October 7, 2004
Sources of the Red Red Haze
It's not really that I hate my job. This is not the case. I actually like my job quite a bit. This has led several of my friends and family to ask me why, if this is so, have I recently been driven to damage my manual infrastructure against the office's vertical superstructure?
This is a fair question. It deserves an answer that contains a bit more thought than my typical content of flip sarcasm and self-satisfying in-jokes. So here goes.
I came to work at Ximian for several reasons. It wasn't because I needed a job. At the time, I was, in fact employed, and I took a pay cut to make to move. While the dot.com I was at wasn't on the most stable of ground, neither (at the time) was Ximian looking much more so; a few more months, perhaps, barring something breakout happening. I came to Ximian because someone I respected asked me to, because the company was making things I used myself, and because (after coming over and chatting with a few of the monkeys) it appeared that it was populated by people who Gave a Shit.
Many dot.coms Gave a Shit. These guys, however, Gave a Shit about something other than (well, besides, and before) getting fuck-you money. The technical people had almost all already been doing what they were doing for love not money, and Ximian was supporting them as they did it. Some were hired on and Got It. Some others didn't get it but worked hard. A few (but fewer than in most firms) didn't get it, and had to be worked around. The CEO of the company, though, ran Linux on his laptop and bitched about the fact that his kids ran Windows at home.
These guys Got It.
To a sysadmin who had been running from Windows for as long as he could, it was a fricking godsend. The environment alone would have been that - but the entire purpose of this little place was to bring this to everyone trapped inside corporations, as I had been in the past. To bring what we had, there, to those suffering in cube farms everywhere. Hell, we used it every day, why couldn't everyone?
There were (and still are) reasons why some people can't, people with situations ranging from the complex and custom to the very mundane. We try to fix the products, to get rid of those reasons. That's what we do. (Note: I say "we" in a very self-aggrandizing manner, here. I don't write code. I don't do QA. I'm just an Op.) Still, we get to work on problems here (even as Ops) that you don't see every day. We get to try to solve problems that may not have come up before, using tools that are so new the developers haven't finished them. We're figuring out how to deploy stuff that doesn't even work fully yet, making it do stuff it was never designed to do because we have it sitting there to play with and someone else has something they need done. We can walk out the door, because Ximian was small enough and our office remains tight enough even as part of Novell, and grab a developer and say Yo, homeslice, that shizzle no worky. Make fixy or I cut off yer pr0n feed. And they will; not because they believe our crude threats (usually) but because they, too, want the damn thing to work and be worth something. When us Ops come to them and say it doesn't work, they know it's because we're trying to use it, and that counts.
These guys are fairly young (younger than I, at least) and they work hard. They're here late. I'm here late, sometimes, but I'm older now and my job doesn't usually generate the kind of deadlines or late night inspiration chasing theirs does. I try to be here when they need me here to make things work, or when things break of course, but still. While sometimes there's creative slacking, on the job and off, an awful damn lot of oil gets burned around here. This is mostly because they care about this stuff, and did before Novell, and did before Ximian. Novell bought Ximian, and Ximian came to be (at least in part) to harness that culture and energy.
Back to me.
The problem is that in every company, there seem to be a certain percentage of people whose skill set seems to consist mostly of parasitic bureaucratic manipulation. I have come to the conclusion that this is an unavoidable characteristic of any organization based on SOPs, a la James Q. Wilson's theories; but that doesn't make it any less annoying. These people exist solely to manipulate the organization to provide for their own job and security. They survive because it would cost the organization more to get rid of them than it does to simply tolerate them. Classic parasite behavior. They are usually spread out thinly enough that at no point in the organization is it worth rooting them out; if they clump too thickly, at some point it is cost-effective to simply burn down a big chunk of the org and start over (or, more efficiently, tie it off and let it wither).
Which brings me to Novell. Something very interesting is happening at Novell at the moment. A middlin' sized tech company is trying hard to reinvent itself around an entirely new (to it) concept. Not the Internet - it's fairly clear that Novell missed that commuter ferry entirely during the 1990s while getting pissed in the pub on Netware dividends. No, around Linux (which, if you read any form of trade rags, you already know). This is a fascinating process to watch, especially frm the inside, as it involves something new in my experience - a change process mandated from the top but pushed from both the top and the bottom via the acquisition of Ximian and SuSE, and the evangelism of members of those organizations and 'converted' technical personnel at the grunt technical levels and up the engineering tree, which at Novell should be 'those who matter' for the Company's future direction (it being a software company, after all). I'm not going to go into how well that evangelism is going - that's for analysts. We're still here, though, and haven't been standing around...and reading my colleague's blogs will tell you that Novell, true to its word, has in fact been supporting their Open Source efforts. No Ximian code that was Open Source when we were acquired has been closed (afaik), and some product that was proprietary has in fact been released to the community (Ximian Connector for Exchange, e.g.).
However, the parasites are still around. And in a lots of cases, they've managed to hole up in the non-PBU departments. Or perhaps just survive longer there. Why? I don't know; maybe when your department budget isn't based on revenue, it's easier to stay hidebound. Maybe overhead isn't viewed as critical to this new reorg, being viewed as one of those 'old fashioned' attempts at cost-cutting. All I know is this: I get work done when I don't talk to my department, which is one of those overhead departments. I get work done, and things completed, and people helped, when I respond to the needs and requests of the people I've always worked with here in my office.
As soon as I try to interact with Novell, the corporate structure, from my 'slot' within it, everything goes to hell in a God-damned handbasket. Resources? Well, sure...as long as I can pimp the budget from other people in the office. Servers? Same. Infrastructure? No, then it's gotta come from another person who also lives in Provo, which isn't itself a problem, save for the fact that our data center explicitly wasn't put in his cost center, so we're not in his planning cycle, so how? Not sure. Software licenses? Nope. We lost those. Wait three months. Mail client development stalled? Well, maybe two months. We'll call you.
Hardware? What kind? While being visited, a gent from the home office commented snarkily on the fact that my co-worker and I got Macintosh Powerbooks. No, I replied calmly, we don't.
What're those? He asked, pointing at the 12" and 15" Powerbooks in front of us.
Our day to day machines that we bought with our own money, we told him.
What kind of laptop did Novell buy you? he asked.
We had to laugh at him. Laptop? Not likely. My primary workstation was a Dell P3/500 that Ximian had owned when I was hired. I didn't (and don't) have a Novell laptop.
Let me stop and make something perfectly clear. I do not believe it is my right or privilege to have cool fast hardware on my desk. In fact, I have taken a perverse pride since coming to Ximian in being able to do my job on the hardware I have. I have also felt a quiet happiness at finding a job where I cared about the dev team to the point where their hardware was much more important to me than mine. However, I do feel very protective of the people I support, and the fact that (for example) the crappy NFS server appliance we had when we were acquired, and that was #1 on our list to be replaced, still hasn't been despite piecemeal buys of over $15K in hardware due to critical PO reqs sitting ignored in the requisitioning system - or lost, for all I know, either would have the same effect - these start to seriously tick me off.
Being told to seriously consider a $109 cheaper monitor for my colleague despite the fact that the one he was trying to purchase is the one every developer has on their workstation (and, hence, we have to support) while being told there is never any extra in the budget for computers for us - this starts to severely tick me off.
Reading on Provo department personnel blogs about wonderful fun family-included outings to AAA baseball games followed by business-day golf outings with the CEO that same week which we (politely) weren't informed of, because we are in a remote location and can't participate in them, while having to cope with the above-mentioned hardware and software license subscription shortages - well, one begins to feel a tad superfluous in one's assigned slot in the organization.
When the only contact one has with the head office is a completely fucking useless boondoggle of a training session which wastes three days of our time, three days which in fact we had been asked to contribute to an important product which others in our office had been busting their collective asses on for months, this is a problem. When said training involves training people who in no way do what we do in a task which we in no way do for a living nor have we ever really done for Ximian or Novell, well, then, it begins to appear that not only are we superfluous but completely fucking misfiled under a completely incorrect fucking heading in a completely fucking wrong department with many of those People of Special Bureaucratic Skills I mentioned earlier.
Add on top of this the loudly voiced opinion from more than one of those being trained that they cannot understand why we appear so frustrated, because, after all, this is just a job and they're just here for the paycheck and isn't that why we're here, and we're almost there.
Spice the top of the third day of this environment with what no doubt seemed like good natured joshing about my apparent naivete at believing the Democrats could do a better job, from people who by their own admission have no idea who Karl Rove even is, and you may, perhaps, begin to understand why that poor whiteboard had to die.
And this is how you end up with a broken right hand.
Hm. I wonder if this violates the ACLB.
Posted by jbz at October 7, 2004 1:43 AM
My apologies for my lateness in responding to this thread. Please understand that this response is directed at your comments, not at your actual person. I simply disagree and wish to voice my own view, though I see that this issue is highly charged for both of you and I accept responsibility for commenting unbidden.
Please do not counsel jb to begin back-biting (when you have climbed up their back enough to stand on their shoulders you can kick them out), ass-kissing (direct quote), vengeful (make them pay), or more particularly, to hold contempt in his heart while clenching his teeth and getting an ulcer. I agree that he should in general leave the building before he hits things, mainly out of courtesy to the uninvolved, but I am proud to have worked with him and would gladly do so again.
I gain my opinions after many years experience working in corporate america, not only for Novell, but for Lockheed Martin and Dun & Bradstreet, as well as a host of smaller firms. It would be a great mistake and shame to add another corporate kiss-ass to the job market at the expense of a competent, passionate individual who is willing to go out of his way to contribute and to inconvenience himself to help those who pay him the normal respect due any coworker. His actions and ideals have not gone unnoticed or unappreciated, and he is held in very high esteem by coworkers current and former.
Everyone hates lawyers except their own...and everyone needs a lawyer once in their lives. The fact of the matter is that corporations are only partially efficient methods of harnessing human endeavor. They have the same advantages and disadvantages of mass education: they tend to force the sub-par to at least contribute at or near an "average" level; with the corrolary effect of preventing the wildly super-par from achieving their true potential.
First, a note about my working for a law-firm: Yes, it is true that there is a certain rigid structure that provides some predictablitiy. The downside of course is that there is very little room for variation. If you don't hit certain milestones at certain points, then you might as well pack it up and go home -- there aren't second chances. So don't go thinking it is some nice safe haven from the "real world." Also, until recently, law firms had the advantage of not being like other corporations, since they were run by lawyers, who by nature are terrible managers. Now we have professional managers, and our efficiencies are beginning to be evened out toward a dull "adequate". I'm personally not sure I am going to stick around forever, I just haven't figured out what I am going to do next (if something different).
Which is the point. I may be "treading water" where I am; I may not be doing the perfect job that makes me all warm and fuzzy; but I'm doing _something_. Even if I don't stay in the same type of job I am in now, my experience and knowledge is advancing at a pace consistent with my expectations of income/prestige. Other than learning new protocols, new hardware confgurations etc., how are you developing? 10 years from now you could be doing the same job you are doing for relatively the same amount of money/satisfaction. Considering how dissatisfied you seem now, what is the point of that?
I mean: do you see yourself as essentially a blue-collar line worker? You will just punch the clock from now until you are old enough to take retirement and go fishing? (You don't like fishing that much, do you?) Or, do you see yourself marking time at work while you do other things to prepare for the next stage of life? Or do you see your work as directly related to the advancement (personal, economic, intellectual etc.) that you want to achieve? Based on your previous statements, I don't think the it is the third situation. So, that leaves the first two.
If all you are doing is "marking time" until you retire, then why get wound up by how things are playing out at work? As long as they write your check and match your 401(k) (if any), what do you care? You can always get a comprable job elsewhere if your current gig goes under, right? If it is the second option, that you are just marking time until you are ready for "the next thing", well... what is the "next thing"? What are you doing? And again, why get so wound up?
As to "how [I] got so invested in my motives, goals and progress or lack thereof," well... gee I dunno, maybe it had something to being squeezed out of the same body oriface three years and six days after you made the same trip. Sorry, questioning my motives is just weak.
Is my life perfect? Fuck no. Do I "love my job" mmm...not entirely sure, but I don't think so. But just because I'm fucked up, and perhaps lacking perspective on my own situation doesn't mean I am wrong about yours.
Final note: Somehow I refuse to feel indequate for having chosen law school over the .com fizzle. Law school sucked a whole lot more, but it has better long-term payout. Your grandeloquient explanation of "unmaintainably overvalued capital markets correcting and breaking the flow of inflationary venture money into the process" is pure JB bullshit. You are saying exactly what I said, only trying to make it sound different by attempting to talk down to me. The money dried up and a whole lot of utterly unsustainable businesses went under. Who do we blame: the venture capitalists for fluffing the market through questionable investments and opportunistic profit-taking? Or an entire culture that accomplished little more than confirming the belief that people who deal with technology aren't entirely grounded in reality, and they are all useful bastards as long as we never give them control of any purse-strings? Oh, let me rephrase that in your language: "Does accountability for the sudden devaluation of new investment in the technology sector properly lie with the public misdirection practiced by self-interested early entreants, or does it belong more properly to the inherent unsustainability of non-traditional business ventures concealed by the naive optimism of technically astute novices?"
Hmmm... maybe there's a paper in that....
Oh, and by the way: Don't say the dot.com era fizzled when 'us kids realized' anything. You make it sound like you were one of a herd who suddenly came to their senses and got Responsible Jobs. Fuck that, you never worked for a dot.com; you went to law school. I worked for five of the fuckers. "Recognizing corporate America wasn't all wrong" had fuck-all to do with it. Maybe that's what you did. The "dot.com era" ended because of structural factors, most notably unmaintainably overvalued capital markets correcting and breaking the flow of inflationary venture money into the process, jumping the bar above the heads of the 95% of those companies which shouldn't have survived their first year to begin with, or even received funding checks.
The reason harassment policies, communications policies, and the like seem like such good ideas, I should point out, can be traced directly to lawyers.
You're "frankly suspicious of anyone who claims to have no interest in advancement" and feel that "if you don't want to be ambitious, then you don't get to pick what you are dedicated to?" Hm. Really.
You're making several fairly broad assumptions about my goals involving this whole endeavour, as well as my expectations as to Novell's response. You seem to think I'm whining as a petulant child waiting for things to magically get better because I don't like the rules of the game. Well, pardon me all to hell, but you're wrong, so kindly fuck back off to your comfy predictable law firm, mmkay? I'm not entirely sure how you got so invested in my motives, goals and progress or lack thereof, but flatly, you seem to be projecting an awful lot of your own situation and beliefs onto me, and it's a poor fit.
My 'dedication to the project' stems from a commitment I made and an excitement I first felt when signing on at Ximian, and a commitment I make every day at Novell by not packing up and leaving, by doing my job, and by continuing to nose out interesting projects outside my own AOR that look like they need doing and will help the product get out the door. My fascination with the ongoing transformation at Novell arises not so much from my ardent personal identification with the corporate entity, or my desire to 'rise within Novell' as from my interest in and prior experience with corporations of various sizes trying to transform themselves. This type of situation is one that is new in my experience.
If my goals had been 'rise to executive level in a corporation' then I wouldn't have been looking for jobs as a startup System/Network admin in the first place. Those jobs are by definition high hands-on, with no personnel management responsibilities, and involve solving unstructured but time-sensitive problems with undefined toolsets and scant resources - i.e. being a clever bastard late at night with open source tools and commodity machines, and using them to provide solutions that medium to large corporations (the 'enterprise') provide by spending fair amounts of money, RTFM, using appliance/turnkey solutions, hiring dedicated personnel and/or consultants, or outsourcing.
You seem to be under the impression that I am frustrated that I am not in a position to 'make policy' or 'change the world' or 'run the show'or some such. Crap on a stick. My OFFICIAL JOB at Novell is to make the boxes run and keep the dev teams happy and functional from a support POV. That's it. i.e. do what I was doing before we got bought; support the groups working in the Cambridge office with any and all local infrastructure needs.
My frustration (at least, the part of it directly affecting my job) arose not from watching internal Novell grand politics or strategy changes (although those would normally be enough to drive me bats were my job concerned with those - and they have driven some of my friends round the proverbial bend) but from process and structural kinks and fuckery that prevent me from doing the basic, non-ambitious, support job that I was instructed to do. Seeing things that happen everywhere corporations get large enough to shoot themselves in the foot, but stumbling across the bullet holes of my company's drunken target practices of the past few years all at once as we integrate in. This is why I call stupidity on myself for the reaction.
It's also why I react so negatively to your hostile insistence to try to relate my encounters with this and my reactions to it to some grander scheme of your disappointment with how my life is progressing. Believe me, I've got that part of the world well covered, and I don't need your help.
I care about Linux. I care about Linux making it. I care about shipping this product in that context. I couldn't give less of a flying fuck about personally advancing in the power structure of Novell, and even less of one about running the mess that is what I see of Novell IS&T. I just want to get the job I was given done to support the guys here well, and to help them how I can, and shield them from having to worry about unreasonable crap like if their internet connection works or not or if they are licensed to use the software they need to do their job.
I'm happy for you that you've found structure in Corporate America that you can relate to. I haven't, really. I have found places in it I can make my way, but not 'paths to a career!' like you seem to be talking about in a very Ayn Randish sorta way. "Belonging" give me hives. This is quite likely what gets me in such awful amounts of trouble. (shrug).
You are trying to have it both ways. On one hand, you want to participate in this "really important thing" that will show the rest of the world they are wrong, and lead them into the light of tech-goodness; on the other hand, you don't want to have any responsibility for driving the ship, and in fact claim to eschew any ambition within the vehicle. In other words, you claim to love the Navy as long as you never rise above E-3. Excuse me if the officers begin to question your commitment.
The .com era fizzled when all of us kids woke up and realized that, as boring and obnoxious as corporate America is, it isn't _all_ wrong. In fact, little things like profts, reporting structures, employee manuals, harrassment policies etc. all turn out to be pretty useful things to have. Furthermore, in our society/economic system, the only way to efficeintly (and reliably) organize a large group of people to a common goal is through the corporation (Yes, I've read (parts of) the Cathedral and the Baazar). You can either be part of a "movement", in which case you have to take all of the disadvantages of disorganized effort (lack of clear leadership, lack of resources, conflicting goals etc.), or you can work for a company trying to achieve certain goals.
Whatever Novell "said" about culture when they bought Ximian, the fact remains that they are in the SW business, not the "culture" business. There is no place on the 10-K form to list the intangible value of beanbag chairs and clothing-optional tuesdays. On the other hand, if you want to put that $106 more expensive monitor on the programmer's desk, someone's got to cough up some money.
So, maybe you confused them because you don't "fit into their mold" of what a corporate employee is supposed to look like. Great. The jutting nail is the one that usually gets hammered down. If they don't perceive your place in the corporation, they'll can you -- and like it or not, it's your fault, not theirs.
And for the record, you are not "one of the least demanding [type of] people to manage". First, because you lack any apparent motivation that the manager can relate to, you cause them to constantly think about you/worry about you/wonder what the hell you are up to. Second, because you are so deeply attached to the substance of what you are doing (e.g. "the Linux Thing") you are unreliable and unpredictable. What if Novell decides to change strategies? You will probably say that you would just quit. Well, if I was a manager that isn't exactly the type of employee I'd want in my department. It would be like having a great Sergeant in your platoon, but he tells you that he's only going to lead the troops if he thinks the mission is sound. You'd ditch him immediately, not wait for him to suddenly announce on the eve of battle that he's decided to sit this one out.
If you want to be in the position to judge the merit of the mission, then you have to be ambitious and rise to that post. If you don't want to be ambitious, then you don't get to pick what you are dedicated to.
Just because you don't respect the "corporate culture" doesn't mean that it doesn't have its own purpose. If you want to play in their game, then you have to play by their rules.
Maybe you should ask why you *don't* have any ambitions beyond your current job? Aren't there some aspects of the "really good thing" that you feel you could do better? You don't have to aspire to be boss, but I'm frankly suspicious of anyone who claims to have no interest in advancement.
Oh, you misunderstand me. I was not attempting to convince anyone that my action was, in fact, logical or anything other than stupid (see the previous post, in which I initially reported the incident). This is not a defense of my actions or an attempt to label what I did "reasoning." It was a response to several IRL questions that asked what my mindset had been, and what had caused that mindset. It was a factual response.
I have no illusions about my chances of 'changing things' here. Nor am I complaining that our being sold to Novell was a bad thing; on the contrary, the acquisition was, on balance, in my opinion, a well-reasoned decision. It has produced positive results for both sides of the deal. Watching the process from my little spot in the cheap seats is fascinating.
What I am saying is that the way this small piece of Novell is being handled makes me extremely angry. That's their prerogative; it's your world, boss. But they should at least know it. It was stupid to allow it to tick me off to the point I lost control; this rant is a slightly less direct (and more encompassing) statement about the current state of affairs.
Clenching teeth and bearing it until you have ascendancy is one perfectly viable strategy, if your plan involves achieving ascendancy over that particular organization or resource in order to effect change/revenge. Mine doesn't. I don't care about that part of the game, fundamentally, except as it screws with what I can do to help build this thing that's pretty cool that we've been working on for a coupke of years.
This should make me easy to deal with. I really don't want much. I don't have threatening aspirations that involve scarce resources inside our organization. I have no internal political power inside my department, no budget of my own, no subordinates. All I want to do is work long hours on this thing I was working on before, that Novell claims they bought me to produce.
And yet, I'm now a pissed off troublemaking unpredictable problem, at some level. How did that happen? Something's broke, somewhere. I should be one of the least demanding people to manage - there is a whole organization out here giving me tasks to perform daily; urgent, short, and long-term. Novell has a large corporate infrastructure to handle things like my benefits and payroll and other admin tasks, and I require very little admin support (no travel, no secretarial, no busywork, etc). When bored, I tend to go find other problems to go work on.
What, then, is the problem?
Sure, it could be me. I fully acknowledge I'm a pain in the ass in many ways. However, I managed to support Ximian for 1.5 yrs with no major issues, and my tasks have not changed appreciably, nor have the people I interact with regularly or the systems I work on.
So for what it's worth (maybe nothing) I'm a True Believer in the Linux conversion. I think it's happening, I think it can work. I like my coworkers here and I like my immediate job. But I hate the part that involves dealing with Novell IS&T, to the point of not really caring about who knows - enough to punch walls, or write these rants. And that strikes me as something that maybe they ought to be told, in a manner than doesn't involve my punching walls. You're right, my temper got away from me in the second half of the post again, and I did the equivalent in writing, I guess. But again, this is another indicator of my frustration level.
It is entirely possible that this statement, admission, what-have-you, will result not in change but repercussions. I'm not naive enough to believe that anything I write on a blog would in any 'shield' or 'insulate' me from those, and I wouldn't want anyone to think I was hiding by doing this, either. Rest assured, I'm not saying these things because I want to lose my job, or because I harbor any form of violent intent towards anyone, no matter what weird wartime metaphors might get used here (this is a military analysis blog, after all).
I say it because I've already made the mistake of losing my cool, and I owe my company the service of explaining as rationally as possible the degree to which I'm ticked off and by what - not in the expectation that they make it right for me, but because I do, actually, want Novell to succeed at this. In order for that to happen, Novell can't afford to have Ops losing their shit and punching walls. While I;m not the calmest guy out there, at no point during my Ximian tenancy had I ever suffered from a desire to do that; and when Novell bought us, they claimed that they really wanted our culture. It's therefore my duty to inform them that something's broken, and IS&T is not getting Ximian's culture. I don't know what Novell's culture was, or even is; all i know is that this isn't a result I think I want.
Plus, it's always fun when you're feeling annoyed to explain to people who are annoying you the degree to which you are not behaving predictably and don't have conventional motives.
"And therefore it is said that enlightend rulers deliberate upon the plans, and good generals execute them.
"If not in the interests of the state, do not act. If you cannot succeed, do not use troops. If you are not in danger, do not fight.
"A sovereign cannot raise an army because he is enraged, nor can a general fight because he is resentful. For while an angered man may again be happy, and a resentful man again be pleased, a state that has perished cannot be restored, nor can the dead be brought back to life.
"Therefore, the enlightened ruler is prudent and the good general is warned against rash action. Thus the state is kept secure and the army preserved."
I was with you for the first half of the post. Well stated; it was cool, logical and dispassionate. While hardly exposing anything new to corporate America, your description makes clear that you at least are aware of some of the inherent inefficiencies of corporate managment. While a further exploration of the root of those inefficiencies would be welcome, I concede it wasn't the purpose of this post to plumb the depths of corporate mismanagment.
However, I am lost as to how you get from there to the end. Here is your apparent logic train:
(1) I work with great people who do their jobs for both love and money;
(2) Our company has been acquired by a larger corporation that has the advantages of a big company (money) and the disadvantages (middle-management; bureaucratic inertia); [surely the people who decided to sell to Novell had reasons for doing so? Why don't you find out what those were]
(3) Because of the new arrangement, it is no longer as easy to do my job, primarily because disconnected corporate management (a) doesn't pay alot of attention to what I do, (b) doesn't understand what I do, (c) doesn't value what I do;
(4) As a result of (3), I am sometimes asked to do things that I consider to be outside my job function/expertise, and which I don't enjoy doing;
(5) Because of (2) I am now brought into contact with people who are culturally different from me, who have radically different backgrounds in education and personal experience, and who envision their role as something utterly separate from mine;
(6) The people in (5), despite their cluelessness, control aspects of my job that are important (e.g. money);
(7) The people in (5) are ignorant, yet willing to espouse opinions about things that they know nothing about;
(8) In order to improve my job by overcoming the poorly conceived limitations that have been imposed on me, it is necessary for me to overtly act in a manner that demonstrates I am less mature, less logical, less well-reasoned, and less believable than the people in (5).
Besides maybe making you feel better for 1 second (doubtful), what did hitting a whiteboard accomplish? Did it make any of the people present think "Hmm, he feels pretty strongly. Maybe I ought to figure out what the f**k this linux stuff is all about, and find out who Karl Rove is before I vote."?
Or, did your actions more likely cause said people to think "What a child. I knew I was smarter than him. Just goes to show you that only childish fools dick around with this linux crap when they could be playing golf, and only immature dummies would vote for Kerry. Bush really is the best leader for the free world!"?
"Oh, I don't care what those people walked out of the room thinking."
Bullshit. If you don't care, then quit your supposedly beloved job. Those people, like it or not, currently control the pursestrings. Currently have sway. Maybe, if you are wise and patient, you can surprise them by rising to a position of sufficient sway to make them pay for their idiocy. In the meantime, all you can hope to do is persuade them that your mission is their mission, and helping you helps themselves. Yes, it's called ass-kissing, and our species has been doing it since we really were monkeys. There's always a guy with a bigger dick. Until your dick grows bigger it doesn't pay to challenge that guy: you just get kicked out of the herd -- and that's a lonely place to be.
In the words of my shrink: "learn to practice quiet contempt." No one needs to know what you are thinking behind clenched teeth; and the dumber they are, the less likely they are to figure out that you think they are useless. When you have climbed up their back enough to stand on their shoulders you can kick them out of the herd. Until then, either put up & shut up or go somewhere else.