30 June, 2007

Datacenter Confidential #3

"Fucking Bill Clinton," said the boss man, who we will call G.

The date was about a week after September 11, 2001. By then, everyone had returned, cautiously, back to work. On my walk from the Embarcadero to under Coit Tower, I would glance up at the skyscapers, wondering how they too could come down in a cloud of smoke, debris and pulverized human beings. Commercial aviation had just started back up, and my neck twisted with the strain of every turbo-jet above, as if flying were brand new again, and I gazed in wonder as heavy, fuel and passenger laden tin tubes blasted unbelievably through the sky.

I explained to G that I felt that, although the CIA had been dismantled somewhat during the 8 years of Bill Clinton's presidency, the process had actually been going on for much longer -- since before Carter, to be precise. I said I felt that because the Cold War was ostensibly over, it was reasonable to start dismantling the apparatus of the Cold War. And I mentioned that Clinton was fairly diligent in pursuing bin Laden, yet all we heard from Bush 43 was rhetoric aimed at Saddam Hussein, whom I felt wasn't a threat (and I was right!).

I knew then that Bill Clinton was not to blame, just as I had known by 8am the previous Tuesday that Osama bin Laden was behind the attack, 11am Eastern Daylight Time. I had an inkling that the idiot king, bestowed upon us by the Supreme Court late in 2000, may be complicit -- our president whose initial blunders were numerous and embarrassing, for me the most memorable being the China spy gaffe. Only later would my suspicions about the level of incompetence be validated, and then some.

Fast forward to another Tuesday: namely last Tuesday.

"I don't care about politics," said G, "unless they effect Chinese trade." J'accuse, G! We finished our beers and made way back to the apartment to continue discussing international trade, tech industry ex-patriotism and various subjects over dice, Jim Beam and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

Don't think I'm going anywhere with this, I'm just "introducing" G as a "character" in my "richly coloured world of semi- biographical 'fiction'"(*).

(*) I only expect the lawyers to believe any of this is fiction.

G was brought on as a CTO in early 2001, and everyone understood that this was the hatchet man. G was Blake, but dressed up with a Columbia MBA, and experience as an Oracle DBA. Compare his first words in his first group engineering meeting with us with the words from Mamet:

G: I read the code last night.
[Looks around the room, making eye contact with everyone]
G: After I was finished throwing up on my shoes, I honed in on a few items that we need to fix right away.
Hapless Engineer: Well, sure there have been some items that we've had to work around, legacy issues, etcetera.
G: The code is garbage.

Blake:

Blake: 'The leads are weak.' Fucking leads are weak? You're weak. I've been in this business fifteen years.
Moss: What's your name?
Blake: FUCK YOU, that's my name!! You know why, Mister? 'Cause you drove a Hyundai to get here tonight, I drove a eighty thousand dollar BMW. That's my name!! (to Levene) And your name is "you're wanting." And you can't play in a man's game. You can't close them. (at a near whisper) And you go home and tell your wife your troubles. (to everyone again) Because only one thing counts in this life! Get them to sign on the line which is dotted! You hear me, you fucking faggots?
(Blake flips over a blackboard which has two sets of letters on it: ABC, and AIDA.)
Blake: A-B-C. A-always, B-be, C-closing. Always be closing! Always be closing!! A-I-D-A. Attention, interest, decision, action. Attention -- do I have your attention? Interest -- are you interested? I know you are because it's fuck or walk. You close or you hit the bricks! Decision -- have you made your decision for Christ?!! And action. A-I-D-A; get out there!! You got the prospects comin' in; you think they came in to get out of the rain? Guy doesn't walk on the lot unless he wants to buy. Sitting out there waiting to give you their money! Are you gonna take it? Are you man enough to take it? (to Moss) What's the problem pal? You. Moss.
Moss: You're such a hero, you're so rich. Why you coming down here and waste your time on a bunch of bums?
(Blake sits and takes off his gold watch)
Blake: You see this watch? You see this watch?
Moss: Yeah.
Blake: That watch cost more than your car. I made $970,000 last year. How much you make? You see, pal, that's who I am. And you're nothing. Nice guy? I don't give a shit. Good father? Fuck you -- go home and play with your kids!! (to everyone) You wanna work here? Close!! (to Aaronow) You think this is abuse? You think this is abuse, you cocksucker? You can't take this -- how can you take the abuse you get on a sit?! You don't like it -- leave. I can go out there tonight with the materials you got, make myself fifteen thousand dollars! Tonight! In two hours! Can you? Can you? Go and do likewise! A-I-D-A!! Get mad! You sons of bitches! Get mad!! You know what it takes to sell real estate?
(He pulls something out of his briefcase)
Blake: It takes brass balls to sell real estate.


Needless to say, the engineering department shrank significantly from that point forward. Some of the programmers where nice people, but a lot of them were dead weight. The cuts were needed, and as Blake says at the end of his little speech in Glengarry Glenn Ross "a loser is a loser." My coworker, ostensibly the lead systems administrator, once told me that G would see a priest after each round of layoffs. I don't know if that's true or not, but it certainly adds to the legend.

One final anecdote: early on during G's first week, a group of H1B workers from China (Hong Kong, mainly) had gathered in a hallway to discuss, worriedly, in Mandarin their fate, and to suss out just what this new G fellow was up to. At the same time, G, my co-admins and I come in from the elevator after lunch to catch the tail end of the Chinese programmers discussion. After a moment, G breaks in to the programmers' discussing in pitch perfect Mandarin, much to everyone's surprise.

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