Apr 7 2013

First two rules of I.T.

Note: if you don’t work in I.T., this post might be a little too cynical for you. In that case, you will just want to move on to the next post.

For the rest of us, however….

 

Every profession has its own list of rules for succeeding, and I.T. is no different. Unfortunately, our rules are a bit more cynical than others:

  1. Don’t trust the user
  2. Cover yourself

1. Don’t trust the user. The reasons you don’t trust the user are:

a) the user is probably incorrect and/or

b) the user is lying.

1a. The User Is Incorrect. Why might I surmise that the users are incorrect? Sometimes it’s simply because they are ignorant, and that is fine. It is OK to be ignorant, but you still may be wrong. Sometimes it is because they’re dumb and they don’t want to change. Changing from being dumb involves effort, and once you know how to do something you are responsible to do it. So some users stay dumb, so that everything can be I.T.’s fault. We frequently hear this from users:

“I’m just not very good with these computers.”

The first personal computer came out in 1976. One year before Star Wars. If personal computers were people they would already be middle-aged, on their second mortgage, and worrying about life insurance and their kids’ braces. Thirty freaking six years personal computers have been available. Thanks to the internet, widely available for at least 15 years, there are more free resources to help you use these newfangled contraptions than ever before in human history.

Another reason is pride. On a consistent basis we ask people to see if something is plugged in or not. Sometimes they get huffy about it. “Of course it’s plugged in! I’m not stupid!”

We in I.T. love this sentence. One, it conveys that the user hates us. But we don’t hate them–until now. Two, it conveys that the user is in fact stupid. The key differences between simple ignorance and actual stupidity is that ignorance is not in and of itself bad, and ignorant people can learn and be less ignorant. Stupid people cannot learn–because they refuse to. Third, we love this sentence because we work in a profession where we plug and unplug things to and from other things ALL DAY LONG.

Guess what? Sometimes we do it wrong. Sometimes we assume something is plugged in and it isn’t. Sometimes it really, really looked like it was plugged in–and it wasn’t. We ask ‘is it plugged in’ because we have learned the hard way from experience that sometimes stuff isn’t plugged in–no matter how much you would have sworn on your child’s life that it was.

1b. The User Is Lying. Why might I surmise that they are lying? Because they are still breathing and I can see their mouth moving. Nah, I’m just joshing ya. Sadly, however, part of my job involves having people ring my phone and lie to me. All. Day. Long. I surmise that a user is lying because a lot of users lie. Yes, I know this is stereotyping, but if you are going to cover yourself (see point 2) this is something you should assume.

2. Why should you cover yourself? See 1b.

 

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Feb 1 2013

greeblie

n., “According to ILM founding member Lorne Peterson’s book on the Star Wars model shop, Sculpting a Galaxy, a greeblie is defined as ‘Miscellaneous mechanical details that add realism to a prop, model, or set.'”

from Norman Chan’s article at Tested.com

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Jul 7 2011

One more pic from the Star Wars: Episode VII set

Here is a pic of the full set, unobstructed by yours truly:

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Jul 4 2011

On the set of Star Wars: Episode VII

Recently I got to visit the set of the newest film in the Star Wars franchise. Here is a pic of me on the set; it was pretty much as exciting as you might expect:

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Aug 11 2009

Sandcrawler Steve

One of my more comically miserable memories involves Star Wars nerds, and lots of ’em.

The year is 1997. My friend Dave calls and says he knows this guy named Steve who was trying to put together a big fat Star Wars convention in Kansas City, and the guy needed artists to help. I had tons of sci-fi sketches and the project sounded pretty kewl, so I said I was in.

Soon, our friend Brenton, another artist and Star Wars fan, was in as well. We made an appointment to meet Steve at his house, this guy that was going to put this amazing convention together. Brenton and I rode up together, and Dave rode with one of the other guys who was invited.

Brenton and I followed the directions we were given, and we kept driving into seedier and seedier neighborhoods. We found the house number. While Steve did live in a house, he more accurately rented the upstairs. We walked in.

People frequently caricature Star Wars fans as poorly-dressed nerds living in their mom’s basements, surrounded by scads of expensive action figures and other toys and collectibles. That would be a dishonest and unfair characterization of our experience, as Steve did not live in his mom’s basement.

Soon, we were joined by other fanboys, and anyone who would have accidentally walked into the room would have concluded that we were getting ready to play an epic round of Dungeons & Dragons, not planning a major creative business venture. The three of us were starting to be a little apprehensive, but hey, you never know, give it the benefit of the doubt, it might turn out to  be amazing.

It didn’t.

Steve gave us his spiel: he was going to organize a giant Star Wars convention in Kansas City, fly in all the original stars, and present George Lucas with an honorary Oscar.

I know what you’re thinking: Why would George Lucas want an award from nerds? Why would Harrison Ford want to be involved, when he has distanced himself from so many other Star Wars events? You’re thinking this is the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard.

No it’s not; you haven’t heard the finale.

The convention was just Phase 1 of Steve’s Awesome Plan. Phase 2 was this: he was going to take the proceeds from The Convention and move to Nevada, set up a Star Wars collectible store. In the desert. Built to resemble a life-size Jawa Sandcrawler.

No, I’m not kidding. This idea was the conflation of crossing the Rubicon and jumping the shark at the same time.

We all decided to go get some lunch. Dave went with Steve, and Brenton and I left and went to Taco Bell, where we drew cartoons of Sandcrawler Steve and howled in laughter at his Sandcrawler store.

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Jul 24 2009

Hardwood, books & movies

I love books, and have for a long time. I think a lot of it stems from when I was a kid, when we would go to the mall. Mom and my brother would go somewhere, and dad and I would go to the bookstore.

I don’t know what dad was looking at, but I spent a lot of time sitting on the hardwood floor of Walden Books reading. The only book I remember reading was a book of behind-the-scenes stuff from Star Wars: how they did the effects, actors’ names, etc.

This book is what started me on a path of memorizing useless trivia (actors, directors, special effects guys). But it also got me to watch any movie that had actors from Star Wars in it. I first watched Dr. Strangelove because it had James Earl Jones in it, and Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia because they had Sir Alec Guinness in them.

Guinness later said that he hated Star Wars and that George Lucas’s dialog was awful, and he barely mentioned any of the Star Wars movies in his autobiography. It’s really too bad, because I wouldn’t have watched any of his “good” films if it weren’t for his work in a space opera that he detested.

But besides the movies and trivia, I developed a love of hardwood floors. My house has hardwood throughout most of the main floor, including my office. Soon, I plan to line the walls with shelves for my books, including my books about movies.

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Dec 19 2008

Virago

vir-AH-go. n. A domineering, violent, or bad-tempered woman.

If this word sounds familiar to you, you must be a nerd: the Virago was Prince Xisor’s spaceship in Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire.

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