DC, Part 2

This post will be primarily about the examination/certification process. You know, the reason I’m in DC in the first place. Long story short, the I fini company who makes the program I’ve been the administrator of at work for the last 7 years offers certification for certain aspects or components of the program. Work decided it wouldn’t be a horrible idea to invest a little into some training, and frankly I think that’s a Daam Gud decision. Yup.

The instructor, Felicia, is a really nice gal who lives around Baltimore and apparently has to drive an hour and a half to the building each morning, even though it’s maybe 30 miles away. Not surprising; I would imagine the entire corridor linking Baltimore to DC and all the suburbs is just a nightmare, much like any big city. There are only three students in this class, including me, and Felicia told us that that’s the most she’s ever taught simultaneously for this course. That’s a little crazy to me, but hey, I guess that makes this certification relatively rare, yes? Meaning valuable.

On Monday, Felicia told us there’d be a written exam (open-notes, open-PC) that we’d have two hours to complete. The rest of Monday, and all of Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday would be spent by us developing a solution based on a set of requirements that Felicia would provide. Sounds good — we usually don’t get shit for actual requirements at work, so this sounded like a welcome change.

The written examination was really just an exercise in how well you could craft search terms in BMC’s documentation portal. We were given a paper exam with questions and had to write or choose answers. At first glance, this seemed like a really, really nasty test. Extremely obscure questions, asking about features or techniques I’ve used once or twice at most in seven years. I made a pass through it and answered the questions I was certain about – which wasn’t all that many. Then, I started searching, and once I found the answers to a few more of them and realized they were word for word out of the documentation, the game changed a bit. It became less about what the question was actually asking me to answer, and more about what keywords I could search for online that would lead to the correct (but often terribly titled) document or section. I will say that this is the first time I’ve been very, very glad that all of the documentation is available in online form and not the old-school PDFs. This test would’ve probably been a nightmare in the 7.x days. Anyway, after figuring out the game, I finished the test about a half hour early, then went outside to walk around for awhile.

Funny thing – I’ve been checking the weather here and in Fargo and for the most part it’s been pretty close. EXCEPT for one day – Thursday – in which it was about 70 and rainy in DC. I believe it was not 70 and not rainy in Fargo, but I wasn’t there so I don’t really know!

After the written part was done, out came a pair of documents from Felicia. One was thick, the other not so much. Both were documents that had been covered somewhat in a web-based training I had taken about a month ago, but that course never actually provided examples of either document or showed what it would look like all filled out. These were some intense requirements. They weren’t really laid out in a developer-friendly format, either… an entire paragraph might come out to an hour of work, but the next sentence might change everything and require you to refactor stuff you’d already done. That was maybe the main theme of the week – constantly flipping through the documents to try to glean as many requirements as possible, so as to minimize the amount of re-work needed. I probably could’ve taken all of Monday afternoon just trying to organize the work better. Instead, I just started building stuff, because THAT’S JUST HOW DAAM GUD ROLLS. YUP.

The days really did fly by, mainly because there was a persistent feeling of having way too much shit to do and not nearly enough time to do it. I believe it was Wednesday afternoon, at the end of the day, when Felicia asked us how we were doing. “Overwhelmed” and “my brain is mush” seemed to be common sentiments. I asked if we were actually expected to get this entire thing done in 3.5 days. Her response was no, we are throwing way more at you than you can reasonably handle, and seeing what parts were completed was sort of a part of the test. How delightful, the test is DESIGNED to stress me out!

Today (Friday) we gave our “presentations” to Felicia one-on-one. The other students left the room and I sat with her as she asked me questions and wanted me to show her things. She mentioned that I crushed the written exam, getting a 90%. She said she has not seen anyone score that high on the written exam. That was nice to hear, but all I could think about was what question(s) I got wrong that caused me to lose 10%. I really thought I aced that bitch. Anyway, we go through my wacky solution and about two-thirds of the way through she says “Well, you passed. But let’s keep going just so I can tally up the points.” Sweet! As it turns out, she told me I’d gotten a 92% overall, and the next highest she could remember giving out was a 90%. She didn’t explicitly say that I did better on this than anyone else she’d taught, but I had to be up there through simple deduction. Fuckin awesome.

After the test stuff was done, Felicia helpfully went over some of the downtown DC attractions (so, the Mall) and provided some instructions and local flavor type stuff (“Be careful if you go north of this street or that avenue after 9 PM”). I plan on checking some of that out tomorrow and possibly Sunday. The Spring Hill train station is very close by, and even closer to the BMC training facility, so Felicia said I could park there and walk to the station. Awesome!

So, to conclude, this trip was ultimately a success for me. Now it’s time to relax. The next part of this will cover The Mall and the inevitable crazy shit I see there. Should be a good time.

DC, Part 1

I’m currently on a “business trip” in the Washington, DC area. I don’t really like the term business trip in this case, since I was sent out here by work to attend a training/certification course. I arrived on Sunday and leave on Monday, 3/30.

As with pretty much every trip I’ve ever taken to a place I’ve never visited, interesting things happen. Some of these are good. Some are not as good. Others are just downright strange. Actually, most of them are downright strange. OK, the vast majority.

I usually try to hash out the entire trip in one giant post, but I know near the end of such posts, I start to lose steam and decide that I’d rather finish the post than accurately recall every last detail stuck in my head. So in the interests of preserving these “memories” for as long as possible, I’m going to break it down into little chunks. This will be easier since I’m still on the damn trip!

First, I had to leave Fargo. I probably could’ve gotten a ride from 10 different people but decided to just take a damn cab. I didn’t want to have to inconvenience anyone else and I also didn’t want to have to wait around when I land – there are always cabbies hanging around the lobby of Hector International when flights arrive. They’re not dumb. One of them is a dude I used to help at Hornbacher’s all the time. He’d always buy cigarettes and then speak wistfully about his band, when they’re playing next. He definitely thought he was a big deal. Calmly, though.

Anyway, the cabbie insists I sit up front, which is strange to me (I clearly don’t take a lot of local cabs.) His cab was basically a fucking ashtray. Disgusting. And I say this as someone who used to smoke in his car. I have to think I did a much better job of preventing my car from turning into a humidor than this guy did. He also wanted to chat a lot. Nope. Longest cab ride in Fargo ever.

Oh, and I had shaved before leaving the apartment, and managed to nick a mole near my right ear. And oh did it bleed, and it wouldn’t stop. I’m sure those who might’ve noticed in the airport thought I had gotten cut or something. Nope, I’m just an idiot who doesn’t know how to shave his own face. Nothing to see here.

I’ve generally had zero issues with the TSA in Fargo but this time they were not on their A game. Rude staff who didn’t explain anything. They had to re-run one of my 73 tubs because I had put my coat on top of my laptop. Why this would affect what an X-ray machine can see to the point of making re-scanning it necessary is beyond me, but they certainly know what they’re doing, right? This is the crack team to which we’re entrusting the safety of the skies. It MUST be necessary. Anyway, the lady was rude about re-scanning – never mind that it was never explained that laptops must be in their own separate tub, by themselves. SAFETY. After my stuff was returned (it WAS safe after all!) I head to the gate. Short wait before we board.

Before we could take off from Fargo, we were informed that they needed to “burn some fuel off” for about 8-10 minutes because they had put too much in. Um, what? So fly the fucker a little heavy! Isn’t it just turning around in Minneapolis and coming back to Fargo anyway? I still don’t think I understand this, and I’ve certainly never heard of it happening before. I don’t think it ended up being 10 minutes, but it sounded like the pilot was halfway laying on the gas. Kinda cool.

Then came the first strange moment. The Delta plane we were on was some kind of mini-plane, where the overhead bins were not normal size. So the luggage that was designed to fit up there is too big. Meaning you tag it with this pink thing and leave it on the walkway. OK, cool. I take my seat and then the strange showed its face. Some dude, likely in his 40’s or 50’s, shuffles on the plane and this guy just has waaaaay too much shit going on. There was the fanny pack with all manner of MacGyver-looking contraptions hanging off it. There was the bag of raw fruits and vegetables (notably, several stalks of asparagus) that he was clenching. There was his insistence that he could shove all of his carry-ons in the bins even though the flight attendant assured him he couldn’t (he eventually managed to do it.) There was his complete lack of self-awareness physically, as he shoved his ass in one dude’s face, his MacGyver-pack in multiple others, including mine, as he pirouetted around trying to get stuff shoved in everywhere. The flight attendant, while silent, was absolutely on this guy. Every time she walked by to check seatbelts, devices off (because devices are not safe!) she gave an extra long look at this guy. He was uneventful during the flight, but it was definitely a strange ass moment.

Getting to Minneapolis was easy. I was actually hoping for a bit of a delay so I could grab some food, relax for a moment, and so on. Because our flight got in late, it basically erased the layover and I had to really book it to my gate. The counter lady said I was the “last one to board the plane” but what she really meant was I’m the “last one in the line on the walkway to board the plane.” Stupid.

Flight to DC was also fine. Got my luggage and took the ubiquitous shuttle to the rental car facility. This went pretty smoothly, as did the drive to the hotel. Amazing what sunlight and a charged cell phone battery can do! Hear that, Baltimore??

The hotel I’m at is an extended stay hotel. I don’t think I knew this when the travel agency booked me there, but I’m so, so glad I chose this one. It’s a Residence Inn in Tyson’s Corner. It’s about two minutes (and a five minute stoplight) from the training facility, there are a ton of restaurants within walking distance, and there’s a Walmart too, with a Noodles and Company AND a Smashburger built in. Um, yes? Knowing this allowed me to save a LOT of money on stupid travel sized stuff. Well, in Fargo anyway; I ended up buying them all here, since I’m sure the TSA would frown on me bringing  mouthwash or whatever.

As per normal, sleep has been hard to come by. I’m sure it’s part “strange place syndrome”, part the below-average bed, part the well-below-average pillows, and well, that’s probably it. I don’t really mind this since I know it’ll catch up to me eventually and I’ll crash hard.

I won’t bother getting into the exam/test/certification stuff right now… will save that for another post.

So ends part 1 of this little journey… more to come soon.

Phoenix

The Daam Gud name rises again. It was inevitable. Now it’s just a matter of what I decide to do with it, and how far to take it.

This site will contain a lot of random thoughts, ramblings, venting, outright bitching, complaining, things that are not politically correct, and much more. I invite comments, and criticism, though neither obligate me to agree with anything or change my mind. I listen to reason. I adhere to logic as much as possible. I try to keep an open mind.

Journal entries will often be marked by abrupt subject changes and non-sequiturs. I’ll do my best to not drift too far off topic in any one paragraph. Results will vary.

A year ago today, I attended a Tool concert in Las Vegas. It was an amazing show. Now, I’m kneeling down in front of a Surface Pro 3, pounding away on the keyboard Microsoft should’ve packaged with it. This is the first real typing experiment I’ve conducted with it, and while I wish there was a little bit of space in between the individual keys, it’s done a decent job. I mean, considering the difficult job a keyboard has to do, of course.

A week from now, I’ll be in Virginia for work-sponsored training. That will be an interesting few days. The company hosting the training is being a little tight-lipped about the particulars of their examination. I get it, but it’s not like we were trying to get them to tell us the answer to number seven. Just a general framework, something, anything? We received an abstract that well, lived up to its name.

If there’s such a thing as a “long-time reader of Daam Gud’, one would remember the fiery hatred I harbor for bad television commercials. It was about 12 years ago when that reached it’s peak. It hasn’t faded all that much since. I may need to set up my own Commercials wing on this site again. Even better, there are now plenty of sites that host videos and TV commercials… I had to settle for screenshots most of the time back in 2003.

And that’s the span of time that Daam Gud has navigated. And now it’s back and better than ever. Stay tuned.