Friday, September 28, 2007

The Update
My old boss called me this morning. It was good to hear from him. I hadn't spoken to him since I left my old job. That was now sixth months ago. I know, because a day or two ago I got a shot in the arm. It was my six month Hepatitis B vaccine.

I had left my old boss a message last week wanting to talk about off-site electronic backups. It was something that he does pretty well, and having worked for him I all ready know how far below the competitors margins he is when it comes to "cost per gigabyte of off-site storage". Of course he is offering a slight discount to the former employee, which I have graciously accepted. None of this will go down until next year, as we are just planning on how we will spend the hospitals capital budget for 2008. But enough about that.

A few nights ago I was driving out to pick up my son. I took the bug. That's right. I'm rolling VEE-DUB style. That's a long story, but here's the synopsis. 1) The engine went in 2) It wouldn't start, and leaked a TON of oil 3) The engine came out, and I found a mistake that I had made when installing the oil cooler 4) The engine went back in, and wouldn't start 5) After much adjusting of the valves - it fired up ... and hasn't stopped running since.

Anyway, while driving out on that cool autumn night I thought, "this is nice". And it is nice. I love my little house. I love my busy job. I love walking out at night and hearing *nothing*. I like sitting on my high speed Internet connection. I love my kids new schools. They love their new friends. Moving here -- was a life changing event (a good one of course).

Monday my wife goes to take a test. It will determine what she has to study to earn her GED. She'll be in class a few nights a week earning her Diploma. When that is done, I will likely try to slip back to school myself. I am now eligible to start taking college courses, which will be paid in full by the hospital. Nice benefit.

In general, LIFE IS GOOD. :-)

Some People Need Punched In The Face
This blog wouldn't be any fun if I just sat around and told you about how great life is. So I think it makes good sense to drop a rant in here.

Recently, a wise assed college goer stepped up to microphone at a public speaking event, and asked John Kerry something really insulting. Apparently, security did not find the humor in his smart-assed remarks, and moved in to storm the verbal assailant. The student seemed to know what was going to happen next. He begged and pleaded not to "tased" with the taser gun. Men everywhere covered their eyes in sheer disgust of his sissie-ness. What happened next was a long, brutal, and *probably* unnecessary use of extreme violence. While the attendees of the event shrieked in horror, and begged the security folks to leave him alone - the comments of the video (once posted online) were more of the "LOL!" variety.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not some Nazi that condones this kind of violence from underpaid and under trained security staff. Yet, I am compelled to root for the guy holding the taser. This punk thought he could run to the podium, insult the public speaker, and not have to tolerate the feedback for his remarks. He was mistaken. Perhaps the feedback was a bit harsh. But that's the cost of being a total douchebag.

Yet - maybe we need more action like this. It seems that there needs to be a better feedback system for voicing rude comments. Stepping up to the podium at a public rally for this young gent' was apparently not the time or place. But what is the right time and place?

What about the idiots we "elect" into power? Democracy has gone to the dogs, and you know it. Once they are elected, they are seemingly protected from any negativity. If you show up to a rally holding a sign that says "THE SENATOR IS A FUCKING TOOLBAG", you would be dismissed. So, only those with polite things to say are invited. But when do the nay-sayers get to step up and voice a complaint? Let's say you buy a product such as Windows Vista, and it's SO bad that you are completely insulted for having paid any amount of money for it? Too bad. You can call the corporation and tell them why you hate it, but they will hang up on you. They don't have to tolerate that.

I think what this society lacks, is the open ability to show up and punch someone in the kisser. A lot of problems would be solved, and quickly.

A few days ago, someone left a note on my wifes car. It must have been a response to our bumper sticker which reads, "What would Buddha do?". The note read something like, "Buddha is dead and rotting in the ground. Jesus rose from the dead. He's alive. Duhhh". Leaving a note on the windshield of a car ... to disagree with a bumper sticker ... is a most sad, pathetic, and cowardly act. While it's intended to serve a joke, I am a Buddhist. I would love to have discussed religious matters with this individual. But alas, they were a complete, and total pussy. Akin to the thousands of cowardly, idiot losers who hide in their bedrooms posting to online forums. Or serving in public office beyond layers of lackluster security. What they need, is a good solid punch in the face. I know, I know. I'm a Buddhist, and I shouldn't condone such violence!

Instead, let me address that coward here in my blog. It's the best way I know to reach someone, who obviously didn't want to talk to me about it.

Dear cowardly, church-going fool ...

Not everyone believes that Jesus rose from the dead. Some of us find the whole "ghost emerging from the cave" story a little hard to swallow. Which, is understandable. If I were to say, "well just the other day, I buried my dead grandfather ... but he just won't stay dead ... he came right back!" ... I would have to be sent to a psychologist. Please also keep in mind, that your religious beliefs are all you have ever known, and will likely remain all you know. Try to educate yourself on other world belief systems to better prepare yourself for our next debate.

Additionally, let me serve you an extra large helping of irony-pie (with cream on top). The Buddha was just an ordinary guy. He was pretty clear about spreading what he considered to be "the truth". One of these truths is that all of us will eventually die. He included himself in this theory. He in fact, considered himself to be pretty average. To remind me that he is rotting in the ground, reinforces that you know nothing about the founding principles of Buddhism.

The Buddha must have suffered a lot of criticism from folks like this. They walk around so sure of themselves. Never looking outside of what they have been lead to accept, all the while questioning their "faith". Why would God put me through this? Thank God for giving me that promotion! I want to thank God for giving me this day! That my friend, is what I find crazy. Buddhists don't operate on faith. We accept that we are in control of our own actions. We are nice to people because being nice to people makes them feel good (not because we are trying to score points for heaven). Or rather, if you are a Theravada Buddhist - you are nice to people because it makes YOU feel good. :-) We don't neaten up once a week and confess our sins, because we aren't doing anything that requires forgiveness. If we were to go out and do something awful, we would have to live with the awful consequences. We call this system "karma". You should look into it.

But you won't. You will continue to go to church, talk about how angry you are about anyone who doesn't agree with you, and leave notes on peoples cars.

If you ever grow up, and decide to accept being a responsible and accountable person - please come talk to me.

There, that's all that needed said. I don't expect that they got the message. But perhaps one of you church-going "leave notes on windshield" types will get to read this, and will understand my message.

Or maybe you just need a good punch in the face?

Historic Comments
I guess you'll just have to let the poor bug run out of gas before you can fix that pesky "won't quit running" problem. :D
Hello | 10.03.07 - 4:37 pm | #

Funny you should say that. I did let it run out of gas last week. It wouldn't stay running one morning and after much thought I realized that I hadn't filled up in two weeks. Turns out when I replaced my gas tank, my fuel sending gauge either didn't go in correctly or needs some adjustment. I had to loot the "mower can" to get it to the gas station. Woops!!

Ray Dios Haque | 10.03.07 - 9:16 pm | #

Hey Ray!
Its so good to see that things are going well with you.

I too am sick of the zealots that make up much of American society. You see it in everything people want to thank the magic man in the sky for everything and seek answers as to why he made them sick or took away Uncle Ernie.

If only you could really communicate with the loser who left your wife that note instead of posting it where he or she will never see it.

Rich | 10.09.07 - 2:41 pm | #

Good to see you are still alive.
bird603568 | Homepage | 10.15.07 - 3:13 pm | #

Its amazing that with all the positivity in your life you can still dwell on something so stupid as a hillbilly leaving a note on your windshield.
Johnny Fist | Homepage | 10.17.07 - 8:14 am | #

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Seriously, are you kidding me?
I hardly ever go to MySpace and when I do, I get an error message. I would venture to say that 50% of the time I try to go to someones MySpace page it either doesn't load at all, or I get some meaningless shit like this ...

Why not some truth in error messages? Let's be honest, there obviously is no "technical group" to look over this error message. If there were, they would have fixed whatever causes this message about a year and a half ago when I started seeing them.

Could we get a web-cam that overseas the cubical's where all of these "technical people" are situated? I would like proof that they really exist.

I would also like to propose a new error page, that looks a little something like this ...

Perhaps if they did away with all the error pages, they would like 1/2 their advertising money?

Hey MySpace, eat a cock.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

MySpace is Fucking Retarded
The profile doesn't exist ... but I still have an invisible friend? Here's a thought for you MySpace "developers", how about when you delete a profile you go ahead and take all their friend invites with them so I don't have 25 of these things ...

And another idea for you. When I say that something is "SPAM", my next step is going to be to delete it. But thanks for always bringing me back to that same page, in case I might want to file away that SPAM for future annoyance.

I have had my fill with poorly designed software lately. My phone is a piece of shit. Thanks Microsoft for writing the WORST code EVER, Windows Mobile 5. You couldn't have tested it. It's broken. I wish bad developers would hang themselves, and not pro wrestlers.

And screw you Citrix - for releasing a new client for Linux, changing the installation procedure, and not updating the documentation. Or did your "developers" just leave out the installation script that the directions say to run.

Attention all developer douche-bags who code steaming piles of shit and sell them to the health care industry - your days are numbered. You know who you are.

Okay, I'm done.

Oh wait - *EDIT* Let me add this annoyance for Windows XP. I want to be able to hover over the clock and see the date. Is that too much to ask? Why does it pop up underneath my clock? Are we playing peek-a-boo?

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Moving On
During my long drives I have been listening to a radio show. The host gives financial advice with a no-nonsense attitude. "My company gave me a bunch of their stock ... should I sell it?". His responses always seem logical to me. "If you had the money, would you buy that stock? - Probably not. Sell it. Buy yourself some mutual funds with a guaranteed and steady return". Other times you have people calling in saying that they bring home $2,600 a month in income, and have a $1500 mortgage payment. We're not that bad off, but the advice is always the same. MOVE. So that's what we're doing.

I have done my usual business with the bank. I send them my household budget, a couple pay stubs, and a "letter of hardship". In return they send me a letter in the mail that expresses sympathy for my situation, and reminds me that if I pay what is due in full - all is forgotten. Of course, we have done that before (cleaning out most of my retirement) and have nothing to show for it now. My concern turned from "how will we keep our house" to "where will we live next?".

We had several strikes against us when it comes to trying to rent property. First, we are in a foreclosure situation and we are fleeing a home that the bank will soon be repossessing. Secondly, our credit is "less than perfect". Sure, we have no debt other than the house (which is nice), but that's not helping our credit score either. Lastly, we have two dogs. Would I rent a house to someone with two dogs? Hell no. So we knew it would be difficult to find a place to live, and we were prepared to settle for "less than perfect living conditions".

Thankfully that would not be necessary.

After several trips to the town of Mount Vernon, we had traveled up and down nearly every street in town. There are plenty of houses for sale, very few for rent. The few homes we could find for rent wanted nothing to do with dogs. One home owner seemed far too lenient about the dogs and it made me wonder about the home. After a quick drive by of the property, I knew that we did not want to live there (it was a dive).

This past weekend we called a number from the local newspaper and talked with a Realtor who was renting a property for an out of state owner. The "curb appeal" told us that we were very much interested in seeing the house.

After meeting with him and having a look around, we knew we wanted to live in this house. It's quite old, but well cared for. It had the three bedrooms we were looking for, and a large basement (especially considering the age of the home). It also featured a front and back deck, and a fenced in yard. And yes, they permitted pets.

Worried that I would be turned down over the phone, I waited until after we had met the Realtor before mentioning all of the reasons he would not want to rent to us. Before leaving, he handed me some paperwork which I promised to fill out and drop back off to him ASAP. They were your typical over-faxed and over-photocopied rental papers.

I wanted to make a good effort on this one. So I later scanned in the documents, converted then to PDF files, and then entered the text on my PC. I made his filled in rental application look better than the originals. Then, I wrote out a nice letter explaining my situation with brutal honesty.

We had seen the house on a Saturday. Sunday night he called my cell phone. "Do you think you will be interested in renting out the house?". I told him that I had all ready filled out his paperwork and had planned to drop it off to his office the next morning. He had me drop it off to his home instead where he has a nice office over his garage.

Then, I waited. Nervously, I waited throughout the holiday weekend. Monday came and went. Tuesday was nearly passed. And then my phone rang. It was the Realtor! It could be good news ... could be bad news. I answered. And my phone bricked. These wonderful phones. Fancy as they are. Full size flip-out keyboard. Full email and unlimited Internet. Camera for picture taking. The works. But every time I get an important phone call, the damn thing freezes up on me.

Alas, he had good news for me which I would retrieve from him five minutes later (after "restarting Windows Mobile"). He was going to rent to us.

And so yesterday I stopped by his home, a few blocks away, and filled out the standard rental agreement. I have keys. I have a new home.

It's weird having a new home after all of these years. My wife has always said that we would never move out of this house. I don't know that I ever believed that in my heart. It was financially difficult from the beginning. And then it became financially impossible in the years to come.

I suppose every thing is going to "plan". But I still keep stressing over the many uncertainties.

Now, I have to get back to figuring out how to get my VW Bug moving again. Time is of the essence!

Historic Comments
"It's a quiet, unassuming little town WITH A DARK SECRET!!" Sorry, that's the way those horror movie trailers always start out. Looks like a nice place, and it's good that they let you have pets. If there's not a lot of industry in town, the rental market is probably a bit weak and a renter is more likely to rent to a slight risk than to let his property sit empty. Good luck on the move. You may have to push the bug.
Acid Country | 06.08.07 - 5:33 pm | #

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The New Job
What have I got myself into? This network is a mess! Let me back up …
I started my new job two weeks ago now. Monday morning I arrived at 7:10AM. When asked what time work started my boss had said “people start coming in between 7:00AM and 8:00AM”. But I could see that she would rather folks come in earlier. That was fine with me as I am trying to avoid my local inner-city rush hour. I ended up arriving a little too early, about 7:10AM. Only one other guy was there, and I could see that he was wondering why the hell I was there so early. Everyone else shows up at 7:55AM. No matter, I was able to spend some time cleaning junk off my new desk.

When my boss showed up, she grabbed me and said “follow me!” Then, out the door we went and up a hallway to a strangely situated room near the elevators. She cracked open the door, and ushered me into this roomy “junk closet”. “Grab one of those”, she said. I picked up a Dell box, and carried it back to my desk. I had a new PC. Woo-hoo! Next we headed for the elevators, ducked inside, and I watched as she cracked open a special panel and requested the “7th floor”. This floor is reserved for hospital staff only. Once there, the doors opened to what seemed to be a general storage area. It was pretty loud, as you had to duck and jump over duct work and generator-like devices. Amongst the rubble was old hospital beds, food preparation equipment, ancient PC’s, and … a rack of 19 inch flat panel displays. I grabbed one, and back we went to the elevators. While waiting for it to come back, I heard a “lullaby jingle” which rang loud and clear from all directions. I turned to look, but all I could see was a radiation cage for the decaying of radiology equipment. “Did that jingle come from within there?” “No, that’s the intercom … a baby was just born”.

Once back to my area the boss says “work on setting up your computer, I will be back later”. So I unboxed everything and starting going through the motions. I must say, I was right at home. When I logged in with my new account, I all ready had a couple of mapped drives – one of which was full of various software packages. I got to work installing Office, antivirus stuff, and some utilities that would probably come in helpful like Ethereal.

About the time I was wrapping up and checking my mail for the first time – the boss returned.

She turned to one of the veterans of the department and said “remember that project I had you working on … well it needs done now … so have him work on that and give him the details”. Then she was gone. What was this project? Track down every port on every patch panel in the hospital – and record what port on what switch that connects to. Basically, I was asked to build a compiled list of locations of wall jacks to patch panels. Then, patch panels to switching equipment. This might take … a while.

An hour into the project I could see that the wiring was a Goddamn mess. The good news is that I could complain about it all I wanted, and tell everyone how awful it was – because nobody that works there now had anything to do with it. The old regime from years past is completely gone (disposed of) and after only one day I could see why.

Three days into the project I felt I was making some headway, thanks to the help of an intern that they had assigned me. The intern had no knowledge of networking but had been working for the hospital off and on for years. The advantage was that he knew where everything was located now (and for that matter were things USED to be in years past).

Now here are some tips for anyone who might run network cabling.

1) Label the wall jacks. Even if you don’t have a fancy sticker labeler – you can write onto the wall jack with a permanent marker. But hey – write the correct thing on the wall jack while you are at it.

2) When you put in a patch panel, they are labeled one to twenty four (or more). When you put in a second panel, it too will be marked one through twenty four. Don’t be a fucking retard and leave it that way. You can’t have two jacks that are both port “18”. Duh.

3) When you run out of ports on the patch panel, and you are running some more cable – don’t reach around the back and yank out stuff you aren’t using at the time. Spend the extra fifty bucks and get another panel.

4) Don’t put three piece oak furniture in front of network jacks. If you do, you should put something on the wall or on the furniture which tells the network administrator what’s behind the obstruction.
Most of these seem like common sense. Perhaps I could sum all these up with one master rule – “Make sure your network administrator has some idea of what the fuck they are doing”. That being said – the boss approached me on my third day to see how things were going, and then asked “how long until this is done”.

I was honest. Maybe too honest. I went on to tell her that this network (at least the first floor) was in the worst condition that I have ever seen in my 12 years of IT. “If I were to do this right, we are looking at several more weeks of running around this place”. Her eyes widened and I could see that she was about to be … not happy. “Not weeks! Days!”, she said, “so let’s try this again … how many days will this take”. I wasn’t sure how to retort. But she is a serious woman, who doesn’t kid much, and wants it all straight. “I should have a somewhat useful list and diagram in the next two days … but it could be months before this all gets straightened out”. She understood. She said “I understand why you say months … we don’t have months … you get it done in two days!”.

Two days later I had a pretty good list of where various ports went to. But there were other problems. Some wall jacks were labeled incorrectly, and we didn’t have time to test each port. Running around with a toner (fox and hound Fluke device) was taking far too long (even with two people working for nearly 10 hours a day). Even now, two weeks later, I am upset that it’s such a mess.

It was made pretty clear to me that this was my network. My baby. And my baby is quite ill. I hope that in the years that follow I can turn it all around. But certain things have to stop. Like the build maintenance people running our network drops for us.

My second week of work, I spent the first two days in orientation. You learn all sorts of interesting stuff there. HIPAA rules and regulations, how to deal with spilled body fluids, how to help people in need, emergency codes, infection prevention … the list goes on. For two solid days we were packed into a hot little room where speaker after speaker came in to entertain us with odd movies, slides, and other such presentations. It was all good information, and it was all necessary. But still, I was quite ready to “get back to work”.

The rest of the week was broken up into a few tasks. They would like for me to take over some of the printer/copier/scanner support for Ricoh devices (the hospital has dozens of them everywhere). I went out and fixed a few printer jams to help the “PC technician”. I even helped out on a strange wireless problem. Oh, here is an interesting story.

The emergency room had called a couple times one morning. They have two carts with laptops in them that they roll around to perform patient registrations with. Of these carts had gone belly up on them and was rolled back to us for repair. I had inspected it, ran several tests and determined that “it’s fucked”. Simply put, they damned thing was overheating and shutting itself off. It was years out of warranty and would need flat out replaced.

In the mean time, their one other cart was experiencing issues. As they rolled it around the department it would sometimes loose it’s address and begin dropping packets. I had a look, and confirmed their claims. There were nine access points in this area, most of which were about eight feet apart. It was complete overkill and I had to wonder if there were enough channels to keep all those signals separated. I also noticed that while there were nine access points, there were only eight cables going into a switch. Like everything else in the hospital, nothing was labeled so it took me an hour or so of climbing up and down a ladder and running back and forth to track down and label all of the connections. Sure enough, one of the access points was getting power from a POE injected patch panel … but was not sending or receiving data through the network. Basically, every time a cart was lucky enough to connect to this access point, traffic would begin dropping.
I also noticed that two other access points were alive and well – but would also drop packets when connected. Was it that the switch was managed into a VLAN of some sort which was configured poorly? They only started having this problem a few days before when this new switch was put into production. Since the consultant that was hired into the project is the only one that would know, I asked him about it. I also asked if I could gain access to this switch for the purpose of troubleshooting. He declined to give me that information or to assist in my problem.

The following morning I went in with a mission. I removed all of the access points from the Cisco switch and plugged them into an old Netgear 24 port switch from a “junk pile”. Sure enough, everything worked fine. I wandered around with the cart a few times letting it connect to various access points, and renew its address each time. All the while, I ran continuous ping back to the default gateway. I dropped a single packet throughout the entire test. It was clear to me that I had made my point.

I headed back to my department, and I grabbed the veteran. “I think I have narrowed down the problem to that new switch”. I explained what I had done. “I guess you had better tell Rob then”. Rob is the “consultant” for a Cisco equipment upgrade. I went into the little office which was set up for Rob and relayed what I had done, and what I had found out. “Are they plugged into the Cisco now?”. “No”, I said, “but I can put them back in for you. I just wanted to show you that it works when they are not in the Cisco device”.

With that I headed back to the emergency department, and started plugging the access
points back into the Cisco. When I did, none of the link lights came back. That was odd. Then the door to this room cracks open. It was my pal from our department. “I thought you were kidding about that. You really pulled them out of the switch?”. Here is where I’m really confused. I thought he was kidding. Yes, I un-plugged the access points from the Cisco switch, and put them into an old Netgear. Yes, I told the Cisco consultant what I had done. Yes, I fail to see a problem with doing so.

“When you left”, he adds, “Rob asked me if you had access to these switches. He thinks someone is going around screwing with them, and now he thinks we’re doing it”.
I genuinely felt bad. The consultant can kiss my ass. I think he is a huge waste of money. If I have to unplug a device and plug it back in, I should not have to go ask permission or wonder if it’s going to break something. But I did feel bad for my department buddy. I had just made life a little harder on this guy, and he is all ready pretty well stressed out.

Having plugged everything back in, I headed back with my tail between my legs to talk to “captain dickhead” the consultant. I apologized (against my better judgement). “Sorry about that”, I said, “I guess I didn’t see a problem with moving devices from one switch to another to troubleshoot that issue – and I wanted to ensure it was a problem at the switch before I bothered you about it”. He continued to scorn me, “well that’s the problem … you can’t just go unplugging things”. I failed to see his point. “Well the users are going to be unplugging things all the time. We can’t stop that. My question is, why are the ports all dead?”. He connected to the switch and had a look. “All of those ports are in ‘error/disable’ mode”. “ah, well can’t we just re-enable them then?”. “I don’t know”, he says.

What don’t you know about this? Aren’t you the fucking “expert”? Well I’m not Cisco certified, but I would be willing to bet that the ports just need re-enabled. Oh, by the way – can you fix it so that they won’t do that again for when the power goes out – or the POE patch panel finally bites the dust? Thanks!

He re-enabled the ports. It was fine. And after some more mucking about in the settings, things were back to normal. Thank you Mr. Cisco genius. I could see that I had made an enemy for life with this guy, but seriously, who gives a shit?

One thing about that whole mess troubled me though. How much of a network administrator can I be if someone else manages all my equipment? Maybe I am overstepping my bounds here, but I was hired because I had routing and switching experience. What’s going to happen when this guy is “done”? Will he just leave, and we will have to figure out how to make all of this stuff work? Is he going to provide support after the project is done? It seems that there is so much work to do, and so little time to do it, that most of the staff would rather not be involved. But I don’t come from that kind of environment and I am going to have a hard time adopting that mentality. I guess I just need to let that one go.

In the mean time, this is the “nicest” place I have ever worked. Aside from the vendors and consultants (the outsiders) the hospital is like one big family. Everyone there is friendly, outgoing, and busts their asses to get the job done. I like being part of that. I like greeting people in the hall. I like watching how all of these departments, offices, people, equipment, etc. all work together rather flawlessly. It’s like one big ant farm, and I have a magic key which allows me to explore the whole damn thing 24 hours a day (with the exception of surgical areas of

Oh, I have blogged far too much this time. More exciting news later!

Friday, March 02, 2007

You can fire me - because I quit (all ready)

Sunday night was rough. I caught something over the weekend, and it was making me pretty ill. That night I dosed up on Niquill and went out like a switch half an hour later. At 4:00AM I woke up parched. My throat was just raw, and I was in pretty bad shape. I would have to get up in a few hours, so I couldn't take another dose of Niquill. Maybe just a little nip? A night-cap - and then back to bed.

6:30AM came around like a motherfucker. The alarm was like a nail being driven into my head. I was dead to the world. That Niquill was still coursing through my veins. I was awake, but I couldn't convince my body to get out of bed. By 7:00AM I hadn't moved, and I was ready to go back to bed. Problem was, this was my last week of work - and I was kind of looking forward to it. With my laptop at my side, I popped it open and "emailed myself off" from work. Perhaps they would think I was just using up some time off that I had built up. But then, I all ready quit. So who cares. I went back to sleep, and didn't get up for another four hours or so.

I dragged around all day Monday. I was in pretty bad shape. I had the runny nose, sore throat, typical cold symtoms. None of my kids had been sick, so where the hell did I get this from? Was it backlash from one of those vaccine shots I had last week? It could be a sinus infection. I started choking down sinus pills. They didn't help me feel any better - but they did dry things up a bit.

Tuesday wasn't much better. I couldn't stop sneezing. I went through half a box of tissues on my way into the office. But I really had to go. If I called off again, they would really think I was screwing with them. My voice was almost entireley gone, so I was lucky to have only taken two phone calls in my first hour there. Then the boss called me into his office. I was expecting some sort of "exit interview" as his wife indicated might happen before I left out for good. But it was no such interview.

"So Friday's your last day?"
"That's right! I'm a short timer. Just working on wrapping things up, closing what I can, etc"
"Well, I would like for you to work through the day, and then take the rest of the week off"
"Oh, okay"
"Yeah, we will pay you for it. And you have a couple of 'TOB' days left, we will add those in next week"

I was being sent home - with pay! Awesome! There were a couple other things to settle. I had to turn in keys, my pager, and finish re-assigning service tickets that I wouldn't be around to resolve. When I got back to my desk, I started tearing all the junk off my walls, packing up all my desk trinkets, and wiping things down with cleaning stuff. I was going home! Woohoo!

I still don't understand why I was sent home. I wasn't going to argue with the guy, but they will all ready be short staffed. Sending me home four days early wasn't going to help those matters. But then maybe he thought I was just going to stick around with a bad attitude and bother the other guys? Who knows. But it was clear that the other men were mad at him for giving me the week off ... when they really needed the additional coverage.

I also picked up a hint of resentment from the boss and his wife. They were rather annoyed that I quit this job. If anything, it helped me know that I had made the right decision. They really think that the job is that good and we should want to work there forever. Meanwhile, there is no career advancement or hope of obtaining a raise. When we point out that certain things need attention (like that we spend too much time supporting customers with wireless problems - I LOVE YOU WINDOWS XP) they simply ignore us or blow off the issues. So you have a wealthy management team - who is growing wealther with every four to five customers that we are adding daily, and you have a staff of four guys who are growing bussier with every addition. Meanwhile we are supporting the same obscure product day in and day out, and come to work every day knowing that we will never move forward or obtain a raise.

I shook hands with the guys, wished them well, and I was out the door. I got to come home early. I didn't have to worry about getting my kids to the dentist the next day. I had the rest of the week off! But damned if I wasn't still really ill. Maybe he sent me home because I was sick and infecting the rest of the office? Nah - he was not that considerate. :-)

I wish I could say that I have spent my time at home wisely. I haven't. The last time I was sick, I made great strides with ODDREE Issue #2. It has been about a year since the first issue was released, perhaps I should get back to work on that? And so I spent my first day at home chugging down Dayquill and coffee, and working away in Adobe Indesign. The results were impressive, and it got me excited about completing this second issue.

I have also set aside some time to work on the new web site. I had decided that when issue two came out, the web site would have to get a make over. I have annoyed way too many people with my old Flash gag. So I put up a new site. Check it out?

Now, here it is Friday all ready. I start the new job Monday! I am starting to get excited about it. I'm looking forward to seeing some new faces, and facing some new challenges. I spent an hour or so cleaning out my bookbag, and deleting old junk off my thumbdrive. I wonder if I will have a desk to sit at? I wonder if I will even need a desk. I don't know much about what I will do on this job. I hope that it doesn't suck. Stay tuned!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Happy Trails
I finally got that job offer. It wasn't as high as I was hoping for, but it was only about 5,000 less than my target. I accepted, and with that we went to work on the final stages of the hiring process. The first of which - was to talk to my current boss. I was not looking forward to this part. I still needed to sit down and talk to the guy myself. He was completely in the dark about what had been transpiring. It was Friday afternoon, and perhaps late on a Friday would be as good a time as any to break the news to him. But alas, he would be in meetings all afternoon, right up until 6:00PM when I was leaving what would be my last 7:30AM to 6:00PM shift (don't ask).

Monday morning I waited for the boss to come in and get settled in. Moments later, I attacked. I walked in, and shut the door. "You know it's important when I shut your door", I said. He was all ears. I gave it to him in one sitting. "I have been made an offer ... one that I don't think I can refuse". I went on to tell him a little about the position, and why I was taking it. "How much did they offer you?". I told him it was roughly 10,000 more than I make now. He nodded, and that was about it. No counter offers, no trying to talk me out of it. He was all right with my leaving. I told him "I don't want you to think I am leaving out of here because of you all, I'm just doing whats right for my family ... and my career". That wasn't entirely true. I have about had my fill with the boss on a couple issues, one of which is how he deals with our complaints about after hours support (for which we are not compensated), our suggestions on new business, and process in general. He just ignores us.

I will not miss my work, or my boss. But I will surely miss the guys I work with. I worry that they will be under-staffed for a long time coming. Even when they get someone hired, they will have to spend weeks training that person to bring them up to speed (like they did me). But I didn't have a start date yet. Perhaps I could give them some fair warning. In the mean time, I had some work to do to get hired.

On my first of two required visits to the hospital, I met with a nurse. She put on a pair of thick glasses, and pulled out a clipboard. It was a questionnaire of sorts that started with "when was your last tetanus shot"? Uh oh. I wasn't really sure. Wrong answer. "Have you ever been tested for TB"? I had, but it was at least 5 years ago. Wrong answer. "Have you ever been vaccinated against Hepatitis B"? I didn't even know there was a vaccination for that. I'm not very fond of needles, but I could see that I would be getting quite a few of them shoved into me in the very near future. Sure enough, I was given a video to watch while the nurse went off the get my shots ready. I got to learn about how to deal with spilled body fluids, and how to properly wear a respirator mask. When she returned, there was a tray of needles. We got right to work. Ouch.

When I was done there I was sent to the lab for some "blood work". This is the part I really hate, having a needle pushed into my arm and held there while I am bled out. I guess it's a phobia. I have always feared having needles put into my skin. But I tried to calm myself, I didn't look, and it was over pretty quickly. Two days later, I was back. This time I was given a true physical. I had to stand in awkward places, have a doctor punch me in the kidneys, and do the old "turn your head and cough" thing. And then I was given the golden ticket, a "right to hire" signed by the staff. With this I was able to go to human resources and get my paperwork together. And following that activity, I was sent to the IT director to get my start date established.

She was rather quick with me, as I could see she was pretty busy that day. "When would you like to start? Do you have to give notice?". Technically, I don't. My contract is a "work at will" deal, where I can quit (or they can fire me) any old time. "I would like to give two weeks, but I'm not really required to". "One week", she says, "you will start on the 5th, yes?". I agreed. And that was that.

I took the news back to "the men", and I could see that they were both happy for me and disappointed all at the same time. They are far too kind to give me crap for leaving. They know why I'm leaving, and they want to see me succeed somewhere else. It makes it that much harder to depart. They will be missed.

Tomorrow I will start what will be my last week with the old crew. I have about 30 service tickets that I need to have cleaned up and completed by Friday, or I will have to hand them off to someone else. Throughout the week I will need to take down my pictures, ditch some old paperwork, and just wrap things up. Next week, I will get to start a new job. New faces, new challenges, greater opportunities.

Pa Passes On
Last week I had been talking to my mother about my grandpa. He was in lousy shape, and she wanted me to know that he may be on his way out. He's had Alzheimer's for several years now, and his condition went from mediocre to just plain awful in a short period of weeks. She told me that she thought I should be prepared for bad news, but that I probably wouldn't be interested in any final visits. Partly because his mental state was pretty bad, and also because he wouldn't know who I was. A few days ago I got the call from her. Pa had passed away.

I didn't spend a lot of time with my grandpa. I barely knew the guy. For that matter, I have never known any of my grandparents all that well. But I had a strange bond with my grandfather. People were always telling me that I looked like him. Namely my mother. She brought me a photo one time of him when he was young, and had just enlisted in the Navy and it was frighteningly like my high school senior pictures. It was clear that I had been practically cloned from his DNA. We had many common traits. Pa was a gentle, caring guy. Never one to start fights, or create static. He loved carpentry, and would spend countless hours in his shop building various things. For many years he built clipper holders from plexi-glass for barber shops around the United States. This was a process he had perfected over the years using an assortment of hand crafted templates, heating devices, and glues.

It was a shame to hear that he had passed. I knew this would be hard on my mother. Yet, it was relieving for the family. Pa had simply gone to sleep one night, and didn't wake up. It was a quiet and peaceful ending to what could have been a bitter battle with life.

Saturday was his funeral. We were asked not to dress us, although I couldn't resist wearing a suit. It was a respect thing. Pa had asked that he buried in a collared shirt, no tie and with a sweater if it was cold. It was a Catholic service. Those are always awkward for me, not being a Catholic myself. There are all sorts of readings and scriptures which are supposed to illicit a crowd reaction such as "and God be with you". I just tried to keep my head down, and nod when appropriate. I wasn't the only non-Catholic in the house. A good part of my family is atheist, and Pa had some good Jewish friends too (one of which stepped up and read scripture at the service).

They had some pictures of of my grandfather from various stages of life. Everyone kept looking at the photos of him in his thirties and then looking back at me as if they had just seen a ghost. When the service was over, I came over to hug my mother. She said that she will always remember her father when she looks at me. She told me that Pa gave me some of his best traits. For that I am greatful.

I wish I could have known the man better. Perhaps everyone felt the same way. At his funeral, they kept referring to his life as a "mystery" which was a little weird. I hope when I die, they won't consider my life a mystery. But then, they will have years of obscure Blog posts to refer back to.

Historic Comments
Grats about the new job, and sorry to hear about your 'pa
apex81 | Homepage | 02.26.07 - 5:15 pm | #

Hey hey dude,

Long time no read! Still up to no good I see!
Im living in the UK now, so I just wanted to let you know that when you eventually post that T-Shirt you should send it to Bristol not Johannesburg hehe.

Hows things? Im sure the last time we spoke you had been making babies?

Mike "Rattor" H | 09.30.07 - 7:33 am | #

Where'd he go?
eco | 12.30.07 - 8:55 pm | #

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Interview Round II
Monday morning I showed up to what I was hoping would be a job offer. It actually ended up being another interview. Let me tell you, they are very careful about who they are hiring for this position. In a way, I have a great respect for how seriously they are taking this position. It also makes it that much more challenging for me. But I want this job. Soon. Now. Give it to me!

I came in, sat down at the desk and watched as my interviewer grabbed her head and shook her hair around. "I have a terrible headache" she finally said. There were a few moments of uncomfortable silence. "I'm sorry, I'm having trouble thinking right now ... the pain is terrible". She lifted a half empty diet Mountain Dew can and shook it around. "Usually by this time I have had three of these". "Oh yeah", I said, "you should take down some aspirin and a lot of caffeine to chase that out. Sounds like a migraine". She nodded, not really listening to me, and got on the phone. "Hello doctor, can I still take you up on that offer for some ibuprofen? Thank you."

She excused herself and stepped out to meet with the doctor down the hall. She came back a few minutes later, and began to tell me about her style of management. Her accent is very thick. She went on to say that when she speaks, people really listen to her. Partly, because she holds everyone accountable to what she asks of them ... and partly because her broken English is sometimes hard to put together which she joked is probably why people really pay attention to her. But I could tell that she is a tough lady, and she wanted me to know it. In her words, her style of management is very "direct".

She said that the reason she brought me back out was because she was unsure of how I might handle customer service. We talked a bit. She asked some interesting questions which were more to put me on the spot than to illicit feedback. They were along the lines of "tell me about your strengths" and "tell me about your weaknesses". She was not really interested in my answers. Often she interrupted me as I was delivering them. This was a test of speech and mind. "Tell me what you do to relieve stress". "I talk to my wife ... I try to meditate now and then ... and I take karate classes and punch things ... that helps". She immediately asked, "which of those is most helpful". "Talking to my wife". She smiled.

"What have you learned from interviewing?"
"I guess you learn a lot about yourself. You asked what my weakness is. Nobody else would ask me something off the wall like that. Kind of makes you think about yourself, which you wouldn't normally sit around doing. And you can try to prepare for a question like that ... but you're never really prepared"
She agreed.
I added, "or were you really asking me about what I have learned about the job market and IT?"
"No, that was a good answer. But tell me what you have learned about IT over the years"
"Everyone has the same miserable problems, and uses the same miserable products. As different as every environment is, we all know one another grief in this field"
She agreed.

It was going very well. Here's where it got better.

"Here's what I think about you. You have looked for a good job that you really like for a long time and never found it. You liked your job of 7 years, but you have been trying to replace that ever since. I think if you found just the right position with just the right people to work with, you would stay there and be happy"
I agreed, completely.
"So I want to give you this opportunity"

That's where she is offering me the job. I said "great!". I waited. She continued.

"I will get with HR and get this moving. We should be in touch very soon"

Shit. I have the job. But I really wanted to walk out of there with my offer in hand. Another grueling interview, and no job. Still it was fantastic news.

Exploring the Land
This past weekend we headed out to Mount Vernon to explore the area. I printed out a big map of the town (it only took one sheet of paper) and then we just drove around. We found that we could get a mansion of a home for the 100 to 115's which would not be out of our league ... but out of our interest. In other areas of town, we could get a very decent looking smaller home for 70 something. As we drove around we scribbled down the names of several Realtors, agencies, etc. I also penciled in the prices of the homes (the ones that were listed) right onto the map. So later we can see what neighborhood a home is in before checking it out. All in all, the whole town looked like a nice place to live. Even the few trailer parks scattered around the outskirts of town were very neat and well kept.

There are difficult, yet exciting times ahead. We will be cleaning up this house, trying to get the kids through the rest of the school year, buying a new home, and moving into it all in a relatively short period of time.

And I still don't have that job offer in hand. What's keeping these people?

Historic Comments
Woo-hoo. Just been catching up on your (mis)adventures of late and was genuinely excited and relieved to read about your interview with this IT Director. I won't say congrats yet, but good luck instead.
Ty | 02.16.07 - 4:00 pm | #

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Opening The Door

I was sitting in my living room earlier this week. It was a non-karate night. I was still lounging around in my work garb (tan pants, polo) trying to forget the day I had and rest my brain. Then there was the doorbell. I don't get visitors. My kids don't really have friends in the neighborhood any more. They all moved away. Any friends we have would tell us that they were stopping by. The only people that ever ring my doorbell are salesmen, or charity workers. I wouldn't have any of it.

Five minutes or so went by, and then there was banging on my door. I had one of my kids look out the window. "It's just some guy ... with a clipboard". I decided that this must be pretty important. Here it is just below zero outside, and this guy is still on my porch wanting to talk to me. I open the door. He says, "I have a package for you". Seeing that nobody sends me flowers, I knew exactly what kind of package this guy had for me. Court papers.

Sure enough, I had two nice packets of paper from the local court system. Nothing unusual. Just the mortgage company doing what it has to do, which is to put a final date on my house. My choices are to sell it, or give it back and let them sell it. The "get out of our house date" is well into the summer, which is nice. Maybe this wasn't bad news. I have some time to get this place into better shape and sell it.

Move forward to Thursday morning. It was tougher going to work than usual because we have all worked a long week. Aside from taking shit from a lot of our customers, we had the boss breathing down our necks about intrusion prevention alerts that he feels have been ignored. I was just as tired getting out of bed as I was getting into it. I went into the office, dropped into the call queue, and away we went. Sometime into the afternoon, my cell phone rang. It was one of those rare opportunities where I was writing up some service ticket notes, and I wasn't on the office phone. I set myself into DND, and I looked down to my phone. I wasn't sure what to expect. For a while, my mortgage company was calling me twice a day to play a recording that says "we need to talk to you". Now that I had talked to them and told them that I couldn't afford the house payments, they stopped calling.

But this was a 740 area code. I only know two people who would call me from that area code, and one of them is a guy working 10 feet away from me. This had to be the hospital calling. But it could just as easily be the news that they had hired someone else, and I was out of the race. Just before I opened my phone, I let all the air out of my lungs expecting the worst.

"Hello, it's Mike from the hospital ... would you still be interested in a position with us?"
"Oh yes, absolutely!"
"Great, we would like to meet with you as soon as possible ... when can you come back out?"
"How about Monday?"
"Okay, Monday it is ... 10:00AM good?"
"10:00AM it is!"
"Good. You will be meeting with the IT director. You can go right to her office, or if you don't remember where it is you can come see me first"
"Great! Thank you so much. Have a good weekend"

Now I went from not having the job at all ... to almost certainly having it ... again. These up's and down's are killing me. I have to keep my hopes under control. But I was all ready interviewed by the whole family there. And the person I am meeting with next, is the IT director. This is looking like it will probably be a job offer. Me, her, and a table with slips of paper being passed back and forth. I may just be moving out to the country (to eat a lot of peaches).

On the other hand, I may have a shot at a job that pays a boatload more than the hospital gig. I would be a "manager", and would get my own department to run. I don't know what my chances are at this job - but my friend Bonnie says "they're good".

I guess it's nice to have options. I can start the job at the hospital, and if I hate it I can hope that the other job pans out. If I like my job, and I still get offered the other one, I will get to decide if I want to try something new for considerably more money - or take the job that I like out in the sticks.

To be continued I guess.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Progress Bar
There was a time when everything came with a progress bar. I liked the progress bar. It gave you an idea of how long you had to wait. But some time ago, the progress bar was replaced with what looked like a never ending animated picture. I remember attempting to start problematic services in Windows NT and what you thought was a progress bar ended up getting to 100 percent and then just starting over. Smoke and mirrors. When Windows boots up, you aren't given a progress bar. You are watching an animation. How long will this take? Sure, we could give you a real progress indicator. But we are all so impatient, perhaps we are better off not knowing that it's going to be a while yet.

Still, I would love to have a progress indicator when I apply for a job. How much longer should I wait? I applied two weeks ago. One week ago they were supposed to call with an answer. I guess I blew it.

Wouldn't it be nice to know why you didn't get hired? I wish people were honest. I can take a bit of constructive criticism. Wouldn't it be helpful if when you submitted a resume that was hated, the company would call you up. "Hello, this is Joe. We looked at your resume. Don't like it. You lack leadership, and your skills are outdated. Also, you spelled your name wrong. Thanks for applying". I would respect a call like that. If you ask me, it's more crushing to hear nothing back. But then, I have never asked someone why they didn't hire me. It's not like they would owe me that. It wouldn't hurt to ask, right? I asked.

I sent an email off to the hospital that went something like this ... "I think I have come to terms with the fact that I did not get the job. But if you could spare me some constructive criticism to help me with future endeavors, I would greatly appreciate it". An hour later my wife messaged me to tell me that they had called and left me a voice mail. It was from the HR director. He just wanted to tell me that they had two more interviews before a decision would be made, but I was sill "in the running".

It had been a bad week. But it was better with that news. They made an offer to someone, who didn't end up taking it. They would like to talk to two other guys, but keep me on ice. I get it. They want to explore all their options. They truly want the best damned person they can find. What if I came on board, and stunk up the place? At least they could have a good number two guy to pull into the position while I was still on probation. I was able to relax on that Friday afternoon. That was good news. I needed some.

Leading up to Friday I was sinking into a depression. I laid in bed all week, tossing and turning. I was going to sleep at 1:00AM. Then waking up at 3:00AM and 5:00AM. Thursday night I slept really good, because my poor body was ready to quit on me ... and then I went to karate class. Strange things happen when you are suffering from sleep deprivation, and then trying to put your body to the limit. While trying to perform 50 simultaneous round house kicks, my legs stopped working. We had been working the legs and knees all night. I had been doing pretty good. My body just felt numb. But my leg just started to drop. It was as if my brain was talking to a brick wall. KEEP KICKING. What are you doing? I said KEEP KICKING! It was no good. I was beat.

But Friday was a great day. I was given new hope, and I needed that.

Then Saturday night I got a call from my friend Bonnie. She called to tell me that her department at the University had posted the job that she thought I should apply for. She went over the details with me, and told me all about the department. "You would have to manage a few people", she says, "so you will need to stress your management skills". I have no management skills, do I? I have always had a hatred for management. But that is because I always feel that managers make bad decisions. And "project managers"? Don't even get me started on them. The State of Ohio has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars giving their managers "project management training". I wonder if they will think that was a good investment ten years from now. Would I make a good manager?

I don't have high hopes applying for this job. The posted salary is $65k to $85k. I'm not worth that much money. Bonnie thinks I am. I don't think I can get this job without a degree. Bonnie thinks I can. Bonnie tells me that the guy who would be interviewing me has all ready seen the smaller version of my resume. He seems to think that I am above this job and it wouldn't interest me. Imagine that. She says that my technical skill set impressed him. She added that he doesn't have a technical skill set himself and he would be more concerned with my personality and attitude.

Now I have a couple shots at a job. I probably wouldn't hear anything on this University job for a month. That is, a month from now they may ask if I can come in for an interview. That would be okay with me. But can I stay in this house for another month? Just how long does it take to get thrown out of your home? I would like to think the mortgage company would like for me to help them sell the home. But once attorneys get involved, nothing goes smoothly.

Tyler Durden said, "the stuff you own - ends up owning you".

Historic Comments
Hey steve, this is Matt from when you used to work at Best Buy. We have an opening for the law firm I work at for a trainer. It would be a cake job for you teaching office and a few other progs. This is a real nice place to work for. Email me with your info and so I can get a hold of you and we can talk about it more if you are interested. Hope all is well.
Matt Sunday | 02.07.07 - 2:20 pm | #
Matt Sunday | 02.07.07 - 2:52 pm | #

Yeah, I miss progress bars too. Thought it was just me.. *sigh*
Ty | 02.16.07 - 4:02 pm | #

Sunday, January 28, 2007

I spent several hours today cleaning out the back of my basement. I actually started digging through the junk earlier in the week placing what was "sellable" on eBay. To date, my earnings are almost $50. The rest of the garbage is not really anything I can sell. For that matter, it would be hard to give most of this shit away. Aside from all the computer junk I have to clear out ... one thing had to go ... my shelves of training manuals.

When you are in the training business, you print a lot of shit. I could never teach from PDF's on a laptop, although I've known many instructors who do. The sheer cost of printing all this crap was actually pretty low. I invested in a $50 laser printer when I started my training business. I was lucky enough to have a toner cartridge full of toner. I have never changed it. Every time I taught a new class I would download the materials, print them out, bind them, and label the binder. I accumulated a few shelves of this bulk paper product pretty quickly. But now what would I do with it all?

I guess the real question is why have I kept it this long? If you had asked me to throw all that shit out when I started my full time job back in May, I wouldn't have wanted to. I like to have a backup plan, and I figured if things didn't "work out" with the new job, the training business was more than willing to take me back. Now I am facing financial ruin, and my house will soon be someone elses house. I could still jump right back into the training business. Or, I could toss this heap into a recycling dumpster and never look back.

Would I ever want to go back to that lifestyle? The cold silence of a hotel room. The funny tastes and smells of foreign places. Calling my family from the road to "say hello". Teaching corporate lackies how to use poorly developed products that will change next year. Never again.

There was a certain satisfaction in slinging the bags full of paper into the dumpster. One had started to tear, and exploded on the inside wall, papers flying around in the cold darkness. I had a choice. I chose my family. I will never regret it. I don't have to ask myself if I did the right thing anymore. I'm free. But at what cost?

Tomorrow I will find out that I didn't get the job at the hospital and even though I know it's coming it will still break me down.

Tomorrow I will contact the recruiters I have avoided all week, and ask them to present me with more jobs that don't interest me, and that I am not qualified for.

Tomorrow I will get a couple more calls from the mortgage company, and I won't answer the phone.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Know Thy OSI Model

Earlier this week I drove out to Mount Vernon Ohio. To get to Mount Vernon from Columbus, you drive out into "the boonies" passing through several small "Colonial" towns. The views are rustic, and the traffic is of course very light once you leave city limits. I was on a mission. My mission? Come home with a new job, a higher income, and the news that we would soon be relocating to this tiny little town.

When I arrived to the hospital I could see that I was a little more than an hour ahead of schedule. The building is relatively small, and probably didn't have too many places for me to wait around in. Scrambling around the car I came across a pretty good book that I had forgotten about, "Live in a Better Way", by the Dalai Lama. It's not his best work, but it's a pretty good collection of small speeches he has given (namely to Universities). I read a few small passages, and tried some breathing meditations to relax myself.

With a half hour to go before my interview I headed inside. There were a couple of large signs pointing visitors in opposite directions, and an equal number of elderly volunteers eagerly hoping to assist. I first poked my head into the cafeteria. It was fairly small, and packed with hospital staff (it was lunch time). Next I wandered the halls a bit. Everyone smiled at me, and said hello as I passed. At first I figured that it was because I was wearing a suit. They must think I'm someone in charge! But then I noticed that patients were getting the same friendly smiles, nods, and "hello's". Perhaps the whole town is like this. It was pleasant.

I always think it's a good idea to arrive to an Interview early, even if you end up waiting on your interviewer so I headed up to the HR department with 20 minutes until my scheduled interview time. When I got there, I was greeted and put in a chair at the HR directors desk. His office was small, but tidy, and he was nothing but smiles. He asked about how my trip went and I talked a bit about how I used to drive out that way all the time, to teach up the road. We exchanged some stories. It was very comfortable. He seemed a bit concerned about how far away I live from the hospital, but I assured him that I would be moving if I was offered the position, and that was the end of it. We spent the next 40 minutes or so going over all of the many benefits that are offered. I was pretty happy to sit through the whole process, if for no other reason, because it seems that I was being "sold on the job".

Next I was taken to what I was expecting to be a grueling session with the current staff of four network administrators. Their duties ranged from "young help desk intern guy" to "highly paid application server specialist". All of them struck me as guys that *did* their jobs (opposed to slackers who idle at their desks all day long). Thankfully they had all been handed sheets of paper by the HR director with some pre-written interview questions. They were your typical array of "tell us about a time that you couldn't get a job done ..." or "tell us about a conflict you had with someone at work, and how you dealt with that". That was a tough one on me. "I like to think that I don't create or engage in conflicts ... and I can't remember the last time that I had a problem with someone in the office". Other than that, my answers were clear, concise, sometimes humorous, etc. It went very, very, well. It seemed that this was more a test to see how I might get along with "the guys" than any technical tests.

Once that was over, I was taken to go see the "IT Director". I was now about 2/3rd's through the Interview process, but I could see that this was "the real test". I was walked into the IT department, and plopped in front of the desk. The IT director was a small woman of Asian decent. Her accent was very thick. While she almost looked Vietnamese, the accent didn't fit, and I was afraid to make any assumptions. For that matter, she's probably sick of being asked "so where ya' from?". Before beginning the interview, she excused herself to the door and yelled to what looked like a young intern in the IT department. She wanted a Polaroid photo to be scanned, saved, and mailed to her. Next she slammed her door shut, rolled her eyes, and went on to tell me that she was not having a great day.

Into the questions she went. She started with "why would you want to move here, and work here". So I went on to tell her that I loved the town (I do) and that I am looking to pick up some new skills and raise my salary a bit. Then she started shooting some tougher questions.

"What is the number one problem you see with IT workers today?"

This was an easy one for me. I have thought a lot about this. "Arrogance! There's nothing wrong with not knowing to do something ... but there seems to be a high number of folks out there that have no idea what they are doing, but would sooner die than admit it". Thankfully, my interviewer whole heartedly agreed. I expected she would. The HR guy had told me earlier in a phone interview that the "old crew" had been fired a while back because they were all arrogant jerks who didn't have the slightest idea what they were doing. She went on to tell me about some of the folks she has had to deal with whose arrogance got in the way. Now she sat back and paused a moment before continuing.

"I'm going to ask you a couple of technical questions ... so just try to relax and answer them, okay?". I leaned forward. She had my fullest attention.

"In Windows NT 4.0 ...". Suddenly my head began to spin. Why would she ask about Windows NT 4.0? I used to be an expert. But it's been at least a year or more since I last touched it. Her head spun back and she stared at the ceiling as if she was searching for just the right question.

"... In Windows NT ... where would the hosts file be stored?". Oh! I know this answer! Without hesitation I spouted off, "c:\winnt\system32\drivers\etc\hosts". I then added, "without an extension of course, that's important ...". She nodded quickly, "That's right ... Okay!". And without a moments rest she was onto question number two.

"What are some of the improvements with Windows 2003 Server?". This was tough. I haven't taught Windows 2003 for a while, but this used to be something I had to convince students of all the time. Windows 2003 Server is better *because* ... I drew a blank. "Well", I paused, "it's not that much better than 2000 Server honestly ... most of the changes are subtle and unimpressive". She wanted more and so I continued, "you can rename your domain ... there are now distribution groups and security groups ... Exchange 2003 is tightly integrated to the directory and works really well ... you can organize your enterprise into one domain using different sites which is beneficial because -". "That's good!", she interrupted. Now she leaned in, and I could see that this would be my final question.

"Tell me about ... the ... OSI Model". I almost giggled. This ugly, cryptic, 7 layer model of Networking was once again going to win me a job. Some history for you. Long, long, ago I was drafted to start teaching Network+ courses. One of the key objectives in that course was to learn the OSI model. I made it my personal goal to learn that model inside and out until I could recite it forward and backward. I could take everyday tasks like shopping at the grocery store, and relate to this model. I knew dozens of specific examples for every single layer, and sub layers. This was my chance to show what I had.

"There are seven layers to the model and-"

"Yes, and what are those seven layers?"

"Application, Presentation, Session, Transport-"

"Okay, you are doing them backwards"

"Yes, that's right. I always start at the seventh layer, since that is where the conversation starts".

She smiled, and nodded. But she wanted to take it further. "Go through each layer if you can, and give me a description of what each one does". I went to give one of my finest performances as an Instructor. I impressed the shit out of her. So much that when I was done, I was told "I have to tell you, we have had this job open since July and I have passed on quite a few people. I figured if I held out long enough we would find the perfect person for this job. You seem to be very smart, personable, ...". I have never been complimented like that at a job interview. It was great!

"We should let you know about the job very soon". I won! I did it! I had the job! She walked me out and I ran back to my car to call my wife and tell her about the whole experience. It was, hands down, the best that an interview could possibly go. Now it was just a waiting game.

The Waiting Game

Day two: I check my e-mail. Constantly. All day long I am constantly clicking the little refresh button. Every piece of junk mail that arrives pisses me off just a little more than the last.

Day three: They said they would let me know soon. But soon to them may be a week or more. I'm just being impatient. I have the job. Stop worrying about it.

Day four: I'm getting worried. Shouldn't they have called? Maybe they did call. Maybe they actually mailed me a letter. No, that's stupid. I send an email to the HR guy thanking him for the Interview and asking if he needed anything else from me. No response.

Day five: I keep checking my email, and voicemail, and snail mail. Nothing but letters from the mortgage company telling me to get the fuck out of their house. There are friendly letters too, from various people who want to help me save my house from foreclosure. I guess the foreclosure notice is public record. So much for keeping a secret.

Finally, it got the best of me. If I wasn't going to get this job, I really need to know. The HR guy shouldn't be mad if I call. He should understand that I need to know. If I didn't get the job, I guess I can take it. But I will never know why, and that would drive me insane. Did they call my references and nobody picked up? Did they run my credit history and assume that I am a big fucking jerk who never pays his bills on time? Did one of my interviewers convince the boss not to hire me because I was an instructor for many years? I don't think that guy liked me much.

3:45PM, I call the HR guy. I get his voicemail. I leave a message, but I know he will only be there another 30 minutes or so. 4:15PM I call again and he answers. I get a lump in my throat. "Hello, I was just seeing if I could get an update on that position I was applying for". "Yes ... how have you been?". We chit chat as he types and slides some papers around. "Sorry I haven't contacted you. I just didn't want to call until I had an answer for you, and right now I don't". I guess I'm not hired yet. That's okay. "We extended an offer to someone else", he added. My heart sank. But I remained optimistic. "Oh, okay". He continued, "but we won't have an answer on that until Monday ... so you are still in the running".

What the fuck.

Who is this other guy, and why is he about to take my job? I'm the guy! I gave the best damned interview ever! What does this guy have? A college degree? Probably. Did he ask for less money? Probably. Have I all ready lost out on this job? Almost certainly.

Last week I watched Tom Brady throw a pass into the arms of a Colts receiver in the last moments of the game. It was a bad pass, that ended their season. One long throw, landing in the hands of the other team. One moment in time took away all hope of victory. The camera panned in on Brady. It's like his spirit shot out of him, and all that was left was a human shell in a football uniform. He turned white, his arms slumped, and he couldn't even muster up a good curse word.

This was my low. I wished the HR rep well, and asked him to be sure to "keep me in the loop". I closed up my cell phone and took a deep breath.

I remember what Tyler Durden said, "It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything". There's always Monday, I guess.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Starting New (Again)

I'm nervous, what can I say. I have so many things to worry about, I end up sitting up at night creating lists in my head.

I scored an interview at a community hospital located 40 minutes or so outside of town (which means a long drive through town - and then out). I did a phone interview with HR, which apparently went so well that they would like to interview me this coming week. I will first have an in-person interview with the HR person. He indicated on the phone that he will be explaining the health benefits. Next, I will be interviewed by the four other members of the department. Then, I will face the director of the hospital. All in one action packed afternoon. I have to assume they are serious about hiring me, and they will probably want me to start very soon.

If all goes well, and I am offered a good paying job there, it would mean relocating. From home, it would be an hour and a half drive to and from work every day. Add an accident here and there, and it just became a two hour drive. My single car situation does not work well with those driving arrangements and my family. But would I really mind moving? Not really. I like my house, and I wouldn't mind staying here. But seeing how I haven't been making many mortgage payments the past six months - I think the mortgage company would probably be happy to see me get out of their house.

I could get a small home, minutes from the hospital for anything from $60,000 to $100,000. Being that it's a small town, the property values are extremely low (and affordable). I would be taking a job for 10k to 15k more a year, and taking a house payment of 1/3rd what I pay now.

Last week was a great week for headhunters. I have them breathing down my neck. They are anxious to interview my boss, and they don't seem to understand why I don't want them calling him. Working in a small place, I dread the day I have to give them my "notice". It would mean extra work for everyone else until I was replaced. Knowing that, I will not have many friends in my last few weeks of employment. Aside from that, I am sick of head hunters calling me for jobs I am nowhere near qualified for. I could find these jobs on my own. I *have* found these jobs on my own. There's a reason I'm not all ready working there - they aren't interested in me. I got an offer the other day for a security management position in Lansing MI. I had all ready decided it wasn't worth pursuing, but I had to ask anyway. "Any ball-park on the salary?". He responds back, "probably something in the low nineties". I laugh, and remind myself that very few people are actually worth $90,000. I am humble enough to know that I am not one of those people.

A week and a half ago I went in for what I thought was a job interview with what I thought was an IT firm. I was very early. When I showed up I was told to have a seat in the "waiting room". I looked around the room, and I was surrounded by 40-somethings. They were reading news papers ... primping their suits and business-skirts ... and filling out various pieces of paperwork (no doubt applying for other positions). I knew then, that I had "been had". This was just some shitty staffing firm. They had no interest in me. They just wanted to sign me on with them, and move me onto some shitty "job". I don't want another one of those. Soon into the "Q&A" (it's hard to call this engagement an interview) I started getting questions such as "how low can we go on salary before you're not interested?". With questions like that, I was wondering why I went out and blew $15 the previous night on a new ironing board, and $25 on a new suit. Don't get me wrong, the suit is awesome (albeit a little gamey smelling) and the price could have been worse (had it not come from a thrift store). But here I was all ready to give them my all, and it wasn't even really necessary. They were all ready looking at their watch, and getting ready to move into the next tiny little "conference room" to talk to some other poor looser.

As our session was wrapping up, the interviewer turned around and grabbed one oh his cards from a small desk in the corner. There, they had a big plastic display which held the business cards of all the recruiters. The whole interview room seemed like a fast food experience. "I would like to test you on a few things", he says, "is that all right?". I wasn't really expecting a quiz, but I have taken so many in my life - I agreed. After all, acing a test in my last interview helped land me my current job. "Windows 2003 ... and RedHat ... sound good?". He had all ready marked me down. I nodded. "Okay, so fill out these forms, give them to the receptionist up front, and I will see you afterward". Twenty minutes later, I was pushed into a cramped "testing room" and I was being asked questions such as "Can distribution groups be used for permission assignment in Windows 2003?". And I was left wondering, did they take functionality levels into consideration for this test? Flip a coin I guess. It was clear that this was an exam written by exam writers, not product users. Didn't I leave the training industry for stupid shit like this?

In other news, my old boss from many years ago called me up. "John is leaving the department, and there will be a job opening". She works for the local University. Many years ago she offered me a job there, which I didn't feel I had much of a chance in getting. But I went to the interview, I took a look around, and then they asked "so ... do you want the job?". That was was. Next was salary negotiation. My old boss tells me "shoot for the stars". At the time I was making a cool 27k a year. So I shot for 50k. They agreed. I nearly shit myself.

I would later go back to my present employer and tell him, "I have someone offering me a job ... that I would be a fool to pass up". To which he replied, "don't leave ... I will match what they offer you". It was a taught decision. While I was considering my options, the person who had left the department just asked for his old job back. That made my mind up for me. Still I always wondered if I should have taken that job.

Now I have another shot, at a different position, at the same place. A University job would mean free school. I could use that. It would also mean State health care benefits. Many argue that "State benefit packages are not what they used to be". I would say the same of all health care plans. In my current plan, I still pay quite a bit out of pocket, and my cost is roughly $150 per week. The State health insurance plans are $150 - a *month*.

To take this job, I would have to come up with some management skills. Do I even have management skills? I would like to think that there are some buried deep within me. But I have never considered myself much of a leader. I am far too passive, and kind, to really lead people around and make them do things that they don't want to. But this is a management position. That will be a tough sell on my part. Hey, wait a minute. Do I even want a management position? I'll think about that.

Oh, there are so many other great things to talk about. Like, that my wife and I started taking Karate classes! Oh, and that I was served with a foreclosure notice just hours ago! Another blogging, perhaps.