What do I even do for a living?

I’m not sure how many of my friends and family know what my job is. I tend to just say ‘Database Admin’ and call it close enough. My actual title is ‘ETL Administrator‘, but when I say this, most people don’t seem to know what it is. Naturally, they are compelled to ask, which means I am compelled to answer. And when I begin to give some details about my work, social convention keeps them smiling and rooted in place while I talk. But I see the desperate urging in their eyes.

nointerest

I explained my work to my mom once. I went into some detail about the intricacies and oddities of the systems we use, but at a relatively high level as she is not terribly familiar with computers. She was quiet for a minute, so I asked if everything I told her made sense.

She nodded and said, “So . . . you do filing?”

That is not really an incorrect interpretation of my job. It’s just that her interpretation and mine were not one hundred percent in agreement.

selfimage

Actually, I think that managing the workings of a complex network of servers and databases is basically like managing people. Except that all the people you are managing are autistic. They are brilliant at performing the task for which they are tuned, but they require very specific conditions and strict adherence to routine to perform properly. If even one element in their environment is slightly modified, everyone loses their shit and starts banging their heads on the wall until you fix it.

 

 

Association

Every time I see someone post about gay marriage, I reflexively glance down at my desktop statuary.

Don't hate the hobbit love.

 

Gandalf would have married the shit out of some hobbits, regardless of gender. ┬áHe’d get massively blazed and just wander the shire binding people in matrimony according to his whimsy.

And nobody is going to confront this bleary-eyed old fuck and tell him to knock it off, because he is an immortal motherfucking magic man that rolls up to your shit-kicking village riding on the back of the king of eagles.

Status Update

So, I had a job interview recently at this place: Netsmart. It is possible that I applied at this place just because I feel the name settles in nicely with the likes of TruSecure and Cybertrust, which are company names already on my resume. If I get hired there, it will be like I have collected a set of something, like a trilogy. Or an evolved pokemon.

In related news, I am no longer working at Cisco. I was unhired due to the recent workforce restructuring. Not to worry though, the job offers are already rolling in.

I freaked out for about five minutes when I got an email from my boss saying she happened to be in town and wanted to take the opportunity for a face to face meeting – historically this is the sort of thing which precedes a firin’.

I didn’t really feel much loss connected with leaving the job itself, and I have to wonder if that has to do with the way I worked. I did not go to an office very often, as Cisco is good enough to allow employees the option to work from home. Pretty much all interaction with my co-workers was via email and chat. So not a whole lot has been different, except I have 10-12 hours a day free that I did not before. I have become quite skilled at Starcraft. And by skilled, I mean competent. I’m not ready for the Korean league or anything.

Also, a fat severance package has a somewhat calming effect on the nerves.

I saw a couple of articles like this one encouraging former employees not to sign the general release required for the severance package:

” . . . the severance amount may not be sufficiently paying you for what you are releasing. Consider the resources, the lack of work life balance, the time you have dedicated to Cisco. Is the severance fair?”

Maybe I should have sued?


What would I even do for a year in Canada?

No, probably not.

While there was often a lack of work/life balance, I imagine there was at least a chance that I could have alleviated that had I bothered looking for another job. I doubt being too lazy to explore career alternatives is reasonable grounds for a lawsuit.

Anyway, job searching is on hold for the week for jury duty, since a job interview is not a valid reason to miss a day. That seems reasonable if you have already been selected for a case, but thus far I have just been taking up space in the jury pool. So, instead of going to a job interview this morning, I watched half of a shitty movie that kinda looked like a remake of The Great Outdoors. It had Adam Sandler and the fat guy from King of Queens in it.

My old phone contract went away with my old job. This required a new number and fresh 2 year commitment to Verizon. It also provided me with an opportunity to snag a new phone. However, any phone that looks even a little bit like it might have a touch screen requires a data plan at this point – except this one:

Everyone seems to hate this phone – and as it was originally marketed, that’s totally understandable. It’s a phone with no apps or other significant smartphone features, but they tried to attach the same data plan required for say, a Droid. It was billed as a smartphone for teens, and so was not supposed to need all the apps. It was instead meant to integrate with social sites, such that you would more often be checking your friends’ Facebook status and uploading pictures with this phone, rather than texting or calling people.

I would not have paid $150 plus data plan for this phone. It did seem to be a pretty excellent deal at $0 and no data plan, so I think they have found the sweet spot, pricewise. And the phone itself has a decent amount of hardware features, it’s just that they are not used for anything in particular. It has wi-fi, which was the biggest reason for getting it. It also has a GPS chip (used for geotagging in one iteration of the OS). Here are the full specs, if anyone is interested: KIN Hardware Specs.

So, it’s like they’re basically expecting you to install a new OS on it, right?

Misnomer.

Seriously guys, thanks for taking a big steaming shit all over my degree.



Computer Science != Learning specific computer applications.
Computer Science != Learning specific programming languages.
Computer Science != Information Technology.

Computer Science is the study of the underlying theories and models of computation, algorithms and representation of data. It is a descendant of mathematics, and as such should not be made to suffer the inclusion of instruction manuals for high tech scrapbooking.

Here are some topics appropriate to the heading:

While that is by no means a comprehensive list, any of those subjects will certainly land you nearer the mark than books with chapters like “Breaking Up: Unfriending Friends” or “Mastering iTunes”.

STO is the New WoW

Star Trek Online officially launched last week, presenting an MMO that has the same draw for me that WoW had for most of the people I game with. Which is to say that I have, at long last, found a game that will be a terrible time sink, for which I will cast aside more fulfilling hobbies and/or actual human interaction. H-hooray?

Anyway, look at my ship:


Logjammin

It would be fair to say that my interest in the Star Trek universe is more than passing. At one time I held a smallish library detailing the various languages, cultures and technologies from the series. There may have been a Klingon language pocket reference – I don’t really recall. I have since handed off these lesser dork tomes to younger siblings and cousins. This is not to be interpreted to mean that I ever outgrew them, I just recognize that online resources mean I no longer need to actually display my shame on a bookshelf.

STO’s strongest selling point is the space combat. Actually, strike that – the strongest selling point is just flying around through space, period. I would still be playing this game if it was just space tourism, because it’s beautiful. If you can crank the video settings up, the ships are highly detailed, space has an impressive feeling of depth and attack effects render with enough detail to distinguish one from another visually. The last item may not sound like much, but when your attacks are all basically some variation of “laser beams, pew pew”, it is at least somewhat noteworthy.

Screenshots below (click on them for big, pretty pictures):


space is big space is big space is big

sectorspace purplespace greenspace

I personally find the away missions – or any period of time not flying around in a spaceship – kind of lackluster. They’re not terrible or anything, it’s just that this particular portion of the game doesn’t compare to other MMOs – which is fine, because other MMOs don’t let you fly around in spaceships1, so they can go eat a bowl of dicks.

If nothing else, away missions are the only time you really get to see the bridge crew you create – who, by the way, are always available to flesh out an away team if you are a lonely nerd with no friends to play with. My second in command is my favorite (he’s the one on the right):


Logjammin

1But what about Eve Online, you say? Fuck you, you are a Libertarian.

It may be possible that I occasionally overlook some details.

Yesterday we got our new bed delivered – something of an event, as both John and myself have grown accustomed to sleeping on third or fourth generation hand-me-downs so compressed by time and use that they only barely presented a footprint in the third dimension.

We also decided to move the computers to the larger bedroom, as I have been wanting the space to set up a proper workbench. I have already scorched the dining room table in two places with the soldering iron, and shouldn’t like to further mar one of our more presentable pieces of furniture.

In my defense, that only happened because some solder had dripped onto the table and cooled, and I was trying to remove it.

A condition of swapping the rooms around was ensuring that the new bed would fit into the smaller room. We set about measuring everything, and I busted out the graph paper to make scaled sketch of the room layout. I even used (sort of) proper drafting technique after being overcome with the anxiety that the professor from my engineering drawing classes might somehow find the paper and scribble all over it with red ink if I did not. I’m certain the man has a preternatural sense which alerts him when an arrowhead is not filled in.

This also marked the first time in my life that I have ever actually used this skill outside of the classroom in which I learned it. I now feel the hours of drawing perfectly weighted lines and thousands of dollars of crushing debt incurred in the acquisition of my first degree to be completely justified and worthwhile.

Not really.

Anyway, if you look at the drawing, you may note that it is for a king size bed. Would that I had first thought to make such a sketch detailing the clearance in the hallway and stairs through which the bed had to pass. Such remarkable forethought would have illustrated the fact that there was actually no way to get a king size mattress into either bedroom. We figured this out when the mattress and two delivery men became wedged in the stairway, with the mattress already bending perilously close to a warranty voiding angle.

Once we accepted the obvious, they dislodged the thing, told us we could just change the order to a queen and we’d be refunded the difference. We would probably get the adjusted order delivered in a week or two. So we watched them carry away our ginormous new mattress and restore the old one, which had just moments before been dragged through slush and tossed in their truck to be hauled away. Stepping down a size was a little disappointing, but new bed is new bed. Also, sleeping on a dirty mattress on the floor for a week offered a bit of perspective.

As an added bonus, we arranged the room so that the bed is surrounded on three sides, making it quite cozy and nearer to my ideal home design.

PlayOn – Because I don’t waste enough time.

I was looking around for information on streaming video game services yesterday, and I found this instead – PlayOn. It’s software that lets you watch content from sites like Youtube and Hulu from game consoles by serving it through a computer on the same network.

From the PlayOn site:

If you have a PLAYSTATION 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, Moxi HD DVR, NETGEAR EVA2000, HP MediaSmart TV, or other DLNA-compliant device, PlayOn lets you watch Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, CBS, YouTube, CNN, ESPN and more on your TV. And, if that isn’t reason enough to check it out, PlayOn also enables you to enjoy your local PC media files with its newly released local media sharing feature (currently in beta). You can see all your digital photos, listen to your stored music, and watch videos stored on your PC through the same PlayOn Digital Media Server.

The listed price $39.99, but there are coupon codes available to bring that down a bit. Currently, the code ‘NETGEAR’ works to knock $10 off the price. By going through their preferred pay service, TrialPay, it looks like you can save another $20. However, at checkout you will also have to sign up for GameFly to get the discount.

I downloaded the trial version (14 days, all features enabled) to test it out, and so far it’s working out very well. I ran the installer, answered some questions about my network setup, entered my Hulu login and prepared myself to start troubleshooting whatever network issues it ran into. I turned on my Xbox to test it, and saw all of the promised content, tested some Hulu videos and made sure I wasn’t inadvertently sharing my entire computer. Everything worked fine with no further adjustment.

The server shows up under MyXbox->Video Library and all your “channels” appear as shared directories. You access and play videos just as you would any files stored and shared on the hosting computer. I’d be interested to know if it works as seamlessly on the other systems the site mentions. I have only tried it out on my Xbox thus far, as I do not own any other supported devices save the Wii, and I am disinclined to interrupt its long torpor only to show it why it is no longer worth the space it occupies on my entertainment stand.

By default, PlayOn allows you to access Hulu, Youtube, Netflix and Amazon Video on Demand (VOD) accounts. Their site had one additional officially supported plugin – Revision3. I assume they’ll flesh out their catalog a little more in time.



There are also third party plugins and scripts to access additional content, available at playonplugins.com and playonscripts.com, respectively. Both look like well supported communities with respectable selections. I grabbed scripts for Funny or Die, The Escapist and AdultSwim, which all work just fine. The video quality is lacking in some cases, but bear in mind you’re watching content designed for browser presentation.

I have not looked at much of the plugin development information, but writing scripts to add new content does not look terribly difficult – assuming you’re familiar with coding in general. They are written in Lua, for anyone familiar with the language. If unfamiliar with the language, it may at least be interesting to know that it’s used for World of Warcraft addons.

If you are unfamiliar with both programming and video games, I probably don’t have any useful information for you. Except that Lua enthusiasts want to make it very clear that Lua is not an acronym. And it apparently means “moon” in Portuguese.