Friday, December 17, 2004

Server Outtage
Please allow me to explain why the Gloop server has been inaccessible lately. It seems that my employer and their team of esteemed accountants simply forgot to pay the electric bill for the small facility that currently hosts my server. Seeing that the power bill was months overdue, our local electric company simply pulled the plug. I'm not sure when the facility will again regain it's power. But when it does, I believe that the server will immediately come back online. I guess there are some good qualities to AT power supplies (you real geeks know what I mean).
A Long Week In The Making
Boy, it sure has been a busy week! I suppose any week that I teach a class, and work Best Buy at nights makes for a 'long week'. This week at the training center I was teaching 2273a which is a Windows Server 2003 course. The course is a bit rocky to deliver because it's actually two seperate courses that were smacked together. One was a five day course, and the other a three day. It's a tad tough to get through the 'good stuff', but at the same time it allows the instructor to slice and dice material like there is no tomorrow.

Meanwhile, halfway through the week I got my two Microsoft "Welcome Kits". One for my MCSE, and one for my MCT. Yay for me. I have TWO new lapel pins to wear. Oh, happy day. I can use them as money clips and pin the two dollars I have together with them.
Mindless Rant #102
So I was strolling into work the other day at about 8:40 and I got grabbed by the owner of the company. He found it in his heart to remind me that the work day starts at 8:00AM. It seems he had come lurking around the training center again in another stab at micro-management. It seems he had some genuine concern. "Is there something going on that we should be aware of?". At that moment, it was like a bomb went off inside of me. "Well, I have been sick all week and teaching anyway. I also have two dead cars ...", but it seemed that was enough information for him. He really didn't need me to continue. What's this? I thought you were concerned. You want to know why I'm late? I'LL TELL YOU!

So then, he goes on to tell me that he would like to meet with me and the two other instructors that came from my previous employer before the buyout ... I mean MERGER. Of course, I was teaching all day so he asked that we do it over the lunch hour. "Will that work for you?", he asked. "Not really", I replied, "I need to get to the bank and move some money around, or I will be bouncing checks". Hey, if he was really concerned, I will tell him about all of my problems in life. But again, I get the feeling he really wasn't interested.

And so, I agreed to meet for a few minutes so that I could still get out and get my errands run over lunch. When I got to this meeting, the owner wasn't there. In his place was his right hand man (we could call him a henchman) who was getting things started. I hate that guy. He likes to make really retarted 'points' which usually involve stories that don't really go anywhere. He also sometimes writes down a few words while you are talking to him, and then he reads them back to you with explanations that could only be described as an SNL sketch gone wrong.

Eventually the owner showed up to ask us "what we think could be done differently". We have to wonder about the timing of this meeting. Just yesterday we (the instructors and a few others) had held a meeting that did *not* involve any member of management (including our 'manager'). The topic was "how do improve this training center, since management is failing to do so". So here we are speaking with the owner about "how things should run" when we just held this discussion withouth him one day prior. Everyone seems to agree that the real problem with the company is that our manager doesn't really 'manage' anything.

The owner goes on to tell us that 'leadership is with the individual' and that managers aren't necessarily 'leaders'. The whole point made absolutely no fucking sense. If you don't move people in the right direction, and improve business strategy, you are not a fucking manager. Fucking duh. Call our boss something else, and give her a pay cut. We also argued that because our manager lacks technical skill, she is unable to understand issues that arise. He disagreed. So whatever.

Meanwhile the henchman was busy writing down his 'thought words' and pulled out a sheet of paper. "Here's what we need to do", he says, "do you know what this is?". He passes a sheet of paper onto the table which reads, "TO DO". Oh, that's brilliant. We need to make a "to do" list for our manager. Why didn't I think of that. If we tell our manager what to do, she will actually be a great leader! Here's a better idea though. How about we just do it ourselves, and you can give her salary to us? How many managers need a fucking "to do" list? That's pretty insulting.

Anyhow, the instructors gave up on management a long time ago. We have decided that we will just have to take this training business into our own hands while there is still some business left. At this next so called "training meeting" the managers may notice a sudden shift in power.

Now, I really must get moving. I want to exchange the battery in my Bug today before I have to head to my second job. I ended up calling off this morning, and asking another instructor to cover my last day of class. I hate when people do that shit to me, but ... I couldn't get off of the toilet. They seems to understand. And hell, I did teach all four days with a cold. Now that my digestive track seems to be back in order, I can buckle up for a nice long shift at Best Buy (now with extended holiday hours).

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Unfinished Work
After weeks of not Blogging much of anything, I feel the need to play catch up' once again. I was lucky enough to get a weekend off from Best Buy. I don't imagine getting Saturday and Sunday both off will be a regular occurance for me. So going into the weekend it seemed pretty nice. Not that I don't mind staying busy with work. Keeping busy is nice and rewarding in it's own ways. Saturday morning I awoke about 10:00AM as if I was arising from a coma. It was probably the after-effect of the drug cocktail I had gulped down to send of a headache the night before. But if the kids hadn't been outside my door making some noise I probably would have slept until noon. It's not that I didn't get enough sleep, I just felt knocked out.

That morning I choked down my breakfast and made quick to get into my working clothes. Then, it was off to the garage to get working on my Bug. I had a couple of projects for the weekend, but putting a new generator in my Bug was at the top of my list. Little did I know I would be in the garage until around 9:00PM.

Don't ever let anyone tell you it's easy working on a Volkswagen Beetle. Sure, you can rebuild the carbeurator in about an hour. You can hold up one side while your friend changes a tire. But changing out something simple like a generator ... that's quite dificult. Before I got going, I sat down and read through my "how to keep your Volkswagen alive" book. The author, John Muir, had some entertaining comments. He started with removal instructions for the 50's Bugs, and then worked his way through the seventies. As he did, he noted "look how things get more complicated as the years go on". I picked a good Bug to work on. I had attempted a generator swap on a 1974 and it about drove me insane. Of course, that was over 10 years ago, and I didn't own a full set of metric tools yet.

It was clear that I was going to have to remove the carbeurator, fuel pump, solenoid, and a few other parts to get to the generator. I would also have to unbolt and lift the fan shrouding to gain access to some hard to reach bolts. In the process of removing the carbeurator for probably the third time in a month, I decided to make things easier on myself. There is a bolt on the rear of the carb' which falles under a bent pipe. The bend prevents you from getting a socket wrench into the area. An open ended wrench put at the right angle and just catch it, and turn it about 1/8 of a revolution. At which point, you need to grab your other wrench and work it another 1/8 around. I would NOT be going through that again. Thanks to a rusty old 13 milimeter wrench, bolt cutters, and a grinder, I came up with a fantastic little tool which allowed me to get the carb out with EASE. That tool is going right next to "The Motherfucker" in my garage. It's a real keeper.

Hours into the project it occured to me that it would take equally long to get everything back into the car, and it was getting dark outside. But I didn't let that bother me. What bothered me is that I was in the same spot I was in when I last removed a generator 10 years ago. On one end of the generator goes a pully. It of course, loops on a belt to the main drive pully to provide the spinning action. On the other end however, is a giant fan blower that resemblers a water-mill. This fan is attached by a big honkin' 36mm bolt. The bolt naturally is put on with the strength of God. It is not meant to be removed by man. I just happen to own a 36mm socket (thanks to a buddy of mine who shelled out ten bucks for it for a tire job) and a big ass breaker bar (2 feet long). The problem is not in the muscle. It's the fact that as you work your weight into the bolt, the generator just rotates.

I thought I was smart.

I went to Lowes (I hate that fucking place) and spent 72 cents on two 12mm nuts. I slid those nuts onto the opposite side of the generator, then slid a socket over the two nuts and popped a smaller breaker bar onto the socket. That'll hold it! While putting my weight onto both ends ... I was able to ... bruise myself in an embarassing area. But alas, the bolt did not come off. After lunch, a few beers, and some hateful words I went back to work.

I could drill it out! I didn't mind ruining the end of the generator. It was going to the trash anyway. So I started drilling. Every time I have ever hollowed out a bolt until there is nothing left, I have been able to turn it to dust with a screwdriver and a mallet. But not this bastard. Tougher than dirt. I was eventually able to free the 26mm nut, but I left behind a fair bit of threading from the bolt that was not coming out easy. In fact, holding it into the light it looks like the two were bonded on some molecular level. Fuck. I ruined it. I took it inside and showed it to my wife. "How much will that cost?" she asked. I headed downstairs and began looking across several sites. It was a very special bolt. It contained an inner circular cutout which allowed it to slide over part of the fan shrouding. After quite a bit of searching it was clear that I could not buy a new nut. I would have to either fabricate a new one or repair the old on.

Back to Lowes. I really hate Lowes. I brought the nut with me, along with a nut from the other end of the generator which was still in good shape. Using the guide that was nailed up at Lowes, I was able to determine the threading and size of the nut. It was 12m 1.5. Now all I needed was a "re-threader" to fix the big nut. After asking three or four people who don't know anything about the store that they work in, I found the small assortmant of threaders. The only metric ones were all packed into one set which stopped at 10mm and had an asking price of $31. Eeek.

So I went to Wal-Mart. I fucking hate Wal-Mart. They had about 10 different tools. Total. What a waste of time. Then I went to the auto-part store. They had a small assortment of threaders, but not the size I needed. The woman who worked there sent me to Pep-Boys which was just up the road. I had never noticed it in passing, and I must not have noticed it when I went looking for it, because I drove halfway to downtown. Along the way I noticed a "True Value" hardware store. Those places are generally a joke, because the cost is so high on everything, that I don't think "true value" is a fitting name for the store.

Would you believe that this shop had the VERY piece I needed? I was so excited, that I didn't mind paying the $7 for it. Pulling the part out of my pocket I flashed it to the old man working the counter who helped me track it down. This shop had the finest assortment of threaders I have ever seen.

And so once home, I was able to get the threader threading, and I cranked out the old bolt remnants with ease. It dropped out with a plunk looking like a little corkscrew. I was amazed at it's strength. Something so thin should be easily crushable, but this crap was solid. So onto the next challenge. I would need to get the old fan and pully pieces off of the old alternator and they were on there really good.

This is when I wouldn't mind calling up my grandfather and thanking him for one of this finest tools. The heat gun. What looks like a hairdryer on crack, coughs out a couple hundred degrees of fire hot air. Combined with a can of penetrating oil, you can losen, unbolt, or remove damned near anything. Parts that I couldn't pry off given an hour of jerking and hammering practically fell off with the heat and oil combo.

Putting the new generator back in was pretty tough. It seemed even tougher given that I was really tired, hungry, sore, dirty ... and just plain cranky. I decided to drop it, and go to bed. It has been getting pretty cold in that garage since the sun went down anyway and my tiny little ceramic heater was not keeping up.

This morning I went back to work, and muscled the new generator back into place in no time. A nights rest was definitely the right move. Of course, I did sleep in again. I slept like a damned corpse. Felt good though. Part after part, everything went back into the car like a jig-saw puzzle with no major snags. It's a good thing too. This afternoon, my wife got a call from her sister. She wanted her car back. We had been driving it around since my car was out a generator and her car was out a muffler. Becoming worried that we would have no transportation at all, she began checking in on me every once in a while.

Once everything was back together, I drummed up the car and watched the generator spin happily. I was overjoyed that the pully no longer jumped around like it had before. It was definitely a lose belt, but I was unable to tighten it before. Since I had taken the pully completely off I could see that thin shims (or spacers) had been used to push the pully apart. I removed a couple of those before re-assembling the pully, and now I was able to tighten the pully perfectly. No more awkward rattling.

Into the car I went, on my first trip in weeks. It was good to be behind the wheel of the ol' blue monster again. I headed back to the auto part store. There was one item I desperately needed. Hand cleaner! The good orange stuff with the gritty stuff in it. The drive was a good one. The car was running good, my windshield wipers were "responsive" (they hadn't been with the bad generator) and it seemed to idle nicely. It was also noticeable quieter. I was able to slap on my iPod and listen to some tunes over the noise of the car. Oh, did I mention that I got my iPod?

Ray gets his iPod
So I came home from work last week, tired as hell. I went straight to the kitchen for a snack and then right to bed. I normally check my e-mail, but I didn't bother. The following morning (Thursday) I decided to check my mail. Who knows, maybe someone loves me. I was overjoyed to find that my iPod status had changed to SHIPPED! I couldn't wait to get a look at this shipping details. Expecting to find that it would be taking a week or two, it looked like it was coming today. It had shipped the say before from Michigan, and was in Columbus the same day for delivery.

Sure enough, a few hours later it was at my door. I was having such a miserable day at work. Not getting much done. My clothes didn't fit. And I had a horrible headache. And so I decided to go home, changed into better clothes, and play with my iPod before returning to work. What a gem! I hooked her up, got it charged and updated, and then began synchronizing. Within a few minutes, it was now carrying my entire music collection of 9 gigs (and I still have 11 gigs left!). It sounds great, and the whole click-wheel feature is truely a wonder of modern engineering and design. Oh, and I didn't pay a thing for it.

For those of you still going for your free iPod, don't give up hope!

Web Pages, Databases, and Stables
I have so much left to do that I couldn't squeeze into this weekend. I had planned on finishing a pony stable that I am building from oak for my daughter. I was going to work on this database that I am working on for a woman at the department of insurance. I was going to wrap up some work on a friends web site (which he has all ready paid me for). But I just ran out of time. Sure, I could be doing any ONE of those things right now instead of kicking up my feet and blogging. But ... I am fucking tired.

It feels good to kick my feet up and recollect. If I don't do this once in a while, I forget to sit down and tell myself "you have made progress". In all the rushing around to get things done, and balance my time I often feel as if I am not accomplishing much of anything. But alas, I DO get things done once in a while don't I?

My Employers Are Fags
Do I have time for one more topic? Is anyone still reading? Good. So, this past Friday I was talking to this guy I work with, Dustin. I hadn't seen him in a while. We don't often cross paths much other than when we are heating up our lunches (if we have lunches). Dustin lives an hour and a half from the office, and doesn't come in if he doesn't have to. Lately, he has been spending a lot of time at home. His wife has been chronically ill with a kidney infection that has lead to the need for surgery.

So why was he at the office when he wasn't teaching? Because he was asked to come into the office even when he is not teaching. So that we can all have a better sense of "community". This past Tuesday the office had it's usual Tuesday morning staff meeting which I skipped as usual. I could have got in on time and sat through it, but I never do. None of the bullshit discussed ever does anything positive to my attitude. Afterwards, I was approached by the owner who more or less told me to start coming to these mandatory meetings. Whatever.

The last meeting I was in he told us all a story about his trip to a salon in an effort to relate some moral about "good customer service". Needing a haircut myself, I was a little annoyed. Hell, I needed more than a haircut. I needed a raise. But this guy was going to salons and blowing $100 on a bad haircut. At any rate, I have been a lot happier at work by NOT attending those meetings. Now, I am being told I must return to them.

The same way Dustin was told that he would have to travel next week to Louisianna. His wife is having surgery. She may not live. Kidney surgeries are a bit dangerous. So why is he going to Louisiana? He was told to go teach a class there. This is after he told them that he couldn't be sent out of town for that week and that he might need some time off. No warning, no apologies. Go to Lousiana and teach this course, or you lose your job.

I need to get out of this company.

That's all for now. I don't want to go griping again, I will make myself angry. And you wouldn't like me when I'm angry.

Current Mood: Not angry yet.
Musical Inspiration: The random shuffle on my iPod.