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Semiformalishmaybe

Mechanical Tomfoolery

What a fool I was to think that moving a machine room would be as simple as bring it down, take it apart, bring it up, and toss out/repair 2-3 systems that inevitably die when they power cycle for the first time in years. My notes were in fact very good, and saved me a lot of pain... but not having root (or even accounts) on half the systems is terrible when everybody's getting new public IP addresses, some systems have virtual interfaces, crazy extra DNS stuff, hardware goes missing, I am reminded that some hardware never really worked in the first place, all the KVMs are from hell, some ethernet cables fail, A/C doesn't work for the first few days, etc. I somehow had a big attack of amnesia when I was budgeting time for this thing. I am sure anyone else tasked with moving a machine room won't be so crazy-optimistic, but just in case not,

  1. It is a lot of work, physically and mentally
  2. You will be fairly sore
  3. If you are nearing or past the end of your normal work day and are having immersive fantasies of jump-kicking the racks and knocking them over, it is time to go home
  4. Things will go wrong that are not your fault
  5. Things will go wrong that are your fault
  6. It will not be quick, even if you have planned well
  7. You or someone else will probably cut yourself on some hardware, so bring band-aids
On that last point, I had some help for the first 2 days moving systems into the racks and setting up the power. I managed to avoid cutting myself, but both of the other guys managed to cut themselves reasonably badly on various things to the point that the floor had to be wiped.

I *really* wish we could ditch the old, thick KVM cabling we have (and the flaky KVMs that manage the lot) for the nice, KVM-over-Cat5 stuff that they have in the main machine room. I also really wish that we could ditch the variety of old rail kits we have for the variety of Rapidrails we have on a few systems where the rails attach to the rack in about 5 seconds with no screwdrivers and to the system in about 10 seconds with no screwdrivers (even if someone is putting the system in alone).

(those particular) Rapidrails and KVM-over-Cat5 are best-of-breed, neat, reliable, and easy. I still imagine there's got to be some better way yet to manage all this stuff. Probably some companies have a great solution they use internally but they're keeping quiet about it.

I took a little bit of time away from that work to go see Bill Gates speak (I shared an elevator ride with him an hour earlier). The speech itself wasn't remarkable, but the question and answer session afterwards showed that he's a rather bright guy, and one inclined in age towards a deep philosophical understanding of societal practice and institutions rather than a superficial one. I was pleased when this impression replaced my initial one during his speech - that I was hearing Kermit the Frog speak. I still dislike Microsoft, and think that Bill Gates and Paul Allen have done the world a net disservice through their company (even if Microsoft Research has made significant steps to mitigate that), but his humanitarian work after retirement is a worthy cause.

Like with Andrew Carnegie, however, I don't think that charity by the rich is as charitable as it seems - in a more just society, nobody would be able to accumulate that level of privilege - it would be more broadly spread throughout society and more of it would also be used by the state directly for the public good. Also, in most cases, great wealth is aquired in harmful ways (although Andrew Carnegie deserves *much* more scorn for this than Bill Gates). Charity and seeking the public good by the state is acceptable and positive, as the state embodies the people's interests and taxes and other legitimate state means of value appropriation are structured in ways that aim both to be fair (I acknowledge that fair is a very nuanced term here) and accountable/visible. Charity on similar scales by individuals or companies is on the surface also positive, but we should be skeptical of the processes that allowed them that wealth and prefer that its direction be decided by those accountable to broad public interests rather than private ones. Andrew Carnegie's generosity is well known, but it is heavily tainted by the fact that he accumulated wealth well beyond his needs, and further tainted by his brutal means to crush the workers' movement.

I keep meaning to go back to Tazza d'Oreo, Whole Foods, Fuck Yeah Icecream, or a few places in Bloomfield I've been meaning to better acquaint myself with, and I keep leaving work way too late for it to be worth braving the busses to do so. Sigh.

I've been thinking a lot about whether I'd take it all back - given the chance to step back into my past before things got all messed up, with the knowledge I have now but the emotional stability and the situations of then, would I, and when?

The idea of stepping back into High School or before fills me with horror. I would probably not get along as well with the friends I had then as I actually did at the time. The one possibility I might've done differently would've been to have not been stubborn about liking OSU and going to one of the several better universities into which I was accepted. I don't know if I would've gotten a vastly better education (OSU's curriculum was so broad and varying in quality and I was so careful to select things that were well within my interests and of high quality that I think I actually got an excellent education in all the topics I wanted), but the social opportunities probably would've been better for me. This is almost as foundational a change as having been born to different parents though - little of the pre-university me is present in what I am now, except in the neuroticisms and some seeds of paranoia. Still... my strongest social interactions were back in High School - there was a group of five of us that were particularly close for most of middle and high school, and I've never known that tight of a circle of friends since.

The idea of stepping back into University times is a bit more complicated. I had broad social ties, a few of them with even greater depth, but they never fit together in the way the group did in high school. SFF (atheist/agnostic movement) was a large social crowd where I felt I belonged - people cared about me, I cared about them, were people to disappear they would eventually be noticed and contacted. It was mainly my depression and need to hide after the break-up with Martha that loosened those ties. Generally, I don't think I was tired of life yet back in University, and maybe that wouldn't be so bad to have a chance to go back to then.

I don't really know if there are times in Pittsburgh I'd go back to, although if I were I'd probably want to move to only a bit after moving here. There are some chances that I may have failed to make with people that I should've, and a lot of mess that could've been avoided. By and large, Pittsburgh has been a lonely time. I don't think getting involved with KGB was a great idea in retrospect - it overdoes something I like in moderation and was often led or dominated by people with a kind of loudness that rubs me entirely the wrong way. I don't think I'm well suited to thinking of myself as "the older guy" and that's what I often felt like when there - better to be one of the gang who's invitable to parties, datable, and otherwise fully vested. Zets might've been more right, but it was too small (or maybe there needed to be more Zetlike groups) and incestuous. Maybe if I had started my own group, it would've worked out better. I guess I kind of did with PUSH? Hmm.

One thing that's been increasingly visible is the perception of belonging is a valuable thing to one's sanity - even introverts need some level of connectedness. Being an edge node can be enough, so long as one knows that one is thought of and occasionally grabbed for inclusion, but being a dot alone is terrifying and destructive to one's self. Belongingheit ist nicht wirklich something that belongs to the individual interactions, it's more the notion that between the beats and individual notes that are interactions with other people there's some song going on. Someone could have a lot of empty interactions with others and their life would just be jumbled - noise - they could drop off the face of the earth and apart from their purely structural roles, nobody would notice. I'm not sure if everyone has the ability to create new social webs, or finds it equally exhausting (or difficult) - perhaps some people due to inability or difficulty are best situated in webs that already exist (hence the survival of some social groups well beyond the departure of their original members). Perhaps those who are either not picky or naturally appealing never need to worry about this stuff because it all naturally works out ok for them - they are sustained by the music of societal clouds. I rather miss hearing that.

On a final note, Batman: Arkham Asylum is an excellent game, provided one can get used to using so much of the keyboard. Batman has too many talents! I was quite impressed with the variations in mood in the game, and it's a lot of fun just running (and jumping and gliding and grappling) around.

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