Monday, October 29, 2007

Now hiring!

Looks like we're hiring someone for... something.

The lucky candidate's first day on the job will be spent rewriting this job posting, as it's currently unintelligible.

Solutions Technical Communications Specialist

Responsibilities:

1. Conduct interviews and interact with project stakeholders and Subject Matter Experts to gather information for solution documentation and communications.

2. Create and/or edit solution materials for global audiences, including solution guides, technical reference guides, HTML knowledgebase topics, online articles, FAQs, business reference materials and internal communications.

3. Participate in online communities and generate topic-based information for internal and external audiences.

4. Engage global writing teams to facilitate user-centric information management strategies and content.

Ride the rocket, see the sights

We were in Toronto yesterday, celebrating the four-year-old's birthday (man, they grow up fast). We rode the subway downtown from Yorkdale, and on the return trip the kids got a glimpse of city life at its finest.

A visibly impaired gentleman staggered onto the train, and wandered down the car. He looked up at the ads above the seats, saw one he liked and tore it down. He rolled it up and shoved it down his pants, then kept on staggering down the car. I guess he liked that ad so much because it was for Rexall. The text of the ad said something like "You're a drug abuser" or "You have a drug problem". The ad was trying to imply that if you forget to take your pills every day, you have a drug problem.

Now, I grew up in Montreal, where I rode the subway all the time, even as a kid. By myself, or with my brother, going to diving lessons. Maybe the world was a different place thirty years ago, but I don't ever remember a guy ripping ads off the wall and stuffing them down his pants.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Curling with the Sharks

It's interesting to see how teams in different sports approach team building. Curling teams drink together, or have a barbeque in the summer (where there is often drinking involved).

Hockey teams, like the San Jose Sharks, go curling.

Hey, it worked last year.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

What to do... what to do...

We're in the final throes of grunting out a service pack these days. The software is in the middle of a two week field trial (beta, if you will) at a hospital in Belgium, and so far it's going well. The new functionality is being reasonably well-received, and we're not seeing as many probletunities as expected.

So now it's the "lull time" of development. Being between projects is an interesting situation. We're normally going all-out, pedal to the metal, and now we're polling the bug buckets looking for work. It's a strange feeling. I can't help but thinking that I should be busier, but the few days of downtime is a nice change from the crazy pace we've been keeping up for the last couple of months.

This is a good time to learn something new. We're switching from cvs to subversion in the next little while, so there's some reading I can do. I'd also like to poke around with WPF and some other cool new (and not so new) .NET technology that's been passing us by while we limp along in .NET 1.1.

SuperMegaCorp is switching over to Java, and there's not enough alcohol in the world to make me want to be a part of that. I've heard enough horror stories from the guys working on that team. It's no surprise we're going the Java route, really. We're a Belgian company, and Microsoft has been fighting a losing battle against the Europeans for years. For some reason, anything Microsoft is considered evil, no matter what the impact to the business.

I'm only the interim backfill solution

Picture this conversation...

"Hey, I heard someone retired and you got promoted. Congratulations!"

"Nah, I'm only the interim backfill solution."

"Ruggero Lietti, Managing Director of Agfa Italy has officially left the company, for retirement purposes... An interim backfill solution will be announced shortly."

Friday, October 19, 2007

Coaching course

Last weekend I attended a CurlOntario coaching course. The "Club Coach - Youth Program" is a new course designed for Little Rock, Bantam and Junior Coordinators, Coaches and Volunteers. I'll be helping out with the Little Rockers at the club this year, so I thought I should get edjumacated.

The course was a full day of classroom instruction and discussion. We also spent a couple of hours out on the ice, deconstructing everyone's delivery. Let me tell you, that is humbling. I mean, you're not likely to see me on TV anytime soon, but I thought I was an adequate curler. After that day I was corrected.

I ran into a guy at the club this week who was doing his Level 2 courses on the same weekend. He asked me how my course went and said, "OK." He asked, "did it fuck up your game? Mine sure did." At least I'm not alone.

We'll see how much knowledge I retained on Sunday, when the Little Rockers get started.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Rubik's Cube Software Development


If you're a software developer, you know (or at least have heard of) design patterns. You may be lucky enough to have suffered through working on a project that has exhibited some anti-patterns.

Here's a new anti-pattern - the Rubik's Cube. This is when your software is so complicated that making a change in one part breaks two others. Fixing those two breaks something completely different. Repeat ad nauseum (emphasis on the nausea) until the breakage finally settles down.

It's easy to get into this situation. Take equal parts software development from Belgium, Canada and the United States. Mix in a blender. Pour into a tall glass. Now try to change something, in a hurry. Too slow? Throw more people on it. See how easy that was?


Winter has arrived



No, it's not snowing. In fact, it'll be 21 degrees today. The sign for me that winter is here (or will be shortly) is the snow fence that's going up between Elmira and St. Jacobs.

The snow fence runs on the west side of the highway, where the winter winds whip snow across the road and the pavement becomes covered in ice. I've often thought, as I slip and slide along that stretch of road, that I'd be better off with my curling shoes on. Maybe Teflon on the left side of the car, and grippers on the right...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I'll see your tight race and raise you an ass kicking

Ontario Votes 2007, and it didn't turn out the way it looked like it might at the start of the campaign. From talk of a race too close to call, or a minority government one way or the other, this turned from a "tight race" into quite an ass kicking.

My riding flipped from PC to Liberal (finally!) and that was supposed to be a fairly safe seat for the Tories.

The sad news from the election was that the voter turnout was only around 52%. Maybe it's time we looked at making it mandatory to cast a ballot.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Gimme an 'F', gimme a 'U'

We took the kids to the Oktoberfest family day yesterday. The bands from the parade were playing and the kids spent all afternoon on the dance floor, having a great time.

At one point, the three-year-old had to go to the bathroom. She sat down on the toilet and started reading the graffiti. She's in Junior Kindergarten now, and they've been learning letters. She said, "I see an 'F'! And a 'C'! What are those other letters?"

Thank you, education system. Hopefully she doesn't write that word in her "Jolly Phonics" book tomorrow, or we'll have some 'splainin' to do.

News that can't be true

What's this? Tequila could help treat intestinal ailments?

Mexican researchers believe the blue agave plant that produces tequila also contains compounds that could deliver drugs to the colon, making it possible to treat everything from colon cancer to colitis.

I thought Tequila CAUSED intestinal ailments...

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Buy Buy Happiness

Writing high-performance, high-availability software is tough these days. Is your application running a little slow? Is your database tired? Is your application server overworked? Have endless loops and threading deadlocks got you down?

Announcing a new product from the makers of the ShockBerries and the SquawkBox - the "Buy Buy Happiness" plug-in. Simply add a few lines of code to your application, and reference our plug-in. When your application starts to crawl like a dog who's been drinking antifreeze, the "Buy Buy Happiness" plug-in leaps to the rescue.

Instantly*, your users will see targeted advertising that will take their minds off the abysmal performance of your application. Full of dancing bunnies and scantily clad women, our ads will distract even the most frustrated users.

With any luck, your "slow as a southerner at a spelling bee" application will return some real dollars.

*In some cases, "Instantly" may mean anywhere from 5 seconds to 60 seconds. Your mileage may vary.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Climate change, schlimate change

Those of you who doubt Global Warming, or Climate Change if you like, is a problem, take this under advisement. Yesterday was the Elmira Curling Club's annual Open House, and we rode our bikes to the club. In shorts. Sweating.

The kids watched a few people throwing rocks, and my six- (soon to be seven-) year-old saw some of the girls we were camping with this summer out on the ice. We didn't bring any equipment out, and she was wearing flip flops, so she left the club disappointed. The ride home was ten minutes of heavy sighing and moping.

Once we got home she took it up a notch, and in the end the two of us headed back up to the club, this time with curling shoes (and long pants - what was that strange fabric rubbing against my legs?) The two of us were the only ones on the ice for about a half-hour, and she couldn't stop grinning.

I think she's going to like this.