Hard-won knowledge about the World of Work

OK, I am going to lay out some of my hard-won knowledge about the world of work.  Please feel free to chime in with your own nuggets of insight.

  1. If you work with a good-looking (I mean really good looking, like movie star cute) guy, assume he is either stupid or lazy, or both.  Now, to be fair, this is not ALWAYS the case, I know at least two guys who are that cute but still great to work with.  It’s just a general rule of thumb; proceed at your own risk.
  2. If someone puts on a goofy act, the chances are he’s hiding some massive insecurity that will rise up and bite you when you least expect it.  Assume he considers you and all others a threat until proven otherwise.
  3. If someone has a military style haircut, it’s true.  He’s former military.  I have never, ever, seen this one fail.  So he’s a hard case, and there are no excuses for any failure on your part.
  4. If a guy is really nice to you at work for no apparent reason, he’s trying to set the stage to dump some of his work off on you.  This may not be true if you are an attractive woman, but if you’re average like me, there’s no reason for a guy to pay you any exceptional attention unless he thinks you will be stupid enough to do his work for him and smart enough to do it well.
  5. When someone comes over to your cube with puppy-dog eyes, he is going to ask you a very stupid question, possibly a question he has already asked you at least once before.  Take deep breaths.
  6. If you ask someone for something, and they don’t do it, and you ask again, and they still don’t do it, if you ask a third time you will be a bitch regardless of the situation or whether it was your fault.  Therefore, when you ask the second time, give the person so much information or detail on how they should go about doing the thing you asked them that it will be obvious you think they are an idiot, and make sure to copy as many people as you can, and put a return receipt on it.  Mention in there that this is the second request, or forward the original request.  Forget about being nice, there is no place for it with the terminally inept or lazy people who do this regularly.

I wrote this at my previous job, where there were a lot of people with issues.  I got out of there as quickly as I could, before any permanent damage was done.  Note that most of these apply to my male co-workers, although I found that #6 was an equal opportunity problem.

Acron-NOT! or Bad Words for ESL

Acronym: an abbreviation formed from the initial components in a phrase or words. An initialism is a subgenre where only the initial letters are used, for example, NATO or scuba. Note that some are capitalized and some are not.  Some are pronounced as words, some are spelled out, for example, AIDS versus F.B.I.  We consider these abbreviations, but not in the normal ‘dictionary’ sense.  Verbal shorthand is a better term, in my opinion.

Originally they tended to be specific to a field, such as the military (FUBAR, scuba,) accounting (IRA, CPA, ROI,) business (FYI, CC,) medicine (CT Scan, MRI, AIDS, SAR, NIH,) or computing. The big explosion in acronyms started within information technology. Think about it – RAM and ROM, MS-DOS, FAQ, SQL, CD-ROM, WWW, etc.

Then internet access exploded, and even the non-technical got personal e-mail accounts (as opposed to work e-mail that was initially only internal to the company.) Shortly thereafter, people got chat tools (think AOL.) This led to an entirely new group of shortcuts like IMO, BTW, IDK, IDC, JK, L8R, CU, XOXO, and the much hated THX and NP.  These quickly spread from chat to e-mail and back, in an endless loop.

Now that everyone under 60 has a smart phone (just kidding) the next wave of acronym explosion came from texting shortcuts. You know many of them, some are polite and others not so, and some have versions that fit either category. Things like LOL which either resulted from or morphed into LMFAO, the ‘young’ ones like OMG, BFF, BRB, TTYL, TTFN, and too many more to name.

So, what happens when you take acronyms and mix them together with a little ESL?  Hysterical funny-ness, of course.  Let’s take a look at what happens when you mix speakers of English as a second language with the youth texting culture, and try to come up with business acronyms….

This month at work has been an explosion of so-called acronyms that appear to have been made up by our friends in Pune.  It started out shocking and ended up pretty funny.  I was on a mailing list (probably 50 or more people) in which the acronym F-U was used repeatedly.  The dash did take a bit of the sting out of being addressed as such, but the repetitive nature did tend to grate on the nerves.  It was finally discovered that it stood for, are you ready, follow-up.

A co-worker got a similar message via mailing list, and this one used F-Up.  I suppose someone thought this might be marginally less offensive, but all it did was move from the imperative to the accusative.

Just today, two messages arrived with, respectively, PFB and PFA.  All I could find in an inital search was references to chemical compounds and infant diseases, until I discovered that it was Please Find Below and her brother Please Find Above.

I wonder how popular a blog about how not to use offensive acronyms would be?  Or how to avoid acronyms that your average American co-worker will not know? Could be a source of humor, at the least.  I might draw some younger people into the discussion.  Good viewpoints.

Follow-up to “I Believe in Karma”

I haven’t posted anything in over three years, and it’s probably been at least a year and a half since I last visited this blog.  But now I have access, whereas I had been locked out before, so updates will be coming fast and furious.

I wrote a post back in 2008 about Dr. Kenneth Yaw, a pediatric oncology surgeon in Pittsburgh.  He was in deep trouble with the law over his treatment of his four underage daughters at the time, which didn’t surprise me based on my experiences with him in 1992-3.  I’m sure many people would defend him, such as those patients of his who said, “he saved my life,” and “he was a caring doctor” but I saw the other side, the side he displayed in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Revisiting this blog prompted me to look into the latest status of the criminal charges against Dr. Yaw.  So I googled his name and New Mexico, and a forum thread on Topix popped up. There had been a discussion going on there between 2008 and 2011, in the Food section.  I’m guessing it started there because he was essentially starving the girls, providing them with beans, flour, peanut butter, and not much else.  No fresh fruit, vegetables, and they were dried beans so they had to soak them overnight before cooking. They had to make their own flatbread from the flour and water.

There was nothing new on the Topix forum since 2011, which prompted me to do more research. I visited the New Mexico Courts website listed in other’s posts ( nmcourts.gov ) and searched on his name.

I discovered that on 02/06/2012, the case against Kenneth Yaw was dropped. After four years of back and forth motions, the State of New Mexico declined to prosecute him “in the best interest of justice.” Right.

The youngest girl would have been 15 at the time the case was dismissed, and I assume the limitations on contact with his children would have been lifted at that time. I hope he didn’t manage to regain custody of her.

I also discovered that his second wife, Rita, divorced him in January of 2013.  From my reading of the posts from people who knew her, most of them thought she was unstable.  She appeared on the scene soon after Yaw’s first wife, Maureen, died of breast cancer.  So it was the perfect storm of his issues, added to by her issues, which destroyed the family.

Some people posted that Dr. Yaw had an aneurism at some point.  I wonder if that happened before or after my interaction with him in 1992-3?

Here’s a link to an interesting article that provides more details on his machinations, trying to control the girls from afar: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/region/2009/01/18/Surgeon-accused-of-abusing-kids-wants-them-moved/stories/200901180201

I pray that everything has turned out for the best for all of Maureen Yaw’s children.

Two incidents that foreshadow the future

Part One:  Making Change…

We went to a DQ the other night, and the bill came to $4.22.  So my husband hands the cashier a $20, a quarter, and two pennies.  $20.27 total.  Now this young woman is not actually dispensing ice cream, she’s a roving cashier.  Which I think is FANTASTIC because then my cone or cup or whatever is not handled by the same person who’s handling the admittedly filthy money.  However, they need to pick a new person to do this job.  Here’s why:

She took the money, and handed my husband back the two pennies, saying, “I’ll just give these back to you” and then she proceeded to give him his $16 in bills and three pennies.  Hello?  Is anyone home?  What school do you attend, so I can warn others not to send their children there?

So very, very depressing.  This is what we have to look forward to.

Part Two: Never push on a door marked pull…

There are two young women who work in the same department as I do, and my initial opinion of them, based on their speech patterns, loud volume in public areas, and other behaviors, was that they were locals.  But, since they were employed in an IT department, I granted them a certain basic assumption that they had some level of skill and intelligence.

We have security doors in this building, and there are three features to them.  First, there is a “black box” on the outside that, when you wave your badge past it, it releases the lock on the doors and you can pull them open and enter.  Second, inside the doors is a sensor that “pops” the door whenever you get within range.  It is cranky; sometimes it triggers and unlocks but then re-locks immediately, so you have to step away, out of range, and go back in range. 

The third feature is the panic button.  You press and hold it while opening the door.  One person of average height cannot do it, because the button and the door are too far apart.  So, you need a partner.  Thus my tale begins… 

These two were having a problem getting through the door.  By the time I got there, a traffic jam had formed , with five of us trying to get out.  Instead of backing off and letting the door reset, they are taking turns pushing on the door.  They are complaining bitterly about how this same thing happened to them yesterday. 

Someone mentions the panic button, and one of them goes over there and punches the button repeatedly.  It has to be held down while you push the door or else it doesn’t work  So the other one is still pushing on the door, but never at exactly the right moment when the door is releasing due to the  panic button being pressed.  

They will think I’m very friendly from now on, because I’m not going to be able to avoid grinning every time I see them.  Irresistible!

What Have We Learned Here?

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.  Benjamin Franklin.

I think Franklin is an amazing and interesting person.  At one point in his life, he determined to look at himself with clear eyes, determine what values were important to him, how his current behavior deviated from those values, and put together a plan to improve himself.  If you read his autobiography, it’s astonishing that his plan for self-improvement is still valid and viable today.

Keep in mind his quote above when you decide if you’re willing to let other people control you because it’s the “safe” move.  It’s never safe to give up any portion of your freedom; you will die a little inside each time you make such a compromise.

Organizations that have too much power fall into this category.  Abuse of power by certain government agencies. Companies who mistreat their employees or contract jobs out so they won’t have direct responsibility when things go wrong.  Official oppression of many kinds.  

When I read stories about Wal-Mart double contracting their warehouse operations so they wouldn’t be responsible when the employees there were shorted on their paychecks, and when I see the coverage of the 6-year-old girl who was patted down in an airport, it makes me physically ill. 

I don’t know what the solution is to this, but it seems to me that it is getting worse.  And I wish I knew what I, personally, could do about it.

Displaying some backbone

I think it’s important to have some backbone.  It’s important to stand up for yourself.  However, it’s also important to pick your battles.  How you balance those two sides of the coin will probably have a lot to do with how happy you feel, and how much you like yourself.  In the recent past, I’ve been picking zero battles, and now I feel like a doormat.  It’s because I prefer a world where everybody gets along, and that world doesn’t exist.  So, time for me to leave my comfort zone and make a stand.  Happiness is at stake, because only I can create my own happiness.

Nobody should assume from this that I’m either a doormat or overly belligerent.  I’m big on cooperation and getting along.  But there are some specific steps that I need to take to make a positive change.  And this is my first step.  Wish me luck.

It’s hard to believe it’s been over two years since I posted anything

What happened?  I got a job about a month after my last post, and this was the first thing in my life to go.  It’s hard to have a 40 minute commute, plus family, friends, pets, and hobbies.  I felt guilty, but not motivated to do anything about it.  I’m trying to make some changes now, and this is step one – fulfill the commitment I made to myself to keep this up.  After all, how can I call myself a writer if I never write anything.

Keep in mind that I’m not a fiction writer, and don’t really want to be at this point.  So this is the perfect venue; write about the truth.  About what I know, or believe I know.  I do write, a lot, but it’s work, not fun, and it’s not very creative.

So I’m back.  Let’s see if I can keep it up.

If you want to work with me, there are some rules

I’m looking for a new job.  Technical Writer or Business Analyst are the closest fit to what I did at my last job.  I posted on Monster, and the avalanche began.  Most of the initial contacts were from local companies, but now I’m getting hits from organizations that I’ve never heard of, wanting to represent me on jobs that I’ve already seen through other sources.

My real problem is the quality of these contacts.  I feel like I’m being spammed.  You know, the messages with bad grammar that sound like they were written by ESL students.  Here’s one example:

Hello ,
Hope you are doing good,
I got a job opening for you as a “Technical Writer”. If you are available and interested, please send your updated resume asap.

As you can see, this was probably semi-automated, as there’s an odd space after “Hello.” There’s bad grammar and several examples of bad punctuation.   Not too awful, but check out the next one.  It’s from the same company, but a different sender.

Hello {my first name},
Hope you are doing good.
I have an Immediate requirement for Technical Writer, Please respond with your  updated resume in a word format with  a best number to reach you if your interested in this position.
If you read this, it sounds more literate than the first one, mostly because it uses bigger words.  However, there are more errors, and they are more egregious.  There are capitalizations that do not belong, there’s bad punctuation, extra spaces everywhere, and the use of your instead of you’re or you are.  Plus the obnoxious use of “doing good” when asking about my health and well-being.
After thinking about this, I could do one of two things.  I could ignore these messages, or I could reply to each one of them, pointing out the errors.  However, that would be helpful.  I don’t think in this case being helpful to these folks would be a good idea in the greater scheme of things.  It goes against my nature to do this, but I choose to ignore them.  If you want to help me get a job as a technical writer, at least do the courtesy of running a spelling and grammar check on your communications.

Reading skills?

I read an article on the internet about an anthropomorphic cookie printed on a shirt.  I was curious what reading level would allow someone to understand that word.  I assumed it was at least a 12th grade word, but maybe higher.  Perhaps only a college student would be able to grasp the word, and the dichotomy between animals acting like people and inanimate objects such as a cookie that has characteristics of living beings, which is one of the definitions of anthropomorphism.  I do not want to reference only people here, because animals have eyes, mouths, and teeth as well. The two definitions of anthropomorphic is giving animals the characteristics of a human, such as speech and the ability to walk upright, such as Hello Kitty, or giving similar features to inanimate objects, like Thomas the Tank Engine.  This paragraph has a reading ease score of 12.9, so I was correct about needing to have college-level reading skills.

Have I mentioned that I believe in karma?

Remember this name: Dr. Kenneth Yaw. Recently, he and his family have been in the news in Pittsburgh and also probably in New Mexico, the scene of the worst parts of the crime.  I’m not sure if this was national news or not, but because he practiced medicine at UPMC and lived in the upscale suburb of Fox Chapel, it was news here.

Here’s a link to the story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08230/904934-455.stm. Here’s another one; http://www.pittsburghpost-gazette.com/pg/08226/903798-85.stm

If you read the article you will see that Kenneth Yaw’s first wife, Maureen, was a wonderful woman who raised 10 well-adjusted children who had many friends and were involved in many activities in the community. When she died of breast cancer, that was the end of her happy family. Without Maureen, the real Kenneth came to the surface.

Let me tell you how I know about the real Kenneth.  When we became involved with him, he was a surgeon at UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.) Our son had a painful lump on his hand, and Dr. Yaw performed the biopsy that discovered a rare bone cancer. The options were, removal of the bone and associated finger plus chemotherapy, or a combination of radiation and chemotherapy.  Our son, being 17 years old, determined that he wanted to try to keep the finger, so he opted for radiation and chemo. 

That did not sit well with Dr. Yaw, and he called us repeatedly to insist that our son should have the surgery. We told him that he was under the care of an oncologist that we trusted, and that he had opted for the non-surgical treatment. At one point, I indicated that our son had made his own decision on this, and we stood by his choice. His reaction was, in hindsight, exactly what you would expect. He could not believe that we were allowing a teenager to be involved in his own care.

Eventually we changed oncologists (to the doctor who would later treat Mario Lemieux for his Hodgkins lymphoma) but this new doctor agreed with our son’s choice of treatment, too.  Since our son is cancer-free for over 15 years now, we feel that it was the best option.

But that was not the end of Dr. Yaw. What he did next will inform you as to his basic character.  He sent us a letter that said if we did not make our son have the surgery, we were negligent as parents.  Then he proceeded to say that our son would probably DIE, and that it would be our fault. I believe he also implied that he would turn us in to the authorities (probably child welfare services) if we didn’t respond to him. Imagine receiving such a letter, when you are in the midst of a terrible crisis, where your child is facing a life-threatening illness. Imagine using the word “die” in such a letter. I rarely cry, but this letter made me so angry that I think I may have had what they now call a panic attack. I wept and shook uncontrollably.

Yaw is one of the few people that I believe can be called evil – he lacks empathy, thinks he is always right, and doesn’t care about the effects of his actions.  I’m pretty sure he’s what the mental health professionals call a sociopath; no conscience.  Karma in this lifetime has caught up with him. It will not change who or what he is, but at least the remaining children are free of him.