Thursday, October 22, 2009

One year later

It was a year ago tomorrow that my life turned upside down. For the first, and I hope and expect only, time in my life I was fired from my job. No severance, no explanation, nothing. 17 years with the company, and having gotten the biggest raise EVER from them the year before and I was out.

The timing was good in that very night was the quarterly meeting of former employees to drink and network. And drink.

It probably shouldn't have surprised me, but in so many ways that job was like my first marriage. And I reacted to it in much the same way. It took me two months to get a new job - four hours from home in Detroit - good pay but as a contractor NO benefits. The one month contract lasted for almost 12 weeks, including one weekend they called me back for. I got my current job only a week after that ended - starting 5 months to the day after being fired.

When I talked with people about it, I remember saying it would be a rough journey, but that things would be better on the other side. I can definitely say that was true.

In almost every way this job is better than where I was. I do have less vacation and have to accrue it now, and only get paid once a month, but those are very minor. The gross pay is slightly less, but takehome is more, benefits are better (if a little confusing), and no on-call!

Most important is the respect and appreciation here. Being treated like a valuable, contributing part of the company, not being micro-managed at0all, and real tangible signs that I am doing well and am appreciated. Not having the feeling of being watched constantly.

I am hoping that the one year mark will allow for me to finally move past this emotionally and put that behind me where it belongs. I want my ex-employer to be like my ex-wife - not worth the energy to ever think or care about.

I guess I do need to thank both of them - by getting rid of me, you enabled me to get out of a toxic, abusive relationship into a good, fulfilling and much, much better one.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Monday, October 19, 2009


I think that both of my readers know by now that I'm a computer programmer by profession, and a geek by nature. Most of my personally geek nature is not toward computers - working with them all day (and all I still have to use them for in my personal life) tends to mean that they aren't my preferred way of relaxing (instead I like to play non-computer games, and build toy soldiers (pictures are available on my web site - conveniently linked in the menu the right). But that doesn't mean they still don't intrude in some interesting ways.

I have a BS in Mathematics w/ Computer Emphasis, and while I don't really feel I'm a big intellectual, I sometimes enjoy reading a bit of philosophy once in a while, especially when it comes to the nature of intelligence. Douglas R Hofstadter is one of my favorite authors, and I'm currently reading the Anthology "The Mind's I" he co-editted, and have two more of his books lined up to read before I'm going to read GEB for probably the what, 7th? time. So maybe this stuff has influenced me a bit, I don't know.

A few years ago, I had a thought stuck in my head for several days. It was persistent, and kind of annoying, simply because like a song stuck in your head, I couldn't get it to go away. For some reason, the question as to what operating system my (and thus other people's as well) brain was running was stuck in my head. The initial thought was UNIX of course (there is no way I could be running any form of Windows - I don't reboot nearly often enough) and even though I easily dismissed that, the idea of what it was running kept with me.

Then last night, amid the ceaseless tossing and turning, getting up to go to the bathroom nearly every hour, and general failure to get any (so it felt) real sleep, I did have a bit of a recurring dream, or thought going through my head. For some reason, in the brief bits of sleep I did get, I was dreaming that the reason I wasn't sleeping was because the XML for my dreams was incorrectly formatted, and thus not able to parse, preventing me from sleeping. There were no images, thus this recurring idea / thought / dream all night long, between looking at the clock, getting up, and occasionally fighting with my wife for the covers. To top it off, I was starting to be fairly sure that I could come in to work today and fix the bug that was causing my dream XML to be incorrect and thus solve the problem.

Now, if you ask me (though no one ever does) then our brains are all effectively organic computers (i.e. wetware). The difference between our brains and computers are that brains are not hardwired, instead being "wetwired", and the "software" in our brains (i.e. our thoughts) can actually affect the wetware - causing new neural pathways to form as we learn/discover new ideas, thoughts and emotions. No two brains are identical, though their operation is isomorphic to each other at the wetware level. We all have the same biology, that works in the same way, but none of us have the same neural pathways. However we all do have pathways for common items (the sky, colors, words, etc), though of course my concept of something may not match to your concept of something exactly. Kind of like the question is the color that I see as green the same color you see as green. The light frequency is the same, but is how you interpret it the same? And before you say yes, think about people who are color blind - so that they may not be able to see green at all, or be able to distinguish it from red. It reminds me a bit of last stanza of the poem at the end of the Moody Blues classic "Knights in White Satin" which describs the moon:
Cold hearted orb
That rules the night
Removes the colours
From our sight
Red is gray and
Yellow white
But we decide
Which is right
Which is an Illusion

So hopefully doing a core dump here will clear my buffers allowing me to actually get some down time tonight.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Kobayashi Maru

"How we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life." Star Trek II : The Wrath of Khan

I never took the Kobayashi Maru, nor have I ever truly had to deal with death. I've only had one semi-close relative that has ever died (I just wasn't close to my grandparents - I was just too young when they passed), and even then I hadn't seen him in four years when he was killed.

I've never had to deal with it for animals either - the dog I grew up with ran away when we added on to the house, the dog I had for my first marriage stayed with my ex, and every other pet except for my current dog had to be given away for one reason or another.

My parents recently had to put down their 17 year old dog, and it really got me thinking. I've never faced death, and I don't know how I will deal with it. From the logistics of a funeral to the emotions - it feels like yet something else in life that I never got the instructions for. Here I am, father of 5, married twice, 45 years old, and still don't seem to have this thing figured out.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Monday, October 12, 2009

Social Security 2009

Ok, I generally don't pass these on, and won't do it through email - however there is an extremely valid point here. I got this from my cousin - I don't know where it started so can't properly attribute it. However the idea is sound.
(This is worth reading. It is short and to the point.)
2010 is an election year for 1/3 of the senate and 1/2 of the house of
representatives. It would be nice if congress got the message; the voting
taxpayers are in charge now.

Propose this in 2009:

START A BILL TO PLACE ALL POLITICIANS ON SOCIAL SECURITY. If it's change our country truly needs, then let's "level the playing field" by eliminating the private retirement and health care plans that our Senators, Congressman, Congresswomen, Representatives; are receive and benefit from from the cost and detriment to us ... the "regular" people of this great nation.




Perhaps we are asking the wrong questions during election years.
Our Senators, Congressman, Congresswomen, Representatives; do not pay into Social Security and, of course, they do not collect from it.
You see, Social Security benefits were not suitable for persons of their rare
elevation in society. They felt they should have a special plan for themselves So, many years ago they voted in their own benefit plan. In more recent years, no congress person has felt the need to change it. After all, it is a great plan.
For all practical purposes their (Senators, Congressman, Congresswomen,
Representatives;), plan works like this:
1. When they retire, they continue to draw the same pay until they die.
Except it may increase from time to time for cost of living adjustments.
..... For example: Senator Byrd and Congressman White and their wives may
expect to draw $7, 800,000.00 (that's Seven Million, Eight-Hundred Thousand
Dollars), with their wives drawing $275, 000..00 during the last years of their lives.
This is calculated on an average life span for each of those two Dignitaries.
2. Younger Dignitaries who retire at an early age, will receive much more during
the rest of their lives. Their cost for this excellent plan is $0.00. ZIP!! NADA!!! ZILCH!!!
This little perk they voted for themselves is free to them. You and I pick up the tab
for this plan.
The funds for this fine retirement plan come directly from the General Funds;
From our own Social Security Plan, which you and I pay (or have paid) into, every
payday until we retire (which amount is matched by our employer), We can expect to get an average of $1,000 per month after retirement.
Or, in other words, we would have to collect our average of $1,000 monthly
benefits for 68 years and one (1) month to equal Senator Bill Bradley's benefits!

Social Security could be very good if only one small change were made.
PLAN" from existing! In it's place, put every Senator,
Congressmen, Congresswoman into the Social Security plan with the rest of us!
Then sit back.....
And see how fast they (Senators, Congressman, Congresswomen, Representatives),
would fix it!
If enough people receive this, maybe a seed of awareness will be planted and maybe
good changes will evolve.

How many people can YOU send this to?
Better yet......
How many people WILL you send this to?

P.S. The same goes for their (the Senators, Congressman, Congresswomen, Representatives) health plan.