Overnight ramblings.

Oh well, so that failed, there’s no wireless access points that I can see from where I sit at this desk overnight. I’m at work, starting at eleven PM. It’ll probably be so boring that I’ll just jot down notes and rambling whenever I think of something.

23:00 The overnight. It’s a really boring shift from what I’ve heard, only about one call an hour when things on the network are running fine, or completely crazy if they are not. Let’s hope that it all goes well, I’ll just put up a recorded message begging people not to talk to me if it goes awry.

I’m starting at eleven, which means that seven and a half hours of paid work later, I’ll leave - taking into account my half hour unpaid lunch break, that’s seven AM. I don’t normally wake up that early, let alone start driving home from work then! Hopefully there will be markets running in the Valley Mall, which will let me buy some sunglasses for cheap so that the intense brightness of the morning sun won’t send me blind on the bleary drive home.

I woke up at 8:30 this morning, after about five hours sleep. I worked until 11pm last night, getting home around 11:45, then went to sleep around 3am. I planned to have a short sleep overnight, then a short sleep in the afternoon. It seems to have worked, I went to bed again in the dark coolness that is the spare room in my house at around three o’clock, snoozing and sleeping for a couple of hours until the alarm went off on my phone at eight. I’m not too tired, just a bit sleepy, probably from the fact that I’ve woken myself up twice in this sun-cycle after only half a normal cycle of sleep.

The main reason that I chose to take this shift is because I get paid more. Money’s a great thing, allowing you to pay the bills and so forth. On a Saturday, our hourly rate is increased by 10% as part of the workplace agreement we are under. As far as I understand, after 7PM, that rate is increased another ten or fifteen percent. After midnight, it goes up to 45% loading, increasing my hourly rate from (I think) fifteen dollars fifty to about twenty-three dollars an hour. Even after tax, it’s about $130 for the shift, which isn’t a small amount by my standards anyway.

23:14 four calls so far

Well, that was interesting, I just spoke to a customer where the last person they talked to was me! It happens, I used to take a lot of calls when was purely an agent - now that I’m a supervisor, I tend to take less. Besides speaking to the rep when she set up the handset, I’m the only person she’s spoken to from this company to access her account. It’s a random occurrence most people would ignore, but I think it’s pretty cool nonetheless.

So, let’s get back to why I took this shift. Money’s one thing, but I’m one of those people that believes in looking after the well-being of our staff - well, most of them, some can go suck a dick. At our company, we have three people that are full-time overnighters. They start anywhere from ten o’clock through to midnight, working their normal eight hours and so forth. Normally, there’s two of them on, allowing one of them to take a break when needed, and still having someone on the phones. This arrangement works well, since there’s three, and that allows them to have their two days off a week, and can allow for sick time and (generally) leave allowances.

23:21 five calls

The rostering department are pretty stupid. It’s all well and good to let people go on annual leave when they need it, but sometimes you have to take into account the fact that we need some staff to turn up to work, and enough of them so they don’t get overworked.

23:23 six calls

Tonight, they’ve let two of the overnighters have annual leave. This is rather annoying, since I’m the only one on, with no backup - imagine if for some reason I’d called in sick. The floor manager of the night would have had to work overnight, meaning that they would have been on from three o’clock Saturday until whenever the next person comes in - normally around six in the morning. Oh, I’m sure that someone could have come in, but on weekends especially, even the managers have no access to staff lists allowing us to call people to find out if they are able to cover the shift.

It’s not really an issue tonight, since I’m one of those people that never calls in sick, even when they are half-dead. I’ve only called in sick once (maybe twice) in the year that I’ve been working here, and the last time I did that - a couple of weeks ago - I got it approved as annual leave, taking some of the entitlements that I have worked for, instead of dead money the company has to pay me for sick pay. The main reason I went to the effort of doing that is because then it wouldn’t affect the monthly incentive we get paid, a large chunk of which is based on our attendance. If you take a day off, the company incurs more costs, so you’re not helping as much, hence less incentive. It makes sense from a business perspective, and on the part of the agents, it’s a good reason to not take a sick day just because you can’t be bothered turning up to work.

23:28 Half an hour since I logged in. Easy - only fourteen more half-hours of paid time and I’ll be done. Two fifteen minute paid breaks, where I can go and fill my lungs full of cigarette smoke, and a half hour unpaid break at 02:30 so I can go and eat the tasty-looking little bowls of weight watchers' frozen dinners I brought along with me.

I wish I could pick up a wireless access point from here, it’d let me get on line and do something fun with my time, like finish the articles I’ve been meaning to write for a while (which need access to the Internet so I can research)

Why is the word “Internet” capitalised?

23:35 7 calls

23:37 8 calls

Wow, some people have annoyingly limited comprehension skills, and crap phone lines.

23:43

Back to the Internet. Why is it capitalised? I guess because it’s a collective noun. It’s like the Borg, only less cool and more full of porn. I wonder if the Borg get porn popups? Good thing I looked at the phone on my desk then, I’d left myself in “not ready” which means I’m out of the queue. I seem to be getting interference somehow off the laptop when I put my hands on it. It creates a soft buzzing noise in my headset. As soon as I take my hands off, the buzzing is gone. This is going to get really annoying now that I’ve noticed it.

I think I’ll play some FreeCell for a while, just to keep my brain going and hopefully I’ll stop rambling. It’s now 23:46.

Ok, that sucked. FreeCell on the laptop’s really annoying to play because I don’t have an external mouse - something to remember for next time I do something like this. The stupid little clitoris-looking mouse pointer thing built into the keyboard is alright if you’re doing general stuff, I used to do some graphic design on another laptop that I had that had one, and it was slower and crappier than this one. It’s no fun to play card games on though, when you constantly have to use it.

23:49 I think I’ll read some of my book.

23:53 9 calls.

00:04 10 calls

00:24 12 calls

00:34 13 calls

00:55 People that work the overnight shift are a whole other class. They aren’t lower class, by any means, but they are certainly different. I could get used to living in this fluorescent-lit wonderland, waking when it’s night, and going to bed when the sun comes up. My only real justification for not wanting to do it as a full-time rostering option would be the fact that it’s relatively limiting as far as career advancement goes, and it’s downright limiting when it comes to social endeavours. The pay’s certainly good - it works out to be more pay than the service managers, and all you have to do is turn up and do the normal agent work. There’s correspondence work to do sometimes - things like address changes and other things that customers send through in the mail, but most of your work’s just taking calls.

I’d also get really ultra super bored all the time and need something to do - I’d need something like a software project to work on, and access to the Internet would be great. I could login and access it from my work PC, but that’s all tracked, and we’re not supposed to use it for anything but accessing the work applications.

01:15 14 calls

I’m definitely going to have to install Linux on this laptop so I can do some proper application development, or at least web server software so that I can play with Perl/Python web coding. There’s some XML stuff Clairey was playing with the other day that looks pretty interesting, it’ll keep me occupied for at least a couple of hours to get working.

XML’s a great idea - it allows for pure information transfer, with a relatively easy-to-parse standard format. All of the commonly-used programming languages have libraries and functions that allow for easy access to the data stored in XML format, and I’ve played with PHP’s implementation of it. It’s a bit complex to start with, because there’s a lot of information that a parser has to deal with, and you have to know what your data structures are going to be before you start working with the information, but after that you’re pretty much set. Of course, with any sort of programming, you have to know what you’re working with, so that’s alright 🙂

I wish I could find an open wireless access point from here, that would be so much fun. Even if I couldn’t actually access the Internet or even someone’s PC, it’d let me play with the logs from NetStumbler to test my Perl and Python file-parsing skills (which suck royally).

01:23

I had someone come and relieve me for my 15 minute break, and left this open. That was at 00:55, not long after I’d written the section saying”overnight people are a whole other class.” I hope they didn’t read it, she’s one of those overweight people with a complex that would probably take it all the wrong way. Then again, I could be completely wrong about her, and she could have taken it in the way that I intended, just an observation of the facts at hand. Oh well, what can I do now? Go and ramble on about an apology for something the person may not have read, information that they shouldn’t have looked at anyway, because it was on my private PC? Meh, I think I’ll just read my book. Maybe later, I’ll start an implementation of a piece of coding homework that a friend Craig asked me about a while ago to help with in Java, but I’ll try it in Python and maybe even Perl.

03:02

Well, only four hours to go, and I’m feeling fine - it seems that my sleep strategy has worked its tricks so far. I guess we’ll see how I go after 7am. Hopefully I’ll be able to go home, have an hour or two’s napping, then be back on my feet to finish a whole day’s doing whatever I end up doing. I’m rostered on to be back at work at one o’clock on Monday, which is a relatively early start for me, but that’s fine, I’ll just go to bed a bit earlier than usual and get up at ten or so.

It’s really quite strange the noise that I get in my headset when I put my hand on the laptop, this thing must be radiating some serious noise in the kilohertz band, or a harmonic of it. It’s probably just power supply noise and something off the fan’s sensor signals - that’s about the only thing that I can think of that would be the right range.

03:24 19 calls

03:27 20 calls

03:53 *yawn*

03:57

OpenOffice.org Writer seems to be quite a nice program. I’m using it to write up this log of my craziness, and it seems to be quite user friendly. The icons are all nice to look at, the gradients of the tool bar are well done, and all the dialogues that I’ve been ferreting around in seem to be well laid out. I still hate the OpenOffice file/folder dialogue - the Gnome and Windows ones are a lot more useful, so it’s set to use the system one. I don’t know if font rendering’s left up to the system or the program itself, but that’s well done, only once or twice has it uglified anything, and I think that was brought on by me changing display resolutions at one point. I’m using the 2.0 beta release, and it hasn’t done anything horrible to my files yet, or crashed - but I’m not really taxing anything that’s out of the ordinary.

AutoCorrect is a strange thing, it’s always jumping ahead of me to fill in words it thinks I am typing, or showing up spelling corrections for what I am typing. It seems to base its predictions on long words I’ve used in the document already. Whenever I type “over” it comes up with “overnighters” for example. Even on this slow old Celeron 433 or whatever it is, it’s quite responsive in anything I do - much better than the equivalent Microsoft products that we use here at work. Opening the program is the slowest part, which is understandable, but once it’s up, it’s up and going.

04:08 21 Calls

So, there’s been a grand total of 21 calls that have dropped into this queue since I’ve started - I think there could have been about three more when I was on breaks or something like that - but I won’t count them since I didn’t deal with them. Twenty-one calls, in five hours. Considering I’ve been on break for 45 of the 300 minutes that I’ve been here, that’s one call every just-over-twelve minutes. Most calls only take a minute or so to deal with - the longest tonight was an annoying non-English speaking person that wouldn’t accept the fact that I was trying to clarify his ramblings before doing things with his account. I’ve done about a half-hour’s worth of work, for four and a half hour’s pay. Anyone that complains about something like that is a jerk!

I’m reading Vernor Vinge’s “A Deepness in the Sky.” It’s a science fiction novel that my friend Denise gave me, and it’s seeming like an interesting one so far, that’s for sure. If I get really bored later, I’ll probably go into the storyline, but for now it’s about space, and non-humans, and stuff. It’s pretty cool, I’ve gotten about a quarter the way through it, most of that tonight.

04:19 Damn, that sucked. This laptop seems not to have enough graphics memory to support 1024×768 at 32-Bit colour. Combined with the LCD display, it makes for full-screen video at less than the full size of the screen, and some weird artifact issues when trying to watch some movies. The machine as a whole seems not to be able to handle DVD movies, which is a pity, since I would really like to be able to watch them sometimes when I’m in bed, or at work doing the overnight shift for example.

Could just be the programs I’ve been trying to use - VLC and media player classic aren’t the most optimised of movie viewers. I’ll try PowerDVD and whatever else I can find when I’m on the ‘net next - they might have better decoding algorithms or something. It seems rather pointless, having a DVD drive in a machine when it’s not actually fast enough to watch movies on. Then again, it’s from the era when DVD’s were first coming out, so DVD drives in anything and everything were really cool selling points, even if they were (and still are, rather) useless.

04:39 The cleaning crew just came through, guy and a girl, about my age - the girl was SUPER cute. The guy was cool, we chatted for a little while, he knew I wasn’t one of the normal staff, etc. They seem like a fun crew.

04:51 only nine minutes until my break, huzzah. I’m still not feeling the effects of my tiredness. My eyes are a little blurry, but that’s probably because I’ve been reading my book for most of the time, not looking away to focus on things far away to give my gumby eyes a rest.

05:10 Finished my break, on the home stretch - only 6600 seconds to go! Ok, I cheated on that one, I used a calculator, but my brain is tired! The cleaning crew is still here, putting plastic bags in the bins, and mopping the floors. I’d always wondered when they came in and did their thing, and here’s my answer. In my break I was watching the sun come up from the top of the car park, even in the seven minutes I was up there, I could see quite a change in the colour of the sky, going from a deep royal blue to a paler daytime blue. It’s a nice scene, even with the strong wind and freezing temperatures.

05:33 24 calls

People losing their phones, is there any wonder as to what lengths they’ll go to in saving themselves money AFTER they have done something stupid? The first question is nearly always “can I find out the calls” - nope, sorry, we don’t run a live call data mining system that would cause massive amounts of slowdowns just so you can find out who the thief is calling once they steal your phones. The second one is normally “what do I have to do to get that information?” and the answer to that is… sue us! Or at least get onto a lawyer and get the courts to order us to release the information.

I haven’t had anyone - until tonight that is - actually ask how much that process would cost. My answer was a simple “probably lots” because that’s how much it would cost. I guess you could do it without a lawyer, but even then you’d have to find some grounds to get the courts to release the information, and that would only be a serious thing where you’re looking for someone in particular. She didn’t seem too impressed with that answer - nor the suggestion to contact a legal representative, since we aren’t in the business of knowing how much it costs to go through the courts these days.

Oh well, tough, I thought she was gone, but no! She called back with what is normally one of the subsequent questions from people that have lost their phones - is it insured? Upon my answering, I could have sworn I was the bad person in this one, because no, we don’t insure phones or resell insurance because quite frankly, I’m sure it’d be a loss-making enterprise. The most expensive phone you can buy from us is $336, and I don’t think they even run to that price any more. Insuring something that’s so easily stolen, damaged or lost would have quite a high premium - generally higher than what it would cost most people to pay out the remainder of their handset instalments and any cancellation fees. At the moment, all our plans have a cancellation fee of $75, which is pretty normal, you’re paying for the phone, plus the time and money we’ve spent setting up your account, dealing with your problems, and then getting rid of you.

Most people don’t realise how much money it costs every time they have a network issue, or call us to dispute something stupid they didn’t research in the first place. The base cost is the fee that my company charges the client for the fact that you’re calling in. It changes based on call volumes and the Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) that the client decides on for that month, but lately it’s been about four dollars. So each time you call the phone company, it costs them four dollars to deal with your call. Most people don’t call once for each issue, sometimes there’s subsequent calls - just like little miss lost-her-phone before.

Things like network issues make life even more expensive for the company. In those cases, you’re talking about the cost of the call, then there’s the cost of the Technical Services Team (TST) associate in handling the issue, then the time of having that associate contact the customer, or refer it to another department to resolve the issue. Some issues need to be referred higher, or take an hour or two of testing (sometimes more) with the person that has the phone, and more things need to be done from there. It’s all part of the costs involved in running the company, and it’s nothing that the customer with the phone has to worry about, but geez - get your issues fixed the first time, ask all the questions you need, and accept responsibility for your own actions, people!

The best example of something costing WAY more than it seems is a copy of an invoice. We charge the customer $5.50 for a repeat copy of an invoice. Business customers get it for free, since we have to suck up to them for their business, and they tend to spend more than $20 a month on their invoices like most weenie consumers do. When you look at what goes into sending out one of these, it’s quite a lot. You have to take into account (as usual) the cost of paying my company to accept the call, that’s a normal cost incurred in any transaction with a customer. Then there’s the cost of paying the person to handle the request (we send what’s called a “case” to another department to get them issued). That takes about five minutes for each one, then there’s the cost of the paper, printer maintenance, postage, and all the rest of it. In training, we were told that it costs about $19 for a copy of an invoice, and from what I can work out, it’s not far off. I nearly had a heart attack when quoted $14 per copy of my credit card statements when I asked for them from ANZ, but looking at it - it makes sense in a user-pays scenario.

05:49 Only seventy minutes to go! That’s four hundred and twenty seconds! Twenty five calls so far, four of them in the last half an hour. It seems that people are either getting home from their nights out, or they are waking up with the realisation that yes, they did lose their phones, and yes, they are going to have a sucky day because of it.

05:57 People are arriving, time for me to shut down this laptop and look like I’m not ranting to the ether.

Well, at the end of the shift, I’d taken twenty seven calls in the eight hours I was logged on. Wow.



#Programming #Work