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+ 1 - 0 | § Sea Lions, sadness

Whenever I'm feeling kinda sick, the very front part of my throat becomes incredibly sensitive.  Just the top of my shirt brushing against it initiates a gag reflex.  Just a minute ago, out on the porch, I was finishing a cigarette and was about to sneeze.  I was all the way at the squint/lean forward part, when the gag reflex kicked, and blocked the sneeze, but not the forced exhale.

The resulting sound can only be described as... well... The sound you would imagine hearing if you kicked a sea lion in the nuts.  I'm sorry, that's a weird visual, but it's the only way to describe it.  I tried duplicating the sound afterward, but couldn't.  Kinda glad nobody was around to hear it.

I was really down yesterday.  I'm not sure why.  It happens sometimes, I'm just sad, and I know there's a reason, so I spend a little time searching for it.  It's not too difficult, kind of like emotional sonar, or to be even more geeky, sending out a "ping" on the internal internet.  You just pick a subject, and think about it for a moment.  That's a ping.  If you feel a lurch in your gut, or feel your face wince a little bit at the thought, you somehow inherently know that's what's bothering you.  That's a return ping (also known as a "pong), and that's your problem.

To further push the analogy, I think I also feel a little disconnected, 'cause nothing was pinging me back.  I'm pretty sure it ain't Microsoft rejecting me.  MS was like a lotto for me... Winning would have been the most badass thing in the world, but it was a bit of a longshot, and not getting it didn't really feel like anything had changed.  It's not graduation, or any of the people around me, or any of the people that aren't.  Still, something was nagging me, and it just kept nagging... I laid in bed for about an hour and a half last night, staring at the ceiling, staring at the clock...  I rolled over to stare out the window, and Nikki mumbled something about "mgglgbmph blanket stealer."

I frowned, mumbled an apology, and waited another 30 seconds for her to go back to sleep.  Got out of bed, put on some jeans, and wandered out into the living room.  People were role-playing.  I squinted at the sudden onset of ungodly overhead light, poured some milk, nodded to the table, (Dan was smirking, I think, but he nodded back) and wandered outside.  Smoked and drank milk.  Kinda sighed a lot, waited a while for my brain to shut up.  Wished I wasn't the only person in the house who liked nonfat.

It was so incredibly stupid, and I knew it the whole time, but I was, at that moment, genuinely distraught by the fact that nobody else liked nonfat milk.  It made me feel alone in the universe, I went on all these weird mental tangents, imagining myself picking fights at the grocery store over it.  I mean, it's not that I even MIND lowfat.  Just that it's presence made me feel alone.

How weird is THAT shit?

Doing better today, but I still have this onset of "bleh", and I'm hoping it's the kind that lasts a day or two, and not the month-long kind.  If it's that one, I might need a break.  And that's weird to say considering I don't go to class, don't have a job, and just have been generally shuffling around the house doing nothing for the past month and a half, but seriously, I'm not sure from what, but I might need a break.


+ 1 - 0 | § Rejected!

In the spirit of Sinfest:

Number of times Alex has b een rejected by major corporations, thus reaffirming his status as renegade geek hero:

Fwarg!  Looks like I'll just have to take my ball and bat somewhere else.


+ 1 - 0 | § The trenches

"Lo, and I have been to the promised land, they'll let me know if they want me back"

I wish I could say, "Man, I got pwned" or, "Man, I pwned", and you know, have some finality to the matter.  Alas, I did good, but not great.

The day started as a day like this should, with some Murphy's Law and a healthy dose of Panic.  Having left my white, clean interview pants at home in the fury of packing, and having left the lighter, not black, interviewy shirt at home, I was forced to show up in ripped jeans, the black shirt, and a leather jacket.  I looked kind of imposing, it was weird.

Also, taxis were backed up this morning.  I got there fine and all, but the hotel had trouble tracking me down for one, and all I could do was chug coffee and eat a small powerbreakfast at the buffet.  Scrambled eggs, potatoes, french toast, they have freakin' EVERYTHING.  However, I had a danish and some eggs, and a whole lotta coffee.

Arrived, played a little X-BOX in the waiting area (They're cool like that, these corporate types), and eventually met my recruiter.  Did the "getting to know you" interview, all the questions you get asked in a typical interview.  How do you approach challenges, what do you do to improve yourself as a dev, Why Microsoft, etc.

That part's easy.  Sincerity and enthusiasm, both of which I have.

"You have two interviews scheduled, at the Office building."

Jab-Uppercut.  Office apps are boring, complicated, and I try to avoid them as much as possible.  Only two isn't all that encouraging, either.

Nevertheless, I went.  For those of you smirking at the visual I painted in the last entry, my first interviewer's name was Igor.  I asked what it was he did, and he said, "You know the toolbars?  They're old and don't work anymore.  We're replacing them."

Woot, I thought.  Making the most complicated suite of software I've ever encountered in MY LIFE easier to use.  I'm on your team.
Didn't do too hot.  Didn't do bad, but I hit a stumbling block during one of the more complicated questions, and ran out of time.
    For those of you who code-  return true if an array of ints has dupes, false otherwise.  Assume all ints are between 0 and array.size - 1, inclusive
    Did you sort and check against the next one?  That's O(nlogn + n).  Make it O(n).
    Did you use an array/hashtable of counters?  Too much space.  Make it smaller.
    Keep it O(n).
    Wasn't quite able to make it smaller.  He wanted in-array traversal, in O(n), on an unsorted array.  Not destructive.

Second interview, lunch, talk about myself some more.  Friendly guy.  Then, inorder binary tree traversal in C.
Then, non-recursive in-order binary tree traversal in C.  Allowed to use data structures.
I tried to do it with a stack, was on the right track, ran out of time.  (Incidentally, and this is more directed at the coders-  You can't nest "go right" and "go left" while loops in a "not empty" while loop, because when you go up a node, you'll just go right back down the left.)

I think I still did okay with the first two, because I was able to articulate my various approaches, and I was able to come up with multiple ones and improve on them.  And when I hit a stumbling block, I talked through what I wanted to do and why I couldn't, and where I was stumbling.

Third guy, translation of modding and %ing (they're different, depending on the language.  WTF???) negative numbers.

I wailed it in two lines.  It was recursive, weird and original, gorgeous in it's elegance.
"What if it's -4005?" He said.
Then it would have to execute x/4005 times.  So I found a longer, but more staggeringly efficient way.
"That'll work for 7/8ths of all possible numbers," he said.
Special case.
"Can you make the code shorter?"
I looked at it and pointed at redundancies that had occurred from my modifications.
Then I started over below it.  Swapped the if/else for an if, changed "if this, return this.  else, muck around with it a bit, then return it" to
"if this, muck around.  Return result."

Next question-  Compression algorithm, change (5,5,5,5,25,25,17,0) to (4,5,2,25,1,17,0). I'm working inside byte arrays, and have a max length of the returned byte array.
I look at it, and realize everything I don't know.  Am I guaranteed numbers shorter than 256?  Are all the dupe numbers grouped together, and if not, am I responsible for handling that?  What if the 0 (termination char)doesn't fit in the max sized array, do I chop off the last data pair or not add the 0?  What if the max size is even, and there's only room for the count and the zero?

Question question question.  He'd pause and think.  I was playing a dangerous game.  Give him too many opportunities to make the problem harder, and he might.  Pretend not to notice the ambiguities of the question, and he might nail me with strange cases.  The last guy did.  This one, though, was all about not making it more complicated than it had to be.  "We can assume", he kept saying, and give me the simpler system to work with.

I kept  switching between coding mode and explanation mode.  It's bad if you just tap out for 5 minutes and scrawl like a madman, and expect the other guy to read it.  You have to talk through what the hell you're doing.  They have to see what the hell is going on in your head.

Wailed it (woot woot!), went downstairs, 10 minutes later, a friendly guy who's name I couldn't catch (strong accents, incidentally, make interviews harder, and somewhat frightening.  At one point I mistook "string" for "stream", and was paralyzed as to what to code), and whose job I haven't the foggiest other than it might be for shared ("the shaded team", he'd say) led me into another room for the final set.

First question-  Write atoi.
I drew an algorithm on the board, did some math, showed how I was going to handle it.  He said he actually wanted me to code it.  I grinned, told him I would, but I was just showing him what the code was going to be doing.  It helps, I found, to write out patterns, both to cement them in your head, and so someone else can follow your twisted little paths of logic.
He said oh, thank you, and I said no problem, and started coding.
Wailed it.  Not that it was hard, just it required that you look at it the right way.

Next question-  Given a Matrix of 1's and 0's, of size M * N, change every 1 in the same row or column as a 0 to an 0.  But don't use any of those new 0's as logic for changing other 1's.

First attempt-  Changed all the changable 1's to -1's in the first pass.  Changed all the -1's to 0's in the second.
They can only be 1 or 0, he said, not -1.
No problem, said I, and proceeded to build a new Matrix, filling it in with data based on the first.
Use less memory, said he.
No problem (internally:  WTF??????) said I.
Pause, think, pause, think.
Wouldn't quite say I wailed it, because the code was pretty long and had two sets of nested forloops.  That, and my naming convention was a little confusing (I blame this on the problem.  Honestly, I had to keep track of i,j,m,n,rows,cols, iArray.  For those of you playing the home game, 2 1D arrays, 1 2D array, two max sizes, and two placekeepers.  Not to mention treating a 2D array as a 1D array), and there was a bit of a language barrier.  Ever vigilant, thoroughly convinced that it was right (read:  Not sure at all, I can't track more than 4 variables manipulating eachother at a time, and there were 7, but I needed them all.  I felt like the guy in Memento), I stepped through it.  To my great (but hidden) surprise, it worked.

4 interviews in one day, all in the MS Office division.  Much more enthusiastic about the Office thing now that I have a description of what they actually do, and got a look at the logic side of the stuff they work on.

Really not too worried about whether or not I get the job.  Just, and I mean Holy Crap On A Goddamn Stick Batman, proud I made it through the day.


+ 1 - 0 | § What if Atreyu was a pokemon?

Kinda giddy.

I'm always like this, the night before I travel.  It's been almost a year since I got on a plane and hauled ass across the country all by myself, something I've kind of missed.  A license to wander, I guess.

Weirded out though, this isn't exactly a vacation.  Tuesday's the big interview, for a company heralded as having the most bizarre, intense interviewing process around, an all-expense paid pilgrimage to the mothership for a trial by fire.

I'm not even too nervous about the job.  The job, either I get or I don't, life rolls forward either way, maybe a little to the left, maybe a little to the right.  Still forward.

It's the interview itself.  Almost as though they're not evaluating me as an employee, but as a coder, as a master of my craft.  I can kick the ass of anything they throw at me, I know I can, but I have amazing potential to buckle if I know I'm being judged while I'm doing it.  Somewhere in the recesses of my mind is the end of the day, a warm handshake and a "Good luck with your job search", and an eastern-european head of the OS product team in a green nylon jumpsuit and giant, reflective goggle shades (There's no dress code there, this could happen) whispering, "You have been weighed, you have been measured, and you have been found wanting."


This is typical Alex, though.  Very casually freaking the hell out, and I will be, all the way up until I enter the building and shake hands with the recruiter, follow the leader down a hallway and get handed a pen and a whiteboard.  With eery calm and fiery wit, I will lay down my vengeance upon the challenges set before me.

There's really nothing to worry about, and I know that.  But I won't know that until I'm already there, because that's the weird-ass system in which I operate.  Buggy? Yes.  But it's what I've got to work with.

I travel tomorrow, and I do battle on Tuesday.  Wish me luck and I'll appreciate it.  Wish me a little more calm and I'll love you for it.


+ 0 - 1 | § And we're moving, and we're movinng... On your left...

I hate leaving entries like that up too long, it makes it look like I've been all emo and frustrated the whole time.  Not so, it was really resolved later that day.

Moving on, they want me to fly out to Redmond for a full round of on-site interviews with various product groups.  Their style is both satisfying and pretty harrowing-  They don't have HR, they have actual programmers, people working on those projects, conducting the interviews to see if they want me to work for them.

Under the gun from my potential co-workers.  I mean, that's a strange feeling.  Or at least, it will be.  I go out in a little over a week.  I ought to know a week or two afterwards if I'm wanted.  Otherwise, basically, I throw myself at the feet of Octopi, and beg them to love me.  Google never called back, but I'm not really sure I'm their "material" anyway.  The campus is a bustling geek utopia, the envisioning of which involves futuristic spandex suits and transporters to atomize one from building to building.  A pied piper dancing a merry band of brilliant children to this mysterious land of joy through a magical door in the forest, and those of us who are merely "good" and not, say, "Geek enough to be talked about in Slashdot", are the little kid on crutches hobbling excitedly in the back, the door closed just as we arrive at that magic gate.

I bet the ticket makes the chocolate taste terrible, anyway.

Moving on.  Looking forward to the interview.  As I told zeke, "Very casually, mildly freaking the fuck out."

I'll keep the lot of ya updated.


+ 0 - 1 | § Clarification

I guess the problem here is, I never feel like she's giving me the benefit of the doubt.
She says all I have to do is tell her, but everyone thinks they're able to listen even when they're
pissed off, and almost nobody is.  She isn't, god knows I've tried before.
She says all I have to do is explain, while she's pissed off, and she'll listen.  But shouldn't it be
the other way around?  Shouldn't she ask, before storming through the house like a PMS tornado, if things
actually happened the way they did in her head, if I actually casually decided that she wasn't important, and
wandered off to do my own thing with little consideration for, and at great inconvenience to, her?
Haven't I earned the slightest hesitation before jumping to the worst possible conclusion?

It hurts, when people assume I don't care about them.  It's insulting, I feel like I've proved it by now,
and I don't even really get an opportunity to clarify anything before it happens.  Ignoring for a moment whether or not I believe I should actually have to.  I thought I left this shit behind in high school.

I actually had to freak out on her in order to get her to sit down and listen.  Good thing about being me, I guess.  I get pissed off and people are too confused to do anything but listen.

"All you had to do was tell me," she said, genuinely worried at this point that it'd hurt me to the degree that it did.

Yeah, I thought, because when you give me a glare that could wilt flowers, when I offer to grab you something from the fridge and your answer
is that "I'm still mad at you."

That's when I think, "Boy, I bet this is the perfect time.  She sounds like she'll really be open to communication."

+ 0 - 1 | § Yeah.

Goddamn, I hate october.

Don't want to play today.

Looks like I'll be playing anyway.

+ 1 - 0 | § How to spend a perfect day

Yesterday, I got an email from my self-whoring target of choice.  "So and so really enjoyed talking with you!" It said.  "I'm recommending you to fly out for the next stage of interviewing!"

Glee, I say.  Utter and maniacal glee.

Later that day, it came to my attention that Nikki had procured an Incredible Hulk mousepad for her desk at work.

Then Harv got to bail out of work early, and Op got a free t-shirt and hat as a promo just before the movie started...

Then saw "Serenity" on opening night.

Then I got some.

I'm pretty sure next week I'm going to walk out the door and get hit by a car, my house is going to burn down with all my worldly possessions, and then everything else imaginable will suck.   'Cause that's about what it would take to balance out a day like yesterday.

Totally worth it.