It certainly has been a full week at work. Tuesday I spent working on OpenView and handling firewall-related trouble tickets. I also received an e-mail from the IT Director at our Southern California location, and so it appears that I'm getting ready to lock in for a trip out there from May 5th to the 9th for an on-site visit and revamp of security policies. Hey urocyon, are you still interested in getting together and doing something that week or weekend? Since I'm booking the flights I can wedge a little extra time in there for myself if I want, and fly back on Sunday instead of Friday....
Tuesday morning had gotten off to a bad start when I woke up at 5:17 AM to a sound I've been dreading for the last few weeks. I've become attuned even in my sleep for certain "bad" sounds, and I woke up thinking I'd heard one of them. I listened for a minute and then realized yes, Ra was sick and was in the process of throwing up on the carpet just in front of my PC. I long ago learned that getting up and trying to move him somewhere "better" for him to be sick just results in him running away from me (he thinks he's going to get disciplined), which causes him to leave a trail of "debris" as he goes, and thus only serves to make cleaning up a more difficult proposition. That's not a very good solution, so these days I've learned to let him finish and then deal with the result afterwards. Since there wasn't much I could do about it I just closed my eyes and waited for it to pass, and when he was done he jumped back up on my bed and curled up at my feet. I know that vomiting takes a lot out of the poor little bugger, and when he first got sick like this and was constantly vomiting he was always borderline exhausted.
Wednesday was another full day as I had a major project dropped unannounced into my lap in the morning. It seems that one of our company's vice-presidents has contracted with an outside vendor to handle data processing services during our peak months (class registrations), in addition to performing some call-center functionality. Naturally none of this was cleared with the IT group so we were totally blind sided by it. The work was handed off to me and I engaged in a few hours of furious fact-finding to make sure I was on the right page and had all the information I needed. I also had the so-called "pleasure" of engaging in an hour and a half of conference calls with the vendor later in the day, trying to extract everything I needed from them so I could make sure I understand what they feel their requirements are. Under most circumstances I don't enjoy dealing with vendors because they tend to be rather headstrong and think they can tell me how to do my job. It looks like this vendor may have some of the same traits, although I think I sufficiently cowed them with my attitude in my initial e-mail to them. Maybe working with them won't be so bad as long as I keep them in their place. It's so fun having to remind a team of eight or nine people that they are here to do work for us, not the other way around. Amazingly enough there is an up side to all this: I'll be doing something far different from what I've been handling for the last three months on a daily basis. Yes this will be stressful, but it's short term (the project has a drop-dead date of April 11th) and it'll keep me from having to engage in the same-old same-old with OpenView that I've been dredging through week in and week out at the office. Sometimes it's good to have a change of scenery, it leaves you refreshed and ready to go back to work on the previous issue.
Wednesday itself outside of work was really good. First, I was given a set of three very sweet and unique gifts by LiinSara. I may be biased in saying so but I think they deserve to be shared, so I'm mulling posting one of them here. The problem I have is that if I do so I will have to decide which one to share, and exactly how I want to share it. I'll be thinking about that for a day or two longer, since I received permission only yesterday to display them however I see fit. Suffice to say they were a very pleasant surprise and left me with a glad heart, although I don't think she knew exactly how I was going to react to them. She certainly didn't have to worry, it's hard not to be flattered by something as thoughtful as this. It's funny in a way... they happened completely spontaneously, as near as I can tell, as part of an exercise between the both of us. During the course of our conversation in the morning I described one of my fondest memories about childhood to her, and she took the images and turned them into something remarkable. What strikes me the most is how quickly she did it, and how polished the result felt when I saw it. I am always in awe of people who can work that quickly and still create something unique....
For lunch I passed on my usual trip up to the 9th floor of the tower with the rest of my little clique and snuck over to the Kopper Kitchen restaurant. I had an hour-long lunch meeting scheduled with a financial planner who has been courting me for my money these last few months, and I finally decided to let her have her shot with me. The meeting itself wasn't too remarkable, it was more a series of questions on the planner's part and answers on mine so she could get an accurate idea where I stood with my money and retirement goals. The lunch was good, I had a 12 oz steak that was cooked to perfection, but we did have a waitress who was incredibly rude and inconsiderate. During the middle of our lunch she reached right between us to get our salt and pepper shakers for a refill, but she never once said "Pardon me" or even "whoops, coming through!" She seemed in a hurry to rush us out the door, too, coming to our table and staring at us for a minute before she left again. Finally she was standing there and staring at us without saying a word, and then asked if she could take our check up to the register before she left. She gave us that lousy service and then wanted to make sure she got her tip. Very classy. I hope I don't have the misfortune of dealing with her when I'm there next week for my follow-up consultation with the planner.
The second positive thing is that the afternoon was when kristenq came down from Madison to hang out with roho, enveri and I. It was good to see her again, because she's fun to talk to and has a lot of interesting stories. It seems we all misjudged the travel time from Madison to the Chicago suburbs on a weekday, because Kat made it to our apartment complex about 45 minutes before either Roho or I could make it there. Fortunately she was able to pass time listening to music and hanging out with our neighbors. I am continuously surprised by how cool most of our neighbors are... I guess I'm used to anti-social idiots who shut themselves in for hours on end from my old complex. That certainly isn't the case here... kids are outside playing, people stop by and talk with you if you happen to be outside at the same time, nobody ever really seems to have anything bad to say about anyone else. It's a real nice environment, and I'm glad I'm living in it.
When Kestral made it home we went across the street to our favorite family restaurant and engaged in dinner and conversation. The food was quite tasty, as always, and the conversation was great. I was surprised by Kat when she offered to let me come along with her and hightensile to Colorado if they make the move out there next year. I thanked her for her generosity but had to decline, explaining that my life is in a pretty big state of flux right now. I don't know what the next 6, 12 or 18 months hold for me. I might become a homeowner, or I might not. I may stay in Illinois and continue to work for DeVry, or I may quit and move back to Minnesota to spend some time on the parents' farm while I look for a new job. I think the one that completely surprised her was when I told her I didn't know if I'd even be staying in the U.S. at all. It's a possibility I've given considerable thought to lately, and I noticed that Roho and Kestral were just grinning at me over their plates when I told Kat. She didn't really press me for details, but my remark did spawn an interesting conversation about the impact moving out of the country can have on a U.S. citizen these days, as apparently the Patriot Act passed after the terrorist attacks changed a lot of the rules about maintaining citizenship and what you can and can't do abroad if you want to remain a part of our wonderful union. I'm certainly miffed about that, but I'll cross that bridge if and when I come to it.
The quote of the evening is probably going to be mine from when I came back to the table after a trip to the restroom. "I will become rich and famous," I declared as I sat down, "For going into the manufacturing business and designing the 'no splash-back urinal.'"
After dinner we made our way over to the pool hall and shot pool for an hour. I won three and lost one during the course of the evening. IT was interesting, because while we were playing pool I received an AIM from aureth on my SideKick letting me know that the first shots had been fired in Iraq, and that the President would be on television in a few minutes to address the nation. The pool hall quieted down very quickly after he started his speech. In a way it was unnerving because there was no sound of the clack of ball against ball as people made their shots, the jukebox wasn't playing, people weren't talking loudly. Pretty much everyone was listening as best they could, although the sound system in there was made more for bass-heavy music than it was for dialog, so I had a terrible time making out anything that Bush was saying. Eventually I gave up and went back to the game I was playing. I figured -- rightly, I might add -- that I'd be able to get all the details of the press conference off the web at a later time anyway. If I'm ever asked where I was when the Iraq War started in 2003, I can say "I remember perfectly... I was shooting pool with a bunch of my friends." It's weird to think I might utter that phrase some day.
After we finished up our game we got back in Kat's car and drove back to the apartment. We lounged around, talking and drinking wine for the rest of the evening until it was time for most of us to retire. I didn't want to call it an evening but I knew I had work in the morning, so I grabbed Ra up, wished Kat a good night's sleep and closed myself up in my bedroom.
Thursday morning I snuck out a little late since I didn't want to get Kat up too early, and took care of the daily routines one must partake in prior to leaving for work. I didn't get a chance to say good-bye, but she was asleep, so I didn't want to wake her up, either.
I came in to work and spent the next two hours in the data center taking a total inventory of every system that was installed. I needed to turn in some budgetary quotes by noon, and I couldn't do them without having a complete understanding of what machines would be affected, and how those systems were configured. After I'd written down each machine type and name I trudged back upstairs and dove into correlating existing information into my spreadsheet. By 10:00 AM I had it ready and sent it off to my sales representative... only to find out he was out of the office. So I tried going to the other sales person I dealt with there. No answer. How about his secretary? No answer! Panic! I spent twenty minutes trying to reach anybody and finally found a backup for the representative who was in the office. I laid my needs out, sent him an e-mail with the statistics and then sat back, waiting and worrying since he said he couldn't get to me right away. Fortunately for me the fellow followed through on his promise to have the work done before my deadline, and even called me to confirm that I'd received the e-mail after he sent it. That's what I call service! I had what I needed delivered to me by 11:45, which I promptly handed off to management. Success, and with ten minutes to spare! Of course nobody read the information until six hours after my deadline, but that's neither here nor there.... I did lay into my manager for making me have to light a fire under my vendor, though. Just because management here lacks basic foresight and planning capabilities here does not mean I should have to jump on my vendor with insane deadlines and light fires. Of course, that's in the ideal world... this is not that ideal world, so I just have to suck it up.
The rest of the day passed without too being too eventful. I drove home and was surprised by how easy it was to travel on the roads, even in the construction zone. Despite the weather and the time of day there were almost no slowdowns, no gaper delays, no accidents, nothing. There wasn't a single snarl through the whole drive. I made it home in a record time of something like 35 minutes... I can't believe how fast traffic was moving!
When I got home I let myself into the apartment, gave Ra some attention and stepped back outside to grab a few necessities from the cab of my truck. I had a pleasant conversation with Ed, one of the maintenance guys I've mentioned in past journal entries (He thinks Ra is cute and wants to steal my Maglite flashlight) before going back inside. Mostly I just wanted to sort of hang out and not rush and worry about getting the apartment clean for the arrival of points tonight. When I walked into the kitchen to take out the garbage I discovered that Ra had sick again, presumably sometime after Kat and Kestral departed for home and work. The amount of semi-digested food that was resting on top of our living room throw-rug was amazing, I didn't think the cat could hold that much in his stomach. I also found traces of sick underneath Roho's piano bench, which meant Ra had either been sick a second time and didn't have anything left to bring up or that he'd moved shortly before or after the big mess. With a sigh I grabbed the Tupperware tub, filled it with peppermint soap and water and went to work cleaning the rugs. THe throw rug should probably be thrown in the washing machine again at some point because the cats sure do seem to enjoy being sick on it, but the spot under Roho's bench came clean with no problem. Because of how frequently Ra has been getting sick I'm starting to get very worried again. He was doing so well for so long with the current medical regimen I thought maybe we'd seen the last of this for some time, but it looks like I was wrong. If I am wrong this is probably one of the most severe flare-ups he's had in the last six months, which doesn't do anything to reassure me, either. Last night I upped the dosage of his steroid back to a full pill (he was on half a pill a day) and only fed him a little bit, with no food this morning. I'm hoping that I can go back to half-pills tonight and just continue to feed him only in the evening, thus cutting back on the risk of him being sick anywhere outside of my bedroom...
Since Points is arriving in a few hours and Roho isn't feeling well I'm leaving work early today. The traffic should be light on the way home, but on the drive in to Midway I have a sneaky suspicion it's going to suck. If I'm lucky Roho will be feeling well enough that he can accompany me. If not, I'll make the drive alone and deal with the traffic myself.
This will likely be a busy weekend, especially since I'm on call for work!
Without you everything falls apart