Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Spam Bad, Soup Good

Want to sign up for things on the Internet without getting years worth of spam? Check out spamgourmet. It allows you to create disposable addresses where you specify how many e-mails you want. For example, after signing up at spamgourmet, you can go to the Guinness website and sign up for your free magnet. If your spamgourmet username is BiornNittmot, then you can give your e-mail address as: guinessmagnet.1.BironMittmot@spamgourmet.com. By specifying the "1", you are telling spamgourmet to forward you, at most, 1 e-mail that is sent to this address. If Guinness keeps sending you e-mail to this address, you never have to see it -- it is thrown away by spamgourmet before ever arriving in your e-mail inbox! If this doesn't make sense, it may be because I'm on my first cup of coffee. Just go to spamgourmet and read their description.

Another place to visit today is Campbell's Chunky Soup website. By clicking on your favorite NFL team (or the one with the prettiest helmet), they will donate a can of soup to a hunger relief charity. I hope they don't donate the one's that need milk -- Alta Dena is not currently giving away its product.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Great Stocking Stuffer

Need a gift for your favorite hater of Resident Bush? Get them a handy "Pants On Fire" doll! This collectible, limited edition 17-inch high figure of George Bush with his Pants on Fire is just the gift for all those special people in your life. The cloth and vinyl doll is even attached to a suction cup so he can dangle from your window or computer monitor. It commemorates TrueMajorityACTION's PantsOnFire campaign and helps spread an important message: calling George Bush on his lies -- but with humor and whimsy.

The doll is only $11.95 - but order by Nov 28th for a holiday delivery (speedy delivery!). If the doll isn't your style, check out the sticker, it is way cool!

Friday, November 14, 2003

Deal: Civilization 3

Today's Friday Sale at Amazon includes the PC game Civilization 3 for only $7.99.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Job Update

First of all, thanks for the kind words and support. I really appreciate it.

I met with my boss' boss yesterday to discuss the situation. I was told that the purpose of the meeting was to find out what I can do to get promoted. Before the meeting, I read through the engineer job descriptions. I am a "level 2", which is ridiculously low for what I do. From what I read, I am at LEAST a 3, possibly a 4.

So, in the meeting I started out by saying something like "Before we get in to what I need to do, I want to look at what I currently do vs. the job descriptions and find out where I stand." So, he starts talking about how I will have opportunities in the future to lead projects, have increasing responsibility, etc. But, I say, I am already doing that! I have been doing that for years here! All he has to do is read my Performance Reviews and he will see all of that. He continues to backpedal, etc., etc. I keep reiterating my position. He didn't have much of a leg to stand on. He says that he has no way of telling what level I should be at since he doesn't know me too well. I tell him that is because the company reorganizes every six months and management constantly changes -- I shouldn't be penalized for this. Slowly, he seems more convinced that I am making good points and that I should not have to wait another year for this to happen.

Finally, he says that he doesn't know what he can do. I say, incredulously, "I do. All of my Performance Reviews should be on file. Read them, compare them to the job descriptions, talk to my manager, and then tell me where I stand." He agrees that this should be done. "I'll get back to you in about 6 months", he jokes.

After the meeting, my boss said that I did a good job with my case. He thinks I am in a better position now than before the meeting. Whether anything will actually happen is another issue -- I still don't have much confidence in it. I can't help but feel like management will be trying hard to make against promoting me; doing otherwise would admit defeat. I know this is cynical, but I think I have reason to be in this case.

Overall, though, I feel better today than I have the last couple of days. I actually slept last night :) Standing up for myself is not something that comes easily to me, so I am proud of myself for doing that. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Thank You Sir, May I Have Another

Until now, most of our blog entries have been links with some commentary. This post is different. Normally, I don't feel the need to post personal stories, but I need to vent. I'm a pretty modest guy, partially due to a low self-esteem and partially due to the fact that I don't usually need validation from others to be happy. This post flies in the face of all of that -- thanks for indulging me.

I had my Performance Review yesterday at work. I have no problem with the review itself -- in fact, it is glowing. I have never had a less than stellar review, at my current or any former employers. I don't think that this is because I am so smart, but because I work hard. I think I have some qualities that the bulk of software engineers don't have -- strong organizational skills, the ability to communicate with others, being able to see the "whole picture", the desire to provide a high level of support, and a personal aspiration for quality and project success. Year after year, my Performance Reviews point all of this out. However, these Performance Reviews are apparently just to stick in a file somewhere. Although I consistently do an above average job, I am not compensated accordingly.

Here's an example of my work ethic. Two months ago, three programmers, including me, were put on a new project. One guy was assigned to do the database work, while the other guy and I were to do the middle-tier component (API). I know this might make much sense to some of you, but stick with me. Soon after, the guy who was going to be sharing the API duties with me was pulled off to something else.

Like most projects here, this one had a short implementation schedule and the requirements changed constantly. The first delivery of this program was yesterday -- incidentally, the same day as my Performance Review. With one-third of our team essentially removed from the project, guess who had to pick up the slack? I didn't complain about it; that kind of stuff happens all of the time. Instead of drawing this out even more, I will list what I have done in the last two months:

I'm sure I'm missing stuff, but that gives you an idea of what I am asked to do versus what I actually do. Although I was not given the task of team lead, I essentially played this role. This may not mean a lot to a lot of you, but I want to point out that other teams usually have multiple developers, documentation people, quality assurance people (testers), and build/install people. I did all of this work myself, with the exception of the database code. Even though a person was removed from our team, I was able to deliver all of this on time. The quality will not suffer either; historically, the code I write has very few bugs.

The above example is not different for me; this is the way I have always performed here. There used to be no way for our developers to share information, so I developed an online resource on my own time a few years ago that is still used to this day. I am still asked by a department that I worked for 2.5 years ago for advice and estimates. I frequently help out in areas in which I don't work. I could go on, but I'm sure I'm boring you.

Maybe this isn't such a huge deal -- I just did what I needed to do for the project to be successful. The big deal is that this is not the norm here; I find that most of the people here do only what they are asked to do and no more.

The problem is that my company does not reward such behavior. I am continually rated by management at the top or near the top of my colleagues. However, there is a clear gap between salary and those of my colleagues -- I make less. Don't get me wrong, I make a good salary and feel fortunate to make so much. However, it irks me to see my coworkers get more money for doing less. It irks me even more to know that management is aware of the situation, but does nothing to change things. They can have all of the internal and industry salary reviews that they want, but they don't do much good if they are never acted upon.

My immediate boss is not to blame here; he has been trying to correlate these two lists, but management higher-up doesn't seem to care. Year after year I'm told that my situation will change, but they never do. The only thing that changes is the organization. We are constantly being "restructured" as more and more levels of management are added. My boss did a great job on a project I was working on, so they put him on a different project that needed a lot of help. In the meantime, they added two layers of management. He now has no authority to make the decisions necessary to turn the ailing project around. As he told me yesterday, "I have to get approval to tie my shoes." This constant restructuring brings constant change in management which doesn't recognize the past achievements of their minions.

My boss recognizes this and has setup a meeting for us and his boss to outline what I need to get promoted. The problem is, I don't know if I'm even interested in trying anymore. It's just been going on too long. Based on past experiences here, I have no confidence that this will change anything. You can't keep beating a dog and be surprised that he flinches when you offer him a bone. I wonder if this signals the end of my happiness at this job. I will continue to work hard and do the best job that I can, because that is the kind of person I am. However, I don't know how long it can last. I have a feeling that I will soon be searching for a job where I once again have the illusion of working for a company that cares about its employees.

As I laid awake last night unable to sleep, I couldn't stop thinking about a quote from the late musician Kevin Gilbert:

"I guess I lost my taste for your carrot in my face."

Monday, November 10, 2003

The Healing Power of Chocolate

Green Tea too fishy for you? Red wine get in your breastmilk and make your baby crabby? Try Hot Cocoa for your daily dose of antioxidants.

"Using special analytical techniques to evaluate the total antioxidant content in each beverage, the researchers showed that, on a per serving basis, the antioxidant concentration in cocoa was the highest: It was almost 2 times stronger than red wine, 2-3 times stronger than green tea, and 4-5 times stronger than that of black tea."

Worried about the fat? "Antioxidant-rich cocoa is also found in many different products including desserts, sauces, liqueurs and candy bars, which differ widely in their cocoa content. But when given a choice between getting your antioxidant fix from a cup of cocoa or a candy bar, it is better to go with the drinkable stuff, says Lee. A normal 40-gram bar of chocolate contains about 8 grams of saturated fat, compared to only 0.3 grams in an average cup of hot cocoa, he notes."

Bottoms up!

Sunday, November 09, 2003


So I heard a clip on NPR from Bush's speech about the Partial Birth Abortion Ban.... here is what I heard: America stands for liberty, for the pursuit of happiness and for the unalienable right of life. And the most basic duty of government is to defend the life of the innocent. Every person, however frail or vulnerable, has a place and a purpose in this world. Every person has a special dignity. This right to life cannot be granted or denied by government, because it does not come from government, it comes from the Creator of life. (emphasis mine).

So, if the right to life cannot be granted or denied by government, then what the hell are they doing debating about it? Signing things into law? ??? WTF? It is interesting how in other countries, abortion isn't a political issue, but a medical one. Maybe we should try that out...

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Surfs Up!

I used to waste hours of time at work surfing the web (now I just do it at home! Sorry O!). You surf at work too, you say? print this out and give it to HR!

"According to research, doing personal Web surfing while on the job can lead to better time management, stress reduction, improvement of skill sets and helping to achieve a balance between work and personal life."

[updated link 11/07/03 because the Porterville Record took it off their website -- DA]

Monday, November 03, 2003

Take A Load Off Granny

Looks like I better stop taking advantage of our live-in Grandma! This study says that "elderly women have a 55% increased risk of heart disease if they take care of children at least 9 hours a day".

"We found that providing child care for just a few hours a day greatly increased risk of heart disease," author Sunmin Lee, an epidemiologist with Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston , tells WebMD.

The study focuses on 13,392 women caring for grandchildren, the women were all around age 60."

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