I’m not sure whether it’s out of necessity or boredom that odd office food concoctions get generated. I know I’ve made up some crazy stuff - some good, some not so good. For example, I know you can’t make Coke Blak by just combining coffee and Coke.

I think it’d be interesting to compile a list of office-based recipes - things you can make with the stuff you find around a typical office (coffee, sugar packets, cup-o-noodles, etc.). I found a recipe for chai tea based on office supplies, though I admit I haven’t tried it yet.

Here are a couple of things I’ve made (try at your own risk, YMMV):

FRUIT PUNCH SODA 1 can Sierra Mist (or 7-Up, Sprite, etc.) 1 packet Crystal Light On-The-Go This is reasonably tasty and a good change from the norm if you like this sort of thing and your office only carries standard soda flavors. Pour the can of pop into a cup and pour the packet of Crystal Light into the pop slowly. Stir slowly with a stir stick until thoroughly mixed, pausing when you see the foam start to rise. If you do anything fast, you’re going to have a mess on your hands.

MOCHA 3/4 mug coffee 1/4 mug hot water 1 packet hot chocolate 2 packets creamer Mix contents together thoroughly and enjoy. The water helps to make chocolate a little more prevalent and make it feel less… thick. Depending on your mood or personal taste, you may just go with the full coffee/no water approach.

ICED TEA 1/2 mug hot water 1 black tea bag ice Put the tea packet in the mug of hot water and leave it. Freaking over-steep it. The tea’s got to be strong because once you take the tea bag out, you’ve got to fill the rest of your mug with ice and let the ice melt, and that’s going to water down the tea. You’ll need to experiment with this one based on personal taste - I like really strong iced tea, so I leave the tea bag in for a looooong time.

SWEET TEA Follow the iced tea recipe but add four to six sugar packets to the tea before adding the ice. (If you remember your high school chemistry, solids generally dissolve better in hot liquids.)

If you have a recipe or link to contribute, leave it in the comments. I think it’d be cool to get a big list of office food recipes.

I love my wife dearly, but sometimes she’s just frustrating. For example, when she has some technical problem (say, with the iPod or the computer) that she needs solved, I’ll come in and help her out, but she gets impatient - as I’m trying to explain the answer, she’s already stopped listening. She doesn’t want to hear why the answer is what it is, she just wants to have her immediate problem solved right now thank you very much.

I do my best to be very pleasant during these exchanges, but it’s exasperating, and it takes its toll on my sanity. Take, for instance, a recent exchange I had with one of my co-workers trying to determine why a particular method was returning a value he didn’t expect:

Travis: Okay, so the thing is returning this answer to you because – Michael: I need to know how to get it to return this other thing though. T: Right, but after that, you’re going to need to know how to – M: But how do I get it to return the answer I want? T: Well, you have to do set this parameter this way before you can – M: That sounds really complicated. I’m just trying to do something simple. How do I get it to do what I want? T: I’m getting to that, but there are a few steps that – M: I’m already not listening. What if I just type this in here and hit this button? [He types something in and hits the button.] T: Um, that’s not going to – M: Hey, that’s not working. What about if I try this other thing and hit the button? [Types this other thing in and hits the button.] T: That’s not going to – M: It’s not working. I don’t understand why it’s not working. I just need it to – T: [Exasperated] Look, hon, I can’t tell you how to do what you want to do until you stop and listen to me. M: [Silence] T: I just totally called you “honey,” didn’t I?

Yeah, I did. It was exactly like one of the exchanges I’ve had altogether far too often with my own very loved - but very impatient with technology - wife.

It got really hot in that cubicle for a couple of seconds. And then we laughed our asses off.

process comments edit

I understand that the IT department does their best to help people solve problems and offer services that improve…

You’re asleep already, aren’t you?

Okay, the short version: The company IT department is a good thing, and what they do is meant to help. I’m totally on board with that. I used to be in the IT department. We weren’t out to screw you, I promise.

Here’s the deal, though:

There are a certain quantity of problems that need to be solved, and your computer has a fixed amount of capacity to solve them in. Your disk isn’t getting any faster, your CPU isn’t going to magically process at an extra gigahertz faster. You’ve got what you’ve got. With that, besides getting work done, you probably also want to:

  • Back things up - It’d be a shame if you lost your work.
  • Stop the spread of viruses - You don’t want to get infected, now, do you?
  • Keep company data secure - If someone breaks into your car and steals your laptop while you’re picking up donuts for the morning meeting at the store, they shouldn’t get access to your proprietary data

Each of those things are valuable, but they also eat resources on your system. In some cases, not a trivial amount, either.

I have a 1.7GHz processor and 1.5GB of RAM. It’s not a super powerhouse, but it should be enough to get the job done. It took me eight full minutes to boot up and log in this morning, and my machine is still tanked. Why?

Say you’re getting ready to ride in a bike race. Your computer is your bike. “We got you a pretty decent bike,” says IT, “This bike will definitely get you over the finish line.” You look the bike over, check the specs, and take it out for a spin. Hell, yeah, that bike will do the trick.

“Now, it’s a long race, so you’re going to need some supplies. We’re here to help you,” says IT. And they are - it is a long race, and you do need some supplies. You’re thinking maybe a couple of energy bars and some water.

“First we’re going to strap this 30 gallon drum of water on your back. Yeah, it’s pretty heavy, but you have a fast bike. Oh, and in the event you need to take a break and get off the bike, you don’t want the bike rolling away (?!) so here’s an anvil. It’s okay, though, you have a fast bike. Oh, and we know the first leg of the race is basically a huge hill, but later in the race you’ll want more high gears, so we replaced all of the low gears with high gears so you don’t have to pedal as hard later on. But you have a pretty fast bike, so it should be okay.”

You struggle onto your bike and it barely moves. No one seems to be terribly concerned about this, though, because, crap, man, you have a fast stinking bike so it has to be you causing the issue. And if you complain?

“Yeah, um, I need some water, but I really don’t think I need a drum of water - I only need a water bottle.”

“Well, you can give us back the drum of water, then.”

“Can you give me a water bottle? I do need water, just not a drum.”

“Um, no - all we have is a full drum of water. If you only want a bottle, you’re on your own.”


The cumulative effect of the daily incremental backup, real-time virus scanner, real-time disk encryption, and everything else that runs in the background to help me out is killing me. I booted up this morning and with the startup cost of all of these services, I’m surprised they don’t send someone downstairs to personally punch me in the junk every morning, too. I mean, think about it - whenever I read or write a file, it goes through both a real-time AES 256 encryption and the real-time virus scanner, neither of which I have control to configure because it’s all centrally administered “for us.” I look sideways at this thing and the CPU is pegged and the disk light is on solid for three minutes.

But, hey, if I don’t want to suffer the cost of the incremental backup software (that runs for probably an hour each morning), I can uninstall it. Is there any other backup mechanism? No - if I uninstall it, I’m on my own. Or I could set it to run when I’m not at work… but, oh, wait, you need to be connected to the network to have it run, and the whole point of my having a laptop is so I can take it home with me at night and work disconnected if I need to. There’s no time when I’m not working on my computer that it’s connected to the corporate network. (Not that it matters; I only have about a 30 - 50% success rate on completing a backup at any given point anyway.)

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate what the IT department does for me and they’re a necessary piece of the puzzle. I just feel a little anchored down lately by all the help, is all, and I don’t think folks consider the overhead of all of these helpful-but-necessary services before rolling them out.

media comments edit

Remember how I just bought a new DVD player because my old one wasn’t playing movies? Now that I think about it, the movies it was having trouble with were Casino Royale and Stranger Than Fiction. The symptoms were basically the same as a bad disc - you put the disc in, the player tries and tries to read it to no avail, and you end up ejecting the disc.

From Slashdot

“It seems that the most recent DVDs released by Sony — specifically Stranger Than Fiction, Casino Royale, and The Pursuit of Happyness — have some kind of ‘feature’ that makes them unplayable on many DVD players. This doesn’t appear to be covered by the major media yet, but this link to a discussion over at Amazon gives a flavor of the problems people are experiencing. A blogger called Sony and was told the problem is with the new copy protection scheme, and they do not intend to fix it. Sony says it’s up to the manufacturers to update their hardware.”

Did I just buy a new DVD player because Sony screwed me?

At least I didn’t buy a new Sony DVD player. It’s a Samsung. :)

I’m having a hell of a time with the electronics at my house lately.

Jenn’s iPod has been having trouble syncing with the latest iTunes. Last Tuesday my Xbox gave me the Red Ring of Death. This weekend, my DVD player stopped reading discs and I encountered this awesome Windows Update issue where it pegs the processor at 100% for an indeterminate amount of time. Oh, and I think the connections for the center channel and the left rear channel on my receiver are going wonky.

Freaking awesome.

I’m starting to wonder if I’m coming upon that time where all of the warranties are failing or something - sort of like the seven minute conversation lull, but for electronics warranties.

There are a couple of positives to this, actually.

First, I picked up one of those DVD/VCR combos where the DVD is a recorder and can dub from VHS. (It also does high-def upconversion on both the DVD and VCR.) This is really cool because it allows me to take some of the videotapes we have of home movies and out-of-print stuff and convert to DVD. Tried it with my copy of The Maxx and it worked like a mad bandit. It also means one set of cables for two components - no longer do I need separate TV or receiver inputs for the DVD and the VCR. Very cool.

Second, it’s giving me an opportunity to re-evaluate a lot of things. How the home theater is put together, for example. I have a lot of interesting ideas we can put into place by reorganizing things and moving older components that don’t get a lot of use to other rooms (the CD player can move to a different room because we don’t use it much and the DVD player can play CDs). I’m also looking at how much time we really spent with the Xbox, and it’s a lot. While that thing is busted, I’ve played my other consoles, read books, put puzzles together, watched movies I’ve been wanting to watch for a while… It’s sort of crazy how it’s become such a central part of what I do in the evenings and it makes me wonder if that’s really how it is or if I just get lazy after playing for a bit and could actually do all these other things even with the Xbox around.

Xbox Support should be sending me a box to return my Xbox for repairs sometime this week, hopefully by Wednesday. It’ll be up to 10 business days before they send it back, then up to another five business days for it to arrive, so we’re looking at nearly three weeks. Better make the most of it!

Of course, it does sort of put a damper on some of my media center plans, since I can’t very well set up a media center connected to an Xbox without an Xbox.

Speaking of media center stuff, we were wandering around the mall this weekend and meandered past the Apple store. They had some Apple TVs on display and I showed Jenn how you could navigate around and listen to your music and such that you get from iTunes. (Unfortunately, it doesn’t really do all the stuff I need it to, so it’s not an option, though a well-configured Mac Mini might fit the bill. Anyway, I digress).

As we were looking at it, poking through the menus, Jenn turned and asked, “Is this is what you want to do with our movies?”

“Yes,” I said. “I want to be able to navigate through, see the cover art, select a movie to watch, and watch it, all without having to search through the binders full of DVDs. This, right here, is precisely what I’ve been trying to do.”

“Okay,” she said, “I get it now. That will be very cool.”

Breakthrough! I admit it was sort of hard to see the full effect when I showed her during my test run with Windows XP Media Center in a virtual machine over a wireless network, but I guess I assumed she was still getting the idea. Apparently not, but now she gets it and is on board.