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Archived Entries from May 2008


Epilogue

It's been a weird few days since I sent that e-mail. The search committee chair replied and nicely thanked me for interviewing and wished me the best of luck in my future endeavors. Cautious graciousness, as I had done with my e-mail to him. I hope we're all good and that I didn't hurt his search (settle down, there, ego...).

I told the bosses that it was officially "over" with this situation as well. My "old boss" came and asked me afterwards why I bowed out.

If we put aside that I didn't think I did well in the interview, what else does that leave for a reason (interestingly enough, I thought I did as poorly when I interviewed for the job I have now...)?

I've spent a couple of days with this festering as a job taking 40-50% of my processing power the entire time (I apologize to anyone that tried to talk to me and wondered why it looked like I was thinking about something else...). I hope I've sorted out a few things, although I think this process would still be appearing close to the top of "top" (Unix joke, sorry) if we looked.

I think a quarter of me is pretty sure that I "dropped out" rather than be bonged. I was in that room--I know. Yuck. At best I might have gotten a second interview, but the defeatist in me is pretty sure that this one was headed for the basement. (Hillary--read this part...).

Do I use ellipses more than anyone else in the world? Just curious.

Maybe dropping out was my last chance to save face. Make it easy on them, perhaps, so as not to have to write a bong letter so brutal that it would make me cry.

I think that's part of it.

But really.

What if I had done well in the interview, or better than I thought I had done, and by some luck gotten the job? Let's consider...

Suppose the job sucked (may as well do this one right off the bat, although it should probably have been the last one to address...).

Likelihood? Low.

But there's always a chance. It was a neat building and the person conducting the search was very nice and well spoken and I'm sure is a great person to work with (honest). But what if I were miserable? What's the price tag for that? $250 a month? $500 a month? $1,000 a month?

Subsets of that idea:

This other job involved lots more interaction with people than I have now. I don't like interacting with people. Especially new people. Especially people I don't know. I hide it well, actually, and do well at warming up to people and their identities.

Likelihood of that being a possible problem? Medium.

The other job was angled more (jeez, I think--I was asked flat out in the interview what I thought the job specifications were and completely missed the mark--yeah, I sucked BAD at that interview) at web stuff only. Content management systems. Web pages. Look and feel. Icky stuff.

I am a web person. I have been since about 1996 (I think) or so. That's what I was hired to do in my current job way back when. I pushed myself in that direction.

But I'm moving another direction right now. Yeah, I still do the web stuff, but have moved to being more of a web developer than "webmaster" (which is still a dumb title, IMHO). I do server stuff. Write shell scripts. Tinker with Perl.

That's geeky. "Webmasters?" Not geeky. HTML is not "code"--it's a text file that gets interpreted by a program (uh, a "browser") which causes a page to be displayed on a client machine. There's no "programming" involved. And yeah, we could all manipulate tables for layout eight years ago. Javascript is an awful thing. Anyway.

I'm moving away from all that. Servers. Coding. Linux. Unix. Log files. System resources. Security. That's where I want to go, not to more "web stuff." Whether I'm perfectly qualified for it or not.

I trust all of my three or four readers have given up by now. That's fine. This is some boring shit...

Part of my quest was money--yes, a foolish quest. I was going, were this to go well, to ask for 25% more than I make right now. I was being greedy, or nervous. The redhead was just starting "extra help" when this opportunity happened, and I was admittedly probably a bit spooked about permanent future money prospects. Not lack of trust in her, but I know that the University "system" can take a while, no matter what I or our friends say (to the redhead) otherwise.

I was probably panicking a bit. That would have been a good chunk of money--but all in good time.

But who is to say that they'd have paid me 25% more than I make right now? I already make almost 50% more than I made when I started six years ago--I need to quit complaining about the 2.5% raises--I got where I needed to be. I'm guessing that this offer would have been significantly less. But rather than face that, (again, assuming I didn't screw up the interview as badly as I'm sure I had), it was easier to just bow out.

Okay, here's the main reason. And this should be the glowing answer to this whole conundrum.

I'm not ready to leave my job. Emotionally or otherwise.

Any time in my life I have gone out and sought another job it was because I was unhappy (usually terribly unhappy) with the job I had at the time. I'm not unhappy. I love my job. I'm totally happy. They take care of me. They figure out ways to give me good raises in years where they normally aren't possible. It's been a good ride, and one I want to stay on.

I moved offices yesterday. As I loaded my $4,000 dual 2 GHz G5 with six gigs of RAM and 650 GB of storage, as well as my dual $2,000 23" widescreen flat panels onto the metal cart from the lab to wheel them down the hall, it occurred to me once again that I had it pretty nice. The other job said that it would be okay to be a Mac person, but who knows if what they had in mind was a 20" iMac. That's not enough desktop space for anyone (I know, totally spoiled...).

My job let me get a second Bachelor's degree, and my bosses very, very much encouraged me to do so.

I'm starting graduate studies in the Fall, although that plan has changed slightly from the initial pipe dream that started this whole back-to-school situation. The original plan was to get a second undergraduate degree from UIS and then enter the I2CS program at UIUC--sorry--at Illinois. My boss, as well, as a teacher and advisor from UIS, wrote me glowing letters of recommendations, yet I was bonged. My boss is an assistant Dean. I don't know whose face was more pained when I told him I didn't get in--his or mine.

But it's all good. Honest. I'm going to do my graduate work at UIS and be done in four years, instead of five (with no summer school). And for crying out loud, I'm almost 40, and am already in the midst of a career--what difference does it make where I get a Master's degree from? (Especially when that Master's degree still comes from the "University of Illinois"...).

And my bosses have both encouraged me GREATLY through all of this. Who could complain?

They paid for me to get an RHCT. That was never even part of my job. I wanted it to be part of my job, and now it is. I went from one production server to two, as well as a test server and a file server that I use to backup their machines (using rsnapshot, an rsync wrapper) since Retrospect sucks and ntbackup works for a few weeks and then just gives up for whatever reason. Rsync, of course, doesn't quit.

I'll end up, I hope, an RHCE before I finish graduate school. Those classes are $2,000 a piece (two more of them) or so. And I'll ask the bosses to pay for them, and they'll have money and will probably do so.

An RHCE is a pretty valuable thing out in the "real world" if all of my certification publications and such can be believed. And that's the area where I want to tread. Enough with this CSS and accessibility crap. The accessibility nazis on campus are exhausting. I realize that it is necessary, but again, that stuff doesn't interest me anymore. CSS positioning was neat to figure out, but I don't have the time, energy, or, well, interest to mess with it on the scale that some of the (very talented) folks have here on campus.

Spending 99% of my time making sure my web site is 100% fully accessible to 0.01% (if not lower) of our viewing audience isn't a challenge to me--it's an annoyance. And I think that anyone out there that is a blind farmer has LOTS bigger problems than whether or not our information on western corn rootworm is presented in such a way that a screen reader can figure out the navigation and content. And I'm not trying to be crass--I'm just saying.

What was I talking about? Oh, right. Any time I've ever left a job it was because I had already mentally signed out of my current job and went looking for a new one.

I'm not ready to leave my job. I have a lot of things to explore. A degree to earn. A certification (or more) to earn. I pretty much dictate what I do at my job day-to-day. And that's pretty cool.

I'm not selling myself short by not looking for another job right now.

Whether or not there are jobs I'm qualified for on campus.

I'm going to hang the huge painting the geerow painted for me in my new office tomorrow, and move the plants, and maybe another one of the backup servers, and enjoy the new view.

I love my job. My only regret is that I ever messed with this stuff in the first place.

It's all good.

In other thoughts, my prospects for golf are a bit more limited now that the redhead and I carpool to work every day (which is GREAT, by the way--no wasted money on a parking pass for her and our gas bill is halved). Previously-decided golf will be okay--we'll just drive separately. But no more impromptu golf.

Unless Mr. Schtein or Mr. Hooker were to, I don't know, also be able to sneak out in an afternoon and let me leave "the vehicle" to the redhead so that one of them could take me home with them early. Cough. Cough. Hooker I'll pay your greens fees in VG--but you shouldn't hold me to that because you should have given up reading this a long, long time ago. But the offer still stands. ;)

I apologize for the brain dump.

I hope it is off my chest now, an in a somewhat ordered form (although I've gone from a "mostly-ordered" to a "somewhat-ordered" state of mental affairs over the years--and I'm not talking about the processor itself, I just mean how well stuff is organized in long term memory and such...).

Goooood NIGHT! Sheesh. Shut up already, Mike.

Okay. That's enough...

Posted: Thursday, May 29, 2008, 1:46 am
Mood: Fortunate | 1 comment| Article URL | Post a comment
 


Job Interview

So I've had a, well, slightly trying (emotionally) week or so.

A few weeks ago a College on campus listed a new job for a web developer/database specialist. I talked to some other people who encouraged me to apply. I did.

I haven't had a job interview in six years. What the heck? Practice, if nothing else.

I told my old boss, Kevin. He said I had to tell Mike (who is my actual boss now) as well. Whew. That was tough. For me. Mike said that he knew this would happen, and that he told me this very scenario would play out years ago.

I still wanted to stick to the four-year plan. I didn't go looking for this.

But a slight part of me thought that gas is going up 20 cents every other day, prices of groceries are going up, the utilities want more money, and I'm going to get a 2.5% raise in August, and what the hell? It seems just about everyone I know lately is changing jobs for lots more money. Why not strike while the iron is hot?

So I talked to the bosses. Both were supportive, even if I was semi-hesitant about the whole thing. The fact that neither of them was mad almost made me more nervous.

Yesterday I had the interview. I had to give a presentation of some of the custom CMS suites (really, for very bad wont of a better word) that I had created (uh, CMS == content management system, for those that might not be familiar with the "lingo"). I did okay with the presentation part.

The interview part? Failed. Badly. And not even "Mike sets his standards too high"-badly. Truly badly. I sweat my butt off. I had to wipe my forehead with my sleeves from time to time. It was a committee of six people. They didn't have to pause to ask questions because they just came at me like a machine gun.

It's obvious that I'm rusty at interviewing. I mentioned at one point when talking about something I did at work that I loved my current job and the head of the search said "if you love your job so much, why are you here?"

Why was I there, indeed.

On paper I was probably a pretty good--if not awesome--fit for their position. They wanted a web application developer and database person and their current back-end is PHP and MySQL. By golly, that's exactly what I do now.

But I don't know that the position had anything to do with administering servers and such, and that part of my job is one of the most fulfilling--and I fully hope to pursue further RedHat training and possibly a RHCE certification.

The search committee was very nice. They had good questions. I'm just not used to answering those questions. And I wasn't prepared. My weaknesses? Red wine? Not a good answer. Fast cars and loose women? Funny to me (the redhead found that reply funny as well) but not appropriate in the 150-year old building that I was sitting in. I'm a hack and I seldom write good comments in my code? Put the reticle right on my forehead.

Why am I the best candidate for that job? That's your question to figure out, not mine. I don't know.

Yikes.

So, if I haven't mentioned, the redhead started last week as a full-time employee at the U of I in the College of Education. The pay is good, the benefits (as they are on campus) are great, and she's got a job for the rest of her life if she wants to keep it.

We were still in a hair of limbo when I agreed to send in an application for this other job last month.

I had a long talk with the redhead last night about my job, that I do still truly love. We talked about money.

For all I know they search committee was going to bong me after the first round of interviews. I was pretty good on paper for what they wanted, but still, my own eyes were glazing over as I was giving responses to questions.

I e-mailed the head of the search committee this morning and thanked him and his group for taking the time to talk with me.

And told him that I'm going to stick with my current job. And I hope they do well with the rest of their search.

If there is ever an opportunity to put this behind me and quit stressing about it.....

My wife's high school has a (sorry, but I still call it "silly") non-homecoming tradition called "alumni" every year at the end of the year. Instead of the traditional homecoming bash in the fall (that they actually still have, actually...) the big deal around here is "alumni" when all the high school alums come back to celebrate the graduating class. And they have 5-, 10-, 15-, 20-, ... 50+-years ago class reunions at various places around town. When the year is a multiple of 5 for my wife's class, we have (for the past three times or so) had an evening party at our house, which have been quite successful.

At any rate, this is an "off-year" for her class, but one of the things that happens every "alumni weekend" is that the golf course is closed on Saturday for an alumni-only scramble.

I'm not an alumnus, of course.

But three of the redhead's classmates signed up for a foursome for the scramble and asked me to be the fourth (not exactly--my son's best friend's dad asked me if I'd play if he could get the two other jokers to play). While I might be making more of this than it is, I am semi-flattered that I get to play with three of my wife's good friends (who have been good friends since they were little, little kids) who have become my friends as well, even though I'm not "from here."

So it's a best-ball scramble with more teams than there is room, and it's a drunken mess.

But yay!

7:30 a.m. tomorrow is when I have to be ready. The shotgun start happens at 8:00. I hope the cart can make it through 18 holes...

I'm excited.

And I'm happy that "things" are still normal. Gas at $4 a gallon sucks, but the redhead and I have ridden together to work every day since she stared at the big U (it is nice because we're both on the south end of campus--it takes me only a couple minutes to walk from my building to hers).

We're in a great spot.

We'll revisit this whole job thing again in four years when I have a Master's degree.

Okay, I should go to bed. Tomorrow is going to be a mess. I'll try to take some pictures...

Posted: Saturday, May 24, 2008, 3:53 am
Mood: Relieved | 1 comment| Article URL | Post a comment
 


St. John's Wort

Maybe that's the variable.

I've been out since Friday.

And each time I run out I tell myself it's just a placebo and that eleven dollars for two-or three-month's worth is the smallest price I can pay now that I'm out of therapy, etc., etc. Maybe it does do something.

I'm not happy.

Let me take that back. I'm happy. But something is nagging. I can't put a finger on it. Maybe that wort made that finger go away. Well, or the imaginary "it" that the finger couldn't be put on. Forthwith. And wheresoever.

Even at 38 I still am having acute just-left-college disorder, in that I can't get away from the feeling that something is due tomorrow, or the next day, or Thursday. For people like me that are already half-weirded out, that's even less fun. But really--I'm finished. Straight As this semester, Dean's list again, and I finished up at 3.90. Magna cum laude this semester--for graduates next semester 3.9 gets Summa. And whatever.

I wanted to blog about how much fun the other night was. My dad, and stepmom, and brother, and sister, and two nieces came all the way down from the 'burbs. And "the bosses" both showed up. And it was nice. Kids swam, even though the pool was frigid. The yard looked good.

I stayed up fairly late. And the next morning I made a couple of bloody marys and Marc and Jeff and I hit the golf course and, well, Sunday was a blur.

Today I got banned from ebay.. Hey, thanks! WTF? I've made 11 transactions there, all as a buyer, and haven't messed with in in a year or two. Oh, but I somehow owe five dollars to ebay for a seller's fee, even though I've never sold anything on e-bay and my account lists nothing but "buys." Good luck with that.

I'm grouchy. I should just go to bed.

I'm not looking forward to Thursday. And another job that I was curious about from way back when has been re-listed.

I'm a relatively-not-thrilled panda.

Posted: Tuesday, May 20, 2008, 3:06 am
Mood: Grouchy | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


The Pond Would Be Good For You

You know, the pool, or the pond.

I opened our pool, or, you know, pond, this afternoon. Gross.

We're having a very toned-down graduation party this Saturday, and I wanted the pool to be open, mostly because it looks nicer, than really being "functional." Originally I was planning a typical all-out bash with kegs and hookers and fire trucks, but Betsy insisted that we have a small gathering of family and the professors so that I wouldn't be running around cooking all day and not visiting with anyone--and it seems my dad and stepmother and sister and nieces are actually coming down, which is quite cool! (As are both the bosses--one of whom never got the invitation in the mail--whoops...).

Heh. We might have to do "Hookers" and fire trucks in the next weekend or two--their kids are almost as crazy as ours and will probably enjoy the 56 degree water (while Mr. Hooker and I are in a competition for who is going to have a heart attack first, so neither of us will be taking the polar plunge...).

It is sinking in that I graduated. Finally.

So, er, I got an e-mail message last night. I have an interview with another college on campus next week.

We'll see how it goes. I'll be happy either way.

The redhead has to go through the motions at the "job fair" tomorrow, but the thing with the dean's office at the College of Education is a done deal. I would think that I'd feel really relieved, but to be perfectly honest, this time around I promise that I was never really ever worried. This is a really, really good thing.

And she might go back to school too, which would be wonderful for her and great for us. How fun!

I'm still the only person signed up for the Linux administration class for the Fall.

I'm happy. And very content. (That's not a sentence.).

Hey, no homework due tomorrow night!

Posted: Thursday, May 15, 2008, 2:44 am
Mood: Happy | 2 comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


That'd Be You Ubuntu Zealots as Well...

Whoops.

"Luciano Bello discovered that the random number generator in Debian's openssl package is predictable. This is caused by an incorrect Debian-specific change to the openssl package (CVE-2008-0166). As a result, cryptographic key material may be guessable.

This is a Debian-specific vulnerability which does not affect other operating systems which are not based on Debian. However, other systems can be indirectly affected if weak keys are imported into them.

Please note the implications of this problem. Any keys (ssl, ssh, etc) generated on Debian systems since openssl version 0.9.8c-1 may be vulnerable (as of 2006-09-17). Lately a number of peer institutions have noted an uptick of ssh brute force attacks. It is speculated that some of these attacks may be specifically targeting this vulnerability by attempting to access these systems via key authentication."

Yikes.

Posted: Wednesday, May 14, 2008, 1:47 pm
Mood: Happy | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


Fallout

So I wrote an e-mail to my instructor over and over in my head last night and this morning. And I kept trying to be polite, and each time I kept running into a dead end that begins with "this is part of the reason I think semester-long group projects are ridiculous..." No, I couldn't say that.

But I calmed down, and wrote the e-mail message. I explained that it was my fault that the source code wasn't submitted, not Richard's. That he made it clear at the beginning of the semester that he wanted to get his part done sooner than later because of JavaOne. And we weren't finished until the end of the semester because one of our members went AWOL. And while one might presume that all team members would have checked the package I was going to submit to make sure it was complete, again, Richard was already out of town to do his thing.

It was my fault. I explained that I wanted nothing except for the instructor to review Richard's grade on the project in light of that information. I got a B in the class. That was fine. President B. Joseph White already told me on Saturday that I was officially graduated--good enough for me. But not fair for one of my teammates.

As it turned out, Richard also sent a slightly less volatile note saying that he didn't think the few things that were omitted warranted losing almost a third of the points.

Our instructor sent an e-mail back to us that I had submitted the source code and that he had matched up some things, etc., and changed our grade from 206.5/300 to 282.5/300.

For all three of us. He didn't acknowledge anything I said other than that I supplied him with source code.

I suppose I could carefully edit my post from last night, but I don't think I'll bother. I already said in my "what did you think about this class" assignment (that yes, had my name on it) that I didn't think huge group projects are appropriate for off-campus on-line students.

Happy ending, I guess. I feel somewhat bad about the e-mail message this morning, but again, I wasn't being mean, I was just pointing out that the way it was would not be fair to one person in our group. It was my mistake. I fully admit that.

Anyway.

So my final grade went from 84% to 96% just like that. Dean's list again....

And my final GPA will be 3.898, which I assume will be rounded up to 3.90.

And UIS has lowered their cutoff for summa cum laude from 3.95 to 3.90.

Starting next year.

So close. So close.....

Magna cum laude is cool, I guess, considering that 90 of those hours actually were in the 2.0 to 2.5 range but transferred without a GPA value attached to them....

It just makes me think of that Leisure Suit Larry game or something.

Posted: Tuesday, May 13, 2008, 9:04 pm
Mood: Embarrassed | 2 comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


Livid

We got 206 out of 300 points on our final group project. That was half of our grade.

A big chunk of the missed points? We didn't submit the source code with the final .zip file. We == me. We had this cool SVN server set up, with a Hudson server to track builds of the project. I got complacent. Sure, the other team members had the opportunity to look at what it was I was going to submit. But I'm the one that packaged it, and I'm the one that submitted it.

The one guy that didn't help much? I don't care about his grade. He graduated just like I did (he wasn't at the ceremony--I don't think he's in Illinois...).

But the third person, our programmer (actually our "first" person--he was the team leader and did most of the work) I am upset about.

He wrote the code, and I didn't include it. How? How TF did that happen? I looked at the list of things we had to submit. I focused so much on delivering an executable out-of-the-box program that I forgot that "minor" detail. And we got ~66% on our project.

I am mad on several levels. The instructor for this class is a ball-buster. This will be my second B since I've been going to school at UIS. The first one? Yeah, another class he taught. I understand what he's doing, but he needs to adjust that for his on-line classes. Trying to simulate what an actual software production team might have to go through over four months is a noble idea. But our team leader works at Sun writing Java software. I write web applications, manage servers, update web sites, create custom-made CMS systems, etc. His "simulations" to 19-year old kids going to school on campus might come close to what it is like working on a project full-time for four months. For us adult on-line students it is like going to a 40-hour per week job like usual, and working on projects, and, oh, then having a 40-hour per week simulation of what it is like to have a job for four months.

I'm not lazy, but I don't have that in me. As I've pointed out in after-end-of-semester feedback, I don't need to be taught time management.

But this isn't about me. Yeah, I screwed up and didn't include the source code. I don't think I would have gotten an "A" in the class anyway, but one can always hope.

So now I get a "B."

But so does my new friend Richard from Sun Microsystems who wrote and coded the entire stupid program and we lose all those points because his code wasn't submitted.

We're a team, and maybe they should be held just as responsible as me for not going through what I was going to submit to make sure it was correct.

But this guy works full time. He had to present at JavaOne last week. He made it abundantly clear at the start of the semester that he would be willing to do the code but needed to get his part out of the way before his job needed 100% of his attention. He had to frickin' present multiple sessions at JavaOne. I have friends that get excited about just being able to go to JavaOne.

I'm really mad right now. It's not fair. Em definitely channels me. Whether or not it personally affects me, this isn't fair.

We're talking about a family guy who could teach this class. Who knows more about Java and programming and group projects and software engineering than our instructor (who isn't even a computer science person--he has a Ph.D. in Physics).

And that's all well and good and neither here nor there, but it is unfair that he gives my group member a crappy grade because of something I did. How about e-mail me and say "hey, guys, you forgot to submit the source code..."

Once again, don't tell me about the real world. I've had plenty of "Yikes! Sorry. Give me a minute and I'll have that fixed" moments in my career. Over and done with afterwards.

At the beginning of this awful stupid project our first instruction was to submit some sort of silly "project overview" or something using the "digital drop box" in the "Blackboard" on-line learning environment that UIS uses. Three other teams submitted their overview via e-mail. Only we actually followed the instructions and used the drop box. And our instructor didn't see ours for two weeks because he didn't check the drop box, he only checked e-mail. He actually offered us a two-week extension past the end of the semester to get the project done. I told him it wouldn't be necessary.

HIS mistake. I may play that card tomorrow.

I don't know. I may not play a card tomorrow. I'm mad right now. Punch the wall mad. I'm done. I'm graduated. But how fair is it to Richard, who gets reimbursed by his employer based on what grade he gets in the class (unlike me, who gets the tuition for nothing whether I get an A or an F), to have completed MORE than his third of the project, and then lose money on the deal. This really, really busts my britches. Burns my britches? Eats my britches? Oooh, I'm too mad to even remember my anecdotes. Or whatever they are.

I had already promised myself that I was going to schedule my open-ended pool of classes for my MS around this particular instructor. Tomorrow I need to make sure that I can do that and get 8 classes in without crossing his path again.

If I cannot do that, I'm quitting. Seriously. I don't have the energy for this. At graduation they thank the families of the students for their support, and for putting up with the "adult" students during the time of the degree, etc. I think I was pretty good for most of it. I've been a jerk this semester, and I was a jerk the last semester I took a class from this instructor. It's too much work. I don't need time management skills. I get to work earlier in the morning than he does. I accomplish more each day and each week. AND I get the pedantic homework done for his class. And then the end of the semester rolls around and the massive "gee if only I had nothing else to do for the last three months" gets submitted, and we get slammed to the ground.

...

And after getting a trouble ticket with the dumbasses at "punkbuster" (GIYF) and following up what happened that has disallowed Alex to play Call of Duty 4 on-line anymore (he gets "kicked" off the server after a minute now each time he joins) I'm irritated about that too. It seems that when you install Call of Duty 4 you enter a registration key, like anything else. Then this "punkbuster" program one-way hashes the key and creates something called a GUID. Well, what punkbuster does is permanently ban people from servers who use cheats during on-line play--the biggest one being "aimbot" (that I mistakenly thought had something to do with AOL instant messenger, but actually is a cheat that makes it so every time you aim at another player the reticle instantly "locks" onto their head---a bot that controls your aim). Alex does not have this cheat installed.

However, some $#@$&*% in POLAND who managed to swipe Alex's GUID does, and has used it. So now Alex can no longer play Call of Duty 4 online. And the folks at punkbuster basically said "sorry, you'll have to buy another copy of the game."

WHAT? Because their crappy security and their ridiculous GUID creation system sucks?

Here's what the GUID is (and I can't remember what it stands for, Google it if you care...): it's a one-way hash of the activation key. That's it.

If it were me, I'd make it a one-way hash of the combination of the CD key and the time the game was installed.

So now when Alex gets banned for something that wasn't him, he uninstalls and reinstalls the game, which uses the same registration key but generates a completely new (and unique) 32-character GUID. The kid in Poland doesn't have the CD key, and can't get it from the GUID (which is a one-way hash). So once he gets punkbusted for using "aimbot" he's done. Unless he manages to steal our GUID again. Which, of course, isn't a problem with my security (either the machine or the home network) but is a function of punkbuster's security. So Alex is inconvenienced by having to uninstall and reinstall the game. Big deal. He's a 12-year old kid, and he can deal with that. So can I.

But now we have to buy a new copy of the game? Seriously.

I'm going to write a letter to Activision and the people that make punkbuster and tell them how crappy their system is.

I don't expect any more sympathy from them as I do from Dr. West.

And having graduated finally started to sink in today. And now I'm more wound up than I was two days ago.

Beluga whales.....

Posted: Tuesday, May 13, 2008, 2:48 am
Mood: Livid | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


Graduation

Well I finally did it--I went through Commencement.

It was nice. There were about 700 students that went through the ceremony, which is only about 100 more than were in my high school graduating class, so I figured it wouldn't be too torturous. It was actually kind of nice.

I met the department head in person for the first time, who is also my graduate school advisor starting in the fall. Only ten computer science undergraduates went through the ceremony. We were an awfully small group. The funny part? Overall we were the largest group of total graduates--it's just that so many of our group are on-line students from further away than I am, that we had so few at the actual ceremony. That might say something about which types of people are more willing to get an education on-line, or something, but I'm not sure.

There were some cool things about the ceremony, and some that I raised an eyebrow at. Our University President, B. Joseph White, was actually at the ceremony and gave a speech. I was a bit surprised because the main campus' Commencement is today, and I figured he'd be spending all of his energy working on that. Surely he didn't make it to Chicago as well. But it was a good sign for UIS. I don't know how many of the people there appreciated the importance of Dr. White being there, but I sure did. UIS graduated 700 yesterday. UIUC graduated probably 10,000+ today.

And I appreciated his speech very, very much. It's not like I've been to lots of college graduation ceremonies, but I expected a lot of "rah, rah, you're good now go out there and do it!" types of speeches. Which, as a 38-year old, I sort of roll my eyes at. I've been "out there" and working for quite some time now.

President White said that he had four pieces of advice. I certainly can't remember them, but they were basically "do the right thing" kind of ideas. One was something about doing the right thing if you have a conflict of interest in your career. Basically, and people not familiar with our situation here at the University and with our awfully-run state won't get this, but Dr. White was bashing our governor for being an evil, corrupt, lying, hypocrite. That's how I took it anyway. Seemed clear as day to me. Hopefully Rod will get jailed soon and we can get back to an educated Republican in the governor's mansion and not some snotty relative of some Chicago ward boss. Yes, it was dumb that I voted for Bush (twice) but as far as I'm concerned that is still less of a mistake than anyone that voted Rod in for a second term. At least the President's term is only four years, and not six.

Anyway. Sorry to make this political. Well, actually, I think B. Joseph made it political. I just appreciated it. Heh.

One of the board of trustee members spoke as well, and this speech was a bit more problematic for me. He kept referring to how he had attended a small liberal arts college and that he appreciated what UIS was trying to do in that sense. And he kept referring to UIS as a small liberal arts college. Yikes. If I were faculty in any of the other three colleges on the UIS campus, I would maybe have been offended. UIS isn't just a University by virtue of being part of the U. of Illinois system--they were a University from the start (it was Sangamon State University, not Sangamon State College...). There are four distinct colleges at UIS, which makes it a University, not a "college." A very easily understandable mistake for any member of the general public. But this guy is on the board of trustees.

And he kept going on and on about how UIS isn't some satellite arm of the University of Illinois, even though the Urbana campus is huge and the Chicago campus is huge, etc. A mention of something like that might have passed my scanners, but he kept talking about it. Making excuses? The lady doth protest too much, methinks? If this is all true, and UIS is just as important as UIUC (sorry, "The University of Illinois) and UIC, why keep making a big deal out of it. Remember that his is a small university that got absorbed into the U. of I. system just over a decade ago. They're happy as can be to be part of the monstrous beast that is the University of Illinois. Even since I've been taking classes there, which as been about six years or so, they've built two huge new buildings on campus, a new athletics stadium, made the huge weedy field in the center of campus a nice respectable "quad" (complete with the wide sidewalks, a fountain, and a colonnade thing in the middle....). They've moved to being a full four-year school instead of just juniors and seniors. They are building their second dormitory. While our overgrown mostly-research beast in Urbana is scraping by with what we consider underfunding by the state legislature, I think the folks at UIS are doing just fine.

UIS is not a "college." And any member of the board of trustees of the University of Illinois system should understand the difference.

The speech by the young woman who was a mother that went back to school to get her degree after raising kids was very moving. She was probably the best speaker at the event. UIS fills that niche well, but I think they can expand further. As I mentioned, they used to be a upperclassmen-only school that kids went to only after graduating from a community college. But now they accept freshmen and the student numbers are growing rapidly. And while I was sitting there listening to the various people speak, I thought that maybe I should try to become a liaison for UIS for our local high school. I don't mind talking to people. I don't know.

Mary Sheila, my advisor, came and talked to us when we were standing in line in the depths of the convention center waiting for the procession. She asked me if I would be willing to do a "debriefing" of sorts (quit with the "that's what she said" jokes...) for the department. I'd love to. And I plan to contact her tomorrow about that. And offer to talk to kids in town about UIS. Hell, maybe Tuscola too. And other area towns. Anymore you have to about get a perfect on the ACT and be in the top couple of percentage places in your class to get into UIUC. It's much worse than when I was admitted. My brother-in-law is a chemistry teacher in a Chicago suburb and he is even amazed at some of the kids that he teaches that don't get accepted.

UIS treats people as people, and not numbers.

Don't get me wrong. I love the U. of I. I always have, and I always will. But I don't need to speak the praises of UIUC--there's already three times as many people beating on the door than are going to be accepted (and don't quote me on "three times"--I just made that up--but I know it's a lot...).

EIU, ISU, SIU, NIU, and WIU are all good schools, and good alternatives if you don't get a perfect score on the ACT and aren't class valedictorian (which, just so we're clear--I didn't come close to that on my ACT and I wasn't even in the top 10% of my class...). But I would hope that people would consider UIS as well. Or maybe I should just quit with the wine and go to bed.

I don't know.

I'm actually proud of myself, to be honest. I had a hard time not getting verklempt several times throughout the ceremony and such. My father, who attended yesterday, and bought dinner afterwards even though I said I would, appreciated the entire thing and told me how proud he was--a chance that I didn't give him when I graduated UIUC four years too late while married and with a child on the way. He was very disappointed that I didn't go through commencement then. I asked him right after the ceremony yesterday "we're good now about this commencement thing, right?" If on trial for going to school solely to give one's father the chance to see one go through commencement, I would personally probably plead "no contest" and leave it at that. This degree serves so much more, of course.

I feel validated as a geek. I'm no longer just a guy with a rhetoric degree who knows how to fix the printer (uh, turn it off and turn it back on?). And not that there's anything wrong with that. And there never was. I'm no more a geek, or dork, now than I ever was. But I put that onus on myself. I should have done computer science from the beginning. But I screwed up, an I farted around, and I changed majors eight times after realizing that I wasn't cut out to be a doctor, and I ran a bar, etc., etc. But I met my wife. And I worked my way up the ladder. And I did finish that warped degree in rhetoric.

I love my wife very much. The offspring are smart and well-adjusted.

Sorry for the brain dump, but I'm finally starting to wind down from all of this.

No summer school. Nothing to do but mow the yard, clean the pool, and golf. Oh, and go to work--but that's easy.

Well, this leg of the race is over.

Grad school starts in three months...

Posted: Monday, May 12, 2008, 4:04 am
Mood: Relieved | 2 comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


Google Earth

So I spent some time over the weekend compiling a set of places from my life using Google Earth.

If you'd like to see them, you can download them here. If you've never used a Google Earth KMZ file before, just do File --> Open in Google Earth and choose the KMZ file and it will do the rest.

It's sort of lame, but, well, what should anyone expect, right?

It still hasn't quite settled in that school is finished.

Of course, I still don't have a final grade for my Software Engineering class, so that's eating at me somewhat. I only checked to see if it was posted seven or eight times today.

Oh well.

Posted: Wednesday, May 07, 2008, 9:46 pm
Mood: Happy | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


That's a Wrap!

I was correct not to waste the next day and a half poring over the materials for my Chinese Century class.

I got a 92% on the final. Which is sort of baloney because I'm pretty sure I went back and changed one of the ones that I got wrong to the correct answer, and one of the other ones that I got wrong I marked the way I did because I read it verbatim in one of the books. But my total percentage for the class is 94.4% and anything over 94% is an A. (90-93.9% would have been an A-).

In other words, there's no need to argue about it.

So now we're just waiting on the final project, which I won't find about until well after graduation.

But that's it! I'm finished! And it only took seven years to complete.

Phew.

Woo hoo!

Posted: Tuesday, May 06, 2008, 7:13 pm
Mood: Ecstatic! | 4 comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


Screw It

Well, I have until Thursday at 9:00 p.m. to have my final in my Chinese Century class completed. After I finished up the stuff for my Software Engineering class I told myself I'd catch up on the readings for the Chinese Century class yesterday and today and tomorrow and take the final tomorrow afternoon.

Today I changed that and I started skimming the readings and planned to take the final later this afternoon.

But I'm ready to be done. I think I'm just going to take it right now, then write the paragraph about "how did it go?" for the Software class, and then I'll be finished for the semester, and for the degree.

The final is like 40 questions and we have an hour and a half to take it. I don't recall that I was that prepared for the midterm, and I got 92% on it. It's open book/notes, so how difficult can it be? The books have indices in the backs of them. ;)

And quite frankly, I really don't care right now. I'm just ready to be finished.

Here goes...

Posted: Tuesday, May 06, 2008, 6:08 pm
Mood: Happy | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


Software Engineering Final Project -- Done

I guess it should be "finished" but I wrote "done" for the last post so I'll keep it consistent.

I just uploaded all the multitude of documentation and executable files for our final project.

The weight doesn't feel lifted quite yet, but give me a few beers on the deck this evening and I think perhaps that will make me relax a bit.

And of course we're having fajitas for dinner in honor of Cinco de Mayo.

Woo hoo!

Posted: Monday, May 05, 2008, 9:48 pm
Mood: Happy | 3 comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


Software Engineering Final -- Done

So I noted a few posts ago that our instructor gave us an item-by-item study guide. I spent a good portion of last week looking up and answering all 50 things on the list, and fired up the final right after I got back from lunch.

It took less than a half-hour. I did more cutting and pasting than typing.

There was one true/false question that was a bit confusing, so I just guessed (and got it wrong). I got all the multiple-choice parts correct. And I'm fairly confident that all of the short answer answers are correct as well, so I should get a 99% on the final.

And believe it or not, we're actually just about finished with all of the "deliverables" for our semester project! I might get an A or a B after all. We'll have to see how strictly he grades the final project....

But most importantly, both the final and project are finished.

Now I have to hurry up and read "A Billion New Capitalists" or whatever or second book is called for my Chinese Century class, and have that final taken by Thursday. I'll probably spend tomorrow reading that book and taking notes and I'll do that final on Wednesday. And that'll be it!

w00t!

Posted: Monday, May 05, 2008, 8:27 pm
Mood: Ecstatic! | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


Death by Tray It Shall Be!

Okay, in case you don't get the reference (and I promise this isn't an instance of rickrolling...) watch this video.

The offspring and the redhead and I pretty much insert quotes from this into everyday conversation on a very, very regular basis.

Anytime someone misunderstands something that was said is a perfect time for an "Oh, I see--the food is hot..."

Well, Eddie Izzard is not only funny, but clever as well.

Penne Alla Arrabiata means "Hot Devil's Pasta"--how apropos for Sir Lord Darth Vader. It is penne with a sauce that has fresh tomatoes and hot red peppers in it.

Well, after months of joking around, I made Penne Alla Arrabiata for dinner tonight. I also made regular spaghetti sauce (with my own canned tomatoes) and meatballs, just in case the "Devil's Pasta" was awful. (And because I figured at least Al wouldn't go for the Alla Arrabiata).

It was awesome. All four of us enjoyed it very, very much. It was spicy (they all agreed it was too spicy--I thought it was just right). But was it ever good....

As long as the bowls that you serve it in aren't hot, you won't need a tray either.

I found multiple recipes on the Internet, and as I've done in the past, I sort of morphed them into a single recipe and used that to make the dish. I'll post it in my recipes section tomorrow. Maybe.

Final project due date is Monday. It's not finished. I've contributed more than 33%. And I still have to do the readme.txt file and a few other things.

Our last homework is to just tell him about how our project went and what went wrong and what worked, etc.

He's going to get an earful from me. I'm going to get a C in a class that I'm otherwise getting about 99% in. all because of this silly project.

But you know what? I don't care if I get a C. I'm just ready to be finished. Graduation is a week from Saturday.

I've never gone through college graduation before. I owe myself at least this much. No more bitterness. No more feelings of failing to accomplish the mission. This finishes it. I've redeemed myself, in my eyes.

Oh, to be an adult. Finals week is next week, with all finals having to have been completed by Friday.

I plan to take both one after another first thing Monday morning.

Oh, and I'm doing another stupid thing. I've applied for another job on campus. After talking to both my bosses about it, and assuring them that I'm not out "looking" but that a job came looking for me, they were both supportive and told me that they knew that at some point this would happen.

I told them not to put the cart before the horse. I have a sneaking suspicion that the search in question might already have an internal candidate.

Which is fine. If I interview well, and things go well, I still won't leave my current job for less than 20-25% more than I make now.

And honestly? I'd just as soon stay where I'm at. I'm happy. I have my own office (with a nice view!). I make my own hours. I essentially decide for myself what needs to be done day-to-day. I do some server administration. I do some web programming. I do some backup stuff. I do some database stuff. I'm never bored.

The problem is that this job I'm applying for might be similar. And 25% is a lot of money to us....

So I'll see how it goes.

If it works out, the money would be great, especially considering that I have two kids going to college (gosh, what a humbling thought) in six and seven years.

And if it doesn't work, I'm content where I am. And I don't much care for change. And I have too much stuff that I'm working on at work right now anyway. And my office is a mess.

I need to get school out of the way for the semester. And take a breath and relax.

And golf.

This summer will be hot. You might need a tray...

Posted: Friday, May 02, 2008, 2:01 am
Mood: Elated | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


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