Monday, July 23, 2007

The Accidental Technologist

I remember the exact day I knew what I wanted to do with my life. It was October 3rd, nearly two months past my eighth birthday. I awoke in certainty and ran down to hall to share my news with my mother. She sat at the kitchen table sipping coffee in a rare moment of peace in her otherwise Perpetual Motion Machine of an existence.

"Mom!" I shouted. "I know what I want to be when I grow up."

"That's nice, dear." She smiled her soothing Mona Lisa. It had the power to reduce fevers and quiet nauseous stomachs. "What have you decided to be?"

"A computer software tester."

"And what is that, dear?"

"Well, you know those big machines at the bank that sort all those holey cards and keep track of your account information?"


"Well, I want to be the person who tests those to make sure they don't make any mistakes with your money."

"Can you maybe make sure it does make a mistake and gives me more money?"


OK, well, maybe it wasn't exactly like that. After being lost in a blissful hour-and-a-half reverie of piano practicing, I ran upstairs and found Mom slurping a vodka gimlet while she concocted that evening's hot dish.*

* Translation for non-Minnesotan's: a one-pot meal consisting of ground beef, frozen veg, and a starch of your choosing all glued together with a can of cream of something soup and, if you're lucky, shredded cheese that's baked in a Pyrex or CorningWare dish at 350 degrees F. for 1 hour.

No, no, I fib again.

The Truth
When Englishman and I moved to Boston from Old Blighty, I landed my first job as an Administrative Assistant at a software company. Before much more than a year had passed, an opening in the QA department and some encouraging testers pulled me into the profession before I had a chance to give it the consideration it deserved. All I could see were the potential dollar signs flashing in my eyes and the security of it all. At that point, Englishman still hadn't found any employers impressed by his decade-plus experience in the British civil service. He was working part-time and temp jobs. It was a brutal economy back in the early Nineties which probably influenced my political leanings to a vast degree. Supply-side economics, My Great-Aunt Fanny!

To break with VBDS convention and cut a long story short: here I sit today, staring at tree tops and trying to de-code this instruction from a co-worker who is helping me fix my total botch-job on a software installation:

"You'll want to make sure that the IUSR_machinename (where machinename is the name of your computer) has full control access to the install directory and all parent directories, as well as all sub-directories."

Eeeeeew-kay. Me no speaky geeky.
Translation: What have I done to myself? What have I done?!?!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Nothing Important, Really

There's a double-pronged problem with this blogging business these days. Not only does the new job leave me little personal time -- though my schedule is nowhere near as punishing as Rae's -- but it just doesn't feel right to spend the first three hours at my desk reading and writing blogs like I used to. Some of my absolute favorite yet impressively prolific blogs have been languishing unread. It's not that I don't care, friends. I do, I do!!! In fact, I care enough to devote quality time, not skimming, to your writings but quality time is a scarce commodity here in Sofaville.

To follow in Rae's footsteps, here's what the workday looks like:
6:00 a.m. Hit snooze.
6:09 a.m. Recite daily "Fuck!" prayer. Switch off alarm. Get out of bed. Stumble downstairs.
6:14 a.m. Recall purpose for standing in kitchen: make lunches.
6:14:15 a.m. Should I make coffee first?
6:14:20 a.m. I'll just get the bread out for the sandwiches.
6:14:25 a.m. I really want some coffee though.
6:14:30 a.m. Where's the ruddy bread? Oh yeah. After recent viewing of annual summer blockbuster Invasion of the Mold Spores Part 17, moved bread to fridge.
6:14:35 a.m. But coffee first.
6:16 a.m. Why am I standing here with the fridge door open?
6:17 a.m. Oh yeah, coffee.
6:20 a.m. First sip of coffee. Thanks Lord Tassimo. You are my master and I your humble slave.
6:21 a.m. Oh crap, yeah, lunches. Need the bread. Where's the bread?
6:45 a.m. Lunches made. Mommy's packed in lunchbag. Jujube's stacked in fridge for Daddy to transfer to lunchbox later. Don't forget spoon for yogurt! Don't want another reminder note from teachers.
6:50 a.m. Decide to head upstairs for shower but Daddy beelines outside to pick mushrooms off lawn.
6:55 a.m. Mommy screams "Can't you do that later?" at Daddy since nobody will hear Jujube wake up if he's outside and Mommy's under running water.

7:00 a.m. Finally in shower.
7:10 a.m. Out of shower and Jujube awake and refusing to go downstairs with Daddy.
7:27 a.m. With Jujube's help, take 17 minutes to complete the five minute task of dressing, making up, donning jewelry including watch because Mommy's a real bee-yotch if she forgets her watch.
7:30 a.m. Out the door. Wave at Daddy and Jujube.
7:32 a.m. Curse first of the string of drivers who will pull out in front of me then proceed 5 mph below speed limit.

8:05 a.m. Arrive in office parking lot. Only 5 minutes late, hooray! Mommy convinces herself it's not the time she left home influencing her arrival time -- it's other factors that will magically vanish tomorrow.

11:30 a.m. Mommy can contain herself no longer; snarfs down peanut butter on wheat with Lowfat Yoplait chaser.

4:00 p.m. Yeah! Begin log off and pack up process.
4:03 p.m. Cube neighbor pops in to socialize, Microsoft shut-down theme tune and brief case draped over Mommy's arm notwithstanding.
4:16 p.m. Peel out of parking lot.
4:41 p.m. Collect Jujube from daycare.

5:15 p.m. Home Sweet Home! Let's see -- play with Jujube or make dinner... hmmm...

6:25 p.m. Daddy arrives home. Mommy looks at watch and exclaims "Oh my gosh! Come on Juju, time for dinner!"
6:30 p.m. Serve nutritious dinner of deli turkey and baked Tostitos with side of uneaten fruit from lunchbox. Daddy's fends for self.

7:10 p.m. Dinner finally terminated by executive decision. Jujube's uneaten food wrapped up by Daddy and stored in fridge.
7:30 p.m. Daddy and Jujube head upstairs for bath or wash and bedtime books.
7:35 p.m. After 5 minute safety window, raid marshmallow bag/Hershey bars bought for s'mores/chocolate chip bag/whatever.
7:36 p.m. Unwrap and throw away uneaten food stored by Daddy.
7:37 p.m. Tackle pile of daily mailings from Fidelity Investments, M&I Bank, Pershing brokerage, Citizens Bank, Oppenheimer funds, Eaton Vance funds, Capital One VISA, MBNA VISA, Bank of America VISA, etc. Daily. Daily mailings. Even though Mommy and Daddy signed up for electronic statements and perspectus. Daily.

8:00 p.m. Tote full bag of shredded and to-be-recycled papers outside.
8:05 p.m. Complete at least one thing on to-do pile.
8:15 p.m. Head upstairs for Bedtime Routine shift.

9:00 p.m. Leave Jujube and brush teeth quick before Mommy can find any more sugar stashes downstairs. Wash face too while at it.
9:13 p.m. Mommy finally descends stairs. Switches on baby monitor.
9:15 p.m. Return upstairs to reassure Jujube neighbor's barking dog cannot no way never ever get into her bedroom.
9:25 p.m. Mommy downstairs for final time. What should she do?
9:26 p.m. OK I'll read.
9:27 p.m. No, log in and check blogs.
9:28 p.m. No, work on novel.
9:29 p.m. Maybe I should call my brother/sister/parents. It's been a while...
9:30 p.m. Plop on sofa with knitting bag and binker. If there's anything good on, Mommy will knit.
9:47 p.m. Confirm after three cycles through all 300 cable channels there is indeed nothing on worth watching. Decide to read instead.
9:50 p.m. Settle into Ikea Poang chair with book du jour. Candles lit. Cool drink sweating on coaster.

10:25 p.m. Awakened by aching neck, decide to just finish this chapter before heading upstairs.

11:00 p.m. Race-walk up the stairs to get into jammies and bed ahead of Daddy because Mommy believes it is intolerably unfair to be the last one in bed at night if she's the first one up in the morning.
11:15 p.m. Mommy settles into bed next to Daddy. Damn bladder. Damn bowels. Damn them to hell.
11:16 p.m. Set alarm 5 minutes earlier every day to gradually adjust brain and body to early rising and, hopefully, eliminate all excuses for not exercising.
11:17 p.m. Pick up nearest reading material to revive that sleepy feeling that vanished during late night call of nature.
11:52 p.m. Mommy finally caves and switches off the light.

2:10 p.m. Awakened by Jujube's night squealings, get up, check Jujube, flop back in bed, realize bladder pressure is just enough Mommy might actually need to go again. Or maybe if she falls asleep quickly, she can just ignore it.
2:16 p.m. Recite daily "shit" prayer and stumble off to bathroom. Remember 80% of time not to flush.
2:20 p.m. Other 20% of time, get up a-GAIN, lift lid on back of toilet to tug shut-off valve that stops water's incessant flowing.

5:55 a.m. Rinse and repeat.

This arrived several weeks ago from Mother of Chaos:

Thanks girlfriend! The feeling's mutual.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The View From The Cube

It's pretty nice, actually. The new job's most resplendant feature is the third floor windowfront cubicle facing due west into an undeveloped swampland full of brackish water, trees, shrubby undergrowth and birds galore in every color under the sun. Black crows, yellow goldfinches, crimson cardinals, gunmetal bluejays, tawny hawks and a tumble of squirrels chasing each other across the wickedly fun bendy top of a juvenile tree.

I waltzed into the new office on Monday, July 2nd and was promptly handed a laptop computer pre-loaded with most of the software I need including a VPN client so I can work from home, as agreed, one day a week starting... immediately. So, I was in office the 2nd, the 3rd, home for the holiday on the 4th and home again working on the 5th. Unbelievable.

The commute, while longer than I want, is not without its consolations. I get to (choose to) drive through historic Lexington past Battle Green, the Buckman Tavern, and countless excessively beautiful 17th and 18th century homes. Oh, and some 19th century ones, too.

The technology is cutting edge. The people are smart, fun and funny. The coffee is Starbucks. The sodas and snacks are free.

Still, the Coach is not a happy camper. I've been wracking my brain trying to figure this one out. I think one of my Knitting Group members hit the nail squarely on the head tonight, though. She likened this return to work to what a mother goes through at the end of her maternity leave. As long as you have a child in the home, that feeling of deprivation never really goes away, no matter how many weeks, months or years have passed between your child's birth and your re-employment. Perhaps worse is that the whole elevator ride to the emotional basement of parental longing and guilt isn't a one-time deal. You get to go through it every time you wave bye-bye to your kid(s) and head back to the office. It happens after family vacations. It happens after job changes. It happens after unemployment and subsequent re-employment. It happens until junior is packed off to the Freshman Dorm at the University of Fledgling Independence.


On the knitting front: my niece has won major brownie points with Auntie Coach by requesting a pair of mittens she can wear to figure skating practice. Bless her frosty little hands. I cracked out some leftover acrylic in forest green and white and have been following a rose pattern from The Mitten Book which is an English translation of a Swedish book that reprinted patterns originally published in 1925. I'll try to get a photo tomorrow to post here.

I'll try even harder to catch up on the blogs listed on the right-hand side of this page. I miss those folks over there. I'm having withdrawals and I've got a lot of catch-up reading to get under my belt before my pre-ordered Harry Potter 7 book arrives from (before my vacation please, please, pretty please with sugar on top!)