Archive for the ‘Work’ Category

Wedding and Israel

December 7, 2010

I spent a lot of time researching the best time to take my vacation this Winter. I negotiated with my managers over the course of three weeks before we settled on dates.
Finally, on November 1, 2010 I purchased my tickets to fly to Israel on January 23, 2011 and to New York on February 6, 2011.

I informed my parents and siblings of my plans and I let my ex-wife know that I would be unavailable during those two weeks.

One of my younger sisters decided to accept a marriage proposal just prior to Thanksgiving.
A couple of weekends ago she warned me that they were considering a January 30th wedding. I informed her that I already purchased my ticket and if they held it that date, I probably wouldn’t be there.

On Friday December 3, 2010 she informed that they did, in fact, book the wedding for January 30th.*

I didn’t want to change my plans, but I felt like I was “required” to research my options. I called the airline. They told me I’d be charged a minimum of $250.00 to change my flight plans.
I spoke to my management. They didn’t want to be blamed (how they phrased it) for keeping me from attending my sister’s wedding, so they agreed to re-open negotiations to plan my vacation dates. However, they made it clear that they wanted me to go on vacation sooner rather than later.

(Basically, they expect a lot of projects to begin in February 2011, so they want all hands on deck.)

I called my brother in Israel to find out what he was doing and to hear what he thought. He’ll be coming in for her wedding. He offered to let me use his apartment while he’s away (especially if his whole family travels with him). He agreed that I am not obligated to change my plans because they knew the situation before they chose January 30.


* When I ask people advice, they usually ask why is she getting married so soon after meeting the guy and why does she need to get married on that particular weekend?
I haven’t spoken to her about it. However, I think my dad is imposing his belief that engagements should be short. This belief might work for ultra-Orthodox Jews and its practice might be appropriate for people who buy into that way of life, but I think it’s a mistake for my sister.
My sister is a sincere, god-believing, ethical, Orthodox-practicing, commandment keeping person. But she is not ultra-Orthodox.
She should have a “normal” Orthodox engagement period of 3 to 6 month. I hope I’m wrong, but I believe that this shortened time line will have negative repercussions.

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Planning Winter Vacation

September 21, 2010

Dear virtual friends in Israel,

I’ve officially scrapped my Winter road trip and I am, instead, going to Israel from January 23rd until February 5th.
Would you be interested in meeting up with me, hanging out, singing karaoke, and/or showing me around your neighborhood?

If you have a specific date/time that works best for you, please let me know so I can schedule it.

I appreciate your feedback.

Thank you,
Alar Bean

Customer Service Training : A Poem

June 17, 2010

I’m at a mandatory training at my job
For “Customer Service”, to not be a snob
At my job, I don’t interface
With customers so it feels like a waste
I’m supposed to learn how to better interact
With coworkers and managers, have a great impact
Improve workplace morale and quality of work
Minimize conflict, arguments to brook
They prattle on and on about giving respect
Most men here point to reality and reject
The idealist view the trainer espouses
Tempers flare, tension rises, emotion arouses
Communication is raised, a positive trait
But this gentleman is fairly irate
The women are one nodding in agreement
The men are skeptical, they see appeasement
Is it honest to cover things up with a smile
Maybe fuck “truthiness”, it’s not worth the trial
The bottom line is you’ve a job to do
A paycheck to collect, a dollar and a cent or two
So go along, get along, don’t make a ruckus
I’m sorry but I still think this training is pointless

April 8, 2010

April 9, 2010

It’s been a while, so here’s a quick rundown.

I stopped wearing my yarmulke at work. Only one person noticed and said something to me about it. (I simply informed her that I’m no longer religious.)
I don’t feel strange going without my yarmulke on the street, but I still feel weird without it at work. I also feel more honest. It’s strange to simultaneously feel both.

Last week I came home to a bill from my cable and internet provider. They demanded that I return an old cable modem or pay $100. I don’t have the modem they seek nor do I feel I should be responsible for its return. After discussing it many times, they made it clear that they weren’t going to do anything to resolve the issue. I told them since that is true I can no longer work with them either and I am terminating my service with them. They “shut down” my service 2 days ago. However, my internet still seems to work. (I’m confused.)

Last week I was in a neighborhood bar. The very nice bartenders were speaking with me. The woman bartender told me she thinks I’m ready to start dating. She wants to meet women, go out, keep it light, have a good time.
I asked her to explain how she knows that I’m ready. She gave good reasons. Maybe she’s right.

Last week I got a text from my ex. She said our son has high levels of lead and needs to take a supplement.
I called her up and asked how she arrived at that diagnosis. She told me that a chiropractor had a guy read his palm and feel his fingers and that allowed him to reach the conclusion that the child has high lead levels. However, he assured her that his supplements can reduce the lead levels.
Of course these supplements are very expensive.
I told her to get a simple blood test done. That would prove conclusively whether lead is an issue.
She responded that if I wanted to do so, I could, but she wasn’t going to.
Sunday, Chol HaMoed (Minor Holidays), I took him to a real doctor. The results came back Wednesday. His lead levels are normal/undetectable.
I informed my ex of the results. I hope she saves her money and doesn’t buy the supplements. Aside from the money, I have no idea what’s in the supplements. The supplements might be dangerous.

I had the children (at my parents) Friday Chol HaMoed until the end of Pesach (Passover). I was nervous to have the children for so long. (Sometimes over a short weekend by Saturday night they are anxious to see their mother. I did not want to deal with “homesickness” for a period of double that time. As it turned out the children had a great time.
We celebrated mine and my youngest’s lunar birthdays. (Not the same day.) My siblings bought Passover cakes (dreadful) and the children loved them.

Tonight I went to karaoke. As I’ve been doing recently, when songs came on with a steady beat, I danced (not well, mind you). Dancing in public is resolution for 2010. Whenever I successfully dance in public, I feel a sense of accomplishment. Tonight, I asked a woman to dance with me. It didn’t really matter to me what she looked like or what her interests in me (zero, probably), the experience of asking a stranger to dance was positive. (By the way, she accepted in general, but declined for that particular song.)

Working on Holiday

April 1, 2010

Today I went to work.
That’s only a big deal because today was a major Jewish holiday.
Only a few people asked me why I was there and why I wasn’t wearing a yarmulke.
The office was almost entirely deserted, so today might not have been as big a test as I anticipated.
I was marked in on the attendance today and the time reporter expressed incredulity that I was in.
Tomorrow the Jews will be back. They will notice that I was in. If I go without a yarmulke tomorrow, they will notice. Tomorrow is a bigger test than today.

Arrrgggghhh!

I feel the same way I felt about 16 months ago when I debated about cutting my beard.
People didn’t notice until about a month later.
Maybe tomorrow will be the same?

Weekends: A contrast

February 26, 2010

The contrast between how I viewed weekends before the separation and how I view them now is stark.

Before my wife and I separated, I would dread Fridays and look forward to Mondays.
Friday afternoons I would stay at the office, so I wouldn’t get home until just before Shabbos.
I would try to work overtime on Saturday nights. (In the last year of us “living together” (before the housing bubble burst), I made about $15,000 on overtime. Mostly, as a result of trying to avoid painful interactions with my wife.)
I would go for long walks Friday night and Sunday evening. I didn’t have anywhere to go or friends to hang out with. I would just walk the streets and think.
During times that I was home, I tried to stay busy with books, newspapers, computers, and taking care of the children on my own.
We had very different approaches to childcare, so, when she was taking care of them, unless she asked for help, I didn’t mix in. Similarly, when I was caring for them, I preferred she stay out of the way.

Monday mornings were good, because it meant I had survived another weekend. I could stay late at the office and work.

Since the separation, I’ve finally discovered why many people say “Thank Goodness It’s Friday!”
On weekends that I don’t have the children, sometimes, I still work late on a Friday. However, that’s to make up for coming in a bit late or doing “non-work” activity during my work time.
I’ve come to dread Sunday evenings and the impending new work week.
(Since the economic trouble of 2008, overtime hasn’t been offered. Even if it were, I probably wouldn’t work extra.)

I frequently think of this contrast when people ask me if maybe I’ll regret getting divorced one day.

Work Feb 3, 2010

February 4, 2010

Here’s what my day was like today.

Every month I run a long process that results in about 1.5 to 2 million dollars worth of checks being cut.

I wrote a new program that removes all unnecessary manual labor from the process, but it’s still being tested. (It went through one series of Quality Assurance and now it’s going through another.) So for now I’m running the process under an older application that I wrote, but it has a lot more manual steps in it and it’s slower.

Unfortunately, the unit that sends the raw data has started in recent months to use the delimiter field within the data field. This caused a problem last month, when it blew up another developer’s program. They asked me for assistance in tracking down the culprit and we solved it together. This month, they must have noticed the issue and dealt with it quietly, but I forgot about it. My program didn’t raise a stink about the bad data, it just pretended that it ran successfully. Meanwhile, I didn’t notice that more than half the data weren’t loaded into the database!
Today, I came in and prepared to do the final step in the process that would result in certifying the files were correct when i noticed that the amount of money we were sending was more than a million dollars less than usual! I had to rollback all the changes that the manual/automatic processes have done since Monday and then re-ran it with the debugger set to “STUN”. That’s when I saw that the old nemesis is back in business!
I hate when programmers don’t send urgent enough messages that something major has gone wrong in the program that needs immediate attention. But what can I do when the programmer is my younger self?
At least it uncovered a major bug that I need to make sure my newer program can either handle or trap. I will mention this to the Quality Assurance people so they can test this scenario.

Meanwhile, I’m working on a project that we are presenting to lower-upper management tomorrow. There’s a tremendous amount of pressure on it because a lot of people’s reputations are riding on its success or failure. This presentation has caused us to have at least 3 internal presentations and 3 other meetings.

And, since concurrent processes aren’t enough, I’m also responsible for a third project. This project has a bit more breathing room, since it’s not officially due until June, but my managers really want me to finish it by April. What I’ve done so far is define the data elements for a couple of the forms and created the tables and very basic Stored Procedures. Then I’ve asked a couple of interns to replicate the tables on a web page without worrying about look and feel. (I will ask my manager to do that, since he loves re-branding web pages.)
I’m hoping that we can move quickly even though they have almost no experience with ASP.NET and I’m only devoting about sixty to ninety minutes per day for this project. (To combat the experience issue, I’ve given them a lot of my previous web pages for them to copy and paste as needed to this site.)

Wednesday is going to be a crazy day! Preparing for the presentation. The presentation itself!
In the evening one of my sister’s is coming over to watch 500 Days of Summer. (She’s normally in school, but she’s in New York for this “weekend”.) After she leaves, I’ve got karaoke in Park Slope.

Delimiters

February 4, 2010

In case you never heard of or otherwise don’t understand what a delimiter is, I’ll explain briefly.

When a file is sent in plain text, you need to know how to split up the records. So, for example, if we wanted to automatically process a file of client information and it had a line like this:

Joe Smith 43 012345678 718-555-4321 4-1-66 11-87 11th St. Queens OH 23123 1-11-2001 9-13-2009

How should we process it? One solution would be to go based on “spaces”. We would end up with this data set:

First name:Joe

Last name: Smith

Age: 43

Client ID: 012345678

Phone #: 718-555-4321

DOB: 4-1-66

Address 1: 11-87

Address 2: 11th

Address 3: St.

City: Queens

State: OH

Zip Code: 23123

Client Join date: 1-11-2001

Client’s last visit: 9-13-2009

You can see from the bold portion above that in this case the address is going to cause problems. Also, consider what would have happened if there had been an apartment number?

When using plain old text files there are two main solutions to this problem. One is to use fixed length fields. This would require the sender and receiver to agree to use a designated sizes for each datum. So if we agreed that a first name would not be bigger than fifty characters, then even Joe has only three characters, the sender would still have to include 47 unused spaces (or other “filler” material). For example, if we agreed that the first name is a 10 character field and ‘%’ would be our filler, Joe would become:

Joe%%%%%%%

The other popular way of dealing with this problem is to agree to use a character that would never appear in the data be the “flag” that we have the entire data piece. For example, if we used ‘%’ as our delimiter, the line becomes:

Joe%Smith%43%012345678%718-555-4321%4-1-66%11-87 11th St. Apt C12%Queens%OH%23123%1-11-2001%9-13-2009%

First name:Joe

Last name: Smith

Age: 43

Client ID: 012345678

Phone #: 718-555-4321

DOB: 4-1-66

Address: 11-87 11th St. Apt C12

City: Queens

State: OH

Zip Code: 23123

Client Join date: 1-11-2001

Client’s last visit: 9-13-2009

For more information about this, you can try Wikipedia.