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Friday, March 06, 2009

Programmers. Argh. (4.0, Premature Indigestion)

I suffered mightily from indigestion Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. I thought I was having a blood pressure spike, as the symptoms were about the same: chest pain/pressure, general feelings of uneasiness and shakiness. DoubleRed said her dad had a mini-heart attack with the same symptoms; we got out the BP machine Wednesday night and I was a tad high but the thing tends to read high anyway. Shortly after that, I began a long series of loud burps… about one a minute for an hour. Every time I’d let one loose, I felt a little better. By bedtime, I got to feeling fairly decent.

Thursday… let’s say whatever was causing the issue decided to move out. For Too Much Input, hover over this text. I still had a touch of whatever it was yesterday evening, but Mrs. Fetched attributed that to the Mexican food we had for lunch. Lord knows I’ve not exactly been eating right lately.

Skipping back a little… I got punted to a new department, which became official Monday. The new boss (not same as the old boss) came by Wednesday afternoon to get an idea of how I manage to get stuff done. I gave him a heads-up… as the new guy, he should expect a certain manager (the same one from Programmers 2.0, in fact) to start trying to poke his nose into the situation and dictating how I do my work.

I was right. I just didn’t expect it this week.

The opening shot came this morning, as part of an email chain concerning an update that we’d been handling through the week. Had I kept my mouth shut, I probably wouldn’t have had to worry about it, but I asked if we needed to update the translated User Guides as well. Another PITA engineer, who thinks his input is far more valuable than it actually is, wanted to know why we had French and Spanish for one product and Portuguese for another — the hobgoblin called Foolish Consistency rides that one hard — and the simple answer is that we sell one product through North America and the other in Brazil. “But we sell the other in Canada too,” said a manufacturing guy, and the seagull manager took wing with a comment to the new boss:

[You need] to make this multi-lingual translation routine and seemless [sic] for all our products.

I responded, “Routine and seamless? Good luck with that one.” We sell different products into different markets, and the markets often shift under our feet before I manage to finish the documentation. There is no “routine” when it comes to translation, simple as that. And seeing as it costs a fair amount of money for translation, there is no “seamless” unless we want to throw money away on translations we aren’t going to use… in this economy, that’s just stupid. I’ve already requested close to $10K for translations this year, and we’re not even through March yet. It also “seems” to me that someone who can’t even be bothered to turn on the spell checker in Notes should not be telling a writer how to do his job (“his” in this case is me).

I should have expected him to dig in… I have to give him this much, he won’t back down from a war of words even when he’s outmatched from the get-go. (Don’t start a flame war with a writer.) I suppose that’s a characteristic of empire-building; you can’t even admit to yourself that you’re on the wrong side on an argument. He whined about requirements (and there wasn’t even a Requirement Spec for this particular product), that the time and cost for translations seemed excessive (although he can’t really know since he’s not the one actually managing the process)… but the next part started (as Mrs. Fetched says) making my ass twitch:

We have impacted release dates in the past due to lack of translations. This is a problem area that needs to be fixed. […] delivery dates *MUST NOT* be gated by lack of documentation. This has to get fixed.

I wrote a nice little email that took him apart, paragraph by paragraph. In this particular case, we have had exactly one release date held up due to lack of translations (in 12 years), but he seems determined to hold that over my head at any opportunity… completely ignoring the myriad times development issues have held up releases. Perhaps if he was focused on hardware development instead of empire-building, they might meet more deadlines, but I didn’t say that. I went on to mention that documentation release dates keep getting pulled in, and the requirements for translations at the first build means I need to have completed and approved documentation (in English) 4–5 weeks earlier than that, so the translators have something to work from.

This took me to about 11:30 a.m. I wasn’t sure whether it was over the top (and the guideline is if you aren’t certain it’s not, it probably is), so I left the mail unsent and went to make a deposit at the credit union and grab some lunch (tried a random place along the way, a tad expensive but worth it). I figured a long hour, which included a motorcycle ride since I rode Little Zook to work, would give me some needed perspective. Alas, when I got back to work and looked over the email, I did some editing but didn’t see a need to tone it down at all. I sent it to my boss, who told me to not send it, let him handle it, and thanks for the info. No problem… I preferred to get some actual work done anyway.

With that not settled, but my participation thankfully out of the way, the discussion turned to yet another product. This is a “business services” product, so it doesn’t get end-user documentation, and people started questioning whether it should be done. As a necessity, I pointed out that we haven’t ever done translations for those kinds of documents, and asked whether we needed to start. One of the responses gave me a good laugh to end the day:

Maybe you'll have better luck getting an answer than I did.

And that’s the crux of the matter… I’m not going to request two grand or more for something I haven’t been told is needed. Maybe I should stop worrying and start stimulating the world economy.

But the indigestion, and its subsequent cause, are both gone now. There are days that the life of a chicken rancher looks like an improvement…


  1. Good morning Far .. glad to hear that as per the last sentence of the parent post, you're seeking improvements. Huh. There are certainly enough days, of the kind spent working & living & breathing within that crazy giant-machine-matrix space, when chicken ranching could be thought of as an improvement. Or even ranching catfish, assuming you have enough pond space.

    Egads, Far, your adventures at Initech sound a little scary sometimes.

    Well, the Great Suck finally came to the place where I work. On Friday there were a few people laid off from one of our divisions. The news did nothing to calm people down and keep them focused on getting stuff done. Like everyone else in the machine matrix, we're already in bad-news-overload mode and have been so for months now. Given what's happening in the economy (essentially a plunge in activity across all sectors, as best as I can tell) there's no reason to assume the layoff activity was a one-shot deal.

    So if you know of any chicken ranches that are hiring, I'll work for room & board as long as there's space to park my sewing machines ..

  2. OK, I get it about the HTML thingie. Blogger.com barfed upon including “http://” at the beginning of that Wikipedia link in my post above.

    However, it accepted the linkage once “http://en.wikipedia ..” was shortened down to “en.wikipedia ..”

  3. Hey Nudge… sorry to hear about the Great Suck at work. I've always thought that they might as well send everyone home for the day once the deed is done, because nobody is going to get much work done afterwards.

    Room & board & place to park the sewing machines? I'll see if Mrs. Fetched is interested.

    BTW, your link got mangled. It came out <a href="https://www.blogger.com/”en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Office_Space”> — I'm beginning to think you're using a browser or plug-in that's trying to be a little too helpful. I think you wanted it to look like this:

    <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Office_Space”>Initech</a>

    I'm not sure how the blogger.com reference got added in otherwise. (If I'd seen this last night before the girls went to rent some DVDs, I'd have asked them to include that one!)

  4. Far, thanks :)

    I know some relative newbie employees there who are great people and who work hard enough. Unfortunately it's not clear exactly what criteria they're using for who stays vs who goes. (and there are reasons I'm not getting into this stuff on FTA) Are they doing it by seniority? By IQ scores? By cantankerousness or lack thereof?

    While future changes to living arrangements may well be necessary (err, make that “will almost surely be necessary”) I'll stay here as long as the job lasts. This is a nice little area and the rent here is reasonable.

    Need to call Grandma later to ask about this sort of thing. She was already telling me, as of last fall, that only once before in her life had she seen so many people losing jobs and so many companies shutting down in so short a time .. and the time she remembers was during GD1. She may have some advice for how to cope with the swinging axe in the workplace.

    I should go sew stuff .. it will help clear my head. (also, that most recent T:SCC episode was pretty dark!)

  5. Heh! heh! Like that Far! You got "punted" to a new department! Don't feel bad, I get "punted" all the time, do this guy's job while he's gone, plus your regular job..."Oh, and try and split it up in a way as not to slow production too much..thnaks"... At least I have 5 to 6 months of the year to "rest up".. ha! ha! I'm actually looking foward to going back to work though. Probably not as much as Mrs. Yooper though, ha! ha!

    Gee, really jumped the gun droping off the resumes the other day. The companies haven't even recieved the plans yet (or notifaction) to work up a bit for the coffer dam project... I remain hopeful though.

    Of course it'll be at least another month and half of winter here...

  6. Hi Yooper. Yeah, a month & a half sounds about right. I remember one year leaving school with snow still on the ground (in May). It was in the 70s down in Grand Rapids, and I was roasting while my mom was still chilly.

    Don't worry about jumping the gun; they'll get the RFQs and plans sooner or later. Just hope that they use a first-in first-out system to evaluate the resumes! ;-)

  7. You bet, Far. Took a look inside the yard, a very large shovel (excavator)that hadn't seem to be worked in years, sat there... I'll try and get that job... Bet it had a 8 yard bucket on it, motor the size of my caravan. It'll probably suck 200 gal. of fuel in 10 hrs...

  8. Heh… you gonna have to get the thing tuned up first, or will they have someone else do the maintenance?

  9. Hey FAR,
    What was it about Tues/Wed? I was hit with horrible, pulsing stomach cramps at work Tues and they continued through Wed. I was miserable and couldn't eat but they finally subsided on Thurs (was just wiped from the experience) and Friday I was fine. Don't know what all is going around, but I've had (seems like) every single bug that came down the pike this winter! I've had it with that crap!

    Glad yours resolved without incident ... but really, does everyone always have to blame Mexican food? hehe

    I can't begin to tell you how infuriating your email tale was ... having worked in translation for a while, that attitude is so typical. I can vouch how hard translation work is, not to mention how frustrating (when you get something done and then they go and change it!). Good luck handling that boob. Send him to France without a translator ... rural France and see how he does!

  10. IVG, that sounds pretty bad. I'm dealing with some kind of infection, judging from neck & armpit glands, but nothing like what you've been going through.

    I think like translation, like tech writing in general. Just because some dingdong thinks he can compose an email, doesn't mean he can write clear instructions. I'd like to send that particular guy somewhere — doesn't have to be rural France, just anywhere out of reach of email!


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