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Dizzying Intellect » Work

Category: Work


As some of you know, I’m going to be laid off next year. We’re not sure yet whether it’ll be January-ish or June-ish, but it almost certainly won’t be any later than June.

It’s not personal or anything. Our new owners have been very strict about getting rid of any non-essential software, and my package finally stopped flying under the radar.

Anyway, in preparation, I… took the LSAT on Saturday.

Dude, it’s HARD. And I’m a really good test taker, naturally. Thank god I broke down and took a practice test on Thursday night, because I would have been woefully unprepared. It’s not an aptitude test, per se. It’s mostly logic, plus some reading comprehension, and an essay.

Here’s a sample question (not from my test):

1) Five racing drivers, Alan, Bob, Chris, Don, and Eugene, enter into a contest that consists of 6 races. The results of all six races are listed below:

Bob always finishes ahead of Chris.
Alan finishes either first or last.
Eugene finishes either first or last.
There are no ties in any race.
Every driver finishes each race.

In each race, two points are awarded for a fifth place finish, four points for fourth, six points for third, eight points for second, and ten points for first.

If Eugene finishes two places ahead of Chris in the first race, all of the following will be true EXCEPT:

a. Bob finishes ahead of Don.
b. Chris finishes two places ahead of Alan.
c. Don finishes fourth.
d. Bob finishes immediately behind Eugene.
e. Chris finishes ahead of Bob.

I mean, I love these kinds of puzzles — but doing dozens of them, while being timed? Oy. I think I did ok, though. I used some online software to score the one practice test, and it came out to 157. That sounds pretty awful to me, but then I checked, and the median scores for UCLA and UNC are 162 and 163, respectively. And presumably (hopefully) your first practice test would be the worst score you’d ever get…

Incidentally, is the phrase “ambient darkness” an oxymoron?

Repurposing Resources

Disclaimer: I have a personal and overwhelming hatred of corporate buzzwords. My brain just shuts off — my eyes glaze over and I unintentionally stop listening, when someone starts using them. I know what they mean. I just hate them.

“Resource” is the one that really makes me grit my teeth, even though I’ve been hearing it for years. A stapler is a resource, not a person. (And if you have to dehumanize people to do your job, maybe you’re in the wrong profession.)

Anyway, I’m so glad that HR resume readers agree with me.

197 words that can kill a resume (and the HR person reading it)

Imagine a conversation with a self-described envisioneer who, when it comes to mission critical, is on the cutting edge, a proactive people-person capable of meticulously strategizing a paradigm in the aggregate.

Ha. I totally know that guy.

Capobianco and a small crew of writers operating as GW Press uploaded the first edition of the “Resume Dictionary” at

“We’re not making much,” Capobianco said. Which sort of adds up since GW Press is giving away the Resume Dictionary for free. Never mind the money. Then came the sequel: “197 Words You Should NOT Use on Your Resume.”

Yes, it’s all here.

From “acute sense of perception” to “white paper” with “deliverables,” “functionalities,” “matrix,” “optimize,” “thusly” and 190 other clunkers in between.

“People are trying to sound smart,” said Capobianco. “But if a human resources person gets a résumé with a made-up word (architected, anyone?) it lands in the reject pile.”

Segue: “Thusly” reminds me of “myself” — which is a personal pet peeve of mine. As in “He asked Kate and myself to lunch.” Dude, the word is “me.” Deal with it.

But that’s a rant for another day.

In an interview, as with a résumé, the trick is to use the English language to communicate rather than impress, says Capobianco.

No wonder every job description I’ve seen in the past month has specified “good communication skills” under the requirements. You eventually have to talk to real humans, not just your corporate-ladder climbing boss.

The website isn’t linked from the article, which is pretty common for the Post-Dispatch, so here it is: Resume Dictionary

Punching Small Mammals

Oh, and also? Across the board cut in pay. All contractors lose 10% starting the first week of April.

Because it wasn’t enough that they tripled our workload by retiring/firing thousands of people in December. They have to pay us less for the extra work, too.

Can this month POSSIBLY get any better?!

Coding -101

Tweedledum was one of the many people who were cut in the latest round of layoffs — and I was actually feeling sort of bad about it. Until just now.

I found an unrelated error in a program that he wrote, back in November, when I moved a critical fix for the program to production. The next and previous buttons, to show each record, weren’t working correctly. They worked occasionally, but then failed randomly.

We couldn’t back out the critical fix, so I just added a new change request for the new issue. I got it back from him last week, saying that it was fixed, but didn’t have time to test it until today.

It still doesn’t work, in exactly the same way. The buttons work 90% of the time, but then do nothing at all on certain records. Since it’s so unpredictably sporadic and odd, I wondered what change he’d made, so I compared the code from test to prod.

This is the entire code change he made to the program, to fix the error:


That’s it. A comment.

*bangs head on desk*

I can’t imagine why it still doesn’t work. Also? So glad that I wasted an hour generating data to test it. And now my conscience feels better about at least one person who’s on unemployment for Christmas, instead of me.

[We now return you to your standard non-nerd programming, already in progress]


Huh. I still have a job.

They cut 1/3 of our IT department today. Why I’m staying and not some others, I have no idea. And I have to admit, I’ve got a little “survivor’s guilt” already, but I’m also glad.

They initially told us that the impending cuts really didn’t have much to do with productivity or talent, but who could maintain the existing systems more cheaply than they could be replaced by outsourcing. But the guy who just called me said that, on the contrary, they ranked the people on each team, and the highest ranked get to stay. I have no idea which is true, but I’ll go with the compliment, I think.

(Before anyone nags, I have been looking for a new job, but I’m not going to take a massive cut in pay until I absolutely have to, and that’s all anyone’s offering right now.)

Ok, so back to blogging. But maybe not right this second. If anyone needs me, I’ll be breathing. For the first time in a month.

Nearly there

I know, I know. I’m creeping back. My boss retired, and it completely sucks. Not just because she’s brilliant and knows the business like the back of her hand — but also because, bless her heart, she was the buffer between me and Tweedledee.

Now I have nothing but a cold shoulder separating me from a neverending barrage of words. Hours of mindless, blathering monologue. You think I’m exaggerating, but I’m really not.

And now I have to crawl under my desk and curl up the fetal position for a little longer. But I will be posting more soon. It just might not be sane posting.

[Update] Ugh. He just spent a full fifteen minutes babbling at me about how he’s soooo busy and his phone won’t stop ringing, and he’s getting dozens of emails, and how he just doesn’t have a. single. second. to. spare. Without a shred of irony. [/Update]

In the meantime, here’s a video. Yes, it’s a cat. I know. I don’t like them either, but it’s hilarious.

Testings and Trials

I had four program changes that I had to test today. Four unrelated programs that were all supposedly ready for production.

And they all failed.

I love my job. I do. But it’s days like this that I beat my head on the desk until I knock myself out.

Blithering Blathering

Tweedledee has returned, and he’s already yammering. He started talking to himself (in his normal, full-volume way) within minutes of when I sat down at my desk this morning. And now the month-long, 90 decibel monologue about his trip has begun.

I got so much done last week, when it was quiet enough to hear myself think — and I felt so smart, checking off all of those issues. Fixed, fixed, fixed. But now we’re back to normal.


Thin Line.

I can’t take it anymore, so I’m going with pseudonyms. My boss doesn’t need one. She can be short-tempered and snappy at times, but (a) it’s usually at other people, (b) she immediately stops when I calmly say “don’t yell at me, I’m trying to help,” which no one else seems to have the testicular fortitude to do, (c) when halfwit DBAs get snarky with me, I can count on her to make them feel like semi-retarded toddlers, and (d) she’s crazy, crazy smart.

Also, she occasionally, un-ironically, calls me “dear,” which, frankly, is more affection than I get from my immediate family. And when G had his stroke, she called me at the emergency vet to check on him (she’s a dog person) and to tell me that she was praying for both of us. And she didn’t laugh at me when I start crying for the first time that day, at hearing that. So, you know.

Anyway. My other colleagues, not so much with the crazy smart.

Tweedledee is the office rattletrap. He’s madly in love with the sound of his own voice. (He’s also the one who cuts his nails at his desk. Retch.) He talks incessantly; very, very loudly; and never lets anyone else get a word in edgewise. He talks to himself louder than I talk to other people, and he does it with alarming regularity. He also talks just as loudly no matter how close you are in proximity to him. In the passenger seat of his minivan, going to an off-site meeting, your hair blows back from the sheer volume. To the best of my knowledge, he’s only been out of the US once, but his trip to Australia many years ago makes him a worldly, seasoned, and politically knowledgeable raconteur in his mind. Pontification, in the dictionary, includes his photo. He will lecture you endlessly on any subject, no matter how much he knows about it, or doesn’t. He tells the same story over and over and over (and over!), to people who sit one cube apart. My only recourse, upon hearing the story for the eighth time, is to tell him that I heard him the first seven times, and physically turn away and go back to my work, when he continues telling the story. And you know how I feel about rudeness. But it’s either that or kill him, and he’s actually a good programmer, so I can’t take the risk.

The good news is that he’s out of the office on vacation right now, so I can save my eardrums from my ipod at top-volume for two weeks. The bad news is that he’s in Europe, because his wife’s on some assignment over there, and he’ll be perfectly insufferable when he gets back.

Tweedledum is the opposite. He’s a pretty nice guy, in an obsequious, smarmy way. He gossips like a woman, which squicks me out, but I only had to snap at him once to make him stop grilling me for drama. And he’s not a bad coder, really, but he’s lazy. Since there’s only four of us, including my boss, however, we can’t afford lazy. It’s not even his fault, really. We all try to compensate for him, because he hasn’t learned anything about the business in the year and a half that he’s been with us. He’ll make three changes to one program over the course of a month, but somehow never actually learn what the program does — it’s almost like an intentional mental blockage, he does it so consistently. So when the third change should take him thirty seconds, it takes him a month — just like the first change did — because he still doesn’t know what tables are affected, what it does, or how it falls into the business process. And half the time, when I move his changes to production, they don’t even compile. No matter how many times we tell him not to delete his emails (they’re all deleted automatically after 45 days), he still does, so he has no record of the last two changes, and how/why they fit into the job stream. And he refuses to take notes, much less save them digitally. Because of this, Tweedledee and I have this weird, compulsive reflex to help with any problem he has, that we’re cc’ed on, just for the sake of time. We need to stop it, because (a) Tweedledum must eventually start absorbing, if only by force, (b) it’s hurting our productivity, (c) taking responsibility for his own slackness will make him work faster and better, and stop yapping about his band (He’s at least 55. Jeez. Grow up.) on the phone, and (d) it’s annoying and annoyance makes me sleep badly.

Today, my boss asked Tweedledum to figure out why a few records were randomly not being sent to accounts receivable, with everything else. In the same email, she asked me to verify the actual receipt records from the vendor, which is much more convoluted, but still only took about 20 minutes, because I know that process well and have it documented cleanly. Five hours later, he came over and asked me if there was anything he could do to help me figure out what was wrong with the AR transactions. And now I need a drink.

I should add here that I don’t hate, or even really dislike, either of them. They just make me bang my head on my desk and wish I had strong anti-psychotic drugs. And maybe one day my books will make them famous? No, not really. So I have to vent. One day I will hopefully retire, and I’d like to do it with my brain mostly intact.

Where Would We Be Without Nasty Habits

I really hate the radio — morning DJs in particular — but I need to hear the traffic reports, right? And one station has been catching my attention lately, because they don’t try to be funny, they just chat amongst themselves (and crack each other up, which I like).

They often discuss magazine articles, and today they were talking about bad habits of people in offices. Number one was people who eat others’ food from the fridge, obviously (grrrr). One of the women said she made a recipe from the Three Dog Bakery cookbook (the Turkey Gobblers, I think) and left it in the fridge for the thief. Hee.

But there was one on the list that I’d never personally witnessed. Flossing your teeth with a paperclip. Let’s read that again, shall we? Flossing. Teeth. Paperclip.


The guy who sits next to me (I need code names for my co-workers, but they just aren’t interesting enough to self-generate) has been known to cut his fingernails at his desk, which actually makes me gag a little. But I walked over to ask him a question last week, and he was digging ear wax out of his ears with a paperclip.

At work.

(I haven’t decided yet whether the paperclip or the “at work” is actually worse. Would it have been tolerable if he’d used a q-tip? I’m not sure. And now I’m ready to stop thinking about it.)

Note to self: Never accept more than one sheet of paper from said co-worker.