Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Dream Job

I'd like to think I'm very good at what I do in the IT field, as a Director/Manager/Architect of Software Development (I don't do that much developing anymore, but know my stuff).

The industry's been rough, though. While my current position is, for lack of a better word, stable, I've gone through a tumultuous history to get there as several other companies became insolvent. I'll spare the full history as I know one of my buddies is already rolling his eyes. It would help though, Mike, if you didn't constitute 50% of my readership and thus wield an enormous amount of clout in shaping the content of my entries.


Anywhoo, before the current gig came along I could see the approaching end of the previous one and started off in a different direction entirely: hypnotherapy. Hypnosis itself is something I've had an interest in since High School, and had even drafted up some of my own highly effective inductions prior to this serious entry in the field. I've had a natural tendency toward therapeutic counseling and psychological analysis for as long as I can remember too. It was a natural step for me to find a mentor in a good educational program and fork over the cash to start the certification process.

I was whipping through the courses, and was just coming up on the Master Hypnotist completion when the job finished falling through and I needed to start in on something else with a higher immediate return on the cash-flow. That's where the current place comes in.

Starting at the new job and all (this is November of 2003) I applied myself full-force to be able to establish myself and truly p0w|\| the arena - there's no reason to do the job poorly after all, especially when it's sustaining the family. But that level of effort hasn't pulled back at all - to the contrary, it's continued to increase. Only recently have I been able to rein it in from the 60-70 hour work week standard to a more respectable 55 on average. It's left me so drained though that I've never completed the master hypnotist cert, and thus have not moved on to the theory and application of therapeutic processes through the medium of hypnosis. I still have all the course material sitting here next to me, but lack the time and energy to complete it: especially now that almost every step in the course requires quite a lot of practice, which would mean coordinating with some test subjects. These aren't hard to find, but getting schedules to match up slows the process down.

Getting back to the intent of this entry, I would love to do this for a living. I've made some choices in the last 6 months so as to have financial requirements out of reach of the average hypnotherapist in the region, so it wouldn't be tenable unless I augmented the income by drafting software for use in the industry or the like (which I would naturally be doing for my own practice as well).

Or - and here's the really juicy part - unless I was writing as well. Doing part-time novel writing combined with part-time hypnotherapy in order to explore two of the niftiest things I've ever dabbled in, and still getting to say good-bye to the rat race. THAT's the most satisfying arrangement I can think of.

Step 1: Get a little more free time.
Step 2: Make some progress on A) writing and B) hypno-certs (mesmerizing breath-mints?)
Step 3: Produce like mad.
Step 4: Self sufficiency.

The procrastination for the perfect incarnation of Step 1 has killed me for the last year. It will continue to do so if I allow it, so I have to rethink it. I've got a 4 day weekend coming up, so I'll bang my noodler against that for a while and see what I come up with.

And that's the useless whining I have today. Maybe I should add:

Step 5: Go to Toshi station for pwr. converters

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Something that Matters

Days like today drain from me the energy with focus, because the only way to get through it is to put all available focus on the constant stream of work to prevent the back-log from building up. I think I ended the day net equal - I didn't end with any new outstanding tasks, but I traded that off with not getting anything done on the long-term scale. So I still have the back-log, but at least it didn't get any larger.

That's what tomorrow's for, with an off-site meeting all day to go over one of the Next Big Projects. In doing that, I'll completely neglect the regular operational maintenance of the day and have to get through it the day after.

To the point of the subject line, the energy is so far spent - almost purely at a mental level - that I find myself feeling lethargic and even pained. Not muscularly sore, but so depleted as to have nothing meaningful left. My chest literally hurts under the aftermath of this kind of through-the-wringer stress.

I have Friday off though, which I'm sure will help me recover to some degree. But it still leaves me wondering, where can meaning be found when I'm incapable of creating it for myself? It's not going to be found online, or falling into my lap. Which means I have 2 choices - suffer through it, or go do something about it.

I'll do what I can, because that's a part of my personal philosophy. It'll still hurt, but at least I'll feel justified in having done all I can to better my own situation.

Even if it kills me.


The Whiner.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Pictures of a Dead Man

My wife is a wedding photographer. She has a wonderful innate talent that's startling to behold, but difficult for her to explain. So far as she knows, she just takes pictures as the situation warrants and the opportunity presents.

I've always admired graphic design and photography. I took several classes toward this vocation back in the day, and have a fair idea of how it all works and what it takes. I lack ability though, having no gift in the realm. Like the quote from the movie Dirty Rotten Scoundrels: "At last I realized I had taste, and style; but not talent." I can tell my wife exactly what makes her pictures good, all the various contributing elements and how they combine to create the overall impression within the image itself.

At which point she shrugs, and goes back to taking pictures.

Not to sound cheesy, but it at least allows me to see the world through her eyes in a very literal way.

She shot a wedding about 4 weeks ago, and has just finished all the post production work (special effects, retouching, color proofing, etc.). 2 days before these were scheduled to go to the printer, she was informed by the mother of the bride that her son (obviously the brother of the bride) had committed suicide the weekend before.

They seem to be handling it well, though it certainly does have a large impact on their lives. He's had drug trouble in the past, and where he was in life did not allow him to see personal value through the veil of mistakes and guilt that was ever present on his mind. With people getting married around him, and happiness abounding in social association, this turned inward with the low esteem to the thought of "Who would ever want me?" This was left behind in his journals.

We did some final retouching, and not yet beknownst to the family (unless they're reading this) I spent another 2 1/2 hours after the fact finding the best pictures with him in them and doctoring the extraction to get the best composition. We didn't do a lot of individual portraiture of the attendees (only the bride and groom, I'm afraid) but he was in a few family pictures. Being digital, and only taking up a little bit of the space, he was not represented in sufficient resolution to be enlarged much. I did what I could, but even at 4"x6" it's still going to be obviously over-blown from what the level of detail should support.

But these are the last real pictures that were taken of him; human decency dictate that I use whatever means necessary to try and make the most of that for the family. It sounds small, and perhaps it is; they don't even know me, the few I've been introduced to probably wouldn't even remember my name. I can't give them anything more: I don't know them, don't know the deceased, and can't gauge the impact of any other gesture. I'm offering a slightly clearer memory from the immediate past of something highly prized and now gone. Does the thought count? Hopefully. I can scarcely fathom the void this has left for them.

With so many ambiguous and contextually sensitive pronouns in the last 2 paragraphs, it's apparent to me that the text isn't flowing. This means I should stop for now; this is appropriate, that it should be to linger at this stage of the thought. Abrupt, and unfinished, without satisfying resolution; but having done what I could.

If you happen to be a family member or know the deceased, unlikely though it is that anyone from such a small connected sphere should stumble across this, I mean no disrespect by bearing this in the open. No personally revealing information has been provided despite the potentially intimate tone. However, if you find this at all disquieting please contact me and I'll edit or remove this post from circulation.

Saturday, June 18, 2005


I had a nice, long, draft to put up here tonight. I found myself drifting from the intended "Time for a Mid-Life Crisis" topic though, into dangerous territory. I'll probably post it some time in the future, but it introduces too many elements in my environment that are toxic to its well-being.

I need that environment, so I'll hang on to it in the back of things until a later time.

I sneezed into my hankerchief and it made an MTV logo. Want to see it?

Fine, I didn't want to show you anyway!

- Paul

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


Some people really rub me the wrong way. This surprises and unnerves me, because one of my primary goals in my conduct is to understand the reasoning and motivations of those I associate with. Doing so allows me to review the activities and reactions of that individual in the context of the environment as he or she is aware of it.

This does not mean I agree with that person, become an apologetic for them or allow my position of intended reasonable-ness to be trampled in the event that the person is unreasonable. It is to allow me a justified detachment of "this is what this person thinks and why," which alleviates an immediate perplexion of, "how can a person possibly assert this view or action in a sane universe?" This latter question has the "sane universe" construct which maps to my own relative perspective in similar fashion.

A person then, in this approach, becomes an encapsulated entity in the manner that they are inserted into my own comprehension and excused from knowing how to operate therein effectively. In exchange, I allow the person his or her own idiosyncrasies and dismiss the related weird manifestations as the ramblings of an individual with these particular oddities.

This typically works, everyone gets to be themselves, and I feel comfortable in my judgment and treatment of others.

Despite this though, some people really bother me. I'm not hard to get along with, and still make the effort, but in some instances I find myself unable to attain that professional separation from the annoyances. Most likely in this case it is because there will be fall out from the object behavior that will affect me; an example being a new boss with passive-aggressive tendencies who has a hand in shaping my professional environment.

I feel a direct structural impact to the world I inhabit as a result of something that I would normally be sheltered from. I could bridge this gap through additional detachment from the environment, but that puts me in a reactive position to buffer a potentially unreasonable assertion from them and abandons something to which I'm attached. It would be easy if I didn't care, but I like the environment and team I've been constructing and I don't want it fussed with.

All the same, in this case I think abandonment is in my favor anyway. I wonder what the next environment will be like?

Monday, June 13, 2005

Hey - that's my money!

People are stupid. Hopefully I'm bright enough to realize that this statement also applies to myself and keep a look-out for some inane action before I compromise anything of importance. I doubt it - after all, one of the hallmarks of incompetence is the inability to recognize it in oneself. So I can, not being able to know, relax and focus instead on the stupidity of others.

They tried to steal my money. Not that much - only about USD $3,500. Nothing earth shattering, but certainly enough to be an inconvenience. This was done on the sole credit card I have to my name - which, fortunately for me, I keep at a $1,000 limit and have no plans of expanding. There were 2 attempted fraudulant charges, both well beyond the actual cap that I maintain regardless of the fact that I already had $200 on the thing anyway.

But still, quite the inconvenience to find out about this when I try to gas up on the way home. I have gotten rather used to the convenience of swiping the little plastic for just about everything (which then drafts off the general ledger according to my accounting). That night I received a call asking if the 2 large charge attempts at an out-of-state jewelry (an easily liquidated item) store were mine, making me aware of the reason for the malfunction at the pump. Cancel the cards, get them replaced, and life is good until it happens again.

We know where our cards are at all times. We do very limited shopping on line, and that under close technical scrutiny - I've programmed these systems myself for long enough to know what I'm doing an that Inter-web thing. So how did they get the number? I can think of a few different ways.

Easiest: have a dishonest employee copy it off the receipts. Happens all the time, I'm sure. Sell this on the underground to distance yourself from the trail, and make a little cash on the side.

Next in line: Cracked online database - similar to above. We try to make sure that the vendors we patronize do not retain this information, but I don't trust any of them 100%.

Moving along: Man in the middle attack. Against an SSL transaction this is unlikely, and typically not worth the effort unless you know your mark well enough to know they've got deep pockets. Multiple systems would have to be compromised in sequence to make this a reality.

Another possibility: Eaves-dropping. I might have used my credit card number on the phone once when talking with the bank, whilst in my office here at work. I highly doubt this one. Although I did manually enter it into the telephone pad when purchasing movie tickets, so if anyone has tapped that line and added a DTMF decoder they're sitting on a good incoming source of numbers for people who likely have disposable income.

Automatic generation: brute force is hardly worth it when there are so many other ways to get numbers. Can still be done though - and it's possible to at least do a preliminary check against the verification algorithm before any charge attempt is made (thereby communicating with the actual server). The expiration date can be a mystery to this method, but there are vendors who won't check that.

Mail Fraud! Everybody's doing it. One of the questions we were asked was "Did you receive the courtesy checks that you were sent?" These are special paper checks that draft directly against the credit card for some reason. Presumably because some specialty vendors or mom & pop shops lack the merchant account capability to take the cards directly, or that some places prefer check (and thus offer discounts) over credit based on the mitigation of credit card processing fees and overhead. We did not receive our checks, so this is the most likely scenario this time around. Worst of all, we didn't even know they were coming, and had no notice or forewarning before the problem was manifest.

I'm more careful about what I put out in the mail now, and am more likely to use postal boxes as drop-offs than my own at the end of the street. And I shred anything sensitive before disposal. And I've requested that the bank never send me any of those things ever again - but still don't trust them.

No harm was done this time around, other than having to go into a few automated billing arrangements and twiddle the bits to something new. You want the old number? It was 4768 0001 9072 0619. Not that it will do any good, since it's been shut-down already and any attempted use under the fraudulent status would draw attention to your activity if the FBI is doing its job.

Now that the dust has settled, I can get back to everything else it is that I normally ignore until it's a problem (stupid reticular activating system).

Oh - and the new cards came via mail. Standard USPS. Sheesh.

- Paul