Saturday, October 27, 2012

Oooooooooh, mah back!!

My back feels as though an elephant stomped on it. My shoulders are aching, My hands are chapped, tingling, hot and throbbing.

It was Pick Up The Meat Day. We just finished packing the chest and upright freezer, as well as the two freezers on the two fridges we own.

It’s always an adventure, and I’m beginning to doubt that it will ever become so old hat that we simply burn through it like it’s nothing and then sit around asking each other, do you remember when this was, you know, HARD?

But, two hogs and a steer are now safely put up for the coming year. Everything from ground beef to bacon, prime rib to the Christmas ham – pretty much all the meat we’re going to eat for the next twelve months, crammed into every available niche.

The husband and I do the same thing every year. He takes one look at the overflowing boxes piled up in the back of the van and says, “That will never fit.”

“It will fit,” I reply, confidently – even though inside I’m thinking, crap, he’s probably right…

“Honey,” he says, using the tone that clearly informs me that by ‘honey’ he means ‘stupid,’ “You have x-many cubic feet in those freezers, and they are already y-full. And this is clearly z-many more and y + z = x to the power of a zillion. It will never fit.”

“Pfffft,” I shrug at him. “It’ll fit. You’ll see.”

And now it is a matter of pride, people. it WILL fit.

And somehow, thus far, I have managed to pull it off. I have found ways to turn z-many cubic feet of meat into x-minus-y-many.

And then he tells me he is amazed and that I am amazing.

And all I can think is, I can’t believe I pulled that off AGAIN.

I’ll try to take some pictures tomorrow, when it isn’t DARK out there. Assuming I can stand up tomorrow. Because the way my back feels right now, I’m thinking I may need to stay in bed for a few days. Or weeks. Possibly the rest of my life.

…this may be a hint that I should rethink that idea I had about retraining to be a cowboy…

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

In which an old dog finds new tricks dull

I had all-day training today for the impending SCRUM-stuff. Which we’re all pretty sure is going to be an epic disaster of all kinds of proportion. The only people more furrowed of brow than the folks assigned to the SCRUM teams are the people who are not assigned to the SCRUM teams, who are looking at the diagrams showing themselves ‘demoted’ into a generic “operations / support” box and thinking, oh, HELL to the NO! to themselves before stomping off to set up a new job-search agent on

(And I am totally not making that up – I won’t be surprised if we end up losing about 50% of the overall team during this. And you know which 50% it will be, right? Yeah, the competent ones who get five job offers the instant they say, “Ya, I was thinking about maybe pondering the possibility of looking for-” “YOU’RE HIRED! CAN YOU START TOMORROW?!”)

So, yeah. I had all day training today. Seven hours. Seven solid hours of source control training.

Here. Let me sum up the seven hours of training for you: In Visual Studios? There are folders. And sub-folders branches <=fancy development-source-control-word-for-sub-folder.

AND if you change something, it gets tracked. And you can navigate? The folders? but it’s not at all like navigating a regular old Windows file folder system. Well. Actually. It’s exactly like doing that. But with versioning.

{rubs temples}

NOW MIND YOU, I’ve sort of…played in this sandbox before. I’ve been a contractor for an embarrassingly long time, and have worked in a lot of different places using a lot of different tools and methods. I’ve done SCRUM before (loved the team, hated the work, which was mostly busy-work and done at too-rapid a pace, so that by the time you thought of a “better” way to do something it was already too late and the half-arsed jury-rigged version had gone to prod and nobody was ever interested in fixing something that wasn’t actively broken, soooooooo, crap-code it was, which left me somewhat embittered but let’s not DWELL). I’ve done what our SCRUM master referred to as “Agile but” – where technically we were ‘AGILE’ but then there were all these exactly-not-AGILE things that would happen because they “had” to because somebody-more-senior-than-you said so.

I’ve been in cowboy groups (“wallllllp, I tell you what we’re gonna do, Pilgrim: We’re gonna hot-fix it right in prod, that’s what we’re gonna do…”), and fundamentalist groups (“Thou Shalt Not break any of the elebenty-bazillion Rulz we haz, lest the $DEITY of Systems [a thousand bits be showered upon its binaries] become enraged and did you just run a query without the REQUIRED where clause?! NONONONONONO, you canNOT use a MERE inner join to limit results, you MUST ALWAYS use SOME form of WHERE!!!”) (<= I kid you not – true story - it was REQUIRED that you have the word ‘WHERE’ followed by ‘some condition’ – and because I am a real shite that way, I wrote “WHERE 1 = 1” more than a few times as my ‘theologically dictated must-always-have-a WHERE clause.’) (That always evaluates to ‘true,’ so, no harm no foul. Now, WHERE 1 = 0? That’s kind of a fun one: If you put, for example, “SELECT * INTO new_table FROM old_table WHERE 1 = 0”? Know what you get? A nearly identical, empty new table! It won’t have indexes, foreign key constraints, blah blah blah, but it will have the same structure – kind of a fast-n-dirty way to quick-build a new version of a table to play with. You know, in case that ever comes up for you. Ahem, yeah, let’s…move on…) (…wait…where the heck was I going with All That before I got sidetracked down the rabbit hole of places I’ve worked that were more nuts than seems possible and only the fact that I still maintain some contact with former coworkers who say, “No, yeah, dude, that REALLY happened…” comforts me that I didn’t just DREAM it a-la Alice In Wonderland or something…oh! right!)

So, this ain’t my first rodeo. That’s where I was going with All That. I’ve used a fairly robust variety of tools, fancy and plain; source control, versioning, carefully-controlled-ways-of-getting-new-code-into-production, and so forth.

They tend to be very similar. If you’ve used one, and you have a reasonably flexible mind (and honey, you’d better if you’re going to be working “in tech,” because it moves fast and has very little respect for brittle, slow-moving, reluctant-to-embrace-new-things brains), you’re probably going to run your eyeballs over the new screens and go, “Oh, I see. Got it. OK.”

Which is why I got about 25% worth of nothing out of that seven hours. I kept waiting for it to get…interesting. Relevant. Useful! Unusual enough to mean I wouldn’t have figured it out on my own in about thirty seconds upon sitting down with the application open.

Something that made spending seven hours in a stuffy classroom suffocating on somebody’s perfume worthwhile.

This kept not happening.

My attention began to wander, just a bit.

By which I mean I returned shamelessly to working on my ridiculous two-mules worth of task-list with increasingly limited attempts to pretend I wasn’t doing so.

And then, well after the point where I was trying to come up with a way to gently suggest we take a small break so that those of us with pinched nerves and other vicissitudes could work out a few kinks or maybe throw ourselves in front of fast-moving taxis so as to have an excuse not to return, my phone went off.

LOUDLY. Even though I would have sworn I had turned the ringer all the way down.

I nearly dropped it trying to dismiss the call. Instead, I answered it and then promptly hung up. But that was OK, because a few minutes later? They called back.

And “they” were a jail. Or so the recorded message asking me to accept the collect call informed me. “This is a call from an inmate of Cook County.” {incomprehensible mutter I presume was the placer of the call saying his name} “To accept the charges” (the recording went on, hopefully) “press or say 1. You can also” (the recording continued, bleakly) “say ‘not now,’ or” (and here the tone became downright somber) “press ‘9’ to block all future calls from this facility.” (and, hanging there unspoken, the words if you really are the kind of person who kicks puppies, dashes the hopes of Youth and hates America…plus SOMEDAY maybe it WILL be somebody you know, DESPERATELY trying to reach out to YOU, yes, YOU, the ONLY PERSON who could POSSIBLY save them, BUT. NO., YOU!!!!! pressed NINE…!)

NOW I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE THINKING. What kind of INHUMAN person would press nine? because of COURSE you wouldn’t do that, you would do the right thing and accept this $$$$$$ call from…somebody…and, uh, chat about the WEATHER or something…

…yeah…I totally hung up…

BUT, not before I had rocketed out of the training room in order to answer the call, because I had been aching to get the @^*&@ out of there for, like, over an hour am far too polite a person to yak into my cell phone in the middle of class, for heaven’s sake, how rude would THAT be?

And then I hung around waiting for this guy I knew would be circling around looking for me because that’s kind of a thing he does right now accidentally ohmygosh didn’t see THAT coming! got caught by a coworker and got embroiled in a completely meaningless extremely urgent discussion/planning session.

So that killed ate up another half hour of class time. (Oh darn, I missed the part about how to expand a folder. However will I MANAGE?!)

And when, shortly after I had dragged my aching (but dutiful!) backside back to class (well…I kind of had to…I’d left my laptop there…), a particularly difficult-to-nail-down person offered up a time tomorrow when I could have his (semi)complete and (nearly) undivided attention during the ‘basic’ training (oh yes, there’s more!), I ever so reluctantly took him up on it.

Where ‘ever so reluctantly’ is pronounced ‘all but stood up right there in class and screamed “@*^&@ YEAH, I AM SKIPPING ABOUT HALF OF THIS TOMORROW, SO LONG, LOOOO-SAHS!”’

But of course I didn’t actually do that.

Because that would have been rude.

Plus somebody might have tattled, and then somebody else would have said, “No no no, I know we said t was ‘mission critical’ for you to get knowledge transfer on That Thing Only This Guy Can Explain, but learning how to rename a file is just ever-so-much MORE vital! You must attend all 3,271 hours of training tomorrow!” and I would have been all like, “…I hate you so much right now…” which is not a good way to build Team Spirit and such.

I have this on very good authority.

Ah, life in Corporate America…never a dull moment, huh?!

Friday, October 19, 2012

I cannot think of a title for something this random

I totally owe you guys a post. But then I sit here going, “Hmm, something amusing…something amusing…” aaaaaaaaand…I got nothin’.

It’s not that nothing is going on – kind of the opposite, I suspect. There’s so much going on, on every front, that by the time I’ve hung up the phone, logged off, gotten home, settled down and so forth…I end up going, “Duuuuuuh…no can think-think, need drink-drink and dumb-dumb entertainment for staring at with eyeballs of redness…”

The project I’ve been working on all this time is starting to think about winding down a bit; there’s still a lot of data to move around, but at this point it’s a matter of setting off very-long-running jobs I’ve already written, keeping half an eye on them while they chug along, and then doing some annoyingly manual work after the job finishes to fix all the stuff that has gone off the rails between April 1904 and now.

This is kind of a funny outfit; it’s kind of…how to put this gently…well, it’s like…people who have no idea how to build and manage a data center, somehow found themselves being…a data center.

So they’ve done the best they can.

Eeeeeyeah. It’s a bit of a mess. I’ve got a list of things that need doing as long as my arm, and then, I was voluntold that I would be taking over “a few things” from my manager, seeing as how I’m one of the most-senior-ish developers on the team and have A Certain History with this client (I did some significant work for them a few years ago, which does rather put me a few feet ahead in the foot race) (although, I suspect they may mean “senior as in old”. But I try not to dwell on that too much.)

And then they loaded up a baseball pitching matching with marbles, set it on “SUPER FAST,” handed me a plastic teaspoon and told me to hit as many as I could. Holy crap!

But never mind all that, check out THIS.

Now, you may think this is just a random picture from a random Renaissance fair, but it isn’t. THIS is a picture of a group called Country Matters. And that tall dorky looking guy third from the left in the back there would be my husband.

They haven’t sung together in (get this) seventeen (17) years. I don’t anyone would have guessed that, listening to them. OK, OK, the first couple rounds were a little disjointed here and there. But by Sunday, they were tight.

It was weird, walking around that fair between shows; there were so many old friends, and so many new faces, the layout was all wrong but strangely familiar, and – most bizarre of all to me – so many people who remembered me.

And they will never forgive me for leaving the harp at home.

It is things like that which make it very hard for me to settle on what I want to be when (if) I grow up; it throws the oddness of my life into sharp relief, you know? That this can be as normal to me as a day in the office; that a day spent dueling about whether it would be better to use page compression, or row compression, is as second-nature to me as flopping down on a hay bale with a set of wooden knitting needles and some dust-not-showing yarn to pass the rest of an afternoon.

And it doesn’t phase me at all when some guy I sort of remember as being attached to some girl I know suddenly throws himself across my lap and says, “Pet me, I’m sad!”

YA KNOW, if that happened at BART? I would not have laughed and patted him on the head.

Just sayin’.

My people are such a strange bunch, really; sometimes I think if you gathered all the ones dearest to me together…we’d probably have a big old brawl on our hands, PDQ.

They are dorks and intellectuals, glamorous and plain, goofballs and studious-types, religious and not-so-much, vegan and carnivore, rich and poor.

And…me. Not exactly any of those, not exactly not any of those (Well, except glamorous…I’ll never be glamorous, even if I wanted to I couldn’t pull it off) (well, not for long, anyway…maybe for an afternoon…OK, well, maybe, like, for a couple hours…). Like I’ve got a finger or toe in all of them, but never quite seem to saunter over the line to settle in anywhere.

We got home tired and then Monday came in its usual unrelenting way. And we went back to what we suppose is “real” life, but sometimes I’m not so sure which one is real, and which one is just a dream.

And also, the Mingulay Boat Song has been in my head all week. ALL. WEEK. Dammit, Steve!!!!!!!!

(Steve is the captain of the Sea Dogs, and one of those people who just sort of makes me smile a lot. He’s so darned sweet. Even if he does look exactly, I MEAN EXACTLY, the same as he did fifteen years ago which for those of us with crows feet and other assorted obvious signs of Father Time’s Touch is a tad irritating. And also is a terrible purveyor of brain worms like this one.)

(OH yeah. I TOTALLY owe him some payback for sending us off Sunday night to Ming-guh-frickin-lay. And also because it inexplicably made me teary. GAH. I am so going to march up and sing something awful to him the next time I see him. Because, dammit, Steve!!!)

(They’ll be out at Dickens, weekends starting November 23. As will an awful lot of my kith, actually. If you’re in the San Francisco, you should totally go check it out.)

(…maybe…all 347 verses of Greensleeves…?)


Friday, October 12, 2012


I have worked almost every weekend since August.

Except that most of the “working” part – at least for the last several weeks – has not been particularly “nose to the grindstone” in nature.

It’s more of the “OK, so, now that everybody else has gotten off the box, now I think I have a shot at getting the next set of 148,672,017 records manipulated for the stupid warehouse.”

Which is long on server talking to itself time, but, once you’ve gotten the necessary code written to start the conversation, is rather short on human has to directly DO something time.

BUT AT THE SAME TIME, well, there are periods throughout the day when the human in charge of the project (hai, yeah, that’s me again) has to do something.

The faster the human realizes that buttons need to be pushed or whatever, and does whatever-it-is, the sooner the whole thing will be done.

(Not that I’m counting, but I thought I’d be “all done” with this @^*&@ing thing over a month ago. ALL done. Go ahead. Ask me how many months of the 18 initial months of “my” stuff are actually loaded right now. NEVER MIND, I WILL TELL YOU ANYWAY: NONE. NONE. NONE. NONE. NOT ONE, NOT ANY, NOT A SINGLE @*^&@ING ONE.)

(…but I’m not bitter…)

(…or frustrated…)

(…or halfway ready to scream “@^*@& it!!” and wash my hands of the whole thing…)

(eh, it’s a big, complicated, screwed up ball of data-barf) (which is possibly the only thing in my world worse than yarn barf) (which can cause me to become so irrationally frustrated that I have been known to sit snarling and cursing for hours attempting to untangle a $3 skein’s worth of said barf instead of doing the logical thing, which would be to toss the whole mess into the trash and say, “Good. Riddance.”) (But I digress.)

ANYWAY. Having worked a full twelve hour day yesterday (ahem) after three “normal” nine hour days, I have already pretty much wrapped up my working week at this point.

Except, of course, that I have a rather enormous set of things queued up to run.

And since they’re new, they kind of need to run under more or less close-ish supervision.

Which means that when I say I’m “done” for the day, I’m totally not done for the day, I’m totally still working.

But, not really-really.

I’ve got two (2) monitors on this desk

On my left, row-counts, progress bars, server-generated emails containing durations, table-sizes, CPU stress, etc. Every so often, something…flashes…at me. And I turn my attention to that monitor, and fiddle with things, and hit buttons like an astronaut trying to get home from Mars.

On my right…World of Warcraft. And the minute the server is back to talking to itself again, my attention snaps back to upholding to honor of the Horde like a rubber band.

Quests are not going to complete themselves, people. (Also, and sadly this is 100% true, if I have something like this on the monitor, the husband won’t start with the “WHY are you still working FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE you need to quit this job blah blah blah nag nag nag etc etc etc” thing…while I agree that the new gig is rather higher pressure and stress than the last one, I’m finding it oddly exhilarating and also I have been forced to learn a lot more about how to manipulate Really Big Data even when it is Really Badly Stored…which is actually kind of fun, in its own way…but I digress…)

ASIDE: When exactly did it become possible for a troll to be…kind of svelte and sexy? Because, seriously? If blue skin and protruding canines are your thing?

My troll avatar is rather hot.

Plus she has kind of punk-ish hair. Awesome.

But I digress. (Again.)

Now, I told you all that so I could tell you this: I have decided that this form of not-exactly-working-not-exactly-not-working should be called plarking.

Playing + Working = Plarking.

(Because plorking? Yeah. That’s something else, entirely…)

(Have a great weekend, y’all…I’m actually not working this weekend because I have been coerced into going to a Renaissance fair instead. However WILL I survive an ENTIRE WEEKEND without my work laptop?!?!?!)

(…but my personal laptop, that’s coming with…because it totally can handle World of Warcraft research, posting blog entries…writing peace treaties for warring nations…you know, important, adult-type stuff…)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Have you ever...

...found yourself going through something that, if you were an emoticon, would look like this?

Help Desk Guy Approaches?!

(?_?) <= huh, da heck HE want?

"Which phone wasn't working?"

(@_@) <= ...erm...?

"I'll just take a look at all these wires under here..."

(-_-') <= please don't yank the wrong one, please don't yank the wrong one please don't...

(<_<) <= wat r u pulling on...waitwaitwaitnottheBLUEone!!!!!!

(entire SSIS package becomes awash in bright red Fail Boxes)

(O_o)  <= ...that...did NOT just happen...the @&$%@ing thing I started at five-@&$&@ing-forty this morning did NOT just get terminated that close to final commit by a @&$&@ing disconnected CAT cable...

"Oh, were you downloading something?"

(T_T) <= hahahaha, no, was just ~ 34MM records into a ~ 36MM record pull, that's all...

(-_-)  <= ...and then you inexplicably decided to yank on the CAT cable...which looks nothing like a phone line and goes into a completely different jack...

(>¥<) <= and yet, if I were to rip your head off, suddenly I'D be the bad guy...

(--') <= just HOW afraid of jail am I, really...

(-_-) <= ...sigh...

b(^_^)d <= Nah, it's good, it'll pick up from where it left off!

(;_;) <= suuuuure, after it does two full table scans against a two BILLION row table with no partitions and limited indexing because it will see that it exited abnormally last time...then it will checksum against the destination table...then it will recompile the query plan...which I usually WANT it to do, buuuuuut, geeeeeeeeez...


...and THAT is why my process log shows no load history before about 10:30 this morning.

(attempts to look cool and badass while sipping herbal tea...fails...)

Sigh. Yeah. Some days, I just really wish I'd stayed in bed...

(The eclair was good, though...)

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Thanksgiving on Monday

I got a turkey at the auction Saturday.

A big turkey.

In point of fact, a large part of the reason I even bid on the enormous thing was because of its ludicrous size…or more specifically, the proportion of the bird-size to the kid-size.

This young turkey-wrangler looked to be about dead even, weight-wise, with his fowl. But I tell you what, he handled that big old bird like a champ. And I was so charmed by his moxie that I was all, OK, I will DIE if I don’t bid on that stupid turkey.

I know. Just call me Poker Face McEmotionless. Ahem.

The next day, said bird (all twenty-plus pounds of it) was delivered to the Den by the boy and his father – the freshest turkey I have ever had my greedy faux-chef hands on. My plan had been to wrap it well and put it in the freezer for Thanksgiving…buuuuuuuuut…well, upon reflection I found myself asking, you know, how often does one have the CHANCE to cook and devour a turkey THIS fresh?

PLUS, Vanessa the Great’s mother had sent some beautiful pie-pumpkins over from her garden (my own pumpkins…are not looking too good again this year…there are a couple there, but they’re still green and I think the vines themselves are losing the Powdery Mildew wars again), and they had been mocking me on the counter.

You know how they do.

Oh hai! Going to work are you? Ya, well, we’ll just sit here…GETTING READY TO ROT BEFORE YOUR VERY EYESnever mind us, we’ll just chat with the FRUIT FLIES while you’re gone…ignoring us…alllllllll day…”

I despise mouthy food. You guys are SO gonna be PIE! I growled back at them. And then they shrugged at me like, eh, what-EVER! and I VOWED that OH YES, THEY WOULD BE PIE…!

AND THEN, Sunday afternoon I went out into the garden and found that the green beans had gotten busy while I wasn’t looking and I had this impressively large basket of stunningly gorgeous green beans.

So that was how I came to be cooking Thanksgiving dinner a month and a half early, on a work-a-day Monday.

I roasted the pumpkins in the morning, turned them into pulp and put the turkey into the oven on my lunch hour, and put the pies (I ended up with four of the things!) in the oven right after I logged off for the day. Every twenty minutes, I’d ladle the increasingly luxurious pan drippings over the bird; what started out as “just” coarsely chopped onions and green apples and a butter rub on the bird began to take on a torturously rich scent. Every time I’d open the oven, at least one Denizen would appear as if by magic to check on progress.

And then, just like at “real” Thanksgiving, everything was happening at once. The turkey was resting on the counter driving everybody nuts with the aroma, I was slapping people’s hands away while whipping the potatoes into glue, burning the gravy and charring the green beans.

And then I threw a bunch of dishes on the counter and bellowed, “FINE! JUST COME EAT OR SOMETHING, GEEEEEEEZ!!”

Because nothing says Warm Fuzzy Family Moments like the mother of the house having a psychotic meltdown over something like splotches of gravy on the range fan or there being too many dirty dishes on the counter so there’s nowhere to put a buffet-style meal service.

How would we know it was Christmas, if Mommy wasn’t standing at the bottom of the stairs screaming at the top of her lungs about how she has HAD it with BLAH BLAH BLAH and would it KILL YOU PEOPLE to yadda yadda yadda and OHMYGAH, THEY WILL BE HERE IN {X-MANY} MINUTES, WILL YOU !!!!!!PLEASE!!!!!! STOP HAVING HAPPY LIVES AND HELP! ME! WITH! THIS!

(Bonus points for turning right around and going, “Nonononono, not like THAT, do it like THIS OH FER @^*&@’S SAKE, HERE, LET ME DO IT YOU ARE USELESS GO FIND SOMETHING ELSE TO DO!!!!”)

Anyway. The Denizens didn’t have to be told twice. Meanwhile, we had coerced invited Vanessa the Great and Significant Other to stay and help us eat it, and we grown-ups older kids retired to the relative peace and quiet of the dining room to, um, dine (if consuming turkey at a table where to actually sit and eat we had to shove a six pack of Mason jars, some folded towels and other oddments out of the way first can be considered ‘dining’…sigh…Once Upon A Time, I swear, my house had at least a semblance of organization…).

And then we ate until we were halfway to sick.

And then we had pie.

With orange-chocolate ice cream I made a few days ago.

Because there was a bag of ice in the freezer, and I needed the room but didn’t want to just waste the ice and oh look, I HAPPEN to have some heavy cream here in the fridge…!

This morning, I packed up one of the untouched pies, made some whipped cream while my coffee was brewing, and took it to the office for the team.

This team doesn’t do a whole lot of that kind of stuff (yet) and a few of them were slightly taken aback by it (“This is for…why? Oh. Um. Is it…OK…for me to…?”), but I think they’re willing to be brought around.

It was awfully nice, having a little “preview” of the impending holidays; while I wouldn’t want to make a habit of attempting that kind of dinner on a work day, it was a really nice change from what has become our “usual” on working days – which is more like foraging than dinner.

And I won’t be sad about all the leftover turkey, either.

No, not sad at all about that