Jim's Polka

The life of a former software engineer, now a law student

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Last Day

Yesterday was my last day of work, after 4 years and 3 months with my company. I came in knowing that there was a better than 50% chance that I would leave after the first year and left as the most senior of the software engineers (and the 7th most senior person in the company). This has been a significant period in my life.

So, it's nice that everyone else treated it that way, too. We had my farewell lunch at a place called Metropolis, in Reston. The food is OK, but the dining room is large and it is all-you-can-eat. There were about 35 of us. Much food was eaten, and they called for a speech. I said some touching words. Then I ruined it by making a reference to stock options. :-)

Yesterday afternoon was also our regular engineering all-hands meeting. Usually, our CTO does a quick Powerpoint presentation about big sales, new research grants, that sort of thing. This week the first slide was "Exeunt - followed by monkey: Jim *********". Then he made a nice little speech of appreciation. We worked together a lot back when he still programmed, so his words really meant a lot to me. Then, they gave me a little going-away present: a Nintendo Game Boy Advance! It was far beyond what I was expecting and confirmed what I already suspected: leaving this crowd is going to be one of the worst things about heading off to law school.

So, definitely a bittersweet day, but I'm pretty sure I'll be running across that crowd again, so I can't be too sad. And, I really do believe the company is headed for big success, even if I'll be rooting them on from the sidelines.

Things Found While Cleaning Out My Cubicle

  • A circa 1999 Pets.com sock puppet, given as a raffle prize by a former boss in 2002.
  • An Eggo waffle, spray-painted gold, received in July 2000. (Yes, it's gross.)
  • A battery-powered Nerf gun.
  • A secret horde of ammo for aforementioned Nerf gun.
  • An unfinished Star Wars diorama.
  • 3 beer glasses commemorating the release of a product that never sold a single copy.
  • Two framed pictures of me with family.
  • A 1:43 model Honda Civic with customizable parts.
  • A Mashimaro piggy bank.
  • A stuffed version of Mr. Potato Head.
  • A stuffed version of a silverback ape, wearing a ballroom dancing T-shirt.
  • A mini-totem pole.
  • Several mini-teacups with either the Chinese characters "double happiness" or "long life" on them.
  • A miniature Japanese folding screen.
  • 6 boxes of tea, all different types.
(Note: Due to Blogger quirks, an earlier version of this post was displaying for a while. Sorry about that.)

Afternoon Sports Movies

I just watched a bunch of misfits triumph over adversity and impossible odds to claim an unlikely victory. (Twice, actually.)

Monday, August 23, 2004

Winding Down

I'm slowly finishing up with things at work. I had my exit interview last week. Nothing exciting or even interesting to it. I did get asked if my job was fairly represented to me when I interviewed. Since the company has completely changed focus since I started, it's not really a question that could be answered.

I completed my last programming task on Friday. I was expecting to spend these last few days documenting code and passing my knowledge to the new guys (and web-surfing). Then our CTO calls me into his office, "Jim, I realize poor planning on my part does not make an emergency on your part......." 'However." "Yes, however, we have an emergency." Apparently we forgot to file for a patent. (And, by we, I mean someone other than me. :-) ) The product in question was released at the beginning of October last year, and we have a year to get the application in, so things are a little tight. So, I'm going to spend the next two days writing the technical part of the application. Should be fun. (And, I'll get another patent out of the process.)

Sunday, August 22, 2004

More Olympics

I'm loving watching the Olympics on the various cable channels. They're showing all these sports that never make it onto NBC. I just watched a women's wrestling match on CNBC. The American woman was losing 5-0 in the middle of the second round, but turned the tables and pinned her competitor. Very cool.

Now I'm watching Italy vs. Hungary in women's water polo. Since I may someday have an Italian in the family, I'm rooting for Italy. So far, they're ahead 2-1.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Homeowners Again

We're now homeowners again! We settled on our new place in Seattle yesterday. I was a little nervous, because we were doing it at a distance. We signed everything last Friday, which included a trip to the notary. I dropped the envelope, with a pretty sizeable check in it, into the UPS drop box on Monday morning. And then just waited and hoped there was no problem. Our agent called me with the good news yesterday afternoon.

I'm pretty excited by this place. It's a 3 bedroom townhouse, which is a step up for us from our current condo. It's actually not that much bigger than our condo, but the condo is pretty big, so that's not such a bad thing. Hard wood floors for the living room/dining room/kitchen area and carpeting for the rest of the house. I just hope everything fits in.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Women's Gymnastics

As I'm watching the women's gymnastics finals right now, I'm reminded of the one thing I really dislike about these events. I don't understand why they feel the need for music and dance moves in the women's floor exercise. These women are spectacular athletes and I love seeing their tumbling runs, but when they're dancing to the music, they look stiff and uncomfortable. (Except for Khorkina, who is really a graceful dancer, too.) The men do this the right way. No music, just tumbling (and some break-dancing, which is always cool).

Update: On the other hand, if you're going to have music, choose some good dancing music like the swing that Carly Patterson just competed to (and won with).


Apparently, you're really not supposed to use he as a non-gender-specific pronoun. According to Language Log:

That is not how we say things in English. (The commonest way to get around the gender problem here is to use singular they: Was it your father or your mother who broke their leg on a ski trip?; Either the husband or the wife has perjured themself. Shakespeare used it; Jane Austen used it; loads of fine authors use it. Get used to it. And if you have a usage book like Strunk and White that declares singular they to be an error, throw that book away.)

(Found via Crooked Timber)

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Advice for Young Lawyers

Matt Homann, guest-blogging at Notes From the (Legal) Underground, has a really interesting post of tips for law students and young lawyers that seem very much worth considering. I'll have to revisit it after I get settled in next month.

A Little Clueless

This is hilarious in its cluelessness. Those needing help with the vocabulary can go here.

(Note: I don't expect everyone to be aware of this stuff, but if you're in marketing, it's probably something to pay attention to.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2004


Our new IT guy (at my company for about 2 months) told me today that he's been avoiding hanging out with me too much because he doesn't want to get too attached. Like I said before, it's nice that they're gonna miss me.

Home Stretch

Time is slowly running out here. My last day of work is a week from tomorrow. D is in Seattle at this very moment to interview for a couple different jobs. (So, everybody wish her luck!) The movers are coming two weeks from yesterday. Two weeks from today, we start driving cross-country. Oh, and we're settling on our new home this week.

We do seem to be getting out of here just in time, though. We just got a notice the other day that the condo association's insurance company had decided not to renew the association's insurance policy. You see, we had a minor flood back in January. Two of them, in fact. The first one cost $500,000 and the second one cost $2.5 million. (And kept us out of our home for 2 1/2 weeks.) So, it's not a surprise at all. I'm just glad we already sold, because the condo fee is definitely going to go up.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Tickets and Passports

I worked a summer in Japan between my second and third years of college. The engineering school at my alma mater would find you an internship at a Japanese company if you took 2 years of Japanese. They found me a job at NTT (the phone company) in Tokyo. I have lots of stories about that summer, but the story I want to tell now is about my return trip.

I'm not sure if I've conveyed this properly, but I'm a bit of a flake. Usually I try to mitigate this with advance planning (i.e. prepare now for when I do something idiotic later). When I was packing up to leave on the last day, I looked at my ticket and passport and said to myself "I'd better put these somewhere where I won't lose track of them. The passport went into my pocket, but the ticket wouldn't fit, so I put it on top of my suitcase. "There. I'll definitely remember it there."

So, off I went to the airport. It's about 2 hours by train from where I was living (Heiwajima) to Narita Airport, so some of my co-workers had decided to go with me. About halfway there, one of them was telling a story about how his brother had forgotten his passport at home on a recent trip to Canada.

Jim checks pockets. Yup, passport still there. "Well, I'm glad I didn't do something dumb like that!" "Hmmm... what about my ticket........ oh, right, it's not here. That's because it's right there on the floor of the room I was staying in. Good thinking."
Luckily, we had allowed lots of extra time to get to the airport. So, we worked out a little exchange involving my host mother and a co-worker, who hopped the next train to the airport and gave me the ticket in plenty of time. (And, no, the airline wouldn't reissue my ticket. I don't know why. )

I'm thinking about this today because the other day my brother took it to the next level. He's presenting a couple papers at an economics conference in Sweden this month. He's in school in upstate New York, but he was taking a flight from Baltimore, leaving on Wednesday. On Tuesday, he realized that he didn't have his passport. So he did the only thing possible - got on the road for the 6 hour drive back to NY. Somewhere around Harrisburg, PA, he got a call on his cell phone. Someone had found his passport at our dad's place. Apparently it never went back to school with him after his trip to Italy last summer.

Boy, if ever there was any doubt that the two of us are related.........

Thursday, August 05, 2004

For Your Home Repair Needs

This is mostly for my own good, but the New York Times has an interesting article about finding handymen and contractors using the web.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Home Update

As you may recall, we made an offer on a house at the end of my last-minute trip to Seattle a couple weeks ago. Things have proceeded well since then. The inspection only turned up one problem to worry about. We asked them for $6,000 back. They came back with an offer of $3,000. We accepted, so it looks like we're ready to go to closing. Now, I can move on to bigger, more important questions like, "Do you think UPS would ship this plant to Seattle?"

Center for Talented Youth

Several of the posters at the Volokh Conspiracy have been singing the praises of John's Hopkins University's Center for Talented Youth, so I may as well join the crowd. My feeling about the program was pretty similar to Jacob Levy's. I was a geek back then, just like I am now, so I really enjoyed the classes I took through the program (Astronomy, Geology and Writing). In addition, Levy perfectly captures the real significance of the program for me with this:
But what I remember about it, rather than what I see in retrospect, has nothing to do with social mobility. It wasn't about what would come after education. It was the sheer joy and amazement at being around kids my own age who were not only not hostile to the desire to read and learn and think, but who shared it themselves. I didn't leave CTY thinking that continuing to go to places like that would earn me money someday; I left knowing that I'd been happier there than I'd ever been around kids my own age, and that it was possible for "smart kid" to mean something social other than "kid to get beaten up."

My Sister

My little sister's in town! Yay. Well, she's in Baltimore now, but that's several thousand miles closer than usual. Usually, she lives in Catania, Sicily.

After she graduated from college, CM went to Europe and traveled around for about 8 months. She spent a few months in Ireland, celebrated Christmas in Portugal with my stepmother's family and somehow ended up in Sicily. Visiting a friend, I think.

Anyway, while she was there, she met a boy (A). As I can testify, sometimes you meet someone and plans change significantly. In CM's case, she extended her stay by 2 months. She stayed long enough to make me nervous about her making it to the wedding. She was going to be a bridesmaid and there was something about having enough time to get her dress altered. (Of course, it doesn't take much to make you nervous right before a wedding.) But, it was all good. She got back about a month before.

She spent about 3 months back in the US, trying to decide what to do next. Eventually, she decided that she wanted to find out if A was the guy for her. The jury's still out on that, but it's going pretty well so far. They've been living together for 2 years now while he's finishing school. (They're pretty close in age, but he's behind her in school because of the mandantory military service in Italy.) She teaches English 20 or 30 hours a week and enjoys the Italian life.

I'm very proud of my sister for doing all this. She made the brave choice to go back and it's worked out really well for her. She doesn't know what she wants to do with her life yet, but at least she's doing something interesting. She's even nearing fluency in Italian now. And, maybe I'll get a brother-in-law out of it.

On the other hand, I miss having her around. I have an excellent relationship with my siblings, but I don't get to see them nearly as often as I'd like. This weekend will be our first time together since Christmas. I plan to use the opportunity to convince both of them that they need to move to Seattle. Will my evil plan succeed? Tune in next week.....