Damn it, Idris!

Editor’s note:  The text of this post was written a few days ago, and at that time I was still furiously job hunting.  I was planning on fleshing this out with a few more humorous references to ways in which Idris Elba makes me feel inadequate before posting it.  Earlier today, however, I received the wonderful news that I finally have a job offer.  Suck it, Idris!  Rather than rewriting the whole thing, I’m just going to post the most recent draft below this line, because it’s just funnier that way.


I am now the same age as Batman, Electra, Black Adam, Heimdall, Judge Dredd, Lex Luthor, Cyborg, Captain Cold, and the Tick.

Or, to put it another way, Ben Afleck, Jennifer Garner, Idris Elba, Dwayne “The Rock Johnson,” Karl Urban, Michael Rosenbaum, Khary Payton, Wentworth Miller, and Peter Serafinowicz were all born in 1972, just like me.

Britney Spears, Nelly Furtado, Lucy Liu, Maria Callas, Stone Phillips, Ray Walston, and Gianni Versace all share my birthday, but from different years.

This is me, at 45.  The one on the left, obviously.  The one on the right is Idris Elba, also 45.

 

Idris Elba is three months older than me. Every time I see him on a screen, I feel inadequate.

As I start my 45th year, I am unemployed.  My last gig was a contract which ended on the 31st of October, because the  project was nearing completion.  The following five weeks marks the longest period of unemployment I’ve had since I was in high school, not counting those times that I was a full time student.   It’s a strange sensation.

Idris Elba, on the other hand, has more work than he can handle.  He’s not just a stage and film and television actor- that handsome son of a gun is also a DJ and music producer.  I honestly didn’t know this until I started researching him for this post, but Idris Elba has released music under the names DJ Big Driis, Big Driis the Londoner, and 7 Dub.  He DJ’d an NBA All Star Party at the Venetian in Las Vegas in 2007.  He’s featured on a Macklemore and Ryan Lewis album!  Damn it, Idris, we get it!  You’re a triple-threat.

I spent nearly fifteen years at my last company, and I enjoyed the comfort that seniority provided.  I knew my company inside and out, and I knew the people around me incredibly well.  The last time I stared with a new employer, I was in my twenties.  Joining a new company at the bottom rung in an industry flooded by newer college graduates with mad skills makes me feel kind of like this:

Job hunting is exhausting and stressful.    I know that I have a lot to offer potential employers, but I’ve never been good at selling myself.   At times, waves of doubt and low self esteem hit me.

Still, I keep at it. I apply to a minimum of five positions a week, and I do more if there are good postings that week. I’ve been averaging one or two interviews a week, but with no job offers so far.

I think that smug bastard Idris Elba*, in the same position, would already have several job offers.  And a magazine cover.  And possibly a hit single.

I wonder how one applies to be the defender of the Bifrost.


*I have no actual knowledge that Idris Elba is a smug bastard.  From every indication, he’s actually a genuinely nice guy who is entirely unaware of how inferior he makes the rest of us feel.

So this is what having free time is like.

I meant to keep writing on a more regular basis, but the first half of December has been absolutely ridiculous.  I moved out of my apartment with Amelie’s help, and Thursday was the final day at Mr. Company, after more than fourteen years.  I’ve been keeping busy since Thursday afternoon, so I don’t have a lot of emotions to process yet.  I suspect it will hit me later.  Like any long relationship that comes to an end, there will be a grieving process.

It’s difficult to really frame fourteen and a half years in your mind.  We’re used to shorter hops in time-  what happened in the last week? What happened in the last year?

glassmansteven-2002-badge
My ID badge. July, 2002

When I started working for this company, I was in my late 20s.  It was the summer of 2002, and my ID badge photo was taken on July 1st.  I worked for Mr. Company at first in technical support.  I moved from a tier one job to tier 2, then tier 3, and within four years I was a supervisor.  I wrote reviews, did hiring interviews, the whole lot.

During that time, I worked with dozens of people who have passed in and out of my life over a span of years- the tech scene in this part of Florida is not so large that you don’t run into each other from time to time.  I made friendships at Mr. Company that will be with me for the rest of my life.

I didn’t really like being a management type, though.  The job wasn’t technical, favoring delegation of tech work instead.  I much prefer to be responsible for only my own work, and I missed getting into the technical work.

In 2007, I moved over to operations and became a UNIX administrator.  Right away, I was given the chance to travel to Dulles, Virginia to do a bunch of work in the data center.  The next year, I went to Hong Kong for two weeks to work with a team of colleagues on a big server installation.   Hong Kong was my first-ever trans-Atlantic hop.  My only international trips before that were the Bahamas and Canada- international traveling for beginners.   Hong Kong was the first time I ever went to a place where I didn’t know the language and it was fascinating and awesome.

In 2011, I was in my fourth year as a UNIX administrator and our partners in Zurich asked us to assign a sysadmin to the local German office.  Volunteers were requested, and I was in a perfect situation to go- I had just sold a condo and all of my stuff was already in storage.  I said sure, and by the middle of November of that year, I was living full time in Regensburg, Germany. I was promoted again when I moved, giving me my fifth title change sine I started working for the company.

Including Germany, I visited 23 more countries during my three years living and working in Bavaria, and I made still more life-long friends.   I compiled an incredible variety of experiences in that time, and it’s all chronicled here in this blog.

At the end of 2014, after three years in Germany, I returned to the US.  I worked in the Boca Raton office again.  During the summer of 2015, I spent five weeks in Japan to work on a migration of their customers to a new platform.  While I was there, Mr. Company announced that we were divesting all of our web hosting business, and I knew my time at the company had an expiration date.

Fourteen years is a long time.  While I was working for this company, I bought a home, lived in it for about seven years, and sold it.  In fourteen years I’ve moved nine times, two of them internationally.  I’ve attended weddings of friends and family.  Also funerals.  And births.  My oldest niece has graduated college and purchased a house.  My youngest niece just turned six.   I’ve purchased two cars, a 2005 Civic and a 2015 Mazda 3.  I met my girlfriend just before I moved to Germany, and we got to know each other while I was across the ocean.  We’ve been together since 2014.

Trying to recap a span of nearly a decade and a half is not an easy task.  It’s just too much.

It’s finally the end-  the company has eliminated the positions and the entire office is closing.  I’m not the last person out of the building. but there’s only a dozen or so people left to clean up the mess we all left behind.  I’m glad that I’m not the one left behind, because that’s going to be the most difficult work of all.

The goodbyes on Thursday were difficult.  I mostly wasn’t emotional, until Daryl started saying nice things about me.  That was enough to make me almost lose it a tiny bit.  (Damn you, Daryl!  Why can’t you just hate me like a normal techie person?)

The picture at the start of the post was me on the first day in 2002.  This one was taken earlier this week, in my last days at the company in 2016.  I look like I’ve seen some stuff.  And I have.

Fourteen years later, December 2016.

I also got the best sleep I’ve had in years on Thursday night, because there was no reason for me to wake up early on Friday.  For the moment, I have nowhere to go.

So how’s your December going so far?

A Fork in the Road

As we roll into day 30 of National Blog Posting Month and Nanopoblano, I find myself surprised to have completed the entire month.   When Rara asked me in late October to participate, I initially said that my life is too crazy-busy right now to do a blog post every day.  Nevertheless, on the first of November, I posted a thing.  On the second of November, I posted another thing.

One a day, every day, until we reached today.   I didn’t even write ahead and schedule posts to go up in the future until Thanksgiving- I wrote a new post each day, or had three-fourths of a post almost ready to go in the drafts folder, needing some polish.

The truth is that I’m kind of grateful to this little project, because it’s been a wonderful distraction.   I’ve mentioned only a few times in the blog that my employment is ending on the fifteenth of December, but I haven’t really shared just how terrified that makes me.   Writing something new every day has helped me to stay sane and to keep the stress at bay.  I didn’t know that my blog could do that-  I’ve never really used it that way before now.

I didn’t realize until just recently how much of my identity is tied up in what I do.   And I also wrote a while back about how my highly specialized product knowledge will be useless after this job ends.

This is a fear that I have-  I worry that my skills won’t transfer to a new job, or that even after more than fifteen years doing tech work, I won’t be any different than any other resume on some hiring manager’s desk.   I worry that I won’t stand out enough to get hired.  I worry that if I do get hired, I’ll hate the job and be stuck in a soul-crushing perdition from which I cannot escape.

I worry, also, that this might be the last time in my life that I can really choose a career path different from the one I’ve been on.  I’m two days from 44, and I still haven’t got the foggiest idea what I want to be when I grow up.

I don’t really know if I want to keep doing this kind of work.  I don’t really know where I want to live, although Orlando and Portland are both very appealing to me.  (And, frankly, Orlando is the more likely of the two because it’s right there and it has Disney!)

The image attached to this post is my laptop wallpaper right now, because I find myself  at a fork in the road.   For just this moment, I’m not attached to a lease.  I have, thanks to some creative application of time off, roughly six actual days left in the office before I’m unemployed.

And I don’t know what to do next.

Except to keep blogging,  I guess.   Probably not every day, though, because I have a feeling things are about to get a lot busier around here.

fork-in-the-road

What was your favorite post from my last thirty days of bloggery?

Editor’s Note:  I’m attempting to blog every day in November with CheerPeppers.  I don’t expect to succeed because life be crazy, but any blogging in excess of my previous post-free month is a win, right?

Data Rot

I’ve long been fascinated with data rot.

Data rot has two basic types.  The first is about the medium on which information is stored.  For example, hard drives can have mechanical failure.  Audio cassettes and other recording media can be affected by moisture, heat and humidity, so that they don’t retain their information as effectively.  Translation:  If you leave your “Now That’s What I Call Music #38” tape in the glove box for more than a few months, it will start to sound terrible.  (And, according to Good Omens  it will also become a Best of Queen album, but that’s a separate problem.)

The second type of data rot is the one that fascinates me the most.  It’s that the machines to read the older types of data are simply harder to find.  When’s the last time you saw a reel-to-reel or an 8-track player outside of a pawn shop or a garage sale?  Betamax, anyone? I had a brief flirtation with MiniDisc in the 1990s, even going so far as to convert a bunch of my Best of Queen tapes to MiniDisc, right up until CD burners and mp3 technology caught up to my needs.   Heck, even my modern laptop has no floppy or optical drive.   (Astonishingly, some of our nuclear arsenal is secured by the use of archaic 8-inch floppy disks. Security by obscurity!)

More recently, I’ve been thinking that there’s a third type of data rot, one which is much more personal.  My company has been going through changes for the last year or so, and they decided last summer to sell off the part of the business that I work in.  The user base of our servers is being migrated away to another company, and everything will be transferred out within the next seven or eight months.

These are the servers I’ve been working on for the last fourteen years.

Here’s where the data rot comes in-  many of our systems are home grown or proprietary.   Sure, the systems that I work in every day have a basis in FreeBSD and Linux, but much of the environment on top of those operating systems is not used anywhere else in the world.

In less than a year, the only place those systems will exist is in the minds of the people who have worked on it.  I have so much specialized knowledge that I will never use again.  That’s data rot.

This past week was a brutal time at our company, with a tremendous round of layoffs taking out people who were there for ten, fourteen, sixteen years.  My department lost something like 60% of our staff.  My row of cubicles went from ten people to four.   When my usefulness is at an end, I’ll almost definitely be fired as well.  I wonder if that could be considered data rot too.

The other day, I was driving home and I noticed a big, fat iguana sunning itself on the grass on the side of the road.  I’ve been having a lot of memory problems lately.  I don’t know if it’s all the headaches I’ve had over the last few years, or whether it’s just a sign of getting older.  Amelie thinks that my crappy short term memory is just because I don’t sleep enough.  Whatever the reason, I spent the next mile and a half of that drive trying to remember the word for iguana.  I was absolutely convinced that it started with A, but all I could think of were aardvark, avocado, abogado.  My memory is definitely swiss cheese compared to where it used to be.  I can’t even remember where I put all my Best of Queen tapes. I guess that could be data rot as well.

What do you think?  Have you ever experienced data rot in your own life?

 

A rare post about my job.

I don’t usually talk about my job online for a bunch of different reasons.  For one thing, I deal with confidential data.  For another, I think that “what do you do?” is the least interesting question anyone can ask me when they first meet me.  For the two or three of you who don’t actually know what I do, I’m a Systems Administrator for a hosting company.  When most people ask me what I do for a living, I usually just say, “computers.”

Despite the low frequency of my work-related posts, my job is an incredibly large part of my life.  I’ve worked at Mr. Company1 for almost thirteen years, starting in the summer of 2002.  I was 29 when I started working for the company.  When I started working there, my cell phone was new and large and awkward, and I still had a pager for emergencies.  (Remember pagers?)

The company sent me to Hong Kong for two weeks in 2008.  This was my first trip outside of the United States other than Canada and the Bahamas.  My employment there is the very reason that I lived in Germany for three years, working for our European office in Germany.  Working for Mr. Company is what allowed me to travel all over Europe for the last few years.

In a week’s time, however, the company won’t exist.  Not in its current form, anyway.  We’re being merged into our sister company, and we’re taking their name.  My health benefits are switching companies.  We’ll have a new CEO.   I’ll be given a new e-mail address.

On the first of April, the name of my employer will cease to exist in North America.  That’s a hell of a thing.

I’m excited though.  So far, the changes coming down from on high have been good ones- they’ve separated our different offices into separate product lines, which means that our Utah office gets my least favorite platform, while I still get to play with my favorite products every day.   My department has also gone from a 24/7 schedule to a 24/5 schedule, with nobody in the office on Saturday or Sunday.

Since my return from Germany, my responsibilities and workload at my job have increased a great deal.  The company keeps me very, very busy, and that’s going to continue.  Some time in the next few months, the newly merged and re-named Mr. Company will be sending me to Tokyo for about a month.  In theory, I’ll go in May or June-  the schedule isn’t fixed yet, so it could be later.   Alas, it will likely be far too late to see the famous cherry blossoms.  It will be my first trip to Japan.  It will also be my first trip to another country for the new-and-improved Mr. Company, and I think that’s going to be pretty nifty.

In just five more days, it will be time to say goodbye to the company that I’ve always known, and hello to more or less the same company in a newer, shinier form.  More or less.

Mr. Company is dead.  Long live Mr. Company.


1I always refer to my current employer as Mr. Company online. Always.