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Doran's Journal - 13 July 1997

When it's not raining here, it's hot and humid. REALLY hot and humid. And when it's not hot and humid and not raining, a spectacular lightning show is in progress. The accompanying thunder makes you wonder if you're in the midst of an air raid.

This last week has been busy. On Monday we went back to work after our 6-day vacation. I thought it would be terribly difficult to do, but it wasn't. While my job is still sometimes slow, I'm finally finding a lot more work to do.

Tim, a Unix guru from England who is in our group, talked to me early in the week and asked me, "What is it you want from your internship?" I told him I didn't really know but that I was certainly interested in finding out more about how Cray manages such a large distributed network of Unix computers. So, Tim arranged to have me work on a project with Chris (a woman who works in our group) on revising a locally produced program called atool. This atool program is a Perl program which has been around for a couple of years and is used to create new accounts for users and make common changes to users' accounts. It sounds like we are not going to merely make changes to atool but borrow concepts from it and design a specification for an entirely new program which will be used here in Eagan as well as at the Cray facility in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.

On Tuesday a meeting was held for all SGI Software Division employees concerning a reorganization. Related to this was a reorganization of Christine's group. Her boss, Dan Ferber, is no longer over the group Christine has been working with. However, he took Christine with him. So now Christine is in a group by herself with Dan as her boss. She doesn't know what to think... but she's got plenty of work to do to keep her busy.

Brenda, the backup specialist in my group, approached me this week about writing a Perl script that will analyze output from the backup system and produce certain statistics and send e-mail to people if there are problems. It sounds like a lot of fun. Our backup system consists of two SGI Challenge servers (named catbert and ratbert, incidentally) which are connected to these huge 7-foot tall tape jukeboxes that hold hundreds of gigabytes of data each. The backup servers backup data which is located on other machines around the company over the network.

Friday, Christine and I left work around 3:30 so we could catch the matinee showing of Contact, the new Robert Zemeckis film based on the best-selling Carl Sagan novel. Zemeckis, as you may know, won several award in 1995 for Forrest Gump including Best Picture. While _Contact_ is not as groundbreaking as _Gump_ was, it certainly does live up to the director's reputation.

I read the novel _Contact_ when I was 14 years old and read it again several times after that. It is a wonderful story and while the screenwriters had to butcher it to fit it into a feature-length film, the fundamental plot is there. Jodie Foster is cast perfectly in the leading role of Eleanor Arroway, a passionate radio astronomer. She may be looking at a Best Actress for this one. She deserves it.

If you're a special effects freak, this movie is one to add to your list for the Summer. Zemeckis uses a lot of his stolen-from-TV effects that he used in _Gump_ in _Contact_. Some very impressive computer generated effects are used in the movie as well. When go see the movie, be prepared to be amazed by the effects starting with the first few minutes of the film. A movie review I read on the Internet by

James Berardinelli reads:
"CONTACT is likely to change a lot of perceptions -- not only about the role of humankind in the universe, but about what special effects can do for a movie when they're used in the service of a story, rather than the other way around."

So, go see it... on the big screen. I demand it of you. (Yes, even YOU Mom, Dad!)

And while you're online, check out my very own Contact WWW page:

(Not online anymore, unfortunately.)

Saturday night, Christine and I went out to dinner and then to the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. Why? Because there was a big car sale going on. We thought it might be fun to see how much we could trade our car in for to get a newer Subaru. We found a nice '93 Legacy with everything we wanted and started talking. While low blue book on our car is $5800, they would only give us a $2500 trade in on the car because it has 157,000 miles on it. The guy who appraised our car told us if we didn't trade the car in or sell it, he'd definitely recommend getting some work done on the engine. I think he was probably just trying to scare us into buying the Legacy, but I think I'll have someone look at it just in case. He said the car is showing some compression problems which usually come with age. So, we'll check it out. Worst case scenario is that I drop another used engine into the car before we head back to Utah. *grins*

So we didn't buy the Legacy. It would have been nice, though. Instead, I think we'll wait until we graduate next year and try to pay off our car this Summer.

Speaking of paying money, we got our first paychecks on Friday. Yay! On Wednesday we got our travel reimbursement checks. Yay! So right now we're floating on a pile of cash. To celebrate on Wednesday, we went to Applebees for dinner. On Thursday, we went to the Mall of America and bought some new shoes. I got some black Dr. Martins and Christine got some redish brown Dr. Martins and some black dress shoes. Yay!