Monday, April 26, 2010

It's Going To Be A Long Week

There are some weeks that pass as blissfully as a light summer breeze; there are others that are as stormy as a Class V Tornado. I already have the sense that this isn't going to be a "light summer breeze" week. Oh S---.

I already knew that the couple of weeks defining the end of April and beginning of May would be stormy: My original schedule from April 20th through May 6th had me spending less than three full days in the office, and those three days eroded to one and now seemingly none. Now the thing (good if you ask my body, bad if you ask my HHonors balance) is that not all of those days correspond to hotel stays. For some, at the end of the day, I will take respite in my own bed--though by the end of the following week, I have little doubt it will feel as foreign as any hotel bed. Worse sheets, too.

But I'm getting melodramatic.

While driving to the airport -- technically, from my dry cleaners to the airport -- I hit a pot hole at a stop light. Common occurrence, right? Eh, light changes color, I accelerate and my car starts making a hideous noise. Stop. Everything looks OK. Go. Noise is bad.

I'm close enough to the airport and cutting my flight close enough that I decide the best course of action is to park, then deal with it when I get home. I do that, and call a car-knowing coworker. He, of course, can not hear the noise through my cell phone, but offers to take a look at it Friday night. I leave a door unlocked. I leave a key under the driver's seat. I leave Cleveland not knowing.

Continental Airlines -- an organization I've long been a fan of, an ally in my war on the road -- managed to screw up my reservation in more ways than I thought were imaginable, gave inconsistent answers, and at one point told me "Yeah, we screwed it up, and we'll wave the change fees, but to fix it you'll need to pay $465." Oh goody.

During the intervening time the thought crosses my mind: What if I just leave my car? Make it an unknown someone else's problem. Just forget it. The thought, though wrong, is enticing. One one hand, I'm a little overdue for a new car, having spent most of what I had saved for the car of my dreams on the down payment for my house. On the other, my car -- my one and only car -- with its 168,000 miles has been fantastically reliable, and I have a hard time coming up with a justification to cast it to the side.

Friday evening he calls: My serpentine belt is cracked. Not completely broken, at least not yet. I'd best not drive it, certainly not drive it home. Great.

Of course I don't get back to Cleveland until 4:30 on Saturday and even if there were places that could get to my car that day, I have things that need to be done. The great thing about a having car trouble at an airport is that cars are plentiful. On my return to Cleveland I rent.

Aside from some Kia rolling tin can I got in Minnesota a few months back, the Chevy HHR has become my least favorite car ever: All of the downsides of an SUV with the height of a sedan. I feel like I'm driving a hearse with worse visibility.

And that gets us to last night; in the morning -- the post daylight morning -- I'm going to get my car dealt with. I'm debating if I spend the $60 plus or minus to have it towed to "my" mechanic...who happens to be right across the street from my house... or find a shop closer to the airport.

The one thing I haven't figured out is how to juggle cars: Kind of like the parable of the fox, the chicken, the farmer and the boat, I have a feeling it's going to involve making use of RTA's Park-And-Ride facilities and their rail services.

You may be wondering, then, why I'm writing this at 3:45 in the pre-dawn morning: For that, my first conscious thought of the morning: Freaking UPS.

My job is primarily integration programming, but along the way, as is the case in many small companies, I picked up the title of network and systems administrator: I keep all of the little Dell and Cisco boxes in our data center happy. We have an infrastructure I'm mostly proud of, including a refrigerator-sized UPS (battery backup), a generator, and a lot of redundant power supplies.

It doesn't require a lot of care and feeding, but I like to pop my head in at least once a week just to make sure everything that should be blinking is, and everything that shouldn't be blinking isn't.

Tonight, erm, this morning, I drift out of consciousness to the sound of my phone vibrating. Crap. Who's calling me at 2:45 AM? I crawl out of bed and stare at the blinding glow of a text message. It's the UPS, number 12 so far. I check my email. 148 messages over the past hour. With subjects like "UPS: In bypass in response to an internal hardware fault", "UPS: Refused self-test; UPS is overloaded", and "UPS: A bypass relay fault exists". Crap. Crap. Crap. Yet another text message rolls into my phone. The UPS is also reporting a high temperature condition in the data center, and my first thought is that we've lost something due to lightening.

I pull on the nearest pair of jeans and a slightly worn shirt. The nice thing about driving to the office at 2:45, I tell myself, is that traffic will be light. This is true: During my 20 mile drive, round trip, I see maybe a half dozen cars. The rain-slicked roads make it difficult, nay, impossible to see the lane markings, combined with my general grogginess I'm sure I must look like a drunk driver as I search out the little white dashes.

I make it into the office, disarm the security system, unlock the data center door and meet a UPS crying out in agony. Beeeeep...Beep...Beeeeeeeeeeeep....Beep. "Bypass Rly Flt. Call For Svc". Lovely.

The good news is that the high temperature report is erroneous: My data center is sitting at a comfortable 65 degrees. I power cycle the UPS's electronics module. The beeping stops, but when it comes back up, it's still in bypass--though no longer telling me to call for service. I scroll through the menus, find the "Bypass Mode" option and cross my fingers on one hand while tapping "No" with the other. click, goes the power transfer relay. Online. 17% Load. I sigh. I wait. I sigh.

Convinced that the UPS is really back on line I execute a self test and hold my breath. It passes. I check the server and data racks. All the servers I care about are up, the one I don't only has one power supply and is rebooting.

Convinced that the problem is remedied, yet still confused as to the cause, I close the door, arm the security system and drive back home. Perhaps when I'm awake it will make more sense. Perhaps this week will have a happy ending.


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