Sunday, October 31, 2010

StrengthsFinder 2.0

I think I read about StrengthsFinder 2.0 in AARP. Someone(a newscaster?) took the StrengthsFinder test and discovered a new self-image. I think most of us have enough self-awareness that we do not need a book or a test to tell us what we are good at, but rarely do we even think about our strengths.  Instead, we scrutinize our shortcomings, wind up in careers that don't utilize our talents, and in general feel pretty crappy about ourselves at least part of the time.

My copy of the book came from the library, and a previous borrower had already used the access code that came with the book.  Consequently, I could not take the test at, so cannot comment on that.  I will comment on the book, though.

The book starts with a brief explanation of why we need a "language" of talents, why we cannot become anything we want to be if we just work hard enough, then offers a list of strengths that read sort of like star signs, but we get to pick what matches, not be doomed by our date of birth.  

So what am I? I am an Achiever. At the start of the day, I plan what I want to accomplish. At the end of the day, I take inventory to see if I met my goals, even if those goals were just doing laundry and vacuuming. I keep lists, not only to remind me of what I want to do, but because I enjoy crossing off each item. Sometimes, when I have been busy but not doing things on my list, I will add my current activities to the list, just so I can cross them out and feel like I accomplished something that day.

What else am I? Analytical, that's for sure. That is one reason I went into software development. I suspect it is also a contributing factor to my inability to make that "leap of faith" required by most religions. 

What else? I am Competitive, but not always in a good way. I am constantly comparing myself to others. Consistency is important to me, but I think this goes hand-in-hand with being Analytical. I get bored easily, so Intellection seems to apply to me, but this conjoins with being an Achiever. Responsibility is another trait that seems to do me more harm than good, because I feel responsible for things that are not my responsibility, or at least, not mine alone.

Besides helping identify one's strengths, this book offers advice on putting one's strengths to work and for making the best use of the strengths of others. These "ideas for action" are rather naive and assume that we all have the talent of people skills.  However, keeping my strengths in mind is helping me change the way I think about myself and reframe my so-called problems.

Monday, October 18, 2010

I hate it already

I was one of the few people anxious to leave my cubicle behind, but I'm not impressed with my pod and its accouterments.  Here is my list of wah-wah: 

  • It is freezing in here.  And when it is not, it feels clammy. 
  • My desk top is covered with cables.  And a keyboard I can't use because... 
  • My keyboard is not the same one I had before.  This one sucks.  And sticks.  And skips. 
  • My primary headset is missing, but I doubt it would work with my new phone because... 
  • My secondary headset does not work with my new phone. 
  • The monitors had loose cables, something I did not discover until I had opened a help desk ticket.  That means when "they" hooked up the equipment, they did not check to see if it worked. 
  • Two of the three shelves in the pods are inaccessible unless one crawls under the desk. 
  • I lowered the desk to a height comfortable for typing and now the file cabinet does not fit under it.  I notice that a lot of people have raised their chairs instead of lowering their desks.  If I do that, my feet fall asleep. 
  • Hanging file folders do not fit in the provided frames unless one makes a slight "modification" - i.e. yanks out the crossbars. 
  • There is something hinky about the power to my pod, but now that it seems to be working, I don't want to mess with it. 
  • For some reason, a printer/copier has been located right behind me, and it is LOUD.  And why are people printing stuff?!?  Since all our documents are online, we could be a paperless office if only people would Just.  Stop.  Printing. 
  • The large magnetic clip provided is not strong enough to actually hold anything on the cloth-covered metal pod wall. 
  • Where are the trays we were promised?  Not that I need one, being all paperless and such.  Plus, there is no place to put it except on one of those inaccessible shelves.  Or on top of the unused keyboard. 
  • Only four speed-dial numbers allowed on the phone?  Seriously?  Better than our last phones, though, which had NONE. 
  • The "new office" smell gives me a headache. 
Other observations: 
  • There are twelve parking spaces next to the building for hybrid cars.  Eleven of those spots were filled this morning. 
  • My neighbor across the way has the right idea:  low expectations.  So, when asked, he says the pods are better than he expected. 
  • The chairs are not too bad, although they seem to be missing the adjustable lumbar support option.  I may need a small pillow. 
  • Each floor has an ice/water machine in its "pantry" but so far, no ice.  And refrigerators but no microwaves.  Today the cafeteria ran out of take-out containers.  It seems eating at one's desk is being passively discouraged. 
  • To get an outside line, one dials '9'.  To get long distance, one dials '9-1'.  In an emergency, one dials '9-1-1'.  When one accidentally dials '9-1-1' the impulse is to hang up.  Guess how many times the police have shown up today because of 9-1-1 calls followed by a disconnect. 
  • There are 52 steps from the first floor to the third.  I need the exercise because... 
  • Free breakfast and lunch = overeating.  Thankfully, that is a one-day only thing, but the cafeteria now offers ice cream.  Curses.

The BigMove has been surprisingly stressful.  I need a nap. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Movin' on up

This is the weekend of the Big Move (or as those of us who like bathroom humor, the big BM).  Friday morning we packed up the last of our cubicles.  Monday morning our stuff should magically appear at our new pods.

Not everyone will be in a pod.  The new rule is only senior VPs get floor-to-ceiling offices, so some are losing their offices.  Not all, though, as serendipitously several non-senior VPs received last minute reprieves in the form of promotions.  Not that they do not deserve to be promoted, it is just the timing that seems a little suspicious.

Since I started my career in software development, I have worked in a variety of office setups.  The first place was a start-up where we fought over the chairs.  I don't know what the owners thought we were going to sit on when they hired us.  Eventually, some used office furniture showed up, but we were still sitting cheek-to-jowl, elbow-to-asshole, sharing phones, user manuals, scissors, and too few bathrooms.

Like many start-ups, this one was feast or famine, and during a famine I was released.  Imagine my shock at my next place of employment where I not only had my own cubicle and my own phone, but my own scissors, stapler, user manuals, and an office chair no one was going to co-opt behind my back.  Unfortunately, that place was less than ideal in other ways, and I eventually returned to the start-up when they hit a new feast phase.

The start-up had moved and now all the engineers had offices.  Except me.  I had to wait for someone to leave the company before I could take over an office.  And what a nice office it was, with a window that overlooked a pond.  Eventually, the feast gave way to famine again, and I went back to company number 2 and back to a cubicle.

It was not too long after that when I decided to give consulting a try.  My home office - the Florida room - was not posh, but I replaced the windows to make it a three-and-a-half-season room, supplemented with a space heater.  My home-based business lasted about a year, but during the year I learned to love working out of my house.

Since then I have worked in cubicles and bullpens.  In neither case have I been exposed to natural light, which is one plus of the arrangement in our new building.  Cubicles give the illusion of privacy without the reality, so I doubt pod life will be much different in that respect.  The acoustics in the new building are supposed to be sound-dampening, so hopefully the lack of cloth walls will not equate to a higher noise level.  And there are privacy rooms for those who talk too loud.

I have not been in the new building yet, but I know where I will be sitting on the third floor.  My group is tucked into a corner, and I will be on the aisle.  In the general vicinity are two conference rooms, a stairwell, the printer room, and a coat closet.  I'm hoping the traffic is not too disruptive.

Oddly enough, the men have expressed concern that there are too few sit-down toilets for them in the new building.  There has been a lot of angst expressed over the limited storage we will each have in our pods; some actuaries were actually calculating cubic-inches available.  I'm not looking forward to losing my chair, as we are all getting new ones, all the same style.

But you know what?  My paycheck is still automatically deposited in my checking account every two weeks.  I have great benefits, including life, health, dental, and eye care insurance.  The work, while stultifying, is not overwhelming.  My co-workers are pleasant (for the most part).  And now we will be working in a green and well-lighted place.

I'm not going to complain.  Much.

P.S.  My dog Betsy has recovered completely from her bout of pancreatitis.  Yay!

Saturday, October 02, 2010

How I almost killed my dog

Monday evening, when I arrived home from work, I found Betsy shivering in her crate.  Surprised, I turned on the furnace and fed her, a meal she soon threw up.  As the evening progressed, it became obvious that she was really sick.  By bedtime, I was on the Internet, scaring myself half to death about what might be ailing her.  Finally, I took her to the emergency vet clinic, arriving just before midnight.

Now, I am very happy that our town has an emergency vet clinic and I realize that their rates are going to be higher than normal, but jeesh.  My regular vet charges $29 for a daytime visit, while the emergency clinic charges $100, $125 if it is after midnight.  The other charges also run about three times what my regular vet charges.  Knowing this, I was reluctant to let them do much of anything besides examine Betsy.  I just wanted to make sure she would be okay until morning, when I would take her to her regular vet.

About two hours and $200 later, Betsy and I headed home.  She had been hydrated and tested for a few things, but she had no fever, no funny lumps.  She had politely thrown up on their floor, so they were able to see that she was vomiting only dog food.  A rectal exam showed no diarrhea or blood.  They also gave her a shot for the nausea, so at least I could safely let her sleep on the bed with me.  And sleep we did, as we were both exhausted after all that.

Tuesday morning she was still shivering (although not cold) and not interested in eating.  She was also favoring the leg that had been operated on years before, when she blew out her ACL.  By the time we arrived at the vet, she could not walk at all.  The exam did not reveal anything obvious, so we started in on the tests, all of which came back normal, except the one for pancreatitis.  Bingo.

The vet gave me the pancreatitis lecture:  Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, and is very painful (hence, the shivering).  Some breeds of dogs, like schnauzers, are susceptible to pancreatitis; also dogs that are on certain medications, like prednisone, which is true for Betsy.  Pancreatitis also runs the gamut, from dogs who have one episode to those that die from it.  And a flare up usually follows a high fat meal.


Saturday night I had cooked oven fried chicken.  Betsy considers it her job to lick plates and pans clean.  I had poured out the grease from the pan, but there was enough left that I had wondered if Betsy would get diarrhea from it.  I had given the pan to her anyway.  Mea culpa.

They hydrated Betsy again, gave us some antibiotics and anti-nausea pills, and suggested an interim diet low in fat and protein, like rice and chicken breast or fat-free cottage cheese.  And no more prednisone for a while.  As I forked over another $200, the receptionist asked when doctor wanted a recheck.  He hadn't said, and only later did I consider the possibility that he thought Betsy was not going to make it.

But she did.  I tricked her into drinking a lot of water by flavoring it with baby cereal or chicken broth (fat-free, no msg, low sodium).  I fed her little meals of half rice and half chicken or cottage cheese.  I baked her some low-fat whole wheat treats.  Wednesday morning she was able to walk again, although she was obviously still in pain.  Now it is Saturday, and while she still has some discomfort after meals, she is vastly improved.  And last night she finally pooped, after having not done so since Monday night.

I have owned dogs most of my adult life.  Most of those dogs could - and did - eat just about anything, including one that ate a whole head of cabbage right out of the garden.  Betsy does not have the best conformation or the strongest constitution, which has led to some new experiences for me as a dog owner.  And this is just one more.  Too bad they almost all involve a lot of money.  For a "free" dog from the local shelter, she certainly has been expensive to care for.

But who could resist that sweet face?