Friday, November 30, 2007

Job stress and computer competence

Here's a story on (reg. required) that says that job stress for radiologists is linked with their computer competence.

Come to think of it, MY job stress is also linked to the computer competence of radiologists...

Radiologists' job stress linked with computer competence, survey finds

Is the need to be increasingly computer literate polarizing radiologists into communities of technophiles and technophobes? The conversion to digital imaging and widespread adoption of PACS, with reliance on use of diagnostic workstations and increasingly sophisticated software to perform image interpretation, presumes a comfort level with computers that today's current mix of radiologists may not necessarily have.

Researchers at the Maryland VA Health System in Baltimore conducted an online survey of 320 radiologists to identify relationships between computer literacy, occupational stress, and personality. The questions were designed to define the level of existing computer skills in the radiologist community, determine the impact of personality on technology adoption, and define the relationship among technology, personality, and occupational stress.

The survey results indicate that open-mindedness and willingness to adjust to new experiences are important personality factors in today's work environment.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Poverty and training

Ontario is going to announce a war on poverty in today's Throne Speech. This is a great idea, and I especially like the approach the government is taking, by including ministers from the Health and Education portfolios on an anti-poverty committee.
"McGuinty has appointed Health Minister George Smitherman; Finance Minister Dwight Duncan; Education Minister Kathleen Wynne; Municipal Affairs Minister Jim Watson; Training, Colleges and Universities Minister John Milloy; Attorney General Chris Bentley and Citizenship and Immigration Minister Michael Chan to a new anti-poverty cabinet committee led by Children and Youth Services Minister Deb Matthews."
I believe the key to fighting poverty is education. Specifically, post-secondary education. There's little chance a high-school dropout can crawl above the poverty line. Soon, it will be difficult for even a high-school graduate to make a decent living without further training at College or University.

Let me tell you, I know from experience. After high-school I spent three years in University. I left to take a job in theatre, and worked in theatre and radio for the next three years. The most money I ever made was $250/week, working 70-90 hours a week. Fun, yes, but you can't buy a house on that. Starving didn't appeal to me, and I went back to school, at Conestoga College.

Smartest move I ever made.

Q: How many surrealists does it take to change a light bulb?

Q: How many surrealists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: A fish.

Ok, old joke, but I was thinking of that yesterday when I got sucked into the twilight zone.

I was yanked into a crisis meeting, and when I walked into the room, the conference call had already begun. There were somewhere between six and ten people shouting on the phone, all at the same time. I only knew who one of them was. The three people physically in the meeting room were all typing frantically on their laptops. Nobody in the room was speaking. Nobody was looking at one another.

This is hardly the first time I've been in a meeting like this. Does this just happen at SuperMegaCorp, or is this common in other bloated organizations?

Anyway, I sat down and started listening. After about 30 minutes, someone says, "We'll ask development for the solution," and everyone turned to me. I said, "beats me, this is the first time I've heard of that problem. I'll go check The Google." Jaws dropped. Asses were hastily covered. I left to check The Google.

Moral of the story? Don't expect someone to pull a rabbit out of their ass on command.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Continuing our birthday theme this week...

I watched the Grey Cup on Sunday. Fairly boring game, as Grey Cups go. They're usually much more exciting to watch than the Super Bowl, but this year it seemed stale. Maybe the Skydome, er, Rogers Centre, isn't the best venue. I heard on the radio yesterday morning that if you were in the building it was electric, but that sure didn't come across on TV. Except for Lenny Kravitz. That looked like the most fun of the whole production. I watched Lenny with the sound off, which made it perfect for me.

During the game I was thinking about a Grey Cup (and the federal election the next day) I missed seeing seven years ago.

Happy birthday V!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Happy Birthday Communitech!

I missed Communitech's 10th birthday last week, what with trying to keep the US Army from sending me to Cuba (although I hear Gitmo has a lovely beach). Long story - let's just say that the business tactic of "make the sale, install the software, then run" is not a good strategy for the long-term happiness of your customers.

Anyway, happy birthday Communitech, and here's to many more.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy WHAT?

What's up with all this "Happy Thanksgiving" stuff I'm seeing all over the Internet today?

Thanksgiving was last month...

Monday, November 19, 2007

This stuff just writes itself

Some people think software development is hard. Nah, it's easy. How else do you explain these gems I've run across today?

This doesn't look very internationally friendly.

public static readonly string TimestampFormat = "yyyy-MM-dd hh:mm:ss tt";

And guess what? It's not.

ERROR 2007-11-09 14:31:17,328 [MainThread] InitializeFromXML(): Unable to parse timestamp!
Exception: System.FormatException
Message: String was not recognized as a valid DateTime.

Let's use our fancy new Subversion system to figure out who did this. Seriously!

Ever feel like a victim? So does process id 90.

Server was unable to process request. ---> System.Data.SqlClient.SqlException:
Transaction (Process ID 90) was deadlocked on lock resources with another process
and has been chosen as the deadlock victim. Rerun the transaction.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Dance the night away

The parking lot emptied early today. All the RIM folks are off to Toronto to see the Hip and Van Halen.

For what it's worth, we celebrated today too - we've released a service pack for our flagship product. No concert for us, though. We DID have popcorn and cotton candy though. I tell ya, that'll help our retention rate.

Now, if they were to bring in Pink Floyd, I'd seriously consider getting a RIM job.

Put it on my tab

I'm trying to change tab pages in a tab control when the user presses the Tab key, or Shift-Tab (to move backwards). How hard could that be, right? For a bear of little brain, apparently it's harder than it looks.

The solution I finally arrived at goes like this:

private const int WM_KEYDOWN = 0x100;
private const int WM_SYSKEYDOWN = 0x104;

protected override bool ProcessCmdKey(ref Message msg, Keys keyData)
if (msg.Msg == WM_KEYDOWN || msg.Msg == WM_SYSKEYDOWN)
switch (keyData)
case Keys.Shift | Keys.Tab:
// shift-tab was pressed
return true;

case Keys.Tab:
// tab was pressed
return true;

return base.ProcessCmdKey(ref msg, keyData);

This'll make you sick

This'll make you sick, but hopefully you're insured.

I work for a healthcare company, or at least, a company that produces software for healthcare providers. I subscribe to a handful of industry newsletters. I read in one of these yesterday that 47 million Americans lack health insurance. Crazy, no? Some of the biggest increases in the numbers of uninsured have been among children.

I watched Michael Moore's movie SiCKO on the weekend. It is eye-opening, to say the least. The movie highlights several Americans who have become sick, and who are dealing with their illnesses without medical care, or who have resorted to fund raising events to pay the outrageous costs involved. Some never had any insurance, but some who thought they were insured were actually denied coverage. One woman was denied because she was "too young" to have cancer.


I'm not going to claim that any country's healthcare system is perfect, but there sure are lots that seem better than the system in the United States.

Michael Moore says in the movie (paraphrasing a bit, as I'm doing this from memory), "How did we get to this? Is this what we wanted to become?" The best line in the movie comes when a Canadian is asked if he feels at all guilty about his fellow citizens paying for his surgery. He says no, not at all, since he'd want them taken care of the same way if they were in his situation. Moore says, "When did it become 'me' instead of 'we'?"

I wonder if there's really any will in the US to change this "every man for himself" approach to healthcare to something more equitable.

If you haven't seen this movie yet, you should.

Money, it's a hit

I stopped at the bank this morning, to pick up some cash for the babysitter and drinks at the curling club tonight. The bank has new hours, so they open at 8:00am. I got there about 10 minutes before opening, and I had to fight my way through a crowd to get to the bank machine.

What the hell? Is the place on fire?

Oh, right, I remember hearing something about giveaways this week, as the bank is publicizing their new hours. The first bunch of customers every day are getting a gift card for Chapters, or Tim Horton's, or something like that. This freebie-fest brought out a pack of homeless and losers this morning.

My sister-in-law works for this bank, and she told me there was a guy in line at 7:00am, with a stool, because he wanted to be first today. Yesterday he slept in or something, and missed his free donut. I said she should tell him they're giving away stools today.

To get through the crowd this morning, I threw a handful of quarters into the corner to clear a path to the bank machine. Worked like a charm.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Allow me to translate

Lots of complaining going on about Firefox memory usage. Firefox starts at 8:00am and closes at 4:30pm for me, but I've never really noticed much leakage myself. I have 2GB of RAM and usually keep 5-10 tabs open at a time.

The Mozilla folks are looking at it though, and so far their investigation has revealed that Firefox "does thrash the allocator pretty hard."

I guess that's a fancy way of saying it "sucks the bag," as one of my coworkers is fond of saying.

Oh, you mean "in the paint?"

The late draw of our men's league has a "no ties" policy. This isn't a dress code, but rather an easy way to tally the season standings. Since there's nobody on the ice following that draw, they can play an extra end to decide things. There are too many teams in the league for our four sheets of ice, so the two bye teams play on a free sheet on another night. That free sheet is only available at 6:30, so there's no chance of playing an extra end if the game is tied after eight ends. So the teams throw one rock to the button to see who the winner is.

Last week, the game was tied. The first team up for the draw to the button came up a few inches in front of the house. Team number two's skip threw "heavy back-line" weight, or "light hack" if you prefer. The teams didn't have time to do it again, so they changed the rule for that night from "closest to the button" to "closest to the house".

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Higher than the dollar?

First is was Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. Now Premier Dalton McGuinty is getting into the act, telling Ontario retailers that it's time to lower prices. This is either a threat or an insult.

If these guys believe that retailers are gouging consumers on the windfall a high dollar has brought them, then this is an attempt to make themselves look good to consumers by strong-arming the retailers.

If they believe that the retailers haven't noticed the flood of consumers streaming across the border, then it's an insult to the retailer's intelligence.

I'm sure, of course, that the homework has been done to look into the retail inventory, and supply sources, that would lead someone to make a statement like this. Certainly, all retailers are buying goods from the USA, with such short lead times that they must be rolling the money, and haven't a clue how to keep customers in Canada.

Thanks for the advice guys, but it's not that simple.

On the other hand, maybe this is an insult to the consumers. Maybe we should feel grateful that someone's standing up for us. Maybe we're too dumb to figure out how we got into this mess in the first place.

These guys must be higher than the dollar.

Monday, November 05, 2007

For good measure

I was having a discussion at work this afternoon with a colleague, and the conversation turned to measuring a large quantity of something. In this case, it was memory leakage, but that's irrelevant to this story.

I said that the exact amount in question wasn't important, since the differential between measurements was what we were looking for. So if the first measurement was "an assload" and the second measurement was "less than an assload" that was close enough.

This brought about the question of what unit of measure is at work when the total is "an assload"?

After some heated discussion, we decided it's a "niblet".

Friday, November 02, 2007

Time to fall back

Lots of noise on the radio this week about the end of Daylight Saving Time this weekend. Everybody's talking about getting an extra hour of sleep.

Those of us with children know that the "extra hour of sleep" part is bullshit. All this means is that I'll be up an hour earlier than normal on Sunday.

Trick or treat!

The girls dressed as a clown and a mailbox this year.

The clown suit, of course, is last year's Christmas present.