the Sweet Smell of Burning Fur (plonq) wrote,
the Sweet Smell of Burning Fur

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Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle

The only thing I have ever retained from that book of poetry we had to read in school was the title.

I accused atara of being a Luddite this morning, though she is anything but. In most respects she is geekier than I am, but we harbour very different philosophies when it comes to some technologies. As we were walking from the coffee outlet to the place where we part ways in the morning, the conversation had been revolving loosely around ergonomics, and how even how there are vast differences in the way devices serving identical purposes can work. We both agreed that chip machines had finally rendered the "you swipe or I swipe" question moot at a debit machine, but that each retailer diverged again once the card was in the slot. Some asked for information in a different order, offered more (or fewer) options, and had notably different placements for the buttons/screen taps required to navigate the process.

This is where I mentioned that "touch to pay" was the next logical step, obviating many of the irrelevant choices that could muddy the process of simply paying for goods or a service. I went on to lament how Google Wallet was not available here, or I could even use my phone for making NFC payments. atara, on the other hand, had no interest in being able to pay for something using her phone. She regarded it as being another potential weak point in security, and also a concentration of too much dependence in a single device; if your phone was ever lost or stolen, you were seriously screwed.

It occurred to me at that point that I was playing the role of the credulous idealist; wide-eyed over the possible benefits of the technology. On the other hand, she assumed the role of one more cautiously dystopian in outlook; more concerned over what could go wrong than what could go right. She has admitted that her distrust for the more sinister sides of technology has probably held her back from keeping up with modern trends, while my own unyoked enthusiasm sometimes leads me to leap prematurely. To that end, I would say we are a good match.

That is not to say that I am always the first to leap - she is usually the first to embrace newer social media, but I think it's because she is just a bit more sociable, or at least a less introverted grump than I.

Our new payroll system at work is a disaster. It is slow, buggy, unfriendly to navigate and - as improbable as it seems - even less intuitive to use than our previous one. When I logged into it for the first time last week, it scolded me for having 16 unrecorded days of pay, so I dutifully went in and logged all of my time. This afternoon my boss (who had been off for the past two weeks to deal with the fresh emergence of his latest sprog) called me and demanded to know what I had done.

"I entered in my hours," I replied, as if stating the obvious.

Apparently that buried him under a mountain of work because in spite of the error messages that greeted me when I logged in, I am only supposed to report exceptions, so every date that I entered into the payroll system was sent to him for individual approval. I had entered in three weeks of pay (plus two upcoming weeks of vacation time), so he had twenty-five individual transactions to either approve or reject. He lamented, "This is insanity!"

"Not insanity," I replied, "S.A.P."

The reason it was prompting me to enter my time is that unionised staff are required to do positive time reporting, but non-union staff like me are only supposed to do exception reporting. That seems reasonable enough to me until you get to the part where the front end system can't actually tell if you are unionised or not, so it politely advises you that YOU ARE DOING IT ALL WRONG if you are non-union, then screws your manager if you enter what it thinks is right. Did you follow that? I didn't. At first. It makes perfect sense in Bizarro World. Also in S.A.P.

He recommended that I retake the training course for the new system and said that he was going to do likewise. I am not sure what we hope to accomplish by taking the training again, other than to seek out a glimmer of sense in this sea of user-hostile ineptitude. I think this current system must reflect what atara's mind conjures when she utters her bleak views of where our technology is going. For my part, I am just hoping to get paid next week. In this new system, that is not a given.

It does not taste like soap to me, but as my rotund figure can attest, I have met few foods that I do not like. If I can arm-wrestle it down my throat, it is fair game.
Tags: april, payroll, technology
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