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Archive of February, 2005

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[Permalink 2005-02-28] Oh Well

February 28, 2005:

Looks like I'm out of the running for that job in Rockville; they just reposted it to Monster. It's kind of nice, though, because at the rate I've been going I won't have to worry about having to submit another resume until mid-March or so.

[Permalink 2005-02-25] Not Quite "Seeing Dead People"

February 25, 2005:

A recent study shows that humans my have a "sixth sense" that can learn over time when you're likely to make a mistake. Basically, the scientists who did the study think you can subconsciously learn when a set of stimuli will lead to making an error, and the part of your brain that's in charge of noticing mistakes will fire off before you act.

This isn't ESP by any stretch; it doesn't even count as "spidey sense". But I do find it amusing that there's a part of my brain that's in charge of nothing other than generating the "aw, shit!" when I make a mistake.

I think mine may be a little overzealous.

[Permalink 2005-02-24] Activism for the Lazy

February 24, 2005:

I am now a card-carrying member of the ACLU. Seriously. They give you a card.

[Permalink 2005-02-22] On Search Engines

February 22, 2005:

When I talked about Careerlink I mentioned their search engine and said I could have done it better myself. Well, I ought to back that up. Geekiness ahoy!

The Search Box

It's a simple thing; you type something in the box and the search engine finds it. But there are many ways of going about it.

The Dumb Way: Take the entire contents of the box, and look for it in the database. Thus if you type in web developer you'll find only the entries that have "web developer" in them. Programming time: About 5 minutes. Pros: None. Cons: Does the exact opposite of what you'd expect.

The Smart Way: Split the contents of the box into words, then look for any of the words in the database. In this case web developer would find "web developer", "webmaster", "web analyst" and "software developer", among other things. Programming time: About 10 minutes. Pros: Makes more sense. Cons: Can return too many useless things.

The Smart Way, With Bonus: Let users search for phrases. When you use Google you can group words together by wrapping them in quote-marks. In this case, searching for web developer will work like the smart way, while "web developer" will only return "web developer". This way you can search for "web developer" "web programmer" to return both those terms. Programming time: About 25 minutes. Pros: Users can be as exact or inexact as they want. Cons: Minor learning-curve problem, but easily solvable.

The Super-Smart Way: Do it the smart way, preferably with the bonus, and rank the returns as they come out of the database. Thus, the most relevant returns (by whichever algorithm you use) are listed first. Programming time: Depends on the algorithm; at least a couple hours. Pros: Extremely useful and maximizes time the users spend using your site. Cons: None.

I've used the smart way (with bonus) on BTEC. The super-smart way would have been overkill for Careerlink since there are better things to sort on (date and location, for starters). Careerlink used the dumb way.


You can also narrow your Careerlink search by location, specifically by county. Some of this stuff will be specific to location searches, but a lot of it applies to any list of non-mutually-exclusive items.

The Dumb Way: Create a drop-down list that can only have one item selected. Either one county is picked and the results are narrowed down, or no county is picked and the entire state is returned. Programming time: Less than 5 minutes. Pros: Well, at least you can do one county. Cons: To search multiple counties you must either repeat the search for each county or search the whole state and manually find the counties you want. Which brings us to...

The Dumb-As-A-Rock Way: Use the one-pick-only list, then don't list the counties in the search results. Programming time: Slightly less than the dumb way. Pros: None. Cons: If you don't want to do the same search multiple times you have to know every municipality/township in each county you're interested in.

The Smart Way: Use a multiple-select list box so users can pick every county they want. Also list counties in the search results if there was more than one county (or the whole state) selected. Programming time: About 15 minutes. Pros: Much easier to use, gives the users more control. Cons: Users don't seem to know how to do a multiple select. So tell them.

The Smart Way, With Bonus: Same as the smart way, but add a clickable map that will select or deselect a county. Programming time: A few hours for the map. Pros: Easy for 'tards like me who don't actually know the names of the counties, and it looks cool. Cons: Lots of effort for a potentially small reward.

The Hella-Smart-I-Want-To-Be-Like-You Way: Have a text area that can recognize either a municipality/township, a county (maybe by looking for the word "county"), or a ZIP code. Have a second textbox to take a number as a radius. Return every employer in the muni/county/ZIP (simple address match) and connect to a GIS database to find every employer within x miles of the region's centroid. Combine the results and remove duplicates. Programming time: Hell if I know. A lot. Pros: Wicked powerful, still pretty simple to use. Cons: Probably takes a long time to program, and requires users to type in place names (people get "Pittsburgh" wrong; think they can get "Duquesne" consistently?)

Anyway, I've done the smart way at Brady before. (Or, I'm pretty sure I have. It's pretty easy.) Careerlink didn't settle for the dumb way; they decided to go whole-hog and do it the dumb-as-a-rock way.

The Results

Quite possibly the most useless search in existence. Add that to the fact that two of the four matches it found in Allegheny County were from Thanksgiving, and I'd be surprised if that site has ever helped someone find a job.

[Permalink 2005-02-21] Beta?

February 21, 2005:

I think Google might be getting ready to de-beta-fy GMail. Some time in the last week my number of available invites jumped from 6 to 50. I don't even think I know 50 people's e-mail addresses.

[Permalink 2005-02-18] Some Data Miner's Gonna Be Confused

February 18, 2005:

I went through a period of a few months when I didn't watch any of the movies in my Netflix queue. I finally got around to watching Donnie Darko, which arrived sometime around November 4th. I wasn't impressed. In fact, I did the skipping-through-hoping-to-find-a-good-part thing. I wound up rating it two stars out of five, just because it was completely weird. Wouldn't watch it again, though.

Someone's gonna be really confused if they go through my rental history and see that I hung on to a bad movie for more than a quarter of a year. Should they ever bother asking me what's up with that, should I give them the boring truth, tell them it fell behind my entertainment center, or say that the movie was so bad I was holding onto it so no other unsuspecting soul would have to watch it?

[Permalink 2005-02-17] Clearing Out the To-Do List

February 17, 2005:

When he was president of the chapter's alumni association, Jim gave me some old house-stuff to scan and place online, preferably in the (as-yet unbuilt) archive portion of the ΔΞ of ΣΤΓ alumni site.

That would've been some time in early 2002, I think. Can't remember if I'd moved out of Loretta St. yet.

But anyway, I'm just now getting around to it. I'm scanning all this stuff at 600dpi, in case someone ever wants to duplicate it, so just this first batch is over 2 gigs already. Good thing I have a DVD burner.

[Permalink 2005-02-15] I Gotta Start Waking Up Earlier

February 15, 2005:

Last week I got a phone call about a freelance project I'm working on. The call came at about 10:00AM. I tried to shake out the cobwebs as best as I could and was able to be at least marginally helpful.

Monday I got another call at 10 in the morning. Lucky me, I checked the caller ID on the phone and saw it wasn't a number I knew. It was a company in Rockville, MD that I sent a resume to a week or so ago. I'd actually written them off when I followed up and had to leave a voicemail in the general box.

Good thing I was able to snap out of it pretty quickly this time; looking at the e-mail I received, I was talking to the company president. I think I made an OK impression. I sent my references, so hopefully I'll be hearing back from them at some point.

[Permalink 2005-02-14] My Yearly Dose of Bitter

February 14, 2005:

Once again it's time for all the happy couples to be absolutely insufferable for a day. So join me, all you single types, in uncapping a beer and raising it to all the couples out there while giving them all your best "fuck y'all muhfuckahs".

Well, at least have the beer.

[Permalink 2005-02-11] An Update on Careerlink

February 11, 2005:

Tuesday I dutifully showed up at the Careerlink office in the old Alcoa Building. Nothing quite as horrible as I was expecting. In fact, it was more useless than anything.

Basically, I filled out a form, watched a stupid little video about the career center, then had one of the people there teach me how to use the search engine. I could have written that goddamn thing and done a better job of it, and someone thought I would need to be taught how to use it.

So I could've saved myself three hours, along with $3.50 in bus fare, had they not been so asininely vague in their letter and just told me what the hell was going on.

But then I could have done everything myself from home in about 20 minutes, and then they wouldn't have been able to count me as someone who had to come in begging for their help.

[Permalink 2005-02-10] Super Bowl 39

February 10, 2005:

Good God that was a horrible game. If someone had told me two weeks ago that the game would be decided by a field goal but I'd want to shut it off by the end of the first quarter I'd have thought they were out of their mind.

Neither quarterback looked ready and made a bunch of bad throws; McNabb was the worse of the two. Both teams took turns making the opposing defense look good. When Philly went 3-and-out for the second time I declared the game over -- the only way to beat New England is to jump on them early and the Eagles weren't doing it. The Pats ran almost at will, something even the Browns could have told them would work against Philadelphia's D.

So, yeah. 24-21. Yay for the Pats, whatever. All I know is that I heard the word "dynasty" at least a dozen times during the last minute and the post-game show, and I agree with Dallas: We need to find a way to instantly punish sportscasters who use that word.

OK, on to the commercials. Pretty weak crop this year. Bud Light's skydiving ad was good, as was the Puff Daddy/Diet Pepsi ad. Got kind of tired of seeing it the third or fourth time it was on, though. The working-with-monkeys ads were funny (monkeys are always funny), but I couldn't tell you what job-hunting site the ads were for.

And now the craptacular ones. The frozen guy in the Mustang? Didn't get funny with repeated viewing. The bikers being intimidated by the SUVs? Blah. And look, it's MC Hammer and he's got bills to pay by the look of things.

I don't know what's worse: That there's no football for six months now, or that the season went out on that pathetic little whimper.

[Permalink 2005-02-08] Perfect Conditions Without Even Trying

February 08, 2005:

You know those pictures that if you stare at them from just the right distance in just the right way, a 3-D image will appear? I've always had trouble with those things -- when I can actually get one of the "holograms" to appear it's usually after a few minutes of trying.

Then APOD put up one of their own. Turns out that given the size of the image and the distance I sit from my monitor, I was able to make the image appear within a few seconds.

[Permalink 2005-02-07] Had to Happen Eventually

February 07, 2005:

(Note: I'm not back from DC yet, so I'm not going to do my Super Bowl write-up just yet. Check back for it, probably on Thursday. Hopefully I'll have something more to write about this year than just the commercials.)

Last Friday I drove down to Washington (PA) for poker and booze. Like every other time we only played for chips, not for money. Usually this is a good thing for me, because I never win.

Friday I did. Came back from being forced all-in three times, usually on the river*, then beat out the guy who had the early lead. It's very satisfying raking in that final batch of chips, even when it doesn't mean anything. Even more satisfying than cleaning out three different people in one pot :)

In the second game my luck ran out. I pulled my own ass out of the fire one last time before the Law of Averages caught up with me and I lost out to Rob.

But hey, if I keep it up I may actually start to look like I know what I'm doing.

* OK, that paragraph probably looks only vaguely like English if you don't play Texas Hold 'Em poker. Being all-in means you're betting your entire pile of chips. Since you have to bet a minimum each time a card is turned up but can bet any amount beyond it, you usually just go all-in if you won't be able to make the next minimum bet. The river is the last (fifth) common card turned up; the flop is the first three common cards that come all at once. I'm pretty sure the fourth card is the turn, but I can't remember for sure.

[Permalink 2005-02-04] Good Thing the Season's Only Half-Over

February 04, 2005:

I finally heard that LeBron James got injured last week. As I write this, the Cavs are 1-1 without him. Checking the Eastern Conference standings, Cleveland is currently the #3 team. If the season were to end today, they would play the #6 seed -- the Bulls.

Luckily, there are still more than 30 games left in the season.

[Permalink 2005-02-03] Oh, Lucky Me

February 03, 2005:

Received in the mail Tuesday:

You have been selected to participate in Pennsylvania's Profile Reemployment Program (PREP). A review of the information you provided when filing for unemployment compensation has indicated that you may benefit from specialized reemployment services....

You are scheduled to attend the PREP Orientation/Assessment session at which time the program will be fully explained to you....

PITTSBURGH, PA 15219-1837
DATE: 02/08/2005
TIME: 9:30 AM

Failure to attend the PREP Orientation/Assessment session or to participate in reemployment services to which you may have been referred may result in your disqualification from unemployment benefits.

Great. So I get to take a bus downtown during rush hour, so I can listen to some bureaucrat wax orgasmic over the exciting career options available in the world of burger-flipping, or possibly clerical work. And if I don't take whatever shit job they drop me into they cancel my unemployment benefits.


[Permalink 2005-02-01] A Golf Book I Can Use

February 01, 2005:

Just got this in an e-mail from my stepfather:

The First Truly Useful Golf Book

Chapters include:

  1. How to relax when you are hitting 3 off the tee
  2. How to get more distance off the shank
  3. How to hit a Nike from the rough when you hit a Titliest off the tee
  4. Proper excuses for drinking beer before 10AM
  5. How to find that ball that everyone else saw go into the water
  6. How to avoid the water when you are laying 8 in the bunker
  7. Crying & how to handle it
  8. How to let a foursome play through your twosome without embarrassment
  9. When to suggest major swing corrections to your opponent
  10. Using your shadow on the green to maximize earnings
  11. God & the meaning of the birdie to bogey 3-putt
  12. How to properly line up your fourth putt
  13. How to rationalize a 6 hour round
  14. Re-gripping your ball retriever

I think that with this book I can make drastic improvements in my game.

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This page last updated Oct 28, 2022 1:08:57 PM.