jmadigan.net

30Oct/03Off

Odd Jobs

Like many I/O Psychologists, I often make use of the handy Dictionary of Occupational Titles, as well as its sexier sibling, O*NET. Both of these resources aim to provide a comprehensive description of every job in the world economy. If people do it, they want you to be able to look it up and get a list of tasks accomplished by a person in that job. Nifty.
While looking up a rather mundane job today, I started flipping through just to see what kinds of stuff they have. Turns out the authors of the DOT included some wacky occupations in the name of completeness. Check out the job descriptions for...

And of course, I/O Psychologist. Cyberathlete was nowhere to be found.

29Oct/03Off

Scourge of Prometheus

Thanks to everyone who called or sent an e-mail or instant message expressing concerns about our safety over the last few days. Geralyn and I are both fine and are counting our blessings. The fire that was burning near our house is contained and never really made it close. However, we were a bit stressed out on Sunday night when we could still see the flames on Otay Mountain from our street. Residents in Eastlake were asked to evacuate, and that was just right up the road from us. In fact, the first house we tried to buy here in San Diego was in Eastlake!
We went so far as to pack up a bunch of clothes and a few precious belongings, like photo albums, pictures, our important documents, our insurance paperwork, and the cat. These we set by the door in case the police came knocking at 3:00 am, telling us to get the hell out of town. It's odd when you're faced with the task of choosing only one carload of you belongings to take with you. Irreplacable things like pictures came to mind first, then knick-nacks with personal meaning. The rest of the crap you own loses its luster when you realize how impersonal and meaningless it is.
Monday morning came and everything smelled like spent charcoal. It actually woke me up throughout Sunday night, so I got up at around 5:00 AM to watch the news and grimace at the black and white ash that was still fluttering down like God's own salt and pepper. Breathing outside made my throat dry and my nose clog up with all the itty-bitty bits of burnt things trying to make it up my nostrils.
I called into work around 7:00 to find out that Sempra had closed its corporate offices due to air quality and the general mayhem. They ended up staying closed through Tuesday as well, so I got an unexpected, 4-day weekend. Only thing was, I couldn't really leave the house. The air was bad, many places were closed, and many highways were shut down.
For the first time in a long time, I was bored. I honestly can't remember the last time I was bored. I read, I played some games, and I made some notes on my NaNoWriMo novel. That got me to about 11:00 AM. On Monday. By Tuesday night I was pretty much just hopping up and down in the middle of the living room trying to burn off some of my pent-up energy.
If that's the worst of it, though, I count myself blessed. Many people died or lost their homes. I just had to be bored and deal with a lot of boogers. I'm damn lucky.

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26Oct/03Off

Fire!

Apparently, huge chunks of San Diego are ablaze at this moment. Wildfires are gobbling up houses, trees, and even highways as I type this. People have died and property has been burnt to ashes. Several highways are closed, and my plans for driving to the NaNoWriMo kick-off party are toast.

I don't believe that our area is endangered, but it's pretty freaky to go look outside our windows and see skies that are overcast not with clouds, but with smoke. Everything overhead is yellow and brown, and if I walk about 50 feet up the street I can see one of the fires burning far in the distance. A few minutes ago it started to snow ash. I took some pictures right outside my house and from up the road so you can see how things look. Crazy.











25Oct/03Off

Pregnancy Update: Week 26

Week number 26. Not a whole lot to report this week, other than Geralyn is really starting to show (look at the pics below). One of the benefits of pregnancy revealed itself the other night when we went out to dinner. There was a 45-minute wait for a table and all the seats in the waiting area were taken, so we stood to await our turn. One gentleman who was sitting on a nearby bench motioned to Geralyn and said "Hey, you want my seat? Want to sit down?" Chivalry, my friends, is not dead. It's hanging out in the waiting area at Chilli's.
The nursury is still being worked on, but should be done next week. We can then start setting stuff up, which should be fun. We had the double-sized bedroom in our hose bisected to make two rooms --a nursury and a home office. Nothing fancy, just some drywall, a new doorway, and minor electical work. I'll have before and after pictures once it's finished.

21Oct/03Off

Reviewing reviewing

My review of Freedom Fighters went up on GameSpy.com today. I loved the game, but thought it was way short. Still, it has some of the best teammate AI I've seen yet, and it's undeniably fun. See the full review for the skinny.
Video games aren't the only thing I've been reviewing, though. I volunteered to spend the last couple of days going over submissions for the 2004 Society for I/O Psychology (SIOP) conference and reviewing them. These are scientific papers (lots of dissertations, theses, research reports, etc.) and proposals for symposiums and roundtable discussions. I submitted one myself.
Comparing the review process for video games with those of scientific papers is interesting. In both cases I'm asked to determine if it would be worthwhile for the audience to consume the media. Game reviews are a mixture of objective (feature set, bugs) and subjective (how fun it is, how good it looks). The SIOP reviews are also objective (scientific rigor, adherence to a specific format) and subjective (interpretation of results, contribution to the field).
The emphasis is flip-flopped for the two, to be sure. Games, being entertainment, are more focused on subjective factors, while scientific research is more focused on hard, objective facts and methods. But, if each one is done well, they're not as different as you might think.
And you know what the really unexpected thing is? GameSpy provides about as much guidance for evaluating games as SIOP does for reviewing conference submissions (2,216 words for GameSpy vs. 2,356 words for SIOP). Guess both these people have their stuff together.

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20Oct/03Off

Payne

Started playing Max Payne 2 last night, and I'm very impressed. Though I hear it's short, the game is infused with so much quality it's squirting out through its gritty pores. The physics engine is an absolute riot to play with --you can knock objects down and around realistically, and it's loads of fun. The designers did a good job of incorporating this into the game, so that if you jump out from behind a corner and pump three thugs full of buckshot, it's immensely satisfying when they fly back into a pile of boxes and canisters. GREAT stuff.
I can't wait to get home tonight and play some more. To me, that's the hallmark of a great game.

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19Oct/03Off

Pregnancy Update: Week 25

Week 25 is upon us. We spent some time this week registering for a baby shower that Ger's family is throwing her. I got to take the little zapper gun and run around the store shooting stuff into our list. Fun, but I'm already getting tired of booties and burp cloths. The big stuff like the stroller/carseat, playpen, high chair, etc. was more fun to pick out, though I felt a little ill prepared. Fortunately, they gave us a guide from the people from Fisher-Price about what Fisher-Price items you should buy for your baby to make it Fisher-Price compliant. Dodged that bullet.
We also went out and actually bought a crib, which will be Samantha's 0th birthday gift from Ger's parents. Now I get to put it together and hope it's not some kind of baby-eating deathtrap.
We're still going to need a dresser, though, but we'll hopefully be able to start putting the nursury together next weekend. We have a contractor coming out tomorrow to start working on it.

17Oct/03Off

Big bucket of suck

So, after much anticipation, Apple is now offering a Windows-compatible version of their iTunes online music store. For those of you that don't know, it's a program that will allow you to buy, download, and play music from the Internet. It's been out for the Apple operating systems for a while, and people seem to love it.

It's an attractive concept for those of us opposed to music piracy, so I decided to see what the buzz was all about. I downloaded the software, installed it, created an account, gave up my credit card number, and bought a song for $1.

Hey Apple: Screw you.

The service worked fine --well, even. But what they don't tell you until you've paid your money is that file you buy isn't in .mp3 format, and you can't play it except through their clunky software or a portable iPod player (starting price: $299). That means I just bought a song I can't play in my mp3 player, and I can't play it on my PC using Winamp, my preferred media player. I paid for the song, it's mine. But I can't play it where or how I want? F that.

I want to buy digital music. I really, really do. And I won't steal music by downloading it from a peer-to-peer network. But prices for CDs are completely out of whack with reality, and nobody's offering an online product that's not choking on its own restrictions in the name of control.
So I'll probably just keep doing what I've been doing: Buy a few CDs a year from artists that I'm positive I like, rip them to .mp3, and then stick the CDs on a shelf to collect dust. Bah.
Oh, and also: iTunes totally hosed my co-worker's iPod when he installed it. Wiped out all 136 songs he had on there, then screwed things up so he can't even add music to it. Nice.

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14Oct/03Off

kthxbye

<RANT>
I saw something quite charming yesterday. I'm on a e-mail list for fans of an author named Raymond Feist. The author is quite active on the list and is willing to endure both insightful and banal questions about himself and his work. Yesterday a gem came through from a new poster. I am not editing when I quote it thusly:

sorry but i figured feist readers in general have good taste in fantasy fiction therefore r the best source to ask my questions, with that incredible sucking up effort IM forgiven right

Ahem. This caused a litany of abusive reactions from the list regulars. There was name calling and hurt feelings. People told this guy to either learn how to communicate or STFU. Others told the poster that no, he was not forigven and that he should spend some more quality time with some of his his friends in Punctuation Land.
I'm going to put on my Cranky Old Man hat (the orange one that says "Caterpillar") and say "DAMN STRAIGHT", and get off my lawn while you're at it. This phenomenon of "net speak" is as stupid as its perpetuators. I can't imagine a job seeker getting very far with this as the opening paragraph of his cover letter:

hi im realy good and want to work 4u cuz i need a job and you r down from my house i can send u my resume if u want it but i cant find you on aol instant msngr wtf??? if you see me on IM prolly playing halo ROLLMAO!!!!1111!eleven!

I've actually heard stories from teachers who get papers turned in written like this. This seems like social Darwinism in action to me. Hopefully these spazzes will either learn which modes of communication are appropriate for a given situation or they'll flunk out of school, loose their 'net connection, and die of starvation. I have no tolerance for them if they can't adapt and learn.
In fact, even while working at GameSpy where slang and instant messaging are ubiquitous, I made a decision to purge all my messages of such 'net speak, even if it mean taking an extra 3.5 seconds to compose a message. It just reflects poorly on you and more often than not triggers the kind of heuristics that say "This person says nothing worth hearing". Because we're all busy people and that mental shortcut is right the vast majority of the time.
</RANT>

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10Oct/03Off

Pregnancy Update: Week 24

Week number 24! As you can see in the picture below, Geralyn is doing well and looking good. Baby's prenatal beepin and bopin has become a normal part of life now, but it's still pretty cool. We are, of course, continueing to educate ourselves on the whole process.
For example, we watched a show the other night about deliveries in the very same hospital we plan on using, and let me assure you that when they say "Viewer discression is advised", they mean it. Delivering a baby is a graphic, messy affair. If I were ever to make a movie about it and needed some inexpensive but convincing special effects, I'd stock up on cherry Jell-O.
The show turned the cameras where they don't usually go, giving you clear views of not only normal deliveries, but cesarean ones as well. It was quite shocking. Not really disturbing and certainly not horrifying, given the end result, but still shocking. No amount of "What to Expect" books is going to prepare you or me when the time comes. But you know, the people on that show seemed to handle it just fine. I guess there's a little squirming bundle of good reasons why.

In other baby-related news, Matt Seeker (U. of Tulsa) sent me a note saying that he and wife Sue just had baby numero dos last week, and christened him Vincent Xavier Seeker. Nice! Their other 15-month old son Marty is getting into the whole big brother thing.
Are there any of my friends who aren't pregnant or newly minted parents? Seriously. Anyone?

10Oct/03Off

Whee!

As promised, I snagged a new GameBoy Advance SP yesterday using some of my birthday proceeds and a few trade-ins. I also got a copy of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. I'm loving both. The GBA SP neatly solves the major problem I had with the original --no backlight. So the screen looks great and I can play it without having to situate myself someplace where the light was bright enough to see the unlit screen. Someplace like the surface of the sun.
Unfortunately the wiley folks at Nintendo decided to make you pay $5 to get a headphone adaptor to fit their weird-ass plug, but that's a minor thing. It also has a rechargable, built-in battery, which is a major thing (and a good one to boot).
I've only played a few furtive moments of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, but it seems like it's going to be great fun. It's crisp, stuffed with character, and looks great. If only I traveled more, I'd get more use out of it.

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8Oct/03Off

32

Happy birthday to me. I scored a nice dinner (grilled salmon steaks, asperagus, and parmision and herb orzo, mmmm...), cake, some new shirts for work, and a gift certificate to Best Buy. Phat! I do believe I'm going to take my loot and buy a GameBoy Advance SP and a copy of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.

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8Oct/03Off

Transistors

I feel compelled to comment on the Recall Election results.
When I was in grade school, there was a guy who bordered on being too smart for his own good. Let's call him Phillip. Phil loved impressing people. This is fine, really, but tends to be difficult when you're not that impressive. So he did the next best thing: He tricked people into being impressed.
Phil once brought the top half of one of those ball-point pens whose tip retracted and protracted when you clicked the little nub on the oppisite end. He told us it was actually an explosive device that was rigged to go off once it was clicked 10,000 times. He would hold it up to my face and went click-click-click-click until I finally donned a concerned look.
Phil's best trick was to convince several of us that he had created a walkie-talkie that could listen in on the teacher's lounge. The device was obviously a telephone headset with some wires poking out of the wrong places and a dangling 9-volt battery, but Phil insisted he had rigged it up right and used a mysterious transistor he had found in his dad's lab. We couldn't hear it because the signal was faint and flakey. It was fun to believe, so we did.
Things really got interesting, though, when I took it a step further and made my own eavesdropping device. I ran from the school bus that afternoon and siezed an unused phone from the remnants of our last garage sale. It was a deep green and I was sure it was pregnant with mysterious transistors. I took it to my bedroom and beat its electronic brains out with a hammer. I then rearranged the pieces, hooked up a battery, and cemented them all in place with candle wax I melted in the microwave. I had no idea what the hell a transistor was, but I was sure the device would work.
The next day, I brought my invention to shchool and made the dubious claim that I could use it to hear into the teacher's lounge, just like Phil. He just stared at me, and I could see wheels turning and grinding. Some outsider had stolen his scam, and he couldn't expose it without admitting his fraud. Worse yet, the outside seemed to actually believe it was true!
So we both walked around with telephone headsets full of wires and candle wax, pretending we could hear voices on the other end of our masterful inventions. I think I may have even convinced myself, on some level, that I could.
I think those involved with this recall election must feel the same way, except that only one person gets to use the phone at a time.

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7Oct/03Off

Vote

Just got back from the polling place for the California Recall Election, which the government was kind enough to put in someone's garage across the street from my house. There was free coffee served from paper cups on a Pottery Barn TV tray. I think the apple pie was still in the oven.
And yeah, I voted for a new California Governor and for (or rather, against) a couple of propositions. Given the whole "secret ballot" thing, I won't tell you who I backed as the Governor. Let's just say that tomorrow is my birthday and I don't want to get "Governor Schwartzenegger" for a gift.
Some folks I know are of the opinion that even if there's a candidate you like more, you should vote for the guy or gal that has the best chance of beating the guy or gal that you hate the most. It's kind of like anti-voting. This goes hand-in-hand with the whole "a vote for anyone besides Bustamante is a vote for Schwartzenegger" dictum, as well as the "let's keep Davis in office 'cause otherwise Schwartzenegger will win" position (which bears a strong resemblance to the fetal position). That's a perfectly valid position --one that millions of smart, politically aware people make.
I, on the other hand, feel that I need to vote my conscience, even if it means "throwing away" my vote on a poor schmuck that I think is the best choice, but everybody on the planet knows doesn't have a snowball's chance of winning. Why? Because I only have one vote, and let's be honest: That vote doesn't really mean much. It's not going to affect the outcome. I'm voting because I think it's the right thing to do, and I'm doing it to satisfy my sense of obligation. I'm voting for my sake, not the theirs. I voted my conscience because it let me walk away from the booth feeling good, if a little helpless.

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4Oct/03Off

Pregnancy Update: Week 23

Week 23. Not a whole lot to report this week, as the ultrasound fiasco has been detailed below. We've both started calling Ger's passenger by "Samantha" (or in Ger's case, "Sammy" which I don't really care for). We're also trying to line up contractors to bisect the super bedroom we're currently using for an office, so that we'll have two rooms --one office and one nursury. I've been given permission to decorate the bathroom off the nursery, but been told to stay the hell out of the way when it comes to furbishing the baby's room itself.

Oh, and by the way: I created a pregnancy photo gallery and slide show so you can see the changes over time.

3Oct/03Off

Insanity

I have a saying: "I know how we can tell the truth. We'll vote on it!" Like many of the things I say, this is best appreciated when viewed through a lens caked with sarcasm.
Why do I bring this up? I was recently reading through the August 2003 issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology and came upon an article called "Controversy and Consensus Regarding the Use of Cognitive Ability Testing in Organizations" by Kevin Murphy, Brian Cronin, and Anita Tam. In it, they discuss how they surveyed I/O Psychologists about the use of cognitive ability (i.e., intelligence) tests and found a "reasonable degree of consensus" that such tests are "valid and fair" (among a few other things).
Excuse me? When did opinion become an acceptable proxy for scientific research?
Granted, there's no dearth of either to support the use of these tests. But this just seems a little odd to celebrate this kind of research as a Feature Article. This is the friggin' Journal of Applied Psychology --one of the top outlets for scientific research in the whole field! This might be a good conversation piece while nibbling on cheese cubes at the next SIOP happy hour, but a JAP article?
If I had come up with this kind of thing as a dissertation proposal in graduate school, my professors would have laughed and kicked me in the nuts. Twice. It was a tough program. But I guess that some people can just bang their foreheads against a keyboard and get it accepted.

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3Oct/03Off

News

Just a few quick news updates for friends and family.
First, I noticed that Brent Smith (family) has article appearing in this quarter's Journal of Applied Psychology (unrelated to my rant above).
Second, I hear that Gary Hunt (UMSL) and his fiance Jennifer have set June 5th at 2 PM as their wedding date. It'll be in Taylorville, Illinois.

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1Oct/03Off

NaNoWriMo

By December 1 I plan to be a novelist.
Oh, not a published novelist, mind you (though technicallly I have authored 3 published, non-fiction books). Today I signed up to take part in NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. The idea is pretty simple: Do whatever it takes to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. There's a whole website dedicated to it, and people apparently really get into it. It's not a matter of writing a really good novel that you think will get published or even read by anyone outside of a few people. The idea is to slam against your boundaries and walk away saying "I wrote a novel". How many people can say that?
And of course, I plan on having fun along the way. I like writing and haven't written fiction in a long time. I'm going to be posting my novel exceprts and progress here, and will create a separate section of the site for anyone who actually wants to read it. Sounds like some of us over at Evil Avatar (a gaming news/gossip site) may form our own little NaNoWriMo clique, which could be cool. So stay tuned.

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