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"Endeavour" Pilot (TV Episode 2012)


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Being The Geekly Diary of Waider
(may contain traces of drinking, movies, and sport)
October 26
House M.D. Season 3 ended with a bit of a bang, and season 4 so far is basically MasterChef: Hospital Edition. I'm fuzzy on how this pans out because the three principals from the first three season are still getting credits and the occasional cameo, but I'm pretty sure at least one of the MasterChefs winds up on the new team as well. Oh, and Foreman's story arc is sort of Nelson Muntz HA-HA material.

We have not watched an actual movie in ages.

October 19
Stupid toy of the weekend: something to scrape basic details of a family tree out of ...a website... and turn it into a Cytoscape graph. Worked nicely for about 120 people, failed to load for about 600. I may consider using NetworkX. My intent here is to figure out if two people in a tree have any connection (since ...the website... allows disconnected trees), but I've also got the makings of something that can sync my local genealogy efforts with fiddlings online, something that's kinda tedious to do manually. Oh, and I don't want to do the obvious GEDCOM export/import thing because it's a lossy format plus I want to gate exactly what gets synced, since my online efforts have a tendency to be sloppy whereas my local efforts tend to be a bit more based on actual sources.

October 18
So we saw the Star Trek:TNG finale - season 7 episodes 25 & 26, or just 25 if you consider it as one giant episode - and it was an ok wrap-up: bringing back a few characters, using time travel to reference the first episode, etc. - but it also sort of felt like it could've been just another two-part episode in the series and we'd tune back in for season 8. Maybe it was planned that way, with the second half being the first episode of the following season, I dunno. Unlike the movies, they didn't destroy the Enterprise - well, not really, and when it happened you knew it wasn't going to stick - so you didn't really have that sense that everything was coming to an end. And they kind of left the door open for some sort of followup, but Picard - the nearest thing I've watched to being that followup - seems to have ignored that entirely and gone off to plough its own furrow. Anyway, as these things go it wasn't bad.

Of course, we're not actually done with TNG: ironically, we haven't actually seen the first two episodes, and we're missing a handful of episodes from seasons 5, 6 and 7 thanks to Virgin Media's shennaigans covered here previously. The Horror Channel is currently on season 5, so we're picking up the missing episodes there, but I've no idea when we'll get the first two.

October 04
We've caught up on a couple of the missing episodes from ST:TNG - oh look, there's Leonard Nimoy - as the Horror Channel (!) works its way through Season 5, and meanwhile we've got the rest of Season 7 from Pick channel captured and waiting. Pick has now started into Deep Space 9, but we'll be skipping on that. At least for now, anynway.

September 28
Continuing to trundle through our series: Endeavour season 7 was a bit of a let-down at the end. There's a balance to be struck in your procedural crime drama between escapism and verisimiltude; ideally, you want to tie up all the loose ends, but you want to do so in a convincing fashion. This season left a murder unaccounted for ("probably a copycat"), perpetrated by someone whose last act seemed ... unconvincing as a murderer; the actual murderer seemed to not fit, somehow; the whole psychic undertone was either contradictory or true-and-stupid (this would not be the first solidly realism-based detective drama I've watched that felt the need to veer into the supernatural); Morse's discovery that the locus of various murders spelled the killer's name was frankly ludicrous. Really, this felt like it needed a fourth episode, but they had one cut half-way through filming so had to cram everything into the third to try and finish it up, and even that charitable view doesn't account for all the disappointment.

ST:TNG: season 5 has just started on the "catch-up" channel, meaning we'll be able to fill in the gaps in a week or two; we're about halfway through season 7, in the meantime.

House: I think the whole "House gets challenged by a cop who's as stubborn as he is" arc could have done with a smoother finish, and House's subterfuge as revealed in the last minutes of episode S3E11 was... unnecessary. Like, I was rooting for the cop to get some sort of comeuppance - whether a crushing blow from the legal system for harassment, or something medical that required House to intervene - but equally I was rooting for House to come away with some sort of lesson, since ~50 episodes in I think we've clearly established that his character is a jerk and maybe now it's time for some character growth, and not in the sense of "into a bigger jerk".

Ho hum. I did read some good books, though. Linda Nagata's centuries-spanning sci-fi is pretty damned compelling. Starts out as life-extension technology (now; she wrote some prequels, I think, to make this happen), winds up with people flitting around the galaxy using technology that they don't understand to travel at relativistic speeds.

September 19
15 years ago today. I get to swap my red badge for a purple one. The (somewhat) irony being that I've not had to wear my badge since some time in March, plus some of our internal systems have been showing a virtual purple badge for about a week (one of my colleagues surmised that the Code Which Decides is doing a blunt "divide by 365" and not bothering to adjust for leap years). Anyway. It has been, and continues to be, a wild ride.

How I got in:
  • my previous employer had a bad turn of fortune and I was made redundant, so I sent an email out to my circle of nerd friends. I wasn't panicked because I was in a good position financially. One of the talk.bizarre cabal (there is no cabal) said that she'd heard from a friend at Amazon that Amazon would be hiring in Dublin, and did I want to have my CV forwarded. Sure, why not. A day later a recruitment agency got in touch to ask if I'd like to be referred to Amazon and I honestly took far too much pleasure in telling them I was already in the pipeline (I had... issues with recruitment agencies).
  • I did three phonescreens: the first was basically a pop quiz to determine whether or not I was a cabbage or an actual person. The second and third, I can't distinguish, but one of the two was a guy called Samir who grilled me on things mentioned in my CV, and at the third or fourth point at which I said, "I don't know", he asked me, "what do you know?". This is exactly the sort of thing I'd coach people not to do these days, but that's neither here nor there. Despite his shredding, Samir apparently gave quite positive feedback. The other thing I recall was being asked what my favourite scripting language was, and having the sense that the guy asking was happy to deal with whatever language I mentioned. That made an impression: "these people are smart, and also want to give me a chance to demonstrate my skills in comfort".
  • I got the call for an in-house interview. There was a sev-1 (top severity incident) in progress when I arrived, and the 20-odd people in the office were engaged in a flurry of activity, some of which involved calling details back and forth to each other across the open-plan space. It was... awesome. And whatever they were handling couldn't be seen by 99% of the customer base. Possibly even 100%, if they were dealing with a failure in redundancy (i.e. your backup system is offline). Ted waved airily and suggested it was nothing to be bothered about and I should focus on my interviews.
  • I did no prep. None. Didn't know much, if anything about the history of the company; had been a customer since 1999, but that's about it. Hadn't really considered the specific requirements of the job: as best I could tell, it was the same job as I've always done - sysadmin with a side-order of software dev, or software dev with a side-order of sysadmin.
  • I can't remember the whole loop.
    • Ted asked me how I'd build the product image system. Coincidentally I'd found a writeup where someone had reverse-engineered some of the real one by fiddling with URL parameters; somewhat orthogonal to Ted's question but had me thinking in the right direction. I also enthusiastically described to Ted how I'd reverse-engineered Sony's Network Walkman MP3 obfuscation. I don't know what this was in response to, and some might say talking about reverse-engineering in an interview with a multinational might not be the smartest thing, but who knows.
    • Tyson asked me... I have no idea. I remember being impressed by his tattoos.
    • Steph asked me to explain some technical thing. I blanked because I couldn't think of something that struck the right balance between "I can explain this in detail" and "I can explain this in the time available". She eventually threw me a lifeline and asked me to explain... email, I think. Steph's interview was also memorable because she got visibly engaged and excited about whatever I was enthusiastically talking about, and objectively it's a gimmick to get someone to open up but subjectively it just felt like telling someone a story and having them really react to it in a positive way. Good job, Steph!
    • Richard A and Richard S: Richard A asked most of the questions, I think, while Richard S sort of loomed in the background. A little disconcerting. They asked me about handling IP addresses with Perl. I naively dealt with them as 4-element arrays and was doing silly string things. With appropriate nudging I realised that the 4 elements were full bytes, i.e. the entire range from 0-255 was used, so glomming them together into a 32-bit integer would make certain manipulations easier. (Duh. That's how they work in the real world. I did say I did no prep. And I would encounter code years later that did the String thing, but in Java.) Rich A told me afterwards that he was kinda annoyed with me in the interview because he thought I was sandbagging: he'd ask a question, I'd admit I didn't know the answer but would have a go, and then the first thing I guessed at would be bang on. All genuine, Rich, all genuine.
  • There must've been at least one other interview, but I can't recall; someone must have talked to me about networking, so maybe Brian, or Doug, or Michael. I think Donal took me out for lunch, but I've no idea what we talked about. I do recall it was a pub lunch down the street from the office.
  • A few days after the interview, I got word that I'd have one final interview to complete. I don't know if I was told up-front that this was the bar-raiser interview, but since - see above - no prep, that wouldn't have meant anything to me. I was told Cyrus would phone me at, I think, 6pm on a Friday, and it would be an hour long.
  • Some time around six on Friday: the phone rang once, disconnected, and that was it. I never found out what happened there. What did happen was some followup to say Tom would be interviewing me, but the date was undecided. So I went off to the other side of the country for a few days.
  • Phonecall on Tuedsay evening: Tom's talking to you on Wednesday afternoon. Is that ok? Sure. So Wednesday morning was a wild drive from Ballina to Dublin.
  • I'd made the mistake of looking up who this Tom guy was. Found a bunch of RFCs and, I think, a patent - not sure about that. Kinda scared myself: this guy was a no-bullshit technical wizard. I'd been given a handful of topics to brush up on, one of which was TCP tuning, and to be honest it was the only topic I'd really done any research into. And I was fascinated by it, because I'd never looked into it before, and it... hooked me. But that was one topic of four and I was gonna get grilled. Yikes.
  • The interview was ... terrible. Tom asked me a fairly straightforward question about false positives - a simple stats question. I got hung up on the fact that I'd seen the question somewhere and couldn't remember "the trick", and got so stuck on that that I couldn't reason it out from first principles. He asked me to write some C to reverse a string, and I wrote it out on the whiteboard; reversing the string in place so no need to worry about memory allocation and, I explained, this approach here means I don't accidentally reverse the string a second time and thus return the original string unmodified. As I was describing this I was writing the code - or had written the code - which had exactly the flaw I had just talked about avoiding and I didn't see it. There was some other awkwardness, and I think I sort of took a notion that I had flubbed it, because I remember noting that Tom had more or less stopped typing notes on his laptop. Then he asked me something offhand about the interview process, and I mentioned being given topics to brush up on, and talked about how fascinated I was by the TCP tuning stuff, and talked enthusiastically about why it interested me, and Tom was rapidly typing on his laptop and in the back of my head I remember thinking, "YES!"
  • There followed... a lengthy wait. As I understand it - and folding in what I now know about the company - the initial plan for Dublin was that it would be a NOC to allow the first- and second-line support (operators and SNOC) in Seattle to get some sleep. Some combination of factors, one of which was Ted's enthusiasm about the available talent pool in Dublin, altered that plan to "let's build some datacentres and move our european websites". This change, it seems, happened somewhere around the time I was being interviewed, and either I wasn't going to be hired initially because they'd filled the post with a better candidate, or I was going to be hired, but the change in plan caused a shuffling of the deck and all the resource planning had to be redone and approved before they could go ahead. Either way, I interviewed in, I think, May (I could look this up; I'm too lazy) and finally got a call some time in August from Christina to offer me the job (having harassed Ted on a regular basis for updates in the intervening months). I remember her describing the offer - salary, stock, signing bonus, health, pension - and asking me if it was "ok". Negotiate? HELL NO. I was blown away by the offer, and practically gibbered down the phone, "YES YES YES!" The only negotiation I did in the end was on the starting date: for whatever reason, I asked to push back my start date to September 19th, 2005, my own personal DAY ONE.


September 11
More fun with our TV provider:

me: "search for Endeavour"
tv: "ok! I found Endeavour"
me: "show me"
tv: "S1E1 is on next Saturday, and S7E1 is available on replay-tv."
me: "what about S7E2?"
tv: "nope!"
me: "ok, lemme check the TV guide."
guide: "S7E2 is on this Sunday"
me: "..."
tv: "no idea what it's talking about"

Note, the search function and the TV Guide are part of the same piece of software. I've set it to season recording, but who knows what that'll do.

I also discovered that the "remote recording" feature, whereby you can use the provider's website to set recordings on your settop box, doesn't notice if you subsequently delete the recording from the settop box, and doesn't list anything you're recording that wasn't booked through the settop box. Cunning.

September 09
Star Trek: TNG: Season 4 complete.

September 08
Since several office tools support Markdown, I'm finally sufficiently familiar with the basics that I've started using it for scratch-building HTML pages. I'm using Python-Markdown which has some nice extensions (like arbitrary attributes, and tables), but I've not actually looked at the HTML it outputs yet to see how clean it is.

September 01
So we chugged through most of ST:TNG Season 6 without losing an episode, and rolled over to season 7, and just because I stopped paying attention our beloved service provider decided to do whatever they do that makes Season Recording stop recognising that you've enabled it for, you know, a season, so we lost a few of Season 7. On the plus side, the "sweeper" channel is just picking up the hole in season 4 from when we had to replace the digibox.

We pay for this wonderful service, you know.



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