Tuesday, June 22, 2004

It's Been a Long Time Since I...

It's been a while since I made an entry. I find myself thinking about doing it at times, but I've been busy at work and it doesn't wind up getting all that high a priority at night. I did my first "live" entry on 5/30; the first actual entry, though, is for 5/21... ah, the trip to Yosemite. I never did get around to putting in the entry for the last day of the trip, or my general wrap-up. Oh well, perhaps I will eventually... I have some notes from the day in the journal I took on the trip with me. I've never been one to keep lots of journals; my parents (my mother mostly) makes notes of the trips they take and my friend Daniel is actually entering, with editor's notes, journal entries he wrote for himself in college. College... for us, that ended in '92, so it was, at best, at the advent of "the Web". Back when the Internet was "the 'Net" and there were only a few of us who even knew about it much less used it regularly. Suddenly, I'm learning things about Daniel that I didn't know, or don't remember knowing. We were the best of friends for years in junior high and high school... drifted apart a bit in senior year, and then I went off to school back East and we really lost touch for a while.

We used to play various role playing games together, along with Chris K and John. "Villians & Vigilantes". Now there's a blast from the past. "Who's phase is it?" Jeez. And Trivial Pursuit when it was very new. I remember knowing that Eva Braun was Hitler's mistress/wife to the surprise of Daniel and some other friends who thought she was his daughter. When we were about 15, Daniel announced that the Victoria's Secret catalog was better than Playboy because it left more to the imagination. I'd never even seen a VS catalog before that day, and the only Playboys I'd seen then were my father's from the 60's.

And then there were the comic books. Daniel had tons of them. Spiderman. Superman. X-Men. The X-Men were my favorite. I actually remember some of those stories pretty well. All these comic-books turned movies lately, and I hardly remember the stories. Dan (not Daniel) keeps complaining, for instance, that Spiderman and Spiderman 2 aren't right because of this or that and I hardly remember. Don't remember anything about the Hulk's creation.

Thanks for the memories lately, Daniel! Not only from reading your journal entries, but also the BBQ in the park. I think it was because of seeing Matt there that I remembered this snippet when I was talking to someone about my bike: I went over to Matt's house one afternoon. It was drizzling, overcast, typical March or November weather in Berkeley. On the way home I think I needed to stop at John's, so I took the direct route. Directly down Marin, that is. On my bike. In the rain. I remember going about 2/3 of a block with the brake levers pulled all the way back against the handlebar... I was going slowly enough that I eventually decided it was not a good idea and got off the bike, but I'll never forget having the wheels still turning slowly in spite of having the brakes applied literally as hard as they could be.

Anyway, I told my cousin, Elisabeth, about livejournal yesterday. She likes to send out the occasional mass email to friends and family talking about what's going on and I think she's always kept journals at least some of the time. I'm interested to see if she starts her own weblog. I'll have to remind her about it occasionally! Not to say "pester".

So, where've I been the last two and some weeks? Lots of work for one thing. I'm just finishing up some work for large financial institution J that just bought another. They're integrating the new bank into our system and making some significant changes to the way it works. I think they'll be very happy with it, because it will make it much more efficient and provide better oversight. I'll still be spending some time on them to support their testing and roll-out of the changes I've given them, but it'll be intermittent.

Today, I'm starting on large finacial institution M. For some reason, all our LFIs want tons of customizations and highly convoluted workflows. The whole point of the exercise is to reduce complexity and improve business performance, but since they want it and are willing to pay for it they're going to get a highly customized, complex implementation that will be tough to maintain. Oh well. Plenty of work for me to do. The funny thing is that not all the customizations are unreasonable; for instance, M wants expense reports to be shown to reviewers only if they have sufficient signing authority to cover the cost. Not unreasonable. But it is custom, so I'd rather they didn't do it. They also want the 'escalation' rule takes exchange rates into account when determining whether the reviewer has sufficient authority. Also not reasonable. I think I can get engineering to put this one into base code after I write it so it won't be a customization in the future.

Just found out today that our ESPP is no where near as good as the ones I've had before... first of all, starting next month, we won't be able to change our contributions during the 6 month offering period, only at the beginning of a new period. This sucks because I'm still not sure how fast I'll be able to flip the stock. Not only that, but the discounted price is determined each offering period rather than only at the beginning of the 2 year plan... this sucks because it means we'll never see large gains over the short term unless the stock goes wild in a 6 month period. The only good change right now is that if I stop my contributions altogether I get the money refunded. I suppose it's all better than nothing, if only minimally. They really seem to want it to become a long-term investment rather than a perk for employees.

Oh well. We also got our new bonus plan last week. My boss' boss tried to tell us that we were going to make more for hours that we are able to bill over our annual target. He was wrong. I was a little annoyed that he got on the call with us without making sure he had our old plan in front of him so he could avoid saying something so blatantly wrong as that. There are things about the plan that are better. We start getting a bonus each quarter when we hit 60% billable (it was 70% last year), and we get something for every hour we bill during the quarter, as long as we hit that target (last year we got 364 hours worth regardless of how much we billed). But we get less per hour. And if we hit the annual we get less per hour. And here's the worst part: for the excess over annual, we don't get to count approved non-billable work, which means it's going to be much harder to get anything significant if we don't manage to reduce the amount of non-billable we're having to do. I guess they want to give us the incentive not to do any non-billable work, so that's what they're going to get. When I find something that looks like a product defect, I'm going to throw it over to engineering pretty quickly. I don't think Eng will like it much, but if they would do a better job of writing the thing in the first place we wouldn't have such problems. I think Eng should have to cover the portion of our bonus that results from product defects. And they should be taking it out of the bonuses of the people who caused and/or didn't catch the bug in the first place.

But that might make too much sense. I think Microsoft does something like that. QA people get bonuses based on how many defects they identify; fix engineers get bonuses based on how many defects they fix and lose bonus when they turn out not to have been fixed correctly; and the regular engineers and fix engineers don't work on the same code so they can't collude. Whatever. I have no loyalty left for this company what-so-ever. They pay me. They don't treat me well and they don't do much to make me want to be here. My only loyalty is to my friends and co-workers, and that really only means that I won't do something like leave them with no notice. My boss and I were talking about some of this stuff and I told her that it's not so much that I don't care as that I wish I didn't care.

Ah, but enough about work... I think I might have made some sort of anti-frustration breakthrough in the last few days and things have gotten a lot better with Rachel. We seem to have figured out that the most important thing is having the time to let her dawdle. She can still be contrary sometimes, but it's not so bad when we can just tell her that we'll meet her in her room or the bathroom or whatever... Another one that's working well is the "OK, well you let me know when you're ready" and then go do something else. She is usually ready pretty quickly at that point.

She's so amazingly cute and smart and quick. We were at an In-n-Out with Dan last weekend and Rachel needed to use the toilet and wanted me to come. I told her that she should go with Dawn because the men's room was probably really dirty and I didn't want her to use that one. I was expecting some whining and to have to go through the explanation several times, but she just thought about it and then turned and asked Dawn to go with her. It was amazing. Poor Dan, I don't think I shut up about that for about 5 minutes. I was just really surprised. She does that sometimes. She's also started throwing things that we say back at us. I was trying to get her to do something and she was doing anything but and found it very amusing. I said "I don't actually think that's funny." Not that it really meant much to her, but at some point a few days later she said to me "I don't think that's funny, Daddy!" I'm not sure the context was quite the same, but it wasn't completely out of place. I just about died laughing, which probably wasn't the reaction she was expecting, but oh well.

I've started doing Tai Chi again. Well... that is, I have managed to get up and do it two days running (after not managing to get up as planned on Monday or Tuesday). It feels really good and I really want to keep doing it every day. It also seems to work pretty well for me to be up that early and then back home by about 6:30. Mornings have always been much easier for us when we both get up reasonably early and don't have to rush too much. I've also been riding some. I think about half the work days, and occasionally on the weekends. I want to ride more often on the weekends, but it just hasn't been happening. I'm not sure Rachel is really that interested right now. We did wind up getting her a bike of her own, though. It's a pink/purple one from REI that's the right size. She seemed really excited about it, but hasn't tried again lately. I need to adjust the training wheels a little - they're too low, so when she pushes hard enough on the pedals she actually can spin the back wheel! Very cute either way. Speaking of Rachel... I suppose I should go get her now, as I don't really feel like doing much more work today.

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