Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Nearly Three Months Later...

I've worked at Security Operations and Services (SOS) for almost three months, now. I'm still "the new guy," but I do feel very much at home, here. And although I do miss so many of the folks at MRI, I have to admit that my stress level has dropped considerably since changing jobs. I would have to attribute that to the fact that I'm no longer at the mercy of random system failures 24 hours a day. In fact, there are times when I even turn my mobile phone OFF. And since I'm the father of a small child, that's a very good thing. And it reinforces for me that I made the right choice for myself and my family in making the switch.

I knew that leaving MRI would be difficult. And for anyone who attended my farewell party, I think it was pretty apparent that was true. Looking so many friends in the eye and saying good-bye was heart-wrenching, even though I was only moving to a different unit within the university. I've had occasion to visit my old stomping grounds a few times since the move, and I'm still in pretty regular contact with the IT team (for better or for worse!). And I still catch myself finding excuses to drive by the MSC construction site to check on the progress being made there.

I want to thank all of you at MRI for the lovely send-off you gave me. I certainly didn't expect presents, but as usual, you showed the generosity of the MRI family with your gifts, and I don't think I could express just how much that means to me. My best wishes go out to all of you for the happiest of holiday seasons and a fantastic New Year! And while I hope you don't find yourselves in a position where you urgently need the services of SOS, should that happen, rest assured you have a friend here.

(Me in the new office. Believe it or not, it isn't filled with computer parts.)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

It's Things Like This That Threaten My Mental Health

So, I have this question that is absolutely killing me. And I need to ask it because I really do want an answer, even though I know I won't get one that satisfies me. Of course, I don't mean any offense to anyone here, even though it will probably sound like I do…

Over this past summer, I kept putting off major yard work because I would look at the weather forecast and rain would be predicted. Sometimes, this would happen for days in a row. Something else would get put on the schedule in anticipation of said rain, but that rain never seemed to materialize when it was forecast. The daytime hours would be filled with heavy clouds with absolutely no rain. It might move in at 10 in the evening that same day, but I swear it never, ever happened when the forecast said it would. So my yard work would go undone.

Today, I have a metric crap ton of leaves in my yard that I need to move, mulch, or otherwise get rid of, so despite the forecast of "rain starting around noon," I went out and got started. You see this coming, right? At noon, as I stood there with my leaf blower, clearing the six-inch thick carpet of yellow away from my two giant maple trees (I've already done one round of this), the sky opened up and the rain began to pour down.

Why is it that today, of all days, the forecast was spot on?

Really. I want to know...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Letter to the MRI Community

It is not without a great deal of consideration and reflection that I am resigning from the position of systems administrator at MRI. My last day here will be Friday, October 2, 2009. I have accepted a position with the office of Security Operations and Services (SOS) within Penn State ITS, where the scope of my work will encompass the entire University community - a move that will certainly be challenging. However, I feel that it is a good move that will be beneficial to me and also to my family.

This is not a decision that I have taken lightly. Since arriving at MRI in 2005, the people here have come to be a second family to me, and that has made this decision all the more difficult to make. There are three members of the MRI family to whom I owe an enormous debt of gratitude: Dr. Susan Trolier-McKinstry, who first brought me to MRI as her staff assistant; Dan Lehman, who hired me as part of our fantastic IT team; and Bob Cornwall, who trusted me to expand my role on the IT team and administer MRI's networks and systems. Without these three people, I would never have known of the MRI community, never developed the working relationships here that have so enriched my life, and I would not be in a position to again move forward in my career.

While I will miss working closely with all of you at MRI, my new job will not completely keep me out-of-touch with you. At SOS, it will not be uncommon for me to be in contact with the IT team here, and whenever I have the opportunity to participate in security presentations involving MRI, I will most certainly jump at the chance. I will watch with great interest as MRI moves into the Millennium Science Complex, and will still feel a great sense of pride when I learn of new research coming out of MRI's labs.

Ironically, I will celebrate my fourth MRI anniversary on September 29th. The four years that I have spent here have been some of the best of my life. Thank you all for being part of it...

With best wishes to you all,
Paul Carlisle Kletchka

Sunday, August 2, 2009


Now, I will be the first person to admit that I've been a bit emotional, lately -- and that's an entirely different story. But I do believe that this may have been the perfect summer evening.

We started our excursion by heading to Port Matilda to see our friends Beth and Jamie. Beth is recovering from recent surgery and, by all appearances, is doing very well. That in itself is good reason to be happy, but we had an absolutely lovely time talking, and the Monkey hammed it up for everyone's enjoyment. I also must say that I think Beth and Jamie are two of the kindest people we have met here, which makes me thankful for the wonder of twitter, without which we might have never met them. Jamie gave us a tour of his incredible garden and showed us plants that I've never even heard of, let alone seen before. It would have been nice if they could have accompanied us on the next leg of our journey, but that would have been a bit much for Beth this soon after her surgery.

The Monkey knew exactly where we were headed as we left Beth and Jamie's house -- "the pink restaurant," or El Campesino, if you want to go by an actual name. And while I think there's a rather large contingent of folks in State College who wish they'd open up a location here, the drive to Altoona is no longer a huge barrier, so we can go and enjoy real Mexican food whenever we have just a little extra time to do so. It was, of course, delicious. And though I was tempted to literally lick my plate clean, I didn't want to embarrass my family in front of strangers.

But the absolute best part of the evening was the drive home. Perhaps it was partially the coincidence of The Weepies' All This Beauty playing as we drove that particular portion of Interstate 99, but right around the Blair/Centre county border, I looked out over the forest-laden, rippling remnants of mountains that were once higher than the Himalayas, and found myself again thinking that I live in one of the most beautiful places on this planet. A few weeks ago, while making the same drive, I commented to a friend that from that spot, if you stop and look all around you, you can see more trees from that very viewpoint than you would find in the entire state of Kansas, where I grew up. And while Kansas has a beauty all its own, I have always found myself drawn to the solid grandeur of trees. So tonight, as the sun began to set beyond those mountains, and the humid haze from the recent rains gave even greater depth to the distances between them, I swore that I could feel the breathing of the leaves as they cleansed the air around that mountain road. I was reminded of my grandfather, the man who taught me to appreciate nature, and the way I could feel his excitement at seeing a particularly gorgeous landscape. So as the music played and my beautiful wife and child sang along with it, I thought, "Not too bad for a couple of Kansas boys. Eh, Papa?" And in that moment, I once again felt the warmth of his smile.

It was, indeed, the perfect summer evening...

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Meme Has Legs!

And it's still kicking my friends...

So in the world of mash-ups, two wrongs apparently make a right for me. Because I can't stand Rick Astley or Nirvana, but this little number had me grinning from ear to ear.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

It's the Truth

I have tried to come up with a nice way to say this, but since it gets me riled up about once a week and tonight was my weekly dose, it's just going to come out the way it does...

If you are too damned lazy to put your shopping cart in the corral or take it back in to the store, you are an asshole. Putting two wheels of it over a curb doesn't cut it, either, you lazy slob.

I once saw a cart moved by the wind out of a parking lot into a street, where it collided with a car and destroyed a quarter-panel. All because some lazy asshole couldn't put it in the corral.

Thank you. I'm done, now...

Monday, February 23, 2009

When Good News is Also a Bit of Bad News, or My Way of Saying "I'm Sorry"

So yes, I've neglected my blog for some time now...

OK. I haven't just neglected the blog. I've neglected friends, family, pets, and even myself for a few months. The one thing I haven't neglected is my job. And since I normally feel that I do a pretty decent job of balancing things out, I'm feeling awfully guilty right about now. But please keep reading, because I do have a pretty good reason for all of this. Really.

Last fall, two of the five members of the IT team of which I'm part announced that they had accepted new jobs and would be leaving us. The first to announce this was our manager. Ouch. And with the far-too-common shrinking budget of our department, it was decided that position would be eliminated. Double ouch. Next up to make the announcement was our systems administrator. Thankfully, that position wasn't cut, and we began a search for her replacement. To make a long story short, the search did not go well, and after the end of November our team was down to three people, with the database specialist and me (the support specialist) covering the sysadmin duties on top of our own for the duration of the search.

Thankfully, December is a short month for universities, because our search yielded only one person we were interested in hiring, and he turned down the job because he didn't want to relocate his family (my anger on that is a different story). So I started my holiday break with great uncertainty and a close eye on our systems, which had to remain running while I was technically "off." By the time we officially returned to work in January and I could see there weren't many viable candidates applying for the job, I wondered just what we'd do. And after one more fruitless interview, I think our team and the department's managing director became rather despondent about our chances of finding someone we'd want to hire. The job had been posted for over two months and new applications just weren't coming in.

I hadn't applied for the sysadmin position because I didn't really feel that I was qualified for it. By the beginning of January, I was starting to think that having worked closely with the previous two people in that position and essentially doing the job for over a month made me better qualified than most of the people who did apply for it. I talked with our database specialist, and he agreed that we'd probably have better luck finding a qualified support specialist than we had in finding a sysadmin, and between the two of us we could maintain our systems and even begin to move forward on new projects again. Lo and behold, it turns out the managing director was thinking the very same thing. And so, one day after the president of our university announced that there would be no pay raises this year, I was given a promotion and, consequently, a pay raise. And it was even a good pay raise, to boot! Now we just had to find a new support person...

So, I was getting paid for my new job, which is great, but still needed to perform both my new job and my old job until MY replacement could be hired. Meaning I would continue to run myself ragged until a new person starts, but I'd be better paid. Thankfully, we were all correct in our predictions about finding a support person, because that search took less than a month. And on March 2nd, I'll be back to having just one job. I know that it will take a bit for our new person to get acquainted with the way we do things, but I'm at least seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

The upshot of all this is that I've had virtually no free time. During the regular work day, I mostly do my old job and monitor systems as I can, and in the evenings I take care of the new job -- sometimes from home and sometimes back at the office. So, not only has there been no time to blog, but my number of tweets has dropped considerably, I rarely get a chance to look at Facebook, and actually spending time with real people has been nearly impossible. I managed to re-connect with some old friends around the holidays, but haven't had the opportunity to properly write to them as I wanted. I finally decided today that I would declare Google Reader bankruptcy and mark all of my feeds read in order to start anew. Heck, I haven't even had time to participate in the "25 Things" meme!

Now, let me say that I am not looking for sympathy. I can't begin to say how fortunate I feel just to have a secure job right now, let alone to have been promoted. When I found this little bit of time to write a post, I wanted to use it to explain why I've been so absent in my usual communications with people, and to say to all of you that I'm sorry I've been out of touch. I hope that in the next few weeks, I'll be back to my usual social networking junkie self, and I might even be able to get together with friends on a week night! In the meantime, please don't feel that I'm slighting you or, even worse, forgot about you. I'm not, I haven't, and I really hope to do better very soon.