Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Death March that Wouldn't Die and a Near Death Experience

It's one thing when Anais gives me a much needed nudge to blog, it's a whole different ballgame when Her Majesty, Iris Über Alles, issues a royal inquiry regarding my status. I fear that it won't be too much longer before I inflame the wrath of her deity-sister Lola and face the loss of all my friends, so I'm dusting off the HTML form and filling it out for publication.

My lack of posting on both the work and 2am blog has been due to a severe scarcity of spare time. A hard deadline looms this week, and all stops have been pulled out to get code complete and bugs fixed in time for the big release on Wednesday. In the jargon of software development project management, this is often referred to as a "death march", but I wouldn't necessarily characterize our own project nearly as bleakly as the Wikipedia definition would suggest.

The project is the first major feature rollout that replaces a big block of code written by the original outsourced developers. We've been working on it for about three months now.

The new feature provides our customers with a huge increase in the degree of control over the appearance of their content. I've been responsible for most of the back end code used to configure and display the content. Over that time, I've had to learn a new programming language and a new API. I've also had to design, document, and implement the web service interfaces.

In the world of web development, it is often preached that content and presentation should be separate. We've taken this to a whole new level, wherein content and presentation services are distributed, handled by separate hosts altogether.

There have been some stumbling blocks along the way. My boss, who has been responsible for the user interface portion of the feature, has run into some problems from limitations in the user interface toolkit we use for Javascript development, and it has required me to adapt my own code to work past those limitations.

As of this evening, I can see light at the end of the tunnel. I've managed to work out a lot of the bugs that I've turned up the past week. I spent the weekend tracking down rendering bugs that are due to some migration code written by another developer. I've got two more APIs to implement and integrate with the user interface, and we should be ready to go.

We had a scare a week ago. My mother-in-law hasn't been feeling well. Among one of the symptoms was an enlarged spleen. On April 20, she went to the emergency room after experiencing very bad nausea. The local hospital couldn't tell if it was her spleen or something else, and they were worried that she had ruptured the spleen, so they whisked her via helicopter to a hospital in the Circle City.

Under more experienced observation, they determined that a stomach ulcer had ruptured. This had some impact on our own schedule because my wife went up to visit with her mom for most of the days and evenings. She wasn't able to connect to her employer's virtual private network using the hospital's public WiFi, so she fell behind on her work hours.

She spent a week there, and was released this afternoon. They still haven't figured out what is up with her spleen. She will probably have to undergo some more tests and see other local specialists to get to the bottom of this. Her absence has been rough on my father-in-law, who has been in a nursing home for close to three years due to a debilitating stroke. He gets very anxious if she isn't there during most of his waking hours.

For those of you tracking my social life, I did make it out on Friday a couple weeks ago for a company happy hour. I had three beers, and bought a couple tickets for a charity raffle, winning the grand prize, which was a Callaway golf bag. It wasn't something that I really needed, but it will most likely sell for way more than the $2 I plonked down on tickets.

This coming weekend is the big end-of-year fundraiser for the preschool co-operative. In another couple weeks, my wife will be breaking out the cake pans to bake a wedding cake for her best friend's daughter, trekking down to the Volunteer state for the wedding ceremony. It will be a nice quiet few days here

My ex-coworker's last day on the Titanic was Friday. The claim by the two founders is that they are planning on buying a software development company in California to do their work, but I don't know where they'll be getting the money to do that.

In the meantime, I'll try to get some more train photos posted before National Train Day. :-)
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