Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

  The Ball and Chain

Remind me not to buy a house in the middle of a downturn next time, ok? Given how much money I was making last year I figured that my house near Santa Cruz was a safe investment. It took me 4 offers on 4 places - on most of which I was outbid by 10% or more - before I got this one. So... I figured I could always sell the place quickly at a nice little profit if I changed jobs.

Ha. The place has been on the market for what I bought it for for 60 days, as of today. No takers.

I've been out of work for 90 days. Geez, I remember when my phone rang off the hook, all through 97-99, just because recruiters could find my resume via a search engine. I turned down job after job at dumbideas.com before I settled in for Mediaplex's run at going public. They made it in late 99 but the stock went bust in march, leaving a lot of employees in the dust.

I'd been smart, I thought, I stayed on as a contractor and never took any stock - but the hype around the embedded linux market and all the successful offerings (redhat, VA Linux, slashdot) whetted my taste for stock options - so I joined a likely candidate for that pie in the sky.

I stayed on for three years. In the early days it was the classic startup, I got to keep on doing the open source things I had been doing prior, and work on everything - cross-development, it, research, hacking in general - a lot of fun. Later on I headed up the Graphics (& sound) project, hacking on mozilla, dillo, gtk, x11 on all kinds of neat hardware. By the time the 20th board rolled around, though, it was getting old, and I was getting sick and tired, and it was obvious that we wasn't going public any time soon.

When I left I figured, oh, by august something would turn up, and I'd spend the time on the beach working on problems that I had put off working on for 6 hectic years of the boom and bust... and maybe have a little fun, too. I had forgotten why I lived in california and I needed to remember.

I hadn't realized one thing - that I'd become a little overspecialized. There's not a big market for a Linux X11/gtk guy with tons of cross development expertise. As a matter of fact, as best I can tell, there's no market - nationwide I've only seen 8 job postings that use the best of that skill set, and half were in San Diego. 3 years of work, useless. I'd always managed to dodge the personal obsolescence bullet before (although I was a mite worried about NT before Linux took off)

Ah, no problem, I thought. I really like San Diego and San Francisco, I figure when my house sells... I'll... wait... house?

This is one of those "Oh, shiza" moments. The Ball and Chain around my ankle has slipped up to my throat. I could rent the house out, but then where would I live? Jefe's RV is dead, as much as I'd like to pack it up and go south, it isn't going to happen.

Nothing left to do but ride it out, and refresh older parts of my skill set. It hurts to code in C these days anyway - too tedious, I can't sit still for it. SQL seems to work, DHTML (thanks to the blog) makes sense to me now, lessee, what else is marketable? Plenty. Perl, php, sysadm... There's lots more to catch up on - it's going to be a long fall.

Some rules for taht-watchers though...

0) When I contract for a pre-ipo firm, take the job and the options.
1) When I get in the stock market, get out.
2) When I get into a house, sell yours.

When I get out of this hole I'm going to start using the I Ching to make decisions.
 
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David Täht writes about politics, space, copyright, the internet, audio software, operating systems and surfing.


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