Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Stalker Santa

I’m not one to squash the whimsical fantasies of childhood. Except Santa. Santa must go.

Let me summarize it for you. Once a year, a middle-aged whitebeard flies around the world. Visiting houses. At night. When the occupants are sleeping. He doesn’t knock on the front door like a regular human being. No. He sneaks in via chimney.

And it doesn’t stop there.

Once inside, he devours plates of cookies, then skedaddles, leaving packages with unidentified contents in his wake. If Santa ever turns terrorist, Western culture will have much to fear. It will be an unparalleled time to be a bomb technician.

You may think me paranoid, but this is simply not the case. It’s just, when I lie awake at night with a wailing baby downstairs, I tend to think about things that go bump in the night.

Let me tell you, if I ever stumble downstairs–bleary eyed–to find a fat man in a red suit rummaging underneath my Christmas tree, that will not be a happy night. Beard or not. Hearty “Ho Ho” or not. I will use that poker.

For comparison, think about all the other fantastical creatures which roam the night. The Easter Bunny leaves piles of chocolate, the Tooth Fairy leaves money under your pillow. Put aside the fact that the EB and the TF are either both in cahoots or mortal enemies. They just aren’t particularly creepy.

A pint-sized Tinkerbell with wings can’t do you much harm, and a soft Angora rabbit even less. Neither of these creatures engage in 24/7 moral surveillance or have their own elven armies.

Who do I worry about at 2AM in the morning? Santa and his minions.

Yes, that includes you, Rudolph. You enabler. You purveyor of all that is red, bearded, and stalkerish. If it weren’t for you, guess who’d be stuck in the North Pole during foggy weather? That’s right. Your boss.

To all of you who laugh, beware. Stalker Santa is coming. If you got lucky this year, remember: next Christmas could be your last.

Until next time,
- Daniel

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Job Switch

I used to work at Puppet Labs. But no longer. As of Monday, I work at Sonatype.

This has a couple of perks.
  • I get to travel like a frenzied crow.
  • I get to wear pajamas all day.
  • I get to work strange hours.
Oh yes, fair readers. This is a remote position. I get to be a UX designer in absentia, more or less. My coworkers are spread over the globe: U.S., Canada, and the UK. I have to learn what UTC means to do my job effectively.

Ah, but not just a UX designer, a Senior UX designer. That’s the other glorious part of this. No more do I have to look wistfully at the 55 and over menu at restaurants. I am a Senior.

But wait. There’s more!

Yes, this is a remote position. And yes, I get “Senior” in my title. But I’m also a Lead designer. A Lead Senior UX Designer (this is getting ridiculous).

And what… pray tell… is a Lead designer? Put simply, a lead designer is the person ultimately responsible for the design of a product or service. In my case, that’s Nexus, a repository manager for Apache Maven (insert additional l33t speak here).

Now for the kicker. Not only am I a Lead Senior UX Designer for Nexus, but I’m the only UX designer at Sonatype.

Whoa dude.

At Puppet, I had a cadre of senior UX designers to work with. On the plus side, I was less likely to accidentally ship Lorem Ipsum in that one error message I forgot about. On the negative side, it was easy to hide in the sea of talent.

No longer. Now, I’ll be as bare as a cactus in a sea of tumbleweed. As culpable as a graffiti artist caught vandalizing a genuine Banksy. As awkward as a Sauble trying his hand at analogies.

But seriously, this is a big deal. I’m excited about the opportunity, honored to be part of the team, and ready for the challenge. Bring it on!

…and did I mention we’ll be traveling in the UK, Ireland, and Boston next year? Oh yes.

Until next time,
- Daniel

Saturday, June 21, 2014

My Son is not a Tyrant

He’s not. Really.

He cries occasionally. He drools frequently. He flails madly and flops front to back. Each day, hundreds of inanimate objects enter his slobbery maw and are subsequently annihilated.

If he wanted, he could rule the roost. He needs but a single lightbulb moment.

As a parent, my responsibility is to stay one step ahead. If I keep him off-balance and constantly guessing, I win the roostership.

That’s hard to do.

Today, my secret weapon is the outdoors. The moment we leave the front door, he assumes an over-stimulated, halfway-traumatized expression. His voice fails him. His eyes get large. His mouth drops open. A temporary paralysis sets in.

(The drooling continues. I know this from the intellectual sucking noise that permeates the air behind my head.)

While we’re outside, I blow his mind. I attain the godlike qualities of a burdened Sherpa bound for Mt. Everest. He has no recourse but to sit back and be enthralled by the suburban wonders bumbling past.

This, of course, can’t last.

One day, he’ll find his legs and discover that mobility is its own reward. The backpack will lose its wonder and I’ll be left without a superpower. As with every arms race, the balance of power will shift back and forth. To quote the Indian Chief in Peter Pan:

“Sometime, you win; sometime, we win.”

My advantage is being able to think ahead. I’ve got the next 18 years of mind-blowing weaponry all planned. Each weapon has a window of maximum effectiveness, but I think the overlap works well.

Backpacks (4 months - 7 months)

Jogging strollers (7 months – 1 year)

Bikes (1-3 years)

Go-karts (4-12 years)

Cars (13-16 years)

Jetpacks (17-? years)

Escalation. Nothing like it. Besides, no other spending excuse comes close.

It’s for the kid.

Until next time,
- Daniel

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Car Depreciation: The Mysterious Black Hole of Finance

Why do houses appreciate in value, when cars do not?

A house, with proper maintenance and an agreeable market, is one of the best investments you will make in your lifetime.

A car, on the other hand, is generally seen as a liability. Your typical run-of-the-mill Japanese subcompact will depreciate 80% over 15 years, regardless of how meticulously it is kept. It is a black hole.

For example, the aforementioned car in “fair” condition runs $1,842 according to Kelley Blue Book.

Now, if I spend $4,000 on a new paint job, $3,000 on mechanical parts, and $1,000 on body work and a good clean, that car will be upgraded to “excellent” and fetch $2,567.

And… just like that, my $8,000 has turned into $725. That’s about the worst ROI you’ll see this side of a South African Ponzi scheme.

I’m a suspicious fellow by nature, and numbers like these don’t add up. So I decided to run an experiment. I put my own meticulously maintained car up on Craigslist.

I’m a very pragmatic person. In 2007, I bought my first car for $7,000. It’s a 1999 Toyota Corolla LE with 85,000 miles on the odometer. It’s a manual, because I wanted to learn how to drive a stick.

I am the second owner. The first owner left me with the following problems:
  • A cracked front fender.
  • A deteriorating paint job thanks to a manufacturing defect.
  • A clutch in need of replacement.
  • A bad suspension.
Typically, such cars are bought, run into the ground, and then resold. Especially common-place brands like Toyota that hold their value and are easy to resell.

Today, that car has 169,000 miles on the odometer, and it’s in better shape than when I bought it. In seven years, it’s had…
  • The front fender replaced.
  • A new paint job (a full-body, stripped to metal, paint job).
  • Two new clutches (one shortly after purchase, the other 80,000 miles after).
  • New suspension and shocks.
  • Two new sets of tires.
Yes, it still burns two quarts of oil per 3,000 miles. Yes, it has a small hole in the driver’s seat that I haven’t fixed. Yes, it’s a Corolla–not a Ferarri.

But there are perks. It achieves 38+ MPG on the freeway. Replacement parts (and labor) cost a fraction of what most luxury brands cost. It’s seen me through college, five internships, and into my first full-time job, without leaving me stranded once.

Proactive maintenance isn’t cheap. I’ve spent $12,600 on service and parts over the past seven years. That comes to $18,600 if you include the original purchase price. That’s as much as a brand new car.

But it’s a car that I trust. It’s a car that’s cheap to insure. It’s a car that I haven’t needed to finance. It’s a car without any expensive repairs on the horizon.

Kelly Blue Book says my car is worth $2,377. Perhaps that’s true, but for a meticulous (some might say “obsessive”) owner like myself, I expect to sell it for the same as my original purchase price. $7,000.

Why am I selling this car, if it’s so perfect? A few reasons…
  • It’s not a family vehicle.
  • It drives like a Corolla, not like the Mercedes I’ve always wanted.
  • I don’t want (or need) two cars.
If you think I’m crazy for asking $7,000, move along. But if you want to buy a car that’s been well-maintained without respect to cost, and is–in fact–a better car than when it was first purchased, let me know if you’d like a test drive.

30 minutes later, I had my first response…

Your asking price is criminal activity is what I'd call it lol. This is where I would want government regulations enforced to the MAX. Absolute insanity, absurdity. bonkers. lol

Move along, young padawan. This is not the car you’re looking for.

An hour after the initial posting, my ad was flagged for removal. Haters gonna hate.

And so, in summary, even if cars don’t depreciate when improved, you probably won’t find someone willing to agree with you in cold hard cash.

Kelley Blue Book? You win this round.

Until next time,

- Daniel

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Apocalypse

I am going to be a Dad.

This is a terrifying statement, for many reasons.

It’s not the baby. Babies are babies. They mimic. They copy. They improvise. They look into your soul, eat it alive, and then go off and read Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. I’m not kidding.

And this is why I have fear. Our child will mimic my sordid personality. That’s what sends a tingle of doom down my spine. Because of me, no photographer will be safe for the next 76 years.

Fortunately, it won’t be just me and the baby. My wife gives me hope. She is normal, she is respectable, she is charming, intelligent, and witty.

These are wonderful qualities. If the apocalypse came tomorrow, and we were fighting zombies with our bare knuckles, I would still have hope. (If you’ve ever seen her playing Plants vs. Zombies, you know exactly what I mean.)

And–better yet, she has chosen the path of the stay-at-home mom. Our child will spend the day soaking up her sunshine in the well-tilled fields of homeschooling nirvana. We may as well be planting the baby in volcanic soil.

This doesn’t leave me off the hook, of course. After the table is cleared and the dishes are washed, I get my turn at this whole childrearing thing.

Somehow, in the three hours between dinner and bed, I cannot turn our child into a werewolf. If you have any experience with werewolves, you know how dubious a task this actually is.

(Further, you may ask how I convinced my wife to marry a werewolf. This is a fair question. I have no answer.)

Oh, and what about weekends? From dawn to dusk, I could (potentially) have the child all to myself, with brief interruptions for feedings. What fearsome things will I inflict on the baby during these extended bouts of quality time?

Well… I have this all-terrain jogging stroller…

- Daniel