December 31, 2009
Happy New Year!
Welcome to 2010 (in a few hours, anyway), the year when the aliens convert Jupiter into a second sun and Europa into another earth....according to Arthur C Clarke, anyway. Maybe Real Life won't be quite as exciting.
I'm looking forward to a good year, though. In a few days I'll be starting a new job as a Systems Engineer at Limelight Networks, doing programming, tool development and automation. It should be a lot of fun. And it'll be a telecommuting job, which is a big bonus. Metavante/FIS was fun, but it's time to move up to new challenges.
Have a happy and healthy new year!
June 01, 2007
New job, new adventures
Time for a new job. Benefits and a living wage are nice--one might even call them a necessity, especially when you have kids. And a decent working environment is always good. It would have been great to have a real job in western Michigan but the IT market in western Michigan is, at best, almost dead. In April I decided it was time to start looking in other areas. Maybe someplace south, where the winters are less unpleasant. Indianapolis looked promising. So did Louisville, Kentucky.
The day before Easter I updated my resume. The day after Easter I got a call about a great job...in Milwaukee. Well, Milwaukee isn't south, but it is familiar territory: we lived there from 1991-1995. So why not give it a try? A good job in Milwaukee is much better than a rotten job anywhere.
In April I did a bunch of phone interviews, but Milwaukee sounded the best. They brought me in for a live interview, and offered me the job the next day. May 21 was my first day. (Why wait so long to mention it? I wanted to make sure the previous job was going to pay me.)
The job is a great opportunity. I'm working for a company called Metavante, a huge financial data services place. If you do banking in the US, whether ATM, online or at a branch, chances are good that we handle your data. I work in the network management group: we make sure the networks that carry your data are working and working well. I don't know much about networking yet; they brought me in as a Perl programmer to help them maintain and develop tools and automation. That's exactly the type of work I want to be doing. The work is fun, the people are great, the company has a future. It's really nice to be working in this type of environment again.
It's a big change. We're packing up the house to get it sold. We moved to western Michigan to be near extended family, but I can't support my own family in Michigan's economy. I'm going back to an office instead of telecommuting, and living in Milwaukee while everyone else is still in Michigan. That's not ideal, of course, but we have good prospects of renting a house from a former professor and getting everyone to Milwaukee soon.
So life is busy these days. I'm at the office a lot, learning all the new things I need to learn, and going back to Michigan on weekends to get the house packed up and ready to sell. We're really looking forward to finishing this transition and getting back to a normal routine, whatever that is. But for the first time in a while, things are looking up in work life.
April 11, 2007
That's the crickets. It's been a busy hectic month, and April isn't going to get any better. But big changes are on the way. I'll tell you more later.
December 07, 2006
I'm a Locksmith, and I'm a Locksmith.
How did I miss this? Last night I was in Sam's Club, of all places, when I spotted a DVD I never thought I'd see: Police Squad! The Complete Series.. After years of whining and begging, Police Squad! fans finally get their wish. I'll be picking up one a Best Buy tonight, since I don't actually have a membership at Sam's Club. Now I can finally retire my 20-year old VHS copy.
October 31, 2006
Watch for me on Cops Grand Rapids
This morning I went to get this year's stash of Halloween candy--it's 75% off at Meijer's today--and spent some time looking around the store. Yep, the Christmas music was playing already. I stopped by the hardware section and picked up some nails I need to fix one of the windows.
As I was waiting in the checkout, I realized what I had: 10 bags of candy bars, followed by a box of small white nails. I paid by check. So, did the cashier report me to the cops or not? If you don't hear from me again for 3-5 years, you'll know the answer.
October 30, 2006
New month, new job
Well, I guess the month is technically old by now. But the job is new. My previous job (a contract deal) ended at the end of September. Thanks to a coworker who pointed out http://jobs.perl.org, 3 weeks ago I started a nice telecommuting job with a company in Maryland called Cargotel. It's a nice small company with a lot of work to do. Very fun, and it's good to be working at home again a year after BT decided to get rid of a bunch of us.
August 23, 2006
My Favorite Recruiter Emails
Well, my contract ends on September 29. Considering the way things are going at the company where I work, there's no chance it'll be extended. So I'm looking for another job.
Over the last year I've received about 1,482,199 emails from various headhunters trying to place me into inappropriate jobs. It's hard to decide which is my favorite email, but I've narrowed it down to four:
1. Today I got a request for a Java developer. The job requires 10 years of Java experience. I don't know why the sender thinks I have any Java experience at all: it sure ain't on my resume.
2. Yesterday I received an email which began "I don't have any details for the Perl Position." He did manage to note that the location is Memphis, Tennessee. That was all I needed to see. Next.
3. A few weeks ago I got a description for a job in Seattle. The company wants an experienced Perl programmer, but will only pay entry-level wages because the language is Perl. Good luck on that one, guys.
4. Yesterday a guy sent me the exact same email for the same job FOUR SEPARATE TIMES over the course of two hours. Pay attention!
It's going to be an interesting job hunt.
July 12, 2006
Finished: Book of the Dead
As a long-time fan of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child's books, I've been waiting quite a while for this one, the conclusion of a series which began with Brimstone in 2004 and continued with last year's Dance of Death. Every summer we count on a good page-turner from Preston and Child, and this year's installment, The Book of the Dead, arrived right on schedule.
Preston and Child have a neat practice of introducing characters and then reusing them in later books; this book continues the story of characters who were introduced ten years ago in The Relic and have appeared ever since, along with characters from other books such as The Ice Limit. The bulk of their books center on the adventures of FBI agent Pendergast, with his almost superhuman intelligence and abilities. Many of their books create mysteries which seem supernatural but end up attributable to natural causes (though weird natural causes), while others ride the edge of science fiction. Ever since Michael Crichton stopped writing for his readers and started writing for Hollywood, Preston and Child have taken the page-turner crown.
The Book of the Dead wraps up the story of Pendergast's confrontation with his evil brother Diogenes. Pendergast is locked up in an escape-proof federal prison, charged with murders committed by Diogenes. The New York Museum of Natural History (employer of several recurring characters and itself a recurring center of action) receives its famous diamond collection (stolen by Diogenes in book 2), but ground down to dust. To compensate for the bad PR, the museum decides to reopen an Egyptian tomb exhibit which was closed 70 years ago under mysterious circumstances, not realizing that it's all part of Diogenes' evil master plan. But (soon to be former?) officer D'Agosta realizes that Diogenes is still out there, and starts working out a plan to spring Pendergast from that escape-proof prison.
Ok, so you don't want to read The Book of the Dead first. You need to start with Brimstone and Dance of Death before you read this one. Fortunately you don't have to wait a year between installments like I did. Be prepared for a lot of late nights while you read just one more chapter to find out what happens. Because I'm not going to tell you.
The Book of the Dead kept me up late turning pages, as do all of Preston and Child's books. But I have to say that I'm glad to see this story end (but does it really?). When the books only come out once a year, three books take too long to wrap things up. I'd much rather have seen another standalone Pendergast book (like Still Life With Crows) than have the Diogenes series dragged out into 3 books. And the long-hidden secret of what drove Diogenes to the dark side, along with Diogenes' master plot, seemed a little too far-out. Granted, it's far better than the exploding toilets you'd find in a Stephen King book, but in the end The Book of the Dead falls just a bit short of greatness.
But honestly, that's what makes Preston and Child books what they are. I've read them all. They're not Great Literature. They're not near-realism like The Andromeda Strain. They don't try with a straight face to convince you that black is white because you're too stupid to know better (Da Vinci Code). Preston and Child write books with interesting stories that keep you turning the pages, and when you finish you're satisfied that you've had a good, fun adventure. The Book of the Dead is no exception.
April 06, 2006
Hey, "Pimsleur Download Japanese"
and you, "Download Pimsleur Mandarin", here's an idea for you: why don't you buy them yourself, or get your local library to buy them? Pimsleur doesn't have money to produce its courses if you steal them.
March 31, 2006
What a month, revisited.
March has been wild. I started out the month working in Lansing, an hour away. Sick of all the driving, I put out a few feelers for jobs in the Grand Rapids area.
March 3: phone interview for Job A and Job B.
March 5: birthday
March 7: notification that I've been hired for Job A. Job B disappeared.
March 9: interview for Job C.
March 16: began Job A.
March 20: losing my mind, I order parts for a new computer.
March 24: build new computer
March 30: second interview for Job C, and it looks promising.
So I'm currently working Job A, doing Perl at a local HMO. I've actually been trying to get hired here since last July but haven't been successful. At the end of February I received an email from a contracting house offering to submit my resume at the HMO, so I went ahead and a week later I was offered the job. It's a good place to work, the pay is 20% higher than the last one (and 50% higher than 6 months ago) but the contract is only scheduled to last 6 weeks and there are no benefits. Although there has been some mention of extending the contract, there are no guarantees and still no benefits.
That's where Job C comes in, a Solaris administrator job at a local office of a nationwide trucking company. It's still a contract, but it's a one-year contract-to-hire job WITH benefits. The commute would be 12 minutes instead of 7, but I could live with that. The second interview (meeting with members of the team) went well and I hope to hear some good news in the next week or so. If Job A were to offer to hire me full-time I'd stay, but I don't see it happening.
March 12, 2006
Coming soon: new job!
Only 3 more days of The Commute Of Doom. On Thursday I'm starting a new job at a place 3 miles from home. Instead of an hour, I'll be driving 5 minutes. And the pay is almost 20% higher too. I can live with that.
March 05, 2006
Happy Birthday to Me
I must be getting old: a disturbingly large proportion of my birthday cards came from insurance people and credit companies. Once upon a time 39 sounded ancient. Now it just sounds unfair.
Last night we went out to one of the local Japanese restaurants, and today I got a nice pile of loot:
a small set of computer tools from the boys;
Romancing Saga strategy guide (now I just need time to play it);
Alien and Aliens;
Futurama Season 3 (now I have the whole set, finally);
Japanese The Manga Way, which looks to be a lot more useful and coherent than Japanese in Mangaland;
Breaking Into Japanese Literature, which looks really cool;
the Japanese Dreamcast game Atelier Marie & Elie. I fired it up for a little while and was able to understand a disturbingly large amount of it...yet an unfortunately large amount was still incomprehensible. I think it'll make a fun project.
Update for Heather
Thanks Heather. Is your boyfriend into Japanese as well? If so, here are a few other ideas from my birthday wish list:
A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar by Seiichi Makino, Michio Tsutsui
Japanese Verbs at a Glance (Paperback) by Naoko Chino
The Kodansha Kanji Learner's Dictionary (Paperback)
by Jack Halpern (Editor)
Basic Connections: Making Your Japanese Flow (Paperback) by Kakuko Shoji
Amazon has some really good prices on those nice Kodansha books, so I put a bunch of them on my list this year. Now I need to start reading and reviewing them!
January 19, 2006
The company where I work is currently adding tons of contractors (literally), of which I am one. Other than the fact that most of us are men between the ages of 30 and 55, we get a wide range of backgrounds and personalities and a much narrower range of nationalities. Most of us sit down and work quietly.
But there always has to be a showoff. He showed up 2 weeks ago and sits in the next row of cubicles. I don't know his name. I may have seen him once, so I might know what he looks like. But I do know that he's an expert in everything. I know this because he spends 70 to 80% of his workday talking and sharing his vast knowledge with everyone around. Yesterday he even shushed one of his teammates so that he could answer a question instead of her. It seems like all day long I hear him talking, but it's rarely related to work.
I know better than to pay attention to blowhards (and the other contractors in his row are quickly learning that too), but sometimes he's pretty comical. After meeting one of his teammates and learning that he was from Russia, he talked about his (apparently undemonstrable) knowledge of the Russian language. Ah, a language expert. Interesting.
Shortly afterward Showoff talked about his previous job, where he worked at as a contractor at a Japanese company here in the U.S.
"Did you learn some Japanese?" asked one of his coworkers.
"Oh, definitely." Hmmm.
Next morning I arrived early, and so did Coworker. It was very quiet in the office, and I heard it all. Showoff arrived. He needed to demonstrate his knowledge of Japanese, so he stepped into Coworker's office and said, "DOH-moh ah-ree-GAH-toh [I thought, Mr. Roboto?] Adam-san."
"What does that mean?" asked Coworker.
"It's 'Good morning' in Japanese," said Showoff.
Yikes. Spoken like someone who learned all his Japanese from Styx songs.
Fortunately for us all, that was his only attempt at speaking the language.
(For those who don't speak Japanese: Showoff's pronunciation and interpretation were both incorrect. "Domo arigato" is not typically pronounced as in the song, and it doesn't mean "Good morning"--it's a form of "thank you" instead.)
January 02, 2006
Happy New Year
I'd like to wish a happy, blessed and prosperous new year to all 3 of you who read this.
Wow, the weekend flew by--though not as quickly as Christmas weekend. When I was a telecommuter the weekends never flew by like they do now. Probably it's because I was always home anyway--I just spent less time in my office on the weekends.
December 18, 2005
What a month it's been. Ever since Thanksgiving it's been non-stop schoolwork: first a group project for database design, then a group project for project management, then two exams this past Tuesday and Wednesday. That database exam was one of the worst I've ever taken.
But Wednesday night I uploaded my project management exam and that was the end of school for the semester. Ok, the midnight phone call from a classmate was the real end of the semester, I guess.
On Thursday I started my new job. Wow. It's going to be interesting: they're so swamped with work and hiring contractors so quickly that no one has time to sit down and show me what I'm going to be doing. That's actually pretty fun: on Thursday I sat down and started reading all the general documentation I could find, then got some hints about the system I'd be working on. Friday I talked to the project manager and found out that I'm going to be starting on the automation end of things, which should be fun and not too unfamiliar since that's the type of thing I was doing at BT.
It's going to be interesting.
December 01, 2005
What a month
Well, November was quite a ride.
As previously noted, on October 26 my company announced that it was laying off 14 people in order to make its quarterly budget, and I was one of them. It wasn't a huge surprise, since the company has been constantly laying off people since 2001. I'd been carrying over vacation time for years and keeping my resume up to date.
As soon as I got the news I started the job search. As usual, there were lots of calls from headhunters promising the world and delivering nothing. I did my own job searching, sent in a resume for a C/SQL/Unix programming job in Lansing (about 75 miles away), and got an interview on November 11. It didn't look too promising, though, since they really wanted 3 years of C programming experience: I have been doing C since 1987, but only had about a year on the job. Otherwise the job market has been pretty slim. I hand-delivered a resume for a Unix admin job at a local healthcare company but didn't hear anything.
November 15 was my last day at work. I spent the rest of that week trying to catch up on errands, homework, etc. There were no job calls, no prospects at all. On the 21st I was on my way out the door when I had a call from the consulting company handling the Lansing job: the managers wanted a second interview, a technical interview on the phone, and it was scheduled for the next day.
On November 22, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I spoke with a really nice recruiting manager at 11 am and by noon I had a job offer. On the downside, the job is 75 miles each way. On the upside, it's a 25% pay raise over my job at BT, and I'll finally be working as a C programmer, a job I've wanted since 1988. Needless to say, we had a nice Thanksgiving this year.
The rest of the month has been busy. The end of the semester is coming at Grand Valley and in both classes we have major group projects due. We worked about 30 hours on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday to deliver the first project on Tuesday evening. Now we're rushing to finish up the second project, which is due next Wednesday. After that it's one week until final exams, and on December 15 I start my new job.
I'm looking forward to the job. The commute won't be pleasant, especially during a Michigan winter, but overall the new job will be a good thing. We're quickly looking into selling the house and moving, but I don't think it's going to happen anytime soon.
As I've said, what a month!
November 08, 2005
Well, I officially delivered my first resume yesterday afternoon. Actually, I guess I emailed a few last week. Job hunting certainly is different in these days of dice.com and computerjobs.com. There appear to be a few good matches in western and/or central Michigan, but I'm going to start sending applications out of state almost immediately. The likelihood of being able to stay in western Michigan appears pretty low right now.
Update: as I was throwing all my stuff together to leave for database class this evening, the phone rang. It was the headhunter in New York to whom I sent my resume on Friday for a C/Unix/SQL job in Lansing. The hiring manager got my resume and wants to meet me for an interview on Friday. Who knows? Maybe I won't be out of work for too long.
October 31, 2005
Last week oil companies announced a record $100B profit. Within hours everyone all the way up to oil-friendly Republicans were questioning these record-high profits.
Today gas prices dropped 15 cents per gallon in my town.
October 29, 2005
More layoff details
It turns out that Wednesday's layoffs amount to more than 10% of employees. On Thursday the manager-type who announced the layoffs got promoted to vice-president. Bet he gets a nice bonus for making budget too.
But he might as well enjoy it while it lasts, because BT is running the company into the ground and I doubt it'll last long. Now I'm not a business-type, but it seems stupid to me to get rid of a steady and consistent moneymaker in favor of trying to grab high-profit but risky consulting jobs. Especially when you're going up against bigger name competitors who apparently charge less (to hear this manager tell it). You decide: do you award your project contract to IBM at a lower rate, or something called "BT" at a higher one?
Sheesh. Now I understand the BT logo (if you click the link, it's in the upper left corner): it's pies in the sky.
October 26, 2005
Well, it looks like I get to be one of the latest casualties in the continuing collapse of BT Americas. Yep, I got The Call today.
I can't say that I'm too surprised. For the last 5 years we've been living under the shadow of layoffs. This time they're cutting really vital people, and you can't keep doing that if you expect to continue running a business. They'll probably be gone in a year or so, at this rate.
So, if anyone needs a fairly-skilled Unix admin, Perl programmer, writer and/or theologian with a little bit of Japanese skill, let me know. Resume is here.
October 23, 2005
Next semester: only one class
And you can be sure it won't be a class with a "group project". The two classes I'm taking this semester, both with group projects, are eating up every spare minute of the day.
October 16, 2005
When your kids are sick, keep them home. How difficult is this to remember? Yet every single year October rolls around and people bring their hacking sneezing runny-nosed kids to church and like clockwork my kids pick up their diseases.
Last year we made it until October 6 before picking up someone else's diseases. A month later on Simon's birthday he was still sick, and a month after that he was diagnosed with walking pneumonia.
This year we've made it one extra week. Last Sunday the same family brought their sick kids and this weekend our boys are sick. I'd like to thank them for their consideration.
October 14, 2005
Where did the entries go?
Apparently Movable Type only displays the current month's entries...and apparently I haven't written anything all this month.
I'm seriously wondering about my sanity in taking two graduate-level courses this semester while also keeping a full-time job and a full-time family. Yikes.
September 10, 2005
Math is hard
Ok, the original "Teen Talk Barbie" quote was more like "Math class is hard", but so what?
I think that the last 10 years have partially erased the memory of how much homework I did for my last master's degree. Plus the Unix/C/C++ certificate program at the U of Minnesota wasn't exactly homework-intensive (as in, there was no homework). This month I'm getting a reminder. I'm only taking 6 credits, but I have more than enough homework to keep me busy.
School is good, though. It's nice to be learning useful skills and to hang out with other computer geeks.
September 01, 2005
Where did August go?
Somehow it's September already. August was a blur. Shortly after the last entry I noticed a newspaper ad for the Master of Computer Information Systems at GVSU and got the crazy notion in my head to sign up. That's where August went: filling out applications, finding out about tuition reimbursement from work, getting transcripts and recommendation letters, registration, tracking down books, etc.
Classes started this week. I'm taking "Principles of Database Design" on Tuesday evenings and "Management of Software Development" on Wednesday evenings. Both run from 6-9 PM. They're going to be good classes.
It's been 20 years since my first week of college. Now I'm back. The other day I found my acceptance and scholarship letters from Grand Valley, dated January 1985. It took me a while to get around to attending, I guess.
August 02, 2005
On Sunday we were loading the boys into the car for church. I told Simon, "Climb up in your car seat, little man."
He sat down and said, "You might call me 'Sir'."
Pretty uppity for someone who still puts his pants on sideways.
July 24, 2005
Last week I spent some quality time driving to Madison, Wisconsin to spend some quality time with some IT guys talking about a job. I haven't heard the final verdict yet. It was nice to drive back through some familiar territory, though. We drove through Watertown and stopped by NPH in Milwaukee before taking the long drive back through Chicago.
Meantime, the next day I did hear that I'm getting a 2% raise for the year. Unfortunately that doesn't quite make up for the 10% pay cut I got last month, or the lack of raise last year.
Since most of the traffic to this page comes from Google searches for "Lispworks crack", let me point out that you're not going to find any "Lispworks crack" here. The only "Lispworks crack" you'll find is the phrase "Lispworks crack". If you're looking for a Lispworks crack, try this: crack open your own wallet and pay for Lispworks yourself, thieving slime.
While we're at it, let's give the same message to those looking for an "Allegro Common Lisp crack" or a "Corman Lisp crack". These Lisp environments have free trials available. Here's an idea: use the trial to invent some really cool must-have software, pay for the Lisp environment and then sell your software to recoup your costs. Spend your time learning the language instead of spending your time trying to steal it. Professional quality Lisp environments are not cheap or easy to make, so support those who develop them.
I know, the thieves have already moved on.
July 15, 2005
Finished: Dance of Death
The new book, Dance of Death, is the sequel to last summer's cliffhanger Brimstone and really is a much better book. It's hard to say much about it without ruining the surprises. Did Pendergast escape the brick tomb in Italy? Who is Diogenes Pendergast? You'll find out the answers in Dance of Death. What else can I say? Not much: it's always fun to see the characters from previous books. And as usual, there are plenty of Easter eggs for those who have read previous Preston & Child books. If you haven't read any of them, start with The Relic. If you've read their other books, be prepared for the usual wild ride and late nights until you're finished with this one.
June 15, 2005
The hunt begins...again.
It's been 4 years, but it's time once again. This evening I'll finish up the document and start prospecting. A 12% pay cut will do that to a guy.
It's interesting to look at the referrer stats for the main page. I get a little traffic from the forums where I post, presumably other forum members trying to find out who in the heck that wacko named "Qbe" is.
Some of them are a little more questionable, like the guy who keeps visiting from the Google search for "crack Lispworks". Well, guess what? My site doesn't have a Lispworks crack, nor does it have an Allegro Common Lisp crack or a Corman Lisp crack. Hey bozo, if you want to use Lispworks, go buy it.
And then there are the inexplicable, like the visitor who arrived from a web search for "Arnold Murray". Yikes, that's an old one. Unfortunately his search page didn't give him the exact page he was trying to find.
June 14, 2005
Good Day for Good Neighbors Fans
Good Neighbors is finally starting to come out on DVD. I just got back from Best Buy with a copy: 4 DVDs, 21 episodes plus the 1977 Christmas special plus lots of extras. My wife and I have been waiting a long time for this. "Good Neighbors" was one of our favorite shows when we were in high school.
June 12, 2005
Hello world, part 2
Well, it's been a while, hasn't it? Actually, almost a year. Wow. The old weblog software stopped working sometime last summer, and I never got around to fixing it. Instead I took up learning Japanese and starting a new business, both of which would have provided a lot of good material for /var but took up the time I would have used to fix the old log. A few months ago I switched web hosts and lost all hope of fixing it.
Instead, I'm going to try Movable Type for a while. If you want to see the old /var, you can find it here. I plan to write updates more often than last time. Finding time is difficult, though. Life is too hectic these days.