status embrace failure and anxiety
Mon Jan 15 17:31:26 EST 2007
BAR BANDS I started this status report, sitting at Andy's , at 9:30pm on a Friday night listening to some guy with a day job playing the guitar and singing the standards. Counting the woman that works here, there were three of us with laptops, absent-mindedly clapping from time to time. I love gnarled, old, alcoholic bar bands and I love earnest young ones, they are there for love or at least passion.  http://www.brewdawakening.com/ MEETING WITH THE PROVOST This week I got an email from John Wooding (#2 guy @uml) asking for a meeting. After I confessed to a little nervousness, John Wooding made a private little joke about increasing the Prozac in the university drinking water and offered his very slightly qualified assurance that we didn't need to worry. If you care to read the tea leaves for yourself, most of the correspondence is on the board list  Tom Costello, Josh Harding, Kristina Ickes and I will meet with John Wooding, Jeff Thompson and Diana Prideaux-Brune on January 30th.  http://lists.thecsl.org/pipermail/divinerightofkings/2007-January/thread.html If you know any of the players, please put in a good word for us. LACK OF DAY JOB So far the big change is that I leave the lab @ 7pm instead of 4pm and and share the events of the day with Laura instead of the guys of admin at cs.uml.edu. My email inbox is also empty. With more blocks of uninterrupted time, it has been easier to "touch it once".   http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=%22touch+it+once Downside, the boomer grant paycheck won't start to roll into until early February, but since Laura and I came into small bit of unexpected money, this is not as big a problem as we'd expected. JOHN MILLER Part of my empty mailbox is John coming back from vacation in Kansas to handle a few problems that I'd let slide. KAMALA KALLURI The downtime database is moving along. The current challenge is abstracting the differences between SQLite , mySQL and Postgresql SQL. For many, many reasons, It is nice to have the time to do the job right. ERIC BRYANT Eric doesn't officially start until January 20th, but so far he's commuted three days from Cambridge, done a lot of work from home and gone to the Mass Service Boomer grantee meeting with me. ERICH JENSON Same here, except commuting from Missouri is tougher than commuting from Cambridge Erich's easiest to understand contribution is a partial make-over  of the the water festival site.  http://nodist.thecsl.org/waterfest/  http://lowellwaterfestival.org/ POSITIVITY IS OVER RATED No, we'll not be flagellating ourselves bloody, but this week I won't pour sunshine in our half full glass. Ignorance of one's incompetence is very highly correlated with incompetence.   apa.org/journals/features/psp7761121.pdf So... this week we examine an actually-we-do-suck-a-little-bit incident. It took 8 days it took to fix a NFS/Samba problem that made the file server unusable for the BSM people. BSM is "Broadcast and Student Media, Felicia Sullivan, Christine Dunlap, Sunrise, etc, etc. NFS is Network File System. Samba is software that runs on Linux and looks like a Microsoft file server to microsoft clients. The root of the problem was design. We (mostly me) decided to run Samba on a separate box than the one the hard drives were physically plugged into. Usually, running separate services on separate boxes allows things that don't depend on each other to continue on. The email keeps flowing if the web server is having trouble. In this case, we introduced a dependency and another point of failure. Files lived on hard drives attached to brave. The Samba box accessed files through NFS. For everything to work, brave, NFS, samba and the OS on the samba box all had to be working. The last time we had such a problem, I'd upgraded the kernel on brave and rebooted without considering the effect on Samba. When John got back, he isolated the problem to NFS but not further. Rather than do more troubleshooting, we eliminated NFS. Once we started work on the problem, it took only about 4 hours to resolve it. I confess, I did better offering advice than doing actual work. Getting started was in itself a problem. John was out of town and off the clock. I allowed myself to be distracted by three deadlines for grants totaling $28,000, the annoyance of a small unfinished UTEC project and a weekend with slightly more leisure than usual. "Failure" is often a matter of choice. A student chooses a semester of beer over a semester of study and flunks. Another student chooses study over beer and remains a bit lonely. At the very least, last week, I could have made different choices and failed at different things. Given a do-over, I'd still do the contract paperwork for the Boomer grant, $20,000 is $20,000. Likewise the meeting at the Lowell Workforce Investment Board could have been blown off but they've promised us $4,000 for mvhub and said nice things about us to the state work force investment board. The state people have real money. Likewise $4,000 Essex County Community Foundation grant was probably ours to lose by not meeting the deadline. I probably made the right call here. It was within my power to push the UTEC project off. Given our contract , we get $10 per hour for exactly 10 hours of work per week, less than 10 hours per week means no pay, more than 10 hours means no extra pay. BSM (broadcast & student media) is paying us zero cash this fiscal year, but we need a fforklift to haul out all the political capital.  http://thecsl.org/links/utec-2006_contract.doc On the gripping hand, the Samba (windows accessable) file server is in light use during the semester break and we had no complaint beyond the inital one. Again, ignoring failure doesn't make it go away. Acknowledging failure, even dwelling on it is a sign of strength not weakness. In this very slightly sucky incident, I could have choosen differently for at least a different failure. COFFEE The eggroll cafe has re-aranged the furniture, the coach is now in the middle of the room and there is a table against the window. Now the people walking by have a better view than the back of somebody's head. Now the people sipping mocha, grande, decaf lattes have something to look at other than other people sipping mocha, grande, decaf lattes. We are now on a first name basis with the woman that runs the place. No more "Sir" and "M'am". Now it is "Dan" and "Sengli"