Thursday, June 28, 2007

Last weeks at work are always a bit weird. You of course end up doing that “Keep in touch!” “Yeah, definitely!” thing with people who you’ve talked to for over three minutes maybe once or twice. As well you say how you’ll miss working here when in reality you’ve been counting the days down for a few weeks now (which has really made it drag out it seems, not sure if that was the best idea). It’s been a bit tough getting the constant question of ‘so what are you going to do? Do you have a job lined up?’ I can’t say I ever get this question from people my age. Without an extremely direct contact to someone actually in charge of hiring, these days you cannot possibly really have a job lined up for someone with skill level. Employers already prefer not to look at out-of-town candidates as it is because the unreliability of them is too often a waste of their time (canceled interviews, canceled job offers, etc.). When you’re looking for a job with a relatively low wage who will obviously not help with any moving expenses, trying to send in applications from here is as much a waste of my time as it is theirs.

I think its time to look for more education. I think its safe to say that an additional degree would have made the coming months much easier.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Although I still have trouble justifying spending the ever-increasing cost of purchasing movie tickets, sometimes it really is worth it. Most recently was the movie Hot Fuzz where the audience laughing hysterically together made it even more enjoyable. If its up to me, the only two movies I will justify spending that much money on are comedies and special effect bonanzas. Of course they also must be well reviewed at the same time. My current movie barometer of choice is IMDb, where I’d say <7.0=bad movie, 7.0-7.4=decent movie, probably a rental, 7.5-7.9=Definitely worth a look if the synopsis/cast fits my tastes and 8.0+=Should definitely consider seeing this movie even if it didn’t catch my eye from the synopsis/cast.

Unfortunately, this method of gauging movies is beginning to fall apart. Whereas a year or two ago, this was pretty dang accurate from the get go, lately movies can start out high and then slowly descend as 2nd and 3rd waves of people see and vote on it. An especially good example of this was the recent Spiderman 3 which began at +8.0 after a couple premieres and even into the first weekend, but then afterwards began a steady descent to where it now sits at 6.8 (which is a much more accurate rating in my opinion).

I can see two reasons for this decline: the paranoid cynic in me says that when millions and millions of dollars are on the line and more and more people use IMDb, studios would be stupid NOT to hire people to beef up those numbers in the beginning before they get pushed down by the floods of real voters with more accurate ratings. The less conspiratorial reason might be that the people seeing the movie opening weekend are the more rabid ‘fanboys’ who have such high expectations and love the story/actors/director/writers from the outset that they will end up loving and defending it to the bitter end.

If this current trend continues, I need to either abandon IMDb altogether as a rating system and use something like Rotten Tomatoes or else filter the movies I’m willing to see either making sure it was released at least 2 weeks ago or else be a movie not prone to these ‘fanboys’ by its nature (like comic book derived movies, sequels, or worst of all both). The problem is that for comedies, it is essential to see it while the audiences are still pretty big, though I suppose if you go on a Friday or Saturday night, you’ll still get that a couple of weeks later.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Instead of going to work this past Monday, the division I’m in was fortunate enough to go to a retreat instead. Apparently the previous year’s ‘retreat’ was sitting in a conference room for several hours listening to boring seminars. As a result, people upset by this decided to organize this year’s retreat in a much more enjoyable fashion.

The goal of the seminar was to improve our ‘communication’ skills which sounded very worrisome on the outset, but in actuality the talk was reminiscent of Psych 101 lectures i.e. pop psychology, which I at least always find entertaining. The topic was Multiple Intelligences. Basically, the idea is that there are different kinds of intelligences such as logic, musical, interpersonal, etc. and people have strengths and weaknesses (or ‘emptys’ as the politically-correct speaker asked us to term it) in each of the nine types. The justification for this lecture was that by keeping in mind how co-workers’ intelligences differed from our own, we could better communicate with them e.g. write an email to a verbal person, go on a walk with a kinesthetic person, do a powerpoint presentation for visual people, etc.

I was pretty sure where I would stand from hearing the descriptions of the intelligences before doing a self-evaluation of which type I was. Strongest in logic, weakest in linguistic (apologies to my readers) and the rest was all around the same, fairly high (though this is all self-evaluation so as long as you think highly of yourself…).

The most interesting part was watching my co-workers, particularly one who I have problems communicating with. Sure enough we had very different intelligences (her weakest was my strongest, logic), which probably explains some of the difficulty we have. Definitely something to keep eye out for when future difficult with co-workers inevitably arise in my career.

Friday, June 15, 2007

I feel like I’ve come across another one of those market niches where I can’t find much of any competitors and as a result, am likely being ripped off. Reminds me of wedding planning actually (not that I paid for much of that). The industry: pet shipping. By that I mean we are going to Washington D.C., want to keep our car (at least for the beginning), but do not want to subject our two (awesome) cats to a cross-country trip in a cramped car.

I guess it makes sense that there is not going to be to many competitors--I mean how many times in your life do you really come into this sort of situation? The market must be low and you have to have people in all destinations in all parts of the country. Still, it looks as if I’ll end up paying as much as I would for a regular plane ticket for a human in order for my 15 pound cat to catch a ride on the same plane in the freight section (at least I assume this is how it all works).

The price is so extravagant we’re starting to reconsider the cats-in-the-car approach, but we’ve heard some bad stories about this choice. There’s the potential for meowing/crying, cats crawling on the driver when you feel guilty about keeping them in the crate and of course, no litter tray. For the time being, I’ll continue to sell the solution of ‘cat stew’ to my wife. I mean seriously, $350+? What have they done to earn their keep? Cows and chickens would at least give us milk and eggs in the morning.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I swear at times it really does seem to be true that when one thing breaks, everything breaks. A couple of weeks ago I somehow managed to lose my phone, presumably slipping out of my coat pocket at a movie theater (that’ll teach me to shut it off rather than turn it to vibrate). Within a week, while I’m continuing some hope of finding it, my wife’s phone does not slip out of her coat pocket while she gets into the car and the shuts the car door onto her pocket, phone nestled snuggly inside. Suddenly her phone’s display is completely out and it holds a charge for one, maybe two minutes at a time.

In normal circumstances we would just take out losses and buy some used unlocked phones off of Craigslist or Ebay and pay the $20 per phone activation fee to Verizon. However, just as we’ve done this, we are now sitting a mere 4 weeks away from the end of our 2 year contracts. You would think that surely Verizon would have some sort of method of pro-rating if something like this happens so that you get, say 23/24ths of a discount off a phone, alas, this is not the case. Instead we are caught between a rock and a hard place and living in the stone age of *gasp* no cell phones! How ever will we cope?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

My good friend is leaving her job soon and recently discovered that the job is being offered for significantly more than she is getting paid (roughly a 20% increase). Perhaps this might be expected if they were looking to hire someone more qualified/educated or if a number of years had passed and they needed to keep up with living expenses, however in this case she has transformed the job to include a multitude of different responsibilities since taking it on—so much so that the position is now going to have assistants (paid as much as she is currently)—a mere 1.5 years ago. In fact, the replacement will not even be given as many of the responsibilities as she is currently, instead giving some of the responsibilities to the new assistants.

This brings up the question—is this fair? Does the employer have a responsibility to increase an employee’s salary according to their worth? From a strictly capitalist standpoint, that is of course not true. Employer’s pay as little to their employees as they can get away with and employees attempt to negotiate a wage as high as they can get away with. However, the not-for-profit world is a curious one which has many unwritten rules, such as: often working unpaid overtime to keep everything running in the understaffed office, buying small supplies needed out of one’s own pocket, and of course there is an understanding that you will not be paid as much as you would for the same amount of responsibilities in the private for-profit world.

The more cynical part of me understands that this underpayment is probably due in large part to her giving notice that she would leave for grad school within 1.5 years almost immediately upon hiring. Normally an employer would have incentive to give raises to a promising employee in order to avoid losing him or her to another company. However, given the short timeframe and inevitability of her departure, that incentive was pretty much non-existent for her employer.

At the same time, knowing what I know about the non-profit world, I think this was probably also a bit of poor management. Keeping an employee happy is not just about preventing her leaving, but also because happy employees are simply better employees. Even if it’s just a sign of appreciation and encouragement, a raise after a 6 months to a year was in order. Perhaps the problem was the her boss just knew her too well—that no matter what she was going to work her tail off until the end.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Well after putting it off for quite some time, we finally got a laptop yesterday. This is also my first interaction with Windows Vista. Most of the press I’ve read has been largely negative e.g. it is overpriced, it is buggy, it is slow, it is not enough of an improvement.

Personally, I don’t think the overpriced thing is very warranted. Sure if you compare it to Linux it’s very expensive, but the hassle of finding compatible software for Linux is the same reason why I was so eagerly looking forward to switching from a Mac to a PC when I left high school. Since laptops have to come with an OS I had to buy something whether that be Windows XP or Vista Basic and the $40 upgrade to Vista Premium doesn’t seem that crazy for the additional tweaks it provides to the operating system. I imagine the people complaining about the price are the same people with BitTorrent running 24/7 on their computers.

I’d like to tell you whether it is buggy or slow, but right now I cannot give the opinion at all. This is because Dell has flooded my computer with a monumental slew of adware, spyware and demo programs!! Perhaps if I was more computer savvy I would know exactly which programs were necessary (such as those that need to run in the background for the soundcard, video card, modem, etc.) and which ones are completely superfluous, but I think that might take some time, unfortunately.

The final criticism is that Vista is not enough of an improvement over XP. From a first impression, I’m inclined to agree with this. When you look at past jumps from Windows 95 to Windows 98 to Windows XP, it just seemed like there was more there in the progressions. That said, there are definitely some aspects I do appreciate, such as improving on the nested menus from the start menu which I never liked dealing with before, the instant search function right on the start menu, the ability to click on a specific section of a file path in the explorer window to go to that folder, and finally, yeah, the (admittedly-gimmicky) way of scrolling through windows with Windows+tab keys is pretty neat.