The pond

Last year, Erin and I found a pond behind our old apartment complex.  It involved hopping a fence and hiking down the train tracks for a few minutes, but it’s a pretty cool spot.  We’ve finally had some cold weather, so we decided to go check the ice.  Here are some pics.

Hurrahs are in order

Today is my 22nd birthday. How ’bout that? To celebrate, I’ll be reading Last Night at the Lobster, which I just picked up yesterday. (Thanks to my parents and aunt and uncle for the Barnes and Noble gift cards)

I’ll also be finalizing my resume, and visiting the Roadhouse Pub this evening. If this snow keeps up, Erin wants to trek to the rolling white hill of Frandor for some post-Pub sledding. Should be a good time.

Flowchart master

The title of this post refers to me. That’s right, I am the flowchart master.

Maybe I’ll back up a bit. I’ve mentioned that I’m developing a training program for new tech support consultants at my new job. Last week (my first week on the job), I made flowcharts. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? A number of people said that new consultants were struggling with some of the troubleshooting required by the job. It often requires following a process through several steps, and some issues can be a bit confusing. Here’s an example:

A user calls in because they have no network connection. First you have to verify that they have a working network adapter on the computer. Then (hopefully) you can check the IP address. If they get a 192.x.x.x IP, they either have a static IP set, or they’re connected to a router, or some asshat on the network hooked up his router wrong and it’s causing a rogue DHCP server. If they get a 35.15.x.x, they haven’t registered with MSU’s DHCP server yet. It can be confusing to keep track of all this, especially over the phone.

So in week one, I made a few flowcharts in M$ Visio for these types of issues. Pretty boring.

The job is starting to shape up, though. Today I made a couple sample screencasts — videos of the computer screen in action, with me narrating. I think these will be the easiest way to train new hires on some of our software. We use a handful of tools to look up user info, modem status, etc,; timesheets and work schedules are done through web apps as well. My screencasts should get the newbies up and running more quickly.

I think I’ll have a lot of latitude with this training program. It seems like I’ll be making a lot of decisions (or at least contributing), and hopefully I’ll get to actually finish this project. Sorry for the long post, but I figure my many readers deserve to know what I’m doing, right?

Mail today

The mail just got here, and check out what came:

There you have it…proof that I have an honest-to-god liberal arts BA. Wouldn’t want people to think I was exaggerating.

New Job

I think I’ve mentioned that I’m starting a new job.  I just finished up my first week.  Well, not technically a week, since I’m only working half time.  I’m a professional aide or some such job title.  I’m told there are some miscellaneous projects that I’ll be working on, the first being a training program for new student employees.

I work in the helpdesk department at my former university.  They hire student employees to staff a call center and a walk-in help desk.  There hasn’t been a formal training program for new hires, and it’s becoming apparent that we need one.  It should be an interesting project.

Consultants start with a wide range of skill levels.  Some have lots of computer experience; some are CS or telecom majors.  Some have little to no experience.  To be honest, the job doesn’t take that much know-how.  Most of our support is very basic.  But to troubleshoot any problem takes some knowledge and some practice, and I hope I can help get new employees up to speed more quickly.

The first days at a new job are always a bit weird, though.  My bosses are still figuring out what to do with me, and I’m still getting settled in as well.  More updates to come, I’m sure…

Updated bike rack pics

I’ve updated the pictures the recent post about my bike rack. If you missed it before, check it out.  link

Comments enabled

I’ve finally turned commenting on, so anyone reading this should be able to respond.  Hopefully I don’t get flooded with spam.  It is nice to have comments, though.  The discussion is half the point of keeping this silly page.

Trip to Saugatuck

Erin had the day off yesterday, and I got my errands done early, so we decided to go for a drive. We ended up in Saugatuck, where we climbed the majestic Mount Baldhead and ate lunch.

Mt. Baldhead was actually a set of stairs up a dune, with a trail that led to the beach. It was pretty cool. There weren’t many people around, and even though it was windy, it was really warm. It feels pretty nice to hike in January without a jacket.

I brought my new digital camera, and have reconfigured my blog to use wordpress and NextGEN Gallery (a topic for another day). Here are the results. (warning: the full size images are huge)

Edit — I’ve re-sized the images. They’re not nearly as big.

At this point, these images have been compressed a bit by me, and by the gallery plugin. There is a lot of noise that isn’t in the originals. I’m really impressed by the pictures that this camera takes.

Textbooks for sale

Erin and I have been accumulating textbooks for a few semesters now. I’ve been meaning to sell them on Amazon, but hadn’t gotten around to it (until today). I posted 42 books; the face value I set was more than 800 dollars. We’ll get maybe 75-80% of that, after Amazon’s cut and shipping, but it’s beats the bookstore prices by a lot.

I’m not terribly attached to my textbooks. Between libraries, online journals, and digital books, actual books are just another way of storing the information — and a pretty inconvenient one at that. I’m happy to get as much money out of them as possible. By purchasing used books online, and selling them back online, you can really keep costs down. I was saving a couple hundred bucks each semester compared to bookstore prices.

Anyways, it makes checking my email fun, because each new message is money in my account.

– Edit –
So far customers have paid a total of $263.67 (including the shipping fee). After Amazon’s charges, I’ve banked $210.18. Not too shabby.

New Digital Camera

So I received some money from relatives for graduation, and figured it was time for a digital camera. I bought a 35mm SLR a few years back; in retrospect it was a mistake. It’s a blast to use, and takes great pictures, but film just doesn’t make sense anymore. Mostly when I take pictures I want to use them on the computer, and film costs a fortune to shoot. For decent processing, I bet it averages $5-10 per roll, and I don’t shoot fancy film.

I decided on a Sony Cybershot DSC-H3. I also considered the Panasonic Lumix TZ3 and the Canon Powershot SX100-IS. My price cap was $250, and I was looking for something fairly small, with a decent optical zoom, image stabilization, and some manual control options. There were a few other models that were larger, and a few that had some nice features (I really like the Olympus weatherproof models), but these three interested me the most.

I’m glad I tried them before buying, because it was an easy choice with the cameras in hand. The Canon had more manual control, and nice controls/interface, but was too slow. Autofocus took too long, and the shutter lag on unfocused shots was terrible. The Panasonic would be my second choice. It was small and sleek, performance was very snappy, and the controls were comfortable. I decided against it because it lacked any manual control options, and because of the impressive performance of the Sony.

It’s fast… The camera powers on and is ready in a couple seconds — fast enough to just grab the camera and shoot. Autofocus was noticeably faster than the other models, and shutter lag is negligible.

I don’t feel like writing a crazy-detailed review; there are plenty of them online already. So far I like it a lot. It seems to take nice sharp pictures, and I love how fast it is. It’s nice to have so much zoom available in such a small camera, and the stabilization helps a lot at slow shutter speeds.

It does have a couple drawbacks. I’d like a wider angle lens; I think it’s a 38mm-380mm equivalent. The 28mm lens on the Panasonic was nice. I also wish it had a standard USB cord. The cord has a proprietary plug and contains both the USB and audio/video connections. I’m sure it would cost an arm and a leg to replace.

But other than these, it’s great. I’m looking forward to figuring it out.

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