“Turn off the caps lock or you’re fired”

Found this article from one of the people I follow on Twitter. The Telegraph ran a story about an office worker fired for using all caps in e-mail.

Vicki Walker, a New Zealand native, was let go from a job at a health care company after complaints from co-workers about “shouty” and confrontational e-mails, including not only the use of all capitals but colors such as red.

She was awarded a judgment of £7,000 (approximately US$10,500 or NZ$17,000) after a court found her dismissal was in fact unfair, due to the fact her firm did not have an e-mail style guide.

I think it’s kind of silly to fire someone over something like this. From the looks of the story, Vicki was not even warned prior to her dismissal. It’s possible, of course, that she was and the story doesn’t mention it.

Even so, in the absence of an e-mail style guide, the company had no business firing her. And her coworkers need to learn how not to be “too easily annoyed” (as said in FidoNet Policy 4).

An unusual case of generosity

A recent NPR story tells the story behind Richard Leroy Walters and his legacy. To make a long story short, the late Richard Leroy Walters was an engineer who left behind an estate valued well into the millions of US dollars. He left it to several different nonprofits, including a Catholic mission in Phoenix and NPR.

The distinguishing factor between Walters and other millionaires? Walters was homeless; his physical possessions fit inside a backpack. He slept on the grounds of a local senior citizen’s center, ate at a hospital, and used telephones at both places.

I can’t honestly think of words to describe how I reacted to reading this story. Having never been truly homeless for longer than a day, it’s difficult to grasp how Richard could willingly just walk out of his last residence and take to the streets.

Maybe it was the sense of adventure, or a desire for freedom from not owning the material possessions of the rest of the world. Money can’t buy everything.

Apparently, two things were more important to Richard than anything else: leaving a legacy and dying a happy man. I have no doubts he fulfilled both, but I don’t think his choices are right for just anyone.

Oops, wrong Sydney

The Daily Mail reports on a Dutch man and his grandson who got a most unpleasant surprise when the travel agency booked him on a flight to Sydney. The only problem was that it was Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada, instead of where they really intended to go, which would of course be Sydney, Australia. From the article:

They flew into Nova Scotia in the east of the country from Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport with Air Canada on Saturday.

They even managed to board to a connecting flight to the wrong Sydney at Halifax on the east coast of Canada without realising their mistake.

Ordinarily, I’d say the first clue something is amiss would be the airline the flight is on. However, Air Canada does fly to and from both Amsterdam and Sydney, Australia. It would appear the flights out of Amsterdam may actually be operated by other airlines (Lufthansa, LH City Line, or BMI when I looked).

To be fair about it, were I not a US native and thus in relatively close proximity to Canada, I may not be completely sure just where Halifax is in relation to Australia. I’ll admit it, I failed world geography the first time I took it, and I usually at least get the continent right (and sometimes even which part of it) when given the name of a country. I don’t think Australia has a Halifax, much less a major city with that name where an airport would be located.

Anyway, after the dust settles, the travel agency is almost certainly on the hook for what can only be described as a first-class foul-up, even if the travelers were booked into coach for their voyage of error.

And they aren’t the only ones: the article mentions two prior known cases of misdirected travelers winding up in the much chillier climate of Canada as opposed to the warmth of Australia when booked on flights to Sydney.

The moral of the story: don’t trust your travel agent to be perfect. Mistakes happen. If you’re headed to Sydney, Australia, check your tickets against the actual IATA airport code for Sydney, Australia (SYD), instead of Sydney, Canada (YQY). Check the details of the trip and the duration for sanity: Houston, Texas, USA, to Sydney, Australia, should be a fairly long flight, definitely more than a little longer than a flight to New York City.

And to travel agents: remember, the only thing worse than lost luggage is lost passengers. Double-check your work. The embarassment you save may be your own.

How does one prove lesbianism?

The Daily Mail reports on probably one of the most bizarre deportation hearings I’ve ever read about.

An anonymous woman referred to in court only as “A” has been threatened with extradition because of a dispute over her sexual identity. In essence, the Home Office (a UK government agency which oversees immigration, the rough equivalent of the US ICE) does not believe the woman is really a lesbian.

The complicating issues are that A appears to have become a lesbian while imprisoned on drug charges, and she faces persecution in Jamaica as a lesbian if deported.

A quote from the article:

Overturning that ruling today, Lord Justice Goldring said: ‘A has now been in a series of exclusively lesbian sexual relationships over some four years. That is, on its face, cogent evidence that she is a lesbian, or predominantly a lesbian, by sexual identity.

‘What might have begun as sexual experimentation with lesbianism could have ended with it being her sole or predominant sexual orientation. That does not appear to have been adequately considered or, at least, explained by the tribunal’.

Goldring goes on to order a fresh consideration of A’s case by another tribunal.

My take on the whole thing:

First, I think it’s ridiculously invasive and rather silly to expect someone to attempt to prove, in court, a matter as sensitive and private as sexual preference. I further consider the fact that A’s deportation to Jamaica carries the consequences it does rather tragic.

Second, how can four years of exclusively lesbian relationships not be enough to establish that maybe, just maybe, A is now exclusively batting for the other team? If not, what does the Home Office expect? I would certainly hope that the Home Office comes to their senses about this.

Third, whatever happened in prison happened, and once one has completed the sentence assessed by the courts, one is still a human being. If the responsibility of the rest of society to someone like A to treat her like a human being ended upon her conviction of whatever crime, then there really is no sense in handing out anything but life sentences without possibility of parole (“throw away the key”) or the death penalty. The fact that A has been released says she has been sanctioned enough for her crimes.

Even if A wasn’t a lesbian before, she should probably be considered one now, and to just ship her back to Jamaica is at best negligent and at worst downright reckless and a flagrant violation of the standards by which decent people live. I’m not saying necessarily that she should be allowed to stay in the UK; maybe another country will let her live there.

The comments, not surprisingly, blast the Home Office and mostly say “ship her back already.” To which I respond: I’m so glad I don’t live in the UK.

A Florida family’s high-rise hell

I’ve let this one age a bit longer than I’d have liked, but better late than never. If it wasn’t actually in the news, I’d swear this was the plot of a horror movie.

CBS News reports on the family of Victor Vangelakos, who moved from New Jersey in the middle of a housing boom in the Fort Myers, Florida, area. Due to a variety of reasons, the Vangelakos family found themselves in a very uncomfortable and eerie situation: they are the sole occupants of Oasis Tower One, a 32-story high-rise condominium tower with over 200 units.

Quoting the article:

On subsequent visits, however, the building grew more deserted.

The lights on the pool and palm trees were off. Their garbage shoot was sealed, a trash bin placed in front of their unit instead.

Despite the empty units, they faithfully parked in their assigned spot on the second story of the parking garage. Then those lights went off, too.

Then there were security concerns. One night, someone pounded on their door at 11 p.m. They called the front desk at the next door building, which contacted police. A search turned up no one, though a pool entrance was open.

This article struck a particular chord with me; my dream home is a high-rise condominium (specifically, I’m leaning towards the Hermann Park area, but keeping others in mind as well). I’m often a bit of a loner by nature. But this situation would probably drive me to insanity, and I can only imagine the kind of mental and emotional strain this family has to endure.

Or maybe not, as it appears from the rest of the story the family has apparently turned down an offer to move into the other tower, because they would still be paying the mortgage and maintenance costs on their purchased unit.

I’d certainly take them up on the offer, figuring a buyout was inevitable. But, this family isn’t me.