The shit is hitting the fan.

Well, at this point things are getting as bad as I figured they would.  The Lehman brothers are going bankrupt, and Merryl Lynch is being sold to prevent the same from happening to them.  The USD is at 1.1 CHF.  About a year ago I warned my relatives they should put some money in other currencies, since I figured the USD would tank to about even with the CHF when the sub-prime crisis finally hit.  I don’t think anyone listened to me, but at least I tried.    I remember telling Herta I estimated it as about 50% probable that the USD would hit about even with USD sometime in the next two years, and I figured about a 5% chance that it would hit a real crisis, like 0.2 USD to the CHF.

Well, my 50% probably hit right in the middle of the time interval I gave (back in May).  It’s crawled back up to 1.1, but now with the latest wave in the crisis, I’m thinking it’ll go down again.  Selfishly speaking, I hope it tanks quickly over the next week, so my money is worth more when I travel to the States.  And of course, it makes my student loans cheaper.

But the Lehman brothers going under is pretty scary.  This summer I was working for an investment compan in Zug (one floor below the Mark Rich group).  The lead investor was telling us the investment infrastructure was provided by said Lehman brothers.  Already then there was quite a bit of discussion about their troubles in the financial mags.  Someone asked if the company was concerned about the Lehmann brothers troubles.  The lead investor made the comment that “well, if the Lehman brothers go under we have a lot bigger problems than just losing our infrastructure” -> referring to the overall infrastructure collapse that would be caused by such an event.  That will now happen.

On the comforting side, the government is at least stepping in to regulate the collapse, to try and mitigate the repercussions.  Let’s hope it works.   And lets hope we can get the Republicans away from the controls come November.

The productive programmer

Just checked out a pretty fantastic book, The Productive Programmer by Neil Ford.

I’m only about half-way through it, but so far I find it fantastic.  I read it at night before going to bed.  This speaks of its readability, but it’s a bad strategy, since I get excited while reading it and want to try things out.  Every night for the last three nights I’ve said to Bettina “man, I wish I’d read this book years ago”.

It’s obviously aimed at the developer, but I think about 40% of the tips in it are relevant to Bettina, who is a school teacher.  The thesis of the book can be summarized as follows:  The GUI makes things easier for a computer neophyte, but less efficient for the power user.  As programmers, a major part of our work is data entry (we form the data in our heads, but it’s gotta get into the computer).  So it behooves to put a little effort into making the data entry part more efficient.

He discusses various repetitive, boring tasks that chew up our time and attention, and then gives tricks to improve your efficieny, on windows, mac, and Linux based systems.  He also discusses good algorithms for figuring out how much time to spend automating problems, and how not to shave yaks.

Me personally, I would expand his thesis to include end users.  How much time do you spend working with your computer?  Bettina is a school teacher and she spends at least 20 hours a week on the damn thing.  Me I spend like 60.  I think 20 is about minimum for anyone who works with a computer at all.  So I think we’d all benefit from learning better computer work habits.  Because the author writes to programmers however, he rightfully assumes a certain amount of computer savy.  This might make the book unnaproachable for less technically literate users.  I have a hard time judging that.  But if you think you can read it, I highly recommend it.

It’s also inspired me to start posting the most useful productivity tips that I run across, so look forward to that. Does anyone know of an existing blog that specializes in programmer-productivity tips (I’m not talking language stuff here, just computer-human interaction)?