Friday, November 20, 2009

#138: Psychotic Reaction

Next time someone says, “I’ve seen everything,” punch them in the face. Hard. And more than once. Then say, "My dear friend, you, sir, are a goddamned liar." Because they haven’t. Far from it. So stick with me here, this won’t take long at all.

In my current occupation as a spoon I’m always on the look out for things to avoid. Things to avoid, for me, generally take the form of serious conflict, angry people and especially those who appear to be seriously unbalanced. And, as a spoon, I am now very attuned to these people, can spot them a mile off and am able to neatly side-step out of danger’s way and scurry off to whatever corner of the world I’m allowed to exist in this week. Case in point: I decided to break my diet and try the new place on a street well known for violence and oddball characters. Well, the place isn’t well known for violence (other than the standard Saturday night/Sunday morning crowd), it’s better known as a place that sells deep fried food which is seagull at best, but pigeon generally, all wrapped up and coated in some basic herbs and spices, the former being a sprinkle of Masterfoods Mixed Herbs and the latter consisting of Worcestershire sauce mixed with curry powder. I walked in, grabbed something that was sold as food stuffs and sat down. I then noticed him.

Six foot nothing; he stood there in the middle of the room and picked a fight in full view of everyone. No-one intervened at all, I certainly wasn’t going to get up and assist. He was violent and very loud and hurled abuse at his victim, which just happened to be….a bacon double seagull burger. He addressed the burger like he’d just discovered that not only had it had carnal knowledge of his wife, mother, sister, uncle but even himself at some stage. “You fucking c*nt!” he screamed. “I’ll fuckin’ have you!! BASTARRRDDDDD!” After a full five minutes of this he stormed outside. I’m not entirely sure what the burger had said to begin the fracas, but it didn’t look too bothered by it, indeed it appeared to be very nonchalant and dismissive of the man’s overall attitude.

It didn’t end there. By the time I’d finished and walked out he was in the middle of the street. He’d finished off his seagull and bacon burger and was now hell bent on handing out the hiding of the century to a 600ml bottle of Pepsi Max. He moved about like a drunken Ali in a pool of Golden Syrup as he bashed his bottle like he’d discovered it owed him money. “DON’T YOU FUCKIN’ BACK ANSWER ME!!” was one of the more interesting things he screamed as he head butted, punched and kicked the hapless bottle from one side of the street to the other and then back again for another go. Again, no-one seemed to know who actually started the rumble, but the odds are fairly high that the bottle wasn’t the either the instigator not the retaliator. Indeed the bottle, and its contents, remained steadfast in its silence though and refused to even give a basic grunt – one tough cookie. This spectacle lasted for at least three minutes, during which, amongst the indifference shown by the assembled masses, I noticed the presence of someone next to me. I glanced over and saw two representatives of the law also standing, transfixed by what they were witnessing. “Aren’t you going to do something?” asked a passerby. “Nah,” replied one, “the bottle is holding its own.”

I suspect that while the bottle was able to retain its contents, the man’s head wasn’t able to say the same.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

#137: Radioactive

The Melbourne Cup should no longer be billed as "The Race That Stops A Nation", if we were to be totally accurate then it should be, "The Race That Ensures All Productivity Ceases For At Least A Day And A Half, Depending On Who Wins, Who Gets Drunkest And Who Scores In The Filing Closet."

Back in the day, and I mean when Moses was a lad, the Melbourne Cup was the premier horse racing event on the Australian sporting calendar. Now it’s the premier racing event on the social calendar. You tell me what went wrong because I have no idea. I think when someone dragged Jean ‘The Shrimp’ Shrimpton to the event and allowed her to show off her long legs and tight buns it all went tits up. Certainly by the time Susan Renauf-Peacock-Sangster-Alphabet graced the event and Sir John Kerr gave one of the more fondly remembered of all drunken speeches (along the lines of “Blaarrgghhhh tha’ fuggin’ Gough fuggin' Whitlam and that fuggin' caaannnttt, Malcolm, don't fuggin' get me started…ahhh fuggit!”) and followed it up with a good spew in a bin it no longer resembled a horse race. Gone are the days when the only female allowed into Flemington had four legs, a long nose and wasn’t Sarah Jessica-Parker no matter how close the resemblance. Gone are the days when men would grace Flemington wearing pork pie hats, drinking cans and smoking darts, they’ve now been replaced by a gaggle of Z-List wannabe celebrities and potential date rapists and their victims; all wearing some of the stupidest outfits this side of Al Grasby and his bloody ties and wide lapels. Perhaps the Race stopped being about horses (well, the four legged variety at least) when ‘they’ – and I have no idea who the mysterious ‘they’ are – invited Paris ‘Man Hands’ Hilton to the event. What does she have to do with horses? Nothing. I doubt she’d seen a horse before she went and she’s probably still not seen one.

You’d not see Think Big racing around entertaining a pack of twenty something, $1:50 per glass Champagne guggling twits all wearing objects on their heads that they’d quite happily ridicule colleagues for if someone would dare turn up to work, or another function, wearing. And therein lies the issue – they’re not hats. A hat is what Steve Waugh wore on the cricket field. A hat is what Rex Hunt puts fishing hooks in and occasionally wipes his arse with when he’s caught short on a boat or in the commentary box. Those oversized pieces of taffeta, wire, cheap dead flowers and tissue paper that you’ve stapled to your head isn’t a hat. It might well be a fashion statement, that statement being that you know absolutely nothing about fashion. Man-O-War never won the Melbourne Cup, but he never worse a hat either.

I once knew a guy who lived in Melbourne who had a double breasted baby-shit brown suit made in the 1970s with lapels wider than most freeways. Ray Charles would have seen it for what it was – horrid. Even Sir Les Patterson wouldn’t have touched this with a brick. Yet once a year it was fashionable and I was always amazed. He spilt a pie on it one year and people complimented him on both the colour blending and the unique design. I poured a pint down his back and the same thing happened. “Two Tone Harry” we’d call him, and he loved it. At least once a year he could wear his beloved suit without having to lose a bet or fear a beating from people who just felt that he was wrong. Tell me how that was fashion. I swear I see that suit every year on Channel 10. Guys wearing suits with the arse out, or those 'tuxedo shirts', you know the ones, that wife-beating bogans wear to weddings or funerals, or suits hired from some formal wear place that charge extra at this time of the year to cover the removal of stains and bodily fluids. Still it is better than some of the size 18 women who insist on covering themselves in butter and cramming into a size 12 dress looking like 20 pounds of shit in a 10 pound bag. Love the side and back tits honey and for God's sake, don't breathe and stay away from the animal enclosure lest someone throw a saddle on your back and enter you in the 4:10pm Bastard Stakes.

The race is a joke. Productivity ceases, nationwide, so why not just declare it a public holiday and be done with it? I do notice that all ‘Problem Gambling’ ads cease – after all it’s not in anyone’s best interests to remind people that gambling can lead to a loss of income, spouse, house, and possibly life. No, one this day it’s all about gambling, and people will happily tell you to ‘bet the house’ on Ol’ Paint and if you lose, well, you’ll be too drunk to do anything about it so why worry? There’s always next year, and hey, if Ol’ Paint doesn’t win you’ll always be able to enjoy him in a hamburger from a fast food joint in a few weeks and/or feed him to your cat. We keep getting told that the race is 'good for the economy', but I fail to see how giving some SP bookie $200 and never seeing him again is good for my economy.

People always have the ‘inside running’, the ‘late mail’ or the ‘dope’ on who’s going to win. Frankly unless your name is Bart Cummings or you have details on the reincarnation of Seabiscuit or Phar Lap shut the fuck up. You’ve got nothing to tell me that I’m going to take notice of. You can bash your form guide right up your chute. I could care less what horse David Hayes trains or if the track is heavy. I couldn’t give a shit what some pissed up Lunchtime O’Booze told you in the TAB – you have no idea what you’re talking about. Put all your money on the grey horse for all I care – it’s probably more logical that way. If there was a bright Ferrari red horse I’d bet on him because, as we all know, red things go faster.

Most people do the right thing and just skive the day away on a false sickie and don’t bother coming into work. Other workplaces have parties, which means that anywhere from five people to everyone in the office and a homeless guy waiting outside begin to organise the luncheons, sweeps, drinks and stupid hats from 8:00am. By the time the race is finished, well everyone wants to talk about it, eat all the food, drink all the drink and are generally too drunk to do anything, plus it’s nearly 3:30, which means it’s nearly 5:00pm so what the shit? Might as well leave early and be done with it and face the saucepan to the face from ‘Er Indoors.

I’d love to see the numbers on inter-office procreation during the Melbourne Cup. I know I’ve been at workplaces where people are so drunk by the time the race is on that they suddenly feel the urge to reproduce, loudly and violently in some backroom or on a desk with any number of random people. That’s got to be worth an iron to the skull as well, at the very least. Still, what it all adds up to is a day wasted, and longer, if the hangovers are anything to go by. Most people, depending on the level of loathing for the workplace or overall depression begin shoving the booze and food down their necks like gannets at around 10:am. And don’t dare challenge this; after all, as has been pointed out to me, it’s Un-Australian not to participate in these events.

So wear your stupid hats, allow your tits to fall out of your dress, get drunk, get beaten up, get sexually assaulted, get abused - do anything you want, just be sure NOT to wach the race while you drink cheap booze and eat two day old seafood. Make yourself look like the biggest dickhead on the planet on national television, spend all your life savings and frankly ruin your life. It’s not about the race anymore, it’s about the event. And if you don’t believe me, without looking, name me the last five winners of the Melbourne Cup.

Can’t do it, can you. Unless your name is Bart Cummings...and I doubt it is.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

#135: As Long As You Follow

Helloooo! I’m back!! Missed me? Oh, please, you’ll make me blush darlings!

So, you think you have it bad? You ain’t got shit! Seriously. Doing the rounds at the moment is this email purporting to be the ‘new’ email rules of a major department (can’t say which one it is, but I’m glad I’m not stuck there). At first I thought it was another one of those joke emails, but was told that, no, it's deadly serious and about to go into effect immediately. I did a bit of digging and it appears that the person who has come up with these rules isn’t fond of emails and firmly believes that emails are an utter waste of productivity. Naturally the staff disagree in private, but when pushed have to display the best qualities of sycophants and automatically agree, same as lemmings when push comes to leaping off cliffs.

Using the net to its utmost effectiveness and working in the Government aren’t always easy. Earlier this year I was part of a huge seminar to discuss the various aspects of using the internet to its greatest potential – in particular emails and social networking tools such as Twitter and FaceBook. It was generally accepted that upper level management frowned upon such sites as being a waste of work time and something that might, well, be fun at times. Can’t have that – remember the rules of Planet Express: “A Mindless Worker Is A Happy Worker – So Shut Up And Do Your Job!” That motto could easily be any number of Government departments at the best of times really.

I’ve always suspected that part of the overall reluctance of embracing new technology might be down to people just not being able to grasp it when it happens. I worked with a senior manager who, despite telling people how bloody good and smart he was, couldn’t stop referring to social networking sites as ‘My Facespacebook’. And he was serious. Someone once asked him about Twitter and he began to discuss small canaries. True story, swear to God. He also hated email. He’d site there and take people to task in public meetings by showcasing what sites they’d visited and at what times and would refuse to hear any explanation other than “Yes, I was visiting that site because I wanted to waste time, not because I was exploring Local Government policy surrounding the correct disposal of dead bodies found on premises, or the correct procedure to arrange police support whilst going into a dangerous situation”. And this was one of the policy markers in charge of telling all departments what was and wasn’t acceptable internet use and sites. Despite people showing that sites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and on-line email sites could be, and are, used for networking, information gathering and sharing and remaining connected with people that you’d not normally see or have an opportunity to speak to, these sites, and others, are banned because of the perception that they’re only used to arrange dates between nerds and clueless 18 year old girls and for people to stalk their ex-partners. Which they might well be used for, and indeed are used for, but hey, by the time you reach a certain level you generally should be given some latitude and trust not to sit there talking to some hillbilly somewhere getting your rocks off when a project is overdue. What is the answer? Education. Pure and simple, it really is as easy as that. Educate both the employees and management about what should be used to save time. After all most Govt departments still rely on paper files for everything and storage/retrieval of said files will keep some people in gainful employment well into retirement age.

So what are these new email rules? I’ll list them with some commentary, just for yuks. Here goes….

1. Emails will not be looked at and answered immediately.
Ok, got that? So if your email alert goes off DO NOT RESPOND TO IT. Ignore it. And if you do happen to see the email in your preview pane by mistake, for God’s sake, don’t reply to it. Hold that job up for as long as possible. Wait for someone to call you into a meeting and point out that your productivity has dropped because you’re no longer allowed to read the emails you get telling you what needs doing let alone reply to them.

2. If a matter is urgent, then you will need to contact the person (telephone/in person/SMS) and tell them it is urgent so that they can deal with the matter.
In other words, don’t send them an email. It’s always better to leave a text or voice message on a phone with a flat battery or leave a message with someone who then goes to lunch, has a few bottles of pop and forgets to pass it onto you until the next day, if at all.

3. If you are important enough to be involved or need to make decisions, then you will be in the 'To' category, and not CC'd.
See rule 1. If you’re CC’d then you shouldn’t be reading the bloody email anyway. And if you are CC’d then clearly you’re plankton and have no place even thinking about reading the email, let alone actually reading it.

4. If you are CC'd into a message, then that will be dealt with at a lesser priority than if the message is 'To' you personally, (if at all).
Clearly. As we now know, if you are CC’d into a message then you have no place reading it, let alone replying.

5. The various functions of the system will be used if possible - eg Tasking, Calendar, Contacts, projects etc.
This one raised a lot of groans – if you stick your head out your window and face east you can hear a hundred voices all screaming, “That’s what I bloody well use Calendar and Contacts in Outlook for already!!!

6. The calendar will be used to make meetings with people whenever possible.
See above. This will be fun when someone asks if you want a coffee or an informal meeting. Make sure you put that in your calendar.

7. No response such as 'Thanks' or 'OK' will be required, unless the sender requests acknowledgement or confirmation that a task has been done.
I can hear it now, “I sent you an email, you could have at least acknowledged it you rude prick!” Hey, you could always try a return receipt, but then most places try that now - I ignore about 95% of them myself.

8. When you take a message, or only have a short statement to make, just put the message in the 'subject' line and at the end put 'EOM' (End Of Message). Then no-one will have to open the message to see what is required.
By now a lot of people have seen emails with subject lines saying things like, “Don’t Read This EOM”. My personal favourite was one saying, “This Email Is Important, Please Read And Respond EOM”, but under the rules I felt I wasn’t able to read the email as it clearly violated rules 1, 4, 7 (couldn’t reply with “Dickhead EOM”) and 8.

9. If you can link to where a document is then put the link in, not the document.
Now this is probably the most useful suggestion in this entire list. I can relate to this rules, as I’m sure we all can, especially after having systems hang or crash due to some clot insisting on sending an email with about 3gig of files attached (of which you might need one or two at the most and a link to where those files could be found.

10. You must put a 'subject' in the 'subject' line - do not leave it blank.
Would the phrase “EOM” be acceptable as a ‘subject’? I’m gonna try that and see if it confuses the masses, especially if I only CC people….

11. Put a message below your name block telling people you might not get to it straight away – "As I’m not always at my desk I only check my messages 2 or 3 times each day. If your email requires immediate attention please contact me on the phone number above - thank you."
Hang on, if you’re away from your desk then presumably you’re away from your phone? Not everyone has mobile phones issued. I’m forever away from my (new) desk and I’ve not got a mobile phone, so what that’d be telling people is, “I’m away from my desk, you can’t find me, you can’t reach me, I am Claude Raines. I am dead to you. I do not exist. In fact I am probably standing behind you right now. BOO!” Mind you such a message would only work if people ever bothered to read the message block, and if you’re sending an email then you can’t access the message block until you get a reply – and that’s assuming that you get a reply, because, frankly, with those rules in place I’d not be too sure if I should even read the email, let alone reply to it.

There’s some fun days ahead for people in that department. I expect that all communication both within and without the department will cease entirely. And don’t get me wrong, I’m all for establishing guidelines and parameters for the correct usage of email, internet and so called ‘modern’ technology, but instead of leaving to a few technophobes in high places, why not consult with people who actually need to use this stuff on a daily basis and see what should be used, what shouldn’t be used and the ways to use it. But that day is clearly a few decades away at this point, so, until then, I expect that most people will keep on keeping on and generally ignore such email rules, especially if they’re not yet departmental policy.