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Showing posts from November, 2014

Comparative Lifelines

It's weird to think about the fact that, when my father was my age, his life was completely different from mine. Like, entirely different in nearly every way. 
When my dad was 39, he had four kids, one of them under 5.  He'd been married to my mom for more than 10 years. He had had a dozen jobs by this point, including a short-order cook and a shop steward for a long-haul trucking company repair depot. His jobs were transitory, though, because my dad had a career, and that career was union organization. Whatever job my dad had, he was always focused on improving things for the workers around him, via collective action and collective bargaining. I know it cost him at least one job. I know it also got him at least one job. I don't know if that constant fear of losing a job at the cost of his career was part of why he drank. From our (very sparse) conversations about it, my father drank because he was an alcoholic, just as his father was an alcoholic. By the time he was 50, m…

Rejection

Rejection sucks.

Here is a really interesting job. It sounds really cool and it feels like a great chance and a great fit. Except someone else doesn't think so, it turns out. And so you get an email (sometimes), and they've gone in another direction. All the cool stuff you thought about, all the nifty ideas you had, are going to have to go somewhere else. Sorry, try somewhere else.

Is it personal? Did I talk too fast? Did I get my words mixed up? Did I answer something wrong? Do you feel like I'm a bad fit for some reason? No idea. There's no exit survey for job hunting, just a stream of "no" until hopefully you find a "yes" somewhere. It's a grinding, brutal, dehumanizing experience where the productivity and joy can be sucked out of you one sip at a time. The average unemployment period for someone in my industry is 9 months. The average unemployment period overall is 8.5 months. Two-thirds of a year of grinding, pulverizing rejection.

Rejecti…

Self Care

Today I set up the burn board and powered through a bunch of chores around the house. I did this because another day of jobhunting seemed less appealing than scrubbing the stovetop and vacuuming the carpets (which in and of itself says something about jobhunting, I think). As a joke, a assigned points to my chore list based on how long I thought each thing would take, and then powered through them, marking them done as I went along. My partner asked how long my sprint was (one week, obviously), and at that point it became a running joke that we're now an Agile Household. Given that we both think this is hilarious, it's likely to go into the in-joke repertoire with "Stand Back Six Pack" around the house.

Today was a back-to-work day for both myself and my partner, as we had both basically taken the last week off to play videogames and just be present with each other. Which is important in a relationship. And then I promptly forgot about taking care of myself today.

I …

The Mistake of Hierarchy

I was having lunch with a friend the other day and they were selling me on applying for a position in their company, which I was totally up for and interested in and in fact had already done for a couple of other positions. And the point we kept coming back to was the idea that I was "overqualified" or that somehow putting in for this job would be "beneath" me. Now, this is a customer-facing position in a software company where the users are generally going to be relatively bright engineers or sysadmins, so it's not exactly a Comcast Helpdesk job, but there was still this stigma, this idea both in their head and in the culture in general that a customer-facing role, any customer-facing role, is somehow less than a job as, say, a developer, or a devops job, or something like that.
I worked in a technical support role for six years, the last three or so in a supervisory role (mostly because if I'd've taken the "manager" title, my salary would…

What I Did For My Winter Vacation

(Or: the BlizzCon After Action Report)

Friday and Saturday my partner and I went to BlizzCon. I may have mentioned that. Here is what we did.

Thursday: Flew in early to LGB(T), a great little airport which happens to have a JetBlue direct flight from PDX. PDX is also a great little airport, which makes the experience of flying the PDX-LGB route one of the more pleasant experiences you can have while flying these days. Even the TSA people are unfailingly polite and positive. We then grabbed our rental car and got In-n-Out (because In-n-Out). We ran a couple more errands getting various electronica we'd managed to forget to pack, and then we were off to the Anaheim convention center to get our BlizzCon badges and goodie bags. Some folk had lined up for hours to be the first through the door at registration; we showed up at around noon, strolled straight through the line, and never stopped walking until we were back at the car, loot and ID in hand. This will be a theme for the whole …

The Limits of Human Endurance*

* - a very specific human, i.e., me.

This past weekend was BlizzCon, the gaming convention for all of those people out there (like my partner) who like to play videogames made by Blizzard with friends. I'm not as hardcore as some other players (like my partner), but as a "filthy casual" I did enjoy both the spectacle of going to BlizzCon and the chance to meet up in meatspace with folk who I've been friends with for a while. We had a fantastic time doing random stuff both at and not-at the convention, and it was, for the most part, quite enjoyable.

The trick is, I'm anxious in crowds. This didn't used to be a thing, but somewhere over the last ten years or so I've developed a pretty serious anxiety problem in groups of people; where there are crowds of any sort, I tend to not do terribly well, and when the crowds get loud and random, I get even less functional than normal. Thinking about it, when I was younger being up on stage in front of people would te…

Early to Rise

Tomorrow at 7 AM I board a Jetblue flight to Southern California for an extended-weekend vacation with my wife, who (by virtue of being gainfully employed) is financing all of this (along with some very generous friends). We're going to meet friends whom I've known for quite some time. Some of them I've met in-person before, and I'm looking forward to reconnecting. Some of them I've never met or seen, and I'm looking forward to putting a voice and a face to the personality I already know. Some of them I consider colleagues and heroes and I just want to give them whatever support and cheering I can.

It's odd, though, because as I get older and grayer, I get more interested in playing games and thinking about the games I play, and less interested in identifying as a "gamer" as a significant indicator of my personal identity. Honestly, I'm not sure I'd make the grade, as it were, as a gamer in most circles: I came to videogames pretty late in…

...Or I Will Replace You With A Very Small Shell Script

Once again I remain convinced that there is no problem that is insurmountable when a possible first-draft solution includes a hacked-together bash script.

I spent the better part of an hour trying to bang my head against Windows, gave up, and grabbed my Mac laptop, opened a terminal, and accomplished the end-goal in 10 minutes, which included writing my own hacky first-draft do_the_thing.bash file. More and more, my solutions (including production-ready solutions in some cases) start life as do_the_thing.bash, and eventually evolve into a proper script with error conditions, failure modes, self-checks to prevent multiple runs, etc. But mostly, they start as do_the_thing.bash, which I blame a developer friend for doing in front of me and thereby teaching me terrible habits.

My own personal goal, after I get back from my convention trip, is to throw away do_the_thing.bash and rewrite the entire process, soup to nuts, in python (including checking for ruby and installing it if needed, am…

Listening

Friday night I was very privileged to be able to hang out with my wife at her place of employment; it's a very cool, very forward-thinking place to be working and I'm extremely grateful that my wife gets to work there (not the least of which because it means that my night-terrors about being out of work aren't money-related). I've met a number of really nifty people who work there, but that night was special. That night, I was surrounded.

Specifically, I was surrounded by enormously talented, confident, intelligent women who work in development, engineering, and operations. It was not exactly brand-new to me; I've taken to trailing along to PyLadies with my partner and it's where I met some really fantastic people I'm very happy to know. But this was an environment where everyone knew one another; everyone was relaxed and open and laughing and having a good time and talking about nerdy stuff and the energy was just fantastic.

I tried very hard to be quiet. …