Apparently the excessive heat warning has been pushed back through 8 PM.
I heard on the radio this morning that there's an excessive heat watch in effect from 10 AM today to 5 AM Wednesday.
At first I assumed that was a mistake, but they repeated it 15 minutes later.
So, uh, I have to say that I'm not sure how this works. Why would an excessive heat warning end at 5 AM?
Do they expect it to be less excessively hot by 5:30?
So on the way home from work I couldn't help noticing a giant cloud of black smoke off to the east.
Apparently a plumbing wholesale warehouse is on fire.
And just in case you need evidence that I am a terrible human being, here is the image it made me think of.
I try not to think about the fact that it's been seven years since I got my CS degree and I haven't put it to use professionally.
I entered the field at the wrong time and in the wrong place. It's rough all over, and the housing bubble hit Arizona disproportionately hard. I've spent the past few years working as a temp and building the odd website on the side.
The first temp gig lasted two years -- ironically, longer than any other job I've had. But I got laid off about a year ago.
There's this kind of paranoia you get. It could happen again any time. And it has absolutely nothing to do with how hard you work or how good a job you do. You could be out on your ass tomorrow, on the whim of some guy you've never met.
I've heard some of the "get a job" rhetoric lately and it's just baffling. A hell of a lot of people would like very much to get a job. I've been either unemployed or underemployed my whole adult life, and that's with a degree that, fifteen years ago, could have gotten me six figures.
Not that I intend this as a pity party. I've got work now, and it pays well enough to live comfortably while still squirreling away enough each week that I'll be okay for a few months if I find myself unemployed again. There are a lot of guys who have it a lot worse than I do.
And if you take anything away from this comedy of errors, let it be that: this is the story of a guy who's doing okay in this economy.
Job 1: Fortune 500 Company, Real Estate Business
Job: Imaging laptops, working in a warehouse, inventory duty
Distance from Home: 3.5 miles
Best Thing: Laid-back atmosphere most of the time
Worst Thing: Lung fungus
Length of Service: 2 years
This wasn't a bad gig, really. Not intellectually challenging, but I worked with some good people, I got some good exercise in, and most times things were pretty laid-back.
But it wasn't worth giving up my health for, and ultimately that's what I did.
I did a lot of work out in a dusty warehouse, and I managed to contract valley fever. For those of you not from around here, valley fever is a lung fungus, and it lives in dust. The Valley and valley fever are like the Internet and Hitler comparisons -- you stay there long enough, it's something you're eventually going to have to deal with.
So I contracted a lung fungus working there, and I've still got asthma. It's manageable now, but I'm not what I was. Before I took that job I was healthy.
The next-worst thing about the job, after the lung fungus, was the meddling from up the chain. People with little-to-no grasp of our actual day-to-day operations had very strong opinions of what those operations should be, and precisely which boxes we should check on which forms each and every single time we did them. Precisely what those opinions were tended to change from week-to-week, producing an ever-changing, increasingly complex system for dealing with very simple tasks.
And as this went on, the environment became less and less laid-back, and more and more stressful.
There was a real disconnect between the building I was in and management out on the west coast. Within my office I was regarded as an essential member of the team, and indeed my bosses not only recognized my value, they realized that I could probably be doing more for the company than just counting how many sticks of RAM were left in inventory, and fought hard to get me not only hired on but promoted.
It's no small comfort to me that every single person who actually worked with me was pulling for me. To the point that when Corporate decreed that all the temps would be let go, my boss's boss's boss got reassigned for telling his boss's boss's boss exactly how he felt about that.
It was nothing personal. And it was nothing to do with my performance. I was just caught up in a bloodbath. I was part of the first wave, but it kept going. Last I heard, they'd laid off another third of my department, every help desk tech in Arizona, nearly everyone in the front office, and most of the people up the chain to VP. And demoted my boss back down to tech.
But before all that, I got a layoff for Christmas. I lost my job two years, to the week, after I'd gotten it.
There's a fatalism that kicks in after awhile. A knowledge that no matter how hard you work and how much you're appreciated, there's some clown in a corner office somewhere who's never met you but has the power to decide whether you're drawing a paycheck next week.
But ultimately there's something liberating about that, too. After awhile you stop trying to impress the clowns in the corner offices who have never met you. You realize the only people worth giving two shits about are the ones you deal with every day -- and that trying to impress them isn't about whether you'll have a job next week, it's about doing a good job for its own sake and for the sake of your team.
Those guys had my back. And that means more to me than a paycheck ever did.
Unemployment sucks. But it could be worse.
It's a pretty damn smooth process in this day and age -- all online, no driving across town and waiting in line. You fill out an online form, they take a week or two to make sure your story checks out, and then they open up a bank account for you, send you a card, and put money in every week.
Once a week you'll have to resubmit your claim. You tell them you're still looking for work (and keep evidence on file in case they ask for it -- I kept rather a long Excel spreadsheet with a list of everybody I'd contacted) and declare any money you've earned.
The whole thing's demoralizing and more than a little Kafkaesque -- Ursula K Le Guin recently described it quite wonderfully in a short story called Ninety-Nine Weeks: A Fairy Tale, and it's barely an exaggeration. That spreadsheet I mentioned where I kept track of all the dozens jobs I applied for? Only one of them ever actually got me an offer, and it was out-of-state -- more on that below. By the time I did finally get work again, it wasn't from the job search, it was from the same temp agency I'd been working for since '08.
Job 2: Local Non-Profit, Medical Industry
Job: Imaging laptops
Distance from Home: 13 miles
Best Thing: A job!
Worst Thing: Poor pay, sporadic availability
Length of Service: 3 months, off and on
This one wasn't too bad either. Neat office, nice people, and a certain degree of autonomy. The cramped little room I worked in got pretty crowded and hot as time went on, and there was a whole lot of downtime as I waited for laptops to finish imaging, but hey, I got time to catch up on my reading.
I also learned some interesting things about security policy. I've never had to lock things down so tightly from the BIOS -- a unique strong boot password on every machine, USB boot disabled, Bluetooth disabled, and on and on.
The toughest thing was that this wasn't a 40-hour-a-week job. It was "We just got these laptops in; image them and when you're done we'll send you home and call you back in when we get more."
And, without getting into the specifics of my pay, here's where that got frustrating: often I didn't make significantly more money than if I'd just stayed at home and collected unemployment.
Unemployment in Arizona works like this: you get a weekly stipend of up to $240. I was eligible for that maximum amount.
Every week, you report how much you've earned. You can earn up to $30 before they start subtracting your earnings from your unemployment check.
So there's this sort of dead zone between $30 and $270 where you are making the same amount of money whether you work or not.
And at this job, I frequently worked a weird part-time schedule and fell into that zone. Once I got past that first $30, I wasn't actually making any money; I was just getting a paycheck from the temp agency instead of the state.
Obviously there are still reasons to work. For its own sake, first of all. And second, to stay eligible for my healthcare, which was set to expire after three months without work. (I got back into the market just in time, but not fast enough to keep someone from fucking up my paperwork and taking me off their books even though I was still paying in every week. I had to call three different departments to get it corrected and my last prescription covered.) But there's still a definite sense of frustration in knowing that you're effectively working for free.
More than one other tech actually told me I should slow down and deliberately take longer to do the work so that I wouldn't get sent home in the middle of the week to await the next shipment. What a position to be in -- effectively being punished for being efficient, and incentivized to slow down and waste time.
This, as you will see, was to become a recurring theme.
Job 3: Company You've Probably Heard Of If You Live in North America, Retail Business
Job: Phone support
Distance from Current Home: 30 miles
Distance from Apartment Where I Lived 4 Years Ago: Directly across the street
Best Thing: Coworkers seem like all right guys
Worst Thing: The single worst job I have ever had. Fuck these people.
Length of Service: About a month
On some level, this fucking fiasco was my own doing.
I'd been poking through listings on some job site or other (probably not CareerBuilder; I quit using it after I discovered it was the thing that kept locking up my browser and hanging my entire system) and I noticed an IT job being offered through my temp agency which my rep hadn't brought to my attention. So I E-Mailed him and asked about it. In hindsight, I should have assumed there was a good reason he hadn't approached me about it.
It was phone support. Not phone support like I'd done before, but in a phone bank -- I had a few feet of shelf that I wouldn't really refer to as a desk, partitioned off from the guys next to me by small dividers that I wouldn't really refer to as a cubicle. Every morning at 6 AM I pulled up whatever broken chair nobody was sitting in, put on a headset if it was still where I'd left it the day before, and started working my way through a list of branches to call to walk their managers through installing new kiosks that didn't work very well in buildings that, half the time, weren't cabled correctly. (Ever walk a retail manager through recabling a patch panel? I've done it six times before breakfast.) It was dimly lit and it was dehumanizing -- I'd compare it to an assembly line, but the assembly lines I've seen are a whole lot livelier and more fun.
(I will grant one thing to the "cog in a corporate machine" setup: this is a company with hundreds of stores, all organized exactly the same. Each store has the same patch panel with the same numbered ports that go to the same rooms and assign IP's based on the same scheme. There was this in-house .NET program we had that would let you plug in a store number, automatically populate the IP address for every port in the place, and give you a one-click ping for each one. That's the advantage of a company that treats its stores as unifom, cookie-cutter widgets. The disadvantage is that it treats people exactly the same way.)
I spent most of each day on hold listening to the same fucking 16 bars of piano music over and over again. Periodically interrupted by a recorded voice telling me I was on hold, of course -- and if I ever meet the son of a bitch who decided to stick voice recordings in the middle of hold music, I am going to gouge his eyes out with my thumbs. I know I'm on hold, asshole; that's why there is music playing. About the only thing that could trick me into thinking that I wasn't on hold would be if the music abruptly stopped and I heard a human voice instead.
There were a couple of guys there who I'd gone to high school with. One of them I recognized but hadn't really known very well; the other used to pick on me but claimed not to remember me (he blamed it on the drugs he'd been doing back then and I am inclined to believe him). Now, remember how earlier I expressed frustration that my career hasn't really gone anywhere? Well, if you want a symbol that will hammer that little insecurity home, suddenly finding yourself sitting next to a couple of guys from high school is a pretty good one. But probably not as good as being directly across the street from the apartment where you lived back when you worked a previous dead-end job. Man, that would have been a sweet commute in 2007!
So no, let's say that this job wasn't the best fit for me. But dammit, I got up every morning at 4:30, put on a smile, went in, did my job and did it well. I blew through every task they gave me and asked for more.
This, as it turned out, was a problem. But nobody ever actually bothered to tell me that.
One morning I walked in and found that my login wasn't working. I asked the guy who'd been training me; he hemmed and hawed and wandered off for awhile, then came back and told me to turn in my badge.
It bears repeating, at this point, that I had just driven 30 miles to show up to work at 6 AM.
My rep told me that they'd called his office the previous evening to tell him to call me and tell me not to come in to work in the morning -- after he'd already gone home for the day.
He added that I'd been sacked because they thought I didn't schmooze enough with the end users over the phone -- something that nobody had ever actually complained to me about. I wasn't rude, or even brusque; I was just, in my rep's words, "too focused on getting the job done". I'm used to support jobs emphasizing getting the task done quickly, because the user doesn't want to be on the phone and wants to get back to what she was doing. But apparently that's not how it worked at this company; they wanted me to slow down and shoot the breeze -- except nobody ever bothered to tell me that. Come on, guys, if you want me to talk about the weather, just say so -- I have quite a lot to say about the weather in Phoenix in June, even when half the state isn't on fire.
Anyhow, it's the only job I've ever been fired from. And nobody even bothered to tell me there was a problem, let alone that I'd been fired.
The guy who walked me to the door was apologetic and told me not to worry about it, that people get fired from that place all the time through no fault of their own; maybe just for looking at somebody the wrong way. And it occurred to me that I'd passed my boss early one morning in the hall and, when she asked how I was doing, cracked a grin and responded "Hanging in there" -- and she apparently took offense that I hadn't said something more enthusiastic.
On the whole, pretty demoralizing and upsetting, and far and away the worst professional experience I have ever had.
Of course, I use the term "professional" in its loosest possible sense.
Through it all, of course, I was interviewing wherever I could.
There are lots of stories I could tell. The temp agency I spent half an hour trying to find. The interview where I referred to a former coworker as "A temp like me, but kind of a slacker" but the interviewer just caught the "like me, kind of a slacker" part and that pretty well torpedoed me. The interviewer who asked me about a comment I'd posted about Spore's DRM on the FTC website back in '09 and then followed up by asking my opinion about SB1070. But the best story is the hosting company I saw advertised on a billboard.
"Do you know Linux? We're hiring!" said the billboard, with a colorful mascot next to the words. I would see it on the freeway on my way to work. Or maybe it was on my way home from work. Maybe it was both; I think they had more than one billboard.
Well, hell yeah I know Linux. I pulled up the website and submitted a resume. Turned out it was a hosting company -- even better. I spent most of '07 running the backend of a local ISP singlehandedly; I know my way around Apache httpd and MS IIS pretty well.
So they called me back, and the most immediately odd thing was that they told me the job was in Austin. Why would a company in Austin advertise in Phoenix?
Well, of course the answer is that they couldn't find anybody in Austin willing to accept the shitty salary they want to pay for Linux administration, so they're advertising in depressed markets that are full of desperate, unemployed Linux admins. But as you might expect, they didn't come right out and say that.
No, they gave me some talk about how they're expanding into new markets, and how they'd pay for my relocation, and they didn't balk when I gave them a deliberately high figure for my expected salary. They made the whole process seem very exclusive, putting me through three different interviews -- a general one, a second one with a series of technical questions, and a third where they had me SSH into one of their servers and demonstrate that I know my way around bash.
And then they offered me an hourly rate that was maybe fifty cents better than what I was currently getting in the phone bank. And a relocation fee that might have covered a U-Haul rental, deposit, and first month's rent on an apartment.
I hear Austin is a neat place, but no thank you.
It was about this point that I decided to read some employee testimonials on the place, and it sounded suspiciously like the terrible job I was already working at.
The billboards are down now. I wonder if they ever found anybody desperate or gullible enough to take their offer.
Job 4: Contractor for a Contractor for a Contractor, Insurance Industry
Job: Imaging laptops
Distance from Home: 32 miles
Best Thing: Getting work immediately after the previous fiasco; autonomy and people who were happy to see me
Worst Thing: Night crew fired after their first day
Length of Service: 6 weeks
Actually, before this job my rep sprang into action and got me a half-day gig fixing a company's QuickBooks setup, a mere 5 days after the debacle at my previous job. But I'm not counting that as its own section. My rep's cool, though.
Anyhow, shortly after the half-day QB fixer-upper, he found me something else and, at last, I got to be part of a Windows 7 refresh -- the precise thing that my boss, the previous December, had assured me would ensure my job security for another year, the week before announcing that the Windows 7 rollout had been canceled and so had my employment.
Anyhow, this one was interesting. The idea was to provide a minimum of disruption for the employees, while upgrading most of the office to Win7 in a matter of weeks.
So we had a night crew. They came in, ran a script to back up the user's files, either reimaged the user's existing computer or grabbed a new, freshly-imaged one that I'd already put together, restored from backup, and left it to me to walk the user through initial configuration the next morning.
At least, that's how we eventually got it working. The first night, things failed rather spectacularly.
I got in the next morning to find the night crew still there, a small handful of computers actually in working condition, and the rest in various states of completion.
The way I heard the story went something like this: one tech on the crew had asked the guy in charge what the plan was -- how they were going to split up the workload, what the schedule was, etc. He had made some vague "Just get started" noises. She asked him a few more times; he responded similarly. Finally she just went to work; she was responsible for the handful of machines that had actually been finished, while the other techs hadn't really worked out a plan for how to get their work done.
So the company fired everyone else and put her in charge of the new team.
After that it went really smoothly most nights. There were a couple exceptions -- one weekend when the generator had to be turned off for maintenance and so they couldn't come in to get computers ready for Monday, and one night when the AC was out and it was too hot to work. But no more problems from the techs themselves; the second crew did a really great job and made my life much easier.
Job 5: Company You've Probably Heard Of If You Live in the Southwestern US, Real Estate Business
Job: Imaging laptops
Distance from Home: 22.5 miles
Best Thing: Autonomy
Worst Thing: Still a bit of a drive.
Length of Service: 4 months so far, out of a one-year contract.
And from there I moved on to my fifth job of the year, not including freelance Web design or that one-day gig fixing QuickBooks.
This one comes with a one-year contract, so hopefully that'll hold and I'll still be there through next August. But I'm not going to take that for granted; one of the many lessons I learned in the Dank Pit of Phone Support last summer is that a six-month contract can turn into a one-month contract with absolutely no warning. Course, I've been working this one long enough that I am confident in saying that this time I am working for decent human beings, but again, it's not the people I've actually met I'm worried about. And every time I hear the Windows 7 rollout's been delayed, I get a little nervous.
I guess it's worth asking, what motivates me to come to work every day and do a good job? Here's what I can come up with:
- Need for money
- Need for health insurance
- Loyalty to my coworkers
It's instructive to note the things that aren't on the list. "Hope for promotion" and "fear of losing my job" are conspicuously absent -- yes, I do feel both of those things, but as I've mentioned several times, I have absolutely no sense that my employment or advancement is tied to my performance in any way. They're motivating factors just as much as the potential for finding a $100 bill on the ground or tripping and cracking my skull -- they're both things that have some potential for happening, and my job performance has about as much to do with the likelihood of either one.
Also missing: "company loyalty". And unlike those other two things, this isn't something I have in the slightest. I am, as I said, loyal to my coworkers, and I appreciate my rep at the temp agency, but that's not the same thing as being loyal to either the company I'm working for or the company that placed me there. If I get a better offer I'll take it -- and those last two bullet points are the only reasons I'll give two weeks' notice.
On the whole I'm not entirely sure this is a bad thing from my perspective -- hell, the ideal list would probably have two bullet points instead of four. Company loyalty, the stick of firing and the carrot of advancement -- I don't need those things to do a good job. But from the company's perspective, it's probably a bad thing.
And if I may be so bold, I think I'm probably representative of a good solid chunk of my generation. Educated, underemployed, unable to hold down a job for more than two years through no fault of my own -- what happens when that's your workforce? In the coming decades we're going to find out.
Someday I want to make a webcomic out of last year's trip to the ER.
Phoenix Metro is a lousy place to live if you enjoy breathing. Sooner or later, you're going to get a lung fungus. The irony is that my family moved here because my great-uncle had asthma, and I'd dearly love to move away from here because now I do too.
I've never seen a summer like this past one before. It stormed but it didn't rain. Instead we had these monstrous dust storms called haboobs. They are, unlike most boobs, not fun.
Somewhere along the line, my girlfriend lost the ability to breathe comfortably. Finally she went to urgent care; they diagnosed her with pneumonia, gave her some steroids and antibiotics, and sent her home.
Well, the steroids made her hyperventilate, so we spent the next day in the ER. They told us it wasn't pneumonia and prescribed less harsh steroids.
Well, those steroids were still too harsh, and within a couple of days she was hyperventilating again and we had to call the paramedics. We managed to avoid another trip to the ER and she went off her prescriptions.
Since then, she's seen a couple specialists who appear to know what the fuck they're talking about. They told her it was a bad allergy to dust and we'd have to tear our carpets out.
So we spent this past weekend taking all the furniture out of all the bedrooms. It's kinda like moving, except instead of begging to borrow your friend's pickup you just move all your shit to your back porch.
Well, the floor guys were about 5 hours late today. So that's, you know, one whole day's worth of moving shit back into the house lost. Which gave us time for the power to go out in half our house. Second time in about 36 hours.
It was about this point that I decided I needed a beer.
The electrician told us that our transformer must be going out and the electric company would have to come out. In the meantime he hooked the other half of the house up to the same circuit as the functioning half of the house, so that the floor guys would be able to see things.
It was about this point that I decided fuck it, Halloween, you know I love you, but I am not dressing up this year; my house is mostly-disassembled and I was just going to reuse last year's Axe Cop costume anyway. Which is like a regular cop costume, but with an axe.
It was not much later that I decided I needed another beer.
The second beer exploded on me.
So I am currently sitting in my kitchen with a laptop; the flood of Trick-or-Treaters has dwindled to the point that I can finally bang out this post. My house is full of choking, eye-searing dust --
At this point in the story the dust got so bad I went outside. I gave candy to trick-or-treaters until people from the power company told me they were taking the power out. So, guess I'll wrap this and unplug my router.
...was going to be the end of my post, but before I could get to the Post button the power went out. The floor guys, obviously, will not be finishing tonight.
I am currently at my grandparents' house. First thing I did was get a glass of water. Continuing the evening's theme, the dispenser did not turn off when I was done with it, and for the second time tonight I found myself toweling up a spilled beverage.
Well, happy Halloween.
To be continued? God, I sure hope not.
Oh, and also I've got company coming on Friday. Good times.
Yeah, this is going to be one of those where I talk about living in the desert.
There's a lot I love about the desert. Oh, sure, it's a hostile environment, particularly to pigment-challenged individuals of Irish Honky descent such as myself, and sure, those same honkies who have the least resistance to the sun's rays have decided for some reason to fill this region with concrete and asphalt to make it that much more unbearable, but there are still some very pretty things to be seen.
I've spent a few hours over the past couple of weeks handing out flyers for our company. I hate to be one of those guys who waves his degree around, but that's really not what I got it to do. But we need business, and there are a hell of a lot of new businesses opening within a mile radius of here, and the boss thinks I should be the guy who hands flyers out, so that's part of what I've been doing.
The first day, I overdid it: I thought I had sunscreen, but it turned out I didn't. Must not have packed any when I moved in February (which, all things considered, makes sense). So I went out and handed out flyers for three hours and got good and sunburned and chafed. I spent Memorial Day Weekend unable to walk comfortably. I am amused by the mental image of the tableau of a very sunburned guy going up to the counter at Target with sunscreen, aloe gel, and talc in his basket -- no explanation necessary.
Since then, I've limited myself to 90 minutes of flyering a day, and of course it goes without saying that this 90 minutes must be complete before 10 AM because I'm not going out when there's an excessive heat warning in effect. But I haven't been out there the past few days because things have been so busy at the shop. Mixed blessing -- I'd rather not be out there handing out flyers, but at the same time if I don't find time for it soon the boss is going to yell at me again.
I don't like sunscreen. It's greasy, smelly, and invariably gets in your eyes, even if the label proclaims it's non-greasy, unscented, and sweat-proof. But it beats being baked alive.
Dad also leant me a hat which once belonged to a family friend who died of cancer. I think that's pretty cool.
And handing out flyers isn't all bad. I dig the desert landscaping surrounding most of the buildings. Often I will hear a rustling in the bushes and see a large lizard come out.
Meantime, I haven't had much time to relax when I've been home from work -- work on a computer all day, go home and work on a computer. See, my grandma's been rocking Windows 98 for the past 8 years, and since Microsoft has ended support for it, I decided I should probably upgrade her to XP.
Have you caught the mistake in my thinking?
That's right: the word upgrade.
Let me explain something. I have never had a Windows upgrade go well. 95 turned out to be incompatible with my processor, 98 hosed my filesystem (which is why there is no complete extant copy of KateStory IX), and XP hosed my partition table. ME...actually upgraded smoothly and gave me no trouble, but I think the fact that it installed Windows ME on my computer means it still did serious harm to my system.
So I should have known better. I shouldn't even have attempted the upgrade. I should have backed up her files to CD, wiped the drive, and done a clean install.
But I didn't. I attempted an upgrade. Which went fine until the reboot, at which point the installation hung. No error, just a hang at boot time.
So then I made my second mistake: I tried to use Recovery Console.
Specifically, I used fixboot. Which hosed my partition table. I wound up with what looked like a 10MB FAT12 partition with only one file on it. Knoppix showed more files, but they were all gibberish.
Daunted, I retreated to lick my wounds and study the problem before going back the next weekend to attempt a fix. I found a useful MBR tool on UBCD4Win, which got the filesystem looking good enough to run a chkdsk on. After that, the files were visible, but the damn thing still wouldn't boot no matter what I did or how many times I installed an OS on top of it. (And yes, the partition is set bootable.)
It was about this point where I hit the Eject button on the CD-ROM drive and it launched my CD across the room. It bears noting that this is not even a slot-loading drive, it's the kind with a tray. I have never seen anything like it in my entire life.
There comes a point in a project where you know you need to stop for the day. Seeing your Windows XP disc fly across the room is such a point.
So I brought the computer home to work on it here. (Grandma's is thirty miles from here, meaning I logged roughly 120 in my two round-trips this past weekend.) So far I've made little progress -- my flying WinXP disc does not look to be in very good shape; I made a copy of it last night but it took hours to do, so I'm betting there was some serious trouble reading the data on it. Hopefully it somehow made a good copy anyway. I haven't tried it today because I've been busy trying to revdep-rebuild my Gentoo install, because I can't upgrade KDE until I recompile a bunch of programs that used to have ungif support, which is now deprecated because the patent on the GIF algorithm finally expired. (You see what software patents do? Do you see?)
Also I bought Grandma a new CD burner. Now I'm trying to figure out how to get the mail-in rebate on it. It is possible that I did not pick up the appropriate form and will have to go back to Fry's to get it. The fun never ends.
All in all, it's been a stressful month. But on the plus side, I haven't been mugged by a hooker at knife-point, so I guess that means I know at least one guy who's had a worse month than I have. Hey, count your blessings.
Also, I don't intend to make a habit of mixing business with this blog, but I've been working on a website for a local musician named Devon Bridgewater at nuancemusic.org. Nuance Music (AKA Nuance Jazz Trio) is a local jazz group consisting of Devon, Dick Curtis, and Joel DiBartolo, director of jazz studies at my alma mater.
Anyway, I'm just throwing that link out because Devon's looking to drum up some publicity to his site, and unfortunately his Google page rank is pretty low right now, so he needs all the links he can get. So spread the word around, and, most importantly, link to his site. (I might add it to my links page if I ever drum up the courage to dust off the cobwebs and update the damn thing.)
Once again, that page is Nuance Music.
Hell, while I'm at it, Google hasn't even listed any of the other pages on the site, so here are links to them too: gigs, press, jazz, weddings, gallery, corporate clients, festivals, contact, Spanish.
Reading: A Scanner Darkly. Hoping the movie doesn't suck.
Playing: Suikoden 5. Basically at this point the series is openly hostile to newcomers -- this game took 7 hours to get interesting (still better than the 30 hours of 3 and the never of 4), and there's no way anybody would play that far without having a tremendous amount of goodwill left over from the first two games.
It's 100 degrees out, but I've just moved into the server room, where it's chilly enough that I'm actually considering going back to hot coffee -- I've been drinking it cold ever since it got up to about 90 degrees out.
Of course, if I'd remembered to bring my towel today, I could probably use it to keep warm. Oh well -- I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
Anyway. Come July I think I'm going to be really happy to be in here. But come next February, I think I'll have to bring a blanket.
Playing: New Super Mario Bros.
It's a gorgeous fucking day. The high is 77 and there's a pleasant breeze. And in Phoenix in April, each gorgeous day could be the last one until fall: in a month, it'll be up over 100.
I was very disappointed that I ran late leaving the house this morning and had to drive instead of biking. But on the plus side, we had an employee barbecue at lunch.
Other than that, we're moving servers around. Lot of heavy lifting and interesting maneuvering. In-between that I'm setting up a mailserver.
Life is good.
Reading: Stranger in a Strange Land. Which, other than making me use the word "grok" more often than usual (though I've used it for years anyway), has somewhat lowered my esteem of Speaker for the Dead, which seems to crib all its best ideas from Heinlein. I guess I'm now down to liking only one thing Orson Scott Card's ever written.
The rain never quite hit us yesterday. But it sure smelled divine for about twenty minutes.
But none hit Sky Harbor Airport, which, as that's Phoenix's weather center, means we're technically still in our dry spell. This is day 142.
On another note, what's the deal with ICQ?
You remember ICQ. It's the redheaded stepchild of IM networks. It was big in the late '90's when it was the only game in town besides AIM, but has long since been displaced by MSN and Yahoo. Of course, the fact that AOL bought it out probably hasn't done it any favors either.
The weird thing about ICQ, as compared to the other networks, is the amount of random contact I've received.
A few years back, my ICQ account was inundated with porn spam. That's died down, but just the last couple weeks I've started getting weird random contacts from China and eastern Europe.
(08:45:10) 264737669: hi
(08:46:46) 264737669: hey homie
(08:46:50) 264737669: write to me
(08:47:13) 264737669: i´m not a bubble gum gang leader like rest of slovakia
Now, my ICQ number's been relatively easy to find for the past...Jesus, has it been seven years already? Probably seven years. (Just for perspective, my ICQ number is seven digits, compared to the nine on my Slovakian friend's.) So my question is...why the hell have I just now started getting these messages? Where has my account number been recently posted to attract the attention of bubble-gum gang-leading Slovakians?
And on another topic, what genius decided Gaim should display ICQ numbers by default instead of nicknames? In the rare event that somebody I know drops me a message, I generally don't know who the hell it is, even if he's on my list under a nickname.
The world may never know. But at least somebody's asking the right questions.
And on the 141st day, it rained.
I don't think that those of you who haven't spent the bulk of your lives in a desert can truly understand what it's like to get rain here, but I imagine it's much like seeing the snow melt in New York, seeing nightfall for the first time in months in Alaska, or seeing the rain stop in Seattle. Relief and gratitude.
There are few things in life I enjoy so much as the smell of rainfall in the desert -- and even rainfall on the dirt and asphalt of the urban sprawl of Phoenix smells pretty good to me.
It's barely sprinkling outside the door right now, but the sky to the east and to the north is dark.