Saturday, August 25, 2012

Grown-ups Fail

One of the scariest parts of getting older is coming to the realization that most grown-ups are pretty messed up and don't know what they're doing any more than you do.  At this point I've basically come to terms with that reality, but sometimes I still get let down.

I'm the I.T. gal at work, but my expertise only goes so far.  I rely on a consulting company to send help when it comes to tricky problems or installations.  Their staff are all relatively bright and thoughtful guys, and I've gotten to know a couple of them who are most often assigned to my workplace.

Last week our usual guys were both on vacation, so when I needed some installation work done they sent a guy I'd only seen a couple of times before.

I won't bore you with the technical details, but I had gotten a quote from Infrequent Guy's boss the week before for the addition of some new gadgets to our network.  I hoped/assumed that the boss had downloaded all of his plans to Infrequent Guy before sending him out to do the work.

IG showed up; I handed him the boxes of new equipment; got him settled in the server room; and let him alone to do his work.  When he was finished he stopped by my office to let me know he was on his way out.  I asked him if he could spare a minute to show me what he had done, because I like to keep on top of any changes to our network.

He took me to the server room and showed me what he'd done.  Trust me when I say it made no sense to me.  The idea had been to isolate a certain part of the network so as not to let the traffic generated by our new gadgets interfere with the rest of the network.  The way IG had plugged in the cables and equipment, even to my rudimentary understanding, obviously did not accomplish that goal.  In fact, it accomplished exactly nothing.  Other than adding some more cables to our setup, the flow of data traffic had not been changed in any significant way.

I asked IG to explain what I was seeing.  He agreed that what he had just done didn't accomplish anything.  I said "So basically we've spent X hundred dollars for no reason at all?"  Only then did IG offer to call the head office to get more information.  Turns out he had misunderstood what he was supposed to do, and the phone call cleared it up.  The problem would be solved.

But that doesn't answer this question:  Why would an experienced professional "install" a piece of equipment uselessly, knowing full well he was wasting his time and my money, and not take the initiative to call the head office himself?

If I hadn't asked him to show me his work, he would have cheerfully whistled his way out to the car park and driven off into the sunset.  This from a grown man who looks like a responsible and reliable citizen, who charges a big bucks hourly rate for his services.

Good thing I'm not just some dumb girl, like he was probably thinking.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

CNE 2012, a photo essay

When I attend the Canadian National Exhibition fair every year, the first place I always head is the petting zoo.  As an animal lover living in a big city with a fur-and-feathers-intolerant husband, I am creature-deprived.  I love being slobbered on by furry-lipped farm friends.  The goats, sheep, and llamas at the petting zoo are always happy to oblige.

Bring on the noms.

When I've had my fill of the petting zoo, I head straight for the farm building, where various agribusiness interests (Dairy Farmers of Canada, Egg Farmers of Canada, etc.) display items/creatures of interest and are available to answer questions.  For example, how long does it take a mechanical milking machine to milk a cow?  5 to 7 minutes.  Then they apply "teat dip" to make sure the cow's udder stays healthy. Do not confuse this with chip dip; it probably doesn't taste very good.

Piglet frenzy!

These piglets were frolicking so energetically that it was impossible to get a non-blurry photo of them.  They were running around and doing a bunny-like jump-wiggle move in mid-air.

Disapproving ostrich.

Timbit the Little Pony

Hey lady, make with the noms, or get out of my face.
(A.k.a. Minature Pony Side-Eye)


Alpaca mug shots.

Can you identify the alpaca in the first photo?

Does this shade of brown make my butt look big?

Nom delishus fence.

This 8-month old heifer (female calf) decided that my right arm looked tasty.  She stuck out her big, rough cow tongue and gave it a thorough licking.  If you are familiar with the roughness of a cat's tongue, a cow's tongue is like that x 10.  I was thoroughly exfoliated.  I didn't care, because I was busy rubbing her velvety neck with my left hand.  Baby cows are so lovely!

After I had been thoroughly slobbered upon, I went to wash up at one of the hand-wash stations they have set up throughout the farm building for that very purpose.  I lathered up to my elbows with antibacterial soap, like they do on Grey's Anatomy.  Well, that soap was pretty irritating to my raw right arm.  The freshly licked areas turned bright red.  My arm burned, stung, and tingled for a full 20 minutes.  I was all OMG I HAVE COW BURN!  Someone call for first aid!  But it settled down and this morning my arm is fine.

After that I was in the mood for some noms myself, so I sought out the food building.

The CNE has made a habit of featuring a new gross extreme food item every year, ever since they introduced deep-fried Mars bars.  After that it was deep-fried Oreos, deep-fried Twinkies, even so-called deep-fried butter.  I guess they decided that the novelty of deep-frying unhealthy crap had worn off, because this year they introduced the Eclair Dog.

Like us on Facebook? I don't think so!

I didn't see anyone eating an Eclair Dog.  I'm not sure if that makes me feel relieved or disappointed.

After lunch I shopped around the mall area and bought a couple of little trinkets.  Then I ended the day with a little of this guy:

I am a professional Rock Balancer.

Does he travel the country balancing rocks at special events year-round?  Does he specialize in rocks, or can you ask him to balance anything?

The fruits of his labour

It's impressive, but I wonder how you get onto this career path.  Was this what his guidance counsellor suggested?  "Jerry, you're failing every subject, but we're impressed by your ability to stand your pencil on end.  I think you need to focus on your strengths.  I mean, strength."

And that was about it!  I sure didn't have time to see everything, so you never know, there may be a second instalment coming soon.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


This week has been packed, mostly with work.  Our new computer software that was supposed to be an upgrade is like an idiot savant that doesn't know how to tie its own shoes.  It can do all sorts of fancy things that the other program couldn't do, but those are nice-to-haves.  It falls flat on the must-haves, unfortunately.  Data entry is taking 4 x as much time as it used to due to the limitations on macros.  Therefore guess who has taken whom a buttload of data to enter this weekend?  Yes, very good, it's me.

I also haven't done any housework in two weeks, so I need to catch up on some basic cleanliness around here.

I have a haircut scheduled, because if my hair gets any pouffier people are going to start calling me "Fluffy".

And this afternoon I am committed to spending some time with a friend who is going through a major personal crisis.  She's a young mother of two going through an ugly divorce from a total a**hole, and he's being cruel to her through his lawyer at every opportunity.  She's seriously a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown.  At the moment her parents, whom she usually turns to for support, are away on vacation.  Ken and I are going to her place to hang out and keep her company.

So in other words I have a packed schedule - all very meaningful, but woah.  I won't mind when things slow down a bit!  OK, off I go to do lots of stuff.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

My Hero

It is with no excess of grace that my Big Computer Project has come galumphing to the end of its first phase.  I had planned it to flow as smoothly as a professional ballet dancer performing the waltz of the Sugar Plum Fairy.  Instead, it staggered to its painful conclusion like a sloppy drunk.  However, with a few scrapes and bruises, we got somewhere.  We're using the new software, albeit clumsily.  I'll have to do a lot of polishing up before I can say this project is a success.

The trainer who was with us all week, (I'll call her Jill), is my hero.  She really did come through hell and high water to help us, and then continued to go above and beyond the call of duty every day.

I wouldn't say that everything that could go wrong did go wrong, as that would be overstating the case.  However, sometimes it felt like it was true.  For example, Monday morning started out with a series of technical glitches as Jill struggled to get access to our test database on the laptop computer which was hooked up to her overhead projector.  Nevertheless, we found a (clumsy) workaround and got the first training session up and running.

At lunchtime, she asked where she could find the closest available restaurant for lunch.  I directed her to a cafĂ© in our building.  I had eaten there once and it was fine.  So off she went.  They served her undercooked chicken.  She had already swallowed a bit when she noticed it was raw inside.  We both prayed that she wouldn't get food poisoning.

Of course she got food poisoning.

Jill, being an absolute trooper, dosed herself up with Pepto and Immodium, and showed up after an awful night of technicolour yawns to teach a full day.  God only knows how she did it.  My hat is off to her.  She is one tough cookie.  (That was Tuesday.)

On Wednesday, halfway through the day of training, users' security privileges started disappearing.  It turns out that a configuration questionnaire which I filled in almost a year ago, which no one had explained to me, was being used to set up security access profiles.  On the questionnaire I had been asked to list everyone's "roles".  So, for example, I put myself down as an "administrator", because that's what I do in the organization: I administrate.  Turns out that in the software, "administrator" means "lowest level clerk who has access to nothing".  I had to call the software head office to get my Power User privileges restored so that I could go in and fix all the other profiles.

On Thursday Jill had to leave early on a personal matter.  She revealed to me that her mother has terminal cancer and she had to meet with a doctor to discuss palliative care.  "It's a terrible disease," she told me.  I said something sympathetic. She continued:  "When my son was diagnosed it was only months until he died."  Turns out her son, who was only 31, passed away a mere 6 months ago.  Frankly I'm amazed that she's able to function at all under the circumstances, let alone deal with all the b.s. that was going on with our project.

Friday you wouldn't even believe.  Jill was at the office at 6:45 am, to support my earliest staffer on our first day live with the new software.  She ran around all day, troubleshooting a staggering kaleidoscope of problems, amongst 10 panicked employees all clamouring for her attention.

As with any change, everyone was stressed out and fussing.  One of my ladies was literally panting with anxiety because she couldn't figure out the details of the software.   Jill would turn to me and say "So-and-so is feeling very upset because she can't print labels."  Off I would go to troubleshoot another label printer.  (I must have spent at least two hours on the phone with remote tech support fiddling with the stupid label printers.)  I could read between the lines of what Jill was saying, which was "I'm here despite grieving my son, in the process of losing my mother, and still nauseous and exhausted from food poisoning, and this twit is leaning on me for emotional support because of a printer glitch."  Indeed.  Despite this she stayed calm and professional throughout her 10-hour day.  I was the only one she talked to about any of the things she was going through.

At the end of Friday I presented her with a thank-you card signed by all the staff. (I had been circulating it since Wednesday, after the food-poisoning incident.)  I had also picked out a scented candle in a glass holder for her.  She hugged me, thanked me profusely, and then hugged me again.  She said she wouldn't read the card until later because it would probably make her cry.

I'm not sure if I'll ever see Jill again, but she made a big impression on me.  I'll never forget her steadfastness and inner strength.  You want a strong female role model? Or just an amazingly inspiring person, full stop?  I've got one right here with a heart of gold and a will of steel.  Anytime I'm going through several varieties of crap all at once, I'm going to think of her, and smile.