Thursday, July 27, 2006

OK, we're excited

Jenn and I are unabashedly excited about having a contract on a house. And I have a confession to make: we're getting WAY ahead of ourselves. We can't help it though; it's so super duper exciting!!!

In my mass e-mail announcement, I said that I wouldn't be giving out any further details so as to avoid the wrath of the house closing gods (or something to that effect). Do you think going to Home Depot 2 days after your offer is accepted to get paint sample cards is going a little overboard? Yeah, me too. How about asking the realtor if we can go visit the place the following weekend for the express purpose of showing our parents the place but thinking in the back of my head that I should take the tape measure to get dimensions?

Worse yet, am I tempting the New Job gods by the simple act of buying a place before my first 90 days are up?

Probably. And I really scared the crap out of myself this morning when that nasty little thought entered my head.

I suspect this is an interesting little study in human behavior. We get excited about stuff. It's unavoidable. When something goes wrong, it's because we jinxed it. Well jinxing be damned! Jenn and I know just where the koy pond is going to go. And we have a very good idea on what colors to make the spare bedroom and the main living area. And we can't wait to shop for some furniture to fill the place up. And when should I tell Jenn that, since the cable is part of the Association fees, I'd like to get a TV for the spare bed room/computer room?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


President Bush exercised the first veto of his long and horrifically damaging presidency last week when he shot down a bill that would have allowed for Federal funding of stem cell research on embryos that were to be otherwise disposed of. His reasoning was that using embryos - even unwanted ones - for medical research crosses a moral line that he felt should be left un-crossed ( you know, unlike that moral line of preemptively attacking and over-throwing a sovereign government that poses no threat to our land or our people). Basically, he decided that medical research in curing many diseases and disorders - both physical and genetic - should suffer at the expense of allowing garbage collectors to have a few more medical waste bins to empty.

Obviously, the bigger picture is that he's in favor of saving embryos, regardless of their origins or viability as actually developing into a fetus, at all costs. That's fine. I can understand that stance even if I don't respect it. But the reality is that that stance is hampering medical advancement. The research is being done any way - in Europe and Asia and through private and state funding (thank you governator!!!). He and his blind Religious Right supporters are against this research from going forward, too. Quite frankly, I'm surprised the Pro-Life movement isn't a little more proactive in picketing research facilities that conduct the research on these unwanted embryos. And here's the next leap of logic which I think is quite frankly a small hop and not a leap at all: shouldn't the Village Idiot and his cohorts find any medical treatments that are developed as a direct result of stem cell research abhorrent and unnatural? Since they are partaking in actions which hinder these treatments from being developed, shouldn't they and their direct family members be denied these treatments?

I think so. Bush as drawn a line in the moral sand, as has been the trademark of his presidency. His previous lines have either attempted or succeeded in making us pay for Howard Stern (which, by the way, is better on Sirius than it has been on terrestrial radio in a long long time); preventing gay from having the rights of breeding citizens; and denying our enemies at war (his word, not ours) any rights at all, whether basic human or those supplied by the Geneva Convention. His entire platform is based on telling us what we can and cannot do. Well, why should he or his ilk reap the benefits derived from "immoral" means? He is constantly fighting for his morals to be everyone's laws. He'd like killing fetuses - and by logical extension embryos - to be illegal. So isn't receiving these ill-gotten treatments as bad as knowingly accepting money from a coke dealer and buying a car with it?

It's his line, not ours. I think it's only fair that everyone place their name in the books now and realize that their kids one day, if they should be unfortunate to fall out of a tree, won't be allowed the treatment that might help them walk again. You're defining the line for the great majority of us, so you have to live with the consequences, Mr. Village Idiot. You and everyone that holds that same line. And maybe, just maybe, having to sign that book would make them realize exactly how their holy rolling impacts the rest of us.

Monday, July 17, 2006

How to find a job by really trying...

The following is a chronological detail of how I landed 3 job offers in the span of 2 days and how I decided which job to take. The string of events actually starts several month before when I initially applied for the jobs with Aetna and ScheduAll. The Aetna job, I was alerted to indirectly by my dad, who works for the company that used to own the division of Aetna I applied for (Aetna bought it earlier this year). The ScheduAll job I applied for through a Monster posting in April and I had been calling them weekly ever since. The Ocwen position, I had applied for through Monster the previous week.

Thursday, July 6: First thing in the morning, I start making my phone calls to the various employers with whom I had submitted a resume. I would make about 5 to 10 calls a day. Today, 2 of the companies were Ocwen and ScheduAll. I hadn’t gotten a call back from ScheduAll since May, but continued none-the-less. This time was different because the nice receptionist told me that the person I had been asking for was not in (found out later she’d left the company), but that I should speak with a Greg Dolan. I left him a message. ScheduAll is a niche software company that supplies scheduling software to the entertainment industry. The job was an Implementation Manager: doing start to finish implementations of the software for customers.

Then I left a message for the HR Manager at Ocwen, a sub-prime mortgage servicing company. She quickly called me back. She asked if I would be OK working in West Palm Beach, about 40 minutes north of where Jennifer and I are now. I told her that I’m keeping my options open. In reality, I applied for that job by mistake. I wasn’t going to apply for anything north of Boca Raton. She said that the hiring manager would like to speak to me on a conference call the next day, which I agreed to. I really was going to keep my options open, but made a mental note to pay more attention to the cities where these companies are.

Later that morning, I get a call from the manager at Aetna. I had had a phone interview with her in June when I was still in Fresno. She asked if I could come in that day for a face-to-face, which I was more than happy to do.

Shortly there after, Greg from ScheduAll calls me back and asks me to forward a new copy of my resume. A few minutes later he calls me and asks if I could do a phone interview on Friday. 2 phone interviews is a really busy Friday.

The Aetna interview goes very well, but they say they’re going to be conducting several more interviews the following week and that if I don’t hear from them by Friday, I should follow-up with HR henceforth. The job is basic Business Analyst stuff: problem solving systems issues, speaking with end-users to figure out what they want their systems to do, nothing thrilling. The atmosphere seems pretty corporate, but friendly (for corporate).

Friday, July 7: The ScheduAll phone interview is first. Greg and Stefan Neid are on the line. Greg is extremely personable and makes a joke along the lines of, “there are 2 8-foot tall, handsome men ready to conduct your interview.” I joke back something to the effect of, “Well, as long as I know none of us are going to be telling the truth today, I’ll be far more relaxed.” The phone interview goes well (basically, these things are just to hear you talk about your experiences first hand, because it’s a lot harder to fake it when talking that when writing a resume) and they invite me in for a face-to-face on Monday.

The Ocwen phone interview also goes well and they schedule an interview for Wednesday.

Monday, July 10: At the ScheduAll interview, I meet with 9 people in the span of 2 hours. They basically funnel people in and out of the room I’m sitting in. After the first 5 minutes, when it’s just one-on-one, a second person joins us. A little later, the original person leaves and is replaced by a new person. This sort of chair swapping continues for well over an hour. My head is spinning and I can’t remember who’s heard what stories. Most of the questions are similar, so the answers are as well. I eventually sit down with one of the big-wigs. At the end of it, Greg tells me he’ll call me the next day at 3. The atmosphere there is very casual – half the people I spoke with were wearing jeans. But you could tell from listening to them that they all work very hard and when it’s time for business, they get to it.

Tuesday, July 11: Around noon, an HR guy from Aetna calls to give me an offer. I tell him I have 2 other interviews but that I will get back to him later in the week.

3PM comes and no word from Greg. Jenn and I go out to make some more copies of my resume for my interviews the next day, and while in my e-mail account pulling up the resume, I see I have an e-mail from Stefan at ScheduAll. They would like to make me an offer and ask if I could stop by the next day early in the afternoon. I reply that my schedule is packed but that I could be there around noon through 1 or after 4:30. I ask him to call me with his preference.

Wednesday, July 12: The Ocwen interview goes well but runs WAY longer than the HR Manager had said it would. First, they had me take the Wunderlik test – the same test college prospects are given at the NFL combine. HR lady tells me I got a really high score but can’t say exactly what it was. The interview part runs to 11, which was the latest I was told I’d be done, but after that they ask me to take a couple tests on my Excel, Access and SQL knowledge. I told them I had to rearrange my afternoon schedule first but that it would be OK. No message from ScheduAll about coming in for the offer. Oh, and also, the Ocwen amanger mentions that the hours would be from 8:30 to 6:30

Later in the afternoon, the Ocwen HR person schedules a phone conversation with one of the VPs I’d be supporting. The role I interviewed for was with their analytics team creating reports and doing analysis for one of their groups. The phone interview will be Thursday afternoon.

Thursday, July 13: I call ScheduAll first thing and Stefan apologizes for not being available yesterday and for not contacting me. He asks that I come in that morning. Their offer is a tad smaller than the Aetna offer, but they promise to give me a review and readjust my salary in 6 months. I wasn’t’ entirely surprised by offer, mainly because they say that the system is really complex and not everyone they hire picks it up. I tell him that I’ll let him know tomorrow. I had told Ocwen that I had 2 offers and that I’d be making a decision on Friday, so they knew my situation.

The Ocwen phone conversation goes well and shortly after getting off the phone, the HR Manager calls and says they want to make an offer but they won’t know the actual value until the Friday. I ask her to please try and have that figured out by lunch.

Thursday night is very stressful and sleepless. I’m having a very difficult time weeding out either Aetna or ScheduAll so that I can do a 1-to-1 comparison with the Ocwen offer when I get it the next day. I am completely on the fence.

Friday, July 14: I call a ton of people and write several e-mails looking for thoughts on my dilemma. Most people are in favor of Aetna because it’s stable and offers up-ward mobility but there are enough that are in favor of ScheduAll – for it’s atmosphere and unique challenges – that I don’t know what to do. As the responses are still coming in, and as I was slowly leaning toward Aetna myself, Ocwen calls and asks if I could postpone my decision until Monday. She says they want to consider me for a managerial position, but I’d have to interview with the Director over that position. She says the interview would be Monday. I tell her I can’t delay my decision, and so she manages to set up the interview for 3:30 that day. With this twist, I decide that the playing field is definitely not level enough o do a fair comparison of 3 jobs, so one should be eliminated. I call ScheduAll to appraise them of the situation and to see if there’s anything they could do to up their offer at all. They step up big time and agree to wait until Monday for a decision.

Aetna is pretty much out.

The Ocwen interview goes very well. The managerial position is essentially the same role I had previously interviewed for but with a different division and with 2 reports in the US and 3 to 5 in India. They call shortly there after with the offer. The base salary is slightly more than ScheduAll but they mention there will be a very significant bonus on top of that, paid annually in February or March and based on my performance. As long as I do a good job, I get the bonus. If I do an exceptional job, my manager can increase my bonus at his discretion.

The Weekend, July 15-16: I flip flop all weekend between the 2 positions. The managerial position is almost too much to turn down, both experience and 4 wise. But the atmosphere and actual work at ScheduAll could actually turn out to be fun and exciting – a rare combo with an IT job. I know that both are going to require long hours, but a friend familiar with Ocwen informs me that they are infamous for their go-go-go attitude. Jenn and I take a look at homes in the neighborhoods that list for about our price range. Hollywood, where ScheduAll is, is nice and old-school South Florida. Boynton Beach, 15 minutes south of Ocwen, has more to pick from and is growing. The decision comes down to affordability and experience vs atmosphere and potentially fun work. The stress of not knowing is driving Jenn crazy. It actually ends up being something she says late on Sunday that turns the tide for good for me: she says she can understand wanting to be in a fun atmosphere, but there’s also something to be said for making a grown up decision. I’m going to want to have a family. I’m considering being a manager. Those are grown-up things to do, and there’s nothing wrong with being a grown-up from time to time.

Monday, July 17, 2006: First thing in the morning, the HR guy at Aetna calls. I tell him I had gotten 2 other offers and I decid3ed to take the one giving me managerial experience. I also e-mail the hiring manager to thank her for the opportunity.

I call Ocwen to find out how much of the bonus is based on my performance and how much is based on the company’s. My friend in the mortgage industry says that the target bonuses always have 2 component. I decide that, before I give my official answer, I should check into that. They say it’s 90% me. That’s all I had to hear.

I next call Greg at ScheduAll. It is one of if not the hardest calls I’ve ever had to make. Not fun at all. But he understands. He says it’s a small world and our paths may cross again. True enough. I wish them the best and I really do mean it. I miss them already, but within a few minutes I realize that I made the right decision. I made the tough decision. I then started looking only onward and getting excited about my new opportunity.

Monday, July 10, 2006

That's it?

Jenn and I went to Miami this Sunday to hang out with some friends and it just so happened that the World Cup final was on (I don’t want any miscommunication here: we did not specifically go to Miami to watch the World Cup final). To be honest, I had little to no rooting interest in the final. The 2 teams I hate the most: Brazil (for their Yankee-ness) and Argentine (for their disgusting style of flop-ball) were long gone. I like the idea of the host country winning the whole thing just because I think those local fans have put forth the most energy, they should be rewarded. Plus, of all the individuals that I watched during the matches, Germany’s Klose was BY FAR the most fun to watch for me. But, alas, Germany lost in the semis. So, in spite of my blog from a couple weeks ago, I couldn’t really get excited about the final because I wasn’t all that excited either way about either of the team.

And then, at the very end of the game, the worst possible thing happened: penalty kicks. There were several games decided by penalty kicks during the knock out phase of the World Cup. Each time, it left a bad taste in my mouth, but I didn’t say anything. Then, to have the CHAMPION decided based on a facet of the game that is probably about 10% skill on goal keeper’s side, 10% skill on the kicker’s side and 80% luck on both sides, that’s just absurd. It’s the equivalent of having the NBA Champion decided on Free Throws after the first inning. The World Series champion decided by a Home Run Derby in baseball after the 12th inning. The Super Bowl Champion decided on Field Goals after the first OT. Those are all horribly stupid ideas that would make the actual championship feel cheap and supremely anti-climactic. And guess what: the World Cup is as big as those 3 events rolled into one!

Blair commented that the team that gets the ball first in OT is decided by a coin flip. True, but that team still has to play the game the way it’s been played for the course of the regular time. And after a playoff game went into OT a few years ago, ESPN did an analysis of whether the team that wins the coin flip has a decided advantage and they really don’t. If they don’t score on their first possession, they actually LOSE more often than they win. So the luck factor there is marginal.

He then said, “Those guys have been playing for 120 minutes. You want them to play even more!?” “FUCKIN’ A I want them to play even more!” They’re playing FUCKING SOCCER!!!! Not practicing penalty kicks. At the very least make it semi-interesting and have it decided on corner kicks. First team to 5 scores off of the set play of the corner kick wins. You try ends once the ball exits the goalie box. At least the corner kick is a standard part of the game. A very frequent and extremely exciting play. The penalty kick happens maybe once every 3rd or 4th game. And yes, in the middle of the game, a penalty kick extremely interesting and usually deserved BASED ON THE COURSE OF EVENTS IN THE GAME! Used as the tool to decide who wins THE WORLD FRIGGIN’ CHAMPIONSHIP OF THE BIGGEST SPORTING EVENT OF THE WORLD, it sucks. It just sucks. There’s nothing good to say about it.

If you’re worried about the players being too tired, award an extra substitution at the start of every OT period. After the first OT period, which is played for the full 30 minutes regardless if someone scores, you go to Sudden Death, or the Golden Goal as it used to be known. You’re telling me these players don’t dog it in the last 15 minutes of OT just praying to get to penalty kicks? PUH-LEASE! That’s how Italy beat Germany!

Until the penalty kick thing is changed, I can’t blame anyone for not wanting to watch the World Cup. Why would you vest any sort of time into a game that’s only going end with a friggin’ Home Run Derby? The WORLD was robbed.

Friday, July 07, 2006

With friends like his....

Ken Lay, one of the bad guys from the whole Enron fiasco, died this week. There’s been a lot of commentary about his death. I don’t think I really need to pile onto it, but I don’t mind summarizing it. Basically, the reaction has been everything from:
“He’s getting off easy but more-so his family. The conviction will most likely be overturned. There will be very little the government will be able to do to retrieve assets now.”
“He was the worst kind of villain: one that never recognized that what he did was egregiously wrong. He ruined millions of lives along the way and never took a shred of responsibility or did anything to rectify the situation, pleading innocence and displaying ignorance until the bitter end.”
For all the why’s and wherefore’s behind the later analysis, I HIGHLY recommend you rent the movie “The Smartest Guys in the Room.” It’s a documentary behind the downfall of Enron and it is by far the most shocking movie you will ever see. If your jaw manages to stay shut for more than 30 minutes into the movie, then it’s likely understanding basic business practices isn’t your thing (by the way: there is absolutely no shame in that. It is DEFINITELY a high-level business concept movie in some spots and I imagine it’s not the easiest thing to follow if that doesn’t float your boat.

To summarize: he was a bad dude.

But there’s one angle that I haven’t seen covered that I find most intriguing: where are his friends? Like the funerals of many villains, his will most likely be sparsely attended. But why? Most of his friends are still benefiting from an extremely corrupt energy concern (namely oil). He just happened to cross the line a little bit and didn’t have anyone to bail him out when he left his company in shambles. Of course, his sin wasn’t a faulty (actually, down right absurd) business plan and poor managerial skills. No, his was flying too close to the sun. He should have learned a little something from Iccarus, but instead he decided to run the fraudulently fastest growing company on Wall Street. That drew media attention, not a Saudi buy-out. But is that enough to warrant being abandoned by all your friends?

Of course, throughout that last paragraph, there was a thinly veiled theme: “Where’s the Village Idiot?” “President” Bush used to affectionately call Mr. Lay “Kenny Boy.” They were buddies. They hung out. Kenny Boy contributed heavily to Bush’s first Presidential campaign. If his daddy’s Supreme Court nominees weren’t enough to hand him his election, Kenny Boy’s money eventually would have. And yet the Village Idiot is no where to be found. Is Kenny Boy any different now than he was before. The only difference, really, is that at his death he was a CONVICTED felon, not just a regular felon. And he didn’t even kill anybody! I mean, I can see why OJ’s friends wouldn’t return too many tee-time invites.

So where’s the angle exploring what someone has to do to alienate all of his friends? What’s the non-rich guy equivalent? I mean, he didn’t do anything REMOTELY egregious as sleep with his buddy’s girlfriend/wife. Nothing he did was a personal affront to their friendship. So what does a regular guy have to do to alienate his friends? In some circles, I suspect coming out of the closet would do it, but that’s not really equivalent here. You’re not going to lose any friends if you file for bankruptcy, get laid off, or even if your Korner Kafe closes down because you made bad coffee. That’s a closer equivalent. Even better, I doubt your friends would run for the hills if you get caught embezzling from your company. They might show disappointment, but when you get out, you’re still the same person. I suspect they’d even check in on your wife while you’re locked up. They just might not pull out the fine silver when they have you over. That’s as close to the every-day guy equivalent. The every day guy isn’t going to rob a bank at gun point. I think that’s a good reason to drop a friend. But Kenny Boy didn’t use any guns. He didn’t make anyone buy into his feebly cooked books. All his friends, the higher ups, were in on the scam, so it’s not like he was stabbing the back of any of his close friends.

So here’s my lingering question: could the Village Idiot be as shitty a friend as he is a President?

JOB SEARCH PS: Things have REALLY picked up; to the point that I’ll have to do a completely separate posting with specifics. But I will say that I am very confident that I’ll have a couple offers within the next 2 weeks.