It's Beginning To Feel A Lot Like Winter
This has been a very un-winter-y winter here in the Bay Area recently. We've had unusually warm and dry weather through most of December, much of January, and the first half of February. Just this week the temperatures turned colder, though, with highs only reaching the mid/upper 50s (around 13-14 C) and low dipping down to almost, but not quite, freezing. Prior to that we were seeing daytime highs from 70 to almost 80 degrees (21-26 C).

And today it rained. Yes, rain. It only rained for about 15 minutes, barely enough to wet the streets and clear the air, but this is the first rain we've seen in several weeks. And this is supposed to be our rainy season!

I'll say it again like I do everytime the topic of weather comes up: I hope we get more rain. Today's brief shower did virtually nothing to improve our groundwater or reservoir levels. From recent news articles it seems our Sierra snowpack is running at about 20% of normal for this time of the season. Unless the weather changes drastically we're sliding back into drought.

The Craziest Sales Call Ever
I see dumb people
This afternoon I was involved in the shittiest sales call I've ever been on in 14 years as a technical sales professional. Here's what went wrong, presented as Five Things. ...And I deemed it the worst sales call ever after item #4, before the kicker in #5 happened!

1) Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right

Our main customer contact, George (name changed), is a jerk. He wants new software from us but doesn't want to pay for it. He claims not to understand every single explanation we give for why he should pay more. He's not even the person who can say yes to pricing. He's hiding that person (his boss) from us because he wants to control the deal. He criticizes our requests as dishonest and trashes us for "delaying" because we haven't yet given him what he (unreasonably) wants.

This situation would be tough enough with George playing a clown. But John (name changed), our account executive, is also a clown. John has utterly failed for 6 months to hold George's feet to the fire in any meaningful way. John keeps agreeing to one meeting after another after another, naively thinking that sooner or later we'll be able to talk George into doing what we want. That's absurd because it ought to be clear to anyone who's ever negotiated/sold as a professional that talk is cheap to George and George has an endless budget for it.

2) Arguing About The Phone

As an example of how much of a clown John is acting as in this disussion, John spent 5 minutes near the start of the phone call arguing about the phone. The phone!

The situation was that there was distracting background noise interfering with the conversation. We couldn't hear what John or his colleague were saying.

Now, in many teleconferences it's a game of "Where is the noise coming from?" and we have to ask everyone to mute their lines. Except in this situation, I knew the noise was on George's line. I knew that because our teleconf software shows me which lines are "talking" at any time, and it was always George's line.

My colleague John didn't know that trick, though. So he started the game of, "Everyone who's not talking mute your line." Which George didn't. So I jumped in to say, "Hey, George, the noise is coming from your end."

"No it's not," George said.

"We can hear people talking loudly in the background and a woman laughing," I explained. My colleagues agreed.

"It's not me, I'm in a quiet place," George insisted, all the while the software showing the noise was on his line.

"The teleconf software shows the noise is on your line," I noted.

"Maybe it's your phone," John suggested, counterproductively. I wanted to slap him.

"Okay, I'll hang up and dial in from another phone," George offered.

A minute later he was back in the conference, on a different phone. With the same damn noise in the background because the problem wasn't his phone!!

"The noise is still there," I observed. "It's the people talking loudly in the background. The same people as before. I recognize their voices already...."

George again denied that he was in a noisy room. He did at least move to a quieter place so I let the issue drop. But this is the kind of ass-clown we were having to deal with.

3) Customer Isn't Ready, Still Faults Us

George spent the next 10 minutes arguing about why he should get our new software for free and complaining that we were being dishonest, incompetent, and lazy about not letting him evaluate it for free already.

"Hey, George," I said. "Let's put all those other issues aside for a moment. To even install our software you need {infrastructure}. How much experience do you have with {infrastructure}? Do you have {infrastructure} ready to go?"

George admitted that he knows little about {infrastructure}, has only dabbled at trying to set it up, and has so far failed. Still, he reframed this as my company's fault. Why weren't we helping him with his infrastructure? For free, of course. Because again, that's the kind of ass-clown George is.

4) Salesguy Kicks Pricing Argument To Me

I reframed the {infrastructure} debate as an opportunity to outline the right path forward. "George, while you and your team spend another few weeks getting {infrastructure} ironed out, we can prepare for the evaluation. That prep includes both technical and commercial components. On the commercial side we need to socialize pricing with your boss so that we can go into the technical work confident that if it succeeds we can move forward. It'd be a shame if we both did all that work only to find the boss says rejects it on price."

George, of course, misconstrued this mention of price as us saying he would have to pay first. Like, buy the software sight unseen. I took this as a deliberate misconstrual, bad faith negotiation, as we've only explained this to him about a dozen times already.

But that wasn't the worst part. What happened next that almost made me hang up. Salesguy John kicked the question over to me.

"Canyonwalker, can you explain to George why he needs to pay for this and what he'll get for the fee?"

Like I said, I considered hanging up the phone at that point. John's redirect was all kinds of wrong. It's widely understood in this field that technical people don't negotiate commercial terms, including price. Especially price. The account executive owns that part of the conversation. And "own" absolutely does not mean kicking it over to someone else. That's not ownership, that's abdication. But that's the kind of ass-clown John is.

5) You Screen-Shared THAT?

After John's idiot stunt with telling me to answer a pricing objection I already deemed this the shit-est sales call I've ever been on. And I've been doing this for almost 14 years. In fact, I had already alerted my boss via chat message about what was going on here, telling her that this was the worst run sales call I've ever been on.

And then this happened:

John had been sharing his screen on the web-conference software. He'd been showing a technical planning document, which was all well and good. But then while I was talking about the need for technical planning-- for, like, the third time this call and the umpteenth time this relationship-- he opens up his Skype client where he's got a convo going about what a clown this customer is. Yes, right there on the screen he's showing a chat dialogue making fun of George.

And it wasn't just a momentary "Oops", it was up on the screen for at least a full minute!

And it wasn't just someone else saying impolite things about the George; we could all see John typing rude things about George!

OMFG was my first thought. I can't even.

I literally slapped myself to make sure it wasn't a bad dream.

Fortunately for us I don't think George saw it. I think he may have been away from his screen at the time. But holy COW was that a major fuckup!

A Taxing and Untaxing Weekend
Golden Eagle
This weekend was both taxing and untaxing. Taxing, because I started preparing my family's income tax return. And untaxing, because aside from the few hours I spent doing that I took it easy.

Saturday morning we began with a dip in the hot tub. The weather was beautiful. It was all very reminscent of the day I did our taxes in 2016 -- right down to the view from the hot tub (picture in linked blog). Except this was February, not March like then, so some the trees near the pool this weekend weren't all green. Though the cherry tree is flowering, so that's nice.

Saturday afternoon I got down to work for a few hours on the taxes. How much did I get done? Well, like I noted last year around this time, it's either 90% or one-third, depending on how you count it. My forms are 90% complete, but the remaining 10% of the items are the most complex ones that take at least twice as long to do as everything else.

Saturday evening we went for a walk around town and took it easy.

Sunday morning we saw the movie Black Panther. It was great, even though we got up around 7 to see it at an 8:40am showtime. On the plus side, great seats, too! I'll write about the movie separately.

Sunday afternoon we went out to the Sunnyvale Baylands park. The weather had turned blustery and cold overnight, quite a change from the past 2-3 weeks, but we didn't let that stop us. We dressed in layers to avoid the worst of the wind. At least it was beautifully clear.

Sunnyvale Baylands Park. Feb 2018.

This was much like another taxing weekend of years past when we visited the same park as a break from doing taxes. We even saw a bird-fight again, though this time it wasn't hawks and eagles. A seagull drifted into an area where two red tail hawks were kiting above a patch of tall grass. The hawks either didn't care for anyone else hunting their turf, or decided the gull was what they were hunting for, and chased it across the marsh. Oh, how that gull screamed as it flew away as fast as it could!

Sunday evening I met up with a friend to try out a few new tap rooms in town. "Tap room" is the new, hipster phrase for, basically, bar. Except a bar that serves mostly beer. I'll write about those separately, too. All in all it was a good, low-key evening to cap a good, (mostly) low-key weekend.

Too Late Again - Mass Killing in Florida
Golden Eagle
Yesterday, Wednesday February 14, 2018, a man armed with a semiautomatic assault rifle walked into a public high school in Florida and began a murder rampage. 17 students and faculty died, and over a dozen more were injured. The shooter was apprehended hours after the massacre and remains in police custody for now. Example news coverage: article 2/15, USA Today article 2/15.

These all-too-frequent mass shootings provoke familiar responses from both sides of the political spectrum. On one side, people express outrage and call for common-sense restrictions on guns to reduce the likelihood of such shootings. On the other side, people who identify with gun rights hiss that it's "too soon!!" to discuss politics when the blood is still wet on the ground.

The "It's too soon!!" do-nothing folks remind me of this KC Green comic that went viral in 2016.'This is Fine', Gun Show #638, KC Green
Source: Gunshow #638 by KC Green.

As I stated after the Las Vegas mass shooting in October, it's not too soon, it's too late. It was too late for the 59 killed in October after no meaningful action was ever taken after previous mass shootings. It was too late in November when a shooting at a Texas church left 26 people dead. Discussions begun just a month earlier about gun regulation had already fizzled by then. Just as this week it was too late for the 16 students and 1 teacher killed in Florida. (Sadly there have been numerous other, smaller shootings over the past few months. These are only the most tragic.)

How much longer will timid politicians in thrall to the powerful gun lobby and the tribal politics they helped create continue to deny and delay while the house around us all burns?

The Grave Is No Bar To Thy Call
Occasionally now I get junkmail addressed to my father. One such letter arrived today. At my house— an address he never lived at. And he's dead— for almost two years now. WTF?
Tags: ,

Turning 90 Together
This weekend, Saturday, Februray 10 Hawk and I had our joint birthday party. "Together" we have turned 90!

Joint Birthday Party, Feb 2018
Even "Rufus" gets into the spirit of our birthday party
Joint parties are a tradition we started several years ago. Our birthdays are a few weeks apart so it makes sense to combine them into one celebration. I think our 2014 party was the first one. At least it was the first one I wrote about here. We had similar parties in 2015 and 2016.

Usually we've had the party in early January as that's close to our actual birthdays but just late enough after the year-end holidays for people to return from holiday travel and recover from other merry-making. This year it was a belated joint birthday party as we pushed it back 4-5 weeks from the normal timeframe. Hawk's job had her working like a beast through January, including an overseas business trip knocked out several weekends. Postponing the party until the weekend allowed us to prepare for it without feeling overtaxed ourselves.

Turning 90 Together. Feb 2018.
Centerpiece decoration from our joint "90th" birthday. More food filled the table as guests arrived. 

This party was smaller than in years past. Eleven of our friends joined us for our evening soirée. The tough flu season this year had an impact. Upwards of ten people who'd responded positively to our invitations weeks earlier sent regrets in the last 24 hours that they'd have to stay home due to sickness. Honestly I'm still not at 100% health myself. I've been dealing with a dry cough I've had for now seven weeks after getting over a cold in December. But, there's a silver lining to this gray cloud. While it would have been nice to see more friends at our party, the fact it was a smaller group this year meant I was able to spend more time with each person who attended.

Back to Normal(ish)
Catching up on the past few days....

Thursday night I got home from my sales conference in Las Vegas. When I blogged from the (fast food) dinner table I thought I was mentally shutting down for the night, lacking the energy even to talk to anyone. But then I caught up with a few of my colleagues at the gate area. Just as there were several of us taking the same flight out on Monday there were several of us taking the same flight home Thursday. Being social for 45 minutes or so gave me a bit of a second wind. I was happy to sit by myself aboard the plane, though.

The flight home was uneventful. "Excitingly boring," you might say. Boring because nothing out of the ordinary happened, and exciting because it's great when nothing goes wrong like that. We left right on time and arrived 15-20 minutes early (thanks to the padding airlines build into all their schedules). Whereas my goal had been to walk through my front door at 10pm, I managed to do so at about 9:37. Overachievement!

Hawk wasn't home when I arrived, though. She was still at work! 😧 She didn't get home 'til about 11:30, around the time I had just gone to bed.

Friday morning got off to a slow start. I had trouble getting up until just after 8am. I didn't plan to sleep in but I wasn't surprised I needed to. I'd gotten only 4 hours the night before thanks to the 2:30am evacuation order and had been getting by with only about 6 hours/night the few days before that. Sleeping in was okay work-wise as our internal morning meetings were all cancelled. My colleagues were all planning Friday to be a catching-up day, too.

Friday I had two customer meetings scheduled. One cancelled on us at the last minute. Customers suck with their lack of commitment to meetings. I'm glad it wasn't an onsite one involving travel. The afternoon meeting did entail travel... A walk of all of 0.7 miles from my home office! It was a good meeting, and afterwards my colleague Matt and I walked across the street to a tea shop to debrief on the meeting and shoot the breeze as it was 5pm by that point. I walked home around 6pm enjoying the surprisingly still-warm weather. Even at dusk, as the sky was streaked with salmon and blue, it was still about 75. It had reached almost 80 earlier in the day! I got home just in time to meet Hawk getting home from work... at a reasonable hour for the first time in, like, 6 weeks.

Friday night we went out for dinner together at one of our favorite restaurants, La Fiesta in Mountain View. We got in just as it was starting to get crowded. 15 minutes later it would have been a long, 30 minutes later the wait looked so long we probably would have turned around and gone somewhere else if we weren't already face-deep in plates of delicious enchiladas.

After dinner we did a bit of shopping for our party Saturday and wound down at home by catching up on some TV.

Saturday morning— today— we've done some cleaning around the house. We're getting ready for our joint birthday party tonight. I'm taking a break now after a spurt of activity, I'll get lunch soon, and then do some more shopping and cleaning mid-afternoon. The party's at 7.

Signs of the Times
Golden Eagle
When we hiked at Las Trampas Regional Wilderness a few days ago I noted with interest the signs at the trailhead.

Trailhead Signs at Las Trampas. Feb 2018.

The dogs-on-leash restriction is familiar while the no-smoking rule is new. I know the smokers will carp, "First you tell us we can't smoke indoors, now you tell us we can't smoke outdoors, either." Well, parks are places of public recreation, and cigarette smoke is a smelly, known carcinogen. Plus, carelessly discarded cigarettes, ashes, and matches cause numerous wildfires in California. I imagine it's actually more the latter that led to this policy being enacted.

This sign reminded me of another "sign of the times" I spotted when we last visited Edgewood County Park this past September.

Trailhead Signs at Edgewood County Park. Sep 2018.

"No Dogs Or Pets" is an interesting sign in itself. People now consider their dogs not to be pets? (Rhetorical question. It's clear many do.) But the sign of the times is the drone restriction. It was new but not a surprise. Though I hadn't experienced drone nuisance in this park before I've experienced it in other places. The constant droning (no pun intended) of the aerial vehicles' motors ruins the experience of people seeking relaxation in nature. Plus, drones disturb wild animals, like the hawks and falcons we've seen in this park.

Let Me Up, I've Had Enough
planes trains and automobiles
Eating at Wendy's in LAS Airport - Thursday, 8 Feb 2018, 6:30pm.

It's been just about 72 hours since I arrived in Las Vegas for a company sales conference. I've now completed three grueling days of meetings intermingled with a bit of team-building extracurricular activity— by which I mean staying up late playing craps and drinking— and I'm pretty much done with my work responsibilities here. All that's left now is to get home for the night.

At the moment the prospects for getting home soon look good. My flight is scheduled to depart at 8:05. The inbound aircraft is tracking a bit early. The weather's clear and warm both here and at home. If nothing goes wrong suddenly I'll be walking through my front door around 10pm.

Note, this isn't the end of the work week, though I kind of wish it were. Tomorrow (Friday) is a work day, and I have two customer presentations scheduled. At least it won't be a crazy day.

Wee Hours Fire Drill in Vegas
Cosmopolitan Hotel, Las Vegas - Thursday, 8 Feb 2018, 2:30am.

At about 2:25am Thursday the hotel had a fire alarm. I don't know it was a fire, per se, but klaxons in every room started blaring that "an emergency" had occurred and that we should leave immediately via stairs rather than elevator.

My first reaction was, "Give it a few seconds and see if the alarm stops." Yeah, I know, in a true emergency seconds count, but the fact is that most of these alarms in hotels and other commercial buildings are false alarms triggered by something relatively innocuous, like a person smoking near a smoke detector, and end after a few seconds.

This alarm did not end after 5 seconds. So I took about 30 seconds to pull on my clothes (I was in bed when the alarm started) including shoes and a light jacket. I considered grabbing my shoulder bag with computer, spare credit cards, etc., but decided saving the wallet in my pants pocket would be sufficient if this was a real emergency. Which I knew it was likely not, the now lengthy alarm notwithstanding.

Out in the hallway other guests were looking around confused. The klaxons had stopped but warning lights were still flashing. "Where are the stairs, anyway?" I asked a woman I met near the elevator lobby. I scolded myself as emergency exit routes are something I routinely do make a mental note of in hotels and airplanes. This time I had not. Would I regret the additional lost seconds as I walked down from the 27th floor? I asked myself.

Soon enough the emergency was over. Uniformed hotel staff came through the corridor announcing "all clear" and asking us to return to our rooms. One thing about Las Vegas casino-hotels is that they have a lot of security staff they can deploy. Ordinary hotels might have just 3 staff total at this hour. This hotel had 3 on our floor. I thanked them for coming through to give us an unambiguous signal as I returned to my room.

Update, 2:32am: The klaxons have announced that it was only a "minor incident" that triggered the alarm, whatever that means. Probably still some clown smoking near a smoke detector. Maybe I'll be able to learn more in the morning.


Log in

No account? Create an account