Tools for the work place

For the past 2 years, the “team” I’m on at work has been doing a “team building” exercise with the DISC assessment. What’s the DISC assessment? Well, it’s basically a personality test that helps to define how you act in your work environment. The idea is that everyone takes the test, finds out what category they fit in (Dominant, Influence, Steadiness, Conscientiousness), and then works with the whole team to figure out how to work better together. The first time we did this we found out what we are (I’m a D) and how we relate to the other types in our group. This time we learned about how the other types work and what behaviors we need to change to work better with those other types. It was a very interesting few hours and the main thing I took away from it was not what was intended. I think it may have been the reverse.

Basically, we were handed sheets of info about each of the types. These sheets explained how each of the types functioned and how to best deal with them. It also listed the weaknesses of each of the types and what to watch out for when dealing with the particular types. Now, I quickly put 2 and 2 together and realized I’d just been handed a gold mine of information. Can you see it yet? Let me stress the part that’s important: it listed their weaknesses!? Essentially, we were given four sheets of paper with explicit information about how to manipulate and control members of all the other types. Let me give some examples:

  1. One type dislikes conflict and agression in the extreme. So much so that when forced into a confrontation, they will generally cave to your demands to get out of the situation. The sheet actually outlined this. So, I couldn’t help thinking, from now on, when I really want something from that group of individuals over there, I just need to come off really agressive and they’ll cave right away!
  2. Another group is more concerned about group harmony and emotions than the facts involved. They’d rather make everyone happy than do it the right way the first time. So to exploit this person I just need to come off as extremely emotional and lead the individual on a rioutous roller coaster of feelings until they give me what I want.

Obviously these techniques won’t work on everyone who falls with the definition of the types but I find it very interesting how closely my own assessment fit me.

So, I have a feeling that the team building exercise failed this year. Why? Obviously the intent was good but all the half day of DISCing did was supply new information on how to better control and manipulate your colleagues. Maybe that was the intent but I highly doubt it.

Code of Conduct

So, some background. There are currently two divisions of Information Services where I work. Soon there will be three. Currently, we’re all located in different areas on the campus and there’s no love lost between us all. Now, for almost two years, a new building has been under construction on campus for IS, as well as a whole slew of other areas. So far so good. Except it’s not good. Come August first, all three divisions of IS, which is over 80 people, will be crammed into one massive cube farm. The first issue we saw was the noise. Thankfully, that has been addressed with noise generators that will supposedly take care of that issue. What’s come to light recently though is somewhat amusing and dismaying at the same time. Our director sent an email out to her staff this week about a new committee the CIO has formed. The entire purpose of this committee is to develop a code of conduct for what is appropriate in our new distopia of a cube farm. I find it pathetic that we have to have a committee to talk about what is appropriate and what is not. Some of the issues are reasonable (burnt pop-corn, music, etc) but some are not (language, yelling for co-workers instead of calling, etc). Has our society really degenerated to the point that we need someone to tell us what is approrpiate in a work environment? Are people really so stupid as to think that calling someone a bitch or cunt in the work place is actually acceptable? Unfortunately, they are. Now, I’ll be the first to say that I am highly inappropriate at times but I’m very careful about what I say and to whom. I know what the limits are and I know that some co-workers will grin when I make a raunchy joke and some will not. Based on that knowledge I guard the things I say carefully. Some individuals don’t. I’m hoping that once we get moved into the new area, we’ll get to see some hefty fireworks when some of those individuals start in on their normal routine. I honestly can’t wait.

Tangled Skein

Red sands, crystal skulls,
Witches in the wind.
Crooked trees, spells of fire,
Tails of donkies pinned.

Season’s shadow, werewolf’s glory,
Love and war abound.
Mystery hunt, swan song’s sting,
Twilight eyes of hound.

Pale dragon’s crown, adept of blue
Bearing an hourglass.
What a tangled skein we weave
As through life we pass.

The source of death through streams of passing,
Red branches of the stars.
Servants of an unloved time
Who hide behind their scars.

War of wizards, mother’s love.
Deep water in the vale.
Night shift on the river wall
Unto you I hail.

Hunters of the legacy.
Jewels of a ladies hand.
At the gates of heaven’s door
Is where I’ll make my stand.

Crystal shard of red and silver,
Split infinity.
I think tonight I’ve found my place
For all eternity.

Politically Correct

I love words. I always have. I discovered very early on that words, when chosen with forethought and care, have tremendous power. Power to heal and power to hurt; it’s up to you, Grasshopper, to use them wisely.

You’ll notice the title of this post is politically correct, which is what I’m planning on grumping about this evening and it ties into my opening up there. Essentially, words only have the power we allow them to have. Don’t believe me? Go hang out with a bunch of five and six year olds and you’ll quickly learn what I mean. All it takes is five kids chanting in a sing-song tone “Sally likes green lolly pops!” to bring Sally to tears. Why? Because as a child, she doesn’t realize those words don’t have to hurt her. She just lets them. More to the point, we let ourselves hear the intent behind the words as they are spoken and fly off the handle. So, that kind of contradicts my “Words have power” theme if it’s not really the words that are causing the problem, eh? Not really…

Let’s think about the words mentally retarded. When I was a boy, it was perfectly all right for an adult to say that a child was mentally retarded. It meant the child had developmental issues and that was that. However, some brilliant child took the ed off the end of the word and called someone a retard and a most glorious insult was born. I can’t tell you the joy using that word brought to so many children in my elementary schools! So, suddenly mentally retarded sounds a lot like retard and now that phrase is bad! So, they’re not mentally retarded. Suddenly they’re special. Wait though, I thought all children were special? Okay, so they’re not special. Hmmm…oh wait, I know! They have a developmental disability! Okay, that’s better. Wait, don’t say the developmentally disabled boy! That’s not okay! You’ve just labeled him! He’s a boy with developmental disabilities! What?!?

Do you see the problem yet? No? What are you, retarded? 😀 The point is that every single one of those new phrases means the same thing! No matter what fancy words you wrap around it, they all mean the kid’s not right in the head. Mentally retarded, special, developmentally disabled or shit-for-brains, they all mean the same thing. So, where does being PC get us? It makes everyone feel better about the fact that they’re referring to the retarded kid but being nice about it. Whatever…if it means the same thing, it is the same thing.

So, how does this equate to Words have Power? Political Correctness is all about words having power. Someone along the way realized that if you call someone black or brown or yellow or whatever they might get insulted. So now we have all these different types of Americans. Now you have to know all the right ways to place your words when talking about the next door neighbors Downs Syndrome disaster. Who the fuck cares? I actually spent an hour and a half meeting at work several years ago arguing about how we advertise that we have services for people with disabilities.Everyone wanted to use some other phrase to basically say the same thing. I finally got frustrated, turned to the CIO at the time and said in a nice loud voice, “What’s the big deal? I always thought the word cripple worked just fine. Why’d they go and change it?” The beauty of that one moment will live with me through the rest of my life. The whole room went into an agonized silence. You could literally see people desperately trying not to laugh, others trying to look horrified, and more actually being horrified. Luckily the CIO got the joke and actually did laugh. He also got the point. He picked a phrase and that was the end of it. But it was amazing how much power the word cripple had. And that’s not even one of the bad ones. Don’t believe me? Drop the N-word in a meeting sometime. (Notice that word has so much power even I won’t spell it out). Words have power because people let them. I used to let the phrase White Trash send me into a fury. Why? Because I am White Trash. It’s my heritage and I was horrified by it. Now, I realize they’re just simple words and I laugh when I hear them. I don’t let mere words hold sway over me but I have tremendous power to control others because so many people do.

Mike the Pharaoh

Over the Easter weekend ABC was showing that old time movie favorite, the Ten Commandments with Charleton Heston as Moses. Now, not being big bible movie fans, the wife and I only had it on for back ground noise while we chatted on the sofa. Occasionally we would be drawn into the story but mostly we ignored it. Toward the end of the evening however, I turned to the wife and said, “You know, if I’d been Pharaoh, Moses wouldn’t have had a chance.” I could tell by the look on her face that she desperately did NOT want to ask but just couldn’t help herself. “How’s that?” she asks. I grinned really big. “First time Moses came up and said ‘Let my people go!’ I’d have cut off his head and fed him to the crocodiles. I’m the Pharaoh for cryin’ out loud! You don’t tell me what to do.” The wife just shook her head. “Know what else?” At this point, she has I really don’t want to know written all over her face so I don’t give her a chance to deny me the pleasure of sharing. “If I had been dumb enough to go through all ten plagues, I certainly wouldn’t have let everyone go. At first light, I’d have gathered what was left of my armies, gone down to the Hebrew villages and slaughtered every man, woman and child. Nobody fucks with the Pharaoh’s kid.” My wife just shook her head and replied, “The next time you feel like sharing something like that, don’t.” I couldn’t help grinning.

XBox 360

Being the XBox fan boy that I am, I finally got my hands on a 360 for myself. So far I’ve been highly entertained by it. It’s just about everything I had hoped for and more. Of course, having the new system makes me hunger for new games. Being as picky as I am about the games I play gives me a limited field of choice though. So far, I have only 2 games: Project Gotham 3, which is an excellent racing game. I’ve been having a blast playing. Of course, I don’t have an XBox Live Gold account so I can’t race online. I have a feeling that a year membership for XBox Live Gold will be purchased. I love racing the Solo Career in the game but nothing compares to racing online against real people. My only complaint with PG3 is that it’s not as realistic as it could be. I suppose that’s my own fault because I’ve been playing Forza Motorsport for the past year on the original XBox and it is considered to be a racing simulator. They’ve made sure that driving the car in the game is that same as driving in real life. It makes for an incredibly challenging game but also and incredibly fun one. Now, Forza Motorsport 2 is coming out for the 360 in May so I’ll have a new racing game in not too long. The other game I currently own is a first person shooter called Perfect Dark Zero. This game was evidently the shining example game for the 360 release (think Halo with the original XBox) and I must say it’s pretty impressive. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing it, although I haven’t played it all that much. Over all it has gorgeous graphics and the gameplay itself is highly immersive. My only issue with it is that it’s an FPS on a console wich is fairly hard to play. I need a keyboard and mouse for FPS games.  Anyway, the 360 is all I hoped for and more. The best feature that I’ve stumbled upon so far is that I can turn the 360 on and off with the wireless controller. I don’t need to get up and walk across the room to do either. It’s incredibly awesome for fat lazy people like me.

To gamble or not to gamble…

Sunday morning I will be starting my annual trip to a conference I attend for work. This year’s conference is being held in Las Vegas. Being that this year I am on the committee that helps to plan the conference, I was in Vegas for the first time last November. I didn’t have a whole lot of time during that trip and consequently did not do any gambling. Now, I’m not a fan of gambling except for poker and have never actually done any gambling in casinos. I don’t have any issues with it, I’ve just never done it. This upcoming week I will have the opportunity to try out the slot machines, black jack tables, etc. and am not sure if I will or not. Partially, I don’t want to lose any money. I’m a man with a wife and four kids and it makes me none to happy to give away my hard earned cash. Also, what’s really the point? Sure, I might hit some big pot on a slot machine or get lucky at black jack but I just don’t think so. Anyway, the point of all this is that I may give it a shot this upcoming week. I just don’ t know. I guess it will depend on whether or not I can find someone to go do it with me. I’m fairly sure one of my main work buddies will NOT participate though I might get him to watch. There are a few other people I could probably get to play with me but I’m not sure I want to play with them. Plus, there’s always the giving away my money thing holding me back.

Anyway, boring post, I know. Just thought I’d jaw a bit about gambling. I still don’t know if I will or not. I’ll just have to wait and see.

Don’t get caught

When you think back on your childhood, there’s probably one thing over everything else that you feel your parents taught you. Whether it was brush your teeth or don’t play with yourself, it’s the primary thing you walked out of your childhood with. Mine wasn’t an action, it was a concept and I honestly believe it comes from how we were disciplined as children.

Spankings were the main form of deterent in our household as children. It was something you desperately wanted to avoid because those things hurt like hell. You always watched what you said and you made sure you never got into so much trouble that you warranted a spanking. For my sister and I, the hardest part of that was keeping our mouths shut. If you know us, you know we’re quite outspoken individuals. Not saying what we felt the need to say was almost impossible. In other words, both of us got the slap across the face quite a bit in our childhood. As for the spankings themselves, those didn’t happen very often at all. My sister never did anything so horrible as to warrant a spanking (though there were other incidents that could be considered worse) and I made sure I never got caught.

And how did I do that? Essentially, you weigh the options at hand and weigh the risks. What’s the probability that you’ll get caught in this extremely heinous crime? If it’s above 50% it’s iffy; above 60% you’re feeling pretty brave; above 70% it’s best to walk away. Generally speaking i wouldn’t go beyond 70%. Now, that’s not to say I didn’t get caught at some pretty horrible stuff. I did. But the stuff I got away with far out weighs the stuff I didn’t. Sure, I got caught shoplifting with a buddy but no one ever knew we were the ones that accidentally shattered the sliding glass door of a neighboring duplex the year before. (It really was an accident by the way). Yes, I got caught forging parent signatures on mid-terms but I never got caught sneaking out and spending the night at my girlfriend’s when her parents were out of town.

So, what’s the point of all this? Mainly that, as a child, I didn’t trust my parents. I couldn’t go to them with issues or questions. How that correlates to don’t get caught is pretty simple. I didn’t trust them so I didn’t feel the need to listen. I did however, watch. What I saw taught me that as long as you didn’t get caught, you’d be okay. (I learned a whole bunch else as well. I learned to respect woman, people of color are the same as everyone else, and that if you clean as you go in baking and cooking, the mess is less at the end.) My whole life has been shaped by the don’t get caught motto. I stopped shoplifting because I didn’t want to go to jail. I stopped speeding because I didn’t want to pay the tickets. I stopped stealing in general to avoid jail. In essence, I live my life by what I can get away with, not by what is right and wrong. I certainly know the difference between the two but I don’t make my decisions in life based on those things. Obviously there are some things I don’t do because I find them repulsive, rape for instance, but overall it’s a measure of the risk and the gain. These days, with my wife and children, the risk is never worth the gain.

“Where’s your moral compass?” you ask. I honestly do live my life by a moral code but those morals were influenced tremendously in their shaping by don’t get caught. What’s funny, is that I like who I am. I like my morals and I like my perspective. Does that mean I want my children to grow up like me? Probably not. I’m not sure what I’d want their one thing to remember from me to be but “don’t get caught” certainly isn’t it. The comforting thing is that I’ll probably never know what that one thing is. The scary thing is that I’ve most likely already taught it…

Dairy Section Psycho

Remember how I told you I had a sick and twisted mind? Well, this evening I had a flash of sick and twisted in the Dairy section of the local Price Chopper. So, to set the scene, I walk into the cheese and yoghurt aisle and about half-way down the way is a stocker who’s loading up the yoghurt. As I walk toward him I noticed he had a handy belt-sheath for his box cutter. What happened next made me grin with evil ecstasy. Essentially, an image flashed through my mind. I saw myself stepping up behind this young man, sliding his box cutter out of the sheath, flicking it open, reaching around his head, covering his mouth and slitting his throat from ear to ear. Then I would simply pocket the knife and calmly walk away. Sick, eh?

The funniest part of the whole five second psychotic episode was that once it was finished, I instantly started analyzing the feasibility of the action. I found myself scanning the aisle for security cameras, other customers, obstacles that would keep my in the aisle longer than I needed to be, etc. I decided the most important part would be not getting blood on my clothes, which if the victim was held appropriately, the blood spray would not touch me, and the wiping my prints from the knife. That was the hard part. I couldn’t keep the knife because the police would most likely show up before I left. I couldn’t hide the knife as the police would close the store and tear it apart, eventually finding it. The conclusion I came to was that to effectively clean the knife, I would need to go to the cleaning aisle, open one of the cleaning wipes boxes and wipe down the knife as well as the box. I’d then drop the knife behind the boxes in the row and also clean off the box which I opened. Of course, this leaves me with a wipe to get rid of but that’s easily disposed of in a trash can or even in another shoppers cart. The final piece that would hopefully keep me out of jail would be the pure lack of motive. The only motive for the action would have been the act itself.

So, have I disturbed you yet? You know, sometimes I disturb myself. Anyway, I obviously did not follow through on my imaginings but it did remind me of a story I wrote a long time ago about a young man who worked in a toy store. The essence of the story was that the young man slaughtered all of his co-workers during the restocking period after the store closed. He did it with a box cutter and was found giggling madly in a pool his co-workers blood. It was a good story and quite disturbing all at the same time. Anyway, it’s possible the flash of imagery in the Dairy section came from the subconscious memory of that story but I really couldn’t say.

Anyway, that’s all for now!

Who would you call?

I have a rather sick and twisted mind and sometimes it comes up with the most absurd ideas. Today’s idea was this. Who would you call if you accidentally (or on purpose) killed someone and needed to cover it up? Is there anyone in your life you could trust that much? Is there anyone who wouldn’t bat an eye but would instead calmly ask where you kept the hack saw?

Now this was an interesting concept for me. I thought long and hard on what the answer would be. I have 3 friends who I’ve known since childhood and they are the closest thing to brothers I’ll have ever have. Does that mean I’d call them? At first, I thought, “Absolutely!” They’d have my back. And in the initial stages, I honestly think they would. Each of them would be there with the hacksaw, ready to go. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I probably wouldn’t call any of them. One is too damn honest. In the end I think he’d have to tell the truth. I view this as a strength of his, by the way. Certainly not a weakness. Another would be so torn with guilt that he’d end up telling random strangers until we were all thrown in jail. Again, not a weakness. An active conscience is a good thing. The third is more complicated. I think he’d go along with whatever I needed and I also think he would keep quiet. The problem with him is that I think it would slowly break his sense of self; his sense of purpose; his belief in the innate goodness of man and himself and I just couldn’t be responsible for that. So, in the end, when I accidentally kill someone, I’m pretty much on my own. That was kind of a bummer at first. And then it got me thinking about something else. Would someone call me?

I did an intense internal audit while at the grocery store this evening. Could I live with the guilt of hacking up and disposing of a body? Probably so. It’d take some getting used to but I don’t think it’d be all that horrendous. Could I keep my mouth shut? Absolutely. There are some things you just don’t talk about and that would be one of them. And finally, would it change my own self-worth? Would it change how I view myself? Would it make me feel less of a man? Honestly, I don’t think so. I’ve got a dark side that I accepted a long time ago. One of my best friends said of me once, “Mike, everyone has a dark side. You just acknowledge and embrace yours.” It fits to a tee. I think part of it is that I accept who I am and am not afraid of what I could become.

So, would I be a good person to call in this situation? That just depends on how much I like you.