Firefox 29 – Not the most customizable Firefox ever

So I upgraded to Firefox 29 and was pretty excited after reading their claim that it was the most customizable Firefox ever. Upon opening the browser, I was greeted with a very new look and here are my first thoughts:

  • The bar with the buttons, address bar, etc. got a hell of a lot thicker. So despite saving space in the tabs, they went backwards and ended up eating my precious vertical space.
  • Where the fuck is the refresh button?
  • 10 seconds later. Oh, there it is in the most hard to click spot ever (size + being a but off means you click the address bar dropdown instead).
  • How do I get my navigation controls back to how I want? Home, Forward, Back, and Refresh buttons.
  • 3 minutes later. Ok… maybe I’m blind but I really don’t see that Refresh button in the customization options.
  • 2 minutes later + some Google searching. Ok, I’m not blind. Firefox took it out.

So…

WTF Firefox?

How can you call this the most customizable Firefox ever when you REMOVED the ability to add a refresh button (among other options for navigation)? I can see all the work that went into this new version but right now I’m trying to find a way to downgrade because of this usability fuck up.

I should have seen this coming after the whole “let’s remove features because no one uses them (except for all of Africa)” discussion. Firefox is starting to get the GNOME Shell bug where the designers are beginning to ignore users in an effort to push their own vision of simplicity over functionality. Do you know what I say to these designers? You suck at your job.

Rather than try to find a way to better organize and group features, you remove anything you cannot deal with. You implement things in a way that works for a single workflow instead of keeping things flexible to accommodate all users. That makes you all hacks. Unable to think outside the box, you decide to shove everyone into your box.

Have you designers ever thought about how this would effect users with poor eyesight? Or those with disabilities who may not have 100% accuracy when moving their mouse? Or how about people who don’t use a standard DE and place their menu bar vertically on the left/right (hint: moving all of the browser controls to the left/right is a huge usability boon for these people)?

No you didn’t think of these people.

And if you did, then that’s worse because you consciously ignored them.

With Firefox going down the same route as Chrome, who do we non-90% users turn to? Chrome is just as bad. Opera is effectively dead. IE was never good. Safari isn’t exactly good on non-OS X systems. All of the various Linux browsers? Nope, not powerful enough. This trend of companies trying to push everyone into their own box is very disturbing. It’s hard to make sense of and leaves me wondering what I can even do.

Sigh…

Right now, I guess the only thing I can do is stand on my box and shout.

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Can you trust your own government?

So I’m sure you have all heard of PRISM, Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, and Lavabit. I’m also sure you have heard of Wikileaks, Bradley Manning, and Julian Assange. You might have heard of Aaron Schwartz. You’ve definitely heard of PIPA and SOPA. And you know what, this list is endlessly long. But there are two pieces of recent news that I’d like to talk about.

First is the David Miranda incident and it’s aftermath. Ever since the internet exploded, we have slowly but surely outgrown the government’s control of mass media. Propaganda is harder to spread since there are many on the internet willing to take time and debunk lies and myths that the government attempts to spread. Unlike printed media, you cannot control all of the voices in the blogosphere. Everyone can create their own soap box to stand on and speak. Because of this trend, the government has to resort to greater intimidation tactics to try and influence those who are speaking out. These tactics are both highly unethical and borderline illegal. Laws are twisted and sometimes flat out ignored by the government. And you know what? This is the future. This is where we are all headed. A world where a Chinese police state is the norm except the public has no idea that it’s happening.

Do you think your government is different? That your politicians aren’t corrupt? Let me tell you this, America isn’t the only bad apple in the basket. Every government is capable of violating your privacy because, as all technologists have known for a long time, not all protocols are perfectly secure. And even if they were, all it takes is the government exerting secretive powers to strong arm companies and individuals into doing their bidding. And when they choose to protect their users instead of betraying them? Their companies and lives are destroyed ala Lavabit. We live in a world where hard working, honest people can be threatened by governments at will without repercussions. A world where people like David Miranda can be detained for bogus reasons just to intimidate them into being quiet. A world where being the Bolivian president doesn’t mean jack shit.

And you know what, good people will continue to fight the good fight. But how long can that keep continuing? Especially when personal possession can be confiscated and destroyed without compensation. Without reason. Without and legal standing. All all without any recourse from the individual. Or when technology can be compromised or simply forced to shut down ala Lavabit or Silent Circle. Apparently not long as this bring me to the second bit of news I want to highlight. Groklaw is shutting down.

Email is a vital part of communication in the modern world as are SMS (texting), VoIP, XMPP, and various other protocols. But just like phonecalls and mail before them, all governments are capable of intercepting these messages. We never had privacy which is why anonymous sources and secretive meetings were some of the few ways confidential information was passed along. But in our technological age, where confidential information can come from all over the world, we are reaching the point where nothing may be confidential anymore. If the government has years of history on every as well as access to all of their private, personal data, then we are at a dead end. Encryption? That won’t last. Secure channels? Doesn’t exist when the companies running the hubs have been compromised. The only option is to risk your sources and fight or shutdown in the biggest way possible so as to make a splash that will hopefully ripple into a wave of political activists.

Groklaw is taking the second route. For that I am thankful but at the same time, I mourn the loss of perhaps the greatest objective news source in the intellectual property fight. Without them, it is not a stretch to say that Android would not exist. That the current state of the internet would not be possible. Or that we would have a choice for computing software/hardware outside of Microsoft and perhaps even Apple. I sincerely hope their death will not be in vain.

So I guess it’s time to ask, can you trust your government? I don’t for the obvious reason that I live in America and we have had the blessing of the PRISM leaks. Snowden gave us a fighting chance to force the government to reveal all of its corruption. Everyone else? History and recent evidence says no. So how about we all come together and think of a way to take back control of our lives and our governments?

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One Microsoft, One Life Left

Yo Microsoft, let’s sit down and talk.

You have a “new strategy” (which really reads like a vision so that’s what I’m calling it) that states:

Going forward, our strategy will focus on creating a family of devices and services for individuals and businesses that empower people around the globe at home, at work and on the go, for the activities they value most.

Compare this with the old vision of “put a PC in every home” (paraphrasing) and which seems more concise? Which can you read and say, “Now that is one heck of a vision. How do we get there?” As much as I like some of your developer products and a few other things, your new “strategy” is representative of what has slowly driven me away from using Microsoft products. I just don’t get you as a company.

Where exactly do you want to go? Your vision is grand but has no clear goal. How do you measure progress? Or rather, a better way to say what I mean is, how do you know that you are headed in the right direction? As a consumer, I am worried when I buy and use your products. Not because they are headed in a new direction, rather it is because I don’t think your vision will result in me using the best possible product.

Compounding the issue is that your vision is big but has no “WOW” factor. It’s not something that makes people think, “Damn, would that be cool if it happened.” Why? Because you are simply following industry trends instead of paving a new path forward.

And there is the crux of Microsoft’s struggles. You are no longer a pioneer, so you’ll always be one step behind everyone else. In a world where interoperability is inevitable, with various open protocols and where even the closed ones at least have APIs, your vision is not something that surprises me. Hell, it’s something I already expected from you.

So please Microsoft, I beg you to reach deep down and pull out a vision truly befitting of your vast resources.

Or, you know, ask Bill for some advice. His post-Microsoft philanthropic goals have the same “WOW” factor as his original vision at Microsoft. It’s clear he is a natural visionary and that is what Microsoft needs. And yes, this is a jab at the Microsoft leaders. I don’t think any of them are tech visionaries. Instead, I believe they are all “business visionaries” (if that even exists) whose only talents are growing a company. Not helping a company innovate. And I feel this will lead to the death of the Microsoft we all once knew.

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A Farewell to All Your History

Written in response to the final episode of All Your History: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dN3VqWJQIZg

End of a great YouTube series on gaming history. And now to share my own thoughts about the show.

1. I know the various people who were a part of the show still have ties to Machinima but to say that the the number of people who disliked the change in the show’s direction is a minority is a HUGE understatement. This is the only time I’ve ever seen an unpopular change in a YouTube series/channel result in:

  • repeated downvotes (almost outnumbering the upvotes on a weekly basis which is unheard of),
  • endless negative comments (deserved or not and oftentimes removed by Machinima even when comments were informative about the change in the show’s style),
  • and a large enough drop in viewership (subscriber count + the effect of poorly liked shows on YouTube which will effect the parent channel) that a series was actually cancelled.

So let me make this clear. I have no negative feeling towards any of the show creators (even Chris Lockey), but saying the dislikes were a minority is being dishonest. Sure it may be a technical minority (< 50%) but it clearly was > 40% due to the like counts and comment ratio (and estimated drop in subscribers), but this group of fans deserve to be labelled as an important part of the viewership. Hell for all you know, the other 60% may be a 30/30 split between positive and neutral making the “minority” an actual majority. So don’t play the PR game and call those viewers a minority. Minorities do not get shows cancelled.

2. As a representative of the quiet masses who were willing to let Season 5 cook for a while before returning, I gotta say that yes, we noticed the change in Season 4. The main reason why many didn’t speak up about the slight change in style was because we saw it as a positive change and it did not deviate from the spirit of the show. As Brian & Brian combo even said, they mostly kept to the same style even though they made a few changes. It is human nature to be quiet and not speak up when changes aren’t bad.

Season 5, on the other hand, did not take a gradual approach. It made a huge change in style from the start which was bad for several reasons. Many of them are actually terrible business decisions so I’m not sure how those changes were approved.

  1. Abrupt change with very little lead in will always generate harsh feedback. Unless you’ve tested your changes against focus groups to make sure they are actually positive in the long run, it is a terrible business idea to make such large changes at once. Examples? See any fucking big change to a website, TV Show, comic, etc. EVER. You use Facebook, right? Remember all those times they made huge changes to their UI, privacy settings, etc. and the negative feedbad that caused? Yeah, that is what you should expect. The difference between All Your History Season 5 and Facebook? Facebook does a shit load of testing and even does a small beta rollout to random users over time to fix things before going all out.
  2. To cut staff down to one person and expect them to maintain quality is simply a poor business decision. It reeks of cost cutting and greed. The quality of every aspect of the show is guaranteed to go down by doing this so I’m not sure how Machinima expected the show to keep subscribers going into Season 5.
  3. If you cut staff, it is generally a safe business decision to stick to the tried and true until changes stabilize. So telling Lockey to go with his style from the start is again, a terrible business decision. Example? I’ve been in 2 companies that downsized. During periods where we downsized, we put any huge features involving major changes to our product were delayed just so we could make sure we can maintain the same quality of our current product. It’s just safe business practice.
  4. The changes to the show were across the board – intro, narrator, writing, show content/focus, and production style. If you are going to change everything, you might as well change the title too because that is all that is left of the spirit of the show. This is essentially a new series at this point so using the name “All Your History” is a pretty goddamn poor business decision. You are telling your fanbase to expect one thing while providing a completely different product. NOT SMART BUSINESS!

Seriously, I 100% bet that if Machinima allowed Brian & Brian to continue the show using whatever hypothetical changes they wanted to make, the change in narrator to Chris Lockey would not have been all that negative. In fact, since those two proved they understand the audience, I bet their changes would have worked out in the long run and have had a better chance at increasing viewership (clearly the goal of Machinima). So I’m very curious to hear from Machinima why those two were not allowed to execute their vision for Season 5.

3. I can tell that some of the people previously involved with making All Your History did not agree with the changes either. Of course, their responses are going to be politically safe and not bash the show outright but your feelings show in your responses when taken as a whole. It’s not my place to tell you how to answer questions, but I will say this, “Thank you for putting your heart and soul into the show.”

Bet you didn’t expect that right? Seriously, thank you guys for making the show. Anyone asking you guys to come back are being selfish. Hell, Chris Lockey probably isn’t that bad a guy and even I most likely fall on the “dislike” him side of his polarizing personality. However, it’s not his fault. If there is anyone to blame, I put the blame solely on Machinima for making poor business decisions that anyone with half a brain could tell would lead to the death of the show. So fuck you Machinima!

4. As a response to mainy of the YouTube commenters who are angry at seeing the show end – guess what? Ending the show was the goal of the negative fanbase. After the first few episodes, the responses illicited from Lockey and Talbert, and the realization that the changes were here to stay, negative fans decided that taking the dog out back and shooting it was the most humane thing to do. And that is why the dislikes and negative comments kept rolling in. No one is sorry that the show was cancelled. That was the goal. If you are going to be angry at anyone, be angry at Machinima for all the reasons I stated above. The show was primed for failure and that is what happened.

5. Lastly, I’d like to point out a key “draw in” factor about the show that the creators, crew, YouTube commenters, and really everyone missed. I haven’t seen a single person post this yet. As much as the style, informative nature of the show, narration, and quality were important to the show’s success, there is one other factor that drew in AND kept the current audience. Nostalgia. This is a show about gaming history. One of the things viewers of our type enjoy is reliving games from our past, learning things we didn’t know about them, and hearing about what the legacy of those games ended up being. Current games are simply not going to be as interesting to watch in a documentary as games from the past because nostalgia hasn’t built up and you aren’t going to be able to draw any good conclusions about the legacy of those games.

The fact that no one has brought this up in the final two episodes is a bit disappointing. It makes me think that everyone avoided pointing this out because it would show how big a fuck up Season 5 was because the shift in style ignored this very important “draw in” factor about the series. It is why the style from Season 1-4 was so successful. Keeping an old school feel was essential to providing the type of atmosphere that made viewers feel like they were reliving their past. I feel like this change was something one or two people were itching to say but didn’t for PR reasons (and I’m ok with that). But I feel like this really needs to be said and should be something for the clueless business people at Machinima to think about.


For my final farewell to All Your History, I’ll say one last thing:

“Thank you for being the most informative gaming history show I’ve ever watched. It is rare for a show to be both entertaining and enlightening but you managed to stick to fulfilling those two principles for 4 full seasons. That is amazing and this series will be sorely missed.”

 

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Experience Gaming on Ubuntu – Part 1

I have a Windows 7 / Linux dual boot desktop for gaming, general web browsing, and media playback. I built it about a year ago and during that time never booted into the Linux partition (running Mint Debian). Why? Too annoying to get gaming to work on it (though Desura ran fine if I recall). Instead, I always booted into Windows and played games there. That was perfectly fine except the computer would randomly black screen and crash due to some video card driver – kernel conflict. I spent about 2 weeks trying various fixes proposed by Microsoft and none worked (even RMA’d some parts hoping that would do it but no luck). Despite this, I still used Windows cause that’s where all my games were.

In comes Steam on Linux. With this release, I carved out a weekend to change my Linux partition over to Ubuntu 12.10 (I wanted LTS but after much research and testing, it turns out my video card requires a newer kernel in order to get sound working over HDMI). After building my system from the ground up using the minimal CD to ensure no bloat, I installed Steam & Desura and gave the system a trial run. I’ll get into my gaming experience in another article, but first, my experience with Ubuntu in general.

As a disclaimer, I am clearly not a Linux newbie. I’ve been using it as my primary work system for almost 5 years now. All of my computers are either dual boot or pure Linux. I even have a massive BSD server running ZFSGuru and my laptop (that has Nvidia Optimus) run on Arch Linux. So yeah, if I have any trouble or pain points with a distro, I can guarantee that any “normal” end user has zero chance of solving the problem. And oh boy, did I have some pain points.

Linux + Graphics Cards… Bring on the pain!

For reference, my configuration is:

  • Intel Pentium G630 SandyBridge CPU
  • ASRock H77M-ITX Motherboard
  • HIS Radeon HD7750 (Silent version with no fan)
  • A-DATA XPG Gaming series DDR3-1600 RAM AX3U1600GC4G9-2G (4GB×2)
  • SilverStone SST-SG05B-B USB3.0 Case with 300W PSU
  • Hitachi HTS725050A9A364 500GB 2.5″ HDD
  • XBox 360 Wireless Receiver + 4 wireless controllers for gaming

It’s built to be portable, consume very little power, be able to handle games at decent settings (which it does), and be absolutely silent (which it is).

So what pain points were there in getting Ubuntu running? The GPU driver. Everything else worked out of the box and didn’t require me to open a terminal. Great start right there. But when it came to drivers, I went through hell and back to get everything working perfectly. Here is a list of all the hurdles I had to go through to get this working:

  1. Uninstall Linux Mint 14 and go to Ubuntu (with Unity) because it turns out that there is an open bug with the Cinnamon Desktop + Steam that causes most games to just display a black screen when in full screen mode. You can check out the bug progress here: https://github.com/linuxmint/Cinnamon/issues/1513
  2. Uninstall the drivers from the repositories and install the 13.1 drivers manually. The ones in the repo are too old and give you a “Graphics Card Unsupported” message on the screen when combined with my GPU.
  3. Disable the automatic underscan via the command line. The Catalyst Control Center does NOT save settings and apply them after reboot. So to get the stupid underscan to go away, you need to run:
    sudo aticonfig --set-pcs-val=MCIL,DigitalHDTVDefaultUnderscan,5
    The 5 will set the under/overscan to 0%. Yes, there is no documentation on what the number represents anywhere and I had to test it out to see what it did.
  4. Reinstall Ubuntu (yeah, FUCK!) from 12.04 to 12.10. Out the window goes my plan to use an LTS release. This is required because you need a newer kernel than what is provided on 12.04 in order to get sound via HDMI to be recognized by the OS.
  5. Set the sound to HDMI by default and… wait, that doesn’t work. Turns out you need to run alsamixer to unmute the channel, set the card, and then use speaker-test to get the sound to start properly working. Yes, it doesn’t work until AFTER you run:
    speaker-test -c 2
    I figured this one out by tons of testing and putting together clues from all of the failed attempts by other people to get sound over HDMI working with the fglrx drivers (yes, I believe I am the first to get this working). Oh, and no this has nothing to do with me installing via a minimal CD. I tried this out on the default installs for Ubuntu 12.04, 12.10, and Linux Mint 14 as a sanity test before figuring all this out.

So yeah, FUCK AMD DRIVERS! As much as I try to like and support ATI/AMD, their Linux support has gone down the shithole ever since my first (perfect) experience with them 5 or so years ago.

Cool, the GPU drivers and sound are all working now. Amazingly, I had no other hardware issues. I didn’t have to cast insane commands via the terminal to get networking running, or do any custom modifying of conf files to get suspend working (no hibernate since I don’t use swap). Everything else just worked out of the box. Even the wireless XBox 360 controllers / receiver (minus a few noted bugs with the LED lights mentioned on the Ubuntu Wiki).

Next comes the software. What I did have trouble with was configuring Unity to not do annoying stuff like display results from the Software Center (remember – minimal install so no Amazon already, but damn, they baked the Software Center stuff right into the core Unity libraries). Also getting things like the notifcation area to appear, get certain indicators working, and deal with lens crashes (still don’t have the Photos Lens working yet) were a bit of a pain. None of this is stuff you want newbies to deal with. But at least it isn’t impossible to solve with the help of Google. As for my experience using Unity, I think it is a good DE but still needs a lot of polish. Especially with regards to application discovery. But overall, the experience is good since I am quite used to the layout (I have Windows 7 setup the same exact was on all Windows partitions).

And then the moment of truth, installing Steam, Desura, Emulators, Wine, and PlayOnLinux to run games. I’ll get to each of these in my followup posts.

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Desktop Environment Rewrite Failures – The Corner Cases

DE rewrites fail due to many obvious reasons – bugs, new workflow, new paradigm, etc. But one of the less obvious failures is that a mature DE has had time to implement features and fixes for various corner cases. Things that effect maybe 1% of your userbase. When DEs go through a rewrite or complete redesign, a lot of those features are tossed aside and labeled as something to be worked on later. GNOME 3 has so far failed at addressing this. Instead they are relying on their Extensions framework as a way to try and rectify corner cases. This is poor, no actually, completely irresponsible design on their part. And this is why.

Corner cases are by definition a problem that effects very few users. The chances of a user within that small percentage being able to design, code, and maintain a solution for a particular use case is so infinitesimally small that it isn’t a proper solution. Then you add in the fact that GNOME 3 hasn’t found a way to not break extensions at each update and you get a 1% of users that cannot function using your DE.

Ok, so 1% is small. No biggie. This is a stupid way of thinking. You have to remember that there are various, sometimes overlapping, groups of 1% corner cases that cannot use your DE. All of these tiny groups add up to a very large percentage of inconvenienced users. Hence why GNOME Shell gets so much flak. You piss off every vocal minority group and offer no help to resolve their issues. Even going to far as to claim some are invalid (shutdown option debacle). These situations can be handled much better (Cinnamon is doing a great job of acknowledging concerns and Unity is at least better at this than GNOME, though not perfect) and until they are, I think GNOME Shell will eventually cause so much fragmentation in Linux DEs that Linux will never be able to catch up to Microsoft or even Apple in popularity. With Steam on Linux coming out soon, we have an opportunity to grain ground in the desktop space but with so many flat out idiots running crucial projects in Linux, I’m afraid we will blow out chance to maximize this opportunity.

Here’s to hoping one of the following groups pulls off a miracle during this crucial 1 year time frame – Canonical with Unity, Linux Mint with Cinnamon, anyone with KDE, and elementary with Pantheon. These are the people I’m pinning my hopes on (and I say this as an XFCE/Compiz user). I hope one of them manages to catch up to GNOME 2’s feature set and overall polish/simplicity this year. If not, Linux will forever remain a non-factor in desktop computing.

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I am not Aaron Swartz, but are you?

I’ve had a long enough time to process my thoughts about Aaron Swartz’s death. If you don’t know who he is, I urge you to read his Wikipedia page, checks the news, read the transcript from Aaron’s memorial service, filter out the hyperbole, and focus on the facts to form your own conclusions about what kind of person he is and about the situations he faced. Other greater people than I have expressed their thoughts on the matter in a clearer manner than I could, so I will not express my thoughts on justice here. Instead, I will focus on Aaron’s death and what this means for me.

As usual, I was reading Hacker News today and reading about the latest article from yet another famous person about Aaron’s death. I don’t know why I keep reading these articles. I guess I am expecting to find some sort of life changing inspiration or trigger some sort of epiphany that will lead me to the forefront of the activism movement. But really, I’m not that person. It’s not who I want to be. I will be a supporter, someone who speaks out and gives donations, but even with my own technical skills, this is not a direction I can see myself taking. I am far too selfish and desire wildly different things in life. Does this make me a bad person? I hope not, but I cannot shake the feeling that I should be doing more.

Why?

Aaron’s death is one that has transcended him from being an activist to a martyr. So says the many people who are voicing their opinions and pushing changes like Aaron’s Law. Here is this person who attempted to change the world and it is only after his death that we, as a society, have begun to move towards enacting his visions. Except we aren’t. The initial reaction is to prevent another tragedy like this from happening. Sure this is progress, making technical activists feel safer, but all we are doing is putting up signs saying, “If you want to step up to the plate, you can now do so knowing that 1 of the 3 umpires is now fairer.” We should be taking this opportunity to step up to the plate to swing. Not get into a pissing match with the an umpire. We have the crowd on our side and if anything, this is the time to make drastic moves like Aaron did and force changes that will better the world. Screw how crooked the umpires are, ignore the other team, just step up and swing damnit! Swing!!

I guess that is why I feel so antsy. I think this is why I feel like I should be abandoning my life, my dreams, to pick up Aaron’s work. But… that’s not who I am. I’m just part of the crowd and the best I can do is cheer. So please, someone, anyone, step up and give me something to cheer for.

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Going Out With a Bang (at least let me dream the dream)

I started working for a terrible boss about 3 months ago and have since asked to be transferred to a different department.  Unfortunately, the move has not happened yet and as each day passes, she’s making my life more and more miserable.  Her creativity in how to be a bitch is actually rather impressive.  In a moment of utter frustration (and fantasy), I drafted my resignation letter to the CEO while laughing maniacally inside.  Now if I only had the balls to eat instant ramen for 3 months straight while I looked for another job.  Letter below for you enjoyment.

Dear Mr. XXX,

You obviously don’t know me but I have been working here at XXX for the past 2 years and have decided that if I must go, I might as well go spectacularly.  That is, in part, a reason for this letter.  The larger issue that I hope you will take to heart is how employees are treated here under your stewardship.  I do not write this intending to burn bridges, but if they must burn, then so be it.

Overall, I think that XXX has been a relatively nice place of employment.  It has its flaws, but what organization doesn’t?  And for the most part, my time here has been an enjoyable one.  I have met and worked with a lot of wonderful and talented people, many of whom I can now consider close friends.  However, in the past couple of months I have worked under a certain manager who has had the impressive skill of making me reconsider my life’s course.

I am in no way a hasty or emotional person.  In fact, I think most people would say that I’m almost devoid of that particular side of humanity.   Thus, it is with the utmost mental clarity that I tell you that she might possible be the worst person I have ever had the unfortunate fate of meeting in a workplace environment.

She insults my intelligence, my person, and my work.  She has deleted my work in front of me and told me to my face that what I spent time on was worthless and that she needed to do everything herself.  Yes, my work was subpar, but is it any wonder with such a toxic manager abusing her authority?  I have given it a thorough reflection and have come to the conclusion that I do not have the mental fortitude to withstand her incessant attacks and my work suffered greatly under her “guidance.”  But the reason for this letter is not to give you a detailed account of the sling and arrows I endured.  That would take too long and be too reminiscent of a historical account of the inquisition.  Nor is it my goal to inform you that just as my predecessor before me, so too do I wave the white flag of surrender in the face of such daunting bitchery.

Mine is a nobler goal in hoping that you can change this organization for the better so that you can retain people like me.  I think I have a lot of talent and I believe I can give a lot to the organization.  Everything in my history, including my Ivy League pedigree, attests to this fact.  I did not want to leave, but the structure of the company did not allow me to stay.

Once I realized that I could not handle the abuse, I very quickly asked for a transfer out.  There was no place for me within my division so I looked elsewhere.  Unfortunately, and idiotically, a transfer to another division required a sign off with an endorsement from my current manager.  Talk about not making sense.  Any and all doors close when the hiring managers in the other buildings see a manager bashing an employee regardless of reason or it if is even deserved.  The fact is that this perspective employee comes with baggage and there are plenty of other who don’t.  The reason for rejecting me is pretty simple.

During the process, I was also told by HR to apply to a single position at a time for reasons including “for purposes of ensuring that both your manager and HR are aligned with any applicable and transferrable skills at the right time.”  This logic is flawed on two major fronts.  If my manager’s treatment of me can best be described by a medieval depiction of Hell and has told me to my face that the work I produce is worthless, what makes her insight into my skills worthwhile?  Furthermore, my HR manager has no idea what I do or what my performance is outside of what she hears from said manager.  It’s pretty obvious that they will be aligned and that alignment will not be in my favor.  The second issue is that the statement placed no consideration for the desperation that I was feeling to get out.  Things got worse daily, and since I’m looking regardless, what does it matter if it’s one of ten different positions?

If an employee does poorly, he or she can be fired or disciplined.  If a manager manages poorly, there are no repercussions and the employee either needs to grin and bear it or leave the company altogether.  I have spoken to many people, including those in very senior roles and they have all advised that I find employment elsewhere.  They too saw no way around this ridiculous system.

Is that really the only choice?  Why is it that mangers are not held to high standards for developing those under them?  Why are they not held accountable for doing a terrible job?  Every year there is a review from the top down, but never one from the bottom up.  Those are all pertinent questions to aks, and you also need to wonder how much talent you have lost over the years because of situations like mine.  This is a common problem among all large scale organizations where the employment base is so broad.  Those at the apex are so far removed from the daily grind of those at the bottom that they don’t see these issues.  But know that the issues are there and good, hardworking employees leave while their cancerous bosses remain.

If you do decide to ask questions, I have no doubt that you will receive some rather unfavorable stories about me from the party in question.  Some may be made up and some taken out of context.  Some may even be true because I did lash out immaturely during the height of my frustration.  Regardless of what you may hear or conclude, know that I am not writing to sway your opinion of me.  All I hope for is that you will at least think about holding members of this company accountable for the abuses that they commit while wearing the mantle of management.  I also hope that you will think about a way to change the system so that those unfortunate enough to run into such abuses do not suffer for them.

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The Republican Congress is Racist

Bam! Going to post my most controversial opinion ever. I doubt I’ll ever top this one.

The Republican Congress is Racist

Ok so maybe not all of them, but I’d wager that 90% of them are racist. If not racist, then at least they condone racism and allow it to flourish.

You: So why hysan? Why would you say something so controversial?

Me: Because I read this article today by The Economist and had to wonder why the Republicans would be playing Russian Roulette with the lives of every American. Part of it is greed (not wanting to increase taxes to the rich), but a good deal of the sentiment I get from listening to the Republicans just seems malicious. It seems like they want to destroy Obama’s presidency at all costs. Then you think about all of the controversy about the Birth Certificate, religion (Is he Muslim? No he is not you dumbasses.), and all of the hubbub about him being the first black president. It feels like the leaders of the Republican party hate Obama more than any other democratic president because he is different. Politically? No, he’s pretty much the same as most democratic presidents. Background? Hell yes, he is different. He is the first black president. So my thinking is that the Republicans want to tear him down not for what he represents politically, but what he represents symbolically. Hence, racist.

This seems a bit loaded so let’s take a step back and first consider the problem that the Republicans are currently clamoring over: the debt ceiling. Should we raise it? Yes. Why the fuck not when we’ve done this over and over again throughout history. At some point we should stop using this tactic but now is not the time. It is irresponsible and, quite frankly, dumb as fuck to not raise the debt ceiling when we are in a recession. This is the worst time to be trying to make hard cuts. Save all of the arguments for a time when we have the luxury to say, “Let’s get our budget under control now that we aren’t in a goddamn recession.” Even if Warren Buffett said this in jest, it still shows the insanity of the position that the Republicans are currently taking:

I could end the deficit in 5 minutes. You just pass a law that says that anytime there is a deficit of more than 3% of GDP all sitting members of congress are ineligible for reelection.

-Warren Buffett

Source

The Republicans are playing with fire (or really, more like a blowtorch) and are hoping to use that fire to burn Obama. The problem with this tactic is that they are going to burn all of us. The citizens of the United States of America. We are the ones who will suffer because the consequences of their actions will hurt us more than any of them. So again I ask, why would the Republicans go this far to make Obama look bad? And remember, they have been using this partisan tactic throughout the presidency which has resulted in sub-optimal results for normal citizens. Things could be a LOT better right now if they just focused on fixing the damn economy together.

Think about conservative media and the amount of propaganda they’ve been pushing to smear Obama’s legitimacy. It started during the election race and has not let up at all during this presidency. All of their “talking points” have been centered around labeling Obama as “different” whether it be through his legitimacy, his ethics, his background, or how he is un-American (He is not a fucking socialist. Please learn some government 101 please.). All of this propaganda can be categorized as a form of racism. Yes, I realize I’m stretching the definition here but using hyperbole seems to be the only way to get heard in America these days. Sadly, I’m one, powerless person who doesn’t have the influence to change anything in the government.

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Fake Exercise

For a normal individual without any sort of physical abnormalities, body weight is a relatively simple mathematical formula.  Your body naturally burns X amount of calories just by being alive.  Physical activity will add Y amount to your caloric expenditure.   If I is the variable for intake, or how much you consume, then:

If I = X + Y, bodyweight will stay the same.

If I < X + Y, bodyweight will fall.

If I > X + Y, bodyweight will rise.

Weight loss or lack thereof is, in most cases, the manipulation of the above function.  Many people diet, which causes a reduction in variable I.  Many will choose to exercise which is an increase in Y.  Some may choose to do both to maximize their results.  Regardless of which route is chosen, as long as the variables change over a prolonged period of time, results will ensue.

Now the office I currently work at is predominantly female.  As a result, weight loss is a frequently broached topic.  Besides the annoyance of listening to so many body image issues so consistently, I don’t see much harm in this chit-chat.  What really bothers me is the loud declaration and gross exaggeration of facts by the most vocal of those who sit around me.

To put it bluntly, these ladies are on the, shall we say, larger side.  For some reason unbeknownst to me, they choose to raucously articulate their physical exploits at least two or three times a week.  Now I have nothing against fat people.  It’s most oftentimes a choice and who am I to judge how they live their life?  But at the end of the day they are fat for a reason, whether it is a lack of self-control, poor dietary habits, or what have you.  So if they really are running marathons, playing volleyball, tennis, and softball, chances are they shouldn’t be fat.  Hell, I’m in great shape and I’m pretty certain that I cannot run as many marathons and partake in as many sports in the period of time they claim.  Nor do I wake up early in the morning for a “quick” three to five mile jog through Central Park when the weather allows.  That is not a ridiculous distance, but neither is it a cakewalk.

Fact of the matter is, if their activity level is truly that high, then they should be far from the rotund states that I see every day.  I don’t mind if they are fat.  I don’t mind if they want to talk about their exercise routines.  Hell, at the end of the day, I really don’t mind that much if they lie about what they do.  But the line is drawn when they belt out their efforts as if they were Moses on the Mount.  No one needs to hear it and if they really want the rest of us to appreciate the pains they go through for weight loss, at least lose the weight first.  It’ll be more believable.

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