Why Go to the Trouble?

For those who know me, this website is redundant, even superfluous. But for everyone else, it could be useful.

Pieced here and there are tidbits of my person that individually are pretty trivial. But taken as a whole begin to paint a rough sketch of me and what I think is important. Are those two things seperate? Well, yeah...sort of.

Who am I?

This is a pretty hard question. Who are you? See, not so easy. Like most people, I am a different person in different environments. While I'm not as extreme as Zelig, I do modify my personality according to the situation far more than most people. The ability to see the world from many different views gives me unique perspectives and unusual solutions.

What kind of jibberish is that? For example, while working as a writer for an acting class, the teacher wanted more improvisation between the actors and their scene. My solution: pull up the piano and play different styles of music while they acted--sound tracks to inspire new thinking.

Example 2: Our team was working late at night for a looming milestone. Each bug fix seemed to generate more problems. Tempers flared, accusations, yelling, and more started flying across the office. Scott's solution: I went home, despite dire threats from my boss. Since my code was integral, no one could continue. The team went home, got some sleep, and rejuvenated. The next day the bugs were fixed quickly and quietly.

We missed the milestone by 1 day. But our team kept together and bonded more closely than ever, and we never missed another milestone. I reasoned to my boss in our 1-to-1 the next day that we had already missed our milestone if we couldn't meet it without killing each other. And if the negativity had continued, we would never finish the project. Missing one deadline is far better than missing the whole enchilada.

So I look for and find elegant solutions that are "beyond the box." My experience and life pretty much puts me in a unique position to do exactly that, which suits me just fine (road less travelled and all that crap). And as a manager, I am consequently able to complete projects, insure high quality, and enjoy my job and co-workers at the same time. All without the pleasure of spending six figures on a business school.

Some History
How the hell did I get here?

I was born a poor black, that's someone else. I was actually born in Austin, Texas at the old Seton Hospital during the Army/Navy game. Yeah, that's a detail my father remembers as he spent the whole ordeal in a waiting room with a small black & white tv on. Mom's view was considerably more dramatic, painful, and intense.

Fortunately, the flood of hormones that flow to mothers during delivery left her memory considerably blurred. All she remembers now is the joy of birth. Aren't moms great!

I've tried to leave Austin many times, but I always come back, hence one of my favorite phrases, "Austin sucks!" (If you don't get it, you might as well quit reading and waste your time here.)

So I'm a long-time native, a unicorn. Stranger still, I moved into the house I grew up ten years ago. Yup, been fixing it up ever since--starting to look ok.

As a teenager I thought I was going to be a world-famous composer. Somehow I managed to get into the New England Conservatory of Music (Boston) and spent a good deal of my parents' hard-earned money before getting some sense and transferred to University of North Texas (then it was NTSU). Still a decent music school, but sooo much cheaper. In those days, a Texas resident could take a full load for less than fifty dollars. No, I'm not that old; school was very cheap in the early 80s.

The inexpensive school allowed me to take all sorts of things. And I found myself becoming a philosopher--music still a very big hobby, but no longer a demanding profession. To increase my philosophical knowledge, I transferred to UT (back in Austin again!) where I discovered I really hated writing papers for my philosphy courses.

But computer programming doesn't require writing papers, and that's how I overcame my writer's block. And in a few agonizingly rough years I had a degree in Computer Science. yippee.

My two favorite job interviews were for Origin Systems, a local game company, and NASA who needed people to write software for the international space station's life-support system. Origin made the first offer, which I happily accepted and steered me hard in the world of computer games.

After two years or so of being taken advantage of, I followed the advice of a few co-workers who had started their own game companies. Jason Templeman started a company called The Logic Factory, which produced a couple of excellent games. Check 'em out.

The other friend was Dave Taylor, of Id Software. They did even better than Jason--as you already know. John Carmack convinced me that shareware was the way to go: easy money without all the hassles of a distributor or marketing department. The internet would be my platform, and people would try and then pay for my games. It was a great idea, but it was just many years too early (this was 1994, only a handful of people had internet access!).

By complete luck I had some Dell computer stocks purchased at the company's all-time low (around 1989). What was originally a bit more than $500 grew into enough to fund my company for about two years while we developed a pretty cool game.

It was called Get Lost!, and you can check it out here. Remember, computers were very primative back then. 3D graphics was something that not even movies did very often. I personally wrote half a million lines of C++ and assembly code to make an immersive first-person 3D game that ran on only 450 kilobytes of memory. Yeah, that's about a tenth as big as a single photo on your cell phone.

Of course, after two years and much heartbreak, I didn't have the gumption or the money to market the game. I sold about thirty copies. Only one of my Origin friends even bothered to look at it. It's still the biggest thing I've ever done and my biggest disappointment.

After that, I found various programming jobs, mostly in games. But I did do a stint at Cycorp, the famous artificial intelligence place. Turns out, I really liked programming in Lisp. But I truly loved my co-workers: most were PhD's in philosophy and linguistics. Talk about great conversations and super-interesting people! I've never seen an office with so many true genii. But my heart was broken, and I just couldn't give the company the concentration it deserved. Back to games!

My general pattern had been to work like a dog, make a bunch of money, quit, travel, get a girlfriend, get low on money, get dumped, and then get another job. With my credentials, getting a programming job at a game company was a cinch. In fact, I had gotten so good at game programming, that I preferred debugging (ask any programmer--they hate debugging because it's so hard). On one job, I travelled North America debugging clients' software: have-manual, will travel!

During one haitus, many little coincidences happened. And I found myself in a most unusual and thrilling position.

I don't know if you've ever worked on a movie, but usually the experience is pretty awful. As I like movies and am a curious fellow, I worked on a couple and discovered this first-hand. The problem is that there are a lot of people trying to do something that's nearly impossible with next-to-no money and half the time. The work is naturally very difficult, and people are put in positions to be taken advantage of constantly. Even angels can get exhausted, hungry, sleep-deprived, and snap at mistakes (which happen all the time).

And at this time I found myself in the position of directing a tiny little movie. Lucky? oh boy am I! And I thought to myself, "Well, since I'm the one in charge, I can do things differently. I won't screw around, and I will be very prepared. I can make this experience a much more pleasant thing than I've seen. In fact, we might even have fun!"

And we did. It turns out that all my weird jobs, unusual studies, strange hobbies, philosophical inquiries, had perfectly prepared me for directing movies. I was not only good at directing, people loved working with me. You can look at my production company here: Sleep Furiously Studios.

So I made movies: shorts, music videos, industrial films, experimentals, and more. Every morning I jumped out of bed with energy to get to work. I really loved this job; I even loved the enormous amount of energy it demanded.

But it didn't pay. After years of trying, I couldn't even come close to breaking even. Bitterness crept in. Even the film festivals that I loved attending started showing crappier and crappier films. Bitterness turned to jadedness turned to abandonment.

But now I am many years out of the development world. No one wants to take a chance on a programmer with no recent work. That's where I am now, lingering along, trying to get a job in a market that seems to be teeming with programming jobs, but none for yours truly. I even learned to program Android mobile devices, which I started to detail here.

Accepting that I'm not going to be a programmer, which I though would be a snap, I'm going for technical management positions. While these jobs are more difficult to snag, they may be a better fit for my peculiar qualifications.

And in the meantime, I'm trying to write a requiem for my father. While at music school, I promised him I'd do this. Unfortunately I completely forgot this youthful promise, but Dad did not. I'm not a composer anymore! But I'll try try try...(and I thought making movies was hard).

Update - Professional Android Dev

Yep, I started working again in the programming world. And that world was all about Android. Java, XML, Eclipse, etc. etc. It's actually a lot of fun, if you are good at forgetting frustrations.

Various jobs, some contract, some full-time, some a weird hybrid. The first main job was a contract with Hyde Park Gym to write a tool for tracking workouts. It's suitable for individuals as well as trainers and coaches. I'm quite proud of this little program, but since it's old, the good people at Google have removed it from the store. Updating will take enormous time and effort--almost as much as making a new app from scratch.

Yes, but you say there are security issues that need to be updated. That's a big negatory good buddy. This app holds no personal information, and it does not even access the internet. There are zero security issues that need to be addressed (and I should know, my last gig was working on the MOST SECURE APP IN THE WORLD). But people these days have no patience for anything older than twelve months. "If it wasn't made since I graduated college, then it doesn't exit!" says people who graduated four years ago (ie most Google employees).

I worked for a good while at Whole Foods, where I learned how a company that consistently makes ridiculous decisions can earn a profit (hint: it can only do that for just so long...can you say Amazon?). And I did a stint at Under Armour for their famous Map My Fitness chain of apps. Here's an insider bit about those apps: they are all the same with a different splash screen--yes, even the paid versions are absolutely identical, including just as much ads. They make money hand-over-fist with that app by screwing their customers at every possible opportunity.

My last significant gig was with Hypori. As I said, it's certified as the most secure app in the world; the Army red team gave up trying to crack it. The work was very difficult, in some situations even harder than game development. Security is a bitch, because it has to be right--not good, not close, but right. Absolutely right.

I was the chief exterminator (fixing bugs). But we all did all sorts of things. The app is essentially an Android emulator, which means we specialized in...everything. But secure--it has to be secure. And fast. People hate slow emulators. The things we did to make it fast boggle the imagination.

I do love UI/UX, and this app needed tons of improvement in this area. But higher-paid minds decided to hire a higher-paid mind (cough cough, nepotism) to do the UI/UX design. So I'm kind of glad to be laid off (along with a slew of others to make the books look good before getting more investors--a common cycle for this company) as I was constantly irritated by the sub-par designs that were settled on.

That pretty much catches you up to where I am now: looking for work again. Don't you wish you watched tv instead of reading this crap?

smb feb 26, 2023