Well, my ATM card still has not arrived, but it was not until I started going to the mail box to look for it that I saw the card in it that listed the last names of the current residents for the benefit of the mail carrier. So perhaps the card is back on its way to Kalamazoo, blast it. On the other hand, Pam sent me a can opener to see if they would actually leave anything for me, and they did; I just got it this morning. And I have actually been paid; I have no checks yet, but I have received my direct deposit.

I celebrated by stopping at Wal-Mart; I now have peanut butter and jam to complement the ham sandwiches.

The last couple days have been interesting. I got ten out of ten on my last three tests, and got to stand up and deliver a lecture on RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) to explain to the class why, exactly, it existed. RAID is a bit odd to explain to people without a background in, or familiar with, industrial-scale computing. RAID is neither data backup nor immune to damage; it can improve hard disk performance, reliability or both, but to most people it is expensive and useless: they would be better off with a DVD-RW making regular backups of important data.

Wednesday a quarterly meeting was held; we lowly trainees were allowed to attend. The best thing about these meetings is that, in exchange for looking attentive while someone recites a speech for the nth time, you get free food. I had a Coke, three corn dogs and two or three nacho servings. (You learn to take what you can get.) The speeches were actually not bad, fairly direct and usually humorous; awards were given; a raffle was held; they even had a pie-eating contest. That was when eight or ten people in my class managed to humiliate themselves by having a smoke break before the meeting was actually over and were brought back as a group in front of a woman who is about two or three spots below Michael Dell. That bought us a lecture on when exactly break is and that meetings were not exceptions.

Was I among them? Me? Wander off without permission or notification, on my own head?

Perish the thought.

Thursday morning, our chief trainer noted that Dell had always shipped Intel processors and chipsets (a chipset is the thing that supports the processor by providing the bus, the channels, to speak to the PCI expansion cards, USB, keyboards and mice, RAM memory, and often the integrated hard disk controller). My hand shot up because I had read the news last night that Dell, for the first time, would be offering AMD Opteron processors in the high-end servers. Our chief trainer read us an email by one of the CEOs of Dell, sent just that morning, noting this. The letter closed with a line, after listing all the changes that Dell would be making to restore growth and crush its rivals, that our trainer had forwarded to his colleagues: "Competition in the future will be much tougher—for them." Heh.

Wednesday and Thursday mornings were pretty rough, anyway. The alarm clock speaker sound was cutting in and out, which is usually a problem with the volume control dial, but this was different. (I am terrified of sleeping through the alarm.) Eventually, I took the lid off and discovered that the circuit board was screwed to the clock base and the speaker to the clock lid. Two pillars with springy ends rose up about two inches from the circuit board to carry the current to the speaker; I bent the ends up a bit to ensure a tight connection, which certainly would have worked had I been able to then reassemble it.

See, the buttons on top of the clock had their own pillars, growing down from the top, which were there to translate your finger presses to the switches on the circuit board. Well, it was impossible to do it; I could not get the two halves to mate at all. The first night I had to borrow Keith's phone as an alarm clock (I had lost mine), the second I was up until about quarter to two trying to fix it. (I had found my phone, but it had no alarm capability.)

And fix it I did. It took one stove burner on HIGH, one pair of Vise-Grips, a drywall nail, solder paste, and the disassembly of my one jumper wire for the two alligator clips on either end. (Had I had both jumper wires in my tool box, I could have gone to sleep at 11:30 PM.)

Yeah. Thursday morning I was pretty wrecked.