A Day In The Life


3:00am (or so) – One of my cats begs for death by waking me up while scratching to get out of the bedroom door. The door is on a spring-loaded hinge. We don’t latch the door so that the furry herd (3 cats) can let themselves in and out at will. Awakening to the sound of the cat scratching at the door is far better than awakening to the sound of a cat puking a hairball, which happens more often than I care to think about. When the cat pukes in the middle of the night, your last thought before dozing back off is, “Huh. I wonder what part of the room that nasty mess is sitting in. Will I step in it?” Nothing like cold cat vomit on the bottom of your foot first thing in the morning.

4:35am – Alarm goes off. I feel lousy. I’ve been battling a cold for days now, and the cold is winning. I can’t breathe, and I can’t hear (much). All I want to do is go back to sleep, but work beckons.

5:00am – Ready to walk out the door, I first check the BlackBerry to see what new misery unleashed itself on my network over night. Nothing weird this morning. Just the same old trivia from the load balancers extended content checkers, complaining about LDAP and a few other services bouncing. A spam about “really cheep ware-z”. A message from a CCIE candidate across the pond who’s beginning his battle with the dragon.

5:05am – The car is cold. My car has leather seats, but in the winter climate of New Hampshire, leather is pointless unless the seats are heated. Mine aren’t. What’s worse, it’s got to be the cheapest grade of leather ever – so stiff that it feels more like vinyl than leather…not one of Ford’s proudest moments of interior design. So I nestle into the stiff, cold seat, my bottom puckering in protest. I fire up the car, and I’m reminded by a warning light that something went awry with the airbag on Sunday…and by the odometer that I’ve overdue for an oil change. Way overdue. I stuff the BlackBerry into the dash-mounted cradle and fire up some companion audio for my commute. I have been listening to sermons on the way into work for the last few months. This morning, I listen to a classic on Paul’s epistle to Philemon by Harry Ironsides from probably 50 or 60 years ago. Bad audio quality, good message.

5:30am – About halfway to work, it starts raining steadily. And I’m reminded that my snow blades are junk. They don’t wipe away precipitation anymore. They kind of smear it in a greasy film.

5:52am – Dunkin Donuts is out of low-carb bagels, meaning I have to have my egg ‘n’ cheese on something else. I choose a plain bagel, a regrettable choice since it had been overbaked, resulting in the flavor of charcoal coloring my normally blissful breakfast experience.

6:01am – I roll into work about a minute late, hoping no one will notice. And then I decide I don’t care too much, since I’ve been working through my lunch hour most of the last 2 weeks. And almost no one else is there anyway.

6:33am – An e-mail rolls in from my teacher-wife telling me school’s been cancelled due to inclement weather. While I got rain heading south, they are getting snow up north where my progeny are educated. That means the wife will be trapped in the house with 2 energetic children all day. That could be bad. Perhaps I should bring home chocolate.

6:45am – I get through most of the e-mail, reflexively deleting most of what came in overnight, filing the important stuff I’ll save for when I’m awake, and deleting all the GroupStudy.com threads about “will you swap dates with me” and “help me with Dynagen” and “if I study really hard can I be a CCIE next month”. I start working on an research issue having to do with unicast RPF.

7:30am – I discover that the reason all of my unicast RPF tests are failing is because I’d been applying the “ip verify” to the wrong interface on the lab router. I smack myself in the forehead and get up to make some coffee, which is ironic since I swore off caffeine quite a while ago. I pop a dose of cold meds. Mmmm…gel caps. Is this the first or second dose of the day? I’m not sure…

8:00am – People start to straggle into the office. One of them turns the office lights on, invading my triple-monitor cockpit with pointless brightness. People, I can type by feel. I don’t need an overhead light for that. Of course, I suppose they turned the lights on for them, not for me…

8:18am – A sysadmin wanders down network alley, looking for someone, anyone. I make the mistake of eye contact, and thus I am elected. He can’t get a console session working to his big mainframe. I take a look at the serial cable, and compare it to a working one. He’s got a straight-through; he needs a rollover. I have mad cabling skills, and do a rollover for him. Voila. Console access. Can I get a couple of points on my lab exam if I make a rollover cable?

8:24am – Change control approvals are backing up in my bucket. My medicated brain looks fuzzily at long paragraphs of procedures and code, then rubber-stamps them. I’m not up to reviewing them in detail today. Let’s hope they know what they’re doing.

8:50am – AT&T tells me that they are going to do an IOS upgrade on one of their routers in a couple of weeks, clobbering one of my DS3’s in the middle of the night. I try not to take it personally, and notify all the stakeholders that a line might be going away for a while. Then I mark it on my calendar so that if I get called anyway, I’ll remember what’s going on.

9:02am – Phone rings. Conversation ensues about an ongoing project to test a non-Cisco product for WAN acceleration. Subsequent conversations follow. I read up on the eval unit configuration and WCCP version 2. It goes through my mind that the company we’re evaluating probably won’t be around in 3 years.

9:30am – Scheduled conference call, but the most important person is out sick for the third day in a row, possibly due to an alcoholic coma caused by a Super Bowl party. Conference call is abandoned.

9:52am – Respond to complaint from network command center about an ethernet up/down event on a non-critical switch stack. Discover the switch stack had never been configured to disable traps for non-critical ports, although I’d been told it had been done a year or so ago. Submit change control to address the problem.

10:30am – Back on the phone for about an hour, working on the test configuration for the wretched non-Cisco WAN accelerator. Finally figure it out, with pretty much no help from the documentation, just how to hook this thing up to WCCP. Some help from the presentation the SE did with us over the phone. Chew it over with a colleague. Think about the differences in the lab versus production, and what that’s going to mean if we buy the silly thing and try to go live with it. Poke myself in the eye with a plastic fork repeatedly.

11:34am – Pull lunch out of the freezer and nuke it. Head back to my desk, burn my mouth on alfredo sauce, and read about the guy who passed his lab after only 3 months of studying. I curse the day I was born, now that I’m 14 months along and know I’m not close enough to passing if today was the day.

12:14pm – Back to WCCP configuration for this trial WAN accelerator, which I have decided to nickname “Wack”. I fantasize about going back to my DAI project, which needs some more testing and some documentation, but I focus on getting Wack out of my hair.

12:53pm – WCCP lights up, and a choir of angels sing. I do a little dance at my desk. My dancing is strangely out of time with the choir. Co-workers stare at me oddly, and one picks up the phone to call HR. I get back into my chair, and he puts the phone back down, still staring warily. I make the mistake of checking my e-mail and have to answer a question about UDP multicast for a sysadmin. IM pops a desperate plea from a colleague to review a change control for him immediately. Another e-mail contains a firewall maintenance task from my boss. I hunker down in my chair and put Amarok on “shuffle”.

1:17pm – My WCCP/Wack buddy calls me, trying to figure out how to get his Wack boxes passing traffic. We hack around, and finally get a pair of Wacks talking to each other. We think. We aren’t really sure what the WackOS commands do, since the documentation is a bit obscure. But we know WCCP is redirecting packets. And we know the Wacks see each other as neighbors. And TCP connections are still working. So, our best guess is something good is happening; with any luck, the Wacks are accelerating. We’ll hack on it in the morning with FTP servers and see what we can figure out.

2:45pm – Scour e-mail to find all the Wack documentation. Dump it in a folder on the server. Let interested parties know about it. Banish all Wack e-mail to the trash. Overhear detailed conversation about tedious topic: back-billing circuit costs to customers. Someone kill me now. Where’s my fork?!? I still have one good eye…

3:01pm – Time to go home, but still backed up on change controls to both write and approve. Looks like another late day. I’ll approve the pending and leave the one I need to write until the morning when it’ll be quieter.

3:09pm – Time to commute home. Let the pain begin.

3:10pm – A colleague sees me heading for the coat closet, waves good-bye, and then says those fateful words, “Hey, have you got a minute?” That ended up being a technical review of a small portion of a project I’m not really a part of. But you just gotta love those questions when you’re already running late and trying to get out the door to beat the traffic home.

4:14pm – I’m finally close to home, and decide to fill up since there’s yet another winter storm blowing in. I discover something interesting about myself. Apparently, my time is worth 2 cents a gallon. Since I would have had to wait to get gas for $2.819 a gallon, I opted to go down the street and pay $2.839 where I didn’t have to wait. So my time is worth 2 cents a gallon. ;-)

4:35pm – I blast through the e-mail on my 5 different home accounts, deleting spam promising me job offers, Canadian drugs, discounted software, and a huge whatnot. I find one e-mail I actually solicited, that of the Daily Dilbert, which I read and enjoy…Scott Adams is still funny after all these years. My wife has begun an absent minded open air dialog with herself, reading her e-mails out loud, and verbally responding to them and speculating about them. I think I’m a part of her conversation, but I can’t tell. I feel I’ve become a part of a secret world, as if I’m spying on her stream of consciousness. It’s unnerving, so I head over to Facebook to take my turns on Scrabulous. Scrabulous is my respite before settling into some CCIE studying. In one game, I manage to play a “k” on a triple word both horizontally and vertically, netting 30 points just for that letter. It is immensely satisfying, and possibly my greatest achievement today.

5:16pm – I resume work on the CCIE mini-lab solution. On a whim, I check to see if that kid in Oklahoma still owns ethanbanks.com. He does, the little Sooner. :)

5:55pm – My son summons me to the dinner table with the family. I sneak to the bathroom for a dose of cold meds first. We partake of beans and kielbasa, a personal favorite of mine. Cheese bread also graced the table, an item which the children especially cherish. “Mom, you make really good cheese bread!” they say, which is akin to saying “Mom, you make really good Ramen noodles!” After dinner, we sit in the living room, and I read a chapter out of I Samuel. We’ve been doing Bible study as a family after dinner for the last few weeks, and the kids have been really enjoying it. After we finish the chapter, the kids get ready for bed, and the wife and I chat about the day.

7:06pm – I find myself back at the keyboard, blogging this article, but hopelessly out of gas. Between cold meds, the cold itself, and lack of motivation, I’m done for. I’m going to post this article. I saved the decent progress I made on the mini-lab solution (although I should really throw another hour at it), and I’ll go see what the DVR has in store. I’ll probably be in bed by 8:30pm.

There you have it…a day in my life.

About the author

Ethan Banks

Most people know me because I write & podcast about IT on the Packet Pushers network. I also co-authored "Computer Networks Problems & Solutions" with Russ White.

Find out more on my about page.


  • Surely you can use the 2 hours you commute everyday to better use towards preparation. Perhaps prepare your own notes to listen to. That way you gain 2hours preparation time while an extra 30minutes family bible study will be much more valuable. Just a thought.

  • Obtaining the CCIE is a worthy goal I have set for my professional career, and I have devoted several hundred hours now to that end. If CCIE was the most important thing in my life, you are absolutely correct that my commute time could be used better. But CCIE, while still important, is no longer the *most* important thing to me.

    Early on, CCIE eclipsed everything else in my life: my relationship with my family, my relationship with my God, you name it. For me personally, I have had to find a balance between CCIE preparation and other things that are equally important, or in the cases of family and spirituality, more important.

    Trying to live a balanced life might mean one or two more lab attempts than I’d otherwise have to make. If that’s what it comes to, I’m okay with that.

  • Totally agree, what I meant is that the time gained, could be used to spend more quality time doing bible study together, which would be more valuable to your family and spirituality. Reading my first post, I think the message got lost in translation. Each to his own, good luck.

  • The problem with listening to audio while you are driving is that you have to pay attention to everything on the road and around you. I find it hard to concentrate on what is being talked about router/switch wise to have any real effect on me while trying to stay alive on the road…

  • …”and deleting all the GroupStudy.com threads about “will you swap dates with me” and “help me with Dynagen” and “if I study really hard can I be a CCIE next month”…

    LOL isn’t that the truth. I delete 80 emails every morning thinking how many are worth while to even read on there?

  • Ethan,

    The 90 day thing is not quite true. Our friend accomplished a worthy goal to be sure. However, read a little deeper a guy who passed the CCNA and the entire CCNP and then the Written in like under 20 days in December 2006 till January 2007 was no beginner. Not even close. Also the guy came from a Service Provider environment with 9 year’s experience.

    I work with a guy who comes from a similar back ground and if he started studying this month in February, I’d give him about 30-60 days or so – enough time to look at anything he does not already know and he’d pass the lab the 1st time.

    If he didn’t pass the lab on the 1st run it would only be because the lab proctor did not expect him to use VRF’s to solve RS problems.

    Some people have been around for a decade or nearly a decade and have already done nearly every aspect of the lab. Great. They can pass and make it look easy.

    But most of us need a little more elbow grease.

    You are doing fine, my friend.

    See you on Monday in Pasadena.


Most people know me because I write & podcast about IT on the Packet Pushers network. I also co-authored "Computer Networks Problems & Solutions" with Russ White.

Find out more on my about page.

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