jmadigan.net

31Dec/03Off

Happy 68th Birthday, Dad!

Happy Birthday to my dear Dad, who turns 68 today. Wish I could be there to say it myself instead of just calling, but alas. He's actually spending his birthday stuck in Houston with the flu after visiting my sister and brother-in-law for Christmas and being too sick to fly home. If you're freind or family, though, make sure you call or e-mail him to wish him a happy one anyway.

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30Dec/03Off

Best of 2003

Hey, everyone else seems to be listing their favorite things from 2003. Why not me?
Best Game: The Legend of Zelda - The Wind Waker
Part of me wants to give this to Skies of Arcadia: Legends, which gave me warmer fuzzies. But the craftsmanship of The Wind Waker can't be ignored. Every thing about the game was elegant and wormed its way into gameplay somewhere along the line. It's like Nintendo hired that archetypal Indian warrior who told them not only how to use every part of the buffalo so that no part was wasted, but also how to do the same in game design. Every object, movement, and action in the game was cleverly worked into the gameplay experience so that nothing was wasted.
Best Book: All Quiet on the Western Front
I know this book about World War I German infantrymen was published in the 1930s, but I just read it this year. In fact, I talked about All Quiet the other week, so you can scroll down to the story entitled "Wow" to read about it. It made me uncomfortable in more than one spot, but that's testament to Remarque's use of language (and that of his translator, I suppose) and skill as a writer. It made quite an impact on me.
Best Day: June 6th, 2003
This day was the best of 2003 for two reasons. First, my final job offer from Sempra Energy came through, granting me exit from the horse latitudes at GameSpy. That made it a pretty good day, even if it was bittersweet. And yet when I got home that night Geralyn trumped my news by announcing that she was pregnant. I even took a picture.
Best Movie: The Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King
Obsessive nitpicking by armature iconoclasts and Tolkein purists aside, this movie did almost everything right and brought the ridiculously impressive film trilogy to a beautiful close. The battle for Pelenor Field delivered money shot after money shot that left me slack-jawed, but the characterization and storytelling were also top-knotch as well.
Best Accomplishment by Me: NaNoWriMo
I considered giving this one to Ger's pregnancy, but let's face it: My role in that was pretty straight-forward and not that hard to pull off. So instead I'll give it to my participation in National Novel Writing Month. Specifically, writing a 51,152 word novel in 23 days. If all goes as planned I can point to a second draft of this novel as one of my accomplishments in early 2004.
Best TV Show: Invader Zim
Again, I know that this show was put out a while back and even canceled way back on January 17th, but I just started watching it now. As I mentioned the other week, this is one of the funniest shows I've seen in ages. It's juvenile, but it's also delightfully twisted and clever in its parody of the sci-fi and paranormal genres, as well as mocking childhood in general. Zim's defective robot companion Gir is one of the most maniacally funny characters I've ever seen.

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28Dec/03Off

Hey, guys? Your game sucks. Sorry.

My review of Terminator 3: War of the Machines went live on GameSpy.com today. As you'll see if you check that link, I didn't like the game at all. At 1 out of 5 stars, it's the lowest rating I've ever given in a review. I think it deserves it, but I still feel pangs of guilt over it. I know some people in some land far away (I'm not kidding; I think the developers are from Eastern Europe) worked really hard on that game. They might even have some misguided sense of pride in it. But in the end, it's just not that good and I've got to call a spade a spade.
It's sad that this is the only game I've played in weeks. Fortunately, I bought a copy of Knights of the Old Republic on eBay and it should be here soon.

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27Dec/03Off

Pregnancy Update: Week 35

The remaining time in Ger's pregnancy can now be measured out in days, and we've taken notice of this fact. We're enjoying sleep while we can and attending to the final details of the nursery. We're also getting in some final quality time with our books, video games, and that vapid kid who works at the movie theater box office. We've also begun to make a list of things to take with us to the hospital and even started drafting a "birth plan", which documents what we do and do not want to happen (bullet point number one: "Get me an Epidural!"; bullet point number two: "I'm not kidding, there had better be an epidural on the way!").
As I mentioned, the nursery is just about complete. In fact, I put up a photo gallery that shows not only the finished nursery, but its transformation from double-sized bedroom into separate office and nursery. You should check it out, but be forewarned: it's cute. Here's a sample:

Other than that, Ger's parents took her on (and graciously paid for) a last run to Babies R Us for delivery day essentials, though I have no doubts that we'll be returning soon to buy this, that, and the other fuzzy thing. We have a full compliment of blankets, booties, and ...a different kind of blanket. There are many nice things for our baby to poop and barf all over. I'll post pictures.
Speaking of which, here's the one for Geralyn this week:

Filed under: Parenting, Samantha 2 Comments
25Dec/03Off

Finding Moon Boots

Merry Christmas, all! I hope that you and yours are well. Geralyn and I are spending Xmas in California this year instead of going to either Tulsa or St. Louis as we normally do. Ger's parents came over to visit us, though, so we're having a good time. Earlier today we unwrapped presents under the tree and drank alcohol-free mimosas (with the pregnancy an all; normally we booze it up).
No presents from Santa this year, but there probably will be in a year or two once Samantha is old enough to start living the lie about the magical fat man in the red and white suit.
I don't actually remember how old I was when I figured out there was no Santa, but I remember how it happened. I wanted very badly to get a pair of "Moon Boots", which were these humongous, kludgy snowboots made mostly of rubber and foam. Some of my friends had them, and I thought they were awesome. Even the heavy Oklahoma winter snows we had been getting that year would be NO MATCH for a boy properly equipped with these babies. STOMP STOMP STOMP STOMP STOMP! I'd crush the white stuff beneath my feet, leaving only a trail of flattened snow imprinted with the boots' zigzagging logo.
I had made sure that the Santas at both Woodland Hills Mall and Southroads Mall damn well knew that I desired this greatest of all footwear. The fat man had his orders, I told my parents. The Moon Boots would be mine.
Being the little bastard I was, I always hunted for my presents before Christmas. While my parents preoccupied elsewhere, I crawled through my Dad's closet looking for hidden treasure. But in this case, it was booty in boot form that I found. Tucked behind long coats and other shoe boxes, I found a pair of kid-sized Moon Boots, resplendent in their blur rubber and crinkly silver piping.
It initially confused me that the boots were here instead of still on Santa's sleigh, but I reasoned that my parents had decided to buy them for me (we often got presents from both my parents and Santa; I was a lucky kid) and that I would receive some other gift from the generous holiday elf. No problemo, I thought, carefully rearranging the shoe box so as to leave no evidence of my trespass.
Christmas morning came, and I grabbed the brightly wrapped, shoebox-sized gift first. I was getting ready to rip into it, then noticed something that gave me pause. It was the little March of Dimes gift tag, which read:
Merry Christmas!
To: Jamie
From: Santa
That was odd, given that I had found the boots in my Dad's closet. A few fistfuls of shredded wrapping paper revealed that I wasn't mistaken, and that these were indeed the Moon Boots I had pined for during most of November and December.
I managed to look surprised and elated (and I was indeed still happy to get them), but I was troubled by the gift tag. Later in the day, I walked up to my mother with the boots and asked, "Mom, did you get me these or did Santa?"
My mother, who apparently kept track of such things, replied, "Santa did."
And that when I figured it out. Actually, I had probably figured it out right when I opened the shoebox and smelled the rubber and plastic (which oddly enough reminded me of how beach balls smell), but her little white lie forced me to admit it.
I never told my parents about my yuletide epiphany, instead choosing to drop hints the next year and saying that that Santa stuff "was just for kids." They got the message and went along with it. I intend to revive the fantasy for my own daughter, because it's magical and will make her happy. She'll have enough ugly reality to live with eventually, so I think she'll deserve a little wonder and fantasy at the beginning of her trek through life. I'll only get concerned if she's still buying into it at 25. I doubt that'll happen, though, and I wonder how she'll eventually find Moon Boots of her own.

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23Dec/03Off

Fun with resumes

I've spent the last couple of days reviewing resumes for the open position in my department. As usual, this makes me laugh and cry at the same time. Even at this level (we're asking for a Ph.D. or Master's degree), you get some really poor resumes, some of which are from total nutjobs. One actually had a "pull quote" on it that said that the applicant "not only thinks outside of the box, but doesn't know what the box is". I plan on writing the rejection letter myself: "Dear sir, Thank you for your application, but the ideal candidate for this job is one who can identify boxes by sight. Regards,"

Other resumes use such strong language and hyperbole that they go beyond self-promotion and flirt with absurdity. I kept imagining that they were written by Morbo, the bulb-headed alien overlord and host of the nightly news on Futurama. I think I have a picture here somehere. Ah, here we go:

And that got me to thinking... What if Morbo really were applying to this job? What would the cover letter look like?

Dear Manager of Puny Human Resources,

I am Morbo! My all-seeing eye perceived your job posting on the SIOP JobNet website, and I was intrigued. Morbo wishes to join your pathetic team of mewling People Research Advisors.

Prepare to receive my qualifications!

  • Introduced a cost-savings plan for nationwide distributors of component parts, resulting in 13% decrease in costs.
  • Obliterated the indigenous inhabitants of Omicron Pices II, preparing the way for intergalactic death squads
  • Organized, analyzed, and filed legal documents
  • Directed a number of strategical initiatives to enhance organizational performance
  • Razed the capitals of all free worlds in the Intergalactic Federation of Peaceful Planets (IFPP), casting their ashes to the solar winds and scouring their souls with my triumphant laughter

These and many other qualifications are Morbo's to command. Fear me, wretched human insect! Together, we will destroy our enemies and realize synergistic improvements in organizational outcomes. SO SPEAKS MORBO!

References available upon request.

Respectfully,
Morbo

Shoot, I'd interview him. Wouldn't you?

20Dec/03Off

Pregnancy Update: Week 34

Getting ever so closer. The nursery is almost done, as we got the changing table delivered today and the painting finished up a few days earlier. It's all good, and the only thing left to do is hang stuff on the walls. We're waiting to see if we get any more nursery-related gifts for Christmas before taking that final step.

The gifts keep coming in. Geralyn went up to Orange County this week to do some work for CalOptima, and her co-workers threw her a baby shower. And perhaps most importantly, there was cake. It was very thoughtful of them, and much appreciated. We also got a nice diaper bag from Christie and Rich Armstrong, old friends of ours from college. I'm told that I'll look stunning carrying it around the mall and the McDonald's playground.

Other than that, not too much to report. Geralyn is still doing well and doesn't seem too weighed down by the whole "there's another person in my uterus" thing. This morning I once again saw the baby moving underneath Geralyn's skin. That always makes me marvel. I swear that the baby moves in response to things going on in the outside world. She definitely moves whenever Ger eats something, especially if it's sweet. And I think that she sometimes moves when you tap on Ger's belly or talk to her. Also, we went to a concert tonight (Christmas Pops at the San Diego Symphony Hall) and I swear the baby started grooving when the music started. I'm probably imagining it, but it's cool to speculate.

I bet baby thinks her comfy little home has been shrinking over the last few weeks. Here's photographic evidence:

18Dec/03Off

The Race Card

One of the my current work projects is a validation study for a set of cognitive ability (i.e., intelligence) and personality tests used to hire Meter Readers at San Diego Gas & Electric. As part of the study, I'm looking at adverse impact ratios. In other words, I'm determining whether or not people from different races tend to pass the tests at a higher or lower rate.

SDG&E asks applicants to pick their race from the usual list that you see almost everywhere: Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, American Indian, and Other.

While mulling through these data, that list took on a strange quality. It seems deficient to me. Of the 1,800+ people who had taken the test, only seven people claimed to be American Indian. More people chose "Other", so why have American Indian? And why not have "Arab" or "Indian" (as in from India)? Presumably, Arabs and Indians are supposed to consider themselves White and Asian, but are they? (Hint: No, they aren't.) Why are we and so many other employers so set on the above list of 5 races and a catch-all "other"?

I did a bit of digging and found out the answer. As usual, it boils down to tradition. One of the documents that Human Resource Professionals treat like the Bible (or Koran; take your pick) is the Uniform Guidelines on Selection Procedures, which dictates a lot of stuff you should and should not do. While thumbing through them, I found this passage:

B. Applicable race, sex, and ethnic groups for record keeping.

The records called for by this section are to be maintained by sex, and the following races and ethnic groups: Blacks (Negroes), American Indians (including Alaskan Natives), Asians (including Pacific Islanders), Hispanic (including persons of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, or other Spanish origin or culture regardless of race), whites (Caucasians) other than Hispanic, and totals. The race, sex, and ethnic classifications called for by this section are consistent with the Equal Employment Opportunity Standard Form 100, Employer Information Report EEO-1 series of reports.

So there you have it, and with an antiquated term like "Negroes" to boot. Personally, I think that's dumb reason. Not only should we include more races, I think we should change how we collect these data. Currently employers usually ask you to "choose the option that best describes your race." But what if Tiger Woods is looking to get a part-time job at Wal-Mart to earn a few extra bucks for the holiday? Is he Asian or Black? If he's half each, no single option "best" describes his race!

The solution, I think, is to give people a list of races and have them fill in percentages so that they total 100%, like this:

Caucasian
Black
Asian
Hispanic
American Indian
Orc

et cetera. For a White guy like me, it's easy. 100% Caucasian. For someone with a Hispanic mother and a Caucasian father, it's 50% 50%. Simple.

Of course, what we gain in richness we pay for in complexity. This kind of data would make doing simple adverse impact analyses really difficult, and employment laws aren't written to deal with it. Still, that could be changed and I think it would be progress.

Filed under: I/O Psychology 3 Comments
15Dec/03Off

All’s Quiet on the Western Front

Every now and again, I come across something that reminds me how powerful the written word can be. There's a handful of books (and the occasional movie) that have really affected the way I see the world and the way I think about certain topics. I recently finished All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. The book was originally published in German during the late 1920s and it follows one German foot soldier's narration of World War I. Remarque's language is incredibly eloquent and powerful, even after going through the sieve of a translation into English. There are passages about the horrors of war that made me genuinely squeamish, and there are others that made me honestly sad for the fate of this man and his companions. The writing is simple, but powerful and effective.
For the most part, the book steers clear of the larger questions of war, which are usually cast in terms of politics, ideologies, or religion. Instead, the author gives us a raw, stinging look at the life (and more often than not, death) of German infantrymen, and what war means to the people actually fighting it in the trenches.
There is one memorable passage where the narrator Paul is caught behind enemy lines, trapped in a mud-filled crater left behind by a mortar shell. When an enemy Frenchman stumbles into the hole with him, Paul brutally stabs the man out of panic and savage lust for survival. After he comes to his senses, he tries desperately to save the mortally wounded Frenchman, and spends another day pinned down in the hole with him. When the other man dies, the German infantryman obsesses over his victim, reading his journal, vowing to become a printer like him, and promising to write to the man's widowed wife and to explain to her why he killed her husband and how sorry he had become. Paul clings to these fantasies, but when he is finally able to flee the shell hole the next day, the tides of war wash them from his mind. The whole thing is incredibly sad and moving.
The narrator in "All Quiet" once commented that if the politicians and Generals who waged war were to sit in the trenches and live like foot soldiers for one day, there would never be any more war --EVER. While I don't hold the idea of a just war as an impossibility, I suspect he's right. It has certainly crystalized my attitudes towards the wars that my own country's politicians are waging. They should read this book, too.

Filed under: Books No Comments
14Dec/03Off

Pregnancy Update: Week 33

Sorry the pregnancy update is a day late, but we had a heck of a time today. Car trouble compounded by a full schedule means I'm just now getting this up. There's really not that much to report this week, other than our finishing up the nursery. The fingers I'm using to type this are smudged with yellow and lavender paint (technically, it's "canary" and "violet ice"), and the baby's new room is looking quite ...well, yellow and lavender. It's very girly, but the whole effect should be quite nice. Your mileage may vary depending on your monitor's color settings, but the hues look something like this:

The colors match the crib quilt and other decorations. If the foul-mouthed sonogram technician was wrong, though, and we have a boy, some quick repainting will be required. Otherwise the place will look like something out of "Queer Eye for the (We Assume) Straight Baby".

Once the paint dries and we get everything set up, I'll put together a photo album showing the whole transformation of the "super bedroom" into two separate rooms, including the finished nursery. In the meantime, here's this week's picture of Geralyn:

11Dec/03Off

Want a job?

My group at Sempra Energy is looking to hire someone to fill a "People Research Advisor" position. This is the same job I'm currently in, and it's located in sunny San Diego, California. If you're a I/O Ph.D. (or a Master's with experience) or know someone who is, check out the posting and contact me if you want more information. If you come to work here, you can even sit next to ME! Just don't mess with my stuffed llama.

Update: We've filled the position.

8Dec/03Off

Pathetic human FOOLS!

Looking over my last few posts, all of the non-pregnancy ones have been pretty negative. So I decided I should talk about some of the good things in the world. I just recently discovered one such bastion of delight in the form of the Nickelodeon cartoon series Invader Zim.
The show stars the titular alien invader and his defective robot assistant, Gir. Being somewhere south of competent, Zim was sent to Earth on a throwaway mission just to get him out of the way. He does his best to soften up the planet for what he thinks is the oncoming alien invasion, but is thwarted by his own incompetence and Dib, the lone (and already paranoid) boy who sees through his disguises.
Here's a pic. That's Zim on the left and Gir on the right:

I had heard of this series before, but seeing that it was on Nickelodeon had killed my interest. It had to be kiddy stuff, right?
Wrong. Well, sorta wrong. It's got its fair share of juvenile humor, but underneath that thin crust is a thick gravy of deep and dark humor with a dash of adult sensibilities. And it's f'ing hilarious. It smartly parodies the sci-fi and paranormal genres, and the voice acting alone makes it laugh out loud funny. The malfunctioning robot assistant Gir steals every scene he's in, like this one:
ZIM: GIR! Finally. I need your help. I've been captured.
GIR: YAAAY!
ZIM: No thats bad, Gir.
GIR: YAAAY!
ZIM: I need you to listen very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very carefully.
GIR: ...What?
Well, it's all in the delivery. It's funny when you see it. Or there's this quote, from when Zim's class (he poses as a grade school student to better learn about humans) takes a career aptitude test:
Miss Bitters: Zim, the machine says that the only career you are suitable for is--
ZIM: Yes, yes, LORD OF HUMANS! I will rule you ALL with an IRON FIST!
Miss Bitters: No, Zim, the machine has assigned you a career in fast food preparation.
ZIM: ...I will prepare food with my iron fist! Then I will work my way up to ruling you ALL with my fist! [Points at kid] You! Obey the fist!
Trust me, it's great stuff. Ironically, I only decided to check out Invader Zim when so many people started complaining about its being cancelled. I had to download the episodes from the 'net to watch them, though word is I'll be able to buy them on DVD next Spring. You should, too.

Filed under: General No Comments
6Dec/03Off

Pregnancy Update: Week 32

We can now think of the remaining time in this pregnancy in terms of weeks, rather than months. Before long it'll be in days.
Geralyn and I went shopping this week with the gift money/certificates to Babies R Us and got a bunch of stuff off our registry. It's always fun spending other people's money. We filled the car almost to capacity and got a few of the big ticket items, like the travel system (a carseat/stroller combo kind of thing), and the portable playpen. We also got some smaller stuff, like blankets, clothes, a changing mattress, crib mattress cover, and a "Snugli" carrier (one of those things you strap to your chest and carry the kid in). There's just a few things left, and we're hoping to get them for Christmas.
Here's the picture of Geralyn for the week:

She's doing fine, apart from having a bit of trouble staying comfortable through the night. It's apparently hard to do that when you can only sleep on your side and always have someone lying on your bladder and other assorted organs.
In other news, we made it out to Sempra Energy Corporate HR holiday party on Saturday and had a good time. It was at the V.P. of HR's house near Del Mar, and the whole situation can be aptly described as "swank". They had open bars and buffet stations all around, as well as a live band and celebrity impersonators (it had kind of a classic Hollywood theme). Everyone remarked at how good Ger looked and nobody was fired.
Outside of that, we've been spending the weekend putting up Christmas decorations for our last holiday as just the two of us. We've got the tree, outside lights, and boxes of knickknacks. It's so festive.