Minutiae · October 26, 2008

The 500th post!

Today is my 500th post in The Calladus Blog.

I didn’t start my online existence here, before this blog I had a website called “The Calladus Project”. I started it in 1999 on Tripod. You can find the remains of it still online, but all the pages have been long removed. I didn’t realize it back then, but I was already blogging. Each entry was just another page of text in an increasingly interlinked, increasingly complicated website.

They say the Internet never forgets; that isn’t quite true – data ignored long enough disappears forever. My old website doesn’t even exist in the Wayback Machine anymore – which is fine by me since it held information that was much more private than I’ve allowed here.

I’ve had an email address since before the World Wide Web existed, as part of Milnet from ’86 – ’88, and then on the GEnie portal to the Internet from ’89 to ’96. Back in those days, the Internet consisted of Telnet locations, and lots of text. I lurked in Usenet, talked to the Oracle, sparred verbally with Maur, and dug around in the MUD. I spent way too much time playing Trade Wars on Fidonet, WWIV and PCBoard. In 1996 I got a Netcom account.

But I started getting “online” way back in ’81, at my high school’s computer lab. We didn’t have monitors, we had teletype machines that dialed into the Texas Tech server through a 300 baud acoustic modem (with suction cups for the handset!) I went vadding there, launched photon torpedos, and learned Northstar Basic. When our computer lab got an Apple II, I started learning Apple Basic.

The first computer I ever bought was in 1985, an Apple IIE – a cloned Apple IIE that I bought on the Korean black market. It came with dual floppy drives and a green screen monitor. By 1987 I was lusting for the 10 Megabyte Applied Engineering “Vulcan” hard drive, but I couldn’t afford a thousand dollars for it.

I still have that green screen monitor. It works just fine too.

My second computer was a Commodore Amiga 500, with color monitor, dot matrix printer, frame capture, memory upgrade, and 1200 baud computer. The graphics blew away IBM computers, and I could emulate MS DOS and use Wordstar. I still have my old Amiga – and it works just fine, thank you.

Once I got out of the military, I started building my own computers. I started with a used 486 and just kept upgrading it. I still have my original 486 motherboard. As far as I know, it works fine.

And now I’m on a fairly decent HP laptop. I prefer Toshiba laptops, but I couldn’t pass up the bargin I got on this one, and I couldn’t pass up the 17 inch screen and game quality graphics.

I’m still planning my next PC. It’s going to take the place of my home entertainment center – sterio, television, DVD. Plus it will become a DVR too. I’m just waiting a bit longer for the right HDTV monitor to become affordable. I’m not worried about software – it’ll be Linux.

So, in honor of my 500th post, I’m going to repost a page of text from my old Calladus Project website. This is the first time I’ve brought this piece of text forward, and you get to see my evolution as a writer. My style has changed a bit.

Enjoy!

This is awful! I’ve become sensitized to Bureaucracy – and have developed an allergy to it!

It seems to me that most people in our society have become immune to this wide-spread plague of officialdom, but I ran into an old Infocom program by Douglas Adams (produced way back in 1988), and it’s as if a blindfold has been removed! I can SEE! And I don’t like it!

Mindless Bureaucracy drives me up the wall! This happens when people mindlessly and blindly enforce bureaucratic rules that make no sense. This usually occurs when a business or government agency restricts any independent thinking in their employees. Encountering this form of behavior usually infuriates me to the point where I become irrational. Fortunately, there is a form of non-violent revenge that works well, and usually screws up their works. All you have to do is point out alternative actions, or TAKE alternative actions, and watch a bureaucrat’s face go purple!

The military is littered with examples of this kind of horror. One incident started my activities of passive resistance to this insanity.

When an Air Force person arrives at a new assigned base, he is often required to preform a moving in checklist. Upon recieving orders to leave that assignment, he is again required to go through another checklist to ensure that nothing is forgotten before he leaves. Some of these things are actually important, like letting your command structure that you are no longer assigned to them. Other things on the list are pretty petty, such as, “Have the Base Library verify that you have no books checked out, and revoke your Library card.”

These checklists did not bother me – sometimes they were actually helpful in letting me know exactly what was required next. But sometimes someone comes along and does something that a bureaucrat does not expect – like I did.

When my first tour in Okinawa was almost up, I decided to apply to stay for a second tour. My paperwork went through, and I got an approval letter from my commander, rubberstamped by the base commander. I also received a checklist (of course) telling me who to contact to let them know that I would be staying on the island of Okinawa for an additional 3 years. One of those I was supposed to check off my list was the accounting department of the Base Exchange (BX – the Air Force equivalent to the Army PX; a sort of large department store on base. I had to to speak to the BX accounting department so they would not cancel my lay-away privileges.)

The checklist only said ‘notify Base Exchange Customer Service’. So I took my approval letter to them, and explained what I was doing. The civilian lady at the counter, a true professional, explained that the letter was worthless to her, that she needed an approval print out from the Consolidated Base Personnel Office (CBPO – basically a really big bureaucratic organization on base to track the status of each resident of the base. Getting anything from them usually took two or three days.)

I was upset with the delay I knew was coming – getting anything out of the CBPO back then was a slow process. I knew it would take a long time before I returned with what she wanted. So I asked her what an approval print out from CBPO would look like to make sure I didn’t get the wrong thing by accident. (It happens – and I had dealt with the CBPO before, so I knew it might be likely.)

She pulled out a printout – basically the green and white tractor feed type of paper, with printing that stated a person’s particulars. It was very familiar to me, I had one in my folder with me from when I first arrived on base. “Like this one?” I said, as I pulled my older copy out of my folder.

“Yes, but let’s see – that has the wrong date one it, it’s from 3 years ago.”
“That’s right – I got it when I first moved in. But everything else on it is correct, right?”
“It looks correct,” She said.
“So you then cross-check these with CBPO, right?”
“No,” She said cheerfully, “The printout is enough, and then I’ll just activate your account again.”

I was floored – I quickly moved from shock to anger.
“Lady,” I choked, “you mean to tell me you will accept an anonymous computer printed paper over a letter signed by two commanders, one of which is YOUR EMPLOYER?”

She tried to evade by pointing out that the computer paper was NOT anonymous, that it was printed out by the CBPO! She spoke the acronym as if she believed they were God himself. I pointed out that I had my own copy of a correct paper, only missing a good date on it. I also pointed out that I had access to a supply of green and white tractor feed computer paper, and to a printer with the same typeset that the CBPO used! I let her know that her method was flawed, and did not stand up to scrutiny, and that if she did NOT take my letter as proof of approval, that I would be back within an hour with the required paper, origin unknown.

At that point, she asked if I would like to talk to her boss. I gladly accepted.

To finish off a long story shortly – my complaints made a difference. Her boss, a Master Sergeant, had no clue that his department was being so stupid and accepted my commander’s letter.

By resisting this bureaucrat’s attempts to pigeonhole me, I was actually able to accomplish something. Since then, EVERY time that I run into this kind of mindset, I challange it. Sometimes I win. On occasion I circumvent them entirely, either by taking my business elsewhere, or by finding an unexpected, but not against the rules way of doing what I need to do. (Things are usually not against the rules if the bureaucratic authority has not thought of someone taking that avenue.)

But sometimes I still lose – and I hate that!