Monday, November 03, 2014

Laugh, Cry, Whatever

I'm on site this week.  I have a customer who is experiencing a problem with their PRI provider.  They have an existing span which fails when they move it to our equipment.  It's actually a very interesting failure as this absolutely SHOULD work.

So why am I dragging my butt out of bed, putting on my pajamas and blogging about it?

I am a low-level minion now at COMPANY NAME REDACTED so my job is to answer the phone, work the problem and move on.  I was passed over for promotion and I would normally say something like, "The other guy is really good and they had a tough choice" except for I was hired for that job.  I was supposed to be a low-level minion at COMPANY NAME REDACTED while I learned the product and then I was to be moved to a mid-level minion.  Instead, I am in support queue Hell.

Low level minions are NOT supposed to go on site.  So why am I?  As my boss put it, I am just the eyes and ears for our top-level minion.

Of course, he didn't respond to my IMs or emails all day today, so I did what I do.  I worked the problem.

I shouldn't gripe but I've been doing support for fifteen years at this point.  The way to be successful at support is to get the call, work the call, fix the problem.  Three simple steps.  Support isn't like making widgets where each widget is exactly the same and you should be able to make 30 an hour or whatever, each support case is different, different things have been tried, the setup for each is different, you must be flexible and it takes however long it takes.

With the advent of "The Great Recession" (tm) employers started hiring "Consultants" (remember kids, if you aren't part of the solution, you're a consultant) to review "Metrics".  Metrics are all about how to do more with less.  So the assembly line of support is created.

Get the call, work the call, give the customer something to do, get off the call and onto the next call.

I STRONGLY disagree with this model as I am one of the guys who gets the frustrated and now pissed of customer who has been fighting a problem all day long and feeling like he's getting the run around.  I (and some others) wind up working the call and trying to recover the customer and making sure the problem gets fixed.  This is great for CSAT, but total crap for Metrics.  I take longer to work calls and therefore pull fewer.  Although when I do send a case up, chances are fair that it is a legit problem. (Not always, I am human.)

So my stubborn insistence on doing things the right way directly impacted my moving to mid-level minion.

So, what does this mean?  Nothing really.  No time to write (beyond this), no time to rehearse music, no time to play in a band outside of church, no time for illustrations.

In short, no time for fun in life.  Makes you wonder, "Why bother?"

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Magic Of Apathy

A co-worker found a very effective way to deal with difficult cases.  He followed Roderick's Rules and performed a "Deny, Deny, Deny".

Let me expand.

I get a frustrated customer from Widgets Inc. that said my co-worker (let's call him "Fred" for this example) was supposed to have called him back last night.  I check the case and there are no notes from Fred and Fred did not take ownership of the case.  So, as far as our records showed, Fred never touched the case or talked to this customer.

Normally in tech support you follow the "Trust, but verify" model which means, the person on the phone isn't lying to you, but they might be wrong in what they are telling you.  This is a pretty effective method for everything so I tried to reach Fred on IM.  Unfortunately Fred was at lunch.

The customer was VERY SPECIFIC about what Fred did, said and told them he was going to do.  Plus they were pretty upset that they weren't called back.  So I wind up working the case with an unhappy customer trying to get them back to happy status.

It was a beautiful job on Fred's part.  He ditches the unhappy customer, the difficult case, plus his STATS look good and since he put nothing in the case, he gets no blow back.

I'm now working under a couple of different stat metrics which are screwing me.  First, the more cases you pull, the better your stats.  Balance that with the customer satisfaction survey (CSAT) and it rolls together to determine who gets a better shift at the end of the rotation.

Fool me once...

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Body Envy

I was in high school when the movie Top Gun came out in 1986.  I remember the volleyball scene and while the scene was in there to provide eye candy for the ladies, it was soul crushing for a 14 year old airplane geek.

Well, hello there ladies!
Yep, I wanted to fly jets.  Prior to 1986 I wasn't looking anywhere other than the cockpit of an F-15.  It was (and still is) a BEAST of an aircraft.  Top Gun changed that for me and I was dying to fly an F-14.  When the F-18 came to the fleet, I was still a Tomcat fanboy.

Furthermore, I wanted to be a sex symbol.  To have the ladies oooh and ahhh over my chiseled features.

I wanted to be a hunky guy like Val Kilmer.

Finally I accomplished at 42 what I couldn't do at 14.

Well, hello ladies!  NOM!  NOM!  NOM!
Yep, I finally have Val Kilmer's body.  We are literally twice then man we used to be.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Is The Audience Listening?

I started to write a blog post refuting NASA's latest claims that Global Warming is on temporary hiatus, but rest assured it is just around the corner waiting to steal your lunch money and have unprotected sex with you when you least expect it.

Kind of like The Spanish Inquisition. No one expects The Spanish Inquisition!

I didn't write about it. Despite articles pointing to no increase in global temperatures for 15+ years.  Despite articles explaining the Arctic Ice sheet is at its highest summer level in years. Despite even the coolest Summer on record in years.

Did I not write about this because I am afraid? Because I am a flat-Earther or a Luddite or because I cannot bear to understand the intricacies in my tiny brain?

No, I didn't write about it because everyone has already made their minds up.  Writing about it will only be ignored on the Left, and sounding into an echo chamber on the Right.  Everyone thinks their opinion is the only one that is right.  The key there is "Opinion".

Most of us are not educated scientists. I'm a tech support geek.  I dropped out of college.  I will most likely never run a fortune 500 company or be a millionaire.   When I die, my family and some friends will care, but the majority of the world won't.  In short, I'm nobody.  My opinion doesn't matter.  I am to pay my taxes and complain about politics like a good minion.  My opinion means  nothing.

What my life and my career has taught me above all else is "Trust but verify."  Remember that phrase from the 80's?  Talking about our nuclear arsenal and our disarmament methods with the Soviet Union.  I always begin by giving the other side the benefit of the doubt.  Their intentions may be pure. I then verify the facts.  Very often (but not always) we find something they insisted they had "Already checked" which they missed.  I then graciously agree that it was weird that the setting changed itself on its own and wow, I'll be on the lookout for problems like that in the future.

I truly believe the customer was 100% confident and sincere in their statements, however it's my job to figure out why their phones don't work.

Global Warming folks (aka Climate Scientists) are continuing to rail into the night skies that the end is near, man will destroy the world.  Only their short-term predictions haven't come through.


I'm reminded of several years back when the local meteorologists predicted a Winter storm that was going to dump several inches of snow on Dallas.  They told us when it was going to start and the local news had reporters at major intersections to record the chaos.  Those reporters stood in the cold describing how ominous the skies looked,  how it could break loose at any second and how despite no Winter precipitation the roads were going to be treacherous.

It never came.  The snow completely missed us.  We watched through the night as the snowfall estimates were adjusted lower, and lower, and lower, until they were forced to admit we "Dodged a bullet."

The meteorologists did just what the Climate Scientists are doing.  Changing the facts, to fit their prediction.

Weird, I wrote about Climate Change after all.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Observations From Our Trip To Memphis

- Texarkana occasionally smells like deviled eggs three hours after Thanksgiving Dinner.

- Always bring THE WIFE on a road trip. You never know when your debit card will be suddenly cancelled by your bank. Like when you don't have enough gas to get back to Dallas or forward to Memphis.

- My cousin Emily is still the most loving soul on the planet. She is a constant source of hope for me.

- My father and my cousin Randy hit it off right away. I knew they would when Randy showed up still carrying his Glock from his latest shooting competition and the subject changed to companies moving to Texas. My dad chimed in with, "Oh yeah, did you see the graphic in the NRA magazine...?"

Randy had. :)

- My beautiful granddaughter (aka: pookie, lumpy, or moonbeam) is a road warrior and a constant source of smiles and laughs.

- The Pink palace museum has a shrunken human head on exhibit. Sadie was fascinated by it and carefully read the recipe for making one.

- The boys Sadie date in the future will have a tough time deciding whether to be more afraid of me, or her. (I still will have access to a wood chipper, although now I may have to save the head for her in my process.)

- I am blessed more than anyone can ever know.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

We Are All Comrades Now!


I have had a change of heart.  My old, cruel Capitalist ways have gotten me nowhere.  I have now seen the glory of the Socialist dream!  There is enough of everyone else's for all of us!

Little did I know that years ago when THE WIFE (The Comrade Who Must Be Obeyed) and I came up with Tater Tots for the Masses I was already harboring the Socialist dream deep in my red bosom.  I mean, after all, the Tater Tots were for the Masses, not for me.  I was distributing technical support drivel and pain like golden drops from the mouth of Lenin himself. (Vlad, not John.)

I accept my new role in life.  I plan to redesign the site to take part in the glorious workers revolution.

I have a dream!  A dream that one day we may all have equal amounts of Tater Tots!*  We shall all live and work as one!

Yours in Glorious Socialism,
Comrade Tots

*Some amounts more equal than others.  As has always been the worker's way.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

On Blogging... And Itching

So, let me recap the last bit and why I don't really exist anymore.

I took a job with a giant software company and stopped blogging and writing for the most part.  I just didn't have time any longer.  I found myself working 12 and 14 hour days just to keep up.  Things were busy.

I've left that job, a large part so I could have a life outside of work.  I wanted to spend time with my kids without feeling that I would be punished for not producing.  It was a LOT of work harder, not smarter.

Think of it like this, I had my boss who reviewed what I did and I was assigned cases daily.  Once I got my cases, they were added to my backlog.  Also daily we had a "Crit Watch" for cases the customer deemed "Critical".  Every day we would get a "Critical" case escalated and those of us in the watch during that time period would do a version of Rock, Paper Scissors to decide who would work it.

None of us had the bandwidth to ever take it.

So, that's fairly stressful, but the kicker was the group of "Technical Account Managers".  Their job was to be advocates for the customer.  That's a good thing, except, they had the power to hit us up directly and demand we work on their customer's case now.  90% of the guys were good, but the 10% who were unreasonable drove me insane.  If we didn't work according to their satisfaction, they would raise the severity, ping my boss etc...  So the reality was a user who had a problem in the big picture was cosmetic or an annoyance, would get more attention than a customer with problems making actual calls.

I was pretty depressed.

Some of the guys stood up to them and my boss backed them.  It didn't seem to work that way for me.  It seemed like when I took a stand I got bit.

I moved to another job with a smaller phone manufacturer.  The hours are fewer, the stress is much lower and the work is filtered through my boss, so I don't have 500 bosses all telling me how their customer wants things fixed NOW!

The flip side is, metrics.  It's always metrics.  How many calls do you take, how long are you on the phone, etc...?  I could play the metrics game, but the question is how good is that?  I have seen some of the work from folks who play the game (and have been rewarded for it) and it sucks.

It's the age old struggle when you work for someone else.

Now that I have changed, I have an itch again.  The writing itch, the drawing itch, the itch that has been gone for so long.

Will I scratch that itch?  Will it get infected if I do?  Wait, maybe it's not the writing itch, maybe I caught something from the toilet seat?

Friday, April 11, 2014

The UN Gets Into IT

So with some time to let the whole ICANN thing stew in my brain a bit, I'm going to go out on a limb and say I don't like the idea of the UN running the internet.

Yeah, I know. Shocker, right?

Seeing as how my career has been tied to the internet for the last ten years or so I can't imagine why anyone would thing I do approve of this load of crap.

There are some good countries in the UN.  Countries like the UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, Israel, etc...  There are also some crap countries. Countries like Iran, Syria, North Korea, Pakistan (pronounced Pock-EE- Stahn), Saudi Arabia, etc...

Why would the US, who is the last hope for freedom int he world give up control of the backbone of society today? Can you imagine when the UN gets involved and starts putting restrictions on what can and can't be said?

"Oh, but Tots," you say, "it's only the naming convention.  So they will just be in control of who gets web URLS.  It's not like they will be putting firewalls on the web."

Yeah, and I'm saving $2,500 on my insurance this year... NOT

With the new tax accounting system counting my insurance as income, even with four kids and tons of donations I'm lucky to break even.

Put down the Kool Aid and wake up people!

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Day By Day Nails It

The third party won't happen in time for 2016.  I pray to God we have a chance for 2020.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Time To Get A Fatwah Declared

There was an interesting read over at iOwnTheWorld where Cardigan shared information on a group of Muslim truck drivers who refused to carry shipments of alcohol and were then fired.

It appears the Federal government is intervening on their behalf as their religious rights were violated.

So here we have a group of men who knew they would be transporting goods of all sorts, but they refused to do the work on religious grounds.  There are plenty of arguments to be made regarding if Islam forbids the transport of alcohol or not, but the bottom line is these guys signed a contract saying they would transport goods from one location to the next.  They failed to live up to their contract and were fired.

Let's compare this with the baker who refused to bake a cake for a gay couple.  This is a situation where the baker was asked to perform a job and refused.  He didn't agree to do the job and failed to deliver, he said he would not based on his religious grounds.  This has led to a judge ordering the baker to "cease and desist from discriminating" against gay couples or face financial penalties.

I guess the argument can be made that the refusal to accept a job resulted in humiliation to the gay couple, but why is the government intervening on behalf of the Muslim men?  Is there a bias against Christianity?

We have three choices going forward, we can continue to stand our ground and refuse to do things contrary to our religious beliefs, we can declare ourselves to be Muslim to see if the treatment is the same or we can go Gault and simply say we don't have the time to perform any duties that violate God's rules.

I'm choosing the first.  We are being targeted for a reason and we must stand firm in our beliefs.  We will be called h8ters, bigots, racist, etc...  The list never ends.

Keep in mind, how much fun the second choice could be.  For someone willing to follow through there will eventually be an identical case where Christians are persecuted and Muslims are not.  That could be a lot of fun.

Now that I think about it, does anyone know a Muslim baker I can send some gay folks to?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Getting Older

I've been asked a question I'm pondering how honest to be on.  The younger me would be discreet and keep my mouth shut. Maybe... I think hack to how na├»ve I've been in the past. Who knows.

I've been asked to provide feedback on how to improve some things.  Being the new man on the team could lead to me getting labeled as an ego maniac.  The bottom line is I've done support for fifteen years and my company is paying me too much money to work basic adds, moves and changes type stuff.  Getting through the tiered stuff is wearing on me too. What's the point in taking a case if you don't get the satisfaction of completing it?

A second thing is my first personality conflict is rearing up.  I'm trying to be lighthearted and laugh things off, but I'm having some serious issues with how a coworker is interacting with me.  I guess I'm expecting too much and I have no desire to air dirty laundry, lets just say I'm ready to change to the position I interviewed for.

I'm going to set up a one on one with my new boss.  I've decided I understand my time in T1.  All well and good to get to understand the product  (not sure why Microsoft didn't run that way) but I want to know what goals and/or timeline I can expect before moving to Tier 2.  Paying dues is one thing, I just want to understand and set expectations.  I do not want to stay in Tier 1.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014


If you are looking for funny, you might want to step away for a minute.  I promise funny is coming, but not yet.  I HAVE to get this out of the way and get on track.

In July of 1997 I quit smoking.  I had my oldest son and my baby boy Christopher (now Chris, he finally won out on that battle) and I realized I wanted to see my children grow up.  I smoked my last cigarette in my back yard and just didn't buy any more.

Three more babies came along, Benjamen, Lucie and then Sadie.

In between Ben and Lucie, we moved to Dallas when I took a new job.  I was in Hammond, Indiana working on a hospital PBX when 9-11 happened.  All the planes were grounded and I couldn't get home.  I had a ticket to fly out of Midway airport on the afternoon of 9-11.  All I could do was watch the news and cry over the phone with my family.

My son didn't believe I was alive.  He knew I was flying home that day and saw enough to know planes flew into buildings and he was convinced I was in them.

I decided I had become fat and lazy.  I weighed 326 pounds and when I flew out to Chicago I had to have a seat belt extender to get buckled.  I was humiliated...

but not enough to stop eating...

THE WIFE got me a book called "Body for Life" and I followed it religiously.  I told her, "It's only 14 weeks, I can do anything for 14 weeks."  I lost 60 something pounds (I was too dumb to keep track).  I kept telling myself, how could I protect my kids when I couldn't run, or fight or do anything.

Once I came off the Body for Life program I started eating in my old ways.  I was still working out, so I thought everything would be OK.  Then one weekend, I had to go to the hospital with the worst pain I have ever felt in my life. My abdomen was giving off a pain I can't describe and nothing would ease it.  THE WIFE finally got me to my doc and she sent me to the ER.  Turns out I had gallstones.

Gallstones formed when I started eating the fatty crap again and my liver and gallbladder couldn't clean everything up properly.  Out came the gallbladder and no more pain, but I couldn't work out for six weeks.  That was the death knell for my "Program".

The weight came back.

I went through another program and dropped 40 pounds like a mad man by taking shots and eating a thousand calories a day. (I forget the name of it, but it was supposed to be 400 calories, but shag it all I can't do that.)

The weight came back.

Late 2013 I went into the hospital with chest pains.  The tech who set me up in bed told he he thought I was a D-Lineman for the Cowboys.  We laughed when my weight was 336 and I told him I would make a good Nose Guard in the 3-4.

So what does this have to do with 343?

Today I went to the doc for flu.  I got Tamilflu which is saving my butt, but I also got my weight. 343.

I can't live like this.  I have to change.  I have a wife, five kids and my oldest son and his wife have a baby coming.  I will be a grandfather soon and I so want to be there for my granddaughter.  I want to dance at her wedding.

14 weeks.  I can do ANYTHING for 14 weeks.