Saturday, March 28, 2009

Ok, so I finally did the 25 random things about me...

I've been tagged for this by multiple friends, but nothing's truly random, so I'll jot down 25 miscellaneous things about me:

1. I'm an adventurer.
2. I was born 5 miles north of Booger Hollow, Georgia. (Booger Hollow is unincorporated) (very unincorporated).
3. I have Fibromuscular Dysplasia (FMD) (which has cost me about 5% of my right kidney so far), hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia, peripheral neuropathy, an enlarged prostate gland, back problems, blood pressures problems, lots of chronic muscular tightness/sore spots sometimes labeled as fibromyalgia, but as long as I can run, I consider myself healthy.
4. I earned my bachelor's degree in my 30's for less than $1200. Got it so I could check the box on job applications.
5. I have degrees in Economics, Education, Electronics Engineering Technology, History, Literature in English, Psychology, and Sociology, but I've never used them for an occupation.
6. I've had jobs as "high" as a corporate President and as a Chief Technology Officer.
7. I've passed more than 60 I.T. certification exams by at least 6 different companies.
8. I had poor grades in high school, but I had a lot of great friends.
9. I've read many college level textbooks just for fun.
10. I have a lot of books. Many, many, books. Hundreds and hundreds of books.
11. I wish they would put vitamins in chocolate-chip cookies.
12. I ruined a car engine by running it with the oil drained out. On purpose. As part of an experiment.
13. A good friend and I rode bicycles over 1200 miles on a trip from Georgia to Virginia, where my bicycle was stolen.
14. I owned a Kawasaki 440 LTD motorcycle (belt-drive!), and enjoyed giving rides to friends on it.
15. My Scoutmaster, Bill Ergle, saved my life. He rescued me from downing.
16. A good friend, James Stanley, saved my life when I had been bench-pressing alone, had passed out with the weights on my chest, and had stopped breathing.
17. I know that it is possible that there is a realm of existence that may be unmeasurable (and possibly undetectable) by scientific means, commonly referred to as a spiritual or supernatural realm.
18. I believe that a realm does exist that is currently beyond scientific scrutiny.
19. I believe that God exists, and I believe that he loves us.
20. I believe God is a loving God despite the pain and suffering in the world, and that his long-term, universal perspective allows him to weigh our short-term emotions and physical difficulties differently than we usually do.
21. I've witnessed a few things that I haven't been able to develop an explanatory hypothesis for based on science alone. And I'm really good at developing at least somewhat plausible scientific hypotheses.
22. I believe people have spiritual aspects to our existence, but I have no idea of how the physics of that facet of existence could work. I keep pondering it, though, and am currently toying with an interesting quantum theory.
23. I talk to God a lot. But I don't listen very well.
24. I believe God has silently communicated directly with me a few times, and I believe God has communicated to me a few times through other people regarding future events which those people could not have predicted. Subsequent relevant events were consistent with the possibility that those ideas originated from a benevolent, omniscient God.
25. I have uncountable wealth. The love of my wife Carla makes me the richest man I know. Add to that my children, the parents I had for too short a time, my brother, my relatives-in-law, and my friends... it's no wonder I smile so much.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

MSSU, Day One

Sunday, 1Mar20098, SQL PFE day 77, MSSU day 1.

Woke up about 6 AM local time, 9 AM Eastern. About 5 hours sleep. The high heat last night melted my foot pads. I had to sit on the edge of the tub and scrape the goo off my feet under the hot water.

I ate a stale pretzel and some left-over peanut M&M's, then checked out the list of apartment-complex amenities. There's a fitness room. I got dressed for a run, took my keys and headed out to find it. There are no signs. Anywhere. There was no one else about at that hour to ask. I remembered the motto of the Virginia Commonwealth and persevered. I mean, there are a limited number of floors and hallways, and it's got to be off one of them right? Finally found it in the South Tower and ran 1.5 miles in 13m3s.

Got back, showered, and dressed. Roommate woke up, we talked and headed out for breakfast. Couldn't find a restaurant open so we went to a Safeway grocery store. We can actually get to it from our apartment without going outside.

Class started at 1 PM local time, at the Lincoln Center a few blocks away. There was free-lance meet and greet with drinks and snacks, then get-to-know-one-another exercises, then a break, then a team-building exercise. We wrapped up around 4 PM local time. Didn't take my umbrella because it wasn't raining when I left the apartment. I won't make that mistake again.

Ran back in a steady light rain and couldn't get my shoes & socks off fast enough. Feet are hurting and I'm getting very sleepy. I need to get a report finished for a customer back home, but I'm not sure how long I can stay awake. Doing it in the morning before class probably won't work, because I have to catch the shuttle to the Microsoft campus at 7:00 AM. Guess I'll put my shoes back on, get something from Safeway, eat, and crash.

MSSU, Day Zero

Saturday, 28Feb20098, SQL PFE day 76, MSSU day 0: Travel to Seattle

MSSU is Microsoft Services University, and I'm to attend 9 days of training in Bellevue, WA, starting March 1st.

Got up early and worked on describing a procedure to track deadlocks to send to a customer before getting bogged down in travel. Finished and sent it.

Packed, with Carla's help, and finished a few minutes ahead of schedule. Family prayer and then Carla dropped me off at the Vienna/Fairfax Metro station. Short ride to Reagan National Airport and caught a commuter flight to US Airways Philadelphia hub. Up, down... short flight. The plane had 2 seats on one side of the aisle and one on the other side. I was on the single seat side, so I had a window seat and an aisle seat at the same time. Three hour layover in Philly, then a big jet non-stop to Seattle. Against prevailing winds, as usual when flying West, so it was 6 hours in the air. Was afraid my back would not be happy, but it was okay. The seat beside me was empty, so I got to stretch a little more than normal.

Then things started going wrong. I did a pretty good job of not pigging out on sugar all day so my blood sugar was okay, but I'm used to going to bed around 9 PM, or 8 PM if I'm tired. I got into Sea-Tac about midnight Eastern time, and I was really tired. I couldn't run in the airports, but I had walked a lot, pulling my laptop behind me. What could go wrong at this point?

No, not my checked luggage. It took a half hour, but I got my suitcase okay. But I was TIRED. I remembered I was supposed to take a taxi to the apartment I'll be staying at and was told to expect to pay $40. I struggled to find the taxi stand, then spent a few minutes trying to find a cab that would agree to a flat rate. Apparently they're not allowed to do flat rates, but I'm still skeptical. So I finally plop in a cab and haul out my Tom-Tom GPS to make sure he doesn't drive me out of the way to artificially hike the fare. We get to the right street, but the street number doesn't appear to exist. There's supposed to be a North Tower building and a South Tower building owned by the same management company, and I spot the other address, so I get the driver to let me out there since it's only supposed to be a block from the other building. I figure the front desk will get me straightened out. The cab fare is $50 and I waste a moment fretting about it being more than I was told to expect.

There is no front desk. It's an apartment building and the office is closed for the weekend. I'm standing outside getting cold fast, and my bladder is uncomfortably full. It's a downtown area and nearby every store is closed. There are no cabs in sight. The building directory is no help. A young woman enters the building and takes pity on me, letting me drag my bags into the tiny lobby to get in out of the cold. I get my laptop out and start opening email to look up phone numbers and other housing instructions. I start calling numbers and listen to a lot of hold-music. I figure out a housing document listed the wrong street address and I'm actually in my building. I go up to my room and knock on the door. My roommate, who was supposed to arrive this past Wednesday, does not answer the door.

I go back down to the lobby. I finally get through to an emergency number for the company that sublets the apartment to Microsoft. They don't know if my roommate ever checked in or not. If I knew he had, I could camp outside the door in the hallway, but if he didn't show up, that wasn't the best solution. (My TechReady roommate never did show up, so that was a recent precedent I had in mind.) The housing guy says I should have received instructions that told me I was supposed to go to Ken's Baggage at the Sea-Tac airport to pick up my apartment keys. Hmm. I had received a flood of email about MSSU and housing and I missed that item. The housing people have no process to help out ignorants losers like me, so I have to go back to the airport. Oh, and I have to get back there before midnight local time, because that's when Ken's Baggage closes. My bladder situation is getting bad. I pack up my laptop and prop a suitcase in the building's front door (hearing Lucy Pevensie's voice in my head) and look up and down for a cab. No cabs. Very few cars. I call Carla and ask her look up a cab company and have them send a cab while I stay outside in case I can flag down a miracle cab.

I spot a Westin sign on top of a sky-scratcher a couple of blocks away. I call Carla back and tell her to wait about calling a cab. I grab my bags and drag them uphill to the Westin. I go inside and take about 2 hours to empty my bladder. Possibly it was less time than that. What a relief. And I didn't get arrested for indecent exposure! And there was a cab right outside. He takes me back to the airport. I tell him I need to go to the baggage claim area. He says he's not allowed to go there, he's required to go to ticketing. What?! I point out that the place I need to go is baggage claim, not ticketing. I talk him into taking me straight to the baggage claim area. He doesn't even get parked and a police car swoops in and stops him. Another officer approaches on foot. The cabbie was right. For whatever reason, they seriously do not want cabs in that area. (Which explains why I had so much trouble finding a cab the first time after picking up my bag in baggage claim.) They're about to give the cabbie a $100 fine. The cabbie does not look like a wealthy man. I get out and try to explain to the cops, while worrying about Ken's Baggage about to close. They tell me Ken's Baggage is right inside the door to the left and tell me to go. I run. I got to Ken's, showed an ID, signed, and got the keys. The cops let the cabbie off with a warning. The cabbie takes me back to the building. After going a few blocks out of the way. I think he was just a little confused about how to get to my building instead of back to the Westin hotel.

The fare is $93.25. I tell him to add a $10 tip and hand him my AmEx. My boss won't fuss, but I worry that some bean-counter will think I was trying to cheat Microsoft out of a hundred bucks. Beep. Declined. What?! It worked just fine in the previous cab. He tries again. Declined again. I call the 24 hr customer service number on the back of the card. It takes awhile to get a person on the line. They check, and there have been no declines. The cabbie tries again. I look at him machine. The message is "Declined. General System Error." This isn't a credit card problem, this is his credit processing machine with a problem. He deserves the money, I want to pay him. I don't have that much cash. He calls his office. Their credit processing system is down and that's why his is. The only person in the office doesn't know how to fix it. The cabbie takes me a block away to an ATM. I try to get $100 from it with the AmEx. It won't work. I finally get the money with a different credit card. He drops me off and I go inside. My roommate is in town, and appears to have already gone to bed.

I go into my bedroom. It would make a decent tiny home office. It would make a decent nursery. It might make a decent bedroom for a small child with a single bed. This room has a full size bed, a tall chest of drawers, an end table with a large but dim lamp, and a walk-in closet. That's all. There's one foot between the corner of the bed and the chest of drawers. The closet door won't open all the way because it hits the bed. I can't plug in my laptop and put it on the end table without unplugging the lamp (the only light) or the clock. I plug my laptop and phone in to recharge in the only other outlet and leave them on the floor by the door. I bruise my hip trying to get past the chest of drawers with my suitcase. I put the suitcase on the floor so I can open it and get my foot pads out and then crash into bed.

My foot pads have Lidocaine to reduce the burning sensation in my feet due to nerve damage. I usually can't sleep without them. I get them on, turn off the light, and flop into bed. It's too cold. I get up and turn on the light. My bedroom has an individual temperature control. It's not a normal thermostat. I turn the dial until I hear a click. I turn out the light, flop into bed, get up and turn the light back on. It's deathly quiet except I hear someone in the outside hallway. I power up my laptop and launch my flowing-stream audio clip to provide some white noise. I turn off the light again and lay down again. I realize I didn't set it repeat. I get up again. Wrong, it was already set to repeat. I lay back down. The screen-blanker doesn't kick in. I get up and throw a shirt over it. I think it's about 4 AM Eastern time. I lay down and pass out.

I wake up and I can hardly breathe it's so hot. I struggle up, bang into the chest of drawers, crank down the temperature control and crawl back into bed.