I’m aware that during my 4-year-long “exile” in Champaign, Illinois, I did a lot of complaining and whining about being there. Some of the negatives that come to mind include the ever-present bizarre odor from the Kraft factory, the lack of really good grub (you couldn’t drop $100 on a good, extravagant dinner for two even if you tried), and the overall grimness of the surroundings and local residents. I pretty much did everything but put up a big calendar and cross off the days with a big red magic marker until we finally moved back to Boston this past May. And, don’t misunderstand me here, I’m wayyyy glad to be back. But, here are some things I miss about those four long years in the midwest:
- Homeownership: Sure, it’s nice to not have to worry about mowing the lawn, dealing with a leaky basement, or worrying about equity, property taxes, etc. anymore. But it was also nice to have a yard, with my own trees, and a driveway to park my cars in. And of course there’s the fact that the total monthly payment on that 800sq. ft. home was about 1/6th of what I currently pay for rent + parking.
- My Job: No, I’m not going to whine about my current job here — it’s really quite good. I will say, however, that the folks at UIUC don’t know how good they have it. IT there is run like one heck of a tight ship (comparatively speaking of course). Significant investments in time, manpower, and political capital were made to put in place strict, but sound, IT policies that ensure that best practices are followed, and everyone’s job is actually easier. I’m not going to get too specific here, but we especially excelled in the areas of configuration management, security, documentation, and project planning. Any folks from CITES reading this will probably be laughing, but really, you don’t want to see what the alternative can be like.
- My Job (personnel): One thing about Champaign-Urbana is that there really aren’t too many places for a good UNIX sysadmin to work. Sure, you can slave away at Wolfram Research and work for a total headcase psycho freak. Or you can go over to Amdocs and get laid off. So, UIUC was actually, believe it or not, where all of the good sysadmins came to work. I had the pleasure of working with, and learning from, some of the best. And here’s where I’ll give a shout out to Warner Brigham, who after many years of service, retired last week. He definitely falls into that category. Sorry I couldn’t make the party!
- My Truck: I had a c.1991 Chevrolet Blazer 4wd that was pretty badass. It had tazmanian devil floor mats. It had two sets of fog lamps (alright, neither set worked). It had a thumping bass tube in the back. It had extra-large tires with aluminum wheels. It had a big crazy brush guard / cattle catcher in the front for mowing down pedestrians. It was cool. I ended up trading it to someone for a huge discount on my new TV. Unfortunately, they didn’t appreciate it. You know who you are.
- Best Wok: Our favorite local chinese restaurant. Sure, just about all of the other chinese food in the area was mediocre at best, but these folks did it right. Their General Gao’s (they just call it “General’s” or “General Tso’s” there) was second to none. I’m getting over this loss though, especially now that we’re frequenting Chinatown Seafood here in Brookline.
Honorable mention: Big badass thunderstorms, closeness to the in-laws, the scenery on the UI campus, the free and always on time CUMTD bus, being able to have satellite TV instead of paying wayyy too much for digital cable, and Barack Obama.