Tuesday, November 13, 2018

T'was a Profession, Once...

The picture to the left is of an IBM 3090 Mainframe computing complex. This was "state of the art" in computing circles in 1985, and took up about as much floor space as would a tractor trailer.

It might even have weighed as much, as well.

It required hundreds of gallons of chilled, sterilized water running through a closed system of internal tubing to keep cool, contained enough real gold to give everyone in South Central a new tooth, made enough noise that it almost required ear protection to be near one -- which it usually did, especially if it had it's associated 3380 DASD (direct allocation storage device. That would be "Disk Drives" to you laymen) attached in significant numbers, since in those days, storage was still being measured in megabytes and if you needed to store a lot of data, you needed a lot of DASD  -- and, at the time, was the fastest, most-expensive business computer on Planet Earth.

Today, the typical top-of-the-line desktop probably has as much raw processing power and disk storage, and costs under $800. Such is Progress.

I begin with this trip down Memory Lane -- to be followed by a trip down the memory Expressway -- because of this article I read today concerning a professor of Computer Programming at a second-rate university who has been targeted by the Thought Police for being a doubleplus ungood crimethinker for attempting to explain -- from his experience -- sex differences in the Computer Sciences.

The original crime was printed here, so you can have some context.

The Professor is being crucified for having the courage -- although his detractors would call it  a manifestation of the White Male Privilege of the Oppressive Patriarchy  -- to state the obvious: that Men and Women are different, and in the field of Information Technology the differences manifest in fewer women taking jobs as computer programmers and software engineers. Not for lack of ability or opportunity, but from lack of interest.

Machines and coding appeal more to the male than they do the female.

Of course, this is the most blatant Nazi propaganda, according to the femizillas of academe, none of whom could tell you the difference between a DD statement and a DD cupsize, but then again, the fascist censorious sort doesn't exactly believe it needs to know what it's talking about; it only needs to feel something.

The "feeling" is that women, and the LGBT-whatev "community" are "under-represented" in the IT fields because Men won't let them in. Especially cishet white men, who are ALL fratboys. The reason why they do this is because when they aren't oppressing and raping women vicariously by saying "Good Morning", they spend all the rest of their time thinking up subtle and ingenious ways to oppress and rape women (and LGBT, and blacks, and Asians, and Hispanics, and cocker spaniels) for reals.

Professor Putz (I say this because he had to have known what was coming his way) was making the point that there are genuine differences between the TWO sexes which can often dictate their interest, capacity and potential for success in this field.

The new breed of Feminazi, however, doesn't have time for common sense, facts, or objective truth; if there is a differential in participation it MUST BE because of discrimination; and if there's discrimination it must be Because Penis; and if it's Because Penis, then someone needs to be emasculated and hordes of uninterested, non-qualified, females should be allowed to flood the ranks just for access to higher salaries and status. Because "equality" or some shit.

I will take issue with the professor on one point, and this is probably a difference of perspective, since his experience is in the academic setting, while mine -- 33 years of it -- is in the Real World Where People Actually Do This Shit For A Living (and when I say that, I do not mean to disparage the Professor; he's probably smarter than I am).

The reason why, sez me, women do not succeed in the IT field is not because of a lack of ability or opportunity. I have had the privilege (just not the "White" one) of working with literally hundreds of women in this field. They run the gamut from the totally useless to the hyper-successful. I have had female bosses before. I've even had Black, gay, Hispanic, female bosses before, and worked with people from all over the race/sex/sexuality spectrum during that time. Fuck, you can't swing a dead cat in a data center without hitting a homosexual, and getting at least one other in blood-spatter range.

The only field gays might be more prevalent in might be Female Impersonators, choreography and hairdressing. Tech is filthy with homos.

But, back to the wimmen.

It has been my experience that the reason why (most) women do not succeed in the field is because they will not put in the hours it often requires. Past a certain level, 12-14 hour days, 70+ hour weeks, being awoken several times during the course of a night to work from home, are common.

I spent the majority of my career working in finance, for some of the biggest companies on Wall Street. When you're employed in the IT Field in this part of the industry, you can count upon the following as being automatic:

* You can kiss your weekends goodbye.
* You can kiss most holidays goodbye.
* You're only as good as your last successful project.
* Everyone hates you, but everyone needs you. They just don't want to pay you.
* The key to moving up is to take every assignment and then excel at it. Mediocrity will get you nowhere. There's too much money involved for "average" work.

And so, for telling an inconvenient truth (sorry, Al Gore, you asshole), Professor Putz has to be sent to the re-education camp, and every student at his Play Pen with Beer and Diplomas will be subjected to Feminist Mind Control exercises that will either be an exercise in mental masturbation, or an ordeal to be endured (and paid for) just to get a stupid piece of paper that won't guarantee you that high salary and status, anyway.

It is events like this that make me despair for the future of the field. It isn't that I actually care how many women are in the field, or how many Blacks get to be CIO, it's that this kind of crap is ruining what was once a very vibrant, creative, field. HR Departments, when they aren't exercising de facto control of hiring practises and criteria for what are political and legal reasons, have destroyed the environment that made the job both fun and interesting.

This kind of mindset has taken a professional field that was once thrilling, exhilarating, fascinating, full of free-thinkers and free-speakers, true intellectuals, and perhaps some of the most interesting personalities you could ever encounter, and turned it into the private playground of perpetually-aggrieved, mind-numbingly boring, self-interested, overly-sensitive drones.

Once upon a time, the Data Center was a wonderful place. If you ever wanted to see what happens when you lock 20 or so social misfit-above-average-IQ's who related to numbers and machines better than they did people in a climate-controlled steel box for 12 hours a day, this was the perfect venue. It was Survivor and Big Brother -- only far more compelling -- before either concept was butchered for mass consumption by complete idjits.

The dynamic quality about it was this: those people were all eccentrics, super-smart, all in dire need of the constant stimulation that came from the free exchange of ideas. If they didn't have it, nothing got done. They played off one another's intellect and creativity to do things the average person just does not understand. In the course of all this activity, you were liable to hear, see and experience shit that would have made you believe that every last one of them was an escapee from a lunatics asylum.

Or, they could be unique examples of humanity that never found their way into the DSM IV. It was a mixed bag, sometimes.

Nothing was off limits. No subject, no matter how offensive, no matter how disgusting, no matter how mindless, was considered out-of-bounds. People busted on one another all day long -- and you were liable to get an earful every day about your politics, your mother, your clothes, physical features/deformities/disabilities, sexual prowess/attractiveness (or lack, thereof), mathematics, the intricacies of centralized programming and operating systems, sports, culture, sex (lots of sex), off-color jokes, bodily functions, and anything else you can think of. It was a complete free-for-all, with all the foulest language you can imagine, and everyone partook -- male, female, straight, gay, white, People O' Color, Jews, Catholics, Muslims, Atheists.

And no one minded. Not one little bit. We all laughed, we all collaborated, we all got along (mostly, because there were also anti-social types in there who were liable to go postal at any moment. I have seen people come to the Data Center with guns, I've seen fist-fights taking place, complete with chair-tossing and death threats).

So, going back in my memory to remember a freer, less-restrictive time, I have compiled a list of my Five All-Time-Favorite Data Center Personalities. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

1. "Chooch" - Chooch is Italian slang for "donkey" (from the word "Cucharella"), and our Chooch (not his real name, of course) fit the bill. Not because he was dumb, far from it; but he was slow and deliberate. Mostly this was because his brain worked faster than his mouth or his hands and he had to make a conscious effort to slow himself down. Chooch had a few peccadilloes that made him  memorable.

The first is that he weighed @350 pounds, and would arrive at work every night with the same lunch: two roast beef and cheese sandwiches on an entire baguette. Just in case he got hungry and needed a snack, he always had a ziploc bag full of loose change for the vending machines in the hallway. Heaven forbid you ever asked Chooch for change of a dollar; he would go into paroxysms of rage. Especially if he discovered you asked him on purpose so that everyone else could laugh.

He also had a fetish for felt-tipped pens. Would not use anything BUT a felt-tipped pen, and had several of them -- of different colors -- arranged in his shirt pocket. Like change, God forbid you asked Chooch to borrow a pen. Anyway, he had a habit of forgetting to put the caps back on them before putting them in his pocket, so that his shirt would slowly suck all the ink out of the exposed tip, leaving huge stains that expanded over time on the front of his shirt. He would usually not notice, because he was usually too engrossed in whatever he was doing to notice. We used to take bets on what time he would finally discover the stain, which was sure to bring about a string of invective that could be heard like an elephant's trumpet at a distance of miles.

But otherwise, he was a very intelligent and patient man who took me under his wing and taught me much of what I needed to know about How All This Worked. He had a system: he would explain basic principles to me, give me a manual to read, and the following week, give me a test. If I failed, I would have to buy him lunch. If lunch was free, then Chooch was all up for the most expensive meal he could get out of you.

His heart exploded many years ago, which surprised no one, and I think of him often. I miss the fuck out of that guy.

2. "Arcadio" - Artie was an Italian from the other side. He was also an avowed communist. He was much older than most of us, and was near retirement age when I first met him.

I don't believe I have ever met a nastier, more-racist, sexist, asshole in all my life. The only reason they kept him around was because, in the event of an emergency, he was the only person who knew how to do things manually. Otherwise, he spent his days reading the Times and arguing with everyone. A seriously disagreeable person.

Now, when I say Artie was an avowed Communist, I mean he was a For-Real Commie. He even had the photographs taken with Che Guevara to prove it (this might make him cool, these days). He had left Italy to work in Bolivia, where had met the Cuban Executioner while working on road projects in the jungles and then had to skedaddle right quick when the Bolivian Army caught Che. Just the merest association would have gotten Artie killed, too.

So, what does any Communist one step ahead of a death sentence do? Why, he travels to America and takes a job on Wall Street. What does a Communist working on Wall Street do? Why, he uses his authority to access customer files, opens those of the richest men on Planet Earth to discover what they are buying and selling and then calls his own broker to mimic their trades.

Never let the Communists fool you: they don't hate money. The only hate the people who have it, and wish to change places with them. So, after nearly 40 years in America breaking every securities law on the books to become stinking wealthy, himself, he retired back to Italy with his truckloads of imperialist Yankee dollars.

3. "Bob" - Not his real name, of course. Bob, at the time this incident happened, was my direct supervisor and a mathematical genius who made that one, fatal mistake.

See, Bob had discovered how he could skim fractions of a penny off random customer accounts, thousands of them a day,  and direct them into a "orphan" account for which ownership could not easily be established, but must legally be kept open until claimed. Some are NEVER claimed. His plan was, after 20 years on the job, to skim enough fractions-of-a-penny to retire early as a millionaire.

One day, as I was walking into the office, Bob was being led out of it by Treasury agents...in handcuffs. He had gotten caught.

And it was one of those typically stupid-but-unforeseen circumstances that got him arrested. See, back when Bob was doing this, all mainframe computers operated in 32 bits. That is to say, all data was input, stored, processed out to the 32nd digit, so that if you had a number like 3.45732.... the computer would round the last digit up or down, and then truncate the figure, even if it had hundreds more digits to go. What Bob had discovered was a means of making the system round DOWN every time, and the difference went into his "orphan" account.

It was an absolutely BRILLIANT scheme. The money never disappeared, so the books always balanced out. No one caught on for quite a while.

It was at this time that technology became his undoing.

The new (at that time) generation of IBM mainframes could operate with an instruction set of 48 bits. In the process of reconciling data once stored as 32 bits to the new 48 bit format, someone noticed Bob's little trick. Then they audited the system, and traced everything back to Bob. Bob was arrested.

Bob then became one of the Treasury Department's first "White Hat" hackers.

But he still tells a hell of a prison story.

4. Lihn - Not her real name. Linh was a very cute, well-endowed Vietnamese lady, with a high-pitched, squeaky voice, whose specialty was communications. If it traveled over wire, was flashed as electrons across the electromagnetic spectrum, bounced off a satellite, was encoded in laser light, Lihn knew it inside and out. An MIT grad, too. Woman was absolutely brilliant.

She was also sexually provocative. I don't mean that she merely dressed provocatively, but that there was hardly a non-work-related word that came out of her mouth (what went into her mouth is another story) that wasn't about Sex. And anything could trigger this reflexive obsession with making the Beast With Backs. It was like working with a cat in perpetual heat. She worked nights.

She would announce to the entire Data Center that she was horny. She would often spend her lunch hour in a knee-knocker with anyone willing to oblige. I, personally, refused to partake, because I was well-aware of who had been there before me. I only worked with them, after all.

Now, this is not exactly or completely why Lihn makes this list. No, she is remarkable for being a one-woman epidemic that shut an entire data center down for nearly a month.

Because when she discovered that she had herpes, she had no problem announcing it loudly to everyone in the Solar System.

That means everything she had come into contact with (let alone everyone) was quite possibly infected.

Toilets, telephones, doorknobs, anything in the kitchen or pantry, keyboards, any sort of equipment she may have come into contact with was now believed to be virulent. There was an uproar: the women were panicked first, for they shared a ladies room. Then the guys started sweating, for more than a few had sampled her blistered-and-pustuled va-jay-jay.

This meant the company had to immediately cease work in that room, in fact, on that entire FLOOR, and test everyone who may have come into contact with her or something she touched. That meant something on the order of 200 people. It meant that the data center, until equipment was either disinfected or replaced, was off limits, and we had to work for several weeks at a "Disaster Recovery" site and take preventative doses of medication.

Her's has the distinction of being the most expensive vagina in recorded history that gave no one pleasure.

5. Jack - a very strange man. He wore the same blue shirt and gray slacks to work, day after day, for years. He also had a habit of cooking on the laser printers that he ran, as the laser assembly of the old IBM 3800-series printers could reach temperatures of 600 degrees. He made an awesome grilled cheese, by the way.

Jack is remarkable for two other reasons.

The first was the day when Payroll called me (I was Jack's manager) and informed me that Jack had not cashed ANY of his paychecks for the previous 9 months. They were concerned that they were printing checks that weren't going to a real person, and also because those checks are only good for a year before they expire. I was to get to the bottom of why Jack was not cashing his paychecks and ask him to do so before the checks were rendered invalid by the passage of time.

Jack was incensed. Why, it wasn't anyone's business what he did with his paychecks! True, but if you don't cash them you'll lose the money. Why should he lose anything? He worked for it, didn't he? Eventually, I got him to agree to bring them all in the following day -- a payday -- and in those days on Wall Street, Payroll would have an armored car bring cash into the building to cash your check on the spot. Jack cashed all of his checks, 9 months of them, at once, and so when the next batch of people showed up to cash their's, all the cash was gone. Which required a second armored car.

The second was Jack's incredibly poor hygiene. It is the only time in my life that I have ever had to tell someone -- to their face -- that they smell, that they are making others gag on the assorted smells, loose dandruff, bad breath, greasy skin and scalp, and foot odor of another.

I couldn't keep a straight face while doing it. I literally could not stop laughing.

So, that by the time I got to the point of our conversation, the guy was thoroughly enraged. Full-on Hitlerian, sputtering, swearing, jumping, batshit enraged. Was he embarrassed? No. Was he angry because I was laughing? No. Was he pissed off because people were making unkind comments about him behind his back? Oh, hell no. What set him off? He now finally understood why he kept finding bars of soap, little bottles of Listerine, toothbrushes, and deodorants on his desk. Apparently, people would wait until he made his deliveries and was out of the room to leave these little hints behind for him, and HE NEVER KNEW WHY. For years.

It made him paranoid. He had to get a therapist because he was convinced someone was trying to poison him.

Eventually, I had to fire Jack, not because of the quality of his work -- which was impeccable -- or because of his variety of bodily aromas, but because I found out he was smoking pot in the Microfiche room when he threw his roach into a garbage can full of photographic developer chemicals and started a rather large fire. As the fire alarms are chirping, and smoke is pouring out from under the door, Jack had locked himself inside the room. We could not get the door open, and building maintenance was looking for the key while the FDNY was on the way. When the fire department arrived and finally battered down the door, there was Jack, drenched in water and foam from the fire suppression system, holding a fire extinguisher, to tell everyone it's all clear...he had put the fire out all by himself.

But at least he was now clean.

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