Humor Labs

Sep. 26th, 2014 11:19 am
pyesetz: (woof)
I'm on the free-public-email list for Humor Labs.  They haven't updated their website recently, but they're still cranking out the daily joke-emails.  Except they're on vacation right now until October 6th so they're re-mailing old lists.  Here is the one from July 10th, 2001:

The Top 5 Least Popular Street Names:
⑤ Vicious Circle
④ Psycho Path
③ Peoples Ct.
② Diminished Sex Dr.
① Nofriggin Way

What a blast from the past, eh?  Such a simpler time, when the Internet was new and there were still people working for the US government who could allow it to be known that they had decency and functioning moral compasses.  Not like our world today.  I had a job making pocket electronic computers that members of the public actually used — and the newly-popular Internet message boards allowed me to talk directly to my end-users!

And now, everything's gone to Hell.  Nobody wants me anymore as a greymuzzle programmer.  The Pope says World War III *may* have already begun.  Volcanoes and earthquakes and negative interest rates, oh my!  It has been publicly admitted that all sides in the Iraq war are now using weapons bought by the US taxpayer — can you say "bread and circus", boys and girls?


Dec. 13th, 2013 08:44 pm
pyesetz: (woof)
I didn't do much today.  The wind-chill was nasty all day, but most of the things I was supposed to have done were on the telephone.  One item: I was supposed to call one of the local "Chamber of Commerce" type places to ask if they know of any other Job Fairs like the one they held a month ago.  (They had 55 vendors, I handed out 5 résumés, went home thinking there were actually two companies I'd like to work at, but later found out that one doesn't need a software guy right now and the other has run into funding issues and can't hire anyone.)

I was also thinking of asking them where I could find a part-time semi-retired salesman for a "Linux system administration outsourcing" company, because it seems that I could actually form such a venture but none of us wants to be the guy who goes out and hawks the product to potential customers.  One of the nice things about sysadmin is that you really can create virtual full-time people by packaging up a bunch of part-timers (as long as work-documentation standards are strictly adhered to).  Two half-time contractors get paid less than one full-timer, so there's "margin" and "value-add" and all that lovely business stuff.  But I didn't call.

Today, PZ Myers wrote about the first time he asked out his future wife, which reminded me of my difficulties in picking up the phone to ask those two companies from the Job Fair why they hadn't called me back.  (You never know — I once got a job several months after a different job I had interviewed for had funding difficulties, because the interviewer remembered me.  And *that* job led to Company ℱ where I worked for 17 years.)  Professor Myers writes, "She was the brave one when she said yes."  Yeah, if any salesman were to agree to take on this gig, he would have to be a brave one.  Right now I have only one customer (that I would like to replace, or at least augment) and the method I used to acquire that one probably wouldn't work again.  I have no idea how to sell such a service, or how to determine what price the customers would pay for it, or how to find people who should buy it.  If you know that you're not good with sysadmin, then you don't think about sysadmin approaches to solving your problems, so you don't "feel the lack" of a sysadmin on your staff and don't realize that you could benefit from hiring an outsourcing firm.

I had a much easier time asking out my future wife than Dr. Myers did.  I just posted a "mating call" to a University BBS.  She was the only female respondent, so — years later — I married her.  Now if only I had some income to put food on the table for our children...


Dec. 21st, 2012 11:36 am
pyesetz: (arctic-fox)
Sometimes an entire week goes by between moments when I feel like working at Company 𝔾.  The situation is starting to look similar to my last few years at Company ℱ, where I didn't want to leave because I like being "a big frog in a small pond" and hate job-hunting due to poor health, but I wasn't happy with management so I never felt like working.  A good boss could get me going again, but I don't have one.

I would say "FML", but things seem to be okay at home with the wife and kids.  Money is going to be a problem soon, though.

In Russian, Песец (which can be pronounced "Pyesetz") refers to a fox that's white in the winter and sort of blueish in the summer.  Maybe I should pick a new name.  The other Russian name I got in college was Мчить (don't even try), which perhaps I should use to refer to my weredog.
pyesetz: (Default)
Date:August 9, 2006

[Name] Industries is a squat building in an industrial area outside of [Town] PA.  The building's entrance leads to a small waiting area containing four plush chairs, a plant, a receptionist behind a glass window, a stairway leading up, and a door with a digital combination lock.  On the walls are framed pictures of the company's products.  In the plant pot there is a diagram showing the layout of the building from the alarm system's point of view.  There is no other reading material.

While I am waiting, a young woman in jeans exits from the locked door and greets the receptionist on her way out of the building  Along with another fellow-employee greeting later, it is the only idle conversation overheard during my two hours at the company.  Either everyone at [Name] uses email for *everything*, or this is a company of taciturn people.

[VP-HR] lets me in through the locked door.  The contrast is extreme: the inside hallways have not been refurbished in quite some time.  I pass by some cubicles, including one that appears to be the official shingle for a one-desk company residing within [Name]'s offices.  The cafeteria has some of [Name]'s machines in it and employees are playing with their own products.

[VP-HR] takes me to [VP-Software], then returns to his own office.  [VP-Software] gives me the "five cent tour".  The QA department seems reasonable enough.  The software development area is extremely dark, with table lamps on some desks; something about the mood in that area brings a smile to my face.  There is no talking.  The production area is not air-conditioned.  There is little or no talking.  There is a ramp leading up to the second floor, but I am told it is "just for storage" and the tour does not include any of the various stairways to the upper floor.

[VP-Software] gets [Director-Software] and we find a conference room.  [VP-Software] is quite talkative, while [Director-Software] says almost nothing.  [VP-Software] repeats some questions from the phone interview.  It seems the job basically involves refactoring some software that has been patched to death over the last five years.  [Director-Software] asks about my first refactoring job back in 1983, and about [a Company ℱ product] (which unfortunately is an engine to help people take tests, not a method of automated QA that he was looking for).

For the "whiteboard" part of the interview, I was supposed to talk about software encapsulation.  I chose [another Company ℱ product], which I haven't worked on for six years.  And it was written in C and [VP-Software] believes C is obsolete and everyone should use C++.  So I'm not sure how well this part went.

[VP-Software] has strongly-held beliefs about software methodology which are more aligned with academic thought than with what the world's leading sofrware engineers actually do.  It is not clear how much a VP's opinion on such things really matters, but [Director-Software] neither supports nor opposes what [VP-Software] says.  After the interview, [Director-Software] can't wait to take his leave and run back to his desk.  It seems he has real work to do.

[VP-Software] brings me back to [VP-HR], who asks typical HR questions ("What do you like in a manager?  What do you dislike in a fellow employee?")  [VP-HR] is proud that people who leave [Name] often come back to their jobs, but the same thing used to happen at [Company ℱ] — I think it indicates a workplace with many minor irritations that are never resolved.  The company's core hours are 10-4, but [VP-HR] disagrees with his own company's policies and believes there is no reason why every employee can't get to work at 9 AM.  (In college I got poor grades in every class that met before 10.)  He also contradicts what [VP-Software] said in the phone interview about [Name's owner] being a conglomerate of troubled companies.  No no, [Name] isn't troubled!  [Conglomerate] bought [Name] as a cash cow!  He downplays the declining-industry aspect of tavern gaming by eliding the differences between [Name] and its sister company [Other name].  I would not want to take this job if it involved frequent contact with [VP-HR], but it probably doesn't.

Useful nugget from [VP-HR]: the refactoring project is [VP-Software]'s baby; he went to [Conglomerate] and got them to authorize it.  Since [VP-Software] is so new, I suspect that [Conglomerate] brought him in as a turnaround specialist.

Overall, the two main demerits I see are the lighting in the software development area (which strongly suggests that no one ever sits back to read a printout) and the VP-HR's attitude towards work hours.  Neither seems a strong enough reason to reject a job offer.  I think the main demerit that I presented to the company is that I am not the strong advocate of C++ design patterns that [VP-Software] seems to be looking for.  I prefer to do what works, what can be maintained, what scales well to large projects.  I expect that I would work well with [Director-Software], if that is what the day-to-day job actually entails.

In my previous email to [Recruiter], I forgot to give as a reference my current employer, [Company 𝔾] of [Town] California [Telephone number].  He recently wrote: "I am really enjoying the rapid pace of progress working with you".
pyesetz: (Default)
Jakob Nielsen does some serious analysis on his logfiles!  I'm mainly familiar with Zipf curves as they apply to vocabulary usage: typically half the words used in a book are used only once, one quarter are used twice, etc.  But the dozen or so most-used words in a book (a, an, the) occur far more often than Zipf predicts, just like Google is five times as popular as a source of hits to Nielsen's pages than Zipf would predict.  So I think Zipf isn't exactly the right curve after all.

Wil Wheaton does it again!  You think his essay can't get any crazier, then he finds a new seam of ore in his Crazy Mine.

The Master Contract for my online work (for a company that I'll be calling "𝔾" on this blog).  The blue text is the other guy's changes.  I think this contract makes it clear why lawyers hate me!  Unfortunately, this work doesn't pay well enough to support my family and I still need to find a day job.

A severance deal with ℱ was eventually worked out at the end of May(!), so I currently have what amounts to a no-show job that continues to pay my salary until the end of July.  Meanwhile, there's more work I might do for ℱ in the fall.  There's an OEM customer of theirs whose products I've worked on for years.  Their contract requires ℱ to do a new product for them by the end of this year.  They recently found out that this year's product will have to be done using an obsolete hardware platform.  I'm one of the only engineers in the world who knows about that old stuff and is still interested in working for ℱ, and there's a mountain of old software (in Arabic, much of it stuff I wrote) that needs amending in only a few short months.  Hiring me to do this work is the only sensible move, but for ℱ… I'm thinking it's less than 50% likelihood that I'll get the job.  They'll probably end up telling the customer that the project just can't be done (ℱ hates being cornered).

That meme-filling form (that [ profile] giza suggested I write) is continuing its popularity.  20 hits came in during the last minute!  But only 577 in the last hour.  Meanwhile my new write your own meme has gotten *zero* hits—absolutely no one but me has ever clicked on the Submit button.  I guess I need to advertise it on one of those meme-spreading LJ communities.
pyesetz: (Default)
My dK post was rated 60th most impactful of its weekend.  Actually it had zero impact because it discussed how to respond to a situation that never arose because US Senators wimped out.

I don't quite understand why my comment on this post got several replies suggesting that "4" wasn't a high enough rating for it (for historical reasons, "4" is the only rating used at that dK-based site).  One replier even suggested "11" as an appropriate rating!  I've always liked the number 11.  Sometimes, when I say something pithy, I go back and count the syllables in my utterance—often the answer is 11.  I wonder what that means?

Here is a blog post that should get an award for "most meta".  My comment is #1,040.  I especially liked comments #999 (though I suppose it's just a "fat" joke), 944, 435 (click on the link!), 406, and 312.

So the short-term contract with ℱ finally got signed, over halfway through the contract period!  Still no resolution on severance; I've mostly made up my mind to get nasty if they don't blink by mid-May.
pyesetz: (Default)
So I went to Human Resources on Monday to sign my short-term contract, but the VP of HR didn't have a copy of it.  The secretary to the VP of Engineering had a copy, but the VP hadn't signed it before leaving the country for two weeks.  She was going to take an image of the VP's signature and electronically add it to the contract, but the contract is in PDF format and she didn't have a licensed copy of Acrobat that permits alterations.  (I avoided making the obvious comment about Free Software.)  On Tuesday the IT department *still* hadn't installed a paid copy of Acrobat on her machine.  I'm not in the office today, so for tomorrow's meeting with my lawyer the contract remains unsigned and the period of time covered by the contract will be half over.

I'm not too worried about the legalities of this.  The VP emailed me a contract, I emailed an acceptance.  The Company has been allowing me to work in its offices this week.  I think that makes them legally bound to the yet-unsigned contract.  This issue came up last year when we had a contractor whose contract-renewal was delayed by administrivia.  We were told not to worry because the Company was required by law to pay him for any day where it allowed him to access the building.

For those of you keeping track, yes tomorrow is פסח, a "major Jewish holiday" on which work is supposed to be prohibited, but I'll be visiting my lawyer anyway.  Consider it my assertion of Free Will or something like that.
pyesetz: (Default)
I have selected Stephen Console LLC to represent me in severance negotiations with company ℱ.  I will be meeting with them next Thursday to discuss my options.

At 5:30 PM today, ℱ finally sent me a revised contract I can actually dare to sign before talking to my lawyer.  Meanwhile one of the four weeks covered in the contract was spent "on vacation" because it took them so long to revise it.  But anyway, I'm back at work starting Monday.
pyesetz: (Default)
This is the back door of my garage.  According to my records, it was purchased on October 8, 2000 at Home Depot.  I bought it because the previous door was rotting.  Attached to the door at purchase-time was a piece of glossy paper, extolling the door's features in English and Spanish.  I had that paper tacked up in my office for a few years, because remainder of this paragraph may be soporific for non-geeks )

So I brought the door home and immediately found out that some retrofitting was needed.  I went back to Home Depot to get something to help me sculpt the wacky bottom moulding.  Eventually I chose a spiral saw.  If an electric sander is like a plough-horse, a spiral saw is akin to a mustang: muscular but headstrong.  When not held properly, the spiral saw has a tendency to go skittering off in an arc, chewing to dust any wood that might be in the way.  I was working live on an expensive piece of wood with a new tool whose proper grip was inobvious, so I had to go slowly.  read more of 'The Sore-Door Chore' )
pyesetz: (Default)
Here is a remote control for a "Holmes" brand space heater, model HCH6001.  My employer bought this unit a few months ago.  Recently, during an exceptionally boring meeting about how to help people search for kanji in Japanese dictionaries, I looked idly at the back of the remote and saw the horror depicted at left (click to see in context).  It's a little hard to read because the words are embossed in black plastic on a black-plastic background.

Forensic analysis
*Fluffs his wings* It is my considered opinion as a recognized expert in this field that the disaster arose as follows:
  1. The French text was originally entered using a Apple Macintosh computer, running OS 9 or earlier.
  2. The text was then transferred to a PC running MS-Windows, version ME or earlier (probably Windows 98).
  3. Both of these obsolete systems used single-byte codes for accented letters, but they disagreed on the meanings for the codes.  Specifically, the code 0x8E was displayed as 'é' on old Macs but as 'Ž' on old PC's, so "mélanger" became "mŽlanger".
  4. From this point on in the production process, no one who spoke any French was involved.  Chances are at least fair that no one who spoke any English was involved, either, since a capital letter in the middle of a word should have been a red flag that something had gone wrong.
  5. Eventually a design drawing for the injection(?) mold arrived on an engineering manager's desk, someplace in China.  The manager signed off to allow production of the plastics, without having a French speaker recheck the text.  It's possible that to this day that manager still doesn't know that he(?) made a mistake that resulted in the production of umpteen thousands of wrongly-molded shells for remote controls.
  6. The defective shells were loaded with remote-control electronics, placed in cartons with their space heaters, then shipped to the United States.
At this point, I'm not sure what happened next.  Either someone noticed that the French text was invalid and ordered that these units not be sold in Canada, or nobody noticed and this unit just happened to be sold South of the border.  )
pyesetz: (Default)

A   u s e l e s s   s i d e b a r

ince it appears that I'll be writing an HTML renderer for my day job, you can expect to see even more CSS goodness in my journal posts.  The CSS standard specifies lots of ridiculous decorative touches that nobody ever uses, such as the drop-cap at the beginning of this paragraph.  I'm glad HTML supports inlined tables, for things like
fractions, but there's little real use for the
a b s u r d

you can do with that feature.  And how many nested boxing options do we really need for practical purposes?

Why, no, there really *wasn't* any point to this post.  Why do you ask?


pyesetz: (Default)

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