.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

J. Daniel Ashton

This is a Flickr badge showing public photos from jdashton. Make your own badge here.
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, —Ecclesiastes 9:10a NIV
The LORD God has told us what is right and what he demands:
"See that justice is done,
let mercy be your first concern,
and humbly obey your God." —Micah 6:8, CEV
With all your heart you must trust the LORD and not your own judgment.
Always let Him lead you, and He will clear the road for you to follow. —Proverbs 3:5,6 CEV

see also — My Homepage

My Photo
Name: Daniel Ashton
Location: Germantown, Maryland, United States

Any links with a dashed underscore probably point to Amazon.com

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Weight tracking

Rode to IBM and back. Average day, average ride.

  • Distance: 4.46 miles
  • Time: 26 minutes 22 seconds
  • Average Velocity: 10.17 mph
  • Max Velocity: 29 mph

Weight after showering: 231.5 lbs Isn't this going the wrong direction?

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Weight tracking

Rode to IBM and back. I had a tail-wind on the first leg, and a strong head-wind on the return trip. I wimped out and came up that hill in the lowest gear on my bike.

  • Distance: 4.52 miles
  • Time: 28 minutes 40 seconds
  • Average Velocity: 9.48 mph
  • Max Velocity: 33 mph
Weight after showering: 230.5

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Sabbath Activity

It's been a beautiful Sabbath. Last night after picking up JF at the airport we drove around the National Mall, and then stopped and walked around all the major west-end monuments: FDR, WWII, Vietnam, Lincoln, and Korea. It was beautiful, and I heartily recommend visiting these monuments late at night. (We were there between 10 and midnight.)

After being up this late, we slept late and skipped church, and then decided to go bike riding together. We rode the Mt. Vernon Trail from Gravelly Point all the way to Mt. Vernon itself, and back.

The following stats are an amalgam of mine and JF's: he rode my Raleigh on the south trip, while I rode my old Schwinn. We switched bikes for the return trip when we got to Mt. Vernon. But my trip computer is mounted only on the Raleigh.
  • Distance: 31.20 miles
  • Time: 2 hours 55 minutes
  • Average Velocity: 10.69 mph
  • Max Velocity: 25 mph

Friday, September 24, 2004

Weight tracking

Update for Friday, 9/24: (my birthday ;-) )

Rode to IBM and back, in a bigger hurry, apparently.
  • Distance: 4.46 miles
  • Time: 23 minutes 18 seconds
  • Average Velocity: 11.52 mph
  • Max Velocity: 31 mph
Weight after showering: 230.0

To my frustration, I have a ton of things to write about. However, I've spent so much time driving and programming this week that I've been unable to get a post in here. Even now I'm rushing off to pick up my good friend J from the airport (Reagan National, my favorite) and I won't be back until very late.

Sad to say, all this activity seems not to have actually led to any major life changes here: I'm still looking for a project within IBM or other employment (see my resume, please!) and we're still living in the same house. As a trusted advisor pointed out to me today, moving before landing a job is a huge risk, and so we may start turning down opportunities to see lovely houses in the DC area until something firms up in the employment department.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Weight tracking

Update for Monday, 9/20:

Rode to IBM and back, in a hurry (because we were getting ready to see another house near J & D2).
  • Distance: 4.43 miles
  • Time: 24 minutes 37 seconds
  • Average Velocity: 10.81 mph
  • Max Velocity: 33 mph
Weight after showering: 228.0

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Bike Riding Today

It's starting to look like we'll be bicycling this afternoon. Without having more specific information, I estimate that we'll be at the B&A Trail at about 5 PM (or 1700, if you think that way). We'll start at either the mall (with the 10.5 mile marker) or the first strip-mall south of there, and head south. Call or e-mail me if you want to meet up. My phone number is in my resumé.

Update: we did bike part of the B&A Trail with J this afternoon, starting about a mile south of Marley Station Mall. My trip computer recorded the following:
  • Distance: 19.10 miles
  • Time: 1 hour, 43 minutes
  • Average Velocity: 11.10 mph
  • Max Velocity: 21 mph

on Housing Confusion

What are we supposed to be doing? We got word from two sources this weekend that the house two down from J & D2 is going to be on the market soon. When we visited J & D2 on Sabbath, the owners were loading moving vans. We also saw that the place two up from J & D2 is empty, and being held as an investment. That owner might be willing to sell. The two immediate next-door townhouses have both sold, and we especially mourn the place on their right, i.e. one down from them. The place on their left apparently closed very recently, and the new owners haven't moved in yet.

I just got a call from J and he reports that we can come look at the place two down from them tomorrow evening at six.

What are we supposed to be doing? Until I know more about my next job, would it be presumption to buy something, not knowing if we might be led to a project in another town or state? As far as I know, there's little IBM presence close to that area, so it seems unlikely that I could land a non-remote project as close to home as the Gaithersburg office is to this house. Would it be an act of faith to buy near our friends? "OK, God, this seems like a wonderful house in a wonderful location for music and friends. Now we rely on You to take care of that remote job."

Other wrinkles come to mind: J & D2 want to move so that they can have a fenced back-yard for their Great Dane. But they seem to indicate that if we move into their neighborhood, they would put that idea on hold for a while. Why is it that we seemed to have (but didn't really) two chances to become next-door neighbours, and now we could have two chances to become next-door neighbours once removed? Are we getting warmer? Colder?

It's interesting that both of the next-door apparent chances where constrained by our contingency on selling this house, and both of these opportunities seem less rushed, more able, perhaps, to accept us with that contingency. What does it mean?

Friday, September 17, 2004

Weight tracking

IBM has an offer to give me $150 if I exercise 20 minutes each day for 3 days each week for 10 of 12 weeks. I'm signed up. So far my exercise has consisted of bicycling to IBM and back, which takes me a little less than 30 minutes in my present state of fitness. I did it Monday and Wednesday, and intend to ride it again today.

Update: I did it. 30 minutes 46 seconds pedaling, trip distance 5.06 miles, average velocity 9.87 MPH, max velocity 33 MPH. After logging my activity I can see that this week counts toward my IBM rebate. On the way I paused to watch a groundhog grazing not eight feet away from me. Very cool! I'm so eager for a camera built into my glasses, so I can share images like that.

Wednesday was rainy, and the clothes I wore came to the edge of ruin. Rain will be less of a problem if I can keep my seat dry when I'm not riding, and add some kind of splash guard to keep the back tire from spraying dirty water all over my back. But I'm not sure either of those safeguards will happen.

I've been wondering whether any local gymns admit kids as young as 10. If the kids could put in time on a stationery bike, or in a lap pool, perhaps, we could go as a family. I would very much like to have the chance to do muscle building again, and I foresee problems getting out and riding as the weather becomes more inclement.

Monday after riding and before lunch my weight was 226. Wednesday I rode an hour or so after lunch, and after riding my weight was 230. Because my days have been less structured than when I reported to an office for work, I haven't been getting truly comparable readings, i.e. same time of day, same spot in the morning routine.


It's been a week since I've logged anything: I don't fully understand why. I think that, in part, it's because little has happened on the job front.

Yesterday afternoon I had another phone interview with the San Jose team. I originally thought this was a follow-up interview for the same position as last Friday's interview. However, it turns out that I had applied for two different positions for this team: system administrator and programmer. Last Friday the interview was for the sysadmin position. Yesterday's interview was for the programming position.

I came away from this interview with mixed emotions. I really like this team, the people I've interviewed with, and what they seem to be doing. To be more accurate, I like the technologies they're using. I guess the websites they've shown me so far look cool and useful, but perhaps a little mundane in purpose. I found during this interview that the programming skills they're looking for are not ones that I've used in the last three years on CADE: they want J2EE and XML Schema experience, while my Sun Java Certification three years ago was on J2SE, and my recent XML experience has not involved DTDs or XML Schemas. I'm very confident that I could quickly pick up what I need to become a useful part of their team, but I hate knowing that I disappointed them in this interview.

Today I received an e-mail with the following sentence: "Consideration was given to your application and qualifications but you were not selected for this position." This was about the BCRS job in Gaithersburg, for which I interviewed back on August 30. I should not be surprised, since I had heard nothing from then since that time.

Today is the 21st day on my bench-time clock. Nine days from now, if nothing has changed, I become eligible for the next lay-off, whenever that might be.

Update: Late this afternoon I received the following e-mail.
We received your resume and would like to thank you for your interest in Google. After carefully reviewing your experience and qualifications, we have determined that we do not have a position available which is a strong match at this time.

Thanks again for considering Google. We wish you well in your endeavors and hope you might consider us again in the future.

Google Staffing

Friday, September 10, 2004

San Jose Interview Update

I just finished the interview for the exciting position based (in name) in San Jose. The three gents who interviewed me all work remotely (!!) and appreciated my enthusiasm for Linux and my experience with VMware. And their server farm is on this side of the country, about 25 miles from the Amtrak station in Boston. If the hardware needed manual maintenance, I could hop on an Acela Express and avoid all that airport unpleasantness.

(This has special meaning for me: while working on CADE in New Carrollton I often rode the MARC trains to and from work. This commute involved a transfer at Union Station in DC, and there I would often see an Acela train waiting on another platform, or cruising out of the station. Our building in New Carrollton was right across the street from the MARC and Metro station, and at various times throughout the day I could look across the street and watch Acela trains flying by. Every time I saw one I would ask God if He planned to give me a reason, someday, to ride Acela.)

I felt that the interview went very well, and I received warm responses from the interviewers. I'm trying hard to ignore or supress my excitement about this opportunity, because I don't want to fall in love with the wrong job. But based on initial appearances and this interview, I think this would be a great fit for my skills and interests.

For any IBMers who may be reading this and curious about the opening, one of the job postings that led me to interview with this team is K091730. I'm not sure whether I would be hired for that specific opening or for one of their other opportunities.

Further Job Info

I had a conversation with my manager today which somewhat clarified the pressure to find the next job. What I understood him to say is that after 30 days "on the bench" I become a prime candidate for the next lay-off, whenever that may be. I think this is what happened to me in Atlanta, although I'm not sure whether I had 30 consecutive days of bench time, or just 30 days cumulative within the last 12 months, for example. As happened then, I would be given 30 additional days from being selected for lay-off to find another job within IBM.

That's essentially what happened to me in July of 2001: on the 29th day my Atlanta manager heard about this CADE project with openings for C++ programmers, and the next miracle was that in one night I was approved for a moving expenses package. That type of approval typically takes weeks.

That was a faith-building experience for us.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Music this weekend

We have a couple of musical obligations this weekend. This Friday evening at 7:30 we'll be playing a short vespers service at Elternhaus. Most of the "program" will be song service, using the hymns Vicki has written out for the kids to play, and Jamey and I will play a couple of cello duets. Any string or woodwind players are welcome to jump in. Just drop me an e-mail and I'll send you details.

Sabbath morning all brass players are invited to play with the hymns at Triadelphia SDA.

Also, please pray for my friend D. M. She's looking for employment.

Jobs Update

Today I've been busy with other administrative tasks and have been unable to focus on the app I've been writing. I fear that tomorrow will be the same, but I hope to get back to it very soon.

I had a small flurry of activity with possible openings today. Early this morning I received a note from my manager about a short, 1 to 2 month project looking for some remote web developers. I fired off a note to them, but haven't heard anything yet.

I took a technical interview with the IRS/PRIME opening I mentioned yesterday. I felt that the interview went well, and I think the interviewer felt that way too. Later in the day one of his associates called to schedule a follow-up technical interview, which will be tomorrow morning at 10:30. I feel that I have the technical skills to fit well on this project: my concerns are about continuing to be associated with the PRIME project, and about the commute. If I could work remotely most of the time, I might be willing to take this job. I'm just not sure…

Late this afternoon I got an e-mail indicating that the San Jose job may be open. I had been restricted from consideration for two weeks while they gave first dibs to people who are already in the right division. I'm trying to control my excitement about this one, because it sounds like a pretty good fit for my experience and interest, and because it's open to remote candidates, i.e. we would not need to move. Here are a few excerpts from the job posting:
The successful candidates will join a high performance and fun team. Your focus will be on developing innovated web applications…. We are looking for highly motivated candidates that work well in a remote team environment. This position requires strong technical skills in JAVA, portlet development, web services and a working knowledge of IBM software products e.g. Portal, DB2, WAS ,etc.. Strong communication, leadership and teaming skills essential. We will consider both work at home and tradition office candidates for the position.

That interview is set for Friday at 10:30 AM Pacific time, i.e. just after lunch here.

Netflix - free for one month

I just got a note that Netflix will let me give a free month to any of my family or friends who want it. Rather than spam you all with an unwanted e-mail, I'll just mention it here and tell you to write me if you're interested.

We appreciate our Netflix subscription. Here's how it works: We maintain a list of DVDs we want to watch (about 3/4 Star Trek episodes in our case, with a few IMAX shows and an occasional movie) and they send us the top discs on our queue. We can keep each disc as long as we want: this year we had a gap of several months where we kept all the discs and watched nothing as we got ready for CMW. Each DVD comes with a return-mail sleeve, postage paid. As soon as they receive one back from us they ship the next one.

We're pretty happy with the selection: in addition to all the movies you'd expect, they also have episodes of various TV shows, and a lot of IMAX films. We even found a few Warren Miller ski shows. If anything is listed in the IMDB as available on DVD, Netflix probably has it, or you can request that they get it.

So, let me know if you're interested: I can get you the first month free.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Jobs Database Update

I had a bit of an interruption today, but managed to make some progress on the database anyway. For starters, I worked out a way to store the results of a search in a database, including the URL linking to each individual posting. Of course, that also required throwing together a script to dump the contents of the database so I can see what's happening.

Later I modified yesterday's script for retrieving my job applications so that it updates the database with application data, such as when I applied for a given job and whether my application is still pending.

Tomorrow I plan to finish integrating the application data into the jobs listings I see, as well as store the important search terms with each job, and then start on a proxy to help modify each individual listing by highlighting relevant search terms and adding yes/no/maybe buttons, as well as updating the database when those buttons are clicked.

Phone Interview Tomorrow

I've just been requested to take a phone screening tomorrow (Wednesday) morning at 10:30 for another position with the IRS PRIME project. There are several reasons why I'm not anxious to get this position: the top two are that it would still be working under CSC, and it would be in the same building in Lanham, 32 miles away from home, unless we move.

Still, it seems smart to take the interview and pray with all my heart that God will make it clear if I should pursue the position.

I ask for your advice and prayers.

Monday, September 06, 2004

How to find a job…

…the technical way.

Over this holiday weekend I've started work on a set of programs to help me manage the interesting job listings in IBM's internal jobs database. I have a handful of minor gripes with the system: their automated search facility returns only the first five new jobs for any given search criteria, only five searches can be automated, and jobs that match more than one search agent will appear under both sets of results: duplication of data. In addition, the basic search feature only lets you search for three keywords (or phrases), and there's no simple way to see when you've already reviewed and (mentally) rejected a given job posting.

What I've written so far is a set of Perl scripts that connect to the site and retrieve the postings for a given set of search criteria. I've succeeded in getting valid HTML pages with working links back to the site, and in concatenating the multi-page results into one page. I also wrote a script to retrieve the list of jobs I've already applied for.

The next step is to store all these jobs in a local database, and then repeat the download for other search criteria, i.e. one search for linux, another for grid, another for work at home, et c. As I store the results of each search I can flag each job with the keywords it matched. After that I'll throw together a proxy through which I can retrieve each posting: the proxy can highlight the matching search terms and add No way, Maybe and Yes buttons. This will let me feel confident that I've reviewed all the listings for all the keywords I can think of, while avoiding the frustration of facing several hundred mostly duplicated entries each day.

There would be room here for an eager CS student to apply some AI learning techniques to each listing to help predict which ones I'll be most interested in seeing.

And, who knows, perhaps this project, or my writing about it, will itself prove beneficial to my career.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

I love being helpful!

Vicki and I got a very nice mention for comments we posted about capturing and caring for feral cats.