On the week before…

Next week will be my personal version of hell, featuring 12 hour days, 750 of my new best friends all crammed into one room, and having all the responsibility to make it go right, none of the authority to make any actual decisions, and every bit of the blame if the wheels fall off for any reason. If I were in any way in control of my own destiny this would basically be the very last thing in which I would ever knowingly engage. Yet, party planning sticks with me from job to job like some kind of Gypsy curse.

If next week is hell, this week is a strong contender for that title. It’s the week in which everyone who has been ignoring the impending arrival of hell week has their “oh shit” moment and realizes if they don’t do something they’re going to look like utter twatwaffles in front of a live studio audience. When I was teaching this was the part of the year when I got to tell students that no, they really were going to fail because they didn’t bother to do any homework. I’m told, however, that letting these people fail, regardless of how deserving they may be of it, is “unprofessional.”

It all means that in many ways I’m spoon feeding adult humans a lot of information that was previously made available in slides, and memos, and email, and through various and sundry face to face conversations. I’m paying for the same ground five or six times a day in some cases… and paying for the same ground over and over and over again makes Jeff very, very surly.

Whatever else may be in doubt this week, you can rest assured that behind this serene exterior is a stroke or heart attack just waiting for the right moment to strike me down.

Hard and fast rules…

I came across this post as a stray draft a few days ago. I have no idea if I published it before or if it’s something I wrote that has been sitting in electronic purgatory for months or years. If I have posted it previously, it’s something that bears repeating. If I haven’t, it’s a post that’s deserves its moment in the sun.

In any case, here I present the following few hard and fast rules to live by that I’ve learned while serving as a cog in the vast recesses of the bureaucracy:

1. You can do it all.

2. You can’t do it all at the same time.

3. Timelines are meaningless and largely serve just to take up additional space in a PowerPoint slide deck.

4. Planning is, at best, a work of educated fiction.

5. At that moment when things seem to be working well, the wheels are about to fall off, the engine to catch fire, and the transmission explode, so don’t get cocky, kid.

6. There’s no such thing as “idiot-proof.” The world strives to always produce bigger and better idiots.

7. There’s no good work you can do that a general officer can’t undo with an offhand remark.

8. People rarely get the justice they deserve.

9. All projects can be a combination of fast, cheap, and good… but you can only have two at any given time, so choose wisely.

10. When all else fails, when you think the situation can’t possibly go any further downhill, when not even the third reorganization in eighteen months gets the results you hoped for, look out, because things can always, always get worse.


I’ve got a whole, beautifully tempting lasagna sitting on top of the stove as I write this. It’s warm, oozing with just the right proportion of cheese to sauce to noodle. It’s also wholly inedible. The cheese is off. It wasn’t my usual brand of ricotta and since there wasn’t an appearance or smell issue from the container, I threw caution to the wind. One bite, though, was enough to determine that all was not well. What was fine in the fridge had gone well and truly off by the time it endured the cooking process.

There’s probably an analogy to Sunday in there somewhere – a day that starts with such great promise, but that inevitably ends up as ashes in your mouth when the day draws to a close.

It’s not the first meal I’ve bungled and it’s not likely to be the last. Still, I’m already disappointed at the leftovers that will never be… in much the same way that we can’t hold over Sunday for one more spin on the axis. Like my abortive lasagna, the only thing I can know for sure about Monday is that it will inevitably leave a bad taste in my mouth.

Discredit Union…

I got to experience the joy of having my credit card and identity stolen a few years ago, so when I go on the road now, I pay my expenses out of a secondary account that’s not linked to the one that pays the bills, keeps my savings, or handles any of the other financial transactions you need to conduct in modern society. I like having that firewall between me and whoever might be interested in gathering up ill gotten gains. I didn’t expect that my own credit union was going to be the one interested in gaining from my loss.

Using the fancy mobile deposit app provided by my credit union, I stood in my kitchen and deposited a check that was to cover my traveling expenses last week. The app said the deposit was successful. I saw the credit “pending” and went on about my business assuming that the deposit was actually going to take place. You see, that’s where I made my first mistake, because this morning I logged in to my account to see debits bouncing off of it like a cascade of rubber balls – each one generating it’s own $10 overdraft fee.

A stop at their local branch office and what I know so far is that without the physical paper check, I’m pretty much out of luck. It doesn’t matter of they have a record of the initial transaction. It doesn’t matter that the error was clearly on the part of their optical reader. It doesn’t matter that the CSR I spoke to could plainly see in the app that everything I was saying was both true and factual. Unless I can produce the physical check, I should feel free to go ahead and bend over.

I’ll be the first to accept partial blame in this case. I should have verified that the transaction was completed and the deposit actually made into my account. At the same time, I had hoped the local credit union would be willing to work with an account holder who has never been anything but in good standing to at a minimum roll back the service charges that would never have accrued if their fancy new app actually worked as advertised. I’d almost expect that treatment from one of the too-big-to-fail banks, but the fact is I found them easier to work with on most things.

I’ll be calling the home office tomorrow. If they can’t resolve this in at least a partially satisfactory way, I’ll probably just go ahead and end my experiment with community banking $100 poorer and far more suspect of “new and improved” capabilities.

Live blogging the launch…

In the past, I’ve been in the habit of live blogging iStuff launches from the line at the Apple Store at Saaddle Creek. Since a trip to Memphis seemed a bit excessive even by obsessed Apple fanboy standards, I thought I’d change gears a bit this time around. I promise I’ll spare you the details of sitting in the kitchen casting longing looks out the door every time I here a large truck pass by. Today, I’ll focus a little on unboxing and adding a few pics and initial impressions.

If you’re wondering what I’m doing to pass the time, check out the forums at http://www.macrumors.com. They’re always a great time waster. Oh, and laundry. I’m doing that too. Judging from the line the local morning news programs are showing at Towson mall, hanging out here at the house seems like it might have been the best idea. Plus, sitting around in the rain never seems like a good idea.

Without further runup, here’s what we know so far…

– 0611: Package out for delivery from the UPS sorting facility in Newark, Delaware. Delivery address is still wrong on their website. Status: crapshoot.

– 0822: Six cups of coffee down. Dogs snoring. Tapping foot impatiently. Updates and pictures as breaking news happens.

– 1014: Still waiting. Coffee count is 12 cups.

– 1151: Still waiting. Hail the size of marbles and torrential rain. Switched to Coke Zero. If I’d have gotten up early this morning and stood in line I’d be up and running by now. Lesson learned.

– 1224: The mail truck sounds an awful lot like an UPS truck. Sadly, it only brings bills and other junk mail.

– 1336: And still waiting. Next launch I’ll be back in line. With iPhone 4 I was home, activated, synced, and at the Flying Saucer by this point in the day.

– 1428: Still waiting. Last visages of patience evaporating and beginning to seriously ponder the likelihood of finding a phone “in the wild” at a retailer at this late hour of the day.

– 1451: Aaaaaaand there goes the FedEx truck.

– 1523: FedEx truck #2 delivering on my street. Yet no UPS.

– 1544: It’s here. It’s here. It’s here!

– 1616: It’s now the traditional time on iPhone launch day when AT&T chokes.

– 1705: AT&T activated is still hosed. They are allegedly running 2-3 hours behind demand. After 5 years of doing this, one might think they’d have gotten an effing clue.

– 1759: Finally broke through the server jam. iPhone 4S is restoring from backup. We’ve got a pulse.

Failure to communicate…

At least once a week, UPS shows up at my door with something I’ve ordered from somewhere. In all those orders I’ve never once had a problem with the delivery address showing up wrong on their website. After calls to both Apple and UPS, their website stubbornly insists that my iPhone 4S is going to be delivered to Elkton, Delaware. That’s a problem for two reasons: 1) I don’t live in Delaware and 2) There is no such place as Elkton, Delaware. The street address is right. The zip code is right. It’s just the damnable server refuses to update the state. Everything was right with my original order (yes, I checked three times to make sure the shipping address was right and even had the nice customer service people at Apple pull it up just to be sure). But somewhere between Apple and UPS we’ve apparently had a failure to electronically communicate. And I’m just paranoid enough to believe that this is going to cause a delivery delay. On any day but Friday that would be obnoxious, but correctable. In this case, delivery is scheduled on Friday so the correction wouldn’t take place until after the weekend. If you’re in any way obsessed with getting your hands on new toys at the earliest possible moment, you understand. If your phone is just another appliance, well, I don’t think I can explain it.

I did get to have a relatively nice conversation with a gentleman from UPS Air Cargo in Louisville this morning. He assures me that it’s just a glitch in the website and the actual manifest shows delivery to my actual address in Maryland. I’m mostly inclined to believe him since he rattled off my correct address before I told him what the issue was. Still, I’m now both obsessed and paranoid and that’s not a great combination of ways to spend the next three days. Maybe I’ll call tomorrow and see if I get the same story. Or I could just drive to Louisville, pound on the door, and ask them to hand it over.