Hollywood Is Calling

Occasionally, I'll get the rare opportunity of an acting gig.

At work.

Since I work for an accounting firm, the most common role I'm cast in is that of an accountant.

For instance, I periodically review the work of actual accountants. I am not, nor have I ever been, an accountant. However, I have been with the firm for many years. This, in and of itself, means I am qualified to review junior staff's work. It makes no difference that they have been trained in accounting and I have not. This role calls for confidence, and confidence I must deliver.

It usually goes something like this:

Junior Accountant: Here's my work, on time as requested, Sir.

: Um, looks good. Lotsa numbers 'n stuff.

Junior Accountant
: Thank you, Sir.

*Frowning at the totals section of the 1500-row spreadsheet*  Oh, there is one thing. This part here looks wrong. I want you to fix that.

*One week time lapse*

Junior Accountant
: Sir, I spent all last week reviewing my work.

Me: And?

Junior Accountant: Uh, well, Sir...it's actually correct. You see, these numbers add up. If you take the bi-monthly rate times the...

: You're right, looks good! I was just making sure you were paying attention. Keep up the good work!

Play the part well, and The Boss is satisfied. I am now free to return to the No Man's Land of IT.


How to Get Cold Call Sales People off the Phone

I hate sales calls.

Somehow, a few of them manage to get through the receptionists.  It's always some company twelve states away that wants to provide "local, cost-effective solutions for my IT needs".  They're offering products I won't use and services I don't need.

When I ask to be removed from one list, they gladly comply...right after moving me to another company's list.

Once, after 100 calls in two months from a company named Insight Direct, I simply picked up the phone, yelled and hung up.  Apparently that was the secret code to get off their cold-call list!

Lately, I've been thinking of more proactive and creative ways to achieve the same result.  Without further ado, here are:

7 Ways to Get Cold Call Sales Folks to Leave You the Heck Alone
  • Say, "I have to go.  I'm being eaten by goblins."
  • Say, "I've really got to cut this short - I'm next in line to jump in the wood chipper."
  • Suddenly forget English.  "Que?"
  • Put the sales person on hold while I transfer them back and forth between me and my alter ego, Crazy Jim.
  • Offer them my company's services.  Tit for tat!
  • Give one sales person's contact information to another sales person.
  • Ask for more information.  "Compooters?  What's that?  They do what now?  Wait, you're going too fast - start at the beginning."
Do you hate cold sales calls?

What tactics do you use?


My Wife the Cat

My wife is like a cat.

I've been noticing more of her feline tendencies lately.

She can see in the dark.  It's amazing.  We'll get home after sunset with arms full of groceries (milk, tuna, etc.).  There won't be any lights on, and she can walk down the hall, through the dining room and into the kitchen without missing a step or bumping a wall.  I can't make it through the door without falling on my face.

If I'm writing, she'll wander in to the office and sit in my lap...like a cat.  "Would you rub my back?"  Just like a cat.

Or when we're watching a movie, for instance.  She'll cozy down in a blanket, or three...like a cat.

The other night she got home from work late in the evening and immediately started cleaning.

You know who else cleans compulsively?


Cats, while compulsive cleaners, shed hair at an alarming rate.  My wife has lost so much hair in our bathroom we could start our own clothing line.  Or make toupees for my dad.

I may be wrong, of course.  I could be reading too much into this.  My wife hasn't thrown up in my shoes or clawed the curtains in quite some time.

But she did just ask me for a foot rub.


Open Letters, Part 1

Dear Mr. Conservative,

Why do you have to be so difficult?

Why do you need to argue with every point of contention made from those on the 'other side of the fence'?  Have you ever stopped to wonder if they might be right this time?

Why do you mindlessly swallow every point of contention made from those already on your own side?  Have you ever stopped to wonder if they might be wrong this time?

Have you stopped to ponder what it is you're swallowing and in turn force-feeding to others?

For instance, if you're so conservative, why are you against the environment?  What has the environment ever done to you?  Why has every conservative I've ever spoken with on the subject felt the need to argue against the existence of global warming?  Why do conservatives want more oil drilling and less focus on renewable energies?

Why can't you just be, well, conservative - and therefore work to protect the environment, regardless of whether global warming exists or not or who is responsible for it?  Seriously, who cares?

Imagine what would happen in our country if we actually listened to each other.  You don't trust liberals because they're against everything you want, and vice versa.  What if you backed down and handed the next liberal you debate with, your fellow citizen, an olive branch?

Would that help you get one in return?

And if it did, would we be as divided as we are now?

Whatever happened to the United States of America?


Cleanliness is Next to Impossible

Today's treat is a guest post from Some Guy.  He blogs at Some Blog Site.  You should read it Some Time, he's funny.  Enjoy!


Did you know you don't have to refrigerate ketchup?  That's one of the things I learned early in my marriage.

And you don't have to clean the microwave either.  Nothing can survive in that environment - the radiation kills anything and everything.

And I don't clean up spilled macaroni and cheese right away.  With 3 young boys, we go through a lot of mac and cheese at our house.  There will always be some that winds up on the floor.  Have you ever tried to sweep fresh macaroni and cheese?  It doesn't sweep - it smears.  That creates more of a mess.  But let it dry for about two days and it sweeps up with no problems.  So I don't clean the dining room floor until two days after a major spill.  It just works better that way.

And there's no reason to make your bed.  Really, why do we have to make our beds?

As the old saying goes: "You make your bed - you have to lie in it."  But it's more work to lie in a bed that's made.  It is twice as cumbersome to unmake a bed, make a bed, unmake it, and make it again.

I sometimes don't explain things well and do better by drawing it.  I will attempt to do that here.

Figure A: The Standard Making of Beds

This has four cases - close, open, close, open.

Figure B: The Efficient Making of Beds

This has only two cases - close, open.

There are other situations where the extra steps make sense: if I don't close the front door when I leave the house, the mosquitoes can get in.  And if I don't close the car door when I get out, the interior lights drain the battery (and mosquitoes can get in).  Fridge door - food gets warm.  etc. etc.

But what's going to happen to my bed if I leave the covers open?  The only reason I can think why to make your bed is for it to look better in case someone sees it.  But we don't normally have people over to look at our bed, so it's not normally an issue.  We do make our bed when we are expecting people over, just in case they get lost and accidentally wander into our bedroom.

And that, my friends, is why you should clean the microwave occasionally - just for looks, in case someone else happens to see it.


The IT Rain Dance

We had a server problem the other day.

It should have been a routine fix - the RAID controller card had gone bad and needed to be replaced.  Not a big deal.

So I put in the new controller card, changed the cable and replaced the battery pack.

I fired the server back up, and checked the drive array in Windows.


I rebooted to make sure the controller card showed up in the POST process.

Then I spent the next two hours wondering why the card showed up in the POST process but not in Windows.

I reinstalled drivers.

I flashed the firmware.

I rebooted 27 times.

I expanded my vocabulary.

I did a rain dance.

Then I got a bright idea – open the case back up and check the connections.

Sure enough, one cable was pointing straight up, dangling in the air.

It works now.


The Panicked User of Doom

Every company's got one.

The Panicked User of Doom (PUD) can't seem to figure anything out for herself.  She can't so much as turn her computer on without calling you six times.

Here's my latest bout with our resident PUD:

PUD:  What's that black box on the ground that says 'Dell' on it?

Me: It's what we call a computer.  Why?

PUD:  It's making a horrible beeping noise.  These things aren't all they're cracked up to be.  They have so many problems.

Me:  *Muttering*  Don't we all.

[I head over to take a look]

Me:  I see the problem.

[I remove a binder from the keyboard, which had been holding down the D key.  The beeping stops.]

PUD:  Oh, thanks.  It was driving me crazy.  Silly machines!  Oh!  One more thing - I just got an email from someone, and I'd like to respond.

Me:  Go ahead; doesn't bother me.

PUD:  See, they sent me a picture, but it's turned on its side.  Can you show me how to make it right-side-up?

Me:  *Click* There you go!

PUD:  Ok, thanks!  Can we make it bigger?

Me:  *Click* Yup!

PUD:  *Stares at the picture intently*  Ok, now...I just talk to her?

Me:  Umm...that's just a picture.  You can't talk to it.  Well, you CAN, but...


Guest Post by Scott Moore

Today's treat is a guest post from Scott Moore, who blogs at The Moore You Know.  He's partly responsible for the much-missed Dr. Awesome blog, although he likes to say he only wrote about 12% of the site.  I guess that makes him a Dr., if not awesome, right?  Enjoy!


Ricky asked me to write a guest post probably about 3 months ago now. The topic was to be something along the lines of frustrations with my IT department. I wish my delay in response to him was because I was out doing something awesome enough to earn my own Wikipedia page or get my Twitter account verified, but really, it’s because IT people scare me.

Why? Have you seen Terminator? Exactly. That was a bunch of bored IT guys sitting around one day playing with electronics when all of sudden they had a programmable cyborg assassin traveling though time to kill a young prepubescent male. I was once a young prepubescent male, so that really hit home with me. You won’t see me clowning on IT. No way, I love those guys.

But since Ricky asked, I thought I would offer up a couple constructive compliments on IT improvements:

1) I think IT departments should have pre-prepared conversation topics readily available to help fill the inevitable voids that are bound to happen when troubleshooting different computer issues. Every time I have to call in there are always long stretches of awkward silences. These could be avoided if each IT member had some note cards with the day’s current events printed on them so we would have something to chat about while my computer is rebooting. For the record, I would ask the IT representative their opinion on the subject and then adamantly agree with anything they said as to avoid them programming a cyborg assassin to travel through time and kill me right before I screwed up my computer.

2) Don’t explain it to me. I know, I know…give a man a fish, feed him for a day, teach a man about phishing blah blah blah. I know you want to teach me about what happened so I can fix it myself next time or maybe avoid it all together, but when you're talking about RAMgigahertzes and pixelmegabytes all I hear is Charlie Brown’s mom. It would actually save us more time in the long run if you just get in, fix it, and get out. We both know no matter what you say I will break the exact same thing again next week which will mean another teaching moment with us going through the whole thing all over again while we both act like it didn’t just happen the week before.

With that said, I wouldn’t put too much stock in my advice because, honestly, I only know two things about computers:

1) I enjoy them
2) then they break.

Yes, it is pathetic how someone who grew up watching Transformers could know so little about technology. I blame Michael Bay.

No matter who’s to blame, it is true, if computer illiteracy were state obese rankings I would be Mississippi - #1!  I wish it weren’t so, and if they had a Rosetta Stone for computers, I would try it. But for now, I am one of  “those users” Ricky always talks about. I’m sorry.

The good news, IT guys, is that it's people like me creating jobs for people like you. So, you’re welcome?


The Top-Secret HP Customer Dissatisfaction Command Center

Somewhere, deep in the heart of HP's corporate headquarters, lies a secret Customer Dissatisfaction Command Center (CDCC).

Staffed by goblins, vampires and trolls, the CDCC has a single nefarious mission:  Ticking Off Customers.

The heart of this organization can be summed up by its mission statement - "Because We Hate You".  This mission statement is written on the walls with a special paint made from customers' tears of frustration (recently, I personally provided the paint for several vowels).

The CDCC is located in a basement 500 feet below the surface.  Here, there is no sunlight.  Here, there is no joy.

The CDCC is responsible for alienating and frustrating loyal customers.  If they can turn a loyal customer into a disloyal customer, then they have done their job (bonus points if you cry while still on the phone).  Rest assured, the CDCC always does its job.

The CDCC is brilliant.  They came up with the extraordinary idea of counting Christmas and weekends as 'business days'.  This allowed them to close the support case I recently submitted while I was naively enjoying the holidays with family.  They also had the audacity to mark the case as 'Resolved', thus improving their customer support metrics.  Pure genius!

The CDCC is brazen.  When I resubmitted the case, they sent me an email requesting I test some things for them.  The CDCC suggested no less than ten hoops I had to jump through before they'd help me, including changing out all the hardware.  Since I was calling on a hardware issue, I think it's safe to say new hardware would fix the issue!

The coup de gras lied in the instructions, though - "To respond to this message, please hit reply. Please do not reply to this email."

I can hear the howls of laughter from here...

Note:  This is satire.  HP Legal:  Please don't sue me.  However, if you do, please notify me personally.  I may have some tech questions for you.


In Brotherly Love

Today, Tyler Tarver has been kind enough to share his blog with me.  Okay, actually I threatened to punch him in the nose.  Either way, head on over to his site to read my guest post about those weird secret codes they use over the intercom at Dillard's.  Check out his site while you're there; he's hilarious and, unlike me, his site doesn't look like it was designed by a three-year-old on acid.

I've noticed a pattern among the guys in my Bible study and fellowship group:

Apparently they're all in love with me.

Several times, when closing a perfectly civil, non-awkward post meeting conversation, one of the guys has told me, "I'll see you next week. I love you."

Now, I know they're just getting in touch with their inner selves and showing Christ-like behavior. They mean nothing else by this. I get that. I also know that my aversion to hearing this, or even *shudder* returning the sentiment, is entirely cultural on my part. But I still have a negative reaction to hearing it.

When I'm told this, I should feel good at the intimate relationship I can enjoy with my Christian brothers. Instead, I feel like I need a shower.  I pretend I didn't hear, mutter "See ya", and hot-foot it to my car while looking warily over my shoulder, just in case. I know I'm insecure and all, but I drive faster than usual out of the parking lot anyway.

Several of the older guys also give hugs. I got over this by pretending it was my dad or a favorite uncle. I can deal with this; just don't let it linger or put your head on my shoulder. And if you sway a bit, I will hit you.

But I draw the line here: one of the dudes has decided to take the whole "Greet each other with a brotherly kiss" bit seriously.

That's just wrong, even if it is in the Bible!


The Dolphins Wouldn't Be Happy

Today's delicacy is a guest post from Christopher Adams, who blogs at Ramblings of a Christian Geek.  What I wouldn't give to secretly observe his inner dialogue for a day.


The second most important thing every IT Administrator must accomplish is to make the dolphins happy.  (The most import thing being to place a second layer of chips and cheese on your nachos; you would be surprised the difference it makes.)

Now that you've replaced your badgers with virtual servers, it is time to prepare for a natural disaster.  When tsunamis hit the shores several organizations and businesses lose data and can eventually go bankrupt and require their government to provide funding to replace lost data.  This causes a very long lapse in business.  The businesses are normally underwater for several days following the hit, at which time dolphins (being the smartest water-dwelling animals) take over.

Many people seem to think that the dolphins would vote on who is in charge, or they would choose the biggest and strongest dolphin, but that is obviously pure fiction.  What really happens is they choose the most organized dolphin with analytical skills and appoint them as the data analyst, then they find the dolphin with the Type-A personality and a complete lack of any technical knowledge as a manager.  (Dolphins rarely have nice clothing, so whoever has a nice suit normally gets the position of CEO so the company has a good public face.)

Upon swimming into the datacenter, the first thing the IT dolphin looks for is a waterproofed booklet describing the company's disaster recovery plans.  Once these are found, they quickly begin draining the server racks, drying the servers, and restoring from backups (or simply updating the router to point to an off-site business continuity disaster site, which is their favorite).  If, however, there is no disaster recovery plan the dolphins will get very angry and tear the office apart, feeling cheated and insulted by the humans who built their offices far too close to the ocean.  In fact, most tsunamis don't damage buildings, angry dolphins experiencing data loss do.  Despite their lack of suits, they have an overabundance of hammers for some reason.

In order to please the dolphins, we use PHDVirtual to back up our VMs and a combination of on-site Crashplan Pro and off-site Jungledisk Server.  In the event we lose our Albuquerque location to a tsunami or flash flood, we simply load the VMs onto any off-the-shelf server, fire them up, and connect to our online file backups.

This would please the dolphins.

Happy dolphins will normally make you nachos if you ask nicely.


Tips For My Future Kids, Part 1

Tithe.  Always.

Never drink from the far side of the cup.

Pay cash.

Respect your mom.  Or else.

Drive the speed limit when Uncle Chris is in the car.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and don't think you know it all.  Look to Him in everything you do, and He'll guide you.  See Proverbs 3:5-6.

If it's not yours, don't take it.

Stealing second may be easier than stealing third, but no one will be expecting you to steal home.

There's no shame in striking out, as long as you go down swinging.

Pray often.

Pizza is a food group.

Buying American is great, but buying local is even better.


Helpless Users

Some users simply refuse to understand an issue or take any initiative in resolving it.

There are multiple networks at my work, and I don't have administrator access to all of them.  This means there are certain issues I can't do anything about, even if I understand what needs to be done.

Here's a conversation I have with certain users, not infrequently:

Helpless User:
  Can you fix blah-de-blah?

Me:  I don't have access to that since it's not on our local network, but you can submit a ticket to the  corporate helpdesk and they'll remote in and get you fixed up.

Helpless User:
  So there's nothing I can do?

 You can submit a helpdesk ticket and the folks at the corporate helpdesk will remote into your system and get you squared away.

Helpless User:  Well, I guess since there's nothing I can do, I'll just live with it.

Me:  Yes, I guess that is the only sensible course of action we have left at this point.


Things I'm Still Amazed By

Phones - Technology is nothing new to me.  I'm no stranger to server administration, hardware configuration, and the art of user wrangling.  However, I still experienced a quick moment of awe a while back when speaking to my brother on the phone.  He was in Alaska, in the middle of nowhere, and I was on my mobile, flying down the interstate (hands-free, of course).  I will always be amazed that we can have real-time conversations with others halfway around the world.

Grace - Grace is illogical.  By its very definition, you don't deserve it.  Yet, there are many examples every day of encounters with the grace of others.  The biggest example is from God, but the real question is how many examples are from you, given to others?

Planes - I've had them explained to me many times, but the concept of turning a hunk of metal into a pretend bird still boggles my mind.  I'm always afraid the law of gravity will wake up during one of my flights, and remember that we should be going down, not upThis is why I don't sit by the window on flights.  It feels safer.

Confidence - I'm timid in almost everything I do.  People on the opposite end of the spectrum, however, amaze me.  You, oh person with abounding confidence, never seem wrong.  You're comfortable in any situation.  This characteristic alone will move you up the ladder at work, get you out of speeding tickets and make that girl of your dreams say "Yes!".  The rest of us have to earn it.  You assume it.

Accountants - I've worked with them for 7 years now, and I still don't understand 'em.  How anyone can sit in a box and count someone else's money for giggles is beyond me.  Weirdos.


Tech Support Hold Music

I found myself on hold the other day.

I needed to pay Sony for some repair work they were doing for my boss' laptop.  All I had to do was give them my business credit card number, and we were set.

However, I got the new guy.  It was this poor soul's first day on the job, and he was overwhelmed.  He kept putting me on hold to check what he should do next with his boss and coworkers.

At first, I was annoyed that it was taking so long to simply give the man my card number and move on with life.

And then I noticed something odd.  Every time I was placed back in the hold queue, the hold music changed.

First up was Yanni (prounounced 'Yawny', which is French for "Help, I can't fall asleep!").  This probably added to me being perturbed.

The tribal bongos helped pick up the mood, though.  Nice touch.

Some well-timed Christmas ballads put me in the holiday spirit for a bit.

My fourth trip to the hold queue brought some gospel music, reminding me of the reason for the season.

Thankfully, the reggae hold time wasn't too long.  I never did like reggae, Bob Marley or otherwise ("Why all the foosin' and fittin'?").

The icing on the cake was the Hindi music.  I've never heard Hindi music while on hold with someone from India, which would make sense, but if you're waiting for the Sony repair center in San Diego, get ready!

All together, I was on hold for 28 minutes while the gentlemen learned how to type 16 numbers into his system.

Turns out it was half an hour well spent.


Against All Odds

I wrote this almost ten years ago.  I was managing a toy store, and found myself working with a high ratio of women to men (high school girls = lots, guys = me).  I ran across it and laughed enough to post it here.  Even though the tone in the post is complaining about the amount of estrogen, it couldn't have been that bad.  One of the females mentioned was so beautiful and awesome, she's now my wife!


I'm outnumbered. It's hopeless, and I give up.  The game is thrown, and I am left as alone as Tom Hanks and as beaten as the Arizona Cardinals.

That's right, I work with a store full of girls.  I am the single male in the workplace.  I am constantly seeing girls running around dressed like Eskimos while whining incessantly about the temperature.  The employee journal and dry erase board are full of doodles of flowers and hearts.  Easter candy is popping up in my box, and I know the Easter Bunny hasn't come yet.  He wouldn't be able to make it through the stack of purses and lovely handbags.

The bathroom is clean and smells rosy fresh.  I've even been trained to put the toilet seat down.  Husbands may not learn their entire lives to do this, but that's because for them the female to male ratio is one.  For me, it's around fourteen.  When you've been cornered by fourteen angry girls, putting down the toilet seat is easy to do.

I am critiquing prom dresses by the dozens.  I am now considered an expert.  You see, I am not naive or dumb enough to say what I really think.  Each and every dress is stunningly gorgeous on each of its models and brings out the best qualities of each girl.  I have made the innocent mistake of flattery, and now they're hooked.  They parade before me in colorful costumes clammering for accolades.

I am learning to gift wrap.  Even though I cringe and develop a twitch when a customer requests this service, I can now fudge my way through it.  I still have plenty to learn.  My idea of wrapping a gift involves the funnies page and a twisty tie.  A girl's idea of wrapping a gift includes sharp corners and immaculately flat sides.  I think they use an iron to get the wrinkles out.  Cards, stickers, and fourteen feet of ribbon are essential.  This is no light undertaking.  Plan on using an entire afternoon or longer.  We actually have customers coming back to pick up their gifts days later.  My wrapping does not qualify as a work of art, but it will get you on your way in thirty seconds flat.  I accept no responsibility if you are later coerced into bringing the present back because it looks like it had a run-in with with Senor Papershredder and Monsieur Weedeater in a dark alley.

Speaking of gifts, the girls feel compelled to aid me in my routine searches for (belated) gifts.  If I know it's my dad's birthday, I will buy something, and quick.  The girls despise this, because it "shows no thought".  A girl, even if flawless in every other way, needs her gifts to "show a little thought", which is defined as "shopping every store in the known universe until the recipient is dead, in which case you should do the thoughtful thing and pick up a sympathy card as well."

Hmmm...a sympathy card.  That would be a nice touch.  I sure could use one.  I could decorate the envelope with pretty stamps and stickers.  But first, I need to go get a sweater because it's really cold in here.  Really, really cold.  I'm freezing.