Tunnel Rat posted on September 30, 2007 17:40

After my tour in ‘Nam, I decided to never be forced to take a full time I.T. position again. My wife and I agreed that I just wasn’t cut out for the politics, the dysfunction, the sloppiness, the outright unprofessionalism that is the norm for FTEs in most I.T. shops. As a contractor/consultant, I could at least choose my poison.

Plus, I moved around a lot as a kid, and not being born in this country, I was always the outsider. I would never fit in for any significant length of time in one place. I was a drifter. A gypsy. I hired gun.

I had little to show for my five years as an FTE (full-time-employee) at three companies (I’m not even going to count the job that I had for a week). My billing rate was less then it used to be, but at least I finally had some good .NET experience. With C#, I could finally ditch the second-rate nature of my Visual Basic background and start pitching myself as a real developer. And the C# market was heating up.

I first did a three-week gig at a sweatshop consulting outfit, where I was given a 10-year old Pentium 3 with 256 MB of RAM to work on. This was Visual Studio 2005, mind you, not Clipper. What kind of bozo hires a consultant that gets paid by the hour and then makes him work on such crappy hardware? The Cheap I.T. Bastard, of course. After the first week of getting pressured to meet the insane deadlines the assholes in that company had committed to, I decided to look for greener pastures.

Two weeks later I was at a big Japanese company, hired to do who knows what, I wasn’t sure, but it had something to do with making some enhancements to a time tracking system. I was done in a month and I sat around for the rest of the contract, blogging, learning .NET pretty well, and keeping my head low.

Once again it was like a stint in the Mekong Delta – my whole team was Asian, mostly Vietnamese. They didn’t talk to me, and I didn’t talk to them. No Friday lunches with the team in that joint. And the microwaves had “No Fish” signs taped on the doors because people gotten fed up with the stench.

I can’t help but think that they had hired me to meet a diversity quota imposed by HR. The place literally had a half dozen white guys on a huge floor of cubes – it was all Indians, Japanese, and Asians. I would pass the white guys in the hall and we would nod at each other, even though I didn’t know them – it was just the silent bond of those in the minority. Shove that in your politically correct crack pipe and smoke it.

Speaking of political correctness, I tracked down my spike in traffic to another blog, where the tone of my writing seems to have touched a nerve amongst a group of sanctimonious finger wagers. The I.T. arena is full of smug primadonas whose politics generally lean left (especially the open source world), and they love to see themselves as virtuous defenders of political correctness.

The truth is that they are a bunch of phonies.

My suggestion to readers is that if you want to read feel-good stories about how one overcame the odds to deliver high-quality software that made a difference in the world, go read the blogs from the Google folks.

Those pricks love to pat themselves on the back and share their tales of an egalitarian culture where each person is valued for their uniqueness and individuality, and the projects are all fun to work on, and nobody is mean, and if you don't like your project you can just switch to a different team, and everybody recycles, and they make you healthy vegan meals in the cafeteria, and they above all do no evil, and --

…Shit, I just puked on keyboard.

Anyway, my point is that I tell tales from the trenches, not from some sissified oasis of enlightenment like Google.

But I digress.

Getting back to the topic at hand, I finally landed a gig at a relatively mature dot-com that went public in the late nineties. I got past a tough interview with some real techy-types, and was hired the next day for a six-month contract.

I was resigned to keeping my head low, so I spent the first few weeks reading all their documentation, enhancing an existing app that was well-written, and basically doing things by the book. All was good – until I ran into her.

The Menopausal Bitch DBA.

I got called into her office because it was her job to review the stored procs before they went into QA. I had written a few for the application – very basic CRUD stuff. And they didn’t really have a standard, so I just followed the patern that the other developers on the team were using. I had included drops and grants, and assumed all was cool.

I had first met her as I was introduced to everybody the first day. She seemed harmless enough, a little frumpy, somewhat eccentric. I.T. ladies don’t show up on MILF sites too much, and this was no exception.

I sat down across from her and she started taking a red-pen to my code. She had pictures of an old golden retriever all over the place. And then she started lecturing me.

“You will declare variables as constants”

“This is wrong”

“I want this done this way”

Trivial crap. I nodded. And then she stopped making sense.

“You will not grant rights to public,” she said sternly.

“But the other developers do that because the DBAs forget to do the grants and the procs blow up because they don’t have the rights,” I said gently. Ever so gently.

“You listen to me, and you listen good! You will do things the way I say you will around here!” Her face was red, and her lips were pursed. Her head was shaking a little bit. She looked like she was having a hot flash.

I shrugged. “Sure, no problem, so you want me to take the grants out, or leave them in?”

“If you don’t do things the way I want, I am calling Greg!” Greg was my tech lead, the guy who told me to include the grants in the procs.

“Fine, you want his extension? I think its 3476.” What did I care, I just wanted clear guidance on how they did things.

She made a showy gesture of turning around and picking up her phone, all the while glaring at me. She got Greg on speakerphone. “Greg, I have that new contractor down here and he seems to have an issue with taking out the grants in his stored procs.”

“What’s the problem?” he asked. He was a level-headed guy, really sharp, and I liked working with him.

“I thought we weren’t going to put the grants in the procs!” she yelled into the phone. God, she was ugly when she was mad. Hell, she was ugly when she wasn't mad.

“Marge, we’ve been through this," he told her. "The DBAs are forgetting to grant the rights when they deploy the scripts, so my team is putting them in the procs.”

“Fine!” She hung up and glared at me. “Here, go make these changes. I’ll take this up with Greg’s boss and the head of the DBAs.”

“So do you want me to run these in QA?” I asked.

“You will not do anything until we straighten this out!” she snapped.

“Fine. Thanks.” I left her office.

From that point on, I stayed out of her way. She had a habit of using design meetings to go on long rants about how important she was and all the things that people were doing wrong in the shop. If you tried to reason with her, she would stand up, fold her arms, and say crap like “I am going to stand here until you decide to listen to me!” Total grandstanding shit.

But as usual, I got even.

After I turned down an offer to go perm at the place, my contract was up and I had to move on. I had another gig lined up, but for some reason, I had to do an exit interview, which is odd for a contractor.

My boss took me aside and asked me what I planned to say to HR at my exit interview. He was a good guy, retired Navy, EOD I think, and I didn’t have to bullshit him. I get along great with ex-military folks – its all about the mission to us. Screw the politics, ego trips, and phoniness; we get it done, and we couldn’t care less about the delicate feelings of the pansies, hippies, purple-haired geeks, over-pierced morons, and ditsy bitches we are forced to work with. We find a way to go through them, around them, or over them. Or we just frag them.

He wanted me to frag the Menopausal Bitch DBA.

“Look,” he said, “You’re the second guy who turned down a good offer to work here in the past year. The last guy said the same thing – he couldn’t work with that cunt Marge.”

“Yeah. That’s it’s a big reason.”

“Ok, do me a favor. Let that HR lady know that. I am sick of this cranky bitch getting in my way. What she needs is a good fuck.”

I thought about her dog pictures and laughed. “I don’t think that’s going to happen real soon.”

“I ‘preciate it.”

We shook hands. “No problem,” I said. “Consider it done.”

That was six months ago. Last I heard, the Menopausal Bitch DBA was still working there, stomping her feet, moaning in meetings, and making life miserable for the rest of the organization.

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Tunnel Rat posted on September 28, 2007 17:50

Like the Zodiac Killer, I tend to emerge from long periods of dormancy to indulge myself. One of my indulgences is to blog about idiots I have encountered in my line of work, which happens to be applications development, mostly web stuff.

There seems to be no end to the line of naïve, delusional, and audacious fools who equate the development of complex technical programs with trivial keyboard banging.

And most post on Craigslist.

For kicks, I like to harass these clowns. They are usually young, come from privileged backgrounds, and are digitally savvy, wildly narcissistic, but above all, logically challenged. They grew up in a world where everyone got an award for showing up. Thus, when they enter the real world, they expect everybody to look at them in awe and take them ever so seriously.

They hate details. They bore easily. They are the types banging away at their Blackberrys or laptops at all the meetings, ignoring whoever is talking. Oblivious. Arrogant. Rude. They say “whatever” a lot.

And they mass in urban centers, where they can bask in the comfort of their fellow well-to-do peers, taking jobs in dot-coms, hip retailers, and consulting companies. They hang out at trendy breweries and sushi bars. They are irrationally obsessed with their iPods, VWs, and global warming. I heard this written about Hollywood, but it applies to this crowd also -- they are so self-absorbed, it's like they have autism.

Many were busy dry-humping conceited party girls from their privileged high-school clicks to notice the dot-com meltdown at the beginning of the century. Too them, it was ancient history. Times were now different – this was Web 2.0, after all. Forget the old rules, there is fresh money chasing after great ideas! And dammit, they had those ideas!

And they post those ideas on Craigslist, trolling for suckers to share in their delusion.

It was there, in the Spring of 2006, that I came across this ad:

Basically I love to come up with new ideas but as one person can't do it all. I am sure there are others like me who with the help of others can take things to the next level.

This is a phenomenal opportunity to build a great social networking-site, like Friendster, but way better.

We need to launch this in 3 months, so I need someone to work nights and weekends in exchange for equity when we go public.

Shit-for-brains “Mr. Idea Guy” had already caught the attention of a few Craigslist pranksters, and they were flaming the hell out of him. Every other post after his was a sarcastic response, full of venom and rebuke.

“Get a clue, asshole! Nobody wants to work for free!”

“This ain’t 1999, dumbass!”

… and on and on it went.

I decided to get into the fray. I sent a cynical email in response to his post:

“Yeah, right dude, I can’t wait to work for you – for free, of course. You sound like a real genius! Let’s get rich together!”
I sent the missive from my desk at the Sweatshop In A Nightclub, not really caring that the email got sent from my company’s email domain. I had been at that shithole “interactive media” company for almost two years, working like a galley slave, and I was burnt out. I did crazy stuff all the time, just to amuse myself.

It was there that I had once secretly recorded an arrogant creative director (he was a young, vain Canadian named Jeremy) indulging himself in some theatrical conceit. Not that there's anything wrong with being from Canada.

I taped him in a meeting (concerning another over-budget, wildly under-bid project) where he was literarily pounding his fist in the table, screaming something like “THAT WILL RUIN MY ENTIRE CREATIVE VISION FOR THE SITE! THAT 90 SECOND FLASH INTRO MUST BE THE FIRST THING USERS SEE!”

BTW, I think the Flash intro is the genital wart of the internet. I'm sure the Flashers will flame me, if they can ever get away from Halo 3.

I then looped that diatribe over and over to a backtrack of Pearl Jam's “Jeremy”, with a little bit of the Cool Hand Look stuff from Guns 'n Roses "Civil War". It made him sound like a whiny, over-indulgent punk, which he was.

I then sent that audio mashup to a few co-workers. Over the course of the day, I could here the clip playing on their PCs:

...Jeremy spoke in...THAT WILL RUIN MY ENTIRE CREATIVE VISION FOR THE SITE!...What we got here is a failure to communicate...THAT 90 SECOND FLASH INTRO MUST BE THE FIRST THING USERS SEE!...Jeremy spoke in, Jeremy spoke...What we got here is a failure to communicate...THAT WILL RUIN MY ENTIRE CREATIVE VISION FOR THE SITE!...Jeremy spoke in, Jeremy spoke...THAT 90 SECOND FLASH INTRO MUST BE THE FIRST THING USERS SEE!...

You get the idea.

I didn’t take long for my wuss boss to call me into his office one morning. “Jeremy saw your little email. He’s a little upset.”

“What’s the big deal?” I asked. “He’s a big boy – he should be able to handle it. After all, he has no problems telling us how easy it is to code his wacked-out designs.” The Canadian (Not that there's anything wrong with being from Canada, per se) pussball had a habit of telling us programmers that if we just switched from .NET to FLEX, all of our problems would be solved. FLEX lets you write really nasty ECMA-script so that your data-entry apps can look like video games. Graphic artists want all apps to look like video games, because they are all compulsive gamers.

“Well, he’s a little weirded out by it.” Boss-man looked like his typical wishy-washy self, trying to be firm, yet metaphysically wetting himself. He made a good living out of appeasing who ever was standing in front of him. A while ago, it was a seething Jeremy. Now it was me. He could be as non-confrontational as needed.

Anyway, because of that stunt, I was already on the skyline at Sweatshop In A Nightclub when I decided to engage in a little bit of fun with my new friend from Craigslist.

First, Mr. Idea Guy sent me an email, stating that he figured out where I worked by going to my company’s web site. The freakin’ genius was able to figure this out by merely looking at my email address! Shit, I didn’t know who I was messing with!

Then, he called the first contact listed on the web site – the head account executive, some jerk with a fauxhak named Rowan. The guy was a sociopathic scumbag, a divorcee who had banged a couple of the AEs. I wasn’t too worried about him – I was already mentally checking out of that establishment anyway.

Mr. Idea Guy had sent his real name in his email and I Googled him.

UCI MBA….Some frat pics…and his profile was on some engineering consulting company’s website…

…And then, bingo…

The fool had a MySpace page.

Typical MySpace twenty-something stuff. Pictures of beer-pong games. Drunk looking girls in football jerseys. Captions like “Hanging wid de homies.” What kind of upper-class white kid tries to sound like a gansta? Pussies, mostly.Wiggers.

Some guy on Craigslist summed it up nicely:

I hate to have to put it this way but the white culture is extremely bland and could be labled as stale..I am soooooo sick of hearing white people try and emulate the Black culture..."Dog this, Dog that".."What up my niggah" and all the rest of the bullshit slang...I've even heard little white Newport Beach girls calling each other niggah...Another thing that truly irks my skin is when I see a White person crimp their no rhythm arm and churn out the Cabbage Patch Dance...Cmon now, you look ridiculous..Just stick to having zero rhythm and roll on about your business..

I actually used to have a pansy white boy hack programmer from the O.C. suburbs who had a habit of greeting me with "wuz up, my nig!" I gave him the stink-eye and started calling him "Cowboy."

After a few months, he got the balls to whine "Please don't call me Cowboy. It has a negative connotation among programers."

"Really," I said, standing up and backing him out of my cube. "You mean like 'my nig'? What conn-a-fuck-a-tation does 'my nig' have?" He skurried back to his office.

But I digress.

Anyway, Mr. Idea Guy had won some kind of engineering contest for making what looked like a tobacco bong, like a hooka or something, and he proudly displayed it on his MySpace page.

But then, Mr. Idea Guy somehow got my home phone number.

And he called me.

Big mistake, gansta wannabe.

I cussed him out royally and told him to go back to slipping girls Ruffies and gang-banging them on pool tables, which is what rich kids in SoCal do for fun. He threatened to call the police if I didn’t leave him alone, and then I reminded him that he was the one that had called me.

Plus, I let him know that at his age, I was humping a PRC-77 across the Kuwait desert.

But above all, I told him to get out of the fuckin’ Internet business.

As for Jeremy, he had his entire staff working on designing new business cards for six months, and then fled back to Canada, leaving his office plastered with site designs that looked like tattoo art and erotic etchings. None were ever implemented.

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Tunnel Rat posted on September 28, 2007 17:37

For the second year in a row, I had a job in the summer that lasted 6 months. And once again, it was in the medical business. Plus, it was a non-profit. And as usual, it sucked, just like TCTSRN. But at least I was a contractor.

I was starting to see a pattern -- most IT work having anything to do with the medical field sucks. It just attracts the biggest bunch of hacks. For example, here's a quote from a Senior Programmer Analyst who works for a Michigan HMO:

When I was in third or fourth grade, I just loved to hack on Basic. I still get to do that now, only I mostly do it in Perl and SQL.

- Dr Dobb's

Note the operative word here: hack. The medical vertical is infested with these types.

I tried to hold my nose and just code, but my boss was a clueless, sneaky bastard. He would take my into the copier room and bad mouth other programmers and ask me to fix their code. Of course, those guys were usually hastily hired, not given any specs, and thrown into to the deep end, working unsupervised for weeks at a time.

He went on vacation for a week and the project manager (another ex-military guy with some balls) and I tried to stage a little coupe de tat. You know, nothing special, just setting up proper QA environments, implementing code-reviews, unit-testing, some semblance of analysis. Basic shit.

Then the fucking idiot boss comes back and wigs out.

"We don't need a QA environment. We can test in DEV!"

"Don't test all the shopping cart -- it pushes real transactions to the production server! We don't have time to configure the sandbox!"

"All the source code is on my laptop! You don't need to see it!"

"My framework is the best! As soon as I finish coding it, it will save the entire project...I should have it ready in a few months, right before we launch!"

More on him later.

I'll fill in the details, but for now I have to do some real work. I have a primary client that I am billing 40 hrs/wk to (a foul VB.NET/ASP.NET site -- but it pays the mortgage, and the work is off-site), and three other projects that I moonlight on.

I am starting to get the blogging urge again. This is what serial killers must feel; the ever-increasing desire to do something very satisfying. And it looks like people are reading. I have some admirers and a few grammar obsessed critics (you know the old saying -- those that can't write, edit).

Plus my blog is up to about 150 on Blogtopsites, when it used to hover around 400.

So stay tuned, I have some updates from the trenches, such as:

1. The Menopausal Bitch DBA
2. God, I'm Sick Of Ruby Freaks
3. The Sweatshop In A Nightclub

... And More.

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