Search This Blog

Sunday, October 27, 2019

A Ritual Purification (of sorts)

I was having a conversation with someone I support at work last Friday, similar to one I had with my boss as well, about how learning to deal with adversity at work is a necessity.  In this particular case, the issue is a difficult personal dynamic between two individuals.  Some leaders deal with these kinds of situations by removing the dynamic (i.e. basically removing one of the people in question from the situation).  I do think this is a mistake.

Why?  The White Album.  Rumors.  Just to name two.

In case you don't get the reference, these are two classic albums that share something in common, namely a tremendous amout of stress during their creations.  I can cite other examples, all of which would make any and all think that I have far too much time on my hands, but the point is made:  A certain amount of tension can help produce great results.

It's not just that tension and stress can sometimes bring about great results, it's also that a certain amount of this stuff simply makes us better, provided that allow ourselves to learn from the experience.  I can think of a few examples in my own professional life where I worked for folks who were just very difficult (at least for me).  I still somewhat cringe at some of these memories, but I know for an absolute fact that I also learned a lot from these folks.  As they say about making hotdogs, the process wasn't all that pretty, but I'm more or less happy with the result. 

Getting back to the first paragraph, I concede that we can't force people to work together...well we can certainly try, but it may end up being counter-productive (think squeezing jello:  Sometimes the harder you squeeze, the more you lose between your fingers).  The better way is to try and get folks to simply try to work through their difficulties.  We don't have to like everyone we encounter, but I do think it's important to always assume positive intent(1), especially in those where our natural instinct may be to assume the exact opposite.  Even if someone is, in reality, a serial dirtbag of a human being, sometimes a little "forced consciousness expansion"(2) can be a good thing.  This is, of course, tempered in the reality that nothing lasts forever anyway.

* * * * * *

On a related note, maybe I'm channeling more of myself that I realize in the above posting.  The underlying reality has been that up until about 90 days ago, I struggled professionally.  My new job, what happened about 90 days ago, is going well.  Before then?  Less so. Dramatically less so.  In fact, I'd say that the period of July 2018 to July 2019 was the worst time in all of my professional life.  There's almost something ironic about that statement, in part because during this period I had a terrific boss (who I would gladly work for again) and wonderful fellow team-mates.  Everything else?  Well let's just say I wasn't a good fit for the organization, and the organization wasn't a good fit for me.  If ever there was an employer-employee mismatch, well, it was then.

Looking back over this above referenced period, I can't yet see how that tension has helped me grow.  What I see instead is a kind of scar, covering up damage where I began to question my professional value and the choice I've made over the years.  Maybe that's the point though:  Sometimes the sole purpose of a difficult experience is to simply prepare us for something else...something better...maybe a ritual purification(3) of sorts.

* * * * * *

(1) Actually learned by me, for the most part, from someone who was very difficult to work with many years ago.

(2) Hunter S. Thompson:  

“No sympathy for the devil; keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride...and if it occasionally gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, well...maybe chalk it up to forced consciousness expansion: Tune in, freak out, get beaten.”

(3) Reference HERE.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Road Apples, #180

Vaping Commerical
An actual line I heard during a vaping commercial (on Sirius satellite radio) "...gave me the nicotine satisfaction I was looking for...".  Given that nicotine is a highly addictive drug, I can imagine similar commercials (if they were allowed) "...gave me the Meth satisfaction I was looking for...".

Speaking of Nicotine
I was listening to an interview with young Miley Cyrus the other day (you can listen to it here), and my gosh, her voice.  She sounds like Lucille Ball at age 65.  Let's put it this way:  If lung cancer could speak, it would sound just like Miley Cyrus.

Among the things that have been missing in my life over the past year or so is photography.  I just don't take many photographs these days.  I need to change that one of these days.  I've gotten several compliments on my photographs (used a computer wallpaper) at work, which should be at least somewhat motivating.  Here's one of my personal favorites, taken in the Fall of 2009.

The News
I still don't listen to the news.  I just can't.  It's just too difficult for me to hear, too, at times enraging.  We have a President that tweets like an angry junior high girl.  With apologies to junior high girls for the stereotyping.  If you are a fan of the President, well, so be it...but I think we can all agree that the country would be better off if he kept his fragile, thin-skinned, vindictive feelings to himself.

reMarkable Tablet
I've been using a reMarkable tablet now for about 9 months or so.  The verdict?  Well worth the investment.  This is a great product that enables me to keep a wide variety of notes on different topics all organized and within a small footprint.  What's more, the notes are backed up to my desktop and can be exported to pdf files.  Just as cool?  I can import documents and notate them.  You can find out more about reMarkable HERE.

Not Really Remarkable
I received this email several times in September (the worst stuff blocked out with ###):

* * * * * *

Confidential message for:

Recently you visited one of the porn websites I attacked with my Xploıt.
When you started watching videos it executed payload on your device and
installed a ʋirus I developed.

As soon as I ίɳfected your ɗevίce, it started to act like a remote
desktop with full read/write access.
I gained access to your files, your email, contact lists and most
importantly - your camera!

My ʋirus started recording your web browser and your camera every time you
########## during last 2 weeks.
While my ʋirus is not perfect it managed to record 6 videos clearly showing
you ###########..

Call me whatever you want, a criminal or a dick, but this is just my job.
I do this on regular basis and I recorded hundreds of people, but you are
Why? Because of the aberrant and perverse videos you were watching while
########## - you know what I mean!

Now I am your master, and you are my slave..

Let me ask you a question.

How would you feel if I upload to pornhub all the videos with you
########## and send the links to everyone on your contact lists -
including your family and business partners?

You don't want me to do this, right ?

There is only one way you can stop me from exposing your fantasies. You have
to pαy.

Let me be straightforward with you.

You know what Bitcoin is, right?
Buy 2,000 USD worth of Bitcoin and send it to me immediately.

You can buy Bitcoin in many places like Coinbase, CoinMama, Binance..
Google for 'how to buy cryptocurrencies'. You can use your credit card or
bank transfer.

I am giving you 3 days to complete this payment, after which I will start
uploading and sending your ########## videos.
Just imagine your family and collegues reaction to those videos 🤣

Save your life now!
Transaction details are below:

Send exαctly 0.200312 BTC

to this Bitcoin address:

* * * * * *
What's kind of funny about this is:
1) I don't visit sites like that, to begin with.
2) 95% of my computer usage at home is with my HP desktop, which doesn't have a webcam.
3) For the remaining 5% or some of the time when I use my laptop, I keep my camera covered (I have a little siding cover purchased from Amazon).

I do wonder how often emails like this actually do result in people paying scammers.  For the record, the above text is fairly standard stuff according to the actual bitcoin folks (reference HERE).

Columbus Day
Tomorrow is Columbus Day, making it a holiday for some, but not for me.  It's actually an odd holiday, given the fact that Columbus didn't, in fact, discover America (more like he re-discovered it).  Then we have the whole unsavory aspects of what he ultimately brought to the new world.  Proof positive that progress is often times a painful process with a high body count.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Just a song before I go... whom it may concern...

(from THIS song)

Live from some (not so) out of the way kiosk at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.  It's already been a long day, with my waking up at 4am-ish for a flight out of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  The plan is for me to get back to Scranton by around 2:30pm or so.  Then again, based on the last data I've seen, there is a 1 in 5 chance of that arrival time not being true when flying out of this airport.

Anyway, one of the things I've had to personally come to terms with over the past 3 years is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  I never thought much about this until recently, with my prevailing attitude has been one of "this is what happens to soldiers when they return from the war".  That sentiment is true, I am sure, but I never thought that it would impact me.  However, I can see now that the events surrounding my brother's death have impacted me in just such a way.  Even writing this is difficult in part because I am loathed to admit any kind of mental or emotional failing (other failings are fair game).  I still, all these years later, need to be superman, even though my (figurative) days of rescuing are long gone.

What does the above look like?  How do I feel about it?

There isn't a day that goes by when I don't think about my late brother.  Sometimes they are fleeting thoughts.  Sometimes they are reminiscings about times past.  Sometimes they are the vague kind of future dreams that we all have of some happy ever after in our old age.  What there isn't is anger though; I am not angry at him.  I am angry...and always will be a person or two that enabled the worst in my brother.  Mostly though, I feel a certain sadness about it all. 

A few years prior to my brother's passing we (my brothers and I) were there when our mother died in the hospital.  In fact, I think that it was Chris who was holding her hand when she finally slipped away.  I have no sadness at or for that event, as my mother had suffered enough.  It was, in an odd sort of way, good that she had passed away.  Life was always a difficult endeavor for our mother, oftentimes filled with anger and disappointment, with physical pain and dark memories of the past.  All of that is gone now.

So, why the difference in feelings and reactions between my brother and my mother?  Looking back in as objective a manner as I can, I know they were both in physical pain.  My mother being riddled with the lasting effects of multiple brain tumor surgeries, exceptionally poor vision and arthritis.  My brother with shoulder pain that required a certain degree of sobriety to treat, a degree that he was never able to achieve.  They were both in emotional pain as well. 

The odd thing about my brother is the fact that I never felt that part of his emotional pain was dealing with his substance abuse.  In fact, over the last few years of his life, that abuse had become an ingrained part of his life.  It has become a kind of organ unto itself, no longer being external to his existence.  He just seemed to accept this as part of who he was, only making efforts at sobriety at the urging of others.  It was as if he had decided that whatever emotional pain he was feeling needed these substances to be kept at bay.  He never told me this directly, mind you, but I had so many conversations with him where this subtext was so clear that even the dullest among us could clearly see this particular forest from its trees.  In the end, my brother had convinced himself that substance abuse was the only way to live a pain-free life, failing to see that this "cure" was actually the real disease.

Seeing the above, and maybe just as important (sort of) understanding the above is something of both a blessing and a curse.  I have thought and thought and thought about all of this time and time again.  I've used all of the logic I can muster to try and understand that which is inherently illogical.  Yet throughout all of my reflection, I'm not really left feeling that much better about it all.  I haven't "made peace" with my brother's death, but part of what I've learned since January 5, 2017, is that this may never be the case.  What I have come to terms with, thanks to much reflection and help, is that I accept how I feel about all of this; put another way, I've made a kind of separate peace about my feelings relative to those events.  Thinking about my brother can make me decidedly sad, but it's okay to be sad when thinking about losing someone close to you.

The above is an important kind of lesson, especially for me:  Life is a series of opportunities to learn and grow.  Some of the most important lessons though are also some of the most difficult to learn.  One of those difficult lessons for me is that sometimes the things I am good at in life (logic, control, problem-solving) aren't always the things I need in life.  Sometimes logic makes it worse.  Sometimes we simply have no control.  Sometimes we encounter problems that just can't be solved.  And all of this is okay.