8.25.2008

Will Admin for Lemonheads


I'm looking, with an ever-so-slowly but mounting intensity, into local work. I've been teaching primarily Sun Microsystems courses over the last, what is it, twelve years now? Solaris, Java, Legato and Symantec nee VERITAS products and topics, with occasional forays into Sun's storage and server systems as demand would have it. Most of the last eighteen months it's been JCAPS stuff.

You've all heard that people who can't do it, teach it. On some level, that certainly applies to me. I've enjoyed papers on PermGen issues in JVM memory management; can argue heatedly against discussing cyclic page caching in the Solaris kernel with your average systems administrator -- because you can't observe it, can't measure it, can't tune it, that's why! -- or explain how carefully planned and deployed RAID volumes can save hours of maintenance headaches down the road. Seriously, don't ask! I will answer, at length, and I won't really notice if you try to cut me off or walk away.

That said, I can't get excited about actually implementing round-trip engineering processes, or bare-metal recovery practices. I'm eminently disqualified from real work because the day-to-day of programming or systems administration has so little to do with anything that's interesting. The pitfall of my success is that avoiding the grind of pure (and often blinded) ground-floor execution is a luxury I can no longer afford. Plus I have a liberal arts degree; the age when a pipe-sucking, houseboat-dwelling Bohemian who plays classical guitar and bemoans the malady of the quotidian while updating microcode on your data silos. I figure the tolerance in your average IT shop for that sort of thing is long, long gone. Neither do I have a Rolodex of sales contacts, seeing as I have, in my brief sales support years, failed to liquor up or hook up a customer. (You want the real measure of a salesman in this era? Ask them if they know any bar that have, say, "Dalwhinnie 18" on hand.) It remains to be seen what I am good for in this real world of applied solutions and super-horny operations managers with purchasing power.

So whether it's my age and current mindset, the job market, or the acronymic lists of job requirements that have reverted from an adopted language of mine back to an inscrutable upper-case mash, I'm having a time finding purchase in this mess of alternate gainful employment.

I'm rather like the one computer geek who never has stories to tell about debugging networks, installing cool retro-Cylon mods on my 4-way tower, or scrutinizing the chicanery bundled with the latest Microsoft security update, so-called. No one would ever ask anyway. I don't signify computer nerd, which is appropriate, because I'm not. I'm a general nerd, equally interested in sourcing the musical roots of Beatles' songs back to French cabaret, in reading research on the properties of Carmichael numbers, in tracing the foundation of Jungian analysis from mythology into the modern psyche, to finding the best number of Mentos to drop into a 2-liter bottle of generic diet cola. It's about finding nerd gold where it is, and not necessarily how or where I want to discover it. Computers -- things I casually played with at the Lawrence Hall of Science, years ago now, taught myself BASIC on, because that's how you talked to those things -- as it turns out, require skills to operate. Compensable ones! Well, OK, why not get some? One could do at least as well as teaching Victorian poetics to some number of obliged undergrads, which requires an actual degree and considerably less attention. It is about as spiritually rewarding, no more or less. And, as I surmised in the early-90's debate over academia and political correctness, there was no illusion of impatient business majors, aspiring nurses, and other vocation-oriented types, trying to better themselves through intellectual discovery, and the free exchange of ideas.

Feel free to call me a cynic on this point, if you like. I offer, in my defense, that the value of a liberal arts education has recently been called out for the mass hallucination that it is. Such wake-up calls now, from the fashionably cantankerous and all-but-cemented-to-tenure, smell vaguely of Andy Grove and Bill Gates in late 1999. You may remember them calling out Y2K as a largely fictitious concern, but only after the fattest of wild goose chases had run their course.

As I mention all this, I should note my navel-gazing emanates from a friend's laptop, which required some fixes and a virus removal to make happy again. It is the victim, I can see, of a dropped boyfriend's prior largesse. The compensation promised me includes a bag of Lemonheads (already secured, thank you), a cup of high-octane coffee (tomorrow morning). There's a third piece to it as well; no questions asked how I did it. The job I have railed against for years in this field -- the Dark Wizard who knows everything but talks to no one about it, for impatience or insecurity or utter social ineptitude -- and at the moment, I'm starting to wonder to whom one might apply.

3 comments:

SkylersDad said...

I can see you in the role of highly paid consultant Michael. Stroll into the boardroom full of people waiting to hear from the pro from Dover, glance at what pitiful data they have accumulated, and declare that their administrative practices are less than stellar. Get up and walk toward the door, turn and declare until they embrace reverse Boolean data harvesting principles they can't be helped.

Stop to collect check on the way out the door!

Somebody once told me that consulting is just the art of telling other people what time is on their wristwatch.

GETkristiLOVE said...

Who are you kidding, you're a computer nerd AND a general nerd.

Michael said...

sd: Those guys are on the road 100% of the time, and for good reason. If I didn't mind taking advantage of people with money but little drive, awareness, or smarts, I'd have been able to retire in the late '90s.

gkl: It's not my fault I know stuff!