Sunday, August 16, 2009

Where Did the Week Go?

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Edited at 9:20 am on 8/16 for polishing and corrections. The original revision was written in the wee hours of Sunday morning as I was nodding off to sleep.

It's widely accepted that the passage of time seems to accelerate as we age. Minutes don't seem to take as long as they did in the past. I don't know if I crossed some sort of threshold when I turned 40 back in February, but it seems as if things have been really flying since I accepted the promotion a little over a month ago. I'm still trying to piece together what happened to my week.

I had high hopes starting. On Monday, I got up extra early and drove over to STBX's so that I could see my older daughter head off to her first day of first grade. As for work, I was going to be working on stuff that would be key development project items, taking over from some foundational work done by my ex-boss the week after he left the company. But the fates would have nothing to do with that.

On Monday evening, a flurry of system alerts about the site being down sporadically kept the systems engineer and I on edge up through the evening, and the cause was something that was entirely avoidable. One of the database servers had run out of disk space because the engineer had set the database up to write to a smaller disk partition rather than a much larger one which had been created just for that purpose.

Tuesday was chock full of meetings, and the night my time with the kids.

The weekly release was problem free, but my system engineer had been up so late rebuilding our test environment that he overslept. I called him six minutes after we were supposed to start pushing to production, and he answered saying that he had just woke up. We started the release with him talking our IT support guy through the process over the phone.

The other two developers were out of the office. One had arranged to work from home because his son started kindergarten that day, and the other e-mailed in that he was going to work from home because his car battery was dead. Given some other things that indicate his motivation may be less than up-to-snuff, I was skeptical about his claim.

On Wednesday night, I wound up writing a test script that would be used to judge the quality of the new approach we were taking on this development project. While auditing the stats, I found that the numbers did not agree with what I saw in production and tracked it down to an issue with the database again. This time, it was a secondary server that was used to create the snapshots.

Thursday night, I spent re-running the numbers that I was hoping to have done on Wednesday and trying to figure out how we would implement a new web service in production across multiple data centers. The application didn't have build in replication, so we would have to roll our own.

I time shifted my work schedule on Friday, going in over two hours early, so that I could take off early to pick up the girls while STBX worked a concession stand at the overpriced taxpayer financed athletic facility, which earns her tuition offsets for the kids dance classes.

Friday night and Saturday were spent rewriting major portions of code I had written in May 2008. It was core stuff that related to how content was fetched, and this new algorithm would break major portions of it. I managed to get it working for all but a couple of edge cases and one bug in a display widget. I checked all of that code in a couple hours ago, just prior to when our IT support engineer was taking that system down for some much needed maintenance.

A big event going on in the Circle City this weekend is a downtown convention that is aimed primarily toward gamers, but it has grown into a cultural event above and beyond the original audience.

Contrary to what you might expect from someone in my line of work, the event is not something I would be interested in. It does make for amusing people watching at lunch time, though. I would go so far as to say that you could make a drinking game out of it... sip of beer for someone dressed in all black, two drinks if they have dyed hair, a shot whiskey for cosplay, two shots if they are wielding weapons. I could go on and on, but as someone with a low tolerance for alcohol, I'd pass out before this paragraph was completed.

In the midst of the people watching on Friday, an awareness came to mind... While the demographics are strongly skewed toward the male side, the crowds do include some females. Some appear to be just as into the goings on. Others are just part of a couple. Some are both.

Going by appearances, most of the couples appeared to be in their 20s. Seeing them brought forth some unanticipated and painful emotions inside of me.

I've written in the past about how I struggle with this feeling that I am so unusual, at least for this area, that there is no one with whom I have enough in common for form a every close bond. In private conversations with others, I have described this state as "unknowability," a gut feeling that no one would find me worth the time of wanting to know and understand me.

As I watched these couples, I felt envy. It wasn't because I found myself attracted to the women in the couples[1]. It was because these men had found acceptance in the eyes of someone else so early in their lives, in spite of the fact that their alienation from society at large

That got me thinking about the subculture upon which the convention is based as well as other cliques that permeate our society. With the aid of social networks which draw people together who would have otherwise never known about each other, people manage to form associations and groups with those who have similar interests. Sooner or later, people find the tribe they call home, even the geeks.

I just happen to have niche interests that are so orthogonal to one another that it's hard for me to find a tribe of my own. My mind, arguably vexed with Asperger Syndrome, has left me with a clutter of knowledge of arcane areas such as railroads, math, radio station history, MGM cartoons of the 40s - 60s, musical genres of many tastes, software engineering, and erotic explorations, economics, existentialism, and non-traditional relationships. I am all over the place, so dispersed that it is as if I am nowhere... and I live in a metro area that is about as non-cerebral as you can get.

Despite all of this talk about being yourself and pursuing your dreams, most of society aligns itself with a set of life scripts. This allows different interests to accumulate size and form a community. The inability to connect on this level can lead to feelings of alienation, which ultimately leads to depression. Perhaps we are wired to do this because being a part of a sustainable group enhanced the likelihood of survival. Perhaps this is the basis of the envy and grief I felt.

The voice of Schnarch appears in my head to protest the sadness. Self validation, I picture him saying, means that you don't need the acceptance of a significant other to believe that you are good. Differentiation, first and foremost, is the ability to stand on one's own emotional two feet, and pining for a steady stream of acceptance isn't going to be a guarantee that everything will be OK. It's a crutch. Maybe this is just loneliness anxiety by any other name. I just know it was there in a big way, and I don't want it to engulf me.

[1] -- Although on Friday afternoon I did see a girl walking down the street, decked out in an outfit that included a short skirt and suspenders that gave her an arousing kick@$$ bad girl. She was not part of a couple, though.
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