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, Games, Personal, Thoughts, Vacations

Who’s Gonna Work for the Working Man?

What an exciting last few weeks. I am falling into a routine that means a lot fewer depressing couch and beer marathon weekends.

I sold my old POS Chrysler Sebring convertible (aka Big Red). After owning both an American car, and a Japanese car its pretty clear to me why we lost that race. Its also clear to me why the Chrysler company is just treading water. They are going to have to start subletting the Chrysler building at this rate. In my experiences, there is just very little quality in their products. Next we are selling the wifes truck, and getting a nice compact SUV. We have already been sneaking peaks at the Mazda CX9, and the Toyota RAV4 and 4Runner, and surprisingly the Scion. What a beautiful bastard that car is.

On a related note, we are ditching State Farm. I think their new slogan should be “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there…to collect your premiums”. Then its back into the darkness. Insurance is getting out out of control. My accident has been resolved, and the strongest statement I can make is to drop them.

Kristin has gotten me hooked on the Harry Potter series – which has become my reading of choice on the Red Line. Like many other things including Legos and video games, I don’t feel like I should be enjoying these books as much as I do as an adult. I am almost finished with the “Goblet of Fire“, and it definitely has taken a darker turn. Kristin says that the book series was meant to mature with the kids that were reading them. True or not, its an entertaining read for anyone sitting on the fence about it. No one has even beaten me up, or given me an atomic wedgie for reading it on the train!

When I am not reading, I am putting some time in on the PS3. I just beat Drakes Uncharted (the first one), and it was excellent. I enjoyed it as much as Uncharted 2. I popped in God of War 2 next, and I was immediately sucked in by the epicness of it all. Once I finish this, then I can see what the world is talking about with God of War 3. Final Fantasy XI?? is on its way. Some Uncharted 2 co-op with Mr. Templeman to be announced, and some Alien Breed with my brother should satisfy my gaming needs. One of my co-workers has given me a tough decision of whether to buy a PSP for $50. There are some really cool games on it, and it would be a nice train companion. The question is do I really need to play more games?

Fall semester resumes with my enrollment in four more classes at Clayton State. The graduation countdown should begin next semester. I was on track to graduate in the Fall until the move to Boston happened. That’s life I guess. You can either give up, or you can get back up. Economics with LaBreque should be awesome. Our textbook is “Freakonomics“. He really does have a lot to contribute to teaching. Why can’t he teach all our courses? It sure would have made Biology more fun.

Speaking of Clayton State, I will be joining some folks from the ol’ HUB in Las Vegas to celebrate with them what is sure to be an awesome bachelor party. You only live once, but my budget for the trip is $1000. Let’s see how much fun I can have with that. Also from Clayton State’s world-renowned help desk, Brian Hursey is coming up to Boston for some job training. He will be one of the few to see our new house in Braintree. Knowing his photography skills, perhaps he can share with folks some of the beautiful sites from our new home. Look forward to seeing you Brian!

Work continues to improve. I have been allocated to another project on a different contract. This means a big change in the work. I am working with different people, and I get a wider range of things to contribute to. I get to put my CSS hat back on for a while, and do some design work. Its a fun challenge to take a composition and turn it into a mirror image in HTML/CSS – its an art to do it in Internet Explorer (die, die die!). This new project is also a lot less mature than the project I was working on. It is nice to see the projects evolve from the lessons learned on the older codebases. I  strong-armed some of my co-workers to take a nice lunch this Friday instead of inhaling our food over our nasty keyboards in silence. We went to Pizza Dough’s in Harvard Square. Its always fun to go up there and hipster-watch.

Kristin and I went to the Gillette stadium last night and watch Bon Jovi through the bars of the venue gates. The view wasn’t bad considering we didn’t pay anything for it. I revisited my arch nemesis “Red Robin” and got the burger burned to hell this time. It was decent, but not as good as I remember. Its hard to ignore the fries, and skip the beers because of the diet. I have lost a few pounds, but nothing major yet. I seem to be hovering at 186, despite religiously sticking to my 1600 calories / day diet plan. I suppose I need to just work out harder and keep that cardio up to burn the love handles I am holding onto. I have also “tweaked” my left shoulder and am unable to look over my left shoulder without some pain. I guess I am getting old.

Finally, I am looking for a new DNS name for my blog. Ideas welcome.

Events, Family, Personal, Thoughts

Last Week at Clayton State

Since August 19th, 2002 I have gotten in my car and drove in to Clayton State University. When I began doing this, I was only a student trying to get to my first semester of classes in the Information Technology program. The tech industry had just survived the dot com crash, and it was soon enough after that the program was alive and still healthy. I moved from Conyers, GA to live in an apartment off Rex Road in a rough area, and worked an even rougher job at the Fedex distribution hub, in Ellenwood, GA. I loaded and unloaded 18 wheelers from 4am to 10am, then went to class from noon to 8pm.

It was a horrible time, and I was all too happy to accept a student analyst position at the helpdesk – “The HUB” (a very different hub) on campus. Debye Baird was actually agreeing to pay me to be in an air conditioned room and sit in a “lean-to” (not quite a chair) and talk to people about computers. On a good day, I would be given a screwdriver and told to go to town on something. I fell in love with the job instantly. My funds ran out, and I decided to move back in with my parents in Conyers – my commute pushed an hour some days to make it to work and classes.

It wasn’t too long after when I met my wife-to-be, Kristin Graham. She came in during the MSBlast outbreak of August 2003 (yes, I track my dates by significant events in technology).  Her machine was quarantined, and I was the punching bag that was preventing her from accessing Facebook while on campus. Love spun out of that, and things got serious. We had lunch together all the time while on campus. Soon, she stopped going to classes, and took a full-time job at For Pet’s Sake in Decatur. We got an apartment together off of Sigman Road in Conyers. From here, it was closer to Clayton State but still a considerable drive.

After a while, two full time positions opened up at the helpdesk for supervisors. The job description, and certainly the pay made it an attractive offer. I applied and was amazed again that the HUB wanted me. I took the job, and shortly after proposed to Kristin. With our combined income, I felt like I had a good chance at providing a good quality of life for us with my job at the HUB. Our marriage date was set for October 21st, 2006. Meanwhile, I was having a great time managing staff, and running the service counter. I enjoyed the job so much I fell out of being a student. It seemed to be a common symptom after working at the helpdesk for a while. We moved into my folks old house in Lithonia, GA and I was within a half hour of the campus.

After a year and a half of fun, Tom Marshall, the director from another department approached me about a job opportunity. He described what it entailed, and I was skeptical to say the least. I thought about it for a long time, and talked with a lot of people about it before accepting. I knew that I loved my job at the HUB, and it is hard to walk away from a good thing for something unknown.

For months I felt like I made a horrible decision. Tom was always talking about stuff I knew nothing about like Crystal Reports, DTS packages, C#, and PL/SQL. My head hurt everyday from the amount of knowledge I had to absorb. Things began to get easier, and when the Portal was announced, I finally found my niche. The Portal wasn’t a cake walk though, and I would go through periods of frustration, and apathy, and occasionally a glimmer of elation. This job taught me that I can survive anything.

I started taking classes again once I felt I could manage the new job. I switched programs, and enrolled in the Technology Management program under entirely separate personnel. I got close to finishing my degree when my wife wanted to have lunch with me one day. Sitting at the restaurant, she told me that she had gotten a job offer from a little town called Attleboro, Massachusetts. It was our chance to move ahead again in life. We decided to accept, and now things are set in motion. I will hopefully be retiring my car in Braintree, Massachusetts and opt instead to take the train into my new job. If the train weren’t on rails, I would probably instinctively wake up some morning and begin to head into Clayton State, same as I have for the last seven years.

This is my last week at Clayton State University, and despite the troubles, I already know that I will miss this place. A job is just a job but your friends are what make it fun. I can only hope that my new employer has an environment similar to what I have here between the HUB, and Administrative Systems. Just like before, it is hard to walk away from something that I know is good.

Start the countdown, and by next Friday I will be on my way 1,200 miles north to find out what else the world has to offer us.

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.