was sublime.

Anyone who knows me knows I am laid back, but you push me over the edge of that cliff and you’d better just lie down on the ground and pretend to be sleeping.

Then I walked away from him, leaving him standing deflated in my cube.

I, of course, went right to HR to file a complaint. Not that it will help, since HR is totally in management’s pocket and they don’t give a crap about lowly employees like me.

But, that’s OK. Because I do not care about incompetent management or dumb rules or even HR’s ineffective policies. And because I don’t care, I don’t fear. And thus they have nothing on me. I have declared my freedom from fear and nonsense. There are no protections for good and competent workers in my company, and we are powerless to do anything against bullying and incompetency. So we fend for each other and ourselves, and we leave when they are not worthy of us. That’s why my team is so cohesive and looks out for each other. And that’s why I had to make a stand today.

I guess the thing I am supposed to fear is getting fired. But I don’t. I have human rights and I am not going to be bullied or put down by some dingleberry manager who thinks he is better than me and knows more than anyone else. That attitude is what has caused so many of the problems at this company and for my team…he does not know more than anyone else. In fact, almost everyone knows more than him and he makes bad or ineffective decisions, completely oblivious to the consequences.

I have to stand up for my rights and my beliefs, even if others don’t like it. Just because everyone else in corporate America pussies out due to fear of middle management, does not mean I have to. I am sick of pretending I care or am obedient. I can be pretty mellow when left alone to do my job. But don’t push me.

I am in the superb place of being a free agent. What if I was fired? I don’t even care. I have no debts, and my financial situation is decent for months into the future. I’d have to cut a few luxuries, but big deal. Worst case scenario I would sell my house for a hefty profit. No fears at all.

But you want to know the truth? Management is too pussified to fire anyone, especially someone competent and productive like me. I have proven my indispensability here. I mean, they could easily replace me with some obedient lackey cog in the machine. But that person would not produce like I do, notwithstanding dumb corporate rules that hinder me at every turn. They would just end up with another weak sauce peon.

Management’s power comes only from the presumed THREAT of reprimand or termination. As long as no one stares them down and says NO to them, they can wield this fear and expect obedience. But the THREAT is irrationally overblown in the minds of employees. It is not much of a threat at all. No one is ballsy enough to stand up to it and test it. I just did today. And that infuriates them. If they do fire me, it will only be to prevent the word getting around that the emperor has no clothes.

You have to really screw up to get fired in corporate America, which is why the place is 90% weak sauce. The issue I had was so trivial and they had to waste a ton of peoples’ time and brain power dealing with it. The only reason this manager went ballistic is was because he wasn’t looped into whatever the thing was and he thought he should be. Like I said, I never recognized him as anything but a nuisance, definitely not a respectable authority figure or my actual boss. He destroyed any chance of that when he bald faced lied to me on several occasions and then made a whole sequence of bad decisions that ended up causing my old awesome boss to go take a new job elsewhere. Fail. He is basically just the bulldog for the Director he reports to, a guy who is a totally dickless and incompetent tool (the guy who told me I could make my pizza vegetarian just by removing the meat).

I decided fear is not for me. It causes anxiety and stress and related health problems. My health and wellness is at stake. I don’t not accept that and I am within my human rights to defend myself against fear and intimidation.

That’s what I did today. And it was AWESOME. There is no consequence, not even getting fired, that will trump the AWESOMENESS of today’s victory march.

I know no one is better than me. I am the MOST awesome at being me. They don’t have to like me, but that is a fact no one can change. No one else is as good at being me as I am.

I may very well be better than them, professionally and personally. That’s just a consequence of a good upbringing and a high IQ. I was taught not to accept mediocrity, bullying, or douchebag behavior. I didn’t appreciate those lessons at the time, and I should have (thanks Mom and Pops!). But they are starting to pay off.

I will never be in corporate management, because I am pretty sure being a douchebag is a pre-requisite for being in management.

I'll be honest with you, it takes a certain kind of bullying douchebag to work in corporate management. I mean, you have to respect that on some level.

There are a lot of idiots working at this company (I am not one) and management must feel like they are herding cats sometimes. They also have to be pretty aggressive and brutal in order to fire and reprimand people when needed. I would hate to have to do that. But I am nice and sociable. It takes a certain kind of psychopathic or antisocial personality to be a manager. I get that. I call them the “bottom liners,” more interested in expediency and profit than other human beings. These are the people who once bullied me and my friends on the school yard without remorse. They lack empathy and are soulless. But I would never sacrifice my human goodness for the reward of corporate success. That is selling your soul. If you don't have a soul, you have nothing to lose joining the ranks of management. But people with souls agree to a Luciferian bargain when they seek to obtain corporate success.

Anyway, today this manager did not herd a weak sauce cat. He poked a stick at the grumpy and extremely potent LION, bitches. And he got told.

That’s why I will never be in corporate management. I am not a douchebag. But I do have self respect and I can be a total dick when you rile me up.

And that’s OK.

I do not respect or obey most of corporate management and I have no fear of them.

That is an absolute. So, they can work around that infuriating fact, or they can bend down and lick my perineum.

P.S. Any other weak sauce characters at work would be wise to steer clear of me in this volatile period. You have been warned.

Don't Believe the Hype

Today at work, I had to throw down with a manager who was drinking the corporate Koolaid and wanted me to join him. I said, "No thanks!" Actually, what I said was, "We will have to agree to disagree," on whatever corporate nonsense he was trying to make me drink. It was a load of shite.

I thought he was going to have an aneurism when I stood up to him like that. He did not like it one bit. But, you know you have to stand up to the school yard (and workplace) bully sometimes. He was trying to bend reality to his will, and I wasn't having it. He is kind of a psychopath. I really enjoyed it. No fear!

Now I know that I can tell him to F off any time, no problem, and he can't do a thing about it. I mean, he could fire me, but not without a good reason, and I am a little bit too awesome for where I work now. But he could fire me. I wouldn't care. That's the beauty of free agency.

In other news, as a musician, I take some comfort in the fact that I am 9 times more likely to die from choking on my own vomit than being killed by a terrorist attack.

Free Agency, the Pursuit of Happiness, and the DoI

There is no reason not to have a good time all the time. You have a right to pursue happiness. It is right there in the Declaration of Independence (DoI). So declare your independence from unhappiness and go pursue the good stuff.

The DoI may not have any actual legal standing in peoples' lives, like say, the Constitution does, but you can still declare your independence from a life of unhappiness. It is a first step on the path to true happiness. If you do not declare your intention to be happy, it becomes easier to accept a life of unhappiness and get sucked into hopelessness. The declaration frees you by bringing into full frontal consciousness your desire to be happy. That is a pretty potent thing.

Declaring your independence from unhappiness won't magically make you happy. In fact, you might feel just as unhappy as before, but you will be liberated and self sufficient, and as such you may feel some mild euphoria akin to happiness when you make your declaration. So give it your all. Put the universe on notice that unhappiness is going to have to be somebody else's bag, because "goddammit, you aren't going to take it anymore!"

Mean it. Because now your life is going to take a new direction. The declaration unleashes every part of your heart and soul to get on with the business of getting happy.

In fact, becoming happy is as simple as liberating yourself from the people and circumstances and things that make you unhappy. You have to declare your independence from those things, once you identify them.

Of course, that is not always so simple in practice.

For example, you could, in theory, very easily liberate yourself from the douchebag boss who brings you unhappiness for several hours each day. You would probably even feel a momentary burst of joy when you told him or her to kiss your ass and walked out. You could totally do that, and probably even be well within your right to do so, because let's face it, your boss is a total douchebag who really harshes your gig, and the DoI gives you the right to be free of that.

What stops most people from declaring their independence from the unhappiness caused by a douchebag boss?

Fear.

Most people need a job. They have families to feed and bills to pay. While telling off your boss would liberate you from him or her, it would also most likely liberate you from your job as well. Not having income might lead to some unhappiness.

I don't know about you but my actual job itself is not too bad. I am damn good at it and it is pretty easy. The job itself doesn't make me particularly unhappy. It is management interfering with my work and harshing my gig that makes me unhappy at work. If management would just F off, I could do my job better and faster and be a lot happier. I understand that they need to meddle and micromanage, because I have a lot of weak sauce coworkers who need constant handholding. They can't be trusted and ruin it for us all.

So what I need to do to find happiness (which you will recall is a fundamental human right, according to the DoI) is simply to remove the presence of management and weak sauce from my work life as much as possible. I have my strategies, and they work pretty well. I am just exercising my human rights when I delete useless emails and meetings scheduled to try to needlessly micromanage every single goddam thing. Other people can meddle and micromanage on their own time, if that makes them happy (that is their right, too, though I suspect it doesn't give them much joy at all, unless they are masochistic drama queens who thrive on angst…), because I, my good friends, have declared my independence from that unhappy weak sauce.

Declaring your independence does not mean taking extreme measures. It just means feeling confident in disenfranchising unhappiness by whatever means necessary, and not having any fear of doing so, because you are just exercising your human rights.

If you keep that in mind at all times, eventually your life will become happier, as little by little you recognize the causes of unhappiness and eliminate them one by one.

A Horde of Zombie Americans

I dislike obnoxious Americans, especially business travelers who have chosen to leave their humanity at home in favor of corporate presumptuousness. They act so self important and arrogant, as if corporate America grants them immunity from pleasantness.

I was sitting quietly journaling at the Madison WI airport, prior to my flight to Detroit, en route to Europe. I was making zero impact on the comfort spheres of others in the completely empty waiting area I had chosen to write in prior to boarding my flight.

No noise or talking. Nothing.

Then some business traveling woman walks up and noisily plunks down two seats away from me. There were plenty of other "charging stations" available in the deserted waiting area that were nowhere near me. Why did she opt to shatter the relative quietude in my viscinity with her earthquaking obnoxiousness? She did nothing delicately or quietly. She dropped her bag onto the seat from what had to be four feet high, sending unsettling tremors through the rack of seats we were apparently about to share.

I thought about getting up and moving, but decided it was not worth my effort since she was the space invader. I ignored her as she noisily tapped on her laptop and noisily spoke with an apparent business associate on her cell phone. Clearly, her corporate employer had given her a perceived mandate to impose her self importance on the world at large.

Some of her colleagues also arrived and struck up obnoxious conversation.

Thankfully, their flight departed soon after the thundrous dismantling of my happy place. I will not miss obnoxious American corporate zombies at all while I am in Europe.

Goals

At work we have these silly annual performance reviews where we go over a list of goals established the prior year.

The goals always seem to be highly corporate and irrelevant to my job, but somehow I still get high scores on achieving my goals. The way I look at it, if I am doing great work and being productive then I will achieve high scores on the goals, otherwise the goals are a load of shite and need to be re-worked to fit my job, since I am clearly rocking ass at my work.

I am pretty much the hardest worker I know at work. It’s not so much that I am hard working as that I am efficient and effective at what I do. I try to cut out 80% of the BS busy work and focus on what is really needed.

Busy work is defined as any work that if you don’t do it, NOTHING happens. Nothing good happens and nothing bad happens. But if you DO do it, then you are subtracting time and resources away from actual meaningful work, and that is bad.

This is primarily why I avoid busy work and meetings. I especially avoid busy work that I do not “own.” Ownership is kind of a catch phrase where I work, and in corporate America generally. When you “own” work, it just means you are the one responsible for getting it done and for getting hassled by management when it does not get done. I own a subset of document processes at work, mostly updating internal quality SOP documents based on hardware, software, and process changes that come in from engineers. I don’t own the documents per se. The engineers own the documents. I own part of the process (I am a service provider), which is fixing the documents to make them correct, and then processing them for release, since engineers are clueless about this. But the release itself is owned by the engineer, and if they drop the ball on that, they are responsible, and I don’t give a crap. My job is done when I produce my deliverable to the engineer, the finished document in its final form for release.

If I fail to deliver a finished document, that is my failure. But I never do. I have never once failed to complete a document on deadline (though I did have to put in a little overtime once). The failures always tend to occur before the document changes come to me (engineers can’t pull their heads out of their asses and collaboratively figure out what needs to change) or after the finished document leaves my desk (the engineers drop the ball on the release process or outsource it to incompetents). Outsourcing ownership can be disastrous. A lot of the engineers are lazy and like to delegate. But when the delegee fucks up, it is the owner who gets the shaft, not the delegee. So when I have documents to work on, I only trust myself to do the work, and it has paid off.

I call it “putting the ball in someone else’s court.” When I get a request for a document change, I gather the necessary resources, make the changes, and get the draft or finished document off my desk as expediently as possible. I put it in the engineer’s court to do his/her part of the workflow. The longer they have the ball in play, the more time I have to focus on other immediate tasks. That is the secret to my success.

@#$% Storm

Management’s extremely poor planning is about to explode in a shit storm all over everyone where I work. On at least three occasions, I raised the red flag that management was overlooking some important factors in the document migration plan, primarily to do with file linkages in the database that will be broken in the migration. The wise plan would have been to clean up the file linkages in advance of the migration, so the files will work in the new system. However, that scope was too large for management. So they want to go ahead with the migration and pick up the pieces after the fact. They are clueless.

Does Hate Trump Money?

Republicans normally do things that support big business.

That’s why I am surprised at their vitriolic desire to defund food stamps and repeal the Affordable Care Act (often called ObamaCare, but actually better referred to as RomneyCare, since it is very similar to legislation that passed in Massachusetts when Mittens was governor: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/23/obama-mitt-romney_n_3806788.html).

Food stamps are part of the so called Farm Bill and have been for many years, arguably because it is basically a handout of free government money to agribusinesses and corporate farms, by way of the mouths of hungry children. Food stamps can only be used to buy food at retail prices, so there is not a lot of room for fraud. Also, poor families need to eat, so when they have food stamps, they spend them. They don’t put food stamps into a rainy day savings account. The funny thing about hungry children and disabled veterans is they can’t wait to eat at some later time. The profits from retail sales of food via food stamps go right into the pockets of food manufacturing companies and corporate farms (most food stamps recipients buy food at grocery stores and food banks, although there is a growing movement for them to be used at farmer’s markets and CSAs). Take away food stamps for seven million people and you are basically taking seven million customers away from the food industry. Why would Republicans support that?

The Affordable Care Act is also a program that forcibly obtains millions of new customers for the private health insurance industry. Everyone is mandated to get health insurance, affordable or not. That is why you don’t hear any private health insurers decrying Obama(Romney)Care. Who among them wouldn’t want the government to mandate that everyone buy their health insurance? The health insurance industry is ramping up efforts to accommodate the new customers and incorporating the regulatory changes into its business models. As a medical writer, I am increasingly being solicited for technical writing jobs in health care to assist the insurance industry in revising their documentation for the regulatory changes. No one in the industry is bitching about it. ObamaCare means more customers and more money for the private health insurers, by government mandate.

However, these programs benefit the poor and the sick. For Republicans to object to these programs seems to suggest that as much as they love big business, they hate the needy and disenfranchised more. Is it possible that their derision and hatred for those in need trumps their desire to get bigger profits for their corporate constituents?

Circumstantially, it would appear to be the case. I have not heard any Republican arguments against these programs that specifically mention flaws in the programs themselves. ObamaCare hasn’t even been fully implemented yet, so no one knows if it will work or not. But food stamps have been working great for years, helping the needy and profiting the food industry. Win-win.

All the debate seems to be about cutting excessive government spending. But these programs help people and profit companies, so how exactly are they excessive? Republicans are almost never against government spending (or mandating of spending) on the private sector, if it profits their rich donors (including the food and private health insurance industries). That’s trickle down economics, their M.O. It's what keeps the Republican Party alive and kicking (funded). That’s why you have bank bailouts and government subsidies for oil companies and agribusiness (the latter also legislated in the Farm Bill, RE: corn and soybean subsidies).

So what gives?

Mental Health Half Day

As evidence of how crappy my workplace is, I had to go to the doctor at lunch today, stricken with heart palpitations largely induced by the anxiety-causing d-bag middle manager who transiently overseas my team while we seek a replacement for my former boss (who left the company because of d-bag and other incompetent managers).

At a meeting yesterday, he asked me to expedite the completion and release of a couple documents held up by apathetic coworkers, including doing some admin work outside my job description. I really had no problem with the work per se, which largely involved getting the needed deliverables from the aforementioned apathetic stakeholders in the documents.

It was, by all appearances, super easy work, from my perspective and I got right to it, planning to crush it handily. What I did not realize is that this "minor work" was all a cover so that d-bag could get in a political pissing match with one of his arch rivals on the manufacturing floor.

Listen to me very closely, people. I DO NOT DO WORKPLACE DRAMA!

D-bag made a grievous error by deciding to unnecessarily drag me into the melee. I suppose he was seeking validation from me that he was "right" in whatever ideological frame of references passes for reality in his head. But I didn't know or care what the disagreement between them was about and I certainly had no desire to validate anyone, especially this creepy d-bag.

I just needed to get my goddam deliverables and do my work. Period. I am not the mediator or resolver of such dramas. They need to be adults, work their shite out, and then get me my shite so I can do my job. But they are like little bickering children.

Dragging me into it served no purpose for me and I soon sent d-bag on his not so merry way to go figure it out with his nemesis. He is a totally inept clown. But the damage was already done and the anxiety it induced sent my heart into palpitations that would not stop. I wasn't light headed or in pain or anything, but it was upsetting and alarming.

So I went to the doctor and he did some tests and ran an EKG, which of course showed nothing because as soon as I got out of the building where I work, my heart settled down and refused to palpitate even once when I was in the doctor's office. Even though the doctor visit may have had a placebo effect in stabilizing my symptoms, I had fully earned a mental health half day thanks to d-bag and the stress he brought my way, so I took one. And he can fugoff if he doesn't like it.

My job is officially damaging to my health now, and so it is within my civil rights to fight back, largely in the form of finding a new job. But I also need to tell d-bag to step off going forward. He is a creep and a liar and when he comes in my cube, he is way too touchy feely and disgusting. He just gives me the heebie jeebies like no one else. How do people get that way?

Lazy Coworkers as a Resource

I work on service and manufacturing documents, which often are owned by an engineer and require input from multiple stakeholders before they can be released, because they are quality documents, regulated and audited by the FDA. It’s a team effort and my role in the launch of a new document release is simply to edit and desktop publish the document into shape, as well as manage a few document reviews by said stakeholders.

When I send a document out for review, there are usually three or more reviewers who have to review the changes, make comments and suggest changes, and sign off in some fashion when they are done. This can take a week, or sometimes much longer, and there is very little progress I can make on the document until the review is fully signed off. I can’t make the suggested changes until the document’s engineer owner has vetted all the reviewers suggestions and accepted or rejected them. At that point, I can make all the accepted changes and spin another review, if needed, or move it to the final approval process for release via our document control people.

Some of the stakeholders required on a document review are, to put it as nicely as possible, lazy. They would claim they are busy, but they are not. They are lazy. This is evidenced by the fact that no matter how small a document change is, they still take the maximum amount of time to review it and make comments.

However, I like these lazy coworkers. When the ball is in their court and no longer in mine, I am off the hook. The document is owned by an engineer. I am just a service provider for them. If the reviewers take a week or a year to finish their reviews, I don’t care. I don’t see the document again until they are done. I can ping them with reminders to finish their work, but they can freely ignore me without consequence, and many of them do. And that’s fine. The more time they take, the more time off from further work on that document I have.

I like time off, and so I actually prefer it when there are lazy stakeholders involved in a document change/release. I can go party until they are done.

That said, I usually have several documents in various states of change/review at any given time, so often document work is coming in even as I am sending out reviews and putting the balls in other peoples’ courts. But if I am really efficient and productive at my job, I can sometimes get all the balls out of my court before any come in, especially if lazy coworkers are involved (they are the ones whose work determines if a ball is headed back my way). This is my motivation to be efficient and productive at work. It’s like a built in reward system to encourage me to work better and faster.

I call it giving myself a raise for going above and beyond the call of duty on my work.

Of course, the size of my raises, in the form of comped time, is proportional to the laziness of the stakeholders involved in my document change/reviews. So it is kind of a wash, because my raises are larger when my coworkers are lazier and thus less efficient and productive from the company’s perspective. THE MAN therefore is losing at both ends when lazy coworkers are involved. But there is not a lot I can do about this. It doesn’t make sense for me to be less efficient and productive, just because my coworkers are. I am under no obligation to maintain their slow pace. The company could remedy the problem by replacing lazy coworkers with more efficient and productive ones, but they don’t really have a quantifiable metric for this. They should devise one, and I would certainly encourage them to hire people who can match my incredible pace of work output. If they do, then I will not have as much time off due to lazy coworkers, and that’s OK.

11 Minutes

Today work, I think I effectively did about 11 minutes of actual work, and most of that was fixing the mistakes of an engineer in a document I thought I had finished yesterday. The remainder of the time was spent sending out email reminders to people to complete their work, which was basically stalling my own. I am so madly productive and efficient at work that I end up clearing everything off my desk and putting the balls in other people's courts. Then it is a game of just waiting for them to catch up and until they do, I am idle. I might update my to do list and manage a few clerical things, but there again I have an efficient system that focuses on the meat and potatoes and eliminates the useless and inefficient busy work.

Core Incompetencies Revisited

These are trying times at work. My writing team’s manager, who we spent month training on how to effectively do technical documentation, decided to take a new job. We had almost gotten him to a point of understanding how quality controlled documentation works. Until his replacement is hired, we are stuck with an incompetent middle manager overseeing us in the interim. It is unbelievable how stupid he is when it comes to documentation. He knows nothing about it and even when we explain our protocols to him, he forgets it from week to week. It’s intolerable. I need a new job.

They Slimed Me

My department at work had a group lunch outing today, in honor of my team’s departing boss. My team consists of three technical writers, all awesome people and hard workers, who reported to this boss. The department, though, includes about 10 to 12 more people, who are technically our “clients.”

The lunch was covered by the company coffer, so I accepted the invite from the douchebag middle manager who oversees our department. Free food was the only thing compelling me to suffer the atrocity of lunch with my department, a more imbecilic bunch than I have ever before worked with. The lunch was at a local pizzeria.

Most of the people in our department are undesirable characters, perverts, drunks, and creeps, who my team avoids at all costs. Driving my coworker over to the pizzeria, she told me that there were two people from our department she really did not want to sit next to. I took note of it.

We had gone to the pizzeria early to get good parking and secure the prime seats at the table. When I pulled into the pizzeria’s small parking lot, I took up two parking spots, largely to inconvenience the undesirable coworkers and prevent them from parking there. I realize that makes me an a-hole, but they deserved it.

The Vice President of Idiotics, as I call him, an upper manager with a fake tan and an arrogant attitude, also attended the meeting. He’s a dimwit, a sociopath, and all he knows or cares about is money. His first comment when he arrived at lunch was that the NASDAQ servers had crashed, screwing up a whole bunch of trades in the stock market. If there was any atmosphere of fun in the room, which was unlikely, it was immediately sucked out by that comment and we were all left suffocating in awkward, annoyed silence.

Some of the department creeps found solace in ordering vast quantities of alcohol, even though it was not covered by the coffer. I did not partake of the booze. In part, that was because I am on a health kick right now. But largely, it was because I do not like to drink socially with people I hate.

As it turned out, one of the department members my coworker wanted to avoid sat right next to her. My coworker had gone to the bathroom when this guy arrived. He is an imbecile, and at first, he tried to take her seat, even though her coat and bag were on it, clearly marking it has hers. “Is someone sitting here?” he dumbly asked.

I pointed out that yes, it did indeed appear that someone was sitting there, with a tone that strongly encouraged him to move along, to move far away, in fact. Instead, he plopped down in the chair right next to hers and my heart sank. I had failed my coworker in protecting her from sitting next to one of the gimps she wanted to avoid. I did not like this guy at all either, but what could I do? It would not have helped matters for me to say something like, “Hey, guy….why don’t you go sit over there instead?” The atmosphere in the room was negative enough as it is, and I did not want to contribute to the growing maelstrom of negativity.

My department and it’s middle manager and VP of I were the main contributors to my fairly cool and laid back boss’ departure from the company. The good people are leaving in droves and the company cannot seem to slow the talent hemorrhage that is going on. I can only hope that I myself am nearing the gaping hole through which the proverbial “brain” is draining from this company. Yesterday, I applied for a “dream job” at the UW Hospital as an editor in the Department of Surgery. I am sure people who work at hospitals have many foibles of their own. Some are likeable and others not. But at least in a hospital setting there is a minimum standard of quality and competence. Otherwise, people die. The same cannot be said for my current employer. There does not seem to be a threshold of quality below which they will not strive to go. It is all about getting product out the door (middle manager) and making sales (VP of I). Quality is an annoying obstacle to be circumvented as much as the Quality Assurance people will let them do so. Quality is measured by how often product fails “out of the box” when it reaches a customer. It seems like it might be better for quality to lower the “into the box” failure rate, but that would be boldly cutting edge at this company.

I mostly wrote this post to cleanse myself of the layer of filth today’s lunch outing slathered upon me, unwillingly. But as a final note, let me tell you a side story.

My department members were discussing industrial slaughterhouses when the pizza came, which is bad enough. I am largely a vegetarian and none of these blue collar imbeciles are. That’s fine. I don’t judge them for their lifestyles. But I expect mine to be respected. It’s not that they were talking about slaughterhouses in front of me. They even ordered a vegetarian pizza as one of the options, to accommodate me and my aforementioned female team member.

But when the vegetarian pizza came, these cockblasters ate most of it, in addition to their own meat-laden ‘zas. My coworker and I each got only two slices. That amount of pizza was fine. I am watching my figure and I am actually glad that most of the people in this department are obese f*cks, because hopefully they will die sooner of chronic diseases (some already have…yea!). But if you are going to order meat pizzas and talk about slaughterhouses, don’t eat the vegetarian pizza. Or if you want to eat the vegetarian pizza, plan ahead and order more of it.

That was insensitive of them. But keep in mind that the VP of I once, upon learning of my vegetarianism, proposed that the best solution was just to pick the meat off of meat pizza to save time and money. Idiot. How very narrow minded. He did not bother to ask why I was vegetarian. Maybe I did not want my pizza soiled with meat juices. I would like to smack that guy in his head and knock some sense into it. But I think you have to have brains, not shit, in your skull for that to work.

A Work Lunch Outing and Cognitive Dissonance

Today my team of three writers (including myself) has a group lunch outing for our departing boss.

I have mixed feelings about this. I like my departing boss. He is a good guy and means well.

However, the douchebag office manager scheduled the group lunch with our entire department.

Most of these people are perverse, creepy imbeciles who account for about 80% of our misery at work.

I have to attend this lunch in honor of my departing boss, but I could really do without almost everyone else who will be at this thing, with the exception of my awesome team.

So all of the awesomeness of this lunch outing will be sucked dry by the attendance of the gimps. Anticlimactic at best.

I can only hope it goes by quickly. I plan to totally F with the morons in attendance. Every time someone speaks to me, I will simply laugh nervously and give myself the Catholic sign of the cross. That ought to freak them out.

Time is Value

No one pays you for your time to car commute to work, except you. It’s your time, but it costs you money (gas and maintenance) that comes out of your paycheck.

Your employer benefits from your time at the workplace. Your employer also benefits from getting you to work. However, your employer does not pay you for your commute to work. That’s your expense and it comes out of your paycheck. Your employer gets all the value of your commute, at no cost. What do you get?

When you hire a contractor to do some work at your house, the contractor often charges you for their travel time. You are not getting any value in return for that time. You are just paying for the contractor to drive his vehicle to your house. You may think that is fine because the contractor you want to use travels a certain distance to get to your house and that is just a fact of geography. But if you think that is fine, then why shouldn’t your employer pay you for your travel time to work? Your employer has an interest in getting you there so you can do the work. One could argue that employees live at different distances from the workplace, so it would not be fair to compensate some employees more than others. This could be easily remedied by putting a cap on commute distance or time that could be compensated.

If you are like most people, you get to sit in traffic and deal with hostile or arrogant drivers while inhaling exhaust fumes from the cars of all the other hacks trying to get to work. You may get some value from listening to music or talking on your cell phone or eating, but you are still driving and that limits how you can use your drive time.

If your employer is not compensating you for your commute, you should still get some value from driving to compensate for the expense in money and stress that car commuting causes.

Your time has value. That includes ALL your time, including your commute time. The value is determined what you do with your time 24/7. Time is not money. Time is value. Sometimes that value is money, like when you are at work. But sometimes it can be non-monetary, like sleeping or working out or reading a book.

If you are someone who does not like driving, or does not get a lot of value from it, commensurate to the time it takes, I have a proposal.

Don’t do it.

That may be impossible for some people with no alternatives. It may seem impossible to people who are unmotivated to change or don’t know how to find and implement the alternatives.

But it may be very possible for some people who are currently driving and getting very little value in return.

Public transportation is the most logical value added alternative to driving. It gives you the freedom to extract much more value from your time, even if it makes your commute a little bit longer.

Would you rather spend 45 minutes driving in traffic or 90 minutes reading a good book or watching a movie on Netflix, while someone else drives you to work?

Another value added alternative to driving is bicycle commuting (or even running or walking, depending on how far you are from your workplace). Bicycle commuting is a good commuting alternative for people who place high value on exercise and an active lifestyle. If exercise adds value to your life, wouldn’t you rather be doing that during your commute than sitting in a car, despondent and largely inactive. Exercise is good stress, whereas driving is often bad stress. You also kill two birds with one stone.

Many people partition their time in such a way that they overlook the simple fact that ALL your time has value. You have a choice on how to use your time for maximum value. If you get more value from driving your car for 45 minutes vs. reading a book on the bus for 90 minutes, by all means drive. But just remember that all your time has value to you, regardless of how other people value it.

I think people car commute because they just want to shorten the amount time during which they are getting almost NO value. But this assumes they are getting no value from an alternative to car commuting. It is hard for me to believe that people get more positive value driving a car in traffic than reading a book on the bus or train or exercising. But everyone has to make their own determination of the best way to extract value from their commute time. No one else will compensate you for that time, but you can compensate yourself by doing value added activities, while saving money on gas and car maintenance.

When I drive my car to work, it takes about 40 minutes to travel the 33 miles in light traffic one way. Thus, my total daily commute is 80 minues and 66 miles. I can listen to music or talk radio during that time, and sometimes that has value. My 2001 Prius has very low maintenance costs and still averages about 50 mpg. At this gas mileage, my daily commute uses about 1.32 gallons of gasoline. Assuming a gallon of gas costs $3.50/gallon (a very conservative estimate these days), I am paying $4.62 for gas every day that I car commute all the way to and from work. I like living in the country and it gives value to my life. I could live closer, but I don’t want to.

If I take the bus to work, it takes about 80 minutes (twice as long) and the round trip fare is $4. I also have to drive from home to the bus stop, which is 18 miles one way (36 miles total). That shorter car drive involves less traffic (country roads) and costs $2.52 in gas. So, when I take the bus, I actually pay $6.52 in total (gas + bus fare). That is nearly $2 more than driving. However, I often still do it because my time is not money, my time is value, and when I am on the bus, I can do things like read or write, which has a lot of value to a research writer such as myself. The bus is also optimal in bad weather, since I live in Wisconsin, with its long winters.

If I bike commute to work, I usually also drive part way and park in the same place I would to catch the bus (that way, if I have any problems with my bike, I can still take the bus back to my car). In that case, I am still paying the $2.52 in gas for the partial commute to work in my Prius, but I am paying almost nil for the bicycle portion of the route. In that case, I am saving a tad over $2 by bike commuting and I am getting a decent workout in as well (the bike ride also takes about as long as the bus at 80 minutes, at a leisurely pace). On some occasions, I will drive a bit farther into town when I am in a hurry, then bike commute a shorter distance. The bike portion is still almost zero cost and the round trip distance to that parking location is almost exactly 50 miles, equating to one gallon of gas ($3.50). In that case I am only saving slightly more than a dollar for the shorter bike commute each day.

By the numbers, bike commuting always saves me money. The bus costs me more than driving, but has the perk of more valuable use of my time. If I bike commute the short route twice, I have broken even on one bus trip. If I bike commute the long route, I comp one bus ride in savings. The goal to save money and get value from my time is to simply bike commute more than I bus commute, but a factor of 1 to 2.

Keep in mind that all of the monetary calculations above focus only on gas costs. They do not factor in car maintenance and other costs like traffic tickets (rare, but costly). Part of the reason I bike commute is to avoid the douchebag draconian Madison traffic cops who make life miserable for a lot of drivers with their predatory tactics. Bikes are relatively immune to their douchebaggery, except lately I have noticed a lot more bike and motorcycle cops hassling bikers. But I am usually very careful when I bike and I enjoy taunting the cops with my overly nice banter.

Death to Douchebag Landlords in Madison WI

I get very angry when I hear about douchebag landlords stealing their tenants’ security deposit money on bogus claims of property cleaning or damage, especially when I know the tenant personally and she is an honest, very tidy person. I do not believe that death is too harsh of a punishment for such landlords, and there is a special place in hell for them. My friend in question found her apartment in horrific shape when she moved into it. She had to clean it and paint it, at her own expense. When she moved out, she finished painting it and cleaned it as best she could. It was in far better shape than when she moved in. The landlord should have paid her some extra money for all her investment. But instead, her landlord claims she left it dirty and damaged, refused to give her any of her security deposit, and then to add insult to injury (or injury to injury), he stole her window unit air conditioner (that she bought and he installed) to boot. What a fucknuckle. I hope that karma unleashes on this dickbag like nobody’s business.

I guess he will have to settle for complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau and the Madison Tenant Resource Center. By law he has to itemize damages within 21 days, beyond normal wear and tear.

The Rocking

Last night we rocked the Minocqua Brewing Company in Minocqua WI. It was a great gig and we made new friends. We also spent the night camped out on the lawn of the brewpub. That is why I am awake right now. It is a noisesome town, this Minocqua. Also, the custodial staff at the pub like to play loud music in the wee hours of morning whilst they clean. It was good music and also sleep terminating music. So now I am going in search of coffee. See ya.

The Sea

Let me tell you my theory about romantic relationships, attraction, and dating, albeit with the caveat that I am not a huge game buster and I do not "score" a lot of girls.
 
The quality of the girls I date is superb, even though the quantity may be less than other people see. It is totally a quality vs. quantity thing.
 
You probably know some people who score tons of dates, often very transient (one night stands), just one after the other. They put some kind of bait in the water and it attracts hundreds of "fish." But what is the quality of those fish? They are, almost by definition, not keepers.
 
Admittedly, I have not landed that many keepers myself. When I do, however, the quality of the relationship is always better. When you go fishing, it is always more fun to hook that big keeper as far as a quality catch. They give you a run for your money, feisty and fun. Sometimes they get away. A bit disappointing, but you don't mope about it. You rebait your hook and throw it back in the water. When I land a keeper romantic partner, I expect them to be high quality, a trophy.
 
Rejection does not bother me. It's really just bad decision making on the part of the other person. Because I know that I am a quality catch myself, I can only attribute rejection to poor analytical skills on the girl's part.
 
A better analogy is a car sale. A potential partner wants an enjoyable ride that is both safe and comfortable, balanced with fun and with as many perks and add ons as possible, but low maintenance and a best value. Sometimes safety trumps enjoyment. I have a platonic girlfriend who is with another man because she feels safe and secure with him. He is a stable provider. But she platonically dates me because I give her a type of intellectual joy ride she cannot get in that relationship, but that she needs. It's like having a fuel efficient safe car for most of your daily driving, but a little sporty number on the side to take for a spin when the family car is just too boring (in our case, we have lunch a couple times a year).
 
You have to sell yourself like a car. What are all your plusses and do they outweigh any perceived minuses, or can you downplay the minuses and augment the plusses. Be an awesome car, not a gas guzzling beater. Maintain your car health and clean it regularly. These are basic acceptable minimums for most people. Beyond that you need to sell yourself on the perks and benefits the competitors lack. Be a fun ride. Don't break down by the side of the road, at least not too often. Make it a smooth ride with not too many ups and downs or potholes. Have a good sound system and taste in music. Give your passengers some AC when they need it. Dont just roll down the windows on a hot day to save yourself some gas.
 
But also don't be sad when a customer turns down your awesome car. Maybe he or she just found a make and model he or she likes better. If it is because your car sucks, make it better. Do some body work or refurnish the interior so it's more comfy and smells nice. There will be more customers soon. But customers are finicky. Perhaps they had a bad experience with a car like yours before. Perhaps they want something with fewer miles on it, even if your collector antique still runs like a charm. Sometimes they just make a wrong decision and end up with a junker lemon when they could have had you.
 
Whatever you do, don't give chase in your car. Once the customer has decided against buying your car, there is little hope of changing their mind. Immediately start niche marketing for new customers who like what you have to offer. Later, when your missed catch sees you cruising around having fun, he or she will have a reckoning to do. Their loss.
 
But if you are selected, be a fun, safe, and reliable ride if you want to be his or her car for life, or at least a long time. Focus on yourself, meaning becoming an awesome person who has good personal hygiene and looks and smells and sounds nice. Be the best you can be in every way and simply "charm" people into seeing your awesomeness. Then they will desire a ride in your romantic car. When people see what a great catch you are, they will be hooked (fish analogy again). If they still reject you, it's not you...it's them.
 
But once they choose you, if you prove reliable and fun over time, you will have a long and healthy relationship.
 
Don't try to change the other person. First off, that is nigh impossible. People are who they are because of years of life experiences. Are you really going to undo that? Do you need to? If you think a person needs a lot of changing, can't you just ditch them and find someone who does not require too much "fixing." Is that not a better and easier approach than trying to change the unchangeable?
 
Second, it breeds resentment in the other person. They may like the way they are and think they don't need much fixing. Or they may want to make some changes on their own terms, not on yours. So when you demand change, they may resent you. That will kill any long term relationship. It erodes the pillar of trust when you do not trust someone to make his or her own life choices. It erodes the pillar of respect when you demand changes because you do not think someone is good enough.
 
Each individual in a relationship should just focus on being awesome and adaptable to any situation, like a good car. Almost impossible in practice, but totally correct in principle. Relationships with fun, healthy, reliable people are the best. They still might not last due to fundamental differences or insurmountable life circumstances.
 
But no amount of self sacrifice can spare a relationship if the individuals in it are unreliable, insecure, or weak sauce. Healthy secure people can navigate the wild seas of relationships way better than weak and insecure people. So we are back to THE SEA analogy.

Work to Live

There is a time and a place for work, and this is not the time nor place, even though I am at work.

I work to live. I do not live to work.

Someday you (and I) are going to die. Will your life have been in vain? Will the epitaph on your headstone say: “I wish I had spent a few more hours working my shitty job.” Or will it say: “I accomplished most of my bucket list and got halfway through my first space mission, before things went south.”

I have a pretty benign bucket list. I want to write a book this year, and I have been working hard at it. It only sucks when my day job gets in the way, so I have been trying to prevent that by getting all my work done and minimizing unnecessary time at work, such as stupid meetings.

In the time saved, I work on my book. At the office.

Bands and Girlfriends

I had a great talk with a female friend at lunch today.

We were talking about monogamy, or the lack thereof.

Our hypothetical was a totally fabricated scenario wherein a guy is dating 10 women at the same time, but committed to none.

The question was what does this guy have an obligation to tell each one about the other nine?

My friend made the good point that the guy may not disclose his other nine liaisons out of fear that the girl will not want to be with him anymore.

Conversely, the guy has nine other girls to choose from. If his personality is such that he cannot commit to a monogamous relationship, he should disclose this and be fully honest. Honesty is the best policy.

But, if he withholds the information because he does not want to lose this particular girl’s romance, then perhaps he values her more highly than the other 9 and ought to consider if perhaps it is the other nine girls he ought to get rid of and focus on the one he really likes.

But my friend made the point that there might be some things about each girl that are unique and that he cannot get from the other girls.

I think if he knows that telling a girl about the other nine will push her away, then he must know that the girl has stronger feelings for him and it is his duty to be fair and honest. She has a right to know the facts and make her decisions rationally. Otherwise, he is being deceptive and manipulative.

On the other hand, if he is sequentially dating all 10 women, but is committed to none, then on any given date with one of the girls, there is no guarantee that there will be another date with this girl, because that would imply commitment to further dating, which the hypothetical does not allow.

In that case, does the guy have to disclose the other nine girls. Because, in theory, he has dated the other nine previously, but he is currently with the 10th, and there is no reason to assume he will go on a date with any of the other nine subsequent to the current date. The other nine may turn him down or he may just not ask them out. But as soon as the current date is over, this girl now becomes a prior date, with no commitment to future dates. At that point he should be free to date anyone, because he is technically single when he is between dates.

If he goes on a second date with any girl, that still does not necessitate a commitment.

What are your thoughts?

Anyway, this is the backstory to a somewhat relevant topic, band whoring.

I play bass guitar and I have several bands in various states. I cannot commit to any of them, because bands and musicians are notoriously flaky. But when I am rocking with any given band, I am only focused on that band and giving it my all. I am the same way with the next band I play with and I am always playing with one band at a time, first come first served with my bass playing skills, whatever they may be.

However, I have known bands who want their musicians to be “monogamous” and dedicated only to them. If I am going to be monogamous to a band, they have to show an extremely high level of professionalism and reliability. Almost no bands have this, and so whenever I try out for bands who demand monogamous bass playing from me, I tell them I cannot make that commitment. Sometimes they reject me because of that, and that is totally fine and OK. I have to be me.

But I would never lie to a band about my band whoring. I explain that I take a laissez faire approach to bands. Each band gets from me what it gives. If they are a bunch of disorganized slackers, I am going to end up playing bass with the organized, dedicated professionals more often.

So this is similar to the dating hypothetical above. If a girl is going to demand monogamy, she has to prove her worthiness of that monogamy by being a top notch dating candidate. At the same time, I have no problem telling her that I am dating multiple people. She may reject me because of that, and it is OK. On the other hand, if she is awesome and intelligent and with it, there is a high likelihood I could commit to being monogamous, just because all the other girls will fall by the wayside for being weak sauce. It’s like free market economics of romance.

There is a country band I play in. They are dedicated, excellent, professionals. I would have no issue with becoming a monogamous bass player for this band. The problem is, this band does not gig very much. It would be like dating an awesome girl who only wants to see you every couple of months. That would be tough. As such, I will continue to band whore until such time as this band ups its performance game, requiring a monogamous commitment.

Honesty is not Always the Best Policy

People don't like reality. They prefer fantasy. The reason for this is pretty straightforward. Reality is everywhere, all around us. It's common and humdrum and we can NEVER escape it.

Fantasy provides that escape, and it becomes more and more in demand as reality becomes more and more difficult to bear. This is especially true in romance.

When it comes to romance, people want the fantasy. They want an illusion. When reality encroaches on the illusion, it causes all kinds of troubles.

When a romantic relationship first begins, it has a "shine" to it. People see what they want to see in the other person and it creates an illusion of a fantastic romantic relationship.

However, over time, this initial "shine" wears off and reality encroaches. That is the hardest period of any relationship. You have to consider if the reality of the person you are with is acceptable. Do you like the person for who they really are and how they really behave, after the illusion wears off.

I am friends with a woman who is my "platonic girlfriend." We are not romantically involved because she is married. However, we are very close, because I fulfill for her something she does not get in her other relationship, an intellectual stimulation. I am her fantasy.

By the same token, I have had many awesome relationships. When I am in a relationship with someone, I do not tell them I have a "platonic girlfriend." That kind of honesty disrupts their illusion that I am fully committed to them romantically, even though there is nothing but friendship between my platonic girlfriend and I.

However, the reality is, if my platonic girlfriend suddenly found herself single, I cannot say that we would not become romantically involved. In such a fantasy realm (because this will never happen), I would be honest with whoever I was with at the time and tell her that I had to break up with her to be with my soul mate.

Honesty is not always the best policy. But sometimes it is.

For the Wisconsin Capitol Protesters

Dear Protesters Against the Fascist WI Capitol Police.

Fight their music with your music.

Free Agency vs. Fear and Debt

What is free agency?

It is a mindset that says you are a free agent in the universe, capable of creating your own destiny.

The FREE part is pretty straightforward. It means the liberty to exercise your life the way you want to, beholden to no one. Sometimes you may choose to collaborate with others for mutual benefit, but it is always a choice. You can walk away.

The AGENT part means “to represent.” That means that you are representing and going to bat for YOURSELF, not anyone else. You might help other people and support important causes, but ultimately, you represent yourself in all interactions and you have a right to benefit yourself.

However, because you are a FREE AGENT, you can choose to represent whatever you want, yourself, a cause, art, etc. The key thing is that you do it freely and without coercion.

Eliminating coercive forces is critical to free agency. Fear and debt are two such negative forces that work against free agency.

When you have a job, there is an inherent fear of losing your job, even though it is often an exaggerated fear. Most of the time, the fear has to do with money, and specifically debt (essentially having negative money) that must be paid. You don't want yourself or your family in the poor house.

Corporate America and the government love consumer debt. It keeps people scared and beholden to the power players who employ people and decide social policy. Employers have a form of psychological control over employees who have debts, even home mortgages. The debts have to be paid, thus you need a job. The fear of losing one’s job keeps people working in jobs they don’t like with people they despise. The government uses debt fear to maintain social programs for the unemployed, but they also like debt because it keeps people working and paying taxes. The government also does not want to raise the minimum wage, because it would free more people from debt, and make them more difficult to control. This is the ONLY reason power players oppose raising the minimum wage. They will give you tons of other reasons, some of them possibly legitimate, because they don’t want to admit that it basically boils down to POWER over people. That is the real and only reason they do not want to raise minimum wage, no matter what arguments they may use to rationalize it.

You must eliminate fear to be a free agent in the universe. As such, you must eliminate debt, if that is something that you fear and that keeps you working a grind you do not like. Debt is a form of self imposed slavery. But it is a yolk that can be removed if you want to remove it. It may take time. But if you do not work toward it, you will never be free.

Corporate America and the government hate this post.

The Shock in Discovering Your Pro Sound Team is Bigoted and Racist

I somehow stumbled upon a festering open wound of bigotry and racism in Wisconsin when one of the members of the pro sound team I was considering using for my band liked and shared on Facebook THIS gem of a racist diatribe.

At first, I honestly thought she was pulling my leg. But I think she really believes this and hates black people.

Everyone is entitled to their beliefs, even if they are sick and twisted.

But here's the thing. I can't hire these people as my sound crew.

It's not that I hold their beliefs against them.

It is that my rock-n-roll shows are about love and understanding and having a good time for all.

To hire this sound crew would introduce extremely bad karma to my rock shows. I can't do that to my people, which is ALL people.

Unlimited Vacation and Making Time for Writing

Some companies are going to a system of "unlimited vacation" for employees.

I like the idea of it. It tells the employees that management trusts them to make their own work/life balance decisions and to get their work done on their own timetable. It theoretically promotes a climate of personal responsibility at the workplace. If you work on a team, you do not want to be the weak link in the chain, or you will not last long and you'll be despised. So you are answerable to yourself and your team, not THE MAN.

Employees are then evaluated on a rational metric: did they satisfactorily get their work done. If not, then they should be treated accordingly, reprimanded or let go. It's a metric of eliminating weak sauce.

It takes bold management for such a system to work. They need to establish explicit, measurable work goals and facilitate getting employees to get a minimum level of work done before jetting of to Burning Man or Hawaii or backpacking in Europe. Weak sauce management would not cut it in such a system.

My current employer uses an accrual model for vacation. Each pay period, an employee accrues a fractional amount of paid time off they can redeem later on. There are two problems with this. First, the metric of performance is not the work that gets done, but rather how many hours the employee worked. It is assumed that work productivity is linearly correlated with hours put in, but as we know from experience, an employee could pick their arse all day and still achieve the metric. I have coworkers who seem to do this very thing. Employees are reprimanded for not putting in enough hours, but not for failing to get their work done. It's not logical.

Second, this model lets management of the hook for being leaders and facilitators. Since the metric is hours put in, they can overlook poor work performance and not have to reprimand or terminate employees who slack off, as long as they get their hours in.

The company I work for is in fiscal dire straits. Their current vacation model is totally f-ed up. Even though they grant PTO fractionally, employees are not allowed to redeem it fractionally. We have to take it in eight hour increments, even though the buggy online app they use to track vacation time is totally capable of recording fractional time off. This is very inconvenient, especially for employees who have kids and just need to take a couple hours off for doctor's appointments or day care issues. An employee has to take a whole day off just to run a couple of errands. Stupid.

From an accounting standpoint, accrued employee PTO is recorded as "debt" to the company, because it is technically owed to the employee by the company. To cook the books, my employer went to a system of mandatory PTO, forcing employees to redeem time off before the end of the fiscal accounting year. However, there was so much employee resistance to this that they backed off, and instead "encouraged" employees to use vacation before the end of the year. No one is going to do this, because management has lost all credibility with employees where I work. They could solve the problem by going to unlimited vacation. Before the greasy corporate overlords from California bought out my company, the prior management had a compromise vacation model. You accrued vacation, but you were allowed to go into negative vacation if you needed it, as long as you accrued back a positive amount by the end of the year. It seems to be a good compromise. The weak sauce employees couldn't just go on an indefinite hiatus, as they would under an unlimited model. Accounting-wise, the company could subtract negative PTO from positive PTO to cook the books and appear financially stronger than they are. Management could still be useless and ineffective at getting employees to be more productive.

On the other hand, in an unlimited vacation model, there is, on paper, no accrued vacation. You just take time off when you need it. You could cut a few HR people, because they would not be needed to track employee time off. Workers know what they need to do to get their work done, and in this model they are actually more productive in a given time period, especially when they know they will be out of the office for a time. They plan ahead, delegate, cooperate, and are far more efficient as a result.

However, management would have other headaches under such a system, mostly related to the fact that current employees aren't used to the new model. They are used to inefficiency and apathy. Management would have to actually lead and measure the productivity goals of employees. Employees would have to be motivated and efficient, but sadly, there would be some employees, used to the old way, who would simply disappear "on vacation" and never be seen again. From my view, that's totally fine. These individuals are already useless to the organization, picking their arses all day as they do. On the other hand, smart management would simply cut them loose and backfill their positions with people who like their jobs, are self-motivated, and take personal responsibility for their work, instead of passing the buck.

Current management is not smart, so there would first need to be an overhaul of middle management by visionary upper management. That will never happen where I work, so this post has really just been an exercise in free writing.

Perhaps a Post

I power walked to lunch today. I used to power walk with a coworker sometimes and we would have superb conversations about how to solve all the world's problems. But then the company I work for canned her for being too hard working and for caring about people and processes. Typical corporate bass ackwardness. Curse them for losing me my power walk compadre. Not that we cannot still power walk. We are friends outside of work after all. But now it is not as convenient. Well, that's not true. Since she is transitionally unemployed it is actually probably even more convenient for her. But the benefit of her being a coworker was that we could justify doing it on company time as "team building." There was probably also a business case for it being a wellness activity, saving the company money on health insurance costs. Anyway, it may not be long before I leave the company as well. For the past 6 months, I have been waiting for them to make process improvements in documentation. I and my team are subject matter experts on documentation. So I have been available as a resource, waiting for them to come to me and ask how they could make it better. They haven't yet, and instead made unilateral decisions and poor choices so that the process is even worse than six months ago. Lean 6 Sigma is highly overrated in my opinion. That is the continuous process improvement standard that guides middle management where I work. Six months ago, I had a lucrative job offer in Iowa. I accepted it and was totally preparing to leave my current employer. When I gave my notice, they made me a ridiculously high counter offer. Even then it was a tough decision to stay and I sometimes regret it. But I decided to give them six months to turn things around in my area, technical documentation. Right after accepting the counter offer, I proactively prepared a proposal indicating ways to improve documentation processes. I was slapped down and ignored for that effort. So then I made it explicitly clear that I and my team of documentation subject matter experts were a ready and willing available resource to assist in streamlining documentation. They took that as an invitation to become glorified administrative assistants for all manner of documentation incompetencies within engineering. It was totally reactionary, not visionary and made almost every problem worse. Now the engineers think it is standard practice to throw all their documentation hurdles at us. We don't have time for that. If they had just improved the processes as we proposed, they could have avoided so much lost time and inefficiency. Well now their six month probation period has come to an end and my assessment is hands down that documentation improvements are a resounding FAIL. I once thought it was impossible to give a negative grade for unsatisfactory work. But I have to assign one to my current employer. That also means that all bets are off. I have to make null and void any deal to remain here. They had every opportunity to do the right thing. I guess they thought I was bluffing. Sadly, I hold all the cards, with currently three new job prospects in the works. All they had to do was listen to the experts. Good leaders recognize talent and tap it. Bad leaders think they can do it better. That is why all the good talent has been leaving my current employer in droves. As such, I must now also leave the sinking ship. Too bad. There was a lot of potential, which they willfully flushed down the drain.

America the Irrational

Ideology is counterproductive to rational thinking and behavior. Ideology is the opposite of rationalism. The difference is pretty straightforward.

Ideology is a belief system you adopt a priori and upon which certain facts are cherry picked that support the belief system, while inconsistent facts are ignored or rejected. A good example of this is when conservative ideologues refer to the mainstream media as "the liberal media."

Mainstream media tends to be fairly unbiased, to a fault. There is some selection bias as to what topics and issues MM chooses to cover, but they usually give equal time to both sides of a controversial issue that is covered. The equal time practice can actually introduce some artifactual bias when there is an ideological imbalance on a given topic. For example, 95% of climate scientists agree there is human caused global warming. Because both sides of the debate get equal time in the mainstream media, it gives the false impression that the scientific consensus is about evenly split.

But I am off topic. My thesis here is that ideological thinking leads one away from rational thought.

No one is without some degree of bias or ideology in their beliefs, the "expert's mind," in the parlance of Zen Buddhism. But in the abstract, rational thinking begins with an open mind and skepticism. You may believe something to be true, but you are open to the possibility it may be false and you gather data to determine this one way or another. Your goal is to attempt to disprove your own belief about something by gathering as much information as possible. Failure to disprove your belief, with a hefty amount of available evidence, supports the belief, but does not necessarily prove it. Rational thinking cannot really prove anything. It is designed for disproving things and failure to disprove something only strengthens its likelihood of being true.

But rational thinkers do not fear facts and evidence the way ideological thinkers do. That is the difference. There are rational and ideological thinkers all over the political spectrum. You can recognize the ideologues because they become very hostile and defensive in the face of evidence contrary to their beliefs (such as decrying a news story as "liberal media conspiracy"). Rationalists are more neutral to contrary evidence and weigh its credibility with respect to the greater body of factual evidence on a given topic. So they tend to be easier to talk to and more open to debate and discussion, without the vitriole of the ideologues. But conservative vs progressive is a fallacious controversy. There are ideologues on all sides.

The controversy is really between ideology and rationalism. Most people don't get that.

Don't be ideological. And if you are rational, don't engage ideologues in conversation. It is counterproductive. Seek out other rational thinkers, even or especially those with other views and the evidence to back it up.