Current Bologs: Page 193 of 194

To the tune of The Conga

Thursday, December 06 2007 22:32 EST

(altogether now)
Veg's got a new job
Veg's got a new job
Da daa daa daaa (hey!)
Da daa daa daaa (hey!)

Veg's got a new job
Veg's got a new job
Da daa daa daaa (hey!)
Da daa daa daaa (hey!)

Sorry...but after two months of what I can only describe as "pissing about", getting a concrete offer is really rather comforting.

Weirdly the job isn't for any of the companies that I have been already involved in "pissing about" with. I had an interview this morning, really liked the company, and got an offer this afternoon! Funny old world.

Humph is looking really sad and ill. We're very worried but she's on so many drugs now that there's not much more we can do. Keep fighting little bird. I want to celebrate the job but the sight of that poor sad little face is really painful.
Current sounds: Charles Sawtelle
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Pythagoras' Pizza

Wednesday, December 05 2007 03:38 EST

The second interview with one of my favourite companies took place this afternoon. Apart from answering the same questions that I've had to answer multiple times for each employer so far, I was asked a couple of 'thought problems' as well: the problem of Pythagoras' Pizzas, and the issue of Fibonacci's recursive staircase.

I've no idea how I did today but I feel so exhausted with smiling, answering the same questions time and time again, formulating new questions to ask, and just smiling, that I nearly fell apart. The worry of Humph is also playing on the minds of both Michele and me, and we really could do with many billions of dollars. That way we could just spend our lives fucking about and looking after our dear parrot.

During the interview with one of the tech guys I asked if the company had a canteen. He looked nonplussed. "A restaurant sort of thing" I added, in the hope of quashing any apparent Anglicism. He laughed!

So, while Michele was driving me home, I tried a simple experiment by telling her that "I asked someone whether they had a canteen there." She laughed hysterically and it was a miracle we didn't drive into the central reservation.

When we got home we related the, seemingly innocuous, question to her mum. She laughed so much I thought she was going to hurt herself!

What is so funny about the word "canteen" ?

Answers on an e-card please.
Current sounds: UNKLE
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Complexity

Tuesday, December 04 2007 04:28 EST

Warning: this is technical and potentially quite tedious.

The "technical quiz" I mentioned in the previous post was received on Saturday night. Initially it seemed to be a straightforward, simple, problem solving exercise. I had to write a program that took a couple of files as input, process them, and produce some output. Proper computing! Of course, once I got involved in the task I realised that it was a lot more complex than it appeared and was going to involve difficult sums and everything. It's been a while since I've dabbled with discrete mathematics and so it took some time to acclimatise. To cut a long and extremely tedious story short, I was reminded of why algorithmic complexity matters and how much difference it makes. In a nutshell I initially solved the problem with an O(nn) algorithm. It worked, and produced the correct results, but extending the input set to around 20 made it unfeasible, even on a fast machine:

2020 = 104857600000000000000000000

After some gentle prodding from my inquisitors I realised that there already existed many solutions to the same problem, discovered by some very clever bastards, that solved exactly the same problem in far more efficient ways. The best was in O(n3). This means that running the same 20 set took less than a second:

203 = 8000

What does this mean ? Well to me, it means:
  • Big numbers are confusing, even to smug gits like me who think they understand them.
  • Cryptanalysis is hard.
  • Wizards really do exist, but they call themselves Mathematicians.
  • I will never understand math(s), but I'll always love it.
This task kept my brain busy and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was like giving my brain a little shower. Now I've finished it there's a big hole in my cerebral process table, and I feel a little bit hollow.

Humph's health deteriorated this weekend and so today we had to take her for another visit to the vets in Cherry Hill. She's fighting through it though, like the tough little bird she is. But the worry of that, combined with some sad news from my homeland, and the gap left by the technical problem, are making me feel a little low.

It'll pass.

Current sounds: Black Sabbath/ZZ Top/JJ Cale/ACDC/Jungle Brothers
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Jobbies

Saturday, December 01 2007 02:42 EST

Here's one that will surprise non-Americans: after a job interview in the States it is customary to send "thank you" notes to the people who interviewed you. No really! And they have to sound grateful and excited to the point of obsequiousness. In twenty four hours I had three job interviews and so I'm expected to send three sets of thank you messages. After I sent the first one I felt so ridiculous that I couldn't bear to send another. Luckily, one of the companies had such tedious requirements for new recruits that I asked my poor recruiter to tell them to get stuffed. Boom - no need for a "thank you" there either. In all honesty I was already irritated with them even before we spoke; they had asked me to answer a bunch of vague questions on paper which took about three times as long to complete than if they'd asked me in person. Nonetheless when they called me for a "technical interview" I was quite pleased; at least it showed they had some idea about employing technical people.
But the technical interview actually consisted of a fifteen minute chat during which I was told they were going to ask me to write some software to prove I knew PHP. He briefly outlined the task during the call and it sounded effectively like a "hello world" type application . But then it all went a bit weird.

"When I was asked to do this task I spent about 30 or 40 hours on it"

he told me. I couldn't believe what he was suggesting.

"But you don't have to spend anywhere near as long on it."

he added redundantly. After further questioning I inferred that rather than being a straightforward problem solving exercise I was supposed to use it as a method of writing an extraordinarily bloated piece of bragware that proved I could write OO/MVC code. He also wanted UML diagrams...of this "hello world" type app.

Let me tell you, if I asked a programmer to produce some code that did something simple like that and he even suggested producing a UML diagram, I would dispatch him from my office with a caterpillar boot lodged in his ringpiece...and then I'd invoice him for the missing shoe.

After the call I seriously considered attempting this pointless task until I realised that in fact he could fucking well fuck off and take his fucking stupid attitude with him. It wasn't like I was applying to Google! This may sound like an overreaction but there were other things about the company and his attitude that, even given my normal lack of discretion, I hesitate to mention here.

Still - I have a second interview lined up with one of the other companies on Tuesday and a technical quiz to undertake for the other this weekend. I don't mind proving I know what I claim to know, in fact I prefer it as it demonstrates that the company has a clue. But I do object to being asked to spend several hours (it would probably have take around 4 hours if I'd done a decent job of it) jumping through stupid hoops to prove I can bloat code.

One of the companies has an interest in social networks and so, without thinking it through, I mentioned that I'd written a Facebook app. Obviously, they wanted to see it...so I I showed them...Ploppy...
It was a potentially foolhardy gamble, but I think it paid off; I'm still in the running and the feedback to my recruiter was all positive. Even though they've seen that I have a sense of humour on a level with an 11 year old boy.
Current sounds: Jungle Brothers
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The law, the news and the American way

Wednesday, November 28 2007 04:47 EST

As someone who grew up in South East London and used to travel exclusively by bus and minicab let me tell you: I've seen some shit driving in my time. Sunday morning in Plumstead is a really good place to try and commit suicide - just leave the house and wait by a road.

Despite this experience, I have to say that I have never seen driving quite as shit as that perpetrated by the people of North Ea(s)t America. In fairness the quality of the road surfaces, the diabolical signage and the organisation is pretty shit to start off with, but nothing compares to the shitty shitness of the drivers.

Every simple journey we undertake is a collage of scary moments involving impatient, unthinking, morons who seem to assume that the reason you're not moving fast enough is because you "like the slow." They cut in and out of the lanes like they're the only ones who see a way through. They flash and hoot (honk) as they drive two inches away from your tail to alert you to their urgent need to be where they are going - seemingly oblivious to the physics that are currently preventing them. Maybe they're all Christian nutjobs who deny physics as witchcraft; quite possibly, thinking about it. Would explain a lot.

But watching the news gives us a deeper insight into this mindset than we really want to have. For example, this evening we were watching ACTION NEWS - the local ABC news programme, and the only one I have any time for in fact. Jim Gardener, or whatever the coiffured, avuncular, anchor was called, told a story about a terrible accident on the PA turnpike (a motorway) that had involved at least one fatality. He described it as

"A nightmare for commuters."

Yeah that blood on the road really can attenuate the traction of your tires...

On a later 6abc broadcast the top billing was given to a bunch of hardened criminal BASTARDS who were turning over Coca-cola machines in the area using a key taken from an impression (probably obtained during some "flexible working contract" in the recent past). Can you imagine ? All of the money that rightly belongs to the philanthropists at Coca-cola getting taken by a couple of men using keys! Shoot to kill!
About three stories later was the story of a homeless person who had been set on fire by a couple of kids. But don't worry; no money from coca-cola was endangered at any time during the burning process.

We watched Network tonight, and if you haven't already then you really, really should.
Current sounds: Charlie Mingus
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The Cave of Kelpius

Saturday, November 24 2007 00:27 EST

My first ever thanksgiving was truly lovely. It was pretty much as anticipated: loads of excellent food, loads of nice drink and lots of jocular family banter.
I even managed to get thrashed at chess a couple of times; there'll be more about the chess thing later.
The only grey spot on the day was Humph; she's still not a well bird, after after the excitement of the day, complete with all of the parrot scaring events, Michele and I were convinced she was about to cock her little legs up. So much so that we went to bed very teary. We weren't sure if it was the events of the day, the amateurishly administered injection, or the infection, but she was very weak and sad by bedtime.

This morning we were delighted to see our plucky parrot was not only still alive, but looking really quite chipper. She ate and drank loads (which is apparently a good sign), came out of the cage (likewise) and then as the morning progressed we picked her up and stabbed her in the chest with a needle again. Poor little love. This time she didn't scream too much, and call me a simpleton, but I'm convinced she now realises that getting towelled and stabbed by us is not going to result in anything serious. She bit away at the towel, but stopped screaming after the first few bursts. This was the last injection, but we now have to give a twice daily dose of yucky medicine...from a syringe. She'll be ok.

After our disgracefully large intake of food and drink yesterday Michele and I decided to go for a wander through the beautiful tail-end of Autumn.

To make it more interesting, and because it's something I've wanted to do for a while, we decided to try and find the Cave of Kelpius. We walked three or four miles, through some dense, raw, and very beautiful woodland and across some very steep hillsides until we stumbled upon it! Just where Google earth said it was.

A lovely walk, followed by a lovely dinner of thanksgiving leftovers. Humph is still getting better.
Current sounds: Prokofiev
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My shoe is off.
My foot is cold.
I have a bird I liked to hold.
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This pointless blog has been in existence since 2002. Some of the early material has been maturing for quite a while, yet it still remains very immature. Feel free to sample some of the aged wares.


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