Sunday, 23 April 2017

Interview Day IV: Mitosis

Time for what has been a considerably delayed update regarding Operation: Swordfish, and my quest for more fulfilling employment. Saying considerably when my interview was only a few days ago may seem grossly over dramatic, but believe me when I tell you it has been a grueling few days; which I am still recovering from as I sit and type.

I did consider that I might write up the exploits of the day in some considerable detail, but as I'd not even reached the point of arriving at my interview, and the post was already the size of a small essay I decided to can that notion there and then; instead opting for a more Cliff Notes run down of events. It's still one hell of a long post, but it could have easily been ten times the size for all that happened on Thursday alone!

Thursday

Thursday got off to a bad start, as I woke up vomiting, aching and, with a fever. I managed to pull it together though, and get my ass to the bus stop on time.. Which was more than the bus did. The first one didn't turn up, and the second one was late; none of which helped with the general feeling of unease that was washing over me by this point.

The journey to the event was also pretty eventful. Not only did we manage to hit nearly every set of lights when they were red, but for some reason traffic was horrendous. Something that would remain true for much of the day. We also had a passenger who felt that they didn't need to pay the full fare holding up proceedings. It was not a good journey, which is the last thing you need when you're on your way to something important, and you already feel rotten.

One positive highlight of the journey however, was a phone all that I received from an agency that I had been in talks with about another job. They called me with the news that the client wanted to see me for interview, which was great. What wasn't so good however was that they wanted to see me on Friday. I'd already explained to them during a previous call that I simply wouldn't be able to do Friday, but it seems as if that fell on deaf ears.

So I was a little frustrated, but I ran over why I wouldn't be able to do Friday again, and asked if the client could meet me today. I also offered before or after work (as I had been led to believe that they weren't based too far off the route I take for my daily commute to work). At this point they agreed to try and arrange something with the client, and they told me they'd give me a call back.

Which they did! Very quickly at that. Only five minutes could have passed between that call ending, and them calling back to advise me that the client was willing to meet with me today. Brilliant I thought! That's the first thing that has gone my way today. Now all we had to do was reschedule my registration with the agency, as if we'd have kept to our previous appointment for that afternoon (2PM), making the interview on time (3PM) just wouldn't be possible.

Again I was in luck, as it transpired that the calendar of the person I needed to see was completely free other than our previous appointment, for the whole day. So I advised them that I would do what I needed to do this morning, shoot back home to retrieve the paperwork I needed as proof of identity (part of the registration process), and then go straight to them; estimating that I would be there somewhere between one and half one. They were quite happy to accommodate this, and the deal was struck.

I now had two interviews that day, for very similar roles. Mitosis in action baby!

Back to my more immediate concerns, the rest of the journey whilst not best was uneventful; and whilst behind schedule, I did make it to my first interview ahead of time. As chance would have it however, my interviewers where running behind, so I ended up sitting in the nice cool lobby for a while, which didn't go unappreciated given my sky-high temperature.

It wasn't too long before I was collected and escorted to a meeting room however, and a few minutes after that the interviewing began. 30 minutes with the head of international operations, and 30 minutes with the vice president.

Despite my fever, I kept my cool and it all went pretty well; although after the first interview I could feel my voice beginning to go (no doubt another symptom of whatever bug had set up a home in me). Me being me however I pushed on regardless, and despite my significant discomfort I kept it together.

Happy with what I had achieved, but a little worse for wear I headed home for my paperwork, and whilst I was there a top up to the medication I had taken in the morning. This time, a spray to numb my throat completely; figuring I'd soldier on through and being ill could be tomorrow's problem.

Next up was the agency, and I made it there bang on one. A few forms where filled in, and I was given a brief of what the client did, an address and, sent on my merry way with just over an hour to get there. Easy enough I thought. The agency had given me directions during the registration, and the address looked very familiar. I couldn't quite place it, but I was sure that when I got boots on the ground it would all make sense.

So I jumped on the bus and followed the directions, which led me to an industrial estate behind the local council house. After 15 minutes of searching the area however, the client was nowhere to be found. Luckily I had the address though, which means I had the postcode. So I popped that into the GPS on my phone figuring it could show me where I'd gone wrong. Instead however it told me I was miles away!

Something was very wrong here. I'd gone where I was told to go, but apparently I was nowhere near where I needed to be. Either my GPS was wrong, or the address was wrong. Neither seemed likely, so I did the only sensible thing and phoned my contact at the agency and explained the situation; and to see if we could get to the bottom of the situation. I also asked if they could phone the client and let them know that I was running behind.

So whilst one person went off to contact the client, I worked through my predicament with my personal contact at the agency; where it quickly transpired that the initial directions I had been given by them where way off. The GPS was right, and I was miles away. Bugger!

That same person then tried to give me directions to the client with just as much success as their initial attempt, causing me to double back on myself after a rather long stretch of road. By this point I was hot, bothered, sweaty, and frustrated. I was also only minutes off being late, and I hate being late.

Getting nowhere fast I went through a couple of different people in the office before it was decided that the best course of action was to meet up somewhere close to my immediate vicinity, where they would come and collect me. Which in this instance was a petrol station only a couple of minutes walk from where I was standing.

So I got there, and I waited.. And I waited.. And I waited. A good 20 minutes passed before I received a call from mobile phone not in my contacts list. This has to be the agency I figured, and sure enough it was. It was my contact, who had given me the bum directions twice, asking me where I was.

I told them I was by the petrol station as instructed, to which they replied that they had just been there but couldn't see me; but they'd be back in a couple of minutes. They couldn't see me!? I was standing out in the open. Not mention that we had met earlier in the day, so they didn't just know what I looked like, they knew what I was wearing!

Growing more frustrated by the second, I was close to giving up. Very close, and I'm not the quitting type. I feel about quitting the way I feel about being late; and whilst I had lost control over whether I was late or not, I still had both hands on the reigns of whether I threw in the towel or not. So I dug deep, and persevered. I chose not to quit.

A couple of minutes later my lift turned up, and whisked me off to my interview. They apologised, and explained that they didn't really know the area. Can you imagine that!? You're in bad shape, and have just been forced to walk miles by someone who then goes on to tell you that they were basically just guessing when they gave you that first set of directions. How do you react?

Me. I thanked them. That's not a typo, or an edit gone wrong; I genuinely thanked them. You may think that was the fever, but consider this. They may have cocked up royally when it comes to execution, but their intentions were good.

They made the interview possible by bringing it a day forward. They kept their calendar open for me even when I couldn't commit to a solid time. They gave me a brief on the company because I couldn't access the e-mail they'd sent me via my phone. When I was lost they came and picked me up.

That's not a person that you lose your rag with. That's a good person. A person who's in your corner.

I digress however, I made it to my interview some 25 minutes late; and as we pulled up it became immediately apparent just why the address was so familiar to me. I had walked past it on my way to my previous job for 2 years! 2 YEARS!! Words cannot describe the scope of just how embarrassed and stupid I felt at that point.

Still, I was hear, and it was show time! So I buzzed to be let in, was asked to take a seat and soon after that I was being interviewed. Despite all of the drama in getting there, I think it went well. I was able to answer their questions with definite and concise answers, and even though I was quite broken by this point; I was able to put on quite the dog and pony show. The situation was perfect by no means, but when I left there, I did so knowing that I had done the best with what I had been given; and I was proud of that.

Time to go home. Something that as you can probably well imagine, I was looking forward to by this point in the day. I was so far beyond physically exhausted, that it was nothing more than a speck in my rear view mirror; and quite how I was still upright at this point in the day is still a bit of a mystery to me. I was in a bad way, and my body had started to go numb, which is never a good sign. Particularly when you're out and about.

It was at this point I found out that the bus stop where I could have caught a bus home, and the bus stop where I could have caught a bus into the town center where both out of service. The bus would still pass through here, but it wouldn't stop. Mother f****r!! This meant a mile or so trek into the town center, it being closer than home, and catching a bus from there.

So, seeing little choice in the matter I pushed on and about half an hour later made it to my destination. The bus arrived not too long after I did, and finding myself a seat with a good back rest I settled in for the journey home.

Which was okay until about the midway point, where the bus came to a halt. Someone had closed the road ahead, and after a good ten minutes of debating what to do with the depot over the phone, as their radio was broken; it was decided that they'd head back to the town center and take a diversion from there. It was at this point I burst out in hysterical laughter. The situation had literally pushed me beyond the threshold of my sanity.

I had seen the town center when I used it as a hub to connect with the bus that took me to the agency. I had returned there to look behind the town hall for the clients site. It's where the petrol station was that I was picked up from, and it was where I had to walk back to in order to catch this bus. I had seen a lot of that place that day, and it seemed like everything I did just kept on pulling me back there!

This would be the last of it however, with the diversion successfully getting me home, where I promptly passed out asleep on the couch for several hours before dragging my carcass up to bed for some quality sleep.

Friday

I woke up on Friday feeling shattered. The kind of shattered that you normally feel at the end of a heavy day, followed by a late night. Thursday had certainly taken its toll, and I felt dreadful. I needed a day or two to recover, but I had a job to do. So much like the day before I dragged myself out of bed, cleaned myself up and, headed out. This time to work.

The day passed largely without incident, and again I was quite thankful when home time came around. It wasn't till I was on my second bus on the return journey that I received a call. It was the bank (the one I had interviewed with, not my bank). They asked me if I as free to talk, which I instantly knew was code for we've made a decision.

Eager to know the outcome of the interviews I said sure, and sure enough that's what the call was about. It took less than a minute to get to the point, which amounted to whilst the feedback from the interview was positive, there were stronger candidates. I was then asked how I felt about it, and whilst I was disappointed I took it on the chin. Business is business after all, so taking it personally is silly. So I told them I understood their decision and wrapped up the call after exchanging the expected pleasantries.

Less than five minutes passes, and my phone rings again; with the caller ID displaying a number I instantly recoginise as the agency I went to see yesterday. I mutter to myself, please not another knock back before picking up the call.

After exchanging, hello's and how do you do's, the topic quickly turns to yesterdays interview; and leads with the ominous "we've had feedback", much the way the previous call had. That's where it takes a twist and a turn however, as I'm told that the feedback we've had is positive and we're expecting to hear back on Monday.

So it's not a yes, but it's not a no either. This is then topped off with with the further information that the client has already rejected the other candidate that the agency sent along to interview for the role, and during the feedback not once was my tardiness mentioned. I was nearly half an hour late to an interview that had been pushed upon the client at short notice, and I still make the shortlist!

Call me crazy, but I think I'm in here! Only time will tell of course, but I'm taking the clients pause for thought as a positive. I figure there's maybe one or two other candidates in contention for the role, but to make the final few despite everything that went against me.. That tells me I made one hell of a good impression on them. Good enough to get the job? We'll soon see. Fingers crossed for me, eh guys?

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Interview Day III: The Bank Job

Evening all! I'm glad to have more positive news to report with regards to Operation: Swordfish, the quest for more gainful employment, which would have made the blogosphere last night if it weren't for me running on fumes and caffeine by the time I eventually made it home. That's a story for another day though.

As you've probably guessed by the title of this post, the news is that I have another interview lined up in the near future. The very near future.. Tomorrow in fact! After a successful phone interview, one of the leads I mentioned in an earlier post (the one one with a leading financial institute, or as I've come to think of it lovingly, "The Bank Job")  has come good, offering me a very real opportunity to change my circumstances for the better.

If I get this job it'll more than halve my travel each day, and nearly quadruple the money I'm currently bringing home! Quadruple! That's one hell of a jump!

So to prepare I've been getting myself into the right mindset. I'm 99% sure that this is going to be a competency based interview, so I'm casting my mind back over my career and my achievements looking for examples of stuff I believe they're likely to want to touch upon.

Give me an example of a time when you have gone above and beyond? Tell me about how you deal with conflicting priorities? Tell me about a time you've overcome a problem? Tell me about a time when you failed to deliver upon an expectation?.. We all know the sort of questions that I'm on about.

Historically I haven't done well with these questions. I tend to come off as rather negative. Which is very easy to do under the pressure of an interview, and given the generally negative phrasing of the questions. They're almost designed to make you say the wrong thing.. They're evil!

So that's why it's all about mindset for me at the moment. Whilst I may not have a list of the exact questions they're going to ask (chance would be a fine thing), I can go in there thinking positive; with a catalogue of my achievements, successes, and the obstacles I have overcome fresh in my memory.

As I see it, this should give me the best shot. As at the end of the day whilst an interview carries the pretext of being about a job; it's really about the person, an how well that person is going to fit into the role and the team. The interviewer is asking themselves, can I work with this person going forward?

I want that answer to be a yes, and the best way to ensure that yes is to put across the best you. Being bright-eyed, bushy tailed, positive and upbeat. Take yourself to a great memory, or an event you really enjoyed and replay it in your mind. Capture what made it so good, and inject that into everything you say and do during the interview.. Just try not to sound too much like an over-excited puppy!

Wish me luck guys!

Monday, 17 April 2017

The Case Of The Twilight Phantom #1: What We Know

Well guys, it happened again. At the strike of midnight there was another unexplained spike in traffic; coming and going just as mysteriously as before. That's twice within the space of 24 hours, and I'm still no closer to being able to offer an explanation as to what's happening.

I have however drawn a few conclusions from the data at hand..

1: There's a singular source.

 This is the only explanation that makes any kind of sense to me. It's not impossible for this to be more than one person based upon the data collected, but it is certainly implausible. One person creating these data spikes for some unknown reason is barely rational as it is, but for it to be a group or a network.. Well that just stretches credibility to breaking point.

2: The source is likely using a bot or web crawler of some kind.

Again, based upon the data captured, this seems like the most logical explanation. All of the views have been spread pretty equally among my posts. So where a human might simply refresh the page to create the spike, a bot or crawler is far more likely to work through links.. And each post is technically a hyperlink.

Another indicator that this isn't human activity is the sheer volume of traffic (175, 78, and 74 views respectively). Excluding this post there are only 67 posts on this entire blog, and I highly doubt that anyone is reading them twice.. Certainly not twice within the space of an hour! They are however loaded with links,  which might bounce a bot to the same post more than once.

3: The source is not malicious.

Whilst what's happening is a bit of a mystery, I don't believe what's happening has any kind of sinister undertone. Comments aren't being left that are either directing readers to download malware, or making threats; so I think it's safe to say there is no dark intent here.

4: This isn't off the back of links I've put out there.

The nature of the internet is inter connectivity, so I could well understand if the traffic was as a result of the suspected bot trawling a site where I had a link. That doesn't seem to be the case though. Blogger tells you where your traffic is coming from, and these spikes exceed all of  my listed sources considerably. It's almost as if this crawler is directly aimed at this blog for some unknown reason.

So that's what I think is happening. Not that I can be sure of course, but based on what I know so far these are the conclusions that make the most sense to me. Somebody for some reason as of yet unknown to me is crawling the site, and generating traffic spikes.

Am I concerned? Not at all, but I certainly am curious! I mean how often do you find yourself in the middle of your own mystery novel? It's exciting! So much so that I've decided  to chronicle this little adventure under it's own noir-esque tag; The Case Of The Twilight Phantom.

Now we just have to wait for The Phantom to strike again! 

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Doctor Huh?

Before I get into the meat and gravy of this post, just a quick warning that this post does contain spoilers regarding the first episode of the latest season of Doctor Who that aired last night. If you're a fan, and haven't watched it yet; come back later.

Still here?

Okay. Normally I like to try and keep things positive here. The way I see it, being critical and tearing down the work of others is both easy and cheap. So, I'll start by giving the episode in question credit where credit is due by saying that the story was pretty solid and well paced. The concept behind the alien of the week was also not too bad.

Where it fell down for me however, was with what the effects department tried to pass off as the shape-shifting alien at certain points. One such "effect" being no more than a bucket of water being tossed down a flight of stone stairs; that the audience is supposed to believe is the alien in a liquid form pursuing The Doctor and his companions.

I'm sorry, but no. Just no!

Now personally I prefer practical effects over special effects, but they have to be done well; and this shoddy effort ejected me rudely from a moment I was immersed in. True there probably aren't many other ways that they could have generated the footage for this scene, but it should have been apparent at the editing stage that what they had just wasn't working.

If it'd been me, I would have cut it; and found some other more dramatic way for alien to make an entrance.

On the subject of effects, I also want to talk about some of the special effects that were included in the episode too. Particularly one scene, where the alien rises from a pool of liquid to take human form in the basement of the university. This is an effect that can look amazing when done well. Robert Patrick as the T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgement Day for example.

What the BBC opted for in last nights episode however was a much clunkier, and so poorly rendered that even 10 years ago it would have been relegated to B-Movies. It was like something straight out of the VR world of The Lawnmower Man.

This is a real shame as the trailer that they showed at the end of the episode, showing a lot of the action to come actually looked pretty impressive. Not in a big budget way, but certainly realistic enough so as to not jolt the viewer from the fantasy world of Doctor Who and whatever alien world he's visiting that week.

In summary, last nights episode wasn't bad at all when taken as a whole, but some of the poor choices that were made by the effects department did drag it down in my opinion.

What are your thoughts?
If you're a fan of The Doctor, how did you feel about the episode?
Did you notice the "effects"?

Comments and feedback are always welcome.

It Happened Again!

A few days ago I posted that I had seen a sudden surge in traffic, without rhyme or reason.

Not that I'm complaining, but it happened again this morning. It was a little later today (11:00), and the spike wasn't as big (78 views); but I'd still love to know where it's all coming from. Partly out of curiosity, but also so I can say thank you.

Comparing today's traffic with that of the last time it happened, I have been able to draw a few conclusions; but nothing close to an "ah-ha" moment. For example, I can say without too much doubt that the traffic is coming from the US based upon the data captured by Blogger. The US is however a damn big place, so with regards to narrowing down the source, it's a bit like finding the haystack on the farm that the needle is in.

It also looks pretty certain that they're Firefox users.. Not that this helps me much either, as the list of Firefox users is probably as long as the list of US citizens.

So I'm no closer to working this one out, and solving the mystery of the data spikes. Not that I regard this as a negative. A little mystery keeps life interesting. Whilst we're on topic however, I would like to take the opportunity to say a big thank you to everyone who pops by, shows an interest, posts a comment, or generally gets involved.

Writing for your own pleasure is one thing, but writing for an audience is so much more.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

One Man And His Dice #6: The Bigger Picture

When we last left Erik, he had just had his first (if brief) combat encounter of the adventure, striking the Giant Rat that he encountered dead with the first and final sundering blow of his axe. Taking in his new surroundings he did find a couple of interesting features in this simple yet well stocked larder. However, not being anywhere near desperately hungry enough to want to try something from the smorgasbord of Orcish cuisine on offer, or to risk attracting unwanted company by smashing open the locked box he had just found; Erik thought it best to press on through the only other exit in this room.

Before he does however, and we rejoin the adventure I want to take a brief moment to discuss a couple of the decisions that I took at this juncture, with regards to the overall adventures direction.

It was at this point that I started to consider the purpose of the dungeon that I'd be raiding. Who built it, and why? It would be easy to have the band of Orcs set up base in this set of caves, just so as they had a roof over their head as they raided the local area. Simple, but not very compelling in my mind. So I got to thinking. What else could be happening here?

It was then that I hit upon the idea of the Orcs being sent here by an imposing greater force to secure the cave for their arrival, or perhaps to retrieve something. Orcs do after all tend to be toward the lower ranks of the monstrous hierarchy, and it's totally conceivable that they'd knuckle under if someone of significant enough power told them to do so. With that imposing force probably having demonstrated their power by horrifically killing the head of the tribe, or by some other equally blunt display of force.

So there was something here that someone of power wanted.. Not something likely to be hidden in a bunch caves I thought, so toying with this notion I decided that beyond the door Erik was about to open was a dungeon of great craftsmanship. A place that someone in a time long since past had gone to a lot of trouble to hide. They'd built it into natural caves, in a remote area of woodland, ensuring no one knew of its location.

At this point however, I am quite happy to leave the exact nature of what they hid away from the world as a blank. Allowing this element of the adventure to take shape as the dungeon is generated around it, with the only certainty being that whatever this thing turns out to be, it will be a major plot point that drives the story forward long after this dungeon is cleared of the Orcish infestation.

That's really all the detail that I need at this point in time too. I now have an idea as to who built the dungeon, and why the Orcs have taken up residence here, along with a few additional ideas that I can use to shape the adventure as it plays out.

I think I'll leave it there for now, but please join me for the next One Man And His Dice installment; where we will return to Erik's adventure, and the wonders that now lay waiting to be discovered in in our newly imagined dungeonscape.

Friday, 14 April 2017

SCRAWL: Random Societies

Carrying on the idea that I seeded in my previous post, another thought has occurred to me. Why not do something similar with societies?

Again, with regards to the level of detail that I plan to capture, I want to keep it loose. Conveying just enough information to spark the imagination, whilst leaving plenty of scope for creativity on the part of the player. So, I'll look to cover topics such as how the society is ruled, the currency they use, and their core values; but nothing much deeper than that in terms of specifics.

I want the player to have the freedom to make these groups their own. So whilst for one player a "devout society" may be humans building temple, upon cathedral, upon chapel, for another it may be a secluded sect of goblins pursuing their goal to resurrect a dragon god.

By keeping the statements simple but meaningful, you hand the control back to the player; and with a little creative flourish there is no ends to the worlds they can bring to life this way.

Society is one of those words that gives me as the author a little flexibility too. Take our "devout society" above. That could be the culture of an entire realm, be regional, or even just apply to a small remote community who have fallen out of step with what everyone else considers the norm.

Society doesn't really know scale, so players can throw as many of these at their realm as they want; covering groups of people from the entire populous to a small huddle of folks in the tavern. It's that flexible!

I think I may be on to something here, but any comments and suggestions are as always more than welcome.