The Thinker

This and that

So much happening in my life these days that it is hard for me to even catch my breath, let alone find time to blog. But blogging has been preying on my mind. I’ve wanted to blog but couldn’t because there was all this more important stuff! So this entry will be a bunch of random thoughts and concerns running around my brain at the moment.

First, my wife’s job with the Software Productivity Consortium will be ending in October. Has the Software Productivity Consortium, whose mission it is to improve the practices of the software community (or at least its members) stopped using computers? Hardly. Has she been fired for some sort of malfeasance? Not at all. She’s being outsourced. Yes the pointy haired bosses are firmly in control at SPC and have been for about a year now. Someone apparently had the “clever” idea to outsource the help desk. The mind reels. SPC is not some huge conglomerate; it has about 100 employees, most of them in Herndon, Virginia. People are intimately attached to their computers and their laptops. They depend on the help desk staff to keep all the infrastructure working and to get their computers fixed pronto. After the outsourcing is complete only a token contractor will actually be in the building. Most of the work will be done offsite, adding delay and frustration to SPC employees. It’s hard to imagine how SPC can save any money; it’s not like my wife is bringing home the big bucks. Anyhow the few remaining IT Help Desk staff were largely shown the door midweek. My wife gets to stay and try to do the work of four people until October 8th, which is her last day (if she stays there that long).

Meanwhile on Monday a contractor arrives to try to learn their business. My wife is a highly skilled IT troubleshooter. This is a woman puts together computers in her spare time for friends because she thinks it is fun. She can fix the most obscure Windows errors. So I’m not worried in the least about her job prospects. In fact I think we are both glad her job is coming to an end. Some company around the Reston area with savvy apparently lacking at SPC will likely snatch her up pretty quickly. In the event the economy is worse than I thought my GS-14 salary could carry us forward indefinitely. So the only real losers here are the people who work at SPC. They get to watch a stream of likely underpaid and largely offsite contractors cycle through their organization. Not one of them will do a lick more work than called for by the contract. I should know. I’ve seen many a contracting debacle in my years as a federal employee. I figure the SPC CEO must have marbles for brains or be a big George W. Bush supporter. It’s the only thing that explains such a complete lack of common sense. My wife is not alone. The employees, tired of working 80-hour weeks because their CEO wants them too, are leaving right and left. It used to be a great place to work. It’s hard on SPC employees to see dysfunctional management take over and drive a great organization into the ground.

Second, medical issues with my Mom are not getting any easier. It’s not appropriate to get into too much detail here but my poor 77-year-old Dad is being run ragged. It is good that they are in Riderwood and their life is somewhat simpler. Unfortunately my Mom pretty much cannot even boil water at this point. They really depend on that gratis daily meal in one of Riderwood’s many restaurants. My 84-year-old Mom seems increasing scared and paranoid. I hope my Dad will start getting some adult day care for her so he can get away from it for a while. I help when I can but I have my own family to take care of. In fact I see my mother as very close to needing a nursing home. Fortunately Riderwood has an excellent nursing home called Renaissance Gardens. I’m hoping her visit next week to see a shrink will help her get a grip. But with all the medications she’s on I’m not sure if antianxiety medicine or even an antidepressant would do her much good.

Third, school has restarted for my daughter Rosie, now in 10th grade. My wife and I have been dealing with all those school startup issues: new clothes, books, raids on Staples, endless forms that need to be filled out and checks that must be written. Her teachers increasingly require onerous “contracts” with students that we parents must sign. One small sign of improvement: the information form with all the relevant names and phone numbers is now actually entered into a computer. We got a preprinted form with last year’s information on it and all we had to do was correct it. It’s a small step but one of these obvious steps that should have been done years ago. All this contact information could be submitted and updated over the web.

Fourth, I’m getting a new computer! The parts arrived today. I just need my wife to assemble them. My current computer is about 3 years old and arrived with (shudder) Windows Me on it. The new one is nothing fancy because I don’t need fancy. What I do need is something that doesn’t take three minutes to boot, so my excellent wife worked hard to meet my requirements. The result: my computer will have a fast motherboard and disk drive. My computer will also have a writeable DVD drive. I don’t need a fast CPU. I have learned that fast CPUs mean little: it’s the memory, motherboard and disk drive that are the pokes. So I’m getting a 1.8GHZ Athlon XP AMD chip, which is still 2.5 times faster than what I am using now and likely overkill for my modest needs.

We’ve been feeling very geeky lately. August was our flush month for cash since we each got three paychecks. We budgeted about $1200 for new computer stuff. By buying parts we’ve gotten some amazing values. My computer will cost about $600. Rosie gets a 17-inch flat panel monitor (about $350 after rebate). Terri gets the computer toolkit she wants. And we purchased another printer because the old Epson C82 died almost immediately after the warranty expired. The new one is an Epson C84. Since our first Epson experience wasn’t good we bought this model somewhat reluctantly, and only because it got a Consumer Reports Best Buy recommendation. It had better last longer! Look for a rant on our disposable society coming up in my blog in the weeks ahead.

I also now have a 128MB USB flash drive. Boy, these little suckers are great and so cheap. (Mine was $25!) They are sort of like what PDA’s were in the 1990s: you don’t know you need one until you’ve got one. What’s on mine? Not much yet, but I have 14MB allocated as a backup for my Quicken data going back to 1992. I am looking forward to doing geeky things like installing the Firefox browser on my flash drive. I can take it with me wherever I go and have my browser of choice and all my bookmarks available! The possibilities of flash drives is yet another topic for a blog entry in the weeks ahead.

I’m still deeply involved in political blogging. I’m trying to make sense of these polls showing Bush getting a double-digit bounce coming out of the Republican convention. I’m torn between feelings of despair if these are real and my gut feeling that these polls are meaningless when other polls are showing perhaps the weakest bounce from any political convention in history for Bush. I actually woke up at 5 a.m. this morning worrying about this stuff.

It is so obvious to me that Bush is bad for the country on all levels. He has succeeded in nothing. Yet I have to wonder if our electorate likes to elect morons. Or maybe it’s the moron vote that Bush is counting on. My hope is that Gadflyer is correct and that the vast majority of people made up their minds months ago. If so it may be a nail biter of an election, but it still favors Kerry. Anyhow it’s no time for us Democrats to be complacent. If you don’t like Bush and you aren’t registered to vote please get registered if you still can. Dig into your pocket and support liberal 527s organizations like ACT. Spend some time if you can possibly find it to work in a precinct, make cold calls and go door to door. The election won’t be handed to Democrats on a silver platter. We’re going to have to work for it with every last ounce of our strength. But when victory arrives it will be all the sweeter.


One Response to “This and that”

  1. 12:33 pm on September 12 2004, Frederick said:

    One wonders whether the stupidity of the American people is boundless. It is beyond me how so many people, including college graduates of above-average intelligence who are capable of rational thought on many subjects, can fall for the snake-oil salesman in the White House. (See my recent post, “What Does it Take?” — ) I’ve spent a small fortune this election on political donations. I hope to hell it does some good.

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