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Thursday, August 25, 2011

It's the little things

So tomorrow -- Friday -- we get pizza. This isn't goodbye food. At this agency, that is a regular thing, not a "thanks for all your help, don't let the door slap you in the ass on the way out" kind of thing. They used to do pizza every Friday, now they do it once a month. Against all odds, this project lasted long enough for us to get pizza twice. Sort of.

I say sort of, because the pizza place is left to select the mix of pizzas (the agency only specifies the number) and last month the rat bastards didn't send a SINGLE GODDAMN MEAT PIZZA. I'm sorry, did I shout? Ten pizzas and not a single fucking slice of pepperoni. No sausage. No meatlovers. Vegan? Sure. Who the fuck eats that except the emaciated, pasty-faced fuck who got cut last week because he's too fucking weak from hunger to do a good job? Vegetarian? Yeah, we got that. Fuck the carnivores. How do you not send a pepperoni pizza? I tell you what, there better be some pepperoni tomorrow, or else. Heads. Will. Roll.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Project What's It To Ya?

All projects have names. Usually, they are forgettable. Sometimes they have something to do with the subject matter of the project, sometimes not. The agencies give the projects code names, though, to keep straight who is working on what. Sometimes the law firms like to pick the names, some law firms don't care. Sometimes the law firms want a code name that masks who is involved, sometimes not. I have been on projects called Baseball, Falcon and Pound -- names that you would never be able to take and infer the subject matter of the review. I've also been on projects, like the one I am on now, where the "code name" is simply the name of the client company. Genius.

All of this, of course, is really boring, which is why I want to be allowed to pick the code names of the projects I am on. I don't want to work on Project Blue (I did), but damn y'all! I want to work on Project Evisceration. I want to work on Project Weimeraner, Project Death From Above, Project Hefner, Project Yo Mama, Project Suck It, Bitches! The possibilities are endless. What could it hurt? Please please please let me name the next project. I promise I won't call it Project Doom.

Unless, of course, that feels right.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

God provides

If I thought it was tough mining blog material from a 10-person project, now that we're a five-person project it's practically impossible to come up with anything interesting. It's a little like not having enough fissile material to achieve critical mass for a nuclear explosion. Not that I want to compare contract attorneys to fissile material. Plutonium is much more fun to hang out with. But I digress.

Anyway, ever since the project got cut back, I've been left without material, save declaring myself pope. Granted, it's only been one day, but still. Having been recently elevated to pope, though, I of course have a direct line to God. Naturally, I asked for a little material to write about. Careful what you ask for.

I'm not claiming responsibility, and I'm not saying God did this because I asked for something to write about, but today we had an earthquake. This is not something that happens on the East Coast. I guess if you have access to news sources -- and if you don't, you probably don't have access to this blog -- you know we had a quake that hit 5.9 on the Richter scale. It's kind of candy-assed as earthquakes go, and you dont' get a lot of damage from something like that, but this is DC. We outsourced our earthquakes to California a long time ago.

So a little before 2 this afternoon, the floor started to shake. At first I thought a tank was driving by, then I realized that a) we were on the 9th floor and probably wouldn't feel a tank; b) I couldn't hear a tank, and the soundproofing of our building leaves something to be desired; and c) why the fuck would a tank be driving down L Street? The shaking continued for a good 20 seconds or more. At some point I decided this must be an earthquake, which led me to wonder whether the fastest way street level would be to take the stairs, the elevator, or wait for the building to collapse. Similar thoughts apparently went through everyone's heads, because everybody else on the project headed for the exits, as did the folks on the other projects on the floor. I started to join them when a realization hit me: I had no intention of dying while badly in need of a trip to the john. So instead of heading down the stairs with everybody else, I went to the bathroom and took care of business.

When I came out, everybody but the Japanese chicks were gone. One of the projects on the floor is a Japanese-language project, which is staffed mostly by native Japanese speakers. Most of them are either from Japan, or are Nissei, second generation with family in Japan. These folks apparently know their earthquakes and don't evacuate a building unless the poo has really hit the fan. Encouraged that they were still there, I stayed, too. I went back to my desk and resumed clicking. My confidence may have been misplaced, as I later learned that their project manager sent everybody home minutes after I decided that if the Japanese chicks could stay, so could I.

After about an hour, everybody from my project straggled back in. Building management wasn't keen on letting folks back in at first, but decided to do so anyway, since no alarms ever went off, they hadn't actually evacuated the building and, frankly, they had no damn idea how many people like me had simply not left to begin with. There was some debate among the temps about whether to hit the bricks -- building management wasn't mandating evacuation, but they were denying all responsibility for our deaths if the building collapsed. Suitably encouraged, we all stayed. Needless to say, motivation was low, and production suffered.

And for next week, we have Hurricane Irene on deck. I can't wait.

Monday, August 22, 2011

All hail Pope Raised by Wolves!

I am reminded that I said Thursday that I have a better chance of being pope than this project did of lasting past Friday. Yet here we are. I guess somebody better let Benedict know there's a new pope in town. Or, maybe, my predictive powers are not worth so very much. Too bad -- I hear the papal apartment is some pretty sweet digs.

And the dead walk (or swim, as the case may be)

The swordfish has taken on zombie status, and here I sit. The project lives, apparently, although in severely truncated form. For most of my former co-workers, apparently, the swordfish is in fact dead. No, I did not blow the associate. Thank God. In any event, I'm here. I don't really feel bad about surviving the cuts where most others did not because, after all, it means I'm still working. The fact that people I know no longer are is not my problem. Yes, this job can make you misanthropic.

Once again, this is what the swordfish is. Read it, or refer to the title of the blog.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

And the whip comes down

This swordfish is dead as of COB tomorrow. Project manager and associate just came out and made it official. If you don't know what the swordfish is, you can either look here or, if that seems like too much trouble, you may refer to the title of the blog. August, by the way, is a really shitty time to be looking for contract work.

Dissension in the ranks

As the end draws ever closer, tensions appear to be rising. Could be coincidence, of course -- could just be that many temps simply don't play well with others. Whatever the reason, little flare-up today between Sleepy and Alarm Clock (the woman who sits on the other side of Sleepy). As a courtesy, Alarm Clock has taken it upon herself to wake Sleepy whenever the associate or the project manager is in the area. Sleepy has been oddly unappreciative, as discussed previously. So Alarm Clock put something on her fingernails, polish or whatever. I never smelled it and had my headphones on, blissfully unaware of the roiling discontent about to boil to the surface. As it is, I missed the entire exchange, even though it took place about 4 feet away, and am forced to rely on eyewitness accounts.

Apparently, as Alarm Clock was putting away her polish, Sleepy mumbled something that Alarm Clock didn't catch. Something like the following exchange apparently then took place:

AC: I'm sorry, what?

S (angrily and forcefully): I said, don't do that anymore, it's making me sick!

It was downhill from there, leading to the counteraccusation that Sleepy smells like an ashtray (my words) and much harrumphing on both sides. Probably a tactical draw, but maybe a strategic loss for Sleepy. As Southern Belle remarked, "Now who's going to wake him up?"

You've lost that lovin' feeling

The associate stuck with riding herd on us day-to-day has been spending almost all day every day in the office set aside for him, door firmly shut. Not a good sign, since it means he wants to get work done without a bunch of nitwit temps (that would be us) asking questions. Realistically, nobody should have any questions 7 weeks into a review -- if you haven't got it by now, maybe you should look into a nice stockroom job at Walmart -- but hey, we're talking about contract attorneys here. Anyway, if this project lasts past tomorrow, I'm the pope.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

To wake a sleeping giant?

I have suggested that someone should bring in some firecrackers to set off behind Sleepy the next time he and Morpheus get down. Oddly enough, no one wants to get fired for setting off fireworks, so there has not been a lot of support for my position. However, there is a groundswell growing in favor of the notion of putting a video on YouTube. His sleeping isn't even the funniest part of his sleeping -- it's his reaction when somebody wakes him up. He always pops awake with an "I'm here" or "I'm working" and if challenged will deny he was sleeping. No matter how long he was out. Or how loud he was snoring. No one is suggesting he isn't here. Just that he isn't conscious.

Sex sells, baby

Sure, mock me, look down your noses at me, cluck your tongues over how I've sunk into the gutter, how I've achieved new lows in blogging, how I have sacrificed any dignity I might have had in a desperate attempt to drive traffic. Feel superior now? Fine. Just wanted to point out that today's traffic is triple yesterday's. Talk about sex, people show up. Now I gotta figure out how to work some more sex into a blog about a very unsexy business.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Should I blow the associate or not?

I knew I would find a way to inject sex into this blog. And look at me -- nice, politically correct gay sex, not that there's anything wrong with that. Jeez, I just hope it drives traffic. Anyway, it looks like this project is going to end on Friday, and I am not seeing any other projects on the immediate horizon, which means I am really desperate to keep working. Cause for hope, though, in that it appears that there might be a chance that a few people will be kept on for God knows what. It also is possible everyone will be kept on for God knows what. And, of course, it is possible that no one on this project will be working on this project past Friday. Given all that, we have three possible outcomes, one good requiring no additional input on my part, one bad regardless of additional input on my part, and one good, but requiring significant personal investment on my part. In other words, there is a 2-in-3 chance that blowing an associate in order to stay on the project will be wasted. What to do, what to do? I guess I could always rob liquor stores. Should I take cash or merchandise, though? Also, have we really established that blowing the associate will help my chances of staying on the project, if the project continues? Yeah, robbing liquor stores is looking pretty good.

Weekends really suck

I can't believe I find myself posting under that headline, but from a blog perspective, it's true. I generally don't post on weekends, and the audience for this blog, such as it is, generally does not read on weekends. I don't know if one follows the other or not. I think, for the most part, both I and my audience (both of you, thank you so much) are too busy with real life on the weekends to be bothered with this online shit. Which, I suppose, means that weekends in fact do NOT suck for people who actually enjoy real life. Wow, what a concept.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Words fail me

OK, no they don't, but if anything was going to leave me speechless, this would be a candidate. An unidentifed temp was in the men's room mid-morning today, just having a seat. Nothing unusual here. Except the pile of documents arrayed at his feet, cell phone and a pen next to them, and the sound of rustling papers and the scratching of hurried writing emanating from the stall. Dude was giving a whole new meaning to referring to the bathroom as "my office." I would give anything to be able to tell his client where that brief had been when the temp hands it over.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

What do you mean there's no 7-minute rule?

We got jacked up today right at the end of the day by the project manager. This guy never gets pissed, and he was PISSED. This leads me to believe he caught some shit from the client over our various shortcomings, but he jacked us up pretty good, over two things in particular.

The first is a common sin with the advent of the smart phone and its subsequent kudzu-like spread. Many temp projects do not allow internet access, so smart phones, such as iphones, fill the gap. People are always checking their email, listening to music, watching TV, whatever, using their smart phones. I still have a dumb phone, but I have Tetris loaded on that bad boy, so I play like a fiend while coding. I like to think of it as multitasking. Neither Tetris nor coding takes up much of my brain capacity (and this would still be true were I an aardvark) so neither activity really suffers from insufficient attention. Nonetheless, the project manager, in his late-day tirade today, let us know that constant attention to our cell phones was not confidence-inspiring for the people who believe we should be paying constant attention to the documents we are supposed to be reviewing. Fair point, at least as far as the perception of the client goes. On the other hand, I ain't no aardvark. But I digress.

The second part of his tirade (this was a pretty mild tirade, by the way -- he was only a little pissed, but this guy never gets pissed, so a little pissed for him is a tirade. I do not mean to imply that he was in any way wrong. We're temps -- we'll take advantage any way we can.) involved a time-honored tradition known as th 7-minute rule. A little background: Temps usually bill their time in 15-minute increments. Obviously, a temp's actual time worked does not always fit these parameters. For instance, consider a project that allows a 10-hour maximum, requires a half-hour break for any work over 8 hours and only allows a 10.5 hour window to achieve the 10 hours, say, 8:30 am to 7 pm. Under that scenario, if you arrive at 8:35 am, you cannot work 10 hours and thus are screwed. Enter the 7-minute rule.

You are allowed to round, a wonderful mathematical concept that allows you to turn 3.5 into 4 and 8 minutes into 15. So, if you arrive at 8:35 am and stay until 7 pm, and take your mandatory 30 minute break, you can round up from 9 hours, 55 minutes to 10 hours. Basically, if you get 8 out of 15 minutes, you can round up to the full 15. I think trying to do this for every quarter-hour of the day would be a good way to get fired, but temps have been doing this with regard to the last quater-hour of the day since time immemorial. In other words, the temps will arrive at 8:30 am sharp, but leave at 6:53 pm and round up. The 7-minute rule.

Well, apparently too many people have been doing this too often on this project, because that was item number 2 in the project manager's tirade. We were informed in no uncertain terms that "There is no such thing as the 7-minute rule." My guess is, the client gave him some shit because pretty much everybody seemed to be leaving at 6:53. They apparently have this crazy notion that they are paying for a full 10 hours. Supifdat?

Anyway, my prediction is that a lot of people who have been arriving at or before 8:30 am will now arrive at 8:37 am. Math still rules, and rounding is a rule of math. Suck it, bitches.

More Troll sightings

Apparently, I spoke too soon when I said the Bridge Troll was no longer sleeping in his clothes. Someone on my project told me she saw TBT this morning and he looked pretty rumpled. Her description of the person (troll?) in question made it clear it was, in fact, TBT. I guess maybe I caught him on the first day of his clothes-changing cycle, before he had slept in his clothes. After all, even the Bridge Troll changes clothes. Doesn't he?

People just LOVE the Bridge Troll

Good day yesterday for traffic. I figure it's the Bridge Troll. Although the Canadians apparently are not yet diggin' the Troll.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bridge Troll sighting

Walking down the hallway today, minding my own business, and there he was, big as life and twice as ugly: The Bridge Troll. For those of you not familiar with The Bridge Troll, check here. Apparently, this paragon of incompetence is on a project at this agency, though not, thank God, the same project as me. He still looks pretty Bridge-Trolly, but he does seem to have stopped sleeping in his clothes.

I hope his client doesn't have to wake him up

I've mentioned that many temps have an outside client or two so that they can convince themselves they are still practicing law. (In all fairness, some temps only temp while they build up a practice. Some.)  Sleepy apparently has at least one outside client, and he isn't here today, which led to the following exchange:

CA1: Where's Sleepy?

CA2: He's in court.

CA1: What's he charged with?

Beats me, I'm just the stenographer

A new reader and fellow temp asks, "How is it that Sleepy is still on the project?" Well, there are some questions mankind just wasn't meant to know the answers to. There may be a feeling that less bad coding occurs when temps are asleep.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Whoomp! There it is! 3,000 hits

OK, so I just dated myself. You don't like it, refer to the title of the blog. And yeah, 3,000 hits, baby. It's time to party, Italian-style. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand he slides in a sweet "Stripes" reference, dating himself once again

But I didn't ask for a wakeup call

This is actually getting kind of fun to watch.The woman who sits to the left of Sleepy (I am not next to Sleepy) woke him up today as he was lounging in the arms of Morpheus. (That's a hot shit literary reference, not a drug reference, although morphine has Morpheus as it's root, which I guess could make it a drug reference, too. If I could figure out how to get some damn sex in here with the drugs, I'd probably have 4,000 views by tomorrow.) Sleepy did not take kindly to this and woke up with a little attitude. Also still denying he was sleeping, the snoring notwithstanding. "I'm working, I'm working," he said.

Wake up call

The project manager has taken to coming by periodically and, when Sleepy is earning his nickname, waking Sleepy up. Sleepy, obviously, no longer claiming he's just resting his eyes while the document loads. If the bastards would just treat us like professionals, give us our own offices and quit looking over our shoulders constantly, this wouldn't be a problem. We could close the door and sleep in peace.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Even without the Canadians

Might hit 3,000 today. Might be tomorrow. Party time!

Like the sun rising in the east

Temp conversations, if they go on long enough, inevitably follow a single trajectory: Down. Straight to the gutter. There's probably a mathematical formula to describe the relationship between time, the number of temps conversing and at what point to conversation will head south.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Cheating? I hope not. (Of course they are)

Saw something interesting in the comments, in which a contract attorney asked:

Is this a good place to bitch about a coworker who apparently was billing 40 hours a week despite not even showing up to work?
to which I reply, brother, you have indeed found the right place. I think every project has somebody who thinks he is ahead of the game, getting paid double. Some of them actually are. Obviously, this is something difficult to confirm, but even the thought of it is enough to raise the ire of most contract attorneys. And, of course, the envy. Just a little less scrupulous, and you, too, could . . .

Anyway, most of us don't go there. Just enough do, of course, to taint the rest of us, but what's a little ethical breech among friends, right? So yeah, I got stories.

The swordfish project -- the one that spawned this blog -- ended in such a funky, jerky, still-a-little-life kind of way that it actually encouraged double billing. When they told us we were done, a number of us jumped to the project I was on next. When it became clear that Swordfish was going to keep lurching along, with day-to-day notices of whether and how much people were working, some of the people who had jumped kept working both projects. I don't know if there was double billing, but I would have a heart attack if there wasn't. The two work sites were a block apart. It would be easy to be seen around each one just enough to claim full hours on both. I would not bet that no one did that.

But that's not the kind of non-work that my commenter is bitching about, I think. The commenter is offended by the flat-out, not-there-but-billing-anyway kind of chutzpah that is both admired and despised. Admired, because money for nothing sounds good. Despised, because some of use actually have a conscience. Plus, we deeply, desperately hope that these assholes will always get caught. Alas, such is not the case.

My favorite example of this kind of non-work happened about three years ago. I was on a massive project, well over 150 contract attorneys doing first review. Then we got cut to second review, about 1/3 left, then we got cut to privilege review, leaving about 15 out of the original 150. It was a very good hours project that paid for a class trip to Germany with my son. God knows what it paid for for some folks.

After about 2 months of privilege review with about 15 people (this project went on for more than a year), the associates became a touch suspicious about some people's hours claims. We were allowed to work 12 hours a day. All 15 people left on priv review were claiming 12 hours a day. To do that required arriving at 8 am. At least 2 guys were never there before 10 am, yet managed to bill the same 12 hours a day. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

One of those guys liked to arrive at 10, spend about an hour on personal business on the phone (or, at one point in the project, doing his taxes) and then finally get to work. Given the shitty quality of his work, this might actually have been a plus from the firm's point of view.

The other guy who proved to be a fanciful biller was, apparently, a junkie. He would show up at about 11 am, pass out at his desk for a while, leave at about 2 - apparently to go see his pusher - come back at about 4, pass out until about 6, leave at 7 and bill until 8. For seven hours of presence, he would bill 12 hours.

Finally, one of the associates ran the numbers, since we were using a software that required us to log in to an online offsite system. No one was accused of cheating or lying. But the two people who were lying got canned.

Truthfully? It was the only time I've seen justice served on that particular issue. Unfortunately, it seems that the people inclined to perpetrate that kind of fraud seem to get away with it. If they aren't getting away with it, it would be a good idea to let CAs know. If you don't believe the system will deliver justice, there is no reason to abide by the rules of the system.

To sleep, perchance to dream

We've got a sleeper on our project -- a contract attorney who routinely falls asleep, sometimes for some relatively substantial periods of time. At one time or another, pretty much everybody has a brain blink, where the eyes close and you go into near sleep for a second or two. But the jolt caused by your head falling forward when your neck muscles relax always snaps you back to the land of the living. I think we've all had that happen. Well, Sleepy doesn't have that problem, apparently, possibly due to posture or physique. In any event, flopping head syndrome is not waking him up.

Now, this is a small project, and Sleepy's impromptu naps have not escaped the notice of the project manager, who came up behind Sleepy today during one of his naps and woke him up. Sleepy maintained that he was not actually asleep but merely resting his eyes while waiting for a particularly slow document to load.

I almost have to admire the huevos it takes to float an explanation like that, but it needs a little work, since it fails to answer a couple key questions. First, how does that explain the snoring? And how the hell are you supposed to know when your document loads?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Actual temp conversation

CA1 (to a third person): It wasn't bad food, except that I was eating it with a wet sponge.

CA2 (butting in, which is what temps do): Why were you eating with a wet sponge?

CA1: It wasn't a wet sponge, it was bread, but it looked and felt and tasted like one.

CA2: Why were you eating with it?

CA1: It was Ethiopian food. Have you ever had Ethiopian?

CA2: No. I thought Ethiopian cuisine was most famous for being in extremely short supply. I mean, isn't Ethiopia "Home of the Famine," not to be confused with "Home of the Whopper."?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What the fuck is wrong with the Canadians?

As we close in on 3,000 page views (yeah, it was much faster from 1,000 to 2,000, but it's summertime and this has been a boring project with fewer posts) I think it is worth noting that my internationl readership is expanding. OK, not a lot, but work with me, people!  We're only talking about a handful of views from each, but so far I have page views from Germany, India, Latvia, Romania and Switzerland. Some great countries there, but our neighbors to the north need to get it in gear. Should I mention hockey or something?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Just what we needed (and I'm not talking about old Cars songs)

As most contract attorneys in the audience know (and if you are a contract attorney and don't know, jeez, you're fucked) there is a listserv called The Posse List that posts jobs and other useful stuff for the contract attorney world. Lately, they have been commenting on a California lawsuit that actually means a lot to those of us who make our living this way. Short version: client gets investigated by government, hires a big-time worldwide law firm to defend, law firm hires e-discovery firm which hires temps to review documents. Government looks at documents, sends a bunch back and says, um, these look kind of privileged to us, are you sure you want to produce documents protected by the attorney-client privilege? E-discovery firm re-reviews, apparently, and sends the documents right back over. Yup, they're privileged, client now suing law firm for fucking up. Also suing 100 John Does, apparently contract attorneys working for the e-discovery firm.

While I am sure the firm being sued considers this horrific on any number of levels, I care only because the client apparently is suing contract attorneys, too. We don't carry malpractice insurance because, frankly, we can't afford to and most CAs assume they are covered under the hiring firm's malpractice coverage. Since we usually actually work for an agency, not the firm, I am not sure how true that assumption is, but it is a prevalent assumption. Now we have here a lawsuit that is challenging many of the assumptions that underly contract attorney work, primary among them being that it's OK to be an incompetent fuck as long as you don't get fired for being too slow. Many contract attorneys do not live by this creed, but far too many do. Have you actually been reading this blog?

In any event, now we're getting sued for being incompetent fucks. No doubt this will serve as a big boost to the reputation that contract attorneys already have. Whatevs. The Posse List is on it, though. They comment here. The interesting part, to me was a description they included in the email I got about contract attorney work, which reads:
As many of you wrote in your responses to our weekend post, the case highlights many of the ethical problems in modern, assembly-line document review. And that's what document reviews are today: performance under assembly-line conditions by temps (not always lawyers) who often work 60 or 70 hours a week, ten or twelve hours a day, at rates ranging from $12.50 to $35 an hour (for English-language reviews) who are summarily fired if they fail to meet arbitrary production quotas.
My first question, of course, is who the fuck is working for $12.50 an hour? Then I realized it's probably those assholes in Ohio who can't find any work at all (actually, it's probably non-lawyers in the Philippines, which looks funny whether you spell it correctly or not.) Other than that quibble, though, I feel like those guys just said everything I've been saying for these past few months. Am I wrong?

I suppose, given the title I chose for this entry, I should make some cheap joke about my best friend's girlfriend, but I really don't have it in me. This is, alas, just not destined to be a funny post.