Monday, December 18, 2006

Happy New Year!

I'll be off for the next couple of weeks, so the blogging will likely be a little quiet until January.

For those of you who are regular readers (you two know who you are) you can keep up with the curling world on CurlingZone.

Looking ahead to the new year, I'll be playing in the Holiday Inn Challenge again this year. Two years ago we won the A side of our zone and went to the provincials in Trenton. The wheels got a little wobbly there, but we made to the D final, before getting smoked. We've got a different team this year, so we'll see how we do. Also coming in the new year, the Elmira Curling Club will be hosting the OCA Provincial Colts and Trophy championships. More on that as we get a little closer.

Keep your stick on the ice, and I'll see you on the flip side.

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Olympic curling trials

Yes, it might be a little too early to be thinking about the next Olympics, and the curling trials that will select the teams to represent Canada, but the Edmonton Sun is stirring the pot.

My vote? Put it in Vancouver.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Hello Mr. Johnson!

Here at SuperMegaCorp, we build a PACS system.

A few years ago, John and I were tasked with giving a presentation to our field service engineers. We were to show them all the shiny features in the newest release of our medical imaging software.

We gathered in a large meeting room, with a projector and a huge 10 foot wide screen. The demo was going well - I showed all sorts of fancy stuff, and then turned the presentation over to John. He brought up some images, and started scrolling though them, without really paying attention to what was on the screen.

After a few minutes, he began absently adjusting the brightness and contrast of the image, so that the flesh was showing. While he was doing this, he was talking to the group, and not looking at the big screen. He left the image on the screen for about ten minutes, while enthusiastically telling the group all about the great new software. He then told them to take a coffee break, and that we'd pick up in a few minutes.

The group left the room, and I said, "John, maybe you should choose something other than a pelvic x-ray for the next example."

John turned to the screen, jumped out of his seat, and shouted, "Jesus!"

There on the screen was a close up of Mr. Johnson.

When the group came back in, we were looking at a CT of the head.

There's an interesting postscript to this story. A couple of years later, we paid a well-known interaction design company to come in and tell us how we should redesign our software. They grabbed a number of medical images from our database to use in their PowerPoint slides, but they had no idea what they were looking at. When the big day came for their presentation, we were treated to an MRI close up view of Mrs. Johnson. It was perfect.

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The secret to winning

The secret to winning is... losing.

Waterloo Region played host to a gathering of smart people recently, in an event called "Entrepreneur Week". There were many sessions dedicated to becoming a successful entrepreneur, building a business and overcoming obstacles on the way to fame and fortune.

One of the events was a panel discussion entitled "Don't Cry in Your Beer - How Failure Breeds Success" and it featured Jim Estill (CEO, SYNNEX Canada), Ron Neumann (former President of SlipStream Data), Marc Morin (CTO, Sandvine), Yvan Couture (CEO, InDimensions Systems), and Jim Brickman (Founder, Brick Brewery).

This group of successful Waterloo Region area entrepreneurs provided insight on how they became successful, how many long hours it took, the eureka moment, what obstacles they encountered -- and how they picked it all up and did it over and over again along the path to ultimate success.

The common thread for every one of them was failure. At some point they failed, sometimes spectacularly. The secret to their success was that they picked themselves up off the ground, dusted themselves off, and learned something. 'Fail cheap and fail often' Jim Estill says.

This idea of failure leading to success is pretty common. Scott Adams, of Dilbert fame, claims to fail 9 out of 10 times.

Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, delivered the Commencement address at Stanford University on June 12, 2005. He told three stories about his life, all in a similar theme - take a chance, because you never know where it might lead you, or when you might not get another opportunity.

We can even (especially?) see this in the sporting world. You knew this had to come around to curling at some point, right? Glenn Howard had a good run at the Brier last year, finishing the round robin on top before losing the final. But do you remember the two Ontario finals he lost before he finally won it? Or how about his vice, Richart Hart, who has played in six Ontario finals, and has one win, leading some to call him the best Ontario curler to have never made it to the show?

Kelly Scott lost a heartbreaker at the Olympic trials, but learned from that loss what it takes to win, bounced back and won the Hearts. The team that beat her in the trials final was skipped by Shannon Kleibrink, no stranger to defeat herself - she lost the trials final eight years ago. It took her a little longer to get there, but she made it back, and won.

Maybe the best curling failure to winner is Brad Gushue. He lost a Canadian Junior championship when his draw to win it came up twenty feet short. Waiting outside the club to cheer him up afterwards was Russ Howard. Russ told him to shake it off, and that he'd learn from it and get better because of it. The next year, Brad won the Canadian and World Juniors, and just look who he took along for the Olympic ride...

So the next time you're faced with making a decision, in business, sports, life - take a chance and don't be afraid to fail. You just might learn something.

Heck, even Columbus was a failure, many times over.

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Ho Ho Huh?

We took the girls to the mall yesterday to see Santa. This morning, while having breakfast, the three-year-old asked, "When does Santa go back to the North Pole?"

I said, "On Christmas Eve. He has lots of elves working there right now to get everything ready. They're packing the sleigh and making all the toys."

She gets wide-eyed and says, "Are they making my clown suit right now?"

I was hoping she'd forget that...

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Friday, December 08, 2006

The Risks Digest

Here's an interesting compilation of IT disaster stories.

The latest issue has a story that hits a little close to home for SuperMegaCorp...

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Now promoting: pilots

First of all, apologies for going dark for a couple of days. I've been debugging a crisis at a hospital in the Niagara region for a while, and I had to take a trip down to see the darn thing refuse to work properly myself. Let me explain... no, there is too much. Let me sum up: Threading is hard.

Anyway, I read today that Seth Godin thinks he'd make a lousy pilot. His reasoning?
I think the value add of a person who carefully follows instructions and procedures keeps going down. I think the fact that pilots would do well in a job interview at your organization means your organization probably should change the way interviews get done.

We don't need pilots. We need instigators and navigators, rabble rousers and innovators. People who can't follow a checklist to save their life, but invent the future every day.

Here at SuperMegaCorp, we value pilots so much that we promote the crap out of them. Rocking the boat is frowned upon. In fact, you can be a huge failure at your job and all that buys you is a window seat. Something is not right.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Masters of Curling

I had the chance to take in the quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final of the first Grand Slam of the year, here in Waterloo. The Waterloo Rec complex was a great place to hold this event, which is rumoured to be coming back next year. Not a bad seat in the house, and reasonably well attended. Also rumoured to be coming to the Waterloo Rec complex, and close to being confirmed, is the Ontario Men's championship for next year.

In the quarter-finals, I was watching the Ferbey vs. Middaugh game closely, and glancing at the Martin vs. Koe game occasionally. Middaugh kept it close most of the game, but gave up a killer steal of two in the 6th end that he couldn't come back from.

In the Martin vs. Koe game, Koe had a chance to hit for one in the 8th end, to force an extra end, but he decided to try a skinny double for the win. He didn't make it.

I didn't see much of the Howard vs. Simmons game, but it looked like Howard had no trouble. Also having no trouble was the surprising John Base, who walked all over Don Walchuk's team. Walchuk had former teammate Don Bartlett calling the game and throwing vice rocks.

In the semi-finals, it was two Ontario teams and two Alberta teams playing each other. John Base bailed out at the start of the third end, and the team was down to just three players. The rest of the team packed it in shortly afterwards, giving up a 6 ender to Glenn Howard.

In the other game, Ferbey and Martin were in a close game until the 6th end, when Martin had the option of playing a hit and giving Ferbey two, or trying a freeze. He played the freeze, which wasn't quite perfect. Ferbey blasted it out and Martin tried another freeze. It was a touch heavy and bounced into the open, leaving an easy hit for four.

The final game between Howard and Ferbey had its turning point in the first end. Howard made an amazing double through a hole that was just wide enough to squeak a rock through, and followed that up by running back a guard from near the hog line to stick it in the 8 foot. He went from being in huge trouble to scoring a deuce, on two fantastic shots. The rest of the game was back and forth, and Howard played the 8th end wide open, leaving him an open hit for the win, which he made.

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'Tis the season

The first decent snowfall of the winter is here. It was cold on the 6:00am dog walk this morning. Saturday was the Santa Claus parade in Elmira. Our Christmas tree is up. Time to ask the kids what they want for Christmas. My three-year-old says, "A clown suit."

I said, "What?"

She said, "A clown suit."

I asked her why she wanted a clown suit. She said, "because I don't have one."

I am speechless. I have no answer for that, but it looks like I'm going shopping for a clown suit. Of course, this shouldn't surprise me, because this is the little girl who wanted nothing more for her birthday than a green belt.