How I reassure users that even us IT Pros are human…

Anyone whose worked in the IT world has encountered situations where a user might feel a bit embarrassed when you fix a problem what seemed kind of obvious.   You know the types of situations where the situation can be resolved by plugging in the device.

Being a fallible human,  I have more than my fair share of these…and have posted some of them here

Whenever I need to reassure someone that I’m not at all put out by the situation I tell them my Snowblower Story….and yes, this is a true story.

A few  years ago I lived in Barrie Ontario which was frequently hit with heavy snowfalls.
Shortly after we got hit with about 3ft of the white stuff I suited up and headed down to my garage to fire up the snow blower.

It wouldn’t start….I tried everything!!!

I happened to have the tear down manual for the snow blower, and having no aptitude for mechanical things, decided that it shouldn’t be an issue to tear down the workings and find the problem.

Some time later I had all the external stuff stripped off, and was about to take apart the motor itself (I don’t know why…while I understand the principles of the internal combustion engine I did not have any experience, knowledge or skill in fixing them),  my friend and neighbour Tim came over with a couple of beers to see why I hadn’t cleared out my drive (and his).

When I told him what I was up to, he chuckled and moved the gas tank so he could sit down.

As he did so he paused…

He then handed the gas tank to me and asked if it was empty when I started…

Yes…yes it was.

Sometimes a zebra is just a donkey!


How my stand up comedy class instructor made me a better coder

Years ago, while I was still serving as a military medic my sergeant asked me why I hadn’t signed up for a unit golf tournament.

“Well sergeant,  I don’t like to do things that I do not excel at.”

Her facial expression upon hearing this was very memorable.

As I grow older I’ve started to realize that my drive to find better ways to do things sometimes gets in my way.


I was working on a function to recursively parse a string with multiple delimiters into an associated array.

I had it working,  but thought that I could make it more efficient.

That worked,  but thought I could make it ever more efficient.

…you get the idea.

It was getting to the point where I was getting frustrated.  There was an issue with recursive function calls weren’t returning the proper data.

I couldn’t figure it out.

I took a break and saw an email from Jim,  the instructor of the Stand-Up Comedy class I’m taking at Second City in Toronto.

The email contained some notes on a 3-minute set I’d delivered at the last class.

Jim gently pointed out that I was striving for perfection right off the bat and that it was getting in my way.

He talked about how even seasoned comics work to avoid that trap.

He was right.  I had practiced bits of the set for hours working on every nuance of delivery and wording.

I turned back to my code a few minutes later and realized that seasoned programmers and seasoned comics have some things in common.

73 lines of code became 127 lines, and done!





The Real Reason Why Many Programmers Don’t Have Social Lives

I often have difficulty speaking to other humans.

After hours buried in code,  when I’m forced to communicate with other humans I have difficulty in switching to the rather arbitrary syntax and structure of Conversation.

Many people believe this is why I don’t have much of a social life,  but that isn’t the real reason.   Like most full-stack programmers I only need a few minutes to get comfortable with the current language/platform.

Here’s what happens to many of us when we’re planning on going out…

As we’re leaving we realize we left something important, like our phone, keys etc near our computer.

When we approach the computer,  we think about something we’re working on,  or we remember that we wanted to try something,  or had an idea to fix a problem…

So we think:

I’ll just take a minute and try that…

What follows are thoughts like

Well, that didn’t work!  Maybe if I….


now where was that chunk of code I used before??

then, finally..

Wait, why am I hungry?


OMG, Why is it so dark out??!!!

Then when you look out and see that its not an alien invasion with ships so big they blot out the sun, but rather that its late at night and life has once again passed you by.