She'll put you in hot water every time.
"Ahhh... Just found some... uh... anomalies with the asset inventory checklist," our friendly neighbourhood Beancounter says to the PFY. "What anomalies?" I ask. "You didn't fill it out," the Boss says. "I bloody did!" I gasp. "You wrote at the bottom 'all present and correct' and signed your name," the Beancounter …
Always astounds me that this is still the predominant form of budget management -
"You didn't spend all of last year's budget, so not only are we going to take away the money you didn't spend last year, but we're going to reduce this year's budget by an equivalent amount"..."sorry, you need to buy a what? but you don't have the budget for that!"
How about "Well your planned spend for last year was X, plus 10% contingency, but actually you spent 0.99 X, so it was a good plan, Thanks for saving us 0.11 X . What does the next year's justifiable planned expenditure look like? ... okay so we can agree a likely figure of 'Y' for next year so here's Y plus 10% contingency", or is there some beancounter magic that I just don't understand?
Arrrgh! The university I went to was run by folks like that. We would be begging for new gear in the lab - a geology lab needing things like a decent, functioning rock saw for thin sections, or even a microscope cleaned - but the spending decisions went all the way up the chain. A request to purchase a piece of new gear because the old one died would returned back down the chain, denied, not by the department chair but the boss of the entire friggin university. He made the newspapers because he proudly turned back hundreds of thousands of dollars to the state each year, while gear died, roofs leaked - really, we used buckets occasionally - and things generally fell apart. At the same time the university built up a reputation for an excellent business management college.
We had beancounters from hell at one MoD place I attended
Then they got their rightful pasting thanks to a job in some tricky material... so we ordered 5 special tools to do the job, knowing we'd break 4 in the process of making the parts.
Beancounters saw the cost and cut the number down to 3...
Needless to say we got 60% through the order until we ran out of tools.
Was good fun watching senior naval and MOD types marching upstairs to the beancounters to explain the kit is worth several million quid and cant move until the poor engineering slobs(me) have made all the parts for it.....
And the work arounds...
Removing electronic components from Bench Stock to show usage, hiding these parts in a box somewhere away from the eyes of inspectors. Padding job sheets by 1/2 to 1 hour to protect staffing levels. It goes on...
But the killer was the part about the list of serial numbers matching up. Since the equipment is delivered to sysadmins to start with, they fill in the bean counter sheets AND have access to said sheets afterwards.
The bean counters are outmanned, outgunned and surrounded...
... and at more than one place I have had to edit the serial numbers just to fix someone else's error.
"This server serial number appears in the database with two asset numbers and is in two places. Fix it." The server is not physically on my site, so I announce to the audit team (CYAWP all the way) that I will write the asset number for the wrong entry on a sticky label and apply it to a bit of scrap kit, edit the entry in the database to match, and wait for the disposal system to catch up.
To be honest the auditors were glad NOT to have to find a £10K server which went out of the door in the form of a broken mouse.
I recall a similar situation some 20 <cough> years ago:
The auditors came a-knockin'
"OK, Asset number 78934758934734 Ada compiler. Purchased last year, value £30,000. Show me"
"It's there, on top of that filing cabinet"
"But that's just a reel of 9-track tape"
"That's not worth £30,000!"
This yarn is a great start to a long weekend. The hourly's get an extra two days off next week while inventory is counted. Years ago we counted everything, but now it is just the high value items. A bit easier this year since the $100,000 stock of lead acid batteries has been scrapped for a few $1000; that happens if you leave them sit in stock for 5 years without maintenance. Planning? Nah, just a waste of managerial time.
"Removing the redundant path actually made it slightly more reliable"
The BOFH obviously *has* used a lot of so-called enterprise equipment then!
The same could be applied to our clustered Sun/Oracle storage system, almost every time we had a fault it did not fail-over to recover, any yet the very clustering system caused problems that could lead to this.
 Oracle's answer was it is "working as designed" since it was only designed to fail-over on a kernel panic or actual dead hardware, and not as we foolishly imagined on numerous things that led to a file server failing to actually serve files.
Any decent enterprise storage system would be active on all paths/controllers at the same time. Midrange systems with two controllers in an active/passive setup usually have to do failover.
AFAIR, Oracle only sold midrange gear (the ones originating at StorageTek) and rebranded HDS enterprise systems.
... when every set of scales goes missing at the same time.
PFY: "You want me to count these washers?"
PFY: "Really count a bag full of washers?"
PHB: "Yes, we must have a complete and accurate record of our inventory."
PFY: "We have 0 washers."
PHB: "Did you just throw that bag of washers in the bin?"
PFY: "Yes. I will order a bag of 1000 tomorrow. It will be cheaper than counting them."
Now I know... if there are no scales on the shelf in the calibration office, bring your own set in tomorrow.
I remember an interview with someone at London Zoo. Apparently all zoos in Europe do their stocktake on 1st January. Can't remember if it's EU rules,or a global thing, so they can keep tabs on all the breeding programs. Easy to count elephants. But with stick insects they had to have someone sit and watch the tanks for a couple of hours and guesstimate...
The stock-take at Erfert Zoo in 2007 revealed that the keepers had been killing the animals and selling them to locals for barbecues. Mostly it seemed to be petting zoo type stuff, like goats, deer, antelopes etc. But someone apparently got to try anteater.
I have eaten zebra once. I wonder if I ought to have checked up on the source? It tastes like minty horse...
Ahh, stocktaking. I remember a few conversations from the days we had to do monthly inventory checks. And no cheating by using a checklist of existing assets! They all had to be done from scratch.
Me - "Can't we get rid of this box of obsolete PC cards with individual serial numbers on each card?"
Manager - "No, they're in the database, so we have to check them each month"
(Admins enter the hardwritten sheets into the computer and run a comparison with the DB)
Admin - "You're missing item ABC123O and have an item ABC1230 that doesn't exist"
Me - "They're the same item. You entered an O rather than a 0 when you originally created the DB record, so there should always be a discrepency. Unless one of us enters the serial number incorrectly at a monthly check.
Me - "As the company sells inventory management systems, including scanners and software, could we use our own products to help with stocktaking?"
Manager - "No, you make too many mistakes already and need to improve the accuracy of the stocktaking"
(This was the same manager who would lend stuff to customers and not bother to check it out of stock)
Eventually I wrote an MS Access DB and used a hand scanner and laptop borrowed from stock to create my own Stock DB, complete with label printing, scanning in and out, shipping lists and stocktaking comparisons. Monthly stocktake effort went from 10 man-days to 2 (One day to stocktake, 1 day to have the O vs 0 arguments. Though I reduced that by printing an "incorrect" label to stick on the item so I could give the Admins the serial number they wanted to see. [Unless they then mistyped it at the monthly data entry...])
There was always the auditor at a previous place of work who complained that the 'consumables' spend was too high in the electronics workshop, and that we had so many cables (VGA / serial / parallel style) without records in the asset register... Never grasped the concept that the 'consumables' were being transformed into these new, custom length & function cables and it would cost more in man-hours to record the materials usage than it did in parts and labour to make the damn things!
Chickenhawk" has the splendid example of a helicopter crash in a remote Vietnamese jungle being seized upon by the quartermasters as an unimpeachable explanation for the next audit: a rough totting-up of the gear alleged to have been lost with the chopper gave a weight many times above its lifting capacity...
Not that the US military is unique in dogged accounting either: "Bugles and a Tiger" mentions an exasperated Indian Army QM finally resolving repeated demands to account for a cast-iron crowbar with "eaten by termites", possibly signed with S.Pokeworthy or Irving Washington
I will never forget the fun and games we went through when closing down a particular army unit. You see, there were two categories of "stuff" - either assets or expendables. There was absolutely no way to return the latter up the chain, so rope, batteries, rucksacks etc all had to be unofficially "donated" to other units. On the flip side, may of the "assets" were easily lost or damaged, and therefore simply didn't exist. Not to mention the stuff that we should have been issued with, but never were, but had been signed for by a predecessor for whatever reason...
"No – we LET IT GO for a SONG. We told the cleaner that we'd drop it out the window onto his supervisor's car if he'd sing Judas Priest's Turbo Lover," the PFY says.
"And it was great," I add. "Some tempo problems, but he got there in the end."
Absolutely priceless! Thank you, Simon, for that wonderful picture. Please treat yourself to a pint or ten - you deserve it!
As part of my fake identity for online signups years back, if I needed a US zip code I would Google for Microsoft's and use that. I thought I was quite clever until I began telling my friend about needing a US zip code and he immediately cut me off with "90210."
They managed to keep the number to all 8s and 1s for quite some time during London's phone expansion. I wonder if the BBC helped drive the way BT changed their numbers.
It used to be
01 811 8181
Then they expanded it by one digit.
081 811 8181
Then they expanded it by one more.
0181 811 8181
Then was completely fucked when they changed it to
0208 811 8181
How about 31/12/1969? That should give some date routines fits....
and who could forget 1060 West Addison
Jake: How are you gonna get the band back together, Mr. Hot Rodder?
Those cops have your name, your address...
Elwood: They don't have my address. I falsified my renewal. I put down 1060 West Addison.
Jake: 1060 West Addison? That's Wrigley Field.
Funny thing, sometimes when there is a need to test the sign-up forms of the company I'm working for I will put in stuff like James Bond and other fictitious people bordering on the absurd and clearly mark it as a test.
I will include my real office number though. Most of the time the next day I will get a call back from our own sales people trying to pitch me our product - until they notice that they've actually called an internal number...
Someone once performed some tests on the US Army's personnel database, and in that occasion entered a "Private (E1) Donald Duck. After a couple months, they found this fake record had been updated. Among other events, Donald Duck had been promoted to Private First Class (E3), transferred to a different base and was having pay deposited to a real bank account.
Fearing fraud, the IT guys called the base in question and demanded an explanation. After some confusion, they got it. There really was a soldier by the name Donald Duck, so of course the Army paid him.
They decided in the future to do their testing with names like "AAA X. QQQQQ". Even with US naming habits, that should be safe for a while.
... to the house the short story 'Allamagoosa' by Eric Frank Russell.
All hail the Offog!
"The story is set on board a military starship, the Bustler, but the tale is comic rather than heroic. The ship's officers and crew are facing an official inspection, and worry about having stores they should not have, or not having something that they should have. Checking, they discover that they are supposed to have an "offog", but no one has any idea what this is, so they create a bogus electronic gadget ("an imposing allamagoosa") and call it an offog to fool the inspecting admiral, pretending that it is a special device to measure the intensity of gravity fields.
As soon as they depart from the starport, they realize that it will be difficult to cheat a more experienced inspector in the future, so that the offog must disappear from the inventory. The great idea is to report that it was broken and destroy it. The captain sends an official report to the central command, explaining that the offog came apart under gravitational stress. Almost immediately, a message of maximum priority from the central command arrives: all starships must return to the nearest spaceport, Bustler included, for an immediate inspection.
Too late, the captain and crew learn that "offog" is a misprint for "off. dog," the ship's official dog, Peaslake, which has spent the whole course of the inventory making a conspicuous nuisance of itself. The animal's collar, drinking bowl, sleeping basket and (the unchewed half of) its cushion were correctly ticked off the inventory list without alerting the crew to their oversight. Obviously the central command is worried about how a dog could come apart, under gravitational stress or not."
I used to aggravate management at this plastics injection molding company I used to work at in the early 90's every time they wanted to do a count. I'd ask what good all the computers and bar code scanners were if we still had to physically count every thing. I got the bean counters so wound up one time that they wouldn't let the inventory control group spend any money on systems upgrades for 2 years. They had to wait for a the head bean counter to move on so that they could get the new one to approve upgrades. They then went to 2 counts a year after getting the new system and it was still wrong 40% of the time.
Things didn't improve until most of the IC guys moved on to other things.
Me thinks there was a bit of misappropriation of materials going on.
While on a boat (don't ask what sort or where) I heard that they had been told they would need to use 10% less fuel the following year, and calculated how much faster they would have to go the current year so as to make the saving. It was not unusual for items to fall overboard, which caused great fun at audit time. Back on land, writing stuff off invetory was such a tortuous process that it tended not to happen so you ended up with what, eventually, would be ridiculous items - the daftest being a Casio watch, but also included calculators (desk top ones well past there sell-by date)
Auditers wanting the verify the presence of downloaded software tend not to understand the output of a disk sector editor.
It was never possible to conflate several items into one (e.g. computer, internal add-on, EPROM on add-on, updated software on EPROM).
I used to work on Seismic Survey ships. On one of them there were three diesel compressors, each owned by a different investment company or pension fund or something. They used to turn up once a year, in a wholly uncoordinated series of raids, to check their compressor. As long as they saw a thing the size of a combine harvester with thier serial number on, they were happy.
I noticed that two of the three owners had carelessly logged the model number instead of the serial number in thier asset lists. Of course, all three had the same model number on. So I could show the visitor any one of them and they would be happy. One bloke did say "I thought ours was the Port one, not the Starboard one" and I said "Port in the Northern Hemisphere is Starboard while we are down here". "Oh, of course", he said, making a note of it on the form.
Happened in the British Army in 1982, after the Atlantic Conveyor was sunk during the Falklands War. Various Units and QMs immediately claimed that mucho kit was onward when she sunk. Ater, someone calculated that the amount of equipment would have needed a vessel four times the size of the Army's main stock depot at Donnington.*
Thing of Donnington, there was a fire there once, and stores requests would be returned rejected, with the stamp 'FOFAD'; eff off, fire at Donnington.
*10 years later, there was an accident in Kent involving a Coles crane. A sharp eyed plod noticed that the scratches in the yellow paint revealed green and black paint. Subsequent investigation showed that this crane, together with a number of other times of plant equipment, had been written off from MOD stores when they were supposedly lost on the Atlantic Conveyor... 3 senior NCOs were prosecuted.
When a website asks me for a name and address and I need a throwaway identity (spam reduction) I use
Gypping in the Marsh
In the aim of giving a more solid identity to this tar pit for Nigerian scammers although sadly the original Gilbert Murray has retired from his public duties
Back in the day when I was director of a division at a university. I'm not sure exactly what sort of inventory they'd done before, but there were all sorts of obsolete items we didn't have on there, that had been marked as being present for years in the previous audits.
I had a conversation with a few people on how to handle this, and found there was a form I could fill out for items that were lost, broken or disposed of. I filled it out with a giant attachment for all the items that were no longer present, or were present but were so old they were essentially valueless, or were difficult/impossible to account for (i.e. stuff like memory and hard drives installed inside something else)
They gave me a bit of guff at first about removing 3/4 of the items on inventory, but I was able to blame it on my predecessors and had some backup from people who had been around back then for some of the larger 6 figure items being disposed of many years ago so they didn't bother about all the ones with 3 or 4 figure prices after that.
I had a functioning inventory from that point on and was actually able to find items when there were a couple random audits by the U's property management office looking for a few items with a specific tag and got some praise from a VP as apparently my division had never passed one of those random audits ever before.
In the early seventies I worked in a military environment in a certain large middle-eastern kingdom.
That kingdom had military 'advisors' from a certain country on a certain sub-continet working as guards and storemen.
A collegue of mine was a photographer (I'll called him Patrick). A situation arose when he discovered that in a new box of photographic paper, most sheets appeared to be fogged on development.
He chucked the box and got another one. Once again, almost every sheet was fogged. Chuck.
On getting another box from his stock he noticed that it was sealed with sellotape, something he had not noticed before. He checked all the remaining boxes and they were all the same, sealed with tape and the Ilford label had been so neatly cut it wasn't obvious in the darkroom,
A quick check of each box proved that their contents were all fogged too, almost a dozen boxes!
A visit to 'stores' fortuitously showed that a fresh shipment from the UK was due in next morning.
He told the storeman that he needed tohe paper urgently so would he send a runner to let him know when it was ready to be issued.
Sure enough, the runner came and Patrick set off to collect 12 boxes of 10x8 bw Ilford.
The sight that greated him when he arrived at the stores was beyond belief.
Six 'advisors' were merrily counting sheets of ilford to make sure that he only got the 1200 sheets that he had requested!
They did seal the boxes nicely afterwards though.
I'm a bit hazy on the details, but a colleague related the following story.
Scene: military base, the electronics repair shop. The asset list disagrees with the actual content of the repair shop regarding a highly valuable and rather classified device. Of course the discrepancy is such that the list says there should be 1 (one), and reality says there's 0 (zero). A search is conducted to try and rectify this, but to no effect. Another search suffers the same fate: the device is simply not to be found. As the device is rather classified, several people are most unhappy.
There follows a multi-week period in which papers are shuffled, signed, counter-signed, sent off to be signed at a higher level, stamped, signed again, buried in soft peat, etcetera. This process manages to result in bringing the asset list in line with reality. And there was much rejoicing.
Several months pass. Then, miraculously, the device returns from its nowhere-to-be-found state, threatening to cause a discrepancy with the asset list once again, and potentially have even more people be even more unhappy. This, the repair shop's CO decides, should not happen. Oh, no. So, the small band of people who know of the existence of the rather classified device that officially doesn't exist anymore went to work. This involved an angle grinder, an oxyacetylene torch, a tracked vehicle, and finally two pits and a serious amount of thermite.
A story told by a (former) scientist at a (former) chemical research facility in the (former) USSR: auditors were asking about an abnormally high rate of consumption of ethanol at the facility - this was in Soviet Russia, alcohol was the universal currency, but they were still making a stink about it. Wait, maybe that's why they were making a stink?
The records showed that vast quantities of ethanol were used regularly "to clean the optical axis of the radiometer". OK, said the auditors, would you please show us the radiometer and its optical axis that requires so much cleaning material - it must be huge? - Oh right, would you come with us please? After a trip through a basement maze, in front of a huge lead door with a big, bright, shiny, and glowing in the dark radiation hazard sign on it: "Oh, you do have clearance to inspect this secret facility, don't you? We will need a copy for our records, please, otherwise no one is allowed inside." No auditor has ever returned with such clearance.
Repeated many times over the glory years, or so I was told.
Was it a HP 2324fc?
If 3 drives dies, the controller handling that array goes down. And the other controller?
Instead of taking over, which HP drones told us it would do, decides to lock up in sympathy...
Try finding a serial number on it... without pulling it from the rack...
(No beancounter will EVER be allowed to touch the back of a rack I'm responsible for.)
And while I can't really blame the Brokade SANswitches on them, I'm going to anyway, since we have the models that fits in the back of HPs C7000 blade enclosures...
I feel dirty every time I log in to reconfigure them... And that's without using WinME to connect...
My boss (and, I have nicknamed her Princess because she is a joy to work for) has had her share of encounters with the company's bean counters over "the IT asset list".
Much of the aggravation comes from her insistence to maintain some really old, hard to obtain shit, in the slim as hell chance that we MAY just need that shit in the future. To reduce the value of this shit, once she has EOLed the base asset, anything it may have contained that could be useful is given an slightly new asset number. These asset numbers are constructed of the original asset number followed by a suffix, and those parts are assigned a 'value' of only $1.00. (only in 'Merika). The remainder is expensed.
One year, a junior bean counter that was never read into this practice, gave her some serious shit, and started to demand answers. Princess is usually a well mannered person, but the attitude of the junior bean counter nearly sent her over the edge. She looked the bean counter straight in the eye, and pointed to the katana that hangs from the wall behind her desk, and inquired of the junior bean counter if he wanted to experience its use first hand. Fortunately, for the junior bean counter, he declined.
Princess had a lot of pull within the company, (I didn't know it at the time, but she is a part owner) so she made damn sure the bean counter's NEXT annual performance review was less than stellar. The first 'lesson' imparted on me when I started here was: "DO NOT piss Princess off, or else she will have your head." I think I know where all of this comes from, on a shelf in the bookcase behind her is prominently displayed: "Winning Through Intimidation". I believe she practices it as often as is necessary.
There is a tiny piece of plastic that goes between every sleeper and the plate that is screwed on it, where you clamp the rail, well something like that. The part is too small for the 2-tons scale, only a few grams compared to the 1kg margin of error of the scale.
We found out there was 90.134 pieces of it. The hard way. No margin, give or take 1 kilogram, or measuring it by the weight, oh no. It took 3 men, 3 whole 8-hour shifts, 3 sets of gloves, and a forklift, to count every last one of those chunks of plastic. The combined weight neared 2.5 metric tons of those little buggers.
We also found out the part is not used since 2003, since the inventory system was installed. And the previous quantity was deliberately GUESSED, because it wasn't even near the weight approximation and nobody gave a damn anyway. And back when it was being consumed, there was enough of it in stock to supply the company for 10 years, without ever buying one single piece again. Yes, that some purchase planning when you are swimming in money, just buy 10 years worth of it!
Combine the friggin' beancounters with an Engineering that doesn't give a rat's ass on how the stuff will be measured, and you get this. By the way, our weight approx. and hand counting error was under 100 pieces. 100 out of 90.000 is a pretty damn good error for a guesstimate.
"Oh, the values didn't match previous inventory. Count it again". Yeah, right, over my dead body. Gladly, my supervisor showed the damned beancounter how we did the counting, and we didn't have to do it again. Later, that beancounter was fired...
PS. Whenever measuring items that are too small and/or large quantity, please, oh please, make the measuring unit to be weight, and add a tolerance margin of 5%.
At the website for CarTalk.com there is an ever increasing list of questionable staff members.
Here are a few:
Director of Computer Diagnostics Gus O'Genn
Director of Computer Services Dot Matrix
Director of Deep Sea Research Marianna Trench
Director of Delicate Electronics Repair Anita Hammer
Director of Desert Food Supplies Sandy Berger
Director of E-mail Responses Peggy Flaming
Statistician Marge Innovera
Shop Foreman Luke Bizzy
Shop Foreman II Constance Ubervision
Chief Information Officer Otto Delupe
Chief Justice Harry Mental, aka Judge Mental
Creative Director Drew A. Blank
Credit Counselor Max Stout
Criminal Justice Expert Lauren Order
I once worked at a company where the R&D manager managed to successfully hire a "Hugh Janus" as an engineer. Had a desk, name plate, PC and security card. At the time the company was expanding at such a rate there was at least one new member of staff each day and the bet was made that they could persuade HR to hire someone without even interviewing them or checking if they even existed.
Hugh now works as a spam filter at the R&D manager's new company...
Used to work for a place with beancounter issues. Any time we ran new cabling, if the install labor went over some variable limit, it needed an asset tag. On the cable. So, we pasted this on an IDF rack, which over time became filled with such labels.
One year, we finally excessed that rack, and all those installs finally fell off the books.
Conference rooms were fun like this too, multiple bits of gear that were too low value for their own tags, got lumped into a Project, plus labor, and we received another asset label, which was applied to a bit of relatively permanent furniture. Years after the equipment was slowly replaced, we still had those labels to inventory. Finally, we got new furniture, problem solved. The furniture itself, BTW, was never part of our inventory.
When I took over that job, I inherited a long list of problem inventory that was missing. Before the next audit, I submitted several batches of paperwork to finance marking said items as having been shipped to various companies as demo equipment. These company names were pulled from various sources, usually companies that had been bought out by larger companies, filed bankruptcy, etc. When audit time came, I pointed out that the gear was on loan. After a cycle or two, I informed Finance that the companies were gone, and so was our kit, and they were welcome to chase after it if they liked or write it off.
Oh, and for fake emails when needed, I usually use email@example.com. Most web forms take it without issue.
Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019