Mike’s Dump

August 27, 2005

Yeah, it smells like old cheesies

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikesdump @ 5:14 pm

Everyday something new and interesting comes out of the girl’s mouths.
Most days I’m ok with what comes out as long as it doesn’t force me to
change my clothes or hit me direct in the face. Today it was Isabelle’s
turn to say something blog worthy.

Isabelle, being in the same room as Erika, provided me with the initial
intelligence. I walked into the bedroom and realized my mission was
clear. I told Erika it’s time to change he stinky bum. Isabelle pipes
up and says, “Yeah, it smells like old cheesies”. Of course my reaction
was to take notice of what I’ve been trying to avoid (the overpowering
smell filling the room). Yep, old cheesies, it was a good description

I may never look at cheesies the same way again, ever.

Cheesies

Well I’m off to vacuum the corn pops from my bed.

Note to self: Sure they gotta have their pops but they need to sit on Sandy’s side of the bed.

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August 22, 2005

Hatched

Filed under: Kids — mikesdump @ 1:56 pm

Erika was hatched two years ago today!

Erika, how old are you?

Erika trying for two

(little help please auntie)

Erika getting help with two

(screw it) I’m two!

Erika did two

August 21, 2005

69, dudes. Whoa!

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikesdump @ 2:38 pm

[Bill and Ted meet themselves]
Ted: OK wait. If you guys are really us, what number are we thinking of?
Bill, Ted: 69, dudes.
Bill, Ted: Whoa.

Yeah! This is my 69th post. To mark this milestone I was going to write
something deep and meaningful. Something that would make people laugh
and cry, something that would change the world. After thinking for all
of five minutes I realized that I had nothing so the plan changed to
why I blog and what’s next?

When I started blogging I had absolutely no plan or goals. Even now I
wouldn’t say that I have a plan. The name that I picked for my blog,
Mike’s Dump summed up what I thought my blog would be about. My blog
would be a place for me to do a brain dump on whatever came to mind
whether it is good or bad.

I find it a lot easier to write when I’m a little fired up which is why
several of my posts are me venting about something or someone. This
venting helps me relax the same way that programming does (or coffee
and Friday lunches). The benefits to blogging over coding are it
doesn’t take as long to write a post compared to programming. When I
code I’m just trying to put whatever is bothering out of my mind
instead of facing it head on. I probably could get the same mental
release by simply writing in a diary but I couldn’t find a book with a
built in spellchecker.

Something interesting I have found over the past few months is many
times I discover how I feel about the topic while I’m writing. For
example I’ve wanted to write this post for a longtime but haven’t
thought about why I blog until today. Self-discovery is one of the
unexpected benefits that I have gained by blogging. And yes, when I’m
making a self-discovery both of my hands are on the keyboard in case
you were wondering.

Going forward, I think Mike’s dump will always be a dumping ground for
whatever is grinding my gears though I have been giving much thought
about blogging on other topics. I haven’t decided if I’ll add the posts
here under a different category or maybe start a new blog altogether.
Odds are against me writing on the finer points agriculture but some
combination between writing about what I know and what I don’t know to
provide an opportunity to learn something new is what I want to try.

A post that I read not too long ago that I thought was amazing was show
don’t tell. The author wanted to communicate one idea; “A good team
leader provides inspiration by setting a positive example”. It may
sound cheesy but I was inspired after seeing how the author expanded
this one idea into a four-hundred word story. In coding terms I saw the
story like using a design pattern to solve a programming problem
compared to using the dreaded “GOTO”. I would like to improve my
written communication to that same elegance.

Well, Erika is screaming so there must be some fluff in her toes. Time to go rescue her.

August 19, 2005

These are the Bloggers in Your Neighborhood

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikesdump @ 10:22 am

These are the bloggers in my neighborhood
In my neighborhood
In my neigh-bor-hood
Oh
These are the bloggers in my neighborhood
They’re the bloggers that you meet
When you’re walking down the street
They’re the blog-gers that you meet
Each daaaaaay

I’ve had that stuck in my head all-day. I feel much better now.

If you want to find the bloggers in your neighborhood check out Feed Map.

I haven’t been feeling well for the past couple of days so when I
wasn’t sleeping or watching Lord of the Rings I thought I’d check who
is blogging in the Edmonton area. Coding in an Igloo happened to be the first blog I decided to
look at.

As I mentioned to kill time when I couldn’t sleep I was watching Lord
of the Rings. There came a scene with Arwen played by Liv Tyler, which
reminded me of something that happened at work the other day. To make a
long story short somebody had typed “Go *uck my elf”. What they meant
to type was “Go *uck myself” (sounds much better right? (All in fun of
course)). When I read this I laughed and for whatever reason the first
elf that came to mind was one of the Keebler elves and not Arwen.
If you were going to be intimate with an elf which one would you pick?

Keebler Elf
Liv Tyler Arwen

I got a little off topic there, anyways, when I read the first post about building the
data model “to bind them all” it peaked my interest. When I finally got
to the post where
the author associates all the people that he is working with to LOTR
characters I had to keep on reading (I’ll have to try that some time).
There was some funny stuff there.

So go read the tales of the Igloo coder, add yourself to Feed map, and let me know which elf turns your crank.

August 17, 2005

System.Messaging Performance

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikesdump @ 2:10 pm

We use MSMQ a fair amount at work. This article is worth holding on to.
Summary: Investigate the performance characteristics of .NET System.Messaging compared to the native MSMQ COM API for different messaging patterns and requirements. Get guidelines on how to create a high-performance messaging application.
http://msdn.microsoft.com/webservices/default.aspx?pull=/library/en-us/dnwebsrv/html/systemmessperf.asp

August 16, 2005

New Fears

Filed under: Kids — mikesdump @ 2:14 pm

Erika is an interesting little girl. I had mentioned before the fun
with shampoo bottles
and now there is something new to add to the list
of fears.

A couple days ago Erika let out an ear-piercing scream that could be
heard throughout the house. I ran over to see what was wrong fully
expecting to find blood gushing from her head. When I got there I did a
quick scan of her body and found no blood. She wasn’t holding any body
parts; nothing appeared to be wrong, well except for the ear-piercing
scream. When I ask what was wrong she pointed to her toe. After more
careful examination I saw there was a piece of thread about 30
centimeters long that she was dragging as she walked. Not cutting off
circulation, not caught on anything, it was simply that it was
following her.

Half an hour ago it happened again. The scream wasn’t as loud but I ran
over to her crib and check what is wrong. She shows me a loose piece of
thread on her pajamas. I broke it off and all is well.

Erika also has an issue with hair. If she finds a hair it doesn’t scare
her but it is the same reaction you’d expect from someone that doesn’t
like insects. I’m sure she can spot dog hair at 30 meters. When I got
home today she took me by the hand and lead me over to a piece of dog
hair. As she backs behind my legs she says, “yucky”.

I sure hope she doesn’t develop a fear of carpet or else getting around the house is going to be difficult.

Seriously

Filed under: Home — mikesdump @ 1:21 pm

It was getting louder and louder. The noise was echoing off the
interior of the bus. My ears were ringing and I just wanted to scream,
“CAN YOU SIT QUITELY”? I believe it was at this point that I realized I
was overreacting and something else was bothering me. Being upset with
someone who is three times my age making noises that sounds like a
brown paper bag being scrunched over and over can sometimes be
justified, right?

There was thirty minutes before I got home. My kids, who I love to
death, are a little louder than a brown paper bag. I thought it would
be a good idea to figure out what is wrong with my head today before I
stepped through the door. The mission if I choose to accept it, uncover
everything that is driving me closer to insanity and why I shouldn’t
let it bother me. This brain will self-destruct in thirty minutes.

Issue 1: It’s Freak’in Cold!
It is August 16th today and the average temperature in Edmonton should
be about 22 degrees Celsius. When I left for work this morning it
felt like it was just above freezing and overcast. My moods are
affected by the weather. In midwinter I normally feel drained because
the lack of sunlight (8 hours a day is not enough).

Issue 2: Database Meltdown
It wasn’t that bad, there was some smoke but no fire. First thing in
the morning the applications were still working but not at the speed
they should be. Being out of my control I ended up wasting a couple
hours this morning watching our servers to see if the slow down worsened

Issue 3: I Made a Mess
I went downstairs to the pasta place for lunch today. When coming back
upstairs with my ice tea in one hand and pasta primavera with meat
sauce in the other I tried to figure out how I was going to scan in
without dropping anything. I wouldn’t say that I failed miserably
because nothing fell to the floor. I probably wouldn’t have even known
there was a problem if I didn’t notice the smell of the meat sauce was
a little stronger. I looked down as I get into the elevator and there
it was, my lunch, all over my shirt.

Issue 4: Unused Software
Unfortunately I have seen several times where developers, including
myself, have busted their ass to get something done on time or based on
an unreasonable schedule and had it deployed. Once deployed, the
functionality isn’t given to the client or the client doesn’t use the
functionality for whatever reason. When I see this repeatedly I start
to question the requests that come in, will this really make or break
the deal, is the client really going to dump us if we don’t deliver by
Monday. I believe customer service is important but if we need to make
changes to the application because of an emergency and those same
changes go unused for weeks people should remember the story of the
“Boy Who Cried Wolf”.

Issue 5: Seriously
The issue with the unused software got me thinking about something
else that happened on Monday. I feel that I normally take work too
seriously. I run from computer to computer when there is a
database meltdown and I believe people every time when I’m told the
world will end if we don’t deliver on time. Whenever possible I try to
throw out a joke so I’m not a complete stiff but I am what I am. When I
hear that someone takes something more seriously than me I have to
question his or her sanity (because regularly I question my own). The
far too serious side of me sees some logic with the person raising the issue.
But, the side of me that would wear a drunken co-workers shirt that he
received from a stripper and allow my picture to be taken slowly raises
his hand to object. That inner voice says, “Umm Mike, once you start
your journey to the dark side forever will it dominate your destiny”.

I was coming up to my bus stop and I came to the same realization that
I normally do on days like this; shit happens or people piss me off.
Both of those happen to apply for the past couple of days. The funny
thing is that I felt a lot better. It was a good too because as soon as
I opened the door� well I’ll have to save that for another day.

August 13, 2005

SONIC 102.9 FM Edmonton is online

Filed under: Links — mikesdump @ 9:37 am

Soncic 102.9 is online

Sonic is a relativly new FM radio station in Edmonton playing modern
rock worth checking out. Well, that is if you have good taste in
music 😉

Using an application like XMPlay you can open up the following streams:

http://stream.radiosonic.fm:8000/sonic-low.ogg (45 kb/sec 22050 hz)

http://stream.radiosonic.fm:8000/sonic-med.ogg (45 kb/sec 44100 hz)

http://stream.radiosonic.fm:8000/sonic-high.ogg (64 kb/sec 48000 hz)

August 11, 2005

Align your beliefs for success at any level

Filed under: Links — mikesdump @ 11:28 am

I read this interesting post
this morning over at Management Craft. In the article it contained a
list of beliefs that the author suggested you align yourself to. The
idea being small adjustments in thinking will contribute to your
success. While reading these beliefs it occurred to me that there is no
reason they would apply just to management.

I’ve had a lot of crappy jobs but even at my worst job ever there were
opportunities to produce results, role model excellence, and be
coachable. Producing results is a no brainer at a meat packing plant
when you’re just a grunt. Producing results in combination with role
modeling excellence sets you apart from the rest. Paying attention to
details when cutting, minimizing waste and working faster are probably
the majority of things you can do to make yourself standout in a crowd
in a position like that.

Being coachable is important at any position but at Lillydale you were
considered a newbie probably for the first five years (most people I
talked to had been there 10-20 years) and everyone felt they had
something to teach. Well, the people that were capable of more than
simple grunts and groans had something to teach. No one person has all
the answers and the people that think they do are only fooling
themselves.

Without realizing it at the time I did the things that I mentioned
above and I was recognized for it. There wasn’t a lot of ways that
people were rewarded at Lillydale other then being put on “Class A”
jobs (which meant an extra 60 cents/hour� kick ass right? I think the
change in work was the bigger reward). There were a few times that I
was put on the “Class A” job because of how I did my job. That all
changed when someone on the union that had two weeks more seniority
than me (and worked at half my speed) complained. I was removed from
the job but told the reason why (one of the mainly reasons that I don’t
like unions). It didn’t bother me that much because I knew I was
recognized for the work that I was doing.

Individual success normally has very little to do with what you do and
everything to do with how you do it. You can have a really high profile
position as a brain surgeon performing only the most complicated
surgeries but if all of your patients die would you be considered a
success? I would hope not. On the other side if you were the person
responsible for sterilizing the medical instruments and never had
someone become infected from improperly cleaned equipment would you not
be more successful than the brain surgeon? What ever your position is
align your beliefs for success!

  • Middle managers are expected to be accountable and take ownership. (Translation: I am expected to be accountable and take ownership.)
  • Middle Managers are expected to make a positive contribution to the business. (Translation: I am expected to make a positive contribution to the business � not just maintain stuff.)
  • Middle managers should be outstanding role models because they influence the culture and tone of the business. (Translation � I need to role model excellence, period.)
  • Middle managers need to get results. (Translation � I need to produce results!)
  • Good managers are responsive to others’ ideas and concerns. (Translation � I can only be successful when I am highly coachable and responsive � I don’t have all, or even most, of the answers!)
  • Being a middle manager is a key role. (Translation � I have an important job to do.)
  • Management
    is a social as well as business function. (Translation � Management
    occurs in conversation, so to manage well, I need to dialogue well.)
  • Flexible and nimble teams are more successful. (Translation � I
    need to ensure that my team is in the loop, primed, and ready to
    respond to changes.)
  • Success means delivering results and managing people for optimal
    productivity and satisfaction. (Translation � I need to create an
    environment where people can and will choose to do their best work.)

August 4, 2005

What is Your Job Description?

Filed under: Work — mikesdump @ 1:06 pm

Think about that question for a minute… What is your job description?

Now I’m sure you have all kinds of duties that you do day in and day
out but when thinking about your job description where did you rank
customer service? Did it make your list? Based on my observations a lot
of people don’t even consider it.

Something that I’ve learnt in my relatively short working career is
that the number one responsibility of anyone involved in producing a
product or service is customer service. Any business that doesn’t
believe this must have no competition in their sector so they can get
away with lousy customer service. Any business that does strive to
provide the best possible customer service is not only limiting its own
growth but it will probably lead to its ultimate demise.

There are a couple of reasons that I feel so strongly about the
importance of customer service. The first one is related to experiences
at my previous job and the second is related to my very first job.
These experiences have had a great influence on the way that I work
today.

My previous job was at a software company that I worked at for a total
of 3 1/2 years. The last 1 1/2 years of my employment I was not paid on
time. When I finally quit I was behind by 2 full months of pay (I did
eventually get paid). While the company was in financial difficultly
the staff received regular updates on when we could expect to be paid.
We heard on a regular basis that getting our paycheck relied on some
user acceptance testing being successful, or one of the development
teams delivering a bug fix, or a sales person closing a deal.

With the situation at hand it was obvious to see the importance for us
to work as quickly as possible but also to provide excellent quality
because if we didn’t the customer could reject it (if you were a
customer would you pay for substandard work?). People hungry for a
paycheck (hopefully not just hungry) would question everything that was
done. Do we really need to be working on that project? Is there any
other billable work that can be done first? Is there any other way that
I can help? Yes, the overall driving force for people was to get a
paycheck so they could survive but the writing on the wall was:
Customer service = paycheck. In most companies individuals don’t feel
these pressures (exception might be commission sales people). “It will
get done when it’s done”. Anyone with that mentality probably wouldn’t
survive running his or her own business.

My very first job (well that lasted more than a couple of months) was
working for A & W. I know, “fast food?” but there was an important
lesson here. A & W required every employee to memorize the company
mission statement within their first 3 months of work. With the average
employee age probably being around 16 I thought it was pretty stupid at
the time. Most people working there just wanted to put in their time
and take the shitty 5 bucks an hour. I really don’t remember what the
words of the mission statement were but the idea was to exceed customer
and each other’s expectations. It wasn’t enough to punch in the order
and toss the food to the customer. The mission was to exceed their
expectations. The part of the mission that stands out to me the most
was “and each other’s”. That meant that our co-workers and the managers
were our customers as well, I was the manager’s customer. I had a hard
time believing that the company really felt that way about me. I
thought that if I wanted any sort of advancement that I would have to
exceed their expectations but in what way would that treatment ever be
returned?

My work ethic earned me some brownie points and I was told I would be
made an assistant manager. The title was really meaningless to mean
because I already did the work but I wanted the pay that would go along
with it. Some time passed and I was told I could have the title but I
wouldn’t get the raise that went along with it because that store
couldn’t afford it (ya right). I was pissed! I worked my ass off for a
shitty wage, was promised an increase but I didn’t get it. So, I found
another job that paid what they promised me (wasn’t hard finding a job
for $5.50/hour).

When the district manager asked me why I was quitting I said, “not only
did you not exceed my expectations but you didn’t even meet them. You
don’t practice what you preach”. I thought that would be that and I
went on to the other job. I hated it and quit after a day (it was a car
wash). About 2 weeks later the district manager called me offering me a
job at another store for more than what she originally offered. I was
amazed. Looking at the situation “half empty” you could say that they
should have done that to begin with but that fact that they did it at
all I was truly impressed. Treating the people you work with like your
very best customer = an excellent working environment = people that
want to exceed.

Stating loudly and clearly that exceeding customer expectations is the
number one priority of an organization will pay off if people believe
the importance of it. The hard part is creating the work environment
where everyone is treated like the very best customer so they are
driven to want to exceed.

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