I finished this gigantic project at work, or at least the first release of it, and by the end of the whole thing I was well beyond burned out on programming. Staring at code all day was killing me, especially that particular set of code. And, trust me, if one more person stopped by to “see if I needed anything” (which, for those in the cheap seats, translates to, “hey, let me interrupt what little concentration you have left for no reason”), I was going to kill them.

I was becoming a little antisocial.

Since then I’ve had a few days of lighter work to recouperate a little and during that time I started a little programming project of my own to do some add-in functionality to Visual Studio .NET 2003. (If you don’t do Microsoft programming, that won’t help you… but for those who spend their whole day in Visual Studio, the stuff I’m working on could speed things up quite a bit. At least, it will for me.) I’m doing some cool automation stuff to speed up some routine tasks.

The thing about this project is that I want to work on it. I want to make it happen. I like the idea and it drives me. And why does that matter? Because it’s been so long since I’ve had any actual desire to work on a program that I’ve forgotten what that’s like.

I’m curious why that is. Not that I would classify myself as one of those die-hard programmers or anything - programming is a job, not a lifestyle, and that is an active choice on my part - but I can get excited about some programming projects and be burned out before I even start on others. Could be a couple of things.

I think that deadlines stress me out. I mean, deadlines are important on a project because if you didn’t have a target date, you’d never finish anything. But the way deadlines are set in most projects is sort of like instilling the Fear of God in you - you must finish or fire and brimstone will rain down upon you, the sea will turn to blood and frogs will fall from the sky. I’m a motivated individual. I work as hard as I can on a project - sometimes ending up with overwork and health issues from it, which I would like to think is only partially my own fault - and I don’t need additional stress from the project owners on the deadline. You don’t have to tell me how far behind we are because I already know. Most likely, I’m the bottleneck (because most likely I’m also the only developer on the team, too). Just get out of my face already, I’m doing the best I can. If you want the project done super fast (which usually implies a lack of quality; something has to suffer to achieve the superhuman speed required), call someone else. If you want it done right, come talk to me.

I think I have communication problems. I work very well on an event-based communication system: if something changes, I’ll let you know; if I need something, I’ll let you know. Just be available to receive that communication and respond when it comes in if it warrants response. Project sponsors, managers, and leaders don’t like that. They want a constant status update. “What’s your status? I need your status! What are you working on? How far along are you? When’s it going to be finished?” Look, man, fuck off. I appreciate that you have a desire to have some sort of magic progress bar on my forehead that you can glance at and update your metrics, but I don’t work like that. If I spend all day updating you on my status, there ain’t no work gonna get done. The event-based model works well because it doesn’t take development time for meetings, it doesn’t break your concentration with micro-pings all day long, and it doesn’t serve as a constant reminder that you’re under an unreasonable deadline. You might not get the granular status you want (“Okay, so an hour ago you were 16% done and now you’re 17% done? Excellent!”), but when actual milestones occur, you’ll know (“Halfway done? Cool.” “Done? Great! On to the next task!”). I should probably learn to work under the constant micro-ping (micro-managing?) model, but I think that would definitely detract from my efficiency.

I have some sort of attention deficit. I can’t work on the same project 40+ hours a week for months on end because I stop caring about the outcome. It becomes less of a project and more of a death march. I need to be able to change things up, do something new and different, or it just gets plain boring. And once the boredom sets in, all is lost.

I like to feel like the product I’m working on is interesting. Working on a document replication service to copy selected files from one place to another might be great for the company and super for the person who’s time I’m saving, but aside from that, it’s a tedious exercise of writing a program that doesn’t really do anything interesting. The project I just finished started out interesting, but I think the deadline and status/communication issues started stomping on the interesting portion of things and it just became a grind. With this Visual Studio automation project, it’s interesting. I’m doing stuff I haven’t done before; I’m learning things about how not only Visual Studio works but how Windows works, too; and I’m seeing that I can actually benefit personally by the outcome (not monetarily, but productivity-wise). It’s cool, and I feel good about it. (Doesn’t hurt that there’s no deadline and no project management on it, either.)

I can hear my boss now: “You can’t always do what you want; sometimes you have to do the stuff you don’t like in the job.” Yeah, yeah, yeah. If that’s you, too, then you’ve missed the point entirely. The point is that there are reasons the crappy stuff in your job is crappy, and if one or two of the issues could be alleviated, then maybe the crappy stuff could be less crappy, and maybe the person doing the job would be a happier camper. (Which is not to say I’m unhappy; I’m speaking in a more general sense.) Plus, this is venting. When someone vents, they don’t want to hear devil’s-fucking-advocate, they just want to vent.

Long story short: I’m unburning from the last project… let’s see how long that can last before they say, “Hey, what are you doing out here? Back into the fire, asshole!”

media, movies comments edit

Saw the latest Harry Potter on Sunday. Figured I’d fill you guys in.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, based on the book of the same name by JK Rowling, is about… hang on. You know what? Go read the book. Seriously. I’ll wait.

Okay, now while those folks are off reading the book, the rest of us will continue.

Minor refresher: A believed dangerous individual named Sirius Black (played by Gary Oldman) escapes from the wizard prison of Azkaban and comes after Harry (Daniel Radcliffe). Harry ends up finding Black and uncovers some interesting information about his (Harry’s) past, particularly in regards to his parents.

Now that we’re all up to speed, here’s the deal: There’s a new director, there’s a new Dumbledore, and there’s a new way of looking at the Harry Potter series.

From a direction standpoint, I think Alfonso Cuarón did a decent job. I’m not sure what I would have done differently, and most of the beefs I had with the movie could just as easily have been blamed on the screenplay. I’ll give the guy credit where credit is due.

The new Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) did an outstanding job, enough that it was an entirely seamless transition to him. Can’t ask for much more than that.

As for the new way of looking at these movies… In the previous two books, there was some certain amount of introspection but not so much that it affected the plot; which is to say, the movies were able to come out and, even leaving out certain elements from the book, the story was sufficiently conveyed. In this one, the book contained a lot more in the way of subtle plot points and things that took place as internal realizations or dialogue, which would have either been impossible to show on screen or would have made it drag so slowly as to be unwatchable. That’s a hard thing to put on film, I’ll admit, but there were a few things they left out that I really think they should have left in.

The Patronus: When Harry manifests his patronus (expecto patronum!), it manifests as a stag because his father was an animagus who could turn into a stag. Not only did the film not mention any of this, but the patronus didn’t really manifest as an animal except for one quick shot about a second long. Every other time, it only ever seemed like a white “shield” of some nature. They never did address the fact that it looked like an animal. I think that’s an important point.

The Knight Bus: Didn’t the Knight Bus show up more than once in the book? Yeah, I thought so, too. Too bad it was only a very tiny part of the movie.

Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs: Harry gets the Marauder’s Map and uses it for about five seconds in the movie; it was much more important in the book. Anyway, when Professor Lupin gets the map in the movie and talks about it like he knows exactly what it is… they never really explain why he knows what it is, nor do they explain the significance of the names “Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs” that show up on the map. Those names, which represent Professor Lupin, Peter Pettigrew, Sirius Black, and Harry’s father, respectively, illustrates the relationship between them and sort of provides some insight into their background. We didn’t get any of that. For a story about getting to Harry’s background, they sure left a lot of that out.

We’ll let all of that go, though. It was still a good story and a lot of fun. I’ll get it when it’s out on DVD… I just have to keep in mind it’s a movie and not a book on film.

personal, humor comments edit

Greg was having some problems with SP2 for Windows XP yesterday (he’s beta testing) and had to reinstall. He decided to do the installation in an unattended fashion and used the command line option “/passive” to accomplish that. I started thinking about that particular command line option and how it’s almost like a clinical diagnosis of the behavior of the installer rather than a technical option and then decided that in future programs I need to follow that same standard. As such, here are some command line options I’m contemplating for programs I write in the future:

/passiveagressive: Install unattended and force overwrite of any old file versions without asking.

/obsessivecompulsive: Verify all data written… twice.

/histrionic: Confirms every disk I/O operation.

/masochistic: Deletes any trace of itself on uninstall.

/sadistic: Deletes all user data. Display delete notification message after operation completes.

/dependent: Only installs if you’re installing other, related products at the same time.

/paranoid: Require authentication prior to performing any action.

/avoidant: Run in “standalone” mode; ensure no communication between itself and other programs.

/antisocial: Allow incoming communication with other programs but never send outgoing/response messages.

/schizoid: Display terse messages.

/schizotypal: Display all messages like standard Windows messages, particularly with regard to errors. Refer user to incomplete or nonexistant documentation if they want more information.

/narcissistic: Set process priority to highest possible setting.

/cyclothymic: Simulate unreproducible, periodic errors to test system fault tolerance.

Release 1 of the death-march project I was working on was completed yesterday, so now I’m taking a little time to recoup and finally put things away in my cubicle since the move (right in the middle of that project, everyone in my department shifted cubicles around and I basically chucked all of my stuff in boxes and kept working… up until yesterday it was all a huge chaotic mess).

This coming Monday is the project post-mortem, so we’ll go over the things that worked, the things that didn’t work, and decide where we want to go from here. There’s still a lot to do on that project, so I don’t anticipate I’ve seen the end of it. That said, I feel a sick sort of ownership for it now that I’ve spent all this hard time with it. It’d be a little difficult to just give it away cold turkey; I’d like to see it grow. (I just don’t want to spend what’s left of my sanity and patience on it, is all. If we can come up with a reasonable schedule and some reasonable expectations, I’m all over it. That’ll never happen, though, so I’m in a quandary.)

I’m studying for my last Micrososft certification exam now, which will make me a Microsoft Certified Database Administrator. Then I’ll have both my “Solutions Developer” and “Database Admin” certifications, and I think I’ll call it good. It’s been a long road to get here and I’m glad to be close to the end of it. You’re supposed to “renew” your certifications whenever new versions of the products come out… I don’t know. I mean, I like to keep current and all, but it’s a lot of work to get a piece of paper, and studying for tests is nothing like actually doing the work on a day to day basis. Nothing substitutes for experience.

Seems that lots of folks are excited for the next installation of Harry Potter, including Jenn, who says we’re definitely seeing it this weekend. I dunno. I’ve loved the last two, but I need to maintain a clean slate when it comes to being excited and/or having expectations for movies. All too often I go in expecting a great show and it turns out to be just “pretty good.” We shall see.

home comments edit

With the help of Toiletology 101, I fixed my toilet on Friday - no more leak! Turns out the flapper wasn’t making a good connection with the flush valve. All better now.