Glory

Wow – I don’t think I’ve gone over two months without posting something since I started doing this on Xanga way back when. Blah on me all day and night! You can all spank me if you want. Wait…check that…if you have breasts, you can spank me if you want. Mmmmmmm…breasts………. Uh, sorry folks…it’s been awhile for me. Like that song went: “You got no money and you got no car, you got no woman and there you are.” Yes, here I am.

It’s been really busy at work lately. For awhile there we were down two people on the overnight shift due to folks moving on with their lives. Now we’re still down by one, but at least that’s better than being down by two. In what spare time I do have at work, which is when I usually write my blog postings, has been occupied by doing geek things that I wanted to get done.

For those of you who don’t know, I am the commissioner of a fantasy football league that has been in existence since around 1986. ( www.lxffo.com ) I’m not quite sure, to tell the truth, how long the league has been active, but it’s at least 20 years old. Anyway, I also run the league’s website so it’s my responsibility to maintain it and all that. I decided that since I’m familiar with wordpress, which is the program that powers this blog, that I would modify wordpress to run the league’s home page. So I spent quite some time doing that. I also designed the logo at the top of the page. All of the above was done with a lot of input from other owners in the league: mainly my friends Burton, Kevin, and Scott. Thanks to those guys for providing their input on all that. If you like how the site looks, please let me know. It’s always nice to know that all the time I spend on that sort of stuff isn’t totally wasted.

It really could never be totally wasted because I learn stuff by doing such things. I always like learning more about PHP, HTML, and messing around with MySQL a little here and there. But if people didn’t enjoy the site, then I would feel that at least some of the time was wasted. So, again, if you like it – let me know. I think it’s a lot more functional than the old site was, and much more attractive to the eye.

I also installed a new forum program on the domain for the league. It’s the Simple Machines Forum program – check it out at http://www.simplemachines.org/. I like it a lot better than the old forum program. It’s a lot easier to maintain, and it will install modifications (mods) itself with a built in tool. Usually when you want to mod a program or install something on your domain, you have to unzip the mod/program to your hard drive, and then upload the files to the domain yourself. Then you usually need to go to a URL to get it to install. For example: www.yourdomain.com/worpress/install.php. (That is not a real URL by the way.) That would make this example program install on your domain. But this forum program is cool: you just tell it where the ZIP file for the mod is on your hard drive, and it does everything else itself. That comes in *extremely* handy. Especially when you’re installing hundreds of smileys to the forum, and don’t want it take a hundred years. It also helped me install a mod on the forum that allows me to create tables (think spreadsheets without the lines) so I can line up columns and rows easier when posting players that have been picked up or released. A clear and precise, while also somewhat stylish, dissemination of information is my goal. I think it works.

While the main functions of the site and the forums have always been run by programs I did not write, although I do have to edit the code of both occasionally, one of the things I’m of really proud of is that I wrote the code that displays our league’s rosters. Before I took over as commissioner, we used to just let Excel (or Frontpage which had imported the Excel tables) publish the rosters to the site since we have always kept them (and still do) in Excel on our end. While that worked, it didn’t actually look interesting. Excel,Word, and even FrontPage also, shockingly enough (not!), produce really bloated code so they are not the most efficient answer in getting information up on the web.

Now the way I do it is the actual data (player names, salaries, and such) is stored in a MySQL database of it’s own on the server. I use a program called DBTools to convert the Excel data to MySQL and populate the database on the server with the info when I update the rosters on my end. What the rosters.php file I wrote does is read the MySQL database, and renders the table row by row as it reads the information from the database inside a FOR loop. So it takes my file just 320 lines of code to display the rosters when it took the old Excel/Frontpage solution 6,358 lines of code. Many of my 320 lines are blank spaces where I’m just trying to make the code more readable. If I remove those blank spaces then it’s just 229 lines of code. It’s using the FOR loop that does the trick. I can use a handful of lines to render the tables for all 12 teams instead of needing a line or two of code per row for every roster.

Sorry if some / much / all of the above doesn’t mean anything to you. But it’s a part of my life, and sharing that is what this whole blog is all about. I’ve also been busy with a couple of other, more technical, geek projects that took up a lot of my time over the past couple of months. I won’t get too involved in them because I would spent more time explaining programming concepts than I would explaining what I have been doing with my free time. Those projects are: I wrote another mod for the computer game “Baldur’s Gate 2” and I also edited my installation of Firefox so that its contextual menu no longer contains “Send Picture” or the option to make a picture your wallpaper.

I have a program that runs on my machine called Konfabulator. Well, actually it’s called the Yahoo Widget Engine now, but it’s still Konfabulator to me. If you go to www.konfabulator.com or widgets.yahoo.com you can check it out. It’s a program that lets you run little mini programs, called, surprisingly enough, “widgets”, on your desktop that can do a number of useful things. I have several widgets running on my desktop that check my gmail for me, one that displays a calendar, another that displays the weather for any zip code I type into it, but the coolest one will display pictures from any folder on my hard drive on my desktop. It will display a different picture on a set interval, so in short the “wallpaper” on my desktop changes all the time because of this. I have a folder on my hard drive that has pictures of my favorite women celebrities, so every 15 minutes I am treated to a different picture of a babe on my desktop.

I download these pictures from forums.superiorpics.com/ubbthreads/ubbthreads.php/Cat/0, which is a cool place to find celeb pics in case you are interested. How all of this relates to anything is that when you want to save a picture on your hard drive, you right click on it to bring up the contextual menu. In that menu you click to “save image as” and chose where to save it on your machine. Well, normally, directly below “save image as” in Firefox, there is an option to “send picture” which, if you click it, will open your email program and ask to you where you want to email the picture. I got tired of clicking on that damn thing all the time by accident, and have it waste my time opening up my mail program, so I set about figuring out how to mod Firefox so that option would go away. Since most of Firefox’s program files are in either XML or Java, in other words the files are in plain text so you can edit them instead of compiled code like C or something, it was easy to do once I found the file that contained the contextual menu definitions. Like I wrote above, I also removed the “set this picture as your wallpaper” option (that may not be exactly word for word what is says) because I will never need that. If anyone is interesting in editing Firefox in a similar manner, I can point them in the right direction if they are interested in learning how I accomplished this.

Anyway, hopefully you’ve treaded through all the above and now know what I’ve been so busy doing lately that I couldn’t post an updated message on my blog here. Other than all that, not much of interest has been going on in my life. I keep meaning to write something about North Korea (when that was going on), or any number of other things than have been happening lately that I have an opinion about, but I haven’t because I keep distracting myself with the above projects. Also, pro football is gearing up to start and I am more and more busy every week fulfilling my commissioner duties. I probably won’t be writing much for the next 5 months. However, I certainly hope to be able to post something at least once a month.

In any event, no I haven’t been busy with my proposed move to Charlotte that I wrote about last time. I wish I had, but that wasn’t meant to be just yet. I decided it would be a better idea to wait until I have a car before I moved to a place where I don’t know how to get around as well as I do here. So I am still in Atlanta for the time being. I signed another year lease with Post on July 31st, but that doesn’t mean I will necessarily be here for another year.

The cool thing about Post Apartments is that you can have your lease transferred to another Post in the country by paying $200. The place I want to live in Charlotte is a Post Apartments that is about 7 blocks away from the Carolina Panthers’ stadium (Bank of America stadium). It is basically across the street from the stadium. That would just rock the world.


Well, during the time that I first wrote the above text and now, something really awesome has happened. Imagine that: me with great news about something in my life! That’s unusual, eh? First, I’ll give you some background information to set up the story.

My friend Kevin works for CNN/Turner. I sent him my resume about a month ago to give to the call center people there. Kevin doesn’t work in the call center, he does IT security for them (monitoring the network for hackers), but he knows the call center powers that be. This past Friday I got a call from a lady from the technology recruiting team there, specifically a lady named Victoria, about a position opening up in the call center. She gave me a brief phone interview and said I should hear something by the end of that day or Monday. It was a long weekend wait, but on Monday I got the call that the call center manager wanted to schedule an interview with me. I decided to schedule it for today, Tuesday, so I could go ahead and get it over with. I was so excited that I couldn’t stand thinking about waiting any longer to get it done. (It’s technically Wednesday now, but it’s still Tuesday night to me.)

So I went in there today and met with Victoria and some other dude whose name escapes me right now. I’m so bad with remembering names. The three of us talked for a little while just basically about the situation I would be coming in to if I got hired. As with every other call center job I’ve ever had, you’re initially considered “temp to perm”. In other words, you’re on a trial period for the first three months of the job. Basically if you don’t suck ass at the job, they’ll hire you as a full and complete employee of the company at the end of the three months. The only bad thing is that you don’t have any benefits to speak of during the trial period. There’s no paid time off, no medical, none of that stuff during the first three months. I’ve done this before, so it’s no big deal to me.

The three of us just chatted about the company and just general information, and it was really enjoyable. This whole process wasn’t like any interview I’ve ever been to. It was just such a relaxed and comfortable environment. The two of them, especially the dude, were so friendly and personable that I felt like we were all just potential friends getting to know one another for the first time. After we had talked for about 15 minutes or so, they took me in to see Joe, the call center manager.

Joe was just as friendly and cool as the others. He kind of reminds me of Bill Gates to tell you the truth. He looks like him in the face – complete with the little glasses you see Gates wearing all the time. We had a great time talking. We talked all about computers, of course. Mainly about supporting them, which is the job, but we also talked about building them and such things. He asked me how I feel about Macs, and I told him I love them. I’ve never owned one, but they are so easy to use and MUCH easier to fix than any PC. Earthlink, when I worked for them, sent us all on a two week “Mac Boot Camp” to teach us all about Macs and I just took to them at that time. To give you an idea of how easy things can be when you own a Mac: you want to install the OS on a MAC? Do you have 10 seconds? That’s something that can take 30-60 minutes on a Windows machine. I hadn’t noticed it prior to that moment, but he had a MAC as his primary machine in his office. So we talked about how logical Macs are, and that’s the bottom line, really. They make sense, which is why I like them. But they’re too damn expensive, which is why I’ve never bought one.

We also spoke some about the job, and what would be expected of me. He did ask me some questions, but nothing at all like what I expected to be asked. It wasn’t a normal interview by any stretch of the imagination. There was none of the “why do you want to work for CNN” or other such abstract stuff you would just BS about anyway. And that’s why the whole interview was so great – it was BS free. That is just so painfully rare in the world right now. Especially with such huge corporations, as most of their employees, especially the powers that be, tend to take themselves way too seriously. That is certainly not the case with those I met today. I was just so taken aback by the whole thing to be totally honest. I am fairly certain that this is all just a sweet dream and I will wake up soon, back in the toilet of the real world. Just flush me down already.

So eventually Joe said that he had a meeting to go to in about 10 minutes, so we had to wrap it up. I think we would have kept on talking had it not been for that. He told me that he had an idea of what I would be like, based on his interactions with Kevin, and I had fit his expectations to a “T”. He said something that is still sticking with me even now – it’s a really cool quote – “Great people know great people.” Basically what he was saying, outside of the obvious greatness of Kevin and me (haha), was that when you refer one of your friends to work at your job with you, it’s going to be the friend, or friends, that is/are most like you.

He said that I should hear something by tomorrow or perhaps Friday at the latest. He had to go find Victoria and the “dude” who was with her so they could escort me back down. While he was gone he told me to talk to one of his team leads, Keith I think his name was, and have him show me some stuff. I’m thinking: why do I need to have Keith show me about what they do if I’m not going to be working here. Victoria and the “Dude” showed up and the four of us, along with Joe, stepped outside the call center. Joe told me that they had decided to go ahead and move forward with hiring me right now.

Wow! I have never had that happen to me in the past. Say hello, then, to the newest employee of CNN/Turner/Time-Warner. Ah, the glory! Perhaps my future in Atlanta is more significant than I felt back in May. At the very least I will be making more money than I am now. While it certainly doesn’t make me “rich”, not that I’m interested in “rich” mind you, it does make life much more glorious than it has been. With just me to support, life is going to be somewhat simpler than it has been for me for a long time. While it’s true that money doesn’t buy happiness, it certainly helps with peace of mind. I can feel the peace already. It’s like seeing an old friend again. It’s been a long time….

Well, that’s it for now, folks. I’ll try to write more often, but at my new job I’m not sure how much time I will have to do things like this. Probably not much. They expect everyone to take around 50 calls a day on a “normal” day, which is twice the amount of calls I take right now. So…all of my “geek” projects are going to have to take place while I’m home. That’s what I’m predicting right now, anyway. I’ll try, however, to be a more constant voice.

Until next time….
B

Sorry is the fool who trades his soul for a corvette
Thinks he’ll get the girl, he’ll only get the mechanic

What’s missing
He’s living
A day he’ll soon forget

That’s one more time around
The sun is going down
The moon is out but he’s drunk and shouting
Putting people down

He’s pissing
He’s living
A day he’ll soon forget

Counts his money every morning
The only thing that keeps him horny
Locked in a giant house thats alarming
The townsfolk they all laugh

Sorry is the fool who trades his love for hi-rise rent
Seems the more you make equals the loneliness you get

And it’s fitting
He’s barley living
A day he’ll soon forget

That’s one more time around
There is not a sound
He’s lying dead, clutching benjamins
Never put the money down

He’s stiffening
We’re all whistling
A man we’ll soon forget

“Soon Forget”
–Pearl Jam