Friday, September 30, 2005

Where I Was a Week Ago...

I managed to lose a week's worth of productivity. Last week I blew up my Exchange 2003 server. Fortunately for me, I was very early in the implementation, so I didn't have everyone breathing down my neck wondering when it would be fixed. The only actual email accounts impacted were mine and one of my co-workers.

After spending days on the phone with Microsoft, I eventually had to manually roll back the install and start from scratch. Fortunately I had a good backup of the data, so in the end neither of us lost any email... just a lot of time -- time explaining to my co-workers why my email address had changed, and the roughly 60 hours I needed to manually roll back the install and start from scratch. The whole experience was horribly frustrating and I'm glad that it's finally over. On the good side, the reinstall managed to fix some of the issues I'd been having elsewhere in the Exchange implementation project.

Within a couple of weeks, I should be ready to move the rest of my department to the new server, and shortly after that, the dominoes should start falling rapidly. By the end of the year I hope to be completely off of my NT4 domain and Exchange 5.5, and on to my Windows 2003 domain and Exchange 2003. Wish me luck.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Fighting the Good Fight

No, this isn't a story about Iraq, Katrina, or anything like that. Much more trivial...

Since Thursday, I've been having HUGE problems with my project of migrating from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2003. How the problem arose was mainly my fault, but I've got to say that I'm horribly disappointed with the quality of Microsoft's tech support. Over the course of four days (including a FULL Saturday of work), I got absolutely NOWHERE! I would have had just as much success conferencing with monkeys in a zoo. (I say zoo, because they're generally less combative than monkeys in the wild.) Today, I finally gave up and decided to roll my exchange 2003 migration back to ground zero and start from scratch. That bothers me. By the time I get done, it will have taken me a week go get back to where I should be... that bothers me too. But what really bugs me is the abysmal support I got from Microsoft. They've always been so good in the past. Wish me luck.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

I Had a Dream

Last night I had a dream. The dream was like one of those "what-if" episodes you see on TV. In my dream, I had chosen to stay in the Marine Corps, and was about two years away from retirement. I still had my kids, was still married to my ex-wife, still lived in California, and I had never met my current wife.

The dream seemed real enough, but it wasn't realistic. I still had too many of my current thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and experiences. If I had stayed in the Corps, I believe that my life would be radically different than the dream portrayed. For example, I wouldn't be driving around in the car with the ex, because we never would have bought the car we were driving. Furthermore, I'd probably be in Iraq dodging bullets, not in Southern California enjoying a drive with the kids (not to mention the fact that even if I was still stateside, I wouldn't be living in California, because the military would definitely have transferred me by now). And there's no reason to believe that the ex and I wouldn't have divorced anyway. But at the time it seemed real.

The dream itself wasn't really that odd. It didn't stick out because it was surreal in and of itself. It was an ordinary day under that what-if scenario. The part that stuck out was what happened when I woke up. The dream I had was so realistic that as I returned to consciousness, I was completely disoriented. In the dream, I was in a car, with my ex (who was still my wife), during the daytime. But when I woke up, it was the middle of the night, I was in my bed, laying next to someone totally different (and IMHO, much better). As I continued my journey from dreamland back to reality, I was so perplexed that I had to shake my head, as if I were physically jarring my brain back into the here and now. THAT'S why I remember this dream.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

They Grow Up So Fast

My younger daughter recently got a gerbil. Last night, when I was tucking her in, kissing her goodnight, and hugging her, she looked over at the gerbil cage and smiled. It kind of reminded me of when I'd look in on her at night, just after she'd fall asleep, and I quietly chuckled at the irony.

"Daddy, what are you laughing about" she inquired?

"I was watching you watch your gerbil," I replied, "and it kind of reminds me of when I walk by your room and peek my head in the door, just to watch you sleep."

"So I'm kind of like her mom, right?"


With a twinkle in her eye, and a wry grin on her face, she looked at me and said "They grow up so fast."

If you only knew kid... if you only knew.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

My Baby Turns 9 Today

Happy Birthday young 'un. I can't believe how fast you're growing up, and what an awesome kid you are.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

President Bush's Pledge to Rebuild New Orleans

Nickie Goomba may not agree with what I'm going to say here, but then again he may surprise me.

Like everyone, I've been following the still-unfolding story about New Orleans following hurricaine Katrina. I haven't posted anything yet because everything I would say has already been said somehwhere else. I think it's time to speak now.

The first thing I've got to say is that all levels of government could have done a better job. They could have done a better job of preparing, they could have done a better job of coordinating, and they could have done a better job of evacuating people. What's done is done though, and I'm not going to dwell on the past. What I am going to do is talk about how President Bush reacted, and what he's doing to rebuild New Orleans.

Some people question the logic of rebuilding New Orleans. While I see their point, I disagree with their conclusion. There's a lot of history in New Orleans, and scrapping the entire city because of of the mere possibility that this could happen again would mean turning our backs on the history and culture that New Orleans has brought to our fine country. With the tools, knowledge, manpower, and technology available to us, I believe that we can rebuild New Orleans, and install enough safeguards to adequately mitigate the risks involved with rebuilding.

That said though, I'm not at all pleased with how President Bush has handled the situation. For years, the President has said that he doesn't focus on polls, that he does what he thinks is right, and that a leader doesn't follow polls -- he leads. I agree that's what a president should do, but that's not what happened this time. For days, he sat on the sidelines, and didn't take responsibility until days after the press made it painfully obvious that taking responsibility is exactly what the public wanted him to do. (Of course as soon as he did that, the state and local politicians quickly followed suit, because it became the popular thing to do.) I will give him credit for admitting to the mistake, but he could and should have done so sooner.

Next, he began throwing money at the problem. I realize that we're going to have to shell out big bucks for the rebuilding, but the way that Bush is going about it is horribly irresponsible. He's absolutely refusing to raise taxes, and has skirted the issue of spending cuts. Why? Well, the answer is simple. He's only got three years left in his presidency. He's just going to hand the problem off to his successor. The American public has told President Bush that rebuilding New Orleans is his problem, so he will make sure that we know he's taking steps to do as we wish. Paying for it, on the other hand, is something he's not going to touch.

Mr. Bush, please listen to me on this one. I believe that we should rebuild New Orleans. But we've got to be responsible about it. Indiscriminately throwing money at the problem, without finding a way to pay for it, is not a solution. You're merely substituting one problem for another and postponing the pain.

CompuCom, You Just Don't Get It

Sometimes I get a little obsessive-compulsive about work. Not in a big way, but it happens. This morning I took a couple of minutes and logged in remotely to work, so I could check in on my backup project. (It's working as expected, in case you're interested.) While I was there, I thought "What the hell, I'll check my email too." Waiting in my inbox was an email from Clueless CompuCom Girl's boss.

The following is an artistic interpretation of the email, and my reaction to it:

Hi, I'm Clueless CompuCom Girl's boss. She forwarded your email to me. Dude, let me suck up to you for a second, and say there's no excuse for what she did.

Damn right. How hard is it to make a phone call.

To suck up a little bit more, I thought I'd tell you that we've been trying to get a full-time idiot for your company, cuz you're such a big important client.

That's completely irrelevent to this issue.

Just in case my feeble attempts at kissing your ass haven't worked yet, I'm going to up the stakes. How about if I have a Symantec guy come in to your office and personally try to sell you every single product that Symantec makes? Oh by the way, did I mention that the Symantec sales guy will probably refer you to CompuCom for the actual purchases? Think about it... I'm presenting you with a golden opportunity to spend even more money with a No-Value-Added Reseller that just pissed you off.

Okay, there's a little piece of this last bit of sucking up that's almost starting to get back on the right track, but for the most part you're still waaaaayyy off base. Offering to have a Symantec sales rep come in and personally discuss how Symantec could help make my life easier might be cool, but there are a couple of problems with that... You didn't say anything about taking me out for a big, expensive three martini lunch, and you didn't promise me a t-shirt. Besides, I've already arranged that with the Symantec sales rep directly. As far as the rest goes, too little too late.

If you give us the quote from that competitor you're gonna buy from, I'll bet we can be competetive with that price.

Mr. Clueless CompuCom Girl's Boss, you just blew it and proved you're as stupid as she is. Dude, I sent that email because I was pissed with your complete and utter lack of service, not because of your prices. In fact, you already had the lowest price. Get this through your head... It's not about the money! Besides, you didn't say anything about lowering your price further... you just promised to be "competetive." So not only did Clueless CompuCom Girl not do anything to get me technical assistance, you are now offering to blow smoke up my ass -- but not really lower your prices any further -- in order to win my business back. Thanks, but no thanks.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Cheers for Symantec, Jeers for CompuCom

Here's a follow-up to yesterday's post.

I called the sales department at Symantec about my problem installing Symantec Backup. I told the rep that we've been using their backup product for ages, and explained my connundrum... that I had planned on buying the new version of Symantec backup, but couldn't get the product to install in order to do a thorough evaluation... that I couldn't find the answer on their internet site... that I couldn't talk to a live support rep until I had bought the product, and that I wouldn't buy the product until I had successfully evaluated the program. He offered to get me a courtesy support call, and also recommended that I call my Value-Added Reseller for support. I told the sales rep that I'd call the VAR for support first, and would contact him for the courtesy support call if the VAR couldn't help.

My VAR was CompuCom. I fired off an email to them, explaining my predicament, and asked if they could help -- already knowing that I could get assistance. In effect, this as much a test of CompuCom's commitment to me as a customer as it was a quest for support. A couple of hours later, I got an email back from CompuCom saying -- and I quote -- "I feel your pain. Symantec won't help you unless you've already bought their product." Based on the response, I don't think the CompuCom rep even tried to help me out.

So I called the Symantec rep back and told him my story. He called his bosses and had a courtesy support call arranged for me within a half hour. Within another half hour, I received a call-back from a live support rep at Symantec -- despite the fact that I told them up front that my issue wasn't a high-priority issue. A half hour after that, the problem was fixed. This support rep knew his job!

I fired an email off to my CompuCom rep, and told her that I got the support I needed. Without coming out and saying that she was lazy and incompetent, I told her that I don't think she went to any lengths to get me the help I needed, and informed her that I'd be purchasing my licenses through another reseller. And I sent this email off as I was walking out the door for the weekend. I hope it made her weekend. (Evil Grin.)

As we speak, I am now testing the backups on my new network, and so far everything is working far better than my old solution on my old network. Unless something goes drastically wrong, I am fully confident that I'll be buying several backup licenses from Symantec. So far, I'd say that the newest version of Symantec's Backup software is everything the marketing blurbs say it is, and I'd recommend it to anyone who's in the market for a backup solution.

There are several morals to this story...

-A little persistance on the part of the customer pays off.

-Being good to potential customers pays.

-Taking customers for granted is a sure-fire way to drive them away.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Not Quite Slacking, But Good Nonetheless

Yesterday was a crappy day at work. It was one of those days where I spent hours and hours working my ass off, but making absolutely no progress. I was trying to implement a new backup solution on a new network I'm building, and attempting to get an Exchange server on that new domain, so folks could send and receive email once they were moved to the new network. I spent a couple of hours trying to make Exchange work, but my efforts were totally fruitless. So I figured I'd work on the easier of the two tasks -- and spent the next six-plus hours trying to get the backup software to install.

My company has been using Veritas (now Symantec) as our backup solution since God was a child. Yet when it comes time to upgrade, they won't give me any live support until I buy their product. I can cruise through their online help, and I can use the online forums, but in this case, it was a complete waste of time. I tried everything they mentioned on their site, but it was all useless. In fact, about four of the six-plus hours were devoted to sifting through the shit to find the nuggets of useful information. But in the end, it was all crap. So let's see here... they won't provide me any support until I buy the product. But I'm not going to buy the product until I know it works. Here's a little hint for you software vendors out there. Give us tech-type folks a little support when we're evaluating your product. Quit being so unwilling to give us real support until we buy your product. Newsflash, dumb-asses! We're not going to buy your product until we're convinced that your product -- and your tech support -- is worth the purchase. Do you see how you're hamstringing yourself here? If I like the product you're producing, I'll buy it. It's not goot business to piss off the potential customer when they're evaluating your product -- especially when there are plenty of competing products that will work equally well.

Fast forward to today. I spent the first few hours once again beating my head against the wall, trying to get my "easy" project finished. Eventually, the headbanging worked. I gave up, and started back to working on my Exchange problem. At the end of the day -- success! I got my Exchange problem fixed; and in all honesty, beating my head against the wall is a contributing factor as to why I feel so much personal gratification over making the Exchange server work.

Now, tomorrow, I'm going to try to do an end-around and call Veritas' (oops, Symantec's) sales rep and see if he can get me the tech support. If not, I guess I'll just take my business elsewhere.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Fresh Fish

My wife brought home some fresh fish the other night. If you've got any imagination at all, you can see exactly why I posted the pic.

I also posted the pic on flickr, adding a comment asking if I'm the only one who thinks this is so phallic that it's almost pornographic. A flickr member rightly said, "No it's not phallic, I see orifices." My question to you, wise and educated readers, is "What's the correct term for the female version of phallic?" The first person to come up with the correct answer will get to rename this picture and blog entry. One restriction: Nothing too obscene.

Monday, September 12, 2005

That's What Friends are For

Sonny and I have known each other for a little over 20 years. Last week his computer got fried by a lightning strike, and he asked me if I could take a look at it. He lives about three hours away from me, but I told him if he came down, I'd see what I could do. So we decided that he'd pack up his computer, bring it down, and we'd make a weekend out of it. On Thursday, he said he was having car trouble too, but he'd try to get his dad's car and come down on Saturday. He ended up showing up on Friday -- in his car. When he got here, he showed me what was wrong with his car... one of his brake pads had fallen off. When I saw what was wrong, I gave him shit for driving down here in his car -- especially considering that he was driving with bad brakes. I told him that fixing his car was more important than his computer, and we decided that we'd do the brakes instead.

On Saturday, we went to the parts store and got him his brake pads. When it was time to pay for the brake pads, Sonny's credit card was rejected, so I whipped out my card and paid for the pads. After getting the pads, we drove over to G-man's house and started working on Sonny's brakes, quickly finding out that the problem was worse than we had anticipated. Not only were the brake pads shot, the brake caliper was gone too. Considering that Sonny's credit card was rejected, he was naturally distressed about how we'd pay for the caliper. G-man and I told Sonny that we'd take care of the caliper too, and that he could pay us back whenever.

As you can imagine, this didn't sit too well with Sonny. He had neither the money nor the expertise needed to fix the problem with his car, and that stressed him out a bit. "Not to worry," we said. So we jumped into my truck, and after a few stops, we had the caliper we needed, and were back to working on the car in short order. Before long, the brakes were fixed.

Like most Americans, Sonny is pretty independant by nature, and he didn't like the idea of taking charity. But that's what friends are for. What goes around comes around. What Sonny seemed to forget is that since he's my friend, I'm emotionally invested in his well-being. It doesn't matter that I spent a few dollars and a few hours helping him out. What matters is that Sonny needed assistance, and since he's my friend, I'm going to do my best to give him whatever he needs. I know that one day I'll need help, and he'll be there for me. By the way, we never did get his computer fixed.

Thursday, September 8, 2005

Jeff Foxworthy and Diaper Changing

Jeff Foxworthy has said that men appreciate bad smells. If that's the case, then why are some men so reluctant to change diapers? After all, anyone who's changed a diaper will quickly agree that there's not much that smells worse than baby crap. To paraphrase Foxworthy, a guy will stick his head into his smelly gym bag and take a deep whiff, knowing that the smell will probably knock him on his ass. And once he confirms it, he'll not only smell it again, he'll call his buddies in for a whiff too.

Yet these same guys won't change a diaper. Guys take great delight in farting in the car and then cranking up the windows, so their buddies have to smell it, but they won't change a diaper. Since they have such obvious fun with farts, it CAN'T be a lack of tolerence for the smell, so why don't these guys change diapers? If guys appreciate bad smells, why does the baby's diaper remain unchanged unless mom's around?

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Bob Denver has Passed Away

R.I.P. Little Buddy

Weekend Adventure

The Labor Day trip was a grand adventure. We went camping, canoing and hit the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. I’ve done all of these things before, so when the weekend was planned, I didn’t figure it would turn out quite the way it did. But I guess that’s why it was such an adventure.

We started packing around 5:30, and got on the road around 7:00. When we left town, we had about a half tank of gas. My parents live about halfway between here and the Twin Cities, and experience has shown me that gas is usually about a dime per gallon cheaper there than it is here, so I figured we’d drop in on my parents for a few minutes, let the kids use the bathroom, get a drink, gas up and split. I knew we’d cut it close on gas, but I didn’t know how close it would be. The “low gas” idiot light came on when we still had about 30 miles to go to my parents’ house. I asked the wife how far she could go once the light came on, and she said she didn’t know. We found out that her car would make it about 30 miles, but I was biting my fingernails by the time we got there. When we filled up, we found out that we had about two-tenths of a gallon left in her tank… enough for another five miles or so.

After we gassed up, we dropped in on my mom for a quick in-n-out visit. When it comes to my mom, in-n-out means at least a half hour, because she likes to talk, but that’s neither here nor there… it just means that we got to camp a little later than I had expected. In this case, “a little later” was about 12:30 AM. By this time, I was tired from driving. To complicate matters a bit more, I neglected to pack a flashlight, so setting up the tent was a difficult endeavor at best. I decided that we’d forego popping the tent, and we slept under the stars. It was a great night for sleeping outside.

Saturday morning, I took the kids to McDonald’s for breakfast. When we decided to do this trip, I figured it would be quicker, cheaper and easier for all of us if we just ate fast food all weekend. No food to buy, pack, store and prepare at camp, and this way I wouldn’t have to worry about the kids saying “I don’t like this.” When we got back from Mickey D’s, I set up the tent and unloaded the gear. Since it was a nice day, and the weather was supposed to be nice, I didn’t set up the rain fly on the tent. Yet another labor-saving step on my part.

Once the tent was up, it was time to go canoing. We got everything ironed out logistically, and were on the water in short order… with a stop at Subway along the way, so we’d all have a good lunch on the river. We started drifting downriver, ate our lunch, and the weather took a sudden turn for the worse. Within a half hour of drifting downriver, we were faced with a cranky Mother Nature. The storm clouds gathered, the thunder rolled in the distance, and the lightning flashed on the horizon. We decided to get off the water for a bit.

Around the next bend, we found a good place to get off the river. There was a nice, sandy bank, which had a big fallen tree not too far from shore. We hauled the canoes to the tree, flipped them over, propped them against the tree lean-to style, and sat under our improvised shelter until the rain – and hail – passed. When the rain stopped, we decided that it would be quicker to paddle back upstream. After an hour or so, we returned to the put-in point, a little tired, but none the worse for wear. So we packed our canoes back up and returned to camp.

At this point, I should remind you that I had left the rain fly off of my tent. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the tent wasn’t too wet inside. The sleeping bags that wifey-poo and I had zipped together were a little wet, and there was a small puddle of water in the tent, but everything else (most importantly, the kids’ stuff) remained dry. We put our sleeping bags in the car and cranked the heater for a half hour or so until they were dry.

Before I continue, I need to digress for a bit. It wasn’t just my family that went camping. It was also G-man and his wife, and Boogie and his daughter. Boogie and kid didn’t go canoing with us… they went shopping instead.

Anyway, we got back to camp, and the women-folk decided that they wanted to hit the Mall of America. G-man and I wanted no part of that, so we chose to stay back at camp. We all agreed that the women would eat at the mall and that G-man and I would eat at camp, and the women left.

When the women left, I went to the grocery store to pick up a couple of steaks for dinner. Just as I pulled into the grocery store parking lot, the second downpour hit – complete with another round of hail. I went in to the store, started shopping, and the store lost power. After 30 seconds or so, power was restored; I finished my shopping and returned to camp. When I got back to camp, I figured it was time to start a fire. When I checked the fire pit though, I found an inch of water in the bottom of the pit. So I bailed the water out of the fire pit with a tin can and started a fire.

G-man and I cooked our dinner, ate and chatted for a while and decided it was time to hit the hay. I had just fallen asleep when the cell phone rang. It was the women. They said it was raining again, and raining hard. Mother Nature was dumping water by the bucket on them, and the rain was so bad that they couldn’t see the road. During the drive back, they hydroplaned pretty severely, and they pulled over to wait out the rain.

After another half hour, they called back, saying that the rain was still too heavy to drive, and that they had gotten a hotel. They wanted us to drive to the hotel. The problem was, G-man and I were a little intoxicated, and it was raining so hard that the women-folk couldn’t see the road. Being men, we decided to ride the storm out at camp. It poured all night long, but we stayed dry.

Next morning, my wife drove out to our campsite; we packed up, and went to the hotel room to shower. The weather was fine at camp, but it was still raining cats and dogs at the hotel… and at the RenFest. We waited until the weather cleared and hit the Renaissance Festival. The kids hadn’t been to a RenFest before, so they were the proverbial kids in a candy store. We shopped, shopped, and shopped some more. I also had the opportunity to meet one of my blogger friends. Though our schedules didn’t give us an opportunity to talk much, it was great to meet him in person, and I hope to hook up with him again in the future.

By definition, an adventure is an unusual or exciting experience. I knew from the outset that this weekend would be an adventure. But the unexpected twists and turns of this weekend made for an experience that will stand out for the rest of my life. It wasn’t even close to what I expected, but it was a lot of fun.