Monday, January 15, 2007

Beware the Vengeful Ghost of Doctor King!

Oddly enough, for a fairly liberal company in a quite liberal region in a generally liberal state, we don't observe Martin Luther King Day at my office. Instead we observe the holiday next month for dead white Presidents.

I came into work today a little before my standard 7AM starting time. I did my normal Monday tasks: submitting last week's timesheet, previewing my calendar, going through my email. I figured today would probably be a pretty quiet day - a major client does take the day off, and most of my own projects are well on schedule.

I quickly found out that our bug-tracking database was down. That provided a slight hiccup; we use this to track a lot of assignments, so until it came back up I wouldn't be receiving additional bugs to fix. Later on I found out that our version control repository was down as well. This was an even bigger hiccup, since it meant I couldn't check out or commit any code.

Other people began trickling in around 9AM. While I have other things to keep myself productive, some of them don't, so they put out the distress call for repairing these two crucial pieces of software. One received a recommendation for the standard Microsoft fix: turn the router off and then back on again. They dutifully followed orders, then "poof"! The entire network connection went down.

It was around this point that I started to think that maybe someone was sending us a message. Maybe we'd be wise to heed it and take off MLK day next year.

It's also pretty surprising just how much of our work is dependent on our networked tools. On the surface, the bulk of what I do should be possible without any network connection: all the code is locally on my hard drive, and writing code is the core of my job. But there are many unexpected ways in which I run into roadblocks. I can't simulate certain events, because they require receiving data from the network. I can't check the design for certain components, because they're stored on our wiki. I can't ask a question of our guy in Chicago, because he's only reachable on AIM.

It's not all bad, though. Situations like this are a perfect excuse to do the stuff I always want to do but never seem to have time for: clear out my inbox. Delete unwanted files. Sort my desk drawers. All sorts of things that will provide a little extra efficiency down the road.

The network finally came back up around noon. All in all, not bad... it was a good way to break up the day and force myself to get to some stuff, while still giving me enough time to feel like everything that needed to be done, got done.

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