Who’s My Boss? – Part II

{work rant}

With great fanfare and chest pounding the bosses in charge of the continuing reorganization of the folks responsible for creating and maintaining the software running at all Veterans Administration medical centers nationwide met yet another milestone. The first wave of “Supervisory Assignment Letters” were sent out to the first cohort of employees. I have not had an official supervisor since April 1st, 2007. I have been looking forward to this news since April 2nd.

There are some aspects about not having an official supervisor that can be thought of as good. No one objected to, or negotiated for, any vacation days that I took off. The bad part is all of the team fell into this category, and we did have one instance when we were all out of the office at the same time. If there had been a problem, the lack of coverage could have been disastrous, or at least very inconvenient. As it turned out no one but the team members noticed.

I do have a PM. Project Managers use to be supervisors until the reorganization team made some bad decisions. Over the past few years many of the skilled PMs have been replaced by contract employees, and a contract employee can not make policy decisions about employees, new projects, current project design or any of the other myriad things that a supervisor must do. All PMs do now is process the paperwork associated with their project, and give status reports. A contract employee can do that.

Today my “Supervisory Assignment Letter” arrived in my email system. The preamble stated that first and second level supervisors would be disclosed, but that because of current staffing shortages some employees might see a vacancy in their “primary and/or secondary” supervisor.

Pause for effect.

Guess what?!! My letter tells me both my first and second level supervisors are vacant positions. I still have no supervisor!!!

But the reorganization team can report up the the Department Secretary that they met this milestone because they sent out the all important “Supervisory Assignment Letters” before the deadline of Oct. 1, 2007. I hate bureaucrats.

But at least I have a Project Manager, right? Hmmm…. I do today. But because he is a contract employee, and because the bosses failed to continue the special contract employee funding that includes my project team, it is likely that my PM will not be allowed to continue working in the new fiscal year, which starts Oct 1, 2007.

No supervisors, no PM. That laughing you hear is the hysterical type.

As of the date this rant was posted, I have 8 years, 3 months and 17 days until I can retire. That is 3031 days–minus 433 weekends of course.

Advertisement

Review: Death Proof

Death Proof (2007)

The theater released twin feature Grindhouse (2007) was released on DVD as two separate movies. Death Proof is the Quentin Tarantino half of Grindhouse.

Tarantino has his moments of brilliance. If he ever strings enough together in a single film, I’ll give him the praise heaped on him by so many others. The first half of this film is horrid. The only thing that kept my interest was the retro-drive-in-movie, badly-spliced-and-scratched-low-budget-film, and in-joke-humor-moments. The first half of the story should have been told in five minutes. I didn’t walk out only because I was told repeatedly that it would get better. And it did. The last half had some of those brilliant Tarantino moments. As for the acting… if they were trying to act like they were in a bad 1970’s drive-in “B” movie, then the acting was brilliant. It was that bad, and I hope that it was intentional. It was good comedy/horror fare. If I ever watch it again I will likely skip the first half.

A Parent’s Nightmare

(Everyone is okay)

The phone rings.  It seems that some lady decided to go the wrong way down a one-way street in Portsmouth.  Chris was going the correct way and could not avoid her.

Head-on collisions scare me.  Most people don’t realize just how violent they can be even when low speeds are involved.  The laws of physics, conservation of motion, kinetic energy, the effects of frail bodies bouncing around inside steel shells: I know enough about these things to understand that I should be scared.  While waiting to see if Chris needed us in Portsmouth, I decided to take a walk to drive off the nervous energy.  I got about .3 mile when Doris pulled up in our car to head south.

Chris could not avoid the other car, but he was able to scrub off a lot of his momentum.  Thank goodness for good brakes and good tires on our 1985 Nissan pickup truck.  The right front fender and bumper were crumpled, and thanks to the tow truck driver, he pulled the fender out so that it would not rub the tire, the pickup truck is still drivable.  Based on the age of the pickup, the insurance company will want to total it.  I am not sure I want that.  I couldn’t replace the truck with anything else, based only on its bluebook value.

I am going to check the front end and make sure no supports have been broken.  If that is the case, then I am going to loosen the fender bolts and hammer the sheet metal a bit straighter,  replace the side running light bulb that was broken, align the headlights and put it back into Chris’ hands.

Chris is okay.  The truck is a little banged up.  I should be able to relax, right?

Heh.  Tell that to the nightmare that woke me up this morning…

Overheard at the Pharmacy…

I didn’t catch the entire exchange… so I am going to present it as if it were a joke, although I wonder if it wasn’t. You never can tell with some people.

Lady: So I went to that fast food place.

Pharmacist: Um-hmm.

Lady: The service was terrible and when the cashier finally brought me my salad she said “I am sorry about your wait.”

Pharmacist: Um-hmm.

Lady: Well I was never so insulted in all my life! I told that cashier that I was sorry about my weight as well. I mean, why did she think I was ordering a salad instead of a burger and fries! I have put on a few pound recently, but really, to bring up my weight right there in front of all those other customers… well, it was just rude!

Pharmacist: What?

Cleaning is hard for a pack rat…

(re: Thing #13 – Clean my office space)

I made a good start at cleaning my office space. I still have a lot more to do, however.

I am a pack rat. My sister and I joke that it is a genetic trait that we inherited from our maternal grandfather. Grandpa White didn’t seem to throw anything out. He did have the good habit of using what he hoarded. He made a cattle watering trough from an old bathtub and used at least three different types of pipe to feed water to it. He had a storage room full of toys, some of which had mixed parts, that all of his grandchildren played with. His brother Andrew never threw away any mail, including junk mail, and when it came time for him to move we filled two truck sized trash bins of the useless paper.

I am working hard to stop my own hoarding. It is difficult. My office space is small, but over the last six years I have accumulated a lot of “stuff” in it. Not all of it is work related. I have memory items from my childhood that I “decorated” my space with. I have coin collection related items, hiking stuff and of course–books.

On the work side of things, I still had a CD to restore the hard drive of the work computer I have not had since 2003. I had software that I do not need now, and will not run on my current workstation. I had notes on projects that I finished years ago. I had every single empty FedEx envelope that has been sent to me (I do reuse these as file folders). I have business cards that vendors and coworkers have handed me over the years; cards that I have never used.

I am being ruthless in throwing things away this time. Just not the important things. I am keeping those special cards from Doris. And fun things like my Eeyore Pez dispenser. Practical useful things like paper clips.

Everything else has to go.

Review: Asimov’s SF, V31 #10&11, Oct/Nov 2007

Asimov’s SF, V31 #10&11, Oct/Nov 2007

This is a double sized issue which explains why there are two issue numbers. This is a fairly typical issue of Asimov’s with a good cross section of stories. The only complaint I have is that once again the cover came damaged. If there was one thing I could change about the magazine it would be the quality of paper used for the cover.

Stories

  • (novelette) Dark Integers– Greg Egan
    Ahh… Hard Science in the form of math. Just the stuff I have been craving for in Asimov’s. This tale has good suspense and I like the characters. As a sequel some parts don’t seem to stand alone and is likely due to the reliance on the previous story, Luminous. It was published back in 1995, and I honestly can not recall it after all this time. Still this story got me intrigued. Again we have an author that can speak about computer technology and not fall flat. Not being a mathematician I couldn’t say how well the math holds up, but it made sense to me. I would like to see more short fiction from Egan. {nt5}
  • (short story) At Sixes and Sevens– Carol Emshwiller
    Continuing a bad trend in my eyes, I found this tale predictable. Regardless it was still fun to read. Emshwiller’s name is one I recognize and associate with solid stories. Perhaps it was due to the strong characterization and point of view that led me to guess the ending, because the main character seemed very real and her actions quite plausible within the scope of what we know about her. Despite the predictability, it is a very good story. {ss6}
  • (short story) Paid In Full– Susan Forest
    This one was fun. It did not take me long to get an image of this world in my mind. The descriptions were great and I really liked the usage of common terms to describe otherworldly things. Gnats are pesky critters on any world I guess. And so are humans; Susan Forest gives us characters that we can all identify with. For me this made it easy to suspend reality and immerse myself in her tale. {ss6}
  • (novelette) Night Calls– Robert Reed
    This was billed as a homage to Isaac Asimov’s Nightfall, and it was. It was overly predictable because of that, and had all the taste of a pastiche. There is only one Nightfall, and while this was a good story, it does not compare in strength of characters or in plot. Only the theme is as strong, and that is because it is the same. I have to give Mr. Reed credit for even attempting this story. It must be hell being held up to and compared against Asimov. {nt4}
  • (novelette) Nightfall– Isaac Asimov
    I promised myself that I would review every story in each Asimov’s SF magazine. I seriously considered breaking that promise. I have decided to go ahead and give this a serious review even though there has been enough said about this story over the years. I first read Nightfall as a teenager when it was already being billed as a classic SF story. I am happy to say that the story still gives me chills, and I love the night sky. What makes this story so great for me is that Dr. Asimov was able to take something as comforting and romantic as a night sky and turn it into it’s opposite. Not just within the story, but within me as I read it. It is a classic that stands up to modern sensibilities. It was a joy to read again. {ntClassic}
  • (short story) Leonid Skies– Carl Frederick
    This was a haunting tale for me, but only because I love the freedom of woodlands and open skies. I liked the characterization here. The point of view was perfect for this story. The adult character was wistful and sorrowful, something I can relate to, and the children were just the kind of kids that I hope I was. The ending was a great outcome and flowed naturally from all that had gone before it. This is my favorite story in this issue.{ss6}
  • (short story) Debatable Lands– Liz Williams
    It is bad enough that the story was predictable, but the editor had to go and telegraph the direction it was heading by assuring the reader it was SF. ARRGH! I guessed the climax before reading much at all. I can’t blame all of this on Liz Williams. It is possible that without the word choice in the intro, I wouldn’t have been subconsciously scrutinizing each sentence for that science fiction element I was promised. On the plus side the story was very readable. I did like the descriptions very much, and the main character did feel real to me.{ss4}
  • (short story) Skull Valley– Michael Cassutt
    Since this is a double issues, I get to name my second favorite story. This is it. The description was vivid and the characterization was strong. Mr. Cassutt must have encountered bureaucrats at some point because he nailed the type. The story kept me interested and it did not have a predictable climax. Both are things I like about stories.{ss6}
  • (novelette) Dark Rooms– Lisa Goldstein
    I really couldn’t get into this story. It had a lot to do with the main character and that the story was being told from his point of view. More than once I was pulled out of the story thinking that the guy was a putz. I am sure that the author intended to have an unlikeable character, so in this regard the characterization was marvelous. It just is not the type of character I enjoy reading about. {nt5}
  • (short story) The Turn– Chris Butler
    This was a fascinating story. The theme is one I think most of us have pondered, and I can’t discuss it further without giving away the climax. I enjoyed the description of the world, such as it is, and found that I could picture it in my mind’s eye. The entire setting was so different from anything I have read recently that it was very refreshing. I have complained here about the predictability of so many stories that Asimov’s publishes. It is heartening to know that they are still interested in some uniqueness. This is a good story.{ss6}
  • (novel serial) Galaxy Blues (part 1 of 4)– Allen M. Steele
    Down and Out on Coyote – I have decided to wait until the serial has run its course before reviewing this novel. This first installment did not disappoint me.

The Arts: (disclaimer: I don’t “get” most art or poetry, but I know what I like)

  • (cover art) Galaxy Blues part 1– Ron Miller
    I like cover art that accurately depicts the story that it is for. I also dislike when a part of a story is spoiled for me. This cover has both. At least the part of the story depicted on the cover was not all that unpredictable to begin with. The character has a minor surprise but it fell flat for me as a reader because of the cover. I guess I have to live with this kind of thing happening because I much prefer accuracy over the alternative. The art itself reminds me of covers from decades ago. I say this as a good thing. It is detailed enough to convey the alien-ness of the world Coyote, yet not so detailed that it looks sterile. {a4}
  • (poetry) Modern Constellations– Pat Tompkins
    This I like. I have always liked stories where inhabitants of a new world invent constellations in the sky of their new world. I have never considered what It would be like to have our own modern constellations. I grinned when I looked up into the star filled sky last night. {p6}
  • (poetry) Star People– Bruce Boston
    I like the imagery Mr. Boston conjures up in his poetry. Yet, sometimes, like now, it leaves me with nothing to say. This offering didn’t spark my imagination as much of his poetry does. {p3}
  • (poetry) Little Red Robot– G.O. Clark
    Another fun poem. Did every kid have an equivalent to a little red robot? Since I started paying attention to poets here in Asimov’s, I have discovered that I like G.O. Clark’s wit. I know I like a poem when it leaves me grinning. {p5}
  • (poetry) Into the Deep– Michael Meyerhofer
    Good poem. I liked it. It isn’t SF or speculative, at least from my point of view. But, I did like it.{p3}
  • (poetry) Endangered– PMF Johnson
    I got a chuckle out of this one. It also sparked my imagination and had me pondering how the human race could get itself into such a situation. This poem fits my desire to have poetry that could also tell a story. I liked it very much. {p4}
  • (poetry) The Angel Who Writes– Ruth Berman
    Sigh. I would rather have more artwork than non-speculative poetry. I can’t fault the author because ultimately it was the editor that chose to publish it, but, darn it this is not a poem that belongs in an SF magazine. Rant over. It was a good poem and I did get a feeling of pity for the angel that writes, although the shadow puppets on the cave wall might have been fun… {p3}
  • (poetry) Staying the Course– Mark Rich
    What a hoot. This poem has it all. Allegory, humor, fantastical whimsy and a healthy portion of sarcasm. Not only is this my favorite poem of the issue, it just might be my favorite poem of the year. Thank-you Mark Rich. {p6}

Departments:

  • (editorial) Trends by Sheila Williams
    This month Sheila Williams discusses trends in science fiction. Basically she is discussing what I call pigeon-holes. What I see as a trend is the desire by many to classify science fiction into sub-genres. Space Opera, New Wave, Hard, Cyberpunk, and now Mundane. Frankly I think it is all just silly. I agree that perhaps a better name for the genre would be speculative fiction but history is against us, and science fiction it is. It fits. After all, sociology and anthropology are sciences.
  • (column) Reflections: Reading Theodore Sturgeon by Robert Silverberg
    Mr. Silverberg takes us back by reflecting on his re-reading of a Sturgeon classic, More Than Human. The perspective he gives us of how he felt about the book back when he was a young man, mixed with how he thinks about it now, is very refreshing. It is nice to know that some classics still stand up. I’ll have to remember in a decade to re-read Lord Valentine’s Castle and give Robert Silverberg the same perspective he gave Sturgeon.
  • (column) On The Net: Pixel-Stained Technopeasants by James Patrick Kelly
    Mr. Kelly demonstrates the lag time that his column has. Nearly six months have passed since the Pixel-Stained Technopeasants flap first hit with online community. At issue is the perception by some, particularly Howard Hendrix the sitting VP for the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) at the time of the flap, that providing free samples of ones work on the internet is somehow wrong. Kelly makes some very good observations. To toss in one of my own, I haven’t seen anyone mentioning that giving away books at conventions or special events is also wrong. It seems that there is a Luddite angle to this in that a publisher can give away hard copy books and call it marketing, but an author can not, or should not, do the same thing using technology. I should point out that I do not get paid for writing the reviews I do here on Blogtide Rising. Like Kelly, I am a member of the pixel-stained technopeasants. And I didn’t even have to meet the SFWA publishing criteria to join. Huh.

Review: The Lookout

The Lookout (2007)

I have become a fan of the acting of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. His most recognizable TV roles, Tommy Soloman (Third Rock from the Sun) and George (Roseanne), show an understanding of comedic timing and subtlety. That style serves him well in The Lookout.

It would have been easy for any actor to have overplayed the role of Chris Pratt. I am reminded of the part of Lennie in “Of Mice and Men” which can easily become a campy role if not played subtly. Levitt hits the mark on this one. Maybe it is his age, or maybe it is that indie style films are shunned by the establishment, but I feel that there should be best actor buzz surrounding this performance. It is brilliant.

Jeff Daniels supporting role as Lewis is also strong. It is roles like these that make me wish Daniels would stay away from the slapstick comedy roles he has filled in recent years. Daniels can act and it would be nice to see him in more drama and action films.

If you have read much here you should know by now that I am a fan of anything where the underdog gets to shine. This is that type of movie. It is filled with sorrow, hope, humor and sheer brilliance. This movie will be on our video shelf before too long.

This Doesn’t Happen Every Day…

My ultra-short flash story The Journey has been accepted by Every Day Fiction.

This is my first fiction sale. I have two previous non-fiction publications, one for a now defunct web based role playing magazine and a guest editorial for the national publication COIN WORLD. {I don’t count all of the software training, technical and user manuals I have written for my job. The government owns it, not me.}

The Journey tops out at 95 words. I initially wrote it back in 1995 or 96; I lost track of when exactly. It came to me in a flash which makes it appropriate that it has been purchased by Every Day Fiction a magazine that specializes in bringing you fine fiction in bite-size doses.” They publish what is known as “flash fiction”–stories that are 1000 words or less.

The acceptance letter had me laughing. Editor Jordan Lapp said, “Okay. This piece has beaten me down.” They want me to be available to respond to readers comments when the story is published because, according to Lapp, “I’m SURE there with be a lot of people going WTF (I did the first time I read it).” What I am not sure of is what I can say about the story. How does one explain or defend “quirky weirdness”??? It is what it is, although I am anxious to read what others think about it.

As part of my 101 Things in 1001 days project, I had set a goal to get a story published before May 27, 2010. Technically I have fulfilled that goal, but I don’t think I will count it. All I did was brush off a little tale that is over ten years old. I did it on a whim. That goal was all about learning the craft of writing and having some measurable success as the outcome. I reserve the right to change my mind on May 26, 2010.

RIP, Madeleine L’Engle

Madeleine L’Engle is the reason I am a fan of Science Fiction and Fantasy. I don’t know the year exactly, it could have been 1963 or 64, when my mother read “A Wrinkle In Time” to my brother, sister and me. I was hooked. I wanted more of that kind of story. So much so that I taught myself to read.

Many times during my childhood I remember wanting to create a “tesseract” and have adventures of my own. I started making up stories of my own, and still do. I read every science fiction book in our public library before I learned to drive. I bought books with the money I earned from selling the spare eggs my chickens laid and from picking strawberries at a local fruit farm. I spread the addiction by insisting that friends read the same books I was reading. I coasted through high school with SF novels taking more important role in my studies than textbooks. Who I am today has been shaped by my love for imagination and a longing for a bright and wondrous future. I am a computer scientist because of science fiction. I have shared my love for the fantastic with my three sons, and they are now bright and creative and wonderful young men.

I espouse kindness and love as strengths in a world that now labels them as weaknesses or character faults. Deep down in my soul I am a happier person because of my desire to look forward to a time when things will be better if only we act to make it that way. I always know that I can defeat IT with love, no matter what “it” happens to be. This is what I learned from “A Wrinkle In Time.”

I am the person that I am partly because of Madeleine L’Engle.

She passed from us on Thursday, September 6th, 2007. I would like to think that Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which were there to show her the path to Glory.

They Put Me On Hold

They put me on hold, and it feels like a good thing.

I am talking about the story I sent out a mere five days ago. The five day turn around is amazing. I guess I was so prepared for a rejection that I am stunned that it is not. It is not an acceptance either, they are just hanging on to it for a bit. They said not to get my hopes up. Hah! That boat already sailed!

I wrote this story back in 1996 and I got rejection letters from Analog and the now defunct Aboriginal SF. The submission to Analog was a shot in the dark as I really tailored the work specifically for Aboriginal SF. It was also the last story I sent out before I took an unplanned decade long hiatus in writing fiction.

I am hopeful that it will be accepted because the slush readers seem to get it. “Quirky weirdness” is a dead on description of it; their words, not mine. It is the kind of thing that grows on people. Back in 1996 after its first rejection, I showed it to a friend that subscribed to Aboriginal SF. He frowned when he read it the first time, but came back and read it again. This time he laughed and said he really liked it.

I had notes somewhere about how I could make this a series of stories that all start the same way, yet all branch off into their own quirky weirdness. The notes were likely lost in our 1999 move back to Ohio, but I am sure I can recreate the ideas.

I didn’t get a reject. They put me on hold!!

Hang on. That means I have to wait some more… Drat!