Good Friday

I have to confess, I’ve no idea why today is called “Good Friday.” I’ve wondered that for years. But that’s another post for another blog, for another day, I suppose.

For now, I want to celebrate the joyous Easter coming.

And I have some reason to celebrate. Yesterday at work, I had some cool things happen, and only one bummer thing.

See, on Wednesday I had someone come to me and ask me if I could adjust one of the legacy intranet pages because it showed serial numbers for our return requests from customers. Some of our manufacturing divisions require a serial number before they’ll authorize a return. When we put that data into our system, it’s called up when we do prints of the requests. Long story longer, no matter how many serial numbers you enter, it shows up ten times. And, if you put in more than one, only the first one shows up…ten times.

An interesting conundrum. I found it more interesting when I learned my predecessor had been informed of the matter but never resolved it.

When I looked at the print page, I saw the matter. A loop was the problem.

(Aside: In programming-ese, a “loop” is a block of code which is executed multiple times, so instead of writing the code over and over again, you write it once and instruct the program to do it over and over until a condition is either satisfied or stops being satisfied.)

See, the loop was told to execute ten times. A counter was set to 1, and the loop was set to run until the counter became 11 (incrementing ten times). That same counter was used to extract the index number of the serial number data. So let’s say there are five serial numbers for five units being requested for return. The counter (called “x” in this case) was set to 1, like so: x=1 (complex programming code, eh?) Then the loop was told to run until x=11, like so: Do Until x=11 (wow! Can you handle that technical jargon there?!).

Okay, then the serial numbers were selected by saying “Put the serial numbers in this HTML table cell where the serial number = SN(x).” Then the counter gets incremented by one (“x=x+1”, more super-intense computer code), and the loop repeats. Got it?

So, for some reason (and I’m still not precisely sure why), the code never worked correctly. Instead of getting serial number index “x” like it was supposed to, it got the first one it came to and then repeated that cycle over and over again.

I knew what to do, though. And damned proud of myself I was for knowing! I changed the loop to say, “Do this stuff UNTIL THERE ARE NO MORE SERIAL NUMBERS, regardless of how many there might be.”

This is called a “Do Until” loop. Instead of saying “Do this until the counter is incremented ten times” (and ten wasn’t random; the page in which serial numbers are entered only has slots for ten of them), my code says “Do this until you don’t have any more records in the serial number spot” and then finishes. Got one serial number? It goes through the code once. Got ten? It goes through ten times.  And, should I ever improve the page, if you input 40, you’ll get 40 out.

So I made the alterations and tested the code. It failed. Programming error. I left on Wednesday night feeling pretty dejected and stupid. I woke up a couple of times on Wednesday night – as is my habit, due to bladder requests or thirst or whatever – and every time I did awake, this problem was running through my head. I have no idea how that happens, but it happens occasionally. So when I woke up Thursday, I went to work thinking about the problem and still didn’t have any clue why my loop didn’t work and his did.

Feeling sort of inferior and humbled, I looked at the problem again. And I noticed something… a missing piece of the code. When I altered the loop, I forgot to tell the computer code to advance to the next record, if there is one, and do it again. When I added the simple line “recordset.movenext” to the code just before I told it to loop through again, BAM! Success! The page loaded perfectly and ran flawlessly, and ONLY shows the existing serial numbers once!

And now, it shows ALL the serial numbers, not just the first one over and over.

VICTORY!

Okay, great, on I go. I spent the better part of last week working on two things: a NAFTA database macro which would automatically perform some tasks rather than having to perform those tasks manually, and a page which shows the number of times one particular customer is changing their orders. (The sales team for that customer, and the quality representatives for that customer, will be in our location for what’s called a “Kaizen Event” to improve quality communications. We’re using it as a chance to provide ammunition to our sales team to get the customer under control. Long story, but it’s something we have to do; their people can’t keep up with the changes being made, how are we supposed to do so?)

Well, I got the new web page built using the new, “better” technology, and tested it repeatedly. Then I set it aside. I finished it about 4:30PM last Friday, and figured I’d deploy it this week. Well, I sorta forgot, so when it came up again, I scrambled to get it uploaded to the web server.

And it bombed.

For the next two hours, I cursed, banged my desk, pulled my rapidly-graying hair, and stormed to the bathroom to fume. The test server simply won’t provide me with the error messages and I can’t remember what I did in production to get it to happen. So, flustered, I deployed the new application to production to see if I could find the problem.

I almost screamed it was so simple. So, I quick-fixed the issue and BAM! Success!

VICTORY! …and I copied the fixed version to the test server as a back-up and they’re working fine. The requestor is very excited to arm our sales team with this data next week, and I’m pleased it worked as intended. Phew! Close one!

Finally, time to turn my attention to the NAFTA database macro.

*Sigh*

I still don’t know what’s wrong with it. So, two wins and a loss. In the grand scheme of things, I suppose that’s not too bad.

There’s always next week.

I hope you have a happy and joyous Easter if you’re celebrating, and I’ll see you Monday or thereabout.

God bless you.

-jdt-

Inexorable Monday

Well, I put yet another short story collection up on Amazon’s Kindle store over the weekend, and the reception’s been quite warm. It went up on Friday, the launch promotion went live on Saturday (wherein it’s free for five days), and so far, I’ve gotten 140 downloads. Not bad. Not as jaw-dropping as when eReaderLove.com picked my books up, but not too shabby just the same. I’ve also opted to promote this one on Twitter. I didn’t do that with the last couple and they didn’t seem to take off as well. Not bad, but not well. So we’ll see if this helps. I guess. It should pay off sometime, right? Maybe? Ah well. It’s been fun anyway.

I’ve noticed a tiny bit of trickle-down to other stories, too. Not much, but a trickle of trickle. I’ve sold a handful of not-free books, but I’m not going to be able to retire on my writing’s earnings anytime soon. Still, it’s something, and the more readers with my work in their hands, the better.

I might’ve done a better job pimping the book on this blog too. I don’t know how many “followers” I have, but every little bit helps, so I might just do that next time.

For the record, it’s called Shudderbugs and already has a five-star review! W00T!

Speaking of reviews, my buddy and loyal fan Raga has posted a review for me too, on The Case of Lenny Tiggleman – in which she appears as a character! Thanks, Raga! God bless ya, darlin’! I really appreciate it.

Other than that, I did absolutely nothing over the weekend except shoot off a message by my buddy Bryce, who hasn’t responded yet. I hope to hear back from him about helping him get the sequel to his novel “Oasis” out in early April. Hey, B, let me know what’s up, brother.

I’ve got to get back to my training videos, but LORD HELP ME, I can’t seem to find the motivation to do it. The prospect of sitting through them and taking notes excites me about as much as the idea of having my gums scraped.

On the other hand, I’ve fashioned yet another book cover for a new short story I’m mulling. I hoped the cover would spark inspiration. And it would be sci-fi/horror, maybe. Something scary in space, y’know? And it would be a short story, so I can peck at it a little at a time. But I really need to pump out a full-length novel sometime. I just can’t ever seem to block out enough time to do so. Can you say “time management”? I knew y’could.

Anyway, I hope you had a nice weekend, and Bob, I hope your bachelor party was a blast, bud. I’d have been there if I could.

Take care and see you next time, everyone.

-jdt-

Finally, Friday!

Well! It’s been a while since I looked so forward to the weekend, but here it is, at last.

I have plans, for a change! How ’bout that?

For one thing, I’m going to try and give my buddy Bryce Beattie a read-through on his story “The Journey of St. Laurent”, sequel to his pulp-horror novel “Oasis”. Can’t wait for that!

Next, I’ll be doing what I can to help my wife clear her cardboard boxes out of the house so we can set up the new school/craft area I just spent a small pail of money on. (AHEM!)

Maybe some grocery shopping, if need be.

Finally, Saturday (tomorrow), March 23, my newest short story eBook will go live on Amazon Kindle for FREE! It’s called “Shudderbugs”, and contains not one but TWO stories with photography themes! The book will be free from March 23 to March 27, and then it goes to its regular price of 99¢. So get your copy while it’s free!

Here’s the cover:

shudderbugs

If you do pick it up and enjoy the stories (they are older, though, and my writing has changed a LOT since then), please consider leaving a review on Amazon. It helps us, and makes me feel better. I mean, when it’s positive, anyway. But be honest! Always be honest!

Anyway, have a good weekend, and I’ll see you on Monday!

-jdt-

Grateful Whensday

He kept his voice hushed, but spoke without hesitation. He told her about his son; the boy is almost nine now, and won’t listen to him.

He says it’s because she coddled the boy, wouldn’t let the father discipline him. Now there’s defiance, contempt. Once, he related, the boy tried to get out of a moving vehicle. Another time, they drove to a the local strip mall to go to a drug store, and he got out and walked home. Not knowing or caring – the details were sketchy here – they decided to walk home too. Apparently, the car sat there overnight and to get to work the next day, he had to walk to the strip mall and pick it up.

He spoke to her of a day when he’ll make enough money on his job to walk out, leave the house to his wife, and not look back. I didn’t listen closely. I didn’t want to know. He wasn’t talking to me, only in proximity to me. I overheard most of it, and all of what I gathered were in snatches, pieces and bits I wasn’t willing to put together.

I got the gist even if I didn’t want it. A man with either hopes or plans to leave his family behind him.

When he walked away, I was careful not to let him know I heard. I’m sure he knew, though. I’m only one cube with no real walls away from where he spilled his bile. He surely didn’t care who overheard. But when he was gone, back to his own work location, I shuddered. I closed my eyes, and shuddered.

And then I prayed for him.

When I finished, I realized how grateful I am for what I have. A spouse who is a friend, lover, confidant, and partner in all I do. Supportive of me in everything. A son who, despite his questions about why things are the way they are, not being quite grown-up enough to fully grasp why things might vary from one situation to the next while being too grown-up for "because," still obeys. Still seems to respect me. Still honors me, even if he doesn’t like me. A son who has given his heart and soul to our Lord and King and who honors Him by cooperating with me. A daughter who seems to enjoy my company. A family who greets me at the door with shouts and hugs and kisses.

And when my eyes burned with tears I had to hide my face, because it meant so much. Yes, in that moment, but always. What I have, what I sometimes take for granted, is so precious, so special, so rare and delicate, and I am willing to defend it.

With my life, if necessary.

Today, I am grateful for when a man who is terribly unhappy at home reminded me of how terribly happy I am at home.

Busy, Busy, Busy!

I’ve been a busy li’l bee at work this morning.

We had a major upgrade — a full build — to one of our enterprise systems. Everything went swimmingly over the weekend, when the new build was deployed. Then came Monday morning, when, you know, people tried to use that system.

And it promptly crashed.

As of this writing (about 11:46AM my time), there’s no resolution to the issue. They keep sending out updates, but there’s no fix in place yet. Nice.

So, to prepare for the new system — because, in theory, it will eventually be resuscitated — I’ve had to do a few things alongside my regular Monday morning reporting routine. So I’ve been haggard. And last night, my charming, trailer-trash neighbors decided to have some sort of outdoor gathering at all hours of the night, not to mention the banging and thumping like someone dribbling a bowling ball. So today, I’m tired and a little grumpy.

Nevertheless, I’m only halfway through my day and still busy. I’ve finalized a VBA macro already, and tested it (enough…I hope). And now, I’m off to launch my IDE so I can fix some pages I “fixed” last week which, y’know, aren’t fixed.

Over the weekend, I became the proud owner of a brand-spanking-new digital SLR. It’s a Nikon D3100, and so far, I love it. Now, I just need to learn to take pictures. Then the REAL fun begins…Photoshop the pics to make ’em look better! W00T! Can’t wait there.

I also have to get back into my training videos in a more serious way. I’ve really slacked off on how diligent I am about them for a few reasons, but primarily I’ve been doing Photoshop work and (re)publishing my stories on Kindle to keep interest up. So far, so good. I didn’t get one done last weekend though, so this week I’ve got a pair of stories going up which should make me feel better. It also gives me an excuse to do Photoshop work. How bad can that be?

I’ve decided I love Photoshop, and if I could be a professional retoucher and ebook cover designer and charge people enough to make a living at it, I’d be happy doing it. Unless, you know, it ticks me off. Then it’d suck.

Anyway, I hope you had a nice weekend, and, you know, I’ll see you next time.

-jdt-