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All posts for the month March, 2014

Eva told me she had made some progress on my file corruption problem. She’d been working on the theory that a lot of systems will just recreate a fresh copy of a file they can’t find, or how a well-built database will repopulate a field with the expected values if it suddenly can’t find anything.

Like how if you screw up the config file for a game, you can sometimes delete it and the next time you run the game the file will be back with the default values. Or if you have a corrupted save file—which might be the best comparison in this case—you might need to delete it and go back to a previous back-up in order to avoid a crash.

This all sounds good in theory, but the key phrase is “well-built”. Federated Para-Sciences is the kind of place that might have spent decades researching time travel rather than updating their system architecture for Y2K.

I told Eva my concerns and she repeated the fact that she’s absolutely not offering to help me hack the PIP system and fix my file problem, but she’s going to run a few test cases using dummy employee files just to help refine her understanding.

I think. Dr. Cranor cut our morning battery of tests short and had us do one of the samples over again like three times, then announced that we were “in business”. Then she gave us the rest of the day off and told us to come back on Monday, ready to do some “real heavy lifting”.

I think—I hope—that she means we’re going to be putting more power through the sample, and not actually lifting heavy things, because I’m getting pretty used to this skilled labor thing. An upside of a week of reconfiguring is that we haven’t been producing as many technicolor waste barrels for me to tote off.

Today, he came up to me and told me that while my loyalty to Dr. Cranor is admirable, I should remember to whom I owe my career. That’s what he said: to whom.

As usual, I had no idea what he meant. I asked Collette if she had any idea, and she didn’t know, either. A little while later, though, she flagged me down because she remembered that before I was hired, Dr. Cranor had contantly been complaining about how no one would authorize the money for hiring more research associates.

Then one day last year, Dr. Li joined the project, and Buddy came with him. About six months  later, I showed up. Which means I would have been hired about the same time he came aboard. So maybe he brought his funding with him when two similar projects were combined? It’s a bit much for him to expect me to owe him a life debt over this, or something.

It’s a little thing, but I’m noticing more and more how the people who write the scripts for the P.A. system in the trains have a pretty offbeat sense of humor. I guess the fact that it’s a synthesized voice that will say whatever they want to must be kind of freeing, but I’m surprised at the kind of stuff they get away with slipping in. It’s not exactly “kill all humans, have a nice day”, but it’s stuff like that. They really try to give the disembodied voice a sense of personality. It’s usually pretty subtle and easy to miss, which is why I can’t think of any examples off the top of my head.

I’d love to see what someone like that would do with a corporate Twitter account. Can the Executive Direct of Social Media Communication make that happen?

We’re still going through what’s basically a tune-up phase with the apparatus. Every day we come in and go through the whole procedure of zapping multiple samples while Dr. Cranor observes, and then we adjust things at her direction and zap them again. I can’t say what exactly we’re accomplishing, but there’s a definite sense that we’re getting somewhere.

Which is good. Because as long as we’re getting somewhere, I’m not going anywhere.

It was definitely a different vibe on the lab floor (and platforms, and catwalks) today. Some people were confused, some were excited, and some actually seemed resentful of the fact that now we’re doing work instead of just flipping switches and following internal flow-charts.

After thinking about the way things have been, I have a pretty good hypothesis as to how they got that way. I feel like maybe the techs at each grade have been meant to be training the newbies below them all along, but that just hasn’t been happening and any actual knowledge of what we’re supposed to be doing and how we’re supposed to be doing it has just become more and more attenuated over time.

The whole place has been running on autopilot for who knows how long, and Dr. Cranor didn’t notice because the experiments she was running were ones that could be done on autopilot… though without any results.

On the subject of not noticing: we were so busy yesterday and I was so desperate to soak up every last piece of information about the apparatus and how it actually works that I didn’t pay any attention to Dr. Li, but today I noticed that he was hanging back in the shadows and just sort of glowering at me. Well, he seemed to be turned to face my direction, and I feel like he was glowering at me, but I couldn’t see because shadows. He was definitely keeping his distance and there was definitely a moody vibe.

Whatever. Conversations with him tend to be like playing a dating sim with Victor Von Doom, anyway. I’ve got work to do.

Dr. Cranor was holed up in her office when we all got in, so a few minutes after starting time we all just sort of gravitated towards our usual stations. Then she came charging out with a legal pad full of scribbled diagrams and equations in her hand and bellowed out, “NOBODY TOUCH ANYTHING!”

Then she started shouting directions.

In the next hour or so, I—along with almost everyone else in the room—learned more about the names and functions of the equipment we’ve been working with than in the months I’ve been here, or the weeks I’ve been part of the team proper.

She’d shout out something like, “BRING THE RESONANCE MITIGATORS TO FIFTY PERCENT” and when that was met with blank stares and slack jaws, she’d point and repeat it: “RESONANCE. MITIGATOR. FIFTY. PERCENT.” The three Grade 7 assistants to her and Dr. Li were standing around, shaking their heads all smugly, but not doing anything.

The weirdest thing I learned—apart from some of the names—is that not only did the rest of the team have no clue what these things were or what they did, but Dr. Cranor doesn’t appear to know the names of anyone working for her except for me, and that might just be because I’ve been written up a couple of times semi-recently.

Granted, I still don’t know exactly what a resonance mitigator does, but knowing that it somehow involves mitigating resonance is a step up. At least I can start to draw inferences. Apparently, the bank of switches I’ve spent most of time flipping control the anti-mass buffers, which is good to know.

The point of this exercise was apparently to change (widen, most likely) the parameters of our experiment. It’s too soon to say whether this will produce the results Dr. Cranor is looking for, because even after we’d finished reconfiguring her apparatus, we had to spend the rest of the day doing diagnostic drills with it.

This was another education, as apparently this is a procedure that hasn’t been done since most of the current team was hired, which meant that Dr. Cranor had to teach it to everyone. Well, she ordered the G7s to run us through them, and when it became apparent they didn’t know, she walked us through them herself.

To make a long story short, I think we’re actually a tiny bit closer to knowing what we’re doing.

Eva told me that she’s had a friend take a look at the file architecture for maintenance requests in residential services, in case my problem is something that could be fixed from the outside. She was quick to say that she wasn’t offering to do anything like that, she was just curious if it could be done.

The short answer is no, because anything having to do with individual housing is attached to the individual employee’s master file, which is stored in the Personnel Information Processing database, which isn’t accessible from the wide area network the way the main maintenance issue ticketing system is.

And also because it would be wrong.

But now I know where the problem is, anyway, even if I don’t know what the problem is.

When I mentioned the phase induction variables to Dr. Cranor, she got really quiet and really still and her eyes went really wide, and then she shouted, “Of course!” and then ran into her office and slammed the door. It wasn’t an angry slam, just an “I’m moving too fast to secure this door in the usual fashion” slam.

The other techs were looking at me with various shades of confusion or envy on their faces. Collette asked me what I said to her, and I said, “Oh, just shared some thoughts that I had.”

Since Dr. Li seems so determined to be chatty with me, I decided to ask him what exactly Dr. Cranor is trying to accomplish with our daily sample-blasting activities. He grinned, looked around, and said, “What, indeed?”

So I said, “No, seriously, dude.What is she trying to do here?”

And he said, “Josefina Cranor is a woman of occasionally piercing insight, but sharply limited vision. She does not see things as you and I see things.”

So I decided to go for broke and asked him what he would be doing differently, if he were in her place. I mean, if he would only talk about it in terms of how much more awesome than her he thinks he is, I thought this might be the only way to get a comprehensible, coherent answer out of him.

Then he told me, “Dr. Cranor’s marvelous machine is an infant that cuts its first teeth on the fabric of this world. How typically short-sighted of her to think it could blithely digest more empyrean matter without making certain… adjustments to compensate. ”

I totally had to look up “empyrean”, but I’m pretty sure that’s what he said. So, not exactly comprehensible, but it did sound coherent at its core. I tried one more time, asking him what adjustments he would make.

“The phase induction variables, for instance,” he said. “The range she uses is much too narrow, just like her vision. I would start the harmonics vibrating in a wider band, and then narrow it down as I found the proper resonant frequency.”

The scary thing is how much things like this are starting to make sense to me, after I’ve thought about them a little. Looking at the first statement and connecting it with the second, it sounds like Dr. Cranor’s trying to get some kind of harmonic reaction in the things we blast with science-stuff from her science-thing, but she calibrated it on samples of ordinary minerals and the stuff she wants to get the reaction from isn’t reacting as expected. So, the solution is to try a wider range and then re-calibrate it based on the responses we get.

Tomorrow I’m going to try to find an excuse to ask Dr. Cranor if she’s thought about trying an initial wider range for the phase induction variables, and hope that means enough to her that she doesn’t need to test my knowledge.