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About eight years ago, I saw some kombucha in a grocery store in Hibbing. I thought: "That looks healthy and SUPER WEIRD. I'm gonna try drinking that." It was by the tofu, you see.

I took it home, popped off the top and took a deep swig. It was not unlike drinking pickle brine with bold overtones of brackish pond water. After searching the bottle for a warning ("THIS TASTES LIKE A FROG'S TOILET WATER"), or instructions ("Shake to release human palatable flavors!") I found that it was a year and a half past its expiration. Well, then.

Fast forward a few years, and someone else tells me I should really try kombucha! It's delicious! Having not been traumatized enough, I go out and buy a new bottle -- from a different store -- but this one tastes like kimchi dissolved in grape juice. There is miserable, stringy scum floating in the bottle that doesn't go away when shaken. I don't find an expiration date, but it doesn't matter, I'm done with kombucha.

So, now I've been in the Bay Area for a few months, and I discover that my office building has an outdoor garden/park on the fourth floor with armchairs, low tables, chaise lounges, and ping-pong tables. It also has a free kombucha fountain that they refill once a day. Co-workers drink greedily from it, and it's usually empty by mid-day. Mystified, I ask them if kombucha is merely an acquired taste, and they stare at me like I've just declared I hate pie AND cake.

"It's... like fizzy tea soda."
"It's so good!"
"It's sweet and light!"
"It makes me poop right."

This kombucha doesn't have scummy junk in it, I comment. "No, that means it's bad. You don't drink the stuff that's got floaters!"
"Did someone feed you expired kombucha!? That's horrible!"
"Have mine!"

I decline, still wary. Later, I work up the courage, but as the fountain is empty by that time, I buy a bottle at a grocery store on the way home from work (after scrutinizing it for the expiration date). And: it is delicious. The flavor I had tasted like Sprite mixed with green tea, and delicate floral notes. Unlike other carbonated drinks, it did not give me heartburn, it is much less fizzy than any soda.

In summation: Fuck you, Hibbing. Quit selling expired kombucha!
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Work is tiring! Last weekend we had kind of a major outage, naturally, this was while my boss was out of town, haha. I did some emergency fiddling and got the old backup service up and running so that no one was out for more than half the day. Today, my boss said that while he appreciated my initiative, I really should have e-mailed him and detailed the situation while it was happening, because he maybe could have fixed the main service instead (I don't have access to it, yet. Likewise, he hasn't been able to bring the main service back up for some reason).

I totally understand why he would have preferred an e-mail, and I'm kicking myself, but it is REALLY hard to shake the method and mental set I have from working in the Iron Range's culture so long, i.e. "NEVER escalate; figure out how to do it yourself, or you're just lazy." It doesn't help that my boss is just naturally intimidating, and rather stoic, so even minor critiques come across a little heavy. I don't know that explaining myself to him would help, though.

I feel upset. In trying to save him the hassle (knowing that he was crazy busy setting up a new office all the way across the country), and save the day for all our end users, I feel like I caused trouble somehow. Maybe I just need a thicker skin. I gotta remember, though I've done this type of work before, this environment is new; I'M new -- it's not even been two months. I probably shouldn't expect that I'll get it right all the time.

In happier news, the lady who owns and founded the company has been in the office this week, and I've been helping her transfer to a new computer and get used to some new software. She's been incredibly sweet, and told me I was doing a great job, in front of my boss even. That was a real relief!

Also, the rest of work has been going really well (as far as I know!) even with all the new hires and new problems that come with it. I'm in the middle of a big inventory restructure project, and that's going just fine. After this, I wanna ask if I can present some talks on security awareness, 'cause we're also in the middle of a giant influx of phishing spam.

Me. Asking if I can please present a talk. Therapy really does help.

Life at home is good! We got some hopeful news about selling our house, so my fingers are crossed SO HARD right now. Gavin's gotten into an awesome little hobby while all our usual hobby stuff is still in MN, and was also hired part time at a Starbucks just a block from where I work. That shit is AWESOME. Seeing him for lunch will make everything so much better. Not to mention the extra income!

My Bay Area friends are also great. The co-worker that got me the job offered me his piano for playing (after finding out I'd had to sell my Clavinova and all my sheet music, and that I hadn't really played in years, he was appalled and demanded I get on that), AND his dog for petting. The latter is probably the best thing ever. I am really, really missing having animals around. I didn't realize how important to me it really was. I seriously well up a little bit when I get to meet and pat a dog at my apartment.

I also found a patisserie that sells the BESSSST macarons. I also can't wait to try a cupcake!
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Work... )

Outside work, life is good. We still love the area! I don't love paying for our house on top of our rent, as it turns out, but that was expected. We're still on the edge of our finances every month until the house goes away, which means we can't buy a bed, can't ship our things in from MN, can't start paying off debt accrued from the move, &c. &c. That's frustrating, and tiring. I fell asleep last night with the realization that if our house sold, we could have afforded a one bedroom here, with an office!

However, Gavin's not working yet (applying, however!) and if he finds work, no matter how little it pays, it will make an enormous difference. I'm also due for a potential raise once my "training-in period" is over in the middle of October. Fingers crossed!

Because of that, and because getting used to walking 2+ miles a day has been pretty hard on my dilapidated old body, we haven't done a lot of the requisite sightseeing. We're determined to drive down Highway 1 to Half Moon Bay some weekend, because I haven't seen the ocean yet. My co-worker declared I wasn't a real person yet, until I had!
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Like my friend said!

We got desks and chairs, which is awesome. My butt is much happier -- the polished cement looks great, but it sucks to sit on! We're getting a bed tomorrow, which is even better. We still need a bevvy of odds and ends, but it's all coming together.

I'm a little anxious about finances. We had to dig into our line of credit for the deposit + first month rent, and we leaned pretty hard on our credit card our first weeks here (hotel stays/food/laundry). I feel like I just got solvent! I know it's all reasonable, and it'll get paid off (a lot of it is 100% deductible), I just hate the feeling of debt. It makes my teeth itch. We knew the first few months here would be kind of janky for money, the main thing is that in spite of that, things're so much better than they were.

Work continues apace. I'm really new to the whole mid-size enterprise office setting, so I find myself learning as much about office culture as I am about the systems I work on. The folks I sit next to are really helpful and aware though, plus funny, so it's been a good experience.

This afternoon, my boss set me some concrete projects in order of priority, which I really appreciate, though I am a nervous wreck around that man. He is super stoic, and while he's also nice and helpful, I cannot get a read on him. I never know if I'm frustrating him and he wishes he'd never hired me, or if things are going as expected, or what. He's very busy, too, which I suppose adds to the air of brevity. Today, though, he seemed to expect I already knew what I ought to be working on as a long-term project, and I felt the worst because I'd been staking out something totally different. I mean, chalk it up to only having been there three weeks, but I felt like I ought to have been more observant.

The Irish accent though? Is super cool. He also has a great sense of humor. I half-suspect he just doesn't do people very well, but I dunno. SO. STOIC.

Anyway, my side project is getting better at Linux. I've really had to hit the ground running with that in regards to the Linux administration. Apparently, I know more than everyone but a few people, which is... well. Happily, I have a really Linux-invested co-worker who is super nice and eager to help me fumble along. To that end, I'm gonna get a blog up and start keeping notes on it. My co-worker let me have space on the development team's wiki for my sysadmin notes at work, so that's great. I really want to keep up the documentation (because there was literally nothing for me when I started).

In area news: THERE IS SO MUCH I WANT TO DO. I need to start a list! I wanna go to the beach and see the ocean (for the first time. Ever.), I wanna go to Berkeley Bowl, I wanna see the zoo, and go to concerts, and go see redwoods, and take yoga classes, or tai chi, or BOTH. I wanna climb stuff, and get involved in an LGBTQ group, and and and... It's so exciting to live someplace this is all possible!


Jul. 22nd, 2014 08:25 pm
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Hey. Hi.

I'm posting this from a tiny, but gorgeous studio loft in Oakland, CA. There's no furniture, just our air mattress and computers, but we hung our bell on the door handle, and set up our PG&E bill today.

We made it! And shit, the Bay Area is so beautiful. I love the weather, the new flora, the pigeons, the people, BART, the buildings, my job, basically everything. Even when apartment hunting was at its most frustrating and dire, Gavin and I would still turn to look at each other and smile real big, because fuck it. We made it.

Generalized squeeing! )

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Sorry about the spam! It'll no doubt be quieter here for the next few weeks, at least!

I just wanted to update on the house stuff that was making me pull my hair out. Our friend, who is a superhero, is going to take care of the trim repainting with his dad, and also shampoo carpets and give the place a general scrubdown. He is an actual miracle.

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Today, Gavin worked pretty much non-stop taking stuff to recycle, and storing the few furniture items we want to move later. I feel terrible; he got done with work at 10am, then worked on all this 'till 5pm, 'cause I'm useless for lifting/carrying. Right now, he's sleeping, because he gets up for work again at midnight. :/ He's told me he keeps having moments of pure, giddy joy that he'll never be doing this-or-that again at work, so I have to believe it's all worth it!

Meanwhile, I've been packing up the few things left, arranging luggage, doing all the paperwork arrangements with the realtors, and researching moving companies that will pick up and ship our boxes out to us once we have an apartment. Also, researching apartments, getting public transportation cards, California ID cards, &c. There's so much to do! I am drowning in anxiety, as previously relayed, but I am also very, very happy and excited. ADVENTURE.

Our housemate will be here until the place sells, so there are a few items left behind for his enjoyment (and he can garage sale them later), but otherwise, the place looks almost the same as when we moved in. It's pretty eerie. I keep getting the sense we're starting over.

I had an annual physical with my doc, so I could get it out of the way before the hullaballoo of changing providers and establishing new care. Surprising shit came up, though. 

No gross details, but cut for boring! )

Anyway: T minus two days. Tomorrow is the last of the packing, checking our lists twice, and getting ready to go Thursday morning. WHOA.


Jun. 28th, 2014 11:08 pm
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This is a bunch of maundering, and I am pretty down right now. )
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Landlords do not wanna deal with you long distance. I called dozens of places, and the last rejection today was heartbreaking. I even offered to take a few places sight unseen, but I won't be there 'till the 5th, and nobody wants to wait. This is even with all the paperwork, the money, and local references ready immediately. The larger complexes are fine with it, but out of my price range (we still have to pay the mortgage/utils on our house here 'till it sells). I get it, but it's super frustrating.

We're going to get a week stay through Airbnb so I can start work, then scour Berkeley and parts of Oakland for a place while we're there. I figure, if I'm right there with all my papers, I gotta get a yes. I tell you what: between this, juggling the realtor/paperwork for selling this house, and organizing a moving sale, I am tired. If I wasn't so incredibly excited about this job and the Bay Area in general, I just wouldn't.

Fingers crossed, though! We're pretty excited about the crazy ramen festival on the 18th-19th!


Jun. 19th, 2014 11:14 pm
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Holy shit, they hired me!

So, I had a third interview over Skype with the team I'd be taking the burden off of, and the head of development. They were amazingly nice and funny. Development quizzed me on the Minecraft servers I've run, haha!

HR called the next day to say that everyone loved talking to me. Plus, there was a guy in the office who said I'd be a great fit and a perfect addition, because I was from the Iron Range. Turns out, he's originally from 20 miles north of here. SOLIDARITY. After that, my references checked out, and now I have a real, live job offer in my hands. HOLY. SHIT.


I am scared shitless, excited out of my MIND, and overjoyed, simultaneously!

I start the 7th of July, so I'm scrambling to secure housing and fly out there with the bare minimum while Gavin empties the house and puts it on the market. (We are literally selling everything. If you've been in my house and seen something you liked, chances are you can HAVE it.) I've been apartment hunting for a few weeks now, and I was despairing of finding anything under $1600/mo. until I stumbled across a little gem tonight and got in touch with the owner. I hope it's as good as it sounds, because it's beautiful, just the right size, and a bus ride from work.

Cross your fingers for me/light a candle/think happy thoughts, if you can. I'll need them to bear up under this transition in the next few months, but I'm so happy, stress aside.
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I had a second interview with the VP of a cool company in San Francisco today, and it went well enough that tomorrow I have a third interview, over Skype, with the team I'd be working with. I am STOKED. I want this job so bad I can taste it. It is the best fit for my skills and the direction I want to go. A little frantic about finding housing, though. Finding a place to live there in easy distance is difficult and/or expensive. I keep finding condos with the right monthly price range, but you know what I don't want to do? Own a million dollar mortgage.

Still no word from the job in Denver. They better make a decision, 'cause it's about to be made for 'em. Also, unfortunately, the more I read about the company from various employees and friends, the less I want to work there. At this point, if I had both jobs offered to me I'd pick SF, just because the work is SO much better. I'm more comfortable with the cost of living in Denver, but I gotta remember I'm coming from one of the least expensive areas to live in the whole country, mental adjustments must be made.

My mom's 60th is tomorrow, too. Her little sister is visiting from Washington, and I haven't seen my wild aunt in ages, so I'm excited for that. Although, I know I'm gonna get an earful about not working in Redmond, haha.
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I'mma have a long talk about ~feelings~, but I'll put that under the cut, so you can pass that maundering by.

BARNABY UPDATE: He is growing tail feathers rapidly! He's much better at not-falling-over and hunting bugs. His family is the neatest. I'd love to always have a crow family nearby. Barnaby lives in a neighbor's lilac bush when it rains, but there is almost always an adult crow in a tree nearby watching. It is super the cutest.

Right now? Thunderstorms. All week. Not enough to make up for the brutal fucking winter, Minnesota, but it's nice. Also, right now: Insomnia. All week. 90% of that is stress, due to uncertainty and the pre-emptive disaster hypothesizing that only a clinically anxious brain can come up with.

On that note, the job hunt progresses. I had three, count 'em, interviews with a major ISP in Denver. The third interview was with the top of the food chain, and pretty nerve wracking. Anyway, I'm supposed to hear by the end of the week one way or the other. No, it's fine, I'll just be chewing off my fingernails. No big.

A really nice friend that I used to play WoW with also got me an in with his company, who is looking for a sysadmin in San Francisco. That would be uh-mazing. I'm not especially sold on living in SF, but for a sysadmin position, I'd live just about anywhere.

I got back two rejections from other places, and then applied to six more. I have a solid dozen résumés out, now. So, y'know. It goes.

~feelings~ )
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A fledgling crow is living in our backyard. Crows leave the nest well before they can fly, and they spend several days land bound figuring out how to forage and hop while their last feathers grow out, &c. Their parents, as well as last year's fledglings, hang around and keep an eye on them, helping to feed and educate them. So, it's been super awesome to spectate; I love corvids! We named our temporary visitor "Barnaby", and I'm pretty excited to see him get his wings.

Jerb stuff )
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I passed the ICND-2 exam; I'm an official CCNA.

I just about wept for joy. I have seriously spent the last two weeks, from 11am to 11pm every day, studying for this exam. And that was after a year's worth of college coursework designed to get me this far. This is the END. I am going to take the summer OFF from certification learning while I look for work, hopefully find it, and probably move states/settle a new life.

When I came home, Gavin had a bottle of champagne ready. We drank the whole thing, and I took a solid nap, the first one in months untroubled by phantom network topologies and dream-logic troubleshooting scenarios.

hat_of_nikitich: (i am not awake)
  • Have free time that is not occluded by: needing to study, do homework, worrying about getting a job, selling house/moving concerns.
  • Release dumb Python roguelike I made
  • Make a Twine game
  • Make a Ren'Py game
  • Make another roguelike (omg, we have to talk about what I want to do with this, you and me)
  • Learn C#
  • Learn more Python, put it to use in places other than dumb roguelikes
  • Make more trixel art
  • Never stop making trixel art
  • Make trixel stickers, put them on everything
  • Start pursuing self-study for CEH (the official training course is $1,500, fffffuuuuck that)
  • Read all these goddamn books that have been piling up for literally two years

How am I going to prioritize this? How.

The Hunt

May. 26th, 2014 11:54 pm
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This Friday is the big CCNA exam, so wish me luck!

In the downtime between studying for certifications, I've applied for about twelve positions (post-dating certs is a done thing, if you're reasonably close to taking the exam). I'm waiting a week before checking in and moving on with another batch of applications. A lot of these went out to places that would be total dream jobs. I don't think any of them were particularly out of reach, so fingers crossed, though I expect the struggle for employment to take a bit longer.

I also registered a few domains and got a web version of my résumé online (with a download of the print version). So, if you've got a lead on a Security Analyst/Penetration Tester Associate, or a Network Engineer position, point 'em there: http://braincrash.net The other domain I registered will be a pentesting/programming/industry blog, but I haven't gotten around to setting it up just yet. Probably after the CCNA.

There is so much decompressing to do, so I apologize if this blog becomes hyperactively babbly for a little while. Getting out of two years of really intense training and launching immediately back into a career is, uh... you keep a lot of shit bottled away for when you have time for it. "I have two days between graduation and a schedule of study for a certification: BRAIN DUMP." My summer is going to be highly weird; I have no idea when/where I'll be employed (a classmate and I both applied for a position at a scientific research base in the Antarctic. No shit. Mostly for giggles, but, y'know...), and basically I am trying to organize my headspace/physical space so I'm ready to go-go-go at the drop of a hat.
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I passed my Security+ certification exam today, with an 841/900. Yessssss. This cert is one of the big ones I was hoping to do well on; it'll help me get an entry level position in infosec (which I really, really, reaaaaaally want), and it's a step towards becoming a Certified Ethical Hacker (which I double plus really want).

I immediately went out and applied for a few positions I'd been watching on job hunting sites, so fingers crossed. Not only do I want a paycheck, I want loooots of hands on experience! So, if you know of anyone that wants a junior level computer security person, pllllease let me know! Junior security analyst/engineer, or (ideally) junior penetration tester would be my favorite buzzwords.

I've got one big, bad certification left: the CCNA. It's the CCENT's big brother, so it'll be a doozy. Next week the three other classmates that are taking it with me are all going to be camping out at my house every afternoon so we can study for it. We'll be doing a lot of labs and troubleshooting, since the test is full of simulation labs. It should actually be pretty fun!

I'm gonna buy a domain name and get a webpage up with my resume in the next week or so, too. (I worked so hard on my cute little resume!) I'd like to get a portfolio of work up there, but really all I have is a lot of art projects, a tiny MUD and a barebones roguelike in Python. I'm not sure that's worth showing off... I'd kind of like to start a sideblog about the pentesting stuff I am learning and getting into. I hear that's worth brownie points, since getting work in infosec is really highly non-standardized.

Anyway, tonight is for celebrating with mead and dumb fishing MMOs! WHEE!
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I passed. I passed the goddamn CCENT.


My classmates and I came out of that testing room DRIPPING sweat and literally shaking. It was that fucking intense. I can't exaggerate how much it sucked. BUT WE DID IT.
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  • My CCENT exam is next Thursday.
  • THIS Thursday, directly after class, I'm driving 16 hours out to Colorado to see my youngest sister-in-law get married.
  • Then I am almost immediately turning around and driving home another 16 hours so I can be back in time for Monday class and my Security+ certification exam. Hopefully, I'll be able to eat somewhere cool in Denver at least, and also snuggle my tiny, new niece.
  • Homework for classes is mostly virtual labs that take a few hours a pop, tests, and somewhere in there, making a wireless antenna from scratch.
  • By the middle of May (MERE WEEKS) I'll be taking the ICND-2 cert exam, which combined with the CCENT I hopefully passed, will make a CCNA (provided I don't fuck up).
  • Then, graduation.
  • Then: ??????????
I am a ball of anxiety and generalized terror.

My life is studying, subnetting flashcards, practice exams and sleep. I'm too stressed to eat well, or often. I try to relax, but I'm so wired into school right now, the only way I can chill out is by doing other computer-y things. I'm becoming chair-shaped! In spite of entirely paying off half our debts this spring, our budget was sharply reduced thanks to Gavin's work cutting his hours (they keep trying NOT to pay their employees, and I've threatened them once already after they tried to "delay" paychecks), so everything is hand-to-mouth. I keep having dreams that we can't ever sell our house, and it becomes sentient and starts growing horrible sub-basements full of monsters and plumbing, and that all the things we own try to suffocate us. During the day I zone out and worry about Gavin losing his job before I can get ANY kind of work, because I failed all my exams, and then we have to give the cats away and I actually start crying.

Passing these exams and finding work is such a huge deal right now that I can hardly think of anything else. I am terrified to think what happens if I don't make it (lots of people don't pass 'em the first time around), simply because it'll be next to impossible to afford the re-testing fee and I just don't have anything else. I've been resenting the idea of driving out to Colorado (even though I am really happy for my sister-in-law and everything), but it might well be good to just get away and not be able to focus on all of this for a few days.


Apr. 1st, 2014 02:37 pm
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I'm gonna aggregate some thoughts that've been cluttering up my brain recently, but have been accumulating especially the last few years, and it's all about games. Maybe I'll expand on these at some point, but right now:
  • Games are about systems; frameworks of consequence.
  • The best games have systems that don't interfere with the person learning them; tutorials suck.
  • "Worldbuilding" is a poisonous, insidious verb.
I've been reading extensively (books, interviews, &c.), and having a lot of drawn-out discussions the last few years, and that's what it comes down to, for me. Trust the player, quit hobbling them, and if there's a story, write it like people live in it -- not like its Wikipedia entry.

The point of this is that I'm really interested in how games are made. Moreover, now I want to make my own. That was a distinction I had to discover; for a while I apparently wanted to feel bad I hadn't been making games since I was 8, or wasn't a man with a computer science degree, or whatever. The last couple years also helped me realize no one gives a fuck about any of that, except me, and I can change what I give my fucks about, because that's what does matter. Also, that I AM smart, and I CAN do things.

I started teaching myself Python, and I actually made a functioning roguelike. Now I want to learn how to do more stuff, and build more games! I'm no longer invested in what I haven't done, but what I can learn to do, y'know? It'll take years for me to make something, but I'm excited!

I don't want to make games for a job, though. I don't even really want to sell a game I make. I want to be an ethical hacker, or a network engineer for a job. I don't want my creativity to pay bills. I don't know why, but it freaks me out. Still. That's a rabbit hole for another couple years, though.


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