Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Out of my depth

A local Science Fiction club has asked me to help them run their annual Star Trek convention (the same one I spoke at last year).

I was kind of expecting to come in from the outside, analysing a working process and making suggestions for improvement.

This was not the case. The phone call I received went something along the lines of “Hi. We don’t have a venue, we don’t have a date, we haven’t actually done anything about arranging this con. What are you going to do about it?”

Sure, I may be the unchallenged South African expert on all things Trek, but how exactly does that qualify me for running a convention?

Okay, I’ve got some experience running conventions too… but a Health and Fitness Expo is very different to a Gaming Convention which, in turn, is surprisingly different to a Star Trek convention. I’m at somewhat of a loss.


Monday, April 24, 2006

Yes! It sucks! I know! Goddammit!

The last month and a half have been very very busy at work.

We went live at a new site at the beginning of the month, which required a lot of overtime to get everything ready initially, and then some rather difficult hours since then sorting out all the bugs and teething problems.

After using it for a month, most of the users have become relatively adept at using the system, and the bulk of the queries receive now are the really complicated things – like “How do I generate multiple invoices with overlapping Purchase Orders in three different currencies with all kinds of weird markups and discounts?”

However, the users aren’t happy. They don’t like the system. It’s awkward, slow, excessively complicated and so internally inconsistent that it even confuses us.

Several times a day I hear “On [our old system] we could do this and this and that. Why can’t we do it on [the new system]?”

Apparently there were business reasons for going with our system over the old one. Something about stricter controls on what the users can do. Fine. Why buy a whole new system to do that? Why not just fix the old one?

Our system is not designed to do what they’re using it for. They’ve bought a (very expensive) donkey to do the work of a horse. Sure, they can both pull a cart, but just try and race a donkey.

I’ve voiced my concerns to whomever would listen, but it’s far too late. Too much money has changed hands for us to back out now… we’re just going to have to take this donkey (now pumped up on steroids and stimulants, fitted with the finest Nike trainers and shaved for aerodynamic reasons) and get as much speed out of it as possible.

But I swear, if I hear one more user say “This is such a shitty system! You’re not helping us, you’re making our jobs more difficult!” I am going to grab its empty, little head, and twist it until it comes off.

TrekToday - J.J. Abrams To Direct 'Star Trek XI'

TrekToday - J.J. Abrams To Direct 'Star Trek XI'

Could it be true? Paramount is pulling their collective head out of their collective ass and have decided to make another Trek movie?

I remain sceptical about it... the scriptwriter from Armageddon and a concept that sounds dangerously like Dead Poets' Society meets Dumb & Dumberer don't bode well.

But hey, at least it's new Trek... who am I to complain?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

MTV Crazy Monkey actor found dead : Mail & Guardian Online

MTV Crazy Monkey actor found dead : Mail & Guardian Online

I never met the guy, but I enjoyed his work, and was looking forward to meeting him someday.

This is a sad day indeed.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A small step for man

Forty-five years ago today, mankind took one of its transcendental leaps and crossed a formidable boundary for the very first time.

A Russian cosmonaut named Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin climbed into a vessel named Vostok 1 and was fired at hundreds of kilometers an hour into the sky.

The rocket engine he had been strapped to was powerful enough to push him up through Earth’s gravity well to an altitude of 315 kilometers and allowed him to make a full orbit of the planet before returning safely to Earth 108 minutes later.

Yuri Gargarin went boldly where no man had gone before, and his name will be forever remembered along with men like Orville and Wilbur Wright, Chuck Yeager and Neil Armstrong.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

First Contact Day

In the Star Trek universe, the 5th of April is a very important day.

In 2163 the 5th of April saw the first time a Human Being travelled faster than the speed of light. And subsequently official First Contact with an advanced alien race, our distant cousins, the Vulcans.

That event led, eventually, to the formation of the United Federation of Planets: an institution dedicated to preserving and protecting diversity.

Today we, as Trekkies, celebrate the optimism of Gene Roddenberry's vision of humanity's future... A future in which humanity sets aside its differences and becomes a major player in a much larger community.

Monday, April 03, 2006

I'll do it, but I don't have to like it

I understand that in IT, sometimes it’s necessary to pull a few extra hours in order to get your systems running by deadline.

I understand that pulling those extra hours means sleep deprivation, junk-food overindulgence, separation from loved ones and sense-of-humour failure.

Just because I understand those things doesn’t mean I have to like them.

The way I have been treated by this company in the last week feels like abuse. It feels like I have been forced, against my will, to work ridiculous hours. (I have worked 21 of the last 24 hours).

And before you say "Yes, but it's your decision."... that's obvious, but it's not as simple as that. When you work for a living, you do exactly that: you work so that you can live. If you don't work, you can't live, because you don't have food.

So when your boss says "Please do this" what he's really saying is "If you don't do this, you will starve to death." He may as well be holding a gun to your head.

Yes, I know, I'm oversimplifying. There are laws in place to prevent exploitation of workers and so forth. But all those do is change the gun your boss is holding from an AK47 assault rifle to a mushroom-pellet gun: if you fire it enough times in the right spot, it'll eventually do the trick. It'll just take a lot longer and be a lot more painful.

I need to get out of this company.