So, today I began a grand adventure to Atlanta, my first-ever professional business trip. I was admittedly kind of surprised when my boss told me, three weeks after starting my new job, that I would be flying down for more training. I'm even more surprised that he's going to be sending me out to Denver some time in "second quarter"—between April and August—to help out at the other distribution center I'm supporting. However, I love to travel, and I'm not going to look a gift-trip in the... um... exhaust.

I do wish Jessie could have come with me, but of course the company only paid for me to go. I probably could've arranged to bring her with me, and paid the difference, but I'm still a little too new to that whole earning-money thing, and I'd rather not spend what I've got so quickly. I had to buy a mobile phone for work, and I wanted to get a nice one. I have to pay the heating oil bill which is now almost two months in arrears. I have a credit card company champing at the bit to get proof that I'm not going to default on my debt, no matter how much I may want to do so, so this time around it's just me.

Well, it's just me and Malachi. He didn't cost anything extra to bring with, except perhaps a bit of indignity at the airport because I got searched. Having two laptops, a PDA and a Nintendo DS in the same bag will do that. I
even removed all the metal bits from my person so I wouldn't beep, and I still got picked. Lucky me.

Removing my collar to go through the metal dector was... uncomfortable. I have not removed it by my own hand since Jessie put it on me four years ago, and I have not wanted to remove it in all that time. I didn't want to remove it this time, either, but I didn't want to deal with getting wanded and the baggage search, so I erred on the side of caution and unclipped it before stepping through the metal detector. Even having gotten Jessie's explicit permission—nay, instruction—to do so, it still felt... dishonest.

The flight itself was relatively uneventful, a fact for which I am extremely grateful. Boring flights should be the norm. Though, Jessie and I were talking not too long ago about how air travel once held a mystique that has been lost in recent years. It used to be something glamorous, and now it's something necessary. It's a duty, not a priviledge. I miss the golden age of air travel, and want it back. So what if a few more towers get taken out? They were blocking the skyline anyway.

Part of that last paragraph is intended as humor. I leave it as an exercise to the reader to determine which part.

It's kind of weird. Being here by myself on a trip, I feel almost... feral. I'm out on my own, away from home, without anyone to guide me. Ordering lunch was almost a painful affair, trying to decide what would be reasonable on my diet. It's not that I can't fend for myself, but that without anyone here who knows me and will call me on my bouts of Stupid, I feel rather self-conscious. Lunch was perhaps a bit bigger than it needed to be: pork and chicken barbeque with a salad and fried okra. Not bad, but I could've done far worse.

The only place north of the Mason-Dixon line that does American barbeque that I've tried and liked has been Hickory Pit, which is this really cool restaurant built into a train station, so it's incredibly atmospheric. They also serve what has become known as the Big Gulp of Meat. Any of their meals, you an order to go in addition to dining inside. If you order thirty-two ounces of barbeque, they serve it to you in a styrofoam cup with a coffee lid on it, and a second smaller cup with sauce. It is literally a Big Gulp of Meat. I love it.

This place was a little dry, but the sauces were incredibly flavorful, so they made up for it. The okra and salad were... okra and salad. It's pretty hard to screw up either, though believe me I have eaten at places that have.

Work itself here is enlightening. The national returns center has automated things a lot more than the Bensalem or Denver plants, which explains why they can process as many orders as they do. We're nearing the point at the Eastern center of having to automate just to keep up with demand, something the general manager is not going to like but that I suspect will have to happen whether he wants it or not. He'll recoup his expenses in just a few years, but the initial outlay is going to hurt. Ah well, the march of progress.

Being in Bensalem, with the rest of my team either in LaGrange or Atlanta, I'm shielded from a lot of the politics at work, but being here in person I'm starting to hear about some of it. I can only say I'm glad to be in Bensalem,
where the only politics I really have to face are Operations trying to get AppSupport to do more than we're tasked to do, while avoiding letting us actually take over the things that we want to do. That I can manage; that's
all "talk to my boss."

Right now, I'm sitting in my hotel room in LaGrange, in the doorway, with the front door open, on the room chair, half in the breezeway. I am not at my desk, or in my bed with my laptop, because this is a concrete building with
heavy metal doors, and I am in the furthest room that I could possibly be from the hotel's WAP and still get signal. That is, when the door is open and I lean out into the hallway, I get signal. If I close the door, lean back, or
otherwise disturb my position, I lose it. Thus, to make this post, I am in the doorway. I am a junkie. Is there a C-Step Program for bitheads?

At some point soon I am going to go and find food, and then I am probably going to see if by some kind of magic potion or miracle antenna I can make my wireless card work in my room. It's getting chilly in the doorframe.

One day down, four to go. 

Edit: I called the front desk and told them about my wireless situation, and they relocated me to a new room free of charge. This one actually lets me close the door and windows while online. Most boss.


Okay, now that I'm almost two weeks into my job, I figure it's time to talk a bit about what I actually do now. I work for T-Mobile in their Application Support department, which means that when software breaks, it's my job to fix it, or at least to look at it and figure out why, then report my findings to my superiors. I don't actually write code on the job, but I do wade hip-deep in Oracle, SAP, and real-time production and supply chain issues, so I'm still furthering my job skills.

The curious thing about my office is that there's no HR department in my building. None. Anything human-resources or benefits-related has to go to Atlanta or Seattle to one of the home offices. So, the first day I arrived, I filled out all my paperwork on-site with my team lead as witness, then overnighted it all to Atlanta to the IT HR office. The woman with whom I spoke on the phone said that I should have an employee number by Thursday at
the latest, and that I could start filling out benefits paperwork as soon as one was assigned.

I finally got my employee number on Wednesday. My paperwork literally went missing for four days. They couldn't find the overnight envelope from DHL. Just when it seemed that I would have to redo everything and fax it directly to Seattle, though, they found the originals and spared me the need. It served as a delay, but nothing critical. 

I'm slowly pulling myself up to speed with everything I need to know at my new position, but there's a lot to learn. My team lead suggested that there was a six-month learning curve before I'd be out of the hand-holding stages. Six months. That's a heck of an investment. I don't think I've ever worked at a company that had such a long lead-in before being utterly production-worthy. I'm a little humbled, and a little nervous, but I think I'll do fine.

Most of my days so far have consisted of paperwork, reading documentation, and sitting in on meetings over the phone. I'm the only person in my department in my office; everyone else is down in Georgia. At some point, there'll be a counterpart to my position in Denver, but right now I'm serving both facilities, one remotely. This means most days I never see my boss, and I hear from my team lead on the phone every few hours to see how I'm doing. Mostly how I'm doing is "swamped with paper." I'm sure it will all make more sense once I have logins to the system and I can start actually going through the QA environment, testing things and seeing how they work instead of just reading about how they're supposed to work. For now, I'm sort of just treading mental water.

Come to think of it, I don't think I've worked at a company with an honest, genuine quality assurance environment for testing in three years. Scary.

Even better than the work, though, are the benefits. They covered Jessie. No questions. It was anti-climactic. When the website kicked back my request to have Jessie covered as my wife, I called the internal help desk
expecting to have to kick and scream and make ugly noises at people, but the rep on the other end said, "Oh, yeah, that's not really
bug, but the website's just not coded to handle your situation. Print the form and fax it, then call the benefits rep and explain what's up. Here's her name and number."

All of my righteous indignation melted instantly.

I called the benefits rep, expecting a little more hassle, but then found out that I wasn't the first person at the company to deal with a legally-married same-sex spouse incurred through sex change. Blink. I'm not special! I could cry!

Actually, I am special: I'm the first new hire at the company bringing this problem in from outside. She said "email me—if you're comfortable doing so—an explanation of why she's your wife and not just your girlfriend, and I'll stick it in your file and then when they audit and see it, they'll just ignore it and go away." I did so, and an hour later, she wrote me back saying we were confirmed in the benefits plan under "Employee + Spouse".

I think I'm going to like it here. 

As of today, I'm restarting the Weight Chart. A few days ago, I started a new diet plan. Still doing the low-carb thing; that seems to help, though of course at this point it's nearly impossible to tell what works and what doesn't. However, I remember reading somewhere once that it's better for the metabolism to take in five or six smaller meals a day, rather than three or two larger ones. So, combining A with B, I've been breaking my daily food intake out to five smaller meals scattered throughout the day:

  • Breakfast at 06h30 when I get up, usually eggs and yoghurt.
  • Brunch at 10h00, lunch meat and veggies.
  • Lunch at 13h30, more lunch meat, more veggies.
  • Tea at 17h00, even more lunch meat and possibly a pudding cup or some beets if I feel fancy
  • Supper at 20h30, something I cook at home.

If each mini-meal—I prefer to think of them as "mealettes"—is around 250 calories, then my daily intake is
1250, or about five-eighths what I should be eating to maintain minimum weight.

So goeth the theory, anyway.

So far, it seems to be working. Only time will tell if I can keep this up for long; most people don't eat this way, and I'm scheduled to go out of town for a week on a business trip where food-prep will be dificult. Still, I'm seeing some movement on the scale and my hunger hasn't been an issue, so something's going right.

I want to be thin; now I have to want it enough.