Archive for the ‘Feeling like Dilbert’ Category

Video Clip Tech Tip

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Here is a tip for those who find a great video clip on Youtube and its clones. Sometimes the vagaries of the net result in choppy viewing or you love the clip and simply want to capture a copy in case it vanishes from the net.

Well here is an easy answer to both situation: KeepVid

You plug in the address of the clip and it creates a downloadable video file that you can save. You can then view it locally with no streaming issues and on your own time.



It always comes back to technology

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

Oh what a difference a single space character can make!

A while back, just before our WP software upgrade and site face lift, one of the blog config files was inadvertently edited with an editor that stripped the C/Rs on exit. That caused momentary mayhem but was easy to fix. However! in fixing it, one extra space was added to the end of the last line of the file. Not even noticeable unless you were looking for it, and under normal circumstances completely meaningless.

The system returned to normal operation, I thought.

Just yesterday I discovered by chance that the RSS feed to Feedburner was inoperable due to non-compliant XML files. Namely, every single page had a blank line at the start- a Feedburner no-no.

Wonderful – not! Everything appeared normal, but an XML validation confirmed the stray line.

To make a long story short, the fact that this occurred in every post, even old ones, indicated after a little thought that the extra line was caused by a global file. And since it is suggested in support forums that an extra space at the beginning or end of any WP file can cause the problem, the trail lead to the global file in question.

Character deleted -> problem solved. It is always trivial in hind sight.

My apologies to my Feedburner subscribers for the inconvenience.


What to say you do, when you don’t…

Tuesday, May 15th, 2007

Almost the first phrase that people greet you with when they first meet you is “What do you do?”. Your answer and vocation will in most cases slot you into a category for them, and yield a predefined level of respect and associated attitude toward you. Breaking out of that box once it is assigned to you is often not easy. As such, your initial presentation, irrespective of who you really are or your value, is important. That may be unfortunate and sound superficial, but it is often simple reality in our society. For many people with career and/or professional employment, this plays in their favour.

But what about when you retire? You are not ‘that’ any more. You may be in the process of becoming something else, but since the something else may not have significant monetary value presently it is of little social value in the eyes of many others. What do you do, and how do you adjust?

One strategy is to say you are whateveryouwere-retired. If your previous vocational title had some sort of medical, academic, military or similar status, then you likely can carry that on, garnering whatever social usefulness or advantage it might have. And don’t be fooled, it usually has quite a bit. Position is a tool that will gain advantage or preferential treatment. If that aura of position remains intact in some form, people will most likely treat you as if you were still in the position or close to it. This likely also applies to any person who has had a socially recognized professional designation of some type (eg. engineers, chartered accountants, etc.)

On the other hand, simply ‘retired’ doesn’t cut it in the redeeming social value category. The only exception is in the eyes of those who are drawing close to (or wish they were drawing close to) retirement themselves. If you are well retired financially and health wise, this often accrues great amounts of envy and a certainly related status. Outside of these exceptions, the retired person is viewed by many as doing nothing, and therefor of having no status. This is true even if they are pursuing interesting avenues for themselves. The fact that they are not using whatever skills they have to make money or accrue status of some sort is often viewed as almost unethical.

All this is an interesting backdrop for those who are contemplating retirement or some sort of self-directed period of leave without a finite end date. It says a lot about what modern society values (activities which have income as a goal) and what it does not value (activities for which the primary goal is not income), irrespective of what altruistic words may be offered.

Christian certainly face this directly in contemplating a retirement or extended leave period in which to seek and follow the leading of the Lord. Successfully growing past this hurdle to follow the direction of the Lord, even possibly allowing oneself to “not seek gainful activity” and allow life or direction to unfold, effectively thumbs the nose that the whole societal affair. But from the reports of those treading it, this road has more potholes than one might think.

A Christian brother took early retirement just over a year ago. With a timely set of skills, he went on to establish an relaxed and effective consulting practice which brought satisfaction and remuneration without most of the previous organizational grief. After a year, however, he related that he had finally realized that he was still performing the same old same’old. He had gone back to a form of work based upon programmed expectations. He had not been able to, in fact had not even seen the possibility to, allow himself to simply let things unfold without creating them. Even thought and research into identifying and using his gifts had still fallen into his pre-programming until he realized what was actually going on. With that humongous hurdle at least partially understood, he could finally see meaning in giving himself permission to stop striving in the old way and possibly allow a new direction to emerge. Doing that, however, involved both seeing through and stepping back from a lifelong socially accepted paradigm that also had great emotional value as a undercurrent.

Bravo!!! I applaud his bold realization and his desire to look beyond the world to the Lord’s direction. And more than that, the realization (instructive for us all) of the requirement to stop one paradigm in order to be able to see other possibilities – realizing that without stopping the other possibilities can not appear.

T’would that we all can do precisely that in due time, allowing the space for a new direction  to unfold, irrespective of the expectations of others, the world, and most significantly, ourselves…


More on masquerading as a Florist

Saturday, March 24th, 2007

Did you ever notice that well meaning people can sometimes be a pain the rear end?

In our last installment about pretending to be from a profession that no-one would likely harass you for free advice about, it was out pointed out that many people consider professionals of various sorts to be sources of free advice and counselling. They assume that all you want to talk about is work and you just can’t wait to hear about thier issues. You often can’t get them to stop without being rude, literally. You are then considered as unfeeling and unfriendly. Go figure.

Well, having been bugged this way AGAIN here is the rant…

I go swimming to exercise and to unwind. At the end of the pool between sprints or in the shower at the end, the last thing I want to do is talk about work in any form, particularly about the ills of my particular institution (which are legion) or to dispense free IT advice on someone’s latest problems or point of interest. But it seems one can’t politely escape!

A great workout, nice and relaxed, then 30 minutes of fending of some guy who has nothing better to do that ask me questions that require analysis and discussion. ARGH!!!

Maybe a T shirt that says “Don’t talk to me about work!”. On the other hand that wouldn’t do much good in the shower.

I need a body guard!

PS. No offence to you Florists.


I’m a Florist, really…

Thursday, December 28th, 2006

This Post could also have been titled “I don’t do Windows!”.

Computer professionals (especially those on the technical side of the business) have something in common with doctors, central bankers, and a number of other professions. What they have in common is that many people who they meet from outside their vocation will have an uncontrollable desire to present their personal problems related to the other person’s vocation for solution, convinced that solving their problems for them is a privilege in any setting. Moreover, they feel that working on their behalf for free should be your privilege.

In the case of IT people this manifests in a senario such as: You are introduced to someone in a social setting, and they learn in the course of things that you are an IT technical person. They then seem compulsively driven to share with you the latest problem with their Windows Operating System. The problem is presented with the zeal of someone who believes that you have no other desire but to share you professional skill with them without limit, on the spot, and who thinks all IT people are experts in the Windows Desktop.

Further, once they know this about you, all subsequent meetings will be overtaken by further requests for assistance, or lengthy descriptions of one problem or another.

Lawrence Greenspan, the past Governor of the US Central Bank (arguably the most powerful man in the US), once said that, after having been acosted at social gatherings endlessly with financial questions once people learned what he did for a living, he was subsquently going to tell people that he was a Florist, in hopes that they didn’t need a floral arrangement as much as they needed financial advice.

In the discussions that are being described there is no room for you, the person. There is really no discussion or fellowship at all. The only thing on the front burner is the other person’s problem or information. They will tenaciously resist any diversion in the interaction. You don’t really exist in the equation as a person. Why would anyone seek out this sort of interaction? Most of us would not.

We are usually too polite to state the truth – If we want to work we will go to the office!

If you counter that you don’t know much about that particular system, you are as often as not relegated to the incompetency pile for not providing free consulting advice. That you might have a life, and want to actually discuss something more meaningful than work, is beyond comprehension of the self-absorbed.

One fellow I knew at a church would acost me every Sunday after service, to ‘share’ with me his latest Windows exploits or problems. Talk about spoiling the moment. To say I took to avoiding him would be polite.

Now, all this is not to say that there are not areas of IT that I might be experimenting with and interested in chatting about, but that is a completely different senario. It also does not mean that in some instances I do not happily provide IT support. Again, different.
In the final analysis it is sad, and it is a situation we should all bear in mind when chatting with those in other areas of endevour. They might like to actually converse about life!

On the other hand, “I am a Florist” sounds like a good approach to me. Thank you Mr. Greenspan.


Luddites are everywhere…

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

I am a member of several interest groups and also a Board of Directors. These groups are mostly populated by intelligent and enthusiastic people. They communicate, for the most part, articulately and willingly. Their willingness to explore better communications ends abruptly and uncharactistically, however, when it comes to innovative use of technology to facilitate the dialog.

Most of these groups communicate regularly via the internet. Most have matured enough in net use to use email. As the group grows, of course, the cc lists become spotty as people come or go, and very long lists give some mail clients problems. Add to that the problems that come with an overloaded inbox, and you would think that people would embrace an alternative offering less symptoms and more convenience. You would be wrong…

I suggested that a discussion forum would solve many of the problems (and it would). But getting a large percentage of the group populace to learn the tiny bit of protocol needed to use a forum, let alone actually type a message into it, has proved to be a problem of shocking magnitude.

Then we have those who are challenged into terror by even too much email.

It leaves me shaking my head in dismay that the possibility of expanding group discussion while at the same time reducing individual overhead is so hard to sell.

I just don’t get it and it drives me crazy…


Yikes…no internet!

Monday, October 16th, 2006

Penguin DanceWell, it had to happen. As a commercial user my internet connection is Very stable. Nonetheless, when Murphy paid a visit today to a major upstream link, viola, no net.

Having just read the other day in the paper about CrackBerry addiction, it is interesting how totally dependant I am on net access for everyday life.

No email = major withdrawl and major disconnection from everyday contacts. Only when they are interrupted does it become clear how many interactive email conversations I carry on during a day.

No Web = the inability to contact people whose numbers or addresses needed to be looked up and/or GoogleEarth’d in order to find them. I eventually had to dig in the car for legacy technology – an actual map.

No connection with the online teaching system at work.

Sound like much todo about nothing? Guess again! The result was the inhibition of a set of habits that happen every few minutes one way or another. Had I not been out at a meeting (one at which ‘I’ didn’t need the net) it would have been much worse.

So here I am on the net reporting the pains from a short withdrawl from the net.

Good thing that I DON’T have a BlackBerry…Maybe I should refer to my laptop as a CrackTop…


Truly, ya’ have ta’ wonder…

Friday, August 25th, 2006

On the side of things that just make you shake your head was a discovery I made in the main cafeteria at work yesterday. When I told other inmates of the place about it they were either incredulous or thought that I was joking. Unfortunately, it is true, and it says so very much about the whole senario…

I was in the cafeteria to buy a cup of tea – really a tea bag in a cheap styroform cup, covered with not-hot-enough-for-decent-tea water. I and a fellow employee were looking at the expensive new mural that had been added to the wall for ambience, when the manager of the place strolled up to extoll the virtues of his new decor.

We then noticed that water – not bottled water mind you, but plain tap water, was not longer free. It seems that too many people had the audacity to come in for a refill of hot (but not hot enough) water in their cup, and that this represented a diversion from ‘revenue from everything’ bottom line views. So hot water is now 10 cents a cup!! Now, just to be clear, in case you are confused, that doesn’t include the cup.

The explanation from the manager and perpertrator was “Nothing is free, you know”.

What can I say about this that you aren’t already shaking your head at. They had, of course, raised most other prices as well, but the water said it all – and a lot more by implication.

You will have to draw your own conclusions, but one might speculate that it is a good thing that they aren’t handling Ontario ground water resources, or you would be either mighty thirsty or mighty poor in short order…


The Powers that be…at work…

Monday, August 14th, 2006

Okay, so I work at a place where collecting parking fees from employees is a cash cow. Ya pay about $500 a year for the privilege of ‘maybe’ getting a spot (incredibly, the contract small print states that you are not guaranteed a spot!). You would think that would be the end of it. Not!

I discover, having been on leave for a while, that buying the above pass for parking for the academic ‘year’ is not really for the year. The return to work date is Aug 14, but the pass isn’t good until Aug 21. Go figure.

Surely this is just an oversight, you say. Any reasonable person would think that, and in a reasonably administered world it would be. But not so here.

A quick call to the College parking police constabulary reveals that this is deliberate. To park the extra week is an additional $37 thank you very much. Or pay by the hour at $2.50 per hour.

Clearly, gentle reader, the claw-back of every last dime from any person possible is far more important and kept clearly in view than any good will or reasonable thinking…

Gilding the lilly, so to spaek, is all the talk about improving employee post-strike moral. So, if you were are new employee and had just recovered from paying your ‘yearly’ parking fee, how would your ‘start the job’ moral be after they said “By the way, hand over another fee” for the first week?

Leaves one scratching their head…