You know you’ve been in a relationship too long when…

Ceiling Fan

You almost fight on Christmas Eve about the direction a ceiling fan is going.

Yep, you read that right.

Here’s the deal, I had to flip a breaker so that I could replace a broken light switch.

As an aside, this light switch was a $50 motion sensing complicated deal made in China. As usual all I could think about was the line from Mr Scott in one of the Star Trek movies. “The more you overthink the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the works.”

Anyhow, once again I discover that the electrician the builder contracted while this house was being built, had been hit by 220V once too often. The single breaker, turns off all the overhead lighting fixtures, and the sockets that feed the network closet. It’s a miracle that the breaker doesn’t trip when I flip on a light. 

ClockwiseAnticlockwise

However, this configuration also means that the overhead fan in the dining area got turned off.  Because it’s a “smart machine”, it had forgotten which direction it was set for by the time I flipped the breaker back on.

Which led to this exchange between myself and the Other Half.

OH: “Turn the fan off so that you can set the direction.”

ME: “Why?”

OH: “So you can set the fan to rotate clockwise for winter.”

ME: “It’s already turning clockwise.”

OH: “No it isn’t. The fan always resets after a power outage.”

ME: “I know, but I’m looking at it right now, the fan is turning clockwise.”

OH: “No it isn’t.” (Turning the fan off and hitting the reverse button)

ME: “What direction is clockwise sweetie?”

Me Thinking this would be resolved when the other half re-evaluated that clockwise is something spinning from left to right. Instead, the other half points to fan and starts calling off 12, 3, 6, 9. Indicating a clockwise motion from left to right.

ME: “Sweetie, what direction are the fan blades turning?” Indicating the slowing fan blades of the now powered off fan

OH: “Clockwise”

ME: “So we didn’t need to reverse the fan.”

OH: “Yes we did.”

Clockface

ME: “Ok are you looking at the fan from the top or bottom?”

OH: “From the bottom.”

ME: “So we didn’t need to reverse the fan.”

OH: “Yes we did.”

I take off my watch, I hold it face down in front of the fan whose blades are now moving very slowly. 

ME: “Clockwise is the direction that the clock hands move right?”

OH: Gives me dirty look

ME: “Are the fan blades moving the same direction as the second hand of my very expensive swiss watch?”

OH: “Why are you being an ass?”

ME: “I’m honestly not trying to be an ass. I’m trying to make sure that we’re working from a common set of reference points so that when you tell me to make the fans in the house go Clockwise, I get it right. Alternatively, if I’m telling you how to tighten a screw if I say clockwise to tighten, you are successful. I’m actually trying to adapt my internal programming to accommodate your needs.” 

OH: Stomps out of house, “I’m going to the grocery store! Reverse the damn fan!”

Trying to put this to bed I go down to the basement, get the ladder so I can get to the switches on the fans in the bedrooms and I reverse all the fans in the house.

Based on the data obtained in our conversation prior to the other half stomping out, I’ve set all the units spinning in a direction I call Counterclockwise.

One hour later… 

OH: “I told you to reverse the fans!”

ME: “I did.”

OH: “No you didn’t, they’re spinning clockwise!”

ME: Facepalm

And then there’s this…

Ouroboros

I sometimes find myself in the most interesting discussions.

This one came about when a Friend asked how a couple of interview / tests had gone in the past week. 


Group

Friend:
Any news?
 
wwducat:
Nope.
 
Friend:
Sorry, does that necessarily mean anything?

wwducat:
I don’t think so. There were a LOT of people taking the tests, the last test had six essay questions. I think it’s simply about them grading the tests and as you know essay questions are highly subjective.  My guess is that there were at least 50 – 60 people total competing for the positions.

ISP Server Racks

Friend:
None more qualified than you

wwducat:
Based on the conversations I heard prior to the testing, these folks were Seriously qualified!  Fierce competition.

Friend:
Were they all for the same position or were there other positions being tested then as well?
 
wwducat:
All for the same two positions.  These guys knew their stuff every bit as well as I do and much better in some cases, because like me they’d been in the trenches.  Some of them knew stuff about fibre optics that I never thought to ask.
 
Friend:
That surprises me.
wwducat:
Others in the group knew configuration of really high end routers, the kinds of routers that your ISP uses for entire cities.
 
Friend:
But you have the user relations experience.

Get Out

wwducat:
Yes I do have user stuff.  Surprised I don’t know things? Believe me that shouldn’t surprise you, it’s normal.  In technology, you tend to get specialized. You bring some things to the table and others bring different abilities. Successful teams hand off tasks to the person or persons within the group that is best suited to perform those tasks. 
 
It’s an almost organic thing, which is why it hurts so much to be layed off or transferred.  You lose contact with those parts of you that you are as reliant upon as your left and right hands. Then you have to find another team where you can be an integral contributing member.  That’s the problem with a lot of “outsiders” including management, they don’t look at a team as an entity, they see only the parts.
 
Friend:
So alien to me since I work so much alone.
 
wwducat:
My specialization / Talent is user interfaces. Either in communicating for the team or in testing software that the users access. I’m usually the coordinator of resources, and the “go to guy” to obtain resources so the team can move forward.

Buss & Tag Terminators

I understand the technology, and leverage that knowledge to help the team. I also am usually the team historian and the guy that members of the team brainstorm with when they’re stuck. 
 
Because I’ve been around forever and Can relate everything I’ve ever encountered to the new stuff I help by providing new perspectives or a different view of a particular problem.  That function requires building trust between myself and the team members.

Friend:
And trust is critical.

wwducat:
Very! I have to be willing to tell them that I don’t know something, and ask that they explain it to me. And they have to be trusting enough to lower their guard and admit they don’t know something or that a problem has them stumped.
 
Then we put our heads together and call upon other resources from the team directing our energies toward a resolution. No one is criticized or derided about it. The focus is about all of us doing our job and learning in the process.
 

Cabling Evolution

Friend:
That’s a team.
 
wwducat:
These abilities are not shown by tests, or speaking with HR representatives. The only people that get it, are people that have been there, themselves.
 
Unfortunately over the past 10 or 15 years teams aren’t often perceived as entities, they’re seen as individuals and any person that appears flawed is replaced instantly, often without telling the team. This results in critical data being lost. I’ve referred to it as Tribal Data, because sometimes things are done in a particular way that is not immediately obvious to an outsider.  Those “special” things are done because they work not because they’re part of a policy or procedure.
 
When you have a lot of churn in corporations or a stressed group of individuals who never become a team, fewer people have ever had the experience of team work.  
 
Instead they’ve only dealt with Machiavellian machinations that lead to promotions and raises by eliminating people in your way.  These kinds of office politics have become commonplace and the sense of teamwork is becoming more rarified.
 
Wait!?!!? Isn’t that kind of like the academic world?

Friend:
Too much so.
 

Bad Boss

wwducat:
It would be a cruel irony if american businesses were falling behind, not due to degradation of skills but instead due to the most negative lessons learned in institutions of higher learning.  Especially when so many college graduates can’t seem to write a cogent sentence.
 
Friend:
But the academy is becoming more of a business- money driven and sales defined
Some of my colleagues argue grammar is a vestige of colonial patriarchal oppression. And they’re teaching writing.
 
wwducat:
So we could be looking at a college, business, college, self perpetuating model. Oh crap whats that snake thing eating it’s tale?? Ouroboros! that’s it.  A never ending  cycle of education & business eating and creating itself at the  same time.
 

Plato

Friend:
Education now is the process of technical training.
 
wwducat:
Sadly from what I’ve seen, in general the technical training isn’t all that good.
 
Teach me how to find things, teach me how to teach myself, teach me philosophy, and ethics, teach me that learning is a lifelong pursuit not an end state,  teach me that independent thought is equally important to equations and sums.
 
Friend:
To think critically, to express yourself effectively, to know where to go to find information.
 
wwducat:
Teach me the value of duty, and honor, and how bad choices lead to bad things and that there may be shades of grey but that the best choice is the choice that is mostly white. (Meaning good, not the great white way.)  
 
I’m such a dinosaur,  I’ve held many of these philosophies to be true the majority of my life.
 
Friend:
And that life is more grays than black and white.
 
What does that make me?
 

Gravitional Quantum Physics

wwducat:
You’re T-REX!
 
I’m probably more like one of the smaller Raptors.
 
Friend:
I’ve had to learn about life being shades of gray. I was taught it is all b/w.
 
wwducat:
Oh respective histories are similar, I too had those lessons. While I think there is  value in a B/W philosophy and it should really be the “Ideal”. 
 
Practically speaking, humans are not computers, and not all situations lend themselves to a binary outcome.  There is always fuzz in the stuff to the right of a decimal point.  AKA Chaos theory.
 
The best I can do it navigate toward the white and get as close as I can before the time element collapses on a particular choice / outcome scenario. 

 
So That’s how some of my day gets spent. Nonetheless it makes for an interesting blog post.

Reflections

NewImage

It was my birthday last week.

This one is a strange one.

I am the same age my father was, when he died. It messes with your head, I’m a young guy.

When I look in the mirror, at first glance I see myself in my early 30’s

When I look deeper, I see grey around the edges. The beginnings of that awful “Chicken Neck” thing that happens in some of my family.  Some blotchiness in my skin, a bit of sun damage and crows feet. My beard and goatee aren’t nearly as youthful as they once were. I take a moment in the steamy mirror to contemplate the changes and decide either due to reality or my ability to delude myself that I’m still not “OLD”.

The grey at my temples doesn’t look bad, the sprinkling of grey throughout my hair is still easily hidden with a shorter hair cut and even the slight recession in my hairline isn’t a disaster.

Then I flash on Dad lying in the hospital bed. With a little imagination I can strip away the ravages of disease and I see a guy that looks remarkably like me. It’s strange and disconcerting to think that If Dad was alive today he’d be in his 70’s and probably still spry and active. He’d certainly be able to hold his own in a political discussion.

Billy 20 7785

What would my Dad think of things as they are today? Would he be pissed, or would he have just given up; realizing that the battles he’d be trying to fight have already been lost?

Oddly, and something that spooks me deeply is that my life has mirrored my father’s in many ways.

Dad made his own way, he started businesses and generally was successful. He had a nice home, nice cars and a successful business when I was a child. He decided to “Check Out” of the ratrace in his mid 30’s and moved to Tennessee. He built a beautiful home, (or so I’ve been told) I never saw it completed. The house burned and Dad was back to square one.

666940 macro image of an old circuit board with transistors

Unfortunately, for dad, time passed and he’d missed a large transition from discrete electronic components to IC packages. This meant that he had a lot of catching up to do if he wanted to return to office dictation equipment sales and repair. I don’t know if he was ever successful in making that transition, we lost touch with each other for a while.

The next I heard he was in Florida again this time putting together an custom office furniture business where he built all the furniture. I lost touch again then heard from him when he told me he was in Sarasota building and selling houses. Again I gather that he was pretty successful, he must have been in his late 40’s by then.

Next I heard, he was in South Carolina. He was living with his Mom and starting another business. This time in cabinetry, That’s where his time ran out.

Resilience is one word I think of when I think of my father. He did all he did with a high school education, Navy training, determination and raw smarts. 

NewImage

In the late 70s I got into computers. By the mid 80s I had been kicked in the teeth, done a bankruptcy, and was clawing my way back up the heap. For the most part I was successful, I was working in an industry that didn’t care what school you went to. All they cared about was your ability to fix shit, make shit, sell shit, or support the shit that had already been made, or sold.

I did quite well for a long time and never thought about going back to college. After all experience trumps book learning any day of the week right?

Well, it did… back in the old days. By the mid ‘90s those of us in the industry were beginning to notice that H1B1 visas were taking positions that we would have recommended our friends for. Often we didn’t even know there were openings in the department we were working in.

Jobs got harder to get.

NewImage

California entered a slow death spiral that continues to this day. Suddenly your college pedigree was the most important thing regardless of how much experience you had. 

Then the layoffs happened.

Like my Dad at this age, I’m trying to find and create a new place in the world for myself. College? A new career? A complete change, or only a partial change? Do I want to return to the tech rat race, or would I prefer to do something more interesting? 

I don’t know. What I do know is that I’m running out of time.

I’d expected to retire from the last tech company I was working for, maybe I was retired… 

Must’ve missed the memo.

Lately, it seems that nothing I’ve tried has worked out as expected, perhaps “as needed” is a better description. 

I’m not the only person in this situation. I’m still hearing about friends that are bailing, either out of their careers, or California. 

NewImage

I’m starting to get over the weirdness of this birthday,

I’m at a place in my life I’ve been before… It’s the “fuck it all, cinch up my bootstraps, and start kicking some ass” point.

I thought perhaps I didn’t have the strength to do it all over again. I’m tired, I’d grown sick of the bullshit in corporate America, but it’s all I know. I’ve wanted to just give up, to allow myself to just be swept aside, to accept that my fate was not my own and be a victim.

Then I think of Dad, he didn’t have the time to reboot his life.

I think he’d understand what I’m feeling now, then I suspect he’d say “Now that you’ve gotten that off your chest, GET OFF YOUR ASS!”

NewImage

OK Dad, this one’s for you…

There are times when I just want to scream!

NewImage

And not in a good way!

I’m a bit ADD. I know, I know, that’s become an overused cliché catchall that everyone and their brother uses to excuse anything from a hangover to a stroke.

Hear me out. I’ve been like this my whole life, and for me, this is completely normal. I’ve adapted to being this way because I’ve never know any other way to be. There are times when the ADD presents challenges, loud noises, crowds, bright flashing lights, can really mess with my calm and freak me out. Most of these challenges are manageable. If I feel myself being overwhelmed I’ll find a quiet spot to collect myself and then I’m good to go.

imagesOne of the biggest challenges ADD presents me with is listening to someone talk. If they have something to say and they keep on track I’m fine. If, however, they meander and pause the main thread of their story to fill in useless details or give me background that they should have given at the beginning of the story, then I’m likely to stop listening. In the worst case, the person doesn’t notice my eyes glazing over and they keep yammering.

This is usually when the ADD becomes a real problem. I respond first with annoyance, then hostility, then outright anger. The poor fool telling me, whatever they were telling me has no idea what they’ve done wrong or why I’m pissed off.

Images

Believe it or not, I feel guilty when I lose control and get angry because of the way someone is telling their story. It’s not fair to the other person. As far as they’re concerned they are telling a nice coherent little tale.

To an ADD person it’s annoying tedium. I can explain, I think using the following example.

The church made, because of the rummage sale, the church made, the donations to the rummage sale this year because, because of estate donations allowed the church to make,  One estate donated a teak modern dining set that was worth about 5000 dollars it went at silent auction for 2000, it was one of those Danish modern designs, I don’t know who bought it. The usual amount that the church makes on a rummage sale is $15,000 or so. This year the church made, oh there was a lot of very nice estate jewelry some of it brought in a lot higher than expected prices. This year the church made $30,000 although the final total isn’t in yet.

The story could have been summed up simply.

The church doubled it’s usual rummage sale income this year due to a number of estate donations.

Then if I was interested I could have asked what the total dollar amount was.

benefitsadhd2To an ADD person, the story, as first presented, is like fingernails on a chalkboard. The constant teasing about how much the church actually made, is annoying as hell.

There’s another level though that’s worse for the ADD person. It’s that for every one of those pauses we pause a stream of thought and start another one. Pretty soon your 2 minute anecdote has us nearing the maximum capacity of our brain power.

Think of it like trying to compute orbital mechanics of the entire solar system and keeping all the variables in your head.

Unknown 2

This is, I think part of the reason we ADD folk don’t like watching the late night news, it’s the constant teasers. If the 10 o’clock news really wants to piss of the ADD crowd; tease us for an hour and then never get to the story!

“Stay tuned to find out why your penis is at risk”

The way my brain works is probably best described as a corral of skittish horses. I have tons of thoughts running all the time and it requires an effort of will to harness those thoughts, put blinders on them, and then hitch them up to the wagon of a project I’m trying to do.

Unknown 1

A conversation like the story above tends to have an effect on my thoughts, that’s similar to what you get if a rattle snake suddenly appears in a corral full of skittish horses. After the chaos and dust clears, you’ve got horses spread to the four corners of the corral and none of them are going to do any work for the rest of the day.

I live with a person that tells stories like the example above.  That pisses me off by itself. (Come to think of it, my stepdad tries to lecture on science and technical stuff the same way; no wonder I dreaded asking him questions when I was in school!)

Unknown

What really pisses me off is when I catch myself telling stories the same way.

My ability to write today is gone. I’m going to go outside and run the weed whacker. I will avoid holding a fluffy pillow firmly over someone’s face.

Another one bites the dust…

NewImage.pngMy Aunt received an iPad today.

This is to replace the samsung Galaxy Tablet she’d been struggling with.

All the lady wanted to do was print some of her emails occasionally. And with the addition of a new printer AND 12.99 piece of software she could more or less, from the Galaxy.

NewImage.pngI say “More or Less,” as long as she remembered how to access the software and waited long enough for the software to wake up the printer. Then remembered not to send the item to be printed several times because of the time it took for the Samsung OS to be overridden by the $12 piece of software.

Part of the software’s function is to allow the Galaxy to see that the printer was in fact ready, and had been available the whole time.

NewImage.pngApparently, she was overjoyed when she asked the iPad to print something. And it DID without her having to fiddle with anything.

I’m unimpressed with the Samsung tablets just due to the experience I had with hers.

Android is an open OS and it’s a smart system. What Samsung did to the Android OS as they implemented it in the Galaxy Tablet is a crime.

NewImage.pngI can see making changes to the OS that are specific to the hardware, the OS is running on.

I can’t see purposely limiting basic functionality in the hopes that you’ll force customers to buy your printers. Yes! I call printing basic functionality.

Arguably Apple engages in a similar closed system with FaceTime, AirDrop, and a number of other features. I recall that Apple took it in the shorts with the first generation iPad because it wouldn’t print.

Unknown.jpegI also recall that 1 or 2 IOS updates fixed that deficiency because people were flat out pissed off.

I wish FaceTime could interface with Skype so that I didn’t have to have two pieces of software that did the same thing on my systems. I wish AirDrop and Bluetooth file sharing worked across devices regardless of the OS.

I’m a big believer in choosing a machine because I like its specs, looks, and comfort rather than what OS it runs.

Seamless connectivity is one of those things I believe in.

I ought to be able to make a video call from my iPhone to a friends android.

I should be able to do this WITHOUT having to turn on Skype, determine if the person I wanted to talk to is online. Text them if they’re not online, telling them I’d like to talk to them, then wait for their Skype call.

After all of that, hell it’s easier to just call ’em on the phone and burn cellular minutes.

Apple, with FaceTime has in fact made calling another Apple customer as simple as clicking on the video camera icon and the FaceTime application doesn’t have to be running at the receiving end. The new FaceTime VoIP feature is very nice too.

I video chat to my Apple enabled friends a lot more than my Skype or Google Hangout friends, precisely because of the seamless integration.

Seamless, that’s what I want and, as it turns out that’s all my retired parents and Aunt want too.

Before you write me off as another Apple fan.

I’ve worked with and owned PCs for years. I spent the last five years dealing with Blackberries and Androids. I’ve used Skype on the Android, I even thought that Google was going to make a unifying seamless application that would allow the user to call, or video chat, or use VoIP.

They do kind of, as long as you’re running their application in the background, and it hasn’t crashed, and you have a Google account.

So I know how that stuff works and how it doesn’t, especially if you’re running on limited internal memory on your device. When it works, it works pretty well.

However, the Apple solution works better.

That’s why I’m overjoyed that my Aunt has an iPad.

I’m hoping that in short order she’s going to have an iPhone too. I like the thought that she can walk into any Apple Store and get assistance. Unlike the situation where she walks into an AT&T store and is lied to or cheated, or “up-sold” to something she has no use for, but will have to pay for anyway.

I’m also jazzed that my Mom and Aunt will be chatting face to face more often.

After all, the technology was designed to bring us together, wasn’t it?

Happy Easter

imagesThankfully there’s not a ton of crazy to comment on.

I guess everyone decided to dial it all down to a dull roar in honor of Easter. I’m sure Monday will bring all kinds of interesting insanity.

In the mean time, I’m taking a breath.

I hope that you and your families are able to enjoy the same.