Oct 04

Alcatel in the news

I worked as a technical writing contractor at Alcatel for five years, from March 1996 to April 2001 — the longest I have ever worked at the same job. I had three managers during my time there, and all of them were pleased with my work. The last two even attempted to get me hired as an Alcatel employee instead of a contractor, but were never able to get approval to do so.

The reason had nothing to do with me; it was just bureaucratic reluctance to hire any new employee. The paperwork would languish on some vice president’s desk for months, waiting for a signature, until it was out of date and had to be rewritten and resubmitted. The only justification we ever got was that the company’s human resources budget didn’t allow hiring another person.

So I remained a contractor until the morning of April 2, 2001, when I was laid off along with most of my department. The company had fallen on hard times and had to reduce costs — or so we were told at the time. But now I learn that a few months after Alcatel decided it couldn’t afford my services, it paid a $2.2 million bribe to Costa Rican officials in order to secure a lucrative contract to install cellular telephone systems in that country. An investigation is under way, and the officials in question may well end up behind bars.

I shouldn’t take this personally. I really shouldn’t.

Oct 04

Three years and counting

I just realized that I forgot an anniversary. My first blog post was written on October 2, 2001, so this blog turned three years old on Saturday.
That strikes me as significant, for reasons that require a bit of explanation. Over the years, I have learned that I have a tendency to get interested in a new activity, pursue it enthusiastically for a while, and then lose interest and abandon it. Sometimes I actually experience a loss of motivation; sometimes I take a break from the activity and just never get around to resuming it. In a couple of cases I’ve decided that the activity is just too expensive and I can’t afford it.
The reasons vary, but I’ve noticed a fairly consistent pattern: if a new interest of mine is going to run out of steam in this way, it’s most likely to do so after about two years. That appears to be the point at which my initial enthusiasm flags and, if I haven’t made a genuine long-term commitment, I just don’t feel like pursuing the activity any more. So if a new activity of mine survives past the critical two-year mark, that suggests that I’m not going to lose interest in it. There have been exceptions, but this seems to be the general rule.
Well, I’ve now been blogging for three years. Does that mean I’m likely to keep it up for a lot longer? I hope so.
UPDATE: If anyone is wondering, my involvement as a volunteer at Raleigh Little Theatre passed the two-year mark three months ago. My family and I first signed up as volunteers at the Backstage Night open house on July 8, 2002.
And as long as I’m observing anniversaries, I should point out Sputnik 1 was launched 47 years ago today — a fact commemorated by today’s X-Prize-winning flight of SpaceShipOne.