The Worthless Lessons I’ve Learned From Star Trek – Or Why I Would Never Beam Down Anywhere

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Let’s face it, we all have put on the red shirt at one time or another

A while ago I wrote a blog post on the leadership lessons I got from Star Trek  The Leadership Lessons of Star Trek I wanted to do a blog post at one time about the practical lessons you learn from watching Star Trek.  In other words, by watching Star Trek, what life lessons do you gain – mostly from a cynical perspective.

Let me begin by saying I’m a huge Star Trek fan.  By the same token, there’s some stuff that really drives me nuts about the universe.  When you objectively look at some things you notice as trends in the IP (Intellectual Property) you cringe a little. I know this is sacralidge with my fellow Trekkers, but let’s be real – some things DO seem odd.  These are things I’ve learned from my observations of the TV series and movies:

Most alien races are dangerous, evil, and should be attacked immediately.  Obnoxiously, most aliens that are encountered are not benign or even friendly. It is best to shoot first, negotiate treaties later.  Most of Deep Space Nine could have been resolved with a nuke-the-site-from-orbit-first approach.

The Prime Directive is hopelessly flawed and often ignored.  The Prime Directive is like the speed limit.  It’s a law, but everyone disregards it.  And frankly, it’s a douchebag law.  So the Federation has all of this technology and knowledge and does not share it with less advanced cultures.  Why?  What’s so great about them evolving naturally?  Remember, the Federation had outside influence of the Vulcans and that turned out okay, but they deny other cultures that same opportunity.  Seems pretty sleazy to me.  Killing the Prime Directive would have made Star Trek Voyager far more entertaining.  Only the Q seem to get it – they interfere in a big way.  The Klingon’s aren’t burdened with the Prime Directive and are just as powerful as the Federation – implying you really don’t get a lot out of having a Prime Directive.

All members of any alien race all act and behave the same.  All Romulans are all schemers.  There are no snowflake Klingons.  Only humankind (and the Ferengi) has any variation as a race.  So what’s with that?  There should be some redneck Romulans or some gangsta Klingons don’t you think?

All aliens speak the same language.  I’ve been to places in my own country where I cannot understand the language being spoken, but in space, it’s all generic.  Don’t whine about “universal translators” to me either.  There should be at least some different accents.  A little Creole Klingon would be cool – kinda like Swamp People meets American Ninja Warriors.

Mankind moving beyond the need for monetary gain, is still pretty much a bunch of egotistical, power-hungry asshats.  The Federation has removed money as a motivator, implying of course it is evil.  What has it gained?  Nothing.  The Federation has a number of corrupt leaders out after power.

A lot of the worlds we see in the franchise wouldn’t be worth visiting.  There’s a lot rocks and scrub brush, but few really beautiful places.  Most planets that we see on screen rate right up there with a tour of Death Valley.

With hundreds of worlds and seemingly endless resources, all governments are interested in securing more territory – more planets.  Why?  How many Class M worlds do you freaking need?  Is overpopulation an issue?  After the first dozen, why not say, “We’re cool.”  You could stop exploring, which we have seen is inherently dangerous, and focus on domestic programs.  Exploration equates to death in Star Trek, ask anyone wearing a red shirt…oh right, you can’t – they’re all dead!  Exploration brings on encounters with hostile races and apparently adds very little to your civilization.

The future lacks cars, tanks, boats, etc.  In a universe built on voyages, nobody has personal vehicles – only starships.  That seems, well, impractical.

Why would you ever beam down to anywhere?  It seems that with transporters and communications systems, it is much safer to just never go down to another planet.  The start of everything bad in the Star Trek universe begins with someone beaming down to some planet, ask any red shirt.  As we’ve seen, when you beam down you will be killed, accused of crimes you didn’t commit, kidnapped, tortured, killed, get sucked into a war, involved in a terrorist attack, lose your memory, get killed, get a deadly disease, get chased, travel in time, get poisoned, fall in love and have her die, get forced into an archeological dig, and get killed.  (I know I mentioned killed a lot, there’s a reason for that.)  The only reason you need a doctor on your ship at all is if you beam down.  Stay aboard the ship and call it in.

Technology causes more problems than it solves.  Star Trek has taught us that many of the hazards of space travel are caused by the technology.  The transporters is the worst.  I mean seriously, would anyone use one of these things given their unreliability and casual breaches between universes?  The stuff that technology does resolve in an episode is usually caused by technology in some way.  It’s as if there’s still a Microsoft in the 23rd century, forcing reboots of starships every so often.  Worse yet, technology is often the villain – i.e. the Borg.

While we’re on the subject of technology, aside from cloaking devices and quantum torpedoes, there is no new technological advancement in decades of the Star Trek universe.  Sure tricorders got 22% smaller, big whoop.  We had a genesis device that could make entire planets (which was awesome), but that supposedly just got locked away and forgotten.  Ships pretty much look the same and do the same things after decades of the series.

Starships are complicated and control panels are dangerously explosive.  The interface controls for starships is all buttons and touchpad controls.  Lots of buttons and controls that require physical interaction.  Wow.  That’s what we have now.  So you’re limited to the speed of human reaction.  In reality, interfaces would be massively simplified – even aboard something as complex and big as a starship by the 23rd century.  You should be able to drive a starship with your iPad.  On top of their complexity, in battle, these control stations explode.  It is probably just me, but that does not seem people friendly in their design.

The governments of the Star Trek universe are pretty stagnant.  Despite all of the wars in Star Trek, only the Cardassians ever really got their assess whipped, and they totally deserved it.

No one uses camouflage in space.  Why have a gray-white starship?  Wouldn’t it be harder to hit if it was, I don’t know, black?

The same thing with uniforms.  Oh, you’ve made it easy for me to identify and target your command staff by the color of their uniforms…thanks! And no pockets except for Star Trek: Enterprise.  These polyester unitard uniforms really seem too tight to be comfortable.

Time travel has been cracked, but almost nobody abuses it.  Assuming there is some parity between the governments in the known universe, only the Borg have said, “Screw it, let’s go back in the past and mess things up.”  For me, that would be my opening move the minute everything started to go wrong in an episode.  Apparently you can travel in time in any old starship, even a Klingon Bird of Prey loaded with two whales, but nobody does it.

Starfleet operations does a crappy job of assigning ships.  There’s far too much of this, “we’re the only ship in the quadrant,” BS.  Even a cop rolling up on a suspicious vehicle does so with backup.  It’s like StarFleet subcontracted United Airlines to arrange their flight schedules.  In Star Trek that concept seems to be lost on StarFleet Command.

Mankind is the superior race in the Federation…no alien race has actually elevated the Federation more than man.  Any substantive race in Star Trek is considered evil.  The Borg, who merely want efficiency and equality are bad.  The Klingons who favor a martial tradition are bad  The Romulans are all bad too.  Don’t even get me started on the Cardassians.  Only those races that are subjective to mankind (example:  Vulcans) are considered good.

Despite StarFleet, despite the technology, Earth and other words are virtually defenseless.  Oddly the only world that had a real defense was Cardassia and we all saw how that ended.

None of the real old civilizations survived.  There’s hints of other older civilizations that sounded pretty cool, but they all die out.  It’s as if the Mayans were trendsetters in the universe. The older civilizations and races just freaking disappear.

Every starship travels on the same plane of flight.  When ships meet in space, they are not askew but always appear to be flying on the same invisible plane.  Space, the last time I checked, is three dimensional.  (I double-checked – yes, it still is!)

No one is fat in the future (except Harry Mudd).  If you had replicators that could make anything, you’d be eating a lot of foods I’d think.

Somehow human names like Romulus and Remus are adopted and used by alien races long before contact with mankind.  That should raise a few eyebrows.  We certainly didn’t name things after the Klingons – BEFORE WE KNEW THEY EXISTED.

The only redeeming race is the Ferengi.  That’s right.  They run casinos and bars, have dancing girls, holosuites, you name it.  Humans are boring in Star Trek.  You want to have fun – it’s with the Ferengi.

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This reminds me of a motivational poster I saw in the office.  

I know the true-believers out there will tear me apart for this…I get it.  Star Trek is sacred to most of us.  But everyone should question their faith – in a TV series – every now and then.

Review – HBO Documentary Beware the Slenderman

slenderman
When urban legend becomes folklore becomes murder attempt

This HBO documentary is compelling, chilling, disturbing and frightening all at the same time.  We’ve probably all heard about the case – two young girls who attacked and nearly killed a friend of theirs because of a fictitious character on the internet called Slenderman. 

As a true crime writer, I knew that the media only marginally was telling the story…and I was right.  This documentary is not just about the crime, it is about how some urban legend takes becomes folklore that is trusted and believed.  I was familiar with this phenomena, having written a book on the Scottish cannibal, Sawney Bean.  Slenderman doesn’t exist, but thanks to the internet and Photoshop, this mythical strange tall kidnapper of children has developed a near cult-like following. 

This is a story of two quite normal young girls that get caught up in the stories about the Slenderman and believe they must kill their friend to prove themselves worthy of him.  Separately, they are seemingly normal kids.  Together, they became a single killer. There are elements here that harken back to Capote’s In Cold Blood

You may be quick to blame the parents for letting them on the web sites, but when you watch the show you come to realize that these were not negligent parents.  They simply had no idea of the power of images and words might have over their daughters. 

The filming of this documentary is outstanding.  If you watch Killing Fields on Discovery, you will get the same vibe here – lots of drone shots and angles of neighborhoods that cast a sinister shadow and add to the ambiance.  The use of the interrogation footage of the two would-be murderers is creepy all on its own.  One girl was more concerned about the distance she had walked before her capture rather than what she had done to her friend. The victim had been stabbed 19 times.  It’s gut wrenching and you can’t shut it off because it is so well done.    

This documentary is not the complete story – the victim and her family did not participate in the filming – for obvious reasons.  It is complete enough though….so much that you will never let your kids onto the internet again.  That cannot be a bad thing.  Some of the footage is so disturbing and captivating that you come through the viewing emotionally wrung out. 

While the Slenderman is digital folklore, his impact in our reality is quite tangible…and chilling.  I give this a solid five of five stars.  Kudos HBO!

Coping with a Reorganization – A Quick Guide

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I think I can see the new org chart from here…

Over the decades I’ve become something of an expert on reorganizations.  One, I’ve been in information technology and IT departments LOVE to reorganize.  Sometimes it’s driven by the technologies, sometimes by geography, other times the whims of some madman in leadership who truly believes that the problems are rooted in the org structure (oh you silly leader!) I have a master’s in HR with an emphasis on org design, so I’m often the person that gets pulled in to offer counsel on organization structures.  I’m not saying they always listen to me, but I do get asked which makes me feel good.

Another thing that makes me a relative expert is that I have “survived” roughly 216 1/2 reorganizations in my illustrious career.  “Survived” is a relative term here.  Reorgs have provided me with countless new managers over the years, new career paths (none of which I asked for) and a plethora of angst, a mountain of anguish, insurmountable pain, numerous sleepless nights, and suffering that has left me with a strange facial tick.

Reorganizations are a part of life under the Corporate Overlords.  While painful and time consuming, it is often easier for them than actually fixing the problems their teams struggle with.  Rather than fix it – you make it someone else’s problem.  Issue resolved, right? It doesn’t matter where you work, reorgs are part of the DNA of organizations now.  They can create the illusion of progress while at the same time waste countless hours of productivity and torpedo morale. Even when they have positive outcomes, the process itself is inherently stressful.

As a war-weary correspondent from the reorg-front lines, I offer you the following do’s and don’ts.  I cannot say I always follow my own advice – I am merely human after all. In general, however I DO adhere to these concepts.

What to do:

You have to figure out what is driving the reorganization.  The biggest indicator of how a reorg may play out is the justification that is presented.  Why is this reorg happening in the first place? Is this a cost cutting effort or is the shuffle designed to streamline operations?  Understand that and you may get a good idea of what the future-state structure might look like or alleviate some fears you might have.

Focus on the behaviors you wish to project to the people making decisions.  The short version:  Do your job and do it well.  Nobody wants to be near Sister Stressy.

Support your people.  Yes, you are nervous.  Your team can sense that.  You need to keep them focused and as calm as possible.  You’ll be tempted to not talk about the reorg, but this is a time when you need to engage with your people more than ever.  Be an awesome manager.  Even if you have no idea what is happening, listen to your people and give them time to vent then relax.

Just because your manager is freaking out – doesn’t mean you should. When it comes to reorgs, there are people that are in-the-know, people who don’t know what’s happening, and those that think they are in-the-know and are wetting their beds at night in full panic-mode.  Your manager may have no idea what is going on, so don’t get caught up in their drama.

Tune out the rumors. Every little tension is magnified during a reorg.  People talk and, well, make things up.  Don’t play into the rumor-mill.  Rumors consume time, ratchet-up tension, and divert you from doing things you should be doing.  Better yet, kill the rumors entirely.

Listen.  Listen to your staff, your leaders, just listen.  You will learn more than you think if you simply pay attention and process what you hear.

Remain professional. Assuming you were professional when all of this started…stay the course.  Think about the kind of image you want to project and fake that…fake it hard.

Update your resume’.  This is more psychological than anything else.  It is 50% about being prepared, should the reorg go poorly for you.  The other 50% is that it IS something that you can do, something you have control over.  Take the time to update your CV.

Make sure your manager knows what kinds of opportunities you might be interested in. Reorgs are not all negative.  Many offer new possibilities, new roles, new departments.  Take the time to make sure your manager knows what skills you have and things to be on the lookout for, should opportunities present themselves.

Watch job openings.  This is a little trick of mine that works.  If a reorganization requires new positions, they will sometimes be posted before the formal org chart announcement is made.  I have found that monitoring the job postings for your company can give you some insights as to what might be going on.

Remember, unless they ask for it, no one cares about your little opinion.  Trust me, with my ego, I have an opinion on almost everything. That doesn’t mean I need to share those with leadership in hopes that it will guide their decisions.  In fact, it almost always plays out as a negative when you forced your opinions on them unsolicited.

Trust in what is real. Unless you hear about it officially, it is likely speculation and guesswork. If you get a real “official” org chart or message about the change, well, that’s real and pay attention to it.

Network with your friends to make sure they are not melting down.  This is a good time to be a good colleague.  Help your friends keep an even keel.

Keep in mind that this is not personal, it only impacts you that way.

 

What not to do:

Let the reorganization overpower your performance.  Fretting and wringing your hands is not helping.  Focus on your work, not letting your imagination crank-up your panic levels.

Draw unnecessary attention to yourself.  This is not the time to showboat or flaunt your successes.  It is also a good time to not screw something up.

Overreact.  Just like the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy says:  Don’t Panic. It upsets your staff when you curl up in a fetal position on a video conference call.  This is a time to remain level-headed and demonstrate that you have things under control.  Corollary to this:  Don’t whine.  No one likes the whiner.

Try to read between the lines in communications.  There’s no hidden clues.  I have watched people tear apart a communication about a reorg, attempting to see if there is some coded message that tells what leadership is thinking.  Trust me, your senior leaders are not smart enough to hide clever Easter Eggs in their emails to telegraph their intentions with a reorganization.

Try to force your way into the process.  “I’m going to call up so-and-so and let them know how I think this should be handled.”  Yeah, that’s a horrible idea.  Even if you have a legitimate reason to need to know the results of a reorg, the leaders often cringe when you try and force your way into the room.  A corollary to this:  Don’t demand anything from leadership.  Ultimatums are a definite no-no during a reorg.  You are in a position to demand nothing when it comes to a reorganization effort.

Turn on your colleagues.  We’ve all seen it before.  It’s the corporate equivalent of the film Gladiator when its reorg time.  Managers turn on each other in some bizarre thought that this is battle to the death, complete with Star Trek fight music for a background.  It’s not.  You don’ t make yourself more desirable by slamming your peers.  You only come across as a douchebag.

Change your personal plans.  “Maybe I should cancel my planned vacation.”  Here’s the deal, the reorg will happen if you are there or on the beach or in a hospital bed.  Often times there are delays etc., so trying to guess when exact word will come from on-high down about the results of a reorg is at best, an inexact science.

Try and get ahead of the reorg effort.  I had a manager who thought he understood what a looming reorg was and tried to beat it to the punch, restructuring our team according to his “vision.”  The result – he was wrong – and we ended up reorging twice as a result.  There’s only one thing that sucks more than one reorg…and that’s two reorgs.  Don’t be that guy/gal.

Job hop to avoid the change.  Unless you know for absolute assurance that you are going to be negatively impacted by a reorg, don’t try and jump ship.  Making a job change because of fear is a bad thing to do…if that is your prime motivator.  Not matter what assurances you may think exist, you could be taking on a new role only to get reorganized anyway…at that point lacking the experience in-job to help solidify your position.

Rewrite your job descriptions.  Some reorganizations are top-down driven.  They start with the senior leadership structure and work downward.  More rare reorgs are bottom-up, looking at what roles are needed and where at the grass roots level.  Rewriting your job descriptions to try and position your staff one way or another is often a waste of time, especially if the effort is top down.  Don’t try and beat the system here…it is often seen for what it is, cheating.

Gossip or guess.  Spreading potential misinformation can work against you if the wrong people find out.  Don’t be part of a chain.  Listen?  Yes.  Spread gossip?  No.

Hire non-essential people.  Hiring someone in and then telling them three weeks later that their job and reporting structure may be changing is just plain mean.  At minimum, anyone you’re hiring in needs to know that the department is being reorged so they can factor that into their decision.  Think of it this way – would you like to know the situation before you had to make a decision?  There you go.

Dig your heels in.  Resistance to change is natural, expected, fruitless, stressful and a waste of energy.  No single employee has ever successfully derailed a reorg effort, so trying is just frustrating for you.  There’s always a lot of reasons to not change, but that doesn’t mean that the change is going to stop.  The concept that you are mounting some sort of gallant resistance effort against the will of the Corporate Overlords plays well in your head and havoc with your career.  You will not wear down the will of the organization to bend to your way of thinking.  The sooner you try and adapt and demonstrate your willingness to accept change, the better things will be.

Now, if you need some chuckles during this entire process – I recommend the following links:

The Resume’ We All Wish We’d Written

Funny Job Titles

Humorous Org Structure

or you can check out my book – Business Rules – the Cynic’s Guidebook to the Corporate Overlords. 

 

Review of Bolt Action Konflikt ‘47

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Yeah, this is subtle…

I got a chance to play this at GenCon when it was released and liked the look of the game, though the core is Bolt Action.  In fact, this hardcover rules book at $40.00 IS Bolt Action, with a few additions.  Konflikt ’47 is a low-tech sci-fi game set in the late 1940’s with a healthy dose of FFG’s Tannhauser game, more than a lifting of Dust Tactics walkers, and a bit of a steampunkish feel.

So how has the world changed?  When the US set off its first test of an atomic bomb it opened a rift in space-time.  The rift energy provides incredible power, allowing for new technologies, and the corruption of others.  WWII is altered dramatically as the powers start leveraging the rift-tech.  D-Day happens but the Germans are able to hold the line at their border after bitter fighting.  Likewise the Soviet steamroller is bled heavily.  The governments begin to field walkers – (BattleMechs) and powered infantry armored suits.  Germany taps this rift power to create zombies, werewolves, etc.  Japan turns the die in the Pacific and still holds a vast empire.  Alliances fracture…and the war continues.  It takes 20+ pages to give you that background in the book – but you get the idea.

This game is Bolt Action, which is both good and bad.  Good in that it is a proven game system.  Bad in that I am offended that I had to buy a whole new rules book when this could have been a much less expensive supplement with the differences.

What’s new? Well weapons-wise is where you get the bulk of the new stuff.  Super-bazookas, rifle grenades, M17 Tesla Cannon, Zvkovoy Proyektors, Schwerefeld Projektor.  You have heavily armored infantry, though the British armor looks almost like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz. Zvukovoy Proyektors are sonic weapons.  Schwerefeld Projektor’s crush targets by manipulating gravity.  Tesla weapons are just what you think they are.

Both sides field walkers which are pretty cool to look at. Then again they look painfully similar to Dust machines.

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There are some rules changes beyond the new weapons systems. You now have a reaction to Escape! Which allows you to run to get out of a battle.  There’s also a Firefight reaction that allows a fighting response.  You have an option to Run to Cover too – which is nice.  There is an Ambush reaction too, which is good.  But honestly, these addendum’s to the rules should apply to Bolt Action as well.  (They may be in the new updated rules, I haven’t purchased them to find out).

Thanks to DNA splicing and rift energy there are new kinds of units with special rules.  Tooth and Claw for German and Soviet animal/human hybrids.  Large Infantry, the beefed up power armor.  Flight – jetpack-ish troops.  Fast – for genetically manipulated troops.  Infrared-Vision rules kick in as does super Strong troops and Horrors – which strike fear in their enemies.

The rules for walkers makes them feel like a variant of tanks.  I think the Warlord Games group missed a chance here to make them different, more ‘Mech-like.  As they are, while they look cool, they are just tanks with legs.

The cool part, you can use your Bolt Action miniatures with Konflikt ’47.  That’s a plus, but since you have to purchase a whole new rules book, it is little benefit.

I give the game overall a four out of five stars.  Interesting concept – far too close to Dust to avoid the comparisons.  This should have been made as a supplement and a standalone rules set.


 

Office Humor – The Resume’ We All Wish We’d Written

jimh
Best Employee Ever

I recently updated my resume’ for the 432nd time in my career.  I do it from time-to-time, just so that it is fresh.  I believe in being prepared at any moment for a new opportunity.

As I finished the task, I started thinking, wouldn’t it be funny to put together a “real world” resume’ that describes jobs as many of them really are?  It would have to be snarky and mostly agnostic to any industry or business.

This is the result.  This is pure fiction – not based at all on my real-world experiences or employers.  Stop trying to read into this – it’s just a bit of creative exercise on my part. It is designed not to slam any particular organization but to offer you all a chuckle or two while activating my humor-oriented brain cells…nothing more.

 Wild “Buck” Pardoe

1313 Mockingbird Lane
Hooterville, Virginia 20106
555-555-1212  (please ring twice, hang up, then call back)
Emails:  corporateoverlords@gmail.com
Sellingflowersontheexitramp@aol.com

Career Goals: 

A little late for that, don’t you think?  I’m 54 – the  USS Career Goals set sail a long time ago.  Let me worry about that shit – okay?  Just be thankful I’m applying.

Core Attributes:

  • A complete willingness to sell out my few battered remaining principles (not values) to remain gainfully employed.
  • A marginal and often offensive sense of humor which endears me to co-workers of the same ilk and makes me the bane of upper management.
  • An innate ability to detect workplace bullshit and point it out for others amusement and entertainment.
  • A solid understanding of the accounting principles behind and the current balance of my 401K account.

2001 – Present  Position:  Artful Dodger

In this capacity, per my manager, I was responsible for:

  • Getting my manager promoted at the expense of my own dwindling career aspirations.
  • Covering up senior leadership failures, shortcomings, and outright blunders.
  • Producing PowerPoint decks describing the work I wasn’t actually doing because I was busy producing PowerPoint slides.
  • Offer tacit, usually convincing agreement to any lame idea that management put forth.

In my role I successfully create the illusion of offering value to the organization, whilst maintaining a low enough profile to avoid the random waves of layoffs, rightsizings, redistribution of staff, staffing/operating model alterations, or other excuses to reduce the workforce. I was the survivor/victim of eight reorganizations, seven-ish indiscriminate managers forced to take me on, and 48 random changes in strategic direction – all of which I handled with the bare minimum of professionalism and above average cynicism.  The fact that I actually got work down during this period speaks well for my ability to tune out rhetoric/distractions and the strength and effectiveness of the medications that I am on for chronic depression.

I recently honed my leadership skills playing Call of Duty 4, which I treated as meeting the organization’s “required online training” annual goal.  I consumed copious amounts of caffeine and food stolen leftovers from office lunch meetings as my primary means of subsidence during the workday.  My teaming skills were best demonstrated during this period of my career when my Dungeons & Dragons party killed Vorloff, an ancient red dragon, which as you all know is no small feat for sixth level characters, especially a party that was short of a cleric.  I believe these skills carried me well at work as I often am called upon to slay ancient ridiculous ideas.

My competency in meeting attendance and generating the impression that I care about the subject matter is unparalleled.  I am often seen as contributing to the topic at hand when in reality I am often simply restating what someone else has already said.

In the last year along I was chucked under the bus on six projects for pointing out that the lack of sponsorship, leadership, and common sense.   As such I have gained new perspectives on scapegoating and deflecting blame which I believe is grooming me for future success. I have also learned the intricacies of bus transmission systems – so I have that going for me.

I work well under pressure, which is more of a survival tactic than a true business skill.  I have demonstrated an ability in forming teams of peers in cooperative/collaborative work groups; mostly so we can share our mutual misery and gripe about our lack of opportunities and personal growth.  We have formed a shadow-organization (we call ourselves the Legion of Doom) in our department, ensuring that information is shared between teams and that quality is maintained, mostly because the formal communication channels and leaders are so horribly broken, it was necessary.  We essentially are running the entire department under the radar or knowledge of management.  As such we are secretly “keeping the lights on” in our organization, despite the efforts of leadership to hamstring our efforts.  Our determination to keep things operating speaks to the fact that management has not yet fully shattered our souls, spirits, and dreams.  We call that, “Winning!”

Clearly I am one of the smartest individuals on most of the teams I work on but that is only in comparison to my peers and their general level of apathy.  Another perspective on this:  Our recruiting techniques leave a great deal to be desired. Being perceived as more intelligent than average has proven to be a strong asset and useful in preventing my career from advancing.

I have recently learned how to deflect my own personal failings onto others, which has streamlined project reporting by 46.8%.  I have also learned the importance of generating random data points (such as the percentage above) to create the impression that I have actually calculated things out precisely.   You bought it – right?

Delegating the majority of my work and a general cynical perspective is also a suite of activities that I openly embrace and have perfected.

My communications skills are on-par with anyone that has been wearing a straightjacket and confined to a padded cell (cubicle) for the last 15 years.  My power to lace my messages with ISA’s (Important Sounding Acronyms) creates a sense of comfort with many managers in the department.

I work on global teams meaning I’m expected to take meetings at bizarre, often inhuman times and smile while doing it.  I not only must interpret what others are saying in six different languages, but I have to fake caring for the same.

I bring this, “please don’t smother me in my sleep” attitude to your new opportunity!

1995-2001   Position: Target of Mid-Level Management Abuse

Assembled and led numerous teams composed of contributors with marginal interpersonal skills, weak communications competencies, non-existent leadership skills, questionable technical abilities, and incredibly (some astronomically) large egos.  Some individuals I teamed with were not only fugitives from the law of averages, but they lacked an understanding of basic physics or the ability to count above the number ten.  While I managed these interpersonal challenges, I also coordinated an abnormal number of budget cuts, weekly changing priorities, and scope-creep which was so monumental that it was deserving of some sort of award.

In this capacity, I also suffered the slings and arrows of leadership’s abuse for not delivering on time, despite all of the factors outlined above.  The fact that I am still alive today is testament to my recollection of where the bodies are buried.

In this role, I organized the confused; aligned the diverse; educated the ignorant; calmed the irrational; covered for the incompetent; baffled the leaders; exceeded the unreasonable; navigated the confusing; quelled a tempest-level-shitstorm of frustration; led the brain-damaged; diffused the frustrated;  and documented progress where it didn’t exist.  I am pleased to say I earned a solid three-out-of-five performance rating (Meets Expectations!) of which, I am exceedingly proud.  To say that this provided me with an exceeding amount of motivation would be an understatement.

I traveled on business trips to such exciting locales as Cleveland, Ohio in the winter and Newark, New Jersey in the summer.  While peers padded their frequent flyer and credit card point accounts I simply longed to return home.  I participated in numerous after-hours, mandatory teaming events.  These were highly useful in identifying the boot-lickers in the department and I became adept at pretending these events were “fun.”

While performing these duties my “teams” successfully implemented obsolete technology, marketing it as “bleeding edge” stuff to our end-users.  My willingness to subscribe to this blatant lie while totally selling out my professional principles clearly put me on the leadership path in my career. I have so adopted this lack-of-spine-state that I no longer can discern between reality and fiction…which has served me well over the years.  I also developed the competency of identifying both smoke and mirrors in other’s representations of their work.

Thank God I discovered social media during this stage of my life as it occupies a great deal of my thinking during the day.  I post under several different identities just to confuse our information security department.

Summary:   I saw this as my “deconstruction” years of my career.

1990-1995  Position:  Idealistic/Foolish Dreamer

When I started here, I cared. Then things changed, about an hour after employee orientation. Our organization’s motto should have been a clue:  “Give us six months and we will devour your mortal soul.”

In this role my responsibilities included, but were not limited to:  Attending meetings for which I had no idea why I was there; listening to my manager rant about how stupid her manager was; having my job change six times in the first two years for absolutely no reason; and watched as others who were not able to tie their own shoes were skyrocketed above me because of their skills at kissing ass.  This was an enlightening experience that prepared me for a mid-level management position…just enough authority to be dangerous, all of the responsibility, but none of the authority.

While lesser people might have packed their bags and quit, I developed a “Can-do!” attitude.  Once leadership took note of that I was appropriately disciplined and ordered to replace “Can-do!” with “Shut-the-fuck-up-and-suck-it-up!”  This completed my management orientation period and made me feel as if I had sold my soul for a bi-weekly paycheck.  I would feel guilty about it if not for the scars that I have earned.

I became a harvester of other people’s bad decisions, though in fairness, most of these decisions were simply dumped on my desk to resolve.  I innovated several reporting dashboards that upper management demands on a weekly basis but has not used actual data in the last two years.  I consider this part of my “innovation” skill-suite.

Hobbies and Interests:

I am currently am exploring taking up chronic alcoholism and am working to get my name on the Do Not Fly List so I no longer have to do business travel to exciting locations such as Newark, New Jersey or Cleveland, Ohio.  Several people recently have asked, “Are you smoking crack?” so I am also considering taking that up as well.

Based on a documentary I watched called Breaking Bad, I believe I might start up my own meth-lab.  It has to be safer than working in my current role – and potentially more rewarding.  If that doesn’t work, I hope to be the subject of a Netflix Documentary, “Workplace Shooter – the Buck Pardoe Story.”

Thanks to my career, I have become proficient at cutting myself; making shanks in my spare time; and taking up amateur tattooing.

I am also a semi-pro astronaut, a licensed walrus castrator, and a notary.

Willing to Relocate!

Review of Hidden Figures

hidden-figures

I love a good story, great characters, and something based on true events.  Hidden Figures had all of that and much more.

This the story of three women of color, working at NASA in Langley Virginia at the start of the US/Russian Space Race.  The story is not just about getting a man in orbit, but of the struggles and obstacles that these brave women had to face and overcome.

In honesty I was worried I wouldn’t enjoy the film – that it would be too preachy and be about race more than character.  I was wrong – dead wrong.  This film is about the indomitable character of these three incredible women.   Race is an issue, from the opening scene on, but these women are trailblazers in a very different and endearing manner.

Interestingly enough this was a good history film, blending science, technology and historical context.  As an IT person, I remember programming with punch cards when I worked for the DoD.  It is stunning to think we put a man in space with less technology than most of us carry in our pockets on a daily basis.

These are exactly the kind of stories that need to be told.  I felt a bit ashamed at seeing Virginia during segregation but the film didn’t force that issue.  It did with style and grace.  This is not as much a film about race as it about the emerging role of women as well.

I found the acting superb.  The story of Mary Jackson, the fledgling engineer, was fantastic and a credit to Janelle Monáe.  Her court scene was inspiring.  Kevin Costner was solid as well, but this was not about the men – it’s all about the women.  Even the soundtrack was well chosen.

This is a film chocked full of visual metaphors.  My favorite was near the end of the movie when the young white male was sent to run the 1/2 mile across Langley to track down one of the women.  We see that trek throughout the movie but it never seemed longer than it did in that scene.  It was a perfect piece of writing and directing.

The audience we had applauded at the end of the film – if that is any indication of how good of a film this is.  I have to give this five out of five stars.

RPG Humor – Famous Last Words

tpk

I remember seeing some lists out there years ago, so I thought a fresh perspective might be in order.  This applies to a wide range of role playing games (with an emphasis on fantasy games) and is provided solely to give you a chuckle.  I didn’t cheat and look at the old lists out there, so any similarities are coincidental.

He’s got to be out of offensive spells at this point.  Let’s rush him!

He’s probably only got a few more hit points.

No, I’m not familiar with a polymorph spell.  What does it do to me?

They will never expect us to come at them from this angle.

We can survive in a vacuum long enough to pull it off.

They’ll never see us coming.

That dragon is bluffing.

Don’t worry – we’re well out of range of their (fireballs, catapults, arrows, trebuchet, ballista, machineguns, BattleMechs, lightning bolts, spears, lasers, missiles, etc.)

We have them right where we want them.

Ignore them, it’s a diversionary attack.

Gas?  No problem – we’ll just hold our breath as we fight.

The only thing these guys understand is brute force.

If we run fast enough through the fire it should minimize the damage.

Let’s pile all of the ammo crates in one spot, real close to our position.

Liches are not nearly as tough as you might think.

If we rush them, they can’t possibly hit all of us.

I don’t know what this wand does, but we’re about to find out!

I thought you said it was just a bunch of farmers in this village?

Freeze.  If we don’t make a sound or move, they’ll go right on by us.

We’ve got to win…we’re the good guys.

Don’t worry, it can’t get any worse than this.

What do you mean, “That’s no moon…?”

I’m only a little bit on fire…

Why yes, I give that lever a good hard yank.

(To the enemy) I dare you to use that wand again!

He’s not so tough now…wait…what do you mean he stands up and starts grinning?

We’ve taken out all of their heavy hitters.

He’s just a tiny dragon.

I disbelieve!

What do you mean it’s no longer in my backpack?  Where did it go?

Those are just statues – not everything is a golem.

We’ll let them have the first shot, just to show them what badasses we are.

For the record, they started it…

I’m out of arrows…I didn’t know you were keeping track.

I moon them Braveheart-style.

I get a running start and jump the pit/gap/chasm.

I wonder what this rope is attached to?  (Tug)

I spit in Zeus’ face to show him I’m not afraid.

We have them surrounded – so why are they laughing?

As long as they don’t have a magic user, we should be safe here.

It’s storming?  I move under the tall tree for shelter.

You’ll never take us alive!

I bitch-slap the head of the Thieves Guild, just to get my point across.

We don’t have time to make the light speed calculations — punch it!

I wonder what that whooshing sound is?

I take off my armor to intimidate them and show them I am not afraid.

I kill our hostage – that should prove we were serious.

No, I didn’t take off my armor before I jumped in…why?

I never would have set it on fire if I’d known that was the only exit!

The dragon’s asleep?  This is going to be a cake walk.

What do you mean ‘that’s the controls to the airlock?’

Owlbear?  That sounds more cuddly than dangerous.  How tough could that be?

I drink all of the unmarked potion – what happens?

It’s just fog guys.

Don’t waste your time burning those trolls – we need to see what is in their den.

What do you mean I don’t see the pin on the grenade?

I’m not going to waste time checking for traps.

We can relax, this room is secure.

(To the DM)  Blah, blah, blah.  Skip the flavor text and start rolling some dice.  Daddy needs the EP’s…

I look that Medusa right in the eye and I tell her…

Who was watching the horses?  Where is he?  Where are they?

I thought you were keeping the map so we could find our way out!

No problem – I’m invisible.

It’s probably a bad time to remind you that I was against this idea.

That has to be an illusion.

(To the DM) No, I’m not familiar with Greek Fire.  Why?

What do you mean he shrugs off my 18 points of damage and winks at me?

When you say the cave floor is moist and squishy, what exactly do you mean?

The only way I can miss is if I roll a one.

Watch out for that crossfire!

They’re not fooling me with that diversion.  We stand our ground here.

Guys, this probably is a good time to point out that we apparently are standing on a pentagram.

Kevlar stops everything – right?

For this plan to work, I need a volunteer to act as bait…

(To the DM)  Did you say thirty orcs?  I thought you said thirteen.

Where’s that guy we just killed?

I smash the dragon’s eggs.  How does that leather-winged bitch react to that?

I make a run between the giant’s legs.

When you say I detect a trap everywhere…what do you mean by ‘everywhere?’

What kind of a sick bastard fills a pit with acid?

Why are you handing me a blank character sheet?  You haven’t even rolled for the damage yet.

Of course I’m reading the scroll out loud.

What do you mean my sword is missing?

Split up – they can’t possibly follow all of us.

I swear to God I didn’t know those things could fly like that.

I just start randomly pushing buttons – does anything happen?

Why do you want to know if I have swimming as a skill?

Liche?  No problem, I can turn the undead.

Quick mix all of the potions together and drink them.  It’s do or die time!

Did their captain just yell, “Leave no one alive?”

I’ve got a 17 charisma, so I naturally put the moves on the princess…

I saw this once in a Roadrunner cartoon…we can do this…

There’s five of us and one of him…this should be easy.

How was I supposed to know she was married/intended as a virgin sacrifice/possessed by a demon?

I wonder why they are all chanting?

We run across the rope suspension bridge to get away.

Don’t worry, we’re safe here in this keep.

We can do this, I saw this scene in (Insert movie or TV show)

We torch the forest/town/tavern/castle – that should get their attention.

I climb into the catapult and give the signal…

What do you mean fireball’s expand?

This is usually the part where they break and run…but this time they’re not.  Hmm…

You’re darned right I refuse to bow down to the king.  I didn’t get to fifth level by being a wuss.

If we don’t move, they’ll never spot us.

I’m hearing his voice inside my head?  That can’t be good.

Yes I AM trying to jump wearing full armor.  Why are you looking so puzzled?

I don’t know if the spell needs components.  Is that important?

(After ten minutes to hacking through the door) Do we surprise them?

What do you mean I am out of ammunition?

I quickly dive out of the window…wait…what floor were we on again?

I told you that it was a waste of money to pay for maintenance on the ship.

I run across the flowing lava really fast so I don’t sink in.

Why yes, I am holding the torch while I prepare the oil flasks to throw them.  Why?

I start the auto-destruct sequence to bluff him into standing down.

What do you mean you need a shit-load of D20’s for the damage?

I’m low on hit points, I’ll take the rear guard.  There’s no way they will hit us from there.

We’ll be safe in that cave/up those trees/in that house/etc…

Of course we have a campfire going, why?

Don’t worry, if these guys were any good they wouldn’t be city guards.

It’s just a ballista…it’s probably like being hit with an arrow.

(To the DM)  Why are you checking the starvation tables?

Yes, of course we are still tied to each other in case one of us falls off the cliff…why do you ask?

I don’t have to take that kind of backtalk from a wizard.

I yell to the angry mob and tell them to bite me.

You didn’t just kill the pilot did you?

It’s almost as if they are acting as bait for us.

(About the DM) When I said, “what else could he throw at us,” I didn’t mean it as some sort of challenge.

That bright light in the sky is getting bigger and brighter?  Hmm…

Slow down, what plane of Hell did we open a portal to again?

The vampire turns into a cloud of mist…so we won, right?

I told you it would be easy…look, they’re running away.

How many spears are incoming?

Avalanche, smavalanche…

The crew abandoned ship?  How hard could it be to sail a vessel in a storm?

He’s just a little Beholder.

I cross the rope tightrope-style.

How many vampires coffins are in the room with us?

Everybody try and hide!

The only way to get his respect is to insult his wife.

Sure, I agree to a battle of wits with him.

Which colored flare do I use to call off the in-bound air strike?

We leap off the cliff and aim for the lake.  Wait…how deep is that water?

We’re safe.  You’d have to be a ninja or a monk to climb those walls to get to us.

I’m telling you, that dragon has breathed its last blast of fire.

I’m calling in an artillery strike – danger-close!

Wait…how many giants did you say were running at us?

It’s just an earthquake.

Damn right I’m going to mock that stupid bard.

This is a hell of a time to be getting a physics lesson.

That’s not how you desecrate a temple — THIS is how you desecrate temple…

I think we lost them.

(To the DM)  What do you mean there’s no point in me rolling for initiative?

Screw the druid…torch the forest.

I stick my head above the battlement walls to see if they are still there.

I discrete their temple…that should get their attention.

They’ve walked right into our trap.

I’m sure we’re out of the blast radius.

Did he really just yell, “Release the Kraken!”?

I’m counting on it swallowing me whole so I can gut it from the inside…

I know I’m blinded – I’m casting the spell in the direction of his voice.

Everybody spread out, it will force them to divide their fire.

Yes I did just refer to the Drow queen as a ‘Hot Black Chick’…why?

So shaman can cast spells?

Stop wasting time in looking up its stats and let’s just get on killing this thing.

Why is that goblin hoard laughing at us?

I’ve worded this wish so well there’s no way the DM can screw with us…

So that’s why they call it the Prison of Souls…

I’m pretty sure we aren’t all in its cone of fire.

I’m taking it off, armor just slows me down.

(To the DM)  When you say ‘tornado,’ what exactly do you mean?

(After five days of desert travel)  Look, and oasis….we’re gonna make it!

Who cares what the impact is – I’m changing alignment right here and right now.

Give me a hand prying open that coffin.

Mindflayers sure don’t look very tough.

We will never surrender!  You’ll have to kill us first.

What do you mean there’s a duration on that spell?

No one brought flint and steel?

Which walls are moving?

I really wish I’d bought a copy of the Monster Manual.

(To the DM) Of course I’ve seen the movie Alien.  Why do you ask…ut oh…

Alright, I sit down to barter with that Devil.

Before you throw the switch, what is the percentage chance that the noose/rope will break?

I don’t care what’s carved on the floor, everybody into the room.

What do you mean he’s kicking that grenade back at me?

Yes I’m putting the moves on the barkeep’s daughter.

Then I say, “Are all the city guards as stupid or ugly as you?”

I can’t believe that none of us bought rope.

I can’t parry a lightning bolt?  Are you sure?

It’s never too late to beg for forgiveness.

(To the DM) There’s a chart for explosive decompression?  Why are you asking for it?

Dive into the sewer, we’ll be safe there.

These guys only respect you when you respond forcefully.

How close is that star?

Why are our scouts running back towards us?

When you said the Thieves Guild was coming after us, I didn’t think you meant the whole guild.

When you said the ship lost power, you didn’t mean the whole ship, did you?

When you say the room is getting hot – how hot is that?

This isn’t the time to get all Paladinny on me – kill her.

Why do you want to borrow my copy of the Dungeon’s Master’s Guide?

If Butch and Sundance can make it – I’m sure we can.

Was that a “morpal” blade he’s swinging at me?  Oh crap…

They’ve stopped chasing us, we’re in the clear.

What do you mean I didn’t damage him with a roll of a 20?

When you say “transporter malfunction,” what exactly do you mean?

I’m beginning to think someone switched that road sign back there…

I have not begun to die!

Our line of retreat is blocked by what?

I ignore the radiation warning alarm and enter the room.

So that’s why they call them blink dogs…

Don’t listen to him, he’s just a bard.

I’m sure the “Rapids of Death” is just a name the locals use to scare travelers.

The joke’s on him – I cast featherfall.  No, it’s not slotted, why is that important?

That’s got to be the last charge on his wand/staff…

A demon – no problem – magic missile.

Who cares if they have the high ground?

These guys aren’t beating us – they’re tenderizing us.

Everybody into the portable hole!

I switch to my old trusty bronze sword.

I break the wizards staff over my knee.

I don’t need a physics lesson – just tell me how much damage do I take after a 300 foot fall into the river?

What do you mean I hear the sound of wheels?  They can’t have any siege equipment…

Don’t worry about him…he’s dead.

Why are you rolling that many dice for initiative?

(To the DM) I call foul.  That’s not in the Monster Manual.

They’re immune to fire?  Are you sure?

Bob – why are your eyes glowing?  Bob??

Wow…that was easier than I thought it would be.

Why is our scout running back to us so fast?

Set the self-destruct for a twenty-second count down.  That should be plenty of time.

I have a two for driving skill – why?

Hey guys, I think we’re standing in some sort of oil.

Yes I do remember being bit by that wolf…why bring it up now?

The ring can only be used once a day?

We can make it – I saw this on Survivor once.

On the count of three…one…two…

Finally, a safe place to camp.

That noise in the bush is probably just another rabbit.

I can’t be dehydrated…my character has been drinking regularly from his wineskin.

No my sword isn’t magical or silvered — is that important?

Death Stare – that’s a real thing?

Weapons lock?  Who’s locking onto–

What do you mean they can see in the dark?

I’m not wasting power on the cloaking device.

When you say giant snake – how big is giant?

I don’t care if he is standing in the same pool as the rest of our party – I fire lightning bolt!

Fine, leave us!  We don’t need your cleric anyway.

He gets how many attacks per round?

Who drank the last of the healing potion?

I taunt them, their mothers, and their sisters.

Is that incoming artillery barrage ours or the enemies?

Don’t bother me with the details.

Hey, why are our hirelings running?

You guys will back me up…right?

That abandoned mine should give us cover.

None of our spells or magic weapons work?  That’s impossible.

Who cares what my character smells?  Tell me something important.

Does anybody have any silver weapons?

Summoning that fire elemental may have made things worse.

The joke’s on you…I took my armor off to fight this rust monster!

Everyone run through the portal!

Ramming speed!

My ribs are now poking through my back?  That doesn’t sound good.

So he pulled the battle axe out of his chest and licked the blood off of it?  That can’t be a good sign.

What do you mean, I don’t detect that statue moving?

I’m tying the bag of gold onto my belt so I don’t lose them while swimming the river.

Boy, you kill one High Priest and the whole temple takes it the wrong way.

We’ve been fighting for an hour.  Maybe I can convince them to negotiate now.

I stand before the charging cavalry like Jon Snow and draw my sword.

If the dwarf thief says he’s disarmed all of the traps, then he’s disarmed all the traps.

Yes I’m concerned, that giant just sprinkled me with seasoning salt!

I’m not pulling the ripcord until the last possible second.

Quick, dive into this old lava vent!

It’s just a tiny hole (in a spacesuit, in a vacuum).

Did he just say he was calculating the in-flight velocity and splash radius of a fully armored dwarf?

They get how many attacks per turn?

Wait – did he just say that the mountain moved?

There was only one hag here a minute ago.

The joke’s on them.  It’s going to take a lot more than that to knock down that castle wall.

Sure it’s a 200 foot plummet but I’ll survive – I’m wearing armor.

I don’t have time to confirm the coordinates of that air strike.

You suck as a dungeon master…

zombie