Friday, November 30, 2012

Tomorrow, When The War Began After The Red Dawn

It's been a good Friday. I've kept it low key and am carrying that into the night.  I just watched an interesting movie - well, interesting meaning "really kind of bad by strangely entertaining".  The movie is called "Tomorrow, When The War Began" and is based on a set of juvenile novels by James Marsden. It is an Australian film and I would call it a Red Dawn clone - except without the acting.  And yet, with all that, I would recommend it as an entertaining B movie, but like Red Dawn.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Day In Fragments

Sometimes, in the middle of doing something else, a pang of loss and loneliness will wash over me. Then, life sweeps on, inexorably. That is the nature of things.

Today was one long meeting.  My first meeting started at 7:00 AM and my last meeting ended a little after 4:00 PM. Inside of that window I had a problem with one of my contacts, which was a low grade irritation through most of the day, until by later in the day it was seriously irritating and I took it out, through it away, and drove home with one eye.

I also had one whopper of a stress headache come on, probably aggravated by the contact (which I didn't realize until later).  I left work early, because of the headache and the eye irritation and came home to finish up the last of my meetings.  Once they were wrapped I ordered a pizza and settled in and watched the last episode of "Ghost Hunters".

My nephews condition remains mostly the same - drug induced fugue state, limited communication, ventilator.

Other than that, that pretty much sums up the day.  I am starting a three day weekend - and I will be working over those three days, but somewhere in there I do want to take some times off and do nothing, deliberately do nothing, for at least the better part of one entire day.

As for tonight, I think I am going to take a nap and then, depending on how the nap goes, wake up a bit latter and figure out what to do for the evening.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

60 Email on the Transsiberian

I spent the evening watching the movie "Transsiberian" with Woody Harrelson, Emily Mortimer, and Ben Kingsley while I was working my way through my email backlog.  I managed to read, delete, sort and respond to about sixty email this evening, which made for a long, but mostly productive workday.

The movie was pretty good, it's a film noir set on the Transsiberian railway in Russia.  It is dark, intense, and well acted.  I'd recommend it if you haven't seen it. Emily Mortimer is very powerful in the film.

Work was long today, so I won't dwell on that - another day ahead of me.  The project is struggling and people are coming apart at the seams.  Yet another sign of bad management - a well managed team pulls together when it comes under stress, a poorly managed team falls apart.  It's amusing to me that part of our team is pulling together (the part under my direct manager), while the rest of it has started to fall apart.

My main concern is that the whole thing is going to implode and innocent people are going to catch the blame for our incompetent director, whose already casting about for ways to blame the problems on other people.  Dang, it is tough being under bad management.

It's been a stressful fall, that is for sure.  I wanted to go back to South Dakota for Christmas, but I am going to postpone that trip. All that is going to do is ratchet my stress level even higher - trying to travel in that most challenging season.  Running full speed up to Christmas, then stressful travel, then coming back to work and hitting it at full speed. That would definitely take all of the fun out of the vacation.  I think I will sit tight and aim at a more leisurely vacation after the holiday, somewhere in the early spring.  It would be nice to get two weeks or more completely off the work grid.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Life is a Strange Journey

Okay, lots of work, most of it detached from reality, but a deliberately easy evening here at home.  I've got to head in early in the morning to run a 7:00 AM User Acceptance Test Kick-Off Meeting for yet another part of the project.  Amusingly (and with plenty of attendant stress) I caught two of three UAT projects - both on less than four days notice, both because the existing plans for it had collapsed under the weight of the project.  Once again, I get to pull a complete cycle of UAT out of thin air.

With that in mind, this afternoon, when I wrapped up my last meeting and headed home I decided I was going to spend a quiet evening relaxing, then some reading time tonight. I am working my way through Orson Scott Card's "Ruins" and quite frankly, it is slow going.  I keep hoping it picks up some action, but it seems to be slow developing in that direction.  I may give it a few more nights and then I am going to have to abandon it.

On the home front, my nephew still remains in critical care.  He was off the ventilator for one day, then landed back on it due to fluid build up in his lungs.  He is once again heavily sedated and each day is the day it is.  I keep him close in my thoughts and prayers during the day.  Life is a strange journey.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday's Struggle

The day was mostly a struggle.  I slammed into the wall of frustration when I hit the office - there are just far too many moving parts and too may parts moving in chaotic cycles, to have any level of confidence beyond maybe the eighty percent level. I sure don't like being that frustrated. I did manage to make a few small advances during the day, but all in all if feels like I ended up further and further behind. It's a very difficult environment to be working in and I know I am not the only one who feels that way, but, since the root of our problems is our director - there doesn't seem to be much we can do about it.  Very, very frustrating.

California Morning Fog

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Notes from a Full Day

If nothing else, it has been a full weekend.  Let me run over the day's developments along the arc of this particular part of my journey. I met Tony for breakfast at the Hickory Pit, which is always enjoyable. 

Immediately after breakfast we went over to AMC 14 and watched "The Life of Pi", directed by Ang Lee. I was in a strange place going into the movie. I read and liked the book very much and that is often dangerous when it comes to movies because it sets expectations at a certain level and more often then not the movie does not live up to the movie. 

However, in this case, the director was Ang Lee, whose work I admire.  (I list "The Ice Storm" as one of my favorite movies quite often.)  I was confident that whatever had landed on the screen was going to be a good movie - the only question was - would it be the same "Life of Pi" that resides in the pages of the book. 

The short answer is - it wasn't, but it was still an excellent movie.  I'd highly recommend it - but the movie is just a faithful sampling of what is in the book, so also read the book.

After the movie was over I went down the street and did a walk through at Office Max,  I am considering buying a new desk for my apartment and I would like to get a slender L.  Office Max happens to have one that is very close to what I am looking for - but I haven't yet made the decision to buy it. I am contemplating moving my office desk out of the spare bedroom and back into the living room, in large part due to the winter light, but I also haven't quite made that decision yet.

From there, I took a walk through at REI.  I am looking for a pair of 3 gallon water containers for use in camping as part of my emergency reserves. They have them at REI, but I wanted to do a little bit of shopping, since REI isn't always price competitive, even on the same products as other places.  While there, I picked up a pair of lodge moccasins (think slightly stronger that normal bedroom slippers) and took a call from my step-father.

There was a bit of good news there, my nephew is conscious, off the ventilator, and communicating - though he is still not entirely lucid. My parents are going to stay until tomorrow and then my brother should arrive there on Tuesday or Wednesday, since he is planning on driving up.  My sister is also going to head back up to Rapid City in the next couple of days as well.

From there, I stopped at Lucky's and picked up groceries, then headed home. At home I had a sandwich, then laid down and took a nap.  This evening my place is "The Walking Dead" and ease into the evening with a bit of reading and maybe some quiet time.

It was a very full weekend, unexpectedly full.  Let's hope the week is a little more same, though I doubt it, given all the chaos at work.  That is why I am going to enjoy the quiet evening, since I don't think I am going to get any in the coming days.

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Chopped Up Day

It's been a pretty chopped up day. Because of the situation with my nephew, I didn't sleep well last night.  I fell asleep at about 10:00 PM and managed to sleep until 1:00 AM or so, then woke up and spent the rest of the night tossing and turning.

I managed to squeeze out another hour of sleep in the 5:00 AM to 6:00 AM window, then headed off to work. It was blessedly quiet at the office and I managed to knock off a pair of objectives.  Dinner was pizza with Tony at Mama Mia's (the very excellent Mama's Masterpiece and a piece of Tiramisu), then home to watch a bit of Ghost Hunters.

Next, a hot shower and then the struggle to stay awake until I can fall asleep at a reasonable hour - meaning an hour when I won't wake up in the middle of the night.  I am close to exhaustion, physically, due to the lack of sleep last night. So, hopefully, tonight will be a night of rich and deep sleep, with my nephew in my prayers.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Complicated Thanksgiving

I slept well last night and lingered in bed this morning until about 7:30 AM, which is late for me.  Had breakfast with Tony over at Goodies II on Bascom, then took a meandering walk and stopped for a cup of coffee, a cupcake and a banana.  From there, I went and saw "Silver Linings Playbook" which is an excellent movie.  A great cast, a sweet, funny, and well-told story layered under the acting (Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Tucker, Robert DeNiro) just made it a truly enjoyable film. It comes highly recommended from me.

A lazy afternoon followed, marked by family calls and texts, then a simple Thanksgiving dinner at Marie Calendars with Don and Tony.  Excellent food, good conversation.  From there,  home and into the evening.  A spot of bad news when I got home, one of my nephews has landed in the hospital in another state, apparent in the emergency room. Since he is largely estranged from the rest of the family, I am pretty much the only family member he talks to (though he does have friends there where he lives).  It was one of his friends who got a hold of me.  I don't really have any information at this point.  I  had called the hospital but when they rang me through, I simply got dial tone and no answer.  I will try again shortly.

His friends have relayed that one of them who lives close by is going to go see him, and I passed my number on to them, so hopefully I can hear something.  I know that he has had health problems for the last year or so, in part due to lifestyle choices he made.  They have landed him in the emergency room several times over the last couple of months.  I will keep him close in my thoughts and prayers until I hear more.  Not much else I can do from half a world away.

So, I would guess that, if I had to characterize this Thanksgiving, I would characterize it as complicated.  I think that would be a characterization of life around me of late - simply complicated. I hope your Thanksgiving is good, whoever you are and wherever you are.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Little Bit Older and Deeper In Debt

Another 12 hour day under the belt.  (A little bit older and deeper in debt...).

Today's insight - perspective matters.

Work was the usual madness associated with this project.  I was frustrated at one point in the morning, but once that discussion was over I calmed down.  This project remains the perfect example of why leadership matters - good leaders made difficult circumstances better. Bad leaders make it worse.

I've got my feet up and I am going to wander off to bed to read shortly, but for now I am watching the latest episode of Castle and unwinding.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Teasing Out The Day

Well, let us see what sort of insight I can tease out of the day.

It was a typical Monday in Cloud Cuckoo Land.  Here is one small tribute to the insanity - because of the Thanksgiving Holiday, we have Thursday off. (I am working Friday, but most people are not.) In the first three days of the week, Monday through Wednesday, I would normally be slated to work three nine hour days, for a total of twenty seven work hours. I have twenty one hours of meetings scheduled, not counting incidental and unscheduled meetings.  Consequently, in three days, not counting the over time that I working (today I worked twelve hours), I have six hours to actually accomplish anythings.

UAT continues to move at a high pace, though I am already behind the eight-ball there.  One of the things I need to go is review all of the bugs that have been reported and forward them to the appropriate group for resolution.  Of course, given the amount of time involved, I have not been able to do that. I was hoping to do it this evening, but I ended up spending the time doing a variety of the things I couldn't due during the day due to interruptions and meetings.

Now, on top of the UAT, it looks like I am going to catch another segment of UAT, for another block of the project that some other group screwed up.  I tell you, I am getting tired of being the go to guy for failed program rescues.  I try not to let the sheer insanity of it overwhelm me, but sometimes I really feel like I am the lone voice of reason.

I will share with you something amusing that happened to me the other week.  I was in a meeting with a manager and the manager, by oblique reference, without ever coming out and actually saying it, strongly hinted that I should temper the opinions I deliver and only deliver positive news and if the news was negative, spin it in a positive light. I actually laughed.

I am a fundamentally honest person, and what I mean by that is this - about twenty years ago I made one of those personal vows and that was this - I would always speak the truth to my leaders as best I understood it.  I would not shave, slant, or other color my inputs.  I firmly believe that the truth will set you free - and in the case of business, the truth is what makes one person or group successful and another unsuccessful.I think a huge part of the reason this project is in so much trouble is because various people at various stages, on a continual basis, have not spoke the truth.  This is compounded by the Director, who does not want to hear the truth and generally doesn't seem to care.

It's a challenging environment and I am thankful every day for that stress counseling I went through a few years ago - those skills and techniques have been invaluable.  So, I would strongly urge anyone who is considering stress counseling to go - it is well worth your time and the techniques that you learn are very valuable.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Sunday Morning Narrative

Yesterday afternoon I spent about two hours doing laundry, picked up an order of honey walnut prawns and combination fried rice from Tsing Tao in Campbell, then circled home and spent a lazy afternoon watching a movie.

I was in the mood for something very good that I hadn't seen in a while, so I opted to watch "Winter's Bone" again.  One of the things about a good movie is that they can be watched over and over and each time you glean something more from them.  "Winter's Bone" is one of those movies for me.

Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, and Garrett Dillahunt all turn in amazing performances.  When you compare Garrett's performance with his role in "Raising Hope" you come away with an awareness of an actor whose range is astounding. John Hawkes has that same ability.

After the movie wrapped up, I spend some time hooking up one of my early Christmas presents to myself, a sound bar for my television.  It was a low cost Phillips one, from Radio Shack.  Given the small size of my apartment I really couldn't justify a higher end system.  There is no sense in having a stereo that can go to 11...when 2 or 3 is actually about as high as you can set it without intruding on your neighbors.

Then, I watched an episode of "Elementary".  After it wrapped up I went to bed early, laying down about 7:30 PM with Orson Scott Card's "Ruins" and reading for about an hour before I fell asleep. I slept pretty soundly.  I woke up about 11:30 PM, briefly, then fell back asleep.  One of the things about living in an apartment is that, periodically, you wake up for no apparent reason. Every now and then you'll know the reason that woke you - some sound, some passage, some external thing.  But, usually, you don't, you simple wake up.

All in all though, I got a good night sleep.  On waking, I folded and put away my socks and underwear from yesterday, exchanged texts with my sister, and set up my iPad with iLapse to capture a time lapse sequence of sunrise. Then, a bowl of maple and brown sugar cream of wheat, a cup of black coffee, and I've settled in to watch an episode of "Fringe" as I contemplate the day.

I have a stack of work in front of me and I will tackle it at some point in the day, but most likely later in the afternoon. This morning my plan is a bit of writing (here and in a few emails) and then breakfast, perhaps a bit of wandering, and a movie. I am thinking about seeing Daniel Day-Lewis in "Lincoln", but the jury is still out on whether or not I am inclined to a serious drama today.

I do have a bit of inner work to do, mainly in consideration of my inner turmoil, so I may tackle that today, setting aside some time later in the day for meditation and contemplation. The recent changes in my personal relationships have left me...I don't know how to describe it, but with a certain degree of emptiness.  I need to contemplate that emptiness.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Blue As Ice and Desire

A few minutes past noon.  I am sitting in my spare bedroom/office, listing to Blondie sing "Maria" over the rain outside.  It is a beautiful, rainy, cool California day. I met Tony and Ty for breakfast, stopped at Radio Shack on an errand, and then came home to attend a brief coordination meeting to get my arms around what I needed to focus on for the week ahead.

Other than that though, I am not planning on doing an work today.  I am going to mainly just relax and let my brain recover.  I think I am going to head out and catch a movie this afternoon, or maybe head over to the pool hall to shoot a couple of games.  On the other hand, on a day like today, it is an almost perfect day for just hanging around the apartment and not doing anything.

Music is an amazing thing, with it's ability to transport us to another time, another place, another state of mine with a few bars.  I started out today listening to Eddie and the Cruisers (John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band) and that has landed me in a seemingly endless queue of sixties and seventies music on YouTube.  That is a dangerous place to be on a day like today.  Definitely going to hurl me into a nostalgic mood.  (Right now I am listening to Abba "The Winner Takes It All".

"The judges will decide, the likes of me abide..."

I am not sure I could define the mood I am in today. Physically I am feeling very well. Emotionally I am, mostly centered and introspective.  Work has been obsessive lately, but I know that will eventually pass. In my heart there is silence where a voice should be.  (I like that, that is a good line, I might have to set it aside and do something with it, incorporate it into a poem or a song.)

Sometimes it is strange the things our friends and our lovers bind us too. Promises extracted. Promises given. For some people, a promise is a binding thing. For years I've always spoken obliquely about my personal relationships, not because I am concealing anything but because, early on, when I told her about my blog, when she first read it, she asked me not to write about her, since she was very uncomfortable with any aspect of her personal life on the web.  I've always honored that request, and even now I am writing obliquely about her.  Are we bound by the promises made in one aspect of a relationship when that relationship changes?  I think we are, I think I am.

Well, where ever you are, who ever you are, I hope this day has found you well, content, perhaps even happy. Always remember - the judges will decide, the likes of me abide...


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A Healthy Lunch

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ulysses - Tennyson

Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho' We are not now that strength which in old days Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts, Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.
-Tennyson "Ulysses"

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

An Indifferent Lunch

I just wrapped up a rather indifferent lunch at the cafeteria near my office. I am making it a point to linger over a tall glass of water and enjoy the moment.

The day is chaotic at work, but no more chaos than expected. UAT continues at a maddening pace. The project consists of three distinct part and I've got the only part that went on time. Now (and my fingers are crossed) it looks like the whole project might get delayed due to the inability of the other two parts of the project to make it out of system test.

I'd like to see the delay as it would allow all of us to spend more time in test and more time polishing out work. I think the overall project would benefit from it. Actually, it would have benefited from a realistic setting of expectations and schedule way back in the beginning. Ah, if wishes were horses...
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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Zen at Work

I put my zen training to work today. Specifically, I used the technique I learned from Thich Nhat Hanh's book.  When I was walking and found my brain running at a hundred miles an hour, I stopped, I looked around me, I breathed, and then I focused on simply walking and breathing.  It worked very well and pulled me down a couple of notches a couple of times.

I am two days into the UAT on my portion of the project (this would be the UAT that I pulled out of my butt on four days notice) and things are moving rapidly forward, with good feedback from the users and most importantly, no major findings yet.  There have been a couple of minor configuration issues that we'll take a look into as we go along, but other that the very long days, things have been going well.

I am settled in for an hour or so of relaxation and then I am going to curl up and spend a little time reading.  One advantage of the high work load is it keeps my mind off the tangles of my personal life. I will of course work my way through them too, but for now, they are pushed aside. That ability to focus on the immediate and the external has stood me well over the years.

So, let me leave you with a snippet of the song running through my brain tonight...

It's one I've mentioned before, from John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band (on Eddie and the Cruisers):

Tender Years

When the moon hung soft and low
Catching stardust in the light
You held me closer and closer
There was magic in the night.

A sweet love song, a melody
That I still can recall
Two young hearts filled with dreams
To walk away with it all.

Whoa, whoa tender years
Won't you wash away my tears
How I wish you were near
Please don't go, tender years.

A summer love, a beach romance
Sought her kisses in the sand
Two young hearts filled with fire
Lost in never-neverland.

 Whoa, whoa tender years
Won't you wash away my tears
How I wish you were near
Please don't go, tender years.

Whoa, whoa tender years
Won't you wash away my tears
How I wish you were near
Please don't go, tender years.

Whoa, whoa tender years
Won't you wash away my tears
How I wish you were near
Please don't go, tender years.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Deep and Peaceful

Thirteen hours of work today. Hosted a pair of UAT kick-off meetings, bounced through a couple of technical meetings, coordinated some test case construction, and then came home to spend most of the evening reading and responding to 109 email.  What a day.  Tomorrow however looks relatively sane.

I am planning to go to bed early tonight, spend a little bit of time writing, and fall asleep.  I wish I had more exciting things to tell you about - but work seems to be the order of the day for the immediate future. The project I am working on has three functional parts - and now two of them are delayed.  The only part of the project that is still moving forward is mine - but there is now a very good chance that we are going to slip the whole project again (which is actually a good thing, as it will give my team more time to polish their applications and systems). We should find out in the next couple of days I hope.

So, here is hoping that the dreams tonight are good and the sleep is deep and peaceful.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Struggling Into The Morning

I'm struggling into the morning today. I slept well enough, though I woke up a little early then I had intended to, but it seems to be going well. Black coffee and oatmeal, sunrise and "Haven" on the DVR.  I am estimating that I have four to six hours worth of work to do today, maybe more - I really have two things that I want to accomplish. 

First, I have to prepare the PowerPoint presentation for Monday's meeting, which I anticipate is going to take two or three hours, then another two or three hours working on the actual test materials. I've got the whole test cycle broken down in stages, so I am going to try and roll it out, one block at a time, which is less them optimal, but the whole project is less then optimal.

I am going to try and move easily and smoothly through the day. A simple breakfast, then, maybe a movie, or maybe just come straight home and work. I have to do a couple of loads of laundry at some point during the day, so I may do them here at the apartment complex, and I may do them at the laundromat. It will depend on whether or not I have an urge to get out of the apartment later in the day. 

I definitely want to head over and get a pizza at Patxi's today, in part because I am pretty sure it's going to be a hectic and busy week, with more than it's fair share of stress moments.  I am going to try and keep focused and move easily through it, but I am not sure I am going to be able to. I think I am going to have to use all of my stress management skills to make it.  Actually, sitting here thinking about it, the week should not be too bad - it's going to be the first couple of days that are very difficult, but once I make it through them, I should be all right.  I will have to keep telling myself that as the week starts.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

On Saturday, I Ramble

It was an even 60 hours by the time I logged out of work Friday, which was a mostly unproductive and frustrating day. I made it a point to take most of today off just to give myself a chance to recover. I was mostly successful. 

Here is what the day looked like - I got up about seven this morning, after a long night sleep.  Breakfast with Tony and Ty at the Hickory Pit, then I zipped home for an hour long teleconference. When the teleconference wrapped up I dashed out and met the guys at AMC 14, where we saw "Skyfall", the new James Bond movie.  It was...excellent.  After we came out of the movie I made the comment that it has that one thing that all good Bond movies have to have - that ability to thrill you.  An excellent addition to the Bond canon.

From there, we had lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings.  Then, I came home and just relaxed - I did some work related email off the Blackberry, but mostly I watched "Carnage" on the DVR (based on the play "God of Carnage"). It was a strange and amusing movie, a good choice for easing through the afternoon.

After it ended, I curled up and took a nap for the better part of two hours.  I had set the alarm to wake me after an hour, and it did, but I needed the extra time so I simply stayed in bed. All of the hours I worked last week caught up with me and I needed to get the batteries recharged.

I am tired, all in all. I am on the borderline of being burnt out at work, so I need to be careful and "brush back" to a degree and make sure I don't let myself get unhealthily overloaded.  Part of the process of brushing back is to remember to take time for myself, in simple ways, and give my brain a rest. I keep letting the frustrating things at work get under my skin and make me short tempered, which is a wicked little loop to get caught it.  It becomes a feedback loop of frustration and I have a tough time breaking through it.

I do give a lot of credit to the counselor that I went to several years ago for work stress, in that I am putting a lot of the techniques to use and though my stress does occasionally peak, it rarely stays at the peak.  Generally, when I go through a peak period I start laughing about it - finding the humor in it, realizing that most of the stress and unreasonableness at work has nothing to do with me.

One of the key stress triggers I run into is when I am told to one thing, start work on that thing, and then get told to either do it differently or to do something else.  This stop, start, and rework has been one of the killers on this project - wasting a tremendous amount of time. I estimated at one point that some very routine and ordinary tasks were taking up to three times as long as normal to get done because of the constant rework.

That was part of what sent me into a stress loop on Friday.  I'd been asked to create 250 test scenarios, so I got the team working on it. It was slow going, as I had predicted, and we made some progress but not as much as project management would have liked.  I provided the feedback on the progress - and after a days worth of work, was told to do it a different way. Now, the different way is faster, but it was not what I was originally told to do, and it completely skips one of the purposes of the exercise.  It was very frustrating and I expressed that frustrating. (One of the key things I learned from the counseling was not to lock it up inside.)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

53 Hours

Well, if you're wondering what happened to me - it's Thursday, I've worked 53 hours in 4 days.  Fun. Not. 

I ultimately caught the role of functional test lead for UAT on planned UAT, no one appointed UAT personnel, and I have the skills and ability to bring order from chaos.  (No modesty here, that happens to be one of the things I am good at.) 

Now, I won't kid you, it is an uphill battle - I am going to try and roll the UAT out one step ahead of the testers. Prepare block one, roll out block one, and then while the testers are moving through block one, be working frantically on block two.  There are about six blocks, all told, of varying degrees of complexity and it is going to consume the next two weeks.

I haven't had much time for anything else. I wake up in the morning, I start working, I work through the day, I come home and have dinner and then go back to work. I have deliberately decided not to work tonight, just to give myself a bit of a rest.  I think 53 hours so far this week is enough, and I know I am going to wrack up a few more hours in the run of the next two weeks.

If there is a project management take-away it is this - it is all in the planning. Succeed in the planning and you will succeed in the project. Fail in the planning and you will fail in the project.

Monday, November 5, 2012

An Inauspicious Start

Well, it has not been an auspicious start to the day. My work laptop struggled through a series of installs and reboots, locking up twice and forcing me to cold start it. That ate up a solid hour of time.

Then, I turned my attention to three urgent data requests that originated from legal. Then, into a status meeting that got totally co-opted for another subject. Followed by direction for the immediate turn around of some test related material.

That pretty much ate up the morning, meaning I got zero time to work on the projects assigned directly too me.

I took a hard hit on a favorite stress trigger of mine. Let's see if I can accurately describe it. The trigger gets hit when I am assigned a project, or a portion of a project, and after going through the discovery phase I start working on it.

Then, I get asked or tasked on something that is "part of the project" that I had never heard of and it is revealed that it was included in the project as a result of a meeting I didn't attend, or a conversation I was not part of, or an email exchange that did not include me.

That instantly slams into my fairness stress trigger. I think that it is unfair to hold a person accountable for an action or a task without first making that person aware that they are on the hook for it.

Fortunately, a walk and a simple high protein lunch have helped to pull that stress level back down from it's peak. It in a few moments I will head back to the office and dive back into the fray. I just keep reminding myself that all projects, good or bad, end.

Later That Evening...

Well, I was able to get some productivity out of the day - granted most of it came during the evening when I was working at home.  The afternoon was mostly consumed in a pair of meetings about UAT (User Acceptance Testing) and some follow on conversations.  The UAT meeting was scheduled for an hour, but extended well beyond that.

They have appointed a test director, and a good one at that.  I definitely don't envy him.  He echoed what I have said in that, during the course of a career, this project is a once in a lifetime event, it is so chaotic and so scattered.  It actually heartened me to hear someone else say that.

At one point during the afternoon meeting I was pointing out the difficulty of the task (the math simply does not add up).  The UAT cycle is pretty much a pure mathematical fantasy.  I may have to write an entire post on that, since it is a perfect object lesson on what not to do during UAT. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

May All Beings

There is a decision point that I seem to hit every other weekend or so.  I try and decide if I am going to do any work on the weekend. If I thought that by working on the weekend I could gain some ground on the week, I would be more tempted to do it. But, the general result is I work extra hours in the weekend, and then I still end up working extra hours during the week, so it is definitely a zero sum game. 

This weekend was no different, but, here I am, Sunday night, watching Once Upon A Time and quite happy that I didn't work this weekend - with the full awareness that I am going to be working long days this week.  I have one major task that I want to accomplish this week, so I am going to try and stay focused on that, try and keep a disciplined approach to it.

Today was a good day, all in all.  The switch in time impacted me this morning when I woke up at about 4:00 AM, so I expect to pay for that by hitting a hard wall before too long.  I can already feel the first edges of sleep trying to steal over me, so I suspect it will just be a question of "when do I give in", followed by a bit of tossing and turning, then a swift and smooth journey into the land of sleep.

I feel like I need a day off, but the Thanksgiving holiday is just around the corner, so I may hold out until then. I also may take a day between here and there.  Perhaps to celebrate one of the milestones at work as it passes. We can list that as one of the failures of our current project management, they do not celebrate the milestones that we reach and pass.  This is just another thing in the litany of things that make this program the object lesson in how not to run a project.

I had an easy afternoon, alternating between reading and watching the DVR, then I had dinner with Tony over at Mama Mia's on Hamilton.  Excellent pizza and Tiramisu. Earlier in the day we'd gone to Cupertino Square to see RZA's "The Man With The Iron Fist", which was an enjoyable old-style Kung Fu movie. One of the players in the movie was the actress Jamie Chung, who happens to be portraying Mulan on "Once Upon A Time".  She is a very beautiful and talented actress. 

On that note I am as ready for the end of the day as I can be. I hope you had a good weekend and, as the sign on the wall in my office says:  May all beings find happiness and be free from suffering.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Natural Emptiness

I did my best to stay "off the grill" today.  I need the low key weekend and so far it has been pretty good. I stayed up late last night reading "The Cloud Atlas", slept well and woke refreshed. I watched "Fringe" and "Haven", then met Tony and Ty for breakfast at the Hickory Pit. I did a walk through at Fry's, then home for a while. I met Richard for lunch at Pacific Catch over at the Pruneyard.  After that, a few quick errands and then home again.

I will say one thing about the level of work and personal currents running now - they have inspired many vivid but half-remembered dreams as my subconscious stirs around. Today, when I woke up, and then at various times through the day, I thought about the metaphorical boxes that I find myself in as I move through my ordinary days.  The power of habit is a powerful thing.  Our lives are infused with a hundred habits, from the simple to the complex and then back again. Somewhere in there, underneath that layer of habits, is our true self.

That search for the true self is the quest that can consume our days, if we have the courage to undertake it. Sometimes I think I have that courage, but then other times I don't think that I do. As we go through life, life inspires us and wounds us in equal measure.  Each event, each inspiration, each wound, is a thread on the tapestry of our life. Our life is not a single thread, not a wound, not an inspiration, but rather it is the sum total of all of that. Often, we cannot see the full sweep of the tapestry unless we find some way to take a step back, to get a little distance.  To do that, we have to go off the grill, we have to fnd a place of stillness from which we can observe, from which we can experience.

It's a little after nine o'clock PM here right now, I am sitting on my chair in my living room, everything turned off except a single light and my laptop.  I close my eyes and I can hear the sounds of traffic in the distance, through the open patio doors, the quiet rush of the freeway a mile or so away. The clock on the kitchen wall ticks loudly in the stillness.  The sound of my fingers on the keys is a distinctive rattle and click.  There is a distance conversation from the courtyard, but distance enough that I hear the murmur of voices but cannot make out the words. It's a beautiful moment all in all.  Simple and still. There is an emptiness within me, but it seems as if it is the emptiness that should be there. A natural emptiness.

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Need For A Magnificent Obsession

One of the things I've learned about life is that life is always an unexpected journey. We never know the direction we're going to end up traveling in. It is guaranteed to be a surprise. Sometimes it turns out to be a lucky surprise and sometimes it doesn't. I think the ability to embrace whichever turn of fortune rushes towards you is a gift. I think that as long as you look at it that way you will make the best of the circumstances whenever they happened to be. Lately my life seems to be comprised of twists and turns. Not only my life but the life of the people around me. Maybe it's just a heightened sensitivity on my part or maybe we have entered into a season of twists and turns. I kind of like that idea. After all, life is the ultimate force of nature.
As I mentioned earlier it was a crazy, busy, week at work. I worked way too many hours in way too short a period of time. Today, which was my day off, was rewarding. First I slept in a bit, then I met Tony for breakfast over at Goodies II. After that I ran a couple of errands, including a rather fruitless search for a special type of VGA cable. Then I met my friend Marjorie, from Southern California, for lunch over at Hobbies. I only get to see her every couple of years when our paths cross either here in Northern California or down south. So was very nice. 

From there, I stopped at computer central, and then Best Buy, all in a fruitless search for that VGA cable. There is a design flaw in my Sony laptop. It has to monitor ports, a VGA port, and an HDMI port. Unfortunately, they are side-by-side, and separated only by about a quarter of an inch. Take a look at your VGA cable and notice just how wide the connector is. Do you notice the little screws that secure it to the VGA port? Do you notice the little flange at the edge of the connector? Well, that little flange is enough to prevent you from plugging in two monitors. Now, I've seen VGA cables without that flange. I think they're one point I actually had one. It might still be around here somewhere. But, from this moment in time, it looks again going to have to do surgery on a VGA cable so I can hook up both monitors to the Sony VAIO. Well, I guess it's nothing my Dremel tool can't fix.

I don't really have any special plans for the weekend, other than the routine stuff, I think I'm going to try to take it easy through the weekend. I need some quiet time. I need some time to listen to the silence. I need some time to be alone with my thoughts. It always kind of amazes me how difficult it is in the modern age. We run, constantly, and we never stop. Even when we think we’re stopped, we’re not, we’re running. It's like we are the servants of the mad master and we don't even know it. Well I'm going to try and shake that master for a bit this weekend.

About four years ago I was in a strange place. At the time I characterized it as seeking a magnificent obsession. That is about as close as I can come to explaining it. I think I'm slipping back into that time and space. I think that's part of the journey of life that, periodically, it takes us back over familiar territory. It takes us back to those places where we still have a lesson to learn. I am not sure what that lesson is, I didn't know then, and I don't know now. All I know is that inside me there is a need for a magnificent obsession.

Oh, and speaking of Magnificent Obsession - I happened to turn on the TV tonight and stumbled upon Casino Royale, the old one, with Woody Allen, Peter Sellers, David Niven - and the very beautiful Ursula Andress. This is a picture of her from the first movie I ever saw her in "She" as "She Who Must Be Obeyed".

Thursday, November 1, 2012

What A Week

What a week.

I worked 51 hours in 4 days. On the plus side, I checked two items off the work list.  But, in terms of what else I have done this week, work was pretty much it.  Life continues to move at its own pace and I am hoping that I will get a window this weekend to write a bit and record a few of the things that unfolded, but for tonight, I am going to watch a pair of sitcoms and then settle in to read myself to sleep.  I am entering my three day weekend and though I will be doing some work, I am going to try and not do a lot.  Tomorrow I've got breakfast and lunch plans but nothing after that.