1/11/2015

The Fine Print

I've never read the label of my scotches before; drinking whiskey and reading fine print aren't really activities that go well together. But I I finally managed to decipher this one.


12/24/2014

Christmas Delivery

It was Christmas Eve and the workshop was, of course, utter chaos. It was the same every year.

Sometime in February, a new Program Manager would propose a brand new process that would surely fix it last year's problems. “This time,” they’d say, “We’ll do it earlier. And we’ll do it better!”

It would always start with schedule adjustments:
  • The Naughty & Nice List must be frozen by June
  • Present orders due August first
  • Present manufacturing August-September
  • Present delivery to Shipping in October
  • Outstanding issues and errors processed in October
  • Final order adjustments in November
This, they said, would leave all of December to pack the sled, double-check everything, and take a big breath before Delivery.

The schedule would start slipping early on. First, the Naughty & Nice List wouldn’t be ready on time. The PMs would ask for it, but Evaluation would push back, saying, “The year hasn’t even happened yet! We don’t know whether they’re naughty or nice!” They’d offer some token names for the List (with some kids you always know how its going to end up), but it didn’t even account for 5% of the total List. The PMs would argue for incremental improvement and names would trickle in over the year, but the bulk of the evaluations really didn’t happen until late Fall.

Presents couldn’t be ordered in July, of course, because it wasn’t clear who would get what until the List was complete. Manufacturing stalled waiting on Ordering. And the entire Shipping department just went on a six month offsite to Aruba, knowing that there wouldn’t be anything for them to deal with until the last minute.

Finally it all always comes together in December, with everything happening in parallel, gumming up the works as elves are hand-carrying names, orders, and presents in a flurry of activity more like Black Friday at Walmart than Santa’s Happy Workshop.

This year, some PM (a new one, of course, as the previous year’s PM quit in a huff and took on a job in Returns (“At least Returns knows something about adhering to process!, ” she quipped in her obligatory departmental goodbye email)) had the bright idea of trying out some Agile methodology. They apparently ran across a huge stack of some book in Returns on the subject and thought that it would solve all of our problems.

The year started out with this discouraging email:

Hey Team!

As your new scrum master, I’m here to welcome you to 2014, or what I’m calling The Year of Process! This year, we won’t suffer any of the previous problems because we will iterate on deliverables in short sprints, delivering incremental product improvements based on specific customer requirements. Daily stand-up meetings will cover status as well as project overlap and bottlenecks, which will be adjusted through cross-team collaboration.

Through careful adherence to process discipline, we will all have a productive year and December will be a joyous holiday time instead of a slog.

So welcome to the Year of Process: It’s my gift to you!

Sincerely,
Scrum Master Elf

Nobody understood or cared about this. Another year, another PM. Another PM, another attempt at fixing an unfixable problem.

We all showed up for the first stand-up meeting; we’d heard there would be donuts. Everyone but the PM was seated comfortably, despite his best efforts to get us to rise. We spent a few painful minutes in a round-table status discussion, then ambled off to get some more coffee.

The next day there was another stand-up meeting, but I don’t think anyone other than the PM showed up.

We’d get a flurry of emails on how things were going on an almost continual basis. I think the PM was just having a conversation with himself; I know that we weren’t listening. Emails with titles like, “February Sprint Deliverables!” and “March Deadline Approaching!” and “[URGENT!] April Requirements Due!” all got auto-filtered into our junk folders.

Around July, the emails stopped cold. The official story was that the PM had taken a vacation, from which he apparently never returned. The word on the street was that he had flipped out in the break room and started flinging sugar packets everywhere, shouting, “And you get process! And you get process! And you get process!” Security escorted him out and he’s supposedly recovering in his mother’s basement.

The rest of the year went the same as they always do, with everyone just hanging out playing poker until December and then kicking into overdrive to get it all done on time.

So here we were again: December 24th. The List had barely come in in time to have any of the presents ordered. But we pushed through a Code Red and got all the right forms submitted. The assembly line kicked into high gear, temporary elves were brought on, overtime was signed off on, and all of the presents were made to spec (though without, perhaps, the care and attention that they all deserved. But how is a five year old supposed to notice too much glue in a joint? Or whether their bear is cross-eyed? Or whether their toy trains wheels are trued?). We all formed a packing line to get the presents from Manufacturing into the sleigh, and it was all finally done with at least a minute to spare. Maybe even a minute and a half.

“Okay, Santa,” I said to my boss as he settled into his seat, putting his fresh quint-espresso into the cup holder (a recent addition to the sleigh, something we managed in the summer downtime). “Everything is here: all present and accounted for. It’s a wrap!”

He looked at me sternly. “You really need some new jokes,” he said.

“And I thought I had a gift!,” I said with a smile.

“Ugh. All right, let’s hook up the reindeer and get these delivered.”

“Yes sir!”

I turned to make it happen when he called me back.

“Oh, and one more thing.”

“Yes, Santa?”

“I have an idea for a present for me for next year.”

“Really? We’ve… we’ve… we’ve never had such a request, sir. I’m not sure we’re equipped. But we’ll see what we can do. Do you need a new sleigh? Dry-cleaning for your outfit? A new set of reindeer? A beard trimmer? World peace? What can we get you, sir?”

“I want a year without process.”

“Yes, sir!”

11/30/2014

The Twelve Days of Christmas Shopping

On the first day of Christmas,
Amazon sent to me
A box.

On the second day of Christmas,
Amazon sent to me
Two cardboard boxes
And a box.

On the third day of Christmas,
Amazon sent to me
Three cardboard boxes,
Two cardboard boxes,
And a box.

On the fourth day of Christmas,
Amazon sent to me
Four cardboard boxes,
Three cardboard boxes,
Two cardboard boxes,
And a box.

On the fifth day of Christmas,
Amazon sent to me
Five envelopes,
Four cardboard boxes,
Three cardboard boxes,
Two cardboard boxes,
And a box.

On the sixth day of Christmas,
Amazon sent to me
Six cardboard boxes,
Five envelopes,
Four cardboard boxes,
Three cardboard boxes,
Two cardboard boxes,
And a box.

On the seventh day of Christmas,
Amazon sent to me
Seven cardboard boxes,
Six cardboard boxes,
Five envelopes,
Four cardboard boxes,
Three cardboard boxes,
Two cardboard boxes,
And a box.

On the eighth day of Christmas,
Amazon sent to me
Eight cardboard boxes,
Seven cardboard boxes,
Six cardboard boxes,
Five envelopes,
Four cardboard boxes,
Three cardboard boxes,
Two cardboard boxes,
And a box.

On the ninth day of Christmas,
Amazon sent to me
Nine cardboard boxes,
Eight cardboard boxes,
Seven cardboard boxes,
Six cardboard boxes,
Five envelopes,
Four cardboard boxes,
Three cardboard boxes,
Two cardboard boxes,
And a box.

On the tenth day of Christmas,
Amazon sent to me
Ten cardboard boxes,
Nine cardboard boxes,
Eight cardboard boxes,
Seven cardboard boxes,
Six cardboard boxes,
Five envelopes,
Four cardboard boxes,
Three cardboard boxes,
Two cardboard boxes,
And a box.

On the eleventh day of Christmas,
Amazon sent to me
Eleven cardboard boxes,
Ten cardboard boxes,
Nine cardboard boxes,
Eight cardboard boxes,
Seven cardboard boxes,
Six cardboard boxes,
Five envelopes,
Four cardboard boxes,
Three cardboard boxes,
Two cardboard boxes,
And a box.

On the twelfth day of Christmas,
Amazon sent to me
Twelve cardboard boxes,
Eleven cardboard boxes,
Ten cardboard boxes,
Nine cardboard boxes,
Eight cardboard boxes,
Seven cardboard boxes,
Six cardboard boxes,
Five envelopes,
Four cardboard boxes,
Three cardboard boxes,
Two cardboard boxes,
And a box.


11/27/2014

Thanksgiving Prayer

Now I lay me down to eat:
I prey upon the turkey meat.
Stuffing follows in its wake,
Buried in a gravy lake.

Now I lay me down to rest,
After some more chicken breast.
If I shall die before I wake,
I won’t regret this food I take.

Amen.

10/24/2014

The Optimist and the Pessimist

The optimist believes the glass is half full.
The pessimist believes the glass is half full - of poison.

The optimist says, "It's Friday!"
The pessimist says, "It's only two more days until Monday."

The optimist sighs.
The pessimist burps.

The optimist looks forward to tomorrow.
The pessimist doesn't bother.

The optimist looks away.
The pessimist looks bored.

The optimist says something happy.
The pessimist says, "We're all dead soon."

The optimist frowns.
The pessimist smirks.

The optimist looks on the bright side.
The pessimist looks for sunglasses.

The optimist thinks the pessimist is depressing.
The pessimist thinks the optimist is a jerk.
The optimist takes offense at the pessimist.
The pessimist takes a swing at the optimist.
The optimist pulls away.
The pessimist pulls a gun.
The optimist ducks under the gun, grabs the pessimist's hand and, in the struggle for the weapon, fatally shoots the pessimist.

The pessimist says, "See? I told you so," and dies.



The optimist says, "That's better!"

9/26/2014

Things I Believe: Thoughts for Friday

Better to have loved and lost than never to have HATED SOMEONE SO COMPLETELY WHEN SHE LEFT AND TOOK EVERYTHING.

All work and no play makes Jack an adult.

Better laid than never.

Beauty is only skin deep, which is obvious when you cut the skin away and they're super gross.

A man who is his own lawyer is double-billing for his time.

9/22/2014

When I am King: I'll Sell My Books on *All* the Online Stores!

After much gashing of teeth and dorking around with HTML, XML, CSS, ePub editors, validators, and many other pieces of arcane technology that I'd love to not have to know about, I finally managed to convert both of my comedy books into a form that's digestible by the Google Play Store.

This means that both books are not available on the Play Store. Better yet, I've made them totally reasonably-priced at just $1.99 each. Because I'm such a reasonable guy and all.

The books were already available in dead-tree format and for Kindle. And When I am King... II was already on the Play Store... but only in 'scanned' (PDF) format. The new twist now is that both books are also available in an e-reader friendly format (ePub) from the Play Store. For just $1.99. (Did I mention that already?)




When I am King...

When I am King... this book will be required reading. Until then, consider it important background reading on future social policy. And an excellent beer coaster.




When I am King... II

More Reasons to Put Me in Charge

Health. Politics. Parenting. Education. Coffee. Bamboo: serious issues that plague each of us every day. But aren’t we all too busy to deal with these them? Wouldn’t we like a friendly monarch to take over and solve all of these problems for us?

Kingship: It’s not just for princes anymore!

8/30/2014

Cartoon: NP

Designers and developers don't really speak the same language.


(For the non CS geeks: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NP-hard).

8/25/2014

Cartoon: Earthquake Preparedness

This is pretty much what it was like yesterday at 3:30 in the morning in my house.