3M Half Marathon – like a run in the park

Benjamin and I ran the 3M Half Marathon yesterday morning. We completed all 13.1 miles in 2:26 (a pace of 11:13/M). The weather was beautiful and the course was great. We felt very good all throughout the race. At the end of the race we were both tired but not beat up and were very pleasantly surprised with our times. jonobie and jeffford both appeared to have a great run as well and finished faster than their expected times.

I think several things helped Benjamin and I have a great run:

  • We established our own pace. In the RunTex 20-miler we ran with jonobiewho’s pace is slightly slower than our own. While we really enjoyed her company I think this hurt us overall.
  • We kept our pace. In previous races we went out too fast and were just decimated at the end of the race. This race we did better about keeping ~10:00/M throughout the race which is our goal.
  • We stretched every two miles. Benjamin’s knees give him problems as do my ankles. Taking the time to stretch every two miles really helps in keeping the pain at bay.
  • We carb-loaded the night before. For past races we had eaten at Bear Rock Cafe the evening before the race. For the 3M we joined jeffford & jonobie at Johnny Carino’s for lots of bread and pasta.
  • I ate something along the way. At the RunTex 20-miler I learned just how important it is to have something to eat in the middle of the race. This time I brought along a Chocolate Chip Clif bar and ate half of it at the half-way point and the other half at around mile 10.
  • I had pseudo-fans. There were all kinds of people along the way cheering for various people. No one came out to cheer me on personally although that didn’t stop me from adopting fans. At one point there were two women who had signs for ‘Helen’. When we approached them I said “You can call me Helen” which got a laugh and lots of cheering encouragement. A bit later I saw Vanessa, a fellow IBMer, who had come out to cheer jonobie but cheered me on when she saw me. Finally, closer to the finish I saw another group of people holding signs to encourage ‘Kathleen’. I pulled my “You can call me Kathleen” line which got me cheering and encouragement (hey – the Kathleen people and Helen people didn’t know each other and it worked!).
  • The race was down-hill. While this one isn’t something we can actually control, I know it helped us. The 3M Half Marathon isn’t a loop but rather starts in north Austin and finished downtown – a not-insignificant decrease in elevation. The Freescale Marathon is also pseudo-linear and downhill which will help.

I’m not sure if Benjamin and I had another 13.1 miles in us on Sunday but we’re going to have to find it somewhere as the Freescale Marathon is coming up on February 19th.

Updating the peelinc.com and kence.org infrastructures

I talked Dad into getting two nice Dell PowerEdge servers to be the new DNS/web/mail servers for Peel, Inc. They’ll also power some of the kence.org infrastructure as well. They’re pretty sweet boxes (1×3.6GHz dual-core Intel, 2GB RAM, RAID5 disks, 2×10/100/1000 network cards). They will both be configured almost identical with the usual Linux, Apache, PHP, MySQL, BIND, SquirrelMail, Postfix, Dovecot, etc. One will go at the new sales office in Pflugerville and the other will be at the shop there in Littlefield. We have a business ADSL account in Pflugerville and are getting one in Littlefield (to replace the wireless connection they currently have). Both connections are 1.5/384 which is faster than my 144/144 IDSL connection at the house. The Pflugerville box will be the primary box (Master DNS, final SMTP destination, IMAP/POP server, etc) with the box in Littlefield being the backup (Slave DNS, SMTP backup, MySQL replica, etc). I’m in the process of setting the boxes up now and hope to move them in a couple of weeks after I get them finalized and tested.

I’m going to be phasing things onto the new boxes after I get them installed. The first thing to go will be the DNS and web. Followed by mail a few weeks later (the trickier of the two). I’m moving to virtual mail hosting with a MySQL database backend for both Postfix and Dovecot to make administration easier. A big plus will be the ability for users to change their passwords which has plagued me for years now.

After the migration I’ll still have daneel.kence.org set up as a relay for a while although he will eventually be phased out. After consolidating some hardware I’ll be creating a new non-peelinc-web server box to host at the Pflugerville office to replace mcguvnor.kence.org although that’s a couple of months away at the earliest. I’m looking forward to getting the old space heaters out of my office at the house – sure to lower my electric bills in the summer!

Just a little matter of market reference points

Someone asked today if I had figured out where the money came from and I responded in the negative. They recommended I contact my 2nd-line manager (that’s IBM speak for my manager’s manager) and see what they knew.

Come to find out:

Me: [detailed question about end-of-year random base pay adjustment]
2nd Line: The money is yours. There was small, not well-known bucket of funds that was allocated to each director at the end of the year. Each director looked at the market reference point of high-potential and strong performers and used it to make some adjustments. When [my director] looked at his organization, he saw your market reference point below average and implemented the adjustment to get your salary more competitive, kind of a random out of cycle circumstance, but I would say that we spent the money in the right place.
Me: That’s essentially the kind of information I was looking for. I just started to get a little concerned when no one seemed to know what I was talking about <laugh> Thanks!
2nd Line: No problem. Sorry we didn’t let you know all this sooner, and again, as I said before, thanks for all the hard work you are doing.

Now we know – lets have a round of applause for market reference points!

Soy update – Benjamin shows some leg

Ok, so maybe he didn’t show some leg, but Benjamin got an amazing discount on the soy candles. He called It’s A Soy today (yes, that’s actually the name of the business – how bizarre is that) and the $30/table candles we obtained for $20 a table! They even offered to ship them via UPS to us for a flat rate of $15 instead of per-pound. We were able to get all the candles needed sent to us for under $300! That’s my man!

Where did the money come from?

My last paycheck in December was slightly higher than I was expecting. I really didn’t pay that much attention mostly because, due to a variety of reasons, the last paycheck of the year can be higher or lower than the previous 23. Besides, higher is better and I wasn’t complaining.

During the first week of January I was checking to confirm that Benjamin was listed as a beneficiary for some employer-provided benefits. While poking around the HR site I noticed that I had received a base salary adjustment on December 16th and it was titled “Adjustment”. For those of you who don’t work at IBM let me say that this is unusual – most salary adjustments happen in the middle of the year and are clearly labeled with “Promotional Increase” or “Merit Increase”. This end-of-the-year adjustment was just bizzare. After doing my confused-but-happy Engineer’s Dance I made a note to ask my manager about it during our monthly one-on-one meetings and didn’t think more about it.

Fast forward to today.

At the end of the one-on-one with my manager I asked her what the adjustment was for. She said that while she’d love to take credit for it, she had nothing to do with it nor had my previous manager (I had a total of 3 managers last year) mentioned anything about it. She concluded by recommending that I call the Employee Service Center (ESC) to make sure that it wasn’t a mistake and that they wouldn’t want the money back later. At this point I was confused but not particularly worried.

I called the ESC and explained to the helpful service representative what had happened and they forwarded me onto Payroll. I explained to Payroll what had happened and they forwarded me onto HR Solutions. I explained to HR Solutions what happened and was placed on hold for several minutes. After a while the very friendly guy said that the system that would tell him the information is down and that the only thing he was able to discover was that some manager had to have put in the request for the adjustment. He said that he was unable to make outbound calls from the ESC but that he would put a note in my file so that if I wanted to call back tomorrow or later in the week the next person I contacted would know to pick up where he left off. I thanked him and decided to try a more direct approach.

I IM’d my previous manager and asked him if he knew anything about it. He said that he couldn’t take credit for it either although he did know that some of these “adjustments” were made during the December timeframe for members of his team but that “[they were] communicated to management and the adjustments were provided for good reasons”. He reassured me that he guessed it wasn’t a mistake but that “someone may have dropped the ball” in letting me know what was going on.

That brings us up to the here and now. I’m both pleased, pissed, and paranoid all at the same time. I’m pleased that there’s a possibility that the adjustment was intentional. I’m a little pissed that if it was intentional somehow I slipped through the cracks for notification of why I got it. Finally, I’m paranoid that my elation at having been financially “hugged” for my work last year was all just someone fat-fingering the wrong employee number and that not only will my nice little “hug” be taken away but that they’ll want their last two “hugs” back too!

Soy candles suck

For the wedding, the venue we’re using requires us to use soy candles as to not discolor the venue’s thatch ceiling with soot. The problem is that soy candles are harder to come by than regular candles. The old “supply and demand” concept thus tells us that they are more expensive than regular candles. None of this is a particular problem until you add Benjamin into the picture ;)

Continue reading Soy candles suck

The changing of the name

I’m a firm believer that an identity is more than just a name — however a name can reaffirm and support an identity. I also believe that establishing a presence in a medium (be it film, stage, books, newspapers, online) requires creating and maintaining a consistent identity. To this end I have had a web presence at kence.org for over 5 years now. The word “kence” originated as a horribly brutalized Cyrillic -> English spelling of my first name, not, as you might suspect, from a forgotten South African currency. The pseudonym has been with me since circa 1996. It is not a perfectly unique label but seldom have I had difficulty obtaining that username at various online sites.

LiveJournal is an exception. When I first created my LJ account for the sole purpose of accessing information in friends’ posts the username Kence was already taken. According to LJ’s policy, names are essentially not permanently transferable so Kence was right out. Since I wasn’t planning on actually posting anything I opted for “gairdeachas”. Gairdeachas is the name of my D&D character which sounds impressive until you learn that it is Welsh for “joy”.

Recently I’ve felt that I’ve needed an outlet for my ramblings and LiveJournal seems like a great place to put them – particularly some ramblings and rants that alas, I don’t feel appropriate for kence.org. The Gairdeachas account doesn’t seem like the place to put these as I have no strong ties to that identity outside of The Temple of Elemental Evil. To that end I’ve created a new LJ username: cpeel

With some tenacity we can hope to see some activity with the cpeel account. The gairdeachas account will remain desolate minus a forwarding to the new account. From this point forward please use the cpeel account for any LJ references.