I dreamed about Aly again last night.

I don't often have dreams involving her, but when I do, they're usually very memorable ones. This one was no exception, but it wasn't a good one. It was, in fact, one of the few times I'm willing to state I had a nightmare, one so bad that it forced me awake. In it, Jessie and I were living in a house that reminded me greatly of my parents' old house in Texas, but it wasn't Texas, and it wasn't their house. I remember that the front entry to the house led directly into the kitchen, and a hallway past the master bedroom led to the back door and garage. We were in a close neighborhood, not close as in houses, but as in being on good terms with the neighbors and actually going to block parties and the like, which meant it had to have been a dream since I haven't had that kind of relationship with my neighbors... ever, to my knowledge.

Aly was there, but it wasn't Aly. It was the person who had murdered her in her sleep and then stolen her skin, grinning maniacally from behind borrowed eyes. I knew her secret, and she knew I knew it, and I knew she would come to kill me as well, stealing my body and moving into it, but nobody would listen to me or believe me when I tried to warn others about her. Seeing her filled me with dread, because I knew the person I knew as Aly was dead and yet here was her body, up and moving about as if nothing were wrong, and everyone else was so happy to have her back "among the living" that they refused to accept any sort of fearmongering, especially from someone as prone to "wild ideation" and "paranoid delusions" as I was. It wasn't that anyone was trying to be mean to me. It was just that they knew what a vivid imagination I had, and that it was almost certainly overacting again. Aly was back; why couldn't I just be happy with that?

How could I be happy when I knew it meant I was going to die?

In this dream-logic state, I knew I had no way to defend myself. I knew I couldn't protect myself from her. My only defense came from others believing me and protecting me from her. I couldn't stop my own demise; I could only delay it by avoiding being alone with her. As long as someone else was present, I was safe. If someone else believed I was in danger, that person could save me. The latter never happened, but I kept narrowly avoiding the former, which led people to start accusing me—at best in gentle-chiding, at worst in exasperated-parent tone—of being clingy and co-dependent, and that I should just get over myself. When I tried to explain that no I wasn't being clingy but was instead trying to save my life, everyone just laughed and patted me on the head and told me I was a sili buni.

I awoke from this dream when my alarm went off the first time. I'm at once amazed that I didn't turn off the alarm clock and curl up and crash hard again, and surprised that it was as hard as it was to wake up fully after that. I did spend a great deal of time, comparatively, trying to press myself into Jessie's back and disappear, but every time I fell far enough back into sleep to get any sort of REM, I was back in that house and she was there again. Today's going to be a rough day if that's how it started.

Whatever I did, Aly, I'm sorry. 

My business trips are becoming... not more frequent, or more regular, really, but more common an event. Until I came to T-Mobile, I'd never been on one before. Now I've been on three in the last six months, and it may well be that they're actually going to be a regular part of my work environment for the foreseeable future. At least as long as I'm reporting to a manager in Atlanta, they will be.

As always, I took Malachi with me on my trip, because he loves to travel. When I bought my new personal laptop, I had to buy a new backpack even though we had a laptop bag big enough to hold marumari; there wasn't enough room for Malachi to sit and have his head outside the bag and still be able to close the zippers and flaps tightly enough for him to be safe and secure. So, the day before the trip I acquired a new Swiss Army backpack. Literally, it is a backpack made by the same company that makes the Swiss Army Knife, and from the number of pockets on this this thing I can believe it. It's not quite as roomy within the main pocket for Malachi as he might have liked, but there's definitely more space there for him than there would've been had he tried to ride in the old laptop bag.

At any rate, he's asked me to help him put together a travel diary of sorts, so that he can talk about the trips that he gets to take. He loves to tell stories, perhaps more than I do, and his enthusiasm for such things is incredible. I took a number of pictures, not nearly as many as he would've liked but definitely more than I expected to take given that I hardly ever use the camera on my phone, of the places we went while I was down in Georgia. Next time I'll try to get some more shots for and of him for his own diary, which I'll be helping him to assemble over the week. I'm going to have to enlist Jessie's help in getting the images off of my phone, and then probably some help in design work with her as well, so that I can get Malachi's site up and running.

He can't wait to talk about his adventures... and neither can I. 


Mary Travers has leukemia.

Have you ever seen a few blades of grass, growing up through concrete? Have you ever marveled at the strength and power of those few tenuous shoots that they could shatter the confines of the artificial barrier laid upon them? The number of times this metaphor shows up in my life should by now tell me that when I get one of these emotional responses to something primal, something from my childhood, I should honor and remember and listen to it, rather than try to shove it aside into a box. I still haven't really learned, but I'm learning.

I've been a furry since before I knew what furries were. I was making animal-people in a four-color bitmap editor on my father's 8088 when I was nine. I started playing D&D when I was six, and by the time I was twelve or thirteen I was playing druids, mages with polymorph self, and lycanthropes by the score. I had a mage, Mordana, whose sole purpose at one point became to turn other characters into animal-beings just so I could play them as such.

I listened to folk music—Peter, Paul and Mary and Simon and Garfunkel specifically—when I was eight or nine, or maybe even younger. I watched their twenty-fifth anniversary concert on television and cried along with all the grown-ups in the audience at "Puff the Magic Dragon" and "Light One Candle". I remember hearing "El Salvador" and knowing it was incredibly profound even though I didn't really understand it at the time.

It's been twenty years, it seems, since I really spent any time listening to or for that sort of music, but lately I've felt a resurgence of attachment to it. I found myself singing "Right Field" in the car driving home from work the other day, and since then I've been craving the simple harmonies and powerful emotions that this music evokes in me. Finally, it occured to me to look for the lyrics to one of their songs, and I found their website. It was right where I should've expected it to be, but somehow the simplest ideas never occur. 

Reading that one of my childhood stars, even before I really knew what the idea of a celebrity was, was potentially deathly ill broke my spirit for a brief period, and I found myself crying as I sat at my desk. I don't have a cube, per se, but I have a lockable office that I share with somebody else who is often not present because he's the building's ITA, meaning the hardware and desktop specialist to counterpoint my software and application skills. I kept waiting for him to look over at me and see the tears on my face, but he never did. I don't know if that's positive or not.

This week has been a week of trials. Part of the back of one of my front bottom teeth crumbled two days ago, and when I tried to inspect the damage, I noticed that four of my teeth are grey on the back. I've never seen teeth that looked like that except in the "don't let your mouth look like this" pictures at the dentists' offices of my youth. The fronts of the teeth look fine, they don't hurt, they don't bleed, but they look like they're seriously rotted in back. They're my incisors, for criminy! How do they rot like that? How did they get to that state without my realizing that they were a problem?

The teeth alone would be enough to have put me into a foul mood, but it really felt like a capstone to a monument with the inscription, "Kristy's Health Failures." My weight's back up, my dilating's shot to hell, and now my teeth. I'm surprised I haven't come down with terminal head-falling-off yet, or something. A friend of mine says that she feels like her body is alien to her. I'm nowhere near that bad, but some days I feel like a factory second, that's for sure.

Ah well. Back on the regimen. Exercise and shower before sitting down to play City of Heroes. Quit eating just because food is present. Brush once a day. Schedule the dentist's appointment. Measure the daily milestones and forget about the length of the journey. Focus on each step in turn, and let the trip handle itself. 

Every step is the first step. 


Last night, at 01h45 as I was trying to get to bed in order to be up at 06h00 for work the next morning, I noticed that my phone was telling me I had messages. Since I was still on call until 09h00 the next morning, I went ahead and checked my messages, hoping that it wasn't anything critical. The house being not unlike a Farraday cage, unless my PCS is right next to a window, I can't use it, so it's not uncommon for either Jessie or I to miss calls on it and find out hours later that we did so.

It turned out to be the Operations group telling me that we had a critical failure in an important middleware website... at 20h00.

Now, this got my blood pumping. To be on call and miss such an important call like this... I was having visions of you're-fired dancing in my head as I called back to get details and find out what needed to be done. I found out
then that the failure had actually happened on Sunday morning, but that several other issues had cropped up around the same time and that one had fallen through the cracks, meaning it had been down for about ten hours when I got the call in the first place! I told Operations I'd drop off the call and do my best to reach somebody that had some visibility into the problem, as there wasn't anything I could do with it myself.

Three calls to my manager, and three each to three of my coworkers, resulted in twelve voicemail responses, so I called the command bridge—also known as the Oh-Shit Line—and told them we'd had a critical failure but that I couldn't get anyone on the line that knew anything about the application or how to address it. They said they'd extend my resource list a bit further and asked me to wait on the line until I heard back. I spent thirty-five minutes, roughly, waiting for someone to return, only to be told, "Well, it looks like there's nothing anyone can do with it tonight, and it's only critical during business time, so we have about five hours to address it. There doesn't seem to be anything more you can do with this, so have a good night."

At 02h30 this morning, I finally went to sleep, meaning I actually fell asleep around 03h00. At 05h00, I got another call from Operations, telling me that an automated process was down. Fortunately, this one I knew would happen and I was able to tell them that yes it was down, yes Supply Chain knew about it and yes we had it under control. They said they'd add it to the list of reports in the associated ticket, and I said that was fine. I then went back to bed at 05h15, to rise when my alarm went off at 06h00.

Total sleep time before work: just under three hours, spread across two shifts.

To say I felt like death reheated in the microwave would have been a credit to my condition. I felt utterly miserable, and it took me an hour just to will myself to sit up out of bed. When I did so, however, I started the
process of putting myself together, but at 07h30 I got an SMS from Operations informing me that another process at work had had a fatal error and that my presence as the Supply Chain on-call was requested on the command bridge again.

Now, last week it happened that I had a request to join a command bridge before work, and I decided that time that it would be easier to deal with the work call before going into the office and then drive into work than it would be to try to explain to people that I was in the car and could do nothing for ninety minutes until I arrived. That time, after the call my manager told me that if it happened again I was to call a coworker to do the remote work while I drove into the warehouse so I could make sure they had an on-site presence, which is why I had been hired in the first place. I told my mananger that I understood, and I did, so when it happened this week, I
ignored the initial page, thinking to myself that I would get to the car and dial into the bridge as soon as I was underway so I could tell them I was en route to address the problem.

Two minutes after I got the page, my manager called me. His words were something on the order of, "go ahead and get on the call, then work from home today; I know you had a rough night last night." I told him I had to get my laptop out of the car, and that I'd be on the call as soon as I had it. He said that was fine and hung up to return to the command bridge.

Help Desk called me two minutes after that, asking for the same thing. I explained the situation to them as well, and they said that was fine. So, in my head, everything was all well and good. I got on the call, we dismissed it
in short order as a known issue to which we had proposed solutions and that the systems manager had rejected as infeasible or overly expensive, and that there was nothing we could do to solve the problem without an alternate solution that nobody had yet invented. Help Desk agreed, and we ended the command bridge call. I then dialed in through the VPN and got to work.

This afternoon, I got a call from my manager. In it, he basically said that he thought I was doing a great job and knew how much work I was doing for the warehouse and the company, but that the systems manager—my
"customer" insofar as I have such a thing—had complained to the VP of Supply Chain that I wasn't doing my job because I wasn't in the office again today, and that I had a "history" of showing up late and working from home, usually because of scenarios like the one described above.

In his mind, my role at the company is to support the Bensalem facility. Not "the distribution centers" meaning Denver as well as Bensalem, but just his warehouse. To the systems manager's thinking, I was spending too much of my time worrying about things that weren't supposed to be my job, and that I was supposed to take over all the warehouse tech support and troubleshooting, and get rid of everything off my plate that didn't involve taking care of the Bensalem warehouse. That meant being in the office at 08h30 every morning Monday through Friday, and not leaving any time before 17h00 any day during that span. Period. I was there to support the warehouse
and that was it. 

Unfortunately, that's not the position for which I was hired, at least as far as I, my previous manager or my current manager understood. My stated role was to support the warehouse production software and the distribution
centers—both of them. That meant being part of the on-call list, being part of the overnight monitoring team when conditions warranted, and generally doing what anyone else in Supply Chain did. That was the job that was offered to me, and that was the job I took, instead of the database development position that had been offered to me at the same time. 

Had the choice been between database development and the glorified help desk job that my current role is threatening to become, I would've taken the risk on the hourly position.

Now, I have to reiterate that my manager thinks I've been doing a good job. He thinks I know my stuff and he knows how much work I'm putting in for the company. Unfortunately, he also knows that his boss' boss' boss—yes, three levels of management up from him, meaning four from me—is getting complaints directly from the systems manager that I'm not doing my job in his eyes. My manager and I agreed that the systems manager is trying to have his cake and eat it too, which is to say he wants me there from 08h30 to 17h00 doing all his glorified help desk jockeying, but that he's going to sorely miss having somebody to do all the overnight and after-hours work I do now. However, he is, as noted above, the "customer" in this, meaning my role at the company may have to change to keep him happy, or at least to give him what he says he wants until he realizes he doesn't want it.

Truth be told, I don't want it either, and if it looks like the help desk position looks like it's going to become permanent, I'm going to have to start farming my résumé a lot sooner than I wanted.

Right now, I put up with a lot for my job, but I do it because of the promise that I'm going to be learning new technologies that will expand my career options and because at least the work I do is semi-interesting to me.
Removing all of the actual analyst work and leaving me nothing but the technical grind and mechanical troubleshooting will take away one of the only things I have left to like about my work. It will dramatically lessen the time it takes me to burn out on my current position and want to go elsewhere. It will make the ninety-minute drive that much longer, the weekends that much shorter, and the daily schedule that much less tolerable.

In the next day or two, my manager, the systems manager and I will be having a conference call with the express purpose of hammering out what my actual job duties will be. I'm hoping in the course of that phone meeting that it
will come to light just how much work I do after hours and on weekends, and how much support the systems manager is getting that he doesn't even recognize because it's not traditional at-the-desk-during-business-hours
support. If it doesn't go that way, then I hope it's a very short amount of time before the systems manager realizes how much he's having to do that I used to do for him, and yields.

If that's not the case either, I hope I find something else soon.

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