# Funcalls and Fun w/Code

posted on 2008-09-29 17:49:22

Life: I have a part-time job interview tomorrow and I've gotten by so far through contract work. I'm also really enjoying not having a car. I've picked up some new tunes and am in guitar fingerpicking mode. I should learn how to myself, really. For now though I'm just listening to Kaki King and Andy McKee. Oh, and Calexico too. They're awesome. Moving on...

Techie stuff: I've pretty much completely switched to Xmonad. It's great and I've polished up my key layout and config for it. There will be some changes in that sense in my next RedLinux release (Fast Amazon download mirror and install guide here). For example, there won't be a Caps Lock key in my Linux. It will just be another Control key. It's not like you use it anyway, right? I'm also starting to finally get comfortable with emacs and slime. And Practical Common Lisp is a really fun and great book to pick up lisp. More on all that later. Here are some fun code snippets:

`(dotimes (x 30)  (dotimes (y 30)    (format t "~3d" (* (1+ x) (1+ y))))  (format t "~%"))`

`(do ((n 0 (1+ n))       (cur 0 next)       (next 1 (+ cur next)))      ((= 10 n) cur))`

Pop quiz: What do these two Common Lisp snippets do?
`(reverse '(The first prints out a multiplication table up to 30x30. The second computes the 11th fibonacci number.))`

And the first macro:
`(defmacro do-primes ((binder lbound ubound) &rest expr)  `(do ((,binder (next-prime ,lbound) (next-prime (1+ ,binder))))         ((> ,binder ,ubound))      ,@expr))`

Sure it's useless but it makes sense and points the way to some great possiblities. Additionally, destructured lists like so are grand. That's enough lisp to bug you folks with for one day. Deuces.

# On Precarity

posted on 2008-09-23 00:36:54

A number of my friends have started blogs recently and I'm pretty happy about it. Now I just need to talk Burke and Will into starting them. Anyway, I'll link to those guys later. This isn't about that. This is about being broke.

In addition to being jobless, I'm now carless. That car was a piece though, if sold will probably be sold at a loss and over 4 thousand dollars have been spent on it's maintenance as of tomorrow...since January. I'm normally pretty polite on here but FUCK THAT CAR.

That said, I think being broke has many lessons and interesting prospects and, to be honest, I can't say I'm sad about losing the car or my former job. Both are things I've been meaning to do for a while. I've figured out that I can now live (sans car+job) on \$800 a month. I just need a source of income. Ha. Anyway, I have some interesting opportunities to explore in front of me and a short period of time to seize them. All the same, if you know of anyone needing I.T. help for around \$20/hr or if there's a good way to work from home let me know. With all that in mind, I give you Sterling Hayden:
"What does a man need—really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in—and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That’s all—in the material sense. And we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention from the sheer idiocy of the charade.

The years thunder by. The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed.

Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?”

Damn right. Oh, one more relevant, and lovely, quote but this time from the ever quotable Ben Grad:
"I spent the summer looking for a job, and now that I have one I am mainly angry all the time. Or at least all the time I'm in the office."

Think like Sterling Hayden, treat your lives like a challenging voyage (otherwise they won't be very interesting) and build them on a firm foundation of financial unrest.

# Free Time, Free Agent

posted on 2008-09-18 15:22:50

I was let go this morning. I have \$800 to my name. Oh, and rent's coming up.

I'm also quite excited though. Things really weren't too great between my former employer and I. It just wasn't a good fit though there are many positive things to be said about the company, the workplace and the people there. I'm excited about future opportunities and, naturally, hope that I get to do work with Linux. :-)

I'll be spending most of the rest of the day preparing for that awesome Linux Conference I keep mentioning that's going down this Saturday. If you know of anyone that needs an I.T. worker or has some contract work for me feel free to drop me a line though. Time to keep my nose to the grindstone.

Quick Edit: Apparently, someone has the same idea as me about how to do Free Educational Content Distribution. Go Stanford! I can't say I'm a huge fan of their programs approach (start with a Pascal-ish language, move towards Java, then on to C++ and a few others; maybe it's the ordering I disagree with...) but I expect the quality and coverage to be excellent. That said, they're distributing via Youtube, iTunes, something called Vyew and torrents for both MP4s and WMVs. Well done, Stanford. Well done!

# Odds and Events

posted on 2008-09-17 14:36:11

Good morning. Plenty has happened since yesterday. Let's recap.

Nick Ali has written up some details about Atlanta Linux Fest in his blog. It's this Saturday on Northside Pkwy from 11am-6pm, there's pizza for \$5 and I'll have my laptop and my ArchLinux derivative in case you want to see it along with download links and (if I can get some blank CDs) hard copies. You should come! I'll make it fun. I promise. Don't you all wonder why I'm so crazy about this shit sometimes? You'll know.

I was wondering where I'd host the ISOs for my ArchLinux derivative. It looks like that problem is solved. I give you Badongo. They have a 700mb upload limit and files stay up until they're inactive for 90 days if you're a free member. That's pretty excellent. Hopefully, I'll put out releases every three months or so though they'll mostly be package updates in all likelihood. At some point in the future (circa me getting a new laptop) I plan to do an Arch64-based RedLinux build and get images for it online. Now if only I can get the RedLinux portion of my site up by Saturday...

In bad tech news, I may have to get a computer with iTunes going just for iTunes U. I don't know if that content is DRM'd and I suspect I could strip it out anyway. I guess I'm still evaluating my options for stealing an education.

In neat tech news, I'm generally more excited than the stuff Amazon is doing with AWS than the stuff Google is doing these days technically. Let it never be said that I don't think the Floating Data Center idea is pretty kick ass though.

Final tech note, Wordpress optimization seems to be about two things. Installing WP-Cache or something similar and database tuning. I mean, really, it's about reducing the number of times that PHP calls or database accesses need to occur but I should learn more about databases. Later on that is, when I'm thinking about building real sites.

Note to Benchwarmers Clairmont: I know you have a 21 and over age limit set. I'm 22. My girlfriend and my buddy Kris aren't. We won your trivia night last week and things were cool with us then. We showed up this week and someone ID'd the whole table and asked us to leave. Here's a hint: If we're not planning on ordering alcohol and just want to play trivia and eat food you're losing business by asking us to leave. It's not like we haven't been there dozens of times before. Just a thought.

I'm looking at various options for housing next year. Our lease expires in May and I'm not sure what I'll be up to or where I'll be working but I suspect I'll want to live in roughly the same area I'm in now. I don't know that I'd want to be in the same house. The rate is good, the location is good, the home itself is really pretty decent. That said, managing 5 people in a house is a little...bleh. Teresa and I are both fond of the idea of Post Oglethorpe as a lot of our friends are there and it's close to school for her. I'm not sure how I feel about the prices though. I'd certainly want 3 people in a 2 bedroom since there are cheaper options than Post Oglethorpe available. Post Oglethorpe was sold just this August though. Maybe new management will bring changes. Time will tell.

# Less fun, More funk

posted on 2008-09-15 17:21:18

9 months into "the real world" I'm a bit perplexed. With all this talk of industry and full-time jobs, I for some reason expected that "the real world" would expect you to be industrious. Apparently, I am mistaken and while you'd want to end up at a job that challenges, drives and energizes you it is by no means a necessity. I've been thinking about this a lot and at some point will write more and possibly even wrap up that emerging philosophy series of posts. Particularly because I've been having lots of discussions that concern economics and/or politics lately and there seem to be some tenuous strands between those things. I go back and forth on what we need to do about the majority of people that accept and have no issue with the status quo, or at least lack the drive, energy or determination to get outside, above or beyond it. I would say that's probably 90% of us and am pretty sure I am in that category myself at present. It certainly seems unreasonable to demand the peak of human achievement from everyone and highly questionable whether people would universally like being at the peak of their potential achievement, or near it. I'll try to elaborate on those thoughts enough for them to be coherent in the near future.

Found some good reading\watching this morning though I sometimes wonder when\how\if I'll get to all of it. One good thing is the S3 2008 conference (unrelated to Amazon's S3 architecture ) which includes video footage of a presentation on the Lively Kernel . That's pretty cool stuff and I hope I get a chance to watch it tonight. Also there was a paper co-authored by Pascal Costanza on Reflection in Programming Languages , specifically Lisp. I've read the first few pages and though some of it is over my head I think I can stumble my way through it. I really am hoping to get around to reading this paper by David Wiley titled Online Self-Organizing Social Systems: The Decentralized Future of Online Learning . Will referred it to me and it looks quite good. I'm even tempted to read some Dijkstra .

I'm interested in getting some of the piano work of Ravel, Satie, and Debussy. I have Debussy's Children's Corner and like that. Then again, maybe I just need more Masashi Hamauzu.

A final thought: Why are 90% of the good technical lectures on the web in RM format which I must tediously rip to download an offline copy? No, I do not trust your site to stay up with the content I want forever. Even if you're google or wikipedia. Thanks, Peter.

# Seeking a Net Win

posted on 2008-06-19 03:36:05

Things have been really crazy lately. I've been trying to do so much and it really is hard. The real world finds ways to eat most of the time you have. It makes you small. It's gotten to the point where it's hard to find time to do anything other than maintain a few precious friendships and keep the bills paid and the house clean.

That said, I'm trying to push forward. I've gotten in touch with some professors at Northeastern University where I'd very much like to study Computer Science in Fall of 2010, ideally. I also wrote code today for the first time in three weeks. It's hard to find the time, man!

More immediately I'm looking for a new job and have an interview tomorrow morning. For a variety of reasons I'm just not pleased with my current job and I think I can grow more and be happier elsewhere. Cross your fingers for me.

Finally, Jonathan Zittrain was on The Colbert Report tonight talking about his book, The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It. I heard about it in advance and was very excited to see him speak. Unfortunately, I feel that he really botched the interview and I got into a long discussion with Ben about it. I'm pretty disappointed because there are important political issues about technology but they're rarely communicated to the public coherently and concisely and I'm no good at it myself.

I'll probably try to think of a good way to present it and give a fuller update in the next few days though. If I don't get bogged down with the promised education post or the emerging philosophy post or the big easy posts that is. Or hell, SICP 2.1. Yeah, right.

# Towards a new HR

posted on 2008-05-21 17:33:06

It's time to post on something other than code for a change. The last time I posted something non-technical was a music-related post in mid-April. I've had a strong urge lately to say something about this blog's title, "Improved Means for Achieving Deteriorated Ends". I've never really explained what that means to me before. It relates somewhat to a a fairly recent post about my "emerging philosophy" and I definitely have more to say but am still searching for the words to get it out. While searching for those words I've stumbled on an idea that I think is worth discussing and that perhaps serves as a more concrete example of the sorts of issues I'm thinking about.

So, what's the grand exciting topic in store for today? Hiring practices. I'm sure your first thought is that hiring issues are inherently boring. I'd agree if we're talking about staffing a company of 75,000 people. For example, I talked to a Chik-fil-a manager today and asked him for a ball park estimate of how many people worked nationwide at Chik-fil-a. He said that he had a small store with about 25 employees but stores vary between 10 and 100 employees and average about 50. There are 1,300 stores nationwide and then you've still got whoever works at corporate facilities and not in retail.

The truth is, in this setting the product (and your company's success) are not a function of the quality of your individual employees. In fact, if you could sell people Chik-fil-a sandwiches without stores it'd be a huge cost savings provided you could figure out the distribution. You really just need people to fill a non-contributory role. If there were robots that could do the job and customers didn't mind the difference that would be just as good. The point being that the person working the register's chief contribution to the product is handing it over once you ask for it. I'm not generalizing to all retail here but you get the idea.

Now, the difference in the hiring problem occurs when you are looking for contributory employees. Employees whose contributions fundamentally shape the final product that the success of your company rides upon. Careers like architects, programmers, teachers, or journalists. Since these people make or break the success of your firm you can't hire based around basic arithmetic and serviceable grammar. Architects, for example, need to have a sense of design, an understanding of how buildings work, and working knowledge of the tools used to make designs become paper and then reality.

To be as successful as possible you don't just want to hire decent people. You want to hire talented people. To whatever extent possible, you want to hire the best people and this is precisely where we start running into problems. Spotting the best people is very hard and in some ways analogous to The Blub Paradox. That is, I wouldn't trust a person who'd never programmed to hire programmers. Moreover, if an incompetent or only decent programmer is hiring other programmers it's not evident that he'd be able to spot the programmers better than himself. He might not know how to recognize them.

Most companies have two chief hiring practices that I'm aware of, the resume and the interview. The resume process is a screening process. It really exists so that you can weed out candidates based on a standard set of assumptions about the things they need to be successful and whether their qualifications seem to match up with those assumptions. It's pattern matching. This is why it's more difficult to get jobs sans sheepskin. People who pass the initial screen are interviewed by a member of the department with some experience (generally a manager) and evaluated for competency based on the interviewer's (hopefully reasoned and up-to-date) understanding of the job requirements.

One problem with this strategy is that you wind up with false positives in both directions. Any hiring manager has a story about a sure thing hire that turned out to be a nightmare working with the team or the long shot employee that wound up turning around two lagging departments. The real problem, I'll argue, is that current hiring practice is not evolving. You don't learn from your false positives. How would you do that you might ask? I'll tell you how. Treat employee hiring like investing. Companies, especially companies that sell products derived from their employees' creativity, like to talk about how their product is their people or the people are the difference. I say put your money where your mouth is.

If you turn an employee down for a job, I want someone to be able to tell me in two years whether he's gone on to have a very successful career at another company or has wound up working in a different industry. If I hire somebody and they turn out to be a disaster I want to dig up anything I've got on their initial interviews, write the eventual problems on the transcripts in red and put it in a separate filing cabinet for future reference. Do you see anybody going that far to hire good people? No. I won't argue that there's no reason for this. One reason is: it would be a full time job.

Let's take this idea a little further though. Let's say we don't just track our false positives. Lets keep in mind that there are different classes of applicants to begin with and, just to stick with our investment theme, let's call them low-risk, medium-risk and high-risk. Why not? After all, that kid without the diploma is high-risk. At least, that's the reason you gave for not hiring him wasn't it? Oh, that's right. You didn't have to give a reason for not hiring him. Nobody checks up on hiring decisions. There's something else worth thinking about. If you miss a candidate that could've netted your firm an extra 10% last quarter should your ass be on the line or not?

Anyway, what was I saying? Oh, right. A standard reason that most hiring managers avoid candidates without diplomas is the amount of risk. It ties back to a famous IT saying, "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM." If it seems like a sensible decision to hire a diploma holding guy, hire him. At least if he turns out to be a disaster a bunch of people can say he doesn't look like an obviously bad candidate and they might've done the same thing. If a high school dropout turns out to be a bad employee people will say you should've known from the get-go. So, let's just call the kid high-risk. But keep in mind that high-risk goes in both directions because even though he never got his GED he's been programming x86 Assembly since he was 7.

Now, obviously this isn't practical all the time. It wouldn't work for Chik-fil-a and I'm sure there's some point where it wouldn't work even for a company whose product depends on their creative, contributory employees. You could only scale a process like this so much and whether that's a function of the number of employees or something else I couldn't say. In fact, doing this internally in a firm might be suicide. It might have to start as an HR firm exclusively though what we're describing probably sounds more like a scouting agency. You'd also almost certainly have to stick to a certain industry since, as I mentioned above, you have to be a good programmer to recognize a good programmer. Additionally, you definitely would want to spread your portfolio of hires across risk segments but let's move on before we get bogged down.

About now you might be wondering how this all ties back to my "emerging philosophy". It ties back because of the chain of impact from the corporate world to the academic one and beyond. I think a lot of problems exist in the educational system because we think absolutely everyone has to go through it. Parents are convinced that without college diplomas their children will not find gainful employment or have successful lives. I don't claim that hiring practices alone account for this but they do play a part. More importantly, the overall impact of this is one of waste in society. It's waste of compulsory schooling on those that may not need or desire it and it's a waste of those who excel through nontraditional means. It's time to find as many of these little bits of waste and inefficiency as we can and fix them. I think if we'll do that we'll find that the problem isn't that we need to produce more to satisfy demand but that we need to figure out a more equitable and beneficial distribution of the copious resources we already have.

posted on 2008-05-14 03:39:37

Admittedly, the title of this post is a misnomer. I'm no adult yet. I am trying my damnedest to keep this house running smoothly though. As of today I think we're up on all the utilities and I've got a Static IP here with AT&T so I can move my server at some point. Work's been going well and I'm taking MARTA in to simplify my life a bit. I'm cooking (if you can call it that) and keeping the dishes done and the house clean with regularity. I'd say I've almost settled into a groove. I say almost because the people actually staying in the house won't stabilize until after May 25th. Heck, even I'm gone from the 17th to the 24th to house sit for my parents. For the most part though I'm enjoying myself.

Additionally,  I'm way behind on programming. I know. I've had a lot going on but my progress the last month or two is still just shameful. I've started HTDP to get the juices flowing again and am already through Section 03. It's definitely more straightforward than SICP if less revelatory. I'm considering going ahead and trying to blow through HTDP completely over the next month or two. Then I could circle back to SICP and hopefully be better prepared. I haven't decided on anything yet other than tidying up the presently unadorned answers to SICP 1.3 and then posting what I've got from HTDP so far. I am more than half-way through SICP 2.1 but I'm wondering if it makes more sense to knock out HTDP considering the difference in pace between the books. I'll let you know as I move forward. I'm hoping to get a post up with some pictures of my new digs in the next week or so. Feel free to drop me a line if you'd like to swing by.

# Moved In

posted on 2008-05-04 22:10:57

Things might be a bit quiet from me for a few days. I've moved into my new house on Windsor Pkwy and am really enjoying it. We have warm water and electricity but no internet until May 13th. It's tough but free Wi-Fi from my Alma Mater isn't far away. I'll try to post some pictures up later this week and give you all "the tour". In the meantime I've got to cook dinner and work on a presentation about the AV Equipment at the Office. It's a glamorous IT life, I tell ya. Feel free to call me for directions and visit!

Update: So, apparently the landowner's DSL still hasn't been cut off. The internet is among the utilities that are up in the air at present. Everything should be straightened out soon.

# Trial by Triangle

posted on 2008-01-24 02:31:11

Today was not the easiest day. It wasn't terrible either. The news was decidedly mixed. And it's not about Dad though if you're wondering he's doing well. He's undergone chemo and lost most of his hair but he's generally upbeat and energetic.

Two things have been wearing on me today and the first is work-related. Since January 11th I've been working full time at TVS. The news was that I finally got the paperwork for my benefits package today. It's nice having benefits. Benefits are good. All the same, this meant I could start doing budgeting and working out my finances.

Finances are some scary shit. If I didn't know better I'd swear I'd die without a sizable chunk of money a year. For now I'm still staying with my parents until summer (at their behest more than mine) and I'll find a place to live then.

I really am making enough to be okay. It's just that there's not a lot on the margins. I don't want a whole bunch of stuff. I just don't want to worry about suddenly needing money for any reason.

Anyway, the other struggle has been that of the triangle. I'm getting behind on my schoolwork and hoping to catch up by/over the weekend. And I was pretty distressed because I spent like 4 hours obsessing over exercise 1.12 in SICP.

The problem is to write a procedure that computes the elements of Pascal's Triangle.

That shouldn't be a big deal, you know? But I obsessed over it. And now I've got a silly over-engineered solution that I'm more fond of than I should be. It's an interesting problem though. Hopefully I've learned something from it.

Mine still isn't quite working and I know there is a simpler way to do it. I cracked after a while and read about how one might solve it but I didn't peek at any code. Still, I'm stuck on doing it my way. I'm such a bastard. Anyway, it's coming together and I expect it'll be done by the end of the hour. It'll be in the week 2 recap for sure.

Long story short I realized what I've gotten myself into today. And it's still where I want to be. It's just that I think it's going to take more work and time than I might have been able to understand.

# Software in the Real World

posted on 2008-01-10 19:28:55

I'm a bit perturbed at the moment and I'm having a hard time figuring out why but it seems to happen to me after reading Spolsky articles and their associated reddit comments. That was the last time I remember having this same sense, at any rate. The sense that I might call "Computer Science scares the shit out of me". Either that or "the real world scares the shit out of me".

But on to the Spolsky article. I read Spolsky's article "The Perils of Java Schools" and the comments from when it was posted on reddit. The article is about what it sounds like it is. Joel thinks that schools have dumbed down their CS programs by teaching Java instead of a functional language like LISP or Scheme or a low level language like C. The commenters then get into arguments about Joel being stupid, what the ONE TRUE WAY to teach Computer Science and/or programming is, the reason one set of skills or another is valuable in industry, the difference in industry's goals and academia's, and anything else they see fit to mention.

The argument in comments on these articles is often in fact a mere miscommunication. One side advocates that a good (or great) programmer is found by a seeking out those that are technically adept with things like tail-call recursion and functional programming or low-level bit-hackery and such. The other side advocates finding those that have good design principles and an understanding of architecture/best practices.

The missed point seems to be that the first side (to my thinking) presumes that their conditions ipso facto create the candidate argued for by the second side. That is, the first side thinks if someone understands tail-call recursive functions and pointers than they must have some sense of design to go with their knowledge of abstractions and that this, consequently, makes them good engineers. The second side is missing this fact and arguing that design skill is more important than technical ability. Both are large components though. I do not think Spolsky would advocate hiring programmers who had technical ability but little design skill or design skill and best practices but little technical ability.

After reading these articles however I have to step back and remember that we're talking about Computer Science or Programming both of which ultimately have in mind the creation of software or in Sussman's words a description of a process. That description (software) is supposed to automate work, to create value. And THAT is the scary part.

Computer Science scares me a little because I wonder if I have the necessary chops (and desire) to become a good programmer. It's also scary because it will take me a while to even figure out the answer to that question, probably longer than I'd like. Real life on the other hand scares me a lot more for an entirely different reason that I'll explain by way of confession.

I confess that I have an intense urge to read reddit and I find it very hard to resist. It borders on compulsion. The reason is this: I think I'm lazy. In fact, it's even more than that. I think I'm not going to make it out there. You know, in the real world. There are a few reasons for this. One, it's painted as scary and brutal by a lot of people. Two, and this is the bit about me being lazy, I think the real world is bullshit. Or at least mostly bullshit. It's people trying to find ways to stay busy so they can make money so they can eat and do things they actually care about. This next bit is important so I want to state it carefully:

It's not that I don't think that there aren't people out there getting things done that actually need doing. It's that I think that 90% of human labor is about maintaining the status quo, that maintaining the status quo is a huge waste of time if not for the fact you'd starve otherwise, and that the little last bit that actually creates new value and advances the state of things seems like accident or luck as often as the product of hard work. Moreover, there's no guarantee no matter who you are that you won't just get bad luck and get screwed. THAT is what's scary.

It's scary because I don't want to hate my job and just try to do what's necessary to make it. It's scary because I'd like to be in that little 10% and there is no guaranteed way to get there. And it's scary because the very fact of it is implicitly anti-hope or anti-progress. "90% of the world is about maintaining the world. Good luck."

I read reddit not because I want to avoid my other duties but because I wildly want to believe that somewhere on there I will find the guidance I need to not be a 90% human being. I want to be good at something, produce value, not fear starvation or unemployment, and love my craft. So far, I believe programming to be my best bet. Hopefully, this year off from college will bear that out one way or another.

# Spontaneous Posting

posted on 2007-11-24 07:31:25

Okay.

Random blog post thingie. I didn't really expect to post anything but frequent, random and disjointed is a lot easier than occasional and structured/intelligent. So here goes.

First of all, many of you may know/love XKCD. I mentioned to some of you but for some reason didn't think to post that I found this great little talk that the author of XKCD, Randall Munroe, gave at a programming conference. It's actually totally worth watching for at least the first 10 to 20 minutes just to hear some of his funny stories about FAA Regulations on Kite Flying and other such craziness. After that he talks for another hour about other stuff and there's comedy interspersed but it's not quite as constant.

There were some reassuring thoughts after having watched the first hour or so of that. One significant one being that Randall Munroe doesn't think he's a very good programmer because he can settle for "good enough" style hacks. The other being that here's this guy who's clearly pretty intelligent but maybe not interested in "the real world" and managed to go off and be interesting and do his own thing that he's interested in. He created a successful job that I couldn't have imagined and that certainly if it had been mentioned in table conversation as a future aspiration would've been laughed at. But look at him now. It makes me feel like you really can come up with some crazy thing and maybe actually live off it. Then again he might just be extraordinarily entertaining.

Two other thoughts:
What if hiring companies (you know, outsourced HR) did hiring like mutual fund and brokerage groups do investment? What if employees were low, medium, and high risk and selected by experts in a given sector of business? Certainly would change things a bit wouldn't it? And if people are really the biggest investments a company makes why isn't this done? (I'm thinking of this in terms of software and in response to a lot of things I've read lately including the latest raganwald post and some resumes. It's an interesting thought though isn't it?)

Finally, I read a really cool blog entry by a pretty smart and experienced guy (intimidating resume, don't know that mine could ever look like that) about an Erlang-based OS running on Minix 3. It's really a what-if kind of thing but very interesting none the less and compelling if one considers the fact that we are moving away from the present single processor, non-parallel, side effect laden nature of software.

# The Real World

posted on 2007-06-11 07:22:00

I feel like my parents and a lot of my friends' parents are obsessed with mentioning the "real world" where they have been to their children. It's sort of held over our heads isn't it? The whole thing has just gotten built up to the point where it's ridiculous. Naturally, I relate it to things I've observed in computing, particularly hacker pissing contests over things like who has made good contributions to the field and what the technically best solutions are. That has also gotten built up to the point where it's ridiculous. I don't know whether I feel like I'm living in a different world than my parents grew up in or not. There is clear evidence that in many respects things are different but just how different and what it's effects on my life will be seem impossible to predict. But if I'm bothered by anything tonight it's how ridiculous the notion of success is and how I have no idea what to do with the thought that I'm at a supposed "make it or break it" point in my life.

Earlier tonight my mom said something to the effect of thinking I was on a path and that her and dad had faith in me so they support me. I have no idea how to react to this. I don't think I'm on "a path". I don't know what the hell I'm on most the time. I certainly don't think that I have any more of a shot at not failing at this whole "life" thing than anybody else. A lot of our debate earlier centered around the fact that I'm leaving Oglethorpe to go to a school to study Computer Science and that if I don't like that or am not good at it I'll pretty much be directly entering the workforce. Moreover, I'm going there to learn about Computer Science. If I get a degree, it will be coincidental. Frankly, that's what I want. And it scares the shit out of me. Of course, my parents are concerned about the number of doors that close when you don't have a college degree. I understand that. It concerns me too. I also am aware of the number of people working in computers that lack one. It's somewhat higher than that of other fields and I think that relates to the fact that Computer Science and Hacking have historically been fairly rebellious and were born out of a lot of countercultural elements in the 60s and 70s. The computer industry tends to be more open minded about your education than a lot of other industries. Your portfolio is a significant metric.

Anyone who knows me knows I'm obsessed with computers, perhaps to my own detriment, and I can fix them or wax nerdosophical about them to my heart's content but I have never programmed them. If it turns out that I'm not good at programming I don't know what I'll do besides tech support. Basically, I just want to do something that I can make a reasonable amount of money at (I don't know what this is for me but I suspect under 40k a year,) am good at and enjoy doing. I don't know if I'll end up being that lucky. Worse still, I don't know which one (or ones) of those criteria might be the ones that fall through. I feel like things are changing. I think a lot of old power structures are showing their age and new systems are slowly working their way in. I do feel like technology has a lot to do with that and I try to keep up pretty well with technology. I don't know what it takes to "make it" when you're trying to make it outside the established system of get a degree, get a job, get a house with a white picket fence. I know that I feel like I'm part of a subset of my generation that is vastly more interested in genuinely learning and doing new things than the majority of the group and that the educational system isn't great at supporting that. Most people I know are interested in going to school, making money when and how they can, and partying or having fun the rest of the time. I do this for fun. I try to figure things out or educate myself about something (often technical). I feel like that has to be worth something. I have no idea how I get from here to the hypothetical there of "success" and yeah, I'm scared. But I don't know how to do anything else. So I'm hoping that this path actually leads somewhere and that I'm not just some stupid naive little kid who hasn't met up with the real world yet.

Unless otherwise credited all material by Brit Butler