Saturday, March 9, 2013

Snow Days and Servers

It’s like a snow day, when the servers go down.  A snow day for grown-ups.

We’ve had a lot of snow in the last few weeks, here in Our Little Town.  An entire winter’s worth, if the newspaper is to be trusted – apparently all of the snow that should have fallen in November, December, and January waited until February and then fell in one big repetitive storm that has lasted, in waves, from Groundhog Day almost to Pie Day (March 14, for the mathematically disinclined – think about it, and have some pie while you’re at it).  So it’s been kind of white and wet around here.

Mostly we’ve shrugged it off and gone about our business.  You don’t live in Wisconsin for any length of time and get freaked out about snow.  The over/under on shoveling at all around here is 2.5”, and the snazzy snowblower we got way on sale during last year’s snowless winter has more than earned its keep this year.  You learn how to drive in the snow – a process that involves as little usage of the steering wheel and brakes as you can get away with – and you keep your kitchen stocked up with white foods (milk, eggs, bread, flour, sugar, and so on) so you don’t have to rush to the grocery store with everyone else when the forecast says snow.  Be prepared! 

But every so often it becomes clear that discretion is the better part of not getting your fool self killed or not having squadrons of screaming lawyers descend upon your institution because some other fool self got himself killed trying to get to you, and things close.  Snow days!  Sleeping in!  Hanging out!  Making French toast with all those white groceries you have prudentially stockpiled!

Except that you don’t get to sleep in, not really.  In this day of the “phone tree” there is no sleeping in.  There is only the phone call that arrives at 5:50am to let you know that you don’t need to wake up to go to work.  Good of them to let you know, I suppose.

And there is only so much French toast a human being can consume before the urge to wear berets in public becomes more than the civilized mind can stand.

But you can still hang out, right?  You’re home, work is somewhere over there – “there” being defined as “not here” and therefore not your problem – and that combination of things should mean relaxation and merriment, or at the very least hot tea, comfortable chairs and a good book.

This is not true anymore, though.

We live in a world of instant access, where everything is available online.  Other than the few hours per week that I actually spend standing in front of a class – hours which, frankly, I regard as the reward for all the work I do, not the work itself – all of my work can be done at home, online.  This is especially true this semester, when one of my classes is half-online and a second is entirely online.  Fully half of my teaching load, in other words, is conducted via the Internet.  Most of my weekends are spent grading online discussion posts, posting primary source documents and assignments and feedback on past assignments, and sending documents back and forth between home and the various campuses I report to this spring.

I can do that no matter what the weather is.

But when the servers go down?

Break out the tea and books, fire up the skillet and prepare for a lovely and guilt-free day of not being productive! 

You still get snow days when you’re a grown-up.  They just don’t look the same as they used to look.


Display Name said...

Planned maintenance? Or random crash? They should be on VMware.

David said...

It's technology, John. Who can tell?