Sunday morning I awoke sometime around 4:30 in the morning after dreaming that I had taken a job again with my old employer from Minnesota, Holiday Sports (now Gander Mountain). I'm not sure exactly why I had this dream, although I suppose the question of job satisfaction and stability has been on my mind a bit more as of late. Maybe I'm just yearning for what I consider deep-down to be "happier times," when I didn't have anything beyond the next day of work and a few hours at school to worry about, and the world seemed a little more full of possibilities instead of simply being a place of near-absolute certainties.
The dream was interesting... in it I was back at my old job. I was even at my old location... store #496 in Burnsville, MN. In one part of my dream I remember very clearly working at the cash register, although I don't think I'd taken my original position of cashier back. There was a line of people and I had just opened the till, and I made my way over to the crowd and divided them in two, asking half of them to come over to my register so that I could give them a speedier checkout. That's a scene that could have almost been pulled from memory because it had happened enough times during my year of employment there. The other scene that remains very vivid for me was walking into the back stock room to get the mail from my box. It's funny how many trivial details your memory can store, even over a time span of years. From everything I remember of the dream I had the floor plan of the store down perfectly with regards to the back rooms, everything from the fire exit to the new location of the mailboxes was spot on. I remember pulling an immense stack of paperwork from the little box in the middle of the bottom row that still had my name on it, and commenting to myself in the dream that it's amazing the papers that can pile up in one's inbox over a few years of absence. While I'm sure I could still get a job there if I wanted to I'm relatively certain that they haven't held my position for the last six years, let alone my mailbox. The last time I was there in 1999 the store had been remodeled again (They were in the process of remodeling once when I was hired on) and there were maybe two of the forty-some people I used to know still working there.
I woke up shortly after the bit about the mailbox and made my way to the washroom to make use of the facilities. I was careful to be quiet so as not to awaken points who was slumbering on the futon in the living room. I was also very careful not to let there be a repeat incident of the "Wrong Bed" episode, which spawned the drawing I wrote about not all that long ago. I collapsed back into bed after being groused at by Ra for disturbing his sleep, rolled over and dozed off....
...only to be awakened by the sound of my cell phone ringing about 45 minutes later. Crap! If there's any sound I dread it's my phone ringing, especially when I'm the on-call engineer for that weekend. Rousing myself I answered it and found that my coworker Bob was on the other end with bad news for me. It seems that while the cut-in of the new UPS and electrical grid in the corporate data center had gone well this weekend there had been one problem encountered. I was impatient to get to the point so I told him to tell me exactly what the issue was. Naturally it wasn't anything trivial, our only Internet border router (a Cisco 7206 VXR) had of course been taken down with the rest of the systems when the power to the data center was turned off. Upon restoration of power and a subsequent reload of the IOS the router was now refusing to power on the slot that held the PA-MC-8T1 port adapter. Without the 8T1 all five of our T1 circuits to the Internet were dead in the water. This was something of a surprise to Bob and myself since the device had been running perfectly up until that point. The only thing that I could think of is that we must have taken some sort of spike on the line that fried the card. I asked Bob if he had opened a case with the Cisco TAC, and was informed yes he had. With some difficulty he had made them aware of the necessity of these five circuits to our business and 1,500-odd users throughout North America. A new part was being shipped as we spoke, and where did I want it sent? Well, since it was about 5:14 in the morning I wasn't very enthused about getting out of my warm bed to drive 27 miles to the office just to swap cards. I figured I would have them ship the card to me and once it arrived at my apartment I'd go down to the office and install the replacement. I gave Bob my address and told him that when the part got here I'd go in to do the work. A half an hour later I got another call that Bob was arguing with the engineer at the TAC about getting it delivered. I informed him that since we're about to sign a $4.7M contract he had damn well better ship the blade to Abu Dhabi if I so wished, and ended the call. 45 minutes after THAT I got another call that they would do the shipment but couldn't guarantee delivery in four hours. Fine, fine, ship it to the office then. What time would the part be there? 9:30. Okay, okay, fine, have them call me when the courier leaves and I'll meet him at the office.
I rolled over and tried to doze for a while longer. That was a lost cause... I got a phone call from our help desk fifteen minutes after getting off the phone with Bob, saying they were getting calls from various support staff wondering why they couldn't create a VPN in to the office to do their work. Who the hell is doing work at 7:00 on a Sunday morning, when they're supposed to be on their weekend break? After telling the help desk that the router was hosed so they'd never be able to create a VPN to our firewall (no, not even with dial-up access... no.... I just said, not even with dial-up access. Why? How about because that would require going through our router to reach the firewall, that's why!!! Where did we hire you from, the local lobotomy clinic? If he has critical work tell him he's going to have to come in to the office to do it. No, I don't know when the router will be fixed because I don't even know if the replacement part has shipped yet. What? Yeah, right back at you, pal!) Deciding that I didn't stand a chance of winning this battle I got out of bed and made my way back to the bathroom, taking a quick shower before I got dressed. I slipped out the door about 8:15 in the morning, saying goodbye to Points since he had woken up at some point, probably by the constant barrage of phone calls I was receiving. My drive down the office was quick and painless as there's not a lot of traffic on the tollway at 8:20 in the morning. I got three-quarters of the way there before my cell phone again, only this time it was the courier driver asking how to get to my office. I gave him directions and once he was most of the way to the parking lot entrance we disconnected. I pulled in to the lot maybe four minutes after he arrived, signed for the part and then drove across to the building that houses our data center.
At around 9:00 in the morning I let myself into the NOC and sifted through the remnants of the feast that took place Saturday night while the electrical contractors were doing their wiring. It's amazing the junk people will eat when they're given the opportunity to get it on the company dime. The table was littered with packages of Oreos, Soft Batch cookies, pizza, donuts (Who the hell eats pizza with donuts?!?), soda, licorice and more. Me, I would have ordered a nice steak dinner or something, but these guys chose to get nothing but junk food (the pizza was a brand I don't particularly care for, so any redeeming feature it might have had was lost). Back to the rack where a laptop was waiting for me, already plugged into the router's console port. Sure enough, all the H2TU-R cards were showing loss of signal from the router, and when I looked at the chassis the blade's enable light was off. I reloaded the router and watched the errors scroll across the laptop's screen as the router tried to turn on the blade, then ultimately disabled it again with a complaint that the download had failed with an MBOX FULL error at block 0. This told me the card was indeed well and truly fucked, and needed to be replaced. Ten minutes later I had the new blade installed and reloaded the router one more time to ensure it was establishing link properly, and it was. I had data flowing in and out of the office again by 9:21 or so. While I could have left then I still had to contend with having people test to make sure that connectivity was in fact performing in the expected manner, so I had to wait a while for that. I also had to repackage the defunct part, close our helpdesk tickets, close the helpdesk ticket with our two ISPs who were alarmed at seeing us suddenly drop off the face of the 'net. I also had to update the trouble ticket with Cisco to reflect the errors we had been seeing with the dead card, and then closed it as the problem had been resolved and our connectivity was restored.
Around 11:15 I called it all good, informed our help desk that I was leaving and drove home. It wasn't too long after I got back that kristenq and hightensile arrived. They'd been rather adamant about coming down to visit since we of the Illinois Pack still haven't made our way up to visit them in Madison. They'd also wanted to do dinner with us on Saturday night but had to take a pass since Kat hadn't been feeling well in the evening. Everyone seemed to feel fine when they arrived, though. We did the round of introductions, split our merry band between two cars and went up to BD's for lunch a second day in the row. I know that enveri didn't mind, and I certainly didn't, because it's easy food, it's fairly priced, it tastes magnificent and it's right in line with the diet we're both on. Kat hadn't been to BD's before, much less a Mongolian Barbeque, so it was our chance to introduce her to the pleasure of making one's own stir-fry. We had Scott as our waiter, and it was fun to see him again since it's been a while. Even with the months since he last served us he still recognized us, commenting that he hadn't seen "the dude with the sunglasses and the hat" in quite some time. All right, I've been officially dubbed "That dude with the sunglasses!"
We ate well and took a little extra time to indulge in the finer part of life: dessert. Points had a sundae while Kit and Kat shared a Big Brownie, one of the most decadent creations I've ever seen. I even treated myself to a Miller Lite to help Scott win a game of "order bingo" he was playing against the other wait staff and as a partial reward for doing as well as I have been on the Atkins plan. I'm surprised, the bottle only had about 3g of carbs in it, which was well within line of my diet, although I prefer to avoid them altogether if I can.
After we paid our check we decided to stop by the Wherehouse Music that is a mile or two from our apartment. Apparently the company is in financial trouble and has declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. As part of their plan to become solvent again they've decided to close a number of stores and sell all their assets, everything in the store from the DVDs and CDs to the shelves and the cash registers are up for grabs. Each week that passes sees the discount applied towards their merchandise go up a little more, so we all though now would be a good time to stop in since they promised 30% to 50% savings. I wasn't overwhelmed with the selection they had because it had been picked over fairly well, but there were still a lot of other good things. When all was said and done I walked out with a $402 bill. I bought ten CDs and ten DVDs for that price, and while I probably could have gotten them as cheap or cheaper from Amazon I rationalized the purchase to myself like this: I'm helping the paychecks keep coming in for some guys who are going to lose their job, and I don't have to pay shipping for the merchandise. They were out of bags so the cashiers had to put all my purchases into two garbage bags so I could carry it all out. With the bag hefted over my shoulder I felt like I'd just robbed a bank as I stepped out the door, and the fact that it certainly felt like I had "loot" wasn't helping the image in my mind.
So, what did I buy?
Points also bought a metric ton of DVDs and CDs, and he introduced me to some discs that I'm going to have to go back for now. Operatica in particular strikes me as just the right sort of thing to listen to on nights like tonight, where introspection is the main event... On our way out Points informed us that the cashier had confided that the two of us had easily doubled the store's sales for the day. That's sort of scary, because there were lots of people picking through the bins. I guess if they only buy one or two things at those discounted prices, though, there's really no money coming in to speak of. I'm hoping that when I get back in there next week that they'll still have some of the cool things that Points showed me. The surround sound calibration disc is a great example... it's coded for 5.1 and has all sorts of interesting noise on it.
After we got back to the apartment there was much crashing and burning of cars with Kit and Kat in GTA:Vice City. Around 6:15 PM they left to get back to Madison, and Points and Kestral commandeered the kitchen to cook dinner. They produced a magnificent stew, along with a few slices of Atkins-friendly bread. It was a really tasty dinner, and we enjoyed it while watching the copy of Ice Age that Points had purchased during our binge in the afternoon. I had to get up for work in the morning, unfortunately, so I slunk off to bed not too long after the movie was over and wished everyone a good night's sleep before partaking in some of my own.
I'm going through changes