Archive for April, 2007

Blogging as a career path?

Friday, April 13th, 2007

It’s funny, I’ve spent so much time blogging over at SupComTalk recently (which has taken away most of my blogging time from this site, in case you haven’t noticed). But what’s more, I’m really enjoying it, too. And we’ve got a nicely sized audience accumulating. I even have a few more writers who are hopefully coming onboard. It gets me thinking …

Is it possible to make a job out of this? Everyone is always saying how important it is to get a job doing something you love. Well, I do love writing. I just don’t see it feasible doing it with SupComTalk. The subject area is too narrow. There’s no way to make even close to what I’ll be getting from my IT consulting job; the community is simply too small. And I haven’t the faintest idea of what topic I would want to blog about; gaming maybe? In the mean time I’ll just keep at it. Each day that I do this I feel myself getting slightly better at writing. Looking back at my blog posts from just four months ago, I know I’ve definitely improved. And the time that it takes to pump out a single blog post of equal quality has plunged dramatically.

So I’ll just keep up the blogging for fun. I’m not really making a lot of money on it; I’m basically just recouping the hosting and server costs. But I am getting experience, and who knows, maybe it will eventually go somewhere. I would like that. But I’m also going to be realistic here: I’m going to have a computer science degree in another month and a nice job paying a very comfortable salary. Until I can do nearly as well at blogging, blogging will remain little more than hobby. And since it’s so difficult to break out in the blogging field, I think it’ll remain a hobby forever. But I’m okay with that.

Counting steps

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

I suppose you could call what I am about to describe an OCD impulse. I have a tendency to count steps. It used to be a conscious thing, in that I got distracted and couldn’t focus on much of anything else whilst counting. Now, it’s reached the point where it’s subconscious, and I don’t even realize I’m doing it until I step off that last stair and I have the total number of stairs ascended/descended sitting front and center in my mind. It’s a fairly meaningless number. I could tell you how many steps any variety of staircases I use regularly have. I suppose nobody’s going to be able to pull one over on me by secretly adding or removing any height between floors. Lesser folks might not notice that difference at all.

Luckily for me, this propensity for counting things isn’t as rare or bizarre as it sounds. The main character in Stranger Than Fiction, for instance, has the exact same thing. And I can’t help but think that a good number of people reading this can at least empathize with what I speak of, even if they don’t do it all of the time. Let’s face it, climbing stairs is boring and fairly exerting (at least in comparison to normal walking); counting the steps is a methodical process that helps one focus the mind on something else.

My dad is aware of my habit (I suspect he has it too, to some degree) and will occasionally ask how many steps we just climbed, just to compare our results, or see if I’m still counting (I am!). One time he asked me for a number after an escalator ride. I didn’t really have a good answer for that. I haven’t yet figured out a way to count moving steps.

Yay for employment

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

My job search is now at an end. I’ve accepted what I think is a pretty good offer. It’s in IT consulting, which I find a bit more interesting than just sitting down and writing code for eight hours a day. And it involves travel. We’ll see how that works out. I do love planes, though. I’ll be starting the job after about a month-and-a-half break after college.

So now I can just sit back, relax, and focus on finishing off my final semester at college, without having to worry about any more job interviews and such. The whole process wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It was easier than, say, applying to colleges. And I still haven’t yet made up my mind about going on to graduate school at some point. I guess it really just depends on how much I enjoy this job.

Disaster at CERN

Monday, April 9th, 2007

I’ve eagerly been following the construction of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN on the border of France and Switzerland. LHC is the largest particle accelerator endeavor ever undertaken at a cost of over a billion dollars. It will probe more deeply into the subatomic world than humanity ever has before. And it has just suffered a large setback.

The nature of the setback itself isn’t so important to me. Yes, it does illustrate some pretty horrifying mathematical errors, but any other less egregious error of the same magnitude would have had the same effects. Nobody was killed, but let’s be honest; on a research project with over 7,000 attending scientists, and billions of dollars and potential knowledge of the very inner workings of the universe at stake, a few deaths can’t get in the way. A few deaths certainly didn’t stop the United States’ space program, nor should they have.

No, what I am really worried about is the delay. LHC was supposed to come online later this year. Now it’s going to be delayed by probably another half year, at least. This is actually personally upsetting to me. I’ve really been following this project, and I’ve eagerly been awaiting the first preliminary results. I’m not really a physics guy (not by training, at least), but I do understand the enormous potential particle physics has to explain the world around us, and I crave that deep knowledge. Now that satisfaction is put off for a bit because of some stupid, totally preventable, mistakes. It’s annoying as hell.

Housing crisis at University of Maryland

Friday, April 6th, 2007

The University of Maryland is facing a serious housing crisis. Just two days ago, the Department of Resident Life announced that all rising seniors who had planned to live on campus in the dorms (nearly 600 of them) would instead be denied housing and told to find off-campus housing on their own. This was two weeks after the deadline for applications to live in all of the on-campus and near-campus apartments and suite-style living affiliated with the University. The housing market around here is already harsh anyway, and the city of College Park has made it quite clear that they don’t like all of these students living in their midst.

There is no short term solution, so many students are simply going to have to find housing somewhere within driving distance of University of Maryland and commute. Housing prices on all of the nearby walkable houses are going to go through the roof, and I wouldn’t recommend them to anyone. Just get a house in Hyattsville and buy a used car with the money you’d be saving. Long term solutions, like the construction of new on-campus dormitories, have actually been denied in recent years, though hopefully, after the outcry out of this, whoever holds the power of the purse will reconsider and grant funding to alleviate Maryland’s desperate housing crisis.

Here’s some more background information as published in The Diamondback, University of Maryland’s #1 student newspaper.

April 5, 2007

April 6, 2007

As you can see, this is a huge issue on-campus and it has been covered in extreme depth by The Diamondback. The timing of this was actually rather lucky (at least for me, not for the people being evicted from housing). On Tuesday I had written a column recommending a student-run system for exchanging used textbooks as a way to bypass the exorbitant fees sliced off the top by commercial resellers like the university’s bookstore. I sent it in to my editor, and he gets back to me by Wednesday saying, “Look at this opinion column from Monday and tell me how your idea differs from his …”

Well, wouldn’t you know it, someone had basically written the exact same damn idea I wanted to write about, but two days earlier, and what’s worse, I missed it. So I was scrambling around on Thursday looking for another idea to write about when the housing crisis unfolded, giving me the perfect subject to write about.

On file for one year

Monday, April 2nd, 2007

One duplicitous part of the job interview and application process I’m noticing is the “We’ll hold your resume on file for up to one year” line. Of course, this comes after the line where they say, “Sorry, but we’re not going to extend you an employment invitation at this time.” I’ve been lucky, and I’ve gotten about as many job offers as rejections. Of course, not even the best potential employee is going to get 100% job offers; there’s always going to be some rejections, particularly because no one person can really be the best qualified for a large number of different jobs.

But anyway, back to the “on file for one year” line. Isn’t this the biggest cop-out ever? I wonder if, in the history of employment, there’s even been a single person who, after being rejected, the company goes through year-old resumes that are theoretically “on file” and actually hires one of them. I don’t think this is the primary, secondary, or even tertiary purpose of telling you that they’re keeping your resume on file.

What it’s really about it getting you to bugger off. Seriously. They’ve made it clear that they don’t want you, and to make sure that you stay away for a bit they give you this false hope that maybe, some time in the coming year, you’ll be contacted. So rather than having to process applications for the same person twice in one year, they can just say, “Oh, we already have it on file, and we’ll tell you if something comes up” when denying the second application.

I just wish they could be a little bit more honest about the process. They’re giving false hope. I can easily imagine the poor geek who, after being turned down at a place he really wanted to work (say, Google), forlornly just hangs around doing nothing for a year after turning down other offers in the false hope that they will somehow change their minds and offer employment anyway. Sorry bud, it’s just not going to happen. Accept the rejection and move on. They don’t want you, and it’s unfair to keep you hanging on a slim thread of a “promise”.

So when some employer tries to feed me the “we’ll keep it on file” line, I realize it for what it really is, and cross that company off my list. It’s not even possible to respond to these inquiries usually. Whereas solicitations for employment come from real people with real contact information (and they want you to be in touch), rejection notices almost always come from non-replyable email addresses with disclaimers in the email itself that no human reads the dummy account that the rejection is coming from. That should tell you everything you need to know right there. Actually getting a job offer after they’ve cut off contact in such a manner is more unlikely than getting a good deal at a used car dealership.