I don't always test ...


That pretty much sums up the current Obamacare debacle. As a programmer for a mission-critical web-based EHR, and one in charge of deploying updates to production, I feel a bit of sympathy for the actual programmers who worked on this monstrosity. And monstrosity is the perfect description. At 500 *million* lines of code, there is no possible way this could have been released without problems. 500 *million* lines of code says that this was not only poorly built but that it was poorly designed, poorly managed, and poorly tested. It's just not possible. Yet it happened anyway.

However, in this case, the sheer ineptitude on display is astounding. This would certainly be one contract job I'd omit from my resume if I were one of the programmers!

What a perfect metaphor for our government in general.



Borepatch sums up the issues with the "surge" very well. Highly recommend reading this post and his blog in general

Nice shootin', Tex.

The temperature flirted with 40 degrees today and it was sunny so I asked the kids if they wanted to go outside and shoot some targets. A very enthusiastic "YEAH!" was the reply.

So we did!

John shooting the bb gun

Started off with John going over the rules of handling firearms and then it was time to shoot. He's fairly small for his age and the bb gun is too big for him to shoulder correctly. But it's light enough that he can do an unconventional hold on it. Working with him on the mechanics of holding a rifle and how/why to support it correctly.

He's actually a decent shot and while he likes shooting at paper targets that he creates, he really enjoys more reactive ones. Soda cans are good, especially if they're full and shaken, but his favorites are some of his little plastic dinosaurs. I can't help but smile when he gets a hit and shouts "Yeah! Take that dinosaur!"

He's getting mature enough to start coming to a real shooting range this summer. I'm trying to decide if it makes sense to get a youth .22 rifle, maybe a Cricket, or if I should get a .22 pistol instead. I think even a Cricket might be a bit big on him even now.

Oh well, if that's my biggest problem, I certainly can't complain!

Competition - It's Hard!

Looks like Gov. Corbett is going to give Pennsylvania another shot at joining the free world, at least in the realm of alcohol. I'm still looking through the details of what's been announced, but it sounds pretty good so far. Anything to privatize the PLCB out of the liquor-sales business is a step in the right direction.

Not everyone agrees, however...
Rich Rosella, whose Allegheny 6 Pack and Doghouse in Cheswick sells sandwiches and six-packs, said expanding the number of venues where customers can buy beer would make his license "pretty much worthless."

"If you issue 'X' amount of licenses, you're not going to sell that much more beer," Rosella said. "There's only so many beer drinkers in the state, and all you're going to do is water down the business of the places that have been selling it."

Distributors also worry that few independent business owners will be able to compete against chain stores that can offer lower prices and longer hours.

"We don't want to be legislated out of business," said Vince Altieri, owner of Jeannette Distributing.

Rosella argues that convenience stores, such as the Sheetz located near his business, are at a competitive advantage by staying open for 24 hours and offering products from gasoline to milk to tobacco.

“If Sheetz wants to put me out of business, they can, because they can sell beer at cost,” Rosella said. “There's absolutely no way I can compete.”

Source: Trib Live - Beer sellers say governor’s proposal to privatize wine, liquor sales opens new can of worries

Sorry, Vince, but if your business model depends on an artificial, government-created environment, then you're being legislated into business - not the other way around. Corbett's plan will just let the normal competitive market signal where licenses should be allocated.

Why I do what I do...

The news over the last few weeks has been more tragic than normal - or the tragedies have been closer to home at least. These situations have spurred many conversations, all with the same question: "Why?"

Some truly are trying to piece together an answer that makes sense. Some are trying to find a way to twist the events to fit, and further, their narrative. A large majority of them turn into questions on firearms - questions on both the laws regulating them and the right (or lack thereof) to owning them. I avoid most of these discussions as they tend to be an echo chamber for whichever side is held by the person.

However, some of them have gotten personal - questioning why I - a white, almost middle-aged, male in a relatively safe suburb of a relatively safe city - would need/want/deserve to own and carry a firearm. Especially a semi-automatic pistol.

The most direct was simply "WHY? Why do you carry a gun?" The question was simple and straightforward and, though it was loaded with unspoken negative assumptions, I could tell the person truly was interested in an honest answer.


That's a question with many answers - some of them loaded with experienced, defensive sarcasm, some with a shrug of "not again", and some just wanting to deflect attention - all of them true, all of them with a good time and place, none of them capable of bridging the gap of understanding of someone who has not been exposed to firearms outside of the idiot box or big screen. Here was my answer to this person, this time:

I like to cover my bases.

I do this in all aspects of my life.
  • I'm a computer programmer so I back up my code to multiple places. Not because I WANT my hard drive to crash but I know it's possible and this will help me resolve the problem. Hasn't happened yet.
  • I work in an office building without an onsite medical staff so I carry a decent first aid kit that, in addition to the normal cuts and scrapes, can handle most minor traumas - at least until EMS arrives. I don't WANT anyone to be injured but I know that if they are, help is a minimum of 5 to 10 minutes away. This kit HAS been used for serious injuries twice now.
  • I drive a car to work and I keep a much more extensive first aid kit, jumper cables, and a fire extinguisher in the car. I don't WANT to have a need for those, but I have them in case I do. I have needed the jumper cables both for my car and for strangers - but not the hefty first aid kit or the fire extinguisher. I'm keeping them anyway.
  • When I was a firefighter, I kept a lot of equipment in my gear - rope and webbing in case I had to bail out of a window or drag another to safety, wire cutters to free myself from entanglement, an axe and halligan in case I had to breach a door or wall. I didn't WANT to need those, but knew there was a chance I would. They added several pounds to the already heavy gear. I carried them anyway.
  • I'm a father of two with a third on the way. I have a healthy (scarily healthy) life insurance policy. I certainly don't WANT to need it, but I want my family to be supported if needed.
  • I often carry a firearm and for the same reason as I have a life insurance policy. I don't WANT to use it but I want to have as many options available should I ever need to defend myself.

After hearing about carrying a firearm in context of all of the other steps I take to cover my bases, she seemed to at least acknowledge that there was a logical reason for it that she hadn't previously allowed herself to consider. I think she had expected something like "Because I can" or "Haven't you heard of the Second Amendment?" - all of which are true and acceptable reasons and may be why I OWN firearms. But I only carry them because I think they're another valuable tool in the toolbox.

I don't think she's sold on the concept (at least not yet - going to try to get her to the range soon) but her position has moderated significantly now that she can put actual logic behind it.

It's all fun and games ...

Oh wait, if you teach them right, it CAN be fun and games!

John got a bb gun for Christmas last year and he's had a blast getting out in the backyard to shoot it. Zoe finally expressed interest in joining her brother so we grabbed some targets and headed outside.

John shooting

Zoe shooting

They both took turns shooting and insisted on running up after each shot to debate who had the closer hole. Zoe still has trouble pulling the trigger by herself but she's got the enthusiasm! Paper targets were a lot of fun but they got to see how dangerous a bb can be when we shot some unopened soda cans - seeing them fall over and soda jet out of the hole left an impression.

John is just about old enough to get out to the real shooting range - now I just need to get a better .22 rifle for him to shoot. Poor me - another good reason to buy a rifle.

Quote of the Day - Politician Actually Makes Sense Edition

"I sometimes think we (legislators) should take a year off from writing new laws and go back over the books and get rid of laws that don't make sense anymore."
PA State Rep. Thomas Caltagirone, while discussing PA's moronic fireworks laws

Damn it, Jim, I'm a father, not a babysitter...

"Oh. You're out with two kids by yourself? You must be very brave!"

"Ah - wife is at work? You're stuck babysitting the kids, eh?"

"Where's your wife? At work? Wow - I don't know if I'd take two kids out by myself..."

I hear that quite often. Most recently today when I took my two kids, ages 3 and 5, downtown to the Pittsburgh Regatta. My wife had to work, like she does most weekends, so I grabbed a backpack, tossed in some water bottles and some snacks. Grabbed the kids and we headed down to Point State Park. Just the three of us. From some of the comments I got, you'd think I was undertaking one of the most dangerous journeys known to man.

I'm not sure if this is due to the incredibly rude and unruly kids out there (usually do to a lack of parenting) or if it's due to the wussification of the father figure in our culture - likely some of both - but I'm tired of hearing it. Being a father is more than just being a sperm donor. It's more than just bringing home a paycheck. It's more than just yelling at the kids when they interrupt SportsCenter. Being a father is an honor, a privilege, and most of all a responsibility and it can actually be fun, not just a chore.

Kids need strong role models in life and that's one of the main responsibilities of being a father - setting a good example. If you're too weak to handle taking two kids out in public by yourself, they'll recognize how it are and certainly learn to both exploit it and think less of you for it. If your kids are too wild and crazy to be out in public without you AND your wife, then you're not doing a good job raising them.

Dads - get off your asses, get your kids out for some bonding time, and stop using your wives as crutches to limp through your kids' lives.

Moms - stop letting your husbands just come along for the ride.

And all you judgemental types - stop assuming that, just because kids and fathers on tv are morons, my kids and I are too...

On the Jukebox: Dire Straits - Live from Wembley Arena, 1985

I'm a huge Dire Straits fan and I'm always amazed at Mark Knopfler's phenomenal ability to make a guitar sing.

This is one of the best live performances of their's that I've ever seen:

I'll take Heinlein for $1000, Alex, and Hanselman for $800

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

-Robert A. Heinlein
That's always been a favorite quote of mine and, though I can't say I can do ALL of those (yet), it's one that I take to heart.

Scott Hanselman had a good post up yesterday called Please Learn to Think about Abstractions, in response to Jeff Atwood's Please Don't Learn to Code and Zed Shaw's rebuttal Please Don't Become Anything, Especially Not A Programmer, in which he makes a point very similar to Heinlein's:
Everything is a layer of abstraction over something else. I push a button on my Prius and the car starts. No need even for a key in the ignition. A hundred plus years of internal combustion abstracted away to a simple push button.


I think everyone should learn how to think and when to dig deeper and should be able to do it in a welcoming and friendly environment.

Learn how to question how things work. Learn that everything new and simple hides something large and complex. We are all standing on the shoulders of giants like Newton, Tesla, Kettering, Berners-Lee, and on and on.

You can choose to live in a world where things just work, or you can choose to dig a little. You don't need to learn to code, you don't need to be an expert in everything but know that you can learn. You can learn a little or a lot. I don't think the Mayor of New York needs to know how to code, but it'd be nice if he knew a little about DNS and a little about HTTP
I come across this phenomenon, the "Let the professional handle it" mindset, quite often. Hell - I used to have that mindset to a degree. It's definitely a lot less work to just call the plumber or the electrician or buy your way out of a problem, but it certainly doesn't help you prevent it next time. But if you don't try, you'll never learn. Then the next time it happens, you'll "call the professional" again and still be no better off.

To Scott's point, and Zed's, I'll take a ton of bad code over no code at all if it means that someone is learning a new way to do something, learning how to think a bit differently, or trying to solve a problem themselves.

Worth A Listen: Live From Daryl's House

There are a handful of Hall and Oates songs that I've always liked but I never went out of my way to listen to the duo. I didn't own any of their albums nor did I ever see them tour.

So it wasn't exactly breaking news to me when I heard back in 2008 about a new concept Daryl Hall had created. But after several friends and family recommended it, I checked it out and was hooked. Live From Daryl's House is an interesting concept. Each month, Daryl Hall invites an artist or music group to his house where he and his band jam for several hours, covering some of Hall and Oates's songs as well as some from the guest artist.

Two episodes have become favorites and get played relatively often:

Episode 5: KT Tunstall
Here is a clip of them playing Out of Time

Episode 15: Company of Thieves
Here is a clip of them playing Pressure, a Company of Thieves tune:

I highly recommend checking out the show and, even if you're not a fan of Daryl or his music, check the archives. He's had quite a few guest artists that cover a wide variety of music.