Friday, August 31, 2007

It Couldn't Have Happened to a Nicer Guy

When the Nerd Clan moved to the Twin Cities way back in October of 1998, things weren't looking so good for the home team.

Due to the Red River Valley flood of '97, I was going to be losing my great job as Computer Department Manager of the UND Bookstore. The university needed to find ways to save money to pay for the damages the flood wrought and a way to attract students back to the ravaged campus. They ended up leasing the bookstore business to Barnes & Noble... and B&N was not in the business of selling computers.

Avindair was working a crappy job for an insane boss (you should hear the stories), having to drive 150 miles round trip every day from Grand Forks to Fargo, traveling to other cities for a week at a time at the drop of a hat, and having paychecks that bounced.

With no career prospects in Grand Forks, we had to look elsewhere. Elsewhere had to be the nearest metro area... Minneapolis/St.Paul.

Marathon to the Twin Cities #1

I found a job all right. In one day I drove 5 hours to the cities, spent two hours interviewing, and drove 5 hours back. They offered me the job of regional inside sales rep at a company that made multiport serial cards. It was set up as a pay + commission structure. Not a dream job, I'll admit, but it was enough to help support our family in a new city. They knew I'd have to relocate and were all smiley-supporty.

Marathon to the Twin cities #2

In between job offer and moving, Avindair and I took an overnight trip to the cities to find an apartment. We took the first place we could find as close as possible to my work, since Tony didn't have a job yet, that wasn't a scary (is that a heroine dealer?) rat trap that we could also afford. Paid the *yowch* first month's rent, stayed one night with local relatives (the first of three times we'd see them in the 9 years we've lived here), and once again headed back to Grand Forks.

Marathon to the Twin Cities #3

Did you know that it's possible to break down an entire apartment for 4 people, pack it on a truck, drive to another city, unpack it, set up the new apartment, and drive back to the original city in 48 hours? With the help of two of our best friends, DaveGuy and Bella, we did... bless their hearts.

Halloween 1998

The night before we left for our new home. For good. Our son, who was only 6 at the time, was enjoying Halloween at Grandma's house. Due to our neverending search for good jobs, he was being uprooted once again. It broke our hearts. We were having to move just a few months into first grade. Avindair and I dreaded it for him. In his six short years we'd already moved five times - six if you count the two places in Denver. He would once again have a new home, a new school, a new daycare, new teachers, new friends, new places to play... with our little family and the contents of our apartment the only things that were a constant in his life.

Our daughter had it a little easier. She would be turning 2 in just two weeks and didn't have the level of adapting to go through that our son did.

"Hi, I'm the new rep."

The first week in November I started my new job. And to tell you the truth, it suck-diddly-ucked, Flanders.

First, my sales manager and I were the only females on the sales team. Good Old Boys Club in the extreme. It didn't matter if I'd been a sales manager in my own right, I was treated like "just a girl".

Second, nearly all of the sales reps had been FRIENDS SINCE GRADE SCHOOL. Yup. Even in a city this size, they had grown up together, gone to college together, and were now working at the same company -- and they acted like it. Not only was I not in the boys club, I also was a charter member of the "You're Not From Around Here" club.

Third, after several weeks, after uprooting my family, incurring the expense of moving, having rent and utilities and car payments and daycare to pay, and in the midst of holiday season with kids, I eagerly awaited my first paycheck. Payday came and went. And I had no paycheck. I confronted my boss. "Didn't we tell you? We pay a month behind, after you've completed your first month. So you don't get your first paycheck until January. But if you want, we can give you an advance."


So, to stay out of bad debt with our monthly bills, I had to go into debt with my new employer. A debt that I then had to make payments on with every future paycheck for nearly a year.

Fourth. Every month we'd gather for an all employee meeting. The owner would usually fly up from Florida, where he lived part of the time, and address the troops. I'd already heard from other employees that he kept the Florida address to avoid Minnesota taxes and that he was a bit... eccentric. What I heard at my first employee meeting made my jaw drop. After everything my family and I had been through to be there, at that point in time, I was infuriated. Here's what the speech from the company's owner boiled down to:

1. God was to be thanked for everything we had and the all of the successes of our company.
2. The owner had the position he had in life, because God put him there. He was appointed to be sucessful by God.
3. We all, as workers, had the position we had below him in life, because God meant for us to be there... below him.
4. God had made it clear that he (the owner) was better than us.

Oh, yeah. THAT'S the way to motivate your employees.

My family and I had worked hard to be where we were. Life had thrown us a lot of curve balls and we did our damndest to keep our heads (literally) above water and persevere. I was supposed to believe that some white-bearded father-figure on a cloud had handpicked me to be the bitch-slapped worker bee for life and handpicked some narcissistic looney to reign supreme... just because?

Um... no.

Eventually, of course, I got out of there. I got away from the insane, zealot, tax-dodging owner and his nepotism-ridden company.

And My Point Is?

Just the other day, I saw this article in the Star Tribune.

"With founder a fugitive, Comtrol remakes itself"

Apparently, God doesn't want him paying taxes. This CEO-on-the-lam was also a republican, a former delegate the Repulican National Convention, AND the founder of the Minnesota Christian Coalition.

Or read this goodie from the US Department of Justice:

The articles just get more and more fun:

Finding this news just made me feel warm and fuzzy all day. This nepotistic businessman, leading republican supporter, right-wing Christian zealot, law breaking nutzoid was on the run from finally getting what was REALLY due him.

Huh. Maybe there IS a God?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Ducks and Bunnies

I can tell I've been in too many meetings today with management types. I'm over explaining to everyone I meet. You know how it is with management, all of the authority and none of the understanding of technology. Duck and bunnie charts.

Mgr: "I need a pencil and paper."
IT: "A pencil and paper are already in the requirements. You'll have the pencil and paper, just as you asked."
Mgr: "But the requirements don't say that I can write on the paper with the pencil. Will I be able to write on the paper?"
IT: "Of course, you will."
Mgr: "But how do I know that?"
IT: "Because that's the basic function of pencil and paper."
Mgr: "But I don't see anything that says I can write on the paper with the pencil. What if I get the pencil and paper and the pencil doesn't write on the paper?"
IT: "That won't happen."
Mgr: "Why?"
IT: "Because the basic function of pencil and paper is for the pencil to write on the paper. It's intrinsic to having pencil and paper."
Mgr: "But how can I be sure of that?"

Yup. This is the point when you just bonk said manager-type on the head, lock him / her in a closet, and only let him / her out when the application has launched. Then they can say:

Mgr: "Where's my pencil and paper?"
IT: "It's right there. On your desk."
Mgr: "But it doesn't LOOK like my old pencil and paper."
IT: "No, it doesn't. But it works the same way."
Mgr: "How do I know that it works that same?"
IT: "Because all pencils and papers have the same function."
Mgr: "But that pencil is blue. My pencil was yellow."
IT: "Yes, but it writes in exactly the same color as before."
Mgr: "No it can't. It's a different color."
IT: "But it writes the same way as before."
Mgr: "No it doesn't."
IT: "Yes it does. How do you know it doesn't? Have you tried it?"
Mgr: "No."
IT: "Then how do you know it doesn't do the same thing as before?"
Mgr: "It looks different."

Ah.... nothin' like the Peter Principle.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Phone Woes

Today started out pretty darn well. Last night I slept better than I had in days. I dreamt all night. Good dreams, too. The kind that leave you with a lingering warm fuzzy all morning. My commute to work met no delays or nasty drivers. Even my hair cooperated and looked good.

I drove up to my workplace. Got a nice parking spot. Remembered my access card to get in. Put my lunch in the fridge. Got my morning cup of coffee. Didn't spill any on my white pants. Booted up my computer. Plugged in my cell phone to charge.

And noticed that I'd missed a call. Only a few minutes earlier. From my dad?

How had I missed a call when I'd been holding the phone in my hand?

Instead of dialing up my messages, I called Dad direct. My grandmother had been recovering from illness and injury. There may have been a change in her condition that I needed to know about.

Nope. It turns out that my dad had been trying to call me since LAST NIGHT. My mother had been taken to the emergency room. She was home and recovering now, but he'd be trying to reach me for hours. He tried my home phone, but it went straight to voice mail. Never rang at the house. He tried my cell phone. No answer. Went to voice mail.

In addition, Avindair's dad is in surgery today. The phone (if it was working) could ring at any time for news of his progress. Our kids are at home, can't call them to check on them. This is ridiculous.

Ever since we switched to Comcrap VOIP we've had problems. And complained. And complained. This was the last straw. After Avindair bitched them out thoroughly, they finally agreed to give us 2 days credit on our bill. (My, how generous.) The phone service still isn't working right.

Bottom line. We're shutting off Comcrap phone service. We're shutting off Comcrap cable. And if we can find a comparable speed Internet service, we're going to shut off Comcrap cable modem, too. Not one more dime to these corporate vultures.

Unfortunately, the area where we live seems to be a black hole of phone service. The ONLY land line service we can get is Spront... and it's crap, too. Just less craptacular than Comcrap. Yes, we sometimes have to dial 5 or 6 times to get a line out, but at least we CAN EVENTUALLY get a line out... and in. I guess we have to choose between bad or worse service - AND get to pay a premium for it. WHEE!

Go cellular, you say? A few problems with that. First, 911 service. We have kids. I want to be able to pick up a phone on the wall and dial 911 if needed, not run around looking for my cell. Plus, the towers in our area are notoriously bad. Often my cell phone won't ring, or it goes straight to voice mail, OR... and I love this one... I won't get a notified of a message until HOURS or even DAYS after it's been left for me. Not so good if the school calls, or my son or daughter call needing a ride, or... any number of possible emergency scenarios. After all, THAT'S why I have the damn phones in the first place.

And to make matters worse, this phone service crap screwed up what was shaping up to be a really nice day. F**K!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Turn on the News

Our little Nerd clan had gathered in front of the TV for dinner. "The Simpsons" was cheerily chattering in front of us. We laughed together eating slightly charred, grilled hot dogs and chips. Life was good.

Then the phone rang.

"Turn on the news."

It was our good friend, Garrett.

"Hey! What's up?" I laughed. "What news channel?"

His voice came back dark and strained. "Any news channel."

There were no other words to describe what we saw.

Last night, just after 6:00pm CST, during rush hour traffic, the I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis collapsed, spilling as many as 50 cars into the rushing waters. There was heart breaking tragedy. There were heart wrenching miracles. Heroes came from all walks of life and gave of themselves to save others, or comfort those in their last moments.

We were told to keep cell phone lines clear. Land lines were hit or miss with people calling in and out of the cities. When I finally reached my mother, she was nearly hysterical with fear. I could understand why. A few years ago she lost her father and her only brother, her mother was ailing, and the thought of losing her only child, son-in-law and grandkids was almost too much for her. I made the round of calls to the rest of our Twin Cities relatives and called her back to calm her.

As darkness fell last night, the rescue operation turned to one of recovery. Twisted and unstable wreckage along with a strong current made it too dangerous for rescuers to continue searching the submerged vehicles. Twenty to thirty families across the cities wait for word on their loved ones. My thoughts keep turning to them. I can't imagine your pain, but I pray for you. Right now, it's all I can do.