The end of my days with Gopher-Man, et al

Well, it’s official.  I’m leaving the world of Gopher-Man, Longback Guy, Barefoot Boss, and The Chinese Contingent.  Yep, I’ve got a new job.  I start in a couple of weeks.  I have high hopes that this gig will be a better fit for me than the last one was, though based on the many comments I have received about my Gopher-Man stories, I realize this may be something of a disappointment to many of you.  I’m sorry about that, but I hope to find new characters for you when I begin my next adventure in the world of software (this time I’ll be back in the world of Marketing again, too, which holds a lot of promise for ridiculous work related stories).  I will be commuting into the city again, which should translate into many fun-filled tales of crazy BART interactions or observations, but until then, I leave you with a couple entries from my Blog Spam folder for entertainment.

Comment #1:

“I expect that what you say is true, but which one of us can understand all these changes these days”

Comment #2:

“At the same time my two brothers prayed to Mary, cited saints and periodically wandered into very odd doctrines indeed.”

Enough said…

Happy New Year, and may you see many vegetable people in 2012

I was just glancing through “Old Friend from Far Away,” thinking it’s been a while since I just wrote randomly from a writing prompt.  I stopped on a page titled “Radish.”  The first paragraph opens:

“This is a wish. When you are writing about a radish, that you and the radish meet face to face. That you stay specific, present, and direct and through your true intention the radish becomes RADISH. You instantaneously summon the particular and also give life to the essence of that buried root plucked up red and edible.”

It’s good advice, I think, as I’m typing it out now, but that’s not what came to mind when I began to read.  I got distracted by memories of vegetable people.  I went through an odd phase a long time ago, when I couldn’t help but compare people to vegetables.  Visually, I mean.  One night, I was sitting at IHOP with my roommate and best friend, and someone walked in and I said, “Doesn’t that woman look like broccoli?”  My friend worked hard not to spit out his coffee, but in the end, he agreed that she looked surprisingly like a stalk of broccoli.  I can’t picture her anymore or I’d describe it for you better.  You might think people don’t really look a lot like vegetables, and maybe you’re right.  But, I challenge you to give it some thought.  You may not always see a vegetable when you look at a person, but you will be surprised how often you do, if you just think about it.  Leave your mind open to the fact that people can resemble, or at the very least, remind you of, vegetables.  Or other foods, if you need a broader target.

In the next few days, you might find yourself noticing that someone with a mottled complexion makes you think of frozen mixed vegetables, or someone that stands stiffly brings to mind a carrot.  Perhaps a balding man reminds you of a peeled onion, or someone else with spiky hair makes you think of the root end of a green onion.  The point is, allowing yourself the extra space to think about random things like this might make you smile just a little more frequently, and we could all stand to do that.  My New Year’s resolution is to see more vegetable people this year.

I haven’t given it a lot of thought until this minute, but if I had to classify a few of the characters I’ve introduced you to here, I’d say this.  My partner most resembles a stalk of celery (she’ll probably want to smack me for this comparison, but I mean no harm).  Barefoot boss – he’s a fingerling potato.  Gopher-man, hmm, I’ll have to come back to him – a cabbage, maybe.  Long Back Guy, an unripened Fresno chili.  The Guatemalan, a pineapple.  Cat Power, a roma tomato. Grass-phobia girl, a crimini mushroom.  Me, I probably look sort of like an eggplant.  Happy New Year!

Everything is riding on gopher-man

And that’s got me really, really nervous…  I have a huge release going into production tonight – in fact, lucky me – I get to work from 5pm Saturday evening to 8am on Sunday.  That’s right – no sleep for me tonight.  The thing is, tonight only happens if gopher-man gets his work done.  Which was supposed to be done yesterday.  And I was supposed to hear from him last night.  And I am still waiting…

While I am waiting, I will share a few more office updates.  I have to admit that I think I found just the right name for gopher-man.  We have a development meeting every Wednesday, and every person involved with this particular client, who happens to be our biggest client, is required to be at this meeting.  Gopher-man is one of those people.  At the start of the meeting, he was not present.  So, barefoot boss asked someone sitting near the door of the conference room to go fetch gopher-man.

“K,” he said. “Will you please go get [gopher-man].  He is going to tell you he is too busy and cannot interrupt his work, but tell him he has to come anyway.”

K leaves the room, returns thirty seconds later, waits for the next break in conversation and says, “I told [gopher-man] to come, but he says he is too busy and can’t stop his work.”

Many of us sigh and roll our eyes.  The meeting continues.  Perhaps two minutes later, gopher-man appears.

“Ah, there you are,” says barefoot boss.

Again, the discussion continues and a few minutes later, a question is raised which gopher-man should answer.  Barefoot boss turns to look at gopher-man, who has disappeared into a hole.

“Where’s [gopherman]?  Darnit – he escaped again!”

So now I know I am not the only one that thinks gopher-man is sneaky and disappears into some invisible  hole none of the rest of us can see.


I wrote this post last Saturday, then forgot to publish it…  So, the unknown ending I began with is now known – but, you’ll have to wait to hear how it turned out…

My boss is a sprinter

I’ve introduced you a little bit to my boss – the one that takes his shoes off all the time, and uses elaborate vocabulary it doesn’t seem normal people use.  It occurred to me a few days ago that I never shared the fact that he is a sprinter.  The odd thing is that he does his sprinting through the office.  Maybe he also does it outdoors or at a track somewhere, but I kind of think he limits it to the office.  For some reason, he can never remember to bring his cell phone with him, and it tends to ring just when he couldn’t be further away from it.  A conscientious guy that doesn’t want to put anyone out, he will run at lightning speeds through our office, in an attempt to pick up before a caller has to leave a message.  I wonder if he realizes how disturbing it is to hear his feet pounding across the floor as though he’s trying to escape an axe murderer.

Our office is really quite long – in fact, he might even be able to manage the 100-yard dash if he went from end to end.  The first time I heard him, I thought something had gone seriously wrong.  Why on earth would someone run like mad through the office?  I wandered out of my cubicle and looked around to make sure no one was hurt or anything, but found nothing amiss, so I went back to continue staring at my screen.  Now, when I hear his cell phone ring in his office, I know to expect the stampede coming immediately thereafter.  I don’t keep myself in very good shape, so I am probably not capable of doing the 100-yard dash in my office.  But even if I were, and even if I had the unfortunate habit of leaving my cell phone far away from my present location, I just can’t imagine running at top speed to catch it before the 4th ring.  Maybe I should try it – I could certainly use the exercise…

Kudos from my co-workers

It is uncharacteristic of me to share something like this because I tend not to want to toot my own horn, but I have to share this email that was sent to my boss because I’ve been posting some about the challenges of communicating with my offshore co-workers.  It’s probably completely un-PC for me to say this, but this I thought this email was adorable – and speaking of vocabulary, ‘adorable’ is not a word that would generally come out of my mouth.  Not even when looking at kittens.  Anyway, read on…  I will use [M] to represent [My name].

Hi [My boss that takes his shoes off all the time],

As I talked to QA leaders these days, some feedback from them for [M] are that she’s a very responsible PM who’s always ready to step out answering/resolving project related questions/problems, she doesn’t hesitate to ask around to help if she doesn’t know the answers, she always tries to make project plan better and detailed including bugs and risks.

Although [M] is a new PM for [our main software system], she represents us that she’s willing to make this project better, which encourages us a lot to work towards the same goal with her.

I want to say Thank You here to [M] and report these to you as [M’s] good behaviors.

Needless to say, I’m grateful for the feedback.  Perhaps even more so because of the not-so-perfect English.  It sure is nice when people make an effort to share positive feedback about the people they work with.  We should probably all try it a little more…

Vocabulary Lessons

Recently at work, I’ve been privy to a number of conversations or emails that are really amusing vocabulary lessons in disguise.  Or, at least I like to think of them that way.  It’s my automatic defense to the ridiculous level of intelligence I am surrounded by every day.  If I look at it as entertaining, I won’t think so much about how much my vocabulary just plain sucks in comparison.  Most of the work I and my immediate coworkers do involves making changes to a prodigious software system.  Each project gets named with a phrase that is meant to explain what the work is about.  Fix such-and-such file, or modify file processor to accept .xyz file type.  These names are not very exciting, and sometimes they border on obscene in their length or phrasing.  Like this one:  Reports for ABC jobs should indicate they are reports for ABC jobs.

In a meeting where upcoming projects were being discussed, my boss that doesn’t like to wear shoes took issue with the name of a new initiative.  It is called, “ABC Process Tuning.”  Tuning, to him, and probably to lots of other people, means tightening, optimizing – somehow making something run better.  But, apparently that is not what this project is really about.  It’s more like a housecleaning project.  Get rid of extra junk that’s not needed.  That project name would work for me, but my boss’ argument was this:

“That title is a misnomer.  It’s misleading.  I mean, you’re not really tuning anything, are you?  You are simply removing detritus!”

Now, I had heard that word before.  I could immediately spell it in my head.  And, it was fairly easy to determine the meaning based on context, but I didn’t really know what it meant.  Last night, lying in bed, thinking I was telling a rather funny story to my other half, I recounted this situation in some detail, and as soon as I got to the detritus punch-line, she sleepily said, “Oh, I know what that means.  It’s used all the time with regard to plant biology.”  Come on!  Am I the only person surprised to hear this term used in everyday speech?

According to, the meaning is:




1.  rock in small particles or other material worn or broken away from a mass, as by the action of water or glacial ice.
2.  any disintegrated material; debris.
I guess between those two, I like the first description best, because I can imagine our massive software system being slowly ground away by an ancient glacier.  The only way to survive being a software project manager is to find humor and entertainment wherever you can, no matter how cheap or weak it is….

On workplace lingo

So, the lingo at my new job is kind of amazing.  I have worked in technology for more than fifteen years, so you’d think I would not be surprised by the language I hear at a software development shop.  That is so not the case!  I find it highly entertaining, so below are a few terms, phrases, and general oddities of speech and language that I’m hearing on a daily basis.

My boss, the one that walks barefoot, managed to use both the phrase “think outside the bun,” and the term, “quiesces” in the same sentence yesterday.  He was responding to someone else’s question about what we might do if a particular solution to a problem we have didn’t work.  He said, “Well, then, we’ll just have to think outside the bun, and if the application quiesces, it will all be moot, anyway.”  He seems to have a real penchant for sayings.  I know I should come up with a better descriptor than “sayings,” but I just can’t quite classify what he says as analogies, metaphors, similes, or euphemisms.  To my mind, they just don’t fit perfectly in any of those buckets.

Then, today, we had a “lunch and learn.”  For you non-corporate types, that’s just a way of saying everyone has to work through lunch to listen to someone explain something you may or may not already understand because the powers that be cannot justify taking away from your normal work time to do something entirely internal, which is not billable to some client.  This lunch and learn was about how to present the company if you were manning a booth at a big software trade show.  Part of the presentation was to discuss the various “messages” we would want to convey to the innocent people that wander too close to our booth.  We are considered a very high-end software consulting company, and we don’t operate like many other consulting companies do – where some big company calls on the consulting firm, and the consulting firm ships a person or three over to the client’s location to do whatever work they need done.  Instead, we build long term relationships, and we do all our work in-house.  That background is only important for you to have some understanding of what my boss tossed out as his opinion of what our company is – or is not.  He said, “We are not a body shop!  We are project based!  Give us your tired, your hungry, your poor……Mm Hmm”

Some other terms that have been bandied about in the past week and a half that are interesting…

When someone’s availability is in question, you do not say, “Does so-and-so have time to do this work?”  You say, “Does so-and-so have cycles.”  And in my case, I received an email that asked not only if I had cycles, but if I “had enough to prosecute this activity.”

In the information age, it is a common problem to have way too much information lying around.  Often, the information is out of date, or there are seventeen versions of some document, none of which tells the whole picture, and some of which completely contradict each other.  My new company’s way to handle this is to insist that a core value is to only recognize a single version of the truth.  I haven’t yet decided what cult-like comparison I can make on this one, but what it really means is that we are all supposed to put information only in one place, and we should worship that place.  There are actually multiple places when it comes down to it – document storage systems, project status forms on a website, time tracking entries in an accounting system, project plans on a server.  My boss calls these “first-order artifacts,” and I can’t tell you how many times I hear the phrase, “one truth,” or the phrase “single truth” every day.

I have begun jotting down the amazing phrases I hear every day, because I know I would forget most of them otherwise.  All I can say is that I’m thrilled that I will not only be making money working at this job, but I will also be expanding my vocabulary, significantly, it seems, on a daily basis.  More on this as it develops…

New people

So, at my new job, I’ve certainly met some interesting new characters people.  If I were the wuc, I could write amazing and hilarious things about my new coworkers.  In truth, I know I will never be so funny, but, here are a few anecdotes, anyway.

My new boss is a slightly quirky guy.  He sometimes digresses into a personal conversation with himself while he’s talking to someone else.  He does so mostly under his breath, and eventually says, “But, that’s neither here nor there.”  He also ends practically every conversation with, “Mmm Hmm,” even if there is absolutely nothing to affirm at the end of the discussion.  Last, he walks around barefoot a lot.  Well, not completely barefoot – he wears socks, but must not be so fond of shoes.

On Monday, two new tech guys started working with us.  I’m not positive what their titles are, but that’s besides the point.  One of them is clearly from the I-live-in-a-basement-or-some-other-such-tech-nerd-cave tribe.  In technical discussions, training sessions where he is being introduced to new things, even – he is eager to talk and talk, but if I picture him in a social setting, I imagine he says few words – at least without drawing puzzled stares from listeners.  He could stand to wash his hair.  He is a stocky guy, has a very round face with quite small glasses that don’t seem sufficiently big to cover his field of vision.

The other is a very small guy – short, petite, I’d almost say.  He has an accent I have yet to place, is less gregarious in meetings, but asks a lot of questions – probably a good thing when you’re trying to pick things up.  When the answers seem sort of obvious, he tends to try to make clear that is exactly what he assumed.  He, too, wears glasses, but his are really, really big glasses that seem almost as big as his small head, and they are strong.  When you look at him face on, they magnify his eyes in a buggish sort of way.

DISCLAIMER:  In the unlikely event that any of my coworkers ever discovers this blog, and then discovers that I write it, I share these descriptions with the utmost sense of professional affection and absolutely no intention of offending anyone.

Any characters you’d like to share?