Tuesday, July 20 2021

crashed routers, connect four, and helmet slapping

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, friends. Happy Tuesday. I hope you're hanging in there through these hot and humid days of summer. We're now enjoying the part of summer where walking up the driveway to get the garbage cans means I return dripping in sweat. This morning, lets keep the coffee hot and the air conditioner roaring.

Sip. I'm coming to you this morning from a house with no Internet. The light on my modem is dark, and the power cable hangs limply off the wall. My precious homemade router rests in haphazard pieces on the table. This morning, I'm writing from my work computer and a bridge Internet connection to a hot spot on my phone. This is a sad situation, and the story that led me hear is both boring and proverbial.

Last night, Marissa called up from her basement studio. She couldn't connect to Plex and asked me to check on the server. I quickly discovered Plex was having a global DNS outage and we would have no choice but to just wait it out, but I got bored.

Since no one is using Plex, I might as well do some updates I thought. My idle hands began to open browser tabs to my NAS, my virtual server, and my router.

Sure, may as well update pfsense too, I thought. Click. Update in progress. Deafening silence. I sat still in the living room chair waiting for the familiar start-up jingle, but it never came.

My precious router was bricked, and I couldn't even see what was wrong. Before being so cavalier with the software updates, I probably should have remembered that my router is buttoned up in screws and zip ties on the lowest rack of a mount pushed up against the wall. I probably should have remembered that the motherboard will only boot successfully with the downstairs monitor and the last remaining VGA cable in the house.

Chaos ensued. Marissa found me in the bedroom on the brink of tearing my hair out. I'd need to take apart the dining room computer to borrow the monitor. I'd need to take down the network and unplug everything in the rack just to see what was on the screen. I'd need to google my way through making another bootable USB and re-installing the software without any Internet.

I could feel the madness building. I wanted to latch, obsess, and fixate. I knew I was dangerously close to rage fixing late into the night. I took a long deep breath and remembered that Marissa had been working hard on some paintings in the basement and would appreciate some time to unwind. I remembered that I work on a team of network engineers who would certainly be understanding of network malfunctions. I decided to just shut everything off and leave it for the morning. So with no Internet to entertain us, we just sat at the dining room table and played Connect Four like a modern day Amish couple.

When was the last time you played Connect Four? I used to play all the time as a kid, but when you play with another adult, the game becomes a lot more involved than just sneaky diagonal or three in the middle traps. Connect Four is a game of momentum, control, and hold-outs.

I enjoyed a long, unchallenged winning streak, but Marissa appealed to my victor's arrogance and asked about my strategy. "I just try to build a blob," I said. "If I keep clumping my pieces together, eventually you just run out of ways to block me."

"A blob," said Marissa thoughtfully. Marissa applied the strategy so well that she beat me seven games in a row. I know the blob is a good strategy because I know the pain of being on the receiving end, but a few times I got Marissa with the old "three in the middle" trap and that was gratifying.

Yesterday was a good day. Our team rolled out a smooth production change, and I got a jump on some other work that has been burning a hole in my backlog. Before I knew it, Rodney was kicking in my office door informing me it was time to leave for ice skating. "I'm all ready," he said proudly. Scanning his outfit, I began to chuckle. Rodney was wearing a backpack stuffed with toys. In one hand he had his skates tucked under his arm, but in the other he had his bug catcher stuffed and his two giant sparkly snakes.


"You can't bring all that," laughed Marissa.

"You can bring the, but they have to stay in the car," I compromised.

Yesterday was a big day at ice skating. On the last class of the six week course, the kids are sent off the ice with a little report card that ultimately breaks down how ready they are to graduate to the next class. The excitement in that chilly stadium was palpable. Once they had finished evaluating the kids, the teacher dug a pair of foam pool noodles out of his bag. He pretended to whack the kids on the head as they waddled by.

The teacher's gaffe must have put Rodney in a rough-housing mood. The next moment, he and his partner in crime Eddie were slapping each other on the helmet. The rest of the kids obediently marched after the teacher. Eddie fell to the ice, pulling Rodney down with him. I saw the teacher skate up to them, separating Rodney and Eddie.

Eddie's mother shifted in her seat beside me on the bleachers. "I'm sorry," she sighed.

"No, it's Rodney too," I said. "I saw it happen. Hey, at least they like each other," I shrugged.

This wasn't the first time Rodney and Eddie have been caught goofing around in ice skating class. I spent the rest of the class planning what I'd say to Rodney and how we would handle it at home.

Rodney stepped off the ice proudly holding his passing report card, but my sternness quickly doused his enthusiasm. "What were you doing with Eddie?" I growled. Rodney broke into tears while he shyly acted out the helmet slapping with his hands in his lap. I gave him a chance to explain sitting in the front seat in the parking lot.

"The teacher just laughed," he said.

"He was just being a nice guy," I said harshly. "Did he tell you to stop?"

Rodney nodded without looking at me.

"He had to separate you two," I said with disdain.

Rodney tearfully slinked into the house and through a fragrant kitchen where Marissa was cooking. We were angry with Rodney and decisive with our punishment of choice, but also quick to forgive. Rodney acknowledged that he shouldn't have been screwing around with Eddie in class, and accepted the gravity of the problem if we caught him doing it a third time. Rodney agreed to apologize to the teacher next week.

Determined not to let the discipline set the tone for the rest of the day, we ate dinner at the table and let Rodney recap his lesson. Afterwards we headed outside to take his new roller blades for a spin.


That's what I got today. Now if you'll excuse me I have to go cast some daemons out of a router. Thanks for stopping by today, have a great Tuesday, everyone.