Movies in class

Can’t stand watching movies in class. I end up writing blog entries to stay awake.

Kennan was smart

I read the following quote in some of my IR reading: “There is more respect to be won in the opinion of this world by a resolute and courageous liquidation of unsound positions than by the most stubborn pursuit of extravagant and unpromising objectives.”

George Kennan said this to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1966, in regards to US policy in Vietnam. They could stand to hear it again.

My job gets under my skin sometimes

Sometimes I don’t like my job. I work as a tech support consultant for MSU. This means I spend my days answering phone calls or dealing with walk-in customers. It can suck a lot. It usually means periods of intense boredom, punctuated by dealing with clueless assholes. But I generally like it. I must like to work on computers, or my phone wouldn’t be ringing all day with computer questions. I like helping people with their machines.

But what I don’t like is how the bureaucracy at work prevents me from helping people. Here’s an example:

I just got off the phone with a really nice guy from Washington State University. They’re trying to re-structure their network access policies, and he was calling other universities to gather some information. I told him that I could file a case to our communications group, and they could get back to him with an official response.

So I started to take down some of his questions. He wanted to know how users are authenticated on wired and wireless connections, what kind of information was used to verify identities, what kind of monitoring was done. It was mostly simple stuff, and it was all non-controversial. I offered to give him some basic info, with the clear understanding that the official response would come from communications. He was cool with this, and wanted to talk.

We talked to maybe 15-20 minutes, which is slightly longer then average. During the conversation, he started asking some questions about MSU policies that I didn’t know the answer to. He wanted to know how MSU handles DMCA violations and the like. I did my best to skate around some of these questions, because it really wasn’t something I should be discussing. I maybe did give out some information that I shouldn’t have, but it was all very minor, and all very nonspecific.

With 98% of callers, I would have been long gone before it came to this. But this dude was pretty interesting. He was talking about copyright violations and how WSU handles them, and he talked about the issues they have providing guest access while still covering the university’s collective ass. I really enjoyed the call. I learned a few things from him, and I felt like I actually helped him out.

But while on the phone, the student supervisor tells me to cut it off, and after I get off the phone with him, I get called into a full-timer’s office.

She was cool, and didn’t really come down on me, but clearly explained that I should not have said as much as I did. She explained that I’m acting as a representative of the department, and explained how it could come back to bite the department and myself. I can appreciate it, I really can.

But here’s my complaint. I got hired into this job primarily because I have people skills. With new hires, they’re looking for people skills almost exclusively. But when it really comes down to it, they don’t even really want people. Working in a call center is about being a semi-intelligent answering machine. As soon as a machine can do my job effectively, low-level callers will cease to exist. All I am is a filter, dealing with simple issues and keeping the riff-raff away from the valuable people. It’s frustrating, because helping people is the only part of this job that’s rewarding, and when your bosses chew on you for that…well, it’s tough to feel satisfied at work.

Thats enough whining from me, I suppose.

What a crappy student I am

I’m writing this from the MSU library, and I’m pondering what a crap-tastic student I really am. In order to get any work done at all, I have to put myself in a truly hellish situation (the basement of the library, next to a sniffly kid), and force myself to stay until my work is done.

If I’m comfortable at all, I get distracted. They say that when you’re a student, school is your job. Maybe so, but I’ve never gotten the kind of job satisfaction out of school that I’ve gotten out of any of my crummy student jobs.

7.25 per hour inspires a better work ethic in me then earning a college degree.

That being said, I did just draft out an excellent reading memo for tomorrow, and ideas for my research proposal are bouncing around in my head. I suppose I can deal with sniffly kid for a couple more hours.

Seriously though, the bathroom (and the tissues contained within) are 10 feet away, but he just keeps sniffling. He must have about a gallon of snot wiped down his arm at this point.