Wednesday 17 October 2007

Just when I thought I was out...

Vader and Obi Wan
People often deride software developers for having an unhealthy obsession with science fiction and lacking the necessary social skills to communicate effectively with the outside world. A gross caricature; in our defence we're a sensitive lot. It's true. I still shed a tear when I think of poor Obi-Wan cut down by his old apprentice, but then don't we all?

One thing we certainly share with the real world is that nagging fear that the skills that once made us necessary are no longer of value. Hence the constant urge to work using up to date technology, including the latest programming languages; god forbid you should have to revisit earlier versions. Strangely enough though, whether you are allowed to work with the latest tools might seem to be in inverse proportion to your level of experience. Personally however I'd rather have an experienced SQL developer loose on my database; an exposure to the latest version of SQL Server doesn't make you immune to bad database design.

In IT knowing too much can sometimes appear detrimental to your career. That old application you thought you were shot of? Guess what? You're the only person who knows how it works and something needs fixing. Even when it's an application you've had nothing to do with, because you have experience of working in the Jurassic period some sly colleague manages to cut you down with this dubious information. But in cutting you down you'll become more powerful than he could possibly imagine...

Thursday 11 October 2007

Three-quarters of a day in the life

My alarm goes at 6.15am. After a number of "snoozes" I finally wake up, get out of bed, and drag myself to the bathroom. It takes a while for me to focus but perhaps that's just as well. Make my way downstairs, straight out the door and into my car. It's peaceful at that time in the morning. It's quiet most of the time and I like it.

Not so keen on the drive. Around 30 miles but the route I take and the time at which I travel mean it's rarely a drain, except those occasions when the motorway is closed and then it's somewhat less than pleasant. Today I'm starting a new regime. No comfort snacking, a good bracing walk midday and exercise in the evening.

I drive off around 7am, through the empty town centre and along the twisting back roads until I reach the old Severn crossing. I make a conscious effort at a cheery "hello" to the person manning the tollbooth before crossing the bridge into Wales. The rest of my journey is motorway; first the M48, which has little traffic, followed by the ever busy M4. I miss the days when I could journey by train.

Arrive at work early. Car park is empty. I'm feeling a bit run down so I make a detour for Starbucks. Finally sit down at work, coffee one side and chocolate muffin the other, "snooze" the less important task reminders and read my e-mail. IT strategy life cycleI've set myself a goal for what I want to achieve today so open up the project on one screen along with various database tools, and on the other I display the design. Decide I'd better answer a few of those e-mail queries and then it's heads-down and code away. If I can avoid looking anyone in the eye I may remain uninterrupted for the morning.

Several interruptions later and lunchtime arrives sooner than expected. Despite enjoying the work I'm already behind schedule so skip lunch and pop-down to the snack machine. Pretty sure a diet of Doritos and a Mars Bar isn't good for me but it could help the schedule. I have a quick browse on the BBC website to keep up with what's happening in the world outside (apparently there is one) and then it's heads-down and code away. If I can avoid looking anyone in the eye and crouch low enough in my seat, hiding behind my two monitors, I may remain uninterrupted for the afternoon.

Several interruptions later I notice a number of people packing up and going home, the office is half empty. I weigh up whether I should work late again, whether my schedule was realistic or whether I should just write it off as "one of those days". Either way I can't see myself doing any exercise this evening. I look around the office to see who's left and catch someone's eye.

Monday 8 October 2007

Raggedy Man

Once time was kind
You looked the part
Although most missed
Your healthy heart

Still work you do
Now fit and trim
Won't stop the time
From reaching in

Your greying hair
The aches and pain
You've worked too hard
For little gain

Arthritic bones
Weren't in the plan
Can't hide the truth
You're a raggedy man

Thursday 4 October 2007

Bad sport

East European countries of the old Soviet bloc could be distinguished from the rest of Europe in three key ways.
  • First was the use of the word 'democratic'; as in 'German Democratic Republic'. Was it irony or were they just taking the piss?
  • Second was their love for the colour grey, putting aside the issue of whether grey is a colour.
  • Thirdly was the highlighting of any sports related triumph to mask their own failure.
An obsession with sporting success has been a feature common to all manner of unsavoury regimes so it's somewhat unsettling to find organisations in Britain fixating in the same way. Whatever happened to the belief, dare I whisper it, that winning isn't nearly as important as 'being the best that you can be'. This noble ethos has long since been corrupted to 'being the best no matter what'; a belief that leaves many feeling impotent in their ability to effect a worthwhile change in the lives of others.

Sport used in such a way, instead of inspiring people to lead more active lives, pushes them further back into their comfortable sofas whilst they no doubt bemoan the lack of sporting success.

What time's the football on?