Are you in IT and stressed out of your mind? Just skate it out.

Any recreational sport will do when it comes to alleviating stress (unless you choose alligator wrestling and then you realize you can’t swim) but if you ask me I am going to push you out on a sheet of slick ice wearing sharp metal blades for stress relief because THAT is living:)  If you are game, here are all the details (note: I am a computer programmer, not an ice skating pro – this is information I have learned over the years as a recreational ice skater and it might help you get started):

As an adult, avoid thinking you are too old, too set in your ways, too gorgeous, too skinny, too freaky looking or too overweight for ice skating fun. Professional ice skating coaches know what they are doing and these coaches are able to train focused and dedicated skaters using safe techniques that slowly build up to a solid skating skill set.

If you have no ice skating experience, and you really want to learn to ice skate, then keep reading! Ice skating is not only insanely fun but the ice skating community is comprised of wonderful and supportive folks no matter your skill level, age or size.  Like many other sports, ice skating can be very dangerous therefore proper planning, equipment and training are essential.

When you are ready for the ice:

Sign up for a beginner class, they are usually once a week for a few months (and then you should go one more time per week during the public session to practice what you are learning). Don’t freak out if you are the only adult in the class, just do it, you will be glad you did. Don’t expect too much too soon. Your skill set builds slowly (it seems to go faster for children, do not let this discourage you). Expect that you will fall so always stay in a safe position when skating (knees bent, chin up, shoulders square, back straight and slightly forward, arms out to each side and don’t look at the floor) so you have a chance at a safer landing should you fall as opposed to when your legs are straight and stiff which may lead to violent falls backward or forward with head injuries.

Falling is unsettling to say the least, especially if a fall results in substantial injuries.  If you fall, and nothing is broken, then get up immediately to avoid injuring others who may be near you or coming towards you and also as a way to shake off what just happened.

Don’t worry about having your own skates for the first class, just put on what they have at the rink.  If you find yourself looking forward to each class as the weeks go by then definitely invest in a pair of your own skates.  Your coach can give you advice on the best type of skates to purchase.  Back when I started I purchased a pair of skates at a local sporting goods store for $50.00.  Those got me through many years of beginner classes and when I moved up to fancier skates I passed the $50.00 skates onto another newbie, they were still in excellent condition (I am a figure skater, this advice may or may not not hold true for purchasing hockey skates).

 

Linux Server Freakout Day (aka Friday)

It is a seemingly normal Friday morning and, like any other morning, from your Windows pc, you attempt a Putty session into a Linux backup server to check the status of your backup tapes in NetBackup.

You enter your login information successfully then something quite sinister occurs.  You enter the command to get NetBackup going and instead of NetBackup opening you instead see this message: “Missing MAX_MEMORY parameter X connection to localhost broken (explicit kill or server shutdown).”

Say whaaaaa?!

Before you freak out, race to the server room for visual checks of the server, and tear up over your life flashing before your eyes, do the following:

  1. Watch this Hamster Meditation video, it will calm you down:  https://youtu.be/Op-7bYoAdQ0 – it is one minute and 20 seconds of pure tech Zen
  2. Close your Putty session.
  3. Exit Xming (aha! Xming wasn’t even running was it? The error listed above will always occur if you forget to start Xming before you begin your Putty session).
  4. Start Xming.
  5. Start your Putty session and try again.

I hope this helps:)  If not, check out http://www.redhat.com  – they are the Mack Daddy of sweet documentation.

Invest zero time in toxic complainers (TC’s)

Unfortunately, many organizations have at least one TC: a person who complains endlessly about everything but offers no clear explanations regarding the actual problem and offers no potential solutions.  The person just seems to enjoy yelling and complaining in general.  The person will often throw in tears, threats or violence to juice up the drama.

If management is paying attention, TC’s are easily identifiable by how they react when discussing other employees or issues they have encountered during the workday.  It is best that TC’s are dealt with immediately because their lack of clear communication skills, lack of patience and lack of respect for others in the workplace have a severe impact on morale and work performance.

A few suggestions on how to best deal with TC’s is as follows.  Please note: these suggestions have not been tested on actual TC’s.  I’ve only attempted these strategies when working with my hamster Mr. Snowflake Brownie:

  • Remove all communication devices from the TC’s office (phone, email, instant messaging, and internet web forms) so the TC is stuck with only one method of toxic complaining: verbal, in person.
  • Hire someone to be the liaison between the TC and any other human within the organization for times of the verbal, in person toxic complaining.  This liaison would stick to a “young child” approach when dealing with the TC.  The liaison would use methods such as baby talk when the TC begins a tirade, petting the TC on the head to calm him or her down and ordering “time outs” during extremely heated toxic complaining sessions.

Eyes tired? Have your computer read documents to you!

In IT I often have to read copious amounts of crazy boring PDF documents regarding servers or applications I support.  Some of these PDF documents are in excess of 300 pages.  In order to save my sanity and my eyesight, I often take advantage of the “Read out loud” feature in Adobe Acrobat Pro.  This feature allows me to absorb the content of the PDF through audio while I perform other tasks.  Follow these steps to give your eyes a break today:

  1. open a PDF in Adobe Acrobat Pro
  2. select View
  3. select Read out loud
  4. select Activate Read out loud
  5. select View
  6. select Read out loud
  7. select Read to End of Document (Adobe will begin reading the document to you)

If you do not have access to a tool like Adobe Acrobat Pro, their are other options available.  Other tools are called screen readers, some are available for download for free.  Please note: if you download a screen reader for free, please consider donating funds to the organization supporting the screen reader because screen reader technology is imperative to visually impaired computer users. The development and support of screen readers must continue, they provide an extremely valuable service to users.

Can’t…feel…my…leg!

As an IT employee, I used to sit for long periods of time each day. This physical inactivity, as well as various levels of stress each day, seriously impacted the way I felt every day. If you find yourself spiraling down into the pit of foggy slothdom, then these suggestions may help you, they certainly helped me!

Get a stand up workstation. Can’t afford one? Don’t worry; there are plenty of free alternatives like placing your laptop on top of a sturdy box on your desk, or making a point to always take phone calls/meetings standing up, or always reading documentation standing up.

Take a lunch break, even if you are a complete introvert or you are unable to leave your office for lunch because your office is surrounded by Bengal tigers. During your lunch break, try to participate in something you enjoy like reading, playing chess, prank calling a nemesis, or knitting (all of which should be done standing up).

Remind yourself each day that the elevator is a mechanical marvel that may malfunction and leave you trapped in a box with a potential freak and no TV, bathroom or ice cream. This thought alone will compel you to take the stairs as much as possible.

Avoid complaining about an issue when you do not have anything useful to contribute as a possible solution to the issue. Mindless complaining will only land you a desk job in a smelly rat-infested basement with no windows.

Does your computer or mobile device make you feel dumb? Shake it off! You are not dumb!

Over the years I have heard so many clients refer to themselves as dumb in one way or another because they do not know how to do something on their computer or mobile device and, as a result, they perceive IT as being so much more intelligent than themselves because IT knows how to do whatever it is that they do not know how to do.

When I hear clients talk like this, I immediately remind them that if I were put in their shoes to do their job, like finance, I would fail miserably because I know nothing about finance. I know what I am doing in regards to computers because that is my job, that is what I went to school for and that is what I practice every day. And they will become more comfortable with computers and mobile devices over time.

Disturbingly, there are some clients who feel this way because IT staff they have worked with in the past have gone out of their way to make them feel dumb for not knowing how to do things in regards to computers or mobile devices. It is unfortunate, but there are people out there like this in all types of jobs. If you ever encounter one, try your best to be the professional that you are and know that people like this will never succeed in life. Their journey will be a constant battle against themselves in the nasty soup of egotism and tantrums.

Vehicle Travel during Inclement Weather

It is so upsetting to read in the news of travelers freezing to death in cars during snow storms. I am updating this article in the hopes that people will invest just a few minutes into adding a survival kit to his or her car, it is well worth it in the long run.

Vehicles are the greatest invention EVER! They give us absolute freedom to go wherever we want to go, whenever we want to go.  But a vehicle may also put us in a potentially dangerous situation if it fails (i.e. in the middle of whiteout conditions on a highway).  If you operate a vehicle, it is up to you to prepare yourself for vehicle failures. No one wants to slide off a cliff and gently land in a patch of bouncy boxwoods without a few comforts from home before the handsome rescue team arrives.

If you own a car, and it is your primary source of transportation, then you have a 1’x1’x2’ area in the car somewhere that you can dedicate as your emergency preparedness zone.  This is the area where you will keep one small back pack (or in my case a big colorful designer hand bag – oh yeah!) at all times.  The bag will include items to keep you safe in case you get stranded in your vehicle or will assist you if you have to walk a long distance if your vehicle becomes disabled or traffic has been stopped indefinitely.  The contents of the bag need to be changed out twice per year to allow for temperature changes.  If you have children, it is best you let them assist you in packing the bag so they understand what it is for, it is an easy lesson they will take with them throughout adulthood.

Based on our health, the region in which we live (North Carolina) and the regions we primarily travel to (the Virginias and Ohio), this is what the bag contains in my car (this list is based on the assumption that the driver has a charged cell phone and sunglasses with them during each car trip and the driver is wearing clothing designed for the general weather forecast – in other words, don’t wear a bikini if you are driving into the Blue Ridge Mountains in December):

October 1st through May 1st:

4 plastic bags (like grocery bags) for covering feet inside shoes (keeps feet dry when walking long distances in snow), 1 pair of winter boots, 1 big no scent candle, I big soup can for containing the candle, 1 pack of all-weather matches, 3 granola bars, 3 bottles of water, first aid kit, knife, flashlight, gloves, socks, blanket, scarf, notepad, pen  and a few baggies (for leaving a note hanging from your window in case you have to abandon your vehicle – state who you are, when and why you left and where you are headed), chemical hand/body warmers, sunscreen, a compass and reflective tape.

May 2nd through September 30th:

4 plastic bags (like grocery bags) for covering feet inside shoes (keeps feet dry when walking long distances in rain), 1 pair of good tennis shoes, 1 rain poncho, 3 granola bars, 5 bottles of water, first aid kit, knife, flashlight, notepad, pen  and a few baggies (for leaving a note hanging from your window in case you have to abandon your vehicle – state who you are, when and why you left and where you are headed), sunscreen, a compass and reflective tape.

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