Thursday, August 16, 2012

Insert Tab A Into Slot B

I have become, for the most part, a self taught guru of Excel.  I recall that about 12 years ago, when I was looking for a new job, I had an interview with a company for a position that sounded great!.  The only problem was that they needed someone with a working knowledge of Excel who could take to the ground running and I had never used Excel in my life.  Despite my being quick on the uptake, they didn't have time to train.
Would-a, could-a, should-a.  Oh, well.  Life worked out and the Lord got me my job at the law firm where I am now.  We'll assume that He'll let me know when it's time to move on… hopefully in a less emotionally catastrophic way.
Anyway, Big Boss Man #1, Steve, has a fondness for spreadsheets, charts and the like.  In the beginning it was one small chart that was originally just a table in Word.  But then his appetite was only whetted.  Before I knew it, we had spreadsheets with tables and pie charts and graphs.. (Oh, my!)   Frankly, I remember attending a staff meeting where the mental health person came and chatted with us and told us about being wary of enabling people.  I'm concerned that I'm enabling Steve's addiction.  It's fun, though, so I don't complain.
Each month, I run reports from our software and take certain info from these reports and enter it all into my spreadsheet and print out his monthly helping of information.  He also gets weekly snack-size portions of reports and stuff, but as the name would suggest, it's much smaller.
All was well until last year when, as you may recall, I was off for not one, but two surgeries.  (One planned, the other, not so much.)  As I was preparing to be off for the first surgery, I knew that during my time off, there would be a month-end in there that someone would have to prepare Steve's info, lest the poor boy start going thru withdrawal symptoms.  The only problem with someone else doing the reports, charts, etc., was that I was going to have to prepare explicit instructions on how to do each thing.  Either that or it was going to be a monster conference call to Rose for telephonic instructions.
I started back in February, as soon as we knew for sure that the surgery was going to happen.  Since I feel that my odds of being run over by a bus (I tend to envision a red double-decker like in England, don't know why) while crossing the street one evening are much greater than they were of me dying on the table, I probably should have started the instruction manual a LONG time ago, but that's neither here nor there.  I now have a three-ring binder with instructions on each aspect of my job, or most of them, in case that ubiquitous bus runs me over in the street.  (It's a work in progress really.)  Otherwise, I just know that Steve would really break down at my funeral and probably even have to engage a medium to conduct frequent séances to reach me from the other side to help someone could run his reports, etc., and frankly, when I go to my eternal rest, I want to rest!
Why am I bringing this up today?  Well, glad you asked.  Yesterday, as I prepared the August month-end reports, etc., I was fine-tuning a new report that Steve's imagination and my Excel skills had come up with in July.  All the while, I knew, just KNEW, that I was going to have to translate all of what I was doing it into written instructions.  As it is, the poor girl who runs these things when I'm out of the office during month-end (which isn't often, but I'm sure she feels like it is) panics whenever I email her a new or updated set of instructions, just sure that I'm taking next month off… (oh, that sounds nice… I wonder if there are any other surgeries I could plan for the fall…  memo to self, investigate that).
Today, I spent hours, HOURS, writing up instructions for running this report and producing the corresponding chart for Steve.  Also, I took the opportunity to update/correct the already written instructions and to whip up instructions on another area that was missing.  Now imagine, if you will, writing up instructions for something that you've done for years, mostly by habit by now, and for the most part not even consciously thinking about what you're doing.  The instructions are for someone who is only vaguely familiar with Excel and only does it rarely, so each time might as well be the first time. 
For example, to blow your nose, the instructions would go 1) go to store, 2) walk down aisle 6, 3) look left, 4) choose box of tissues, 5) walk to counter, 6) pay dude behind counter for tissues… and then under number 6 there would have to be sub instructions regarding payment… and you've never even got to the nose yet!
It's a good thing that I take it as a challenge to write clear, concise instructions... and I like to write.  And aren't you glad?  :) 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

IT Department... Call on Line 2

Tuesday, after a rather uneventful, but still tiring day, I came home to a perfectly lovely meal. I took my plate, my ipad and myself out onto the balcony to decompress and kill zombies over my bowl with the cats.

After a lovely dinner with the kids and a wee bit o zombie-related carnage, I forced myself to return to my bedroom where not only was the laptop not working, but my poor lovely computer had been salvaged for parts and lay in pieces. Ok, not really, the keyboard was unplugged and the internet was hooked into the laptop, but otherwise it was ok.

I called iYogi. This time I got Ramesh. I gave Ramesh the 411 so he could pull up the notes from my session on Monday night with Raj. I told him that I couldn’t do the backup because of the “catastrophic error” and that I was ready to have him walk me through reinstalling the OS.

Now, I have actually done this myself, but there are generally all these questions and it was nice to be able to ask someone which choice to choose. I think I would have made all the same choices, but… Anyone who’s ever installed software like this, knows that it can take a while while it deletes things and downloads new things and installs other things. So Ramesh and I had a chance to get to know each other.

He asked me how the weather was. I told him that it was quite nice. That it had been horribly hot, but since the weekend we’d had some rain and it was cooler, in the 80’s.

I asked how the weather was there. He said they were currently in the monsoon season, so it was rainy. I asked when they had summer – he said April to July, generally.

He asked if I or anyone I knew had ever been to India. I told him that my bro-in-law had just returned from there on Sunday. He’d been there for work, but I wasn’t sure why. I told him I’d never been anywhere. (I didn’t see the point in going into the whole trip to England/Scotland/appendix story.)

I asked him if it was tomorrow there already… if it was Wednesday. He said yes, it was 5:30am on Wednesday there… and that today (Wednesday) was India’s Independence Day. I said that on our Independence Day, I got the day off. He said he had to work, but would get off at 11am.

At this point in our mutual lovefest, the software installation got to the point where it was going to take another 45 minutes. Ramesh told me the answers to the next few questions, and told me to call after the installation was finished, so someone could continue to help resolve my problems, wished me good karma and hung up.

I finished the installation and, since the mid-season finale of Rizzoli and Isles was coming on at 8pm, decided I’d done enough for one night.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

IT Department... Call on Line 1

Haley, Sib #2, was down to visit this weekend and I said something while she was here that has come back to bite me in my much smaller than it was 18 months ago hiney (NOTE: I had to Google how to spell “hiney” and spellcheck still doesn’t like it!) Mom said that she’d found a photograph (or two) that she would like to have scanned so she could enlarge them and hang them somewhere. I, not knowing how to use the scanner that is a part of the printer/copier/scanner that we have, suggested that before she left, Haley could help Mom with that because Haley is the “techie” daughter. (i.e., Rose is perfectly happy not knowing how to use the printer/copier/scanner thingee). Haley did help Mom figure it out and life went on.

So how did my harmless comment come back to bite me on the bum? Well, let me tell ya.

Monday night, after a long, but relatively successful day at the mines, I came home. Mom had dinner ready and while we are sitting at the table, she says she has a couple of things to discuss with me. I was game, so I said, “shoot!”

First, Mom had, the previous week, lost her driver’s license. She got on the BMV website to find out what she would need to get a new license and was pleased to find out that she qualified to renew (it was going to expire in December anyway) it online, but she wasn’t sure if she had an account already with the BMV (she did, I set it up in February when I renewed our plates), so she decided to wait for me to get home. Well, piece of cake. While we are sitting there eating, I get on her laptop, which is sitting on the table beside me, and quick like a bunny, log on and renew her license! I looked at her with a very satisfied look in my eyes and said, “Next?”

B) The virus protection software on Mom’s two computers, the desktop and the laptop, was getting ready to expire in five days. She had got online to see about renewing it and discovered (she thought) that she could get it renewed for all three of our computers (mine, too) for the price of $39.99! But before she did it, she wanted to make sure that she’d read the thing right. Again, quick like a bunny that really wanted to just spend the rest of her evening on the balcony killing zombies with a cat in her lap, I went to their site, confirmed that that was in fact the deal, and renewed the virus protection stuff. I got the renewal code and entered it and next thing I know, the laptop goes to the BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH! (cue lightning sound effect).

My first thought was to say, “Ok, that’s done! Now let’s go kill zombies!” I could feel my butt being nibbled on. But being the good girl that I am… sigh. So the BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH (“BSD”) said that if this was the first time we got it, to reboot and see if the problem went away. I did. It didn’t. Next, the BSD said that if you got it after rebooting, to do something… I didn’t fully understand what, but I thought I’d log on in “safe mode” and uninstall the virusware… maybe that would work. So I got on in safe mode and started thinking that man, I really wished Haley was here. She is fearless where computers are concerned. My next thought was that I really hate talking on the telephone, but I’m going to have to call iYogi.

We have this service. I’m not sure how Mom came across them, but we’ve had it for about a year now, called iYogi and we have an 800 number that goes to India where there are all these techie computer people and they help us do whatever we need on our computers. We can’t print, call them and they log on and fix it for us over the internet. They will scan our computers and clean it up, speed it up, etc. Things I could probably do on my computer but generally don’t take the time and certainly don’t want to do on both of Mom’s computers.

So I called iYogi. Got this very nice guy – I didn’t catch his name and while I don’t want to be insulting, I can’t resist calling him Rajesh Koothrappali. Raj really earned his wages that evening/(morning (in India). We tried to set it up so Raj could log in to the computer over the internet, only to discover that I’d chosen the wrong safe mode. So I rebooted and chose the correct safe mode (with internet). Again we tried to set it up so Raj could log in to the computer over the internet, only to discover that the wireless wasn’t working on the laptop. Sigh. So I trucked the whole kit-n-kaboodle into my bedroom, hooked it directly up to the internet, avoiding the wireless router. AGAIN we tried to set it up so Raj could log in to the computer over the internet, only to discover that although the mouse was working, the keyboard was non-responsive. So I unplugged the keyboard to my desktop and hooked it onto the laptop, only to discovery that the keyboard was STILL non-responsive. I could mouse, but that wasn’t good enough as I had to type in the code to let him take over the computer.

At this point, Raj had to keep putting me on hold to figure out what to do next… and the hold times kept getting longer and longer. I imagined this phone bank of workers feverishly trying to resolve my issues! After over an hour and a half, poor Raj was forced to tell me that I was going to have to reinstall the operating system. We decided that I’d hang up, perform a backup, find the CD’s and then call back when I was ready to reinstall. We said a tender goodbye; he wished me “good karma;” and hung up. Sniff… I still miss him… 
I assigned Mom the task of finding the CD’s while I attempted to backup her genealogy info. I was distressed to be advised by the laptop, upon my attempts to perform said backup, that there had been a “catastrophic error” and that no backup could be performed. I informed Mom of this and we each said a quick prayer that she’d not done too much on it since the last time we did a back up. And she probably hasn’t, since we went on vacation and then she had her back problems and then the heart attack that wasn’t really a heart attack.. (I know, I’ve not told you about that, but this would be why there’s been no blogs for a while.)

We found the CD’s and decided that I didn’t have it in me to do anymore that evening. Plus, the series finale of The Closer was coming on at 8:00 pm and I didn’t want to miss it and my phone needed charging.  I want a cookie.