journal for 2003-06-11

about schmidt

We just finished watching About Schmidt. It was a little ponderous in parts, and other parts were somewhat predictable or too absurd. For the most part, though, I liked it.

I like it as a gestalt. I didn’t care for any of the characters very much. The story itself was very simple; it wouldn’t be fair to say that it was common and uninteresting. I just liked the movie. It did a good job, I think, at provoking the emotional response it wanted. I think its own predictability was a tool the filmmaker used toward that end.

I see, now, that the director also directed Election. That movie was similar: it was full of unpleasant characters and uncomfortable circumstances, but I generally enjoyed it.


I’ve been churning slowly through some of the piles of work that are accumulating in the office. I’m hoping that I can finish my current bout of Access-related work tomorrow. It’s nice to get my hands dirty (nay, filthy) with that stuff, again, but I’m not eager to spend too much time there.

The whole Access thing will go away once $CURRENT_MAJOR_PROJECT is done.

The above paragraph is a sort of mantra I hear repeated a lot. While I agree that it is technically true, we’ve been saying that since 2000, just for different values of $CMP. The number of systems that need to be replaced to junk Access is not small. The number of systems that will be crippled (at best) by the loss of the old database is less small.

I firmly believe that moving forward is a good idea, but I have seen more than one thing fail because of a lack of real commitment. Working in the real world has taught me this: doing things half-assed is always a terrible idea.

There seems to be a lot of momentum building, at work, toward change. I’m doing my best to believe that the change will happen, and to “be part of the solution.”

I’ve cut back on lunching out, lately. In part, it helps me reduce my intake of mass and calories. It also helps me avoid long stretches of pessimism and bitching. I think all coworker lunches end up becoming gripe sessions. I think that’s good and bad. It’s bad when it becomes a real morale drain.

I have this crazy idea that there could exist working lunches wherein coworkers go out for food and continue to talk about their projects in a relaxed but constructive way. (This idea is probably related to the idea that somewhere there exists a company that is successful because of its commitment to quality and realizes that fact.) Several people have informed me that I have these ideas because I’m still young.

I like to think that happy dedication is possible. Certainly, I’ve heard anecdotal evidence that it is. Of course, it’s hard for me to imagine finding it. I have no real co-workers. That is, no one at the office is capable of doing my job. While a small number of employees have some rudimentary understanding of how it’s done, there are no other hackers. It wouldn’t necessarily matter if there were, though, as there would be no other hacker employed by the company. I depend on others for input, but in essence I stand or fall alone.

This does not encourage pride of workmanship, because no one can (in my opinion) appreciate my work. After all, my workmanship is on the guts of what I do, and users interface only with the boring upper layers of dermis. I realize that being less-than-ecstatic about praise from “mere users” is an elitist position. It’s just the way things are.

I’d like to function as part of a team, but there are no teammates available.

So, I’m reverting to earlier behavior: I’m staying in my office and writing code as much as possible. Now and then I wander off to fill my canteen or ask users for information. I think the key problem with this old mode of behavior is that I long ago reached the point where, working alone, I do not have time to incorporate newer and more interesting design patterns. Writing MASH was fun because I learned lots of database fu. Writing subsequent code was fun to learn weird Perlisms. Now I want to work on more modern and useful techniques, but building something that can support them takes time, and I don’t have it.

I need to learn C and sockets, so I can get a job as a Unix Wizard.


Some of the maintenance guys at work built a bike rack. My bike fits in it. Once they’ve bolted it to the back porch, I’ll have a nice place to keep my bike, so I don’t need to stow it in my office.

I might wander over to Play It Again tomorrow and pick up the new Radiohead album. I’ve heard good things.

I need to write stuff for $gs on Wario Ware and Link to the Past. I wanted to do it tonight, but now I’m too sleepy.

Watching an egg white on a skillet turn very slowly from clear to white is cool.

Written on June 11, 2003