The Shelf

Author’s note: This was posted to LinkedIn a few years ago. 


We have shelves in our bathrooms at the office above the sinks. Crazy it sounds, those shelves are a great analogy for what is wrong at the company I work for.

Our office bathrooms didn’t always have shelves, mind you. Some manager or facilities person a few years ago decided: ‘It would be nice if we had shelves in the bathroom so people can place things there while they take care of their business.’ It’s a good idea, so a shelf was installed. Huzzah!

Things went well for a few months, then one day I noticed the shelf was starting to lean forward slightly, as if it were coming off from the wall. Uh-oh. I stopped using it because I didn’t want my coffee mug to fall into the sink when the shelf finally gave way.

It eventually did break, and for about a week we were once again shelf-less. It was re-installed and life was good again, but after a few more months, it started to lean forward and fell off the wall again.

While I have managed some minor home repairs myself, I’m not going to claim to be Tim the Tool-Man. If I shelf I installed gave way, then okay, fine, maybe I did something wrong or overlooked something that a professional would know to do from experience. How was it that our professional facilities people couldn’t install a simple shelf? A few months later, after we remodeled our building, I got my answer…

There are three brackets holding the shelf in place. Each bracket should have two screws, but for whatever bone-headed reason, only one gets put in. Why? Was the facilities guy in a hurry? Are screws that expensive? My best guess is that the guy figured one screw is ‘good enough.’

Whatever the reason, the job wasn’t done right the first time, and the shelf inevitably has to be repaired. Surely the guy learns that ‘gee, maybe I should do the job right this time and use two screws so this doesn’t happen again.’

Nope! He makes the same mistake again, and as you can see by the picture above (different shelf but you get the idea) he’ll be eventually repairing it again. Even then, the damage has been done and he’ll likely continue ad infinitum.

This is a perfect analogy for how my company does things:

  1. Get a good idea and implement it.
  2. Don’t make the product the right way the first time, but make it ‘good enough.’
  3. Attempt to fix problems after customers complain of issues.
  4. The fixes are also ‘good enough.’
  5. Everything is fine for a while, but the problems inevitably return and the damage has been done in loss of customer confidence and goodwill.
  6. Go back to step 3 and repeat.

So yeah, that’s the way things work (or rather, don’t work) at my office.

I’m just wondering what the facilities guy is going to do when he runs out of wall space. He should have plenty of screws, at least.

Signs that the group is a just a BIT older than you are

randomEven though I’m bear-ly in my 40s 😀 I joined an online group for older furries recently.  After a while, my Spidey-Sense began to tell me that most of other folks in the group have at least a decade or two on me:

  1. “Attachment unavailable”
  2. Vertical videos
  3. “I hate that thing that’s popular with the young people!”
  4. Black and white pictures
  5. Scans of actual Polaroid pictures
  6. Pictures rotated the wrong way
  7. Five-year old memes
  8. “Why is this [meme] funny? It makes no sense!”
  9. When people say ‘back in the day’ they REALLY mean it
  10. And of course: “Get off my lawn!”

The Difference…

workOver the last week, my Honda CR-V (aka The Excelsior) had been starting up just a little more sluggishly with each trip.  Eventually, it got to the point where it just barely started, but as is human nature, I figured that it would last just long enough to get to get the battery looked at.

Of course, I waited one trip too many and eventually it didn’t start at all one night.  Click-click-click-click-click was all I heard.

After getting a jump-start from a neighbor (always have cables in your vehicle, folks) I went to the auto parts store where I had replaced the original battery a few years prior.  I had a strong suspicion that the battery was dead, but when the gentleman asked if I would like to have it tested, it placed just enough doubt in my mind to make me think that might not be the case.  I didn’t want it to be something else, because as far as car repairs go, replacing a battery is on the fairly inexpensive scale, and it can be done by one’s self, assuming the vehicle can be taken to a good battery or vice-versa.

The gentleman grabbed a tester and followed me out to my noble (if not currently unreliable) steed.  I popped the hood and proceeded to let the gentleman do his job.  He attached the clips to the battery terminals and proceeded to push some buttons on the device.  After a few moments he told me the battery was good and asked if I wanted him to test other ‘start the car’ parts.  I said yes, and he asked me to start the vehicle.  I made a crack about ‘I hope it starts,’ but much to my surprise, it started with no hesitation.  A few moments and button presses later, the man told me that the alternator and starter were probably okay, too.  I thanked him for his time and went on my merry (if slightly worried) way to the grocery store, where the car started again without issue.  What the heck was wrong with my car?

As folks are oft to do these days, I went onto social media to share my ambivalence over the situation.  Friends offered advice and their own tales of automotive experiences, both good and bad.  One friend mentioned that a similar problem had been caused by loose terminal connectors.  This idea sounded intriguing to me, as I had recalled my interior lights flashing during the process of having it jumped, and so I resolved to investigate them come the morning.  I didn’t park the Excelsior in the garage because I had a feeling I was going to need another jump-start.

The next morning, I hopped into my trusty steed to go have some breakfast and was greeted by the clicking noise again.  No big deal, it’s the terminals, right?  Wrong.  Nothing was loose and there was no corrosion to be found.  It has to be the battery, I thought, but what the guy last night told me it was good.  I frumped for a while as I searched for nearby mechanics and groused over the pile of money I anticipated I was going to have to spend.

Finally, I decided to get a second opinion.

I got a jump-start from a different neighbor, and observed that both times we had to let my vehicle sit for a while and charge up.  The thought of it has to be the battery kept bouncing in my head as I drove to a different auto parts store.  I walked inside and asked to have my battery checked.  This time around, the tech got a frumpy look on her face when she saw my terminals.  The connectors to the Excelsior’s battery have these plastic covers that were getting in the way of the clips, meaning she could only reliably attach the clips to the screws that kept the connectors attached.  “I don’t like taking a reading from the screws, the reading is sometimes wrong,” She said.  The tech did her best to adjust the tester clip, but was not completely satisfied with the result: “I’m not getting a good reading, can you take the battery out?” She asked.

I said sure, and proceeded to do so, with the tools I keep inside the vehicle.  I also had to borrow a pair of pliers, but eventually dislodged the battery and took it inside the store.  The tech did her thing, and sure enough, the battery was bad.  Fortunately, I had purchased the ‘three-year replacement’ battery the last time and I received a new one free of charge.  I installed it myself, which was only fair since I had taken the old one out, and now my trusty steed is trusty once again.

I figured that it would be a good idea to let the tech know about my experience the night before.  We both agreed that the other guy just didn’t know about the screws providing unreliable readings.

And thus we have the difference between somebody who only knows how to follow instructions, and somebody that actually knows what they are doing because they have learned how things really work.

Whether they are fixing cars or computers, a good tech will have more in-depth knowledge about the things that they repair than someone who is only taught how to fix things or is working off a script.  When the ‘usual steps’ don’t work, a good tech can think things though and improvise to find a solution.  A bad tech only knows how to follow instructions, and when those instructions don’t do the job, they’re stuck, and so are you.

37 Things I Noticed After Having a Fender-Bender

My trusty CR-V (the “Excelsior,” because I name my cars after spaceships) recently got dinged in the back.  The damage isn’t too terrible but it’s in a lousy spot.  Thus, I had to deal with my insurance company (Progressive) and rent a car.  Along the way, I noticed a few things:

  1. ding

    #5. *Angry Bear Noises*

    The lady that hit me seemed to be pretty impatient while I got Progressive on the phone.  MAYBE YOU SHOULDN’T CAUSE AN ACCIDENT IF YOU’RE IN A HURRY, LADY.

  2. I didn’t even think about calling the police. This was a low speed accident and not worth their time.
  3. She eventually gave me her info and drove off in a huff because “I have kids in the car.”  I don’t know about y’all but I tend to drive extra-careful whenever I have passengers…just saying.
  4. Insurance company Ding #1: To be fair, I was getting impatient with Progressive too.  Pick up the phone, guys!
  5. It wasn’t a bad dent, but in just the right spot for water to get into the hatch.
  6. I’ll get a call back in 24 hours. Cool.
  7. Ding #2: The claims rep was supposed to call me ‘within 24 hours.’  2 days later and still no call.
  8. I posted an angry tweet about that lack of communication and got a response within a few hours. Modern times and all that.
  9. Lady’s insurance is taking full responsibility (as well they should) Woo-hoo!
  10. Stuffed a plastic bag into the hole to keep water out. Lucky it hasn’t been raining lately.
  11. I was initially going to pick a shop to take it, but decided to punt and the insurance guys handle it. I have other things to worry about.
  12. Ding #3: The last time this happened, I got to pick a rental.  This go-round they threw me into a Toyota Corolla. :/
  13. I got everything I needed from the CR-V…except for the garage door opener. >.<
  14. The heck with giving me both car keys on a key ring that I can’t remove them from?
  15. It’s a little bit of an adjustment going from a small SUV to a car, but I’m (mostly) handling it. Lucky for me I don’t have any long trips coming up.
  16. When did car air conditioners get so complicated?
  17. tennycar

    15. Me in the rental

    This is a newer vehicle, yet the backup camera looks terrible compared to my 2012 CR-V.

  18. Having an in-car touch screen does not work very well. At the risk of getting technical: The user interface is poop.
  19. Ding #4: The repair guy was supposed to call me ‘tomorrow’  Didn’t happen.
  20. Yeah, it’s probably time to start looking for a new insurance company.
  21. Thing I miss most about my CR-V? Legroom.
  22. I’ve given up on getting any calls from my insurance company at this point, just going to check their website every so often.
  23. If you are going to tell somebody you are going to call them and you don’t, that is rude and unprofessional.
  24. Unless you’re a recruiter, then it’s par for the course. (obligatory job-related item)
  25. Auto headlights should NEVER turn on the high beams…just sayin’
  26. Had a funny moment when it rained and I tried to turn on the rear wiper that wasn’t there.
  27. Also, the ‘beep’ it makes when I turn on the alarm can barely be heard.
  28. The day before the repair is due to be completed, the app says “2 days left until repaired.” Huh?
  29. (Finally) Got a call that afternoon saying it will be ready when scheduled, woo-hoo!
  30. 4pm and the app now says ‘Repairs complete.’ Maybe I’ll get lucky and get my ride back a day early?’
  31. Ding #5: Of course they call me 15 minutes before they close (and I’m already at home from work) to schedule the pickup the next day, grr.
  32. Since the lady’s insurance is taking full responsibility, this little adventure isn’t going to cost me any money, just a little time and aggravation.
  33. I also got a blog post out of the deal, too 😀

    newcar

    35. Looking good!

  34. Ding #6: Scheduled the appointment for 1230, get there at 1231 and I have to wait 😛
  35. Holy cats, the Excelsior looks good when it’s cleaned up.
  36. Feels good to be in my own vehicle again. I had to re-learn some habits, like having cruise control settings on my steering wheel instead of on a stick thingie.
  37. Time to shop for new car insurance!

80 Things I Noticed at Texas Furry Fiesta 2018

Texas’ biggest furry convention moved to a new hotel this year, which introduced a few new issues.  Overall, though, it was a lot of fun.  As always, I noticed a few things:

  1. BEFORE/DRIVE UP-I’m a little bummed over missing the conbook deadline but that’s what my website is for.

    #31 PUT SOME CLOTHES ON YOUNG LADY

  2. I’m guessing I’m going to see a lot of Alices and Mad Hatters. Hopefully, the cartoon versions.
  3. Seriously, I thought the 2010 version was ‘The Mad Hatter Movie”
  4. I will openly admit to being jealous of all my friends that will be there on Thursday
  5. I swear work gets tougher the last few days before a vacation…it’s like THEY KNOW
  6. Okay, I wussed out and told my cowokers I was going to a ‘comiccon’
  7. Does loading Disney soundtracks onto a USB stick for the drive qualify someone as ‘furry trash?’ Asking for a friend.
  8. Thing I forgot: Cologne. Given the female-to-male ratio it’s just as well!
  9. I’ve lost about 30 pounds since last TFF. I bought a pair of slim fit jeans so I gotta keep the weight off now!
  10. Honestly, I-35 keeps getting better and better each year…Temple notwithstanding
  11. The Czech stop was definitely worth the 200-mile wait!
  12. Parking seems to be one of the big issues early on; I was furtunate to get a spot fairly close by.
  13. I feel like a tourist lugging my bags around the hotel before check-in.
  14. It wasn’t too long before I started running into friends, YAY FRIENDS!
  15. I had forgotten about the placeholder name I had placed on the reservation beforehand, which made for a funny moment: “So that will be two keys:  One for you, and another for Roger Rabbit?”
  16. “Can I get the lowest room available? I have a thing with heights.”
  17. New hotel is very nice, though the open elevators are a little scary for me. (see above)
  18. FRIDAY-Noticed a few folks kvetching about the lack of con suite this year.  Hopefully they bring the snacks back because playing ‘bartender’ there was great fun.
  19. The Presidential Suite is open to Super-Sponsors, though. :/
  20. Forgot to print out my reg sheet for the first time ever. *hangs head in shame*
  21. Their reg was so fast it didn’t matter.
  22. The Hyatt Regency feels so wide open compared to the other hotels.
  23. Taking five fights of stairs to the room (if I don’t want to wait for the elevator) is definitely a workout
  24. The hotel room has an Ethernet port, and me without a cable *argh*

    #28: It’s Furry Pat!

  25. New camera has been great, but the battery went dry after only 75 pictures! So glad I got a spare…that I had to retrieve from my room. *pant* *gasp* *wheeze*
  26. It’s awesome that the con T-shirts aren’t black this year.
  27. I’m usually pretty careful about catching autocorrects before I hit Send, but finally had one slip through the net 😀
  28. There’s a fursuiter named Sherbert who has you try to guess their gender.  I went with ‘male’ because if I can’t figure someone’s gender in 3 seconds at a con, I just assume it’s a guy.
  29. I am seriously considering buying a Lemonbrat partial fursuit.
  30. Overall, the bigger hotel is pretty nice with plenty of space to work with BUT the elevator situation is pretty bad and it is a (understandably) a mite warm inside.
  31. That moment when you realize the fursuiter you’ve seen in a partial for months now has a fullsuit which means SHE’S NAKED NOW OMG
  32. It’s 6pm, send in the normies!
  33. There are places to eat downtown if you don’t mind a little walk.  Cool.
  34. Elevator situation is pretty awful, I wonder if the top-floor con suite is a contributing factor.
  35. Random young lady: “Are you Eduardo Soliz?”
    Me: “The one and only!” *peers at person* “Do I know you?”
    Her: “No but I love your YouTube channel!”
    Aww! *blush*
    UPDATE: Found her on Twitter!
  36. Maybe I’m not done with “Con Talk” after all…
  37. I really really need to get cracking on making some panels for next year’s Furry Fiesta.  People want them!
  38. SATURDAY-630AM and I don’t want to be up, but I guess I’m up, bleh.
  39. Might be early enough to hit Waffle House without losing my parking, hmm
  40. Upon further review I decided not to risk losing my spot.
  41. A little disappointed in the scheduling app; it shows the full schedule without hiding events that have already passed.
  42. Oh, I have to manually refresh it. Derp.
  43. Nope, still didn’t do it. Boo.
  44. For some reason I have Matthew Ebel’s “Merry Christmas from Cell Block 2” in my head
  45. Are the microphones in the panel rooms even on?
  46. New addition to the fursuit parade: Concerned parents
  47. Dunno what the deal was with the peanut gallery continually yelling “Spring Break” during the parade but it was annoying to the point where I might put music over the parade audio.  UPDATE: I didn’t.
  48. Nothing like 40-degree weather to make you want a fursuit.
  49. Freezing my face off was totally worth it for the Cuban sandwich, though
  50. If you’re running audio you should be professional enough to know to not talk while a presentation is going on.  Fuzzing amateurs
  51. Another great Furry Psychology talk from Nuka. I was getting a little sleepy near the end, and not because of the content, just to be clear!
  52. I learned that some of the FurScience folks went to San Japan last year. I invited them to attend “Furry 101” this year.  COME ON GUYS, I WENT TO YOUR PANEL AND I DID MY HOMEWORK 😀
  53. The partial suit I was thinking about buying was sold. Oh well.
  54. A friend bought Lemonbrat’s ‘Tide Pod Fox’ and got very popular very quickly.

    #54 He looks good enough to eat!

  55. Knees starting to feel it by afternoon, likely due to all the stair-climbing bought on by not wanting to wait for the elevators…or I’m just getting old.
  56. Halfway down the stairs to go to dinner, I realized I still had my bear tail on. Screw it.
  57. Nothing like walking 2/3 of a mile to go to Spaghetti Warehouse in 30-degree weather.
  58. Totally worth it, though.  Chicken parm you taste so good.
  59. I was disappointed to find karaoke was full up; I wanted to sing ‘Why Should I Worry’ by Billy Joel from ‘Oliver and Company.’ The canines would have loved it!
  60. Nice lobby-wide howl on Saturday night, by the way.
  61. I wanted to be all supportive and stuff for Padunk’s first panel, but it was completely packed!  I guess that was a sign it went well! (link warning: some naughty bits)
  62. Drunk normies + fursuiters = hilarity
  63. I swear the ‘Two women: One embarrassingly drunk and the other trying to get them to stop being embarrassing’ bit is a trope.
  64. SUNDAY/TRIP HOME-Breakfast was weird: After we got seated, the hostess kept fussing over our table being dirty (it wasn’t) The table is fine lady, I WANT FOOD
  65. Mom never made ‘fingerling potatoes’ for breakfast, just sayin. That said, they were tasty.
  66. No salsa on the breakfast buffet? What is this, NEW YORK CITY?
  67. The longer the con goes, the harder it gets to not take multiple pictures of the same fursuiters. Oh well!
  68. Me to friend: “I was thinking about buying a partial”
    Her: “I have a bear head base I haven’t started yet.”
    SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!
  69. So yeah, I may be getting a fursuit made.
  70. Left the con at probably the earliest time I’ve ever left.  Continually going up and down four flights of stairs took more out of me than I thought.
  71. To the jackass who parked their Honda CRX in the middle of the end of the parking lot: YOU SUCK.
  72. I am very glad I only make two trips that involve I-35 a year
  73. Didn’t stop at Buc-ees on the way home, the Wendy’s across the freeway was too tempting.  I may have sinned against Texas.
  74. Big thank you to the solider who fished a soda out of the machine for me at the Bell rest stop. Enjoy the freebie!
  75. Note to self: Lay off the caffeine on the day when you are making a long drive unless you want to make restroom stops every 50 miles or so >.<

    #71 YOU SUCK

  76. AFTERWARDS-I will openly admit to being jealous of my friends that are still at the con on Monday.
  77. I think the reason I don’t get post-con depression is that afterwards I go over pictures, post the fursuit parade video, work on this list, prepare for and record a podcast, so the show isn’t really over for me for several days.
  78. There is apparently an underground tunnel leading from near Union Station to the hotel. I may consider taking a train ride for next year.
  79. Remember how I said “Con Talk” was over a few months ago?  I was never very good at lying. 😉
  80. “Roll Fur Initiative” for next year’s theme?  I guess Creativity failed her saving throw!  Hey, I tried!

300 Seconds Episode #85: “Self-Checked Out”

Listen to this podcast episode here!

You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 85: “Self-Checked Out” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

After hearing good things from friends about the movie Coco for the last few weeks, I decided to finally watch it the other day.  I don’t go to the movies very often, and when I do, I like to go early in the morning to avoid the crowds.  Also, the fact that the tickets are cheaper is also a nice bonus.  I woke up and got dressed a little too late to catch the earliest show that was nearby, so I thought I’d catch the next one which was a few miles away.  The theater was one that I hadn’t been to since I moved out of that area a number of years ago, and it was a little bit of a drive.

It was eleven o’clock in the morning and I hadn’t had breakfast yet, and I’m a breakfast guy.   Whataburger is my usual go-to in the mornings, but I didn’t want to be ‘that guy’ that comes in just after breakfast hours asking for breakfast.   As a quick side note: Honey-butter chicken biscuits and BoBs would be great any time of the day, Whataburger.  I’m just sayin’

I remembered there was also McDonald’s on the way and thought a sausage biscuit would at least  get me through the movie.  Unless I’m in a huge hurry, I don’t like using the drive-thru window.  Since I spend nearly all of my workday sitting behind a computer and then go home and…sit behind a computer, I like to get on my feet whenever I can, so I parked my car and went inside.

I had never been to this McDonald’s before, but I figured it that it would be like most of the others I had been to.   I mean, it’s a McDonald’s, you know?  I walked in and the first thing I noticed was four giant screens to my left, beckoning me to use them place an order.  The second thing that I noticed was that nobody was using them, and since there w ere a few people in line, I thought I’d walk up to the touch screen and get a taste of The Future!

I have to admit, it was pretty neat ordering, it was like using an app on a really big phone.  Since there was nobody waiting behind me in line, I could take my time looking over the menu.  There was also an option to customize my order, which I didn’t really need but something to check out for later.  A card reader just below the screen allowed me to pay, and my receipt popped out of a slot to the left of the screen.  I placed my order, then walked away from the screen to wait.  Was it faster than going to the register?  Probably not, because not only did I take my time looking over the menu, but I had to learn how to use the system.

As I stood and waited for my order, a woman walked into the restaurant and also walked up to one of the screens.  She stared at it for a few seconds, tentatively poked at the screen a few times, then turned to ask somebody:  “Do I have to use the screen?”

The other customer told her ‘no’ and pointed to the register.  With a sigh of relief, the woman said “Oh, good” and she walked over to wait in line at the register.  I smiled.  Clearly, The Future had not arrived for her just yet.  I was genuinely surprised, because the woman was not very old.  Now don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t very young, either, but to me, at least, she appeared to be young enough to go: “Okay, maybe I’ll give this a shot.”

For all the wailing and gnashing of teeth about how automated kiosks and self-check-outs are going to put people out of work, I don’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon.  Lots of folks, like the woman I saw in that McDonald’s, just aren’t going to be willing to try the new thing, and for people that are willing to try it, there is going to be a learning curve which will take some time to work through.  Let’s also not forget the people that do try it and get stuck, which I know all of you have witnessed if you’ve spent any time in a grocery store self-checkout.

As for me, I look forward to taking the opportunity to avoid any unnecessary human contact, because, well, I’m a computer guy, and that’s what we do.

This has been 300 Seconds, the next episode will be posted after my I pre-order my tickets for Wreck-It-Ralph 2.  I am Eduardo Soliz, if you’d like to hear more 300 Seconds subscribe via iTunes and check out my website at Eduardo Soliz dot com, and thanks you for listening!