Monday, March 29, 2010

The big project at work has become downright surreal over the past few weeks. More and more, I find myself describing my job with Douglas Adams quotes, and if that isn't a bad sign I don't know what is. As for the big, final, main deadline, we aren't actually over it, but we have been over so many milestones by a few hours or a day that I'm surprised it hasn't added up to making us more than a week behind on the "real" deadline. So that's one Douglas Adams quote, which I shared with other team members a few times last week: "I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."

And why have we been behind? Because the main end result of this project is a 150-page document, everyone on the team rushed through it because the deadline is supposedly set in stone even though it was obviously unrealistic two months ago, it needs the approval of a dozen different people in addition to those on the team, almost all of them have gone over it with a fine-toothed comb, and some of them have had a ton to say about it.

Probably at least a quarter of the revisions since we first asked for approval from anyone outside the team has been utterly trivial bullshit requested by the reviewers - word choice, parallel sentence structure, using terms consistently, etc. It's stuff that, theoretically, yes, we should do, but what a massive waste of time to be bringing it up now. Maybe another quarter has been changes reviewers requested that, significant or not, we simply can't do, like the guy from the safety division asking for something that the lawyer says we would get sued over and lose the lawsuit. Thus, another Douglas Adams quote comes to mind. He's talking about making movies, but it seems to fit making regulations too: "The Hollywood process is like trying to grill a steak by having a succession of people coming into the room and breathing on it." The remaining half or so of the changes has been things we should have found earlier... and I like to think I would have found a lot of my share of them earlier than I did if I had had more time, and I'm sure the other people on the team feel the same way.

The thing that's most annoying is the trivial style stuff, particularly by this one reviewer who rarely actually said what he wanted. At one point, for example, he highlighted the phrase "that complies with subchapter S" (preceded by "for each vessel") and commented "Clumsy wording". Really? How so? Looks pretty simple to me. I don't know what complying with subchapter S means, but that's not the point. Maybe he meant that the rest of the sentence was clumsily worded, I guessed, but to me it looked just as clear. Well, we reworded it to "for vessels that comply with subchapter S", and apparently that was good enough for him, but I don't have any idea why.

Or worse, hyphenation. This was another comment from the same person about using a hyphen after numbers in some places and not using it in others.
Throughout the FR, a "-" is randomly located before "lb" and needs to be removed.

This was our reply to him.
This conforms with GPO style requirements. A hyphen is sometimes used before "lb" and sometimes not depending on context.

If I didn't have to worry about office politics and all that, I would have written "This conforms with GPO style requirements and 10th grade English.". The general rule is that a compound word in English is written as one word if it means something different from the sum of its parts (a "blackboard" isn't just any board that's black, it's a specific kind of board used for a specific purpose, and often isn't even black), and all other compound words are written with a space if it is being used as a noun (like "the limit is 187 lb"), and is written with a hyphen connecting them if it is being used as an adjective (like "the 187-lb limit"). That's not exactly accurate, but that's the basic idea. Of course, there's nothing wrong with not knowing that off the top of your head - last week I was joking that knowing stuff like this is the only thing my English major was good for - but personally, if I see something that looks wrong but I'm unfamiliar with it or it's not my area of expertise, then before I flatly tell someone to fix it I would double-check what I believe and/or phrase my comment as a question for fear of looking like a pointy-haired moron. Apparently this guy wasn't worried about that, though...

Oh well, this project is probably hopefully maybe almost done. We only need one more person's approval. By now it's pretty thoroughly warmed-over and edited. Someone is checking my work on one part of it right now (and I feel guilty and/or embarrassed for how much she might wind up having to deal with), and hopefully she won't find too many mistakes but even if she does, que sera sera. With just a bit of luck I'll be able to make a small number of easy changes and say goodbye to this mess forever by the end of the week.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Now that I get around to enumerating that list in the previous post, it doesn't seem so bad at all. A girlfriend, Magic, and a little more work - so what, right? And my sessions at the gym have petered out completely over the past few months - jogging on a treadmill was just a chore, fitting it into my day actually was hard now and then, and I've been eating at least a little bit more healthily so I feel I don't need it quite so much - so the time saved there makes up for the extra time spent actually at my desk. The point is, these are not so difficult or time-consuming that I'm missing out on sleep or anything else that's important.

However, it is more than I'm used to. In all of 2009 I spent most my free time at playing WoW, and occasionally spend a while hanging out with my roommates or just reading stuff online (Cracked or TV Tropes or the comment sections of the blogs I read, stuff like that). Probably an average of once a week I'd go out on a date or with friends (mostly friends from work or Drinking Liberally) or join my roommates when they went out to something. The weekends were the same as after work, except that about once a weekend I'd also walk to a local restaurant for breakfast or lunch. Basically, it wasn't that much, it was easy to fit in something else if it came up or waste an hour with no repercussions, and it was easy to make a goal in WoW or something and devote hours to it if I wanted.

By contrast, over the past week I went on a date Friday night with T., went to a M:tG tournament Saturday afternoon/evening with Paul and Dave, went for a walk with T. Sunday to take advantage of the nice weather, and had another date with T. Wednesday night. Also, last Friday I worked about a half-day even though I was supposed to have it off. That is on top of the usual work schedule and raids with my guild in WoW Tuesday and Thursday nights. I think most of the past six weeks have been like that, or if not quite that busy, certainly closer to it than to the same period in March 2009. And this coming weekend, like I said, I won't be around either and I'll have to spend some time tonight getting ready for it.

Objectively I'm sure this isn't all that unusual an amount of activity - some people work much longer hours, some people have much more time-consuming hobbies or social lives, etc. - but it is unusual for me and it's taken a bit of getting used to.
Entirely too much going on lately. Or it's not necessarily too much - and of course, a lot of it would be good news on its own - but it's more than I'm used to.

Over the past two months I've started dating someone (woo hoo! Yay me! Hi, T.!), started playing Magic again with Paul and a friend of his from college and at a local store's tournaments, and got a lot busier at work than usual on one aggravating project. The birthdays of my parents and sister fall within a three-week period which is now going on and I don't particularly like shopping for presents, and this weekend I'm flying up to Vermont, and the plans for that became more complicated than they should have been, especially for such a brief trip.

Friday, March 12, 2010

I've spent little or no time with my guild in World of Warcraft last week or the week before. Just didn't get around to it, didn't get computer problems fixed in time, had other stuff going on, whatever. This Tuesday I got on and we raided like usual, or maybe even a bit better than usual. When we got to Festergut, though, we got wiped out probably at least five times. Just couldn't kill him; several times it was because we were doing everything right except for doing damage too slowly. I'm told the guild has managed it before, but it must have been while I was away. So before Thursday's raid I played around with my character a bit, hoping to improve his damage a little bit. In Thursday's raid, we tried the boss short one person, I'm not sure why exactly, and got killed. The second time we tried we got our 25th person and killed him. The weird thing is, the second time my dps was quite a bit lower than the first. I can't remember anything I did wrong the second time, and in fact I had to move around a lot less than most people on that fight. Something like 10 percent. Either time I'm pretty sure I did better than Tuesday, but still, it's baffling. I wouldn't expect random variation to have such a big effect, especially not on that fight.
It never fails. If I'm traveling, or even just going to spend the night somewhere other than at home, there's always something I forget. No matter how much I think I'm overpacking, no matter how brief the stay... Last time, it was my black leather belt. I was going to work the following day, and the brown belt I had happened to wear that day didn't go as well with my slacks and dress shirt as the black belt I usually wear to work. That's a really minor, harmless thing, and no one commented on the difference of course, but still, it's annoying that I can be counted on to forget something. Other likely candidates for exclusion are the power cords to recharge my phone and/or iPod.

Today, it's my e-book reader. This has nothing to do with going out, except that because I'm going out I might have a little more time in need of something to read than usual. It's just that as I was grabbing everything - let's see, change of clothes, toothbrush, spare jacket because I'm hoping to dropping the usual one off for repairs, - I failed to grab the book.

Although on the other hand, I suppose I'm lucky I've never yet forgotten my ID card to get to work. I've been here for more than a year, I use two different bags and three different coats depending on what I'm doing, I've forgotten my cell phone, cigarettes, cigarette lighter, metro pass and housekeys at one time or another, and yet on a workday I've never got further than 50 yards from my door without the card I need to get into the building.

Knock on wood.