Category: "2001-2011 College"

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Body Wash! - July 1, 2014

From birth to twenty years old I was using bar soap. It’s what my mom gave me to bathe with. Except for a brief stint with Zest, my mom’s preferred brand was Dove. I actually never liked using Dove bars. I felt they were for women. When I found myself out on my own I decided to try different brands of bar soap, but in the end they all seemed the same, so I went back to Dove. Then one day I discovered body wash. It was one of the most profound moments of my life.

One evening my roommate, Jared, said to me, I noticed you use bar soap. Okay? I thought, What of it? Yeah? I said. Well, he replied, have you ever considered using body wash? Was he serious? Did I actually hear him correctly? I had a hard enough time using a product called Dove Beauty Bars. Body wash seemed way too feminine for me. That seems a little femmy, I said. No, seriously, he replied, it really gives you a refreshing feeling. Think about it. You use bar soap, and it sort of gets on your body then rinses off, but body wash lathers your whole body up and really gives you that tingly clean feeling. He pressed the issue for days. I thought about it more and more.

Won’t wash away testosterone!
Then next time I went to the grocery store I sneaked up to the body wash bottles on the soap isle. I didn’t want anyone to see me looking at body wash. There are body washes marketed towards men. It’s all the same stuff, it’s just soap, but I wasn’t about to buy anything with flowers on the bottle. Old Spice is marketed towards men. I grabbed a bottle and looked at it in contemplation. On the back of the bottle the text claimed, Won’t wash away testosterone! That was all it took. I was convinced it was okay to buy this product. I also got a loofah. This was a little more difficult for me to do since there wasn’t a label on the bath sponge telling me it was okay for men to buy it, but I knew I needed it for the experience Jared had described.

The next morning I used body wash for the first time and I was hooked. Jared was absolutely right. Body wash was like heaven in the shower. The tingly clean feeling was there, and I knew I could never go back. Not only that, I wanted everyone in the world to know of the joy of body wash. I wanted to go door to door asking people if they were using bar soap to bathe with, and if they admitted that they were I wanted to tell them of body wash. I never did go door to door, but I proselytized the philosophy of body wash to another guy, Brett.

I wasn’t as eloquent as Jared when it came to convincing Brett to use body wash. In fact, it was incredibly awkward, Brett was crashing at my apartment for the night, and I just blurted out, Are you using bar soap to bathe with? He admitted that he was, and I responded with, Well you should consider body wash because soap goes on and soap comes off, but body wash gives you a tingly clean feeling. As awkward as that conversation was, he was convinced. Or maybe he was just humoring my awkwardness, because he persuaded me to drive him the grocery store right then so he could get some body wash. I did. And as we were browsing the soap isles I was like, Old Spice says it won’t wash away testosterone. He didn’t really care. He bought something with flowers on it, and that was sort of that. Or so I thought.

Brett was a drama student with a very vocal personality. He was also a story teller, and soon after this, the body wash story spread like a virus. Everyone I knew, heard of the body wash story. They’d come up to me and say, So, I hear you like body wash? And I would be like, Yeah, I do. Why do you ask? They’d say that Brett mentioned it to them. I thought it was a little weird that Brett was telling people about so small a thing, but it didn’t bother me.

I’m not sure how Brett was telling the story, but people would imitate his style of story telling to me and I inferred that it went something like this, And lo, Jack, came to me one day and said to me, Dude, you need to stop using bar soap, because soap goes on and soap comes off, but BODY WASH! And it seemed like that must have been the end of the story right there. No one mentioned to me the part about how body wash gives you a tingly clean feeling, they’d just end with saying BODY WASH! really loud. I honestly don’t remember screaming out the word body wash when I’d convinced him, but that’s how I’m told I said it.

Perhaps the most fascinating part is that people that I had never before met would come up to me on the street and say, but... BODY WASH! And I’d respond with, Yeah! Body wash! Have you tried it yet? I’d actually become famous in a small group of people. The small group of people that Brett knew. How they recognized me, I don’t know, but it was enough to give me a glimmer of fame, and I liked it. I didn’t even care that it was over such a silly thing. I never liked Adam Sandler or Jim Carrey, but I was beginning to empathize with them. Sure they play idiotic characters, but it doesn’t matter if you’re famous for something really deep and profound, being famous, being known by people you don’t know, is one of the greatest feelings in the world. I still use Old Spice body wash.

Categories: 2001-2011 College

Parking Ticket Mayhem - May 8, 2014

As I was happily checking my mail one time in August, 2010, I got a notice from The University of Utah’s Commuter Services with Important Parking Information Enclosed. I didn’t know why. I wasn’t attending that university. I figured it was because I had been accepted there and they were informing me about my options regarding getting a parking permit. I threw it out, and forgot about it.

In October, 2010 I got another letter from Commuter Services I opened this one. It wasn’t a flier informing me of my options regarding parking. It was a notice that I had received a parking ticket from them and failed to pay, and I owed them $158.00. I didn’t know how I could have possibly gotten a parking ticket in a city I hadn’t been to in months. I had given my mom a car that was still registered to me, and I thought maybe she’d parked illegally at some point. So I called up Commuter Services and they mentioned that it was for a scooter parked without a permit. Oh great, I thought. I remembered owning a scooter, and I had sold it to some kid almost two years earlier. Apparently he’d never registered it and was getting in all kinds of trouble under my name.

So I tried to explain to this guy, Jake, that worked in the Commuter Services what had happened and that it wasn’t my scooter. The fact of the matter is that Jake could have just cleared the ticket right there. He should have, but he didn’t. Instead he bumped the price up to $204.00, and said that unless I could find the kid I’d sold the scooter to, I was responsible. I was so angry. I was yelling all day. I had no information on the kid I had sold the scooter to, not even a phone number. I was so angry I wrote the governor. I was so angry I called a lawyer. The lawyer wanted money. I didn’t have money since I was a college student.

I asked everyone I worked with what I should do. Some told me not to pay since I wasn’t attending the University of Utah so it’s not like they could delay my graduation for an unpaid parking ticket. The university was threatening to send it to a collections agency, though, and I didn’t want to have a scab on my credit report. I did find out that my university offered free legal counseling. So I went to see the University’s lawyer, Barbara. She offered to call the University for me to try to reason with them. She called them. She was really awesome, but she said they refused to do anything about it. She advised me to pay it, so that I wouldn’t have my credit hurt. I paid. I was so angry at the kid I’d sold the scooter to. He was costing me $204.00. I was angry at that guy Jake for not being reasonable. All he did was send me a picture proving that the scooter was parked there.

On a side note, I want to rant about that guy Jake. I’m pretty sure his full name is Jacob Richard Leany. He currently works for Fidelity Investments. If you married some guy named Jake that had a job in Commuter Services in 2010, then I’m sorry to tell you that you married a real douche-bag. I feel bad for you. You should get a divorce. This guy gets a little bit of power and suddenly he’s a butt to everybody. Just imagine what is going to happen in your marriage! That’s who that guy Jake is. Just to make things clear. The kid that bought the scooter from me had actually got three tickets for $15.00 a piece for a total of $45.00. Heck, $45.00 is nothing. I wouldn’t have even cared that much, I’d just pay the ticket for that kid and consider it to be his birthday present from a stranger. But since I didn’t even know about the tickets for two months, they’d gone up to $204.00, and Jake, the moronic idiot, wouldn’t even budge on the price. He should have lowered it to the original $45.00, at least. That would be the reasonable thing to do.

Okay, so anyway, that was the guy Jake. Yeah, he’s a real loser. (Can you tell how much I don’t like that guy Jake?) Let me tell you about someone else, though. Remember how I said that I was so angry that I’d written the governor, Governor Herbert as a matter of fact? Well, a nice lady that works in the governor’s office, Nancy, responded to my letter, and forwarded my letter to the Board of Regent’s - Commissioner’s Office. The Commissioner’s Office then forwarded my letter to the president of The University of Utah, Mike Young, who then forwarded it to the Director of Commuter Services, Mr. Allred, who then wrote me back and said it seemed reasonable to pardon the tickets. I received this letter on November 15, the very same day that I paid the ticket. That means this letter had been signed and sent before I paid! So basically the right hand in Commuter Services didn’t even know what the left hand was doing. So I emailed Commuter Services and asked for my money back, and they confirmed that, in fact, I’d been pardoned, and then said they’d reverse the charge on my credit card.

I wrote a thank you letter to the lady in the governor’s office, Nancy.

I can’t believe what I went through. That’s why I feel comfortable saying that that guy Jake is kind of a loser, and that his wife should divorce him, or future wife should avoid marrying him, because when it came to reasonable people, such as those in the governor’s office, and the Director of Commuter Services, mercy was shown. Mercy should have been shown by Jake. I would totally vote for Governor Herbert, except that I moved to California and can’t, but I totally support a governor’s office that can get things done for the common man!

I do want to give a little follow up to how much I don’t like Jake. In some fairness to him, I was quite rude to him in some of my emails. He retaliated with equal rudeness. This is the reason why I don’t actually hate him, but if I ever met him in person I would say, Dang, dude! You’re so much more of a butt than the Director was. You got a lot to learn man, but I must admit that I’m sorry for being so rude to you. We both got a lot to learn, I guess.

I don’t know whatever happened to the scooter or the kid I sold it to. It’s very possible that the kid has gone on some kind of rampage, and there are warrants out for my arrest. I hope not. It’s highly likely that the scooter got impounded at some point, and probably hauled to a junk yard. I did report to the DMV that it was sold, at least. That way I can at least prove that I no longer own it. My fear is that it’s still out there, and someday it may haunt me again.

Categories: 2001-2011 College

So, I Interviewed at Google - January 27, 2014

I interviewed at Google several years ago. It was during my last semester of college. This isn’t going to be a How To or What Not to Do of going about a Google interview. It’s a personal narrative of my experience. I’m largely writing this for those that are about to interview at Google, have already interviewed at Google, and those curious about what a Google interview is like. A lot of what I have to say might be interesting for those interviewing anywhere for the first time, because there really isn’t anything too special about a Google interview. I interviewed for a software engineering position, so some of this post will relate more to that than to how an interview for a marketing or management position might go. I hope I can offer something interesting for everybody.

I didn’t even want to interview there. Google didn’t match my career goals. There was this guy, Jeremy, that had attended my university. He was working at Google, and he’d visit my university every semester, on a recruiting run. As with most companies, he’d get a bonus if anyone he recruited got hired. So he’d take as many resumes as were handed to him and put them in the system. He also asked his favorite professors for their recommendations. These recommendations would get put into the real system and be guaranteed phone interviews. My name was given to him by my Numerical Solutions to Differential Equations professor. So Jeremy emailed me and asked for my resume. I took a long time to respond to him. Mostly because I wasn’t really interested in working at Google. Eventually my professor had words with me and said that I shouldn’t pass up an opportunity like this. So I responded to Jeremy with a weak resume. He told me it was weak. I was still guaranteed an interview since my professor had given the recommendation, but he suggested I improve the quality of my resume so there would be more to talk about during the interview process. I did, with his help.

I consider Google to be my first real interview. I had sort of interviewed for the job I worked during college, but it was manual labor and they hired anyone who seemed willing to work. I had also interviewed for a software engineering position at one of my university’s labs. I hadn’t really taken that interview seriously, and it wasn’t for a professional job, which is why I don’t count that interview as my first.

As far as entry-level jobs go at Google, they don’t really care which office you go to. So when the interview process began for me they asked me to pick my top three choices for location. They’ve got offices all around the US. I wasn’t really too concerned with the choice. Jeremy had told me I probably wouldn’t get hired, so it didn’t matter. I picked Seattle because I thought I’d like to live there. Once I’d made my selection they connected me to the recruiter attached to Seattle, a guy named Brad. Brad gave me a call and told me what to expect during the interview process. It would start with two phone screens, back to back, each an hour long. (I’ve had phone screens as simple as So, do you know C++? My response being, Yes. Their response being, Okay, I guess we’ll fly you out here. I’m exaggerating a little, but usually the phone screen is short.) Then if I passed that, they’d fly me out for an in-person interview.

One thing that most software engineer interviews have in common is the technical questions. These are basically programming puzzles where you’re given some problem and you have to write the code to solve it. They usually take about thirty minutes to solve. Here’s an example:

Write a function to reverse a string. So for example if you have the sentence, The cat is blue The output should be, eulb si tac ehT. Further, write a function to reverse all the words in a string. From the previous example the output would be blue is cat The.

Usually you get questions like this in a written test or in-person since it’s pretty hard to write code over the phone line. It’s much easier to write it on a whiteboard. The Google interviewers had me open a Google Doc so that I could type out coded responses to their technical questions. They’d see it in real-time. The first guy called on schedule. He asked a little about my interests in Google. I feigned interest in the company. It wasn’t really where I wanted to work, but I knew I shouldn’t admit that. I mean, I was in college. I was afraid I wasn’t going to get a job at all. I’d work for a company I didn’t want to work for just so I could start my career.

He presented me with a pretty easy question. I answered it immediately. He went on to complicate the problem. I needed some help once he complicated things. Since I needed help I figured the guy thought I was an idiot. Thinking I already failed the first interview made the second interview easy, since I was no longer nervous. I killed on the second interview. I pretty much came up with the best solution possible to his technical question. It wasn’t even a standard computer algorithm or data-structure question. I did so well the guy didn’t really even know what more to say about it, and the call ended early.

A few days later the recruiter, Brad, called and said they’d fly me out. I was sort of surprised, but more than that I was scared. I immediately went into the what-if-I-get-the-job? sentimentality. I started looking for apartments in the area. I wondered what my salary would be. I wondered how long I’d have to stay at Google, because I knew Google wasn’t where I wanted to end up. Would I have to stay there for several years or could I bail out in a single year?

Travel arrangements were made. Brad also sent me some recommendations on books to read to help with the interview process. I emailed Jeremy to let him know that I was flying to Seattle. He emailed me back with a story of how he got lost on the way back to the airport, missed his flight, and had to sleep in the airport. I didn’t want that to happen to me. He also told me to email him again after the interview and let him know how things went. His mind wondering if he’d get that recruitment bonus. On a hilarious side note, I want to mention that some of the emails from Google about the arrangements were filtered into the Spam folder by Google’s own Gmail.

Google covers all of your expenses when you interview, as long as you have a receipt. They’ll even reimburse you for the mileage you spend driving to the airport you’re flying from. Souvenirs might be pushing it, but if you find yourself in a Google interview you might as well give it a try. Write it off as a grocery expense. You’re given a budget of like $35.00 a day for groceries.

I flied into Sea-Tac Airport. My first task was to pick up the rental car. I had some trouble doing this. I hadn’t done much air travel, and wasn’t really too familiar with airports. I followed the signs in the airport to get to the rental booths. No one was there. So I picked up the phone at the desk and said, Where are you? They said, Where are you calling from? And I said, I dunno, at the desk that says Hertz. They said there was another booth on the other side of the airport. So I walked down there. On the walk some beggars asked me for money. I didn’t have any money since I was a poor college student. They were mad at me for saying I didn’t have any money and insisted that I take a flier so that I could mail them some money later. I didn’t even know beggars did that. It was strange indeed, but at least they didn’t assault me. A minute later I found the car rental booth and the guy asked me if a Prius was okay. He also asked if I wanted a GPS, but I declined. I’d already printed out the directions and figured I wouldn’t get lost. That was my folly. Google was going to reimburse all expenses anyway, I may as well have gotten the GPS.

I found myself alone, lost, driving in the rain.
I drove out of the airport not really knowing where I was going. I didn’t even look at the directions I’d printed out. I knew that Google’s Seattle office, and the hotel I’d be staying at, was in Kirkland, which is on the east side of Lake Washington. I followed the highway that led out of the airport, hoping it was the right way. After driving for a few minutes I had a pretty good feeling I was going the right way. I felt like I was going east, and I have a pretty good sense of direction. I was pretty sure I was on the correct highway, I405, too. It started raining, hard. After I’d been driving for a while, and not really seeing many signs, I wasn’t sure if I had passed the exit I was supposed to take, but I kept going. When I saw a mileage sign that mentioned Everett, but didn’t have Kirkland on it, I was pretty sure I’d gone too far. I pulled off the freeway with the intention of turning around. I got lost turning around. Seattle has really thin lanes, and I thought I was going to hit a car coming in the opposite direction the whole time. Also, as with anyone that is lost, I found myself driving the wrong way down one way streets and entering the wrong side of the freeway exit lane. I’m surprised I survived. I ended up driving up and down a lot of side roads. When I had trouble finding the highway entrance I thought that if I headed in a generally south direction I could take the side roads all the way back to Kirkland. But roads in the Greater Seattle Area curve all over the place, so a southbound road quickly turned to the east. I wondered if I’d end up at Microsoft. That didn’t seem like a bad deal to me. I didn’t really want a job at Google, but I’d always been a Microsoft fan-boy...

I found myself driving through a residential zone for about an hour. I think I was in Bothell or Woodinville. Eventually I found a gas station and pulled into the parking lot. I asked the attendant if she had maps for sale, she looked at me all crooked-eye and said, Huh? I guess everyone was supposed to have a smart phone. I didn’t. She said, Where are you trying to get to? I said, I just want to get on I405. She pointed to the road in front of the gas station and said, Take a right on that road, you’ll get to 405. I did just that. She was right. The entrance was a few blocks up the road. I had just come from there, but I guess I was so scared I didn’t see the signs. I headed south on I405, this time paying better attention to the exit signs. From there I made it to the hotel without difficultly.

I’d looked up the hotel before flying out there. It was the Woodmark Hotel in Kirkland. It was fancier than anything I’d ever been in. I felt intimidated. They had valet service. I wasn’t about to use the valet service, though. You have to tip for that, and I had no idea how much to tip a valet. Plus, you have to keep in mind that I was a college student and not exactly made of money. I mean I think I might have been able to get a reimbursement from Google for tipping the valet, but then I’d have to ask for a receipt for that, and basically it was just easier for me to park myself. So I walked into the hotel, and they offered me a glass of champagne, but I don’t drink so I declined. It really was the fanciest hotel I’d ever been in. I was used to Motel 6 and the like. I arrived at around 4PM and I thought I might as well have dinner. I had a $35.00 budget and decided to milk it for all it was worth. I ordered expensive, and then over-tipped to a nice round $35.00. I don’t think they liked having a loner in their restaurant, though, because they kind of stuck me in the back, around a corner, out of sight.

I had kind of wanted to see some of the sights of Seattle while I was out there. Like Pike Place Market, or the Space Needle, or maybe a museum or something, but I was afraid of getting lost, and I didn’t know how parking in a big city worked. So all I did was walk around the neighborhood of the hotel. The Woodmark Hotel is right by Lake Washington so there are piers and parks. Nothing really too exciting though.

I couldn’t really sleep. And did I mentioned I was a poor college student at the time? I didn’t even have a computer or a tablet or a smart phone or anything. So I couldn’t browse the internet. I tried watching TV, but I was too nervous about my interview. I woke up early, if I even slept at all. I didn’t want to go to the hotel restaurant for breakfast, because of how much of a loner I had felt like the night before, so I went to a gas station and got a bagel and some orange juice. A bus drove past the gas station. It had an advertisement for Portal 2 on the side. I thought, Valve!, they’re here too! I also filled up the Prius’ gas tank, and with all the driving around I had done while I was lost I thought it was going to be a lot, but it was only like six bucks. I didn’t really like the Prius, but I couldn’t complain about how economical it was. Not that it mattered since I was getting reimbursed for everything.

One of my concerns had been what to wear to the interview. For software engineering, khaki pants and a polo is pretty standard for an interview. I went with that. In retrospect I would have been fine wearing a t-shirt and jeans. If I interviewed there again, I’d probably wear a bow tie or something. Just for the hilariousness of it.

Google’s Kirkland office.
I didn’t get lost going to Google. It wasn’t very far from the hotel. It was this high security complex, with key cards to get in everywhere, including on the front door. I’d never seen anything like that before. I had to ask someone how to get inside the building. They told me to take the door handle and pull on it. So I did. The receptionist greeted me, and told me to sign in using a nearby computer terminal. I asked, Why can’t you sign me in? I don’t know how to use computers. And she was like, It’s easy, just press the touch screen, your name is already in the system. You just have to select it from the list. She didn’t seem to understand that I was joking. I responded with, If my name is already in the system, why do I have to do anything at all? So I walked over to the kiosk and signed in, and it printed out a name badge for me. I put the name badge on my jacket.

I waited for about half an hour for my recruiter, Brad, to show up. He apologized for being so late, and I was like, I don’t really care. I’m so scared right now that delaying things for as long as possible is probably for the best. He laughed, but there was a little hesitation in his laugh. I’m pretty sure he would get a bonus if I got hired too, so it was in his interest for me to get hired, and I was already pessimistic. He showed me around. They had a rock climbing wall in the office. I don’t know why it was there. Nobody was using it. Brad told me nobody used it. Probably it was there so that Google could make themselves look more fun than they really are. There were a lot of things that made Google look fun. Like candy everywhere the eye could see. I didn’t know if it was free or not, so I didn’t take any. It was like a magical land of bliss. The movie The Internship captures it pretty well, even though that movie is about the Mountain View office and not Kirkland. As we were walking around I was trying to peek into the offices to see what people were doing. There really weren’t that many people there. It was like 10AM, so I guess a lot of people hadn’t showed up for work yet. I saw a few people coding, and I tried to see if I could recognize the language. Their monitors were too far away.

After the tour it was time to start the interview. The in-person Google interview is basically the same as the phone interview, except you write on a whiteboard instead of a Google Doc. I really hate whiteboard coding. It’s the worst type of coding. When you’re coding on a whiteboard and run out of space, you’re screwed. When you’re coding in a text editor and you run out of space you press ENTER. When you’re coding on a whiteboard and you need to delete some code you have to use an eraser. When you’re coding in a text editor you press DELETE.

A typical interview goes like this: You shoot the breeze with the interviewer for ten to fifteen minutes. They might ask about stuff on your resume, or about your interests in working at Google, or about projects you’ve worked on. You can also ask them whatever you want. Maybe about how they like the area, or how they like Google, or what team they’re on. Then for the next thirty minutes you work out one of those technical questions I mentioned before. After that you’re sent to the next interviewer. I remember five of my interviews, so it’s possible there were only five, but I might be forgetting one or two of them. Basically the whole process was seven hours of HELL! I like to call it the Gamut. Every company has some kind of Gamut, but Google’s was the worst I’ve ever been in, by far. It was in no way fun. I mention that it wasn’t fun because Jeremy had repeatedly told me, You probably won’t get the job on your first interview, so just try to have fun. I have a pretty good idea of what is fun, and nothing about what happened that day was fun, and unless you are some kind of masochist I don’t how anyone would find a Google interview fun. Even if you were a a genius, and aced the whole interview, I don’t think you’d call it fun. Mundane maybe, but not fun.

For my first interview of the day Brad dropped me off in a room with this really hot chick. And I mean unbelievably hot. And I was like, This chick is a programmer? Dang! I didn’t even know hot programmer chicks existed! Needles to say I was pretty excited, and I know I sound sexist, but I’m sorry to say that that is just how college guys think, and I want to tell the whole story here, not some politically correct version of it. So while I was checking her out I kept looking to her ring finger to see if she was taken, and I was pretty sure she wasn’t, so I was like, Well there’s some potential right there if I get this job! All the sudden I was way more excited about the job than I ever was before. Maybe my professor was right, I shouldn’t pass up an opportunity if it came knocking. So we shoot the breeze for a bit. She asks me what my interests in Google are. What my interests in software engineering are. And so on. All the standard stuff.

Whiteboard coding.
About fifteen minutes in, it’s time for the technical part of the interview. She told me to grab a marker and approach the whiteboard. And I was like, Oh boy, I gotta do some kind of coding? I don’t even know about coding. I got a degree in math, not in coding. She laughs, and I was like, Win!. She actually asked me a coding question related to math. It was about prime numbers. I ripped through the question. She seemed satisfied with my solution. When I look back on that question, I think I blew it, or at least parts of my solution were incorrect. I don’t think she realized I blew it, though. I think she was satisfied with my answer because she didn’t know as much about mathematics as me, and so my solution seemed more sound than it really was. Either that or she was just being nice about it. Google does that on purpose, I think. They start you out with a really nice interviewer and then things get worse from there. My interview seemed to go that way.

My second interview started immediately after that the first one. The hot chick left me in the room and a few minutes later another guy showed up. Nothing about him made me want to work for Google, at least not for the same reasons that the first chick did. He seemed cool enough, though. This guy had actually read my resume and was legitimately interested in some of the things I’d worked on. I took that as a compliment. He definitely had the attitude that there were things he could learn from me. His technical question was more difficult than the first. I made it through it with a little help from him, maybe a little too much help. I didn’t feel badly about that interview because even though I’d made some mistakes the guy seemed to know I wasn’t an idiot based on the other stuff we’d discussed. This was pretty much the only guy that asked about anything on my resume.

Lunch came next. They assigned some guy named Kevin to have lunch with me. I can honestly say that Google’s lunch was the worst lunch I’ve ever had on an interview. Usually the company takes you out to eat. Usually to a nice restaurant. They’ll pretty much open the door to wherever you want to go. Google just gives you the standard buffet that their employees get every day. It’s pretty much crap. Nothing was really very appetizing. The pizza was the best thing they had, and I don’t really like pizza. Kevin ended up going on about how great Google was, and how happy he was with his work. And he kept trying to give me advice, and I was thinking, I kind of want to work here, but I’m not really a Google fan-boy like this kid is. I asked Kevin what IDE he used when writing code, and he mentioned that he usually used a generic text editor. I was kind of disappointed by his response. I love Visual Studio, and I wanted to keep using it if possible.

The biggest piece of advice Kevin gave me was to take a bathroom break between each interview even if I didn’t need one, even if I just washed my hands, because it would be a good opportunity to clear my mind and start the next interview fresh. He then asked me if I wanted a coffee or hot chocolate, and I said I didn’t, but he insisted that I get one. I don’t know why. Maybe he wanted to impress me with the fact that there is basically a Starbucks inside their office. I consented, and to be honest it was actually a good cup of hot chocolate. Better than Starbucks hot chocolate. By a lot. This did come as a surprise as compared with the quality of lunch. I did take one bathroom break that day. I didn’t really see the point in repeatedly going to the bathroom. They had these target stickers in the urinal, and I’m sorry to say this but something about that just seemed a little too immature for me. I don’t take everything seriously, but something about that just seemed so First Grade.

After lunch there were three more interviews that I remember. This one guy I interviewed with had previously been a Microsoft employee and had come to Google for a change of scenery. He seemed okay. He seemed like the stereotypical software engineer. Like you’d see in movies. Super laid back, slothful even, and yes, overweight. I remember I was looking at this guy and thinking, This guy makes over $100,000 a year! (Oh the naivety of being a college student. Thinking that $100,000 was a lot of money.) I blew his technical question. Hands down. No question about it. After he asked the question I found myself scratching my head, and saying, What’s a computer? There was sort of an elitest vibe about him. He definitely came off as a guy that thought he was a genius simply because he worked for Google. He had this attitude that since he understood the question, that I should too.

The interview after that was the worst. It was a lady. She wasn’t hot. She wasn’t even close. She was wearing a wedding ring and I was like, I guess some gold digging guy married her because she makes over $100,000 a year. I wasn’t so interested in working at Google anymore. I’d already blown the last interview anyway. I never got through the technical question this lady asked me. Not even with massive amounts of help. As soon as she told me to draw a grid on the whiteboard I knew I was screwed. A grid implied using the graph data-structure, and if you know anything about computer science, then you know that graphs are pretty much the worst of it. I knew for certain that I wouldn’t be getting a job offer when she said, Let’s try a different question. I’ve never had to switch questions before! So she switched to a different question, it didn’t involve graphs, but I didn’t do much better with it.

The final interviewer was a kid just out of college. He was maybe 22 years old. He’d interned at Google and had been offered a full-time position. He struck me as an angry kid, a miserable kid. I’d been asking all the interviewers, What do you do on a daily basis? I knew that software engineers wrote code, but if an engineer was writing code for eight hours a day, five days a week, there would be no reason to have so many programmers at a company. So I knew that software engineers must be doing something besides writing code. This kid gave about as honest an answer as possible, I quote, I show up at around 11 or 12, check my email. Go out to lunch for about 2 or 3 hours. Check my email again. Then leave at around 4. I know it sounds like he was kidding around, but I know he was telling the truth. I actually appreciate his honesty the most. I blew his interview, and he was kind of a butt, but I’ll give it to him that he was honest. When we were done this kid escorted me to the parking lot, it was like 4:30. He was probably upset that my interview had made him stay half an hour later than usual.

I didn’t get lost on the way to the airport! I drove straight there, without a GPS or anything. I was kind of proud of myself.

I was pretty sure I wasn’t getting an offer, though I must admit I was still hopeful. I really only felt terrible about the last two interviews. When I got home I emailed Jeremy and told him my thoughts. He told me to let him know if I got an offer or not. The recruiter, Brad, called like two weeks later. I don’t know why he took so long to call. I’m sure they made the decision within an hour after I left. He said, We aren’t going to make an offer at this time. I said, Okay. He was hesitant on the phone. I think he expected me to say, Why not? I didn’t say that. I hadn’t expected to get an offer. He started answering the unasked question anyway, The interviewers just thought that... I cut him off, and said, That’s fine.

I’ve heard that each Google interviewer gives a graded report on the candidate, and that a few exceptional reports, even with some negatives, are more likely to get an offer than a full gamut of good reports. I’m pretty sure that all of my interviewers gave me a thumbs down.

Here is the part where I’m going to get a little bitter about Google, and rant on a bit:

I thought I was dumb. I thought I was stupid. I resented Google. I felt depressed for a while. I knew I was a competent programmer, and these guys were telling me I wasn’t. I was so bitter I never emailed Jeremy to let him know I didn’t get the job. His bonus be damned. They aren’t really interested in anything you’ve done, only if you can make it through some technical puzzles. I never had difficulty with technical questions outside of Google, though. Probably because I have since read a lot of technical questions and I’m familiar with the most popular ones. That’s how some people get into Google. They memorize a bunch of questions and solutions. It works. Technical questions require a different mindset than day to day programming tasks. If you memorize a lot of them, you’re probably better prepared to face ones you’ve never seen before.

I’ve talked to other software engineers about their experiences interviewing at Google. It’s usually negative. Which makes one question if they want you to feel depressed. I think they do. One of my friends has a theory that Google interviews a lot of candidates with no intention of hiring them, just so that they can say that they only accept 1% of their candidates. It’s to make themselves seem more elite. He might be right about that. They could certainly ask harder questions during the phone screen, or have qualifying tests, and eliminate candidates faster. The same questions are just going to get asked in person anyway. It would save money. Most companies would prefer that a candidate get eliminated earlier rather than later. For Google it’s easy-peasy to pass the phone screen. Maybe it is more valuable for them to have a reputation of hiring only 1% than to eliminate candidates earlier.

Once I had other job offers I didn’t feel dumb anymore. And once I learned more about the software engineering industry I was happy that I hadn’t got an offer at Google. I didn’t really know anything about the software engineering profession, and so the job I was applying for at Google was SET, Software Engineer in Test. (These are also sometimes called SQE, Software Quality Engineering, or SQA, Software Quality Assurance, Engineers.) SET is basically the worst kind of engineering. It’s not even really engineering. It’s just writing some code to test someone else’s code. A SET’s code doesn’t ship to a consumer. Usually all they do is double click some kind of batch file and run a script. I’m pretty sure that my last interviewer was a SET. That’s why he was so dissatisfied with his work. That’s why he only needed to show up for a few hours a day. It doesn’t take that long to start a script, and it will run all night. SET jobs are boring as all hell and require no creativity.

Part of the reason I like software engineering is because I enjoying finding solutions to problems. I enjoy engineering solutions. I wouldn’t have been doing that had I got an offer at Google. I would have been sitting at a desk, double clicking batch scripts, bored out of my mind. At most companies there are more SET and SQE engineers than there are actual software engineers. It makes sense since companies don’t want to ship faulty code. A lot of college graduates end up doing it. It’s not all bad. Even SET’s are paid well, but satisfying work is more important than compensation in my opinion, at least to some degree. Worse than that, is that SET isn’t actually a position you can move out of in the traditional way. Software companies want quality code, so if you excel at SET they are going to want you to stay there and keep doing a good job. You’re basically stuck there. You actually have to do a bad job to get out of it! I think it’s kind of sad how rigorous Google’s interview process is. A candidate has to go through the whole Gamut and if they do get a job, they get one that could basically be done by a monkey. They’ve proven themselves as bright and then they become a SET. A SET!

After my Google interview I found a job I really wanted, it matched my career goals. Google seems to have an elite reputation within the industry, but that’s diminishing every year. I kind of see Google, and the other top software companies like them, as programmer farms. They hire a lot of smart engineers and hope that one of them comes up with a good idea. In conclusion, I don’t really know what to say. I use a few Google products, my bitterness towards them doesn’t prevent me from recognizing a quality product. I’m definitely under the impression that three out of five Google programmers think they are smarter than everyone else. Maybe they are. Probably they aren’t. If I interviewed at Google again I probably wouldn’t get hired. I’d know going in that it would be best if I memorized some stuff about trees and graphs, but I wouldn’t bother. Information that I can look up is something I don’t want to memorize for an interview. I did enough of that in college. I prefer just taking my chances.

Thus ends my rant.

Categories: 2001-2011 College

So, I Went to Cheers - September 19, 2011

Some recent business took me to downtown Boston, and while I know Boston has some important history, nothing interested me more than going to Cheers. For those unfamiliar, Cheers was a sitcom that ran from 1982 to 1993. The show was set in a bar in Boston named, as you might guess, Cheers. Well, I was familiar with the show while it was running, but I never really watched more than the occasional episode. That is until a few months ago when I caught a few episodes on the Hallmark Channel, at which time I found that I really liked the show. I started watching the series from the first episode on Netflix. (I’m at about episode 200 as of this writing.) Even though I wasn’t an original fan of the show, I would say that I like it enough now to call myself a fan. Fan enough that Cheers was my top priority in downtown Boston.

I looked up Cheers on the internet before heading over there. There are two Cheers restaurants in Boston. There is the The Original at 85 Beacon Street, and The Replica in South Boston. Naturally, I wanted nothing but the original, so I was going to Beacon Street. I narrate my experience in present tense:

The famous steps leading down to Cheers.
I recognize the outside of bar. It looks just like the show. It’s exactly like I’d seen it in the opening credits of the show. The familiar stairs lead down to the bar. The business next door that has an awning stretched out to the street. The awning is a different color, but the feel of the outside is the same. I’m across the street, by the park. As I approach, I see a group of tourists try to go into the building next door. The greeters there tell the group that Cheers is downstairs. These tourists have obviously never seen the show.

I cross Beacon Street, another group of tourists is outside taking pictures. They know that the stairs lead down to the bar. An older gentleman stands by the steps while his wife takes a picture. I’m ready to head down the steps. One of the tourists says, We better get out of the way, since we’re blocking the stairs. I tell them, It’s no problem.

I head down the steps. The stairs seem to go a lot deeper than the show makes them look. I’m deep underground. There’s a door in front of me. It doesn’t say Cheers on it, so I wonder if I’m in the right place. I open the door and walk into the restaurant. It clearly doesn’t look like Cheers. I didn’t expect it to. When I looked it up on the internet I found out that the restaurant is downstairs and the set bar is upstairs. I see a shelf full of Cheers souvenirs, so I know I’m in the right place.

I’m greeted by a bouncer. He asks me what I want to do. I say, I want to eat at the bar. He tells me that they have three bars. One right in the main restaurant, I can see this bar from the entrance, another one on the lower floor as well, and one upstairs. I knew from the website that I want the bar that is upstairs. He asks me for ID. I’m taken aback for a second, but then I realize that it’s a bar, and I look a lot younger than I actually am. I whip out my drivers license. He looks at it, and nods his head a bit. He seems surprised by my age. He hands me back my license, then stamps my hand. I ask him for directions to the bar upstairs. He points in the opposite direction, and says, Head out into that hallway, then go through the furthest door on the right.

Furthest on the right, I confirm, then head in the direction he pointed.

I have some trouble finding my way. I’m so excited that I confuse right and left. I almost go into another part of the restaurant, but then I realize my mistake and take the right doorway. I see the stairs going up.

At the top of the stairs I see a life sized cardboard cutout of the character Norm. Well, I’m not actually sure it is life size since he seems a little short. This makes me feel comfortable, however. It makes me feel like this really is Cheers. I walk into the room and sit at the bar.

It’s Friday evening, but the bar isn’t crowded. There are maybe eight people around the bar. I had wanted to sit where Norm and Cliff usually sit on the show, but that area of the bar is occupied. I ultimately sit next to where Frazier and Lilith are often seated. The counter actually has a little plaque on it that says, Frazier. Not a very nice touch, in my opinion. Tacky. Fans of the show know where the characters sit. I elect not to sit exactly where Frazier sat because I didn’t want to look like too much of a tourist. I look like a tourist. Everything about my demeanor say’s I’m a tourist.

The mugs that Cheers use (right) don’t resemble the standard beer mug as seen on the show (left). (Cream Soda is the drink featured in this photo.)
The bar resembles the show, certainly. It looks like it. Hundreds of bottles. Red and white wine glasses. High-grade Naugahyde stool covers. And a brass rail. And a big-city bartender with a joke at the ready. Well, I don’t know if the bartender actually has a joke at the ready. He doesn’t crack one as I sit down. The bar is also smaller than the one on the show, I guess this is okay, since the room is a lot smaller than the one of the show. Other than the bar, nothing really looks or feels like Cheers. There is a television on the wall, in the approximate location where the TV set on the show is located, but it’s an HDTV, and there are two more TVs in opposite corners of the bar. The bar uses it’s own custom mugs, as opposed to the standard beer mug seen on the show, as well.

I’m greeted by a bartender. He’s wearing a uniform. Clearly this guy is no Sam Malone or Woody Boyd. He asks what I want. I ask for a menu. After a few minutes he gets around to getting me one. I’m not particularly picky about what I want. It’s my dinner, sure, but the excitement of being in Cheers is all I really care about. I had read on the internet about the Norm Burger Hall of Fame and had thought that if I was feeling the spirit of the moment I would ask about that, but I’m not feeling any kind of vibe. I decide on the Cheeseburger.

A different bartender comes around. He asks me if I decided what I want. I tell him I want the Cheeseburger and a root beer. He takes the menu and gets me my drink right away. I figure it will be a while before I get my burger, so I sit, hunched over the bar, and look around. There is a group of what look like business men to my right (where Norm and Cliff sit). I wonder what they are doing here. They look local, and this doesn’t really seem to be the kind of bar that would attract locals. It’s meant to be for tourists, at least that’s what I think. Across the bar from me are a few more people. I can’t really see them.

Behind me, at one of the tables, is the only other person that looks my age. He is with what I assume is his mother. I guess this because the lady he is with is much older than he is. There are plenty of people around, at the tables, but, like I said, the bar is mostly empty. I sit silently, waiting for my order.

Eventually my burger arrives. There’s really not much ketchup in the bottle that the bartender gave me. I wonder if I should ask him for more, but he seems busy. He’s bouncing around an awful lot. Going back and forth. I don’t really know what he’s doing since no one is really ordering anything. Just trying to make himself look busy, I guess. I have enough ketchup, and I don’t want to bother him.

The Cheeseburger isn’t great. Applebee’s Cowboy Burger is a lot better. Of course, I think this is an unfair comparison since I do consider the Cowboy Burger to be one of the greatest sandwiches ever invented. After I’m about half way through the burger, the bartender asks me how it is. I say that it’s fine. It is fine. I didn’t expect it to be great.

I’m sitting kitty-corner from Frazier (furthest stool to the left.)
As I’m eating, some tourists walk in. A couple. The man, and older guy, sits down next to me, and says to his wife, It says this is where Frazier sits! He’s excited. He has his wife take a picture of him. I’m in the picture, at least my back is. They don’t order anything. They leave.

As I finish my burger another couple sits at the bar, around the corner from me. The bartender asks the lady if she wants a lager. He is acting somewhat flirty with her. I almost think that I might see a Sam Malone moment. I almost expect the bartender to slide over the counter and drop a cheesy pickup line. What actually happens is that she asks if he can make a certain drink. He says that he can. That’s it. That was his chance to shine, to be the Sam Malone that he was meant to be. He failed miserably. Why did he fail? I don’t know. Maybe it was because he was wearing a uniform. Maybe it was because this lady was older than him. Maybe it was because this lady was with another man. Maybe he just didn’t care.

I finish my burger. The bartender takes my plate and asks if I want anything else. I tell him I want a couple of souvenir mugs. He says that will be fine and collects some mugs out from a cardboard box under the counter and starts putting them in bubble wrap. He takes forever to do this, longer than he should have. This confirms my suspicions that he was acting busier than he really was. He prints me a bill and disappears around the bar. I’m ready to pay right then, so I don’t know why he didn’t take my credit card which I already had out.

Before getting back to me the bartender approaches the lady to my left. I’m thinking to myself, He’s got another chance to be a Sam Malone. He seems to be flirting with her, but I can’t hear a thing. So I don’t know what he’s saying for sure. The bar is too loud to hear anything. It’s nothing like the show. If someone was cracking a joke, there is no way anyone else would hear it. I couldn’t hear more than two feet away. Sill I wonder how he is talking to this woman without upsetting the man she is with. Maybe they know each other.

Eventually the bartender takes my credit card. I had to bug him a couple times to get him to take it. I tip the recommended amount on the receipt, selecting 20%. I realize that the 20% includes the cost of the souvenir mugs. I don’t care. I had my cheers experience, and a few more dollars for it is nothing to me. Anyway, I want to be generous. The bartender was friendly enough. I finish my drink and leave the barroom.

I have a little trouble finding my way out. There are a lot of stairs to follow and hallways to walk through. I almost leave through an emergency exit, but eventually find my way back to the main restaurant. As I’m leaving, the bouncer is asking another group of tourists what they want to do. I head up the stairs. As I climb up the stairs I have a genuine feeling of leaving Cheers. I find myself on Beacon Street.

Categories: 2001-2011 College

Hoarding, Part 2 - March 29, 2011

I ended my last post on hoarding saying that I would explain exactly why everything you own is worthless. Before I do that, let me get into a little more detail on what it means to hoard. Hoarding is not owning a lot of things. You can own a lot of things and not be a hoarder. You are a hoarder if you own a lot of useless things. You have a problem with hoarding if you are not willing to throw any of that stuff away. I also want to be clear that, despite what is seen on shows like Hoarders, anybody can be a hoarder. You don’t have to be a redneck to be a hoarder. You don’t have to be poor to be a hoarder. Shows like Hoarders make it seem like every hoarder comes from the bottom rung of society. That isn’t necessarily true. The poorer you are, the more obvious your hoarding is to others, but having wealth doesn’t necessarily mean that you aren’t hoarding.

I mention poor hoarders, because it is easy to conclude that they hoard because they have so little to begin with. It is also understandable to think that they hoard because they think what they are keeping is worth something, and if times get really tough, they can sell everything they own. I’m here to say that that isn’t true. Everything a hoarder owns is worthless, everything you own is worthless.

Well, technically not everything you own is worthless, but a lot more of what you own is worth a lot less than you think. I will explain this by sharing a personal example. Readers of my blog know that I’m a gamer. More specifically a PC gamer, and over the years I have built up quite a collection of video games. Those that lived through the 90s know that PC games used to be boxed in large boxes. These boxes were about 14x12x2 inches cubed in size. I saved the box of every PC game I purchased. To give you an idea of how many boxes that is, I got my first job when I was sixteen years old. I was making minimum wage, and working less than 20 hours a week, but I was bringing home about forty to sixty dollars a week, enough to buy a new video game every week. Though I didn’t necessarily buy a new video game every week, I was doing so at a rapid rate. Over a nine month period I had probably purchased around forty games. To put this in perspective, if a game’s box is 14x12x2 inches cubed, the volume of forty games is about 8 feet cubed. Over the next few years my collection built up to around eighty games. I ended up with three boxes about three feet on each side, taking up about 24 cubic feet of space. That is enough to fill more than an entire coat closet. (If you’re doing the math you’ll realize that this adds up for more space than you would expect, but remember this, whenever you put something inside a box, there is going to be a lot of empty space where nothing fits quite right.)

The question you ought to have is why did I kept all those video game boxes. The answer is because an original box increases the resell value of a video game if you’re going to sell it on eBay. That was it. I mean I had spent ten to thirty dollars per game. My collection had cost me at least five hundred dollars. To me, that collection was valuable, and if I was going to sell parts of it, I wanted to get as big a return as possible. Selling a video game as a disc alone is maybe worth a couple of bucks. With the original box, it can be worth over ten bucks.

I was wrong to hoard all those video game boxes for two reasons. First of all, I wasn’t using them for anything. I had them sitting in boxes in my mom’s garage. I sold a few of my games on eBay, but the return was always so low that it was never worth it. I mean I put in all that effort to list the game, answer questions related to the auction, and go to the post office, only to get something like four bucks, when all was said and done. Four bucks isn’t even enough to get a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese. I felt like I came out on top, though. If I had sold those games without their original boxes I probably would have gotten two bucks. I wouldn’t have even been able to get a Big Mac then.

In 2005 I realized I was being an idiot for keeping all those boxes. I realized that I had put a lot of effort into selling these games, and all I got was a couple of bucks. It was hardly worth the effort. I had made less money than one hours worth of work at minimum wage. Early in 2006 I threw out almost all of my video game boxes. I kept the manuals and discs and the boxes went straight into the trash. I admit, this was my first time throwing out some hoarded items, and I was tempted to go and get them out of the trash. I restrained myself, and watched the garbage man haul them away.

I have no regrets. They were worthless cardboard boxes. I shouldn’t have kept them to begin with. I’m happy they’re gone. Soon after, I realized there was more of my stuff that I could get rid of. I had a stuffed animal collection from when I was very young. I realized that I had no need for them. All my stuff animals were in boxes as well, most were more worn out than the Velveteen Rabbit. They took up two big boxes. I was never going to play with them, and if I ever had children, I’d just get them new ones. I donated the boxes of stuffed animals to a thrift store. It was that easy. I’d already gotten rid of my video games boxes, which seemed to be more important to me than my stuffed animals, so it wasn’t that hard.

That’s something else I want to be clear on. When I say that you need to throw something out, I don’t necessarily mean throwing something in the trash. Donating to a thrift store is fine. Having one yard-sale is fine. Let me say that again, you can have one yard-sale. Only one. I knew a couple that had the habit of buying entire garages or trailers full of junk. Their entire house was full of junk. Like many hoarders, they parked their car in the driveway because their garage was full of junk. They held a yard-sale every Saturday. They made about two dollars a week. Two dollars. They kept buying more junk. One yard sale is enough. Whatever you don’t sell, you donate to a thrift store or throw away. If you’ve ever watched Extreme Makeover: Home Edition you might have an idea of what I’m talking about. These guys always hold yard sales, and they don’t sell much. The hosts of the show make them haul everything else to the junkyard. Usually when they make money it is from selling something that actually does have value like a piano or a motorcycle.

This is exactly why everything you own is worthless. No one wants it but you. Everyone looks at the things you own, and questions your intelligence. I kept video game boxes because I thought they were worth something. Not only were the boxes worthless, the video games themselves aren’t worth anything, except to me. When my collection was at it’s biggest I could have maybe made one hundred dollars if I sold everything. That is less than one days worth of work at most jobs. It would have easily taken me more than eight hours to go through the process of selling that collection.

Getting rid of the boxes was just a start. I had saved all the manuals, and the games were still in their jewel cases. They still took up three shelves of a bookcase. My DVD collection was also taking up a lot of space, not to mention my music collection. I went on to downsize all these collections.

My music collection was the next thing I downsized. I had kept all my CDs in their original jewel cases. Again, I did so in case I wanted to sell them. Let me explain why this was idiotic, CDs are more worthless than video games. They sell for $0.50 a piece on Marketplace. When I reached that realization I bought a couple CD wallets and put my entire CD collection in them. I reduced the space they took up from two shelves, to six inches on one shelf. I’m ashamed to admit that at first I took out all the paper inserts and saved them. That way if I ever did decide to sell the CDs I could put the paper inserts into a jewel case and get the higher resell value of $1.00 instead of $0.50. I threw out those paper inserts a few years ago. Now, I buy almost all of my music digitally. I don’t even have to worry about CDs and jewel cases, but on the rare occasion when I do buy a CD the first thing I do is throw away the jewel case, paper inserts and everything.

That is one of the benefits of the modern era. Most media can now be purchased or rented digitally. Video games can be purchased from online services like Steam and Good Old Games, music can be purchased from Amazon MP3 and iTunes. Movies can be purchased or rented from these stores as well.

A few months ago I finally threw out all my video game manuals, and other manuals that I kept. I realized something very important. Something called the internet exists. First, I didn’t need any of my manuals becuase I know how to use everything I own. Second, if I forgot how to use something I could look it up on the internet. I kept the manual that came with my TV for years. Why did I do that? I ask myself. Anyone who lived through the 80s knows how to operate a TV.

The majority of this post has been about multimedia collections, and that is because multimedia collections are generally the most worthless thing that people own, yet they think otherwise. I hope I am making it clear that multimedia collections are worthless. By that I mean they have no resell value. Sure, you may like your collection of movies and music, but you can’t expect to sell them. It is a sad day when someone walks into a pawn shop and expects to make some money.

Digital purchases have helped me out. When you buy something digital you can’t resell it, so there is no reason to hoard. Not to mention the fact that you can’t hoard something that is purchased digitally. It does takes up space on a hard drive, and in the case of video game services you can re-download your games as often as you need. With Instant Video you just stream your movies to whatever computer you want. So you really don’t even need to use up hard drive space.

I’m proud to say that my DVD and Blu-Ray collection, which by itself took up almost two full book cases, has been reduced to three CD wallets that take up less than two feet worth of shelf space. I have thrown out almost every CD/DVD/Blu-Ray case I own. My entire multimedia collection of CDs, movies, and video games take up only one shelf of a book case. With all the boxes I was saving before, they used to take up an entire section of a garage.

Now, I want to go into something that I personally never really had a problem with, but something that many people a generation or two older than me have, and that is analog multimedia. Specifically VHS tapes, cassette tapes, and vinyl records. By the time I was old enough to really buy anything, everything was digital, and as I mentioned digital media fits into CD wallets, and takes up very little space if you want it to. Analog multimedia doesn’t have that luxury, and the only thing I can say about it, is that you need to throw that stuff out. Unless you own an original Beatles vinyl signed by Ringo Starr, you absolutely need to throw it out. VHS tapes are even worse. They are the most worthless item you can possibly own. They have a resell value of about a penny. When resellers list VHS tapes on Marketplace, they make their money through overcharging shipping. A VHS collection of one thousand movies, might get you fifty bucks if you tried to sell it. Thrift stores are full of VHS tapes. You know why? Because the owners of them couldn’t sell them. What’s worse is there is nothing you can do to reduce the amount of space that a VHS tape takes up. I know people that have entire rooms full of VHS tapes, and they are all worthless.

This is probably hard for some people to hear. My mom has the entire series’ of Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation on VHS tape. They cost about twenty bucks a piece for something like 120 VHS tapes. I’m probably underestimating that, but my point is that even though this collection cost over $2500.00, it is now worth maybe twenty bucks. Let me emphasize, maybe twenty bucks. Star Trek on Blu-Ray costs $180.00 for the entire series. The complete series of The Next Generation on DVD costs $309.00. That is less than $500.00 for the entirety of both series. You know what else? My mom has no reason to replace her VHS tapes with DVDs and Blu-Rays, because she’s probably never going to watch the series again anyway.

VHS tapes are the worst. Some people buy them because they sell for so cheap, but believe me it isn’t worth it. They aren’t worth keeping. Get a Netflix subscription. Throw out your VHS tapes. I don’t think you should even donate them to thrift stores. That will only help someone else to hoard. You need to take your VHS collection and throw it in the trash. Face it. You are never going to watch any of these things again. In ten years it will be hard to find a VCR anyway. They are worthless. I don’t care if you paid $10,000.00 for your VHS collection. It isn’t worth anything now, and you’re not watching them anyway.

I allow a few exceptions, for those absolutely awesome movies that have never come out on DVD, and the resell price on Marketplace is in fact in the hundreds. White Dwarf is the only exception I can think of. These exceptions are rare. You probably don’t even own any. Even if you do, I’m saying it has to be something that you like watching. For the most part, you need to throw out your VHS tapes. Unless you are going to sit down and watch it right now, throw it out. The same thing is true for cassette tapes. Chances are you don’t listen to them. It’s even more likely that you will never listen to them again. You need to throw them out.

I haven’t touched on the topic of books yet. I can’t really touch on them yet. They need to be addressed by themselves as a separate topic, because they can be much worse than other multimedia combined. That’s why I’ll get to them in a later post.

My main point in this post, though. Is to help you understand that whatever you own, that you think is worth something, isn’t. If you’re not using it, you may as well throw it out or donate it to a thrift store. You need to get this into your head. Your stuff isn’t worth anything. It’s not worth anything to you if you’re not using it. You need to be able to convince yourself of this. In this post I haven’t even talked about sentimental stuff. I’m just talking about stuff that you think you can sell. Next time, I’m going to get into sentimental stuff, and if you thought throwing out a bunch of empty jewel cases was hard, you’ve really got to get yourself prepared.

Categories: 2001-2011 College

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