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New blog - I forgot this was here. Apr. 12th, 2007 @ 10:16 pm

I haven't been to LJ for a while and it suddenly occurred to me that I'd failed to make an important post over here: I've stopped posting on LiveJournal and started posting on my own site.


The new site is Loonmagnet.net. The main feed is http://www.loonmagnet.net/index.php/feed/ and the comments feed is available at http://www.loonmagnet.net/index.php/comments/feed/.

Hope to see you over there!

Movin' on Feb. 28th, 2007 @ 11:22 pm

For those of you who haven't already heard, I turned in my resignation at Boston Scientific today. My last day will be March 14th.

I'll be starting at UnitedHealth Group on March 19th as a Web Developer.

Now before anyone gets the idea that this decision is some kind of knee-jerk reaction to the recent layoff unpleasantness, let me just say that it's not. It's related to the layoffs of course, in the sense that I wouldn't have been looking for a job right now, but that's it. Once I'd actually interviewed for the job and had gotten a feel for it, I'd already decided that I would take it if the offer was acceptable, whether or not I was laid off.

The big plus for me with the new job is the type of programming work involved. At Boston Scientific, the work is mostly with event-driven real-time applications, primarily written in C/C++. What I've always liked most is working on database-driven software, and my main strength is in Java. The new job is doing Java webapps, heavily database-driven. So. The choice was pretty clear.

What this means is that for the next couple of weeks, I'll be spending my spare time knocking the rust off of my J2EE skill set and reading up on Spring and Hibernate. Beyond that, I'll be making sure everything is cleaned up at Boston Scientific to make sure nothing is lost when I leave, a task that should be pretty easy as I've just done that in the week leading up to the layoff date.

I'm actually pretty down about leaving Boston, partly because it's still a good company to work for, but mostly because I have the best manager and co-workers imaginable. I hope I'll have the chance to work with a group like that again someday.

Anyway, this calls for a night out in the next couple of weeks. I'll let you know when there's a time and a place.

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Misallocation of resources Feb. 20th, 2007 @ 09:43 am

Recently, I was at the library flipping through a copy of a book titled Bitter Java (which is about the language, not the drink), and glanced at the copyright date to get an idea of how out-of-date the book was, the library being full of useful programming books like Java 2 For Dummies and Programming Macros for Excel 5.

The book was copyright 2002, which means that it may be of some use, because it's a book of lessons learned, rather than a development guide to the state-of-the-art, but what really caught my eye was this:

Recognizing the importance of preserving what has been written, it is Manning's policy to have the books they publish printed on acid-free paper, and we exert our best efforts to that end.

Of all the things to print on acid-free paper. A programming book.

Realistically, programming books should be printed on the same wood chip-infested stock used for comic books; comics probably have a longer shelf life on average.

As a matter of fact, I'd appreciate programming books that disintegrated into compost on their own within five years of purchase. My programming library is full of crud pertaining to Visual Basic 6 and CL for the AS/400. Unfortunately, they're books, which means that they can't just be thrown away, and they're also obsolete, which means that they can't be given away. The last thing I need is for publishers to try to ensure the things are still around for my kids to dispose of.

Coulda, woulda, didn't. Feb. 15th, 2007 @ 01:37 pm

I seem to have a positive talent for making the wrong decisions.

It's official; I'm still employed at Boston and missed out on eight months worth of severance and a full year of paid benefits. I'm so fucking stupid.


Five weeks gone by . . . Feb. 14th, 2007 @ 11:29 pm

I expect that within twelve hours of posting this, I'll finally know whether or not I'm still employed by Boston Scientific. Either way, it'll be a relief to have it over with.

I said in my last post that I hadn't volunteered to be laid off, and that I was fine with that decision. However, I realized I was lying to myself. I mostly rationalized the decision to not volunteer because it absolved me of the risk should I have a hard time finding a new position. However, once I realized how many people had volunteered and how many people had managed to find positions in unaffected departments within the company, I realized that I really did want to be let go. Damn. So, for the last three weeks I've been living with the knowledge of my mistake of not volunteering and what it could potentially cost.

At this point, I've decided that I will be leaving the company soon, whether it's by my choice or theirs. With the number of my coworkers who will be gone and the completely different scope that my department will have in the future, I realize that this is the perfect time to move on. The cost of leaving on my own is a very substantial severance package. The choice to volunteer is obvious in hindsight, but of course that doesn't do any good now.

So, hopefully tomorrow I'll be posting about my newly found lack of employment.

Wish me luck.


Original Movie Meme Feb. 11th, 2007 @ 11:24 pm

Not the original movie meme of course, jes that it's made up by myself from a bunch of movies floatin' around in my head over the last few weeks.

Feel free to give more than one answer to any of the following:

  • Last Oscar winner (or nominee) which you watched and thought, "What the hell were they thinking?": Brokeback Mountain. Guess I'm feeling a little reactionary, but I watched it recently and thought, "So, it's a pretty basic tragedy about unrequited love, but they're gay. Big whoop. (I also feel pretty contemptuous toward Crash as well, but that's practically a post in itself.)
  • Last Best Picture winner you actually agreed with: American Beauty, which was back in 1999. As a matter of fact, there are only three since 1990 that I actually though deserved the win (Silence of the Lambs and Schindler's List). As a matter of fact, looking at the choices made by the Academy over the years, I'm reminded why I no longer care about the Oscars.
  • Favorite guilty pleasure: Moulin Rouge. Nuthin' but syrupy, sappy, melodic eye-candy, but done pretty much perfectly.
  • I just don't understand why this is considered great: The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Sure, it was vast. It was sweeping. It was epic. It was also choppy, ponderous, and full of effects shots that seemed more about being a cool effects shot than drawing the viewer into the story. I'm not saying it was bad, but neither was it memorable.
  • I just don't understand why this isn't considered great: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. Actually, that's not entirely true; most of the people I've known (or read) who hated this movie loved it on stage and thought the movie paled in comparison. Me? The first time I heard of it was when I saw the movie and instantly recognized it as great. I suppose it's not really for everyone, but if you can appreciate Shakespeare, enjoy debate on the meaning of life and have a good sense of the absurd, you too should think it's great. And if not, I won't understand why.
  • I'd always heard it was great, and it was: The Graduate. Just saw this a while ago and was surprised at how good it was, even having known a fair amount about the plot beforehand and having the added baggage of high expectations. Some of the direction was a little much, but it was an experimental time for film making, so it didn't bother me, and besides, modern film grammar is so well-used that it's rare to see someone do something interesting with the camera. Technical stuff aside, it's just good fun.
  • I can't believe that no one ever told me how great this was: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? I don't even remember why I decided to put this in the queue, but I was blown away by it. Just in case it's never been recommended to you: See it.
  • I had to be talked into seeing this, and I'm glad I was: Die Hard. At the time, Bruce Willis was a TV actor recently of Moonlighting and had started popping up all over the place, singing, dancing, etc., and even though I'd liked him on TV, his ubiquitousness was really starting to grate. Then out of nowhere, this big action pic. I really didn't feel like spending the money on it, but afterwards I was glad I did. It's still a fun movie.
  • I'm told I should see it, but won't: Happy Gilmore. I'm assured that it's hilarious, but every Adam Sandler movie I've ever seen makes me break out in hives. I'm also told that I shouldn't let the few of his movies that I've seen bias me against Gilmore because yes, those are trash, but Gilmore is brilliant. Fool me once . . .
  • I've never been able to finish watching: 2001: A Space Odyssey. Yeah, I know. One of the greatest films of all time. I dunno. As much as I dislike watching an entire novel chopped down to two hours, I'm even more turned off by what seems like a dozen pages of hastily sketched notes stretched into two and a half hours of ponderous silence punctuated by monotone dialog. Zzzzzz.

I could add quite a few more things, but then what would I post tomorrow?


Layoff update Jan. 29th, 2007 @ 05:23 pm

There's not much to tell, but in case you're curious (and I know at least some of you are) here's an update:

The basic story is that I won't know anything about whether or not I'm staying with Boston until February 15th, when I'll either sit in my cube fidgeting all day, or sit in my cube fidgeting until they take my badge, tell me to pack up and escort me out. So.

People were allowed to volunteer to be let go, but I decided against doing so. While it would be disappointing to miss out on the substantial severance payout, I wouldn't mind staying with the company. Of course, I'm still fairly certain that my name will be on the list of those leaving, and since volunteering would reduce my severance somewhat, my decision was largely made for me.

So, there's not much news. I have one phone screening coming up this week, but other than that I've not yet started looking for a new position. I expect that I'll be starting to do so next week. It's a process I hate, but I'm in a much better position overall than I was last time I actually needed to find a job, so I expect it to go fairly well.

Details aside, my only real feelings about the looming specter of layoffs is that I want it to be over. As I've decided to forgo volunteering, there's no other action I can take, but that fact doesn't stop me (or anyone else) from listening for any bit of news or speculation, and then churning it around to add my own speculation to the mix. I'm trying to avoid it, but it's a pretty constant hallway conversation. Even though I'm not particularly worried about what will happen, I find the constant presence of the topic to be pretty stressful and a real waste of mental energy.

Regardless of what happens, I expect that you'll find me much happier on February 16th than I am today.

Current Mood: draineddrained
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Refocusing Jan. 17th, 2007 @ 10:32 pm

Over the last couple of days, I decided to refocus my attention on things that I actually liked.

Revolutionary idea, no?

I realized that I was spending too much time reading on topics that merely got me worked up, things that I felt negatively about, rather than things I was actually interested in. I'm specifically talking about politics, but I'd also been reading about economics as well, albeit from a political slant. I thought of reading about politics and economics as somehow noble, a sign that I took my obligations as a citizen seriously, but while those topics may sound more high-minded than watching pro wrestling or the Jerry Springer show, my involvement was the moral equivalent. I just sat on the sidelines, yelling and waving my fists in the air, feeling self-righteous whenever the bad guys won or were brought out to meet the audience. Unless I was planning on making politics or economics my vocation, or at least an avocation, there was really no point.

So, Reason H&R: Zap! George Will: Blam! Molly Ivins: Kablooie! Marginal Revolution: Axed! And all the rest of you, good riddance!

And hello to ScienceDaily! Welcome, Space.com! Pull up a seat, Ars Technica! Sit and put your feet up, J2EE Patterns! And all the rest of you geeky, techie feeds, stop in and say Hello! Sorry I've been away for so long!

Oh, and a big thank you to MrMeph for the long geeky conversations of late, which reminded me that I really like that stuff.

Current Mood: geekygeeky
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Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffin' glue. Jan. 8th, 2007 @ 08:18 pm

Well, for those of you who don't read the paper, I received a bit of potentially bad news today. Looks like Boston Scientific (which now owns what used to be Guidant and is my employer), has decided to lay off between 500 and 600 people from the St. Paul division, mostly in R&D. More than likely, that'll include me.

I suppose there's an outside chance that I'll not be among those let go, but considering that my department is flush with people who have good working knowledge of existing product lines as well as more software experience than I have, and I'm still fairy new to the company with no real knowledge of anything outside research, I think it's a foregone conclusion that my name will be on the list.

If that happens, it will be a little stressful, but it looks like the severance will be pretty generous so I won't be in a panic for a short while at least. I'm also feeling fairly confident about my prospects as well, so this might be a good opportunity to move on, which sounds strange seeing as how I've only been in this position for 15 months, but there it is.

I'll have more to say on this subject in a week or so . . .

Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
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Browsin' Blues Jan. 4th, 2007 @ 09:23 pm

The browsers are buggin' me. I know I've complained about Firefox before, and there's also been a bit of a complaint about it over at The Feesl's, but I have to bring it up again.

I switched to Opera a couple of months ago after getting fed up with how bloated and slow Firefox had become. I was also impressed by the fact that Opera9 passes the Acid2 test, something that Firefox still doesn't get right (it's far better than IE but still, with all the Firefox high-and-mighty standards-compliant self-fellating that goes on you'd think they'd actually, y'know, be compliant).

Anyway, Opera's great. It's fast, lightweight, and has some decent features of it's own. I slightly prefer some of the behaviors I had with Firefox (through extensions) that I can't get Opera to do, like automatically opening new tabs from the address bar, but it's not a big enough deal to drive me back to Firefox.

Google, on the other hand, might be.

I'm specifically talking about Gmail and Google Reader, two JavaScript-heavy applications that don't appear to be well supported for Opera. I honestly don't know if it's a problem with Opera's JavaScript engine or with Google's code being optimized for IE and FF and taking their JavaScript bugs into account, but the problem is there. With either of the Google apps, Opera slows down and sometimes stops responding to clicks anywhere on the page (although it's written well enough that it's never crashed or completely locked up on me).

Frankly, I suspect that the problem is with Google, mostly because everything else about Opera screams quality coding, from its speed and low resource usage, to its stability and thoughtful UI design.

Right now, I'm feeling towards Google and Firefox what I used to feel towards IE and IE-only websites. I want to use Opera, because it's clearly the best one out there right now. However, I'm stuck because Google also has the best apps (Gmail in particular) and that's the one I'm less willing to give up. For the time being, I'm giving Firefox another shot, but I'm still going to log into Gmail and Google Reader with Opera on a daily basis, just to do my part in keeping the Opera usage stats up so that Google will hopefully fix whatever's wrong.

Current Mood: disappointeddisappointed
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