Saturday, July 24, 2010


While not much of a sports fan myself, having been away from the United States for an extended time, I've recently realized why the sports that most of the world love just aren't popular in America.

We Americans like our sports much faster paced than everyone else.

For instance, take the recent FIFA World Cup football (soccer to Americans...). Two hours for one, single goal? That's nuts. That's boring! And that's hardly unusual in terms of soccer games, which are usually relatively low scoring.

The nearest equivalent to soccer we have in the U.S. is ice hockey, with typically low scores and it probably ranks last in terms of popularity among professional sports. If it didn't have regular fights, it'd probably be less popular.

Compare soccer to basketballs, another near equivalent in terms of game play. Both have the ball in almost constant movement as the teams move it up and down the playing field to get it into a goal, with the game's duration based on a clock. In basketball they update the rules on a regular basis to make it more exciting for spectators, including a 24 second shot clock, requiring a team that gets possession of the ball to make a goal attempt within 24 seconds or risk losing the ball. And looking at the FIFA world cup again, with 31 goal attempts, in two hours? Yawn!

Baseball vs. cricket, again two sort of similar sports, with bats and balls and similar ideas in terms of offense and defense.

Cricket has two main variants, test matches and one day international matches. Test matches take several days, while one day ones take, well, one day... From my experience watching them, they're slow and dull.

With one day matches, first one side does all of its offensive play while the other does all its defensive play, then they swap, with each "innings" taking roughly 3 to 4 hours. So, even if one team is much worse than the other, it still takes almost the full day to see them lose, especially if they're second at bat, when they may use the whole set of overs to chase the better team. By the end of the game both teams are tired and not playing at their best, so we never see a more even match up between them.

Compared with baseball, in which each team alternates offensive and defensive play, swapping each time there's three outs. Most games take between two and three hours, only going longer if they're pretty evenly matched.

With baseball we get to see each team play both offense and defense when they're fresh at the beginning all the way till they're tired at the end, so it seems like a more even and fair match between them.

So, overall, it just seems that American sports are geared towards a faster pace and more exciting entertainment. But then, I guess we're more accustomed to instant gratification...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Job Choice

At the beginning of the past week I had two job offers in hand from New York and I had to pick one. The two were:
1. A mortgage lender in Long Island, Reliance First Capital.
2. Kashrus, a Brooklyn company providing software to help kosher food manufacturers

I was really interested in the Brooklyn one, Kashrus, for a few reasons:
  1. Kashrus is a small company, and after some thought I've realized I like the working environment of a small company more than a big company.
  2. It's in New York City.
    • Most of my career I've worked in the suburbs or the edges of cities, while wishing I was in the city proper. The mortgage lender is in Melville, NY, outside of New York City, while the kosher food company is in Brooklyn. It's not Manhattan, with its skyscrapers, but it's still within the city.
    • That reminds me of when I worked at Maynard Rigby, which was in Portland rather than Hillsboro or Beaverton and I liked the location better.
    • And in comparison with my business trips to the U.K. where the office and places I stayed were in Dunstable, which was just too inconvenient to ever go into London on the workdays due to the distance and expense of train tickets.
    • So, being in New York City itself will make it easier to get around, for instance if the Brain Surgeons have a show on a worknight, I could go.
  3. Reliance has some of the team scattered around the world. And while that doesn't mean they're bad developers, but I've spent the last ten years doing distributed work, from the remote sites, and I think having the whole team in one place will be a pleasant change for me again, eliminating that particular challenge.
  4. Reliance is doing the same thing I've been doing for the last three years, the exact same kind of software, mortgage origination. Kashrus is something completely new to me, and I found that appealing. Never before in my career have I had two jobs in the same business domain.
  5. Doing a Google search for Reliance turned up mostly job ads, and about the only exceptions to that were blog and news articles about them being a "predatory lender" founded by some people who caused mortgage lending problems at their previous company, and I had to wonder how that would make me feel.
  6. Last but definitely not least, the interviewers simply impressed me more. When it talked to a couple of guys at Reliance they asked me what things I worked with, what kind of software and what-not, but those interviews were easy to breeze through. When I interviewed with the Kashrus people they challenged me. I had to read online documentation while we shared my desktop in order to solve programming problems they gave me, live... By the end of the interview process I felt like I'd already put a lot of myself into this job application.
So, with all of those, I got the idea that on a day-to-day basis I'd be more satisfied working at Kashrus instead of Reliance.

The Kashrus offer came a little later and at first it was $15,000 less than Reliance's offer, and even including the $5,000 they'll pay towards insurance is still quite a lot lower. Money isn't my prime motivating factor, but that was just too large a difference, especially in New York City where things are really expensive and it might be a difference between living comfortably and struggling with monthly payments on things.

I wrote to the Kashrus fellow and told him that, and within about 20 minutes he came back with an offer that was $10,000 higher than the first one, so that was good and I wrote back to accept it.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Chat - Going back in time

I hate chatting on instant messaging system. Sure, they're fine for light stuff:
Kevin: Can I bum a ride home?
Vehicle Owner: Sure, I'm leaving in 5 minutes
Kevin: Perfect.

But when you get longer things and you see something like:
Other Person: Thank you

With a message at the bottom "Other Person is typing a message" and you wonder, "are they still typing? That 'thank you' seems the end. Do I wait? Do I type?" What do I do?

Maybe with the new, modern technology we should go back to "over" and "out" to indicate when someone's finished, sort of like on radio communication. It works there, and chat really is structured like two-way radio, only typing instead of talking.

This would be useful, too, when someone's fired a complex or multipart or series of technical questions at me via instant messaging. Sometimes I can't tell if they're done or still adding more on. And then when it looks like they're done and I begin typing a reply, my replies are usually long and detailed, they start off quickly with "r u there?" because I don't send back an instant, fast but wrong or incomplete answer.

Or they ask one question, I begin typing the answer and then they start sending more before I'm done. How do I then keep my answers tied with the specific, unnumbered, unstructured questions?

At least an "over" and "out" would clarify who's turn it is to talk. Or maybe we need instant message programs to use a token, whoever has the token can talk, and when they're done they pass it. This can keep the conversation structured for easy reading of questions and answers.

On the other hand, I prefer email. For just those reasons. For things with complex answers, email is just a lot easier to keep structured. Questions can be bulleted or numbered, answers along with them. Text can be formatted and doesn't have to fit some arbitrarily small number of characters.

Yeah, much prefer email over chat.