Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Make that a straw, followed by getting stuck with an electric cattle prod, followed by getting smacked upside the head with and a giant, spirit-crushing log. What's that creaking sound I hear?

One more straw got added to the camel's back today. What a fun game this is... It's like Jenga or Kerplunk. Build the most treacherous structure possible, to the point where everything is just barely holding together, with everything in "perfect" balance. Then blow on it. To quote The Offspring, my work situtation is as follows: "Cause the slightest thing and I just might snap." There are a few other choice lines form the same song that I find myself wanting to blurt out on at least a daily basis. I never dreamed when I accepted this position that the company would be my biggest obstacle. I assumed that I was the most likely point of failure, not the infrastructure around me. Let's go back to my Jenga analogy. If I'm the tenatively constructed Jenga tower, the company is a bomb shelter. A gust of wind picks up. Which is more likely to crumble? You'd think the Jenga tower, right? No friends, apparently, bomb shelters are much more fragile than they appear. The problem is that you can't build a Jenga tower at all on the rubble strewn all over the place. Okay, my analogy is rapidly losing cohesion. Suffice it to say that I am unhappy at work and things only seem to be getting worse on a near-daily basis.

Also, you may have noticed that my blog appears to be suffering from missing components on occasion. The site hosting my header and images is apparently having issues. So that coupled with the formatting issues in Firefox have prompted me to redo my layout. But I'm also lazy, so it may be a while before that actually happens. In the mean time, if anyone has any suggestions for where to co-opt some decent layouts, I'm all ears.

Oh good, the air conditioner in my building is broken today. Well, at least it's only supposed to reach 90. It's good that it's already 80 in my office right? Today might be a half day.

Monday, July 21, 2008

*gasp* There are Twinkies in the snack machine! Not generic creme-filled snack-cakes, but honest-to-god Twinkies! Tomorrow I'm bringing in some singles to buy out the snack machine. =)

Regarding my last post, let me bring you up to date with what's been going on and what I've been struggling with. First, the background:
For the last two years, my project has been me, Dave, and Jenny. Dave was the project lead and did most of the C code. Jenny was our software lead and did most of the Java code. I did pretty much everything else in between. When Dave elected to leave the company for one of our competitors, I was asked to take over as project lead. Even though Jenny is older, more tenured, and more experienced, she's a software guru, and a damn good one, but she doesn't see the big picture. She can tell you anything about how the code works, but nothing about why it's supposed to do that or why a design was done a certain way, and she knows nothing about integration or hardware. So although I was still the junior man, I took over as project lead because I do have those skills. Obviously, a team of two people can't do a team of three's workload, so I asked to hire some new people. For weeks, I wasn't getting anything useful from the higher ups and it was getting really frustrating trying to keep up with everything else going on because while I'm doing Dave's job, no one is doing my job, but it still needs to get done, so I'm trying to pick and choose only the most critical items to work on until I can get more staff in here.
To make matters worse, for the next fiscal year, we're developing our system on a brand new platform and a completely unique variant of another platform, all of which requires a lot of special modificiations and specialized interfaces on top fo what we would normally have to do for a software update. So, it's a lot more work than we've had to do in the last couple years, and so we'd need more people to do it in the first place. So the plan all along was to hire at least one entry level engineer and then one additional entry level to mid level engineer to do software and systems. I'd train up the systems guy and Jenny would train up the software guy. Obviously, it's going to take these guys a while to get up to speed and get clearances, so the sooner we get them in, the better.
Now for the new stuff:
Last week, Jenny decided she wanted to work on something new, and applied for a position on another project. This is what the last post was referring to. After being reviewed by my customer, the 9000 man hours I initially estimated for FY09 became 13000 hours, and there's currently me to do it. Now, I know a lot about our software, but I only muddle through it. I am the wrong person to teach new people how to operate in our framework and follow good coding practices. A bit of blind leading the lost action going on there. Jenny knows way more than I do about that side of things and is really the ideal person to bring new people up to speed correctly. But obviously, that won't happen if she's no longer on the team. I'm also choosing to ignore all the other various issues going on and trying to keep this dilemma as simple as possible.
The way I see it, I can either throw my hands up in the air and give up on the project or I can take this opportunity to rebuild the program from scratch. I'm not sure I have it in me to give up on something, and I'm certainly willing to take on a challenge, but at the same time, I don't want to be the captain of a sinking ship. It's also not in me to deliver a subpar product. And to be honest, my loyalty lies with my customer and not with my company on this one. Which means I can either stay at GD, and rebuild the program by hiring some new people, or I can leave the company and tell my customer that I can't continue to produce a quality product with the resources available. If I choose to leave, GD will lose the program, it will fail, or they'll sub it out to someone else, no question. There's no one else who knows enough about it to run it, even if Jenny took over as lead instead of switching projects. Dave has said he would put in a good work for me at Sedna, and I know enough other people over there that I'm reasonably confident they would offer me a job. Which adds a complicated wrinkle to the whole thing. I think if I left for Sedna, there's a 50/50 chance that GD would have no choice but to subcontract the project to Sedna, where Dave and I could work on it together again. This would definitely make my customer happy, but I don't know if I want to continue to work on the same thing if I leave the company or if I want to be Dave's sidekick forever (although there's also the possibility that I could continue as lead, and leave Dave to the coding that he's better at, assuming he even wants to work on the project again too). I'm going to run into the same problem over there too where there's not anyone below me to train up to take my place someday, so I'd be "stuck" working on the same project for the forseeable future. Nice job security, but it's something I have to think long and hard about.
Along those same lines, I have a kid fresh out of college coming in for an interview in a few minutes. I'm really conflicted about what to do if he's a good candidate. I don't think, ethically, that I can offer him a job unless I've already made up my mind to stay. Which also means that I can't leave for at least a year or so after hiring him. I'm sure GD would find some other project for him to work on, but it feels unfair to bring him on if I'm going to turn around and bail out.
Definitely some things I need to think through pretty carefully in the next few days.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

[Expletive deleted]!!!!!!!!!!!

Potentially very bad things are afoot at work. Very bad. Only potentially. But also very probably. My head hurts. I want to go punch someonething. Or curl up in a ball under my covers and stay there. I need a vacation. Too bad I can't take one cause there's no one else to cover my work and I'm already doing like 2.5 people's jobs. Soon to be even more! Wheee!! Kill me.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Emily and I went to see the Lion King at the Kennedy Center last night. I wish I had watched the movie more recently than 10 years ago so that I could keep all the events in correct order, but from what I remember, it seemed to follow the movie pretty closely. The costumes were amazing, but it wasn't just that an actor was dressed like a cheetah or a zebra or whatever. There was also a mechanical component that caused other parts of the costume to move to simulate a two-legged actor having 4 legs or caused the head of the animal to move along with the actor's head. I was really impressed with the technical aspects of the entire show, including making Mufasa's head appear seemingly out of nowhere. Yes yes, you can take an engineer to a musical, but he's still an engineer... I thought the costumes and characters were also very true to the movie. It was sufficiently cartoony, but without being cheesy or over the top. And some of the vocalists were just outstanding. It should tell you something that after the final curtain, Emily said she may have a new favorite musical. I'm not sure if she still feels that way today, but I've never heard her even come close to mentioning anything else ever dethroning Phantom. For me, Les Mis is still top dog (speaking of which, happy revolting Frenchmen day! Wait, that came out wrong...). There's more going on, with enough major characters that anyone can find something to idenfity with. And I think what keeps it at the top of my list is that I know in 10, 20, 50 years, I may not see as much of myself in Enjolras as I did 10 years ago, or as much Marius as I do now, but there may be more Jean Valjean. It's a story that grows with you. And yes, I understand that the Lion King wasn't a story written by anyone like Victor Hugo and that it was originally intended for a young audience, so the character complexities just aren't there. The Lion King just doesn't compare in terms of power with Les Miserables. That said, there is a lot of power to be had in African drums and tribal vocals. All things considered, I would definitely go see Lion King again.

Friday, July 11, 2008

This guy is ridiculous. Apart from the video above being hilarious, the technical skill is insane. Go watch some of his other videos on YouTube too. He's a born entertainer. I miss the good old days of jamming with Geo after school or improving with Danny in his basement waiting for Chris and Tommy to show up. I think it's obvious what I have to do the rest of the evening - spend some time with my snazzy new Thunderbird.

Monday, July 07, 2008

According to the FY09 tasking plan I just came up with, we have something like 9000 man-hours of work planned for next fiscal year. I think the hours per task are reasonably accurate. I have 1000 hours allocated to my the employee I get 50% of the time and 2000 allocated to our SW lead. In other words, they're both covered for the entire year. That leaves 6000 hours of work to do. Under my initial plan, I had about 2800 hours for myself and 3200 for my a hire. When I tallied the hours, I just started laughing hysterically in my office. To the point where other people poked their heads in to see what was wrong with me. Obviously, I need to hire 2 new people instead of just 1 to even that work load out a little bit. But the scary part is that if we don't make some hires soon, most of those tasks still have to be done, and it's going to take a while to bring someone up to speed so they can actually be useful. Until then, I'll just continue doing the work of 3 people. It's more fun that way...

I finally got so fed up with my 401k at work hemorrhaging money (I lost over $2000 last month alone, including contributions) that I decided to temporarily transfer my entire portfolio into the lowest-yield, lowest-volatility fund available. Yes, I may only be earning something like a 1% return on my investment now, but that's arguably better than the -16% return I've been putting up with since the start of the year. Bush: "We're not in a recession." Ha! Idiot son of an asshole indeed... Next step is to shop around for a better-managed plan and see about rolling over my current balance (since I'm fully vested). Any suggestions?

My endoscopy last week went fine. I don't remember a thing about the actual procedure (thank you anesthesia!). I had a mild sore throat for a couple days, but generally felt fine within a couple hours. Good news is that there's nothing wrong with me. Bad news is that there definitely has been something wrong with me. So the upside is that they didn't find anything serious like ulcers, polyps, cancer, hernias, etc, so there's no real cause for alarm. Unfortunately, it means that I'm most likely just going to have to carry around antacids the rest of my life. My next step is to talk to my doctor about any long-term implications of taking a daily PPI.
Friday morning I finally assembled my dad's new grill. It's awesome. I want one. I can't wait to have a house so I can have my very own grill. We gave it the inaugural shakedown later that day for their 4th of July BBQ, and everything came out perfectly. No charcoal casing around frozen meat anymore! It was fun to hang out with my cousins again, especially since one of them just got engaged. Soon we'll be back to only having one Emily Bever in the family again. I was supposed to swing by Tommy's after the BBQ, but as usual with my family, everything started late and then ran long, so by the time I was ready to leave, it was already 9:30, fireworks were going off, and I was ready for bed.
On Saturday, Emily and I finally watched the 40 Year Old Virgin, which was pretty funny. Made me excited for Kevin Smith's new movie, also with Seth Rogan and Elizabeth Banks. Feeling a little Steve Carrelled-out, we elected to go see WALL-E instead of Get Smart later that day after getting my mom a slick new Instinct too. Sunday was a lot more lazy on my part. Emily cleaned house most of the day (I helped a little) while I mostly lay on the couch in my pajamas watching the men's championship from Wimbledon. I rarely watch tennis, but it turns out that I picked a hell of a match to pay attention to. By the time it finally ended, I was exhausted just from watching and putting up with the multiple rain delays.

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  • I'm Rev. Adam
  • From Oakton, Virginia, United States
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