Computers, why?

2017-Aug-03, Thursday 09:29
dorchadas: (Warcraft Algalon)
The chronicle of woe: new database system continues.

The previous system was clunky and old, but one advantage it has is metrics. Every day I got an email with how efficient I was, letting me know how I was doing and giving me daily feedback. My boss had to manually run the reports and mail them to me, so they tapered off when we started gearing up to transition to the new system, but the capability was still there.

Well, the new system has many capabilities, but metrics apparently aren't one of them. The contractors didn't seem to understand why we would want to know how efficient any particular worker was, so while it's possible that they keep metrics on their end, we don't have any access to them. But we need them for yearly evaluations, because one of the good parts of my job is that I'm graded on concrete numbers rather than on generic feelings. And thus, I'm keeping track of my metrics using a free stopwatch program and a LibreOffice spreadsheet.

Isn't the progress of technology great? Emoji Psyduck Cylon

Heard from the next cubicle over in the process of writing this post: "When they built this, they knew nothing about our data."

Farmer's Market Dinner )

Been feeling down these last few days for a variety of reasons, and having moved Japanese tutoring to tomorrow instead of on Tuesday because Tuesday was Tisha b'Av doesn't help. Usually by this point in the week, I know I'm clear until the weekend, but now I have class. Hopefully after I come home on Friday I'll start to feel a bit better with the weekend ahead of me.

And I just saw that The Dark Tower is at 20% on Rotten Tomatoes. I didn't like what I saw of the trailer--it was too fast-paced, too much in our world, and too tonally strange (any movie about the Dark Tower series should be elegiac, at least in part)--so I'm not surprised that the movie is being savaged. But what a waste.

Scream dream

2017-Jul-31, Monday 10:12
dorchadas: (Awake in the Night)
It took me an hour and a half to fall asleep last night and then I had horrible dreams for most of the night, but it did lead me to empirical proof that sometimes movie cliches are real. In my dream I was exploring a run-down mansion or house, by myself, and at some point I went upstairs and saw someone else. Being a dream, I went over to talk to him and he turned around and had a fleshless skull for a face, much like the strange woman from the NES game Uninvited. He said something spooky, I screamed...and apparently screamed in real life as well, loud enough to wake up both [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and myself. Fortunately, she rolled over and went back to sleep, though it took me a while to fall back asleep and then I woke up before my alarm.

I did not suddenly start up in bed with a gasp, though I have done that when I lived in Ireland, when I dreamed about a zombie cat trying to tear off my face. Eventually I will combine these two stereotypical incidents and have a real picture-perfect horror movie waking up moment.

Part of the reason I had such a hard time getting to sleep is that I was worried something would go wrong at work today. So far, nothing has, and I even got all of my vacation I need to take before the end of the year approved. Hopefully the day remains uneventful!
dorchadas: (Warcraft Moonkin Moonfire)
Just got out of a three-hour meeting where they again mentioned that we need fewer meetings. Maybe they can form an exploratory committee that can meet and determine a meeting schedule where they hammer out a plan for having fewer meetings.

I mean, some of the supervisors near me were playing Candy Crush on their phones. These are not vital meetings here.

I've been working on a Pathfinder adaptation of Warcraft, sourced partially from the old World of Warcraft RPG and partially from my eternal desire to tinker with systems. I already added two ability scores to the classic Strength-Dex-Con-Int-Wis-Cha lineup (one for Perception, and splitting Dexterity into full-body agility and fine manipulation) and am writing out all the spells myself rather than using the classic magic missile and cure light wounds. Now I'm working on the druid, and I'm trying to do it without any moon or sun spells. Moonfire is probably the iconic druid ability--it's what the moonkin is casting in the icon I used for this post--but in Warcraft III druids didn't have any of that. They summoned plants, roared loudly, and turned into animals.

The ones with the moon-themed spells were, of course, the priestesses of the moon. WoW brought in shadow priests and didn't want too many race-specific classes--and I don't blame them, it was a balancing nightmare for years until they finally wiped out almost all the edge-case buffs and special racial spells--so they didn't make night elf priests moon-themed, but I can ignore that for these purposes. Druids get to grow thorns and summon roots and spores and control the weather, and priestesses call down the light of the moons.

Moonfires will still be spammed, but in a more thematic way.

I took that Potter quiz that's all around social media now and got Slytherin, again. I always considered myself as a Ravenclaw until I starting taking those quizzes and they just came back Slytherin, Slytherin, Slytherin, Slytherin... Well, green and black are my favorite colors, and sometimes I do know what's best for you.

And I almost forgot, but I found an article on USGamer about a fan-made Final Fantasy XV cookbook. I showed it to [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and now she's fired up about trying to make some of the recipes, so maybe when we draw Darker than Black to a close, we'll have a new cooking project to match it and 50 Weeks, 50 Curries.
Maybe I should actually play Final Fantasy XV first, though...
dorchadas: (Office Space)
So on Friday last week, I arrived at work, booted up our database program, got to work, and immediately received a "number precision too large" error. So I fired off an email to support and waited. I heard nothing, but I was only there for a half-day since it was [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and my ten year wedding anniversary. I figured they'd work on it and I'd come back on Monday and it'd be fixed.

Narrator voice: It was not fixed. Shaking fist emoji

It is now Tuesday, and I've gotten two emails, one of which asked me if it worked now (it did not), and the other saying they had escalated the problem up the ladder. It still does not work. This is pretty much confirming my preconceptions about corporate projects, where the new database was six months late, has a terrible UI, is less efficient than the 19-year-old internal software it replaced...and currently doesn't work. Good job. Congratulations all around.

And of course, all the people who originally pushed this project have left the organization. They made their dramatic mark, but deal with the aftermath? Pfft.

We'll see how long our new fancy database software doesn't work. Will it be down for a week? Tune in later and find out!
dorchadas: (Do Not Want)
Came in this morning to an email from the vice president that there were changes afoot. Several people were being shuffled around, new opportunities, maintain and expand our place in the growing market of Blah blah blah you know how these things go. I read it because it's good to know what's going on--those who have not swords can still die upon them--and near the end was a notice that I was being directed affected by being moved to a different team.

It's not a major change, since my new boss sits in the same room as my old boss, I've worked with them before on another projectm and I don't talk or interact with my boss that much anyway, but it's a little disconcerting to not have any announcement made to me. Not an email from my old boss, not an email from my new one, neither of them mentioning anything to me... And coupled with the note at the end of the vice president's mailing that more people were being turfed out, though with "dignity and respect," well. It's hard to maintain a level head.

I remember not long after I was hired, my then-boss mentioned that the department I worked in was a good one because there weren't a lot of major upheavals. And then six months later the division manager and assistant division manager were suddenly fired, and then the biannual layoffs began and will probably continue until morale improves. It's like the best take on those millennial articles:
Pundits: "Why aren't millennials buying diamonds or houses?"
Us: "Economic precarity makes any long term planning impossible."
Pundits: "It must be because they're lazy and buying too much brunch."
I think I just heard my now-old boss mention that they were surprised by the changes too, which is a great mark of effective leadership and direction. Emoji Kawaii frog

I really wish I were better at Japanese so I could just turf all this out and do what I've discovered I really enjoy.

In-progress Addendum: My now-old boss came over to chat while I had this sitting open in the background. They weren't particularly impressed with how this was handled--they knew it was coming, but though it would be more direct rather than being stuffed in the bottom of a generic update email--but said they'd be meeting with my new boss to transition things over and work out how my annual review would work since we're on a new system now with different metrics. They also said they'd approve all of my pending time off. Kirby laughing So while I remain worried, I am no longer covered in a cloud of doom like I was when I started this post.

Maybe this is why I was stressed earlier? Displayed worry from the future?
dorchadas: (Broken Dream)
You can tell I made that icon in my early twenties.

I've felt a sense of impending doom for the last few days and I'm having a very hard time pinning it down. I suspect some of it is due to Japanese class picking up again today. Aya-sensei was in ConstantinopleIstanbul for a friend's wedding last week, and this week we've scheduled free chat in lieu of reading more from 世界の中心で愛を叫ぶ since she'll have a lot to talk about. Free chat is always more nerve-inducing, but I suppose it's payback for me making the final exam for my second-year English conversation students to talk to me for a few minutes. And I need practice asking questions.

I don't like small talk in English, much less in Japanese.

Some of it is probably because ACEN is coming up and I'm never sure how much I'll like it. The first year we went after coming back from Japan was, but last year was a lot of fun. It's never related to the actual purpose of the con, though. [ profile] stephen_poon said that he used to think "These are my people" when he went and never does anymore, and I feel the same way. "My people" are the friends who I see when I go. I used to be very confused by people who went to cons and spent the whole time in the hotel bar talking to people, but it's because I didn't understand why they went. Now I do.

Also, they don't even sell 焼き物 in the dealer's room. What the hell? We need more rice bowls to replace the ones we lost in the Great Dish Crash.

Some of it might be work, though here I can't actually point to anything specific. I just feel like something terrible is going to happen, like I'm going to get laid off or have all my duties switched up for no reason or something. There is absolutely no reason I have to expect this, since my evaluations are consistently good and we're making money for the organization hand over fist, but that hasn't prevented them from suddenly tossing people out the door before, so. I suppose there's nothing I can do but my work and see what happens.

Maybe it's that I didn't get to get a manicure because the salon was too crowded? I really don't know.

It's also reflecting in my dreams, too. I had one last night where I was some kind of space marine fighting horrible shapeshifting tentacled monsters, but fortunately [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd going through her morning routine woke me up, and when I went back to sleep I had no dreams until my alarm went off.

I just wish I could pin down what's bothering me.
dorchadas: (Kirby sweatdrop)
The weather has been lovely lately. I'm sure most people would disagree, but after the sun a couple weeks ago I was worried that Chicago spring was going to be even shorter than it usually is and we'd be heading into the furnaces of summer early. What was I thinking. Right now it's 7°C and it's supposed to be ~10°C all week, mostly windy or overcast, which is nearly my ideal weather. Maybe a couple degrees warmer and I'd be happy.

Last weekend was torrential rain and it was lovely. I heard some women who work on the same floor I do talking about how depressing it was with all the rain, and all I could think of is that there is an unbridgeable perception gap between us.  photo ashamed2.gif

I've been inexplicably anxious for the last few days and I'm not entirely sure why. Some of it I'm sure is that we still need to buy plane tickets for [ profile] faylynne's wedding in a month and a half (accommodations are already sorted because my sister lives in Portland and offered to house us). Some of it is because today is Japanese class and it's free chat, so that's an hour of me speaking in Japanese as well as I can. Some of it is because even though I work at a nonprofit and our department has been making record revenue for to support our mission...they keep laying people off, so who knows when my job will be suddenly snatched out from under me. I have no reason to assume that my high performance reviews will matter. The Company doesn't care about you.  photo emot-ohdear.png

It still seems like there's something else, though. I can't nail down what.

(There are too many moods in this theme that use 悲. For worries, something like 悩 might be better)
dorchadas: (Office Space)
For the last couple of years, we've been ramping up to switch database software at work. This makes sense--the old database software was 19 years old and has been running on twine and duct tape for roughly the last decade, never conclusively overhauled because we were just going to replace it, so why put too much effort into it? Well, we finally replaced it.

You can tell from the title what I think of it.

Some of it is sour grapes. They made an effort to ask us what we thought of the new system and get our input on its development as we did testing, and as far as I can tell, they completely ignored every suggestion we made. For my part, the UI is still garbage. The new system is completely mouse-driven to the point that it doesn't accept hitting enter and you have to click the Search button like some kind of animal. The search window hides the original record and can't be moved, so checking to refine the search requires cancelling the search and losing the results, and searching takes long enough that I just have to chant the other bits of data myself to remember them like some kind of Leibowitzian monk.

A lot of old complaints don't even seem to be fixed--searches are still slow and it crashes roughly twenty times as often. It still offers suggestions for matches that are completely unrelated--different name, different state of residence, different specialty, different everything--to the record in question. Furthermore, the old database kept sending us the same records to research month after month with no way to tell the system that no, we were never going to find out who this physician is so stop asking, and the new system does the inverse by repeatedly popping up people who are already identified and asking me to identify them.  photo _thisorthat__or__compare__by_brokenboulevard-d4tole3.gif

And this leads to my main complaint. My work doesn't have great social value and I'm not saving the lives or children or anything, but at least I was accomplishing something. There was data, and I sorted through it, and I made the resulting output better than the raw input was. I no longer have any indication that's the case. I come in and I have 500 records to look through, around 99% of which the system already seems to know the answer to but just wants to waste my time with, and that number goes down as I work. But when the system inevitably crashes or logs me out for no reason and I login again and get back to work, that number is back to 500 again. Every day I am moving sand from one pile to another, one grain at a time, and then the wind blows it all back overnight.

And this is the system after it was delayed for six months.  photo emot-psyduck.gif
dorchadas: (Chiyoda)
Last week I saw an article about snake people moving to dying Japanese mountain towns. It seems a bit overstated--I mean, how many rural mountain towns can sustain an economy on brewpubs, artist communes, or drone testing--but I love the idea, especially in spring or fall, when the sakura or the momiji are in bloom and I really miss Japan.

I'd never consider moving to rural America if I can help it, and reading this made me think about the difference. Some of it is political, but I think a lot of it has to do with distance. Even in Chiyoda, we weren't that far from anything. It was a forty-five minute bus ride on the highway into Hiroshima City, but the important thing is that there was a bus and it came three times an hour. If we had lived in Miyoshi, we could have taken the train. There were towns further in the mountains that were more isolated like Takamiya or Geihoku, but even then it wouldn't have taken that long to get into the city. And crucially, the only thing we'd need a car for is driving to the train or bus station. There are very few places, if any, where that's true in America.

I never thought I was a country kid until I moved to Japan. Like most 80s suburbanites, I assumed that there was nothing to do and "out there"--i.e., anywhere more populated than where I lived--was where it's at. That's part of why I decided to go to university in the city, an experience which proved that I really did prefer urban areas. But those three years in Chiyoda were wonderful and there isn't a week that goes by that I don't want to move back. If there was some way to do so and still keep my job, and for [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd to not have to change her line of work entirely, I'd advocate for it in a heartbeat. But for some reason, the AMA considers working from home a perk of management-level employees rather than assigning it based on job duties, so even though everything I do is web-based now and could theoretically be done from anywhere, I still have to head down into the office every day. We'll see if that changes with the new database (more on that in a post next week, probably!), but I doubt it.

It wouldn't let me move back to Chiyoda, though. Probably nothing ever will.

March Update

2017-Mar-18, Saturday 18:43
dorchadas: (Dreams are older)
Just a grab-bag of things that have been happening lately.

I got my yearly bonus and annual raise this week. Higher than average on both, because we managed to exceed our department goals by a respectable amount and I did pretty well. There also wasn't as much pressure to hold down salary increases this year, so I got more of a salary increase and less of a bonus. And I put it all into tax withholding and 401K contributions. Well...that's responsibility. Emoji Dragon Warrior march

Yesterday was also the last day that we're using the old database system, and over the weekend they'll be switching over to the new system that they've spent the last two years working on. And true to software project form, it was a complete mess until the last week, where it was pulled into at least semi-reasonable condition. That also meant that I couldn't do anything involving the database on Friday, and since my work almost entirely involves editing database entries, I had to make work for myself. On a co-worker's suggestion, I did some prep work so that when the new database is up and able to accept new entries, I can go add in all the disciplinary actions to the appropriate physician records without having to scan through state board orders for what the doctors did wrong. Unless the database upgrade doesn't go well, in which case everything will be on fire. Emoji on fire Hopefully it all goes smoothly, but these are computers we're talking about.

Today was the first session of [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's 7th Sea 2e game! I read the book through to make sure I knew the system and I had some misgivings--it's much more loose and narrative-styled than the systems I tend to prefer--but in play it worked out really well! And doing a silly Russian accent and coughing at the republican and revolutionary talk for my Ussuran nobleman was a lot of fun. He's not that great in a fight, but he has magical powers. He's also really rich, which is kind of like a magical power! The star moment was when I called a raven to our jail cell where, we had been treacherously imprisoned for a crime we didn't commit, and asked it to fetch the keys in exchange for a bauble from my nobleman's clothing. I then let everyone out, locked the cells behind us, and left. The legend grows.

I paid our 2016 taxes. Last year we owned an enormous amount because I forgot to take into account [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's new job and thus that our salary was commensurately larger. This year I spent more time modeling our income vs. taxes paid and I came a lot closer--we owed 4% of what we owed last year, in terms of additional payments beyond our normal withholding. I'm not sure how much we'll owe on state taxes, but the state is usually much better at figuring out how much we owe than the federal government is and we rarely get a large refund or have a large deficit, so I'm not that worried. Edit: We owed more on state taxes than federal taxes. Looks like I spoke too soon! Emoji Shaking fist

We're going to see Hamilton on Thursday. I've successfully avoided most news about it, so while of course I know the subject matter and the characters, I haven't listened to a single song all the way through, nor do I know what parts of history the musical covers. I'll probably write about it after I go, but until then, it's a mystery! Emoji tali it is a mystery
dorchadas: (In America)
On Friday, I was feeling a little tired. By Sunday I was feel achy and run-down, and when I went to bed I was lying under a bunch of covers with the internal apartment temperature at 18°C but so hot that I kicked off almost all the covers. It was then that I realized I would probably not be going in to work tomorrow.

And I didn't. I stayed home and rested, venturing out only once to replenish our medicine supplies and then returning to the comfortable apartment and playing games like Stardew Valley to relax. But I still ended up kind of feeling vaguely anxious. We're working toward updating and releasing the new database system on Monday and I've been doing testing on it for days now. Wouldn't it impact that if I stayed home? Should I go into work?

I didn't, of course. The company does not care about you even if some of your coworkers do, and I have no desire to work while sick, get coworkers sick, or avoid using my employer's generous vacation policy. But there's that bit of me that thinks that lazing around, even if it's for a good reason, is somehow wasting time. That I should go in anyway and do what work I can to avoid letting other people down.

That bit should be purged with flame. I still have some work to do.
dorchadas: (Dreams are older)
Yesterday I saw an article on Twitter about how video games are better than real life, and it got me thinking.

I'm lucky enough now to have a job with reasonable pay and excellent benefits, but something I'm always conscious of is that my job exists as a stop-gap. I do data quality curation, so my day is checking the results of machine algorithms and dealing with what they can't handle--since we get millions of records a month, there's no way they could all be checked by hand and no need to do it when well over 99% of the work can be automated. But automation keeps getting better, and that means the space for what I do now is continually shrinking. Eventually, it'll be gone. Not this year, probably not in the next five years, but almost certainly before I retire.

(Incidentally, this is one reason why I save so much of our income. I'm trying to get ahead of the curve while I can )

And then I think about the last year we were in Japan, after Suzugamine cancelled its contract with Lang due to a shrinking student body (shrinking so much that it later merged with another school and changed its name), when I was out of work. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd told me to treat it like a vacation, and that I could get a job when we got back to America and she was in grad school. We made an attempt to look for work closer to Chiyoda, but there wasn't much to be found, and in the end that's what I did. I taught the eikaiwa we had, but otherwise I studied Japanese, walked around the neighborhood, and played video games.

Like the article says, it was fine. I really enjoyed much of that year, though in the end I was having serious sleeping problems and it was clearly having an effect on me. But while I regret not doing more Japanese studying during that year, playing games was fun. It was interesting and challenging. The lack of a job didn't bother me at all. And why not? Unlike life, video games are fair. They have understandable rules that can be challenged and mastered, and predictable results from those rules. And if they don't fit those criteria, they're often bad games, and there are other games to play. There's no other lives to life.

That's one of the few things that provides me some hope about the automation apocalypse. Large groups of unemployed young men is usually a route to massive social unrest, if not outright revolution. If those young men are fine without work as long as they get to play video games, and if robots can do the work, well...why not let them? With some kind of basic income scheme rather than having people fight over increasingly dwindling jobs, which is what we're currently having people do? There will be massive social hurdles to overcome--"what do you mean, I'm working and my taxes are paying for him to play World of Warcraft 2?!"--but it seems like the only option that doesn't end in massive bloodshed or social unrest.

That part I'm less optimistic about. But at least I have a little hope.
dorchadas: (Do Not Want)
Or, be careful when hiring businesspeople to manage a nonprofit.
So the new vice president of our unit read a book called From Good to Great and got fired up with missionary zeal. Having already inflicted it on the senior management, she decided that everyone in the unit should be subject to it as well, and thus I suffered. And this from a woman who said we needed fewer meetings.

The book is the standard sociopathic business trash. Great companies come from hiring great people, who are people who are fanatically devoted--the word "fanatic" is used repeatedly--to the mission of the company without thought of personal compensation. Companies should develop their hedgehog concept, the one thing at the world they're the best at, and if they can't be the best, don't even try. Bureaucracy is created to compensate for bad employees, so by only hiring great ones, bureaucracy isn't necessary. And don't run around like a fox who can't focus on any one thing at a time. And there's nothing about actually cultivating leadership or employee greatness. It's business Calvinism--some employees are great, so hire them. The rest are trash and should be thrown off the bus. How do you tell who's great beforehand? Who knows. Not the book.

The book also has the quote:
Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline.
Which is a blatant lie. Ambition is needed to make the most of circumstances, but circumstances are the majority of what contributes to success in life. It's just another way to justify firing everyone who isn't "great."  photo emot-colbert.gif

Fortunately, the meeting was just banal and mediocre, not actively offensive. They didn't read through the fifty pages of notes on the books that we were supposed to read beforehand, instead having each table come up with its own lists of things that we should stop doing, what our hedgehog concept was, etc., and then present them to the group. I particularly noticed in the stop list, "Stop going to meetings to learn, go to do" and "Stop having trainings that don't pertain to what we do," which are my picks for the favorite. I left an unkind evaluation on the way out.

The worst part was definitely the line at the beginning about how this is going to become routine for the purposes of team building. We're well on our way to having fewer meetings!  photo cripes.001.gif
dorchadas: (JCDenton)
I would have had this up earlier today, but first there was a power outage that took up forty minutes of our time and then I went out to a three-hour-long dinner. Add in some other things I was doing, and there was a short delay. But it's still the first, so it's still a retrospective on the New Year!

I don't bother with New Year's resolutions. But I did find this tweet that I like:

The biggest change I made this year is that I got serious about Japanese. Technically I've been taking lessons since August of last year, but this is the year where Aya-sensei suggested that we read 世界の中心で愛を叫ぶ and where I've worked my way through a fifth of a Japanese novel. I also played multiple games in Japanese and read a manga volume in Japanese as well! I never really sought out opportunities to use and practice my Japanese other than through flash cards and listening to podcasts occasionally, and that's why I was stagnant for so long. Now I'm getting better because I'm making a space for myself to do so and moving into that space.  photo wheeeeee_emote_by_seiorai.gif

This is also the year that we went back to Japan! And with friends! It was a whirlwind tour, and there were several places I wish we could have spent more time at, but it was a fantastic experience. And I wrote something about it every day for a total of over 50,000 words under the Japan (日本) tag, so I'll say no more about that.

I was not more social than last year, and if anything, I was even more of a hermit. A regular game night on Mondays, Japanese lessons on Tuesdays, and book group on Wednesdays along with softlykarou having a standing commitment on Wednesdays meant that time for the two of us was in shorter supply than previous, so I valued it more highly and make extra time for it, pushing other things to the side. This isn't actually something I mean to change either way. It's not something that bothers me. But I would like to play more board games in 2017, like Kingdom Death and Android and Chaos in the Old World and our old copy of HeroQuest with the cannibalized DragonStrike parts, and that means I need to reach out and not just retreat into single-player video games. We'll see.

Also, maybe I should have a minis assembling session for Kingdom Death. Still in the box.  photo chryssalid.gif

I managed to keep saving money even with going to Japan and the bulk of replacing my wardrobe! Discovering Orimono and Guylook and similar sites, to say nothing of the designers I already knew of, gave me a pretty wife selection of clothes I loved, but fortunately my closet is only so big and is basically full now. There's a few more pieces I want to acquire, but my wardrobe is basically complete for now. And I put a good chunk of our salary into savings every month, aided by our lack of student loans. It'll be worthless after the Last War when the only currencies will be bullets and the heaped skulls of the dead, but maybe I'll be able to trade with some feral hedge fund managers for toilet paper and beef jerky.

We were supposed to switch to the new data management system at work, but the project is behind schedule, so no news on that front. Question block photo emot-question.gif

I usually post pretty hopeful quotes at the end of the year, but I'm not feeling that hopeful now. The quote I think is the most apt is a bit more pessimistic:
"There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. . . .

And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back."
-Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Hopefully 2017 will not be as bad as we fear, for me, or for any of you.


Why computer?

2016-Sep-30, Friday 16:31
dorchadas: (Office Space)
Got a new computer at work as part of the upgrade process for our upcoming database overhaul. The computer itself is pretty neat. It's about as wide as my hands together and square, and then maybe 3 cm thick, and it works great. But.

(Of course there's a but)

There's a suite of applications I need to do my job that auto-loads with the computer, and then I log in. And for some reason, the new computers--all of them--can't log in to those applications. We get security errors and then get locked out.

IT has a solution, though. They're having us do remote login to the database, from our own work computers, because that's a different validation process and that lets us actually access the system. And it works. It's slow, the interface looks like it hasn't been updated since Windows XP, and it sometimes randomly logs me out and I have to restart the process, but it works.


Ah yes, "upgrades"

2016-Jun-14, Tuesday 10:13
dorchadas: (Dreams are older)
Over a year ago, we switched to JIRA at work. If you're not familiar, JIRA is a project-tracking software suite for assigning projects, marking progress, giving credit to different people who do different parts of said projects, and providing metrics for efficiency and accuracy.

It's the last bit that's why I'm annoyed. The old system that kept track of my work was intra-group emails and screenshots, which I suspect wasn't super efficient because people had to look at the screenshots and enter the data manually, but I got an email every day with a breakdown of my work from the previous day, how efficient I was, and how much work I got done. I still got those for a bit after we switched over, but they stopped because my supervisor is much busier now. Okay, that's fair.

But nothing has replaced them. Using JIRA takes (a little) extra time for me to enter in record counts and time taken, which means that all that data is in the system and I should theoretically be able to call up a progress tracking chart that's updated in real time. But for some inexplicable reason, I don't have access to that data. I brought it up in a meeting when the division manager mentioned that they wanted to install monitors near the printers showing real-time metrics for the group's progress, since I think it's only reasonable that I be able to see that data from my own computer if it's visible to passersby. And yesterday, I learned that at least part of what I want is currently managers only. I can get a list of all the tickets I processed, and a list of the time I took on each one and how many records they had, but if I want a simple analysis of records/hour, I need a spreadsheet or a calculator.

Hopefully this gets corrected soon, but it's always funny to me to hear how "data-driven" we are when under the old management team, I had far more data on my own performance than I have now.
dorchadas: (Chicago)
And it wasn't nearly as boring or terrible as I expected it to be.

Without being too boring myself, we're replacing a system at work that I use to do my job, so my boss and I went into the consultant's office and dialed in to the vendor who's working on the replacement. Half the conference call was the vendor demonstrating how the system is supposed to work, and the other half was me demonstrating how it currently doesn't work.

It looks like some of my concerns are related to the way that the current system works but will go away with the new system, so it's nice to have that allayed. But I felt kind of bad for the vendor as she asked me to demonstrate what I had done and then she got to see the system she was working on completely choke under the effects of a simple database search. It's one thing to not optimize until all the features are in place, but it's another thing to be so unoptimized that the user cannot effectively test it at all.

There's another call scheduled in a couple months. Hopefully I'll have more constructive feedback than, "I can't test it because it doesn't work" then.
dorchadas: (JCDenton)
I don't usually go out to eat. Partially because I'm cheap, but also because [ profile] softlykarou is a lovely cook who makes delicious food and I don't mind eating the same thing day-in and day-out for years at a time. So my weekday lunch has been the same for years at this point and I have no interest in changing it--I still look forward to that steak salad every day--but I still signed up for Sprig after hearing about it from somewhere. The pictures looked pretty nice, I nodded approvingly at them, and then went back to eating my steak salads.

A friend posted this article about Sprig and a different business involving picking up from home cooks, and it has quite a few good points. I mean
A harried courier extracts your meal from a fat insulated bag; you say “thank you,” close the door, and feel bad for a moment about the differences between your lives. Five stars.
Welcome to the cyberpunk dystopia, except more banal and with barely any neon or chrome. I may dress appropriately for the cyberpunk future, but I don't want to do more than my share as a member of a developed nation in bringing it about.

But a couple days ago, some algorithm on Sprig's servers noticed that while I had signed up, I had never interacted with them at all, and they offered me a free meal. Well, if it's free...

So I checked today's menu, and it was Grilled Harisssa Chicken with Semolina Couscous & Tzatziki ($11), Organic Quinoa Salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes ($9), Rosemary Chicken & Squash Salad with Wild Rice ($11), Creamy Pesto Lasagna with Italian Sausage ($12), so pretty much exactly what you'd expect from an app with Sprig's premise. I put in the promo code, picked the rosemary salad, and waited. And in the lobby of the AMA building, I had one of these handed to me:

I'm not sure how the delivery works. The offices are just across the river from me, but the "5-15 minute" delivery time was more like twenty minutes, with the courier going seemingly strange directions several times. I figure she was running several deliveries at once, but it made the estimated time useless because it oscillated through 5 and 8 minutes remaining until snapping to 3 minutes and then having the courier call me to tell me it was hear in the span of thirty seconds. So, F for predictability, though with only one data point, take it with salt.

Also, from a cyberpunk dystopia standpoint, I'm a little perturbed that the app autocalculated the service charge at $1 with no way to increase it. I really hope the couriers are paid a high enough salary that it's just icing on the cake and they're not forced to make fifteen deliveries an hour to make ends meet, but somehow I doubt it.

The article's description of Sprig's food as pretty good cafeteria food is spot on. Here's what it looked like when I opened up the bag:

Maple vinaigrette, Brussels sprouts, and a slice of squash that I had to cut in pieces myself, plus the rice, chicken, and salad. It was pretty good, I admit. I'm especially happy that the dressing was obviously supposed to be a complement to the salad rather than the only thing you're supposed to taste. I hate it when salads are turned into a dressing swamp.

But pretty good is all I'll give it. At best, it was as good as the average quality of 愛妻弁当 that my wife makes me, and it couldn't compare to the best of those. And my brain looks at $11 and runs through a bunch of failures of cognition, like not calculating the value of the ingredients we buy for my usual lunch or the value of [ profile] softlykarou's labor, and comes up with $11 <<<< FREE, and it's obvious which one wins there. Plus the whole cyberpunk dystopia thing.

I did like that they threw in a coconut truffle in that little cardboard box, though.

Dodged the headsman

2015-Nov-19, Thursday 11:10
dorchadas: (Do Not Want)
The Grim Reaper was stalking our halls, as my father puts it. We had a bit of warning, and it turned out to be almost a year to the day since the last time this happened, but I managed to avoid it and am still gainfully employed. And that after spending some time taking the recommendations of The Antidote into account and meditating on the possibility of being laid off.

Our division wasn't hugely impacted--no one I specifically work with on a daily basis--but almost everyone hit was a manager. Apparently that was deliberate, and it's some kindness I wasn't expecting from American businesses (if that term even applies when I work for a nonprofit). I mean, "kindness" is a relative term here since people still lost their jobs, and it's easy for me to make that declaration from my desk where I listen to podcasts all day and no one talks to me, but the 課長 did say that they were taking the amount of work we have to do into account in not reducing our number too much. Small favors.

From my perspective, the other benefit is now I can plan for the future again. I was stuck between wanting to go into austerity mode--stop buying anything extraneous, don't go out for any food, bread and water diet, etc.--and realizing that I had no news and there's no point in acting like I am already dead. I mostly fell on the latter end, but it was a struggle.

As a present for myself, I bought a horror-themed dice bag to put those new dice thing. Smooth is the hand which makes the world, and steady is the mind which grasps it.
dorchadas: (Kirby sweatdrop)
Yesterday was a team building day at work. As much as I complained about it, it was actually pretty well-run and inoffensive. No stupid trust fall exercises or silly games, the icebreaker was just "introduce yourself to a couple people you haven't met," and the majority of the day was talking about what it is exactly our department does--summary: we're the ones who make all the money--or discussing different communication styles through the lens of the DiSC, which I had never heard of before. You may be unsurprised to hear that I scored by far the highest on C, with S as the second-highest category.

And even with that low level of intrusiveness, by the end of the day I was still:

I love Introji.

And then tonight I have Japanese tutoring, which is also very well run and extremely helpful in providing a chance for me to actually speak Japanese instead of just reading it (which I'm pretty good at, though still not at newspaper level), but takes a lot of energy to deal with.

That's the eternal paradox of my mental state. Even things I am really looking forward to I often end up dreading at times, with my anticipation wildly careening around like a bat in a Castlevania level. I know it drives [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd crazy sometimes how I'll agree to go to an event, then a few days later act like going will literally lead to my death, then be excited again, all with unpredictable frequency and lengths of time.

I know a lot of people were annoyed about those introvert vs. extrovert articles going around last year and the year before since they painted all introverts as anxiety-ridden wrecks with a deep and fulfilling inner life ruined by those damn extroverts shitting their interactions all over everything, most memorably summed up in this tweet:

And reasonably so. I know plenty of introverts who love social interaction and just need a bit of alone time to recover from it. But not me.

I really am excited about your invitations and the vast majority of the time, when I arrive, I have a great time and I'm glad I came. But often my instinctual first response to any event is, "Uh, I have some forbidden alchemy to do that night..."
dorchadas: (JCDenton)
I haven't posted anything other than curry night in a bit. That's partially because it's the same old, and partially because I hit a low spot for most of the last week and didn't have enough motivation to do much other than play Dark Souls and post quotes on Facebook. It definitely made me appreciate how helpful to my mental well-being it is that I can go literally days at my job without having to talk to anyone. But enough has happened in the last couple of weeks that I can do a list post, so here we go!

  • Dark Souls: I heard a lot about how great it was and thought "Oh come on, no modern game can be that amazing" like some kind of area man who doesn't own a TV. Well, fortunately I never mentioned it anywhere because I don't like the taste of crow, and Dark Souls really is that great. 25 hours in the last week-and-a-half and loving nearly every minute of it with a few hiccups (capra demon...  photo emot-commissar.gif). I'll have more on this in my inevitable review, but it reminds me of a lot of the great parts of Nethack mixed with probably the most satisfying third-person melee combat I've ever seen. I'm not sure I'm ever going to be able to play Skyrim with its nerf-weapon flailing again.

  • Money: [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and my diet costs a lot, since it's fat-heavy and we mostly buy organic and local, but it came up much higher than I was expecting so far this month even with hosting a Seder. We're fortunate enough that we don't have to track every penny we spend, and also fortunate in that any budget crunch we have is because of my insistence that we put a third of our income into savings and investments, but it hit me harder than normal because I was hoping this month that we'd finally be able to get ahead and put more into savings above that one-third floor I set. It seems like every single time I clear away some expense something else crops up. Linked to that is:

  • Cosplay: I was really looking forward to actually cosplaying again at ACEN. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd was going to do Creeper-tan ... and I was going to do Ender-kun, but I cancelled my plans because I know that now I'd only be able to think about the money we were spending and I wouldn't enjoy it at all. That's another reason for my doldrums lately. Maybe next year...

  • Spring Cleaning: We stuck to a reasonable cleaning schedule in our old apartment, but maybe because we thought of our time there as temporary, we never really did a full-on spring cleaning session. This year, prompted by Pesach coming on and the fact that both [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I had a week off at the same time, we tore the whole apartment apart and cleaned everything. Two-and-a-half hours later, everything was sparkling, dust-free, and chametz-less (though we hadn't had any chametz on our house for weeks, so that's not saying that much.

  • Work: It's the end of the dull period, which usually lasts from November to March and leaves me knocking around with little to do. But conversely, the busy period isn't that stressful, because I don't have any deadlines or quotas. I'm basically just fed an effectively unending stream of data and have to sort as much of it as I can, and if some of it slips away, they'll send an update again later in the year. Low stress, podcasts all day, no one talks to me...I really do love my job.

  • Star Wars: I haven't watched the trailer.  photo emot-sweatdrop.gif

Still not all the way back to normal, and the weather isn't helping. I know the sun cheers most people up, but my eyes don't do well in bright light and I associate the sun mostly with headaches, and fatigue if I'm in it too long. Give me cloudy fall skies any day.

Sick day!

2015-Mar-19, Thursday 20:25
dorchadas: (JCDenton)
Warning: this post is a little First World whiny, if that bothers you.

I took a sick day today, the first since I got the flu when I was working at Suzugamine and had to take three days off. I know that conjures up bafflement from anyone reading this who's familiar with Japan's work culture, but that was when swine flu hit Japan and they took every precaution necessary, including shutting down the school for a few days to isolate everyone from everyone else. That's how I was able to do it. Anyway, I've had a cold since Monday, and today I just felt awful when I woke up. As I was lying in bed, shivering and sweating with all the covers on me, I thought, "You know, I should take the day off."

And it worked! I feel much better, I still managed to get all my steps in (just walking is fine when you're sick, and I didn't have a terrible fever or anything later), I studied Japanese, I played more Planescape Torment, and I drank a truly enormous amount of tea. The first world whining part only comes in because I don't have separate sick days, so I had to dip into my personal days that I was mostly using for vacation in order to cover today. But it's not like I'll have to cancel any days off, because I was already carrying a week over into the new year! So really I'm just annoyed for no reason.

I'm glad I feel better, though. Hopefully I still feel better tomorrow!  photo emot-sweatdrop.gif
dorchadas: (Default)
New Years Rosh Hashanah meme

Nonetheless, I'm writing a New Year's retrospective.

I'm very fortunate that 2014 was a pretty good year for me. A lot of my friends had major shakeups or active disasters, to say nothing of the national or world situation (which are admittedly mostly things that got greater exposure this year rather than being entirely new), but for my family, everything went very well. In honor of the listicle becoming a thing, I'll do this in a list format:
  • Marriage: Still married, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd is still the best wife ever. This alone helps brighten every year. Emoji Chiyo rush

  • RPGs: I finished off the Delta Green game I started years ago, played in (and wrote up an Actual Play of!) a short-run game run by my wife in a setting I wrote, am playing in her Princess: the Hopeful game, and am currently running two games, a WFRP 2e game and a Fallout ORE game set in Chicago. I'm also slowly working on Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom, and I have some other ideas in the pipeline when I have more gaming time. I'm set on this score.

  • Work: I didn't get fired in the sudden layoffs a month ago at my job, my performance review was great, I still get to listen to podcasts for hours every day, and I still don't have to talk to anyone. The new managerial team means the future is uncertain, but for the last year, at least, everything was great.

  • Writing: I write a lot nowadays. Between putting more RPG stuff here, Fifty Weeks, Fifty Curries, my book reviews, and starting to write reviews of all the video games I beat...well, I'm not sure how many words a week that is, but it's easily in the thousands. I didn't do NaNoWriMo this year, but I don't need it to compel me to write. I'm doing fine on my own.

  • Video games: I'm happiest that I finally beat Morrowind again, but most of the fond memories I have are of playing with my friends. Minecraft and a Secret of Mana with [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and Terraria with her and another friend filled a lot of happy hours. I got some of the kickstarters I backed too (Divinity: Original Sin and Wasteland II), but I can't speak to their quality, because I'm waiting for them to be patched up to play them. I even picked up my DS copy of Chrono Trigger and started to run through it again. And finally, I ended up sharing even some of my single-player gaming with my friends through the magic of streaming video. It is truly a Golden Age of gaming on all fronts. Emoji Quest For Glory Dance

  • Exercise: Last year I was worried that I wasn't getting enough walking in, but I easily fixed that problem. My tracking program tells me that I'm getting an average of around 14K steps per day, which is more than enough and is also probably why I go through socks so fast and wore through the soles of my boots and had to replace them in November. On the other hand, I've maintained my weight and I'm very happy with the way I look and feel. The only disadvantage is the amount of money that goes down my throat with all the food I eat...but fortunately we can afford it. The only problem I ran into was smashing my toe on a doorframe, but while it hasn't healed back to the same way it was before I smashed it, it's not actually hindering me in any way, so I can count that a victory. I could have broken it, after all.

  • Money: After years of living close to the bone, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd graduated from grad school and got a job making over twice what I make at her first choice of school, so we're in good hands for the foreseeable future and I can return to my customary behavior of saving about a quarter of our pre-tax income. I also, through the incredible generosity of my parents during [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's tenure in school, managed to pay off all of her student loans two days before she graduated, which puts us in an incredibly fortunate situation compared to the vast majority of our peers. We also finally finished off the saga of the Japanese Pension Office payment, receiving our payment roughly two and a half years after the average amount of time it's supposed to take. We are unbelievably lucky on all monetary fronts, and, b'ezrat haShem, hopefully that luck will continue.

To celebrate my good fortune, I made sure to accomplish a resolution I've had for a while--eat an entire bar of dark chocolate at once. The secret to achieving your dreams is to make sure they're petty and stupid. Emoji Dancing parrot

As is my somewhat years tradition, here's some song lyrics which I've posted nearly every year since I was in university:
A long December and there's reason to believe

Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can't remember the last thing that you said as you were leavin'
Now the days go by so fast

And it's one more day up in the canyons
And it's one more night in Hollywood
If you think that I could be forgiven...I wish you would

The smell of hospitals in winter
And the feeling that it's all a lot of oysters, but no pearls
All at once you look across a crowded room
To see the way that light attaches to a girl

And it's one more day up in the canyons
And it's one more night in Hollywood
If you think you might come to California...I think you should

Drove up to Hillside Manor sometime after two a.m.
And talked a little while about the year
I guess the winter makes you laugh a little slower,
Makes you talk a little lower about the things you could not show her

And it's been a long December and there's reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can't remember all the times I tried to tell my myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass

And it's one more day up in the canyon
And it's one more night in Hollywood

It's been so long since I've seen the ocean...I guess I should

I honestly don't remember how I got in the habit of posting those. I think it was adolescent angst and the eternal hope that things would be better, and now I'm just continuing that tradition even though things have gotten better. A lot better. Here's to them continuing that way in 2015. Emoji sunglasses gleam

dorchadas: (In America)
Inspired by a friend posting about having to work fifteen days in a row at her part-time jobs and two other people coming in and posting "lol suck it up try working 169 hours a week before you complain. *smallest violin* Put on your big girl panties and work for money so you can buy pretties", which is paraphrased, but not by much. Some of that is quoted literally.

I mean, I'm not surprised that managers set up circumstances that require someone to work multiple part time jobs to not starve, because capitalism. Workers are a cost, not an investment or a value, and they'd be replaced with robots in an instant if robots were good enough to do it. As the Wobblies said long ago:
The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life.

Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the Earth.
-Preamble to the IWW Constitution
Smash the state, etc.

No, it really annoys me when other workers come in and talk about the virtues of working ridiculous hours, how it's just what you have to do to get by, how you shouldn't complain, "put on your big girl panties," and other bullshit like that. It's like when people complain about the pay and benefits of union workers and want them taken away, because G-d forbid you make common cause and try to get your pay raised. That's communism or something. No, we can't have that. We need to make sure that other people also work hard until they die because if anyone else gets one penny they haven't "earned" then justice is a lie, the Founding Fathers are rolling in their graves, and it's all sad eagles and Jeezus casting people into the outer darkness.

But even beyond the idiotic Prosperity Doctrine-laced workaholism of American culture, it's bad science! Working that much doesn't work:
The perplexing thing about the cult of overwork is that, as we’ve known for a while, long hours diminish both productivity and quality. Among industrial workers, overtime raises the rate of mistakes and safety mishaps; likewise, for knowledge workers fatigue and sleep-deprivation make it hard to perform at a high cognitive level. As Solomon put it, past a certain point overworked people become “less efficient and less effective.” And the effects are cumulative. The bankers Michel studied started to break down in their fourth year on the job. They suffered from depression, anxiety, and immune-system problems, and performance reviews showed that their creativity and judgment declined.
Add that together with the assumption that anyone who isn't rich is probably lazy, and... Ugh, I could write pages and pages about how much this enrages me. It's setting society up to grind people under the wheel until they can't hold it up any more, then throw them away and get another person to take their place. It's awful and we shouldn't have to put up with it.

Then again, there's a significant portion of society who thinks that, when asked about someone without enough money for medical treatment, Let him die! is somehow not a horrific opinion worthy of utter ostracism, so things are unlikely to change any time soon.

You could argue that we need a way for supremely motivated people to put in extra hours of their own free will and not if compelled by their bosses, because there really are people who love their jobs and love spending tons of time at work, and while I may not understand them, there are a lot of people I don't understand but whatever, they can do what they want. It's really difficult to allow this while also not setting up some kind of social norm in favor of tons of hours, though. I mean, Marxism aside, a person who comes in 20 extra hours a week, or spends 20 hours at home unpaid doing extra work, seems like a much better investment than the one who clocks in, does their 9 to 5 (for those lucky enough to have a 9 to 5...), and clocks out. It's more work, after all, and without some kind of productivity analysis, it would be impossible to tell if they're producing less work than they could be with a more measured schedule, so it's easy for managers to point to that person as a model and exert subtle or overt pressure to match them. That's the whole point of overtime pay, after all--to add a cost that discourages that kind of behavior.

The problem, of course, is that overtime pay is per job, so people working multiple jobs are screwed. And a ton of jobs are exempt from it even when they shouldn't be, even as the amount of stuff the average worker has to do keeps increasing with no corresponding pay increase. So yeah, smash the state.

Here endeth the rant.
dorchadas: (Teh sex)
I originally got the iPhone 5S over the 5 because of the pedometer after I saw that LoseIt included step tracking and would automatically adjust your calorie thresholds based on distance walked. Even though I know that calorie counting is worthless, I still do it because of my mania for self-quantification. Originally, I'd just walk as much as I normally do and treat any day where I got over the threshold set by LoseIt to get extra calories off (7250 steps) as a bonus, which wasn't that often.

Then I downloaded Pedometer++. All of a sudden, I had color-coded feedback on how far I had walked, and for some reason, that kicked the RPG player in me into gear and I had to make the numbers go up! Must turn the bars green! Must beat arbitrary threshold!

So I started walking around in empty conference rooms on my breaks at work while reading books, because previously I just sat at my desk reading and I figured I might as well get the walking time in then, because walking back and forth in my apartment took forever and was pretty monotonous. The cleaning staff would occasionally see me, and they always said it was fine, so I kept doing it.

Yesterday while I was walking in a conference room on my floor near the end of the day, one of the cleaning staff came in to check that the room was empty. Unlike the other times that had happened, he mentioned that he had seen me earlier walking around and went to his boss to see what was going on, and his boss mentioned that yeah, I did that and maybe it was just a relaxing thing. So I mentioned reading, and we chatted a bit and he told me that seeing me walking in circles had inspired him to try the same thing around his apartment, and how relaxing he found it!

Well, he said that originally he literally copied me in the only way he could find and wandered in circles around some parked cars near his apartment, but that he pretty quickly realized that other people would not only find that weird, they might find that threatening or suspicious. So now he does it in his apartment, but it remains relaxing.

It's a nice feeling being inspiring. (^_^)


dorchadas: (Default)

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