So many words, so little time....

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Between Week...

No, I haven't had a time warp. This one got caught in the fun Blogger's been having putting out their new service, and even though that was last week today feels a lot the same so I decided to just hang it out there.

New news at 11. Or something like that.

I sort of slump here in my chair. It's a Wednesday, which is in the middle, of a week that is perpetually in the middle. That week between Christmas and New Year's.

It's a between time. Things don't really work right. The whole world just waiting to get to that seventh day so things can starting going back to normal. And if you're one of those who are charged with keeping things on an even keel while you're waiting it can seem very hard.

A lot of lucky people are still out there on vacation visiting family and friends (or unlucky, depending on their level of family-of-origin fun). Every morning you do this sort of Left Behind perp-walk past all the closed doors and empty chairs on the way to your desk. We'll call it the Greenbar Mile. It adds just that little bit of insult to the injury of those who do have to come in.

In some cases it's nice because you know they're not going to be bothering you. But sometimes you need these people. Nothing says "Happy Holidays!" like a pissed off customer you can't help because the accounting rep is out until next week and she's the only one in the entire world who can perform the particular function that customer needs.

Everything else has ground to a halt, too. Heaven forfend the company who does your hardware support be staffed with more than a skeleton crew of cardboard Captain Picard cutouts with company polo shirts pulled on over their paper shoulders. How they get those headsets to stay on is a mystery. This motherboard problem we're having makes my current Christmas wish a guy with a really thick accent from Bangalore. I'll promise to leave him alone during the next Dewali if he gives me this obscure undocumented jumper setting we need to get this frelling server online now.

Me and the gal who is also stuck here are doing "team development" today on this little application that updates one of our remote installations. It's supposed to be a really efficient way to work, according to all those shiny best practices magazines. In real life, what that means is she codes something, and I sit there and try it out. It barfs. Then I tell her it barfed. And then she tells me her code is perfect and it's the fault of the patch we're trying to code to. We go back and forth until she comes over here to look at the error code herself since apparantly Terminal Services is lying to her or I am. Then I tell her exactly what I did again. And she complains for several minutes about it while re-doing the same bloody steps and chasing through the logs to confirm that I in fact did the right thing while badgering me to confirm each and every step. Then she decides it was something else so I have to tell her exactly what I saw again. Then she blames my computer and we have to go through the testing steps again on another box. I go through the same thing again. And then she looks at her code and complains for several more minutes cursing whatever has suddenly decided not to send her code back the proper return code. Then she sees what's wrong in her code. She fixes something. She drops the new files. I have to reset the box to the baseline so we can test again which involves uninstalling several things and rebooting the box three times. Lather, rinse, and repeat for 11 hours now.

Home isn't over-fun either right now. The kids are in the throes of acute School Break Social Life Disorder. With my eldest's best buddy who joined the Navy on leave and back in town, and everyone else off school I've got huge drifts of sneakers and coats all over my house. There are clattering herds of house-apes stretching as far as the eye can see like bison on the prarie. If I shield my eyes carefully I can see a dim orange light on the horizon that gives me hope - school starts up again next week and the friend has to head back to Norfolk. And then all these persons from Porlock will shuffle off to their normal lives again and only hold a mock UN meeting on my front porch on Saturdays.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Power back on, Christmas Accomplished...

We're back up now and much happier for it. I've still got a bunch of stuff to deal with, but now I have the tools to do it at least.

Christmas has come and gone in a blur. Thanks to the power outage and all it's accoutrements, I had a little less than two days to get ready and it was hard to do. We did it, though. The kids helped out a lot and we cut corners in all directions but we kept the important stuff.

So I hope you all had a Happy Holiday, and I'll see you in the New Year!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Power Outage Still Going...

They still have major transformer stations down all over. About half the areas have partial power. New estimate is that my street will be out until at least Saturday, and early next week is a better bet. We're right off the major distribution lines and the one at the entrance to our place got a 2 foot thick fir tree through it which then took out the fire plug across the street. Since this feeds a bunch of other stuff they can't bring it up until they get the four major transformers downrange working right or they'll blow that up. The fireplug is already fixed, though.

So we may not have power for Christmas. Not to mention no real Christmas for something like 400 power company repair crews and a lot of other folk doing double shifts to get us through this.

Some people are being really dumb. There was this stupid bint on TV today going on about how people burning wood was messing up the air quality. WelllDUUHHHHH! However, if they had any choice that isn't what they'd be doing and besides, the rain we're supposed to start getting tomorrow or the next day will wash things clean. And have the nice side-effect of warming things up about 20 degrees and we really need that.

On the smaller scale, people are grouchy and some are just plain being idiots. Gal at the grocery store tonight was going off at the manager because they didn't have her special whatever. The power was off for long enough that they had to throw away everything in the freezers and coolers on Saturday and they're still re-stocking. But her power hadn't even gone out at all and she just couldn't understand what the problem was. Somehow it was this poor guy's personal fault they didn't have her specific special meal. It's almost like they figure if it didn't happen to them, it didn't happen.

To offset the idiocy, we had a very nice man drive by us chopping wood yesterday afternoon who stopped and got out his chainsaw and made quick work of a day's worth of firewood for us.

His help freed us up to go after some big stuff and I got about half a cord in 8' lengths back to the patio for us to saw up and then split ourselves. We've been going to a brushpile left by a road project down the street year before last and it's gorgeous seasoned pine and poplar. Almost a shame to burn some of it.

My boss told us today that we can basically use the office facilities and do whatever we need to do. Our pet rat is going to be moving into my office for the duration. Tomorrow is going to be interesting because there's a couple real winners here who are raising a fuss about him and one of the other guy's dog. Another case of idiocy. I don't know what her problem is; Scooter lives in a cage and besides he's litter trained. Maggie is the sweetest old poodle-mix. It's not like she's a puppy piddling all over the place or jumping around or something.

I finally got paid - the power outage disrupted payday last Friday, and it's been an interesting weekend. We got our servers back up Saturday and we thought we were okay. Once they got under load this morning it turns out we've got three of them with damaged motherboards. We're running on backups and a cobbled together collection of my test and dev servers.

We're up, but it's like keeping a house of cards together when someone is walking around with a fan. A few too many people show up or someone searches on "court" in the entire Eastern District of New York and fwooosh! down we go again. True one from today. It's not the first time I've seen customers do a search like that; what the HECK do they think that is going to get them!!?? If we could figure that out, I'd find some way of getting them what they want that doesn't do this to my machines. Or at least find them a good scenic route on their way to the Alternate Destination before they submit it. It's taking two people to keep us up. Tonight it's me and the guy with the dog.

Poor Scooter has caught a cold and is utterly miserable. He started sneezing this morning. Vet saw him today says it's bacterial so nothing to do but keep him quiet and settled and wait it out just like everyone else has to and make sure he eats well and takes his vitamins. But I can't make him chicken soup like I do for them. He's not in any danger or anything as long as we stop this now. I feel awful because I should have seen this coming and done something sooner but the vet said it could be much worse - at least he's not a reptile of any sort or tropical fish or bird. It's been really bad for them.

One of the local laundromats is up and running and doing a VERY brisk business. I'll be there tomorrow.

I don't know what we're going to do about Christmas. We can get some of the decorating and stuff done without power and I can fake some of rest. But dinner is going to be tricky. And needless to say my Christmas cards and etc are going to be late. This really has me upset because this is going to be Johnathan's last Christmas home and I really did want to make it a good one. I can't think about that too hard or I just start crying.

Anyhow, I promised the kids they could go see Eregon so we're going to head out and do that now. I'll be back once I get them in the door. I should go but I really don't have the heart for it. I can use the two hours knowing they're safe and warm to get some things done for later.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Power Still Out....

We're still out, but they got the downtown Redmond area back on at least so the grocery stores and stuff can work. Now it's hard to get gasoline and propane. There are lines down the street at the stations that have it. I'll be joining one as soon as I'm done here. Then we're off to cut more firewood.

We're all still fine. I was worried about our pet rat because while the fireplace will keep things okay for a human in a sweater, it definately wasn't in the comfort zone. He cuddled with us for most of the night but he had to get back into his cage to eat and sleep. Turned out fine - he just burrowed right into his bed and has hung in like a trooper.

No snow yet, but they're threatening it every time I turn on the car radio. It did freeze. Not what I would call a hard frost but hard enough for around here. There's ice on the puddles and these single-pane windows just breathe the cold.

My server room is still a mess, but my boss got a fan in here and we're heating the rest of the office quite nicely trying to keep it cool in there. It hasn't gotten any worse, and we got the rest of the machines up and in the right order so everything talks to each other again and everything works.

The kids are officially bored with poker and Munchkin, so I ended up reading 10 chapters of Howl's Moving Castle to them by candlelight last night. My voice is shot.

It's kind of odd. I grew up in a harsh climate and in conditions that make this look like a vacation. We've been able to take care of ourselves and help our neighbors. I have the tools (because I'm a weirdo who considers a properly maintained axe an integral part of setting up a household). I know what to do. I'm glad. But when I was growing up, there was a part of it I was missing. The constant worry. Can I take care of the kids? Can I get us what we need? When the stakes are personal, it's one thing. When the kids get into it, it's another. It really makes me think about my Mom and what she went through raising us kids. She did this with nine kids ranging from 9 on down to newborn and she did it with no running water in the house and no neighbors closer than 60 miles.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Wind Storm in Seattle - power out all over the place...

Seattle is a beautiful place. It's green all over. The problem with all this great greenery is when Mother Nature decides to throw some wind at it, it all falls down. On top of power lines.

Between that and the rain this place is a mess. I've been out of power for two days now. Everything's pretty higgeldy piggeldy around here. They expect it to take a few more days to get things back on track.

They got the power back on in my office and that's where I'm at right now. I brought the kids in and we're hanging out until things are charged and then we head home. They brought the poker set and they're playing Texas Hold'em in the conference room. At least I can charge up my cel phone and stuff. In an ironic note, the only warm place in the building is my server room, which is about 80 degrees because the air conditioning's been off in there with all those computers blowing heat since the power came back on in here this morning. The HVAC still hasn't gotten it's ducks back in a row and I don't expect it to until next week sometime.

It looks it's trying to snow on top of all this. We're back in the freezing range and with no power that means no heat for a lot of people around here. We have a fireplace in my apartment and stuff so we're good, but it's been interesting. I haven't chopped firewood in a LOONNNGGG time and boy does my back know it.

Needless to say, this was not in the schedule for getting Christmas ready or anything else.

We're all okay. I'll be in and out as time/power permits. For the usual over-wrought news portrayals, you can go to

Monday, December 11, 2006

Forums as Writer's Training Wheels....

We should have some sort of organization for writers who cut their writing teeth on forum posting. Maybe a banner ad?

I always wrote before, but it was mostly fanfic that will NEVER see the light of day or pen-and-paper RPG stuff. I didn't ever think anyone would ever want to see anything but my code until I got sucked into a couple BBS boards back in the early 90's. I really went ape when they dogfooded Slate back in 1999 or so and my boss decided to use it as a precursor to IM because we were all spread all over creation. Then it hit the fan.

Just for kicks and giggles, I sat down here and tried to list out all the places I regularly contribute writing. And by writing I mean words in a row that are less than a third code. There were fourteen of them!

That's not counting places I read and don't actively contribute. I also have four other book-length pieces going, and some random other writing projects (usually articles on various topics for various sources). There are several other things I should be doing much more frequently than I am.

I can't say I've made a big splash. Definately nothing I need to quit my day-job over yet. But I would never have even gotten this far without the structure and lure of forum posting.