Cracked up world

Tell you what, in my lifetime there’s never been a crazier patch of politics than what’s going on now – and crazy is putting it kindly.

Trump continues to do his Trumpish things, but still manages to plumb new depths. It affects all of us, and the world sits in a precarious place now because of him. There was a patch of about 10 days when I’d wake up in the morning wondering if world war 3 might have erupted overnight. It didn’t, or at least hasn’t yet, but no-one’s going to feel safe until he’s out of the job. Nutters like Kim Jong Un are a fact of life, but we expect – and need – leaders on our side of the fence to be more measured and intelligent. That hasn’t always been the case, but never in my lifetime have we suffered such an incompetent, unpredictable and downright nasty leader as Trump. Not even close.

Then this week gone we have seen the eruption of very ugly racist violence in Charlottesville, condoned more than condemned by the president. It’s a terrible state of affairs.

As an Australian I feel some existential threat knowing that someone as erratic as Trump has his finger on the button, but I’m probably safer than most. I really feel though for the great majority of Americans who are decent, compassionate and reasonable. They’ve had their country hijacked and their identity subverted by the values that Trump espouses and supports. They must ache with the loss and a sense of futility, but for all our sakes they must keep up the good fight. What it takes though is for Trump to be toppled. Until that happens the poison he preaches will continue to spread. All our best hope is that the Mueller investigation hits paydirt, but I no longer have faith that it will be a killer blow, even if it does. Even so, how much damage has been done? If he goes tomorrow, what damage has he done to the fabric of the nation? How much cannot be reversed?

I was shocked the other day to see footage of the ‘militia’ in Charlottesville patrolling the streets with semi-automatic weapons on their shoulders. These are basically racists, Nazis and Ku Klux Klan. How is it even permissible that any man, let along organised groups of them, let alone racists with guns, can walk the streets with impunity. That’s not a civilised society, but America started down that path many years ago and seem incapable from straying from it. Now, with Trump in the top job, it’s got a menacing edge. The extremes have been empowered, and are flexing their muscles.

By comparison Australian politics is just about comedic right now. You could run the Benny Hill music as a soundtrack to the ridiculous happenings in Australian parliament and it would be absolutely apt.

Any lingering doubts about the future of the Turnbull government have been dispelled in the last week. They’re done, and so they should be. Any credibility they had is long shot, and now their judgement has exposed as inept and totally divorced from reality.

Where does such a thing start? This government has been a travelling disaster zone for months now, perhaps years. No matter what he says Turnbull has proved he’s anything like a strong leader, and he’s the hostage of the party conservatives, afraid of doing anything constructive for fear of upsetting them. There’s an intelligent, sophisticated man inside Turnbull, but he’s disconnected from the man we see on our TV screens. The man we see has decided political survival trumps national benefit. The result is compromised policies and the promotion of initiatives against the will of the people, and counter to the national good. Effectively a hard right wing rump of the party dictate national policy according to their own conservative beliefs, and in just about every instance against what most people want. Our parliament is representative only in that idiots now get a more than reasonable say.

This combination of terrible judgement, cowardice and intransigence has been on display in the last couple of weeks.

First there was the pathetic decision to conduct a postal plebiscite on marriage equality. By itself it’s hard to have respect for any government who chooses such a weasel approach. In the wider Australian community this is no longer a thing. We have long accepted – and supported – the concept of marriage equality. There is majority support in the community, and I would guess majority support in parliament. Unfortunately, the moral conservatives who hold the whip hand wish to dictate their will on the people, and Turnbull, as always, was cowed into supporting an inadequate, and ultimately non-binding plebiscite to determine the next steps. Rather than just getting onto it Turnbull has allowed the dinosaurs of the party to put every obstacle in its way. Any chance of me ever voting for Turnbull disappeared at that moment.

Then there’s been the ridiculous series of pollies discovering that they’re dual citizens. At first it was a couple of Greens senators, who did the right thing and resigned. They were predictably mocked by the government until, surprise, surprise, that they had a few of their own in the same boat. Naturally they haven’t done the right thing, and have continued on pending a high court ruling. It has now got to an absurd stage when daily it appears another government minister is in trouble. It does little for their reputation.

It hit a crescendo the other day when it was discovered Barnaby Joyce was a Kiwi citizen. In the wash-up Julie Bishop – a minister I had come to respect and admire – launched into both the Labor party and New Zealand, claiming conspiracy. It was funny. I know it was meant to some attempt at turning the tables, but it was pathetic, and the only damage done was to the Libs.

They made the mistake, and to get hysterical and begin to blame others reveals both desperation and an utter lack of political judgement. I doubt there’s a single reasonable voter who bought that spiel, and for most it would only have confirmed the dire incompetence of the government. They can’t go on. They won’t go on. If they can survive that long the next election is still a while away, but if there is anything like a dead man walking then it’s this government.

And that, folks, is the cosy world we live in today.

Doing counts

About a week ago I had a showdown with HR. I’d applied to have my role re-classified, backed by my manager and her manager. HR had responded that after reviewing they saw no reason why it should be changed. That was unsatisfactory, and so a meeting was arranged to discuss.

I went into the meeting armed with facts. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I know in this I’m 100% right. I’ve worked in this industry years in a variety of roles. As I told them, I’ve actually employed people to roles similar to what I’m in now. They have an external, generic view of the function, whereas I’ve got an in-depth and intimate knowledge of it from having been hands on for many years. All the same, I knew I had to play to their rules. I couldn’t force the issue, I had to persuade them.

Fortunately, the HR rep I met with was reasonable and happy to listen. She admitted from her reading that the grading seemed justified, but willing to be proven wrong.

The problem, as I saw it, was that they at the role from the perspective of the award, rather than looking at an award from the perspective of the role. These awards are broadly defined and many of the terms and stated responsibilities very general. It’s very easy to tick things off because there is little – if anything – specifically defined.

Now it’s my belief that a role like mine doesn’t really belong in a standard award – I’ve worked within bands, but never before within an award. Even so, if it has to be then the award should be defined by the role, rather than the other way around.

I explained the discrepancy between what the award states and what I actually do. I said the award by intent is prescriptive: there’s a nail, here’s a hammer, now go to it. My role is much more architectural than that. I’m fully autonomous and the role is almost entirely discretionary.

I brought with me some random materials, evidence of things I had created from scratch. It was a hodge-podge of stuff: requirements docs, flowcharts, a business case, a proposed policy document, another a process proposal, some reporting and analysis I’d built, and so on. I made it clear that often I’ll have to take a lead on things, from project management to managing staff. There’s a huge amount of analytical work, and an awful lot of brain. I’m defining the structure that the hammer and nail is used to build.

I told her to re-think how my role should be viewed – basically as a business analyst, or business process analyst, and at the more senior end of that spectrum (not that I expect those sorts of dollars – that’s more than they’ll ever agree to). My manager was in attendance and basically supported everything.

At the end it was decided that my classification would be independently reviewed. I was sent my PD and invited to add in those elements I think missing from it. Like most PD’s it’s heavy on vibe and light on specific details and, as such, can be interpreted in different ways.

I added in the specifics, focusing on the project management elements – clearly a higher rated function – as well as the analytical and sheer creativity of the role. I made it clear that I acted independently, and even the hierarchy I was a part of was more dotted lines. I did also correct an important error. They had my role reporting into a more junior role when nominally I report into management.

We’ll see what happens now. I think I have a good case, and I can’t see how they can assess it otherwise. Problem is, even if they agree, any changes have to be approved up the line, right up to the CEO – which is clearly ridiculous. Every extra stage reduces the chances of it being approved, and certainly delays the process. I’m not holding my breath.

If I get knocked back then I’ll go to them with a counter proposal. Terminate my FT employment and re-engage me as a contractor or consultant, and at those rates. I doubt they’ll go for it, but it’s worth a try.

I continue to look for other work, and I’ve resurrected the start-up I put on hold 18 months ago. I believe in it, and I need to do something for myself. Doing counts. Problem is I don’t know how, but I can find out.

They’re watching you…

The last few weeks I’ve been making a call to a community organisation that isn’t in my phone address book. The other day scrolling through recent calls there was the number recorded, and underneath it Probably…followed by the specific name of the individual I’d been talking to. I’d never seen that before.

I puzzled over this, Fair enough had it recorded the name of the organisation, they’re in the phone book after all. But in an organisation containing dozens of people how does it know the specific person I’ve been speaking to?

Like many, I’m very aware of my online presence and identity. The idea that I’m being watched, that every move I make is tracked, is abhorrent to me, and more so since the Australian government legislated that ISPs must retain the metadata of its customers. It’s a privacy issue, but I also see it as an infringement on my civil liberties.

In my book you’re crazy if you’re not connecting online through a VPN, but even so that only limits the damage, it doesn’t eliminate it.

I read the other day about how Google is extending its online reach, to the point that they will soon know every site you visit. Like most people I have a Gmail account. Foolishly, as it turns out, my I use my Google ID (and occasionally my Facebook) to login into different online accounts. It doesn’t matter if I’m VPN if that’s the case. The solution is to browse incognito through a VPN, and don’t accept cookies, but that’s hard work. And even still…

We’ve all experienced targeting marketing whereby an ad will flash up on screen relevant to a recent search or your browsing history. Once they have that on one source it spreads to other online sources – I get those ads now on my phone, and even at work.

I compound the issue by having location services switched on my phone, as most people do, I’m sure. That adds a another very precise layer of tracking which I could easily turn off, except I track my steps, and of course use navigation and search for nearby handy locations. We are seduced into being tracked by the convenience of the functionality it offers.

At this point I’ve made a compromise – basically I’m allowing them to view a lot of my activity, but not all. I wonder at the wisdom of that.

But how does that explain my phone entry?

The only explanation I have is that it’s cross-referenced my email by my call history. I’ve sent and received emails from that person, and my phone has put 2 and 2 together and come up with 4. That’s scary.

Not so dire prospects

Coming back this morning after getting my daily coffee I thought to myself that I could go the hipster barista lifestyle. Grow the beard out, wear one of my beanies, assume the attitude – none of it was too strenuous, and it had a certain appeal. It was a cool, clear morning, before 8.30am when everything is starting to rustle to life. I felt comfortable in the café. I shared a joke with the beard and beanie wearing owner and the whole carefree notion of providing coffee for a living was mighty appealing. I was heading back to an office: spreadsheets, emails and forlorn expectations.

Like I alluded to the other day I’m over that, more or less, but there’s the matter of the rent. Since I last wrote about work things have moved quickly, and though I’d rather be doing something else there is the expectation that the dire prospect handed me the other day may only be temporary.

As promised I made my feelings known after being given such a pitiful pay rise. I was called aside and asked if that meant I would be looking for a role elsewhere, to which I basically said ‘you betcha’ (though with a touch more elan than that). A discussion ensued during which it became clear that my management were frustrated with the events as well. They’d asked for more, HR had given me less. I was told I was given the maximum 4% increase, to which I responded that 4% of fuck-all is fuck-all. I got a laugh out of that. She said that she had been given the go ahead to apply to HR to have my role re-classified – just 8 months after I requested it. How much extra do you want? I was asked. I was caught on the hop. I hesitated, quickly calculating. I’m probably about $20K short of the market, but there was no way they would give me that. I told them $10K on top of the pay-rise I’ve just got, then kicked myself I didn’t ask for more. Ten grand would make a difference though.

Then I was told there were changes coming. Basically the team was disbanding. The other two would move to other areas – happening next week – while I remained. When I left the role wouldn’t be filled. So, where was I going?

As has been long mooted they’ve been pitching to have me join the office of the CEO. That’s a much nicer role with a lot more money, and with the support of the CEO, may actually be able to get things done. It’s not easy to join, however, and both my manager and hers have had to justify the promotion and highlight my credentials for it.

Sounds good, but no surprise I’m a sceptic. It’s likely to happen, but until it does I’m not going to get too excited.

First step – a better pay-rise. Second step – a better job. Third step – a hipster barista?

A face in the crowd

I’ve had active dreams latterly. Many of the dreams have been brooding, but not all. I had an enjoyable dream last week full of the most enjoyable (and periodically, acrobatic) sex. I wish I could describe it here but I’m mindful of the kiddies. Notably I realised I couldn’t live without the woman in my dreams (a stranger) because I couldn’t live without such scintillating sex. And she felt the same.

Last night the dream was different. The narrative is irrelevant, but the clear message bears repeating. It might sound negative but the point of it was that you are not as special as you think you are. We all embellish. We don’t see ourselves truly. Because we desire we presume to see ourselves in a certain light. The truth is we are all more mediocre than we think ourselves to be.

I remember in the dream thinking ‘but I want to be special’. Fine was the response, you may have gifts that can make you special but in the ruck and roil and general compromise of humankind they are all evened out. If you really want to be special you must do more than wish it. It is possible, but you must strive to make it so.

It was a thoughtful dream and afterwards I wondered where it came from. Dreams like this make me believe that they are a representation of things we are unwilling or unable to accept in our waking moments. There was a ring of truth to this, as if it was something I had realised somewhere deep in my mind but had never turned to face.

Thinking on it on the train to work this morning I was brought to mind of those remarkable photos of a great mass of people mingling together. They go in different directions, face different ways, but amid them there is the one face facing the camera our eyes are drawn to. Amid the crowd he is the one person we see.

That is how we see ourselves. That’s understandable, probably healthy. It’s worthwhile to remember the crowd to. Even this, my blog, this is my upturned face – but to most of the world this face is turned away, just another body in the tumult.