Thursday, December 21, 2006

Faith and the Law

Today, there’s been a big furor over Keith Ellison's choice to place his hand on the Quran in his private swearing in ceremony. During his public oath of office, he’s going to be doing the same civil ceremony as everyone else (raise your hand, swear to uphold the Constitution) but during his private ceremony for friends and family, he’s going to place his hand on the Quran instead of the Bible.

This has some lawmakers up in arms because they say that the only book you should ever swear on is the Bible and that it’s horrible that this man is using another book to take his private oath of office. They even try to state that the Bible is the book that binds the American people together.

I think that these people need to be removed from office. They need to be taken out of office right now because they have, in a thinly veiled manner, expressed a very dangerous sentiment – that the laws of the people of the United States of America (who are quite a diverse group no matter how it seems at times) should be governed by an entirely Christian law system and that is by no means in the best interest of the people whom they are supposed to represent and serve (politicians serve you. Never forget that).

A politician’s duty is to act in the best interest of the people. It is not to act in such a manner that the tenants of his faith become law. That would be no different than the laws which limited the rights of non whites. Here’s a brief recap of United States civil rights history – those laws were struck down and for good reason – because they put the interests of one group of people above all others for the simple reason that they could (not because it was what was best for the people, and not because it was the right thing to do as was the case in mandating that buildings be handicap accessible, but because the group of people in power wanted to make sure they kept it).

One of the reasons (though by no means the only reason) that people first started settling here was to get away from the enforced religion of the Church of England. Now the politicians here are trying to become what the settlers were running away from.

The document which ties the people of this country and their political representatives together is not the Bible (which so many people seem to swear it is). It is the Constitution of the United States. If you want to swear your official oath of office on a document, do it on that one, because the faith you are should not matter. What matters is that you do what is best for the people.

It should not matter if you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Taoist, Zoroastrian, or the member of any other faith. The document that ties you together with your neighbors, the people down the street, and the ones in the next town, the next county, and the next state over is not your book of faith. It is that piece of parchment that says that you have a right to free speech, that you have the right to bear arms, to peaceably assemble, and above all that the religions of others should not interfere with the making of laws or how they are enforced.

Religion is a private choice. It is something that impacts your life on a personal level. The law and how it is carried out impacts everyone that it affects no matter their gender, race, sexual preference, or religion and it should not be determined by the tenants of one faith over another.

By all means, be proud of your faith (I am). Let it help guide you in the choices of your personal life (I do). However, don’t go forcing it onto other people (whether it be through laws, rules, proselytizing, or other means).

Current mood: annoyed
Current music: Wire Train – I will not fall

Friday, December 15, 2006

Fun and Games

I like poker. Heck, I even used to be pretty good at it. It even helped pay for my books in college on a few occasions.

Unfortunately, I don’t really get to play anymore (apart from online, and most of the people who play there are absolute morons when it comes to betting) since there’s nobody around here that I know who plays much. However, while wandering around Dollar Tree, I ran into something interesting – packs of poker chips. Granted, they were plastic poker chips, but they aren’t your typical cheap looking plastic poker chips. They’re designed to look like the more expensive composite chips and have a decent feel and weight.

At $1 for 60 chips, I just couldn’t resist (since even the cheap looking plastic chips are more than that), so I put together a set of 600 – 100 each of white, red, blue, green, black, and purple (for those of you who don’t play poker, that’s $1, $5, $10, $25, $100, and $500 respectively). I figured what the heck, I’m going to start playing again eventually (and still play once in a blue moon as it is), so I might as well have a set of decent chips.

Then I had to find something to put the chips in. Standard poker chip cases are way too expensive (anywhere from $20-40 for the cheaper ones depending on capacity, and I don’t want to pay more for a case than I paid for the chips), so I went wandering through the craft store down the mall and ran into some containers for $2 each that turned out to be absolutely perfect.

Two cases fit exactly 600 chips with enough room to get them out easily, so I paid $14 for a decent poker set. All in all, it was rather a nice find. Not something I needed, but I couldn’t pass it up since poker is something I enjoy. I just wish I was able to enjoy it more often.

Besides, the family holiday gathering is this Sunday, and they used to play cards all the time, so I figure that maybe I can wrangle them into a game. It sure beats the heck out of the rather somber affair the family Christmas tends to be now that my grandmother is dead. I swear that most of the time they look like they’re still doing this just because none of them wants to be the one to quit.

I figure that, if I can pull it off, I can make a smile or two their gift for this year. It sure as hell beats most of the gifts that family members tend to exchange, and I think that we could all use it at the moment. In fact, to be honest, the memories are the really important part anyway. The gifts don’t really matter so much (though I have to say that I do love the Bosca leather wallet that I got a couple of years ago).

Apart from that, anyone around here want to play poker for fun? =]

Current mood: recovering from the flu
Current music: Massive Attack – Teardrop

Monday, December 11, 2006

Some people say that I have way too much incense (of course, they say the same thing about my music, movies, books, and various other things). I will agree that I have quite a lot of it in many different varieties, but I use a lot of it. I use it for meditation as well as to make the house smell nice. It doesn’t take up a lot of space – I just have a drawer reserved for it.

The problem comes in restocking. The person who owned the shop I used to buy all of it from (and who was something of a friend to me) sold the shop some years ago to someone else before moving across the country and didn’t give the new guy a list of all of his suppliers. Now even the shop itself is closed because business went through the floor, so I’m back to looking for the stuff all on my own.

There are no occult – or even herb and oil – shops around here (Don’t read too much into that. I’m Taoist. There just aren’t a whole lot of places that you can find incense resins – especially around here), so that’s not really an option. Besides, I can just see the reaction I’d get from going into a new shop and striking up a conversation with the person behind the counter, pulling out the bottle and going “do you know who supplies this?”

Most of it is no big deal. I’ve found replacement suppliers for all but one of the things at quite good prices (in some cases slightly better than I was getting from my friend, but that’s okay because I was contributing to the local economy). There is, however, one which I simply can not find and it’s driving me up the wall.

It’s an amber resin, but it’s cut with something to make a sort of slightly fibrous powder. Now, I can buy straight chunks of amber resin, but I really like this stuff because it mixes so well and I just can’t find it anywhere.

It’s getting to the point that I’m considering calling my old friend and asking him where in the nine hells he got the stuff from. Yes, I looked up his number for this reason. Haven’t talked to him that much since his wife died and he moved, but I want to know where the heck he got this stuff.

Thankfully, looking up his number wasn’t that difficult – he has a very unique name. I figure what the heck, I’ve been in the mood to talk to him lately anyway, but I admit that I have ulterior motives.

Current mood – tired
Current music – Socialburn – Down

Saturday, December 02, 2006

TV Inspired Insanity

I admit it. Late at night, I basically just idly flip channels if I can’t sleep. This leads to some really weird thoughts (okay, let’s face it – most of life leads to some really weird thoughts for me).

While Channel surfing, I happened across a program on crystal meth. It listed two of the signs of being on meth as erratic behaviour and staying up for days on end.

I can see software developers everywhere coming under suspicion of meth use – especially during crunch time =]

Of course, I also wanted to smack the woman who was running the show because she was sensationalizing the whole meth issue by saying that that’s the reason so many houses catch on fire this time of the year – either Christmas trees catching on fire or people cooking up meth in their kitchen.

I hate people who do the shock and awe crap.

Before that, I came across an ad for the Army vs Navy game. For those of you not in the US, the Army and the Navy have one big televised football game every year. It’s a pretty big rivalry.

This lead me to wonder why the other branches of the armed forces, the Marines and the Air Force, don’t have televised games as well.

After a moment or two, I think I came up with the answer.

The Air Force team would basically say “okay, we’re here. Let the Army deal with the rest.”

As for the Marines, they’d gun down the opposing team including the coaches, preferably before the game began and then take down the referees and the crowd just to be sure that there were no rival team members hiding among their ranks.

Don’t start sending me hate mail. Several of my friends have been in the Air Force and my father’s an ex Marine. I’m allowed to make the jokes =]

Current Mood – amused
Current Music – Harvey Danger - Authenticity

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Warning: This is a pointless, but amusing, post.

I was sitting here listening to the Dead Kennedys (I have way too much music according to some people), and I decided to look them up on Wikipedia just to see what it had to say about them.

I found one of the most amusing sentences that I have ever seen on Wiki:

“Included as a poster with the album, Penis Landscape depicts nine copulating penises.[5] Members of the band and others were each charged with violating California Penal Code [6]”

And for the record, my two favorite DK tracks that I’ve heard to date are “I Fought the Law” and “Night of the Living Rednecks”. The latter makes me chuckle myself silly.

Current mood – amused
Current music – Kitty – Brackish

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Monday, November 13, 2006

I spent the weekend with Karyl. I think I needed the time away, even if I wasn’t in the best of moods while I was there. I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, and a distraction from that, even for the space of a movie at a time (and there were a lot of movies) was very welcome.

I think I’ll be in a better mood when certain things get straightened out. For the moment though, I deal.

In other news, according to, the web is 16 today.

Funny to think that I’ve been on it for over 10 of that not counting the times I was on the net at my friends’ houses.

I fondly remember the times back then, surfing on Frankenstein (so named because of all of the mods I made to it) at a blazing 28.8. The squeal of the modem, the slow image load times, the disconnects at the worst times.

Yet, for all of that, I cherish the memories. I think it was more for the people involved (some of which are still good friends of mine) than it was for the technology, though I admit that the sense of doing something new was nice as well.

Here’s to all of my old net-friends out there, wherever you are. If any of you come across this, please feel free to leave a note. I’d love to hear from you.

Current mood: moody
Current music: Madonna – Die Another Day

Friday, November 03, 2006

I said that I’d probably post a long overdue update of the last month, so here it is:

The series of interviews with Amazon is over. Unfortunately, I’m not flying out there for an in person, but I did make it through what seemed like an endless string of phone based ones (three interviews of about an hour each over the course of a month).

The fact that I made it though that many rounds has to say something.

That’s the only really exciting thing that’s happened. Most of the month has just been a grind unless you count the costume party we had at a shop here in town that’s run by a couple of people that I know.

Apart from that, I’ve basically just been dealing with several of what tend to be rather personal days. The personal issues have been the main reason I haven’t been posting – I’ve been busy with a variety of things that don’t really need to be discussed with people who aren’t already in the loop.

October is rather full of things which almost require reflection and some time alone for me. I consider it a consequence of having actually lived my life, and one that I am more than willing to accept. On the whole, it’s worth it.

In more recent news, I’ve been contacted by another company in the Pacific Northwest. We’ll have to see how that goes.

Current mood: not bad
Current music: Ghost in the Shell – Living Inside the Shell

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A few minutes ago, I was sitting stock still, staring in awe.

At my television.

A lot of people who know me know how sick I am of the spin and double talk on the news every night and in the papers every morning.

Tonight was a totally different matter.

While flipping through the channels, I happened to land on MSNBC. To be more specific, I happened to land on Keith Olbermann opening a king sized can of whopass on the commander in chimp. (The article, which is a basic transcript of his speech, may be found here)

He called the president on his transparent attempts to keep a one party government, of his fear of any sort of checks and balances to his power, accused him of having not an imperial but a UNILATERAL presidency (which is very true), and basically accused Bush of trying to twist everything negative about him into an attack on the American people when it was really an attack on Bush himself.

Hell, he came right out and called Bush a liar in almost as many words. He also made the statement of Bush that “it is both convenient and personally satisfying to you, to confuse yourself with the country for which, sir, you work.”

He then proceeded to say that Bush’s only legacy will have been a “willingness to make anything political,” and called for Bush to apologize to both the troops and the American people.

He didn’t stop there, however. Read the article. I swear it deserves an award.

It was a thing of beauty to behold. I honestly wanted to cheer. The man deserved a standing ovation. It’s about time that somebody did something like this openly, vocally, with the full force of their convictions, and on a medium that millions of people watch, read, and trust (as much as we can trust the news anymore).

To top it off, this well deserved tirade was ended with the rather appropriate Edward R. Murrow quote “good night, and good luck.”

I was in awe of this much needed outburst, delivered, as it was, with righteous indignation (which was also extremely appropriate). It was refreshing, and I hope I am not the only person out there who feels that way.

Current mood: wow
Current music: Linkin Park – In the End

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I’ll probably make a long overdue update in the next few days.

Until then:

Happy anniversary

Current music: AFI – Love Like Winter

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Happy Birthday

Monday, September 25, 2006

I had a bad day on Thursday. Generally, this is not a noteworthy thing, but this time the bad day happened to fall on the same day as a phone interview with a company I want to work for.

My brain was refusing to work on some things that I don’t generally have a problem with. Despite that, I still managed to answer a fair number of questions correctly.

Then came the fun part – I was given a small programming task to complete after the phone call. He gave me an hour with instructions to email him if I needed more time. (It’s at this point when a friend of mine and I both have the reaction of “an hour? This should not be about an arbitrary time limit, but rather about whether or not the code works.” Oh well. It’s their world.)

So I start by coming up with an algorithm to take care of the problem and then start to write the code. My old friend Murphy decides to stop by – the noise level rises, people start vying for my attention, and best of all, Eclipse grinds to a halt. We’re not talking about the IDE slowing down for a completion list. No, it just randomly started grinding to a halt while I was typing, stayed that way for several seconds and then the characters that I typed would finally appear.

I had never had this problem with an IDE on this machine before. Fine, I’m going to cheat – time to restart the laptop. A reboot later and it’s still doing the same thing.


I email that I’m going to need more time and get back to fighting with my IDE. Fast forward a bit. Okay, now the code’s finished. Run it to test. Aaaaaaand there’s a bug.

No big deal. Let’s just run the debugger.

Eclipse hangs again.


That’s it. I need a break. Email and say I’m grabbing dinner before finishing because I ran into a problem. Come back afterward to find a response saying that was okay, but he wanted to see what I had already. Oops. Too late for that now.

Okay, so I can’t use the debugger because my laptop is being a pain. I’ll be silly and use printline statements since I don’t have much of a choice.

Five minutes later, the problem is found (infinite loop due to my accidentally skipping something), fixed, the code is cleaned up, and it’s emailed off.

Somehow, though, I still think the time thing is going to work against me because I didn’t get the email message. Oh well. If it does, it does. If it doesn’t, we’ll see what happens.

The next day I found out why I was having a bad day – I woke up sick, and I was sick all weekend.


Current mood: tired
Current music: Collapsis – October

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Some of us are far too spoiled for our own good. We don’t generally have to worry about things like where we’re going to find money to pay our bills or to buy groceries so we can eat. Let’s face it. A lot of the people who read this can probably even do something like buy a new computer every year just to get a faster model without really worrying about the dent it makes in your wallet.

It’s a nothing to us – just a little bit higher on the ladder of self-indulgence than, say, stopping by the local coffee shop every morning for a late`.

This isn’t the problem. The problem comes when we think that the rest of the world is the same way just because we have never seen actual want.

Here’s a newsflash for you – not everyone is that well off.

I’ve only been around for about 26 years, but in that time, I’ve traveled within the United States a fair amount and met a whole lot of people from a great deal of different backgrounds. Some of them made six figure salaries and some others consistently wondered where their next meal was going to come from.

That’s right, folks, some people don’t even know if they are going to be able to afford to eat that day. Suffice it to say that a new computer is just a little bit out of the question, and before you say something stupid, they deserve the same access to things which could help them better their situations that everyone else does. I’d even go so far to say that they may need it a little more precisely because of their dire situation.

Yes, some of them got themselves in that situation. However, a lot of them arrived there either from birth or because of circumstances beyond their control. You’d be amazed at how much of life is out of your hands (as well as just how “economically depressed” a region in this country can be. Economically depressed? Forget the political talk. Let’s call it like it is – some areas in this country, and in almost every other country on the face of this ball of rock, are downright POOR). They deserve a shot to get themselves into a better situation. If it was you in that position, you’d want the same. Some of you would even try demanding it.

I admit that I sometimes have an entitlement moment. They aren’t frequent, but they do happen, and I feel bad about them later. On the whole, most of the things that matter to me are friends and the things in life that you can’t necessarily hold in your hands. As long as I have my friends, the money to pay my bills, decent food to eat, maybe a little extra money to play with, and people aren’t trying to kill or maim me (don’t laugh. It’s happened.), I tend to view life as being pretty good.

Do us all a favor. Try not to take what you have for granted. Even more importantly, don’t look down on people that are less fortunate than you are. They’re people too. Be a decent person and try to even help out a little if you can.

The thing that spurred on this little diatribe? Slashdot, as usual. One of the people there made the rather asinine comment questioning why the Linux community would want to have people in it who still use hardware that runs Windows98 and said that such people were technologically backwards and should simply upgrade to newer equipment.

He even got moderated up until I commented and he started getting marked as a troll.

Current mood: annoyed
Current music: Ivy – Undertow

Saturday, September 09, 2006

While looking at Coding Horror this evening, I ran across his latest article in which he outlines the requirements for Windows Vista RC1.

This is probably the first time to date that I have ever uttered this on my blog (and only one of about a half dozen times at all) – OMGWTFBBQ??!!

(The really weird this is that spell check does not object to that… it red flags “blog” but OMGWTFBBQ is, apparently, alright. That’s just funny.)

15 gigs of hard drive space??? MINIMUM??!!!

512 RAM just to boot it up with 1GB recommended?

Good grief.

I’d never be able to run it on the laptop that I use for day to day tasks (2.4Ghz processor, 512ram, 40GB HD split 30/10 between Windows and Linux). That’s just sad.

I have a fully functioning Linux environment (including network, coding, and office utilities) running in less than 8GB of hard drive space (part of the 10 is taken up with swap and profiles) and my Windows install with all of the tools that I use on a regular basis (compilers, office programs, email, etc etc etc. Even a few games) only takes up about 15GB total.

That’s windows, 3rd party programs, and everything (not including the portion of my CD collection that I keep ripped on my computer). For Vista, that would just cover Windows and then I’d have to add in everything else.

That’s just excessive. I mean, I realize that Windows Vista is going to be a little more resource intense – XP was designed for systems that were made six years ago, but still. That’s one heck of a jump.

From what I’ve been reading so far, Vista isn’t really even that much of a step up from XP. It’s mostly just eye candy and yet more applications that I probably won’t use. They started carving off the really interesting parts of the package as they slipped further and further behind.

I just can’t see myself using Vista unless it comes on a new computer that I buy and even then, I might just end up getting another license for XP because of the resource requirements.

I’ve been hearing similar things from a lot of people.

Current mood: tired
Current music: Echo and the Bunnymen – All in your Mind

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

I’ve had a nearly incurable wanderlust since I’ve been a kid.

I’ve literally grabbed a couple of day’s worth of clothing, a few hundred dollars, and driven off with no more of a plan than to see the sunrise over the mountains or run off to the beach (about 10 hours away) for seafood and to spend some time around the ocean.

I could even comment about having jambalaya for breakfast in New Orleans. (now that was a nice trip.)

It’s always just been a part of who I am. I have this love of new places and faces. It’s lead to meeting a lot of interesting people and being in some great (and some not-so-great) situations.

Thankfully, I’ve always managed to get through the rough spots with a little help from random people.

I wouldn’t give up those experiences for the world. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to do anything like that for a couple of years. It’s something I really miss.

One of the reasons I really look forward to having a new full time job again is being able to travel on my off time because I never get to anymore. I miss the ocean, the mountains, sunrise and sunset in interesting places, and getting to meet new and different people.

I admit it. In some ways I am a romantic. It’s just part of the strange package that is me.

Current mood: thoughtful
Current music: Collapsis – October

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Well, the toy project I was talking about before has been posted.

I’m not completely happy with the GUI, but it was just for the heck of it so I didn’t want to spend *too* much time working on it. It was basically just an excuse to code and do something that was at least sort of novel and fun.

If you’d like to play with it, it’s posted here.

I may clean it up more in the future, and I will likely add new stories, but it’s nothing that’s really going to be aggressively added onto.

What did we learn from this, boys and girls? A trivial program which has a multi-screen GUI is no longer a trivial program =]

Current mood: calm
Current music: Professional Murder Music – A Night Like This

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

And now for a pointless, silly semi-rant that nobody should take too seriously:

Pardon me while I put my sarcasm hat on.

I love working with Swing.

Okay, I can take my hat off now.

Went to add some of the last functionality to the toy program today (the rest of the work needed is basically UI tweaks), and ran into a problem.

The frame was showing two copies of what I wanted to display.

Okay, let’s make sure that I told it to remove everything from the panel in question. Indeed I am. Let’s invalidate it and revalidate it. Still having the problem.

That’s weird. Time to reach for the nutshell book.

No, I’m not missing anything that could possibly help remedy the problem as things are set up now. After thinking about it for a few minutes, I decided to try something stupid.

I added the pane that I wanted to erase the contents of as the only component of another pane and then just told the program to erase that pane instead.

It worked. It’s stupid but it worked. I am rapidly learning that so much of dealing with Swing is nesting things in one container after another. It’s kind of silly, frustrating, and amusing all at the same time.

Oh well. It’s not like it’s a big deal, and it works now.

Current mood: amused
Current music: Garbage – Fix me Now

Monday, August 28, 2006

Ever have one of those days were it seems like simple tasks become major undertakings?

Yesterday was one of those.

In an effort to actually do something coding-oriented, I decided to make a fun little program. It should have taken an afternoon to get most of the functionality working (polishing the GUI is another matter). Instead, it ended up taking all day and just would not work.

I ended up stepping back for a moment and decided to start out again, this time with a simpler version of the project and then abstract away the needed parts to expand it to what I wanted in the first place. Doing that, I found my problem (and it was a fairly silly one, but I’ve been distracted and a bit stressed lately, so I can understand how I missed it).

It’s now roughly to the point where I wanted it before I start polishing the user interface and it only ended up taking me a couple of hours.

While it’s not a professional project, I will be posting it on my site when I finish tweaking the GUI so people can play with it. I figure that it should be up by the end of the week.

It’s not that it needs *that* much polish. It’s just that I have a lot of other things that I need to take care of as well.

Current mood: happy
Current music: Anggun – Snow on the Sahara

Thursday, August 24, 2006

It’s been an interesting last few days.

My email address seems to have gotten listed as being that of a spammer. Again. On a good day, I might send out about 24 emails. A spammer I am not.

Thankfully, that’s been cleared up now.

I got contacted by two companies this week that I actually responded to (read that they were for full time positions and weren’t looking for things that were blatantly not me. Though I have to admit that more places seem to actually be looking at my website before they contact me).

One’s a company about an hour or so from here, and the other one is Amazon.

I’m interested in interviewing with both of them, but I’m also a bit nervous about the Amazon interview since the position includes, among other things, something I haven’t really done in two years (and that’s explicitly stated on the profile they used to find me, so I’m hoping that it won’t be that much of an issue).

The phone interview with Amazon is supposed to be a technical one, so I’m basically expecting to get hammered to the wall with it. The other one I don’t know much about yet.

I find it amusing that I get so nervous before some interviews. I know that if it goes well, it goes well and if it doesn’t then it doesn’t, but there’s just something nerve wracking about them for me. I think it’s the fact that so many of them try to grill you on things you did ages ago, trip you up just to see if they can, or ask you impossible questions (yes, some people like to ask impossible questions to “see how you will react. I consider this to be BS) so I end up sitting there trying not only to give the correct answers but to feel out the people who are interviewing me and their intentions.

I have largely become of the opinion that interviews aren’t much fun for the people on either side of the table, and there is something wrong with the people who actually enjoy them. =]

It’s funny. Interviews make me nervous, but being thrown into the sparing ring with someone doesn’t at all. I also don’t tend to get nervous when working on actual problems unless I’m running up against a hard time limit or someone is badgering me. It’s the whole “put him in a maze like a lab rat while we act smug, superior, and all knowing” thing that gets me.

Unfortunately, I’m not kidding about the acting smug, superior, and all-knowing part. I once interviewed with a company that gave me a test they had supposedly just re-written, labeled it as a C++ test and it was really just a straight C test. I got it and noticed printf statements (among other things) everywhere. I later asked the dev manager about it and basically got yelled at, stonewalled, and then told that it didn’t really matter anyway because they were porting everything to C#.

If it didn’t matter, why re-write the test? If you’re migrating from one language to another, would it not be a bit important to know the difference between the language that you say you are migrating from and the language you use as a test for prospective employees? Furthermore, why jump down a candidate’s throat who asked a rather pertinent question?

I wasn’t smug or snotty when I asked. I genuinely wanted to know. But the whole interview ended up being pretty bad, so I doubt that I would have accepted their offer if they had made one.

Hopefully neither of those interviews end up being like that one or worse. Please let me meet an at least somewhat sane company that wants to hire me. =]

Current mood: tired
Current music: Deadsy – Brand New Love

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I do so love the “experts” that insist on showing their faces on Slashdot. They amuse me at times.

In case you didn’t know, Sun is open sourcing Java. I have mixed feelings about this. I hope it works out well, because I like the language, but I just can’t shake this nagging feeling that people are going to try to do lots of stupid things to the language (add things to the language that don’t belong there, break up the libraries into separate downloads, etc).

Call me paranoid, but Microsoft already tried it once. I don’t put it past other groups to try again.

The greatest suggestion I’ve heard yet? That the deprecated methods should be removed.

Pardon me while I repeat myself – someone suggested that parts of the language that have been deprecated (don’t use these, there’s a better way now) should be removed from the language outright, and people were AGREEING with him!

This is such a bad idea that it’s not even funny.

There’s a lot of old production code out there and a lot of it uses methods that are now deprecated. The same is true of almost any language that has been around long enough to have parts of it deprecated.

The only thing that I can figure is that the people spewing this crap are either just hobbyists or students who have never actually had to maintain anything. It just hurts my head.

Updating production code is NOT cheap. It takes a lot of time, can introduce a whole lot of problems, and it’s not something that you usually want to approach lightly (and some of us hate approaching it at all). You have to know the system really well to even try, or you could cause a lot of unseen problems.

If they want to remove those parts from Java, let’s see them suggest the same thing for their darling C and C++. Watch how fast that blows up in their face.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Smith, but your account shows a balance of $0.”

“Mr. Jones, the insurance company says you do not have an auto insurance policy with them. Yes, I know that you have a piece of paper that says otherwise, but the computer never lies. You are under arrest.”

Etc etc etc. The examples could go on and on.

Deprecated methods are left in there for a reason. They are tagged as Deprecated and generally throw compiler warnings, but they are left in. I don’t care if *you* don’t understand why. Just realize that they are. In time you might learn why they are for yourself. In the meantime, stop biting at our ankles. We’re trying to get things done.

Current mood: my head hurts
Current music: Savage Garden - Violet

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Checking my email, I got an email from a company in Louisiana. This one was rather neat, because the person who wrote me said that he “spent waaaay too long down in the rabbit hole that is your website.”

Apparently he found me fascinating.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t an opportunity that I was interested in, but that’s okay. I hope they find someone good to fill their position.

Other than that, I felt moderately unproductive today. Returned a few calls (I’ve been screening the heck out of my calls this past few weeks. Otherwise, I’d run out of minutes.), did a little planning for a couple of programs that I’m going to start working on, and then wandered around the local shops for a while.

I got things done, but it just doesn’t feel like I actually accomplished much. It’s just sort of been an off day.

I’ve decided to start doing some light training again (if the neighborhood kids will leave me the heck alone. I’m sorry, I don’t want to show them “something cool” and I most certainly don’t want to teach them – they don’t have anything even resembling discipline), and have learned the joys of not being able to see because of sweat running in my eyes. However, in my idle wanderings this afternoon, I found something that I had been looking for since I started playing with the OU fencing team back in 2001 – plain, solid-color bandanna sized handkerchiefs.

Nobody carries the bloody things. You can find print ones all over the place, but never the plain ones. I found them in the local hobby store of all places, so I picked up a couple. I’m semi-ashamed to say that I also picked up some junk food while I was out, but at least it was fairly healthy junk food (sunflower seeds and oatmeal cookies).

Hey, I can’t be completely healthy. =]

At least I’m starting to get back on the right track.

Current mood: calm
Current music: Smashing Pumpkins - Perfect

Thursday, August 03, 2006

James the Grumpy Software Developer
Why my Resume no Longer Lists my Home Number

Yesterday, I updated all of my posted resumes on the normal job boards. Since then, my phone has been ringing off the hook. Normally this would be a good thing. In the case of most of these calls, however, it’s a pain in the rear.

I plainly stated that I am only interested in full time, permanent positions. Most of the calls I have gotten so far are for short term contract positions, and most of those are located across the country.

(As an aside, it seems that my complaint that companies are hiring, or contracting out to, foreign HR people with *really* thick accents isn’t just isolated to the one company. I got several voicemails from different numbers that were absolutely unintelligible. If, on the other hand, they are having these people call me because they think the accent would be closer to my own, they should realize that my surname comes from the British Isles and not from more Asian locales despite my martial training.)

Anyway, back to the topic at hand.

Previously, I had listed my cell phone as my preferred means of contact though I listed my home number just in case. That changed today. Most of the callers today decided that calling the home line would be a much better idea despite my wishes. One of them (who also failed to read the full time, perm portion of my posting) was so rude as to call my cell, leave a voice mail and then immediately call the home line.

There is now basically no mention of the fact that I even have a home number. It’s even been removed from my website. Now the only methods of contact listed are my cell, email, and snail mail. All of this trouble is because people don’t have the decency to use my preferred method of communication.

However, the fun and games did not just stop there. I got one person who called four times in about five or six hours, leaving the same voicemail message every time. I admit that, after about the first hour of being hammered by calls (I was literally getting a call about every 10 minutes or less), I decided to screen everyone that wasn’t in my address book. Otherwise, I would have burned up all of my minutes for the month on the second day of said month just so I could tell people I wasn’t interested in a six month opportunity in Texas.

Top it off with the fact that, when I informed the people I did not screen today that I was not interested in a short term contract halfway across the country, they didn’t listen and simply kept trying to talk me into the position.

I said no thank you. That should be enough.

Then again, so should calling and leaving a message once.

Have some tact and decency, people.

Current mood: annoyed
Current music: Tinnfed - Immune

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

It’s official. I’ve started to turn into an organization freak again.

For the longest time, I just kind of kept things in a loose “sort of together” way. Projects had their own folders, but that was about it. The important ones were in version control, but my own stuff was just kind of there.

Last week, I finally kicked myself into “cleanup” mode and started making subversion repositories for basically all of my projects. Everything from individual pieces of software to my website. I even made a repository for my scripts and a repository for my samples CD that I take to interviews.

About the only important thing that isn’t in subversion at this point is my cat. Somehow, I don’t think that he’d enjoy it. =]

While I was at it, I cleaned up the directory structure for my website to make it easier to grow. I hate to say it, but before I did the overhaul of the backend, almost everything was just in one directory. It was a huge mess to keep track of. Now it’s much nicer.

The next step for it at some point is moving it all to PHP, but I’m not going to do that just yet. There are other things that I have to work on first.

The important thing is that I’m organized again. It makes me amazed that I ever stopped having things arranged in an orderly manner.

Current mood: tired
Current music: London After Midnight - Kiss

Monday, July 31, 2006

Month in Review

Since I’ve been a bit quiet of late, I thought I should do an overview of the assorted miscellany that’s been going on. So, in no particular order, I present to you the month in review.

Since I got my laptop a couple of years ago, one thing has never worked. I could never get wireless to work properly in Linux. This was due largely to the fact that the card which came with it was a Broadcom. We tried everything including ndiswrapper. Not even my friends who write kernel modules were able to get it to work.

A couple of months ago, I finally broke down and got a new wireless card from Netgear. Within 30 minutes, it was up and running. The drivers aren’t native, but I had zero problems with the ones from MadWifi, so now I can start using Linux more regularly again.

Ironically, I read that the next kernel is supposed to have built in support for Broadcom wireless cards. Go figure.

I had a meeting with some headhunters last week, so I have more eyes out there looking to place me in a F/T position since I am tired of contracting. It ended up being a longer meeting than I was expecting because I ended up talking to several of them. Hopefully something positive comes out of this especially since I had to wear long sleeves and a tie in 95 degree weather. =]

The above is also what caused me to miss the TIGAR awards. However, I consider that a legitimate reason. Sorry, John.

I am, however, pre-registered for Ohio Linux Fest. If you’re in the area and are free that day, register and attend. It’s a decent conference.

I was without power one day and without cable and telephone the next because we were having a tree removed from the back yard since it would have fallen over before too many more seasons had passed. You never realize how much you need email until you can’t use it.

As some of you have noticed, I added RSS to the website and blog a couple of weeks ago. It surprises me the number of hits that it gets per day. I honestly didn’t think there were that many people who read this.

Also, in order to make the growth of the site a bit more orderly, I rearranged some things on the back end. It shouldn’t impact anything you see, but it will make my life easier as I continue to add things to the site. If you find anything broken, please let me know.

The last bit of news is that the weird referrals to the site continue. At one point last year, for some odd reason, I was getting referrals from a German porn site. Don’t ask me why. I don’t know and I’m not sure I want to know.

This month, the #2 referrer (just behind Google) is a site called dvd4arab. Apparently there is a link to me in one of their threads. I don’t know why they’re linking to me, just that they are. I can just see me having made some DHS list now because of the people visiting my site. Now all I need is some religious fundamentalist site linking to me, and I could have a great trifecta of weird referrers.

Well, that just about covers everything that has been of moderate interest for the month but has gotten lost in the shuffle. This month has just been kind of busy in a grind way instead of lots of exciting things.

Current mood: neutral
Current music: American Express – Find a New Way

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

You know, with all of the things going on both where I am and around the world, there are any number of things that I could rant on or discuss or give my opinion on.

I’m not going to do that tonight.

Instead, I think I’ll just say something that (I hope) is a lot more positive.

Last week, I got a card in the mail from a good friend of mine that I don’t get to talk to much anymore. It was a wedding invitation.

I’d just like to say congratulations and that I wish him well even though I won’t be able to make it to the ceremony. I hope it works out well, Tony. You deserve it.

Current mood – not bad
Current music – The Wreckers – Leave the Pieces

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Interesting news… and a rant.

I realize that I don’t rant here much. Generally most of the “negative” things I have to say are said in a joking manner. There are, of course, exceptions, but the vast majority are said tongue in cheek. This one, however, is completely serious and something that I view as a real, honest problem.

I would also like to apologize in advance for being a little long-winded on this post.

Before we get to that, though, let’s do the news part. There will be plenty of time for the rant afterward.

The news is that the people who thought that Ken Lay, the one responsible for the Enron debacle, would get away without any jail time were absolutely right. He has died of a coronary before his sentencing could take place.

I’m not quite sure how I feel about that. Part of me is surprised. Part of me isn’t. Part wanted to see him face sentencing and part of me just kind of shrugs at the way it turned out. Oh well, I’m sure I’ll figure it out before too long. It just seems kind of ironic to go through the whole trial and have him die basically right before sentencing.

I think part of me feels like they should pass sentence anyway just so we can draw this to a close. Not that it really matters. It’s just that it seems like the ultimate loose end.

In other, probably less interesting news, I have added an RSS feed to the blog and website. I figure that I update often enough that it is warranted.

Now, on to the rant.

I have maintained that I have almost no problem in dealing with accents. I’ve worked with, been friends with, and known people from all over the world. As long as we can both speak English (or enough of another language that I understand), I can communicate with said person without a whole lot of trouble.

There is, however, a certain company that is making me seriously reconsider this position. I think it’s the same company, anyway. If it isn’t, then it’s a really disturbing trend.

About every two weeks, I’ll get a call from a recruiting firm that says they saw my resume online. This in itself is nothing abnormal, and I have no problem with it. In fact, I am looking for a new full time position now that I am finished with the magazine and the fact is that I am kind of tired of contracting because constantly looking for new clients gets old after a while.

The problem is that first, it sounds like they’re using voip (judging from the delay and static) and second, that the person on the other end of the line is Indian with an accent so thick that even *I* have trouble with it.

They start out by asking me inane questions like do I have any experience in an IT setting which can be answered by simply *glancing* at my resume. Of course I have no experience. My resume just has software developer and network analyst/system administrator positions on it for no reason. Please take the time to at least look at what you’re calling me about first.

Next, in the midst of trying to answer their questions, I will tell them that I can’t understand them (which is true) and ask if they could contact me via email instead. Instead of doing so, the person on the other end just keeps on with their script.

This annoys me. I restate my request and they keep going, so I inform them that since they do not listen, I have no desire to do business with them and hang up.

A couple of weeks later, it all happens again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Now, this is bad for a few reasons – first, communication is important in any relationship (business, friendship, romantic, etc). In a business setting, the person you have dealing with the general public should be able to speak in a manner which will be easily understood *by* the general public. This means that they speak the same language (in this case English), they speak at an understandable speed, and with an appropriate (or a “generic”) accent.

Doing this cuts down on a great deal of communications overhead and is a lesson that has been learned by everyone from the phone company and telemarketers to brick and mortar stores. Unfortunately, however, it does not seem to have been learned by a lot of technical companies. Here’s a hint – the same rules apply to you too.

Second, placing someone whom you know will not be understood by your target audience in a position which deals with them extensively shows an extreme lack of respect for your intended audience. In this case, if a company does this while they are trying to recruit me, they are not going to be able to do so. At all.

Third, the chances are that, if you continue to act in this manner, word will get around and it will be very difficult to connect with more customers (in this case, potential employees).

Like I said before, I think that this is the same company that has contacted me in the past. If that is the case, then they really need to get their act together. If not, then this is a disturbing trend.

Having said that, if anyone is interested in hiring me to work at a (mostly) sane company where the employees are treated with some measure of respect and not like instantly replaceable cogs in a machine, feel free to contact me. I am more than willing to listen and will relocate for the right opportunity.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

I just saw an article in The Register about a poll of developers about the quality of various IDEs. Their conclusion? That Eclipse and NetBeans come in dead last.

This survey made me shake my head. It was an extremely poor excuse for a “study”. Why, you ask? First, they polled a whopping 1,200 people (that’s like asking 5 people on the street what they think of a local issue and calling it an official poll). Second, there is almost no way at all that the people they asked had experience in all of the IDEs that they listed. There were eleven IDEs listed covering a pretty wide variety of languages.

Here’s a hint, people. Looking at a pretty screen for five minutes is no way to say one IDE is better than another. You need to have actual experience in using them.

It really looked like a high school popularity contest. I just wondered who funded Evans Data Corp’s little “study”.

Do I think everything about Eclipse is perfect? No. My main complaint is that the Auto-Complete list takes too long to appear a fair amount of the time whereas on Visual Studio, it appears by about the second character of a member function/variable that you type. Is this a huge problem? Not really. I just hate digging through docs to get the proper order of arguments.

This sort of thing really makes me wonder who actually takes these “studies” seriously. They really aren’t worth the time it took to do them (though I am sure that the groups that do them are compensated *quite* well for their trouble).

Current mood: annoyed
Current music: Deadsy – The Key to Gramercy Park

Monday, July 03, 2006

Well, this evening was certainly interesting. I went over to the neighbor’s house to watch the fireworks. There were many pretty lights (many of which hurt my eyes – being photosensitive can be a real bear at times), lots of whizzing sounds, and a lot of smoke.

I even managed to get hit squarely in the chin by a falling ember. That’s always fun.

Then came the last firework of the evening. The roman candle was lit. It then proceeded to fall over and orient itself toward the crowd of us. Nine screaming balls of colored fire rocketed toward us (and their house, and the cars, and my house, and the other neighbors’ cars…).

People scattered. It was nuts. Several of us almost got hit, and a few of us changed direction only to have the pyrotechnic pursuer curve along the same basic path. Talk about a great close to the evening. heh

Their daughter wanted to set off fireworks last night, but now that she’s been chased by the last firework of the evening, she has declared that she doesn’t want anything to do with them anymore. I’m sure she’ll be ready again by next year =]

Current mood: amused
Current music: Roxette – The Look

Sunday, July 02, 2006

I have met yet another example of a company that I have no desire to work for in the last week.

I was told by a consulting company that part of the requirements before I even got an interview was to turn over my client list. I spent the next 5 minutes telling her that there was no way that was going to happen and she spent it trying to convince me that it was a standard and acceptable practice.

Sorry, people, but that’s not the mark of a company looking for new employees. That’s the mark of a company looking for new clients and wanting to weasel them out of other people.

My FAQ just got a new entry.

Current mood: amused
Current music: INXS & Jimmy Barnes - Good Times

Monday, June 26, 2006

I’ve said it before – I like Perl. It’s a useful language for doing some things. I think it’s used by too many people for things that it shouldn’t be, but then most languages are. It’s not my choice for a main language, but it does some things pretty well.

That being said, I have to say that I’ve been playing around with Ruby a bit more lately, and I’m starting to like it better than Perl. There are two main reasons for this – the first is that it’s a lot more cross platform than Perl is. You can actually use it on Windows without fear of strange quirks (O’Reilly makes Perl on Win32 for a reason). Second, the syntax is a whole heck of a lot more readable.

Okay, so regular expressions still look like my cat ran across the keyboard, but they always have and probably always will. For the rest of it though, Ruby’s object oriented nature makes the code look a whole lot less complicated, and the less time I have to spend trying to figure out what an app does, the more time I have for solving problems. I like being able to do things like call somearray.length to get the length instead of trying to assign the array to a scalar in order to get how long it is. It just makes a heck of a lot more sense.

Let’s face it, Perl is probably the only language in the world in which you can roll your head across the keyboard and then watch the resulting script compile. There’s no guarantee as to what it will do – for all you know before you run it, the script may end up causing a rift to open at your feet from which emerges Huang Ti along with a standing field army of terra cotta golems animated by the spirits of the soldiers that were under his command when he was alive (if this confuses you, don’t worry. It’s sort of an inside joke. Though if you’re just wondering who Huang Ti is, he was the first emperor of China). Then again, it may do no more than the program I wrote once when I was 21 after I had been out with some friends for the weekend (it compiled, but I have no idea what I was thinking when I wrote it), but the chances are that it will compile.

In all honesty, I believe that there is a reason Larry Wall, the creator of Perl, has won the International Obfuscated C Contest twice.

Perl, you have been useful, and I may still end up using you on occasion, but I think that, for the time being at any rate, Ruby is going to become my choice as far as scripting languages go.

Current mood: neutral
Current music: Michael Hutchence – Slide Away

Monday, June 19, 2006

It’s official – I have relinquished all of my final responsibilities at o3 Magazine.

Since stepping down as executive editor in February, I stayed on board as an editorial advisor for the last several months, but the time has come to pass the reins to someone else.

It was an interesting trip, and I wish them the best in the future. As for me, my own path lies in a different direction.

(I should also point out that this has nothing to do with the previous post. That situation arose because of some things from the past in my personal life coming to my attention. It happens to the best of us.)

Current mood: calm
Current music: Shades Apart – Beat by Beat

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The last couple of days have been filled with introspection and looking at things from my past.

The people who know me well enough know some of the things in my past that I wouldn’t tend to wish on anyone. For the rest of you, let’s just say that it’s been an interesting trip filled with a lot of rocks (nothing illegal or that I feel like I need to hide – just things that I don’t tend to want to think about or discuss with people that weren’t involved).

While I am mostly at peace with the things that have happened over the years and the person I have become, I am reminded of the quote which basically states that behind every cynic is an idealist who wonders what the hell happened.

I admit it. I used to be an idealist. I even used to smile a lot more. Now, I tend to be something of a hopeful cynic and quite a bit more reserved.

Hopeful cynic? Isn’t that a contradiction in terms, you ask?

Not really. It means that while you hope the outcome will be better than you expect, you don’t bet on it. Just because you try to avoid the obstacles doesn’t mean that you think you’ll always succeed.

I don’t give up. I just expect that, at certain points, I will likely have my head handed to me.

But right now, I’m at the point of wondering what the hell happened even though I already know the answer. I think that sometimes, just sometimes, we have to spend time thinking about that sort of thing in order to make it anywhere. The trick is to not to be consumed by it – looking into the abyss, as Nietzsche would have said.

Current mood: contemplative
Current music: Erase the Grey - Rain

Thursday, June 15, 2006

It’s been an interesting last couple of days.

The weather was beautiful yesterday, so I decided to spend some time training at the lake – just me, the wind on the waves, and my jian (Chinese straight sword). It felt great to have some quite time and get some exercise all at once. I paid for it later though =]

It’s been way too long since I’ve trained regularly, so after about 45 minutes, my right arm felt like jello. This is not a big deal. It just means that I need to be more active again. I can deal with that.

Today’s amusement, however, comes in the form of email. Being in a smallish town that doesn’t have a great deal in the way of tech companies, I found a couple that were actually listed on the chamber of commerce’s website, so I wrote to introduce myself. I don’t know many people here in town and meeting people in my field is quite often a positive thing.

The first one’s owner and I seem to get along pretty well and are supposed to have lunch soon. The second one, however, was a whole other story. I send a basic “hi” email and get a “what do you want” type response, so I say that I just really kind of want to get to know the other technical people in the area and get a response of “I don’t give out information about my company” that suggests he thought I wanted to take over his business, but that if I wanted to send him my resume he’d look it over and decide if I fit anywhere in his organization.

That amused me. I just kind of sat there and looked at the screen for a minute. First off, I wasn’t trolling for a job. Secondly, I wouldn’t want to work with or for someone who behaved in a manner that paranoid and unprofessional. I don’t need the headache.

I told this to my friend and he joked that the guy probably thought that I was attempting industrial espionage. I’m just waiting to get a visit from the FBI now – especially since my resume contains the word “subversion” (as in the source control tool).

And just to go completely off-topic for a moment – why the heck is the sci-fi channel showing wrestling now?

Current mood: amused
Current music: Flogging Molly – Black Friday Rule

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

It seems as though Lucent has seen fit to close down Bell Labs and will be moving the remaining employees to various other locations. The building itself, which holds a great deal of technical history, is to be sold off and all expectations are that it will be demolished.

This makes me sad.

The city in which it is housed says that it doesn’t want to have the property turn into just another subdivision. I can agree with this. In fact, I think it’s sad that the Labs are closing their doors at all. However, the stated reason kind of annoyed me – the city gets millions in taxes from the property and has to deal with very little in the way of upkeep costs for infrastructure because the property is a largely pastoral setting. They don’t want to build and maintain infrastructure in order to get their tax money.

Guess what – that’s their responsibility. They need to deal with it.

One of the main bidders for the property wants to turn the property into more office space while supposedly maintaining the pastoral nature of the setting. They have a reputation for renovating existing factory, etc space into office space, however in this case they want to tear down the building because they don’t think that any tenants would want to buy offices there.

Am I the only one that thinks it sounds weird that they believe nobody would want to have space in a building which gave birth to some of the greatest technological breakthroughs of the last century?

As for Lucent, I don’t understand them. They bought the Labs for the R&D that they do. They then proceed to cut the legs out from under the whole thing (only about 1,000 people work there now compared to something like 5,000 in its previous days of glory) and now they want to carve it up and ship it off to other places that are “more in keeping with the size of corporate headquarters.”

In my personal opinion, they are making a huge mistake. Part of the reason that Bell Labs was so successful was that you had a huge number of extremely intelligent people all in one place working on things that interested them. This let them bounce ideas off of each other without any problem at all. In fact, from what I understand, it used to be extremely common for people to just sort of get pulled into projects as a natural matter of course instead of being assigned to them.

That makes a very fertile environment for innovation. The fact that it was in a pretty, relaxed location just makes it even more conducive to the kind of thought and work that they did. It’s really hard to innovate under pressure and in surroundings that feel hostile.

Take that away, and they’re just going to be sticking smart people in random, unfriendly office space and the innovation will definitely suffer. I see this as a very bad move.

I know what some of you are thinking – but all offices are sort of impersonal. Cubes are the order of the day and our people seem to do just fine.

Cubes are the order of the day, but they shouldn’t be for any place that does innovative work or work that requires actual concentration. Cubes were made for one purpose – to save a few dollars on office space. Believe it or not, even the guy who invented them now thinks they weren’t such a great idea.

They’re fine if all you do is talk on the telephone (sales or call center jobs), but for things that require quiet (say R&D or programming), they’re just a really bad idea.

They’re loud, they’re too open to the outside world (which causes distraction), and they’re generally extremely cramped. They’re also extremely impersonal (even to the point of some companies having policies that you can’t decorate them at all).

I can hear it now – “So what? They’re not supposed to be personal space. They’re supposed to be workspace.”

Wrong. The “workplace is not personal space” idea probably came about with the industrial revolution. Prior to that, craftsmen worked in spaces that they generally had a great deal of control over. This means that they had things laid out just the way they wanted and in ways that made them more productive.

It is extremely difficult to be productive while doing complex tasks if you are in a location which you are not comfortable with. Every moment you spend thinking how unsettling your surroundings are is a moment that you can’t focus on the problem at hand (though some might argue that the surroundings are the problem at hand. I happen to be one of them).

As far as the “cost savings” of cubes goes, ask yourself this – how much would it cost you for actual office space with real walls? How much are you paying for this “open office plan” crap you have now? Now, with those numbers in mind, think of how productive your staff that would benefit from offices is now. Now, think of how much more productive they would be (and how many fewer mistakes they would make) if they did not have to deal with the distractions of the rest of the cube farm.

It’s kind of like R&D (getting back to my original point) – it’s not necessarily cheap, but it more than pays for itself in the long run. Stop living quarter to quarter and make long term plans.

Current mood: contemplative
Current music: Verve Pipe – The Freshmen

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Saga of Thunderbird
How I got a 17 Page Sig

This is where we see how I work through a trivial problem occuring in a trivial project for an equally trivial purpose. The journey, for me at least, is amusing.

I’ve been bored with my simple mail sig for a while, so I thought about writing a script to rotate the quote that appears below my contact information.

No big deal, I thought. I’ll just script up a sig file maker. Thunderbird should have no problem dealing with the output of a script as the sig, right?

Well, not really.

This is a Windows system, so I decided to write the script in Ruby. If you haven’t used Ruby, it’s a handy language in the vein of Perl and other scripting languages. The main reason I decided on Ruby instead of Perl is that Ruby has a really good implementation for Windows that works exactly like you’d expect it to and Perl can have some quirks in Windows (not for anything this simple, but I use Perl for *nix and I’ve started using Ruby in Windows).

My script, when it began, consisted of a few things – an array of strings that is approximately 17 pages long (I have a lot of quotes), a puts statement that outputs my contact information, and a line that outputs a random quote from the array.

After finishing the script, I change my account settings in Thunderbird to use the script, thinking that it would just take the output and use that. Stupid assumption on my part (and I honestly admit that). It took the whole file as a sig. That’s right – I had a 17 page sig.

Just what everyone wants – 20k of quotes tacked onto the end of a less than 1k email.

Next, I try explicitly launching Ruby and feeding it the script in my account settings. This, not surprisingly, doesn’t work either, but it was worth a shot.

Well, that’s not going to work, so after thinking for a second, I decide that the next best thing would be to have a new sig for every time Windows starts. This being the case, I try to add the script with the output redirected to a text file (which Thunderbird will read correctly) into the startup routine for logging on to Windows.

Can’t do that. Windows doesn’t like having the re-direct as part of the shortcut.

So much for the quick and dirty way. Time for the almost as quick and not quite so dirty way.

I go back to the script, make a line to open a file, take out the puts statements, replace them with write statements that write to the file, and close the file.

It now works, Windows runs it on startup, and I have a new quote for my sig when I want it.

What’s so funny about this? That’s how I was going to do it in the first place, but I thought I’d save myself a tiny little bit of typing by doing it the “easy” way.

Consider it a lesson learned. Or should I say a lesson re-learned since we all seem to have to go through this one once in a while.

Hey, at least it was on a quick little project instead of something buried deep inside a complex program.

Current mood: amused
Current music: Dirty Vegas – A Million Ways

Sunday, June 11, 2006

To whomever has used my domain name in their return address for spam emails,

I’d love to find you so I could beat you to death with a large, heavy blunt object.

I check my mail today and find 50+ “returned” emails from addresses that have bounced. None of the addresses I saw were ones that I had ever emailed in the past and the email addresses that were listed as being from my domain don’t exist.

Thinking I may have been hit with a worm for the first time ever, I run a scan. Four hours later, I find that the machine is completely clean. Yes, it takes this laptop four hours to run a full antivirus and spyware scan because of the insane number of files on it even though it’s a 2.4ghz machine.

So basically, this cost me ¼ of my day so that the only thing I could do here was read or watch television because it was raining and unpleasant outside.

Current mood: annoyed
Current music: Yellowcard – Lights and Sounds

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

It seems to have been the day of phone calls.

First, there was the almost unintelligible call from what appears to be an Indian outsourcing company which is looking to put someone in a position in a city about an hour or so from here.

Normally, I don’t have a problem dealing with accents. I’ve known a lot of people from all over the world, so accents are really just par for the course for me. The problem with this one was the fact that it sounded like it went from an actual phone somewhere to a VoIP server, became packets that were flung across the internet via various combinations of physical lines and satellite, hit another VoIP server, were translated back into an actual phone transmission and then ended up at my handset.

That makes things a bit harder to understand.

The other call was from a recruiter in Pitt calling about an opening in Cleveland. Unfortunately it was a senior position and I’m not a senior person. On the upside, they sounded like they were interested in me for other possible positions, so they are supposed to be calling back tomorrow in order to get to know me better. This kind of behavior is kind of strange for a lot of “recruiters” because they tend to just throw resumes at a position and hope one sticks. I take this as a positive sign about these people.

Sometime next week, I should be having lunch with a local businessperson who runs a tech company here in town. I saw a strange posting on a job board for them so I decided to drop them a line and ask about the unusual requirements and introduce myself. On a personal/tech level, we seem to have hit things off since we seem to have some things in common.

Don’t look at me like that. It’s purely professional. Besides, it will be nice to have someone to talk to in this town considering the fact that I know almost nobody here.

Current mood: tired
Current music: INXS & Jimmy Barnes – Good Times

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Well, my least favorite task is done for the year.

The cat has had his vet visit. Vet visits are never fun. There’s whining, biting, dirty looks and the cat doesn’t take it well either.

It’s hard to get him into the carrier at the house. It’s hard to get him out of the carrier at the vet’s – the carrier quite often has to be taken apart. It’s very easy to get him back into the carrier, and you’re lucky if the carrier has a door left on it when we get into the house.

This year wasn’t so bad though. These vets actually listened and left the handling of the furry demon up to me (he’s part wildcat – probably bobcat, and I am about the only person he won’t normally stick his over sized fangs into and if he does, it’s only to play or a light warning bite) after I warned them that he left his old vet in stitches a couple of times.

I thought it was amusing that the vet marveled at his teeth. She’d never seen fangs that big on a “housecat”. Hey, to me he’s a big fluffy marshmallow. To most other people on the other hand…

Standard checkup, rabies, leukemia, etc shots and his worming (this year they decided they valued their hands and gave him the shot instead of pills. That’s where he always gets revenge on the vet) and we were on our way back to the house. Once out of the carrier, he was torn between wanting to curl up next to me for comfort and snubbing me because I was the evil bastard that put him through all of the horrible tortures of the day.

Current mood: relaxed
Current music: Toad the Wet Sprocket – Hold Her Down

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Keyboard came in, and for the last day I’ve been getting used to the layout as well as the shape of the keys.

Shape of the keys, you ask? Yes, this is one of the ergo boards that have parallelogram shaped keys to allow you to have a natural wrist position when you type instead of having to lay your hands at the “normal” typing angle. The frightening thing is that it really works.

It occurred to me this morning that the keyboard and mouse might not work with the linux partition on the laptop. Yes, I just realized that this morning. I was pleasantly surprised when it recognized both on boot up. Getting linux to recognize anything used to be painful when I first started using it years ago.

It really is improving. Now I just need a wireless card with linux support. Broadcom has real issues.

But, for now, I’m just sitting here, killing Spree.

Relax. I’m talking about the candy.

Fruity =]

Current mood: relaxed
Current music: none

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Well, the keyboard should be here sometime tomorrow. Then I can finally get things arranged in a comfortable manner and get back down to business. It feels so nice to have a real workspace again.

I still can’t believe that I had to order something as simple as a USB keyboard. It’s no wonder there aren’t many technically oriented businesses here.

There is one other thing I want. One of these and a 200gb IDE hard drive to go with it. Anyone want to buy me one? =]

Current mood: amused
Current music: Nine Days – If I Am

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Birthday was rather uneventful. Mostly time just spent out of the house. I think the most exciting thing I bought was lunch.

The next few days saw me rearranging things in this room and picking up a new desk and leather office chair. All I can say is that my wrist ached after putting together the desk. Two hours with a screwdriver was just no fun.

But now the desk and chair are together and being used. My frequently used books are sitting next to me, I have space to work and have a reference book open next to me, and a much more comfortable place to sit.

I love my chair. I know it sounds silly, but I’d forgotten how nice it is to have a good office chair. =]

Now I just want to get a USB keyboard so I can have things in a more natural layout. It’s sad when you have to order something that simple online, but there is no place here in town that has one I want.

Current mood: tired
Current music: Living Things – Bom Bom Bom

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

It’s my birthday.

I really need to get out of the house and spend some time alone so I probably won’t be here all day. If you need me, call the cell.

Let’s hope this year’s is better than the last.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

I love Penn and Teller. When I was a kid, it wasn’t the David Copperfields or Houdinis of the world that got me interested in sleight or hand, stage magic, etc, it was Penn and Teller.

Why? Because they were smartasses about it, had fun with it, and weren’t afraid to show you how they did it. With them, it wasn’t some big mystery. In fact, I remember seeing them do tricks again after the initial presentation using clear props and showing you just how bizarre the whole thing really was.

Their personalities just really clicked with me.

What does this have to do with anything? A book I ordered came in today.

I’ve wanted this book since I first heard about it as a kid when it came out back in 1992. It’s out of print now, so about the only way you’ll find it is on the used marketplace on Amazon (or ebay, etc). I finally got around to getting a copy and have been giggling evilly ever since.

What book? “Penn and Teller’s How to Play with your Food”

Yes, you can run in fear now. The people who know me fairly well already know that I enjoy cooking. Put this together with my prank loving side and the world should be afraid.

For those of you who know me in person and think I seem too uptight to enjoy a good prank (either playing it on others or having it played on me), you really don’t know me as well as you seem to think.

Let’s just say that I’m going to make their special heart shaped Jell-o. The difference is that I have a *real* heart shaped mold *wicked grin*

I have one shaped like an anatomically correct brain too =]

Current mood: amused
Current music: Eve6 - Bang

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

I think I have just seen the absolute worst statement from an open source fanatic (not all people who use open source licenses are fanatics – I know I’m not).

"Frankly, your arrogant pragmatism nauseates me."

I don’t know what to say to that. Gee, I guess I’ll just stop actually doing anything and simply pontificate on how the world should be. Sorry, folks, but we pragmatists are the ones who actually get things done.

Could have something to do with the fact that we’re…what’s the word I’m looking for? Pragmatic. Yes, that’s it. We get things done because we’re pragmatic.

Good grief.

Current mood: amused
Current music: Clash – Rock the Casbah