Friday, 27 July 2012

The Curious Contingency of Human Happiness

What a difference a day makes.

On Tuesday, I was working on a piece of code for a client, a piece of code that should have been easy.

Should have been.

Thing was: no matter what I did with it, the darn thing Just. Would. Not. Run. 

I eyeballed it line by line, I printed it out and scrutinised it line by line (for some reason, printouts seem easier to read than screens) but, for the life of me,  I could not see where the problem was.

Now, this kind of thing really bugs me.  Being able to cut code is one of the things that I feel proud of and it’s kind of central to my image of myself as a competent techie (OK, I acknowledge the fact that most people wouldn’t WANT that to be part of their core belief about themselves, but there it is).  Like it or not, it's a key part of my self-worth.

This, of course, fuelled my mule-stubborn refusal to admit defeat.  It was after-hours, so bugging someone else with the problem wasn’t really an option either.  I was getting increasingly angry with myself for not being able to fix this stupid bit of code.

After a while, the insistent sound of my own fool head knocking against a brick wall finally woke me up to the fact that I was getting nowhere and, after a long day (getting longer with each resounding thud) the likelihood of a breakthrough was becoming increasingly remote.

So, with a heavy heart, I logged out and went home. 

It was not the search for the Higgs Boson.

It was not the search for the cure for cancer

It was just a stupid bit of code to allow some people in a stupid call centre to see potentially challenging cases coming up. 

Big Whoop.

But it had beaten me and I felt rubbish. 

The people in my head smelt blood in the water: my inner child threw itself on the ground and unleashed an epic tantrum while my inner critic got out his Big Book of Everything that’s Crap About You and began to read it in his foghorn of a voice.

The bad feelings pervaded the the evening at home like a kind of vile octopus ink; sometimes seemingly gone, only to swirl in and darken the water unpredictably the next moment.  It was nearly bedtime before the passing of time (assisted by a good session on the ukulele) diluted it.

I know I was ascribing way more importance to the incident than it deserved. 

I know there are millions starving and homeless in the world. 

I know I should be grateful for the good life that I have (and am, actually, very).

All good reasons to stop whingeing and get on with my life.

But reason doesn’t enter into it.

Next day, as you might guess, the problem could not have been more obvious if it had been waving a red flag whilst riding a white elephant at the head of parade featuring the massed marching bands of the Royal Marines.

And the sun was shining.

Maybe it was because of that, or maybe my inner child and inner critic had simply taken the day off to go to the beach or something, but either way, I felt good all of a sudden.

Friday, 6 July 2012

A New Home in the Sky - Nowt as Queer as Folk

My boss and I have many things in common: same number of legs (two, in case you were worried); we went to the same school/terror training camp, and we both enjoy eating our breakfast granola dry Рno milk, no cream, no cr̬me fraiche, no yoghurt nor any other dairy-based contaminant.

This fact in itself is not hugely important, but I needed something to start this entry off with, right?

Anyway, the other day, we just are about to tuck in when we discover ourselves to be spoonless.  I duly volunteer to rectify the situation by means of a quick raid on the staff kitchen.

“Don’t get any of the spoons with the blue handles,” says the Boss.

I should have been a bit suspicious at this point, but OK, no spoon with a blue handle it is.  He’s da Boss, after all.

Trouble is, I’m totally colour-blind, so I have no idea which of our many and delightfully diverse collection of Spoons Through the Ages have blue handles.  So, upon arriving at the kitchen (which has a pool table in it, incidentally) I cleverly decide to duck the issue by bringing back an all-metal spoon.  No colour means no BLUE colour, right?  

Damn, I'm so sharp it's a wonder I don't cut myself!

I sashay back to the office, smugly bearing a couple of metal spoons as if they are some kind of breakfast-y Olympic Torch.

Pride goeth before a fall…

Boss looks at the proffered utensil and shakes his head.

“But it’s definitely not got a blue handle,” I protest, “You said no blue handle, this has… no blue handle.”  I wave it about a bit for emphasis.

“Yeah,” he sighs, “But I have this phobia about all-metal cutlery.”

You see what I have to put up with?