Move Over!

I've posted in the past about my distaste for the slow drivers in the left lane.  I understand that gas is expensive and you are driving slower to increase mileage.  I get it because I'm doing it too.  Here's the thing though, I'm doing it without being a nuisance. I would love to just give these fools a piece of my mind.  If you are one of these idiots, then please take notice.

Photo courtesy of Burning Image

Apparently my tolerance for how slow I should be driving and your tolerance are different.  Other people have places to be and might want to drive faster than 10 under the speed limit.  When you drive slower, you belong in the right hand lanes.  Period.  The left hand lanes are meant for passing. It's more efficient that way, otherwise you are impeding traffic and keeping people behind you on the interstate longer.  This results in a larger traffic problem and is undoubtedly worse for the environment all because you were too inconsiderate to get out of the damn way.

That makes me feel better to be able to say this.  Since I spend about 2 hours of my day commuting, these types of issues have become a sore spot for me.  I loathe selfish people, and the road is full of them.  We're all just trying to get to where we need to be and do it safely.

Please beat your kids, Round 2

Several months back, I fired off a blog post on the spur of the moment that drew quite a bit of attention.  5 months after the post was originally published, the post is still drawing a stray comment and quite a few page views.  I am truly amazed at the power the Internet can wield for a single person.  It was so controversial that I just had to follow this up in some official capacity.  My buddy Brandon has been the voice of reason in the comments.  He actually understood my humor and got the real message behind the post.

I had to go back and re-read my post just to make sure I wasn't missing something.  Nope, it's written just the way I intended it.  If you read the comments however, you start to get a grim picture of who I apparently am.  Apparently I'm some sick twisted individual that runs around whooping the shit out of everything thing that moves.  If it's smaller than me and alive, then I take pleasure in abusing it.  When I'm not busy bringing the thunder to innocent creatures, I like to rape people.  Oh, one more thing, I will burn in hell. 

Of course, it's all bullshit.  People who disagree with you tend to try and bring you down to their level.  Only one commenter disagreed and did so in a respectful manner.  Amazingly, some people agreed with me too.  I think that those people understood that I wasn't talking about abusing your children.  I was talking about disciplining your children.  There is a difference.  Abusing your children is wrong.  Spanking them to provide negative reinforcement is not abuse. 

The line between abuse and discipline differs by the intent of the person doing the discipline.  Are you punishing your child because you want them to be aware that what they are doing is dangerous or socially unacceptable?  If you said yes, then that is discipline.  Your discipline is a reactive measure for a proactive purpose.   On the flip side, are you punishing your children because you don't know of anything else to do?  Your kids just won't listen and you just want them to shut up?  If you said yes, then you suck as a parent and at the same time you are abusing your children.  Your discipline is a reactive measure with no actual long term purpose.

The way I see it is this:  If you have to punish your child, then they have to know the reason for it.  If you stick to your guns, then your child will know that behavior or action is unacceptable 100% of the time and will remember the punishment laid down.  If you have to whoop the hell out of your kids every day, then you have some serious communication issues.  No amount of beating is going to solve that barrier and will actually do more harm than good.  Your child has to know that you care about him/her and that your punishment comes with good intent for their long term well being.

Here, let me summarize this for you.  I'm sick and tired of seeing kids running around in the stores being loud, disruptive, and disrespectful.  Parents need to start taking responsibility for their kids actions and discipline them.  However they choose to do that is up to them.  Whatever is done, parents have to remain consistent.  If you say you are going to do something, then follow through with it.  I'm not buying into the whole politically correctness about raising your children.  I was raised a certain way and I'm proud of who I've become.  I want my kids to have the same morals and values that I do, so I will do what I can to make that happen. 

Email Etiquette

Photo courtesy of gorriti

I'm not sure what it is, but bad email practices really make me angry.  I'm always amazed at the horrendous things that I see people do.  Email has been around for long enough now that business people should have no trouble using the medium.  After all, we are just talking about basic communication skills here.  Alas, some people that I work with have terrible email etiquette.  Here are a few of the things that get me rowdy:

  1. USING ALL CAPS.  Damn, this is possibly the worst thing you could do.  Not only is it freaking hard to read, but it looks angry.  When I get one of these, I know the person is either really angry or really lazy.  Usually the latter is true.
  2. writing in all lowercase and in one big run-on blob no punctuation to be seen anywhere.  You've seen these.  It's about half a screen of incoherent babble and a stream of random thoughts with no markers for when one idea stops and another starts. It starts off talking about the sales meeting and transitions to sports.  Next there is something about puppies and then finally back to the sales meeting.
  3. Excessive use of "ASAP". This includes synonyms like "URGENT" and "IMMEDIATE" as well as using that damn importance flag that no one pays attentions to.  I'm sorry, but when you claim that everything is an emergency, I stop caring any more.  It's like the boy who cried wolf except it's the sales that cried ASAP.  I've just become numb to this type of email.  If something absolutely has to be done now I'll have gotten a phone call.
  4. FUBAR Subjects.  I'm not even sure why this one is an issue, but it is.  Apparently it's extremely hard to craft a terse subject that sets a general tone of the email.  Instead, the subject contains the damn body of the email including the person's freaking name.  WTF?  My subject line can only show so many characters.  With a subject 3.73 miles long (that's approximately 6 kilometers for those of you metric folks), you would expect the email body to be a novel right?  Nope, usually it's a simple "see above".  Argh!  That's just laziness and impatience. 
  5. The email then phone call email. "Hey, I just sent you an email.  Did you get it yet?"  It's okay if you just sent me something funny and you want to share the laugh with me.  It's okay if you follow up via phone because I didn't respond in a timely manner for the issue.  It's not okay if you hit send and pick up the phone to dial.  Computers are amazing things that deliver email with amazing reliability.  You can be fairly certain that clicking send and not getting an error means that I'll get the email.  I'll read it when I'm damn well ready to read it.
  6. Poor spelling.  I'm not perfect and I spell things wrong on occasion. I'm no grammar Nazi, but spell check is built in to Outlook.  In fact, you don't even need to click something to perform the spell check as it puts a big red squiggly line under the damn word as you type it wrong.  Those people who make it a habit of having spelling mistakes are just being lazy.
  7. "Reply All" all the time.  There's nothing like getting a broadcast message to announce something at work only to be bombarded by the onslaught of replies.  Here's the scenario, email #1 is an announcement along the lines of "Please welcome our new employee Salesy McSales."  Emails #2-8 are an email with "Glad to have you on board."  Email #9 is an email asking where we are going to lunch to celebrate the new hire.  Finally Emails #10-13 are a brief debate over the location of lunch.  All of this for a person who isn't even in my department.  Nice.

Hopefully none you, my dear readers, are described above.  If I've offended any of you, well good.  Someone had to tell you how bad you suck at the Internets.  If you know someone who does these things, send them a link here.  I'm sure they'll laugh because they're oblivious to the fact that they do these things.  At least you tried.

Notes Are Not Developer Friendly

Photo courtesy of err_r

Attention all users of systems across the world: Note fields in applications are not a good place to put things that need to be indexed and parsed.  For whatever reason, the users at my company seem to love their note fields.  They love them so much that they begin to believe that just by the very nature of them sticking something in there that the server (a magic natural language processor, of course)  will make things happen just as they typed it. Damn, and to think: I spent 4 years in college and years later I'm still learning programming languages when all I had to do was just tell the freaking computer what I wanted to do in broken English.  Here, let me give this a go:

  1. Open notepad
  2. Type "Make a data export of our stuff and send it to these people via ftp with encryption.  Do this every month and call me before you send it out."
  3. Save
  4. ???
  5. WTF?  Why isn't this freaking computer working!  POS!

Some of them also seem to think that I actually read the crap they type in there too.  It seems that my brain is somehow physically connected to all things technology at my company.  By that very nature, it seems that anything that is typed into any application anywhere is immediately known to me.  Sweet.

I recently had a nice situation come up where some data was loaded with a note that said those records were part of a larger group.  Forget that we have tags for this type of thing or heaven forbid the group name field.  I get the call "Josh, when we're giving this data out to XYZ company, they need to know about these records that I marked with a specially crafted note field.  They need to know that they are members of ABC group."  It seems no one understands that notes are for evaluation by humans after one has already pulled that particular record up.  Crap, here I go creating a massive temporary index on this text field so that I can make this happen in under a year.

Once I identify these records and create data in the places they were supposed to be based upon these magical identifiers in the note field then I'm feeling pretty good about myself. I think that I'm done.  Wrong again.  I get the next call: "Josh, some of the records are not being identified correctly.  I'm emailing them to you so you can see why."  Oh great, how did I mess this up?  I used the magic identifier you told me: "Strategic Hospitals Incorporated of Tulsa" (FYI: This is made up for the sole purpose of comedic value) .  Once I get the email and start checking the notes of the records in question, it becomes obvious what happened.  I forgot to check all possible combinations of that magic phrase.  Apparently, it would have been too hard to use the same identifier, instead  they chose to shorten it to: "Strategic Hosp. Inc. of Tulsa", "Str. Hosp. Inc. of Tulsa", and even "S.H.I.T."!  "S.H.I.T.", can you believe that?  How in the hell am I supposed to know about this "S.H.I.T."?  Seriously.

What's the moral of the story?  Note fields are a necessary evil.  People want to store things that we (the developers) don't need to know about.  The only way to do that is to provide them a free form field where they can type anything in.  Some people (usually the same ones every time) will continue to put important pieces of data here that belong elsewhere.  I think it's just a fact of life.

Please beat your kids

The world as we know it is coming to an end.  Apparently Massachusetts thinks it should be illegal to spank your children.  This is what is freaking wrong with our country!  I see kids enough running around back talking their parents and raising enough hell as it is.  You want to know why they do that?  It's because they aren't scared.  If you take away a parent's right to whoop the living hell out of their children, then you take away their ability to scare their kids. 

I can't recall ever getting spanked personally.  I'm sure I was probably smacked a few times just to remind me who was the boss.  Here's what I do remember though; I remember my parents telling me that they would have no problems with doing so and hearing the stories from my friends of their father's belts.  That was enough to keep me straight.  It was FEAR that made me understand my parent's authority when I was growing up.  That's what kept me out of trouble and made me the person I am today.

Please don't let our lawmakers pass laws that encourage our youth to be a bunch of spoiled sissies.  If kids grow up without a backbone, then they'll act the same way as adults.  It can't be pleasant to see a 50 year old man throw a temper tantrum.  Just think about that.

Edit: Wow, I'm amazed at how much attention this post managed to bring. To read more of my thoughts on this, please read my follow up.

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