And Now, For Something Completely Different


Instead of just pulling a Garfield and moaning "I hate Mondays" expecting everyone to know what I mean, allow me to briefly outline exactly why I hated this particular Monday. To avoid clobbering my Disclaimer, I will substitute some of the events with others that happened over the course of the past few years, and throw in a little pure fiction - the net effect will be the same, and it will seem vastly more entertaining than it actually was.

8:45 The Glass Box

I arrive at the reception carrying my laptop bag (bulging with a bunch of test phones and far too many power bricks), only to find that I left my Blingatronic Auto-Proximiter access card at home, in precisely the spot I picked to ensure I wouldn't forget it.

I whip out a business card and get a replacement - but one that will only let me access the common areas of the building, batting at the meeting room windows like a demented bumblebee.

10:00 The Conference Call

After powering up all my gear (which was treated to yet another resilience test during a weekend power failure) and performing a perfunctory inbox flush, I find that I have no working phone/Blackberry/PDA/etc. and that I have no idea whatsoever of where the 10 o'clock conference call is to take place - after I leave my office floor (and the now locked door).

Another bout of nosing around windows lets me back in. I slot my SIM card into a beta phone and manage to call the organizer three seconds before it reboots.

The conference call in itself is Dilbertian in nature, of course, and oddly reminiscent of any random section of my Blue Packet spiel. Brushing aside thoughts of joining the medical profession (with psychiatry being the most likely branching), I jump into the fray and try to distill the bland corporatespeak into actual commitments, deadlines, action items.

GTD has a deadly enemy, and its name is "established channels".

11:30 Can We Have This By Thursday?

I return to my workstation and attempt to pick up where I left off on Friday, defying a barrage of phone calls. The best thing about not having a fixed phone is that your battery eventually runs out, but the worst thing is slithering through your voice-mail and hearing stuff like:

  • Male Voice, through Speakerphone: He's not answering.
  • Squeaky Geek Voice, in the Background: But Masshsterr, he is the one that holds the sssecrret knowledge to enable our World Domination plan...
  • Master: Rui, this is Jack, we'd like to have a brief chat about that Voodoo-a-Tronic Furgleringer that you said you were evaluating, it might be just the thing we need to cross with our Flopswitching architecture...
  • Geek, Chiming In: ...That I have to have running by Monday for a Marketing demo...
  • Master, nonplussed ...that Igor is going to show me working on Thursday.

(a brief squeak is squelched abruptly as the speakerphone is cut off)

Other assorted residents of my voicemail include the Stuttering Salesman, the Chirpy PR from some conference I will never have the time to attend, and the utterly obnoxious Happy Account - whose permatan is only outranked by his perennial good humour at trying to sell us stuff we know won't work for six product generations running.

Of course, among those messages is the apologetic one telling me the line cards I saw on a presentation three weeks ago don't actually exist yet, and could I please consider rescheduling the field trial until after Xmas.

That's why I go through all of them, every time.

12:30 Escape From The Cafeteria

We actually have a pretty good cafeteria (with some of the best food I've eaten in Portuguese corporate cafeterias, and I've been around some), but nothing seems to explain its overwhelming popularity some days, so we end up giving up and going out - it will surely be faster than facing the long wait in line, and the weather is excellent today.

My phone, of course, picks the moment we leave the building to show it is now somewhat charged and perfectly able to take calls from Someone Important, who needs reassurance about something that happens to be completely contrary to our current short-term goals. I mentally turn my afternoon agenda into hot slag, and make another set of calls to spoil someone else's afternoon as well.

We head to the nearest Brazillian grill insta-clone.

14:00 Coffee, Round Two

Since the fist cup of espresso was hardly enough to kick off the post-lunch lethargy (and depression stemming from too much corporatepolitik with my meat), I polish off another while paging through a fresh print-out of a seventy-odd page technical requirements document that is still mostly blank.

My mission, should I choose to accept it, is to expand the blanks between some of the headings with an in-depth analysis of the implementation dependencies of a thirty-four node system that I happen to have entirely more familiarity with than would be advisable to allow me to sleep at night.

I plunge in.

15:30 The Preemptive Strike

My spider sense tingles as a co-worker receives an e-mail inquiry about the availability of such-and-such load-balancing feature on an authentication server. I make an innocent call to the sender, asking about their roadmap for deployment of pink packet accounting atop the new cool XML thing that we had a workshop on last month.

Guess what, they need to do extra integration due to changing requirements, and that means three of our milestones have just been reversed in a trick shot reminiscent of a pro snooker match.

I leave for the architectural and capacity planning workshop we got coerced into.

This time I borrow an access card.

18:30 Pre-Dinner

I have a snack at our mini-cafeteria, watching the poor souls trapped in the common areas of the building as they go around peeking and tapping at meeting room windows trying to get back in.

I return to my workstation, and run a quick tally for the day:

  • Roughly 80 e-mails filed (roughly half that trashed, especially the office jokes).
  • Over 20 replies (and not just cursory ones).
  • Another 30 unread/unacted upon in my inbox, to add to the 50 I had from last week.

My V600i is now practically drained again, after two hours of random calls (it lasts me an entire day at this pace, but the morning's mishap meant I didn't give it a full charge).

The Close-Of-Day calls and informal status meetings go on one after another, as we go around the floor reviewing what happened during the day and adjust our schedules for the rest of the week.

Most people have left by now.

20:00 mySQL's Sequel

Since a portion of the tests I have to run require a mySQL database to hold some records, I end up setting up a fresh mySQL installation under the pretense that it is faster to do it myself (it actually is, by around twice the time, but that's another issue I really don't want to get into).

Due to some proprietary dependencies and several infinitesimal reasons that add up to "because", I decide to install a copy from source (on a BSD box with sub-optimal - firewalled - connectivity), and end up spending entirely too much time re-learning how to tunnel obscure protocols through SSH and initialize the damn database when it's finally compiled.

As I pack up to leave, I notice e-mail from the other hemisphere starting to dribble into my inbox.

I end up replying to some.

21:30 Geek Lounge

As I arrive home, I call Melo to discuss some random pure geek topic (such as tweaking RAID arrays with vim or other similar stunts) before nearly inhaling my yoghurt at some insane piece of news.

I finally start to relax, and notice Planeta Asterisco has not only been upgraded, but has also started archiving posts.

There is, as yet, no defined archive opt-out procedure, content re-use policy, archive retaining period (I checked, I e-mailed Vitor and that was his reply in a nutshell). There is also no discussion of same (yet), but my Eur. 0.02 follows -

I have enough people re-publishing my content as-is, and don't want another public archive of it. If people want to search my Archives beyond the past week, there is a perfecly serviceable FullTextSearch and something called Google. You may have heard of it before, they're the ones who will be churning out Google Earth for the Mac any day now.

Considering the rest of the day, it's a minor issue, and I let it slide for now - the usual Portuguese "after the fact" discussions are likely to kick in any time, and I guess that my preference for providing some forewarning on the archival thing and putting a coherent policy in place beforehand will just get misinterpreted.

Most people will happily ignore the fact that it's the principle of the thing.

23:30 Flush

I finally finish going through my personal e-mail, RSS feeds and the odd TV series, write a small Perl script to parse binary XML dumps, post this, and go fetch a book - something that will allow me to make use of the rest of my brain for the next three hours or so.

There will be plenty more of the rest tomorrow.