The Yearly Game

My dad, brother, and I are going to the Reds-Braves game today (well, this was written in the past into the future!).  I’ll maybe have some photos up soon…but as always, we’ll see.


A winner is me (of trades)

I’m thinking to myself that my franchise team is doing really well. I’ve got loads of good players, reinforcements in the minors, and a secure future. I’m like 30-3. My one problem is the clean up spot. So (as previous readers know), I signed Barry… er Reggie Stocker. As the season progresses, I see two young awesome outfielders (one whom I also acquired through trade). Arlen Katin reminds me of an Alfonso Soriano type; power and speed, but little contact. Andreas Francis, on the other hand, is either a rich man’s Jim Edmonds or a poor man’s Ken Griffey Jr. — maybe Mike Cameron+. However, he doesn’t play CF very well, and I’m planning on locking up Sizemore, so no worries there. My one great worry is Sabathia. I have no intentions of re-signing him, since makes too much money and will only make more. I need to lock up Sizemore, Pronk, and Peralta. I comb the trading block to find a really good starter who’s got a reasonable salary and is locked up for a few years. I find one: Brad Penny.

Given that I’ve got a surplus of outfielders, I decide to trade Stocker, since he isn’t very durable anyway, and play Katin in the clean up spot. I quickly realize Katin’s even less durable than Stocker. Francis and Katin platoon for a while, to give Francis at-bats and Katin time off, but neither one is very good at hitting clean-up. So I’m looking for a new cleanup hitting outfielder; it seems the Dodgers have tired of Stocker, for some reason. I see they need a relief pitcher. I have an old (but pretty good) reliever in AAA, who will never pitch for my team. I offer the reliever for Stocker… and they accept.

The trade is now Penny for a middle reliever. I take on salary, sure, but I think we know won that trade.

Hint: It’s me.

Patriotism Versus Nationalism In A Nutshell

I like the idea of fields of study such as womens’ studies and anthropology because they take the least-able people and put them in a place where they cannot screw up the well-functioning order of our society.

Tony, meanwhile, likes the idea of fields of study such as womens’ studies and anthropology, but would prefer that all graduates of these fields be deported to foreign countries specifically so they can screw up the (sometimes) well-functioning orders of their societies and by the way, U-S-A! U-S-A!

Education and experience in the work place (NOT FUNNY!!!)

As you may have guessed by my post about going back to school, I am also reentering the job market. As I apply for jobs, I’ve been thinking about what makes a person employable or what particular strengths are critical for getting a job. Interviews are important, and most business publications focus on that, but without a strong resume you won’t get an interview in the first place. (I also got thinking about this after reading Bill James’s The Politics of Glory, now published under a different title I’m too lazy to look up, which is about selecting baseball Hall of Famers.) There are two key components to a resume, education and experience.

To start with, why am I leaving out extracurricular activities? Because they are only relevant, truly, in context of academic abilities. A frat boy with a 2.0 GPA isn’t more employable than a nerd with a 4.0; it’s rather the opposite. On the other hand, a 3.6 GPA with lots of extra curricular activities means more than a 3.0 with very few. Extracurricular activities separate candidates at the margins, so it’s conceivably a third measure, but a strong academic record without context is more important than a strong social life without context. As a side note, academic-related extracurricular activities are included in academic performance, as you can’t get in the former without the latter.

Another exclusion I’m consciously making is job performance. Experience is more important than performance; there’s hardly a company you can name that values merit more than seniority. Don’t give me nonsense about young companies either; that’s because there’s no seniority to value. Performance reviews are entirely subjective as well; they depend on your reviewers as much as they do you. Some people preternaturally don’t hand out high grades; others pass them out like candy. Objective measures aren’t easy to produce in most fields, and in some, they are simply ignored in favor of experience. An idiot with 20 years experience will get hired and promoted; a superstar with one year experience will get hired but likely stall until they get the requisite experience.

So, the two dimensions we’re focusing on, experience and education. I’ll make it very plain. EXPERIENCE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR IN BEING HIRED FOR ANY GIVEN JOB. Companies are better about this now than they were in the past, but it’s still the primary factor. Experience is like moss; if you sit still long enough, you’ll get a lot more of it. The weird fact is that companies all across the country seem to like moss and revel in it. At my own current job (which I love, by the way), we had a ceremony for a fellow who’d been with the company for four years. I like the fellow in person, and he’s a skilled worker. However, I didn’t find out a colleague had been promoted until three months after the fact. I would think the latter would be more worthy of celebration, but apparently it is not. The most important qualification for something is that you’ve done it before, not that you’ll do it better than a present employee. This is even more true for supervisory positions, where it’s universally rock solid; you need experience and no amount of education will substitute.

Education is extremely weird. It’s also very, very important for a quality job. However, it’s valued less than experience. Part of the problem is that the American educational system is extremely top heavy. We have the finest post-secondary schools in the world, especially at the graduate level. The performance of our K-12 system is far more mixed. A high school diploma is too easy to achieve, in my opinion. The academic standards are less rigorous in order to make them easy to achieve, so a high school student really isn’t much better qualified than a junior in high school for better jobs. The approach many businesses take weirdly inflates the value of the diploma by refusing to accept employees that don’t have one. It’s all-or-nothing; if you have a diploma, you’ve got a shot, otherwise, you don’t. You can flip burgers at McDonald’s whether or not you have a diploma, and the diploma makes no difference.

The sweet spot is an undergraduate degree. It’s hard enough to obtain that you’re qualified for better jobs and there’s also a marginal benefit to doing so. The trick is the field, naturally. My degree was in history; it qualified me for the same minimum-wage crap I’d been working in since high school, only now people younger than me (but with more experience!) were my bosses. My first really good paying job was the one I have now, which is still a lot less than some of my friends make. My best friend, on the other hand, has a bachelor’s degree in engineering, which got him a really good job.

Master’s degrees are extremely weird, unless it’s an MBA. I found out, upon getting my master’s degree, that I was qualified for precisely three more positions than just my bachelor’s was. On top of that, companies look at you nervously because they’re so rare. I’m probably one of five people in the building (I’d venture to say) with a master’s, and there are well over 1500 people at my company. Yet I’m also in an entry level position, and I had to fight for that. The idea that master’s degrees entitle you to better jobs is a mistaken one, with the possible exception of the MBA and education. They are best served as gateways to the PhD.

The PhD degree is the only degree that possibly substitutes for experience. With a PhD, I’m in the best possible position for my field; there are more jobs than candidates. My experience in non-academic fields will strengthen my case, rather than my academic expertise dragging it down.

Here then are the best possible scenarios for a job candidate.

1. No degree and lots of experience.

2. A bachelor’s degree and lots of experience.

3. A bachelor’s degree in a select field and less experience.

4. An MBA.

5. A PhD.

Those are pretty much the only truly viable self-marketing strategies. Master’s degrees are almost meaningless, but at least they’re worth more than diplomas. I guess that’s worth something…

The Knife Cuts Both Ways

Polar bears are on the endangered species list, threatened by global warming (ignore the part about it not having warmed since 1998).  Alaska’s governor, Sarah Palin, is suing to take them off of the list, and as the New York Post points out, if she fails, this means that a federal judge could basically allow environmentalist groups to control completely the economy.  You would think that people would catch on early enough that wide-ranging laws and a bureaucratic lock-down of every business-related activity would be a bad thing, but we _are_ talking about judges and environmentalists here.

On the other hand, though, this would also mean that every single governmental activity—by contributing to global warming (ignore the part about it not having warmed since 1998)—could be sued and forced to show how it complies with the act.  If environmentalists can prevent people from building on their own property because of some small animal living on a tiny section of the plot, dragging things out in the courts for years, it would be beautiful to see the CATO Institute open up a wing dedicated to suing every government department for every governmental activity.  For good measure, injunctions against environmental groups preventing them from using electricity or internal combustion engines would be a fitting and delicious irony.

Naturally, I would much prefer that the inane law be stricken from the books, but if they’re going to threaten the destruction of the US economy by putting everything into the hands of environmental groups and the government, you’d might as well get on and sue them first…

If This Were President Bush, There’d Already Be A Book Written…

Barack Obama has a rather interesting way with words and ideas. Sure, he isn’t too great at geography or numbers of states or, well, more geography. Fortunately, though, he’s not just an idiot who makes a lot of silly mistakes! After all, he’s not a Republican, so he can’t possibly be stupid and we should just hide all of his unforced errors…  Jake Tapper has a couple more as well.

For the record, I think Obama is about as stupid as President Bush—not at all. Both are savvy politicians but people get tired—especially while campaigning—and make mistakes. During an average day, I doubt that any of us gets away without saying something egregiously stupid. Sometimes we catch ourselves shortly thereafter and sometimes not, but if you had the New York Times reporting every time you mangled a word, misspoke, or even said something which was not itself stupid but required context to understand as not being stupid, you’d come off as a fool as well.

Programming Links Of The Day, 5/26

A co-worker of mine had to insert a lot of rows into a SQL Server database and wanted to do it in one nice query.  In MySQL, the answer is simple:  insert into table (fields) values (fields_1), (fields_2), …, (fields_n);  I wasn’t sure if MS SQL could do the same, but it looks like it can (see method 4).

I have never had the opportunity to use a recursive SQL query, but they look pretty spiffy.  I’ll have to check it out sometime after I get regular internet access back.

We’re automating a lot of things at work.  We have a framework which will create data objects, partial business objects, and privileges from the database structure (the last one creates a list of privileges a role may have, such as inserting a row in a particular table or reading/writing to a particular field).  I am also working on automating the creation of a web.config file.  Because many of our web.configs will match up except for the connection strings and app settings sections, I decided to break them off into their own pages, and this post shows exactly how.

Object dependencies are a tricky thing in SQL Server, especially as you get multiple developers working on a large project.  Thus, it’s good to have an easy way of determining what, exactly, a particular object depends on (so you know why you can’t delete the object, for example), and this procedure works precisely for that case.