Monday, October 28, 2002

First Day

Today was my first day at my new job. It’s been a really long time since I’ve worked in an office and the feelings were strange yet familiar. It was a lot like being warm and getting goose bumps, or being so cold your skin burns. Odd opposite feelings.

I’ve had a lot of first days. More than I would have imagined having at my age. I used to feel comfortable changing jobs every three to four years. Now I’m just happy to last longer than six months. Actually I am hoping to find someplace that I can stay for a long while. I really hope that this will be that place.

Some typical new day things - spending way too long to pick out the perfect first impression outfit. In this case also one that will be with me for the rest of my time at this job as they took my picture in it. More than one person showed me their pictures after moaning about how they won’t retake your picture no matter how bad you look or how much you’ve changed. After looking at some of these really old pictures I understand completely. And yes, my id picture looks okay.

I’m a boss again. So today I had people anticipating my arrival with a certain nervousness of change. Yes I’ll be changing things, but they’ll mostly be good things. I’ve run enough help desks to know what needs to be in place to make everyone happy (users, staff and management). So I’ll spend time getting people to relax and show me how things work around here. Aside from getting my personal infrastructure set up (y’know email, telephone, network and application access) I talk to a lot of people and get a feel for the place. In my last job I talk so much that I ended up losing my voice for a week. (Okay it was probably allergies but talking myself horse sounded better). Once that happens it’s usually obvious what needs to get done and in what order in needs to be done. It’s like a puzzle.

I need to learn the system. How do I get stuff done around here? I’m starting to understand how big things are. The last three jobs were for smaller companies. Companies that were about the size of my division, which in this case is about 2500 people. I’ll have to figure out how many different groups or divisions there are so that you too can be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of people. But things seem cozy enough. I’ve met lots of friendly people who stopped by to say hi to the new kid. That was really nice.

I also have to get a new routine. What time do I get up, do I go to the gym before or after work, what do I wear and how do I get to work. Right now I walk up 4 blocks and catch a bus. I’d like to maybe walk to or from work, but I need to get used to getting up early first. Doing contract work for so long turned me back into a lazy sleepy head. I think sleeping is one of my favorite things and a really good day is one where I can sleep as long as possible.

The first day is always stressful. I hate that part. Every time I think that this was a great move I get to make a fresh start and do things better this time. Which contradicts my doubts of picking this place because the job wasn’t exactly as it was sold to me. Or else everything is going too fast and I get overwhelmed. Or even worse, it’s too slow and I’m numbingly bored trying to find things to do to get me through to the end of the day.

But mostly I try to think about the good things. The new friends I’ll make. The people who will find it easier to do their jobs because of things I do. The bills that I can pay and the COBRA payment that I won’t have to pay anymore because with a new job are new benefits. Now I just need to figure out how to use this information to get me out of bed an hour and half earlier than I’m accustomed.

Have you been the new kid lately?

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Car Proud

This weekend I went to a self-serve car wash and sloughed off layers of dirt. I’m not really sure where all this dirt came from, my car was never this dirt when I lived across the bay, but it was there and really getting on my nerves. I’m not sure why this is, but I just feel better when I am driving a clean car. I can catch the gleam off the front of the car and I can’t help but smile when I can see things I never noticed before because the windshield and side-view mirrors are so clean. I’ll admit this may make me a bit of a freak.

I’m not sure where this car pride came from. It can be a hassle too. I don’t always have the time or motivation to clean my car on a regular basis. Much of the time it has a certain air of grunge to it. Not a big deal and the average person wouldn’t notice or even care. Last April, I got a dent in the side of my car. I’ll admit it’s been bothering me for quite a while. I just don’t have the money to get it fixed right now. I am amused by complete strangers stopping me to offer to fix the dent. Makes me think it’s an easy thing to pop out otherwise they probably wouldn’t be offering. Plus I find that accepting the imperfection of my car is a good thing. If I keep fussing over it, how will I ever eliminate my debt and save some money for a change?

Yesterday morning when I got to my car, parked a block from my apartment, I discovered that someone had broken into it. The convertible top had a neat circular cut near the front of the passenger side, just big enough for an adult arm to reach in and unlock the door. I didn’t even notice it at first. I actually thought that I had somehow left the passenger door unlocked. There really wasn’t anything taken aside from this case I used to hold my CD player. The case might have had a CD or two in it, I can’t remember, but the CD player is safe and sound in my room hooked to my old stereo. They tried to get into the glove box, but it was locked. The latch was a little funny, in that it gave a little before you realized that it was locked. In this case, it was ripped right off. Luckily there isn’t a whole lot of stuff in there, since it is locked and now unopenable.

I had a lot of papers and garbage stuffed behind the seats. I hadn’t thought about that, and perhaps that is what enticed the intruder to break in and take a look around. Oddly they didn’t take the change in my cup holder, and didn’t take anything out of the trunk, even though I forgot to lock the console panel between the seats. I am a little sad that someone violated my little “Zulie”. I went to the local police station to open a case since I knew I’d need that for the insurance claim. It didn’t take long, but did keep me from the gym that morning. Later that day I called and opened a claim and contacted a local auto body shop 10 blocks down the street to schedule a time to get an estimate. I am happy to say that at this point I was less stressed due to the understanding people I dealt with at the Police Station, Insurance Co and Body Shop.

This morning I brought my car in and was told that the convertible shop had my top in stock (no surprise there, since there are hundreds of Miatas in this city) and the latch was also available. If I left it today, I could have it back as soon as tomorrow. Wow! So I had them drop me off at a nearby rental car agency and got a car for the next couple of days. I am more than a little excited by the thought of being able to see out the back of my car with the top up. I bought Zulie used and the prior owner did *not* follow the proper care guidelines for the plastic window. I had a new convertible top on my wishlist of things I’d get when I could afford it. Granted this is going to cost me the insurance deductible but it’s considerably less than it would be if I paid for the whole thing myself.

So that’s where I’m at. Some times I think about what it would be like to not have a car. I’d have more money, since normal care and upkeep are pretty pricey. But I wouldn’t have the freedom to come and go as I please. I’m not sure if I would live someplace where I couldn’t afford to have a car. Assuming that I’m not stuck in traffic I love driving my car and it’s one of my favorite thinking places. Most of the things I end up writing here, begin while I’m driving in my car. With the new job, I’m not going to be driving as much. That’s okay, sometimes it’s just good knowing that it’ll be there when I need it.

Tell me what things you are almost irrationally proud of even if it makes you sound a little crazy.

Friday, October 11, 2002

Doing the DSL Happy Dance

I’ve broken down and reacquired DSL services. It’s considerably cheaper than the last time given the pricing wars of the broadband providers. I heard three different ‘get dsl’ commercials on the radio yesterday during 1 commercial break. Maybe it’s a Bay Area thing, but that’s just crazy.

I’m going to be splitting the service with my housemates, so that’s cheap divided by three. Damn, it’s practically free. Of course I had my ritual ‘I hate PPPoE’ swearing session last night as I set up the router to the dsl modem. It’s not tough, but not something that I am able to keep properly in my head. It’s like making cookies from scratch without a recipe. Maybe you get it right and maybe you waste pounds of butter and sugar baking inedible paperweights. I got it working without looking at the instructions, but also without any retainable knowledge of what I did to get it to work properly. I guess I’ll never learn.

So I’m all gleeful and happy to have the service in. I have been thinking this morning why I needed this and why dial-up was so bad. I’ve been using dial-up as my primary means of connecting to the Internet and checking email for 4 months or so. It wasn’t that bad. That is once I got over the high-speed withdrawal. It was about as bad a giving up caffeine. It was weird not seeing all the pictures, and I was able to appreciate sites that had enough text load initially to allow me to navigate without the graphics. I was too poor to do any shopping, so that wasn’t an issue. Plus I was living in someone else’s home for 3 months and it might have been a little rude to get dsl services without their permission. I did consider it and in my head came up with a little story to make it seem like I was doing them a favor. But again the lack of expendable cash was the real decider here.

So why did I get it? Well I got disconnected a lot with the dial-up service. I can’t remember if it happened this much pre-dsl, but it was really annoying to have to keep redialing and reconnecting a dozen times per session. That combined with the cheap prices divided by three made it cheaper than keeping the dial-up. But I know I’ll get hooked on the speed again.

I will be getting rid of my old mindspring e-mail addresses. I’m not even sad about that. I’ve had them for over 10 years, but it doesn’t matter. No one ever remembers them and always assumed that I have a new one. At least that’s the excuse I get when you don’t send me e-mail.

So I suppose this is simplifying to some degree. Letting go of old things. It is a lot easier getting rid of old things that drag along a buttload of spam with them rather than pleasant memories. Speaking of pleasant memories, I’ve got a date with myself this Sunday to week out a bag or two of Goodwill items out of my storage locker. That and make up some long-ass pieces of network cable to run to the other computers in the house. It’ll be fun, really. Okay, my sort of fun.

Tell me what you are doing for fun this weekend.

Tuesday, October 8, 2002

Of Jobs and JournalCon

So many things going on, I’m surprised my head hasn’t exploded yet. I’m quite simply reeling from a myriad of things that have happened lately; most of which are finding my people at JournalCon and finding my job. It’s likely that I’ll bitch about both of them in short order, so I’ll try not to gush too much now.

I’ll start with the job. It’s cool, doing the geeky Help Desk stuff that I enjoy in an environment that I’ll be happy in. Honestly I’ll be happy any place that keeps me more than 6 months. I’ve never been envious of those non-geek types before getting laid off three times in less than 18 months. But I’m back. I’m probably going to be somewhat discreet here in any sort of specifics about the work place so that I can speak without getting outed by a clever googler. I’m buzzing with happy anticipation and trying to find a good way to break the news to the people I’ve been doing contract work for. They are good people, but this admin-type work is not me. I somehow thought that I’d organize things better, but I was wrong. It’s time to move on to something that pays better and feels like a better fit.

This weekend I attended JournalCon 2002. I was a little worried that I didn’t know anyone, that it wouldn’t be any fun and that I’d be bored or freaked out by the other 70 or so participants that have been journaling for years and years. It was so conveniently located in San Francisco and I somehow knew that I’d regret not going. In fact I almost didn’t go. I had been hemming and hawing about it for a month or so and when I finally went to register, the registration had been closed. Argh! But after sending a note to the ever helpful Jen Wade, I was able to register. Woohoo! Now I considered the fact that I really didn’t know anyone that was going to be attending. I had heard about a few of them, but I wasn’t a faithful reader or groupie by any stretch of the imagination. I started reading entries even though it was a bit insane to think that I could get to know any of these people in such a short period of time. So after a hellish day of consulting, I got back to the city just in time to depart for the banquet.

What followed was a wonderful mélange of people, panels, conversations over meals, lounging out in the lobby, bonding over bad karaoke videos and great fun. I was reacquainted with my shy side. I met tons of friendly people and listened to a lot of stories. At one point I realized that there were a lot of similarities to the time I got dragged off to my first sci-fi con. It was back in 1988 or 89 and I had a car and no money. I knew Alicia was up to something as she treated me to my drug of choice, Dunkin’ Donuts coffee (they used light cream back then, none of that half n half crap) and asked what my plans were for the weekend. She told me that a bunch of them were getting together to go downstate to hang out at a hotel and if I drove them, she’d pay for all my expenses that weekend. It sounded better than hanging around Albany so I said yes. Now there are lots of things to be said about scifi conventions but the short version is that it’s a place where people who ordinarily feel like freaks and/or social outcasts in normal society can go and be themselves in all their geeky glory. I had fun, I made friends, I oogled books and baubles in the dealer room, I encountered Klingons, elves and other magical folk in the halls and I met Isaac Asimov, who lecherously felt up another friend of mine in the elevator. I had a hard time explaining why I would go to these sorts of things, after I was of legal age and didn’t need to hide in hotels to drink and party with friends. But the sense of community gathering in person to go on and on about something they love is a powerful thing.

It’s a neat sort of community and it was that same feeling that I got when I went to JournalCon. I realize that most people do things in a different order, they read and write first, then they show up to meet and greet. There were so many cool people that I was able to get to know and so many other cool people that I never got a chance to speak with at all. What is great is that I won’t have to wait a year to get to know them. I’ve already got a list of journals to read and people to get to know. While I’ve been know to do things bass ackwards, I think this time I’ll enjoy getting to spend more time with these folks and maybe even learn a little about journaling too.

Hey people talk to me!