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.

Riding the Job Search Roller-coaster.

Yesterday was a day of highs and lows. I’m at the tail end of the temporary job I’ve been working at trying to squeeze out one more week of PC refreshes before filing for unemployment and it wasn’t going too well. I had one appointment on Monday, nothing yesterday, and I have one today with nothing scheduled for the rest of the week. As I do every day, I scanned the job listings on the Michigan Works website,, and Craigslist.

Found an ad on CL for a Desktop Support position in Brighton, which isn’t too far and which I’m already familiar with from having lived there in the past. So I sent off a resume with a short cover letter to the email address and went back to scanning for other possibilities. I’ve been doing this for months and I’m lucky if I ever get an email telling me to piss off, let alone a phone call, so you can imagine my excitement when the job on Craigslist called me a few hours later. I was told that they were hoping to fill the position quickly and that they thought I might be a good fit so could I be available to do a phone interview in about an hour or so. An hour later I was in a phone interview with the head of the project and the person who called me earlier. The job offered $19 an hour with no benefits, but it was a Monday-Friday gig with the potential for some overtime. The interview went well and they offered me the job right then and there with a start date of today. I asked if I could start tomorrow instead as I had some stuff to wrap up today and they agreed. Hanging up the phone, I was on cloud nine.

And then they emailed me the contract.

For the most part it’s the standard legal boilerplate I’ve seen throughout my career, but there were three provisions that concerned me. One was the standard if-you-invent-anything-we-own-it clause which is pretty standard practice, but this one seemed to suggest that they owned anything that might be copyrightable or patentable regardless of whether I did it at work or outside of work and it seemed to suggest that I would have to sign over rights to any copyrights or patents I already have which I’m not even sure is legal if that is indeed what it suggests. The next provision that worried me was about my being responsible for all business expenses which reads as follows:

The Contractor is responsible for paying for all expenses associated with providing the services hereunder. The Contractor will indemnify and hold the Company harmless from all expenses and costs incurred in the performance of this Agreement.

Now I’m assuming this is meant to say that I’m responsible for buying my own clothes and the gas to get back and forth to work, but I could also see where it could mean that if I have to replace a hard drive in the course of the job that I assume the costs of purchasing the replacement. I’ve replied back asking for clarification of these provisions so I know exactly what I’m agreeing to, but it’s the third one I’m worried about that may be the deal breaker and it’s pretty unambiguous:

No Withholding of Taxes, etc. The Contractor understands and agrees that, as an independent contractor, the Contractor’s compensation under this Agreement is not subject to withholding for federal, state, or social security taxes. All such taxes and other legally required payments and any insurance required by law shall be the Contractor’s sole responsibility.

I’ve been working as a contractor my entire career and this is the first time a company has said they won’t handle taking out taxes from my paycheck. I realize that for truly independent contractors that’s the way things work, but I’m not sure if I’m disciplined enough to do this task properly. As a result I’m leaning toward not taking the job which is really frustrating because it’s the first semi-decent paying offer I’ve had in awhile and the current job isn’t likely to have any more work for me until sometime in December.

For the moment I’m waiting to hear back from the company with answers to my questions about the contract and then I’ll make my decision. I hate to turn down a job that sounds like it’s a good fit for me and my skills, but I’d hate ending up in trouble with the IRS because I screwed up my taxes. Plus the idea of having to potentially turn over my blog to them is also somewhat disheartening.

The SEB Late Summer Fund Raising Drive is in swing!

As much as I hate to do this I’m once again standing here with my hat out hoping some of you folks have a couple of bucks you can toss in. I am currently employed doing PC refreshes for a chain of banks, but it only pays $13 an hour and will only last through the month of September. Plus the folks who decided on which areas we’d be working in seem to think that Lansing and Royal Oak are local to Ann Arbor. That means that this week I’ve been making 150 mile round trips to Lansing to do my job and even in a Honda Civic that’s about 2 and a half trips on a single $27 tank of gas. Last week I only managed to get 16 hours as I had to take two days off to fight a cold so the paycheck was only about $183 after taxes.

Now this week I’ve managed to get in a full 40 hours and I should be getting a decent amount back on mileage, but I’m also looking at a deficit of close to $400 in bills with next month’s rent due in 11 days. We’ve been juggling bills pretty well lately, but the month of August is always rough. I still need to renew the tags on both my cars as my birthday is next Wednesday and I’m going to be using the $70 in birthday money I got from family so far to help pay for that. Looking ahead to this week’s work schedule it’s not clear that I’ll manage another solid 40 hours. At the moment I’ve got around $126 in the checking account that has to last me until next Friday and I still need to buy more gas for the trips to Lansing this week.

So here I am again asking you guys for your generosity. Times are rough for everyone so if you can’t afford to part with any money I completely understand and I don’t want anyone feeling obligated to donate. But if you’ve got a spare buck or two and feel like I’ve given you some mildly amusing and/or informative reading material then I’d be very grateful if you could lend a hand. Some of you have already donated more than once and I can’t begin to tell you how eternally grateful I am for your assistance. I’m very sorry that I have to ask again.

We apologize for the brief interruption in programming.

I’ve been a little quiet around here and I have two excuses for that.

First, I started the new temp job on Tuesday and I’ve been finding my legs in what can only be described as an “interesting” work situation. In my 22 years of contract work this is the first time I’ve been handed a couple of disks, a handful of slightly confusing instructions, and a list of names and addresses and told to go do my thing solo. The good news is that I seem to be doing it pretty well.

Second, I managed to catch the same summer cold that my wife had been suffering from. It’s taken her about five days to start feeling better and I’m on my second day. It hit me hard enough this morning that I took advantage of a gap in my schedule to take the day off and lay around the house coughing, sneezing, and consuming vast quantities of soup and juice. I was scheduled to do three installs today, but I’d already taken care of two of them in the days previous and the third wasn’t ready to be installed. Normally I’d go in and see if I couldn’t move someone else up the schedule to get them done today, but I don’t think they would have appreciated me oozing mucus all over their shiny new keyboard. Whether I go in tomorrow or not remains to be seen. I only have one scheduled install that I’m aware of, but my boss may tell me to just put it off.

With any luck I’ll be feeling much better by Monday and will be able to devote some more time to both working and blogging, but until then I’ll be blowing my nose and sounding like a 30-year chain smoker.

Damn, is it August already?

Not only is it already August but I’m 4 days into it without having posted anything. So here’s a traditional random crap post to fill the gap until I’m inspired to write something substantial.

The good news is that starting next week I will be employed. The bad news is that it’ll be for a total of 2 months — if I’m lucky — and the pay is probably a low-point in my 22 year career. I’ve been hired by a company in Florida to do PC refreshes (moving users from older hardware to newer) for a chain of banks which I had never heard of before, but which is suddenly advertising on local television. I don’t know how long the chain has been in Michigan, but now I’m hyper-aware of it.

It’s always weird how you can be oblivious to something for years and then once you’ve heard of it you see it everywhere from that point on. The town of Metamora here in Michigan is another example. I first heard of it when I dated a girl who was originally from that town in High School. I thought it was someplace on the other side of the state, but it was actually not that far from where I was living at the time. I’d been through it a number of times without it ever registering in my head and seen signs for it without ever thinking about it. After being told about it I realized just how often I’d been exposed to it previously without ever realizing it. Another example is a moving company called Tantara which I first learned about during the Y2K job I did for General Motors/GMAC back in late ’98/early ’99. Saw their trucks everywhere once I was aware of them.

As for the new job it turns out I could have turned it down because the pay is less than 70% of what I was making at my previous job, but I decided to take it anyway for two reasons. First, it’ll still pay more than what I’m getting on unemployment and it’ll allow me to use the unclaimed weeks later. Second, it shows that I’m willing to work even if it’s not my ideal job.

Of course I’d rather just win the lotto and not work at all, but barring that happening anytime soon I’ll just keep my head in the job listings and hope someone will give me a chance to prove my abilities.

I am back to work, for at least three days.

Sorry I haven’t posted much lately, but I’ve been getting ready for what is probably the shortest job of my career. I was contacted by one of my former contract houses about a three-day assignment which started yesterday. I’m helping a company unbox, test, and set up IV pumps for a local hospital. Yesterday was the first day and it was about as tedious as you’d expect something like this to be, but the rules of unemployment say I cannot turn down an offered job no matter how ridiculously short it is. So I’m doing what I must and at least it’s mildly interesting in the getting to see the inner-workings of a hospital sort of way. I’ve been to this hospital before with Anne and I hadn’t realized that they make use of robots to cart stuff like linens and garbage bins around with. Probably because they stay contained to the lower level where no one outside of hospital staff ever sees them.

Anyway, it’s time that I left for work so I better get going. I’ll try to get back into the swing of posting more regularly soon.

Not much to say at the moment…

So here’s a quick update on what I’m doing.

New semester starts today and I’ll finally be taking my Cisco classes, which was the whole point of going back to school. Two seven and a half week courses back to back so it’s going to move at a breakneck pace. Plus I get out of class five minutes before I start my shift at work. Which means I’ll be a little late to work, but I usually end up staying past the end of my shift anyway so it all works out in the wash. Boss is OK with it and that’s what matters.

Been sending out resumes like complementary breath mints. My contract at Big Dot.Com company comes to an end at the end of April so I don’t have much time left to find someplace else to work. There’s been a fair amount of postings for IT people, but they’re asking for people with a lot more job skills than I currently have. May have to, once again, consider looking out of state for work. Can’t really afford to be out of work for any length of time.

All of that is what has been keeping my attention which is part of why I’ve not been blogging as much lately. I’ll try to devote some more attention to the blog in the coming weeks, but it’s hard to think of stuff to write about when you’re busy preparing for a looming deadline like the one I’m dealing with.

What have you guys been up to?

My company gave me a birthday card today.

Normally I enjoy getting birthday cards because it’s a sign that someone thought of me and took the time an effort to find a card and put it in an envelope and deliver it to me. This card didn’t inspire those feelings for a number of reasons.

First and foremost it was given to me a full 8 days ahead of my actual birthday. Today is August 17th and my birthday is August 25. If the reps didn’t come around but once every couple of weeks I could understand it being so early, but there are company reps on site all day every day so there’s really no reason to deliver it so early other than they aren’t really paying attention to when my birthday is, which shows that it was less a thought on their part and more of a this-popped-up-on-my-monthly-to-do-list.

Secondly the card is pretty much an advertisement for the company itself. The front is decent enough with a picture of a cupcake with a birthday candle in it. All in shades of blue, which is the officially company color, and the words “happy birthday” printed on it. The inside is blank other than the company name/logo in the lower right hand corner. If not for the attempt at personalizing it by the staff it would just say “company name” inside it as though I needed reminding of what company I worked for.

The personalization itself is the sort of generic thing you write—we hope you have a great day—for someone you know nothing about, which is the case here as the reps don’t interact with us techs often enough to know more than our names. Which makes it feel more like a perfunctory exercise more than anything else. The sort of thing you do because you think you’re expected to do it and not because you actually give a shit.

The back of the card again carries the company name/logo along with a listing of the various services they provide (staffing, professionals, etc.). It’s there so that if I should happen to stand the card upright on my desk the little ad pushing the company’s services will be visible to any who approach my work space. Though you’d have to bend down and squint to read the tiny listing of services.

It’s probably yet another sign of my cynicism that the card has the opposite effect on me than what they were probably hoping for. It was supposed to be a nice little acknowledgement that I managed to keep breathing through another calendar year and a small sign that the company cares. From where I’m standing it’s a perfect example of how the company doesn’t know a thing about me and doesn’t really care yet still feels the need to waste paper in an attempt to give me a warm fuzzy. I would’ve felt better if they hadn’t bothered trying in the first place.

A couple of weeks back on Twitter I mentioned the company’s attempts at attaboys that I thought were ridiculous. It was a sheet of paper with a simple block design on it in the company’s colors with the company name/logo prominently displayed on it that said “Good to Know You!” Um… OK. Not “Good Job” or “Excellent Work” or “That’s Some Right Fine Laboring You’ve Been Doing!” No, it said “Good to Know You!” It was like they had the ghost of Mr. Rogers design their attaboy.

That sort of thing just irritates me. All it takes to let me know I’m appreciated is popping your head in the door and saying “You’re doing a good job, keep it up.” If you really feel the need to do more than that then take me out to lunch or give me a few bucks on a gift certificate. Or, best of all, a raise. Popping out a preprinted attaboy with an inanely generic message and the company logo all over like it’s more advertisement than recognition will just kick up my cynical side and make me write bitchy blog posts.

Moving to afternoon shift.

We rotate shifts at work every so often and I’ve managed to go over a year without working the afternoon (4PM – 12:30AM) shift. The boss thought it was about time I took a turn on it and so I arranged to take day classes next semester and spent this past weekend shifting my sleep schedule. Seeing as a far part of my blogging happens during downtime at work this means my posting will probably happen later in the day. I’ll try to get some up in the hours before leaving for work, like this one, but expect a shift in when they show up.

The other bit of news is that apparently Ann Arbor does inspections of apartments every couple of years to ensure that they’re being properly maintained by the leasing company. Ours is due to be inspected this week so we’re cleaning up a bit in preparation. What fun!

I’ve been contacted by German news show “MorgenMagazin.”

Seems they’re coming to Michigan to do a news story on the transformation that the city of Detroit is going through. The show’s producer came across one of my entries about having a hard time finding work and how we were considering leaving Michigan, a discussion we just had again the other night, and dropped me an email. She’s looking for people who used to work for GM and are now thinking of moving away. I technically qualify on both counts, but I wasn’t a part of the massive layoffs that are about to happen having left GM voluntarily over a year ago. The fact that I was also a contractor probably means I’m not the person she’s hoping to interview, but perhaps I can point her to someone who is.

So if you’re in the Detroit area and are a former or soon-to-be former employee of GM and are thinking about moving out of Michigan let me know. The story’s deadline is Thursday. They plan to be here today and/or tomorrow. I don’t think you absolutely have to be living IN Detroit to participate, the fate of GM is going to affect pretty much all of South Eastern Michigan and the State as a whole, but there’s probably bonus points if you are.