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:
   Thursday bloody Thursday
Thursday, June 14 2018

location: rural Hurley Township, Ulster County, New York, United States of America

I slept maybe three hours, which is about all one can count on from ambien. I then got up to face the day that I would fired from the best job I have ever had. Ambien was still in my system, and it tends to lower inhibitions (infamously, it let the racist monkey out of the cage in Roseanne Barr's brain just a couple weeks before). I didn't want to let Mahrise off easy when he fired me, and I also wanted him (and the rest of The Organization's incompetent management) to know that I'd had hours of knowledge before getting fired so they'd be on edge about just what it was I might've done while I had permissions to do so. I knew that place to be paranoid to begin with, and if I caused a few ulcers with my firing, perhaps they'd rethink the whole process for the next person. Knowing that they were firing me, an essential component of their proper functioning, just over a professional disagreement, made it clear that The Organization isn't rational. But if there was enough pain associated with doing things the wrong way, perhaps they'd adapt (in the same way any organism with a brain is capable of doing). So I composed an email to all employees in which I began by saying that I was being fired but that it had been great to work with so many brilliant people. I gave my private email should anyone want to write to me. I then went on to say that things in The Organization had taken a turn for the worse once Mahrise had taken over as President near the beginning of the year. I added that he would have to learn how to listen, "and (more importantly)" how to be kind (supposedly a core value of The Organization) if The Organization ever wanted to be something other than the "North Korea of animal rights organizations." After hitting send on that, I posted in a couple of the all-Organization Slack channels. One was mostly to belittle the goofy "core values" that the administration has been talking up while systematically ignoring. The other was to give props to Allison in love_bubble. She'd worked overtime during the GDPR madness, and now, in the midst of a cancer scare (abnormal cells had been detected on her cervix), she was being brutalized over her considered professional opinion on the CRM.
By then it was only a little after 3:00am Pacific time, so that all hung in the air unnoticed for awhile. Eventually I started getting emails from colleagues asking what what going on. At some point the powers that be also woke up and realized they had a crisis on their hands. In a panic, they cut off access to everyone in the backend team (me, Dan, and Allison) and they tried to reach the only person left in The Organization with control of the web servers, though she was still asleep. What a shitshow!
When I was eventually fired at 11:00am my time, I had to write to GSlice because my company email had already been cut-off and I no longer had the call-in information. When I called in, it was initially just the General Counsel (and chair of the board!), soon joined by GSlice and then the head of HR. GSlice kicked things off by (apparently reading from a script) that unfortunately, I would have to be terminated immediately. The reason given was that I'd been communicating in an "unprofessional" manner (evidently she was referring to the dismayed banter Allison and I shared on a department-only Slack channel back on Friday). She also said I'd tried to get into a board meeting with blackmail, alluding to the "what do I have to do?" statement I'd made yesterday. It was at this point that I fully realized that GSlice, who I'd initially assumed to just be ineffectual, was actually malevolent. She'd been put in our team more to spy than to do anything useful. She'd twisted my words into a pretext so she could get me fired. This is a level of personal betrayal I'd never experienced before, not even in the context of a romantic breakup. I was stunned and didn't even respond. That was when the head of HR informed me of the meager scraps I'd be getting after my two-plus years of enthusiastic, thankless work. There would be no severance package, but I would be getting paid for my ten days of vacation. "Don't you usually give two weeks?" I asked. "Not always," replied the general counsel in her best mean-girl voice, adding, "In this case, we decided not to." I could sort of understand, given the email I'd sent about The Organizational Kim Jong Un. But was it really so wise to be pissing off someone with so much organizational data spread across so many personal computers? At the end, I was reminded that I was still contractually obligated to various non-disclosure rules. I was asked about the data on my computers. I agreed to delete it, but said it would take "some time." Being asked to do something for free doesn't exactly light a fire under my ass. And what does deletion even mean? I lived and breathed copies of their fucking data. I went out of my way to sound reasonable, saying I still support the mission and do not wish The Organization any harm. I also explained the email I'd sent to employees. I said that I'd been on ambien at the time and that it had made me say things I actually believe but probably shouldn't've said, much the way Roseanne Barr is probably a racist and ambien lowered her inhibitions enough to express it.
With the organizational Slack cut off from everyone in the backend team, communication for the rest of the day happened via an independent Slack system that Dan had set up a long time before. Since a good fraction of our Optimization team still was in The Organization and part of both systems, those of us who'd been cut off were able to keep track of things as they unfolded throughout the day.
Allison soon became aware of having been scheduled for an unexpected meeting immediately after mine, and it seemed pretty clear she was being fired as well. When they dropped the ax on her, they used the same pretext as they'd used on me based on something she'd said casually to GSlice, the Judas of Optimization. As for Dan, he'd been cut off, but no meeting had been scheduled for him. What was going on?
Today also happened to be the day that The Organization has its weekly all-hands meeting, and somehow they had to address the elephant in the kiddie pool. Reportedly, the way they chose to handle things was by saying simply that they'd had to "let go" me and Allison. They also purportedly claimed to have wanted to hear us out at the board meeting, though the matter of the relationship between our talking to the board and being fired was apparently left unexplained. As for Dan, he was actually thanked for his service (since apparently he wasn't actually being fired). His organizational accounts would remain disable throughout the day as he wondered what the hell was going on. Finally, at something like 2:00pm Pacific time, he was told that he wasn't going to be working at The Organization anymore, but that he would be paid through his already-agreed-upon termination date. Evidently the taint of working in the backend was that strong.
But now what the hell would run all these systems? The new guy Aaron? But he didn't know how they worked. There was some information that Meerkat, the guy who had built all this code and handed off to me back in the Spring of 2016, had agreed to come back and help. But things had changed since he'd last seen the code. And he lives in Bristol, England and has a fulltime job. It's almost like this whole thing wasn't very well thought out.

Today just happened to be the day that Gretchen and I would be setting out on a one-week vacation with the family down in the Yucatan of Mexico. As he has done in recent years, Gretchen's father had arranged the whole thing. Originally the plan was for this to be a working vacation, and there was also a plan to attend some sort of management training in Petaluma, California (for the job I was just fired from) immediately afterwards. Now it was looking like I'd be sitting by the pool sending out resumes instead of building out features for the workflow system I've had trouble finding time to work on. In preparation for this trip, Gretchen had done nearly all the house cleaning (and even the lawn work). This was in addition to the other necessary logitics. Months ago, for example, Gretchen had arranged with a house sitter (via that website she uses) to stay at our place for free in exchange for looking after our animals.
At some point this afternoon, Gretchen picked her up from the bus station. Her name was Lynda, and she was middled-aged with a pretty face and surprisingly wide hips. She was also something of a talker, which didn't really suit my post-firing mood. But she was interested in enough of the same things that interest me (especially tree and bird taxonomy) that I actually found myself liking her. Gretchen gave her a tour of the house and then we walked most of the length of the Farm Road and back so she could see what the dogwalkportunities were.
After a bt more jibber jabbering, Gretchen and I climbed into the Prius and drove away. But we didn't leave town immediately. We met first with our new Brick Mansion tenant at the Mid Hudson Valley Credit Union branch on Hurley Avenue so she could give us over $10,000 in rent and security deposits. Her name was Dani, and she was a piece of work. Having gotten into the business of stage management for pop music acts at a young age, she had developed something of an empire, coordinating shows for such big names as Janet Jackson and Todd Rundgren. Like Lynda, she was a talker, though she liked to drone on and on endlessly about topics that were even less interesting. She tended to talk about the technical details of stage design, stopping periodically to make observations such as the fact that she rarely remembers the names of the pyrotechnics crew. "This is all so obscure to me," I observed at one point. Dani thought I was talking about pyrotechnics, but I really meant everything she'd been saying. It was great to get that fat stack of money into our account and get the hell out of there. When you're freshly unemployed, there is nothing quite so bad as hanging out with someone who has a great job and won't shut the fuck up about it.
I was still something of a basket case from my firing, and I also felt the need to discuss ongoing developments via Slack, so Gretchen did all the driving to our next destination: Modern Love, a vegan "gourmet comfort food" restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Modern Love is owned by the famous vegan cookbook author Isa Chandra Moskowitz, who, when she used to live around here, would occasionally have dinner with us. Today, though, she was off in Omaha at her other Modern Love, though she'd apparently seen the waitlist remotely and set us up with a good table in the restaurant. The light was murky and we were along a wall. Picture me there in a restaurant, having barely eaten anything all day. I think the last thing I'd tried to choke down were some Trader Joes waffles, which I'd only eaten due to cerebral knowledge of my caloric requiredments. I was experiencing diffuse physical pain that I was pretty sure was a manifestation of the loss of my job, and I wasn't sure I could muster an appetite at all. But I ordered some sort of greenish cocktail and the "bacon cheeseburger" and hoped for the best. A few sips of my drink had me feeling much better, and then out came the charred asparagus lettuce wraps and everything turned around for me in an instant. If one were to have seen a graph of my feeling of well-being, one would've seen a dramatic upward tick to a new, much higher equilibrium. Moments before I'd been feeling like "I don't know if I can do this" about life itself (though not really in a suicidal way). But now I was feeling genuinely good. There was something about those lettuce wraps, though it might've only been that they contained calories and nutrients, and I had been feeling too miserable to notice that the fundamental problem in my body was one of hunger. The most surprising flavor in the lettuce wrap was some sort of charring thing from a barbecue, and that brought the whole thing together as a piece of gourmet perfection. That same charred flavor was also present in my bacon cheeseburger, a generous sloppy fistful of edible healing. Superficially, it was objectively junkfood that I was eating. But the subtlety of flavors made it something that decidedly transcended your usual vegan junkfood. Dinner conversation was all about the day's dramatic events, though it was now tinged with a hopeful edge. I'd been underpayed and overworked, and now would be an opportunity to find a better job. The saddest thing about being fired was that I was being cut-off from my colleagues, the best group I'd ever worked with. We love each other and breaking us up is one of the cruelest aspects of the sudden liquidation of the backend team.
But the internet has ways of routing around such things. With our new independent Slack, communication became, if anything, even more free and honest, since now there was no chance of any horrible people breaking in to snoop around. As Gretchen and I came out of Modern Love, I joined the Thursday night happy hour, already in progress. The great thing about a Google hangout is that anyone can join, and it's not tied to any particular organization. Dan, Allison, and I might've been fired from The Organization, but happy hour lived on. Initially it was hard to contribute much, since Gretchen was driving us through the streets of Brooklyn and there was too much noise on my end. So we listened. Topics ranged wildly, as they always do, with the occasional amusing story from nowhere. We happened to catch Dan telling the story of the time he drove a beat up old car across Central Asia for some sort of animal rights fundraiser. He explained how, once inside Turkmenistan, he was informed he would either need to buy an expensive visa or, alternatively, get deported (which was free). Evidently getting deported is what most people end up doing, and it tends to be a somewhat legalistic process. One is forced to sign a ledger and write some account of his or her doings, which is then dutifully translated into Turkmen. Dan said he got a chance to look at what others before him had written, and much of it was hilarious, with words extolling the glorious leader and other such Borat-inspired nonsense. Meanwhile, I kept my audio off but provided a live feed of the streets of Brooklyn as we drove through.
We also stopped at Champ's Diner (that greasy vegan place we love) to see if there was anything we could grab for the airplane, but the all that stuff had sold out already.
Gretchen had arranged for us to spend the night at a hotel near the airport, but then it turned out that she'd reserved the wrong night (tomorrow night!), and there were no rooms at the hotel tonight. So, while my feelings of malaise gradually returned, she did all the smartphone work to find us another hotel, hopefully nearby. It ended up being the Lexington Hotel (which has terrible reviews) over two miles away, which is a long distance in Queens. But it had parking for our car and WiFi, which was mostly all that mattered, or so we thought. The lobby was half-full of boxed air conditioning units and other individual devices intended for rooms being renovated. Our room was clean and recently-revamped, though it had the smell of some sort of chemical soap that is probably banned (until EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt gets to it) in the United States. Our room was actually slightly below the level of the street, which contributed to its overall noisiness. Random people on the street stood for a time just outside out window laughing and talking, and there was a loud delivery truck in the middle of the night that made all manner of groans and screeches. But all of that would come later. First, though, I joined the happy hour on my laptop and had a good chat with my old colleagues. Gretchen joined in, and we all trashed the people needing trashing and dissected the insanity of the day. Poor Nicole had been crying much of last night and today and her eyes were red and puffy. They'd made her revoke my permissions, because she was the only one left with the permissions to do that.
By now I was sipping vodka straight from a little 100mL airplane carry-on bottle and chasing it with tap water. I hoped that if I could dull my pain with enough alcohol I might be able to get to sleep. But it never happened. I just lay there on my back or face, stewing and replaying all the events of the day. As I mentioned earlier, I've never experienced such betrayal in my life, and such an injustice is something that can't just be gotten over. I was particularly struck by the theatricality of our firing, how Allison and I were allowed to address the board even as the mechanisms to have us fired were being put in place. As I mentioned tonight in happy hour, our addressing the board had been sort of like allowing the Unabomber to publish his manifesto in the Washington Post. If GSlice really had convinced the board that we were going to do bad things unless allowed to talk to them, that would account for their strangely chilly reception.
With all those hours that needed to pass and no possibility of sleeping, I'd periodically jump into Slack and chat with Allison, who couldn't sleep either. At some point I took a bath, which provided a nice physical sensory experience. But then I'd go back to bed and think.
I neglected to mention that there was actually a fourth person summarily fired from The Organization today as well, though he wasn't connected to us in any way.

Me eating a burger in Modern Love.

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