Archive for the ‘Office Mayhem’ Category

Triumph Of The 12th Man

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

The Seattle Seahawks beat the Denver Broncos yesterday 43-8 to win Super Bowl XLVIII (48).  Both the San Francisco 49ers and the Denver Broncos had better odds to win the Super Bowl at the beginning of the 2013-2014 season than the Seahawks, but that didn’t stop Seattle from beating both teams on their way to claim their first franchise Super Bowl trophy as one of the youngest teams in the NFL both age and experience-wise – quarterback Russell Wilson has only been playing in the NFL since the 2012 season, and the average age of the players on the team is 26.5.

Since McCrevis’ Eagles won the NFC East but then lost to the Saints in the playoffs, and since my Buccaneers were never even in the running, we didn’t really have an iron in the fire but were happy to see the Seahawks beat the Broncos (actually, I have no idea if McCrevis was barracking for Denver or Seattle, but since Seattle won, I’m going to say he was on their team all along).  But for our mate Ty, it was a dream come true.

Ty - rabid Seattle Seahawks fan and proud 12th man

Being the only NFL team in the Pacific Northwest US, the Seahawks tend to attract a number of zealous fans, and Ty is no exception.  A proud 12th man since the team was formed in 1976, Ty approached us about a “publicly noticeable celebration idea” that we could help him setup at work “after the Hawks smash the Broncos!”

Despite the short notice, we thought we were up to the challenge.

Ty's office building prior to the Superbowl

 

interior

longShot

after

Ideas are cheap, it’s the passion to make ideas real that’s rare.
~ Scott Berkun

Why not us?
~ Russell Wilson 

We’re Awesome!

Monday, December 9th, 2013

awesome

Haters ignored.
Testing completed.
Requirements fulfilled.
Obstacles, doubts, and ridicule overcome.
Product shipped.
Customer happy!
We’re awesome!!

Spur-of-the-moment-type message outside the CEO’s window, and since I didn’t have my usual lawn sharpies, I had to spell it out in the frost on the lawn.

Not as long lasting, but it still makes the point, and opens up all sorts of possibilities for messages that you don’t want sticking around for more than a day or so.

Amazed me how many people took note and knew it was our team.
Some reputations are worth having!

It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to management than the creation of a new system.  For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institution and merely lukewarm defenders in those who gain by the new ones.
~ Niccolò Machiavelli

That’s A Lot Of Sheep To Deal With!

Monday, October 7th, 2013

After this project, we’ve basically covered the possibilities with sheep for McCrevis’ birthday (other than stuffing his office with live ones which was the original idea that kicked all this off).

Phil’s still working at the high security office which, although not as high-security as he’d like, is still secure enough that I’m not allowed to “make a scene” once I get access, and that’s just not right when celebrating McCrevis’ birthday!

You know the saying: Go big or go home!
So we decided to go big.

Phil drives a pretty big SUV to haul his 27 kids around to their various soccer games and full-contact macramé matches on weekends, so converting his truck into a sheep would result in a pretty big sheep!  And while the idea of making a massive sheep in his parking lot is pretty awesome, I’m still pretty budget limited when it comes to these projects, so I want to build it as cheaply as possible.  The second problem is transporting something that big from the build site to Phil’s office – an 8×17’ box, 7’ high is a bit unwieldy to move around as any SUV or minivan driver can tell you.  So I designed the sheep to be built of panels, similar to the Haunted House.  16 panels, no more than 3’6” wide so I can stack them all in the back of my truck and then assemble them on site.

lumberUnfortunately, I can’t use chicken wire to reinforce it all since I don’t want the metal scratching up against Phil’s truck, so I really have to find some massive pieces of cardboard that will fit the frames with minimal interior gaps or creases that cause structural problems.  I’m basically relying on the cardboard to give the panels stability.  In the end, I drop $40 for lumber – a stack of 1×2’s and a couple of 2×2’s for corner reinforcements.  And while I can usually snag a server box or two from the work recycle bin, we don’t have THAT many new server racks coming in, so I hit the local recycle plant and spend half an hour digging through their cardboard bins, locating massive pieces of cardboard.  Luckily, there are a LOT of big screen TVs being bought recently.

While the weekend weather was beautiful, Sunday evening clouds up and starts dumping rain again which not only limits my build space, but also gets me worried about Monday’s weather.  Check the forecast… yep… rain all day Monday.  Great…  That means we HAVE to paint the thing just to keep the cardboard from deteriorating.

I hate painting.

panelBuild

panelFrames

I dial the staple gun WAY down, but even then, a moderate wind will pull wet cardboard through the staple like soggy bread, so I’m off to Home Depot where I find plastic cap roofing nails.  These work beautifully!  Thinking of buying a couple boxes for repairs on the Haunted House panels since they’re MUCH cheaper than the screws and washers we’ve been using on panels we’re not skinning in plastic.

roofingNails

cardboardPanels

Because I’m using 1×2’s, screws split the wood on a pretty regular basis, so I quickly abandon them for good old fashioned 1 5/8”nails so I don’t have to pre-drill everything.  This means that they won’t hold together as well in wet weather, but again, I’m relying on the cardboard to do that, and I’m not really expecting the sheep to last more than a day.  Takes me about 2 hours to measure, cut and assemble the 16 panel frames once I finally figure out the nails vs screws issue, and another 3 hours to find, cut and fit the proper piece of cardboard to the panels and nail them in place.  If I’d had a couple of friends helping out and enough tools for everyone, this could probably have all been done in an hour and a bit.

Note: not only is a box cutter essential for this much cardboard work, but the replacement blades are about $4 for a pack of 5, so don’t scrimp (even I don’t go THAT cheap)!  Replace your blades often and burn through them rather than all the troubles that arise with dull blades.  Don’t even get me started on trying to use scissors…

Now we’re down to painting.
I hate painting, so I call up Wren from one of the theatre paint crews, and she says she’ll take care of it.

panelsPainted

Turns out, the key here is rollers – not paint brushes.  Paint brushing a 3×6’ panel takes a while.  Rollering it takes seconds, and since the paint isn’t as thick, it dries quicker.  This is a benefit since I’m running out of indoor room to paint 16 panels, and it’s still raining outside.

I cut out the head from a single box, cutting out extraneous cardboard to make it as light weight as possible.  I’ll fix it to the neck by sandwiching the cardboard at the back of the head between the neck panel frame and 1×2 slats inside the box.

sheepsHead

Monday it dumps rain as predicted, and I’m worried about the whole thing falling apart before it gets put together.  The rain lessens, but never lets up, and at one point, the wind kicks up just for giggles.  To make matters worse, McCrevis is pretty sure I’m going to paint his truck bright pink (great idea for another time!), so he wedges it between a Prius and a PT Cruiser and climbs out the back doors to minimize side clearance.

I can’t lay the panels down on the wet parking lot, so I’m forced to build it, panel by panel, standing up against an air conditioning unit in the parking lot.  I’m wearing a bright yellow “Phil McCrevis Fanclub” t-shirt with a photo of Phil’s face on the front with the words “My Hero”, but still, no one stops to question what I’m doing, even when I slide a 7’ high 17’ wall across the parking lot, to thread it between parked cars and lean it up against Phil’s SUV.

I wave at the security cameras just in case someone’s watching.

As is pretty typical for these things, I start to realize issues that I never considered in the original design:

-         Most people, McCrevis included, park their cars with the front bumper hanging over sidewalk, so I don’t have a flat surface along the entire length of the box, and less support than expected

-         The box was designed to close off nicely from the inside, but that doesn’t explain how I’m supposed to get OUT of the box after it’s closed, so I end up sinking a couple 3” screws through the outside corners rather than the original design where everything is hidden

-         The neck works as a really good lever as the wind starts to pick up, threatening to rip itself off from the rest of the box, so I have to place it on the ground instead of raising it up as planned.  Doesn’t look as good as the design, but much more stable

-         3 of the 5 side panels are suspended a foot above the ground, leaving all the support to the end panels.  Cool design, but less stability.  Should’ve brought lateral bracing like we use in the long hallways of the Haunted House – would’ve worked wonders

-         Next time, bring help.  At one point, I almost break down and call McCrevis to come down and help me build this thing when a gust of wind comes along, and the wall almost takes out the Prius parked on his right!  Almost.

sheep01

sheep02

sheep03

It’s cold, wet and miserable work, but finally, the sheep is completed and stands above the other cars in the parking lot, swaying and rocking in the wind.  I’m sure it’s going to blow apart at any moment and take out the nearby cars, but it holds fast, and draws plenty of attention as I drive away.

sheep04

I thought I could have built it better, but it did the job:  McCrevis never saw it coming; it made him laugh; it caused a stir and hubalub at his work; and by the time we came back from lunch, the Prius and Cruiser owners had moved their cars away from the dancing lamb (not really a purpose of the project, but a funny result).

sheep05

What would have really made the day was if McCrevis had given in to my suggestions to get in and drive the sheep around the parking lot.  THAT would have been funny!

sheepInterior

Just because something’s never been done before, doesn’t mean it can’t be done. There’s always got to be a first time.
~ Robert Lonnie (“Spirits in the Wires”)

Waffling In The Office

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

I have lost track of the number of times over the years that I have walked in to work only to be overcome by the absolute NEED for pancakes!

Wake up.
Not hungry.
Shower and shave.
Still not hungry.
Look in the fridge.
Look in the cupboard.
Nothing of interest.
Leave the house.
Get to work.
Not hungry.
Walk in the front door…

I NEED PANCAKES!!

This is not made any easier by the masses of cubicle monkeys that eat Maple and Brown Sugar Quaker Instant Oatmeal in this place.  (“Do you smell pancakes and syrup?” “Nope – just oatmeal…” *dramatic semi-violent bludgeoning motions with the computer keyboard*)

The time I waste next is directly related to how long it takes me to come up with a solution:

  • Convince someone to take me to IHOP or The Pancake Parlour or some breakfast café I saw on Diners, Drive-ins & Dives for pancakes – 1 hour of badgering/complaining/whining; various travel times depending on location of pancake destination; 1 hour to order, eat, small talk, convince myself to go back to work
  • Fail at convincing someone to take me out for pancakes – 4-6 hours of alternating between anger, frustration, deep sorrow, passive aggressive guilt trips, and basic snarkiness that lasts most of the day or until I finally find something to eat that doesn’t quite fill the bill for a lack of pancakes, but gets carbs into me so I quite bothering everyone around me
  • Immediately turn around and walk down to Mackers to buy their cheap pancakes – 1-1.5 hours depending on how long before I realize that it’s not pancakes that I want but an avoidance of work

The best solution is (of course) to be rich enough that I don’t have to ever come in to work, and I can pay someone to make me pancakes anytime I want.  Since this is right up there with the “why don’t I work somewhere that I enjoy” category of unreality, the next best solution is to buy an electric griddle and a bag of instant pancake mix and make my own pancakes anytime I want AT work!

*pure genius*

So soon after I plug my electric griddle into the office kitchenette wall socket along with the electric toaster oven, coffee maker, microwave and regular toaster, a fuse for the floor mysteriously blows, instantly cutting power to every cubicle on the floor and killing the work of everyone who didn’t own a laptop.

I’m still pretty sure this was just a coincidence.

Turns out that waffle makers draw less wattage than electric griddles, and Target has them on sale for $20.

Now, when someone asks “Do you smell pancakes and syrup?”, the answer is most likely,
“Yea!  Monkey’s probably making them at his cubicle again!”

I’m up on the eighth floor.
There’s syrup and peanut butter.
If you want strawberries and cream or something else on your waffles, you’ll have to bring it yourself.

Life is not perfect, but sometimes you can squint and stare directly at it, and it looks just about right.
~ Kelly Tindall

Office Bowling Alley

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

One of the first major office pranks I built (ie: it took more than a few minutes of preparation to create) was to convert my boss’ office into a putting green for his birthday.  We purchased a 2x3m swatch of Astroturf and used a shipping pallet and baking pans filled with sand to create contours and sandtraps.  It wasn’t as time consuming or fancy looking as the cardboard office castles I’d create later, but it was fun to build and had a big impact – noticeable to him and everyone that dropped by the office.  (The most impressive part of the day was when one of the other managers dropped a hole-in-one putt from 10 meters out on his first try: across the hallway, through the office door, up the shipping pallet and into the hole!  “Nothing but net…”  Incredible!).

 

The Innovations Team occupies an office that was originally a filing room.  It is a long, narrow room with no windows to the outside world, often referred to as “The Bowling Alley”.  The Innovations Team is responsible for promoting big ideas, streamlining existing processes, and steering the customer’s perception of the company.  The job alone makes up for their crappy office space, but they’ve also got some totally cool electronic whiteboards, wall-mounted flat screen TVs for customer presentations, and a group of mid-height filing cabinets that have been converted into a snack bar and beer fridge.  If they had room, they’d probably have a Fußball or pool table.

This project seems like a no-brainer at first, but when I scouted Toys-R-Us, Target and Wal-Mart, expecting to easily find a cheap, kids bowling set, no one had anything in stock.  A quick online search found one for $4US ($10.99US after same day shipping), but by then, I had it in my head to build my own.  The build and anticipation during the build is often more fun than the final result, so the question isn’t “Why?” but “Why not?”!

Total build time – 6 hours.
Total cost – $20 for 3xrolls of white duct tape, small basketball, black gloss spray paint, 1xroll red electrical tape, 1xroll blue painter’s tape
Again, cheaper and faster to buy it online, but where’s the fun in that??

I have the emotional maturity of a 12 year old who is told very often that he’s really mature & smart for his age.
~ @knifequest

Nerf N-Strike Elite Hail-Fire Blaster

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

I still hold to my previously stated belief: The Nerf Maverick is the best Nerf gun for use in starting office wars.

Having said that, escalation is the obvious next step once Nerf Wars become common place in your workplace, and when you’re talking about adults with money, some escalation can be quite awesome!

McCrevis’ Nerf Raider CS-35 is still one of my favorite escalation weapons for a Nerf War.  It doesn’t require batteries, so there’s no whir of electric motor to alert your target, and the response time is quicker, firing Nerf dart fury as fast as you can pump the gun.  It also boasts a further range than the Maverick and holds 35 darts rather than 6.  Spare drum clips and darts make for fast reloads during a war.

My first choice for battery operated Nerf guns would be the N-Strike Elite Hail-Fire Blaster which McCrevis bought me for Christmas (thanks mate!).  Unlike the Vulcan, the Hail-Fire motor-mechanism is similar to a baseball pitching machine – two mini-flywheels in the barrel of the gun grab a Nerf dart and whip it out the end at high speed, rather than employing springs or air power.  This also allows you to launch heavier darts, either mod’ing your Nerf darts by wrapping them in tape or filling the core with glue so they give a heavier punch at impact.

Another advantage of the Hail-Fire over the Vulcan is that it’s more compact and easier to carry – the dart belt being replaced by multiple clips held in a doughnut configuration.  A pump-bar on the top of the blaster not only gives extra stability when firing (because recoil has ALWAYS been the bane of the Nerf rapid-fire assault weapons…), but also allows you to quickly move a new clip into firing position without having to stop firing.  The Hail-Fire comes standard with 4 x 6-dart clips and 24 darts, giving it less initial firepower than the CS-35.  However, it’s designed to hold 8 clips, and we found you can fit 7 darts into a clip, giving it full potential of 56 darts.  Swap out your standard clips with the Nerf 18-dart clips without any problems, and suddenly, you expand your full Hail-Fire potential to 152 darts without having to reload.  As with any clip-fed Nerf gun, spare pre-loaded clips allow for quick reloading during an office war.

Because it’s battery operated, you can hear the motor spin-up prior to an attack, giving up an element of surprise in an ambush, but we found that the range is better than the CS-35 and the motor much quieter and quicker to respond than non-N-Strike motorized Nerf guns.  The newly designed N-Strike darts have an advantage of being sturdier than normal darts (so they last longer than normal Nerf darts), and are advertised to be “better balanced” than the original, standard Nerf darts.  But we got the same range and accuracy when we tested them against the standard Nerf dart using the same guns.  As mentioned before, an advantage with the Hail-Fire is that you can launch heavier darts which isn’t possible from the CS-35 which still relies on air propellant.

Once you’ve created a Nerf War culture in the workplace, your ability to escalate the firepower on your team will often determine which way the war goes!

If you have two good friends at work, it will never feel like you have a bad job.
~ Tim Rath

No matter how many friends you have at work, a sucky job still sucks!  It just makes distracting yourself throughout the work day that much easier.
~ bighairmonkey

Christmas Party Elevator

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

“Get in the holiday spirit by decorating your cubicle!” announced the email.  Yea, I know… sounds like my kind of thing doesn’t it.  Unfortunately, that’s what everyone else thought too.  It’s a lot tougher to impress people when they drop that kind of expectation on you!  Google “over the top Christmas cubicle” or “extreme Christmas cubicle” and you’ll get PLENTY of ideas, images and examples of people that have done a much better job than me at this kind of thing.  So, how do we turn it up a notch, bighair monkey style?

We decorate the office elevator.

First, I had to clear it with Facilities, since mucking about with the elevator can get you in some serious trouble.  Enter Calvin – not only the guy with the authority to approve such a thing, but also with the keys to the elevator!  Calvin shows me the power outlet that lies behind the little locked door below the elevator buttons “in case you want to string up Christmas light”.  He also has access to the stereo that plays the elevator music, so we can play Engelbert Humperdinck and Pat Boone on continuous loop.

 

The elevator measure 8’x5’6”, so we have to build our own table – wide yet narrow so there is still room for occupants.  Handrails around the interior of the elevator give us support for attaching the table.

We Christmas wrap the table and suspend Christmas lights and other decorations from the ceiling, then load the table with cookies, munchies and Christmas punch.

With 10 floors in our office building, the judges are DEFINITELY going to be taking the elevator between floors during judging, and when they push the call button, our Christmas Elevator is waiting for them!

  

Who wouldn’t want to party in a Christmas elevator?

‘Cause every once in a while, it doesn’t have to happen all the time, but once in a while, something happens that is just so cool that you walk away from it, and you can’t believe that YOU DID THAT!
~ John Ward

That Awkward Moment

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

cartoon mastodons and meetings that slowly leech the happiness from your soul

…when someone asks you a question in a meeting and you realise you have no idea what they asked because you were busy doodling mastodons…

You know… the normal stuff for a creative soul that’s deeply dissatisfied with a technical career.
 ~ Philip Zinn (Musician, Networking Monkey)

Favor Society

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Dredd is a bartender at New York New York casino.  He usually works the night or graveyard shifts, starting work around 11pm and sometimes as late as 1am.  This works out pretty well since I can work through most of the day while he’s sleeping, and then we can muck about in the evening before he goes back to work.  It also means he seems to know just about everyone, and those he doesn’t know, share a friend of a friend of a friend who does know him.  There might be millions of tourists in Vegas each year, but the place is a lot smaller if you’re a local.

 There’s a HUGE “favor-society” in Las Vegas: bartenders comping drinks; doormen allowing priority access to a club or packed-out bar; house service tipping you in on the availability of extra desserts either left behind or available in unscrutinized abundance due to a convention or business faire being hosted at one of the gajillion casinos/hotels, and sometimes, rooms that are available for reduced prices due to one casino losing business to another for the aforementioned convention; on and on and on.  So sometimes, Dredd, in a conversation with some random, will comp a drink or two and in exchange receive a favour we can cash in at some other time.  Sometimes, one of his “regular friends” will drop him a tip or favour in exchange for future drink comps or a word from him to a doorman when one of the bars he’s working for the night is especially packed out.  It’s an interesting interplay to watch from the sidelines, especially since I benefit from the occasional free mini-cheesecake, chocolate mousse or club access.

Dredd loves Vegas.  He takes me down to “Old Vegas” and explains that Fremont Street is the location of the original casinos built in Vegas before “The Strip” took off with its large production themed casinos and tourist traps.  The four blocks of Fremont Street are covered with an arched, lighted canopy that allows for pedestrians to walk the street at any time, in any weather condition.  Giant flying fox lines run the length of the street: rides along the length, four stories above everyone else, available for a price.  Meanwhile, down below them, buskers, performers and kiosk sales do a bustling business at all hours of the night.  Regardless of the bright lights, much of the area shows its age, enticing gamblers with free drinks while playing slots that are “looser than your girlfriend!”  Since I don’t gamble or play slots, Dredd and I take advantage of the cheaply priced food and “free” street shows and spectacles that occur whenever large groups of people congregate.

Eventually, Dredd heads off to work and I crash for a few hours of sleep before waking for an early morning conference call, grateful no one requires the use of the webcam so they can’t see the dark circles under my eyes or the fact that I won’t shower or shave until sometime after lunch.  It gets me wondering why companies don’t see themselves more as “favor societies” – sure they’re paying their employees to do a job, but if that’s your only qualification, you can get anyone to do the job!  Shouldn’t it be a desire to get the BEST person for the job?  Not just based on experience, but in finding those people who are willing to trade the “favour” of a paycheque in exchange for the perks of working at a company that works with them?  What kind of productivity comes from working with employees to create an environment in which they want to work (motivated by more than money) or allowing them the option of working remotely?  While some companies still hold fervently to the concept of insisting their salaried employees come into the office to work every day, there are strong arguments for loosing the bands just a little and actually encouraging employees to TRULY manage their own time.  And with coffee shops and other places offering free wi-fi to draw THAT SPECIFIC CROWD, why not capitalise on it?!

Some will argue that the company has to pay to turn on the lights each day, regardless of whether or not employees show up, but the money saved by each computer that’s not drawing additional power adds up in savings surprisingly quick.  And the added incentive for employees to do well to continue to be allowed the “favour” of truly owning their own time results in happier, more productive, more creative employees and workplace savings.  Imagine the luxury for a parent who can get up, check email and statuses from home before helping to get kids out the door, able to drop kids at school if necessary, scheduling meetings around shopping, an afternoon nap or lunch with friends, and working around their schedule to be able to maximize personal and work time!  In some companies, this is called “standard”, but it’s not a luxury, it’s the result of a job that owns you.  But the work force of younger generations are steering away from this work model, and companies are going to need to work more closely with them to get newer, younger talent.  So why not put things in place now to benefit the older, experienced workforce as well and optimize the talent you’ve got while encouraging new employees who can benefit from the existing mentors?  Working for a company that doesn’t trust you to manage your own time to do the job for which you were hired does not result in long term happiness or job satisfaction.  One company I worked for went to the other extreme, insisting that their Sales team and Area Reps spend their time out with clients as much as possible, so instead of a cubicle (with photos and things they could personalize), they had generic “hot desks” that were setup with a phone and a laptop docking station for the occasion when Sales people were in the office, “encouraging” them to get back out in front of customers as quickly as possible  In my experience, it has been those companies that allow their employees to work their schedules within their week to best accomplish their job that get the best results – for example, as boring as my job gets at times, I can’t discard the ability to work remotely from Las Vegas while staying up to all hours of the night, and still being able to get my job done ‘cause I don’t have to make an appearance in the office!

…if you get the culture right, then most of the other stuff follows.
~ Tony Hsieh

Oh Green Bay…

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

Tebow’s exit along with his Denver Broncos from the NFL playoffs should have set us up for the extreme disappointment and heart break that was the Packers/Giants game.  But while the New England Patriots’ defensive line seemed to know every play the Bronco’s were planning prior to each snap (showing what a 1st ranked conference team should look like in a play-off game), Green Bay lost from what looked like… well… a bunch of dumb mistakes on their own part.  A terrible way to end the season. *sad sniffle*

Luckily, the Australian Open also started today, and with a first round MONSTER match win by top-seeded Aussie Bernie Tomic over Spain’s Fernando Verdasco (4-6 6-7 6-4 6-2 7-5 in 4hrs 11mins!), it looks like there should be plenty to keep me distracted from the NFL playoffs that have now lost their year-end lustre.  (Although… to their credit, both the Saints/49′ers game and the Houston/Baltimore games were battles worth watching, so if New England and New York continue to play the way did this weekend, we may have an awesome Super Bowl even if it is being played by two teams about which I care very little.  And speaking of horrible matchups – how would it feel to be Lleyton Hewitt facing a possible 2nd round confrontation with Andy Roddick??  What kind of lousy draw is that??!)