I didn’t want to leave work today…

I describe myself as an IT Manager, but that’s not all I want to be. I started out as a developer, and still love to code. Career progression now means I lead a team of five people (not including me, and now temporarily plus-one as we’ve a graduate trainee on placement) and they all do IT, so for the pedantic, that’s what I am. I’m lucky enough to work in a place where I can spread my wings into new areas while still doing what’s generally considered to be “leg work”. My aspiration is to be a solutions architect – to take an instruction like (for example) “replace this payroll solution” and do the research into what’s there now, what needs to change, why are we doing this, what are the possibilities, what’s the business impact and which one do I recommend, followed by planning and managing implementing that solution. Grown-up shit, yeah. I’ve got fingers in several such pies at work, most of which are at the stage of documenting stuff I currently don’t know a great deal about.

From time to time, it feels “bitty” and unsatisfying.

A hang-over from the work I was mainly doing before – before my two application support technicians were in place and before we got on top of the shit-sandwich backlog we were handed in the form of several-hundred unhandled support problems – is that some mornings are soaked up sorting out support problems. This morning was one of them. There were only 3 things on my list, but each one took flippin’ ages. Plus, one of the things required concentration, and this morning was the morning for Asking Jude A Question. Sidebar: I’m happy to be asked questions, indeed it’s an important part of being a product owner, it just disrupts my train of thought for a good 10 minutes or so, and one of the things I was working on was difficult. Indeed, one of the Buddhist-philosophy-development tasks I’ve set myself is, at times like this, to not mind when someone comes and interrupts me with a question. Because the distraction of minding makes the interruption take up even more time & energy than it would otherwise. I’m on week 2, and I’m finding that this approach is indeed helping.

I found myself delaying lunch while I finished off the last one – it was so close – so close – and then it was done.

This, at least, is satisfying – it’s clear when it’s done, I can tell the relevant people their problem is sorted, tick on the to-do list, what’s next? However, it’s still getting from a point of broken to not-broken – bringing the world back to not-broken rather than improving the world at all.

Sidebar: As I write that, I’m reminded of a trope used a lot in the first season of Silicon Valley “making the world a better place“. WHAT HAVE I BECOME?

There’s a report (data-dump, essentially) that needs writing reasonably promptly. It’s mostly not technically tricky, there’s an element of handle-turning to it, but also some stuff that I currently don’t know how to do. The sensible, grown-up thing to do would be to line it up for a developer to do. They will spend less time on it. It will possibly be solved more elegantly. There’s a risk it might get done sooner (although, quite honestly, given what other priorities are in play, possibly not). If it goes wrong, I won’t have to fix it.

So, clearly, I started doing it.

By my usual “home time” I was at the point of having the program return the most basic set of information, but had markers in for the different bits I need to put in place.

And here’s the sign that me writing it was the right thing for this afternoon: despite the mostly unsatisfying day I’d had up to that point, I didn’t want to leave. I was in the zone, nobody had asked me anything for a good half an hour, and there was a clear set of nice meaty coding to get my teeth into. At the very least, I thought to myself, you can get it up to the difficult bit… and then I remembered traffic gets worse after 5, dinner being prepared by my ever-loving, and the not-employment-work-to-do list I had waiting.

So, I peeled myself away from the screen, and here I am.

And I have something to look forward to tomorrow 😀

Sidebar: Today is Sunday. I wrote this on Wednesday but am only posting it today because I wanted to read through it the following day and post it, but then I got distracted. ooh! Squirrel!

not able to find class in oneToMany relationship (laravel4)

My first problem at work today was related to name spaces. Something that worked yesterday before I ran automated API tests wasn’t working: I have a Candidate/CandidateAddress relationship where one Candidate may have multiple addresses. For some reason, even though everything is namespaced, I was getting “Class CandidateAddress not found”.

This is a really helpful tip, but a misleadingly expansive title: https://coderwall.com/p/nhwq8w
…and didn’t do the magic

Whereas the answer to this: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/19731097/class-comment-not-found-laravel-4/19732415#19732415

…actually solved my problem.

It’s not as neat as I’d like, but it works.
(apologies tot he non-techies who will see this through FB – when I”m not at work I will fix IFTTT to not post notes-to-self)

non-linky link (and no conclusions!)

I wrote this last November, and I don’t know why I didn’t publish it. So I’m publishing it now…

Yesterday at work I went to a seminar about the relevance, joy and current developments in research administration. Clearly, as my job is now fully about supporting the research, I was very interested, hence the being there.

In the main it was a good and interesting seminar. A little bit preaching to the converted, given that the audience were Faculty staff (Medical & Human Sciences in a university which has as one of its key aims “doing more & better research”), but humour & self-deprecation included in an engaging and in no way too much personality way.

There was just one thing which made me go “But-”

At one point, the presenter said (and I paraphrase) “We do really loads of excellent research in the Manchester research cluster AND YET in the greater Manchester area we have some of the lowest health indicators in the country” (low life expectancy, early coronary deaths, many deaths from smoking and so on).

I was distracted for a while trying to draw a link between research into genetically inherited enzyme-processing problems and high incidence of lung disease and macDonalds-related heart attacks.

I can see how not having a healthy participant base to draw on could be problematic for research (thank you Ian for pointing that out).

Unless you’re specifically targeting research which is intended to address the health issues which are known to be a problem in Greater Manchester and making sure that any practices which are shown to be effective are disseminated into the practising health community, you can’t really draw that correlation. According to the presentation (again, very good – worth every penny) structures and organisation are being geared towards encouraging exactly that in Manchester, which is good.

As someone who is a northerner by inheritance & adoption, the large band of low health indicators which stretched across the Pennines from (apparently, roughly) Skem & St Helens to Chesterfield & Doncaster was troubling, plus the large Birmingham-shaped blob on the lady’s map were quite telling. It’s a map which I could stare at for hours, quite frankly. And more alarmingly, we’re just launching into a ConDem Coalition who are slashing budgets and allegedly have no concept of what it’s like to live in a deep red area.

The other interesting discussion which followed on from the seminar was what happens *after* the study. If it’s a commercially sponsored clinical drug trial, it’s not rocket science – the pharmaceutical company promotes it. But if it’s a change to current practices it’s essentially up to the investigator to disseminate that wisdom. I’d be interested to know, in general, how that goes. Watch this space!

my husband’s a genius!

We had an x-box brought into work end of last week which had been kicked over, and condemned by another IT professional (or it could be a friend-of-a-friend who allegedly works in the general area of IT) as “it’s the motherboard” and it can’t be fixed. The x-box owner was upset by this because:

  1. it wasn’t like it was dropped from a great height, it was kicked over onto a carpet – they should be more robust than that, you’d think.
  2. you-know-what is coming and Santa may or may not have assumed that the family had a working x-box, and might not have had the resources to develop a plan B based on that not being the case.

Steve just brought it home to test on the TV after working on it today, and it appears to be fixed.

Turns out, he’s a genius (possibly. If it’s still working in the morning. keep your fingers crossed, please, everybody!)

net out there

I went to my first Northern networking event this evening – I’ve been to ones in the South but not yet up here. The West Lancs ICT cluster was the chosen starting point. I was *asked* for my card a couple of times, met a potential new customer (who knows if it’ll come to anything, possibly, possibly not) and would generally consider the evening a success. Someone reacted to me saying what I did in a way that I might have done a few years ago. I wouldn’t now. I didn’t hare out of there at the first opportunity. I initiated conversations. Roll on the next one!!

check this out

I know I have a readership of 5 on a good day, but mentioning this here is better than not mentioning it anywhere. I’m currently working on a new site for one of my clients (and friends) Karen Parker. She has some STUNNING canine & equine photography (as the name suggests). Under canine/Fine Art my particular faves are the Weimaraner (no big surprise there), the husky on black and the red setter on green.

Check ’em out. She deserves more success than she currently has, given the quality of her pics.


Word association – becomes image association

I found an image this afternoon while browsing iStock which spoke to me and (effectively) said “I’m your new website background”. It feels lovely and calm, although the colours were fairly vibrant, and a version of teal which I’m pretty into at the moment. It’s light and airy, and although not a work of art, makes for a better site than the orgy of dark colours I was using before. So I re-worked the site (the wonders of css, by the time I’d re-sized the image, it took about 5 minutes. That, and my site has pretty much no content. Check it out. Honestly.) and showed it to Steve.

Go and look at what he saw here. Don’t read any more until you’ve looked.

Steve’s first comment was “what that needs is blood spattered on the walls”.

See how this immediately changes it from a relaxing, uplifting image (although, on reflection, maybe an image that evokes the thought “go up into the light” might not be as positive as I first thought) to a vaguely sinister one.

So – what does it say to you?