Archive for March, 2010

A hard lesson

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

I want to have this thing done by the time I said it would be done. I said it would be done by 3/11.

In theory, I have plenty of time. But I want to have plenty of time. I know things always go wrong, so I want all the bugs out by 3/11. I know this is not going to happen. But I intend to at least have all the bugs identified if it kills me and everyone around me.

My original plan was to have a lot of things done by today that were not done. In theory, this is no big deal. I have still plenty of time. But complacency in the face of delays results in late projects.

Today was the day I was going to smash barriers and move this thing forward. I hoped to do so in ways that would make me happy. But I was prepared to do it in ways that did not make me happy if that is what I had to do.

Needless to say, none of the ways that I overcame barriers today made me happy.

I had a brilliant plan for overcoming one particular barrier. Its only flaw was that it did not work. And I wasted more time than I should have proving that to myself.

I had to settle on a choice that is going to cost more money than I would like to spend. Even worse, it is going to look really stupid. And my boss won’t hesitate to point that out. But whatever. At least I made the necessary decisions to move this thing forward.

I really wanted some parts that I felt necessary to do a really top-notch job. But nobody could find a place that would sell me those parts. Failing to get those parts meant that I had to buy the stuff that would enable me to do a second rate job.

So I did a ton of research and finally found a part number for the things that I needed to do the job right. I took that number down to a salesman who should have been able to find what I wanted without me having to do all the leg work, and showed it to him. Since I had done all the hard work, he was able to get me a price. Happy days were here at last.

Unfortunately, the price was outrageous. The salesman was embarrassed to give me the price. Even so, I would have bought it. But he told me that they would not be in until Tuesday unless I wanted pay even more money to speed up the shipping.

I have limited funds available. I had already made one decision that is going to cost more money than I would ideally have liked to spend.

I decided to do things the crappy way. I made the necessary arrangements to get the crappy parts. My partner in crime volunteered to get them for me. I like getting out of work.

This freed me up to communicate with various contractors involved with the project to try to make sure that everyone was on the same page. For some unknown reason, I also used the free time to press my boss to make a decision on a problem unrelated to the project I was working on today. The end result was a decision that I did not like.

So I was writing out a work order that was going to make me even more unpopular than I already am when my partner in crime walked through the door. I could tell just by looking at his face that he had not bought the parts that I wanted.

Turns out he had been told by a different salesman that they might be able to get us the parts to do it the right way. However, the salesman was unable to give him a price and availability right then. He stated that he would like to send my partner in crime an e-mail later with that info. So my partner in crime decided to wait.

This is not the choice I would have made and he knew it. The parts to do it the wrong way only cost $35. What’s more, we could easily change things over to the right way should the parts become available (and my partner in crime had been the one to make this point previously).

This project has already been delayed too much by pie in the sky salesmen who think they can find what I want. To my mind, $35 is a small price to pay to move things forward. In the unlikely event that the right stuff should become available, we would not be out much.

I expressed as much to my partner in crime in what I thought was a diplomatic manner. But when I get in a “make things happen mode” I can be very abrasive without even realizing it. So maybe I was not as diplomatic as I thought I was.

To be sure, I wanted to move things forward and this was another delay. But it was not that big of a delay and so it was no big deal. Worst come to worst, I would have had to go out and get it myself the next day. And I try not to second-guess people who are doing my work for me.

So I pushed everything out of my mind and I took care of other project related business. At the close of the day I went around to talk to people who were going to do work for me tomorrow to make sure everyone was on the same page.

While doing this, I came across my partner in crime and he asked me if I had seen the package that he got for me. I did not know what he was talking about.

So he went on to tell me about how he had been upset to see how angry I was that he had not got the parts. In order to patch things up, he had gone right back out and got the parts for me.

I was horrified that he thought I was angry and I was mortified that he had gone right back out to get the parts. I tried to explain that the day’s events might have made me act a little surly but I was not at all mad at him.

It got worse.

I had taken our group’s charge card back from my partner in crime when he came back the first time. So he went out and spent his own money on the parts. “It was only $35” he told me.

I was horrified and mortified. I could not come up with any words to say. I did not know whether to kill myself for being such a jerk or throttle him for trying so hard to make me happy when I was being a jerk.

In retrospect, I should have throttled him. He was just jerking my chain.

What really happened is that he found the parts I needed by scrounging around, thus saving the project fund $35. He also decided to take the opportunity to tell me a tall tale that I swallowed hook, line, and sinker.

I can’t remember the last time someone managed to fool me that thoroughly.

A silly story

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

Today a co-worker was telling me about a buddy of his who was telling him that we lost a whole hour of daylight because of the earthquake in Chile. We both laughed that a person could be that credulous. At the same time, I wonder what he could have heard that he would have misinterpreted in that way.

Now I know.

I think the above news story just goes to prove that an ignorant hillbilly is no dumber than your average college-educated journalist. Computer models have failed us time and time again. They can’t predict the weather and they have helped cause the current financial crisis. Yet some journalist thinks that it is news that a computer model predicted that the earth’s rotation got 1.26 microseconds shorter as a result of an earthquake.

It would be one thing if this could be verified by observation. But the article comes right out and admits that it cannot be verified. So why pay any more attention to the computer model than some random guy spouting off on the street?

But much to my disgust, a lot of people think this is somehow newsworthy. Computer models are one the of the idols of our age. No matter how many times they demonstrate their uselessness, people still think that computer models can tell us things that we simply can’t know.

Maybe the earthquake did make the day shorter. Maybe it did not. All we can do with with the tools that we currently have is speculate. And the fact that one guy speculated in the form of a computer model does not make that speculation carry any more weight than if he had written it out on paper.

Thoughts on Friday’s work

Monday, March 1st, 2010

A one eyed guy with more injuries than I could count if I used both hands, once told me “you have got to love it.” The it being whatever you hate most about what you are doing.

I have always remembered that. It was something I had figured out on my own long before I worked with him. But for some reason, I can not longer think about this truth with out thinking of him.

The phrase does not mean anything to most people. I don’t see how it can until you have figured it out for yourself. And sometimes, I think that some people are just lacking in whatever it is that enables someone to understand this concept.

But those that do understand this concept understand that only the things that you love don’t last. Everything else takes forever. So if you want the things you hate to go away, you have to love them.

The one eyed guy was the best roofer I have ever worked alongside. He could do everything roofing related faster than I thought possible. He hated tearing off old roofs, but he tackled the job with an enthusiasm that suggested he liked it.

A lot of people made the same mistake about brother R and myself when we were doing odd jobs. They thought that we loved work or were desperate for money. In truth, we hated the work and money meant little to us. We just wanted to get it all over with as fast as possible.

This false love is a kind of insanity. In essences, it is what being macho is all about. And wrongly applied it can lead to many stupid things being done.

But sometimes insanity is the only proper response to what life throws at you.