Friday, October 28, 2005

Technical Terminology at its Finest

Check out this quote from an online magazine:

"Some studies show that zombies account for more than half of all spam."

What an age we live in when that sentence actually makes sense.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


The word of the day from my customized Google homepage:

virago: an ill-tempered, overbearing woman; also, a woman of great strength and courage.

It struck me as interesting/sad that there was a word in the English language that simultaneously described a strong woman as "overbearing".

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Automation for a Living

I get to work on a lot of automation projects. We get a file from somewhere, do something with the file, and then drop another one.

The trouble with working on automation is the very fact that you are trying to eliminate humans from the equation means that when something breaks, the designer tends to be the one who gets contacted.

Documentation and logging are two ways to address this problem. A clear explanation of how the process works will help troubleshoot errors (in theory). However, anyone who has worked in this business knows that documentation is anathema: people don't like to write it, and even if it gets written nobody wants to read it.

For this reason I try to make the documentation that I write at least marginally amusing so that on the outside chance that somebody comes along and actually reads page 1, they'll read the rest.

Today we had several "problems" with a layer of our overnight automation. All of those problems were pretty reasonably explained in the processing log files. Basically the failures occurred OUTSIDE of the automation layer that falls under our umbrella of responsibility.. our processes fall in the middle of a dependency chain, and links in that chain broke.

What I'm getting at is that working on automation is a lot like being the New England Patriots. When you win (everything works).. well, that's what is expected to happen. But when you lose (something doesn't work), everybody starts calling sports talk radio and declaring the end of the world.

That means that the best thing to do is write manual harnesses around EVERYTHING and make somebody push a button so that you can shift blame on them when something goes wrong.


I feel dirty for just thinking that.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Tim McCarver...

... is a very terrible announcer. I find I have to actually mute the television at times to avoid throwing a shoe through it while watching playoff baseball.

I have become so fed up that I did a little Google search looking for like minded folks and came across the "Shut Up Tim McCarver" homepage. I encourage you to visit.

I did a Google search on "awful announcer", and had to laugh when I saw Tim McCarver's homepage on the top of the list.

That particular homepage has a link for sending email to Tim (which I'm sure is screened by the producers of the "Tim McCarver Show"). I decided to use it.

I promptly received the following automated response, which also includes my email:

Tim McCarver Answers Your Sports Question
Sunday 10/16/2005

Thanks For Your Question!

You sent the following:


Name: Dave



As a Phillies fan, it pains me to see you soiling your legacy with the terrible job you do on Fox. I'm not entirely sure that this is Fox's fault or yours, but for god's sake please stop the agony and do baseball fans everywhere the service of retiring from announcing. I find your show very entertaining, and you always have good guests, but your announcing is just terrible.

Thank you.

-Dave from DE


We'll answer your question soon.

Best regards,

Tim McCarver

I'll post any further reply here.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Why Getting Old is Awesome

A friend of mine (the LastBestAngryMan) just had a birthday, and he seemed pretty down about the whole idea of getting old.

Now, this is a concept I've never been able to really grasp. Getting older is WAY better than being a kid. In fact, I am looking forward with great excitement to the day when I'm 80 years old, sitting on a park bench, waving my cane at "those rotten teenagers" and whining about "kids today" to anyone who will pretend to listen.

Apparently, however, I am not in the majority opinion on this. I lot of people fear getting old. A lot of people fear dying.

Let's compare being young to being old, shall we?

YOUNG: A good portion of the time you're young, drinking beer is illegal. Sure you can still get it, but you often end up having to run from cops or, worse, hiding from your parents.
OLD: You can acquire beer easily and cheaply.

YOUNG: You can't play any games at a casino.
OLD: There are buses that will take you there leaving every day.

YOUNG: Girls are icky at first, then you realize you want to go out with them. This brings the realization that there are many, many things you need to do and say to attract them. This often requries doing things you don't really want to do in the first place, and many more things you don't want to do once they consent to a date.
OLD: You're too old to care what that girl thinks of you.

YOUNG: Everyone wants to correct every opinion you have because you're too young to know what you're talking about.
OLD: You can tell young people they don't know what they're talking about.

YOUNG: Flirting with a girl could result in a) getting shot down horribly, b) getting a drink thrown in your face, c) getting slapped, d) getting the snot kicked out of you by her boyfriend.
OLD: Flirting with a girl will almost always result in a smile since nobody takes such remarks seriously at your age.

This is just a sampling of the advantages. I haven't even covered things like the social acceptibility of going to the track all day to bet the ponies or complaining ceaselessly about "The way things used to be", with everyone who wasn't born then powerless to argue.

Plus, in all seriousness, it's just a lot more relaxing. (Note: This does not apply if you have kids.)

So anyway, to my friend, I say get old! Enjoy! Even if getting older does remind you of your own mortality, just remember: you were dead for millions of years before you were born, and it didn't bother you much then, did it?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Only So Much

Typically, I try to talk about anything BUT relevant current events on this blog.

That doesn't mean I'm not paying attention.. I very actively follow world news and try to read stories from as many different sources as possible to get the most information I can. I try hard not to come to any conclusions until I feel like I fully understand the full scope of a story, which is very, very difficult to do and sometimes results on confused indecision on my part on a lot of issues. I don't see this as a sign of weakness either... "The man who thinks he knows anything," said Socrates, "proves himself the fool."

But for the last couple of days, I've been a little depressed. Why?

1) 35,000 people are dead due to the earthquake in northern Pakistan, with some estimates saying that another 10-20,000 may die before it is all over. 2.5 million people are now homeless there. To top it off, heavy rain and hail storms are making it difficult for relief efforts there. Oh yeah, and for the final kick in the teeth... winter starts in a few weeks.

2) Up to 50 people so far have been killed in Iraq in a campaign of protest bombings against the newly drafted constitution.

3) Saturday night, a guy got the tar kicked out of him by New Orleans police offers... all caught on videotape. Also disheartening was the following from one of the officers who pushed an AP producer and pinned him against a car (also on tape along with copious amounts of profanity): "I've been here for six weeks trying to keep myself alive... Go home."

I understand indifference. Really, I do. It's so much easier to go through life not worrying about anyone but yourself and your own loved ones. It's so much easier to think you've got everything figured out, which leads to the type of tunnel vision necessary to not care about any of this stuff. It's so much easier to turn your eyes to the heavens and insist that this is all part of some abstraction's divine plan, and there's nothing you or I can do about it.

I understand it. I just can't do it... and I can't agree with it.

And in the end, what am I really doing to help? I can talk about it, think about it, blog about it... but none of that is going to help any of those people. I can donate money, and I do, but what I can offer is a drop in the bucket compared to what's needed.


I'll talk about something completely unrelated next time. I promise.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

I'll Hold Ed Wade to This...

The Phillies were kind enough to send me an automatically generated form email along with my refund for 2005 playoff tickets. Take a look at this excerpt from that email:

We look forward to 2006 with great optimism as Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jon Leiber and Brett Myers lead the way.

If Ryan Howard is going to "lead the way", that means Jim Thome is going to have to be GONE.

Let's see... overpaid, potentially washed up slugger past his prime... sounds like a candidate for the 2006 Orioles. I hear they're looking for a first baseman...

(NOTE: Ed Wade is now fired.)