Today is a holiday 'round these parts. I'm at work anyway, had a few things I wanted to get done and frankly weekends and holidays are some of the best times to work. I have the place pretty much to myself and can do work at my own pace, with no one expecting any results and no one interrupting with new jobs that need my attention. The phone doesn't ring, new email doesn't arrive, and no one knocks on my door. I like my job, getting to figure out new challenges and understand new problems -- just about every day is something different. The constant interruptions can get a little wearisome, though. But I knew the job was dangerous when I signed up for it, so oh well. At least I had a bar of chocolate to eat for dessert after lunch!
Lunch was nice, too. I decided that the bowl of instant soup I had in the desk wasn't going to cut it so instead I headed over to Mr. Pickles for a sandwich. Not that Mr. Pickles is really all that good of a sandwich shop, but they're close enough to walk to for a lunch break and I wasn't in the mood for a Pita (which is next door to Mr. Pickles) and I had Dos Coyotes (also in the same spot) yesterday (yes, I've worked all weekend). But it turned out to be a good choice since I had the delightful surprise of mslulu and bractune walking in just as I was finishing up. So we had a pleasant chat while they had their lunch, which was nice. I haven't seen either of them in some time and it is good to catch up with people every now and then.
Speaking of working all weekend, Saturday was graduation for my college (multiple colleges on campus (divided roughly by general groupings of majors), each one has its commencement ceremony separate) and I had gotten roped in to working it. This was months ago, but they surprised me last week by saying "oh, and be sure to dress up nice". I don't normally dress up all that nice. Cargo pants and a polo shirt are about as fancy as I get for work. They said I have to wear "usher attire" and my first thought was "do I even *have* nice pants?" Turns out I did, thankfully. So I got all prettied up and spent the morning running around the place gathering up graduates and trying to keep them all in something vaguely resembling a line. There are so many ways the commencement process could be improved. For one, it has always bothered me that the actual ceremony is pretty much meaningless. You don't get your degree there, in fact they will let anyone participate, even if you aren't graduating any time soon! Just sign up and presto, you get to wear a gown and walk with everyone else! All this, of course, is because the faculty and administration are too self-centered to actually take the time to figure out who is graduating before the ceremony. They want it over and done with as soon as the semester is finished so they can head off to their vacation homes. You ask me, I'd make the commencement ceremony be a week after the last final is done, that way the faculty have at least had a chance to preview the work done by the (hopefully) graduating seniors and mark them as "passing" or "fail". Don't need to have a solid grade letter yet, just enough of an idea to know if this student really is passing. And then, you could have all the degrees there at the ceremony, and that way when you call out the student's name and hand them the paper, everyone will know that this is the real deal; that student really did graduate and that is his/her diploma right there.
Of course, that is just one of many ways in which I would change the educational system. I'm also a big fan of the idea of a residence college, where the students sign up for a semester and they don't leave till the semester is up. You live on campus, you study on campus, you don't work (unless it is part of the course of study -- internships and whatnot).
Yup, just one of many ways everyone is much happier knowing that I'm a minority and my ideas are considered crazy.
Right alongside my dreams of waking up to find they've added about $4 worth of taxes per gallon to our gas. I've been calling for higher gas prices since high school and while I'm glad to see it starting to climb, it's still to low for me. I think we should be slamming all sorts of extra fees on fuel costs, and putting that money in to research for other means of transportation. Just think of how much less people would drive if there was an extra $4 of tax for every gallon they use. Just think of how fewer SUVs there would be, and how much safer our roads would be as a result! Just think of how cleaner our air could be, with more fuel efficient cars, and less of them in use! I'm not being a ethnocentric-global-warming freak here, I'm being an "imagine taking a deep breath without coughing" realist! People can debate the effects of cars and industrial pollution on global climate till there aren't any people left to debate, but one thing that has been long since proven is that city living blackens the lungs with all the pollution we spew into the air. I'd happily vote in favor of a federal gas tax of 100%, even if there were no restrictions on how the government spent the money. Because that simple act alone of doubling the cost per gallon for every gas purchase would spur so much behavioral change and would motivate so many business to research other ways of getting their goods from point A to point B, I bet we'd have this fossil fuel dependance licked in no more than two years, three tops.
yeah yeah, I'm crazy. Good thing no one takes my ideas seriously, right?
In other news. I had a passing thought about going for a bike ride the other day. Stumbled across some web pages talking about fixed-gear bikes and I thought it might be nice. Was the first time I had actually thought I might want to ride a bike in months. It passed quickly enough, though. Once I sat there and actually contemplated it, I quickly realized that it wasn't riding a bike I wanted to do, it was more the "ooh, something new!" thought of a fixed-gear bike that had caught my attention. Once clearly identified, it faded. I may yet wind up on a fixed gear, but it'll be when I'm interested in riding again -- not just because some part of me still wants to chase new adventures.
Which is not to condemn all new adventures. I'm thinking of doing a little side-trip to Idaho and Montana this summer on my way up to visit Seattle. I'd still like some day to make my way clear across to New York, but now that I've done a few trips out of state I have a much more realistic appreciation for the time involved. I can't just fly through a state without stopping to smell the local flowers along the way. My mentality doesn't work that way. So if/when I finally do make that long-ass trip east, it'll be a multi-week affair just to get there. A few days here, a few days there, stopping at little towns all along the way. I'm pretty sure I'll have to take about 6 weeks or so off from work to manage it (maybe an even two months). Of course, fuel prices going the way they are I might sell my car before then in which case I'll make the trip by train, which does have a kind of nice sound to it. Taking a month or two to travel across country by train, making stops at all manner of little-ish towns all along the way. Or maybe it'll have to be by bus if I want to hit smaller towns -- I dunno if the train would bother stopping for them. Either way I do it -- car, bus, or train -- it'll take a lot of time and a lot of money. So I'll have to be saving for a while.
Which is not to say saving isn't something I can do, I just have other priorities at the moment. I've been saving since 'bout March for my little sister's graduation present. This would be what my IRS cheque went to. The money came in and I transfered it to savings just as soon as I saw it. I don't think it was in my checking account any more than 12 hours or so. Well, okay, maybe a day. Either way, if it was there I didn't know about it. My little sis is graduating high school. Of course, the terrible studying skills which plagued me through my high school career also hit her. Luckily for me, I had some teachers early on who managed to whip me in to shape and make me get my grades together so there was never any question if I would pass. She wasn't so lucky. For a month or so there, it was a question if she would be graduating or not. Good thing I kept saving anyway, now it's certain she'll be going on to college (community college for the first year or two, there's no way in hell her GPA is good enough even to get in to a CSU campus) and she'll be needing a laptop to do her work on. Her parents (only our father is shared) have kindly allowed to let me get it for her -- which is good since even though my dad could certainly afford a good one he's got this annoying tendency of cheeping out when it comes to computer purchases and as a result every computer they've had for the last ten years or so has been a piece of crap. He's a nice guy and means well, but for some reason he keeps thinking the lowest priced computer is perfectly okay. For desktops you can sometimes get away with that, but laptops need to be a bit more robust. Her mom knows this as well and was glad that dad let me handle this (heck, I think dad is finally starting to admit it as well -- if so it only took four(?) crappy systems to turn him around).
It's like I keep trying to tell my users (and they keep not getting it, I clearly need a new analogy). If you are looking to buy a car, and you go to the car lot and they have cars ranging from $6000 to $60000; you can be pretty sure that you don't need the top-of-the-line $60k machines, but you probably want to steer clear of the bottom-of-the-barrel $6k junkers also. Just get a nice reliable mid-range model and you'll likely be fine. Yet they keep coming to me and saying "I just bought this $500 computer, can you help me set it up?" $500 pieces of crap are my nemesis. Those things suck so hard. Great systems to learn on, I'll grant you that, since you'll have to be replacing every fscking part in them every few months you'll soon learn exactly what each component does and how bad it is when it fails.
It's almost as bad as when they come to us and say "I know the standard laptop we get is about $1,400 but I was wondering what I could get for $700" (yes, our standard laptop is roughly $1,400 -- we like to purchase systems we can reasonably expect to last 5 or 6 years, and so far we've found this to be doable). Low-balling is fine if you are in negotiations for a house, or bartering with someone at the flea market. You don't do it with your IT shop! GAH!
Sorry, got a little ranty there. I'll admit there are some aspects of my job that are not-so-fun. Did I mention how some of my favorite days to work are when there's no one else around? :)
Ah well, this is long enough for now. That and there's an odd issue on a computer I wanted to look at this weekend (user says acrobat is missing -- it's part of our standard load so should be there) so I should go poke at that. Have fun y'all. I'll try to mange posting more often.