Again with the phones

Not Palm this time though…

To me, one of the most irritating innovations in recent times has been the blue tooth headset.  I have lost count of the number of times I have thought someone was talking to me only to discover that concealed on the other side of their head wrapped around one ear was their phone.  It is funny, however, when the person in question is an animated talker, you know, one of those people who talk with their hands.  Using a traditional phone at least one hand was occupied holding the phone and the other hand often calmed down, but with both hands free some people get quite into their conversations.

One of the disadvantages of the blue tooth headset was that you still had to have the phone, in your pocket or on your belt or in your bag or something.  Well, LG has solved that by making a phone that is a watch.

I don’t think I would want one.  I’m not so good with watches, they get horribly beat up on my wrist.  In fact, I have to replace my watches fairly regularly because the glass/plastic gets scuffed to the point that you can’t read the time.  But even though I wouldn’t carry one that doesn’t mean I can’t still think it is cool.

Excited about a phone

Over the years I have owned a number of phones and played with many more.  At the end of the day, Palm’s phones, particularly the Treo line, were the ones I liked the most.  With its mixture of PDA and phone capabilities along with other random things it can do, Palm’s phones were solid.  If you know me, you know I’m not a fan of the iPhone.  Much like I’m not a fan of the iPod or the iMac or iTunes or pretty much anything that comes out of Apple.  When it comes to MP3 players I have enjoyed my Zune very much and want to get a larger one to hold all my music.  And while I have seen a number of very nice applications pop up for the iPhone, none of them yet have made me even consider buying one.

On the other hand, Palm announced their new phone, the Pre, today.  Some of the innovations they’ve come up with on their new webOS make their company name apropos as I felt like putting my face in my palm, like the fact their apps are built using HTML, javascript and other basic web tools.  According to Palm’s blog, the people from Pandora made note that it only took them three days to write up a webOS version of their application as opposed to the months it took them on other platforms.  Flipping through the screenshots of applications looks beautiful, and easy to use, and then to cap it all off there is a slide out full QWERTY keyboard instead of just an on screen one.

And the best part yet, its a Sprint exclusive phone which means that if I decide to get one at some point down the road I don’t have to change providers to do it.

About the only thing that could get me more excited would be for Palm to announce that in addition to phones they’ll also be putting their new webOS on netbook-like devices (and not cancel it this time), because really, the greatest flaw of the netbook is that it is a small laptop, when it would be much better to approach them as a large PDA.

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”.

Deja Vu All Over Again

I believe in the past I have made it pretty clear that I do not really like most recruiters. And my opinions really have not changed.

Recently, though, one organization could not be bothered to employ the simplest of tools. See, within the course of three weeks I received fourteen phone calls from eight different recruiters out of the same company. Each and every call began the same, “Hi Jason, I’m [insert name here] with [company name] and I found your resume on and I think I have a job that you might be a perfect fit for…”

My problems with that are many.

I have been working with this company for over eight months. They have my resume on file, or at least they claimed it would be kept on file. My name has not changed, nor have my phone number or email address. They should have a record of me in their contact database, which should be searchable, and the conversation should have started, “Hi Jason, this is [insert name here] with [company name] and I have this opportunity come available and when I searched our resume database I came up with your and wanted to see if you are still in the market…” Even if it isn’t true, even if they actually did find my resume on Monster because they don’t keep resumes on file, they should maintain consistency.

If the “Most recent contact” is within the last few days, they should say, “I know you recently talked to [insert coworker here] but I came across another opportunity that might be a good match for you…” If they themselves have talked to me before, they should say something like, “Hey, how have you been? Its been [insert time span here] since we last talked…” Maybe even say, “I’m sorry that last interview we sent you on at [insert client here] did not work out, but I think I’ve got something you’d be great for…”

All of this could be solved by using one of the many products available for contact management, like ACT! or Goldmine, Lotus Organizer. I think even Outlook overs Business contact management that will sync with other Outlook clients… or just put it all on an Exchange Server in a shared contact list. Given the job, I could probably even write them a simple contact manager in less than a week.

Either they don’t have a contact managing software, or they have too many recruiters who don’t use it. Which ever it is, it doesn’t matter to me anymore. Eight months and one interview. The results weren’t worth putting up with the annoyance.

Happy Birthday PC!

Sure, personal computers had existed before, but today marks the 25th Anniversary of the melding of Microsoft and IBM in the form of MS-DOS.

I’ve always liked computers, and seeing as how I was not quite 7 when this monumental merging occurred, and 11 when I got my first PC, its no surprise that MS-DOS is a huge part of my computer history. It seems unfathomable now, but when I took my first job working with computers, Windows 95 was out but wasn’t the standard yet. I was still installing MS-DOS 6.22 on machines, and Windows for Workgroups 3.11. I had a briefcase (and I used to wear a tie to work every day) and inside was always stashed my trusty copy of 6.22, and a few cobbled together boot disks for diagnostics and virus scanning (DOS had no “Safe Mode” to load into to hunt down spyware -of course, there wasn’t a whole lot of spyware- you can to book from a floppy disk and scan from there).

Long before getting a job though, back when I was 11, my parents brought home our first family PC, a Leading Edge IBM PC Clone. It was an 8088 processor, 8MHz, with 512k of RAM. Yeah, that’s a “k” there, half a megabyte. It had a 20 megabyte hard drive in it, and it seemed like we’d never fill it up (20MB these days is about 4 or 5 MP3s). There was a switch on the back where you could set the processor speed down to 4.77MHz, just incase 8 was too fast (and it was for some games). It didn’t have Windows, it booted into DOS and then from the autoexec.bat file it would load up a program called PCMenu, where you could get to the Leading Edge Word Processor, Lotus 1-2-3, and a few other applications. All games were played from disk. We spent a ridiculous $350 to upgrade that machine to 640k of RAM, and another $200 or so on a modem, I think it was 1200 baud, maybe it was an early 2400. And for $50 of my own hard earned cash (you have no idea how hard it was for me to save that and not buy other stuff), I bought an AdLib soundcard from a kid named Ari at school so that our games could play a little more music instead of just beeps through the PC speaker. Not music like you hear out of PCs today, but hardly more than synthesiser, it was awesome. Through the modem I discovered BBSs, back when you’d have to pick up a local trade magazine, or in my case a MicroCenter sale paper, to find the numbers. That’s right, we dialed up the BBS direct on the phone and logged in. There was an Internet, but at that point only schools, the government, and few businesses were really on it. I even ran a BBS for a while, one summer, and only at night when no one else wanted to use the computer.

Eventually we got a new PC, a 386. It was either 16 or 25 MHz, and it had 1024k of RAM, a whole megabyte. This one came with Windows 3.0 installed. And it had a SoundBlaster sound card and a VGA video card. Finally, games played in 256 colors! Well, when they supported them. My parents let me keep the old 8088 in my room, even got me my own phone line, and that pretty set me in with PCs for the rest of my life. Of course, even with a computer in my room, I still used the 386. I mean, the 8088 couldn’t play games like DOOM, Warcraft and Lemmings. Then one day, my friends and I all chipped in and bought network cards (co-axial, naturally) and would get together and play games of DOOM and Warcraft against each other. And when I say “get together” I mean that we would disassemble our PCs, and take them over to one person’s house where we’d put them back together, install network cards, hook up and play into the wee hours of the morning. It would still be a while before ISPs showed up in our area.

After that, when we bought the Pentium 90, the computer history gets a little less interesting (to me anyway). We put Windows for Workgroups on it (made the networking LAN parties easier), and eventually upgraded to Windows 95. It was another PC that saw Windows 98. And since then I’ve gotten a new PC every couple of years, each one at least twice as good as the last. Now my laptop PC, that I’m writing on right now, has double the horse power of my desktop, and my desktop is old enough that it can’t play any new games anymore, except World of Warcraft and other games that go for style over pushing the limits of your machine. My network has gone 100% wireless. And instead of using my phone to connect to the internet, I now connect to the internet to use my phone.

Well, this trip down memory lane was fun. But now its done, and I have boxes to unpack. Feel free to share your own memories of PCs gone by and raise a glass to MS-DOS… I still have my disks of 6.22, its just a shame that PCs don’t come with 3.5″ floppy drives anymore.

Doing Your Part

So, for the first time ever on this weblog, I’m posting something that is going into multiple categories. This is going to be a long one, so, bear with me.


Butts in the GrassI don’t dislike smokers because of cancer. If people want to kill themselves, fine. What I find distasteful is their impact on me.

1) Smoke stinks.

Even if you aren’t blowing it in my face, I can still smell it. And it is fairly putrid. You know that phrase “smells like a dirty ashtray”? There is a reason it is considered a bad thing. Along those same lines, smokers stink too. Most of them don’t realize that they trail a pungent odor around with them, that their clothes are dripping with stench, because they have become accustomed to the smell. The smoke gets in their clothes, the walls of their homes, the pulp pages of the paperback novels they own, and everything else. It permeates their very lives.

2) Cigarette butts.

The picture I have included with this tirade is of the grassy area just outside the Doraville Marta station. There is a good ten foot by fifty foot grass area with a couple of trees that parallels the kiss ride drop off. The entire area looks like that photo. There are probably quite easily a few thousand cigarette butts in the grass, and they clean this area when they mow the grass, which I think they do monthly, perhaps more often. All this despite there being at least four trash cans around the entrance to the station.

And this isn’t an isolated incident. It is the same just about everywhere. Ever looked at the side of just about any major road? Chances are it’ll be covered in butts from drivers flicking their’s out windows as opposed to actually using the ashtray in their car.

So, if you are a smoker, at least try to do your part… I won’t bitch at you for smoking if you promise not to be a jackass and litter.

And that leads into the next point about litter in general. Most people don’t want to live in a shithole. But they seem to have no problem with contributing to making the world a shithole.

I ride the bus and MARTA most days (some days I work from home, and some days I’ll drive to work because its faster), and the number of people who will leave behind trash is pathetic. Want to know how to shame an entire train car load of people? If you see some newspaper, plastic drink bottles, or fast food bags on the train rattling around on the floor as everyone pointedly ignores it, at a stop where a trash can will be relatively near your door, pick up the trash (be loud about it, crinkle the paper or bottles), ask someone to hold the door (using a loud voice, project from the diaphram to ensure people hear you), and step out to throw away the trash. When you come back, thank the person who held the door and say something like “Just couldn’t stand seeing that trash on the floor. People should throw out their own stuff.” Then enjoy as the entire car of people shift uncomfortably and avoid eye contact. Oh, there might be one or two who smile and even say something to you about how you did a good thing, but probably a good thirty percent of those people will have left trash on a train car before, and the rest of them have seen trash and never done anything about it. The best part about it, though, is that you will feel good. First off, it feels good to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Secondly, rubbing people’s noses in their own indifference is its own reward. Remember, they wouldn’t be shifting uncomfortably and avoiding eye contact if they weren’t guilty of leaving trash or ignoring trash.

Outside of making people feel like crap about themselves on MARTA, its generally a good idea to always try to leave any place better than you found it. If you go to a park, or camping, or even to a movie theater, be better than other people and throw out your trash. Yes, they have people they hire to do that, but where do you think the money comes to pay the people who clean up after you? Movies don’t cost $9 a ticket for shits and giggles. Federal and local funded parks, it comes from your taxes. So, like the title says, do your part, don’t litter and maybe pick up a piece of trash every now and then.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blogging…

Just the Fax, Ma`am.

Why isn’t this technology dead yet? With scanning, PDF formats and email, why are we still using the fax machine over the phone line?

I only ask because in the pursuit of my home loan, I have had to fax over one hundred pages of documents, forms, and other assorted junk. Do you know how long it takes to fax a hundred pages? It takes… like… forever, or nearly two hours at least. And you can’t even load all the pages in at once because the weight will cause multiple page pulls through the machine and jam, which means you’d have to start all over again and that is just not happening!

Join with me folks! Take those fax machines outside and set them on fire! Smash them to bits with baseball bats! Tell them to take their toner filled asses back to hell where they belong! Unite! Down with the fax!

Moving On Up

This cube is actually to the East side of my old cube.Yesterday, not only did I get a new house, but I also got a new home at work. If you dig back through the Phone Photos you will find a dismal picture of my cramped old little cube, the one with a server on the desk. So now I have a new phone photo of my new cubicle. Just one cube over from my last home, but this one is much nicer. Its probably actually the same size, but with 3 less filing cabinets, no server and a better desk orientation, it is all around a much improved use of space. The only things it lacks is a window view of downtown Atlanta and a door.

So things of looking better from this side of Sunday (I’ll tell you what happened on Sunday later)… I’m moving on up! To the East side! (This cube is actually on the East side of my old cube.) To a deluxe apartment in the sky! (No! No more apartments!)

And with the job calls coming practically non-stop, I think I’m finally getting my piece of the pie.

One Day in February

On February 27th at 5:30 PM, Jodi and I got married. But it was one heck of a day…

The morning began like any other day… waking up, getting dressed, discovering my car had been broken into. They took my digital tire pressure gauge, a leatherman multi-tool and three packs of gum. They left behind the stereo, the CDs and the $15 in change in the ash tray. However, having somewhere we needed to be, Jodi and I decided we’d report the theft later and for now just empty the car, lock it back up and leave it, seeing as how the thieves were kind enough to not break any windows but just jimmy the lock in such a way as to render it useless on the outside but still operate inside and lock the door just fine.

We loaded up the other car and headed off to some friends’ house, K and P, the ones we’d roped into being our chauffeurs and valets for the day. Once all packed into their car we began the long journey from Atlanta to Savannah.

Upon arriving in Savannah, we were nervous. We needed to check into our hotel early… at noon, but the woman on the phone had said check in was 4pm, 3 at the earliest. Score one for our team as the rooms were ready and we checked in. But another strike for the day, P forgot his suit and has no pants.

Quickly we decide to head to the mall and buy some, he can do without a suit jacket, but he needs pants. Also, Jodi needs a bouquet, so she called up Flowerama (listed in the hotel service guide) and arranges for one over the phone. The shop is on Abercorne which is only a few blocks away. So we pile back into the car and head out. We drive past at least a dozen flower shops and finally reach the mall. We stop, buy P some pants at Macy’s and the girls get their nails done at Le Nails. Back on the road, we keep driving. Finally we find Flowerama. Basically, the farthest point you can get from our hotel while remaining in Savannah, that’s where it is.

Its obvious we are going to be late meeting up with the photographer at 4 PM as planned, so we call and ask to meet at 4:30. She’s fine with it and we get back to the hotel with plenty of time to get ready. While Jodi is putting on makeup, she spills some which I start cleaning up. Crawling around on the floor I didn’t realize that I had gone under the coffee maker drawer and WHAM! I get a nice little red whelt on my head that starts bleeding a little. But fine, we can cover that up or I can just make sure I don’t look down in the photos. Finally I start getting dressed, I open my suit bag and scream something like “Where are my pants?!”

Up until this point, I had totally kept my cool. Now I lost it. I was swearing like a sailor, I wanted to punch and break things, I was going to drive back to Atlanta and kill everyone at the Men’s Warehouse for forgetting to put my pants in with my suit jacket… when I realize… I’m looking at my sport coat. I packed the wrong bag.

I throw my jeans back on and run next door to K and P’s room.

Me: We have a problem. I don’t have my suit.
P: That’s not funny.
Me: I have a sport coat, which is fine, but I don’t have pants.
P: Oh my God, you’re serious?
Me: I’m going to go find pants, Jodi is going to need some help.

And I run to the lobby. I speak with the concieges and explain my predicament. The woman there just goes blank and mutters something about Banana Republic and the Gap. Then the man steps up and tells me to step out the doors, turn left, go down to Broughton, hang a left and a few blocks down will be J. Parker Limited who can hook me up. I run out of the hotel.

At J. Parker Limited I walk in and explain my dilemma. The man there calmly asks, “What color?” I tell him black and he asks, “What size waist?” I answer him and he turns around, flips through the rack he’d been leaning on and pulls out a pair of pants. I try them on. Perfect fit. He marks them, I take them off, and he hands them to the tailor. While we wait we talk about weddings. He thinks we are right in just running off, big weddings are a hassle. He tells me a story of a bride with a $6,000 Irish linen dress whose reception runs out of booze before the wedding party arrives who should have gotten a $500 dress, lied about what it was made of and spent the other $5,500 on more drinks and food. Because honestly, as long as the dress looked good would anyone care that it was Irish linen? As we talked and laughed, my body slackened and I calmed down. Fifteen minutes of waiting at the pants were done. I thanked both him and the tailor and headed back to the hotel.

Everyone else was ready. I got dressed, threw my tie over my shoulder, and we headed to Factor’s Walk, the location our photographer picked for the ceremony. On the way we went over everything. Rings? Check. Checks for the officiant and photographer? Check. Marriage paperwork? … So I sent everyone ahead and ran back to the hotel for the papers.

Finally, I catch back up to the group. We chat a moment and then I inform them that I can’t tie a tie. P makes a valiant effort, but fails. The Reverend Steven P. Schulte steps in and does it up right. I think this is where the laughter started.

We moved out on to the bridge for the ceremony and took a few quick photos. Then the photographer, Nancy Heffernan, moved off to a spot to take shots during the ceremony. Since we had no time to rehearse, Nancy resorted to yelling out instructions as they were needed. “Get closer!” “Back up!” “Not you!” “Move to your left!” “Your other left!” We couldn’t stop laughing.

Reverend Schulte said the words, we exchanged vows, I gave Jodi her ring, she gave me mine… which got stuck halfway over the knuckle. We were going to just force it on when my finger turned purple. Quickly I fought the ring off and left my ring finger red and throbbing. We put the ring on my pinky and vowed to resize it later. We finally managed to stop laughing long enough for Rev Schulte to pronounce us man and wife, and we kissed. We were married.

After the ceremony, we hung around the park at Factor’s Walk for a while taking photos. Then we strolled River Street, getting congratulated by the passerbys and taking more photos until the light faded. We went back to the hotel for Nancy to burn us CDs of all the photos she had taken.

Earlier in the day we had made reservations at Elizabeth on 37th, but now none of us wanted to get in the car and drive somewhere. Nancy suggested Vic’s On the River, which happened to be not fifty feet from where we got married. When Nancy left, we headed out again on foot and went to Vic’s. The atmosphere and the food were excellent, and we sat and ate and chatted over the day’s events and laughed.

I think that if my wedding had been better planned and gone more smoothly, the day would practially fade to nothing in my memories. I’d remember that I got married, and I’d look at the photos and recall some of the day. But the wedding I had… I don’t think I’ll forget a single thing.

Odd Things Make Me Laugh

I am a child of technology. As I was growing up I had an Atari, a Nintendo, a computer in my house since they became reasonably affordable, and the first thing I did when I got a computer was beg for a modem. Since then, in some way or another, I have been online. One thing I have always found interesting about technology, and specifically being online or the internet, is the terms that get used by the media and by business marketers that rarely if ever get used by the actual users. The big one for me is “Cyberspace”. The only time I have ever used that term has been in a mocking manner, usually when talking about horrid movies like “Hackers” where getting into a computer system is depicted as travelling through a three dimensional flight simulator, as opposed to reality where most hacking is done in code or on the command line. But command lines aren’t sexy.

However, if you have been on the internet or paid attention to it at all you have heard the term “Cybersex”. If you do not know what that is, well, its kind of like phone sex but with typing. Anyhow, with the ongoing need for people with crappy typing skills to shorten everything, cybersex has long since been just referred to as “cybering” or “cyber”. You’ll see this in online games, again, largely in a mocking tone, because people who are serious about it generally do not talk in public about doing it.

This leads us to my work… The IT staff at my current job location are called “The Cyber Team”. So, every time I call them with a problem concerning my PC or a server I’m using, they answer the phone “Cyber Team, this is [insert name], how can I help you today?” and I start to laugh and want to answer with something like “I lick your earlobe, and undo your watch.” It is a fight to get through the call, then I have to take the elevator down twenty-two floors, step out through security and exit the building where I can finally unleash with the gut rending laughter.

Do they not realize what “cyber” has come to mean? Damn them!