28 June 2009

Hell Month, Pt. IV - Vacations and Crashes Back To Reality

I wish I could say we were talking about improving society. I wish I could say that.
(from left: Stacy, Arden, Matt, myself and Jennifer)

I have done my share of complaining this month. Mercifully, the month is winding down. This past weekend was the planned break where I celebrated my MCSE Security+ status with a handful of days away from computers and OEMs. Of course, that plan was kibosh-ed. So, before I ran away, I had to rack up a ton more hours at work before I could vacation at a house that was a non-refundable purchase.

To rid myself of the curmudgeon mindset, the sand and the sun of Port A was just the ticket. And misery loves company. The Lovely coordinated with all of her old high school buddies to make this vacation happen. Everything went off without a hitch. Everyone had a great time and no one lost a finger or a flip-flop in the process.

However, my only bitch with vacations is that you need to unwind from the unwinding. Example: Michael and Jen drove from Fort Worth with their three kiddos to make this happen. Matt met Stacy at the airport with delays from planes with mechanical issues trying to connect from Corpus to Port A. Tash and Bry rolled in from Shreveport with Bry having to ace a phone interview while on this trip. Cliff and Arden trucked it from San Antonio with a metric ton of fishing gear in tow (including a bay kayak). How can anyone consider all this work a vacation? Sure, it beats staring at spreadsheets and nodding off in front of dual monitors, but that is a massive amount of work to try to relax.

The only Hell from this section of Hell Month was realizing that 1) paradise is thirty minutes away on Park Road 22 and B) all this work to rest is still work. Clarity is painful sometimes.

With all this charging at full tilt for relaxation, reality seaped in on the last day - my grandmother, who has been fighting the good fight since two Thursdays ago, passed away in the early morning hours of Sunday. She had been sick for a while. Her good days were intersparsed with her bad days. The relief is that she doesn't have to fight anymore.

It's never as bad as it seems, whether the feeling of inequity looms and challenges come in rapid succession and delights come with struggle and strife. The whole concept of Hell Month was to make light of the humdrum and lament that comes with a busy month. But these last 24 hours have put it in it's perspective. Ironically, I close out Hell Month on Tuesday going to my grandmother's rosary.

Lessons Learned, my three things.
1) No matter how well you sunblock performed the previous day, two straight days in the sun will burn you. Reapply all you want, you skin is cooking is the slowest convection oven, ever.
2) It is very difficult to grow a fan base when you blow a 2-nil lead in the first half.
3) Don't be loud at Lisabella's. Your food will be two hours late and uppity white women will sick the head chef on your table to tell you to pipe down. In retrospect, we should have walked.

So, no more of the on-and-on about the woe-is-me after 30 June. Life if a challenge as much as it is a gift. And it only took me 29 days to figure that one out. On to sharper topics next week. Until then, talk later.

21 June 2009

Hell Month, Pt. III - The Parallels Are Uncanny

Dad is to Detroit Diesel, as I am to Microsoft.

So, when I was a kid, Dad busted his ass moonlighting at Auto Shack while working diesel engines at day. Every once in a while, after his killer professional schedule, he would unwind with his glass of sweet tea (way, way, way too much sugar than should be in any beverage) and a Marlboro Light (or five). and lug home these 5-inch binders of study material that would make law students gulp.

He was always getting certified for Detroit Diesel engine makes and models. I would always recognize the ominous red and yellow logo, specifically for the Series 60 models. And, like clockwork, he would knock out his certification, bring home a certificate or plaque or some version or "atta-boy" that they would think of for that particular exam or the consistency of my dad knocking that exam out of the park.

(Dad, if you are reading, I am kinda fuzzy on what the hell the requirements were. So, you will have to forgive me if I embellish the fact that you were, and still are, a badass.)

I thought it was a Herculean effort. Every time that certification challenge was presented, he would ford along, taking it down, knowing his stuff and becoming better with the continued education, regardless of the esoteric subject matter.

Hell Month continued with one huge goal accomplished. Microsoft calls it MCSE. It's just another industry acronym described as Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer. Basically, it's a battery of tests proving a) Microsoft is the finest software product on the market today and any day and 2) if you think you know what you are staring at when that goofy little flag shows up at a computer startup...you don't.

But, the goal has been accomplished. I am an MCSE with a couple of cherries on top Microsoft calls "Security+". With that distinction, Microsoft has acknowledged that some electives were taken that stresses computer and operational security within the 2003 platform (you know, Windows XP and 2003 Server...the OS people actually like).

Why do I think my dad is a badass? Because I have officially been in front of the 5-inch binder of minutiae certifying myself as an individual that knows what he is talking about. Professionally speaking, continued education is everything. If my dad doesn't know the proper part number for the head gasket for a Series 60, he is slow to the punch. That delay could cost him a sale, an account, a trust that is fostered with the rest of his illuminated tool set.

Why are we alike? Because we continue to learn. Maybe because it's neccessity. Maybe because out careers are offshoot passions. Maybe because we have discovered that if we do not continue to learn, we stunt our growth intellectually and biologically. I can't speak for my father's motivations, other than making a decent living for all of us kids and making sure we all turned out pretty solid human beings. But he still busts out binders and study guides. Sure, the last one I saw was for a shooting (yes, with a gun) competition. But the thirst for knowledge and the challenge of the brain game is still there.

So, today, maybe just in this one instance, I can safely say that we are a lot alike. That is no too shabby of a likeness to compare.

Dad. Thanks.

Lessons Learned, my three things.
1) I knew there was a reason I didn't watch CNN anymore. Sure, the website is great, but the live afternoon coverage is insufferable.
2) Positive reenforcement and modified meditation works. I dare anyone to try it and see what happens. On that tangent, I send my postive vibes to all my family that needs it.
3) You know when you are "post-thirty" (TM) when East 6th Street in Austin, TX on a Saturday isn't the first choice for a relaxing evening.

Hell Month continues with reckless abandonment. We are back on insanity schedule at work. But Friday I make the sojoun to the only clean beach in the area. Port A is part of Hell Month for a reason. Full report inbound. Until then, talk later.

14 June 2009

Hell Month, Pt. II or "The Only Time I Have For A Post"

I would rather be in a warehouse full of hops than in Hell Month.

I feel like Anne Frank...you know, without the death and destruction laying about. As I post, the only destruction notable is dirty clothes on the hotel room floor and stacks of folders with pages of Microsoft reference material.

Maybe I am overdoing it a bit? Maybe I am hamming it up for entertainment's sake. Maybe it isn't all that bad. Then again, I am reminded of Jennie Bueller standing at the end of the hall.

"[thinking to herself] Maybe I'm overreacting. Maybe Ferris isn't such a bad guy. After all, I got a car, he got a computer. But still, why should he get to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants? Why should everything work out for him? What makes him so goddamn special?
[spoken] Screw him."

I just might be overdoing it. However, I think I am entitled to a little bit of moodiness. Think about it, how many times does the average white-collar worker have to struggle so much for things that should be either assumed or logically warranted? I know I chose to leave for two weeks. I know I didn't have to work an 80-hour week. But why is it such a struggle to better yourself?

That is a philosophical question for another time...especially when I have more time. But presently, 70-291 is staring at me like double-barrels to a flock of game hens. So, I much table this argument until next week.

Lessons Learned, my three things
1) You can fix anything...ANYTHING, with a GPO. You heard me, IT!
2) Files trump folder permissions. Deny trumps access permissions. Are you hearing me IT?
3) I know I need to knock it off with the movie quotes, but training has me inspired. "Well I guess we have to win the whole...fucking...thing."

Yeah, this was brief. I am even more brief on the Twitter updates. We are close...but we got a lot to cover. We will see with next week. Talk later.

08 June 2009

Welcome to Hell Month, Pt. I

In Hell, there is no furniture and you are forced to do DIY projects.

You know, it could be worse. I could be this guy. Or I could be that guy. But right now, I am going through the most hellacious month a old man can go through.

I guess it was set up with Purgatory half-month in May. Here is how it started...
Me: I would like to go to Microsoft Training.
The Job: Cool.
Me: You think you can help me with leave-time?
The Job: You have vacation, right?
Me: Well, Microsoft Training really isn't vacation.
The Job: Good point...let me find out.
The Job: (in an email) No dice.

So, for the first week of the month, to preserve my vacation time (or lack thereof), I logged 80 hours in the office in seven days. Nothing says, "What is good for the company?" than logging that sort of cubicle action. No weekend. Limited rest. All balls.

Why in the world would we schedule our exodus from the one-bedroom to the upgraded apartment AT THE SAME WEEK I'M LOGGING AN 80-HOUR WEEK? Very simple, I am in Hell Month. We were suppose to pull that off at the end of May. Yeah, notsomuch. So, I am in a strange, new, bigger apartment...for a day and a half.

So, that's seven days...the following 14 days, MCSE Security Boot Camp. I don't think I have to explain the words "Microsoft" and "boot camp". No, not Boot Camp-boot camp, this is just 14 days of living out of a suitcase and staring at dual monitors running test scenarios and practice tests. Reveille is at 7. First class is at 0830. Grub is at the mess hall at noon. We go until 1730. We take a quick break and labs go until midnight. Fourteen days, six exams, four certifications. That's the goal. Rock and roll.

So, 21 out of 30 does not make a Hell Month. No, no, we need all days from dusk 'til dawn. The last exam on Sunday, I make a quick Whole Foods run and get back to the cube farm. So, again, since this is not vacation, I am not using vacation. But, how about this kick in the pants - 96 hours in six days. My instant mathematicians just had an aneurysm because 30 sans 21 is nine.

Oh, no, I need a break. The Lovely set up a "hey, I haven't hung out with the girls in 18 months, we should do something" vacation. There is a cabin in Port A that is waiting for five couples to wreak havoc. This caveat proves that Hell has a beautiful getaway spot, and some shady beach bars. Hell will be suffered in the mind, body and liver.

Seven plus 14 plus four plus three plus two equals Hell Month. Get your pitch forks and your nine rings. I will but updating Twitter more than @THE_REAL_SHAQ. I have no off-season, Big Aristotle.

Lessons Learned, my three things:
1) I love this town. I totally should have ran for city council, but I can't leave my day job every Tuesday. The latest, it takes almost a third of the salary of the police chief to FIND a new police chief.
2) See, if I lived outside of this fishing village, I would see boring stories, like this.
3) I am very focused. Attack and release for Microsoft. Time to bring it.

Sure, I might be in the midst of Hell Month, but I will ask permission from the dark lord to write and post. Have netbook, will travel. Who knows, we might learn something together. And that's what it's all about. Talk later.