Saturday, September 30, 2006

New job, week 3

Wow, I can hardly believe that it's been three weeks already at the new job!  Next week, we officially begin the big project that I was hired to do.  We'll see how well that goes since our SharePoint Server 2007 still hasn't been set up yet because of some security problems that even Microsoft seems to have trouble figuring out.

If you ask me, SharePoint is a major pain in the ass.  It took a week and two virtual machines to finally get one single standalone instance up and running for testing.  Throw in another week fighting with the InfoPath Forms Services that was built on top of SharePoint, and that's where I am now.  Now that I've been persistent (or just lucky?) enough to be the only person with a working development environment, I've brought my laptop home with me this weekend for more research and testing.

Andrea wants to try and keep Kaylee (who woke up coughing up a storm this morning) over at her friend's place this weekend, but I'm not holding my breath.  That would be nice so that I can actually play around with SharePoint and InfoPath some more today and then spend some time with a dear friend tomorrow.

Regardless, it's nice to be getting paid what I'm really worth now, and it doesn't sound like they're planning on cancelling our project anytime soon so I'm definitely going to be employed for a while.  Despite the frustrations of the software, it's been a great three weeks and I'm loving the positive work environment.  I have no regrets on my decision to make this career change.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Random musings

Just a list of random thoughts crossing my mind right now, important enough to spout about but not enough to merit a full-fledged ramble:

  • I expect everyone to be watching the series premiere of Heroes tonight on NBC.  It's good stuff.  Thank me later.
  • The new album Phobia from Breaking Benjamin kicks major ass.  It was calling me from the shelves of Best Buy this weekend and I don't regret picking up a copy of it.
  • More good music next week:  The Open Door by Evanescence
  • Too much good stuff is being released all at once on DVD... Smallville season 5, Battlestar Galactica season 2.5, Lost season 2, Invasion, Surface, Stargate SG-1 season 9, Gilmore Girls season 6, and Supernatural season 1.  I downloaded episodes from these series last season and am proud to say that I support them by buying the box sets.
  • X-Men 3: The Last Stand also comes out on DVD next week, and I finally get to see if it was as bad as everyone said it was.
  • Battlestar Galactica freakin' rocks.  I finally got around to watching the series about three weeks ago, and now I'm fiending for season 3 to start next week.  This series has, by far, had some of the best stories I have had the pleasure to watch in a television show (dare I say better than Lost season 1).  I'm hooked and sad that I didn't jump on board earlier.
  • Jericho sucked.  I was so bored I couldn't finish watching.  I shouldn't be surprised, I've come to expect this from any shows on CBS.  It's probably going to get cancelled like Threshold did last year, or maybe even sooner than 8 episodes if we're lucky.  Then again, would anyone really miss it if it was cancelled?  Too bad Jericho lead actor Skeet Ulrich's last TV show, Revelations, was cancelled by ABC a few years back, that one was actually pretty interesting.
  • It's nice to know you are loved.  It's also nice to meet new like-minded people that have been through the same crap you've been through.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Autumn Equinox - Mabon


Blessings of the sabbat to all, especially my fellow pagan friends. The day of balance, where the day and night are equals, is upon us. From here, the days grow weaker and the darkness grows stronger. But such is the cycle of life, what is cut down today will one day return anew.

Here's the requisite link to Wikipedia for more info on the holiday. Blessed be.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Threads of fate

I don't believe much in coincidences. I believe that the fates have intentionally woven someone else's threads into our own design for a purpose. Never have I simply met someone without reason, but rather there is always a deeper purpose for our crossing of paths, whether it be a simple life lesson or for career networking or friendship or any of the other infinite possibilities. Some people are better at manipulating the tapestry than others, and some just seem to enjoy the hurt and disorder caused by unraveling and pulling on their own designs and those around them as well. Sometimes the weavings of the fates are so strong that we only have a little room left to move and pull, but ultimately each and every one of us has control of our own destiny and life path.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Open Door by Evanescence

It's been three and a half years since the award-winning band Evanescence released their multi-platinum major-label debut album Fallen (the live album Anywhere But Home notwithstanding).  The wait has been long thanks to a change in management, the departure of some members of the band, and the guitarist's stroke last year, but the band emerges from the rough times with their sophomore album The Open Door in stores October 3rd.  So, how does the new album hold up?

First let's take a quick look back at FallenBring Me to Life and My Immortal received a significant amount of publicity thanks to the big-screen adaptation of Daredevil.  Other tracks from the album such as Going Under found their way to virtually every radio station across the country.  The album managed to hit that sweet spot of sound that appealed to so many consumers with its delicate balance between hard rocking guitar and dramatic emotional piano, all backed by the amazing sound of Amy Lee's voice.  It was intricate and dark.

The Open Door certainly takes many of these winning elements and makes a solid effort, but I was a tad bit disappointed on the first trip through.  Whereas the first album was complex, balancing a few select ethereal melodies on the piano with a driving--almost industrial--gothic sound of the guitar work, this new album seems simpler and more down to earth with a few too many slower spots.  The overall feel of the album lacks the otherworldly beauty of Fallen, but after getting over the initial shock of the new material, its subtle beauty emerges.

The first cut from the album is the second track, Call Me When You're Sober.  This is probably one of the tracks that is most like their previous album and is a great segue to the new material.  Sweet Sacrifice, Weight of the World, and Cloud Nine help open up the album in a similar fashion and will all probably end up as overplayed radio tracks.  My personal favorite, despite its too-short length of less than four minutes, is the fourth track entitled Lithium, which hearkens back to the eerie and emotional style of My Immortal and the sound reminds me a lot of European goth metal bands such as Flowing TearsSnow White Queen has an odd distortion effect on the guitars through the verses that may take a few listens to really appreciate.  The Only One, Your Star, and All That I'm Living For are some of the better tracks that help close out the second half of the album.

I think that I went into the album with my hopes set way too high.  The first few listens, nothing except Lithium really jumped out at me, unlike the first album.  It took a few complete passes through the entire set to fully appreciate this album.  The official band website proclaims that this album "is a logical (but certainly not predictable) transformation of epic proportions for the band".  I'm not sure if I would agree on the "epic" part, but the album is definitely evolved, though subtly, from the first one and well worth picking up.  Give it some time, pull back the darker veil that may have Fallen upon your ears, and you too will see the new beauty behind The Open Door.

Rating: 4.5

Friday, September 15, 2006


Here's a snippet from something I was writing earlier tonight that struck me as speechlessly profound after it came out:

If there is any one universal truth of the universe that I've learned in the many incarnations of my soul, it is that of balance.  What is taken will be returned in kind, what is given will be rewarded.  There must be dark to define the light, just as there must be light to contrast the darkness.  Just as Helios and Luna make their eternal journeys through the skies, there must be a balance.  How can one know good without the presence of evil?  The world would be barren and lifeless if there were not woman and man to complement each other in life.  And how can one truly live without death?

New job, week 1 thoughts

I can hardly believe that it has already been a full work week at the new job. It sure seemed to sail by quickly, but that's not really a bad thing. Everyone I've met so far has been so nice and happy. I feel like I've been around for a few months by the way everyone treats me. Even the collections department that sits a few rows away from me sounds quite peppy all day long... it's nothing like my days with the collections department at Chase Bank. I'm just glad that I've had enough real-world experience that I could land myself a nice developer position with a big company, so I don't have to settle for anything like that anymore.

The other nice thing about the position is that since it is with a bank, they have a lot more money to throw at projects than many other companies. They're still in the planning stages of our project and having frequent meetings with Microsoft reps, but it sounds like we're going to end up with a brand new server loaded up with all of the latest and greatest software. They're really pushing the 2007 Office System on us, and luckily I've had some real-world experience with that since I've been in the beta test for the past 10 months. I'm guessing this is one of the big reasons I got the position so easily. Our software budget alone is probably going to break five digits by my estimate, and it's positively exciting to be able to be part of this project. There is even rumor that we may end up writing the code that will serve as the base templates and classes for any and all future projects for the bank.

So far, there have been very few problems. I've had to wait to get accounts and passwords set up for all the systems that I will be working with, but overall they seem to move fairly quickly to get those set up. I had to fight the first three days with the laptop that I was given to work on because the last person to use it left all kinds of screwy permissions on the registry and directories, pretty much leaving it a useless mess. Thursday morning (after the new Office 2007 beta versions were released and refused to install), I finally broke down and requested for the help desk to just re-image my hard drive. I dropped off the lappy a little after 1pm and got it back, fresh and spunky one hour later.

Next week, I should have all my accounts set up in the systems so I can start looking over the code and databases from the old project to start learning how it all worked and what we can do to improve it when we rewrite it in .NET 2.0. What a wonderful job this is turning out to be!


(from The Open Door by Evanescence)

Don't want to lock me up inside
Don't want to forget how it feels without
I want to stay in love with my sorrow
But God, I want to let it go

Come to bed, don't make me sleep alone
Couldn't hide the emptiness you let it show
Never wanted it to be so cold
Just didn't drink enough to say you love me

I can't hold on to me
Wonder what's wrong with me

Don't want to lock me up inside
Don't want to forget how it feels without
I want to stay in love with my sorrow

I don't want to let it lay me down this time
Drown my will to fly
Here in the darkness, I know myself
Can't break free until I let it go
Let me go

Darling, I forgive you after all
Anything is better than to be alone
And in the end I guess I had to fall
Always find my place among the ashes

I can't hold on to me
Wonder what's wrong with me

Don't want to lock me up inside
Don't want to forget how it feels without
Stay in love with you
Oh, I...
I'm going to let it go

It's dark. It's beautiful. It's so hauntingly melodic. All hail the return of the queen of goth metal, Amy Lee. This song freakin' rocks.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Sicilian Lasagna Pizza!

One word:  YUM.  I tried the new Sicilian Lasagna Pizza from Pizza Hut tonight and I hope they keep it around for a long time.  A quick Google search reveals that this isn't really new, but it's been quite a while since it's been available.  I thought it would have had some kind of noodles on it, but it doesn't.  Lots of yummy cheeses and meat on top of marinara are baked on a fragrant, seasoned crust.  I think I'm going to have a hard time deciding between my favorite stuffed-crust pizza and this one.  Time for seconds!

What does your birthdate mean?

Your Birthdate: February 12
You're a dynamic, charismatic person who's possibly headed for fame.
You tend to charm strangers easily. And you usually can get what you want from them.
Verbally talented, you tend to persuade people with your speaking and writing.
You are affectionate and loving, but it's hard for you to commit to any one relationship.

Your strength: Your charm

Your weakness: Your extreme manipulation tactics

Your power color: Indigo

Your power symbol: Four leaf clover

Your power month: December

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Trial by fire

The dreaded first day has passed, my trial by fire has left me alive and unscathed. Like most first days at a new job, nothing went as planned.

I left a bit early to make sure I would arrive early, or at least on time in case of bad traffic, which was the case for me since I took University west through Tempe, not knowing that there was massive amounts of construction taking place there. I managed to arrive five minutes early at 7:55am to find out that none of the people I was supposed to be meeting were actually in the office yet.

At 8:20am, the security guard at the front managed to get a hold of someone in the company with some authority. A cute girl from some other department came and walked me over to the area that I would be working in and left me to fend for myself and meet a few of the people that were actually there. After a few minutes of walking and introductions, one of the people that I had interviewed with, a woman named Saru, found me and led me over to the team's area. She was quite clueless as to what I was supposed to do--rightly so, she isn't a lead or supervisor--so she started showing me the project that we would be working on.

A little after 9am, the lead (Daniel) and supervisor (Rey) showed up and were quite surprised to see me. There had been a decision late last week by the company's CFO to put our project on hold, but the job recruiter I went through had worked for over 20 years in Phoenix and managed to pull some strings to get them to at least bring me on for now. That was obviously not communicated to my superiors. Apparently no desk was ready for me, so they had to drag out a spare laptop and LCD monitor for me, but I still didn't have an account or email.

Shortly after getting all the hardware set up, lunchtime came around, and I was invited to eat with everyone on my team in the fancy company cafeteria. I met the fourth person in the company so far named Dan by this time as well. This was about the only thing that went right all day, as it was a nice time to unwind and get to know the others that I would be working with a little more.

After lunch, I pretty much spent the remainder of the afternoon fighting with my computer to install the basic software I would need to get some work done. I still hadn't been assigned a login to the network or email either, so I couldn't contact the temp agency or clock in or out. Hopefully today I will have everything in place and can get yesterday's time punches fixed so I get paid correctly.

All in all, it seems like a very friendly and nice place to work. It reminds me of the old days back at my previous job when it was GFS, before the merger, only with a much larger building and the company has significantly deeper pockets. The schedule is fairly flexible, I can come and go as I please as long as I work 8 hours a day, which is good on the mornings Kaylee is less than cooperative. There don't seem to be any overly-strict software policies--possibly because of the department I work in--so it seems to be up to our best judgment in that area. I was even encouraged yesterday to do some web surfing to get some ideas for the project, and let them know of any other software that would be useful and relevant.

The first day wasn't perfect, but it also could have been much worse. Things are looking good so far and hopefully this turns into something long-term and permanent. I don't have any regrets on making the change, except for the loss of some of the great co-workers from the last job. Now it's time for the second day!