Sunday, March 30, 2003

How did the same word come to mean 'unpowered flight after powered boost', a kind of heavy duty nylon, and 'going totally crazy'?

I'm gonna go ballistic....

I am sitting in my kitchen, watching it snow.

This, in a place where it was almost seventy degrees, three days ago, and where the weather gnomes tell us that it will be, again, tomorrow. They speak glibly of Canadian weather fronts, and masses of cold air, but all I know is that the buds I had seen on a couple of the trees, yesterday, are now being covered with snow. They're probably thinking "Oh, this can't be good."

My mother is in a 'rehabilitation hospital', recovering from a heart bypass operation. When I first heard of a heart bypass, I thought it meant that the heart was actually being bypassed, and wondered what was doing the blood pumping. Now I know a little more about it, thanks to the Web. . Doctors like to complain about people looking things up on the Internet, and then coming in with this information, but based on my mother's experience, it's a good thing, and they're just going to have to live with it. No one in this process, since the operation, has been very forthcoming with information. I suspect its because to them, my mother is just another heart, just another elderly person. They don't mean her ill, but they're not particularly warm and compassionate, either. It will be good to get her home.

I'm amazed how inept our government has been in the battle for minds that has to correspond with the physical battle going on in Iraq. Whenever I heard official pronouncements, they sound as if they were crafted for John Wayne in a cowboy movie. I expect to heard Colin Powell say to Irag 'Aw, you made a bad move, pilgrim'. I'm particularly fascinated by the woman who's the Department of Defense briefer. She sounds smart and brisk, also impatient and weary of lesser minds. I'm also taken by her clothes. I think she's dressed by the Joker.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Like others, I'm neutral about this war. I don't know if it's right or wrong. I don't trust Hussein, and I think it's likely that he supports actions that are against our well-being. He probably would love to grab control of oil-fields, and he probably wouldn't mind seeing more planes ramming into buildings here, either. On the other side, I don't trust what I'm hearing from our president and his various flunkies. I think they'll say whatever they have to say to support what they want, and if that should change, why, they'll blithely change what they say.

Today I hear that perhaps this won't be a quick war after all. We've already learned that it isn't going to be an antiseptic one, and now sources say that it might take longer than they thought. American soldiers have surrendered, and may have been shot while doing so. This leaves a bad taste in my mouth, but not enough of one to make me say the war is wrong. Or right.

I just love being ambivalent.

Monday, March 24, 2003

The aftershocks from yesterday's system problem continue to rumble out. Small forest creatures are dashing for safety, while the larger ones rise up to paw the air and snarl defiance.

It turns out that the two problems were related to a command entered incorrectly, and to a failure to make a change that was needed to allow the 'real' change to work. I knew about the need for the supporting change, but I did not check to see if it had been made. It wasn't my responsibility, so, although I thought about it, I didn't check to see if it had been done. I feel badly about that. I have an index card on the wall over my desk. On the index card, it says 'Own the problem'. I didn't live up to that credo. It wasn't my responsibility to handle that problem, but I should have made it mine. I didn't own the problem.

One problem that I've had for years is that I always think that I can solve any complex problem. When I find out that it resists direct resolution, I get morose and down on myself. Today, I challenged myself to come up with a method that would be easy, flexible, transparent, and effective in catching things like that -- reminding us to make the same changes in production as in test. When I couldn't come up with one, I got pretty disgusted. I resent the idea that I can't solve things like this by myself.

Not such a good day.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

I despise incompetence.

This morning, I went in to work in order to assist a person with a problem. I identified the problem (which was luck, not skill), only to find out that the people running the system didn't know that the change had been made. We run change reports every week to tell them what's going to change over the weekend, so either we didn't create a change record, the record was created but it wasn't lucid to the technicians running the system, or they never looked at the report.

When we went to back out the change, we found that the person -- my ire wells up in me even now, two hours later -- who had made the change put the enabling command in a place where no one would have guessed. We had to call him to find out where it was. (I was glad that we woke him up.)

Then, restarting the system, we found that a critical subsystem would not start -- and the reason was that the same person had copied a module overe from the test system. Now, this was not a bad thing -- but once again, the people running the system didn't know about the change. See the above comments.

I despise incompetence.

Friday, March 21, 2003

Well, this is an interesting morning. Mostly good.

My mother's bypass surgery went well yesterday. The procedure is known as a Coronary Artery Bypass Graft, or CABG; I've always thought that was an inelegant name, but that has no bearing on the process itself. I was surprised to learn that the person doing the surgery could not (or would not) say how many bypasses would be done, but would rather make that decision once the surgery had started. Not that it matters, of course; one or fifty, the goal is the same. I got to see my mother immediately the surgery was over; she was mostly out, but did respond when my partner came to see her, about three hours later. I am very pleased.

Its a foggy day here. Coming across the bridge, I couldn't see into the water, or the small mountain that rises majestically (well, what passes for majestically around here) off to the north. I'm always a little bit fascinated to see the 'tunnel' that the moving traffic makes in the shroud of fog over the bridge. I'm sure there are people who can speak competently and at length about that tunnel; I think it's just a nifty visual effect. I had my Bering Strait CD blasting as I drove; I don't normally play music that loud, but I really like this CD, and it puts me in a good mood -- bouncing around in my seat, just like the goofs you see on TV who are listening to Eminem or whomever.

About the only downer today, in fact, is that I haven't gotten any email lately from a friend out in California. We're not close friends, but we keep in touch. Unfortunately, it's frequently a one-way correspondence. She's told me repeatedly that she is much better at responding than initiating. That's certainly true. Even responses are not as frequent as I'd like, though. Sometimes, a week or more will go by. As a result, I sometimes wonder if I’m just a B-list friend -- or even if my messages are sometimes being eaten by an Outlook agent upon receipt, disappearing into the void. Pop! Then a response comes, and I tell myself that I’m simply expecting too much from someone who spends her life on the run. Could be. Usually, the pleasure of her company is worth it. Sometimes, though....

But overall, its a good day. Glad to be here.

Saturday, March 15, 2003

Anyone want a brand new, only used and deinstalled once, copy of Quicken 2003? Cheap....

After years of using Quicken 6 happily, putting up with its occasional flaws, I upgraded to Q03. Two hours later, furious, I deinstalled it. The product is not much better than it was seven years ago -- but it's a lot glossier, a lot more complicated, and, the killing point, a lot more willing to intrude on the experience with ads for their other products. Go to enter credit card information on the special form? There's a non-deletable button to order the Quicken credit card. Try to view your check register? There's a non-deletable right column with ads for products you can buy from them. Try to maximize the screen? Theres a reserved line at the bottom that is used to run trailers about other products you can buy. And let's not forget the non-deletable buttons on the menu bar for other Intuit services that you can buy.

They fixed one thing that I had thought would be a nice-to-have, didn't put in one thing that I really wanted, and junked up the product, overall. I recall that Microsoft tried to buy the company years ago. Now I see why. They share the same you work our way, not the reverse, philosophy. Pity. I hear they were quite good, once.

But I did learn one thing out of this. When buying software, go to eBay to see how many copies are being offered there. If a lot, perhaps the product's not worthy of your money.

Maybe they could change the name to Sludge.

Saturday, March 08, 2003

You hear a lot about how the Internet will make/already has made a change in the shopping experience. Usually, the comments are either so qualified, hedged, and otherwise dense that they could stop neutrinos, or so airy, hopeful, and content-free that they make soap bubbles look rigid. But I just heard one a bit ago that brought this idea a little into focus for me.

My partner and I were talking about our copy of Quicken, which we've had lo, these many years -- at least six or seven, I think -- and how sometimes it has some quirks that might suggest that it's time to upgrade. Now, being a computer guy, I know that software packages don't just wear out.... but being a computer user, I know that of course they do. So we agreed that we would look to see what the least expensive version was of Quicken that would do what we wanted. It would be nice if it did a little more -- like let us download directly from our banks, rather than have to key stuff in manually-- and it would be nice if it talked to Excel, too, or at least had better charting ability than our old version had. But our primary bank (which is owned by a computer company) hasn't quite figured out how to supply friendly and/or effective service via its web site; suggesting direct download to them is equivalent to asking for the keys to the vault. And our local bank is very heavily into pumping every possible nickel out of every transaction, so the idea that they'll just let us pipe in and grab our records in any useful format without charging for the privilege -- well, neither of us thought that would happen. So, we'll go with Quicken Basic (which will still have more bells and whistles than we want, and more pop-up ads, too).

But the thing that crystallized the Internet shopping experience for me was when my partner looked at me and said 'We can get this over the net, right? We don't have to go a store and actually buy the box?'

Maybe this Internet thing is worth it, after all.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

The sky is a cool blue over the austere white of the snow still blanketing much of the fields near the house. Occasionally, the cows can be seen in one of the middle fields, but they spend more time in the barn, where it's warm.

The world continues to be a strange place.

One news article notes that the US Secretary of State is accusing Saddam Hussein of trying to divide the Security Council. Another article points out that Iraq seems to bend just a little just before a meeting of the Security Council. Surely this isn't a surprise, so why is it news?

The Supreme Court says that sending a petty thief to prison for life does not constitute unreasonable punishment. Granted, it was a 5 to 4 vote, but that's poor comfort. This is a clear case -- well, to me, if not to five members of that court -- where the rule of reason should be mixed into the rule of law.

Why would anyone believe that a tax cut would stimulate spending? It probably would allow spending by people who otherwise could not have, and by people who see no reason to be cautious, but when most people are subject to surprise firings by their company, doesn't that make it pretty silly to spend if you don't have to, and ifyou're not sure that your income is going to continue to come in? Surely it can't be that the people making this policy hope that everyone will throw caution to the winds, and just spend?

Nobody can control suicide bombers. But giving peace a chance doesn't seem to work, either. Is there a third option?

I think I'll go see if the cows will let me stay in the barn for a while.