This Week on teh Interwebs


Computer literacy

One office where I worked had a strict policy regarding computer literacy.  It was a law firm and it went a little like this: support staff (accountants, secretaries, paralegals) were given a basic computer literacy test during the hire process. If they failed the test, they weren’t hired. If they did poorly on the test, it made the difference in shortlist time. Lawyers, who are often hired for network/money reasons, were given the same test on their first day, and either given new training or extra support staff (if big money was involved) if their skills weren’t up to snuff.  The sad thing is that the test was nothing special: opening, using (including typing test for secretaries) Microsoft Word, doing a basic presentation using a template in Power Point, a couple basic calculations in Excel (like what you would do for an expense report), an overview of the company’s legal document database (in dev version for interviewees).   And yet, it was unbelievable how many young secretaries (either digital natives or digital immigrants of my generation) failed the test. Seriously, these days how do people get through college without using Word and having a minimal proficiency?

The strange thing is, now that I work in IT, I find the most savvy software users in my admittedly limited sample are not necessarily the under-25s but, strangely enough, people of my parents’ generation, who are 55+. I have quantitatively had the most problems with people on the high end of Generation X, the ones who were on the tail end of having to use a computer in college. Meanwhile 65 year old dudes who used to have to use abaci and slide rulers are downloading stuff from torrents. But that, as usual, is another story for another post.  What continues to blow my mind is how anyone who wants to have any kind of an office job today thinks they can get away with not having basic skills in Microsoft programs (which are still the industry standard, sorry) and, most importantly, not want to learn these skills.  I think having a certain ease with word processing programs, for example, means you can write something yourself rather than dictate it to a secretary and proof her work (lawyers excepted for longer documents). I also find it absolutely criminal that a career secretary (not someone who came in from another profession like retail) need to be taught several years out how to do a mail merge. That for me is something you learn at your first job. Some people say that if you hire a CFO then he is hired to crunch numbers, not use a computer, but if a CFO can’t use SAP or Excel and, more importantly, doesn’t want to learn, I think that says a lot about that person’s initiative, drive and professionalism. Computer literacy is professional development on the same level, for me, as staying current with industry trends. I don’t understand people who refuse to learn.



I hate smokers under bus shelters

If there is one thing that makes me go absolutely screaming crazy cat lady, it is smokers under bus shelters in the damn rain.

The sad part here is that I am one of the few people I know who is pro-cigarette. I used to work for a tobacco company and worked for the lead counsel of another tobacco company. I am all about “responsible use” and think that if you haven’t figured out cigarettes cause a myriad of health problems, it isn’t up to the tobacco companies to clue you in. I have no moral problem with cigarettes despite having all four grandparents die from smoking-related health issues. I think some of the restrictive marketing legislation against cigarettes should also be provided to alcohol but hey. Another topic for another post.

But the one group of jackasses making my pro-cigarette convictions wane quickly.  The jackasses who smoke under bus shelters in the rain.  Why does it make me go Eleanor Abernathy on people like I just did to one woman?

Because it is a selfish dick move. When you smoke at the bus shelter  in the rain you ensure that people like me can neither sit down nor stand anywhere but IN THE EFFING RAIN to get away from the cold cigarette stench and associated breathing problems. Because yes, I have to use an inhaler if I am around cigarettes too long. Because yes, you may enjoy smelling like a cold ashtray but I don’t.  Because I have no choice but to breathe your air.

Evidently the smoking initiative that just failed in Switzerland would have curbed cigarette use in places like this.  What I don’t understand is that I grew up in a family of smokers. My dad smokes a pack a day. Doesn’t smell like an ashtray, in fact, he actually smells darn good. Why? Because he smokes outside in a ventilated place.  And in my experience it seems that the assholes who smoke under bus shelters are also those who smoke inside, have stinky clothes, and wind up sitting next to you on a crowded bus, forcing you to breathe the residual smoke. How people kiss people like that is also another topic for another post, but seriously y’all? Why force people to breathe smoke? Why is this something that has to be spelled out to some people?