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Tag Archives: reviews

My Year In Review

This week is my annual review at my workplace.  I’m sure anyone that has an office job understands what an ordeal this is.  The post is already written in your head for those of you that have been through it.  So, what I’ll try to do is just give some insight as to our company’s brand of ineffectual review.

The process starts a few weeks out from your anniversary date.  This anniversary date is actually not your start date, because when you are hired contract-to-perm, the “contract” part of your time there is not as an employee.  Your actual start date is when you convert from contract to perm employee.  Yeah, I get it, I just think it’s kinda dumb.  If I really wanted to be bitter about it (which I guess I am internally, but you can’t blame fate), I could say that the difference between my first day of work and my first day of employment also means the difference between getting an annual holiday bonus based on my pre-raise salary or my post-raise salary.

Timing issues aside, what you get is a self evaluation document to fill out and return.  You need to return it something like a week before your review.  I always return it within a couple hours of getting it.  I never understand what the big deal is.

This eval form.  Because our department is considered administrative, the things we do can’t be evaluated, performance-wise, the same.  So we have a short list of statements and we have to choose how well we think we met the statement’s metric.  Is the scale 1-10?  No.  1-5 stars?  No.  It’s three options: Exceeds Expectations, Meets Expectations, or Needs Improvement.  This is the second year we’ve had the 3-option scale and the second year that I have been unable to indicate where I feel I am good or bad.  Everything is “Meets Expectations”.  I don’t think I consistently exceed anything and likewise, I don’t think I suck all the time either (just lately).  But there’s no way for me to say I suck a little, but that’s ok, because I make up for it in other ways.

On review day, we all meet in the conference room and the weirdness starts.  I get a copy of the self evaluation I did, then I get a copy of an evaluation by my boss.  And while my boss and his boss silently watch me, I read the evaluation silently to myself.  It’s truly an awkward silence.

But what’s weird to me about it is that my boss consistently ranks me higher than I rank myself.  Maybe that’s supposed to be good.  I understand they want to find cases where someone thinks, “I am on fire” and their boss has a totally different perspective.  BTW, the only time you can self-evaluate yourself as “I am on fire” is when the statement is literal and not colloquial.

So because of the useless ranking/rating system, what ends up happening is everything useful goes in the comments section, which as any programmer will tell you, is absolutely useless for extracting any useful metrics.  I’ve mentioned before that I worked on a survey engine.  One of the interesting sections of the report was a keyword search in the survey’s comment fields.  One interesting application of this would be to see if the survey taker “spoke the lingo”.  Anyway, that’s a pointless (and self-promoting) comment because we don’t do anything like that.

My comments are a list of higher-profile projects that I worked on the last year followed by some pity statements about how I didn’t meet my own expectations and that I’ll do better next year.  I’m not sure if my boss’s review of me is based off what I said, which would make his part super-easy.  But generally, it says kind of the same thing I said, just from a managerial standpoint, as if he’s pleading with HR to justify me remaining hired and even deserving of a raise.

And as time goes on – this is year 7 – this entire process becomes more and more irrelevant.  We aren’t so huge of a company that any IT person is unknown to management.  We all have high-profile projects.  We all save the day at one point or another.  Everyone knows who we are.  I list my biggest projects for the year like I’m releasing a greatest hits album and people are like “Oh, I remember that one!  Sick beat!”  But the greatest hits releases are the moneymakers, because that’s all people care about – the hits.  They honestly don’t remember the ones that never charted.  And they probably don’t care, because that’s not where we are now.

So, because I really want to beat this topic to death so I never have to talk about it again, I will say that we tried something to catch the failed hits, so they wouldn’t be forgotten at review time.  Or at least, they wouldn’t be a time bomb building up so your review wasn’t a shit shower blasted from a fire hose.  We tried quarterly, informal reviews.

This process was walking into my boss’s office, him asking “You got anything?”, me saying, “Nope.” and that was it.  To be fair, I was a lot more engaged when these reviews started, but there was more to talk about then, too.  Our team is quite stable and we all work well together, so there’s no changes worth discussing, like how the new guy is working out or OMG, there’s a female working with us now.

So by the time I got to the point of saying “nope”, they had scrapped the whole idea and the truth came out that these reviews were only implemented because some managers refused to talk to their subordinates.  I assume that problem cleared itself out through attrition.

But anyway, this year, I have an ace up my sleeve.  I’m taking the entire department out to lunch for the holidays and it happens to be on my review day.  As long as there is no food poisoning, I can’t lose.

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Vaultz CD Storage

There is this person at work who randomly offers things to people in my team.  One person got some comics, another got something else.  I’d been offered some things and never accepted.  But, when I was offered CD cases, I accepted.  I like CDs and I like storage.

What I got were two Vaultz CD storage cases.  These things are pretty sweet.  Because I’m shallow as hell, I immediately went online to see what these things cost.  $65 each!  That’s a pretty generous gift.  But because of their quality and the fact I couldn’t find any reviews of these cases elsewhere, I figured I could devote a post to them.  I need to use that “reviews” tag.

WP_20171023_13_14_13_ProWhen I came back from my break, one of these cases was sitting on my desk.  It was bigger than I imagined it would be and much more sturdy-looking, too.  The gifter was there and I told her I would take the other case as well.  I went with her to her car and pulled it from the back seat.  Second impression: these things are heavy.  I could sense the wall materials were pretty thick.  There was no give on any of the walls.

Sitting on my desk at work, the cases were very imposing.  One thing I tried was to orient them horizontally.  This didn’t work for two reasons.  The drawers are not square so they can’t be rotated and the case bottoms have rubber feet.  So, vertical they remain. 

WP_20171023_18_13_24_ProInside the drawers, there were many, many paper cd sleeves and some alphabetical dividers.  I don’t know if these sleeves and dividers come with the units or if the previous owner purchased them separately.  The drawers are felt-lined, which is a nice touch.  Additionally, each drawer had two solid wood dividers – non-removable.  This gave each drawer extra rigidity.  Unfortunately, the back of the drawer is not higher than the drawer itself, so you are able to pull the whole thing out without any stoppage.  I guess you could attach a small extension to catch the drawer before it is fully pulled out.

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When I got the units home, I emptied out the sleeves and dividers.  Each unit is supposed to hold 60 CDs.  I was able to get 31 CDs in one shelf, so the extra space could be good if you have fatboy double cases in your collection.

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The locks on the units, surprisingly, are the same on both – they have the same key number.  They work just as locks would.  They aren’t heavy duty locks or anything, so don’t expect to be too secure.  Locks are just meant to keep honest people honest.  A thief wouldn’t break or pick the lock, they’d just carry the whole case away.

In summary, quality-wise, these are great cases.  You’re paying a decent bit of money for them, so it’s good to see you get the nice, heavy materials for your money.

Before loading the CDs in the cases, I gathered up all the sleeves and organized them.  The cat was annoyed that the box was not for her.

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Resume Retardation 2

A continuation of an older post, Resume Retardation, this is the resume that inspired my “English, Motherfucker…” post.  Again, this is an application for a software development position.  The applicant is an MBA and a Microsoft Certified Professional.  The latter should mean that he knows how to use correct technical terminology, and the former should mean he knows how to use English.  Like the previous example, the resume and the work history shows the level of quality you can expect.  Get it done; move on; disregard consequences. 

Most all of the offenses are missing words, which would suggest editing work done without proper proofing afterwards.

“Managed project management with regards the business logic and conditions, also managed a team of .net developers.” – This needs to be “with regard to business logic…”, missing a word and using an improper phrase style.

“…designing a new system for importing jobs from concept to deployment, 2-month development effort.” – The trailing fragment phrase could be fixed by leading in with “which was a …” or even “a …”.

“Managed website traffic to generate up to 4x more then when I started.” – Then/than is a pretty simple rule to understand.  This is Facebook-level dumb.  Somewhat better than YouTube-level dumb, but still.  Also, not grammatically, the question lingers, “4 times more what?”

“At the time that I started they had only a couple of schools involved, over the course of three years the project grew from a simply website to a .Net Solution with over 200+ schools we were collecting leads for.“ – What an awkward sentence.  Much more help needed than simply fixing the “simply” to “simple”.

Along with developing different methods of posting formats to the online entities.” – Not a full sentence.  At all.  I mean, this is not a full sentence at all.  It doesn’t even have the literary effect my snarky response does.

There’s more to this resume, but I grow bored.  When you hit this many errors, there’s not much you can try to salvage.  How are people content with this presentation of their professional self?  Is it simply a “get ‘er done” mentality or do people really believe that they don’t have time to invest in quality?

In my geographic location, it seems the software market is always hot.  But I’m starting to get a better impression of the dynamics of this market.  I’m seeing candidates who have had the same past employers.  I think it’s the same losers cycling through all the employers in the area and those employers are constantly dismissing and replacing them, giving the impression of a hot job market, when really it’s just the churning of lameness.

The One Minute Manager Synopsis

After reading the book, which was an extremely quick read, maybe half an hour, I figured I ‘d make a few quick notes to keep the ideas in my head.

The three main things the technique tries to instill are: 1-minute goal settings, 1-minute praisings, and 1-minute reprimands.  Obviously, the one minute thing isn’t literal, but it is all meant to be quick and not dragged out.

Some of the details of the story stuck with me, and some raised further questions.  For example, there is a lot of stress on the idea that a worker has clear goals and it is their job to do them.  If that worker doesn’t know how to accomplish a task, who do they turn to?  I thought it would be the manager, because the manager should know everything that is going on in the department.  But the manager doesn’t want to be doing the job of his workers, that is a drain on his efficiency.  There is the weekly meeting where everyone describes their current progress and roadblocks.  That may be where issues get raised and assignments made to resolve them.

Some things don’t sit all that well with me.  It doesn’t seem very useful for a “working” manager – one who has things of their own to do in addition to managing people below them.  The book never talks about that.  The manager is always available, never has clutter, never seems to be doing anything.  But maybe that’s the trick, to delegate everything.  If one of your goals is to create a report of how successful your department is, do you assign that task to another person to do?

One part of me says that this is correct.  A manager should do nothing but manage the people and tasks and make sure the work gets done.  Another part of me says that it’s not enough and wouldn’t be very fulfilling.

The book also doesn’t discuss how much time a manager must spend in meetings.  The story always has the manager fully available, except for one team meeting.  Surely this manager must have superiors and peers at his level.  What about that time?

Lewis N Clark Urban Gear Duffel Review

I have two fetishes and I’m not exactly shy about them.  The fetishes are office supplies and luggage.  Both center around the concept of organization.  Like when I go to Staples, I fantasize about owning all this office equipment which necessitates the need for organizational supplies like binders and filing drawers and stands and on and on.

And luggage, well, I just appreciate a well-designed bag that holds just what you need.  Because of this, I am constantly trying to find the right size bag for what I need at the time.  And style has to be considered of course.

So, this bag came up on Woot:

And I really liked it.  I’ve been using the bag for a while now and I still really like it.  But one thing I never got around to testing was the bag’s capacity.  I assumed I could use it for a week’s vacation, but would that really work?  I mean, it’s only one bag.  But then again, I am a guy.  Guys don’t pack like women, am I right?

Therefore, this post is now the inaugural ManPack Experience.

You can see the empty bag above.  First thing I’m going to pack is t-shirts.  I am an advocate of the “rolled” packing style, so if you pack differently, you may get different results.

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Nine t-shirts on layer 1.  That also includes sleep shirts.  I also expect I will buy a shirt or two on vacation.  Next up, shorts – because I’m not going to go somewhere that’s cold, duh.

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Five pairs of shorts and one pair of jeans.  I could probably swap out a couple of the shorts for pants. Next up, Shirts, socks and underwear.  These fill in the front.

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Two button-down shirts, six pairs of socks, eight pairs of underwear.  Next, toiletry bag, shoes and a belt.  Of course, I’ll have the shoes and belt I’m wearing, too, so adding extra shoes is just an example.

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A pair of sandals, a pair of loafers, and a belt.  There is still room for more, too.  Probably another pair of pants or a couple shirts.  Now, will the bag close?

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Sure it closes, and there’s more room on the outside.  On the left, I keep a laundry bag for dirty clothes.  On the right, I have my Kindle keyboard in its case.  It’s shown vertically, but does fit horizontally.  Front pocket holds a small tablet, which does fit horizontally.  And I couldn’t think of what else to put in the front.  So fully loaded, what’s the weight?

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It’s 17 pounds loaded pretty full.  You could stuff it further if you wanted.

So, this is a great travel bag for multi-day trips.  If you had two bags, you could go for quite a while.  But I don’t travel for long periods, so I am glad for another nice feature of the Lewis N Clark Urban series.  I also bought their laptop bag, and it is a perfect fit inside the duffel.

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The laptop bag fits my 15.6” Toshiba laptop just right.  The interior of the bag is very sparse, with just one zippered mesh pouch that I use to hold the power cords.  There is room in the bag for a legal padfolio, which I make use of.  The front pockets hold cables, pens, and a flash drive.

Overall, I think the Urban Gear line of bags from Lewis N Clark is great stuff.

Fail on the Wrong Scale

Reading through the tech news sites today, I see Microsoft has released a new model of their Surface tablet.  And, even though I hate myself for doing this because it makes me hate the world, I read the comments on the articles.  The comments that always got to me were the simple “Total Fail” posts.  Some would back it up with something like, “No one’s talking about this.  It’s dead on arrival.” or “Look at how little press this is getting.  Microsoft can’t even get the word out.”

I think I’ve finally come to understand this.  When you’re dealing with an ultra-powerful tablet – one that is on par with business-class laptops – quite simply, it’s not for you.  I don’t mean you as in everybody, I mean you, as in the person who is spamming “Fail” all over blog article comments.  This is an adult device. Let the adults handle this.

The people that are running companies and making purchasing decisions for their IT teams are going to evaluate this on a slightly different measure than how many denigrating posts the product receives or how many talk shows the product is mentioned on.  This is not for you, mass consumer.  But that’s not to say you can’t buy it or make great use of it.  If you do, you’ll be using professional-grade hardware, and everyone will assume you are capable at handling it.

The problem is that tech blogs attract the wrong crowd, because they deal in consumer electronics.  If you went on a true IT blog and they posted an article about the newest HP datacenter server or the newest Cisco core router, you’re not going to have a bunch of “This server is dead on arrival” posts.  You will read valid critiques of the hardware’s shortcomings, in other words, intelligent discourse.

I guess it’s pretty typical of the modern, self-centered, never-satisfied, all-about-me mentality to think that if a product doesn’t do exactly what you want it to, it must be useless to everyone.  And with that conclusion, you must speak with authority on the matter, because, well, it’s all about you.

But guess what?  It’s not.  It’s not for you so it’s not about you.

Gunnars

I’ve been a Woot buyer for a while, from back when Woot was cool.  But even now, you can still get some good deals.  Anyway, that aside, it was a few months ago that I saw one of my co-workers wearing these yellow glasses.  He said he got them on Woot.  I recognized them as Gunnars and was curious as to whether they were worth the money.  He said he noticed the difference.  I tried them on and because of the slight magnification of the lens, I took them right off and said “no way.”

Weeks go by and my co-worker is wearing his Gunnars every day.  Every once in a while I ask, “they’re working ok?” and he says they’re great.  The joke in our department is that they are future glasses and when wearing them you can “see future.”  On a more practical level, if the glasses didn’t work, he would’ve stopped using them.  So, the next time Gunnars showed up on Woot, I went for it.

I purchased the Groove model.  When I got them, I was slightly underwhelmed.  The arms were simple rubber and the nose pads were stationary and tiny.  But I got over that and wore them to work.  After an extended time, the nose pads started really hurting me.  I adjusted them over and over but couldn’t find a good position.  So I ended up wearing the glasses less and less and eventually they just ended up in a drawer.

Another Woot sale came along and I decided to purchase another pair, one with a different bridge.  I decided on the e11vens, since they had a solid plastic bridge.  When I got the glasses, again, I was slightly underwhelmed.  The whole frame was a glossy black plastic and felt a little on the cheap side.  But the glasses look like something Tony Stark would wear, so there’s that, anyway.  At the time I ordered the e11vens, I played around with my Groove’s one more time and found a very comfortable nose pad position.  With that modification, I started wearing the Groove’s consistently.  Now I had a pair for work and one for home.

The real question is, do they work?  Yes, they do.  You’ll see a lot of reviews saying that Gunnar’s are overhyped, overpriced, and pointless.  After using them, I have to disagree.  I’ll admit, when I first researched Gunnars, I was totally put off by the hyper-aggressive, buzzword-laden marketing they used.  Since that time, the company seems to have toned the hyperbole down and the message is a lot more palatable.  I read some quotes from their founder and they made a lot of practical sense.  Basically, Gunnars are safety eyewear, and that’s not sexy.  It wouldn’t be very cool to be wearing “safety glasses” at work, and who would ever buy them with that label?  So I understand why they did what they needed to.  Now, with some real testimonials and word-of-mouth behind them, they can afford to be more realistic and practical with their message.

Now, some of the arguments against Gunnars say that that all they are is tinted glasses and all you need to do is go out and buy blu-blockers from the dollar store to get the same effect.  That’s fairly untrue.  Some of the features that Gunnars profess (and probably way over-hyped) are actually beneficial.  I’m not going to look up what their special marketing words are when discussing the features, because they don’t matter.

One feature -  I ‘m pretty sure they call this “microclimate” – is the wraparound style of the lenses.  It doesn’t need a buzzword to be effective.  I know this works because my eyes don’t dry out throughout the day.  You may think it’s a placebo effect, but physical proof that my eyes aren’t drying out is that I get “sleep” in my eyes at the end of the day, which means my eyes are tearing more than sufficiently.

Another feature is the slight magnification, the part that freaked me out when I first put the Gunnars on.  This magnification is optimized for up to about a 3 foot distance.  Don’t wear Gunnars for driving or even for walking around, they don’t work for far distances and you’ll get a headache. 

Gunnars hype the optically pure lens material and anti-glare coating.  Eh, I would hope glasses would be clear and anti-glare, especially at that price.  And the tinting, it’s not sunglass tint, it’s like shooting glasses.

So, can you use blu-blockers?  Sure, but you won’t get a wraparound fit, so your eyes will dry out.  The tinting will be darker and more pronounced, which I can’t see that doing any good.  You could use shooting glasses, but you won’t get the near-range magnification.  Cheap sunglasses probably aren’t as optically pure as specialized glasses, so maybe there would be a bit of distortion.  And, purely for vanity’s sake, in an office environment, wearing Gunnars may be considered edgy, but wearing actual sunglasses would be either tacky or plain weird.

The other real question is, are they worth it?  For $100, I wouldn’t think so.  Luckily, they are a Woot recurring item, so you shouldn’t have to pay that much.  At Woot prices, they are definitely worth the money.