I think the men’s room air freshener at work is trying to kill me.

I have an enemy at work in the form of a small plastic box that sits high on a wall in the men’s bathroom and I’m pretty sure it’s trying to kill me.

Behold! The form of your eventual downfall!

Behold the form of your eventual lavatory room death!

Every time I walk into the men’s room this little fucker shoots out a stinging cloud of “air freshener” that always immediately flies into my eyes causing them to sting and burn and leaving me to stumble around blindly risking death by accidental swirly. Every. Damned. Time.

OK, not really every time, but often enough that it certainly feels like every damned time. Definitely often enough that I’ve contemplated smashing it with whatever happened to be handy. Which, being I’m in a men’s room when this happens, isn’t much. Suppose I could use my fists, but I’m not keen on banging up my knuckles. Instead I curse silently under my breath (yeah, silently, sure thing) and hope there’s no one in the stall I’m about to fall into.

You win this round, men’s room air freshener, but watch your back! Someday I will have my revenge!

My employer wants me to drink more water.

Like many companies the one I work for has a vested interest in healthy employees. Too many people, myself included, are overweight and inactive and we contribute to the higher rates all of us pay for healthcare. As a result our HR department has been trying to motivate folks to be healthier.

This manifested back in the Fall of 2014 with the Fitbit Challenge where the company offered to give us a $99 Fitbit Flex for free if we managed to walk 8,000 steps a day for 20 days in a single month. I took on this challenge in the hopes that at the end of it I’d be well on my way to a habit of walking regularly. I successfully completed the challenge and even kept walking regularly and then winter set in and it all came crashing to a halt. The Fitbit got packed up when we moved last year and I have no idea which of the boxes it’s still stuffed in. Still, it was a valiant effort on the part of my company.

I don’t recall what they they tried last year to get people motivated to be more healthy, I’m not even sure they bothered, but this year they have a new challenge: The Water Challenge!

Are you ready for a new challenge?

Did you know that roughly 70 percent of the body is made of water? Brain 75%, Lungs 90%, Bones 24%, Blood 85%, Skin 80%, Muscle 75%.

Drinking enough H2O has numerous benefits to the body. Are you drinking enough water per day?

Challenge: Drink 64 ounces of water per day for 25 days during the month of July (1 – 31). Only water intake counts, any other beverages such as coffee, juice, sodas do not count!

This is their big idea for this year? Let’s all drink more water? It doesn’t help that the email is written in Comic Sans which makes it impossible to take seriously. I also don’t know what the little factoids at the start have to do with this challenge. Those organs are also made of protein so I guess we need to eat a shitload[1] more protein than we are too?

Don't leave home without it.

I never leave home without it.

My hatred of water is well document on SEB. As is the fact that it’s what I primarily drink these days. I have a mug or two of coffee in the morning and then it’s water from my trusty 32oz Contigo water bottle that I keep with me everywhere I go. I hate every fucking sip of it, but I drink it just the same. On average I go through 3 to 4 full bottles throughout the course of a day and some days it’s even more. So I’m already doubling this challenge on a regular basis. It turns out the recommendation for males is 16 8oz cups of water a day which works out to about 4 of my water bottles. Keep in mind that the average diet includes sources of water other than drinking it straight so you don’t necessarily have to drink 16 8oz cups a day to hit the recommendation.

Needless to say, I’m underwhelmed by this challenge. I fucking hate drinking water and I’m already exceeding the challenge by quite a bit. They want us to track our intake using our Fitbits, smartphones, or just an Excel spreadsheet, but there’s no real way to verify that anyone is actually drinking the amount they’re claiming. Up for grabs are four $100 Dicks Sporting Goods gift certificates which is something I have absolutely no use for being that I don’t exercise and have never set foot inside a Dick’s Sporting Goods store.

To be fair, I have no idea how many glasses of water the average American drinks in a day and it’s entirely possible that most of us are probably relying too much on extracting water from other foods over drinking it straight. I know I’m guilty of that in my youth where most of what I drank was Coca-Cola, which does get you some water along with a whole bunch of stuff that counteracts anything good about the water in it. A quick and dirty Google search provides this CDC article on the National Cancer Institute’s 2007 Food Attitudes and Behaviors Survey:

Overall, 7% of adults reported no daily consumption of drinking water, 36% reported drinking 1 to 3 cups, 35% reported drinking 4 to 7 cups, and 22% reported drinking 8 cups or more. The likelihood of drinking less than 4 cups of water daily was significantly higher among participants aged 55 years or older than among those aged 18 to 34 (adjusted odds ratio [AOR], 1.3), among residents of the Northeast than among residents of the South (AOR, 1.4), among participants who consumed 1 cup or less of fruits or vegetables per day than among those who consumed 4.5 cups or more (AOR, 3.0), among participants who did not exercise than among those who exercised 150 minutes or more per week (AOR, 1.7), and among participants who were neither trying to gain nor lose weight than among those trying to lose weight (AOR, 1.3).

So it sounds like there’s more than a few folks who could benefit from drinking more water, but 2007 was a long time ago so it’s possible things are better (or worse) today. Still, maybe this water challenge is just what my coworkers need to be better hydrated. As for me, I’m already running to the bathroom more times in a day than I’d prefer. It’s that use of the Comic Sans font, however, that makes me want to start drinking pop again just out of spite.

[1.] I wasn’t sure if it’s spelled “shitload” or “shit-load” or “shit load” so I looked it up and was pleasantly surprised to see that Merriam-Webster actually has a definition for it. It’s spelled “shitload.”

The dangers of free promotional crap.

At my job as an IT Jedi one of the responsibilities I’ve been handed is the purchasing of miscellaneous items that are sometimes needed. Replacement hard drives, memory upgrades, adapter cables, that sort of thing. Every week or two I put together a list of requested purchases from our users and, when approved, I place the order with Newegg and/or, on the rare occasion, Amazon. When I look for items I try to find stuff that’s on sale and sometimes those things come with promotional items at no extra charge. For example, we’ve gotten free universal power adapters in the past which I tossed in a drawer and hand out when someone leaves their laptop charger at home.

A recent purchase of a Samsung SSD for one of our users came with a promotional item too. The video game Assassin’s Creed Unity. It’s important to note that I am not dumb enough to try and get away with using a corporate credit card to buy myself a video game, especially one I’ve no particular interest in (I’m way behind on AC games not even having played AC III yet). I noted it was included as a promotional item at no extra charge and didn’t think much of it because Samsung has done stuff like that in the past with the second Batman video game.

As it turns out it wasn’t a promotion by Samsung, but by Newegg themselves so it showed up on the list of items being purchased. I couldn’t see any way to remove it from the order so I let it go through. It ended up showing up on in the cart as an item immediately followed by a credit for the full amount thus costing the company nothing. When the invoices came in, however, the order was split over more than one of them and for some reason the credit for the game shows up on an entirely different invoice than the one the “purchase” shows up on. So it looks like I bought a game on the company card.

When I came into work today I had an email from the fellow who has to justify all the purchases of stuff from Newegg (it’s his company card we use) asking me to refrain from buying game codes on the company card even if it didn’t actually cost the company anything. I explained that I didn’t have a choice as there didn’t appear to be a way to tell Newegg no thanks for the freebie and I didn’t even want the game to begin with, but that I’d try to avoid it in the future if at all possible. I’m not in any real trouble and I can understand how it looks a bit odd to the higher ups so it’d be best to not repeat it.

Here’s the kicker to this little story: I tried the game code — it was free and it’s not like the company is going to use it. The game boots up and gets to the title screen with the PRESS ANY BUTTON TO START message. When you press a button it tries to play the opening cinematic and immediately crashes to the desktop.

This GIF seemed appropriate to this story.

This GIF seemed appropriate to this story.

Hey! Who moved all my crap?

Hey look! It’s my annual clean-the-work-desk-off day. Once a year around about this time I clean up my desks and you can tell that they are, in fact, desks. I’ve had no end of comments from coworkers passing by of the “Hey! You really DO have a desk under there!” variety.


This year’s motivation is the pending arrival of auditors from China next week. I’m not expecting to interact with them directly, but there was some desire expressed to have a more “professional” looking work environment in place. The truth is there was plenty of stuff I’d been meaning to get to sorting through to figure out what needed to be recycled and what needed to be put into the storage room and this was a good excuse to take the time to do it. I also went through all the boxes on top of my cubicle to see what they had in them and they were all empty save for one that held all the old wireless access points we replaced awhile back.

I should be able to keep things relatively clutter free through the holidays (the fact that I’m taking my usual 3 week vacation in December will help) and then in January I’ll get started on junking them back up again so I can clean them off again next November.

Totally bad pun of the day.

I work in a building full of engineers. They are very clever people most of the time. Sometimes they are too clever. Sometimes they engage in puns. Yesterday an engineer walked up to my cube and we had the following exchange:

Engineer: Les, what are you doing under my sink?

Me: Wha…?

Engineer: Your email said you were “at my disposal.” Haha!

punch-myself-face

This is one reason I love my job.

As of next month I will have been with my current employer for three years. First as a double contractor, then a single contractor, and finally as a direct hire. The people I work with are great and I come home each day with a sense of accomplishment. That’s a large part of the reason I love my job, but there are other, smaller reasons that factor in as well.

For example, there’s a wall near the front lobby where we have pictures of every employee grouped by department in a simple org chart. Each department has a header on it letting you know what it is, but for some reason whoever put it together never got around to making one for the IT department.

So we took it upon ourselves to make our own:

It seemed the logical choice.

It seemed the logical choice.

We put that up on the board over a year ago and it’s been there ever since. It’s a good feeling to know that the company you work for has a sense of humor. It makes me smile every time I see it.

The hidden messages under our desks.

My cubemate has been sitting at the same desk for the past 4 years. Today while reaching for something under his desk his hand brushed up against a flat magnet adhered to the side up near the center drawer. It’s been there the entire time and he had no idea. It’s one of those magnets that usually contain some form of uplifting message that you slap on a fridge or a filing cabinet.

The message written on this one is… interesting.

oddsecretmessage

For the record, he says that if that’s what it takes then knock yourself out.

Working in IT reveals certain truths about human nature.

One of those truths is that no matter how brief you make your communications to the rest of the company very few people will bother to read the text in full.

For example, here at the company I work for we have a small problem with too many people having a particular software package installed. We either need to buy more licenses to cover the extra installations or have people uninstall the program if they don’t really need it. Being that the former costs money we can’t really afford to spend right now, we’d prefer to go with the second option if at all possible. So the software guy constructs a short email to the employees that basically says all of this and asks folks that if they have this package installed, and aren’t actively using it, that they please uninstall it.

Since he sent it out this morning he’s gotten a number of responses from folks justifying their having the software. The email doesn’t ask folks to justify anything, just that if you’re not actively using it then please uninstall it. We did say that if not enough people uninstall then we’d have to go through and ask for a business justification, but that time hasn’t come yet. First we’re just looking for folks to voluntarily uninstall it if they don’t need it. Yet the justifications keep rolling in. You could chalk it up to paranoia that IT will yank a program you rely on to do your job if you don’t tell us immediately why you need it, but we’ve never done anything like that to our users so I’m not sure where that paranoia would come from.

I suppose it could be a side effect of email overload. I know many folks here get a lot more emails during the day then I do and it’s probably difficult to keep up with it all, but you’d think they’d put a little more focus on anything coming from the IT department due to the potential for it to be about something that could disrupt their day if they don’t plan for it. I know I’ve sent out bulletins about this or that in the past only to have people come up later and ask about it in a way that makes it clear they never even glanced at the bulletin.

Which is kind of funny when you consider that I always get nervous about writing up said bulletins. I hate having to do it because I’m terrible at speaking “Business-ese” so I put way more thought into it than I probably should because, as I said, very few people will bother to read it. My boss actually said that to me once: Don’t worry too much about it ’cause no one is going to read it. Which begs the question of why bother doing it. To which the answer is it’s a simple cover-your-ass thing to do.

So what we have is an exercise in communication which we have to do in spite of the fact that the few folks who do bother to look at it will only skim it at best and then either not do what needs to be done or do more than needs to be done depending on what phase the moon is in or recent sunspot activity or whatever the hell it is that drives such things. It’s the sort of thing that makes you pause and wonder if you’re not trapped in a sit-com and just don’t realize it.

Adventures in charity fund raising in the IT department.

Here at “The Automotive Supplier™” where I work there are several charity events put on by various departments throughout the year. The next one takes place on February 29th and is being set up and run by the IT department in my building (a whole whopping three people including myself). My pseudo-boss — in that he’s technically not my boss but he keeps an eye on me — is a golfer and he’s leading the charge on the event so he went with what he knows. Thus we are doing a mini-golf event with “holes” laid out throughout the cubicals and hallways of the building to raise funds for the Michigan Humane Society.

Of course we can’t dig actual holes into the floor for this event so we had to come up with some clever way of providing a target that would determine a successful putt. Being IT we of course had to come up with the most overtly geeky targets we could manage. Thus I give to you The Mouse Holes:

The paw flags read: Help us help them.

Yes, 18 crappy old mice have sacrificed their tails in order to provide a suitable way to determine a successful putt. They’ll be sitting on a sheet of paper with a circle on it so that if the ball hits the “hole” hard enough to knock it out of the circle it’ll be considered to have “popped” out of the hole putting a bit of finesse back into the game.

Now I’m a pretty big geek, but it would never have occurred to me to turn old mice into “holes” for a mini-golf game. Looking at the end result I feel a little more normal than usual. That’s some damned geeky shit.

The most awesome error message ever.

One of the challenges of working at a company that has locations around the world, and that deals with suppliers similarly spread out, is the one of communicating with people who literally speak a different language. Trying to communicate back and forth can be a real trial as idioms that all people tend to use without thinking about it rarely translate intact.

Occasionally, though, in trying to bridge the communication gap using whatever technology is at hand (in this case Google Translate) you get moments of pure awesome such as the following error message translated from Polish:

Pic of Evil eRequest.

Click to embiggen!

This problem occurs much more often than you’d think. Which is why many IT departments have a resident Priest on hand for just such an emergency.