perhaps I should take up voodoo

I had four hours of job interviews with a perspective employer this morning. How did I do? Well, I think I addressed all the concerns of my interrogators when asked to step up in front of a white board and write code. There may have been a few details missed that would a compiler or interpreter would catch… but I think the designs were right. The key question for me is: are the expecting me to catch everything on the first try without any mistakes at all? Well, I hope not… but the interview process seems to be very intense these days. It is a Darwinian struggle… those who can survive the weeding out process are worthy of jobs.

So everyone please keep those digits crossed. This would be a nice job to get… and I will learn the outcome on Monday. I was pleased to see that they didn’t cut me loose from the applicant pool half way through the interviews. I am also glad to actually be sitting across a table from a human being, rather than interviewing by phone. I feel like I need a little good karma where the job search is concerned.

I just hope my karmic credit card is not full. I hope I don’t get a notice saying “sorry, you can’t get a job because you weren’t nice enough to puppies”. Or worse yet, “you can’t get a job because your reincarnation score is kind of low — not dung beetle low, but you’ll definitely have to keep one eye skyward, looking for stomping feet.”

Anyhow, would everybody please light a candle or two to the higher power of their choice? I need all the cosmic goodwill I can get.

things that might make me happy

Since I seem to be suffering from a touch of ennui at the moment, I’ve decided to focus on things that might make me happy.

Some toadies might be nice. You know, people who follow you around and say “yes boss” all the time, and get you stuff like juice, coffee, and donuts. It would also be nice if they could all play instruments. I could make them learn some personal theme music that they could play while I walk. It might be nice to have them play something like the theme from Shaft, but I’m just a little too white bread suburban for that. Something more Angelo Bandalamenti would probably be better… like the “Bookhouse Boys” theme from Twin Peaks. That would be cool.

Some powertools and a big workshop space would also be nice. I’ve been having this illogical need to learn how to make furniture lately. Perhaps it is simply the Geek living room set has seen better days. Or it is the fact that Mrs. Geek wants a new desk for what passes for a den in our apartment. It could be some sort of nesting instinct for the house that Mrs. Geek and I want to buy but can’t really afford. I could make big bookcases… and cabinets… and a dining room set. I would have the upholstery contracted to someone else, of course… but we could finally sit all those family-members around the table at once. Of course, I would probably have to make the table first to give the toadies someplace to sit while I go off and make bookshelves… or kitchen cabinets.

It would be nice to have some friends who made wine for a living. Maybe they would start out making wine in warehouse space adjoining to my workshop space. Eventually, they would get good enough that they could buy some land and go out on their own. We would trade wine for furniture at first… just as a friendly thing, but I would eventually be asked to put together the bar for their tasting room. I would get free tastings for myself and up to five guests for life. Of course, I wouldn’t take the toadies to tastings. I’d probably get them the high end label at dramatically reduced prices for Christmas, or something.

A personal trainer and yoga instructor would be very nice. Mrs. Geek and I could both take advantage of that. We’ve talked about going to yoga classes together for a while… but I work out in the morning, and she works out in the afternoon. With a personal yoga instructor at our beck and call, we could have yoga classes whenever we want. Maybe some pilates too. The toadies could have their own yoga classes, if they want them, when I am having lunch.

It would nice to be able to stir fry again. I wouldn’t say no to a nice big 48″ Wolf dual fuel gas range, with gas burners and electric ovens… but seeing as how that probably costs almost as much as some cars, I’d settle for a nice deck with where I could use a propane burner with impugnity. I miss being able to make a good pepper steak, or that szechuan chicken with the blackened dry chilis that once chased my roomate J. out of the apartment wheezing. Heck, I might even be able to finally learn how to stir fry tofu. I miss stir frying. Heck, I’d probably even stir fry for the toadies. They would have to go out to the store to get the ingredients. I’d definitely cook for the winemakers next door. They could bring wine.

Ok, I’ve changed my mind… I guess I don’t want the toadies. They’d probably eat all the leftovers out of the fridge and leave coffee rings all over the furniture. Plus, we wouldn’t want them getting the carpets dirty, so there would be a large pile of shoes near the door every time they came over. But I guess it would be nice to have someone go to the store for me to buy groceries.

It would be nice to live somewhere that is walking distance from a nice little downtown area. Someplace with a decent neighborhood bar that hasn’t been wholly gentrified — no Antarctican tapas/power water bars please — a row of bright friendly shops, and a movie theater that serves real popcorn. A decent record store would also be welcome.

Finally, I find myself wishing I had time to play music again. I find myself in touch with some people I knew in my days as a band geek… and I miss that side of myself. I feel somewhat jealous of some of the bloggers I read who say “oh yeah, got together with so-and-so the other night and played”. I’d love to be able to do that again.

a fear of creeping mediocrity

A good friend of mine told me a couple years ago that you wake up one morning and realize that whatever you are doing at work that day is the thing you will be doing for the rest of your life. He sounded rather depressed about the situation. It was as if his professional life lacked new challenges and possibilities, and had simply become a matter of routine.

Being just a few years out of grad school at the time, I didn’t quite see what he was talking about. Things felt new and different. I was out in the working world, making good money for the first time.

I begin to see what he was talking about now. I begin to fear that my career has taken a rather mediocre turn. Am I doing anything interesting at work? Or am I just marking time? I don’t know… though I suspect that I have not looked after my career interests as well as I could.

I see this most when it comes time to interview for jobs. There was some part of me that always thought that if I got my Ph.D. and then got 5 years of experience at Company O., I would have a good shot at being very employable. That does not seem to quite be the case… Sure, my resume looks interesting on paper, but finding employers who say “Aha! Just the one we’ve been looking for!” is a difficult prospect. Perspective job candidates are put through the ringer… and I don’t seem to be doing well under the bright lights of the third degree. I am told that this is not that unusual, and that the best way to circumvent the process is to get a friend to recommend you to someone who is hiring.

All this brings up memories of my past, times when I was pushed to my limits. I may be a brilliant man, but I am not a genius. I’ve met three or four of them over the years… and they have the ability to distill ideas and concepts very quickly. Their thoughts are always just a few steps ahead. They are the people who are indespensible to any organization, and are always permanently employable. Compared to them, I am a faker, a hack, a plodder.

Yet life is really mostly good. I’ve got my health, good friends, a reasonable job, and a lovely wife. Part of me is just feeling sorry for myself… this mood will pass

On the brighter side, thanks to the encouragement of metaleve I have written my first book review, currently appearing at The Geekzine. Maybe that’s a career I will one day be able to fall back on. Ok, maybe not… but it sure is fun to see your words appearing on someone’s web site.

taking this cyborg thing too far…

I have a vague memory of mentioning this here before, but this is something worth mentioning more than once. I went into the men’s room at Company O. today and heard someone typing away at a keyboard in one of the toilet stalls while I answered nature’s call. It sounded like a laptop keyboard.

To this, I say: eeewwwww!!!! I audited a class once where the instructor posited the idea that we are all cyborgs, sociologically speaking. We are all social constructions that extend beyond our biological bodies, and mesh with the technology around us. That may be, but I don’t think I’ll ever be enough of a cyborg to be typing while sitting on the toilet.

spring is in the air

Ah, Spring is in the air… and I need to start taking Claritin again for a few weeks. Aside from the that, the warmer, sunnier weather is doing much to raise my spirits. After the emotional rollercoaster I was on last week, I find myself feeling more centered and at peace.

The Easter holiday was a good one. Mrs. Geek and I had some of her family over for brunch. I made a non-vegetarian smorgasboard: sherried french toast, bacon, sausage, a 5-egg prosciutto and cheese omelette, and hash browns, all from scratch. To drink, we had mimosas made with this rose brut that was lurking in the back of my wine collection for several years. It all went off pretty much without a hitch, I must say, with the exception that the eldest child we were expecting was home with strep throat. We eventually ended the day with a 9pm candlelit Mass accompanied by lovely, spare Taize music.

I opted to take Monday off to relax a little bit and engage in a little retail therapy. Though Mrs. Geek was largely disappointed that it did not involve buying her something sparkly in a little blue box with a white bow, I got a CDs by Tift Merritt (Tambourine), Monster Magnet (the Spine of God re-issue), and Clifford Brown (Clifford Brown with Strings) — now there’s diversity for you. I also got three DVDs: To Catch A Thief, The Wind and The Lion, and The Agony and The Ecstasy. It proved to be a good outing, though I was sorely tempted to get the 25th anniversary re-release of The Sting on DVD.

a door opens, a door closes

The fourteenth of April seems to be a day of interesting beginnings and endings for me. After all, it was four years ago today that Mrs. Geek and I had our first date. It was the beginning of our first shared endevor, and I think it turned to be a very successful one.

The future of our latest endevor together is a little more clouded, I think. I’ve spent the last six weeks or so trying to scare up a job opportunity that would allow us to relocate to an area where housing is a bit more affordable (i.e. I would not have to sell one of my kidney’s on the black market for a down payment.) This effort had a definitive time limit because Mrs. Geek’s teaching contract is renewed annually in mid-April. Mrs. Geek signed her contract this week for next year. I got word from my last prospective employer that I have a “strong technical background” but that I am not a “strong fit for this position.” *sigh* I am not sure what to do next.

What do we do now? I think Mrs. Geek and I will spend the next week or so trying to figure that out.

the five stages

I haven’t written here for the last few days because I was an emotional wreck. Looking back on it, I was more or less following Elsabeth Kubler-Ross’s “5 Stages of Receiving Catastrophic News”:

  1. Denial – This is where I was when I wrote here last. I was aware of the facts, but they had not made much real visceral impact yet.
  2. Anger – I really begin to feel real anger toward myself on Sunday for two reasons: 1) I was stupid enough to cause an accident and hurt someone, 2) I did not listen to Mrs. Geek when she suggested that we should get a higher levels of auto insurance coverage.
  3. Bargaining – This is more or less where I am now… hoping like hell that the injured party will accept settlement with insurance company.
  4. Depression – I think this will set in if an insurance company settlement is not forthcoming.
  5. Acceptance – I look forward to the day when this will all be behind me.

Reaction to how I am dealing with has varied, in an interesting way. Mrs. Geek always seeks to distract me from my troubles by doing something demonstrative, like tickling me. My Mom tries to be sympathetic and reassuring when I sent my parents an e-mail saying I was losing sleep over this: “Just remember that you have a good job, a loving wife, and excellent prospects. Plus, Plus you have experience at managing stress, think of those final dissertation days.” My Dad got rather Yoda-like: “There is NOTHING you can do about the insurance, so why worry about it?” Ummm yeah, detachment is the Buddhist ideal… but often difficult to achieve in practice.

The one useful data point I got over the last few days was from my manager at Company O. When he asked how I was doing, and I mentioned how this was dumped on me late last Friday afternoon, he told me of his own experience with insurance companies. Being an avid road cyclist, he once got hit by an opening car door. He had a broken leg and a couple broken ribs. The whole thing was settled for much less than the maximum amount of injury coverage we have. Hopefully, the poor fellow with the aggravated knee injury will settle for as much.