Friday, June 11 2021

a datacenter in flames, potatoes on the stove, and new friends

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone. Happy Friday. My clock reads 9:09 AM. On a regular day, I'd be writing my last paragraph and doing a final proofread, but today I just sat down to write. Yesterday's work day bled into the evening (which made for a very strange evening, but more on that later), so I'm taking back some time in the morning. I walked through my morning routine in slow motion, leaving plenty of time to sit outside with coffee, browse twitter, and experience my own miniature Saturday morning before jumping back into the work day.

Sip. What an outage. Yesterday was going to be a busy work day anyway, but sometime in the early afternoon a fire broke out in an Amazon datacenter in Europe where we have a lot of our infrastructure hosted. I wish I had known about the cause, because otherwise I'd be a little more careful about using the euphemism in flames. "Is Amazon's datacenter center in flames?" Figuratively and literally. Luckily nobody was hurt.

My day started to skid off the rails in the afternoon. I was supposed to meet with Ritik and Connor for 1-on-1's. I check in on their work, ask about their well being, and make myself available to clear up any questions or confusion. But there was no chance we'd be able to have a meaningful discussion while also keeping an eye on our degraded service. "I mean, you're welcome to join me. I'm just watching logs and making sure nothing terrible happens."

"That actually sounds pretty fun," said Ritik. He joined my screenshare. We chatted about life and work while I clicked around the amazon console. "Time's up," I said. "Now it's Connor's turn to stare at logs with me."

Our NOC asked us to add an extra server to our fleet to help us weather the outage. When he joined the Zoom call, we had something to do. "Want to help me save the world?" I asked dramatically. We even needed to use something he and Ritik wrote earlier in the internship.

Things started to wind down, at least from my perspective. With the second half of my day completely burned up by the outage, I flew down the stairs so I could get a jump on dinner. Marissa's art friend Menka and her husband David would be at our house by 6:30, and I was already running behind. I boiled a pot of green beans and set them aside for a salad. I quartered five pounds of yellow potatoes and started a simmer on the stove. I flung open the fridge door, reaching for two pork loins wrapped in plastic. My phone chirped.

Moments later, I was back on the computer. I joined the zoom bridge still wearing my cooking apron. I remembered the pot of potatoes I had left on the stove. Marissa, busy tidying the house for company, stood at our bedroom door. I clicked the mute button and scooted my chair off camera.

"So this is a big incident, I don't think this is happening," I said.

"What do you mean? What's not happening?" she asked.

"We're not cooking dinner, it's not happening," I said. "I just walked away from everything, can you make sure the stove is off and stuff?"

"Why don't I finish dinner?" said Marissa. "Can you tell me the recipe?"

I shook my head nervously. My brain was swimming. Still shaken up from the sudden page and the daunting task of restoring our service, there was no chance I'd be able to succinctly summarize how to finish the crispy potatoes and pork tenderloin medallions. "No," I sighed. "That's not happening right now. OK, I gotta get to work."

I'd stay online for another hour. In the haze of the outage, Rodney brought me up a beer. From downstairs, I could hear two new voices - Marissa welcoming Menka and her husband David into our home. After taking a moment in the bathroom to dab the sweat off my face, I joined them all downstairs at the table. They had broken into a cheese platter. Rodney had a plate of slime at the table. "I just ordered a bunch of pizza," said Marissa.

It couldn't have been a stranger time to meet new people, but Menka and David were gracious. While I guzzled a second beer, they brought me up to speed on what the last year has been like for them. David grew up in Iowa, and Menka in Mumbai. They met while working together at an architecture firm. A layman like me might conflate the terms "architect" and "engineer" to mean the same thing, but that couldn't be further from the truth.

"They're very different," said David. "Architects like Menka make all the plans, and I'm just like a civil engineer. So I say things like those joists can only be twelve feet long."

"We get in LOTS of fights," laughed Menka.

David and Menka told me that after they were married, Menka got stuck in India while visiting. Because of the regulations put in place during the pandemic, her green card application was rejected. Husband and wife, they spent eight months apart.

"It was tough," recounts David. "Especially because of timezones. One of us was always tired, and it's hard not being emotionally in the same place as your spouse."

Much like Marissa, Menka found a different calling in art. She and Marissa actually started together on Instagram. One of her paintings hangs in the "inspiration corner" of our living room. We uncovered more fascinating pieces of their story as we sat at our dining room table and ate pizza. Living together in India and New York. Peace Corps in West Africa. Backpacking alone from Milwaukee to Tennessee. Picking up Menka's father from the airport after he had just learned midair that Menka found love outside an arranged marriage. It was easy to see why they weren't phased by all the chaos in our house.

"You entered complete strangers, and now you leave best friends," I proudly announced. A little cheesy, but everyone nodded along. Moments after our front door snapped shut, I was asleep on the couch. It was a fun evening, but the day had finally caught up with me.

Go check out Menka's art on Instagram (@msmonocles). Thanks for stopping by today. Have a great Friday, everyone.