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So as many of you know, I suck at updating lately. But the (partial) reason for that will soon be explained. Also as many of you know, I am a technical writer by trade, meaning my job is to spend long, laborious hours writing documentation that no one will ever read because documentation is boring. Truly.
Sometime in the middle of last year, I decided I wanted to extend beyond my little literary fiefdom and learn something new, another skill set that I could use to make my job at <Fortune 500 Company> even more enjoyable – and profitable, if possible. As part of my job as a tech writer, I often had to document things in the user interface (UI) that made absodamnlutely no sense whatsoever. And whenever I questioned someone about why it looked like that or behaved that way, they most said “Eh, that’s the way it was designed/coded/why are you asking me, book nerd?” If you go through that enough times, you start thinking some pretty egotistical thoughts. Thoughts like “This sucks” and “It shouldn’t take 3 pages of documentation to describe a feature that takes 28 seconds to perform” and “I could TOTALLY design this better”. It’s that last one that got me.
After talking to my boss, we both concluded that it’d be a good idea if I learned the role of Systems Engineer, which is equivalent in our company to “business analyst” or “the person who finds out what the software ought to do, then designs it so that it actually does that very thing”, but that doesn’t fit easily on business cards, so “Systems Engineer” is the title of choice. The job of the systems engineer is to design software features, host collaboration team meetings between customers and internal personnel, serve as the subject matter expert for the assigned feature, and generally do a ton of cool stuff that technical writers drool over in their sleep. I apprenticed under another SE for awhile, and then later got handed my own project to work on by myself. Good times.
What I’m starting to learn, though, is that when you’re the giver of information rather than the receiver, the people you formerly considered to be knowledgeable and intelligent turn out to be…less than that. Sometimes they are dumber than a box of…dumb, boxed things. (Sorry folks, I’m still getting back into the swing of blogging again. The analogies will flow again.) Basically, my job is to write the specifications, and the developers (the guys and gals who do the software coding) use those specifications to code the software. But all too often, an exchange like this occurs.
I’ll write a specification that says, for example, “The window will be blue with a gray border” or whatever. The developer will then come to me and say “So Damian, I was about to code this window but I don’t know what color to make it.”
Me: “Make it blue, with a gray border, per the specification.”
Developer: “Hmm. I didn’t see that in the specification. Is that a new requirement?”
Me: “Um…no, it’s been in there the whole time.”
Developer: “Are you sure?”
Me (looking at him like he grew iPods out of his neck): “Yeeeeeeeah, I’m sure. I wrote it. So…yeah. It’s in there.”
Developer: “Well I didn’t see it. It sounds like an enhancement request to me.”
The words “enhancement request” are like a Get Out Of Jail Free card mixed with a lottery ticket dipped in gravy for developers, because it means they didn’t misinterpret the design or just straight-up miss it the first time around – it means it’s new shit. It means they don’t necessarily have to code it without approval from the project manager. And I am not that person.
Me: “It’s not. It’s been on page 23 since June.”
Me: “YES. Are you looking at the most recent version of the specification?”
Developer: “June 7, right?”
Me: “Um…no. November 8. And the requirement is in there.”
Developer: “Oh. Guess I must’ve missed that. OK…well, what color should the border be?”
Me: “I will kick you.”
I’ll keep you posted.
Some things shouldn’t have to be spelled out explicitly. Some things, like realizing the sun is hot and that Tang is the greatest drink in our galaxy, should be known inherently, without anyone having to be told or educated or enlightened. Particularly when you’re in a work environment, this list of things should be so blatantly obvious that no signs should be required, no clues needed, and no hints dispensed like Pez candy. And yet, it’s still amazing when I come across people who are either oblivious or just plain ballsy (read: stupid) enough to say “You know what? Social and/or office etiquette applies to pretty much everyone else except me, because I am full of win.” This is the story of such an encounter.
I don’t talk about work much here (hell, I don’t talk about much of ANYTHING here lately, right?), and the reason for that is pure self-preservation. Talking about work typically leads to no good, but some stories are too rich not to share. Because my team is spread out over 3 (or more) geographical areas, most of our meetings occur via teleconference. If we all have to view a presentation or see a document (or some other thing where everyone needs to be looking at the same thing simultaneously), we use either Netmeeting or an application called WebEx to share our desktops so that we can impress the other meeting participants with our brilliance. In this particular meeting, most of the participants were in my office, with two others on the phone. I volunteered to be the host (the person whose computer we’ll use to view the online portion of the meeting), while one of the people on the phone agreed to be the presenter (the person who shares his desktop so that everyone on the meeting can see what he’s seeing, working on, etc.). So to paint the picture, I had my laptop connected to a big-ass monitor in a conference room, and the Phone Person and I got connected so that he could show us what he was working on. Follow me so far? Good.
Now, the people in this meeting were an interesting combination of personalities. We are all veterans of the job, and pretty knowledgeable, but there are some very strong opinions that often get expressed in less-than-productive ways, depending on the subject of the meeting. These folks are often not afraid to express their feelings verbally, knowing that it’s all for the betterment of our products and our customers’ experience, not because we take things personally. OK, I couldn’t even type that with a straight face. Sometimes it IS personal, especially when people put a lot of themselves into the work they do, only to listen to someone else tear it down. I’m not saying it’s right, only that it’s human nature. This meeting was no different.
As Phone Guy began showing the team what he was working on (from his laptop, while we viewed that on MY laptop – keep up, people), one of the people in my office began peppering him with questions. I know them all fairly well, and I could tell by his tone that Phone Guy was getting a little annoyed at what he perceived as an assault on his work. Did he stay calm and weather the storm? No. Did he totally lose his shit and start yelling like Clint Eastwood in “Gran Torino”? Negative. He did something even better.
He sent an instant message to the other phone person, saying “This guy’s really pissing me off!”
While he was still sharing his laptop screen.
Meaning we could see everything… he… wrote.
And his boss was sitting right next to me.
I tried to help him out, people. I tried to minimize his screen from my side, but there was nothing I could do. We all saw that nonsense. His boss (who is also my boss’ boss) told him “Uh, we can still see your screen, Phone Guy. We saw everything you wrote.” Phone Guy then did two things that amazed me even more than the supremely stupid shit he just executed before our very eyes. First, when confronted (by his boss) about what he wrote, instead of stuttering, stammering, or backtracking, he replied “Good! He was pissing me off!” Second, at a time when most people would be profusely apologizing and trying to remember their boss’ favorite food/restaurant/sport to try to prevent a rapid firing, Phone Guy didn’t even so much as apologize or be even a little embarrassed. He kept right on rolling along as though our boss had said “Nice presentation”, completely unaffected by the sound of 6 jaws hitting the floor in our conference room. I just hung my head, completely dumfounded. The one bright spot? The person he wrote to was smart enough NOT to reply, because she knew he was still sharing his desktop to all of us. That meeting was a lot of things, but “boring” wasn’t one of them.
Evidently, my work gets numerous bomb threats. We get so many, in fact, that we have an official policy on what to do if someone calls in with a credible threat against the building or people. I mean, what does that say about what we do at work, when we have ROUTINE bomb threats? And no, I don’t work at an abortion clinic or at Microsoft, so don’t ask. When some irate customer calls in, we’re asked to keep him on the phone for as long as we can, and write down any pertinent information we hear, like where the bomb is and does Damian get a free pass since he’s only been here 10 months. We jot all this down calmly and neatly on a form that was made JUST for this very event. For your amusement, I decided to go ahead and show you what the official form looks like.
Pretty, ain’t it? I mean, can you imagine keeping a mad bomber on the phone long enough to gather all this intel? So I decided to fill in this form in a manner befitting my own personality and style. Check it:
Word. I’m thinking of just keeping one of these on standby, just in case.
I have had exactly zero time to blog, to diatribe, to even CONSIDER anything other than working and sleeping and the occasional rehearsal. I’m bushed.
I’ll try to get it back on track next week, folks. Keep reading Squirrel, Please.
EDIT: I’m in love with this article. Dear lord. THANK YOU COLORADO!!!
You know the drill by now. Look down to see how I did. And don’t judge me, either. I will throw a rock at you.
Week 3 of my potent near-perfect picks, people! I’m upping the ante this week. Look at this slate of games – ranked teams in all of ’em. I’m 9-1, I’m a winner, I smell good, and I’m feeling myself.
And I feel good.
Notice the strong southern slant on the games I picked. Sorry, West Coast – no real marquee matchups for you this week, outside of Oregon and Cal, and I just don’t care enough about either team right now to try to slide them in. That game looks like it’ll be pretty good, though. You West Coasters should enjoy the hell outta that one. And hey, check it out – Texas finally made the cut. Try not to have a coniption fit, Softball Slut. Ease up on the Dr. Pepper and Red Bull (please, for the love of the baby Jesus), and pray that I pick this game correctly.
Shall we do this? Yes. Let’s.
LSU at Florida, 3:30pm EST
This MIGHT be the game of the day. LSU’s defense is nasty, and not in that wet, slobbery way that I prefer, either. They are tough, they are fast, they are physical, and they will rearrange the number on your uniform when they hit you. Offensively, they have JaMarcus Russell at QB (honestly, my people go too far with the names. “JaMarcus”? Come on now, brothas and sistas. Just name him Marcus and get on with it.), and they score 38 points per game. But UF is no slouch either, with Chris Leak and Wynn at tailback. LSU has the worst fans ever, by the way. Worse than Georgia’s (and you’ll see what I’m talking about in a minute). Hey, am I the only person who factors in which mascot would kick the most ass when deciding picks? ‘Cause I’m thinking an alligator would fuck a tiger UP. With the quickness.
Prediction: 17-14 LSU
Outcome: 23-10 Florida
Boy, was I off. I never imagined that LSU would lay an egg like this. After all, tigers are mammals, and mammals just don’t lay eggs. Except for the platypus. And we all know how weird that animal is. What, did God sneeze while he held animal parts in his hands? Focus. Florida’s Tim Tebow had the craziest touchdown pass in the history of ever when he ran toward the goal line, jumped straight up in the air, double-clutched the football in one hand, and basically lobbed the football like a water balloon over the LSU defense and into the hands of a falling-down receiver. It was some shit you have to rewind 4 or 5 times, ’cause you just can’t believe what you just saw. It was sweet. Well, bittersweet. The team I picked lost, dammit. Bastards.
Tennessee at Georgia, 7:45pm EST
Another good game with intriguing plotlines. Other than their rankings, all I know about either teams is this: Tennessee tries (and fails) to mimic the glorious colors of Clemson’s burnt orange; and the last time I was between the hedges at Georgia, I left there ducking beer bottles and threats against my life. And Georgia had DESTROYED Clemson in that game. What if Clemson had WON? I believe the phrase “I’m gonna fuck you up” would change to “I’m gonna up and fuck you.” And no one wants that. Well, I don’t. Damn bunch of redneck yokels. They scare me. That’s why they’re gonna win.
Prediction: 30-17 UGA
Outcome: 51-33 Tennessee
This is some bullshit, right here. Tenn hung 51 on a (previously thought of as) good UGA team, and they did it like it wasn’t shit for them to do this to good teams. I watched this game, clutching my chest like Fred G. Sanford the entire time, watching as my pick ONCE AGAIN was going down like a friend of mine in a special ed portable. You know who you are. Don’t even front – I will call you out. No one could’ve predicted this outcome. In the SEC, ranked teams just don’t score 50 on each other. I don’t feel so bad about this one.
West Virginia at Mississippi State, 2:30pm EST
I’m still not quite sure why WVU (or is it WVA? Hell if I know.) is ranked so high. Who do they have naked pictures of? Seriously. I’m not saying they’re not good…I’m simply asking why they have to be #4 in the country. Can you say “overrated”? Yes, I know they’ve got that All-Whatever RB Slaton and that QB White, but #4 in the whole COUNTRY? For cryin’ out loud, they’ve beaten Marshall, Eastern Washington, Maryland, and East Carolina. Forgive me if I’m underwhelmed. That loud thud you hear will be them crashing back to earth when they pick up their first loss at Louisville, and the sound of their national title hopes catching the first Greyhound to Ann Arbor, Michigan. But this week? They got this.
Prediction: 35-21 WVU (or WVA…whichever it is)
Outcome: 42-14 WVU or WVA or WWF or whatever
Finally — a game that ended up pretty much like I thought it would. And again, I nail the total score. Swear to God, people, I’m nice at this! It always seems to be that third pick, too. If you haven’t yet bet on me, go. Go now. And I’m serious about splitting some of those funds with yours truly, since I’m the brains behind the picks. Just sayin’, that’s all. I don’t really have anything good to say about SVU or WWE or SWV or whatEVER West Virginia goes by, except to say that there’s still no way they should be ranked as high as they are. This is the problem with preseason rankings. Check it: before a single game is played, the powers that be determine who they think are the top 25 teams in the country. So let’s say you win all your games, but you played KinderCare Preschool, the St. Louis School for the Blind and Lame, the Sisters of The Virgin Mary Parochial School, and Duke. Well, duh, you’re 4-0, right? And if you were already ranked #4 or #5 in the country, you’re not going anywhere. Now, let’s say you play some decent schools, and win your games, but you weren’t ranked in the preseason (like Rutgers and Boise State this year). At the same point in time in the season, you’re squeaking by at #22 or #24 or whatever, even though your record is exactly the same as a West Virginia team who hasn’t beaten anyone any more impressive than you have. Where’s the justice there? A playoff would solve some of this inequity, but saying “playoff” to Division 1-A athletic directors is like saying their mothers blow sailors for fifty cents a pop. Shit needs to stop.
Texas at Oklahoma (in Dallas), 3:30pm EST
Awwwwwwww, shit! As I write this, I’m sitting in the Hilton Anatole Dallas hotel at a work-related conference. There are Texas and OU fans everywhere here, spreading out like ants at a barbeque I’m hosting. I’m not sure about this game. Conventional wisdom says that Texas should pound OU (or “Mobilehoma”, as I like to call them) into a nice creamy slush, but OU has Adrian Peterson, and he ain’t no punk. You’d think, living in Texas, I’d have some loyalty to them, but I don’t. Nor do I like OU. I just like needling people who DO love either team. Truthfully, I wish it would end in a 2-2 tie. That way neither team could boast or brag – they’d have to shut up until next year. But I can’t pick a tie. I have to pick a winner. Big Tex down here at the State Fair told me that if I don’t pick Texas, he was gonna piss on my Jeep. Guess I know what’s up.
Prediction: 21-14 Texas
Outcome: 28-10 Texas
Wow. This was a big game for UT, and a big win. The first half was all Mobilehoma, with them grinding it out behind Adrian Peterson. But damn – someone must’ve insulted the state of Texas to the UT team at halftime, ’cause when they came out, they beat the monkeysnot out of OU. Colt McCoy (honestly, who names their child Colt? Was Gelding already taken?), the freshman UT QB, was brilliant. I don’t even like UT all that much, but I was cheering for them hard in the 2nd half. And in this game, I was off the total score by only 3 points, which doesn’t even suck. The only bad thing about UT winning is dealing with UT fans after they win. No offense guys (well, fuck it – if it offends, it’s because the shit’s true), but y’all get a little TOO into it when you win. I don’t need to see the hook ’em horns in the bathroom, OK? Or in church, either. You beat a mediocre OU team. Congrats. Last time I checked, they don’t hand out national championship trophies in October, so quit acting like you just won your BCS bowl game and American Idol on the same day. You were supposed to beat OU. Do I cheer when I pay a bill on time? Well…yeah. But that’s me. You’re supposed to be BETTER than that.
Clemson at Wake Forest, 12:00pm EST
You do realize that I’m pretty much always gonna pick Clemson, right? I mean, you know this. This is my school, my alma mater. I love them like I love my sons. This week they travel to Wake Forest, where they lost the last time they played there. WF is also 5-0, after beating such great teams as Syracuse, Duke (powerhouse), Connecticut (titans, they are), Mississippi (sans Eli Manning, meaning sans good players), and…Liberty. Yes. Liberty. They beat LIBERTY, can you BELIEVE it? I didn’t even know Liberty had a football team. I bet they actually don’t – they found a high school with the same colors as them, and ran those kids out against WF just to collect the fee for showing up. This is the emptiest 5-0 record in the history of 5-0. Hell, this ain’t even Hawaii 5-0. I’m not saying they suck, but I AM saying that they will be 5-1 after this weekend, even with Clemson losing their top WR for a few weeks.
Prediction: 31-14 Clemson
Outcome: 27-17 Clemson
1 point off the total score. I’m so money, when I cough, nickels fall out of my mouth. But this was very nearly a total catastrophe, because Clemson apparently didn’t even show up until the 4th quarter of the game, when they scored 24 unanswered points to seal the win. I didn’t get to watch this game, on account of having to give a work presentation on a Saturday morning, but I’m glad I didn’t see it. By the time I checked in on it, Clemson was already in the lead near the end of the game, and I was saved the heartburn and headache of watching them dick around for 3 quarters, which would’ve made me madder than Lucy Liu when her favorite L.A. salon runs fresh out of Bitch. They’re 5-1 this year, with that one loss being a total heartbreaking, double overtime 34-33 loss to Boston College. They should’ve won that game. But now they’re really focused and locked in, and now that they’re ranked #12, they should stay hungry on the off chance that they can compete for a title. And God help us all if that were to happen. I’d be impossible to live with.
Well, that concludes my picks and results for last week. For the week I was a mediocre 3-2, giving me an overall record of 12-3, which doesn’t suck at all, but since I strive for perfection, it’s a bacon strip on the underpants of my football picks. I guess that’s what I get for increasing the odds, eh? Maybe I’ll back up off that shit this coming Friday.