Shimoniac Jones

I didn't lose my mind – it fled in terror.

Pressure

This week’s word is sarcasm, which the dictionary describes as harsh or bitter irony. An example is: I had a lovely week at work.

My company has been aggressive the past few years in chasing down new business, diversifying our product line so that we can more easily weather this recession. The good news is that we’ve increased our customer base by probably 50%. The bad news is that we’ve increased our customer base by probably 50%.

That means that every couple of weeks, we’re making some new part we’ve never made before; we don’t know the tricks, tips, and shortcuts for production, quality testing, and packing. Guess who gets to learn, run, and train others on these new jobs? I do.

So, why was it an unpleasant week for me? On Monday, I was told by our supervisor pro-tem to report fifteen minutes early to my assigned machine. There was a new job in it, he wanted me to learn the job and do it for my shift. Fifteen minutes for training on an unfamiliar job is actually pretty generous by company standards, the usual is a quick five-minute session during the handover period between shifts. I was lucky because the afternoon guy used to be on nights, therefore intelligent and helpful; not like the rest of the evening shift mouth-breathers.

Oh, by the way, I probably won’t get paid for those extra minutes; I wasn’t three weeks ago when I was sent to the last new job I had to learn. “Unfair”, you say? It probably is, but I have a job and that’s not bad.

So, there I am, doing this new job when, half an hour before first break, the straw boss sent over one of the more competent temps for me to train. The job is `hot’, therefore high on the priority list, therefore the machine will be kept running at all times. Well, I train the temp and when I judge them to be sufficiently competent, get told that I will be covering another break as well as taking my own, then coming back to this job; breaks are twenty minutes, twice a shift. So I’ll be gone a minimum of forty minutes, more realistically forty-five to fifty, before the poor temp can take their break.

Now comes 6:00 and the bosses start trickling in. My machine is the first one they come to, it being a new job and all. Right off the hop, they start b*tching about how I’m packing the parts. I’ve been there five years; I’m not worried about their complaints anymore. I’m following the instructions I’ve been given, if those instructions are in error, then it is someone else’s problem.

When 7:00 rolls around, the day shiftless worker finally wandered over, realized it was a new job, and whined about having to learn it during the five-minute handover, which they’ve wasted two or three minutes of.  I smiled unsympathetically, handed them the written work instructions, demonstrated a few cycles, and told them that I got there fifteen minutes early to learn the job.

Then I walked away.

Failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.

Friday, they put me back on the new job, but at about midnight gave me a different new temp to train. Temps run the gamut of sharp as a tack to about as sharp as a cotton ball; this one was more toward the cotton ball part of the spectrum. I persevered though and brought him to something resembling competent on the job. In the middle of this, the straw boss stood in the aisle and shouted an unnecessary question about how I was training.

That’s two things that p*ss me off right there. Standing in the aisle and shouting a question over the noise of the machinery and asking a stupid question. I’m going to have sharp words with them one of these days. I made a reply that I will admit was a bit terse. The straw boss snarked, “Don’t snap at me…”, looked at my face, got quiet, turned and walked away.

I was then told to cover two breaks plus my own and report to a different machine, which had to be started up for me to run. When I got there, I ran it for less than an hour before it was shut down again. I was told to take my break first, then go to yet a third machine, relieve that operator for their second break and they would be reassigned for the remainder of the night. That’s typical Friday fuss.

At 5:00-ish in the morning I had to have a potty break, and it wasn’t a machine where one can nip off for a quick moment, then come back and catch up. Now the proper procedure in these cases is actually to flag down the QA, a set up technician, or the supervisor, inform them of your need and they will find an operator to take over while you’re gone. Usually though, you just grab someone who can cover you for a couple of minutes, go do your business, come back and thank them, and carry on.

Casting my eyes around, I spot the QA operator performing scheduled checks, flag them down, etc. While I was gone, the reliever inexplicable bungled a job I know they’ve done numerous times. I got back and two cycles in, noticed the problem and warned the packer of it. Now we have to examine all the parts in the pipeline to weed out the botched ones, take them out of the system, list them as scrap, and keep up with a machine on automatic continuing to pump out new parts.

I had barely achieved equilibrium again when the supervisor pro-tem arrived on his rounds and noticed all these new scrap parts. I do not exaggerate when I say that he shrieked. I then had to explain who, when, why, and how these numerous parts had been fouled up, while still keeping up to the machine. He took a swipe at me, stormed away to berate the guilty party, stormed back to berate me, and was less than pleased when I told him that I had followed procedure in getting a relief operator; that meant he had to apologize for the second swipe.

Saturday morning shut down is always welcomed. This week I welcomed it a bit more than usual.

Trafficking

No, I’m not talking about dealing drugs; I’m talking about driving in this city. While many cities talk about how bad their drivers are; my city has some really bad drivers. We have drivers who don’t signal turns or lane changes, weave from lane to lane, fail to yield right of way, run red lights, tailgate, drive too fast, and don’t drive fast enough; and they do all of that within a block. I remember my first experience driving in a nearby city, I was taken aback by another driver’s courtesy. We don’t get that here.
So in the past two weeks I had three iterations of the same scenario. I work the night shift, as you may know, and I drive to work between 2210-2225. It generally takes me ten to fifteen minutes to get there because of the time of day, depending on the season, weather, and other factors. Also because of the time of day, there isn’t much traffic on the road. I’ve driven the same route in the middle of the day and it can take upwards of half an hour to do the same journey.
The point here is that there’s limited traffic that time of night.
The scenario that has been irritating me is this: I’m driving along at my usual sane and rational five over the posted when someone turns right from a cross street directly in front of me. I’m talking about right in front of me. The person then doesn’t accelerate to traffic speed, to the point where I have to hit the brakes hard and/or take evasive action to avoid rear-ending this dill weed. In all three cases, all the offending driver had to do was to wait five or ten seconds for me to pass because there was no one behind me.
The road was empty for blocks behind me.
Then, again in all three cases, the idiot dawdles for maybe a hundred feet and turns right again.
This first time this happened, the idiot turned into a plaza that had an entrance off the road he just pulled off of.
The second time, fair enough, there was no similar alternate access; but honestly, would it have killed him to wait, like, five seconds or so to pull out? There was, I repeat, no one behind me for blocks.
The third time this happened, it was a police car.
I almost rear-ended a police car, because the moron officer decided that pursuing his random patrol was more important than common courtesy and actual legal requirement.
Courtesy and common sense on the roads is dwindling. Drivers aren’t driving defensively any more, they’re too busy, stressed, or whatever to pay enough attention to the road ahead to anticipate changing conditions or unexpected incidents; so that, when they get there, they react aggressively and piss the rest of us off, so that the next time, we act aggressively and piss other people off.
It can become a truly vicious cycle.
The point of this rant, if there is a point, is that we should all look ahead. Don’t drive two feet in front of your bumper. Drive as far as you can see. Look up ahead and see that idiot driver going to pull out of a cross street, watch out for that cyclist who’s only trying to get where he’s going in one piece, and offer courtesy to that guy who really doesn’t deserve it. If nothing else, you’ll confuse the hell out of him.

More About Me

Well, perhaps I should tell you a little more about me. I work for an injection-moulded plastics company, the name of which I’m going to omit, so that a co-worker who might stumble on this blog won’t be able to definitively point fingers. The term I’m going for is plausible deniability. I’ve worked there about five years now, after losing my previous job at which I’d also worked for five years.
I don’t know why we say we’ve lost our jobs. We either know where they are, they just aren’t ours anymore, or they’ve gone elsewhere and someone else is doing them.
When I started here, I had no previous experience in plastics, or in injection moulding. I’ve worked in factories before, I’ve worked as a security guard, I even did some janitorial work in high school, but working in plastics was new to me. Thankfully, I’m reasonably intelligent and fairly dedicated, so I was able to learn and adapt. Although, I was told later, that there was doubt that I’d make the cut, being so ignorant about the type of work.
I work on the night shift; have done so for ten years or more, mostly by preference. For those of you familiar with shift work, you know what I’m talking about. For those of you not familiar with shift work here’s a quick rundown. On the twenty-four hour clock, day shift runs from 0700 – 1500, afternoon/evening shift runs from 1500 – 2300, and night/midnight shift runs from 2300 – 0700.
On days, the bosses are always around and everything is uptight. On afternoons, the bosses are still there until 1730 – 1830. Night shift, however, the bosses are long gone, or, if present, there’s a catastrophe of some sort and their presence is unusual. Night shift generally has a looser, more laid-back vibe; we get the work done, but we’re not frantic about it. In point of fact, at my company, night shift consistently has a lower scrap rate, and higher production figures than either of the other shifts.
Since I’ve been working here for five years, I technically qualify as the senior machine operator on my shift. There are two other employees on the shift who’ve been there 8 or more years, but they’ve moved to Quality Control. Then there’s a guy who started a month before I did, quit a couple years ago, then asked for his job back a couple months later, when the relationship he went chasing wound up not working out; more on him later. (Moron, how appropriate.) Therefore, I’m senior.
Since, I’m the senior machine operator; I get a strange blend of perks and bullshit. I’m the go-to guy when there’s a new or difficult job to do; on the other hand, I’m sometimes used as an assistant material handler, a trainer, or a utility infielder. Friday night, for example, I trained a temporary employee on a job (it’s so cute destroying their hopes), kept an eye on two other temps doing two different jobs, helped the material handler by hand wrapping skids of finished product and making up cartons, helped the QC guy by labelling some cartons, covered for breaks on multiple machines, trained another temp on a different job from the first, did a quality audit of a bin of twenty thousand small parts, reconfigured a work cell for a new job, and collected and disposed of big lumps of plastic called “purges”, putting them in the appropriate recycling bins by type.
Now, reading the list, I realize that it may sound busy, but at no time did I feel pushed or rushed; the trick is to do the next thing and not obsess about any one of them.
That advice works for life too, I suppose.

Blasted Cold

Here we are at the end of the first week of January and I have a cold. Boo-hoo, I hear you say out there in the blogosphere. I will take your pity, even as you mock me; I have no shame, you see. This cold started innocuously enough; a little tickle in the back of the throat, caused by the dry air I thought.
Then I coughed through the time I was supposed to be sleeping. Cough medicine, decongestants, and analgesics, all ineffective against the dread invader of my body. I was sitting in the living room before work on Friday when the chills set in. I can still make it to work I assured myself, I’ll just dope myself to the gills and wear some layers. I got to the kitchen table when it suddenly felt like I had been set on fire. I was now running a fever. “How high?” you ask. I don’t know. I’m not interested in knowing how close I came to death. I want to be surprised when the Grim Reaper taps me on the shoulder and says, “Come with me”.
I gave up and called in sick to work. Even assuming I could get there, there is no way I could operate heavy machinery safely. I take some comfort in the fact that I’m not the first one to take a sick day this year; two of my co-workers took Thursday off. On the other hand, one guy at work; let’s put it this way, I’ve buried things that looked healthier than him, and still he staggers in.
I’m going to blame him for my current condition.
After calling in, I went back upstairs to bed. I pulled the sheet over my face to save the coroner the hassle of doing it himself. I won’t say that I went to sleep, only that I lost consciousness. Sleep is restful and restorative, what I got wasn’t all that restful, and I don’t feel very restored. I had fever dreams, was freezing one moment, broiling the next, and generally had a miserable time. I did swim back to reality a couple of times to dose myself with cough medicine, etc. again.
When I woke up, I began wandering through the house like a forlorn ghost in search of tissues and soothing potions.
So, here I am, sitting at my computer, timing my keystrokes to my coughing and sneezing, telling you how miserable I feel. Why? Because I can.
I looked at myself in the mirror. Shudder. I won’t make that mistake again soon, I can tell you. I still feel like crap, but I think that with good luck and perseverance, I might, just might, survive this trip through illness.
On the subject of sick days, my company, a couple of years ago, in an effort to reduce absenteeism, put a program in place to reward people who don’t take unscheduled time off. If you make it through a predetermined six month period with perfect attendance, they will give you a day off with pay. I’ve actually earned two of them. Oh well, there’s always next time.
If you’ll excuse me, I have to go pour the hot water over the tea bags and let the pink elephant out of my head where he’s been doing some renovations.

The Christmas Season is Over, Hurrah!

So here we are on New Year’s Eve; basically the end of the typical holiday season. Your holiday season may vary. All I can say is, “Thank goodness that’s over for another year.” I wasn’t always this way; I used to really love the Christmas season and looked forward to it every year. I loved decorating the tree, decorating the house, all the presents, both giving and receiving.
“What changed?” I can hear you ask, out there in the blogosphere. Even if you didn’t, I’m going to tell you. I changed. I grew up and realized that Christmas was no longer a holiday, it had become an industry, and it’s been getting worse every year. That’s not merely a subjective belief, I have objective proof. Back in July a couple of chain stores ran a “Why wait until Christmas to have a Boxing week sale?” promotion. Manfully I kept from clawing my own eyes out and heaved a sigh. “At least it’s only for a week.” I told myself.
Now, fast-forward to December. Actually, you only have to go to Friday November 16th. I was heading into work, when I made the mistake of turning the radio on. Why was that a mistake? Because the first song I heard was a Christmas song and the second; I turned the radio off before the third. I mistakenly thought that the station, which is known for theme weekends, had decided to play a `Favorite Christmas Songs’ weekend. Since I don’t have any, I left the radio off until Monday.
Monday, I turned the radio on again; more Christmas music. I screamed; loudly. I think the bus driver in the lane beside me peed himself. I quickly changed stations and found one playing music that was acceptable. For the rest of the week I would go back to my usual station just to verify they were actually playing Christmas music five and a half weeks before the day, and quickly change it back to the backup station.
Of course, as soon as it turned into December, the rest of the local radio stations began adding Christmas songs to their mix. I began to play CDs in the CD player in the car.
Saturday November 17th, my company, cheap-skates that I find them, held their Christmas party. They have the annual party midway through November every year I’ve worked for them. I hold the firm belief that they do it this way to save money not having it during the rush in December. Thankfully, since it was still only November, the DJ didn’t play more than two or three recognizably Christmas song in the three and a half to four hours I was there.
I let him live.
Still, Christmas was a topic of conversation at my table. Two of the older ladies at my table bragged, bragged, about having almost finished their Christmas shopping. They had to gall to poll the rest of the table about our progress. I shut the discussion down when I asked, “Why should I shop now, Christmas isn’t for Five And A Half Weeks.” The one lady, who knows me better, remembered my rants from seasons past and went, “Oh, you’re such a Scrooge.”
I was insulted; offended even. I told them that Scrooge was an amateur compared to me. He had started out with such good intentions, but was seduced and betrayed by the tinsel side. I’m better than Scrooge, I’m Mr. Bah F***ing Humbug, thank you very much. The conversation went elsewhere, fast.
When December came along, I began to feel hunted. I pulled out my MP3 player and batteries for trips into stores. It’s amazing how calming it is to walk through a grocery store with AC/DC to keep you sane. I forgot the player one day, and had to make a naked run through the store to grab a couple of items. Naturally they were at opposite ends of the store and as far from the front door as possible. Whilst schlepping through the aisles, I had the misfortune to hear a Christmas song done in dirge tempo; I’ve been able to successfully repress the memory of which one it was.
I made a comment that I remember being appropriate to the lyrics at hand, referencing the dirge aspect of the song and the singer’s wish for a happy season. I said something to the effect that what would make me happiest right then was for the singer’s slow and painful death from some wasting disease, preferably involving laryngitis. I was startled by a stranger’s audible agreement with me.
Folks, I could have hugged that man. Perfect stranger and all; and I don’t swing that way.
I find that this post has concentrated on the musical reason I dislike the Christmas season. So, I’ll tell you why I hate the vast majority of Christmas music. There are only three Christmas songs that I like: Good King Wenceslas, Little Drummer Boy, and Deck the Halls. I’m a traditionalist; I like them done in the original, traditional, arrangements. However, it seems like every half-wit, tone-deaf, pop-star who’s been around for a year or so, releases a Christmas Album; said album contains his, her, or its version, interpretation, update, or reimagining of somewhere around 12 to 20 `Christmas Classics’. This ritual goes back decades. The idea of Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, and/or Lady Gaga, doing Christmas songs makes me want to vomit.
To a certain extent, I don’t mind Elvis, Sinatra, or Bing Crosby doing their thing on Christmas songs. They could at least sing, and they more or less followed the traditional. It’s the ones who can’t sing and don’t follow the traditional that make me want to drive knitting needles into my ear drums. I don’t want to hear a rap Rudolph, a hip-hop Have a Holly Jolly, or a jangling Jingle Bell Rock. It nauseates me just thinking about it. I may even have a mild case PTSD because of it. I swear, one year, I’m going to snap and hold a fruitcake on a programming director until they agree to play nothing but hard rock until the New Year.
Next holiday to hate? Valentine’s Day.

Religious vs. Agnostic

You may have noticed that I claim to be a militant agnostic.  There’s a quote saying that an agnostic is an atheist without the courage of his convictions.  That’s simplistic and offensive.  It’s simplistic because it doesn’t think deeply into what agnostic means.  It’s offensive because it assumes that an agnostic is a moral coward.

The dictionary has multiple definitions for `agnostic’.  For convenience’s I’ve entered some so that you don’t have to navigate away look them up and not get back to me.

Noun:

  1. a person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as God, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to experience.
  2. a person who denies or doubts the possibility of ultimate knowledge in some area of study.
  3. a person who holds neither of two opposing positions on a topic.

Adjective:

  1. of or pertaining to agnostics or agnosticism.
  2. asserting the uncertainty of all claims to knowledge.
  3. holding neither of two opposing positions.

Synonyms: doubter, empiricist, secularist, skeptic; disbeliever, nonbeliever, unbeliever; pagan, heathen, heretic, infidel.

The best simple definition of agnostic is, as far as I’m concerned, doubter or skeptic.  A skeptic is only a person who questions the validity of things claimed to be fact.  On a scale of 0 – 10, where 10 is an absolute unwavering belief in a god, gods, goddesses, or any combination thereof and 0 is a similarly absolute unwavering belief in the absolute lack of a god, gods, goddesses, or any such combination, I fall squarely at 5.  I don’t believe in them, or unbelieve.

In my opinion, and to me my opinion is the only one that matters, there is no evidence that any omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent, supernatural, metaphysical being exists now or has ever done so; having said that, lack of evidence is not evidence of lack.

On an episode of Futurama, the character Bender is lost in space, and hosts a colony of intelligent beings who think of him as `God’, and no matter which path he followed, either direct intervention or absolute disregard, the beings are maimed and die off quicker than goldfish in a five-year-old’s room.  Later, as he drifts mourning the passing of his worshippers, he notices that the universe is blinking in a binary pattern.  He holds a conversation with an unseen being who, eventually, asserts that as a god to do it right, it has to look like you’re not doing anything at all.  That could be what whatever magical being is ordering the universe is doing.

How can we possibly know?  I can run a toaster, or a light switch, and I think I’ve even got doorknobs and dead-bolt locks figured out; an entire universe is just a little beyond me.  Watch the episode, it’s marginally worth it and I’ve over-simplified it to the point of being meaningless.  Besides, I may misremember key points.

I like the additional `militant’ tag because, to me, knowledge is based on objective proof or empirical evidence.  What people who believe have is faith.  While I have faith in the perversity of the universe, I also have proof of said perversity because I’ve seen it so often.  Besides, I’m pretty far from militant; people who have opinions just go around bothering each other.  I have views, outlooks, and things like that.  I try to be willing to change the way I think, or do things differently if someone comes up with a way that is better than mine.

If you keep an open mind, you never know what will drop in.

My sister and father attend, on a fairly regular basis a meeting of Free-Thinkers.  What are Free-Thinkers, you ask.  Well, Free-Thinkers are generally atheists who have banded together to oppose the rabidly religious among us who want to shove their way of doing things down every one’s throat, in opposition to the official separation of church and state.  One day, while at this gathering, a young man sat next to my sister and asked her how long she had been an atheist.  He was confused when she set him straight.  My sister’s not atheist, she’s a pagan; she worships differently from the mainstream, but she does worship.  Apparently he skipped the `thinking’ portion of the title.  That’s why I say they’re generally atheists, not all Free-Thinkers believe there are no gods.

My own view, which I state as seldom as possible, is believe, or not, what you want, but for the sake of sweet charity, keep it to yourself.

The origin of Shimoniac

 

The reasons I chose Shimoniac Jones as my pseudonym are multiple and various.  My father chose as a pseudonym the name Archon; this was back in the days of CB radios when no one was known by their real names.  For those of you younger than 30 or 35 who don’t know what a CB is, wiki it.  So, as I grew, I wanted a cool nom de guerre.  I started with Archon Jr., Archon II, etc; but I wasn’t satisfied with that.  I wanted something that was mine and cool.  I read, a lot, and I tried adopting some of the names and concepts from books that I particularly liked.

None of them worked.  None were what I considered me.

So, there I was, without a nom de plume that I liked.  I worked/volunteered at a community radio station back in the late ‘80s and we received music tapes from various sources, from people hopeful that we would put them on the air, make them famous.  This was wayyy before YouTube, Justin Bieber, and PSY.  One of the tapes we got was from the Canadian radio station CFNY, which is located in Toronto.  CFNY was, and maybe still, is an alternative music broadcaster that specialized in breaking out new acts and artists; perhaps one of their most successful successes is the group Barenaked Ladies.

The station I worked at received from them a cassette tape called Modern Music 1990, after listening to it a few times and playing it on the station, the music director asked me if I wanted it.  I’m always interested in free things, so I said yes.  The tape included probably the earliest recorded version of the aforementioned Barenaked Ladies’, `Be My Yoko Ono’.  However, aside from that, there was a Band called Electronic Dream Factory, and they had a song called, `So, What of Tomorrow?’.  In the song, as a chorus, are listed various sinners which can be condemned to Hell.  Most of the sins mentioned were ones whose definitions were ones that I already knew; so I went to a dictionary and looked up the definitions to the ones I didn’t.  You’ve guessed it; one sinner mentioned was `simoniac’, another was `barrator’.

A Barrator is one who is always at odds with others; a disturber of the peace.  That wasn’t me, the other one, however, was interesting and interested me.  Simony is the buying and selling of ecumenical offices, preferments, benefices, emoluments, etc.  That appealed to the junior iconoclast in me.

You may have noticed that I’ve added an `h’ to the word; if you didn’t, don’t worry.  I added that `h’ because I was interested in history and wanted to invoke the old Hebraic pronunciation of the name.  Scroll forward a few years to the invention of the Internet and the development of message boards.  Then, as now, probably 99.9% of posters used some sort of nom de plume, showing their interests, history, or whatever.  Some message boards wanted people to use their first and last names.

My own natural surname is Smith, but I didn’t want to use anything that was actually mine, so I added `Jones’ as a surname; Jones being the second-most common English-language surname.  When I go anonymous, I really go anonymous.

So, there you have it.  That’s the origin of another random, anonymous blogger’s name on the Internet.  Aren’t you glad you asked?

Greetings World, We Bring You The Fish.

My father has been blogging on WordPress for over a year now, and I thought I’d give it a try. I don’t know what, if anything I’ll post about. I don’t even know how often I’ll post. I mostly got the blog to park my nickname on lest someone else think it up.
In future posts, I’ll tell you what my nickname means. At least if you’re interested.
As the hardcore IMers would say TTFN.

Shimoniac

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