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The ID10T Files
Computers are crap and people are stupid.
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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
round glasses
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
round glasses
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
round glasses
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
round glasses
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
round glasses
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
round glasses
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
round glasses
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
round glasses
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.

19th-May-2015 08:01 pm - Goals
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My Regional Manager sent out an email indicating that we were write up our work goals for the next year. There were two already provided that basically said "do my job" but they wanted a third.

Can you guess what goal I set for myself?

I started off with an explanation that when I started my previous job, my training was pretty awful. It was so bad that I felt I needed to start over and retrain myself. Then, after a year, I was so tired of the continuing poorness of the training as manifested in my having to fix the mistakes of the newer analysts, that I went to managent and agitated to become the trainer myself. I then took a one month process, rewrote all the documantation from scratch, and turned it into a week and a half of training that worked.

I then went on to explain that, even though I was in the midst of onboarding and haven't even gotten to much actual training yet, I felt that this job could benefit from some documentation. A manual that explained what was going to happen, what needed to happen before that, and a timetable or flowchart for filling in all those checklist boxes.

I emailed that goal document to my manager yesterday so she could vette it before I uploaded it to the Corporate HR website. When this afternoon rolled around without any response (other than her general email saying that everyone needed to upload their goals by the end of today) I assumed that my draft was approved and proceeded to try to upload.

Except that the page she had sent us too didn't have a link for "goals." So, I sent her an email stating that fact and asking for better instructions.

She responded with a critique not to mention my previous employment (using the much-hated phrase "moving forward") and gave me some step-by-step links to get to where I neded to get to.

Step-by-step instructions that happened to be wrong.

See where I'm going with this. This. This right here is why I think we need such a document.

18th-May-2015 04:28 pm - Sci Fi Valley Con
Sci-Fi Valley Con in Altoona has moved to a new, larger venue. A definite improvement on previous years. I am pleased that they have continued with the policy of mixing the tables of artists and small press in with the more conventional dealers rather than segregating them to an “artist's alley.” I think it improves the situation for the artists and my conversations with some of them has confirmed that this is, in fact, the case, both in design and execution.

I commissioned an artist for a $5 chibi portrait of myself. She was disappointed in her own work and only charged me $3.

I ran into a dealer of videos and props that I have often seen at other cons (though still can't remember his name). We talked for a bit. I purchased a copy of George Pal's pilot for a War of the Worlds TV series. He also had a Denix Peacemaker prop, something I had seen before but hadn't gotten a chance to pick up. I liked the heft and it felt fairly authentic and solid. If I didn't already have a good single action army prop I would not feel at all bad about getting the Denix.

I talked with the Geek Girl Project people about steampunk, promoting the Steampunk at the Frick event I am helping to put together. They told me that they are having a time traveller meetup at the renfest. I'll need to look up specifically which weekend that will be so that I don't miss out.

I spoke with Doc Dailey, a 3D printing prop maker, concerning steampunk. He has some ideas of what is and is not steampunk and wants to be sure that when he does get into the scene, he's not doing what other people are doing. He won't have goggles for one thing. I myself wear goggles all the time but I started that before I realized there was a steampunk scene and that goggles were such a trope.

Another of his ideas is that things should work. He won't just “glue some gears on it.” I tend to agree that props are better when the fiddly-bits and doo-dads appear to have actual functions rather than just being stuck on. To that end, Doc's idea is to have a mechanical arm with gears that move when the arm does. Not wanting to copy anyone else, he asked me if anyone else had done such a thing.

I told him about Thomas Wileford's arm that is likely to show up on any Internet search on the terms “steampunk arm.” It is the most complicated arm that I have seen and, while it has a single piston to imply functionality, it does not have working parts. If Doc proceeds as planned he should have something unique and spectacular.

My own unrealized geared idea is to take one of my fezzes and have spinning gears all over it. I have a bunch of plastic gears that properly interlock that I have wanted to use but, as with many of my ideas, I haven't gotten started on my “Thinking Cap.”

I need a thinking cap so I can think about starting my thinking cap.

12th-May-2015 06:04 pm - Extended information
round glasses
I love getting knowledge piecemeal.

No, wait. I don't because it's a stupid way to run an organization. Yet, here I am, in just such an organization.

After earning my Security+ certification, I was told to expect a week to get the information available online. I actually got the notification over the weekend so I was able to use it to update my work profile on Monday. I then, as instructed, proceeded with requesting my admin account. I was told that could take 4 to 6 weeks.

One week later, my Regional Manager asked me to check up on the status of my request. Given I was only one week into the month-plus wait, I didn't expect anything and, besides, wouldn't they send me an email or something?

Well, apparently not. My request was rejected because I had filled out a form incorrectly and my certification wasn't validated. That's what happens when there are no instructions on how to do things. So, I corrected the form and went to CompTIA to tell them to tell my employer that I had been certified. Again, I would have assumed that it would be the employer's responsibility to check up on certification since the certifier would have no idea in advance who might ask. Why the certifier has a link on their website that will, in fact, verify any certification verification requests.

Oh, and I screwed up an expense report as well. We received an email telling us we were being authorized $35 to buy a keyboard, mouse and an external security card reader for our workstations. The email said to "follow the instructions below" and, looking at those instructions, there was only a purchase order number. Everything else I needed to figure out on my own. Messed that up by not including a copy of my receipt with I mistakenly assumed I would be able to upload later once I got home and scanned a copy.

Apparently not.

Oh, and then I learned that even after I get my admin account, I will need to then wait for a second security card. The Regional Manager (now on the phone with me) said that everyone seems surprised when told of this. I admit that I challenged her by pointing out that in the email she said that an external card reader was required but there was no explanation as to what it was for, that it was not for the security card we already had and there was nothing about it taking an additional 4 weeks after the admin account had been granted.

What. The. Fuck.

Come on, people. So much of this could have been taken care of with a document that explains all this shit rather than keeping it in your head and doling it out one crumb at a time.

Oh, here's another crumb. I'm going to need to get another certification. ITIL v3, which is all about IT best practices. I'll have 6 months to sort that one out (now 4 months since it was only just mentioned now). OK, I'll admit that I seem to remember them mentioning a certification that I would have 6 months to take care of BACK WHEN I INTERVIEWED IN OCTOBER! Really! You couldn't have written this done and given it to me as a "Welcome to the Company, here's all the shit you need to do" document?

"Is there something I could be doing in the meantime?"

My Regional Manager said that I could be looking over the Service Desk's knowledge base.

"There is a link on the Service Desk home page that comes up when you open IE."

Yea. Mine doesn't do that. So she sent me a link. . . which was to the page that I was already on that WASN'T the Service Desk page. I was able to find a link under that link that finally got me where I needed to be.

And, apparently, I am completely on my own. I expect no training. No documentation. No mentoring. There is the knowledge base for me to search.

People joke; "close enough for government work." I now know, for a fact, that the phrase should be taken quite literally.
2nd-May-2015 12:36 pm - International Steampunk Symposium
I accepted doing presentations for the International Steampunk Symposium after getting my new job offer but before I knew when my start date would be. I figured that would be sorted out by the beginning of the year and having to take a day off for the con in April would not be an problem. However, the start date kept getting pushed further and further back until, when I started at the beginning of March I was concerned that there might be an issue. Given my work schedule and the way my time off accrued, taking the day wasn't a problem so. . . yay. I was going to the Symposium.

Good thing that I got my room not long after the last Symposium because the hotel filled up fast and I had heard of people who were bumped. Just like airlines, hotels may overbook on the expectation that people will cancel in the meantime. Then, when no one cancels, you might be scrambling to find a room a week before the con.

Fore warned if fore armed.

And speaking of armed, based on recent events, specifically the shooting of an unarmed black youth by police in Ohio, con organizer Aloysius Fox decreed that realistic guns were banned from the convention. Not to put too fine a point on it but we are a bunch of mostly white people dressed up in costumes. The idea that we would be profiled by police is really counter to the reality. It's not the guns, it's the context, or rather the racially motivated perception of the context, and that's why it's a problem.

As a major part of my steampunk persona is the role of a gunfighter and most of my prop weapons are realistic, I needed to go to the con unarmed. To compensate, I wore my armored cravat. Have I posted all the details of that yet? I think I have covered the background and concept of it but haven't expanded yet on the step-by-step construction. I'll need to get on that.

In part, it was the cravat that caught the attention of the tintype photographer of Vague Photography. It was also the fez and, of course, the mustache. With that, he really wanted to get my picture and was willing to discount the cost of the photograph to do so. I like that each tintype I have gotten is by a different artist and is also different in style because of it. The first was very traditional, looking the most like a period photograph. This third one is a very modern portrait. Close up and showing lots of detail. The second fell somewhere between the two. It has me thinking that when I get another tintype that I should remember to change up the style yet again.

Friday evening was the first of my three presentations, this one on Victorian spacecraft. Though it went reasonably well, I find that I need to reformulate my notes to better organize. My notes have a lot of details I don't cover and, as such, there are sometimes details I want to cover that are missed in the clutter. Redoing the notes will also help to keep my focus on this as a resource for writers and world builders.

At TeslaCon last year, I spoke a little bit with Aloysius about presentations and panels. In the “traditional” sci-fi convention panel, it's pretty common for a number of authors or other knowledgables to be set at a table and given a topic. A moderator will guide the discussion so that people have an opportunity to expand on the topic. In setting up these panels, program committees will generally come up with topics and then find people from the list of guests and attendees to fill the panel table.

This is not something I see much at steampunk cons. In those venues, the typical format is with an individual or a group doing a more scripted presentation. There may be question and answer opportunities or the presentation may be even more extemporaneous and interactive but things are still more of the presentation type.

I suggested to Aloysius that perhaps the panel format could be used to engage some of the guests and broaden the event style.

I don't know if the Victorian medicine panel was supposed to be this way as it included special guest Lady Clankington, but if it was, it failed. The people doing the presentation had a prepared Powerpoint and ran their script, leaving Lady Clankington to sit there with nothing to do. At one point near the end they asked her if she had anything to add and she said that they had pretty much covered it but I could tell she was feeling left out. I've been on a few not-so-well-moderated panels so I know that feeling. A Facebook posting by her later confirmed this impression.

So, if you are going to have a panel, it needs to be a panel. You need a moderator to moderate the discussion so that all the guests behind the table have a chance to contribute. And if you are doing a more traditional presentation and invite someone to sit in at the front, you need to make an extra effort to include them.

For the third year running, the local Airship Hypatia has failed to launch a successful airship in the Symposium games. While I know plenty about historical airship design and construction, the practical aspects of building a small dirigible to race within the hotel lobby are beyond me. I am not a techie in that sense so I can merely observe the attempt. Success does not come easily.

I would say that the beard competition this year was a bit more slipshod than in previous years. Instead of a select panel of judges, more than a half a dozen people were recruited from the audience. Now, having a random assortment of people as judges isn't the bad part of this, it was the decision making process. They all huddled together and negotiated and it seems that when they couldn't come to a consensus they went and chose their own favorites to go to a second round. And then, when they couldn't come to a consensus in the second round, they narrowed it down again for a third round. If it was planned that way, I could see multiple rounds being useful, but I didn't get the impression that it was meant to go the way that it did.

I didn't make it to the third round and admit I didn't stick around to see the ultimate conclusion. The gentleman with a full beard laced with wires and lights energized with Tesla coils hanging around his neck apparently won.

My Saturday presentation was a return of the first steampunk presentation that I had done at TeslaCon1, H.G. Wells and The War of the Worlds. Most people had read or at least were familiar with the novel. The one person who admitted to not having read the book received a copy. In the meantime, there was a CBC “documentary” on the Great Martian War which was pretty good, plus Timothy Hines' similar film “The War of the Worlds: The True Story,” which I still haven't seen yet. Based on his previous film and what I've seen in the trailer, I don't think it's going to be better.

I also need to remember to add Jeff Wayne's rock musical to the presentation.

Following the 30 steampunk books in 30 minutes presentation (which I liked the style of very much and will recommend to future cons), Ayleen the Peacemaker gave me a galley proof of a novel she had edited by way of random chance. “Skipjack” by A.J. Hartley. Galley proofs are early, not-final-edit copies of books often given to authors so that they can read them and provide cover blurbs for when they are published. “A rip-roaring adventure” and the like. As an author of sorts, I should read this book and give such a review. Not that my review will make the cover, though.

I presented my Hollow Earth lecture on Sunday. I like how it's shaped up. I'm wondering if there is enough period content for me to develop a full presentation on Flat Earth “theory” or if I should merely roll that into the 19th century hoaxes, frauds and pseudoscience presentation I need to get working on.

The most time I had to speak with Aloysius was at the very end when I was leaving the convention. I should have liked to talk to him more because I am working on a steampunk evening event with the Frick Art Museum and wanted Aloysius's insight on his successful production of the Pandora Society's Steampunk Salons every month.

Before heading home, I stopped by Jungle Jim's international market. I expected to spend maybe half an hour or so but ended up in the store for nearly two hours, coming away with some hot and barbecue sauces, spicy cheeses, oriental foods, and $100 of premium root beer. If I lived in the area I would shop there all the time.

1st-May-2015 12:18 pm - Certifiable
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Years ago when I worked for a IT services provider in the Strip District, I had an opportunity to take free certification training. I don't remember what it was for but it wasn't particularly relevant to my job. Something web server, I think. A month later the company offered a free certification exam. . . for a certification other than the course I had taken. I tried to study up but I didn't have the time or the proper materials to prepare. In the end I did so poorly that, had I taken dice and randomly chosen all the answers, statistically I would have done better.

So now I need to get Security+ certification.

When I interviewed for this position I was given the impression that I would start working but that I would need the certification for admin accesses. I was also under the impression that there would be training. Finally, I was not given any guidance that I should start studying right away. As it turns out, none of that was quite how things worked.

After taking a month to sort out my security clearances, ID, site access and a few CBT courses, only then did they say that I now needed to work on my certification and that nothing more would happen until that was completed. They pointed me towards a company website that had some CBTs and books and said I had a month.

I was hampered by not having network connectivity on the site. Additionally, studying for and taking multiple-choice tests was something I hadn't done since college decades ago (aside from that one certification debacle). And even then, there was an instructor and, even after that, I wasn't very good at it. I graduated but not with flying colors.

To my advantage, the Regional Manager didn't seem too intent on managing me. I would get a phone call from her once a week asking how things were going. They seemed inclined to keep paying me while allowing me to study at my own pace.

Given the deadline, I payed for my voucher ($260) and scheduled my exam for Friday. On Thursday, the Regional Manager called for her weekly update and asked how close I was to scheduling the exam.

"Tomorrow morning."

Test day and I was not terribly confident. Practice exams had me scoring between 70% and 90%. I would need 80% to pass and I was in the "Any given Sunday" range. The things that were hanging me up were the things that held me up back in college; memorization. Security+ certification has a lot of acronyms and things like port numbers that cannot be logically inferred from best practices and must simply be known. Depending on the mix of questions I could pass or fail based on a virtual roll of the dice.

And I took a literal die with me. I figured that if I really didn't know the answer I could do worse than letting random chance decide. My exam years ago proved that.

There was an hour and a half allocated for the 69 questions of the exam. I used half of that going through the test the first time and, yea, there was a question that required me to know port numbers. It wasn't multiple choice so I couldn't even guess. Fail one.

Half way through my time I went back to the ones I wasn't sure about. A few I thought more on and chose a different answer. Others I stuck with what I had. And a few I rolled the dice.

With about 15 minutes remaining I had gone through the test again, changed a few answers and decided that, to re-reconsider questions wouldn't do me any good.

When the test was over, the answer was immediate: Out of an adjusted 750 points needed to pass I had gotten 750 points.

Much like having a college degree, few care whether you did well or poorly only that you have the piece of paper that declares your skills "close enough for government work" and, given my experience up to this point, that is literally how things work.

The notes on the test printout indicated that it can take up to a week for my certification number to be confirmed and generated. I can't submit my admin rights request until then and, even after that, have no idea how much longer that will take to process.

In the meantime, I twiddle my thumbs and get paid for it.

21st-Apr-2015 11:08 am - Tekko 2015
With being unemployed, I wasn't sure I was going to be able to make Tekko. On the plus, though, it's local so there is no hotel cost. That's a few hundred dollars right there. Last year's steampunk presentation was pretty mediochre so I decided to let the concom decide. I offered to do a steampunk presentation and, if they agreed, then I would go. Otherwise, I might save the money.

It turned out that they did agree to have a steampunk presentation. And while my job situation has not yet solidified as much as I should like, I spent the money and got my ticket.

I heard that the RWBY cosplayers were going to have a photoshoot on Friday evening so instead of going in t-shirt and jeans or perhaps just throwing on a nice shirt and casual vest, I dressed up in my Axe Gang Henchman cosplay.

Aside from hanging out with those people as I had last year, I ran into quite a few people who recognized me from last year. Or rather, they recognized my beard. In either case, it was an opportunity to promote my steampunk presentation which had been scheduled for 2PM on Sunday in the last time slot before closing ceremonies. I was concerned that such a time slot would leave me with an empty room but the interest I was hearing in advance convinced me that there would be at least a few people there.

I did some shopping in the dealer's room, intending that, if I should find something I wanted, I would buy it on Friday and not be carrying it around with me all day Saturday when I am attempting to show of my full steampunk regalia and getting stopped in the hall more often for pictures because of it. I saw one item that is on my wish list: Ogami's mech from “Sakura Wars”. Except that I wasn't prepared to spend $110 for it. Especially when I know they are available from Amazon for half that.

The mech would be an awesome steampunk cosplay.

All day Saturday. During that time I was stopped twice by con staff who seemed concerned about whether I had prop checked the obviously inert ray gun in my shoulder holster. Neither said anything about the katana on my hip or the Peacemaker on my other hip. With the pistol, I suspect that they didn't see it under the frock coat, with the ray gun in the shoulder rig, I. . . I don't know. Maybe they thought it was some sort of Nerf model they had never seen before. And the sword? WTF? Sure, there's not a blade in it but nobody asked about that. It was the obvious toy they were concerned about.

In another incident later in the day, a cosplay was dressed as Hentai Kamen. I didn't know about it but the character isn't difficult to guess at. Imagine a guy with a Borat-thong and wearing panties on his head like a mask. He was stopped by a con staff person and required to take the panties off his head.

I understand that some things can be objectionable and there were copies of the harassment policy throughout the con so they were apparently taking things seriously but, really! If you aren't offended by the gyrations of street walker Deadpool or the girls wearing brown shirts and Nazi swastika armbands, what the hell is your problem with a guy simply wearing underwear on his head?

Seriously, if a guy wearing panties on his head offends you, you have chosen the wrong fandom.

Two months ago, I bought a wooden 105mm artiller shell box at Construction Junction. I figured that it would serve me better in Cowboy Action Shooting than the Steampunk Django coffin I had made. It sat in the trunk of my car for most of that time and last week I finally got it out, sanded off the markings, stained it and slapped some wheels on it. It would work fine for carrying my guns around but this weekend it would carry all the props, books and stuff I needed for my steampunk presentation.

It was quite heavy. I was able to drop it off at the convention center and then go park so that I didn't have to drag it through the streets. I hauled it up to ConOps wondering if they could leave it in a corner for a while so that I didn't need to drag it around or leave it downstairs in the bag check (which I didn't want to deal with because of the line waiting). ConOps said no so I just zip-tied the lid closed and left it in the room I was going to present in. I figured no one would bother it.

I was right and, come presentation time, it was where I left it.

The con's projector didn't recognize the output from my Ubuntu laptop so, as always, I was prepared by bringing my own projector.

As I was setting up, people started to file in. Someone from con security rushed in to shoo everyone out and I told them, no, they are welcome to come in early. No reason for them to sit in the hallway. Not sure what that was about. Another instance of strange rules, I suppose.

I was very pleased with attendance. I would say the room was over half full. Pretty good for the last item on the con schedule. My program was a little long. Being at the end of the program and with nothing scheduled in the room after me didn't present a problem but taking up all the time left no real space for a formal Q&A session. If I do it again, I do know the things I will cut.

After I was done, I invited people to come up to the front and look at the books and props I had brought. I lot of people took me up on that offer. A few came up and said “I came in at the very end, what did I miss?” Only everything. Since it was the end of the day and I had nothing else to do, I was willing to hang around and answer questions. Even the people who missed everything didn't take me up on that particular offer. I imagine it's easier to have everything fed to you rather than ask questions.

15th-Apr-2015 10:44 am - On the clock
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My regional manager called to check up on how things were going. Still not network connectivity on site even though the ISP was supposed to have been on site yesterday to do testing.

Manager: "You're signing into the network via VPN every day, right?"

Geis: "I've been using my own PC at home for most of the training."

Manager: "You know they track your being online."

Geis: "No. I wasn't made aware of that."

Apparently, my time online is tracked and I'm supposed to be logged in 8 hours a day. This strikes me as the sort of thing my manager should have told me a month ago.

Also, I am a bit put off by the "they" she refers to. Don't I work for her? And if this "they" is monitoring my progress, why haven't "they" ever contacted me?

13th-Apr-2015 02:29 pm - Spring Steel City Con
Steel City Con's pricing schedule is $20 a day and $40 for the weekend. So, if you are not going for all three days, it's not worth your while to get the weekend pass. Not sure if that's really going to encourage weekend pass holders. It certainly didn't encourage me. I just got the one-day pass on Saturday.

The concession stand at the Monroeville Convention Center also has some strange pricing. A fountain drink is $3. If you want to be able to refill it, it's an additional $3. Again, unless you are going to refill multiple times, it's not worth your while paying extra. I'm not sure it's worth $3 in the first place but that's how convention pricing works. The thing is, there is absolutely no difference between the regular $3 drink and the $6 refillable drink. Not a bigger cup. No identifier. Nothing at all. The only difference is whether the person who upsold you the refillable drink will see you at the soda dispenser multiple times.

I only paid for one but went back unseen several times to refill. Yea. I was a bad man.

The con overall was unremarkable, much like previous Steel City Cons. On incident of note, however. A pair of gentlemen wanted my picture and pictures of me with them. I'm used to that. One of them commented that when I spoke he was expecting a southern accent. It's the beard, I suppose.

I responded that I was too much a Union boy to affect a Southern accent. I admitted that, accent wise, the best I can muster is a West Virginia redneck and that I can almost imitate Martin Sheen imitating a Virginia accent as Robert E. Lee in "Gettysburg."

With that, another person came up to defend his state by saying that the rednecks were referring to striking miners who wore identifying read bandannas around their necks. He also pointed out that he had a bachelors degree as if my commenting that I could affect an accent was somehow insulting the intelligence of all West Virginians.

Now, I try to recognize prejudice and privilege in myself because, most of the time anyway, I don't want to be a dick. At least not inadvertently. With that, I reexamined what I had said, looking for signs that I had demeaned residents of West Virginia. Did I do that?

Sorry, pal, but your feigned repression doesn't fly. I was only talking about the accent. An accent, by the way, that was a significant part of my experience growing up just north of Pennsyltucky.

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