To Build a Pile

Around September of 1990 I put in a programming request for Keith’s services. I wanted him to print me a list of all North American-bred named foals of a given year (I picked 1983) that I could use as a sample group for assorted topics, including inbreeding.

This request came up for discussion at a weekly staff meeting (I hate meetings almost as much as I hate committees). At that meeting the editor (whom I called the RSP) waved that request at me contemptuously and emphatically denied it. Programmers had too much on their plates. It would have to wait at least six months, he said, although from his tone I think he really meant until hell freezes over.

Naturally that pissed me off. I had finally agreed to use some of their programming and was requesting more, and now they were denying that request. That’s just the way it goes most of the time. Slavemasters are unpredictable and impossible to please.

I have not yet babbled about this particular slavemaster, the editor, whom I called the RSP. I decline to say what RSP stands for. I would not want to offend anyone’s delicate PC meters. “Rape kegs, that is; for I am PC/And totally sensitive to all that feces.”

The RSP was the person who had hired me originally to move down to Lexington from Cincinnati in 1981. A few years later he started his own nag rag with financial backing from the HHT and others. The RSP hired me again in March of 1988 to work for this relatively new nag rag. Despite having hired me twice, I was under no illusions about the RSP. I knew that he was a boss like a lot of other bosses, better than some, worse than most.

Up to that point in the job I had gotten along okay with the RSP, mainly because I interacted with him as little as possible. Most of my interaction was with the managing editor, and I got along really well with him. It helps to keep as many layers of management bureaucracy as possible between yourself and the big bosses. That day at that meeting when the RSP emphatically denied my programming request marked a turning point for me at that job. The RSP had pissed me off. Now I had to find a way around him.

Of course there is always more than one way to skin a cat, as the expression goes. I decided that I really did not need a list of names from Keith. I could type the names directly from the American Stud Book. So that’s what I proceeded to do.

Specifically, I proceeded to “batch” 45,000+ North American-bred named foals of 1983. To explain somewhat, usually you asked for one printout at a time when dealing with the OC. But you could also “batch” them, order several hundred reports at a time (usually the same report but on different nags) and pick them up later.

So that’s what I did over the next few months. I “batched” 45,000+ reports on foals of 1983 that included five-cross pedigrees, inbreeding, and race records. Actually I probably typed in more than 50,000 names because a certain amount of wastage was involved. Your “batches” did not always run successfully. I usually submitted them about 200 names at a time. If I could not find them the next day upstairs in the computer room, I would have to retype and resubmit all or part of that batch (depending on what was missing).

So I batched away, collected the printouts, and piled them up along the perimeter walls of my office. Do you know how much space 90,000 pages (two pages for each printout) takes up? It was approximately 100 printouts (or 200 pages) per inch or 1,200 printouts (2,400 pages) per foot. I was building a pile. The pile eventually reached 35-40 feet high (in six or seven stacks of five or six feet each).

I was under no delusions that I could keep this pile a secret. The managing editor kidded me about it a lot, making jokes about the building leaning over in the direction of the outer wall against which it was stacked. The RSP???? If he noticed, he did not say a word to me about it. Maybe he was blind. Maybe he was stupid. Maybe he was a lot craftier than I thought he was. I had a hard time fingering out the RSP. “Inscrutable” was a good word for him.

I finished the pile about a week after Thanksgiving. I told the managing editor. He just kinda grinned and passed the message up the chain of command. The managing editor also reminded me that paper cost about a penny a page. That would have been about $900 (call it an even $1,000). I told the managing editor that I would gladly write them a check for the cost of the paper as long as they allowed me to do what I wanted to do with that pile.

I think I told the managing editor late on a Friday afternoon. I did that deliberately so that everyone could think about it over the weekend. I certainly thought about it over that weekend. But the way I looked at it, the WORST they could do to me was fire me and send me a bill for $1,000 or so. I had saved enough money by then that that would not have been disastrous. They had backed me into a corner. I had to take a risk to get out of that corner. It was a gamble. Some people call me a gamblin’ man.

The gamble paid off. Or so I was informed on Monday morning by the managing editor, who explained to me that management looked at it like damage that had already been done. Might as well make the best of it.

Make the best of it I did over the next two years or so. Not that it was all smooth sailing. I had to endure some BS from both the RSP and the HHT before publishing about a dozen parts of a series on inbreeding.

Both the managing editor and I had specifically requested that the RSP read the first part of that series before it was published. He declined to do so, then had the GALL to complain about if afterward. He took offense at a phrase that I used about “certain charlatans.” If the shoe fits, wear it. That was the type of shithead the RSP was. He would decline to read before and change what he did not like but bitch afterward. Slavemasters by definition are shitheads. Get used to it.

They eventually made a pamphlet out of the whole series and sold it for $7.50 each. Take a guess how much $ I received for each one sold. If you guessed zero, go to the head of the class.

But I have to admit that I really did not care about the $ (and they probably did not sell more than a few hundred pamphlets at most). I had lots of FUN with that pile. Not just inbreeding either. Positions. Racing class of dams. Other topics. Not all of it was published, but I had a lot of FUN with it whether it was published or not. And I learned a lot myself about the relationship between pedigrees and statistics.

I had to quit that job eventually, a little over two years later, in February of 1993. Without going into detail, I personally insulted the RSP pretty profoundly right before I left. The asshole had it coming to him.

You can say what you like about me. You can say that I was extremely eccentric and difficult to manage. You can say that I was NOT a team player. You can say that I did not accept supervision readily (or at all). You can say that I was a cantankerous son of a bitch. All of those things are true no doubt (at least from the point of view of management).

All I know is that I held my head up high on the day that I left that job behind. I had marched to the beat of my own drummer. I had built a pile. I had a lot of FUN with it. I learned a lot from it. I did at least some good with it (educating people about pedigrees and statistics). I had built a pile, and I had survived with my integrity intact. Jack London would have approved.

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5 Responses to To Build a Pile

  1. fmitchell07 says:

    personally, i like “cantankerous.”


    • ddink55 says:

      Cantankerous is also a very good broodmare in the imaginary racing system. Dam of G1 winners Carrying Harpoons and Carry a Gun. Also of Crimson Flames, probable champion 3-year-old filly after her recent win in the Beldame S. Also of recent Breeders’ Futurity winner Cantescapefromyou.

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