I was tagged yesterday so I get to present five fun-filled formerly faintly fanned-out facts about myself, excluding my love of alliteration or anything I’ve blogged or podcasted about previously, greatly limiting the source material.
Warning: this post contains references to nudity, lingerie, and anatomic correctness, and it got really, really long. And in case anyone is four or five standard deviations off the mean and wants to know how I chose to relay these tidbits, they’re in chronological order.
I know what the GECOS field is. My first job was at Six Flags Great Adventure. And yes, I was in the IT department, which was located in an inflatable “bubble” temporary building located on an unused part of the parking lot just behind the main entrance. The benefits were plentiful but of marginal value: an employee store that sold some of the choitchkes you could get in the park, the ability to zip in and out of the park on your break time, and employee parties that usually involved having us test out some new ride. The IT part was humorous in retrospect. First system we had was a Northern Telecom (before they were Nortel) Sycor 445, running some mutant variant of CP/M and six random pages torn from a Multics manual. Our second system was an actual Honeywell GECOS Unix-like system, which felt familiar after having used BSD Unix for the previous academic year. So munging the GECOS field in a password file isn’t entirely foreign to me. Coolest thing about the job: For about two months, I worked for a guy named Rex. Funniest thing about the job: we shared the bubble building with the body puppets, those larger-than-life characters who walk around and accidentally terrorize little kids. It’s hard to be serious about writing COBOL programs when a guy with a 3-foot wide head walks into your inflatable office looking for the bathroom. Best deal of the job: I once wrote some simple shell scripts for the Sycor system so that we could transmit our payroll records to Six Flags HQ in Dallas, have them processed via RJE, and receive the formatted check images, payroll register and general ledger all during the graveyard shift, when we didn’t have to warn people keypunching card images that typing too fast would cause our 300 baud modem to drop the BSC connection. Those scripts saved us an average of $300 in phone bills a week. I got a $50 bonus (not in employee store credit) at the end of the summer. And it was a big deal.
I sold radio advertising. It was my first sales job, and it paid commissions. WPRB-FM is not only one of the first college FM stations, it is one of a few commercial college stations, supporting itself through advertising sold to local and national businesses. I learned about prospecting, building a pipeline, collections, cold calling (lots of cold calling), and proof of concept work (when we’d produce an ad and play it for the prospective client). Of course, part of being at the bottom of the sales pile was that you had to produce some of your own commercials after selling them, which made me (for a very short while) the radio voice of Edith’s Lingerie. I still love good radio commercials, especially the Bud Light “Real Men of Genius” series.
I took aerobics classes. It was the healthiest time of my life, the last time the most significant digit in my weight was a one, and while I wasn’t really flexible I at least knew where my toes were. Blame Pat Parseghian, who was my co-worker at Princeton, across the street neighbor and connoisseur of post-class take-out Chinese food.
I have no uvula. That’s the anatomic correct reference, or more correctly, the anatomically incorrect reference. More precisely, I had UPPP surgery in 1989, and it’s quite possible that my uvula is enjoying a nice vacation on an eastern seaboard beach with other medical waste of the era. As an aside, it’s a really cool way to freak out a new physician.
I was hired by Sun as a sysadm. I started at Sun in 1989, three weeks from the end of the fiscal year when the previous systems administrator in the Lexington, Massachusetts sales office literally up and quit one day. I combined what I knew of device drivers from Princeton days with what I learned from the rest of the pre-Professional Services “Consulting Gang” and got into performance, fixing kernel bugs and networking code. Six months before starting at Sun, I had interviewed at Thinking Machines Corporation, and was offered a job that I turned down, but which would have landed me at Sun in server engineering rather than systems engineering.
With a tip of the hat to ESPN: The Magazine, here’s what didn’t make the list: I once made Rob Pike laugh at a USENIX conference, I believe there is a highly airbrushed but plausibly denied picture of my backside on the Internet, and I am one of only a literal handful of people who know the only building that is not named Daniel P. Arovas Hall. More on that one another day, I think.
Postscript: Turns out that Rex actually went on to the big time after Great Adventure, as he was (until his retirement) the CFO of Isle of Capri Casinos. The things you find out using Google when you’re researching a blog entry at 1:00 AM. Here’s the downside: if Rex had not retired, and if the Isle of Capri bought the Pittsburgh Penguins, then I could have asked him for a job, again: driving the Zamboni.