All posts for the month February, 2014

Okay, I know I’m not going to win any friends by making suggestions that would make people redundant—and in fact, I’d probably be the first one to be eliminated, since I’m the lowest grade associate on the team—but after a couple days of this stuff, I couldn’t help thinking about how much of what we’re doing could be done without human intervention.

Seriously, if we can do it on autopilot, then why not design an autopilot to do it? You could still have a human element overseeing everything for safety reasons, if that’s a concern. Dr. Cranor controls everything from a very modern looking computer workstation that the whole system has obviously been retrofitted to work with.

I asked Dr. Cranor about it, and she said that I could make a request to Automation Services, but she would prefer that I didn’t. Automation Services is part of Eva’s department. If I see her this weekend, I’m going to have to ask her what everyone has against them.

Update on the hazing: the broken pieces of my glass were re-assembled on the counter. I thought maybe they’d glued it back together, but it fell apart when I touched it. The whole thing was held together by weight and careful positioning. So Maintenance Gremlins: 1, Harper Foley: 0.

But this time, I took the pieces and threw them out in different trash cans and recycling bins around the Grade 4 dorms and the central employee complex. Extreme? Maybe. Or maybe I just want to see how far they’ll go.

You know. For science.

Though today at least I was watching the G5s do stuff and then doing it myself. I was right, it is all rote. Well, it’s mostly rote. Some of it’s more like sympathetic magic. When the red light goes on over there, toggle these switches over here in different combinations until it goes off.

I asked what the red light means, and I was told that it means we have to flip the switches around until it goes off. I asked what will happen if we don’t, and was told that the red light will stay on. I asked what would happen if we let the red light stay on and tried to proceed with the experiment, and was told we wouldn’t be able to proceed until the red light goes off.

Dr. Li came up to me when no one else was around and said something like, “So you’re curious as well as ambitious. That can be good. Just make sure you’re asking the right questions, to the right people.”

I asked him what the right questions were, and he said, “That’s one of them.” and walked away.

I’m going to level with all of you: I still don’t have a clue what I’m doing, but it’s not crawling around in ventilation ducts or climbing maintenance ladders in elevator shafts, or playing hide-and-seek in the dark with… whatever. Plus, it’s cool. There’s this giant machine and it makes giant crashing showers of sparks and plasma arcs. It’s like playing with a bunch of Tesla coils: even if we are just playing around, it’s still pretty awesome.

And despite his kind of creepy manner, I think maybe Dr. Li’s point was that unlike the techs above me, I am curious about what we’re doing. So maybe by the time I reach their grade, I’ll have a better idea what’s going on.

P.S.: It’s still happening. Tonight, I “accidentally” broke the glass that’s been left out on the counter and threw the pieces away. Your move, maintenance gremlins.

Oh, a weird thing I almost forgot in the excitement of having technically sort of been written up: I know my quarters were mostly clean when I left this morning, but when I came back they were messed up again. Maybe I should be paying more attention—in fact, maybe I should always be paying more attention—but I’m pretty sure that everything keeps getting put back to the way it was when I was moved in here. I mean, I know I haven’t left a glass out on the counter again, but there it is.

I wonder if I’m being hazed?

…is that everybody notices if you don’t wear your gun. Nobody said anything yesterday, but everyone pretty much ignored me yesterday. Today, it seemed like someone said something about it every five minutes.

I probably—make that definitely—should have brought it anyway, but I think I was so relieved to be done with the vaults and so excited to be joining in on the proper science that I was really hoping I wouldn’t actually need it.

I’ve been told I’ll be given a formal verbal warning if I don’t bring it tomorrow. I asked what the difference between a formal verbal warning and being verbally warned that I’ll receive a formal verbal warning, and Dr. Cranor said that the formal verbal warning would be written down, signed by both of us, and placed in my file with Personnel Information Processing.

I asked her how that’s different from a written warning, and she said, “Just sign this.” and handed me a form labeled “Informal Verbal Warning” explaining what she’d just told me.

This place. I swear to God. This place.

The phase array emitters are back on line, at least. I spent the day shadowing the Grade 5 techs. I can’t say that I learned much about the actual hard science behind the emission of phase arrays, n-dimensional phase shifts, or n-dimensions, but I did learn one thing: a lot of the stuff that everyone does here is pretty much rote. I never had the luxury to sit and watch anyone else at work before because I was so busy with my own stuff, but a lot of it is flipping switches, clearing breakers, and sliding things around.

I don’t think anyone working on Dr. Cranor’s machine really knows what they’re doing, or why. They just know what to do to get the desired effects.

Everybody here has at least one advanced degree, but we all might as well be following scripts.

Specifically, I learned that aligning them is a Grade 5 job.

I didn’t learn why they’re “phase array emitters” and not “phase emitter arrays”. When I heard what they were called, I said, “That makes it sound like they emit phase arrays.”

Dr. Li was standing behind me and he said, “I knew you were a clever one.” I swear to God, I have no idea if he’s messing with me or not.

To be fair, while “phase emitter array” would be one step closer to making sense, I’d still have no idea what one would do. Emit phases? I don’t know in what context a phase is something that can be emitted. Right now my working theory is that they were created by a Star Trek fan who wanted to work with something that sounded like “Phaser Ray Emitter” and so they stretched a couple of points when naming their science machine.

The phase array emitters are these three metal coil doodads radiating on spokes from the upper part of Dr. Cranor’s n-dimensional phase shift generator.  From what I’ve seen while doing my glorified janitor work, the phase array emitters send what looks like a plasma arc or some kind of charged particle stream down to a central focusing point at the bottom part.

Apparently, they’re pretty central to whatever it is we do here, because there was a lot of standing around while the Grade 5 techs climbed around on the catwalks and tried to get them into order. Dr. Cranor actually apologized to me for not putting my skills to use. I don’t think she’s ever apologized to anyone before.

Anyway, I’m going to sign off now and try to get my little apartment cleaned. I know I left in a hurry this morning, but I swear it’s just as bad when I moved in here. It would have been nice if the workers who took so much time and attention to detail in moving the mess from my previous quarters would have instead left everything neat, but I guess maybe they’re used to dealing with idiosyncratic loner types and don’t like to make judgment calls about things like whether a pile of stuff on the floor is a mess or a personal filing system.

Unless I’ve missed another memo somehow, I’m about to start my first actual day as a Grade 4 research associate at Federated Para-Sciences. As soon as I post this blog and do a little more cleaning up of my new quarters—totally didn’t feel up to much housework after the stress of yesterday—I’m going to head for the tram and see where it takes me.

I mean, it should take me back to Dr. Cranor’s lab, since she’s the one who promoted me and as far as I know I’m still assigned to her project.

But, you know. This place.

I’ll try to let you know what Grade 4 is like tonight, if it isn’t too grueling.

Oh, shit… I’m going to have to leave now or I’ll be late.

Well if there was any doubt that this is officially my new dorm, it’s gone now. Not only did my badge open the door to room 4117, but all my stuff was moved into it while I was out. And I don’t mean it was just packed up and sent over. Everything I own, everything I had in my Grade 3 quarters, is now present in my nearly identical Grade 4 quarters in exactly the same position and state as I’d left it. My new bed is made up with my old sheets and blankets, but it’s not made, it’s disheveled exactly the way I disheveled it getting out bed. The comforter’s folded over exactly the same way. I would swear even the creases are the same. This is easily the third or fourth eeriest thing I’ve seen since I started working here.

The same dirty clothes are on the floor, crumpled in exactly the same way. I left a dirty milk glass out on the counter of the kitchenette and the same glass is in the same spot. The same unwashed dishes are in the same positions in the dishwasher. The soap compartment was even closed, and when I opened it, the dish detergent powder I’d left for the next time I ran it came spilling out. I have no way of verifying this, but I have a strong conviction that whoever did the packing carefully picked up every grain that fell out of the original dishwasher and brought it here. I’d think they had brought the whole dishwasher, but this one’s newer.

The fridge is also a slightly different model, but the contents look like they’ve been copied and pasted. These guys must have been working with reference photos and surveyors’ tools.

I have no idea what tomorrow’s going to be like, but at this point I don’t care. I’m done questioning things for now. Federated Para-Sciences moves in mysterious ways. All I can do is move with it.

The train stopped at another dorm, and I thought it was just crossed wires. So I exited the car and came back in, scanned my ID thing and hit the button on the touch screen for home. The doors of the car opened and the lady robot voice said, “Destination: Grade 4 Dormitories. I hope you had a pleasant trip.” I know it’s just one of her canned phrases, but I couldn’t help thinking there was something almost snarky about the tone.

I figured out what had happened almost right away, of course. Someone in Personnel Information Processing—maybe even her of the horn-rimmed glasses herself—updated my file to reflect my change in grade, and it propagated through the system and now the transit system thinks that I live here even though I haven’t been assigned new quarters yet and my stuff is all still back in level 3.

Oh well. I wanted to see how the other half lives. So far it seems like they live a lot like the first half. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the living quarters are built to a common plan. On a lark I decided to check on my padphone to see if it would point me to my old room or to my room to be. It looks I’ve already been assigned a space. It’s even the same number as my previous one, with just the first digit changed: 4117.

Actually, now that I’ve typed that out, I’m kind of halfway expecting that this will be a glitch. If the first digit just represents the grade/floor and the other three digits are stored separately, then the same error that routed me here in the first place might be affecting how the field displays.

Well, whatever. I’m not looking forward to figuring out who I even have to talk to in order to get this sorted out. I know the way to the room it says is mine, so I might as well see if it’s actually been provisioned for me. That way I’ll have somewhere private for when I start calling around.

And if nothing else, then maybe I’ll be able to get into the ventilation system and find a way back to my old dorm.

I just noticed the train missed the junction for my dorm. The transit system is supposed to be automated. Maybe this is a clue as to why Automation Services has taken four decades updating our film strip technology.

I guess I’ll have to see where it stops and get back on.

A few minutes after that last update, our erstwhile instructor looked up from her forms and asked me what I was still doing here. I told her I was waiting for the Grade 4 training to start. She blinked at me and said, “We just did that. Did you sleep through the film strip?”

Okay. So then I thought, of course. The people in the room with me had come from all sorts of different departments in the company. There’s no way one person from the equivalent of HR could give all of us the training we need to go up a grade in our different fields. Obviously this was just some corporate mandated introduction.

But this would have meant that I was supposed to be somewhere else, and I had no idea where that was. The only instructions I had were to report to this classroom, and they arrived on my phonepad this morning. Wherever I was supposed to go next, I was probably already late, but hopefully not too badly.

So I asked her if she knew where I was supposed to be, and she said she didn’t. I asked her where do people normally go after this class and she said usually back to their dormitories. Okay, I’m thinking, maybe the actual Grade 4 training is such serious business that they don’t want to start it halfway through the morning.

So I ask her if I’ll be given instructions on where to report for training tomorrow, and she replies—and this is a direct quote—”Do you expect to be promoted to Grade 5 by tomorrow?”

So I gave up and now I’m on the train back to my dorm. I feel like I missed something. Though it’s possible, the way things are compartmentalized here and no one seems to care about what happens outside of their little spheres of influence that she just doesn’t know what the rest of the training process is. Maybe assuming that her part is the most important part is how she copes with being saddled with such a pointless and irrelevant chore.

That’s got to be it.