Freak Systems

Leaving the Matrix

I’m sure you already know that software engineers such as myself are chained to their desks for hours on end. And a workaholic like myself is chained for an hour longer almost every day, and sometimes for an hour on the weekends. But, I don’t see this as a negative thing, because I like being productive, and contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t interfere with my personal life, at least not yet. But, my desk is my station, my matrix. As hard as it is, I have to leave it sometimes and go out into the real world. Fight the cliche. Prove them wrong.

My quest has become taking long walks in the park near my building and enjoying the weather. I do try to make it as romantic as it sounds. That’s not always the case, however, and I often catch myself thinking about work or stuff that needs to be done. What helps me get out of it is calling some friends and see if they’re up for grabbing a bite or a drink. There are many great places in my city and I like going there and seeing people. It helps to keep me grounded, I think.

My job is the best thing in the world, but I try to have fun. My friends being in the information technology field is sometimes great, because it helps me feel like I’m part of a community, and we just get each other, but sometimes all we talk about is work. And gaming, I’ll admit that. But not as much as we used to. People change, you know. We used to be such nerds, now that I think about it, when we started. But, now we’re grown adults, at least we think we are.

I’m still learning to cook, though. I’m doing good. I may be a virtuoso in the matrix, but in the kitchen, I’m an amateur. I have all these cool appliances and like to actually use all of them, not just my soda maker, because soda is not nutritious, or at least that’s what they say.

A couple of weeks ago I was cooking dinner for someone while following a recipe for a mushroom risotto, no less, and I got a compliment. Whether it was a stroke of luck or a dormant talent getting activated, I considered my quest successful.

Until next time, and maybe I’ll even share the recipe!

Changing it Up

Is it too obvious for a nerdy software engineer to ride his bike to work? I suppose so, but I decided to change things up and do it anyway. I love the convenience, the saving on gas, and the lack of a need to park. All the good spaces are always taken. A bike can be stored anywhere. I am on a big cost cutting campaign and I am housing my care in the garage for the moment until I see how this new mode of transportation works out.

I suspect that I am going to love it and will sell the care unless I need to use it for weekend trips. I don’t tend to go far so I can always ask a friend or family member to help out. I don’t need to make a decision on the car just yet but I have definitely decided to ride the bike to work. It will be minutes only and no traffic to fight. I don’t live far from my office so it makes perfect sense. Why drag a car out for just a few miles.

The big buzz nowadays with bikes is the exercise factor. We could all use an alternative to the gym. I love the idea of some extra toning up twice a day. I used to get up from my desk and parade around the office to get circulation going in my legs, but with the bike, this health tactic will no longer be necessary. So there are many advantages to commuting by bike beyond the cost savings. I believe in being practice also this appeals to my simple nature.

I like the idea of riding a commuter bike from On Road and Mountain on my way to work each morning. A friend already has asked to join me so we can form a pack. Some parts of the country are ideally suited for biking to work. Cities are not so much as it is not safe on busy main roads. I am lucky that I live in a small town that will afford me the pleasure of the two-wheeler.

Some office buildings do not have safe areas to stash a bike and you actually see people take their expensive items up the elevator. This is a whole new respect for the machine. I know some people work in offices where there is adjacent bike storage. This encourages commuting if it is easy to come and go and there is little threat of your bike being stolen. There is nothing worse than ending your work day only to find that your bike is gone. I know you need a lock but they are not foolproof. There are wandering bands of thieves with metal cutters in tow. I find this extremely offensive. Use two locks to make it a little more difficult to cut and run.

So here’s to the bikers of the world who get to work in a new kind of style. Join me and saluting an old-fashioned and yet modern mode of transportation.

Better than Going to the Gym

Computer nerds do get away from the screen once in a while. As much as we love being on line, we need to attend to other matters in our lives. The Internet is my salvation. I find ideas and information for all kinds of activities. It was there that I discovered an inflatable kayak exists that is lighter in weight and cheaper than the wood or acrylic models. I could buy one and go on really fun vacations at the lake where I can camp out. If I don’t want to do it that often, I can always rent one and give it a try before committing to having it on a permanent basis. I am thinking about which way to go. In any case, I love the water whether it be the ocean, the lake, or the river. The river happens to be closest so for now it is my main source of water recreation.

Kayaks run up to a couple hundred dollars but then you get bright colors, good design, and the necessary paddles. Since they are inflatable, they make for easy transport and storage. The model I want is ideal for one person and is lightweight and perfect for the lake. There is a removable heavy-duty fabric seat that can accommodate over two hundred pounds. It is durable and sturdy, made of three layers of laminated PVC construction so it can handle the roughest of waters if you decide to take it to the rapids. My lake trip is going to be more placid. I will enjoy rowing across the lake to visit the village on the other side. It is all about stability and control and the directional bottom fins help out immensely. Plus, I have large grab handles and rings that make it easy to carry or connect to other floats. Maybe I will take a friend along with his or her own inflatable kayak. It also comes with a foot pump, aluminum oar and polyethylene carry bag. I want it to comply with industry safety and construction standards not to mention federal regulations that apply.

The lake was gorgeous as the water reflected the sun and literally sparkled. The kayak measured up to my expectations and was super fun. I just loved being outdoors in the fresh air. There is something magic about the water no matter what you are doing—even just swimming and of course boating. I want to do it all. But the kayak has real mobility and comfort so it is tops on my list. I made friends with other kayak rowers and we had mini races for a little amusement. We had lunch together and at the end of the day vowed to meet up again on a set date at the same spot. It turned out to be not only a water recreation but a social experience. I am glad that I purchased the inflatable and not just rented it. It will get a great deal of use! It sure beats going to the gym.

Fight the Pallor!

There are certain assumptions about software engineers that are more or less true. They are super focused and love intricate work. They are creative in ways that are surprising and inventive when they are on a roll. They work indoors of course 99% of the time with few breaks other than a chat or two with a fellow engineer. They aren’t into daytime outdoor activities as there is precious little time. They make the best of off hours at night. Thus they are pale as can be and look like they have never seen the light of day. I don’t suppose it really matters but this is why there is a stereotype of engineers.

One day I decided to take action and remedy the stereotype if only for a day. It was just to mock the usual description of engineers, so here is what I did. I took one long look in the mirror and nearly choked at my image. I was so horribly pale and ashen. I was not going to resort to a spray tan center. That is for celebrities and show offs. Instead, I made a vow to spend all weekend in the above ground pool in my parent’s backyard. It is a nice big one, great for swimming laps. But this time it wasn’t about getting in shape. It was about getting some sun. There are a couple of lawn chairs by the pool where I could sit for a while and read while getting my much-desired tan. It was relaxing and pleasant—not too hot of a day. I spent quite a bit of time out there with only an occasional snack break. My mother warned me to put on some sunscreen, but by this time it was too late. Even though I tried to slather it on, the sun had taken its toll. Instead of a lovely brown tan, I was horribly sunburned.

You can imagine the reaction of my colleagues the very next day. I was rosy pink tending toward the red side. What on earth were you doing? they all exclaimed in unison. They couldn’t believe I was outside all weekend by the pool. It’s not that they wouldn’t have enjoyed a similar time, but they didn’t expect it of me and they certainly didn’t expect the consequences. It took a week before my red skin calmed down and turned golden. Then there was the peeling stage which ruined my glow. I will have to do it all over again to restore my new look. No more pale face. I might even start a new trend among engineers. Seriously, I doubt that I will be consistent with my suntanning schedule, but for a while I will make an effort. I kind of like the color in my skin. I don’t look like I shun the outdoors any more. Maybe all I have to do is cut the tanning time in half to avoid another burn. Or I could sit in the park and just expose my face to the sun for an hour. But I love the swimming pool as a setting so this is my first choice.

Site Build

I build websites. A lot goes into the proper construction of a particular one. I am not one to reject the fact that a good site is a kind of art form. You have basic organization and design and layers of images and content that populate the space. You throw in a few explainer videos, some testimonials, a shopping cart, and an About Us page: all with the goal of selling a product or service that customers want since they arrived on the site.

My latest baby is a website for men in the nursing field. It will include articles of interest on medical topics that affect these hospital employees. It will update them on new technology and equipment and how to use it. Last but not least, for convenience it will offer an online store that sells essential items like men’s scrubs and nursing shoes for men. It is a one-stop-shop that should make life easier for busy nurses of the male gender. The articles are geared toward unique problems they have in executing their medical responsibilities. First time shoppers get a 25% discount on a pair of shoes if they subscribe to the site and make themselves eligible for responsive emails.

Nurses shoes are known for comfort, for men and women, and not particularly for looks. There are slip on varieties that some people love—more or less a sturdy well-built clog style—and sneakers that come in colors to match uniforms. All shoes must be easy to clean whether leather or nylon. You can’t imagine what gets spilled on them on a daily basis. You don’t want to buy a nice pair and have to replace it in a few months’ time. Durability is of the essence. There must be an option for an insole and adjustability of the fit. Male nurses complain a lot about long hours on their feet. People assume these men are perfect specimens and can take a lot. Women seem to have more unique foot issues it seems. They get corns and bunions and blisters all the time. The men like a shoe that is aerated and the foot doesn’t get too hot. They want cool comfort in other words along with a great fit. Nothing is worse that a tight feeling over the foot arch.

The website is the essence of practicality for male nurses. They can scroll through the online store and quickly see matching sets of scrubs and shoes by color. All sizes will be offered from extra small to XXL. As the buyer finds candidates for purchase, he can click on an icon and save that item. He will then be able to compare his final selections. He can reread the product description and clearly see the price and shipping details. Most products will ship within two days. I want to site to have multiple advantages and speed of delivery is definitely one of them. Customers will be able to exchange goods as you would in a brick and mortar store. When it comes to shoes, there is nothing like getting to try something on for size.

So You’ve got a Man Cold

Who hasn’t had a really good (read here “intense”) cold at least once in a while? Who hasn’t suffered the symptoms silently since no one cares. It is too common to engender any sympathy but you don’t feel well all the same. If you do get some attention, you will find that people love to offer tips for survival and how to make the sniffling and sneezing go away (or at least more comfortable with soft tissues). Most of the time you just need some bed rest, vitamin C in the form of orange juice, and tender loving care (chicken soup, for example, from a loving family member or friend). If you are male, you will no doubt get a bit more help, so take advantage of it, my friend.

Among all the medical advice and the folklore, I bet there is one tip that doesn’t get mentioned. A humidifier is one appliance most people don’t have. Those who get colds often swear by them, especially at night when a warm mist is pure heaven. It helps you breathe better while it lines that scratchy sore throat. You wake up feeling more alive and willing to live through another day.

Another tip often overlooked is to take an immune booster supplement. There are many on the market such as those with anti-oxidants. Read the descriptions and reviews online or consult your pharmacist so you don’t get bamboozled. If it says “wonder drug,” beware. Some contain vitamin C (which you can buy on its own), but I would still wolf down the element in natural orange juice. If this doesn’t appeal to you and you are not a pill popper, try a specialty brew tea such as orange and chamomile, or peppermint. Some teas are labeled for illness use. They are super soothing and also contain ingredients that fight colds in particular. It is said that you can shorten a cold by a day or two if you attend to it immediately. So get out the humidifier and the juicer and be prepared.

What kind of humidifier, you ask? I recommend one with a warm mist for its palliative powers. You can get console or table top units for small rooms and larger, portable ones for the whole house. It depends on the availability of storage space, including under the bed. Having an antidote to dry air is a must when you are sick with many ailments. Those with asthma and other respiratory illnesses are appreciative of the benefits humidifiers offer. Most operate for a long time without maintenance—i.e., the need to refill the tank. Relief is an on-going process, especially during sleep.

So from this short blog, you can see that it is not the end of the world to have a man cold. You have remedies galore and attention from female friends. Try all of the tips offered to make the experience tolerable, and you won’t dread the onset the next time it comes.

Freak Systems Goes Domestic

Hello everyone, Jannick here. I know I like to maintain a sense of humor but recently I had to repaint my bedroom because there was some water damage. Major downer. Luckily the water didn’t come in my office or living room—all my electronics are safe—but I’m not particularly handy so this was a little intimidating for me. I’ve always appealed to experts in situations where I feel clueless and it has paid off so far. Hey, if it can work for understanding Linux it can work for anything, right?

I headed to a home improvement store, the place I figured an expert would be, and had a conversation with the manager about exactly what had happened. I explained that the leak had been repaired—it was in the attic—but the painting was all on my shoulders. I asked him what my next steps should be. He said I had a few options, one of which was a sweet new HVLP paint sprayer (that’s High Volume, Low Pressure). I took the high tech option; I mean, why not?

I bought my paints and rented the sprayer the manager suggested. I also purchased the paint strainer and plastic liners that went along with it that he recommended so I could switch from the primer to the paint without a whole lot of cleanup. The sprayer was a Chicago Electric model, which looked kind of awkward—I thought it would look more like a paintball gun but it is more closely resembles something you would use to give yourself an especially painful spray tan. However, despite its funny appearance, it actually worked like a champ. It is electric, so it is a self-powered unit and I didn’t need anything else to make it work. The only thing that was adjustable was the volume of paint I wanted coming out at any given time, which was perfect for a novice like me. I did have to thin the paint a little more than the manual recommended in order to get it right, and that probably forced me to do an additional coat of the primer, but it all went fairly quickly. Plus I think the paint dried faster because it was thinner, speeding up the time I had to wait in between coats. I looked online a little about how to operate a paint sprayer before I started and there was a lot of warnings about overspray, so I did a lot of taping and covering stuff I didn’t want covered with paint. Honestly, I barely needed to bother—even a monkey could have avoided getting the paint on anything, there was such little mess created. It was really easy to clean up too, which was a plus. I am, like many software engineers, a bit of a slob. I think it is from having to sit so long and stare at small screens; you get so used to having a narrow focus that you rarely see the larger picture. I know I’ve gone into my kitchen and thought, wow, the sink is really full and not noticed that the counter right next to it is completely hidden by junk mail.

OK, so that’s my whole paint sprayer review. I really had no idea that I had this in me to pull off, I always considered myself good with my fingers but not my hands, you know?

I’ve Lost My Old Manual: Now What?

I am sitting here a bit dumbfounded and, in fact, frustrated. I am staring into space. I have lost my trusty stapler manual and now am at sea about proceeding with my current project. You are probably scoffing at me: how hard can it be to use this simple no-brainer device? As inventions go, it is on the lower end of complex. It has been around virtually forever and every kid knows how to wield one. Every grandparent, too. It’s not rocket science.

I am not just putting a few idle pieces of paper together here. I have a much bigger job. I recently did a lot of online research that took days and days; and I consider it very useful and important. I then printed out the results and want to collate it for posterity in some kind of permanent fashion. This calls for a binding process that has to make sure everything is intact and secure.

I won’t go into what I was researching. Let’s just say it is valuable and timeless enough to preserve as reference material. Since I already own the stapler, I figured why not do it myself and not tote it all to the printer and pay more than a few bucks. It is not just about money, my friend, but also time. Yes, you have to invest in a long-reach model, but then you will have it to use over and over again.

So much is ephemeral on the Internet and information becomes obsolete quickly. Then there is always new stuff to add to your collection on most any topic. Binding your own books means that they are cost-effective enough to redo as needed. But you have to know what you are doing. Reading the manual, or later reviewing the basic steps of stapling, will help eliminate errors that cause jamming of staples or other damage to the tool. Yes, this has happened!

I remember one time when things became a real mess. I was in a rush and wasn’t paying strict attention. I had not stacked the papers properly and thus they were not in perfect alignment. As a result, the stapler, in spite of its long reach, did not grasp them all at one time, and the staple placement was way off. I couldn’t get all the papers out of the machine intact and lost more than a few. I had to recopy them, re-collate the book, and in effect start the process over again. Let this be a lesson from the wise.

So you can see that having the tools of the binding trade is good, but not the only consideration. You have to be at least somewhat adept. Your fingers can’t linger lest they get in the voracious stapler’s way. Your eye has to be like an eagle if you want a neat book. And who doesn’t. My research material looks great all lined up on the shelf behind my desk. I have a reference system that is topical and then alphabetical. You can devise your own.

Computer Programming Languages Today

Obviously, no one who works in computer programming wants to believe that computer programming the way we know it today may not even exist in twenty years time. We’ve all seen professions come and go as new forms of technology come in and make the professions obsolete, but we never want it to happen to us. We probably know deep down that people four hundred years from now may not even know anything about computer programming, or else they will think that computer programming is the sort of strange historical relic that we think about when we think about the Gutenberg printing press.

Still, we should all try to predict what exactly is going to happen to computer programming, because this really isn’t just some idle speculation that will affect the future people that none of us are ever going to hope to meet. More and more schools are teaching computer programming. Some people have said that literacy in programming languages may one day become as important as literacy itself. Some parents are becoming stressed out about the prospect of their children being unable to program computers, and they are spending money on making sure they get their computer programming lessons at the right stage of their development. It’s important to make sure that these kids are actually getting an education that is going to help them in the future, and parents and schools aren’t just wasting their time and money.

For one thing, there is a clear reason why we would want to phase out computer programming languages in the first place: most computer programming languages are just woefully inefficient. I talk all the time about the frustrations of being a software engineer. Part of these frustrations come from the fact that all of us are using a method that’s fairly dated, except we’re working on pretty advanced machines. Computer programming the way we know it today began with IBM business machines.

Computers were really simple back then, and they were being ‘told’ to execute the sort of very simple commands that are easy to program. Little did the people of IBM know that they were creating a paradigm that people would be using more than half a century later in order to program the sorts of machines that the military would use, whether they liked it or not.

What is Being a Computer Programmer Like?

Computer Programmer Like

For a lot of people on the outside, being a computer programmer must seem very mysterious. They will hear all about the stereotypes about computer programmers, most of which seem to contradict one another. Lots of people really don’t know how their computers work, even if they have some vague idea of what is in them. More and more people are computer literate today, but that only means they know how to operate them. The inner workings of computers seem to become more and more mysterious as they become more and more advanced. It seems that no matter how long computer programmers have been programming, programmers are just mysterious as the programs that they program.

In a way, I suspect that computer programmers and software engineers actually like it that way. For one thing, if people really knew all about what they were doing at work, they might be a little suspicious when it came to evaluating their salaries. I can tell you that as a programmer, procrastination is a huge part of my job, and I’m really not supposed to be getting paid for it.

I do write original codes at work, but that isn’t the entirety of what I do or what my colleagues do on a regular basis. The people fresh out of college will usually imagine that they’re going to be doing this sort of thing at work all the time. This is partly a function of the fact that this is what they did in college when they were still learning how to code. They’ll think that whatever they did for their final projects is going to represent what they’re going to do at work time and time again.

Sadly, that’s probably not even going to be fifty percent of what they’ll do on the job. Obviously, it depends upon where you work. If you’re doing a startup, then you probably are going to be coding more or less nonstop in the beginning. If you’re working with the sort of big tech company that is going to give you more stability, than you’re not going to be writing as many original computer codes. In fact, I spend more time fixing other people’s codes than I do writing any new ones of my own. Maybe this isn’t the most efficient system in the world, but it is the one that a lot of software companies use.

I will also test software frequently in order to detect any potential problems with it. Usually, there aren’t any problems with it, but that isn’t going to stop me from testing it over and over again. A lot of my colleagues are going to be doing the exact same thing. Often times, a lot of the software research that we do in these situations is also going to be a matter of us failing to truly change software even as we’re giving the impression that we are.

I don’t want to give the impression that software engineers don’t contribute to their fields, or that all of the work that you’ll do as a software engineer is going to be redundant. However, aspiring software engineers need to know that our work is drudge work like any other. They should also know that many of us really do expend our vast brainpower on finding ways to avoid work. If people don’t accept that, then they’ll never fit in with the culture of the average software company.