Archive for the ‘Zen’ Category

Advice for the new year…

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RAK…

Random Acts of Kindness.

We need more of those.

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Yes, there’s something specific that brought this on today.

Nope, not gonna share it.

Let’s just say that good deeds and Random Acts of Kindness are their own rewards.

Here’s to all the people that know this and try to live the idea.

/cheers

Coding as a language

I read an article this week talking about how some schools in (I think) Kentucky have changed some language requirements for their students.

When I was in high school (and middle school and grade school) I never “had” to take a foreign language. Now, my parents had different ideas, but as for the school, there was no foreign language requirement for anything.

Nada…nothing.

That’s not the same as today.

My oldest is getting ready to hit High School and they have to take a least one language class. One semester out of four years of school. They recommend more as “college prep”.

The youngest is in middle school and he has to take a class called “Intro to World Languages”. It’s two semesters long and they sample Spanish, French, German and Mandarin.

I’m a big fan of all this. I think languages are really important and in today’s world, the more you can communicate the better. My parents believed that learning a language accomplished far more than just another communication tool. I tend to agree.

I took multiple years of private, tutored German lessons in grade school. In junior high school, Latin. Yes, Latin. Two years of it. My parents didn’t give me a choice. To be hones, it was a good thing. I learned how languages work in Latin, and how to learn a language. It taught me skills I still use today.

Later in High School, Spanish. Two years.

My parents were correct, I learned more than just communication tools. Today, I still use my Spanish here and there, and the foundations I learned in Latin are still relevant.

But spoken languages aren’t for everyone. They are difficult to learn and you have to practice them. A lot.

So what’s my point here?

Well, in Kentucky, some schools are now allowing coding classes to count as a language.

Yup. You have a language requirement? A Java class will satisfy the requirement.

Don’t like the idea of German? Try Python instead.

Mandarin? How about Objective-C?

It’s a different world and these schools are adapting to it.

At first I wasn’t sure how I felt about this. I’m having more and more “grumpy old man” moments and I was skeptical.

“Damn kids…I had to take a foreign language…hell…I took three! They should have to also!”

But now that I’ve pondered it, I’m a fan.

Think about it for a second.

Coding languages are just that…languages. They have their own syntax, structure and vocabulary. They function much like spoken languages, except that instead of communicating verbally, they communicate (often times) visually.

It’s an intriguing idea, and one that I’m all for.

I’m not recommending this for everyone, and I do NOT think they should replace spoken languages outright. But for some students, I think it’s a fantastic idea.

It encourages kids to get into coding; a skill set that has life-long implications. It’s a skill set that is in high demand today. It teaches critical thinking, organization, structure and often times collaboration.

And I also suspect that it encourages creativity.

There will always be a need for foreign languages. Yes, it’s good to start them early. But there is a stigma to them, and allowing an “alternative” such as this is a progressive move that should be applauded.

I know Kentucky isn’t the first to do this.

I hope they aren’t the last and other school districts follow suit.

38 seconds

Warning…rant ahead. Tread with caution.

/rant=on

Something I just don’t get lately. What’s up with the inability of people that work with technology to communicate.

With each other, with their “customers”, with their superiors, with anyone?

Were we always this way?

*** Disclaimer: I’m not talking about my staff here. So you call can chill. I’m speaking of IT as an industry. ***

Seriously though, for an industry that is supposed to facilitate communication, make people work more efficiently and collaborate better (why yes, I have been drinking the IT PR Kool Aid) why is it that communication is the last thing we do well?

Case in point. A situation at work necessitated that I send a rather annoyed (but professional) email to a group of people asking them politely (and did I mention professionally??) to get off their collective asses and remedy a problem that had been ongoing for weeks.

Not a simple issue either. An issue that was directly affecting users’ ability to work. So sort of important.

At the end of said email, I asked that someone get in touch with me to let me know the status of things and what the resolution plan was.

Simple request. Communicate with me.

Help me understand what is going on. What you are doing to remedy the issue. What is causing the problem. Anything. Just. Talk. To. Me.

Twenty four hours go by.

Nothing.

I had to send another email (still professional) asking, “Hey..um, hello? What’s going on?” Then finally, someone got back to me.

Communication. In the day of email, Twitter, instant message, and that thing called the phone, I got nothing. It takes 38 seconds to hit the reply button on an email, type out a short message saying something like, “Sorry for the issues. We are looking into it. We will contact you tomorrow with a follow up and more information”, and then hit the send button.

Thirty eight seconds. I timed it.

We in IT often times wonder why IT gets a bad rep. Why we aren’t respected more. Why, often times, management looks at IT as a necessary evil instead of a business asset.

Well folks, I’m here to tell you, it’s because we can’t take 38 seconds to send an email to communicate. I know we are all busy. Sometimes insanely so, but 38 seconds is nothing.

Maybe if we all spared 38 seconds more often, IT would be perceived as a customer-service focused business entity. Not just a group that spends money, complains about users asking stupid questions (that’s another post) and cant deliver on their promises.

Maybe we’d be looked at as a group that goes out of their way to help people. That is interested in making things better for the organization and the users.

Thirty eight seconds.

A missed opportunity to provide customer service. A missed chance to change the perception of a single person.

There’s a phrase I’m fond of; “Death by a thousand paper cuts.”

It unfortunately applies to IT far too often.

/rant=off

Too true

Mrs. Technocrat will appreciate this…

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I can’t speak for her mind, but this is totally how her computer is.

All. The. Time.

Random thoughts

Apparently my desk is either warped or just plan not level.

How do I know this? My keyboard wiggles when I rest my left hand on it.

Not much mind you, but just a little. And plenty enough to be annoying.

It’s not the keyboard. I tried it on other surfaces, and it’s fine. It’s the top of my desk on the “computer” side.

I’ve tried the “tape on the edge” of the keyboard thing. No go.

/annoyed_face = on






———-

Last week I was walking down the hall here at work and a user comes up to me muttering about how there was no one in the Help Desk.

(They’d gone to lunch and were due back any minute)

I asked what was wrong and could I help or get a message to the Help Desk guys.

Here’s the conversation:

Me: “Can I help, or can I get a message to the guys?”

User: “The printer is out of toner and I need to print something now!”

Me: “OK, well, I’ll let them know. Which printer is it?”

User (very frustrated at this point): “The one that’s out of Magenta!”

…….

Me: “Well, that tells me a lot.”

User: /blank stare

Me: /raised_eyebrow = on

User: “Oh…the one in the training room.”

Me: “Thank you. That actually tells me something.”

Really folks? “The one that’s out of magenta?” That’s what you’re gonna tell me.

/facepalm






———-

Some Friday nights, there just isn’t enough time or enough alcohol to drown out the stupid from the following week.






———-

Listening to a 13yo play Minecraft with a bunch of his 13yo friends, via Skype, is sort of like listening to nails on a chalkboard and a recored played backwards…combined.

Annoying…unintelligible…frustrating…scary…and downright frightening.

I don’t recommend it.

My own space

You probably don’t know this, but our basement had a wee bit of a flooding issue back in the spring of last year.

The reason (you don’t know about it) is that I’ve slacked on this blog for….well…a while now. But I’m working on that.

The reason for the basement leaking was numerous large holes between the house and foundation where the mortar had fallen apart over the years. We found this out was when we excavated a large portion of our front yard to see what was happening we could see the basement.

From the front yard.

Through the house.

Not through a window.

The gaps in area that connected the house to the fountain were large to say the least. One you could actually fit a golf ball through.

We’d planned on redoing the basement when we moved into the house, but we’d also planning on waiting a bit.

Nothing like a inch of water in your basement to change your plans.

So over the past 8 months I tore the basement down to the concrete walls and redid it.

We installed the last of the floor and trim (I hate trim but that’s another post) and moved in.

I have my space back and I love it.

It’s not much, just a corner of the room, but it’s mine. My desk is back, my stuff is back, my computer is back, my pictures are back.

And I got all my gadgets back. The server I was working on before the flood is back and powered on. I haven’t done anything with it yet, but it’s back.

I’m happy.

It’s amazing how just a small place to call “your’s” can make a difference. I’d love to have my own room, but that’s wishful thinking in a house our size and with two teenage boys, and a wife that lives like the embodiment of an office-product tornado. She spreads papers and stuff like a twister spreads chunks of trailer homes and dead cows.

Now I just have to remember where I stored everything while my corner of the world was in boxes in the garage.

Do I ever…

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I think that of late, I’m starting to appreciate this more and more.

Being a kid is a hell of a lot more fun than being an adult.

Not saying that being an adult doesn’t have it’s perks (Driving, voting, sex, drinking, buying cool shit), but being a kid has a level of freedom that can only come from one thing. A lack of responsibility.

Yup that’s it. The key difference between being a kid and an adult. Lack of responsibility.

Mrs. Technocrat and I have been talking a lot of late about this sort of thing. It really hit home last night that we are getting “older”. With that comes increased responsibility.

Some of our friends are starting to transition into this. They have kids going to college.

/scared_face = on

Yes, friends of ours (that are our age) have kids going to college.

What. The. Holy. HELL!!??!!

How did that happen?

Several of them (the parents, not the kids) have remarked that they wish for a simpler time.

Now don’t get me wrong. We (the parents) wouldn’t trade our lives. It’s just that we don’t consider ourselves “old”.

Hell…many of us have trouble considering ourselves “adults”, much less “responsible adults”.

/shudder

My two kids are a ways a way from college, but it’s not THAT far away.

Driving is the next big thing and that frightens me.

Teaching them how to drive, and drive safely, in today’s world.

Heaven help me.

So, I return to the above image.

Peter Pan had it right.

I particularly like that whole “flying” thing.

Plus, Tinker Bell was HOT.

Changes…

Summer is drawing to a close here in Wisconsin. At least I suspect it is.

August is halfway done, and I walked out of work the other day and there was a hit of that “Fall” feeling/smell in the air.

The students are moving back to UW (sort of like swallows to Capistrano, only in Bucky T-shirts), traffic is getting bad in Madison again and my kids are gearing up for school.

I’ve seen a lot of Facebook posts today about kids back in Kansas going back to school today, but here we’ve got another two to three weeks of Summer Vacation yet.

The end of Summer means a variety of things to me.

It’s a new fiscal year where I work. New year means time to start getting serious about project planning. The new budget has been approved and I’ve got stuff to buy, computers to replace, projects to start and expectations to meet.

It always kicks off a busy time (the Fall) as lots of the staff here return from vacation and the docs seem to find new ways to make my life interesting. Not always in a bad way.

On a personal level, my kids are heading back to school.

The oldest will be in the 8th grade and the youngest in 6th grade.

The big thing here is that 6th grade is middle school. That’s a change for me.

6th grade was still grade school where I grew up. You were the “bosses” of the school in 6th grade. You had your own wing of the school. Didn’t have to walk in “lines” anymore. Could go to the library on your own. But you still had a classroom and it was still grade school.

For the youngest, he went to Orientation Day today. He found out he’s in the same “block” (they break the students up into groups called blocks for organization and scheduling) with his best friend. He’s excited about that. But he really only knows one or two other people in his block (there are three blocks total) and his girlfriend is in a different one. He’s bummed about that.

Got his locker assignment. Lockers!!??!! His homeroom is right across from it so he’s pumped about that.

But it’s a huge change. Class transitions. Social pressures. Gym class. Etc.

He’s gong to do fine. I have no doubt, but it’s a big change for him.

The oldest, well, 8th grade is a bit of a nonstarter. Kinda boring. It might be different it he went to a traditional school, but he goes to virtual school, so it’s the same old same old for him.

LIttle does he know, he’s got a busy year ahead of him.

He want’s to return to a brick and mortar school next year, so he’s got some progress to make int he areas of organization and time management. I have no doubt he can do it. But again, challenges and changes for him.

Good luck to both of you kiddos. You’ll do great.

On my end, I’ve got some changes to make also. Both personally and professionally. Not all of them are going to be easy. But I’ll be better off for them.

More on those in later posts.

Mrs. Technocrat makes fun of me for getting “reflective” at times during the year. My birthday and New Years are the two big ones.

But the end of summer has always been one of “those” times. I just don’t advertise it as much as the other times. 😉

So here’s to changes.

It’s been a good summer.

Back….

I’m back from vacation and slowly recovering.

Why is it that a “family” vacation always seems to tire you out more than a “business” trip?

/puzzled_face = on

Anyway, I came back just in time to deal with a huge email migration that’s been brewing for months at my work organization.

Basically, the idea was (NOT my idea) to take all the different groups within our large health care organization and merge everyone onto a single email/calendaring platform.

Great idea. Truly. I’m all for it.

Pretty poor planning is the problem.

It’s done now, and I can honestly say it could have gone a LOT worse than it did. However, it could have gone a lot better.

The main problem is that it was rushed. The whole project was rushed for a variety of reasons (a few are legit…most just plain silly). There wasn’t enough time to test things like the deployment package for the clients, or the overall connectivity, much less to really validate the process of moving all the accounts and associated massive quantities of email to the new system. This left out part of the whole process to scramble and try and predict what “might” go wrong.

A mentor of mine in the journalism world once told me, “You plan for the 90% of what can go wrong and roll with the other 10%. Truer words have never been spoken.

So it’s all done and we are on the “end run” of the whole business.

How’d it go?

In the words of a politician….”Mistakes were made”.

However, we survived and things are returning to “normal”.

But what I wanted to mention is that one of the main reasons it went so well…at least for our little part of the organization was the people I work with.

They all did a hell of a job prepping for this mess and then working through it.

As I said, it could have gone a LOT worse.

Thanks to those people, it didn’t.

That’s how things should work in a company. People outlining a project, knowing their roles, and doing the work, and then executing it.

So I’m thankful today for the great people I work with.

People make all the difference.