Wednesday, January 24, 2007

More travel

I have more travel lined up for next week.  They changed the schedule around, so I have to cancel and rebook some of the travel, which is a huge hassle and expense.  It's their money.  <shrug>  If I had stayed with my same airline tickets, I would be stranded in Houston for four days over a weekend before the rest of the team caught up with me.  If I had a place to stay in Houston, I would do that.  I could check out Mission Control at NASA or something.

Meanwhile, I'm playing catch up on the documentation from the previous trips.  It's time consuming because I'm supporting a remote team of server nerds in Dallas, and I can fix half their problems, but I end up on marathon phone calls to help them troubleshoot their own stuff.  They need constant reassurance that their problems are not network related.  I did more packet debug today than I've done in the past 3 or 4 years combined, just to reassure them that A) the firewall never got the packet or B) the firewall didn't block their packet.  In all fairness, I did make a few firewall rule changes to get their stuff working.  Their requirements sheet is sorta wrong.

So, now I'm going to grab a quick workout, then I'm having dinner at Adam's.  After that, I really must finish these network maps!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Long week.

I have a lot to say, but not enough time to say it. . . so, for now, you get a hockey fight link.


Monday, January 15, 2007

Minnesota. Brr.

I got to Minneapolis on time.  I arrived at the Avis counter at 4pm, just as we had agreed. . . then I checked my voice mail.  My coworkers were stuck in Chicago.  Well, I knew I had an hour to kill, so I started looking for a restaurant.  Well, at MSP, they are all in the gate area, and you can't get in there without a ticket.  So, I asked the fellow at the information table what I should do.  He recommended taking the Hiawatha line, a shiny blue train, to the Great Mall of America.  For the price of $3.50, I did.  I crammed my carry on stuff into my checked bag, which handily converts in to a backpack. . . I love The North Face!  I arrived at the mall, then I grabbed some kind of double decker meat pizza at Villa Pizza on level three of five.  I got a voice mail indicator. . . I had missed a call while I was in the train tunnel.  It was the stranded ones.  The airline was still locating a plane to avoid canceling their flight.  I knew I had at least 90 minutes to kill.  So, I proceeded to explore the mall.  The MOA monstrosity has carnival rides, including two pretty cool roller coasters.  Encumbered by luggage and deterred by the long line, I skipped the rides.  I think you could very easily burn a thousand calories if you walked this mall and hit every level.  I hiked til my feet hurt.  I bought some bath products.  I went to Bloomingdales, then back to the train station.  Enough of that!  After you've been amazed by the size and added features, it starts to look like every other mall in the world.  Now, I'm back in the airport.  I've waited 45 minutes at the Avis counter.  I'm mooching some internet from Hertz.  I checked their flight status, and it just landed!  And they just called.  That's over 3 hours of wait.  And after all that hiking, the pizza kinda wore off.  I hope they're as hungry as I am.  I saw a Chevy's Tex Mex by the mall.  I will be suggesting it.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Meat packing plant tour - 1st leg (har!)

I have seen some nice networks in my career.  I have seen some pitiful networks.  This week, I saw a bit of both.  And the great thing about consulting is that I know the difference, and I get to really help these businesses run more reliably.  In the past two weeks I have toured every wired portion of four different meat packing facilities in the Midwest.  I know how they make pickle loaf and lil' smokies.  I saw giant pepperoni ovens and tubs full of meatballs.  I cataloged network gear in rooms with names like "Raw Receiving Office" and "South Bacon Office" and "Chorizo Packaging Area".  I smelled some familiar aromas and some strange, unknown smells.  I once worked in a Tyson Foods kill plant, so the safety protocol was familiar.  No jewelry.  Hardhats and hairnets must be worn in the production areas.  Blue frocks must be worn in areas where raw meat is processed, white frocks in cooked/ready-to-eat meat areas.  In one instance, I was given plastic booties to cover my shoes.  At first, I turned them down, but after the supply counter lady raised her eyebrows and said, "I wouldn't want to track blood into my car," I accepted.  She was right.  There were times when I had to kick meat away from where I was standing.  There were times when I stepped in blood.  None of these plants were kill plants, but I saw that they receive raw meat in giant tubs.  I was intrigued by the size and variety of mixers and grinders and stuffers and extruders and giant ovens used in these facilities.  At one point, I saw a giant tub of biscuits.  They were put onto a conveyor which supplied a machine making sausage biscuit sandwiches.  The automation is pretty phenomenal.

Another benefit of this type of consulting:  I get to see parts of the country I haven't seen before.  This trip around Nebraska and Kansas involved lots of driving.  Next week, I get to fly AND drive around Minnesota and Iowa.  In a few weeks, I get to tour some facilities in Illinois and Indiana.  I'm getting a real overview of the Midwest.