Saturday, August 28, 2004

More Change Management

Haven't posted for a bit, because I've been weighed down with the Change Management thing. I don't mean just metaphorically, either: there were two thick folders waiting for me when I got back to the office. I've just filled in and sent back my Personal Action Plan, and I've been sent my Mandatory Training Package. How I'm going to be able to do this as well as my job, God alone knows. It wasn't like this in the past, when Change was something that happened naturally, overseen by your friends and family, and not talked about very much. I haven't even decided yet about such things as skin colour and ethnic group. I'll think about it over the long weekend: no, I'm not a happy Lyran.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Change Management

I got the email while I was in the Eurostar on the way back from Brussels last night. I have to be careful reading my email in public (how many of you get emails with titles like RE: BUSH ASSASSINATION OPTIONS?), but on this occasion I was alone in a block of four seats.

It was headed AGENT 2508 CHANGE MANAGEMENT ACTION PLAN, and as soon as I saw it my hearts sank. I'd forgotten, and it's easy to lose track of the decades. About every hundred years of your time, Lyrans go through a complete bodily change and regenerate. It takes about six months of your time, and managing it safely has been a huge problem for us since we arrived here. I checked and, yes, the last time was in 1905. I nearly missed it because I was in Manchuria with the Russo-Japanese war (Workstream 11 of Version 3.4 of The Project: turn Japan into a modern state and foment revolution in Russia) and in those days it took weeks to get a message to me. It would be easier now, but I scrolled down through the pages and pages of the Action plan for the next year. When was I going to find the time to do my job?

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Shutting Down America

Went to a big workstream review yesterday. Much of it was the usual boring stuff on Powerpoint (I'll post something explaining what that means in Lyran, but not now), but a fascinating presentation from 1582, who's in charge of the US industry workstream. He was saying that on the surface it's going OK: almost all US industry has been destroyed now except for aerospace and construction, which are the two we need and the two entirely dependent on government contracts, most of which we control. But the funny thing is that the assumption we made fifty years ago about the US have all been disproved. Their industry has been slaughtered by the Japanese, the Europeans, the Koreans, now the Chinese, and people are starting to ask whether it's actually worth keeping America going at all now. If we want an aerospace industry to build our starcraft, may be we should just do it in Europe or Asia. As 1582 pointed out, the American aerospace industry is basically an importer of foreign components anyway.

This led to a huge argument. The US Lyran lobby is strong, of course, given the amount of time and money we've put in to it over the centuries, and there are hundreds of entities working there at the moment. But as 1582 said, there's a good case for just pulling the plug. It takes huge amounts of time and effort to keep America from bankruptcy as it is, and a fortune in bribes to keep it moving in the right direction. Maybe we should just pull the plug and go somewhere else.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Windows XP SP2 and Viruses

Obviously we get to hear about Windows viruses before anyone else - as long as The Project is responsible for them, of course. Our techies have been playing with XP Service Pack 2 for months now, looking for security holes, but we we have to face the fact that we are actually no nearer to destroying Microsoft than we were five years ago. There's a sheep-like quality to earthlings that drives me mad sometimes - they continue to pay high amounts of money for an operating system that is to computing what Adolf Eichmann was to railway timetables.

We've looked at other options of course - Linux, which we use ourselves for obvious reasons, is far superior but the Open Source thing is tricky to control. The Project needs top down hierarchies to work through, which is why the management consultancies we control have been busy reorganising private sector companies that way for the last few decades. We thought of Apple as well, of course, but again control is the thing. With Jobs running the thing personally, the standard Own/Kill/Clone model wouldn't work very well.

According to 1169, who's running this workstream, the target date for destroying Microsoft has been put back to 2015. Can the world wait that long, I ask myself, installing a new version of The GIMP from a Linux Format cover disk?

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Business Class

I was stopped in the corridor by 718 today who gave me a sly look.
"You're always complaining about travel restrictions, aren't you?"
"I've got views on such things."
"Well, as from Monday everyone flies business class over two hours".
I looked at him, but he spread his arms in the Lyran gesture which means roughly Look, I'm Telling the Truth Although I Recognise that You and I Have had Problems in the Past and If You Were to Disbelieve Me, I would in Principle Understand, Although Why Should I Mislead You about Something You can So Easily Check.
"What's the catch?"
"No catch."
"What's the explanation, then?"
"Fear."
"Fear?".
"Fear. One of the earthling employees collapsed and died from DVT yesterday after flying in from Washington Economy. His relatives are already suing us. Management have decided that it would be cheaper to upgrade everyone than to keep paying compensation."
"Nice to know they have our interests at heart, isn't it. Anyway, Lyrans don't get ..."
"I know, but they can hardly do it for them and not for us. Humans do come in handy sometimes."

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Workstreams

Somebody wrote to ask me where "workstreams" comes from, and if it's another direct translation from the Lyran. Yes it is. In old villages on Lyra, families were responsible for different crops, and each would build a separate stream, of the right size, in from the river to where they worked. Originally the term referred to the stream itself: later it came to mean the work as well. Thought you'd like to know.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

A Quiet Weekend

Decided to spend most of the weekend dead. Decision influenced by how I felt on Saturday morning after drinking most of the night before. But there was nothing much on TV - I've lost interest in the Grand Prix this year, it's all so predictable. Actually, the Schumacher thing was a bit of a mistake, if you ask me, and Raikonnen isn't exactly doing us any favours either. Bit of re-programming needed there, I think - good thing it's not my workstream.
Being dead is one of the first skills Lyrans learn - otherwise, we would never be able to go on those long interstellar journeys - but you need to have a safe environment (ironic if you died in a house fire, after all), and you need to revive a good twelve hours before work the next morning. So we usually do it in pairs - I had sat for 1972 a few weeks ago. When he arrived, I climbed into the casket, composed myself, and ....bliss. Woke up a few minutes ago feeling a lot better. Dying does that for you.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Star Trek and Apollo

Got drunk (Lyran style) with 2168 last night. He was over from the US, where he's been running the Manned Space Flight workstream since the 1960s. He's been a bit down in recent decades, and you can hardly blame him. His career high, after all, came in 1973, with the secret Apollo XX mission to plant the Beacon on the moon. Thirty years later, it's still broadcasting, but no Lyran ship has shown up. That's not very long, said 2168, and any Lyran ship within, oh, 30 light years now will see it and come and rescue us. But of course not many Lyran ships come this way anyway - Starcraft 22,542 was light-years off course when it crashed.
We sat and stared at each other wearily, two desk officers worn out by the demands of The Project, just wanting to go home.
"Sometimes" said 2168 "you know, I wonder whether "Star Trek" was such a good idea."
"What, on the Beacon?"
"Yes, I mean ... there were so many Lyrans in the cast, and so many Lyran references ... well, we thought that any Lyran seeing it would understand the signal."
"You'd hope so" I said "wouldn't you. After all, "To Boldly Go is just about THE most famous poem in Lyran history."
Neither of us said anything.
We had another drink.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

"I wish I loved the Human Race;
I wish I loved its silly face;
I wish I liked the way it walks;
I wish I liked the way it talks;
And when I'm introduced to one
I wish I thought What Jolly Fun!"

Walter Raleigh (1861-1922)

Speak for yourself mate.

This is more my taste:

"... by what I have gathered from your own relation, and the answers I have with much pains wrung and extorted from you, I cannot but conclude the bulk of your natives to be the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth."

Jonathan Swift: Gulliver's Travels, Chapter XI

Monday, August 09, 2004

What "Breakthrough Day" Means

I suppose I'd better explain where "Breakthrough Day" comes from. It's a literal translation from the Lyran, of course. In the old days, neighbours who came to blows over an issue would be thrown into a pit with a big obstacle in the middle made of rocks and trees. They had until sundown to "break through" the obstacle, or they would be severely punished. The thing was, they had to work together because the task was too big for one person to finish in time. If they succeeded, it was assumed they were friends again.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

The Nameless One

Spent my weekend at a breakthrough day for workstrand champions. Nice enough place - country hotel, food fit for Lyrans - but the main thing I remember is what 1377 was saying about the personal computer workstrand. What he said was that The Nameless One set The Project back by 20 years just by writing Windows 95, and although XP is better it's still so full of holes that we might never get a reliable and safe operating system at all - which is what the Nameless One wants, of course. There's always fidgeting and shuffling of extremities when renegade Lyrans are mentioned, and none more than the Nameless One - 184 as he used to be known. Quite why he's trying to obstruct The Project we've never been really sure - surely he can't REALLY want to live here, can he? What the Workstrand Review decided was that we had better keep up our policy of the last couple of years, and keep trying to destroy Windows by making it unusable. Until we do that, we're not going to be able to get a system reliable enough to actually run The Project. So 2482 was grinning all over his face when he was sent off to write some more viruses and trojans.

Friday, August 06, 2004

I Pod Award

Can you believe that 2117 got a bonus for the I Pod Mini? I mean, I know we need mass production of those drives for The Project, but come on! There are people at the top of this organisation who really seem to think that it's all about headlines rather than hard graft. OK, some of our biggest coups have been both - the first Nintendo, for example, or the Ferrari, but if we ever get back to Lyra it will be by a lot of unspectacular hard graft by lots of dedicated entities. And if you think I'm talking about myself, I am.
I think 718 is out to get me. He called me (we can't use Lyran communications technology of course) to ask me about my flight to Berlin next week.
"Why are you going BA?" he said. "It's much more expensive."
"What's the alternative, then?"
"Um..." there was a pause. "There's a flight by Air Berlin that's about half the price. Why don't you take that?"
"Have you any idea what Air Berlin is?"
"A cheap airline, obviously."
"OK: it flies out of Stansted and into Schonfeld about three times a day. I've got to get from here to Stansted and I've got to get to the middle of Berlin from Schonfeld, which is about half an hour or something by taxi. It would take all day."
"Um..." he sounded dubious."Well, I suppose I could justify it ... but could you write a complete business case for me? You know, time saved, taxi costs, efficiency, that sort of thing."
"When do you want it?"
"Oh, any time."
"Any time?"
"Well, any time before you go."
"That's on Monday."
"Better get on with it then, hadn't we?"
Sometimes, I swear, I want to kill these entities.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Another Moan

Coming back from Athens Economy wasn't as bad as it might have been, but I did start thinking, why am I spending half my working life on the road these days? Why don't I get any help with the GM workstrand? I did ask Human Asset Management (nearest English translation), and I'll tell you what they said. "The Project speaks the language of priorities," they said. Which means what, I asked. "Sorry, they said", "there's no spare effort for workstrands like yours." The thing is, there's never been a complete guide to The Project published. (Security? Who's going to be able to read it if you leave a copy on the Underground?), so it's hard to be sure where the resources are going. But I found out the other month what the largest department is these days. Do you know what? Ship Design. Yes. The are FIVE HUNDRED entities working on Ship Design. Which is all very well, since we do have to have a ship. One day. But five hundred? And twenty of them spent a week at this year's Langkawi Air Show in Malaysia, "to review recent advances in Earthling technology." Ho ho. But as I said to HAM, if my GM project doesn't come off, we can have all the ships we like, but we'll starve to death on the way back.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Upgraded!

Got upgraded on the way to Athens (Greece counts as Europe although it's three hours plus flight). You have to be careful - there are strict rules against it, but sometimes you feel you at least have to try. Standing in the Club Europe queue this morning (just because I have a Silver Card) I looked across at Economy and my heart sank - Olympics groupies, holiday-making back-packers, a group of Americans in their eighties on a last-ditch attempt to acquire some culture before they die. I decided I just couldn't cope. Turning my attention to the little earthling in front of me, I asked the traditional question "Are you upgrading people today?" Shake of head and muttering about the flight being oversold in Club. But she would check.
"Oh..." looks like you've been upgraded anyway." She peered suspiciously at the screen, and handed me my boarding card. I went on my way vibrating at more than the usual resonance. The trick, of course, is to make sure that the reality field doesn't actually collapse until you get on the flight. 1904 - I think it was - forgot that, and became so engrossed with the duty free at Singapore (OK, that's understandable) that he let the reality field collapse, and there was a huge fuss about it. He was assigned to Kinshasa for a decade.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Why don't the Aliens ever win?

Watched the first half of "Independence Day" again last night- the good bit. Always cheers me up to see Earthlings getting trodden underfoot. I suppose it's too much to hope that some Earthling film, some day, will show the aliens winning? They ought to make a film of Clarke's "Childhood's End", which at least has its heart in the right place. Actually, there were a lot of Lyrans who thought, in the early years, that we should just wipe the Earthlings out and keep the place to ourselves. It would have been a lot simpler, true, but it soon became pretty obvious that there weren't nearly enough of us to complete The Project by ourselves. I was talking to 1748, who's a spacecraft engineer, and he was saying that it takes ten thousand skilled entities to put a single Lyran Starcraft together, and that over three million entities are directly employed somehow in the construction programme. So, even for our modest little scheme, we're going to need a huge labour force in the space and aeronautics industry, not to mention computing, nuclear sciences and half a dozen others. In fact, that's been the most aggravating part of life here. You can't go directly from smoke signals to ansibles, for example: you have to go via electricity, wireless, vacuum tubes, transistors, and about four levels of technology that Earthlings have no idea about. And you have to be careful not to allow technologies to be introduced too quickly - look what happened to the nuclear industry. Actually, I think I like "War of the Worlds" best - the aliens there win at least a moral victory, even if they get wiped out by disease in the end.