Archive for Random Thoughts

Screen Scrapes and Screen Shots

Its really funny sometimes… the big stuff, world hunger, politicians, war… even things like my car getting broken in to… they don’t really bother me. It all just kinda slides right off my back. But the little things just grate on my last nerve.

I’m a programmer, been doing computers for twenty years and programming for eleven. I’ve worked with all sorts of languages, dealt with umpteen different kinds of servers and thousands of applications, and over time in a career like this, you learn the terminology. Certain things mean certain stuff. For example, when dealing with mainframes or midranges and converting their text displays to another format there is an interim step called a “screen scrape“. It got this term because you are literally scanning the data stream to the terminal or PC, identifying and pulling out text and fields, and munging them through some sort of GUI to display to the user or do stuff to the screen (like autofill certain fields). Then after if they used a GUI, you plug the data back into the fields and submit it to the mainfraim or whatever. You are scraping the screen for data and fields and doing stuff with it. On the other hand, a “screen shot” is an image of the screen captured for display elsewhere (often in user manuals or to accompany a bug report).

Some of the people I work with, some of whom have been around computers longer than I have, keep calling their screen shots “screen scrapes” and its driving me up the wall. And the even worse thing is, because they don’t understand the difference, when I ask for “screen shots”, I usually get back blank stares. Finally they’ll ask, “Do you mean a screen scrape?”

My head explodes on a regular basis.

Evolution

It looks like they are at it again… Evolution versus Creation. Although now, the creation side of the debate has come up with the theory of ‘Intelligent Design’ which is basically Evolution except that its not random, God planned it this way. I shrug when I think of this fight, because to me there just doesn’t seem to be much place for an arguement. I mean, if the religion side were asking only that evolution not be taught as a random series of lucky genetic combinations and focus only on the scientific evidence of DNA relations between species that indicate an evolving path, that’d be fine. But they always seem to want to take that extra step and make the schools teach God.

Its hypocritical… they say Evolution teaching is against their and their children’s beliefs, but they want to replace them with teachings that will be against other parents and children’s beliefs. The class is science, its about what you can prove and what you can theorize from what you can prove. We can prove DNA similarities between species. We can theorize an evolutionary path. Done. Why ask the schools to speculate on the nature of God? We can’t “prove” that God exists, nor do we have proven facts that point toward God as a theory. God is speculation. God is faith.

Plus, this is elementary school, middle school and high school. And if they are going to teach God, then I demand they teach all the other religions too. By the time we are done, public education will look like a comparative study of theologies. And really, I wonder if these people fighting evolution would like the school to teach other religions… I doubt it.

Playing Hooky

Sometimes I just feels good and right to blow off responsibility and do something else. Today I decided that it just wasn’t really worth my time and effort to actually go to work. My boss and our main backend programmer are both on vacation, and my immediate responsibilities involve redesigning a page layout so that its “printer friendly”. So last night, in a burst of brilliance, I turned off my alarm and slept the sleep of the contented soul. I woke up and did my best to do nothing upwardly productive all day long. I played computer games, I browsed the web, I went out for lunch, I went to a bookstore and bought crappy books off the bargain table by authors whom by sheer virtue of their being published I respect but by the fact that they were only published once I figure from their work I can get a taste, perhaps, of how not to write.

Damn, I think when I bought those books I did something that might be considered productive. Crap. Now I’ll have to skip another day in a couple weeks and try again.

There are days when I love being a contract programmer, and confident in the knowledge that no amount of work they can throw at me will ever be more than I can deliver on time.

World’s Worst Fortune

So last night we ordered chinese, General Tso’s Chicken as usual from the place across the street. It was good, as usual. And after the meal, I opened my fortune cookie.

Promote literacy. Buy a box of fortune cookies today.

Wow… Not a fortune, but an advertizement. I fear for what this might be an omen of…

I’m a Switcher

No, I haven’t gone from PC to MAC. I’m not that crazy. But after having my car broken into three times in downtown Atlanta, I figured it was time to do something about it. So I’ve switched to public transportation.

Let me begin by saying that I’m not really happy with it. Mostly this is due to pricing and passes. From where I live I have to utilize two systems, I start out in Gwinnette, then transfer to Marta. Both systems sell monthly ‘Unlimited Use’ passes, however, neither accepts the other’s card. And while I get free transfers from one system to the other, it still means I have to carry cash, tickets or tokens on me every day. It also means I can’t take advantage of the monthly discounts.

On the other hand… Not having to actually drive myself to work is nice. I no longer care about all the idiots on the road, its the bus driver’s job, or in the case of Marta I’m on a rail not the street. I get to work more relaxed. And while it takes an hour to get to work, and anywhere from an hour to two hours to get home, that’s time I can spend reading, or writing, or just listening to music absorbed in my own thoughts. Looking over the whole thing, its a pretty sweet deal.

I’m looking to move again, and in my search I’m trying to put myself within reach of Marta, then I’ll be able to use just one system and get a monthly pass. That’ll be cool.

Hey You!

Yeah you! Look, if you have to refer to yourself as a “Good Christian” frequently, there’s a pretty good chance you aren’t one. I’m not saying there aren’t good Christians out there, but they don’t go around telling everyone they are one. In fact, good Christians tend not to really think about it at all, they just are. You know, I realize its hard. The Bible doesn’t mention corporate politics at all. There are no ‘Thou Shalt Not’s for the business world. But just because there aren’t specific words for it written down, that doesn’t mean that lying, cheating and stealing in the name of upward mobility on the corporate ladder is excused. Its still lying, cheating and stealing, and by its nature, if you do it, you aren’t a “Good Christian”. So please, stop saying it.

The Sound of Silence

The one thing that sucks most about having your car stereo stolen is driving without music for several days until you get it replaced. I’ve never been one much for keeping quiet when I drive… singing or talking, there’s usually something being said or at least thoughts rumbling around in my head waiting for the right moment to come out. But music always fills in the empty spaces. Driving now is creepy… when I stop talking to myself, I can hear the tires on the road with perfect clarity. I can hear the changing sounds of cars switching lanes. I hear the plink of little bits of road debris plinking in the wheel wells.

Silence has always kinda creeped me out. When people ask that question, “If you had to choose, would you rather be deaf or blind?” I agonize on it for a long time, but ultimately come down on the side of blind. I think I could handle not being able to see… but living it a world of silence, I think that would be too much for me.

Anyway, my replacement stereo arrived today by UPS, so I shouldn’t have to put up with a music-less drive for much longer.

Tremors

“Running’s not a plan! Running’s what you do, once a plan fails!”
-Earl Bassett, Tremors

Its funny… I often find myself quoting Tremors, but this one stands out. Mostly, this quote keeps popping up because of how I have come to apply it to life. Too many people rely on things that should be backup plans or fail safes as their primary plan. You can see it on the streets when you drive. There are people out there who have insurance, and they’ve covered themselves in the safest car on the road, and they drive like they don’t care about anyone else. They trust the car to save their lives and the insurance to cover the damages, and it never crosses their minds to, you know, pay attention to the road. They run yellow lights at high speed, they change lanes without signaling or even looking, and they are more intent on finishing phone conversations than they are on actually driving their car.

Lots of people deal with relationships, jobs, and other things the same way. They run out instead of trying to work on the problems, instead of trying to fix it.

That’s what this quote means to me. And he’s right… running isn’t a plan, its what you do when every opportunity to succeed has failed. Running is a last resort, and should be treated like one.

3rd time’s a charm

Its a good thing I don’t write on Mondays, because if I did, yesterday would have been a venomous stream of epithets denegrating the upbringing of a portion of society and a slander of the dubious pedigree of their mothers.

For the third time in six months, I exited work with a skip in my step. Having completed a good solid day of work and embarking on my journey home, ahead of schedule and ahead of the traffic, I came upon my car in the parking lot, minus one window and a stereo. In the morning, I’d had visions of program code dancing in my head, and absentmindedly forgot to take the faceplate of my stereo with me. When I returned in the afternoon, I found my rear passenger door was missing a window, and my dashboard had been skillfully disassembled and my stereo deftly removed. I say ‘skillfully’ and ‘deftly’ because the thieves, as always, caused no damage to the dash or the wiring in removing the stereo. They just popped the dash, pulled the stereo and unhooked all the wires.

As with before, its largely an exercise in annoyance to me… my insurance has been in great standing for years. I haven’t had a speeding ticket in almost a decade, have had only one accident and that was eight years ago, I pay my premiums on time. The last two thefts caused no change in my insurance. This one won’t either. I have a zero deductable for glass damage, and the stereo is fully covered. As of today, just one day later, the glass is already fixed, and the check is in the mail for the stereo. By the end of the week, I’ll actually have a better stereo than the one they stole, for less money than I paid for the last one (and certainly less than what the check will cover). I just don’t get it though… is there really a market for stolen stereos? The one they took, you can buy new for about $100. So the thief will hock it for maybe $20 to a fence or pawn, who will turn around and sell it for… $50? I get $200, buy a new $100 stereo and pocket $100. Hell, if I could just get them to steal my stereo every week, I’d make $5200 a year in non-taxable income.

I could do a lot with $5200. But its still annoying, especially when you consider that I would actually prefer to take public transportation if I could get from here to work with transfer silliness and dealing with two systems that seem to want to refuse to work together. And annoyance leads to fantasy, and I dream of car alarms… no. I dream of theft deterant systems. I dream of spinning blades that cut perpatrators off at the knees, simultaneously cauterizing the wound, leaving them to run away on their stumps.

I’ll sleep pretty well for the next few weeks…

The Death of Innovation

There is an article on CNN… Here. And what I have to say only deals with it abstractly. The gist of the article is, a number of years ago, to raise awareness of the ostracizing and belligerent treatment of homosexuals, GLSEN came up with the idea of a “Day of Silence”. People supporting the cause would choose to not speak for an entire day, the idea being that if enough people do it, then perhaps those that treat gays (and other) kids badly might see what its like to be separated from the rest. The article isn’t about the Day of Silence, but about the “Day of Truth” being organized by ‘the other side’. Religious folks and whatnot who are going to use the day after the Day of Silence to wear loud T-shirts and hand out pamphlets, and basically be anything but silent about how being gay is a sin and is harmful to humanity as a whole.

Honestly, I really believe that people can do whatever they want, as long as they don’t hurt people who don’t want to be hurt. (Surprisingly, there are a number of people who for one reason or another, in one form or another, actually WANT to be hurt, and I feel they are free to do so.) So neither the Day of Silence nor the Day of Truth will have any real affect on me. But, when the Day of Silence was conceived at least it was original… the whole approach was fresh, and different. It was kinda neat. But these people with the Day of Truth, they couldn’t think of anything other than “Let’s do the opposite of them!”

Come on, you right wing religious zelots! Get out there and show us what you’ve got! Be original! Be imaginative! Be innovative!