Some quick stuff I’ve been meaning to cover:

  • After years of being constantly sick, tired, and irritable, I recently discovered I’m lactose-intolerant. I cut the dairy and within 36 hours I feel like a new man.
  • I’m bouncing between working on EMP and libipod in my free time. EMP takes the priority, but I’d like to have full iPod support ready when EMP 1.0 is done.
  • I’m currently addicted to Battlestar Galactica. I never thought I would get used to a female Starbuck, but she rules.
  • Now that I’m feeling better, I’ve started writing again. Not much, but it’s a start.
  • It’s January and we’re under a thunderstorm warning. What the hell is up with that?

I’m still adjusting to life after discovering my lactose-intolerance. It takes getting used to. I am taking lactaid at meals as-needed and that seems to be working. It’s been so long since I felt healthy. For the first time in recent memory, I’m sleeping straight through the night without tossing and turning. It’s a wonderful feeling.

Job Rant

I’m normally not one to rant publicly. It’s kind of long and might be confusing in parts but the gist is there, somewhere. I’ve kept this bottled up for far too long and need an outlet.


I started at this little dot com startup in early 2000. Two years later, the investors backed out and tasked me and two others to shut down the company. We did so, and life moved on. I collected my severance and found a new job.

The night before I start the new job, I get a call from the original owner of the company. He wants to meet with me the following weekend. Shit, nice timing, but okay. I meet with him. Apparently he managed to negotiate a deal where he got the hardware and intellectual property of the former company, so he wanted to restart the business. He (and his partner, also a former part of the old business) wanted to bring me on as employee #1 to get everything back up and help build this new business.

Same salary, less benefits, but lots of promises of stock options, raises, and the like. It couldn’t be worse than my new job (another dot com that didn’t survive long after I left), so I agreed.

Mistake #1: I accepted their excuse that it was too expensive to put things in writing, and their promise that, once things were more stable, they would make things ‘proper’.

So, over the years, things had their ups and downs. I worked lots of long hours. I’d seen a friend of mine (who originally got me hired at the company in the first place) hired and forced out by one particular co-worker who used to be the VP of Development at the old company. Still, I stuck things out, chasing that carrot that they kept dangling in front of me (aka stock options).

Despite this, I still thought I was just being a dedicated employee, doing my job to make the company successful. Still working long hours (occasionally pulling 24-hour shifts to meet deadlines) and putting up with the endless stream of bullshit.

July of 2003, things were busy. Business was looking good and we had lots of work to do. I thought the company was stable and on the right track. We needed to hire another person to keep up, and I suggested Kurt (my fellow moderator) and he got the job. Life was good.

As the months dragged on, things weren’t feeling quite right, but I kept on doing my thing. I had never gotten along with my other co-worker (the former VP) but the tension seemed to be getting worse.

Fast forward to the present, almost a year and a half later.

Kurt was basically forced to quit by the former VP. Every request for hardware is denied arbitrarily, unless it comes from the former VP. I’m back at square one, the only technically competent person at a tech company. I’m not looking forward to these prospects. Throw into that mix a non-compete, non-disclosure, and intellectual property agreement that they’re trying to force me to sign — one that I have serious issues with and we’re playing with fire, baby.

Yesterday, I have a meeting with my two bosses. It started out going over a project I’m working on (one, I might add, that I initiated, and is increasing revenue yet again). We finish discussing that, but they’re still sitting there, looking at me. Uh-oh. Something else is up.

They ask me where I’m at on the contract, and I tell them again that I’m having someone look over it and that I haven’t heard back yet. Then they launch into I can only describe as an inquisition.

They say my refusal to sign the contract has thrown up “big red flags” about my commitment to making the company successful. I never refused to sign their contract. I told them that I had reservations about certain things in it, and I wanted to make sure that my rights were protected. I do contract work at home, after hours, unrelated to the business but under the terms of their contract, they would own the intellectual property of everything I do while employed by them.

Second, they’re trying to make me sign an agreement that’s retroactive to the beginning of my employment without any kind of compensation which, as I understand it, is against the law. When I met with them about it, I told them I wanted my own benefits in writing, such as my stock options, any 401k or profit sharing (which I apparently have, but they are listed as trustees on). They refused, claiming it would cost them $25,000 to have lawyers draw up the papers for it. Well, I smell bullshit right there. He did explain to me how the options would work, though. I have X options. If my employment is terminated, voluntarily or not, the options revert back to the company with no option to execute them on my part. In other words, the only way I can execute my supposed options is if the company sells.

By this point, I’m frustrated. I’ve had verbal promise after promise made and broken or had their terms ‘modified’ at their whim. The only real benefit I have is that they pay half of my health insurance, which I had to get on my own.

Next, they tell me that they question my dedication to the company, because I haven’t responded to their emails after 5pm or on weekends lately. They claim I’m not making my deliverables. They say I’m not “taking ownership” and “making things happen”.

I’m normally a quiet, mild-mannered guy but I’ve been dealing with this shit for way too long.

I start to call them on their bullshit.

If I’m not answering an email after 5pm or on the weekends, it’s because it’s not something I consider high priority, meaning it can wait til the next business day or there’s nothing I can do about it until then. If it’s an emergency, I’ve always put my life on hold to take care of it.

The reason my supposed deadlines haven’t been met is because they have either a) changed the priority of said deadlines or b) refuse to produce the necessary hardware to complete them. Right now, the only pieces of hardware that they’ve supplied me to work is an LCD (after the old piece of crap CRT finally died) and a hard drive to replace the failing one in my personal machine that I use for development. Every single piece of work I’ve done for this company has been on hardware bought and paid for by yours truly.

They challenged my claims of not having enough hardware. I should “find a way to make it happen”. I flat out told them I refuse to use any more of my personal hardware for them.

They weren’t happy being stood up to. I flat out told them that I felt the stock options they’ve been using to hold me were invalid. That they’ve repeatedly made promises to me that they’ve not lived up to. And then to top it all off, they question my commitment and dedication. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m a fucking workaholic. I’m good at what I do, and I do it all the time, day or night. I’ve spent way too many nights and weekends monitoring servers or writing code than I’ll ever be able to recoop.

I was getting angry to the point of being emotional, so I told them that we needed to break until the next day. They pushed that off, and now we’re meeting on Friday, the magical day where employers feel it’s safer to fire people. I’m supposed to come with a list of issues that I want addressed, and I’m assuming they want a signed contract, which I’m still not prepared to sign. The point they kept making about the meeting is that “We need to either fix the issues and move on, or not fix them and not move on.” In other words, I don’t think I’ll have a job after tomorrow.

I’ve already attempted to negotiate changes to their contract. They were willing to change one (which I later discovered language to the same effect elsewhere), and refused to make any other changes. Based on my past experience, I don’t see them being willing to make the changes I need in order to sign it and I don’t see them fixing the problems that I see, because they don’t see them as problems at all.

Christmas is approaching fast, I don’t have a new job lined up (although I am in the process of interviewing now), I’m both nervous and excited. I’m going to be happy to be out of this place once and for all, but I don’t look forward to waking up Monday morning and not having a job lined up and ready to go. I started looking for contract work again, hoping to fill in the gaps, but that kind of thing takes time to land.

Thanks for listening. I feel better now.

Where does the time go?

This past week has been pretty hectic. I’ve spent most of my time working on a ‘Related Search’ engine for work. Basically, if someone searches for ‘cat’, it can suggest alternate searches, such as ‘cat food’, ‘cat toys’, ‘pet care’, etc. It’s a fairly large project — one that I’ve been working on in one shape or form for a year now. My original prototype worked with only a limited subset of data, but worked fairly well. I expect that this new and improved system will work orders of magnitude better.

It’s kind of silly the the way deadlines work. I was supposed to deliver implementation documentation before the system was assembled. I managed to delay that until, you know, we had decided on how we were going to implement it. Then there’s the actual act of deployment; it would be really nice if I had the hardware to deploy it on. Right now, it’s all running off of a single three year old development server with 512M of ram. With a database into the tens of gigabytes (and growing rapidly), this poor server is straining under the load. I just know that the question of when we can actually start selling this service and I’m going to have a minor battle on my hands to get the necessary hardware.

At least I have one thing to look forward to: five days til election day. I hope that there is a clear cut winner by the end of the day. I’m afraid of what will happen if this drags out like last year. I enjoy watching news and debating politics but there’s only so much partisan bickering I can take before I want to move to a shack in Montana and start a letter-writing campaign.

Weekend Bliss and Sleepnessless

I had a business meeting with a client up in Milwaukee on Saturday, so Dena and I jumped in the jeep and headed up north. We headed over to my friend Nate’s penthouse overlooking downtown Milwaukee. We hung out for a bit while we waited for the meeting (which ended up being delayed a few hours). Eventually we left to meet up at the office for our meeting, which was short but productive. My favorite kind of meeting. While we were there I was given a gift* of a Treo 600 smartphone. The only catch is that, after I learn how to use it, I have to teach my client, Rick, how to use it. No big deal and I get to dump my crappy phone in the process.

Afterwards, Nate, Rick, and I met up for drinks with our significant others at Aqua. After a couple rounds, Rick and his lady left for a previously scheduled dinner, but not before arranging for reservations for dinner for us, Nate, and his wife. We sat down and enjoyed a very nice dinner. I tried a Kobe steak for the first time, which was pretty good. We were just finishing our meal and preparing to say no to dessert when the manager came over to our table, set down a plate containing a flourless chocolate cake and homemade cheesecake and told us that Rick had taken care of the bill for us, and the dessert was on the house. We were all a bit taken back at Rick’s generosity. It’s one thing to find a client that’s not afraid to spend money to get results; it’s another thing entirely to find one that’s also this thoughtful.

We got home around midnight and played with the dog for a bit. I was hoping to sleep in, but the dog had to go out around 5am, and Dena woke up shortly after. We managed to take a few hour nap later in the morning, but we probably feel worse now than if we’d just stayed awake. We’re taking it easy the rest of the day, watching movies and playing with the Treo.

* bribe

Fractured self: putting Humpty Dumpty back together again.

I’ve tried to keep seperate my interests in technology and writing, going to far as to keep two seperate blogs dedicated to each. On one I would the technology of the day and the projects I was working on. On the other, this one, I would talk about more personal issues, about writing and other flights of fancy. I feel that the day has come to stand united, not divided.

From today onward, no more holding back, no more filtering who I am. I’m going to merge the posts from battleaxe.net into this system and finally do what I’ve needed to do with that site for a long time, turn it into a presence for the business I’ve been struggling with for the past year. A clear sense of identity leads to purpose to progress and hopefully, success.

1 week, 19 hours, and 47 seconds

I’ve learned a very valuable and mildly expensive lesson this week: never let my domain registration expire.

I was trying to upload a file for someone on October 31st, Halloween, when my FTP decided to throw the ghastly error “host not found”. I said to myself, “Self, how is that possible?”. I host my own servers, run my own DNS and generally keep track of everything myself. The sinking feeling in my gut told me this wasn’t good and boy was it right. My domain registration had lapsed.

Unfortunately, I had neglected to update the contact information on my domain. My registrar’s plea for more money fell on deaf ears so to speak; the out-of-date email address listed as my primary method of contact was beyond my reach. When I realized that the domain had expired, it had been more than a month. My registrar, Register.com (who I hate with a passion), had released the name back to the dot org registry, forcing me to not only pay their $35 yearly registration fee, but an additional $200 to “recover” the name. I could risk letting it be released to the public and re-register it at GoDaddy, but it was schedule for release on December 5th, when I would be in New Zealand. Not only that, but all of my personal email was bouncing and the thought of all of that unreached spam made me sad.

So now I’m back, for better or worse. Did you miss me?

The road once traveled

There is a certain peace that settles over me when I watch the gentle fall of an autumn rain. It puts me in a reflective mood; my attention focused on the road behind me, rather than the path that lies ahead.

There are many things in life that can lead to regret. All of us are faced with challenges in life. When we meet this crossroads, some opt for the clear and easy path, while others choose the one less traveled. Honest reflection is not always an easy or pleasant experience, but it is necessary for growth.

The past month has been a challenging one for me. For a long time I believed that I was capable of facing any threat by myself, with no outside help. This fallacy led me down a dark and dangerous path. When I reached the end of that road, I found myself alone in a frightening place, seperated from those who love me by a wall of my own creation. I came to the end of that path to destruction and paused to look at the trail behind me and the horror of it shocked my senses.

I honestly don’t know how long I was ill. Depression is surely an illness, as dangerous and deadly as cancer. With early diagnosys and treatment, the prognosis for a long and healthy live is good. The longer the evil is left to fester and boil, the more unlikely your recovery. Looking back, I can only say that I suffered, mildly, through much of my teenage years. The events of my late teens and early twenties sunk me to a new low – one that I still have not fully recovered from. Only now, in the twilight of my twenties, do I see my previous path for what it was – a desperate struggle for survival.

It is difficult to look back and see how my past behavior and actions have effected those around me, like the wake of a passing ship. I have always told myself to look forward and not behind. The past is gone and cannot be changed and as such, regret has no place for me. Oh how naive I was.

What is regret if not a mechanism for us to grow? By depriving myself of thoughts of regret, even in reflection, I robbed myself of the experience of living. To live means to make mistakes, but to truely live life to its fullest is to learn from those mistakes and become a better person for them. Now I can look back with a peculiar sadness and know what regret truely is. I cannot change the past. It is past, slipped out of reach like sand in an hourglass. What I can do, however, is learn from it. For the first time in my adult memory I can smile and laugh without it merely being a mask used to hide the sadness within. I know that I cannot change what has happened, nor would I want to. They shaped the person I have become.

A little over a month ago I stood before a great fork in the road. Down one path, one that looked familiar to me, the way grew dark until I could no longer see the end in sight. Some tickle of memory told me that something was not right, but I could not place my finger on it. Looking down the alternate road, I saw a path thick and teeming with life. I could not see the end of that fork but it was warm and bright. In a single lucid moment of reflection, like a flash of insight I came to a startling revelation. All the while I had thought I was taking the road less traveled, I was actually following the same path, deeper and deeper, darker and darker, until I could no longer see any other way. I could either follow that familiar friend to my destruction or I could take the fork in the road, the real road less traveled, and begin the real journey.

The road I once traveled is now behind me. If I turn back I can still see it in the distance, but I have finally reached the road I was meant to walk. I don’t know how or why those around me managed to tolerate the dark cloud that frequently hid the sunshine from my path. I regret the difficulty and pain it must have caused them. The only thing I can do now, with each step forward, is be a better man, and listen to my fellow travelers. The road may be long, but it doesn’t have to be lonely.

The arrival of Dora

Dena and I have been cautiously looking around for puppies lately. We had a bad experience with a dog from a pet store, so we looked at alternative sources. We weren’t concerned about getting a “purebred” pup. We just wanted a puppy with a clean slate, so to speak. Tabula Rasa, doggie-style. So our journey began.
We visited the local animal shelters, but had concerns about getting an older dog that has already learned habits that may be difficult if not impossible to reverse. We had already ruled out pet stores, so that left private sources. Ideally, we wanted a puppy from a farm. The hope with a farm pup is that it’s been around other animals and should behave well with our cats. We drove around the country watching for signs, checked the local paper, etc. Our luck broke Saturday night when Dena found an ad online advertising blue heeler/border collie mix puppies. If you’ve ever tried to get a puppy from a newspaper ad, you learn one thing: call quickly because they go quickly. An elderly man answered, and told me they had one left. He was gratious enough to entertain us that night. We jumped in the car and make the drive, about 70 miles, to the small down of Odell. I knew it was a good sign when he led us down to his barn. We walked through the barn, past several occupied horse stalls, and our host stopped at the last stall and opened the door. He pulled the door open and out ran this little pup, ignoring a wandering cat, and leapt into our arms. She stole our hearts right then and there.

We made the trek back home, making a few stops to find an open store that sold a leash, collar and other necessities. Sunday was another eventful day. We visited family and went to a parade celebrating the 150th anniversary of Rochelle, IL (my “home town”, I suppose). Our new pup, Dora, sat with us during the parade, watching the procession without a peep. She even seems to enjoy riding in the car. Best of all, she has a very non-aggressive approach with the cats. She sniffed at them a little, but has otherwise given them their space. My biggest fear was introducing a puppy into the house and alienating the cats, but it looks like those fears are proved baseless.

I’m rambling a bit now, but I have a sleeping puppy drooling on my arm and it’s proving to be a slight distraction. Here is a picture of Dora, taken just after we got her home Saturday night. I’ll eventually get a photo gallery setup for her. I suspect she’ll be very photogenic.

Ready to rock

I’m finally starting to feel like things are getting back to normal. I don’t feel great, but well enough. It’s a day to day sort of thing, but at least each days gets a little better than the last.

I’ve picked up my pen and started writing again. I’ve given up on having submissions ready for the Van Helsing anthology or the ISFiC Writers Contest. As much as these interest me, the events of the past few months have killed my productivity and there isn’t enough time left for me to give it the attention it deserves. Instead I’m moving on to a new short story. I don’t have a title for the new story yet. It’s a science fiction piece dealing with the ultimate evolution of artificial intelligence. It feels good to work on something new. I have a few stories that have been sitting on my desk waiting for revisions for ages but for now I feel the need for something fresh.

From zero to sixty through a butteryfly needle

Last week, when I was diagnosed with depression, the doctor also ordered some bloodwork to test my thyroid. He was concerned about my weight gain, which could have been a side-effect of an abnormally functioning thyroid (as well as the depression). My thyroid test came back okay, but there was a red flag. My blood sugar was higher than it should have been. I had a sweet breakfast that morning and I thought that must have been the cause of the high test results.

After an eight hour fast I had more blood drawn yesterday. It was, as always, a painful experience. I have always had deep veins in my arms and the most reliable way to get a good draw is to use one from my hand – using the butterfly needle. It makes the experience one to remember.

The nurse called with the results today; they weren’t what I was expecting. My blood sugar was lower than the first test, but not low enough. They’ve diagnosed (oh how I am beginning to dislike that word) me with borderline diabetes. It’s something that runs in my family but I never considered to be a possibility. There is a long, rough road ahead of me now. I’ve always been on the heavy side. It’s gotten out of hand over the past few years, though, and this medical issue are a direct result of that. The doctor has put me on a diet of 1,500 calories a day, with the goal of eventually losing 100 pounds.

I’m viewing this as an opportunity. I’m lucky that this was detected now and not in ten years when it could be full-blown diabetes. It’s reversible now. This requires a severe lifestyle change. The way I live and eat has to change. It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be a challenge unlike any other I’ve faced but, with the support of family and friends, I know I can get get through it and I will be better for it.