Saturday, December 27, 2014


I suppose it is human to complain when service is bad, but forget to praise when it is good. Had our experience with Michael's turned sour I know I would have related the story here, so now I am going to tell you how it did pan out.

As I start this I don't actually know all the details, I will have to wait till Christmas Day to complete the story.

What I do know is that my husband decided to spend an exorbitant amount on my Christmas present this year. I know that because we share everything, all our expenditure is from a joint account. I also know (for the same reason) that what ever he bought required framing. We went to Michael's because their framing department has never let us down before. I browsed through the craft shelves while he did his business at the framing department. The final bill almost doubled the cost of my gift .. apparently.

Two weeks later he went back to pick up the finished items, only one was ready, the second one was waiting for wood to be delivered and would be ready the following week. Next week, another trip to Michael's, I never mind a chance to see what I might pick up for my embroidery and various associated projects. This time it was a short visit. Turns out the wood came in, but the 'item' had gone missing. By now I had already figured out it was a print of some sort, but because it went missing and they offered to replace it, I discovered that it was not just a print, it was a limited edition, vintage print.

I have to mention at this point, that I was a bit worried. Larry and I have very different tastes in decor. He once had an antique shop. Now, what a Texan calls an antique shop and what someone from Europe calls an antique shop are very different beasts. The majority of antique shops in Texas would be classified as junk shops in Dublin. But either way, I don't much like antiques, nor junk. But I do like old prints, particularly I like old photos of Dublin, or Austin, taken at the turn of the century, and most of all I love old western prints and ever more than that I love anything to do with John Wayne. So I was keeping my fingers crossed that if it was vintage (and now I knew it was) - that it would be something to do with the Alamo, or John Wayne.

Back to the missing print. We left Michael's with them promising to search and get back in touch the following day. The following day they called and said they couldn't find the print and they would make compensation if we brought in the receipt, furthermore we would not have to pay for the frames and we could keep the second frame.

The final agreement was - we got one vintage print framed for free, one frame free and $300 to compensate for the lost print. We went back the next weekend with the receipt and brought the empty frame home with us. I planned to create a collage of photos of my children and grandchildren to till it. Two days later we got another call from Lori, the framing department Manager. They had found the missing print and could we bring the frame back and they would put it in for us. Still no charge, but naturally, the $300 compensation was no longer on the table.

Christmas Morning:

The final result is that we will return to Michael's for all our craft and framing needs, we will tell everyone we know about the wonderful service we received and I received two amazing, limited edition, original vintage movie posters, yes, John Wayne movie posters,beautifully framed, at a total cost of approximately $60. And one was The Alamo!

Thank you Larry, and thanks to Lori and Michael's Framing Department!

Monday, December 15, 2014


I do like that word, it sounds exactly like its definition.

of or like a pedant.
over scrupulous, scrupulous, precise, exact, perfectionist, punctilious,meticulous, fussy, fastidious, finicky;

I have freely admitted to being somewhat anal, slightly OCD and maybe just a little bit neurotic. All of these 'qualities' are required for my profession - well, perhaps not required, but are definitely assets. Perhaps the world of Quality Assurance is the only place where such otherwise debilitating afflictions are actually valued. But there is a very fine line between being what we QA engineers prefer to call 'detail oriented' and the over the edge version 'pedantic'.

One of the very important qualities a Quality Assurance Engineer needs to have is the ability to be able to call a halt and realize when paying too much attention to detail is actually wasting time and not serving quality. Because, after all, quality, at least in software development, which is the field I am talking about, is getting software to market on time and at the highest possible quality. The object of the exercise is always improving the customer experience. Therefore splitting hairs and wasting time on minor points which do not make a bit of difference to the customer experience is something we have to be able to recognize and let go. Not easy for anyone who is detail oriented, OCD, anal or neurotic, and impossible for those who are pedantic.

So, when considering applicants for a position testing software, how do you establish that they are within that percentage of people who are definitely suffering from neurosis but that does not spill into the pedantic percentile.

I believe there are a number of criteria you can consider.

1. Attitude towards developers, and ourselves as QA. They are not Gods, they are one of us, we are not superior, we are one of them. So, a question  'how would you deal with this scenario' and the scenario being some breakdown in communication between QA and Development,  should establish the candidates inner feelings. Here the developer hero worshipper will be exposed and we should get some insight into how the candidate interacts with development.

It is important that we are peers, all working towards the same end, quality software, quality customer experience, minimum time to deployment. Maximum quality.

2. Simple example of test code that may not be optimal, but is efficient and gets the job done in the least amount of time and effort. Review this code. Here is where the pedantic soul will come to light. They will come up with the most convoluted methods to 'improve' the code. Possibly making it difficult to implement, difficult to maintain and even more difficult to follow, plus taking too much time, something most QA engineers never have enough of.

One of the big differences between developers and test engineers is the fact that while test engineers need to be able to write code to test the software, their code doesn't necessarily have to be highly efficient so long as it achieves the end result and it has to make debugging test failures fast and easy. Developers on the other hand, need to maximize efficiency as well as achieving the correct functionality.

Customers do not have to interact nor depend on test code, just benefit from the results. Developers code is what the customer is ultimately going to skid to the finishing post on, or fall off the mountain as a result of.

A good QA Engineer will attempt to maintain a fine balance between being OCD and overly pedantic, and will always be detail oriented.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Another update on my foot

Two years and nine months ago I had the first surgery on my foot. The main symptom that sent me to the doctor was severe knee pain when climbing stairs and running. The running was the main issue. I need to workout, I have osteoporosis and I need to keep my bones as healthy as possible, but I dislike working out. I dislike it intensely. I get bored. I also dislike taking any form of medication.

I discovered that running is the activity I dislike the least, probably because I can get it over with fast, in fact the faster I run the quicker it is done. I also find it challenging and therefore exhilarating. But the pain in my right knee eventually forced me to give up running. The knee surgeon looked at the x-ray and told me there was nothing wrong with my knee. However, he then caught sight of my right foot and immediately referred me to his colleague - a foot specialist.

it was my right foot - 
looks good now though you can still see the scars
The foot specialist agreed that I needed surgery for a bunion and a hammer toe. Now, I do admit that the hammer toe caused me some pain, in fact even in soft sneakers it hurt most of the time. That surgery took the best part of a year to recover from fully. Oh, I was able to walk and drive without difficulty after about 4 months, but it was a full year before the swelling went down sufficiently to fit into most of my shoes. Before the swelling had completely subsided, I noticed another toe was getting hammered, so I took myself back to my foot surgeon. (see here for photos before and after surgery).

That was November and he agreed it needed to be done but could wait until I was ready - I decided to leave it until after the new year.

In February, 11 months after the first surgery, I went back to him to schedule the surgery but also to get his opinion on yet another toe on the same foot, that was looking a bit hammered. Sure enough he agreed to take care of both toes - actually, the little toe was also heading in the same direction but my little toes are so incredibly small, and set low on the side of my foot, that neither of us considered it to be an issue worth surgery.

March was becoming my annual foot surgery month, however two hammer toes is not nearly as serious an operation as a bunionectomy, so I was back on my feet almost immediately and full recovery took 3 months. I was not impressed to discover that my knee was still as sore as ever. So I paid some attention to my balance and realized that I was putting little or no weight on the inside of the ball of my foot, I assume this was something I had subconsciously done to avoid putting stress on the bunion, and avoid jamming the hammered toe up into the shoe.

For the next 5 months I practiced rolling off the ball of my foot and making sure that my big toes took all of the stress while walking. I did frequent exercises to strengthen the muscles in my legs, and increase the flexibility of my feet. I got a balance ball - and spent a lot of time attempting to balance on one leg on that thing. It was not easy, but it worked wonders, so much so that I still use it regularly.

This week, two years and nine months after the first surgery I am delighted, if somewhat disbelieving, to report that I have finally started running again, well, I say running, what I really mean is jogging. Gentle jogging just for 2 minutes at a time, then 5 minutes walking to verify that the knee is doing OK. Repeat for 30 minutes.  I am really hoping that I will soon be back to my 40 minute run 4 days a week. The other days I plan to work on strengthening my core and improving my balance and stability.

It is never too late!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

I have an Apple Mac headache

You know you are getting old when introduction to new technology gives you a headache, actually towards the end of my first day working on an Apple Mac I was feeling almost nauseous.

Don't get me wrong, I am not an applephobe. But I have worked in a Windows world exclusively for the best part of 18 years. Prior to that I did work in UNIX and .. dare I say it without giving away my age entirely, I actually worked with a Wang word processor - (I was very young then) and if you ever worked with a Wang, a MAC would actually appear quite easy, but not after 18 years of Windows.

I never realized how many of the shortcut key strokes I relied on, until I entered the MAC world and then it was just like when I tried to change trains in Paris - without a word of French. (See my book for that unfortunate escapade).

I got my MAC on Wednesday, continued working on my Windows 7 machine through to the weekend, mainly because it was one of those mad dashes to get it done, and mad dashes and a new MAC didn't seem to be compatible. Monday morning I knew it was now or never - no matter what urgency arose, I had to bite the proverbial bullet and make friends with my MAC.

Thank God for Google! And for my office mates, two young developers who both work on MACs and were so patient responding to my cries for help.

It all started when my boss decided that to be more productive I really did need a MAC, for reasons that are not really relevant to this story, but trust me, they were sound. For further (also unnecessary to the story) reasons, I had to travel to Dallas to get my MAC set up - along with one of our developers who was also moving to MAC - incidentally he didn't get a headache - he was already well versed in the ways of the Apple and happy to be moving.

MegaBus pickup point
In the interests of frugality, and not wishing to actually drive myself to Dallas and back in a day, I took advice and booked a bus, MegaBus to be exact up from Austin to Dallas in the morning - unfortunately the MegaBus schedule returning didn't work for us, so it was Greyhound back - however, if you know me, you will know that was very exciting. I had already driven a U-Haul, what was more symbolic of Americana than a Greyhound Bus! So, one way ticks on Megabus up, leaving from the UT campus area at 7.20 with a checkin time of 7.05 required a taxi from the office at 6.30. Return bus was 5.30 p.m. from downtown Dallas, arriving back in Austin at 8.35.

I reserved a yellow cab to pick us up from the office at 6.30 a.m (see my phobia about time here) and when he had not arrived at 6.35 I called. Guess what? they had no record of a reservation but would send a cab immediately. I was silently distraught (at least I think I was silent) until the taxi turned up at 6.55 a.m but you probably won't be surprised if you know my history, to discover we got to the bus exactly on time. The pickup point turned out to be a run down parking lot at the back of a shopping mall, checkin was not an option because all there was there was one security guard and a bunch of assorted people with suitcases and backpacks waiting for the bus. Somehow I imagined a shiny glass booth with an automated checkin, and my traveling companion actually expected a security check.

We arrived in Dallas at 10.30 as advertised, picked up a cab almost immediately and we were at the office by 11 a.m. It took the best part of 30 minutes to get us checked through security but our meeting with IT was for 12 noon, so all was good. One hour later we were in the huge Dallas style mall searching for food. Then back to the office to wait for a cab to bring us to the Greyhound terminal.

It is sufficient to say, I have been there and done that, and I might just travel by Greyhound again if the need arises, but it was definitely not as comfortable as Megabus - and to be fair, Megabus was mega .. it was a double decker bus complete with free wifi and you could reserve seating - for $5 each I reserved seats 1 & 2 on the upper deck at the front of the bus.

What still amazes me is that the taxi cab rides, to and from the office in Austin, and between the bus and the office in Dallas were each more expensive that the bus rides. The entire trip for two including lunch cost slightly over $200.  $60 of that covered both bus fares for both people.

I sure hope that my subconscious forgets the Windows shortcuts quickly. I would really like to enjoy this new MAC experience. And I need to gather some speed to get this work done.

Christmas tree at the Mall in Dallas. Huge Dallas Style!!!