Emptiness Is Not a Container

August 4, 2012 at 1:40 PM | Posted in The Corporate World | Leave a comment
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I thought I would take a quick break from whatever the hell it is that I’m doing and try to catch you up on things.  I look at the empty folders of my blog and wonder if it’s a metaphor for my ridiculous life.  What do I write a blog for, anyway?
Before you answer that, let me give you some context–
–And who are “you”, anyway?  Sometimes I feel like I am writing to…the world.  My base of loyal fans, or future generations, or maybe God, asking for a detailed appraisal of my life because it’s in appeal whether or not I can get into heaven.  If so, I’m in trouble.
And sometimes I feel like I’m writing to my kids.  I don’t get to see them often enough now, and I know I am missing out on things going on in their lives, and they are missing out on mine as well.  I want them to know me.  It’s part of knowing themselves.
So maybe it’s for future generations after all…
And back to context:  I have said (and I still maintain) that anyone who writes poetry is whacked in the head.  I give as an example my own poetry, and my emotional state when I wrote it.
Likewise, when I started writing this blog–my journal, my life–I had some things going on, but I didn’t realize it.
Since I first started writing–maybe 2004?–this some of what has happened:
My mother had just recently passed away
We bought a house and moved
I left my wife
I met someone new
My father passed away
I moved again–a total of five more times
Divorce and so forth
Changed part time jobs numerous times
And those are the big things.  Lots of little things happened, too.  I wrote about most of them.  And some point I wasn’t writing regularly because not enough was happening that was interesting.  Maybe that’s a good thing.  An old Chinese curse is “May you live in interesting times.”  I understand that whole-heartedly.  My life has been less interesting in the last two years, and for that I’m grateful.
Of course, some things have happened and I don’t even know if I wrote about them because they were fairly painful and traumatic for me.  Maybe I should have, because I would remember them better.  Detroit ended up in the hospital a few times between December and January, and in January she had surgery, where they did a bowel resection and removed about a foot of intestine–remember, she has Crohn’s Disease.

So here’s what is happening lately:
Well, I’m grateful except for the part about Detroit, my lovely fiance, being out of work since Labor Day of last year.  Irony, anyone?  We have struggled to get by on my one and sometimes two incomes, her unemployment, food stamps, and creative juggling of the bills.
Twice I’ve made the New Year’s Resolution to not have any utilities shut off…and broken it by February.
Detroit has been actively looking for job.  I didn’t see it because I was at work, but I trust that she was.  And besides, I saw proof of it.  Last year in November she took a test that was required if you wanted to apply for any government jobs with the state.  By December she had the results–she passed and did well–and by January she started getting letters informing her of job openings for which she could interview.  I don’t know how many interviews she has been on–hell, she might not even know–but it’s been a fucking lot of them.
Just this week, after she got back from an interview, she got a call from someone who had interviewed her two weeks prior and offered the job.  What do you do when you get a job offer after being unemployed for 11 months?
You take the fucking job, that’s what you do.
She did.  She starts in two weeks.  Of course, just as there are hoops to jump for an interview, there are hoops to jump prior to starting a job.
Whenever she got a letter indicating there was a job opening, she had to either a) let them know she would go to the interview or b) let them know *WHY* she wasn’t going.  Otherwise, the letters would stop.
After she let them know she would, she generally had to fill out an application, get copies of her reference letters, and send them in either by fax or email or snail mail, depending on what each one required.  Then also bring that stuff to the interviews.
She traveled widely over the city and county and once to the neighboring county for interviews.
So it made sense that when she got this call, after she accepted she had to ask, “I’m sorry, but I have been on so many interviews–who are you with and where am I going?”
Her job is going to be near where her job with the Jennings school district was.  There’s a government building in a shopping center (now called Westfall Center after former County Executive Buzz Westfall, but I know the place as Northland Plaza) at the corner of West Florissant and Lucas and Hunt.
Her job will be with the division of family services, I guess.  In the same building they also do Probation and Parole, and she has interviewed for those jobs as well.  It is just a clerical/secretarial position–she won’t have to solve anyone’s life problems.
Now that she has the job offer, and a start time in two weeks, she has to do things like get fingerprinted and photographed and get an FBI background check.
A job with the state doesn’t necessarily pay that well, but of all of our hopes and dreams, being rich fell off a long, long time ago.  What a state job does offer is excellent benefits and pretty good job security:  she’d pretty much have to kill someone on the job and then lose the appeal process with the union backing her up to lose her job.
It’s good news.  We celebrated the other night and went out for steak.  However, Detroit does have some concerns, mostly about her health.  Is she going to be able to do the job?
Well, it’s not strenuous physical activity.  It’s office work.  For the state.  You have to not be a vegetable to do that job.  I think she’ll be okay.

Meanwhile, back at Eats–
A little about my job now.  In March, I had my seven-year anniversary at the bank.  One thing I earn at seven years is an increase in PTO.  I was getting 11.25 hours accrued per month, and it increased to 14.25.  That means that I went from three weeks to four weeks of time off, essentially.  If you do the math it’s a little more.
It’s a hell of a thing to bitch about, but 4 weeks is too much time off.  I can only roll over 40 hours into the new year; the rest of it doesn’t get lost but gets “banked” as something for use as, like…I don’t know, time I can use for family leave for extended illness or something like that.  I don’t want to have to find out.
Also, there is a rule–a federal law, actually, and most of what we do at a bank is controlled by federal guidelines–that all employees must take off five business days in a row during a calendar year.  They must take a week off.
The philosophy is not to guard our well-being.  It’s because they (the government) knows that people can’t be trusted.  Therefore, if you are up to some shit, it has a better chance of being uncovered if they can get you away from your desk for a week.
So when I started at the bank, I took quite a leap.  I realize that I never fully engaged the…I don’t know, the corporate culture or the mortgage culture.  People who are in it say mortgage is a different animal.  I’ve been witness to it over the past few years.
When I started, I was just scanning.  Essentially data entry, and the date I was entering was images of pages.  Documents.
But I did it well and I wasn’t promoted because that would be stupid–I had no idea what I was doing.  But I was given raises.
So for five years I did pretty much nothing except scanning.  I did take on other duties related to the equipment–I’m still the peripheral wrangler on my floor.  We had some shake-ups, and I did write about those.  There was a day when several loan officers quit and took a lot of their loyal support people with them to go to a competitor.  Over 40 people quit in one day.
About two years ago, I had some slack in my day and went looking for something to do.  I’m willing to learn and I’m fairly smart, but no one wanted to teach me anything.  I had a friend in department that was swamped, and she suggested I help them out.  I did, and I learned some new stuff.  I was pretty happy.  I managed to be in one department, be scanning for another, and be auditing FHA files for Lender Insuring–yet another department.
My boss noticed this–and there were other things going on as well–so I got moved to another department where my work could actually be measured.  I was moved to shipping.
I liked it, but I wasn’t doing very well.  I still don’t understand why.  But it was the first time I had time constraints and deadlines to deal with since coming to the bank.  It was quite an adjustment.  I loved the rush of…well, the rush.  It was like the old days at Domino’s when we had a thirty-minute guarantee.
And then there was the day about a year ago when about 20 people where laid off.  That was a hard, scary day as well.
After that, I started a new position:  I was in Final Documents.  It was like the finishing touches for our relationship with the investor.  I liked final docs.  I was doing it by myself, and then I had some help, and then by myself again.  Then they gave me some actual help, a stern but nice lady named Melba.  It went well with Melba for a few months.  In January, she went on vacation, and I started to get behind.  She got sick and stayed out longer, and I got behinder.  Then she came back.  Then she put in for her retirement, and was gone in less than a week, this time for good.  I got behinder and behinder.
They moved a temp over to help me.  I liked Janine, but honestly–
She lasted about a month with me, and I was grateful for the help.  She acted like I was her boss, and that was cool.  She left when she got an offer for a permanent job.  Good for her.  I was cleaning up her mistakes for the next two months.
I just started yet another new gig.  Now I do “Investor Accounting.”  My boss, Bunny, is trying to solve a lot of high-end problems with the mortgage pipeline, and she thinks if she can control the wires she can fix the pricing discrepancies.  I’m not going to go into any more detail because I don’t understand much of it, but I understand enough of it to know that it’s not very interesting unless you’re in the middle of it.
But she wanted to move me into a position where I can communicate with the investors, charm them, and get them to do things her way.  First I have to learn it.
So that’s what I did last week.  I learned this new thing.  I learned so much that my head hurts.  I am done learning new things for several days.  I guess until Monday.  I learned so much that I had this conversation with another manager:
She:  Are you okay?
Me: (surprised)  Sure–why?
She:  You just seem…you’ve had a scowl on your face all day.
Me:  Oh, that.  I’m just…very deep in thought.
And I was, too.  Trying to process everything I was learning, with knowing that Bunny was expecting me to learn it, know it, excell at it, and then make improvements.  It’s only been a week.
Yeah, it’s only been a week, and I’ve already made one improvement, and I have a plan for making another major one.  The one improvement I did make?
Here’s the old way:  I get these emails, print the PA (Purchase Advice) from the investor.  I go into a program and print the Pay History for that loan.  Using those two docs, I go into another program and fill out the funding sheet and then print that.  A three-page doc for each file.  The funding sheet I would scan in and send accross the street so that Dianna could process that part and make the wire transfers go through.  Not my thing.
Then I would take the three page doc and scan it into PowerFlow, our file system.  I would wait until the next day, in the morning, and do all of them together.  Then shred the paper.
You know…back in the 80s, we were promised paperless computer world.  We have computers *Everywhere*, and I see more paper than I’ve ever seen before.  At the bank they’ve tried to embark on this philosophy called “Paperless.”  I think I need to step up and champion the cause.
Friday, I didn’t print a single piece of paper.
I set my computer’s default printer to a program that prints to PDF.  When it does this, it creates a file and you have to name it.  I made a folder with Friday’s date and everything went there.  I quickly came up with a scheme to name the pages to keep track of them.
I emailed Dianna the attachements instead of faxing over copies of printoffs.  She noticed that they were so much easier to read.
I use a spreadsheet to track them all.  At the end of the day I called her to see if I had the same number of files that she had.  I could hear her rifling through papers as she counted–
Yeah, I think I can fix some of this.
Later I had time to do some of my old job.  Because, yeah, I still have my old job doing final docs.  I’m a one-man department doing that job, and I was understaffed when I was doing it full-time.  I had to drop off a doc at the title company, and Mary axed me could I clean her scanner for her?
I said yeah, remind me again on Monday.  I told her briefly about my new job, and how I still had my old one.
“Oh–did you get a promotion?  Or is it a sideways move, or…?”
“I don’t know.  What’s it called when you’re holding a bucket of poisonous spiders, and they hand you bucket of poisonous snakes and say, here, take care of this too?  Yeah, I got a promotion.”

Dead Space

December 20, 2010 at 10:48 PM | Posted in Computers and Internet | Leave a comment
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When you come across a website or a blog, or something on the internet–and you can just *tell*.  It has that look.  It could be an obvious sign, like a comment that says “Last updated April 17, 2006.”  Or it could be really old HTML.  Or references to President Bush in the present tense.
But whatever it is, it just makes me sad.  Sometimes it’s eerie and a little creepy.  What if…what if the blog you are looking at is no longer being updated because that person has died?  It’s happened, you know.  I have a few friends online–or had–and they disappeared.  One came back after over a year, just to say she wouldn’t be back…
And another, my favorite, this sweet, young, but sophisticated and artistic Lithuanian girl named Aurora has disappeared forever.  If I had a last name, or something–anything to go by, perhaps I could find her.  I just want to know that she’s okay.
When you stumble upon a website that the owner is obviously deceased…it’s strange.  Morbid.  It’s almost like sneaking into the funeral home at night, popping open their casket before the funeral, and rummaging through their pockets.  What are you going to do, leave a comment?  What can you do?  What are you supposed to do?
For some people–people that are afraid to die, or want to live forever or be remembered, or are just so egotistical that they want their memory to be enshrined (and, by the way, all of those statements do apply to me) forever–maybe the internet is a good thing.  In virtual space, everyone lives forever.  Of course, there are always the sites that are just abandoned because they are no longer hip and trendy.  One of my favorites was a Buffy the Vampire Slayer site.  Well, the show has been off the air for some years.  How often do you think the site gets updated?  2003 was the last time.

So the Internet is an immortality, in a way.  Unless the server crashes without a backup.

Tech Gravy

November 15, 2010 at 11:58 PM | Posted in Computers and Internet | Leave a comment

I think I’m going to…not publicly admit to anything that may or may not be illegal, so this post is gone…

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