Mary Cay Kosten tagged me
although she did it behind the Sun firewall so non-Sun employees must take my
word for it. I get to present five fun-filled formerly faintly fanned-out facts
about myself, excluding my love of alliteration or anything I've blogged or
podcasted about previously, greatly limiting the source material.
Warning: this post contains references to nudity, lingerie, and anatomic correctness, and it got really, really long. And in case anyone is
four or five standard deviations off the mean and wants to know
how I chose to relay these tidbits, they're in chronological order.
I know what the GECOS field is.
My first job was at
Six Flags Great Adventure. And yes, I was in the IT department, which was
located in an inflatable "bubble" temporary building located on an unused part of
the parking lot just behind the main entrance. The benefits were plentiful
but of marginal value: an employee store that sold some of the choitchkes you
could get in the park, the ability to zip in and out of the park on your
break time, and employee parties that usually involved having us test out
some new ride. The IT part was humorous in retrospect. First system we
had was a Northern Telecom (before they were Nortel) Sycor 445, running
some mutant variant of CP/M and six random pages torn from a Multics
manual. Our second system was an actual Honeywell GECOS Unix-like system,
which felt familiar after having used BSD Unix for the previous academic year.
So munging the GECOS field in a password file isn't entirely foreign to me.
Coolest thing about the job: For about two months, I worked for a guy named
Rex. Funniest thing about the job: we shared the bubble building with
the body puppets, those larger-than-life characters who walk around and
accidentally terrorize little kids.
It's hard to be serious about writing COBOL programs when a guy with
a 3-foot wide head walks into your inflatable office looking for the bathroom. Best
deal of the job: I once wrote some simple shell scripts for the Sycor system
so that we could transmit our payroll records to Six Flags HQ in Dallas,
have them processed via RJE, and receive the formatted check images,
payroll register and general ledger all during the graveyard shift, when
we didn't have to warn people keypunching card images that typing too
fast would cause our 300 baud modem to drop the BSC connection. Those
scripts saved us an average of $300 in phone bills a week. I got a
$50 bonus (not in employee store credit) at the end of the summer. And
it was a big deal.
I sold radio advertising. It was my first sales job, and it
paid commissions. WPRB-FM is not only one of the first college
FM stations, it is one of a few commercial college stations,
supporting itself through advertising sold to local and national
businesses. I learned about prospecting, building a pipeline,
collections, cold calling (lots of cold calling), and proof of
concept work (when we'd produce an ad and play it for the prospective
client). Of course, part of being at the bottom of the sales pile
was that you had to produce some of your own commercials after selling
them, which made me (for a very short while) the
radio voice of Edith's Lingerie. I still love good radio
commercials, especially the Bud Light "Real Men of Genius" series.
I took aerobics classes. It was the healthiest
time of my life, the last time the most significant digit in my weight
was a one, and while I wasn't really flexible I at least knew where my
toes were. Blame Pat Parseghian, who
was my co-worker at Princeton, across the street neighbor and connoisseur
of post-class take-out Chinese food.
I have no uvula. That's the anatomic correct reference, or more
correctly, the anatomically incorrect reference. More precisely,
UPPP surgery in 1989, and it's quite possible that my uvula is
enjoying a nice vacation on an eastern seaboard beach with other medical
waste of the era. As an aside, it's a really cool way to
freak out a new physician.
I was hired by Sun as a sysadm. I started
at Sun in 1989, three weeks from the end of the fiscal year when the
previous systems administrator in the Lexington, Massachusetts sales
office literally up and quit one day. I combined what I knew of
device drivers from Princeton days with what I learned from the
rest of the pre-Professional Services "Consulting Gang" and got
into performance, fixing kernel bugs and networking code. Six months
before starting at Sun, I had interviewed at Thinking Machines
Corporation, and was offered a job that I turned down, but which would
have landed me at Sun in server engineering rather than systems engineering.
With a tip of the hat to
ESPN: The Magazine, here's what didn't make the list: I once made
Rob Pike laugh at a USENIX conference, I believe there is a
highly airbrushed but plausibly denied picture of my rear end on
and I am one of only a literal handful of people who
the only building that is not named Daniel P. Arovas Hall. More
on that one another day, I think.
I tag: Greg Papadopoulos, because
I don't think anyone else has;
Tom Chatt, former Princeton roommate and the guy standing next to
me in the above-mentioned picture;
Candace LoMonaco and Maria Buoy, the GSE Divas (they only count
as one for HR, they count as one tag, too!);
Sin-Yaw Wang from our Beijing office, who explained to me what
"Dogs Don't Pay Attention To" means with respect to really good dumplings, and
Warren Meyer, who also knows the
truth about Daniel P. Arovas Hall, pointed me to Virginia Postrel's
blog in the first place, and is the next Princeton author I need to read.
Postscript: Turns out that Rex actually went on to the big time after
Great Adventure, as he was (until his retirement) the CFO of Isle of Capri
Casinos. The things you find out using Google when you're researching
a blog entry at 1:00 AM. Here's the downside: if Rex had not retired,
and if the Isle of Capri bought the
Pittsburgh Penguins, then I could have asked him for a job, again: driving