Have you tried turning it off and back on again?

May 25 2019

Disclaimer: The content of this post does not reflect my current employer, or any of my clients at present.  I've pulled details from my work history dating back about 20 years and stitched them into a more-or-less coherent narrative without being specific about any one company or client because, as unfashionable as it may be, I take my NDAs seriously.  If you want to get into an IT genitalia measuring contest please close this tab, I don't care and have no interest.

Time was, back in the days of the home 8-bit computers, we were very limited in what we could do in more than one way.  Without even a proper reset button or development tools other than the built-in BASIC interpreter if something went wrong there was really no way that you could debug it.  If you happened to be hacking code in any serious way on the Commodore chances are you'd shelled out good money for a debugger or disassembler and had at least a couple of reference books nearby.  If you were doing everything in BASIC then either you were growing your program a few lines at a time or using some code you got out of a magazine to do low level programming from inside of BASIC (an exercise fraught with frustration, let me tell you).  Even then, if something went sideways it was difficult to figure out where you went wrong and fix it.  The tools just weren't common at the time.  All you could really do was turn off the machine, wait a few seconds, turn it back on, and give it another shot in the hope that the machine wouldn't lock up on you again.

Neologism: @here grenade

Apr 25 2019

@here grenade - noun phrase - The act of tagging a message @here (meaning, everyone) in a crowded Slack channel (users >= 100), causing everyone who's busy but monitoring to drop whatever they're doing and flame you for bothering them by messaging @here.  Normally done by a user trying to get a response to a maximum severity ticket that's been ignored for longer than the SLA.

Example: "PFY threw an @here grenade into the #tech-support channel because the border router was on fire and the admins on call were ignoring their pagers.  He got kicked but at least the outage is over."

Neologism: Proper channels excise tax

Apr 16 2019

Proper channels excise tax - noun phrase - The markup paid on commonplace things when you go through proper channels at work to do something rather than going rogue, buying it yourself and filing an expense report.  For example, a flight from Chicago to Boston might cost $176us if you paid for it yourself, but by using your employer's internal processes and vendors the cost of the same flight is closer to $630us.

Neologism: Taxonomic debt

Apr 06 2019

Taxonomic debt - noun phrase - The time you spend learning arbitrary jargon at a new job.

Source: Bradford Stephens

Neologism: Sharkfinning

Nov 03 2018

sharkfinning - verb, gerund - Learning something from scratch in an entirely hands-on way, which is to say, "Swimming with the sharks."  When you don't know what you're doing or how to do it, but you have a job to do.

Life and times.

Oct 14 2018

Long time readers are probably wondering where I've been lately.  The answer is kind of long and is worth a post all on its own.  The short version of the story is, work's been eating me alive lately.  This is our busiest time of year and it's been all hands on deck for a couple of weeks now.  In point of fact, last week was our quarterly all-hands meeting, where everybody on my team was flown into town for a solid week of meetings.  All day, every day.  Most of my visible activity lately took the form of parts of my exocortex running on automatic with some hit-and-run posting while waiting for the coffee maker at work to top me up in between meetings.

This also means that I haven't had a whole lot of patience for interacting with people.  Not in the sense that people can feel frustrated with other people or their actions, but in the sense that interacting with people in a meaningful way - having a real conversation - takes more compute cycles than I have available right now.  After fourteen hours in a conference room with 40 other people, not only am I out of social, but I'm mentally exhausted.

Neologism: Onboarding suppository

Aug 11 2018

onboarding suppository - noun complex - The massive volume of data that a new hire has to assimilate and comprehend before they can understand what they're supposed to be working on to any meaningful extent.

Some notes on locksport.

Mar 27 2018

A couple of weeks back, as part of our continuing education program at my dayjob I ran a hands-on class on locksport, the quasi-science (perhaps art) of picking locks for fun and... well... fun.  I'm a security wonk so most of the talks I run have some security content in them, but I wanted to do something that was fairly suitable for everyone (coders and not).  So, I got the go-ahead to expense a few more locks and some intro picksets to give away from The Lockpick Shop (no consideration for mentioning or using them, they had what I needed at a good price) and hauled most of my collection of locks and tools to work over the course of a couple of days.

I used the Creative Commons licensed lockpicking village slides from the TOOOL website for my talk after editing them a bit to condense them for time and spent a couple of evenings practicing both my slides and craft to gear myself up for the class.

What follows are some pictures and ruminations I have on the topic of locksport that come from years of playing around with locks (after spending about as long trying and failing to get any locks open) and doing formal and informal sessions on the topic.  Please bear in mind, I'm far from a master of this particular art.  I've competed only once (and pulled a Charlie Brown by picking the lock backwards, thus jamming it at the worst possible time) and, while I recognize that there are some very talented people out there who are into locksport for the sheer artistry of it, I'm not one of them.  I'm a pragmatic lockpicker: I'm on assignment, I need into something, I'm going to pick the lock and get in.  I'm not a spring steel artist.

Okay.  Enough chitchat, here's what I actually wanted to write.

Back online in time for the holiday season, I guess.

Nov 19 2017

I guess I should wish everybody out there a happy Thanksgiving that celebrates it.

I haven't been around much lately, certainly not as much as I would like to be.  Things have been difficult lately, to say the least.

Around this time of year things go completely berserk at my dayjob.  For a while I was pulling 14 hour days, capped off with feverishly working three days straight on one of the biggest projects of my career, which not only wound up going off without more than the expected number of hitches but has garnered quite a few kudos from the community.  I'm rather proud of how it turned out.  Unfortunately, it also took its toll, namely, on my health.  During the final leg of the project I noticed that I was starting to get sick, and by that Tuesday my cow-orkers were telling me to go home and sleep because I looked like death warmed over.  Unsurprisingly, I've been battling a nasty cold that's kicked the legs out from under me.  I still haven't kicked out of big-project mode yet, because the last few times I've started to feel better I've run myself aground again without realizing I was doing so.  This is not good.  It also seems that I brought this particular nasty home, and now my family is in various stages of fighting it off.