I Hate Programming

I’m a professional programmer, developer, coder, computer nerd; so I don’t actually hate writing code.  But coding is the last thing I want to do to solve a problem.  Here is why: 1) Coding is expensive.  You’re asking someone to invent something for you.  It takes a lot of skill, research, and time to get the super-technical solution right.  Sometimes it’s the right thing to do, and you can make some amazing magic happen.  But without some serious planning, you can burn a lot of expensive time and energy when another (existing) solution would work as well. 2) There are a lot of great solutions that do 90-100% of what you want.  I use WordPress for my personal blog.  I’ve implemented the same solution for a good number of friends and private clients over the years.  It’s a good solution with good plugins.  I’ve implemented Sitecore as a solution, a number of the “nuke” platforms…  I *can* write a custom solution for each new situation, or I can be smart and re-use some of the great tools that already exist. 3) Sometimes the problem isn’t the computer.  Every business is unique, but every business is the same too.  That goes for people and the things they want to do as well.  What might come across as a shortcoming in the technology might actually be a shortcoming in your understanding.  Work to understand first.  If good tools and well-understood processes don’t help you, then invent something...

Final Prep for My House Warming

I’m having a house warming party this weekend.  You should come.  But the real reason for this post is to gather together some of the photos and captions I’ve posted on facebook so that I have them here. Back to the party: my objective was to have the house ready for guests by the time guests arrive.  Not after.  It’s fun to work toward a good goal.  In this case, “ready” meant putting doors and knobs everywhere you’d expect, no holes where youngsters might fall and die, and adequate tables for food and booze.  Getting my backdoor puzzled back into shape was the last big goal before the show, and this post is about that. I have a complete back door now.  My original back door was cut three inches too short and left in a puddle in the basement to rot. When I moved in, I found old doors everywhere, so I put them up, even if they were incomplete, rotting, or had profane poetry on them.  In order to slow the travel of the wind through my house, I pulled this original door out of the basement and stuffed towels under it. The wood shavings on the floor are from hanging and fitting another door just a few feet away.  After riding out the winter with a layer of towels at the bottom, I got to work restoring it. Holes plugged, rot treated or cut off, new bottom created from pieces of another rotted door. Most of the bottom was rotten, but especially the rails (side boards), where the rot extended almost 2 inches up the (already...

On Roofs, Loved Ones, and Other Things We Take for Granted

You usually don’t notice the condition of your roof until there’s a problem.  In my case, the problem was that it was raining in my kitchen.  And it’s still raining on my front porch, but that will be addressed in the next week or so.  Anyone who knows much about houses knows that a little water you see means there’s a lot of water you don’t.  And on an old wooden structure such as my house, that means rot. My house, being a big house, has a big roof.  But, being an old house, it also has different sections of roof that aren’t connected to other parts of roof.  The second story roof isn’t connected to the porch roof, which bumps out from the first floor.  The kitchen bumps out of the back, and it has its own roof, and the garage is detached.  So, four roofs, each in poor condition, and each in poor condition in its own way.  Some of it was replaced properly, probably 30 years ago or more, and other sections were repaired at that time, and may be 50 years old.  All of it leaks, or leaked before my roofer Tony got to it. Over the years, the previous owners did the minimum to keep the roof on the house, or to do any repairs whatsoever.  The place had been chopped into 5 apartments, one of them a rooming house.  That means plumbing for five kitchens and six bathrooms: that’s a lot of water and potential leaks.  It was designed to maximize profit, at the cost of maintenance, at the cost of honoring what...

Know Your Tools

As a programmer and developer, I spend a lot of time thinking about tools.  Some tools are things like compilers, coding IDEs, or inspectors.  But other tools include things like a pen and paper for notes, stackoverflow for answers to questions, or samples of other people’s code for inspiration.  I’m currently renovating a house, and the process is remarkably similar, with the same sorts of tool-based musings.  A friend gave me some masonry tools that had been out in her garage, and my dad gave me a book he used a lot when he built the houses I grew up in.  Good tools come in all shapes and sorts. I had a conversation with a coworker recently where we were designing the moving parts of a REST API.  We got to talking about one approach versus the other.  His approach was to formalize everything so that our tools could work with the program in a very tightly-bound manner and in theory save us time.  My approach was to use the strength of the framework underneath to provide what we needed and leave things fairly simple so the syntax would be expressive.   The downside of his approach in that case was that we would have to change the output type, in essence change the product to fit the tools.  The upshot of mine is that we would have to write a bit more code by hand, but it would be easier to understand the whole picture be reading the code.  Our two approaches were at philosophical odds: rely on the intelligence of the human beings or rely on the intelligence...

Mostly Eye-Candy

Here are some recent photos of my house project: I rescued a door from one of the local junk stores, stripped the paint, put a new period-correct finish on it, replaced the glass, and discovered that I have the wrong sized hinges. I found a cedar chest at a different junk store for $30. The finish was in terrible shape, but the rest was in very good shape. After some harsh chemicals and harsh language, the bad finish is off, the stains are bleached out, and it’s ready for a coat of poly. A friend found this table and six chairs at “the ultimate garage sale” for less than $200. It needs some finish work like the cedar chest, but is still in amazing shape for the price. I’ve been up on the roof a lot lately- the roofers are progressing slowly against uncooperative weather. But I’ve gotten a chance to evaluate the condition of the chimneys, and they were re-tiled within the last 20 years or so, judging from the materials. That means it’s safe to have a fire. So I did. And drank the beer. Another antique/junk store find was this deco bed frame for the guest room. It was $72, so my inner cheapskate is rejoicing a lot for this. Speaking of the roof, here’s a shot from the top of the world. This side is finished, and the crew is blowing insulation into the attic today. Hurray for...