Monthly Archives: February 2011

Winter’s icy grip on our happy little hamlet is loosening slightly this week, and the rapid snow melt has revealed some things that have been hidden for several months, now.

Several issues of the community newspaper are bubbling back to the surface, and while I dug one out of the ice tonight, another wouldn’t be removed from its icy grave, so I’ll have to be content to let more melting occur before I can find out what happened some weeks ago. I’ll feel so out of touch in the meantime.

I have discovered that we do, indeed, have a roof, instead of some sieve or screen-like system that had been letting water drip into the house…Okay, the early snow made the ice dams which made water puddle behind it…I get it. But the ice dams are either nearly gone, or are at least 70% smaller than they were going into this past Saturday. And I can see the water that is melting off the higher elevations of the roof pass either around or under the remaining icebergs. This, I can assure you, is extremely good news.

It has been revealed to me that where I dug out the cut to get from the sidewalk to the street is actually off-center from the existing sidewalk by at least six inches, because this is the first time since December that I’ve seen that piece of pavement. I have also learned that we’d lost a good four- to six inches of width to all of our sidewalks due to the drifts and piles surrounding them.

I have discovered that once again, I do not know what color my car is. I washed it eight days ago, and in that time, it has returned to its mottled grey color, particularly in the back, where the back window, tailgate, and license plate are nearly indistinguishable from each other. I’d wash the car again, but there’s a point where with the continued melting predicted for this week, I see no reason for it. So I’m thinking I’ll wait until this Saturday…Either when I’m heading into work or when I’m coming home.

The slope of the parking lot at our new building has been revealed, which is a good and bad thing. Today, I found that I was parked in what would appear to be a major stream, had the temperatures been much warmer. Tomorrow, I’ll move up one row.

I have been reintroduced to the insanity of real Minnesotans: at the height of the mid-40s on Sunday, I saw at least 2 people out and about in their shorts…And one person driving in his convertible with the top down. The odd part is that come October, when the 40s return to us after a long warm summer, we’ll be bundling up and cursing the coming cold. Whereas now, we’re praising the warmth of temperatures just above freezing. It’s all relative.

I learned tonight that the cat is starting to once again contemplate the merits of going outside. She’s spent all winter in a state of perpetual cold, it seems, and I’ve watched her cuddle up to the oven, furnace register, fireplace, and my legs while I’m sleeping just to stay warm. And tonight, she spent some time pondering the smells and temperature of the incoming air from the outside. She still didn’t express a desire to go out, but she’s probably realizing that the days of grass and unfiltered sunlight are just around the corner.

And at the grocery store this morning, I think a full eight to ten parking spaces reappeared from under the 15-foot-tall piles of snow on them.

And, finally, all of the pristine white snow has melted away, leaving the brownish-black brackish piles all over. Heck, even our yard is littered with a horrid looking matte of dirty white snow.

Screw the groundhog…We’re seeing signs of spring right here and right now.

See you tomorrow.

It’s just part of life that when you finish something, you get some time to just sit back and relax and relish the accomplishment.

But alas, nothing is finished quite yet.

I was really looking forward to this weekend, and it was fun, but there’s still more stresses out there just waiting…

The living room still looks like one of the Keebler elves went apeshit on a set on mixing bowls and an oven. We’ve taken in just over 440 boxes of Girl Scout cookies and try as we might, we’re not shoving them out of the door fast enough…Or fast enough for my liking. It is, however, terrifying to have that many cookies passing through the house.

The moves at work are two-thirds complete, and it’s that last third that will be the hardest. That part is coming up this coming weekend…It’s the group that will get the attention when they move: if things go well, life will be good. If things don’t go well, someone will yell. Wish me luck.

Spring decided to come in with a sneak preview today: it was 33 this morning when I woke up at 5:30 to shower and head out to feed my parents’ cat, and it only got warmer until the sun went behind the clouds late this afternoon. While we had been promised 40s for the week, it looks like it’ll just be a little cooler than that…So apparently it was just a tease.

Can you tell I don’t have too much to write about and I’m trying to fill some space?

We got the girls new cell phones Friday night–finally on the T-Mobile account I’ve had for eight years now. And as you’d expect, they’ve been calling Jenni, me and each other non stop ever since. Okay, they tried calling Patrick, but he stopped answering their calls pretty early.

So I know…This all is pretty lame. I’m trying to come up with better stuff, but I’m just stumped.

So there you are.

See you tomorrow.

Today was day one or day zero, depending on how you look at it.

We’re all moved into the new space at work, so I spent almost all day trying to get unpacked and get things back to where they should be in my workspace. It was long, tiring, and a little overwhelming.

The new work area is surprisingly brighter than what we had, but I learned today that plants will not be allowed…Along with any major modification and individualization if the cube. Go figure.

Anyway, it’s 10:15 after a long work day and a fun evening with my family. I’ll be back with more tomorrow.

See you tomorrow.

It’s a tough thing, writing this every night…Or most nights. Especially right now.

I’m so focused on work and the move and everything that I need to concentrate on there that it feels like some of life that exists outside of there is getting short shrift, and thus, little mention here.

But there are other things: Hannah and Zoe are selling Girl Scout cookies right now, and our living room is littered with cases and boxes of the infernal things. This year offers nearly instant gratification: you can order and get them almost right away because we have inventory on hand…And I need to get more this weekend…But I think I see some of the problem with this plan: it’s tremendously easy for, say, a family member to chuck the requisite $3.50 into the envelope and grab a box as they pass the little cookieville encampment that has established itself near the entryway. Okay, okay…It’s me. Do-Si-Dos are a great antidote to work stress.

The girls got awarded with their honor roll certificates today. I was not able to go because I couldn’t get out of work–out of office requests were summarily rejected if they landed anywhere between yesterday and next Monday.They’re doing very well in fifth grade, and I’m really gratified by that: they’re smart enough and capable enough where they seem to be going through the year growing and learning, but not struggling with things too much.

Patrick just passed the midway mark of the second trimester of his freshman year of high school…Which, if my math works out right, means he’s past the midway mark of the entire school year. I’ll be honest, he amazes me, simply because he really shows the ability to just cruise through school, moving from topic to topic with a minimum of panic or fuss. But he’s pulling some solid and great grades this trimester, which really is making me happy.

The weather is damned cold, for those of you not here. The last three mornings, I’ve gotten to hear the car practically groan as I tried to start it after an overnight of -5 to -10 degrees. Monday morning was brutal–the wind and cold just made it feel like the cold could cut through you like a knife. But it wasn’t until this evening on the way home that I heard the tell-tale sound: an airplane overhead sounding substantially different than if it were in warmer air.

I’ve tried explaining that phenomenon to people outside of Minnesota, and they don’t get it–it’s something that we just come to learn by living here: the actual physical properties of cold air and how sound travels that much differently through it.

As a family, we’re doing what we can to stay warm. If it weren’t for the fact that we’re all at work or school during the day, and asleep under heavy comforters at night, I don’t think the furnace would ever stop working to keep the house warm. One wonders how there are any eskimos left: I mean, after a while they had to leave the igloo, right? Maybe to get more whale blubber or a reindeer to put on the spit or something? But how is it that they didn’t all die after just a few years of staggering through the Godforsaken freezing wilderness?

The weather blowcombs on TV have promised a substantial thaw starting this weekend: maybe 40s next week. This is good and bad news: on the one hand, it will be nice to feel my toes again, but on the other hand, all of the millions of potholes that have shown up over the last couple of weeks will be filled with snowmelt, making them that much harder to spot. But maybe that’s the point: it’s almost an Olympic sport to drive to avoid them all.

So, Thursday is the last day in the old location, and Friday is the first day in the new location…I’m trying not to obsess, but it’s hard to. Wish me luck.

See you tomorrow.

I work in a business culture that just loves its meetings. And to a point, that can be a good thing: talking face-to-face has distinct advantages over long protracted e-mail chains or IMs in that you can actually be sure you’re engaging the person you’re trying to meet with. You can gauge their reaction, and they can gauge yours, right there, in the room, across the table

I’ve been in some great meetings in my life–meetings which either really solved issues or clearly pointed out the problem or a new direction–and I’ve been in meetings that should never been allowed to happen because the hour turned out to be completely wasted.

Then there’s the conference call, which should, in my opinion, be put out of its misery simply for being what it is: no one is engaged, everyone spends at least part of the call muted and probably not paying attention (God knows this is what I and everyone else in my group does), and more often than not, there are at least four occasions per hour that three or more people are trying to talk over each other. The conference call, while being a once novel approach to having a meeting where people did not need to travel to one location, has become almost a parody of itself because it is now so off-putting. Frankly, I hate them. But they’re much adored around my workplace, where people seem to want to be chained to their desks and phones. For me, my phone is a tool of my job, so escaping it occasionally is a welcome treat, even though I don’t like people enough to meet them in person. Maybe I hate conference calls so much because I find myself in at least one per week…Or maybe it’s just because I rarely come away from them with any clear sense of motivation or direction.

On a few occasions, I’ve been in conference calls that were valuable and productive. But most of them just devolve into torture–to the point where we should just force the detainees at Gitmo to have a six- to nine-person conference call with others there at least once per day. Eventually someone would crack and tell us exactly where Bin Laden is as long as they don’t have to ever review last meeting’s agenda and listen to someone eating lunch on the phone ever again. I’ve even had conference calls with people I’ve just woken up…Seriously. That’s a real gasser, let me tell you.

But there’s new technology out there, kids. Big, new, wonderful technology which allows us to improve on the…uh…Okay, not so much. But there’s promise there: video conferencing, which allows us to actually see the people we’re meeting with, while they’re still at home or in their cubicle, or at the coffee shop. This way, we can see them, and make sure they’re at least awake while the meeting is going on. Then there’s the ability to the display from a host computer in these video meetings so that we can all see the Powerpoint presentation on the host’s computer, or watch the notes as he’s typing them in…Or as the host was IMing with her friends about what they wanted to get for lunch once the meeting was over–psst! Stop sharing your desktop!!!

Video conferencing has promise, I’ll admit: you can stare down someone almost as effectively as you can across a table. But having placed a picture in front of a camera during a test meeting and not having anyone notice it was a static picture makes me wonder if the limitations are worth it. Though maybe if they can figure out how to let me video conference from home while I’m in a darkened room with my PJs on, I might show more enthusiasm for the format.

But today kind of took the cake–a two-hour conference call, which mostly featured review of things that have already been done because one person in the call hasn’t ever been informed about the previous actions taken in the project…Kids, this is what reports and agendas are for… And the worst part of the call was that three people were in the same room using a horrible speakerphone (honestly, one of the people in the room sounded like an adult from a Charlie Brown cartoon), and that one person in the call didn’t realize his phone was muted until the last 15 minutes of the meeting–do you not realize when no one is responding to you that we can’t hear you???

As I was working on dinner, I briefly had a thought: what would have happened if, say, the “Founding Fathers” had conference calls and video conferencing and “Live Meetings” as they were framing the Constitution? I’m sorry, Mr. Adams, I can’t understand you…Did you say “secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and posterior? Sorry, Mr. Jefferson, I had you on mute and was on another call, could you repeat that please? We’re making the colonies a what, now? Video conferencing would have screwed up a whole generation of painters: everyone would have been at home not wearing their powdered wigs and long coats. And how many little image windows could you get into one painting, anyway?

Okay, I might be exaggerating a little bit about how bad it is, but there’s got to be a point where the technology needs to be chucked because the alternative is better. I’m afraid that day is never going to come. In the meantime, I’ll prepare for my next conference call…

See you tomorrow.

On Friday, I’ll be in a new office, unpacking and trying to make what I can out of the new space.

Today, though, I was pretty focused on trying to get more stuff either recycled, thrown away, or packed. Well, that and trying to help out one or two people…As it turned out, two was as far as I got, because one call took two-and-a-half hours.

But there are other things to focus on, too. I’ve got about 240 boxes of Girl Scout cookies in the house right now. Picked those up yesterday so the girls can start the big cookie season. You see, though, things have changed there: instead of pre-ordering, and then waiting a month or so for the cookies to arrive and be delivered, we get the cookies right at the start, then get to try to sell them. On the one hand, this is probably going to be effective: people will finish their cookies before the month is out and will order more. But on the other hand, it means my living room will have a stash of cookies in it probably for the better part of the next month.

Either way, I’m not terribly amused.

The troop ordered the quantity the girls sold last year, plus some. So what I’ve got here amounts to roughly half of what they actually sold last year. But neither of us has a record of what we sold, so I had no idea yesterday how many boxes of Thin Mints to get from the start. And that was pretty stressful, actually, trying to think on short notice about how many might be sold in the next couple of days.

I have the feeling I’ll be picking up more probably tomorrow or Thursday.

Ah, so the upshot is this: if you want your cookies, let me know. I can totally hook you up, both now and later in the month, if necessary.

See you tomorrow.

I started packing up my desk at work Friday. My team is moving on Thursday night with most of the rest of the support center, so I figured I’d better get a start on things, or else this coming week could be really long.

But there’s one thing about moves, both office or personal, that is always interesting: finding stuff that you’ve either forgotten about, or wondered why you have it in the first place.

In one of my desk drawers, I found a set of MS-DOS 6.2 disks…Or, more importantly, a set of 3.5″ MS-DOS disks. I have one computer with a floppy drive, so it made me wonder for a bit why I had them. But then I discovered my USB floppy drive and remembered why I had them: I’d talked jokingly at one point about running Windows 98 on one of the partitions I’d made on my fast new desktop computer. And to install Windows 98, I needed to at least boot off of the DOS floppy.

Now I’ve got to decide if I want to do that at all, which would mean doing it after the move, which would mean I’d have to move the floppy and the disks.

I found my training manuals from the three days of training I got for supporting Vista and Office 2007. Neither of which we’re migrating to at work. That was a great use of those three days. And I had training manuals for supporting Goodlink on Treo devices and managing Blackberry accounts. I haven’t supported either of those things for almost 2 years.

I debated about how many of my monitors I’m moving with me: I’ve got six on my desk areas right now, but with the reduced space at the new building, I’ve only got room for four monitors. Some of you may ask “why six?” and that was part of my internal conversation when wondering how many to bring with me: how many is too many? One monitor was easy to say no to moving: it’s a 21-inch tube monitor that we’d recovered from a previous move group, and I just hooked it up as a secondary monitor on my test computer. Another monitor is there just to watch the status of the phone queue, and I don’t really need to do that any more. Plus, that monitor is only a 15-inch model, so that decision was a little easier.

I found a semi-disassembled second-generation iPod Nano that a former coworker brought to me to see if I could figure out why it had stopped working. I’ve got enough spare parts to rebuild several computers. And more cables than I think I’ll ever really need.

It’s all making me wonder what I really need to bring with me, since I’ve got limited desk and storage space now.

I got through two of my six drawers on Friday. I need to have everything boxed by quitting time on Thursday. We’ll see how it all goes and what else I’ll find.

See you tomorrow.

It may go down as “The Great Groundhog’s Day Storm” in the history books (and frankly, that’s about as lame a name as it can get), but the big snowstorm that’s smacking a large chunk of the country has affected me a bit.

I had to work with a woman today who was stuck working at home (in Indiana) because the storm in her area started out as freezing rain and then turned to snow and she couldn’t get her storm door open this morning and therefore couldn’t physically get out of her house. Luckily, though, the internet was unphased by the ice storm.

What was better about this particular issue was that I had to help her because a person who supports her and has access to the tool to fix her problem also couldn’t get into work today because of the weather. So I was her next hope.

I talked to an engineer who was home today. Now, you need to know that I generally have no disrespect toward engineers in general, but the engineers we have to support at work are, well, problemmatic. Mostly because they see a problem that isn’t really a problem and seek to fix the problem with technology they have available at hand…But don’t entirely understand how to use.

He knew it was possible to remote to his desktop computer in his office from his laptop at home. No problem. We got him going with that…But then he wanted to remote from the desktop computer to a piece of lab equipment. We searched all over to get to do it, but couldn’t get connected. Until finally he asked the question of a coworker who actually had made it into the office: the lab equipment was off.

That’s one great thing about my job…It’s really hard to make this stuff up.

But between my calls and IMs today, I was reading news stories and tweets from the storm-hit areas around Chicago and on toward the east. And that’s where I started hearing the names for the storm: snowmageddon, snowpocalypse, snowicane, snow of the century… Why is it now that the media needs to give a name to everything? It can’t just be a snowstorm?

Oh well…It was another day. A cold, midwinter day.

See you tomorrow.

I am a horrible pet owner.

Okay, I’m not that bad a pet owner. My cat, as neglected or wronged as she may believe herself to be, is in pretty good shape for an animal that’s 19 years old and closing in on 20 very quickly.

But in her old age, she’s getting noisier, and is sleeping less at night. She’s been waking up at 3 and 4 in the morning, walking around the bed–literally around the bed, from Jenni’s side to mine–crying and meowing to get me up. I tell her to shut up and be quiet, as if I expect her to understand and say “sure, no problem. Sorry about that.” And what is she crying for?

She’s hungry. Or thirsty. Or one morning, she was telling me that she was cold, didn’t want to sleep on the bed, and the furnace wasn’t on at that moment. The thermostat wasn’t set to start raising the temperature in the house for another hour-plus. Okay, okay, I know that it’s a little unbelievable that I can understand what she wants, but she’s not a stupid cat and she’s figured out how to tell me what she needs.

But, she’s always got water. But I do limit her food, because if she eats too much, she tends to hack it all back up within an hour. So she gets rationed. And I’m guessing that this, in her old age, does not please her in the least.

So as a result, I’m tired. And the cat sleeps all day while we’re away.

It ain’t fair, I tell you.

See you tomorrow.

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