Friday, April 20, 2012

Fourth and fifth days at Cray

Thursday and Friday were, to put it mildly, infinitely better than "Day 1". Both days started at 6 a.m. (I'm not a morning person; at the same time there's some perverse pleasure in greeting the world before sunrise, before most people are awake, and before there's any traffic at all on the roads), because both yesterday and today I sat in the driver's seat for updating a development Cray's software to the latest nightly build. This is the same process I watched Monday morning when I first arrived, and now I'm doing it myself... with close supervision from the experts who normally do this two or three times a week.

Much of the 4-6 hour process is copy-and-paste from a wiki page of instructions, so I don't have to understand what each and every command does quite yet. I am getting the general feel for what's going on, though, and I've learned the most important acronyms and lingo. Perhaps most importantly, I'm feeling so much more confident that, yes, I will eventually understand all this (a feeling that was decidedly lacking on, say, Monday).

Yesterday after the software update and lunch, I dove back into that Perl book and finished two more lessons: variables and arrays. The language is similar to PHP, so, at least for now, learning is going quickly. (PHP is the language I used to write all the web apps for MA).

Today after the update I dove into learning how to style XML with something called XLS (or maybe it's XLS-FO). This is not dissimilar to how you'd style a web page (example: making text larger or smaller, different colors, etc), but the syntax is different, and new to me, so researching into that took my afternoon.

Why? Carl showed me a simple webpage he'd created that formatted (using XLS) a status report from a Cray. And he mentioned how he wanted part of it formatted differently.

Challenge accepted.

By the end of the day, I'd learned how to make that specific change, and also how to make the whole page look a little prettier. Now my web background is coming into play. When I showed Carl the new page he was very happy. And so was I. I'd actually accomplished something!

Interspersed in the days, of course, were good conversations. I met my second neighbor Jason today - he works from home most of the time, and today was his only day in the office this week. (Mario, my neighbor two desks down, has been friendly and helpful all week, I don't think I've mentioned his name here yet).

This afternoon Carl and I reminisced about St Olaf, and were joined by another Ole: new-to-me coworker Jim. Despite the years in between our classes, it turned out we each had a couple of the same teachers!

And last but almost more important than everything else, let's not forget the free donuts in the office on Friday mornings.

It's Friday night, and I've survived my first week. I can do this.

And though I'm exhausted, sick (flu or cold or something), still swamped with all there is to learn and do, both at work, and at home, and even though the phrase is overused, I'll still say it:

Life is good.

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