Posts By: Mark Alexander

Ready For This To Be Over

It’s not just the wall-to-wall clutter. It’s also the anxiety. Once again I find myself stepping off that cliff, trusting in the Universe that employment will be quickly forthcoming once we’re back in Phoenix. I’m somewhat reassured that I’ve been getting lots of emails from recruiters after simply updating my profiles on the various job boards, but there isn’t really much I can do about any of it until I’m actually there—other than acknowledge their receipt and ask their patience. (So far, everyone’s fine with my timeline and have told me to get in touch once I’m there.)

I’ve also reached out to previous coworkers, who have forwarded my resume to their respective managers. Hopefully networking the good relationships I built over the seven years I spent at Abrazo will come in handy before I have to do any cold interviews.

In any case, we’re down to less than a week, and I just want all this—at the very least, the physical moving part—to be over.

Next Saturday at this time we’ll be packed and on the road, beginning the next chapter of our lives with Denver and it’s bipolar weather and heinous drivers rapidly fading into memory.

Four years ago we wanted an adventure. We got one. It’s now time to go home.

The dogs are anxious; they know something’s up. Normally well trained, they’re both peeing everywhere now. Sammy is barking at every sound outside, and even the heretofore quiescent Bobo has developed a voice.

My stress is manifesting in the return of an old friend I haven’t seen in nearly seven years, plantar fasciitis. Thankfully I still remember how to deal with it, so it’s more an annoyance than anything else, but I wanna say, “Really dude? Now?

Monday is my last day at  ██████. My exit interview is scheduled for 4 pm (I normally leave at 4:30), and anyone there I care about saying goodbye to leaves at 4, so I’ll have time to do so before the meeting with HR and being shown the door. They’re going to get an earful, even though I know nothing I say will make any difference whatsoever.

“That’s No Moon. It’s a Space Station!”

Science is cool.

From NASA:

New Horizons Color Images Reveal Two Distinct Faces of Pluto, Series of Spots that Fascinate

New color images from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft show two very different faces of the mysterious dwarf planet, one with a series of intriguing spots along the equator that are evenly spaced. Each of the spots is about 300 miles in diameter, with a surface area that’s roughly the size of the state of Missouri.

Scientists have yet to see anything quite like the dark spots; their presence has piqued the interest of the New Horizons science team, due to the remarkable consistency in their spacing and size. While the origin of the spots is a mystery for now, the answer may be revealed as the spacecraft continues its approach to the mysterious dwarf planet. “It’s a real puzzle—we don’t know what the spots are, and we can’t wait to find out,” said New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder. “Also puzzling is the longstanding and dramatic difference in the colors and appearance of Pluto compared to its darker and grayer moon Charon.”

New Horizons team members combined black-and-white images of Pluto and Charon from the spacecraft’s Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) with lower-resolution color data from the Ralph instrument to produce these views. We see the planet and its largest moon in approximately true color, that is, the way they would appear if you were riding on the New Horizons spacecraft. About half of Pluto is imaged, which means features shown near the bottom of the dwarf planet are at approximately at the equatorial line.

Flamethrower

I put in my notice at work yesterday. Even before my boss had come in, I had this IM conversation with her boss:

While I wasn’t the one to let it slip, this woman has known for weeks that I was leaving and on what day—as confirmed by “I had been waiting,” so don’t be acting all surprised, honey.

When my boss came in about fifteen minutes later, she was rejoicing that starting next Monday she was going to be out on vacation for two weeks.  One of my coworkers (who I had informed of my departure after sending my resignation email a few moments earlier) piped up and said, “Well that’s two of you gone.”

“Who’s out next week?”

“Mark.”

“I don’t remember seeing that. Is it on the calendar?”

“No,” my coworker continued. “He’s out for good. Monday is his last day.”

At that point I chimed in and said, “You haven’t read your email yet.”

She looked at me and the looks that crossed her face were priceless. First shock, then anger, and then it was as if a curtain dropped. “Really? I’m happy for you…and a little jealous.”

Believe me, she won’t be so happy after my exit interview with HR.

I can’t describe how happy and relieved I am that this horrible experience is finally coming to an end. Working for ██████ has been the absolute worst experience of my professional life, bar none. (You know you’ve lost the respect of your employees when the threat of termination is perceived as a reward, not a deterrent.) I kept hoping that things would improve—hence the reason I haven’t quit sooner—but they never did. It was only after Ben and I spent a week in Atlanta and I had a chance to detox (it literally felt like that) I came to see that despite its belief to the contrary, ██████ is not the center of the known universe. And my department especially is nothing more than a 30′ x 30′ square box of fecund hellstew; hence the brutal—and I must say, liberating—honesty with my manager’s boss.

The main reason I didn’t put in the customary two-week notice? Again and again I’ve seen the way this company treats its employees and I didn’t want to risk being immediately escorted from the building after putting in my notice (it’s happened). One week’s wages I could—though not ideally—live without, if necessary. Two weeks was an unacceptable loss. While the escorting didn’t happen, I know I’m going to be screwed over somehow before this process is complete. In fact, I’ll be surprised if I’m not.

Oh Myyy…

You Know You’re From Arizona When…

1. You can say Hohokam and no one thinks you’re making it up.

2.You no longer associate rivers or bridges with water.

3.You know that a “swamp cooler” is not a happy hour drink.

4.You can contemplate a high temperature of 120 degrees as “not all that bad, after all it’s a dry heat.”

5.You know that you can make sun tea outside faster than instant tea in your microwave.

6.You have to run your air conditioner in the middle of winter so that you can use your fireplace.

7.The water coming from the “cold” tap is hotter than that from the hot” tap.

8.You can correctly pronounce the following words: “Saguaro”, “Tempe”, “Gila Bend”, “San Xavier del Bac”, “Canyon de Chelly”, “Mogollon Rim”, “Cholla”, and “Tlaquepacque”, “Ajo”.

9.It’s noon on a weekday in July, kids are on summer vacation, and not one single person is moving on the streets.

10.Hot air balloons can’t fly because the air outside is hotter than the air inside.

11.You buy salsa by the gallon.

12.Your Christmas decorations include a half a yard of sand and 100 paper bags.

13.You think someone driving while wearing oven mitts is clever.

14.Most of the restaurants in your town have the first name “El” or “Los.”

15.You think six tons of crushed rock makes a beautiful yard.

16.You can say 115 degrees without fainting.

17.Vehicles with open windows have the right-of-way in the summer.

18.People break out coats when the temperature drops below 70.

19.You discover, in July, it only takes two fingers to drive your car.

20.The pool can be warmer than you are.

21.You realize Valley Fever isn’t a disco dance.

22.People with black cars or have black upholstery in their car are automatically assumed to be from out-of-state or nuts.

23.You know better than to get into a car/truck with leather seats if you’re wearing shorts.

24.Announcements for Fourth of July events always end with “in case of monsoon…”

25.You have to explain to out-of-staters why there is no daylight savings time

26.You can say “haboob” without giggling.

Stolen from my husband.

Why Can’t They Just Put it all on One Chip?

This was a question I initially posed to a friend of mine back in high school while we were discussing one of our favorite shared passions, audio equipment. Digital amplifiers were starting to appear on the scene, and I wondered aloud why all the circuitry couldn’t be shoved on a single slab of silicon and be done with it. My friend (who knew electronics on that level) said it was theoretically possible, but you wouldn’t be able to build an amplifier in the 80-100 watt per channel range we were currently enjoying because of the heat and power constraints. This was the age of “big iron” in audio, after all.

A few years later when I first started getting into personal computing I found myself asking the same question. Why can’t all this crap be put on a single chip, or at least on the main system board?

Why did I need separate plug-in cards to control hard drive? Why did I need a separate card to control the I/O functions? Why did I need a separate video card? WHY COULDN’T ALL THIS STUFF BE ON A SINGLE BOARD?

Well, for starters, at the time the technology just wasn’t there; we’re talking the 8088/286/386 era, after all.  The first few computers I owned (built from parts I’d gotten at computer fairs) had banks of discrete memory chips on the system boards and a 20 MEGAbyte drive was considered big! Good luck trying to troubleshoot a bad chip if you ended up with one. That’s why I was dancing in the streets when the first DIMMs started to appear. Imagine that: four (or however many) memory chips soldered to little circuit boards that just snapped into the system board!

As the years progressed, I was happy to see that I wasn’t the only one who had been wondering why all these discrete items couldn’t be made part of the system board, because slowly drive controllers and I/O found their way onto motherboards, and before long, even video was becoming a standard part of the build. You could still buy souped-up peripheral cards, but they were no longer a necessity to build a functioning system.

And now here we are in 2015:

Just look at what Apple’s done with the latest MacBook. We still aren’t to the point where everything is on a single chip, but we’re damn close. That tiny system board not only contains the CPU, memory, and controllers, but also the machine’s solid state “hard” drive.

Being the inveterate nerd that I am, I’ve always taken great pleasure in peeking at the guts inside my tech, and I have to admit, as we get closer and closer to the “everything on one chip” I used to dream about, a part of me is kind of disappointed there isn’t a whole lot left to look at when you pop the hood.

Jurassic World

Maybe I’ve just gotten jaded. Or maybe the hype surrounding this movie was so overwhelming and relentless that it couldn’t possibly measure up to the expectations.

Don’t get me wrong; it was worth the price of admission. It’s a fun summer movie. But the words predictable and variations-on-a-theme immediately come to mind.

The story takes up twenty two years after the original Jurassic Park film ended, with none of the sequels presumably having happened. Having learned nothing from that outing, InGen has apparently proceeded full steam ahead and opened the park to hordes of visitors.

Plot synopsis (and spoilers) from Wikipedia:

Twenty-two years after the events of Jurassic Park, InGen has opened a fully functional dinosaur theme park called “Jurassic World” on Isla Nublar. Brothers Zach and Gray Mitchell go to visit their aunt Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), the park’s operations manager, but she is too busy to see them and instead leaves them with her assistant Zara. InGen’s geneticists have created a new genetically modified dinosaur called Indominus Rex made from the DNA of several predatory dinosaurs, as well as modern animals such as cuttlefish and tree frogs. Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan), the park’s owner, orders Velociraptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Prattto inspect the Indominus’ enclosure before the exhibit opens.

Vic Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio), the head of InGen security, is interested in training the park’s four Velociraptors for use in the military, but Owen argues that the raptors are not tame enough to do so. While Zara is distracted, Gray and Zach leave her and explore Jurassic World’s attractions. When Owen arrives at the Indominus enclosure, he and Claire find that the Indominus has seemingly scaled the wall and escaped. Owen and two other staff enter the enclosure, but the Indominus ambushes them, having faked its escape, and kills both staff before breaking out and disappearing into the jungle. Owen escapes by hiding under a vehicle and cutting the fuel hose to douse himself in gasoline, masking his scent.

Masrani orders a group of armed guards to capture the Indominus, but it kills all of them. Claire closes off the northern section of the park and orders for the island to be evecuated. Gray and Zach enter the “gyrosphere” ride and drive it into a forest, where they are confronted by the Indominus. They escape by jumping from a waterfall, and eventually discover the ruins of the original Jurassic Park Visitor Center, where they repair a Jeep and drive back to the park. The Indominus continues its rampage, killing several Apatosaurus and breaking into the park’s pterosaur aviary. Masrani and two soldiers follow the Indominus in a helicopter, but the freed pterosaurs cause the helicopter to crash. Gray and Zach return to the park as the pterosaurs attack several tourists. Zara finds them, but is soon picked up by a Pteranodon and dropped into the Jurassic World Lagoon, where the park’s Mosasaurus eats her. Owen and Claire are reunited with Gray and Zach, while more armed guards shoot down the pterosaurs.

Hoskins takes command of Jurassic World and decides to use the Velociraptors to find and kill the Indominus, with Owen reluctantly agreeing. The raptors follow the Indominus’ scent into the jungle, and Owen and a handful of InGen soldiers launch an attack. However, the Indominus is able to communicate with the raptors and turns them against the soldiers. Meanwhile, Hoskins has Dr. Henry Wu, the park’s chief geneticist, board a helicopter with some of the dinosaur embryos and leave the park. Returning to the main park, Owen, Claire, Zach and Gray find Hoskins packing up the remaining dinosaur embryos in the Innovation Center’s laboratory. Hoskins plans to create more genetically modified dinosaurs and use them as weapons, but he is suddenly attacked and killed by a raptor.

Owen leads Claire, Zach and Gray outside, and when they are confronted by the other raptors he manages to re-establish a connection with them. The Indominusappears and kills most of the raptors. Realising they are outmatched, Claire lures the park’s veteran Tyrannosaurus rex into a fight with the Indominus. The last surviving raptor, named “Blue”, aids the Tyrannosaurus in the fight, but the Indominus overpowers them both. They force the Indominus towards the Jurassic World Lagoon, where the Mosasaurus drags it into the water, drowning it. The Tyrannosaurus departs, and Blue shares one more moment with Owen before leaving as well. The next day, the surviving tourists are evacuated to Costa Rica. Zach and Gray are reunited with their parents, while Owen and Claire decide to stay together. On Isla Nublar, the Tyrannosaurus stands on a building’s helipad, overlooks the island and roars.

Chris Pratt is yummy, as usual. To be honest—much like with Channing Tatum—I would probably be happy to just sit and watch him read the dictionary for two hours. Since the nasty InGen folks made off with viable embryos, I’m sure we’ll be hearing word of yet another sequel in coming years. Because humanity never learns. Take that as you will.

 

Some Initial Thoughts

Being the fanboy that I am, I wasn’t going to let the fact that Apple’s unveiling of its new shiny a week ago left me nonplussed stand in the way of an opportunity to take said new shiny out for a test drive.

This time however, I was going to do it the right way. After a crash and burn disaster I experienced with one of the Yosemite betas last year that forced me to wipe everything and reload from scratch (I went into it with my eyes open, so I have no one to blame but myself for loading it onto my main partition),
I swore I wasn’t going to run any more…at least not off my main drive.

So says the guy who’s currently running the 10.10.4 beta as his main OS. (But hey, that’s different. Right?)

Anyhow…that being said, at first blush El Capitan is wicked fast; so much faster than Yosemite—even running via USB3.0 on an external SSD. There’s none of the screen lag that permeates Yosemite. Safari pages come up instantly. I’m very impressed. It will be interesting to see how the system matures over the next several months.

#ThingsIWillNotMissAboutDenver

        • SNOW
        • bipolar weather
        • Denver drivers
        • cracked, broken, concrete streets
        • suspension-destroying potholes everywhere
        • not being able to keep my car clean for more than 24 hours
        • stop lights that impede the flow of traffic rather than facilitate it
        • Colorado Boulevard
        • the constant smell of burning garbage…I mean pot
        • continually dry, cracked skin
        • being totally winded after climbing two flights of stairs
        • dealing with a horrible commute going to a job I absolutely loathe
        • grooved pavement that makes me think my steering is going out
        • all of my coworkers except two
        • people who don’t know—or don’t care—what a solid stripe of whatever color on a road means
        • tornado watches/warnings
        • Canadian flying rats…er…geese
        • daylight fucking savings time
        • fast food restaurants that have no clue about what “fast” means
        • water at every public restroom faucet being freezing cold
        • the intersection of Abeline and Alameda in Aurora
        • freeway onramps designed like a drag race (no, not the RuPaul kind)
        • traffic lights that have no consistent pattern (sometimes left turn before green, sometimes after) (red light, followed by red light, followed by red light)
        • a stop light at every intersection on a street
        • businesses with only one entrance to their parking lots
        • parking lots where you can’t get from one side or the other, requiring you to exit the parking lot to get back in, or drive in front of the store to get across (Target on Havana, I’m pointing my finger at you)
        • every street being curved and hilly
        • one way streets (yes, i know Phoenix has some, but not like Denver)
        • dreading the arrival of autumn instead of celebrating it

And lastly…working for ██████.

Meh.

Even though I am an unapologetic fanboy, Apple’s WWDC keynote today—unlike in years past—left me unenthused. I saw nothing that had me screaming, “I need this now.”

I’m glad, however, that this year they aren’t adding another 200 features to OS X. I’m relieved to see them finally focusing on under the hood fixes and improvements. But El CapitanReally? With the entire state of California to choose from, this is the best name they could come up with?

Whatever. After being plagued with problems big and small in OS X for the last several years, Apple could really use some Snow Leopard stability at this point, and I hope this release finally addresses that. I want to be able to tell people again, “it just works” and actually mean it.

As for iOS, I’m pretty nonchalant. Unlike OS X, there isn’t really a whole lot I’ve found myself getting excited about during its the various iterations. It runs my phone. As long as it works, that’s good enough for me. Unlike some people who are absolutely dependent upon their phones for their entire online existence, I’m still very old school, preferring to do all my serious work on my laptop. Maybe that explains it.

As for the Apple Watch and it’s upcoming OS upgrade, all I can say is I’ve yet to find a single compelling reason to buy one. Perhaps a few years down the road I’ll get one and find myself saying (like I have with other tech) “OH MY GOD, WHY DIDN’T I GET THIS YEARS AGO?!?”

We’ll see.

Quote of the Day

“You may not have heard it here first, but hear it now: the 2016 GOP primary season is going to be a mind-killing bloodbath of legendary proportions, primarily because almost everyone involved so far has no business being in a national conversation about the tallest seat in the land, and there is still space on the clown bus waiting to be filled.” ~ William Rivers Pitt, Truthout

Read the whole thing here.