What is your life worth?

Let’s assume you sleep 8 hours a day, leaving 16 hours for you to enjoy life, hang out with your spouse, walk your dog and take your kids to the park.

I want to purchase half of that time.

clock1I’m willing to give you some holidays and weekends, but at least 5 days a week and 8 hours per day, your time is spent on stuff I want you to do.  Subtract out 3 weeks of vacation and I want to buy about 52% of your time.

How much will you charge me?

I’m not the first person to ask this question. I bring it up because a tech recruiter recently asked me to explain my salary requirements.  What she was really asking was: “You are still in development and you are still in eCommerce, why are you asking for so much more than you did 17 years ago?”

Let me explain.

KeyboardDevil - circa 2005

In 1999, while still in college, I accepted my first full-time developer position with JP Morgan Chase.  We were a team of six, working on the website CreditCardsAtChase.com.  It was a pretty simple JSP site who’s purpose was to educate banking customers on the differences between credit cards and market them.  The technology was entry level (DHTML, baby!), the pace of work and rate of change were very reasonable (as you’d expect at a bank), and there was no need for on-call or late hours. As first jobs go, this one was pretty much perfect.  I got to work with a small team and hone my code skills without overtime or unexpected timeline stresses.

Over the years, I moved up through the levels of developer inevitably graduating to the architect/manager split and choosing the latter.  Each time I changed jobs a little more focus was required, and each position demanded a little more responsibility and accountability.  But most importantly, the required time increased. More responsibilities means more deliverables, I had to fit more into a work week.  This meant longer hours, and sometimes, the occasional Saturday.

When I started at WDPRO in 2005 we had no on-call expectations.  At that time the importance of 24/7 eCommerce hadn’t gripped the Walt Disney company like it had with others.  But that changed in 2009, I was on-call one week out of every 8. As our online application count increased, so did our on-call expectations.  When I started at Chico’s as tech manager in 2012, I was on-call 24/7 and pulled into live-site issues 3+ times a week (for the first year or so).  Due to late night batch jobs, the website most frequently broke at 3 o’clock in the morning.

My iPhone receives my work email and text messages from co-workers.  It comes with me on vacation, it’s with me at the movie theater, when I’m having dinner with my family, it’s in the bathroom, and in the dentist’s office. Realistically, the only time I really unplug is when I’m out of cell phone service coverage, or in the shower.

At this point in my career, I’m rarely every “not at work”.

So, what would you charge for 99.9% of your time?

Why I didn’t hire you

Rejected!This blog post is the result of a combination of the original post here (February 2016), a very similar post on Linked-In, and the comments and conversation resulting from them.

For those of you who don’t know me personally, I’m a development manager.  The most important part of my job is to interview and hire software developers.  With mediocre software developers, you get mediocre software.  No one wants mediocre software.

I like to believe I’ve become pretty good at identifying talent and weeding out less-than-desirable candidates.  During my career I’ve interviewed many candidates, possibly in the hundreds, and built successful development teams from scratch more than a few times.

Last week I received an email from our HR recruiting manager about a young, fresh out-of-college candidate that we really didn’t have a position available for, but had an internal referral and really wanted the opportunity to talk to us.

Our resulting conversation, or rather, the fact that I’ve had this conversation at least 3 times in the past year, is why I decided to write this post.

Here was my feedback to the recruiting manager:

This was a nice conversation, he’s a pretty smart kid. As I expected, his answers were wordy and rehearsed, pretty standard for someone fresh out of school with only scholastic experience.

That being said, after a few softball tech questions I drilled into his knowledge a little bit and really uncovered how junior he is. When I asked him about Agile, he recited a Wikipedia definition that most likely would get him a “B” on a test, but he couldn’t give me any specific examples of how he and his team used it or why it was “better than waterfall for modern projects” (his words).

We spoke only briefly about his PHP experience (it was on his resume), but after he couldn’t tell me how to concatenate a string or name any of the methods for dealing with databases I assumed he’d fall short on design patterns and implementation standards outside of what was written in a book.

Education is important, but more important than what you know is how you’ve taken what you learned and used it in your career/life.

When I talk to programmers, especially young ones, I’m looking for eager curiosity and self-taught experience. You can’t get this in a college classroom, it’s a personality. You either have it or you don’t.

As I interview more and more of our millennial generation I am finding that interviews like this are becoming more common.  And that concerns me greatly.  Somewhere along the line, our formal educational system evolved into a series of rewards for memorization and regurgitation of facts and definitions. Practical application and self-paced (self-motivated) curiosity have been replaced with the promise of “good grades = good career”.

To add complexity to the issue, the interview process itself is flawed. I could write a book (probably not a very good one) on interview questions and techniques and still not scratch the surface of every candidate’s true potential or knowledge. The sad fact is, I have 60 minutes (at best) to try and extract the complex answer to a simple question: “Should I hire this person?” On top of that, I’m judging talent and aptitude, while trying to avoid knowledge. To do so, I find that more important than the base question is the follow up: When I ask “Are you familiar with design patterns”, which in this line of work should always result in a “yes”, I follow up with “what was the last pattern that you used? What did that application do? Why did you choose that pattern over the others?”

Everyone knows what a stone is. We can describe a stone and draw one, but only the great minds saw it as a building material and constructed great castles and cities. This is the skill I’m looking for, and it often hides itself well.

What I really wanted to say during the interview was “An interview and an exam do not share the same purpose, therefore they do not have the same answer. I’m not asking you about agile SDLC because I want to know if you know the definition.  Frankly, I don’t care if you know the definition.”  But I did not.  Maybe I should have.

Many of the best programmers I’ve worked with have no formal college education, and many of them have no certifications of any kind, but they are still brilliant developers. Getting a degree in Computer Science does not make you a programmer any more than wearing feathers makes you a chicken.

Walk into your kitchen, unplug the toaster, take it apart and find out what makes it work.  If this activity doesn’t interest you, maybe you should pick a field outside of engineering.

Men aren’t all that bad

Like many others in the non-NYC area, I skipped over an article on CNN talking about cat-calling and street harassment aimed at women in the city.  Like much of the rest of the US, my “left vs right” internal argument falls somewhere in the middle but I still managed to imagine the thinnest of liberalized arguments making a few uneducated, third-world-transplant construction workers generalized as everyday Americans.  “Oh, stop fucking crying” I thought.

Then I watched this video, and I was mind-blown.

cat1After you get past the stupid shit people are saying, and even the mind-boggling rate at which it is being said, there still remains a creepy and obvious threatening overtone.  This is most apparent when watching her eyes as a barely-controlled panic sets in, darting from side to side and back to the camera in the man’s backpack for some kind of reassurance that she is safe from pending attack.

Although it is clear from the video that this approach is likely not resulting in “hook-up’s”, this has become an issue and reportedly is getting worse.  This can only lead me to believe that it is either working (these me are actually getting dates with this behavior), or the power-shift is so addictive, men are willing to take the chance of being pepper-sprayed to continue it.  Either way, the story is compelling (albeit, disgusting) from a psychological point of view.

Comcast, anyone?

comcastsssAnother hour and a half out of my life, wasted on the ever-sucking ass-hats of Comcast.  Due to the seemingly reasonable rational of being completely exhausted of paying over $240 a month for cable that I barely use, I contacted Comcast-Xfinity via web chat.  I should mention that this is my preferred method of contacting them as I frequently feel the need to stomp away angrily and scream obscenities back at the agent who is trying to “help” me.  My original purpose was to remove all of my premium channels and stick with the basic cable line-up.  What I didn’t realize was that the “basic cable” line-up is far from what you’d expect.

Anyway, the channel line-up options are in what basically amounts to three flavors:

  1. Basically nothing outside of local news and “Fresh Prince” reruns
  2. The standard list of the the channels you want, plus a whole shitload of stuff you’ve never heard of and will never watch
  3. The second list plus all of the premium pay channels like HBO and Showtime.

fprinceAs you’d expect, the price difference between the first and second options is massive while between the second and third is actually pretty reasonable (once you get past the ass-raping of the pricing).

Now, if you add the home phone service, which even my grandmother doesn’t use, you’ll “save” even more.  The chat agent mentioned to me, more than once, that I had the option of just ‘not plugging in a phone’ even though I was receiving (and paying for) the service.

Anyway, at the end of my “experience” with the chat agent, I was asked (as I usually am) to take a “quick survey”.  If you’ve read my other Comcast blogs, you know I can’t resist.  Here is the actual text of the “comments” at the end of the survey:

Firstly, I’m convinced that no one reads these, but whatever maybe I’ll feel better after I type it out. The cable channel combinations are obviously set up to suck every last penny out of your customers with no concern for offering packages that people actually WANT.  What the hell is the tennis channel?  SERIOUSLY?  I had 200 channels I never watched before the chat, and now I have some 140 channels I’ll never watch just to save a few dollars while keeping the ability to watch the few shows I actually DO want.  And, that was no small feat, only accomplished by spending the last 1 and a half hours on a chat with your basically useless agent.  This is the last time I’ll be changing my service.  Once I’m used to using services like Hulu and Netflix, I’m leaving for good.  I hope, truly and faithfully, that Comcast goes out of business completely.  You know what?  I DO feel better now. 🙂

That’s how it’s done

I’ve had a Craftsman 3/8″ torque wrench for about a year and a half, maybe two years. Love my torque wrenchIt’s one of my favorite tools in the garage. In fact, take a look at the photo on the left and you’ll see me using it on my bike with a great big smile. Every semi-serious shade-tree mechanic needs a good torque wrench, and generally they last forever. And that’s a good thing, because you’ll rarely find a good one for less than $100.

I buy Craftsman tools because Sears stands behind its products (well, usually).  Craftsman hand tools have a lifetime warranty, and I’ve personally returned more than a few.  Suspension work frequently results in broken sockets and ratchets and Sears has always been great about returning them.  But not all tools are created equally, and some of them, like torque wrenches, are only covered for a limited time.

Last week, I lent the wrench to a friend who managed (somehow) to break it.  The grip became loose and the wrench’s torque set was stuck somewhere around 15 ft lbs.  Now, I know that Sears only guarantees wrenches like this one for a year, but I figured what the hell and brought it down to my local store.  I’ve read mixed reviews lately about returns, but my experience was nothing short of awesome.  While standing in line, a sales associate and a guy in plain clothes approached me and asked if they could help.

When I explained the situation, the sales associate told me that the wrench was no longer covered.  It was clear he recognized the older model and knew its age.  I thanked them and said, “well, see if you can find a trash can to throw this into, then?” and handed over the wrench.  That’s when the plain clothes guy stepped in and said “let’s see if we can figure out when you bought this wrench” and smiled at me.  We walked to the nearest computer and he looked up the part number, and then asked me if I was a Craftsman Club member, which I am.

torqueHe never asked for my name, phone number, address or any other identifying information.  He said to me, “so you bought this no more than a year ago”, without even waiting for my reply he looked at the sales associate and said, “swap him out, and make sure this one gets labeled as a return”.  On my way out of the store, I stopped and shook the hand of the plain clothes man (it was clear now that he was a manager or supervisor of some kind).  He smiled at me and said, “thanks for coming in, it was my pleasure”.

The price tag on the wrench was $69.99, and for a one-time investment, Craftsman has created a customer for life.   I’ve spent thousands on tools, boxes, and benches over the years, and when Sears had the opportunity to do customer service right, they nailed it.  Someone from Sears seriously needs to call someone at Kay’s.

Today’s marvel is tomorrow’s trash

Over the course of automotive history we’ve encountered some pretty creative technology including vacuum line powered filp-up headlights, dash-mounted 8-track players, and dozens of other terrible ideas.  About 4 years ago, I purchased my most technologically advanced car yet.  nissan-370zIt’s a 2009 Nissan 370Z Touring with touch-screen satellite navigation, MP3 player that reads a Compact Flash card, power everything, and computer controlled vehicle dynamic stability control.  In ’09 it was a technological marvel.  Now it’s 2014 and already those techno-toys are becoming dated.  Compact Flash has lost the portable media war, the iPhone 4 connector is useless, and my nav system relies on maps created five years ago.

If you’re a gear head like many of my readers, you probably have at least one “one day I’ll own one” car.  You probably have three of them actually.  I’ve been chasing the 1963 split-window Corvette and a late 60’s fastback Camaro for over a decade, but I sincerely doubt my 2009 370Z will end up on some dude’s auto wish list.  69 Camaro SSIn ten years, the power seats won’t work, the dynamic stability control will be replaced with cheaper, faster computer solutions, and you won’t even be able to find Compact Flash disks on ebay’s collector’s forum.  Seems unlikely that Year One will start cranking out power window modules and hatchback struts for 2000’s Nissans, don’t you think?  But when we consider the 40 year old technology that powers a 1968 Chevrolet…  Well, people have been getting in line to order replacements since before I was born.  Why?  Because iron intake manifolds don’t plug into a USB port.  If classic car collectors and parts manufacturers have taught us anything it is “the fewer moving parts the better”.  The simple truth is:  If you have to plug it in, power it up, or push more than one button, it’s probably already too complex.

So, this is usually the part of the blog post when the writer starts complaining about disappearing standard transmissions, the discontinued use of fuel-burning only engines to create super cars, and the great “death of the American muscle car”.  Sorry to disappoint, but I’m not playing that card.  Although I am unhappy about the majority of those topics, I actually believe we’re kind of lucky to be involved in the next evolutionary step of automobile technology.  30 years from now, new drivers will have no idea where their audio systems came from, how they work, or just how we got by with radios not connected to the global wireless network so you can access your music from anywhere (that is going to be freaking awesome).  They’ll have no understanding of crankshafts, pistons, valves, turbos, or direct ignition systems once they’re replaced by the Apple iCombust (probably already patented).

But we will have that knowledge.  Having lived through the grey area between evolution’s footprints, we will have the gift of perspective and respect that the next generation can never appreciate.

Wow, I just realized how much I sound like every gear head grandfather when I read that last sentence.

The importance of being thorough

Every once in a while, I get a nice cease and desist email from one of the companies I write about on my blog.  This, however is not one of those.  Hilariously, it is quite the opposite.

First, go read this blog post about Montel Williams and MoneyMutual.com

Then, read this email I received earlier today:

I’m Jay with MoneyMutual.com, and I wanted to thank you for linking to our site from these urls:Money Mutual
www.keyboarddevil.com/blog/2012/05/a-shark-named-montel/
www.keyboarddevil.com/blog/category/general-life/page/2
www.keyboarddevil.com/blog/category/general-life/page/2/
www.keyboarddevil.com/blog/category/logichypothesis/page/2
www.keyboarddevil.com/blog/category/logichypothesis/page/2/
www.keyboarddevil.com/blog/page/3
www.keyboarddevil.com/blog/page/3/
However, it has come to our attention that these links may have been acquired against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. It is important for us to bring our site into compliance. Would you please add a rel=”nofollow” attribute or remove our link from these pages and any other page on your site?
Thanks,
Jay McMillan

Thanks for the email Jay!

But, you didn’t even read my blog.  Not a single word.  At first, Money Mutual looked like an evil corporate predatory lending monster.  And now…  Well you guys still look that way and you’ve managed to add fucking stupid.

So, what the hell.  As a former software developer I can see the importance of valid links for SEO purposes.  Here’s my response to Jay:

moneyMutReply

Someone should really do something

“Someone should really do something!”

Whenever there is outrage, anger, or perceived injustice, the country reacts and we band together to make it all right again.  Don’t we?

Yeah… Not so much.  Let’s assume that you’ve been in a coma and let me take a minute and bring you up to speed.
fracking

super heroNone of this is made up and none of it is over-stated

The list goes on, and on, and on.  Seriously, choosing only the ones above was a challenge.  All of this injustice, all of this travesty…  Surely someone must be doing something!

Truth is, no one is doing anything.  No one.  Nothing.  Nothing is being done.

grindsNo super hero has come forward to save us, no justice seeking judge or famous-faced cop has stepped into the light to lead us to freedom.  Nothing is being done.  And we’re all so willing to turn the cheek and just go back to our lives.  In fact, when you finish reading this we’ll shake our heads, and go back to ignoring all of it.  And I’m just as guilty as the rest of you.  The most I’ve done to fix the financial crisis or make a case against the TSA is blog angrily about it.

When Watergate came to light, the people called out the government and the President resigned.  And that wasn’t enough!  The scandal also resulted in the indictment, trial, conviction, and incarceration of forty-three people, dozens of them were Nixon’s top administration officials. (source)

You are Black!When the NSA spying story broke, the ACLU started a lawsuit.  Don’t let me spoil the ending for you, but…  Best of luck collecting on that one.  In the financial crisis of 2008, hundreds of laws were broken, billions of dollars funneled through falsely valued mortgages, and questionable (at best) methods were used by mortgage underwriters, insurance companies, and investors across the country.  And as you may have guessed by now, no one is accountable except one random fall guy and a bunch of protesters:  For those keeping score that’s ZERO bankers, and over 2,500 protester arrests. (source)

So, if I’ve done my intended job you are all riled up and pissed off like I am.  But we won’t do anything about it.  In 90% of the cases, we can’t.  Neither you nor I can tip the scales of the elite vs the rest of the world.  And in this time of a growing chasm between them, all we can do is step back and watch, and hope for some lubricant.

Well hated

It’s pretty unusual that I agree with the entirety of someone’s opinion.  It is so rare in fact, that I am again not doing it here.

But this guy gets damn close, about as close as anyone I can remember with hitting the proverbial nail on the head.

http://www.michaelzwilliamson.com/blog/item/the-post-in-which-i-piss-off-everybody

I especially like this part:

Then they came for the gun owners, and you liberal shitbags threw me under the bus, even though I’d done nothing wrong.  So when they come to put you on the train, you can fucking choke and die.

As you know, I’m the first to call out a blogger for attempting to separate the nation in to the “liberal” and “conservative” buckets.  But other than his slight two-party infatuation and a little bit of gay-fear, this guy is pretty solid in his words.

Anyway, good on you Michael Z Williamson.  We need this kind of plain and honest discourse to point this country in the right direction again.

Membership has its… Downside

When reading an article like this one, I’m reminded of the timeless words of Groucho Marx who famously wrote:

“Please accept my resignation. I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member”.

Or, perhaps more poignantly, Gandhi’s words say it better:

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

The problem wasn’t ever the Republican party, it’s the Republicans; it’s the NRA, it’s the radical right, and it’s the crusaders against science and logic.

If history has taught us anything, I would think it is that an organization is only as “good” as its membership.

Pandering and failure

Buckle your seat belts, America!  Here we go again!

Gun violence is on the climb, mass shootings are occurring at a more frequent rate, and the fear-fueled media-machine is pumping full force.

Ban assault weapons!  Ban high-capacity magazines!  Ban running because my little kid skinned his knee!  Ban!  Ban!!

So here we are again, on the precipice of another assault weapons ban…

Or are we?

The truth is, these ban-happy Democrats face a gun-happy cash-backed Republican firing squad in congress and this snap-reaction law waving is about to clog up an already useless legislative branch for fucking years.

We could be spending cycles of debate on education, health care, poverty, and technology, but we won’t.  We never do.  Just like Hollywood movies, the American public wants to watch a drama play out on TV that keeps us on the edge of our seats!

Global hunger?  Boring.

We’re going over the “Fiscal Cliff ” tomorrow?  WOO HOO!!  Who do you think Boehner hates more, Obama or Pelosi?!  I can’t wait for next week’s episode!

Congratulations America!  You’ve signed us up for another season of our favorite show: “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me, we voted for that guy?”

Everybody loses

Even if the congress manages to put together some kind of sweeping gun legislation, banning some kind of weapons, maybe high-capacity magazines, maybe trigger-fingers… We still lose.

Gun legislation makes absolutely no difference in gun related crime.  Statistics don’t lie.

Best case scenario:  We spend a year debating legislation that clogs congress, takes up time, creates more pork-filled excuses to pass other bullshit and fixes nothing.

Worst case:  No legislation ever comes out of this and we waste millions of taxpayer dollars chasing a whim…  Again.

In the event that my opinion isn’t clear:  America, I so badly want to love you…  But you suck.

Health Care and Firearms?

When “Obama Care” was voted into law, I found myself explaining to a friend how it would affect her. My explanation, unintentionally,  clarified my own beliefs about healthcare and the healthcare law and how it relates to special interest groups here in the US. See, the law not only provides no separation between “health care” and “medical insurance“, but, arguably solidifies their interchangeability.

Here’s how I imagine it played out:

  • Liberal government decided that “healthcare is a basic human right” and decided to create legislation that makes healthcare available to everyone.
  • Conservative government, pushed by their health-insurance-company-campaign-financing pushed back on the legislation and forced the bill to provide another insurance option, instead of just free health care, thereby merging the two terms.

We have come to a point in American history where the health insurance companies need to create this merger or face the possibility of being lost forever in the ever-growing antiquated business model bucket like newspapers and land-line telephone services.  This is just “good business”, and we-the-people are just as at fault as the politicians given that their power was awarded by our votes.

Has it occurred to anyone else that the most recent “gun control” push is the result of a closed-door health-care conversation?

Many have argued that the conversation we should be having is one about “mental illness”, but that would suggest a conversation about healthcare, which would inevitably lead to a conversation about the relationship (or lack thereof) of “health care” and “medical insurance”.

Maybe we will enter another assault weapon ban, maybe we won’t.  But the simple fact is, it doesn’t matter.  Crime didn’t come to a screeching halt the last time we banned all that stuff, and it won’t again this time.

But that isn’t the point.

Beyond all of the NRA, high-capacity-magazine, assault-rifle, baby-killing demonstrations, picketing and screaming no one will be able to hear the soft giggles of the health insurance companies as they quietly push their wheelbarrows full of cash to the bank.

Zombies, end of days, and more failure

Zombies Walk Sydney City StreetsAs the now-famous Miami “Face-Chewing” victim continues to heal from his zombie apocalypse moment, and we’ve managed to scrape by on another end-of-the-world scenario, I’d like to look back on another year in ridiculousness and stupidity.

This would-be criminal used his smartphone to display his stick-em-up note.

Presumably potato-educated guy in Idaho gives police fake name while wearing very visible tattoo of his actual name.

Some genius tried to get a newscaster deported for exercising his right to free speech.

Can't make this shit upThe only thing better than Republican Todd Akin’s comments about the female body rejecting rape sperm was this judge repeating it.  Seriously, these guys are fucking awesome at being asshats.

While we’re on the subject, a Google search for Rick Santorum no longer results in… Bodily fluids and… “interesting” images.

Somebody please tell this guy to stop talking to chairs and that he should stick to movies.  In fact, scratch that last part.

Media Monster“Honey Boo Boo”, Donald Trump, Justin Bieber and Ashton Kutcher are still on TV.  Come on America, it’s just insulting at this point.

Fucktard Mark Basseley Youssef makes a shitty hate movie, world blames his shitty movie for every violent act for weeks.

This fiscal bullshit is still happening proving yet again that the idiot we voted for is exactly as useless as the rest of the idiots we voted for.  In related news, I still tell everyone I’m Canadian when I travel internationally.

Disney proved (again) that they can release an agonizingly bad film, and still be involved in some pretty cool ones.

151 people died in mass shootings this year, and our nation’s response is to ban guns.  Being that I’m awfully fond of my car, I’m not going to mention this year’s projected 32,000 deaths caused by traffic accidents.

Please stop

I could go on, but do I really have to?  I think we can all agree that this horse is barely recognizable as a mammal at this point.  I hate to be the “this-year-was-the-worst” guy on the internet, but come on America!!  This is embarrassing on a global scale.