It pays to listen to Performance Peons

Customer ran into a bug with our LDAP software that screwed up 250k entries in their LDAP causing them to take it out of production. I asked the IBM service guy on-site repeatedly for the output of two DB2 commands, expecting we could do it directly in DB2 (which LDAP sits on top of) much faster than going through LDAP. Aforementioned IBMer was too busy to run the two (2!) commands I provided to him. Instead he spent a day or so creating a script to fix it using LDAP commands and gave it to the customer. After getting it started, customer estimates that total running time is 10 days. Customer is very unhappy and escalates the situation way up. I get called in. After receiving the output of the two commands, an hour of developing/throughly testing/confirming a script to work in DB2, and 15 minutes to run the script – we’re done.

In short: I do know what I’m talking about, that’s why my (self-given) title is “ITIM Performance Lead (LDAP & DB2 Performance Peon)”. And yes, it really does say that in the internal IBM corporate directory, aka BluePages.

Bumper stickers…

I freely admit to having an irrational massive hatred towards our current President. Heck, I’ve been counting down the days since his second inauguration.

I am even sad enough to transfer this distaste to cars and trucks with pro-Bush bumper stickers (“It’s not my fault you’re in a left-turn-only lane ’cause you can’t read freak’n street signs. That’s what you get you sheep, you’re not cutting in!”) and amusingly grant ‘freebies’ to cars and trucks with anti-Bush bumper stickers (“Well, we can’t all know this crazy Mopac + Braker intersection, come on over”). The same holds true for anti-gay marriage stickers (bad) and pro-gay marriage/HRC stickers (good).

This morning I realized that I need to take a much closer look at the stickers than I apparently have been before. While driving into work this morning I encountered a car with a sticker that at first glance looks just like a Bush/Cheney campaign sticker until you look closer and realize that the ‘campaign date’ isn’t ’04 but 1984. Love it, but a bit too subtle for my taste.

Ranting about today’s news

Warning: This post contains nothing worth reading, your time would be better spent taking a nice walk outside.

What the hell is wrong with the world recently? Am I the only one that thinks the headlines today are over the top? The following are actual news headlines and my rant about the topic.

Pope raps China over bishops
Folks in China appoint two new bishops. Pope Benedict is pissed that he didn’t have a say in the matter. Can you say classic catholicism at its worst? The notion that “the Pope has God’s ear and everyone else is wrong” just blows my mind. Protestant theology holds that God is an equal opportunity employer, yes anyone can talk to him. Not sure why the Pope (or the Catholic church in general) think they have a monopoly on the red hone to God.

US asks Mexico to reconsider ‘stupid’ drug law
So Mexico wants to pass a law that allows people to legally possess a limited amount of currently-illegal drugs. The US government is going ballistic because, well, no one’s sure exactly. The US has claimed that it would encourage “drug tourism” in Mexico – no shit, much like underage youth go across the border to drink. Amsterdam seems to be doing OK. One article has Judith Bryan, the US embassy spokesperson, as saying that they are encouraging Mexico to re-examine the law “to ensure that all persons found in possession of any quantity of illegal drugs be prosecuted or be sent into mandatory drug treatment programmes”. Lets think about that, if Mexico passes the law then they wouldn’t be illegal in small quantities so how exactly are they suppose to prosecute people who are acting within the law? I love how the US will gladly ignore the international community when we go to war with Iraq, an action affecting another country, and yet we have no qualms with telling Mexico what to do about laws that effect its own citizens and Mexico complies. The US is the worst kind of playground bully.

Side rant: America has somehow made a mental connection that “illegal drugs” are drugs that are bad for you, when in reality they are drugs that are illegal to possess. Sure they may also be bad for you for various meanings of the word ‘bad’, but bad != illegal. Someone needs to think up a new term. On the same thought, there’s currently a radio ad here in Austin about some news station doing a story over “Drugs that your students can buy on the streets … legally”. Right, like advil or Pepsid AC ’cause you know those are drugs that students can buy legally now. I’m sure they’re actually talking about some hallucinogenic/mind-altering substance but they have decided to use “drugs” instead. Arg!

Sugary sodas to be pulled from US schools
Thank you Mr. Clinton and the rest of society from protecting America from itself and becoming the parents of our youth. Lets not tackle the harder health problems like why parents can’t send their kids to school with nutritious lunches instead of money for the vending machines, or teach them the value of eating healthy food — no, lets just make it so that they don’t have access to sodas in their schools ’cause that’ll solve the problem. Good thing all of those convenience stores down the streets from those schools aren’t selling those sodas either, oh wait.

Mutant Mice May Hold Clues To Athiesm
Well, actually it was “Hold Clues to Autism” but that’s what I get for reading it too fast.

Little Rock, the Food Tasting, and Littlefield

I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Little Rock, AR the last several weeks. I was shipped out there to help a large telecommunications company with some critical LDAP problems they were experiencing in their production environment. Since it is a production environment they have strict change management controls which dictate that we can only make “atomic” changes in their environment between 11pm and 5am. This made things complicated as we had about 10 changes that needed to be made and were told we could only make one of them a night. When I left last week (on the 5th) they still had about 5 changes to get in. The change window was a pain as well. I’d work from around 8:30am until 6:00pm monitoring their systems and determining what other problems existed and how to best fix them. I’d head out to the hotel, then to a restaurant for dinner, and back up to the customer site at 10:45pm to make the changes needed and with luck I was back at the hotel and in bed at 2am. This went on for about a week (Mar 31 to Apr 5). The flip side is that I identified many many areas in their environment that needed to be changed to better stabilize their systems — most of which we were able to accomplish before I left. Based on an email that was sent to the IBM account team, the customer loved me and my work which is always a nice reward.

During that time Benjamin and I had our food tasting for the wedding. Once a season the Barr Mansion has a buffet dinner for several dozen couples to allow them to get an idea of what menu options are available for their upcoming event. Since I simply could not miss this (according to Benjamin) I flew back to Austin from Little Rock on Saturday evening, interpreted at church on Sunday morning, attended the food tasting Sunday night, and was back in Little Rock by 9am on Monday morning. Talk about a whirlwind weekend! The tasting itself was fun. We weren’t the only gay couple there although we were greatly outnumbered by our heterosexual brethren. We by chance picked an excellent table as the two other couples at the table were very cool and gay-friendly.

I finally made it back to Austin from Little Rock on Wednesday the 5th only to turn around on Thursday and drive up to Littlefield. As my role of Computer Guru for my dad, I had several computer-related tasks that I needed to be present for in Littlefield. Over a month ago I had decided to take off work and get it done over a long weekend. The trip didn’t start out well when the Mustang began to overheat when I reached Leander. Thankfully it was Benjamin’s half day so he was at home and was able to meet me in Cedar Park and swap cars. The Fusion is a great car to take on long road trips I’ve decided. Beyond that the trip went well. I accomplished about 95% of what I went up there for, and it was the important 95% at that. As always it was good to see the parents and grandparents.

HRC Gala and Michael Buble

Saturday evening Benjamin and I attended the Austin Human Rights Campaign Annual Gala. This is our third year to attend and also marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of the organization. I heartily agree that this year’s event was the best organized from a participant’s perspective. Benjamin and I are HRC Federal Club members, a distinction obtained by contributing over a certain amount to HRC of the course of a year. We’re frequently being invited to Federal Club events although we haven’t attended any of them to date — mostly because we don’t know anyone in the organization. Before the Gala this year the Federal Club gathered for a Pre-Gala Mixer to sip on free wine/champaign/cokes and meet this year’s speaker, Joe Sol., the head of HRC nation wide. Benjamin and I attended and sipped our champaign (Benjamin) and coke (Casey) and proceeded to stand in the corner and talk to each other for about 30 minutes. Yup, we totally copped out and stood in the corner looking like dorks — total affirmation why we don’t attend the more frequent events throughout the year. The silent auction before the dinner was well done. Benjamin and I bid on at least 10 different items and at the time the dinner started was looking to be out about $1k. Luckily (nor not, depending on your perspective) someone went in during the dinner and outbid us on most items. We still walked home with a marble vase, a chandelier (that we discovered has a few missing parts – arg), tickets to the Alamo Drafthouse, tickets to a Zach Scott performance, and gift certificates to Which Wich (a sandwich joint downtown who is building a location on Parmer across from the old Randall’s).

On Sunday we got up bright and early and headed to church. The young deaf woman who has been attending regularly was there again and was particularly attentive during the sermon. I felt I provided a good interpretation although I need to ask Terri the signs for a few words (race, racial, prejudice among others).

Directly after church we drove down to San Antonio and spent the day on the Riverwalk until the Michael Buble concert started at 8pm. The weather was oddly nice in San Antonio despite it being rainy and cold in Austin when we left. The concert itself was very good. I wasn’t sure what to expect really as MB’s sound seems to target a large audience. If you’re not familiar with him, MB is a modern day Frank Sinatra. He has a jazz/big band sound that seems to appeal both to the younger teenie-bopper crowd as well as older folks like my grandmother. Given that diverse fan base I wasn’t sure if this was going to be a crowd surfing concert or a classical recital. Oddly enough it was a little of both. He had a live jazz band on stage and sang songs off both his major albums. There was only one song that Benjamin and I didn’t recognize. MB is a great entertainer. He didn’t just get up there and sing, he worked the crowd making jokes and such during the breaks between songs. The beginning of the show featured his fast songs that got the teenie-boppers rushing the stage (yes, rushing the stage) to take his picture. The tickets specifically mentioned that photography and recording of any kind was expressly prohibitive so Benjamin and I made a point to leave our camera and both cell phones in the car like good little citizens. Apparently not everyone was so inclined. Between one of the songs MB said “you know, you paid good money for these tickets, take as many pictures as you want” so of course, everyone did all throughout the performance. After a couple of songs the bouncers got the area in front of the stage cleared (which I’m sure the people in the first 5 rows who paid $$$$ for their tickets were glad of). He then switched into a slower song set and threw in two other fast songs at the very end (and the teenie-boppers rushed the stage again). Benjamin loved the performance and admitted that he would love to be one of the folks rushing the stage. I liked the music but would have enjoyed the concert more if the teenie-boppers had just stayed home. It illustrates again how different we are. All in all, the concert was well worth the price of the tickets. If you have a chance to see MB in concert, I highly recommend it.

Marathon Results – Take 4

Three weeks and 4 emails after the fact and I finally have official results for the Austin Freescale Marathon. As I mentioned in a previous post – the point of having an official time was to enable me to have a placing in the Austin Distance Challenge.

After some digging I found my splits. It looks as though they have my halfway time (2:42:34) and my 30k time (4:08:25) but not my 10k time and obviously not my finish time. I need to see about getting my chip checked out as I’m thinking it is defective.

Finally – closure!

Signing Music

As some of you may know, I’m proficient (but not fluent) in American Sign Language (ASL). I regularly interpret for the deaf at my church on Sundays. While I’ve had no formal training, I have taken several classes as the Austin Sign Language School (mostly vocabulary classes) and have interpreted for a few deaf individuals. I’ve considered taking the test and becoming certified in Texas however my receiving (ie: reading ASL) is very poor due to my lack of practice.

One of the things I love to sign is music. I don’t have much of a singing voice (that’s Benjamin’s department) but I have been told by both the deaf, interpreters, and others that I have a knack for signing music. In fact, just last Sunday a hearing woman came up to me after the church service and said that my interpreting was so beautiful that it almost brought her to tears. I, personally, think that’s over the top — but apparently it does move some people.

I should probably take a moment and describe a little bit about our church for you to better understand the rest of this post. I attend church at Gateway Community Church. It is a non-denominational church here in Austin that is very uncontemporary. Each and every Sunday the live band covers a song that 80% of the audience knows and would hear on the radio. To give you an idea, I’ve interpreted at least one song from each of the following: Madonna, Matchbox 20, Hootie and the Blowfish, U2 (lots of those), Green Day, Nickleback, Sherryl Crow, Alanis Morissette, The Police, Sting, The Eagles, Coldplay, and many, many more — you get the idea, this isn’t your normal Baptist Hymnal.

Interpreting music is a bit different than interpreting someone speaking. Typically with music you get the lyrics ahead of time so you know what you’re going to have to interpret whereas with someone speaking you’re good to know the general topic. On the flip side, with someone speaking you just become a living conduit — hear what they are saying into your buffer, parse the meaning, translate that into sign (using a huge mental thesaurus), and sign it a couple of seconds after the speaker has said it while still filling new input into the buffer. The delay really isn’t that important as we’re obviously going for content — the delivery itself just has to be comprehendable. Music on the other hand goes through the same general buffer but to capture the true meaning of a song, the delivery can often be more important than the content being delivered. The interpreter’s movements have to mimic the music, not just convey the meaning, to be truly enjoyable to the deaf. I personally believe that a good song interpretation is part dance.

Interpreting music for the deaf is often very challenging. Think of the last song you heard on the radio. Do you actually know what every word was? If you actually do know all the words think quick: what did the artist mean with those words? Could you explain it to another person? How much of the song’s enjoyment is from the play on words? The rhyming? To interpret a song and do it well you have to break the song down into it’s core meaning and interpret that into signs that convey the same meaning in a way that is visually appealing. Just as a poet or artist might choose a different word to better fit their work, an interpreter might choose a different sign with the same meaning to better fit in with the previous and following signs to make it look better. Now imagine doing that on the fly while trying to maintain sync with the music. Without previous exposure to both the lyrics and the music this is virtually impossible.

There’s a very interesting article titled Keeping deaf fans rockin’ that I saw linked from Fark. I think the article does a great job of showing some of the challenges that deaf interpreters experience when signing songs for the deaf. The article discusses a great deal of the same topics that I’ve touched on although in a much more succinct way.

I’ve interpreted several concerts although all of them have been in a church setting. I’ve interpreted a mini-concert by Wide Awake, Malford Milligan, and others although their names escape me. Usually I have about a week’s notice of the concert and if I’m lucky I can borrow a CD or two from someone to listen to during the week and “get into” the music. I’d like to do more music interpreting but if I’m going to go down that path I really need to get certified first. No time for that now however.