February 13, 2009

Brief Rant: Zombie Films

I like movies about the undead. But call me a Zombie Snob (snOmbie?), but I think the latest trend of inserting Zombies or vampires into every corner of film culture is diluting something great into a yawn-inducing me-too shoveling festival. For every "Shaun of the Dead" there's a "Lost Boys 2 : The Tribe"

Latest infraction : Film studios are chomping a the bit to publish "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies", which isn't even set to be published until May, into a hit film. (As visualized here by webcomic "Hijinks Ensue.") Reportedly, the book is about 85% Jane Austen's original novel, with the remainder being the zombie bits added in.

Treading on thin ice in it's wake is "Rosencranz and Guildenstern are UNdead", which at least isn't a DIRECT re-imagining of Hamlet with Vampires in it, but it still steals the title of the original "Rosencrans and Guildenstern are Dead"(1990), which, besides being hilariously written an incredibly acted, remains possibly the best example of self-aware characterization in cinema today.

Friends and Horror Aficionados assure me that there ARE still good undead movies being made, such as the surprising "Let the Right One In", and all I can do is hope that this keeps the genre fresh amidst all the "Underworld" sequels and commercial tripe. Fingers crossed that George Romero can deliver us from evil... and I know just how ironic that sounds.

February 03, 2009

Layoffs in my Department

Monday morning I found out that my company was going with the "In Crowd" of companies and laying off lots of people. How did the companies end up doing this on the same day? Facebook perhaps?

Home Depot is going to have to cut about 7000 employees. Even shut down the Expo locations. *OUCH*
- Caterpillar : Dude, *20,000* total now. Got nothin on me. It hurts but so do my sales.
- Pfizer : About 19,500 here, Cat. Ouch indeed, HomieD. Need a pill for that headache of yours? I gotz the goods. ;)
- GeneralMotors : about 2k jobs in Ohio and Michigan. Even with the Fed Money.
- SprintNextel : GM - Dude, I CAN HAZ BAILOUT TOO? You just blew a load of it for your cars to be in the "Terminator - Salvation" movie!
- GeneralMotors : Yep S/N. Gonna ask for $3 Billion more soon. Fingers crossed.

I laugh because it's the only way I can deal with this. I was having an IM conversation with a coworker in Little Rock (The Home Office) and he had to break off to escort one of our members out of the building and lock up her laptop. All in all, four employees just in my department are gone : Two report analysts, a mid-level manager and our FRACKING DEPARTMENT HEAD! We just brought this guy in back in September.

So now it's only seven of us left in the department, and we're scrambling to change our methods entirely to suit the new Division Head's declared direction for us. Our Department is called Enterprise Reporting, and my job is in two programs: (1) Concord eHealth, which doles out reports on server health (Disk space, CPU Utilization, Bandwidth) and (2) WebTrends, which creates reports based on clients web site logs (Number of Hits, Visitors, Page Views). 80% of my time and effort has gone towards Concord in the past three years. And Friday, I was informed that this program was going away. I am to stop new reports and slowly shut down the existing ones over the next month.

This program was my life. And because it was so popular, I had to write some automation programs from scratch in VisualBasic just to distribute all of them. (I called the automation program "AutoMAIL" for those of you Anime fans...)It was a lot of work to create the automation, but today I have over 500 reports that have to go out every week, and there is no way that would be possible for a single person to do without coming down with Carpal Tunnel in just under a month. As it is, Concord just churns out PDF and Excel reports to it's own UNIX server. Over the past three years I engineered a SYSTEM that would do the following:
-FTP the reports from the server
-Rename the files to something readable
-Merge related PDFs and even Excel Spreadsheets
-ZIP the resulting files and archive them
-Email out the ZIP to a list of recipients
-Email me with an error message if something goes wrong

All of this runs automatically, on a schedule, without any action required by me. This was the most involved, complex program I have ever written, and it worked beautifully. Any coders out there know the pride and satisfaction of creating an efficient program that is easily customizable and saves so much manual work. And it's gone now. The pinnacle of my professional skill will be useless in about a month.

This is not just vanity and pride talking, I am losing my main area of expertise, the main reason for employing me. I will still have WebTrends, but that is a fairly closed system, fairly easy implemented once you have a system set up. I'll also be training on the new reporting system: SQL Server 2008 Reporting Services, but I'm the last of my department to train on it.

My manager assures me that if they didn't think I could transition to the new way of doing things, I would have been let go with the others, so that bodes well for me. She has always been a great boss - always looks out for me and gives it to me straight, and I trust her. My logical mind knows that I am unlikely to be laid off - but this is a fear that transcends logic and even the established trust we have.

Everyone is fearing for their jobs in this economy. I feel like the protagonist from FINAL DESTINATION: I have somehow survived something horrible, but I feel the guilt of it. Along with the foreboding that I did not dodge this entirely and it will come back for me.