“E-mails are Forever!!” – Wise Words from HR

26 Jun

Just wanted to share some wisdom from a recent “business integrity” training session at work. As our readers may or may not know, my awesome company is currently undergoing a merger (no big deal, we were just bought for over $800 million recently but are all guaranteed our current positions and salaries for at least the next year), so on Friday some human resources representatives from the larger company that purchased us, whose name I will not be revealing here to avoid any future complications, came to give us training on how to behave as employees. Basically they just wasted a couple hours of our day telling us common sense stuff, like don’t talk about new developments at the company before they’re released publicly, don’t engage in martha-stuart trading, talk to your supervisor if you have a problem instead of Rolling Stone magazine, etc etc, but the real kicker was the fact that we now have to be careful about what we say in e-mails (say what?!). They spent a good portion of the presentation explaining how any e-mail we send can be connected to us and used for or against us; we should avoid using words and phrases like “stupid”, “idiot”, “top secret”, and “don’t share this with anyone”; and that an e-mail can’t be made to just disappear because it can be easily read and saved by others, printed, archived, and/or forwarded.  The woman even made the statement “Remember: E-mails are FOREVER.” Really?  How is this not common sense in the twenty-first century workplace? But then again, looking at cases like Stuart’s, McCrystal’s, and the Facebook fiasco at Intern Joe’s law school (“Those Internets are Dangerous, https://constitutionalpheasant.wordpress.com/2010/05/10/those-internets-are-dangerous/”), it seems common sense is just plain hard to come by in today’s world.

Oh, and another highlight of the morning was the revelation that, in keeping with their “Just Do the Right Thing” mantra, I shouldn’t pay or accept bribes for the company unless someone demands one while holding a gun to my head in a foreign country where corruption is acceptable, in which case I should “if at all possible,” Miss H.R. stated matter-of-factly, “ask for a receipt — for accounting purposes.”

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Paid for 48 Hours of Chilling at the Beach: This Is Why I Went to College

15 Jun

Wait, did you read that right? Over a full week’s pay for NOT working? Ohhh yes, it’s all true: I have just returned from my very first PAID vacation. I left town–the state, in fact–for six days, abandoning all work-related responsibilities, and returned to receive a full paycheck from the company for which I did nothing during that time. Pretty sweet, no? And the consequences of my absence from the office weren’t nearly as bad as I expected; less than 30 e-mails and one lone “missed call” awaited me at my desk, and I’ve been crossing stuff off my weekly checklist at an alarming rate. Nevertheless, everyone else at the office seems very relieved and appreciative to have me back–perhaps another unintended benefit of my trip.

After 5 months as International Graphic Designer extraordinaire, the benefits of my relatively new degree are continually revealing themselves–especially now that my kid sister has returned from college for the summer and is getting paid minimum wage to be on her feet all day, dealing with annoying customers from all walks of life, having to carefully coordinate potty breaks, enjoying neither the guarantee of free weekends nor payment for holidays or vacation days when she doesn’t work… Reminds me a lot of myself at a certain home improvement store throughout my college years! I’m probably jinxing myself by expressing my delight with my awesome job, private restroom and paid beach trips, but it’s just so refreshing to see some of the fruit of my labor. Now if I could just get the hang of relating effectively to my co-workers and make a few friends, I’d be set. But that’s a topic for another entry. Adjusting to 8-hour days after a week off is exhausting, so I need to get myself to bed ASAP. Next time I’ll try to have a more entertaining and exotic post to share, but hey, a short, self-exaltant entry is better than no post at all!

Instant Replay in Baseball

3 Jun

Warning: this is a post about baseball. People who don’t like sports should stop reading. Derrick and other derrick-types should uninstall their browser, run a virus scan, and restart their computers. Safety first.

Some of you may or may not know that I am a baseball guy. When I stopped playing ball in college, there was a chasm in my life left unfilled where baseball once was. My recourse was to fill it with a stronger dedication to my MLB fandom, fantasy baseball, and lastly, umpiring little league baseball.

Many of you (I hope) will be familiar with the incident that happened last night in Detroit. The link is here, hopefully it will continue to work. You absolutely must watch it if you have not yet watched it. http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=8629733

Ironically, last night when it happened, I was actually out on the little league field umpiring a game.

This morning, I have heard all kinds of protestations and general inflamation about the whole event. People seem to think that instant replay should be brought into baseball to remedy situations and calls like this. I completely disagree.

This is a relatively unpopular position, since instant replay has been “successfully” integrated into football, and many people believe that it has a place in baseball. It is not a weak position, and there is a strong argument for it, since, like football, baseball is oftentimes a game of inches. However, as valid as that opinion might be, it is a wrong opinion. I will use more commas, to show you why.

I was watching some reaction to the fiasco last night on baseball tonight, and I happened to hear a text that was sent by Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay to one of the commentators. That text struck me a funny way. While I can’t find the exact text of the text, it said something to the effect of “My heart goes out to both Armando Galarraga and Jim Joyce. Galarraga pitched a beautiful game and Joyce is one of the most professional and well-liked umpires in baseball. It is a shame that the game had to end this way.” Then he said something that really resonated with me: “This is the kind of thing that makes baseball so great”.

And it is a counterintuitive thought, that such a horrible experience could make for a sport which is so great. But I fully agree with Halladay. The pundits this morning were clamoring for instant replay because that is what is needed to “get the call right”. These are the same pundits who have never played baseball for a day in their life. Anybody who knows and loves baseball will agree that baseball isn’t always about getting the call right.

To me, what makes baseball so great is that it is a human game. That sounds absurd, I know, but I believe it. In baseball, if you fail 2/3 of the time, you are a great player. In baseball there are two outcomes for any one play: ball/strike, safe/out. No matter what, one player loses. And that is part of the human experience, dealing with failure. After losing in the third round of the state playoffs, when I was a sophomore in high school, I remember one of the coaches saying this exact thing. He said that life is a lot like baseball, though you don’t always know it. Most of the time you will fail. The best baseball players, and the best humans learn how to cope with that failure and use it to turn them into better people.

All this is to say that, like the players, umpires are human. They are usually perfect, and they rarely miss calls because they are good at what they do. They are still human. And that is a human element which is part of the game. Jim Joyce missed a call that he will always remember. Most of us will forget about it tomorrow, but Joyce will always look back and regret that mistake. To me, that is not sad but beautiful. It is part of baseball. It is part of the game.

Those internets are dangerous

10 May

Well, that was a ton of fun, let me tell you.

I’m back for the time being and enjoying a little 1 week spurt of vacation before I start my summer work. This summer I will be working in a district attorney’s office as a summer clerk. It should be a lot of fun, and hopefully you guys will be able to hear about some of the more interesting work I’m doing.

Unfortunately, I realized a month or so ago that the internet was a dangerous place. I even thought about shutting down tCP, for the safety of the authors’ imagined future careers as professional awesome-types. But joe, what’s so dangerous about it?

Recently my esteemed university has come under attack by internet bloggers and lawyer-metacritics alike, essentially dragging it though the mud through popular law blog sites such as above the law and others.

Aside: since I said law blog I am obligated to post the following video of which many of our site’s readers will appreciate. If you are a reader of the site and do not appreciate it, stop reading this site. It is not for you.

Back to the point. Well, my point anyway; a point which many of you already know. It bears repeating. Facebook is dangerous. The internet is dangerous. Blogs are dangerous. Especially when it comes to schools and institutions, where reputation is everything. As you may have read though the above link, one the professors at our school decided to respond to a comment made by one of the 3L students about the recent US News and World Report ranking of law schools. This professor sought to defend the school’s actions over the past few years, despite the drop in Mercer’s rank out of the top tier of law schools. This spawned a flurry of activity and pushback which resulted in national blogal coverage, and further resulted in the defaming of my school.

Some things I want to say:

First, the US News and World Report is overwhelmingly recognized as the worst possible proxy of law school effectiveness or educational standards. A large percentage of the rankings are based on mailers that are sent out to judges and lawyers in the community, which in turn rank the schools on their reputation. And how do the judges/lawyers figure out what kind of reputation Campbell law or Charleston law or Appalachian law or Mercer law have? They look at the US News and World Report. It is purely self-perpetuating. Most judges and lawyers do not pay much attention to law school, outside of the top 50 schools, because frankly, it doesn’t really matter. Law schools do a prerequisite job. Everything else falls on the particular student.

Yet, every stupid kid who even considers applying to law school turns to these mostly arbitrary/political/bureaucratic rankings to decide where to go. I’m not saying that these rankings are useless, I’m just saying that people should understand that they have very little meaning or merit, and that it is insane to use them as the sole criteria for choosing a school to attend.

On to my second point. Facebook. It is evil. The reality of Facebook, seen more and more every day, is that it is a very dangerous place. This danger derives from the disconnect people feel when they open up their web browser. For whatever reason, people do not experience normal inhibitions when on Facebook. They speak their mind, they say inconsiderate/rude things, and they feel free to attribute themselves to saying those things. It is a rare and odd phenomenon which flows from a misunderstanding of Facebook as a casual atmosphere.

It used to be that Facebook was a relaxed, casual atmosphere where people could go and meet other people. You could also see pictures of friends and keep up with old acquaintances. But it is not that anymore. Facebook is no longer a casual, private place, and this sense of informality is clearly misplaced. The whole debacle here illustrates that reality perfectly.

This leads me to my point. While the inconsiderate comments of the student were certainly unnecessary, rude, inconsiderate, damaging, and misconceived, it is important to consider the role of the professor in this event. I have the utmost respect and affection for that professor; I had the fortune of having him in my first year and many agree that he is one of the best and most interested/interesting professors around. Unfortunately, he chose the wrong forum for the conversation. He should have realized that he was acting in an official capacity as a school representative when on Facebook, not as a casual observer of the fallacies in the status of a Facebook “friend”. He stepped into the dangerous domain of Facebook, a place where rational arguments come second to the reign of public opinion. And in the Facebook world, ad hominem attack is a powerful tool which is not off limits.

So what does that mean for me, intern derrick, and tCP?

It means we have to be more careful in this dangerous world we call the internet. Try not to slur people. Try to only make fun of ourselves. Try to limit the personal references and make sure that if an employer were to read this, that we would not get fired or unconsidered for a job.

Unconsidered is a word. You know how I know? Because spell check didn’t pick it up. If that doesn’t keep me from getting a job, I don’t know what will.

So remember, blogs and networking sites are dangerous places. Except for this one. This one is awesome.

Spam Email

27 Apr

This morning, I received the following email. It is word-for-word and reproduced in its entirety.

How are you?
Tell you a good news, my friend found a good site, they are mainly electronic products, low prices, you may need. Such cameras, mobile phones, PS3 game consoles, LCD
TVs, notebook computers, iPhone, motorcycle car is the most popular thing, their project is entirely consistent with the original quality, but if you want to
To this end, the wholesale busines, please do not hesitate to contact them.
Their website: bjhei.com

Online Customer Service Hours: 20:00 – 6:00, 7 days a week, Beijing, China (District: Monday 8 hours)

I hope you will enjoy more preferential

Please forgive my e-mail,

very sorry.

In other news, 1st exam is today. Constitutional Law. Get some.

I’ll post when I’m allowed to see the light of day again. That is all.

The Interment of a Wool Hat in a Sheep Graveyard

13 Apr

Things have been going great here in the life of Derrick. I’m still loving the job–where else can you get paid to design labels for products to be marketed in Mexico and Peru, research phrases commonly used on packaging for infant formulas in Germany, translate a new regulation on food put out by the Colombian government, and sketch kids in various athletic and liquid-consuming poses (this all being part of today’s to-do list alone) all in one day? Outside of the job, my personal/social life has been a little minimalist in these past few months, but with the stirring of Spring has brought some interesting experiences my way again–gardening, dying Easter eggs, painting, hatching salamander eggs, and playing trumpet on a cliff by a Sheep Graveyard during the interment of of a wool hat. This last activity being the focus of this post.

The story of this post begins about three weeks ago, with a strange voicemail left on my home machine. It was left by an old lady, who shall remain anonymous here, who laboriously explained that she was calling because she had heard from an old friend of my father’s that a member of our family might be capable of playing the song “Taps” on a musical instrument at a private burial she was planning at her father’s farm on such-and-such a road about halfway between this place and that place, so if somebody could call her back it would be much appreciated. It was a very long and awkwardly-worded message, but I called back and left one of my own, trying to be a little more concise.

The next day, Old Lady called my office phone (yes, I have my own extension at my new office, it’s pretty sweet!) to follow up. She was literally ecstatic that I had responded and that I was available to play Taps at this burial she was planning. She had searched high and low for a willing instrumentalist and I was her only lead, so she was exuberantly appreciative. I’ve never talked to someone who was so excited about a burial ceremony, but she spilled forth with the details of what was a meticulously planned, although a bit eccentric, ceremony.

As she explained it, the only beings in attendance of this ceremony would be herself, her late father’s farmhand/best friend, me, and a few miscellaneous farm animals. The service would be relatively simple: just a few lines of poetry and a Psalm read over the pet cemetery, followed by a prayer and the lowering of a wool hat filled with her father’s ashes into a pit between the interred carcasses of his two favorite pet sheep while I stood on a cliff playing Taps into a lonely valley. And then she mentioned something about ritual sacrifice, and a book she was writing on the topic, which made me a little uneasy. I sensed that something wasn’t quite right with this lady, and I weighed the risk for a moment, but when she mentioned the price tag of my proposed role–in the neighborhood of 100 George Washingtons–I figured it couldn’t be that bad.

So everything played out last night, at sunset on the dot. I arrived on the farm around 19:00 hrs. and proceeded up the hill with Old Lady, Farm Hand, and Photographer Friend (an unexpected addition to the event) to the Sheep Graveyard. Farm Hand carried with him a tray that held a wool hat, woven from the deceased’s favorite dead sheep, that was presumably filled with some of the deceased’s own ashes, and Old Lady carried two dozen roses, which she laid on a stone near the cliff where I was to perform. The ceremony went very smoothly, and my rendition of Taps brought tears to several of the eyes present. Then we descended the hill together and said our good-byes. That was it. There was no (visible) ritual sacrifice,  no maniacal plan to knock me off the cliff edge to be swallowed up by the canyon below, no plot for a horror film–just a very beautiful ceremony beneath the setting sun. Just another quirk in the adventure I call Life.

Obligatory Post Poorly Justifying Pre-Exam Avoidance of Blogal Duties

9 Apr

It is exam season here in law school. That means that it is unlikely you will hear from me before May 7. I’ll leave Intern Derrick to make his own excuse for blog abandonment.

Yes, exams take priority to recreational blogging. To our readers though, I just want you to remember, I will always love you:

Notice the caption at the very beginning and end, where they cite Dolly Parton as the artist. Classic.