Thursday, July 28, 2005

Yeah. I know.

Yes, it's been way too long again. Funny, but every time I find a little something to get enthusiastic about, something else will come along to let the air out of the tires.

For the past two weeks or so, I've been running on medication and willpower. Not recreational medication (although some of what I've been taking could be recreational under different circumstances), but muscle relaxants and pain killers to help me deal with what's left of my back. It's been getting a lot worse lately. I've had my lucid moments, but drug sleep is not real sleep, and even though I'm not catching any sort of a buzz from what I'm taking, I've found it incredibly difficult to maintain any sort of concentration. And yeah, I've been a little cranky (the verity of which Mika Heinonen would no doubt gladly confirm); the pain is diminished somewhat, but I'm still spending my days close to tears.

<aside>I've always thought it was a bit unfair that all one gets from a painkiller is a painkiller when there's pain to kill. I mean, I have a good reason (not excuse) to take this stuff, a license if you will, and none of it does what it did when I didn't actually need it. It may have been twenty years, but there's still a little someone in the back of my head that would just as soon be high if he thought he could get away with it.</aside>

I have no idea where things go from here. I mean, I'm losing the ability to keep the big picture in mind when I'm working on details. In another line of work, that wouldn't be a problem, really. But when you get to a point where you can only reference the class, function, sub or even the short loop that you're currently coding without the ability to remember so much as the inputs and expected outputs for as long as it takes you to write the comments/pseudocode that would be your guide, it becomes something of a liability to a developer. I can answer people's questions on LDD only because the problems usually have a simple, short solution. Memory IO is minimal, and the whole transaction fits in a single packet.

I'm currently working on a pseudo-natural-language query/reporting tool for Notes. The aim was to allow a user to perform complex ad hoc queries and create scheduled reports without further developer intervention. The user selects the document types they want to see, the fields they want in the order they want them, sets formatting preferences for the various data types, defines conditions for the query (including data relations), sets a display type (flat, categorised, paged) and a sort order on one or more values that may or may not be included in the output. When I designed it, the whole thing was pretty clear, and I've got the UML and pseudocode to prove it. Even with everything done up front, I'm having a hell of a time trying to create working code. And no, the code is not terribly difficult. Like most dev efforts, it's the "big picture" that's the hard part; translating a working mental model to running code should be a matter of getting the data types and syntax right. Right?

You'd think. But I can't remember things like the well-chosen, clear variable names I've used once the declaration has scrolled out of the Programmer's Pane. (Oh, and globals, when necessary, are a real pain in the posterior. I don't mind the "Variable not delared" message, but I'd really like a "did you mean rawComparatorString?" suggestion to go along with it these days.) I'll forget what the clause I'm trying to parse looks like in the time it takes me to move my eyes from the notepad on my desk to the screen.

Needless to say, my productivity is way, way down, and so is my sticktoitiveness. The frustration level is pretty much overwhelming at times. I'm almost ready to go back to shining shoes, or at least I would be if I couldn't remember what that did to my back. I'm even having trouble genericising some truly simple but kewl stuff to throw into the OpenNTF.org CodeBin. It truly sucks when you look at a 200-character formula and all you can think is "Kevorkian would know what to do".

Well, that's enough bitching for one day. Sorry.

13 comments:

Jess said...

Bitch any time you want. Your house, your rules, right? It even says so right at the top of your blog.

Seriously, don't let anyone let the air out of your tires.

gregg eldred said...

A little off topic - -
While you may be losing your short term memory, at least the posts to LDD keep me smiling. I mean, what mind tells someone that you can't drink from Notes (stupid question from the poster any way)? *That* is someone with a wicked sense of humor. Oh, and the other one about proper usage of names. Loved it.

Stan Rogers said...

Off-topic? If I recall correctly (and this is not a certainty) the topic was more-or-less "my world is strange and confusing right now". Appropriate comments would have included:

"My feet have lost their sense of smell."

"Badgers? We don't need no steenkeeng badgers!"

"African or European?"

"Colourless green thoughts sleep furiously."

"Who would name their daughter Stanhilda?"

"Why do you want to be called Loretta, Stan?"

"PNL in Notes? You're in worse shape than you think, dude. Can I have some of those pills?"

"Donuts. Is there anything they can't do?"

"Oh, frabjous day. Calloo! Callay! *chortle*"

Unfortunately, those are right in line with my technical thinking these days. I hope to become more amusing as I drift further and further from the plane we call "reality".

Ben Dubuc said...

I know exactly how you feel. With my sleep apnea problems, I've been feeling like this since, euh.. can't remember... a while, anyway. It is so frustrating to be less than half of what you used to be...

Hopefully, that operation next month will help solve the sleep problems and I hope I'll recup quickly.

Right now, I feel like making Big Macs would be too complicated, with all those pieces you have to put in the right order...

Stan Rogers said...

So work at Harvey's, Ben. All you need to remember is meat and bun -- the customer tells you the rest, one item at a time. I'd be headed for the burger flippin' world, but I've done that before and it's really hard on the back to be at that constant slight lean over the counter.

jonvon said...

dear stan,

i hope loretta's green lights leap among the donuts last tuesday. there's anything they can't do!

amused, concerned and generally sending you nice jedi calloo and callay. with the chortles and the badgers.

eh?

hang in there buddy.

:-)

Stan Rogers said...

Oh, crap. That made sense.

Mika Heinonen said...

Hi Stan,

I found your Blog when I was looking for some ideas for my own Blog ( http://siipi.com/mika ), and of course the first names which came to my mind were Nathan Freeman and Stan Rogers :)

I'm sad to hear that you are not well, I hope you get well soon.

Best wishes, Mika Heinonen

Anonymous said...

Well, check out the teamstudio class browser. Very very handy for those short-term memory issue days...

Hang in there. I find neat whisky kills all known bugs when taken orally.

As Tommy Cooper once said, "I'm on the whisky diet. I've lost three days already"....

---* Bill

Ben Dubuc said...

Well, Harvey's burgers won't do it either: I'll have to make the customers repeat all the time: I'll be lost after "Relish, ...".

Maybe I can permantly put a sign "Employee in training" so people would be kind enough to repeat 3-4 times what they want without yelling at me.

What pisses me off the most is that I feel like I've been out of the (IT) loop for 3-4 years now because of jobs that didn't offer technical chanllenges, and with all the sleep apnea symptoms, I don't have the energy to put outside of my job to learn new stuff. I'm getting all depressed (which is one of the many side effects of the lack of sleep)...

But so far,the big guy up there always came with a solution... He always wait until the last minute, but something always come up. I should stop being so anxious, but that is also a side effect of sleep apnea (the good thing is that I realized I'm not crazy: I just need to sleep. Can I be reincarnated as a bear for a year or tow???).

Man, I need to go back to church... It's been too long...

Get well soon!

dogu said...

Stan,

IANAD but have had on and off problems with my back for too long the contemplate. I don't know the specifics of your situation but will toss this out in the spirit of a co-sufferer.

Abs - your mid section owns your back. If you can get strong trunk muscles, you'll have fewer back problems. I hate situps and ab work, but it really helps.

Stretching - I recently found yoga and what a difference it makes to have strength and flexibility. You can buy into the whole mind/spirit thing or just bend and stretch, either way, you get benefit from the exercise.

Get thee to a physical therapist. Until I had a PT evaluate the problem I was having and offer up specific suggestions for me, I never found anything that really worked. Now I know what to do at the first twinge of back pain and have not had a really bad episode in 3 years or more.

Beer (or other beverage of your choice) works as good as any pain killer I've ever taken. Drink a few, you relax, get a buzz, sleep, and sometimes the back pain goes away when you wake back up.

Hang in and get better.

Doug (from LDD)

zedzdead said...

African or European? I don't knowwaaagghhhhhhh!

Bed UK said...

If, like me, you can't stand the pain of chiropractic treatment but you are looking for an effective, long term remedy for your back problems then may i suggest a new mattress (or to be more specific – an orthopaedic, temperpedic, or memory foam mattress)
A whole range of specialist mattresses have been designed in order to try and correct posture and alleviate back and neck pains. The benefits are long-term and you don't need to regularly visit [and pay!] some heavy handed therapist to relieve the pain! I recently purchased an orthopaedic memory foam mattress online, and I can report, that after a fortnight sleeping on it, i wake up feeling much better than I did when I slept on my old mattress and i foresee a lack of future visits to my heavy handed chiropractor!!

Although one may jump to the conclusion that such specialist mattress prices are high, if you look hard enough you can find cheap mattresses out there, especially online. If you are dispirited by the expense, just think of the long term benefits for your health... a decent mattress can last up to 10 years!