March 21, 2000: Settling in to Shadyside

This morning Andy and my job is to move into the Amberson Apartments on the Carnegie-Mellon campus in Shadyside, Pennsylvania. My parents came down to Pittsburgh to help us with the move-in process. We got a two bedroom, one bath apartment on the seventh floor (seventh floor facing the circle and ninth facing Amberson) of the apartment building at the top of the circle on Bayard. It wasn’t a great apartment but it was serviceable.

I took the northern bedroom that had a view of UPMC Shadyside Hospital and Andy took the southern bedroom which had the views of the Bayard Circle. We had almost nothing to move in. It was very sad. Our only piece of actual furniture was an old, broken computer office chair from my parents’ house. Our kitchen was stocked with a single, old pot and one old, large (but very dull) knife that we used to still things with in the pot. Our only flatware was two Styrofoam cereal bowls and all we had to eat with were some disposable plastic forks and spoons that we probably got from a fast food restaurant on the way down.

Neither of us bothered to bring down beds and we both slept on blankets on the floor. It was a rather ascetic existence but it did serve to help us focus on work rather than on leisure.

We spent most of the day taking care of getting into the apartment, getting what we needed set up and dealing with the parking situation.

As of today we have no telephone which is a bit of a problem. I have had a Rochester mobile phone through Frontier since 1992. Many of you may remember: (716) 737-3461. Back when Rochester and Buffalo shared the 716 area code. But when I moved to Pittsburgh Frontier was unable to transfer my phone to that region to allow us to make affordable calls. Even though Frontier had already been bought out by Bell Atlantic they hadn’t figured out how to transfer phones between regions yet and that left us with a problem. So that is a top priority.

My parents took Andy and I out to dinner down on Walnut to a Thai restaurant there.  Tomorrow will be another busy day so no one wanted to stay out late.

Just to make it clear: our apartment has no radio, no television, no telephone line, no Internet access.  This is early 2000 – high speed Internet access is a rarity and almost no one has that yet.  Dial up is the only real option at this point and we can’t get that here at this time.  Nicklin Associates provided us with an AOL Dial Up account to use when we were in a location that had a telephone line but that does not include our apartment!

Good thing that we at least have books.

March 20, 2000: Waste Watcher Goes to Pittsburgh

Today is the big day.  One month ago today Andy and I packed up and left Rochester to come to Ithaca to begin “phase one” of our Waste Watcher project adventure.  Today begins the second phase.  The 1992 Buick Regal GS was loaded to the hilt with sleeping bags, blankets, two Compaq Proliant 800 Servers, two HP Brio Celeron 433 desktops, some Symbol barcode scanners and enough clothes to get us through.  Andy and I barely fit into the front seats of the mid-sized sedan so weighted down it was with every last thing that we could fit into it.  Moving in nothing but a car is very tough work indeed.

Andy and I set off rather late at night hoping that it would only take four hours to get down to Pittsburgh where we were to be living for the next indefinite amount of time.  I remember leaving Ithaca and getting down on to Interstate 86 and traveling west thinking what an incredibly boring drive it was.

It wasn’t long before we needed to stop off in Friendship, New York to locate a restroom which we did at the local grocery store.  It was probably eight in evening or a little later at this point.

It took around six hours or just a little less before we reached Pittsburgh.  This was only my second time as an adult or in my memory coming into the city and my first time driving and it was Andy’s first time in Pittsburgh.  The nighttime view of the city as you enter on Internet 279 will always stick in my memory.  One moment you are driving through steep hills and residential neighbourhoods clinging to steeply tilted ground all seemingly in a very rural or mildly suburban setting and then, suddenly, a looming city of steel and glass swings into view directly ahead of you and impossibly close.

The northern approach to Pittsburgh must be one of the most impressive entrances to any city in the United States.  It is absolutely breathtaking.  It made it all that much more exciting as this would be my first time living in a city of any considerable size.  Ithaca being extremely tiny and Rochester feeling like it isn’t even a city at all (especially when you live outside of it in Greece.)  But in Pittsburgh we were to be living in a tall apartment building well inside the city limits in one of the center boroughs and it was to be very exciting.

Of course the southern approach to Pittsburgh, entering the city through the mountainside via the Fort Pitt Tunnel is one of the most impressive city entrances anywhere as well.  Pittsburgh is blessed with amazing vistas in a very tiny amount of geographic space.

We headed over to the AmeriSuites where we spent the night.  Tomorrow was the “moving in” day.

February 21, 2000: Living in Ithaca

Today is my first full day of living in Ithaca, New York for the first time.  I have always loved Ithaca ever since Nate and I first came here on a church camping trip back around 1989.  We had camped at a boy scout camp on the west side of Cayuga Lake with our youth group from Brick Presbyterian Church.  We had gone into the city and got caught during a tornado up on the Cornell University campus and had to take shelter in the vet school until it passed and had gotten a tour from our youth group leaders who had both graduated from the school.  I remember being in a small 1980s Dodge Omni driven by Earl Hobbs.  Some kids opened the side windows and all kinds of debris just threw straight through the car.  It was crazy.

I came to Ithaca several times from 1994 until 2000 without having lived here.  Nathan Parker moved here in the fall of 1994 to attend school at Ithaca College.  I was able to visit fairly often during those first few years because our school schedules were so drastically different.  I had talked about moving to Ithaca for some time but hadn’t had a strategy to do so until this new project started and I no longer had to live in any particular location when not working on site at the client facility.  So Ithaca it was and a momentous decision it was in many ways.

Today we tried to get the apartment into some sort of order although there was little to be done.  In addition to all of my furniture I also had a giant Compaq Proliant 5000 quad Pentium server which took up all kinds of space and would move from apartment to apartment with me until many years later it was taken off of my hands by John Stephens (the Surfing IT Wizard.)  It was the prize piece of my collection at the time though.  In 2000, owning a real enterprise class Compaq Proliant was no small thing and it was quite an impressive line item on my youthful resume.  Even though I had started my IT career in June, 1994 – six years before – and had been the Director of Information Services for Nicklin Associates now since June, 1999 I was still building up my resume and laying the groundwork for my career and every little bit helped.

Additionally I had several desktop machines that I kept as “learning” machines – mostly running Caldera OpenLinux or Windows NT 4.  This list included by 1995 Digital Starion Pentium 75 computer that I bought to take with me to my second year at GMI (now Kettering University), a PentiumPro 200 Compaq DeskPro that we loving called “Oscar” and ran Windows NT 4 Server, three old Intel 486 machines (all Compaq DeskPros) that all ran Linux and a Gateway 2000 Intel 386 desktop that attempted to run Linux but did so very poorly.  I also, of course, had my Compaq Presario Pentium II 350 128MB which was my primary desktop that ran Windows 98.  I had received that computer and my main colour inkjet printer from Paul Binderman for whom I had done some consulting and he paid me by giving me the computer.  It was a fair deal at the time.  We were both very happy.

So there were many computers in the apartment and no Internet connection other than our AltaVista dial-up connection that was “free” dial-up Internet access that displayed ads to pay for itself.  I had my two paprika coloured leather Natuzzi couches which by this time had already become a bit famous amongst all of our friends. Nate had the big “Emily” couch so named because it came from Emily’s house in Perry.  We had my stereo which, at the time, consisted of a Rotel pre-amp and processor, two Marantz MA-500 monoblock amplifiers, an Adcom line controller and a pair of massive Paradigm Studio Reference 80 speakers.  Nate also had his own stereo system which included a pair of B&W 250 mini-shelf speakers and an Adcom integrated amplifier.  We both had laserdisc players as well.  My laserdisc collection took up no small amount of space either with about 350 titles amassed by this time.  (The collection was roughly at its peak here.)

Nate put his old television/VCR combo unit into his “master” bedroom and we put my Sony Trinitron into the living room.  The apartment had a nice deck too that we stored some stuff on.  We had NO space at all.

I remember very clearly how awful the shower was there.  It had some sort of “high efficiency” shower head that totally atomized the water and created a very dry feeling mist that shot out at you when you attempted to shower.  The mist had so much forced that it swirled as it came out but no actual water ever hit you.  It was very annoying.  I have never seen its like again.

The apartment, I also remember,  was an absolute cleanliness disaster.  Nate’s cousin Mandy had moved out from it some weeks or months before (his cousin Becky had lived there before Mandy did) but food that she had cooked (pasta) was still sitting on the rangetop and the fridge still had her old food in it.  We ate what we could and over several weeks the place improved slightly.

The main pastime was watching the extensive laserdisc collection.  Nate owned a few of his own but having my 350 titles there was a big deal.  People came over all of the time to watch them.

February 20, 2000: Moving to Ithaca

And thus the adventure begins…

We all slept in a bit after the party last night. I have nothing going on today except for the drive from Greece to Ithaca. The truck was all packed and the apartment just needs its final round of cleaning before we turn over the keys and walk away from Rochester. Josh and Amber had already moved and were done with the place. Andy was heading back to his parents’ house, I believe, until he found another apartment. They aren’t very far away from Greece and just as close to where Andy was working in Brighton as we were up in Greece on Lake Ontario.

Andy was wrestling with his future plans all day I guess. As of this morning his plan was to keep working at the Wellesley in Brighton (right across from Monroe Community College) and to remain in Rochester. Nicklin Associates had offered him a position working on the Waste Watcher project that I was leaving to work on but he had decided that he wasn’t ready for it and didn’t want to move for such a risky project.

But as we were doing the final pack and inspection of the truck and were getting ready to start off down to Ithaca (Andy was driving my Buick down for me while I drove down in the rental truck) he decided that he had had enough of Rochester and wanted to set off on an adventure as well.  So he quit his job.  I can still remember him calling on the cell phone and getting Esther who was working at the time.  She was not happy about having to deliver the message to his boss.  We had been working at the same place but I had done my last day on Friday, if I remember correctly.  And off we were to Ithaca!

It was dark when we arrived in Ithaca and drove up the east hill on route 13 to look for Nathan Parker’s apartment where we were going to be roommates for the next month.  Nate and Bob Winans were there and helped us to unload the truck which was pretty full as I owned, even then, a significant amount of stuff.  In fact, I had much more stuff going into Nate’s apartment than he had had there before.  Luckily he had a two bedroom apartment but, once again, only one bath.

There was no space at all to deal with all of the furniture and computers that were pouring into the apartment.  We ended up using as much furniture as we could in the living room and putting the rest into the dining room and just counting that space as lost to us.  The second, smaller bedroom was used purely for storage and everything that could go in there did.  I just slept in the dining room on the floor and Andy slept in the living room on one of the couches.  For the first time in quite a while we had a place to actually set up my 32″ Sony Trinitron CRT television that I had bought when I first moved in to Greenleaf Meadows and had had no television of my own.

It was a very tiny amount of space for three people with so much stuff but we managed.  We had no real plan of how this was going to work long term or if it could at all but at the moment it was purely temporary.  Andy and I were only scheduled to be in Ithaca for exactly one month so we didn’t have to make it work for that long.  Then Nate would have the apartment to himself with my stuff all crammed into it as that was going to be stored there until we had a better solution for it all.

The apartment was on the top floor of the Gaslight Apartments on Uptown Road in Lansing very near to the Triphammer Mall.  The mall was just down at the end of the driveway which made a lot of things extremely convenient.  It really wasn’t too bad of a location and the price wasn’t bad at all.  Nate was teaching down at the middle school at the bottom of the hill so it was a really good location for him.

February 19, 2000: Last Day in Rochester

Today was the final day of packing the townhouse at Greenleaf Meadows in Greece where Josh, Amber, Andy and I have lived for more than a year.  It was a two bedroom, one bath townhouse – not the end unit but next to the end.  Josh and I had moved in in late 1998, I believe.  At the time it was just two of us and there was plenty of space.  It was a great apartment in its day.  The two bedrooms and the bath were on the second floor.  On the first floor was a tiny kitchen just as you entered from the front door and there was a very spacious living room where everything in the apartment happened.  Out back was a small patio.  There was a full basement as well with two rooms.  One we used for storage and the other we set up as the “computer room” with several computers set up all of the time.  The apartment was seriously wired for the time.  No one had anything like it back then.

Andy and I were working together and I had lost my driver’s license (too many speeding tickets) and he was driving me to work a lot (Eric was driving me around the rest of the time) so after his roommates, snmnmnm, gave up their apartment on Cypress Street in Rochester he decided that he would move up with us to save on costs.  It worked out well because we were able to share a room easily as we had plenty of space and we worked opposite overnight shifts at the same place.

A while after we had been living in the apartment Amber, who worked with Josh at the car dealership, moved in.  So we had four of us in the two bedroom place.  Had there been two baths it wouldn’t have been so cramped.  Having grown up in a house with my own bathroom since I was little this was a bit much for me.  It was here that I learned the importance of having more bathrooms that it seems like you would need.

Yesterday and today we were busily packing everything in the apartment.  The apartment was empty tonight with the moving truck sitting in the parking lot with all of my worldly possessions on it.  Tomorrow begins the adventure but tonight is the “empty apartment party”.  Josh and Amber had decided to take a one bedroom apartment directly next door to the townhouse and had been moving in all week as there was some overlap in their leases.  So they were already moved out and living over there in the new place.  Andy had no particular plans of where he was going but he wasn’t going to keep the townhouse by himself and he hardly owned anything other than his clothes.  He didn’t even have a car at this point since he had been driving me around in my white 1992 Buick Regal GS (with the moon roof option and red plush interior) for the past year.  We had decided to save money and just share the car.

In the empty apartment with nothing but folding chairs we threw our farewell to Rochester party – or at least my farewell to Rochester party.  We had a pretty good turn out although now I can’t remember who all was there.  Andy, Josh, Amber, Eric, Amanda, Dana, myself and definitely several more people were there although everything is very fuzzy as I write this almost eight years later.  I remember very clearly that Amanda and Dana were there (Amanda had come with Dana) because it was the night that Eric and Amanda first met (they were married some years ago now.)

The party went late into the night and almost everyone slept over crashing on the bare floors.  It was a brisk night but not so cold that people weren’t out on the back patio smoking much of the night.  I remember people going in and out the back door a lot back when people actually still smoked cigarettes.

One thing that I do remember was Andy and I sneaking over to Josh’s new bedroom window with a can of “spray on window ice” that makes windows look like winter and we made a smiley face on his bedroom window that remained for as long as he lived in that apartment.

January 13, 2000: Early Morning Call

Today is marked as one of those turning point days in my life.  At about four in the morning John Nicklin called me from Hawaii (the time different is enough that he didn’t really think about what time it is here) to let me know that the medical center that we visited in December had liked our presentation and wanted to move forward with the Waste Watcher project.  We are scheduled to begin the project on March 20 in Pittsburgh.  That means that I am leaving Rochester and doing it soon.  Probably long before March because there is a lot of prep work to be done.

Andy was sleeping on the couch and I ran down to give him the news and to discuss the project with him.  He wasn’t nearly as impressed as I had hoped with the news but he was pretty groggy.

Later, after some sleep, we discussed the project during normal waking hours and Andy admitted that it sounded like a really cool project.  We had talked about it some before but we didn’t think that it was very likely to actually move forward as an actual project so we hadn’t taken it too seriously.

Now architecture and technology discussions actually begin and some serious inklings as to the long term outlook of the system begin to take shape.

September 7, 1998: Derecho

Today is a day of meteorological infamy and I am happy to have been able to have been a part of it.   Derechos are an extremely uncommon weather formation and today Upstate New York was hit by one of the most famous ever.  Known locally as the “Labor Day Storm” or elsewhere as the Syracuse Labor Day Derecho this event was so significant that Wikipedia has an entry about the storm and it is listed in the very small list of famous derechos to his the United States.  NOAA has a site dedicated to the storm as well.

I had the morning off from work and went in to the Wellesley Inn around eleven in the evening.  It was a perfectly normal day as far as the weather was concerned but shortly after I got to work that started to change very quickly.

I was on the phone with a friend who worked the same shift, the overnight audit, at the Super 8 on Lehigh Station Road in Henrietta just a couple miles south from where I was working in Brighton.  We were chatting about the normal industry events and exchanging shift information to speed things along.  I remember looking up from the desk and looking outside into the parking lot and I watched the weather change almost instantly from a calm to incredible wind and rain.  You could hear it shifting.  You couldn’t miss it.

Just as quickly as the weather changed everyone outside began running for cover and cars began to slide in the parking lot.  I asked the person on the other end of the phone, Bill I think his name was, if he was seeing the same thing and he said that something similar was happening down there.  I hung up the phone and ran to the front doors to watch the ensuing mayhem.  It was utter chaos as everything that wasn’t bolted down, and many things that were, began taking flight across the parking lot.  This was some serious wind.

I attempted to step outside but feared that the wind would rip the doors from my grasp and shatter them under the pressure so I kept them closed and locked unless someone tried to get in.

After not too long of a time a horrible noise came from the back hallway and I scrambled back there to inspect the situation.  I was met with a wall of rain in the middle of the long hallway that ran the length of the hotel!  The wind had torn open the windows and the pressure was so great that the rain wasn’t even hitting the floor for most of the length of the building.  Standing in the hallway was just like being outside.  The wind was so intense that it came down the hallway in a spiral.

It turned out to be a series of microbursts called a derecho and it did some serious damage from a bit west of Rochester through Syracuse and out to Utica.  There were a lot of people without power in the morning and the hotel filled up with people looking for a place to stay.