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User Journal

Journal Journal: Working for myself at last

Well, a small hiatus in posts and now it's interesting to go back and read the old stuff. Boy, it's interesting to see how I thought I knew what I was talking about, even just a few years ago - and I didn't! Not in hindsight. Retrospective views are so insightful - just a shame we're mostly hopeless at seeing our own futures.

So I did finally jump ship from corporate life. The "new" IT job at the defence company lost it's lustre very fast. I was jaded, tired and grumpy with life. In looking around I took a job way closer to home with a $20k pay rise. The company was said to be growing fast - set to double in the next 12 months and they needed me to manage their Project Management Office *which I was to set up and write all the protocols).

This was one of those times I really should have listened to the niggling doubt in the back of my mind. The little voice that said, "Why on earth if the boss is no nice is the company so small after all these years and why can't I tell what they're feeling?" Now I'm good with people and being able to tell where they're at and with the new boss I had not idea. I worked it out later though - it was because they had no idea themselves.

Anyway, within a few months of me starting I was handed 3 major failing projects to sort out. The senior partner was sacked by the boss and in 6 months the company had so little money they were about to fold. I looked for other work but had foolishly rejected several offers just months before and now the GFC was hitting. To make matters worse my old employer fired 400 odd people who work in my same field to the market was flooded. I dawdled and strung things out but with no good prospects in sight my employer started to collapse: they had barely 8hrs a week work for me a week and I had to go. Later I heard most of the others were gone before the year's end.

Annoyed (with myself mostly) and mortgages and OS holiday booked for the whole family (all 5 of us for 4 weeks!) I had to find something. My daughter's comment when she went back to live with her mum of "I thought you were going to buy me stuff and instead you lost your job" summed up a lot of disappointments.

Anyway, I did contract work back in defence for a while but my heart was not in it. My wife, angel that she is, increased her work from 3 to 6 days a week. People kept asking me to write software so I succumbed and wrote iPhone apps which was actually fun (I'd never used an Apple computer before, which you have to have to write iPhone apps), and then the work built up. It hard, but also wonderfully refreshing to just be my own boss and control my own destiny. It's also freaking scary. Some months there is no income, some months I earn 3x my old (very good) salary.

Now we're back from overseas and I have to drag up the business, which isn't much fun. I realise now I need a product to develop and sell, to call my own and generate ongoing income. I'm still managing projects and writing apps but the real deal is roiling away in the background, simmering and growing and hopefully will vindicate the heartache and the path taken.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Moving On....

Ok - quit my job a week or so back. Wonderful feeling. Like a warm breeze on a fresh spring weekend in the mountains. Now I have to wait out the dragging miasma of the final weeks before freedom reigns... Well, more specifically, before I start my new job. I'm pretty excited to do something different and meet new people and have tasks thrown at me that I'm not 100% sure of. To be asked to join a startup because they like me (and my resume!) and get better pay, have 40mins less travel time each way to work (hence saving over 6hrs a week and $300 a month in petrol) is truly a wonderful thing. My current job is pretty good really but this next one looks even better. It'ss sort of requires an eclectic basket of skills and experience which apparantly I bring to the table better than anyone else available so hey, here I go...

User Journal

Journal Journal: Who believes in the paranormal anyway?

As a scientifically trained person paranormal stuff is either rubbish or can be explained away by other reasons, right? Right. No need to resort to suprnatural weirdo explanations.

Ok, so I'm in the kitchen on a Sunday afternoon preparing dinner with my wife. It's been a quiet day at home with the 4 kids. She turns to me suddenly and says, "Something bad is going to happen." Like what? I want to know, how do you know? She can't explain and just says something really bad is going to happen and it is to do with us - our family.

Well heck, that ruined the peaceful afternoon. But then 5 minutes later nothing had happened. I was starting to get really annoyed. We had been happily joking and getting the evening meal ready. We'd been together the whole day. Like how would she know something bad was going to happen? 10 minutes later there's a knock on the front door and there's two police officers standing there: it turned out to be a very very bad afternoon for the family. I wont give the details - "personal reasons" but heck, that paranormal stuff isn't true is it? Like, there's a good scientific explanation for this????

User Journal

Journal Journal: Tarot and Heart Attacks

I don't think I mentioned I had a heart attack back in February.

Now I don't believe in those card reader people at all, but my wife does. Back in mid 2005 my wife spoke to some card reader she's consulted every year or so for years who gave her very sobering news that her new husband was going to die in February or at least have a very very close call with death. I wasn't thrilled either. Well I admit I forgot about it over the months.

Then (about 6 months later) on February 1st I was out running and got a huge, sudden pain in my chest. Being a bloke I slowed down a bit and walked home slowly and didn't say anything. We had people over that day and I went to work the next day (because I'm a bloke). That evening I was feeling really bad. I decided to see the doctor who couldn't detect a problem but wrote a referral to a specialist however later that evening I felt even worse.

I checked myself into hospital and was coincidently met in emergency by a good friend from school who's a cardiologist whom I hadn't seen in many years. He arranged tests and a treadmill stress test (this was at 10:30 at night). It all showed everything was fine. Blood tests came back negative. They kept me in overnight but next morning were ready to send me home. They said they would possibly do an angiogram but the tests all showed negative (and I was feeling fine by then). Then I remembered the clairvoyant and thought I better get the angiogram done just in case. The result? I had a 100% blockage in the right coronary artery (you only have 2 main coronary artieries). There was no damage to heart muscle as it had occurred just when I'd started my morning run and my body hadn't yet built up a big oxygen demand. If it'd happened more than a few minutes later (we live in the hills and my run first takes me up a very steep hill) my heart would have tried to continue pumping hard and would have been damaged, in fact the doc said I might have died. I now have two stents and feel heaps better.

Do I believe in that Tarot stuff now? Well, lets say I have a healthy respect for it - it could all be chance though couldn't it? Oh, and did I mention I've never met the Tarot reader and my wife had only spoken to her on the phone (she lives 1300kms away in another city, where my wife used to live). Weird though.

User Journal

Journal Journal: A new Job!!!

Hey - I finally did it and jumped ship. Well, a little bit anyway. I moved witin the company but it's to a new project at a new site. I even had to get new ID passes (yep, two of 'em) to get me on to the new site. And what do I do now?? Well it's hard to say exactly. These ppl approached me late last year and said they'd like me to consider moving to work with them. I wasn't to interested at the time as I knew they'd had some linux sys admin jobs open for many months that they just couldn't fill and that seemed like a step back to me (no offence but "been there, done that"). So I emailed my resume anyway and got a phone call 15 mins later saying they want to talk. An hour later they agree to the payrise and position grade increase and we shake hands. Then corporate HR get involved....(6 months pass).... finally I'm here and I forget most of what they talked about me doing but it seems to be a bit of everything and nothing in particular - like some systems engineering, some sw R&D, some project management, some trouble shooting, some UI conceptual stuff (like liked my VR background and complex realtime system simulation/monitoring in 3D). They say a change is as good as a holiday and despite some niggling worry about if this was a good idea, I now feel tis has been a good move. Investing has been a bit of a poo lately. Made 30% so far this year and got silly and blew the wins reinvesting too quickly without sufficient consideration. Note to self: don't do silly things once you've made a tidy profit!

User Journal

Journal Journal: Life goes on...

In the continuing story:

The wedding went just fine. Of course the bride was a good 35mins late!!! That put back the schedule for the entire day as we had predefined song lists etc Most people had left by 11pm and we finally got out of the house (it was a garden wedding at home) by 12:30am. The honeymoon was wonderful and I highly recommend 2 weeks in a tropical paradise for anyone :-)

Since returning nothing much has changed :-| My daught starts high school next year and I'm still counselling people and working and not really having enough time for anything. The php work on the side is proving to be very difficult - to find the time for and to do. We've had to relook at the overall design and will requote it once the design is fixed. We already have one eager customer so we're listening to them a lot as they be paying us!

Work has me looking at issues of real time data migration between nodes on the large SGI computers I manage, which is keeping things a bit interesting, and I've written a nice little network monitoring tool in python/tk and perl which works very well to show me cpu load, users, disk usage and temp of the main 7 SGIs I manage. I'll expand the tool to add a nice 2D interface I think and had been looking at vpython to make it 3D which should be nifty.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Marriage, coding and other things

Well it's 3.5 weeks to the wedding and I'm starting to get a little anxious. We've sorted out the major items: honeymoon booked - 2 weeks on a tropical island off Thailand - not hit by the tsunami!, caterers booked, marquee booked, bought the rings and my suit ($130 to rent so decided to buy - ended up costing just over $1000 but should last a good few years) and the weddings dress. Everything else is details (we have a spreadsheet with 200+ tasks). Budget is about 2k over but that's acceptable. This is a complicated enterprise, especially with so many friends and family coming from interstate - some staying at our place before and after and some farmed out to friends and some staying at hotels.

At the same time I've started maintaining the web site for the local professional counselling association which may well be more than I can reasonably handle - have to wait and see.

I've started in earnest coding that php project for a local multi-media company. We looked very hard at the closest commercial software but it was around $20k so I'll charge him half my usual rates and we'll own the final product 50/50 and sell it to similar companies for 1/3rd the price (considering it's version 1 and the opposition is at version 8). We figure it'll take about a year to refine it before it's ready for selling.

I'm still reading up on this noosphere stuff mentioned here on slashdot a few weeks back. I've read the papers and find it most curious. I confess to not being as closed minded as some slashdot posters to the original story who wrote it all off without reading about the project in detail. As a member of the local skeptics association I consider myself a fairly critical thinker, yet this stuff can't be written off lightly. As the people at princeton have concluded, this bears further investigation.

Work is plodding along the same as ever. I think this is year 5 of an 8 yr project (I've been on it for 3+). I'm glad I'm not managing programmers anymore but the current sysadmin stuff is getting a bit tedious and specialised. It'd be nice not to have to drive 65min to work (45kms) but I've been looking and am unlikely to get paid the same elsewhere - maybe in a few years when the shares are doing better I can afford a cut in pay but for now I'll just have to put up with it. [sigh]

User Journal

Journal Journal: December update

Share trading is doing very nicely bows to the crowd) and I've a few paying counselling clients (enough so I see about one client a week) which is enough. I've started that big data management job for my friend, doing it all in php and mysql which is a nice combination to learn with heaps of code available.

In fact I've just been asked to join the management committee of the state counselling professional body after I did some research for them and turned up to their AGM. I've decided to continue studying and got credit for some stuff I did years ago. It'd be nice to plod on slowly and get a Masters or Phd but I'll wait and see.

I got engaged recently which is a natural progression for the relationship I'm in. Second time around is a lot different - I feel like I actually know what I'm doing this time! We agree the best part will be a nice long honeymoon - probably in Thailand or similar SE Asia place (though Thai food is our favourite and we've both been their long ago). Our kids combined (4 in all, 12,11,10 and 9!) get on fine but can be a handful at times so ex's can be very useful for their shared parenting contributions so we end up getting every second weekend free which is magic.

We've had to put the house renovation plans on hold for the moment to pay for the wedding (sigh) but it'll have to happen in the next year or so as we really need that fifth bedroom.

Work has settled down a bit in recent months which is nice for a change. It's good to have something predictable, if a little boring :-)

User Journal

Journal Journal: The continuing story...

Well I graduated a few weeks back. I don't have any real clients yet but have spoken to the local school where my kids go and they're very keen to refer kids on who need counselling (as they can't afford a counsellor at the school).

I'm looking to do share trading to subsidise my income and have grilled a friend who has done it for 10+yrs now, making about 100% a year on average (though this financial year ihe's looking at 160% in only 8 months so far).

I have a novel that's 3/4 done (fantasy, about 16 chapters and 55k words) but realise it's not great. Many ppl have read it including online writers groups I joined and I get a good response but it's take 8+ yrs so far and I've changed in that time and now I don't like it - I think the characters and story are quite trite and flat! So I started a purely money making exercise and have writing a synopsis for a new book and started ch1 with a very specific market in mind (don't laugh) - romance novels!!! I have a friend who makes 20+k a year from this and he finds it a bit of a joke (except for the money!). Most publishers accept a synposis plus 3 chapters to start with so I'll work on that - it'll only take a few months at the current rate. I read a few of these crap books and found so many problems I figure I can do this (easier said than done I know). A friend who's a copywriter for a UK publisher loves the synopsis (she's into these romance things) so I have a good plot to work with. With all the chapters laid out it's kind of tedious from here but a little effort will be all I need. On a good night I can write 1-2k words. My counselling gives me good insight into people's motivations so I think my take on relationships is realistic - let's hope it's marketable!

I've been asked by another friend to do computing stuff for his company on the side too, doing linux box setup for a TB filesystem that needs RAID, backups etc and runs across 2 sites in different states. He'll pay for this so that's nice. If anyone has experience on setting up IDE or SATA RAID 0,1+5 under Linux with WindowsXP and Max(OS-X) clients then pleae let me know about controllers, filesystems etc (or point me at a doc - I read the linux HOWTOs on this - mostly they're not up to date though). I'm also stumped on how to back this sucker up - I figure a second disk array will have to do or just rely on the RAID? I need hot swappable too - can you do that on IDE/SATA drives? Finally he needs a (probably web based) database (even if only filesystem based), for storage of the 200+GB or so of data his ppl will be generating a week on this new project (TV cartoon show - 26 episodes of 26min each compressed 3:1 at most - one episdoe a week).

Also I've been asked to help on the political side in the establishment of self regulation of the counselling industry here in Australia, in terms of research and objective analysis of what is and what should be.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Latest installment...

Well - just about finished the course. Problems is I've bought a house and can't keep up the payments on a counsellor's wage. Hmmm. My practical placement has been at a primary school for the last 6 months which has been a wonderful and humbling experience to be involved in helping some little tackers get their life in order when their whole lives (school, family etc) is hellbent on crushing them.

So I moved to a more laid back position at work whilst pretending to waste away (to work peers) whilst stepping up other exploits to keep my head above water (financially). I know a guy who share trades for a living and have talked to him a *lot* and been paper trading for last 4 months and averaged 43% a month. I *must* be doing something wrong - it can't be this easy. I applied some DSP algorithms from by image analysis background (wrote the software used in most police prefectures in Japan for DNA finger printing some years ago). Well, even if I only get 1/5 of that I'd be happy. Will put down 10k or so to try this out. I read enough books to sink a ship and the thems are pretty constant on share trading - minimise/manage your losses, be prepared to lose, back test over at least 5 yrs data, don't kid/cheat yourself when paper trading and don't expect anything to work for more than 6 months. Hmmm. Will let you know how it goes having convinced my dear woman to agree to try it out (what a honey).

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Journal Journal: Going along nicely...

Well, after one year of study I'm cooking nicely. One year to go. Mind you, studying fulltime and working fulltime is not that easy, but it's paying off. I've been offered a paid tutoring position next year in the course and it's been suggested I apply to do a Masters (by research) also. Hmm, must be doing something right. Computing still sucks mostly (but it does pay reallllly well :-)

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Journal Journal: And now, the end is near...

Well after 20+ years in the computer industry I thought I'd try something different. I've been a programmer, systems analyst, senior analyst, team leader, IT Manager, systems engineer, ran my own company, worked on defense, realtime stuff, commercial, games and a lot more. And ya know what? It's all just a bit passe now. I get paid a lot to hardly even think and the new compter stuff is all starting to look very much the same.

So my big move is to go into counselling. Yep - a major move. My latest (last!) computing job (at the second largest defense company in the world) is just rife with ppl who are fucked up, some just a little and some a whole lot. Now most of these people think they're fine and some are a little suspicious that maybe the world might be a better place if only they were a bit different. Take five minutes to talk to these people outside of techo stuff and they're either a mess, bitter, angry, sad, or just 100% stone walled away from their emotions. Not that I'll be able to do a whole lot to help but if I have to look into the eyes of a manager or engineer one more time and see such anguish and be expected to keep my mouth shut then I wouldn't be true to myself. There are a few who genuinely thrive in corporateville, but I'd say we're talking 20%.

So off I go back to study - first time in 17 or so years. The classes are packed with middle aged just-divorced women who have just realised living in cosy suburbia with a stressed hubby isn't what life is all about. And these women are *good* at seeing what's wrong, so they go to study to see what they can do about it. I feel like a very odd fish in that group, let me tell you! Maybe I wont end up rich (maybe I'll write a best selling book on why 9-5 corporate jobs suck life out of some ppl and not others) but I'll die a happy man in a long long time, rather than a stressed, repressed sod in 15 years.

[climbs off soapbox and looks at the crowd of disinterested people wandering past, sighs, walks off. Fade scene, roll credits]

Marvelous! The super-user's going to boot me! What a finely tuned response to the situation!