tunnel rat posted on October 28, 2007 19:17

I headed south Monday morning, back to The Box. This would be the first day that Dogboy was gone. It could finally start making some changes.

But when I got to the medical claims clearinghouse, I saw him and his dog Blake still occupying the office that I thought would be mine as of Friday.

I hadn’t even logged in when The Captain called me into his office, and shut the door.

“We’re going to have to let you go,” he said.

“Excuse me?”

“You haven’t been working eight hours a day. This is a small company, and everybody is expected to do their share.”

“Not enough hours?” I asked. “What do you mean, not enough hours?”

Boss Godfrey
“Cathy has been watching you.” Cathy was the office manager that had a line-of-sight to my desk. Her office was next to The Captain’s. She was his Boss Godfrey, the road boss who kept an eye on the chain gang.

“Watching? Really.”

He leaned back in his Aeron chair, the only one in the building. Everyone else had crappy armless chairs, or even folding ones. I had brought my own task chair in on the first day. I was used to dealing with the Cheap I.T. Bastard, and dragged my own gear from shop to shop; chairs, keyboards, LCDs, whatever, except for computers. That the bastards would have to pay for, and if it was a low-budget white box with not enough RAM, I bitched until they got me a real PC.

He went on. “We can’t pay for you to take long lunches and sit outside and read the sports pages.”

Sports pages? It is the Wall Street fuckin’ Journal, you nasally-voiced collector of skinny boy toys, I wanted to say. “It’s been one week,” I countered. “Are you sure about this?”

“Yes. We had a situation like this before, and we tried to work with the guy. After 2 months we had to fire him, and he claimed unemployment. And I had to pay it. The EEOD said that we should have let him go after 30 days.”

As you should of, asshole. Too fuckin’ bad. What the fuck does that have to do with me?

And I didn’t see a damn time clock in the place.

For those that are reading this and thinking, yes, you are supposed to be at your desk at the prescribed hours dictated by the company policy…and entitled to no less and no more than two fifteen minutes breaks…and a lunch break not to exceed 60 minute….

Shut the fuck up, Shit-For-Brains.

I was hired as an exempt employee. Exempt guys in I.T. get some latitude. As long as we are in around during business hours, the employers get to bend us over fairly frequently. That means that when the server crashes on Sunday afternoon and the whole site is dead in the water and the company is losing money every minute it is down, I am the bitch that gets to stay until midnight and figure out that someone like Ringbrow checked in the wrong fuckin’ code, and now all the redirects are broken, and I have to unfuck it.

And when, for instance, when some dweeb, who is kinda in charge of the servers, the clown who doesn’t know his IIS from his LDAP, decides not to open up the SSL port, and goes home at five to get in his eight hours of Warcraft...when the site is supposed to go live at midnight...and suddenly people can't log in over HTTPS... guess who gets the call?

Me, Mr./Ms. Devil’s Advocate. So as long as I am around between 9 AM and 5-ish, most places understand this. And this whole “you’re not working eight hours a day” was a bunch of drivel. A con.

Man, the F-Bomb is flying fast and furious in the post. It’s starting to sound like a rant, which is so out of character from my usual balanced writings that analyze both sides of the situation and attempt to be as introspective as possible. Yeah, right. But I digress.

“I’ll pay you for the week.” He stood up. “Here’s your check.” The meeting was over.

I went pack to my desk and packed my stuff. Everybody gave me a Dead Man Walking look.

On the way home, I called the wifey.

“Guess what? I got fired.”

“No fuckin’ way! I told you not to take that job.”

That much is true, but besides the point. The Captain had given me an offer that was 20k more than TCTSRN had thrown at me. Yes, after weeks of interviews and counters, I had two offers on the table, and took the money.

I sped up PCH, cell phone in my ear and my chair and cardboard box of stuff in the backseat. “I can always call TCTSRN again, its only been a week.”

“Are you sure you’re cut out for this full time employee stuff? Babe, I mean, that was one week. There had to be something else going on.”

“Yeah, I think so. I think that cocksucker hired me to put some pressure on Dogboy, keep him around. Make him feel not-so un-expendable.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right – he just used you to keep that guy around. What a prick,” she said. “Oh, can you pick up the dry-cleaning?”

“No prob.”

So now it made sense. The Captain had hired me to light a fire under Dogboy, and made up a bullshit story to get rid of me after one week. Because I never really was able to get anything done in that time. The first two days was spent setting up my PC. Then I got some half-assed specs about some nebulous change to the HIPAA extract, with no timeline, and no direction.

It was all a stunt to keep his primadona programmer from bailing and talking the whole nasty pile of code dead in the water. And I was just his pawn. What a douche bag.

I still had the number for H.R. lady from TCTSRN on my cell phone. Passing by Crystal Cove, I dialed it, hoping that the offer was still on the table. One thing I needed now was another job. The market was soft, no doubt due the flood of CEWPs talking all the good contracting gigs.

The TCTSRN H.R. lady picked up right away. We chatted.

“Yes, the job was still open,” she said. “I understand, these things happen. Can you come in for another interview tomorrow? Uh. Let me check the schedule -- how’s two sound?”


“Great, see you then.”

So, there I was, no worse for the wear. I knew I was a lock for the TCTSRN job, because they had found no takers after I turned them down a week ago. It was a lot less money, but I figured that it would be a nice stable place to park my ass for awhile and get some supervisory experience under my belt and on my resume.

But of course, I didn’t know about Charlie. Or Burning Man. They hadn’t been in any of my interviews…Mr. Whiteboard has kept them locked up in the basement, and instead had some of the more impressive folks talk to me. It was all more smoke and mirrors.

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Tunnel Rat posted on October 23, 2007 16:06

We resume our regularly scheduled programming to bring you the rest of “The One Week Job”…

Two or three times a week, The Captain would order in or make lunch for the staff. One day it was pizza, another day he would send someone to Costco to bring back burgers and hotdogs that he would grill out on the deck of the medical claims clearinghouse.

It was his way of keeping everybody working, instead of slipping out for a leisurely lunch at 1000 Steps Beach, which was around the corner.

You see, he could spring for a lunch that averaged $5 a person, and they would be back at their desk in 20 minutes, meaning he netted an extra 40 minutes of time that would have been spent by an employee doing whatever they wanted to do.

The Captain was a sly little bitch.

I knew it after my first interview with him, when he said his plan was to sell the business. He was in it for the money. Ramp up a bunch of crap code, sign up a bunch of clueless doctors, play fast and loose with their claims, and then dump the whole operation on WebMB, Molina, UnitedHealth, or some other clusterfuck of a medical company that was making a killing on the sad state of healthcare.

So there I was, day three in The Box, eating a Costco burger and watching a 40’ Bayliner make it’s way to Newport. The rest of the staff was on the deck that lined the building with their paper plates and drinks, huddled in groups of two or three. The Captain pulled up a bar stool and sat next to me.

“Well, the moment has come, I told you it was going to happen.”


“Our guy gave notice today,” he said. He was talking about Taylor. Dogboy.

“Oh, yeah…When is his last day?”


“Two days?”

“Yeah.” He took a bite of his hotdog and gazed at Catalina. “What do you think, does all this stuff make sense, now that you’ve had some time to look at it?”

Not really. In fact, none of it makes sense, Captain. It is one nasty rat’s nest of shit you got here, sweetie.

But I refrained.

“Sure, to an extent, but we really need to get all this hard-coded stuff cleaned up,” I told him.


“Yeah, there’s a lot of cleaning up to do…”

He stood up, grabbing his plate. “Well, you do what you gotta do. You got him ‘till Friday.” He winked.

What the fuck are you winking at, I wanted to ask. And what the hell was I supposed to do in two days, form a mild-meld with Dogboy? Suck all the hacks that he had been throwing together for years out of his feeble little brain? Beg him not to leave?

I went back to my desk and thumbed through the HIPAA spec the Captain had dumped on me:

The map definition allows users to translate a file from the UB92 Version 5.0 format to the HIPAA 837 Institutional format, while also validating the input for completeness, as well as syntax and code validation. Additional effort has been made to provide a 1:1 mapping ratio of the UB92 fields to HIPAA 837 elements.

Jeez, what a fuckin’ nightmare. I check the code to see if they were using XML or something to map the fields, BizTalk, MapForce, something.

Nothing, nada. It was all hard-coded bullshit:

If MAP=’ HIPAA_A1_837P_to_RMAP_2_A1_837P’ Then
GOTO Update_Map837
GOTO Update_Map837P
End If

My neck started throbbing. The damn phones were ringing off the hook.


Jesus Fuckin’ Christ…

Who the hell writes GOTOs? I thought that they had been banned in 1995 or something. I checked the comments…ah, Dogboy had laid claim to this crap.

And here was Trevor, the high school kid, in this mosh pit of code, adding his pearls of logic:

IIF(RMAP_2_A1_837P = ‘23384’, IIF(RMAP_3_1_837C=’433A’,
True, False), False)

Thanks for the nested Immediate Ifs, asshole.

It was all pungent, rotting spaghetti code, hacks upon hacks.

Ringboy walked by me and nodded, on his way outside for a smoke. God, I wanted a cigarette. But I had quit years ago, replacing the habit with a daily Macanudo.

Two days later I was still clawing my way through the code. It was Friday afternoon, and I was beat.

The Captain was walking around handing out Coronas to some of the staff. Hey, I thought, maybe he wasn’t such a slimy bitch after all, letting the crew drink a few cold ones on a hot summer afternoon.

But shit, he sure was taking his time passing those beers around. He started with Ringbrow, leaning over his cube and setting the bottle on his desk and having a few words.

And then he moved on to some guy that sat in a cube between Ringbrow and me. Anthoneeee. Total flamer. There were a few on the staff – The Captain sorta collected them. Early-twenties, very fem. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Yeah, yeah, I know you guys are waiting to flame me....

But The Captain did have a lot of guys that looked like
Agador Spartacus working there.

So, I can't really agree with the homophobic charge, but I do have an issue with all those gays in the fashion industry getting to pick the models -- WTF! Who ever said a skinny ass bitch that looks like she just got out of Auschwitz is hot? Jeez -- those models look like 12-year boys! Its freakin' sick. Come on gay guys, get some models with tits and asses. We straight guys are sick of looking at what you think is hot.

So, anyway, I waited, acting like I was working, watching the Captain make small talk with Anthoneeee.

Geez, will you get on with it, asshole? I am so ready for a fuckin’ beer. All week long, with HIPAA, GOTOs, IIFs – come on already. It’s beer-thirty, bitch.

It was like a ceremony, The Captain making the rounds, letting the staff play kiss-ass (and kiss whatever else, I assumed). Screw it, I thought. I caught a glimpse of some folks slipping into the break room. I headed that way.

Ringbrow was there, cracking open his second Corona, along with a few other data-diddlers. “Hey, wassup, guys,” I said, opening the fridge.

“Not much, dude,” one of them said.

“Got an opener?” I asked.

“Na, sorry.” They walked out.

I started pilfering the drawers, looking for an opener, hoping the Captain wouldn’t come back for another round of his ass-kissing bait.

Man, this place was creepy…

Finally, I found an opener hanging off the side of the fridge, and I headed back to my desk. People were still working, sipping beers but still taking calls or diddling data.

Man, it’s five already. What is up with this place? Fuckin’ sweatshop…
The Captain strolled by, beer in hand. He paused at my desk.

“Uh, I see that you, uh, helped yourself.”

“Yeah, thanks,” I said, smiling.

He stood there, nodding. For like, thirty fucking seconds. No small talk, just awkward nodding. Bobblehead. I started nodding, and biting my lip.

Damn, this was weird…

Finally, he moved on, handing the beer to the another boy toy, a skinny guy with a streak of blond that was dyed down the middle of his scalp. “Here you go, Chaaaad, it looks like you could you use a cold one…”

I slammed my beer and logged off.

To be continued…

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tunnel rat posted on October 20, 2007 18:48
Judging by the comments left on this blog, some of my readers seem to take issue with my repeated references to my time in the Marine Corps. Fair enough. But it’s not like I am going to back in the closet, acting like my stint in the grunts wasn’t the defining period of my life. I am what I am.

As for the military card, I play it to add texture to my writing. It's not like I live my day-to-day life with a high-and-tight and Eagle, Globe, and Anchor tattoos that I shove in people’s faces, acting like some deranged jarhead. I save that for the blog.
Code Pink calls Marines assasins
I found out years ago that web developers for the most part "loathe the military" (to steal a line from Clinton), and I don't even put my service on my resume.

Since none of my coworkers know about it, they say all sorts of demeaning garbage about "stupid soldiers", "cannon fodder", "idiots who couldn't get a job", "baby killers", “assassins”, "predators", etc. and I just listen silently. And I find that anti-military venom "kind of irritating."

So to keep my job and not make any waves, I shut up and blog, sprinkling my rants with jarhead lingo -- because this is about life in the trenches, not Google. This ain't no party, this ain't no disco, this ain't no fooling around. This is life during wartime.

Not only the Iraq war, but a war to save the American programmer. And to make my case, I use several tactics:

  1. Demonstrating the incompetence of the typical American I.T. manager.

  2. Exposing the myth that there is a shortage of American programmers.

  3. Mocking the low-paid, unskilled, illiterate folks who come here under false pretenses to fill the mythical programmer shortage.

  4. And, while I’m at, sharing what I think are shocking anecdotes about the appalling cast of characters in this business in a tone that is controversial, inflammatory, and definitely not politically correct -- but hopefully not boring. You can go to Slashdot.com for boring techie talk that doesn’t violate any speech codes.

I'm going to leave it to the Programmers Guild to make the case against H-1Bs through political means. I, on the other hand, am fighting an insurgency against an occupying force -- low wage indentured servants brought here under false pretenses to I.T. keep wages low.

That said, I have to stay focused…stand by for the conclusion of One Week Job.

Posted in:   Tags: ,
tunnel rat posted on October 19, 2007 18:37

This almost made me want to cry...

Do your part -- save the American programmer. If he's anything like me, he has four mortages and a timeshare in Cabo to pay for.

Posted in:   Tags:
tunnel rat posted on October 18, 2007 18:42
Some of you may have been following the exchange between me and some scumbag from another blog. To recap, this dweeb decided to slander me and then post my name and an address on that blog. His post was a hit job of salacious lies and privacy violations. The moderator quickly censored my personal info, but left the post up, which was ok with me because I got to rebut it. I'm all for free speech. But for the brief time my info was online, Google cached the page, and lo and behold, that vile bullshit was showing up in search results.

With an address. But not my address.

And boy, was that posted shit vile. In short, this fuckwad called me a college dropout who got kicked out the Marine Corps, and an addict, unable to hold a job.

Well, technically, I did drop out of junior college – to go kill communists. And technically, I do switch jobs a lot – because I am an I.T. consultant. And I did get a bachelor's degree, even if it took 13 years. At least it was from a college most people have heard of, unlike BhavNagar University or something like that. And regardless of how much ho-banging and boozing I did in the Marines, I still got an Honorable-Fuckin’-Discharge after six years. So dissin’ a jarhead and making him out to be phony is major shit, in my book.

It has been said about Marines that there is No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy.

FYI, I like the new USMC commercial:

Now, back to my nemisis, the shit eating H-1B troll. After my personal info was deleted, I let it go with a stern warning to the guys that run that other fine blog, WTF. And it is a good blog -- solid I.T. info and some hard core techies shooting the shit, especially from the guy that runs it, Alex P. No one there digs flamewars and personal attacks. And unless you consent, no one gets to post your personal data online. It will get sites shut down in a heartbeat.

But, after I set the little libelous shitwad straight and exposed him for the lying turd that he was, he resurfaced. And he had this whiny mea culpa [my feedback in red]:

This an appeal against TunnelRat. An earlier motion to this was first censored and then deleted by the moderator.

The motion was quickly censored because it revealed the real name of TunnelRat. The censoring is acceptable though short sighted - the censored part was simply the Whois information from TunnelRat's blog site.

[And then some more data, like my birthdate, fuckwad]

The reason to expose him was this statement.

TunnelRat: In my book, any, and I mean any, Cheap I.T. Bastard that hires H1-Bs should be publicly shamed, their pictures and work addresses posted on the web like child molesters.

This was not an off-topic, thoughtless quick remark, but the major argument in an original post, repeated many times ver. He even devotes a web site exclusively to this issue.

For TunnelRat's information, you can't hire an H1-B - that's a visa program, not a person. Instead, you hire foreigners, and H1-B happens to be the only legal way to do that in the IT industry (barring L1-A and L1-B, alternatives that are only applicable to multinational intra-compny transfers). So you are actually saying this.

Any Cheap I.T. Bastard that hires foreigners should be publicly shamed.

[No, that is what you are saying, fuckwad]

It's sad that some members of this forum find this funny and truthful. The irony is that TunnelRat himself hires foreigners in an immoral and illegal way. Illegal, because he avoids social security and insurance payments and employer and import taxes. Immoral, because he charges $4000 while paying only $2500 to the foreigner for doing his work. TunnelRat's employer would have been better off paying $2500 directly to a law-abiding worker, be it a citizen or a foreigner.

[I payed a total of $500, fuckwad.]

Therefore, on his own request, the censored post publicly shamed him. That post has since been deleted, even though TunnelRat himself responded and verified that it was essentially correct.
- He dropped out of college
- Was disciplined for bad conduct in the military (though not discharged)
- Has a history of substance abuse
- Worked himself out of that successfully
- Does not hold on to jobs for long

The censored post did overstate this somewhat, for which I apologize.

[Otherstate? You lied your ass off, just like you did on that visa application, fuckwad]

On the other hand, TunnelRat suggests that I am a body pierced Che Guevara fanboy communist hating the military. Talk about slander. In fact, I respect the US military and the heroes who died to liberate my country. I am tax-paying worker on an H1-B visa with all the duties but none of the rights of an American citizen, paying for his dad's Medicaid bills, his daughter's tuition fees and his buddy's tour in Iraq.

The double irony is that TunnelRat is a foreigner himself: a Hungarian refugee from communist tyranny. So TunnelRat can't really mean what he says. Anybody who's followed his discourse can infer what he's really saying.

Any Cheap I.T. Bastard that hires Asians should be publicly shamed.

[No, that is what you are saying, fuckwad]

That sounds very much like

Any fair-skinned, blue-eyed German that hires Jews should be public shamed.

[Again, that is what you are saying, fuckwad]

We all know why such nonsense must be refuted by all possible means.

Suprise, suprise, surpise, he's an H-1B. And RatPoison’s lack of logical skills are clearly evident in his slide down to the Nazi card. And I love the rationalization of his slander – “TunnelRat kinda dropped out of college, TunnelRat kinda got in trouble in the military, yada, yada, fuckin’ yada” – so TunnelRat gets to have his personal data posted on the internet.

No, shit-for-brains, not even close. Let's get something straight, you H-1B Wage Pirate -- I don’t agree with reeducation camps, the Cultural Revolution, reprogramming, or any of the other concepts you are importing into this free country. We can say whatever the hell we want here, even if it pisses you off.

Now, like I said before, Mr. H-1B fuckwad, you are my bitch. No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy.

Unlike the shithole country you came from, we have something called the 1st Amendment here. Not that you would know anything about the Bill Of Rights, you freakin’ shower shoe-wearing bozo.

Even I don’t post the real names of the people I have thrown down with. Charlie, Ringbrow, etc. – all aliases. The names have been changed to protect the guilty. Now you, RatPoison, on the other hand, have committed crimes.

And you don’t get to mine the Internet and post what you think is my name and address.

Because it’s not, dipshit. And if some unhinged lefty/H-1B fanboy/deranged lunatic/CodePink scum/MoveOn.org cretin commits some act of violence on an innocent family because he/she thought that was TunnelRat’s place, you and your phony H-1B-visa-carrying-ass are out of here.

But just in case, RatPoison, I have to take preemptive action. Like they taught me in the Corps, the best defense is a good offense. So, shitbird, I went on a little search and destroy mission.

You see, I’ve got some ex-military buddies in the ISP business, and they are really good at mining I.P. traffic logs. They have a few things in common:

  • They work for the big telecom outfits.
  • They hate the fact that their sys-admin drinking buddies are getting shitcanned left and right and getting replaced with surly illiterate CEWPs.
So they hooked me up. Plus, I also have bros in the Eastern Block who are real good at hacking websites, especially forums with weak security.

So, that said, tracking down who the fuck you are was pretty easy. We got your account from that other blog (you really should get a stronger password). And then my Hungarian buddies – God, they hate H-1Bs, because they are getting all the visas, even though the Europeans are far better programmers – tracked down your IP. Judging by your email traffic and the small amount of hits on my blog, we had all we need to pin your H-1B ass down and unleash a serious air and ground assault on your ability to stay in this country and deny another American a job in the I.T. field while you violate our piracy laws and expose people to identity theft. Fucker.

Like I said –

No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy.

Finally, I suggest that all you 18-25 year old Comp Sci majors reading this get the hell out of that reeducation camp (college) that is turning you into sissyfied, politically correct pansies and drop out now. Get out while you still have some gonads, or get in ROTC (unless you go to one of this PC shitholes that banned ROTC).

Join the Corps, and spend a few years fighting Islamofascists and getting laid in exotic places. Then you can come back to finish school and kick ass in the I.T. world. We need some more smart hardchargers to take on the likes of RatPoison and his H-1B ilk, with their slanderous attacks and invasions of privacy.

Not to mention their bad breath and stinky lunches.

Sempre Fi....

Posted in:   Tags:
Tunnel Rat posted on October 15, 2007 16:09

It was day three in The Box. I was still wading through code, tracking down DLLs and trying to get things to run locally.

It was on that third day at the One Week Job that I figured out what the guy behind me did. He and another data diddler would huddle around a 15" CRT, and crack open a stored procedure and hard-code some IDs so that each file could get imported. One would read numbers off a spreadsheet and the other would type. It wasn't like they knew SQL or anything, someone had just told them to crack open a 1,000 line proc and change the line that said:

BATCH_ID IN (9863, 3523, 3511, 9077)"


(9024, 9076, 3643, 4943)"

It was like this shop hadn't learned about input parameters, or they just said fuck it. And they had these guys doing this all day.

I was stepping through some nasty VB6 code when the Captain (Bruce) walked up to my desk and dropped a 200 page HIPAA spec next to my monitor.

“Here are the 837 specs. We need to fix the exporter to support those new fields I told you about,” he said.

“Ok. I’m starting to go through the different apps now. Lot of stuff here.”

“Yeah, I know, and we have a lot more to fix. And we have this issue with WebMD and one of our payers. I need you in on this conference call today.” He leaned over the three foot high cubicle wall and dropped his voice down an octave. “Taylor will be in on that call. I want you to work with him as much as possible – I don’t know how much longer he will be around.”

Taylor was his lead programmer, the one that was giving him problems. The one I was replacing.

I was briefly introduced to the guy the first day. Fairly young, under thirty. He was the only one with his own office, except The Captain. And he had a dog. A Rhodesian Ridgeback. And he kept it in his office.

Taylor was “I bring my dog to work” guy. You know whom I am talking about. The account exec with the fauxhawk at The Sweatshop in a Nightclub used to do the same. It is part of the dot com landscape – the shithead that brings his dog to work.


Now, don’t get me wrong – I love dogs. I have two. But what gives these guys the right to bring their dogs to work? What if everybody brought their dogs to work? How about cats? Fish? Ferrets? What if my dog decides to start humping your dog, in the middle of a conference call with a vendor? What if your dog starts sniffing the crotch of a big client?

You get my point – the insolent assholes that bring their dogs to work are “special.” They worked out some deal where they do things that no one else can do. They have a sense of entitlement, and it shows up in the attitude they bring to work. “Fuck you, peon, no dog for you. Your dog can stay home and shit all over your carpet. I, on the other hand, am the man, a player, one who calls the shots. And my dog sleeps under my desk at work – not yours, loser.”

Taylor thought he was a bigshot. He had The Captain by his frequently fondled balls because he, and only he, knew What-The-Fuck-All-That-Code-Was-Doing. After all, he had been there for years, spending his twenties being a big fish in a very small pond. He had risen to the ranks of “I Am So Cool and Important, the Boss Lets Me Bring My Dog To Work.”

So there I was in on a conference call with Taylor, some punk named Joe who handled the WebMD account, and Blake – the Rhodesian Ridgeback. It was my third day. And who the fuck names their dog Blake?

Joe dialed the number and put WebMD on speakerphone. “Hey Chris, I got Taylor here, and our new developer, [TunnelRat]. We want to talk about that feed you are having problems with.”

“Yeah, sure. Well guys, we are getting a bunch of heat because those uploads are failing and we aren’t pushing the claims…” He went on and on.

Taylor put the speaker on mute so that the WebMD guy couldn’t hear us. “He’s full of shit – the feed is bombing because of their server.”

“Yeah, but we can’t let him know that we know,” Joe said. “It’ll fuck up our deal with CalOptima.” He turned to look at me. “We get paid by the transaction, so we gotta act like CalOptima is rejecting the claims, not WebMD. They’re our biggest trading partner.” Blake was licking his balls.

I started to get the big picture. The clearinghouse would get the raw claims from the doctors, who were trying to get paid, and they would format them in some way that WebMD, who was big aggregator, would accept them. WebMB would then diddle the data and shove it up to Medicare, CalOptima, Blue Cross, whatever, and hope that they took the files. Each rejected transaction meant that some doctor didn’t get paid.

And with each batch, WebMD and the clearinghouse got a cut. It didn’t matter whether the batch was valid – they got paid, one way or another, by the payer, because the payer couldn’t accept claims from the little guys. Ever wonder why the medical insurance business is a clusterfuck? Because guys like WebMD and this fly-by-night clearinghouse in South Laguna are jerking off with your claims.

Taylor took the phone off of mute and Chris was still rambling on. “…so the 837s aren’t getting to CalOptima, and they’re totally on my case...”

837s were the claims -- the request for payment. You sent an 837, and the payer would send an 835 - a payment authorization. It was all hairy EDI shit, not even SOAP or anything remotely sophisticated. Brute force.

“No worries, Chris, “ Joe said. “So how about we run the batch again, and FTP the 837s direct?”

“From your server?” Chris asked. “I guess that would work. What about the encryption? You guys have a different key, right? TripleDES? Or PGP?”

“PGP. Send us your key,” Joe said. “Just this once.” I told you your medical data was not safe.

Taylor leaned over the phone. “That way, we can just say that we had problems with CalOptima’s FTP site.”

“Cool. Just make it happen, guys,” Chris said. “Email me.”

“Later.” Joe hung up. “Ok, you guys got it? Looks like a techie thingy now.”

Taylor shrugged. Blake pawed at his thighs. "Yes, baby, I know, we go potty soon," he said, leaning over to let the dog lick his face.

“So we are going to run the batch manually, and FTP the 837s? What about the new fields in the spec?” I asked.

Taylor glared at me. “You’re going to take care of that. You got the specs, right?”

“Yeah, but, which feed is that? What about the key –“

Taylor stood up. He was waving his finger at me. “That’s not my deal! You figure it out. And they need that file by Friday!”

Ok, I guess that was the way it was going to be. He was talking to me like I was his bitch.

“Sure, no prob,” I said calmly. I figured Dogboy was going to be out the door pretty soon. He looked pretty stressed, with three PCs on his desk and a shitload of papers piled up. HIPAA specs, emails, database diagrams, reams and reams of code printed out on legal paper, with red marks all over it.

I let him play alpha dog, just this once. But if he pulled this stunt one more time, and I would frag his ass.

To be continued...

Posted in:   Tags:
tunnel rat posted on October 12, 2007 19:13

Actually, this should be entitled “The One Week Job. Day Two,” but I suspect the chronological blog narrative is a cliché by now.

I returned to the medical claims clearing-house company the next day, ready to code. Or look at code. Or think about looking at code. Whatever.

I finally get connected to Visual SourceSafe and drag down all the code. Man, that was a shitload of folders, dozens. Freakin’ rat’s nest of folders. This was going to take awhile. I grabbed my Wall Street Journal and walked out to the deck outside the office. I drank my coffee and took in the view. Not too bad, I thought, even though the place was a dump.

An hour later, I started cracking open the code.



The shit was all ASP, Visual Basic 6, and nasty, huge stored procs. A pile of pasta, rotting, stinking. I felt like I had lifted up the intestines of a long dead piece of road kill. No .NET code to be found, anywhere. It was like that scene in Apocalypto, where Jaguar Paw stumbles upon huge piles of headless, rotting corpses while he escapes to the jungle.

This movie pissed off La Raza!
BTW, I love that scene in the movie where one of the Mayans gets bit by a snake, and Middle Eye says in Yucatec Mayan “He’s fucked.” And those guys in that movie have some serious tats and piercings!

Man, was I fucked.

I checked the site again. Oh man, it’s all ASP. And this is 2006. But Bruce said they were coding in .NET. Or did he?

I cracked open a Visual Basic project. It had 12 ActiveX DLLs that it was dependent on. I traced them all down and scanned the code. The code has a stench to it, like a bag of skunkweed.

Chill out, dude, I said to myself…

… No biggie, we can port all this over in the next year…

… refactor it, make it good…

I started in the back, checking out a rambling, incoherent stored proc dated 2004, according to the comments. Some guy named Trevor had tagged the nasty code.

The sound of the phones ringing in the office was starting to get to me. I needed a drink.

I glanced across the office at the four developers that were “my team.” I had gotten a quick tour on the first day, and with it a handshake and a nod from each one. Ok, a good time as any to get acquainted.

I walked over to the quad of desks where the “programmers” sat and picked the first one that looked me in the eye. The others averted my gaze.

“What’s up?” I asked.

He took his headphones off. “Hey, hi-ya’-doing? You-d-new-supervisor?”

He was young, I guessed twenty-five. And he had a large shiny ring embedded in his right eyebrow.

I hope this guy doesn't hack my blog. He looks pissed.Wassup, Ringbrow, I said to myself. “Supervisor? Uh, I don’t know about that, but I have a few questions about the code. Is Trevor around?” I asked.

“Trevor?” He shrugged. “Na, man, he-was-just-some-high-school-kid-Bruce-hired-to-write-some-code-a- while-back. He-wuzzen-around-long.” Ringbrow talked really, really fast. Like rat-tat-tat fast.

High school kid? Nice. Like I said, the medical vertical is filled with hackers, and your medical data is not safe. A bunch of kids probably know you got the clap in 2005, and maybe they are spreading the word on MySpace.

“Ok, I was looking through his procs, and I see that there is this scope identity [SCOPE_IDENTITY] call that returns a primary key. What’s the difference between that and at-at Identity [@@IDENTITY]”?

What-Uh-you-don’t-know-what scope identity [SCOPE_IDENTITY] is?” he asked, loudly. “Hu-uhh-uh-uh-uh,” he grunted.

No, Ringbrow, I don’t, I wanted to say. And I felt like tearing that big honking ring out of his eyebrow.

Asking another techie a question like “What, you don’t know what yadda-yadda is?” is like screaming “I know more than you! I own all your bases! I am the more superior geek!” And it’s a good way to get your ass kicked.

Because at the end of the day, there is a bookoo stuff to absorb in the programming world, and it is impossible to expect someone to know all of it. But twenty-something application developers have a tendency to ask such questions (go ahead, readers, you know who you are -- you know you just did it the other day, hoping to punk another programmer).

Now, some of you may call me a hypocrite, because you think you recall me mocking Burning Man’s failure to know what IIS meant, even though he was posing as a Microsoft Web Developer at TCTSRN. But read the post again, and you will notice that I calmly explained what IIS meant, and never mocked him for not knowing, at least not publicly.

And the fact was, I had been coding to SQL-Server since 1994, and SCOPE_IDENTITY was something that popped up in version 2000. Not being a DBA, I wrote plenty of apps that used @@IDENTITY without a problem. So I just wanted to know what the difference was.

Now, with Ringbrow using this opportunity to try to punk me, I was a little agitated. But I chilled. I knew what he was all about. I had his number.

I always had a theory about guys that have odd chunks of metal stuck in their faces – they have issues. And I was recently reading a great book that touched on the topic.

In John Burdett’s “Bangkok 8” an American backpacker gets caught by the Thai police with a shitload of weed.

The kid is a typical narcissistic American pussball, much like Ringbrow. Tats, piercings, attitude, etc. The cops proceed to make him smoke all the dope and then they throw him in a hole in the ground. When they drag him out of the hole the next day, the kid is broken:

…The hole is exactly that, a circular excavation…It takes a few minutes to find the key to the padlock and someone to help me drag the kid out. …I am relieved to see that Adam Ferrel can still walk…He staggers around somewhat before I put an arm around him…All of the sudden he bursts into chest-jarring sobs…It takes ten minutes for the sobbing to quiet, and then Ferral yanks at the hatpin through his eyebrow until it comes out and hands it to me…

“When I was down your fucking hole I promised Christ, God, Krishna, Muhammad, Zeus, the Buddha and anyone else who would listen that if I got out of there with my mind intact, I’d get rid of it. My old man hates it, he calls it a disfigurement. I’ve been torturing him with it for two years…”

So, my point being, Ringbrow probably pierced his face to piss off his dad. To piss of my dad, I joined the Marine Corps.

Let’s just say this – Ringbrow and I had differences. And I wanted to pull that fucking ring out of his eyebrow the minute he said “What-Uh-you-don’t-know-what SCOPE_IDENTITY is?”

What a pussy.

To Be Continued...

Posted in:   Tags:
tunnel rat posted on October 12, 2007 18:52
I’ll have to detour around the One Week Job for a while.

The blogosphere is a wild and brutal ecosystem. Blogs are tied together in a multitude of conflicting ways, and on occasion, firefights break out. After getting under the skin of a few sanctimonious finger-waggers on another site, I was slandered by one such troll and had to fire back on full auto.

It started with a tongue in-cheek post inspired by something I saw on Craigslist:
...Even I had very bad experiences of doing business with Americans. I made a wrong choice to persue career in america. American companies never keep their word, they renage on their promises, find excuses to not pay long term incentives they had offered to employees at the start of employment. They constantly underpay H1 people and also use H1 as a modern day slavery tool to keep employees on payroll longer without much legal options...

...Also I found American companies and government are very "money" minded. They find out tricks on extracting more money. And I have to deal with such headaches and money extracting idiots everyday who are merely trying to take advantage of the situation to fill their coffers with no moral values...

...Seriously just like you cant stand Indians, I cant stand lot of things in America. When I came to US, it looked like a land of opportunity in the short run. I wish I was matured enough to know I was wasting my time in USA. Infact its not too late now, and I have decided I will go back to India in 1 years time. Cant stand bullshit!

I submitted that with my comments, under the title "H1-B Admits To Being "Modern Day Slave":

I stumbled across this on Craigslist. Just more proof that I.T. managers are using H1-Bs as indentured servants. Good job, Mr. I.T. Manager. In my book, any, and I mean any, Cheap I.T. Bastard that hires H1-Bs should be publicly shamed, their pictures and work addresses posted on the web like child molestors.
That unleashed a wave of passionate responses. If nothing else, I am controversial.

Then a troll calling himself Rat Poison decided to slander me by posting this crap (Xs are his):

We, the people, publicly shame XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX, a.k.a. TunnelRat, a.k.a. I.T. Grunt, a.k.a. xxxxxxxxxx, for outsourcing U.S. jobs.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx was born July 18, 1966. After an uneventful youth, he flunked Pepperdine University and enlisted with the Marine Corps. He claims to be a Gulf War veteran, but in fact got a Bad Conduct Discharge before that war started.

After failing the Marines, xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx went through a stint of alcohol abuse. He worked himself out of that to become something of an ASP.NET Guru. Because of his disorderly behavior he has never been able to hold on to a job for more than a few weeks.

xxxxxxxxxxxx, of Hungarian descent, is well known for infesting public forums with racist ranting towards Asians.

In August 2007, xxxxxxxxxxxxxx, after screwing up yet another project, illegally contracted a Pakistani worker living in Melbourne, Australia to clean up his WTF code for a fraction of his own earnings.
Damn, what a bunch of slanderous bullshit...It just demanded a counterattack:


At first, I had to ask myself did I really say this:
In my book, any, and I mean any, Cheap I.T. Bastard that hires foreigners should be publicly shamed, their pictures and work addresses posted on the web like child molestors.
Because I don't have an issue with hiring foreigners, just H1-Bs. After all, I too am a foreigner. But in my haste, I could have mispoke. That is what they say John Kerry, aka Lurch, did when he said only stupid people join the military. I think I am pretty clear about the H1-B issue in my post, Curry Eating Wage Pirates.

So I checked the transcript, and sure enough, here's the quote:

In my book, any, and I mean any, Cheap I.T. Bastard that hires H1-Bs should be publicly shamed, their pictures and work addresses posted on the web like child molestors.
Moving on, it's time to make Rat Poison my bitch. Let the rebuttal begin:

I am not only of Hungarian descent, I was born in Hungary and left when I was four. My father sneaked into Yugoslavia and on a moonless night, drugged me full of sleeping pills, tied me with some belts to an air mattress, and swam two miles of shark infested waters to Trieste, Italy, where he declared asylum. For those of you prancing around in Che Guevara T-shirts, the communist regime we fled was hardly paradise; some people actually risk their lives to get out.

I know this picture was taken in Laguna.  And I have this shirt.
When I was 20, I dropped out of junior college and joined the Marine Corp. When my drill instructor got pissed off at me and asked "Dammit, TunnelRat, why the hell did you join the Marine Corps?", I shouted back "Sir, to kill communists, sir!" Because I was smart, he made me the scribe, just like the guy in Jarhead.

I ended up as a grunt, and spent the first few years in the Corps getting in and out of trouble. Minor stuff -- letting females in the barracks, drinking on duty, etc. I finally lost a stripe in Korea after a wild night involving the purchase of certain services and substances that the Corps took issue with.

I got my stripe back, ended up as a company radio operator in Kuwait, and after six years, got an honorable discharge as an E-5. That's a sergeant to you civilians.

Now, in light of the facts, that's some pretty lame sh*t Rat Poison is trying to pull, implying that someone with three rows of ribbons, including a Combat Action Ribbon, got kicked out with a BCD. But his ilk hates the military, so it's not surprising.

Now permit me to continue setting Rat Poison straight.

After 3 years of night school, I got a Bachelors, 13 years after my very first college class. I leveraged the skills I learned in the Marine Corps (getting things done, not being a pussy, working with a sense of urgency, good grooming, etc.) into a successful career as an Applications Developer.

Finally, I paid an offshore Australian programmer (nice Anglo dude) $30 hr. on a project for which I was getting $50 hr to write a few modules for a web app. Yeah, I paid him a fraction of my earnings, 60%. Since I had to do the code review and integration, I figured that was fair.

And I've never been able to hold a job for more than two years, because most of my contracts are 3-6 months stints. The few times I was an FTE (being in the Box, as I like to say), I got bored and underpaid.

As for you Rat Poison, I think you are getting lead poisoning from all the infected piercings on your body and it is impacting your ability to think rationally. Your post is a true WTF.
Flame away, Che fans.

Now, back to the show...

Posted in:   Tags:
tunnel rat posted on October 10, 2007 19:10

I drove down to the new gig on a crystal clear summer day, heading south past downtown Laguna. I parked in the back and headed up the creaky wooden stairs.

Bruce was in office, with a view of Catalina 26 miles away. He was on the phone. He motioned for me to sit down.

I waited. Five minutes later he hung up.

“Great, let’s get you started.” He stood up and walked me to my desk. A boxed up PC was on the floor. “I just ran out to Fry’s and got you this. Ask one of the guys to help you set it up. Let me know when you are ready and I’ll walk you through the app.”

Good job, dumbass, I said to myself. You took a job where you have to setup your own PC.

Ten minutes later I had everything hooked up. The PC booted. Windows Media Center. What the fuck?

I walked down to his office. He was on the phone again. I walked back to my desk. It was in a corner of the second floor with three other desks where young guys were banging away at their keyboards. I tapped one on the shoulder. “Do you know who takes care of the PCs around here?”

He shrugged. The kid was about twenty. “Check with Paul.” He pointed to some other guy on the other side of the office. I headed that way. Everybody was on the phone, banging away at a keyboard, or vigorously hunched over somebody’s shoulder, pointing at a monitor. I think I was one of four people over thirty, not counting the Mexican lady emptying the trash cans.

“Are you Paul?”

He took his headphones off. “Wassup?”

“Are you Paul?”


“Do you have Windows XP? This new box has Media Center, and I don’t think SQL-Server 2005 runs on that. Plus, I don’t need all that media stuff.”

“Sure, no prob.” He dug through a pile of disks and handed me a disk that had “XP” written on it by a Sharpie. “The key is in the in-fo file.”


“Yeah, you know, dot-EN-EF-O.” He put his headphones back on.

“Oh, ‘.nfo’. Got it.” Freakin’ disk was from a Warez site.

Bye the end of the day I had my development environment setup. Visual Studio 2005, Sql-Server, etc. All loaded from bootleg disks provided by Paul.

To be continued...

Posted in:   Tags:
tunnel rat posted on October 5, 2007 18:58

I liken my career path to Cool Hand Luke’s experience. I am either on the run (freelancing), on the chain gang (contracting), or in the box (working as a full time employee).

Every waking day of my existence falls into one of three categories:

  1. On The Run: Enjoying my freedom while I make my own hours and call the shots as an independent consultant (much as Paul Newman’s character cavorted with whores and gamblers after escaping from the prison camp).

  2. Chain Gang: Doing my time as a hired hand on a contract job (like Luke toiling on the chain gang).

  3. In The Box: Sucking hind tit as a full time employee (when Luke gets caught running and gets thrown in a hole in the ground).

Unfortunately, it’s hard to make a consistent living On The Run. The market changes, the economy retracts, and suddenly there is no more work to be had as a freelancer. First the off-site gigs dry up. Then the Dice postings matching your skills get reduced to a trickle. You end getting caught by the Captain’s hounds and slaving away in the proverbial Chain Gang – as an hourly contractor on a shit project in a big company.

And then the contract works dries up, you make a break for it and get caught. You end up in the box – as an FTE. Full Time (Fuckin’) Employee. As the Luke says:

And you make a bad enough mistake and then you gotta deal with the man - and he is one rough old boy. OK?

You see, working as an FTE is like dealin’ with the man. One real mean son-of-a-bitch. You see, it ain’t man’s nature to be confined in a cube, taking orders from the Cheap I.T. Bastard, or the Clueless, Gayish CIO, or dealing with the Menapausal Bitch DBA or the narcoleptic network guy. Or folks like Charlie. It just ain’t right. It was like being in the Box.

So, I have to admit – I am one arrogant bastard. Like the fine ale brewed in SoCal, I am hated by many and loved by few. I am especially hated by the small-minded netizens that have been brainwashed into filtering everything they read through the prizms of sex, race, class, and gender.

Thus I have a hard time as an FTE.

But as the market turned south one summer, I had to look for a full time job. I resigned myself to going back in the Box. Like Luke, I protested…

You ain't dealt me no cards in a long time. It's beginning to look like You got things fixed so I can't never win out. Inside, outside, all of them... rules and regulations and bosses. You made me like I am. Now just where am I supposed to fit in?


But I answered the ad for a Senior .Net Developer that was posted on Dice. I knew it was full time, but my daughter was growing, and the mortgage payment was due. And the wife liked to vacation in Cabo.

“We need a solid developer. It’s a small, growing company in Laguna Beach,” the guy told me. It was spring in SoCal, I had just got fired from the Sweatshop in a Nighclub, which was also in Laguna. I liked Laguna.

“And the compensation?” I asked.

“I can pay what you are asking. 110 is no problem. Plus we have medical and –“

I cut him off. “That’s ok, my wife has a good plan. When are you looking to fill the spot?”

He got excited. “Well, uh, well, as soon as possible.” He was panting.

“I have to give at least a week’s notice,” I lied. I couldn’t let him think I was unemployed.

“That’s fine, when can you come in for an interview?”

“How about today at 2?”

“Great! See you then.” He hung up.

I found the place in South Laguna Beach. Barely. It didn’t look like a medical claims clearing house. Two stories, facing the ocean. Dumpy. I walked up the side stairs and opened the door.

The place was packed, all assholes and elbows. A rat’s nest of cubes and computers. Network cables where hanging like vines from the ceiling.

A middle aged lady was sitting at a desk pilled high with paperwork. She smiled at me. “Can I help you?” she asked.

“Yeah, I have an appointment with Bruce.”

“Down the hall, to the left.”

I found Glen in an office with a beautiful ocean view, talking on the phone. He waved me in.

I sat and waited for him to get off the phone and did a little recon of the place. His desked was pilled high with paperwork. Checks to be signed, NDAs, timesheets. He was dressed neatly, beach-business-casual. 17” flat panel monitor. Everybody else had 15” CRTs. I mentally logged the discrepency.

Finally he got off the phone. He got right to the point.

“Ok, I own this company and we do medical claims processing. We have a web site where doctor’s offices can send their claims, and we send them to the insurance companies. Get it?”

He rattled off those facts in a high-pitched tone. My gaydar went off. Not that there is anything wrong with that. I was in Laguna, after all. The BoomBoom Room was just up the road.

“HIPAA stuff?” I asked.

He grinned. “Yes. Now, I’ve got this programmer that has been working here for a few years, and he is giving me problems. He says he’s not happy.”

And what the fuck does that have to do with me, I wanted to ask. I hate bastards that start an interview by bad-mouthing their staff.


“So,” he continued, “It looks like you have some good .NET and SQL-Server experience.”

“Yes, I’ve been working on the Microsoft platform for over ten years.”

“Yeah. I worked at IBM for years. Wrote a few compilers. Built my own operating system.”

“Really? So are you running SQL-Server 2005?”


“32-Bit or 64-bit?” I asked.


I paused. “What version of .NET? 2003 or 2005?”

“Yeah.” He started fiddling with his mouse.


I continued. “Ok, so what is your code written in, C# or VB.NET?”



He was getting excited. Typical ADD combined with OCD. “So what do you think? Can you start Monday?” he asked.

“I have to give at least a week’s notice,” I reminded him. He started shuffling through his papers. His attention span window was closing.

“That’s fine!” He got up. The interview was over. I was hired.

I was going back in the Box.

To be continued…

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