Phoenix is DEAD!

Well, since the mythical bird cannot really die, it actually turned into ashes and I don’t have to rebuild it any time soon. Phoenix was my main computer for a little over 6 years in its various iterations. I think a couple of different processors, various memory chips, at least 3 different video cards and a hard drives have passed through that case with the pretty blue lights. Thanks to my wife’s assertive nature, we went ahead and purchased a laptop that is pretty powerful and will handle my gaming at home and on the road. Now the question is… do I rebuild phoenix or simply turn it into a pretty server with some storage drives.

I am sicks of Windows. Especially now that I have been using Windows 7. I have found the new OS to be a lot more of the same, just with pretty graphics and less annoying messages than Vista but I am not really sold on the new software. I am sorry but I am not one of those “I’m a PC” commercials with the “pretty” egos that invented the new features seem to be.

I am more Ubuntu which is my favorite Linux distro and one that I want to play with some more. I want to store all of my MP3 and video on a machine that I can easily remote desktop to, and once in a while maybe play some music out of it to some outside speakers on the deck looking at the river. So I think Ubuntu will do just that and tons more. So in the near future I will spending some quality time with my old computer and taking it apart and building it as a little Ubuntu machine. Not a dual boot mind you, but an actual official Ubuntu machine at home serving us for storage.

I also have not decided completely if I will do a complete salvage or start with all new components. The video card and power supply are only about a year old and could be reused. I am leaning towards a solid state drive and use it as an additional gaming machine in the future. For now I will enjoy the laptop and rest knowing that I was able to get all the data I needed our of phoenix in time. I guess this is as good as time as any to remind everyone to back up your files, specially documents and pictures. Burn them to a CD or DVD. Five bucks will save you a lot of regret later on!

What am I Worth?

Twice during my work history I have taken a pay cut under the promise of a better career path, and it was a bad move in both cases. I would also like to mention that the time I took a job for an unreal amount of money in the consulting world, it was also a big mistake. After the company made tons of money off my fixing their mess, they found me too expensive. So I guess that was a wrong move as well… it was sweet for 6 months though.

Before I start talking about money I want to say that I am extremely happy with my current position even though it is not anywhere near the highest that I have been paid. Finding a job where you are doing something you enjoy doing will make your day feel better. Do not buy into the idea that you are not supposed to like your job, the moment you do that, you are compromising your well being and that of the people around you. Does everyone love their job? probably not, but you at least have to like some aspect of what you do because you will end up doing that for a huge percentage of your life. Always keep that in mind.

Now that the economy is turning around and more doors are going to start opening it is the time to be very careful about taking a job. As tempting as it is for someone that has been out of a job for a while to take the first thing that comes along (well and some people don’t have the luxury to say no) if you are in any position to keep looking and say no do so.

It is very hard to climb back out of a low salary. Every company you interview with will ask and check your salary history and make a decision about your pay based on that number. No matter how much you explain that you are worth a lot more, the reality of the situation is that you are probably worth more to the new company you are going to, but not significantly more.

While there are always exceptions when you are taking on more responsibility and such, in the end the company will try to get you as cheap as they can. At least in my experience you can get back up quickly if the company will give you a salary bump after a trial period, but always make sure you get anything like that in writing. And not just electronically, have it be part of your offer letter.

Never be afraid to ask during the interview about the companies compensation policy. Make sure you understand if the offer includes benefits on the final amount, and calculate what your actual take home will be. Some companies figure your benefits into the offer… and at the same time some benefit packages can be worth about 10K. Do they give cost of living adjustments every year? or are raises far and few between. This information is crucial to your negotiation period. Also be very aware of how they measure performance. Many companies do not have clear guidelines and your reviews, which most pay increases are based on, end up being very subjective and sometimes even unattainable. I still chuckle at the company that measured my personal appearance when I hardly ever saw any clients. Thankfully I love wearing a suit and tie and got an easy top mark on that one.

The first step in the negotiation is knowing how much you are worth. Research the title that you are shooting for and look for salaries around the area. If the company is offering you significantly less than what you are worth, pass on the offer. You are entitled to counter offer just like when you are buying a house. Once you figure out what you are worth strive for it. Climbing out of a low salary can take a long time.

I am NOT hacking your website!

My readers know that I am not a stats whore. My site is popular because I have written about Tommy’s death (when I took an ASL class) and because I was an early fan of the movie the Boondock Saints. That and other popular posts about internet security and passwords have given me the “blessing” of a good google rank… so I should be happy right?

Over the past year I have been posting mostly thoughs and rants, I hardly ever review movies and books like I used to. My only recent attempt at more readers was an interview experiment. I don’t run any memes, I don’t play on technorati or bloggeries anymore. The readers I do have I appreciate greatly. I use Askimet as a spam stopper in wordpress and since I have started using it I have forgotten how much comment spam I do get.

Since I started blogging in 2004 I have received only one piece of hate mail that was rather amusing, and then last week I got another… the subject line read “Ashamed”

I don’t know who you are, nor do I care to know. I think you are despicable and you should be ashamed of yourself. Hacking into to people’s legitimate website and adding all your junk code with links to your blog is loathsome.
If you are even a remotely decent human being you may end up replying to my email. At minimum you should NEVER, EVER hack into people’s websites again. You should say several prayers in attempt to attain forgiveness for the ridiculously selfish nature of your actions. You should post some type of public apology on your blog as well.
In case you haven’t noticed, this is hate mail to you. You should be ashamed.

So… after initially laughing a little at the accusations I thought about it further and since the person asked me to reply I did. I was polite and tried to explain to her that I don’t hack websites, and that a spammer is probably using a badly secure site to test their code. I am not proud of the fact that links (most of them non existent since the domain is the only accurate part of the code they injected) to my website are being maliciously placed on people’s legitimate web code.

I have since received a couple of other e-mails about the matter, so it has happened to other sites. One even smart enough to ask me if I had payed someone for SEO optimization. Which I have not… I don’t make money writing in this website and have no plans on monetizing it so there is no need for that.

In conclusion. If you find some code injected into your website that happens to point to mine…

1) I did not hack your website. I have no intention and if you happen to check your logs, send me any of the offending IPs so I can add them to my block list.

2) Check with your ISP about the security of your network. If someone can modify your webpages, they have access to a lot more.

3) Be careful when paying people to “optimize” your website. Do not give them passwords or access to your files. Package your site and send it to them, revise the code before posting it back to your server.

4) NOTHING is free. If you see some “template” out there for free, don’t trust it. The code might have malicious parts in it. Unless you know what all the files are, do not upload them to your webserver.

5) Pay a reputable web developer to design your website. I would personally not hand the keys to my car to a person that has taken a toaster apart and expect them to know how to take an engine apart and put it back together. There is a HUGE difference between a web designer, a web developer and a WEBMASTER!

A web designer will make your site pretty.
A web developer will make your site do nifty things.
A web master will make sure your site is MANAGED correctly and not vandalized BY HACKERS!

So secure your websites people, or a hacker out there might link back to a blog that does not even know they exist!

Dreading Sunday

I work more hours now than I have in years, and I could not be happier with my job. Sure there are plenty of challenges and things that could be different and make it funner, but overall I feel appreciated and well compensated for what I do. I am very thankful for my job and understand that having a job is a huge blessing. That said, in previous jobs I used to dread Sunday.

I would wake up knowing that the next day I had to go into a place where the mood changed like the weather outside. It certainly did not start that way, and I felt like there were many forces at play to make it the way it was, but I now know that it had a lot to do with my own outlook on things.

Trying to change things that you have no control over, or having the desire to do so can be not just frustrating but enraging. Understanding where your control of the situation ends in a job is the key to overall mental health in the workplace. If you feel like it is not the place for you, and you stay because of environment, benefits, or simply because it is the best paycheck you can get; you have to equip yourself with a clear outlook.

Identify what you do have control over, starting with your mood. Plan your days or week in a way that you dedicate your time in an effective manner to get things done. Have a support system outside of your work that can help you sort things out in your head. It is very easy to fall into the internal perspective of things, and outside people that know you can give you insight into your situation even if they don’t understand exactly what you do.

Make yourself visible. Frustration can sometimes come from not being recognized for what you do. If you are not getting credit for what you do, someone else might be enjoying the fruits of your job.

Have hobbies, read a good book. When things are getting stressful at a workplace, make sure that you spend your time away wisely and in activities that give your brain a rest. Do something that engages your mind and not something that allows you to still think about work after you spent all day working there.

Arrive early. When you dread your job it is very easily to just start getting there just in time. That can create even more stress, so make a habit of getting the early and it will set up your days in the right direction.

If you still feel the same way, don’t wait to look for a job. You should not dread going to work, you might not like it, but the moment it becomes a true negative in your life you will be compromising too much. If you cannot change your outlook, you need to get out because it will affect your health and relationships with others.

Advanced Management

I recently completed a court as part of the curriculum the company has for managers. I was very skeptical at first because I have not learned much about actually managing people or time with previous courses and or books. Most concepts are great on paper or being presented, but putting the into practice is a totally different story. I was amazed when in preparation for the course I had to take two very different tests that measure aspects of how I manage people and how I resolve conflict.

These were not very simple tests either, they combined personality tracking with all kind of observation and conflict resolution skills. I was surprised about many of the things the tests scores revealed because I thought I had a good handle on my self evaluation when it came to managing styles, but I will discuss those in detail some other time. What I want to discuss today is how excellent was not just the course but the instructor.

I have always admired people that can stand in front of a room and command attention. I believe that being a teacher is one of the most undervalued professions in our society. The ratio of pay for teachers is just dismal for the value of the job that they perform in our communities. I always have it in the back of my head that someday I want to be a teacher or instructor of some type. I have enjoyed every single opportunity I have had to do public speaking or even just corporate or technical training I delivered.

The instructor was not just a good public speaker, she was also the course designer. I had never thought about how much work goes into putting together a good seminar, but little by little I saw she wasted no time trying to use the time to fill us up with not just information but tools we could actually use. This one was specially challenging when it came to time because as managers time is scarce. It was great that most of the busy work, like doing the surveys, was done before we even arrived at the class.

The topics covered ranged from conflict resolution to actual interviewing skills. The amount of information that we received in a very short period of time was amazing, and I am happy to report that I have retained most of it if not all. I wish some of the people that I had interviewed with in the past had attended this course.

The way that she was able to reveal only very little about herself, while at the same time sharing life experiences was amazing. Even more amazing was that she is a complete introvert, yet able to talk for long periods at a time keeping people interested that had blackberries making noises the while time.

I am sure everyone that uses the net is tired of personality tests, but the instructor actually believed on them. She encouraged us to use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator along with the other tools to help teams work together. She also believed that people should be aware of other people’s personality types because it would help greatly with their interaction.

She also addressed the question of leadership and if it is innate or taught. While she did not give a conclusion, she did make it more clear that some people are simply not cut out for it. While vision is a great thing, being able to connect with people and share that vision is sometimes more important.

I am not sure if I will eventually be a corporate trainer or even become a teacher. If I do, I would like to be able to be as good with a subject as she was.

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