Randy Zinn

Article Quote on Programming

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Jun 132018
 

I was recently quoted in an article at mrc-productivity.com on “Why web application development projects fail (and what IT can do about it).” Check out my contribution to the article where I talk about “scope creep” and how it can destroy a project.

My Friends Wanted Me to Rape a Girl

 Blogs, News  Comments Off on My Friends Wanted Me to Rape a Girl
Apr 252018
 

Note: this is an email I sent to a reporter or hearing they were looking for bad dating stories, but I decided to post it here. The longer version of this will be in a forthcoming memoir.

Most of my worst experiences were caused not by the girl in question, but by the interference of my so-called friends.

One of the worst was in my late teens, when me and two friends were mall hopping (back when that was a thing), looking for girls, which was part of our dating routine at the time. The three of us met three girls and ended up back at one of the girls’ houses (we’ll call that girl Lisa). Before long, one of my friends had sex with one of them, and the other guy had sex with the other girl. Then my two friends informed me that those four had decided that, for this to be a “perfect night,” as they put it, me and the remaining girl, Lisa, had to have sex with each other.

The problem is that neither of us wanted to. Our friends didn’t care. At some point, my friends violently shoved me into Lisa’s darkened bedroom and slammed the door behind me, telling me to have sex with her “or else.” These guys had sexually bullied me before and I knew they’d tell everyone I was a loser if I didn’t go through with it, because they’d done that sort of thing before. In fact, they’d just called me that during my resistance to this plan.

Lisa was on her bed, which was pushed into one corner. She was up against that corner with her knees drawn up under her chin, blanket protectively pulled up. Even as clueless as I could be, I didn’t fail to notice the message in her body language. Still, she was there, alone. She was apparently going to go through with it, a victim of bullying just like me.

It didn’t occur to me at the time, but if I’d gone through with forcing myself on a girl who didn’t want to have sex with me, I’d have been raping her. Incredibly, my two so-called friends were trying to force me to rape a girl. Even more incredibly, her friends were trying to get her to submit to being raped. With friends like this, who needs enemies?

Talking my way out of it with Lisa was far easier, since she agreed with me. I directly addressed the situation, wondering aloud why we had to do this if we didn’t want to. She agreed in surprise; maybe she thought I was on board with this before I said otherwise. I said it wasn’t how I normally did things, joking about dinner and a movie. When she agreed again, I asked if she wanted to do that instead. She said yes, getting more relieved by the moment. I ended up walking out of there with her phone number instead of a used condom, to the immediate mockery of my friends, who did indeed punish me for this by telling others how much a loser I was.

They saw the phone number as a pathetic trophy of my experience as compared to what a condom signified (to them). Funny how we saw it so differently. To me that phone number was a triumph and a used condom would’ve been a horrible defeat for me, and probably far worse for Lisa. They tried to shame me for it, but to this day I’m proud of my resistance. I eventually got tired of this kind of crap and ditched not only them, but the entire scene of people they represented. The funny thing is that, for the rest of that night, I could tell Lisa was now quite interested in me and likely would’ve had sex with me that same night if I changed my mind.

But I didn’t.

 

Scott Amyx Site Interview

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Apr 032018
 

I had the good fortune to be interviewed for Scott Amyx’ website. Who is he? Among other things, “Scott is a thought leader, speaker, and author on the Internet of Things and the Fourth Industrial Revolution and winner of the Cloud & DevOps World Award for Most Innovative…”

To quote his site: In Strive, “…pioneering thought leader Scott Amyx shows anyone striving to succeed, regardless of who or where we are, what we do or have done for a living, or how young or old we are, that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but doing the things uncomfortable he calls “strive.””

My own story caught the attention of his support staff and I got a brief profile you can read here.

Book Info Added

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Mar 202018
 

I’ve added some informal info on the memoirs and related books. This includes status, what’s covered, and some working titles. I actually have final titles but am keeping those to myself for now.

Book Writing Underway

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Feb 132018
 

I’ve been quiet for a while but am pleased to say that in 2018, I am writing a memoir about my experiences as a professional programmer working with the federal government. I’ve worked at the State Department, for the White House, and currently work at NASA Goddard in Greenbelt, Maryland.

I’m already 40k words into the manuscript and hope to be done this year.

Ten Signs You’re a Good IT Manager

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May 162016
 

Since we’ve looked at reasons someone can be a bad IT manager, let’s look at reasons for good ones.

1. You ask staff opinions about technical concerns before trying to make a decision

This is relevant if you’re less technical/current than your staff.  It shows you respect them and are a team player. It’s also smart because it avoids exposing you to the risk of making decisions by yourself.  You might make a final decision, but if it’s with the help of trained, highly paid staff, then your chances of success are that much greater.  Your staff will respect you.

2. If a staff member is making mistakes, you ask if everything is okay or if they understand requirements

This really shows you look out for people and care about them and their careers.  Someone might be having personal trouble, or be under stress.  Maybe there’s something you don’t know about that’s affecting their job performance.  Or maybe they’ve made some honest mistakes.  Treating people like a real person goes a long way to acting like a decent human yourself.  You’re the kind of manager everyone loves.

3. You’re flexible about time off

Everyone likes a manager who lets them make up time for appointments or work extra hours for the same reason.  As long as your staff are getting their work done, being cool this way earns loyalty, but making sure they’re working covers your butt.  Being civil and helpful says you’re a cool manager

4. You give kudos to those who do a good job

When staff work overtime or just do a great job, a good manager thanks them and shows appreciation.  Most people want the approval of their manager, so give it to them when they deserve it!

5. You recognize that small issues are just that, minor

Not blowing things out of proportion is one sign of a good manager. As a case in point, I once left my laptop on my desk overnight against company policy, but it mostly wasn’t my fault, as I was forced offsite with little notice and thought I’d be back later, but ended up going home from the other location.  I was actually fired for this and a few other minor things blown out of proportion.  This sort of thing says terrible things about management and a company.

6. You try to find staff work they’ll enjoy

It’s a given that sometimes people have to do tasks they don’t want to.  Recognizing this out loud (“Hey this kind of stinks, but…”) shows that you’re aware of their skills and what they want to be doing and recognize this isn’t it.  If you can toss them a good project later to compensate, then “taking one for the team” is a little easier to take – and smarter for you to manage their upset about a lame task.

7. You try to find staff work that fits their skills

It’s an unfortunate reality that IT managers have tasks that need to get done that don’t fit with anyone’s skill sets.  Even so, it’s better to tell people they have some options, like one project or another.  If there’s only one, tell them you’d understand if they don’t want to do it but that it’s all you have.  Just forcing it on someone and acting like you’re unaware it sucks for them will make you look indifferent and callous.  Don’t act surprised when they quit, either.

8. Reward initiative

If someone steps up or otherwise volunteers, show appreciation for this.  If they offer to help, recognize their desire to be useful.  Your staff are your greatest – and likely only – resource besides yourself, and smart managers learn to make their people want to work for them.

9. If a new policy – or an old one – is suddenly enforced, your understanding of an adjustment being needed is good

No one likes change, so if it comes, being fair to staff earns respect and cooperation.  People must adjust.  Giving advance warning and feedback on whether people are doing the right thing is not only right, but just and fair.

10. Give fair performance reviews

This sort of goes back to recognition, but if the company allows, sit down with each staff member before a formal review and ask them for reminders of all the good things they’ve done in a year.  It will help you not forget and be fairer.

Another 10 Signs You’re a Bad Technical Recruiter

Last week we looked at ten signs you’re a “bad” IT recruiter, but there are another ten to go through, so here we go! 1. You give me an attitude about anything or make any negative, personal remarks. This is never okay, even if you feel it’s deserved.  You’re at work and can’t do this, especially […]

1 comment

Ten Signs You’re a Good IT Manager

Since we’ve looked at reasons someone can be a bad IT manager, let’s look at reasons for good ones. 1. You ask staff opinions about technical concerns before trying to make a decision This is relevant if you’re less technical/current than your staff.  It shows you respect them and are a team player. It’s also smart because […]

0 comments

Ten Signs You’re a Bad IT Manager

Life in the corporate world is hugely affected by managers, so we’ll take a look at ten reasons managers can be terrible.  If you’re a manager, watch out for doing these things and earning a bad reputation. 1. You throw me under the bus Managers are supposed to look out for their staff, not screw them […]

0 comments

Ten Signs You’re a Bad Technical Recruiter

Recently I did the Ten Signs You’re a Good Technical Recruiter.  This time we look at ten mistakes technical recruiters can make so that programmers don’t respond favorably (or at all) to job postings and calls/emails.  And what recruiters can do to mitigate these issues. If you have comments, please add them at the end. 1. After receiving […]

0 comments

Ten Signs You’re a Good Technical Recruiter

As a professional programmer, I’ve interacted with technical recruiters for over fifteen years and have noticed that the good ones share certain traits.  Here are things I like in a recruiter, in no particular order: 1. You send me an email with the following info in the very first one: A job description A fairly specific location […]

0 comments

Ten Signs You’re a Bad IT Manager

 Blogs, Corporate Hell  Comments Off on Ten Signs You’re a Bad IT Manager
May 092016
 

Life in the corporate world is hugely affected by managers, so we’ll take a look at ten reasons managers can be terrible.  If you’re a manager, watch out for doing these things and earning a bad reputation.

1. You throw me under the bus

Managers are supposed to look out for their staff, not screw them over.  It’s always better to be fair to someone, talk to them with the benefit of the doubt, and give them a chance to improve.  Badmouthing to them to upper management and summarily firing them is a sign you’re a bad manager.  It makes both you and the company look bad, and the poor employee who has to explain to friends, family, the unemployment office, and possibly to FBI agents for the next 7-10 years when applying for a security clearance.

2. You try to take credit for my work

If your staff is doing such good work that you feel the need to steal credit, then you’re just alienating one of your best people. You can still get credit for getting such good work out of someone without being unethical.

3. You make something trivial into a big deal

Having perspective in life goes a long way.  Don’t pick fights with staff or make them feel bad about some petty thing that’s happened. It won’t gain you anything but disrespect.

4. You don’t get staff input on matters (when you should) before making important decisions

Managers are often not as technical as their staff, and when this is the case, it’s a mistake for a manager to make a decision about how things will go without getting input from those who know.  You’re supposed to be part of a team. Being the boss doesn’t mean bossing people around; it means bringing people together and getting the best performance out of them.

Once that bad decision has been made, and your staff tells you it’s impossible, blaming the situation on them only compounds the problem you’ve created.  I’ve seen this repeatedly and it never ends well, splintering teams apart and earning major disrespect.

5. You tell staff it’s their job to find themselves work to do when that’s actually your job

This shouldn’t need explaining, but companies have proposal writers and other staff (including senior executives) whose job it is to win federal contracts (we’re talking D.C. here) and it’s literally not my job to do this. IT managers assign work to staff. We don’t assign work to ourselves. Or invent projects no one needs.

6. You try to make people do inappropriate work

Those in IT have a specialized skill-set (i.e., software development in certain languages), so trying to make them exclusively do documentation (for years), for example, is not acceptable. Nor is turning someone into your assistant. Or throwing every junk project to the same person.  They’re just going to quit.

7. You become resentful about work/life balance requests

This includes not letting people work from home when they need to, or make up time for an appointment.  Or giving them grief about an emergency.  Or trying to refuse to let them go to a doctor appointment unless they want to get in trouble with you.  Since they’re not a child, don’t try to treat them like one.  It will only earn disrespect – and then they’ll be gone.

8. You change the details of the job for the worse just because you can

I once had a manager tell me on my first day as an employee (after six months as a contractor), that I now had to work 9 hour days instead of 8. We didn’t have a deadline to beat or anything like that. He just did it “because you’re my bitch now” as he put it, with a laugh. Our relationship deteriorated from there.  Don’t try to pull power trips on your staff unless you want their disrespect and resignation.  You may not be an adult, be we are. It won’t go unnoticed.  You are being watched whether you think so or not.

9. The first sign people get that there’s a problem with them is “you’re fired.”

People deserve to be given chances to follow directions or fix mistakes, which could be innocent or have a reasonable explanation.  Not doing so reveals a desire to just fire someone without cause, which is the ultimate in being a bad manager.  This will make the company look bad when people leave bad reviews on sites like Glassdoor.com.

10. You suddenly decide a policy is without flexibility and must be enforced in draconian ways

People get used to doing things a certain way at jobs, even if it’s not according to rules, but that’s how it’s been done forever.  Suddenly cracking down might be okay, but not if you do things like fire people, for example, for doing things the old way for months.  Sudden enforcement must come with warnings or you’ll seem like an ogre.

Another 10 Signs You’re a Bad Technical Recruiter

Last week we looked at ten signs you’re a “bad” IT recruiter, but there are another ten to go through, so here we go! 1. You give me an attitude about anything or make any negative, personal remarks. This is never okay, even if you feel it’s deserved.  You’re at work and can’t do this, especially […]

1 comment

Ten Signs You’re a Good IT Manager

Since we’ve looked at reasons someone can be a bad IT manager, let’s look at reasons for good ones. 1. You ask staff opinions about technical concerns before trying to make a decision This is relevant if you’re less technical/current than your staff.  It shows you respect them and are a team player. It’s also smart because […]

0 comments

Ten Signs You’re a Bad IT Manager

Life in the corporate world is hugely affected by managers, so we’ll take a look at ten reasons managers can be terrible.  If you’re a manager, watch out for doing these things and earning a bad reputation. 1. You throw me under the bus Managers are supposed to look out for their staff, not screw them […]

0 comments

Ten Signs You’re a Bad Technical Recruiter

Recently I did the Ten Signs You’re a Good Technical Recruiter.  This time we look at ten mistakes technical recruiters can make so that programmers don’t respond favorably (or at all) to job postings and calls/emails.  And what recruiters can do to mitigate these issues. If you have comments, please add them at the end. 1. After receiving […]

0 comments

Ten Signs You’re a Good Technical Recruiter

As a professional programmer, I’ve interacted with technical recruiters for over fifteen years and have noticed that the good ones share certain traits.  Here are things I like in a recruiter, in no particular order: 1. You send me an email with the following info in the very first one: A job description A fairly specific location […]

0 comments

The Two Kinds of Ignoring

 Blogs, Psychology, Speech Problems  Comments Off on The Two Kinds of Ignoring
Aug 112015
 

There are two kinds of ignoring: passive and active.

Passive Ignoring

IgnoringPassive ignoring is the kind you’re familiar with.  This is when we pretend someone is not actually present.  If they speak, we don’t acknowledge this at all.  It’s as if they said nothing.  We don’t look at them, pretending the seat they’re in is empty, or where they stand has something else, like a pillar, there.

And yet we tacitly acknowledge their presence, never asking someone else where they are because we know perfectly well they’re right in front of us.  We walk around them.  We don’t attempt to put something in the chair they sit in.  But we otherwise pretend they don’t exist.

Active Ignoring

Active ignoring is when you’re looking right at someone, talking to them, even asking questions, and appearing to pay normal attention to them, but in reality you’re ignoring everything they say.  You hear them saying things they aren’t saying, meaning things they don’t mean, and being someone they aren’t (i.e., you assume they’re saying something rude when they wouldn’t do such a thing).  You don’t listen to their answers to your own questions.  You’re ignoring them and may have no idea you’re doing it.

The Two Kinds of Ignoring

There are two kinds of ignoring: passive and active. Passive Ignoring Passive ignoring is the kind you’re familiar with.  This is when we pretend someone is not actually present.  If they speak, we don’t acknowledge this at all.  It’s as if they said nothing.  We don’t look at them, pretending the seat they’re in is […]

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The Two Kinds of Interruption

There are two kinds of conversational interruption: benign and malignant. Benign Interruption Benign interruption is the kind you’re familiar with.  It happens once in a while.  The person doing it often means to help you along or say something related to what you’re saying.  They mean no harm.  Since it’s technically rude, they will often […]

0 comments

Why I Blog About Psychology

My life of introspection has been a well-kept secret despite it dominating my life and outlook. I spent much of the 1990s pacing around after midnight, in turmoil, and in the dark (literally and figuratively), upset about something awful that family, “friends,” or strangers had just done to me. We all have ideas and expectations […]

0 comments

Ten Remedies for Tendonitis

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Aug 052015
 

tendonitisIf you have tendonitis, there are a number of remedies to try. You should consult your doctor before doing anything.

1. Rest

Sadly, your best remedy is rest.  Avoid using your arms any more than needed and be careful how you use them when you do. Behavior modification is crucial to recovery.  If you keep doing what you were before the injury, it will only get worse.

2. Physical Therapy

A physical therapist (PT) is one of your best options, but you need to find one who understands how to treat tendonitis, as not all of them do.  Try to avoid being assigned to a PT assistant, as they are unlikely to have the specialized skills you need.

3. Stretching

A PT can also give you appropriate stretching exercises to improve the lost range of motion that often comes with the injury.  You have to be careful to do them right or they’ll be counterproductive.

4. Heat

Heat via a heating pad can increase the blood flow and therefore oxygen to your damaged muscles, helping them heal.  Talk with a doctor or therapist to learn the proper placement for the heat.

5. Ultrasound

Just like what is done for pregnant women, an ultrasound treatment can spread warmth deep into affected muscles. This is typically administered by a physical therapist.

6. E-stim

A physical therapist can do electric stimulation to the affected muscles by placing the pads that emit current at two different point on your arms.  This feels weird at first but you get used to it.

7. Ice

Ice will lessen the inflammation of the tendons. Consult your doctor or physical therapist to learn where to place the ice and for how long.

8. Arm bands

If your tendonitis is in your arms, there are various arm bands you can wear. Some will restrict your wrist motion.  Other will compress your muscles to reduce pain and injury while using your arms.  I used very thick ones while sleeping to keep me from lying on my arms overnight, since that compressed my tendons and inflamed my arms.

9. Anti-inflammatories

Over the counter anti-inflammatories can help the tendon recover, but you have to be careful not to overdo this or you’ll risk damage to your organs.  A doctor can prescribe stronger ones for short duration, especially at the outset of your injury.

10. Topical Gel

There are topical gels that reduce the pain you feel but which might not help you recover.  Ask your PT or doctor to recommend one.  Some of these stink quite a bit, so be prepared for friends and family to ask you not to put it on right before sitting down with them!

If I kill myself, they’ll be sorry

 Blogs, Suicide  Comments Off on If I kill myself, they’ll be sorry
Aug 032015
 

If you’ve ever thought, “If I kill myself, they’ll be sorry,” you’re not alone.  Teenagers are especially prone to this sort of thinking.  It doesn’t mean that you’re really suicidal.  So then why think it?

It has a mollifying effect, meaning it makes us feel better.  Maybe we’re feeling uncared for, so we tell ourselves others care but just can’t (or won’t) show it for some reason.  Maybe they’ve put up a wall of “normalcy” that we can’t pierce.  Maybe we haven’t really tried, afraid of the reaction to our problems and despair.

despairWhatever the reason, this might be called a “gateway” thought to suicide, as we allow ourselves to imagine our death, their grief, and their realization of how we’ve felt and that they missed it all.  Maybe we’re mad, too, and want them to feel agony that they were blind to our pain and were supposed to be able to save us but failed.

There’s some revenge in the thought.  “You made me feel bad, particularly by not paying attention, and now I’ve made you feel bad, too, and you’ll have to live with that forever.”

As satisfying as such dark thoughts are, they aren’t something to lightly allow yourself.  The more you imagine yourself dead, the closer you come to finding the idea acceptable, then preferable, and then maybe one day do it.  It’s not so simple as that, of course, and there can be any number of reasons people finally attempt it.  But you deserve better than this fantasy.

Imagine the alternative.  What if you leave suicide as unacceptable?  Off the table?  Maybe you have thoughts more productive and helpful.  Imagine other solutions.  For suicide is not a problem.  It’s a perceived solution, one that is rarely in anyone’s best interests despite what we tell ourselves.  Don’t self-pity yourself into a death-welcoming mindset.

You deserve better fantasies.  And a better life, too.  A longer one.

A Public Shaming Leads To Suicide?

In May of 2015, public shaming led a girl to kill herself.  Or so it seems. To sum this up, the 13-year-old girl’s father cut her beautiful long hair off as punishment and videotaped her tearful reaction. Someone else got the video and uploaded it to YouTube.  Izabel Laxamana then killed herself by jumping from […]

2 comments

Do the World a Favor By Killing Myself

In the spring of 2014, a 16 year old girl named Maddie Yates committed suicide after posting a YouTube video in which she stated that she’d be doing the world a favor by killing herself.  I can’t disagree more. I don’t know the first thing about Maddie, but I know this dark thought.  I used […]

0 comments

If I kill myself, they’ll be sorry

If you’ve ever thought, “If I kill myself, they’ll be sorry,” you’re not alone.  Teenagers are especially prone to this sort of thinking.  It doesn’t mean that you’re really suicidal.  So then why think it? It has a mollifying effect, meaning it makes us feel better.  Maybe we’re feeling uncared for, so we tell ourselves […]

0 comments

Protect Yourself From Suicide

If you’re prone to suicidal thoughts, you’ve probably noticed that they come and go, often with depression.  During one of those times when you’re feeling better, do yourself a favor – remove easy means of killing yourself from the places where you live or otherwise spend time.  That way, when the darkness comes upon you […]

0 comments

Suicide Is Not Forever, Unless You Do It

If you’re having suicidal thoughts, it will not last forever.  You didn’t always feel this way, and while you might feel this way all the time now, this too shall pass.  It’s important to remember this. When I became suicidal, it followed a mental breakdown, and I felt that I had once been one way […]

0 comments

Why I Write About Suicide

Due to speech problems, I was isolated and often depressed as a teen, but my suicidal ideation turned serious at 18, when someone betrayed me to play a joke at my expense in front of others who’d gathered to watch me be humiliated.  This caused a mental breakdown (or nervous breakdown), made me believe in God […]

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