Almost Over

One thing I love about working for a college is Christmas Break.
At Vassar, we got (this year), from December 22 through January 1 off. Paid. No need to dip into vacation pay to be able to spend time with friends and family over the holiday week.
Of course, it’s a little sad that I’ve got to head back to work tomorrow. I was just getting into the swing of “Wake up, play some Warcraft, eat some lunch, play some Warcraft,” and now that’s totally gonna be shattered.
Although this week should be fun. I have a new employee working for me, starting on Wednesday. Fully half of my direct reports now (not including student employees) are, by bizarre coincidence I swear!, all people who I know from my past lives.
My boss’ boss joked that I’m planning a coup, but headed that off at the pass by reminding me that it’s no fun if the guy you’re overthrowing would happily give up the position of power. *grin*

Common Decency

If you back into a car in a parking lot, and you fux0r its fender but good, at the very least you leave a note, but even better is you call campus security (who can use the parking pass to track down the owner).
You don’t just drive the fuck away.
Rage.

Quotes From The Concert

D and I went to see Def Leppard tonight. She’s a real trooper, not being a Lep fan at all, but she put up with a loud rock concert all for the love of her man. 🙂
Runner-Up for “Quote of the Night”:

Me: I’m starting to get kinda annoyed. This bitch is totally like taking over the space in front of my seat like she owns it.
D: Umm, babe, your seat’s over here.
Me: … … Oh. So, um, I’m the asshole.
D: Yeah, kinda.

Quote of the night:

Joe Elliott is introducing Rick Allen, the crazy one-armed drummer, and asking the crowd to give him a round of applause. D is slapping my stomach.
Me: (puzzled look) Huh?
D: You can only do it one-handed, right?

Automated Ad Placement: Not Always The Best Thing

This morning’s article in the Daily Freeman concerning the Ground Round worker found stabbed to death after her night shift had concluded had a very interesting TiVo ad displayed on the same page, that included a picture of a knife and the word “back-stabber” (as it was cycling slowly through all the things Tivo would help you view this season on TV).
But, not entirely sensitive to any of Inger’s family members who might be reading that article online….

Take The Blue Pill

Ordinarily I just ignore spam. I mean as in “I delete it before I even mentally consciously recognize it as spam”. That’s why I was kind of annoyed that after I got a particular spam, it took me a week to get another copy of what has to be one of the funniest images ever to be in a spam:

Classic stuff I tell you. I laughed for like ten minutes. Not often that a viagra spam invokes The Matrix, and in such an appropriate manner, even if it does get the pill colors backwards.

I’m Torn

The A/C in the Miata is great. I mean really fucking great. It’s cold enough to freeze the Middle East solid, that’s how goddamned cold it makes the car.
The problem is that even on the minimum setting that’s all it can do. It can’t simply chill the car down a few degrees. It can’t simply “make the cabin comfortable”. It’s simply “freeze your balls off” or turn off the A/C and within a few minutes of heat-wave level temperatures, you “cook yourself up but good.”
I’ve been opting to freeze rather than boil, because I think it’s easier to stomach “feeling chilly” than bathing in sweat. But it really is a tough decision…

The Satisfaction Of A Job Done Well

There’s a satisfaction you get from knowing that you’ve done good work, that you simply can’t recreate in any other way.
I had a former employer — and I use this term loosely, I worked there for less than three weeks in between two jobs, and I was there for such a short period of time that it’s not even resumé-worthy — call me out of the blue this past Thursday. They were down. Hard. Their server was over at a data-recovery place, their RAID array (with the backups) was there too. The hot-spare machine wasn’t actually configured right and didn’t have data, it was pretty much every organization’s nightmare scenario:

The data that is our business is missing, and if we don’t get it back soon, we might as well just shut the doors and go home.

The question was, could I come down this weekend, stay in the city, and rebuild their servers while the data-recovery people tried to recover their data. I’ve become fairly good friends with one of the principals of this company after I left, and frankly I couldn’t say “no” to him. His very lifeblood was on the line.
The initial “Data Recovery” we got from their recovery guy sucked. Not nearly enough recovered from the corruption. As I continued building the systems, their programmer started to investigate — what data could he reconstruct from the remnants, reports, the various system detritus that was left around after batch jobs were done. The results didn’t look good. Some of the patient data would be around, but there were also going to be crucial holes, things which could be reconstituted only by paying people who weren’t supposed to get paid, and having the error reported to them.
Their data recovery place calls me in my hotel room last night, asking me “how to mount the XFS RAID-5 array”. My heart sinks. The guy they’ve got can’t even get this far? What the hell?
The programmer and I confer for a few, and decide we’re going to yank the rug out from under the data recovery place. We get the RAID array back, and I start trying to talk to it. To make a long blog entry short, a minor I/O card replacement, and a rebuilt partition table later, and I’ve done in about two hours of labor what the data recovery people couldn’t do in three days.
Now, make no mistake, the Wedding Fund has definitely gotten a nice contribution from this weekend’s labor, and D is to be commended for running me down a spare set of clothes as my stay got extended from one night to two on short notice. But the look of sheer joy in the owners of the company as they realized that they were not going to be closing their doors after all… that is a pretty decent reward all unto itself…

Reminiscing

It was just under a decade ago that I packed all of my earthly possessions into a rental truck, and moved my ass up to Chicago from Fort Wayne. I remember being so exhausted from it all that if it hadn’t been for a really good friend showing up and kicking our asses into unloading the truck, it all might still have been in that truck to this day.
As I sit in my hotel room this evening, digesting a couple of dogs from Portillo’s, it occurs to me how much I love Chicago.
I haven’t got any intention of leaving Vassar. I can see myself working here pretty much until they throw me out. But at the same time, if I had to move to a big city, Chicago would be on the top of my list.
I know that’s blasphemy, and I know it means I’d get to see a lot fewer Yankee games, but seriously… all you have to do is take a walk on the Lake to realize that Chicago has got a lot of… beauty, for lack of a better word, that New York is simply lacking.
New York is an exciting city, but it’s not Chicago.
I just wish D wasn’t working this week, so she could’ve come with. Would have been nice to show her around a bit.

Rental Cars and Toll Plazas

Another thing I noticed today was while driving the Illinois Tollway, it occurred to me that there are a lot of exit ramps that:

  • Require exact change
  • Have no attendant on-duty

So how are you supposed to pay the toll if, say, you’re a tourist who has no idea in advance that you’re going to need 80¢ here and 35¢ there? The Illinois Tollway page has this to say:

Failure to pay tolls will result in a Notice of Toll Evasion, where the toll plus a $20 fine is levied. Those who do not follow the due process outlined in the Notice could eventually face loss of license plate or driver’s license through the Secretary of State’s office. Video Surveillance cameras are located at all plazas to record toll violators.

Now, riddle me this:
Why haven’t the tollway agencies and their “pass” programs (IPass, E-ZPass, etc.) worked together with rental car agencies so that people renting cars don’t have to worry about tolls? Why couldn’t I have a rental car that has an IPass box of some sort permanently attached and then, at the end of my rental, Hertz asked the IPass folks “How much has this car’s tag been charged since the time he rented the car?” and simply add that amount to my rental bill?
You could even offer the option to disable the in-car IPass if you wanted, for instance for people who are renting a car, but who have their own IPass they would rather use (perhaps to take advantage of a lower-cost commuter rate-plan, or because they have a special “free access” pass like the one retired Thruway people get).
IPass would get their cut of more tolls, rental agencies’ customers would be happier (and also, rental car companies would have less hassle to go through trying to track down renters of cars which were used in toll-evasion), and the tollways would likely have fewer offenders and thus also get increased revenue.
It seems to me that this would be a perfect synergy between the different organizations to get maximum value.