The holidays are coming! The holidays are coming!

Well, as you may have guessed I’m back under a pile of work at work and it’s consuming all of my free time / creativity / energy again.

It’s not that where I work is some sort of sweat-shop that borders on slave labor – its not – it’s that I’m pretty committed to doing the best job possible, and I’m also a firm believer in ‘if you want it done right, do it yourself.’

These last few weeks have been twelve hour days of writing software applications to generate statistical reports, based on huge databases full of things you can’t statistically analyze, for a company that simultaneously cannot figure out how to generate this data or what to do with it when they get it…

Why is it that every time I work with one of these big, multi-national, fortune 100 companies that I find myself wondering how the hell they got there, and stay there? All I can figure is that they have so much money that they can burn it for fuel to stay in corporate orbit, because it certainly doesn’t have anything to do with smarts.

What makes these ponderous corporate behemoths even worse to work with is that they know they’re a big fish and act like spoilt children most of the time, and this permeates all levels of the corporation.

This current multi-billion dollar day care center I’m working with outsourced some programmers from some time zone on the other side of the planet, and this too has been a major source of annoyance for the web-guy at work and me. We can’t understand them when we get them on the phone, they schedule meetings for 6 p.m. local because its 6:30 a.m. there, and they are completely incapable of creatively solving a problem…

That last is a huge issue as problems very rarely fit into something you read in a book, and these guys are all specialists in the same way insects are; incapable of cross-field thinking. For example, their javascript-form guy specializes in online form generation and only knows one way to manipulate the state of a radio button or check box… Unfortunately everything he knows doesn’t work for what the customer is trying to do, so he’s burned 100+ hours of our time as we work around his one method he has and try to make it all happen… And while this is going on he’s telling the customer we’re clueless and we have to placate them as well.

So, all of you CFOs out there pay attention: Outsourcing doesn’t always save money.

The customer outsourced their programming to New Delhi where they can pay 5 guys $200 a month each for 3 months… That’s $3000.

But, because India couldn’t make it go, the customer came to us (we’re cheap) and we charged them a lower-than-going-rate of $90/hour for 80 hours (1 engineer for 2 weeks). That’s $7200.

But because they are under contract to New Delhi we have to work around these ‘specialists’ and because of this we had to submit a 120 hour change order for two 90 dollar an hour software engineers. That’s another $10,800.

So the idea to do this in India has cost them $21,000, when if they’d just come to us first it would have cost them $7200, which is a savings of $13,800, and they wouldn’t have had to sit in a conference room at 9 p.m. repeating things four times.

*sigh*… But this will just keep happening because it’s all about “SAVE MONEY NOW!”, not about the longer view of such odd things as ‘customer satisfaction’ or ‘working product’.


But, enough about my working life…

I saw the latest installment of the Harry Potter franchise the other night… Meh.

As I can’t read Rawlings without getting physically ill, I have to wonder if the books they based the movies on were getting tired or if it’s the director/actors that are just loosing enthusiasm. It was unfortunate that Jae’s first brush with all things “Potter” was this latest movie.

The movie-du-jour prior to this was “The Mask of Zorro”… This also warranted a “Meh”.

At least when you go see a Zorro movie you are treated to some nice, dangerous (on a stuntman scale mind you), explosions and the finale detonation was quite nice… They disintegrated a full-sized steam locomotive which is no small feat. The explosion must have elicited a chorus of girlish giggles from the demolitions unit as the slow-motion playback shows the shockwave traveling through the ground and you can actually see the concussion sphere condense the moisture in the air and expand outward from the train… For the uninitiated: “It was a hell of a boom.”

Let’s see, what else?

Oh, I picked up a used 21” Sony Trinitron computer monitor for $25, managed to shoehorn it into the front seat of the Toyota, and managed to get it into the house without permanently damaging myself, the house, or the monitor. For my next trick I will be replacing the 10Mohm resistor on the G2 brightness control section of the logic board with a 6.2Mohm milspec 2% 1 watt resistor to fix the common overdrive issue on these monitors… If all goes well I won’t electrocute myself either, as this repair takes place on the board at the base of the tube, next to the flyback transformer. They call it a flyback as that’s what you do if you touch it… The common distance is about 5 feet.

I also picked up another piece of computer gear this week: A Logitech G15 keyboard. What a wonderful device. After several years of a trend towards itty-bitty keyboards that one needs a pointer to type on, Logitech has released a keyboard for us folks with ‘man-hands’… This thing is huge, and my typing has gone back up to my ‘IBM selectric era’ speeds. It’s definitely worth the $80 I spent on it.

I also seem to have picked up a new hobby for 2006… This one requires some setup:

Some twenty years ago I was a theater arts geek in high school and ever since I’ve sort of meandered in the periphery of theater production. Well, one of my side projects has been a piece of software to orchestrate and control a few 8 channel micro-controller based light controllers I’ve been fiddling with for a few years, with the idea to use it in theater production. Well, having recently gotten most of it working, and having talked with a few folks around here as they start setting up their Xmas lights, and I plan to have the best christmas light display in Littleton next year! Now, it’s far too easy when someone says ‘christmas lights’ to think of the garish lawn-filling atrocities that most grandparents foist upon the world during the holidays. I promise you I won’t do that…

My plan involves a low-power FM transmitter to broadcast the music to viewers and stage-quality light sequencing to the same music… music such as “Christmas Eve-Sarajevo 12-24” or “A Mad Russian’s Christmas” by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Basically the whole show will kick off once an hour for about fifteen minutes between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Leading up to the top of the hour the lights will just look like any other yard-art, but on the hour the whole set dims to black, “Sarajevo 12-24” starts up, and the show takes off with lots of sequenced animation, fades, some tasteful strobe effects, and the full theatrical bag of tricks. Then, after the last song, it all dims to black again then comes back up, static, just like everyone else’s yard for 45 minutes.

For anyone curious about the style of christmas music I’m talking about, here’s a sample from

It’s going to be some work, but I have a year… Maybe lasers… (grin)

Zeze is also most likely going to be moving in with Jae and I, and working at the same place as the new IT director if all goes well. With Zeze here, the electrical design for this insanity will be much cooler, safer, and has a much better chance of getting done. 🙂

And that’s about it for this update… Till next time have a great turkey-day and stay safe.