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Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Productive Week

I felt better about this week than some of the past few weeks. Things, both at work and at home, seem to have progressed better than in some of the previous weeks. I don't know whether it is just something I feel for no tangible reason, or whether things really are improving!

At work, we had more meetings to figure out where our model was going to get data from. But we managed to locate an expert in the IT department who has an intimate understanding of some of the data hidden deep within various databases and mainframe systems at work. And this person actually was competent, unlike most of the people from the IT department that I interact with on a daily basis.

So, the two meetings we had with this person turned out to be very productive, and we covered a lot of ground in a very short time. The IT person either had the answers to our questions right away or he was not absolutely sure, but knew who would know for sure. Right after the meeting, he would make inquiries, and before the next meeting, he had the answer we needed. It was a pleasure working with him instead of the lazy weasels we had to put up with most of the rest of the time.

With that part of the project making good progress, we had a chance to revisit in more detail other parts of the project that needed some more attention. One of them had been a requirement that the model we were coming up with be prototyped and proved before we proceeded to a final version.

We had been trying to argue with my manager that the requirement did not really make much sense since the components of the model were well-known mathematical modeling constructs that we know work. If someone thought it needed proving, either that person did not believe in mathematics or did not know enough mathematics to understand what we were talking about anyways.

My manager understood the argument perfectly, but was treading a fine line to get through the office politics surrounding the project. This week we managed to make some progress in convincing him to take a harder line with the powers that be to relax this requirement. If the requirement did not cost us anything, we wouldn't mind producing such a proof of concept on the way to the final product.

The problem was that they wanted the proof of concept in the next 3 months. To produce a proof of concept in 3 months, we would have to cut so many corners that the code we develop for it would be pretty much unusable in the final product. So, we would have to work for 3 months to produce a proof of concept, then start pretty much from scratch and produce a final product in the next 6 or 7 months. If we could skip the proof of concept, we could produce the final product 6 or 7 months from now, cutting out 3 months from the total timeline of the project. It made complete sense to everyone except the people who were obsessed with making life difficult for us whether it made sense or not.

My manager has now promised my team and me an audience in front of our director so that we can plead our case more directly up the chain of command. Our director meets with the IT director who has taken charge of this project, on a pretty regular basis, so if we manage to convince our director, we stand a good chance that she would be able to cut through some of the office politics and get this IT director off our case. The next week will be crucial to all of this, but this week laid the ground work for this in a productive fashion. Small things to be happy about, I guess.

At home, my kids scored pretty high on the first test of the math olympiad. It is a series of 5 tests, spaced 4 weeks apart from each other, so they still have tests going all the way to March. But in the first test, my elder daughter got all the questions right, and my younger daughter missed just one question. They were the first and second highest scorers in their school, so they are off to a good start.

I am teaching them a bunch of different problems involving percentage discounts, interest rates, tax rates, etc. The concepts seem to be very confusing to them initially even though we have been through this a year or so back also. After putting them through the paces once again, they have gained some confidence in tackling these kinds of problems, working back and forth between original prices, sale prices, total prices, original investments, returns, etc.

Also, when a friend of mine visited me during the summer, we had talked casually about how it might be a good time to invest in some real estate given the steep fall in real estate prices in some parts of the country. I had mostly forgotten about it and did not take any further action on it - until this week. My wife convinced me to follow through on that thought, so I called up my friend and asked him to put me in touch with a real estate agent he knew. I don't know if anything will come out of this, especially if the prices (even after their fall) do not fall within my budgetary constraints. I just have to play along and see what happens. But productive on the home front, nevertheless.

I continued posting to my blog with a humorous post picked out from one of my old emails, a post on Access, another on Vedic mathematics and a post on Blogger gadgets/widgets that I find useful on my blog. That post triggered some research into flag counters and trying to make a flag counter invisible so that traffic stats are kept private. I think I may have a solution, but I have to test it out fully before I post it, so watch this space for updates on that issue.

I was also invited to be a guest poster on the Vedic Maths India Forum blog based on the Vedic Mathematics posts on my own blog. So, for the past two weeks, I have been summarizing my Vedic Mathematics posts and posting them on this other blog also. This has given me an opportunity to introduce my blog and its posts to a wider audience.

I mentioned last week that I was having trouble posting to this other blog because Blogger would not give me the option of posting to it even though I had been added as an author on this team blog. The solution turned out to be pretty simple, as I suspected. When the blog owner added me as an author, Google kicked off an email to me with an activation link in it. If I had clicked on that link right away instead of putting the email away for later, I never would have had the problems I subsequently faced trying to convince Blogger that I was authorized to post on this other blog! As soon as I located that email again and clicked on the activation link, I was asked to log in with my Google credentials, and voila, the other blog showed up in my Blogger dashboard, allowing me to post to it.

My Wednesday karate class was quite uneventful. After going through all the basics, I taught the new students some self-defense moves. My sensei brought a padded stick to the class, so I also practiced defense against a club-like weapon (a night-stick, a flash light, tire iron, ball bat, etc.) with the new students. I also learned the next few moves in my kata (seyunchin), which is turning out to be quite an intricate and confusing kata with lots of new types of moves. The class is not going to meet on the day before thanksgiving, so I am going to have a 2-week break before the next class.

Now, I have to take care of the laundry, get ready for dinner, finish watching a movie and get ready for a new week. Thankfully it is going to be a short work-week. I hope it is sweet too!

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