Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   loco proximo
Monday, December 20 1999
For the weekly morning meeting, the Grand Pooh Bah's main goal was to frighten his workforce. He started out by pointing to a wall papered with the logos of potential competitors and saying that the most important one had been left off. Yahoo, said the Grand Pooh Bah, could easily crush us if they ever got the idea to do so. When that time comes, he added, it might be best to just sell the company.
While I'm sure the intent of this talk was to encourage us to redouble our efforts, to regain some of the energy we had back in the underfunded early start-up days, I'm sure it didn't have that effect on the majority of the people. To me it was nothing but a disheartening reality check, but one not lying outside my range of expectations. For others, though, I'm sure it was a good bit closer to devastating. But that wasn't all. Far from it.
Next the Grand Pooh Bah went through series of classic fascist/cult brainwashing techniques. He mentioned the sort of energy the company had back in the day, when people would work 16 hour days and wouldn't be satisfied unless they put in at least one all-nighter each week. This elicited testimonials from a number of old timers of various stripes, one more strident and articulate than the next (though I'm left to wonder if these were orchestrated; they probably were on some level). The message was obvious. Today, for the most part, people in the company just aren't working as hard as they used to. The point the Grand Pooh Bah was making was that if we were ever going to keep Yahoo from, as he put it, "eating our lunch," we'd have to put forth more effort. We'd have to work longer hours, further cut ourselves off from the world and "work smarter."

(Interestingly, no one seems to know what "working smarter" really means - indeed, I've had executives in our company react negatively to the automation tools I've proposed building for them. In its real on-the ground manifestation, our prevailing climate of "putting in long hours for show" usually runs counter to the concept of "working smarter.")

When the Grand Pooh Bah was done with this call to arms, there was an uncomfortable silence as each person pondered what this all meant for him or her. "Oh dear," many were no doubt thinking, "I guess I'll have to be staying at work even later now, pissing off the wife & kids even more." But the reaction being sought by the Grand Pooh Bah was a more primitive one, one more in keeping with that initial start-up spirit of the company. So one of the most openly ra-ra guys from regional marketing grabbed one of the new super-expensive swivel chairs, raised it over his head, and smashed it down hard onto the floor, sending casters flying. Yet his heart wasn't really into this supposedly spontaneous act of affirmation; he was just doing it for appearances. One of the channel producers and I gave each other a look and I knew that we were thinking exactly the same thing. But none of that mattered; the peer pressure was on.
Various examples were held up of people in the company who worked long and late despite families and commitments. These were, we were told, heroes of the company. They were people who had overcome their "drag coefficient" (as it's apparently called in the industry). This kind of talk always makes me roll my eyes. I've seen the kids of these internet masters and slaves, and I have to say that they're sadder, more neglected and worse behaved than any starving Guatemalan orphan will ever be. Parents working in the internet industry will surely spawn a generation of mass shooters, serial killers, and other assorted burdens to society.
The Grand Pooh Bah then went around the room asking random people what they as individuals would be doing to kick things up a notch. As the spotlight came around, they all gave the pat answers expected. But if I was to have been asked, I would have thrown a monkey wrench into the whole motivational exercise by giving voice to what was really being asked of us. I would have said, "I'm breaking up with my girlfriend." But the Grand Pooh Bah never asked me; he's smart enough to avoid the pitfall of call and response with the subversive likes of me.
Just in case there was doubt in anyone's mind about whether or not he or she should be working harder, longer and smarter, the Grand Pooh Bah announced that he'd be talking to the resource managers about having a 20% workforce reduction to remove the least productive fifth (actually a little more draconian than a Roman decimation, which meant the killing of every tenth man). Well Merry fucking Christmas. That sort of talk is unnerving for anyone, even someone like me who is extremely productive, has no debts, and can quickly land another job. But to others, people recently hired, mildly unproductive, making payments or cursed with children, those words must have been terrifying. I've heard it all before, of course, and I know there're no plans for any actual mass firings. But I'm left to wonder about this unwise "thinking aloud" into which our Grand Pooh Bah occasionally lapses. Such "motivational talk" rarely ends up being actually motivational; it can just as easily have the effect of sending the most productive employees into the arms of recruiters. Indeed, even for someone as jaded as me, the morning meeting had the effect of making me less able to concentrate on my work for the balance of the day. And I went home promptly at 6pm too; I was damned if I was going to have people think I was scared by such talk.


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