plonq: (Christmas Mood)
I have not ruled out doing a picture a day in 2016 like I did a few years back. I had been tentatively planning to do it this year, but when I thought I was going to be spending the first few months working long hours on strike relief, I shelved the idea. There are no pending strikes in the coming year though.

One of the reasons why I am considering it is because it would encourage me to take more pictures. I have been going through some of my older shots lately, looking for ones that might be salvageable, or simply overlooked in the sheer volume of shots I was taking back then. One thing that strikes me when I look at them now is that even though I was shooting more back then, the ones that I take now are composed better.

I found this one hiding in a batch of shots from 2005/2006. I guess I never used it at the time because the original was blurry - the auto-focus on our old Olympus was very sluggish - and I did not have decent software to try and address that. There was only so much I could do for the blurriness, so I tweaked the picture a bit to make the blur part of the picture, rather than an unwanted artefact. I think it adds to the mystique.
Mysterious

This was from the (long defunct) vegan, counter-culture coffee bar where we used to hold regular furmeets.
plonq: (Kinda bleah mood)
I am doing about midway through another week of on-call support for work. When I was doing this last year, it was a two-week stint, but I think it was actually a better gig in some ways.

Last year, we had two support people. When you started your first week of support, you were on the secondary job. You were supposed to handle on-line incidents, and take calls during off-hours. Sometimes this involved going in to the office and spending four hours testing systems when they were migrating applications, but usually secondary support was not terribly stressful.

The next week, a new person would take over the secondary role and you would move to the primary job. The main task of the primary support person was to monitor the production of our daily operations report. This is a dashboard that the executive team uses for measuring the pulse of our company. The main difference between primary and secondary was that you were only on-call during business hours as the primary person, and your hours were set. You started at 4:00MT and worked until 13:00MT (so my shift ran from 5:00 to 14:00). It could be stressful at times, but it was nice being done by early afternoon - especially during the summer.

When they automated the final publishing of the dashboard, and moved it over to a Unix-based scheduling server, they decided that they did not need two support people any more, so they cut it back to a single person who is on 24/7, on-call support for a week at a time.

In my last round, I was dragged out of bed 6 out of the 7 days I was on call. I got so twitchy that I was having trouble sleeping knowing that the phone was by my bed. I would usually wake up around 4 because I was expecting it to ring. Sometimes I would awaken because I had simply dreamt that I heard it ring, only for it to actually ring about an hour later while I was trying to get back to sleep.

I was encouraged somewhat when I was looking over the call logs last week and noted that we had not had a support call since the 2nd. I was not sure if the guy on the desk just hadn't bothered updating the logs, so I asked one of the other guys in the head office about it and he assured me that the logs were accurate.

When my current shift started on Friday afternoon, I set up the phone next to the bed before I retired, but buoyed by the news that things were running pretty well, I actually slept well. I did not get a single call on Saturday. Maybe things were looking up.

Then I got a wake-up call on Sunday, but I was half expecting it. Sunday is the day when our servers spontaneously catch fire. Sunday, bloody Sunday. I ended up fielding three calls that day and spent nearly 11 hours working various support issues. It pretty much shot the entire day to hell. The phone did not wake me on Monday, but I woke several times during the night in anticipation of it. I did get a call shortly after I got up, for something that I had never handled before. It's always fun to get blind-sided with new stuff.

Last night I woke up around 3 because I thought the phone rang. Either I dreamt it rang, or I heard a phantom ring, or the cat farted really loud - the end result was that I was awake. I managed to doze off and on fitfully until my alarm went off at 6, but I've essentially been on the go since 3.

I think the worst part of it is that when the phone goes off, it is usually waking me out of a deep sleep. I am literally stumbling out of the bedroom, all-but naked muttering a slurred salutation into the phone and trying to wrap my addled brain around incident numbers, what system has broken, and if I would even know how to fix it if I was fully awake. It is the very definition of a rude awakening.

[livejournal.com profile] atara mentioned some time back that she has come to loathe the sound of the ring tone on this phone. So have I. I am torn over whether I should change it though. On the one hand, I have an almost Pavlovian wave of panic hit me every time I hear it and wonder what curve ball they are going to groin me with next. On the other hand, I now have a personal nemesis. OK, phone, I don't like you and you don't like me. Let's just get through three more nights without you going off, and maybe I'll even charge you again on the weekend.

Three more days.

Three more days.

I was about to end on this note, when I remembered one other detail that irks me. We used to have 7-8 people on rotation, and with the two-week on-call rotations, that meant that you actually had a nice break between turns. When they re-orged our group last month, they peeled away half of the group and moved them to other teams, leaving four of us to handle the role. The guy who was handling support last week was a contractor, and his contract ran up the moment he handed in his phone at the end of the week, leaving just three of us. One of the other two is also a contractor, who is only going to be around for another month or so. Then there will be two.

Technically, there will be three since we just had somebody return from a year-long maternity leave. She is coming in cold, having worked in a completely different area of IT, so this is all alien to her. It is going to take a lot of patience and work to get her up to speed. Potentially we may have a fourth person again soon too because rumour has it one of our guys who bailed on us and went to India is finally returning back to the office. I don't see how living on another continent for the past six months somehow excused him from taking calls, but if they don't put him back into rotation on his return (he designed half of these systems), then I am going to fly out to Calgary and introduce our director's rectum to this cell phone.
plonq: (Innocent mood)
My boss finally got back to me and told me that after Today, I will be off until the new year. I don't know if the project knows yet, since they seem to be working under the assumption that I will be fixing defects and scheduling a couple of things in the week after Christmas.

I will actually be away from my job for even longer though, because on January 5th, I have to report to the car shops to learn how to be a car inspector. I will get to learn how to replace brake shoes, knuckles, air hoses and the like. Since this will all go down in January/February, I guess I will have to learn how to work with frozen finger stumps.

Some honest, physical work might do me some good. In any event, some time out of this stressful, toxic IT shop will definitely do me some good.
plonq: (Braiiiins)
There was a time when I liked my job, and I liked the company I worked for. Between stress dreams about my job, and waking up at 3:00 this morning so that I could toss and turn and try to push work from my mind, it occurred to me that my days of work satisfaction are well behind me.

I am not in a hurry to grow old, but I find myself absently counting the years and hours left until I reach the minimum service and age at which I can retire.

27 years, 2 months and 19 days ago today, the chief clerk in our yard office took me on a tour through the office to introduce me to the staff as the new kid on the team. Everyone was friendly, except for one older guy who was hunched over his keyboard, angrily typing away as we approached.

When the chief clerk introduced me to him, the man simply tensed his shoulders and said nothing at first, then he spun around in his chair and jabbed a finger at me, not quite poking me in the chest.

"Quit now, boy," he said angrily. "Quit now before it's too late. This place is a fucking trap. It seems like a nice job when you first hire on, but sooner than you think, you will have too many years in here to just quit and get a better job. Quit now and save yourself the grief. This is a terrible place to work. You don't hate it now, but you will. Save yourself a world of fucking grief and quit now."

His mouth moved a couple of time like he had something else to say, but then without another word he spun his chair back around and resumed angrily pounding on his keyboard as if I had ceased to exist.

It turns out that he was right. I try to remind myself that I've had some very enjoyable years working here, and that if I had not stayed with the job, I'd likely have never met [livejournal.com profile] atara.

Support

Mar. 27th, 2014 03:46 pm
plonq: (Dramatic Mood)
To quote from the classic movie Clerks: "I'm not even supposed to be here today."

When one of the specialists handling primary BO support got pulled onto an all-consuming project, I volunteered to step in and cover for him, even though I just came off doing this rather stressful coverage last week. For the most part things ran very smoothly last week, so I was fairly confident that other than losing a bit of sleep, at worst I would be buying a bit of favour with my superiors.

Naturally everything blew up spectacularly this morning. Springs were springing, and blue smoke was escaping from servers and systems were crashing all around me. I ran around flapping my arms in a panic for a while before one of the managers in the head office came online and I pounced on her for advice. She suggested opening an incident with our main support desk, so that's what I did.

I got them on the phone, and based on my rambling, incoherent attempt at a description of what was going on, they gleaned that there was apparently a problem. The guy said, "OK, this sounds like an issue in BO, so I know who we need to call."

I blinked.

I poised my hand over my emergency contact phone, and it started ringing a few seconds later. It was, to nobody's surprise, the same guy who I was talking to on the other line. "Hi, we have a user on the line who has a problem that is BO related, and you are listed as the primary support..."

Fish
plonq: (Busy Mood)
After stressing over it all week, I finally got my quarterly work review today.  I need to make a few tweaks to my annual plan as a result, but it's more in the nature of a minor face lift rather than major surgery.  Overall it was a very positive review, and I'm happy with the results.  I think I will celebrate with a bottle of home-made wine this evening.

The project head (the one who I caught with my "pressure-sensitive buttons" quip awhile back) has spent the last couple of days assembling a slick user manual for this tool we designed, and I have to admit that I am impressed.  He's designed a plain-English manual with tables and charts, colour illustrations and a full ToC.  Much cool.

They changed out the lights in our elevators over the weekend.  There are nine sockets for bulbs in the elevators' ceilings, in which they had five 40-watt bulbs on Friday (four of the sockets have always been empty).  When I came in on Monday, they had replaced those with (what appear to be) 60-watt compact fluorescent bulbs.  It was especially painful when I showed up for work at 6-something on Monday morning, and the elevator doors parted to reveal this surreally-bright blast of light.  If I hadn't been effectively blinded I'd have looked back to see if I had left a permanent shadow on the wall across from the lift.

They removed a couple of the bulbs last night, and while it's still a bit on the bright side in there, it's a bit more bearable.
plonq: (Busy Mood)
I get my final year-end review today, and I haven't really prepared anything for it.  What's to prepare?  I had two major projects evaporate because the people spearheading them got moved to new positions in the company and dropped the projects.  I have another on-again, off-again project that has been crawling along for almost two years.  It stalled last month, but it's only just picking up steam again.  It may actually get finished this year, but it has a lot of dependencies that have to fall into place for that to happen.  Can I include it in this year's review?  I guess I'll find out in a couple of hours.  I've been working on another big project, but it's been moving in fits and starts until it gets final approval and funding.  Will it get funding?  Can I include it on this year's review?

It's like having to write a retroactive resume every year in order to keep my job.  I suppose this would be a good time to log out of LJ for a bit and actually work on it.

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