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Thursday, December 30, 2010

One Last Update Before The End Of The Year

It has been a while since I posted a general update on my blog. I have been busy with work, chores, etc., and life in general, so I have been lax in posting updates on things. Now that it is almost the end of the year, I think I should provide one last update before I start celebrating being off from work until the beginning of next year!

My H&R Block tax course ended the Saturday before Thanksgiving. The final test was not too difficult, and I passed the whole course with a score of about 95%. I then attended an interview at the H&R Block office to be a tax preparer for the next year. This was back on November 22nd. I was told to expect a decision within 10 days, but I have heard nothing back so far. At least I have not been officially rejected so far! But I am not hoping to hear back from them at this point, so my candidacy will be in limbo forever, I guess. Good thing I did not hold my breath for the outcome!

The interview was with 3 different managers. Each of them talked to me for about 10 minutes, and asked me a standard set of questions about how I would handle client relationships, conflicts, and other likely work situations. It is what my company calls a structured interview. The whole thing was quite inane, and at least now I know that my company is not the only one stupid enough to use such an interview technique! I have been on the administering end of many of these interviews at my company, and I have always come away completely unimpressed with what the interview tells about the potential candidate.

At work, my project has lurched from one crisis to another and is now running a couple of months behind. At least, this time, my manager is completely sure it is our IT department that is at fault for the delays. First they gave us a new development server that did not have any development tools on it (no IDE, no debugger, no compiler, not even Emacs!). We had to escalate it all the way to their manager and director before they agreed to provide any of this to us. Their official explanation, believe it or not, was that providing development tools such as the ones we were asking for on a development server was against company policy! How my company continues to operate is quite a surprise me too!!

The next problem was that IT set the project up with a data repository that is made available to us through a product made by TIBCO called Business Events (BE). It turns out that BE is difficult to deal with inside the normal tools we use to develop Java code. So, it required endless running back and forth before IT agreed to pay for a TIBCO consultant to solve the problem for us. All this resulted in a long delay to the project timeline, and the IT manager was adamant that she not be charged with the delay because "the ability to develop and debug code on the development infrastructure" was not in the original requirements submitted to her team! And people wonder why I feel like pulling my hair out and running away to a Tibetan monastery!!

And after all these problems were solved, we found that their code was full of bugs that prevented us from running and testing our code. Every time we spot a bug that stops us from proceeding further, we send them email, and they say they are busy with other projects and will fix this bug in a couple of weeks. So, we sit around twiddling our thumbs until they fix that bug. Then the cycle repeats itself with another bug in their code.

Nobody would believe me when I told them that the timelines for this project were too ambitious given that it was a completely new business area, with new IT infrastructure and tools, data sources that we knew very little about, etc. Now, they have grudgingly accepted my view that this project is going to be more about learnings for the future than about showcasing a successful project that was completed on time and under budget. For projects like this, project planning is highly over-rated, and in fact, is, in my opinion, completely useless.

At least, I had a couple of weeks of vacation to burn up before the end of the year, so I took blocks of days off before Christmas and New Year. That way, at least, I did not have to sit at work uselessly waiting for pieces of the project to be completed in a painfully slow process. Given that I want to get as far away from this project as is humanly possible, my vacation came in pretty handy! Maybe I will take my next year's vacation in January so that I can keep away from this project for some more time!!

As far as my blogging was concerned, I continued to post a reasonably steady stream of posts of various kinds to my blog. In addition to reviews of various products I bought on Black Friday, I also posted a couple of articles with tips on doing various things in Microsoft Access. I have more ideas working their way through my mind, so I should be posting stuff to my blog at a slow but steady state through the next year also.

Since my last update with this information, when the country count for my blog stood at 152, visitors from 9 new countries seem to have visited my blog. They are from Guadeloupe, Antigua and Barbuda, Turks and Caicos Islands, Cuba, Lichtenstein, Myanmar, Tajikistan, Somalia, Senegal and Benin. There are actually 10 countries in that list, if you paid attention! It turns out that Flagcounter made a change in the way they count countries, and eliminated "Unknown - EU" from the list of countries. So, even though I had new visitors from 10 new countries, I lost "Unknown - EU" from the 152 I had before, leaving me at 161 rather than 162.

The weather has been dreadful, as it usually is this time of the year in the midwest. It has already snowed so heavily where I am that I have had to get the snow shovel out and shovel my driveway of snow twice already. Usually, I don't have to shovel snow until January, but this year appears to be wetter so far. I have lived here for almost 17 years without the need for a snow thrower so far. I have considered it good exercise to just go out and shovel snow when needed with my bare hands. But the process takes a long time, and sometimes, I may need to clear the snow quickly even though I will lose out on the exercise of shoveling the snow. So, I might relent and buy myself a snowblower at some point. Let us just say research is ongoing in this direction.

That is pretty much all the important happenings in my life for this update. I hope you had a wonderful 2010, and I wish you all a very happy, prosperous and even more wonderful 2011!

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