Rick's Ramblings

You have found Rick's Ramblings, a Web Log.

I have been writing in this space for a few years now. Visit the archives to get a feel for my style.

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The World
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Email: rickumali@gmail.com

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Thursday, February 21, 2002
I've gone back to using a UNIX tool to read e-mail, the Mutt e-mail program. Mutt has been fun to learn so far, and I'm enjoying its sparseness.

I was using Microsoft Outlook 97, but for a number of reasons, it's just too bulky. While I was learning a lot cool features, I wasn't using it nearly to its potential. Plus, I was getting scared of viruses, and becoming annoyed that my e-mail was downloaded to my home machine, and not on my ISP, which I can access from work.

Tuesday, February 19, 2002
A few weeks ago, in some freshly done laundry, I found sock that was missing its pair. Nothing unusual: a dark blue sock. I kept it on the top of my sock drawer.

Today, when I put on my dark blue shirt, I felt something in the sleeve: the missing sock! I love little miracles like this. I think I'll wear this pair of socks tomorrow.

Monday, February 18, 2002
The article on job loss I last posted a few days ago was obtained from SlashDot, the famous collaborative BLOG for techies. A wide-ranging discussion ensued about the article, basically veering between two extreme thoughts: "it's terrible that good people are out of work" and "it's good that bad people (i.e. incompetent) are not in the work force".

Layoffs do not "slash incompetents from the payroll" nor does it "resurrect a company's competitiveness". Layoffs are a 'tool' used by management to mimimize cost in the face of reduced earnings. It's the cruelest tool that a company can use, because the resources being reduced are people.

As such, good workers and bad workers stay and leave during tough times. I'm one of those 'good workers' who happened to volunteer to be laid off. But as a former manager, I've also looked at a list of employees, and announced to a cabal of managers who I thought was 'worth keeping', and who was not.

Good and bad workers do co-exist, even in these recessionary times. However, before the onslaught of layoffs, both of these workers were safe in their jobs. Maybe bad workers were not as productive as good workers, but they provided some contribution, some value, even if it was only to perform some specialized task. Before the popularity of layoffs, there were places in most companies for people like this. Just as there are always places in most companies for the tireless over-achiever.

The bigger a company gets, the more work it has to do, and the more workers it needs. Clearly, not everyone in the world is an over-achiever. Managers have to hire some 'middle-of-the-road' talent to get the work done. These people punch their clock, doing just what is expected, no more, no less. There's a quiet honor about that. Their style balances a company out. In my experience, these people often take on the grunt work; they implement the procedures, and take instruction well. Bad workers? Not necessarily. Incompetent? To whom?

I don't doubt that the recession has startled people into a heightened sense of motivation. And clearly job losses throughout the industry have forced people to take on more work. Are the people who remain going to be thought of as incompetent when they can't be as productive as they used to be, because they are doing more? And just how often does a company have to contract before those who remain fall below the 'worth keeping' line?

I'm pining for a time that probably doesn't exist anymore, but that everyone wishes would return: the time of the safe job. A time when workers were given an opportunity to add value. A time when workers were united by common company goals, and not fear of being slashed.

Sunday, February 17, 2002
I read an incredibly gruesome story in today's New York Times. Seems that a crematory in Noble, Georgia wasn't actually cremating bodies. Instead, it was simply collecting and piling up the bodies next to the buiding, and potentially the adjoining lake. Dead people were strewn around in the most casual manner, in work sheds, often piled one on top of the other. Authorities say there could be as many as 200 bodies.

Georgia's medical examiner, a person who's been around dead people, has said "I wish we had a good explanation for this, but we don't." The crematory worked primarily with funeral homes, so end-customers didn't deal with this facility.

Apparently, the owners of the crematory couldn't/didn't fix their incinerator. It makes you scratch your head, that's for sure. I know there's dark humor at work in this situation, and Stephen King must be absorbing this news with great interest. It's the most stunning news item I've read in quite some time.