January 3, 2007: The Really Early Morning Shift

Today is my first day of the extreme early morning shift. My alarm was set for five in the morning which is way too early, in my opinion. I have gotten used to getting up after Dominica and working from home for a little while before heading into the office. Getting up hours before her is no longer a habit for me.

Apparently I turned off the alarm in my sleep. I have sort of a vague memory of doing that. But only sort of. Nothing concrete. It was pitch black when I woke up on my own at six after six and decided to take a peek at my phone just in case I didn’t wake up with the alarm. I was actually assuming that it was about fifteen minutes before the alarm should have gone off but when I looked at the phone and realized that I had over slept by just over an hour and had originally intended to have been in the car on the way to the office by this time I flew out of bed and into action. I have two major hurdles to getting out of the apartment in the morning: no hot water and the valet has to get me my car!

I turned on the shower and the sink at full blast to attempt to get some hot water up to the apartment. Until the building is full we have the issue that we live so high that it can take up to twenty minutes before hot water can get to our apartment. This is the reason, I believe, why they don’t make us pay for our water since we have to waste so much every day just to be able to take a warm shower and we never get to use hot water for any other purpose since it could take an hour or so of just running a faucet to get hot water.

As soon as the water was running I called down for my car. I brushed my teeth and got into the cold shower trusting that it would at least heat up by the time that I was done so I wouldn’t have to have hypothermia before going to work this morning. As of this weekend we have our bathroom heater from Geneseo in Newark now so that helped to take the bite off of the air even though the water was cold. The water was warm before I got out and it wasn’t all that bad.

I was showered and out of the door in just nineteen minutes from having woken up! Not too bad after just five or six hours of sleep. I got down to the lobby and my car was there and ready to go. It isn’t too hard to get your car at this time in the morning as the crew for the morning rush is on but most people aren’t coming down yet. I jumped into the car and hit the road.

One thing that I discovered this morning was that the real rush hour on west bound route seventy-eight starts much earlier than I would have imagined and that the traffic that I normally see an hour or two later than this is actually lighter. Apparently early in the morning is the popular time to be out in northern Jersey heading away from the city. I still made great time and was able to get from the apartment to the office in about twenty-five minutes. After all of my rushing I was really just about ten minutes late getting to the office and I am the only one in anyway. The only reason that someone has to be in so early is to cover the phone line (which only rang four times all day yesterday – ALL day) as there is an hour and a half overlap with the overnight support. So no one is left hanging, they just have to email for support instead of calling. And almost anyone that would call at this time in the morning is in the UK and knows my mobile number anyway and would never call the main line even in the middle of the day. So everything was good.

It was a slow morning, just as expected. Today is the first day back to the office for everyone so things start off very slowly. This turned into a really short week too. Normally this would be a four day week but with the extra memorial day yesterday it is now just a three day week which leaves us with just a Monday, a hump day and a Friday. Once the week gets this short you might as well not even bother! Everything productive happens on the two days that get eliminated.

We lost power briefly this morning. Just for ten seconds or so. Nothing in the weather indicating that we should have had a power loss. Speaking of weather, the weather has continued to be amazing down here. I am just wearing my fleece to work every day even when I walk outside a bit. Yesterday when I left the office it was bright, sunny and warm. It has been in the fifties down here and we are expecting it to hit the sixties over the weekend!

PC-BSD 1.3 is out and I downloaded that at the office today. I run PC-BSD at work in a virtual machine from VMWare to give myself a local UNIX environment to work in. PC-BSD is awesome. It is a desktop focused UNIX distribution built off of FreeBSD on a single CD with the KDE desktop built in. It is very fast and very user friendly.

I had a productive morning today. I did some reading. I am working on Andrew Hunt and David Thomas’ “The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master” which is a seminal tome in the field and the founding book of the Pragmatic Programmers. A lot of the material in the book has been covered subsequently in later books by the same authors and their students but I wanted to read the original as well. I also did a little reading in the programming language books that I am reading right now. This is my reading week still.

I paid the bills today. I hate that bill paying is such a complicated, spread out process. Every week I have to sit down and pay a different set of bills and every bill has a totally different billing system and some of them are decent and straightforward and some of them are completely complex and confusing. I have two accounts with Bank of America – one of them is normal and I can just pay it online, the other requires that I call to pay over the phone. I cannot figure out the difference between the two. BoA apparently has randomly chosen one to be a normal account and one to be a pay by phone only account but makes it look just like a normal account online except if you make a payment to it it credits to the other account.

Anyway, we have just eighteen payments left on the Mazda 6. Eighteen may seem like a lot but that is just a year and a half, exactly. Considering that the car has under seventy thousand miles on it, maybe quite a few less than that, it isn’t bad at all. The car still looks and drives as if it was brand new. A year and a half will fly by like it was no time at all.

Speaking of cars: We have decided that the time has come to sell the 1988 Mazda RX7 convertible. We are very sad to do it but having four cars is completely unreasonable at this point in our lives and the longer that we wait to sell it the longer it will just sit there depreciating. Best to get rid of it now and to move on with our lives. So if anyone knows anyone who might be interested in a fun two-seat red convertible, let me know. Rotary engine, rear wheel drive, Alpine stereo. Lots of fun.

Joe Howlett is on his home stretch to the end of his teaching career. He is officially on long term leave from the Greece School District on January 26th. He is going into business with his father which is going to be a really big switch. It will take him a long time to get used to it, I am sure.

Today I found out that we have Martin Luther King, Jr. day off which is January 15th. That is the Monday following the weekend that I had all ready intended to make my long weekend in January. If I manage to orchestrate this correctly, I may be able to be in Geneseo from Wednesday’s night, the tenth which is a week from today, until the night of Monday the fifteenth! Dominica would come up for a three day weekend in the middle from Friday morning until Sunday evening. The amount of time that I would get would probably be enough to move everything except the servers out of the house all in a single, long weekend! That would make such a difference. Knowing that all of that stuff was moved and not hanging over our heads. Just the server alcove and the furniture left. Just the absolute minimum. I have a three day weekend in February that could be used to get the furniture out although it would be nice to have a certain amount of stuff there right up until we can’t use it anymore. This will actually be the longest stretch of time that I will have spent in the Geneseo house since sometime around mid-March, 2006! That is very hard to believe.

I have been going through so many books recently that I decided to do a little eBay bargain book shopping today. I almost never buy used books so I thought that I would give it a try. Used technology books are often very inexpensive even when they are still available new for quite a bit of money. I bought “eXtreme Programming Perspectives” and “eXtreme Programming Explored”. I also picked up “Questioning eXtreme Programming” from one of Amazon’s used book sellers. I worked hard today to pare down my Wish List at Amazon to a manageable two pages – down from four. It was starting to get a little silly.

Today was much more busy at work than it has been. People are mostly back from their vacations and people are itching to get things done. It is almost weird to have things happening around the office after it has been so slow for so long.

I actually ended up getting some projects at work today so the day wasn’t completely boring. I decided to have lunch today so that Dominica and I could go out to a relaxed dinner tonight. Now that she has a little more time on her A+ exam we are able to keep eating together in the evenings.

Dominica placed the first order for coffee from Keurig today for her new coffee maker that she got for Christmas. Right now the coffee maker is only so useful as the stores barely carry any coffee for it and what they do carry is almost all that burnt French stuff for “newbie” coffee drinkers.

I got stuck in the office a lot longer than I had anticipated. Normally I would have left around half past three but I didn’t get to leave for another hour. It was close to five when I scooted out of the office. I had to run up to the A&P near work to grab some bottled water and coffee supplies for Dominica before getting onto the road home.

I got home just a little bit before Dominica and Oreo rolled in. Min and I immediately ran out to Food for Life to get some dinner. I was really wanting another Tuna BLT after having one yesterday. Boy are those good.

Scott Adam’s Blog (aka The Dilbert Blog) has a great article from last week about people like he and I Doing Household Chores.

My project this evening is to build a TrixBox 2.0 server. TrixBox 2.0 released this evening and I have been waiting for it for several weeks so I had to take the opportunity to jump on it and to get it installed. It took the majority of the night just to get the server (a Compaq DL360 G1) prepped with SmartStart, to download TB2, get the install disk burned and ready, do the installation and check everything out. The box is barely configured at all but it is all installed and ready for me to work on tomorrow. Boy am I glad that that is installed and working. My goal is to drop it off in Scranton a week from today. That will be one less machine sitting around the apartment in the way.

I managed to find a decent deal on a second processor kit for the TrixBox server on eBay so I bought it. I am hoping that it will arrive by Tuesday. It will only take me twenty minutes to install so even if it arrives at the last possible minute I can still get it in and working. If I don’t get it in time then I will have to have the crew at the data center do that for me. That will be a much bigger pain.

We had a light bulb out in our main hallway burnt out for the last few weeks. We have been out so much that we haven’t bothered to have it replaced yet. We can’t replace it ourselves as it is eleven feet in the air and we don’t keep a ladder in the apartment. So tonight we finally took the time to run down to the desk and ask maintenance to have a look at it when they had a chance. Our regular maintenance guy came up and hung out for an hour or two and had some coffee and snacks. We had a good time visiting.

Dominica managed to get to bed way before I did tonight. It was well after eleven before I finally made it to bed. I never manage to get enough sleep when I am working the early shift. I have to be up at five in the morning tomorrow.

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