No NFL 2011 Free Agency?!?!

January 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Peter King stated this in his MMQB Article (scroll down to the part about Nnamdi Asomugha if you don’t want to read it all).  Now he states almost immediately that he doesn’t think it will happen, but it could and that sucks.  I, as a Dolphins fan, have had nothing to look forward to since week 17 ended and even that wasn’t a cause for great excitement.  So around this time I usually start looking forward to the draft and free agency where hopefully my beloved Fins will find a QB and some speed. 

One, if not the biggest FA would be the previously mentioned Nnamdi.  I don’t know that my Dolphins would go after him since they have more glaring holes but I think at least every other team in the NFL would give it a shot.  Instead, if there is no CBA, Nnamdi and every other free agent would go back to their teams until 2012 (which would be pointless since the world will end in 2012).  I’m

On top of that, think of how much it would suck for any college player that goes undrafted.  If free agents can’t sign then neither can undrafted players.  That means guys like LeGarrett Blount and Brandon Banks may not get a shot to try out for teams.  There are plenty of other guys too, lots of undrafted players find their ways onto teams, but now there is a possiblity that those players would not get their shot, at least this year.  

Worst of all, it would mean that it would be really hard for the Dolphins to improve dramatically.  Some rookies will come in and make an immediate impact which can help turn a team around, but the chances that every guy you draft comes in and makes an impact from day 1 are slim.  That’s why teams need/want free agents, veterans to fill some holes while the youngers guys are still learning how to play in the NFL.

In the end, I’m hoping it doesn’t come to this or even worse a lockout.  I would hope the two sides could come to some type of agreement and soon.  I have no idea what needs to happen to get the agreement, but the people doing this are not stupid people.  I don’t know if it’s greed or what, and if it is, they’re business men/women, they should be able to figure out making a ridiculous amount of money is better than making no money at all.  Which is exactly what would happen if there is no football. 

In other words, get this shit figured out and do it soon because Miami needs some free agents!

Categories: NFL Tags: , , ,

Job Interview Gone Wrong

January 5, 2011 Leave a comment

I had probably one of the worst interviews I’ve ever had today.  The one other person who has read this blog may remember that I am a freelance programmer.  I am still, however, searching for something with a little more stability.  I’m also trying to get into a job where I can try to learn more about Information Security. 

So I had applied through CareerBuilder for a job at a data center as a network engineer.  Despite being a programmer, I do have experience as a Network Admin.  Anyway, I call in at the scheduled time, meaning the time they told me to call.  I assumed it would be your basic phone interview, go over the position, go over my resume, make sure I’m not a total goon before a possible face to face.  As soon as I spoke to the receptionist, I knew things weren’t starting off well.  She said “Ok Max, I’ll transfer your call”.  That’s all good and she was nice, but my name is not Max.

My call is transferred and I’m hoping the person I’m interviewing with will realize who is calling since we had an appointment and everything.  Yea, not so much.  As soon as he answered he started saying how happy he was that I called, thinks I’d be a good fit for the position, was surprised I called so soon.  I’m thinking “awesome, but why is he surprised I called”.  Turns out, someone named Max had sent in a resume, with what I can only assume were great credentials. 

We got the whole “who I was” thing cleared up pretty easily, although now I wasn’t feeling so great about my prospects.  I think I may have broken his heart as well, not being Max and all.  I hear him shuffle some things around, looking for my resume in his trash I presume.  I should note that when I’m on the phone I have this annoying habit of always being on the move, I’m not sure why.  So I was pacing around, trying to think of where to apply next when I feel a sharp pain on my shin.

I look down and notice my cat has decided to pick now to turn my shin into her chew toy/scratching post.  I make a few moves, nfl scouts would’ve been impressed, and get away from her as she’s distracting me from making an ass out of myself during this interview.  So now that the guy I’m interviewing with has my resume out, we start talking, he’s telling me about what the job entails, do I think I could do it,  etc.  All of a sudden I hear a loud screech (powers).  My interviewer asks if everything is ok, I say yes and explain it was just my cat trying to get my attention.  Then she does it again, this time she’s almost eye level with me and about 6 inches from my face since she jumped up onto a shelf.  I give her an “are you f’n serious?” look and then a few treats and she’s on her way.  Once again assure the guy everything is ok. 

R.B. doing her thing was just a minor annoyance, not really a big deal if it was the only weird thing that happened during this interview.  After that I decided to ask a few general questions about the job and the what it was like working there, basically hoping to get to a topic where I could show that I was not in fact a complete moron.  That’s when I hear the interviewer say “Oh this is interesting”.  I was trying to think of what could be interesting with my resume, maybe I had a skill they were looking for or something, instead it went like this:

Interviewer: “So tell me about your felony”

Me: *crickets*

**At this point I was trying to go through my past, figure out if I was ever even charged with a felony.  I was sure I was not.  Kind of sad  I had to even give it a thought, I’m sure the pause didn’t help my cause but at least I can rhyme!**

Me: “What do you mean?”

Interviewer:  “You checked the box that said you were convicted of a felony, now that won’t disqualify you but I would like to know what it is” *not verbatim but that was basically what he said

Me:  “Oh that must have been a mistake, I have never been convicted of a felony, I’m almost positive”

Almost positive, even I couldn’t believe how stupid I was.

Interviewer:  “So you’re not sure?!?”

Me:  “I’m sure, I never have, you can do a background check if you like”

Interviewer:  “Ok”

After that fantastic verbal meltdown by me, he basically just verified my contact information, probably to make sure to block me regardless of how I tried to contact them.  He told me he would call or e-mail me if they’d like to bring me in for a face to face interview.  Needless to say, I won’t be sitting here on the edge of my seat waiting for either.  The lesson here would be, always proofread your resume!  It seems it would be common sense to make sure that you didn’t misspell anything or perhaps claim to be a felon if you’re not, sadly this was not the case for me.

How not to ask for computer help

January 3, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has gone to sleep with their computer working fine and woke up to find that the computer has rebooted to a black screen and no amount of reboots will change that.  Most of the time you’re left thinking “wtf?” and probably ready to launch your computer across the room because well……it makes no damn sense. 

I’m pretty much the only one of my friends or family who has gone to school for computers so whenever someone has a computer issue they call me and it generally goes like this:

Me: “Why are you calling me at 6am?”
Them: “My computer is broke/f’d up”
Me: “What’s it doing?”
Them: “nothing, what should I do?”

At this point it’s kind of obvious what they should do, give me a damn hint as to what nothing entails.  Is the computer not getting power? If so, it could be the obvious, not plugged in or not turned on or it could be the power supply.  Describing the issue by just saying “nothing” could get you throttled if you interrupted my sleep  just to give me some half assed explanation. 

I understand most people probably aren’t going to be able to go into the technical details of a computer problem which is fine, but at least try to paint a picture for the person you’re asking. Tell the person “the lights are on, but it just goes to a black screen” or whatever the problem is, try to be as specific as possible.  Another thing, if you call the person for help and the first thing they try does not work, don’t get all pissed off.  If it was easy to fix computers you wouldn’t have called for help.  This goes both ways, if you’re the person trying to help, don’t spout off a bunch of commands real fast or talk in all tech jargon and then get irritated that the person is having a hard time following along.

Another thing I seem to run into a lot with my friends, they want my help but as soon as I start saying something they interrupt with “oh I tried that and it won’t work”.  Oh really?  So you didn’t ever hear of an IP Address until I mentioned it, but you knew to run IPConfig from the command prompt (“oh you didn’t know how to get to a command prompt?”).  If the person is asking you to do something, even if you did try it, maybe there is something they need that you didn’t know to look for or realize was important, it’s a process please let us try what has worked for us!  If you did attempt to fix the problem yourself, feel free to let us know ahead of time, it could save everyone time or the results could point to something that may have been overlooked. 

Please don’t leave things out, it may not seem important to you, but it could be the exact reason/cause for the issues.  I personally run into this whenever a friend or family member has a virus/spyware/malware.  Out of the box, computer probably aren’t going to go out on their own while you’re away and download a bunch of nasty stuff (microsoft updates being the exception).  If you were on a website and all of a sudden all kinds of stuff started happening, good chance that is the reason despite your protests.  I don’t care if you were looking at porn or whatever, just tell me you were on a website when it happened so I don’t have to possibly waste my time trying a bunch of other things. 

Lastly, if all signs point to a virus, don’t argue that your out of date antivirus software would’ve stopped it.  There is a reason why virus companies frequently release updates, there are constantly new virus’ and other nasty things being released. If you’re not up to date then you’re not protected.  Also, while your virus scan runs, I don’t want to stay on the phone the entire time, it’s automated just let it do it’s thing, I don’t need to sit there on the for 40+ minutes getting play by play because chances are, unless you have the dumbest virus in the world, it’s going to take a bit of time before it finds anything, at which point feel free to call back!

Data Scraping, A Fine Line…

January 3, 2011 Leave a comment

If anyone has ever browsed the programming section of any freelance site, chances are you’ve seen people/companies looking for someone to grab data from another website.  A quick note here, I’m calling it data scraping, it has a few names (web scraping, screen scraping, etc).  In the end it’s usually the same thing.  Data scraping usually involves writing some code that will go out to a specified website/websites and pull out specific data and write it somewhere else.  It’s usually a database or possibly a text file or csv file or really anything.  The whole process revolves around being able to find patterns in the code of the website.  If you’re bored, go to a website, view source, and look for a pattern in the code.  Tables, specifically, are a scrapers best friend.  Generally you’d want to grab the info inside the table which could look like: <td>info you want</td><td>more info you want</td>.  There’s your pattern (the <td></td>’s) now you just tell your scraper to grab what you want from between the tags.

I first heard about it around 7 years ago at my old job when I was asked to do it.  The very first question I asked was if it was legal, I never got a definitive answer but I did it because I had just started at the company and didn’t want to make a big deal about it.  I did think it seemed shady, but I eventually found out through my own research that what I was specifically doing was not technically illegal. 

The information I was scraping was considered historical fact, therefore nobody owns information itself, it is what it is.  An example of something that may fall into the category of “legally scrapable” would be scraping zip codes.  Although there are a few other things you may need to consider such as the websites’  T.O.S.  which forbid it (the data itself would be fine, but you could be considered as trespassing on the websites server). 

Websites do have ways to combat this,  but as anyone who owns a computer knows, as soon as someone has figured out a way to fix a problem, someone else has figured out a way around that fix.  An example could be a website blocking an IP address temporarily or permanently that they notice is reading way too many websites in too short a period of time.  Basically it’s not acting as a human would.  To get around that, a person may have their scraper run through a proxy server or multiple proxy servers to constantly change up the ip address that the website is seeing.  That is a broad example as there are more sophisticated ways to protect against it, and to get around those sophisticated ways.

Why do people/companies even bother doing it if there’s a chance it could be illegal?  Saves money and time.  Instead of having someone or a group of people go out and manually enter this stuff into a database or wherever you want it, why not have a computer do it for you in a fraction of the time and with guaranteed accuracy as long as the code is good.  In that case, the company didn’t have to pay the salary for a data entry person or didn’t have to have an existing employee take time out to do it instead of working on something else. 

In the end (thankfully!), if you’re considering creating a scraper for a customer or company, I’d recommend doing your research to make sure you’re not violating the websites T.O.S or any laws.  If you’re being asked to scrape original content, meaning content that is not fact but someones opinion or ideas, there’s a good chance you’re violating something and should probably stay clear of that project.  Also, if you realize that you’re constantly having to find ways around a websites security, like using a bunch of different proxies, chances are they don’t want you scraping their site or your scraper is looking like a denial of service attack.  In the end, just be smart and do your research so you don’t get yourself or your employer into any type of trouble.

If you’re new to programming or data scraping a good site to check out would be: http://www.regular-expressions.info/tutorial.html.  If you’re going to scrape you will definitely want familiarize yourself with regular expressions!

New Years Fun?!

January 1, 2011 1 comment

Last night, like most people I went to a New Year’s Eve party, it was a small crowd but fun nonetheless.  That was until I heard the host talking about this drink/abomination that he had in his frigde.  Next thing I know I’m handing an enormous bright red can with all kinds of writings and warning labels on it.  I saw the name “Four Loko” on the side and thought it sounded familiar but couldn’t remember why. 

I took a sip and was like “oh, fruit punch……wtf?”.  After the fruit punch/kool-aid taste I was hit with a wicked cough syrup aftertaste.  I drank some more though because it was New Year’s and I didn’t have to drive.  I was about halfway through the can/thermos and noticed that I wasn’t really tasting that nasty after aftertaste from earlier.  The guy who gave it to me came back over and was like “hey man what do you think?”, I said it was alright, had a weird aftertaste and was ridicously carbonated.  He tells me then that drinking the can is like drinking 6 beers and 4 cups of coffee or something.  That’s when I remembered why the name was familiar, they just banned it in a bunch of states because it was sending people to the hospital.

I obviously finished the can, realized I wasn’t tasting the aftertaste anymore because my tongue was most likely numb.  It seems to make sense when you drink over 20oz’s of something that’s been referred to as “cocaine in a can” and I believe “blackout in a can”.  I can  see why some people might end up in the hospital, it has a ton of alcohol but makes sure to include a ton of caffeine to keep you awake when you should probably be passing out.  In the end, I ended up making a New Years resolution to start doing P90X again.  I’m not sure if it counts since I was buzzed and had a lot more energy than normal.  We’ll see if I actually start or not, but not until Monday because resolutions do not take effect until the work week starts!  

Hope everyone had a great and safe New Year!

First Post!

January 1, 2011 Leave a comment

Obviously this is my first post, what I’ll be blogging about I have no idea.  Probably a lot of random things nobody cares about but me.  I decided to start blogging because I’m a freelance programmer, which means I have a lot of time on my hands.  Is that a good thing?  Only if you don’t enjoy money.  I spend most of my work time bidding on jobs and hoping my bid is accepted over the $3/hr someone else bid, usually not the case. 

The name of this blog was just me misspelling, I believe, a phrase my brother used to describe my hair and oddly one sideburn when I woke up this morning/afternoon.  I’ve googled the phrase and nothing I found seems like any spelling would make sense, but I thought it was a fun way to describe awesome hair. 

As I mentioned earlier, I do have a cat which I adopted one day when I was out to get my haircut (a now rare occurrence) and the Holiday Hair was next to a Pet Smart.  She’s a calico about 3 or 4 years old, they weren’t sure when I adopted her of her exact age.  I chose her because she was just relaxing on a little tower thing and completely bitch slapped a cat that was walking by for no apparent reason.  She now does this to me on occassion.

If I’m not working, bidding on work or job hunting for something a tad more stable than freelance work then I’m probably hanging out with R.B. (my cat), golfing, watching sports or doing something else (obviously).  Well, time to see if TCU can hold on in the final minutes!

Categories: Uncategorized
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