Thinking Out Loud

all of my ideas are works in progress

The Interview

I didn't get the job.

For the past several months, I've been in conversations with DealerSocket, a California-based software-as-a-service company that does customer relationship management tools for car dealerships. A friend of my brother's thought I would do very well as a strategic services consultant, which combines aspects of customer retention, technical support, and corporate training. It would have involved a lot of travel, but it also would have paid $50k/year. We discussed it at length, and Stephanie and I agreed that it would be a net positive change for our lives and we would probably actually see more of each other than we do now.

But it's not happening.

I may have just been a little out of my weight class. It may have been that I don't care about sports, I'm 'too intellectual' (their words), and they (perhaps not incorrectly) inferred I would have trouble building rapport with car salesmen. It may have been that they saw my family was important to me and didn't think I could handle the travel.

But...I don't know. The other interviewees and the interviewers were all younger, childless, and had a long history in sales and marketing. They seemed flummoxed by the idea that somebody would change career fields, or change majors, or ever take a job that wasn't their 'dream job', or not know what their 'dream job' is. Over the course of three interviews, I was asked four times, "Why don't you just teach?" (also, "So why didn't you become a filmmaker?") Maybe they all knew what they wanted to do since their freshman year in college. They preach the idea that everyone has a 'natural genius' and that their goal is to help people find that in themselves and grow their potental, but my 'natural genius' doesn't fit in with their culture. And I'm not trying to say they have some obligation to hire me at any point, but it does seem kind of douchey to fly me out to California for an interview that could easily have been done via Skype and then give me that as a reason for not hiring me.

Meanwhile, a steady stream of rejection letters from teaching positions in Idaho schools - literally the one field where I am experienced, qualified, trained, certified, and licensed and where we're always complaining that we don't have enough qualified people - is doing more wonders for my job-hunting morale.

So, slogging on. The good news is our savings has reached a level that we could survive student teaching - but not tuition, too - and in six more months we should be 100% debt free, so if I need a student loan, at least we're not paying two at a time. I've once again - wait for it - missed a deadline and will have to wait another year to attempt Virginia teaching certification. So, if something else turns up, yay. If not, go for Virginia teacher certification first and a WGU masters next instead of dinking around with a program that only confers certification.


Korra 2

Per request, I'm putting out my thoughts on The Legend of Korra - Book 2: Sprits. I watched it over Thanksgiving weekend last year for that purpose, but wanted to let it settle a bit before writing about it...aaand it's mid-June.

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Emma's Third

We made it through Emma's 'terrible' year with only five or six full-scale meltdown tantrums. She's grown more opinionated and demanding, insisting only a certain parent sing along with the radio on a given song, or a book be read or a movie be watched in a specific language. Sometimes if she's not getting her way, she'll just lie down on the floor, calm, quiet, and still, which is fine just about everywhere except the grocery store.

We started the day with a carpet of balloons, which is probably going to become traditional. We went to a park and had a little party with friends and cupcakes. Then we dropped Kaylee off with another friend and went to see How to Train Your Dragon 2, Emma's first trip to the movie theater. Emmas mind was blown - but she was just as interested in exploring this weird new building as the movie.

At some point we decided to start deliberately exposing Emma to Japanese as well as Spanish, instead of just letting her passively pick up what she overhears from our anime. We also realized her two favorite movies, How to Train Your Dragon and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, are both about intelligent but socially-awkward young men struggling to gain paternal approval, which we're not sure is necessarily a better message to embed than a princess complex. Luckily, the library has most of the Miyazaki corpus, killing both birds and our general lack of Bechdel-passing media.

She's really gotten into Willems' Elephant and Piggy books, and has broadened and deepened her exposure to classic Seuss and Berenstain, as well as lots of other books, chosen pretty much at random. She's been exposed to a lot more music and asks for some They Might Be Giants songs specifically (mostly from the 'Here Come...' series). Or, if she doesn't like what we're singing, she'll sing the ABC song in protest.

She's really good with her alphabet and numbers, and is getting into rudimentary addition. She builds withe blocks every day and remains an adventurous climber and acrobat. Her catch phrase is, "Deal with it!", and due to her environment she also shouts, "Science!", "Waters rise!" and "Victory!" at unexpected intervals. Her pronunciation of 'oatmeal' has improved from 'eeploo' to 'opyum', which, yes, sounds like that.

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Superior Enchilada Casserole

When Kaylee was about to be born, I made some freezer meals ahead of time so I wouldn't have to cook during those first weeks. The penne al forno tuned out okay, but my enchilada casserole was a soupy mess. A couple weeks ago, I reattempted one (on a smaller scale) and it was excellent. Today I'm trying to recreate it and document it.

In a large soup pot, brown half a kilo lean ground beef in a little olive oil, then add one medium yellow onion and two medium green bell peppers, both finely chopped. Cook until vegetables are tender then add one large can (0.8kg/29oz) tomato sauce, one regular can (0.45kg/16oz) black or pinto beans (drained), cumin and chili powder (about 1.5 Tbsp each), salt and dried cilantro (about 0.5 Tbsp each), lemon juice (about 1 Tbsp). Simmer until the sauce has the consistency of medium-thick chili.

In a casserole dish, layer corn tortillas, chili, and shredded cheese - repeat, with an extra thick layer of cheese on top. Bake at 175C/350F for 30 minutes. Let cool. Smother top with sour cream, then sprinkle with cilantro, paprika, and diced fresh roma tomatoes. Plant pitted black olives around the edge of the pan. Serve just warmer than room temperature with a pie server. Feeds my family for two days.


Making Change

The thing about counting cards in blackjack is that while you certainly never really know which cards are going to come up, but you can get a sense of when a favorable density of points is left in the deck.

Whenever I do a cash transaction as a cashier at Walmart, I type in the amount of money the customer gives me and hit the 'cash' button, my cash drawer pops open, and I make change. If I put in '$20.00', I probably just got a $20 bill. It could have been two $10's or four $5's, bu it's probably a $20. Likewise, I usually give the most efficient change I can, but if someone wants their change back in $1 bills, I'll accommodate that if I can.

When I get low on a particular denomination of bill or coin, I have to manually send a signal to a supervisor - and if things are not busy and they actually check their messages, I might get a refill in ten or twenty minutes, so I kind of have to plan ahead.

It would be really easy - as in, so easy that I could probably do it - to write a program that would be able to guess how much of each denomination is in each till, and automatically send a signal to a supervisor if a specific denomination gets low. Because of variations in how customers pay and how they request change, it couldn't be perfectly accurate, but it would sill be pretty good.

The Parental Vow

When two people get married, they typically stand (or, in some cases, kneel) in front of an authority figure, a religious leader or a judge, and make ritual promises. They are, in essence, making their relationship official, a matter of public record and public concern, and asking for the community to ratify and support the arrangement. This is a main thing that makes marriage different from any other committed relationship: the formal recognition and adoption of responsibilities that the partners have for each other, that they mutually have to the community, and that the community has for them. (I'm not attempting to make an argument about marriage equality today, chillax.)

Covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, and vows are public rituals that make agreements sanctioned and enforced by the community. Swearing to tell the truth in a court of law doesn't make you incapable of lying, but it brings to the witness' attention the penalties for lying in that solemn space where the community demands the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Marriages don't create fidelity, but you can't demand alimony from an unfaithful cohabiting partner because that relationship was never endorsed by an agent of the community, so you can't expect the community to enforce it.

Kaylee was screaming because I put her down for three whole seconds while I attended to a dish that required two hands, and I thought, I never promised you'd always have my undivided attention. And then I thought, I never really promised you anything, now that I think of it.

Mormons and Catholics and Jews have rituals for babies and births - I don't know about everyone else. But I'm not aware of any ritual for parents, at least not one with vows.

What if there was? What if you would stand before a priest or a rabbi, raise your right hand, and recite, "I solemnly swear to x, y and z for this child." And this type of ritual had been around for thousands of years in all major religions, and in recent times some people started doing it in front of a judge instead, but it was essentially the same thing.

Wouldn't society benefit from that? In a world where the government is getting more and more invasive enmeshed in families' affairs and at the same time many parents seem more selfish and inattentive and clueless, wouldn't it be a good thing to have a community-witnessed recitation and acceptance of parental responsibilities? Not, like, you can't have kids if you don't do this, but more like, you can't claim them as dependents because you haven't formally taken responsibility for them (again, kind of assuming this ritual had been present in society for a long time, that wouldn't seem weird). In a world where it's considered legally prudent to warn people that hot coffee is hot, is it a great idea to leave parental responsibilities assumed and implicit?

I leave the writing of these vows as an exercise to the reader.

This Changes Everything


In 2012 I had completed my English certification and applied for an Idaho state teaching license and heard nothing back and then we moved to Virginia and I kind of forgot about it until my joblife situation here started sucking so much that I started reevaluating my direction and figured, hey, why not give that another look before my certification goes stale.

And it turns out I had a license this whole time and nobody ever told me.

It might not be too late to apply for jobs for the fall. Time to jump on that.

It's a three-year provisional license that expires August 2015. I don't think it's renewable or extendable, and I need to have taught for the three years to get the full license, so I may have to request an exception or appeal because I wasn't using it because I didn't know I had it.


Code Projects: LJ Fixer, Souls for Smuggler's Shiv NPC Manager

I've been continuing to poke around with Python, even while trying to learn SQL. Two recent projects have forced me to level up my game significantly:

A lot of my old Livejournal entries are written in non-compliant HTML, and my OCD streak likes things to be consistent, so I wrote a script to fetch HTML source from Livejournal, extract the entry, find and replace (a trickier function than I'd expected) to make it conform with current best practices, and spit out a text block I can copy and paste into LJ. If my Python-fu were stronger, I could probably automate the whole process; as it is, it's still rather tedious and labor intensive, and doesn't save a lot of time on the short 1-2 paragraph posts that were my wont back in 2003-2005, but it will be a major time-saver when I get to the longer posts from 2006-present. The urllib library is new to me, as is the binary type.

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My parenting/work schedule deprives me of anything like regular human socialization and both working at Walmart and conducting a job hunt at the same time is vastly demoralizing. To stave off [deeper] madness, I'm running a solo RPG campaign for my wife. I'm using a pregenerated campaign called Serpent's Skull for Pathfinder. It opens with an shipwreck on a deserted island with 5 NPCs. Tracking morale, attitude, and disease for all of these people was really tedious and cut into time that we could have used to explore the island and fight cannibals, so I wrote a script to handle it. Using an external file to store changes in data between sessions was a new trick for me.

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Things I'd Like to See

1. T-shirts come in several different weights of fabric, but long-sleeved T-shirts seem to only come in 'almost a sweatshirt' weight, complete with wrist cuffs, making them uncomfortable to wear in the summer. I'd like to find a bunch of light weight long-sleeved T-shirts for people who want to go outside in the summer without getting skin cancer and/or farmer's tans.

2. I'd like to see nutritional labeling changed so that no matter what, the 'serving size' is 100g. 100g is about a medium-sized apple, or a king size candy bar, pretty close to what nutritionists actually consider a serving, so manufacturers can't game the system by giving you the information for a 'serving' of half a cookie and leaving you to do the math when any normal person is going to eat the whole packet. The first thing on the label is a color-coded pie chart that shows grams of water, fat, protein, and carbohydrates per 100g, with Calories for each segment and probably subdivided with shades for relevant subcategories of macronutrients (sugars vs. other carbs, saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated fats). Micronutrients are listed below in mg. In this way you can see at a glance the source of calories and compare products easily.

WGU, Take 2

In the past year, Plan...

  1. AAS in Radiography from CVCC
  2. AAS in Respiratory Therapy from CVCC
  3. AAS in Information Systems Technology from CVCC
  4. BS in Information Technology from WGU
  5. CompTIA A+ certification
  6. M.Ed. in ESL from WGU
  7. Take another stab at getting my Idaho state teaching license with my existing ABCTE certification (January-ish), teach high school English (Fall 2015). If that works out, wait a few years and consider the ESL M.Ed. If not, do the WGU Post-Bac Teacher Prep (Spring 2015?) in either social science or regular science to get licensure. Continue working at Walmart until we have enough saved for both tuition and living expenses during student teaching.

This is all while teaching myself computer stuff and running a job search in my limited free time. If anything else crystallizes, obviously the plan goes out the window. Again.

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