Great moments is passive-aggressiveness

Originally uploaded by thetejon

I know this may seem slightly ridiculous coming from a guy who runs a blog called Complaint Hub, but doesn’t it make you laugh when someone goes to a whole lot of trouble to publicly complain about something they could (and should) just fix themselves?

Please toss out old food


I think it should be a law – if you put out a request for volunteers with a sign-up sheet, your name should be first on the list. The laziness here is really astounding. Well, not really, I’m never really surprised by how lazy people are, but it should be astounding. Not only has the sign-maker not actually done any cleaning, but he or she didn’t even put up a sign-up sheet.

I might go into the office and take a nap

I’m working from home today. In front of my house, they are jackhammering the street. Next door, they are cutting concrete. On the floor above me, the loudest cleaning lady in the Universe is still puttering along. It is truly amazing that the wife has managed to get the kid to sleep. Now if only I could actually get any work done.

If I don’t admit I’m exhausted, maybe I won’t be

I’m back at work for the first time since the kid. It’s not fun. She was up really late last night. The wife tried to get her down so I could sleep before work, but at 2AM she needed some help. The kid and I fell asleep on the couch sometime around 2:30, and here I am at work by 8:15. I have a two hour meeting at 9:30, and a shorter meeting at 1, and then I’m going home. So maybe five more hours. On the bright side, it’s a pretty amazing feeling to listen to her slow down from screaming to crying to sleeping while I’m bouncing her up and down and whispering in her ear. In the long run, I suspect that’s what I’ll remember, rather than the sleepless nights.

The unintended consequences of blocking webmail

No matter how hard you try, you can’t effectively block anything on the internet. My favorite angry tech geeks just mentioned the great quote from John Gilmore, “the internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.” That’s not exactly what happened when they blocked webmail at work, but it might as well have been. There’s a free wifi signal in our building provided by the DC government. I have no idea why it’s there, or who it’s meant to serve, but it’s been great for me. However, it goes in and out a lot. You have to authenticate with an email address every time it drops you, and sometimes that would happen every few minutes. It could be really frustrating, especially when I really needed that connection. It was the only connection I had for the laptop where I do all my work, and when it wasn’t working, I couldn’t get to source control, I couldn’t do all sorts of necessary work tasks. So, when they blocked webmail on the official work network, the DC wifi took a beating. They started blocking on a Monday, and through Wednesday, the DC wifi was totally useless. Even when it would successfully authenticate me, it wouldn’t let me do anything. What happened next? Whoever runs that wifi network must have upgraded some equipment, because now that connection is better than it’s ever been. They must have gotten complaints from whoever is actually supposed to be using that network, and took steps to improve it. And now I have a pretty reliable connection. It hurts my argument that work needs to buy me a Blackberry, but I didn’t really need a Blackberry. In some sense, everyone wins here. People aren’t checking webmail on the official work network. As misguided a security policy as that is, it remains their right to block webmail. And I have a better uncensored connection that helps me be more productive at work. Clearly I’m not the only one using it, and the others undoubtedly benefit from the increased quality of the wifi service. More and more, we have to realize that everything is available on the internet. You can accept that, figure out how it affects your business, and move forward. Or you can waste resources fighting against it until you realize that no amount of censorship, lawsuits, or new laws will ever stop the flood of information.

Your job is more interesting than mine

I can’t be the only one who constantly finds that most other jobs seem more interesting than mine. It doesn’t help that I’m going through a frustrating time at work where we’re understaffed as we’re expanding, so I get to deal with a ton of customers who aren’t that happy with us because we’re pushing back deadlines. And I generally like my job. I’m paid very well relative to how hard I have to work, the company treats me like a person, and I like my coworkers. But there are so many other jobs that sound cooler. For example, I’ve recently rolled over an old 401K into a new IRA, which means I can do a little playing in the market. So I’ve been reading market articles here and there, and I read about a “planned coup” at Lehman Brothers, and a lowball offer for a competitor by Precision Drilling Trust. These things sound exciting! And then you have the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac disaster, and the general unrest in the financial industry, plus releasing earnings statements . . . All I have here are annual budget submissions. It pales in comparison. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to be a day trader or a fund manager or anything like that. That sounds distinctly like work. What I’d really like is for someone to pay me for offering uninformed insight on the market. That would be pretty cool.

Stupid IT department

First webmail, now Actually, Delicious went first. The webmail ban isn’t supposed to go in for another week. Why is this annoying? Because I bookmark work-related sites through Delicious. Sure, that’s not all I use it for. But a big chunk of my bookmarks there are reference for work. And now I can’t get to them. And I’m not saying they don’t have the right to block what they want, because it’s their network, and they can block all IP addresses divisible by 17 if they want. I’m just saying it’s stupid, it makes me less effective, and it annoys me to no end.

Webmail isn’t evil, IT departments are

The IT department at work has decided to block all webmail beginning August 18th. This is a big problem for me, because I’m a contractor and don’t really use the work email. It’s a pain, and I can’t get to it from home without jumping through hoops. My actual work email is my Gmail account. So this is going to cause me a ton of problems. And for what? I did a little Googling for the security risks associated with webmail.

“Any pop-up ad that appears in a webmail message could potentially contain a virus when it opens,” she said. “An attachment that comes in from a webmail message could possibly bypass all the safeguards all the way to the user’s computer.” In addition, just opening a Web browser window to these commercial webmail sites can leave a computer open to outside attack. (Source)

This is a bit of a strawman argument. First, you can get popups or viruses or whatever from all sorts of sites. It’s not restricted to webmail. But if you use good, up-to-date software, this shouldn’t be an issue. There are some really good free, open-source tools to protect your computer. If your users are getting viruses and hacked computers, it’s not the fault of Gmail or Hotmail. It’s your users, and it’s the tools you’ve chosen to give them.

I’m an . . . advocate of the “block access” point of view. Personal webmail, if accessible, provides another vector for your data to fly out of the window but one that you have poor control over and little ability to monitor and audit. Neither can you comply with data storage and archiving regulations if the service is being used to legitimately send and receive business data to and from external addresses. (Source)

Archiving is a legitimate concern. Although I can’t imagine why the author thinks it’s not possible to comply with regulations – there is nothing stopping you from hooking up your webmail account to Outlook or Thunderbird and downloading it all. Then you can archive to your heart’s content. Actually, I think Yahoo and Hotmail make you pay for POP3 access, but that’s because they hate their customers.

If anything, what’s [sic] it’s partly demonstrating is the problems in the usability associated with security products. By making them too cumbersome, it’s natural for people to seek routes around them — making the security procedures a risk in their own way. (Source)

This I totally agree with. I use a ton of Google’s web tools for legitimate work purposes because they are easy and useful. If you block them, I’m going to try to get around the blocks, like the way you can use https instead of http to get around some filters that block Gmail. But I more or less know what I’m doing. I’ve heard of some ridiculous unsafe hacks to get around work-imposed security. Some of the workarounds are much more dangerous than the thing being blocked. But you know what’s more dangerous to security than all of this put together? Stupid people. And, to a perhaps greater extent, smart but ignorant people. People who think they know better, but don’t, are a huge source of problems. Much better to know you’re incompetent and stop trying. I remain entirely unconvinced that this will do any good. You can’t possibly block all possible routes for sensitive information to leak out of the office. By blocking webmail, you’re taking away one of the most convenient methods, but what you may end up doing is driving the leaks to more and better hidden channels. Maybe now one person is going to start Twittering all day, while another is going to use some other service. The information can still get out. And what about someone who goes to do a little online banking and accidentally hits a phishing site that steals their banking info and deposits a virus on their computer, giving a hacker total control of their PC? Are you going to ban bank sites, too? Why not just ban everything? Chain employees to the desk in rooms with white walls and no windows. Give them three breaks a day where they can use the bathroom and buy lunch from the company (Wouldn’t want them sharing company secrets at the local deli, would we?). Maybe we should just stop sharing secrets with employees altogether. Just keep it all with the executives, who can lock themselves in ivory towers, making angels in piles of FOUO and COMPANY PROPRIETARY documents. Maybe we shouldn’t even do any work. The dangers of compromised secrets are too great. We should all go back to a hunter-gatherer economy, where there were no documents in need of protection from the horrors of webmail. Better for the environment, too, as a majority of Americans would die of starvation within the year. Or we could save time and trouble by committing mass suicide in orderly rows. That would teach Google to make a great webmail service with an intuitive, helpful interface. Stupid jerks.

Email Etiquette

We have a user email list at work that people can send mail to and have it distributed based on some permission algorithm that I don’t understand. It’s convenient for system status updates and whatnot. Today, someone with a higher admin level than I would have expected him to have sent an email FROM that email address to about 60 people. Within thirty seconds, I had fourteen autoreply emails from people on the list who were out of the office. Within ten minutes, the number had jumped to 29. First of all, why in the world are 50% of the people in that organization (The State Department) who use our tool out of the office? Second of all, who sends an email FROM a group address? It just means that any replies go to all, even if the replier doesn’t hit “reply all”. Third of all, it’s 3pm on Friday. I should totally not be thinking about work anymore.

Just let me do my job

LifeHacker | IM Can Reduce Workplace Interruptions, Study Shows It has always driven me crazy that so many workplace IT departments block various web pages deemed as harmful to productivity. My philosophy is:

  • If I’m using too much bandwidth, reprimand me
  • If I’m not doing my job, reprimand me
    Otherwise, trust me to be an adult and do my job. Who are you to say what web sites I might need to do my job? At my previous job, we used GTalk all the time for legitimate work purposes (In addition to non-work purposes) before they blocked it. Dozens of times I’ve been researching a work problem and come up against a blocked website. I spend A LOT of time on the computer. Too much, some might say. And some of it is time spent at work on non-work things. I freely admit this. But I get my job done. Sometimes, GTalk helps me do that. Sometimes some sketchy-looking forum helps me do that. Sometimes Google Documents helps me do that. And sometimes I just want to putz around on eBay for fifteen minutes to clear my head. I think if employers started worrying more about actual employee productivity than micromanaging internet access, we’d all be a lot better off.

Damn you, loose bricks!

The wife and I took the bus today (Stupid rain on Bike to Work Day), thinking that would keep us dry. We slept with the window open, and it was raining pretty steadily when we woke up. When we walked out of the house, it really wasn’t raining much. We could have walked, but then we would have had to go back inside so I could change. So we continued on to the bus. Three of them came right away, so we managed to get a seat together, and were off. Then it started to drip. Inside the bus. Luckily, we were wearing our handy matching raincoats, so that wasn’t too big a deal. Then we got off the bus and went our separate directions. I turned onto 15th, and just before I crossed New York Avenue, I stepped on a loose brick in the sidewalk. It splashed a substantial amount of dirty rainwater onto my right pant leg and shoe. The moral of the story is that rain sucks and we should have just walked.