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User Journal

Journal Journal: Homeless Observations 1

I was driving to work today, and as I got off the freeway, I noticed two Santa Monica police officers giving a homeless man a ticket. Now, this homeless guy had always been sitting with his handmade sign on that particular offramp every single morning I drove to work. Assuming that he was authentic, what good is giving him a ticket going to do? What are you going to strip from him, his possessions? He probably doesn't have any. Humiliate him? He probably doesn't have pride left. His freedom? That'd probably be an improvement, because at least they feed you and clothe you and shelter you (from the weather, anyway) in jail. The only thing left is his life, but a lot of humanitarian groups would scream bloody murder (literally) at the prospect.
I like to comment from time to time in a colbert-esque style that there are as many homeless people as there are freeway offramps. From a purely mathematical standpoint, if there were more, then there would be multiple homeless guys on a single offramp. Unfortunately, a friend of mine with a sociological bent has mentioned that the homeless are very territorial, and the only reason you see one and only one, is that the first one there will chase off any others who come.
I think the next bit of footage for my video blog will be to get a cardboard sign and videotape myself trying to share an offramp with an authentic homeless guy.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Reasons to leave the country

Most people don't know the meaning of the word, Niggardly.
A Washington DC mayoral staff member, David Howard, who had used the term "niggardly" in routine conversation in a staff meeting, was asked to resign. I'm sure most college educated people remember this little fiasco back in 1999. Even more recently, a grade school teacher has been terminated for the same reason.
The word, which means miserly or thrifty, traces its etymology back to the Scandinavian (Norse?) word, hnøgger, which likewise, means "miser".

Online Poker Has Become Illegal
With the passage of HR4411, provisions against online gambling have quietly piggybacked into law. Good luck enforcing it, but if I go through another FBI raid, then it's time to pack up. If I get extradited at gunpoint and shipped off to a remote torture facility, then so be it.

To be continued

User Journal

Journal Journal: Wordplay

Adjectives That Sound Like Adverbs:

Defenestrate: to throw out of a window.
Therefore could Fenestrate be defined as putting it back in?
Could the same rule be applied to "Defecate"?

I was buked badly enough the first time around - you did not have to rebuke me.

I have stroyed that model through many weeks of hard work. I cannot let it be destroyed after all that.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Job Rants, part trois

I sheepishly have to retract my first post along this topic. I recently answered a posting on Dice that PriceGrabber.com put up, and after a couple of interviews, I was suddenly in. In the immortal words of Weird Al Yankovic (Genius in France), "How did this happen? I don't have a clue." Was it my interaction with the LAMP community? Was it the conferences I was attending? Was it those pieces of paper called certifications I was pursuing? Chances are, I'll never know. PriceGrabber is not small (and in fact, is a Slashdot affiliate), so chances are, they went through quite a few people before giving me a call. It's amazing how building a lot of quasi-legal job-search sites for foreign interests skews your belief system.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Job Rants, part deux

I finally settled down with something close to home. Not too terribly close, mind you, but close enough. Only problem is, they're also terribly cheap. Have you ever worked for someone so cheap they ask you to bring your own computers on the first day? And I'm not talking about the way it is with previous contracting jobs where I use my laptop everywhere I go. This is full-blown "We need you to use a distinctly separate monitor and keyboard so we can see what you're doing at all times." They don't want to supply any equipment or stationery because theft of personal property is rampant here. Employee parking is in a narrow alley, and anyone who gets here after 8:30 is out of luck and has to park in a nearby for-pay lot - those who actually get alley parking don't fare much better because scratches and dents become a way of life. Bathrooms are the same as the customer bathrooms, which in the presence of hordes of screaming offspring of our physical clientele, are always dirty and there's perpetually pee all over the floor. The office is pretty dusty - not a day goes by that massive dustbunnies don't congregate all over the torn and missing linoleum tiles under my desk. Climate control is broken: our HR says to "just bring a little fan to tide you over". In response, I bought one of those industrial fans that need to be bolted down and can rip photographs and calendars off walls in adjacent cubicles.

I am unfathomably grateful for the invention of earplugs and noise-cancelling headphones; we're right next to LAX.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Are job sites for Newbies and Losers? 1

Many books on finding your dream job would indicate that you have almost no control over the nicer jobs that exist out there. In fact, you get nominated not in the interview or application, but rather, on the golf course or fishing trip where you're not even present. Pointy Haired Boss (PHB) #1 asks PHB #2 if he happens to know anyone who has X set of skills. PHB #2 remembers some service you did for him and suggests that you might be the man for the job. When I say service, I don't necessarily mean you optimized his company's database to Boyce Codd Normal Form or implemented some elaborate Bayesian Spam filter for the office. I'm talking about some *personal* service such as picking his kids up from school, or dropping off his cat at the vet. (In my case, it was being a Sabbat Goy for 18 months, and being a good conversationalist in spite of being stuffed senseless on all manner of kosher eats.) Otherwise, actual skill accounts for 50%, at most.
As per the subject of this message, I've pondered the question: are job sites like Dice and Monster even worth anyone's while anymore? As time goes on, I see more and more job offerings with outrageous requirements, not the least of which entail experience with technologies that goes back to before the technology even existed. Oh, we all laugh at the job postings that ask for Java experience going back to 1990, but in the end, you're dealing with a PHB in Human Resources that doesn't give damn: "Well, do you or do you not fulfill the impossible requirement?" You were doomed from the very start of the interview.
Most job sites ask you to bend over and take it up the ass. They want to know how vulnerable you are. They want to make the bucks and not have their money departing frivolously out some needless channel such as *gulp* paying employees.
I've become afraid of job boards. Dice has, in the past, led me along such promising career moves as: a clothing manufacturer in a bad part of El Monte where my vehicle was broken into during the *interview*, and the application I filled out on paper asked me about my high school, as well as my junior high school. I received bewildered looks from the staff when I attempted to hand over a resume. In the end, I didn't get the position because I wasn't fluent in Spanish.
I'm about to arrive at a terrible conclusion: the fact that you're even contemplating looking through dice is reprehensible; the scraping noise you're hearing is the bottom of the barrel. Several job postings are not legitimate - they are there strictly to let the originating company "prove" to the State Board of Equalization (and any other applicable government organization) that they made a reasonable attempt to hire locally before they outsource the position overseas to people willing to work for 2 dollars an hour. Truth to tell, it's pretty hard to keep up when you live in Los Angeles: my modest 1300 sqft house has a monthly mortgage of $1600. Gasoline costs more here than in any other part of the country.
It is commonly heard that the only means out of this rat race is to work for yourself. Oft times, the implication of this statement is that you should start your own business, find some clients, and make yourself beholden to their deadlines. You are now responsible for the administration of your own business. That's fine and dandy if you have a good head for juggling finances and running project management, but if not, then it's a perilous game to play.
The other means of "going into business for yourself" is to increase the value of what you already have - real estate, patents, pre-existing royalties... the only problem with this method is that you have to have something significant to begin with. Martha Stewart did it. So did Kenneth Lay and Hillary Clinton. The remaining question is how not to get caught.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Microsoft spidering Google?

Is it possible? Try the following: Google for the following terms together: "Microsoft", "Get the Facts", and "false advertising". Google gives you an entirely different set of results than MSN Search.

User Journal

Journal Journal: AOL: Suggestions to make the Internet better

It seems there's a slew of AOL ads showing their users making suggestions to "help make the Internet better".
I marvel at the underhanded subtlety of this ad campaign. It slowly puts an idea into the public mind that AOL is the Internet. Are they even a member of the W3C?
We geeks generally overlook such commercials, but alas, we geeks do not constitute the majority. The majority of people out there will generally believe everything said to them from a Trustworthy (read: lots of money) source. These are the kinds of people who believe that Windows has a lower TCO over Linux because MS can pay numerous "neutral" companies to construct pretty bar graphs that say so. These are the kinds of people that make our decisions for us.
Now, here's a good kick in the pants: Reality is determined by Collective Belief in Reality. This probably doesn't come as a surprise you epistemologists out there, but for the rest of us, it takes a few moments to digest exactly how profound this epiphany is. A company's stock performs well because there resides enough collective faith in the public mind that it will perform well. Women find you (un)attractive only because they believe other women see you as (un)attractive. Dragons used to be live in great numbers at the edge of the world... that last statement can considered true from a nuministic standpoint: just because no one has seen one does not mean it does not exist. If the greater public believed that dragons existed, then by all means they must have existed.
If AOL does achieve some medium of success in this endeavor, and happens to survive the myriad Truth In Advertising laws that abound in other countries, then I vow to letters to:
  1. the Los Angeles DWP, with suggestions to make electricity better.
  2. the Phone Company, with suggestions to make phone sex better.
  3. NASA and JPL, with suggestions to make space better.
  4. various airlines, with suggestions to make aerodynamics better.

When that day comes, I will gladly help the Clueless to blur the distinction between Providers and Services.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Coder McKinnan o' the Cubicles (by Solomon Chang)

McKinnan was a coder who had worked a "Nine to Five",
And he started every morning with a grueling hour's drive.
With coworkers one day he went to fetch some coffee blend,
At a quiet little Starbucks, on which programmers depend.

'Twas here his people came to lay out web domains they tend.
'Twas here McKinnan briefly broke his train of thought just when
His eye then spied a bonnie lass, with body Flockhart-slim,
But his boss stepped in to stop McKinnan, saying this to him:

"No lass as she could ever be with nerdy geeks like ye.
Oh, thy lot in life is loneliness as far as I can see.
McKinnan you're a coder, but a lover not ye be.
Now go back and patch our client's PHP."

And who should come in at that moment? Lo! 'Tis Fair Folk kin,
A member of the Seelie court on a Latté binge.
McKinnan 'pproached the fairy with his mortal friends in tow,
For when it came to flirting, 'tis what the Seelie fully know.

The fairy told McKinnan, "Though thy heart is lost of glee,
Be thankful of six figures have ye in your salary.
But matters of the heart, ye shan't like what I shall say,
But I say this unto you on behalf of all the fey:"

"No lass as she could ever be with nerdy geeks like ye.
Oh, thy lot in life is loneliness, and that's the way it be.
McKinnan you're a coder, but a lover not ye be,
For romance is not a struct you write in C."

McKinnan sat in silence, stunned, and wept with lip a-furled,
"How dare you call this 'wisdom', Fairy Fey not of this world!"
Then, leaning on the counter, he asked with a stubborn stare,
"Ah, who's the lass with blue jeans and the tank top o'er there?"

The cashier slowly shook his head and said with saddened face,
"'Tis odd that yer a programmer, yet ye don't know yer place.
McKinnan, when ye chose careers, ye also chose yer fate,
For 'tis true of every coder, ye are doomed to never date."

"No lass as she could ever be with nerdy geeks like ye.
Oh, thy lot in life is loneliness, 'cept for D&D.
McKinnan you're a coder, but a lover not ye be,
When you think a woman's heart is hacked in C."

McKinnan stirred his cappuccino, then he took a sip.
Turning to the others, he said, "You're all full of it!"
Gathering up his courage, he approached the lass so fair.
Whereas she shot him down with icy words atop an icy stare:

"A man like ye could never be with women such as me.
Oh, thy lot in life is loneliness, which you refuse to see.
McKinnan you're a coder, but a lover not ye be,
If you try to make a living in IT."

User Journal

Journal Journal: Ebay

Solomon's First Fundamental Rule of Ebay:
The first time you see something you like online will be the lowest price you will ever see it... and there will be less than two minutes left to the end of the auction, leaving you unsure as to the current street price of the item.

Solomon's Second Fundamental Rule of Ebay:
Any attempt to circumvent the First Rule via immediate purchase will cause you to fork over the highest amount you will ever see for that item.

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Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards. -- Aldous Huxley