Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I think my smoke detectors are posessed, or sentient

It's taken me a few days to get around to posting this.  To be honest, I kinda wanted to make sure the adventure was over before telling the story, but it's been a couple of days and the cats don't appear to be traumatized so I guess it's time to share.

Sunday afternoon Steve and I were having a wonderfully relaxing time playing the wii together.  He received two new games for his birthday, the day before, so we wanted to give them a try.  So we're relaxing on the floor having a good'ol time, and suddenly there's a horrendous noise.  The cats scatter and I turned to Steve and said (yelled maybe, it was hard to be heard), "What's on fire?"  Out in the hallway there was no sign of smoke, and my first instinct was to check the stove.  But it wasn't on and there was no sign of smoke in the air and by the time I was upstairs again Steve (It's wonderful to be married to a tall man) had the batteries out of one of the detectors and the shriek had been tamed to a soft chirp. 

After checking the other smoke detectors (we have four) and seeing no sign of what set them off, my wonderfully tall husband replaced the batteries, we calmed the cats as best we could, and got on with our afternoon.

So we have time to settle down again, this time in separate rooms.  Steve playing tennis (on the wii) and I'm in the process of re-watching Babylon 5.  I'd coaxed a nervous cat to sit beside me, and less than an hour after the last alarm we startled by another three LOUD beeps.  So I meet Steve on the stairs and we check all the smoke detectors again.  They all have green lights and after the three beeps are silent, so after some discussion we think maybe we should change the batteries.  Of course no one actually keeps 9 volts in the house, so out we go to buy batteries at Publix.  What a lovely Sunday afternoon escape.  After debating the relative merits of Energizer vs. Duracell (Energizer won for being twenty cents cheaper) we return and swap out all the batteries in all four smoke detectors and settle back down again.

Less than two hours after the previous beeping we have yet another three loud beeps, followed by a thorough checking that all batteries are thoroughly connected and none have the polarity backwards.  Then we get the model numbers and I start a search for a user manual online.  Wonder of wonders, I actually found one.  It explains with detailed diagrams where to place smoke detectors, where NOT to place smoke detectors (apparently putting them in the kitchen like I do with my Sims is a bad idea), warn against electrocution, installation, maintenance, EVERYTHING you need to know to make them go off, nothing about how to shut them up. 

After a couple of hours of silence we thought the worst was over and grew complacent.  I even commented that they hadn't gone off in a while and Steve cautioned, "Don't jinx it."  And of course he was right.  Shortly after 5:00 again we have the three long beeps, which sets off a flurry of checking batteries and to see if any lights were blinking.  We start discussing contingency plans like, what would happen if we took all the batteries out?  Can we disable just one to shut the others up?  And, well, I think that's all we discussed, but I was wondering what local hotels accept pets, and if an animal that sleeps 20 hours a day can't recover from occasional interruption without having to go to a hotel with us.

But once more time passed.  We grew complacent and the smoke detectors knew it.  Five ours later they jolted us again and we responded with defeated resignation and went to bed.  This time it was actually a bit entertaining.  With one cat near the top of the stairs and the other at the bottom the blaring startled them so they ran in opposite directions, PAST each other in order to escape. 

This next part I know only from Steve's description, but he explains that shortly after 1:00 AM the alarm went off!  Not the three loud beeps as before, but several seconds of blaring siren followed by beeps and cat footsteps, then silence.  AND I SLEPT THROUGH IT!

This gets me wondering, both Steve and I travel for business occasionally, and what happens if the house catches fire when he's away and I'm asleep?  And if I can sleep through that then there's NO alarm clock that could ever do it's job effectively.  I need something to attach to the bed to shake me awake, or better yet a Wallace and Grommet type setup that will unceremoniously dump me into cloths and out on the lawn to safety from the fire (Or for regular mornings maybe it can dump me in the shower).  Somehow I don't think I can depend on the cats, who spent a significant portion of Sunday night and Monday hiding under the bed.  They can really only be depended on to tell me when it's time to feed them.  It goes something like this.

Me: Mrmph, Get Off!
Cat: I am really surprisingly heavy as I stand on you.  I have ninja powers to focus all my weight on the tips of my paws and dig them into your ribs.
Me: Steve, did you feed the cats?
Steve: (no response)
Cat: (Cold nose in a sensitive area, if no obviously sensitive area present itself just keep trying any bits of exposed skin)
Me: ALRIGHT!  I'll feed you! (stumbles into the bathroom, gets out the food and the scoop and tries to focus eyes to aim the food in the bowl) hey!  You have plenty of food!
Cat:  Mrrrmp?
Me: It's right there! I don't care if you ate a hole down to the center of the dish, it's got plenty of food in it!  Didn't your mom ever teach you to clean your plate?

They never seem to understand that there are starving kitties in Africa that don't get low-cal indoor kitty food.

Now what was I talking about?  Oh right, sentient smoke detectors.  So the next morning Steve, wonderful lovely Steve, who's GLAD I slept through the freakin' alarm because he knows that if I'm woken up in the middle of the night I have a terrible time trying to get back to sleep (did I mention how wonderful he is?), tells me of his adventures at one in the morning and how he didn't get back to sleep until after two, which I can totally sympathize with, so I decided then and there that this has to stop!  I will not allow my husband to suffer sleepless nights on less than four hours of sleep because of faulty electronics.  I will take a sledge hammer to them a'la Phoebe Buffay (friends) before I allow him to suffer, and I don't care if they are clearly labeled with "Do Not Tamper." 

It's my house and I'll make it unsafe by disabling the smoke detectors if I like! 

If only I knew how to disable the smoke detectors.  I don't want to be left like Phoebe was with an incessantly beeping thing.  So I called the manufacturer, and apparently they're not in the office until normal hours like 9:00 so I left a message about how completely imperative it was that they call me back as soon as possible and tell me how to stop the beeping.  And amazingly, they called back!  If you're ever looking for a smoke alarm company that calls back with real people when you have a problem, call USI ( they didn't pay me for this plug), but they don't do it on weekends.  

So this nice lady explains how to disable the smoke alarms and silence them, and how to diagnose which one is faulty (by process of elimination) and so I settle down to wait for them to make horrendous noises again.  And Nuthin'!  All day I waited and didn't hear a peep out of them, and this is where their sentience comes in.  I think they heard me talking on the phone with the manufacturer and figured out we were discussing how to kill smoke detectors, and I scared the beep out of them!

Steve stayed home yesterday and they didn't make a sound, and the cats don't seem traumatized today, so I assume they weren't going off all day today either. 

So the moral of this story is, if your electronics are bothering you, call the manufacturer.  Be sure you're in the same room with the offending device and discuss loudly all ways to completely disable it's power source.

Don't coddle it.  Buying it batteries will only make it think it can demand more of you.  You want to make sure it knows who's boss.  If you keep buying it batteries it will demand more and bigger batteries, and pretty soon you'll be trying to figure out how to hang a car battery from the ceiling.

Also, sledge hammers are not the answer, but really I learned this from Phoebe.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Why Having ADD makes me Fantastic Support at a High Energy Software Company

ADD affects my life in so many ways, mostly negative, like when I go grocery shopping with my husband and completely zone out starring at the magazines in the check out line.  My husband is ofter flabbergasted at how gnat like my attention can be.  It's rare, very rare, EXTREMELY rare for ADD to affect my life in any positive way.  But lately I've found that in the software industry, and especially in the world of support, it can be an asset.

My life is a series of interruptions, one after the other, and most of support is one person asking how to do this, followed by a problem with that, with someone in sales asking for a demo of something else.  So as the job jumps from one thing to the next my attention is easily moved on to the next thing.  You jump and I'm already there.

That's the good part, but I suppose there's a down side to flitting from crisis to crisis.  There's rarely enough buffer between interruptions.  I'll get off the phone and start writing up a support case when the phone rings again, and while I'm explaining to that customer how to do whatever they're asking about I'll have three other e-mails come in that need a response or few so I trade e-mails for a while, and by the time that's done I've forgotten what I was doing with that window looking at that support case or more often it's hidden behind those e-mail windows and I don't find it again until I'm cleaning up my desktop at the end of the day.  Each day is one run on sentence after another.  By the end of the day I can forget about reporting on what I've done, I've probably forgotten more than half of what I've done that day, so I'm looking at my e-mail log just so I can figure out what I was doing six hours ago.

And then there are those dreaded slow days.  They happen, usually in pieces, an afternoon here, a couple hours there.  I get caught up, having told everybody what they need to know to do what they want to do for the time being, written up any support issues, waiting on logs or responses or whatever, and I'm supposed to be doing REAL work, probably writing documentation which really means I'm trying to take some bit of documentation and developing training documentation, usually a PowerPoint presentation.  This is where my ADD really hurts me, when I'm starring at a sentence on the screen and wondering how I can make this visual, really how can I keep folks from falling asleep starring at this slide.

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE PowerPoint.  I love visual learning, and I love diagrams and tables and charts that get the point across.  But sometimes you don't want to show something.  Sometimes information can't broken down into pretty pictures, or graphs, or lists.  Sometimes you want to SAY something and PowerPoint doesn't lend itself to paragraphs or explanations.  So I find myself lost in thought as I stare at a paragraph wondering how I can break this down into something interesting. 

And now I'm already distracted from writing this post cause I'm watching Babylon 5 and want to go read the biography of Melissa Gilbert on IMDB.  Hey!  You're reading a blog about how ADD I am!  What did you expect, a conclusion?