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August 29, 2003: Misfiring

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My office is located in an unusual sort of building. It has incredible character, both in its rather interesting interior architecture, and also from the fact that it is located right on the Sacramento River (I have a huge picture window over my desk, on which reside the office binoculars. Talk about easy way to get distracted). However, it also has its faults, including absolutely no sound insulation in any of the walls, and a wiring system that would make any self-respecting electrician bawl like a little baby from sheer horror. The lack of sound insulation has been fun enough with just our downstairs neighbors, one of whom the office has not so lovingly nicknamed The Chipmunk due to the fact that she has a rather high-pitched and unpleasant laugh.

For the longest time we were the only ones on the second floor. However, for the past several weeks they have been getting the office beside us ready for new tenants. And since the office next to us has been vacant for so long, and wasn't exactly finished to begin with, this has included a lot of work. An awful lot of extremely noisy work, especially when it is happening directly over my head (their loft space is right over my desk).

This is where the wiring system comes in to play. Not only do we get the sound of sawsalls and other equally noisy power tools (not to mention the dulcet tones of either honky tonk country music, or the top 40 teen hits) blaring through the walls along with the unmistakable aroma of paint, varnish, and carpet paste, we also get the joy of having, without warning, an entire bank of electric circuits go kaput. Sometimes it's only a few lights. But other times it's something a bit more critical, like our phone system, or our server.

To their credit it's not as if they are being hopelessly negligent. The wiring system really is that screwed up. Our circuits and those of our soon-to-be next-door neighbors are so hopelessly untangled that no one seems to know which end is up. It was so bad that when my company moved in a few years ago, the electrician who was setting the office up for them pretty much said that he'd be able to get us up and running but god help whoever moved in on the other side. I'm sure that lately there's been a fair bit of praying to one deity or another among the unfortunate souls who've been tasked to untangle the mess and I don't envy them that task. But that still doesn't detract from the fact that it can be annoyingly inconvenient for us.

Today they managed, in a sheer stroke of luck and incredible timing, to knock out both the phone system *and* the server (and thus our access to email) in one blow. Maybe not normally such a big deal, but today the plan was for us to all leave early, to get a head start on the three-day weekend. I've been waiting all week for final decisions on what gets changed in that database I distributed two weeks ago, so that I can do the necessary tweaks and fire off the latest copy so the rest of the offices can be ready when we go officially live on Tuesday tasks which not only required the ability to email things to the other offices, but also to access their remote servers to update some files. The others were equally inconvenienced, since this had to happen on the last billable day of the month, when several large projects were scheduled to be completed and sent out projects whose files reside on the aforementioned server which the electricians next door sent off to never-never land.

Luckily they were very understanding and after about an hour of us all meandering around, aimlessly twiddling our thumbs and eating peanut M&M's, they came in toting a huge blue extension cord, which they proceeded to use to divert us to another circuit until they could figure out just what the heck they'd managed to do to the first. I don't know about everyone else, but I at least managed to get that database modified and installed on at least two remote servers, plus learn new and interesting ways to bring up the blue screen of death on my own computer (which apparently has taken a rather violent dislike to NetMeeting) in time to escape early enough to avoid any traffic on the way home. Which, at least for me, more than made up for the power outage and the pounding and the light rain of bits of plaster falling from the ceiling onto my head.

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