Canada Post and CUPW

Ok, I’m not necessarily going to pick specifically on Canada Post or their union, just unions in general.

Unlike most people in the IT profession, I’ve had the “pleasure” of working for a union before.  Not in IT, but during one of those character building summer jobs, in a steel mill.  During my time there I also had the “pleasure” of being part of two one day strikes.  I never did hear the details, as it really didn’t concern me, I was only a part time worker.

From that experience, the experience my wife goes through ( she is a teacher, and therefor part of the teacher’s union ) and everything else that is going on with Canada Post, its union, Air Canada and its union.  I have come to a conclusion UNIONS SUCK.

The only people they seem to protect is the low end of the workforce involved.  When it comes to teachers, the good ones seem to be penalized when they out perform, over achieve, or try to help out more than the those who do the bare minimum.

I can’t speak to all the conditions affecting the CUPW ( Canadian United Postal Workers ) but some of them seem pretty ridiculous to me.  They are complaining that the starting salary is 18$/hr ( down from 23 ), pension ( anyone non unionized even have an idea of what that means ), and a few other things I’m sure we will never know about.

Seriously 23$/hr to deliver the mail, when in a lot of areas, there isn’t even the “hard labour” of walking from one house to the next, they just drop it at communal boxes and make the citizens go to them.  My post office worker drives around in her car from box to box, and drops the mail there.  She won’t even knock at my door when there is a package to deliver.  She will just fill out the card, and leave it on the handle and walk away.  I know because its happened a few times I was in the house next to the door in my living room ).

Salaries are usually justified by a few elements, to name some of them: skills/education required to complete a job, availability of workers, risk associated.  This is why doctors are paid more, because of the schooling required.  Professional athletes because of the skills, etc. So if we take out the “specialized training”, “hard labour” and “risk” factors, why the hell are they earning 23$/hr STARTING salary anyways.

As for pensions, haven’t they heard about RRSP’s, saving your money, oh wait that would involve taking responsibility for your own future, and not blaming someone else.

If you aren’t happy with the conditions of the employer, quit and find something else.  If enough people quit, the employer will need to realize that they aren’t paying enough, offering enough, etc.  I’m sure a lot people that earn a lot less that 23$/hr would jump at the chance to deliver the mail knowing these conditions.

I can understand that in the 1920’s unions were important to protect the employees.  With the creation of the “ministry of labour” that is province/nation wide (who’s sole purpose is to protect the employee from what used to be called exploitation) I personally don’t see the purpose for the unions anymore.

</rant>

the IT dad

Scripting Layer 4 Android

Last week I wanted to try out some of the touted “customization abilities” and ease of development of the Android platform for developers.  Being a hacker at heart, I had to give it a shot.

I wasn’t yet ready to fully throw myself into full on app development yet, mostly due to time constraints, and family commitments ( I must keep the family happy after all ).  So I just wanted to try out some stuff without spending too much time on this quest.

After a little bit of googling, I landed on SL4A ( Scripting Layer for Android ).  It appears to be a pretty cool option, as you can use a few different scripting options including but not limited to Lua, Perl, Python, PHP and Ruby.  I personally feel more comfortable, for now, with python, so I figured, what do I have to lose.

Setup is relatively straight forward, you install the sl4a app from their site, follow the instructions to install an interpreter ( i.e. the python, perl or ruby interpreter ).  Then its a simple matter of firing up a text editor on your computer, pumping out the script and copying it to the /sl4a/scripts folder on your phone ( by mounting your phone using USB storage ).  The python interpreter actually had quite a few sample scripts to take a look at, including Google authentication, accelerometer readings, UI components, barcode scanner and Text to Speech.

I wouldn’t recommend this as an alternative to app development, but it is a pretty cool way to prototype, or to test the feasibility of something.  In fact that’s what I used to test the possibility for an App I’m working on. (more on that later).

Anyone out there wanting to try something out, or just see what can be done on an Android device, the learning curve is a lot easy to manage than the IPhone one, especially since you can stick to a language you know.

happy hacking

Story Points. Are they just an illusion?

I am a very strong supporter of agile development, as my teams have had very strong success in the past.  I have noticed however that point estimates have become very “uncool” in the past 6 months, give or take a couple months.  The reason this seems to be happening, is that management still wants time estimates, so they have taken to converting a teams velocity and dividing by days in a sprint and voila, they have they time estimates.  So as far as management was concerned, story points were an illusion to get developers to think they weren’t actually providing estimates.  I’ve seen this done, and the outcome wasn’t very pretty.

The problem with this approach, is that not all stories are created equal.  Something with a “high risk” evaluation may have low work volume, and vice versa. Something long but easy could have a low points estimate but take a few days to complete.

I saw an article go by on DZone a while back ( http://agile.dzone.com/news/should-your-dev-team-stop ), and it got me thinking about why story points were first used, was it to avoid giving tangible timelines, or was it to try and add more of a qualitative value to the estimates.

The idea behind points, is to estimate how much ( effort, risk, time ) a specific feature will take to complete.  This point estimate should also take into account the definition of done from a team, which again is completely different across different teams.

I’ve seen point estimates work for 2 companies now, both as a developer, team leader and scrum master.  I have not yet been convinced of their uselessness, but am always open to new suggestions that might improve on the process.  They are always subjective to the team, meaning each team has their own scale of points, but overall patterns emerge over time.

do you have any success or failure stories to add?

best of friends

Or maybe not.

Everyone of us growing up has probably heard the expression, “fighting like cats and dogs”.  Well this comes from the idea that cats can’t get along with dogs, probably due to dogs being more playful than cats.

Mason and Bella
Best of friends

The only comment that I need to say to this, is apparently they didn’t have my dog and cat in mind when they came up with the expression.   My dog is a 6 year old mix of Great Dane, Husky and Bull Mastiff weighing in at 125lbs.  The cat is a couple months old kitten that is some mix, that we have no idea what kind.  We have had the cat for about 6 weeks, and after the first month, this is how you can usually find them.

This goes to show you, you can’t predict who your friends will be.  You might find a friend in the place you least expect.

Shaving product reviews

BlueBeard's Revenge Logo
BlueBeard's Revenge

I’ve been in contact recently with BlueBeard’s revenge shaving products ( http://www.bluebeards-revenge.co.uk ) , about possibly doing a product review for them.  They are a newish company in the men’s shaving product arena, and their market approach for the moment seems to focus on social media.

So when I saw a tweet message go by, about them looking for a couple of blokes that would be interested in some kind of partnership, my interest peaked.

I have been keeping an eye out on this company for a couple months, essentially when I first heard about their “beard reduction formula”.  But being in Montreal, and traditional shaving supplies being only accessible through online outlets, and even at that, not all places ship to Canada, I hadn’t taken it further then just keeping an eye on them.

Well they replied to my message, first asking about product reviews, and if I was “man enough for the challenge”.  Not to take challenges lightly, I replied in kind.  We are now working out details about the what/when/etc.

I am hoping to get my hands on some of their products, and they do look interesting, especially their safety razor.

I really like the idea of doing some product reviews, I’ve already done an unofficial one in an earlier post about Sir Irisch Moos shaving soap, and I like the format.  I’ve found my interest in writing again, and this is a pretty good outlet for it.

more to come.

[UPDATE: 2011-06-07]

A Tub of BlueBeards Revenge shaving cream should be on its way to me today.  stay tuned.