journal for 2003-08-21


access wednesday

Work has been really busy lately. Yesterday was Access Wednesday, wherein I spent eight hours working on an Access database. I cannot explain how much that stinks.

The main problem is—well, the main problem is that Access bites. The problem I’m less at peace with is that the database on which I was working is very, very poorly designed. It’s got lots of useless code in it, but the useless code is not easily removeable. It’s also written in VBA, so it’s hard to browse and refactor.

Then, it uses vertical datasheets, so they’re built and aligned by hand, which leads to an incredible maintenance nightmare. The original developer on this project dropped the ball. The customer should get what they want, but often people ask for X because they think it will get them Y. The developer should always find out that it’s Y they’re after and deliver that as cleanly as possible. This database front-end is plagued by uninvestigated XY problems.


Anyway, I think I got everything major worked out, and I can deploy on Monday. Once that’s done, I’m going to try to get a rigorous schedule in place for maintaining that software. I think it can be gotten under control, if things are spelled out and well-managed. Too bad it’ll still be Access.

mash report thursday

Today was MASH report Thursday. My boss had some reports he wanted implemented, and some of them just don’t jibe with the basics of data structure in the new revision of MASH. I’ve gotten most of them working, though, and almost entirely without kludges. I think that the last remaining report will be the first to use an entirely new method of data analysis—I just don’t know what that method will be, yet.

In order to get a handle on my recently-exploding task list at work, I’ve started a two-pronged plan. Prong one is a weekly report of What I’m Doing. I’m trying to think of it as something of a newsletter, rather than a progress report. I’ve even considered running a Debug install at work, but I’m not sure how I feel about that, yet.

Prong two is a support prong. I always think that a TODO list is a good idea. The problem is that most applications for doing TODOs make job-listing take more time to use than the smallest tasks they track, which is ridiculous. I know some are very quick, but they’re just not hassle-free enough. Since I don’t feel like writing anything or searching for something new, I just made a form in Visio: Things I Gotta Do. It’s basically a ruled textbox with a date field at the top. My goal is to start each day by filling it out, then add things to it as I agree to do them. I’ll check them off when I do them, and at the end of the day I’ll see how I did. These lists will provide the basis for the weekly summary.

I found the list to be very useful today. I’m hoping this will continue to be the case. I did end up with two urgent things carried over. I’ll need to get to those first thing tomorrow.


Man, my laptop rules. I’ve said it many times, and I’ll say it again in print: It’s the best computer I’ve ever owned. There are a lot of things it can’t do that I can do on my GNU/Linux boxes, and I certainly wouldn’t even consider getting rid of them. As a simple workstation, though, it’s awesome. As a laptop workstation, it’s superawesome.

I am very impatiently waiting for the rumored Apple Bluetooth Mouse. Once I have a real mouse (for limited use) I will be set.

I looked at a friend’s copy of Keynote yesterday and today, and I think I like it. If I can get it for cheap on eBay, I’ll pick it up and use it. I don’t do much presenting, but it’ll be nice for doing the little presenting I do do. I think. There are some hella-sweet themes for it, but I’m miffed that some of them cost $20. I guess they take time to make, but I think that’s excessive. It’s not like the authors are only selling one unit. Twenty dollars gets me a lot more of other commodities than the equivalent of one Keynote theme, I think.

Maybe people buy themes and use them for hundreds of presentations. I guess that’s possible (and maybe probable) and would make the price more reasonable. I’m not sure.

Anyway, Keynote is swell.

My desire for an iPod continues to swell. Gloria gave me a sweepstakes rules cutout, and I entered it to win a car or an Apple or an iPod. I wouldn’t mind winning any of those things. I also just signed up for the Apple Music Store, and they’re having a deal where every day between when you sign up and September 20th, you’re entered to win an iPod. These two contests give me a reason to not just go buy an iPod, which is good. I want to pay off knave first and continue to put money in the car fund. (Also, the vacation fund!)

Meanwhile, in stark contrast to my unbridled enjoyment of my PowerBook, my dad has been mourning the death of his Thinkpad. I suppose it’s not really dead, just comatose. It kept dying during boot, so finally he took it in for service. I know that Apples can die, too. It’s just that his Thinkpad seemed relatively wonky for a while. Win32 is so… bad.

The arguments for using it get weaker every day. Oh, I long for a non-Win32 job. That day will come! It’d be nice if it came at IQE. That seems unlikely.


I downloaded Escape Velocity Nova today. I absolutely loved Escape Velocity when I worked at BU. I played it all the time. When EV Overdrive came out, I tried it, but the 7200’s we had couldn’t handle it. EVN seems to run just fine on knave, so I’ll play it more as time goes on.

I’ve played a bit more Puzzle Pirates, and it’s a pile of fun. I feel zero stress about it, and it’s just relaxed and cool. I signed onto the crew of IF people, which is also neat.

Oh, how I need to finish my IF projects, including beta testing for people! I feel pretty rotten about not getting enough testing done.

We watched some more slasher movies, mostly awful. I need to write up detailed impressions, and will try to do that tomorrow.

Written on August 21, 2003