Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Ready To Get On With It

So, yeah, I guess that's it. I'm all packed up -- my entire life fit into thirty 12x12x18 boxes -- and the trailer's loaded. I went and saw my other remaining Memphis friend tonight. I've got all my maps and directions and stuff ready to go. There isn't really much left to do but try to get a little sleep tonight.

So you probably won't see much more here until I get to Portland and into my temporary home -- a little over a week, probably. I've had near-constant butterflies in my stomach for four days; I've had several powerful rounds of deja-vu; every night I've woken up two or three times with my heart pounding and mind racing, and then struggled to get back to sleep in spite of the adrenaline. I feel as though, after all the build-up, I should write something really meaningful tonight. But all I feel is nervous and ready to go, ready to just get on with it, ready to get to whatever it is I've been working toward all this time.

So, goodbye Memphis. Bye Mississippi, can't say I'm all that sorry to leave. Bye Doug and Morgan, I really will miss you, but I expect I'll see you both again. Bye Mom, I love you.

You'll hear from me again soon.
9:55 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Sunday, September 23, 2007
The Fun Never Ends

Jesus fucking christ I'm tired.

I've been up since 6:45 this morning -- not because I had anywhere I had to go that early, but because my eyes just popped open and my mind instantly filled with thoughts of moving, and that was the end of sleep.

I went out mid-morning to see a friend, then ran a couple of quick errands on the way home. Then from about 3 PM to 9 PM, not counting a break for dinner, I packed. When I started, I had eight boxes sealed and ready; when I finished, I had 20, plus another four half-full. I'd estimate that I'm about 90% packed now, with only those things I still need for the next few days left out.

Tomorrow is car day: two new tires in the morning, paperwork and an alignment in the afternoon, and a thorough cleaning in between. Tuesday is mostly my personal day, though I have to get the hitch put on around lunchtime. In the evening I'll probably be uploading the last few bits of video to my hard drive and clearing out of the Co-op. Wednesday morning I get a haircut, then I pick up the trailer, and then I spend the rest of the day doing whatever else needs to be done. Thursday morning, obviously, I leave. The first day I'll be driving to Wichita, KS; the second day to Boulder, CO. Then I'll spend Saturday in Boulder visiting a college friend and staring at things other than the highway. Then Sunday it's Twin Falls, Idaho, and Monday I'll be rolling into Portland. So that's what my week looks like.

But it's not over then, oh no. Apart from all the surreality of my arrival in Portland -- and I have a feeling it's going to be a curious experience all around -- a week after I get to town I'll be greeting my very best friend in the whole world whom I've never actually met as he stops through town as part of an epic tour of Europe and North America. We'll spend a few days together wandering around Portland, and then we're going to San Francisco. Four days later I'll finally get back to Portland and set about getting a job, finding a permanent place to live, and generally sorting out my life.

So that's what my month looks like. It's starting to get weird now -- my brain is beginning to grasp that there's no point in pretending that everything is still normal. My mother's acting funny, the cats are acting funny, and I can barely concentrate. The hardest thing is forcing myself to focus on whatever I'm doing at any given moment -- my mind is continually running down its list of all the things I need to do right now, and I keep having to re-direct its attention to the task at hand. I've sustained the usual assortment of minor moving-related injuries: scratches, bruises, hang nails, achy shoulders and a sore back. I keep reaching for my usual things, and they're not there. I don't even know exactly when I'll be able to pull them out again.

But for tonight, hopefully I'm exhausted enough to fall asleep easily. I've got a lot of crap I have to do tomorrow.

Update, 12:15 AM: Well, shit.
9:33 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Friday, September 21, 2007
There's That Done

I passed my second A+ exam this afternoon -- thank fuck that's over. I'm so sick of looking at my study guides I could chew my own arm off. And I did a little better this time -- by my calculations, my score is roughly equivalent to a respectably-high B. I'd have been happier to have gotten one or two more questions right and nudged it up to an approximation of an A, but it honestly doesn't matter. The important thing is that it's behind me, and I never have to think about Interrupt Requests or DHCP again... I hope.
3:05 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Thursday, September 20, 2007
A Growing Sense Of Dread

So, here I am, my last day of work. I brought cake for the entire department -- homemade, from scratch, one chocolate and one apple cider. I know, I'm such a little suck-up.

I need to be studying, really -- my second A+ exam is tomorrow, and while I feel pretty confident, I also felt reasonably confident last time, and while it turned out okay, I'm not really okay with just "okay." But studying is boring, especially when you've already read the material three or four times. And the blog's been getting the worst of the neglect lately, so this'll do to fill in thirty minutes or so of my last day.

I've been feeling a little unnerved about all the tasering that seems to be going on lately. Not about any case in particular -- the kid at the Kerry speech didn't deserve to be tasered, but I can't claim to have enormous sympathy for him, either. Frankly, he seemed like kind of a douchebag. I feel a lot worse about the autistic kid who got nailed, or the wheelchair-bound schizophrenic who was tasered to death. Who'd have guessed that having a "non-lethal" weapon might be just the excuse the cops needed to get over their reluctance to use pain to control people?

I admit it, I have a bad attitude about the police. I'm the person that every cop swears doesn't exist: I'm a law-abiding citizen with no criminal background of any kind, who strongly dislikes and mistrusts the police. I don't dislike all cops -- I've met one or two who were okay. I try to give cops, like everyone else, the benefit of the doubt (though I admit that my defenses go up when I find out someone's a cop, and they're slow to come back down.) But the vast majority of them have been bullies and abusive fuckheads. The average cop always seems to be one political decree away from jackboots and teargas. What kind of person would even be attracted to that kind of job? Who would ever want to spend their days mired in conflict, wrestling people to the ground? I don't trust them.

But I also realize that the seemingly-intensifying aggressiveness of the police is likely just a symptom of a larger pattern. But it's hard to put my finger on it -- it's more a feeling of growing tension than anything as concrete as an increase in tasering. Things feel ugly and mean; it worries me. I think we all know that things are about to change again -- I hope for the better this time -- but I wonder if there might be one last nasty outburst before we get there.

Anyway, I'm not going to bore you with the further details of my moving preparations. But if you're into that kind of thing, it happens that my new prose hero is also moving, and he writes about it much better than I do.

PS: And if cops love tasers, you know they're going to jizz in their pants over this monstrous piece of shit.
11:30 AM ::
Amy :: permalink

Thursday, September 13, 2007
Embrace Change

Two weeks to go, and all is chaos. My habits and schedules are breaking down. I'm not a particularly habit-driven person -- I'd happily turn my back on all of them if it weren't for the fact that those routines are the only things propelling me through some of the less gratifying (but necessary) parts of my personal life. And I realize that they were already doomed -- the patterns that have sustained me for the last couple of years will no longer be directly relevant in Portland, so they were never going to survive the trip. But I wasn't quite ready to throw them out yet.

Still, this morning was the one I wished for weeks ago, when I woke up with only a couple of weeks left before my departure. I have a short-term place to stay lined up, my car has been declared ready for launch, my trailer has been reserved, I'm 50% of the way to packed already, and my to-do list is getting shorter by the day. I have a couple of little jobs left to do, but after some schedule adjustments I think I've got things pretty well in hand. Except for that whole chaos thing, I mean.

And they took my desk away at work. They rearranged the office in which I've been working the last few months, and when I returned, there was no spot in it for me. I know, what assholes! I think their thinking was, a) I'm leaving shortly anyway, b) half of my remaining time will be spent at an entirely different desk covering the phones for a co-worker who'll be away, and c) the guy who's replacing me will actually be based in an entirely different part of the building (which is a good thing for him), so there's no point in staking out a desk for someone who'd only be sitting there for four more days. And I can't argue with that. But still, it means that even my work routines have been cast aside, and I'm adrift for the remainder of my time there.

Everything is just higgledy-piggledy, I tell you.

Incidentally, I was this close to completely re-working my driving route just for a chance to get a glimpse of the geostationary banana over Texas. I may not know much about art, but I know what I like.
10:28 AM ::
Amy :: permalink

Monday, September 10, 2007
Potential, Some Unrealized

I finally sat down and properly commenced to edit the MTC film trailer tonight. I mean, I've made the odd cut already, but I'd set it on the back burner until this week so I could focus on more pressing needs. And I didn't spend a huge amount of time on it tonight -- and hour and a half maybe -- but I rough cut about thirty seconds. I only expect it to be three minutes long or so when it's done, so getting a sixth of that roughed out isn't a bad evening's work.

Even so, this is exactly the point in the process where I hate everything. This is where I give in to despair, shake my fists at the sky, and berate myself for being such a craptacular filmmaker. And the honest truth is that this film, while it will get a lot better before I'm done, isn't the film that will demonstrate the full extent of what I can do. I just didn't have the time or resources to do that kind of work -- for one thing, I was shooting alone, and if this project has taught me anything, it's that I can't handle an entire shoot by myself. It's like trying to drive through heavy traffic while eating a burrito, talking on the phone, and reading a paper, all while keeping an eye on a two-year-old in the back seat. It can be done, but not well, and if you keep it up, sooner or later you're going to crash and burn. I simply cannot manage the lighting, run the camera, record sound, conduct an interview, and keep the bigger vision in the back of my mind simultaneously, and in trying I end up making gross errors which inevitably lead to my berating myself in the edit.

The one heartbreaking thought that always recurs: I can do so much better.

But maybe, if fate smiles and the planets align, I might have the opportunity soon. There's potential coming up to collaborate with others, and I think we could eventually do some blistering work together.

But we'll see how that turns out later -- I'm always loathe to talk about it too much, since in the past it has always fallen through. In the meantime, I've got to turn 30-some-odd hours of flawed tape into three minutes that hints at the kind of work I'm capable of doing. It sounds possible on the surface of it, doesn't it?
10:39 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Sunday, September 09, 2007
My Only Thought At Ten Past Midnight, Eighteen Days Before

Oh my god... what have I done?
12:07 AM ::
Amy :: permalink

Thursday, September 06, 2007

My first A+ exam is tomorrow. I have gone from feeling very anxious, to pretty confident, to very anxious again. I've covered 1800+ pages of material; I've written copious notes, run flash cards, and taken review quizzes till blood oozes from my eyes. I've gone from looking at practice questions and having utterly no idea what they even meant, to reading them, understanding them, knowing the right answer (more or less), and being able to explain that answer. Last night, for the first time in my life, I cracked open an old, dead PC, and I understood what was going on inside it. I could name its parts and explain how they worked together. I took it apart and put it back together again. I was, I admit, pretty proud of myself.

So why the fuck do I keep failing my practice exams?

I'm hoping that a big part of it is just piss-poor test design. I know that CompTIA put considerable care into designing their own exams, but I won't get to see that until tomorrow. Until then, I'm stuck with practice tests written by dubious examiners, and some of this shit is just stupid.

Okay, so let me ask you one of the exam questions; see what you think of this:

You arrive at a job site to discover that everybody working in the office only speaks Spanish, and you only speak English. How should you proceed?

a) Hire an interpreter.

b) Call your supervisor.

c) Try to gather information using drawings and hand gestures.

d) Leave the job.

And apparently the correct answer is... C. Yeah, apparently official CompTIA policy on language barriers (according to this) is scribbled diagrams and gesticulations. The explanation is that you should at least try to do the job -- well, obviously -- but frankly, pointing and grunting at the PC seems unhelpful and embarrassing to me. I understand the rationale behind the answer, but saying that that's the "most correct" answer seems pretty arbitrary. I figured I'd refer to my boss first (hey, asshole, you left out a crucial piece of information -- who the hell called this job in, anyway? Somebody here must speak English well enough to hire a tech, so what gives?), but that was WRONG WRONG WRONG!

Bizarrely, on just about every other question involving tricky workplace situations, calling your supervisor was the right answer, even when that seemed patently silly. Go figure.

Here's what I've got going for me: I've studied the official exam objectives, and I've covered all of that material. I know the difference between IDE and SCSI; I know the different types of RAM and their common form factors; I know all the connectors inside and outside the box; I know how an LED screen works, I know how a laser printer works, I know how many wires are in a Cat 5 coaxial cable, I know the Windows boot process, I know how to use the command line, I know how to configure BIOS without screwing things up. There are things I'm shaky on, too -- I'm having a hell of a time memorizing the I/O addresses for common components, for example. But I've also quizzed the actual, working PC techs around me on that stuff (what's the I/O address for the LPT 1 port? what socket does an AMD Athlon 64 processor fit into? what's the maximum throughput for IEEE 802.11g?), and they don't know either. When I ask them those questions, they look at me like I'm fucking crazy, because that's obviously the kind of stuff that a) never actually comes up, and b) when it does, you just look it up. I mean, that's what Google was invented for. Duh.

You never know everything. The biggest issue, as I see it, is to understand the fundamental points so that you know how to find the things you don't know. This is a basic-level exam; I'm not supposed to be an expert to pass it. I can actually get a lot of answers wrong and still pass. My knowledge is imperfect, but I know that I know the material as well as should. But I just keep... fucking... failing.

Anyway, my point is, I'm feeling a little frustrated today, a little stressed out. Hopefully tomorrow afternoon I'll sit down to my exam and breeze through it. My fear is that I'll get four questions in and realize that I'm fucked. It would kill me if I sat down, breezed through it, and then found out that I'd failed. Again. Just like on the practice tests. And probably over a question about an office full of people who don't speak any English.

Update: Okay, so, I passed... but not by as much as I wanted. I was honestly a little surprised by my score, because after I finished I felt pretty good and thought I'd done better. In any case, I'm feeling relieved, but also deeply vexed. My second exam is in two weeks, and I'm going to be hitting this shit hard, because I intend to nail that fucker to the wall.

You see, I'm the kind of person who has always been able to walk into an exam cold and ace it. I scored a 32 on my ACT, I was a national merit semi-finalist, and did almost as well on my SATs, and all without a lick of studying or preparation. Which isn't to brag -- though it is impressive, no? -- but rather to underline that studying this hard for months and still getting a middling score is something that really gets stuck in my craw. I was a grade hound from childhood, and mediocre performance just doesn't go down well, even if, in the end, it's irrelevant.

I think my problem isn't core knowledge; I think it's the practical troubleshooting stuff that's tripping me up. I just haven't had much experience troubleshooting, and it's sort of an arcane, experience-based art form -- knowledge of basic principles doesn't in itself translate into skill in troubleshooting. And there were quite a few troubleshooting questions on this exam, and there will only be more on the next one.

Anyway, I got past this one, but the next one will be harder, and the pass mark is higher, so I've still got some hard work to do.

Goddamn, I'm tired of studying computers.
11:01 AM ::
Amy :: permalink

Wednesday, September 05, 2007
The New Math

I figure y'all are probably getting tired of reading about my moving-related programs-activities, and might be be open to a post that's a little more old-skool. As it happens, I was inspired to do a few rough calculations this morning. I know all of my figures and assumptions are subject to argument, but let's go through it anyway, just for the hell of it.

Let's start with an approximate assessment of George W. Bush's most significant blunders that have resulted in the deaths of Americans. We could take this in a hundred different directions, obviously -- how many have died due to lower environmental standards? Due to the lack of health care? Due to poverty? -- but I'd prefer to stay away from such unquantifiable abstractions. So let's just stick to the most obvious three: 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and the Iraq War. Those are three examples of events that were handled by the administration with spectacular incompetence, and which have resulted in official body counts.

9/11: 2974 (not counting the 19 hijackers)
Hurricane Katrina: 1836
Iraq War (American fatalities only): 3750

So that's a total of 8560 dead Americans. Now, just to be reasonable, let's assume that some of those people would've died anyway. Available figures differ, but it seems that the average number of deaths per year in the United States is around 2 million. Given that the approximate population of the US is 300 million, that means in any given year 0.6% of the population will die of their own accord. So adjusted for the normal death rate, roughly 50 of those people would've died even without presidential intervention. And just so we know absolutely and for sure that we've given Bush adequate benefit of the doubt, let's double that figure. After all, there were a lot of poor, elderly people and reckless young men included in that body count. So that would leave us with 8460 dead.

George W. Bush has been in office, as of today, for 2289 days. So that's... 3.7 needlessly-dead Americans per day.

Wow. Okay, so go along with me on this one: imagine that, on January 20, 2001, George W. Bush had stood before the people following his inauguration, and announced to the nation that his first act as President would be to have three random people slaughtered each and every day, plus some extras after church on Sunday. Men, women, kids, old people, executed by various eclectic means -- shooting, drowning, burning, random explosions, dropped from tall buildings, maybe even a few beheadings. They'd do it by lottery, Shirley Jackson-style. It'll probably never be you -- in fact, it'll probably be mostly the working class and minorities -- but who knows? It's certainly better odds than the Powerball. Any citizen, on any day, could be granted the honor of "dying for their country."

Would people be angry about that? Would they refuse to go along? If it were presented that way -- as a straightforward bargain, 3 dead per day on the president's direct orders -- would they have more of a problem with it than they do now? Because it seems that's essentially the bargain we've struck.

I wonder who today's three will be?

PS: And for any Republicans reading this: imagine instead that Clinton did it. Now how do you feel about it?
12:20 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Monday, September 03, 2007
Labor Day

God, I love Labor Day. Much more this year than most, but the more of them I see, the more I appreciate it. If Memorial Day is the quasi-patriotic holiday that now serves primarily to mark the beginning of summer (of which I am no fan), then Labor Day is the quasi-socialistic holiday that now serves to mark the end of summer and the beginning of fall (which I love.) Autumn is my season. The fall always fills me with love and hope and optimism and giddy enthusiasm. I want chilly weather and drizzle and an excuse to pull out my boots and warm clothes. Fall: bring it.

After the slow start on Friday, I pulled myself together and whooped ass for the remainder of the weekend. I got an ungodly amount of work done, and it was some of the most onerous stuff on my list -- all that obnoxious cleaning and hauling. I am now covered with bruises and scratches, but I'm deeply satisfied and feeling lighter, as if relieved of a burden. I think I dragged half my old life out to the garbage this weekend, and it feels fucking good to be rid of it.

I still need to edit. And my first A+ exam is this Friday, though I'm feeling more confident now than I was a week ago. I'm going to be doing some cramming, but only on the details, not the big concepts. And after everything I've gotten done the last few days, I think I'll be much more able to concentrate on mental work, knowing that I've got some of the more practical stuff well in hand.

Three weeks and three days to go ohmigod ohmigod ohmigod.
11:34 PM ::
Amy :: permalink