Shot in the foot

The IT shortage is going to hit very hard.

Once we’ve farmed everything out and can’t seem to get it back together, and use local talent, once nobody goes into the fields of study required, what’s going to happen?

I’m starting to see a lot of IT workers getting really burned out and leaving the field. These are guys(and women) who studied computer science, worked through the trenches of field technician hell, suffered the slings and arrows of first tier support, rode the wave of the dot-com boom, and crawled through the muck of the aftermath of the bust.

We worked at so many places, getting servers to do interesting things, take over tons of manual work, solved interesting problems, developed and implemented “best practices”…

Talking with a lot of cohorts lately, I keep hearing the refrain of the same song, one that says that it’s not understood by business even after all the educating, it’s thankless, the hours and demands are endless, you are always on-call, always coming to the rescue, the money never gets better, there’s never enough help, and there isn’t much of a career path anymore.

I’m seriously hoping that these are not steady trends. I’ve seen all of this in working in many places, but it’s scary to think that it’s so widespread.


I ran into some bnking issues lately. The bank issued a new bank card to me, and I put it aside, waiting for the randomly-generated PIN to arrive. Another week rolled by, and one day, my old card just stopped working entirely. I’m sure that it was a scheduled event in order to secure the account. Of course, this happens when I’m on fumes, trying to fuel up and get to work on time.

Security is always good, and there are tons of new standards being rolled out to increase the security of our data these days. If you are in IT, healthcare, banking, etc., you are aware of the endless acronyms and how much of a headache people are having converting over, and training everyone to comply. Some of these headaches make it easy to dismiss the projects entirely, but these changes are so necessary in our current day.

Speaking of ATM cards, this video is pretty nuts…
“This trip is gonna be great, Betsy! Let’s just stop by the ATM for some cash and then hit the road…”

Sometimes the security measures put into place can seem overbearing and draconian, but don’t you feel more secure?

Your nature walk is now “secure”.
A Secure Walk in the Woods

The founding

It’s interesting to see your own attitudes toward a given historical event change over time. A couple of days ago (Saturday, even) was Patriots’ day. This one has nothing to do with Amercan football, and the majority of Americans on the street wouldn’t be able to tell you offhand what Patriot’s Day is supposed to be about. It’s likely because there isn’t a tradition of buying copious amounts of sugar, or killing a bird to use as a centerpeice.

The high points of the Revolutionary War, including the Boston Tea Party and Paul Revere’s Ride are very familar, mostly due to Longfellow’s poem, but the holiday isn’t.

More info on Paul Revere’s ride
Timeline from PBS

The PBS site makes me wish I’d heard about the film before it aired. I bet it was good.

high ascii poetry

Just a little blast from the past here. Some of you were around back in the Hayes Volksmodem and BBS days, and will remember this as well as I do.

FYI – a “wahka” is the decidedly “proper” (by popular vote) name for
the characters “>” and “< ". This is in spite of INFOCUS readers of Denver who still refer to them as "Norkies". The Michigan crowd apparently has corrupted the spelling to "waka". To wit, it is - ------------------------------------------------------------ "...a poem we think is about the lowly wahka. Maybe. Well, perhaps---we're really not sure what the poem actually is about. Here it goes:" <>!*”#


Waka waka bang splat tick tick hash,
Caret at back-tick dollar dollar dash,
Bang splat tick dollar under-score,
Percent splat waka waka number four,
Ampersand right-paren dot dot slash,
Vertical-bar curly-bracket tilde tilde CRASH.

original Leitner page
Fred Bremmer and Steve Kroese

I have been thinking back on this recently and was thinking that some new possibilities are possible nowadays with widespread PC usage, the internet, and all of our new web lingo. I’ll be posting a couple of attempts soon. If any of you want to take a whack, feel free to share.

Aunt Jemima

After I heard about the recall on Aunt Jemima brand pancake mixes, I saw a really interesting background article at Obscure History.

I always thought of Aunt Jemima to be a silly product name, and a hearkening to old-fashioned days when the shadows of slavery and repression were still fluttering along the walls.

I know that some of you who drop by here on occasion don’t necessarily get the underpinnings of the Southern American dialect except where it is displayed on silver screens, so the reason the name seems silly to me might need an introduction.

In the plantation part of the south, Aunt Jemima would sound like “Ain’t Je Mama” — “Not your momma”. During the times of slavery and during the period where integration had not taken a foothold, the vision of a black houseworker named Aunt Jemima would bring up the idea of a slave who did all the housework and child rearing, but whom the children were constantly reminded that she isn’t “mother”.

I wasn’t aware of a huge chunk of the company’s background before they were bought by Quaker Foods, another brand known for an extreme close-up of a character who is meant to bring up feelings associated with the American past. This makes me wonder if they will be making an offer in the years coming for Wendy’s or maybe even the Sunbeam bread company or maybe even Martha Stewart.

Social Network Outages, oh my!

We were talking earlier today on Pownce about a lot of the micro-blogging and social “heartbeat” networking sites having periods of downtime lately.

It’s probably just some growing pains as more people start to use them. And since they are all more of a “pulse” setup, they are using the networks differently than a page of information at a time.

I think it was Friday, Twitter was unresponsive, then yesterday, Pownce and then the early morning hours, the same thing happened with Jaiku. They all seem to working just fine now.

Does anyone remember a recent outage at Mahalo Follow? Anyone? Beuller?

There are a lot of different social networks out there, and I’m starting to see a lot of splintering. I hope that we start to see some integration tools soon to help us stay connected and also to not have a deluge of information. Everyone has their own personal limit for information dump, and these networks can certainly cause a flood. I’m supposing that with some open API’s, we would start to see a lot of cross-network functionality. updating your “status” in one place will update that status in Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc etc at once, and people who are following you or on your friend list in more than one place would only get a single alert or, optionally, none at all. I’d like to see options for some of this integration, but not necessarily a snowballing effect on social networking as a whole. It’s important that the users are able to separate and maintain “public” and “private” identity as well.

A good example would be to never automatically update linkedin from anything added at facebook or myspace. At least until companies stop cyberstalking, and hire people based on their skills and experience. This might take another few years, and two or three more Petite Anglaise stories, but I definitely hope it comes soon. Not that I have anything to hide: I link everything together. I just know a lot of people who have the need to hide their personal lives from their employers, and I find that incomprehensible.

Then there’s another whole ball of wax when you start to think of integrating dating sites.

I found an article at LLRX that gives an intro to social networking sites and tiny bit of history, just in case you are one of my “less-than-technical” readers.

Whiffing their own gas

It’s funny how things change over time, including the everyday retail experience. With our frenetic daily life getting more crazy and demanding over the past decade.

There was a time within the past three generations that even stopping to fuel up your car was considered to be a special event, with attendants providing value-added labor including checkng the air level in the tires, cleaning the windshield, and checking the oil level as the fuel was doled out.

During my early years, full-service was available, but most drivers opted to pump their own fuel, check oil, and go inside to pay.

Fast forward ten years, and payment at the pump becomes the norm. I have been glad to have this become commonplace, especially when the girls were very small. When driving, stopping to fuel up when you have a sleeping infant in the car, it would be very difficult if it were still necessary to rouse the baby(ies).
The pumps allowed you to either pay at the pump or to pay inside. Later, it became the norm that if you chose to pay inside and if it was after dark, you would need to go inside and pre-pay, which made sense to diminish the problem of people driving off without paying.

Later, it became common that there are video cameras watching at all the pumps, so anyone who does drive off will immediately prosecutable via video evidence.

Fast forward to today, and there’s an issue. Stop at any random gas station, and you likely only have the option of paying at the pump. If the option exists to “pay inside” and you choose it, you are immediately prompted to go inside to pay.

The issue I have with this is twofold: One is that with the fluctuating price of fuel, I have no idea how much to prepay fur a top-off. Guessing wrong means another trip. The prepay-only option is moot with all the cameras. The second issue arises if you primarily use modern payment options, and do not carry cash, and happen to want anything from inside. The convenience store is actually where the highest profit margin is set, so these gas stations are actually shooting themselves in the foot by forcing transactions to be made outside. In order to not have TWO transactions, I can’t begin to quantify the number of times I have opted out of going inside, where being able to hit “pay inside”, topping off the tank, then going inside for a bag of sunchips and a bottled water, and being able to make it a single transaction would help the station more, not to mention the local economy as a whole. I know the extra few bucks isn’t much, but times many visits, times many people who do things similarly…. You can see the probabilities.