Sunday, March 27, 2011

Toe Jam

Jackson and Sophie were racing around the yard this evening. Suddenly Sophie yelped and started hobbling. She came inside, and we could see that she was favoring her left front paw. We got her up on the couch to take a look.

Trouble. Normally, her four toes line up like the four fingers of a human hand. But her outside toe was sticking off to the side, like a thumb. Stacy and I had the same thoughts: broken toe, emergency vet on a Sunday night.

Then, while we handled her paw lightly, the toe suddenly popped back into place. I don't know if we did it, or Sophie did it, or if it just happened. Once it happened, she didn't seem to be in any pain, and she was able to walk around normally. Now, a few hours and a longish evening walk later, she's fine.

So I guess the toe was dislocated rather than broken, and I guess dislocated greyhound toes spontaneously pop back in sometimes. My mental model for this comes from my (fairly inept) basketball days. A hard pass or a sharp rebound could occasionally jam a finger. The on-court solution: pull the jammed finger back out and keep playing. No harm, no foul.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Philip K. Dick Would Enjoy This

Some years ago, when I was first looking for work in Richmond, I used indeed. indeed aggregates listings from other job sites, so you can look in one place and see everything. Even better, indeed lets you set up alerts, based on keyword and zip code. It automatically emails you when matching jobs come in. I set up a bunch of alerts for the kinds of programming jobs I wanted.

I've been working steadily for a few years now, as an employee of a consulting company. But I keep my alerts running. It's an easy way to track trends in the local market. I've even added alerts, to see how quickly new technologies are gaining traction.

This morning, an alert came through from my current employer, for my core skills. Curious, I clicked the link. It was a very good match - it was my current consulting assignment.

I was shocked. As far as I knew, everything was going well - the client was happy, my manager was happy. But, these days, you never know. There was my job. They were planning to replace me.

A few emails and some agita later, turns out it was a back office mishap. Apologies. They didn't mean to post my job. I'm still employed.

Now, as long as Stacy recognizes me when I get home, I'll believe that no one's trying to erase me. At least, not yet.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

NPR Not!

Ron Schiller, late of NPR, called Republicans "xenophobic…seriously racist people,” right? Not exactly. The Blaze (a division of Fox News! Affiliated with Glenn Beck!) reviewed the raw video. Turns out Schiller was quoting a couple of high-ranking Republicans who voted for Obama. But James O’Keefe left that out of his "expose". He also left out Betsy Liley's defense of Fox viewers. And the evidence that the NPR folks thought they were talking to the Muslim Brotherhood is pretty flimsy.

In short, O' Keefe's work is a bullshit hatchet job, full of slanted editing, omissions, and insertions. Kudos to The Blaze for putting journalistic integrity above politics, and for plainly identifying "...editing tactics that seem designed to intentionally lie or mislead about the material being presented."

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Corn Dog

About six weeks ago, Sophie started limping, favoring her left rear leg. She and Jackson run hard in the yard, so we weren't shocked. A scrape, maybe, or a muscle pull. We checked her foot pads carefully - no cuts that we could see. We prodded and squeezed up and down her leg, looking for a spot that hurt - no reaction.

When Sophie wasn't any better after a few days, Stacy took her to the vet. He did more thorough versions of the same things we had done. He also felt up and down both legs, to see if he could spot any differences between them. Nothing. He went outside and watched Sophie limp along. His diagnonis was a soft-tissue injury. He prescribed a week of Rimadyl and rest, with an X-ray as the potential next step.

Jackson had been through a Rimadyl cycle about a year earlier. It's an anti-inflammatory NSAID, and Jackson responds to it the way I respond to naproxen: in minutes, we're both ready to tapdance. But, for Sophie, the Rimadyl and rest did nothing. After five days, she was limping as much as ever. We were ready to set up a follow-up appointment.

Meantime, Stacy did some research. She spends about 23 hours a day on the Greytalk forums, so she knew where to look. Next morning, she said, "I think Sophie has a corn." I started reading, and it looked like a spot-on diagnosis. Corns are tough growths that some greyhounds get in the pads of their feet. They're not always obvious. They can be hard to diagnose, even for good, experienced vets: corns seem to be peculiar to greyhounds, a typical vet doesn't see that many greyhounds, and most greyhounds never have the problem. The diagnosis info here was very helpful - when I read about the lack of response to "pain killers or anti-inflammatories," I was convinced.

There are two treatment alternatives: remove the corn by hulling it out, or cover it with duct tape. We were able to hull some of the corn out without hurting Sophie, but it was somewhat nerve-racking. So we tried the duct tape method:

  • Cover the corn with a small piece of duct tape;
  • When the tape falls off after a couple of days, put another piece on the corn;
  • Repeat till the dog stops limping and the corn is gone. This will take a couple of weeks.

The duct tape seems to do three things at once:

  • Acts as a band-aid and lessens pain;
  • Dries up and shrinks the corn;
  • Pulls out the dried-up pieces.

Apparently many tracks use the duct tape method - safe, easy, effective. At this point, Sophie has no corn, and no limp. Lesson learned.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Is Automated Testing Making Us Lazy?

I had an interesting moment at work this morning. I needed to make a low-level change in a complex text processing application that I've been developing for several months. In the old days, I would have studied the affected code and tried to reason out the consequences of the change. Once I had convinced myself that the change was safe, I would have made it, then followed up with some manual testing. It might have taken a couple of hours, and I might have missed something.

Today it took five minutes, because I have dozens of automated tests in place, unit and functional, providing very good code coverage. So I didn't spend any time checking the code. I just made the change and ran the tests, and let them tell me whether the change was safe. (It was.)

This feels a little strange. It means I don't have to know my code as intimately as I used to. I'm giving up some control, and that freaks me. OTOH I'm a believer in letting the machine do the work. And, of course, from my client's point of view, it's a huge win - much greater productivity with the same result.

I think the widespread adoption of automated testing is the best thing to happen to software development in the last ten years. But I feel like I'm stepping off a cliff. Is this dangerous the same way that modern IDE's, with their powerful autocompletion capabilities, are dangerous, because they let mediocre developers ignore the documentation?

Or is this simply an added benefit of automated testing? I can produce more reliable software more quickly, and I'm free to let go of some of the details. I think I can get used to that.