Dear Credit Card Companies, Or: More Debt, Please

by hulk

Dear Credit Card Companies,

Thank you all for your generous offers this Christmas season. From one of you, I received a card informing me of all the savings I could have – if only I spent more with my credit card. From another of you, I received an offer for this miraculous checking account tied to my credit card where I get free money that is actually credit I will be *charged interest on*. Of the three of you I hear from most, the remaining member of your group sends me offers monthly for a card. I’ve also been offered travel insurance and even a sort of life-event insurance – if something bad happens to me, I get lots of money. All I have to do is pay now.

I must respectfully decline your offers of imaginary money. I must point to three things. First, the number of us in the country declaring bankruptcy has risen signficantly. Second, the laws for declaring bankruptcy have been changed to make it more likely that someone will have to pay their debts. Third, generalizations lead me to believe that there is simply too much stuff to buy today, and in order to sustain a lifestyle we neither can afford nor should try to, more of us are going into debt. For many of us, all it would take is the loss of our job, even for a short period of time, to drive us into four-to-five-figure debt with interest rates in the double digits. Finally, this is precisely where you want us to be.

Read the rest of this entry »

End Times, Or: Global Warming!

by hulk

The writers of South Park are creative geniuses. Their new season started this week with an episode mocking “The Day After Tomorrow” by having people run back and forth trying to flee what seemed to be a very physical, if invisible, global warming. Of course the boys are walking around, completely fine, while the idiot adults cower in fear.

Why is the debate on global warming so heated? Why, back in college, was my class asked to give presentations on global warming, only to see those who disagreed that it was occuring literally silenced and told they’re idiots by my professor? Why are we told that there is a complete consensus of scientists that global warming is occuring and that any dissension is foolish and solely motivated by corporations?

I’m thinking there’s some kind of white guilt/self hatred behind it. Primarily this is driven by a need to correct our world and to feel as if we’ve been doing things wrong and that we can and must take corrective action. We see our social ills and need someone to blame. Global warming is caused by humans because if we can’t blame ourselves, we can’t fix it. My problem with global warming is that much of it is junk science. Oh sure, some of the observations are solid. I’m not going to argue with localized observations of certain effects, or even satellite imagery. I’m not obnoxious enough to believe that the scientists involved are idiots. I do believe them when they say that they truly believe that CO2 levels are causing global warming.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Valerie Plame Scandal, Or: I’m a Secret Agent, Damnit

by hulk

Ok, here’s how I understand the Valerie Plame thing. Oh wait, no. I’m gonna diverge for a while.

So about three years ago, I was an intern with a German chemical company. I worked in a small lab with some trailer trash and my Chinese boss. I call this woman trailer trash because she literally was trash. Ragged clothes and hair and way too much makeup, and all she could do is tell stories all day, either about how her third truck (literally) had broken down, or how her husband can’t get a job. Then she’d make up stuff once in a while. She spent most of the day talking, even when I tried to show her I was more interested in getting work done. I was a freaking intern and I got through a hell of a lot more work than she did, even though she was a slightly higher position than me.

She was also horrible with instructions, and screwed up constantly. Now, some screw-ups are expected on a regular basis in a chemical job. But not on the same machine every time you go to use it. And not huge screw-ups either, like running a ton of samples and not labeling anything so the data is all useless. Anyway. Finally one day she decides to make it worse by getting political. We all know politics should be mentioned sparingly in the office. Especially, never say “Those damn Asians keep moving into my neighborhood and ruining it with their high-pitched jabbering” when your boss is Chinese and standing right there. Now my boss had too much class to say anything. She just failed to renew her temp contract when it came up. Then she told me (almost conspiratorially) later, and I told her how thankful I was that she got rid of the trailer trash.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Entitlement Society, Or: Massa need to rebuild New Orleans

by hulk

I am about to write my most racist rant ever. You will probably find it vile, spiteful, and those wussy liberals who I know read this site but don’t post will cry. This is rage for rage’s sake and I’m going to enjoy it.

You’ll notice I haven’t been as angry as usual lately. I’ve been suppressing. It’s wrong to get into politics, I say to myself, because I’ll just get angry and I won’t try to understand the other point of view and I wish everyone could stop conflicting with each other. Well you know what? Repression is just wrong. Repression hasn’t helped anything. My anxiety has gone through the roof the past few months because I’ve tried to repress anger. Now it gets unleashed, and just be grateful I’m not the type to unleash my anger on a bank.

I started picturing in my head today the potential race between Hillary and Condi. The image popped into my mind as they talked about it on Fox and Friends this morning. It is obvious to me that Hillary would say something sassy like, “I’m more of a nigger than you are, bitch”, and Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson would cry and clap and it’d be ok she said nigger because she’s a Democrat. That makes it totally ok. If anyone else says it, they must be a racist. But by some bizarre twist of logic it’s ok to use that word if you have the little (D) next to your name. No, dude, it’s cool, I can say shit like that because, like, I totally believe the opposite of what I’m saying. And there’d be t-shirts saying “Don’t Sell Out” (I heard about a black guy running for mayoral office giving out t-shirts like this). It’d be all about sticking together and doing what’s best for the black community which always means voting for the candidate who will give more money to the sinkholes that are inner cities while blaming white police for the black-on-black crimes that occur.

The biggest problem in the black community today is that they are waiting for help. They expect it to come from outside. Meanwhile you have a serious problem with fathers actually staying around to raise their children, everyone buying into the rap culture, and money that should be spent on food and clothes is instead being spent on jewelry and cars and stereos and just about everything else you can get from a pawn shop or a “Rent-to-Own”. Keep in mind I’m going to continue making generalizations here. Generalizations don’t allow for exceptions, of which I’m sure there are several. But they do a fairly good job of describing the majority of the population.

Read the rest of this entry »

Prime Opportunity to win the PR War, Or: Congress is full of bastards

by hulk

So the death toll is climbing in India, Pakistan, and Kashmir. It’s up to 20,000. I would recommend waiting until the dust has cleared a bit before making a donation so that the authorities have time to figure out where money should go. Should you like to make a donation now, I would recommend the International Federation of Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies. The Red Crescent is essentially the Islamic version of the Red Cross.

This may sound horrible, but it’s still true: This is a prime opportunity to win the PR war. Let’s show the extremists that they’re wrong. America can be a good place. We’ve listened to tons of whining about people being sheltered in the various super / astro / mega / ginormous / ultra / super-duper-special-happy-family-fun domes getting a cold sub after the first week. That’s the biggest problem in America. If your belongings get washed away, you have to find a new job and a new home and you get a cold sub. Guess what you do in India/Pakistan/Kashmir? In many cases you suffer a lot more. I don’t know. I’ve never been there. I do know they don’t have nearly as much money as us. Being poor in America is nothing compared to being poor there.

Honestly, I think your donation is better spent helping these people than helping New Orleans people move back into their city-which-shouldn’t-exist-in-the-first-place-because-it’s-below-sea-level. The mayor is clearly an idiot, and he’s hoping casinos will give him the revenue to rebuild his town. Oh and by the way, feel free to shower even though you’ll die if that water touches your lips. IDIOT. He’s desperate to bring his city back, which I understand. It’s home. However, he’s playing this very politically and not taking an overall view of the situation. He should be considering options, as should all the government officials involved. Instead, they’re going to spend billions. Members of Congress are rushing to spend our tax dollars to generate sympathy. Oh look at me, I’m sponsoring this bill to give more money to a sugar research foundation in New Orleans to give them back some jobs. Oh, it’s so hard to spend the taxpayers money. Remember to vote for me! It’s just the career politician problem though. They don’t recognize how far away they are from our actual interests. Mostly, their aim is to get in that soundbite in the news that we’ll remember so they get re-elected. Because hey, they’re different, and they know they can make a difference – if only they can get re-elected.

Read the rest of this entry »

Headline: God working on Armaggedon, also says, “Sinners DO go to hell”

by hulk

In a surprise anouncement today, God told reporters, “The Armaggedon has already begun. It started with ‘Glitter’ and reality TV, and it will end with a massive explosion from the center of the Earth outward.”

When asked to clarify, God said, “See, I couldn’t really compete with Michael Bay. I mean that movie was AWESOME. And Liv Tyler, man she’s hot. I really dig that whole, ‘I’m an emotionless, featureless robot’ look. It went well with her relationship with Ben Affleck, where you felt absolutely no emotion for two robots pretending to have feelings for each other. Anyway, after that movie I had to scrap Plan A for the End of the World. I was going to go to Plan B but then Tom Cruise beat me to it! I mean all those aliens, well, just the sounds coming from the aliens and the bright explosions, and well, I gave up entirely. Then the four horsemen were all like, ‘Dude, are we still doing this or what? C’mon, we could be booking another gig, but you’ve got us on reserve for eternity. It’s kind of unfair.’ I realized I owed them one. On to Plan C. That whole ‘Tsunami’ thing? Yeah I did that. Then I moved on to Hurricane Katrina, then Hurricane Rita. That one was clever, I had everyone pissing themselves because they forget Texas wasn’t going to flood like New Orleans. Now I’m doing Longwang in Southeast asia. I mean, ‘Longwang’, you’d figure people would catch on that I’m screwing with them at this point.”

One reporter brought up the wildfires in LA. “Oh that’s a totally separate thing. XXX-2: State of the Union? Man did that suck! I mean Ice Cube gets an inflatable boat to leap through the air and magically blow up cop cars? Then that train nonsense? Really, I was the most pissed off at Willem Dafoe and Samuel L. Jackson. They’re better than that crap and they know it. Willem Dafoe needs to get back to playing crazy-ass gay guys, I really feel it’s his specialty.”

What’s next for the Supreme Being? “Say Goodbye to California for good. It’s been screwing up America since it was founded, sucking up all the country’s water and making crappy movies that inspire cave-dwelling suicide bombers to kill crowds of their own people just because of Barbara Streisand. That whole place needs to go. After that Canada’s gonna get it. Sure they seem all sweet and nice, but if you look in their basements, man! They are sick bastards! Underneath that happy-go-lucky ‘Welcome to Canada, Eh?’ exterior, most of them are sadistic murdering assholes. I’m sending a blight on all their maple trees. I figure it’ll take about a week for them to starve.”

Finally, God said, “Anyone even reading this post is gonna burn with the author.”

Finest Hour, Or: The Matrix is a system of control

by hulk

You know if we ever were to open Halffull up to the flames of the internet we’d be subject to constant criticisms about little things we say, such as me using a matrix phrase. There’d be a 60-comment long thread beneath this post just based on the title and the thread would become complex enough to have intelligence and would take over my computer, launch all of the nukes in the continental US and then say, “I’m sorry Dave”. Thank goodness we make people register to post comments.

Moving on to my rant. While speaking recently Dan Rather remarked that Hurricane Katrina was one of news’s finest hours, comparable to the news coverage of Watergate and the investigative journalism that went on there.

Let me at least try to understand his viewpoint. Yes, there were plenty of journalists. Yes, they were climbing over each other to see who could get in harm’s way the most. Yes, some stayed in miserable conditions. But the finest coverage ever? Maybe including field journalists in with anchors isn’t fair. The anchor coverage has been terrible. It’s been terrible for a while. We have to turn to the specialty shows to get anything approaching coverage, such as Greta Van Susteren, or that woman with the short hair on CNN. Even Bill O’Reilly or Hannity and Colmes or Hardball are piss-poor coverage of events. Why do I say this? You’re right, I should be more specific.

I want them to earn their salaries. Read the rest of this entry »

Accomodating Ambition, Or: Six Sigma

by hulk

I now understand the frustration of people who say “Six Sigma is nothing but another fad”. It has become one, at my company. I hear people talk about older systems they used and they reminisce. The ones who actually understand Six Sigma reminisce. I also understand those who say Six Sigma is not a fad. It is a robust methodology full of useful tools. It is not magic. You are not permitted to turn off your brain and blindly follow the methodology. You should certainly not set up an entire department of bureacrats who compete with each other to set standards and rules for how one can be given a Six Sigma belt and which projects are considered Six Sigma and how people should be taught Six Sigma and just how they’re allowed to use Six Sigma.

Six Sigma is a toolbox. It comes with a helpful booklet in your toolbox that says, for building a proper project, use your pencil followed by your ruler followed by your screwdriver followed by your pencil followed by some spackel. It doesn’t always apply, but it usually applies. However, it was never meant to come with the following restrictions: You cannot move through a tollgate until you identify these six meaningless roles for your project and you fill out this type of tool and you then get approval to move to the next phase where you can only take a month – no more, no less, and you must fill out this tool followed by that tool followed by another tool, and when you’re all done, spend your time totaling up the savings to the company so I can tout it as my accomplishment when I talk to my boss. That’s right, I’m the one in charge, so your accomplishments count as mine. By the way, I’ll change all the rules next week.

Allow me to give some real life examples. I’m currently working on a belt. The rules for certification have changed three times in the past month; all major changes. All changes involve more paperwork. I’ve also been told to fill out useless tools after the fact (meaning the tool would only have potential use earlier in the project). At least twice I’ve been asked to fill out tools well past the point where they would have been useful. Why? The first time for a presentation, the second for certification. I should also mention that the program is being run by people who don’t even have full knowledge or grasp of the tools. The most important things to know with a Six Sigma tool are that these tools were around long before Six Sigma, and they require a lot of thought before being used.

Allow me to transfer back to the metaphor of the toolbox. Would it help if, while building a house, you ran around smacking the hammer into every piece of wood you saw? Then maybe you whacked some windows with the hammer for good measure? Obviously the example is ridiculous. Yet straight-faced people who earn much, much more than me have taught me that tools should simply be used without thought to their application or even questioning the reason for using it. I’ve taken training in Six Sigma and Design for Six Sigma and ironically at the end of both training sessions I was told only to use the appropriate tool when needed. Then why do you turn around and demand that these tools be used? Wouldn’t it make sense to leave it up to the discretion of the project team as to whether or not they use a tool? Granted, they need significant training in Six Sigma to understand that some of these tools can be very, very useful. However you should not demand that I perform a designed experiment as a part of my project!

Read the rest of this entry »

Employee Appreciation, Or: Happy Peasantry Day!

by hulk

So I got appreciated today. I wish it never happened. We were all sat down in the conference room to listen to a six minute taped message from my boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss. The main points of his message?

1. We need to save money
2. We need to get new customers
3. You all need to appreciate each other more
4. We can only accomplish our goals if you all work together
5. This company is really about you

I would’ve burst out laughing if my boss weren’t right there. Ironically, earlier in the day I had mentioned the movie “In Good Company” to some co-workers because of the scene where Dennis Quaid questions the CEO on the nonsensical phrases and buzzwords and meaningless entreaties in his speech. Something about synergy, I don’t remember the CEO’s speech exactly. My boss sidled right up to my side and I didn’t want to be obvious so I finished what I was saying about the movie. Then I get a pretty similar speech from the boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss. Now you might be thinking, “Yes, but you’re just a cynical employee. You’d never be happy.”

You may be right. I could name a few things that would make me happy. Perhaps a speech with this message:

1. Here are my major priorities
2. Here is how I will find solutions to these priorities
3. Here is where you fit in to that (followed by some division-wide examples)
4. No meaningless slogans!

W. Edwards Deming devotes quite a bit of attention in his book “Out of the Crisis” to meaningless slogans. If you’re a manager, take heed, because Deming was part of the team that taught Japan all it knew. Deming was a genius of industry who could solve all sorts of industrial problems on a high level. He knew that meaningless slogans simply made the worker more frustrated. They would feel that they should attain the goal referred to by the slogan but would find it impossible to do so from their level and would thus feel frustrated. Examples? “You make a safe workplace” or “We drive customer quality” or “Aspire to improve revenue” or “Only you can prevent forest fires”.

Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t buy American, We don’t deserve it, Or: Beef with broccoli, please

by hulk

A co-worker of mine just came back from China today. He had been sent there to monitor a supplier of plastic casings for our machines. Apparently there had been some sort of quality issue, and being that my company wisely fired all plastics engineers and outsourced all plastics work, he was the only one found who could possibly help. He described the somewhat dismal though not entirely appalling safety conditions as well as the fact that they seemed like very good workers, despite being paid $100/week. I started thinking of what kind of quality of service I’d expect here for $100/week. If the waiter didn’t have sex with my food I’d be ecstatic. I’ve got some painful messages for American workers here:

1. You are only going to get poorer.
2. Industry is never coming back. No politician can ever bring it back for you.
3. You helped lose it. You succumbed to conditions encouraged by fatcats, but you smiled as you brought about the doom of your lifestyle.
4. You are no better and no worse than a worker in a foreign country. Deal with it.

I’m sick of the type of nationalism that assumes we’re fundamentally different. Somehow an American thrown in a factory as opposed to a Chinese person is going to do better. Yeah right. The American would bitch and moan and get out his newspaper and start asking when lunch is. I do it too. The Chinese person would immediately get to work. Why? Is he better morally? No. He’s hungry! We’ve lost that hunger. We’ve gotten fat and happy and complacent. We got addicted to a much higher standard of living than that of the generations before us.

All of a sudden refrigerators and vacuums and cars and steak for dinner changed from luxuries to necessities. I keep trying to think of a plan to save, and it comes down to: I can’t get rid of internet. I can’t get rid of cable. I can’t get rid of my car. I can’t stop eating decently well. I can’t stop going out at least a few times a week. None of these will change. If my job ever left the country I’d be screwed. I’d have to fundamentally change how I live and find a new career. The only solution is to rise to the top of the company. In order to move up a few levels I’d have to start the habits of lying, fudging, placating, etc. All those things I can’t do because of a damn thing I call integrity. It hurts to see these idiots moving around a few levels above me just preventing the company from doing well. I asked today why the executives who moved our plastics business abroad didn’t demand the same level of safety at the supplier as we have in our plants. The answer is that they don’t care about the people. The people are resources, machines, replaceable and faceless. They only follow safety regulations to avoid legal liabilites. Beancounters. ARGH!

Read the rest of this entry »