Sunday, April 30, 2006

Some days you wake up and feel like Superman (part 1)

Some days you wake up and fell like Superman. Some days you wake up and know that you have to be Superman whether you feel like it or not. Wednesday was one of those days. I had no choice in the matter. To understand why, you have to understand a little about what I do for a living.

In real life, Special K is a traveling computer consultant. I go to customer sites and help them with their computer problems.

I have tools in my trade. Almost all of them are computer programs of one sort or another. One of the worst things that can happen is getting in front of a customer that is having problems and not have the right tool. What’s worse is losing the keys to the tool box. That’s what happened on Tuesday. By Wednesday it HAD to be fixed.

Now traveling computer consultants are a resourceful bunch. We are on the road in generally unfamiliar places with only the stuff we remembered to pack to help us along. If you travel much you know that it is a big help if you can keep your bag small enough to carry on the plane. Checked bags are for sissys. We pack light, but completely. If there is a problem, we can’t go running to tech support or the supply closet. We have to use what we have to obtain what we need. Sometimes we make like McGiver. Sometimes it requires super powers.

On Tuesday, I get to this site, pull out my laptop and hit the power button, ready to get down to work. The screen lights up and the normal gyrations continue until we arrive at the logon screen. My login and domain are already filled in already. I type my password and hit enter. The screen informs me that the username and password I entered in invalid. I check the caps lock and try again. Same result. Like a man speaking to a foreigner, I try typing slowly. No help. The OhCraps start to set in.

I start thinking of alternatives. I need to get logged in and soon. I try to remember the password of the administrator. I try a few with no success. OhCrap. It’s been too long since I’ve needed administrator. My domain login always works. OhCrap. I try logging on using my card key. Nada. OhCrap. OhCrap. OhCrap.

I try a non-administrative account and, after a few guesses I get into the machine, but with limited permissions. At least now I can do things like store the information I need to gather, but all of my analysis tools are locked away. Creating new administrators – Forget it. Installing new programs. Hahahahah.

So I limp through the day collecting as much as I can, hoping to get back to the hotel where I can get this taken care of.

As soon as I get my room that night I get on the phone with our help desk knowing that they will be able to help. After two and a half hours on the phone hitting roadblock after roadblock, the support guy on the other end sums up the result of the call with one word: “Sorry.”

We determined that somehow, my access token that is stored on the laptop has become corrupt and that to fix the problem I will need to just plug into the corporate network and log in with my user name. Oh, is that all. Well I’ve been to this part of the country before and I know where the closest coprnet access is and it ain’t close. It is about a 90 minute drive away. On top of that, it is now 9:30 in the evening and if I go now I will not be able to get into the building. I could go in the morning, but I’m expected at my customer site at 9 am, about the time the corpnet office is sure to be open. I’m trapped like a rat.

To quote the movie Animal House, “I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part”, and I’m just the guy to do it. I concoct a plan to hit the road at 5:30 am, drive the 90 or so miles to our corporate office, hope to find a kind soul to let me in and hook my computer to the network, hope that my computer does log on, and then hit the road back to be at my assignment by 9 am. Oh yea, did I mention that the main roads that I need to navigate are the Garden State Parkway and the New Jersey Turnpike? So I also have to hope I don’t hit any traffic. Hahahahahahahaha. I am so dead.

(continued tomorrow)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

T B Q B !

As I start on the last of the pizza from this weekend’s poker game, I simply must pass on my good-win story of the night. In the poker world, one hears many more bad-beat stories and like most poker players, I’ve become a bit bored with them. I’m even bored of my own bad-beat stories, so I’m changing it up.

I was playing my typical micro-limit NL Hold’em on Full Tilt, grinding out at two tables. Neither table is going very well, but I tell myself to stay patient, over and over and over. I’m getting good cards that don’t hit and lots and lots of bad cards. Well, I go from my starting $10 all the way down to about $4.50.

So, I’m under the gun and I get 44. I like the fact that [shift]-44 is $$ on the American keyboard, but I digress. I limp in and get 3 callers. I tell myself that if I hit a set, I’m going to get all in. The flop comes 4d 9d Qc. I’m first to act, so I want as much in the pot as possible for my last $3.00 or so. I bet .50. The first caller goes over the top for 1.50, the next caller folds and the button goes over the top again for 7.50. I call and the other caller calls his last $5 to put us all all-in.

Both of the other players turn over diamonds. Forth street brings the Kd to sink my hopes of a winning session pretty much. I could still pair the board on fifth street, but that never happens to me. $15 pot is all but gone. Then it happens, fifth street pairs the board…. with a 4. “Them’s be QUADs, bitches”.

It wasn’t exactly a one outer since any 4, 9, Q or K would have saved me, it was particularly exciting to get the quads and triple up.

Those were actually my second set of quads (can you have a set of quads?) in a week. I got 9999A in my live game this weekend to win almost nothing.

Time for me to get back to work. Play on.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Back home and Thanks for Sharing, Wil Wheaton.

It is good to get back home. The first thing that I said to my wife when I saw her was “Hable en ingl├ęs, por favor.” Maybe you had to be there.

I went to see my Grandmother today. We had a nice lunch and chatted. She is adjusting very well to her new home. She has made several friends. She was even out in the lobby of the place talking up a new friend. This doesn’t sound like much, but if you knew my Grandmother then you would know how big a deal that is.

On the way home I got to thinking about a post on Wil Wheaton’s blog that I read last night. (if you want to read if for yourself, it is here http://wilwheaton.typepad.com/ “i find it hard to tell you, because i find it hard to take”). The topic of the post is a wasted opportunity from when Wil was a teenager. I know when I read it I felt the pangs of guilt from the opportunities that I blew or the mistakes that I compounded due to the arrogance and stupidity of youth. I’m sure that those who read that piece and don’t feel the same are few and far between. I would want to tell Wil (whom I do not know) “Dude, join the club”, but he probably knows.

For myself, I could tell about the time I backed my Dad’s van into my Mom’s car. I could tell about filling my Dad’s lawn mower with paint when it should have been gasoline. I could even tell about the time I took most of a bottle of aspirin because I had a headache and then hid in the woods so as not to get into trouble (that was almost the last time I got in trouble). I could go on for days, unfortunately. Most of you have your own lists, I’m sure.

Eventually, my thoughts turned to something I did very right and now I feel the need to share. This is not an original idea, but I saw the beauty of it right away. What I did was to write my Mother a letter. It was a simple letter that said how much I appreciate the sacrifices and pain that she and my late father endured to raise me and my brothers. If you know my family, you also know that it was mostly me that made raising a family a challenge.

I started the letter by writing that I had waited until a time when no celebrations or milestones or illnesses or anything of that matter was approaching. I wanted the note to stand for what is was, a love letter, and not be overshadowed by any other event. I made sure to point out how well we had turned out and that it was my Mother and Father who lead us to where we are now. I told her how I loved her for who she was and what she had done. I told her how proud she should be of the job she had done. I should have said it all many times and many years eariler.

Mom never said any more than that she got the letter. She didn’t have to.

The person that gave me the idea told me that one day when my Mother has passed that I would find that letter among her most prized positions. I think and hope that that day is a long way off, but I believe that the letter is there.

Now isn’t time for you to write a letter?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

We don't need to understand no stinking questions.

Funny thing about working in a forgein country; I often don’t understand the questions that I am asked, but I almost always know the answers. For example, my hotel offers cooked to order breakfast at the buffet. I walk up to the grill and the girl asks me something like “blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah?” No biggie, I just answer “Ham and tomato omlet with cheese.” She starts making the omlet. Later I get in the cab and the cabbie asks me the same question. But this time I know that the answer is different. I give the company name and street of where I am working and off we go.

This is great on this trip as there are no hard deadlines and I’m not spending my own money. It could be a major pain if I was in a hurry or if every wrong turn was costing me an extra $20. As it is, I can just enjoy the ride. I hope I can bring some of that attitude back to the states with me.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Mexico - Part 2

Monterrey is an OK place. My colleague and guide, Ivan, took me to a taco place for lunch today. Normally, a taco for lunch is not a big deal. I’ve been to Taco Bell hundreds of times I am ashamed to admit. But this is Mexico and the taco is king. I had the best tacos of my entire life. The Santa Fe taco with chicken, onion, tomato, and guacamole is out of this world.

The two hour lunch is encouraged because you aren’t expected to leave work until 7 or 8 at night. I guess the locals go home for siesta. Me and Ivan eat tacos.

I met a cabbie today as well. Ivan couldn’t be at the location where I was working, so I was on my own for transportation. My work is in Monterrey, but my hotel is in San Pedro. That in itself is part of the adventure. Now the language center of my brain has two sections. One larger section for English, and a smaller section for all the other bits and pieces of other languages that I have picked up. There is probably more Spanish in this part than any other, but this section is still a jumbled mess.

Now this cabbie doesn’t speak any English, and I’m trying to explain to him where I want to go. I remember that the town’s name is St. Peter in Spanish, but the Italian is mixed in there and I tell him San Pietro as in Vatican City. He just gave me the ‘Stupid American’ look and off we went. Well, I thought it was funny. Two wrong turns and $100 (pesos) later, we arrive at the hotel.

One last observation. I have noticed that there are very few large women here. It goes against the stereotype. It is not because there is not food here (see the taco section above). They just take good care of themselves.

More tomorrow.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Old Mexico is New to Me

It’s been a while since I blogged. Sometimes the reason is laziness. Sometimes it is a sign that I’m just too damn busy. In this case the answer is different. Life for the past few weeks has been blissfully boring. There has been little to write about on any particular day. But over the past two weeks, a few things have transpired, built up, and generally kept moving while I tried to slow down.

My job keeps me traveling most of the time. I’m writing this entry sitting in a Bennigan’s near Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. I joked with friends last night that I expected it to be like the Caribbean, but without the ocean, beach, or any of the nice places. The line got a good laugh, but the truth is that Monterrey doesn’t look bad. I’ll have a better idea of the place after I’ve seen a little more, but so far, it beats the shit out of Kingston, Jamaica.

Last night was an absolute HOOT. I got an invitation to the house of fellow Charlotte blogger Falstaff (http://www.pokerstage.blogspot.com/). He had about a dozen folks over to play some poker. These people are truly whacked, and I mean that in the best possible way. My buddy BG was good enough to come along. That was helpful since I had never met anyone there.

BG actually saw something that he had never seen before. About halfway through the night I threw down the hammer. I bet preflop, bet again on the flop, turn and river before my one opponent finally folded. I did catch a middle pair 7 on the turn, but it was a sight for BG. I think my table image is pretty tight and deservedly so. I don’t take many stabs. I know I’ve never shown the hammer in his presence before.

Thanks again to Falstaff and his crew for having us over. Now go visit his blog.

Now for a little buzz-kill, also know as the family business. After months of build-up, we finally put my grandmother in assisted living. She was not taking care of herself in her own house. She was not eating or sleeping nor taking her meds and that was causing a series of illnesses. It was only a matter of time before she had an accident that put herself in a nursing home or worse. She is not very happy about the situation, but it is much easier for us to see her now. She has lots of friends around. The food is good and the care seems to be excellent.

My uncle D is doing better. He has been in chemo for 6 weeks now and they are thinking of operating on his esophagus cancer in 4 to 6 weeks. His prognosis is greatly improved since we discovered the problem. His chances are better than 50-50 now. We’ll take what we can get.

More on Monterrey tomorrow.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

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