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.