This week I remember two recent dreams. I usually only seem to remember one, and that’s good so I can have something to talk about with my therapist.
In the first one, I’m on a bike ride when I meet up with a Global Cycling Network (GCN) group ride. (GCN is a cycling focused YouTube channel based out of the UK, and most of the presenters are former pros, although usually not World Tour pros) We get to a stop, probably a cafe and I take off my rear wheel for some reason. I’m having trouble getting it back on, so Sy Richardson, one of the GCN presenters, offers to help. Immediately he’s doing one strange adjustments to my rear wheel that I’ve never seen before. But he can’t get it to go back on either. And then he starts working on the entire drive train. By the time he’s finished, the entire drive train is on the wrong side of the bike, and the chain is really rusty and far too long for my bike. I realize that what he’s done is take the entire drive train off the XtraCycle long frame cargo bike I’m parked in front of and transferred it to my bike, which is why the chain is too long.
I don’t think I figured out how it got transposed to the wrong side of the bike.
The second dream was a few days later. In this one, a few people I don’t know in real life but were friends in the dream were in one of the royal palaces. For some reason my car and most of my possessions where spread out on a steep slope, or possibly a stair way. One of my friends was an artist, and she was making these weird little sculptures that tucked into one corner of every door frame. I was going around behind her putting ridiculously high price tags on all of them. At some point the Queen (yes, just like it’s hard to remember to write 2023 after a year of writing 2022, it’s hard to dream about the King after a lifetime of living under a Queen) comes out and scolds me about the high price tags, and tells me to take them down because she’s already negotiated a price with my friend. I recall putting something in or taking something out of the mess that was my car and assorted possessions, but I don’t recall which.
I hope somebody has better luck interpreting these dreams than I do, because I’m at a loss. I am pretty sure both of these dreams were longer, but I don’t recall any more. One thing I’ve noticed lately is that all my dreams seem to have one famous person who has been in my consciousness that day. One recent dream it was Wout Van Aert after I’d watched a cyclocross race the day before. Another one had Vladimir Putin in it but of course the Russia/Ukraine War is in the news (and my Quora feed) every day. And there is a GCN video on YouTube every day. Not sure where the Queen came from, though.
We went on another Viking River Cruise this year, the one advertised as the “Danube Waltz”. We loved the first one we did on the Rhine 5 years ago, and so we’ve been really looking forward to this one. Obviously COVID put a bit of a damper on this, but Viking’s COVID protocols looked very strong – daily testing, modified ventilation system on the ships, hand sanitizer stations everywhere, mask rules, etc. As well as the standard Danube Waltz, we signed up for the 4 day “Pre Extension” in Munich and Salzburg.
I should start with a disclaimer: after the last cruise turned into a complete muddle in my mind and being unable to remember which day we saw which city, I vowed to keep proper notes and remember things. Spoiler alert: I didn’t. One of the couples we hung around with on the trip worked as a team with her taking many photos with an SLR, and him making notes just about every time she took photos. We weren’t that couple. I was doing most of my photography/video with a GoPro and unlike the phone it doesn’t tell you where the photo was taken and it’s not even 100% consistent about having the right date stamp on the file. So expect some vagueness about what happened when.
The first day was flying out of Rochester to Dulles to Munich. There’d been a huge muddle with our flights – the Viking website “My Viking Journey” continually showed the flight itinerary as “unavailable due to changes from the airline” for months and months at a time. Finally about 90 days before the departure I phoned Viking and they “finalized” the travel arrangements, only to change them again a week or so later. Once that happened, I started going to the United site to buy upgrades with our miles, but all they had was a thing where you could pay some dollars and some miles (I think it was over $500 each) and go on the wait list for the upgrades, and if the upgrades never arrived they’d supposedly refund the money and miles. (Spoiler alert: They haven’t). And then with a week to go before the flight they still hadn’t given us the upgrades we’d paid for and were waitlisted for, I noticed Economy Plus seats were available on the long leg. I decided flying across the Atlantic in economy is intolerable, so I spent another $250 each to get us Economy Plus. I still have no idea why they didn’t give them to us via this stupid wait list thing.
Our return trip was Budapest to Munich to Chicago to Rochester, and the first two legs were on Lufthansa. So I went to Lufthansa’s web site and bought business class upgrades on the first two legs. It was just a direct payment for upgrade, none of this “we’ll take your money and maybe refund it if you don’t get the upgrade” business. I’ve tried to purge how much that upgrade cost from my mind, because it wasn’t cheap.
I was a little worried because there was basically only an hour to change planes in Dulles. And even more worried when I got an email a day before departure saying there are forecasted thunderstorms on the eastern seaboard and to expect delays. And of course it happened exactly as I expected – our flight out of Rochester was delayed by over 90 minutes, and the departure of our second leg was not marked as delayed.
I got on the phone to United, and after explaining over and over what was happening to the rep with the almost indecipherable Indian accent, she said it was taken care of, we were booked on a Lufthansa flight leaving Dulles at 10:20 pm. So then I called Lufthansa to see if we could get any sort of upgrade on that flight, and they said they couldn’t because the United rep had double booked us on both the Lufthansa flight, and the United flight that they were code sharing with. So we were essentially double booked on the flight and it was screwing up their ability to assign us seats. I looked at the United App and as well as being double booked, we were still booked on the United flight we were going to miss. I called up United to get them to screw up, and once again got a person with an Indian accent. This one was slightly more understandable, but she acted like she’d never heard of the concept of missing a flight because your previous leg was delayed before. Surely this must be the main thing they do all day? Anyway, after slowly and with many, many, many repeats, I got her to understand that no, I did not want her to cancel our flights from Rochester to Dulles, I did want her to cancel the flight that was leaving Dulles before we got in, I did want her to cancel our United booking on the Lufthansa flight and NOT cancel the Lufthansa flight. It was still screwed up on both the United App and the Lufthansa App (which I had downloaded by this point because I wasn’t trusting anybody a rep told me).
When we got to Dulles, the flight we had been supposed to leave on was still on the departure boards showing something like “BLOCKED”, which makes me wonder if we could have made it, but when we got to the Lufthansa desk we found we were booked on the 10:20 flight, and we were way in the back in a middle section in economy. No upgrades were available because they were very full. So basically I had 8 hours of extreme discomfort to start the trip. Thank god for my special seat pillow. I actually think I napped a bit.
We arrived in Munich at our hotel about 24 hours after we’d left home. I’d probably had 2 hours sleep during that time, and I don’t think Vicki had any. I’m not sure if we ever got properly acclimatized to European time after that start, but because my normal sleep schedule is so fucked up by my pain it’s hard to tell.
The hotel was gorgeous, although it was very modern and in the two nights we had there I don’t think we completely figured out the weird light switches and weird shower. I don’t recall if we had time for a nap, but we did meet our Viking tour guide and the other couples on the “pre-extension”. We also nipped out for a bit of a walk around, and found an ATM to get out some Euros. We also had dinner in one of the hotel restaurants. It wasn’t a particularly beautiful part of Munich and it was a bit drizzly so it wasn’t a great intro, but we were here in Europe. So far, so good.
A brief note on COVID precautions at this point. We did a PCR test a few days before we left. I seem to recall the Lufthansa gate agent needed to see our vaccination certificates but not our test results, but the German customs wanted both, or maybe it was the other way around. We had to wear masks on the the flights, and in the Munich airport and in the bus ride to the hotel. I think some of the hotel staff weren’t wearing them, but we did except when we were in our own room, walking outside or sitting eating. Viking gave us a spit tube each to do a test the first morning after we arrived. I’ll talk about the protocols and precautions on subsequent days as I talk about those subsequent days.
I’m trying to remember when was the last time I really skied. I had pretty much quit by the end of university in 1985, because skate technique hurt my knees so much. I know I had one winter where I got out 4 or 5 times sometime between Shani and I breaking up and me moving south, so I guess 1992-3 or sometime around then? Then a few years ago where I tried to ski at Mendon Ponds with my now ancient ski equipment and my boots (bought in 1981 at great sacrifice) both completely separated from their soles within a few hundred meters of the parking lot. a
Last year I found out about Cummings Nature Center, and the fact that they rent there. I tried it out once and immediately fell back in love with skiing. Unfortunately I discovered it pretty late in the season so I didn’t get back out. So I’ve been itching for a chance to go out again this year. First we didn’t have snow, then we got fresh snow and the temps immediately plummeted to around 0F. Not good for starting out. But today the weather finally cooperated. It was 26F and lightly snowing when I set out for the nearly hour long drive down to Cummings.
Driving for an hour meant the return of the painful butt. I’m still in making rounds of doctors to try and get some relief of that, whatever it is, and that means I spent half the drive trying to sit only on one buttock or lift myself out of the seat.
By the time I got there, it was snowing quite a bit harder, although the roads were well plowed. I was hoping they’d still be plowed when I finished. I got there just on the dot of 9am and there was one other car in the lot. They were skiing but not renting (I could tell because they’d skied from the parking lot to the chalet). The rental form asked what level skier you are. They didn’t have a spot for “I used to be quite good, but that was before you were born”, so I ticked “intermediate”. I was sure that when they saw that I’d put my e-mail address at xcski.com they’d accuse me of giving a fake address, but they didn’t say anything.
The equipment was quite good quality and new this year they told me. The new bindings are so much better than they were when I was a skier. And the ski lengths aren’t multiples of 5cm for some odd reason. I got a pair of Madshus Actives at 207cm because I used to race on 215s and I was a lot lighter back then. The wax less system felt like a combination of steps and skins. It worked pretty well at first.
Felt like old times. Set off and hey, my diagonal stride isn’t too bad in the grooves, but the muscles you use to keep your skis in a straight line when you aren’t in the grooves, or to skate around corners, or snowplow turn on a downhill, are all completely atrophied. Oh well, I’ll get this back.
My heart was pounding pretty hard, but the values displayed on my watch were ridiculously low. Stupid heart rate strap had had problems last time I’d erged. I didn’t think it had been long enough to need a new battery, so I hoped it would start reading right after I’d worked up a sweat. I figured it was probably in the high 140s or more because I’d had to stop to catch my breath on a couple of climbs.
I did the yellow trail out to the blue and did the blue loop, and when I got back to the yellow I thought “I don’t need to go back to the lodge yet” and set out around the blue trail again. Even though it was only 1.5 or 2 kilometers, it felt like a victory. And when I got to the junction with the orange trail, I took that one. Half way through the orange trail I got a notice on my watch that the heart rate strap had a low battery. I stopped to take it off, hoping that the watch would revert to the built in optical heart rate. I’m not sure what it did, because it was still giving me numbers around 100 bpm when the pounding in my chest was telling me it was actually over 140. I wonder if the strap was continuing to broadcast crappy data in my backpack.
When I finished the orange and blue, this time I took the yellow trail back to the lodge. I didn’t note the actual distance, but I think it was somewhere between 4.5 and 5.5 kilometers. My goal for the day had been to make it for 5 kilometers total, so I was feeling pretty good. And after having a brief sit down in the chalet to drink some water and eat a banana I’d brought, I was feeling good enough to go out and do the blue trail loop again.
This time, I think the wax they’d put on the skis to improve the glide had worn off, because my skis stopped abruptly instead of gliding a few times, once pitching me onto my face. I had to stop a few times to do the old “scrape the ski over the edge of the other ski” trick to get my glide back. I was also definitely tired now. But my heart rate was now showing up properly on my watch, and I was seeing numbers in the very high 140s and low 150s.
I finished up back at the lodge with a total of 6.6 kilometers. Goal exceeded! But I was really done – I don’t think I could have done even the yellow loop again. So I returned my rentals, suggested they renew the glide wax, and headed off to the car. It was barely 10:30. And it was snowing quite hard.
The first part of the drive was plowed but now bare, but after taking it easy on that I soon got back to bare road and headed home. Once again, the sore butt problem “reared” it’s ugly head but it was an excuse to stop for a Coke at least.
Today I went into my place of work, and picked up all the stuff I’d left in and around my desk. Then I spent a few hours making sure none of my non-work info was left on my laptop, especially my password manager and iCloud account. Left my keyfob on my desk. Then I took my laptop to FedEx Office and sent it back to our head office in Connecticut. And that is it. Forty years of work as a professional computer programmer is over.
I counted it up a few months ago when I was writing my resignation letter, and I make it somewhere between 20 and 22 different jobs depending how you count it. That includes 1 month contracts and two 6 year long permanent jobs and everything in between. It doesn’t include two occasions where I was unemployed for several months in a row. Sometimes it sucked, sometimes it was great, but I’m never sorry that I chose this path.
Early on in the history of this blog, I started a series of “bad job experiences” posts. I stopped that after one of the people I’d mentioned in a post found the blog and disputed some of the things I said about it. I realized these posts might show up when I’m looking for work and potential employers Google my name and that might be harming me. I’d much rather they found my 100,000 plus Stackoverflow points or even my pathetic GitHub profile than that.
Weirdly, even though I had fodder for that series even at the best jobs I had, I am hard pressed to find anything like that to write about my last job. I started at Skillsoft on 5 January 2020. By late March, we very quickly transitioned to working from home. Skillsoft management were great – one of the first things they did was immediately give us a day off to recover from the “stress” of the change. I’d had 7 years of previous experience with working from home and I thrive in that environment, but I took the day off, of course. They then put two weeks of “special leave” in our online time manager that we could take for COVID related emergencies, like providing support for sick family members or needing time to arrange things for your children. I think our sick leave was officially “use as much as you need, but we’ll probably need a doctors note if it drags on too long”.
I loved just about everything at this job. It was fast paced without being frenetic, you weren’t pressured to meet unreasonable deadlines, the tech stack was good, the other developers very approachable. Pat, the team leader was always willing to get on a slack call and walk you through any problems you had. Usually I tried to call my team mate Daquanne rather than Pat because Pat had so many other calls on his time and Daquanne was great at explaining things. I kind of hated sprint demo day, I did at my previous Agile jobs as well, but I got through them ok. And when we were in the office, Michelle would make cookies on demo day.
Other than the stress of demo day, the only nit I could pick was my co-worker Uyen who wore a lot of perfume. I’m over sensitive to perfume, and it would frequently make me sneeze even when she was at her desk and I was at mine. I bought a little USB powered fan to try to blow air towards her desk, and I guess it worked but I only had it for a week when we went to full work from home. Anybody need a cheap fan? She also had an accent which made it hard to understand her over Teams, so I didn’t go to her for help unless it was something where she was the subject matter expert, like our Fastly configuration.
We had a small team, and everybody got to work on front end and back end as per our own inclinations. Everybody had their areas of comfort but they also didn’t seem to mind if you picked up a story in their area or suggested a different approach in a code review. I can honestly say this was the best team I’ve ever been on – I’ve worked with other very smart very good programmers, but every other team had a person or two who you just hoped they’d go away and stop dragging down the rest of you. I’m hoping that doesn’t mean I was the drag.
I’ve been looking forward to retiring for a long time. I’m not going to stop programming – I’ve got a couple of projects I want to work on, and maybe I’ll do some bug fixing for open source projects. It sounds like log4j could use some help?
But also, I’ve been looking forward to having more time for paddling and biking. With more time to train, I was hoping I could try to do the Adirondak Canoe Classic. Unfortunately I’ve been having massive problems with pain in my hips and butt. This summer, I actually had to stop paddling during races to lift my butt out of the seat a few times to relieve the pain. And that pain has gotten worse over the last few months. I can’t paddle, or even sit in a car or a desk chair for more than 45 minutes without being in intense pain. In our recent trip to BC, there were several times I thought I was going to scream I was in so much pain. If I can’t find a solution for the pain, I’m not sure what I’m going to do.
That’s also going to impact my other major goal of retirement – traveling with Vicki. Again, I’m not looking forward to long car rides. Flying business class seems acceptable, especially those amazing pods we got on the flight home from BC. And let’s not even think about what the new COVID variant might mean to our booked Viking cruise.
So I guess task # 1 of the new year will be pounding the desk at my doctor until I get a solution to my pain problems or medication to manage them.