Monday, September 24, 2012


There is a campaign going on to raise money to purchase Tesla's old lab to then turn it into a museum.  The campaign has been going on for a while and only has six more days to go.  If you haven't already, you should consider donating a few bucks to this cause.  Why?  Because it is Nikola Goddamn Tesla, that's why.  There is a pledge to match up to $33,333 of donations that occur between now and the end of the campaign, so get to.  For those who missed out on the beginning, they were attempting to raise $850,000 to go with a pledged $850,000 from NY State to put in a bid on Tesla's lab, Wardenclyffe.  The idea is to turn the lab into a Tesla museum.  They are now sitting at over $1.2 million in donated funds with any of the excess above the cost of the land purchase going towards turning it into an actual museum.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Home of the Stupid Round 2 - Fight

The same person who posted the wall post I mentioned in my last Home of the Stupid post made another wonderful gaff today.
So now the pictures from Egypt come out of those animals dragging the ambassador through the streets.... Not carrying him to the fing hospital. This administration is a God damn disgrace. Someone needs to drag them through the streets!
*sigh*  I wish people would be informed of these things called facts.  Nothing happened to the American ambassador in Egypt.  My reply was as follows:
Please get your facts straight...The ambassador that was killed was in Libya, not Egypt. And second, the Libyans in photos such as the one here in the linked article are attempting to get him to help and there weren't any ambulances around.
I then linked to an article I found online that showed one of the photos of Libyans trying to get him to safety.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Stormed Out of my Performance Review

Today, I did something I have NEVER done in my career.  I stormed out of my performance review.  The thing is, it's not exactly what you think.  First, a little back story.

Let's make an imaginary rating system where you can get anywhere from a 1-5.  A 3 means you did your job, nothing more, nothing less.  A 5 means you did awesome things, and a 1 means you failed horribly.  In theory, the distribution of employees, if objectives are written properly, should be somewhat like a bell-curve, possibly skewed to the higher-end a bit (with the center around 3.2 maybe).  Ok, that's all fine and dandy.  But wait....we don't want to hurt people's feelings, so we need some rules.  If you want to give someone a one, you have to tell them months in advance, to give them a chance to do their job.  You have to repeatedly tell them "You suck" and do that over and over again until they fail or finally get motivated.  Even then, they can fight the rating and cause you headaches.  To give someone a 2, you at least have to warn them months in advance.  This all means more work for your boss, so it is easier to give people a 3 and just be done with it.

Alright, so now we have a 3-5 scale realistically....but wait....we can't give out 5s.  No one deserves a 5.  You have to walk on water to get a 5 and no one can do that, so we are down to a 3-4 scale, with 3 being everything to sucked ass->did your job and the rest of the scale (with one decimal point precision) is exceeded your expectations.  But Managers won't want to rate someone who succeeded with the same score as someone who failed, so it really becomes a micro-chasm of the overall scale from 3.0-4.0 being similar to 1-5.  Now stick a roughly bell-curve in that, and ~3.5 will become an "average" employee.  This is how the system ACTUALLY works, but not how it is supposed to work, so imagine all scores skewed to this reality.

Next, in steps a manager that is going to use the 3-4 for what they are supposed to be AND FOR THE EXTREMES.  So, if you really should get a 1-3, you get a 3.  If you should really get a 4-5, you get a 4.  Now you are lumping the employees who do their job with the worst of the worse.  This is where it gets complicated for me with my impostor syndrome, but if everyone keeps telling you that you do great things, you come to expect a score that is good (on the 3-4 with 3.5 being average scale) and you get a score that is good on the 1-5 w/ 3 being average scale, you will be disappointed and at a strategic disadvantage to those who were scored on the idea that 3.5 is the average.  So, that brings us to the first problem, wherein I found myself in this situation and my boss seemed to shrug off my concerns.

Rub # 2 was me stating that I was feeling that management didn't appreciate the work I have done (specifically the boss I was talking to, the deputy actually shows appreciation).  My boss reacted as though I was a head case that needed constant reassuring that I was doing good work.  That wasn't the point of my statement, I just want you to acknowledge I do good work, considering how much the customers say that.  If all I ever here from you is negative stuff, that will shape my opinion of you.

At this point, I was very frustrated, so I said that I was getting to the point where I was ready to head out the door (of the organization).  There are lots of people who will attest that I have done good->excellent work, and my project is where it is largely because of my hard work.  If I were to leave, there would be a significant impact on the project.  My boss reacted, not by saying "Let's talk through this" or "what can we do" but instead saying "do what you have to do."  WOW!  Feeling the love again there.  Apparently you care so little for me or my project that you don't care if I leave?  Wow.

Slight interjection - I don't handle anger and frustration well unless I have an outlet.  That outlet can be the ability to flog my car around a race track, yell at the top of my lungs, or punch something inanimate.  None of these are possible at work.  When I don't have an outlet, I tend to start shaking, my voice trembles, and my eyes tear up out of frustration as I try to hold in the massive yell I want to let out.  This is the point I was at.

With my trembling voice I said "This conversation is not going to be constructive, I need to go." and got up and started walking away.  My boss tried to stop me and I said "I have learned that when I am this happy, I need to walk away."

This was in the afternoon after I had been at work about 8 1/2 hours.  Two hours later I had a meeting that my boss was also planning on attending.  My boss showed up a bit late, and left early, but fortunately was there for the part of the meeting that was largely praise of my project, my efforts and my team.  It felt like a bit of vindication, and after one of the compliments, I am sure I had the biggest grin on my face when I said thank you as my boss looked pissed off in the back of the room.  That said, I still need to "do what [I] have to do" and am weighing my options.  It is obvious that my boss either doesn't have my project's best interest, my best interests or both in mind and it is becoming a toxic situation.  I don't want to leave my user base, but this is the last straw.  I am exploring my outs, and will be talking to the boss one level up to see if there are any tenable options that involve me staying there, but that is unlikely.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Politics Post of a Different Kind

Lots of people will write political posts about their beliefs but they are choosing the topic of their post.  I am going to do something a little different.  I will open the floor for questions from my readers.  Ask here, on twitter, on Facebook or via email and I will compile a group of them to write a post about.

UPDATE: The questions can only be about issues, not about candidates, who I plan to vote for or who I would endorse.  Example: You can ask me my opinion on public programs, legal rights, etc...

Monday, September 17, 2012

SHHHHHH!.....Can you smell that?

"SHHH!  Can you smell that?" I knew I had heard that line in a movie, but had to look it up.  That is from Ghostbusters,  Your first reaction is to laugh and think "WTF?" but in a way it makes sense.  Sometimes, humans just can't handle much multitasking.  By getting the other person to quite down, it is easier to focus on your sense of smell.  I am pretty sure I have done pretty much the exact same thing (had someone shut up so I could focus on locating a burning smell).

Another question I have heard asked before is "Why do we turn down the radio when we get near our destination?"  I have two answers for this.

  1. Speed sensitive volume is still not a feature found across that many cars.  When you are near your destination you are probably going slower and thus there is less wind/road noise, so you don't need the radio as loud
  2. If you are going somewhere you have never been before, you may not want the movie distracting you while you are looking for your final destination.  
So, next time you think you smell something and want to be sure...make sure to say "Shh! Can you smell that?" It might just help.  And this is the kind of crap that goes through my head at 5am while driving to work.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Facebook - Land of the Free, Home of the Stupid

Someone I went to high school with who I am friends with on Facebook, said something that made me cringe on many levels.  It was so bad, I even uploaded it to Failbook.  I am sure I will get some backlash for making this into a blog post, but I am at least leaving the name of the person out of it.  Here are the words he originally posted:
Its time someone flex's some good old USA power and bomb Tiananmen Square to show the Muslim Brotherhood why you don't attack the US embassy. Doubt Obama will sack up and go against his own to stand up for the USA.....typical.
I made a smart ass comment that I think said "Egyptians storm the US Embassy so let's bomb China???" but since he has deleted the original post to fix the "Tiananmen Square" double error (if you include spelling), I can't see what my exact wording was.  Anyway, I made that comment as that was the EASIEST thing to poke at in that post without having to go down the political argument black hole because that is just a geography fail.  The rest of the post still makes me angry though.  Here are the reasons why:

  1. "Doubt Obama will sack up and go against his own" appears to be a reference to the commonly spread rumor that Obama is a Muslim.  This horse is ALMOST as dead as the birth certificate crap.  
  2. Unless the attack on the embassy was orchestrated, condoned or supported in some way by the Egyptian government, why would we have any recourse against the country as a whole?  That is like saying a group of Americans attack a foreign embassy in the US and so that country can bomb Time's Square.  REALLY?  Even if it was supported by the government, how does that justify us dropping a bomb on a square that will be full of innocent civilians.  (Keep in mind that until earlier this year, my sister LIVED in Cairo).
  3. "flex's" - enough said
These types of posts, that I frequently see on Facebook, make me ashamed to say I am Republican. Granted,  "True Republicans" (whatever that means) would probably call me a RINO since I am not saying that we should run our country according to the Bible, and hold some "non-Republican" views.  

The joy and curse of the US, is people are free to write whatever they want (with a few exceptions, such as death threats, etc...).  A curse, because I see stuff like this pop up all the time.  A joy, because I can then tear it to pieces.  But posts like the one above also give extremists ammo in their "hate America" rhetoric, showing how we have no respect for the lives of people living anywhere but the US and only care about ourselves.  So, while I am grateful for freedom of speech, I wish some people would have a filter installed for their own well being.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Imperial March - aka the drive to work

I have a long commute. In fact some people say insanely long. The 68 miles each way still only takes 75-90 minutes which many people who live closer to where they work spend just as much time on the road. It used to be that the commute was my opportunity to get the cobwebs cleared out of my brain in the morning and let the days events sink in at the end of the day. That is not so much the case anymore.

My mornings are now usually spent dreading the day ahead and the afternoons a time to stress over what didn't get done and what messes I would have to cleanup the next day. What changed? My management, their expectations and my amount of responsibility all changed. What hasn't changed in a couple years? My pay.

I used to work in relative autonomy without management interference because I got things done. The things I got done were also the technical things I was hired to do. This lead to a Mike that looked forward to going into work and solving problems. Contrast that with management expecting me to do management type work taking away from the time doing the work I am good at. At the same time they now need to approve every schedule change, so they are micromanaging me while expecting me to manage.  The most frustrating part of the micromanagement is they don't fully understand what I do. It's like I jumped from an awesome job into a Dilbert comic strip. This is also adding onto my imposter syndrome to boot (since it makes it feel more like there is a problem with my work since they are putting me under the microscope).

A combination of imposter syndrome and dedication to my users makes it unlikely I will actually go anywhere soon, but the scales are getting close to tipping in the other direction. Instead I will just sit here and bitch about it when I know nothing will come of it (other than maybe a few more quasi job offers on top of the two I have received).

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Damage Already Done

After losing 300 lbs, in theory, my body should be much happier with me. In many ways this is true: less frequent migraines, lower blood pressure, better cardiovascular health, and more energy. In other ways, too much damage had already been done over the years resulting in physical pain that has actually increased as I lost weight for various reasons.

The first to kick in was my heal spur. Ironically this one got worse because I became more active while losing weight and despite the custom orthotics still gives me regular pain when walking. My knee, which had always hurt, began hurting more recently which has lead to a diagnosis of "moderate arthritis" and a plan to inject lubricant into my knee after the cortisone shot didn't last very long. The latest to flare up in a serious way is my shoulder which gets very painful if I sleep on my side, but sleeping on my back is uncomfortable sometimes and sleeping on my stomach is also somewhat difficult because of my CPAP.

I can't undo the damage I did to my body from carrying as much weight as I did, but it certainly makes like much more difficult than it should be at my current age. I also can't take anything other than Tylenol for the pain as NSAID drugs would be too harsh on my stomach. Hopefully these lubricant injections in my knee will help that. I go for a consult with a plastic surgeon tomorrow about starting to have excess skin removed which may help as well (especially with lower back pain), but the damage is already done. At this point, it is like I am ship that sustained damage at sea but will never be able to go back to dry dock to make repairs. The crew is just working to make sure no additional damage occurs and the ship stays afloat. Some corrections may be possible, but a complete repair is not. This is also another factor in why I have been down in the dumps recently.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Freedom of Religion/Separation of Church and State

This article caught my eye "First Amendment prayer fight splits Georgia town" because as I have said, I am an atheist, but I feel people are free to believe whatever they want.  So just from that title, I figured I would read more into it.  The jist is that a school district in Georgia had "school sponsored" prayer before sporting events, much the way there is an invocation at the beginning of each NASCAR race.  The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to the school board and in response they have stopped the sanctioned prayer.  In "protest" a bunch of people had their own private prayers and prayer circles before the game.  One of the people or organized the pro-prayer t-shirts said "Everybody has their rights, but so do I, and it's not right for one person to say that I can't pray."

Guess what? No one was saying you CAN'T pray. They are only saying the school district can't sponsor it, sanction it or broadcast it over the PA system. If you want to have your own prayer, or a prayer with a group before the game, go ahead. But you can't force everyone else to participate by broadcasting it through the stadium at a government sanctioned event. You also can't punish people for not participating. I hate when people see these types of things as an attack on their freedom of religion. No one is taking away your rights, they are protection the rights of the people who don't believe in your religion. If the school prayer was an invocation to Satan, or mentioned Muhammad, it would have been met not only with threats of lawsuits, but threats of violence as well. Religious tolerance in this country might as well be really viewed as tolerance of Christian religions. Even atheists get a bad name, but we aren't viewed as "evil" as Muslims by mainstream people.

Dubs on the Boards 2012 (More Car Content)

Dubs on the Boards was the third Volkswagen show I made it to this year and was the first time I ever entered my car in a show. (I registered my car in the "Exhibition" area at Waterfest this year, but that doesn't really count).  Since I am more of the introverted type, I mostly kept to myself but I did strike up a few conversations with the event organizer Marc (@dubnutt) and had a brief conversation with one of the other guys from Maryland who has a VERY nice bagged Rabbit (even though I am not normally a fan of bags, his car is nice).  There were a lot of "clicks" there of people who have known each other from previous years or other shows, and a bunch of clubs.  I did have a few conversations with random passers-by about the show though explaining how we had all these Volkswagen family vehicles on the boardwalk and answered some questions about my car.

Given the scale of the show, it went fairly well.  The first problem was people not knowing how to park AT ALL which caused a huge delay getting on the Boardwalk which kind of set everything back the rest of the day.  The vote tallying was also very delayed due to technical difficulties but that did give Marc a chance to make some announcements.  I knew I wasn't going to be winning anything given the state of my car, but how often do you get to drive on a boardwalk anywhere?  I snapped a ton of pictures of the various cars along the boardwalk.  I would have liked to take more of the photos from the crouched position but every time I would get down in the catcher like stance, my knee was making horrible horrible noises (thank you "moderate arthritis").  In all, I have uploaded 107 photos from the show (and may throw up a few more after making another pass of my photos).

With the change in parking planned for next year, hopefully the rolling up on the boardwalk will go smoother, and a faster vote tallying process would be nice (if I come up with any wonderful ideas, I will let them know).     Chrissy told Marc she would be happy to volunteer next year.  I look forward to making Dubs on the Boards an annual trip!  Maybe next time, my car will be more "show-worthy" and I will walk away with one of those cool trophies.  Up next for Klopfer is H2O International in a few weeks.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Been Down in the Dumps Recently

First off, I had written this blog post, in its entirety, last night on my phone on the way back from my cousin's wedding, but since the Blogger Android app doesn't auto-save posts and my battery was draining faster than the charger could provide while writing the post, my phone died and I completely lost the post I had written. This is my attempt to recapture all of my thoughts from that blog post.

I have been down in the dumps recently but it isn't any single one big thing, but rather lots of smaller things.  I am only going to talk about one category of things that all center around last Thursday, or in other words, my birthday.  Birthdays are supposed to be a happy time (although after 21, there really aren't any to look forward to until the "I am able to retire" birthday).  They serve as a good excuse to get people together and see family.  Unfortunately, I also have several bad memories associated with my birthday that taint the experience.  I am going to work backwards chronologically.

My birthday in 2009 was rather nice.  We had some friends over, had steamed crabs and had a great time.  We had a LOT of leftover crabs so we took some to my grandparents' house with plans of going back there later in the week for dinner because we were going to have home-made crab soup.  The night we were supposed to go there for dinner, my grandmother called and left a voice mail for me saying they had to cancel because they were going to the funeral home for a friend who had passed.  We planned a new date but unfortunately it would not come to pass as my grandmother suffered a stroke just a few days before we were supposed to go back there for dinner.  Because of this, I think about Mom Mom around my birthday and just wish we had gotten to have that one more dinner together before she passed.  The pain from this has faded in the last two years such that I mostly just reflect on good memories, but the pain is still there.

Rolling back a ways now to 1998.  I had been dating someone a good portion of the summer who I met while we were both interning at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt.  I had just moved into my dorm at University of Maryland a day or two before my birthday, which was actually closer to her house.  I was supposed to head out there and pick her up and we were going to go out for my birthday.  Before I left, she sent me an IM that she wanted me to call her, and she proceeded to break up with me on the phone.    The relationship hadn't been very long, nor serious, but it still stung because it was my birthday, and I already had a somewhat negative feeling about my birthday at that point.  This doesn't affect me anymore, it was just another one of those shitting things that happened on my birthday.

Ok, now we hit the way-back machine and zoom back into my early childhood.  Some of my friends know what is coming next as I know I talk/bitch about it almost every year.  I will also say up front that I DO NOT want an email/phone call follow up about this.  I know this is a request that will probably be ignored, but it is worth a shot.

So, rewind to my birthday in either 85 or 86, I can't remember.  Location? Catonsville, MD. What happened? I was dressed up and walking down the isle as a ring-bearer in my father's 3rd wedding (which, incidentally, I didn't know was his third until much later on because I hadn't realized he was married before my mother).  My sister has pointed out that in some ways I got a pretty sweet deal that year as I received birthday gifts from people I probably never saw again, but that is like getting a free lobster dinner and then never being able to eat lobster again for the rest of your life.  This now meant my father was frequently away on anniversary trips on my birthday, and also led to an incident that to this day infuriates me when I think of it.  Sometime in college, they took me out to dinner for my birthday.  After getting wished a happy birthday, my step mother then interjects "Well, don't you owe us something?" I was very confused, ask what and she replied "It's our anniversary."  In my dad's defense, he did step in and say that wasn't fair of her but that situation shouldn't have existed in the first place.

Over the years I have tried to build other good memories around my birthday, but my birthday has felt cheapened for a very long time.  If you are single, and have children, the only days you need to avoid getting remarried is on your children's birthdays, which shouldn't be a problem unless you somehow have 365 1/4 children. It may just lead to a bunch of resentment to the point that it eventually bubbles over into a blog post.  And again, I say I do not want to talk about this with either of you, I don't want an email about this blog post either.  Over the years I have kept from saying anything because I was trying to forget the bad things, but this one keeps coming back every year.  I may be airing this on my blog for the first time, but many who know me personally know about this because it comes around every year and I can't forget it.  Each person has one day a year that is reserved for celebration of them.  Having that taken away by a random event (such as the birth of a younger sibling or their own child) is fine, but having it taken away by a planned event, such as a wedding, or a planned induced birth is just crappy.

PS - It has taken me a lot of time to build up the guts to finally post this last part, but I needed to finally vent all of my thoughts on this at one time.  There may be more blog posts about crap that has been bugging me lately, but this was the most timely to publish.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Rolled my own Playlist exporter

The stereo in both my Truck and the Sportwagen support SD Cards.  They don't support playlist files, so the only way to have a playlist that actually plays in order is to have all of the songs from that playlist in a single folder with a prefix of the # in the track list that is zero padded since it is using an ASCII sort.  That's a lot of words, but what does it all mean?  That means I need my songs to be named 0001_Song.mp3, 0002_Song2.mp3, etc... all in the same folder.  Since the SD card has to be formatted in FAT32, this can't be accomplished with links, so you need a copy of the file for each instance you want to use it (either in a playlist or in folder for the album).

I got tired of having my playlists be a complete jumble, so I rolled my own Perl script to read in M3U files and copy the appropriate files over.  It still needs lots of work (such as updating an existing playlist, etc...) but it got the job done for the initial copy.  I had one VERY ANNOYING BUG that was confusing the fuck out of me for a while.  I would set a variable, and unless I added a \n to the end of it, it would disappear when I tried to use it and I couldn't figure out why.  I finally realized what the hell was going on.  The playlist was generated using iTunes on a Windows machine.  The playlist was then parsed in Perl running on Cygwin (a linux environment that runs on Windows).  Either Perl or Cygwin decided the \r wasn't part of the character set to move to the next line and left it there.  That character by itself means go to the beginning of the current line, so the file name was there, but was then getting overwritten by the content after it.

Once my head finished exploding, I made a change to the script and got it done, and loaded my first playlist with the script on my SD card.  So, I will paste my crappy code here for everyone to ridicule, or possibly use.  I plan on updating this later to have better functionality, but it worked for my current need.