Saturday, September 29, 2012

Eyeball to Eyeball in Roseville

Last Saturday I went to Eddie Bauer in the San Francisco Centre to shop for a wrinkle-resistant blouse for a business trip this past workweek. I was joined by C. and Tom’s girlfriend, D., who is very easygoing and pleasant. It was a hot, sunny day. We took BART downtown and C. and D. cajoled me into trying on a flowered blouse, though I ended up buying the black blouse that had been put on hold for me. We went back to the Mission and D. got some pastries to share with Tom for his birthday, and in the evening, D. and I treated Tom to a celebratory dinner at La Santaneca.

Sunday was spent cooking and preparing for my trip the next day. That evening as I lay in bed, anxiety finally arose, which was very exciting, but I only had time to note that it had an exhilarating, energizing quality before it vanished.

On Monday I took a cab to the Amtrak office next to the Ferry Building, a bus to Emeryville, the train to Sacramento, another bus to Roseville, and another cab to a very anonymous-looking office building—I couldn’t even figure out where the front door was—where my company has a presence. The building houses a data center and has unusually tight security, so it was kind of interesting to visit.

I met J. in person and we set up shop in a little conference room to study our lists in earnest. In the afternoon, she very kindly did quite a research project to find a place for dinner that I would like, though I kept telling her I can eat anywhere, except maybe a place that serves only pizza. That was thoughtful of her. After work, we checked into our hotel and had dinner at an Il Fornaio in a rather fancy new mall. I had yummy squash ravioli.

On Tuesday, we were joined by the fellow who generates some of our lists, the one who was so helpful in explaining on the phone what was what, plus another guy. I hadn’t appreciated the value of meeting in person—what can you say in person that you can’t on the phone? However, it turned out it was actually very productive to sit together and communicate in real time. We made good headway in sorting out what remains to be done for this project.

The four of us had lunch at Teriyaki Domo. I had sushi that was strangely sweet—turns out they make liberal use of a sugary sauce!—and I also accidentally ate eel, of all things, after mistaking tamago for unagi. Both do have three vowels, and I did say to the woman, “Is unagi egg?” and she averred that it was. It took me half the meal to decide there was no good reason egg should be brown instead of yellow, and once I realized it wasn’t egg (but certainly before I realized it was eel), I went ahead and finished it, on the theory that now that the creature had died and ended up on my plate, I would be dishonoring its sacrifice to discard it. The eel was tasty, but, conceptually, one of the last things I’d choose to eat if I were going to eat an animal. (The first is sausage wrapped in bacon, as grilled in the open air by various vendors on Mission St.)

That afternoon I used the same transportation sequence to get back home again before going to Howie’s.

On Thursday I received the horrible assignment of compiling five Excel workbooks into one. I wrestled with it for a while and then beseeched the Excel master for help. He said it would be OK to send him a meeting invitation for Friday morning, so I sent one for 9:30 a.m., as early as I thought I could get away with.

In the evening, Lisa and David and I got caught up on the phone.

On Friday, I showed the Excel master my method for combining all the workbooks, which was to put the different lists in different colors, combine them onto one sheet, sort by IP address, and manually remove rows not of interest (thus ending up with one, two, three, or four rows pertaining to the same IP); I wasn’t sure how to combine the remaining data.

J.’s idea had been to view two workbooks side by side and copy and paste as needed. Of both these plans, the Excel master said, “No, no, no, no, no!” and showed me how to use VLOOKUP to do it, which he said is the handiest function in Excel. What a relief! The Excel master is also an expert with the systems I’ll be using to research servers and devices, so I went ahead and proposed marriage on the spot, but he claimed to already be engaged.

I thought about that feverish half-day I spent reading about and trying to get the hang of using VLOOKUP to compare two columns on the same worksheet. I’m so glad I did that because it made it easy to understand the Excel master’s latest advice. I’m really appreciating how much I’ve learned so far in this job, from the Excel master, and also from poking around online as necessary. It feels good to stretch my brain and to be resourceful, to know that if I want to be a database administrator at a nonprofit, I can learn those skills.
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