Happy Birthday to Me

Yippee skippee, another year older.

Got an e-card from my girls today. "Today you are another year wonderfully blessed." I like that.

Otherwise, I'm just feelin' old.


...And One More for the Road...

Blowing up an AMD Duron. Another nice find from Kenny. Very cool for us computer geeks.

Best... Video... Evar...

Kudos to Kenny for the find.


Workin' for a Livin'

Pretty busy the next couple of weeks. Rolling out a new product into staging/beta, and we have a developer flown in from Bangalore to help out. So my days are going to be pretty full... And this weekend is Carrie's birthday party, got the family coming in Saturday and then Sunday is the bowling party - lots of little rugrats all trying to bowl, should be memorable if not very, very noisy... lol

Why They Call It Work

Reprinted from the Harvard Business Review's "20 Breakthrough Ideas for 2006".
The halls are alive with the sound of carping. Last year, only 50% of U.S. workers were satisfied with their jobs, the lowest point yet in a steady decline that began in 1995, reports the Conference Board. And with the exception of a few anomalous years, job satisfaction in the United Kingdom has been dropping since 1991, according to research done at the University of Kent. Participants in these studies complained, among other things, about lack of personal fulfillment; “robotic,” meaningless work; work/life imbalance; insufficient acknowledgment of efforts; and lack of influence with supervisors.

Conventional wisdom blames such pervasive disgruntlement on poor leadership and lousy work environments. But have working conditions in the past decade really degenerated so much for so many? The decline in satisfaction has persisted in periods when employees have had tremendous leverage and when they’ve been lucky to have jobs at all. Moreover, the average worker spends more than two hours of each eight-hour workday surfing the Internet, conducting personal business, or just “spacing out.” That suggests many employees have autonomy and a manageable workload.

Maybe employees are dissatisfied because they have been taught to expect too much from their jobs. In the mid-1900s, organizational behaviorists concluded that great work environments would produce happy, productive workers. At the same time, humanists began arguing that work should be a vehicle for growth and self-expression. Those ideas became part of the conversation for companies and observers of companies, including management consultants and the business press. Employees, as a result, came to expect that their jobs would be satisfying and meaningful and that their employers would help them grow professionally and develop their “true potential.”

Such expectations represent a corporate ideal akin to the romantic ideal that guides some people in their quest for a mate. Those animated by the romantic ideal believe that they will someday find “the one” and embark upon a life of bliss untroubled by personal faults, limitations, and weaknesses. Fortunately, most mature adults eventually abandon that myth. Those who don’t not only are doomed to disappointment but make life miserable for their mates.

Similarly, employees animated by the corporate ideal believe in the existence of a “right” job that meets all the needs on their own, personalized versions of Maslow’s hierarchy. But even a good job in a good company is bound to produce disappointment. In time, these deluded souls will realize that the business is more interested in what they do than in who they are. They will be required to perform tasks they consider tedious or misconceived. They will find that their input is not always welcome. As a result, they will feel frustrated, disappointed, and demeaned.

Much misery could be avoided if employees held less-exalted ideals about work. Why does a job have to be meaningful and fulfilling? Isn’t it enough that work is simply worthwhile—which is to say worth the employee’s time, considering his or her circumstances? A former student of mine sells a remedy for irritable bowel syndrome, a job she doesn’t find particularly meaningful. But she does believe that for someone with her skills, experience, priorities, and goals, selling this product for this company is certainly worthwhile. Consequently, she believes that she has a good job. And she does. The pharmaceutical company she works for pays her a decent wage, provides good working conditions, and does not waste her time. That should be enough.

Employees should not demand that companies imbue their lives with meaning. Employers and employees have something the other needs. One of the keys to a mutually beneficial relationship is a realistic understanding of what that something is.
E.L. Kersten (lkersten@despair.com), a former professor of organizational communication, is the COO and cofounder of Despair Inc., a company in Austin, Texas, that produces satirical products for the office. He is the author of The Art of Demotivation (Despair Ink, 2005).


Surveillance Is on the Rise, Straining Carriers

Once I get started, I just can't stop myself. This ties in a little bit to the blog entry below. The number of telephone wiretaps from 2000 to 2004 authorized by state and federal judges increased by 44%, the Wall Street Journal reports, in part because of a rise in terrorism investigations after 9/11, and because the Patriot Act extended surveillance to Internet providers. All the surveillance activity can put a strain on carriers. 'Smaller telecom companies in particular have sought help from outsiders in order to comply with the court-ordered subpoenas, touching off a scramble among third parties to meet the demand for assistance', the WSJ reports, adding,
Government surveillance has intensified even more heavily overseas, particularly in Europe. Some countries, such as Italy, as well as government and law-enforcement agencies, are able to remotely monitor communications traffic without having to go through the individual service providers. To make it easier for authorities to monitor traffic, some also require registering with identification before buying telephone calling cards or using cybercafes.
Related article on Slashdot: FCC Demands Universities Comply With Wiretap Law

Bush details foiled 2002 al Qaida attack on L.A.

For the most part, I try to keep quiet on politics. For many reasons really - I could be technically classified as a conservative liberal, or maybe a conservative with a liberal slant. Anyways, I'm a card-carrying Democrat. Was a confirmed Independent until living in Virginia Beach, in Pat Robertson and the Christian Coalition's backyard, drove me to Democrat. But I hold with many conservative beliefs. Now, my wife (and her family) are all very liberal. Her sister's husband is a staunch conservative, which makes family political discussions fun... My own brother is very conservative, whilst the rest of my side are more moderate.

Anyways, back to the point. Yes, I do have one, even relating to the title. I have a very low opinion of Bush. I think, to be frank, he's a moron who couldn't find his way out of a dark room with a flashlight. And an open window. And somebody standing at the door shouting "this way, idiot!" Right. So the Secret Service should be showing up in five... four... three...

So yeah I think the whole phrase "War on Terror" is a misnomer in many ways... I have serious doubts on the management of said "War"... and though I think the intentions of the Patriot Act and other such legislature (or non-legislature, as the practice of illegal phone taps and such profligate) I want to know who will watch the watchers. Meaning once a little liberty is given up for security, it's twice as hard to gain it back. And, the risk of abuse (maybe not by the people currently administering it, but in the future) is disproportionately higher.

Right, see I'm starting to get to my point here. And I might even mention the article.

So it seems that we're waging this "War". In secret for the most part. We see liberties eroding, costs rising (monetary and deaths) but little real results that can be revealed to the public. Now, today there's an article on CNN.com (Aha! There it is, told ya so!) describing an attack on the West Coast similar in scope to the World Trade Center devastation, which was foiled:
Shortly after 9/11, al Qaida began planning to use shoe bombers to hijack a commercial airplane and fly it into the tallest building in Los Angeles, California, President Bush said Thursday.
Now this is what will really help the "War" more than any amount of politicking, strutting or proclaiming in the righteous and just cause we must follow. Concrete results.

I know, there are security concerns. Certainly there are far more highly intelligent people than myself running the show in the background, people like my brother who understand the evil that needs prosecuted in the embodiment that is al Qaida. These people are rightfully cautious releasing such details, as they may endanger future intelligence and even current operations. But stuff like this is what can remind the people of this nation that we're not just wasting money and lives, that all the laws and practices in use to secure intelligence is not just a power grab to move us towards a totalitarian society depicted in numerous scifi novels and movies.

Naturally, as a result of the shady politics of the current administration, there's a certain amount of skepticism about the reported foiled attempt:
Two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sens. Jay Rockefeller, D-West Virginia, and Dianne Feinstein, D-California, questioned the timing and the details of Bush's revelation.

"It may be that they're tired of talking about the Brooklyn Bridge, and they're trying to find a different edifice of some sort," Rockefeller said.

Added Feinstein, "All I'm saying is that's not a new revelation and I've never seen anything that indicated whether the second wave was bona fide or not."
That's unfortunate, as it indicates that Bush has lost the chance to really win people over to this "War". I don't think it can happen. It could have, if his administration was open to the people from the start. We're not dull children to be led by the nose, and given what share is for our own good, as I believe most politicians think. We're a nation of critical thinkers. The younger generation has more of a voice than ever, booming loud throughout the internet, and they tend to be the most skeptical of all.

So that rounds off my discussion on politics. Most likely won't happen again. I alienate far too many family members and friends that way. (Don't even get me started on religion...)



Job Hunting Online Gets Trickier

New federal guidelines meant to standardize how employers track data on the diversity of their job-applicant pool are taking effect starting today for jobs at federal contractors -- and similar rules will kick in later this year at U.S. companies with more than 50 employees. And resumes and search approaches that worked perfectly well before may no longer do the trick.
Of course, it remains to be seen whether the new rules will actually increase diversity in companies or just create extra work for everybody. Either way, if you're looking for a new job, you can't afford to ignore them.
So from the article over at CNN/Fortune, here are considerations to take into account in order to ensure you stay in the running, according to Gerry Crispin (founder and principal of CareerXRoads and a long-time Internet job hunting expert):

Follow the company's instructions. "If an employer says that, to apply for a given job, you must go to their web site and enter a certain code number, then do that," says Crispin. "Otherwise your resume will never be seen."

Spell out your qualifications clearly. "Pay very close attention to the specific qualifications an employer lists for a particular job, and make sure your resume contains those exact words," Crispin says.

For instance, if a job description includes the words "three years of credit accounting experience," put "three years of credit accounting experience" on your resume. "Don't just list a credit-accounting position with the dates you had it and assume someone will figure it out," Crispin advises. This may mean you have to rewrite your resume for each job opening you apply for.

Keep your resume up-to-the-minute current. "The rules allow companies to pick a random pool of applicants by searching the job boards for 'most recent' qualified applicants," Crispin notes. "In those cases, no one will even look at a resume that is more than two or three weeks old." Yikes.

Target specific companies and visit their web sites often. "The first announcement of a job opening very often appears on a company's own site before it is posted anywhere else," says Crispin. If enough applicants turn up on the site, the employer is unlikely to look any further. "Companies really do not want 500 or 1,000 applicants for each job," Crispin says. "If they get 30 who are qualified, that's a reasonable number for a hiring manager to consider and select from."

If someone is referring you for a job, make sure you -- and they -- understand how to do it. About one-third of all new hires now come through employee-referral programs, and companies are still permitted to run these however they like, as long as they follow a consistent policy. So if your pal at Ostrich Corp. wants to refer you for a job, know what Ostrich's policy is (whether via the company web site, having your friend submit your resume for you in a particular way, or what-have-you) and follow it to the letter.

Rodents of Unusual Stupidity (RoUS)

So this morning I hop downstairs into the basement to grab stuff for my lunch, in a hurry to get out the door before 6am (anytime after that and it takes two hours instead of the normal hour-and-a-half to get into work). I admire the cleanliness of the family room and play room as I pass by. (Made that way by myself, primarily by stuffing two whole trash bags worth of toys and such, now residing in "time-out" until they are earned back. Two weeks is long enough to nag and threaten the children.)

Then I stop, as I realize there was a small black object on the floor that I had just stepped over. Curious, what was it and why was it intruding on my clean floor? (It won't last, I know, but I've been relishing it whilst I could.)

Odd, but it looks like... OH CRAP THE DOOR TO THE HAMSTER CAGE!

Frantic, I look up and see sure enough, on one of the two hamster cages the door is completely off. Visions of my entire morning blown dance in front of my eyes, as I wonder where to look first, the kids would be devastated if it got lost... Then I really start to panic, maybe one of the cats popped the door off looking for a snack? That's all we need, the kids finding half-chewed hamster when they wake up in the morning...

All this flashes through my mind in a matter of seconds, but then I pause, and curiosity forces me to actually look in the cage. (Actually I expected to find the half-chewed remains there. My cats are notoriously lazy.) There, snuggled in the wheel, is the hamster. Still asleep. I give it a poke just to be sure, and it wriggles around into a tighter ball.

I reattach the door, shaking my head and saying a quiet prayer of thanks for the consistency of Rodentia Stupido Miniscule.

Attack of the Drones

Ever wonder what the coolest, geekiest job would be, that would push the boundaries of science towards sci-fi? Look no farther, my friends, than Lockheed Martin's famous Skunk Works. Article from Slashdot:
Lockheed Martin's secretive Skunk Works unit - which previously developed U-2 spy plane, the SR-71 supersonic spy plane and the radar-evading F-117 stealth fighter - has big plans for its latest project: drones. Among the concepts under development, according to the Wall Street Journal: 'One drone would be launched from, and retrieved by, submarines; another would fly at nine times the speed of sound. A third, which is off the drawing board but not quite airborne, has wings designed to fold in flight so that it could rapidly turn from slow-speed spy plane to quick-strike bomber.' The WSJ's reporter also is allowed a rare visit to the Skunk Works complex: 'A factory hall was filled with the prototype of a massive helium-filled airship that one day might ferry troops and heavy equipment to distant battlefields faster and more efficiently than ships--no port or airbase needed. The blimp would float just above the ground on four hover pads, meaning that "you could literally pick a farmer's field" to set down in, says program manager Robert Boyd.'"


New FireFox Version

Some of you may have heard of the new release (especially if you're a regular user - and if not what the heck are you doing still on IE???), the new when installed does tend to disable many extensions. So, if this is the case, here's the easy steps to take to remedy the situation. Yes, it is easy. I did it in like 30 seconds to get my Bookmarks Synchronizer working again.


Solar Energy Kit Gives Prius 10% Better Mileage

Now this is very cool. Solatec LLC has released a stick-on solar panel kit that charges your hybrid while parked.
Solatec LLC's new photovoltaic kit for the 2004-2006 Toyota Prius contains two flexible, conformal rooftop-mounted solar panels that charge the hybrid automobile's auxiliary battery through a proprietary charger/current-limiter system concealed behind interior trim panels. The self-adhesive panels are 0.6mm thick, avoiding aerodynamic drag. With Solatec panels installed on the roof, the prototype SolaPrius(R) averages 55 mpg city and 62 mpg highway -- said to be a 10 percent improvement; all-season testing is in progress. The kit costs $2,195 -- and will be available nationwide through dealer franchises. It uses the same technology as the company's aircraft grade adhesive for solar aircraft research, high-efficiency photovoltaic panels that sustain aircraft in flight.
I can see where the savings come in, as I get the worst mpg when accellerating from a dead stop when my battery level is too low to run without the engine at low speeds. Just this morning, I was in slow traffic for so long (3-8mph) that my battery level dropped below 25%, and the engine kept kicking in, dropping my efficiency down to 8mpg.

In other related news, the world's largest photovoltaic system will be built, not on the roofs of Priuses, but on the ground of Nevada, and will provide clean energy for the US military.


The Carnival of Gamers - Slashdot Edition

"Welcome, welcome, to the biggest show in town. For today only the Carnival of Gamers appears on your front lawn, and we've got quite a show for you. So, hurry up and step right inside, check out the booths and maybe win your lady a stuffed bear!" Thursday, February 02, Slashdot Games hosted 'The Carnival of Gamers', a roving blog event that collects together some blog entries on gaming written during the previous month. The entries are all self-submitted, and cover everything from the legalities of online currency to the state of videogame reviews. This is a great opportunity to check out some sites you may not have had the chance to read before, and expand your thinking on gaming in society today. Think of it as a large quickies entry, grab your coin purse, and step inside.

In other news, I just found out I will not, in fact, have to travel to India again. Much rejoicing was heard from my humble little cubicle at work, and I quickly jotted off a note to my buds in the GunRunner Clan that my March Saturdays are now open, so let's get this next LAN party scheduled already!!! I've got a hankerin' for some serious fragging!

Superbowl Ads

Didn't even get to watch the Superbowl, I've been dog-sick ever since Thursday. Today's the first day I've been able to get out of bed before 2pm. And I still feel like I should be back there... anyways, enough about my maladies. Here, go vote for your favorite.