I assume that the sun still comes up over Sacred Heart Church on the hill over looking Roslindale Village these days. At least, I think that it does. Part of recent changes is that I’m no longer on the commuter rail platform to see it rise. I tend to stay in bed more these days and this is part of the cycle of change that we have experienced this year. Where we expected large changes over the next couple of years, as usual, the Universe did not comply with our schedule. There’s been a lot to deal with this year going into next.
The biggest changes of the year for the two of us have been in the area of health. While my recovery from Prostate Cancer seems to be good and steady. PSA levels continue to slowly decline and there’s no sign of recurrence), Denise has had a tough year on the physical plane.
Denise tripped over the cat right after we got him late last year and tweaked her knee. After the knee getting better and then worse, she finally went to the doctor early in the year and found that she had torn the meniscus in her left knee. She had done it in a manner that it couldn’t be fixed by surgery. In other words, she has to learn to live with it (and do a lot of physical therapy).
Her knee was just starting to feel better when, in October, she was walking on a rain slicked sidewalk and her feet went out from underneath her. Trying to protect her balky knee, she twisted to her right side, umbrella in hand, and went down on her right side In the process, she ended up breaking her upper arm into her right shoulder which is her dominant side. As breaks go, it wasn’t a bad one, but it did put her on the couch for over a month and out of work for 2 months (she has a physical job). She’s now back at work, but still doing PT every day and probably won’t be back to 100% for months.
While Denise is slowly getting back into working after being out for a while, I”m getting used to being without a regular job for the first time in a number of years.
What’s clear is that my employment was “terminated” by the IS&T Department at MIT. Why I was fired, is not so clear.
After being encouraged to apply for a promotion to a Level III tech (I was a Level II tech) and after going through 5 hours of interviews, I came back from vacation rested and rejuvenated and found that not only did I not get the promotion, my competence as a Level II tech was being questioned (though not by my immediate supervisor). It seems that my tech skills were not considered to be up to date (though no one could tell me exactly what I lacked) and worst of all, I was told that I didn’t didn’t play well with others in IT (besides the fact that it was pretty impossible for me to do so due to the way that my work was scheduled). When I complained that there were structural problems since I was in the field all the time and not in meetings, I was told that “all the other techs have to do this, you have to do it too.”
Then I was put on a 4 month “Performance Improvement Plan” (PIP) with regular “check-ins” to see how I was doing. The Plan included writing down everything that I did to interface with the rest of IS&T, areas of tech that I had to learn (which I suggested), and keeping the number of “incident tickets” that documented what I did every day up to sufficient numbers. And for 4 months, I knocked the Plan out of the park. But whenever I had “check-in” meetings, what I did that was positive was discounted as something that was expected from a Level II tech, while I was warned that though I was doing well, I needed to keep this up after the PIP had ended. Obviously, the check-ins had to do with what I was with identifying what I was doing wrong and without something wrong to point to I was going to be warned about things that might go wrong in the future.
At the end of the PIP, I expected that we would sign the happy paper and I would go back to work, but it didn’t turn out that way. At the final PIP meeting, I was informed that one of my new clients didn’t think that I was doing such a spiffy job (even though this was a new client who I was just getting to know and who had expressed no dissatisfaction directly to me). This meant that the PIP was going to be extended another 6 weeks. During this period, another new client found me to be “condescending" and "difficult to work with.” (I’ve been called many things over the past 60 years, but it’s been a very long time since anyone has called me “condescending.”) Again, the client expressed no dissatisfaction to me directly. The coup de gras was when the Head of the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences that I supported expressed his problems with the IT department in an email. I guess that I was the whole IT department, because this meant that there was a “pattern” and I was shown the door.
Though no one seems to have investigated the claims or expectations of my new clients beyond their initial complaints, (my one old client - a research unit dealing with climate where I spent half of my time was very happy with me, but not consulted in this whole process), they claimed that they were “forced to let me go” because no one seemed to like me. When I proposed that they move me to half-time and assign me to the client who loved me, I was told that this was impossible for administrative reasons. So, it seems that MIT, the harbinger of the flexible future, couldn’t change a full-time job into a half-time job.
Does this all sound like a setup to you?
At any rate, my blood pressure is now down around where it should be and I’m starting to look for other work. Should you know of any appropriate for a old condescending computer tech, please let me know.
Before the rough fall, it was a good summer, capped by a trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming to see our friends Bernie and Frances and the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Frances and Bernie are field biologists and were kind enough to be our personal guides to the Yellowstone ecosystem. It was an intense and wonderful four days in the park. We saw pretty much everything there was to see: Bison, Elk, Deer, Wolves, Badgers, Bear and more types of wild flowers than we could shake a stick at. Of course, there were also geysers and hot springs and mudpots. We even, during breakfast on the day we left, got to see a Mama Moose with two babies 20 feet away out Bernie and Frances’ backyard plate glass window.
The other major travel for the year was a trip to New York in September for the People’s Climate March. We went down on the bus and met 400,000 like-minded people in a fantastically diverse display of concern about where we’re driving the planet. The most heartening part of the whole thing was the level of organization that was 1) superb, and 2) done mainly by people in their 20’s. For those of us who have been at this environmental stuff for a while, it was great to see that the youngsters are even better at organization than we ever were. While the survival of the species is far from assured, it’s good to have a reason to hope.
Denise’s freelance business has been steady and growing this year. She has been working for more touring and Broadway productions this year (including having a hat show up in the front on the New Yorker) and is working with more and more high level designers and getting to do more design in the process.
I have continued to swing the katana twice a week under the tutelage of Don Laliberty and I’ve gotten to the point where I’m not obviously dangerous to myself and others. This is progress. Iaido is not something that someone usually takes up in one’s sixties, but I figure that I’ve got maybe another 20 years to work on my technique since the masters of the art all seem to be in their 80’s.
This Report would not be complete without my views on the current state of the country. My sister, for one, would be very disappointed at the lack, so here it goes:
After the disaster of the mid-term elections, it seems that Obama has finally come to realize that the current political reality is that the involvement of Congress in anything that he wants to do will go nowhere. So, he might as well just go ahead and do what he can do within the limits of his Executive Authority. He has little to lose - the Tea Party is not going to hate him any more than they already do and they still run the the Republican party in the House - and if what he does may be undone by a future Republican President, then at least he’s able to put his policies into effect for a while before they get there.
If this is the case, then we’re probably going to see Barak move to the Left than the more centrist position that he’s taken over the past 6 years. Yes, Tea Partiers, he’s actually been a centrist and not the heir to Lenin that Fox News would have you believe that he is. You can expect to be even more upset with Washington as you have to try to actually implement policy (doing things is more difficult than just stamping your foot and shouting, “No.") and you can expect to have a President that is going to do what he thinks is right without consulting you.
Then we have the Presidential horse race for the next two years. Hillary is going to be tough to beat on the Democratic side since she’s spent the last year locking up all the sources of money that she can get her hands on (something that Elizabeth Warren seems to understand) and, Jeb Bush is probably sufficiently crazed to satisfy the Crackpot Right enough to get the nomination for the Forward Into the Past Party. Looks like another Clinton V. Bush contest in 2016 at this point. Can’t we find new people for out of control billionaires to fund?
Don’t know. Don’t know even more than I usually don’t know.
It is the undiscovered country as Bill Shakepeare said. We’re suddenly not on the schedule that we planned. But it is what makes life interesting isn’t it?
This is my 20th version of this Annual Report and there have been lots of up and downs during this period. I started writing when I had just come back to the US from Norway, pretty much broke and unemployed. I now find myself almost but not quite in the same position, but the ride in the interim has lead through Harvard, Boston University, MIT, single life, and married life. Through several martial arts, learning to draw, sitting on my butt for hours at a time trying to get the drunken monkey of a mind to calm down. I’ve lost what seems like many people along the way, but I’ve never lost the circular sense of the year’s progress or my gratitude for being allowed to get as far as I have.
The light returns (even if I’m not there to see it every morning) and my gratitude to you all never fails.
Thank you! I bow with palms together.