Opinionated Old Irish Computer Hacker

by Terrence Halloran

You started working for this company in May, 1984. Jim Ray hired you as an analyst programmer specialist. He was a manager in the Logistics Support Management Information System (LSMIS) programming group. You were project leader of Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) data base integration. The narrative that follows is your one-sided view of what happened during the next ten and a half years.

A lot of LSMIS action items needed resolution to help make the software work correctly. Your co-worker Joe Metz developed a small system for keeping track of these action items. Jim Ray's manager Norvel Humphreys said he liked the automated tracking method and asked Joe to expand its capabilities. He didn't tell him that another employee, Harry Mauz, was busy installing a system that would replace his. When Joe found out, he was politely angry. Quietly commending Joe's effort and criticizing Norvel's deception, and probably for other reasons, Jim began looking for a new job. You and Kurt Belfils worked in a cubicle next to his and heard some of his phone conversations with employment recruiters. You don't know when or why he changed his mind, but Jim Ray decided to stay.

Herb Anderson, then vice president of Information Resource Management (IRM) at your division, was Norvel's boss. You learned that an agency named Top Professionals, also known as Circle Ten, was recruiting contract employees for your department. You sent a series of notes to Herb, listing this and several other conflict of interest indicators. Finally he called you and said Employee Relations would contact you soon. A few days later the division manager of employee relations asked you to meet him in his office. He told you Herb Anderson had become very concerned about LSMIS management long before he heard from you. He said you could expect prompt and significant action. Several weeks after this meeting, Norvel Humphreys was demoted and left the company voluntarily. Jim Ray was eventually promoted to take his place.

You replaced Jim Duval as project leader of the ILS failure reporting, analysis and corrective action system (FRACAS). You were at lunch with Jim Ray one day when he mentioned democracy in South Africa. He said the white minority should remain in power there, and our government should oppose giving voting rights to the other racial groups. You told him he wouldn't be talking like that if he were a black South African. He said ending apartheid would cause a communist takeover of that strategic country. You were surprised, because you had seen Jim handle many hiring decisions and employee problems where race was a factor, and he was always admirably careful and fair. For the next year and a half you collected news photos and articles about human rights protests in South Africa. You posted more and more of these items above and near your desk. You favored those that showed Anglican and Roman Catholic clergy marching for justice or being punished for opposing racial laws. Whenever anyone asked about this display of religion in action, you described your disagreement with Jim Ray. You said you want him to know you still oppose apartheid. Jim never told you to remove the newspaper clippings. But he stopped at your desk occasionally and made negative comments. He reminded you that employees who say what they think and tell what they know seldom become managers. You took that as a welcome compliment.

Garth Rice was your manager when you had a mysterious brain hemorrhage in April, 1986. Concerned because you didn't phone or come to work that morning, he asked his secretary to call you at home. Your wife tried to wake you up, then dialed 911. Paramedics took you to the hospital, where you regained consciousness the next day. Garth made sure you received your paychecks during the next seven weeks, while you recovered gradually and completely.

After you returned to work, you succeeded Bill Carney as project leader of the ILS logistics support analysis (LSA) programming team. You finished testing an important program that would change the root keys in selected LSA data base records. But the reliability and maintainability (R and M) team wasn't ready yet, and your system was tied closely to theirs. Harold Himes, a contract employee in ILS, suggested you could temporarily modify the few LSA programs that need R and M data, then install your changes independently. You agreed this was a good idea. But when you asked Garth Rice if you could go ahead, he said no. Don Knight, Dana Berry and Guy Battaglia had already talked with him, and they thought you should wait. When you mentioned this decision to ILS employee Terry Booth, he was disappointed. Lew Israelitt, then director of Integrated Logistics Support, heard about it through Terry's manager. Lew asked Herb Anderson to implement the LSA changes without waiting for R and M. Garth Rice told you to proceed, but that he didn't appreciate your going outside management channels with your recommendations. You reminded him that the suggestion came from Harold Himes, not from you. But you said you were grateful that someone had intervened.

A few months later, you became project leader of ILS system migration. Phil Graham was your manager then. He and Garth Rice decided you would track software modifications by asking each project leader to submit a weekly list of changes made by his or her programming team. You said an automated comparison program would be easier to use and more accurate. A month later, you itemized for Phil all the LSMIS modules changed recently that weren't included in the lists prepared by the project leaders. When Jim Ray heard about this, he asked you some questions. Then he urged Phil to yield to your opinion on the issue. You continued to receive the weekly lists of changes, but ignored them in your migration update process. Phil told you he didn't like the fact that you had insisted on working your way instead of his. This was the only major problem you ever had with him. You enjoyed working for Phil Graham because he's very talented, dedicated and humorous.

After this company bought Configuration and Change Control (CCC), you became a member of the implementation team. CCC keeps track of software changes through automated check-out and check-in procedures. During your training and initial experience using the product, you decided it had serious shortcomings. You reported your concerns to the team members, and later to Jim Ray through your new manager Rick Rivera. But they didn't want to rock the boat. Your team leader Dan Boyer confidently initiated a pilot project to test the effectiveness of CCC. Pat McGinnis, the leader of the pilot project, urged you to put aside your negative feelings. You told her the product, not your attitude, was defective. She suggested you could ask Rick Rivera for a different assignment. You agreed eagerly. The pilot project continued for another two years without you, but CCC was never implemented successfully at this company. Jim Ray and Kurt Belfils thanked you privately for warning them that the effort would fail.

When Jim Ray was transferred to another department, Kurt Belfils was promoted to his position. Ron Glassman asked his manager Phil Mastio if he could take personal business time to observe the Yom Kippur holy day. Kurt made a few inquiries, then told Phil that only vacation or unpaid time could be used for this purpose. You sent notes protesting this decision to Kurt's boss Dana Taylor, and later to Herb Anderson and Employee Relations. Herb told you Ron's request couldn't be honored because of corporate policy. The division employee relations manager confirmed this, saying he personally was ashamed of the policy. When Rick Rivera supported management's position during a department staff meeting, you disagreed. You said this company has screwy values if we can take personal business time to meet with our children's teachers during school hours, but not to attend church or temple services on a holy day.

At the LSMIS 1988 year-end holiday party, you gave this invocation: "Eternal author of the operating system of the universe, we are impressed. Your programming skill is unlimited, your wisdom in selecting from available options is infinite. The more we analyze the complex systems you have designed and implemented, the more we admire their structured beauty and efficient performance. Master control programmer, we thank you for installing and maintaining user friendly links between our data bases and yours. You honor our requests for guidance and strength, you share directly in our history, and you allow us virtual access to your boundless love. Fault-tolerant generator of guidelines for this world, override the moral errors we have failed to bypass. Expand our capacity to refresh the divine and human relationships we have corrupted. Enable us to follow the correct logical path your standards require. Generous creator of the hardware and software of heaven and earth, give us the spiritual resources we need to program our lives. Help us compute ways to resolve religious, economic, military and racial fanaticism around our planet. When death disconnects us from this temporary data set, join us intimately and permanently to you. Enhance our finite systems with your peace and justice and love, now and forever."

Your merit increase that year was very small. Rick Rivera wasn't your manager when your performance was reviewed six months earlier, so you requested a written explanation. His memo said this: "I received many complaints from people on the CCC team that you were difficult to work with, that you expressed your concerns in a non-professional manner. They felt that you should have handled issues in a more mature fashion, that you were very demoralizing. On more than one occasion, people have asked me why you're so negative about IRM. Again, this is demoralizing to the organization. On a number of occasions, you've complained about some of the IRM procedures. But I rarely received any recommendations on how to improve the environment. I feel that you have not exhibited above average performance during 1988, and you were rewarded accordingly."

The following summer you officiated at the marriage of your co-workers Joy Miller and Larry Bonham. Many LSMIS programmers and managers and their spouses came to the wedding and reception. During the ceremony you mentioned Joy's and Larry's personal qualities and technical skills. You congratulated them for taking this brave step, and prayed for God's blessing on their married life.

Your manager then was Phil Mastio, and you were project leader of LSMIS software configuration management. You and the other project leaders were enrolled in a systems analysis course taught by Dana Taylor and Tammy Brody. They showed you how to use the IMS online programs Tammy had written to estimate project costs. They taught you some ways to chart progress toward project milestones using the Artemis Menu System (ARMS). They explained various techniques for feasibility studies and requirements gathering. After the first week, Kurt Belfils asked whether you liked the course. You told him it gives you an all-day pain in the gut and antacid tablets don't help. He asked if you were learning anything useful. You said so far you've learned two things: you never want to be a systems analyst, at least not at this company, and Tammy Brody has the brownest nose in IRM. Kurt stopped smiling and walked away.

Invited to give the invocation at the 1989 LSMIS year-end party, you offered this prayer: "Merciful God, bless the volunteers who help the homeless, especially during this holiday season. Give them poor people who are not violent and angry, who do not abuse each other, who do not take drugs or use alcohol, who are not hopeless. Lord, give them poor people who are not of our own making, who have the opportunity to work for a just wage, who go to schools that teach more about learning than failure, who are not victimized by the swift advance of technology and the even swifter decline of family, community and social support systems. Father in heaven, your children who work among the less fortunate are a scandal, their lives are a waste poured out to no avail upon the poor. They feed the hungry and clothe the naked and shelter the homeless. But they do not reform or convert the poor. They reform and convert themselves and give witness to the suffering and abuse of the poor which indicts us all. Generous savior, reward the efforts of the soup kitchen workers as they give out blankets, break up fights and chase away crack and heroin dealers. Help them provide dining facilities with trees and plants and even fountains. A touch of beauty. Another scandalous gift to the poor, but a sign of the coming kingdom in which your eternal and boundless love will overflow like precious perfumed oil." Tim Roth told you later the prayer was ugly and inappropriate. You thanked him for his comments.

Garth Rice was your manager again when the Contractor Repair Support (CRS) programming team began coding and testing some DB2 programs. They were using a new version of the Application Productivity System (APS) software. Kurt Belfils and Garth Rice assigned you to help support their test activities. At your request, Mike Costanza made you the owner of the APS test data sets. You changed various job control statements and APS control records to meet the needs of the CRS team. Then you designed and coded the input panel, programs and JCL that Production Support would use to move and compile APS source modules. Mike Costanza reviewed your coding and told his manager Connie Moore it probably wouldn't work. Don Knight, the manager responsible for CRS, met with you, Mike and Connie. She supported Mike's view, but Don wanted to give you a chance. After you ran some test jobs and showed Don the printouts, he was satisfied.

Later that year, you received a merit increase that was so small you asked Garth Rice for a written explanation. He refused, so you sent a note to Kurt Belfils. Kurt suggested an interim performance review, and Garth agreed. A few days later you gave Garth your written input to the evaluation. Then every three or four months you called him or his new manager Jim Ray, or sent a note reminding him that his response was overdue. After nearly two years, Grace Mason-Brown of Employee Relations, Kurt Belfils and Garth Rice held a meeting about you without you. They issued a memo that unilaterally canceled the interim performance review and explained how you could get better merit increases in the future. When you protested, Kurt talked you out of pursuing the matter. You told him this company is a good place to work when managers evaluate their employees fairly and honor their commitments. A few days later Garth went to lunch with Kurt to celebrate his victory. You still thank him occasionally for helping save your life in 1986.

Meanwhile, your department had moved to another building. Rich Mills was your new manager, and Michael Gomes was your new cubicle partner. Lee Childs had warned you never to discuss religion or politics with Michael. Ignoring this advice, you quickly discovered how little you have in common. Michael told you the three identical pairs of narrow lines in bar codes represent the number 666. You laughed and said exactly three of the last six Democratic party presidents had six letters in their last names. You gave him a list of employees who have three sixes in their work phone number or employee number. He lent you a book warning believers about technologies like electronic banking that use the number 666. You read it and said the author, who doesn't even know how to write the ancient Greek numeral six, is spreading a silly superstition.

When you heard Michael say it's OK if a man calls his wife "babe," you told him that word is an insult to adult women everywhere. You called him an oppressive male chauvinist. You made it clear that every marriage should be an equal partnership, that the Bible forbids distinctions between male and female. He said "wives, obey your husbands" is still the rule for Christians. He asked if you were ever born again. You answered yes, in 1934 at the Santa Barbara Mission parish church where your parents were married. You disagreed with his opinion that God sends people to hell for not believing in Jesus. He let you know it's not an opinion and urged you to read your Bible more carefully. You quoted from the prophet Micah, saying all the Lord asks of us is that we act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with our God.

You read a book Michael brought to work that attacks Darwin's theory of evolution. You informed him that in 1633 the pope attacked and condemned Galileo's theory that the earth moves around the sun. He never liked the poster over your desk. It says Jesus was once asked to support the death penalty and replied "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone." He shuddered when you showed him Cardinal Roger Mahony's statement opposing the death penalty. When you saw Michael reading a book by television evangelist Pat Robertson, you asked if Robertson preaches that voting for Bill Clinton is a sin. You said it's clear Clinton believes abortions should be safe, legal and rare, but it's not clear if he means safe for the baby or safe for the mother. Michael didn't smile. You told him God forbids needless killing of unborn children, but doesn't command us to send people to jail for abortion. Michael Gomes says he won't discuss religion or politics with you any more because you're very opinionated.

Jeff Miller was your manager when two Los Angeles police officers accused of beating Rodney King were tried in federal court. You made the corridor wall near your desk a center for information about the case. You favored newspaper stories and editorials that presented more than one point of view. But everyone knew you were cheering for the prosecution. You joked that Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley asked police chief Daryl Gates if he needed a piñata for the Cinco de Mayo celebration at police headquarters. You said he answered, "No, thanks. We have a suspect in custody." Several months passed before Jeff asked you not to post newspaper clippings outside your cubicle. You displayed a few of them at your desk, and put the rest away.

When Nancy Gunter transferred to a department nearer her home, Debbie Sanzone was selected to replace her as software control librarian. Mike DeBruyn, who was in charge of LSMIS while Kurt Belfils was on vacation, asked you to train Debbie. You helped her move a few APS and PANVALET programs into the integrated test environment and compile them. Discouraged, you told Mike she wasn't qualified for her new assignment. He asked how you could reach such a sweeping conclusion after less than a day of training. You said it was clear in ten minutes that Debbie can't tell COBOL from DYL-280, or JCL from MFS. You explained why her intelligence, team spirit and hard work are no substitute for knowledge. You reminded him that Nancy Gunter has an AA degree in information science. A few weeks later Kurt Belfils asked why no one had trained Debbie Sanzone. He listened to Mike DeBruyn's excuses and made some inquiries. Then he told Jeff Miller to hire Sony Harmon, or someone with similar skills, to take Nancy's place.

After nine years in LSMIS, you became a lead programmer in Manufacturing Resource Planning (MRP). Your new manager Aldie Thomas asked if you were interested in learning to be a Software Quality Assurance (SQA) reviewer. You said yes, and he gave your name to the SQA team. But during reviewer training you asked too many questions about audit and evaluation of software. Aldie's acting manager Joe Compositor asked him to replace you, and Gloria Simonson took your place. You complained to Dana Taylor, saying the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) manual states clearly that SQA reviews software work products to verify compliance with standards, procedures and contracts. You pointed out that some team members don't want to discuss this and don't want to hear it mentioned, and they're telling SQA reviewers there is no such requirement. Three months later you gave the same information to Roy Hardinge, the manager responsible for software procedures, and sent John Avery a copy.

John wasn't pleased. He wrote a 580-word message, telling you a lot of things that aren't true: that you accused Pat Zinn of getting you removed from your reviewer position, that Bill Bunger told you about John Avery's discussions with Mary Beth Chrissis and Leitha Purcell, that you came to SQA training prepared to "nail" Bill Bunger, that you predicted we would fail the SEI assessment, that you can't put aside your preconceived ideas and work for the betterment of all of us and our customers. You forwarded John's note to Joe Compositor, asking for an opportunity to discuss it. When Joe refused, you contacted Employee Relations. John Avery agreed to meet with you and Grace Mason-Brown in her office. After the meeting, John sent this message: "I said to Grace that if I was to be called back again on this issue I would like Dana Taylor, Charlie White, Joe Compositor, Roy Hardinge, Bill Bunger, Pat Zinn and Terri Normandin also in the room so that we could maybe put this issue to bed for the last time. Too much time, energy and money have been spent. I'm afraid Grace might still find me rather hostile, but this whole thing has gone way too far." John said your problem is you think management has adopted his "unsubstantiated" view of your performance and abilities, and you think that view needs correcting.

A few weeks later, Joe Compositor finally met with you. He apologized for making it necessary for you to involve Employee Relations. He listened to your rebuttal of some of John Avery's allegations. He agreed that you were only trying to do what's right for this company, that retaining and improving our favorable SEI rating is a responsibility we all share. He said he didn't like John's angry reaction any more than you did. You thanked each other and shook hands. Later that year you met with Roy Hardinge. You asked whether he had any documented rationale for replacing SQA audit and review of software work products with SQA participation in reviews or walkthroughs of software work products. You said apparently no one has shown that audit and evaluation are more costly or less effective than participation in reviews or walkthroughs. If there is documented rationale, you would like Roy to point out where you can find it.

You worked in the campaign against Proposition 187 during your last year at this company. You called voters from phones lists at "No on 187" headquarters and you distributed leaflets in your neighborhood. After the election you gave copies of Cardinal Roger Mahony's statement to many of your co-workers. The cardinal said the decision by the voters to adopt this proposition "adds another sad chapter to the history of California." When you saw a newspaper cartoon with Germany's 1936 anti-Jewish decrees marked to look like Proposition 187 laws, you made copies for people in your office. Your admired friend Sam Leventhal found the cartoon offensive. You quoted from the Bible, saying if an alien lives in your land you must count him as one of your own countrymen and love him as yourself. Michael Gomes didn't agree. He said you probably don't know the context of these words from the Bible. You told Sam and Michael and others that bigoted politicians shouldn't spend our tax dollars defending this doomed proposition.

You retired in December, 1994, the month you and your wife celebrated your 27th wedding anniversary. Like Jim Ray, Joe Metz, Norvel Humphreys, Jim Duval, Bill Carney, Joy and Larry Bonham, Dan Boyer and Nancy Gunter, you're now a former employee of this company. Rick Rivera, Pat McGinnis, Dana Taylor, Tammy Brody, Michael Gomes, John Avery, Roy Hardinge and the others will follow you some day. Meanwhile, not all of us here will miss your face, you opinionated old Irish computer hacker.