Older blog entries for technik (starting at number 36)

Where did this month go?

Work: More of the same. Tweaked and twisted the builds and our code to get a sane Java2 release then spent the month fighting a morass of delays and complications to migrate software. Internal efforts to block our use of Weblogic in favor of the Big Blue product have resorted to making an apples to oranges price comparison of the former's enterprise cluster software to the latter's single server edition. They wrung a big (>30%) discount from the latter while taking the first discount (<10%) from the former. This could derail an entire year of testing and configuration. Worse it justifies declaring WebSphere Studio the standard IDE. I can't even guess what these people think they are gaining... maybe nothing but proving that they can. All of us will move to a new floor Friday and there are already signs that it will go badly.

Play: DSL installed. Excellent! Configured the router and my OpenBSD firewall. PF is good and I'm getting used to the changes from IPF. Reconfigured my wireless access point and renumbered the network and can now get hacking on NoCatAuth. Netbooted OpenBSD on a headless SS5/70 and set it up running Apache and redirected to it from the firewall. Amazingly, I was swept by two whisker scans in less than 14 hours from some unnamed addresses (probably in Europe, maybe in .nl). Worked on and off on nothing in particular. Tweaked Jproxy. Messed around with POE, again. Used the gift certificate my wife gave me to buy motorcycle gear, it should be here in a few days. I can't wait for spring and oh, how I want this as my next bike!

Spent Saturday messing around with sockets and threads under Java. Didn't have my all reference books on hand (left them at work, I should get duplicate copies of everything useful...) Went searching for examples and put together a logging port-forwarder which outputs traffic in the classic offset/hex/ascii format. GPL-ed because the examples I looked at from were under the GPL and it's a pretty trivial hack. Registered it on Freshmeat anyway. Whee.

Sunday was beautiful, one of those rare perfect days. Maria and I took the car out, put the top down and drove backroads to Lambertville, NJ. We heard it was a cute town and had antique stores. We heard right. It's on the Delaware and the place reminds me of the Hudson river towns but much more dense and generally in better condition.

Slept badly, kept Maria up so now she's grumpy. Dread going to work.

The grind continues. $BIGCONSULTING is rampant. Interestingly, the emphasis on software maturity level is out of favor- that was quick! -and is considered a side-effect of organizational changes. Layoffs to be announced 1/17. Bonuses, if they exist, are rumored to be announced 1/18. Our group is apparently behind on two projects (very large scale software infrastructure changes, not seen by customers) because we provided assistance to other teams (real products, seen by real customers) and delayed to avoid collisions in production (which is also seen by customers). So we are refocusing on our own tasks and are instructed to not help other teams. The exception is if we can get their tracking codes for billing or the include our work in their estimates. I see the need, but question the benefit.

Making a list of priorities and what I personally need to accomplish. Get a sense of direction. Maybe I'm fledging. Anyone hiring?

Discovered two links on the wonderful C2.com wikki:

  • DeveloperMaturity
  • LifesJustTooShort
  • Long time, no post. Seems like I have been very busy, but I can't recall what I was doing. Been going to the gym at least two to three times a week (but not this week). Hacked on my Perl script a little, found a bug, added logging. If I get around to it I'll upload to CPAN but it looks like I'll not get time until January. Visited friends in Virginia a couple of times- They had a baby and Maria is now the God-Mother (heh). At work, we're in the end-of-year grind to push everything into production before the cut off date and things are crazy. Also took part in a three-day Change Management and Leadership program which, other than the "drink the Kool-Aid" enthusiasm of the trainers, seemed fairly useful. I've added a dozen new jargon terms to my repertoire.

    Work: Holiday party cancelled. 10 officers sacked (not that we have a shortage), all from my former company. Voluntary retirement incentive announced. Poor earnings declared (but not from the services of what was my old company, apparently) so bonuses are expected to be similarly poor. 10-15% staff cuts predicted in January 2002 by CEO. Mind-bogglingly confused time tracking system rolled out involving Excel spreadsheets and two-thousand-odd category codes. Attended over the past months a mish-mash of meetings where clueless managers make declarations about "standards" and "processes" for development but their people haven't cranked out any production-ready code in 24 months. On a brighter note, I've been experimenting with Apache SOAP and working on rewriting some of our existing code to take advantage of the web services model. So there is some fun.

    Play: Been away or occupied every weekend for nearly two months. Haven't been on the motorcycle since September 30th and I'm going to have to set aside a day to prep it for winter- add fuel stabilizer to the gas, pull the battery and put it on a maintanence charger, get the tires off the ground. The recent events and the resulting changes to commuting- disabled tracks, packed subway cars, disrupted service- have helped sway Maria to consider my idea of a 125cc or larger scooter for beating around the city. I would love to get this 2002 Honda Silver Wing or their Reflex, but both are a little out of my current price range. She even plans to get her operators license so we can share it. I'd prefer a 600cc dual-sport bike like the XL600R, DR650, KLR650, or even a Honda Transalp for around here but it's a start. We did get all our holiday gift shopping done in one fourteen hour day at the outlets in Maine and I'll get the remainder online. While idling, I ran across discussions and implementations of NTLM Authentication in Squid, by Innovation.ch, and one in Python. So I might get around to steal^H^H^H^H^Hderiving from their work and adding that to my own proxy in Perl.

    <Rant> Read this screed by Michael Lane Thomas of Microsoft (Google cache, original no longer online). All I can say is that it is grossly misleading and disgustingly self-serving to compare the events of 9/11 with the latest worm to target IIS. Side-stepping the mixed metaphors and the emotional appeals echoing recent events, I wonder if anyone can conceive that weak apologies for defective software that place the blame in the complexity of software and couch it in the "never-ending expansion in human knowledge" will make up for the time and effort wasted cleaning up the vendor's self-inflicted security mess. Touching upon individualism and competition, he jabs at "evolving" new ideas and here, at least, he is right. Evolution is taking place. The hard, unforgiving, Darwinian arms race of competition and coevolution that has left innumerable family trees without living descendants may be abrading Microsoft products as they expand beyond their desktop niche. And there is a certainy that the resulting offspring will be more adapted to that environment than their ancestors but there is very little to say that whatever spawned the latest troubles will be there to appreciate it. </Rant>

    Plucker is AWESOME!

    Forget snagging headlines and news. I'm busy converting such fine things as SICP (has it disappeared?), Teach Yourself Scheme in Fixnum Days, Perl Docs, and anything else I've referred to more than once and can get my hands on.

    Started sending the resume around. The market may be depressed but so am I and this place is mostly the cause. My wife, having listened to me bitch and moan after work, tore a page out of her O magazine describing six signs it's time to change jobs. I answer 'yes' to four and vary on a fifth. I've thought hard about what bothers me and have this list:

    • unclear goals - Despite focus groups, surveys, slick internal publications, town meetings, and polished emails the offering of goals like "leadership" and "innovation" shows that management misses the point. These are the side effects or, perhaps, characteristics of an organization pursuing concrete results. One doesn't set out to be "the best" and hope to achieve it. One sets out to accomplish something, determines the necessary steps leading to that goal- often enroute- and goes about doing it. Focus on behavior not bullshit.
    • wasted time - Still spending more than half of my time in meetings and fighting internal resistance. It's often as if a confusion of tongues at the Tower of Babel exists in some of these meetings. The complete absence of accountability of the groups managing basic infrastructure results in downed servers, incomplete software configurations, randomly closed firewalls, and the like. Having a mid-level manager declare that something entirely reasonable is not possible, for no better reason than they decided it such, is enormously frustrating. Having an upper manager declare in a meeting that a year-long effort is going to be overturned because he doesn't like it anymore, then silently backing down when he realizes he misjudged support behind him, is demoralizing.
    • not making a difference - Reorganization, announced swallowing of sister companies, new (more or less unarticulated) near-term goals, shuffling of bosses, and the admixture of $BIGCONSULTING company- for exact purposes no one has divined and no oracle has revealed- means disruption. The days and weeks are interrupt driven and there is no sense of getting ahead. Two years ago, in my original organization there was a direct correlation between effort and effect, not anymore.
    • fatigue - See above for clues. Might be a physical reaction to change- something they're warning managers about- but to me it looks like garden variety stress. I'm tired, I loathe going into the office, I've been getting sore throats and head colds- and I'm rarely sick.
    I think to myself that these are the things that plague any large organization, but it rings hollow. In any case, it's affecting me and I need the change.

    Even though I'm non-essential staff and I didn't get the call to come in, I came to work early. I can't stand another day doing nothing but puttering around the apartment. Downtown is mostly empty and there are cops and national guard on almost every corner. I did spend Friday and Saturday visiting friends upstate and Sunday I went for a 170 mile ride on the motorcycle. It's easier to push the recent events out of my head when dealing with the immediacy of running through country roads at a fast pace. Think I'll go to the Super Sunday gathering at Marcus Dairy.

    12 Sep 2001 (updated 12 Sep 2001 at 03:43 UTC) »

    I'm probably not representing this accurately, tried to post earlier... can't sleep.

    I arrived at work today a little later than usual. Heard a crash while coming out of the subway but didn't think much of it figuring it's always noisy in downtown. Reached my desk, saw my red message light on, logged in and punched the code for my voicemail. My wife had left a nervous message asking if I was okay, that something happened at the World Trade Center which is just a few blocks from me and the stop she takes. I called back that I saw nothing and was okay and tried to check cnn.com. I heard a commotion in the aisle and found coworkers talking about the WTC. I suggested we check the big monitor in the Risk Management area on the other side of the office which faces the WTC. They had CNN on and I could look at the smoking tower as the news read in the background. I ran back to my desk and called my parents, leaving what must have been a barely coherent "We're okay" message since they didn't hear the news. We evacuated down the twenty-two flights of stairs to the lobby but were sent upstairs again. I returned to the other corner of the office and as we watched the WTC, before I could even recognize what happened, a plane struck the second tower off center and fire burst out the other side. Then CNN reported that a plane had struck the Pentagon. I ran back to my desk and found the red light. My wife. I called her and we agreed to meet at her office, farther away from the WTC, as soon as we evacuated my building. For some reason, I grabbed the fire escape kit with the water bag, dust mask and mylar blanket I leave in my in-box where it was dropped two years ago and grabbed another I had stashed in my overhead cabinet that I had scavenged for the cyalume lightstick. I didn't wait and stupidly took the elevator into the lobby. While going down, something shook and the lights blinked but the elevator opened into the lobby and I pushed out past the surprisingly large number of people down there since I thought everyone went back up. I stepped outside and it was all dust and smoke and wind. I put on the mask and started walking as fast as I could to Maria's office through a moonscape of dust. I might have been running. I remember thinking that I'm going to hyperventilate and slowed to a walk. The steel coffee carts with the hard rolls and bagels in the windows and young Pakistani guys inside were at the corners but noone was inside. People grey with dust were wandering in other directions. A Korean guy in a suit, gray except from his eyes, was hacking and vomiting in color next to a car while two grey people stood beside looking after him. All the stores seemed closed or closing and when the wind picked up, I ducked into doorways and turned away squinting. Everything was surreal and unfamiliar. As I got to City Hall the dust and smoke was less and I clambered over a low wall dividing the road that I never noticed before but must have been there for years. A woman in a beige skirt was trying to climb over it but couldn't and I turned to help and another guy lifted her arm and she stumbled over it and stood in the road. For some reason it seemed funny that she had not put away her cell phone the whole time. I tried to make it to Broadway, but the police were directing people and I hurried through a few streets I rarely take feeling even more lost. I got to Worth but had to divert back and circle a few blocks down as FBI agents and police were shouting and opening parked trucks and having people move away from the Federal court building. At an intersection, I ignored a busy cop and crossed the street and took off up Worth. The dust was thin but had reached here too and I felt relieved to find Maria down the street from her office. She had written a note in lipstick on the page of a magazine and posted it on the building, in case I got there after the police moved the evacuees away but I didn't need it. We were okay and we told each other that we should walk uptown away from the crisis and then figure out what to do. We walked without much talking, relieved that the other was okay, avoiding the emergency vehicles up to the teens. People were everywhere and all the mass transit was shut down. Lines were forming at banks and shops, anywhere there was a phone or ATM. In the Village and NYU, I got a few stares and realized that I was grey with dust. My black shirt and shoes were ashy-looking. We found an cash machine that wasn't empty in a bodega around the high 20's, got cash and bought water. I had my gym clothes and offered her my socks and sneakers but she just wanted my thin dress socks. We sat on the slate step of a townhome and I changed into sneakers and she put my decidedly unfashionable black socks on and slipped back into her shoes. We then cut across to the west side and continued up to the 50's. Like a cruel joke, it was a perfect day- sunny, a breeze, gently warm. At the West Side Highway, we started thumbing for a ride. Maria was getting tired and I itched everywhere the dust had settled on skin. A livery pulled over and let us in. The driver, a very small boned, very dark skinned man in his forties with an accent I couldn't recognize, maybe Ethiopian, said he lived around the GW Bridge and was going that way. We asked how much but he waved us off. Traffic snarled and he got onto Broadway around 125th. While he wiggled the car through the streets we tried to use the cell phone and managed to get our parents and tell them we were enroute. He drove until reaching a police line at the Bus Terminal. We asked how much he wanted and he said he didn't care. We gave him $50 and thanked him for stopping and he drove off to get home. We walked the rest of the way, arriving home at 1:35 and found ten messages on the machine. We made a list and started calling. When we finished, for some geeky reason I went on IRC and into email to let those people know I was okay. I finally showered, but I still felt gritty and itched on the back of my neck and inside my people know I was okay. I finally showered, but I still felt gritty and itched on the back of my neck and inside my elbows. Hours later, after watching the news, I am still in a little shock and indescribably happy that Maria and I were okay. We are lucky. I can't even conceive of the people, folks I don't know who I pass every day, who were down there. I hope they can contact their families. I hope they are unscathed. I feel very lucky. I read in email that the a number of people I casually know, some by name, were okay. Later, after having a drink and eating something I called coworkers and asked how they got home. Everyone was fine. Their spouses were there or enroute. I can't sleep.

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