Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Modify Your Environment

If I haven't said it before, I work as a computer programmer for a government agency. We were recently reorganized, shuffled and moved, and I found myself in a much smaller cubicle in a much noisier space.

As a geek-bureaucrat I realize I will never have an office like this. Then again, I never expected to work in an area where my noise-canceling headphone don't seem to make the slightest dent in the din. On top of that they are re-routing power to the server room and one of the primary junctions is below the elevated floor right under my chair. For the last week there has been drilling and clanking all hours of the day.

The worst though was the size and configuration of the cube. It is basically 6 x 8 with a U-shaped desk and typical corner pieces. I had been in a space that was about 9 x 11. But it's not the size, it is the shape. We try to be "agile" and "XP" centered in our programming methods, which means spending some time most days doing pair programming. In the new digs, it was impossible for two people to work at the same computer. You couldn't fit two chairs into the U, and you were crammed together so close that neither person could breath.

Last week my boss and I were working on a particularly sticky task, and had been for most of the morning when I finally snapped. I stood up and asked if anyone had a screwdriver. I proceeded to remove half of the U, an action which generated no shortage of interest in our little cube farm. Once I had it torn apart and the pieces stacked outside my cubicle I sent a message to building services that I needed a straight desk section to replace the three sections I had removed. They said they would see what they could do, at which point I said, "I don't care how long it takes to install the new parts, but you need to send someone up to pick up the old parts because I already took it apart."

Just after lunch they had my desk put back together. It's not perfect, and it's still as noisy a poolhall half the time, but at least two people can work together without feeling like you need to get a marriage license.

The bike section - Removing and Installing grips
Most of my posts have something to do with bikes, so I thought I better add something. Over the last two weeks I have switched from my nicer road bike to my old, beater mountain bike as my primary commuter.

I learned a neat trick while switching the grips and bar-ends on the mountain bike. I slipped a narrow screwdriver under the grip and gave the gap one shot of Simple Green spray cleanser. Two or three twists and the grips came right off.

When you are trying to get grips back on, use a little AquaNet or other "super-hold" hair spray. While it is wet the grip will slide right back on. When the hair spray dries it will hold the grip in place.

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