various subjects

corporal works of mercy
2005-03-20— Posted by: allegra

Upon hearing that Mike had had “a bad day” (no details) Katie and I assembled a SWAT team (that stands, in this case, for Special Warmth and Therapy) and a) helped him assemble a sofa bed – it’s very cool – b) drank a single beer and c) worked on his feet and shoulders for 15 minutes (I took the shoulder end, Katie took the feet) and left him, while not in an appreciably better situation, at least in a better mood.

I am a devious, deeply troubled woman, but my friends know my worth.

I have a stupendous picture of Mike, but I don’t think he’d thank me for posting it. He’s naked, but figleafed by a lap top…. Zow. I guess for people just walking in, I should make it clear that I, and most of my close associates/family, with some notable and exceptions, are not nudists (that would involved being fanatical) but definitely relaxed about skin. We have central heating to thank for that little quirk….

Keith is still very happily working his way through all of the Red Dwarf episodes; the kids are both working their way through the borrowed Angel season one; Paul has just gone to church (?!) and I’m being dragged downstairs to watch Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Pray for me.

Oh, and one last thing. The Motherhouse of the Consorority of the Brides of Lymond just sprang into existence. Legend has it that Sister Brooke fell into a trance and was pierced by a wondrous love (and a need to organize something. A Unitarian failing, to be sure). All we need is a mission statement and a dirty great sword to jump over, and we’re in business. I’m a-hankering for a really cool dress, too, so that should work out nicely. Hunter green velvet, with a embroidered bodice, and a reliquary with the toe bone of St. Dismas at my belt. One thing’s for sure, there will neither vows of chastity NOR poverty in this select group…. (For those who don’t get the reference, St. Dismas was a saint, since unbeatified, who was the patron of thieves and swindlers, and is much mentioned in Poul Anderson’s Nicholas van Rijn stories, viz. Trader to the Stars, which I cannot recommend highly enough – they have aged reMARKably well).

2005-03-20— Posted by: allegra

Paul secured his position as the King of Romance this morning with this exchange:

I’ve been watching you sleep.

Subtext: you snore like a frog!

Subtext II: I’m insomniac again.

You have a very pretty mouth from this angle.

At that point, I opened my mouth, stuck out my tongue and shook my head.

Without changing his tone of voice, which was a low, romantic murmur, he said, “Course, it looks better when it’s closed.” Then we laughed very hard. Ah, romance!

Katie’s supposed to be cooking breakfast, but it’s nine o’clock and she only just got out of bed. I helped things along by cooking potatoes, she says this breakfast needs a couple of boiled potatoes.

I have an insane amount of cleaning to do today by which I mean, any. Have a good day, y’all.

enough sleep
2005-03-20— Posted by: allegra

January 4, 1998

Title redacted

Editor’s note…. Paul is making me clean off the hard drives of soon to be dead computers, and look what I found from a LONG time ago.

My personal situation at work currently bears no resemblance to this, by the way; I just like the tone of restrained fury.

Classic management practice is to get the employees to work as much as possible without paying them for overtime. There are many tactics for doing this. The easiest is to hire people, who despite everything that has happened to them in life, still have a strong work ethic. This means you surround employees with other employees who work very very hard and tacitly ask them to meet the standard others set (the Microsoft tactic). Another tactic is to offer undisclosed and potentially unclaimable future rewards. A common ploy is to tell them what must be accomplished and that performance pay depends on it. (Then the managers tell you that everything depended on ISO certification, and even though you made the audit, you are not getting your perf pay. This is called bait and switch – everyplace but the workplace.) You can guilt them, offer stock options, scare them with the competition and stage promotions for the very hardest working. You can yell at them, but this is not as fashionable as it once was.

The problem is that older employees have seen this all before. Us knowledge workers have a horrible sense of been there & done that, and as seductive as it is, we are not buying it.

The corporate meanspiritedness of the Eighties is with us still. Management still wants to run a lean mean fighting machine, without looking at the long term costs of doing so. They make us read books about The Immense Need for Total Quality, Total Customer Focus, Total Commitment and catechize us about it, and then spend no money on it, as if telling us these things made them happen.

We are still, after all this time, stuck in a quarter by quarter performance review mentality. If the customer is not reviewing us on a quarter by quarter basis, why should management? This is the open secret of corporate life. Because, dear children, the people who own or hope to suck money out of the enterprise we work for, besides us, are our REAL customers. And the second we forget it, we are out on our little tushies in the snow. It is not our customers who determine who goes or stays around here. Management does it for them, and sometimes not too well.

Anybody who thinks that the current customer focus is real is living in a cubicle located on another level of reality, well away from the rest of us. The current focus is on what bankers can measure. As long as certain measurements meet what passes for criteria in the minds of senior bankers, and the managers can deliver those numbers, there will be happiness at Board meetings.

For people like me, answering the phones and dealing with genuine and thorny customer issues daily, the focus is on staying sane while my managers rearrange my workload without streamlining, diminishing or training me for it.

So I am working ONLY 8 hours per day, and encouraging my co-workers to do the same. My reasoning is thus:

Every study I have been able to get my hands on indicates that working unpaid overtime does nothing for the company in terms of overall productivity and is actively bad for your health, morale and ability to think straight.

There is also the interesting question which I ask myself before I decide to work unpaid overtime, which is….Why am I subsidizing the stupidity of the company? If there are not enough people to do the job, then stretching myself over the gaps is merely a cosmetic effort. I will not get rewarded and the person whose shortsightedness put me here will be covered in glory, that we made it through another month with only three people in the department, when we need five.

(This deleted as I got rather detailed.)

The sooner the system experiences major problems, the sooner management will quote unquotes fix them, or process them out of existence. My confreres and I know that one of us will snap or forget something crucial, and we will either be disciplined, fired, or told to attend more meetings. Which prospect is more daunting?

After all, you do NOT get to be a certain age without having had to look for work. You get fired, reduced hours, laid off, demoted, transferred, you quit with pleasure, as I have three times in my life, you quit in despair or fear of something worse; the work that was fun becomes torture. The commute gets to you. The perks evaporate in another round of cost cutting. A whole department quits overnight and there is a job suddenly waiting for you someplace else. You get headhunted, your husband tells you to take a leave of absence or he will be committing you, and there is no job when you go back. These are familiar variants of an old theme.

I am not looking for work right now. I used to get angry, and now I am somewhat more relaxed about it. The work experience is mostly defined by coworkers, and my situation is good. Most of my coworkers are intelligent. Some of them are downright fun and wise and humane. Sometimes we kvetch, sometimes we nod and say how good it is, because we have ALL been someplace worse. That is scary.

My opinions about improvements are useless at work because I have no way to frame them in money terms. I can quote Harvard Business Review articles until I am blue in the face, but only examples I can pull from current reality mean anything to my managers, and even then my demeanour will kill my message. I am not the kind of person who gets taken seriously by employers. It is only people who have seen me at my best – away from work – who take me seriously. Managers consider people like me to be useless bellyachers. Ainsi soit-il. To share it with my friends is merely ventilating uselessly, but if I feel better afterwards… okay.

Looking for work does not scare me. There is a really easy algorithm for finding work, and I will use it only as necessary. I am utterly replaceable; so is everyone else. I used to think that all the knowledge we assembled in a company as employees was worth some money and some respect, but I know now that it is only worth some money, and if I want respect I will go to church, eat supper with my children, have a long talk with my husband, visit friends, phone my mother and pay my bills. Looking for respect at work, that is a mug’s game, and I won’t play no more.