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User Journal

Journal Journal: Effective now...

I'm going to move my blog. The new home is Put it in your bookmarks - all the new updates will be going there, and I'll slowly move my old content over as well.

It's nothing against Slashdot, it's just that it's more convenient to keep it on a site I can FTP to, and I'm not willing to open up FTP on my own server. I would have put it on my .Mac site, but Blogger doesn't support WebDAV, and Apple doesn't allow FTP. I'll be changing all my pointers to the new site over the next few days. I've got time.

User Journal

Journal Journal: He-man club

Yep. Nobody here but us he-men. Jane's at her folks' house in New Jersey right now, so while she's gone it's just us two swinging bachelor guys.

I figure by Friday, David and I will be drinking beer together, smoking cigars and eating steak. I'll teach him how to play poker on Saturday.


Journal Journal: Drool drool drool.

Granted, I need a job first, but I had been planning to buy one of the new iMacs once I had one - my 2+ year old PowerBook is aging badly, and overmatched by a lot of stuff nowadays. The new iMac is a nice upgrade - 1.25GHz G4 processor, DDR333 RAM, a GeForce FX 5200 video card with 64MB of RAM, USB 2.0 support, and other nice goodies. A good, solid upgrade over my old TiBook 667 at a reasonable price, leaving the TiBook to be my "throw it in a bag for trips" computer.

Then Apple had to go and reinstate my Portable Lust today with the new PowerBook line. I can't make up my mind whether to lust after the new 15" or the new 17" PowerBook. They have all the same specs, plus FireWire 800 support, Gigabit Ethernet, 512MB of L2 cache (iMacs don't have L2 - Apple considers that a "pro" feature), included Bluetooth (instead of a $50 add-on), and both S-Video and DVI out driven by a Radeon Mobility 9600. Woo.

Even though the pricing makes the choice obvious (the iMac is around $1800), I still lust for the PowerBooks. Darn it. Oh well. Self-denial builds character.

User Journal

Journal Journal: On a more positive note...

More pictures are up! Head to the usual place to see them (e-mail me if you don't remember where that is). Also, I may be taking this blog and moving it to the real Blogosphere instead of just using Slashdot's Journal system. More news on that as and and if that develops.

User Journal

Journal Journal: "What's going on"

Since my last entry a few days ago, there's not much new. I did a first coat of paint on the wood trim (white), and it looks pretty good. I have to do a little more touch-up when I have a chance. Between Murphy's Oil Soap and a razor blade, most of the spilled paint is now off the floor. David's picked up a couple more words (cracker, baby, bug), and is walking a little more often. But he still prefers to crawl because it's faster and he's more maneuverable that way. Four wheels on the ground rather than two, and all that.

The Super Top Secret meeting went off as rescheduled this week, and went very well. I think most of my recommendations will be implemented by the Super Top Secret client. That'll be a big boon for their customer base, and it helps my professional reputation as well.

Yesterday, I spent the day at Holyoke's annual golf league outing. It was a nice time, particularly because my team won. But it was also nice for a different reason, and a melancholy one. Next year's league will most likely be mainly an alumni league - as most of the players are either gone now, or working with the Sword of Damocles over their heads. Most of the people there found out over the last week wheter they were "go forward" people or not, and when their service would be ending. If I averaged out all the departure dates I heard from people, it would come out to sometime late this winter.

I had five years of service there, plus plenty of unused vacation - so I got a decent amount of "get lost money". A lot of people who have been kicked to the curb got still more - my five years was lower than the average tenure there. But I'm still ambivalent about the whole process.

Here's why. I think I've said before that the business model my company was using wasn't working. We'd been losing money for years. It's not a secret - it's public record. I'm obviously not an insurance expert, but I think that the business was probably fix-able. In recent years, our results were on an improving trend, though not where we needed to be long-term.

The plan that went forward, though, blew up essentially everything and pulled out of most markets, with a goal of reinventing the company as a specialty insurer. In the process, more than half the people will go away. Some of them were talented, hard-working people. Some were slugs. But still, that's an awful high human fallout in a place that is supposed to serve policyholders first and employees second, before worrying about the rest.

What sealed things, though, for a lot of people was Ward. These folks "benchmark" the performance of companies in various industries, of which insurance is one. They take what they consider to be the top performing companies, and rate them after assigning costs to the areas they feel they belong in and so forth. If you pay them, they'll come in and rate you.

In insurance, the biggest company to worry about is AM Best. They actually rate you based on your underwriting practices, surplus management, combined ratio, outlook, and employee-to-policy ratio among others. The "A+" is coveted by them, and leads people to send business your way if you can sustain that rating.

Ward deals with back-office practices for the most part. Some companies believe that Ward is pretty much the gospel of how to run your operations.

Ward apparently didn't think highly of the way some strategies were being executed. So now a lot of folks in various places are on the job market. It doesn't matter necessarily what they did, or how much the business needed them to function. If they don't match a place where they're expected to be, adios.

That's not why I'm gone per se - I went away because the guy who was my boss was told, more or less, that "they don't need a manager on-premises. After all, the other guys in Connecticut don't have one". Since I wasn't going to either get his job or go to Illinois to have the life sucked out of me, I had to go. It didn't matter that I was performing well (I have the reviews to prove it), or that I was working on the implementation of a whole mess of inter-company projects. The guy in charge of the company I was working at told corporate IT that my org-chart position was gone, so I was gone. End of story.

I'm probably coming off here as really bitter - believe it or not, that's not my intent. As I've said before, something had to be done to fix the company. There was collateral damage as a result. This happens all the time in modern-day America.

What I am a little bitter about is something I talked about a few months ago. The decisions that affect people's lives get made by folks who just have no understanding of the human element. The day I was tossed overboard, I had forgotten my Palm that morning. I rely on it to keep notes and myschedule, so I called home and had Jane swing by on her way out to do errands. I went down to the street to meet her, and while I was waiting the fellow in charge of Holyoke (he's the Connecticut guy) drove out past me. I waved, he waved back. Jane arrived a couple of minutes later, passed me my Palm, and left. I went back up to my office.

And about fifteen minutes later, I got called down to HR and got dumped. I'm guessing that the gentleman I waved to went back home to Connecticut, had a nice dinner, played with his kid (or kids - I'm not even sure if and how many), and slept well, thinking "Good - I started saving them money today".

He darn well wasn't thinking "I just put a man out of work today". CEO's in general don't care about that anymore. Right after I vanished, so did the systems department later that day. They're being outsourced. Yippee! More money saved!

User Journal

Journal Journal: Humanity is now holding auditions.

Over the next year or so, auditions will be held for the role of greatest living singer-songwriter. The position has recently become available with yesterday's passing of Warren Zevon, who died after a 13-month battle with mesothelioma. He was 56.

Candidates must have strong piano skills, the ability to play multiple instruments, a sharp wit and a wicked sense of humor. A baritone voice is helpful but not required. The ability to maintain perspective and make fun of one's self even in the face of adversity is essential.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Well, we're pretty much done...

Sunday, we painted two coats of the green that they use at Restoration Hardware (they call it Silver Sage). We also painted the baseboards, and the two door frames. The ceiling trim will get done in a couple off days, as soon as we think the new paint is solid enough to tape over. And the windows will wait until after I'm employed again. That's because we decided to have them repaired and restored at that point, and it'll be easy to paint the woodwork without worrying about painting the windows shut. We'll be taking the closet door out to paint it, and the same with the main door. Probably sometime mid-week.

We did get more of the paint on the floor than we hoped to, but not too bad. The floor really needs refinishing one of these days soon - it was pretty hurting when we bought the house and it's only gotten worse in the ensuing decade. We also were able to get rid of my last particleboard bookcase in the process of this weekend's work. This morning I went out with David while Jane showered and bought a plastic shelving unit at Home Depot (along with some extra painting supplies), which I put upstairs in our cleaned-out and nearly empty attic. I'm storing all the old software boxes I have up there and keeping minimal stuff down here. That freed up over half my good bookcase for other goodies that were in the cruddy one. And I threw away a lot of stuff.

The end result now is that both windows are now unobstructed, which is cool. There's still a litttle finsh work to do, and I need to re-hang my cool Peter Simon prints back on the wall, but it looks great now. Pain in the butt, but worth it.

The reason I'm up writing this so late is because of all the furniture rearranging and cleaning I did afterwards. I could have waited until morning, but I wanted it done and over with. I can do all the touch-up work with the furniture back in place.

Other than that, it looks like it was a glorious weekend that we missed because we were inside painting. Bummer. And I polished off the latest Clive Cussler novel. I still have three library volumes to go through over the next week, which should be do-able. One of them's really short.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Trading Spaces - yeah, right!

I'm a fan of home improvement shows. I watch This Old House, Trading Spaces, and Decorating Cents pretty regularly, and a few others as well. TiVo grabs a lot more of those shows for me than I even bother with, because it knows I'll probably like them.

When I watch them, I'm always struck by how easy painting looks. Nobody gets that messy, the job goes smoothly, and the paint is always done in a jiffy.

I'm here to tell you all it's just a bunch of hooey. We're painting my Nerd Room right now, and it's like kicking dead whales up a beach. I did the ceiling, some woodwork, and some of the primer. Jane's done a bunch of primer and prep work. We cleaned the walls together, and I just taped off all the woodwork so tomorrow we can do the actual paint color. It sucks.

We moved everything we could out of the room, but both bookcases, the desk, and the PC station are still in there, just squeezed into the middle of the room. The chairs are in the hallway, and all the other junk is shut into the bathroom. We can barely more around in here right now.

And on the TV shows, the kids are never underfoot. here, we take turns watching David, and when he sleeps we work together.

If we're real lucky, we'll be finished tomorrow. I hope so. I'd really like my room back...

User Journal

Journal Journal: Sleep

I didn't get much sleep last night. Since my departure from Holyoke, I've had a few cases like that - more than usual.

Now most of you might be saying "Of course. He's worried about things, and can't sleep because of it". Except that's wrong. I have a lot of thoughts about my joblessness, but worry isn't high on the list. I knew the company was heading in that direction, and I'd shown no interest in relocating elsewhere - which I knew for a long time would be my only hope of remaining relevant enough to keep working for the company. I'm pretty confident I'll be picked up before too much more time passes, and I've really been enjoying the time off. I was thinking further about it though, and I think I do have a handle on the sleep problem. It is job-related, but only dimly.

You see, when I was working I had a routine. I'd get up at about 6:15, check my e-mail, shower, eat breakfast, and head to work around 7:30 or so. I worked until about 4, went home or out to do an activity, then we'd have dinner around 6, put the boy to bed at 9, and hit the sack at about 11. On weekends I'd sleep a little later.

Now, not working, we've been sleeping until we wake up - usually when David wakes up around 8:30 or so. Depending on things, I may or may not do breakfast. yesterday, for instance, I slept in until almost 10, and immediately went into a call related to my Super Top Secret Project that lasted over an hour. So no breakfast. We ate lunch out in Danvers around 2 - we were shopping for furniture there. It was a big lunch, so I didn't wind up eating dinner until around 9, and then I just had a pack of ramen because we need to get rid of it (and I couldn't think of anything better) - it's been stockpiled forever.

So with all that schedule-shifting, when we finally went to bed around 12:30 I just could not turn my brain off. My body was exhausted, but my brain was stuck in overdrive.

I think during the several hours I was either awake or nearly awake, I solved several IT problems related to my Super Top Secret Project, planned a trip, decided what color to paint my Nerd Room, inventoried David's clothes, recompiled the kernel on my web server (in my head), wrote half of a novel, and I may have also solved the problems in the Middle East. But I'm not sure about that last part, because I finally fell asleep right afterwards.

And I also wrote a much wittier and concise version of this blog entry.

Needless to say, I'm glad I only have these on rare occasions. I think the best solution is to establish more of a routine - which I will try to start doing. Today, however, Jane let me sleep until 10:30 this morning, because I was way too exhausted to get up earlier. Meanwhile, today I have to work on the Super Top Secret Project a little bit more and go buy the paint I decided to use in my sleep last night.

User Journal

Journal Journal: The newest word

"Cracker". And he can point to them when he wants one. Otherwise, it's been a fun but moody weekend for the little guy. He's heading full-on into the terrible twos, but he's started at 1.25 instead.

It actually comes with some of the developmental milestones that he's been hitting lately. He wants to do things himself, but he can't quite do them yet. It's very frustrating for him.

On my front, I'm working on a Top Secret Project for business. It'll occupy me for a couple more days, then I can get the next photo update posted.

I'm also looking into the possibility of hanging out my own shingle as an IT pro as a possible interim measure for work, or maybe even as a new direction entirely. We'll see. I'm kinda testing the waters now to see if there's any potential for the time being.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Vital Statistics

At the 15 month appointment:

Height - 33.75 inches
Weight - 25 pounds, 10 ounces

Our son is a moose.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Today's productive events

I bought a new suit. Navy blue, 3-button. 48 Regular. I may add one more this week to that and the one I already have that's in good shape. 3 suits should be enough for any combination of interviews, and I can always get more if I need them down the road.

Otherwise, we haven't done much today. We did search some for a smaller coffee table for our living room (the one we have is huge and overwhelms the room), but no luck. We put off David's nap as long as we could, but by 3:30 he really had to get home and get to sleep. We took advantage of the nap to read the Sunday paper, but didn't do much else. After David goes to bed in about an hour, we plan to tidy up our basement again now that all the yard sale clutter is gone. David could really use it as a playspace. After all, that's one of the original reasons we finished it off...

User Journal

Journal Journal: Now he's really a toddler!

Tonight, about an hour or so ago, David was holding onto the TV. He let go of it, and walked over to the nearby sofa where i was sitting. A few minutes later, he did it again.

At 14 months and 30 days.

This is the first Post-Holyoke milestone that he's hit. And you know what? Other than having him in the first place, it's the best.

So for all my peeps back in the big brick building (you all know who you are) - yes, Virginia, there is life afterwards. And a darn good one, too. Because this reminds me that there are Other Things That Matter besides the business model of an old insurance company, and who it does or does not include. And the Other Things matter even more.

Oh, yeah - our second yard sale was today, too. We got rid of a lot of junk, and took the rest to the Salvation Army thrift store here in town. We've emptied the house of a lot of clutter over the last few months, which is definitely a bright side of the whole abortive house move. And my Geek Room looks great so far - the new paint job we're going to do in the next week or two will help even more.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Yucch.

This entry is not for the squeamish. However, it is kinda funny.

David is fascinated by bodily functions, now that he's a toddler of sorts (he only takes a step or two, but it's enough). He makes burps, clears his throat, coughs, and snorts, and he giggles uncontrollably after a good noise. He likes to smear food everywhere, too.

Today, though, he was sitting on the kitchen floor watching Jane work, and he stuck his finger in his mouth so far he threw up. He thought it was hysterical.

We, on the other hand, did not share that view. So I brought him upstairs, changed his outfit, and put him down for a nap. He didn't seem to mind.

There's nothing like a bulimic 15-month-old. Although at 25-plus pounds, he's in no danger of wasting away.

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Optimism is the content of small men in high places. -- F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Crack Up"