Where I don't care what others think

Air Traffic Controllers

May 5th, 2012 Posted in Personal | No Comments »

I imagine air traffic controllers are pretty frustrated kind of people.  Put yourself in their shoes, you spend a shift sitting in a tower looking out over a bunch of planes carrying people that are headed off on adventures, coming home from them , or carrying goods in support of that.  The air traffic controller doesn’t get to partake in the adventure ever, they just direct the planes off into the sunset and help the next one in line to do the same.

Pilots are lucky enough to have someone who’s job it is to help them sort out and work through any mid-air problems that occur.  Sure, while it’s not the controller’s fault that a bird flew into your engine they’ll do their best to clear whatever runway you want or make sure that help is on the way if you prefer the river route.  When all is said and done the captain is often heralded for landed after hitting a bird, but who thanks the operational folks behind the scenes that made sure the landing environment or post landing process was well under way?

Even when things don’t go wrong, when  I depart an aircraft I feel this urge to say thank you to the pilot if he’s standing in the cockpit area watching everyone leave because he didn’t kill us.  In retrospect, I should probably be thanking him for following the instructions and thank the person who passed along those instructions on the radio for making sure that we didn’t crash into anything along the way and made it to the gate without too much hassle.

I wonder if there’s competition in the field to work with more complicated parts of the process.  I imagine working at a small boring airport is just that, but I’m unsure if a particular controller position represents the height of a career or whatnot.  Presumably no one really cares about ground control because you have windows to avoid hitting things, but I suspect the more airborn stages get more exciting; they at least have more at risk.  I’m also left wondering how frequently the controller folks wish they were in the pilots shoes.  Sending a plane off to Hawaii is one thing, but actually flying it there sounds like it would be a much more exciting experience.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d settle for being a passenger on the plane either.

Me, I’d settle for being a passenger once in a while.

Good night moon.

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April 16th, 2012 Posted in Personal | 1 Comment »

I think I’ve slightly underestimated the value of everyone else in the world.  For the longest time I enjoyed being alone, by myself, without the company of other people.  I connected the dots and concluded that having close friends wasn’t the thing for me and if folks like Thoreau could live alone in the woods and make something successful of it I could too.  Maybe instead of writing a book I could write some cool code or something.

After a fairly lengthy period of observation, I’ve concluded that don’t I derive the satisfaction or enjoyment I do from purely being alone, living on a planet devoid of other humans wouldn’t be pleasant in the least, but rather I enjoy taking substantial breaks from people that compromise humanity.  The reprieve is what I’m actually enjoying, a chance to relax not worrying about how others are going to perceive me or the opportunity to rest my ears and just listen to the silence.  The contrast is appealing, much like people enjoy entering an air conditioned house in the summer.  If it’s cold outside and cold inside it’s not nearly as refreshing.

To qualify my statement of a “fairly lengthy” observation slightly, I’ve been living by myself since my Junior year at RPI.  For the past 10 months or so I lived practically alone on the west coast of the US, and for the past week I’ve been completely alone in Australia.  There’s a bit of a progression here, but I’m optimistic I won’t find myself moving forward as the sole occupant of a space craft destine for a planet anytime soon (though that sounds intriguing).  During my time at RPI I lived alone and spent a significant amount of time in my dormitory or apartment, people thought my behavior was strange when I’d decline invitations or intentionally seclude myself (I’m a pro at leaving a group before a social gathering is about to begin).  As terrible as it may sound I enjoyed taking a break from others and would avoid lots of social situations likely due to the high amount of situational stress it might place on me.  That’s a very fancy way of saying I don’t like being around people all the time because I end up exerting a lot of energy trying to look like I fit in.

When I was at RPI I wasn’t always alone though, aside from classes (which I never really counted) I interacted with others through activities like RPI TV filming Student Senate meetings and being a member of the WTG and collaboratively working on cool web projects.  I didn’t go out to eat with people every night (in fact I rarely did), but I could spend a few hours each day interacting with folks in a fairly comfortable hybrid of a social and professional environment.

Transitioning to life after RPI I “work” a lot more, and I count work in the same category as attending classes as not-really-inter-personally interactive activities.  Sure, I briefly interact with folks at the lunch table, during a weekly meeting, or engaging in the transactional email, but I rarely discuss things of interest or engage in any collaborative efforts.  Working together involves late stage integration or, reviewing the work of others.  Most of my teams effort is through individual tasks where little to no interaction with other people is necessary, in fact the more people you have to interface with to do your job the less efficient you are at it (there’s a clock in play).  Paired with the lack of a social life outside of work (one of my known weaknesses) I’ved started to feel increasingly lonely.

Sure, I talk to people back from RPI online at night and we’d chat about X or Y but that’s an extremely limited interaction.  I’m all for instant messages instead of phone calls or in-person contact (I often prefer these sort of methods that support slightly more pre-meditation), but sometimes it’s nice to have a significantly lower barrier of entry where you needn’t punctuate your thoughts by <enter> keys.  I’ve also been in a relationship for a fairly long period of time which usually confuses people via the logic <relationship != lonely>.  The cop-out reasoning is that I’ve been in a long-distance relationship limited by the same factors that limit anyone interacting with someone a distance away, but fundamentally these aren’t as mutually exclusive as they seem.

Being on a continent where I know 0 people (or perhaps 0 people know me)  pushes all this to an extreme.  I’m out of timezone making it challenging to have reasonable contact with anyone that I might usually.  I’m not technically impressive enough at work to warrant anyone taking a notice of me, and my limited social skills means that longest conversation I’ll have with anyone outside of the office will be ordering food.   If this happened during my tenure at RPI I’d be like hooray, a few days away from everyone to catch up on all this email and write all that code I’ve been thinking about but I’ve done that all months ago.  I haven’t sufficiently fulled up a quota of work to do to comfortably occupy myself devoid humanity.

I think little kids have it easy, they can shout “will you be my friend” at someone and have a decent chance of getting a response; especially if that person is of a similar age.  People would think you have a mental condition if you said that at my age, and I believe the slightly more socially acceptable thing to do is propose you “go out for drinks” or something like that.  I don’t drink which makes it kind of strange for me to ever propose such a thing, when I’d really be saying is “do you want to go out for drinks even though I’m just going to have a soda, I figure there’s a decent probability you consume alcohol”.  If you’re invited out for drinks I think you can miss expectations and avoid the actual drinking part, but if you’re the person doing the inviting that’s a bit stranger.  I also don’t have anyone who I’d propose this to so this  paragraph is moot (i.e. I’ve concluded anyone I’ve interacted with has a sufficiently full social life to have no existing quota for me).

Had I been more outgoing in college I would have likely gained experience in the going-out-with-friends category but instead I focused my efforts heavily on programming projects and alike.  I think at some level I like to think the two are, can, or will be connected but more on that later.

Good night moon.

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Hours of Operation

March 13th, 2012 Posted in Problems, Stupid People | No Comments »

It seems strange to me that so many have agreed to operate on schedules that are often not beneficial to the parties participating and seem, more often than not,  to be detrimental and broadly undesirable.   What seems to be even stranger is that these schedules don’t just exist in small clusters but are continually reinforced by the collective populous.  I think banks tend to demonstrate this quite well.

If I were running a bank or financial establishment in which people physically interacted with their money or account I’d want to keep hours that mirrored the needs of the people’s money I was holding.  My local credit union back home was open 9-5 weekdays, except for Thursday when they were open until 6.  On the weekend they opened up shop for 3 hours on Saturday morning from 8-11am.  To me it seems like they’ve only created a total of 4 hours that actually cater to the needs of the people doing the banking, the 3 hours on Saturday plus the “late” night on Thursday for you to deposit your paycheck.  So kind of them.

When I was working a “regular” job that kept me in an office from 8-5ish it was impossible to visit the bank when I wanted to check up on my money.  Sure, I could rush home on Thursday and wait in line for a long time OR wake up promptly Saturday and get to the bank but that’s not really how I want to spend my Saturday morning.  I’m sure the counterargument to this bank scenario is that I, running my mythical bank, would have to find employees that could work the hours desired by customers.  I don’t have any qualifications in human resources to say this is remotely feasible, but if a grocery store in the outskirts of a pseudo city in “upstate” NY can be open 24/7 I think a community bank can afford to be open until at least when American Idol comes on.  I’ve never been quite sure what “props” are, but I’d like to award them to the grocery for letting me indulge my desire to go grocery shopping between 10pm – 1am.

Providing what most would call extended hours makes it much easier to distribute the load, and I suspect you end up distributing the portion of the load that you actually don’t want in an establishment during other times.  I get frustrated, not visibly so, waiting in lines behind slow old people… especially when they’re at the self checkout… and as a result I spend less time making you money (aka shopping) and spend more time trying to go as fast as possible to get in line before that man being wheeled there his stretcher.

Even in my own place of employment, which is fairly liberal about these sorts of things, I feel weird showing up after 9am, like I should be apologizing to someone.  Given, my specific line of work does put me on call most days from 8-4, I’m a big believer that being on call means available, should someone call not hunched over the phone waiting for it to ring.  There’s no one to apologize too I’m sure, but I just feel guilty walking in when everyone is already there.

Working summer jobs I didn’t mind the early mornings so much, nor did I really mind them in college.  I think now that they’ve become consistent with no end in sight it is a much different ballgame.  In college I could easily muster up the energy to get up at 6am for a few days if needed to work on a special assignment or something because there was that direct motivational link and because I knew that I would, inevitably, have a few days where class started >= 10AM so I could do whatever I wanted all morning.

Unlike my colleagues (or at least I’m assuming), I go home and “hang out with the wife and kids” or something like that; nor do I really take a break from work to watch TV or <insert social activity> unless there is a good episode of Jeopardy on.  I go home and usually spend anywhere from 2-4 hours doing programming of my choice now, using whitespace as freely as I want.  At some point the reverse of the morning starts to set in where I start to feel guilty that I’m still up, despite the fact that I could be wildly productive, because I know I’m suppose to be somewhere by an acceptable time in the morning.

At MassMutual I got around this by doing magic when I was at home; as in I wrote code to solve problems in ways they couldn’t fathom and as a result I could show up whenever I wanted.  While my stay there was short (it turns out if you automate a problem they’ve hired 4 interns to do you’re unlikely to stay employed for too long) it ended up being at least a beneficial time arrangement.  I haven’t rule out an arrangement like this at work, but coding up some magic is going to take a bit more work.

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