#96 Hairy Jealousy (2004)

All Rights Reserved © 2004 Thomas W. Day

The older I get the more I notice idiotic little things popping up in my psyche.  Thirty years ago, I watched “suits” march off to work and marveled at how robot-like they seemed.  While I was not exactly a freak, I was confident in my safe distance from the average working man.  I had hair over my shoulders.  I wore sandals to work.  I played guitar and wrote stories and read science fiction.  I was cool.  Thirty years later, I was a minor league suit.  Monday through Friday, I wore a tie and shoes that are less comfortable and more socially acceptable. 

More than the tie and dumb shoes, I think a sign of my sellout is that I sometimes caught myself thinking another man’s long hair is “unprofessional.”  You know the guys I’m talking about.  The lawyer with a ponytail.  The computer programmer doing a Jim Morrison imitation.  The dreadlocked engineer.  It only passes through my mind for a moment before I snuffed it out, but it irritated me that it was there, ever. 

I admit that a lot of  the origin for the thought comes from my work environment.  I’m was an engineer in a medical devices company.  There is probably no more stodgy, uncreative, mindlessly, conservative business in the world than those companies producing products for doctors.  No one with half a talent world ever work for an established medical devices or drug company, because those places are so stifling that ideas slip out of their hands like a bar of buttered, wet soap.  In a medical products company, “unprofessional” means anything from not being properly dressed to discussing screwed-up  products out loud.  You can stumble into more “career limiting mistakes” in that business than you can on a battlefield.  People are judged by microscopic social errors and inane business traditions and surviving every workday is a painful test.  So we get really critical of diddly, unimportant things.

But that isn’t what the hair thing is about.  Long hair is a completely different “professionalism” issue.  Being successful and letting your hair grow flaunts male modesty.  It’s a way of saying, loudly, “I don’t give a damn what you think. I don ‘t have to kiss anyone’s ass.  I’m talented enough, or rich enough, that don’t need this job.” 

Men don’t mind brilliant or rich men who conform, like the rest of us, to robot-ness.  But it really annoys us to have our own menial, gutless, slave status thrown back in our faces.  Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Ross Perot, Arnold Swartzenegger, and the majority of rich, famous guys respect this ritual.  They wear uncomfortable, geeky looking clothes.  They cut their hair so short that their ears protrude from their heads like microwave antenna.  While we might resent their wealth, we never have to resent their freedom.  For some of these guys, the richer they get the more enslaved they look. 

That’s comforting, from a sick, pack animal kind of logic.  That’s the way it should be, as far as the herd is concerned.  Don’t show off your wealth and your freedom, pick one and keep the other hidden from our view.  We can deal with a long haired dude flipping burgers or pushing a broom.  A pony tail and a Mercedes is too much of a blow to our pride.  Success and freedom are so far out of the reach of the average working stiff.  We don’t want to think about what we’ve given up to be useful corporate fodder.  So keep your hair under your hat if you don’t want to be called “unprofessional.”  Like you’d care.

September 2004


Boomers Are?

Last night sucked. I’m taking a woodworking class in Winona and the “class” has turned out to be a woodshop free-for-all. Nothing wrong with that, although I’d have appreciated a little more instruction and structure. Most of the “students” are 50+ year-olds who have taken the “class” a dozen times for the access to the tools and are building a variety of furniture bits for their homes. Considering how far I’m driving for this class, I’m not learning nearly as much as I’d hoped. I suppose that’s how education is supposed to work.

The class starts at 5PM and ends at 9PM with a break at 7-7:30. Last night during the break I had to listen to a trio of crackers (including the instructor) jabber about how much they hoped someone would assassinate President Obama and the current Pope. Obviously Faux News drones, but not the kind of people I’m used to being around.

June 23 084And that’s for a reason. My tolerance for stupid has vanished in the last decade. I don’t do well with superstition/religion, racism, cowards, chicken hawks, or ignorant crackers who think the United States is a territory of the Israeli nation. Honestly, I don’t even know where to begin debating with them. Their knowledge base is so limited, perverse, and arrogant that they barely seem human to me. A couple of short conversations with those people and I start thinking about my dream retirement home in the side of a Montana mountain. It’s not all that comfy, but I never have to worry about visitors and the ones who make it past the “trespassers will be shot sign” discover that I’m not kidding. When I move into that abandoned mine shaft and set up house, do not come visiting.

To be fair, these three old white guys are somewhat likeable if you can keep their minds focused on work. They are moderately helpful, reasonable skilled carpenters. One of them is a retired 62-year-old rich farmer, who is mostly trying to prove how hip he is by playing with the school’s state-sponsored tools while complaining about having to pay taxes for stuff. He’s a southern boy who considers himself to be hip because he likes black blues musicians but hates President Obama and black people in general. He’s convinced he’s going to “heaven” because he’s reborn and really gets testy when I mention the camel through the eye of a needle thing. He contributes $22/month to some crippled vets thing and a larger pile to his politically-based church and that’s his guarantee to an eternal life at the right hand of one god or another.

The instructor is just a simple, small-town, working-class racist. He thinks he’s hiding his racism behind a political ideology, but his take on the US Constitution is so demented that he couldn’t out-debate a smart ten-year-old in a fairly managed civics discussion. He’s pissed off about Obamacare/Romneycare because he thinks his state-provided health insurance has been degraded by the ACA. Like many of the folks who are on the public dole pretending to be “public servants,” he’s against all parts of the government except the ones that provide him with a middle class life.

The third leg of this unstable stool is a religious nutbag who is convinced the Apocalypse is coming “because gays.” Yeah, that sentence doesn’t make sense, but either does this doofus. Like too many Boomer males, this idiot is pissed off that the world doesn’t have to bow to his perverse version of Christianity and that people can’t be made to behave in a manner that doesn’t make him uncomfortable. Just like my decision to assume that everyone who “doesn’t like Obama” is a racist, I’ve decided that everyone who freaks out about gays is in the closet. Everyone.

A good bit of the breaktime conversation was about how much better off the world would be if someone assassinated President Obama and the Pope. Then, they got into a heated, ignorant discussion about how far off base Pope Francis is getting and my comment that “he’s awfully Christian, isn’t he?” went right over/under their heads. The crazy third leg went off on gays and lesbians and the Apocalypse and the loony rich guys started babbling about being reborn as the only path to heaven, regardless of his wealth, greed, and general uselessness to humanity and nature. The instructor just muttered about how much he hated Obama and barely kept “niggar” out of his ranting. (Fuck you and your “n-word” bullshit. We all know what you assholes want to be saying and don’t because you think it proves you are civilized.)

The interesting part of the crazy guy dialog was when the rich asshole started ranting about how Obama wasn’t taking the ISIS “threat” seriously and the religious nut joined in with insane talk about nuking ISIS. The rich guy pretended to be questioning modern patriotism and asked if any of us thought US citizens would “pitch in” against a common enemy, like we did in WWII. I’d checked out, by then, but I should have said, “Nope. No way the 1% would allow a 90% top tax rate to pay for a war. Rich people mostly take from society. They get pissed off when they are asked to contribute more than voluntary tips to the servant class.”

I drove my 60 miles back home last night thinking, “this is a waste of my time.” I hauled the bits of my project back with me, thinking I’ll finish it up on my own equipment. I’m still waffling on deciding if I’ve had enough of this or if there is more I could learn for my money. One thing is for sure, there are way too many people like this from my generation and if people under 40 don’t vote like no American generation their ages have ever voted, they and we are all fucked.


#95 Going Postal, a Rational Response (2004)

All Rights Reserved © 2004 Thomas W. Day

If you talk at any length to those of us who works for a large company, you’ll eventually hear some comment about “going postal.”  When you dig a little ways into why they might use this language, you’ll find that they may not be kidding.  Even more to the point, it probably makes sense to consider that line of thinking.

The U.S. Post Office, for instance, is not much different from the worst-case major corporation.  The working class is stressed, strained, and maligned by a management class that is unskilled, unsympathetic, and rarely available or useful. Post Office employees often complain about working under conditions where they are treated as not much more than a part of the machinery.  Management considers their employees' lives to be of no more importance than the junk mail they sort and deliver.  People are hired and fired and reassigned for the strangest, most irrational reasons imaginable.  People are put into situations where they snap.  When they do, they sometimes come to work heavily armed.  They “go postal.”

Using the classic Western model for heroism, the lone gunman who finds protection from injustice by blasting his way through the bad guys, going postal may not be an irrational response.  We are surrounded by a barrage of major powers that don’t care about justice.  The workplace is just the first in a long line of conflicts where we are helpless to put things right.  From the IRS to the welfare system to chain stores where we return defective products to minimum wage workers who could care less if we “have a nice day,” we are powerless to find a fair deal.  If Bruce, Arnold, Sylvester, and the other muscle guys can shoot their way out of impossible situations, why can’t the rest of us? 

Let’s face it, there is nobody out there protecting the ordinary citizen. The people who are supposed to be protecting us are just in it for the power and money.  We’re like Joseph Heller’s man in the street crying “Help, police!” hoping someone will step up to save us from the police, lawyers, employers, government, and our violent neighbors.  But we’re alone against those hazards.  No can or will help us fight those battles.

The Dilbert© cartoon constantly illustrates what life in corporate America is like.  A mindless herd of marching management morons make decisions that destroy the companies we depend on.  MBA pinheads who know more buzzwords than an Air Force general, but who don’t meet that same low common sense standard, decide what we do and when we do it for the majority of our waking hours. 

That’s no small portion of life, either.  Someone estimated that, out of a 30 year working career, most of us get 1 1/2 years away from the job before retirement.  You work until you're mentally dead, you retire, you die.  What a life!  If anything puts the phrase “wage slave” into context, that ought to do it. 

If we screw up and step over one of the thousands of boundaries that define the margins between legal and illegal, the penalties often make the Spanish Inquisition look like the good old days.  We are under threat of imprisonment or poverty for more causes than Sam Clements ever imagined back in the 1800’s when he analyzed the English penal system and found a few hundred capital crimes.  We have crime in the streets, in business, and in government.  We have redefined capital crimes in the twentieth century.  Unless you are a case-hardened criminal, going jail isn’t just “paying your debt to society.”  In the U.S., when you go to jail you might as well be dead.  You can get hung, gassed, or injected through a direct sentence.  You can get any of those things, indirectly, as part of a minimal sentence in our over-crowded prison system.

With the exception of Tim Allen and one other guy whose name escapes me, jail time is pretty much the end of any hope for a normal life in this country.  Rehabilitation is a concept that only applies to white collar prisons.  The rest of us are tossed to the wolves.  So the only honorable way out, when backed into a wall, may be going postal on the folks who built the wall, put you against it, and laugh at your predicament when they escort you to the door.

September 2004


#94 Exit Interviews, Why Bother? (2004)

All Rights Reserved © 2004 Thomas W. Day

It seems like every company is doing exit interviews these days.  Supposedly, the reason is to learn why employees are leaving, to slow the turnover.  Exit interviews are about as likely to accomplish that task as Congress is to reform campaign finance.  The problem is that the people gathering the information don’t know what to do with it and the people who need the information don’t want it.

The simple fact is that ex-employees are not going to burn bridges in today’s competitive job market.  Even if the exiting employee doesn’t expect to ever return to the company, he still may want a good reference.  Telling the straight truth about ex-bosses, past projects and products isn’t going to make friends and it isn’t going to accomplish anything.  Most likely, it won’t do anything at all.

Most company’s Human Resources departments are so insular and isolated from every other department in the company, that the results of exit interviews die in the employee’s personnel folder.  HR departments are the most resented, bureaucratic, unresponsive area of many companies.  Middle managers avoid contact with their HR representatives at all costs.  Upper management has organized its HR departments to confound communication, not enhance it.  HR managers are extremely successful at this assignment.  With all these obstacles, is it any wonder that exit interviews are regarded as nothing more than a mindless hurdle on the way to the last paycheck? 

The first HR department, at Ford Motor Company, was managed by a processional goon, Harry Bennett.   The original purpose seemed to be to find the optimum methods to abuse employees.  Today, they are a lot more subtle than their predecessors, but the function is not significantly different. 

August 2004



All Rights Reserved © 2004 Thomas W. Day

[This is a fantasy short-story I wrote some time ago, during the end of the Reagan years.  I decided to dump it into the Rat Rants because I didn't know what else to do with it.]

The Russians and the Americans decide, in a fit of teamwork, to "utilize the resources of our two great nations" and split the cost of a manned space station and giant radio telescope.  The Star Wars program is scrapped as part of the deal.  Since the government never gives up funds it has managed to tax out of the public, the funds are spent on the space station.  The space station gets finished and the two nations have more tax money to spend.  They spend it on a space manufacturing facility.  The two nations' research and development industries have been working a lot on space and a little on consumer/industrial products.  They are working smarter and at an elevated technical base after closing their mil-industrial facilities and moving the really valuable engineers to more productive tasks.

The Russians and the Americans are once again the world leaders in technology.  They move all polluting manufacturing tasks off-planet.

The Japanese want part of the economic pie.  The Americans and Russians are wealthy enough to buy great toys and the Japanese want to build great toys.  The Japanese are not afraid of the Russians and not controlled by American regulations.  The Japanese begin SALT XIII negotiations with the Chinese and Koreans.  With Japan in the lead (barely), the Eastern block begins work on a space bridge, with facilities in the center of the span for zero gravity manufacturing.  The bridge is complete in 6 years.  The bridge is profitable in 10.  The Eastern block makes great toys for the Americans and Russians. 

The American consumer market is very wealthy and can afford to share the wealth.  The Russian consumer market is about as profitable as the American market was during the 1960's.  Many developing countries test the new Russian market for consumer products.  The Russians and Americans have perfected space habitats and are considering terraforming experiments on a twin planet in Alpha Centauri.

The West Germans and East Germans get united because the Russians have their eyes on the sky and don't pay attention to terrestrial boarder shifts.  The Germans collaborate with the Swiss to "keep technology in the hands of artisans who are concerned with workmanship."  They make tremendous gains in superconductor and particle force theory and develop a superconductor-based generator that powers a drive that harnesses the anti-mass characteristics of the atom.  They are commercially competing with the Eastern block for the 50 year East/West reunion. 

The Eastern block has made ownership of space habitats a cost-effective, consumer product.  Thousands of families move into the asteroid belt to work and live in the non-national manufacturing facilities. 

The "Keep Terra Clean" movement restores natural balance to the earth's environment and life forms.  Thousands of acres of rain forest are re-planted.  The atmosphere of the earth becomes controlled and the ozone is re-designed to be 100.000000001% efficient.  The oxygen generated by the system is sold to the space colonies.   The rare gases, metals, minerals, and chemical combinations are sparingly parceled out to the colonies.  This trade finances a cottage industry based, high-technology, back to nature life-style economy throughout the earth.

The Americans and Russians are somewhere out there.

You want to know why all the space junk is floating around the planet?  That's why we did it!