Friday, April 28, 2017

Adventures of a Human Being

Quite frankly, today I am exhausted, frustrated and overwhelmed, mainly in the working world.  Back in the late January and early February time frame we had two senior level project managers quit on short notice (both because of the exhausting and frustrating work load).  As a result of that my organization absorbed their work load with the promise of additional resources to replace the lost people.  Well, fast forward to the end of April and there are still no replacement personnel yet.  So, essentially two of us absorbed the work of two other people with no reduction in our already existing workloads.

Then, when you layer into it that, as an overall organization (the project teams, technical teams, and customer teams) we seem to be stuck in permanent fire-fighting mode, it's just exhausting.  You can hear the exhaustion and frustration in people's voices on teleconferences and you can see it in the tone of a variety of communications. 

Now, I've been through times like this before and I know that the trick to getting through them is to just keep your head down and keep swimming.  But, lately it has been difficult swimming. I need to roll over on my back and float for a while. I've got a couple of days of vacation coming up around the 10th, so that should provide some relief. But today, it's exhaustion and frustration.  I'm going to meet with my manager a bit later in the day and vent.  I know she's trying to get those extra resources (she's as exhausted and frustrated as everyone else is) but I guess I just need to vent.

So, let me pivot away from the work environment.  (It's always amusing to me how just writing down your frustrations. Those three paragraphs have helped release some of the stress, just that small period of time floating on my back.)

I've really got nothing to complain about in my personal life.  It has been going well enough. The heavy workload has squeezed some of my personal life out, but I am still getting some good personal enjoyment time - some good reading, some good movies, some good conversations and socialization. I'm even getting ample time to write. So, in that aspect, my personal life as a human being is going pretty good, it's just the work frustration that has a pretty firm grip on me.

Today is Friday however, so I have the weekend ahead of me and I am looking forward to that.  I am going to drive up to Fremont on Saturday and have lunch with my friend Ty, who I haven't seen in a couple of months.  I am looking forward to that.  I also want to spend some time minimizing (i.e. throwing crap away) in my apartment.  Strange, but there always seems to be "more stuff". It's like I have a teleporter in the closet that mysteriously makes stuff appear.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Need Blood Flow To Brain

I had a pretty productive morning and then I slammed into the wall here at work.  I am torn right now between the need to refocus and the need to just give up and take a nap!  I thought I would pivot over here and write for a bit hoping it increases the blood flow to my brain. 

I think it's wrapped in the nature of what I do that it's equal parts rewarding and frustrating.  When the frustrating part starts to win that is when I slip into a fugue state where I am working, but I don't feel like I am making any progress.  It feels like I'm moving but not going anywhere.  That is the spot I find myself in right now, so I am hoping thinking about something other than work will kick-start the brain and let me steal a productive afternoon back.

I just noticed that it has been almost a week since I've written out here so I thought I would play a little bit of catch-up.  I had a good weekend all in all.  I only did a little bit of work on Friday morning, mostly watching email, before I slipped into the three day weekend.

Three high points pop out at me as I'm sitting here and looking backward.  I spent about two and a half hours on the phone with my friend James in Oregon on Saturday night.  That was a good conversation and long overdue. We talked about dang near everything, LOL, but mostly around our shared love of fantasy and science fiction in all it's various pop culture forms.

Earlier on Saturday I went out and saw "The Lost City of Z".  That was an excellent movie.  It was fairly long, but you didn't really know it.  It starred Charlie Hunnam and Robert Pattison and it's based on the true story of based on the life and disappearance of the English explorer Percy Fawcett.  He was exploring the Amazon and attempting to find a lost city.  He didn't - or if he did he died before he could come back and report it.  I had read the book and enjoyed it, so I was primed for the movie when it came out and the film definitely lived up to my expectations.

Then, on Sunday, I saw "Split", the James McAvoy and M. Night Shyamalan film.  I got to say, definitely a recommended movie.  A worthy addition to both men's filmography.  I won't tell you too much about the film because I think with Shyamalan's films you have to see them to appreciate them or understand them and all the discussions about them often set your expectations off.  However, in this one, he delivers and I absolutely loved the ending scenes!  I am all in for the sequel.

Monday and Tuesday it was a pair of very full days.  I worked and, well, work was work.  Then in the evenings I went over to my friend Bob's house.  On Monday I was there awaiting the delivery of a power chair I had ordered for him - which didn't show up, so he and I sat around and watched a pair of older movies.  The chair finally arrived on Tuesday, so I popped back over to help him set it up, but they had already managed to get it squared away by the time I got there.  I am told that assembly was pretty straight-forward.  So, I spent most of the evening visiting with him anyway, then headed home.

Tonight, I am planning on no going anywhere.  I am due for a quiet night at home and that is the plan for the night.  Well, this helped and I feel like I've got the blood flowing back through my brain, so I am going to take a short walk and then pivot back to the work computer and dive into the 50+ email I've got waiting for me there.  Wish me luck!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

And Then It Was Thursday

The week has been moving by at a rapid clip.  Work was a wee bit busy - we were down to about fifty percent of our staff capacity (conferences, vacation, leave) so my email exploded all over my desktop and I am still trying to accomplish things and dig out from underneath it.  Nothing critical, just a high volume of stuff.  Stuff makes the working world go around.

I'm coming up on my regular three day weekend and at this point I am planning on taking all three days as clean days off just because I need them. All the critical stuff will wait until Monday because, and here is one of the vast secrets of the corporate world - most things that get called critical aren't. Most dates are imaginary and pulled semi-randomly from the calendar "just because". I try not to let them get to me and just keep working steadily.  We do what we can do with what we have.

On the personal side on Monday I took my friend Bob (cancer) to an MRI appointment and then I was poised to pick him up from chemo last night, but they ended up admitting him for a few days due to internal bleeding.  I spoke with him in the hospital and he seemed to be in decent spirits, all things considered.  I ordered him a power chair a little earlier in the week and it should arrive Monday and he's finally agreed with the idea that he needs a good wheelchair (he has an old crappy one that he's been using but you spend half the time fighting the wheelchair) and a good rolling walker.  Fingers are always crossed there.

Other than that, due to the volume of work I haven't done much on the personal side this week.  Mostly I've just been focused on work and the other obligations of life.  It seems that I used to have more free time, but reading back through my blog, that wasn't the case. I've been complaining about time for years.  Maybe it is just something I do.

Right now, I am going out and getting some lunch here as soon as this teleconference I am wraps up. I'm kind of hungry and I seem to have recovered from the french fry issue earlier in the week, though, like anytime you get a spot of bad food it takes a couple of days to recover from it, so I ate lightly and blandly over the last couple of days.  On that note, I hope your day is going well.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Don't Eat The French Fries

Here is the first thing on my mind. (Warning, Semi-Graphic Content)

Don't eat the french fries!  So, it was a pretty productive morning at work.  I got up, got online, ran through my email, handled a few small things, and then put together my to-do list for the day.  Weaved in and out of a couple of meetings, then stopped for lunch.  Ran out to a local burger joint and got a cheeseburger and some fries.  Came home.  Ate the above.  This wonderful thing that is my body said "nope, uh uh, don't like that" and violently expelled what I assume were bad french fries - probably bad oil at the burger joint.  Ending up taking two hours to lay down and let my stomach settle down, but I am feeling better and back at work now - yet the warning remains - "Don't Eat The French Fries"!

Other than that wonderful experience it was a fairly good weekend.  It was cool, blustery, and rainy here for the Easter holiday, but that was fine.  I managed to relax and enjoy the weekend.  My nephew Tom is staying over at a friends place for the last couple of days (and hopefully a couple of more days after that) so I've had the apartment to myself.  It has been nice.  I've missed my solitude since he moved in so I have been enjoying it while he has been temporarily out of the place.

On Saturday I went out and saw "Ghost In The Shell" starring Scarlet Johansson. Now, the movie has been critically panned and bombed at the box office but, I have to say, it was pretty good and pretty faithful to the source material.  There was a lot of criticism around it for white-washing (casting a white actor as a Japanese character) but that never really effects me simply because as far as I am concerned it's fiction - cast whoever you want in whatever role you want, just make a good movie.

I am a fan of the original graphic novel and I will say the movie is very faithful, both visually and thematically, to the look and feel of the graphic novel.  In discussion with my friend Don after the movie we both agreed that there was one large problem with the film -thematically, the story it is telling (what does it mean to be human) is twenty plus years old and has been told and retold in many other novels and films, so there was nothing new or thought provoking there.  I wouldn't rush out to see it, though it was spectacular in 3D, but I would catch it when it comes out on cable or on-demand.

Now, time to pivot back to work and see if I can knock a few of the other things off my list and make some headway against my email backlog.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Friday Was Full

Well, Friday was a full day, so it was enjoyable in that respect.  I got a good night sleep and had an interesting dream about a long lost love.  Morning was soft and rainy with a gentle start.  A cup of coffee, a bowl of oatmeal, and then I logged onto work for a couple of hours - really long enough to process incoming email, answer some questions, check a couple of things, and then it was off to the office. 

I actually physically went into the office today for a laptop replacement.  We replace out laptops on a two year schedule, so now I am into a new HP Ultrabook with Windows 10.  That took about two hours, but it went smoothly.  The part I am most excited about there is it has Cortana and Dragon Naturally Speaking - whoo hoo - I have been wanting to get Dragon on my work PC for a long time but previously it was not available for our work computers.  I am looking forward to see if it impacts my productivity. 

After the laptop replace I swung by the office and cleaned out my old office.  Though I work entirely virtually now for the last year and a half or so, I still kept an office space for those rare times when I had to physically go into the office.  They've moving my work-group to another building so I've let go of my space.  I didn't have anything of value left there so most of it either ended up in the shred bin or in the trash can.  I brought a few small personal items back home with me. 

After cleaning my office I met Don for lunch at Black Angus in Milpitas where I had the prime rib, crispy shrimp, a baked potato and a wedge salad.  It was a fairly excellent lunch and a good conversation with Don.  From there I came home and found a surprise gift from work.  Our VP sent out a note telling everyone to go home at 2:00 PM local time to get a jump on the Easter weekend.  I liked that - it has been a long time since we had leadership that actually cared about the human aspect of work - so I took that as a very good sign. 

I took a brief nap, then back up for dinner, which was pizza and tasty.  From there, I wandered into the evening with incidental tasks around the house and the DVR. In short it has been a good start to the Easter weekend.  I am about to wrap it up and curl up with a book and read myself to sleep, so whoever you are and wherever you are I hope you're having a good night/day.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Wednesday Wrinkles

I'm sitting here at my computer killing a bit of time before I officially call it an end to the day.  It was a busy one, but not too bad all in all.  I was productive, just not as productive as I would like to be, but I would still consider it a fairly good workday.  Things are moving, slowly and steadily, forward.  Not as fast as everyone would like but that is often the case.

One piece of feedback I continually give to my upper management is that they are responsible for assigning resources to projects, I just work with what I am given. If they expect a certain result, then they need to make sure they make it explicit and provide the proper resources, otherwise they are kind of floating out there based on my decisions and evaluations of what is necessary and what is unnecessary and I tend to be pretty ruthless about throwing things into the unnecessary bucket as far as work is concerned. 

A high percentage of our resources are consumed creating bureaucratic artifacts that are only done because someone, somewhere, thought it had to be done.  It is a waste of resources if it is not a business necessity that either is required by law or regulation or provides value add to the product for the customer.  Where at all possible that kind of BS short be ruthlessly driven from your systems and processes.

Outside of the working world I've had a pleasant enough day as well.  My nephew (who lives with me) is out with friends so I have had sweet and blessed privacy through the day.  He's usually not underfoot, but he is omnipresent.  It is good to have him out of my space for a while at least.  Simple privacy holds a high value to me.  I am not even doing anything that requires privacy - I just enjoy my own company and peace and solitude.

I am kind of hanging out waiting for a call from my friend Bob.  He has chemo today and asked me to give him a ride home after the treatment, since they won't let him take a cab.  I told him sure thing and now I am just waiting for that phone call, which should come in around 5:30 PM or so.  Since it is 4:30 PM now, I might run out and get a bite to eat while I am waiting for that phone call.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Quick Quick

Just a quick note as I wrap up the evening here. A basically good day with some ordinary frustrations but also some ordinary successes. In short an ordinary day. Had a good conversation with TR tonight, which was proceeded by tamales from Gloria's. I'm looking forward to curling up and calling it a night with a good book to lull me into sleep.

The picture is an image my brother sent me of a cliff dwelling somewhere in Navajo country. Pretty awesome if you ask me. (My brothers a park ranger for the Apache tribe down there and works protecting heritage sites like this.)

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Three Days In Spring

It's Sunday evening about 6:30 PM. I thought I'd take a couple of moments and write. It was a pretty good weekend all in all.

Friday was technically my day off but I spent three or four hours working some problems at work. After I wrapped that up – neither one was actually resolved they were just moved forward - I went out and met Don for lunch at Outback. I had the Alice Springs Chicken, one of my favorites. We then went over to the Café Society for coffee and conversation and mostly talked about stem cell therapy. Afterwards I wondered home and spent a mostly quiet evening reading and writing.

I fell asleep late on Friday night and woke up early on Saturday morning – about 4:30 AM. It was a pretty clean wake up so I just got up and read my way through a quiet morning. About 8 o'clock I went out and picked up Bob and we went over to the Hickory Pit for breakfast. Bob was moving a little slow but he was otherwise in a good mood. After breakfast I ran a couple of small errands and then circled home.

I spent the afternoon cleaning, reading and binge watching the Americans. I'm all caught up now. That's a great show, the acting is outstanding and the stories are good. Keri Russell is quite wonderful in it. Since I watched five episodes and that pretty much took me through the entire day. I had a good conversation with TR and managed to fight off sleep until about 9:00 PM, when I zonked out.

Sunday I slept in until about 7:30 AM, then got up, scurried around a bit, and went to Palm Sunday mass. After that I met Tyrone for breakfast, then swing by Bob's to visit. Had a good visit with Bob. He was having trouble with his equilibrium. We spent about two hours in conversation on a beautiful day.

Then home again, another spot of cleaning, and then I went out to do a couple loads of laundry, including the linens and light jackets. There were a lot people at the laundromat so the people watching was good. I got home and I've spent the evening watching "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters" with Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton and Famke Jensen. It's an entertaining movie and it's easy on the eyes. It's a good way to end the weekend.

Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Here I An Still

So, tonight after work I turned off the TV, set a time, and dedicated an hour to reading.  I finished up a poetry book by Mary Oliver (who I always get confused with Jane Olivor) and then read a couple of pages in Josemaria Escriva's book "The Way".  For those who aren't familiar with him he was the founder of the Catholic Order of Opus Dei.  Both reads really helped me find the still point of the night. 

Today was a "come to Jesus" meeting at work, which was part of my stress load.  In our last block release I had two projects that I delayed because they were not ready for release. In my imagination I conjured a lot of sturm und drang for the meeting.  In fact though, it went very smoothly. I explained why I delayed the projects, the reasons for the delay, and the response from leadership was "okay, that makes sense".  I've got a good imagination and sometimes it gets away from me imagining negative scenarios. It is a trait I am aware of and that I try to counter with limited measures of success.

So, now that we are through the block release we just have to close on these two projects and then we can pivot over to the July block release.  I am sitting much better for the July block as the lead time is wider.  The last release had a very tight lead time - we know better, but periodically we can't avoid it and we suffer because of it.  Hopefully, there will be less suffering in this next block release.  Though, if you go back through this blog and read entries from years ago you'll find very similar entries.  It is a function of being a project management that you're always locked in battle with the inherent conflicts between resources and schedule.

Other than that, it was a nice day.  We've got a bit of rain coming in, but the afternoon was very pleasant, the bird tribe was very entertaining, and the day had it's bright spots.  Tonight is the latest episode of "The Expanse" so I am looking forward to watching it on DVR tomorrow.  I will probably save it for tomorrow night and then do my usual routine, which is to order pizza and enjoy the show.  Also, exciting of exciting - Archer comes back!  In you are not an Archer fan, or if you've never seen the show before, it comes with a high recommendation from me

On that note, I am going to wrap it up and call it a night.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

A Discordant Sunday

The day started normally. I went to breakfast with Bob and Tyrone. Breakfast was good. I had a Santa Fe omelette. Then, we walked out and Tyrone noticed a nail in the sidewall of my right front tire. That derailed any plans I had for the day.

So I popped over to Goodyear and got a new set of tires (the old ones were warn). That took about two hours. While they worked on it I walked over to Santana Row where I sat at Starbucks and people watched waiting for Don to join me for lunch. I have to say there are some pretty people that frequent Santana Row on a Spring Sunday.

Don met me for lunch at Rosie McCann's, where I had bangers and mash, which was pretty tasty. We had a good conversation and then I walked back to Goodyear to pick the Jeep up. I'm now in a good set of tires with an 80,000 mile warranty, road hazard, and pre-paid rotation and alignment. A bit pricey, but I'm happy with it.

I wandered home from there and tried to take a nap, but the incidental sounds of an afternoon kept me from dropping very deeply into sleep. I got back up about 4:00 PM and made a couple of sandwiches for dinner. Then I idled away the time watching some ancestry show with the actress Courtney Cox. It was interesting.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do tonight - I have some work I could do but I'm not really in the mood. On the other hand I've got a fairly good shot of energy, so I might actually accomplish something. Like...being really lazy! Just kidding - I may bag up some things to through away and I may log on to read email and send some meeting notices. Or I might not.

Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, April 1, 2017

A Good Saturday

It's been a good Saturday. Work wise I pulled 2.5 million rows of data to be moved into another system. It'll probably take us all week to get it into the other system, but it will be there soon enough. It's a project step I've needed to take for a while, but I just haven't been able to get there, so I'm feel pretty good about the major step. A day late and a dollar short, but well done anyway.

I had breakfast with Bob and then headed out for a drive through Los Gatos and Saratoga. It was a pleasant excursion and Bob was feeling pretty good. We checked out both Lexington and Stevens Creek reservoirs. Both of them looked pretty cool filled with water and surrounded by greenery. There were a lot of other folks out doing the exact same thing.

I got home and spent my time working and catching up on the DVR, a handful of sitcoms and then "Romancing the Stone" with Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito. I consider it a classic, though I'm not sure it really qualifies. It's still an enjoyable movie though.

I had a nice conversation with TR tonight about a wide variety of subjects and with plenty of laughter, so that was very enjoyable. I'm settling into the tail end of the night now, watching the clock tick off the final hours of the evening.

I finished up reading Neil Gaiman's collection of Norse tales. It was enjoyable but I'm afraid I can't highly recommend it. It's really just a collection of Norse tales. I would have liked it more if he'd dramatized it and told more character driven tales. Still, a solid 8 out of 10 as far as Norse collections go.