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Just Ben

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Year of Insanity [Nov. 3rd, 2009|01:06 pm]
Just Ben
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[Current Location |Emory University]
[mood |happyhappy]

So I know I’ve never been the best at keeping up with posting to LJ, but this year I’ve actually had good reason. You see, 2009 has been insane.

In overview — because I don’t know how much detail I’ll be able to fill in over my lunch hour-or-so — I’ve refinanced my house, purchased a new house, become a landlord, gotten laid off from a job, found an amazing new job, lost an important relationship, and gained another two. And in all that, somehow I think I’ve maintained most of my sanity.

Of course, most of my readers are people who know me in person, so most of you probably already have a basic understanding of most of those. Still, I sometimes have this unhealthy habit of assuming I’m completely transparent when in fact I’m not quite as forthcoming with details as I imagine. So, for the benefit of any who might’ve missed a few of them — or perhaps for my own poor memory of details when they come at me a mile a minute — here’s a little more.

The say what you’re doing on New Year’s Eve will be what you’ll do for the whole year. I spent the evening at a friend’s house with a large group of people, and it really was was there that this year started rolling. It was there that I found out that another friend’s mother was trying to sell her house.

radiantbaby and I had been talking for years about possibly moving into town. Cumming was the suburbs’ suburbs, and while houses there are affordable, they’re dozens of miles away from… well… anything, really. Certainly my job. Certainly radiantbaby’s job before she quit because it was just too far to travel for too little benefit. Too far from sweeties, too far from friends, too far from concerts. Too far from our lives. And as tough as it was to maintain existing connections, it was that much harder to get out so far to make new ones. We were, in essence, going nowhere because we always had to go somewhere to get anywhere. And it sucked.

We talked about it. Wed been talking for a while about fixing our middle-of-nowhere-ness, and now it really seemed like the perfect time. The mortgage market was decent. The housing market was leaning heavily in favor of the buyer. I had a good, well-paying job. We didn’t have much keeping us in the middle of nowhere besides our existing mortgage, and we figured it shouldn’t be too tough to find a renter. The only thing that really wanted improvement was the terms of that current mortgage, which was started seven years previous when I had a much smaller income and much shorter credit history.

So we decided to refinance the house and reassess. If stuff still looked good for a move when we finished, we’d move. If it didn’t, well, we’d be in a better position when it improved again. Seemed sensible enough. And it was. The refinance went slowly, but that was mostly my own fault, since I didn’t have a huge sense of urgency about it, and most of my documents were scattered and a pain to find. But it did happen in its own time.

And as that progressed, I began developing a new relationship. A is someone I’ve known for years, though mostly only in passing for the first chunk of that. We’d had some time to talk more deeply in the last year or two, though, and every time we did, I was left wanting more. A closer connection. More insight into this wonderful person. And conveniently, it was A whose mother, we found out on New Year’s Eve, was selling her house. The house she built right next door to A and her husband B.

As the refinancing eased to a slow completion, we began considering the landscape again. If anything, the market for house purchasing was even better than it had seemed before. Rates were lower, houses were coming down in price, I had a lower monthly mortgage payment in Cumming, and now I had a burgeoning relationship in-town, too.

Of course, we couldn’t go into purchasing mode right away. I had signed documents saying that it was my intention to maintain my primary residence in Cumming, and that certainly was my intention. If we went looking for a new house immediately then we would be sending the signal that I signed those documents fraudulently, and that’s pretty illegal in addition to being inaccurate. So we stayed slow.

And besides, just after we closed on the refinance at the beginning of April, I learned that IBM was laying off a significant chunk of its workforce, and that my position would be gone at the beginning of May.

Needless to say, April was a crazy month. I mean, radiantbaby and A both had birthdays that month. I had just finished refinancing my house, and I was considering options for moving, and suddenly I discovered that I was getting laid off at the end of the month. It sounded dire. There were two big saving graces, though. First was that the timing of my refinance worked out such that I had no mortgage due that month. Second was that my severance package from IBM included several weeks of pay after leaving. Between those, I could actually coast for a bit if things got tight. Or maybe, if things worked out just right and I happened to be crazy, make a down payment on a new house.

Now, for around eight years I was a software developer in the network security industry. During that time my interests gradually grew specifically into the web technologies we were protecting, and toward the end of it I had a fascinating project using those web technologies to arrange reporting capabilities across a number of otherwise unrelated databases. I loved that project, and it led me into a lateral move in IBM to a division that worked primarily with information organization and access, and using cloud computing technologies on top of it all. That led to a pretty top-tier skill set: C/C++, real time cross-platform network traffic analysis, deep protocol analysis, web technologies, information organization, and now cloud computing on top of it? I wasn’t too concerned about finding a job. In fact, I even checked and found eight or ten network security companies advertising current positions to do exactly that.

Unfortunately, despite all that, April was not the ideal month to go looking for the type of job I thought I wanted. See, there are several worldwide-scale network security conferences around that time. And all of the network security companies send a couple of folks to advertise and to see what the competition is up to. And more often than not, the software development manager ends up going to one or the other of them — and sometimes several.

The jobs weren’t coming in. One or two of them were long shots in the first place. One or two were tightening their belts just like IBM was. One or two just plain weren’t good matches for my skill set and interests once we started to get to know each other. And several — the majority, probably — were just plain out at conferences. They probably would have been excellent matches in May, and maybe even in March. But March was passed, and I couldn’t wait for a maybe in May. So I started reaching outside my network security background.

I threw out my résumé to a couple of interesting places, from general security analysis to cloud computing. I rejected a couple of interview offers for out-of-state work. I thought I had a fair shot at a job working on MMOs for CCP (The EVE Online people, who recently bought White Wolf), but that didn’t pan out. Finally, though, I hit paydirt. Someone I knew off-and-on through local Pagan contacts happened to work at Emory University Libraries, and they were hiring. Not only were they hiring, but the department leader really wanted someone with significant agile development experience. Oh, and it’s a library, so principles like information organization and effective written communication that everybody asks for really are absolutely vital. Oh, and conveniently, their HR system was arcane enough that they weren’t exactly getting flooded in résumés. It was an absolute gem.

I interviewed, hit it off perfectly with the department head, and was offered the job. The salary was a bit lower than industry — They couldn’t offer too much more because I lacked a degree, an asset that universities tend to value pretty highly — but we could afford it. And the promise of benefits? Excellent. If I accepted the position I would have no good excuse not to go back to school and finish my degree. And when looking in the the Atlanta area, the only thing better than a humanities degree from Emory is a free humanities degree from Emory.

I accepted. I had to. It was too perfect: I had a good job offer on the table, a good shot at moving into town, a new relationship taking off with someone who just might live next door, and a chance at the kind of really excellent liberal arts education that I’d been dreaming of and working up to for years. It was perfect.

And that’s just up to May, only the first half of the story. I’m past my lunch hour by now, so I’m headed back to work. I’ll finish the story of the Year of Insanity soon, I promise.

(LJ Spellchecker Genius of the Day: MMOs -> Moos)


[User Picture]From: fairyhead
2009-11-03 08:01 pm (UTC)
Crazy stuff! Glad to hear that things have turned out so well. That's keen!
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[User Picture]From: zoe_me
2009-11-03 08:03 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the update! I had been wondering what y'all had been up to! I am glad it's such good news.
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[User Picture]From: _sari_kat_
2009-11-03 08:27 pm (UTC)
Congrats on landing the Emory job, I had no idea! And I know you are insanely busy, but I live right down the street and would love to hang out with you anytime. You're good people. :) *hug*
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[User Picture]From: shirlee53
2009-11-04 10:10 pm (UTC)
Wow! Thanks for the update.
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[User Picture]From: zen_sakka
2009-11-05 03:26 am (UTC)
Very exciting to see an update from you! Can't wait to see the next one!

I look forward to being able to come back to BP Mondays, but during football season, well... You know...
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[User Picture]From: zoe_me
2010-02-24 04:24 am (UTC)
sorry to randomly post, but Hellenion REALLY needs your help on an issue

it needs 5 more yes votes
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