Personal posts

What I want to be when I grow up

I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. When I was young, I wanted to work as a designer and one day own a design shop. I laid out newspapers in college in print. Then when the web became a medium of its own, I started learning HTML and CSS and tried to expand my work there.

I graduated college with a degree in Creative Advertising. It taught me I didn’t want to work in advertising. I wanted to work in design. But the economy was terrible and I had to find a job.

I fell into tech support. First supporting a rollout of Windows XP computers. Then moving into the world of quick printing then back to tech support. I’ve worked in some version of technical support since 2007.

In the past decade I’ve worked in some interesting places and some I’d rather forget. I find the challenge in solving problems fascinating. But fixing the same problem every day is a fast path to burnout.

I got out of straight technical support and fell into event management and webinars. An opportunity presented itself and I took it. And now a couple of years later, I find myself at another crossroads. I’ve hit a place where I need to make a major decision.

Where do I go with my career?

What I do

I could keep doing what I’m doing and work in Rich Media and Unified Communications. Explaining WebEx and teleconferencing to people. Organizing upgrades and planning future applications and tools to help communications.

I enjoy the technical challenges of building out a system for our customers. I want to help make their life easier and worry less about technology and more about what they do. I don’t want a chemist to worry about her WebEx account. I want her worrying about chemistry.

What I could do

Technical Writing / Documentation

I also have an interest in technical writing and documentation. I like to document how things work. I enjoy testing them to see how systems and applications work in practice. I need to know how something works and write it down so I remember it later.

I enjoy explaining how things work. I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned and writing out detailed steps to repeat a process. I’ve always prided myself on my documentation work and always made a point to document as much as I could. Either for my team (or myself) or the customer.

I live by the idea of helping out Future Carl. I’m going to need this again and I won’t remember when I do so I better write it down. If I don’t help Future Carl out, who will?

Event Planing

There were aspects of my last job around event planning I enjoyed. I enjoyed the logistical planning for successful events. Granted, I was working in a single building (most of the time) and with a set group of people (government employees).

But I worry about the long-term appeal of the work. Will it get old after a short time? Will it be fulfilling? Or stressful?

Technical Track

I could go more technical. Find a path to take I enjoy. Whether it be in the realm of Unified Communications & Rich Media where I am now. Or if I take another branch from the tree of technology.

The problem with that is I don’t know what I want to do with myself. There are lots of things that seem interesting. But are they hobbies, fleeting interests or solid career paths?

The common thread in all my work is helping people and making things work better. I want to take the challenge out of technology and make it work for the people who need it. Not the other way around. I want to help people do their work better. I need to figure out how best to do that in a fulfilling and profitable way.

Bun Alert

I enjoy the creatures in my yard. Ever since we bought the house and I have windows on every side I love looking out of them and seeing what’s in my yard today.

We came from a rental townhouse. Despite it being an end unit, it had no windows on the end. So I had windows to the front overlooking the parking lot and back overlooking the deck. But there was a big grassy area leading to a playground on the side. But no windows.

I make good use of my windows now. Even though we are in a city instead of the edge of one there are still animals that come to visit. Less deer. More chipmunks and rabbits. The occasional fox and raccoon.

And of course birds. Finches of all sorts. Doves waddling around plump and goofy. Bright red Cardinals flapping from fence to tree. Blue Jays hopping across the yard.

Titles comes courtesy of XKCD.
Bun Alert, XKCD Comic

Book Thief

I am a mighty builder. I make mountains out of mole hills. That’s how I treat problems in my life. The unknown. The inconvenient. The wastes of time. The points where failure has occurred somewhere and I need to correct it.

Recently, I returned two books to my local library. I dropped them off in a stack on the return counter as I have countless times before. The library staff collected and checked in one book. The other book escaped.

Once I realized what had happened, via an email from the library. I went in to take care of it in person. Unfortunately, I went on July 4th holiday (Independence Day) and found a closed library. Which made sense, I was off work for the holiday as well, why did I think the library would be open?

So I couldn’t take care of it. Then I forgot about it for a few days. Until I went to look up another book to see if it was available. The website reminded me I had a book overdue.

Filled with anxiety, I was ready to explain and re-explain what happened. Ready with dates and times and the titles of both books. And it was all for nothing.

I spoke to a woman and explained what happened. She cleared the book from my account and went about her day. She sounded hurried and busy. She was short but polite on the phone, and resolved my issue (and my anxiety) quickly and professionally.

I had worried about this exchange. I thought I wouldn’t be able to prove I did not have the book it would haunt me. I imagines building up a huge overdue fee as the days turned into weeks. And the weeks into months. Eventually having to give up all use of the public library after being branded a book thief.

After the fact, my wife told me this probably happens everyday and they’re used to it. Books get misplaced. Scanners malfunction. Computer systems have bugs. And I’m sure some percentage of books do walk away.

But I will not bear the brand of a book thief. A Bad Patron. I did my part. Something else didn’t happen as it should have. It’s not a big deal. It’s a small issue to fix. But those small issues loom large in my brain.

Government Shutdown: 2018 Edition

The last time the government shutdown, it was over healthcare. I was out of work for 16 days unpaid because I was a contractor and when my employer can’t bill, I can’t get paid.

I attended a first 100 event at Chick Fil-A and talked to a lot of people struggling.

There were parents which were not sure how their family would eat with both of then out of work since they were government contractors.

There was so much fear and desperation about making mortgage payments and student loans.

And no end in sight to the shutdown.

This time around, I still work for the government. Still as a contractor. Under the same Department though a different branch of it. There’s one huge difference.

I am going to get paid through it. I am going to be able to work. I will be making my mortgage payment and keeping my power on.

I will be OK.

But I know there will be thousands of families who will not. Thousands will be missing payments or making decisions about food or utilities.

Thousands of businesses that rely on government workers to stay open. Restaurants. Convenience stores.

Anything around the Capitol…

This shutdown, if it drags from week to week will cost some families everything.

The price tag for the 2013 government shutdown was about $1.6 billion a week, $300 million a day, or $12.5 million an hour.

The government is more divided than ever. The stakes are the health of children.

The task is clear.

Work together to compromise.
Work on a budget for the year.
You have no other concerns.
You’ve managed that by mismanagement.

Fund the government.
Don’t make us worry every month whether we will get paid.

Your constituents want you to do your job.
And you have all failed.

536 people.

They hold the lives of hundreds of millions of people in their hands.

Please do the right thing and work together to fund the government. There’s room for everyone to get what they want.

Frozen Pipes and Freak Outs

Today started normally enough. I had a plan for my day and I was excited to take it easy. I got out of bed when my alarm went off at 8am and I got moving and ready to enjoy my morning until work in two hours.

I got out of bed, stumbled into the bathroom… and that’s where my plan changed.

I turned on the hot water tap and nothing happened. No water came out. I turned on the cold water. That worked. Shut it off, turned on the hot again and… nothing.

I got up and went downstairs. The same situation in every room with a faucet. No hot water anywhere in the house. Just disappointment and a bit of panic.

After some searching online, we turned on the faucets a quarter turn. Annie crawled under the house (since I can’t fit down there) and didn’t see anything amiss. Not that either of us know what a frozen pipe looks like.

You want me to go where?

We turned the temperature up on the water heater which was another step we found online. Which may have been our undoing. A bit later, we were staring at a hot water heater spewing steam! The faucets in our bathroom and kitchen started gushing hot water so we fixed the blockage! The leak was was behind the heater, in the small closet where it lives so we couldn’t get behind it to get a better look. So we couldn’t tell where it had broken or which pipe had the hole.

I turned off the power to the water heater (and furnace) with the switch there and cut the water into the hot water heater. And eventually the steam and water stopped.

I went out front to find the water main shut off for the house and located it, but was unable to turn off the main due to the cold or the valve not being turned in years or ???? My wife called a plumber and we got an appointment for the same day.

Thankfully turning off the water to the water heater stopped the steam and leak.

The plumber showed up about 45 minutes after we called and I gave him the back story (including the turning up the water heater part since I’m a firm believer in admitting to the stupid things I did so the plumber knows what he’s dealing with).

He was very nice and helpful and located where the leak was quickly. Unfortunately it was under the house in the crawl space. So he got to crawl down there over the plastic and gravel and into the small pond that formed under the house.

He was able to find the leak and patch the pipe leading from the water heater to the rest of the house.

All in all, we were back in business by about 1:30pm. We had hot water. We did not have a steam room.

I called two companies that offered quotes on insulating the crawl space and booked appointments with them for later this month. However, since the cold is still here, it was time for my new favorite store!

I went to Home Depot to get insulation for the pipes along with some other winter items (ice melt, work gloves, tarps).

I got home and awaited my wife’s return. Since unfortunately due to the size of the opening to the our crawl space, I’m not sure I could get down there (and back out again). So my wife had the unenviable job of crawling under the house and wrapping the insulation around the pipes down there. She also sopped up most of the water with towels.

She got home, bundled up and crawled under the house like a champ and insulated the pipes where we had the problem today so hopefully we don’t have a repeat performance.

My wife victoriously emerging from the crawl space.

The cover to our crawl space is plexiglass with Velcro to keep it on and I found it sitting in the yard this morning. We made it through the coldest part of winter thus far without any mishaps. Today, it’s my best guess that the cover blew off and the cold air got into the crawl space and cooled it enough to freeze part of the pipe and it was weak enough to rupture.

Now we have glorious hot water throughout our house (but not in or through the house). It has been a very exciting day as a homeowner but overall it was a minor repair and not nearly as bad as it could have been.

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