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I had a job interview Monday and I did not get the job. But I did learn something. I have long worked as technician installing, troubleshooting and repairing fire alarm and security systems. In the security industry, alarms still matter but are becoming secondary to video surveillance systems. First of all, alarms produce false positives. Most of the time the reason is operator error, but as electronic devices age they tend to fail in a way that produces false alarms. Much of what I have done consisted of finding and replacing aging devices. The second reason is that while an alarm can call the cops, they rarely arrive in time to catch the bad guys. On the other hand cameras can be backed up by a storage system, say a digital video recorder. DVRs are basically Tivo boxes designed specifically to monitor, record and display the outputs of multiple cameras. The alarm serves to call the cops and tell a property owner sleeping at home to get on the net, log into his DVR and watch the property in real time. If a camera gets a good view of the break in, we call that evidence and evidence can be used to put crooks in jail even after they've fled the scene. Also for very large properties were security is critical, like a mall or power plant, a guard sitting indoors in a nice safe spot may spot crimes before they happen, both preventing crimes and busting bad guys.

In a small system you get cameras, a power supply, a DVR and a monitor. You hardwire everything. You pull coax for the camera signal, a pair of wires for power and maybe another pair if you need to steer the camera. In very large systems, say a mall, you install a series of blade switches, that interface with a server which does what the DVR does. Each blade switch gets a dedicated IP address defined by the local network administrator, so switching between cameras is handled by software rather then mechanical protocols. But lately even the blade switches are going away. Current generation routers are capable of powering the camera directly. Power over ethernet has become the norm. Modern cameras are now internet devices. Plug in a to the RG45 (ethernet) jack, get the other end to the PoE router, assign IPs and you're cooking. Cat5e, which is much cheaper, replaces the coax. Wiring becomes much simpler and you can often troubleshoot the camera from a desk.

And one of the biggest problems they seem to be having occurs when the network administrator you worked with to set up the system moves on to another position. His replacement comes in, realizes he's got a whole lot of assigned IPs whose purpose he does not understand (because nobody documented it, or he never read the documentation) and wipes them from the system. Suddenly all the cameras on the north forty quit working. Nobody knows why.

So the job of the tech coming into fix them isn't one of troubleshooting a camera, it's finding the bloody thing in a mess of IP addresses in the buildings database or server software. I don't have those chops. And I need certifications for such things (like Cisco) before anyone will let me log onto their servers and try to find the cameras. For some reason they think I might screw things up. And I might.

I don't have the chops to play that game. I've programmed panels before, but mostly from their keypads, and the programming has been simple. What I don't have is the knowledge of MySQL or Microsoft server environments. But he told me that if I obtained such skills along with the needed certifications it might be worth a big raise for me. I'm old and fat, but I'm not ready to stop learning new tricks, particularly when a five figure raise might be involved. I spent some time looking into certification training. He told me it might cost $5K, which I can do. My research returned a five figure number, which I can't, particularly because they want all the training to be day shift, and well I need to be able to pay my mortgage. So I'll teach myself. Today I downloaded MAMP and bought myself a book.

So far it makes sense, the statements and what the software is trying to accomplish. Of course precision in character strings is everything in programming. There's not an e2 editor, past or present, who would tell you I'm great at catching typos. Truth is I just plain suck at it. But I need to learn, because I'd like to enjoy some choices during my declining years.

My mother's birthday and father's day coming up two days apart.

New level of Personal Awkwardness Purgaroty: standing for a ridiculously long time in the card aisle looking through the shelf of Father's Day cards and discarding prospective ones because you know they are lies.

You were always there for us da-


You've taught me every-


For better or worse, you've stuck with us-

Haha, no.

I love you.

. . .

You were the pillar of strength in my life-

Oh Jesus fuck.

Until finally, gold:

"Don't worry, Dad. I say only good things about you to my therapist. . .
I blame all the bad shit on mom. Happy father's day."


So thank you, comedic card makers for allowing families like mine to cope with their tangled relationships with humor, rather than overcompensating with saccharine sweet garbage that would only undercut the distinct awkwardness father's day already brings around every year. The five minutes I will spend with my dad this Saturday will be all the less squirm-inducing because of you. Maybe we'll even have eye contact that isn't shamefully short or overbearingly long.

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