Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Trash Runner

     There was a thunderstorm and heavy rain Friday morning.  As a result, I missed taking the trash out early. When I did take it to the curb, I realized the truck was already a block past the house.

     The (standardized) trash can has big wheels, the truck doesn't move quickly and I am my mother's daughter: rain was still falling as I took off after the truck in my walking sandals, nightgown and robe.

     By the time I had closed the gap, he was at the last house in the next block from mine. I waved and yelled and the driver stopped, got out and lined up the trash can with with the loading gadget, chuckling. "Lady, " he said, "next time, just put it across the street from your house. I pick up on that side a couple of hours later!"

     Good exercise, right?

Friday, July 21, 2017

Casino 401k

     Sitting on my desk is a mailing from the people who run my employer's 401k, touting an exciting new investment tool that will automatically maximize my investment and tweak it from "adventurous" to "cautious" as my retirement age approaches.  At least that's what I think it says; I can barely make head nor tail of it, couched as it is in nice-sounding, empty phrases and high-financesque terminology that probably looks impressive to someone who doesn't read the dictionary for fun.  It's low on numbers, contains no math, no graphs, and very little in the way of objectively factual content.   Since my 401k is set to be as low-risk as possible -- I know too many people who took a deep plunge when the market was roaring and saw their savings swept away in one slump or another -- I don't know why they bothered to send it to me. 

     The whole notion of a 401k as usually implemented comes from people who are happy to play the investment market -- especially with someone else's money -- and cannot understand why anyone else wouldn't share their fascination.  That I might be hoping to get back out what I put in, without inflation and taxes taking too big a bite, is beyond their comprehension.

     I'm convinced that J. Random Guy playing the financial markets -- even mediated by fancy retirement accounts -- is not a good thing.  That's a game for those who can afford to lose; most of us shouldn't be sitting at the high-stakes table, staring in fascination as the wheel spins and the dealer turns up a card with a few year's income hanging in the balance.  If you wouldn't risk it in Las Vegas, don't risk it on Wall Street -- and don't kid yourself that one is any less random than the other.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Avuncularity Is Deleteable

     Be advised and conduct yourself accordingly.  I'm a grown woman; I qualified for the senior discount years ago.  The last of my real uncles passed away a few years back and I am not in the market for any new ones.

     And don't presume you know more about the business of writing than someone who has written as a hobby-with-aspirations since along about 1972.  I have socks that know more about the duller-but-funner* side of writing than most people.  If I feel the need of advice from an actual working writer, all I have to do is spin my chair around and ask the person who buys most of the groceries here with checks from editors.
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* Because checks.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

I Should Be Writing More

     I should be writing more and letting my day job get under my skin less.  My department, as it is and has been constituted and functioned, is on the way out.  So far only by attrition, and as we techs become fewer, more of our work is handed off to hired-gun contractors.  The writing is on the wall.

     There's likely to be enough left to keep me employed for five more years.  Maybe longer, depending on trends in the industry, but counting, really counting on this gig for the near term is probably unwise.  It may not outlast my house payments.

     The only other skill I have is stringing words together.  Towards that end, I have been working on the timeline for the "Hidden Frontier" universe.  I do have stories in thew works, planned for novella to novel length, and a little less "Mary Sue" than earlier works set in the HF universe.  The USAS Lupine stories are a lot of fun and I don't plan to abandon my alter ego -- but I need to step away from it and the first-person narrative to tell any wider stories.

     Of every Hidden Frontier story I have ever written, I'm most frustrated with "The Veteran."  I know there's more of a story there than I have managed to tell, and better ways to tell it, and one of these days, I'll be able to do it justice.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Monday At The Geek Works

     Yesterday I nearly said, "No, you're right, let's go on pushing the buttons, hooting like chimps and maybe bashing at the thing with a rock instead of actually looking at the actual hardware so we can begin to actually find out what's actually wrong."

      Will someone please explain to me the attraction of standing around spinning fanciful theories about what might possibly be wrong has over laying hands and meters and tools on the broken whatever and finding out what's wrong?

      I have been doing this stuff, at one level or another, since 1973, and I have never figured out why people can't shut up and put their bodies, senses and clever minds in productive motion instead of standing around trying to be cut-rate Hollywood scientists.

Monday, July 17, 2017

For Some Reason, My Enthusiasm Is Sub-Optimal

     Hey-la, another one-day weekend come and gone.  Gosh, they go by so fast!  I wonder why?

     I have, finally, scheduled some vacation time for next month.  I passed up two already-set vacation weeks earlier this year, since we had huge ongoing projects and the Layoff Fairy was hitting pretty hard.  Sure, they'll pull the plug on you as readily when you are there as when you're not, but you've got a better chance to clear out your desk yourself and make sure your ex-peers know about the stuff you have been having to kick once a week to keep running.  The loss of institutional knowledge means nothing to thew accountants and executive, but the to techs left behind, a few clues can make a world of difference.

     But if there were/are too many of us, why am I working so many weekends?

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Mom Update

     This is, as near as I can tell, good news.
 
     My Mom is, amazingly, back in her assisted-living apartment as of this afternoon! The hospital managed to stabilize her daytime oxygen level with the nasal cannula -- and her sleeping level with a semi-coverage mask so she gets enough oxygen breathing through her mouth.

      I found out by going to the hospital to see her and being told, "You just missed her." This got me to my target heart rate in a hurry but the nurses were quick to explain. Her senior-care place is not far from the hospital and I arrives just after she was settled in. She seemed pretty chipper. It was quite a relief after the fairly grim information I'd received over the weekend.
 
     The nursing staff at the home -- overworked though they are -- are up to speed on changing the mask and the ones I have met seem pretty sharp.

Well, That Was Fun

   Not.  It was supposed to be a simple exercise, in at nine in the morning (with donuts), out by one in the afternoon (with deli sandwiches), while electricians did all the heavy lifting and us fine young gentlemen and lady of Engineering airily shifted power connections from UPS power to non-UPS power and back again, casual as afternoon tea in the garden.

     Instead, the plug-moving proved to be disruptive, operators groused about engineers crawling around making monitors blink and requiring them to shut down their various computers and then log back on; the UPS techs had software trouble,  the electricians hit unexpected wire-pulling snags -- we're talking mostly three-phase, 208 Volt, 200 Amp service, a quintuplet* of big, fat wires to each of the UPS breaker panels, of which there are several -- and as we shut equipment down, rack by rack, breaker by breaker, just about every new shut-down revealed unexpected failures and previously-unknown interconnections.

     Powering back up, we found a couple of critical devices that faulted on rebooting or simply conked out, power supplies now inert lumps.  One gadget, a peer and I restored by stealing power supplies from a similar (but non-critical) device; another can't-run-without-it was already replaced by its backup for the power changes, which is now working without a net.  At one point, a staffer's family member called in to report an overlooked outrage that had gone on for two hours, unnoticed because we have no way to monitor the ultimate output.

     Got home, exhausted, about 7:30 p.m. and Tam bought me dinner at Open Society Public House,† a delayed birthday gift and a huge relief, a lovely meat of filet mignon cooked to perfection with first-class mashed potatoes and sauteed stringbeans that opened with shishito peppers in a marvelous sauce and ended with berry-topped vanilla-orange custard.  I even enjoyed a mixed drink, a mint-lemon upgrade from the "7&7" or "CC&7" of my decades-younger days.

     --Got home, got settled and went to bed, exhausted, wrung out from the day, dizzy, maybe still feeling that single drink with a decent meal.  My phone made the sound indicating a text.  I ignored it.  It made the sound again, so I picked it up and looked:

     -Has [baby brother] texted you? 
     -Did you hear from [baby brother]?  Call me.

     They were from my sister.  As I read those, a long text popped up from her: my Mom is showing no improvement and they're having trouble keeping her blood oxygenation up without a full-coverage mask. She'd been on a CPAP machine to sleep for the last two nights and supposedly, my brother was going to do a mass text, which I had not received.

     Maybe my phone was overloaded or too shielded at work.  It happens.  I called, we spoke (she spoke.  I listened.  One does not often manage to slip in a word edgewise with my sister).

     Anyway, I'm going to go see Mom today.  Your good thoughts and prayers would be appreciated.
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* Five wires for three-phase power?  Sure.  It's 208 Y, not Δ, so three hot wires and the neutral (and 120V wall-socket juice from each hot to the neutral), plus a ground.  I didn't look but we usually specify a full-sized ground wire, just in case; the electrical code in most places allows it to be smaller but that's not a clever idea for a facility like the place I work.

 † Not the George Soros organization, the gastropub/coffeehouse.  In terms of the speed and quality of the service, as well as the outstanding food, it is as close to the Platonic ideal of dining out as you can get.  They don't faff about: as soon as you are seated and settled -- but not before! -- wait staff arrives with menus and waits for your beverage order.  From then on, staff and items arrive at the right time and dishes taken away once you are done with them, all as smoothly and unobtrusively as sleight-of-hand.  It is not inexpensive -- but you get every cent of what you pay for, and then some.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

I Ain't Been Got Yet

     Just a quick note, I am still around, but today is being consumed by a massive power-cutover project at work: we're getting a big, shiny-new UPS!

     I turns out there are many (the engineering "many:" "more than ten.". We run out of fingers) devices that should have had dual power supplies that don't -- and other with both power supplies n the same breaker.  This has bee, shall we say, "bracing."

     They just stood us down for lunch.  My peers and I will be back at it shortly, heaven help us.  --Oh, by the way?  The UPS guy is having software problems,  So this could be even more fun, later!

Friday, July 14, 2017

So I Need To Write A Letter

     I've been having a hard time writing a letter.  It's nothing bad but it does involve a degree of emotional vulnerability and you readers may have noticed that I'm a little...locked down that way.  I have had a somewhat disappointing life -- not all of it my own fault, but enough -- and I just don't trust any kind of closeness that involves emotional risk.  Which all of them do.

     So, I tried with a pen, with a keyboard, and stuff would come up.  I made excuses: too busy, too stressed, doesn't really matter because nothing does, and so on.  And there was this huge wall of significance building up, and months went by--

     So, take a pin to that balloon, right?  Scribble off a quick note on Messenger and get it done!

     Yeah, well-- started into that last night, got two and a half paragraphs churned out (and they were good paragraphs, too), and either hit the wrong button or the computer glitched, but whatever, Firefox shut down, bam, and when I reopened it, all my work was gone.  Lost.

     I swore for two minutes, pausing only for breath. Then I went to bed, where I slept poorly.

     Sorry.  I'm lousy at humaning these days.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Dear Microsoft...

     Why would I ever see this:

UPDATING WINDOWS
100% COMPLETE
DO NOT SHUT OFF YOUR COMPUTER

     For more than, oh, about five seconds?  When it's up for two minutes, I begin to suspect  -- just a little tiny bit -- that you might be fibbing about that "100%" part.

My Mom Is In The Hospital Again

     Mom was sent to the ICU late last night.  I had taken melatonin (work yesterday spent most of the afternoon teetering on the brink of semi-disaster and I was a bit wired) and slept through my sister's texts.

     Positive thoughts and prayers for my mother would not be remiss.  Because she is elderly and frail, they can't do anything very aggressive to help, just monitor her oxygen level and ensure she's getting enough.  She's been a real trouper though all of this, but it's difficult and frightening for her.