Saturday, October 31, 2009

halloween - not the same here

Halloween here is not exactly like it is in the States. In fact, the costumed, candied tomfoolery that is American Halloween is essentially nonexistent. Tomorrow is of course (is it obvious?) All Saints day, and is on a Sunday so perhaps there will be a bit more church-y things afoot, but I suspect I will remain uninformed.

A secondary effect of this is that there are already Christmas themed items in the stores. And there are no Thanksgivings displays either.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

daylight saving time

Damn you daylight saving (there is no second s!) time! Now it's dark at 1700. And it's only October. Yes, it happens in Europe a week earlier than in the States.

Friday, October 23, 2009

feels like the weekend

It feels like a Saturday in the office right now. Of the non-locals, everyone who would normally be in the office is out for various reasons (sick, vacation, training, field) and the people who are here are usually here on the weekends. And for the locals, today is the 1956 Uprising Memorial Day to commemorate the attempt to overthrow the Soviet-backed Stalinist government. It did not go well.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

things learned in VIX - shit happens, and it's usually avoidable

I want things to go well, much like most other people. Perhaps the guy sitting in the basement twirling his mustache has other plans, but I'm going to assume that most people are on board for success. For now, let's ignore all the big, thorny complex ethical/morality issues and confine this to items immediately associated with work, where there is usually a very well-defined objective and everyone is on location working towards that objective. (In theory, there is always clearly stated objective, though some clients are maddeningly vague about what they want and evaluation criteria are often rather subjective.) If they are not interested in achieving the objective, then they probably would not be there in the first place.

Nonetheless, shit happens. More accurately put, undesirable and unplanned-for outcomes are sometimes reached. The worst part is that these outcomes are almost always preventable (and arguably they are always preventable). Put yet another way, if the desired outcome is success, then the undesired outcome is some level of failure.

If you had a direct role in the planning and/or execution of some activity where aforementioned unplanned-for outcomes occur, there is probably something you could have done to alter the course of events back towards their preferred outcome. Now, it does not mean that you screwed up, though you might have made critical mistakes or even worse, been willfully negligent or broken internal standards. It might have been something you were required to do, or supposed to do, or expected to do, or implicitly assumed to do but did not do. (Those are moving downward in the should-have-done scale of things.) It even could have been something that is not your direct/indirect responsibility or something that no one expects you to do on an even implicit level. Nonetheless, you probably could have done something. That something may have taken a great deal of foresight, and is possibly only apparent in hindsight, but outcomes could have been different. And they were expected to have been different, regardless of whether or not you should have done something different.

Perhaps not a fair criticism to find oneself under, but this is not about fairness. This is about failure. In my brief experience, there are very few events beyond our control, or at least beyond the scope of the standards and procedures that we are supposed to follow. Things that are actually beyond our control:
* Weather, especially the type that is fast moving and rapidly changing. We can work around it or stop the job entirely, but that's about the extent of control we have.
* Sudden, catastrophic equipment failure, assuming equipment has passed all the required checks within the required time frame.

Catastrophic equipment failure is a nightmare. A client once told me I should smile more on location. No, not from what I have seen, and seen fail, knowing how quickly a seemingly smooth job can turn into an ugly, unmitigated disaster. Maybe you could have done something different. Maybe not. Maybe it'll haunt you on every other job, adding yet another item to the list of things you try to check before and during a job. Always in motion, always pacing, always looking, looking for that weak link that stands between you and an aggravatingly long incident review and multiple post-job conference calls.

But sometimes, people fail you. People you count on, who represent, not you, but in theory the same thing you represent. But it cuts both ways, because you might fail someone else.

Thursday, October 08, 2009


I was out last night with some colleagues including a pair from our regional office in Bucharest who were in town to help with an internal audit/reconciliation thing. There were seven of us at the table. And six packs of cigarettes on said table. Sigh.

can't touch vader

Damn right skippy.

Update: The real question is where is the video of someone dressed as Vader doing the Single Ladies dance.

Monday, October 05, 2009


I'm having trouble being productive at work. It feels like a combination of the usual suspects: general fatigue mixed with some frustration with the nature of the universe (or maybe just the nature of business here in Hungary and the social dynamics at the base) and all interlaced with several semi-long-term items from the past that keep lingering and I cannot quite shake them.

Mysteries (aka: problems) fascinate me. I'm not good at letting go of them and I can be obsessive at times so my attention often lingers and my thoughts turn on things from the past that I have no control over. Things that I should leave well alone and move on from, but the mystery or frustration persists. Or worst of all, anything that didn't go well is scrutinized, often with far fewer answers than I find satisfactory.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

joni mitchell - california

I'm hooked on this recording of California by Joni Mitchell. Perhaps just a little before my time, but so great.

For something more recent, try Fireflies by Owl City.