He emerges from the work cave….finally an update

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After many many hours at work I can finally find time for a proper update.

My project at work had a goal to be ready to ship (minus a little clean-up and cable testing) by the time I left for vacation. My date to leave was the 22nd, a Saturday, so the plan was to be ready by the end of the day the 21st.

This project was a lot of new complex controls, but not particularly new – no new theory, no new undefined behaviors, just a new way of doing things for us with some new hardware.

At one point a particular control network approach I had been trying to get fell through, so I had to re-ordered parts to make the signals discrete, and off I went working with my vendors to change things at the end of Nov / beginning of Dec. That was hectic to say the least, but in the end it simplified troubleshooting.

Thursday night the other Electrical working with me from the manufacturing side (I’m more of the engineering / development side of things, even though we cross paths quite often) discovered a really weird error. An odd thing where it seemed exactly like something we had seen before, which would lead us to believe a wiring mistake internal to the controller. But, it randomly corrected itself after about 15 minutes. And then after forgetting about the problem during the day because I was busy with conference calls and test reports for the customer as well as regression testing on the finishing touches of code, I could not reproduce the problem late in the day when I began working on it. This is odd because if it was the simple wiring error it would be easily reproduced.

So, very very late Friday night / Saturday morning, with great dissatisfaction, I had to recommend that my product not ship before the end of the year. This has implications on us hiring help for me in the next year because of some corporate politics, and will hurt one performance bonus I was offered earlier in the year, which means no new TV for me 🙁

I was coming home this last week after 11pm most nights and was very tired by the time it was all over at 2am on Saturday morning. But, I really appreciated the experience. I’ve learned a lot about vendor management, and really increased my understanding of the very fine and particular details of this aspect of our controls.

I’ve informed my boss that in January I will be only working 40 hours a week and no weekends, and then in February my time commitment is not likely to drastically increase. And this is not in any way conditional on how ‘important’ the upcoming projects are.

He’s respected that, said he completely understands and doesn’t expect more than that for a while, and has personally apologized to my wife at the Christmas party. Have I mentioned that this job is a huge improvement over my old one 🙂

So that is the plan going forward. A somewhat anti-climatic ending to a 5 month period of really long hours, but an end none-the less. I look forward to wrapping this project up, prepping for the second shipment in the product line, which should involve my time much less, and making this an easily re-produced, sell-able product. Also, I look forward to the future of this product because it will give us a lot more flexibility in the future, and hopefully fix some reliability and legacy issues that are appearing in our aging products.


After the end of my Friday at 2am on Saturday morning we decided there was no way we were getting out early on Saturday. That meant leaving at 2pm-ish for Mom and Dad’s.

I drove down to Mason City Iowa. It was terribly windy, and the gas mileage wasn’t great, and there was a winter advisory warning on a sign going into Iowa. So, I talked to the gas-station attendant and he said that going south things were looking better than they were in Mason City.

An hour or so later, after we decided it would be OK for Lauren to drive, we found out he had lied (probably inadvertently).

I was sleeping on and off as the wind got even worse, and started drifting the snow across the highway. Then the snow started coming down, and marred the visibility so we couldn’t tell what was drifting and what was falling.
About the time the snow really was starting to cover the road completely, I was just waking up again, and some jackass pulled out in front of us way too close, and started fishtailing as they couldn’t pick which lane to be in. Lauren tried to change lanes, at least twice, in an effort to avoid this stupid person, and in doing so our car started fishtailing. I grabbed the wheel and started steering against the fishtailing, and then as it got to going almost to 90 degrees I turned into the spin to try and get my traction back, and we did a 270 degree spin and went ass-end into the ditch.

Fortunately our power train wheels were on the shoulder, and we were only about a 3rd of the back end down into the ditch. With the help of the plow-man’s sand under the front tires, and our combined pushing, Lauren was able to drive the car out of the ditch. Then I drove for a while.

Let it be known, I drive fast relative to everyone else during abnormal driving conditions. Most of the time, this serves me very well.

This time, with a 40+ mph cross wind, it didn’t serve me so great after 2 hours. I was able to maintain a speed above 50 mph despite my perceiving the average speed to be 35 to 45ish. Most of the time I was able to go 60 to 75 when not passing someone. Going into Cedar Rapids, being on the outside of a curve which was going against the wind, I lost control of the car, and went nose-first into the median ditch. With the help of some kind people we were able to back the car out again.

When we hit Iowa City we had a great debate about whether we should go on. The weather was getting steadily worse while we were eating and having this discussion, until I couldn’t see going on even if we tried to move into Illinois to avoid the snowfall, which was only 2 more hours driving tops. So, we got a hotel, and watched the wind whip through the streets.

In the morning, up and off again. About 1pm, blown in the ditch again. This time, while driving much slower, and trying to be considerably more careful. We came over a ridge, the tree-line stopped, and a drift blowing over there, and there was a curve again against the wind. So the wind caught us just as the road went from dry to icy, and literally blew us right off the road.

This time we required a tow truck to get out.

I finished the stretch to Hannibal MO, about another 20 minutes. We ate lunch, and the roads were clear the rest of the way to O’Fallon. The rest of the trip went without incident.

The parents-in-law spent that day fighting re-directed flights, delayed flights, and canceled flights. The ended up arriving the next day in the early afternoon.

We read a story at the Christmas Eve service my Dad was in charge of, watched the Simpson’s movie with my brother Aaron, and went to sleep.


Christmas came, we ate some, and started unwrapping presents. I had a wonderful set of good things. The big highlights for friends to know are:
Guitar Hero 3 for the Wii
Mario Galaxy
Walter Payton Jersey,
Another copy of “Lamb: the Gospel according to Biff, Christ’s childhood pal”
Payton’s biography,
two more seasons of scrubs between Lauren and I,
and quite a few other good books.

Guitar Hero is a hit around the house. All the parents have played it some, and almost all the brothers and sisters have played as well.

So, all-in-all this has been a pretty wild ride for a while now with a lot of crazy ups and downs, and it looks like the year is ending on a great note, with much promise for the new year.

I hope to get back to some of my writing about the Church and Technology in the near future, and I have some big ideas I want to take the wraps off of sometime in ’08, which some of you might be interested in.