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!

Computers, Events, Family, Personal, Thoughts

Taking the Red Pill

Hell of a week. Now that I have my compy hooked back up under my newly assembled desk, along with high-speed internet, things are finally starting to settle.

The trip started off Friday morning at 8 – just like we planned (yeah right). Actually, we left at closer to 9 because I forgot to do some critical last minute tasks, such as packing the refrigerator, and cleaning out the litter boxes. Placing cats in a box against their will was probably the scariest thing I can imagine doing. Noah went full ferrel, and proved to be a “challenge” for three grown men. If she still had claws, there would have been three dead bodies at the old house.

I had to scramble to locate a GPS for Kristin’s folks, since I didn’t think about printing the directions out on paper. The day went by with quite a bit of chaos, and cross-communication gone wrong. We got to Staunton, Virginia though, and settled down for the night. Until 4am. The cats started fighting like two inmates in prison. The dogs started barking at the cats, and everyone except my folks bailed out of the rooms by 8am.

The next day went smoother. We headed for Scranton, Pennsylvania – home of Dunder-Mifflin from The Office. We actually blew right through the city and landed on I-84 entirely by mistake luck – good job John. We had a great time as we worked our way east, passing through Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and finally Massachusetts. The communication seemed to go easier the second day.  I think we got into a routine.

We arrived at the house in Braintree before dark, and took a tour of the property. You would never imagine the beauty of the inside of the house from looking at it on the street. The renters have really done a lot of work inside to modernize the house, and it shows in the details. Marble counter tops, hardwood floors, fresh paint, sliding glass closets, and a glass shower. I have posted a few pics from the inside of the property, but I am holding off to photograph the outside until the restoration is finished. It just doesn’t do the property justice.

The furniture trickled in thanks to my folks, Kristin’s folks, and John over the next few days. Now the big pieces are in place, and the rest boils down to unpacking everything from boxes and organizing things again.

Today, we ventured out into the town of Braintree (I don’t know how we missed this when the everyone was here) and did some grocery shopping at Shaw’s. Quite an enchanting little area with nothing but local shops and family restaurants. When you read the name Shaw’s, think Kroger. Interestingly, Shaw’s doesn’t sell liquor – we had to make a second stop at a package store. Also interesting was this particular package store almost exclusively stocked domestic and Irish beers. Samuel Adams and Harpoon topped the list due to the fact both beers are from the area.

Now we are settling in for the night, and I begin my fantastical job tomorrow morning. I will fight with I-93N and probably lose, but with such a flexible start time I think it will be all right. I am really looking forward to the job this time around. The folks seem great, and it will be nice to start feeling like I am contributing to society again.

Thanks everyone for the unpacking help – I really could not have done it without you. Wish me luck, and I will keep you all updated on the adventures of a Georgia boy living and working in Massachusetts.

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.