Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Cure

It was a much better day at the paying job today. I was able to mostly avoid the business-side professional naysayers, critics, and obstructionists that made yesterday such an ordeal by crouching deep down and hiding in the technical trenches. In other words, I stayed busy developing software and successfully avoided meetings and random interactions with co-workers. Don't get me wrong - I love the people that I work with. It's just in the nature of the job that every time I emerge from my den to head to the coffee area or restroom, I run the same risks (metaphorically, of course) as a gazelle trying to get to the watering hole. Where the gazelle has to be wary of lions, tigers, and bears, I have to be ever vigilant of the co-worker approaching me with a "Hey, would it be hard to..." or "I know you're busy, but..."  Those are invariably indications that I'm going to be pulled into a distraction that I could do without, given my druthers.

Again, don't get me wrong - those kinds of things are the reason I'm there and I'm always ready to lend a hand, but the loss of mental momentum that comes with distractions can end up costing me hours. And every now and then I have to work with someone from outside the organization that doesn't understand our business or why we do the things we do. It's an easy matter for them to throw bureaucratic roadblocks in our way without fully understanding the costs of doing so. That can be frustrating.

That happened yesterday.

Those rare days when I can spend the majority of my day head-down writing code are typically the most rewarding, if not always the least frustrating. Building software applications is a lot like building an airplane. There are moments of hair pulling frustration, there are hours of routine grunt work, and there are bright, shining moments when I suffer one of the Brief Moments of Lucidity(tm) upon which I have built a moderately successful career. Those come at a cost, though. While I'm in one of those spells I tend to write a dozen or so very elegant lines of code that miraculously perform the same function that would normally take hundreds of lines to do.

That's all well and good for the few fleeting moments when I can see the inner workings of the magic with laser-sharp comprehension, but there inevitably comes a day when I have to re-visit that code. Without the magic coursing through my synaptic paths, I sit there staring at it slack-jawed, evidencing the same level of understanding as a shrimp looking at a nuclear submarine.

The fun part about what I do is that every little thing is a puzzle to be solved. The frustrating thing about what I do is that every little thing is a puzzle to be solved. Whether each puzzle is fun or frustrating depends on a number of things, but what doesn't change is that each offers dozens of possible solutions, each having its own set of pros and cons. The beauty of the autonomous nature of my work when it doesn't involve the business-side folks is that I can pick the solution that best fits my mood. I can develop an elegant, artistic solution, or I can choose a brute force approach that throws a little more work to the end users. Today's case was one of those. I could spend hours figuring out how to restructure and import old legacy data into a new database model, or I could just build a screen that would let the end users import the old data a piece at a time as needed, applying the restructuring as they went.

I chose the second option.

It was already mid-evening by the time I got to the hangar to do a little work on the plane, but the weather was perfect for being out there. Just the right temperature, a pretty sky, and a light breeze. Truth be told, I probably should have gone flying. I chose to jump in with some easy RV-12 work instead. The first job on the page was to separate a couple of parts and rivet them to other parts. These little parts had given me some trouble when I was gathering the pieces from the store room to carry out to the remote site. The problem was simple: I couldn't find them! I finally consulted the inventory sheet and found that I couldn't find them there either. That means that they're probably in one of the bags, but I couldn't tell for sure since the bag inventory sheets stay at the hangar. There were also a couple of other larger parts that I couldn't find, but they were further down the page so I decided to worry about them later.  That turned out to be a good decision - I found them out at the hangar.

It was one of those parts that I installed early because it was much easier than it would have been now. I just failed to mark the step in the manual to remind myself. Typical POMOM*

I pulled the little parts out of the bag and riveted them to the bigger parts.

The bigger parts each get riveted to the fuselage using eight of the non-standard LP3-5 rivets.

Oh, remember the mystery holes from yesterday that looked like they should get a rivet installed but the plans didn't say to? Those turned out to be for use with the optional lighting kit. I'm not 100% decided on whether or not I'm going to install the lights, but I'm going to leave the holes open just in case. I mention it now because I no sooner solved that mystery than I found a new one. The posts that get installed with eight rivets have (wait for it....) ten holes.

Those supports will, amongst other things, support the arm rests. Van's left a little busy work on the arm rests; a small area of metal has to be cut out. Just to twist the knife a little, the arm rests are too long to let the band saw get a clean line on the areas that need to be cut out, so some clean up with a small file is required.

As I was deburring the arm rests, I noticed that one of the flanges on the end of each seemed to have been damaged in shipping. It turns out that one should resist the impulse to straighten them out.

Van's, in their typical inimitable style of doing nice things for us right after sticking us with a piece of busy work they could have done for us at the factory, put that bend there so that the part would fit better once installed.

* Problem Of My Own Making

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