Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Worst. Birthday. Ever.

I woke up this morning at 05:00 so I could make it to our data center in time for a scheduled outage window set for 07:00. But did you know the traffic on the interstate is every bit as bad at 06:00 as it is throughout the rest of the morning? So with half a cup of half-calf in me, I sat for forty minutes in stop-and-go traffic, finally getting where I was going around quarter of seven instead of plenty early.

The outage (install a new core switch) should have taken about an hour. We hoped it would take 30 minutes; we warned everyone it would be three hours (Thanks, Scotty!) and it ended up taking three and a half hours. That was three and a half hours I stood in the colo space with my head jammed into our rack, trying to hear the gravel-in-a-cement-mixer voice of the network engineer (who was assisting via cheap cellphone from somewhere in the midwest) over the howling white noise of the air handlers and screaming servers.

95% was done in the first hour; the remaining 5% took two-and-a-half hours, as is usually the case with things like this. At the finish there were twenty-two windows open on the desktop of my laptop. As things were up and running, I was caffeine-deprived, hungry, cranky as a bottle of hornets, and shell-shocked from the noise, as well as probably a little sleep deprived on top of everything else.

I finally grabbed breakfast at five of noon, at a nondescript diner with no apparent calendars on the walls of the kitchen. It was what they called a 'skillet,' which is kind of like you took some kind of breakfast thing and chewed it all up and put it all together on a pretty plate with a biscuit on the side. But it stopped me from being hungry, that's for sure.

The afternoon was kind of a slow-moving blur. It was hard to make sense of work after such a morning, so it tended towards the perfunctory, that's for sure. And today is one of those days that mi esposa works late, so there was no incentive to get home fast.

On the way home I stopped at the local Irish watering hole, and was served by none other than herself. I sat at the bar, surrounded by people drunk on their smartphones. One pint of Guinness, one shot of Bushmills, neat. Sitting at the bar, which I rarely do, I slowly worked them in turns and toasted my day. Gradually, the strains of that least Irish of songs, "Gimme Shelter*" diffused through the background noise. I paid my tab, left a generous tip on account of it being my birthday and all, and left.

But things are taking a turn for the better. 1) Spouse is coming home soon, with a bottle of something sparkling, and 2) I got a call from "Microsoft Computer." After spending the day with my head in a server cage, I was ready for some fun:

"...Microsoft computer?? Really?" "Yes, your computer is sending a report to the Central Server that there is a problem!" "MY COMPUTER?? Sending a message to THE CENTRAL SERVER?" "Yes, sir, it is very infected!" "What should I do? Is there ANYTHING I can do?" "Well, yes sir, the Central Server says..." "I'm in the kitchen cooking dinner right now, my computer is right here, it's very small...shall I put it in the oven to disinfect it? That's what I shall do! It's IN THE OVEN NOW, What should I do next?? Can the CENTRAL SERVER SEE WHAT'S HAPPENING TO IT? HMM?"
 I'm probably exaggerating. Not the worst birthday ever, for sure.

*Maybe during the Troubles this was pretty Irish. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Relative Distance

So as of this afternoon, Beast and I have covered approximately 1/1,000th of the relative distance from the Earth to the Sun. In only 11 years! That works out to 1/10,000 of the distance per year, more or less, right? Or, approximately 3-7/8 times around the Equator... or, roughly 1.497×10^18 Å (ångströms).

Saturday, September 27, 2014

"...And What Is Good, Phaedrus?"

"Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" was first published forty years ago. That, among numerous other things, makes me feel old.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Code Switching, the vertebrates edition

A few mornings ago, I was out early tending to the birds. Nearby stood one of our turkey hens; in particular, the hen who hatched a poult and two keets earlier in the summer. She was simply standing there among the weeds and flowers--as turkey hens spend much of their days--her young charges milling around about her feet in a busy bustle of chirping and squeaking.

Then she made a single sound, a sound I had heard many times before. When I usually hear this and see the response it evokes, it brings Coleridge to mind:
"We listened and looked sideways up!
Fear at my heart, as at a cup,
My life-blood seemed to sip!"*
I looked at her, and as I expected from hearing the sound she made, she had her head cocked sideways and was looking skyward. She had not moved a muscle, and her young had not moved in response to her noise, nor had any other of the fowl milling about the yard. I followed her gaze upwards. A lone great blue heron was flapping majestically in their distinctive diagonal path across the open backyard, just at treetop level. By this time, the hen had gone back to browsing on the seeds of the tall grass, ignoring the sky.

I knew what she had said. I understood what she had said. Her single noise was noting the presence of the heron, but at the same time, not sounding the alarm she as she would have if a hawk, eagle or other raptor or large bird had intruded. Had she voiced the same sound as an alarm, the young would have either run for cover or huddled beneath her, and all the other birds in the open would have found cover in an instant. But not in this case.

She communicated a simple comment, and I understood what she meant.


*Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," Part the Third. 204-206

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Weird little metaphor

On the way to work this morning, I saw a Bald Eagle on the wing. It was being harried by a large dark bird, possible a Black Vulture. That seemed like an oddly disturbing metaphor for today, of all days.