Housewarming Party

Living in Washington D.C. is to enjoy the excitement and dynamism of a supremely political town where everything is a priority and social obligations abound. Even we computer nerds have our particular circle of friends that we gather over time. We may be small cogs in a big wheel, but we have a presence. We all share interests as specialists in our field. There is so much technological advancement going on that it is an exciting job. We are at the forefront of a brave new world. People are constantly entering the field as it is timely and lucrative. The world needs our services. But there is a downside: it is competitive and sometimes cutthroat. You must keep up and having a good networking group helps. I am close to a number of members. There are times when we forget the Internet and concentrate on helping one another out.

Recently, a friend was moving across town to a new townhome and I wanted to help. He had done me many favors in the past. He hired a service so I wasn’t needed to hire a truck and load it, but to show support and recognition of a change in location, I bought a relevant housewarming gift. I wanted something appropriate that had nothing to do with computers or any kind of electronic gear. He has loads of laptop and tablets already. Everything is state of the art. Instead, I opted for a practical machine to vacuum his new home. Everyone needs one. It is lightweight yet super powerful so he doesn’t need a giant monster to store and tote around. The newer models at https://www.thecleanhome.net/the-best-lightweight-vacuum-reviews/ are so efficient and yet portable by anyone. They are easy to empty and clean. No need to be a weight lifter to use them. Some of the really early vacuums were made of metal and they weighted a ton. How did housewives ever use them?  Forget going up carpeted stairs. I guess you just left the dirt intact.

In keeping with the timeliness of my gift, I arranged for a modest housewarming party so he could show off the new space and also garner some presents. You need some handy items when you move. Old things get tossed aside, especially when clearly used to death and worn out. I know for a fact that he only had a basic old-world device. He needed an upgrade with all the bells and whistles. They are less noisy and more equipped to handle the variety of surfaces you get in a townhouse. It can handle tile and wood floors, as well as carpet, with ease. I know he would love it and after the fact, I found this to be the case. He thanked me profusely for my selection of a real timesaver. There could be more time for him to ply his trade, get new clients, and earn more income. Who knew that a household gift would impact his working life.

DC Roadside Emergency Kit Guide

I drive around a lot and even though DC is small and concentrated as a metropolitan area, my errands and obligations can take me to Maryland or Virginia. We have great expressways and thoroughfares across the city, but anything can happen. I could encounter a roadside emergency late at night when no highway patrol car is in the vicinity. Rather than wait for a kind soul to stop or a repair truck that I call, I can take care of many problems on my own much faster. I have made a point of getting up to date as a motorist on flat tires, an accumulation of ice or a lack of gas. Sure I watch the gauge, but I have a portable can. The trunk of my car is a receptacle for an air compression, an ice scraper, kitty litter (for oil spills or to create traction), and a good patch kit. What more do you need, my friends? Have you ever been in dire straits while on the road and were in need of these supplies? I bet many of you have.

What is handy is that the air compressor works off the car’s 12V outlet. I found it here: https://www.compressorforce.com/the-best-12v-air-compressor-reviews/. You just have to plug it in and start inflating your flat tire. The cord has sufficient reach so that front or back tires are no problem. We have all kinds of weather conditions in DC and my gear takes care of most situations. I try not to go out when the snow is heavy and cumbersome. It isn’t bad if the other cars on the road create visible paths. I also hate sleet and ice. It can be very dangerous and send you into a skid. Remember what to do? You turn your wheels into the skid. You don’t break and cause an accident by sliding into another unsuspecting car. I love when spring and summer come, although we do get our share of rain. Overall it is a temperate climate with a short snow season. When it covers the ground, it is a white paradise. Then I like to walk or take the metro. It is one of the best in the country next to Manhattan.

To end this blog, I direct you to many online websites that will help you select a good roadside emergency kit and learn how to use it. They are not all alike. Some are all season or just for winter. Some are well suited for cars, trucks and motor homes. Read the manual about emergency preparedness. Don’t just buy it and stow it away. You should get flares, batteries, collapsible snow shovel, hand warmers, the ice scraper mentioned, tow rope, jumper cables, dried food and bottles of water. You may find a safety vest, seatbelt cutter, distress sign, first aid kit, hand crank radio and large flashlight. You probably already own a mobile phone charger. The kits I like come in a duffel bag for easy storage and retrieval.

More Proof that DC Drivers are the Worst

I have been on a rant before about bad drivers in DC and the environs. People speed in bad weather and in good they don’t look. Accidents happen all the time, but they seem to happen to others. My blog today is about me and my terrifying tumble with an errant car while riding my bike. Since I live in a condensed city with ample bike lanes, it is often my preferred mode of transportation. It is easy to “park” and saves considerably on gas. I am into being economical these days with the rising cost of living. Have you ever priced a local condo or townhouse? You would be shocked.  Of course, riding is a great way to keep in shape and shed those extra pounds. Restaurants are great here as fussy foodies abound in this trendy commercial district. People want and expect the best. I often indulge and after seeing the results, I bought a new bike that I could propel through the city. I thought I would be safe and secure but then the unthinkable happened.

I was in my lane making a right turn onto a two-way street. I wasn’t in a hurry. I was rather vigilant and had looked in all directions as is my wont. Thus, I was startled to the max to be hit by an on-coming car going in the opposite direction. He had veered from the right lane to the left side of the road where I was pedaling away in peace. It was an illusion. He had been talking on his cell phone and had no Bluetooth connectivity. His hands were thus not on the wheel. I was so angry as this was so unnecessary given all the publicity about accidents during mobile device use.

I had hit the ground on my side and fortunately my head had been spared. Yes, I use a helmet. Let this be a lesson to us all. Oddly enough, however, my brand-new pricey G shock watch was intact and running. While the accident proves that DC drivers are the worst, it also proves that certain G Shock watches are the best. I would have bet seeing me on the ground with my crushed bike at my side that the watch on my wrist was defunct.

He wasn’t that apologetic given the fact that I suffered only minor bruises and scrapes. This made my anger rise to the boiling point. I didn’t have to go to the hospital the paramedics he called checked me out. It was the one courtesy he afforded me. He didn’t offer to repair or replace my wrecked bike but I insisted on getting his insurance company information so I could file a claim. I knew I had been in the right and he in the wrong. He wouldn’t admit it but there would be evidence from the police report.

One of Those Days

I love living and working in D.C. there is no more stimulating place. Although some of you may beg to differ, just think about the atmosphere. The political environment, the seat of government power, the fabulous museums and national monuments. It is glorious to just walk about the streets of the central area. If hustle and bustle is not for you, you can always get out of town to the scenic countryside. Hop on your bike, pick a new trail, and make your way to new adventures.

I am in the habit of weekend bike excursions so to my dismay, last week, I found that my saddle was falling off. I guess it has a bit too much wear and tear. The final coup de grace was a minor scrape with an aggressive car that knocked the saddle to the ground. It was not repairable and I began to look for a new and better model. The old one was pretty comfortable as bike seats go, and I won’t settle for anything less. On long trips, you can appreciate the difference in comfort from the best bike saddles. Otherwise, we all know what it feels like to have a frozen bottom. As I scoured the Internet, I found many options for my model of road bike. But how could I be sure. I decided to err on the side of caution and buy two that looked pretty good so I would not make a mistake in judgement by not seeing the item first.

When they arrived, I was pleased as punch to see that they were a bit different. With a few handy tools and a bit of free time, I tried first the one and the other on. I rode around the neighborhood before switching of course so I can see first-hand what felt best. Both were pretty good as far as comfort goes, so it was a tossup that would be based on price. I couldn’t decide and almost wished that I had purchased a third option. But that is probably taking this replacement seat a bit too far. Eeny, meenie, miney, mo. Okay, I spent more time on this deliberation that I do on most software problems. I would have to draw straws, ask a friend, or figure out some other method to make my choice. How about looks. Price being fairly equal, I thought it would be a good idea to select the best design. And so I did. I kept the saddle on the seat and readied the bike for a quick outing. It was great to have my favorite bike back. Now that it is in ship shape, I am going to watch for oncoming cars. I know drivers are not that attentive to bikes and don’t respect their right to be on the road. They find them annoying. But I will be the vigilant one. There will be no more mishaps or replaced bicycle parts. I have a lot of plans in the works.

Evolution of Online

evolution-of-online

Do you remember getting those stupid CDs in the mail for internet service providers?You had to put them in your computer’s CD drive (they weren’t even DVD drives back then),then install software that would enable you to attach your phone cord to your computer and go online? And then your modem would make these horrible sounds and nobody could use the phone because you’d be online, probably doing nothing but talking in a chat room asking people for their a/s/l.

Do you remember that, or is that just me?

There was Netscape, Netzero, and America Online. They had that “you’ve got mail” thing you were always so anxious to hear. We had so many of those CDs at my house as a kid that we used them as coasters and Frisbees that we never actually bothered to catch because they hurt the crap out of your hand if you tried. They sure were fun to throw, though. And you’d have three by the end of the week so it wasn’t like it mattered.

As the technology got better and more people wanted to be online,broadband internet became cool. You could actually check your email every once awhile from a network.It wasn’t so slow, but usually, you had to go online either at work or somewhere like the library because nobody had that kind of setup at home. I remember being in college the first year we all got campus email address. The computer lab would be packed full of people who would crash the network. Then the staff would have to put an “internet down” sign on the door and the place would be a ghost town.

Oh my God, this is how old I am: one of my college projects was that I had to create a website on Geocities.Do you have no idea what that is? I bet you don’t.

Then people started being able to go online “wirelessly”, then you could use a cellphone to go online, and at this point it’s built into practically everything. Seriously, you can put your lightbulbs on a network so you can turn it on via your cellphone. Now you can search anything about anyone,find pictures of just about anything, and upload a video of you doing just about anything and people will watch it. You can buy just about anything you can think when you look online. The internet is now this wonderful community of people sharing information while sitting alone and staring at a device.

The fact that these things have changed and evolved just in my lifetime is what really made me interested in computer networking in the first place. I love that this is one of those fields where the technology changes rapidly. People want their internet faster and using smaller devices.They want to do it cheaper, with better reliability, and they want to do it safely and securely. And that’s where I come in.

I’d be the first to say that I am not anywhere close to being on the same level as a first responder, but people totally go crazy when they have no internet. It’s become so ingrained in us that sometimes when Facebook goes down, people call nine-one-one. That’s a blatant misuse of an emergency system, but it just goes to show what people’s priorities are. As a society, we have grown so dependent on being able to share anything with anyone while being available and in step with all our friends& family, and all the events in their lives. It’s how we communicate, how we learn, it’s where we go for information and sometimes for love.

It’s pretty cool to be able to help people out with that.

Why I Love Working in D.C.

One thing that I love about working in D.C. is that it feels like a big deal. If you’ve ever worked in a major city, you probably know what I’m talking about. It doesn’t matter what your job title is, you automatically seem more successful and important, simply based on geography. I’m not sure if there is a word for that. If there is, it’s probably German. They always have the cool expressions, don’t they?

It might be just a respect thing—if I go to a tech convention and people ask which office I’m from, I get a little more respect than the guy next to me whose office is in, say, Joliet. People also typically assume that I work for the government (I can neither confirm or deny that one). My coworkers and I always end up with a few hangers-on when we go to conventions, even if we aren’t hiring or presenting anything. And maybe it’s my ego talking but I think that’s pretty cool. If it gets you to listen to me, or opens up a possible new job opportunity because you think I’m some kind of bigshot, then I’m going to take that and work it to my advantage as best as possible. Seriously, us computer guys are a dime a dozen. Sure there’s less of us who are qualified, but you might not know that I’m good at what I do (I am, by the way. Totally worth every penny of my salary, plus more) right away but good doesn’t matter if it doesn’t get my foot in the door, does it? What I can do only matters once I’m already in the room.

You all probably imagine that I make double or triple what that networking guy in…let’s see… Nampa, Idaho makes.And yes, our job responsibilities next to each other and you’ll get a pretty even match but the salaries are going to be very different. What people probably don’t realize is that once you take thecost of living into consideration, the guy out in Idaho is probably able to put more money in the bank than I am, which actually makes him the smart one. And he probably gets more chicks that way, too. When I told my parents what my starting salary was, they nearly fell over. Then I told them how much I pay a month in rent and they thought I accidentally added a zero. Hilarious if you are anybody but someone living in the D.C. metro area, I guess.

But there are professional sports teams within driving distance, and that’s a big plus for someone like me. There are famous restaurants all over the place if you’re into that stuff. If you’re not into politics, you probably aren’t impressed by the fact that you can run into your congressman on line at the grocery store. I haven’t gotten tired of it yet, though. Maybe when it gets old, it will be time to move.  I like taking time on the weekend to walk around the different monuments and memorials. I like to read the historical plaques and absorb the history of this place. It’s like being inside a government and politics textbook, except you actually get to see and experience everything.

The traffic makes me insane and I’ve already mentioned the cost of living, but I’ve been here two years now and that’s just about everything I can think of to complain about. That’s not so bad, right?

Why I Don’t Like Talking About Work

Ahh, work. That place I spend 10 hours a week commuting to and 40 hours a week sitting around at. The job I trained for 4 years and took on debt to get. I like the company enough, it is a pretty decent place to work. The job isn’t bad either, if a little monotonous. I just hate talking about it. First of all, after being surrounded by computers and annoyed people all day, that’s the last think I want to think about after I walk out the doors to the building. Second, when you tell people you work in networking in D.C., they get confused. I don’t know why the location throws them off. I can’t tell you how many times people think I’m some kind of lobbyist or professional political partygoer or something. I know lobbyists can make a ton of cash but is a political partygoer a lucrative career? Is that even a real thing? I can think of some other professions that sounds suspiciously close to, which makes me wonder– why do people think that’s what I’m talking about, with my ill-fitting jeans and steel-toe boots (because monitors and desktop towers may have gotten lighter but they still hurt when you drop one on your foot)?  I certainly don’t think I look like some sort of…political-savvy paid mingler. Besides, if I meant that, wouldn’t I have said that I was a lobbyist or whatever it is you think I’m doing?

They always seem disappointed when I correct them and tell them that it’s computer networking.

Then the second part that I dread starts. The “Oh, so you’re good with computers? That’s great. Because my computer is…” and then they try to lay out what’s going on with their computer. As if I can diagnose and treat every computer known to man with any problem in existence, all off the top of my head. I imagine that people in the healthcare field and mechanics get this a lot, too. I bet people at parties have no problem making pretend car noises or lifting up their sleeve to show you some gross mole.

This is why I hate meeting new people.

But at the same time, I don’t really want to hang out with my coworkers. Partially because I spend the majority of my day with them but also because then they take it as an opportunity to talk about work. Some computer they had to fix. Some idiot coworker’s mistake. That pretty girl over in accounting and whether I think she’s seeing anybody (she is, and I know this not because I hit on her and got shot down but because I ran into her and her girlfriend in the cafeteria once). I would much rather hang out with the guys I play paintball with, or the fellow gamers I meet online, or any of the friends I’ve had since high school.

Am I the only one who feels this way? Or does everyone else get home from work and just start talking about the place they just left over dinner? It’s just me, isn’t it?

*Bangs Head on Wall*

I was running late one morning and forgot to grab my winter jacket. I should have taken the time because it was a bit nippy outside. That wasn’t the worst of it. When I got to the office, I found out that the heat had gone out. They had ordered a repair service but who knew how long that would take. We were on standby, sitting there freezing to death, waiting for relief. Service people take their time and seldom come at the drop of a hat. We didn’t want to work in a cold environment, but we really didn’t have much choice. It was end of the month time which means compilation reports were due. We couldn’t afford to miss our deadline. We had to suffer and keep going. It was our duty and responsibility as employees. After all, it wasn’t the bosses fault that the heat was on the fritz. We knew he was doing everything he could to expedite the repair. Hours went by in the morning but nothing was happening. Instead of sending everyone home, the boss was smart. He set up a large room space heater that would help everyone. It was a big object to be sure and covered a lot of ground. I don’t know how he got it there so fast and who carried it in. It was rather large. But there it was saving us from a cold death.

It is frustrating to sit and wait for anything. I am not a patient person. The heater was a good stop-gap measure in any case although I still wanted the central heat to be turned back on. I decided to stop thinking about it and complaining to other people and just get back to work. It seemed that it was warm enough, although not toasty, to get in the right mood to finish our reports. The upper management was not going to be happy if we failed to come through. Time went by and we plugged away at the numbers and even skipped lunch. So the boss had that brought in as well. He was on the ball today looking after us. We took a short break and resumed business.

At the end of the day, most of the reports were complete and we needed just an hour of overtime to do the job. The portable heater was still pumping warm air into the room. Finally, we called it quits and turned in the work. The boss immediately transported the reports to management. They were truly surprised to see them as promised. They knew about the heat. They were experiencing the cold in the building just like us. Also like us they had rented a room heater of a slightly smaller size. No one died of the cold that day. Management praised us the next day, giving special accolades to our boss. They appreciated the special effort to come through with the month end reports. It all ended well in spite of the broken heater, which by the way was now working.

Beltway, I Hate You

I love living in DC. It’s the most powerful city in the country. It’s like New York or L.A., but instead of being filled with annoying hipsters or wanna-be actors, you’ve got agents, spies, and political figures. The Metro, when it’s working, is great for getting around. Granted, it is showing its age and very possibly falling apart around us as we hurtle through its decaying tubes, but at least I don’t have to drive on 495.

Can I tell you how much I hate the DC Beltway?

No, really, can I?

I am an impatient guy by nature, so sitting there in traffic makes me want to get out of my car and run screaming the other way down the highway. People are like, “oh but you get to see that pretty Mormon cathedral and the Washington Monument and…” Yeah. I. Don’t. Care. If I wanted to see those things, I’d go to them. And as cool as the Washington Monument is, it isn’t really much to really look at, is it? It looks like a giant pencil stuck in the ground with two little eyes in the point. It doesn’t do tricks like the Empire State Building, and you don’t wonder how they built it like the St. Louis Arch or anything. It’s just…there. Of all the monuments in D.C., appearance-wise, it’s not that impressive. Sorry, George.

Wikipedia calls the 270/495 merge “highly complex” but we’ll just call it a stupid nightmare. That’s way more accurate. And then there’s the section between Georgia Avenue and Route 355 that has an average of 260 crashes a year. That’s one accident per weekday, give or take. Most places would have done something about that by now, but not us. Oh no. There are a lot of merges in the DC area that are merges of death but that one pretty much takes the cake. If your car dies or gets a flat, you best be getting out and going up past the shoulder and up onto some terrain, because you will get rear ended and possibly die otherwise. And if there’s an accident over there, and you probably will as there is one almost daily, you’re never getting where you need to be.

I tried to date a girl who lived in Maryland once. You want a good laugh, go look on googlemaps at the aerial view of exit 19B on the beltway going toward 50 W. It looks like a little kid drew out the roads with his or her eyes closed. I can’t even explain it. As shallow as this makes me sound, that relationship did not last, because I just couldn’t do the commute. Neither could she, to be honest. It was just…a nightmare.

I like to drive, or at least I did til I moved here. I was used to driving in some traffic, sure, but nothing like this. D.C. traffic is something you really have to see to believe, especially on the beltway. I’d much rather risk a crushing death in a Metro tunnel. The odds are much more in my favor to take the train. It’s just too bad it doesn’t run all the time.

“My Internet’s Not Working”

If I got paid by the complaint and not the hour, I’d be a millionaire. I lost count my first week here with all the “my internet’s not working” calls. I’d say only about 1/3 of them come from actual network outages; mostly because we let everyone know when it happens so they DON’T call us. Because what I want while I’m trying to fix everything is answer a million phone calls from angry people who can’t get into the systems. Most of the time, people take it personally when the internet or intranet is down, and they are not happy. If I’ve got an angry person yelling at me every 5 minutes, I’m clearly not going to have time to get my job done and actually fix the problem…

Most of the time, it’s for something dumb like they accidentally turned off their wireless capabilities (I’m looking at you, telecommuters). You have to tell them where to look for the little network icon and they get all indignant. Then you get them to turn it back on and it miraculously solves the problem. At that point, though, they’re usually so relieved that they haven’t accidentally broken the computer and they now have everything back up that they will either apologize or thank you. I don’t mind those calls because they only take a few minutes to work through.

Then there’s my favorite, the network cable being unplugged. You would think people would check that before they call me but you’d be wrong. Sometimes it isn’t the employee’s fault—they’ve moved desks or something and tech is supposed to reconnect everything and they just…don’t for some reason or other. Maybe the cleaning people accidentally knocked something loose. But a lot of the time people get fidgety and kick it out, drop something and go digging blindly around under their desks, or decide to rearrange their desk and the stupid little plastic thing on their Ethernet cable pops out or breaks off. I’ll usually hold up the cord and say, “See this?” before explaining what it is and why it needs to be attached. I would imagine these people have computers at home so I am not sure how they get anything solved there. Those people usually just mutter an embarrassed apology and I can go back to the tech dungeon where my office is located.

Every once in awhile, we have to shut everything down because people have done something awesome like clicked on a phishing link or something equally as stupid and infect their computer. We have a shutdown procedure while we get the infected computer disconnected and that’s always fun. People call to find out why their internet isn’t working and we’re all, “Yeah, tell your idiot coworker that there’s no Nigerian prince looking for money…” Usually they can’t believe it happened again—we can’t, either—but that’s out of our hands. Then we usually all have a good laugh at their coworker’s expense and get on with our days.

Sometimes, though, we get complaints that the internet is down but it’s really the firewall. “I can’t get online.” Yeah? Try this site. “Oh that works.” OK, so where were you trying to go? “Facebook.” Uh. That’s a violation of employee conduct. “But it’s for work! I network there!” Yeah, I don’t care. No facebook for you! Check it on your phone like a normal person, would you? Oh that’s right—you can’t because we don’t allow cell signals in the building (insert evil villain laugh here). So go outside on your lunchbreak and check it on your phone then! Get some sunshine and leave me alone!

Take me, for example. I’m writing this on my tablet while I eat my lunch out here in the sunshine.