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The ID10T Files
Computers are crap and people are stupid.
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2nd-Feb-2016 08:14 pm - Same old song
Today we received word that we lost the government contract. I have been employed here for eleven months and, in short order, I may be working for another company.

Or not.

There were, of course, plenty of assurances that my job is not actually at risk. “They need us.” “We will be rolled over to the new company.” There is even some past precedent that some long term employees at the help desk have been swapped into other companies multiple times over their careers but, honestly, I've heard this song before and it didn't turn out as promised.

The Corporation is apparently negotiating with the Winning Corporation as to how that will all be managed. The Corporation is still hoping that they will be able to keep some sort of hand in it by being a sub-contractor to the primary contractor, but we don't know.

Guess I should be dusting off my resume.

21st-Jan-2016 08:12 pm - Job Modernization Explained
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It turns out that “Job Modernization” means almost nothing. The Corporation is changing its org chart in such a way as to make the corporate ladder a bit more clear and the path to management better defined. All it means to me is that my job title will change from Help Desk Support Specialist 3 to Technical Support Specialist 3.

20th-Jan-2016 08:10 pm - Job Modernization
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My Manager's Manager sent me an email wanting to set up a conference call with me tomorrow to discuss “Job Modernization.”

I have no idea what that means.

I searched on the Internet as well and it had no idea what that meant either. Apparently is some corporate euphemism for something that managers think is completely obvious but the rest of us have no clue about. I do suspect that it is not a bad thing. For one, if it was something bad, I would think the manager would be more likely to say vaguely “I have to talk to you” and not say that he was going to fire of censure you.

Bad news is much more likely to be obfuscated.
10th-Jan-2016 09:26 pm - Return to "real" work
I have been two months now working the Tier 1 queue to cover issues with the failed encryption software update. In that time, my call volume has gone through the ceiling. No surprise, of course, since working the front lines simply has a higher volume than Tier 2. But what I don't understand is how I can take 50% more calls than the one other Northeast region Tier 2 analyst put on the encryption queue with me.

I could see if we were taking a variety of calls. There, my Tier 1 experience could give me an advantage. But working this line, every call is essentially exactly the same with the same troubleshooting steps and the same solution. Four to six minutes each and the only thing that will make it take longer is if the caller has multiple machines to address. Even then, that should lead to the same number of "calls."

But, no. I'm clearing many more calls. And perhaps that is the reason why I'm not done with this yet. On Friday, the manager sent out an email saying that our support of Tier 1 was being rolled back. I will be returning to my Monday through Friday schedule instead of working Sundays through Thursdays. But I will still be working the encryption calls in the morning.

My coworker? He's done. Back to his original schedule and dedicated to his Tier 2 calls.

Or maybe it's because I am the lowest man on the totem pole.

I honestly don't think they are quite ready to do this roll back, though. Upper level support hasn't resolved the underlying problem and today I took wall to wall calls because I think I was literally the only person working. When I started at 7 am, I was getting one call after another ind it looked like the first callers had already been waiting on queue for nearly an hour. By later in the morning the wait time had dropped to about 15 minutes but then I went to lunch.

Coming back after an hour, I found that the calls I was taking were for people who had been waiting for 50 minutes. Unless everyone else working Sunday came in at the same time I sis and took their lunches at the same time as well, the best correlation was that there was just me.

So, with a weekend like this, what will it be like the rest of the week when there are more people on site attempting to work?
28th-Nov-2015 07:22 pm - TeslaCon 6
I know that I have been doing this trip for six years now but I have finally boiled down the way to sanely traverse Chicago. First, leave early so as to avoid rush hour(s). Leaving Pittsburgh at 7am will get you through Chicago before the evening rush. Sort of. The traffic is building by that time but it's not too bad. Second, once you cross the skyway, keep left. Just stay to the left and you will get through without having to panic about watching signs and highway numbers.

Immediately after checking and while waiting for a luggage cart, I ran into Jim Trent. He is the designer/publisher of the steampunk card game “Twisted Skies” which includes a card of me. (Which is awesome.) He told me that the year's of waiting for something to be done with the steampunk Civil War history I had written for Lord Bobbins was coming to an end. He had gotten permission to publish mine and other stories in the TeslaCon universe. (Which is awesome.) And he also told me he is working on a steampunk convention that would take place aboard the dreadnought USS Texas near Houston. (Which is awesome.)

My first thought is about the cost of traveling to Texas. But when I compare the cost traveling to TeslaCon (over $100 in gas plus over $50 in highway tolls) to the cost of flying to Houston and back (estimated around $275), it's not undoable. Well, there's another $140 renting a car to get me from the airport to the hotel and then the con, still not exorbitant when added to the $400 I'd already be paying for four hotel nights, plus food, swag and con membership.

Man, when you spell it all out, convention going is expensive. Probably why I only traveled to three cons last year when several years back I peaked at going to eight cons in a year.

Jim was also somewhat freaked out in that I wasn't wearing my goggles yet. I pretty much wear them all weekend at any con so it is a part of my persona. Seeing my eyes is a rarity. As soon as I got upstairs into my room I put my goggles on and felt more myself.

There was a pool party Thursday night. I'm not much of a swimmer but I got the chance to break out my Union-style bathing suit. (“Johnny Reb don't surf.”) The hotel has a salt water pool, rather than using chlorine. I probably should have stayed longer as all the poolside photography happened after I had returned to my room. Pictures or it didn't happen.

First thing Friday morning was the dealer's room. Last year, RavenWorks had a rifleman's coat that I really liked but instead of getting it then I put it off to think about whether I really wanted it that much and by the time I had decided, yes, I did want it, someone else had claimed it. I wasn't going to make the same mistake this year. I could have purchased it online in the meantime and saved a little bit of money but I wanted to put the coat on and make sure it fit.

It did and I dropped the $200 for it right there. Very “Tombstone.” The next thing I want to get is the right hat. Specifically, the kind of hat worn by Lee Van Cleef in “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” and just about any other spaghetti western he was in. I had ordered such a hat from Hollywood Prop but was terribly disappointed in the quality. It seemed like cardboard covered in felt, unlike the slouch hat I had gotten from Gentleman's Emporium for about the same price.

I have been looking into custom hat makers, surprised that the style is not more common amongst the mid-tier dealers (such as I consider Gentleman's Emporium) and also deterred by the cost, double and more than what I paid for my slouch hat.

I went to opening ceremonies but paid absolutely no attention to the goings on. I was in the back talking with someone which, in honesty, is the bulk of the reason I go to conventions; to meet with people I done get to talk to except through something like Facebook. And I've been going to these things for six years now, opening ceremonies, even with the immersion script, have settled into a predictable pattern.

As the opening ceremony was rolling around, it was beginning to snow. The first weather warnings were for a lot of snow; 9-14 inches. The snow that I saw on Friday evening didn't seem to be coming down at such a rate, which was borne out the next morning when there was only about 4 inches on the ground. Other places got more and it was noted that the weather or the threat of weather had deterred some people from attending the con. I've driven in some really awful weather for less incentive so I wasn't myself concerned.

On Saturday I attended a presentation by the proprietor of Bare Knuckle Barbery wherein he presented a tutorial on wet shaving. I had been to other presentations on shaving and had learned quite a bit, improving my own shave. This was expanded on.

For example, I recognize that when I go to conventions, razor burn increases. I always attributed this to the fact that I was trying for a clean shave 3 or 4 days in a row whereas, under normal circumstances, I perform a “get the itchy beard off my face” kind of shave every 3 or 4 days. What I learned was that the lousy shave at cons was more likely attributable to hard water. I had noticed when showering, the shampoo wouldn't lather well, which I had attributed to cheap hotel shampoo, but never connected this to my problems shaving as well.

The offered solution was a pinch of salt in the shaving cup water.

And that was the second thing. I typically use a shaving foam in a can. “Goo in a can” as the proprietor called it. I had always assumed that it was pretty much soap and moisturizers in a pressurized can, not realizing all the chemistry that was going on. You see, canned shaving foams use isobutane to get your beard hairs to stand up, and this is accomplished by irritating the skin, causing it to swell and essentially squeeze the hair follicles into standing at attention. You then need the multiple blades, one to lift the hair and additional blades to cut them off because, otherwise, when the swelling subsides, the stubble appears instantly. Moisturizers are added to try to mitigate the damage produced by the chemicals and awful shave.

In wet shaving (with a cup and a brush) the soap changes the surface tension of water, allowing the hair to stand naturally. The hot water, soap and action of the brush clean away the crud that collects at the base of the hair. The skin is relaxed so, when the blade cuts, it does so closer to the root of the hair. In all, these allow for a cleaner, smoother, and less painful shave.

I had been wanting to try out a more traditional shave but the presentation pushed me over the edge of my procrastination. From him I purchased a badger hair brush with a hand-turned wood handle, a cup, shaving cream and a safety razor. I didn't use those new things while at the con but have in the meantime and, yes, it's a much better shave.

It trying it in upstairs and downstairs bathrooms, though, I think I need something of a third option. Shaving is best done after the shower when the warmth has softened the beard hair (and the brush has soaked in very hot water during that time) which means the upstairs bathroom. But with the sink where it is and my being near sighted, this sort of shaving places me either too far away from the mirror or uncomfortably leaning toward it over the sink. I may need to get one of those mirrors on an expandable arm to get it where it closer to where I can see my face better.

Throughout the weekend I kept running into people asking if I was doing any presentations this year. I explained that life issues had prevented me from making any commitments. All were disappointed and complimentary of my past presentations. I spoke with Aloysius Fox, director of the Steampunk Symposium and he asked if I had made any submissions to present at his con. I explained that life issues had prevented me from making any commitments. He asked again, more slowly this time, if I had made any submissions to present at his con.

I got the hint.

I have submitted to present at the Symposium and, over TeslaCon weekend, spent a lot of time thinking about what new presentations I should develop. “Victorian hoaxes, frauds, and pseudoscience” is one that I have been considering for quite some time but what I think I will devote my immediate time to is “Victorian Submarines.”

Apparently, local artist Jacob Wilson (and I guess that was his dad) saw me as I was stepping out for dinner. On my return they ambushed me with an offer of art. Jacob had previously done an action portrait of Captain LaGrange and, impressed by my own persona, wanted to do my portrait. As this was going to be commissioned art, I asked the obvious question of how much such a thing would cost me.

Now, I had commissioned some art in the past (and continue to do so). One, it supports artists. Two, it strokes my ego a little to see myself done up as if I were a celebrity super hero. Third, it humbles me to see others interpretation of my character.

Jacob's answer to the cost was “free.” They were going to just go ahead and do the artwork without my input and just gift it to me next year but having seen me at an opportune moment, they had a chance to talk to me first. I was flattered.

By chance, I turned my head and saw that someone had dropped a $20 bill in the hotel hallway. I gave it to Jacob in payment for art he hadn't even started yet and was going to just give away. Still free for me, though.

In the dealer hallway I commissioned a portrait from another artist named Terry Pavlet.

One of the weekend presentations was on the US Camel Corps. Fascinating stuff. I recall seeing “The Last Camel Charge” in the Carnegie Library but neglected to pick it up to read. I will have to correct that failing.

Saturday night's entertainment was a circus. Literally. Acrobats. Magicians. Jugglers. I particularly liked the Mongol juggling bowling balls and performing other feats of strength. After that, I swung by the dance but a lot of the people I was used to seeing and talking to weren't around. I went back upstairs and there was a party just down the hall from my room. I hung out there for a little bit but abandoned that because, well, typical party. I left my room door open so that people on their way to or from the party might stop in to talk to me. That met with some marginal success.

The closing ceremony on Sunday afternoon was, again, much as I had come to expect. There was the typical drama of Dr. Proctocus showing up to spoil things. The video presentation. Proctocus getting brought down. Et cetera. At the very end, Lord Bobbins had a chair brought out for him to sit and give his closing monologue. As he spoke, the music in the background began to swell and, yes, he went there. “When you wish upon a star.”

As that happened, a person sitting behind me snored loudly.

I fear it has really gotten that predictable.

At the Dead Dog Dinner, I got the chance to hear Thomas Willeford talk about his experience judging the “Steampunk'd” reality television show. I wandered a few tables and Jim Trent embarrassed me by introducing me to the assembled as one of the best writers he knows. Hopefully, his anthology project will get me published so that people can decide whether that praise is justified.

After that, I was loading the car so that we could just leave in the morning and I slipped on the ice, jamming the P-38 can opener I always carry on my key chain into my hand. Balling my fist I, at least, didn't drip blood all over the hotel lobby before I got back to the room to bandage it up.

I've been sort of off my game for some time (as evidenced by the late posting and subsequent backdating of this blog posting). Hopefully this next year will mark an improvement in the situation when TeslaCon travels (virtually) to Paris.
17th-Nov-2015 07:17 pm - Just when I thought I was out
Three weeks ago, techs pushed an update to the disk encryption software and broke it. User are now calling in at an increased rate to get the recovery key so that they can get on to their machines. They are calling at such an increased rate that the Tier 1 Help Desk call queue can't hand it all and callers are being told to call back later and are then disconnected. Those that do access the queue have hold times of over an hour.

And so, I have volunteered to do what I had done in my previous job for 15 years. . . Tier 1 Help Desk.

Well, not quite. I didn't use the word volunteer. I was not given the opportunity to choose. Instead, my manager chose me and another to do this task, probably based not on my years of experience but on our having the lowest seniority. Newbies get to shovel.

I can't say that I'm particularly bothered by having to do this. I understand the choices that are made when you are a contractor renegotiating a contract. You give things away. No, what bothers me is that I was given away and was told I volunteered. In the conference call my manager unironiocally used the term “volunteer” twice.

Do not speak for me. Do not lie about the choice I did not make and then thank me for it. It's unprofessional and disrespectful.

15th-Nov-2015 03:17 pm - Honda Disservice
After having Shadyside Honda declare that my Accord was not showing any sign of oil loss after 1,000 miles, I drove it for an additional 1,000 miles. I then checked it myself after letting it sit the proscribed 10 minutes.

Down a quart.

I checked multiple times and each time it came up the same. Down where it had been every time I took it in after 1,000 miles for the past several years. I took it to Valvoline and asked them to just check the level and they confirmed that it was down a quart and even gave me a receipt to show that they checked at at such-and-such a mileage and found it to be down a quart.

Honda Service disagrees.

I went to Shadyside Honda and asked to speak with the Service Manager. Barry was dismissive from the very outset. When we entered his office and I began my story, he didn't sit down. He didn't look at me. He was moving about apparently intent on some other thing and he interrupted me as if he already knew what was going on and wasn't interested in hearing the rest of my story.

I had not called ahead to let them know I was coming.

I told him that I did not want Eric near my car and he got Bob. Bob opened the hood while I watched, checked the oil. Checked it again. And then walked away without sharing what he found with me. Unable to find Service Manager Barry, he went and talked to Eric. Again, it seemed somewhat conspiratorial, like they knew I was coming.

When Service Manager Barry finally came back and Bob showed him the dip stick, he announced that it was at half a quart for 2,000 miles and that they were going to do nothing. I indicated that it was after 1,000 miles because it had been apparently full when I was in the last time. Barry dismissed that observation. He then indicated that it would need to be 1 quart of loss in 1,400 miles.

This conflicted with what I had been told previously that the Dealerships are unaware of the actual trigger numbers and need to go to Corporate for authorization of whatever level. I said that I had been told something different each time I talked to someone.

At this point, Service Manager Barry was becoming more insistent that what I thought, what I had observed, and what information I had gotten from other sources was irrelevant and they were not going to do anything more with my vehicle. If I didn't like it, I was welcome to take my “business” elsewhere.

And while he spoke, he stepped forward to well withing arms length, actually trying to physically intimidate me. I thought carefully and noted that, yes, he had started the conversation much further away and was threateningly advancing on me to get literally in my face.

“Sir. You need to step back from me.”

At this point he threw his hands up in the air, stepped back and told an employee to open the garage doors. I was summarily dismissed.

Even if their measurements were correct and my car did not qualify for service, every interaction with Honda in this process, from the misleading initial letter from Corporate to the ghost of Soichiro Honda, seems to have taken extra effort to make this experience as unpleasant as possible. Congratulations, Honda Motor Company. You and your employees have pretty much guaranteed that I will not be buying another Honda.

"The third, the joy of the person who buys the product, is the fairest determiner of the products value. It is neither the manufacturer nor the dealer that best knows the value of the product and passes final judgment on it. Rather, it is none other than the purchaser who uses the product in his daily life. There is happiness in thinking, "Oh, Im so glad I bought this." This joy is the garland that is placed upon the products value. I am quietly confident that the value of our companys products is well advertised by those products themselves. This is because I believe that they give joy to the people who buy them."

---- Soichiro Honda, The Three Joys (1951)


31st-Oct-2015 03:58 pm - Desked
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When I started with the Service Desk in March, I was put in a temporary office. That's wasn't an inconvenience in that all that time the owner of the office only showed up once. But it was someone else's office and it was planned to put me into my own space.

Half a year into working here, my cubicle arrived and was set up. It was twice the size of any of my previous cubicles. However, the cube had no power and no network connection.

Finally, nearly eight months into the project, they have found an extension cord, a power strip and a long cat-5 cable to actually get me up and running at my desk. Not the desk I wanted because the extension cord and network cable aren't THAT long but I now have my own, dedicated space.

Theoretically, I am supposed to share the room with two other contractors but they are seldom on site so I will effectively have the space to myself. That means I can keep the lights off, using only a desk lamp like my other IT morlock brethren.

It's further away from the other offices so it's quieter. Also, my resonant baritone voice won't disturb my neighbors as it had in other work environments.

All the chairs are broken in one way or another so I have chosen the least broken of the assortment.

It's on the second floor making it further away from the kitchen. On the other hand, it is right across the hall from a water fountain and rest room. It's also not as cold, though on the second day after moving they turned on the building heat and the room was filled with a significant burning electrical smell.

All in all, though, a step up.

28th-Oct-2015 06:13 pm - Automotive Miracle
After driving my Accord for the proscribed 1,000 miles, I contacted Shadyside Honda for them to check the oil levels. The person I talked to was concerned with how long it might take for me to actually be able to bring the car in after passing the 1,000 miles because if I went more than 100 miles over that they would need to start over again.

Really? Are that really that stupid as to be unable to calculate a proportion? Are are they really that dickish in their attempts to deter me from actually getting my car repaired?

In either case, I took the car in with the odometer saying I had driven 1,114 miles but they didn't make a stink. Why? Because the oil level was perfect.

So, let me get this straight. . . I have been having issues with burning oil for years now. One quart for every 1,000 miles. My mechanic said 2008 engines do that. The quick lube guys said 2008 engines do that. The letter I got from Honda admitted they do that. But when I take it in for service at an authorized Honda dealership the oil level checks out as absolutely perfect.

Either I was visited by the oil faeries overnight or fraud.

The guy at Shadyside Honda Service had told me when they changed the oil not to add oil and not to even check the level. I foolishly followed his directive and did not check the level before taking it back to him. A mistake I will not repeat. After another 1,000 miles I will check the oil level. If it is normal then I will probably have no choice but to thank the automotive deities for performing a miracle healing on my vehicle.

If it is not. . . if it is a quart low as it has been for each thousand miles I have driven over the past few years. . . well, then. That will be a whole 'nother kettle of fish.

7th-Oct-2015 07:19 pm - Thank you from Shadyside Honda
The letter I received from Shadyside Honda

I see that you were recently in Shadyside Honda for service on your vehicle.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for choosing Shadyside Honda and putting your trust in our dealership to properly care for your vehicle. ABSOLUTE CUSTOMER SATISFACTION is paramount for all of us here at Shadyside Honda and I want to ensure that each and every customer was taken care of by our Service Team. I would be grateful if you would take a few moments to respond to these 5 simple questions in regard to your recent visit. Please also use this opportunity to add any comments you would like to share with me.

1) Did your Service Advisor listen to and understand your needs?
2) Was your vehicle serviced/repaired satisfactorily?
3) Was your final cost in line with what you expected?
4) Was your vehicle ready when promised?
5) Did your service writer review your Honda Multi Point Inspection?

Again, I thank you for your time to share your thoughts with me. You may also receive an email survey from American Honda Motor, Co. I encourage you to take the additional time to complete this survey and let American Honda know how the Shadyside Honda Service Team performed for you. If for any reason you cannot grade us "EXCELLENT" in anyway, please contact me personally at 412-683-3800 or by email at BBelback@ShadysideHonda.com.

Have a great day and happy motoring!

My response . . . .

"1) Did your Service Advisor listen to and understand your needs?"

I'm going to dispense with the five simple questions and tell you the whole story. You'll get the answers to the questions in context:

The background first. I purchased a 2008 Accord four years ago and have had an increasing issue with it burning oil. I'm up to 1 quart of oil for every thousand miles. The guys who change my oil told me that 2008 was a bad engine year. My mechanic told me 2008 was a bad engine year. After all that time, I finally received a letter from Honda admitting that 2008 was a bad engine year and that they were extending the warranty and replacing the defective piston rings.

Except, that the actual replacing of those rings have been resisted every step of the way.

I called Shadyside Honda because it was the dealer that was best situated so that when they had my car I could still get from the shop to home and to work on my bicycle. 7 to 10 miles for each trip.

The service person I talked to on the phone indicated that they wouldn't repair the car until they had determined if, in fact, it was burning oil (even though the letter was an admission of a defective product). I explained the 1 quart per thousand mile rate and reiterated that the letter said it would be fixed. He said "OK" and passed me on to the Appointments department where I assumed that I would get an appointment to have the car repaired.

But, no. The person making the appointment also went through the "we don't believe you" story requiring an oil change and more time and I again explained the 1 quart per thousand mile rate. She said "OK" and made me an appointment and I again assumed that my explanation had been sufficient and that I was going to get my car repaired.

So, with my bicycle on the rack so I could get home, I went to the appointment to drop my car off and the Service Tech said that they were going to change the oil and that I would need to prove that it was burning oil before they would make repairs. Having been misled by the previous two people I had spoken to made no difference. If I wanted anything done, I was going to have to get the oil change (and pay for it) and then come back again to see if, in fact, it is burning oil and then bring it back again to, finally, hopefully, get the thing fixed that the letter said they were going to fix. The Service Tech refused to make eye contact, attempted to dodge responsibility by saying he didn't actually work for Honda, he didn't make the rules, I could go somewhere else if I wanted, and was generally dismissive.

My call to Corporate didn't go much better. I was explaining this to the person there and she interrupted me to say that, yes, the technician was right and I would need to prove that it was burning oil. When I attempted to continue my explanation, she interrupted me again. I had to tell her not to interrupt me when I was talking. Then, while I was still in my explanation she interrupted me again, asking if she could interject. And she continued to ask if she could interject until I stopped out of disgust so that she could tell me what was essentially "too bad, that's the way it is" one more time.

The next day, I rode my bike to work and then to the shop to get my car where I learned that, no, I didn't have a oil leak and that I would need to drive it for 1000 miles and come back. When I did that, hypothetically speaking, if I was loosing oil, the Tech would then call Honda to see if I had lost a sufficient amount of oil to qualify for the replacement of the piston rings that Honda had already admitted were defective when the car was manufactured. And at no time previous to that had anyone told me that process of authorization and the final replacement of the piston rings would take a full week whereas the letter had specifically said to "allow two days."

The grand irony of all this is that in 1937 when Soichiro Honda started his first company, it was manufacturing piston rings for Toyota. A contract he quickly lost because of poor quality.

Front to back, this has been one of the worst customer service experience I have ever had. And what makes it worse is that it's not over. In 1000 miles I have to go back. And then wait to see if burning a quart of oil every 1000 miles is enough for Honda to finally fix the problem they admitted they had in the letter they sent me.

I have only ever owned Hondas and have been generally pleased with the product but I guarantee you, when I next purchase a car, that history will be set aside and customer service will have much greater weight than previously. You have successfully destroyed any brand loyalty I had.

So, does that answer your "5 simple questions in regard to my recent visit?"
25th-Aug-2015 07:19 pm - Two weeks in
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Although I have been employed for six months, I have only been functionally working for two weeks. In that, I already have clients asking me if they can call me directly for assistance or even pass my number on to coworkers.

Wake up, people. I honestly don't know shit about what I'm doing!

OK, that's not entirely true. I understand help desk. I understand troubleshooting. I understand customer service. I don't know the details of how the systems here work or the policies and procedures that things operate under but, based on some of my interactions with my coworkers, specifically the person tasked with "training" me, I am not far behind the game on that front.

On several occasions, I worked an issue as far as I could go before calling out to my mentor. In most of those, her response has been "reinstall," the final resort when Tier 2 can't figure out what's wrong.

So, really? Am I already pretty much up to speed in terms of what I can and cannot accomplish in my position? If not, I'm pretty sure I will be in relatively short order.

I am going to own this place.
10th-Aug-2015 07:31 pm - List Removement
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The issue began with an email titled “Question's.” Not the plural “questions” as it should have been grammatically, as the sender had multiple questions, but the possessive “question's”, as if the email belonged to the question, or perhaps the DC character “The Question.” In any case, that was merely the beginning of the fail because the email itself seem to be sent to the wrong distribution list.

This was at 2am this morning.

The Question who had erroneously sent the email tried to recall it but that pretty much never works.

Within half an hour people receiving this email replied saying “Take me off this distribution list” or, even worse, used Reply to All to make their request to be removed from the list. That meant that everyone who received the email erroneously also received multiple erroneous requests to be removed from this list. This lead to them using Reply to All requesting that these other people not use Reply to All.

There was the one email from someone who was attempting to explain by using Reply to All that their requests to be removed from the distribution list were not going to work because the distribution list was an automated system warning people that they were over their email allocation except that he never read the actual first email that had nothing to do with email allocations from The Question that had gone to the wrong distribution list.

There were also the messages from a few people who, also not having read the original message, asserted that this was a breech of security. They used Reply to All to do this.

And this went on for the next six hours involving hundreds of erroneous requests and replies. It was not as bad as it could have been for whatever reason. Some years ago when I worked for The Bank, a similar Reply to All conflagration was so severe that they had to shut down mail altogether to break the cycle. I wonder if some action was taken to keep this from escalating, whether it was limited in scope because of the relatively small size of the distribution list or if people wised up.

I am most certainly not over my email allocation so I should not have been on that distribution list. Maybe I should Replay to All to get myself removed from the list.

5th-Aug-2015 08:10 pm - Travelling
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It took a week to get my admin rights. Then, I needed to get the card that I would use to actually employ those rights. An added level of security. My manager provided me a huge list of people within the system that could get me the card so I started looking for people nearby. I had bounced emails. Some without any responses. The one I did get a response from said he was no longer in Pittsburgh.

My manager insisted that the list was accurate and up to date.

I was finally able to find someone half way across the state. Since I was being pressured to take care of this quickly, I made arrangements for him to get the card. After that, someone from here in Pittsburgh finally returned my email and said he could do it. However, since the guy three hours away had already started things, the local guy couldn't proceed. I held out on the possibility that once the guy got the card he could forward it closer and save me day of driving.

No such luck. At least I will get reimbursed.

So, with card in hand my manager said essentially "get to work" and assigned me tickets to address. Aside from having had zero training on how to actually proceed with addressing any issues, let alone these particular ones, my admin card wasn't actually working. A software installation that I had been told to request three weeks ago wasn't done because I didn't have the admin rights provisioned. Something that couldn't happen without me having the physical card, which hadn't happened until yesterday.

Really, hasn't she done this before to know the order of things?
9th-Jul-2015 07:38 pm - Icebreaker
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Suddenly things are happening. Resubmitting pretty much everything having to do with my certification verification allowed the system to recognize things. That system allowed the other system to verify things so I was able to resubmit my request for admin rights.

Which was then rejected because the manager said to go there and do this thing following the instructions I gave you before and the instructions she gave me before were insufficient. I then needed to go back, ignore the instructions she gave before and sort out correct instructions by clicking on every link on the page until I found the one that was correct.

So, at some point within the next four to six weeks, I should be approved for my admin rights. Since they won't send me an email or anything telling me so, I'll need to check the website every day.

And then, I'll need to seek out a tech who will give me a second security card. For that, the manager gave me a list of 3000+ names and told me to find the person closest to me. That document wasn't searchable or sortable by any field so I needed to search for PA in hopes that it would return people in Pennsylvania. It also returned any other word with PA in it, such as Pacific.

I was, one by one, able to sift through that search to come up with a few names.

1st-Jul-2015 04:26 pm - Proactive
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Fine, you're the manager and you don't know what to do. That's not a reason to pass the responsibility on to me, being that I'm new, have had no training, no documentation and literally don't know what to do. But I'll do it anyway.

So, I contacted help desks and got from them procedures I had already done. In troubleshooting that it looks like in one database I have my middle initial in my name and in another I do not. It could be complaining because those need to be exact so it took two days to correct the entry itself and the system tells me it will take three to five days to see if that actually solved the issue across systems. If what I have been told about databases updating twice a month is true it might take another two weeks to see if that ultimately worked and then, if that allows me to submit my request for admin rights, that will take another four to six weeks on top of that.

29th-Jun-2015 05:18 pm - Gunfight at Old Bedford Villiage

On Wednesday I had been looking at my calendar and making sure I knew everything that was coming up. I thought, “Hey. Isn't the old west thing at Old Bedford Village coming up?” So, I went to the website and, “Holy crap, it's this weekend!”

Last year I had spent the weekend, participating as a performer. No time to prepare for that this year. And besides, the weather report called for lots of rain and I did not look forward to living in a tent under those conditions.

Good thing I decided as I did. Bedford received three inches of rain on Saturday and there was a significant amount of flooding.

I went on Sunday when the weather report looked much better.

I arrived pretty early. Just as the event was opening and the participants were raising the flag and pledging allegiance. I did not participate in that and, in fact, turned away as, hanging below the flag of the United States was a Confederate battle flag.

Now, had this been a Civil War reenactment, I would have shrugged my shoulders. I still would not have participated because, even in character, I am a Yankee through and trough, but this is supposed to be recreating the old west during Reconstruction. 1876 is when the gunfight at the OK Corral occurred. The Confederate battle flag wasn't flown then, even by former Confederates. Even the Ku Klux Klan didn't fly the Confederate battle flag.

The rebirth of the Confederate flag was a product of the mid-20th Century and was rediscovered as a challenge to the civil rights movement. It came from resurgant racism and I will not, in persona or out, doff my hat to such a symbol. Ironic, but probably not unsurprising, that it still found a place at this venue even though current events in Charleston might suggest a more careful investigation of history and a less ignorant presentation. But, as I have observed previously, the Civil War reenactors and Cowboy Action Shooters have more than their fair share of ignoramuses.

I wish that I was better at remembering names and recognizing people. Even though I go to Bedford only once a year, several people remembered me. One even remembered me from a Cowboy Action Shooting event in Donegal two years ago. I suppose the steampunk goggles and distinctive beard make it easier for them.

One of the vendors had four mustache mugs. One had a strange cleft edge that I thought would be prone to dribbling. Another had a peach on the side that I didn't think was quite my style. Two had the phrase “Love the Giver” embossed in gold on the side, which a believe is a biblical paraphrasing calling on one to love god, not the “gift” he has inflicted on you. For $6, though, I bought one of those because the phrase was almost completely worn off, leaving the mug nearly unadorned. I'm sure I will be able to strip it down to bare porcelain.

Old Bedford Village has a resident potter and I bought a mug from him as well. Had I stayed the weekend I would have commissioned him to make me a custom mustache mug or two. That is definitely something I need to remember for next year.

There were a few new set pieces in the program, replacing a recreation of the running gunfight from "3:10 to Yuma" with a bank robbery, but they also had the climactic gunfight at the O.K. Corral. What I liked more was something that I had thought of myself; setting up a space between buildings to present the gunfight as it actually happened.

The gunfight took place in an alleyway about twelve feet across. Eight men (with two horses) crammed into the tight space, firing 30 rounds in 30 seconds and only hitting with one in three or four.

Now before you go gloating about how you could have done much better, and I admit I had that thought myself, realize that statistics of modern gunfights as reported by police don't perform much better under similar close ranges. A lot goes on in those seconds and people do not necessarily behave the way they think they would. I have been in that situation and though I didn't have to pull the trigger to protect my life, things took a turn for the surreal. It would have taken very little different to change the outcome dramatically.

Next year I want to get the actors to stand in their places in this alleyway to get a fuller effect.

23rd-Jun-2015 01:27 pm - Responsibility
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It's been over a month and a half since I got my security certification and, in all that time, the website has failed to verify the certification. I have done everything I was directed to do, followed all the instructions provided, even asked if there was something more I could do. Two weeks ago, my manager said that there was “nothing more to be done” and to “just be patient a little longer.”

Today I received an email saying that I need to be proactive. “Take responsibility to get your accounts in order.” “I cannot do this for you.”

What the fucking fuck. Did you just throw your hands up in the air and say “I can't figure this out.” and pass the buck back to me? I don't know what to do or who I can call. I'm a new employee getting all this stuff piecemeal. I don't know shit about this because I've received no training and no documentation. You're the manager. You have all this information, policies and procedures. This is YOUR job. Manage this.

2nd-Jun-2015 07:34 pm - Two weaks at a time
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I received another email from my Regional Manager asking if my security certification had shown up on the website. It hadn't. I asked if there was something I could do, someone I could talk to, to get the thing updated. The certifier has this website that, if you go to it, will say in a large, pretty font, "Yes! Geis has this certification." Can't we get someone to go to that site and then update the website?

No. Apparently not. And, on top of that, I learned that the system only goes out an checks on the 1st and the fifteenth of the month. Well, the first of June has come and cone without update so I can only assume a minimum of another two weeks of waiting.
26th-May-2015 05:06 pm - First day, redux
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I received a work email today telling me that on my first day of work I need to take an online security course, read a bunch of security documentation and signs the confirmation forms.

Should have had this three months ago.
25th-May-2015 05:41 pm - Vandalia Con
The people running Vandalia Con had contacted me hoping that I would do presentations again at their second convention. Unfortunately, at that time I was still unemployed and wasn't making any commitments. Even as the schedule was being finalized my job hadn't yet sorted itself out so I wasn't even sure I would be going, let alone presenting. But as con time arrived, things had sorted themselves out at least enough that I could make a day trip down to Parkersburg.

Before leaving, I had checked the schedule looking for things I would want to see (and thus affect the time I was planning on leaving) and saw a presentation on steampunk gaming. The description mentioned “ahead of its time” and I was not only sure that they were talking about Space 1889 but that it was going to be Thomas Willeford doing the presentation because we had talked about just such a thing the previous year. On arrival, however, I learned that he had canceled at the very last minute.

People were not happy with that.

I think it turned out to be a miscommunication in that his agent was supposed to pass on the information to the con that he couldn't attend but neglected to do so.

J.D. Williams did a presentation on creating steampunk characters based on local and American legends and mythology. Johnny Appleseed. John Henry. Things like that. He did cartoons of the characters and included myself.

Attendance seemed lighter this year than last. I know that last year it conflicted with another con going on further north but I don't think there was such a conflict this year. That's too bad because the Blennerhassett Hotel is a nice venue and the con is for a good cause.

Origins gaming convention is the next event coming up on the schedule. It's a three hour day trip to Columbus and I have gone the past few years but I'm thinking I shall save up my money by not spending the gas money and admission to buy more games I haven't been playing.

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