Archive for July, 2004

Z-O-O Spells Tired
31 July, 2004

We took Brennan, my oldest, to the zoo today with one of his buddies for Brennan's birthday. Lunch was an adventure because the nitwits who worked the snack bar waited until people started ordering hot dogs to put the hot dogs on the rotisserie. Sigh. You just can't get good help nowadays. (As if the Romans had a never-ending supply of competent workers.)

Everyone had a good time but it certainly impressed upon me the strange irony that kids, who have the least leverage to do anything, have the most energy to do anything. Zip! Zing! Whoosh! It was like a Batman episode. At any given task I could physically outperform the little monkeys, but I had a hard time keeping up with their non-stop pace. It was like five hours with the insane, it's-what-I-do-every-waking-moment aerobics instructor.

Hulk nap.

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Rotational Energy at Work
30 July, 2004

I started working at Rational during the tail end of their phasing out custom hardware. They still had a hardware guy on staff to support their existing units. I think his name was Gerry. (I wish I could remember his full name) He was well and truly a demigod of hardware; he could build anything from the parts in the lab. My experience with Gerry was that he was the prototypical engineer, a no-nonsense kind of guy. So, when he told me a story, I believed it.

One day, while kibbitzing, Gerry related a disk platter story. At the time he was working for a place that made disk drives. But this was back in the day, so the platters were huge and everything was hand-assembled. They had a device like turbo-charged phonograph in their lab; I think it was for testing the platters. After putting a platter on the spindle, this device would spin the platter to high RPMs. Sure enough something happened one day (I'm not sure if it was mechanical or cerebral failure) and one of the platters began sliding up the spindle while at speed. Gerry said that they all knew what would happen the moment the platter touching anything stable and went running for the doors, only to return after the platter had expended its energy on their lab.

I have heard variations of this story over the years that sound pretty apocryphal. Generally, I would assume Gerry's tale to be one of those. But he was such a straight-shooter that I can't see him telling a tall one. And, since he'd been in the Bay since Day One, it's quite possible that his experience is the basis for some of those apocryphal stories. I don't know.

But it's a good story.

Risen from the Ashes
28 July, 2004

From another LiveJournal user (whose name I shamefully forget) I discovered Phoenix. In fact, I am using it right now to enter this entry. (Now wasn't that just redundant!) It's pretty cool. One of the features I really like is its ability to auto-detect to what I'm listening. It apparently speaks iTunes enough to figure it out. Way cool.

Sorry, Bugsy
27 July, 2004

I just found Cocoa Poker, all the fun with none of the financial down-side. Boo-yah!

Just because I Used Vacation Days doesn't Mean it's a Vacation
25 July, 2004

I just got through with a three-day visit from my mother and her second husband, along with my sister and my nieces. For a visit from my mother and her husband, it went remarkably well. There was only one incident of offensive sexism and a handful of incidents of offensive racism. For them, it was a gold-medal performance.

Of course, that doesn't mean it was an easy visit by any stretch of the imagination. For the second straight time, when my youngest got around them, he got sick. My wife thinks there's no logical connection and I agree that I can't come up with a causal mechanism, but I find it more than coincidental. Maybe he's so sensitive that even one day's exposure to them disables his immune system. As a parent, I feel responsible for my kids' health and I wonder if it's irresponsible to let them continue to see the boys.

My back started hurting from the stress last night; I hope that I'm over it within a few days. I tried to take tomorrow off from work as a favor to my coworkers; unfortunately my manager decided to schedule a 0900 interview for me tomorrow morning. The candidate wants to interview quickly as he's already accepted another offer. However, I will not be an easy interview tomorrow. I guess he made his choices.

I am encouraged that I am getting better at preparing for and coping with these visits because it was only this afternoon that I began to feel like obliterating her husband. That may be a world record. It's kind of ironic since my mother will get on my case about making him feel welcome. Feel welcome? He's freakin' lucky I don't return the favor and strangle his sorry ass! I try to remind myself that lots of folks have been through worse, but it's still pretty freakin' stressful being around him at all. I don't think I would invite him to visit but my mom comes as a package deal and I don't feel comfortable with denying my kids their grandmother, no matter how numerous her faults may be.

They talked about following through on my suggestion to leave him with my grandfather (who can not fly) and have my mother fly with my grandmother up here. I hope that this time they mean it. As I've mentioned before, my grandmother is a saint and I want the boys to know her as well as possible. Why can't I get visit from her instead?

This Page Intentionally Left Blank
21 July, 2004

 

Ya Gotta Wonder
19 July, 2004

Note to self and all young children: popcorn kernels do not go in ears.

When the Enemy is in Range…
18 July, 2004

I just saw, on Food Network, a show about popcorn. In it, the host relates that the fellow credited with inventing the microwave noticed the chocolate bar in his pocket melted when he was experimenting with a new electrical device. He put some popcorn kernels next to the device, powered it, and the rest is history.

This story, however, skips over one very important part: if the chocolate bar in his pocket was getting cooked, so was he.

The Third Wheel
17 July, 2004

We tried to watch The Third Wheel last night. Ugh. I have no idea how it got three stars on Netflix; maybe ballot stuffing by Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Chris Moore. Save your time.

What to Do
14 July, 2004

We interviewed a candidate today at work. I was part of a group of three that administered a technical interview. The other senior developer and I both agreed that this candidate was the best of the four we have interviewed for this position and that this guy would be a productive member of the team. So you would think we made the guy an offer, right?

Nope.

"What for?" you might (rightfully) ask. It seems that some of the other interviewers felt that he was not the best communicator. I do not dispute their assessment, but in my opinion we are not hiring someone for their excellence at communicating. This is a technical position. The candidate is expected to develop Java code. While a modicum of communication is necessary, I most assuredly do not want to hire someone just because they have top-notch communication skills. Nor do I want to exclude a technically excellent candidate just because his communication skills are "merely" adequate. So I am pretty frustrated with the process because there just are not that many recent college graduates who have both excellent coding skills and excellent communication skills. I told the group that I do not foresee all ten of us ever agreeing on a candidate.

But what I am having a much harder time shaking is my feeling that a significant part of why this candidate was rejected was because of his physique. I neither know how much the guy weighs nor do I care, but he appeared to be quite a bit heavier than the average person. While I am sure he has a harder time finding clothes than most, his size did not preclude him from sitting in a regular office chair or using a desk. (Those are the two main physical activities in this line of work.) I was somewhat surprised when I first saw him just because I was expecting someone who looked like the other three candidates. But I also did not expect a six-foot-six-inch former defensive tackle when I interviewed my manager at CenterSpan and he is both a good candidate and a good guy.

Software is one of the fields where us freaks and geeks can find a degree of acceptence. The fact of the matter is physical beauty (according to society's current whim) and intellectual acuity rarely occur in the same person. Not never, just not very often. Most people in technology were outcasts during school and tend to have an appreciation for what it means to not fit in. So I am both surprised and saddened by the prospect of such baseless discrimination in my team.

I have no explicit proof that my manager discriminated against this guy because of his physique. I do, however, have past experience with other hiring managers who admitted to making decisions based solely on the physical attractiveness of the candidate. (And, no, I was not on the casting couch as it were.) My current manager is a marathoner and has expressed derision of "bad" foods, so I think it is not too much of a stretch to say that he probably considers high-body-fat people to be lazy or of defective character. None of the reasons he gave for rejecting the candidate seemed to me to add up to the amount of negativity he expressed.

Another coworker has in the past expressed concern that all of the candidates are white males. While there are statistically more males than females in computer science, a significant portion of the computer science students are Asian. I know of no cultural reason why Asian graduates would not want to work for an established, publicly-traded company with a good benefits package. However I have no evidence that race or ethnicity is factored into the screening process at all. (Unlike my manager at Vesta who would only hire Chinese people.)

I like my manager and I think that he is a good guy. Which is why I think I am so bothered by my fear that the candidate was not given a fair chance. We all discriminate every day and with good reason: we choose the better course of action over the worse course of action. I think there is nothing wrong with judging people based on relevant skills when selecting for a job. But I also think there is lots wrong with judging people based on anything but relevant skills.

I have proof of nothing. But my intuition tells me that there is more to this hiring process than meets the eye. And I have learned the hard way to trust my intuition.

Damn it. I hope I am missing something.