Review of “She is Evil” Madness and Murder in Memphis – By Judith Yates

SheIsEvil_KindleCover

Fair play warning.  While this book is from my publisher, I purchased my own copy of it and was not coerced into a book review.  My opinions are my own. 

Being a true crime junkie, (it’s part of being a true crime author) it’s hard not to get sucked into this book.  It opens with the discovery of a beheaded and mutilated body.  I was not familiar with Ms. Yates work up to this point, but I have to admit, she hooked me like a big dumb fish with that opening.  How could anyone put it down after that kind of intro?

I refuse to spoil the plot, but suffice it to say the murderess lives up to every bit of the title.  This book is not long – or I should more accurately say, I read it fast.  The victim, Ejaz Ahmad, a Pakistani, embodies everything you desire of the American dream.  He came here legally to carve out a new life.  Had working doesn’t sound like enough of a description of him.  In three chapters I found myself liking this man – a testament to Yate’s writing style.

But like all men, his choice in women was flawed…deadly flawed.  His kindheartedness reminds you of a time when every young man meets a woman that takes advantage of him.  You are caught between the love and lust and the betrayals.

Yates portrayal of Ahmad’s killer, Leah Ward, is such that you find no pity for her.  It is as if she stepped off the set of a season of FX’s Fargo.  The author does not make her a cardboard character, but instead twists the reader around the bizarre blend of mental instability, drugs, and horrific behavior.  As a reader, you find yourself squirming in your seat as Yates recreates the events leading up to the murder.  The mix of an innocent completely sympathetic victim and a gnarled and heartless murderess is something that leaves the reader trapped.  You cannot casually put the book down and convince yourself you know the whole story.  Yates compels you to read on.

The only critique I have of the book, albeit a minor one, is that the writing style is more contemporary than my preference.  In other words, Yates writes in short, crisp, easy to devour chapters.  I prefer somewhat longer (and fewer) chapters.  On the plus side, you can easily cruise through three chapters in an evening (if you dare).  This is purely a matter of personal preference and style on my part – and not a criticism of the book at all.

So, is this an addition to your summer reading list?  You betcha!   Kudos to Judith Yates for a great book and a perfect title.  She is Evil

#TrueCrime

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The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign: To the Gellesian Fields Part 13

Bor

Bor Boskin

The mapmaker, Grayson, told us where to find Odd Bob’s and The Twang – a bow and arrow maker.  We stopped there and Galinndan tried to ascertain the origins of the obsidian arrows he had found.  The owner, one Tagon Vrill, a lanky elf, offered to buy them but would not tell us what the arrows did. Galinndan demurred at his offer, saving the arrows.  To him, they seemed to be special, perhaps magical.  To me, firing arrows were a coward’s way to fight – from a distance.  Skull Ringer, my new warhammer, now that was the way for a man to fight.  Up close and personal.  If you are going to kill a man, at least look him in the eyes.

We reached Odd Bob’s little shop midafternoon.  From the outside it appeared to be a store that sold oddities and, well, junk.  I mean there was a plain rock on display in the window, along with a strange wooden headdress, a necklace of teeth, and other things.  Inside the shop were shelves filled with knick-knacks and trinkets.  The air smelled of dust and mold to me.  Seated on a high stool looking over a thick leather bound journal that filled his cluttered desktop was a small man with a long nose, beady eyes, and white hair that shot out form his balding head as if he had been hit by lightning.

“Welcome!” he said gleefully.  “I am Robert the White.”

“Why do they call you Odd Bob?” Galinndan asked.

“Because I’m odd I assume,” the man replied with a wry grin.

“We were sent by Matthias Blackshear,” Theren said.

“Ohh.  Matthias has not been here in a long time.  Any friend of his is a friend of mine.  It is a shame, what they did to him, dragging his reputation through the mud that way.  It was no fault of his that the prince lacks the common sense of a squirrel.  He was wrongly forced out of his post in disgrace – the man never did play politics well.”

“Do you sell these goods?” Theren said.

“I do.  Mostly I trade them…for good stories. Stories are what separate men from monsters.”

“Really?”  Theren said crossing his arms.  “Let me tell you of our journey into the Gellesian Fields…” He then went on about the murder of the Gray Rider and our journey into the fields and back.  I noticed that Theren highlighted his role in the affairs, such is the gift of a druid to spin such a yarn.  Odd Bob’s quill flew furiously in his journal, taking down every word I thought…or most of them.

When Theren finished, Bob looked at him.  “You may take any object from the first shelf.”

Theren took a small object, one I could not see.  Odd Bob said, “You mentioned a highwayman.  Who was it?  Tell me more.”

“Lexa Lyoncroft,” Theren said.  I added, “She bore the mark of the Sisterhood of the Sword on her arm.” I nodded in agreement.  I had seen the tattoo myself.

The old man squirmed at her name.  “Her I have heard of. She was Swordsworn in the Sisterhood at one point, one of their best.  They thought they’d killed her, twice, but she survived, or so the stories say.  She has found a way to cheat death, though none know what it is.  She only plays the role of mercenary to fit her own needs – that is restoring her order and honor and making the Church pay for what it did.  If she is working for anyone in the north, she is only playing them.  Lyoncroft only leave survivors to let the word reach the church that she is alive still – like a threat without speaking the words.  The church has even sent teams of killers from the Priory of the Burning Blade to apprehend her, only to disappear in the Fields.  Word is that she sent their severed heads back to the priory, but I doubt that she would be that brazen.  If my sources are correct, she has quite a reward on her head from the church.  For her to risk the wrath of the Herd by killing a Gray Rider means that she has become even more bold.”  Odd Bob paused for a moment then said, “For your story including her, you may take an item from the second shelf.”   Theren walked over and picked up a twig.  I presume it was a twig.  Of course he did – that’s what druids do.  Maybe the trig spoke to him.  You could never tell with Theren.

I had come to believe that there was a lot more to the story of Lyoncroft than we knew.  She had a reputation and that could be useful, and dangerous.  I had a nagging feeling that I would cross her path again.

We conversed with the strange man for some time then went for our rendezvous at the Copper Horse Inn with Matthias.  We noticed that we were being shadowed by a bald friar of some sort wearing a blue hooded cloak.  He seemed harmless enough, but I kept my eyes on him.  My father had warned me that cities were places of danger. “The more people you have in one place, the greater the chance you come across one to do you harm.”

The inn was true to its name, a green tarnished copper horse hung on the sign.  We entered and were greeted by the innkeeper, a chubby rough looking woman with moles and warts aplenty.  You could toss her in a pond and skim ugly for a week.  Victoria “Momma” Bellrung ordered us up a meal and drinks.  We were cordial despite her lowly looks.

I noticed a man bumping into Galinndan and seemed to pass him some sort of parchment. The rouge said nothing about it but excused himself to go to the Guildhall.  I remember him saying that he was supposed to check in at such establishments upon entering a town or city, but he had been so caught up with all that there was to see and do, he had failed to do so. At the time, I thought it was a minor infraction.  Of course, at the time, I had no way of knowing how important it was.

Matthias joined us during our second round of cool ale.  “Arrangements have been made, but you boys had better be coy.  This isn’t’ easy.”  I have to admit, with an opening like that, I was concerned.

“Krolf Lorraine is the court’s Vizir, and more a dangerous and crafty man will you find in the entire realm.  He controls the real power behind the throne and covets that seat for himself.  You will need to meet with him.  Do not share your message with him, no matter what.  If you do, you will never know if he delivers it or not.  Information is power to such a man, and if there is one thing I know about Lorraine is that he craves power.

“You have to go to him though – that is court protocol.  He will refuse you.  Lorraine hates not having control, and you speaking directly with Lord Sklaver represents a loss of such control.”

“If he will be turning us down, how do we deliver the message?” I asked.

“The Master of the Court – Uthar Danielson,” Blackshear said with confidence.  “He is an old friend of mine and I explained your desire.  The Master of the Court determines who is admitted into court. As a personal favor, he will give you entrance during the open court session.  Lorraine will be furious, but once you are in the court, it is up to you to pull this off.”

We all agreed, that sounded like a plan, though one with some risk.  Making an enemy of a man like this Krolf Lorraine made me feel a bit nervous.  Matthias confirmed for us our meetings.  “You meet with Lorraine at nine-bells tomorrow. At first bell of the afternoon, you will go to the main court and Danielson will let you in.”

“Will you be staying?” Theren asked.

Matthias finished her drink in a single gulp.  “No.  I need to get back to my farm.  You helped me and I have returned the favor.  But know this, we have shed blood in battle together and are friends from this time forward.  Just don’t abuse that right.”  He winked at us then rose.  “Best of luck to you all.”

We finished up for the evening, each paying for a hot bath.  I bunked with Galinndan and we left Arius and Theren in hall on guard duty.  I have to admit, it felt good to sleep on something other than the hard ground.  The bath felt even better and it gave us a chance to wash our clothing and patch up the damage we had.  I drifted off to sleep in a matter of a few heartbeats.

I awoke with a figure looming over me in the dark. Whoever it was grabbed my gear, armor and all, and darted out into the hallway.  I followed, naked as the day I was born.  In the hallway, I saw our “guards” asleep in their chairs.

The thief reached the stairs and I sprinted, catching him there with a vicious punch from behind.  It was a half-orc.  He fell forward, down the stairs, my armor and Skull Ringers crashing down with his body down the stairs.  I came down after him and when I reached him, he threw three small glass marbles on the ground near us.  They exploded, filling the stairwell with as dense acrid smoke that stung at my eyes and nostrils.

My reflexes kicked in, along with my legs – delivering a devastating kick to him as he tried to regain his footing.  I sent him flying down the last few stairs, sprawling him unconscious on the floor.

“Momma” Bellrung was behind the bar, washing mugs.  She grabbed an iron skillet from a hook and looked at me.  “Problem?”

“No ma’am,” I replied. “Galinndan, fetch some rope.  Let’s tie this bastard up and fight out what he was doing.”

Galinndan hesitated, but obeyed.  The foggy-headed Arius and Theren joined, as did a barely awake Althalus.  “What happened?” I asked our “guards.”  You two were supposed to watch out for us.  You had one job to do…”

Theren rubbed his eyes, fighting to get awakened.  “He came by and blew smoke from his pipe towards us.  It must have been some sort of drug. We went right to sleep.”

As we tied him the half orc came to.  He glanced at Galinndan who looked strangely embarrassed.  Then I spotted it as did the others in our group.  The half-orc had a tattoo on his arm that matched that Thieves’ Guild, matching the one that Galinndan had.  All eyes turned to our party thief.  “You want to explain?” I demanded, only then becoming aware that I was standing in the closed tavern buck naked. I quickly checked to see Skull Ringer on the floor.  If he didn’t answer to me, he would answer to the cold steel of the hammer.

“Um, well…you see, I was supposed to check in with the guild when I came to town.  They summoned me.  They took my money and asked me if we had anything of value.  I may have mentioned your magic warhammer of yours.” I couldn’t tell if he was embarrassed that he had been caught or afraid.  I also did not care.  My anger rose red on my face.

“You set me up to be robbed?”

Galinndan stammered.  “No one was supposed to be hurt.”

“Not good,” Theren said.  “Not good at all.  You don’t sell out your party.  We are practically brothers.”

“It wasn’t my fault.  The guild demanded it, that or they would remove on of my limbs.”

“Oddly enough,” I said picked up Skull Ringer, “I would be comfortable enough with that.”

“Guys…please.  I made a mistake,” the rogue replied. He did sound sincere, but honestly, I didn’t care at that point.

Arius shattered the calm.  “You don’t get to carry the party treasury anymore,” he said.

“The guild is going to be pissed at me,” Galinndan said.  “They have assassins working for them.”

“That’s your problem,” I said.  “No one touched my warhammer.”  I gathered up my gear and headed for the stairs.  I was confident that Momma would be more than capable of making sure that the half-orc ended up with the right authorities. “And I want a different bunk mate!” I added.

I hope you have enjoyed the saga thus far.  Here are the previous parts if you have missed any installments.  Enjoy!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

Part 12

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

#dungeonsanddragons

The Humorous Real-Life Phases of a Reorganization

Diabolical_plan
Lesson:  Never leave your reorg plan laying around unless it has a funky code name.  

I have spent more of my career being reorganized than I have being organized.  In my day job I work in organizational change management, which is ironic because reorganization is part of the job.  Oddly enough I got my job via a reorganization.  I’d share that story but I think the emotional and physical scars are more than enough of a reminder of what it was like.  Suffice it to say that I have a knack for reorgs, which is a skill that is almost worthless in the real world.

As always, my proviso is that this has NOTHING to do with the organization that I am currently employed by.  This is simply a humorous look organizations in general.  Any resemblance to any person or legal corporate entity, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Disclaimer mode now disabled…

Reorganizations are often dubbed as transformative and they are.  They are change in its most pure corporate form.  There are two overarching models for reorganization that outline the phases of a reorg.  One is the traditional change management model, or a variation of it, John Kotter-isms, a melting iceberg and penguins, blah blah blah.

The second and less known are the real-life phases that the employees actually go through during this process.  This has not been documented until now because the truth hurts and most organizations don’t want to admit this is what they inflict on their people regularly.

Depending on the reorg, you may go through these phases in the course of hours, days, weeks, or months; dependent on your level of mental stability.  They are perfectly natural reactions.  Your results may vary.

So, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, I present to you, the real-life phases of a reorg:

Good…I’m glad this happening.  This place was pretty screwed up phase.  The announcement of the structured chaos to come is made.  Hey, let’s be honest; we all know that our organizations could be improved upon, some more than others.  Much of the problems the staff have been coping with were the result of the last reorg.  Maybe this change will fix some of the problems?  It could happen…right?  Right?  This phase usually is pretty short-lived because it takes very little time for management to crush employee optimism into a fine powder to sprinkle on their mocha lattes.

Raw, unadulterated panic phase. When the leadership and staff realize that things are about to change and it could (will) happen to them.  This panic often stems from the mental acknowledgement that the people driving the reorganization don’t really understand how your organization functions in the first place (usually because they are in charge.)  In fairness, you don’t totally understand it either – but that does not quell the panic.  The sheer terror comes from the thought that someone with the mentality of a fourth grader might be setting the course on your career and future.  Buy new sheets, you’ll have a lot of night sweats and screaming.

Beat these bastards to the punch phase. There’s always some closet-Einstein-wannabe that thinks believes they know what the problems are and will reorganize or dramatically change processes before the formal reorganization in an attempt to stave it off.  “If you knew it was broken, why didn’t you fix it a long time ago?”  This knee-jerk reaction generally sows even more seeds of chaos and forces people to undergo two or more reorganizations; or as I call it, “Fun on a bun!” No one is smart enough to guess what the fourth grader is planning, so just please, don’t try.

Trying to read the tea-leaves phase.  This is the search for information and attempts to interpret what little is leaking out.  People troll for information from job posting boards to Linkedin.  Management does not give the staff the credit we so richly deserve in this area in terms of trying to piece together what is coming. Self-proclaimed savants or Long Island Mediums, make predictions based on the soup of the day in the cafeteria.  Even a mere dullard becomes creative in attempting to ferret out information.  Any information gleaned is subject to random and wild interpretation, guesses, or leaps of logic.  In other words, it’s mostly worthless.

Attempting to stake out territory phase.  Like dogs marking their yard, mid-level and senior managers begin posturing during this phase of the reorg.  This could be the “puff your chest-out” phase as well.  Leaders (and I use that word loosely) suddenly proclaim from on-high that they are in charge of a team, a body of work, a process, or anything to make them seem more important.  While entertaining, this rarely instills confidence in your leadership. Right now you are picturing your manager taking a pee in the yard – admit it.

Jockeying for position phase.  Reorganizations generate meetings.  Often these covert off-site affairs, held with pentagrams on the floor, hooded cloaks for the participants and black candles for effect. These covens (yes, I used that word) are where management tries to position themselves in the new org structure.  They come before whoever is leading the reorganization and plead their case as to why they are awesome and deserve to continue on with minimal impact.  They will barter with their teams, often crushing other people’s careers to preserve a proverbial seat at the big-kids-table.  This is a clash of egos vs. what is right for the organization and that clash often wracks up a body count. Those not invited to the meetings will hang out in the hallway outside, hoping that being seen will trigger some sort of positive reaction with those bartering their staff’s souls/careers.

Leadership feeds on itself phase.  Cue the Star Trek fight music please.  Da-da-da-da-dah-dah-da-dum!  The more opportunistic leaders begin to undermine their colleagues.  I guess the thinking is that they make themselves look better by making their peers like worse.  The level of backstabbing could make for an entire season of Game of Thrones, sans the nudity.  Snide, off-handed comments (or outright lies – dealer’s choice)  aimed at eroding fellow leader’s characters mark this stage of the reorganization.

Reorg kirk
Last one of us standing gets the IT Department to report to them!  

The “I no longer give a flying fu*k at the rolling-doughnut,” phase.  Reorganizations have a tendency to drag out, for a variety of reasons (chiefly being that you can’t reorganize something that was never organized in the first place.)  When this phase happens the staff reach a point of “just give us the new org charts so we can get on with our lives.”  When you place people in limbo long enough, they cease to care about the end-game.  You could hand them a turd on a piece of paper and they would be happy simply because this time-wasting, angst-fueling process would be over.  All hail the new turd!

The apathy phase.  Every reorganization that has ever been announced misses its own artificial deadlines.  There is a point where the staff just throw their hands up in the air and work grinds to a halt.  Leadership usually has no clue this is going on – they are attending reorg meetings after all.

Final bloodletting phase.  This is the actual announcement of the new organization structure (or target operation model – TOM) itself.  The final winners and losers are known.  Remember Gladiator – “Are you not entertained?!”  There’s no time for mourning.  Leadership wants return on investment for the time it took to put the new structure together. The formal announcement often leaves folks agreeing with some parts of the change, and puzzled by others. Fortunately the apathy overwhelms the last vestiges of staff resistance.

The run up the flag and declare victory phase.  “Suck it up bro.”  There should be a lot of change management activities to help the staff adopt the new operating model/structure.  These are generally tossed out of the window.  It’s time to get back to “BAU – business as usual…or is that unusual?”  Despite all of the planning, there are huge gaps that are created in almost every reorganization that leave the staff confused as to how to proceed.

The new resistance is born phase.  Leaders who were losers but not terminated begin to undermine the new organization.  People entrench in their ways of working.  The more delusional pretend the new organization doesn’t exist (crazy, right?)  Revenge is a dish best served in a filthy kitchenette I guess.  People begin to build organizational friction between teams, processes that inflict harm on others, all to spur on another reorganization and a chance for those hurt in this reorg to rise to the top again.  Go forward in time a year and start at the top of the list!

If you liked this, check our my snarky book:  Business Rules. 

Visiting Crime Scenes

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Ragged Island Refuge – where Robin Edwards and David Knobling were murdered.  The map of the refuge has been blasted with a shotgun, an indication of how creepy and dangerous some of these locales are.  

As a true crime author, I visit crime scenes.  I feel obligated to do so.  The only way you can really appreciate or even describe a place is to stand there and look at it yourself.  I’m not looking for clues, but for the kind of subtle nuances that you cannot pick up when you pull up a place on Google Earth.

I primarily write about cold cases.  I’m not looking for any evidence or something that will change the case.  I just try and get a feel for the locations.  You wish the trees or the road could talk though.  They bore witness to horrific acts and stood mute as the crimes unfolded.  If only…

I was talking with my publisher, Steve Jackson, and we both relayed stories of how we have found there are true crime readers that make pilgrimages to these locations.  Steve actually was driving by one such locale in Colorado and spotted a woman walking in the snow, carrying a copy of his book.  Both he and the fan were a little surprised when he approached her in the frigid snow.

Ron Franscell, an outstanding true crime author, goes so far in his Outlaw series (the latest being Outlaw Los Angeles which you should go purchase) to include GPS coordinates for the key locations.  Ron clearly is ahead of the curve on this topic and gives his fans what they want – a physical connection to his written words.

I encountered this with every true crime book I’ve written.  Readers go to these spots to see them for themselves.  I remember after writing about the murder of Daisy Zick (Murder in Battle Creek) the owners of her house told me that they had been unaware of the murder that took place in their home.  They noticed right after the book came out that there was a steady stream of cars on their little dead-end road, all slowing as they drove by.  People went to Jono Drive to see the home where Mrs. Zick died.

Zick Home
The former Zick home in Battle Creek, from my own convert visit.  

Similarly I get people asking me online where the Tasty Café was in Marshall Michigan, the subject of my book, Secret Witness.  I understand the curiosity.  For me as a writer, the location is important.  It is a stage where heinous acts took place.  It is a setting, a tangible link to a crime.

On one instance, for the book, The Murder of Maggie Hume, my daughter (and co-author) went with me to compare the confession of Michael Ronning with the physical placement of the apartments.  It proved important.  From where Ronning said he saw Maggie in the window, it was physically impossible to have done so because of the angle of the building.   We retraced her steps as best we could that night, even grabbing a bite at the Ritzee in Battle Creek, where she had been before her murder.  Distances and travel time become important for us to try and replicate.

As an author, I don’t advocate or recommend that people go to the sites I write about.  In some cases, they are downright creepy, if not dangerous.  I don’t recommend it – but I know people do it anyway.

For our upcoming book, A Special Kind of Evil, The Colonial Parkway Serial Killings, I will be doing a number of blog posts in the coming weeks talking about the crime scenes we visited and our observations and some photos we were unable to include in the book.

Victoria Hester and I spent time at all of the spots, so that we could get it right in the book. There are problems we faced with the visits, as well as some weird stories along the way.  In the case of one of the murders, David Knobling and Robin Edwards, the exact spot where the bodies were found has long since eroded away, the victim of storms over the decades.  In the case of Keith Call and Cassandra Hailey we can only visit where Keith’s car was abandoned.  There has not been any physical evidence they were actually on the parkway.  With Cathy Thomas and Rebecca Dowski; we visited where their bodies were found, but again, there is no evidence they were killed in that spot.  Only in the case of Annamaria Phelps and Daniel Lauer can we be relatively sure they were killed at or very near where they were found.

For those of you that visit the sites, I offer this advice – be careful.  Some locales attract bad people.  #TrueCrime  #ASpecialKindofEvil

 

Workplace Humor…Real-Life Work Skills/Competencies

office space
It bothers me that you would ask.  

I know it’s coming, looming like a dull summer storm – my annual goal setting process.  I rate the entire experience right up there with root canal and ingrown toenails (not the fun ones, but the pus-oozing kind).

What skills will you develop?  What competencies will you improve upon?  Blah blah blah.  That got me thinking – what are the real-life skills and competencies that we all recognize?  Here is my suggested list:

Timing a work break for when leftover food from meetings is put out for the taking.

Toggling between Facebook and work product before your manager sees what you are really doing.

Convert leadership ambiguity to tangible actions.

Getting that guy or gal that constantly late for meetings up to speed in two minutes or less.

Pretending (convincingly) to give a damn.

Ability to ignore incessant whining and grumbling from colleagues.

Writing annual goals that sound impressive but are really everyday tasks that can be documented as accomplished in the first month of the fiscal year.

Disinfecting shared workspace. Eww…

Optimizing the theft of office supplies based on value rather than need.

Laughter suppression.  I hear a lot of stuff every day that is batshit fuc*ing crazy.

Apprehension of the office refrigerator thief.  Bob, I don’t care if you take my food, but you touch my Diet Mountain Dew again, and they will be outlining your body on chalk in the kitchenette.

Anticipating leadership whims and changes of direction before they become full-blown crisis’s.

Staying awake in meetings that you clearly shouldn’t have been invited to.

Creating PowerPoint decks that meet company graphic standards and are still oddly useful.

Rapidly scanning a rambling, jumbled email to ascertain what is actually important.

Holding my bladder of bowels during long meetings where they don’t stop for bio-breaks..

Listening to an unqualified someone tell me how to do my job when and suppress the urge to kill them.

Suppressing audible farts in meetings or other public spaces (especially elevators).

Active anger control.  There are some people that wouldn’t be with us today if I had not demonstrated this competency.

Calculating my time to retirement (days/weeks/hours/minutes)

Finding the right graphic for my PowerPoint deck.

Selecting the right category and dollar amount to avoid having my expense report audited.

Tactfully pointing out that the meeting is running long without adding, “because you can’t manage a damn meeting you moron!”

Creating the illusion that I care about feedback. Lots of head-nodding here.

Putting together a budget based on reality that still accounts for my manager’s bizarre pet projects.

Not reacting to the new “crisis” until I determine if it is, indeed, a crisis.

Shifting blame to a more guilty party than myself.

Minimal achievement of dress code.

Selecting the right charge code for my timesheet.

Not sacrificing productivity during a reorganization.

Pretending I care about my career, my current assignment, my company, etc.

Artful doodling when I should be paying attention.

Plotting the exotic deaths of annoying coworkers. I’ll bet if I push that laser printer out of the window when you leave – it will crush you.

Taking brilliant items and distilling them into meaningless (bland) bullet points on a PowerPoint slide.

Moving files to the right folder in Sharepoint.  I cannot express my hatred of SharePoint enough in a mere blog post.

Putting things in Excel that should never be in Excel.  Likewise working on things in Excel that should have been done in another application.

Updating my Linkedin profile so that I appear quasi-competent yet joyfully ambivalent.

Writing candid feedback for employees I barely knew, but for some reason, they requested my input. What project were we on together?

Decoding often pointless and confusing/contradictory messages from leadership.

Being responsible for my own actions.  “Not only did I do it…if given the same opportunity, I’d do it again!”

Following standards that make little sense or don’t apply to me.

Attending anniversary or farewell parties for peers I don’t like or don’t care about.

Attending team building activities after hours and not show my contempt for taking away precious hours from my private life.

Dodging douchbaggery and the douchbags that spread it.  Yes – I made up the word douchbaggery.

Succinctly summarizing and pointing out the obvious to people who would not recognize it if it kick them in the nutsack.

Rearranging my life around people who cannot use the calendaring function in Outlook, or who have no concept of different time zones and working hours.

Extinguishing fires that lesser people have set.

Resume’ updating because I feel my job is being threatened…again…still.

Stepping up to the plate rather than attempting to deflecting work.

Demonstrating more technical skills than the help desk when troubleshooting my problems.

Faking a positive attitude as my career is under siege.

Rubbing someone’s nose in their own mistake(s) without using the phrase, “I told you so.”

Providing professional consultation that is completely disregarded and/or ignored.

Going to mute on the first hint of a bark from my dog while working at home.

Fixing other people’s mistakes.

Coming up with funny nicknames for coworkers “Here comes Captain Kickback and Queen Clusterfu*k.”

Providing concise feedback on messages and communications that is completely disregarded or ignored.

Suppressing laughter at completely inappropriate moments.

Congratulating people on promotions that they clearly didn’t deserve or earn.

Attending training off-hours because “we’re global.”

Offering my professional experience and expertise and smiling while it is blatantly ignored.

Savoring the sweet drinking container filled with caffeine first thing in the morning.

Not demonstrating my outright revulsion our nausea when the annual promotion list is issued. “Are you out of your fu*king minds?”

Comprehending which stupid request can be ignored, and which ones have to be acted on immediately.

Advanced listening…especially when people are whining about how horrible this place can be at times.

Moving my more mundane and pointless work to others.

Use of perfectly timed profanity based on stakeholder audience.

Accepting blame for things my superiors screwed up or outright ignored my corrective suggestions about.

Diagnose and troubleshoot Skype connectivity issues during the first three minutes of every single damn conference call I’m on.

Digesting what is served in the guise of “lunch” in the cafeteria.

Suppression of laughter when the new person tells us how they are going to “fix all of our obvious problems.”

Taking complex technical solutions and breaking them down into things that are understandable by normal people.

Applying an ample dose of humor at just the right time to shatter tension.

Knowing when to apply a process, and when to toss it out the window.

Detection and acknowledgement of good sarcasm in the workplace.

Quick understanding of what is a real crisis and what is a made-up-blown-out-of-proportion-panic.

Demonstrating a lack of self-awareness while placing my career at risk over some corporate cause du jour.

Unwillingness to compromise my principles and values despite daily pressures to do so.

Perform minor miracles with decimated budgets, lack of manpower, and conflicting directions from leadership.

Ability to pile on in a conversation so that I appear more engaged.

stress

Did I miss any?

Anniversary of the Battle of Midway

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The Yorktown, listing badly

This year, 2017, marks the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Midway (June 4-6).  While often referred to as “the turning point of the war in the Pacific,” Midway was more than that.  It solidified a change of military doctrine on the high seas.  Gone was the era of the battleship.  Carrier warfare was what would determine the fate of the Pacific and would reshape our navy into the modern era.

Midway was one of those battles that could have, and possibly should have, gone horribly wrong for the United States.  Six months after Pearl Harbor and our only real victory against the Japanese was Doolittle’s Raid.  We were outnumbered in carriers and experience by the Japanese.  Coming out of the Battle of Coral Sea, the USS Yorktown was badly damaged. The thinking then was that she was going to take several months in drydock in the US to become operational.  The navy got her ready for battle in 72 hours, with some repair crews remaining on the ship and fixing her while at sea.

One of our best admirals, Bull Halsey, was ill.  In his place was Admiral Raymond Spruance.  Fuzzy historians (my phrase – copyright pending) like to say that he was a cruiser commander, but Spruance was well versed in carrier tactics.

The US knew the essence of the Japanese plan. Naval intelligence had broken the Japanese code and learned the basics of the plan.  Admiral Yamamoto’s Plan MI was to strike at the Aleutian Islands to lure away the Americans with a diversion there, then to attack and land troops on Midway. Doing so would lure the understrength American fleet (which he believed only consisted of two carriers, the Hornet and the Enterprise) into a battle they could not win.

Knowing the plan and achieving victory were two different things.  The Americans scouted the Japanese approaches from the air.  Midway dug in like a tick on exposed skin.  The Japanese did not fully expect the US fleet to engage them, they were expecting them to be lured off towards their diversion.

Initially the battle went badly for the American navy.  The Japanese struck at Midway, pulverizing their air defenders and bombing the island hard.  The Imperial Navy scouts spotted the American ships and the Japanese began to swap out contact bombs intended for Midway, to torpedoes to deal with the new threat.  That was when they were pounced upon.  While the Americans failed to do significant damage and suffered heavy losses, the attack threw off the Japanese plans.  As they tried to regroup, another American force, three squadrons from the Yorktown and the Enterprise, hit them again.  The battle was furious and fast, ultimately ending the day with three of the four Japanese carriers crippled or sunk. The infamous line was broadcast back to the carriers by Lieutenant Commander Robert Dixon after sinking the Shosho, “Scratch one flattop!”

The Japanese struck back, catching the Yorktown and hitting her hard – with an over 20 degree list and no working propulsion.  The Japanese thought they had sunk her.  They were wrong though.  The Yorktown was salvaged for another day of battle, though it was destined to be her last.

The next day brought about another strike by the Japanese, this time all but sinking the Yorktown (it would fall prey to a Japanese submarine after the battle. Believing they had already sunk one of the two American carriers the day before, they surmised they had taken out the last American carrier.  US Navy dive bombers took out the last Japanese carrier, forcing the invasion force to retreat.

The US had traded one carrier for four and had, in one battle, tipped the scales of the war in the Pacific.  Pearl Harbor had truly been avenged.

I first learned of this battle from Walter Lord’s book Incredible Victory.  Alan Andrews, a veteran of Vietnam on my paper route loaned me his dog-eared copy and I devoured it.

There are myths around the battle that survive to this day.  One is that the Navy War College wargamed the Battle of Midway many times over the years but was never able to duplicate the US victory.  While accepted as truth, I have not found any credible source for this story.  At the same time, it is hard to doubt it.  Midway was a rare combination of strategy, tactics, and blind luck that would be difficult to properly simulate.

To commemorate the anniversary of the battle I re-watched the 1976 movie Midway.  I wished I hadn’t.  First off, they reused (poorly) a lot of footage from Tora Tora Tora.  Then they intermixed real-life combat footage that made the battle hard to watch from a historian’s perspective.  All of the additional plot lines were unnecessary.  The only fun I had was watching Tom Selleck and Erik Estrada in early career roles in the film. It left me wondering when they would make a good version of this film, one that tells the true story, not the Hollywood dribble.

MW
While playing SPI’s War in the Pacific.  “I need an ensign to go over there to map 13 and move my carrier task force three hexes north.”

Wonder Woman – Spoiler Free Review

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Four quarts of awesome sauce

I went in to the theater filled to the brim with skepticism.  The mental trauma of Batman v. Superman had just fully healed.  On the CW, Supergirl has gone from being a good television show to being a preachy political drama, constantly thrusting the issue of illegal aliens and homosexuality in our face every week.

I was worried that in this age of political correctness, this would be a movie about women, women’s rights, women in a man’s universe.  I’m not saying those things are important, but you have to remember one thing.  Women are not the big readers of Wonder Woman in comic form.  You don’t see a comic shop packed with females.  It is male readers that kept that comic alive over the decades.  If they went down the woman-in-a-man’s-world rabbit hole, they risked alienating the true fans of Wonder Woman. Thankfully, someone at DC had half a brain and avoided making that kind of movie.

To be blunt, DC needed a hit, if only to keep the embers of hope with the upcoming Justice League movie burning.  Wonder Woman was the best part of Batman vs. Superman.  We demanded…no, desperately needed a good DC comic book movie.

Wonder Woman is that hit.

Now, I’m a WWI historian and I could easily go off on a rant on the inaccuracies in the film; I’m entitled to do that.  I won’t, because in the end they don’t matter.  This was a solid movie with a good plot and fantastic performances from Gal Gadot and Chris Pine.  I feared it would be a thinly veiled rip-off of Captain America, The First Avenger.  You have to admit, the potential for that was there.  Fess up.  You thought it too.  DC dodged that shot as easily as Wonder Woman deflects machinegun fire.

This was a story built on solid characters and a good story line.  It was not driven by CGI or special effects, but on the evolution of the characters.

DC finally gave us a movie in their new rendition of their universe that met, if not exceeded expectations.  I give it four-point-five out of five stars.  (The WWI historian in me held back that half star, just to be a douchebag.)  The only thing lacking in the film that prevented it from being perfect was no cameo from Linda Carter.  What were you guys thinking?  She had to appear, if only in the background.  Doh!