1/6/2017: Snowpocolypse? Snocolypse? Snowmageddon? 3/4″ of doom?

Well, it snowed in middle Tennessee on Friday morning…a bit. The panic was DELICIOUS. What was the most hilarious about it all is that they KNOW they’re being ridiculous. Schools were closing. People were asking each other who was actually going to venture out to get lunch, and could they pick something up for them as well, since the fewer drivers on the roads the better. They’re just so caught up in the pageantry and excitement of snow falling that it was hard to get too frustrated with them. BUT I have a reputation to proudly uphold as a gruff son of a bitch from The Heathen North. So I rolled my eyes conspicuously and chuckled “to myself” all day.

el jefe looked ominously out the window and said “yeah, let’s close up the office at 3 today, so that people can get home when it’s light out still.” A sensible precaution if it was going to freeze up.

But the fun part of yesterday (I’m writing this tomorrow from then. Just batching them all together you see) was the fact that there was a software release.

El jefe found out yesterday morning that our web developer wasn’t just out for the day but was, in fact, jetting off to the Caribbean for at least one, perhaps two weeks, no one was sure. And that had no bearing on the idea of putting his code into production while he was taking off.

Now, it should matter not one whit whether a developer is present for his code to be released. Because (as I so poignantly phrased yesterday) “in a REAL dev shop” the code is tested.

Now, we’ve gotten to a point where I’m not even a part of the release and testing process (yes, I ordered them that way on purpose) any more. I do server side stuff and that’s barely even under source control.

A front-end (web) release goes like this:

1. Okay guys, we need all changes to be in on Wednesday.
2. Is it small? Yeah okay, I’ll push it up today (Friday. Release day.)
3. Okay take down the first half of the production web servers. We’ll push there, then we can test.
4. el jefe says “okay test” and half a dozen people furiously click on things with no plan at all. No list of changes. No “test scripts.” Nothing other than flailing around on the website, desperately hoping nothing goes wrong so they can all get back to work.
5. Our data cleanliness expert (aka Bug Bloodhound) comes back in to the office and says “this, that, and that don’t work. I thought you fixed it.” … “It’s fixed” says the developer. “Obviously not.” … “Are you pointing to the right server?” … “The phantom programmer must’ve put changes in that I didn’t integrate, so the build is probably bad.” … “Okay, what build number do we have to roll back to?” … “uhm…” … “uhm…” … “Well it looks like it was last changed a couple months ago. Let’s roll back to that.”

I’m listening to these exchanges (this is toned down by the way. It’s so much worse) and IMing a confederate next to me (I wouldn’t be able to survive without either) when I hear the single statement I have heard on every bi-weekly release in the 13 months (to the day) I’ve been at this shop:

“Yeah, he must’ve made conflicting changes on top of my changes. I’ll fix it.”

And off the dev goes to hot-fix a bug in the code without a regression suite, unit tests, or anything of the kind.

Now…if there are any experienced developers reading this who would rather have fingernails scraping down a blackboard than hear sentences like that I have to say that as much as I trash the shop, these guys literally don’t know any better. Sure, for the most part, they wouldn’t change if they DID know any better. But this one guy will volunteer to be wrong and ask for better ways to do things, etc….if he thinks to ask. So he gets a bit of forbearance (especially since he never wrote a line of code until less than two years ago.)

So I’m sitting there, head in my hands, trying desperately to hold my brain matter in my increasingly stress-fractured skull, when I look down at the monitor and see IM windows popping up asking if we could leave, because it was 3:10 and nobody had said anything yet.

“Hey, el jefe, everyone’s IMing me asking if we can go because you said we could go at 3 and you hadn’t said anything and everyone’s afraid to ask.” It’s an open office so all of the aforementioned people immediately swivel in their chairs and stare at me as though I’d just yelled out loud that they were impotent. Get over it, Nancys.

“Yeah yeah. I just wanted to be sure this release went out first befor…”

“Bye.” Laptops closed, bags zipped, jackets were hoisted over shoulders and people damn near ran to the door.

I started the truck to the sound of Stephen Fry reading the fourth Harry Potter book and bolted home, howling at my steering wheel at the mental image of Dudley Dursley’s gluttony rendering him victim to Ton Tongue Toffey, looking forward to not seeing a single unnecessary soul for 48 hours.


Yeah, see I knew this would happen. Teh dragging of ass that makes up the beginning of this kind of thing.

Thursday was a whirlwind of exceptions and nonsense in the office. Expectation smackdown and mopping up after kids.

It’s one of the funny things about an immature development shop with early-career developers and managers; they really don’t believe there’s anything wrong with the way they do things, specifically. They just think that’s the way it is. Development is supposed to be a nightmare. Bugs are supposed to go in to production. There’s no WAY to be THAT on top of things.

The problem is I’m just not the guy to drag them kicking and screaming into the 20th (much less the 21st) century. I know how it’s all supposed to operate. I can see what they’re doing wrong (and am actually less vociferous about it than you might imagine. Pick your battles and all.) But I don’t have the faintest idea how to do the two things that a real development manager needs to do in this situation:

– Show them the light: Help them instill in themselves the understanding that it doesn’t have to be this way, and that there are infinitely better ways to handle this whole process.
– Help them change: Knowing “the way” is there means precisely dick. Handing someone a cookbook of best practices and saying “just do this” is less effective than electroshock therapy as a methodology for learning Russian (presumably. I mean…I can’t say I’ve actually tried learning Russian with a car battery, Jacob’s Ladder, some jumper cables, and a big ol’ knife switch.) Someone needs to help them develop the basic habit of self-reflection and improvement. Did this work? What didn’t work? How can I do it better next time?

I can’t instill in them the values required to be better at their jobs. Even though it comes down to the most basic self-serving selfishness: Doing this causes the whole thing to be less work for you and everybody. It serves laziness to do it right.

And el jefe understands precisely none of this.

More about that in the 1/6 post…which I’ll go write right now.


I’m going to try out opening a draft post in the beginning of the day and just jotting down line-items and notes as the day progresses, see how that goes. SO much goes on during the day that it’s tough to reconstruct when I’m sitting here in a towel, looking longingly at my bed.

Today the office was a complete fucking whirlwind of exceptions. Fortunately my malaise of yesterday passed for the most part, and aside from having bar, “no jefe, you can’t cut the users out of the design and development process. It’s their application. They need to be first-class participants in the process.” But it fell, yet again, on entirely deaf, completely ineffective, out of their depth, ears.

NOT that I have an opinion or anything.


Alright, so I’ll do two every other day. That works well enough.

Today was my first day back at the office after a week and a half off and frankly, I’m shocked it went as poorly as it did. All I could think of throughout my dull plodding day of trying to keep myself focused on the most inane of tasks was how, when I stopped in to my old job last Thursday, every room I walked in to stopped completely. It’s an amazing feeling to have had such an impression on people that they react thus. I’m not really sure, when I think about it, what it is I did besides like most of them quite a lot. The job ITSELF was a shitshow, mitigated somewhat by friendly faces on most fronts. So none of this is to say I wish I was still working where I was.

No. The reasons I left both the job and the area are solid and still in place. But in the objective sense, the position I’m at now is a career setback by any reasonable estimation. BUT a dramatic enhancement in my life in general, which a friend noted on Thursday night in my demeanor.

So I sat, applying database changes directly to a production database in anticipation of a software release I’m absolutely dreading (seeing as how we have no QA or testing environments, so my regressions have to be enough) looking around the room with a perma-sigh. They’re not bad people. A couple of them are smart, a couple of them are nice, a couple of them are complete fucking dunderheads, and a lot of them overlap.

And I wished I had the energy to shake things up a bit. But the day progressed in maudlin silence until I got in the truck, excited to listen to a half hour of Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter and The Prizoner of Azkaban. I’ve read them through a couple times already. But hearing him act them out is a treat. I credit his rendition with getting me through the drive down from Kingston last Friday in a single shot. I just didn’t want to stop and have to wait to hear what happened next.

On the brighter side I’ve decided to undertake the little personal torture of keeping track of every penny I spend. I suppose there are planets where people do this and it’s no big deal. But coming from zero (and I mean that in the organizational sense) it’s a torturous habit to develop. But the couple/few times I’ve successfully done it at any length in the past have resulted in some enlightening revelations about where my money goes, as well as a healthy trimming of things I just couldn’t bear the thought of writing down. So I’m pretty excited about that.


I’ve just put a frozen, vacuum sealed New York Strip steak in a plastic container of water with a big metal thingie in it designed to maintain temperature, set to 134.5. It’s my first sous vide steak. Granted, the stuff was a bit dear as far as the vacuum sealer (Birthday Present) and the sous vide cooker thingie itself (not to mention the fact that I got a container with a custom lid with the right-shaped hole in it for far too much money.) BUT it all came down to doing this today.

When you look at sous vide cooked steaks (and I get the distinct impression that this is a cooking style designed not for haute cuisine so much as cooking large quantities of pre-packaged ingredients for things like restaurants) they’re the most succulent, perfectly cooked pieces of meat you’ve ever seen. Check out reddit.com/r/sousvide to see what I mean.

You use this thingie to bring the meat up to a precise temperature (in this case 134.5.) Then you heat up a cast iron pan and sear it afterwards. So, as long as I don’t actually set off the fire alarm (which I literally did while boiling water a couple weeks ago, go me.)

But much like crock pot cooking, this takes hours. So I’ve had to snack on some bacon in the meantime.

That aside, I’m watching the clock with a case of the Sunday Blues (I know, shut up.) Heading to Pennsylvania, Jersey, and upstate NY for 8 or so days was really intoxicating. Even the rest stops on the highway up there feel like home. There are mountains and forests, my kind of asshole drivers (as opposed to Tennessee asshole drivers, who aren’t assholes so much as completely fucking incompetent.)

Sure, maybe it was just 46 years of familiarity, having lived within about 100 mile range my whole life. But it never occurred to me until this trip that…well…maybe not. Sadly (for you, for now) further introspection on that just gets weird as shit and starts sounding like the me of 25 years ago.

And maybe it’s job dissatisfaction or the fact that I haven’t really made much of an attempt to make friends down here (A big part of me just doesn’t see the damn point, really) so I don’t have the roots that I should (a circular argument if you think about it at all.)

All this is nothing compared to the response I got when I walked into my old office, a year and a half later to squeals that ranked smack dab between “OMG A PUPPY!” and “OMG A BABY!” I got to distribute home made alcohol, the odd business card, flirt with their sharp cute new girl (srsly. Almost enough to make me want to work there again. But not quite because those people are nucking futs.)

So we’ll see. I get the distinct impression that a lot of this went in to my head and is being rolled over and digested like some trivia question whose answer can’t be extracted from my mind by force of will. It will be interesting to see how it bubbles up, which I have absolutely no doubt it will.

In the meantime, I’ve got to watch the clock for 2 hours and 45 minutes until I can even finish cooking the steak.

I wonder how hard it would be to make home-made root beer. I’ll bet that’d go great with a steak…


It’s kinda startling how little I did on Sunday. I owe it largely to the fact that, while driving straight from upstate NY (Kingston) home to Nashville in a single shot (wasn’t the plan, but I was listening to Stephen Fry read the 3rd Harry Potter book, so I just went with it) I developed what was at the time (a bit south of Roanoke) a minor head cold.

I pulled in at almost 4am local time, showered (because…damn) and fell over like a brick. I still somehow managed to wake up at about 9, feeling like Arnold in Total Recall with the golf ball up his nose. It was a completely miserable day, except for some completely screwed up things, which I may or may not get to by the end of this “hurry up and backfill yesterday’s post” post. But my head was just throbbing all day, so I ended up going to bed at about 8:30 (on New Year’s Eve. I’m officially old) and waking up 12 hours later. Still though with the runny nose and nonsense. All I managed to do was dwell on how all I was managing to do was dwell on nothingness, play quasi-ambient “clicker” games, and fiddlyfuck around on twitter.

It really was positively impressive how little I accomplished. Even now, I’ve no idea what I actually consumed. Though I figure it has to be more than nothing because I haven’t been famished. But that may be more about, well…