E-archeology…

i have been suffering the escalating consequences of what was only a minor brain-fart all day.  On my way out for a run/walk this morning, i shut down my laptop – hitting the “sign out” button on several windows without really thinking about it.  Returning an hour later, i attempted to log onto my e-mail — an drew a complete blank on the password. 

Thinking “of course i know this password”, i managed to get myself locked out after three failed attempts.  Going to the “password help” page, i realized that i was up against a major obstacle – this e-mail account was formed in 1988.  The security question “What is your pet’s name?” would have been four dogs ago… and could have been one of either critter we had at the time. 

i managed to get myself booted out of that after three incorrect answers, and went to the live chat “help” screen.  Where i was informed by a delightful young Indian man named “Krystal” that i was NOT the account owner, and therefore, he couldn’t reset my password.  Oh, right.  In 1988, i was married to a man with several graduate degrees, including a Master’s in Computer Science.  HE set up the account, even though he hasn’t used that address for 10 years. 

Quadruple Fuck.  i use that account for ALL of my personal business.  Bank accounts, bill paying, and all sorts of things… to have it just disappear?  Up the ass without a courtesy spit… fucked bad.

On my way out the door, i grabbed my work blackberry and sent my ex-husband a desperate plea for help… “really sorry to bug you, but i’m fucked.  can you try to reset my old e-mail password?”  Fortunately, he was able to guess at the set up information from two decades ago, and got the password reset. 

Having no luck re-setting the password (due to the aforementioned failure on my part to remember animal names – even though i used the one he told me he used to no avail), i decided it was time to retire the old e-mail.

i’ve spent the better part of the afternoon and evening beginning the process to migrate to a new account.  Was delighted to find that gmail has an ‘import’ function, which moved all of my saved messages into a sparkly clean in-box.  Even moved my old “saved mail” folders.  Groovy!

Along the way, i realized that i’d been packing a SHITLOAD of e-baggage.  First folder to be deleted?  Theater business.  Fuck all y’all.  Didn’t even read any of it.  “Skatepark” files?  Um, the local skater punks have been burning up those ramps for three years.  Done.  Next?  Went through all of the “home logistics” folders and deleted information that had gone well past the expiration date.  A receipt for a gift ordered in 2006?  Probably not worth keeping…  Therapeutic!

Oh, but the treasures… e-mail exchanges about work stress with my “day husband”.  Shit.  We were funny when our heads were exploding.  Sharing “trailer park” stories with my friends.  Pre-blog.  Some of those exchanges are ripe for lifting directly as historical posts… 

Messages exchanged with my daughter as she sailed around the world.  Heartbreak delivered, and received.  My entire divorce, essentially documented in e-mail exchanges with a friend going through her divorce at the same time.  E-mails with gentlemen friends as we tested the murky dating waters.  The “you have malaria” / “no wait, it’s mono” story.  The breast cancer coaster.

It was my intention to just trash those folders… but i don’t think i can do that just yet.  There are about 1,876 nuggets of “holy shit? i completely forgot about that!” to wade through first…

~~~~~~~~~~~

For giggles?  Here’s a look at an AOL ad from 1986.  Well, quantum link, the AOL predecessor.  And it doesn’t even mention the porn!

 

Phun with Phyzikz…

Even i have limits.  i can tolerate a rather remarkable amount of pain – particularly in regards to enduring meetings, workshops and technical conferences.  i have developed tools and techniques for staying awake

Physiologically?  They call me “The Camel”, as i am generally able to drink my weight in coffee in a half-day meeting and never require a mercy break*.   That – and my ability to sleep on airplanes – is one of my most important business skills….

Friday was Day Four of a Hardcore Tech Workshop.  The first three days of the meeting were at our on-site conference facility – allowing me the option of sneaking home for lunch and avoiding getting my leg humped by aggressive and/or needy academics looking for research funds.  They often have no table manners, and will corner me during lunch, sharing the merits of their particular microcosm of the research universe whilst spitting chunks of squishy pasta salad in my lap. 

The final “invitation only” geekfest was held at a downtown hotel… less convenient for an escape.  With about 200 people at the events earlier in the week, it was easy to disappear and escape notice.  The final day consisted of a smaller subset of researchers, maybe twenty folks total.  This presented a much greater challenge – especially since i was one of only two “senior leader” types in the room…

So it had to tough it out.  This little topical workshop was focused on a piece of my technological pie.  Since i’m the techno-strategist du jour for my new group, i felt obligated to feign as much interest as possible. 

i pulled out all of my standard tools.  Fantasize about someone in the room?  Umm… right….  Mostly physicists.  Next trick, please?  Discreetly surf the news on my blackberry?  Nope.  Seats were crammed too closely together in a small room.  The speaker would see me doing it… just too rude. 

Oh, for the love of Maxwell, these fuckers simply would not shut up!  We were destined to run late.  On a fucking FRIDAY afternoon.  But i was hangin’ tough.  Going through my “to do” list for the weekend in my head.  Playing games with the words being spewed**….

At 1:30 pm, i began to squirm… the dreaded “Post-Lunch/Pre-Cookie Break” chasm of death.  Nowhere to stand and pace in the back of the small meeting room.  i was trapped.  When the final speaker of the session launched into an impassioned discussion of non-hermitian hamiltonians, i cracked.

Looking at my blackberry, with my trademarked “Oh, There’s A Highly Urgent Management Matter I Must Attend To” furrowed brow, i stood, grabbed my coat and briskly walked out of the room, off to the parking garage and squealed my tires outta there. 

Sometimes they simply can’t pay me enough…

AAAARRRRGH!

Phuck all y'all!

* In fact, i have used this particular skill to accelerate the decision process.  After filling the urn in the group conference room with coffee, gathering my management team around the table, and hashing out the advantages/disadvantages of a particular course of action, i can wrap a meeting up fairly quickly with the statement:  “No one is leaving this room until we come to a decision!”  They’ll squirm, cross their little legs, and sometimes even pace a bit, but eventually, we’re done and there’s a mad dash to the cans…  Yeah.  Evil, but highly effective.

** One particularly enthusiastic speaker, who was Greek, managed to hold my attention inadvertently.  Every time he said “PT Phase” it sounded like “Pretty Face”, and therefore made his presentation much more entertaining…

Potential

Magic.  Anything is still possible in the 12-year old brain. The perfectly timed intersection of “knowledge” and “naiveté”, they genuinely believe the future is wide open….

With delight, i accepted an offer to teach a little geekery to a group of 40 “Science Campers”.  They were beautiful – a hyperspectral rainbow of excitement and energy, hungry to know something cool… ANYTHING geeky.   Yeah.  i’m guessing they were enjoying a week of not getting beat up after school for a change…

They pinged me with questions, a little shy at first, gaining confidence as they got comfortable with my style.  “How does that plate change photons into electrons?” to “Are there any sensors that can really see through clothes?” (giggles all around).
 
Was i like that at twelve years old?  Seems that i’ve always been a crunchy and jaded cynic.  Spending a morning with them took me back. 

Forty years ago this month, i was an androgynous, amorphous and routinely dirt-encrusted seven year old.  When Neil Armstrong was about to take his first steps on the moon, Dad dragged us out of bed. The entire family watched grainy, shaky images on the black and white console in the living room. 

Wasn’t really sure what was going on, but i knew it was important. At least to my Dad.

Over the next several years, he and i tracked the Apollo program closely. To say that it sparked me was an understatement. i didn’t just want to be an astronaut, I was going to be an astronaut.  He didn’t encourage me in a patronizing way, simply pointed out the things i’d have to do to get there.

We took a family vacation to the Huntsville Alabama Space and Missile center when i was 10 years old.  In hindsight, i  know it was his way of feeding my dream, because Mom and my sister, T, whined the entire trip.  In 1972, the Space Shuttle was in development, and we had the opportunity to muck around in a full scale prototype.  i was fascinated to discover my first space urinal – a nicely penis-shaped hole, attached to a vacuum system.

10 year old daisyfae to tour guide: “Where will the women go to the bathroom?”

i was given no acceptable answer. And it pissed me the fuck off….

In addition to the chance to teach Science Camp this week, i was also tagged to attend a technology exposition at a regional convention center. One of the keynote speakers was an astronaut. A woman who had worked in my organization when she was a baby engineer. About seven years younger than me, she’s now about 40.

Her presentation covered two prior space missions, as well as her current training for a lengthy stint on the international space station.  From underwater living in a deep-sea habitrail, to a few months in Antarctica to learning Russian, Japanese and German while working with her international colleagues to learn the jobs to be performed in space….  An endless stream of adventure, intellectual and physical challenges as she prepares to live in space.

She was clearly still full of the wonder of a 12-year old, grateful to have the best job in the world, if not the universe. And i was mesmerized.  Could i have done it?  Well, she wasn’t married and wasn’t saddled with kids…  Lots more time to focus on your own dreams when you don’t have people depending on you to take out the trash and review homework!

Oh.  That’d be a photo of her husband and small child.  Um… right.  There goes that excuse.  She’s definitely had a bit of good fortune, but luck and timing only take you so far.  She is the real thing.  Hard work, persistence, focus, drive and passion… Sacrifice.  Sleep deprivation.  Giving up time with her family to do what it takes to hit the goal…

i’ve been pretty damn lucky myself, following my own dream – allowing for some dilution along the way – i’ve managed to have the geek-a-rific career i desired.  And more.  Following a path that parallels the aerospace industry, i’ve also had the fortune to get to know a few astronauts along the way, allowing me a glimpse “behind the capsule door” from time to time.

But close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.  As a minimum, i need to get my doughy ass to the gym.  She’s only 7 years younger and can squeeze into a Russian rocket capsule, torquing her body to perform Herculean Amazonian tasks.  i should at least be able to do a few more push ups…

potential

Honeymoon Interruptus…

Spent an hour this morning with JA, the guy i replaced when i took the new job.  He’s a wicked smart, snarky and politically savvy technologist – with a delicious streak of darkness in his soul.  We get along quite nicely…

i’m now the Tech Advisor for an exploratory device* research group.  Having just left an extraordinarily dysfunctional collection of researchtards, i was under no delusions that things would be perfectly peachy in my new job.  Quite the contrary, i knew there were challenges, and that was one of the reasons i wanted this job. 

After our first group meeting this week, the degree of “broken scientific humanity” within my new team is becoming apparent.  As we made fun of discussed the unique attributes of each member of the technical staff, i commented on how delighted i was with the energy of one particular researcher, AB – an attractive, middle-aged man of Eastern European origins – who’d given me an impassioned summary of his work and impressed me with his fundamental technical knowledge.

JA rolled his eyes, then explained the back story… regarding his hiring.  Seems a prior Director met AB at a conference, and offered him a position on the spot…

daisyfae:  What?  The Director can do that?

JA:  He’s on a “Hispanic Preference” position…

daisyfae:  But AB is a fucking Romanian…

JA:  Yeah, but the Director thought he was Hispanic…  

daisyfae:  You’ve got to be shitting me?  Brown with an accent is brown with an accent?  Holy shit…

He then went on to let me know much, much more about AB.  Things i really didn’t want to know… “Be sure to ask about AB’s mother.  She’s in a coma.  He keeps her in his basement..”.

daisyfae:  So… i’m thinking i don’t wanna fuck him…

JA:  Well… It’d be loud, if nothing else….

Welcome to the Freak Geek Show!

Welcome to the Geek Freak Show!

* i said “device”…. not “toys”… you bunch of pervs….

Techno-geek giggles…

This week, i’m at a major technology forum, held smack-dab in the middle of Silicon Valley – THE technology mecca,  just 30 miles south of San Francisco.  This meeting is a true sausage-festival, with perhaps 25 women amongst the 500 dark-suited dorks attending.  Typical of such events was my first random encounter of the morning as i was elbowing my way to the giant vats of coffee in the back of the room:

Nerd:  Hey, you’re daisyfae!  Remember we met at Electro-Schlong Fest, 2003 in Cedar Rapids?  You gave a very funny overview of small, high-tech business strategies*.

daisyfae:  That’s right!  You were the middle-aged guy with glasses wearing the gray suit!  How could i forget?  [knocks short man with mismatched socks away from coffee urn to snag a lifesaving slug of caffeine]

Despite the armada of celebrants sporting Quantum Wood, there have already been quite a few laughs amongst my more twisted brethren.  The one that had me damn near squirting a suspiciously sticky cheese danish out of my nose was a shared e-mail exchange between two colleagues – one attending the session, and one back at the home office.

Titan of Industry (TI) is an old friend, who has done pretty well at the helm of a high tech start up.  Despite good business performance during the shitty economy, his company is getting just as hammered as everyone else in the current stock market massacre.  An employee back home sent him a note of condolence:

Employee X:  You said you were out this week.  If by any chance you are traveling by yourself on buisness and have been drinking from the minibar while watching CNBC, please get back off the ledge. 

TI:  I’ve just landed in the Bay Area.   It’s very strange – fires are burning everywhere, and there is the stench of death in the air. The citizenry is running around screaming for their lives as packs of giant Dungeoness crabs are scouring the countryside seeking human flesh!   Venture capitalists are stepping into the roadways, dousing themselves with gasoline, and lighting themselves on fire!   WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON!   Dogs are sleeping with cats!   Oh, the humanity! Is this the end of days!?!

Employee X:  Truly devastating, I feared as much. Somehow though we will all get through this together.  Oh, don’t worry about the dogs and cats thing, that is normal for the bay area…

hur, hur, hur... *snort*

hur, hur, hur... *snort*

 * It’s not that i’m anything special.  i’m just an anomaly.  Amidst a sea of gray, blue, black and yes, even brown, suits, there is a long-haired creature with breastages wearing red.  They tend to notice… i’m blown away that at this particular dork-fest a mere 5% of the attendees have ovaries.  We actually counted about 25 1/2 women here.  Yes.  One was of indeterminate gender…

Innovatus Interruptus

From our friends at National People’s Public Radio, a fabulous nugget about creative thinking in an oppressive, bureaucratic and process-heavy workplace…  

First, take a look at this video, which runs just under 10 minutes.  Some folks at NASA captured cultural behaviors that stuffed innovation and creativity a bazillion different ways into next week.  Funny yet sad* – and true to many large organizations, whether you work in government, academia or the commercial sector.   And also, whether you’re building complex systems, or managing the daily operations of a medical facility, or managing a restaurant…

Short version (for those of you who are too tired, busy or “attention deficient” to spare the 10 minutes):  Allegedly bright young engineer brings forward a new design concept for a space craft, then is repeatedly told “not our job”, “not what you’re working on”, “we’ve never done things like this before” and so on… The script is a compilation of actual “Poo Poo-ing” delivered at Johnson Space Flight Center.  Poor kid is crapped on a thousand different ways, yet undeterred, she continues to press forward with her innovative concept.

My first reaction?  “Oh, yeah!  We gotta show this to the ancient boat-anchors, “Princess Poopy Pants”** and all the other creativity-challenged members of the “Nerd Herd” in my office!  The fossils who wouldn’t recognize innovation if it bit them in their polyester stretch pants, chewing clean through the frayed elastic waist bands.  

But what’s the alternative?  If we all spend our time “thinking crazy shit”, brainstorming until our brains fall out of our eye sockets and running down every rabbit hole of possibility?  We won’t do Jack Shit.***  Before i can trot this out – simply as an amusing “hey, guys — boy, don’t we do this sometimes? Ha ha ha…” awareness session, i need to have a better way… that magical balance of productivity and innovation.

Sure, we’ve got some bright folks – but if they pull some “creative” solution out of their clever little heads, and run with it?  We could end up with electrical engineers playing spin the bottle with hydrazine, blowing us all into nerd-shrapnel.  Watching the video again, i had to ask “but what does that kid really know about space craft design? What if she’s been hired because of her expertise in thermo-molecular computational modeling and happens to have found a spacecraft design in a lost episode of Star Trek?”

In times of juicier resources, we used to allow folks about 10% of their paid workday to just fart around, chase crazy shit, and think deep thoughts.  No pressure to deliver product, and a stated tolerance for “failure” – because in research if you’re not failing every now and then, you’re not really testing boundaries.  Or maybe we should just put shock collars on them… and keep the annoyances to a minimum?

http://despair.com -- i love these people...
 

* Giving them an “A+” for creativity, but i’ve seen better acting in amateur midget porn and the “Left Behind” movies…

** Genuine call sign for a senior scientist in my organization who can take a steaming dump on the best idea ever – simply by laughing in a geeky, derogatory manner and saying “You could do that, but it would be stupid…”.  Honestly?  i’d prefer her taking an actual dump than dropping that line at the beginning of a brainstorming session…

*** NOT an actual call sign for a member of the team.  But i’ll keep it in my play book for future prospects…

Robo-dawg

Anyone remember the movie Westworld?  Got this video a few days back from a fellow technologist.  Makes me both proud to be a geek, and terrified for the future of mankind…

If i encountered this beast romping through the woods?  i’d leave a ‘big dog’ in my shorts.  Especially if he’s fully loaded and buzzing like an industrial joy-toy on steroids…

Now, if there are any among you that didn’t feel a twinge of “hey, that’s not nice” when BigDog got a boot in the ribs, i’d be surprised.  Conversely, if there are any among you who didn’t snort out loud when he hit the ice, then you don’t have the schadenfreude chromosome.  When i first saw it, i laughed so hard, i think i might have peed a little*…

The BigDog is autonomous, not run by joystick**.  Can’t you hear him telling his grandkids “In my day, we had to run up 35 degree inclines, in the snow, carrying 340lbs.  And we were thankful.  You young whipper-snapper robots are spoiled…”

In the end, the geeks shall inherit the earth – with their invasion gear carried by robotic mules***.  For more on Boston Dynamics, BigDog and their other robo-pets, check out their website.  Technology ain’t for wimps.  These guys have done something magical…

______

* At my age, allergy season is an adventure.

** Despite the fact that he sounds like one.

*** Which is a good thing because your garden variety member of the nerd-herd can’t carry more than a lunch sack with a Peanut Butter – Marshmallow Fluff on Wonder Bread sandwich, and a Butterscotch Pudding cup.

Video Teleconference “Do’s and Don’ts”

Unfortunately, this is likely to be the first of a series…. i genuinely could not make this shit up

For those who haven’t suffered the joy that is the video teleconference (VTC), let me explain.  In a noble effort to save precious travel funding, and exploit benefits of modern technology, many organizations have invested in high quality VTC equipment*. 

This is a good thing.  Unlike face-to-face meetings, there are mute buttons.  If you can maintain the physical pretense that you are paying attention, you hit your “mute” button and completely zone out**, reflect upon the last time you exchanged body fluids with an attractive human, or fantasize about stabbing a windbag colleague with a spork (and naturally, plotting your subsequent escape… or frame your defense testimony should it go to trial.)***.

For “multi-site” VTC’s, participants often see two screens – one showing presentation materials, and one showing thumbnail video screens for each site “attending”.  Current technology will place the feed for the “active” site in a larger window, where the active site is the one where someone last spoke to other participants.

During a recent multi-party VTC, i witnessed the unthinkable.  A Senior Leader (ie: someone in a position of authority who makes a grotesque amount of money) was the lone attendee from his site, using a VTC camera from his office.  His feed, therefore, showed a closeup of his face to the rest of us.  Other sites?  Conference rooms, showing participants at a distance which barely made determination of hair color, gender and basic body shape possible.

The Senior Leader made several comments at the start of the meeting – none of them pertinent to the discussion (complaining that he couldn’t see this, couldn’t hear that, didn’t get read ahead materials, etc.), thus establishing his feed as the “active” feed. 

As a result, the giant screen in my conference room showed a 6′ diameter image of this man’s face to all in the room, with several smaller video thumbnails at the periphery.  There were approximately 50 people in my conference room. 

i was, however, the only one to laugh out loud when Senior Leader inserted his index finger into his left nostril.  Up to and including the second knuckle.  Audible groans resonated throughout, though, when he added the “twist” maneuver.  We all looked away in anticipation of the extraction, and subsequent inspection of, “the kill”.

i need to get started with bartending school… i am not long for this domain…

______

* think webcam.  multiply cost by 1,000.

** i am the queen of “pretend note taking”.  laptop out, glancing up periodically with a thoughtful look on my face feigning interest, then back to whatever random item i’m writing… i know i’m not fooling anyone, but it makes me feel better.

*** there is danger.  you can be asked a question and not know it.  this is awkward.  when you look up and find that every other site is looking at their VTC camera, and expectantly awaiting your answer… must buy time, blame poor audio and ask them to repeat the question… oh, and don’t forget to calmly hit the “un-mute” button or you’ll look like even more of a doofus.

Calling tech support

On the road still again.  Tonight?  In a major city that might be the capital of a large North American country.  Staying in an upscale hotel, that might be somehow related to a skanky celebu-tard known to appear in night-vision pornography. 

You’d think they could get their fucking internet to work…

i called the front desk, after attempting to connect for over an hour with an intermittent wireless connection.  Front desk clerk helpfully handed me off to the tech support line for their internet provider.  In Bangalore.  A wonderfully helpful technician, who quickly realized that i was not an imbecile, suggested i call the front desk and ask for a wireless bridge to get a stronger signal.

Without screaming, i did so, and the front desk clerk helpfully offered to have a bridge sent to my room.

Smiling sweetly as the bellman delivered the bridge – 30 minutes later – i was able to get a box full of random wires and electronic gonads connected properly.  And yet was still unable to get a signal that stayed connected for more than 20 seconds at a time.

Inspired by two women of class and restraint (annie and awalkabout) at no time did i scream SUCK MY DISEASE-RIDDLED SCROTAL SACK, YOU WORTHLESS TECHNO-BAGS OF SHIT!  Although i thought about it several times.  Despite the fact that i have been awake since 3:45 am in order to catch a flight at 6:00 am to get to a meeting by 8:30 am that i don’t really need to attend, i’m trying to do a better job with my anger management than i did yesterday morning.

Instead?  i took some of my frustrations out on a wooden coat hanger in the closet.  One of those nice ones that can actually be removed from the rod… and i wrenched the metal crossbar from the wood.  And being a good little nerd-ette, i have managed to fashion a rather nifty antenna from it. 

Weak, but stable signal.

Geeks rock. 

The Hilton in Tysons Corner, Virginia?  Not so much.

Color me important…

Today included a mad dash of preparation for the preparatory meeting for the cosmic Alignment of Executives, scheduled to take place next week.

In the midst of preparations, a friend* sent an e-mail with a link to the Executive Coloring Book.

i’ve decided to use this image in my “read-ahead” materials, to be sent early next week.  We’ll learn once and for all if our Executive Directors read the material we send in advance…

executivecoloring.png 

THIS IS ME!  I am an executive.  Executives are important.  They go to important offices and do important things.  Color my underwear important.

_______

* Life’s Eclectic Wanderer, who also knows my habit of surfing the web on my blackberry when i’m tapped for ideas during meetings and brainstorming sessions…