I grew up in the country about 200 yards from the family farm where my mother and grandfather grew up. Consequently, we put Half and Half on our cereal. I always hated eating cereal at a friend’s house after a sleepover because they used milk on their Cocoa Puffs. I would say, “You’re supposed to drink milk, not put it on your cereal!” It was not until much later in life when I realized milk actually was the preferred choice for a majority of breakfast cereal eaters. Presently, (after a few years of martial conditioning) I could never go back to Half and Half on my cereal.
When all you know is what you’ve done, that is what seems right to you. I’ve worked in local government since May of 2001. My entire GIS/Geospatial career. It seems right to me. The rules, red-tape and expectations are cumbersome and sometimes goofy but I’ve come to expect them and know how to be productive in spite of them. It’s all I know. It’s what I’ve done.
As of August 1st I will only be a half-time employee here at the County.
Here’s the story: For a while now a local geospatial/engineering consulting firm has been courting me to work for them. Unbeknownst to anyone at the county, I had tentatively agreed to a September 3rd start date. Recently, a rather large assignment was given to me in my capacity as GIS Manager, one I had been trying to get for years. Knowing that I am the only GIS person at the county and understanding the financial strain the county is in right now, I promptly expressed to the owner of this firm serious hesitation in such a hard and fast break from the county in the light of this new project. Not to sound too idealistic, but I don’t want to leave that way. I’ve spent the last 5+ years trying to get to the point where I could take this assignment. The last thing I want to do is leave a bad taste in the mouth of my administration and all the affected players. Peoria is too small of a town and my professional career has meant too much to me to just burn the bridges as I leave.
So, I’ve negotiated this Half and Half agreement. I will spend half my time at Peoria County as I have for the last 5 years, sitting in the same cubicle, working feverishly on exit documentation and this new large assignment. Then, I will spend the other half at Cloudpoint Geographics working on their large projects and assignments (not affiliated in any way with county work). I don’t know how long it will last; 1 month, 2, 5? The county has asked me to stay as long as I can. I know that it is not sustainable long-term, as I am a mere mortal, loyalties will become divided. I do not intend to get to that point.
I mean, I knew that people put milk on cereal, I just thought they were poor kids.
I really resent my Indox for being my To-Do List. After reading several articles declaring the benefits of a zero inbox, I try to keep it down to a dozen or so emails (The zero part is just unattainable). I’ve also been inspired to check my inbox periodically and not constantly. But that’s not happening either. Like a Pavlovian addict, I read thru emails I get the very moment I see that there is a new one. <pause because one just came in > In an attempt to organize them into categories, I flag them with colors meaning specific departments. But then what do I do if someone is asking for something? Mark them as Unread? Flag them with a due date? Copy them over to my actual To-Do list. (BTW, I don’t use Outlook tasks because it doesn’t sync across devices)
I blame Google, because it’s easy, but mostly because it’s true. Yesterday I was coaching my own daughter on why it’s futile to clean out her G-Mail inbox. ‘Honey, Google gives you so much space it really doesn’t matter how many emails you have.’ Her argument was that she didn’t want to ‘See all those emails’. I realized that I was arguing against cleanliness and order and stopped.
I can’t avoid it. My inbox is my to-do list. I mean it has everything already build in: a timeline, attachments, CYA, check-boxes, priority, sorting, and search. We have become so utterly dependent on our email system it has become a file structure within itself. I just wish we could annotate emails and put a “date completed” on them.
One shining star in the email-inbox-to-do-list-blackhole is Adobe Acrobat Pro. Yup, that’s right. I’ve got no Love for the Adobe Behemoth, but show me something cheaper that does the same thing, I’m open. With this, I can right-click on a folder and ‘Convert to a PDF’. This converts everything in that folder, even attachments, stores it, indexes it for searching, and then I delete from the whole email system. Cool thing is that it retains it’s PDF-ness even though is behaves like a folder of emails. At least it helps you feel more in control.
Could this be the end of email overload?by Micah Williamson
Sometimes, I’m just in a bad mood. And for reasons that I’ve stated in the past, this blog is mostly therapeutic. So the doctor is in.
I had one of the best weekends in the past few years this past weekend. It has been followed by a week where everything seems to go against me. I say “seemed” because everything in-fact did not go against me. Actually, I can point to no one thing that really put me over the edge. In life, it seems that it’s easier to deal with huge trauma all at once rather than 1,000 little irritating constant annoyances.
I once played “Would you Rather” with some friends. The basic idea of the game is that you are presented with two equally unrealistic/unappealing scenarios and told you must choose your preference. Your team gains points by correctly predicting what choice the other team will make. One of these ridiculous scenarios has stuck with me and my position has solidified.
“Would you rather have a tiny man living in your nose who will occasionally pull a nose hair without warning”
“Would you rather have a tiny man living in our mouth who constantly hammers on your teeth”
Without question I would rather have the nose-hair gnome. I can deal with catastrophic failure, I have a plan for that. But when tiny little nuacnces build up and there is little to no resolution I can’t stand it. To be honest, it drives me crazy. Usually, I make a list of all the things that are ticking me off, then flush it down the toilet. This week … I may not know you, but you made the list.
At least it’s Friday.
I’ll start working on “Being a more joyful person” next week.
by Micah Williamson
I’m trying to make this blog as professional as possible. My personality is such that I show exactly how I’m feeling. Those two axioms don’t always jive. This is a scattershot of snippits, subject and thoughts about work for the last two weeks.
The pre-Vacation week.
How is it, that the weeks before a vacation are always insane? Seriously. It doesn’t help that this last one was shortened by holidays and sickness. It doesn’t really matter, that extra day and a half would have been swallowed up by the smoke monster regardless. It was a busy week.
Call in Backup
The intern has been fully instructed on how to implement the GIS backup plan. It’s a fairly simple, step-by step process that involves terms he’s never heard of and software he’s never used. Hey! It’s got pictures. I gave him the 6 page plan and said, “Worst case scenario; it breaks on Saturday morning and you can’t fix it, our site and services are down for 9 days, and you get fired on the following Monday… just kidding” not really.
Geo-Caching (no, not that kind)
I have been trying to cache images for an ArcGIS Service for about a month. It’s not that I don’t know how or have not had success. I do and I have. The results were never exactly the way I want it. I wanted PNG images at first, 8 bit looked awful. Jpeg 100 was too large, Jpeg 90 didn’t look good, 128 x 128 was too many folders… and on and on and on. Every time you create a cache and don’t want it, you have to delete it. All this takes time and resources away from your server. Why don’t you create it on your test machine and just move it? Tried that. Have you ever tried to move 20,000 folders containing 5 million images totaling 45-80gb? It takes some time. I have pushed back this due date until August. Since I artificially created the due date, no one else in the universe cares.
I Don’t Get Politics
I mean, I understand what it’s for, when it’s helpful, and how it works (kinda). What confuses me is; why do we continue to play the game? My grandmother used to say, “People are only as important as you make them”. Can’t we just agree to stop artificially inflating egos?
Having to justify GIS at the county or municipal level is akin to having to justify PCs 15-20 years ago. It’s no longer a ‘cool tool’, it’s a necessity. Not funding a GIS will not only limit growth in a community, I think it will propel a community backwards. Technology will continue to advance, grow complex and more difficult to keep up. If a region/MSA wants to attract growth or even keep its own children, it needs to think beyond the next election or budget cycle.
The Kids are alright
Below is a commercial for a T-Mobile phone with a ‘Genius button’. We don’t need to convince students to use technology. They crave it, they live it. location-based technology is expected. I have found it more difficult to explain aerial photography to adults rather than children. Web applications and social interaction are becoming commonplace. When a commercial shows a 10 year old saying “Find ice-cream shop” into a phone, you can rest assured that GIS/GPS and location technology is here to stay. The only question is do you want to be a part of it or be left behind wondering where the outlet mall is. GIS professionals need to get into the schools and talk about maps, technology and the data behind these applications.
by Micah Williamson