Google Calendar Sync

For those who are fans of Google Calendar and Outlook’s calendar, Google now offers Google Calendar Sync.

From their website:

Access your calendar however and whenever you want. Check your Microsoft Outlook events on the go with Google Calendar. View your Google Calendar information offline through Microsoft Outlook calendar.

If you’re interested, check it out at Google Calendar Sync: Getting Started.

Minnesota Mayhem

If you live in the Minneapolis / St. Paul area, you should check out the trains. A number of them have big South Dakota advertisements on them. It’s all part of a Lawrence & Schiller ad campaign for tourism. If you’re a Minnesota native (or resident) looking for a cool SD vacation, check out the TravelSD.com/Minnesota landing page. Besides, it’s hard to argue how cool those trains look.

I Got A New Job

L&S

Guess who’s re-employed? Me! Before Christmas, I had interviewed with two companies and had gotten two offers. One company was a smaller, web-centered, IT place. The other was a PR and marketing firm with a large web development department. I took a long time making my decision, crunching numbers, trying to decide what I absolutely needed to live on. There were a lot of factors to consider: the new apartment (which is a considerable change in rent charge), getting married, new bills, the possibility of a second income, and more. I finally accepted an offer from Lawrence & Schiller, the PR and marketing company, and they’ve welcomed me with open arms.

I really enjoy it there. It’s a great working environment that has the stability of a large company but the flexibility of a small company. I do web-related and programming-related tasks mostly. It was a slow first week, but it has now ramped up pretty well.

The only redeemable quality that my old job had was the people. I was good friends with everyone involved, and there were only a few of us, so that made us even tighter. I wondered how (and if) I would make friendships at my new place, but it’s still small enough that I had all kinds of people giving me wedding advice and asking how things went.

I love my new job.

I Lost My Job

Morale was low, and geeks with low morale only ever think about World of Warcraft. That is, except for myself. I, of course, was spending my time thinking of ways to be a better almost-husband. It was Monday, December 3rd, and I got into the office a little late. The drive to Sioux Falls was getting worse and worse, and I was despising the job more and more. And yet, I was loyal. I was setting my stuff down when Mike walked in.

“You’re late, so you’re fired,” he mused, humorlessly, as he entered the room. I knew by the tone of his voice that he was serious. When Mike has particularly bad news, he tends to break it with a shocking pseudo-joke which he follows up with a “No, really.” statement. He’s always had a way with easing into bad news.

The Sioux Falls branch of The CERTUS Company (hereby dubbed Certastrophe) was being shut down, and we had all been laid off. This five-man massacre was following hot on the heels of a four-man culling that took place a couple months earlier. What it meant for the other branches of the company, and John Webster, himself, I knew not. Nor did I care. Looking around the room, no one looked surprised, but no one looked happy either.

I put everything that I’d brought or owned into a plastic bag, forgetting some things I had in the fridge, and I drove all the way back to Madison. It was a long trip. The first thing that happens when you lose your job is that everyone you tell apologizes for not knowing of any job openings or they give you advice. Which is nice if it’s your first unemployment (like mine) but would probably get old if I keep losing my job.

I did try getting unemployment insurance benefits, but that was a fiasco. I tried using the draconian website, created strictly for use with Windows and Internet Explorer, and when I got all done with it, it didn’t work. Instead of allowing me to resubmit the form to correct errors, they instead chose to mail me the problems and ask me to mail back the corrections. On top of that, I accidentally put my gender down as female. So, I hate unemployment insurance, and I never did get any money from the government.

I did finally get motivated to make a resume website, the design of which I’ve since become ashamed of, but the structure of which I’m very proud of. I’ll let you know how the job search is going later.

Stressed Out in Seattle

Me

Let me paint a picture. You’re knee-deep in Paid Time Off (PTO), ready for your brother’s wedding. You check your work e-mail, advised by your boss, and discover that, instead of going to work on Monday, you’ll be driving to Minneapolis so that you can fly to Seattle. For a week.

I can’t say much (I’m sure) about the job itself, but I’m glad to be back. Matt Wilson, a recent hire who I am mentor to, was flown out to Seattle weeks ago. So long ago, in fact, that we all thought he’d died. He greeted us at the airport. Us was myself, Sang Kwon, and Carl Ware. Both Sang (pronounced “sung”) and Carl (pronounced “car-uhl”) are new hires. They were brought on to help Matt with development and I was brought on to do Readiness Materials.

Readiness Materials, near as I can tell, are tutorials, manuals. They are the flashy, fancy bits of paper that talk about the product by telling you how to do things. This is the sort of task with which I have been increasingly assigned, and which I am increasingly getting tired of. On one hand, it’s a nice creative outlet. Designing one of our User Guides within The CERTUS Company requires photography, print design, technical writing, and functionality knowledge. It also requires a lot of patience. It is slow, painful work. Yet I do it, and I apparently do it well enough.

This is what I did out in Seattle. We worked long days, often twelve hours. Friday we “skipped out early” at six o’clock, and Saturday we only did half a day. I can’t help but say how long it was. It was very long. We worked with a ten foot tall Dutchman from Microsoft named Julius. He often promised that we’d get to meet Bill Gates. While we did visit the store, and I got a copy of Vista, there was no Bill anywhere. I emailed him every day, to no avail.

Carl wanted to be mentioned in this post, so I’ll say his name again.

People in Seattle don’t like pictures. I got yelled at by a gas station attendant (and you can see him looking at me if you zoom in on the photo) and, after snapping this shot, I learned that photos within the Microsoft buildings is also illegal.

On Saturday we went out into the city, which is beautiful. I was taken by the plant growth in the city. There were trees and gardens everywhere, which I really liked. Also, there is water. John Webster is accredited with saying that South Dakotans like the water, and, for myself, it’s true. I loved eating on the lake. We didn’t do much for sight-seeing, just some “clubbing” and hanging-out downtown. Then I headed home at 7am, to eventually get to Watertown, where my glorious fiance would pick me up and drive me home.

Check out pictures in my Stressed Out in Seattle – July 2007 set.

It’s Training Men 1

But, Miles! You already made a post with this name! Shouldn’t this be number 2? Well, obviously, the first post was It’s Training Men 0, but in addition, the 0 is the identity, and it’s understood, and therefore not written, just like the “you” that goes before every command: (You,) stop eating lead, (You,) stop eating crayons, and (You) are ugly.

Pictures from this work trip are in my It’s Training Men set.

Friday, 09 Feb 2006

Futurama

Take a guess – yes, today was yet another day. There’s really nothing much to report. I was quite a bit more sociable, having several (that is, more than one) willing (that is, not forced) conversations with people I didn’t really know. Was I expanding? Was I feeling brave with this being my last day in California? Or was I so bored I was driven to it?

For lunch I had cashew chicken stir fry. It was great, and I love eating with chopsticks. It was raining so I ate indoors next to a guy in my class. We talked about Hyperion and PeopleSoft and the Midwest because he was from Nebraska.

When classes were all over, I called a taxi. I’ve never been sure how to feel about taxi drivers. They look pitiful. Most of them speak with thick Middle-Eastern accents, they spend all their work day in a car driving around people who may or may not be nice or friendly or helpful. But, I think that they also might play people up for more money, using their ethnicity and lack of language skills as a device for getting more money from the cab user who simply wishes to get to his or her destination. I had this happen the other day. We finally (finally!) got to my destination, and I asked about a credit card payment, and he asked me how much I wanted to make it for. I said, “What?” And he said, “12? 13?” I had watched as, while I sat there waiting for him to fill out the credit card slip, the cost went up nearly seventy-five cents. I pretended to not understand what he was doing and just said, “13” because that was the number that was on the meter, knowing full well that, as an out-of-towner, I have no idea how these taxis work.

Today’s taxi ride wasn’t like that, but it was remarkable in another aspect. I noticed as I approached the taxi, that my driver had an unusual device on the side of his head. Once in the car, I realized what I saw: my taxi driver had his Motorola Razr connected to a Bluetooth headset. I didn’t feel bad asking him to do credit card (“Well, I’m here on business, and they said I should really use my credit card instead of cash”), and he dealt with it promptly and gladly.

Now I’m watching Futurama, trying to finish up Season 2 before I head home. I’m microwaving pizza on hand towels because I don’t have plates, and I’m going to try to finish up my ice cream, too. How about one last quote.

Cashier: That’ll be forty cents.
Fry: I believe you’re forgetting about our five percent military discount.
Cashier: Well, that’s only for people in the military.
Bender: What?!
Fry: Huh?!
Bender: This is the worse kind of discrimination: the kind against me.
Cashier: Alright, look. Our policy is, if for any reason you’re not completely satisfied, I hate you.
(Hits a button and Fry and Bender are ejected from store)
Bender: Okay. Now I’m mad.
Fry: Full price for gum? The dog won’t hunt, Monsignor.

Thursday, 08 Feb 2006

The Hyperion logo juxtaposed over palm trees

It’s sad, but the reason I decided to post is because I heard a funny Futurama quote that I wanted to share. I’ll write about my day, first.

I woke up.

TV Commercial: Is today’s hectic lifestyle making you tense and impatient?
Bender (screaming): SHUTUP AND GET TO THE POINT!
TV Commercial: Then come live out the carefree days of yore in Past-o-rama!

My first duty after waking up was to get a cab. I managed to secure one for 8:40am. I went down, got something to eat and drink, and my cab was early. We made the trip (correctly this time) to Hyperion. He even knew that I was going to Hyperion, which was nice. Unfortunately, I forgot to get a receipt. Hopefully that won’t come back to haunt me (set up to some joke a couple days from now).

The day was predictably boring. It was a lot of watching Troy do his stuff, and very little of us doing any sort of stuff. I tried to entertain myself. Lunch was okay. I had a marinaded salmon sandwhich that I ate outside. Two people from my class saw me eating outside (while the temps have dropped and rain was starting to fall), and one of them said, “You must be from a colder climate,” and the most clever thing I could manage to say was “Yup!”

The rest of the day was as has been. I had to call a cab to leave, which required calling more than one company, and I briefly flirted with the idea of figuring out how the trains work. It seemed it would be a long walk to the train and from the train, and I wasn’t entirely sure it was possible.

Back here, I eventually ordered pizza, chatted with Tony, talked to Holli, and watched The Office and Scrubs and then Futurama. Usually I go out a little on my balcony, but tonight wasn’t the weather for it. At least I’m getting out of here just as it’s getting colder and rainier.

Bender: Wait. You mean people will pay good money for romance? Hmm… I think I have a plan so deviously clever that I-
Jump cut to judge slamming gavel.
Judge: Five-hundred dollars and time served!
Bender: Stupid anti-pimping laws. (to Leela) Well, pay the man!
Hookerbot: Bender, honey, we love you!
Bender: Shut up, baby, I know it!

The joke’s mostly in the way Bender says his last line, but you get the jist.

It’s Training Men

I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that song, Smoke on the Water, is about smog in Los Angeles. Who’s with me?

I’m just going to keep updating this post, so check back. I put the most current day at the top, so you don’t have to scroll if you’ve already read it all. And, by the by, my title is a bit of a misnomer as there are several women in the class with me. Oops.

Pictures from this work trip are in my It’s Training Men set.

Wednesday, 07 Feb 2006

IMG_5893.JPG

The first last day of class. Webster picked me up again, where we travelled to the Hyperion training facilities. I brought my camera along this time, for some good picture snappin’. I figured those washed-out, low-resolution pictures that were crappy could be replaced by white-balanced, high-resolution pictures that are crappy.

Futurma quote:
Leela: They’re going to destroy the entire Earth if they don’t see some stupid tv show about a stupid bimbo lawyer?
Fry: It’s crazy! How could they even know about a show from a thousand years ago?
Professor: Well, Omicron Persei 8 is about a thousand light-years away. So, the electromagnetic waves would just recently have gotten there. You see-
Fry: Magic. Got it.

Class was the same-old. We finally got into Dashboards (which is half of the course title), and they are, by far, much more complicated that I had imagined. Apparently, there is a great, great deal of Javascript behind the scenes. Of course, now knowing a larger extent to which Dashboards can be taken, I wonder who this will effect CRESH and our current support of Dashboards.

For lunch, I think Webster ate with his family because I had to run (very nearly, that is) to the bathroom when we were excused, and I never found him after that. I took the opportunity to take pictures outside, where I also ate. I can’t get over this weather. It reminds me of Costa Rica, but less humid. Kinda like Florida (in winter), but not exactly. Anyway, it’s glorious. (What also makes it like Costa Rica is that a large number of people on the cooking staff are Spanish speakers. One checkout lady speaks a lot of it, giving you every other word in English. She counts in Spanish, and then says, “Gracias, muchacho.”)

Class was almost excruciatingly boring. This was largely because a good hour and a half before lunch, leading up to lunch, was spent walking up through a wizard. I know how to use a wizard: it’s the easiest possible way to do something. “The wizard creates the master.” That’s a quote I took from our day today. What does it mean? Out of context, it sounds like a Tolkein plot point. In context, it’s just a rule of thumb.

When class was over, I came back here. John invited me to San Francisco, where he was taking his family for the day or night or something, but I opted to stay around here. It’s not that I’m afraid of going to San Francisco (or maybe I should be, a pretty boy like me!); it’s more that this doesn’t really feel like a vacation, and I would rather spend a day in SF rather than four hours, especially if I’ve never been. So, I stayed here, watched Futurama, chatted with Bryce, yelled Lost quotes at Tony, signed up with twitter, downloaded Twitterific, talked to Holli on the phone (who got a wedding dress today), and then I worked on this post.

Tuesday, 06 Feb 2006

Picture013.jpg

Today went smoothly. As such, there’s not much to report. John Webster picked me up at 8:40ish, and we headed out to class. Class was what you expect, and class was what I expected. At lunch (where I had broccoli beef), John and I talked to a Hyperion guy named Jumal (I believe I spelled that right). We (er, mostly “they”) had interesting conversations about education and Hyperion and CRESH and all that.

After classes were done, John and I had a meeting with a Hyperion HSF guy, who gave us a disc that will simultaneously make Mike and Seth happy and irritated. It won’t mean anything to explain it to you guys, so I’ll explain it to them when I get back.

Futurama quote:
Leela: Get ready to run. We’ve got 25 minutes.
(presses button)
Uh, 15 minutes.
5 minutes.
6-h minutes?
Bender: Hmmm… there’s your problem. The professor put the counter on upside-down.
Leela: That idiot! It wasn’t set for 25 minutes. It was set for 52 seconds!
Fry: Agggghhhh! We’re all gonna die. (beat) Right?
Bender: Right.
Fry: Agggghhhh!

After the meeting, John and I (and his wife and son) at out at Chef Chu’s, a very good chinese place in the area. I got to take the extra home with me, so I’m set for my next supper. Then I came back here, called Holli, and now I’m watching Futurama. Nothing much of interest, and I don’t have to entertain you guys. That’s what the news is for.

Monday, 05 Feb 2006

Speeding Traffic

Well, I’ve just completed my first day of classes here in Santa Clara, CA. Let me first talk a little bit about the day before: I was lonely. Thinking back, the major trips I’ve taken have always been with other people. That makes sense. As much as I like my time to myself, I’m still a very social person. I’m not the type of person that would just decide to go to Nebraska for the weekend to see what was there. As such, this first trip out, with so many new things to deal with, was very stressful, and I felt really homesick. Everything went okay (the taxi being a stressful thing I was dreading actually went well), and talking to Holli helped me calm down. I ordered pizza, watched Futurama on my MacBook, and things were good.

Then, Monday morning, things were off to a bad start. I’d found a taxi service very near my hotel, and I foolishly thought that this meant I wouldn’t have to wait thirty minutes for a cab. Long story short, I was a half hour late for my first day of class. I will not be using Yellow Cab anymore. John Webster later told me that he’d be glad to pick me up and drop me off from now on. Then, after that, I couldn’t get into the building where the classes were. I tried (very nearly) every door, and they were all locked, so I called Webster, and tiraded about my morning, and I called Holli and tiraded about my morning, and I tried that last half-door, and it worked, and I finally got to class.

Why don’t I have a rental car? You have to be 25. And, also, I would die. I mean, if I didn’t get totally lost, then I would get into an accident. And you KNOW I’m not joking.

Classes were boring, but mostly because I’ve had to figure this all out on my own when CRESH.NET was asked to provide Hyperion documentation. Let me explain. The company I work for, Certus, has a division called CRESH.NET. That’s the division I work for. Basically it’s: Me, Mike, Seth, and sometimes Justin. We offer a software product called Hyperion System 9 which was written by the Hyperion Corporation, which has their headquarters in Silicon Valley: Santa Clara, CA.

So, I was told that I have to go to training. I picked the airline tickets and hotel, and I took off. Now I’m here at a class called Designing Reports and Dashboards. Later in the week, I have a class that is an advanced version of this class. This class has been nice, with good breaks, a decent pace, and an instructor who seems to be quite knowledgeable and enthusiastic (which is hard to do with a product called “Interactive Reporting Studio”). There is also a really nice lunch facility in the building that rivals any $30 (for supper) plate place in Sioux Falls, but has a price tag of $6 (for lunch). Plus, they give us a $5 voucher! Also, Bryce called to tell me his review of the most recent mix CD I burned for him, so that was nice.

The problems would be that there’s no wireless connectivity, so we’re all dark during the day (which is really getting to some of the class-takers). Also, it’s boring. It doesn’t matter how you try to spice it up, from my perspective, this is boring. I’m learning small things here and there, but nothing eye-opening or documentation-worthy. In fact, the more I see, the more I think, “Let’s never tell our customers about these features.”

After the class, Webster gave me a ride back (which took about ten minutes less than my $19 cab ride that morning). We ventured past the hotel to see what was on this street, and there’s nothing (not shocking). He gave me the advice of calling a cab and just having him take me somewhere. He suggested a really good seafood place, and he said that I could join him and his wife for dinner tonight if I wanted. They were going to a Chinese place, but I’ve opted for my left-over pizza. It’s really good pizza, and I think I’ll take him up on that tomorrow. Either that, or I’ll get a cab to take me to the seafood place.

Back in my hotel, I found my Sprite (and pizza) was frozen because the fridge was set to MAXIMUM cold, but I took them out, and let them thaw. Then I took some neat, dusk-time pictures of the traffic that races past on the 101 that my hotel faces. Now I’m eating, reading blogs, about to watch Futurama, and enjoying the weather IMMENSELY.