Friday, June 29, 2012

Why vegetarianism?

From a discussion over at on "Why vegetariansim"?:
Compare the speed of a fleeing rabbit to the speed of fleeing grass, and figure out which of them is easier to catch.
I laughed.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Brace Yourselves

Saw this on Facebook and had to share:

(h/t Squeaker)

Symphony for typewriter

I love this video

So many times, orchestra and chamber music are treated as such serious things. To be a patron of the arts, you have to be wealthy. Everybody is in evening gowns for the women and tuxedos and white ties for the men. This shows a much lighter side to it all.

I'm not sure which I like better, the pure joie de vivre shown by the typist, the smiles and reactions by the other orchestra members, or the thunderous applause by the audience at the end.

I think this one would warm the cockles of even Borepatch's heart :-D

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Avery Akeman's Angels - $10,000 in 10 Days

(image source)
 Avery Akeman is a dear little girl in Texas who has been dealt what some consider a rotten hand in life. You can read a synopsis of her life on this site set up by friends of the family. In short, though, this 7 year old girl has spent over 400 days in inpatient care at the hospital, has endured over 20 surgeries, and has been to the emergency room over 20 times.

Her parents, however, don't hold to that rotten deal point of view. For them, she is a treasure and a blessing from God. Every trial, every tribulation is an opportunity to draw closer to Him. Every day, in every possible way, they show their trust in His plan, and what it means to fully rely on Him for everything.

Needless to say, medical expenses are a large part of the Akeman family budget. Friends of the family have issued a fund-raising challenge to help this family. They are asking for $10,000 to be raised in 10 days. The challenge started yesterday, 06/25/2012, and runs through Wednesday, 07/04/2012. As of this post, over $3,000 has been raised.

I know there are lots of worthy causes out there, and that most of the people reading this have no idea who the Akemans are, or what they've been going through. First and foremost, I ask that you pray for this family. Pray for Avery's health, pray for her medical team, and pray for her parents. Second, make a donation if you can. The donation link is at the top of the Avery Akeman's Angels page. Help raise $10,000 in 10 days for this family. It's only a drop in the bucket compared to their total expenses, but every little bit helps.

New music

Thanks to the beneficence of a vendor, in the form of a gift card, I have picked up some new music.

First up is This Is Life by Mosteller. I got to hear Mosteller live on my birthday, when they opened for The City Harmonic. Great sounds with a lot of energy. I really liked what I heard. The debuted a new song named "Red", and I am looking forward to its eventual release.

Next up are two albums from Chris Tomlin. I picked up And If Our God Is For Us... (Deluxe Edition) and How Great Is Our God: The Essential Collection. Chris Tomlin is one of the leading Praise & Worship song writers right now. I absolutely love his work, going all the way back to when he lead worship at Breakaway.

Fun with Dominoes

It has always amazed me what artists and engineers are able to do with dominoes.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Generational Differences

It is amazing to me how technology magnifies generational differences. Growing up, my dad had a turn table. I distinctly remember once time when he bought a CD player for the home stereo rig. He was out of inputs on the receiver, so he just plugged it into the phono input. After CDs are functionally equivalent to LPs, right?  Well, the phono input wasn't wired to handle the input level of the CD player, and it fried the receiver.

Today, I walk around with over 9 days worth of music, and thousands of hours of pod casts on a device that is smaller than a pack of cigarettes (and my how that size comparison has fallen out of favor).

Another time, the big decision was whether or not to get a Betamax or VHS player. At one point, we had one of each. It was a big when we got a LaserDisc player.

Now, my blu-ray player is connected to my home network, and I can stream thousands of movies straight from online media services. The only time I have to leave my couch is to refill my glass or grab another bag of chips.

So what brought all this to mind? I just received a gift certificate to iTunes, courtesy of a vendor. When my children get a gift certificate, the start compiling a list of individual songs they want to purchase. My first thought was of the complete albums I could purchase.

Even when you stay up on the technology, it can still pass you by.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Windows Live Messenger and Windows 7

This one was annoying me to no end. Under Windows XP, if you used the "X" button to close your Live Messenger window, it minimized to they System Tray instead of the task bar. For some reason, Microsoft changed this behavior with Windows 7. Instead of minimizing to the System Tray, the button stayed on your task bar.

Personally, I much prefer instant messenger apps, and others that are basically running in the background, to sit in my system tray, saving taskbar space for applications that are actively doing something.

Well, a quick web search turned up this lovely article over at How-To Geek. Long story short, you can get the old behavior back by changing the application compatibility mode. If you set it to Windows Vista, it will minimize to the tray instead of the taskbar. This certainly indicates it's something specific to the Windows 7 interface. I haven't played around with turning of Aero to see if that makes a difference, as I rather like the Aero look and feel.

While this hack works for now, it makes me wonder what Microsoft will do with the upcoming Metro interface.

This is the type of thing where the user should be given the choice. Some apps alread minimize to the system tray under Windows 7/Aero. Specifically, the Google Talk app does. Further, applications used to ask how you wanted them to handle minimizing, either to the tray or to the taskbar.

It should be about control, and customizing, and the ability to have a system that performs how you want it to.

Oh well. For now, at least, application compatibility settings handle the need without seeming to break anything.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Musings on the first week

So today marks the end of my first week in the healthcare industry. Here are some musings:

  • Employee orientation is geared toward clinical staff. As non-clinical staff, a lot of it is inapplicable and boring.
  • A majority of the IT/IS systems and effort revolve around clinical and patient care, especially in this day and age of Electronic Medical Records (EMR) systems
  • I thought IT had it bad with acronyms and abbreviations. It took me two days to figure out what PRN meant as a staffing term1
  • There seems to be a much higher percentage of women in the IT department here.
  • It will take some getting used to seeing licensed pharmacists, RNs, LPNs, and CNAs on the IT department staff (they act as BAs and SMEs for the clinical systems)
  • For the last decade, I've been one of the guys with all the answers. Right now, I'm the guy with all the questions. It's an odd feeling.
  • It's VERY nice only having to worry about one application stack, and the associated data flows, instead of being a jack-of-all-trades across 20 different apps.

Monday, June 18, 2012

From the mouths of babes

or, Know What's Going On Before You Speak

 This morning, I was talking with the Mrs. just before leaving for my new hire orientation session. As we were standing there, my son starts blasting away on this noisemaker he got at a party this weekend.

My wife and I both started fussing at him, saying things like "Oh, not now buddy" and "Hey, that's too loud!" and "Knock it off, it's too early for that."

He looked me right in the eyes and said "I'm just celebrating because it's the first day of Daddy's new job."



"Thank you dude. I appreciate that. Come here and give me a hug."

Friday, June 15, 2012

Houston, we have achieved escape velocity

Well, it's official. After almost 13 years, I have left the job that brought me to Northern Kentucky.

Starting Monday, I begin a new career in the healthcare industry.

It's been an interesting ride for the kid that one day wanted to be a mission specialist on an STS flight.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Who knew?

As part of the process of leaving my current job, I've been putting together a list of the corporate equipment entrusted to me over the years. One, I want to make sure I return everything that belongs to the company. Two, I don't want them coming back after me for anything later, to be perfectly honest.

I was surprised at how long the list actually was:

  • Laptop
  • Docking station
  • Second monitor
  • Keyboard
  • Mouse
  • Cable lock
  • Smartphone
  • Extra battery
  • Charging/docking station for smartphone
  • Otterbox for smartphone
  • Access card for main office
  • Access card for secondary office
  • Cisco IP Phone for desk
  • Wireless headset for desk phone
  • Corporate charge card
It's a miracle I haven't lost anything.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Irrational Reactions

I had a former coworker that I just could not deal with. Anytime he asked me a question, or approached me for information, my hackles went up and I turned on my "defensive" mode. I gave short answers, tried not to volunteer information, and basically did everything I could to make the conversation as short as possible.

I would get frustrated when they didn't immediately understand something I'd told them, even if it was brand new to them, and it had taken me over a decade to master. It was an unreasonable and irrational expectation on my part, and it was limited to this one co-worker. With other co-workers, I would be excited that they wanted to learn, and would spend the time to educate them. I would make sure they understood, and would carve out time from my schedule to help them out.

I honestly don't know why I have that difference in reactions. I tried lots of different tips, tricks and techniques to be less antagonistic with this guy. He's not the most technical person I've ever worked with, and would frequently get things wrong on the projects he worked on. Maybe that's the root cause. I was burned several times, so I just didn't trust him.

But why couldn't I move past that? Why couldn't I spend as much time trying to educate him, and help him out, as I did other co-workers? Again, I really don't know. It was almost a visceral reaction. It didn't matter what, I was just not going to cut this guy a break.

I'm ashamed about it, to be honest. It wasn't fair to him, and it was a very poor attitude on my part. I hope I never have that happen again.

How have you dealt with a co-worker that just completely and irrationally rubbed you the wrong way?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Prayers would be appreciated

Robb Allen has a sick kid. It's been going on for 6 days now, and like any good Dad, he's literally worried sick about it.

If you're the praying type, they would be greatly appreciated.

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Time For Everything

The first 8 verses of Ecclesiastes tell us that there is a time for everything:
1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 2 a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 3 a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6 a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 7 a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8 a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
 I would add to this, 'a time to stay in your current job, and a time to move on.'  It is now my time to move on.

I have been with this company for almost 13 years, starting in October of 1999. I moved from Alabama to Dallas, Texas to take this job, and after 10 years in Texas, relocated to Northern Kentucky when the company was acquired in a merger.

In those 13 years, I've worked on HR, Payroll, Time & Labor, Finance, Accounting and e-commerce applications. I've been a developer, systems administrator, DBA, systems analyst, business analyst and even had to do some basic project management. "Jack of all trades, master of none" could almost be my job description it seems.

In those same 13 years, I think I've learned a bit about how IT works, and how it doesn't. I've seen org changes that improved the delivery of IT services, and I've seen org changes that seemed to have no rational basis. I'm definitely better at my job due to all of my experiences. I guess you could liken it to both positive and negative testing, as it were.

Starting next Monday, June 18th, I will be working for one of the regional medical systems. I will be working on their Kronos system, which is a Time & Labor Management application. In its simplest form, it is an electronic time clock and scheduling system, but it can do much more than that. I will be essentially responsible for the entire system, from functional and systems administration, to technical support and upgrades, to train-the-trainer knowledge transfers.

Honestly, I can't WAIT to only have one system or application to worry about. That, and Kronos is far and away the market leader in their product niche. Healthcare is one of their primary vertical markets, and they bring a lot of tools to the table to make managing the workforce much easier. I'm very excited about this opportunity, and can't wait to start my new job.

I will miss a lot of co-workers and business unit partners at my current company, without a doubt, but there is a time for everything.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Quote of the Day - Local Government Edition

Steve Arlinghaus, the Judge-Executive in Kenton County gets it:
"The only people that should be allowed to levy a tax against the public is an elected official."
Can we elect more people like him, please?

Oh, and State Auditor Adam Edelen? You go dude!

Edited to fix a typo in Steve Arlinghaus' name. Silly auto-correct features.

Irony is. . . .

. . . . epitomized by my TANK bus driver this morning.

The TANK buses typically stay in the right-hand lane on the interstate. I'm honestly not sure if that's a state or federal law, or just the Transit Authority's policy, but it doesn't really matter. This particular driver has a habit of straddling the line between the travel lane and the merge/exit lane, presumably to keep cars from trying to "jump the line".

Well, he decides he wants to jump the line because traffic is backed up. So, he moves over into the merge lane and floors it. He's flying past the stop-and-go traffic up until we reach the exit ramp, at which point he puts on his blinker to try and get back into the travel lane. He then mutters under his breath, complaining that no one will let him merge.

Wash, rinse, repeat several times on this one trip alone. On one occasion, I heard him mutter "See how you like it", as he blocked the exit ramp lane so no one could go around him.

Needless to say, I was very happy to get OFF the bus this morning.

Milestones, of which there have been 2

On Tuesday, I celebrated yet another milestone. It has now been 2 years since I quit smoking.

I've not yet been a former smoker as long as I was a non-smoker. I still have 18 years to pass that milestone, but I have confidence now that I will make it. I hear that there will still be urges, that you can never let your guard down, and I'm sure that's true. However, I honestly can't tell you the last time I had a cigarette. The smell of it puts me off, and makes me wonder how I abided it for so long.

There is one thing I do know. Not one cigarette, ever again. I know that if I smoke even one cigarette, I will go right back to smoking again.

If you've never smoked in your life, good for you. Don't start.

If you're a smoker, please, quit. Now. Today. Stub it out, throw out your pack, and go buy the gum, or the patches, or see your doctor for a prescription. Yes, it's a tough row to hoe, but it is absolutely worth it. I think of all the time I missed with my kids because I just had to step outside for a quick one. You can tell yourself that it calms you down, or settles your nerves, or whatever other little lie you want to in order to justify the habit but trust me, it is a lie. The first 6 months were a close approximation to hell, but it has been so much better these past 18.

If you're a former smoker, congratulations. I'm proud to be in that club with you, and look forward to sharing membership for a long, long time.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Lessons Learned - Vehicle Ownership Edition

Last Thursday, the passenger side window in the Mrs.' van rolled down and wouldn't roll back up. It didn't matter if we tried the master switch on the driver's side, or the switch on the passenger's side. Naturally, this happened while the car was in the shop, so the van was the only vehicle available. Seeing as how there were errands to run and a schedule to keep, and it looked like the weather would hold off, we puttered around town with the window down all day.

I just knew that the window motor had gone bad, so on the way home that evening we swung by the local auto parts store and picked up a replacement. An hour later, with car parts strewn about me, I discovered that it was in fact NOT the motor. With everything disassembled, and the motor connected to the wiring harness, I could hit the down switch and the motor would spin like crazy. Hit the up switch?

Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

After I grabbed my multimeter, I was able to confirm it. I was getting good voltage on the inputs to the switch. I was getting good signal from the master switch to the passenger switch. But downstream from the passenger switch, I was only getting voltage on the down lead when the switch was toggled.

I manually raised the window, reinstalled the motor,  left the power lead disconnected so it couldn't accidentally be rolled down again, and buttoned the door back up.

Yesterday, the replacement switch that I ordered from Amazon came in. 30 minutes after I got home, the new switch was installed, the motor was reconnected, and everything is working fine now.

I will say, the window goes up and down much quicker with a new motor.

So, the lesson learned? Do some troubleshooting before you just start throwing money at a problem. This time, it was only a ~$45 lesson, but it could have been worse. If I'd done the proper troubleshooting to start, I'd still have that money in my pocket. It wouldn't have saved me the pain of pulling the door panel, though, because I still had to get the window raised.

Live and learn, and if you're smart, learn from others!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Lessons Learned - Home Ownsership Edition

Otherwise known as "know the electrical wiring in your house."

A few days ago, I was working on the back patio, and needed to use my shop-vac. I plugged it into the outlet on the patio, hit the power switch, and stared dumbfounded as nothing happened. The outlet had worked just fine the previous weekend!!! My first thought was "Oh great, the motor's blown." My first step at diagnosis was to detach the motor assembly from the shop-vac and put it into blower mode. Nope, no joy, so it wasn't any sort of interlock switch or something.

Next, I tried the other plug on that same outlet, just in case one blew or failed, even though there was no visual sign of melting or damage. That didn't work either, so I grabbed my multimeter to check the receptacle. When neither plug showed power, I headed to the breaker panel. I couldn't find a single breaker tripped, and even tried tripping and resetting a few likely ones (I wasn't sure exactly what circuit that receptacle was on).

When that didn't work, my next thought was that it had to be a GFI tripped somewhere. After all, this is an outdoor circuit, with wet environment exposure, so by code it must be on a GFI-protected circuit. None of the GFI plugs that I knew about on the ground floor were tripped. At this point, I just plugged my shop-vac into an inside outlet and took care of business. I figured I'd troubleshoot the circuit later.

Fast forward to yesterday, and I decided I REALLY wanted to get this receptacle fixed. At this point, I was honestly thinking that I'd somehow broken/damaged the receptacle the last time I used it. Just to be sure, though, I went back through the basic troubleshooting steps. Using my multimeter, I checked that receptacle (dead), the receptacle on the inside wall right next to it (good), and every other receptacle in the two downstairs areas next to the rear wall (all good). Even though all those circuits were good, I double-checked all of the GFI plugs, even tripping and resetting them. Throughout all of this, that outside plug remained stubbornly dead.

Finally, I decide to pull the receptacle. Once I had it out, I checked for power directly on the lines, and there was none. I then pulled the inside receptacle, and noticed that the jacket on that wire was a different color than the outside wire. Up to this point, I'd been working on the assumption those two plugs were on the same circuit. With that bit of information, I finally had an epiphany.

I went to the front porch, and sure enough, the receptacle there was dead too. AHA!!! Obviously, the front porch and rear patio are on the same circuit. I connected my multimeter to the front porch, asked my wife to watch it, and then went into the garage to start resetting breakers. 5 minutes later, and I still had a dead plug.

At this point, I was very confused. Everything I'd done so far should have found the fault, and I was mentally preparing myself to admit failure and schedule an electrician. Fortunately, my subconscious threw me a lifeline, and I remembered there was one general electrical outlet in the basement. I headed downstairs and sure enough, it's a GFI plug, and the little red light was glowing. I reset the plug and et voila!!! We have power.

I get everything put back together and buttoned back up, and all is at least somewhat right with my world again.

The number lesson in all of this is, as best as you can, understand all of the electrical circuits in your house. Know what zones and plugs are controlled by what breakers in your breaker box. Further, know where all of your GFI plugs are located, and what other plugs are on that same circuit. If a GFI plug trips, it disables the ENTIRE circuit, even though the breaker's not tripped at the box. It can be a rude awakening when a tripped GFI plug two rooms over disables the plug you are trying to use.

The other lesson is, if you're going to try and troubleshoot your wiring, have the proper tools and respect. Without a multimeter or other electrical tester, I would have had no safe and easy way to check all of my plugs to determine which ones were hot and which weren't. It also helps to have at least a basic understanding of how circuits work. You don't have to be an electrical engineer, but you should know what breakers and fuses do, and how to diagnose a faulty circuit. You should generally know the difference between hot, neutral and ground wires, and how to properly test a circuit using your testing tool.

The best part of all this, besides having a functioning circuit again? There's a wonderful sense of accomplishment in successfully "fixing" something that was "broken". There's a gratification in knowing you didn't have to spend money on the electrician. And there's the sense of relief that you didn't get embarrassed when the electrician points to the little glowing red light 2 minutes into his visit, saying "There's your problem."

Oh, and now I need to have a conversation with the kids and remind them not to play with the push-buttons on the receptacles, even if that little glowing light is kinda cool.