What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Superfluous email. I’ve been keeping a rough track of emails I receive – specifically those in my inbox at the start of the day or after I’ve been away from my desk for a few hours. Though not purely scientific, I’ve found that only one out of every four emails is something I actually need to see. One in six are messages resulting in my needing to actually do something. Might I recommend not cc-ing everyone who you’ve ever tangentially met on your email messages? If feels like it would save us all hours every year of time we currently spend reading and then deleting email that has absolutely nothing to do with us.

2. Being a watched pot. I’ve got the assignment. I’ve told you when I’ll have it finished. I’ve gotten awfully good at estimating things like this over the last fourteen years. What I don’t need you to do is call and email me every 7 minutes asking if it’s finished. All that serves to do is 1) annoy me and 2) slow down the process making final delivery later than it would be otherwise. I do good work and good work takes time. Believe me when I tell you know one wants a project off my desk more than I do.

3. Syria. Two or three years ago, I actively advocated for putting American troops in harm’s way to try to bring order to that chaos. The Syrian war in 2017 is a far cry from what it was in 2015, though. Back then there was still a fighting chance for the sides opposing Assad to win the day without the direct assistance of an overwhelming number of American and allied personnel. Back then a nudge – in the form of material support and “advisory” personnel – could have made the difference and toppled a tyrant who was busy killing his own populace. The battlespace has changed and it increasingly looking like Syrian government forces will be the “last man standing” after a long and bloody fight. Landing American troops, on a mission with no clear objective and even less prospect of an exit strategy, would be a mistake – and those calling loudest for it today would be among the very first to denounce it as “Mr. Trump’s War” and a “foreign policy disaster” when the butcher’s bill came due.

One or the other…

In part 658 of the ongoing saga of network access and availability from my desk, I present to you the following question: Which capability to you need more on a day to day tin-can-phone.jpgbasis, reliable access email or consistent access to whatever websites the gods on Olympus have decided not to block today?
It’s not a trick question in any way. Having one or the other is simply a fact of life at least once a week. Of course we’re never asked to pick which one we’d like to do without for between 15 minutes and 8 hours, but the one thing you can rely on is that whichever one collapses, it will be the one you actually needed in order to get something done. On extra special bonus days they both fail simultaneously and for at least 1.5 working days.

While it’s true that this big green machine ran for a very long time before the advent of desktop computing, it’s also true that almost no one now working in it remembers those days. And even for those few who do remember acetate view graphs and carbon paper, there simply aren’t the processes, procedures, materials, or equipment to throw the whole operation into the Way Back Machine for a few hours while the network monkeys figure out what plug got kicked out.

I know it sounds like I rant about the tech side of the job way too often, but when they keep setting me up, it would be irresponsible of me not to keep knocking them down.

Lost productivity…

The good news is that a scathing, but entirely accurate comment card submitted to the Enterprise Help Desk gets a bit of attention. That’s basically where the good news stops – unless you count my diagnosis of imminent hard drive failure being proven correct as good news. I feel like that one could go in either column.

The bad news, because of course there’s bad news, is that as of the this afternoon, the local help desk has been tinkering with computer for 10 hours. When I left today there was no sign or signal that I’ll be getting it back any time soon. That basically means I spent the day staring at the ceiling, doing some long delayed shredding, and throwing away post it notes I no longer need. It doesn’t exactly fall into the productive work category.

By my rough math if they hang on to the damned infernal machine until at least noon tomorrow the cost just in lost productive time would be sufficient to purchase a new replacement computer. That of course isn’t how we do things. Uncle, as is his way, has a completely nonsensical way to measure costs and benefits.

I forecast that getting my computer back tomorrow is probably wildly optimistic. Wednesday is slightly more likely, but far from guaranteed. It’s infuriating that this is the standard way of running the business. It’s disheartening in the extreme. I know I do good work… when the damned policies, procedures, and relentless pursuit of mediocrity don’t try to trip me up at every available opportunity. I’m sure I’ve had days where I’ve been more dispirited about the state of my chosen profession, but they’ve been few and far between.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Lawn boats. Every morning I drive past three houses that are literally falling down around their occupants. At least I assume they’re occupied because I occasionally see people coming and going. At each of these three houses there are boats on trailers, boats on blocks, and boats shoved back into the bushes. These are obviously not new boats, but I’d estimate conservatively that each one of these homes has at least $100,000 in boats sitting around it. Now that pesky logical part of my brain is just dying to know the thought process for someone who would let their home fall to pieces hanging on to a personal fleet larger than some third world dictators. While I’d never tell anyone how to spend their money, it seems to me that at some point selling off a boat or two and patching the hole in your roof with something other than a tarp would be a good idea. But what the hell do I know about anything?

2. Help desks. Why do we call them that? It’s certainly not a case of a name that follows a function. Given the sad state of customer service in general I suppose that shouldn’t be a surprise. I’m probably just a fool for expecting things to work the way they’re supposed to – or maybe I’m even more the fool for expecting anything at all. But in all seriousness, if the standard is going to be a help desk that is essentially unwilling or unable to provide any help why not just throw them over the side. If the official policy of the organization is to cripple individual computers to the point where the user can’t make even basic fixes to settings it strikes me that the help desk should be able to fix the occasional problem that crops up instead of an 800-number designed to give the illusion that something, someday might happen.

3. Foreign flagged “protestors”. When you show up at a political rally waving a foreign flag and then violently attack people who peaceably attended that rally, you are not a protestor. You’re a criminal whose opinion is unworthy of further consideration. In fact once you’ve decided that marching under the flag of a foreign county and dispensing violence in the street sounds like a good idea, the only two things I can consider you are either a) a domestic terrorist or b) an agent of foreign power intent on disrupting the lawful electoral process. In either case, you have proven yourself unworthy of any consideration beyond how to disperse and apprehend you and your fellow travelers.

An open letter to the Enterprise Service Desk…

To Whom It May Concern,

On May 31st I called the Enterprise Service Desk to request support with an ongoing issue of frequent restarts, freezing, running checkdisk, and random problems within Office software products. This was a follow up to a previous call made on March 9th for a similar issue where I was told to call back if the problem happened again. A help ticket was opened as a result of my call on May 31st.

On June 7th, my ticket was closed because it had been “resolved.” No one from the Network Enterprise Center or local IT customer support contacted me on this issue. In addition to this being a missed 3-day response time under the terms of the service level agreement, it also has the dubious distinction of being blatantly false. My issue has not been resolved and my computer performance continues to exhibit the same behavior.

I once again contacted the Enterprise Service Desk on June 7th and was informed that the original ticket from May 31st could not be reopened. The representative I spoke to then opened a new help ticket and the clock started again on a new “3-day” response time. With a computer under warranty exhibiting these troubles, the “no brainer” response should be issuing a new machine and sending the broken/defective equipment back to the manufacturer. I consider this service absolutely unacceptable. I’m simply appalled that I’m now in the second week of trying to achieve more than a “phantom resolution” to my issue.

Regards,

Jeff

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Official computing. For being among of our parent organization’s “top priorities” the network that connects us all is something of a capricious jerk. On Tuesday none of my web browsers worked and my computer dumped me out repeatedly into a series of restarts and scan disk sessions. On Wednesday the web browsers worked, but email was down. On Thursday browsers mostly worked and access to email was what I’d generously call “sporadic.” On close of business Thursday I’m still waiting on a return call from the help desk to resolve the “work stopping” issue of a potential dying hard drive that I reported on Tuesday. I’m well aware that we’re under funded and under staffed, but for the love of Christ the thing is still under warranty so just issue me a working computer already and tell Dell they’re going to have to eat this dud.

2. “You Care About X When You Should Care About Y.” Over the last few days I’ve seen a veritable plethora of meme’s drawing attention to the fact that people were commenting on a dead ape when people were starving somewhere, someone was homeless, the Veteran’s Administration is useless, Big Finance is ruining the country, and any other issue you want to mention. So two things about that: 1) I’ll care about whatever I want to care about on any given day; and 2) Just because I post about X doesn’t mean I’m not aware of Y, Z, 37, and a whole host of other things. I like to think as reasonably intelligent person I’m capable of thinking deeply about any number of issues over the course of a day. When you tell me I’m only supposed to think about this instead of that you sound like a moron. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of bad shit happening around the world for all of us to get out quota of worry.

3. Foreign Policy. Secretary Clinton made a major foreign policy address today. That’s good. Foreign policy is important. But after watching the tape I’m mostly reminded that on one side we have someone with no experience in foreign policy and on the other we have someone who led the State Department though one of the most listless and undirected periods for foreign policy in my adult life time. I find myself back in a position where one lacks any capacity for subtlety and nuance and I plain just don’t trust the other.

Destined for disappointment…

Three hours. That’s the time I spent after lunch this afternoon flailing around wildly trying to figure out why my “corporate” email isn’t working. Through the good graces of an unofficial help desk POC, we seem to have narrowed it down to a problem physically contained on my computer rather than with the servers or the network. I’m not entirely sure that makes me feel better, especially since the first order of business tomorrow will be rehashing the story with the official help desk in the vain hope of getting resolution.

I always have such high hopes for technology – like it will work as it’s supposed to with a minimum of trouble. Like the high hopes I occasionally have for people, that dream seems destined for disappointment. Except I know that’s not entirely true. We bog down our computers with so much security bloatware that I’m amazed they can do anything at all. Intellectually I understand that’s a necessary evil of the age, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want my work tech to perform with any less rapidity than my gmail account and home computer.

Sadly, unlike a certain major party presidential candidate, I’ve opted not to run my office through my home computer. The price I’ve had to pay in effectiveness and efficiency is at least marginally compensated by not ending up in federal prison. The high and the mighty don’t usually end up in as guests of the government at Danbury, but you can best believe I sure as hell would.