Posts Tagged ‘questions’

Bankruptcy Plan

21 July 2010

Dear J-

So let’s pick out the perfect thing tonight — for me I’ll take the easy road out and say the perfect camera.  The perfect camera doesn’t exist.  It’s the next size up, for stability and low-light capability, or it’s the next size down, because you want to be able to take it anywhere.  It’s the one you left at home.  It’s the one whose battery just ran out.  It’s the one you’d use if you just knew how to make it work right, and it’s the one you’re so familiar with you forget about the right settings.  It’s the one with the feature you need, but didn’t get (video, macro, fast sequence shots, what-have-you) in the interests of time or money.

You can spend your time chasing what you haven’t got, of course.  And camera companies are always happy to part you with your money when you decide that what you have isn’t what you need:  it’s a business model that works for them.  It’s not planned obsolescence, it’s general philosophy:  Canon seem interested in rolling out the latest bells and whistles which makes Nikon fans defensive of that company’s conservative approach to change, but Nikonians gloat just as much when Canon’s initiatives fall flat and early adopters are revealed as late beta testers.  Meanwhile Pentax, Minolta, and Olympus guys are like Rodney Dangerfield:  no respect.

figgy keeps me sane, of course.  In the past month or so she’s somehow become a little girl who talks much more sense than nonsense, stringing together whole sentences and requests, not always politely, but clearly understandable.  I imagine her asking why — as she does ask why a lot (“Why aren’t you wearing any PANTS, daddy?”) — why I would need camera X, for instance.  It helps counteract the deafening voices on forums and review sites insisting that you need this feature or that capability; verbalize it and try to make it make sense (“Well, because when you peep through this little eyepiece, the picture is bigger”) to a three-year-old.  Whole companies could collapse overnight.



Questioning Attitude

12 May 2010

Dear J-

Is time a bank account or more of an allowance? You get up every day with a full balance and draw it down throughout the day, but it is replenished anew each night. Where do we choose to spend it? There are so many opportunities to use up your time throughout, so be wary. My particular day was spent putting hands on fires, and once that part was over, the craziness didn’t let up. Down time isn’t always available, so you take it where you can: walking alone, singing (very off-key) in the car, pushing uphill; there’s a secret to being alone in a crowd, isn’t there?

It’s so easy to waste time; inertia takes over once you get going. Maybe that’s why I keep flitting from topic to topic like a butterfly — I’ve often wondered what our computer security folks think when poking through my browsing history, which often shows a rabbit trail of wikipedia entries (Easter Island and the Thunder Stone today) with only the most tenuous of connections.

I’ve heard more than once how the rise of cell phones that do everything and social-networking sites have contributed to alwasy being plugged in yet distant, personally. We spoof the teen who can’t communicate except by texting, and yet there’s precious little we do remedy the situation. Perhaps it’s less a defect to change and more a new evolution in the way we’ll all be in the future. Would we have counted on the power of, say, a facebook to find and reconnect with friends even five years ago?


Day 13: Gamesters of Triskelion

7 April 2010

Dear J-

At some point today I read the instructions for a verbal counseling session and felt all kinds of deja vu — they were an exact match, down to the philosophy and key points, of a meeting we had after I left to catch my vanpool without completing a work assignment (I’d talked with my partner on it and we’d agreed that there was no huge rush, but we were mistaken). Thus today was spent mulling over that particular meeting as we went over the world of labor relations, management and unions, grievances and disputes.

We’ve already got three days slated for this, and I’ve switched from water to iced tea in the afternoons in an attempt to stay alert (of course it doesn’t help that I never seem to be able to go to bed early lately); it’s not that the presentation isn’t interesting, but I’m not convinced that I’m going to be in a position to supervise represented exempt employees soon, though stranger things have happened. The more diverse topics we cover the more respect I have for my classmates; we’ve got experts on everything we’ve touched on so far, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see us through the rest of the five weeks without leaving somebody’s comfort zone.

We’re now officially just over halfway through the course. I actually got a call from work yesterday and I surprised myself with the appropriate answer so even though I was wondering the clue to my password earlier today, I haven’t completely forgotten everything yet (ASTM A182 is, generically, an acceptable substitute for A403, but that’s the sort of thing a good procurement-type should know). Eventually we’re going back to real life and productive work, but for now we continue to learn amazing things about each other.


Busy Days

2 February 2009

Dear J-

The busy days are not necessarily the most productive days; spend all your time fielding questions — large and small — and there’s no way that you’re getting traction on the things that litter your plate.  I’m back on five days a week, after catching up on weekend e-mails, and starting to believe that seven wouldn’t be enough.  It’s a question of priorities and possibilities, though, and I’m pretty sure I can work my way through them.  Yet how much time do we waste giving the appearance of the right thing, versus actually doing those things?  Face time shouldn’t come at the expense of work, but for the sake of sending people to meetings we’re stuck in meetings to give people reassurances without knowledge.

What do we know about how the rest of the world works?  Why do we believe that all management styles are transferrable?  What works at, say, the Home Depot doesn’t necessarily translate well into a power production industry and yet I read about how many different companies have chosen the same software as us — as well as my current city — and we squawk with outrage that it’s not a nimble, tailored program.  Such is the curse of any one-size-fits-all solution, whether software or philosophy.

Everyone likes to pound their chests a little and declare how different they are, and yet we end up making a lot of the same choices — things are not popular without reasons.  I’m just saying that maybe we’ve sold ourselves a little short on believing that common tools can be adapted to fit every situation.  Yes, a locking pliers may be as close to a universal wrench as man has invented (perhaps less so than, say, a blue wrench), but that doesn’t always make it the best choice for a particular job — it may be convenient, but not best.  Hence you’ve got to wonder about the failure of imagination that leads to recommending the most popular tool as the right one without concrete benefits.


Spider Juggle

4 August 2008

Dear J-

The last couple of mornings, I’ve managed to blunder into a spider’s web (to be precise, one of the long support lines) coming out of the door with the dogs.  By the time I get back, ten or fifteen minutes on, the web has completely disappeared, taken down either in haste or panic.  They say that spiders can sense threats by the nature of vibrations transmitted through the web — a leaf isn’t going to feel the same as a trapped insect, and no doubt a giant mammal blundering through a web brings on a clear message:  get out, potential predator.  Likewise, the web is usually down by dawn; nothing quite so easy for a bird to spot as a spider dead-center on a web by daylight.

I can’t help but think of the efficiency of the spider and contrast it to work, where, like Kevin Bacon’s character shouts, increasingly hoarsely at the end of Animal House, “all is well.”   Surely the first few reports have come back with discouraging results; I bluntly stated on Friday that we’re headed for the cliff in an e-mail that eventually got forwarded to one of our site VPs.  Yes, I know we’re not going to be able to go back.  Question is, what did we hope for in forging forward anyway?

I’m not much of a multitasker; give me enough balls to juggle and I can guarantee you that I’ll start dropping them before long.  It feels like when I’m not on the phone, I’m answering e-mails or personal supplicants, and there’s just not enough time in the day to do everything absolutely correctly.  As correct as possible, sure, but even that becomes a moving target when you get to reinvent your work processes on a daily basis.



24 November 2006

Dear J-

How in the world did the A-Team ever make any money? By the time the episode ends, they’ve returned grandma’s pension money, less straight expenses (uh, light bulb — sorry, that’ll be 25 cents), with a smile. No wonder B.A. had a bad attitude.

And what’s the deal with the female member of the Team? To be eight again, and the biggest worries whether or not BA would bump off Murdock halfway through the episode …