Your Greatest Weakness

If you have ever spent any significant amount of time interviewing for jobs, you’ve probably had someone ask you, “What do you think is your greatest weakness?” Most people don’t spend any effort on seriously considering that question, and often it’s just a wankfest of trying to come up with something that also sounds like a strength. “I work too hard.” “I do too much unpaid overtime.” “I sacrifice my social life for work.” Personally, I’ve never liked that, and whenever I’ve been a part of the interview process from the other side and heard a prospect give one of those answers, I’ll either write them off as being useless or if they’ve shown real promise before that get them to answer again, with a little truth this time. If I’ve bothered to ask you that question, it’s because I want to know that you are capable of not seeing yourself as perfect and understanding that you can improve. I certainly don’t want to hear how even your flaws are assets, because if it is an asset, a strength, it’s not a weakness.

For me, my answer has often been that I’m better at fixing or finishing than I am at starting. When asked to explain, I do so by telling them about issues I have with narrowing decisions. For example, I am told to build a webpage. In what language? The choice of language will dictate, down the road, what you can do. Some languages are great at some things and weak at others, and so at the beginning stages of a project I will often spent an incredibly large amount of time trying to think of and map out every possible feature we could want in the site in an attempt to make sure I’m choosing the best language, the best approach. If instead of being told “build a webpage” I was told “build a webpage in PHP” we can eliminate a lot of time and effort. I end by saying that while it is my greatest weakness, it can be greatly tempered with information and direction, and lessens over time as I become more comfortable with my working environment.

I’ve gotten better at that over the years, both through knowledge and speed of research, and by gaining confidence in my decision-making by having decisions I’ve made work out well. And so now my answer has changed.

My greatest weakness these days is that I expect other people to do their jobs. My job is software development with a little support thrown in (small company, everyone does lots of jobs). When I’m asked to write software or if I’m handed a support call, I do it. And when doing my job requires me asking someone to do their job, I ask them and expect it to be done. Too many times, it isn’t done quickly, which holds up my ability to do work. The delays lengthen and eventually I’m missing deadlines.

In my opinion, I shouldn’t have to yell at people to do the job they are being paid to do. They should just do it, as I do in my own job. Instead, I often find that part of my job becomes checking up on other people at other companies to make sure stuff gets done.

I call in and report a problem. I’m not asking for new service, I’m reporting that my existing service is broken. When people call me for things like that, I drop what I’m doing and work on the problem, because a customer who cannot use my service now is infinitely more important than that feature I’m working on that no one is using yet. So, I’ve reported the problem and am told someone will be calling me shortly. Two hours later, I haven’t heard from anyone. I call in to get a status update and find that no one has been assigned the call yet. I am assured the call will be assigned and someone will call me within a couple of minutes. Thirty minutes later I’m calling back in again because no one has called me. They transfer me to the guy who was assigned the call, he tells me he needs to read the problem. He does, we talk, he says it needs to go to another department, and they’ll call me back. This keeps repeating, over and over.

In the end, it takes three days to fix a problem that should have taken a couple of hours at most. Probably because they are dealing with the same stuff I am when they have to call someone about part of my issue. And I know, because I used to have their job.

My weakness boils down to this: I don’t like to yell at people because I shouldn’t have to yell at people.

I know this blog isn’t read by many people, but perhaps just putting thoughts out into the universe can make them heard. Do your job, as well and as fast as you can, because if people are waiting on you, just imagine how you feel when you are waiting on other people. Unfortunately this is one of those “Pay It Forward” types of things where you may never benefit directly, only if it loops around and the people you have to wait on decide not to make you wait. But it’s worth doing, at the very least you can be completely justified in your ire at having to wait on other people since you don’t make people wait.


I’m really enjoying David Wellington’s work.  From his Zombie Island to his 13 Bullets, he’s tackled zombies and vampires in a way I have found refreshing.  With Frostbite, he does the same for werewolves.

Probably not his best work to date, but a solid effort none the less, this is the story of a girl who goes out into the wilderness to find the werewolf that killed her father only to wind up becoming one herself.  I’m eager to see where he takes this when the sequel comes out toward the end of the year.

The Fall

10 out of 13 nots.
for brilliant colors and sadness

The story is simple, and sad. A man in the hospital with a spinal injury begins to tell a fantastic story to a young girl, who is at the same hospital with a broken arm, in an effort to coerce her to bring him pills so that he can commit suicide. While indeed sad, the scenes that play out in the imagination of the girl are stunning and beautiful as she hears the story of six men: The Indian, the Slave, the Explosives Expert, the Mystic, Charles Darwin (and his monkey), and the Masked Bandit.

The tale he tells is rife with elements of his own life, and the imagery is crafted from hers to create a moving, vibrant and sometimes funny unraveling of events. However, sometimes the pace of the film is slow, so many viewers may find themselves shifting in their seats. Yet, Tarsem and his crew frame every shot so gloriously that even the fidgety may well find themselves enraptured.

This is definitely not a film for everyone, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.

One Cup

So I have decided to make an effort to get into better shape.  I contemplated making a new category for the blog, but realized that making a category would make it feel like an obligation to write, at which point I would feel less like writing on the topic.  I’ll just try to write about it as I feel the need and shove it into the Random Thoughts category…

In any event, part of my getting into better shape is being more conscious of what I eat and how much.  So the other day I decided to read the label on my cereal box.  I ran through the nutrients and it all looked pretty good, perhaps I could do without the sugar, but every time I tried a cereal that wasn’t a sugary kids cereal it tasted like cardboard.  While eating things that taste like cardboard may, in fact, be healthier, putting up with the cardboard taste isn’t worth it.  So anyway, I also notice that the serving size of all this morning sugary goodness is “1 cup”.  I looked at my cereal bowl and wondered if it was a cup… so I got out a measuring cup.

One cup of cereal is a lot smaller than I thought it would be.  It turns out my usual breakfast is actually about two and a half cups, sometimes three.  So I poured myself a cup of cereal and a half glass of orange juice.

It seems until my body gets used to it, I’m going to be hungry a lot.

… and Taxes

Each year, right around this time, I become a vocal advocate of a shift from income taxes to sales taxes.  Normally, I manage to keep it off the blog by scheduling posts in advance or through other great effort.  This year, I just couldn’t manage to keep from ranting about it, so rather than post daily diatribes on how I think the Income Tax system of this country is flawed and sucks, I refrained from hitting the publish button and the blog was dark for a week.  I would pay someone to do my taxes for me, but I feel that only perpetuates the system.

Anyway, the taxes are filed, I took a day off to regain my composure, and the blogging will continue.

Abandoning Munford

It has only been a week since I decided to make a concerted effort to hold the Munford Cinema in Urban Dead, and I am ditching that location. The rotter revive center just proved to attract far too much attention. So, I’m now on the prowl for another theater to take.

At the moment I’m hiding in the Hildebrand Mall gathering supplies and checking my city maps… and recovering from being dead three times in a week.

This experience, to me, really illustrates the one major design flaw in Urban Dead. In most games, death might have a penalty, but you always get back on your feet. In this game, dying actually makes you the enemy. If you and ten of your friends are hiding out in a building and a couple of zombies break in and kill some of your friends, your friends are now zombies. Reviving them costs 10 action points each. The net sum of the game is that you will lose. No questions, at some point you’ll die and have to either play zed or just wandering around looking for places where people might revive you. I don’t want to play a zombie, its boring. I want to be a survivor running from building to building looking for supplies and hiding for my life.

Anyway, I’m still playing and still going to be trying to build up the MCP, but its absolutely going to need to be somewhere safer.

Intent versus Action

I admire the sentiment, and I even respect the effort… but seriously, who are they kidding?

The parts that I like about it is that people should do more to conserve. I recycle, I replaced as many lights in my house as possible (and tolerable) with low energy bulbs… I try, and I’d like to think I succeed, even if just a little. My ongoing battle with junk mail isn’t just about trying to stop getting junk, but also doing my part to reduce how much of that wasteful crap they print. At least with junk email, there is no real waste, except the couple seconds a week I spend reviewing the junk folder before deleting it. And any effort to raise awareness has its merit.

The line that really gets me, though, is this one:

Organizers say the concerts will be as green as possible, with a tally of energy use being kept and proceeds from ticket sales going to distribute power-efficient light bulbs and other measures that will offset the shows’ greenhouse gas emissions.

This is what I mean by “Who are they kidding?” Directly from their quote, they will be distributing power-efficient light bulbs as part of their emissions offset. That’s a laugh, because 90% of the bulbs they give out at the concerts will be left on the ground or tossed into the trash (ironically, creating more waste than if they’d just not handed them out at all), and of the 10% that make it home with a concert goer I’d guess that maybe 10% of those will actually get used. So we are looking at 1 in 100 bulbs given out being put to use. That’s 99 bulbs in the trash or sitting unused in a garage or closet.

That’s almost as bad as the idea of buying emissions credits. “Well, we’d really like to help the environment, but rather than change our product or production, we’ll just write a check each year to pay for the offset.” Umm… what? The only possible way this works is if the money used to purchase credit is spent preventing or removing the exact amount of or more pollution the credit is buying. Otherwise, you just end up with the same pollutions and a bunch of money sitting in someone’s bank. I feel like I should have heard about buying emissions credits on Snopes where they would promptly debunk it as yet another email chain letter like that Nigerian gentleman who wants to give me millions of dollars.

It all just doesn’t make any logical sense…

World War Z

On my ride in to work this morning, I turned the last page of Max Brooks’ new zombie effort entitled World War Z.

If you are familiar with Max, it means you have read his other book, The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead. From his simple descriptions of what a zombie is and how to handle them, Max expands outward to create a world where the zombies have already come, and they have already pushed us to the brink of oblivion, and we have recovered. Ten years after the war with the zombies, the author is publishing a collection of interviews gathered while working on the official government report of the war.

Brooks paints a vivid picture through the eyes of his subjects that allows you to see everything from the common man to the army grunt to the war profiteer, in many nationalities. Whenever I have discussed the theoretical of zombie attack, most people scoff at it saying that it just couldn’t happen. Max’s book illustrates exactly how we could manage to lose to an enemy that is slow and uncoordinated.

This book is truly an excellent read, and well worth the money and the time. Two big thumbs up.


I went to see Pixar’s Cars this past weekend, and it didn’t ruin the streak of excellence that I have some to expect from Pixar.

Originally when I saw teasers for this film way back when, I thought to myself “Talking cars? Eh…” Then I heard some rumors about a split between Disney and Pixar, and that Cars was a last contractual effort (which in my experience means, “get it done, but put no heart in it”). All in all, I had very low expectations for this movie.

The message of the film is that faster isn’t always better. Its the story of Lightning McQueen, rookie racecar superstar who on his way to a final showdown race to decide the winner of The Piston Cup gets stuck in a little town called Radiator Springs. Radiator Springs sits on Route 66, the Mother Road, but like the road has long been forgotten because the new interstate road gets cars where they are going faster. So, McQueen learns a thing or two about slowing down and applies them to his racecar life and all is well in the end.

It was funny and heartwarming, everything I’ve come to expect from Pixar, and as always I’m in awe of the detail that they work into their animations. Simply a stunning film.

Prior to the movie, you will be treated to a new short film, One Man Band, that gets a few giggles. And after the movie, be sure to stay for the credits and see the tribute to John Ratzenberger (who has been in all of Pixar’s movies), as well as a few other things.

Overall, Cars is a good family movie. So load up the kids, stop by the bank for cash to cover the astronomical prices, and go see it. You’ll probably buy it on DVD too when it comes out.

Special Treatment

One of the things I have come to hate over the years is “equality”, mostly because people just don’t use it right. To me, equality means equal opportunity. The door is there, whether I open it and go through it is up to me, but the door is there. Too many people, however, see equality as meaning true equality. If there is a door, and I make the effort to open it and go through it, they should be allowed to go through it too, even if they don’t do the work.

Tied in with this is the concept of trust. Trust is something you earn by being consistant, and when you are trusted, you will be given benefits that less trust worthy people don’t get. Lots of people see those benefits as being “unequal” because they don’t grasp that if they work and become trustworthy, those benefits will be given to them too.

My rent is due each month by the 5th. If you are late, you have to pay a late fee… fair enough. There is a deadline, you miss it, you are penalized. However, since in the past they have run into deadbeats who bounce checks when they are late, my apartment complex requires that late rent must be paid with a cashier’s check or a money order. I’ve lived there for three years, and in three years I have never missed a payment until now. I’m perfectly willing to pay the late fee. I’m late, I don’t deny it. But I asked if, given my payment history, I could be allowed to just write a personal check. They said no. I asked why and they said it was policy, no exceptions. I could totally understand if they demanded all rent in certified payment, but its only the late rent. I tried to pursue it, since I’ve made the last 36 or so payments on time and never bounced a check, but she cut me off, said no again, told me to have a nice day and hung up.

On the other hand, I went to the bank to get myself a cashier’s check for the late rent and the bank manager said that since I’d been a loyal customer for over ten years, they would happily wave the fee for the cashier’s check. Meanwhile, the guy next to me, who was also getting a cashier’s check and was paying the fee, said he thought it was real nice the bank rewarded loyal customers and he looked forward to doing business there for a long time to come.

So today is a loss and a win. More loss than win though, since the late fee on the rent is much much larger than the fee for the cashier’s check. But hey, I’ll take my wins where I can get ’em.