Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Big-ish personal update

I've been a bad blogger. :( My wife silently reminded me of this when she wrote a new post updating our son's blog, which had no posts since this February. This month, I've written several posts over at the Atheist Experience and gotten involved in some enjoyable arguments over there. (I personally think my new Star Trek rule should be considered an instant classic, but I'm hardly the one to judge). Meanwhile, my own blog has lain fallow.

I guess what I love most is blogging about three topics: religion, politics, and entertainment. Since the AE blog gets more eyeballs than mine, thanks largely to Martin Wagner's tireless regular posting, I find it more gratifying to put religious musings over there these days so as to reach a wider audience.

Politically, nothing is happening. The primaries are now officially freakin' boring, and I'm yearning for the Obama vs. McCain smackdown match to get started in a hurry.

On the entertainment front:
  • I'm still reading Ken Follett's World Without End. People often assume that I read books very quickly, and I don't. When I'm at home, I like being on my computer, either playing games or catching up with news via blogs. When I'm out driving, I usually listen to shows on my iPod. So although I know it's good for me, I rarely just sit down and read.
  • We recently saw The Ruins. It was a passable horror flick. Ginny read the book and didn't think it was a good adaptation. I didn't read the book, but I read stories indicating that the author wrote the screenplay himself; so I have to assume that he was satisfied with the elements that he had to change.
  • I've nearly leveled a second World of Warcraft character to 70. "Rupert Thrash" the warrior is sitting at level 66 right now. I was going to write some more about Warcraft in this post, but then I realized it was a digression. I think I'll put it in a separate post, so that you non-gamers can skip it at your convenience.
  • My chorus is getting ready to perform Beethoven's 9th. What a pleasant change that is from last season! I didn't like doing St. Paul, I find the English lyrics distasteful and borderline anti-semitic, and the music mostly didn't impress me. But you can never go wrong with "Ode to Joy." My concert will be in three weeks. Ginny and Ben will attend. I encourage other Austinites to drop in also; it's going to be a great show.
  • I bought Ben a Wii for his birthday next month, plus the latest Mario and Metroid games. He doesn't know yet. We're planning a party at our house. Ben's birthday is on the last week of school; the party is the prior weekend.
  • I got a coworker and his wife hooked on Kingdom of Loathing. They not only both started playing last weekend, but also donated $40 between them. Bwahahaha. Game companies should totally pay me referral fees, I'm very good at hooking people.
And then, of course, there's my job. I have to repeat what a tremendous relief it is that my employment gap only lasted a week, and that I'm now making more money. Our financial situation is just starting to settle down... just in time to start repaying my first semester of student loans. :P

It's a really interesting company I've found myself in, and a great bunch of people. I was the first arrival of four new hires, so in a way I kind of got "seniority" for a few weeks. I had a project assigned before any of the others, and I had to go through getting accounts and bugging the IT department and such (since they hadn't dealt with a new person for years previously). I have a name plate on my cubicle wall, although I don't have one of the little plaques that say "One/two/three/N years of service". So anyway, that means that I had to blaze the trail and then teach the other newbies what I learned to make their hiring smooth. I enjoy that role.

I've essentially completed my first project and gotten my feet wet with the company data system, which is huge and intricate and proprietary. I'm proud of the work I've done so far, and now I have a bit of a lull. I am spending it by updating our internal documentation, which is in the form of a wiki. I'm good with wikis, and nobody else really seems to "own" the company docs, so I figure this will (1) establish me as an expert at something, and (2) give me a more solid overview of the whole business. I think those are good things.

The project I finished has to do with email addresses. Now, I won't name any names, but there is a company out there whose job it is to find your email address and sell it to people. I just need to know your name and home address, and I send it to this company, and they scour the web or do some other kind of black magic, and they tell me every email address that is associated with you. The price is seven cents per successfully located address. Success rate is supposedly about thirty percent, but bear in mind that this includes addresses for any person in the United States, including people who may not be on the web much. For YOU, the person who actually reads blogs, I bet it's well over 95%.

This caused some consternation between me and my project partner, because on some level we view this as evil behavior. This company does not spam people themselves, but it's very obvious that their whole reason for existence is to enable spam. And spam sucks.

I don't think that my own company is doing anything particularly bad. We are, however, using this tool to provide email addresses to specific companies that already do business with the people in question. The assumption is that those customers "forgot" (wink wink) to provide their email to the company in the first place. That's as specific as I want to get, because I don't want to get accused of sharing my company's business model.

We are, however, giving our business to this other company, which has great potential to use their powers for evil. As a card carrying spam hater, I have mixed feelings about this.

Even so, the data development process is fairly interesting, and I see good opportunities for some really cool work at this company. Maybe some of you just read my job description and thought "Boy, that sounds boring." I don't see it that way, but of course, I've spent years developing a specialization. I mean, my sister Keryn works with sick and dying old people, and is downright enthusiastic about her job. I listen to her talk about her work and am tempted to think she's just crazy, but that's what she likes to do. I like the internet and powerful databases. So there you go.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

I have seen the light

I've had a sudden change of heart. Oddly enough, this seems to happen every year around this time.

Sadly, the Atheist Experience will be ending after next week.

Update: That was, of course, an April Fool's joke. Sorry for a taking a week to explain.