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I am finding something of a balance, an equilibrium, at work. It has been a very stressful environment, with a group of humans who are nice, but who are immersed in a corporate culture of lack of direction, blame when you don’t know something (“well, you should have known that”), lack of recognition when you do something right, and general negativity and hatefulness.

Still, it’s a mission, and it pays enough to maintain the main bunker and the forward observation post. Remember, the Martian Empire expects its agents on this planet to pay their own way in local currency. It forces us to immerse ourselves in the culture of the locale to which we are assigned to observe, and it helps ensure that we do not attract attention to ourselves if we were seen to exist in the local society “without visible means of support”.

I am counting the local days until I can switch to another mission. Meanwhile, I am taking what pleasure I can in the things I enjoy. My body’s health is good. I am not currently subject to the ravages of war, disease, famine, or pestilence. All of my basic needs are met. I cannot ask for anything more. All I have to do is wait.

In other news, I spoke with an acquaintance about prosopagnosia (most humans look alike to me – I mainly distinguish them by hairstyle, stature, movement patterns, and voiceprint). She said she also doesn’t recognize people, but it’s because she does not look at them unless she has a reason to interact with them, and then she will only recognize them if they are in the context of her normal interaction with them, such as at work or at school or in the neighborhood. She told me a story of how she was at a library with her children, and the elderly female security guard walked over to her. The guard said that she was retiring at the end of the week, and she would miss seeing my acquaintance and my acquaintance’s family on a regular basis the way the guard had seen them for the past 15 years.

My acquaintance said that she was taken aback by the security guard’s remark. My acquaintance had never even noticed the security guard, yet the security guard was quite familiar with my acquaintance and her children. My acquaintance found the security guard’s comments disturbing and unsettling. I would have found them flattering, because I specialize in not being noticed. I would also have expected the security guard to be aware of the people who frequent the library – that’s her job. Finally, I would have felt badly if the security guard had noticed me and watched me for 15 years, yet I had never noticed her. I try to notice the staff of buildings or organizations that I frequent, and I speak with them and try to learn their names, and I thank them for doing their jobs. Humans like to be recognized, and I try to humor them. It’s good practice for moving through society, and you never know when you will need their help, so it is wise not to ignore them.

The story my acquaintance told reminded me that we all have an impact on the lives of everyone we encounter, in small ways or in large ways, and often we never even know it. And I inferred something about my acquaintance: she had been stalked, attacked and/or abused in the past, which would explain her negative reaction at being noticed by someone.

A much-needed vacation


I have been on vacation the last two weeks. I have done quite a lot of nothing. I spent some time in the mountains, some time in the jungle. I have been pondering my current mission and whether I want to continue it. There are a lot of things I do not like about it. But I think the prudent thing is to continue the mission until my goals are met. Then I can quit and look for a new mission. This will probably be a standard Earth year from now. But I have that to look forward to. A lot of parameters will have changed by then, which will allow me a fair amount of flexibility in choosing a new mission.

Knowing that I have control over my future helps me accept and deal with the present. That helps.

Leveraging the bureaucracy against itself


So the organization I am currently working for decided that, because the project plan said it was time to go live with the new software in the Production (“real”) environment, they should do that, even though the software wasn’t nearly ready and in fact had failed more than half of its tests.

So they promoted it to the Production environment, where it promptly blew up on a regular basis. Now they have two sets of Help Desk tickets that they are tracking: one set for the problems in the Test environment, and one set for the problems in the Production environment. The two sets of Help Desk tickets are nearly identical, but they are in two different systems (one Help Desk system is used only for test environments, and the other Help Desk system is used only for Production). So now they had to create a big spreadsheet to track the two sets of Help Desk tickets that exist in two different systems.

No other organization in my decades of work on this planet has ever done anything like this. Putting buggy software into the Production environment puts the business at risk. But then, this organization is “too big to fail”, and they create money out of literally nothing. So it really doesn’t matter to them.

Today I learned something that helped explain their apparent stupidity. Help Desk tickets for Production get worked on much more quickly than Help Desk tickets for a Test environment. In fact, because Production is the priority and Test is not, a Help Desk ticket for Test may languish for months before it is resolved. A Help Desk ticket for Production will get escalated so high, though, that it will become an agenda item for the next corporate board meeting, if necessary, to get it resolved.

So the organization is basically using its own bureaucracy as leverage against itself. Because Help Desk tickets for Production get fixed and Help Desk tickets for Test don’t, it makes a perverse kind of sense to put bad software into Production so that it will explode and then get fixed. Never mind that it puts the business at risk and that it angers the users who are supposed to use it. This organization doesn’t care about users. In fact, this software is Robotic software, designed to REPLACE those users. So a few annoyed users, or even hundreds of them, are irrelevant. They’re going to be fired eventually anyway.

I am looking forward to leaving this organization. It is an unhappy place to be.

Vicious weather


Apparently this Forward Operating Base where I’m stationed now is subject to violent weather a lot of the time. I enjoy lightning and thunder, but this is a little ridiculous. Thank goodness everything is insulated and grounded.

Life is frenetically busy. I have way too much to do and not nearly enough time to do it in. But it should settle down in a few months.

Still alive, still breathing


It hasn’t been easy to breathe this planet’s atmosphere lately, thick with pollens and molds. But I’m managing. I have been extremely busy, plus my new Forward Operating Base lacks communications gear, so I am not able to post very often. But I’m working on it.

It’s shocking how quickly this planetary year is progressing. It’s already half over and it only just began.

Another year half-gone


Time on this planet passes quickly, but it does include a free trip around the sun (a sidereal year). A “year” on this planet is only 53% of a Martian year, so the years add up much more quickly. This year, in local time, is already half over, and I have no idea where it has gone. The New Year was only yesterday. It was still April, last night.

Time is slipping away from me, and I’m not sure where it’s going. Things have been quite busy, though. It has been a constant whirlwind of work and home life. The Forward Operating Base is nearly ready for occupation next weekend. Yet it will only operate for a year, before we retreat from it and leave it to be swallowed up by the jungle again. For now, however, darling wife has been making preparations to occupy it and to make it comfortable for us.

In a moment or two, we will be there.  By next week, in subjective time, the local year will already be over. A few days beyond that, subjective time,  we will abandon the FOB that we worked so hard to decorate.

All things pass, as this mission winds onward toward its inevitable conclusion.

Tim Eilers, “White Boys And Heroes vs. This Wreckage”


Tim Eilers is a musician who, in addition to making his own original music, has a special knack for reinterpreting and mashing up Gary Numan’s songs. I especially like this mashup, a combination of “This Wreckage I Call Me” (from the 1980 “Telekon” album) and “White Boys & Heroes” (from the 1982 “I, Assassin” album).

The video uses clips from “Kung Fu Hustle” (2004) and “I, Robot” (2004). Notice in the first 30 seconds of the video, as he sits at the counter drinking coffee, there is a picture of William Shatner as Captain Kirk from the original “Star Trek” series (1966-69).