Today was my first telework day in over a decade. I learned (or maybe re-learned) a few things:
1. When no one comes by your desk to talk, even with distractions of social media, animals, and an enormous killer snow storm bearing down on you, you can cram more work into two hours than you often get done in eight hours at the cube farm.
2. For years I’ve been blaming my work-issued laptop for being an antiquated, slow piece of junk. As it turns out, the computer isn’t the problem. Even on my out-at-the-end-of-the-road Comcast network connection, the thing is a veritable speed demon. So starting today, I’ll officially be blaming the network people for allowing us to creep along like we’re still using dial-up.
3. When they blow stuff up on the north range, I can hear it at my house. I’m fairly sure I knew that already, but it’s still satisfying to have an answer to “what the hell is that thumping” when the dogs start barking for no obvious reason.
4. Daytime television really is awful. I left the TV in the kitchen tuned in to the local news as background noise… but lord, the filler the run between the 12:00 news and close of business at 5:00 is just well and truly bad.
5. Working in fuzzy slippers and sweats is nice, but I’m going to enjoy it a lot more when I can help keep the world safe for democracy from the comfort of the back porch.
The One Network that Rules Them All. When I got back to the office on Monday my computer didn’t work. Well, it worked, but the network didn’t. After 30 hours we stretched a Ethernet cable halfway to Baltimore so I could at least check email, but so far the official response has been “we have a help ticket in.” If you want an employee to be productive it feels like the minimum they should do is make sure you have basic office equipment that works. But alas, that seems to be a bridge too far.
National security. Apparently the cell phone storage area at the office presents a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States. The solution to this was to move the unlocked cabinet that contains 20-30 personally owned cell phones at any given time out into an open hallway. Perhaps we have served national security, but it feels like all we’ve really done is encourage property theft in the process. Call me crazy, but leaving an $800 phone unsecured in a building where people steal pie from the fridge feels just a little bit stupid. Net result, instead of being able to check my phone periodically during the day when I’m on my way to to meetings or go take a whiz, I’ll now be adopting a smoker’s schedule and schlepping out to my car once an hour. If only there were an easier way to be compliant and not try to pretend your employees live in 1983. Sigh.
Blaming others for bad personal decisions. Two douchebags were cornered in a cheap motel room by the police earlier this week in my adopted home town. Then they decided that being on the run from felony charges in another state wasn’t the only bad decision they wanted to make. One after another they raised their very realistic looking BB guns and very quickly paid the price for that level of stupidity. There are a couple of lessons here: 1) If you’re planning on making a last stand, try to have something with a bit more kick than a kid’s toy and 2) If you’re wanted on a felony warrant and the tactical unit shows up, all of your options from that point forward are bad for you… but some are worse than others. Now to the people who say it should have been ended peacefully, that they should have starved them out, all I can say that the only people to blame for these deaths are the ones that ended up getting killed. They committed a violent crime, they fled the jurisdiction, and when the police caught up with them they threatened the officers. I’m sure they were someone’s son and daughter, after all someone loves even the most useless of human beings, but as for me, well, sometimes I think it’s nice when the gene pool cleans itself a bit.
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 basis, 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.
1. Selling online. There are a few pieces of lawn equipment and other odds and ends I don’t have use of anymore. For ease of listing and in hopes of not dealing with too many crackpots, I opted to post them on the local neighborhood website instead of Craigslist. In retrospect I would have been far better off just loading everything in the truck and hauling it over to the dump. I know I’ve spent at least $150 worth of time answering questions about a $25 item. Lesson learned. From here on out I’ll just throw stuff away. It’s not worth the aggravation for so little return on investment.
2. Walking and talking. If you’re on your phone and wander into the street without paying the least bit of attention I should be within my rights to hit you with the truck. I’m not talking about flattening anyone, but it feels like giving these dipshits a glancing blow with the side mirror should be accepted if not encouraged.
3. Connectivity. Having access to email and the Internet are pretty much my only real job enablers. I’m sure I could do at least some of the work without those tools, but everything would take days longer than it should. Some of it I can get done by phone but the “must have a signature” stuff not so much. If you’re a knowledge worker access to a function network isn’t a convenience or a perk, it’s a necessity. If you the employer can’t provide that then you’d best not look at me cross eyed when I start telling you there are things I can’t do. Like it or not, without connectivity there’s no path between Point A and Point B that doesn’t involve hand written letters and a book of stamps.
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.
1. Looking busy. If I’m sitting at my desk intently staring at my monitor, I may not look busy in the traditional sense. Just because I don’t “look busy” it’s best to assume, however, that I am. They pay me to use my brain. It’s exhausting. It takes a lot of effort. Sadly, that effort is generally not expressed as wild flailing of arms or by performing backflips. If I’m sitting quietly and looking hard at something, just go ahead and assume I’m busy and it’s not a good time for whatever drivel you were about to spew from your filthy pie hole.
2. 2PM slowdown. Every day for weeks now my PC grinds to an agonizing crawl at almost precisely 2PM. Every. Single. Day. It’s like some kind of half-assed water torture designed to see just how far they can push a desk-bound employee before they finally snap and start bludgeoning the IT staff with an antiquated Dell Latitudes.
3. Thank you for the important work you do. It’s one of the most often platitudes offered by leaders everywhere I suspect. I’m not sure there was every a more meaningless statement devised in the English language. It’s even more farcical when you’re being thanked for spending most of the week serving no higher purpose than using your years of experience and multiple degrees to manage the calendar for an overgrown conference room. It’s a damned good thing no one came by asking what I did for the “customer” this week. I’ve been in a foul enough mood that I might slip up and tell them the truth.
I went on a bit of a tirade today. It wasn’t the career dissipating type, mercifully. Surprisingly enough it had absolutely nothing to do with the office. It didn’t come flying out of my mouth until I was safely ensconced at the house, settling in with a hot meal, and relying on the glowing box to give me a 45 minute break from really needing to think about anything.
That’s not how it played out, of course. What really happened was I sat down, attempted to flick on iTunes, discovered that Apple TV couldn’t communicate with my computer and then spent the next 30 minutes doctoring my Mac Mini out of a startup loop with my temper rising more with each passing minute and failure of the damned dirty contraption to “just work” as advertised.
By the time I coaxed the whole set up back to life, iTunes found my external hard drive, and I was again ready to sit down with a hot dinner, the meal had gone stone cold, I could feel the blood racing through my temples, and I’d apparently been shouting loud enough to frighten both the dogs to the other side of the house and the tortoise under a log.
It clearly wasn’t my finest hour and my mood is still most foul. It doesn’t bode well for the balance of the week.