Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Today Is a Good Day

To telecommute, if you live in the Bay Area. What a nightmare. If you have a robust telecommuting program in place, you can handle unexpected snafus like this relatively easily. If not, you end up with an office full of people for whom it took three hours to get to the office to get back on the internet.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sometimes Changes In Routine Don't Increase Your Productivity

Ah, gentle readers, it seems like just last year that Stella was ruminating about her broken finger and taking small breaks (ha ha, get it) from blogging and being able to type 80 words a minute. Oh, wait, it was just last year. And now Stella is coping with a family fracture: the littlest Commute broke both bones in her arm in a fall off playground equipment at school.

Aside from the obvious maternal concern that I'm experiencing over Baby Commute's injury, there is the non-trivial disruption to my home-based office that has occurred. The good thing is that it has reconfirmed my most fundamental telecommuting ideal:

Telecommuting in no way substitutes for child care.

Do a search for images of "telecommuting mom" and you find all these pictures of women using laptops with their laps topped with small children. Sister, I got news for you: if you're really working, your kids probably aren't around. In fact, do everyone a favor and don't call it working.

I have a few coping techniques for when there are people in my house -- headphones, the thrill of the locking door, heavy sedation for younger family members -- it works out great. But there is always a designated adult (or young adult, now that Miss Teen Commute is 13 and a tremendous babysitter) minding the little one. And if not? I take vacation to care for her. Like I've been doing last week and part of this week.

Because no amount of headphones, blinders, and "talk to the hand because mommy's on a conference call" sign language is going to stop the piercing sounds of the Little Mermaid from penetrating my brain and rendering me incapable of coherent thought.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Admitting You Have A Problem

Okay, sure it's easy to mock the pen fetishists. Just because you're bitter that you have never known the love of a truly amazing pen, don't take it out on those of us who have been lucky enough to find our soulmate in fountain, gel, or Sharpie form.

But seriously, folks, the right pen can inspire me to greater paroxysms of entity-relationship diagramming genius. It's all in here, waiting to get out into the right notebook through the right pen.

Perhaps I do have a problem.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Telecommuting Doing Good

As you may or may not know, Stella has worked her whole career in non-profits and higher education. Except for that brief stint as a secretary for a stock brokerage, during which one of my electrifying tasks was to review the company wide phone bills and identify every time an employee had called from one branch to another without using the tie lines, then add up how much each branch had cost the company by dialing outside lines rather than internally. Seriously. I did that.

But I digress. I work in the non-profit sector because it's nice to use your powers for good instead of evil. I could do web stuff for anyone, but it's really satisfying to advance education, research, and patient care like I do. And then I read about this: an effort to use the interwebs to bring online work to refugees.

I kind of like this a lot. Yes, I know, I'm drinking my own kook-aid, but I really believe that education and access to technology is the only way that people can escape poverty. And here is another example of how modest access to technology is making lives better.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Routine Changes to Routine

Stella just got back from an onsite visit (note lack of posts. Sorry 'bout that) and as usual, this break in the routine of getting up and working has been a blessing and a curse. It's great to get out, to see people, and in this case to do the big reunion-homecoming-parents weekend. I was able to drive a golf cart around campus, talk to students and alumni, and generally feel like a real part of the institution where I work. The downside is the disruption to my schedule -- rather than work, I meet about work and since my staff consists of "me" I end up with a big list of things to do.

Web Worker Daily has an interesting post about changing your routine -- new music, a different coffee shop, paint your office, do something different -- as a way to improve your productivity. And I think that's true -- provided the change to your routine is something that leads to being able to actually still work.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I'm Making Excuses

There were only three of us. We were hungry. We didn't study up on Lincoln. The fact remains we finished 15 points behind the winners. But that's okay because the food was infinitely better than at the other place we did pub quiz (which is to say that it didn't induce violent gastrointestinal distress within four to six hours of consumption). So we'll be back.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

If Everyone Uses the Internet, Could We Bring It to Its Knees?

More importantly, does the internet even have knees? Whatever, this article from the Wall Street Journal blogs on October 2 poses an interesting problem: if we all end up quarantined with H1N1, and we all get on the internet at once to telecommute, attend virtual school, or update our Friendbook status to "I'm Sick...waaaaah!", will we kill the internet?

Heck, in my neighborhood a good rainstorm seems to dramatically slow the interwebs down, so I'm not feeling optimistic. But the chances of everyone feeling well enough to telecommute at the same time are probably low, and the network would adjust itself over time. But you should definitely consider that things might slow down as part of your business continuity planning. People should also be able to do tasks that don't require connectivity -- whether it's having some of their work files stored locally or on a thumb drive, having paper-based stuff they can take with them, or what have you.

And for the love of god, do have a back up for your internet phone. Maybe we should have kept the land line, I'm thinking. Ai!

Monday, October 5, 2009

You Know, I'm Not Even Tempted

One of the things you always hear when you tell people that you telecommute is, "I wouldn't be able to resist the lure of the television/housework/laundry/goofing off." But you know, it really isn't that hard to resist these things. Housework is not that fun, frankly, so I would have to be working on something pretty darn horrible in order to opt for housework over contributing to the success of the fine institution for which I work.

I'm not saying I don't goof off a bit. The interwebs are always beckoning with updates from acquaintances on the FriendBook, assorted kittens with assorted captions, and people to yak with virtually. But those things don't take me away from what I'm doing in a meaningful way, and are easily segregated to a few minutes here and there.

The biggest temptation I face is not getting onto the big projects. It's very easy to get wound up in doing little chore-style work tasks and not getting to my big thinking, big writing, big planning, big doing projects. But I'm working on that.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Beyond Casual Friday

Casual Friday isn't that big a deal here at Stellacommute Central. As it is I'm normally on the casual side of "software start up in someone's garage" so it's really hard to get more casual when I want to relax. Luckily, I've been turned on to the methods of office devolution through this easy-to-follow visual guide. So not safe for work, kids, but so funny.

I'm off to kill my own lunch with a bow and arrow. Carry on.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Complaining About Local Traffic For Once

Usually your gentle correspondent is talking about how she never drives anywhere and the traffic here in the Land of Enchantment to put this nicely...A Joke. I mean really. I've driven around the DC Beltway in a snowstorm. I know what traffic is, and this isn't it.

Except at this time of year: Balloon Fiesta. I know what you're thinking: We have balloon glows all the time, people need to relax. But it's 300+ hot air balloons going up in about an hour and a half. It's truly spectacular, and people come from everywhere to see it.

Unfortunately there isn't much way to get to the launchpad without driving there. At four in the morning. Seriously, only in New Mexico could you have the major event of the year be a thing that is over by 9 am. This place can be a mystery to me. And the traffic is god awful for Balloon Fiesta. Between people sleepily driving to the field to see the launch to the people randomly driving off the road because forty hot air balloons sail ten feet over the roof of their cars, it's a mess.

Good thing the city has a plan. My plan: stay home even more relentlessly than I normally do. Hey, employers who are anywhere near Balloon Fiesta Park: let your folks work from home, too.