Sunday, April 29, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me!

Yesterday was my birthday. I actually had a pretty good day. I've been fighting off a bit of a cold, but it didn't ruin the whole day. I also had to go in to work for a couple of hours for the big project at work, but at least we got the thing running, so I should be wrapping it up soon.

I got nice gifts from the Wife. New golf shoes. I'm really looking forward to getting out on the course this year. Maverick and I have to play a few rounds together and work on our game. We also went to the animal shelters to look at dogs. Not that I want one now, or anything, but I'm bowing to the inevitability of it. Besides, Grasshopper really likes going to look at them. Haven't found a pooch that would fit in with our family yet.

Later on we went out to dinner at my cousin's resteraunt. We got there a little late but they took care of us. Even the boys enjoyed their dinners. We brought dessert home for today, since we were too full last night. The Wife and I shared a berry flan that was just heavenly.

Today was a Diocosene youth conference which the band played. We did the Mass. Of course, the place was like an hour away so we had to get there early. I'd still been feeling crappy due to the cold but not bad enough to cancel. Of course, once we started to play, I felt totally fine. Lately, whenever I'm playing music for the Lord, everything that may be bugging me, physically or mentally, seems to go away. That was never the case whenever I was playing "secular" music. It's funny how that works.

I'm going to crash now as I'm still kind of beat. Work should be interesting this week.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Re-Org update

Well, yesterday they announced the new organization officially and today I met with my new boss. Which is kind of odd since he was my peer just a week ago. However, he's a known quantity to me and we can work together well so truthfully I'm not too concerned. I was kind of miffed last week that I hadn't been offered the position, but after just having a wonderful family weekend I came in to work Monday this week with a whole new attitude for some reason. Perhaps it all sunk in or I realized that it's only work. I do have some serious concerns about this organization, but they're not in my "area" so there's only so much to do about it.

I spent most of the morning chatting with the new boss, giving him my thoughts on everything, and giving my opinions on where we should be going. While they gave us an org chart for my group, the new boss really hasn't set anything in stone. He wants to meet with me and the other manager on the team to figure out where we're going. Which I like. I let him know all the things I'm currently doing including those roles that don't fall inside the traditional "help desk" responsibility. I believe he was impressed by the number of things I do manage outside that realm. I was very clear that I want to be heavily involved in making things happen. I will not be relegated to a simple help desk supervisor.

People, I'm in full political mode now. This is where I begin manuvering to show off my skills and mold my job into what I want it to be. It is a subtle and fearsome process. They will want to just naturally put me in a position of power, I mean responsibility, that gets me known across the organization. I've already begun getting on the CIO's good side and he knows who I am. And he appears to like what I'm telling him. Cause I can make things happen, baby. On time, right the first time, and making things run better.

Watch out, cause I'm taking over. And they won't realize it until it's too late.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Generic Title

There's lots I could blog about for once, so I'll stick to mostly one subject. First, we got a bit of good news today. The Sheriff's office recovered the Wife's stolen purse. We're not sure what's in it yet, but if we can recover the Vovlo key, that would be sweet. It's about $300 to replace once you buy the key/integrated remote and then program the key AND the remote. The Wife was going to get a new one last Thursday, but forgot about a doctor's appointment for Maverick. We believe God may have been looking after us on that one. We'll see what else gets recovered.

The story of the day, however, is on how I managed to make everyone (ok, some people) at work crazy with what I thought was an innocent statement in an email. Every now and then, I type something that I think is no big deal, but turns into one. The last time, I was working for my former employer, and had to respond to a quality supervisor about some sub-standard scores and comments on a customer satisfaction survey. I'd met this supervisor before and she'd seemed cool. Her team was in charge of sending out the survey's to our customers. So, when I looked into it, I knew who the user was. It was one of those people you can never satisfy. The user once told one of my tech's that they'd forgotten more about the application we supported than the tech would ever know. That's right, one of those kind of people. So my staff simple acted professional on the phone and didn't take it personal.

Well, I made the mistake of emailing the quality survey supervisor and saying something to the effect, "we should forget about this one. We couldn't please them even if we walked on water and were the second coming." Mind you, I'd thought I'd developed a rapport with this person where you could kid around a little. Oh. My. God. You'd have thought I'd said that the company was going down because of this one dissatisfied user. She got the "big boss" that ran the entire US division involved, got my boss involved, all over how "we're not customer focused" and "how could we ever take an attitude like this", etc, etc. Let's face it people, you can't please everyone. I'm not going to waste my energy trying to turn around someone that obviously cannot be pleased. As I said, we were always polite and professional.

So on to today. We had an issue where our pagers weren't working. Since managing the vendor is my responsibility, I contacted them to find out what's up. They told me our bill was 45 days past due so all of the pager numbers were disabled until we paid. OK.

So, first thing I did was contact accounts payable (AP). They're in charge of paying the vendors. The person I talked to said they would call the vendor and let me know. I figured it might be a while until this gets resolved, so I thought it best to email all the supervisors that pagers weren't working, as that is a big deal to some of the teams. In the email I said something like "due to a issue with our vendor and AP, the pagers are disabled." This is a typical kind of email I send when things are down. I also stated we were working on it and I'd send out a notification when everything was back up and running.

Not 15 minutes later I get a call from an irate VP of Finance asking me who authorized me to send the email and why did I say it was AP's fault. Excuse me? Did I say it was AP's fault? All I said was it was an issue between the vendor and AP. No assigning of blame, simply stating the parties invovled. So, I manage to calm the person down, apologize for implying any fault with AP, and stating I would fix the whole mess. While I'm talking to the VP, I get a call from the manager of AP who left a message to call back. She got a hold of me shortly after I'd spoken to the VP and asked why we hadn't talked to them first. Except I had talked to them first before I sent the email. But she understood I'd meant no harm and used a poor choic of words, and requested that I give them time to resolve an issue like this first next time. I happened to bump into my boss's boss and gave him a heads up about the whole flap. A little after that, the VP of Finance called me back to apologize for going off the handle.

The resolution on all of this? Well, it turns out our vendor has a policy of simply disabling access if they don't get payment in 45 days without notifying anyone. We had no warning whatsoever there was a problem. And, it turns out they were indeed paid on time. The first person I spoke to in AP contacted the vendor immediately and got the whole thing fixed in about 10 mintues. You know, about 2 minutes AFTER I sent out the email. I was amazed they'd turned it around so fast. I was expecting hours, which is why I sent out the email in the first place. I sent out an update email highly praising AP's ability to above and beyond to get the problem fixed and apologized for any misunderstanding in the previous email that might have implied AP was in any way the cause of the issue. I got a thank you email from the VP of Finance for the nice words.

What I really learned out of this mess is that the AP department has been under the gun about performing badly. They're quite sensitive to any percieved attacks on their department. Which is why the VP went off. He thought I was trying to make him look bad. Which I would never intentionally do. If I'd have known how politically sensitive that department was, I would have sent out an email initially making the vendor the bad guy and the AP department the posse out to get them and save the company. We're so used to telling it like it is when it comes to our own department, it didn't occur to me I might need to cover for another.

By the end of the day, all was well, and I ended up with this great story to tell. Tomorrow is the "Big Meeting" on the new re-organization. Between that, the den meeting at my house tonight, the slides the Wife got a hold of, and other assorted going's on, I should have some good material for a while. Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Happy Birthday Maverick!

Yesterday was Maverick's 11th birthday. We had family over for a small party. This has been the perfect weekend. Sunny and high 70s yesterday and today. Usually Maverick's birthday is cold and rainy. He, Grasshopper, and my nephews spent most of the time outside playing. He got lots of cool gifts, including a gift card to Dick's Sporting Goods. He's been dying to get a new hyprid golf club.

So today, we went to Dick's, got the club, and went to the driving range. Maverick was showing the Wife how to hit, so we all went to know some balls. The Wife was pretty good. She could actually hit the ball, and some of them were pretty good. I've been reading some tips on how to hit straighter and was dying to try them out. It worked pretty good as I wasn't hooking as much as I used to. Maverick also gave me a tip on how to hit with the irons. Last year I couldn't hit with them to save my life. I tried out Maverick's suggestion, and I was hitting decent distance and actually have the ball go up in the air like it was supposed to. From now on, he's my golf pro.

This weekend was near perfect. Given how last weekend went, it was nice to just enjoy the weather and so some family stuff. Despite two minor issues from work I got called about, I pretty much forgot about all that other stuff and just enjoyed the weekend for a change. Tomorrow will also be like today then it goes to the mid 50s. After all the cold we've had, I cannot complain about the weather.

Hope everyone had a nice weekend as well.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

My cheese got moved

Today I had a call scheduled with our VP of IT in our office. By the end of the week they’re going to announce the new IT organizational structure. I was hoping I’d get picked to head up the Customer Service organization. So when I called, I was informed who the new Customer Service Manager would be, the one that directly reports to the CIO. And it wasn’t me.

Not that I’d really expected to get the job, but I certainly feel I’m qualified. And I can certainly work with the person that’s my new boss, but I really feel like he’s more my peer than my boss. Actually, the thing that’s really concerning me is that in talking to my counterparts here, it’s looking like none of the people out of this office are getting picked for these senior jobs.

To give a little background, we merged with another company about 18 months ago. About 2 months ago, our new CIO stated that the IT department was broken, and it was primarily a management issue in the office in Schenectady. And that the new structure would look and feel more like what we have here. So who is going to run this new organization? Managers from Schenectady.

I’ve been trying to be optimistic about this merger and to be an agent of positive change. Right now, I’m genuinely concerned. Many of my duties cross over into the network administration side. I’m concerned that this new structure actually makes me step back. I’m looking for more responsibility, not less. I’ll know more next week when I have a one on one with the “new boss” and see what his vision is. And how well he responds to my vision. And how much he enables me to make my vision real.

I hate to say it, but I may have to dust off my resume. Which really sucks, because I love where I work and the people I work with. But I suspect that the culture that failed in our other location will just perpetuate itself and infect what we have here. And if that happens, I may not be able to stay.

Updates will come as things go on. Stay tuned people.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

What a weekend

Very little went as planned this weekend. It started Friday. I went into the office for like 30 minutes to get my paycheck and send off a couple of quick email on the "project". The plan was to come in Saturday morning for like 30 minutes to get everything ready to test the production environment. Well, I get a call from my boss about an hour later on my cell phone. There was a conference call scheduled to "talk about the plan" at 2. So now my plans for the afternoon are shot. Just before two I find the call is pushed to 4. Ok, fine. Now my day is totally shot. I get on the 4 pm call and of course, everyone now gets skittish even though I told everyone the "plan" over a week and a half ago. So they pushed everything back a week. Great.

I figure, not a problem, now I don't have to go into work on Saturday and we can do family stuff. The Wife and I plan out a hike on the nature trails in one of the local parks, go to the animal shelter to look at dogs afterward, and then perhaps doing some shopping after dinner for a gift for my Aunt's 50th birthday party Sunday.

The day started off fine. We got to the park and Grasshopper and I went on an easier, shorter trail. The Wife parked her SUV in a lot by a more advanced trail. We're working Maverick up for longer hikes for summer camp with the Scouts. So the Wife and Maverick take the other trail. After Grasshopper and I finish up, we walk to where the Wife parked the car. I look at it and notice something strange.

The backmost window on the driver's side was smashed. That's right, our car was broken in to. Her purse was gone. Not that there was much in it. Less than $20 cash, and a PDA worth about $50 on ebay. But now we get to go through all the hassles. Getting the car fixed, of course. New license for the Wife. I had to cancel all our credit cards. And when I called the insurance company, it turns out the personal property loss (the purse, that is) gets covered under our home owner's policy. Which means the value of what was lost is less than our deductible. So I have to eat the cost of it all.

And we really don't care so much about the loss itself. It's all the aggravation and hassle we're going to have to go through now for about $20. Needless to say, the rest of the day was shot. We had to wait for the police to show up to file a report. By the time we were done, we didn't feel like doing anything else.

At least Sunday was a nice day. Everything was pretty mellow and the party for my Aunt was very nice. Now it's back to the grind as the boys are back in school tomorrow.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

I got my baby back

Not babyback ribs, but my Yamaha. I dropped it off last week since one of the pickups was cutting out (the electronic things that create the sound that goes throught the amps for you non musical people). Now it plays and sounds great! I plugged her in to check everything out and she totally rocks! It always amazes me what a great instrument it is. Whatever else I play, whenever I pick it up after a while of not playing it I fall in love all over again. It's just so comfortable and so me. (sigh). I missed her while she was gone but am glad to have her back.

Sorry I havn't been around. I have a major email integration project going on at work and it's consuming all of my time. By the time I get home, I just don't feel like spending time to type a post. I have been trying to get around to visiting, though. If any of you are serious techno-geeks, what we're doing is deploying MIIS (Microsoft Identity Integration Server, well, the Identity Integration Feature Pack, IIFP, portion) as well as the InterOrg Replication tool. You can find info on MIIS here, and the InterOrg Rep Tool here. If you ever have trouble sleeping, I guarentee reading these will cure it.

Additionally at work, I'm getting more and more into the politics of things. It was really unavoidable after the merger, since our IT departments work so differently and have different visions of what the department should be. Lately it feels like I've been doing battle every day and I come home just weary of it. I told my boss the other day I should just take over everything and make them all do it my way. At least things would come out the way I want. And we all know that my way is best, don't we?

In any event, I'm home with the kids Thursday and Friday. It's decent out here so I think I'll take the kids outside. I have an urge to rollerblade and the boys can ride bikes. Don't know what we'll do tomorrow, but it will be something non-work related. But then Saturday I'll have to go in to do some configuration on the "project" and Monday it's off to Syracuse for a seminar and battle with one of my counterparts in Schenectady. Somehow I need to convince her my vision of our phone system is the one she should adopt.......

The battle never ends.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Rocker Guy Stands Alone

Ok, kids, stay with me hear as this post may wander a bit, but it all goes together somehow.

Yesterday I had to drop off my baby (the Yamaha) for some service. The bridge pickup is cutting out so I can only play it out of the neck pickup. That's almost death for me as I play mostly out of the bridge pickup. Besides, my baby isn't 100% so she needs to be patched up.

So I'm at my fave guitar shop without the kids, since I had to fill in for the Easter Bunny and get them some stuff for thier Easter baskets. They're off from school till the end of next week so I dropped them off at my parents. As a side note, I also had to get some Cadbury eggs from my cube mate over the wall. It's her fave Easter candy and her mean old boyfriend told her there was no Easter Bunny so she wasn't gettin' notin'. Since I had to pop in to the office briefly today, the boys filled in for the Easter Bunny and gave her the eggs on his behalf.

So after I drop off the guitar, I decided to try out an amp really quick. They had a Les Paul Standard, similar to my Studio, on the wall and the band (well, the other two adults in the band) have been saying they prefer the sound of my guitar out of a tube amp over my solid state amp. Since I was there and they had a guitar that closely imitates my gear, I said what the heck, I'll try one or two. As another side note, this Les Paul Standard is $1000 more than my Studio. The only difference between the two? The Standard has white binding around the body and the Studio does not. I think Gibson jacks the price up since suckers will pay that much for a Gibson. But I digress even further.

So I tried out a couple of amps, and wasn't really satisifed. They were ok, but didn't respond the way I was looking for them to. So I boogied, went to Target, got the stuff I needed, picked up the boys, and went home. Not to digress totally from the story, my youngest nephew was there and simply flabergasted me with his total lack of respect for any adults in the house. Of course, my parents allow him to be disrepectful to them, but I was ready to slap him. I would NEVER allow my kids to talk to me or any adult in that manner.

To continue, when I got home and had a few minutes, I decided to plug in my gear and play around a little to see if I could really get the sounds I wanted. I'm sure you don't need all the details, but I'll give them to you anyway :). I plugged my Paul in with my standard effects and started on the clean channel with just my overdrive box. It sounded pretty good, but had a lot of distortion in the gain. Not a bad thing necesarrily, but it was there. So I added my equalizer pedal. I hadn't been using it for a while cause it really jacks the volume. To my surprise, I found I still had all the edge and power, but the extra distortion was gone. It really cleaned up the sound. I then dropped out the overdrive and went clean. Again, with the equalizer on, it really cleaned up my sound and got rid of the bit of muddiness I was getting totally clean. I then went to the gain channel on the amp. That's the total HEAVY METAL setting baby. It just growls.

So I toyed around with all of this for maybe 20 mintutes, playing all kinds of stuff. It was then I came to the realization that I don't need a new amp. I get all the tone I like out of what I have. I made the mistake of trying to let other people tell me what my sound should be, instead of deciding myself what my sound should be. Silly me. Won't happen again. I have no problem adjusting volume levels for the room. But dammit, my gear will sound the way I want it to sound and if the rest of the band don't like it, tough.

Now I can't wait to get my Yamaha back and plug it in. I'll be sounding just the way I like and my baby will cry, sing, scream, or whatever the hell I want it to. Being a Rocker Guy is such a rush!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

What would Bush have done

I'm sure many of you have been hearing or reading about the saga of the 15 British sailors that were detained in Iran. I marvel at the outcome and the process the Britished used to get their people out. They used quiet diplomacy. They didn't threaten. They didn't make a show of force. Bascially all the exact opposite of what the Bush administration would have done. I recall former UN embassador John Bolton saying you had to go and use the military because that was the only thing they respected and that it was the only way to prevent this from happening again.

But what did the Brits do? Even when the Iranians were talking all kinds of crap, they stayed polite. Even after they sailors were released, what did Tony Blair say? That he bore the Iranians no ill will. Was he telling the truth? Probably not. I'm sure he's seething inside and that paybacks will be hell. The Brits got a long memory. But they got their people back safely and he was willing to let the Iranians save face in public.

The Bush administration could learn a lot from how the Brits do things internationally.

Monday, April 02, 2007

What a dilemma

Something at Tracy's site reminded of this from yesterday and I thought I'd post it. We were going into church yesterday and Maverick realized that it was April 1st. "Oh man," he says. When we asked him what the problem was, he replied that he was conflicted about the day. When we asked him to elaborate, he said he wanted to do pranks since it was April Fool's Day, but because it was Palm Sunday he thought it would be disrepectful to Jesus to play pranks on the day of His Passion.

Isn't it great when you pound a kid over the head with something for months and months and some of it actually makes it into their brains?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

No idea what I'm doing

Lately I've had terrible writer's block. I've been working on some songs, and have about 6 or 7 great riffs, but I can't come up with any lyrics. I've got little bits of things, but nothing seems to pan out. I've also been stymied on anything to post about. You may have noticed things have been slow on the blog front around here.

We're going into Holy Week, which means lots of business for me. Traditional dinners at my mom's today and on Good Friday. There's rehearsal for Way of the Cross this evening, then the Way of the Cross performance on Wednesday (we re-enact the Stations of the Cross). Plus Easter next Sunday.

In other news, we've got Maverick signed up for golf again this year. Every Saturday for 3 hours over 14 weeks. His skills should improve greatly. Grasshopper is signed up to go to Cub Adventure Camp this summer. We're going the middle of July. We'll be staying in the Native American village like I did with Maverick, but this time we'll be sleeping in longhouses instead of teepees.

My big project at work is running fairly smoothly. This is the big week. I've got a lot of things to get done to have it ready for production by Friday at the latest, and I'm off Thursday and Friday since the boys are off from school. So it's going to be a busy 3 days.

Anyway, in case I don't get round much this week, Happy Easter to you all a week early.