Sunday, November 30, 2008

Movie idea

I had an idea last night for a movie. A noted music critic encounters a busker on the street singing incomprehensibly while playing unusual instruments. He promotes him to the wider world. The singer does not appear to understand any language spoken to him. The chorus of speculation eventually reaches consensus that he somehow illegally entered the country, originating from some poorly known region of Central Asia, the Amazon, or some similarly obscure place. Linguists struggle to make sense of his language, and anthropologists are baffled by his novel instrumentation. Through it all, he wanders with apparent dim incomprehension, mute but for the enigmatic verses of his incomprehensible songs. Then we discover he's really an ordinary guy from Ohio who made his own instruments because he couldn't afford the real ones, sang made-up nonsense because he can never remember the words to any songs, and kept his mouth shut because he didn't want to get in trouble.

~ Fin ~

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Ice cube trays

Ice cube trays are useful for more than ice. Use them to divide up and freeze big batches of sauces, curry pastes, and (especially) homemade baby foods. Measure the volume of the slots so you know how much is in each. We have one set of ice cube trays that hold a tablespoon in each, and another set that hold a tablespoon and a half. Make a big batch of whatever, fill the trays, freeze, and then shake them out into freezer bags so you can reuse the trays.

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I'd like to see (in existence, not in person) a music festival organized along the theme of black. It might feature:

  • The Black Angels

  • The Black Crowes

  • The Black Keys

  • The Black Lips

  • Black Sabbath

  • Blackstreet

  • Clint Black

  • Frank Black, aka Black Francis



Free engraving on iPods

I wonder if that's just a clever ploy to reduce the resale market. I'm sure a vast majority of iPod buyers will take the free engraving because why wouldn't you? It's free. Then that iPod is just a little bit harder to sell.


Romesco sauce: before


Minus the parsley, which I remembered to add partway through.

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Friday, November 28, 2008

The Next Hillary Clinton?

Michelle Obama is 44. Hillary Clinton was 45 when Bill Clinton became President. Both are lawyers. Both were the moneymakers in the family. She's involved in her husband's policy decisions, like Hillary Clinton and unlike, say, Laura Bush. She's intelligent, well-educated, and a strong personality, all of which were true of Hillary Clinton. She's young enough that a potential political career will see many Presidential elections, giving her a number of openings. Hillary was married to "the first black President." Michelle Obama is married to the first black President.

If it's occurred to me, I'm sure it's occurred to them. If that's something she's interested in, look for her to take a role in policy initiatives. It won't be too prominent, but it'll be less fluffy than what Hillary Clinton did, if only because Clinton got dinged for overstating her weak resume as First Lady in the primaries. Potentially, she could spend eight years in the White House rounding out her resume as a liaison, executive, and diplomat. Look for her presence on blue ribbon commissions, humanitarian efforts, and Supreme Court justice nomination teams.

Then she could run for Barack Obama's former Senate seat in Illinois in 2016. His now-resigned term expires in 2010, so the next term would be up for election then. That would be most effective if he gets elected to a second term.

What would be best for her would be a successful 2 terms by her husband, followed by either 2 terms by a Republican or 1 Democratic term and 1 Republican term. In the former case, she wouldn't have to fight the uphill battle against an incumbent. The latter case would be harder. A worse scenario would be having to follow a 2-term Democratic President. Worst of all would be a Democratic President being elected in 2020, as she could not run at all then in 2024. 2028 would still be an option, even 2032, but by then she'd be 68.

If for some reason, Obama loses in 2012, it will harm her prospects, but not fatally. Dick Durbin, the other Senator from Illinois, is up for re-election in 2014, when he'll be 70. Maybe he won't want to run for a fourth term, giving her an opening.

She should aim for 8 years in the Senate like Hillary Clinton; her husband's 4 years before becoming President are a bizarre aberration. That would serve her up to run for President herself in 2024, at the age of 60. 4 or 8 years as an active First Lady followed by 8 or 10 more years as Senator would be more qualification than Barack Obama. If she plays her cards right, and learns from Hillary Clinton's mistakes, she would be a formidable candidate.

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A statement of pride

I checked in code my last day. I added a couple minor features, and fixed a critical bug.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Excessively non-judgmental

The NY Times refers to the people who shot up Mumbai as militants. I know the word terrorist has been misused and debased over the years, but it does have a pretty specific definition: someone who uses threats and violence, especially attacks on civilians, to advance a political agenda. If these guys aren't terrorists, I don't know who is. Have some spine, NY Times.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Professional correspondence

I write some really awesome messages in my professional capacity. Answering customer queries, requests for assistance, bug reports, etc. They're polite, informative, and well-written. How do you put that on a resume, I wonder? And do I really want to emphasize that?

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It's not you, it's me

A conversation from this weekend:

"So how's the new job going?"
"Great, Wednesday's my last day."

There is no sarcasm there. It has been great. And today is my last day.

Wait a minute... Didn't I just start here? I sure did. And it's good here. Pretty much everything I said 3 months ago is true. This is a sharp group of people. They're providing a valuable service that's going to make them a lot of money. It's just not quite the thing for me.

I can't point to any one thing. Nor can I say there's anything bad. I can't even say it's been a mistake, even if I am hitting undo. I've learned too much and gotten to know some really good people. Nevertheless, it's out the door with me. It comes down to a few different factors. Some of it's stuff I should have known from the beginning, but I failed to ask the right questions. Some of it was discovering what was right for me in a way I could only have done by experiencing something that wasn't quite there.

It's too webby. I wrote my first web application in 1998. That's 10 years. I've done a lot of web stuff since then. I'd like to think I've gotten pretty good. I've also gotten a little bored of it. When I talked to HomeAway, we talked about working on the "back end." I interviewed with a developer who worked on their search infrastructure. What I did not realize until later was that "back end" meant something different to them, and that developer wasn't on the team I would be on. I came here to work on those interesting things and with this team. It turns out I couldn't have both at the same time.

I have to think about a career, not just a job. I've learned a lot of useful things in the last 3 months. I don't think I would learn nearly as many things if I stayed another year. It's too much like what I've already done. It's not just about boredom, because I was engaged even if a lot of it was old hat. A job isn't just a job anymore. It's an investment in a career. HomeAway didn't offer many opportunities for me to develop my soft and hard skills in any fundamentally new and valuable ways. I would get better at what I already knew, but that's all.

There's also the related issue of seniority. I got "senior" added to my title when I started here. Problem is most people here have "senior" in their title. That's not title inflation; it's just that most people here are experienced. I've been the youngest (though not necessarily least-experienced) person on just about every development team I've been on. I'd like to think that reflects well on me, especially since people usually over-estimate my age (I'm 23). That doesn't offer me so many opportunities to take a leadership role (leadership != management). I have no idea whether I'd be any good at that. But I want the opportunity to be there, and it just isn't there at HomeAway.

It's too far. I had a job in South Austin 4 years ago. It wasn't a problem. Jessica used to live way down south, too. That wasn't a problem either. That was then. I don't choose my own schedule anymore. Uma and Kieran decide that. Now I have to care about rush hour, and boy, it sucks.

It's also tough for me to be a backup if it takes me 40 minutes to get home. Things happen with small children. Sometimes the only appointment you can get with the doctor is in the middle of the day. So I have to drive all the way back up north, go to the doctor, and then go all the way back down south. Things like getting the car fixed become a major hassle. It's wearing. I have no flexibility. If I leave work at 3:55, I can get home smoothly. At 4:05, MoPac is a parking lot.

Working from home could help with all of this, in theory, but with our house and the kids the age they are, there's just no realistic way I can work from home on a regular basis. I need to get away to be effective. Just not that far away. And it would only get worse, because we're likely to move further north* in the next year or two.

* Two words: school district.

It's too far along. HomeAway is well on its way. They raised $250 million in new capital last month. Think about that number. In the worst environment for any kind of finance in decades, this company raised the biggest round of venture capital in 9 years. The amount of money they got is bigger than the market capitalization of many successful companies. It's 10 times what would be considered a healthy third round for a 4-year old company. That just goes to show that they've pushed the big ball up the hill, and now it's rolling down. And I had nothing to do with it.

Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of work here. It's a different sort, though. They've already done most of the hard stuff. They're extending, not building. They've achieved a level of maturity that's pleasing and inspiring; they're a smooth running machine that's inspiring to see. I've discovered that it's not enough to have that; I have to have helped to get it there. If I'd started here two years ago, or even one year ago, I'd feel differently. At the stage where the company is now, I just don't think I'd be able to achieve the level of personal investment that I want in my job.

There are worse problems to have. I could easily live with all of these flaws, because the overall package is still pretty compelling. The team is great, and the agile process they follow is effective and satisfying. I'm certainly going to miss my MacBook Pro. If I didn't have a compelling alternative, I would have been quite content to remain. It turns out I have something of an embarrassment of riches. I went back to "Iota," to see if there was still a place for me. It turns out they filled the spot I talked to them about, but they opened up an even better one. So that's what I'm doing.

Now my job will be helping you find a job. And I don't refer (just) to my ongoing series of irregular posts on the subject. One Search. All jobs. Starting December 1. It's a smaller company at an earlier stage of their evolution. They have some sophisticated problems to solve. They're still building the core. They want to make their development environment more mature. They have a less experienced team where my diversity of experience may prove valuable. And they're only 3.5 miles from home. I could even bike it.

And I'm definitely not staying in a hotel on my next trip.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I told you so

I called Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State on Election Day, before the polls even opened in most of the country.

Forget how I predicted that Barack Obama would be Hillary's VP choice. However, I remain firmly convinced that Barack Obama entered the presidential race with that goal in mind. Maybe when he writes his (third) autobiography, he'll confirm it.


Search reruns

Every search on every site should have a little button you can press that says "Don't show me this again." If only I knew of sites with searches...

Also, while I'm on the subject... If you can refine a search by, say, geographical region, you should be able to pick multiple ones, not just one. Maybe you want to look at Austria and Switzerland, but not all of Europe. There's a middle ground between one and all. Actually, that particular example isn't all that useful. Amazon, though, could go to town with it. Newegg already does.

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Amazon oops

Monday, November 24, 2008

Big machine


Saw this on Burnet Road at Braker. Not sure what it was for. Maybe it's some AC unit for one of the new buildings at the Domain. It was pretty neat.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Epoch second 1234567890

February 13, 2009, at 5:31:30 pm GMT, or 11:31:30 CST. I'll have to come up with something appropriate to mark the occasion.


Sound perceptions

Friday, November 14, 2008

Financial responsibility

I saw a flashing sign at the Austin Telco Federal Credit Union advertising: "Get away with a vacation loan!"

Wow. Just.... wow. Silly me, I assumed credit unions were good and places like check cashers were rapacious villains. Turns out I had it backwards.

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Friday, November 7, 2008

Celebrity comment-spotting

This comment on my last post suggests a way to get attention from Internet celebrities. Put the names of the people whose attention you want in your blog post and hope they have a search alert set up on their own name. Just make sure that it's an uncommon name. Like mine. Or Paul Tyma's. I know, most people wouldn't consider Paul Tyma a celebrity, but he is in my world.

Hey Paul, here I am again. I'll stop using your name in vain now.



Call a number. Start talking. Everything that you say gets recorded and plopped as a WAV/MP3 file on a website. Use it for notes to yourself, surreptitiously recording a conversation with a police officer, or whatever. I'm gonna email Paul Tyma (Mr. Mailinator).


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Fundamental vocations

I've taken tests before that purport to help you find a career. I thought they were useless because they didn't ask the right question. It recently occurred to me that there are certain fundamental aspects of jobs that exist over all fields and specific jobs. These come down to the fundamental roles that exist in varying degrees in different jobs, and that have varying degrees of appeal to different people. Thus far, I've identified (hoping they don't sound too AD&D or like the Hindu Trinity):

  • Arbitrator/Judge

  • Artist

  • Builder

  • Caretaker

  • Checker

  • Destroyer

  • Discoverer

  • Fighter

  • Fixer

  • Guardian

  • Leader/Motivator/Coach

  • Negotiator/Deal-maker

  • Organizer (of people)

  • Persuader

  • Teacher

  • Thinker

A software developer is 3 parts Builder, 5 parts Fixer, 1 part Discoverer, and 1 part Artist (all depending on the particular job, of course). An accountant is a mix of Checker, Custodian, and Guardian, with a forensic accountant also adding a shot of Discoverer to the mix. A plumber is mostly a Fixer and partly a Builder, and, on a bad day, Discoverer. A nurse or doctor is Caretaker, Checker, Fixer, and occasionally Discoverer. A police officer is an Arbitrator/Judge, a Fighter, a Guardian, a Persuader.

I'm sure I'm missing a few fundamental roles. I'm also not completely satisfied with the ones that I have. Leader/Motivator/Coach either is poorly named or is asking to be split up. How does that role square with Organizer and Persuader, not to mention Negotiator/Deal-maker?

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Presidential miscellaneous

I am so so so glad that Rudy Giuliani went down in flames in the primaries. Man, what a terrible President he would have been. The New McCain ain't much better (and the old one was no picnic), but Giuliani gave me chills. It was a huge relief that he was wiped out early.

Barack Obama has goofy ears.

Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State? Two in a box with Bill...

It would be pretty funny if Michael Bloomberg got his term limit law change through and then ran off to be Treasury Secretary. We certainly need someone of his caliber.

I would love to see Russell Feingold as Secretary of Homeland Security.

John McCain would be a disaster as President. I predict Barack Obama will be merely a disappointment. Part of it is that we have no real idea what he'll do; what he's said he'll do isn't something I think is worth a lot. What's more significant is that the problems are huge. It may be the America has peaked, and the best he can do is to slow the decline. People tend to over-estimate what the President can do*, and this next President is going to be severely hamstrung by broader forces.

* With the exception of George W. Bush. Say what you will about Bush (and I will, oh will I), the man's "imperial presidency" was a thing unlike any other.

If Barack Obama is elected, I'm worried what that will do in combination with a strong Democratic majority in Congress. On the other hand, maybe some things will be more likely to happen. Maybe only a strong Democratic majority can touch Social Security. The easiest, simplest way to defer its financial problems is to push the retirement age back to 67 or 68. Maybe there will be a large turnout of younger voters, making politicians a little more likely to buck the AARP legions. Also, I want a pony.


Sunday, November 2, 2008

My wishes are a lot more elaborate


I guess I'm doomed to disappointment.

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