Archive for Random Thoughts

Getting the Job

I love the movie Joe versus the Volcano.  In fact, it is my all time favorite film.  I probably watch it at least three or four times a year.  One of my favorite parts of the films are the early scenes where Joe is working at his dead end job.  Mr. Waturi is having a conversation on the phone with someone, and he says things like “I’m not arguing that with you.” and “I know he can get the job, but can he do the job?”  His entire conversation seems to consist of variations of those two statements repeated over and over.

When, in my career, I have had the opportunity to be in on the hiring process, as I read over people’s resumes, I often think of those scenes.  Many resumes, and even interviews, paint pictures of people who can get the job, but in my experience, less than half of them actually can do the job.  I mean, really do the job, not just skating by doing passable work waiting for the next job, but doing the job well enough that I feel truly good about having hired them.

Every time I get into the hiring process from the other side, I run into the same bump.  My resume looks decent enough, and I can usually shine through the initial interview, but when it comes to the technical interview I usually wind up looking like a chump.

Here is my problem… when I have a job, I spend my time doing that job, to the best of my ability.  I will learn everything I need to know for that job and I will exceed every expectation of my employer.  However, if there is a skill not required for my job, I don’t know it.  Not even a little.  I simply have never found it beneficial to prepare myself for a job I don’t have.  Well, I can’t say “never” because clearly it would be beneficial to the interview process, but doing so would likely infringe upon my job performance or my life outside of my job.

Every job I have ever had, I was completely unqualified for on a technical level when I got the job.  In every case, I interviewed, they really liked me on a personal level, and I managed to inspire them to take a risk and hire me anyway.  Within days I always bring myself up to speed, and within months I am indispensable to the team, leading the way and cranking out the work.

The issue is that in recent years, the technical interview comes first, and I never get in the room with people to be able to personally inspire them.  I do a phone screen, which consists of technical questions, and if I pass I get to go in a room with a couple members of the team, either a PC or a white board, and be bombarded with more technical questions.  Since I spend so much effort be great at the job I do have, I don’t have much left to put in to being great at jobs I don’t have.  I fail the technical interviews every time.

I know I can do the job, but can I get the job?  So far, too often the answer is “no”.

99 Coffins

Having previously enjoyed David Wellington’s Monster Trilogy, and the first of his vampire books, 13 Bullets, I was eager to pick up his second vampire tale, 99 Coffins, when I managed to find one on the shelf.

Let me take an aside here and laud some praise on Borders Bookstores.  Traditionally, I’m a Barnes & Noble guy, or even a patron of Book-A-Million.  Their prices always seem to be better.  Or when something is hard to find and if I can manage free shipping, Amazon is my go to site of choice.  However, when it comes to picking up Horror books, Borders really does jump above other brick and mortar book retailers simply because they have a Horror section.  See, when you go look for Horror in most stores you have to hunt for them.  Stephen King and Dean Koontz, because they are well known, you’ll find in the Fiction section along side Tom Clancy and other novelists.  But a lesser known author is more likely to be found in the Science Fiction and Fantasy section.  It makes see what is new in Horror a difficult task.  Not so at Borders.  Walk right in and wedged between the Sci-Fi/Fantasy books and the Romance, you’ll find the Horror in a little 4 or 8 foot section all its own, and organized just like every other section… hardcovers and trades and new releases at the top with shelves of paperbacks below.  Heaven.

Anyway… 99 Coffins picks up pretty much where 13 Bullets left off.  Our intrepid vampire hunter, not feeling so spritely after the last book, calls on our heroine again.  This time, it seems so fellows digging around in Gettysburg uncovered a crypt of sorts, and inside are 99 coffins containing 99 vampire skeletons missing all 99 hearts.  But there is evidence… there might have been a 100th coffins.  Vampires are afoot at America’s Historic playground.

Of course, I love the book.  As good as the first, perhaps even a tad better.  Honestly, I was worried.  After the downward turn that Wellington’s second Monster book took in quality, I thought maybe he just might have problems with the middle acts of his trilogies, but 99 Coffins turned out quite well.

Now I just need to wait for the third book, Vampire Zero, just four short days after my birthday.  The anticipation may just do me in…

Zombie Day at the Mall

It has been a while since I posted something for Zombie Wednesdays, and I hope with this post I am beginning a trend of doing so.

I am, by all accounts, a t-shirt and jeans sort of guy.  T-shirt and shorts in the summer.  I really don’t like dressing up nice because I find most “nice” clothes to be uncomfortable, especially anything with a tie.  Wearing a tie is like voluntarily placing a noose around your neck… but I digress…

Knowing my love for zombies, and probably suspecting my love for t-shirts, a friend of mine sent me a link to this:

Zombie Day at the Mall t-shirt @ SplitReason.com
Zombie Day at the Mall t-shirt design @ © SplitReason.com

And that is just all kinds of awesome.  As soon as I find a spare twenty bucks, that beauty will be on its way to my door.

Chrome

In case you have been living under a rock, Internet-wise that is, Google released a beta of their new web browser called Chrome.

I’ve been playing with it, and my official review is that I love it.  Its fast, and when a web page does lock up for some reason being able to kill just that one page without killing all my web pages is really nice.  Of course, being a beta, it still has flaws.  There is no integration with many of Google’s other tools (I’m a big user of Google Bookmarks, and while I can use the web page I would prefer to have my bookmarks available in browser), and various plug-ins don’t function (if you use any Cold Fusion web sites that make use of the database table grid tool thing, it doesn’t work).  But I am sure many of those will come in time.

However, playing with chrome introduced me to another thing which had previously been available but I have never used and that is using a single link to read my RSS feeds from my Google Reader.  I have subscriptions to 87 RSS Feeds, and its only growing.  Now, up in my bookmark bar in Chrome, I have a link that says “Next»” and when I click it, my browser navigates to the next unread RSS entry, or rather to the page of that RSS entry.  Now, when I find myself with a few minutes to spare between work items, I just click the Next link and start making my way through my RSS feeds one article at a time.  It really is quite nice.

Another really nice feature is the adaptive search engine capabilities.  Essentially, any website that uses a search where the search terms are in the URL (not passed as session or cookie values), Chrome will parse the URL and add it as a search engine.  When you start typing in a URL and you have enough characters to correctly identify the page (i.e. – it shows as the first option to select in the suggestions under where you are typing), hit Tab.  This will change the URL bar into a Search Bar for the selected web site.  Enter in your search terms and hit enter and Chrome will submit the search as if you had gone to the site and entered your terms into their search field.

And it works with any web site as long as you have performed one search on it.  If you have Chrome, search for something on my blog.  Anything.  Now, go back to the URL, type in “weblog” (or whatever you need to type to make my web site the first suggested option) and hit Tab.  Now type in a search term and hit enter.  You should get back a page of search results.  This kind of thing is fairly nifty as long as you have searched the site before.  Like, if I know that Scott over at BrokenToys.org has written about Hello Kitty before and I want to find it, I would just type in “bro”, hit Tab, then type “Hello Kitty” and press enter.  Bam.  Search results!

Overall, I’m really looking forward to more improvements being made to Chrome.  They have a great start going, and I am optomistic that it can only get better from here.

Hamlet 2

7 out of 13 nots.
for being fun and funny, but not overflowing with either

Hamlet 2 is a twist on a story that has been done before.  The school is going to shut down the drama program and the teacher and his students have one last shot to put on a play that will save everything.  Only, this teacher is a buffoon, and the play he decides to do is an original work, a sequel to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, where Jesus returns to the world, and then travels through time with Hamlet allowing him to save all the people who die in the original play.  The production is punctuated with songs like “Rock Me Sexy Jesus” and “Raped In The Face” making the play in the movie is more fun than the movie itself for its absurdity.

If you are a huge South Park fan and live for that style of humor, then run right out and see Hamlet 2.  You’ll love it.  But if South Park isn’t your heart and soul, then you may want to pass on this one, or at least see it at a discounted rate.

The Last Lecture

Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture is worth reading.  And that is all I have to say about that.

Listening versus Waiting To Talk

Have you ever been talking with someone, regaling a story, and when you finish they immediately respond with a story of their own?  One that somehow makes your story insignificant?  Have you ever told someone something to which they respond that they disagree, but the reasons they give are completely out of line with everything you just said?

I have.  When it happens, I try to notice, because most people who do this become obvious in their patterns.  They are not really listening to you, they are waiting for their turn to talk.

The Internet is full of people with this problem, especially when it comes to game design.  Take this thread for example.  Where I linked to should be a post of someone saying that the upcoming Star Trek Online game should avoid being a DIKU clone like so many other games.  He goes into a pretty elaborate tale of how things might work.  The second reply following him is a post saying his idea would fail as a DIKU.

Ummm… duh?  And the guy even quoted the entire original post, including the parts where the original poster said explicitly that it wasn’t a DIKU idea.

This is the sort of thing that makes conversation hard on the Internet.  Some people know what they want to say, they are just waiting for an opportunity to say it.  They don’t join a conversation so much as they look for an opening (no matter how ill fitting) and step in to criticize and spew their opinion.  I mean, if a few people are talking about how to make great soups, what is the point of walking in and stating that, while their soups might be okay for people who like soup, a steak would be a better meal.  It was a thread by people who like soup about soup… what the hell does steak have to do with it?

Sometimes people need to realize that if you can’t contribute to the topic at hand, then perhaps the best course of action is just to listen instead of trying to turn the conversation to something you’d rather talk about.  It really makes message boards less enjoyable, especially when the same person keeps trying to hammer his point of view into thread where they don’t belong.  If no one is talking about what you want to talk about… start a new thread, or at least propose that the thread steer another direction, don’t go hijacking.

Henry Poole is Here

9 out of 13 nots.
for being about faith without being preachy

Technically, this movie opened yesterday, and I should have put up the review then.  But I already had two reviews set to go up, and three posts in one day seemed a tad crowded to me.  Besides, I don’t think many people are going to rush off and see Henry Poole is Here on a Friday night.  It is more of a lazy Sunday morning movie.

Henry Poole is dying.  Although, we never learn from what, he does say he won’t be around long.  But he’s gone back to his childhood home… or at least he tried.  Instead, he bought the house down the street.  He has a Hispanic neighbor who used to date the man who previously owned the house (who died of a heart attack in the kitchen).  He also has a neighbor whose husband ran out on her and their child, a daughter who hasn’t spoken in a year.  And he’s got a water stain in the shape of Jesus in his stucco.

Its that last thing that causes the most problems.

Henry Poole is Here is a movie about faith, about belief in something greater, but at no point does it come out and shove any particular religion down your throat.  It also never says anything remotely close to people who don’t believe going to Hell or anything.  It is more a message of, “Having hope is better than having no hope.”

I enjoyed it.  Not the greatest film ever made, but far from the worst.  I can think of plenty of worse ways to spend an hour and a half.

Synchronicity

Oddly enough, on the same day that a Democrat member of the House of Representatives announces that he’d like to legalize casual personal use of marijuana, Cheech & Chong announce they are planning to go back on the road.

Life is funny like that some times.

RSS and Advertising

Yesterday I decided to go through and make sure my RSS feeds in my reader were up to date.  I ended up dropping a couple where they haven’t posted anything in a while (a year), and decided that while I was doing it I’d try to see if feeds were available for some websites that I visit frequently.

Out of all the web comics that I added to the feed reader, only one (xkcd) actually had the comic in the feed.  The rest, at best, gave you a feed item letting you know that a new comic had been posted and you needed to visit the site to see it.

Now, I am not stupid.  I know exactly why they do this… advertising.  See, most of these sites, in order to offset the cost of hosting the comic (bandwidth and all that), have advertisements.  And as is the trend of ads on the web these days, most sites don’t manage their own advertising directly, they sign up with a banner providing site and then throw snippets of code on their site that will request an ad from the ad provider.  They do have some control over the ads, usually the ability to block ads they don’t wish to support, and overall I suppose they do a good job of keeping the ads “on message” with the rest of the site.

My problem is… well, why can’t the code snippets live in the RSS parser as well and tack on an ad at the bottom of a feed item.  Same banner image (though not the Flash “punch a monkey”/”you’ve just won two free ipod nano” ads), a line of text and a link/url to follow.  The capability exists.  WordPress has a plugin that does exactly that by putting a footer on RSS items.  Of course, not all web comics are using WordPress, but if it exists for one system it has to be possible for other systems.

Anyway, the result is, after adding a bunch of comics to my feed reader, I then removed all of them except xkcd.  For all the ones I removed, I’ll go back to visiting them when I remember to, which is usually once a month.  Just think, if they put the comic and an ad in their feed, they’d make me a daily reader of both their comics and their ads…