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This blog documents my staying at home and writing (and the subsequent whatevers to that writing). It also serves as an online journal for friends and family. It is more-or-less guaranteed to be sans intérêt to most anyone else.

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2006 Reading List

Being a list of books read during the current year.
· Peter S.Beagle: The Last Unicorn
· John Christopher: The Pool of Fire
· Ayerdhal, & J.C.Dunyach: Étoiles Mourantes
· Haruki Murakami: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, A Wild Sheep Chase, Kafka on the Shore, South of the Border, West of the Sun, After the Quake, Dance, Dance, Dance
· Michael Chabon: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
· Jonathan Stroud: Ptomely’s Gate
· Ayerdhal: Consciences Virtuelles, Mytale, Balade Chroréïale, La Bohème & L’Ivraie, L’Histrion, Sexomorphoses
· Philip Pullman: The Broken Bridge
· Frédéric Lenormand: Mort d’un Cuisinier Chinois, Madame Ti mène l’Enquête, Le Palais des Courtisans, L’art délicat du deuil
· Jonathan Coe: The Accidental Woman
· Arthur C.Clarke: Rendez-vous with Rama, The Fountains of Paradise
· Arthur C.Clarke & Michael Kube-McDowell: The Trigger
· Arthur C.Clarke & Gentry Lee: Rama II, The Gardens of Rama, Rama Revealed
· Angie Sage: Septimus Heap Book 1 - Magyk, Septimus Heap Book 2 - Flyte
· Ian McEwan: Amsterdam, Atonement, The Innoncent
· Roddy Doyle: The Commitments, The Snapper, The Van, The Woman Who Walked into Doors, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha
· Christopher Fowler: Disturbia
· James Morrow: Towing Jehovah, The Eternal Footman, Blameless in Abaddon
· Laurent Genefort: Omale, Les Conquérants d’Omale, La Muraille Sainte d’Omale, La Mècanique du Talion, Une Porte sur l’Ether, Les Chasseurs de Sève, Le Sand des Immortels, Les Croisés du Vide, Les Engloutis
· Melvyn Burgess: Redtide
· Terry Pratchett: The Carpet People, Night Watch, The Last Hero
· Tobias Hill: Underground
· Matthew Pearl: The Dante Club
· Helen Fielding: Bridget Jones - The Edge of Reason
· P.D.James: Cover Her Face, A Mind To Murder, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, Innoncent Blood, The Skull Beneath the Skin, Death in Holy Orders, The Black Tower, Shroud for a Nightingale, Death of an Expert Witness, A Taste for Death, Devices and Desires, Unnatural Causes, A Certain Justice, The Murder Room
· Lawrence Block: The Burglar who thought he was Bogart, Out on the Cutting Edge The Sins of the Fathers, In the Midst of Death, Time to Murder and Create, A Ticket to the Boneyard, A Dance at the Slaughterhouse, A Walk Among the Tombstones, The Devil Knows You're Dead, Everybody Dies, All the Flowers are Dying, The Burglar in the Closet, The Burglar Who Studied Spinoza, The Burglar Who Traded Ted Williams, The Burglar in the Library, The Burglar in the Rye, The Burglar on the Prowl
· Orson Scott Card: Enchantement
· David Brin: The Kiln People, Postman, Uplift War
· Ian Rankin: Resurrection Men
· Justine Larbalestier: Magic or Madness
· Margaret Atwood: Surfacing
· Michael Connelly: The Black Echo, The Concrete Blonde, Trunk Music, Angels Flight, A Darkness More Than Night, City Of Bones, Lost Light, The Poet, Blood Work, The Lincoln Lawyer
· Herbert Lieberman: The concierge, La Nuit du Solstice, Le Vagabond de Holmby Park
· Eoin Colfer: The Opal Deception,
· Jasper Fforde: The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots,
· Ian Sansom: The Mobile Library - The Case of the Missing Books,
· Alexandra Marinina: Black Note,
· Faye Kellerman: Stalker,
· Jonathan Kellerman: Blood Test, Monster, Doctor Death, The Murder Book
· Nouvelles des Siècles Futurs, An Anthology compiled by Jaques Guimard & Denis Guiot


Reads from 2003 are here.
Reads from 2004 are here.
Reads from 2005 are here.
 

2006 Film and DVD List

Being a list of films viewed during the current year.
· Good Night, and Good Luck, George Clooney
· Pompoko [Heisei tanuki gassen pompoko], Isao Takahata
· The Pacifier [DVD], Adam Shankman
· Millions [DVD], Danny Boyle
· Truly Madly Deeply [DVD], Anthony Minghella
· La Double Vie de Vèronique [DVD], Krzysztof Kieslowski
· Layer Cake [DVD], Matthew Vaughn
· Ice Age: The Meltdown, Carlos Saldanha
· Natural City [DVD], Byung-chun Min
· Garden State [DVD], Zach Braff
· Volver, Pedro Almodóvar
· Tideland, Terry Gilliam
· A Cock and Bull Story, Michael Winterbottom
· Flightplan [DVD], Robert Schwentke
· Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Gore Verbinski
· Casino Royale, Martin Campbell
· X-Men: The Last Stand [DVD], Brett Ratner
· Superman Returns, Bryan Singer
· Nanny McPhee [DVD], Kirk Jones
· V For Vendetta [DVD], James McTeigue
· La Science des Rêves, Michel Gondry
· Infernal Affairs II [Mou gaan dou II] [DVD], Wai Keung Lau, Siu Fai Mak
· Infernal Affairs III [Mou gaan dou III: Jung gik mou gaan] [DVD], Wai Keung Lau, Siu Fai Mak
· A Tale of Two Sisters [Janghwa, Hongryeon] [DVD], Ji-woon Kim
· The Fountain, Darren Aronofsky
· Mirrormask, Dave McKean
· Labyrinth [DVD], Jim Henson
· The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy [DVD], Garth Jennings
· National Treasure [DVD], Jon Turteltaub
· The Weather Man [DVD], Gore Verbinski
· Bandidas [DVD], Joachim Roenning, Espen Sandberg
· A Bittersweet Life [Dalkomhan insaeng] [DVD], Ji-woon Kim
2005 Film and DVDs are here.
 
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mogWerks

My latest project mogWerks has gone online. There is another part here for the open source activities. Please feel free to drop by, say hello, and recommend us to your friends.

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thoughts on having been fired

Today I started work on the documents to file with the French equivalent of an Industrial Tribunal. These will allow me to pursue the case of, what I believe is, unfair dismissal by my last employer. I say ‘I believe is’ rather than just plain ‘is’, as my views just count for so-many words in front of the court. I must prepare a case, and present material to backup my allegations. I think that I can prove my points inconclusively, but one shouldn’t skin one’s chickens before they’re hatched. Or whatever.

I have, I will admit, been putting this off. But why?

Probably for two reasons.

The most basic is that I needed to get this thing organised in my head from a rational point of view, to let the emotions cool out. The second is the same as before but stronger. Put simply, it hurt.

Now I might have the words ‘dumbo’ tattooed across my forehead, but even I could realise that my previous employers were—in my opinion—stupid, short-sighted, money-grabbing, lacking in most forms of social graces, incompetent, and generally disagreeable. However, I just took the point of view that I was there to do a job, and I might as well get on and do that to the best of my capacity. Which I did. And when I couldn’t do something in work time, I did it at home. I often compare Scripting to doing crosswords; it’s a form of problem solving… once the issue to be solved has hit you, it just gnaws at you, day and night, until you find a solution. For instance: I was told that what we called the spelling corrector on the search engine would be too complicated to implement. [In fact, it is not a spelling corrector, it is really more of a routine that proposes what it thinks you are looking for, based on the dictionary of available terms, all 30 000 of them, rather like Google does also with misspelled words.] I spent couple ot days researching directions, then it took a weekend to sort out initial code, and about two more weeks, part time, to finish coding, installing, and debugging. This is just one of a number of things that I did, mostly on my own time, and of which I am reasonably proud in a professional sense.

I don’t expect to be adored for what I do. Just a work of acknowledgement from time to time, and not being treated as an idiot, is a decent start. Work is not a charity, we’re paid to do it, and all that we do must have a clear cost benefit, or increase the bottom line. Unlike the in-house IT and software, the work I was doing on the website, not only improved matters, but it didn’t break down every two days. Clients said that the site had never been better, nor easier to use.

Each of us working in that company bought in about one million francs [about 150 000 euros] in turnover per year. My job, coding, isn’t on the selling edge, but the web site—that I was keeping running smoothly, and constantly streamlining and improving—bought in over 80% of the revenue on the French market. Foreign agents bought in about 40% of revenue, and I was dealing with them. I also, among other tasks, negotiated bringing in new pictures; in fact over a couple of months, I brought in from foreign suppliers more images than the home roster of about 40 photographers and illustrators usually supplied in one year. I did not commission, brief, select, edit, nor treat those images. That was other people’s work. But the images are the raw material that the agency needs to function, and to sell.

I didn’t expect a sinecure. I expected to work. I expected to continue doing a decent job that paid its way within the company.

And then I got fired.

There are two reasons you can get fired. You mess about the company, and you get fired with a blame on you; or, the company needs to save money, or redeploy forces…

Was I, then, blameless? I was not fired for any fault, but let us suppose for a moment that the employer preferred to fire me under false pretences to disguise a fault in order to not cause me prejudice. This seems far fetched, and it is suprising that it wasn’t mentioned at some point. In fact, during all the preliminary and obligatory pre-dismissal talks, it was the opposite: I was most embaressingly praised to the sky…

Not that we didn’t have disagreements, I will freely admit. I felt that it was not correct to be obliged to work on—what I believed was—unlicenced software, and if given the opportunity, I would say so. When other staff were charged with irresponsibly installing third-party software, or accusations of pirating copyrighted material were made [that were subsequently withdrawn amid great sucking in of air through teeth, and crossing of fingers, while explanations were given], I weighed in pointing out that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. I did, at these times, always start by saying that I would prefer to make my statements in private and could I leave the meeting and continue the discussion on the subject with the management, later. They refused, so I had to point out this dumbness in front of other employees. The last straw came when they tried to put together an IT charter that would make the employees responsible for all and any software installed on the machines that the company provided, under threat of instant dismissal if illegal software was found. We are talking about software that was installed by in-house IT staff under orders of management. Much of which I suspected was illegal. Catch 22, please meet Kafka, Josef K., this is Catch…

I pointed out that on my machine not only had software been installed against my wishes, but the company was unable to show me any proof of purchase, or group/site licences, that corresponded to the applications. This is software that included Microsoft Office, Adobe PhotoShop, an internal messaging app called Quick PopUp—I also had questions about UltraEdit and Microsoft Access, but was not 100% sure about these. There was even more questionable material on the Mac that I had been given to use, probably including Quark XPress as the company copy had been given to an ex-employee a year of so back…

So I pointed out that this proposed charter would allow the employer to dismiss staff, over software that the employer had caused to be installed on the employees computer. Of course, under French workplace law you can’t refuse the work on illegal software, and there is no legal protection for whistle-blowing employees. Quite the opposite, it has even been ruled that whistle-blowing can be considered bringing the company into disrepute, and so justify dismissal!

I did what I considered appropriate. I tried to persuade in-house IT staff to audit installations and licences, to at least know what licences should be acquired in the near future; I tried to make other staff, and the employer, aware of their responsibilities, as well as point out the ridiculous aspects of the charter; I researched KeyServer software that would allow installing certain applications on all machines, but only permit the allotted number of copies to run as the best way of reconciling legality and convvenience; I researched and presented alternatives like OpenOffice, and legal cheap [or free] Runtimes for MS Access, that would remove the need to acquire licences.

But at no point was any of this mentioned when I was being fired.

I was initially told that the financial situation meant that I would be fired. OK, bad things happen. Except, we had previously been told that turnover had decreased. And for the second year running. When questioned, my employer admitted that the decrease in turnover was less this year than the year before [6% versus 8% if I remember rightly], but also that since January—this was in June—the situation had stabilised. I pointed out that turnover is not profit, and that in the two years while turnover had decreased, salary costs—the most important outlay for the company—had been halved. And that while the company had posted a small loss last year—the financial year was just ending, but results were not yet public—taking into account the effects of savings on wages and other economy measures, the company could be expected to be on the level again, and probably showing a profit. I was made aware that my remarks were not appreciated, but the financial aspect subsequently disappeared completely.

The next point was that the technological mutation that had made it necessary to employ me was now over, and that the company could no longer employ me fulltime. This somewhat surprised me, as I was busy working on the next version of the website, had published different discussion documents for new tools [including boolean searching, something customers had been asking for], and had a quite long ToDo list of small things that needed doing. Of course, I proposed that they keep me on part-time. This wasn’t appreciated either.

Under French workplace law, under certain circumstances, employees who have been recently dismissed have the right to be first in line for re-hiring. If they make this desire known to the [ex]employer. I did. I sent off the required letter in the week following my dismissal.

In the past, a company was only obliged to rehire someone under this legal disposition for exactly the same job. Tribunals have since widened the criteria, as it was too easy for the company to fire employees on a pretext, to vary the job description by a comma, and to rehire someone else. Now, the company must consider if the dismissed person’s aptitudes and suitability, even after retraining, make him or her a suitable candidate for the job. And if the answer is probably ‘yes’, to hire.

Needless to say that, since I have been fired, at least four people have been hired in different posts, including IT and export staff. Obviously I could not be considered apt for these last two as part of the necessary qualifications is being daughter or son-in-law of the company owner…

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new résumé

I have updated my résumé online and downloadable as a PDF file

This is the French version as I’m currently looking for work here. If you have any ideas, please tell me. If you have any connections, please feel free to pass on the URL. If you see any faults… Oops! Please let me know.

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returning to the scene of the crime

Went into the office today. That sounds like fun, doesn’t it…

In fact, MB and Hubby are in Copenhagen at a professional conference. As I have heard them blithly massacring english and understanding everything backwards I imagine everyone is having fun, and if tomorrow Denmark breaks off all diplomatic relations with France, well, we shall know why…

I had gone in to see Colleague Opposite who got back from Madagascar to find the desk opposite vacant. I wanted to thank him as he had brought me back postcards of Lemurs. Friendly advice: do not get me started on the subject of Lemurs.

Colleague Opposite was orange. He was not orange before he left, by the way. The sun, sea and whatever else there had bleached his hair and beard orange, brought out freckles and tinted his skin orange [well, all that was visible… a aspirin-white band flashed out from time to time from the sleeve of his t-shirt, so—wisely—he didn’t go topless]. Quite a surprise. He also looked quite relaxed. I was probably green. With envy.

I offered my apologies for disappearing like I did, and leaving the new site in such a state. He generously said that he would have done exactly the same thing, and I was not to blame nor to worry. He also said that he had repeated to MB that the work that I had been doing was way over his head and that he had neither the time nor the capacity to finish it. And so he told me that since then, MB has been wandering around the agency repeating to herself as well as to anyone she meets, that the site is fine as it is and there is absolutely no need to change it. So why then did we waste about 6 man months [person months?] working on this, revising all the indexing to integrate her dumb themes and categories, wasting days in meetings and dummies and me coding for months… Let me guess… It was to create work in order to keep me on and avoid firing me… Of course! Why didn’t I think of that.

We ate at the local Indian chippy, drinking Indian Kingfisher beer—it was all very pleasant—and thanks are due to Colleague Opposite for inviting me. I just hope that I will be inviting him out soon, in order to celebrate a happy event for him. And then we’ll all be laughing.

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a tale of general ineptitude

When I started work at The Place That Shall Not Be Named my Colleague Opposite indicated that there was a large hard drive with filesharing on, on C’s hard drive. This was the place where people stored mp3s. Staff brought in CDs, ripped them, and streamed the music to a player on their local machine. As I was working on a Mac I didn’t bother, I listened to the radio on iTunes most of the time.

Now fast forward a year and bear with me while I explain a rather annoying and intricate detail.

Most serious companies where IT is important have an IT charter. This document sets out what you and the company can and cannot do on the computers that the company provides. For example, you agree not to spread virii in your spare time, and the company agrees not to spy on your private mail; that sort of thing. However, in France, in the absence of such a charter, jurisprudence provides that a computer is a ‘private place’, in the same way that, for example, a locker or a drawer is. An employer, for the better or the worse, may not search a ‘private place’ if the employee [or someone representing the employee] is not present. Now I pointed this out to MB and Hubby when I arrived but, as ever, they reacted by saying that they didn’t need such things [an IT charter] in their company.

One weekend Hubby decided to examine C’s computer and came across the hard drive containing the mp3s. All 4 GB of them, all organised by artist/disk/title, just like the ripping software allow you to do. Hubby went through the ceiling.

He imagined that:
1 – C spent all her days downloading and organising the material instead of working. To that end he prepared charts in Excel* based on his calculations of an average download-and-organise time in order to show that she had been spending all her time for the past year doing only this. Of course, he is incapable of understanding that the computer can rip while it is doing something else because he personally has no multitasking capability, and that the software is perfectly capable of naming and filing the material without the need to do anything else.
[*Question: What is worse than an idiot? Answer: An idiot with Excel. Question: What is worse than an idiot with Excel? Answer: An idiot with MS Access… ]

2 – all of this were downloaded mp3s and thus ‘illegal’. I put ‘illegal’ in inverted commas as I have hundreds of downloaded mp3s that are downloaded legally from musicians’ sites and music discovery services. Possessing a mp3-encoded music file for which you possess the disk is of course, perfectly legal. Possessing a mp3-encoded music file where you have the permission from the artist and any other rights holders to download is also perfectly legal. But for Hubby, the company IT specialist, the equation was simple: mp3s = illegal filesharing.

3 – that this was company material that was being misued. In fact Colleague Opposite had bought the disk for the purpose of containing ripped files. It wasn’t declared as such, but it was he who set this up.

4 – that this was hidden. In fact, as I noted, everyone knew of it.

So MB did what any reasonable person would do. She called in a Public Notary to provide witness that Hubby had found the files on C’s machine. And she sent a registered letter to C informing her of her instant dismissal from the company. Following that, other machines were searched and Kazaa was found running on some. And some of the piggy-back spyware that lives on Kazaa.

Come Monday morning we were all invited into MB’s office in two groups, which she named, in front of us, the ‘conspirators’ group and the ‘nothing to worry about’ group. The first were given a bollocking, the second of which I was part, were informed of the ‘facts’ and told we had nothing to worry about. Personally I asked to be allowed to leave the group in order to give my reactions to the information later in private not wanting to embarass and contradict MB and Hubby in front of other staff. MB refused and asked that I speak.

So I said that:
1 – in April of the previous year I had advised them to ban Kazaa. I did not talk about file-sharing, for me that was a private matter for each person’s conscience, however Kazaa ate a lot of bandwidth and the spyware that piggy-backed on the system made the machines unstable. [Not as unstable as the cheapo-cheapo hard drives that Hubby installed in the machines and which crashed—losing unbacked-up data—with unsurprising regularity. When I arrived I asked what the backup policy was. I was told that all was under order. Yep. All was under order, the data bases were backed up but that was all. It took a year to get a reasonable off-site backup policy implemented for all the servers, and there was still no policy for individual machines…]
Hubby had decided then that Kazza wasn’t a problem [because he’d never heard of it…].

2 – I had also proposed then that they put together a charter to cover this activity. They had poo-pooed the idea.

3 – that in the absence of said charter their messing about in people’s machines over the weekend was an intrusion in their employees private lives and that any material gathered in that way would be looked on with suspicion.

4 – that there was nothing illegal about ripping music files for private use, nor in streaming music from one computer to another provided that the files were not copied in the process. [They informed us that they contacted a lawyer who worked for the French Music Industry Rights Protection Agency, an organisation that like its American counterpart wants to see filesharing made illegal, and wants to block the legal right to copy music that you have aquired legally. A neutral third-party then… And this lawyer informed them that the copying of files onto the computer was in fact an ilegal operation. As it is clear that MB and Hubby had no understanding of what happened, I question there capacity to explain clearly to said lawyer—whatever his agenda—and it is not at all certain that they understood the answer either: lawyers rarely give straight black and white answers…].

5 – that if C was ‘guilty’ of anything then I was also ‘guilty’, and that the practise of dividing the employees into groups of ‘nice, good children’ and ‘nasty, naughty children’ was ridiculous.

MB and Hubby were also shouted at by their accountant who told them they were just covering themselves with ridicule. They withdraw the dismissal notice to C [who negociated her departure anyway, arguing that she had lost confidence in her bosses—ahem—and they paid her about 6 months’ salary over the odds just to get off the hook.] Colleague Opposite received an unjustified and disagreable ‘warning’ letter and we promptly wasted about three months fighting an extremely repressive and badly worded IT charter that basically gave the employers the right to do what they wanted, and the employees extreme and unrealisable responsabilties under penalty of being sacked if they even coughed. While proposing a decent charter that laid out clearly not only mutual and compatible rights and responsabilities, I also told them that it would be a good idea if they trusted their employees a little, as so far it had been the employees who had acted the most intelligently.

We heard nothing more of the charter which is both a good and bad thing.

But typical of MB and Hubby.

Oh, and I got the sack. Pure coincidence.

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just remembered

I must update my résumé now. Get it back online. More work.

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the crunch

So that’s the noise it makes…
I dragged myself to work this morning after another hollow night. I say hollow as it is not fair to call them sleepless. I do sleep. Until about 2 o’clock and then again from 7 to 8. So you see… ‘hollow’ seems to be the right word.
I got the letter yesterday, it arrived at home and Ludivine signed for it. Last night I sat down with a couple of bottles of red wine and prepared for today. The first thing was a series of letters, the first asking not to have to work my notice. The other letters got more and more weird according to possible answers to the first. As it happened, the first was accepted. It took all morning, and the fact that I sat down doing nothing but tidy my desk. I didn’t even switch on the computer. The wastepaper basket is full, it was that sort of tidying my desk. I may now leave the company Friday at 6 o’clock and only come back mid July to collect my papers.

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The head executioner’s breakfast

If you really are to be beheaded, it is in your interest that the Head Executioner has a good breakfast. Else he will hack away and botch the job. While the sports reporters will just say: “Well, it wasn’t one of old Lefty’s better jobs and not a really memorable match, but he did break through the gristly bits in the end… ” it is nevertheless my neck on the line. And I feel that I don’t want it botched.
. . . . .
What really messes me up about all this—besides the not knowing—is the way that it effecticely ruins my summer with Kim. I had put my holiday days aside for this summer, taking care not to use them up in advance. And, because of the stupidity of MB and Hubby, I have been sorely tepted at times, days when I have come into work crippled with back pain, but unable to afford to day a day of unpaid sickleave… Just because I believed that the work that I was doing was recognised as possessing some worth.

If I get my notice anyday soon then I have 2 months presence left. That takes me to mid July. Right in the middle of my planned time with Kim. And, of course, MB has said that unlike everybody else she has fired, she wants me to work my notice. Even if I were to find a doctor who’d be willing to put me on paid sickleave—I mean two weeks backpain and sleeples nights is normal fare, it’s easier to give medication to hide the symptoms, than to allow me to get away from MB for a while. Putting myself on sickleave is no good anyway as all it does is extend the notice period.

I am feeling a bit bitter about this all.

Things are also complicated by the unemployement benefit rules. Besides the time-wasting of all the meetings and rubbish that you get called along to participate in, all the monies that you receive on leaving are converted to a daily salary equivalent. If all goes normally, I will leave with 5 weeks’ holidays, and two weeks (pro-rata) annual bonus. This combined with the one-week holding period that they instigated to cut down on unemployement payments, means that I will have to wait 8 weeks before I even see any benefit. Or, if I do find another job quickly, then they won’t let me start by taking time off to be with Kim.

Either way I’m fucked. This is why I am feeling more than a bit bitter about all this.

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lessons in getting myself fired #25

I heard a strange swishing sound this afternoon. It was probably the axe just slipping by, or possibly the sound of the stone running along the edge, making sure that everything is good and sharp and ready. In fact, this ridiculous situation has been going on for so long that I am starting to get a crick in my neck from waiting here on the chopping block.

That’s life, I suppose.

So, this afternoon MB called me into her office: the company will not be making me an offer to retain my services, after all.

. . . . .
What does all this mean?

Last Thursday, in what seemed a sort of panic, MB came to see me. “I have read through your resumé, she said, I think that I would like to make you an offer to keep you on in a different capacity. Of course, you won’t be interested.” I liked that last bit.

You know my point of view, I replied, I would be perfectly happy to consider a written offer. Yes, yes, she said. I will pass it on to you.
Friday she said, Oh, I haven’t finished, can we talk about this later. Fine, I replied. What about Monday?

Monday she still hadn’t finished and proposed Wednesday. I started to suspect delaying tactics.

After today’s short discussion that went nowhere—although we managed to finish on a good note—“We all do what we have to do.” she said. “Yes, I replied, you do what you have to do, and I’ll do what I have to do also.” Suddenly she was interested, “What do you mean by that?” “I’m sure that I mean much the same thing as you, no?” And I left her office. And called a lawyer.
. . . . .
I am supposing that, after a good weekend’s thinking-it-over, she thinks that the possibility of losing in court in 2 years time—that’s the time it takes to settle things in French courts, and probably the reason why this is not a litigatious society like the US has become—is worth her while if it means she can fire me today as she wishes. I have looked at the situation and sincerely believe that not only is the firing for the reasons that she gives not justified, but also that she has not respected the procedure. And so that I stand a good chance of winning and getting a royal 2 months’ pay as compensation for those heinous crimes. She has, even now, probably budgetted that cost. Hell, I’m sure that she has budgetted a generous 3 months, just in case. Which is why laws to protect workers here in France are totally ineffective and do not cause companies to hesitate in the slightest in hiring and firing. They know that time will always be on their side.

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clearness of vision

I suppose that the feel of the sharpness of the knife across the throat does wonders for the clarity of vision.

What I mean is that my sacking having been confirmed in that I have received the official letter inviting me to attend the meeting—May 5th—explaining why I will be sacked, the processus has started. Firing someone here in France is a quite long process—it will take them nearly 3 months to do so. And it is also full of dangers in that, if they don’t respect a mess of legislation and jurisprudence then the company can be taken to task. The penalties can range from reintegration of the fired person (very rare), to compensation—depending on the number and gravity of errors. Judging from MB’s track record and the mistakes they have already made, we shall have fun. I should not laugh yet however, as I imagine that there must be many a slip between gallows and here.

. . . . .

However since notification I have been working with marvellous concentration. Bill is completely revised and awaiting some readers’ reactions. Then I shall bundle it off to a couple of French editors. Can’t do any harm. Juliet which although it has been revised I don’t know how many times is being cleaned from start to finish. Any scene that doesn’t work, doesn’t flow is rewritten on the spot. No more changing the colour to blue as saying to myself, Yes, well I must come back to this at some point. When I’m sure that Juliet is clear then I must write the synopsis and the covering letter and send it off. Then I can get down to work on Pirates. The planning is nearly finished (well anything from half to three-quarters finished depending on what really happens when they split up…) but it is in sufficient state to let me work on it. I am also counting that I have learnt enough from revising Juliet to make that process a lot easier for Pirates.

Once Pirates is underway I can—by way of relaxation—work on planning Died. And develop the notes for the other ideas that I have jotted down in my notebook. Or pehaps I should revise the short stories that are sitting on my hard drive doing nothing. To see.

So, as I mentioned in the beginning, having the knife to one’s throat does bring a marvellous determination to get on with things.

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gift horses at the Dentist

Yesterday MB popped her head into the sort of cubby-hole at the end of the offices where I and the other member of IT staff have been relegated, “Can I see you today?” she asked. Undoutably this was becasue of my well-known habit of coming in to work invisible.

“No problem,” I said, “When you want.”
Both of which are true—she does sign the paychecks after all…

Later that morning when I was wading through a delicate bit of code, her head reappeared around the corner—I think that the body was attached but can’t guarantee it—“Can I see you today?”

Of course, I had already answered the question and it wasn’t very likely that my reply had changed in the last three hours, so I didn’t say, “Oh! Sorry! I’ll just make myself visible,” I instead did say, “Err… now?”

A sort of mumble, or possibly a gargarism, came from the head perched on the corner. She may have actually said something but as I was concentrating on what I was attempting to do—i.e. not break the site in an untoward manner—I wasn’t paying much attention. “Look, I’ll come as soon as I’ve finished what I’m working on…” As this is a more-or-less complete rewrite of the current website, this should take me about a month.

I arrived in her office 10 minutes later.
“How is the site going?” My earlier reply had been an error, she obviously supposed that the web site rewrite was now finished. “Not that I know anything technical…” she continued. Saved by a technicality.

“Should be done in about two weeks,” I mumbled. “Then we can look at it internally.” This is a innovation for this place. Except for projects that I work on, nothing gets tested here. Things just get thrust upon people. Both staff and clients. Then things inevitably break. ANd not necessarily the code either. I prefer to do my inevitable breaking discretely and so I am known to test first, in private.

“Of course, I’m very happy with your work. The site works wonderfully, never breaks down like before, and I have received lots of complimentary remarks.” Yes, and I have received a substantial pay rise…

Sorry about that, Mummy did tell me that I shouldn’t fib. So I didn’t get a substantial pay rise. In fact, I think that this is the first time ever I have been called into her office for praise. Can I see both of her hands? No hatchet under the table? No anvil suspended from the ceiling… I shift uneasily on my chair.

“And…” I manage to say.
“And, of course, we haven’t got enough work to keep you fully occupied. I was talking with (Hubby) only yesterday and he says that we have a maximum of three months work a year. Less in fact once you finish the changes on the site.” Please note the taseful use of of course. (Hubby), as I may have already mentioned, hates me. Nothing personal. He regards me with the same cold distrust as he reserves for anyone who suggets that perhaps all the company’s IT solutions shouldn’t necessary be coded in MS Access. They say that to someone who is armed with only a hammer, all problems look like nails. In (Hubby)’s case, all IT issues look like MS Access. I’m sure that he also uses it for web surfing and that this is why he complains about my coding—THIS SITE DOES RENDER CORRECTLY IN ACCESS! I can near him mumbling from afar.

“And…” is in fact what I say.
“So, of course, you have a permanent contract.” Yes, and you and (Hubby) insisted that I took it when you hired me as a temp as:
Point number one – you realised that you wouldn’t have to pay me the 10% precarity bonus if you took me on
Point number two – you’d never find someone else who coded as well as I did and who did it so cheaply.

“And…”
“Mumble, mumble, lack of work, mumble, mumble, results, mumble, mumble, reduce costs, mumble, mumble…” What she really wanted was me to roll over on my back, spread my little stubby legs in the air and invite her to scratch my tummy. Then she’d pull out a small plastic bone, throw it affectionately while I ran in circles, barking and panting good-naturedly before bringing back the toy. Then she’d throw it over a good, steep cliff counting that I’d follow it, still barking aimiably.

“And…”
“Mumble, mumble, mumble, mumble, mumble, mumble, mumble, mumble…” She has at this point entered aimless-mumble mode. This means that she will just mumble on, occasionally repeating herself. It doesn’t mean that she has no argument. It doesn’t mean that she has run out of arguments. Both of these cases imply that she had an argument in the first case. She always does this, believing that when she waffles, not only does it make sense, but that you can only agree.

When I had asked her for the n-th time for the 15-eurocent-foreign-language bonus that I was supposed to receive every month, she did the same thing. I interrupted her and asked her what she was saying.
“I was quite clear,” she said.
“No you weren’t otherwise I wouldn’t have interrupted you and asked you what you were saying.”
“I said that I will not shirk my responsabilities and that I will do all that is necessary.”
“That is what you said last month and nothing has changed.”
“I know.”

Finally I got bored and sent her a registered letter telling her to pay up with back pay, within the week. She paid up immediately and garumphed, “I can’t understand why people have to send registered letters, why they can’t talk to each other…” (Please note the elegant use of people). Quite simply because other people only react to registered letters.

So she is working herself up for me to understand that I should be fired. Preferably, I should understand her dire predicament and give notice tomorrow. That way I can work off my notice by finishing the web site. That, in her point of view, is the elegant thing to do.

And, make myself available as she suggested to come back from time to time when they need me to do more work on the site. She didn’t say that I should pay for the privilege, but it was implied.

“Yes…” I interrupt, “If you’d excuse me MB, I have a site to code. I suggest that we continue talking about this in (10 years time?) a month?”
“Oh yes. Well, we’ve said enough for the moment, haven’t we?”

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the fish in NS4.x

This morning MB greets me.
“We must take down the fish.”
The fish is the gag that I had prepared for the website yesterday.
“It is Number One on my list of things to do today” I assure her.
This is false. Number One is switch on the computer as it takes hours to start. Then I make the coffee for everyone, and put the kettle to boil for that strange race of tea-drinkers with whom we co-exist. Then I launch iTunes for some music while I work, then Thunderbird to let it sort the spam while I connect in to the web site and transfer things through to the Intranet for the others when they start.
At last, with my coffee firmly in hand, then I will ‘kill’ the fish.

MB turns to leave:
“The fish doesn’t work in Netscape.”
I know what she means but I decide to play dumb.
“We tested it in IE and Netscape. I also verified in IE and Safari on Mac. It works everywhere.”
“But (Hubby) said it doesn’t work in Netscape.”
“It doesn’t work in Netscape 4, no. We agreed that it was no longer necessary to support a seven-year-old browser that was completely broken when it came out and that it should be quietly taken out into the back yard and put out of its agony and the body disposed of in a manner that is not contrary to any of the Paris zoning and Health regulations.”
But I don’t say that, I say:
“We agreed in the meeting the day before yesterday that we would no longer support Netscape.”
“Oh yes. Yes,” she says.

She will come back on Monday saying that the dummies of the new search pages that I am working on and which coded with HTML+CSS are taking up only about 1/3 of the previously table-laden code does not work in NS4.7.

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