corporate cube shuffle

One of the funny things that tech corporations do a lot of is shuffle people from bldg to bldg. I’ve been in tech since tech was new, so of course, I’ve done a hell of a lot of this. I’ve even done the moves myself, when I worked for a startup in this dim and […]

One of the funny things that tech corporations do a lot of is shuffle people from bldg to bldg.

I’ve been in tech since tech was new, so of course, I’ve done a hell of a lot of this. I’ve even done the moves myself, when I worked for a startup in this dim and distant past; being the lowest paid guy in the company (one of maybe three without a PHd behind my name), i got all those extra jobs, like building stuff, tearing stuff down, moving heavy things, and driving the company truck (because I had a truck, and no one else did, it became The Company TRuck).

The thing that seems ironic now, though, is that physical proximity to co workers matters almost not at all for most companies now. Most of us in tech – at least the engineers – get more done when we’re away from our cubicles than when we’re in them. So the push to gather a team together in one room, area or bldg is a loosing battle for a company that’s growing.

I’m lucky enough to work for such a company, so we’re doing lots of poorly-planned body shuffles.

It’s frustrating; putting us together won’t help us work, but moving us disrupts work. Our last move was dreadful, costing me vastly in terms of productivity. And it failed the goal of putting a team together, because we tried to shoehorn three teams into room for two, and thus wound up splitting all three teams worse than when we started.

Tomorrow, we go again, and it’s the same thing; three teams into one bldg, and by the time we move, space is already too short to fit everyone, even with cubes cut down to 2/3 normal size.

For what? So managers who don’t really get it can know where everyone sits.

There’s an upside though. My current bldg is absolutely horrible. Oh, it looks great, but as a working environment it’s dreadful. Every mistake you can make in terms of lighting and sound has been made. So the new bldg – literally two parking lots down the road – has to be better, if only because it can’t be worse. So if we stay there loger than a year, the productivity should be a sum gain only because the environment may be less noisy and unpleasant. BUt that’s only a win if we don’t move again in six months, because a move like that always costs weeks of disruption.

And again, why? When we could work literally anywhere, in any bldg. Moving one employee is easy; moving a bldg-full is a huge undertaking.

Corporation, I guess we could say, are stupid.

On the other hand, we get friday off. So it’s not a complete loss.

knowing the question

That last entry was kind of grim, huh? I know I’ve written something grim when no one comments, but but I get email from loved ones saying “are you ok” or “I’m worried about you”. The downside of tranks (which I just adore), is that there’s a bit of a crash on the tail end. […]

That last entry was kind of grim, huh? I know I’ve written something grim when no one comments, but but I get email from loved ones saying “are you ok” or “I’m worried about you”.

The downside of tranks (which I just adore), is that there’s a bit of a crash on the tail end. I wish I had a cut-and-pastable version of Art Pepper’s autobiography, straight life (which is fucking brilliant), because it captures the extremes of this like nothing else]. People with psychosis disorders or extremes of depression sometimes find it leaves them with, in effect, all the misery and black depression that it’s held off for ten to twelve hours, collected and concentrated and experienced all at once. I’m lucky. all I get, the rare times I take it to help me sleep, is an hour or two of grumpiness on the tail end, before my psyche self-corrects.

That’s not to say any of what I wrote yesterday was inaccurate; but the tone wound up more intensely bleak than is my usual style due to lingering effects, and oncoming trank hangover. I consider that actually a good thing, because it helped me actually get over a verbal drought and say something.

The problem I’m having, lately, is a combination of a huge hit to my productivity, and a vastly increased workload (trying to build a side business of my own, as well as my team at work having to support many, many projects at the same time).

It sounds like I’m whining when I say this. But it’s really causing me a problem. Being productive isn’t really my most consistent skill at the best of times.

Going from having an office to living it cube-land has been disastrous for me. Sure, I was a cube-dweller for the better part of two decades before I started my current job, so it’s not like I’ve never been there. But I have a huge problem with distraction. In the past, I managed that by staying incredibly busy doing fairly linear work, and by working at home when I could (in my previous job, that was almost half my time). This job’s different. Partly because my team are less staffed, partly because we’re more specialized, partly because the schedule we’re on is vastly more accelerated. And also because my current employer still functions like a pre-internet company and does things face to face, in meetings and hallway conversations. So crucial support people need to be physically in the office, and physically near the key users.

For me, this is the very worst environment for productivity. I don’t sound-screen well; I hear everyone around me having a dozen different conversations. I don’t visually screen; my peripheral vision is acute, and I track movement and changes in light constantly. In my old bldg, I had control over light (I left it off all the time, with only natural window light). I could screen sound by closing my door or playing music. I could even drop my blinds and lock my door for when distraction was at it’s worse (or, you know, so I could catch up with my favorite web cam girls).

For me, that was as ideal a situation as I could have, working in an office bldg. I was close to my user community, but I had methods to manage my environment, and my distraction level.

The bldg I’m in now is, frankly, about as badly designed as is possible for a modern office bldg. What I suspect is that it was designed by architecture students who’d never actually worked in an office, because the wrongness is so fundamentally obvious. Hard walls everywhere; offices and conference rooms walled in glass. Cube walls are half glass (thus blowing both reasons for cubes; sound screen and privacy). Celings are high, and the lighting has two options (off and as brightly glaring as a stage). Most of the flooring is hard surface, with the little carpeted area hard at leather, and black, a color that shows every bit of dust and spilled food. Instead of conference rooms, we have un-walled “soft seating” areas.

In all this noise-and-light-fest, I wound up in the worst corner in the bldg; a corner that sticks out into a major walkway, at the junction of stairs, and coffee/break area. My corner is bombarded with constant slamming doors, loud chatter, roaring coffee machines (they’re as loud as espresso machines), and traffic moving past my glass-walled cube in a never-ending stream. And of course, with no sound buffering, every person in the area is party to every phone conversation anyone has.

Use Headphones, people say. But unfortunately, my inherent jumpiness and resistance to vulnerability makes me loath headphones. I’ve never been able to work in them, and don’t even like them when I’m alone in my house. As much as I loved a doobie and dark side of the moon back in the day, I still always preferred to have the lights off and the speakers screaming than a pair of headphones.

So the last few months have been a constant struggle for me at work. And it cascades; I can’t make personal calls at work the way I used to, so I’m no longer able to use my breaks to manage personal business. I used to do my banking, make appointments, all manner of things that needed both the phone and business hours, from my desk in between tasks (because let’s face it, there are always moments of the day when we’re goofing off, and it was better than playing solitaire, checking facebook, or visiting ‘guess her muff’). Now, I can’t make my goof-off time personally productive; I’m not making appointments I need to make (dentist, chiropractor, tax guy, etc).

The sum of it all is that I feel harried all the time; I feel like I’m incredibly busy. But I’m not getting enough done. I can feel my time getting wasted. I’m not even enjoying it when I fuck off, because I know when I’m done it’ll be even worse.

I don’t have a solution for this right now. My company is in a space crunch (which is good, ultimately; we’re growing, hiring in a down economy, but it has a short term cost in terms of comfort). My building, built to house two organizations with growth room, was full before we’d even moved in. And being a key support person, no one wants me off site, not even one bldg over, because they feel my attention on them means they get better support (they’re profoundly wrong, I respond best to email, not to being accosted in the hall).

Sure, it’s easy to say i’m lucky to have a job, that if I worked in a filthy place for a shitty wage doing dangerous work, I’d dream about a job like I have now. And I know that’s true, I’ve had jobs like that. My problem is,I’m better than this. I’m capable of being not good, not competent, but truly great at my job. And right now, I’m not there. I’m struggling to maintain mediocrity, and that isn’t enough for me. I could be mediocre for a lot less stress than this.

I guess the answer is I need to make some fundamental change. I know that; two weeks ago on a whim I sent a resume to facebook (they had a job listed that was a perfect fit for me, though they were too stupid to realize that and send me a polite form blow-off letter.) I don’t think I actually wanted to work for facebook; I think something in me just knew I needed to start thinking about what I’m doing, what I want to be doing, and what the delta between these is. I don’t have an answer yet, But I guess I know that’s the question.

mo’c’bell

This is funny in a fucked up pointless way: (via BoingBoing) MoreCowbell.dj is a little Flash app that takes in any MP3, analyses it, and adds rhythmic cowbell and Christopher Walken samples, thus vastly improving it. I didn’t get it to work as far as uploading my own song, but click a couple. They’re worth […]

This is funny in a fucked up pointless way:

(via BoingBoing)

MoreCowbell.dj is a little Flash app that takes in any MP3, analyses it, and adds rhythmic cowbell and Christopher Walken samples, thus vastly improving it.

I didn’t get it to work as far as uploading my own song, but click a couple. They’re worth significant giggles.

In other news, oh my god the week I’m having. It’s like trench warfare in the office the last ten days, and me? I’m the guy wearing the biggest target.

v-minus-four

I’m in that last-few-days-before-vacation zone. You know how it is; the spirit begins to leave and go elsewhere, while the mind deals with a steepening ramp of details, crossed with a descending curve of time. I had this vague notion I would have some free time toward the end of the week; as it turns […]

I’m in that last-few-days-before-vacation zone.

You know how it is; the spirit begins to leave and go elsewhere, while the mind deals with a steepening ramp of details, crossed with a descending curve of time.

I had this vague notion I would have some free time toward the end of the week; as it turns out, I’ve barely time to manage what I need to do before I leave. I have months worth of I should-document-that-in-case-I-get-hit-by-a-bus; my tendency to keep everything in my head is part if what makes me good at problem solving, but it always hurts when I need to leave. Because I’m that guy; the one who knows where the bodies are buried, the one who knows who everything works and why it works that way.

On the other hand, in four more days, I’ll be in the PNW doing pretty much nothing. So there’s that. Ok, it’s not a tropic isle, with a dark-haired maiden, but it’ll do.

I have virtually no plans for this trip. I’m not doing any diving; I’m not going to be doing any work (I mean it this time). I have no tickets to events. I have no agenda at all. The closest I get to plans is that I kind of want to spend a gift certificate I have at the Utilikilts store, though honestly, I don’t really *need* another utilikilt (so if someone wants to buy a $400 gift certificate for a significant discount off face price, I could then spend that money on a new highland kilt I’ve been eying.)

Meanwhile, I can barely summon enough attention to pack, and no attention at all for anything else beyond getting through these last few days without my head exploding.

ink at the end of the tunnel

I’m beginning to feel like this last year’s incredible load of work, death, illness and mayhem may be closing out, finally. I looked at a web site I built for the project I’ve been working in to see when we created it; I was thinking, five, six months ago. In fact it was just about […]

I’m beginning to feel like this last year’s incredible load of work, death, illness and mayhem may be closing out, finally.

I looked at a web site I built for the project I’ve been working in to see when we created it; I was thinking, five, six months ago. In fact it was just about one year almost exactly, which in my mind signifies the start of this whole thing; the day I started working on what was presented as a simple, short-duration project.

Best-laid-plans and all that crap.

I feel I should knock wood saying it, but it looks like the worst might be over. Though when I say knock wood, I mean it that way, since my superstition begins and ends with how many swallows of water cures hiccups.

Meanwhile, I look out at blue sky and try to re-learn the skill of concentration on one task at a time; something I find I’m doing poorly at still, as it’s taken me two hours of interruptions to finish typing this sentence.

It’s been, though, a brutally long year. My struggle now, both at work and in real life, is to try to back up and figure out all the things I’ve put off for months, and take care of them now, in the short window were there might be time. I’m ahead on some fronts; my motorcycle is running again, I finished my taxes on time (last year’s were completed just before the october deadline), and my bills are in some state you might call paid. I’ve gotten a significant amount of yard and house maintenance done since the weather turned nice.

On the other hand, I have a month’s worth of laundry to put away and will be lucky if I can get my garage ‘spring cleaning’ done before fall.

The thing is, these mundane tasks actually feel good; it’s been so long since I’ve felt like anything was actually finished in my life that just planting a new lemon tree in my yard or clearing my desk off feels like a victory.

Part of me wants to take this time to just do nothing; but I can’t yet. I can’t really rest yet. It’s like those first few days of a hawaiian vacation, when my nervous system can’t get off silicon valley time, and and I can’t just sit and watch an ocean or a sunset without thinking about what I will, should, or could do. I can’t stop twitching.

I’m still in that crush-time mindset; the list of things to do is still growing faster than I’m cutting it down; but I’m cutting it down in order of what I care about now, instead of in order of whomever screams first and loudest.

What this means is that my to-do list includes a tattoo; next week I go in to see orly at Humble Beginnings.

I found some good representations of what I’m getting – in concept and style anyway; take a look at the ‘Marquesan’ and ‘Polynesian’ links by Rob Deut of Indepedant Vision; anything with stylized faces gets you to the right territory. Sorry, it’s all behind a stupid flash interface so I can’t direct link; but damn, he’s a great artist; alas, he’s in the netherlands.

I’m working hard to get my head back together, and I can’t think of anything better for than than a little productive pain. I’m hoping this isn’t the last tattoo I actually start work on this year, even if it’s the last this summer (I try to avoid tattoos in teh summer; new tattoos tend not to like sun, sand, sea, and chlorine, which are (one hopes) part of my summers. BUyt as soon as this one’s done, I’m reasonably sure I’ll have my mind best to another, though I’m not sure if it’ll be on my back, or if it’s time to start on the legs again (or, for all I know, more work on my arm). BUt it’s been way too long, and I feel the need to continue.

smoke and fire and a dearth of sleep

I’m getting bored with bitching about how swampped I am. And I bet you are already clicking away, thinking, oh, sure, another whine-whine-i’m-so-fucking-busy-i-can’t-blog-apart-from-blogging-about-being-busy entry. Fair enough. Thing is, I keep making the mistake of thinking – and saying, in some cases – it’ll be better after this week. Which it isn’t. I was pretty damn […]

I’m getting bored with bitching about how swampped I am. And I bet you are already clicking away, thinking, oh, sure, another whine-whine-i’m-so-fucking-busy-i-can’t-blog-apart-from-blogging-about-being-busy entry.

Fair enough.

Thing is, I keep making the mistake of thinking – and saying, in some cases – it’ll be better after this week. Which it isn’t. I was pretty damn sure after my LA trip last month that things would start to quiet down; the project we’re working on is just about to finish (no, it won’t get announced at some upcoming show, we’re back to working on system internals, nothing so splashy as last time). I figured the night-and-weekend, no-time-to-think-or-talk thing was about over, that I’d have time to take a lunch break or plau hookey for an afternoon any day now.

Of course I was wrong; while the project is closing out soon, this has been one of those moving target games, where ‘about three weeks’ is always out about three weeks from any value of now. And we’ve got two more projects spinning up in the next week or so (“oh just little ones, they’ll be quick,” the teams are saying. Sure. Riiiiight.)

And of course, I just got pulled into some planning on longer terms stuff; projects I am VERY INTERESTED IN, yet don’t have bandwidth to think about yet. I’m so busy bailing I can’t even visualize building a new boat.

Add to that my boss leaving my team (which means I’m having to step in and catch all the balls and clubs and rings and chainsaws he’s been juggling, in effect picking up a new job on top of my old one), and my main co-worker leaving for the rest of the month for a (well deserved) trip home to ethiopia, and I’m looking at a solid month of saying i need a fucking vacation. Which I don’t have time or dough for, at least not out as far on the horizon as I can see from here.

My head will now explode. Stand Back.

The one thing I’ve managed to do is some cooking; even with working most of the weekend, paying my bills, tending my mother, and driving kids around to various play dates and teen birthday parties, I managed to make both a dinner of grilled, mint-and-yogurt marinated lamb with artichokes saturday, and tonight, what turned out to be the best tomato soup I’ve ever had (courtesy of a tyler florence recipe).

I’ve said it before; when everything seems like it’s comin’ down around your ears, try cooking something. If you don’t have time for therapeutic rough sex, smoke and fire and knives is the next best thing (though, you know, sex that includes smoke, fire and knives? That sounds pretty damn good.)

Now I’ve distracted myself. I was going to post recipes, one for roasted tomato soup with bacon, and another marinated lamb. But instead I’m imagining the sort of thing I need a lot more brainpower to describe. That, possibly, will be my next entry. But I’m finding writing erotica isn’t so easy when one’s fighting several weeks of sleep deficit.

Helping the Helpless

Y’ever try your best to help someone who just won’t be helped? Actually I’m talking about work. We pretty much all have been there when it comes to personal life. I’m in deadline hell; the story is complicated and even if it were worth telling, I couldn’t really tell it anyway. But to tell a […]

Y’ever try your best to help someone who just won’t be helped?

Actually I’m talking about work. We pretty much all have been there when it comes to personal life.

I’m in deadline hell; the story is complicated and even if it were worth telling, I couldn’t really tell it anyway. But to tell a short version, there are software licenses that expire at the end of this month, I have travel plans that eat half a week next week, and due to plans gone awry (I suddenly want to say it like bobby burns, Gang aft agley), and due to unexpected software bugs, I suddenly find that I need to replace infrastructure software two months sooner than expected.

Ok. I can do that. CAD tools and engineering infrastructure is what I do. Solve Problems. Only here’s the thing; sometimes one man can’t do it all.

The tool I’m replacing – a batch queueing system – is wired into every damned thing, in about twenty different ways. Which means that the things that need to change are not all under my control. But I can manage that, I’ve got plans and schedules. I don’t really need sleep, you know, and I can ignore my friends and put off things that need doing at home and at work.

Only today, one of the users I’m giving it all for came back to me with a whole new plan which consisted of, “no, I don’t know anything about what you’re doing, and don’t really understand what you’re asking, but I reject it and propose you do it all my way.”

Ten years ago, I guess I would have come back with exact details on why he’s such a fucking moron and explained to him that if he’d just try doing things the right way (ie,my way), suddenly most of the problems he’s having would go away, fucking *poof*. And then I would have stared updating my resume.

Sigh. Sometimes growing up sucks.

I managed to respond in a businesslike way, clarifying that 1) I was doing all this to support his team, 2) no, the solution he countered with was technically impossible, and 3) his fears of disaster were based on not understanding the technology. And I even said it all without using the word ‘idiot’ even once. Tomorrow, I fully expect him to re-iterate his points, adding extra emphasis, in effect saying “I don’t have time to read your email, just go make pigs fly for me, slave!”.

And I’ll brandish imaginary weapons, then I’ll go solve his problem against his will, knowing that I’ll win in the end, without him ever knowing I’ve again saved him from himself.

It’s a thankless task, but someone’s gotta do it.

…about your dongle.

On my voice mail today – a girl named Dassie left this: “…the sticker on your dongle is incorrect.” After that, I could not refrain from giggling.

On my voice mail today – a girl named Dassie left this:

“…the sticker on your dongle is incorrect.”

After that, I could not refrain from giggling.

bitter, dark night

I think I’ve been trying to get something written for at least two week. Even testing the new beta version of ecto3, I wasn’t able to manage anything more than test test, test. It has been, to say the least, nuts. There have been school plays (and much applause), trick-or-treating with teenage girls (the smell […]

I think I’ve been trying to get something written for at least two week. Even testing the new beta version of ecto3, I wasn’t able to manage anything more than test test, test.

It has been, to say the least, nuts.

There have been school plays (and much applause), trick-or-treating with teenage girls (the smell of girls and candy in my truck), hockey games (the sharks lost, but I finally got a sharks jersey), award ceremonies at the county department of education (who, it turns out, have quite the collection of art, one piece of which is now by my daughter). There have been friends in need, emergency house repairs, and kids games that don’t work on Leopard.

And that’s not to mention work.

Work, though; well, one might touch wood (Shhh! no giggling!) and say things are getting better. Or at least getting ready to get better.

We finally got another guy in my group, which we desperately needed – and this new guy’s lookin’ like a rock star, one of those gifted CAD engineers who loves this kind of work, AND has the technical chops. And we have a new director, and for the first time since I reported to Jeff (Ray knows what this means), we have a top manager who fucking gets it. He knows already who’s carrying the load (my team) and who’s not (that other team who sit next to my team, and no, if you’re reading this, I don’t mean you. Unless it’s YOU in which case, yeah I do).

This is why I try not to tell co workers I blog. One of them asked me about a Bukowski quote in my sig bar: “Writing chooses you, you don’t choose it.” And he asked me if I’m a writer, and what I write. “Dark, violent noir” is what I said, because I didn’t want to mention blogging at a group lunch, and I didn’t want to say “erotica featuring drugs and depravity” which is nearer the mark.

But possible improvement aside, we’re still bailing as fast as we can to slow the boat sinking. Which doesn’t help one’s creativity or general well-being.

My head’s been full of snippets of writing lately. I can feel something trying to get out. Snippets of dialog I can’t quite seem to bring from brain to keyboard. Characters who walk on stage and are gone again before I know who they are.



I sat late last night in a bar, watching a pretty young woman talking to thebarman. She wants him, I thought, seeing it in the hair-touching, the posture. I puzzled over their story. Was she playing so hard for him, doing her overt mating dance? Or was I seeing a couple in love already, her body showing every recent touch of his hands.

I wondered as I sipped strong black coffee and listened to people next to me tell boastful stories. I began to tell myself a story about them, pieced together without words, from glances and smiles and almost-touches. I entertained myself until last call and after, until closing time.

I overheard the handsome young barman then, as I picked up my coat and hat. He was saying “…my fiancée…” to other late-night patrons, with an open-handed sweep in her direction.

Young love, I thought. Romance, and possibility, everything life has laid before them like a shining path.

“Fuck the both of you,” I thought, and walked out into a bitter, dark night.


The setting above was true, a pretty girl who looked like Fred from the teevee show Angel, playing with her hair as she talked to a friend of mine who tends bar. The word fiancée was indeed used later, when he introduced her, and I loved her instantly when she said hello. She had a little betty boop voice that made want to hear her say daddy.

But the slice on monolog was a character who started speaking in my head as I drove home. I don’t know who he was or why the young lovers inspired his wrath; but I wanted to find out. I wanted to know the rest of his story.

It wasn’t there. Just what you see, more or less as I heard his voice say it at 1:30 am last night on a freeway under dark, clear, starry skies. His story was lost, like someone you meet in an airport lounge and listen to for twenty minutes, while you await flights to different ends of the world. Like someone you meet and wonder about after.

I need to find a character again who speaks to me long enough that I know him, or her; that I can let them tell mea a story. It’s been far too long since that’s happened, but I can almost feel it, almost hear it.

And time, of course, to let them speak when they arrive. Because they will not wait. They will not hear me say, later, tell me later.

The Resume, or Lies about Me

I’m helping a friend with her resume, and I’m once again reminded of what an absurd game resume-writing is. I can’t recall the last time I got really serious about writing a resume. My job now, I was hired because I knew a guy and the resume and interview process were a walk-through. I updated […]

I’m helping a friend with her resume, and I’m once again reminded of what an absurd game resume-writing is.

I can’t recall the last time I got really serious about writing a resume. My job now, I was hired because I knew a guy and the resume and interview process were a walk-through. I updated what I had handy, re-wrote the first bit to line up with the job and handed it in.

The thing is, a resume is an artful (if you’re good or hire well) combination of lies and marketing crap. You take what you’re good at, add in what you sort of know that sounds good, mix in a few quantifiable achievements, avoid your fuck-ups, and then write it in a stupid, awkward, artificial language that no one actually uses in real life.

Results-driven
Self-starting
Committed to

It’s so deeply artificial. And yet, a good resume can land you an interview, a bad one will land on the floor unless you have some particular skill everyone needs.

It’s different when you have a very specific technical skill to offer. I mean, Lumberjack, we all know what your job is, you don’t really have to say much. I cut down trees. I eat my lunch. I go to the lavatory. On Wednesdays I go shoppin’ And have buttered scones for tea. But for most of us with a range of possibly-applicable skills, looking for a job those might fit to, it’s a game.

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