We make holes in teeth!

Friday, March 10, 2006


Much of the talk I hear from coworkers these days is a result of fear. Our company is outsourcing its data center, a prospect which means the majority of the people I work with may or may not be SoL in a few years/months/weeks from now. Regardless of actual fact, or any slight shadow of fact, or even a single blooming dandelion seed of fact, rampant speculation governs the mechanics of any conversation which takes place within the walls of my workplace. Given that a large number of the people I work with don't seem to perform any discernible task on a day to day basis, speculation is their sole focus, their prime objective, their modus operandi, as they say.

This is fine. Speculation is what governs our interest in sports, finance, weather, and who will win the latest reality series that has captured our current collective conscious. So speculation is not in and of itself the problem. The problem is the phenomenon whence you give a monkey a brain and he thinks he rules the world.

Anyway, I'm not going to bore you with the details of the mainframe, open systems, Linux, Cobol, C2L, frog pants, or any of these words & expressions that mean nothing to most people reading here. Instead, I will make up an analogy, because most people understand things in basic terms, plus it gives me a chance to make up a stupid story, which is the point of this blog. That, and passing the time at work on Friday.

Suppose you cook fish for a living. The whole process is like this. You get a fish, you scale it, bone it, filet it, and cook it in a pan. When you're done, you put the fish on a plate and give the customer a fork. What's important here? It's important that you get the fish and you give it to the customer the same way, every day. Let's assume for the moment that the customer is used to eating at McDonald's and likes the fish exactly the same way, on exactly the same plate, with the same fork, at the same time. This is how you look at data files in the finance world. They come in at time X, something happens, and they go out at time Y in format Z. Fish in, fish cooked, fish on plate with fork. Done.

Suppose you cook the fish over an open fire on an old cast iron pan. The fire takes several hours to get to temperature, but once it's lit it's hotter than any fire a modern stove could be. The pan is so old you have to be super careful not to burn the fish. The fire is the mainframe in this example. The pan is Cobol. The issue here is that we don't need a blazing hot fire. Yes, it's a wonderful fire that you could cook a whale on. But all we cook is fish. So why are we paying for all this wood and all these people to light the fire and get things up to temperature? There's no reason. The thing is, people here have been cooking with wood their entire lives. To use anything but wood is an absurd notion to them.

Management, seeing the outrageous cost of the wood process, says this: "Let's move to a gas stove. All these other fish cookers do it and look, they're spending a lot less money than we are." Ok fine. But the wood people have no clue how this is going to work. They don't get the idea of a gas stove, and no matter how much you try to teach them, they'll never get it. They look at a gas fire and say, "Well hey, there is NO WAY we can cook a whale on that stove." This is certainly true, but there are 2 things wrong with that statement. First of all, we cook fish here, not whales. Secondly, management has taken away all the logs. The wood people have to cook the fish with little twigs they find around the yard. So the wood fire isn't nearly as powerful as it used to be. With the money saved in going to a gas stove, we can buy the best gas stove in the world, and in the end, we'll actually be able to cook bigger fish than we can with the current wood stove.

But here, it's like the cable guy running the first ever line into a cave. The cavemen, garbed in various old animal pelts with their big wooden bats, stare at this blue-clad individual with sundry tools on his belt in wonder. When he leaves, a cable remains. The cavemen have no idea what to do with the cable, so they try sticking it here & there but nothing ever works. Eventually someone brings them a TV out of pity and now they spend their days watching TV. Days of Our Lives rules their cave.

But this doesn't stop them all from complaining. They watch TV, then bitch and moan about the fact that the TV will never be a good fire to cook on. Obviously I've gone wildly out of my analogy here, but you get the point. We have these cavemen that surf all day, bitching and moaning about the fire. Then they quibble all day about this stove concept, trying to piece together what it means, how it's good for them, and what the daily soup is in the cafeteria. Of course, according to these people, everyone in the world is an idiot - train conductors, people on the sidewalk, bakers, dogs, door men, random drivers...everyone. You name it, idiots. Irony is ironic.

It's nonsense, because none of them have any idea what's going on, and they're so dead set against it no matter how you present it. That's fine, as these are the people who I like working with the least, which is about 9 out of every 10 people here. In the end, the world will move forward and they'll be left with their cable TV and their twigs, bitching and moaning the whole time. But until then, I have to hear their half-baked notions of what this means, how they fit into it, and an absurd lack of understanding about what is happening around them. Honestly, I wish they would all just shut up.

Accommodation in aviemore