Adventures in post-college life

The ABC’s of Autocomplete (Canadian Edition)

Google’s auto-complete has spawned lots of fun little experiments, fails, and general internet amusements. I figured I’d try my own little experiment: I opened up a Chrome Private Browsing window (so that none of my settings would be used), navigated to, and went through each letter of the alphabet to see what the first result would be.

Google Autocomplete
  • air canada
  • best buy
  • canada 411
  • dictionary
  • ebay
  • facebook
  • gmail
  • hotmail
  • ikea
  • jean coutu
  • kijiji
  • lespac
  • msn
  • nhl
  • occupation double
  • pirate bay
  • quotes
  • rds
  • stm
  • translator
  • utube
  • videotron
  • wikipedia
  • xe
  • youtube
  • zellers

Even though I was logged out Google does a certain amount of pruning based on IP-Address Geolocation, so your results may vary. These results are clearly more Québécois than what the average Canadian Google-user might uncover.


This November is a busy month! Not only am I participating in NaBloPoMo and blogging daily, but I’m also participating in Movember. Movember is an annual charity event in which men grow moustaches in order to raise money for prostate cancer research.

I’ve never intentionally grown facial hair before, let alone a moustache.1 I convinced my girlfriend that it’s for a good cause and she’s on board (and has already donated to the cause). Today was the first day I’ve shaved since November 1st, and you can see my moustache starting to take shape.

I encourage you to donate this month for this very worthwhile cause.

More about Movember

  1. Except for that one time at Wajdi’s bachelor party, but that wasn’t for a whole month. 

NaBloPoMo so far

One of the biggest challenges I expected with an undertaking such as NaBloPoMo is coming up with things to write about. I was worried about having nothing to say, or worse, that I would post something of little to no value. It turns out that I’m a much bigger blabbermouth than I knew, because I haven’t run out of things to write or talk about1.

When I started this blog, I wrote about the difficulties in choosing when to publish:

once my post is done, I’ll read it over. That’s where insecurity kicks in and I begin to second-guess myself. It’s like going over a final exam to double-check all my math, and then asking myself if I really solved the problem using the right method. Often, my first instinct is correct — but looking over the same problem again I start doubting myself

Keeping to the daily schedule imposed by NaBloPoMo is an excuse to ignore my insecurities entirely and just publish so that I maintain the one-post-per-day quota. This week alone there were multiple occasions where I had to submit a post without giving it a thorough re-read, and sometimes without even having a proper conclusion. One post in particular I actually submitted from my phone at 5 minutes to midnight from a pub. I had written most of it earlier in the day but I wanted to add some more points before publishing it. Instead, I let myself get talked into staying for a few more drinks and had to hastily finish up the post and publish it.

So far I’ve been very pleased with the results. The comments I’ve been getting on the blog and through Twitter and Facebook have been overwhelmingly positive and often thought-provoking, leading to interesting discussions. This makes me feel much more capable of providing some quality content on a daily basis. I’ve been learning a lot about my own writing process as I go and I’m curious to see where the next 24 days will lead and if I’ll be able to keep up.

Thanks for all the support, dear readers!

  1. Until today, but it’s the weekend and I haven’t done anything other than play videogames. 

A favourite interview question

Today I interviewed a candidate for an internship on my team. One thing I’ve learned from when I conducted screening interviews for potential Extreme Blue candidates at IBM was that no matter how well a candidate answers theory questions, you still don’t know if they code. As an interview, you must ask the candidate to write some code. Given that it’s an interview, and the candidate is sure to be nervous as hell, I picked a simple question:

Write a function (in Java) that takes as arguments a string and a char, and returns the last index of the specified character in the string.

It sounds simple enough, but believe me I’ve seen more than my fair share of failures and embarrassments on this question. It’s like FizzBuzz.

Some of the things I look for in an answer:

  1. Did the candidate ask what to do if the character isn’t found in the string at all? (In which case I tell him to return -1, but I don’t volunteer this information until he asks).
  2. Did he search the string from the end instead of from the beginning?
  3. Does he handle the case of a null or empty string?
  4. Is his code clear and easy to read?

I’m always surprised at how many times one, two or all of those criteria are missed.

The Boredom Wall

In yesterday’s post I wrote about why I don’t program in my free time. There’s an interesting question that comes up as a result: What do I do when the job stops challenging me?

In an older comment on this blog, Roo said:

Maybe initially it is your workplace (boss/manager) who’s got the responsibility of the care and feeding of your growing career/skills. However, if you take a close look around – it may take some careful observation – you will notice that the hierarchy doesn’t rise very far when it comes to technical skills. In the end, every geek ends up owning the problem of keeping themselves challenged.

I don’t have a satisfactory answer. I already know that I don’t deal well with this situation when it inevitably comes up. Still, here are some the ideas I’ve thought of.

The naïve answer is to find a new job or seek out more challenges at my current job; this is obviously not a sustainable solution.1 You’ll have to constantly move around; would even be able to stay in the same place long enough to contribute something meaningful? How long can you continue to ad responsibilities at your current job and still expect to fulfill them?

As Simon Law pointed out quite simply, “There is a big problem of skill plateau with this strategy. I prefer constant self-directed learning.”

What are your solutions?

  1. there’s a really good article on The Daily WTF that expands this idea further, called Up Or Out 

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