Posted by: zaching | June 26, 2013

GrubHub

Verbatim from a survey response I just left with GrubHub…

I’ve used GrubHub about 10 times and have had 1 bad experience. I’ve had worse odds on many things in my life. The problem here was either GH being too aggressive about cancelling my order with Holy Grill or the restaurant screwed up. Or it was just bad luck. I’m not in a position to tell which. Here’s the timeline.

  • I placed my order with the Holy Grill through GH. New restaurant, excited about trying new foods. Might have a religious experienc while eating, all things looked positive from here.
  • I received a call about 15 minutes later that my order had been cancelled because GH was unable to confirm the order with the restaurant. I got $5 of free food to compensate me for the inconvenience. I said ok and we ended the call.
    • This surprised me a bit. Why did they cancel? Why not just tell me and ask me if I wanted to cancel? Maybe I’d be ok with the uncertainty. I can handle uncertainty. Maybe some people can’t and they’d freak out not able to make a decision about waiting and possibly starving. Plus, as you can see later in the story, if I had made the call to cancel the order I would’ve felt directly responsible for the bad outcome that ensued. The GH autocancel did remove my responsibility, so that’s nice. I like being blameless. Still, it felt like a loss of agency having the order cancelled automatically.
    • Regardless, ok, sure, I can order from somewhere else, there are like 150 places delivering to my apartment on GrubHub, so no big deal.
  • After hanging up with the rep, I tried to place another order through the app, but it didn’t work b/c I had a pending order. Something about black holes and time distortions. Very clever. Still annoying, but at least clever.
  • I called customer service, the guy on the phone was as helpful as he could be, telling me the issue should be patched on mobile and I should try updating my phone and I could order online as a workaround (holy grill, batman, there’s a website?!?). I checked on the updating thing and my app said it was up-to-date already, so I ordered online from Golden Kim Tar. It was very easy.
  • My order from Golden Kim Tar arrived, I started eating it.
  • I got about 15 minutes into eating my order when delicious turned to awkward…
  • I got a call from the Holy Grill delivery guy saying he had arrived with my order.
  • A long, uncomfortable pause on my end. [My delivery is here? But I’m eating food right now, why would I have a delivery? I don’t eat that much. Oh, shit! There was that other order that got cancelled. Poor bastard drove here for nothing! Do I get the extra food? It’s just going to go to waste if I don’t…or maybe the delivery guy gets to eat it? Bleh, he must get sick of that.]
  • After what was hopefully only a few seconds of internal dialog on my end, I snapped out of it and told him what happened (short version, not this novel). Said I would generously take all that food of his hands, but the order had been cancelled by GH (not me!)
  • He called his restaurant to confirm, and called me back telling me I was right and he was sorry for the inconvenience.
  • I said sorry to him too, that sucks. Hate to see all the food go to waste, he said yea, but he had to take it back to the restaurant, that seemed reasonable but sad.

So:
I didn’t get what I wanted, but I still got delicious food.
I had an awkward convo with a delivery guy, which was only half my fault.
I had sad thoughts about delicious food being carried away from my apartment and presumably thrown away.
I had to spend about 15 minutes of time sorting all this out, rather than the usual 1-2 minutes.

By no means a terrible night, but figure you’d want to know the full story. You guys still rock and I totally love what you’re doing with that food ordering thing.

Oh, and this is totally going on my blog. Not because I want to complain publicly about a minor error on your part or to give you bad press. But telling stories about the absurd things that happen to me seems to be my small audiences’ favorite thing to read and I can’t omit this. Journalistic integrity and all that. Plus, it’s already written so it’s like a free blog post, would be crazy to pass that up. I included good stuff too, so maybe it will be be good press for you. But again, small audience, so don’t hold your breath.

If you’re curious:
https://zaching.wordpress.com

Advertisements
Posted by: zaching | June 1, 2013

City life – p1

I’ve lived in a handful of different places, but this is my first time to actually live in the downtown of a large city.  I mentioned last post that I was going for the full effect by living in a tower in the middle of downtown SF.  All these changes mean a lot of things I could talk about.

City mobility

My dad was kind enough to mail me his old bike (new circa 2000) that he’d done a lot of research on when he was in a bike riding hobby phase and before his disability effectively prevented him from riding it anymore.  That should be arriving next week sometime.  In the meantime, I have the option of walking somewhere or walking to mass transit and taking that part of the way to make my trip shorter.  Or taking a cab.  Or getting a zipcar.  But walking is easiest for most purposes.  For my daily commute, there is a good bus route but it’s easiest to just walk.  So, I’ve been walking about 15 minutes twice a day.  Required, regular, low intensity exercise is nice and it’s a short enough walk that I don’t get bored and frustrated.  The bike will be a nice upgrade and all, but I can’t really complain now (I will. Don’t worry.  I’m just saying upfront that I lack justification).

My job is located in a decent area, but my apartment is located in a somewhat sketchier area.  At least that’s what people keep saying when I tell them where I live.  They sort’ve give me a look that seems to say “really, are you stupid or just really hood” (at least that’s what I’d like to think they’re saying), then say something like “that’s interesting, that’s a pretty rough area” or “I’ve heard that’s not the nicest part of town, what do you think of it?”.  I’m not sure where this seemingly universal knowledge comes from.  It seems much too consistent and common to be coincidence.  But I don’t get it.  I mean there are vagrants and thugs and so on hanging around near my apartment, but so far as I can tell that’s true everywhere around here.  Isn’t that what’s city life is like?  People in business suits walking briskly past beggars and thieves?  That’s what I’ve always seen.  And some of the other areas like the Mission District or Dolores Park that people seem to be infatuated with seem substantially sketchier to me.  Maybe I just can’t differentiate between a harmless hipster and a violent vagrant yet.  

Anyways, supposedly I am in a sketchy area and so I try to be careful, particularly when I’m out after dark*.  I even do the “hold your keys in your hand in a way that makes one of the keys a decent weapon” thing that I’ve heard self-defense types talk about before.  Actually, I’ve been perfecting it when I walk home at night because I naturally walk with my hands in my pockets anyways, so I might as well practice a skill.  And it makes think about getting jumped and stabbing someone in the face and them being like “oh man, I never saw that key-fist thing coming” as they drop their weapon and run/crawl away.  Which is much better than thinking about getting jumped and just being helpless.  In reality, I’d probably end up screwing it up and they’d duck or just stab me or something and I would’ve been better off just giving the nice man my wallet and phone and whatever and going on about my way.  But since it’s most likely just going to be all in my head all the time (similar to my various survival thoughts when a plane is taking off/landing), having thoughts that make me feel good seem on balance better than ones that make me feel insecure.  Oh, and I’m sure if someone walking by really paid attention they’d think I was up to something strange in my pocket, but no one seems to care one way or the other.

*I just realized this post is going to freak out my mom and/or dad.  I’ll probably get a thing of pepper spray in the mail next week as well as a handful of strong admonitions.  They always think I’m going to get mugged when I walk around in cities.  I tease them that them thinking I’m going to get mugged constantly is about as crazy as some “coastals” I’ve met thinking that people in Oklahoma or Arkansas or other “fly-over states” don’t have computers or electricity or running water.  But if I ever do end up getting mugged I’m going to have a real “I told you so” moment on my hands, so that’s even more reason for me to be cautious, beyond the obvious loss of good and/or life.  So, parents, it’s not as bad as it probably sounds.  My odds of getting mugged are pretty low and I haven’t even encountered someone on the way home that seems remotely dangerous/scary yet.  Just a lot of weird and kinda depressing (more on that later).  And I walk past a police station and a federal building.  No one gets mugged in front of a police station.  But if you do want to send me some kind of weapon, I’d like a tazer.  Those seem pretty cool.

Mail

Mail delivery is interesting.  My apartment doesn’t like to receive packages.  The official system is that they will do nothing, if the mail guy knocks on your door and you aren’t there, he’ll just have to come back again.  If after 3 times you aren’t there, then it gets returned to sender.  Very harsh.  Probably part of why my apartment was given a 1.5 star average review on Yelp (that and the fact that apparently my apartment is in a crime-ridden-murder-fest neighborhood).  But I of course didn’t read this policy before I Amazon Prime’d something to my house, so when I did ask and got that answer I kinda panicked.  It turns out the unofficial policy is that if the doorpeople (doorman seems sexist, particularly since most of them are women at my building, but doorwoman sounds stupid too and doorpeople sounds like a band name…stupid language) like you, they will call you when your package arrives and depending on how much they like you they may even hold it for you for a while.  I saw one guy today who had apparently made it good enough with them to have them store a package for him in a room till the weekend.  Anyways, after learning that and then picking up my one poorly considered delivery in the middle of my work day (and effectively doubling my walking for the day), I decided against shipping things to my home address.  My job is happy to let me deliver packages there, so that’s what I’ve been doing.  And since I live in a tiny apartment that seems fine, I mean how much heavy shit can I possibly have sent to my office?  There’s only 500 sq ft to fit that shit in in the first place.

The answer, apparently, is enough.  The wife was super sweet and volunteered to buy a bunch of stuff for me on amazon that I needed to buy but hadn’t gotten around to yet.  She did this in one impressive onslaught of purchasing that was all delivered this past week.  Many of the things she ordered for me were small and conveniently fit in my backpack*.  But a few of them were more obnoxious.  Like the fan tower thing (pictured below next to the clearly insufficient backpack) we got b/c people in SF don’t believe in air conditioning** and my 17th story apartment makes a weird whistling sound when I open a window.  So anyways, bought a fan online.  It seemed pretty respectable and not too expensive and it was Prime-able.  Until the mail guy delivered it to my office I realized we should’ve checked dimensions b/c that’s a lot bigger and heavier than it looked in the picture.  Now, I could have called a cab or caught the bus or something.  But that would be weak.  Really city dwellers carry shit home with them.  So I threw on my trusty backpack, grabbed my monster fan, and confidently strode home.  And not just that, I decided to call my mom on the way home, so I carried it most of the way home under one arm.  Damn right this city is getting me in shape.  That trip alone was equivalent to about 200 hours of mouse clicking and typing, which meant it was more of a workout than my arms had gotten in the past month.  And I thought people might give me weird looks or something, so I was all ready to stare down anyone that gave me a funny look for carrying a huge fan box thing through the streets with no bike or car or cart of any kind.  But it turns out even that didn’t catch the attention of the passersby.  Just another fan carrying weirdo here, nothing strange at all.

 Image

*Backpacks are super useful for city life.  And not the crappy ones that I used in high school that are small and have tiny shoulder straps.  I don’t remember why, but for some reason I have a pretty nice, pretty sturdy hiking type backpack thing complete with thick padded shoulder straps, a strap across the chest and a strap across the waist if you need to distribute weight better.  I can fill it up with cans and juice and other stuff from the grocery store and with it stuffed full I can walk around with it “clipped in” and it doesn’t hurt my back and neck too badly at all.  So I go almost everywhere with it.  I even went to grab lunch today without it and was going to get groceries on the way home when I realized that I didn’t have my backpack and so couldn’t carry more than a paper towel or carton of juice and so it would be a waste of time.  That’s why I ended up coming home to grab my backpack and then ended up typing this blog post so I could procrastinate going to get groceries.  I mean, holy crap, how are you supposed to survive without a backpack?  Why are all these people walking around without them?  No wonder every role-playing type game (computer or paper based) ever has the characters equipped with a trusty backpack.  They’re indispensable.

**I could have a whole tangent about that, I mean WTF?  You think the “fly-over states” are backwards California?  At least they know that humans were built to live at exactly 72 degrees Farenheit year round and so should have central heat and air in every building ever.  “It only gets hot a few weeks a year” my ass.  I guess I had the luck to see all three of those weeks in the month I’ve been here.  I’m sure that June, July, and August will be much cooler than May was b/c that’s the way summer works***.

***I was momentarily concerned that maybe some weird California weather patterns cause May to be hotter than the actual summer months.  Since I like data and hate to be wrong (even on random tangents and rants), I checked average temps for SF.  Reality holds here as much as any other place, summer is expected to be hotter: http://www.weather.com/weather/wxclimatology/monthly/graph/USCA0987

Next time…

Alright, I only covered a few of the topics I wanted to talk about.  And I didn’t even get to the low hanging humor-fruit of talking about the crazy people on the streets I’ve seen while walking back and forth to work.  That’s where this whole post was meant to go.  But I got sidetracked as usual.  Hopefully I’ll post later and alleviate any pent-up curiousity.  In the meantime, I’m going to get back to that grocery shopping thing I meant to do in the first place.

Posted by: zaching | May 25, 2013

I got a job!

Last month I wasn’t posting despite having free time b/c I was looking for a job and I felt comments I made could screw with my search (esp since my blog is directly tied to my LI profile).  This month I have a job so don’t have to worry about my job hunt, but haven’t been posting because I’ve been living in two states and working constantly in both of them and even spending a little time helping Kelli with the massive undertaking of staging our house for sale (which she just finished and did an amazing job of).

Job
The most interesting part of the past month(ish) is the part where I got a job.  I’m the data lead (a.k.a. an “Angry Data Scientist”) with Premise Data Corporation, a small startup headquartered in San Francisco.  We gather pricing data with an army of mobile-smartphone-carrying workers across the world and aggregate that data up into indices or other useful information for our clients.  It’s like collecting CPI data, but much more awesome because the data is daily, real-time, super-flexible*, tangible** and really granular.

*You want to know the price of Fragrant Rice in Mumbai? I can collect that for you!  You want a picture of the store where we found the price?  I can get that for you too!
**It’s the actual prices on store shelves recorded and photographed by our local workers in the store with their phones, not a survey or something

As data lead, I’m responsible for managing our data products, defining our data collection, and designing and overseeing the quality control of the data we collect.  At least I’m working on being responsible for it.  I’m still getting my head wrapped around my role.  For now,  I’m spending a lot of time learning tools (I’m using R and have a mac!) and building our first set of  inflation indicators for the markets that we cover.  It’s only been a month, but I’m loving my work and excited to go into the office (or even work from home or my mobile a little) every day.  It has some similarities to my work at BW, but mostly is new and different and exciting.

And we’re hiring.  So if you want to be an Angry Data Scientist yourself, send me an email.  I might have a spot for you on my team.  After all, we’re going to need a lot of help if Iwe’re going to revolutionize how the world collects and uses pricing data.

If you want to learn more about premise:
http://premise.is/

Non-job
Living in SF is cool too.  Our office is in the downtown area, so I decided to do something very different for me and rent a small apartment right in the middle of the SOMA district of SF.  I live in a tower apartment and ride mass transit and walk everywhere and am getting a bike and have to compost my trash and everything.  As my parents would say, I’m going for the “full effect”.  It’s very different than Austin, Connecticut, or Tulsa but I’m getting the hang of it.  It’s a 6m lease, so will have to decide pretty quickly if the urban lifestyle fits me for now or if I want to retreat to my semi-suburban comfort zone.  It’s certainly a downsize–for about 2x the rent as we pay on the mortgage, tax and insurance on our current 3300 sq foot house I am renting a 500 sq ft studio apartment.  Yay coastal prices!  But despite the small size, it’s certainly adequate for my needs and with a little more space could accomodate a wife, 2 puppies and a turtle.

And I have to point out again that Kelli, her mom, and our short-term roommate/gaming buddy Vince have done an awesome job of getting the house staged and ready to sell.  It looks like our house, but so much cleaner and nicer than it would be if I were there to muck it up.  If you’re curious what it looks like (or by some bizarre coincidence are shopping for a house in Pflugerville, TX) you can check out the listing with pics.*
http://matrix.abor.com/DE.asp?k=808740X7B8M&p=DE-545220-330

*I’m guessing this is NOT a permanent link, so won’t be live forever.  Sorry future readers!

As always, ask if you have questions.  And as always, I’ll try to update more.  Maybe things will calm down for me now that I’m settled in in SF and am past my first month on the job.  But probably not.

Posted by: zaching | April 16, 2013

Phone broken

Still job searching, have realized that while I have a lot I would like to say, I’m reluctant to say much of anything while in the middle of interviewing with a bunch of places that all have easy access to my blog (LinkedIn,Twitter and Facebook all point here and those are pretty easy to track down).  I doubt it’d be an issue with most the places I’m talking to, they’re far from big stodgy corporates that would get all upset over a blog post, but I still worry and so I don’t post.

Hopefully that will sort out soon and I can get on with a lot of parts of my life, including talking more on my blog.

However, as the title implies, the purpose of this post is less of an update and more a practical announcement.  Many of the people who would potentially call me also read my blog, so I figure it’s a high value prop to make a short post saying that my phone has finally died the final death and until I get it replaced email is the best/almost only way of getting in touch with me.  I should be keeping my number, so don’t worry about that.

Posted by: zaching | March 7, 2013

Upworthy

One upside of looking for a job with tech startups is getting to see so many cool new ideas.  I’m woefully unsavvy with tech culture, at least for a guy that believes he’s a tech geek, so it takes some push like a job search to get me to pay attention.  Found a cool website yesterday, Upworthy, that has a simple philosophy: people spend tons of time on facebook and so on clicking on pictures of LOLcats and other vapid crap b/c it catches their attention.  Why not use the same ideas to get them to click on meaningful content?

So there are tons of youtube videos and other cool things that are posted and categorized and I personally had a hard time stopping once I started clicking on the links.  Some of the videos are hilarious, others meaningful, some both.  Some are crap (or at least not my thing), but most of what I saw was interesting and I felt better/better educated/more cultured/whatever when I stopped sufing rather than feeling like I’d wasted a ton of time.

So, upworthy guys and gals, cool gig, so I’m doing some free advertising for you.

http://www.upworthy.com/

Posted by: zaching | March 5, 2013

The Wind Tunnel

One thing I didn’t know about Austin when I moved is just how windy it can be.  We don’t get tornadoes down this far south very often, but sustained strong winds are pretty regular.  Anecdotally, they seem about as strong as the winds from Hurricane Whatever in CT back in summer ’11.  I haven’t actually compared wind speeds, but the current wind storms are enough to rip shingles off houses, tear down fences, blow those big heavy plastic trash bins away and so on.  Nothing really dangerous, but enough to damage property and be a subtantial nuisance.

Luckily, my roof has been fine.  But my fence has not been holding up so well.  I lost a couple of sections early last week, apparently the post had rotted out and the strong winds broke it off.  My neighbor noticed it and I kept an eye on it/reinforced it with some wooden stakes to make sure nothing fell down…but eventually the wind won.  When the fence looked like it was going to go down, I took the sections down myself before they tore down and blew away.  I was sick when all of this happened, so couldn’t really fix it at the time (in fact just going out and tearing it down wore me out and got me started coughing again…ugh).  This weekend I finally felt up to doing a bit of work on it and got the new post set.  I didn’t have a post-hole digger and didn’t want to buy/borrow one for just a single hole, so I dug it out with a shovel, then took advantage of the clay soil to pack in the loose dirt into a much narrower hole (in normal dirt, it would’ve just collapsed in on itself, in the clay it stuck together like pottery).

The neighbor worked on it more this weekend and it’s mostly fixed now.  But today was windy again and I had a section of fence that I share with my opposite neighbor fall down and another section of fence that I share with the first neighbor started to give.  Luckily no broken posts this time, just screwing the fence sections back into place.  We did notice another bad post, possibly more, on sections that are otherwise well supported, so I may have more post setting in my future but am hoping I’ll get lucky and they’ll hold out.

It’s not as funny as my dog fence project, so I won’t go on in great detail, but on the upside my dogs now have a much bigger back yard to explore (and the neighbor’s lab/retreiver are equally excited about their expanded yard).  And little Thor has taken to knocking on our neighbor’s back door and then hanging out with them for a while.  They love having him over so that makes everyone happy (except maybe Bella who is a bit confused why her bro isn’t around).

So, as if Kel and I getting sick wasn’t a big enough distraction, I’ve also been dealing with that.  It’s definitely making it harder to find time for my job search.  On the plus side, the small amount of time I’ve had to work on the search in the past week has been productive, I have a handful of new leads already in case my previous interview doesn’t pan out!

Posted by: zaching | March 5, 2013

Job searching update – Jan and Feb

Wrote this entry last week, apparently was too delusionally sick to realize I only saved as a draft rather than publishing it…

It’s been a busy couple of months for me.  I’ve actually had some things to write about, but haven’t taken the time to write them.  I’m sick right now and not able to do much productive, so this is a decent chance for me to do some writing.

The big update from me is that I now know what I want to do next.  And I meant that fairly specifically, not just “oh yea, I’ll get a job in data” like I knew a few months ago, but a particular type of job.  In short, I want to be the “first data analyst” at a small, up-and-coming company.  I want to be responsible for taking over all the data messes that are currently handled by a half-dozen other people and start to make sense of them.  This was the environment my first few years at BW and I loved it.  It’s still not as specific as “sales support at Reuters” or some other well-defined thing I could tell recruiters and them send me a hundred leads.  But at least *I* know what I’m looking for…what my direction is; and that’s a big improvement.

I had my little revelation about 2 weeks ago.  I think (or at least would like to think) that all my preparation and design helped lay the framework for it.  But it wasn’t until I was doing a phone screen and my interviewer admitted that they didn’t really have a data team yet and the role would probably be pretty amorphous and I replied (excitedly) that that would be perfect, that things clicked into place for me*.  My first thought after that call was “holy shit, that’s exactly what I want, that’s something I’m excited about and something I can really get into”.

So, good news is I’m interviewing there and hoping I get the job, but also ready to go back to my network and give much better answers for what I’d like to do next.  Bad news is that while I’m excited to get the ball rolling I’m also pretty damned sick right now.  Kel came down with some kind of sinus infection/plague last week.  It looks like I may have been carrying it for a few days, but I didn’t really have any symptoms until I finished my interview last week.  I lost my voice at the interview (but that’s pretty normal for me) but otherwise felt fine.  It wasn’t until I got home that I started to really feel bad.  So now I’m cooped up at the house, cancelling all my weekend plans, taking meds and feeling like crap.  It gives Kel and I a chance to watch a bunch of TV together, but def not how I wanted to spend my weekend (and worried it’s how I’ll be spending next week too).

Worse news is that while Kel’s plague right now is fairly standard stuff, most of her problems the past few months have been weird and undiagnosable.  We thought it was allergies, but she tested negative to all airborne allergens.  Then we thought it was her sleeping patterns (she is a frequent insomniac), but a sleep study said she was fine.  We’ll try more tests and hope we find some positive results.  In the meantime, she’s sick all the time and barely able to keep up with her job responsibilities.  I’m worried it will start to impact her performance in a material way.  And perhaps most annoying, she doesn’t have any obvious/visible symptoms to help with the diagnosis (or at least to give some credibility to her issues).  She’s not contagious, she’s not coughing, she doesn’t look sick, she doesn’t sound sick, she doesn’t have sores or anything…she just feels crappy.  Terrible headaches, intense knee pain, debilitating nauseau, etc.  All things that suck, but that can’t be seen.  I’m glad I’m closer to being able to take over the “breadwinner” role from her.  She needs to have a little less stress in her life and while she would like to stay employed, she at least wouldn’t feel like everything relies on her.

*While interesting, this “click” thing can be a real pain in the ass.  I know before the click that I haven’t had it yet: I feel adrift and frustrated and lost because I don’t really know what I want.  I also know that I can’t make it happen: I can’t follow a checklist and at the end of the checklist have a nice little “click”.  I can setup lots of things to put me in a good position to have the click (research, talking to people about the topic, etc), but that’s about it.  So pre-click is just a damn frustrating time for me.  I know I’m waiting on something and until I have it I’m not going to be very effective, but I can’t just make it happen and can’t really explain to people why I seem adrift.  And sometimes it takes so damned long.  Seriously, I was “adrift” for almost 6 months (Sep-Feb) this time around and in the meantime having to try to explain to Kel why I wasn’t really making much progress on the job front.  Argh.  Even though she gets it, it’s still a pain for her to have to wait for me to figure it out.  Really glad I’m not adrift that often; once I have my “click” or “find my direction” or whatever wording I use to describe it, I am on that path for a while (usually 4-5 years!) and hoping this time will be no different.

Posted by: zaching | December 17, 2012

My next steps – clarification

After my last post, I had a few comments from people saying that they thought I was “giving up on my dream” too quickly.  I was surprised by these b/c I didn’t think my last post had stated or implied that was my intent.  Maybe it just reads differently to someone that isn’t in my head.  I’ll try to clarify.

I am burned out on my game.  I need time.  It seems like quite a bit of time.  While I’m waiting for my creative game-design energy to recharge, I don’t have anything else going.  I’m doing chores around the house, goofing off, and spending a lot of time playing tabletop RPGs (which is a ton of fun).  But I’m ready for a bigger challenge than just levelling up a Pathfinder Wizard and cleaning the floors.  I also would like to bring in some money so Kelli isn’t having to support the both of us; that puts us on a tight budget and isn’t fair to her.  So I’m looking for a job.  I thought about doing something non-professional, like landscaping (I loved my HS job at Riddle Plant Farm), working odd jobs, or even my dad’s suggestion to work with turtles at the local zoo.  But I suspect that I’ll find that to be less than fulfilling intellectually and a poor money-for-time tradeoff.  I don’t expect to make anywhere near what I made with my last job, but I don’t want to commit myself to spending a ton of hours doing something that isn’t fulfilling and doesn’t contribute much to paying the bills.

That’s why I’m looking for another data-related position.  I like working with data.  Even without having a professional use for it, I find myself constantly using Excel for all kinds of tasks.  Part of that is just my familiarity with the tool, but the bigger part is just my approach to solving problems.  I want lots of data and I want to be able to organize it.  So when I’m deciding if I want my high-damage character to be a fighter that uses a two-handed sword or a sorcerer that throws fireballs, I put together spreadsheets to crunch all the numbers and build (admittedly simple) models for how each will perform at different levels.  Then I feel I can make an informed decision.  This is NOT the normal way people play these games.  This is the way a data geek plays these games.

So data may not be my only passion, but it is something that I’m drawn to.  When I’m weighing different roles that I could pursue for the medium-term future, that’s what excites me and that’s what I intend to pursue.  I’m hoping that within a year I will be over this burnout and will be programming again in my free time.  Whether I go back to it full time or not will depend on a lot of things and I have no delusions about my ability to predict my own future.  Too many unanswerable questions: What if I love my new job and don’t want to leave?  Will I have the financial freedom and “relationship political capital” to even do something that doesn’t generate revenue quickly?  Will my mental model of the game have changed enough to require a new design?  Will I decide to get help rather than going it alone?

But I haven’t given up on my dream yet, I just need more time to sort it out.

Posted by: zaching | November 30, 2012

What the hell happened to you, Zach?

Yea, so I realize it’s been a while since I posted.  The short story is that I’ve completely burned out on writing my game and have procrastinated admitting that for a while.

Burnout

I’d been feeling it for a while, but it really kicked me in the face when the “save game” feature broke again and I spent a few days trying to fix it to no avail.  It was the most recent frustrating and messy and confusing thing to blow up in my face.  While fixing it, I found about a million excuses to do other things for a couple of weeks.  Then I realized what I was doing and why…I was avoiding the game and it was b/c I was fried.

I do this.  I burn out on things.  Pretty much everything, work, foods, games, books, whatever.  I know that about myself* and I’m smart enough to account for it in most things I do.  I didn’t know if it would happen with the game–since I’d been thinking about it for years and was more excited about it than anything else I could think of.  But I thought it might and was more worried about that than anything else.  I certainly didn’t know how long it would take to burn out, hoped a couple years and banked on at least a year.  Reality was at the shorter end of that.

Also, unsurprisingly, the game is slow to build.  I’m new to this, I’m making a ton of n00b mistakes, and it’s complicated.  The result is after a year of pretty good effort, I have a cool toy, but not a game.  By that, I mean something you can play around with and do some stuff, but it isn’t yet something that you can really engage with and play for hours.  As a player, it would keep me entertained for about 10 minutes and leave me wanting more.  It’s cool and I’m excited about what I’ve done, but it isn’t in a place where I can hand it to people and say “play this, it’s fun”.

Next steps

So, that left me needing a new direction.  I spent September explicitly avoiding the whole topic.  I played house-husband and took care of chores and played games and hosted various guests that came to visit, but didn’t think about any long term plans or anything.  That’s why no blog posts in September, I’d have to address long term issues and didn’t want to do that, so just opted out.

October, I started thinking about what I wanted to do next.  I was still burned out and I need to start bringing in some money b/c our savings won’t hold out forever (prior plans had me looking for a source of income starting in ’13 anyways, my burnout had no significant impact on this). So I started thinking about what I could do to make some money.  Kelli handed me a book on choosing a new career (helpful, though not something I enjoy reading) and I spent some time reflecting.  At the end of October, I basically decided that some part/full time position in something I’m already good at would be best for now.

I want it to be less stressful than my previous career with BW .  It has to pay enough to cover the bills.  It can’t suck.  It can be busy/active; 40-50 hours a week would be fine.  But I don’t want to feel like I have to be “all in or out” like I did with BW.  If I like it, I could see doing whatever it is for a while, and work on my game in my free time (a more plausible goal if my full time job is more relaxed than BW was).  If not, I’ll keep searching.  I don’t have any particular deadline besides getting older.

I’m really happy with my life outside of my career (if I had a billion dollars, I’d just continue doing what I’m doing and I’d hire some people to write a game for me too) and want to keep that.  I have a wonderful wife, pets that I adore, a very comfortable house, hobbies that I love, and a good group of buddies.  I don’t need much more than that for now.

So, I’m looking for work, putting together a resume, all that stuff.  If you need a data analyst or a spreadsheet expert or a database guy or any of a number of things I’m skilled at, drop me a line.

I do plan on publishing what I’ve written so far of the game and I’m maintaining CGC as a business.  I’ll link the game here when I do publish it.  Kel’s encouraging me to get it out there even if I’m not content with it.  Maybe she’s right and people interacting with it will spark my interest again and get me back into some part-time programming.

I’m not sure where this blog fits in to all of that.  I may keep updating it, now that I’ve admitted  my burn-out/failure and written this post it’s much less “ugh, I’ll write that tomorrow”.  So I may post more regularly, but no promises.  Just depends on what I have to say.  I don’t want to write unless I have something worth saying.  Or at least something I think is funny.

 

*If this sounds like a crap excuse to you or just general lameness on my part, I won’t argue.  I’m frustrated as hell with myself about this.  I hate ‘burning out’.  It feels weak and like an excuse for being lazy.  Everyone says that hard work is the key to success, but when I try to work hard and push through this it gets worse.  I’ve tried fighting through it many times before; hell, I tried fighting through it for a while this time .  If I keep pushing, I don’t think I’ll accomplish my goals, just end up being miserable and depressed.  I don’t see a solution or a way to get better about this, so I accept it as an undesirable part of myself.  Everyone has their weaknesses, this is one of mine.

Posted by: zaching | August 9, 2012

Friday Update, 8/10/12 (early and short)

I’ve missed a few Friday updates and haven’t posted about anything else either for a couple weeks.  I have a few posts I want to write, but have been consciously de-prioritizing them.  That doesn’t mean I’ve been working constantly or anything, but anytime that I want to work I’ve been choosing to do household chores or program rather than write.

Posts I want to write:

  • My 13 y/o cousin Grace came to visit for a week andwe went to Schlitterbahn
  • My thoughts on Minecraft and a compare/contrast with my game

Older Posts »

Categories