Friday, August 29, 2008

Who's Carolina Now?

I had an assignment last night.
I was to watch South Carolina play North Carolina and provide a detailed report on the outcome.
Since I know kind of pathetically little about football, which I assume this game to have been merely from the use of the word "quarterback", I've kind of had to fill in some details on my own.
Spoilers follow:

South Carolina won.

As if that is a spoiler, really.
I mean, with the way things have been here, I think you could remove all skill and steroids from the University of South Carolina and they would just beat North Carolina with pure rage.
You can't really blame them, either, with the way North Carolina has handled the conflict so far.
We've come to expect a few border skirmishes between South Carolina and North Carolina, what with the North Carolinian tendencies to both ignore maps and steal chickens.
It's been going on for hundreds of years, as I understand it.
South Carolina is content with the whole "we have Charleston and Charleston is awesome" attitude, while North Carolina hovers there, squatting over our state like a huge, misshapen buzzard, waiting to kill us all off in our sleep and form a new state called "Just Carolina".
Besides completely invalidating two whole state's worth of state quarters and no doubt increasing the financial distress for the whole rest of the nation due to the loss of 1/25th of potential vending machine revenue, the plans of these dogs from the North fail to take into account the resourcefulness of the native population of South Carolina.

Listen here, North Carolina:
Our liquor stores close at seven p.m. That's on days they are even freaking open. Some days, they don't open at all.
As a result, people in South Carolina plan every waking moment around these windows of liquor availability. It makes us develop minds for logistics. That's why your troops never get past that Exxon TravelStop on I-77. Of course we defend that outpost of freedom, since in addition to selling beer it is also one of South Carolina's major sources of Lottery tickets.
So you should just keep your Yankee selves up in Charlotte with your multiple Starbucks and your Mac store.
We'll brew our own coffee and order Macs off the interwebz. It keeps us hard and cold.
We are ready for your next attempt, North Carolina.
You don't want a piece of this. Think it through.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tell Us Anything You'd Like Us To Know About Yourself

"Tell Us Anything You'd Like Us To Know About Yourself" is the phrase people say about fifteen minutes before I'm explaining my answer to Human Resources.
I've added some words and phrases to the "not to use in meetings" list.
I'm not sure which ones were the actual trigger, so this list is a little broad.
Though not specified in any employee handbook, you may want to take care when using:

1. Explainy

2. Verb (used as a verb, for example "He verbed 'error' and made it a seem like a lifestyle choice")

3. Flaming vortex of eternal suffering

4. My liquor delivery will be here this afternoon -- I may be in late tomorrow

5. I just went totally head-desk

6. Three Cheese Turkey Lean Pocket (This seems harmless, but the context made me add it to this list)

7. Suck (used as a noun, with reference to quantity)

I know it seems ridiculous, but even these harmless words can apparently trigger a walk to "sign this form and get back to work" with a follow-up "please, please, please just be reasonable" call from your agency.
I hope this list is informative and helpful.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Organization

"Garrick, when you get some time today, I need to talk with you about organization of our user groups."

"No problem, I'm way ahead of you."

"Really?"

"Oh yeah. Totally done actually."

"Did you break them up by region or business unit or access method?"

"None of that crap. I found the database which lists everyone and just ported it that way, slightly tweaking it for usability."

"There is no database with all twenty thousand users in it."

"I found one."

"How? What database?"

"You know how I hate it when someone hands me random, unrequested cake?"

"Because carbs make you puffy. I know."

"That too, but also because I have no idea what birthday we are celebrating. There is a database for that information."

"You tapped into HR's internal stuff?"

"Not exactly. HR keeps a database with everyone's date of birth in it. This database is what they use to manage the cake ordering process."

"There is a process for cake ordering?"

"You don't think these things just show up, do you?"

"It isn't really a question that gets asked."

"Anyway, I used that database and, like I said, tweaked it."

"I'm afraid to ask. I'm more afraid you'll tell me."

"I created twelve user groups, one for each astrological sign. We'll need to have a special meeting to discuss those people born on a cusp, though."

"You're kidding, right?"

"Oh, hell no. See, this gives us twelve groups roughly the same size. Also, it lets our Help Desk know how to deal with them when they call."

"How does it do that?"

"The Libra group, for instance. Those people are looking for a compromise. They will know, as a rule, that they have called nine times in the past six months about the same issue and they just want a resolution."

"That stuff is all made up."

"There will be no arguing with anyone in the Taurus group, since that would be a waste of time. It is best to admit fault immediately and try to move past it. Trust me, I live with two of them."

[Checking Active Directory] "Holy crap! These groups actually exist!"

"Of course they do, I'm also proactive. The Aries group, due to their adventurous nature, will be the group we use to test new software."

"Damn."

"No compelling reason to argue?"

"No."

"I know. You are in the Capricorn group. It means you will always go with the pragmatic option."

"I completely hate you."

"Yes. You also prefer to deal in absolutes."

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What I Can Piece Together Of The Events In Question

Okay. First you take two shots of Voyant Chai Vodka, add a shot of vanilla vodka, and top that off with a shot of coffee flavored (double caffeine) vodka. Shake this mixture with ice and pour the result into over-sized martini glasses. When delivered to your spouse, apologize about accidentally getting a little ice into the glass, since that is just bad form.
Repeat four times.
On later attempts, it is acceptible to get more and more ice into the martini, eventually switching to crushed ice and no longer caring at all about that.
This process is the direct result of a chain of events which no one predicted.
See, I found the Chai vodka on the way home from work one day, but we had no idea what to do with it.
Shana found a recipe for a "Pumpkin Martini" online, which required the vanilla vodka. She found this recipe at 8pm, which resulted in our discovery that liquor stores in Columbia, South Carolina close (by law) at 7pm.
This discovery led to a string of profanity from my normally calm and reserved spouse and her order online to a liqour store out-of-state which will eventually completely stock our liquor area.
Since that delivery is still several days out, I stopped on Friday afternoon to pick up some vanilla vodka to bridge the gap. I also saw the coffee vodka and made an impulse purchase.
So.
Mid-way through "Coffee Martini" #4, I found myself logged into World of Warcraft, literally screaming through the Alterac Valley Player Versus Player Battleground, indiscriminately killing every moving, attackable thing. It was brutal.
It was so bad, in fact, that I got an in-game email which read:

Hey,

Thanks for enjoying Alterac Valley, but please remember that it is just a game. Just chill out. Please.

Signed,

The Alterac Valley Battlemaster

I did not see this email until Sunday morning.
After I'd woken up on the bathroom floor, clutching a paperback, curled up in the fetal position.
Of course, Shana had to tell me about that, since I don't remember it. I crawled into bed and went back to sleep.
On the second attempt at consciousness, I mostly remember having loud skin, the sound of it touching other skin and generally shifting over my body a deafening shriek in my ears.
"Don't drink coffee!" was the advice of the day. It was also the advice I ignored for the day.
I had the loudest skin ever.
And the TV next door was ridiculously loud. So loud, in fact that I started to head over to complain before the sounds of my feet on the tile in the entryway chased me back to bed. I asked Shana to call someone to have the tile replaced with tile which is "normally clacky" as opposed to the "enhanced clacky" the Global Headquarters seems to have as a security feature.
My overall impresions of the drink are that the first one was pretty good. So good that I might have three more, I guess.
However I have to classify those three coffee martinis as completely unmemorable.
I blame the ice.
This was a learning experience for me, since I discovered a new form of terror.
See, I noticed that my wallet was next to my laptop the next day, with my credit card out, balanced atop it like some excessively flat rock climber.
The sheer horror of not knowing what the hell I had done cannot be adequately described.
As a result, I have learned that for thirty something years, only $130 has separated me from owning my very own pair of chaps.
This is not information which is easy to come by without an ample supply of coffee martinis.

Monday, August 25, 2008

My Breakfast With The Divine

After returning to my desk with breakfast, I noticed something which immediately made me gasp.
The gasp resulted in my inhaling a mouthful of coffee. The inhalation resulted in a good bit of the coffee being sprayed out onto my keyboard in disgusting, wet hacking sounds.
Swallow your coffee, then witness the miracle:


There, etched into my toast, was a message from a higher power.
I tried to share the wonder immediately.

"Look! Miracle toast! We must heed the message and leave work at once!"

"That's not a miracle. It's Dry-Erase marker."

"Heretic!"

"The Dry-Erase marker is sitting right by the plate, dumb ass."

"REPENT your disbelief and embrace the VISION!"

"I have no idea why you were ever put on this project."

"REPENT OR BE JUDGED, BLASPHEMER!!"

"What, exactly, is wrong with you?"

And my manager walked out. When the toast gods smite him, I'm going to be there to say that I warned him.
Since I'll need to be there to witness it, I suppose I won't be heeding the toast either.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Securing The I.T. Landscape

The thing is, there is a lot of landscape which needs securing. As an I.T. Security Professional, I have to consider everything.
How long should it take to log off a user for inactivity?
How complicated should their passwords be?
Is the physical security of the data established with a documented procedure?
What level of access is required to keep them from calling the Help Desk while preventing them from harming themselves or others?
As such, I'm insanely busy all day every day.
Fortunately, I also have a little time to implement my own personal brand of security smack down.
On Wednesday I noticed that my dashing long-sleeved 100% cotton oxford was the exact shade of the tile lining the walls of the entrance corridor.
I present: Instant Ninja --



Forget that! I'm ten freaking ninjas (based on stealth and skill, not mass)!
I spent a good bit of the afternoon leaning against that wall, blending in, watching people walk by and occasionally pouncing from my position of concealment to examine an odd-looking USB drive or something.
When eventually questioned, I explained about the many layers of a secure computing environment. "It's like an onion," I'd begin before being cut off and told to get back to my desk.
"Don't you know this hallway is secured by video cameras? Do you know what the security guards are saying about you right now?"
I would assume they are saying, "Holy crap! Where did that guy in the yellow shirt go! It looks like he just faded into the wall like a flaxen shadow!"
I like that. My new Ninja name is "The Flaxen Shadow"!
Also, I attended some meetings or something, but I wasn't really paying attention.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"New" Cubicles

Since I'm in the "War Room" all day everyday, the fact that my stuff has moved to a new cubicle in another building has very little impact on my day-to-day routine. It hasn't even changed where I park.
But from my single visit to the new cubicles, I learned a lot about company history.
As you can see from the image, cubicles are often constructed out of the remains of other cubicles.
These "Franken-Cubes" provide a cross-section view of major corporate events. In this case, since the lock was pried off the grey drawer unit, you can see that section of the cubicle was involved in the incident with what used to be the old Accounting department.
The multi-color wall panels illustrate this cubicle's gradual migration from building to building over the years.
This particular cubicle was also involved in an incident in 2004 involving an unfortunate "random" drug test from that admin who had been up all night trying to undo something a user did.
"What? You want a urine sample? From me?!? Let me just climb up on this desk and I'll give you your damned urine sample!"

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Project Timelines

This Thursday I will have been at this job for four months.
In addition to being close to a record string of employment at the same place, I've been working on a single, massive project the whole time.
This project (a full upgrade and migration) was started almost a year ago, and my role was created out of a requirement determined during the implementation.
Every day, we have a bunch of meetings and do a lot of work pushing the new stuff into production and getting rid of the old and busted stuff.
Every day for four months.
Last week I got a meeting invitation to something on the 18th, just after lunch.
I assumed the title of the meeting was in error, a reference to some other meeting from before my start date or a joke.
And yet I found myself seated in a room with seven other people on Monday afternoon holding a meeting which was scheduled to establish the scope of the project.
Establishing the scope is pretty much the first step in any project, especially one with this kind of scale.
"What the hell are we doing?" is a question which (in my experience) if not readily answerable by any member of a project team is a complete train wreck for progress.
And yet.
Here we were, all discussing what it is we were doing every day and why.
Four of the people in the meeting were from the Project Management Office, and the other four were the only ones with any clue as to how to articulate our goals and motivations.
The Technology Owner seated next to me began to fidget and make odd noises. Then he began to mutter under his breath about the absurdity of the timing of this meeting which obviously existed as a way of generating documentation which matched the work done, as if tracking activities after the fact constitutes a plan.
I sensed that my input would need to be directed towards this individual for a few moments in order to hold off some form of attack he might have. Or make.
"Here is the important question," I whispered to him," This shirt I'm wearing - Is it 'mint' or would you call it 'sea foam'?"
Given another line of thought, his facial muscles lost their tension. He sighed and said, "Mint."
The Technology Owner on the other side of me said,"Bull shit. That's sea foam."
With this point now firmly in debate, we began to argue and stress less about the main topic of the meeting and all of us began to throw out more ideas relating to the scope and plan and mission statement, regardless of the timeliness of the meeting itself. The obvious management ass-covering going on was forgotten with the idea that after the meeting the mint vs. sea foam issue would be fully hashed out and settled once and for all.
The meeting dragged on until we had crafted a pretty decent overall "plan" for the work we've been doing for the last four billable months.
We have not yet established whether my shirt is mint or sea foam, but I just got a meeting invitation about that for later this week.

Monday, August 18, 2008

But George Lucas Didn't Direct The Clone Wars

Or write it.
Or produce it.
So what the hell happened there?
I dragged my family to see it, as I said I would.
I'm really sorry about that, because there are 100 episodes of the series on Cartoon Network I have to make them watch with me and that is going to be really, really hard now.
My baseline score for the film is "when it comes on TV, watch it if Firefly isn't on".
Since it came out on Friday, everyone not scared off by the very idea of Anakin's spunky Padawan sidekick Ahsoka has already seen it.
Nonetheless, spoilers ahead:

Wash dies.

I can deal with Star Wars as a cartoon. That's fine.
And there were moments which were very Star Wars, like the space combat sequences.
There were other moments which made me cringe, and when repeated the moments caused the cringes to become at first apologetic towards my family and later filled with genuine shame that I wore a Star Wars shirt to the theatre since it made pretending to have been there to see Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 less believable to the total strangers in the lobby.
The battle droids were dumb. They were dumb in Episode 1, but not this dumb.
If the droids were as dumb (like slapstick Jar Jar dumb, or drunken high school football player dumb, or hit in the head with a brick after a long career of professional boxing and helmet testing dumb) as they were in The Clone Wars, it is difficult to believe anyone cared about the war or believed the Separatists were anything to be at all upset about. It was an attempt at comedy which totally destroyed the experience, but not as much as having Anakin and Ahsoka refer to Jabba's son as "Stinky" often enough that I had to wonder if it was the most common word in the whole film.
There were all kinds of Hutt-related issues in The Clone Wars.
Jabba was fine. While he is a lot smaller than the was in Return of the Jedi, maybe he lost weight since Episode 1 or something and has time to gain it all back. Also, he vocally sounds about right.
His uncle Ziro, however. . .
What's up with that?
Jabba grew up on the mean streets of Nal Hutta before forging his own criminal empire out on the Outer Rim.
Ziro grew up in the Deep South and probably lived at his mother's house in Savannah too long.
Not only does he speak Basic like a native, he does it like someone who has spent a good deal of time trying to figure out how to add "flash" to the traditional mint julep.
"Ah do declayah, those Jedah are gonna mess up ah playuns, Count Doooo-Koooo".
This had me looking around the theatre for someone, anyone, involved in the production of The Clone Wars so that I could physically harm them in some way.
Our consolation should be that Cartoon Network has 100 episodes to make this right again. That just might cover it if all of them are completely kick-ass amazing.
There needs to be more death in the series. The clones are people, and they die in The Clone Wars, but death seems to be pretty much brushed off. This makes the whole war seem like it doesn't matter to the Jedi.
There needs to be more exploration of the galaxy, since the movie gave us some generic city with no residents, a monastery on a plateau just like Jabba's, and . . . Tatooine.
I wasn't even raised there and I've seen enough of that place.
I want to see more awesome Force powers. Asajj Ventriss was in the movie, but largely wasted just hopping around with her lightsabers. Someone needs to do something cool with the Force or they should just rename the series to the Ewok Power-Hour and have the Ewoks running around the tree houses in sitcom format, trying to recover from some wacky misunderstanding every week.
Overall, graded on a scale of how many limbs I'd hack off the Director with a sputtering lightsaber, I'd give it a 3 out of 4.
I do, however, recommend Dr. Horrible. It has Nathan Fillion (Dreamy!), Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie!), and Felicia Day (Guildie!) doing stuff written by Joss Whedon.
The entire series seems to be comprised entirely of liquid Win fused into a Top Secret polymer of Awesome.

Friday, August 15, 2008

An Event

Every week an email arrives with the week's menu from the cafeteria. This allows people to plan in advance based on dietary restrictions. I can plan to avoid the area based on (for example) a total lack of kosher options on, say, Monday and Tuesday.
The menu email, which is usually blank and contains a Word document menu attachment, this week came with text in the body.
"Thursday is Greek Day".
Greek Day around here is an event which seems to revolve around a corporate culture which is enamored with spinach casserole. This is a worthy object of affection, certainly, but without completely embracing Greek culture it does not merit calling it a "Greek Day".
Thursday, we made "Greek Day" an event.
What was originally limited to a bunch of suits lined up for Feta Chicken was transformed into a full-contact festival of poorly accented, culturally dismissive yet enthusiastic activity.
It was apparently enough to send the Vice President of our division down to our work area in the early afternoon to gather "our side" of the events in question.
For the record, we did not order "baklava". We demanded "BAKLAVAUGH*cough-hack*". Loudly.
We did not throw the plates against the wall after lunch. That was someone else. I did throw an empty styrofoam cup against a wall, but it was very unsatisfying even with the obligatory "OPA!!!!"
"Opa" itself is a satisfactory answer to any question on Greek Day.

"Would you like cucumber on your whole wheat feta chicken wrap?"
"OPA!!!"

We did not grunt menacingly at the native Iranian members of our Help Desk. If they were made to feel uncomfortable, it was probably related to someone in Accounting. Those guys are animals.
In the contemporary corporate environment, enthusiasm is more infectious than that bizarre, highly contagious, untreatable stomach bug that guy brought in from his kid's daycare.
Side note: I hate that guy.
If you are going to offer a "Greek Day", make it a party.
People have their joy restricted enough at work without preventing them from jumping on a folding table for an impromptu Tsifteteli, you know?
I mean, the economy is pretty shot. Middle management types are starting to really get that edgy, sweaty, anxious look. I've even switched to unflavored vodka in order to save money.
Let us cut loose and fling flatware on freaking Greek Day.
The VP told me my enthusiasm for Greek Day would make my performance review easy. I'm choosing to believe that is a good thing.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

From Concept to Execution

I mentioned in an earlier post that I'd overlooked the total lack of useful space in the kitchen region of the new Global Headquarters.
What I did not mention was how the issue was addressed.
I suggested that we look into buying an island. Shana immediately latched onto the idea as a kind of desperate last-chance lifeline to a reality where her assortment of baking paraphernalia can one day exist outside of a cardboard box in the garage.
What I did not take into account was the concept of "Kitchen Island" -- Which is a set of cabinets with a table top which stands in the middle of the room and is commonly used to add storage and workspace to a kitchen without an extensive construction project. A good idea, but not mine.
What I meant was that we buy a small island, somewhere tropical but with internet access, and just move there. It would have accelerated my retirement plan a lot, but once we charge a landmass to the Visa and move there, I'd planned to declare the island a sovereign nation and begin construction of my robot/zombie military. Note: The "/" denotes "or" in this case, with the Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng R&D Department determining as quickly as possible whether our resources should be expended on Technology or the Necromantic Arts.
But enough about my fond visions of Geektopia.
Because Shana ran with the other kind of island.
She found one on the internet. It got excellent reviews and was shipped very quickly.
It arrived in two boxes.
Here is one of them:



Now, logically I knew that somehow the pieces of wood in this box could be placed against one another in some kind of pattern which would, in the end, result in furniture.
But my initial reaction (as well as the half dozen reactions following that one) was to open the box, peer inside, then close the box and play video games. This reaction is one I would assume to be about normal for most of the population. That portion which does not have a specific area where tools are hung upon specially configured racks would significantly overlap, in my opinion.
However, after several days things began to accumulate on the island boxes, as if the spirit of the furniture was somehow attracting storage in the only way it was able.
Eventually, I was able to hold open the box long enough to begin the actual construction.
My lack of suitable tools was almost immediately apparent.
At one point, I decided I needed a tool which would warp wood slightly in order to make it line up correctly. The tools I needed were "weather" and "decades".
While I had neither at my disposal, the result was this:



That's right. Don't you be bringing no tired box of wood up in here and be expecting me to not produce some furniture, because I just made that box of random wood my bitch.

Also don't try to move that island, since lateral pressure makes it fold like a house of cards.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Stuff I Do Not Need To Know

I am (until they add the other guy) the only person in the Security group at work. Well, my Security group, anyway.
There are a lot of other groups in charge of a lot of other security-related things.
In order to make sure I have the information I need for my entirely new role, I was given access to a lot of stuff when I signed on. Just in case.
I get virus advisories (not my thing), tips about workplace safety (also not me), requests for network access (so not my area), and the forms people submit when they want to administer their own workstations. This isn't my job, either, but I still get the emails about it.
Most of the time, users are given "user" rights so they can't break the computer of hurt themselves.
Some users (like I.T. people) need to be able to make changes in order to do their jobs, and this always results in the generation of one of these web forms which gets emailed to me for review and inaction.
I skip over all the "computer name" and "user" and "role" stuff and scan right for the "reason administrative rights are required".
Sometimes those are priceless!
One time, someone wanted to store their MP3s on their workstation as if they can't just stash hundreds of gigs of pirated media on one of the file servers like the rest of us.
Another time someone wanted to bypass the internet filtering to view non-work-related web pages instead of just putting in the proxy server information for the unfiltered 'net like everyone else.
On Tuesday, my favorite so far arrived in my Inbox.
Someone needs administrative rights to update a certain software license on an "anal basis". I'm not sure that function requires administrative access, but it most certainly requires a mature relationship with one's workstation. I'm also fairly certain it violates the spirit of some of our HR guidelines, if not the letter.
The email was very quickly recalled by the sender to be replaced by a corrected form.
It seems the original had contained the wrong computer name.
The "basis" in question was correct enough to be included in the re-send.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Our Shared Responsibilities

On Friday for some reason there were very few of us still at work after lunch. While I suspect the reason is that we were not fast enough to get away, I have no hard evidence.
Since a lot of this company's business is dependent on our mainframe infrastructure, one of my co-workers was attempting to learn a little about that system.
He turned to Wikipedia and began to share his new-found knowledge with the rest of us.
Almost immediately, there was dispute.
Two of my co-workers with mainframe experience began to argue about time lines relating to the hardware and software versions.
One in particular began to talk about Wang Computers. And Wang emulators. And interfacing with Wangs. I thought I might die, but eventually he stopped and I could breathe again.
Anyway, the debate ended and both of the guys who had argued about the Wikipedia entry turned back to continue their original tasks as though nothing had happened.
I was dumbfounded.
"Hey!" I inquired,"That's it?"
I needed to be more direct.
"Wikipedia is wrong! Do something about it!"
They refused, citing "work ethic" and "end-of-day deliverables".
This is unacceptable. We have a responsibility to correct wrongness on the internet in all forms.
On Wikipedia, this is pretty easy.
Twice a week, I correct the erroneous entry which lists Elvis as "deceased". Anyone who has been to Graceland knows that to be a fallacy, but none of the rest of those millions of visitors a year bothers to correct Wikipedia but me.
Other places on the internet can also be wrong, and correcting these is a little more tricky. Generally, you have to email the webmaster of the site.
Since I spend vast quantities of time proofreading the entire internet, I've created a handy template. Fill in the parenthesis with your own corrections and feel free to help me in this monumental task.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear Webmaster,

On your website, three pages under the link for (kittens), in the (fourth) paragraph, (second) line, I believe the word you are looking for is ("whom").
Please correct this immediately.

Thank you and good day,

(Garrick)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For more technical websites, try this one:

Dear Webmaster/Webmistress,

While reviewing your website for accuracy and completeness, I noticed that on the fourth page under the link for (Dark Lords of the Sith) you have listed (Quotes from the Dark Lords) and among these ("Luke, I am your father"). This should be corrected to read ("No, I am your father") as (this is the actual line from the actual movie which you pretend to be an expert about yet have obviously never seen you pathetic poser).
Please correct this immediately.

Thank you and good day,

(Garrick)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

With an arsenal of friendly little emails like these, someday we can have the error-free internet we all deserve.

-G

p.s. Don't try applying either template in an email to the webmaster of Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng. I have it on good authority that (in addition to being generally unstable) he considers all errors to be "artistic statements".

Monday, August 11, 2008

This Could Suck. Badly.

So Friday The Clone Wars opens here in America. The Australians get it a day earlier, but this is Karma's way of compensating them for all the dingo-related baby incidents. Enjoy it, mates. The universe is putting a giant check in the box next to "even" on your scorecard.
The Clone Wars is basically a TV pilot, but George Lucas saw an opportunity to make a few dollars with a theatrical release. I mean, "A theatrical release is better able to showcase the work itself."
Mostly, I think the whole thing is a good idea.
In the movies, we got to see very little of the actual Clone Wars themselves. In Episode Two, we saw the opening battle, and the beginning of Episode Three featured another, but that was pretty much it.
The Clone Wars movie (and 100 episodes following on Cartoon Network) are supposed to fill in the gap between these two battles with more battles. I'm in favor of this if they do it right.
Some stuff needs to be taken care of during the run of the series if they don't expect me to ignore the work completely.
There need to be a lot of nods to the original trilogy. Since the whole thing is CGI, they won't get a better chance. Chewbacca could be all over this thing.
Mace Windu needs to be pretty prominent for two reasons. The first is that Samuel L. Jackson is actually doing the voice. The big reason is that Mace Windu is the coolest Jedi ever.
The most important thing this movie/series can do is make Anakin Skywalker in some way likable. In the movies he goes from whiny to arrogant and on through to gullible in a pretty disappointing range. Additionally, there isn't a lot of room on the surface for surprises. We know who dies and how. We know Anakin shifts from "possible chosen Jedi" to "takes the most manipulative man in the galaxy at his word about the status of his children", but we don't see a lot of that transition on-screen. There needs to be some indication to the audience as to why Obi-Wan didn't toss Anakin out an airlock as soon as they left Tatooine.
During the Clone Wars, Anakin is a war hero and he is secretly married to an ex-queen and he hangs out with weird-headed aliens and he carries a lightsaber. There is absolutely no excuse for us to not really like that guy until he turns into Darth Vader.
And then probably after he turns into Darth Vader because Force-choking is the absolute most-awesome thing ever.
The scary part about The Clone Wars is that it has the potential for to quickly lapse into the CGI pitfall of all Jar Jar all the time, which would probably cause me to vomit popcorn.
Either way, I'm going and dragging my family. It is my responsibility to see everything Lucas Arts does and then rush to the internet to pick it apart and complain.
This is a responsibility I take very seriously.
I have five or six of those "responsibilities". I'll go into more of them in some other post.

Friday, August 08, 2008

No More Coke Zero Right Before Bed


Hey! Hey, wake up!

Wha?

Garrick! Wake up! We need to talk.

Who is this?

This is your brain. I'm not surprised you don't recognize my voice since I can hardly remember the last time you paid attention to me and I have perfect recall of every sensation from before you were born.

It's 4am. Can we talk later?

No. Now.

Fine. What do you want?

I'm thirsty.

Not possible. I drink plenty.

Two pots of cheap coffee at work and two-hundred and twelve ounces of Diet Coke doesn't count.

Two-hundred and twelve ounces?

Trust me, I do the math around here. That stuff is just drying me out. It's all I can do lately to keep your heart rate and respiration normal.

We'll be fine. I've been doing this for years.

I know! But if I don't get some ice water real soon I'm going to stop saving your ass.

From what?

From yourself! Without my input you are a total train wreck!

What's that supposed to mean?

Remember that meeting yesterday?

Kind of.

You were going to say,"That is the stupidest thing I've ever heard of and whoever is in charge of that application should be drug tested immediately."

And?

And I gave you,"We were hoping for something more intuitive than the current solution."

Yeah, I suppose that did go over better.

And in the same meeting you were all set to condemn the whole effort as being in dire need of the Cliff's Notes to "Project Management for Complete Freaking Morons with Control Issues and Excessive Body Hair" when I gave you, "I'd like to leverage some of your internal application specialists to take over certain facets of the daily deliverables."

Oh, yeah. Thanks for that one.

No problem. That's why I'm here.

Okay. So I'll drink some . . . water. Starting tomorrow. Was there anything else?

You'd better believe there is. You need to use me more often. Honestly I don't know how you've gotten by this far.

What do you mean?

Take the other day, for instance. You'd just found that Millenium Falcon playset and you took the virtual tour . . .

Yeah, that thing is so freaking awesome!

Shut up!

Okay.

And it made the sounds and you got all excited and stood up on your office chair and you were doing that ridiculous twist thing and cackling when your boss walked in.

Your point?

I wasn't going to help you. I specifically blanked myself and left you on your own. Do you remember what happened?

Sure, my boss said that he was as happy as I was that the new security scans had come back clear and I didn't bother to tell him I hadn't read that email.

Right. Do you have any idea how much that pisses me off? Did you know that is why you spent the rest of the day with Girls Just Want to Have Fun stuck in your head?

I love that song!

I hate you.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Issues @ The New Global Headquarters

As I believe I explained in an earlier post, I came to South Carolina to start work while my family remained in Houston.
This left me in the unenviable position of needing to select a house without the benefit of the input of the key decision-makers in our power structure.
Additionally, I was living in a crappy hotel, which made just about any comparison favorable.
We should also remember that I get easily distracted by shiny things.
So. I picked a house.
It is wired for cable and eligible for high-speed internet.
There is no Home Owner's Association coming down on us for anything.
The walls are made of bricks, and kicking them scuffed my shoe and hurt my toe, but left no lasting mark on the house itself.
There are lines already run for surround sound in the living room.
Sold.
As it turns out, there are some things I didn't immediately notice about the house itself, and things the home inspector also missed.
Since we've moved in, we've had a plumber out twice. Once to fix a leak in one of the bathrooms and once to run a gas line to the laundry room, since our gas dryer was horribly ineffective without it.
The thought did not occur to me that different laundry rooms would have different connections and that dryers would not all just work when placed in the slot for a dryer.
Were this my only failure, I could pretty much laugh it off. However, that is kind of minor.
There is no pantry in the kitchen, and the cabinets (while pretty, certainly) are not deep enough to actually hold boxes of cereal. My suggestion that we stop eating breakfast was met with almost open hostility from Gwynyth, but to be fair I'm just used to slipping into that kind of out-of-the-Kellogg's-box problem-solving mode.
When selecting a house, who looks for a pantry? Pantries are in houses. It is like checking for light switches. What kind of builder doesn't put in light switches and a freaking kitchen closet?
Two of the lower cabinet doors don't actually even open due to an installation failure, but I didn't try opening all of them pre-purchase.
We have a better work-around coming up in a later post, but for now I'm trying to get the family to embrace single-serving foods which can be removed from the packaging and stashed in drawers. In, like, bedrooms maybe.
Also, as it turns out, the house is largely yellow on the inside. Who notices that kind of thing?
Yellow, it seems, clashes with most of our stuff. Except our yellow stuff. Our yellow stuff fades ninja-like into the walls themselves where it waits in ambush for the unwary.
Okay, so the whole thing needs to be repainted. Every surface of every room. Picking paint colors is fun. After purchasing the paint, the fun level starts to immediately decline.
Then we met our neighbor.
The house behind ours is empty most of the time. The people that stay there live in Philadelphia and come to Columbia a few times a year. This week is one of those times.
He stopped by earlier this week and asked Shana if she had had the baby.
Shana explained that she had indeed had the baby over nine years ago, and that the baby was listening to MP3s through SkullCandy headphones in another room. She also clarified that the people that used to live in our house no longer did, therefore we are not them.
He asked about the gate in the fence in the back and Shana said he was welcome to look at it since it opened into the area behind his house.
Then he talked about "the deal".
He came back to discuss "the deal" when I came home from work.
Apparently, in exchange for letting the former occupants put in this gate so that they could more easily access the golf course, he gets to use our pool.
For serious?
Apparently.
The gate is nice, certainly in better shape than the wiring in the bedroom (which an electrician termed "fire hazard", "death trap" and "flaming hell mouth") but it doesn't really lead anywhere I'm interested in going.
I don't even have a membership at that golf course.
So, for anyone paying attention, let's not leave me alone to decide things in the future. It leads to excessive painting, fires behind the sheet rock and some weird old guy swimming around in the backyard.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A Process

I've started to become increasingly comforted by routine and process. This is either because I'm becoming set in my ways and old or because I really need some kind of prescription. I'm not sure which choice bothers me more, to be honest.
But every morning I head over to the tower cafeteria. There, without fail, Miss Izzy is waiting to make whole wheat pancakes with sugar-free syrup.
I get a cup of coffee ("Javanilla" - which as a flavor is on the downward arc of a career highlighted by a battle with Mothra in the streets of Tokyo), and I return to my desk to continue facing the day.
Everything after that choreographed cafeteria trip is pretty random. There is no way of knowing what will break or what team will veer off the deployment plan in some exciting and terrible way.
I've decided that the key to successful project management may lie in spending more time on my trip to the cafeteria, just absorbing the magic.
From what I've seen, the cafeteria staff is the only group which has, or at least adheres to, any form of process.
In my time here, I have never seen them fail at pancakes.
They have never had to "roll back" to previous batter.
They never advertised Southern Pecan, determined that Southern Pecan was incompatible with the approved griddle, then started handing people Blueberry without customer notification.
There has never been an issue where Sweet Potato Pancakes were deployed to the griddle area where it was discovered that yam-based breakfast foods were not Department of Defense authorized and they were left to burn to cinders while someone tried to find the right web form to request that Sweet Potato Pancakes be added to an exclusion list.
They do not offer Banana Nut, then discover that there is not enough mix for that, then dilute it with Strawberry and come out with something which is neither as good as Banana Nut or Strawberry which they call "Fruit Punch".
They have never, to my knowledge, scheduled Blueberry, deployed Strawberry, and spent $3.6 million retro-fitting the cafeteria with ultraviolet lighting to make red pancakes appear blue.
In short, something they do in the kitchen works and the rest of the company is foolish to ignore their success.
Additionally, turkey sausage is offered.
I won't even get into egg options, since the agility of the egg deployment infrastructure has me honestly questioning my career choice.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Someone Should Be Taking Notes

On Sunday night I stopped billing for my time after submitting over sixty hours for last week.
It got so ridiculous that I actually stopped billing. If there were any condition which would make me seek out medical attention, the willing act of working for free might be it.
It didn't matter too much, though, since by 10pm I was back on the clock trying to fix everything before the end of the outage window or at least before the normals got to work on Monday morning.
While I completely did not care about the root cause of the trauma, I'll detail it here as an object lesson in I.T. Best Practices, Crisis Management, and Dealing With Feelings of Hostility.
My company has a security device to manage remote access. Actually, there are two devices. One is old and crappy, the other is less old and less crappy.
Sadly, both have user accounts on them in giant databases since the migration in December was aborted but the team which configures remote access wasn't notified.
So, in order to ditch the old device, the new accounts on the new device needed to be merged into that older database, then re-imported into the new device.
The new database was backed up and deleted.
This started a chain of unpleasantness which left me hanging out at work for hours and hours all weekend unable to help because my group was completely uninvolved.
See, the deletion process failed most of the way through. Upon investigation, it was determined that the account doing the deletion was deleted during the deletion process . . . whew . . . and then it halted mid-delete since a missing administrator account has no right to delete anything.
That's pretty awful, since you need an administrator account to put the backed-up database back on the device.
The people making this change decided then to find an account with administrative rights which alphabetically followed the administrative account which did the deleting, because that account might still be on the device. For reference, my account name starts with an "x".
Miraculously, they found an administrator. Actually, they found his account. He was out of cellular range -- At the beach.
When they finally contacted him, he gave someone his username and password and work began again.
Until it was discovered that the database they had backed up was corrupted.
Database restoration specialists were contacted and begged to come in and fix what was busted and they set to work pulling out data and rebuilding everything.
After that, re-importing the licensing file to the old machine failed as that file had been corrupted as well.
There was a lot of yelling and cursing.
While the group responsible began the process of manually entering five thousand user accounts, I giggled until I almost wet myself.
Then I joined my team at Waffle House, because that is the only proper response, especially outside of normal business hours when nothing else is open.
Also, waffles rule.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

17 Hours on the clock yesterday . . .

. . . And two and a half today.

I did manage to squeeze in time to take this picture in the parking lot and add my own helpful suggestion:

OMG

I'm still at work . . .

Ask me how I feel about "Right-Shored" support. Go ahead. I freaking dare you.