Prisoner exchange

(Include standard CYA disclaimer: Personal opinions, not reflecting my employer, yadda yadda.)

Nine years ago this week, I was hired by the University of Michigan’s School of Information as a computer technician. Nine months ago, myself and two of my co-workers were relieved of our duties as UMSI employees, and transferred to the University’s Information Technology Services (ITS) department. We remained as primary technicians for UMSI, and kept our office locations in the building, although our duties expanded to include other departments in other buildings within our department.

Today, I was informed that I will be removed from the department that services UMSI and placed in a different department on another part of campus. All of the relationships I built over the years with staff and faculty, all of my hands on experience with the people and technologies in that building, will apparently no longer be needed.

My initial thought was that I had been traded, like in a sports team. My second thought was Bugs Bunny saying “Holy cats, I’ve been drafted!” Then the title of this posting came to mind. A bit cynical, and not totally accurate – prisoners are typically freed as part of an exchange, after all. I’ll still be part of ITS, just in a totally different location, with totally new people and processes to learn about. It’s a “great opportunity”, so I’ve been told. But they also said the technology migration project was doing “fine”, and it’s a “big success”.

I really do have a whole lot of ranting I want to do here, but it’s late, I’m tired, and I’m really not up to it. Check back in the coming days for edits and revisions to this article, and to make sure nobody asked me to take it down altogether (canary text).


How I imagine the start of 2016 sucking less

Lemmy rolls up to the Pearly Gates on his Triumph motorcycle. “Bloody hell,” he says to St. Peter, “you sure you got this right?” He drops the kickstand and slides off his bike. He looks around, shrugs, and snarls “What the hell, let’s get this fuckin’ party started!”

Suddenly, David Bowie slides up next to him. Straightening out his tie and smoothing out his suit, he looks Lemmy up and down, smirks, and says “That sounds like a grand idea. The biggest show in heaven or on… well, in heaven, at least. Shall we dance?”

Alan Rickman then shows up unexpectedly in a puff of smoke. He nods at the two of them and says “Gentlemen, I believe we are all in agreement on this.” He bows slightly, and makes a dramatic flourish towards the Gates with an outstretched hand. “Lead the way.” Trumpets sound, an angelic choir sings, and the Gates swing open to welcome their newest guests home.

As they pass through, Robin Williams careens into the scene on a motor scooter, a manic grin on his face. His Hawaiian shirt flaps in the breeze as he honks the horn on his handlebar. “Ha haaa! Now it’s a party!” His voice runs up and down the scale, from girlish squeals to deep guttural growls, as his rapid-fire patter continues.” Oh, we’re getting it on now! C’mon in, don’t be afraid!” He guns the engine, circling around behind them and urging them forward. “*honk honk* Let’s go, let’s go!”

With the Gates closing behind them, Robin’s gleeful voice can be heard echoing throughout the heavens as they move off into the distance of forever. “Oh, you’re just gonna *love* it here! I have to introduce you to Jimi, and Elvis – yup, he’s here all right, thankyouverymuch – oh, and there’s this little writer named Shakespeare that I think someone’s going to want to meet…”

Flint’s poisoned water, and the criminal responsible

Copied from the Michigan Rising Foundation Facebook page:

“Michigan this is CRUCIAL for you to understand. Snyder himself must be held accountable for the Flint disaster. He removed the elected officials from their positions in Flint. In their place, he put in a non-government ‘official’ who was neither elected by the people or employed by the state, and gave that person sole power to make all decisions that would impact the community. This left the people with no power to vote, to recall and no right to redress. It is literally written into the emergency manager law that emergency managers have total immunity for their actions. READ IT.
If you allow this to stand, you will be throwing away every right you ever had to participate in government and nearly every ounce of political power you hold as a registered voter in Michigan. People not from Flint cannot just keep saying ‘it doesn’t matter to me,’ or ‘what do I care I don’t live in Flint’ (or Pontiac or Benton Harbor or Detroit or any of the other places Snyder has set up an emergency manager) This is a PRIVATIZED government. It is a government that is not a government
The emergency managers can take bribes and gifts (see Snyder’s NERD FUND). They are not sworn in. They do not take any oath to protect the public or serve the citizens. They can receive unlimited corporate ‘donations’ and they do not have to disclose who is paying for stuff like luxury penthouses and luxury automobiles. They aren’t there to serve the public. That is not their job. Snyder’s EMs do not answer to the voters or the public.
You have to understand that if you allow this to stand in Flint, next year or the year after or the year after, it will be your town and you will be the one who is powerless to stop it. If you want to bury your head in the sand because you vote republican, and therefore you are willing to look the other way no matter what this man does, FINE. I get it, who cares about Flint, Detroit, Pontiac, Benton Harbor, It’s not your problem. You’re not your brother’s keeper. But what if this impacts YOU personally?
Think about this… In November Michigan may well have a democratic governor. What if the shoe is on the other foot then? What if a democrat comes into your primarily republican community and removes the people you voted for, and puts in place a puppet who acts only according to the direction of the democratic governor? What if it is your children who are poisoned and you cannot do a damn thing to stop it? What if you can’t even recall or vote out the criminals responsible? You’re worried about the oppressive bird sanctuary in Oregon? You’re worried that terrorists, convicted criminals and the mentally ill won’t be able to buy assault rifles because of the evil and oppressive Obummer? In the meantime, Snyder has taken your right to participate in local elections away entirely. I don’t care where you live, your community can have an emergency manager installed at any time. Why even bother to vote in a local election? Your vote means nothing unless approved by the governor. You’re not voting. You’re participating in a sham election. We might as well just throw out local elections altogether because they have no merit. Doesn’t matter who you elect, what local ordinances you pass, what proposals you favor or don’t – Snyder has the authority to toss all that.
What’s happening in Michigan is the definition of oppression. I guess when you’re the oppressor, oppression doesn’t seem as ugly and evil as you like to pretend you think it is.
Think Michigan. Stand up and say no to this before this, or something worse, happens again. The emergency manager law in this state has got to be overturned and Snyder and everyone that was a party to this must go to prison for what they have done here.
Snyder wanted to be the only person in Michigan with the authority and power to make decisions at the local level.You don’t get to have all of the power and none of the responsibility. You don’t get to make all the final decisions and then say ‘It’s not my fault.’ It is no-one’s fault if it is not Snyder’s fault.
We know from the statements of the emergency managers that the decisions made in Flint came straight from the great dictator himself. We also know that the Snyder administration KNEW that these citizens were being poisoned, and did nothing to stop it. Instead they took deliberate steps to hide it. They rigged the tests and falsified documents. They LIED to the public, assuring them the water was safe, when they knew that it was poison. They allowed school children to drink lead contaminated water. They allowed pregnant women and infants to consume that water, promising that it was perfectly fine, when they 100 percent knew it was poisoned. And they let it go on for more than a year. How is anyone not outraged? How is a single Michigan resident not demanding the arrest of Rick Snyder and his entire administration? These people want you to think they are Christian. They are thieves, liars, frauds, con artists, and cold-blooded killers.

Original post by Randa Morris”

25 MINUTES in Taco Bell’s drive-thru tonight

Tonight, I made sure I filled out the little customer survey on the back of the receipt I got from Taco Bell. I entered the following in the optional box for why I felt I had less than an excepttional experience:

“The time spent in this Taco Bell drive thru, from when I first pulled in to line, until I pulled away, was twenty five minutes.

Twenty. Five. Minutes.

I wasted time and gas waiting and waiting and waiting to be served. TEN minutes from the time I pulled into line until the time I was actually able to place my order. FIFTEEN minutes from the time I placed my order until the time I received it.

I could have driven to a local grocery store, bought myself a nice steak, and taken it home in that amount of time. I could have gone to a nice sit-down restaurant, had a waiter take my order, and have a lovely plated meal served to me in that amount of time.

When did Taco Bell stop being fast food? I went across the street to Burger King to get the other part of my dinner order (since I wasn’t just getting food for me, but for the rest of my family that didn’t want Taco Bell), and it took SIX minutes – and that included the time I spent waiting for a fresh order of fries to come up. TWENTY FIVE minutes is utterly inexcusable.”

At least I’m on break

So in the middle of the sleet storm this evening, the power goes out. It was only off for less than a minute – I barely had time to get the battery powered candles turned on. Still, I had to go around the house to start re-programming the clocks that went all 12:00 on us. That’s when I noticed a dripping sound.  I figured it might have been the gutters getting full and overflowing, so I tried to take a closer look out the back door. When a drop of water hit my face, I knew we had a problem.

We had the back door replaced… maybe this spring, maybe last fall. It hasn’t been too long. It was old and drafty and definitely not weather-tight, so we went to Lowes and got them to install it for us. Fine and good, nice door, no problems, no drafts, held up fine in the rain, we’re good. But tonight, with all the sleet, something changed. There was water seeping in to the house from the door frame, mostly on the outside of the door, where it was (thankfully) still weather-proof, but there was also some dripping in on the inside from a bad caulk job.

My first thought was that the new vent that was installed in our roof last week for the bathroom fan was letting water in, but I quickly realized that it wan’t in the right position for a leak like this. I grabbed a cheap LED lantern that I bought at the $5 store, threw on a pair of boots, and went outside. In the middle of the sleet and rain, I pulled a ladder from the garage, propped it up against the back wall of the house, and crawled up it. Sure enough, the gutter over the door was completely packed with sleet. I stormed back into the house, grabbed my hoodie and trenchcoat, ran back out to the garage for a trowel and a pair of rubber-coated gloves, climbed back up the ladder, and started digging.

It didn’t take long to realize that it was going to take more than just clearing the spot above the door to fix things, so I relocated the ladder to the end of the gutter, down by the spout, and chiseled a hole for the drain to start working again. After that, it was just a matter of digging out snowcones, chucking them over my shoulder, trying to keep my fingers from freezing off, and moving the ladder further down the gutter. All in all, I spent close to 45 minutes up and down the ladder, splashing myself in the face with ice-cold water, and getting so drenched that rain soaked through my trenchcoat and into my hoodie. The leak in the door stopped after I started digging further down the line, and I also managed to crawl into the attic after the shoveling was done to confirm that the water wasn’t coming from the new roof vent, so at least it wasn’t a wasted effort. Now to call Lowes in the morning and have them fix this.

Chasing babies and feeling the ‘burn

Pam and I were out for an after-dinner walk this evening, when I noticed a little red-headed toddler walking down a driveway and stepping out into the street. I didn’t see anyone else around, so I kept half an eye on him as we crossed the street ourselves.

As he was getting across the street, I heard a male voice call out a name; the little boy gasped and started moving faster.

As he hit the other side of the street, giggling as he picked up speed, I saw what I assumed to be the child’s father trucking through a yard. I called out to the man, asking if he needed help catching him. He didn’t slow down or respond, save for what I thought was a nod, so I took that as my cue. I kicked into a full run to get in front of the kid (how did those little legs get him so far down the sidewalk?). I growled a bit as I flew past him – the noise was partly to focus on my running, partly to try and get the boy’s attention and slow him down. I hit the sidewalk about 10 feet in front of him, spun around to face him, and said “Where are you going, little man?” He stopped, a shocked look on his face, giggled again, and turned around… just as Dad caught up to him and scooped him up. They started walking back, cooing at each other (no yelling at or scolding of the child, which was a fine daddy moment in and of itself). Through the blood rushing in my ears and air getting sucked into my lungs, I heard Dad say “Thank you”. I nodded and started back across the street…

And then I got kicked in the chest.

There was a quick but massive shot of pain square in the center of my chest, right around the xiphoid. I’ve felt this many times in the past, and have self-diagnosed it as stomach-related / heartburn symptoms. When they’re bad, they’ll make me wince and groan a bit. This one had me doubled over in the middle of the street, clutching my chest. The gasping for air was coincidental, since I’d just gotten done chasing a runaway monkey. Still, it didn’t help the scene.

I couldn’t pick my head up to look around – certainly not the best position to be in while standing in the middle of the street – but I knew that just in front of me was my wife, staring wide-eyed at me with a mix of shock and concern on her face. After a few stuttering gasps and moans, I started to straighten up, and there she was, just as I pictured. I got a hand on her arm and we walked to the side of the road, all the while insisting it was just my stupid stomach. We just ate dinner before the walk, after all, and there I was bouncing my stomach around and flooding my system with adrenaline. There were no other signs of problems –  shooting pains, dizziness, sweating, nausea – nothing to indicate heart problems. Just this horrible aching lump in my guts. After a few deep breaths and a bit of walking (and repeating my mantra that I was fine), I started feeling better.

And then I realized I didn’t have my cell phone.

It must have bounced away from me while I was chasing down the red-headed monkey. I turned around to go look for it… and after thinking it might be lying in the middle of the street, I launched into a full-stride, arm swinging run to find it before it got run over. At least my stomach stayed where it belonged after that sprint, especially after bending over to pick up my phone from where it landed in the grass.

I never said I was smart.

My first sub-10-minute mile, or: The joys of nose breathing

My daughter is on her school’s cross country and track teams. She’s been given an inhaler to see if helps with what might be exercise-induced asthma. I looked this up, and it actually sounds similar to my problems while running – after running for X amount of time, regardless of speed, I have to slow down / walk to catch my breath, feeling like I couldn’t get enough air, no matter how hard I tried. The info I found said that a possible trigger is too much breathing through the mouth, since that doesn’t warm or moisten the air you’re inhaling. I decided to give that a test.

I went out for my around-the-neighborhood 5k run yesterday. Before I did that, though, I used the nasal decongestant spray that’s been sitting in my medicine cabinet, and I popped in my bite guard. I fired up Runkeeper and took off, doing my best to breathe in through my nose (biting down on the guard as a reminder) and out through my mouth.

I have RK set to update me every two minutes on my speed, time, distance, and heart rate, and found it odd that it gave me my first two alerts farther into the run than usual. I realized when the third one came up that I was going much faster than usual. I finished my first mile of the run in 9:40, a good minute ahead of my usual pace! I also noticed that I wasn’t suffering from the heartburn I’ve been experiencing lately.

It wasn’t until I got to the bottom of a hill (still over a minute ahead of my usual pace) that I ran into problems. I was so focused on my breathing this run that I wasn’t concentrating on my foot placement while breathing, and I started working on a stitch. I slowed my pace to stretch it out and get my stride right, and started mouth breathing out of habit. Almost immediately, I could feel myself needing more air the harder I tried to breathe. I got back to breathing (and breathing deeply) through my nose, and the feeling went away. I got my second mile in around 21 minutes (another great pace for me).

At the start of the third mile, I ended up in full panting mode, and not only was the breathing hard, but the heartburn and lurching stomach reappeared with a vengeance. Slow down, deep nose breathing, and it goes away. I finished in 33 minutes – a good time for me for walking off stitches – and logged a max heart rate during the run of 177 (I’ve never gotten above 160, so !!!).

So, long story short (TOO LATE!), learn to breathe through your nose. It helps.