Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Freakin' Adorable

I think it might be impossible to improve on Doug's Techland headline, "Five-Year-Old Invents Impossibly Cute Video Game." The game, 'tis true, is impossibly adorable.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Software No Worky

Today I had one of these days:

My customer and I had to go through a big old Excel list and figure out whether the things that were on the list were on a list in our software application. Then we had to add anything that was in the software application but not on the Excel list into Excel. Then we had to explain everything that didn't match. It was a tedious process, and it made us tired and ornery.

But I work with Erica, the best customer on earth. As we were reviewing the first discrepancy, we found a valid explanation for it. She was delighted.

Erica: Oh my God, you mean it does what it's supposed to do?
Katy: I know, right? Sexy!
Erica: Put that in the spreadsheet. I want to see it in the explanation of the discrepancy. Explain why it happened and then put, "Sexy!"
Katy: Here's another one--look, this isn't a mistake either, but for a different reason.
Erica: That's hot. Put "Hot!" in that one.
Katy: Is that H-O-T or H-A-W-T?
Erica: H-O-T. We don't want to confuse the folks in India.

By the time we got to the end of the spreadsheet we had valid explanations called "Sexy," "Hot," and "A-OK!" And I have to admit that it made the whole process go just a little faster.

I really am lucky that most days, I love my job, and on the days I don't, I really love the people I work with. That's hot!

For Anyone Watching Game of Thrones

Sunday's episode made me think of this Moth story. It must have made someone at the Moth think of it too, because they uploaded it to YouTube today.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Tail wags the dog, again

I think that my place of employment is the home, the veritable castle and sanctum sanctorum, of tails wagging dogs. My latest and greatest example is this.

I manage a team of people, and we have a block of offices set aside for our use. Some of the offices are good (as in have windows, and are quite large), and some are bad (as in closets with air conditioning ducts). Through attrition (which has been just wonderful in an environment where I'm not allowed to replace people who leave because the entire facility is over budget - not my section, mind you, just the facility, so rather than cut staff where they ARE overbudget, they don't allow ANYONE to replace lost staff), 3 of the 6 good offices were empty. It seemed just silly to have lots of empty good offices when all our bad offices were filled and people were unhappy. So I spent literally a month organizing which staff were going to move from bad offices to good offices. This was, in and of itself, a pain in the ass and took way longer than it should have, but that is not the purpose of the blog which you are reading.

No, the fun part came when we started to implement the moves. First I was told 1 person simply couldn't move because it would cost too much to move her V-tel equipment, then I was told that she could move, but rather than move her V-tel equipment, we'd simply install NEW V-tel equipment in the new office, then when it came time to implement, I was suddenly told that we would just move the V-tel equipment, because why would we do anything else? (why indeed?). But the really fun part, and the point of this post, is that once they had done this, and were starting the rest of the moves, I suddenly had my boss, and my administrative officer, calling me all in a tizzy because 2 months ago a new policy was started, without anyone telling me or any of the people who regularly deals with line staff who want to, say, move, that moves are simply not allowed anymore. Why would we have such a policy, you ask? Well moves are "too expensive." How expensive, you might wonder? Oh, at least $1,800 per move. And how can that be, you demand? There's a spread sheet. And what might be on that spreadsheet? Well, for one thing, the cost of having, we'll call her "Beth", to come size up the office, decide what will fit, and put in the work orders. That costs just hundreds of dollars. Just how much are we paying Beth, you may further demand? "I don't know," you'd be told. But I'll tell you one thing, Beth must make a HELL of a lot more than boring old program managing me. So have you really looked at this spreadsheet, you might inquire. You would then be met with silence.

So what has really happened here? I'll be you it's something like this. Beth is busy, and possibly lazy or just incompetent, and complains about "all the moves" that she is being told to do. Mind you, moving people is HER JOB, but she feels she is doing too much. So Beth creates "a spreadsheet" showing how expensive a move is, and gets this to my boss's boss's boss, who says "oh my! That's too expensive, let's stop all moves!" And a new policy is born.

Let's think about this for a second now. Just so we're clear. If I was working at Wendy's, and I got tired of making food, and I brought you a spread sheet saying that it cost $200 for me to make a hamburger, because of the time it took me, the ingredients, the cost of keeping the grill hot, legal costs of people suing us for getting fat, etc., would you then conclude that we shouldn't provide any hamburgers? Probably not. Probably you would say one of, or maybe even all, of these things: 1) who they hell are you kidding? Just because you put $200 in a spreadsheet doesn't make it true that it costs $200 to make a burger, 2) you'd better goddamn well find a way to make a hamburger for less than $200 or we'll find someone who can, 3) would it cost less to make a burger if you weren't wasting your evidently quite expensive and limited time making spreadsheets? or 4) well, since you are paid to make hamburgers, and your whole point of existence in this setting is hamburgers, and you've just given me proof you cannot do that economically, your job is now pointless and you're fired.

But in a big enough bureaucracy, when people aren't thinking things through (and it seems NOBODY does this anymore), you instead conclude that you should stop all hamburger production (or in this case office moves). But perhaps because, deep down, you know this is one of the dumbest decisions since they decided to translate "How to learn French" into French, you just don't tell anyone who routinely requests moves. Until they try to move people. You DO tell the supervisors, who dont' tell anyone, again because perhaps they realize they're going to get loads of #$@! for trying to enforce such an idiotic policy. But I think what really gets me is that all of the people who ARE told about this policy just eat it up and parrot it back. They never think to question how it can cost $1,800 to change 1 door sign, switch one phone extension, and provide 1 bin for people to move their stuff from one office to another. They just nod their heads and jump off the damn cliff with the rest of the high paid lemmings.

All of which is fine, until the drag me over the edge with them.

Monday, May 09, 2011


So I'm recovering from not-so-minor surgery, which seems as good a time as any to pick this up again, because a) I'm on vicodin and therefore chock full of wisdom, and b) I've been sitting for four days with my feet up higher than my heart and my back at a 90 degree angle to whatever surface I'm sitting on. For FOUR DAYS. I'm no longer capable of seeing that as a good thing. I'm that kind of bored that causes Bad Willow to kill people.

So here's some of the wisdom I'm chock full of:

1. Drugs really are good. I mean, in all honesty, I've stopped taking them now, because after four days I just don't think I need vicodin anymore. But there's no need to be a hero. Drugs make surgery better.
2. If you need to take a taxi to the ER, don't call the taxi company and say "I need a cab to take me to the ER." That doesn't work. It causes cab companies to say things like, "We don't have any Taxis in Palo Alto." "But you're actually called Palo Alto Cab, right? Where are your taxis if not in Palo Alto?" (The answer to that was a click and a dial tone.) You need to get the cab to come to you, then you need to get IN. Then you need to tell them the address. Unfortunately, the cabbie will probably know right away that you're going to the ER. I had to tell him that I was just going to pick up my car and pay cash in advance before he would drive me there. I don't want to know what horror stories have led to this behavior.
3. Laparoscopy involves pumping you full of gas until you look a lot like a hot air balloon version of yourself. If you have any notice whatsoever of your surgery, invest some of the time in finding a Homer Simpson muumuu to wear in the days following your surgery. Because there are some places you can't go in your XXXL pajamas. I realize food and laundry and cleaning are all important priorities, but trust me on this, the surgery muumuu is a good idea.
4. When you come home as the hot-air-balloon you, there will be pain associated with the gas roaming around in your body. At some point the pain will stop. You might think it's safe to lie down. It's not. Wait longer. Trust me.
5. Much like the drugs, other humans make surgery better. So if, like me, you are a crazy hermit who roams the earth free from any of those pesky entanglements that make being human so damn troublesome, you might want to get a human.
6. No matter how damn butch and tough you are, one human in your life should make a fuss over you. If possible an English person. They really excel at making the exact right amount of fuss without being all embarrassing about it. And of course you're far too tough to need this kind of mollycoddling, but if it makes them feel better then oh, all right.

ANYway, surgery is over, and I'm recovering well. I'm pretty much okay, just a little too easily tired and unable to wear any normal clothes (maybe tomorrow). Work has been tremendously accommodating, including the very nice bloke who did all my work last week so that there wasn't a hellish pile of garbage waiting for me when I logged in today. And it's providing a good opportunity to read some books.

Any Martin fans watching Game of Thrones? What do we think? I'm fairly impressed, but I wasn't all holiest-of-holies about the source material, so I'm interested in whether others are disappointed.