O Sweet Mr Math

wherein is detailed Matt's experiences as he tries to figure out what to do with his life. Right now, that means lots of thinking about math.

Saturday, January 18, 2003

11:46 PM

Jan. 18, 6:25 PM

Yesterday was my last day at my job.

Thursday I was taken out to lunch by a manager who has been at the company longer than I have. I never worked for him, but we worked out of the same office most of the time I was there, and I occasionally did special projects for him. Over lunch, we talked about my future plans, my experiences at the company, and the changes at the company during the time I was there. It was a very good conversation, and I came away from it feeling very confident about the course that I am embarking upon.

When I got back to the office after lunch, I realized that I was feeling more relaxed than I could remember feeling. This was in spite of all things I needed to take care of before I left and my uncertainty about my future. I was sure at that moment that I was doing the right thing, because my body was telling me it agreed with my brain about my decision to leave. Unfortunately, it didn't last too long, because I quickly became wrapped up in the work I had to do. I was sorry to feel the tension coming back into my body.

Friday morning I had cleverly scheduled an eye exam. I figured it was my last chance to get an exam while I was still covered by insurance, so I better take it. What I failed to consider was that the exam took a full hour, and it snowed Thursday night, meaning there was heavy traffic on the highway. I expected to get to work between 10:00 and 10:30. I got to the office at 11:15.

When I got to the door, some of my coworkers were smoking outside. On the plus side, I was able to get in the building. (My keycard had been deactivated on Wednesday.) But I also received the comment, "Coming in at 11:15 for lunch at 11:30 on your last day. You've got balls."

That was not my intention. I joked, "In at 11:15, lunch at 11:30, out at 2:00. Good day." When I got to my desk, I discovered that my network password had been deactivated again. My manager got it reactivated just in time for lunch.

To celebrate my last day, my department took me out to lunch. One of my coworkers who has been trying to get me to go out for drinks with him as long as I've worked for the company made a last ditch attempt to get me a drink at lunch. Sadly, he failed. Lunch was fun. Nearly everyone I worked with has been at the company for less time than I was, so I got to tell stories of the good old days, when we were flush with venture capital and not afraid to spend it.

The truth was, as I had said at lunch the day before, that they really were the good old days. Once I felt like I was working at a company that would change the world, I had an active part in the company's success, I was working with people who shared my enthusiasm, and working at the company was personally rewarding. I don't believe any of that anymore.

One of the benefits of the lunch, and my last few days generally, was the number of people who told me how important the work I did was and the benefit that I had provided for the company. I always believed that I was doing work that changed how the company operated for the better and I deserve personal credit if the company succeeds (it's still not clear that it will) because of the value of the work that I did, but it was nice to see the number and range of people who agree with me, at least to some extent. I didn't often get an acknowledgement of the work I was doing while I was an employee.

Unfortunately, because I got in late, and because I felt an obligation to do everything I could to give the company a chance after I left, I didn't come close to leaving at 2:00. The company finally started asking for the things I thought they should have started asking for as soon as I gave notice. They asked me what skills I thought were essential in a replacement. I showed people how to run the reports they required without me. And I wrote up descriptions of all the tools I had created and gave summaries of how to use them. During the afternoon, I found that my email access had been turned off, along with my printer access. Fortunately, my network access still worked, so I could save all my important files to the network drive where others could get to them.

Despite my dissatisfaction with the company, I still wanted to give them the best chance I could to succeed without me. If they find someone competent to replace me, hopefully my notes will give enough information to carry on without me. I don't know if they will be able to continue to use the systems I developed, but I'd like to think that I created something lasting and my work will be carried on. Unfortunately, there was a lot to write. I didn't leave until 9 PM. I don't know that I was the last person in the building, but I may well have been.

As I started the car to drive away, I felt sadness about leaving for the first time. Not about leaving my job as it had been recently, but about leaving my hopes associated with the company. I met some very cool people while I was working there, and while many of them have already left, I'm sorry to leave the ones who remain. I also met plenty of people I couldn't stand. I'm not sorry to be leaving them. As I was driving home, I thought about my experiences with the company. This was a company of exciting ideas and high hopes, but it's fallen on hard times. I had managers filled with energy and enthusiasm who passed that on to their workers, managers who were competent, and managers who didn't understand what they were working with and how to use it. The company encouraged me to dream about my own future, and prevented me or failed to allow me to realize my dreams. At the height of the stock bubble, the company handed out stock options without cares and made promises about our future stock performance. I dreamed about the money I would have now and what I would do with it. I took money out of my paycheck for the company's stock purchase program. The stock price collapsed, and I lost thousands of dollars on my stock purchases. Fortunately I wasn't depending on the stock for my savings, and my investments are doing better than the company stock, but I wish I had that money now.

If there's one thing I want to take away from my time there, it's the attitude at the beginning. I wish they had been smarter about their spending practices and I hope I will be about mine, but I want the hopes I once had. I want to change the world. I want to be able to hold things and say, "That exists because of me," and take pride in what I've created. Maybe the company will still live up to my hopes. Good luck to them. And I hope I can tap into those hopes again, and go on to live up to my dreams for the future.


Wednesday, January 15, 2003

12:05 AM

Over the weekend, I installed NetNewsWire on my computer. It completely rocks and will transform the way I read blogs. Many blogs and news sites produce RSS files, which include summaries of postings made on the blog. A significant number of blogging tools, such as LiveJournal, automatically generate the files. NetNewsWire collects RSS files, so rather than looking at each site individually, you can just look for the next unread post in NetNewsWire. This makes reading blogs with RSS feeds go much faster and makes reading blogs without feeds vaguely annoying.

I showed this to Erica last night and she seemed unimpressed, or at least sleepy. Today, though, she declared I had to get an RSS feed for my blog, so she could add me to her LiveJournal friends list, and beyond that, refer to my blog as if it were a LiveJournal blog. So my mission is clear: generate a RSS feed for my blog.

Apparently Blogger only has beta support for RSS, and then only for paid members, so I'm going to be looking into hand coding RSS. I don't think it should be too bad. It strikes me that it should be possible to convert XHTML into RSS given proper tags, but I haven't found any obvious solutions for doing that on the Web. I'll just have to look into developing a Perl script to do it myself. The fact that I don't actually know Perl should only slow me down a little.




What does "rolls a hoover" mean, anyway?

"Roll a hoover" was coined by Christopher Locke, aka RageBoy (not worksafe). He enumerated some Hooverian Principles, but that might not be too helpful. My interpretation is that rolling a hoover means doing something that you know is stupid without any clear sense of what the outcome will be, just to see what will happen. In my case, I quit my job in an uncertain economy to try to start a business. I'm still not sure how that will work out.

Why is the HTML for this page not valid?

BlogSpot adds the advertisement that appears at the top of this page. That advertisement is not valid HTML and is outside of my control. I believe that aside from that ad, this page is valid HTML.