Events, Family, Personal, Ruby, Software, Thoughts

The Biggest Little State in the Union

After weeks of unpacking, building out shelves, replacing lighting fixtures, unpacking some more, organizing, selling our possessions, getting creative with storing what possessions we didn’t sell, and living off restaurant food, life is finally getting back to normal for me, the wife, and all the critters. Moving day came and went as smoothly as I could hope. Thanks to the blunder of the Warren property, we were overly prepared and living out of boxes for a week prior to the move. In eight hours time we went from being citizens of Braintree, Massachusetts to Barrington, Rhode Island. I was just getting the hang of spelling ‘Massachusetts’ too.

The new property is close to the bay, in a scenic suburb with lots of folks walking, biking, and taking the dogs out. While our street ends at the water’s edge, we did sacrifice quite a bit of space in the move. We have been power sellers on Craigslist, getting some liquidity for things we didn’t have room for in the new place.

Also on Craigslist, I picked up a 2008 Lemond Reno in gently used condition for a great bargin at $225. With a quick tune up, and a bike helmet I decided to bike into work on Friday. I haven’t been on a bike probably since I was in middle school sporting the Huffy around the cul-de-sac. I couldn’t believe how much fun it was to ride! I always found it obnoxious when bike people would talk bikes, but its different once the bike bug hits. All I have wanted to do since Friday is have my body heal enough so I can get back on the bike and ride into work again. We strategically picked this location because of its proximity to the bike path, and this will become my commute to work, as well as a fantastic workout. Its quite a scenic view on my way in, as the bike path follows the bay through Barrington, and down into Warren. Perhaps I can convince the wife to pick up a bike herself and we can venture down to Newport once we get conditioned.

The new job is going very well. I read some materials on Job Characteristic Modeling, and I felt it did a great job at explaining why comparable work at my new employer has been drastically different for me than previous work. I struggled with task variety, identity, significance, and autonomy, which was a recipe for unsatisfaction. Government contracts are hard, and I have a new respect for the people that can do it. Mojo Tech is reminiscent of my time at Clayton State where I was given large problems to work through (some running for weeks at a time) and a full spectrum of disciplines needed to solve them. I guess the moral of the story is experiment with different company styles until you find one that pairs well with the way you work.

In other exciting news, I will be doing a presentation on the Rubymine IDE this Wednesday at the Rhode Island Ruby Users Group. Look forward to meeting the other Ruby developers here in the state of Rhode Island.

Pictures of the house are coming soon, as we prepare the last of the decorations. We are having a house party this Saturday, and any co-workers, past and present are invited. Come meet, mingle, and check out our new pad!

Events, Family, Personal, Vacations

Pour you a beer, Mr. Peterson?

I got quite a shock when my previously planned bachelor party to Las Vegas got cancelled. Instead, the guys were looking to come up here and spend some time with me, in the great city of Boston! Having only been here for four months myself, I wasn’t very experienced on what things to do. I took some suggestions from my co-workers, and did some Googling to come up with a pretty solid itinerary.

Josh from work suggested Faneuil Hall as a good touristy place. He also got us a connection with a ticket broker to go see a Red Sox game. Kyle suggested a while back to go explore the North End, and Dave Rogers assured us that Brookline was the “safest place in the world”.

My friends tried to heed my advise and get a hotel next to one of the subway lines, but all the good spots were booked, or really expensive. Instead, they ended up in Braintree, near my house. Once we got to the trains, we could go anywhere in Boston – but waiting on the bus was miserable out here. They ran about every 30 minutes, but our group had about a 20 minute attention span. We got to meet some interesting taxi drivers though.

The first day was simple enough – getting everyone checked into the hotel, then going up to see the Red Sox play the Cleveland Indians at Fenway Park. Those seats were definitely made for skinny Northerns and not wide, Southern people. It was a hot, humid night, and we dipped out of the game a bit early to enjoy some drinks at the Boston Beer works. The street performer’s playing Bagpipes made it a cultural experience that we just don’t get in Atlanta.

The next day we met some of Scott’s cousins (that’s right – he is half Yank like me) at the park, and walked down to the Eastern Standard. I got to see where a Popeye’s Chicken is soon to be opening! After lunch, we toured Back Bay, and walked to the Prudential Center, where we strolled past the Cheers bar, and ate at the Cheesecake Factory. The booze cruise on the Boatonian around the harbor was the biggest drinking night for us. What a perfect combo of pleasant weather, beautiful scenery, being on a party boat with a live DJ, and a cash bar!

We opted for a more liver-friendly next day as we hit the freedom trail to get some historical sight-seeing in. I am a history nerd, so I hope I didn’t push too hard for them to go! We started at the Boston Common, and made our way to the sight of the Boston Massacre, then took the Park Street station down to the Samuel Adam’s Brewery Tour. We had lunch at an interesting local bar named Bella Luna before the tour began. The tour was an entertaining mix between education and drinking. We jumped to the other end of the Freedom Trail (for reasons unknown to a sober person), and saw the USS Constitution (ol’ Ironsides), and the USS Cassin Young. Afterwards, we crossed the Charles, and ventured to the North End, where a Bona-fide Italian citizen gave us an impromptu tour ending up at the Sail Loft.

We dropped Scott off in the morning (on two hours of sleep), and set off again about mid-day back to where we left off at the Freedom Trail. We saw a few more sites, and took in the open market at Park Street. We saw some more sights, refreshed ourselves at an Irish Pub, then made our way to Mike’s Pastries. Corey had to leave for the airport so we said goodbye while grabbing some Cannolies. We enjoyed them in the cigar lounge next door. That evening Kristin joined us for a meal at another authentic Irish Pub near Park Street. The remaining crew crashed at my place, then I took them back to the airport around mid-day.

I had a great time, and really got to explore some things in Boston that I have been wanting to do for a while. At the end of the week, I have now been on every train line, and can probably point on a map where different sections of the city are. I feel like a local now! Thanks for coming up guys – I had a blast and I hope you all did too. You better lose those Boston accents before you get back so you don’t get beat up in an alley!

Update: Thanks goes to my wife for shuttling us around Braintree. It really is much appreciated.

Apple, Computers, Events, Hardware, Open-source, Personal, Ruby, Software, Thoughts, Web, Windows

3 Days Down, 40 Years to Go

Yesterday at 5:00pm marked the end of my first week at Beacon Interactive Systems. My coworkers are all really nice, and there is a surprising geographic mix between them. Some folks have lived in Massachusetts their whole lives, while others come from Maryland, and Michigan. The cultural differences between “down South” and here are pretty minimal, unless you just feel like having a good laugh. There have been two big adjustments however: Snow is really not a big deal up here – people hardly notice it outside. The second is restaurants don’t have sweet tea. You would have to drink sweet tea to understand why this is a big deal.

In general:

  • The job is much less stressful. Even during crunch times, you hear Southpark and Big Lebowski quotes (“I’m not your pal, guy!”).
  • The environment is a lot less structured. You come in whenever, you leave whenever. If you want to go outside and toss around the football, go for it. Good team-builder by the way.
  • The skill sets of my coworkers are all very impressive. Its the rifle vs shotgun approach.
  • The job area is nice – its next to Harvard. Getting there is rough – I have to cut across the city. My 20 minute commute takes about an hour.
  • Developing on a Mac is an easier transition than I thought. I won’t say that I’m in love with it yet, but its workable. The biggest pain has been this silly bundled keyboard and mouse. No one else uses them. Also, package management on Mac sucks compared to Linux. I think I would actually prefer to use Linux. Time will tell on this one.
  • The coffee isn’t as good.

An interesting collision of viewpoints occurred my second day at the job, while I was shadowing a coworker on a joint project. He was showing me their (complex) system of bug detection, and correction. They write up a use case, file a ticket, branch the code, create a changset, rebase it, merge it into QA, verify it, then push it back upstream. Not coming from anything near that complex (“Hey Ben – login to the production server and change it!”) I was amazed that they spent so much time on this process. I asked if they ever just ignore a bug that would be too minimal to matter. My coworker asked me to clarify what I meant. I replied with “You know, its good enough for government.” He paused and looked at me funny, then reiterated that they address all bugs that are discovered. A bug is a bug. It will take me a while to harden my resolve to be like theirs, and aim for perfection. Perfection wasn’t possible before because we had the typical scenario of overworked, underpaid, and on a deadline.

We are moving into our new building in a few weeks. When we move, there will be a train station across the street from the new building, and I will probably make the transition to riding into work. Its about the same amount of time, but I would have the ability to sleep, read, surf the Internet, etc all without causing an accident.

Wish me luck for next week – its been a difficult adjustment.

Events, Family, Personal, Thoughts

Bean Town or Bust: We are Moving!

BostonThings have been hectic around the Simpson household lately. As you may know, Kristin graduated in Fall 09, and she has been applying for jobs at Zoos across the nation. She got a job offer from the Capron Park Zoo (warning that their website isn’t real impressive) in the city of Attleboro, Massachusetts. We talked at length, and as hard as it will be for us to relocate, we have decided to accept the position. Now half our belongings are boxed away, in anticipation of me getting a job offer in the Attleboro area.

We feel that this is a really positive change that addresses a lot of our life problems right now. We are currently in a house we are renting which has some major problems. The house is also not in an area where we want to raise our kids. The house is located near the Westley Chapel exist on I-20, and I work and commute from here to Clayton county, which also has a notorious reputation. Kristin’s employment at Zoo Atlanta was on a contract which ended, and she was turned down for a full-time position several times. We also have student loans coming due, along with growing Credit Card balances. Living off one salary has always been rough, and this move gives us the chance to get out from under all of this financial stress.

Her new job makes an impressive salary that amounts to 30% more than Zoo Atlanta was offering, along with benefits, vacation time, etc. The area is also very near other major City Zoo’s including Providence, and Boston. There is plenty of IT work to be had in this area as well, both public and private sector. If I am employed at a major university in the area, I could get a Master’s Degree from MIT, Cambridge, or Harvard.

The hardest part of this move will be leaving my friends, and my family so far behind me. What is getting me through it all is knowing that many of you are on Facebook, Twitter, IM, and are just an email away. My parents are retired, and have an RV so I expect to see them more than I should :). I am really going to miss my brother, but we each have to go our own way in life. I’ll promise I will make many trips to see everyone as best I can over the years. Thanks to everyone who seen us off over the last few weeks – you will be missed.

I wanted to especially mention how much I will miss Clayton State University. It won’t be because of office politics, or programming, or Crystal Reports, and it sure as hell won’t be because I will miss the SWAN Portal. What has kept me at CSU for so long is the people there. I have worked several other jobs before and there are two distinct types of employers: those who want to maximize profit, and those who want you to maximize you. The HUB, and Administrative Systems are both the latter type, and has made me look forwarded to coming into work. I love my co-workers, and I enjoy our lunches, and our conversations that break up otherwise dull work. Looking at Facebook recently, I noticed that most of my current friends are all people that are connected to Clayton State, and most of them are through the HUB. CSU has truly been a wonderful playground at which to spend the last seven years of my life.

We will miss you all.