General Ramblings comments edit

I figured I should get my rant out of the way before Christmas so I can sit back and relax, having vented about the holiday and the trauma it inflicts.

I have a feeling this is going to be a long one, so here’s a picture of the Christmas Tub Cat for those not interested in the rant.

The Christmas
Tub

The rest I’ll put in the extended text of the entry. Just for reference, here’s a picture of our Christmas tree. So you can see about how big the Tub Cat really is.

The Christmas
Tree

So. Christmas time as come again and even though I vow every year to minimize the hassle and turmoil it generates, somehow it never quite works out the way I was hoping.

Each year we try to split the “festivities” between Jenn’s family and my family. Christmas Eve is done at one family’s house; Christmas Day is at the other family’s house.

This year, having a home of our very own, we thought it would be a nice turn if people came to our place instead of us going there. Sounds great, right?

So now you’re probably thinking that the plan is just like every other Christmas, but at our place: Christmas Eve one family comes over, then Christmas Day the other family comes over.

Somehow that’s not how it worked out.

Normally it’s Jenn’s family on Christmas Day. Breakfast at her parents’ place. This year, though, Jenn’s mom is working Christmas Day, and Jenn’s niece is at her father’s house instead of with Jenn’s family. Again, it sounds pretty clear to me: Christmas Eve, then, is for Jenn’s family and Christmas Day is for mine.

Again, somehow that’s not how it worked out.

Here’s how it ended up working out (omitting the domestic dispute that led to this end decision): Christmas Eve afternoon, we’re going to Jenn’s parents’ place (or grandparents’ or something); Christmas Even night, we’re going to my parents’ house. Christmas Day morning my parents are coming over; Christmas Day night her family (grandparents et al) is coming over for a lasagna dinner.

This sounds to me like, rather than minimize the hassle, it’s been maximized.

Here’s the thing, and it’s important to remember throughout all of my rants, particularly about holidays: I am not a social person.

I hate getting together with people. I do. More specifically, I hate “mingling.” I hate small talk. I mean, I like going to parties where I know all the people (or most of the people), and once I’m there I don’t have to talk to any of them.

Yes, that’s antisocial. That’s what I’m trying to convey here.

The social obligation of holidays implicitly makes it not a holiday, but a hassle. It’s pressure I don’t need. Thanksgiving this year: Jenn went to her parents’ house, and my family didn’t get together. That left me with an entire day where I didn’t have to entertain anyone, didn’t have to eat food I didn’t like, and didn’t have to deal with people. That’s the best Thanksgiving yet!

Christmas, though… Oh, boy.

Friends you haven’t seen for months somehow crawl their way out of the woodwork and this is the time to get together. The rest of the year, they’re impossible to get in touch with. Their email box is full, deactivated, or they just don’t check it; they don’t answer voicemail messages; they work nights while you work days; they work weekends but have, like, Wednesday and Thursday off; they live several hours away and don’t have transportation to come visit but also don’t have anywhere for you to stay if you go visit them; and so on. There’s just no scheduling to get together.

The rest of the year, the only time you get to talk to them is via instant messenger, right when you’re in the middle of presenting in a meeting at work and forgot to sign out during your presentation. It usually goes something like this:

friend42: whassup? travis: i’m working right now, man. in a presentation. friend42: want to get together the third friday after next tuesday? travis: working - send me email. gotta go. friend42: i won’t be on email again ever. travis: then call me. i don’t have anything to write on right now and i’m working. friend42: okay, l8r.

Of course, three weeks later I’ll get an email asking what I’m doing the next day. I’ll have it open, so I’ll schedule a time and place to meet. The next morning I’ll get an email (and I don’t check email on weekends or holidays, generally) telling me that they’re sick and will have to reschedule.

Wait three months, rinse and repeat.

Note, of course, that if I attempt to get in contact with them, none of my communications get responded to.

Now, these friends, these are the people who show up at your house on Christmas Day, in the middle of while your whole family is there opening presents and doing the whole “celebration” thing, and they do two things. First, they hand you a gift. You, not planning on seeing them, don’t have anything for them so you find the Blockbuster gift card you won at the company holiday party and quickly write their name on it so you don’t look bad. Second, they come right in, sit down, and proceed to “hang out,” as if your whole family isn’t there and it’s okay to just stop everything to chat while the rest of the family sits politely waiting.

Unbelieveable.

Then there’s the family aspect of it.

I see my family almost weekly. They live half an hour away from me. I go over there, they come over here. We have a good relationship. When we get together we play games and watch movies. When we’re tired of each other, we leave. It works well for everyone.

I don’t see Jenn’s family weekly, but, while I really like them (they’re all very nice people), the truth of the matter is that I don’t have anything to say to them. Again, I like them all very much - we just don’t have anything in common. I can’t explain my work to them because they won’t get it (not many folks do get it; people I work with don’t get it). I don’t know everyone in their extended family, so I don’t understand most of the conversation that goes on (there’s a lot of talking about second cousin twelve times removed Bobo and such - basically family gossip about family members I don’t know… either way, I’m not much for family gossip, so even if I did know them, I don’t have anything to contribute). I don’t plan on joining any Masonic organizations (her dad’s big in the Masons) nor do I have anything to say regarding the goings-on in the local chapter. There’s just not a lot to talk about but small talk, and, as previously mentioned, I’m not too big on small talk.

(At times I really hope my aversion to small talk doesn’t come off as disdain for Jenn’s family; I like seeing them and hanging out, I just don’t have anything to say. “It’s not you, it’s me!”)

My family, though, is not altogether social. For example, at my grandfather’s birthday party recently, the extended family got together to celebrate. If you step back from it, though, it was a high school dance: All of the immediate families hung out around their own tables talking to the people they see all the time anyway. That’s just how it is.

Jenn’s family, on the other hand, is very social. They love large gatherings and whenever we end up at Jenn’s grandma’s house for a holiday it’s a lot like My Big Fat Greek Wedding with tons of people talking and eating and chaos ensuing.

The family dynamics between my family and hers aren’t quite the same. That makes the co-mingling of the families an interesting experience. Sort of like two different types of swimmer - one dips their toe in and slowly comes around to getting in the water, the other dives in immediately. My family members are toe-dippers. We gotta get to know you slowly, then, maybe, we’ll be down with the party. Jenn’s family will get together with anyone and everyone, for any occasion, the more social, the better.

All that adds up to a pain-in-the-ass Christmas. Trying to make sure every family gets their due time in their appropriate environment is, to borrow a phrase from my father, a “goat fuck.”

Let me tell you, I’m looking forward to it.

This… is going… to rock. Or something.

Anyway, needless to say, I’m enjoying the first few days of my vacation here at home immensely. I’m not having to get together with family, Jenn’s not home complaining about how bored she is while I play San Andreas, I can eat what I want when I want… the vacation debauchery has overtaken.

Which is, of course, not to say that Jenn stops me from having fun, just that once she’s off I also have to think about what she wants to do, which usually works into a productive conversation like this:

Jenn: I’m bored. Travis: What do you want to do? J: I dunno. T: We have games, movies, On Demand cable, projects, crafts, and, as always, housework. Discounting the housework option, there are still loads of things to do. Pick one. J: Nothing sounds fun. What do you want to do? T: Well, I was having fun playing my game, and I’d like to continue. J: But I’m bored.

I think you see where that goes.

It’ll all end tomorrow, when Jenn starts her vacation, and, more importantly, the family obligations begin. Until then, I’ll live it up.

Now, slightly off-topic, I was going to put up pictures of the magnificent Taffy Brick I made a couple of weeks back. It’s eight slabs of Laffy Taffy microwaved together into a diabetic plastique. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Taffy Brick:
Width Taffy Brick:
Height Taffy Brick:
Depth

I’m still eating this bad boy.

downloads, vs, coderush comments edit

A new version of CR_Documentor has been released. The latest version includes a revised set of styles to more accurately resemble rendered documentation, has updated tag support to render NDoc 1.3 tags, allows you to choose the level of “tag compatibility” to work with (Microsoft tags only or NDoc 1.3), and allows you to choose how to handle “unrecognized” tags.

Go get it!

General Ramblings comments edit

I got the following email from my mom the other day:

OK. So you have a 2 pound box of See’s candy on your desk and no one is around but one person, and he is a cubicle up one and over one. You DROP the whole damn box of candy on the floor and they all roll out. Do you pick the sons-of-bitches up and put them back in the box and never say a word (maybe a small “shit” would be uttered) or do you throw the works away and tell everyone what happened?

GUESS WHAT YOUR MOTHER DID????

My mom rules.

General Ramblings comments edit

I have the last two weeks of the year off, so my last day of work this year is two days from now, Friday. I’m doing my best to sew things up for the parts of the project that I’m responsible for, such that the people who will be covering for me will not be left with a steaming pile of feces. That said, as time goes on in the project, I find there to be some interesting and odd conflicting goals that management doesn’t seem to want to face yet are blatantly there, which must be dealt with lest all of my effort to not leave folks with a steaming pile of feces be entirely in vain.

We have a list of priorities we’ve been given from our internal customer, ranging in priority from one to 13, and “low.” Yes, “low,” which is somehow lower than 13 but doesn’t rate actually getting numbered “14.” Sort of like an ancient counting system that hasn’t yet developed a robust concept of cardinality.

What’s come to my attention is that there are a lot of unwritten priorities that rank, I guess, at “high,” which, in this system, would occur before “one.”

Keep that in mind as I digress for a moment to address the schedule on which we’re supposed to meet these unwritten priority-“high” tasks.

My team reviewed the requirements for the project, developed a list of what needed to be developed, created a full schedule for development, and started off.

About two weeks or so into actual development, someone (I don’t know who) looked at this schedule and said, “We want all the stuff that you scheduled for the end done first, and we need it done in a third of the time that you allowed for it.”

This is akin to telling a home builder that you realize he just broke ground but you really need to get those gutters on the roof in a week.

In addition, it was very intelligently decided that it would somehow help us if they threw a bunch of extra people on the project who wouldn’t actually stick around for the whole duration - they’d rotate on and off the project as they were needed elsewhere - and they generally wouldn’t be familiar with the technology we’re using. This sort of thing makes me question if anyone has actually read The Mythical Man-Month, but maybe I’m asking too much.

So, let’s bring that all back together: Unwritten (and generally constantly changing) requirements; an unrealistically aggressive schedule; and a team that changes fairly regularly, which requires time to bring the new members up to speed and transition work from the old members.

No good.

What it’s coming down to is that someone’s going to have to choose one of these things that we’ll actually be able to complete by the unrealistic deadline. Maybe two, if you’re lucky, but call that a stretch goal. Here are the options:

  • Actual development on the product, with only the features we’re able to get done in the time we have left.
  • Training of the new people on the team and transfer of knowledge about the use of the not-quite-pre-alpha product we’re writing.
  • Thorough documentation of all of the decisions that get made, have been made, or are currently changing due to someone’s hidden agenda.
  • Meetings to discuss said decisions one more time because someone new on the team calls into question everything that’s already been decided.
  • New unit tests that verify the stuff we’ve already done does what it’s supposed to do.
  • Additional unit tests on stuff that already has tests to ensure the code coverage numbers are up.
  • API documentation on the product.
  • Quick Start/User Guides for the product.
  • A reference implementation [of the small portion of the product that we actually finish in the time allotted] that can be used as a template for other implementations [and will probably have to be thrown out by the time we finish].

You must choose, but choose wisely. You only get one of those things by the deadline.

We’re a good week behind the “deadline” already, and it’s only the second phase of eight.

My understanding is that the project we’re working on has been tried a couple of times before and has failed. If they ran into this ridiculous nightmare, I can see why - management (more specifically, marketing and sales) actually sets you up for failure by requesting the impossible, then has the balls to ask why you’re not on schedule. We are on schedule. Just not your schedule. Get a clue.

Here’s an idea: Why don’t we schedule a series of meetings with all of the developers on the project for several hours each week so we can go over administrivia, change the existing requirements, add new requirements, and get the techs to explain precisely how things are implemented from a technology standpoint to the non-techs? That’s not only a great use of time, it definitely helps to keep the project on schedule.

Oh, wait - we already do that. Sorry, I forgot. I was trying to get something done. My bad.

General Ramblings comments edit

I watched Christmas Vacation last night, one of the regular movies in my holiday rotation, and as I watched it, I realized something.

My dad is Clark W. Griswold.

Okay, so maybe he doesn’t staple himself to the house when putting up lights or walk around in the attic and drop through the ceiling of the room downstairs - he’s usually very careful about things - but, by and large, it’s Dad.

Like when they find the squirrel in the tree and it jumps out at Clark and the whole family runs around the house screaming? That’s Dad. Or the plan to catch the squirrel in the coat and smack it with the hammer? Dad.

Running around with an electrical diagram of how the lights on the house all wire together? Dad.

Dad doesn’t say stuff under his breath the way Clark does, but he’s thinking it. Like when Cousin Eddie is talking to Clark in the living room and Clark says, “Can I refill your egg nog for ya? Get ya something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?” I don’t think Dad would actually say that out loud. We’d hear that later, once Cousin Eddie was out of the room.

When the lights on the house don’t light up and Clark kicks the crap out of the plastic reindeer and Santa? Ooooh, Dad.

I think the epitome of my dad, though, is when Clark goes off after finding out his Christmas bonus is a membership in the Jelly of the Month club:

Hey! If any of you are looking for any last-minute gift ideas for me, I have one. I’d like Frank Shirley, my boss, right here tonight. I want him brought from his happy holiday slumber over there on Melody Lane with all the other rich people and I want him brought right here, with a big ribbon on his head, and I want to look him straight in the eye and I want to tell him what a cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless, hopeless, heartless, fat-ass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sack of monkey shit he is! Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where’s the Tylenol?

That’s my dad.

A little anecdote. Picture this:

A small house in the country. One-story ranch. Surrounded by a fair-sized yard and a lot of trees. Next door neighbor’s a quarter mile down the road.

Zoom in on the pastiest skinny white guy you’ve ever seen. He’s wearing blue jean cut-offs and knee-high rubber boots. Glasses, brown hair parted on the side. No shirt.

The guy is checking out this swarm of bees that seems to be coming from a hole in the ground. No, wait, not just bees, but hornets. The hornets have themselves a nest in the ground in the backyard.

He thinks about it for a while and heads to the garage. He comes back out with a cup of gasoline and some matches.

I think you see where this is going.

He dumps the gas down the hornet nest hole, drops the match, and runs. A reasonable cloud of fire jumps out of the hole, followed by a very angry cloud of hornets. That cloud of hornets proceeds to chase the guy around the house, like something out of a Looney Tunes cartoon.

That’s my dad. And I couldn’t love him any more than I already do. He’s the best.