Monthly Archives: June 2017

730 – Days Since Nineteen Hundred

OK, so I’m (lightly) back.

There have been a few reasons for going quiet on all this.

The first was that I really had started to feel that the blog was a bit of compulsory displacement activity. The “write something every day” idea I started with had all the promise of the classic “pottery class” fable, and everyone who talks about the practice of writing says that it’s about “just showing up”.

The reality, of course, is a bit more nuanced.

I found that I was putting all my efforts into coming up with witty reasons for why I’d not managed to be any more interesting that particular day. Why I hadn’t made progress against the Big Idea. I was putting the energies I should put into work into ever more complex excuses. Which didn’t really feel healthy or ultimately useful.

Alongside this, it’s fair to say that Real Life suddenly became a lot moe complicated.

I’m writing this on a sun lounger in the garden, which is nice. However, as a soundtrack, I’ve got the loud rustling of tarpaulins from our still-in-progress loft conversion contrasting nicely with birdsong and the burbling of the pond. The loft was supposed to take six-to-eight weeks. We’re now in week sixteen. There are a lot of very good reasons for this, and I really wouldn’t want to cast any aspersions on our builder whatsoever, but it’s not where we expected to be.

So this means

  1.  I’m still not sleeping upstairs in our airy new loft room and enjoying that big reset
  2. We still haven’t started the “garden room” that was going to be the ultimate haven for my pondering and outpourings
  3. I’ve not managed to move my musical and lyrical projects into the little boxroom as an interim, because Daisy is still soldiering on with it as her interim bedroom.

Building aside, there’s also quite a lot of other stuff going on in our lives:

I’ve taken on a whopping great new project at work. My previous one got a bit mired up with lack of resources, and so I was asked to see what I could do with another product and team. Commodity webosting and the management cloud infrastructure was never going to be top of my list of dream projects, but the boss asked nicely and – well – I’m a contractor and I do what I’m told. Turned out to also have some big scary asks and deadlines associated, and some horribly complex questions to start answering. I’m slowly making a dent in that, but I’ve had to get my head round a ton of things where I previously would have said “that’s technical architect stuff”. So that’s used up a lot of spare brain space.

Meanwhile, there are also some looming medical things with one of the kids. We’ll hopefully be able to talk about that having gone successfully within a week or two, but the management of that – what with the inevitable uncertainty, beauracracy and multiple postponements of operations that happen when dealing with major surgery – has left me a long way from wanting to put my heart on my sleeve. In this case, it’s not a heart, but even if it was it wouldn’t really be mine to put on my sleeve anyway.

So it’s all got just a bit busy. I wonder whether we’re being surreptitiously filmed for “Grand Designs” at some points. Just when we think it’s all under control, something chucks in a bit more jeopardy, as though we were heading towards an ad break and needed to be sure people would stay tuned in.

That’s not to say there haven’t been some really nice afternoons in pubs sitting and typing musings into Evernote. There’s even been the start of some Actual Lyrics.

The more complex barrier eventually became, um….

“How many days am I on now, exactly”.

I couldn’t post, because I didn’t know which number to put at the stop, and it would be a bit anticlimactic to do a big run-in to my 50th birthday, only to end on day minus-one.

Way back when I was starting out in technology, and trying (occasionally successfully) to pretend to be A Normal IT Professional, there was an issue we had around sorting data. We were running Unix, but our applications were written in BASIC (that then got translated to C and compiled, but let’s skip over that). The company had been around for a very long time (it had a royal warrant and everything) and so all this meant that just using the Unix of epoch of 1/1/1970 to measure dates from wasn’t really an option.

Instead, we relied on a BASIC routine that got copied across all our programs called DSN. This worked out the “days since nineteen hundred”. This was normally stored as a 6-character string, or more commonly 999999-DSN to allow the optimal alpha-sort with most recent stuff at the top.(Yes, yes, I’m sure you could do it better these days, but memory was expensive, indexes really slowed things down, and there was all that translation/compilation shit to deal with).

The only catch was that I worked out the DSN function was wrong. It had missed out the non-leap-yearness of 1900 and assumed it had a 29th Feb. So all DSN dates were already a day out, and had been forever.

Changing it would have meant rewriting all the programs, migrating all the databases, figuring out how we’d explain it to the VAT people etc etc. This was clearly never going to happen. The illusion just had to be maintained.

And so I was the same here. I just couldn’t face restarting the blog, only to realise I’d missed th boat, and would have to redo all of the posts for two years. Or pretend my 50th was on a different day to the one it really was, out of sheer embarrassment.

But today is the two year mark. Today I know where I am, albeit with the curse of “48” now hanging over me, and can do the sums. These posts might end on zero or they might end up on one, but I’m definitely not going to end on 2 or -1.

And so we are off again.

But probably not quite as regularly. At least not within the next week or so, fingers crossed.