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The interview is over. It didn’t go that well. We’ll see.

So, a New Adventure.

I’m travelling tomorrow to sunny Florida for a job interview. I’d really like to get this job, I think it would be a good fit. Plus it would get my family out of Detroit.

If you could wish/pray/positive think me luck, I would appreciate it.

Cats and Christmas Trees Do Not Go Together

Or rather, they do, and that’s the problem.


Ain’t Goin’ Down Like This

I find myself wanting to write, but I hate writing about bad things and lately, that’s all that’s been happening.

So let’s embrace it.

I was laid off from General Motors in February of 2012. That means that as of this writing, I have been unemployed for ten months. During that time, we’ve lived off our savings and our unemployment insurance. When the savings ran out, we had to move to a much cheaper neighborhood in order to make ends meet.

And by “much cheaper” I mean “it’s a dump and we hear gunshots go off all the time”. How bad is it? Here’s the house next door.

You can buy this house for less than $10,000.  If you so desire.

And here’s one just down the street.

People rip the siding off these houses and sell it for scrap.

During my time unemployed I’ve had at least fifteen in-person interviews and probably twice as many phone interviews, none of which have panned out. The unemployment rate here in Detroit is a whopping eighteen percent, which means that about one in five people looking for a job can’t find one. Employers can afford to be incredibly picky, rejecting candidates if they are missing any skills required for the position because they know another one will come along.

And as if that weren’t bad enough, software development is apparently no longer a job you can bootstrap into. Despite over ten years of experience with a wide variety of platforms, operating systems and languages, I have been told several times that I cannot be considered for employment because I do not have a bachelor’s degree in computer science. This did not used to be the case.

Even so, at some point it’s hard not to wonder if I accidentally killed someone’s dog and got blacklisted. My favorite interviews are the ones that seem to go well, only to have them come back and say they hired someone else for the job. And for legal reasons, they will never tell you why they didn’t hire you. Which means you’ve got no feedback on your interviewing performance and thus no real way to improve, other than to write more practice code and memorize more C++ trivia questions. (I can recite the four uses of the static keyword in my sleep now.)

Being unemployed long-term is one of the worst non-injurious things that can happen to you. It saps your spirit. It makes you doubt yourself. It makes you feel like a failure for not being able to provide for your family. And it’s even worse if, like me, you are prone to anxiety and depression. I know this is going to sound horribly lame, but at this point a lot of times the first response my brain has to an idea is “Why bother?”

I should update my blog. Really? Why bother? You don’t get paid for it.

I should finish Let’s Play Starflight. Really? Why bother? You don’t get paid for it.

I should work on Planitia. Really? Why bother? There’s a chance you’ll get paid, but it’s really low and it’ll take months of work.

I recently was approached by a publisher to write a book. I would frickin’ love to write a book. They came to me because they had read my blog. But the advance was tiny (I don’t blame them, I would have been a first-time author). In comparison to the amount of work required – twenty weeks of part-time work – it didn’t seem like a good economical use of my time. So I turned it down.

The only really good thing that is going to come out of this is that when it passes my anxiety problems may lessen. If I can survive being unemployed for a year, I really should be able to survive anything.

This Only Works Because She’s Seven

Me: “It’s your birthday in a few days, I can’t wait to give you your present!”

Younger Daughter: “What is it what is it what is it?!”

Me: “It’s a secret!”

YD: “Aw. I want mommy to get me my present; I like mommy’s presents better.”

Me: “Well, mommy is getting you one too…but I can’t wait for you to see mine.”

YD: “Well, I bet I’ll like mommy’s better.”

Me: “We’ll see. What are you doing?”

YD: “Watching Minecraft videos. I love them! I just wish we had the real game.”


I love music. I don’t think I’m unique in this regard. But I will seize upon a song and listen to it over and over, memorizing the lyrics and singing it myself. As a result, certain songs remind me strongly of what I was going through in my life when I was listening to them.

Listening to “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel evokes sitting in high school, wishing desperately that I could kick the habit and shed my skin.

Listening to “The Boys of Summer” and other songs from Building the Perfect Beast evokes driving to and attending Macon Community College.

Listening to “Beyond the Silver Rainbow” by Genesis evokes walking the streets of Austin, looking for a job.

Listening to “The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota” by Weird Al Yankovic evokes working at Origin, testing the PlayStation and Saturn versions of Crusader: No Remorse.

Listening to Body Count evokes that time I lived in a crack house. (I don’t willingly listen to Body Count any more.)

Yesterday, while I was shopping, “The Game of Love” by Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders came on the overhead speakers and I was instantly transported.

Back when I was in high school, I didn’t have a computer. This was like not having oxygen. I played and programmed the computers at school and we had a family computer (a Tandy 1000, actually a pretty good machine), but I had no machine of my own and my time on the Tandy was always extremely limited.

But I had (and still have) a friend named Dennis Borders. He was one of a clique of young men at our high school that all had Commodore 64s. They would get together to play and trade games (ie, pirate them). They were constantly bringing game materials to school, which I would devour ravenously. I read the manual for Ultima III months before I actually got to play the game; the world the manual described enraptured me and it pained me that I couldn’t visit it right away.

And every once in a while, every 4-5 months or so, after months of me pleading and begging, my mother would let me stay overnight at Dennis’ house.

Forty-eight hours of pure, unadulterated computer gaming. It was heaven. I refused to sleep. We played Ultima III, Ultima IV, Ghostbusters, Gauntlet, Ghosts ‘n Goblins, Hardball, Impossible Mission, Moebius, Winter Games, Summer Games, Questron, Questron II, Legacy of the Ancients, Uridium. We would also play some paper-and-pencil Dungeons & Dragons, which was wonderfully illicit, because my mother hates role-playing games; she thinks they are Satanic.

(Yes, that’s right, the two things I loved most in high school – RPGs and computers – my mother despised. We didn’t get along very well.)

In the late 80’s, a movie called Good Morning Vietnam came out. It was a good movie, but the real star was the soundtrack. Dennis made a mix tape for my sister (who he was sweet on at the time) that had “Game of Love” on it, and we listened to it like crazy.

So for a moment, I was transported back to Dennis’ house. For a moment, I was at his house, joystick in hand, staring at his TV, finally, finally happy.

It was pretty awesome.

I Apologize

I apologize to anyone following this blog.

When things don’t go well for me, I just don’t want to talk about it. And I’m pretty sure you don’t want to hear about it.

Hopefully things will change soon.

Poor Role Model Rocketry

Once upon a time my class at school got into model rocketry. The younger students made “tumblers” – small, light rockets that had no parachute and tumbled safely to the ground (in theory). Us sixth graders? We got to make REAL model rockets, with big ol’ engines and parachutes to bring the model back to earth safely.

Let me tell you how a model rocket engine works. They are cylinders that are lit from below using remote-controlled igniters. There’s a line of rocket fuel inside the engine leading up to the to top that propels the rocket upwards; at the top of the rocket is a surprisingly strong gunpowder charge. Its job is to pop the top of the rocket off so that the parachute can deploy and the rocket can waft safely to the ground.

So one day our instructor takes us out to the fair grounds so we can safely launch our rockets. Kid after kid lines up to try his rocket. All kinds of things are happening – igniters turn out to be duds, rockets turn out to be too heavy for the engines they are using and just sit on the launch pad blasting out sparks, tops don’t pop off when they’re supposed to so parachutes don’t deploy, etc.

Then, it’s my turn. My rocket launches, the parachute deploys and it drifts back to earth to be recovered. I am quite pleased. My instructor called it a perfect launch.

Finally, when all the students are done, the instructor brings out a rocket he’d been working on for a while. It’s painted. It’s got strange-looking fins that he designed himself. He says he’s finally going to test-launch it for us.

He puts a rather strong engine in it, puts it on the launch pad and presses the button.

The rocket flies straight up into the air for about thirty feet, makes a U-turn and comes straight back down, impaling itself in the soft earth of the fairgrounds and sticking straight up into the air.

We all start running towards it, disregarding our instructor’s calls that the rocket engine is still burning.

When we get about halfway to it, the gunpowder charge that would deploy the parachute goes off. But because the rocket is stuck up to its neck in the ground, there’s nowhere for the blast of that charge to go.

The rocket exploded into pieces, and we exploded into fits of laughter.

The Move is Done

Okay, we’re in Detroit, and although the move was not without incident, I don’t feel like dwelling on that. We’re all together and we’re all relatively safe.

I’m splitting my time between working on my games and going through a book called Cracking the Coding Interview. If either one of these things pans out then we should be able to move out of here soon.

And to everyone who donated and everyone who encouraged me…to everyone who cared…thank you. One of the reasons I wanted to get back to Austin was because I felt that my family and friends were there. Here in Michigan I felt disconnected – cut off from the people who cared about me. You guys proved that I’m not. That, for some reason, there are people who care about me and my family all over the world, and you made it possible for us to end up here instead of on the street.

Thank you all.

The Bottom

So…because I lost my job and couldn’t find another one or alternate source of income, I’m having to move my family into Detroit. On the street where we will live, the house next door to us has been condemned, and several down the street have been gutted by fire. This is, frankly, one of the worst days of my life.