Sharpening the blades, geeking out, and the Force.

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Hello everyone.

Another long rambly thing from me. Feel free to skip. I won’t be hurt. Heck, *I* probably won’t read this thing again after tonight.

This week has been a good one, even though the (sudden. actual.) snow here in Raincouver has been messing with my commute. I’ve been playing with the “real” version of Vista (downloaded legitimately, via the Microsoft Developers Network), and now that I know a few of the keyboard shortcuts, I’m starting to feel like it’s not ALL bad. Of course, there’s still a lot of “I could do that before, using free utilities” feelings, but for the most part, I’m somewhat amazed at how many devices and things work just fine, with drivers installing on the first plug. Perhaps the term “Plug and Pray” will revert to what it was supposed to be “Plug and Play.”

F’rinstance, I plugged a PCMCIA Adaptec Firewire card into this laptop in order to attach my Western Digital external drive *AND* my Maxtor external at the same time. Hear that, world? I’ve currently got 750GB of drive space attached to this little laptop here. When you start thinking of available drive space in terms of “Three Quarters of a Terabyte,” you start to get a little wobbly remembering that first PC I had with the whopping 110MB of space. These days I carry ten times that in my pocket in the form of a USB drive.

…and don’t get me started on the Commodore 64 my mom bought us back in the day, when she splurged the extra $400 (or was it $600?) for the 5.25″ floppy drive (as opposed to the current-gen standard of the TAPE DRIVE) that was single sided, single density. That’s 180K, if I recall correctly.

Yeah, so, I’ve been more of a techie this week, and less of a manager, which is good. What’s funny is that feeling of getting back to where I’m comfortable in my imaginary stealth chopper. I’m better at figuring out how to deal with some of the more… Office Political… parts of my job. The problems and people I have to deal with that are “less tech / more talk” are easier to work with/around if I’ve had my daily dose of geekery, first (or know that I can geek out later in the day).

Something comes back to me while I transfer the 232GB of Shitoshi’s recovered drive image, and download the squippy-lookin’ build of Linux that looks like it could probably be the Vista/OSX-For-Linux-Users (Kororaa). This was said to me while I was sheepishly talking about some of the software (some data-recovery and forensics applications) I’d acquired via, let’s say “unconventional” means, and what I was learning to do with said software (and I’m paraphrasing):

“As a samurai, you must keep your blades sharp and practice your craft, in the event that you may be called upon to ‘Save The Day,’ so that you may have no fear in your heart as you descend into battle.” (The Electric Gumshoe put it better, but I’ve forgotten it now).

and I think about that idea of sharpening my blades, and it makes me think of something I call the Intruder Complex, which is that feeling one has in a job where they don’t feel totally comfortable, and they’re not really sure what they’re doing just yet. The feeling is that any moment now your boss/co-workers/girlfriend/child will figure out that you don’t know what you’re doing, and blow you out of the water right there and then. y I remember quite well the sensation that Cam (my first boss in my first techie job, where I learned my way around 386 PCs, Windows 3.1, and Novell servers) was going to haul off and punch me in the face because I had screwed something up on An Important Machine. It would never have happened, of course, ’cause Cam was probably feeling not much different than I was – he was a techie who started a company on the top floor of his father-in-law’s machining shop, and mostly he assembled computers and servers for small companies of about 10-20 users. I was his second employee, ever.

So I learned my craft, and every time I *didn’t* screw things up, I felt a little better, and the better I got at troubleshooting (and/or recovering from my own mistakes so fast nobody noticed I didn’t know it the first time), the less and less I felt like I was going to be fired on the spot. That complex goes away after a while. But it sure comes back every time you get moved on to something new.

And then you move up and up in the ladder of technicians, across the line into guru or mad scientist land. You start pulling craziness from the magician’s hat, only it’s not always a cute little bunny you pulled out of that hat, like people might have expected you to. It’s this horrifying multi-legged gibbering *thing* that came from the deep blackness of the net, and it might eat every machine in a 50-foot radius if you don’t handle it properly. And nobody knows how to handle it properly, and everyone who knows enough about such things knows enough to be a little scared.

I guess that’s the thing: In order to be really good at your job, you’ve got to be crazy enough to handle the dangerous stuff, but strong enough to get yourself out of the bad stuff if the fur starts to fly. If you never do the dangerous/scary stuff, what you do won’t show up easily on the radar (your boss’, your partner’s, your co-worker’s, your kid’s, your own). Even if it’s not in a good light all the time, at least you’re being noticed. I’ve screwed things up before, and come clean most of the time. Fail faster, I’ve been saying over the last few months. If you’re not going to make it out of a technical/political brawl you got into, let the others around you know as soon as possible. If they’re really on your side, they’ll slam their back against yours and start fighting too.

Always have a backup piece. A good backup. It helps to have a bigger and scarier friend you can turn to if things get really out of control, too.

What I sometimes forget is that some of the techies I work with don’t like the scary stuff. It scares them. Scares them back to that horrible “I’m gonna get punched/fired” feeling. I want to be brave for them, but that doesn’t work. My only advice for them is “You have to enjoy the sensation of not knowing. This job is too difficult to do if it isn’t fun. Even if it’s kinda demented that you find the difficult stuff *fun.*”

So what the heck am I talking about again?

I’ll sum up, and since I’m not even making sense to *myself* any more, so I’ll do it in StarWars-ese:

1. Be brave. If it was easy, everyone would do it.
2. Keep your lightsaber nearby (and know how to use it, even with the blast shield down).
3. Find yourself an Old Ben Kenobi (from Episode Four, not One).
3a. and a Yoda (from Episode Five, not One).
3b. and the odd Han and Chewie, just in case.
4. Know what the Empire is building, just don’t mess with it until you know how.
5. Stay on target… STAY ON TARGET…
6. The Force might always be with you, but it won’t help if you’ve got it pointed the wrong way.

That’s all from me for tonight, ’cause my brain’s full of stuff that’s even hokier than that was.

Next post will probably be about my new super-reinforced-stitching button-fly jeans. (I kid you not).

and now, since this post is all about hired assassins and royal bodyguards (what? it wasn’t?), here’s a quote from the film GhostDog, in which a great big black man (Forrest Whittaker) becomes the most believable samurai an American film has ever produced:

There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to everything.

Posted on December 1st 2006 in Friends, General, Hardware, People, Software

4 Responses to “Sharpening the blades, geeking out, and the Force.”

  1. JonnyVancouver Says:

    You sir, have got some serious wisdom. And Ghost Dog ruled.

  2. scout Says:

    popping in to say congratulations on your bronze, canadian blogging award, status!

    as a fellow medal holder, i thought it would be nice to give my best wishes now, rather then before where it would be blatant self promotion (heh heh, only did that on friend’s sites).

    the fun is over, let the games of the other kind begin again!!!!

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