Monthly Archives: December 2006

Christmas is for Gibbons

Remember the story of the boy who cried wolf? Long heralded as an appropriate story for children, it features a child who sounds a call to action too many times and is eventually undone by the social anesthetic properties of his boorish behavior. The lesson generally culled from this is that the child is at fault, and his fate (death at the claws of a vicious beast) is justified by his actions (occasional fibbing). The logical converse view would be that the child was simply having fun and that his naughty behavior was a cry for help. I don’t concern myself really about either of those, I concern myself with the village, and the parents, who cannot spare even a second to check on the whole “is there actually a wolf there” thing. I’m not saying you should all rush to arms and whatnot, but somebody could go take a peek, see if there are huge pawprints, that sort of thing. That’s just me though, I’m apparently not a reactionary. This brings me to Christmas with my family.

Each holiday season, my parents will grind and moan on about how poor they are and how Christmas might just not have a whole lot going on. I’m an idiot, apparently, because each year I believe them to one degree or another, and dial back my gift plans for them to a level that I would consider modest.

Each year they, in turn, give me a present that costs roughly 10 times “modest”. I suppose I should know by now but, honestly, they have the ability to, time and time again,  push all the right buttons. This produces a few problems.

First off, there’s “non-reciprocal-value gift syndrome”. Which is to say that I feel guilty every time. This is not that big of a deal, I try to be a good son and I always try to treat them to things in the rest of the year. I try not to step on their charity when I’m doing well by myself. Whatever, this is something that sucks from about December 25th until about January 12th, when I either stop caring or take them out to a nice dinner.

The real problem, however, is the fact that the at-minimum-overstatement-and-possibly-outright-fabrication of their financial woes causes me sleepless nights and intestinal distress over the course of months. They sometimes begin this banter in late summer, and almost certainly by October, a litany of tiny distress beacons they let slip, like mentions of credit card debt accrued, or tales of poor sales in their business, repairs to the house or vehicles left undone because it’s just too expensive. This year, they have outdone themselves, mentioning a month ago that the financial tidal wave that would soon be arriving may require them to move in with me in my tiny rental house, sweeping away their home even as it destroys their livelihood. I lay awake chewing Tums for a week after that little bombshell, imagining the horror of three grown men and a woman sharing a single, tiny bathroom. The other concerns, such as whether or not the foundation of the house could support our combined weight, as crapulent as it is, or where precisely any of our “stuff” would go just left me staring off into space at work, jaw clenched, as I willed business to pick up for them. I looked over my finances to see if I could give them any money to help make ends meet, I thought of things I own that I could sell, I thought of a second job, part time, to help even out the Good Ship Walker.

So my reaction upon receiving the gift of a dishwasher this Christmas morning, not two weeks after the last night spent detailing my finances and thoughts of setting aside money to fund my parents retirement, was mixed to say the least. I am happy, because I like clean dishes, and this will no doubt help to that end. But I do not like the idea of getting an ulcer brought on because I spent too much time as a child worried about that idiotic boy being molested by a wolf because his family and friends are incapable cursory investigation and cannot conceptualize “due diligence”.

Smut

I ordered the latest Black Heart some time ago, and due to my move, it got lost. I reclaimed the magazine, and the Buck Twenty Boyfriend that accompanied it.

Every time I read erotica I want to cry. I don’t know exactly what causes it.

I’m reading about female circumcision, not to be confused with clitorectomy. My curiosity has gotten me in deep once again, leaving me staring at a picture of someone with overlong clitoral hood, and a whole page of circumcised penii, in various stages of erection, to discuss the differences in technique employed by various cultures throughout history.

So creepy.

Nissan Versa

I bought a Nissan Versa, by the way, after a series of worsening experiences at dealerships that left me thinking I would rather drive a tractor than deal with the idiots at the dealerships. Then the fantastic Jeff Williamson at Ron Tonkin Nissan went out of his way to provide great service and whatnot and some other bullshit and got me a car I wanted and got me financed without me having to stab him. It was great, and so is the car. I took it in for it’s first service Monday and now I’m good for another three months or some such whatnot. It gets like 33 miles to the gallon in town and I can chirp the tires if I try hard and am on level ground. It also has fantastic drunk-blinding high beams that really make driving Saturday nights a pleasure. I wish that it had auto-raise on the drivers window, as when I’ve used auto-lower to drop the window and spit on someone driving like a retard downtown, I want to be able to auto-raise it too, but that’s pretty much my only performance bitch.

An important benchmark

As the manager of an IT department, you probably understand that your employees are going to be a little more difficult to handle than most. The challenges your employees face will most likely be outside of your ken (as it should be, if you make a brilliant administrator or programmer a manager, you are losing a brilliant administrator or programmer and gaining at best, a mediocre manager). And the challenges you face managing them will be slightly odd, you may run into the over-privileged admin who never grew up, or the buzzword heavy douchebag who thinks he’s a programmer, or a bevy of hangers on and pretenders who haunt your organization at every turn. You may also run into a lot of group morale issues, moreso, in my opinion, than non-IT managers. The morale problems all usually have a common cause – you, or someone above you. Here’s a quick hit, and if there’s one thing you take away from this, it should be this – If you can’t figure out what is bugging your employees, and you have scoured the management above you for reasons – The reason is you, and you need to find out what you can do to fix it fast.

But the real reason I am writing is to talk about the barometer that your employees are likely providing, as a free service.

Dilbert comic strips.

For some background: It takes a lot to make me print out a piece of paper to immortalize something, and I assume that, to one degree or another others in my department share the same aversion to hard copy. If something is funny and not poignant, I usually IM it off or email it to share. If something is poignant but not funny, there is another group that I go to. If I find something funny and poignant, another group. All electronically. If something needs a broadcast, I send a group email. If something needs a broadcast, but nobody has been receptive, then it gets printed out and hung in my cube, as proof when the inevitable “I told you so” comes up.

When someone prints something, it’s because it has nailed a point that they think needs making.

Do yourself a favor and look at the Dilbert comics that have been printed out and hung on cubicles in your department. You will find a diary of distresses and concerns. This is the modern equivalent of men scratching names and dates in prison walls, or slogans. If at all possible, set a default level of comics, get a feel for how many are up, and check the yellowing of the paper to see how old they are. If you get a rash of new comics printed out, or more people start printing them out, your department is probably having a crisis. Look for themes in the comics printed. This is going to be important. This is the dummy light of the car, and if you haven’t noticed any problems before now, this is the department’s way of saying “Yo, look at this.”

I realize this is difficult for those who manage people in geologically disparate locations, but really, that’s a retarded way to do things anyhow, so you’re already fucked. But again, this is just the dummy light, real management is going to have to happen at one point or another to figure out the root cause (in all reality – probably you, and if you’re only now noticing, probably through inaction rather than action) and resolve it (probably a series of meetings with people that they don’t realize are meetings, like hallway talks or lunches, or a reorg, that makes everything better).