Friday, February 08, 2008

Under Pressure

I've been in my new department for six months now.

In all that time I've had one real, badly needed training course, and another I refused to go to on this week, on the grounds it would have me commuting four hours a day through three different mass transit infrastructures at a time when the weather normally consists of sleet, snow and freezing rain1. Not only that, Amtrak, the owners of Penn Station, a crucial node in all this proposed mass transit usage, were threatening a strike that would close the station, turning a straight-through route into something from an Escher painting.

The other, self-paced training I've been doing ensures that I am completely useless to the rest of the department, which consists of six or seven little kingdoms of three or less people who ain't issuing visas or work permits.

I am largely self motivating under normal circumstances but I need some structure to help prop it all up and I'm getting no direction from anyone. If there is a more dehumanising process than sitting at a desk and inventing projects for yourself until the universe achieves thermal equilibrium I don't know what it is.

I leave this oasis each day and return home to a house that is badly overcrowded on account of all the stuff in it. We each have our obsessions and they must be fed at all times, resulting in a house with literally no room whatsoever inside it. My plan for sorting all this out after several years of trying to negotiate a sane approach to it all? A house fire. I'm absolutely serious when I type that. I sometimes sit on a train and dream about coming home to a smoking ruin. That can't be healthy, but living in that house is driving me not-so-slowly batshirt.

I asked Mrs Stevie the other day if I could have an empty tin that had recently held Cadbury's chocolate bisuits and she said I could, providing I didn't just throw it away because "I keep those tins".

I know she bloody does. The original thinking here was that they could be used to hold crafted gifts like home-made cookies or the gift-baskets Mrs Stevie puts together with such creativity for her friends. The total number of Cadbury's tins used in this endeavour? Zero. The number piling up in the basement taking the room we could be using to improve our quality of life? Three less this year since they got damaged last summer while digging out after a crapolanche and I euthanized them.

Every toy has a box that must be kept in case the kid wants to eBay the resulting "collectable" off in thirty years. My tools got drenched in water2 during Domestic Flood Xena, but these empty boxes, thank Azathoth, were protected from damage.

Enough of domestic matters; back to work irritation.

Yesterday my professional life hit a new low. First, I was present at a meeting when my boss coined the term "preliminarily". If that wasn't bad enough, the meeting threatened to extend beyond its allotted hour of torment when one of my colleagues demanded a Visio version of the whiteboard diagram we were discussing. I listened in increasing despair for about two minutes as he and my boss went back and forth:

"So will we get something on paper?"

"Whaddaya want, a Visio diagram?"

"Yes! I want a Visio diagram!"

"Who's going to make it? You?


"But you want a Visio Diagram?"

"Yes! I want a Visio diagram!"

"Who's going to make it? You?


"But you want a Visio Diagram?"

After several iterations of this horseshirt I finally did something I don't often do, I volunteered. I stuck up my hand and said loudly "I will" when we got to the "Who's going to make it?" bit.

A stunned silence filled the room.

"You will?" said the boss, nonplussed that someone would dare such outrageous behaviour.

"Yes" I said, rather shortly, I admit.

"By tomorrow?" he asked, and I admit to being rather offended by his incredulity.

"Yes" I said getting up. "Don't screw with the whiteboard or the deal's off. I'll be back in a minute. Add any call-outs you feel would make life clearer while I'm gone."

"Call-outs?" he said in a bewildered tone.

"He means annotations" sneered a colleague.

"There y' go" I sighed and left to get my camera.

I photographed the whiteboard and, after transferring the picture to my old workstation since ironically I don't have Visio on the new one my new department supplied me with, I made a Visio diagram of the damn thing.

Reflect on this. I work in a part of the industry that regards itself the world around as the acme of the form - Unix administration. My department, like many of the type, sees itself as the saviour of the applications guys who typically "don't know what they are doing"3. Yet it was brought to a screeching halt by a difference in the perceived need for a diagram it took less time to knock out than the arguments for and against doing so took to frame.

Christ on a bike, it's so fbleeping depressing.

  1. and we all should know by now what that would do to the "four hour" commute
  2. And some of them were badly damaged as a result
  3. This is not hyperbole in most cases either; some of our blokes couldn't find their own arses with both hands, a map and a satnav setup

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