Saturday, May 24, 2014

Rethinking Problems Freakily

A couple of weeks ago I promised a blog about the magic system I'm working on for the fantasy novel I'm writing, A Spell of 13 Years.  I didn't publish that entry due to an influx of circumstances flowing into my life.  And I'm not going to write it today, mainly because I'm just too tired to think about magic today.  
That's OK, though, right?  We're all friends here, right?  
Last night I stayed late at work.  The IT department for my company wanted to upgrade the records server my department uses to store the files we work on.  We're running out of space in the various partitions on the server and the guy working on the project wanted to install a new indexing system, one that would allow the partitions shares to expand as needed as we uploaded files.  This would give us time until they could extract the older data and put it into deep storage, which would take about two weeks.  "It'll take about 30 minutes," I was told.  I just needed to let him know when all the other employees were gone and the server wasn't being used.  I gave him the call around 8 PM and sat in my office catching up on the latest episode of Big Bang Theory  
As sometimes happens in endeavors like this, it took a bit longer than expected.  "Thirty minutes AFTER I install the upgrade, which will take about 45."  But then he lost contact with the server and needed me to tell him what was on the monitor connected to the server.  Then I needed to power cycle the server and bring up the boot menu to change the LAN setting from "static" to "DHCP."  Then I had to download a firmware ROM and make a disk image of it to upgrade the server's firmware.  Then...
It was around 2:05 AM when the IT guy said to me.  "That's it.  We've reached the limit of what we can do.  I'll have to have a technician come out there tomorrow..."  
I think I blanked out for a moment at this point.  It was my premonition coming true.  All this week, since arriving to work on Monday morning, I kept having this feeling, this secret fear, that "something" was going to go serious wrong.  That something or other was going to keep me from reaching the three day weekend I very much wanted.  And now it was happening.  I'd have to come out on Saturday to open the door for this technician and stay there while he or she did whatever it was that needed to be done to restore our server by start of business Tuesday morning.  In fact, I'd probably have to come in Sunday as well as Monday, because whatever the problem was would prove to be that intractable.  
Why did was I thinking this way?  I think it's because things at work were going really well.  I'm not used to things going my way.  A good day now and then, with several days where I'm fighting to barely hold things together, that is about what I expect from my days.  
What do I call days filled with dark, dreary despair?  Weekdays.  
But that hasn't been the case.  Work has been long and hard, but largely quite good.  There have been only three days this month when the department hasn't made its daily goal.  This is how I want it to go.  
Which means there has to be this big, negative energy bill building up out there in the cosmos, and the records server huddling in the corner of network room with its thumb it is mouth, weeping and pouting and not willing to talk to anyone, was the sign that that bill was about to come due.  
Going to shift gears a bit.  There was something else that I came across this week that I've been pondering a new concept brought to me via an interview with one of the authors of the book, "Freakonomics," Steven D. Levitt.  
Mr. Levitt has taken the concepts he put forth in his bestselling book and has started applying them to other problems the world is facing, such global warming.  Not having read his book, this interview was an introduction for me on his ideas.  
The one that struck me as most interesting was the story of Takeru Kobayashi.  He is Japanese food eating champion who doubled the world record at the Coney Island Hot Dog eating contest the very first time he competed, eating 50 hot dogs in twelve minutes when the previous record was 25.  Levitt talked about Mr. Kobayashi's training method before entering the Coney Island competition.  He conducted numerous experiments during his training.  He tried dipping the hot dog and bun in water before eating it.  Eating while jumping up and down.  Breaking the hot dog in half.  
What was different about Kobayashi's efforts was the problem he was trying to solve.  All the other food eating competitors were trying to figure out the answer to, "How can I eat more hot dogs in 12 minutes?"  Kobayashi's experiments were conducted to answer a different question: "How can I make 1 hot dog easier to eat?"  
By asking a different question, and coming up with the answer, THEN repeating the procedure 50 times in a row, Kobayashi made food-eating championship history.  
Another little shift now.  Think of it as "double-clutching" into third gear.  
Back in April I mentioned in a previous blog entry a Japanese book I was interested in reading, "If Cats Disappeared from the World."  I purchased a copy of this book recently, after searching for it in a Japanese book store in Little Tokyo.  Because of the picture on the cover, the staff put it on the same shelf as pet-care books.  I'm up to page 14 now.  I read the first three pages while eating lunch at my favorite Japanese restaurant (a ramen shop where I always order the chicken curry rice).  I hoped to keep that pace up, but it's proven difficult.  It took me two days to ready the paragraph where the main character talks about his medical examination, and the doctor's diagnosis that he has a stage 4 brain tumor that will probably take his life within a week.  
I'm going to finish the book though.  I know this to be true.  I've had a goal of reading a complete Japanese book for a while now, and I've made other attempts, like reading a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone translated to Japanese (the Japanese translated the British English version), but I've not been able to sustain the effort.  
This time I will, though.  I can feel it.  It's a different certainty from the one that made me certain that something would arrive to rob me of my well deserved three day rest.  For one thing, the theme of the story, about the things that make life worth living, attracts me.  Plus, reading the story, I've decided that I like the main character telling us the story in the first person.  And I like how each time I've read a "favorite part of the story so far," it is followed by another one.  Like how walking home after leaving the doctor's office he comes across some young guys playing guitar on the street, singing loudly about how you should live every day to your fullest, and his reaction is to think they're idiots, and ask how standing in front of a train station singing for change is doing that.  This is followed by the scene where the Devil appears in his home, looking exactly like him except he's dressed in a yellow Aloha shirt and shorts, sporting sunglasses, even though its cold outside.  Oh...  Yeah...  He's just come from someplace...  Warmer.  
But beyond all that, which would apply to any good story that I would be reading, is the sense of accomplishing something.  I'm reading a book in another language.  I'm following it.  The jokes are funny and I get them.  And this makes me feel good about myself.  It makes me happy.  
The interview with Mr. Levitt made me think about the problems in my own life.  How can I rethink them?  How can I approach them differently.  One example immediately came to mind.  I've long had the goal of writing a lot of short stories.  I've wanted to submit at least a dozen short stories each year, one per month, for years now.  I've not done that yet.  Maybe, like Mr. Kobayashi, I should rethink the problem.  Instead of thinking how to write a bunch of short stories, I should figure out how I can make 1 story easier to write?  Maybe?  
After my little black-out last night, I tried to think in these terms.  The server HAD TO be up by Tuesday.  We were doing very well this week, my department, and I wanted to see that continue.  I told the IT guy to call me when he had the technician lined up.  I'd be there on Saturday to let him in.  Sure, I cursed a bit once I hung up.  But then I thought about what I could do in my office while the technician did his thing.  I could bring my laptop and write, for one.  I would figure something out.  
Turns out I didn't have to.  When I got up this morning, I had an email message waiting for me.  The IT guys figured out a way to reestablish a connection with the server.  They rolled back the upgrade and the server was happy and communicative again.  No need for me to go in.  My weekend was back.  I celebrated by going to Russell's, a bistro-style dinner in Old Town Pasadena and ordered their "Big One" breakfast with blood orange mimosa.  I then came home a took a nap.  
I still think something bad is coming my way.  That's just how the universe works.  


Post a Comment

<< Home