October 22nd, 2002


Intestines have muscles

I had my follow-up visit with my doctor today. A limited set of thoughts regarding this.

All the blood tests showed normal levels of everything they tested for. No h. pylori bacteria, so probably no ulcer. Blood pressure is good. Amylase levels okay. No gall stones or kidney stones in the ultra-sound. So the doctor suggested that I fill a prescription for an anti-spasm medication and if it happens again, take the medication. Apparently the intestines have a muscle wall around them. I didn't know this. I kind of assumed that food moved through your system because you stuff more food into yourself and it pushed the older more digested food further down the digestive system. Apparently the digestive system can move stuff along itself. Anyway, his theory is something is triggering occasional muscle spasms in that muscle, which ends up feeling like extremely painful cramping to me. If the medication helps, then his theory is vindicated.

Then he asked me if I knew anything about networking and could I tell him why he couldn't make his two computers talk to each other over the network in the house he just bought. I do know some, but as I told him, diagnosing networking problems without seeing the network is a lot like trying to diagnose a person's illness over the phone. I was able to tell him that it probably isn't hardware, given the description he gave me. But what was running through my mind is... WHY DOES EVERYONE ASSUME THIS ADVICE CAN BE GOTTEN FOR FREE? He wouldn't give free medical advice to a waiter that had just served him his dinner. But as soon as somoene hears you know computers.... boom!... they hit you up to explain something or fix something.


Pacific Simulation

After all the interviews on Monday, I drove over to Moscow to stop in at the place I worked the first three years after college, Pacific Simulation. They are the only place still alive of all my recent employers. Mary Gregory was just getting in her car when I pulled in and blocked her. It took her a moment to recognize me. I stopped in and said "hi" to Bill. He acted happy to see me, but I think he still is pretty bitter over me quitting 4½ years ago. Sorry Bill, I am making over double what you were paying me then. Even though I would be running the software development there, you would still be calling the shots. At Expedia, I get more say in the work I do, even though I am pretty low on the totem pole (although I did get added to the "Expedia Managers" email alias today!). I think Bill secretly hopes that I will fail and come crawling back to work for him. It might happen, but not in 2002.

Not much to this entry. It's mostly a reminder to me of how glad I am to be working where I am.

ALthough to mollify my readers, I'll relate a story from when I first started working at PacSim in 1995. My first job was to write a program called "Event Profiler." Basically, it allowed an engineer (such as Bill) to enter in text equations, and the event profiler would evaluate the equation against the some values in a database record, and place the result in another column in a new database. Except there were all sorts of fancy functions we linked to that did factor network analysis. Nothing too difficult. Take an "off the shelf" equation parser that Bill had purchased (it was crap), pull out some numbers out of Bill's proprietary database format, evaluate the equation against the numbers using the parser, and get your result.

Oh, did I say proprietary database format? Write that part down, cause it's important to the story.

The first client for this little dealy-bob was the Potlatch Corporation. I drove down to Potlatch in Lewiston and installed the software on a Thursday. I then let it run against a live database. I had tested it against some static databases in the office, but Lewiston was continuously collecting new data from throughout the paper mill.

After an hour or so, I looked at the database that had the new, generated valued produced by my Event Profiler using Bill's database viewing program that he (a chemical engineer with software aspirations) had written. Everything looked good. I shut off the monitor and drove back to Moscow.

Monday morning, I get a call from Bill. He is in Lewiston. He screams and yells at me over the phone. "I may not have written as pretty of a program, but it would have worked!" He told me to get down there and fix the problem. I was frightened. My first real job and I had screwed it up 4 weeks into my stint. Plus, I didn't know what the problem was and I sure as hell wasn't going to be able to recompile it on site if I knew what was wrong.

I drove down to Lewiston as fast as I could without getting a ticket. When I get there, Bill is in a meeting somewhere in the bowels of the plant. I made my way back to the closet they called a server room. I looked at the monitor. Bill had the database viewer opened on the input database. I suspect he was trying to decipher what the calculated values were going to be from the input. I switched it to the output database. All the proper calculated values were there! Everything was working perfectly. Exactly as it was supposed to do.

I sat there and pondered for 10 minutes what could have gone wrong, and then I had it! The database viewing program that Bill wrote didn't refresh itself. Bill had arrived in the morning, turned on the monitor, and looked at the database viewer I had left open 4 days earlier, with only one hour's worth of results produced. He immediately freaked and called me and yelled at me and threatened to fire me. Then he went back to the viewer and tried to figure out what went wrong by looking at the input data. I laughed.

Shortly thereafter, Bill entered the room with a cross look. I looked up and stated "Everything is here. Everything seems to be looking fine." He replied, "Oh." He was chagrined, and I think later he figured out what went wrong. He never did apologize for chewing me out over his own mistake though.