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Category: tech

10/06/06 01:05 - 44ºF - ID#21087

Random Tech Musings

Mix one part boredom, one part curiousity, and rudimentary text-editing skills, and the result is this silly little thing I created: an estrip Dashboard widget for Mac OS X. It's basically a stock Apple thingy I modified to work with estrip (which probably doesn't even count as real programming work). But I find it useful for getting a quick summary of the latest posts. gather tracking number: 0385317001160110609
In the future, I'd like to add some more features and more customized artwork.

In other news, I go to yet another PHP users meetup. Again, I'm the only person attending. Everyone else has been such flakes, and I can't blame them totally because the people running the group have cancelled so many group meetings or changed venus that not a lot of people seem to have faith in the group. Also, the H.R. guy who started the group (as a sneaky recruiting tool) got fired from the company that had a lot of the members coming to the group. Arrgh. Why can't there just be one tech group I can attend in Buffalo, like Internetworkers back home?

I've sometimes toyed with the idea of creating an informal technologist group that meets every week somewhere (spot, bars, etc) to drink beer/coffee, network, and shoot the shit about the latest developments in digital stuff. I'm still toying, because the PHP group is really not giving me my fix because they're almost never meeting.


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Permalink: Random_Tech_Musings.html
Words: 250
Location: Buffalo, NY


Category: love

10/03/06 02:26 - 59ºF - ID#21086

Conversation

Tonight I had a conversation with my girlfriend who still lives in North Carolina.

Me: Do you know yet whether you can come up for my birthday Nov. 17th?

Girlfriend: I'm afraid I can't. I just can't.

Me: Why not?

Girlfriend: Because Buffalo took you away from me.

Me: What? What? (in disbelief)

Me (thinking silently to myself): I waited close to two weeks for you to ask at work and figure out whether you could come up and visit me for my birthday. And after all that time, the answer you give me sounds like something you could have thought up in two seconds and could have given me two weeks earlier.

Me: So, after I've flown down and visited you this summer, you just can't do the same for me? (did I mention I'd be paying for her entire ticket up here?)

Girlfriend: sorry, I can't come up and visit you. It's like me saying 'I've got this really nice friend in North Carolina, and I'd like you to come down and see him.' Buffalo is what took you away from away from me, so I can't go up there.

Me (thinking silently to myself): Me trying desperately to get any computer job I could back in NC and submitting hundreds of resumes and constantly getting turned down, followed by you and your mother calling me "selfish" for staying in Raleigh for a potential job interview instead of driving you to to do work errands for your mother, who's also your boss, that you couldn't run yourself because of your driving problem*, followed by your mother busting on me for being a 30 year-old man without a job who couldn't support her daughter in the future and who should be spending his time sending out resumes--that certainly influenced my choice to take a job up in Buffalo. You should be blaming that BS for taking me away from you.**

Me: Do you know how silly that sounds?

Girlfriend: You just don't understand.

Me: You know, in this entire relationship, I've gone out of my way a lot to come and see you. For over a year I did all that driving back and forth from Raleigh 40-60 miles out to Zebulon and later Wilson several times a week. The whole time, you almost never came to see me in Raleigh. I was kind of hoping after all those times I came to see you, the very least you could do would be to come up and see me.

Girlfriend: You just don't understand.

Me: Well, I need to go to work tomorrow. Goodnight. Bye.

Girlfriend: Bye.

(End of conversation; I hang up).

The irony of this situation is that I just came back from the end of services for Yom Kippur (the Jewish holiday which deals with wrongs you feel other have done to do you for which you're supposed to forgive them) and already I have something that I should be steaming furious about. I guess I'll try to rise to the spiritual challenge and look past it. Of course, that means not letting anger dominate my life; it doesn't mean continuing to let myself be jerked around on a string like a Yo-Yo.


  • My girlfriend has this issue with driving long distances. Basically, up until a year ago, her mother forbade her from driving distances more than 5-10 miles, even though she was 20. The GF told me, at the start of our relationshiop, that if she were to drive any significant distance, her mother would call the police and report the car as stolen, even though the GF was the one making the payments on the car and insurance at the time. If someone tells you that you can't do something and prevents you from doing that thing and threatens you with punishment for doing that thing, and if they are successful in getting you not to do that thing, then they have basically undermined your ability to do that thing. Whenever the GF needed to go somewhere and her mother couldn't take her, then I had to take her because of what her mother did to her. In the last year, my girlfriend has denied that her mother ever did this, and has basically internalized her mothers feelings about her driving as her own. The end result is that she can't really go anywhere other than a few miles from her house, and she thinks that "this is the way things have always been."

  • I tend to see any attempt by the mother to get me to drive her daughter somewhere, or her refusal to drive her daughter to somewhere she wants to go, as a refusal to acknowledge the damage in her daughter's development that she caused in undermining her daughter's ability to drive significant distances. That the mother would refuse to acknowledge her role in making her daughter unable to perform the errand while casting me as the "selfish" bad guy because I would not help her with the errand is something I consider to be intolerable hipocrisy.
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Permalink: Conversation.html
Words: 845
Location: Buffalo, NY


Category: love

09/26/06 10:17 - 55ºF - ID#21085

WWFD (What Would Frasier Do?)

Thought of the day: relationships suck. Especially when you're torn between wanting to be with someone at all costs and listening to the people you know and trust (yourself included) who have correctly pointed the number of difficulties that you've had in your relationship.

And so I'm faced with a paradox. It feels like the relationship was always meant to be, and that I know the person as well as I know myself. Yet at the same time the other half the relationship is unwilling to match the 50% of the compromise, sacrifice, and personal growth that I'm willing to put forward, and ones wiser than myself tell me that these attributes are cornerstones of relationships that are meant to be.

I know that no amount of complaining that I do will resolve any of these issues, as sorely tempted as I am to do this (which I probably will do over the next several weeks). For tonight, the most I can do is ponder how confused I am right now and take some comfort in the fact that writing this all down makes me feel better.
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Permalink: WWFD_What_Would_Frasier_Do_.html
Words: 186
Location: Buffalo, NY


Category: life

09/22/06 03:01 - 46ºF - ID#21084

First new year's resolution

It's new year's eve, and I think my first resolution for the year of our lord 5767 will have to be to get my butt to bed at a regular hour more often.
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Permalink: First_new_year_s_resolution.html
Words: 32
Location: Buffalo, NY


Category: life

09/12/06 12:59 - 58ºF - ID#21083

A little belated, perhaps

I might as well join in on the 9/11 recount.

When 9/11 happened, I was on the Internet. I didn't know it had happened--strangely enough, the sites I was browsing didn't mention it. It must have been around 4PM when my mom called downstairs to tell me that some crazy people flew planes into the world trade center.

After that, the entire month of September was unbearable, and I largely blame the media for this. The TV was just one long loop of planes crashing into buildings over and over again, set to the soundtrack of mindless commentary of news commentators who honestly though their endless jabber would some how shed more light on what happened.

The worst part of it, though, was seeing the people jumping off the WTC on TV. That's without a doubt the worst thing I've ever seen; I had wondered how horror movies were every supposed to be scary again after seeing something this bad. And of course, I had to see those images of people jumping to their deaths looped over and over again, again set to the soundtrack of more useless commentary. And no matter what I did, I just couldn't escape the awful replay and useless talk.

Ever since then, I've suffered from 9/11 fatigue. I absolutely do not give one wit about the latest 9/11 movies and I outright refuse to go to them with my friends. If my friends watch something about 9/11 on the History Channel, I just go in the other room. And I can't listen to Green Day's "Wake Me Up When September Ends" because that song so effectively sums up how I felt that entire month--"I'm being overwhelmed, I think I'll go to my bedroom and take a nap, wake me up when this stupid thing is over and people are ready to accept this tragedy and learn from it instead of replaying it pointlessly."

And that's my recounting of what I experienced on 9/11.

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Permalink: A_little_belated_perhaps.html
Words: 324
Location: Buffalo, NY


Category: life

09/04/06 01:41 - 58ºF - ID#21082

labor day weekend recap

Friday.

Hard day at work. Made me very tired. Took a nap at 8:00PM to get refreshed for the party at 10PM. When I woke up, it was 5AM. Dammit, I suck.

Verdict On Friday:

I seem to have a difficult time with this alcohol in moderation. Last week, I drink too much, and by accident pass out on a couch on a porch, and miss most of the next day in an awful hangover. Friday, I ended up by accident going to bed ultra-early and stone-cold sober. I'm now at the other extreme.

Saturday.

Got up real early. 5AM. Way damn to early for my own good. Did some stuff around the house. Went to the (e:ladycroft) and (e:nejifer) birthday party. It's actually right around the corner from my place, so I didn't have to drive. At 3:30AM, I eventually make my way back to my apartment and crash.

Verdict On Saturday:

High points:

I got up early. My Circadian rhythms might some day align with the rising and setting of the sun.

I got to see lots of (e:peeps), as well as meet some cool new people.

I was reminded of my days spent at Ithaca College with foreign exchange students. I forgot how much they could be.

I helped save the cake at the party by grabbing the third corner of the tray. Were it not for my actions, the cake might have smashed to the floor.

There were half-naked people dancing. Very amusing.

I practiced far more moderation than I did at the last party.

Counterpoints:

By getting up early, I reduce my ability to stay up really late, and will want to go to sleep really early.

I realize that I would have had ever more fun at the party if I hadn't stopped taking french, german, and spanish courses in college.

I helped save the cake from accidently smashing to the floor, only to see it later intentionally smashed into the faces of (e:nejifer) (e:ladycroft) and (e:decoyisryan) . Though I've got to admit, the second outcome was far more fun to watch.

All the half naked people were men. And even if there were any half-naked women, the fact they come from cultures where half-nakedness is not taboo and is socially acceptable would totally spoil the shock value of being flashed.

I practiced enough moderation to get home safe, sound, and coherent. But I still woke up with one bitch of a hangover today, and spent most of today in bed.

Sunday (today):

Spent most of today recovering from yesterday. Missed the Buffalo Wing Festival, which probably is better for my high cholesterol situation. Had an excellent meal at Panos. I went to see Idlewild at the Elmwood Regal.

Verdict on Sunday:

Hangovers suck. It's not only the headache, it's that false feeling of malaise that makes you want to stay in bed all day as if you were sick. I made it through, however. Far enough to have a great pasta dish, which probably won't make me any fatter because for most of the day I was to nauseated to eat anything. And Idlewild was really good, at least in my opinion. It was cool to see stop-motion animation, great dancing, and jazz in a movie with two top-ten hip-hop artists; I had expected the "I-sell-lots-of-records-therefore-that-qualifies-me-to-be-a-great-actor" attitude to prevail--I'm glad I was wrong.


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Permalink: labor_day_weekend_recap.html
Words: 565
Location: Buffalo, NY


Category: work

09/01/06 04:42 - 58ºF - ID#21081

Investigation of options

(Trying to work my way to 100+, baby! I want that userpic caption!).

Every week or so, I get one or two e-mails or calls from various IT recruiting agencies, either with HR/recruiter people with specific jobs that matched my Monster profile or who say "your resume looked really interesting, we should talk."

Up to this point, I haven't considered any of their offers. I felt that I should put in at least a year in my current job, so I'll get some more experience that future employers may find acceptable. Yeah, I know I probably know a lot more about developing software than the kid just out of college, but as far as an HR office is concerned, if you haven't gotten paid for it, and especially if you haven't gone to school for it, you obviously don't know it.

Before I took the job up here, I had doors repeatedly slammed in my face for hundreds of tech positions in NC, though it's not so much of a slamming as it is a "we'll call you back" and they never do. To paraphrase Woody Allen, I've found the computer job world "worse than dog eat dog, it's dog doesn't return another dog's phone calls." And that's before considering all the competition I'd have from all the people who make Raleigh-Durham one of the top ten info tech places in the country. In addition to local folks, I'd also get the stray e-mail or call from across the country about some job opening, and I pursued it will no better luck (till I got the one for up here).

What also goes against me is that I also tend to be a very honest person, or at least I try to be. And honesty really doesn't go over to well with HR people. I could lie about or overinflate my skillset, probably get hired, and quickly learn enough about the technology to do the job at hand (one of my superpowers) and the HR folks and boss would never be the wiser. But I'd rather get a job honestly, and that is a massive strike against me.

The final thing about these HR people that really screws me is that they don't understand anything about the technical stuff I've done or the challenges I faced and surpassed. It's very rare that I've ever been asked "what was a really difficult programming problem and how did you solve it?" or "How would you come up with a solution for this hypothetical situation?" These people want buzzword-compliant people, not innovative people who can actually solve problems.

And don't even get me started on the recruiters who look for five years of experience in a technology that has only existed for two years.

If issues directly related to employment weren't difficult enough, I also had to deal with some personal issues with the way that some people I was close to back in NC dealt with my employment situation. These people didn't understand anything about the computer job arena, and they said I was "too picky" despite the fact that I submitted dozens of resumes a day for virtually any programming job out there. These same people then called me "selfish" for going to job interviews instead of driving them to various errands they were not able to drive to for stupid reasons of their very own making. Then these same people busted on me for being a 30-year old man who didn't have a decent job (now they're undoubtedly complaining about me leaving them and coming up here, and asking me when I'm coming back). I still really miss those people, but dammit, they were a pain in the ass.

To summarize the last five paragraph of useless memoirs, my attempts to acquire employement in the computer field tend to suck in general, and they sucked especially in North Carolina. And I found the whole situation when I was down there very upsetting.

So back to the present, I'm trying to consider other options than the place I'm currently working. Some people in the company where I work prevent me from doing the best job I can, yet they don't balance their expectations in light of that fact. While I don't intend to leave anytime soon, I do want to know what my options are.

So for the first time since coming up here seven months ago, I call a technical recruiter who left a voicemail a day or two earlier. And dammit, the whole experience on the phone was just the same as it was 7 months ago in NC. I was honest about what I had done (big mistake), I explained the database technology I was currently working on (PostgreSQL, which he had never heard of), I said a lot of the programming I've been doing recently is for Apple stuff (which he must have interpreted as the only stuff I could do), and I told him that the stuff I'm currently being paid to do is a very small subset of the entire skillset I have (which he basically ignored). He ended with a variation on "we'll call you back"--"you're entered into our database. Go to our site and we'll keep in touch". That went really well--not!

I guess I need to look for the positives here. Firstly, it's been months since I last talked to a recruiter, so this exchange was a good refresher. Second, he also asked about why I wanted to leave my current job, which I was a little unprepared for; I've now formulated better answers for the next time around. Third, as my dad would put it, talking with this fellow is a step towards realizing that I'm not trapped in my current job by a contract, and that I can leave at any time. And finally, this experience has reminded me that my situation could be worse; some people don't have a job at all and they'd probably kill to be earning what I do (which is still not a lot, but it pays the bills okay).

Now to fill in the blank of my second blessing for (e:carolinian,30) that I totally forgot include. For the last year or so, I've really started liking Neil Diamond, who in my younger days I considered to be "music for old people." So several weeks ago, I finally broke down and bought a Neil Diamond box set from Barnes and Noble. I really like it, and it's one of the best things I've bought in quite a while.
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Permalink: Investigation_of_options.html
Words: 1095
Location: Buffalo, NY


Category: random stuff

08/31/06 01:35 - 57ºF - ID#21080

Random stuff

Smidgens of random bits of potpourri of this week's happenings:

- I managed to get Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur tickets, so that's one less thing for me to worry about. I'd like to join the shul in question, but I'm not too sure how easily I could afford the dues. If I pay 1000+ for the year and something wrecks my work situation in a month or two, and I have to move and need money to move, that'll be a problem. But for right now, I won't have to worry that up here I'll be missing out on something I enjoyed doing every year back home.


- Still a little embarrassed about whatever went on at the party last weekend. I honestly don't remember anything past the point at which the guy with the nosering and hat came up to the porch and entered the scene. It's like I remember walking around the house around 2AM, and then somehow, I materialized on pmt's couch in the morning (actually more comfy than some futons I've crashed on). There's an entire blank chunk of time missing. I hope I didn't say or do anything too stupid other than stare at inanimate stuff for hours on end. If I did do something stupid or offensive, I hope that I'm forgiven for it.

- In work news, yesterday I got confirmation from a previous programmer who worked for my company that my latest guess at what was wrong with the system is correct: the former programmers made an assumption about the limits of how their stuff would be used, and since my fellow non-programmer employees had unknowingly started breaking that assumption since I started the job, they had starting breaking the software as a result of it. One one hand, I'm really pleased with myself that I was able to figure out that the problem was the damn software was never designed then to do the things it people want it to do now. On the other hand, I feel really frustrated for having spent months chasing down phantom bugs in the software that were not bugs, but in fact limits of how the software was supposed to work, and that I couldn't find this out because no one in the organization knew how the software was supposed to work.

- My latest project at work is something I really haven't mentioned much to the higher-ups, largely because they'd probably write it off as "getting sidetracked"; kinda like I got "sidetracked" with another project that I started that has automated the business workflow and saved me hundrds of hours of work at the cost of a few tens of hours spent programming it. This new project is a little bit different than the others, because I'm making it run in a web browser using PHP instead of as a regular mac application using Obje ctive-C* like I would otherwise do. My web programming skills have gotten a little rusty and I need to sharpen them up for the sake of my career--this project is also a good excuse to do this. It will also save me man-weeks and make my job a lot easier in the long run, and the higher-ups will be able to view it from the comfort of their own web browser.

- I'm very happy that I got my latest hobby project, a Co coa Postg reSQL framework, to run. As I spend nine hours a day working on someone else's stuff that I think is put together badly, it's nice for me to be able to make something that I feel is put together well.
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Permalink: Random_stuff.html
Words: 607
Location: Buffalo, NY


Category: life

08/27/06 03:11 - 74ºF - ID#21079

Writing On The Blackboard

I will never drink alcohol again.
I will never drink alcohol again.
I will never drink alcohol again.
I will never drink alcohol again.
I will never drink alcohol again.
I will never drink alcohol again.
I will never drink alcohol again.
I will never drink alcohol again.
I will never drink alcohol again.
I will never drink alcohol again.
I will never drink alcohol again.
I will never drink alcohol again.
I will never drink alcohol again.
I will never drink alcohol again.
I will never drink alcohol again.
I will never drink alcohol again.
I will never drink alcohol again.
I will never drink alcohol again.
I will never drink alcohol again.
I will never drink alcohol again.
I will never drink alcohol again.
I will never drink alcohol again.

Dammit, where's the advil?
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Permalink: Writing_On_The_Blackboard.html
Words: 136
Location: Buffalo, NY


Category: crazy

08/22/06 10:31 - 68ºF - ID#21078

Pan Am Expo Mapping

If there were any doubts as to my lack of sanity, I now lay them to rest with this wonderful example of how my warped mind works.

Two days ago, I was up at an hour I really shouldn't have been up at watching a public access TV channel documentary on the history of Buffalo. I found it quite fascinating, as I tend to find a lot of Buffalo history.

They got to the Pan American Expo of 1901, and that really picqued my interest. I knew that there was some massive world's fair type thing 100 years ago in Buffalo, but I never knew quite where it was. I also knew that President McKinley was assinated at the Temple of Music, a building that was considered one of the crown jewels of the expo. Having finished watching the documentary, I now not only wanted to find where the expo took place, but I especially wanted to find the location where the Temple of Music stood. I knew that if I could find the marker that marked the area where McKinley was assasinated, I'd find the former location of the Temple of Music.

After some searching, I managed to score a really decent map of the expo.
I also found out that the expo happened in the area north of Delaware Park. So I now knew the location of the Temple Of Music in relation to the rest of the expo (from looking at the map), and I also knew the location of the expo in relation to the city as it is today, but I still didn't know where the TOM (I'll abbreviate it now) stood in relation to the streets of today, and that piece of knowledge I was searching for would lead me to the place I needed to travel to visit the former site of the TOM.

While I had a map of the modern city (courtesy of Google Earth) and a map of the expo from a hundred years ago, it was an enormously large pain in the ass trying to mentally navigate between the two maps, each in its own separate window on my computer. "What I really need", I said to myself, "is a way of making one of the windows transparent, or some way of overlaying the two images on top of one another." I was getting really frustrated, because I didn't own any software that could do this and I wasn't in the mood to write a one-off program on my mac that would let me do this that I'd probably never use again. Then, out of the blue, it hit me: Google maps lets you overlay transparent images! I could use that.

At this point, I had already found out through other sources that the McKinley monument was on east Fordham Dr. But since I had already done all this work, I might as well confirm the results for myself. So I pursued this perverse idea of laying the image of expo map over the current satellite imagery in Google Earth. Using the Buffalo historical society building (the only building remaining from the expo), the bodies of water near Delaware part, and the train tracks cutting across Elmwood Delaware all as reference points to help me accurately place the overlay over the current city, I was able to confirm that east Fordham Dr. was indeed the site of the TOM where McKinley was shot.

Here is a screenshot of the overlay of the 1901 Expo map over satellite imagery of the city as it currently is, for the people who may not have Google Earth installed on their machines.

image

The Google Earth file can also be found on Gather, tracking number is 0537094001156306145

The coolest thing to do with Google Earth and my map file is to adjust the transparency of the overlay, which takes you from past to present and vice-versa. You see the most striking similarities/differences around the ponds of Delaware park; adjust the transparency of the layer from opaque to transparent and you start seeing interesting things like part of the pond being filled in, while some stuff like trails and treelines have remained virtually the same for a century. It's also kind of interesting how some features of the exposition grounds (e.g. paths and roads) sometimes perfectly fit over the outline of today's buildings, especially the long and narrow ones. Very curious, indeed.

Anyhow, the next day after I watched the documentary and after an arduous day at work that I needed to unwind from, I was able to go to the former site of the TOM and snap a few photos. I'd have to say that of all the monuments to presidents I've ever seen, the McKinley boulder is the most low-key; it's basically a rock with a plaque and two flags in your run of the mill residential neighborhood. Which in a way is kind of cool, as marble is sort of cliche and it's probably neighborhood people (as opposed to government employees) maintaining the monument.

image

image

In the coming months, I'll try to think up other unusual expo things I can do with this map.




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Permalink: Pan_Am_Expo_Mapping.html
Words: 874
Location: Buffalo, NY


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mike said to grandma
I'm so glad you made it safely!...

mike said to grandma
I'm so glad you made it safely!...

joe said to grandma
OMG welcome!...

joe said to mike
New years resolution to top (e:strip)?...