F for Phil

The most frustrating part of the job I’ve encountered so far relate to language barriers. Had to call up a meat processing plant to install some software for admin staff.

They use a 25 year old program written in Assembly running on an IBM AS/400 from 1989 to track the meat from farm to fork. But I was calling to install a program for vector graphics for signatures. The person did not have English as a native language, and all of their files were written in Polish. An announcement in Polish came over the intercom while I was in the call.

Their firewall is very strict, and the usual things like Teamviewer, Logmein weren’t working. So I tried to walk the user through the step by step process to install the software and fix their internet issue. Big mistake. It was a painstaking, repetitive sequence to a user that couldn’t understand what I was asking, and couldn’t give me information.

So I got them to get me their IP address, allow remote connections, and then RDP’d into their machine’s admin account. This took about 25 minutes. The actual install took 90 seconds from start to finish. The user had also gone home the next day, so I had to repeat the process again the next day to troubleshoot their “internet issues”. They were trying to bypass the firewall to get on Facebook and the like, and had disabled lots of things in their Internet Explorer.

This required me to log into their account, which required me to get the user’s password. Their pronunciation of the individual letters was non-standard: “i” as in icon sounded like “eecon”, so that required another 5 minutes to reliably get the password. Which wasn’t working for whatever reason. I had to reset the password anyway from the server, and again RDP’d into the desktop, enabled the IE settings (those who still use IE will rarely change to another browser), and unfucked their shit.

No one expects foreigners to know technical terms in the local language, and it’s a high-level thing to know that. It’s like when I was in China, I took a call from a provincial salesman of ours, and only threw my hands up to say I was a foreigner and couldn’t understand when he started talking about CAT scanners and X-rays. So I can sympathise.

If I go to China, I don’t know how feasible doing suppport-side IT work will be.  But I may be going to England first, depending on if the woman is successful in an interview next week. I think it’s worth considering the software engineering side of the degree.

Ruby on Rails project is nearly finished for tomorrow. Then one final android thing for next week. After that, exams start of May, and final project due May 20th.

All this stress and ass-sitting is making me worry about my back and neck, but they have been mostly pain-free. I feel loose enough, and have been getting a little stronger.

Excercises are OK, generally getting it 2-3 times weekly.

2 mins front.

1.45 side

3×6 pullups

12.5kg DB press x 10

10kg external rotation x 20

2.5kg x 15 lying RC rotation

20 one leg bridges with heel raised

25 pushups pain free. Will probably start progressing these 3×12. I’m supposed to do 40 pain free.

glute raise x 60

110-120km cycling weekly at 25-30km/h average. At probably under 5 hours total.


Return of Paleface and black swans

Got left in the office Friday with one of the accounts guys to hold the fort. Went well. Got some funny stories to tell. It’s a small office, no more than 4-5 in there at a time. All men, apart from the account manager who is usually gone.

A client was getting frustrated and told an engineer over the phone “No, you listen here, paleface! ”

A client who owns a business and insists on fucking his server up trying to fix it before handing it over to us to unfuck it. The example of his workflow is going into the server room and “ripping wires out of the plugs”.

A client who read his employees emails, view their desktops remotely, and compulsively watches porn at work. This had to configured especially for him. This client also called our boss and asked how hard it would be to set up an online porn site, and if the company would do that.

A client called me to fix his emails not displaying correctly. I thought it was a firewall issue, but logged in to his machine, and found he had slid his Outlook window over, so he wasn’t able to see his inbox. The fix was as simple as dragging the divider between elements over a bit.

I feel like the job is going well.  The software development course has stalled: haven’t made it to any classes since I started the job a month ago. Projects are getting handed in late, or half done. Trying to manage it with extensions , but I have a big skills gap due to missing class that an extra few days won’t remedy. But this weekend I caught up on some of this work, and I am not so worried about it.

The college also fucked up and didn’t teach us a module on Java/Android/Ruby on Rails it was supposed to. This may mean they are going to grade us leniently. At this stage, I am not too concerned about it. I’m doing all I can. I went back to college to get a job – I got a job. So all I want to do is pass what’s left and get my degree. If worst comes to pass, I have to repeat a few bits.

Knowing how to get shit done and how it works is more important to me than the specifics of a development environment and language. I interview well, and have the thought process to develop if I need to. But actual “whip out your text editor of choice and make something” is beyond me still.

Really glad I got the road bike. Doing the 9km in about 20 mins, which is good considering the traffic, lights and uphill sections. Had some longer 30km spins, and I’m falling in love with cycling again. I find the drop handlebars more comfortable than the flats at this point. My old hybrid is slow and uncomfortable compared to the road bike. Fenders are a necessity here, so I had to spoil the aesthetics of the bike to keep it, and me, clean. Dabbled in some bike courier work as well for server installs within 10km of our office. Handy for medium sized parts and cables.

Probably the fittest I have been in a long time. Practically pain free. Stress is a lot lower. Even managing to put on some weight, up to 78kg now. Strength work since quitting EY has definitely helped with pain I am even considering getting back squatting and pressing. Legs are nearly as wide as my shoulders. This is a sign I should balance the cycling/squatting with some curlz.

Girlfriend got hit with a real black swan. The publishing company she works for has gotten £100,000 Arts Council funding every year since 1973. In the last 5 years, it was cut to £83,000. And this year, it was cut to £0. So the job that was there for her for a year is now looking very shaky.  We are waiting to see what happens, but it looks like she will be employed month-to-month. She feels like she doesn’t have many options, and would like to go back to China for a year to teach English. She’d make good money with her M. Lit and experience, but I may not have the same opportunity. I really don’t want to teach English there. But I would like to go back to China, and make serious money, so I can travel more of the country. We want to go before my need2breed overwhelms us.

I thought Black Swan was an OK summary of the flaws of assumption and the limits of knowledge, but only really enjoyed the last third of it. It made you feel urbane reading it, but too often I think Taleb went heavy on namedrops. The structure of the book was also repetitive: the anecdotes about Jewishness and Lebanon began to grate very quickly. I had noticed a lot of the things Taleb writes about while in college and Big 4, so it wasn’t as fresh to me. It’s one of those “interesting party topic” books, like Malcom Gladwell or Freakonomics.

Maybe I will write another post on “black swans” and big 4 audits.

I am on the lookout for “Fooled by Randomness” by the same dude, and that’s probably the best recommendation I can give.