Office Etiquette: Hand-Chiseled On Holy Tablets

You don’t have to look like this to be a good I.T. consultant.I’m not sure why, but the office I’ve been working in for the past couple of months seems to have a high concentration of people who don’t grasp the unwritten rules of office etiquette to which I am familiar. Rules that I like to believe are common place in the U.S. professional workplace. I’m not saying that there is an unusually large percentage of people from other nations working here. I’d say the mix is similar to most other places I’ve worked. And as a I.T. contractor, I can say that I get around.

The Restroom
I can understand that people can be a bit uneasy in the restroom. Let’s face it, its not the the most pleasant place to spend time. Everybody’s heard some story about somebody, somewhere catching something from a visit to a dirty restroom. But come on, unless you work in a gas station, you’re not using a gas station bathroom. You’re slapping your pampered backside down on the same, daily-sanitized porcelain as other people who spend their whole day doing nothing more irresponsible than eating an extra donut or drinking burnt coffee.

I see some crazy stuff people do to deal with the terror of the white collar restroom. Toilets embalmed in toilet paper. Unflushed urinals. Piles of paper towels laying in the corner between the wall and the hinge-end of the door. I’m all in favor of the touch-free bathroom experience, especially in bars and the airport. But in the office of a computer consulting firm? What the hell?

Let’s review. Here are the restroom related things people must begin doing immediately. Immediately.

  1. Flush the damn toilet. It’s so easy, even if it isn’t done for you automagically. Most flush levers offer little resistance, so training is not required.
  2. Throw your paper towels in the trash where they belong. Yes, I read the same report you did. Door handles have cooties. If you must open the door with your partially used paper towel, take it with you until you find a trash can. Do not, repeat, do not throw it on the floor where you think there should be a trash can.
  3. Clean up your mess. See #1 and #2. Be creative, you can apply this rule to toilet seats and sink counters.
  4. Wash your hands. Every single time. This week I witnessed a guy walk out of a stall and directly out the door. Toward me. I ran screaming in terror. And this guy died of typhoid. Actually he probably didn’t, but he might be really sick by now. I wouldn’t advise shaking his hand. Or Sheryl Crow’s, for that matter. (Yeah, I know, supposedly it was a joke, but if you use a paper towel to open the door, you probably want to use one when shaking her hand, just in case.)

The Break Room
This important point of office interaction is one of the other major locations of ridiculous violations of etiquette and common sense. Unlike the restroom, the point of this area is enjoyment. You’ve got your water cooler. The coffee pot. The snack machine. And so forth. People loiter and talk here. (Well, probably not as much as they should. Nobody wants to be seen as that slacker who’s taking a five minutes away from his or her desk.) But for some reason, this area of pleasure is often transformed into an irritation by people who don’t clean up after themselves, or take the extra minute to replace supplies they’ve used. And you know not everybody is running late to a meeting. And if they are, maybe they should consider hitting the break room after the meeting. (There’s a lot more time then!)

But enough talk. Let’s get to the list of break room rules.

  1. If you kill it, you must fill it. This is the single most important rule of office life, and strangely the one most often broken. If you take the last bit of coffee, and it’s earlier than 4:30 PM, you are a complete bastard if you don’t start up another pot. If there’s any any doubt lingering in you mind as to whether you should make one or not, do it. Or face possible retribution in the afterlife. From the holy book of Second Lumburgh: “Yea verily, quoth the Lord, he that drinketh the dark nectar of the bean and replaceth it not for his brethren shall be wretched in my sight. I shall smite him with pimples in uncomfortable areas, and cause his hair to wither and fall upon his resting cot. And also I shall smite his coffee, that it be as decaf all the days of his life. Thus it shalt be, totally.” Hey don’t shoot the messenger here, it’s there.
  2. Clean up your mess. Yep, it works here too. Isn’t it great how applicable this is? Keep thinking, you’ll find some other great places to apply this rule! πŸ˜› (Exceptions apply for people who bring in pastries.)
  3. Lab experiments in the office fridge. Though I don’t use it myself, the office refrigerator is not a petri dish for the budding mad scientist. I wouldn’t care about this one, but I get sick of seeing the all-office email about cleaning out the fridge. It’s kind of implied by #2, but merits special mention.
  4. Separation of your drool and the water purifier/cooler is essential. You know I love working with you. That doesn’t mean I want to make out with you. Really, your cold sore looks so much better on you than on me. Please, please, please leave a bit of space between the shared water tap and you 6-month old water bottle. (Give some thought to one of those new, wide-topped bottles. You might be able to pick one up when you get your next bonus.)

Janitorial Etiquette (Bonus!)
You didn’t see this one coming, did you? Well, the truth of the matter is that not all violations of important office etiquette are self-centered A personality types. The folks doing the scrubbing and vacuuming need to also follow a few rules to keep the business running smoothly. There are a few essential rules of janitorial service that are so important that failure to follow them should lead to immediate dismissal. And deportation to country of citizenship. ( πŸ˜† I just couldn’t pass that up… You know you were thinking it.)

  1. The soap dispensers are the most important piece of machinery you service. They should be tested every time, and under no circumstances should they ever be allowed to be empty. If left empty for more than 24 hours, any janitorial staff found on the floor of the offending soap dispenser should be fair game for a swirly.
  2. Paper supplies are important too, leave extra. There should never be a scenario where paper products run short. Paper towels, toilet paper, and hand towels. There should extra of all of these be located wherever these products are used. The swirly rule applies here too, except that this time, the swirly recipient gets a quick toilet paper pre-wrap before the punishment is performed. (The point here is to stress the paper issue.)
  3. You have no say on office or break room layout. Just because you empty the trash or rinse out the coffee pots doesn’t mean you have a say in where they should live. While your attempts to optimize the layout might be appreciated, generally speaking its less productive for us to have to walk across the office to throw away the sheet of paper with our doodles of the boss swinging from a yardarm and being eaten by sharks. Optimal clean time does not equal optimal office productivity. The punishment? Oh, I think you know by now.

While I have made every attempt to be comprehensive here, I may have left off an item or two. Be creative and apply whatever sense is common in your location. I know you can handle it. πŸ™‚

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Fighting Momentum With Insane Friday Miscellany

Escape Graffiti - Lisbon, PortugalIt’s been a scary, fun, crazy and exhausting weekend. In keeping with the policies set forth in my post The Most Pointless Posts Ever, I make no apologies for my two-day blogging absence. Hey, a life not lived is not worth blogging about. You can quote me on that. (I’ll assume the check is in the mail.) But a blog at rest sometimes needs a bunch of random stuff to get moving again. And here that stuff is.

The Planned: Bachelor Party
The big planned event of the weekend was a Dave Nelson‘s bachelor party. I mention him by name so I can plug his photography website. Great guy, great photographer. (And since he didn’t invite me to the wedding, that’s the best gift I can give him! πŸ™‚ )

Contrary to what you might expect, this event did not involve generous displays of tramp stamps bouncing in time to suggestive popular music with good bass lines. (My blog gets so much search engine love from tramp stamps ever since my 12 Undead Fashion Atrocities post, I just had to mention them again. 😈 ) The evening carried a lighter rating, an “R” for off-colored humor, beer and cigars, and horribly played pool. If I hadn’t been playing pool, we might have gotten away with a PG-13, but there you go.

We spent the evening at the Funny Farm Comedy Club in the ‘burbs of Atlanta (map to it). In spite of being kind of hard to locate, even when you’re standing right outside of it, it’s a pretty fun place. Pool tables, tons of arcade games, darts and a pretty large bar. Anyway, a twenty got us in to see three comedians, none of them I’d ever seen before. I would have known the headliner if I had been watching Last Comic Standing recently. Our main attraction, Ty Barnett (official website), was runner up on the program. I can see why, he was pretty funny. Here for your viewing pleasure is a clip of his performance on the aforementioned show:

To be honest, he was actually funnier live than this clip, but this happens to be the clip that was sent to me with the bachelor party invitation. He only told a couple of the jokes you see here, and he introduced some new material. (Or so he said. Hey, it made us feel special.) It looks like there’s quite a few other videos of him up on YouTube, so you can probably get a pretty good feel for his act.

Of course my favorite part of the evening was the cigars. Based on my growing reputation as a guy who knows a thing or two about cigars (it’s two things, exactly πŸ™‚ ), I got to make recommendations on the cigars we should smoke. For about two minutes, I was a tobacconist, showing a friend through a large walk in humidor, advising on the price-to-quality ratio of several different brands. We wound up settling on the CAO Gold Robusto, which I just happened to review on this blog recently. The best part of all is that I got a free cigar out of it. (Now if I can just get CAO to start sending me cigars to review and recommend, I’ll be in heaven. That offer is also open to you Ashton… And you too Diamond Crown! πŸ˜€ )

The Unplanned: Bottle O’ Pills
I gotta be a bit careful with this part of the post. If it weren’t of a such a sensitive nature, I could give this post an awesomely catchy title. Exploitative, but it’d be catchy. And I’m passing up a huge opportunity for witty puns too.

All kidding aside, an old friend of mind who as been battling a substance abuse issue made an attempt on his/her own life. (That’s right, not telling you who it is, or what the person’s gender is.) At least, that’s what it looks like now. It involved a bottle of pills, the realization that a mistake was made, and a quick early morning trip to the hospital. My involvement was all phone and email. I was in the loop just enough to know that something was really wrong and have a good idea what had happened, but not enough to know how bad things were.

It was only short minutes before the bachelor party began that I was assured that this friend was both in reasonably good condition and that steps had been by his/her family to address my friend’s serious and worsening problem.

The Secretly Planned: The Layoff
Don’t worry, your humble blog-espondent is still gainfully employed. However, the same can’t be said about a large group of people I know and occasionally work with. On Friday, my favorite place to contract was officially bought out by a competitor for their non-human assets. As a clever person, you know that means that axe didn’t actually fall that day. It was raised into prime hacking position in preparation. The fun part is that the axe-ees knows this too and are now trying to figure out when it’ll begin lopping heads. But they have to pretend they’re not spending the all their remaining employment time speculating about severance packages and complaining. (I feel a pro-consulting, anti-salary post coming on… 😈 )

The weird thing about this past Friday was that aside from a little additional stress and a shortness of time to sleep, relax or blog, I was completely unscathed. It was as though I was in the eye of a vicious shit-storm, with cows and double-wide trailers circling wildly all around, but I was standing in a quiet field of butterflies smoking a cigar. Without burn issues. I guess it was kind of like being in shock, except without the life-threatening injury.

Anyway back in the more literal world, I actually don’t anything to complain about. And I’m not. I’m just tired.

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The Word On Cigars And Health Concerns

Random leaves could be tobacco leaves, but they're not...I don’t think there’s anybody left who doesn’t know that any use of tobacco, whether it be smoked, chewed, or rolled around in, may cause cancer. That’s no longer a mystery at this point, no matter what the soccer-mom juries decide in the next people v. tobacco class action lawsuit.

What is still a mystery, at least to me, is how dangerous cigars actually are, especially in comparison to cigarettes. Nearly all the bad, scary stuff you hear about tobacco assumes the tobacco in question comes in the form of a cigarette. It would seem to me that cigars must be less dangerous than cigarettes for three reasons:

  1. Cigar smokers typically don’t inhale the smoke. The ones that do are often also cigarette smokers and have a higher tolerance for inhaled smoke. (I don’t know this for sure, but I suspect inhaling cigars frequently might be the fast train to emphysema-land.)
  2. The tobacco used in cigars is less chemically processed and more natural than the tobacco used in cigarettes.
  3. Cigar smokers tend to smoke with less frequency than cigarette smokers.

If I left off here, I probably wouldn’t have said anything you haven’t heard before. And both of us would leave this blog with a nice warm fuzzy and go make that fuzzy a bit warmer by lighting up a good cigar. But since I’m not any sort of medical professional, you should know the above reasons are just a combination of my own crackpot theories, and the second hand information I have picked up in my years of stogie puffing.

Since I’m all about adding value, I decided to do a little leg work. So here, in no particular order are some tidbits I picked up from reputable sources online regarding the health risks of cigars:

Cigar Health Tidbits

  • One cigar a week is unlikely to have serious health consequences. (4)
  • In terms of health risks, puffing on a stogie but not inhaling is roughly the equivalent of smoking two cigarettes. Inhaling boosts the exposure to the equivalent of as many as three cigarettes. (4)
  • Smoking one to two cigars per day doubles the risk for oral and esophageal cancers. Smoking three to four cigars daily can increase the risk of oral cancers to more than eight times. (1)
  • The health risks associated with occasional cigar smoking (less than daily) are not known.(1)(3)
  • Cigar smokers who have a history of cigarette smoking are more likely to inhale cigar smoke. (1)
  • Cigarettes are generally contain less than 1 gram of tobacco each. Large cigars can contain between 5 and 17 grams of tobacco. Some premium cigars contain the tobacco equivalent of an entire pack of cigarettes. (1)(2)
  • The lung cancer risk from moderately inhaling smoke from five cigars a day is comparable to the risk from smoking up to one pack of cigarettes a day. (1)
  • The measurements of the carbon monoxide (CO) concentration at a cigar party and a cigar banquet in a restaurant showed indoor CO levels comparable to those measured on a crowded California freeway.(1)
  • Cigar consumption declined by about 66 percent from 1973 through 1993, but has increased more than 50 percent since 1993. (1)
  • Studies show that men who smoke at least five cigars a day and report moderate inhalation, experience lung cancer deaths at about two-thirds the rate of men who smoke one pack of cigarettes a day.(2)
  • Secondhand cigar smoke has much higher concentrations of toxins and carcinogens than do cigarettes.(2)
  • The sharp rise in the popularity of in gourmet coffee and microbrewery beers has led to a large increase in cigar smoking particularly among young and middle-aged white men (ages 18 to 44) with higher than average incomes and education.(3)
  • The risk of death from lung cancer for cigar smokers that do not inhale is not as high as it is for cigarette smokers, but is still three times higher than the risk for nonsmokers. (3)

The Verdict
It looks like I was actually not too far off with the three impressions I mentioned earlier. The key to enjoying cigars and and minimizing your potential health risks seems to be not inhaling the smoke. Since very few cigar smokers do that, it’s my opinion that there’s more hype than health risk to cigar smoking. (Something tells me that the late centenarian George Burns would agree with me on this.)

The thing I find troubling is that some of the statistics give the odds for various health issues, without ever identifying how many cigars a day they’re basing their facts on. Based on repeated references to the impacts of five cigars a day, I’m thinking that five is assumed to be average. I just have to ask, who the heck has the time and the money to smoke five cigars a day? That’s the problem with statistics like these, they’re assembled by non-smokers. πŸ™‚

And finally, I didn’t see any information on the comparison of the quality and purity of the tobacco between cigars and cigarettes. So my idea that the tobacco in a cigar is actually less damaging due to chemicals used in cigarette tobacco may just be a crackpot theory I made up while smoking a cigar. If you happen to come across information one way or the other on this, feel free to leave a comment and let me know!

OK, there’s a cigar waiting for me with my name on it… πŸ™‚

My Sources

  1. National Cancer Institute: Questions and Answers About Cigar Smoking and Cancer
  2. American Lung Association: Cigar Smoking Fact Sheet
  3. American Cancer Society: Cigar Smoking: Growing Popularity Amoung Young Adults
  4. University of Southern California: Cigar Smoking Remains Serious Health Risk (via CigarLife)

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Making Good On My Pledge, Thanks Everyone!

Fight Diabetes with Team Hanselman!

Thank you to everyone that donated to Team Hanselman during the blog matching challenge! I don’t have the final word yet, but it sounds like it was a great success! I got word this morning that the donations had indeed cross the $1000 mark. (Just before you called James! 😈 )

Anyway, I’ve made good on my pledge:

My Donation to ADA

If you haven’t donated yet, there is still time. The actual walk takes place on October 20th, 2007, and I’m pretty sure you can make donations right up unit that date. I will leave the donation banner in my side bar until then for your convenience.

Thanks again for your help!

Today’s The Day To Magnify Your Charitable Gift!

Fight Diabetes with Team Hanselman!If you’ve been waiting to make a charitable donation to the American Diabetes Association until it can do the most good, your wait is over. Starting today at noon PST (3 PM EST, 7 PM GMT) the donations you make through Team Hanselman will be matched by 7 blogs! Help us make our $50,000 goal!

The Links:

Thank you for your help!
Fight Diabetes with Team Hanselman!

You Can Help Defeat Diabetes, More Than You Realize

Fight Diabetes with Team Hanselman!A good friend and former colleague of mine is trying to raise $50,000 for the American Diabetes Association to help cure diabetes. It’s a lofty goal, and he’s got a way to go. I want to help and I’d like to ask you for your help also.

If you’ve visited my blog recently, you’ve seen the little fight-diabetes image in the side bar. If you’ve considered giving some money to help fight diabetes through “Team Hanselman” but haven’t yet, you have a golden opportunity.

If you make a donation during the this weeks Blog “Donation Matching” Challenge announced on Scott Hanselman’s blog your donation will be matched by 7 different blogs/bloggers. I am one of those bloggers, and the list may still be growing! That’s right, even if you can only give $10, your money does $80 worth of good starting Weds, May 9th at Noon PST until Friday, May 11 at Noon PST. And of course, your donation will be tax deductible. 100% of all donations will go to the American Diabetes Association.

I am putting my money where my mouth is. (And given the size of my mouth it’s gonna be costly πŸ˜‰ ) I will be personally matching up to at least $1000 of the contributions made during the challenge. I hope you will let me match your donation! Help me give the whole $1000!

Here’s what you need to know to donate:

You can also click any of the banner images in this post to get more information and make your donation. If you lose track of this post, you can also use the image in the side bar. Thank you for your help!

Fight Diabetes with Team Hanselman!

The Nintendo Wii: Your Next Exercise Machine?

I was intrigued by the Nintendo Wii when I first heard about it. It sounded like a game system concept with huge potential. (For those that don’t already know, it uses motion and/or light sensors in special controllers to allow you play games with a more realistic range of physical motion.) Though I wasn’t in the market for a new game system at the time, I really hoped it be successful. I could see myself eventually buying one once the price dropped.

A short time later, I ready Scott Hanselman’s post on getting a Wii for his birthday. Between this comments on the system and the video of his wife playing it, I was sold. (Seriously, watching the clip of his wife playing with a big, happy smile on her face has got the be the best Wii advertisement ever. Way better than creepy Japanese guys driving around in a Smart Car.) Ok, so now I want one. I want one enough that I started secretly (i.e. keeping my wife in the dark) scanning shelves to check on Wii prices. I didn’t have to keep my search secret for long. There were no Wiis on shelves anywhere. Nor were there any at any major online retailers. All I could find were scalpers selling their extra Wiis for $450. $450! The original price was $250, talk about a handy profit! (Even now the prices are around $390.)

Well, as if to sprinkle salt on the wound, just this evening I came across the blog for a guy who is using his Wii to lose weight! And it’s working! The latest post on his blog indicates that he’s 6 weeks along and he’s lost 16 pounds. The idea of weight loss or increased fitness had occurred to me when I first heard about the Wii, but I assumed the potential was limited. Anyway, the story is so compelling that it has driven tens of thousands of visitors to his website, has attracted media attention, and most importantly, has me writing a post about it. πŸ™‚

Ah to think what could have been if I had been an early adopter… But for now it’s the waiting game (which doesn’t burn many calories), and my condo’s gym.

UPDATE: I was checking my blogs, and it looks like the story is much bigger than J.R.’s fitness plan, I hadn’t read around enough. Engadget has posts about a guy who lost 9 pounds using his Wii, and a personal trainer who uses the Wii in his fitness plans. Additionally, it looks like Nintendo may be embracing this trend, and coming out with Wii weights. It’s beginning to look like a fitness revolution! Man this just makes not having one even worse…

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Gray Hair: Case Closed?

Last night I was looking in the mirror. It had been a few days since I shaved, and I noticed a number of gray hairs in my goatee. Of course my brain did what it always does when when I’m about to get some sleep- it chases down tangents armed with silly questions.

What is the average age a guy (or a girl, for that matter) goes gray? That precise time in Joe Average’s life when the hair goes from salt-and-pepper to white and black mixed in equal parts. Of course I’m probably not Joe Average (somebody has to be, theoretically), but I’d nice to have a ballpark figure. And then there’s the why. Why does hair go gray? Are the resources assigned to mass producing hair color downsized or put to new tasks, say, growing ear hair?

And so the internal dialog went until I decided to write a post on this. But before I got to it I saw that a group of cancer researchers had answered the why question in this article the day before. I think I’ll take this as sign that my delusions of grandeur are not completely delusions. (It’s either that or be mad a cancer researchers for stealing my thunder.)

The simple answer from the article is: “…the loss of hair color to the gradual dying off of adult stem cells, called melanocytes, that provide a reservoir for the renewal of pigment-manufacturing cells.

Ok, that answers the why, but not the when. Googling “when does hair turn gray” returns mostly results for “why does hair turn gray.” Apparently my question isn’t a very popular one. I did however come across the statistic that 50% of Caucasians are 50% gray by age 50 on several web pages. What an unusual statistic. It cleverly says nothing at all but does so in a very quotable way. Ah statistics… I guess that was really all I was looking for anyway.

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