Well, this weekend, indeed, the rest of this week, is a great big one in the life of dannyman.
Last week I got the word that Tellme wanted to fly me out to San Francisco. Well hot diggidy dawg but I found the most inexpensive plane tickets I could find for such a short-notice flight, and away I went. I left early Saturday morning, riding a very uncrowded 757 from Chicago. I returned Monday afternoon, riding an overbooked MD80 from San Jose.
A quick rant about airlines here - the tickets available at the last minute go up in price about threefold, but the real kicker is that it's cheaper to fly through Chicago from Champaign than direct from Chicago. Flying from Champaign though, this doesn't actually upset me, but let it be observed that the cheapest last-minute flight I could reason from Chicago would have involved riding Amtrak away from the city and flying back through.
Does anyone know why it works that way?
Anyway, as I stepped out of the San Jose airport to ride along in Angus' A4, the first thing I noted was sunshine. It was a pleasant, sunny 70 degrees. Not bad, it's been shitty cold rain in Illinois lately, though it has been nice since I got back.
Indeed, everywhere I went the weather was different. It gets chilly at night, unlike Chicago, and because it's all hilly and different parts are closer and farther away from mountains, oceans, and desert ... well, it wasn't any warmer than Illinois except where it is usually warmer, and some places are chillier. Weird stuff.
From the airport we drove around Mountain View and the West Bay, Angus showed me the shiny buildings that were Netscape, and a few other places. Lots of big names and impressive stuff out there. Neato. We pulled up to the Tellme temporary offices, and I met some rather interesting folks.
I'm not sure, especially because I was a little dazed at the time, having arisen at 0345h PDT, but I think I was interviewed by about half the people who were there at the time. I talked of course with Angus, but also with John, their current Internet guru, who said that I'd also have to learn myself about some secure tunnelling, which struck me as interesting. I talked with Mike, the CEO, and some Engineers, Brad and Rod, each one on one.
One interviewee seemed uncertain what he should be after, so I started asking him questions, and was left impressed by my own comfort in the situation. I was actually pretty proud of that one, and glad that I didn't make any obvious snafus that a nervous candidate might make on any of the interviews. The whole rigamarole was quite pleasant, and I felt that I got along quite naturally with everyone, and even watching discussions about internal development that went somewhat above my head, I didn't feel out of place. The atmosphere was cordial, even better than NCSA had been, but with the informality and smallness that just made things a little more cozy, and avoided the cynicism you're going to find in any organisation large enough to be self-conscious about itself in such a way.
I also got the impression at least, that the folks out there were each intelligent, and some especially so. The impression I've gotten from Angus is that he's running about and putting together the best people he can get ahold of to put up this exciting new idea he and Mike have developed. The question that had been lurking in the back of my mind was why he'd take much interest in little old me, and as that came out in the interviews I began to put together my own little picture.
Consider if you were young and excited about creating your own startup. You have plenty of cash to go and pursue the best folks you need for the R&D stuff, and among the staff you would need are also support folks, including a Systems Administrator. For this position, a whiz kid from college should do, and so you, being the Internet hipster you are turn to the web and get yourself piles of resumes from Collegehire.com. Unfortunately, Collegehire is a slightly funny entity, and has a habit of returning a lot of obtuse suggestions. It turns out that a lot of EE/CS types, even if they have had experience adminning machines, tend to be more interested in just doing code. One candidate though is reasonably bright, and has experience and interest in the sort of stuff you're looking for. He's also different - a Writing major with a fairly extensive website and a sense of humour. Hrmmm ...
I believe that in putting together the team, Angus may regard the company as a pallete onto which he places the colours in contrast and harmony with one another. He has some creative ego invested in the team, and takes pride in it, and one thing I have going for me is a somewhat unconventional flavour that seems to work. Viola!
Or so I tell myself. A useful mythology that pleases me, for now, for lack of any better understanding of the mysterious forces at work here. I think reality adds in a factor that maybe Collegehire didn't do a great job, but did return one prospect that actually, when you get to know him, sounds like a good fit. At the day's end, we know that dannyman gets it done.
Come to think of it though, the folks I know who are into running the systems tend to be more unconventional. I can think of an English major, two Rhetoric BAs, a dropout, and the entire team at EnterAct as examples of Admin-types who fall far from the traditional CS mould.
After checking out the new office space that they'll be moving to, which is a converted warehouse that Angus seems enamoured with, and that in its present state at least, failed to really impress me worth anything, we took off toward the city, running into possibly the worst traffic jam I've ever seen, across a bridge that was damaged in the last big earthquake, and up to my weekend's abode, La Casa MikeyA de San Pablo.
Now, understand that before this weekend, I had never seen nor heard from MikeyA beyond the confines of the Internet. Mikey's been readin' this ol' journal here since back in 1996 when I tried to buy a modem off of him and the power brick got lost in the mail.
MikeyA actually turned out much as I had expected him to, as far as I would dare to expect anyone to turn out as anything I would imagine for them over the Internet. He's a big bearded biker dude wearin' the Harley teeshirt and sporting a friendly, good-natured and occasionally mischievous attitude. He and Dana and I took to each other right away. The relationship felt like the distant young relative visiting a favoured Aunt and Uncle.
Mikey and Dana showed me the sights, fed me, and were thoroughly hospitable to the point of providing the most comfortable foldout couch I can recall having had the pleasure to rest on, and clean towels, telnet, coffee and pop and of all things, a good long ride all the way back down to San Jose International.
Traditionally the company will wine and dine and provide lodging and transportation. Well, always the unconventional one, I had departed company from the business professional and entered that of the fun professional.
Saturday night we went down by San Francisco's version of Navy Pier. Pier ... 39? Anyway, all they got is a lame little carousel instead of a giant Ferris Wheel, but we had some good steaks and I saw a cute little teeshirt I just had to grab for a honey I know.
After impressing MikeyA with my ability to finish off a good meal on a full stomach ... he had been concerned because I'd been taking it slow, but slow and steady and I think I finished before he did. Well, we took to ridin' around and at an overlook just off the golden gate bridge, I did finally work loose one of my baby teeth ... cuspid, I think it is. This tooth has been loose since Highschool and is all the more noticeable because of the "fang" ... a canine that's been waiting to descend into it's place for the longest time.
Well, losing a tooth may be no big deal, but for me, it don't happen all so often. And while I'm not one given to superstition, even this atheist tends to suspect that there may be some fate guiding his destinies. If ever there was some kind of sign, it's losing a tooth I've had loose since my last big life change at the monument of the area to which I am considering my move.
At the least, it does serve as a symbol of the changes in my life. The new tooth started coming into place as I left High School, but it is not until now that the old guard has fallen away, leaving the path clear. You see in that interpretation why I can hold my own in an English course?
I had also a touch of Deja Vous. One of the few times I've flown on a plane was one morning as I flew from O'Hare towards Alabama when I enlisted in the Army after High School. Well, Saturday morning, I hit a sense of Deja Vous as I swear I walked past a spot I had walked that morning years ago as I boarded my flight for another destiny. This time I was walking the other way. And there wasn't anything I really recognised ... it was a section of window overlooking the runway, but I had a sudden feeling of familiarity. It was spooky cool. To interpret again, the airport represents a crossroads in one's life, where one goes to meet their destiny. The trip to San Francisco was at a cross to the trip to Alabama. I failed in the Army, and this time I felt myself walking the other way through the cusp.
Sunday did MikeyA arise early by MikeyA standards, and trudge down with Dana and I to an inexpensive Mexican restaurant. They ordered each huevos rancheros, but being on an expedition, I ordered the huevos nopales, which is eggs with shredded cactus.
It did come with beans and rice and salad and tortillas. Perhaps owing in part to the night before, I called a truce, and stopped short of consuming the whole enchilada, as it were. But those were some damned fine tasty tasty eggs.
Mikey then took me to see some more sites. We returned to the shop we'd spotted the night before, and I procured the shirt I had spotted the night before. Then we drove up Market St, through the Gay district, past Castro, past old-fashioned cable cars that they bring into service during the summer, past several Volkswagens, including a handful of Ghias and two Things, and up to the top of the hill that overlooked San Francisco, where I did take pictures.
Mikey said that as a kid he and his friend would hop the Greyhound into the city and have fun and play, returning home in the afternoon, rubbing some straw on themselves and telling their parents what fun they had had playing in the grassy field.
For dinner I rode over to Alameda, and enjoyed some vegan cuisine with
Joyce and Harlyn. They've got a good house with an excellent kitchen. I
did heartily approve. Harlyn had some surplus N scale model trains he'd
gotten a deal on at a garage sale, and so promised a
starter set for
when I chose to move out there. Joyce was of the opinion that I should head
out there and thus serve as bait so my momma would come visit the area and
they could hang out together. An interesting take on the living near mom
For various practical reasons I was then returned to Mikey's place. The next morning, Mikey's extensive research had suggested that the most reliable method of hitting the airport on time would be to drive there, rather than taking BART, Cal Train, and other public devices with disturbingly inconvenient schedules. And so then did he and me and KennyK ride on down to the airport, and so then did I bid them farewell and did they return to the aforementioned big hill to acquire a plant or somesuch titillating story.
H O M E