New job

I broke down and paid some 300 bucks for the A+ certification exams, and the day after I passed them I got a contract position in Nashville for a company I'm not allowed to disclose. You've heard of them, though.

I start Monday. I still haven't quite adjusted to everything, though. After a year of being laid off, watching my unemployment checks dwindle and disappear, freelancing, going into debt, and having to hustle for almost every dollar, it seems almost crazy that I could think of something (certification as an IT technician) and then have it succeed in less than two weeks.

Oh well, I'm not complaining. I can move to a nice place in August and (finally) afford to splurge on some stuff, with enough left over to sack some away for a rainy day. I no longer have to ask my folks for help with bills. I'm pretty much set, even if I don't manage to go contract to full time, because the contract is almost a year and frankly the only reason I took it was because they were first in line. I turned down two other offers that were just as good, and I'm not going to sit still. I'm already looking for a MCSE or vendor neutral networking program. From there it's open source development, preferably AJAX. I'm already dabbling in .NET, but I don't want to be locked into the clutches of the Blue Monster. I guess it's the teenage angst that I haven't quite outgrown. Maybe it's that all the cool kid use open source. Whatever. I just want to make cool things, and tools are tools. I have a long way to go before I even need to worry about it.

About the job: something in me feels like it was too easy. That nothing changed between then and now. How could I not get the time of day from an employer a month ago, and be turning down offers now?

I didn't do anything special other than take a test.

And then I realized that I went from Clarksville to Nashville, and I went from a guy who had a lot of extraneous crap on his resume to a guy who was well qualified. All with a half hour of planning, a week of brushing up, and an afternoon of exams.

So I learned a lesson: you can be doing the right thing and be in the wrong place. You can also be doing the right thing and going about it the wrong way. I just wish it hadn't taken so long to figure that out.

posted by John @ 9:22 PM, ,


Walking Into Cars

We have a new song on our Myspace. Recorded on four track tape as God intended.

posted by John @ 12:02 AM, ,

The politics of ceaseless old man bitching

I live in a town with a lot going for it.

We have a huge military base, Fort Campbell, home of the 101st Airborne and more than 30,000 troops. We also have a pretty nice college, Austin Peay State University, with more than 9,000 students. We have a wonderful historic downtown chock full of Victorian architecture. The current Miss America is from here. Clarksville, Tennessee is larger than Berkley, California, Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Clearwater, Florida, and is about the same size as New Haven, Connecticut.

You've probably heard of all those places, yet people as close as Memphis (a three hour drive from here) have never heard of Clarksville. We had to wait until last year before we even had a fucking Starbucks, for Christ's sake. Our median income is abysmal, with some jobs getting paid up to $20,000 less annually than their counterparts in Nashville, a 45 minute drive away.

That link above takes you to a story by the Leaf Chronicle, our hometown newspaper of record. I like to rag on them because they read like a newspaper from a town one-third our size, but I have to give them props for attempting to understand the whole Internet thing. They have eight bloggers last time I checked, and they just launched a feature that lets you search through the public records of Clarksville online. They obviously get networked culture, down to the fact that readers can comment in forums on every story. Too bad they still have a paywall around old articles.

Which brings us to my point.

Look at the article referenced above. It has a whole paragraph devoted to saying that managers and IT pros are getting shafted out of tens of thousands of dollars annually compared to their counterparts a county away. You'd expect someone to be angry about this, right? I mean, it hits right in the paycheck, no matter how much the writer tries to bury it in the story.

That story has no comments. Nobody's curious as to why the disparity exists, nor is anyone curious as to the impact on the town's economy and tax base. A lot of people live here and work in Nashville for the higher salaries, but a lot just move to Nashville unless they have something keeping them here. That's revenue and white collar jobs leaving our area, and yet nobody has anything to say. More than that, the story points to a disturbing trend of economic dependance on the military. If Uncle Sam pulls up stakes at some point (and it was a very real possibility in the 90's when I was growing up) the economy will collapse. We'll look a lot like Flint, Michigan, another famous town that's about our size. And still nobody has anything to say.

Compare it to this story, outlining a planning retreat scheduled this weekend for the mayor and city council. It's a $5,000 trip, including the fees for seminars and speakers. Considering Clarksville's annual operating budget is in the tens of millions of dollars, five grand to get a little fresh air and hear some seminars is a drop in the bucket. Amortized over everyone who participated, the cost of the trip wasn't even a week's pay.

This story has loads of comments, all of which are of a style I like to refer to as "old man bitching."

All of them insinuate that this meeting is to raise taxes, ostensibly because of the cost of all these trips.

All of them seem to sound perfectly natural if you imagine an elderly gentleman on his front porch in the middle of a long rant about how stuff costs more than it used to.

And these voices are far from the minority. This town is years behind in infrastructure and planning, but nobody wants to piss on the third rail and try to do things which will improve the town, because everybody just bitches and bitches about how much it will cost.

Take our recent vote on Clarksville Dept. of Electricity's new fiber initiative. This is the most progressive thing this town's seen in 30 years. A community-owned nonprofit broadband ISP using the latest fiber technology is a thing of beauty. Charter Communications, our local cable monopoly, spent untold amounts fighting it using every dirty trick they could, because they knew it spelled the end for them. When you can get fiber optic internet and IPTV for twenty bucks a month, who's going to want cable?

The vote passed three to one. The one is still bitching about how this will raise our taxes (it won't) or that CDE should stick to electricity (fuck you old man, I should have had fiber five years ago) or that nobody will use it. They miss the point that big pipes to the Web are as much a public trust as water or electricity, and the current profit-oriented business model has succeeded in getting premium pay for woefully substandard service. To them it's all an encroachment on whatever crusty misinformed worldview they've managed to develop, and they're going to have to end up paying for it.

I wouldn't worry about it, except this kind of thinking is epidemic, and it has been toxic to our community, our economy, and even our view of our town. All the smart kids leave, and all the jobs are bottom-barrel unless you work on post as a contractor, and even then nobody's getting rich. And instead of investing in ways to maximize our town, our community, our economy, we instead endlessly look for ways to minimize taxes, services, planning, costs. That is how you get Flints instead of Clearwaters.

Oh well. Old men on the front porch eventually forget what they were talking about, and we can go on with what we were doing.

posted by John @ 9:35 PM, ,

Every rock band

Walking Into Cars

needs a good album cover. Like this one, for instance.

posted by John @ 11:22 PM, ,

Of course . . .

Ten minutes after bitching about how I need a job I stumble across Emma, a wonderful Web 2.0-centered email marketing firm in Nashville, not more than a 45 minute drive from where I live. I wrote them a fawning letter saying that I didn't care if I was mopping the floors as long as I was mopping their floors. They are that cool.

I was almost slackjawed when I read their site. I didn't think anything like that was happening in Nashville. I thought Web 2.0 was something Google handed down from Mountain View, and my job was to sit there like I was Wayne Campbell in front of Madonna and chant "We're not worthy! We're not worthy!" as I bowed before its awesomeness.

They also asked, in their job application, if I had a blog or online profile, so I gave them this URL to check out. If you're reading this, hi guys. Your company rocks, and I stand by my floor mopping statement. Poke around a bit. I usually just talk about music, but I hit quite a few other topics as well. I'd also like to give props to Seth Godin, whose blog mentioned Emma some time ago, and whose post just happened to be in my feed reader when I was cleaning it out.

posted by John @ 1:11 AM, ,

Back In Black

Or red, as the case may be. More on that in a bit. Hi folks.

My first bit of news is that Walking Into Cars is going pretty smashingly. We had our first show Tuesday night and a lot of people came out. They all had positive things to say, too. Phillip has joined up permanently, and we've been asked to appear on Local Acoustic Quirks, a podcast produced by Ben Wilson. Ben himself is a pretty prolific songwriter and an all around good guy, and if you get a chance listen to "Naked" on his MySpace. It reminds me of Revolver era Beatles with a twinge of country and western in the verses. Good Stuff!

My second bit of news is that my broke ass needs a steady-paying gig. I've been a bit of a bum this past semester, because between freelancing, my mad eBay hustle, and mortgaging my future vis-a-vis student loans I've managed pretty well. However, I want to take some time off and get some real world experience (not to mention some real world pay) in Web 2.0, as I've been chomping at the bit to apply what I've been feverishly following in my spare time. I spent most of last semester either explaining networked communication (my pet term for Web 2.0) to my professors or (more often) sitting there wishing I could catch up on my RSS feeds while we go over material that seems like it was written in 1993. For all the bitching I hear from various corners about how Big Business doesn't get this whole Web thing, I notice nobody seems to mention how hard of a time universities are having keeping up with it. It's driving me crazy, and I want to pull a Bill Gates or Michael Dell and just do it my damn self.

But I don't have the capital. At this point just paying the bills is a struggle. Anybody out there want to hire an Internet geek? I'll boggle your mind and double your business, or failing that I'll at least make you look cool. Please?

Oh well. Moving onward . . .

My last post of substance had to do with inexplicable and annoying MySpace spam. We've all seen it, and we all hate it. Well, I got an interesting comment on that article by a certain melinda5610ml, whose Blogger profile just happens to be hidden. I wonder why?

She says:

Wonderful photos! I suggest you to check out here. My friend told me he found his love on this site and there are many lovely girls.

So, in summation, a post bitching about spam gets spammed. Oh well. I guess I'm doing OK if I stir up enough traffic to generate spam. :-)

posted by John @ 8:12 PM, ,

Solar air conditioning

I've been a bit busy lately, but this is so cool that I have to mention it. There's a company in Plano, TX making solar-powered heating and cooling units.

Why is this awesome? Well, heating and air conditioning are energy hogs. About half of your energy bills go to climate control, so a solar-powered, self contained unit that can heat and cool could conceivably do things such as, I dunno, end global warming and dependance on foreign oil. It also makes having an off-the-grid house more realistic in my neck of the woods, where air conditioning is mandatory several months out of the year.

In conclusion, I want one really bad. I guess I'll have to put it in the wish list. Does Amazon sell air conditioners?

posted by John @ 7:00 PM, ,