Monday, March 05, 2007

Burning the candle at both ends

First of all, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 be damned. This is the piece of legislation that is causing me no end of headaches right now. The last problem legislation for me was the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, or the "Don't be like Enron, cuz we'll cut ya', fool" act. Sarbox was so broad in what it required IT groups to do to come into compliance, that several groups I work with were in panicked fire-drill mode for months. My individual requirements to help get us in compliance were negligible; it was the procedures we all had to follow that were changing. Not so with the energy act, or the "when do we spring forward, again?" act.

The energy act, along with giving tax breaks to Texas companies, changes the cutovers to and from Daylight Saving Time from the old dates in April and October, to new dates in March and November, and reserves the right to revert back in 9 months when it will be shown that no energy savings occurred, which has already been predicted by this study [pdf]. However, tens of thousands of man hours are being spent in coding and applying patches to account for the new DST schedule, and, similarly, tens of thousands more man hours will be required in a couple years when we switch back to the 1986 DST schedule. The great irony is that this will require a lot of computers to be switched on longer, consuming more energy.

So Sarbox didn't require the expenditure of much mental anguish on my part, just learning a new set of rules -- so much like a normal re-org that it mostly went over without any turbulence. The new DST dates, however, were a nightmare. A couple days last week I stayed up patching servers until the wee hours of the morning, only to return to work at 6:30am to start my normal work day. At work I tested vendor-supplied patches, coded some changes into one of my own at-risk programs (which, among other things, is responsible for sending our payroll file to the bank on time), and helped develop procedures to bring down services, failover to the backup system, fail back, and verify that all the services were working.

During all this, I was still a father, and I struggled to keep my participation in my daughter's life up where it is supposed to be. DARE graduation was last week, as was picking up Girl Scout cookies, getting presents for a friend's birthday, getting Stacey into extra voice lessons before the talent show, Introduce a Girl to Engineering day, and the Daddy/Daughter dance. By the end of the week, I was physically exhausted and short of temper. Friday night I crashed at 7pm, and slept until 6 Saturday morning.

On Saturday, I felt better, but spent close to 6 hours with a friend of Eric, my neighbor, helping her move. She was getting evicted from her house, her daughter was moving out of her boyfriend's place, and both of them were getting an apartment together. They were short on money and time, and couldn't hire movers, so Eric volunteered and rounded up as much help as he could find. I brought Dave, my mentee, who is no longer a little whelp, and in all there were 6 volunteers helping the ladies move. Two of them had to leave after an hour, a third left after three hours, leaving the lion's share of the work to Eric, Dave, and myself. It was strenuous work, and we had a strict timeline, so the three of us really had to put our backs into it. We got them moved on time, and the ladies were visibly grateful for the help.

After burning the candle at both ends to help my employer comply with an arbitrary, government mandated change, I collapsed for 11 hours, awaking slightly revitalized, only to push myself the next day helping some nice ladies keep their heads above water. I found that while the fiasco with Daylight Saving Time took all the life out of me, making me cranky and less daddy-like, helping the women move brought the joy of being alive back. Despite being sore and worn out, I'm happy to have gone through it. It brought back the joy I felt a few years ago volunteering with the kids at Annehurst. It brought back the memory of the look of pride in my daughter's eyes. It made me feel like winter was ending, and sunshine was just around the corner. It was substantive and worthwhile, and my body is bouncing back from it quickly... just in time to lose an hour of sleep next weekend.

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