Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Interstate 60

It's not where, it's what.

I just saw the movie Interstate 60 on the recommendation of Netflix (thanks!). I highly recommend this movie. Be prepared for a healthy dose of weird, though. This movie probably isn't really like anything you've ever seen before, and when you're finished watching it you'll start to wonder if somehow your seeing the movie is some kind of sign you shouldn't ignore. It definitely was for me. Be prepared for a slow beginning. You will be rewarded. If you're a fan of The Twilight Zone, then you'll really dig this flick. Keep your ears peeled for a very subtle reference to The Twilight Zone, by the way. I originally thought it was accidental, but it was most certainly on purpose.

The last several days have been like the beginning of my own trip down Interstate 60. For starters, the movie Interstate 60 was not next in the queue for me - the DVD that was next wasn't available close-by, so Netflix sent the second in my queue along with the next one. So it was kind of accidental (coincidental?) that I should have gotten the movie now. The fact that it was inspirational and apropos was kind of eerie, in a Twilight Zoneish kind of way.

I was originally going to write today about perfection, and how I think that the world is driving me crazy (no pun on Interstate 60 intended). On Tuesday the place where I work started using an access gate system on most entrances to enter the campus parking. We have been trying to get the whole thing nixed for a while because the implementation is unsafe. Really, just take my word for it, it is. Well, one of the alleged features of this system is that I can link my Texas state toll tag (TxTag) to the gate system, so I wouldn't need another transponder thingy to stick on my windshield. Great. So Tuesday morning comes along, and they had to manually let me in because none of the TxTags were recognized. Great. I mention (in the most sarcastic way I could) to the person scanning us in, "I can see that this system is really working great." This didn't leave a good impression on the lady or the other guy working there. Later, as I was leaving for lunch, the left exit gate they installed (which had been working, as well as it did) didn't open. This gate "normally" won't raise until you are nearly touching it with your bumper. So I'm there for a couple of seconds, and the guy from the morning comes out and signals me to go around it. I give a look of disgust and go around it. The guy flipped out. I mean, he really flipped out. I could see him in the rear view mirror jumping up and down making all sorts of gestures like I had just insulted his grandmother or something. Then I saw him taking-down my license plate number. All this while I'm waiting for the traffic light right after the gate to change. I am now afraid to enter or exit through that specific gate.

Anyway, what really had me pissed was that these morons never tested the system before they unleashed it upon everyone. I can understand a mistake here and there, but to have major functions of the system just not work is unacceptable.

Or is it?

Monday I went to consult with a medical professional, who moved to a new office a few days ago. During my appointment, she mentioned to me that her phone wasn't working and that she had a well-known contracting firm come out to work on it, and they didn't get it working. When she and I were finished, I said, "Let me take a quick look at this." (yes, she is aware of my credentials) Well, first off, the contractor never plugged the phone back in, which was the first problem. The second problem was that the FAX line and the voice line was reversed in her office and at the FAX machine. The third problem was that in the communications closet was some of the worst wiring I had ever seen in my life. The office was clearly pre-wired by someone who knew what they were doing, and the bozo who came to connect that into the live phone line lacked the proper tools and experience to do anything more than cut wires and twist them together (instead of punch them down to the terminal block, as they should be). I didn't have time to actually do a repair since said medical professional had another patient waiting, but I did impress upon her to not spend another $200 to the contractor to come back and do any more work (get someone who knew what they were doing).

Today at work I found a pair of fiber optic cable with the connectors terminated in the wrong order (two color codes were reversed) done a while back by one of the guys who works for me. It was not just a mistake, but a dumb mistake, that could have caused a lot more problems had he not taken the time to consistently reverse the color sequence on the other end of the connection rather than fixing the actual problem.

Just before finding that gem, I noticed that the fiber optic panel that the same person put up on one of the ceiling tiles (temporarily) during a remodel wasn't just tangled in electrical wiring in the plenum, but there was no strain relief on the fiber to the panel. So, if anyone moves it the wrong way, the fiber will break since the panel is basically just hanging from the fiber (instead of the protective outside sheath). Did I mention that this panel is carrying our link to the Internet? There are people working up in the ceiling near this hack-job, and I wonder how long it will be before we end up with no Internet service (a major problem for us). I was checking this out because during a planned downtime in a couple of weeks, I was planning to properly mount the panel on the wall again...but now...well, I'm afraid to touch it.

Installed a new Linux kernel on my main computer system. Driver from Ethernet chip manufacturer doesn't compile, so I grab the new one from their web site that does. However, it doesn't work. I spent several hours trying to figure what I did wrong and/or fix the problem with the driver. The one that came with the new Linux kernel didn't appear to work either until I rebooted the system and tried it first. Turns out that the manufacturer's driver not only doesn't work, but sufficiently messes-up the configuration of the chip so that the working driver couldn't initialize the chip until the system was restarted. Yes, you read that right: The open source driver worked, the driver from the company that made the Ethernet chip didn't.

These are just a few examples of the absolutely ridiculous workmanship (or lack of it) that I have encountered over the past several days...and I have stories going back even longer. All of these things have either caused me stress, wasted my time, and caused me to doubt that anyone cares about anything anymore.

Since I do network architecture and support, in addition to system administration and implementation and support of the phone system, where I work, I know a thing or two about complex systems and keeping them working. Yeah, I've goofed at times. However, it's my job to make sure everything just works. People just use the network and don't need to stress over whether their packets will make it from one place to the other. Most of the time, things just work. Again, that's my job. I couldn't imagine doing a half-assed job on just about anything, work or personal, because I do care about people and the things I do. I do admit when I'm doing something I have no or little experience with (like management) where I am bound to make some mistakes. Am I a freak of nature or something?

I'm just so tired of being the only one that sees the "big picture," making others aware that somethin' ain't right (it just seems obvious to me), having them refute what I'm saying or simply ignore me, then go ahead and just screw it up. Then either insist that it isn't screwed-up ("it's supposed to work that way") or deny any involvement with the screw-up ("I/we didn't have anything to do with that"). I'm tired of it, I'm frustrated with it, and I can't really take much more of it. If it were only work I'd take it as a sign to find employment elsewhere. It isn't though. The problem permeates every aspect of life. It's okay to make a mistake, but to learn nothing from it and keep doing the same thing just isn't right.


They say I'm just a perfectionist. They say I care too much. They say that this is just the way things are, and I should accept it. None of these statements/sentiments make living in this world any more palatable. I'm not expecting perfection. I'm expecting people to make the best possible effort, then own-up to and fix things when it doesn't go right. That is apparently an unrealistic expectation.

So as I go through life, people wonder why I see the glass half-empty. It's because the only way for me to make sense of things is to expect the worst and be pleasantly surprised when it all goes well. I've been slipping lately and having some optimism, at some of my friends' urging. Gee, that sure was a mistake.

I don't know anymore. I'm wondering if my next car ride will be a trip down Interstate 60...

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