2016-11-30

be sick

Okay, so one doesn't really learn to be sick, but perhaps one can learn to deal with illness better. Over the last few years I've been thankfully sick only a handful of times, although I have had other various ailments like migraines or things that made moving around a bit more difficult. In most of these incidents, I've tried to just power through it, take medicine when it gets bad enough, and do what I can to not contaminate the people around me (such as my scared-to-be-sick spouse).

While we were visiting family for Thanksgiving I started to feel like my throat was getting scratchy, but I told myself it was probably just different pollens or irritants in the Florida air. The second morning I work up feeling the same I knew what was coming, but I was still traveling, so I just had to make the best of what I could at the time. Forgivingly, the more I moved around the better I felt, so that gave me plenty of excuse to move around a lot.

Once we got home, I was too exhausted to remember to take medicine. Monday morning the congestion started. Tuesday night, the congestion was full on and I had to sleep sitting up. Wednesday morning, it was time to medicate. Probably past time.

If these conditions had befallen my wife, there would have been neti pots and dissolving chunks of medicine that make pink liquids, and black syrup added to water that turns almost purple. But this was me, and I don't believe these things help me.

When I got up this morning I almost fired off an email saying I wasn't going to be in because I was feeling poorly, but I looked at my calendar and found that I had a meeting that was scheduled two weeks ago (it was canceled 20 minutes before it was to begin). With that, we picked up and went to work. Once there, I decided it was best to isolate myself, so I departed for the "lab" where I spent all but about an hour of the work day.

And you know what? It worked. I'm going to miss our current arrangement when we move to our new offices in about two weeks.

As the evening wore on, I realized that I hadn't had medicine in many hours and I could feel the congestion building. Ugg... this is going to be unpleasant. I did learn that I need to keep on top of medicating once I start, 'cause feeling like this stinks.  I also learned in a previous cold that I needed to drink like it's going out of style. Water, not bourbon. Although bourbon feels good, too, especially on scratchy throats.

As I go through this, maybe I'll find more/better ways to live through being ill, so expect more thoughts on the matter in the future.

2016-11-29

prevent mistakes

When it comes to a lot of the technologies I work with, I feel like I've been around a few blocks over the years. I've dug deeply into lots of things including operating systems, storage networks, storage devices, networks, virtualization, and even a number of applications that I'd really like to forget.

But that history of working on things has helped me make a few mistakes, too. For the most part, I get to make my mistakes in lab environments where I've got "extra" or old hardware that I can do with what I will, or in virtual ones where I can take snapshots and rollback as if nothing ever happened.

A lot of people follow the plan outlined here:

  1. Measure with a micrometer
  2. Mark with chalk
  3. Cut with an ax

That doesn't sound like a good idea to me. It would lead to some major mistakes.

I've made a few mistakes in my life.

And that is exactly why I've learned that I need to plan, verify my plan, test my plan, verify the plan, and then implement.

When I'm doing something I haven't done before, I take to Google. I find several sources, compare them, review them, sometimes even ignore some of them. When I'm doing something I've done only a few times, I do the same thing as there's no reason to get it wrong.

When it comes to personal interactions, I make mistakes, too. Because I can't necessarily Google how to avoid those kinds of mistakes, I've adopted the mindset stemming from the old saying It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt. Sometimes that doesn't work, but more often than not, I don't end up saying the thing that hurts someone. And that's a start.

2016-11-28

"check out" a little

Although today started off much like any other Monday that I've had in the last year, it didn't stay that way for long. Apparently I turned off my alarm, only to wake 25 minutes later wondering why my alarm hadn't gone off. After a few minutes of various morning routine steps, I prepared to step into the shower only to realize that we never turned the water heater back on from our trip. Yay cold shower.

Just as I was about to step out of the office, I got an email saying one of the systems we support was offline, so I jumped online and got that resolved and then we hit the road for the office. It was strange arriving so much later than usual. But not all bad.

A bit later we were sitting in our team meeting and everyone's buzzed, emails dinged, and attention was diverted to a developing issue on campus. Over the course of the next three hours we "learned" details of an event that was initially sent to the campus community as an "active shooter" and we all went into lockdown mode. Hundreds of law enforcement poured onto campus, new crews crowded in, and social media went crazy with "updates" about what was going on.

Later in the afternoon the first press conference was held to explain the situation and based on the details that were given there... well, things were not quite as they seemed, although one person did lose their life and several others were injured. Dispatch article for posterity.

One of the takeaways for me in this is that I needed to back off of the information gathering a little. I was keeping abreast of things going on by checking social media, listening to dispatchers, and reading as much new coverage as I could find. What did it benefit me in the end? Nothing. But it did add to anxiety. And so much of what we heard turned out to be incomplete or just wrong.

Sure, I like to know what's going on. I've always had a propensity to seek out knowledge an the "low down" on what's happening around the work place. I've been well positioned for that, really. But when it comes down to it, that little bit of extra knowledge doesn't actually add to my life or happiness in a meaningful way most of the time.

Maybe today's realization will help me learn how to take a step back, evaluate whether information seeking is a necessity, or just something I've been conditioned to do.


2016-11-27

rest

It's ironic that I would chose the title rest for this post as it is far from what my weekend actually was. We traveled for Florida on Thursday and enjoyed a day to ourselves, putting something like six miles on our shoes just running around resorts and such. Friday, in-laws joined and a lot of time was spent waiting for our new room. Once we were in, a bit of time to wash up and then dinner. Something else happened after dinner, but I lost track. Saturday was breakfast, football, more exploration, and eventually sleep. Sunday brought with it a bit of a rush to pack and get ready for checkout, then more exploration, a brief respite watching a movie, then even more resort visits. Cap that all off with a trip to the airport, touching down in my home city at roughly one in the morning.

Maybe the title is really a plea.

2016-11-26

abandon myself

Frenetic. Indecision. That's how I'd describe most of yesterday. And if you know me, you know that couldn't be describing me.

Suffice to say I was challenged.

Those are conditions that have made my life difficult for a very long time. I don't know how to deal with fully functional adults that seem spastic and it frustrates me internally. Sometimes logic can't win. Sometimes you've got to find another "solution" to that problem.

Patience? Seems like a likely candidate for the job. But it is exactly what is called into stark contrast! What's funny about patience is that I'm really patient in most circumstances--I can wait months for events with almost no consternation, I don't really mind waiting for my turn to get or do something, and I'm really good at accepting the kids are kids and operate in this own world. So how can I find the patience I have in all of those things when it comes to this one place I really struggle?

Maybe patience isn't the answer here. Perhaps it's abandonment. Not of the situation, although at times that would be nice, but of my own ideas of how things need to be. In my head that feels like a failure on my part, but maybe it's the thing that's needed. I guess the old adage of "if you can't beat them, join them" may be just what the doctor ordered.

I can try it. It's going to be uncomfortable and I'm pretty sure I'm going to fail at it at times. But I'm going to try anyway. What have I got to lose other than my own frustration, really?

2016-11-24

find joy

Another of my shorter posts due to traveling and only having my phone to post.

I know a lot of people that I think are joyous people, and I met people here and there that also seem to have it. But what does it mean to have joy?

I suppose the answer to this isn't an easy one to come by, and the source of any given person's joy is as varied as they themselves. I've heard some people attribute their feelings of joy to family, others to wealth, and some to surviving an event. But at these things joy, or just happiness? Is there a difference? I think so, at least right now.

You see, I find happiness to be a fleeting thing. But joy--that's something that endures through challenges and goes hand in hand with hope and the belief that things are positive. I've been happy sometimes, sure, but joyous? I'm not so sure.

So how can I learn to find joy? I have no idea, but I suspect that it's much like learning to do anything: lots of practice. In the same way that a person doesn't just get off of the couch one day and run a marathon, I don't believe someone wakes up and suddenly us filled with the new depth of feeling.

As an exercise to help myself find joys, I am attempting to change my view of one thing every hour from negative or neutral to something in I'm happy about. As I add these happy things to my day, I'm finding that I'm generally more positive and feeling like there's glimmers of joy.

One of the things that I've long enjoyed doing that makes me feel joy is feeding people. Knowing this, I want to use that you help build my joy level. I know that with my spouse's introversion that I won't be able to have someone over for dinner every night (and let's not consider the cost of that), but once a month? That seems doable for now.

So joy. Feels elusive, but not impossible. Little steps every day, mostly forward ideally.

be thankful

This will be brief today as I am both traveling and enjoying time with family on this Thanksgiving Day. Of course it is perhaps expected that I would be thankful on this day in specific, but let's not sell myself short here. How easy it is to wake up and be grumpy because it is already morning or still dark or because of an interrupted dream?

For as long as I can remember my body has had a habit of walking up before my alarm would go off on travel days (or work days when I set an alarm). Am I thankful for this? Absolutely! But not because of the reason you may think: it's because it allows me to start getting ready without distributing my spouse, and I know that extra few minutes of sleep is appreciated.

Today I remind myself that I'm thankful for innumerable things, a few among them listed here in no particular order for my own memory's sake.

• Family, near, far, and farther
• Steady, meaningful employment
• Friends as varied as snowflakes
• Grace
• Opportunities to grow
• Chances to rest
• Talents to share
• People expressing their joy

2016-11-23

build my skillset

I've spent most of my career working with computers. Although I've at times had responsibility for end-user support, my focus has really been on server administration, and specifically all of the things that are and run on the various iterations of Windows. Active Directory: check. Exchange: check. SQL: check. IIS: check. And on down the line.

A couple of years ago, one of my colleagues thought I'd be a great fit for his team, so I moved away from pure Windows work and picked up managing a SAN environment and assumed some ESXi administration tasks. It was all good and fine, and I felt like I was learning incrementally, but because of some of the responsibilities that I brought to the position, I wasn't spending all of my time focusing on growing that.

As 2015 was winding to a close I changed not only positions, but organizations. In doing this, I again shifted the focus of my responsibility. In this new role, I was back to being a Windows system administrator, but I also carried the torch of ESXi admin, SAN admin, and new to my wheelhouse: Linux admin. A new era in my learning was beginning when I realized that last one.

Over the last year, I have spent a fair amount of time learning more about Linux. I feel like I've become reasonably competent for typical purposes, but sometimes I come across something and I have to scratch my head for a while. The one thing that I've become certain of is this: the more I learn, the more I realize I don't know.

In some ways, Linux feels like the wild west. Saying that there are a lot of ways to do a particular task would often be an understatement. Some things that are super-easy in the PC world are fairly complex, and I'm sure it's for a good reason but gosh darn if I know why. I have undertaken a couple of micro-projects to help build my skills in Linux while also helping to build the strength of my group. First, I deployed a Linux-based monitoring system using MySQL and deployed agents across all of the servers I manage. Recently I also launched a patch and configuration management system for the Linux servers so that the team can regularly update those servers. It feels good to monitor and control these systems finally.

It hasn't been an easy journey, and it's far from over. I have several friends that I know as Linux guys although most of them are no longer working in that role, but I've been told that I came up in conversation among them when talking about their own professional development: If Rick (a WINDOWS admin) can teach himself Linux, there's no reason I can't learn Windows. Or something like that.

So what's next for me? I'll keep working on these skills, sure, but that can't be it. Recently I was offered a chance to take part in some Amazon Web Services training, so that's probably the next step.

Concurrently, I've started to try and learn about javascript. This one will be a larger challenge than the others, as those are just variations of what I already know and do. Coding is something that I've realistically never done. Sure, when I was in middle and high school I played around with BASIC, and I am capable of writing fairly clean HTML and CSS, but that's not really the same thing. At least in my head it's a lot more daunting.

As I walk down these paths of learning more, it is interesting to see what new things will start to pique my interest, to lure me over. Maybe this is just how I am becoming a well-rounded professional. Or maybe there's another plan for me that I just can't see yet. Either way, I'm sure it'll be an interesting adventure.

2016-11-22

re-find consistency

If you ask my wife, I am a very consistent person. The spatulas go in the same drawer, the knives go in the same slots on the block, and the dirty dishes get loaded the same way every time. I have to sit in the same seat for dinner or movies. In a way, I'm sort of like Sheldon Cooper, just not quite as likable or cute.

In the last thirteen months, a lot of things have changed: I no longer get up at-or-before five o'clock for work; I no longer show up like clockwork to set up at church; I no longer do a lot of things with regularity that I did this baker's dozen of months ago.

What changed? First and foremost my job. When I got the opportunity to leave my previous position for one that I believed would offer me a better work-life balance while allowing me to be closer to my wife, it seemed like a pretty good idea. I knew that there were some downsides like lower salary and less advanced technologies, but the idea of having so much more of my time back was really appealing. I considered how much more time I'd be able to spend with my wife since we'd likely commute together more often than not (and we do!).

But an unintended consequence happened when I made that shift. Initially I approached my job in the same way that I'd approached my previous one, working extremely hard and too many hours. After a few months of doing this, I was incredibly frustrated by the glacial pace of getting things done. Slowly, my desire to excel eroded and—while I won't say I became complacent—I lost a lot of the drive for excellence. I started sleeping in more, so late that I'd barely get out of bed in time to leave "on time" some days.

Once I started slipping there, I found other things to slip in. Suddenly it didn't matter what I ate as long as it tasted good. I'd find myself at a friend's house and having a drink or two more than I needed. Heck, I even cheered for another hockey team once or twice.

I was really surprised when it came time for performance reviews. I knew that I'd started really strong, and that I'd accomplished a lot of things considering my relative newness, but I wasn't really prepared for the process. I got great marks! This was foreign to me because in the previous four years, I had received only one performance review that was actually reflective of my work as I viewed it (my previous supervisors had incorrectly attributed some project failures to me, as well as three of my major project successes to another individual). In the months since starting I felt like I wasn't giving my all, but my review was exemplary. I just couldn't understand it.

A few months later, I now find myself moving along at relatively the same clip that I was when I got that shock, but I've expressed to my manager my desire/intention for growth in specific things. It feels a bit like he doesn't agree with my intended trajectory, but that he'd also feel awkward to deter me from pursuing it.

I have expectations for myself, and I can't let those slip. I need to re-find excellence in my job. I think that a lot of this will mean personal growth in areas that I've long believed that I don't have strength. I think that it will mean pushing the boundaries of where I'm comfortable, but in technology and socially. But I have a need to move forward, to be the person that I want to be.

Outside of work, re-finding consistency has other implications. I need to get up at a regular time, adopt a regimen, and stick to it. Oh, and I should certainly find time to work out more. Okay, to work out at all. That one is really hard for me.

Much like my effort to drop sarcasm from my personal repertoire, reaching the new balance of consistency in my life is going to take time, and honestly a ton of it. But as the Chinese philosopher Laozi penned for us, 千里之行,始於足下. Or for the English speakers such as myself, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

Here's to next steps.

2016-11-21

be kinder

I have high expectations of people. For anyone that knows me, this is not a surprise. I have equally high expectations for myself, with a few exceptions where I get a pass because I'm me.

While this is partly a product of my expectations, it's also a result of being a guy, and guys rib each other about things. For many of us, it is about as close as we come to showing emotion to most people. But that "guy emotion" has bled over into other parts of my life. Sarcasm has grown thick, and commentary isn't what it should be to those I care about.

I'm really good about holding my tongue when it comes to people I don't know well, but for some reason I seem to think that I shouldn't have to do that with people like my wife or family. But I'm wrong, absolutely wrong. These people matter, perhaps even more. I'm not sure how it got to this point, but when I compliment or thank my wife for something, the first thought is that I don't meat it at all.

So I'm trying to improve how I interact with these people. For instance, I'm trying to tone down if not eliminate sarcasm. This is going to be a long road, one that has been paved over the decades. Despite whatever I may intend, this won't change overnight. A little better today, and little more the next. Eventually there won't be sarcasm.

But until that time, I have to remember that I am trying to be nicer, and when I say something sarcastically I don't mean it to be hurtful, it's just me trying to not say whatever it is negatively. Poorly, it would seem.

2016-11-20

realize new truths

Every day is a challenge. Do I drag myself out of bed? Do I wear jeans or khakis? Do I follow the rules of the road as I drive to work, or do I speed a little (or a lot)? The entire day, every day, is made up of a ton of little choices that add up to an amazing amount of opportunity either realized or lost. What does it mean when I choose to have a hamburger instead of a salad for lunch? Probably not all that much, but it's likely a decent indication that I'm not a vegetarian.

I have spent most of my adult life trying to make the right choices. Choose the right wife. Choose the right job. Find the right church. Say the right thing. You get the picture. But maybe what I've forgotten to consider is what is right for me.

Woah. Did I just say that? Did I just say that I needed to think about what is right for me as if it could be different than what is the global, singular right? I think I did.

I'm not suggesting that my choices made thus far have been wrong holistically, but perhaps that I have been viewing them as something for everyone, rather than as something for me. I like to please people. I want them to be happy with me, to like me. I have gone out of my way to try and ingratiate myself to people in all of the walks of my life, and I feel that although I'm generally accepted, I'm not always well liked. It's because I'm awkward, or at least that is what I tell myself.

Lately I have spent a lot of time considering what happiness should be. I don't have an answer yet, but I know that I need to learn how to divorce the idea of my happiness coming from making other people happy. I'll probably step on a few toes, but maybe I'll like myself more. Maybe I'll find more confidence in my own skin.

Now just to actually start doing it.