Older blog entries for technik (starting at number 29)

Started sending the resume around. The market may be depressed but so am I and this place is mostly the cause. My wife, having listened to me bitch and moan after work, tore a page out of her O magazine describing six signs it's time to change jobs. I answer 'yes' to four and vary on a fifth. I've thought hard about what bothers me and have this list:

  • unclear goals - Despite focus groups, surveys, slick internal publications, town meetings, and polished emails the offering of goals like "leadership" and "innovation" shows that management misses the point. These are the side effects or, perhaps, characteristics of an organization pursuing concrete results. One doesn't set out to be "the best" and hope to achieve it. One sets out to accomplish something, determines the necessary steps leading to that goal- often enroute- and goes about doing it. Focus on behavior not bullshit.
  • wasted time - Still spending more than half of my time in meetings and fighting internal resistance. It's often as if a confusion of tongues at the Tower of Babel exists in some of these meetings. The complete absence of accountability of the groups managing basic infrastructure results in downed servers, incomplete software configurations, randomly closed firewalls, and the like. Having a mid-level manager declare that something entirely reasonable is not possible, for no better reason than they decided it such, is enormously frustrating. Having an upper manager declare in a meeting that a year-long effort is going to be overturned because he doesn't like it anymore, then silently backing down when he realizes he misjudged support behind him, is demoralizing.
  • not making a difference - Reorganization, announced swallowing of sister companies, new (more or less unarticulated) near-term goals, shuffling of bosses, and the admixture of $BIGCONSULTING company- for exact purposes no one has divined and no oracle has revealed- means disruption. The days and weeks are interrupt driven and there is no sense of getting ahead. Two years ago, in my original organization there was a direct correlation between effort and effect, not anymore.
  • fatigue - See above for clues. Might be a physical reaction to change- something they're warning managers about- but to me it looks like garden variety stress. I'm tired, I loathe going into the office, I've been getting sore throats and head colds- and I'm rarely sick.
I think to myself that these are the things that plague any large organization, but it rings hollow. In any case, it's affecting me and I need the change.

Even though I'm non-essential staff and I didn't get the call to come in, I came to work early. I can't stand another day doing nothing but puttering around the apartment. Downtown is mostly empty and there are cops and national guard on almost every corner. I did spend Friday and Saturday visiting friends upstate and Sunday I went for a 170 mile ride on the motorcycle. It's easier to push the recent events out of my head when dealing with the immediacy of running through country roads at a fast pace. Think I'll go to the Super Sunday gathering at Marcus Dairy.

12 Sep 2001 (updated 12 Sep 2001 at 03:43 UTC) »

I'm probably not representing this accurately, tried to post earlier... can't sleep.

I arrived at work today a little later than usual. Heard a crash while coming out of the subway but didn't think much of it figuring it's always noisy in downtown. Reached my desk, saw my red message light on, logged in and punched the code for my voicemail. My wife had left a nervous message asking if I was okay, that something happened at the World Trade Center which is just a few blocks from me and the stop she takes. I called back that I saw nothing and was okay and tried to check cnn.com. I heard a commotion in the aisle and found coworkers talking about the WTC. I suggested we check the big monitor in the Risk Management area on the other side of the office which faces the WTC. They had CNN on and I could look at the smoking tower as the news read in the background. I ran back to my desk and called my parents, leaving what must have been a barely coherent "We're okay" message since they didn't hear the news. We evacuated down the twenty-two flights of stairs to the lobby but were sent upstairs again. I returned to the other corner of the office and as we watched the WTC, before I could even recognize what happened, a plane struck the second tower off center and fire burst out the other side. Then CNN reported that a plane had struck the Pentagon. I ran back to my desk and found the red light. My wife. I called her and we agreed to meet at her office, farther away from the WTC, as soon as we evacuated my building. For some reason, I grabbed the fire escape kit with the water bag, dust mask and mylar blanket I leave in my in-box where it was dropped two years ago and grabbed another I had stashed in my overhead cabinet that I had scavenged for the cyalume lightstick. I didn't wait and stupidly took the elevator into the lobby. While going down, something shook and the lights blinked but the elevator opened into the lobby and I pushed out past the surprisingly large number of people down there since I thought everyone went back up. I stepped outside and it was all dust and smoke and wind. I put on the mask and started walking as fast as I could to Maria's office through a moonscape of dust. I might have been running. I remember thinking that I'm going to hyperventilate and slowed to a walk. The steel coffee carts with the hard rolls and bagels in the windows and young Pakistani guys inside were at the corners but noone was inside. People grey with dust were wandering in other directions. A Korean guy in a suit, gray except from his eyes, was hacking and vomiting in color next to a car while two grey people stood beside looking after him. All the stores seemed closed or closing and when the wind picked up, I ducked into doorways and turned away squinting. Everything was surreal and unfamiliar. As I got to City Hall the dust and smoke was less and I clambered over a low wall dividing the road that I never noticed before but must have been there for years. A woman in a beige skirt was trying to climb over it but couldn't and I turned to help and another guy lifted her arm and she stumbled over it and stood in the road. For some reason it seemed funny that she had not put away her cell phone the whole time. I tried to make it to Broadway, but the police were directing people and I hurried through a few streets I rarely take feeling even more lost. I got to Worth but had to divert back and circle a few blocks down as FBI agents and police were shouting and opening parked trucks and having people move away from the Federal court building. At an intersection, I ignored a busy cop and crossed the street and took off up Worth. The dust was thin but had reached here too and I felt relieved to find Maria down the street from her office. She had written a note in lipstick on the page of a magazine and posted it on the building, in case I got there after the police moved the evacuees away but I didn't need it. We were okay and we told each other that we should walk uptown away from the crisis and then figure out what to do. We walked without much talking, relieved that the other was okay, avoiding the emergency vehicles up to the teens. People were everywhere and all the mass transit was shut down. Lines were forming at banks and shops, anywhere there was a phone or ATM. In the Village and NYU, I got a few stares and realized that I was grey with dust. My black shirt and shoes were ashy-looking. We found an cash machine that wasn't empty in a bodega around the high 20's, got cash and bought water. I had my gym clothes and offered her my socks and sneakers but she just wanted my thin dress socks. We sat on the slate step of a townhome and I changed into sneakers and she put my decidedly unfashionable black socks on and slipped back into her shoes. We then cut across to the west side and continued up to the 50's. Like a cruel joke, it was a perfect day- sunny, a breeze, gently warm. At the West Side Highway, we started thumbing for a ride. Maria was getting tired and I itched everywhere the dust had settled on skin. A livery pulled over and let us in. The driver, a very small boned, very dark skinned man in his forties with an accent I couldn't recognize, maybe Ethiopian, said he lived around the GW Bridge and was going that way. We asked how much but he waved us off. Traffic snarled and he got onto Broadway around 125th. While he wiggled the car through the streets we tried to use the cell phone and managed to get our parents and tell them we were enroute. He drove until reaching a police line at the Bus Terminal. We asked how much he wanted and he said he didn't care. We gave him $50 and thanked him for stopping and he drove off to get home. We walked the rest of the way, arriving home at 1:35 and found ten messages on the machine. We made a list and started calling. When we finished, for some geeky reason I went on IRC and into email to let those people know I was okay. I finally showered, but I still felt gritty and itched on the back of my neck and inside my people know I was okay. I finally showered, but I still felt gritty and itched on the back of my neck and inside my elbows. Hours later, after watching the news, I am still in a little shock and indescribably happy that Maria and I were okay. We are lucky. I can't even conceive of the people, folks I don't know who I pass every day, who were down there. I hope they can contact their families. I hope they are unscathed. I feel very lucky. I read in email that the a number of people I casually know, some by name, were okay. Later, after having a drink and eating something I called coworkers and asked how they got home. Everyone was fine. Their spouses were there or enroute. I can't sleep.

Decided that this coming Monday, I will go to the gym around the block from work, show my ID badge (for the discount), and sign up. I sit at my desk seven or eight hours a day and a year of this is starting to show. I figure I can exercise for thirty minutes at lunch each day without disrupting my schedule and I might improve my health and probably improve my disposition. At least I'll break from the office for a little while. I'm also sleeping better since changing my schedule, so I guess that worked.

Just for the hell of it, I threw a 3Com 3C509B- only one PCI slot and it has an eepro in it- I had lying around into the slimline P90 running OpenBSD I use as a firewall and segregated the wireless rig. Reconfigured the access point to use the BSD box as the gateway, tweaked TinyDNS and created a new instance of DNScache to serve the new network, and played with the rulesets. My wife didn't notice the difference, which is proof enough. One of these days I'm going to have to replace this AST Bravo, with its Pentium Overdrive, 32MB of EDO, and a 1GB drive scavenged from another machine, with something cheap, faster, and small. I've had this little desktop powered on since at least November 1999 (oldest file in the system). I'm open to suggestions. I might snag a sbus nic and impress my headless SS5 into the role.

Books arrived. Remaining CDROMs didn't. Vacation didn't include planning a lot of time for reading but rather than toast at the beach I read into the Stevens book and experimented. Laptop battery lasts an uninspiring sixty-three minutes before forcing FreeBSD to sleep. I'm must try without running X but I suspect that it won't make much difference as most of my time is spent using Vim, reading manpages, and running gcc. Since it's a borrowed toy, I guess I can't kick.

Meta: Journeyer. Something wonky with the certification.

Work: More reorg but it's all pretty vague, management lingo. That really big consulting company whose name starts with 'A' is on-site for the next couple of years to assist the transition. One thing is that they flattened management roles, so I'm just part of the skill pool officially. The first level of management wasn't something I sought, and I only had the role since May, but I have this sense that I got demoted. Some teams have been entirely restructured and a few mid-level people got badly skewered. See how this all plays out.

Play: Picked up rsync in Java again. Apparently there is a sourceforge effort but it hasn't produced any files (then again, neither have I, but at least my effort isn't as public). Alternately putting on my C and my Java hats is interesting- amazing how much I forgot/vaguely remember/conflated after a full year of working daily in Java following a full year of SA and mostly Perl. Bought more books including another Stevens book (Better than trading cards! Collect the whole set!). Hope they arrive before I leave for a long weekend. Might work on rsync if the beach is too hot, crowded, or rainy. Might just read and not code. I have a copy of Applied Cryptography that I keep meaning to get through. My focus is scattered and on top of that I'm ticked off that Megapop changed the TOS to my ISP limiting my total hours dial-in (yes, unlimited only means as unlimited as we feel like making it and this month it is 300 hours). And Covad doesn't serve my neighborhood, so decent DSL is out of the question. And cable modem with its crappy terms of service, isn't available in my building even if I wanted it.

Meta: Dropped out of Apprentice status after a few weeks idle.

Work: Reorg-a-go-go! It's exhausting that there is so little information and so much rumour. Hustling a dozen pieces of various projects through the chute. I'm not the first to notice (see _Parkinson's Law_ or the _Peter Principle_) that more time and energy is spent navigating the political waters than on "real" work. Along with everything else, I'm defacto contact for everything under the sun related to our software- even had end-users (they really exist!) directed to me instead of the customer helpdesk by mistake. Did get in a few hours of coding, first getting a working J2EE environment with JBoss and then twisting really fugly code to work. Ended up having to write a wrapper around thirty-odd methods- yes, that's one class... I said it was fugly-(that's going to be a nightmare to support if it survives) and wrote a Perl script to extract the methods,parse them and write the skeleton of the wrapper. It's times like this that Perl's ability to munge the namespace at runtime looks really attractive.

Play: Too much to list: a wedding, visiting family, visit from my brother, party at my place, dinner at a friend's, motorcycling around, visit from friends up from Virginia, a weekend in the Catskills. Picked up a SS5/170 base for $50 shipped and my OpenBSD 2.9 order arrived so that should be fun. Waiting for Free and NetBSD orders. Oh, yeah, and sleep. Even before the summer heat, I was sleeping less than 6 hours a night. It caught up with me and I spent a full day sleeping and running a fever. Now I'm trying to break away from stimulating diversions (computer, technical books, novels, TV) at least 30-40 minutes before bed and to climb into bed at the same time every night. I'm also doing a quick fifteen to twenty minutes of exercise (push-ups, sit-ups, and crunches then stretching) before bed. I'll see how it goes.
Work: Meetings and project plans. According to my VP, I'm de facto leading the charge for Java2 and WebLogic. Using Enhydra Enterprise wasn't even in the discussion, the decision was made already and licenses and training dollars spent. Its architecture seems to be at least as compelling as Bea's. Whatever. Had to extricate myself from cross-departmental squabbles as everyone and their dog laid claim to some part of this. Figured I would keep the scope limited, do the project plan, compose the Gantt chart and send it out and see who screams.

Play: Guerrilla.net, Seattle Wireless and the local effort caught my attention. Particularly interesting are the home-brew antenna documents like this yagi which describe the potential to extend the range of 802.11 networks. Apparently, it has caught the attention of some of the people at O'Reilly too
Play: Yes! Only two and a half hours of tinkering last night and I have my Linksys wireless access point/router configured with a couple of Orinoco Silver pccards. Slightly complicated, mostly because I took an hour to realize that I needed to upgrade the ROM and some of the terminology of their web-based user-friendly configurator isn't clear. I'm using its WAN port as an uplink to my existing network and keeping my OpenBSD box managing the dial-up (one day, I hope soon, I'll get broadband but the OBSD box stays). Demonstrated to Maria that we can access the internet from the living room couch. Much joy. I was surprised that two plaster interior walls (there is duct work and pipes and maybe some metal lathe from repairs in there) heavily degrades the signal creating little radio shadows in the apartment despite distances of 20-30 feet. I'll probably relocate the unit or maybe try a better pair of antennas (antennae? is it still Latin?) ... if I can find someplace that sells RP adapters to the public or a cheap deal on the antennas.
lkcl I've just got to wonder... people who bought your book at BN.com also bought The Old Farmer's Almanac 2001 and the U.S. Army Survival Manual. Hmmmm.

jschauma The numbers make sense if you consider the list of names rolling in the credits of a typical feature film. Hundreds of people. So each of them only wasted a few months of their lives.

Work: until I collect my thoughts I'll rant- I really want to know why programmers ranging from our summer intern to consultants don't grok regular expressions? Isn't it easier to describe text as a ordered collection of patterns than as line numbers and columns? Aren't we supposed to think about the data? *sigh*

Play: Las Vegas for a friend's bachelor party. Weird experience walking through these enormous theme parks for adults when I expected a more carnival of vice atmosphere. Pretty tame time and chipped in to buy him an afternoon of Formula-1 race school.
Linksys wireless base/router/switch while I was out of town- very cool. Wireless cards did not- cancelled them and ordered others from another vendor. Hopefully, this order will arrive soon. I'm looking forward to working from the couch.

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