What I’ve Learned

What I’ve learned over the past eighteen months or so contracting as a PC Tech at a state agency:

All you really need to survive here is to basically show up for work and don’t piss anyone off.

Expediency, efficiency, and providing good customer service are not requisite—and in some cases are actively discouraged in spite of their newly adopted bullshit continuous improvement “Kaizen” initiative.

And lastly, it’s all about power. Power over people. Power to control. Fiefdoms abound.

A few examples:

Unlike every. other. place. I’ve worked, we don’t have complete rights to the tools within Active Directory. We can no longer delete computers (sometimes necessary to troubleshoot them dropping off the network), nor can we change users’ groups or permissions. ALL OF THAT requires generating a ticket to the Service Desk, who then routes it to Access Management, where it can languish for weeks before being addressed.

Just last week I had a device that had fallen off the network. This particular customer is already a PITA, so I wanted to get it fixed right away. I went to delete the object from AD and I got an error that I didn’t have rights. What the hell? I’d done this dozens of times before. So I apologized to the customer, went back to my desk, called the Service Desk and asked them to delete it.

They didn’t have permission. So I called Access Management and spoke to one of the drones there. She wanted to know why I wanted the object deleted and recreated, and after an extended discussion she agreed that needed to be done and supposedly deleted and recreated it.

I returned to the customer’s desk and attempted to rejoin the domain. Same error. At this point I said fuck it, and returned to my desk, created a new object with the same asset tag number and an “L” designation (for laptop) instead of “T” (for tablet). I returned to the customer’s desk, renamed the machine and finally got it rejoined and back online. Was it kosher? No. Was the customer happy? Yes.

We also got chewed out yesterday for occasionally making users local administrators on their machines. This is sometimes necessary to  install software under their profiles, or to allow software to run properly. (Surefire way of telling if it’s a permissions issue is for me to check it under my profile. If it runs fine there but not under the customer’s, it’s a permissions issue.)

Apparently we aren’t supposed to do this. (I can’t find this spelled out in any documentation anywhere.) If someone needs local admin rights there has to be written justification and—you guessed it—a ticket generated for Access Management to move the person into the proper security group. My question is this: how much damage can a local administrator really do, other than completely fucking up their own machine? They don’t have rights to mess with anything on the network, so worst case scenario would be that a machine would have to be reimaged. I guess it’s another one of the many on-the-fly directives that have gone into effect without notifying the people affected. Anyhow, we were informed that if this happened again there would be disciplinary action!

Whatever, bitch. Whatever.

And as one final example of the bullshit “continuous improvement” initiative, at every other place I’ve worked, I’ve kept a couple “spare” ready-to-deploy computers around to swap out in the event of an emergency. I suggested this to my boss and it was immediately shot down. “Oh, we can’t just have state equipment sitting around.” Oh no…if a machine goes down it has to be picked up, sent to Hardware for repair/reimaging, picked up from there and then transported back; a process that normally takes 2-3 days. God forbid I should be able to swap out a piece of equipment in less than an hour and allow the customer to continue working. Efficiency? NOT AT THIS PLACE.

Lastly, in the area of Customer Service, I am appalled at what passes for it around here. One of my coworkers (let’s call her Maria) is a lifer. The woman is in her 40s, and this place is the only place she’s ever worked. She crosses every “t” and dots every “i”. She has paper copies of everything she’s ever worked on locked away in file cabinets in case anything she’s done is questioned. EVERYTHING she does has a process, and if something requires thinking outside that process, you can almost see the hard drive light in the middle of her forehead flashing wildly, not being able to access the data. And yet in spite of all these years of “service,” her lack of knowledge about basic tech stuff is flabbergasting. There’s no curiosity, no initiative. And never mind her complete lack of customer service skills:

Projector stops working. I pick up the ticket.

“Oh, we don’t support that. Tell the customer to contact the vendor directly.”

“What if it’s just a matter of it simply not being plugged in? Don’t you even go look?”

“No. Note in the ticket that customer needs to contact the vendor and close it out.”

SERIOUSLY, BITCH?

(As it turned out, I did go check it out and it was simply unplugged.)

At Least I Know What It Is Now…

To be filed under: Getting Old Is Hell

About a year ago my right shoulder started hurting whenever I had to reach for something on a high shelf or turn off a ceiling fan. I ignored it because it wasn’t debilitating, but as often happens when you reach a certain age, it didn’t magically go away, and of late has become a pretty painful affair, causing me to wince whenever I reach for my wallet in my right hip pocket. I saw my doctor last month about it, she sent in an order for an x-ray and I finally got around to getting it done last Friday. The results were as more or less as expected. At least it isn’t a torn rotator cuff.

“Your shoulder x-ray shows that there are no fractures or dislocations but you do have mild to moderate degenerative changes in the right shoulder. Degenerative changes are considered similar to arthritis type changes. If you would like to try physical therapy we can do that and if your symptoms persist then we can consider MRI.”

What the fuck is physical therapy going to accomplish if this is a “degenerative change” other than to drain my wallet?

Quote of the Day

There were no sex classes. No friendship classes. No classes on how to navigate a bureaucracy, build an organization, raise money, create a database, buy a house, love a child, spot a scam, talk someone out of suicide, or figure out what was important to me. Not knowing how to do these things is what messes people up in life, not whether they know algebra or can analyze literature.” ~ William Upski Wimsatt

Autumn Arrived in Phoenix

Last Friday. Leaving work I noticed it was different: the quality of light, the temperature, that hazy-overcast so indicative of autumn in Phoenix. It was like someone flipped a switch and summer was finally gone. It’s one of the things I’ve always liked about this time of year in Arizona. One day it’s summer, the next it’s not.

Apple Teaches Us To Accept Being Inconvenienced

“It just works!”

If you buy into the Apple ecosystem, something you need to know is that you’re going to be inconvenienced…a lot.

When I got my latest iPhone, I knew going in that I’d be losing the headphone jack. No problem, I thought; it comes with an adapter that I can use to connect it to the head unit in the car (sadly, Anderson is not bluetooth-equipped). What I didn’t forsee were those rare instances when I wanted to listen to music through headphones as I fell asleep. I have bluetooth earphones, but they’re impossible to sleep in. And yeah, I could pull out the crappy lightning earbuds that came with the phone, but for me they’re also incredibly uncomfortable, fall out, and sound like crap. So I’m faced with either bringing the stupid headphone-to-lightning adapter in from the car every damn day on the off chance I might want to fall asleep to music, or dropping $10 for another fucking adapter that I can keep bedside.

And then there’s the ongoing issue with my nearly-new $2K laptop and it’s goddamned keyboard. When you buy something from Apple, it comes with the expectation that—at least hardware wise—you’re getting the finest engineering on the planet. That used to be true, but lately it seems that in Jony Ive’s quest to make everything no thicker than a sheet of paper, that has fallen by the wayside. While I figured out how to safely remove the keycaps and blow compressed air into the butterfly mechanism to clean out dustI shouldn’t have to. And last weekend as I was blowing out a non-responsive N-key, a little bit of black plastic something went flittering into the night. Turns out it was part of the dome mechanism that blocks out just the right amount of the LED light from underneath to ensure all the keys are equally illuminated.

I found the piece of black whatever-it-was, but I couldn’t reattach it because it had torn. I opted for a miniscule piece of black electrical tape in its place, but—of course—it was thicker than the original light shield and they key was now even more fucked. For some reason adding the black electrical tape in its place diminished the already tiny amount of key-travel to next-to-nothing, sending me on a hunt to find a replacement key mechanism.

Yesterday, the N-key just stopped working altogether. The replacement mechanism was supposedly sitting at home in my mailbox, so I pried the top off the key again and gave the whole thing another good dusting. The functionality returned to what it was prior to yesterday, and after getting a really good look at what’s going on under there I decided that I would live with it until I absolutely had to tear the key completely apart to replace the dome mechanism.

I shouldn’t have to do this, Apple.

Yes, it’s obviously still under warranty, but taking the machine back to Apple is also an unacceptable solution because for some reason the key can’t just be replaced by their Geniuses like I was about to do. No, the whole thing has to be sent out for a complete lower case replacement because the keyboard is glued in place and I’d be without it for one-to-two weeks. And even then there’d be no guarantee another key wouldn’t get fucked up.

What the hell, Apple?

There are rumblings of a manufacturer recall. My fingers are crossed.

Finally, there’s the issue of my Apple ID. Last week Apple finally started allowing people to change their main Apple ID to an icloud.com or mac.com address (something that you haven’t been able to do ever). When I set up my account back in 2009 on my very first Mac, I chose voenixrising because I was new to the this untrusted environment and didn’t want to use my real name because reasons. Over the years, that of course changed, and now I use my realname@icloud.com (an alias I set up under the main account) address for pretty much everything.

So when news of this change became known, I was ecstatic. I could finally ditch the otherwise unused g-mail account I’d been using as an Apple ID. I logged in, went through all the steps, sent up all the offerings to the Apple gods, did the proscribed incantations and…”you cannot use an icloud address as your main ID.”

WHAT THE FUCK, APPLE?

And that error only occurred when attempting to use the realname@icloud.com account. Every other alias I’d created could be used.

I called AppleCare the next day, and to his credit, the guy on the other end of the line was incredibly helpful. Unfortunately, we still couldn’t get it switched over at that time because apparently if you have been using an @icloud.com address as your emergency backup address in the Apple world, you can’t use it as your main ID for thirty days after you unhook it as the emergency contact. And my realname@icloud.com was the backup.

Inconvenience, thy name is Apple.

UPDATE: Late this afternoon the H-key started acting up. Again. So I gently pried the keycap off and dusted it out. I noticed when I replaced the cap it was loose on one corner. It turns out one of the little pins on the butterfly mechanism had broken off at some point.

So now I have two wonky keys. They work, but not without issues. I’d take the damn laptop into Apple tomorrow if Ben’s old backup machine was usable enough for me to transfer everything over, but it isn’t. It needs both a RAM upgrade as well as a larger hard drive so I don’t have to pick and choose what to restore from Time Machine when restoring to it. Until I can afford to make those upgrades, I guess I’m just going to have to carry the little Apple bluetooth keyboard I bought back in 2010 with me.

This is BULLSHIT, Apple.

Getting Old Sucks

Yesterday, shortly after arriving at work, I noticed a rather large, gray “floater” in my field of vision. I’ve had floaters as long as I can remember, but this one was different. It was much larger (about the size of a fingernail at arm’s length) and when I closed that eye, it would turn white—with circulating black flecks inside it. This was not normal, and of course internet searches convinced me I was dying.

My dad had a history of detached retinas, so I feared the worst and called my opthamologist. I saw her yesterday afternoon. As I described to her, it was like the afterimage you get when staring into a bright light…except it never fades away.

She dilated my eyes and looked around in them for several minutes. Turns out it is a fairly common aspect of aging; the vitreous gel (the substance “inflating” the eyeball) starts to break down as we get older, and in doing so it can pull away from the retina, causing these spots. There was no sign of tearing or separation or macular degeneration, so there’s that, but it’s annoying as hell because it’s dead-center in the field of vision in my left eye (my dominant, “reading” eye) and because I’m so aware of it now I’m getting eye-strain headaches. “The spot may disappear completely as it migrates, or it may stay put.” How reassuring.

She noted to call immediately if anything changes—especially seeing bright flashes, but otherwise it’s nothing to worry about. I made an appointment to see in her in month’s time to followup.

Monday

5-1/2 hours sleep, 42% sleep quality. I simply could NOT fall asleep last night. I finally got up at 12:30 and took a Benadryl. That knocked me out, but I’m comatose this morning.