Monthly Archives: November 2008

Will posits the trouble of being middle management, beholden to company superiors and policy and yet also expected to interface with lower level employees and try to work out their concerns to keep the office running smoothly.

The contents of this post also tangentially relate to the Department I Don’t Work For.

I’m in a semi-middle management (in that I can reassign work to “level 1” and that more and more of my job responsibility is not taking care of every little thing myself, but seeing that whoever I assigned it to gets it done while I work on the Big Things) role now, and moving up shortly to what I will consider a fully middle-management position. My responsibilities have changed from “grunt work” to the occasional small thing (when we’re short staffed) with the rest of my time occupied by keeping abreast of policy issues, changes being done from above, and the ongoing changes in technology so that when people under my pay grade get confused, I can give them the info/training necessary to get their jobs done.

Part of this role, given that it’s at Southern Tech University, involves interfacing with the various faculty/staff and trying to meet their “needs” (or desires) while staying within policy. Only, since it is a government institution, we have the following policies we have to keep abreast of:
– Federal regulations (safety, security, privacy)
– State regulations (safety, security, privacy, information retention)
– Systemwide regulations
– College-level regulations
– Our own department mandate (we have a very specific charter on what we are allowed to spend money on, tied directly to the fact that it has to be either for student use or for educational in-classroom use, and other departments are always trying to find “loopholes” to get into our money).

Where this gets even hairier is that we are in the unenviable position of trying to enforce these regulations on tenured faculty. The thing to remember about tenured faculty is that they are (a) at least 80% completely technologically inept and (b) used to constantly getting their way from students and grad assistants, and even from the College itself if they happen to bring in a particularly large grant and can threaten to take it to another institution.

For many of our discussions, we are (for better or worse) stuck in between a fast-moving object (the faculty) and an immovable object (the various regulations). Faculty that are used to getting the rules ‘bent’ for them on things like the spending of grant money or the deadlines for various applications come to us wanting things changed “just for them.” Things like password reset deadlines or complexity requirements, alterations to the email server so that their Blackberry can function (Blackberry’s server-side software, alas, tries to auto-install a rather insecure MS-SQL setup and eats up a ton of resources), or more unusual requests that often involve a fundamental inability of the faculty member to understand the limitations of technology. Quite often, we are stuck in a situation where we are the bearer of bad news (“I’m sorry, but what you are asking for cannot be done under Regulation X.Y.Z”) or else we are caught between someone asking for something and forced to tell them no on the grounds that (a) it is technologically impossible, (b) it is cost-prohibitive, or (c) it would require the purchase of X and it does not fit within our purview to make that purchase for the intended use.

Some days, they even come back and try to make threats and trouble with us for bringing the response back about regulations.

I doubt most middle-management deals with that; I imagine that most of the time “or I quit” is about the extent of the major threat, unless employees have access to sensitive information or their loss would seriously impact a project in some way. I don’t know that it the IT-side question 100% matches the “middle management” question, but it is always interesting (and sometimes quite frustrating) being the go-between.

Category: Office, Server Room

Bobvis has never been so wrong.

He is unimpressed with the progress of technology in the area of shaving. Fair enough. He’s right that shaving doesn’t take substantially less time with a lot of the newer inventions than they did with the old. It could also be said that they don’t provide a better shave.

But he goes after my razor of choice:

On November 15, 1904, Gillette (the man) patented the safety razor. I have used one of these types of ancient razors, and I have also used the Gillette Mach3, which the company spent more than $750 million to develop.

$750 million.

To develop a razor with a third blade.

The third blade is not a substantive improvement on 2 blades.

I think there might be some slight benefit to two blades, but if there is, it is still debatable.

I suffered for years with one-blade disposable razors. Years! They were awful and made me never ever want to shave. Years later I would use two-blade disposable razors and they are not nearly so bad. I would rather not shave than ever, ever, ever use a cheapo one-blade razor again. Ever. Maybe Bob doesn’t have this problem because he has a smooth neck or thick skin or something, but the thing about single-blade razors is that they leave you with all kinds of nicks and cuts or you have to spend forever doing so gently enough that you don’t. And even if you don’t, razor burn is not unlikely. The two-bladers I sometimes reluctantly use are very significantly better, though still wildly imperfect.

From the one-blade disposables I graduated to electric razors. Those weren’t very good at actually shaving me. And if I ever did get in close enough for it to actually shave me, I could count on razor-burn. So I suffered along until I found the Mach3. Which was truly a godsend.

The thing about the Mach3 is not that it saves me time, which it actually does. Nor is it that it makes me more shaven, which it does as well. It’s that I can use it without the constant fear of cutting myself or razor burn. It happens every now and again, but pretty rarely. I do think that some of that can be attributed to the extra blades. The extra blades let me apply the blade very softly and be relatively assured that it will shave most of the stubble without replacing the stubble with burn bumps and blood. That speeds me up. And I get more shaven because it allows me to shave my neck daily because it is a much more casual affair. It’s not just the blades, though. The springs help a lot. But even when using multi-blades without springs (like the above razors), it is still worlds apart from the single-blades that I only use when I forgot my blades, at my parents house, when I have to shave to go to church, and don’t have time to go to the store.

But even if it isn’t the blades, the springs, bendiness, and hatch thingees (I must confess I don’t know as much about razors as Bob seems to) of razors should count as “technology”, right? Technological improvement? I would think it does.

I am in many ways a cheapskate. I buy cheap toothpaste, cheap dental floss, cheap hair gel, cheap clothes and cheap most things having to do with my personal appearance. But I do not skimp on razors.

Category: Market

Maybe it’s because I believe in the message of finding contentment in the marvels of modern society, but I thought this was laugh-out-loud funny:

Category: Coffeehouse

Cascadia had a gubernatorial election this year and I think that I was conned.

The election was slated to be pretty close. The Governor had only barely won the last one and despite the leftward tilt of the state as a whole, the sour feelings over her first election and only modest popularity suggested that the Republican challenger might have a shot.

I’ve been commuting for over three months now. I don’t have many nice things to say about Cascadia’s transportation system, but one of the really nice things are the signs over the Interstate informing me how long it’s going to take to get to New City, near where I work. Not only is it good to know how patient I’m going to need to be, what the sign tells me tells me whether I should go straight through New City by way of the Splinterstate or go through Zaulem to New City on to Mindstorm HQ. It was really, really nice to have that kind of information on the road. I don’t think that there were any days that it wasn’t up there.

Until the day after the election. Since then, the signs were only on one day and on two other days only one of the three signs I usually see was lit. Oh, and this morning it was wrong by a factor of three, suggesting a shockingly short day when in actuality it was one of my longest commutes to date. I didn’t even get any notice on the way home the other day that they were cutting the Splinterstate down to one lane for construction. Would have been helpful to know!

So I smell a conspiracy. The Governor needed state government to appear to be working while The Governor was angling for re-election. Now that that’s happened, the state says “screw it” and saves on whatever the lighting and monitoring cost.

Part of me now wishes that The Governor had been unseated, the worm. Then again, if this is what happens when they were re-elected, one can only imagine the havoc that would be wreaked if it had gone the other way!

Category: Church, Statehouse

We’re somewhere between 5-7 episodes into the new season. Here is my impression of the shows that I am keeping up-to-date with:

The Big Bang Theory (Season 2) – After a stellar year last year, it’s been a bit of a let-down this year. But only a bit. Some of the smaller parts (Howard!) have run their course and are due for a replacement. I am enjoying the frequent guest spots of Leslie Winkle (Sarah Gilbert), though, and am not sure of what to make of Penny’s diminishing presence. It’s fallen off the Top Spot of shows I look forward to watching on Saturday, but it’s still up there.

Boston Legal (Season 5) – I decided that I wasn’t going to watch this show anymore at the end of last season, but when I found out that they were wrapping it up I wanted to watch it to its final conclusion. They’re going a lot of what they can to make me regret that decision. Some of the character development is actually better than ever, but the court scenes and moralizing are becoming almost unbearable. It seems like they feel like they should be patted on the back for talking about important issues, but it’s become the opposite of thought-provoking where any thinking other than their thinking is approached with nothing but seething contempt. Every now and again I’ll say “Amen, brother!” to one of Alan Shore’s rants (his discourse on illegal immigration was particularly poignant), but it takes the wind out of those sails when the show suggests any contrary view of mine (gun control, to pick an example, or the belief that pharmaceutical companies aren’t evil) is devoid of any respectability, honesty, and decency. It’s such a tragedy because it would otherwise be an extremely fun show. Part of me thinks that now that Bush is leaving office it would get better so it’s a shame that it’s getting canceled now, but so much of the identity of the show is vested in opposition to our current government that I don’t know what they’d even do in an Obama administration.

Chuck (Season 2)- Chuck has gone completely uphill since last season. I don’t have a whole lot specific to say other than that it’s gotten so much better across the board. They really hit their stride.

Dirty Sexy Money (Season 2) – The show has improved, but with one major caveat. I’m getting more and more interested in the goings-on of the Darling family, but they’re walking a fine line with a long descent into eye-rolling, melodramatic crap with one slip. There really is a fine line between riveting and ridiculous.

The Ex List (Season 1) – The show seems to have gone hiatus, which is just well. It’s interesting, but in a take-it-or-leave-it sort of way. The basic storyline is that the main character is told by a psychic that she has to get together with the man of her dreams or she will live the rest of her life alone. Oh, and the man of her dreams is someone that she’s already dated. So she’s combing through her love-life trying to reconnect with former lovers and having former lovers thrust back into her life. Some drama, but mostly humor ensues. It’s a good show, but not a particularly gripping one. It’s kind of the opposite of Dirty Sexy Money that way.

Fringe (Season 1) – Lost+([X-Files]-aliens), in a nutshell. Except maybe there are aliens, but that’s not really the part being explored. Where Lost succeeded and Fringe is thus far failing is that when it came to Lost I wanted to know what was going on. It started slow and started building mystery. Fringe has announced the mystery at the outset without dedicating a whole lot of time and energy into explaining why we should care. The individual episodes are interesting, but not as good as the average episode of X-Files. I’ll give it a season since it took me that long to get interested in Lost, but my hopes are not high.

How I Met Your Mother (Season 4) – This has become the show for me this season. The Stella subplot really worked in the same way that the relationship with Robin did. You know it’s not going to work and you know that it shouldn’t work, but you’re curious on the “why” and “how” of it not working. And they keep it funny along the way.

Life (Season 2) – The weakest part of the first season was that the individual cases being investigated were gimmicky without being particularly interesting and they were resolved in ways that we did not have much room to speculate ourselves. They’ve improved on that a little bit this season, but not much. No matter, this show easily has the best characters on television in Charley Crews and Danni Reese. I’d watch those two deliver mail together. Plus, the build-up on the question of Who Framed Charlie is getting better with the definite feel that the writers have a plan.

The Office (Season 5) – It’s odd that a couple reviews have talked about the improvement this season has been over last, but I disagree. I thought last season was pretty strong and this one is telling me that the show has probably run its course. Even in its weakened state it’s still a fun and funny show, but it’s gotten too involved in the private lives of the employees and not enough actual office humor.

Worst Week (Season 1) – This show is slapstick and predictable and yet still somehow thoroughly enjoyable. This show is Murphy’s Law embodied where anything that can go wrong in the like of Sam will go wrong. Sam is about to get married and desperately wants to win the approval of his in-laws, but reality finds every possible way to conspire against him. If there is something that his future in-laws express love for, you know that minute that it will be destroyed by the end of the episode. The beauty isn’t in what happens, since that’s always obvious, but how it happens. And the writer’s do a fantastic job of laying the mouse-trap, so to speak, so just about everything that happens can be predicted if you’re astute enough and paying close enough attention. It’s like a puzzle. I can’t imagine that the formula won’t get old by the end of the season, but I’m certainly enjoying it at the moment.


  • Becky has a list.
  • Whiskey goes all existential in reviewing Chuck.
  • Phi has a real problem with the latest season of The Office.
  • Listing of TV shows and their current status.
  • Write a post about a TV show, get a link here…

Category: Theater

The first day of Mr. Hiller’s government class started off like the first day of the five classes that preceded it. He started off taking roll. As anyone that doesn’t go by their formal first name will tell you, you usually spend the first day of the class correcting the teacher. He said “Alejandro” and you say “Alex” or he says Harold and you say “Trey”. So when Hiller said “William Truman” I said “I go by Will.”

He looked at me coldly and said “I don’t care.” It was not the start of a beautiful term in his class. I can’t say that I was his least favorite student because he really didn’t seem to like any of us. The guy who sat next to me, who I came to think of as “Dude”, never knew the answer to any of the questions that he was asked, which of course made Hiller ask him questions more frequently than anybody else in the class. I knew most of the answers and was anxious to answer if only to save my classmates any embarrassment, so he looked at me like a suck-up. Sitting in front of me was my friend Oswald Framingtonand sitting in front of him was a bully who later became my friend named Nick Soele. Nick would spend whatever free time he had trying to humiliate Oswald, which wasn’t hard. Hiller didn’t like Nick because he was a billy. He didn’t like Oswald because he whined that Nick was a bully.

About two-thirds the way through the first semester, some news was echoing through Mayne High School. “Did you hear about Cody Weaver?” I’d be asked.

“Who’s Cody Weaver?” I asked.

“I don’t know, some guy.”

“Oh. What’s the news?”

“He killed himself over the weekend!” someone would say. Everybody wanted to be the guy that told somebody even though as near as I could tell Weaver was no more than some guy to anybody that was so anxious to tell his story.

I happened to see Nick early in the day and he asked me the question that everybody else did except that he left off Cody’s last name. By this point I was tired of saying that I didn’t know who Cody was because as the day progressed everybody seemed to have a closer connection or relationship to the post-humous high school celebrity of the day and the fact that I didn’t know him was suddenly becoming noteworthy to people I was almost certain didn’t know who he was at the beginning of the day. So to get the conversation moving, I pretended that I knew who Cody was. “You should totally go see the school counselor. It’s a total get-out-of-class free card!”

“Why would I do that?”

“Because you probably knew him better half of these jackasses saying that they were tight.”

I stared at him blankly.

He got the message. “Man, you liked loaned him your pencil every other day!”

Then the little light over my head turned on. Not just my pencil, but all of his supplies. And not every other day, but every day that he was there. Cody Weaver was Dude. “Wait,” I asked, “he hung himself?” In my own head I added the word “Successfully?”

I hadn’t made the connection for a couple reasons. First, because I’d given him a nickname I hadn’t bothered to commit his actual name to memory. I vaguely recalled it being something like Cody or Toby or Corey or something like that. He definitely didn’t strike me as a Code Weaver, though. I’d been assuming all day that Cody was some sort of preppy white kid. Dude was darkly Hispanic and rarely wore anything more distinguishable than a conspicious earring and typical thuggy attire.

Dude was one of those people that initially came off as cocky from a pretty far distance if only because he was aesthetically like people that were generally (or maybe near-universally) cocky. He had a pretty hot girlfriend and was a good looking guy in spite of himself. From a distance, he wasn’t the sort of guy that you would think would do such a thing. The more I thought about it, though, the less bizarre it sounded. Dude was three things: dumb, irresponsible, and vaguely aware that he was dumb and irresponsible. Every day he would walk in without his book or any supplies. Then, if anything was required, he would freak out over the fact that he was so unprepared and would curse himself out (with frequent assists from Hiller). One day I made sure to bring an extra pencil and some paper to give him so that it might last him for a while and I wouldn’t hear the stream of self-condemnation that was kind of a drag at the end of the day. He took the stuff home with him and I never saw it again. From that point forward I actually kept a Dude Folder with a minimum of supplies that I would give him at the beginning of the class and take back at the end. I’d also let him use my book and I would read off the book of the cute girl that sat on the other side of me or, if desperately in a pinch, Oswald. During collaborative homework assignments, I’d just give him my answers. Turned out that he and I had three of the same teachers, though Hiller’s was the only class we had together. The guy who couldn’t remember a pencil to save his life could remember to bring his homework from those other classes so that I could take a look.

I don’t know what it says about me that I really didn’t think that much of his death. It didn’t really bother me. As I started thinking about the self-criticism that in hindsight sounded more like self-loathing, it was more analytical than empathetic. Word came out that he left a note saying that he couldn’t live without his girlfriend. The thing is that his girlfriend hadn’t left him. A rival of his just convinced him that she was going to (with no substantiation). The guy, someone I was actually friends with in junior high, actually bragged about pushing his rival over the edge in pursuit of the hand of his girlfriend. It didn’t take two months before he and she actually did start dating. Just as Cody became Dude to me, that guy became Jackal.

As mentioned before, he and I had two other teachers in common as well as Hiller. One thing that I remember about that day was that of the three, Hiller was the only one that seemed affected. His sharpness and antagonism were completely gone. Maybe it was because I was there when he had the class with the empty chair where the now-dead student was. Maybe he was upset about something else entirely. Really, though, I’m inclined to believe that it was because the student that he’d spent so much time deriding as worthless had come to the same conclusion about himself. Whatever the case, Hiller wasn’t the same after that.

Category: Ghostland, School

What do Office Space, The Office, The IT Crowd, and Dilbert have in common? Well, obviously they’re all office-based comedies of some sort or another, but they share something else in common: In all four productions, they are told with a perspective most sympathetic to the grunt and least sympathetic to management. Only The Office serials break this mold at least a little where upper management (Neil in UK, Wallace in US) is just as exasperated by the middle managers as the underlings are. But in all of the cases, the problem is depicted as being with management getting in the way, distracting, harassing, or otherwise denigrating the protagonist grunts.

It seems to me that some comic opportunity is really being missed here.

When I was working for Falstaff in Deseret and early on in my tenure at Monmark, I used to produce a comic strip. No one at Monmark ever knew about it, but it gave me a tidbit of celebrity cred when I was working at Falstaff. I won’t reproduce any of it here, but if anyone is interested I can send you a link to my archives. The somewhat unique thing about the strip, though, is that it is primarily told from the point of view of the middle manager. The character, Gil, was based off of my former boss (and current HC commenter) Willard. Gil was essentially stuck between an exceptionally obtuse corporate managerial structure and at least a couple lazy employees. That’s not to say that Gil is without his quirks and double-dealing, but a lot of it is in response to the pressures he’s under. Management dictates on one hand, common sense on the other or the need to be a tactful supervisor and employees that could care less). By and large it’s more critical of management than of the employees (who are themselves often sympathetic), but I focus on the trials of Gil somewhat because it’s a point of view that is often missing from office comedy.

It’s not entirely missing. It’s often the case where the main character has an underling or two that are quirky, lazy, or somehow agitating. But it’s usually just their personal secretary or something of the like. And most of the time, it’s the “office” part of a comedy that primarily focuses on the main character’s family life or the office is itself an atypical one. An example of this would be News Radio, where the station manager is the straight man with a wacky corporate owner (Stephen Root’s Jimmy James is one of the cooolest characters on television ever) and a bunch of oddball employees (Phil Hartman and Andy Dick being the primary examples). Murphy Brown also followed this mold. But it seems that any show that focuses primarily or substantially on the office and where the office is intentionally generic so that the viewer can relate to it, it’s Grunt vs Management and we’re obviously supposed to side with the grunt.

I guess it’s part of the egalitarianism of the US that this is the way that it’s supposed to be. We supposedly like siding with the little guy. Even middle managers are generally more cogniscent of the pressures from above than the pressures from below and so maybe they’re more likely to laugh at the managers than the employees. Hard to say for sure. In any case, it makes me want to make a show from the manager’s point of view.

Category: Office, Theater

When I was in high school, Mr. Hiller, my government teacher, asked every girl in the class to stand up.

Then he asked every student who was not white and whose parents weren’t white to stand up. After some looking at one another, most did.

He then asked everybody whose last name ends in a vowel other than “e” to stand up. They did so.

Then he said requested that everyone in the class that is not a protestant to stand up. The couple Jewish kids in the class and a Catholic or two stood up. It was when he said that anyone that had just stood up on the basis that they’re Catholic can sit down if their parents are millionaires that I knew what he was getting at.

Then, to the three-quarters of the class standing up, he said, “You will never be president when you grow up.”

AT&T is getting into the act:

Starting in November, AT&T will limit downloads to 20 gigabytes per month for users of their slowest DSL service, at 768 kilobits per second. The limit increases with the speed of the plan, up to 150 gigabytes per month at the 10 megabits-per-second level.

To exceed the limits, subscribers would need to download constantly at maximum speeds for more than 42 hours, depending on the tier. In practice, use of e-mail and the Web wouldn’t take a subscriber anywhere near the limit, but streaming video services like the one Netflix Inc. (NFLX) offers could. For example, subscribers who get downloads of 3 megabits per second have a monthly cap of 60 gigabytes, which allows for the download of about 30 DVD-quality movies.

The limits will initially apply to new customers in the Reno area, AT&T said. Current users will be enrolled if they exceed 150 gigabytes in a month, regardless of their connection speed.

150 is worse than 250, of course. I am also not entirely positive of the market-wisdom when AT&T (at least in the markets I’ve lived in) has been trying to play catch-up. I have to think that cable providers have more flexibility since it remains the standard.

There is one thing that AT&T is definitely doing right that I wish Comcast would:

Customers will be able to track their usage on an AT&T Web site. The company will also contact people who reach 80 percent of their limit. After a grace period to get subscribers acquainted with the system, those who exceed their allotment will pay $1 per gigabyte, Coe said.

Bandwidth tracking and notification. I would be a lot less irked at Comcast if they offered this. I don’t foresee a scenario in which I would use more than 250GB, but I’ve already found myself curbing my usage in the off-chance that I approach the point where they cut me off. So while I’m not sure about AT&T’s plan on the whole, I can at least applaud their transparency.

-{Comcast Limits Bandwidth, 9/2/8}-
-{Bandwidth Limiting The Future?, 8/9/8}-
-{The Digital Devil’s Due, 1/25/8}-

Category: Server Room

Yesterday before work, a coworker scared the crap out of me. He said that almost all of the counties Cascadia have gone to mail-in voting only. That explained something I’d always been curious about (but never so curious as to get off my posterior and follow up). Without my asking for one, I had received a mail-in ballot. I ignored it because I was going to show up to the polling place. Then when my wife did not receive one, I forgot all about it. So I tried to load up the Seagull County voting registration page to find out for sure. You might be shocked to discover that the polling page is overloaded the day before election day. On one hand, it’s hardly shocking. On the other hand, that’s when a polling location page is useful!

After much difficulty, I was delighted to discover that Seagull County is the only hold-out with the old fashioned polling locations. Zaulem County has apparently gone mail-in only this election (or so the website says) and every county except those two had already gone mail-in. So I breathed a sigh of relief until I actually looked at the polling locations page and discovered that Seagull County has polling on a precinct-by-precinct basis. I didn’t even know what precinct I was in. And I didn’t know if I’d be able to find the mail-in ballot I’d tossed aside. And if we were mail-in only, where the heck is Clancy’s ballot?!

After getting home I looked at our voter registration cards. Hers included a polling address, so we were set. Right? Right?! Well, maybe not. My card didn’t give a polling location, instead saying that a mail-in ballot had been sent to me at my request. My request? I had requested no such thing! I would have remembered such a request and having no memory of the request no request was made. Of that I was sure. Didn’t matter, though, because the possibility struck me that maybe they wouldn’t let me vote in person if they sent out a mail-in ballot. Cascadia’s election page didn’t tell me and Seagull County’s wasn’t loading at all.

So I scrambled until I found the mail-in ballot in my car. My car?! There was no way that I would put it in my car! I would have remembered such a placement and having no… oh, screw it, I must have put the darn thing in my car. So I managed to unpack the ballot and fill it out. All was right with the world, except for one little thing. I don’t want to mail my ballot in. Going to the polling location is ceremonial for me. Seeing as how my actual vote is exceptionally unlikely to turn the presidential race (since I’m only a temporary resident, it doesn’t feel right to vote in local races, except the gubernatorial one because I’m inconsistent that way), the ceremony of performing my civic duty is about all I’ve got. Sending in a darn envelope lacks flare.

So I did some more scooting around on the voting web page and discovered that I can hand-deliver the ballot to the Auditor if I so choose. So that’s my new plan.

Clancy, meanwhile, was on call last night. She’s likely to be a zombie when she gets back, but she told me to make sure to remind her to vote (so that she can maintain female-dogging rights). So I left her a note on the door, on her chair, and on the bed. I also left her a GoogleMap to the polling location, her voter registration card, and a utility bill in case she needs it (she still has an Estacado driver’s license). I am the king of overkill, I guess.

Either way this goes, history is in the making. I fully expect Chariots of Fire to be blaring in the background as I deliver my sealed ballot to the appropriate county official.

Category: Statehouse