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I'm going to move my blog. The new home is jturiel.blogspot.com. Put it in your bookmarks - all the new updates will be going there, and I'll slowly move my old content over as well.
It's nothing against Slashdot, it's just that it's more convenient to keep it on a site I can FTP to, and I'm not willing to open up FTP on my own server. I would have put it on my
Yep. Nobody here but us he-men. Jane's at her folks' house in New Jersey right now, so while she's gone it's just us two swinging bachelor guys.
I figure by Friday, David and I will be drinking beer together, smoking cigars and eating steak. I'll teach him how to play poker on Saturday.
Granted, I need a job first, but I had been planning to buy one of the new iMacs once I had one - my 2+ year old PowerBook is aging badly, and overmatched by a lot of stuff nowadays. The new iMac is a nice upgrade - 1.25GHz G4 processor, DDR333 RAM, a GeForce FX 5200 video card with 64MB of RAM, USB 2.0 support, and other nice goodies. A good, solid upgrade over my old TiBook 667 at a reasonable price, leaving the TiBook to be my "throw it in a bag for trips" computer.
Then Apple had to go and reinstate my Portable Lust today with the new PowerBook line. I can't make up my mind whether to lust after the new 15" or the new 17" PowerBook. They have all the same specs, plus FireWire 800 support, Gigabit Ethernet, 512MB of L2 cache (iMacs don't have L2 - Apple considers that a "pro" feature), included Bluetooth (instead of a $50 add-on), and both S-Video and DVI out driven by a Radeon Mobility 9600. Woo.
Even though the pricing makes the choice obvious (the iMac is around $1800), I still lust for the PowerBooks. Darn it. Oh well. Self-denial builds character.
More pictures are up! Head to the usual place to see them (e-mail me if you don't remember where that is). Also, I may be taking this blog and moving it to the real Blogosphere instead of just using Slashdot's Journal system. More news on that as and and if that develops.
Since my last entry a few days ago, there's not much new. I did a first coat of paint on the wood trim (white), and it looks pretty good. I have to do a little more touch-up when I have a chance. Between Murphy's Oil Soap and a razor blade, most of the spilled paint is now off the floor. David's picked up a couple more words (cracker, baby, bug), and is walking a little more often. But he still prefers to crawl because it's faster and he's more maneuverable that way. Four wheels on the ground rather than two, and all that.
The Super Top Secret meeting went off as rescheduled this week, and went very well. I think most of my recommendations will be implemented by the Super Top Secret client. That'll be a big boon for their customer base, and it helps my professional reputation as well.
Yesterday, I spent the day at Holyoke's annual golf league outing. It was a nice time, particularly because my team won. But it was also nice for a different reason, and a melancholy one. Next year's league will most likely be mainly an alumni league - as most of the players are either gone now, or working with the Sword of Damocles over their heads. Most of the people there found out over the last week wheter they were "go forward" people or not, and when their service would be ending. If I averaged out all the departure dates I heard from people, it would come out to sometime late this winter.
I had five years of service there, plus plenty of unused vacation - so I got a decent amount of "get lost money". A lot of people who have been kicked to the curb got still more - my five years was lower than the average tenure there. But I'm still ambivalent about the whole process.
Here's why. I think I've said before that the business model my company was using wasn't working. We'd been losing money for years. It's not a secret - it's public record. I'm obviously not an insurance expert, but I think that the business was probably fix-able. In recent years, our results were on an improving trend, though not where we needed to be long-term.
The plan that went forward, though, blew up essentially everything and pulled out of most markets, with a goal of reinventing the company as a specialty insurer. In the process, more than half the people will go away. Some of them were talented, hard-working people. Some were slugs. But still, that's an awful high human fallout in a place that is supposed to serve policyholders first and employees second, before worrying about the rest.
What sealed things, though, for a lot of people was Ward. These folks "benchmark" the performance of companies in various industries, of which insurance is one. They take what they consider to be the top performing companies, and rate them after assigning costs to the areas they feel they belong in and so forth. If you pay them, they'll come in and rate you.
In insurance, the biggest company to worry about is AM Best. They actually rate you based on your underwriting practices, surplus management, combined ratio, outlook, and employee-to-policy ratio among others. The "A+" is coveted by them, and leads people to send business your way if you can sustain that rating.
Ward deals with back-office practices for the most part. Some companies believe that Ward is pretty much the gospel of how to run your operations.
Ward apparently didn't think highly of the way some strategies were being executed. So now a lot of folks in various places are on the job market. It doesn't matter necessarily what they did, or how much the business needed them to function. If they don't match a place where they're expected to be, adios.
That's not why I'm gone per se - I went away because the guy who was my boss was told, more or less, that "they don't need a manager on-premises. After all, the other guys in Connecticut don't have one". Since I wasn't going to either get his job or go to Illinois to have the life sucked out of me, I had to go. It didn't matter that I was performing well (I have the reviews to prove it), or that I was working on the implementation of a whole mess of inter-company projects. The guy in charge of the company I was working at told corporate IT that my org-chart position was gone, so I was gone. End of story.
I'm probably coming off here as really bitter - believe it or not, that's not my intent. As I've said before, something had to be done to fix the company. There was collateral damage as a result. This happens all the time in modern-day America.
What I am a little bitter about is something I talked about a few months ago. The decisions that affect people's lives get made by folks who just have no understanding of the human element. The day I was tossed overboard, I had forgotten my Palm that morning. I rely on it to keep notes and myschedule, so I called home and had Jane swing by on her way out to do errands. I went down to the street to meet her, and while I was waiting the fellow in charge of Holyoke (he's the Connecticut guy) drove out past me. I waved, he waved back. Jane arrived a couple of minutes later, passed me my Palm, and left. I went back up to my office.
And about fifteen minutes later, I got called down to HR and got dumped. I'm guessing that the gentleman I waved to went back home to Connecticut, had a nice dinner, played with his kid (or kids - I'm not even sure if and how many), and slept well, thinking "Good - I started saving them money today".
He darn well wasn't thinking "I just put a man out of work today". CEO's in general don't care about that anymore. Right after I vanished, so did the systems department later that day. They're being outsourced. Yippee! More money saved!
Over the next year or so, auditions will be held for the role of greatest living singer-songwriter. The position has recently become available with yesterday's passing of Warren Zevon, who died after a 13-month battle with mesothelioma. He was 56.
Candidates must have strong piano skills, the ability to play multiple instruments, a sharp wit and a wicked sense of humor. A baritone voice is helpful but not required. The ability to maintain perspective and make fun of one's self even in the face of adversity is essential.
Sunday, we painted two coats of the green that they use at Restoration Hardware (they call it Silver Sage). We also painted the baseboards, and the two door frames. The ceiling trim will get done in a couple off days, as soon as we think the new paint is solid enough to tape over. And the windows will wait until after I'm employed again. That's because we decided to have them repaired and restored at that point, and it'll be easy to paint the woodwork without worrying about painting the windows shut. We'll be taking the closet door out to paint it, and the same with the main door. Probably sometime mid-week.
We did get more of the paint on the floor than we hoped to, but not too bad. The floor really needs refinishing one of these days soon - it was pretty hurting when we bought the house and it's only gotten worse in the ensuing decade. We also were able to get rid of my last particleboard bookcase in the process of this weekend's work. This morning I went out with David while Jane showered and bought a plastic shelving unit at Home Depot (along with some extra painting supplies), which I put upstairs in our cleaned-out and nearly empty attic. I'm storing all the old software boxes I have up there and keeping minimal stuff down here. That freed up over half my good bookcase for other goodies that were in the cruddy one. And I threw away a lot of stuff.
The end result now is that both windows are now unobstructed, which is cool. There's still a litttle finsh work to do, and I need to re-hang my cool Peter Simon prints back on the wall, but it looks great now. Pain in the butt, but worth it.
The reason I'm up writing this so late is because of all the furniture rearranging and cleaning I did afterwards. I could have waited until morning, but I wanted it done and over with. I can do all the touch-up work with the furniture back in place.
Other than that, it looks like it was a glorious weekend that we missed because we were inside painting. Bummer. And I polished off the latest Clive Cussler novel. I still have three library volumes to go through over the next week, which should be do-able. One of them's really short.
I'm a fan of home improvement shows. I watch This Old House, Trading Spaces, and Decorating Cents pretty regularly, and a few others as well. TiVo grabs a lot more of those shows for me than I even bother with, because it knows I'll probably like them.
When I watch them, I'm always struck by how easy painting looks. Nobody gets that messy, the job goes smoothly, and the paint is always done in a jiffy.
I'm here to tell you all it's just a bunch of hooey. We're painting my Nerd Room right now, and it's like kicking dead whales up a beach. I did the ceiling, some woodwork, and some of the primer. Jane's done a bunch of primer and prep work. We cleaned the walls together, and I just taped off all the woodwork so tomorrow we can do the actual paint color. It sucks.
We moved everything we could out of the room, but both bookcases, the desk, and the PC station are still in there, just squeezed into the middle of the room. The chairs are in the hallway, and all the other junk is shut into the bathroom. We can barely more around in here right now.
And on the TV shows, the kids are never underfoot. here, we take turns watching David, and when he sleeps we work together.
If we're real lucky, we'll be finished tomorrow. I hope so. I'd really like my room back...
I didn't get much sleep last night. Since my departure from Holyoke, I've had a few cases like that - more than usual.
Now most of you might be saying "Of course. He's worried about things, and can't sleep because of it". Except that's wrong. I have a lot of thoughts about my joblessness, but worry isn't high on the list. I knew the company was heading in that direction, and I'd shown no interest in relocating elsewhere - which I knew for a long time would be my only hope of remaining relevant enough to keep working for the company. I'm pretty confident I'll be picked up before too much more time passes, and I've really been enjoying the time off. I was thinking further about it though, and I think I do have a handle on the sleep problem. It is job-related, but only dimly.
You see, when I was working I had a routine. I'd get up at about 6:15, check my e-mail, shower, eat breakfast, and head to work around 7:30 or so. I worked until about 4, went home or out to do an activity, then we'd have dinner around 6, put the boy to bed at 9, and hit the sack at about 11. On weekends I'd sleep a little later.
Now, not working, we've been sleeping until we wake up - usually when David wakes up around 8:30 or so. Depending on things, I may or may not do breakfast. yesterday, for instance, I slept in until almost 10, and immediately went into a call related to my Super Top Secret Project that lasted over an hour. So no breakfast. We ate lunch out in Danvers around 2 - we were shopping for furniture there. It was a big lunch, so I didn't wind up eating dinner until around 9, and then I just had a pack of ramen because we need to get rid of it (and I couldn't think of anything better) - it's been stockpiled forever.
So with all that schedule-shifting, when we finally went to bed around 12:30 I just could not turn my brain off. My body was exhausted, but my brain was stuck in overdrive.
I think during the several hours I was either awake or nearly awake, I solved several IT problems related to my Super Top Secret Project, planned a trip, decided what color to paint my Nerd Room, inventoried David's clothes, recompiled the kernel on my web server (in my head), wrote half of a novel, and I may have also solved the problems in the Middle East. But I'm not sure about that last part, because I finally fell asleep right afterwards.
And I also wrote a much wittier and concise version of this blog entry.
Needless to say, I'm glad I only have these on rare occasions. I think the best solution is to establish more of a routine - which I will try to start doing. Today, however, Jane let me sleep until 10:30 this morning, because I was way too exhausted to get up earlier. Meanwhile, today I have to work on the Super Top Secret Project a little bit more and go buy the paint I decided to use in my sleep last night.
"Cracker". And he can point to them when he wants one. Otherwise, it's been a fun but moody weekend for the little guy. He's heading full-on into the terrible twos, but he's started at 1.25 instead.
It actually comes with some of the developmental milestones that he's been hitting lately. He wants to do things himself, but he can't quite do them yet. It's very frustrating for him.
On my front, I'm working on a Top Secret Project for business. It'll occupy me for a couple more days, then I can get the next photo update posted.
I'm also looking into the possibility of hanging out my own shingle as an IT pro as a possible interim measure for work, or maybe even as a new direction entirely. We'll see. I'm kinda testing the waters now to see if there's any potential for the time being.
At the 15 month appointment:
Height - 33.75 inches
Weight - 25 pounds, 10 ounces
Our son is a moose.
I bought a new suit. Navy blue, 3-button. 48 Regular. I may add one more this week to that and the one I already have that's in good shape. 3 suits should be enough for any combination of interviews, and I can always get more if I need them down the road.
Otherwise, we haven't done much today. We did search some for a smaller coffee table for our living room (the one we have is huge and overwhelms the room), but no luck. We put off David's nap as long as we could, but by 3:30 he really had to get home and get to sleep. We took advantage of the nap to read the Sunday paper, but didn't do much else. After David goes to bed in about an hour, we plan to tidy up our basement again now that all the yard sale clutter is gone. David could really use it as a playspace. After all, that's one of the original reasons we finished it off...
Tonight, about an hour or so ago, David was holding onto the TV. He let go of it, and walked over to the nearby sofa where i was sitting. A few minutes later, he did it again.
At 14 months and 30 days.
This is the first Post-Holyoke milestone that he's hit. And you know what? Other than having him in the first place, it's the best.
So for all my peeps back in the big brick building (you all know who you are) - yes, Virginia, there is life afterwards. And a darn good one, too. Because this reminds me that there are Other Things That Matter besides the business model of an old insurance company, and who it does or does not include. And the Other Things matter even more.
Oh, yeah - our second yard sale was today, too. We got rid of a lot of junk, and took the rest to the Salvation Army thrift store here in town. We've emptied the house of a lot of clutter over the last few months, which is definitely a bright side of the whole abortive house move. And my Geek Room looks great so far - the new paint job we're going to do in the next week or two will help even more.
This entry is not for the squeamish. However, it is kinda funny.
David is fascinated by bodily functions, now that he's a toddler of sorts (he only takes a step or two, but it's enough). He makes burps, clears his throat, coughs, and snorts, and he giggles uncontrollably after a good noise. He likes to smear food everywhere, too.
Today, though, he was sitting on the kitchen floor watching Jane work, and he stuck his finger in his mouth so far he threw up. He thought it was hysterical.
We, on the other hand, did not share that view. So I brought him upstairs, changed his outfit, and put him down for a nap. He didn't seem to mind.
There's nothing like a bulimic 15-month-old. Although at 25-plus pounds, he's in no danger of wasting away.
Yes, it's late, but I've been working on a project for the city (I'm leading an effort to modernize the city's IT infrastructure), and I've been sufficiently busy that I only have time this late in the evening.
That, and we watched "Shallow Hal" after we put the boy to bed around 9:30. It was a funny trifle of a film.
I did some work on the project earlier today, too - but I was also tugged to do a lot of prep for our upcoming yard sale this Saturday. We're trying to clean out all the junk we didn't get rid of the first time back in June.
Yard sales are interesting. Our original motivation in having one back in June was to get rid of stuff we didn't want to move to the new house with us. Now we're just trying to get rid of stuff, period. Hopefully, though, this will be the last one. They're tiring.
I've turned up a few interesting job leads thus far in the search, including one I came across Monday that looks like it actually might be a pretty appropriate fit. We'll see if the employer agrees, of course. One problem I see already is that there are still a decent amount of jobs out there to be had, but the competition is stiffer than it used to be. I know some good people that are out of work right now as well. Some of them for a while.
I'm still quite optimistic overall, though. I've seen more leads to date than I expected to, even if I wash up against the companies' HR filters. I even saw a few that weren't for me, but were well-suited to people I knew. I forwarded those along to the right places. The Internet has made searching easier, but only a nice suit, a solid resume, and good interview skills will get you the job.
As opposed to the go-go days, when all you had to do is breathe. Hopefully I'll nail something down within a month or two, which'll let me keep some of my severance in the bank.
I've just been too busy enjoying myself. This weekend's big project was dismantling the Big Ugly Rack in my nerd room, and moving the house server down to the basement. Unfortunately, it cost me my 161 days of uptime when I turned it off for the move, but oh well.
Today I took the cables that were dangling from holes all through the back wall of the nerd room behind the old rack, and organized them into a couple of raceways down the wall to a central patch box. It now has the Ethernet connection from the bedroom, the connection to the server area in the cellar, and the CATV connection for my room at a single, floor-level box. Much neater. I'm in the process of spackling all the various holes and dings in that wall section, after which we'll probably paint the room a new color.
Total project cost to date; about $80. That covers the new wall-mounted box, the RJ45 connectors, the plastic raceways, and a new 8-port 10/100 switch for the cellar. I already had the spackle and some of the other parts I needed in-house.
Then this afternoon we went up to Russell Orchard in Ipswich - missed the end of the Peach Festival by a little while, but we wandered around the barn area so David could look at the ducks. He was too impressed by seeing real ones to shout "Duck!" like he does when he sees them in books or on TV. But he did cry when we walked away, and he sulked at me in the car for a while afterwards.
Jane got giggles out of him, though.
Tonight, after dinner, we went down to the Willows for a stroll and some popcorn (for Jane, from Hobbs' - the best popcorn in the Universe). We got to dodge some skunks on the way back from our stroll. Successfully, I might add.
Tomorrow we may head up to the waterfront festival in Gloucester, weather permitting.
For now, I'm actually enjoying this brief interlude of having a life.
Well, today is essentially my first actual day out of work. I was originally going to work a half-day Friday before heading down to Connecticut for a party my sister and brother-in-law were having to celebrate their wedding back in January (they eloped to Fiji). So I simply slept in and got some stuff done around the house before leaving a little earlier for the trip. The party was a blast, and the three of us had a lot of fun. David was a hit with all the relations who hadn't yet met him.
Then Monday was spent at a golf tournament sponsored by my friend Steve's company. I'd planned that ahead of time as a day off. My team came in third, which was cool, and I birdied one of the holes.
Today, on the other hand, is different. Jane let me sleep in until I got a call at around 9, which was good since I'd gotten up at 5:30 yesterday to drive to the golf tournament. Since then, I've been mostly working on some childproofing around the house and chasing after a few job leads. Job hunting is pretty high on the "things I do everyday" list, but not a job unto itself yet these first few weeks. I'm pretty good at what I do, so I expect if there is a suitable job out there for me then I'll be the one who gets it.
Until then, I'm also going to try and enjoy my first real extended period of not working since high school.
A few months ago, I commented on the way job security doesn't really exist anymore. I was ahead of myself, it turns out. My employer changed it's business model entirely, and it'll require a lot of shrinking before it grows again. So I was the one in my area whose number came up.
And now I'm home, posting notes in my blog.
Anyhow, if any of you folks who enjoy reading the continuing adventures of David are looking for a really good network manager, I'm now available.
I think one of the worst things that has happened to racial relations in this country is the "Hyphenated-American" trend. The simple action of trying to acknowledge one's ethnic background when referring to them has contributed to more division than it's worth. Why? Simple. White people (European-Americans, I guess...) are the majority in this country. That's a basic fact, though minority groups are growing at a faster clip nowadays. However, it's normally the minorities that get hyphenated designations.
And I think that serves to only highlight "otherness", drawing attention to a difference between them and the majority ethnic group.
For instance - "African-American", the most common PC term for black people. Well, a large proportion of people referred to that way have little (if any) traceable African descent. A large portion of this ethnic group is of primarily Carribean descent (going back many generations) - do we call them "Carribean-Americans"? Of course not.
Or the term "Asian-American". I'd say that's downright insulting. There are tremendous visible differences between the various Asian ethnic groups, and to lump them all together is at least as insulting as I'd think it would be to lump every person with dark skin together as "African-American".
Same thing with "Latin-American". Does that mean Spanish (half of my ancestry), or Mexican? Are Brazilians Latin-American? They don't speak Spanish - their language is mainly taken from Portugese. But people from the countries surrounding Brazil are considered Latin-American, so I guess they count too.
Or in my case, as I just mentioned, my ancestry is roughly half Spanish. But my paternal grandfather actually came from Rhodes (which is currently Greek) with an Italian passport (letting me join the Sons of Italy, I guess). But the Italians had Rhodes at the time because they'd picked it up off the Ottoman Empire after World War I. So maybe that makes me a Turkish-American.
On the other hand, my mother is from rural Maine, but she was actually born in Canada (that's where the hospital was). Thus, my mom can't ever be President, and I could be a Canadian-American.
You see a bit of my point? If someone's parents are both from a particular nation, and they're immigrants here, then referring to yourself as, for instance, Jamaican-American" can be a source of ethnic pride. And that's fine. But to use it in a generic fashion is divisive and potentially insulting.
The best way we can refer to a resident of this nation? How about "American". Or maybe just "human". Because race and ethnicity are mainly artificial constructs that describe tiny physical differences in humans that are mainly alike. With my mixed ancestry, there are nonetheless miniscule genetic differences between myself and people from other races. We have much more in common than otherwise.
In the end, we're all human. And that's what matters far more than anything else.