BUSINESS, Eduardo Soliz, TECH, TECH SUPPORT, WORK

Laid Off

Person in a bear costume sitting at a dinner table behind a laptop. He is wearing a yellow polo shirt and holding a coffee mug with the words "What's the Rush?" on it.

Working beary hard!

I was spending another day at home in this weird time that is both interesting and yet uninteresting. The company I work at had closed all of its offices back in mid-March as the nation started coming to grips with the pandemic. My job, as a deskside technician, was to be the ‘boots on the ground’ in the San Antonio office. Now that the office had been closed, my workdays consisted of sitting at my dining room table on my work laptop hunting through open incidents for something to do. Thanks to the lock-down, the number of remote techs working from home had multiplied five-fold, so the pickings were very slim.

A fellow tech had posted a ticket into our group chat asking for help, so I raised my virtual hand and seized the opportunity. I had been hired in December, so there was still a lot that I didn’t know. Thus, I began searching through our knowledge base so I wouldn’t be flying completely blind.

I had barely started to read the first article I had found, when the message: “Do you have time for a call?” popped up on my screen. It was from my boss.  I frowned at my dumb luck. Of course, the boss has to ping me the one time that I actually had something to do. But he’s the boss, so I replied: “Sure, I have time.”

“Okay, I’m sending a meeting request.” He replied.

What I call ‘Eduardo’s dumb luck’ kicked in again as my boss’ video chat request kept popping up on my phone instead of on my laptop. We use Microsoft Teams, and as much as I like Microsoft, their software seems to get squirrely as all heck once it’s running on something that isn’t Windows. After five awkward minutes of me sending “No, I can’t connect to the meeting” to my boss while walking around my home looking the cellular sweet spot that I hoped would make it start working on my phone, my laptop suddenly became cooperative. I joined the chat to find my boss and two other people that I had never met before on my screen.

My Spidey-sense started tingling. The first thought that popped in my head was: This is it, I’m being let go. To me, the newcomers were the online equivalent of a security guard carrying a cardboard box showing up at your desk.

Once my boss introduced the pair of morose looking gentlemen as being from Human Resources, my internal estimate of whether I was about to be let go went from ninety-nine percent to one hundred.   The only question now was going to be whether I was going to be laid off or fired.

The HR guys introduced themselves; one of them said that he was sorry we were meeting for the first time under these circumstances. I almost cracked a joke about this being the last time we were meeting, too. I wish I had. Maybe it would have lightened the mood a little. Then again, it may have also made the unfortunate proceedings even more awkward. I chose to be a professional and held my tongue.

After the introduction, my boss pretty much let the HR guys take over the meeting.  He didn’t even bother looking into the camera, which was off to the side of his PC. Whatever was happening on his screen had his full attention; I later found out that I wasn’t the only person to be let go, so perhaps he was setting up those meetings as well. I can’t say I envied him having that job, but at least he still had one.

Having been fired before as well as having been part of a mass layoff, I knew what was coming. We’re very sorry it had to come to this. Business needs. This wasn’t planned in advance. Blah blah blah. The only part I was interested in was whether I was being laid off or fired. I did a Mr. Spock eyebrow-raise at what I thought were some questionable statements, such as:

This is about business needs, which translates to: This is about saving money. That statement would have gone over a lot better if I hadn’t had to sit in on an hour long presentation from our CFO the day before where he mentioned that the company was doing fairly well in spite of the lockdown. Yeah, that does not computer at all.

This wasn’t planned in advance: I don’t buy this for a second, especially given that it was a large company. Large companies never do anything quickly. It had been a month and a half since the office closure, and I wonder if there was some threshold they were waiting to hit. Even if that statement was true, a company that just drops people at the drop of a hat isn’t the kind of company I want to work for. Granted, that issue seems to have taken care of itself, but still.

They then started talking about health insurance, which is super-important for me. I found it interesting that the HR guys bought up COBRA (probably a requirement) but they didn’t bring up signing up for health care though the Affordable Care Act. Granted, I’m already aware of both, but not bringing up the ACA is doing a disservice to people. COBRA premiums are insanely expensive and in my experience, the ACA provided good coverage at a much lower cost. When I needed temporary health insurance last year when in between jobs, the cost of an unsubsidized ACA plan premium and my medications combined were lower than the COBRA premium by itself.  So if you are staring down the barrel of a crazy expensive COBRA payment, do yourself a favor and look into the ACA at healthcare.gov.

Finally, as someone who takes medication regularly for a chronic condition, being let go on the last day of a month was an extremely lousy thing to do, because it meant I had to immediately request refills and pray they were ready before my coverage ran out at the end of the day. Otherwise, I was going on the hook for a few hundred dollars. If this spiel is coming off as a little angry, that’s why.

Near the end of that whole sad affair, I was told to not mention anything to my coworkers, because others were also going to be let go. Sure. A box would be shipped out so that I could return my work laptop and charger. I also had an access card for the office and a skeleton key, so I offered to get in touch with my manager to return those items. I was told that to return those items with the laptop to the home office in Milwaukee, even though ‘we know it sounds redundant.’ In my mind I thought: That doesn’t sound redundant. That sounds stupid. But I didn’t fight it.

My last work meeting over with, I requested refills from my pharmacy (another painful experience that I won’t go into here) and began to clean up the improvised home workspace that would go back to being my dining room table. About an hour later, I heard a message ping come from the laptop. One of my now-former coworkers had also been let go and had sent a good-bye message to the group in chat. I figured that the cat was out of the bag, so I should probably send one too. Later, after cleaning up, I discovered that my access to work chat and email had already been revoked. Score one for efficiency. I sighed, closed my work laptop for the last time and then came to an unfortunate realization:

I had forgotten to reassign the ticket.

Oh well.

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Android, Computers, CREATIVE, flying, FOOD, FURRY, fursuit, JUST SAYING, MUSIC, RANDOM REVIEW, Tablets, TECH, TRAVEL, WEATHER

A Few Things I Noticed While Flying

  1. BEFORE: “We’re flying you to Columbus, Ohio for training.” I’m not sure if that’s going to be better or worse than “PowerPoint hell.”
  2. I haven’t flown since 2010, so this is going to be interesting.
  3. It will also be interesting to compare this to my recent Amtrak trip to Dallas (see previous post).
  4. I recently moved, and I’m so glad I got my new driver’s license beforehand due to airport security. The picture on the new license is also of my currently less-fat self.
  5. Dear Uber driver: This is Texas. Turn on your gol-dang air conditioner.
  6. TRIP TO COLUMBUS: TSA was quick and pleasant; any delays were self-imposed.
  7. Then again, not having to do the TSA dance is a point in Amtrak’s favor
  8. Then again, an Amtrak to nearby Cincinnati would have taken nearly 2 days.
  9. The rollers on the X-Ray scanner quit rolling so we got held up just a little.
  10. I got to be zapped by the full-body scanner so I may be a little glowy while in Columbus.
  11. You’re darn skippy I’m going to savor every drop of this $3.25 airport Coca-Cola Zero
  12. Does wearing a Green Lantern ring qualify someone as a peace officer? Asking for a friend
  13. Coughing at the airport and thinking I should have had some Vitamin C with breakfast this morning
  14. Flying Southwest. Boarding group: C I guess I’m getting a window seat.
  15. Make that a center seat, which goes to show how long it’s been since I last flew.
  16. Amtrak seats are definitely better than airplane seats.
  17. Takeoffs make me a mite nervous, dunno that I’ll ever get used to it
  18. Seatmates aren’t very chatty but I have a slight headache so no biggie
  19. Actually, I talked a little with the gal who had the window seat…good luck with the marketing business!
  20. Other passengers: Read books and stories. Me: Write some 😉
  21. While I have a spare phone battery, I’m trying to keep from using it.
  22. I wonder how long it takes the plane to get out of Texas?
  23. Pretzels and cheese sandwich crackers. Mmm.
  24. Thing I forgot: Water bottle, which would have come in handy after the snack.
  25. I feel obligated to share my ‘peanut story’ with seatmates. Sorry.
  26. We’re all “random weirdos” here
  27. Complimentary drinks are a point in flying’s favor over Amtrak, but not so much due to the 4-ounce cups that are served.
  28. Tail’s dragging today; I stayed up way too late getting ready for the trip after driving up from Corpus Christi in the morning.
  29. I would like to sleep but I just can’t nod off on the plane. Being in the center seat doesn’t help.
  30. Thought about bringing my tablet along instead of my laptop but decided not to. After trying to type on the plane all squished up I definitely should have bought the tablet instead.
  31. Slight layover at Chicago Midway International. Part of me wishes I’d bought my fursuit along BECAUSE BEARS.
  32. Home Run Pizza hit the spot.
  33. I’m jonesing for some ice cream and I can’t find any at the airport. COME ON MAN
  34. At a Chicago airport yogurt shop:
    “Finally, some ice cream!”
    “It’s frozen yogurt, sir.”
    “Don’t ruin this for me, please.”
    “Yes, sir. It’s ice cream.”
  35. I just realized I should have worn something Texan but settled for furry instead. Oh well.
  36. I should have bought a bear souvenir while in Chicago. I HAVE FAILED MY PEOPLE.
  37. Head attendant on the second flight was kind of a wisenheimer, but he was a funny wisenheimer.
  38. Seatmates were glued to their phones on the second flight up.
  39. So was I. Yes, they had in flight WiFi, which we didn’t have on the flight to Chicago.
  40. Southwest Airlines Wi-Fi had 80s music, which made for a more pleasant flight!
  41. The presence of Wi-Fi is another point in air travel’s favor, though to get actual Internet you have to pay.  I dug the site where you can see your flight progress, though.
  42. Saw a seatmate playing Solitaire on his phone. Nice.
  43. Grey and rainy in Columbus. Just as well, given that I’m here for work!
  44. TRIP HOME: Got an email saying my flight home to San Antonio is delayed a half-hour. Crap.
  45. Having a company credit card means overpriced airport food is no biggie
  46. Thanks to my Furry Invasion t-shirt, I got to explain furry to a TSA agent in Columbus, Ohio.
  47. His coworker helped out, which made me wonder if she had something to share with the class. Hmm.
  48. Nearly showed up late to my flight home because I thought the plane was delayed (see #44)
  49. Was relieved to be in Group B for boarding which meant that I may be able to avoid another flight in the middle seat/steerage.
  50. Plane was only half-filled so I got an aisle seat for the flight home…in the same aisle with a toddler.
  51. Seatmate had a small dog in a carrier on the floor. Awww!
  52. Nothing says I’M A FURRY like watching the Walt Disney version of Robin Hood on your laptop for in-flight entertainment
  53. I was the only one who ordered ginger ale on the trip home so I got the whole can. Score!
  54. Arrived back home on time, which has me slightly irked at the time goof-up.
  55. Overall, flying wasn’t bad, though I would definitely take an Amtrak over it if I had the time: No TSA, roomier seats, lounge and dining cars, people appear more relaxed, and the ability to walk around the train make the train a much more pleasant experience.
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BUSINESS, JUST SAYING, RANDOMIZER9.COM, WORK

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.

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BUSINESS, WHISKEY-TANGO-FOXTROT, WORK

Waiting For A Living

Back in late November, I got an email from a recruiter who had a client that needed a programmer as soon as possible.  I sent back a resume and quickly got a reply asking if I could show up at a local community college for an interview that afternoon.  This was at about midday, so I figured that they must really be in a hurry.  I showed up a few hours later for the interview, and it went well.  The job was a six-month contract that paid well, and they wanted me to start the following week.

I was glad to be getting back to work, and I excitedly told my parents and friends that I had a new job that I would be starting soon.  Everyone wished me good luck, and I was raring to go.

That Friday, I got an e-mail from the recruiter saying that the job would have to wait another few weeks until late December.  I wasn’t happy about having to wait, but what the hey, it had already been a few months so it wasn’t be a big deal.

Two days before the new start date, I get another email with more wonderful news: the job was going to be delayed until late January because of a higher priority project.  I grit my teeth and say okay, I can wait, but I’m starting to get worried about the situation.  I enjoy the holidays and try not to worry too much about things as I move into a new apartment with the anticipation that I will have a job soon to pay rent and keep the lights on.

The Friday before the new-new start date, I get pinged from the recruiter, who tells me that we haven’t gotten a final answer for the folks at the college.  I wonder if I should pull a George Costanza and just show up, but I don’t.  It takes the folks at the school until Wednesday to touch base.  According to them, the job is funded, but there the higher priority project is running late.  They don’t bother to provide a new possible start date, so I’m left now with a “job” that has no start date.

I’m searching again in earnest for a new job (I’ve continued to search this whole time) but honestly, this is no way to do business.  If they get in touch with me before something else comes up, I’ll take the gig, but I really don’t know how much I can trust those people now.  The way they’ve been jerking me around this whole time has left a very bad taste in my mouth, and I wonder if there is something going on that I’m not being told.

Regardless, its a hell of a way to run a taco stand.

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Apple, Computers, TECH, Videogames

Apple is the new Nintendo (which is the new Apple!)

Somedays it is easy to believe that I have waken up in Bizarro-world.  Apple recently decided that the iPod Touch was going to be a game machine.  Nintendo turned the DS into a music player with the DSi, (using Apple’s codec, of all things!)  In addition, Nintendo announced the DS XL not even a year after the DSi’s release.

What’s next, a new version of Windows that actually works?

Oh…

I have thought of Nintendo as being the “Apple” of the video game industry for some time.  Much like Apple, they march to their own beat and don’t worry about what “the other guys” are doing.  Sometimes it works out great, sometimes they trip over their own innovations, and sometimes they are just too far ahead of the curve for their own good.  At the end of the day, they make lots of money and have lots of die-hard fans.

Apple, of course, has long been known for “thinking different,” as well as for Steve Jobs, overpriced hardware, constantly re-releasing new iterations of said hardware with minor updates, and not being very interested in gaming.  At the end of the day, they also make lots of money and have lots of die-hard fans.

Thus, it came as a surprise to see Apple take a page out of Nintendo’s book, as they touted the iPod Touch as their new portable “game machine.”  Apple was also pretty blatant in promoting their device as being superior to Nintendo and Sony’s portable offerings.  The beauty of Apple’s approach is that Apple itself does not have to make any of the games themselves.

Nintendo, for its part, recently announced the DS XL, a curious move which defies traditional gadget logic.  After all, things are supposed to get smaller over time, not bigger!  In fact, the 4-inch screen of the XL nearly brings it to par with Sony’s PSP.

Speaking of Sony, Lord only knows what they’re thinking…I mean, seriously, $250 for the PSPgo?

For all of the hype, I don’t see games being a big part of Apple’s overall strategy; instead they will be another revenue stream just like apps and music.  The games themselves have been mostly casual affairs, the ‘big budget’ titles have come from EA and their ilk…as if they needed another platform to release Madden onto.

It remains to be seen whether Nintendo will be adding other multimedia functions to take advantage of the DS XL’s bigger screen.  While a video player would be much appreciated by DS users, it won’t contribute to Nintendo’s bottom line, so I doubt we will see that happening anytime soon.

While Nintendo and Apple have taken pages out of each other’s business plans, the fundamental core of what both companies will remain the same, so long as the DS and iPod continue to be money-makers.

I suppose Bizarro-world isn’t such a bad place to be after all.

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BUSINESS

Blockbusted

Blockbuster has been on my “companies I hate” list for some time now because of a screw-up on their part some years ago where they all but labeled me a thief for supposedly not returning a game.  Thus, the news of their slow death (mainly at the hands of Netflix) has filled me with glee.  I am only disappointed that they didn’t buy Circuit City before they imploded; two crappy companies could have been taken off the map at once.  I’ve been noticing signs that The End Is Near for both Blockbuster and Hollywood Video for some time, as various locations in the neighborhood have been closing.

In terms of value, Netflix kicks Blockbuster to the curb: For $10 a month, I get a movie a week from Netflix in the mail AND an all-you-can-watch buffet from their Instant Watch service…or I can rent two first-run movies at Blockbuster for two nights.

The impending demise of Blockbuster and its ilk was made much more apparent to me when I took a trip to one yesterday.  In the past, the lines at Blockbuster on a Saturday evening are as long and as slow as the ones at the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Yesterday was different; there were just over half-a-dozen cars in the parking lot, and just as many people inside.  Instead of the hustle and bustle of familes, couples, and kids sorting through the movies, and debating the merits of Shrek 3 versus Finding Nemo, all was quiet save for the rustling of the employees and my size 14s tromping throughout the store.  The line was nonexistent as I went to the counter to pay for my movies and get my foot-and-a-half-long receipt.

As I walked out, I thought about the company I used to work for.  I thought about the movie “Other People’s Money” and the speech given by Danny DeVito’s character:

“We’re dead alright, we’re just not broke…and do you know the surest way to go broke?  Keep getting an increasing share of a shrinking market.  Down the tubes.  Slow but sure…”

I’d like to say its been nice knowing you, but don’t let the door hit you where the Good Lord split you, Blockbuster.

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