Penultimate day on the job

American Tobacco - 080618:50 AM – Settled in for my second-to-last day on the job I’ve been at for five years and four months. I have had by longest tenure, by far, here. So, while I have experienced many last (two) days, this one is different. All of my pet photos are off my cubicle walls. I have a few papers to sort through, but most of what needs review, at this point, exists on my hard drive. If there are any important documents that exist on my PC but not up in network space, I’ve got to get them uploaded. I do have a sincere desire to do all I can to “transfer knowledge” in these closing moments. It’s been a difficult slog at times. I do hope things go smoothly for those I’ve worked with. I do hope that, in retrospect, my efforts are appreciated. I realize that much of what I’ve done may be figuratively thrown out in the next year or two; this is unfortunate, but a reality of work in the IT field.

9:30 AM – Have successfully gone through My Documents root. Now for the subfolders…

Everyone asks me, “Are you taking any time off in between?” When I say that I’m not, people seem surprised, since, aren’t you supposed to? “Don’t you have any sick days?” someone asked. Everyone means well, but I wanted to explode here. I’VE BEEN SICK FOR THREE YEARS. I had over two weeks of vacation time stored up by early 2008. Then I got a kidney stone that eventually required surgery. I lost all of time right there. Between kidney failure fatigue and three fistula surgeries, I wound up veering into negative numbers for time-off. Since I’ve been on dialysis, I pretty much have used sick and vacation time as I’ve accrued it. Thus, I take an occasional three-day-weekend and that’s been it. Oh my God, I’d love to take two weeks off to just chill before I start my new job. But I needed to give a month’s notice here; my new job wanted me to start asap; and I can’t afford to have no income coming in for any length of time. I am so thoroughly exhausted…but no time off. A four-day Thanksgiving weekend is approaching. I will watch West Wing DVDs in my living room while my cats eat their Roasted Turkey Fancy Feast.

2:00 PM – Lunch at Toast was so very, very good. I wish I had made the very short walk to Main Street more. I’ve gone through all of my documents and uploaded the relevant ones to our wiki or emailed them to my teammate. My desktop is essentially cleaned out. All of the cabinet drawers are essentially cleaned out. I have a five-year-old box with what appears to be 500-or-so business cards. I think I’m progressing well toward a goal of being essentially done by the end of the afternoon, where tomorrow can be a no-stress day.

4:00 PM – Real work to do because of something I bungled. Learned something from TM—F2 allows you to edit an Excel cell directly in the cell, which I never, ever know after all of this years.

5:15 PM – It was not a stress-free afternoon since a query I had used to help migrate some data neglected to include 5% of instances. I had to scramble to fix that. But with “that”, I did manage to finish up a task I had been anxious to get done for five years. I had to manually tweak some data, and in doing so, I saw the names of individuals and groups that had flickered on my screen these past five years. I’ll have an entirely new set of names and groups and terminologies and screens to look at starting Monday. I think I’ll be relieved.

One down, many to go

No energy to put any thought into this post. Perhaps more to say soon. Perhaps not. Posts like this are rare. I wish I had a more creative way of announcing this.

Starting a month from now, I will have a NEW JOB!

Five years at my current job is three-times more than I spent at any other previous employer. I don’t have much to say about my soon-to-be-old job. I have no desire to burn bridges. Ok, I have some desire to burn some bridges, but, apart from this very comment, I shall say elaborate no further.

And I shall say very little about my new job, other than that I have been informed that the organization makes Fortune Magazine’s Top-100-Places-To-Work List. I guess that’s not too shabby. I am not moving anywhere, so it shouldn’t be terribly difficult to narrow down who the employer is, and I’m happy to share more details off-blog.

I would love to say I’m “happy” overall, but the reality is that I still be buried by an awful lot right now. There’s a little bit of daylight, and that’s a nice feeling. However, I’ve still got lots of digging to do.

Friday Night Rants

1. Very deep disappointment and a bit of anger over developments at work. I can’t say much more than that.

2. Disappointment that two weeks of fevers and pains and other unpleasant symptoms have no definite cause. A CT scan revealed the usual…big kidneys with lots of cysts. I’m on antibiotic in case a cyst is infected. There’s not a way to know for sure. Removing one of my kidneys is probably a viable option at this point, but there are numerous repercussions of having that done.

3. There’s no reason why the radio should still be on at 11:54. This is ridiculous. Mr x is trying to be quiet, but the fact is that he’s on the phone or talking to his neighbor. I don’t want headphones on. They are not conducive to comfortable sleep. 8 months of this. Ridiculous. What the hell am I supposed to do? There’s no one at DaVita that I trust. I’m ready to stop dialysis until I figure out another option. I suspect I’d start getting very fatigued. ESRD bad breath might reappear. But I’d sleep at home every night. I’d be away from this place.

I really need a kidney. Waiting another four years is an unimaginable option.

Potpourri for 800

Follow-up on my work rants
Well, I missed two days of work due to various symptoms that can be summed up as having felt brain-dead. On Wednesday, I battled through a day at work despite feeling brain-dead. On Thursday, I was half-ready to deal with the fallout from the previous weekend’s activities and my blunt assessment of everything (I shared something similar to what I posted with a key figure at work). Like a boxer trying to muster the strength to stand up after being knocked out, I thought I was getting back on my feet…but, then, bam! Knocked out again by a completely unexpected development that I can’t get into here. It suffices to say, the development made moot all that I had been stressing about, conjuring up a fresh batch of brain-numbing concerns. Oh, yeah, and it cemented my feeling that the past two to three months of work was a complete waste. So now my morale at work is even lower than it was a week ago. And I expect a craptastic week ahead.

Dialysis
As usual, I will not allow my brain to focus on it on an off-night for more than a minute or two. It sucks, and it will always suck. I can continue to tweak elements of it in the hopes of making it more tolerable, such as what medicinal cocktail I take to sleep soundly while I’m there, what sheets I use for maximum comfort atop the awful vinyl mattress, and how I mentally cope with the jarring, cacophonous wake-up routine.

What do I want to do with my life
This is a bit too complex a question for a potpourri post. Essentially, my brain comes up mostly empty when trying to tackle this question. It’s not just what to do in the present that stumps me. What’s worse is that I can’t answer that question if it’s applied to a hypothetical future that gives me a new kidney. Here I am, begging the world for a kidney, but I don’t feel like I deserve one if I’m just going to waste my life.

Pet picture
I still find wonder in pet pictures, when I capture an expression that has not previously been seen in hundreds of prior images. Here’s Aremid from last night:

Saturday Night with Aremid (3)

More work-related brain-dump

Lucky Strike Sturm und Drang

Ideally, I’d have someone to review my data-migration process with. Ideally, there’d be someone to look at each step, and affirm that it makes sense, or question of there’s a better one, or if I’m missing something.

Whom I can help me here?

_____? I blame him for much of the sorry state of the application, and I do not want to enlist his help in anything if possible. Yes, it’s personal.

_____? He can give me another set of eyes. He is not seasoned enough (don’t take that personally) to know if a method is sound or not, but I could have done some form of technical review with him.

_____? I have wished since you started in this position that you would be a project manager who would help facilitate true project plans—not kick-off meetings, and marketing meetings, and change management meetings–but meetings to help nail down schedules for specific tasks in a project. However, you non-chalantly labeled this [project] as a mere release and did not seem to appreciate the breadth of activity needed to get this done, particularly when it was not ultimately going to be done by the “two developers over two months” that had ben touted. Second, and this has been a sore spot with me all along, you haven’t familiarized yourself with our environment and applications to the point where you can offer meaningful suggestions at a technical level in developing a project plan. That has been very frustrating to me. You have made a conscious choice not to learn about the basics of our our systems are developed, configured, and maintained. And you have little patience for skepticsm when I don’t think a previous experience of yours easily translates to a present situation.

Consequently, I feel like I bear the whole load of the projects. I feel they are always destined to fail, or at least have significant problems. I cannot foresee everything on my own. In a complex project such as [this project], there were dozens upon dozens of tasks of varying degrees of difficulty-level and time-consumption. I did very well at about 90% of these. The other 10% I failed out, failed to execute when the time was needed and failed to communicate to you that these were issues to be mindful of. As always, a 10% failure looks to everyone else like a 90% failure. I care enough about the project that I can’t help but take it personally and have it feel like a 90% failure.

I feel like we’re at a stalemate. We’ve been here before. I usually just let it all recede until the next crisis, because I don’t see how this can work, and I cannot survive with the level of stress I have while contempating trying to face this.

I don’t take solace in the mindset of “at least I have a job”. I might need to get out of this environment. _______ would be better off, because without anyone who really knows development, the only choice would be to adopt the new software package with no customization. I don’t know where I’d go, but it is hard to continue in an environment where I know customers and leadership don’t like the application and don’t trust that the team is competent enough to implement any significant changes, and where my manager hasn’t made the effort to understand the application at a level that would allow him to help development meaningful project plans.

My morale is about as low as it can get. It was terrible after the October 2007 upgrade, and this is as bad by the mere fact that it’s happened again. Despite my best efforts, I will always be in a position to fail and disappoint. This is not a healthy recipe for tackling working challenges on a daily basis.

Just feeling sorry for myself, nothing to read here

Tonight, I’ll pretend that I don’t have a bunch of new readers, like my mother, like people who don’t know me well whom I hope could have a favorable impression of me, and like Facebook readers who never asked to hear exactly what’s in my head. For new readers, I’ll repeat what I’ve said a bunch of times before, which is that I used to have various journal platforms for these kinds of thoughts, but I can tend to lose my inhibitions and just throw those thoughts up here.

I just had my worst day at work in over two years. I had to put something into production today, and that usually happens on a Saturday. I thought there might be a few minor problems, but, in general, I thought I had done a great job of developing this custom module that would allow us to do a way with another annoying app. It’s ironic, because the-powers-that-be are always stressing going “out-of-the-box” but they had no problem scrapping a mostly out-of-the-box app for something that is total custom development, that, for all intensive purposes, I’m the only one who can really support it. In reality, the-powers-that-be don’t really understand that platform I work on at all, and don’t have any idea what the difference between “configuration” and “development” is. Nor do they appreciate at all that they have a developer with 11 years of experience who does understand this.

Anyway, I was pretty sure that there would be a few data hiccups in migrating from one system to another, and I thought it was understood that this could happen, and we’d iron out these problems within a couple of days of launching. However, as testing revealed that some data wasn’t right, even though I knew exactly how to fix it, the-powers-that-be decided that if they couldn’t trust that it was all 100% accurate, we’d have to roll back. Logically, from the point of view to someone who doesn’t understand the app at all, which is everyone involved in today’s implementation except for me, there could be a distrust that any percentage of the data was wrong. But I knew otherwise, that these data problems were isolated and quickly fixable.

I take these things very personally, even though I am always told not to. The only thing worthwhile I do with my life is whatever I get done at work. When I’m pretty sure that I’ve done an A- job on something but I know it’s perceived as a D, it’s incredibly demoralizing.
I mean, what the hell else do I have going for me?

As far as my career is concerned, I am completely trapped in this niche, of which I think I’m somewhat of an expert. And yet, my judgement is also questioned, and the powers-that-be don’t even bother to ask for my input on the direction of our app, content to ask the advice of the vendor, who knows nothing of our environment and is only interested in selling us services that we can’t afford.

I so wish that I could afford to live on what disability would pay. The stress I get from my job is going to kill me, in conjunction with my shitty kidneys and unrelenting depression.

Oh, did I just mention the D word? Not dialysis…depression…which I make a passing reference to every now and then in here. Since my mother reads this, or, rather, in spite of the fact that she reads this, because this may be an unfair comment to make, it’s always infuriated me how much focus she’s placed on how I should deal with my kidney disease…endless emails and encyclopedias of information…what to avoid eating and doing…while all along…it’s been crystal clear to me that if I have a premature death, it’s is not going to be due to kidney disease but due to depression.

I realize a statement like that makes people very uncomfortable. People can sorta figure out to say to the guy on dialysis with kidney disease. But the guy who’s depressed? People want to stay away from that guy.

And how I got onto depression when I was talking/ranting about work, I don’t know.

Let’s go for the gold, while I’m at it, while I don’t care how inappropriate any of this is to say publicly.

Anyone care to know just how bad the depression can get? No, not really, Toastie. Well, please, by all means, stop reading now. This is your warning. YOU DON’T NEED TO READ ANY FURTHER.

So I recently unearthed an email I sent to one the various mental health professionals who have failed to be of much help over the years. I’ll just say this was written sometime in the last five years:

Subject: Urgent Help needed

Hi ____________,

I am writing rather than doing absolutely nothing as a course of
action for my depression. I have been in what I consider an absolute
depression for a couple of days now. I suppose if it were truly
absolute, I could not even be writing this email.

I’m not suicidal, if suicidal means there is a danger I am going to
physically harm myself. I don’t see the use in doing anything that
would result in me being at the ER or being locked up in a psych ward.

But I’m hardly functioning. I am not at work today. I am not taking
care of myself. –

Clearly the medication I take now does not prevent these “episodes”. I
cannot imagine any medications or therapies that would do me any good.
There is no reason to believe that you would suddenly have a magical
solution as opposed to any other point during the last many years.

But I have to tell someone if there is any remote chance that there is
help available. And you’re my doctor. So I am telling you. Do we need
to zap my brain? What do you do with the suicidal patients? I’m almost
sure I am just as depressed as they are, without the small problem of
being on the verge of trying to kill myself.

I’d call, but that means leaving an awkward message with ________,
who may or may not get you the message. In fact, I did just
that back [a few months ago], in which I practically begged to have you see
me sooner than our next scheduled appointment, and I didn’t hear back
from you. I didn’t bring it up again, because if I burn bridges with
you, I am completely without options.

Inappropriate blogging. Yup. I just don’t care right now. I may regret it tomorrow. I’ve made posts before that I’ve later put behind a password or just made private, and I might just do that with this post. Or maybe I won’t.

If I have given anyone the impression recently that ANYTHING is ok, I intentionally wish to shatter it right now. Not that I expect anyone to have any words of wisdom. Not that I expect that I won’t lose readers over this.

The blog will say ‘no comments’. I don’t know how to prevent comments on the Facebook feed.

Sleep problems…and a blunt assessment of stuff

20090119 Aremid Quasi-Curl

I snapped this photo of Aremid with the mobile around 6AM. I’ve been up all night. This is partially a result of having slept throughout much of the day over the last few days as I deal with post-surgery fatigue, pain, and nausea.

This is also the result of having Monday off and being mired in a state of endless contemplation. The way this past year seems to have worked, I have stammered from one health crisis to another. In between each crisis, there is a window of time within which I could theoretically plan…for something…make some plan for my life, which, for the most part other than the inevitable health crises, lacks any plan.

For the past couple of hours, I was specifically thinking about my career, and mostly how I have no career plan. I have a job that promises to continue to be woefully unsatisfying and no plan to move on to something else. For the purpose of this brain-dump, I will pretend that there is not a global economic crisis that could seemingly make it foolish for anyone with a stable job to think about leaving it. Scratch that…this isn’t about judging whether or not I am fortunate or not to have steady employment. The fact of the matter is that my morale has been shot for sometime and isn’t going to improve in 2009. My employer has either no need fr or no understanding of the specific skills that I bring to my job. I don’t mind being blunt about it right here and right now, as I think I have exhausted all reasonable means of dialogue over the past couple of years to improve this situation. If it weren’t the global economic crisis giving me significant pause, though, it would certainly be my health. My health is by far the main reason I tolerate a situation that drives me insane.

For a moment, I shall pretend that I will have a window of a year or so of good health. This is highly unlikely, but I will just presume it. Given that I have no remote idea of a reasonable career change, do I even consider browsing at other jobs similar to my current one, given that there likely to be different frustrations but perhaps better, more satisfying opportunities?

The answer might be easy, if the other factor were not that these other similar jobs are not here in North Carolina. They are in Washington, D.C. and New Jersey and California and Chicago and Milwaukee and all across the country, but most definitely not here and unlikely to materialize here.

Do I need a clean slate? I just told someone I was “happy” with the Triangle, that I can’t think of a better place to live, realistically. But what if there’s some significantly better place to spend nine hours a day? Is it perhaps worth considering starting anew, given that I don’t really have my non-work time filled up here with anything particularly noteworthy?

I AM NOT SUCCEEDING HERE IN DURHAM. I may have friends here. There may seem to be potential here. There is good healthcare here. But I am failure here. While true that a change of scenery does not solve one’s core problems, a change of scenery is a change of scenery, period, and that it could be of some benefit is not a notion I should so easily dismiss.

I really didn’t intend to launch into this post. I just like snapping photos of my sleeping pets…which, by the way, brings up another job problem. Most jobs in my specific field present themselves as contract positions or contract-to-perm. The chance to travel somewhere five days at a time or take up temporary residence for a few months comes with many of these positions. But I don’t consider these options, but I won’t leave my pets for five days at a time. Believe it or not, I’m actually tied to Durham more because of my pets than because of people. I once did contract work for four or fives days out of town at a time. I hated leaving the animals, I won’t do it with them in their senior years.

Oh, and alternatively, I can drop this whole don’t-like-my-job talk if I suddenly find myself in a fulfilling relationship…that’s a helluva lot more important to me to have in my life…but that, of course, is really impossible right now and a topic for another time.

I just want to be able to look at some part of my life and say, “That’s going pretty well”. And if you think I’m whining a bit too much, you do not understand just how long and painful that drought has been. And here I go again with the implication that I care what others think…and someone will say I shouldn’t care…and I’ll say how of course I care…and how I don’t quite get how anyone could write their thoughts publicly without thought of how others regarded them…and now I’m just rambling.

Project Toastr

I am good at coming up with ideas. I am not so good at executing them. Sometimes, I am simply unrealistic. Other times, I lack the know-how to go anywhere with an idea. Other times, I come up with a plan to acquire the know-how, which might, for instance, involve purchasing some books, and then I don’t follow through on acquiring the know-how (which would involve reading the books).

For example, four years, I aspired to make Toastie Radio totally interactive, allowing users to create accounts, rate songs, create lists of songs…oh, I don’t remember what the grand plan is. But I had bought a nice big book on PHP and MySQL web development, and it was going to help me create something very cool. I got stuck somewhere in the user authentication part. And then the project stalled, probably around the time I decided I hated living in Knoxville, Tennessee enough to plan a move back to Durham. (Ok, so I had an idea that I’d move back to Durham, and I executed that. I’m talking about grand ideas…)

I’m talking mostly about computer-related ideas, like ideas for websites or applications. When I was 9, I was writing programs like a Mad Libs game with my Apple ][ Plus in Basic. I had a certain gift. The gift was squandered somewhere. (This is turning into a semi-autobiographical post; that wasn’t my intention, but the free-flowing writing about whatever is the kind of writing I used to do much more of before I had this “blog” with “readers”, and kinda miss the days where I’d journal without regard to sentence construction and coherence…) I didn’t commit to studying computer science in college; I picked up a minor. I didn’t get a programming job out of college. I got a job with a consulting company, where I learned something called R—–.

I’m not sure if I have that awful six-letter word anywhere within this blog, but I don’t feel like spelling it out right now. If you know me, you know what I’m talking about. Anyway, with the exception of a couple of brief stints trying to be an Access database administrator, I’ve been working with R—– for almost a decade. You’d think I must be some sort of expert. Hardly. There are some very cool things that an organization can do with R—–. I did some of those things years ago. But I don’t do those cool things in my current position, and it’s quite unlikely I will have the opportunity to so where I’m at. But it’s also quite unlikely I will be doing those cool things anywhere else. No one uses R—- to do these cool things anymore. Instead, they buy unwieldy, bloated, expensive applications based on R—-, and….well, I don’t want to start getting into details of my current job.

What I was planning to get at before that impromptu interlude was that I’ve wanted to come up with some grand idea for years that would employ the one significant skill I have. While I’ve had a few ideas come and go, mainly the idea has been to simply come up with an idea. Earlier tonight, I came up with an idea and started working on it. It’s not a brilliant idea. It’s probably something that has been done before. There’s no intelligent reason why one would use R—– to implement this, but, like I said, that’s my tool.

Rather then spend time on developing this idea much tonight, however, I spent way too much time trying to find a clever domain to buy. While it may seem silly to most, I actually am quite pleased with the name of this domain. I owned toastie.com between 1998 and 2004. I regret having sold it. I got a great price for it, but now it languishes as a parked ad page. captaintoastie.com (predecessor of this site) was stupid. I like toastie.st. So I wanted something else I’d like. The name that came to mind was toastr.com. Unfortuantely, toastr.com, in all of its (I think) cleverness, is being wasted by, well, it’s not a parked ad site, but it isn’t worthy of the toastr name. So I’ve spent several hours looking through all the international domain suffixes looking for something clever. I’ve had a couple of ideas, but nothing I went with.

I’m not going to divulge what the big idea is, since it may all evaporate tomorrow, or I may work on it for six months before it’s anything worth sharing. The last time I tried to chronicle a big project from its inception (my home purchase) it was a big bust.

As 2007 comes to a close, I have thought about whether or not to write any kind of year-end retrospectives. I may post some more silly lists. But the posts about why I bother with this site, what the relevance of any of this is, seem to come a couple times a month so there’s no need for a special one now.

Having just read through the above, I know this is the type of post I’ll contemplate scrubbing when I awaken later today. If it’s still here, it means I’m sticking with my blogging philosophy of the moment, which is that…<stares blankly at screen for a few minutes>I don’t know…If I start to share more personal stuff in 2008, if I become more of an open-book, it will not be my intention to come across egotistically, as if I think my thoughts are of any importance…People vent in all sorts of ways…I was about to list them, but ultimately I don’t think I need to explain…this blog/journal/website is what it is…

Do What You Love

I believe there’s a book called exactly that, and I may have read it five or six or seven years ago. I suppose I should look it up and link to it, in case there’s a gold mine to be made by referring folks to it. Hmmm…maybe it was called something else. I don’t think it was this (but Toastiest highly recommends it everyone nonetheless): Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow by Marsha Sinetar. I mean, I thought the whole point of doing what you love is that you’re deciding you don’t quite care whether or not the money follows. Do what you love AND make money, too? I’m not so ambitious. But if you are, I’m sure it’s absolutely a fabulous book, and if you, dear reader, were to purchase a paperback through this link, I’d be well on my way to doing what I love (blogging about whatever the brain synapses deem blogworthy) and rolling in the dough! (Perhaps I could afford a ciabatta roll at Whole Foods!)

Anyway, my point…where was I doing with this post?

Ah, yes, I was just compiling my weekly Toastie Radio Top 25. I do this every single week, even if few listeners bother going to the website (well, you can even do it from this website and never even listen to the broadcast). Why? Because I love playing with rankings and statistics. The geek in me has liked doing stuff like this since I was a kid, when I’d play Olympic Decathlon on my Apple ][ Plus, as six different TV charactes, and keep statistics on their results. And later I’d play Micro League Baseball with mixes of real teams, All-Star teams with real players from various teams, and completely fake team composed of…television characters. I’d play a sixteen-game season and keep stats, with pencil and paper. And then I’d type it all up with my Apple word processing program and print out league stats results.

So getting songs voted on for Toastie Radio and publishing a weekly Top 25 is my way of tapping into this interest.

So maybe I should’ve been an actuary…or a statistician of some kind…or I should’ve…No, not gonna play the coulda-shoulda-woulda game. What do I need to do starting right now to lead myself to a job or career that involves this type of analytical, but fun, kind of thinking? (Actuaries really don’t do anything fun, do they?) This is a rhetorical question. I’m just thinking aloud. Math courses, grad school, books to read? I don’t know. And I’m thinking aloud in Toastiest as opposed to a private journal because I’m operating under the experimental premise that I might be more likely to act on idea if I have these ideas out in the open and not in some sort of vacuum.