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March 28, 2005

Work Projects At Home

So what is the boundary between work projects and home projects? This past weekend (and tonight), I’ve been working on a piece of C++ code that will be used to do some specialized data lookups / interpolation at work. Why in the world should I be doing this, when there are other personal projects that I could be doing? (These questions sound like they might be rhetorical devices, and I’d use it as a point to jump into some philosophical allocution that emphasizes the virtue of work. While I certainly think that work is virtuous, there are lots of ways of being productive, and I am honestly trying to figure out if I should do things like this.)

There are some good reasons why I shouldn’t do work like this at home. First, I won’t be compensated for any extra time spent on this project. More: This new library routine is so specialized that there is a good chance that it won’t come to the attention of very many others (so it probably would have a very limited effect on my future compensation). There’s even a chance that some rivals will dislike the approach that I took, and might criticize me for actually identifying the need and finding a solution (i.e. actually doing something). On a personal level, there are lots of other interesting personal projects that I could be undertaking (such as the herb garden, general house maintenance, little science projects, plotting trips with my girlfriend, etc). My free time is so limited that I might not be able to work on those much in the near future. A new quarter’s worth of classes will begin next week (“Venture Capital And Private Equity” and “Fixed Income Securities”), and I already have homework.

On the other hand, there are good reasons to do this particular project. First and foremost, it is an interesting puzzle. I haven’t really coded anything new in a while, but rather have been mostly doing planning / requirements, design, documentation, training, and some maintenance. It is nice to build something from scratch. The problem has been around for a while, and I’ve been mulling over solutions for a long time. Also, it will make life a little easier for some (internal) customers at work, which may make life a little easier for me. It is easy to work on this project, as I have all of the requisite materials on hand (computer, compilers, test data to manipulate).

Maybe those observations lead to a reasonable rule-of-thumb. This is my personal time, so all value judgments should be from a personal perspective. (Questions of work-benefit are irrelevant.) Do I (personally) benefit from playing around with this project on my free time? Yes, as this sort of computer programming is like a hobby. It may be a bit surprising that this project has bubbled up to the top of the list of my personal projects, but it has, so I’ll run with it. When the puzzle finally comes together in my mind, and the rest is just cleanup / grunt work, I’ll put it aside and move on to my next personal project.

March 27, 2005

Easter Weekend

It seems appropriate to celebrate the springtime, as the fertile earth brings forth a new growth. Elizabeth and I enjoyed a warm and sunny LA weekend by walking through our neighborhood, driving on Pacific Coast Highway, and cooking a delicious dinner. Yes, there are more food pictures attached.
Food for the dinner.
Before we eat.
The full plate. Clockwise (from the top): Macaroni and cheese, tabouleh salad, mixed greens with tomato and shallot in a mustard viniagrette, salmon florentine (courtesy of Whole Foods).
The chef.
Thousands of dollars worth of orthodontia attacking a cherry pie. Apparently, the photographette was laughing too hard to keep the camera steady.
Sundeck on top of our townhouse. Currently empty, it is a potential location for an herb garden. This is a view of the southeast corner of the little deck.

Spring is for planting. We are considering putting in an herb garden (as alluded to in the picture above), as it seems easy enough (from the perspective of "keeping plants alive") and would provide a fresh of taste in our meals. It would be nice to use the sundeck space, as it is currently wasted. The two biggest risks (I cannot help think like a program manager) are the discipline of maintenance (which I rate the likelyhood as "yellow" and a severity as "red") and the danger of the intense direct sunlight damaging the plants ("yellow"likelyhood and "yellow" severity).

Some useful sites seem to be BBC's directions for a potted herb garden, a content-rich set of questions and answers at Recipe Goldmine, and maybe the DIY network.

March 06, 2005

Weekend Fix-Its

There were three things that needed fixing this weekend. Hopefully, all of the tasks were accomplished.

First, I needed to replace the fluorescent light in my office. I had tried replacing the bulbs, but that didn’t work (and the new bulbs worked in a different fixture). So, I decided to replace the ballast and the lapholders. The ballast was fairly inexpensive, and the trick was just to match the same voltage and power settings as the previous. The installation had a couple of hiccups: The wires from the new ballast were shorter than the old ballast, so I had to use pieces from the old wires to reach all of the way to the lapholders. I set the wires up so that I do not have to replace the lampholders if I replace the ballast. Also, I accidentally mis-connected one of the lapholders, so the light would not start at first. After talking with my dad, and double-checking the connections, the problem was solved. I am now bathed in the cool bright light.

Second, my stupid heavy laptop stopped booting. This was a major problem, as there was some critical data on that machine. Interestingly enough, Sony’s support page does not even recognize that my laptop (a Sony Vaio PCG-GRT150 according to the box) exists. I did find some very helpful advise on the Hardware Analysis Forum which seems to indicate that there are thermal issues in the RAM chip bay. After following some of the directions in the post, and leaving the RAM access panel open (for improved heat flow), it seems to work okay. Backups were made. I plan on implementing some sort of network folder redirection, as discussed here and here, to avoid the fear of lost information.

Third, MovableType and MT-Blacklist seems to handle comment spam fairly well, especially in the newer versions, due to the comment moderation feature. However, an increased number of bastards are starting to use Trackback as a mechanism for spamming sites, and that gets put onto the blog immediately. No good. I’ve installed jayseae’s MT-Moderate, which will hopefully take care of some of this problem.