Goin’ Home

Guess what?

I’m moving back to Austin.

Like, next week.

About a month ago I had an opportunity to interview at Aspyr Media. Yes, the same company that laid me off. They have since backed and filled, shedding unprofitable original titles to return to what they do best – ports. It was nice to hear this because I didn’t really harbor the company any ill will.

Now, I wanted to nail this interview so I did a lot of prep. I bought books on programming interview questions and did countless exercises to remind myself what the difference between public and private inheritance is. In the end, I thought I did okay in the interview, but I didn’t know if a) they’d hire me and b) if we’d be able to work out the mechanics of the move back.

But then they contacted me and told me they wanted me and…it was just the sweetest thing. The heavens parted and light streamed down. Of course, there was a lot of other considerations that might impede our progress back, and I worried that I might have to go back myself and bring the family back later.

But then stuff started to work out. And then it continued to work out. And then it continued to continue to work out.

And now the lease is signed, the truck is rented and we’re starting to pack in earnest. By next Wednesday (God willing) we will be back in Austin, and we will never leave again.

I’d like to publicly thank Ian Bullard for his help; he was the one who told me about the opportunity at Aspyr. My younger children will finish growing up in Texas where they belong and my older daughter will now have access to the greater opportunities a larger city (with a major university) provides.

More updates as the day approaches!

Return of the Mack

“I just wanted to let you know that you did a great job fixing that bug. It was really tough and you did a great job on it, and because you got it done on time we shipped the project on time. This was a really big deal for us. I’m glad we hired you. Why don’t you take Friday off?”

— My Current Boss

Yeah. I think things are getting better.

So it’s time to come back out of my shell. Let’s do something fun and blog about it! Let’s see, let’s see…

Oh. Oh, yes. This is it. The next Mini Ludum Dare’s theme is…7 Day RTS.

That I can do. But I won’t be doing it quite as straight as they are because I do have a full-time job. Instead, I’ll be doing it as a 40-hour game. I’m still going to try to get it done by the deadline on the 29th, which means I’ll have two weekends to work on it. That should be sufficient. It’ll also mean more blogging!

Now I need some decent free graphics. I’ll be making sounds with SFXR/Musagi, of course.

Now Arriving At Your Destination

So, last Friday around 5 PM we pulled into The Lakes at Deerfield Beach, an apartment complex here in Florida. Weary, exhausted, we went inside and signed some papers and handed over a huge wad of cash…and became the proud renters of a beautiful new apartment.

Then we just had to get all the stuff inside. We had called ahead and hired some movers but we’d told them that we would be there at 1 PM and we were really, really late.

But they were still there and they moved us in. I tipped them big; it was a lifesaver.

Then it was a matter of juggling finances (and ending up having to borrow some money) so we made our March rent on time. Then it was just time to wait until I started working.

And yesterday I went to my new job for the first time. Everyone there seems very nice, the corporate culture seems laid back (and I need that after General Motors, honestly). The work looks like something I can do.

Here’s a thing though…I hadn’t slept much the night before (I do have an anxiety disorder, after all). So by lunch I was dragging.

So I had a Coke.

(gasps from the audience)

Yes, I deliberately drank caffeine for the first time in over four years. Other than the small amounts of caffeine in chocolate, I had not consumed any since my heart problems started in October of 2008.

Now, I had already asked my doctor years ago, and he had said that a caffeinated soda a day wouldn’t hurt me. In fact, a doctor once put me on modafinil, a much strong stimulant than caffeine! (I didn’t realize what it was at the time.) But I was afraid to do it until today. Today, I felt like it was necessary for me to be at my best.

And the worst part was, it worked. I felt great! I got lots of stuff done. I felt like things might be okay now.

I was kind of half-hoping that it wouldn’t work, so I could tell myself, hey, I tried it, it doesn’t work, no need to be tempted any more. But it did.

I guess programmers really are machines that turn caffeine into code. So I guess I’ll be having a (single) soda each day to fuel that.

I just have to be careful. Now, there is still no clinical research showing that stimulants cause heart attacks, but when you tell the paramedics that you drink a lot of caffeine and are taking pseudophedrine and they look at each other knowingly, that’s evidence enough for me.

Wow, this got off course. The upshot is, we’re here and it looks like we’re staying. My first-day jitters are over and it looks like, for a while at least, I’m going to be working for a living and we’ll be getting back to what normal people consider normal.

Thank you to all my friends and family who helped us. It really does feel like waking from a nightmare.

At Last

This must be what it feels like to make parole.

This evening, I found out that I passed my background check and I will be starting work at Pace America, in Boca Raton, Florida, on March 4th…two days before my birthday 🙂

We got a bit of money from our tax return and hopefully it will be enough to get us down there. If anyone knows any good & cheap apartment complexes near Boca Raton, please let us know!

A New Possibility

Remember that interview I went on a few weeks ago, to Florida? You know, the one I was sure I bombed?

Well, they called back and made me an offer.

This…should be Happy Times, but it’s not yet. For one thing, it took them about a week to actually get me the offer letter, which I sent back last week. Now they are running a background check on me, and presumably, if I pass, they’ll finish the hire. I don’t even know what my start date might be yet.

I wanted to wait until I knew for sure before saying anything, but at this point it could be another week before I know for certain that the hire will go through.

Of course, even if this does go through we still have the problem of getting down to Florida. We’re hoping that our tax return might help out a bit with regards to that; we’ll see.

Still, it’s a possibility. One that would not only get me working again, but would get us out of Detroit.

Wish us luck.

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.