Some Things Get Resolved Very Well

Back in early September, I wrote about how I wasn’t keeping up with my original job which I’m now doing on a part-time basis, specifically for one long-standing client. After giving the situation much thought and consulting with the Queen of Sheba, I decided to contract out the work. Contracts to implement the new arrangement were signed on October 1st and the contract worker is working out magnificently. In fact, I realized the other day that I don’t even look anymore at the e-mails I still receive and from which I used to extract material for posting, for I know it’s being taken care of …and very well at that.

But there’s always someone, it seems, who’s intent on pissing in everyone else’s corn flakes. When someone in particular pissed once too many time in mine, I finally decided to get at her and force an admission that we’re having trouble getting along instead of pretending that nothing’s wrong and letting the bad feelings continue to fester. The status quo had become dysfunctional, so if the worse that comes out of this is that we’re not to deal with each other directly, then the situation will not have worsened since it couldn’t get much worse. Interestingly, I’ve found out that I’m not alone to find it difficult to work with her, which is saying a lot because I usually work well with just about anybody. But that could be because I’ve had the good luck of working with industrious, competent people — qualities I appreciate.

There’s still a lot of work on my plate that I can’t contract out; however, this first contract will serve as a great experiment. I’m sure some things will need to be fine tuned as we go along, but this is the perfect time to experiment given my current financial situation which allows me not to rely exclusively on my original job for income.

Cranky for Its Own Sake?

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I’ve been finding that there’s a lot of crankiness in the air lately. Whether we’re talking about news columnists, my day-job clients or people in general, there seems to be an inclination to look at or think of the negative first, or to dismiss things as irrelevant or bothersome. It seems people’s fuses are short, although, most of the time, there’s not much consequence to the blowouts other than a few stray sparks.

I started thinking about this a short while back after reading back to back two rather cranky columns on the CBC News website: one by Rex Murphy, who admittedly is no font of joviality, and another one by a columnist I forget. In the former, Rex was going on about the self-importance yet hypocrisy of celebrities, citing Madonna’s adoption of an African child and Bono’s move of his production company to the tax-friendlier Netherlands. It’s not that I disagreed with Rex, but it’s his expository manner that brought me to reflect on how we collectively seem bent on transforming every bit of news into bad news. Of course, all of us, if we could rule every action taken anywhere in the world, would make it so that everything would receive full consensus and not even a hint of reproach. In a later column, Rex attempted to minimize the significance and importance of the federal Conservative government’s flip-flop on taxing income trusts by pointing to the thousand of Newfoundlanders who lined up at a job fair last week in the hope of applying for a job in oil-rich Alberta — in other words, people who rely on income trust have the luxury of whining while many of his Newfie compatriots haven’t the work to even consider the finer points of income trusts.

Similarly, as I mentioned in a previous post, many are those here in the Halifax area who find Nova Scotia Power’s “salt explanation” of the recent sporadic power failures hard to believe. And predictably, the CTV regional news found a mother with an infant to speak about the inconvenience of it all. I mean, of course it’s inconvenient and several were late for work the next day because their alarm clock got screwed up. But I guess I’m one of those odd people who marvels at how the millions of components that comprise the world we live in somehow manage to work in unison most of the time. It’s as though we expect perfection from everything and everyone, except possibly ourselves.

To be honest, I’m not sure where I’m going with this post, nor what inspired it. Maybe I’m projecting: I’m the one who’s cranky these days but I don’t want to admit it. Recall that I did speak of a sense of restlessness upon returning from vacation three weeks ago. And that’s not to be confused with unhappiness, for really I have nothing to complain in that department.

It’s Madness and Maddening!

One of my original-job clients recently asked me about a feature it would like to have within the content management system I’ve been building for the last four years. It’s a really good idea that I could see my other clients finding useful: whenever people who have access to the website’s extranet change their profile, the extranet manager should receive some kind of e-mail notification. Closely related to that would be a sign-in log, which my CMS already tabulates but on which it doesn’t report yet since I haven’t had the time to implement that feature.

As I was giving some thought to what my acronym-crazy day job would call a SCR (i.e., Suggested Change Request), I determine that the feature should be CMS-side rather than website-side and began working on an interface to integrate the feature into the CMS. I quickly came to the conclusion that it would be better to make this feature as customizable as possible, thus allowing the manager of users to determine the frequency and the format of mail reports, as well as giving the manager the ability to generate quick reports on the fly. Therefore I worked on the presentation of how managers would configure their reports and mapped out on paper the database end of things. While working on the former, I found a JavaScript function that would change the subsequent pulldowns based on the radio button the manager chooses. And then I got to thinking about how this same Javascript function would be helpful in an existing website-side query form in the extranet module.

To make a long story short, the JavaScript ceased to work on that website-side form. At first I wondered if it was because the script and the pulldown options were being dynamically generated, for when I copied and saved the generated source code as a static file, it did work. I compared every line, every colon, every quotation mark on both the static and dynamic version, but couldn’t see a difference. Then I thought that perhaps the site template was the culprit (an accidentally forgotten close DIV, perhaps?), but everything was perfectly balanced. I removed section after section of code from the version that didn’t work, but still no go. Then finally, for whatever reason, I thought of viewing and comparing the two pages of static code through Internet Explorer 6 instead of Firefox, and lo and behold: both worked fine in IE! Needless to say, I was shocked given how normally IE is the “trouble browser.”

That’s when I noticed one difference in a place I take for granted to the point of not looking at it: the DOCTYPE declaration at the top of the document. It was incomplete in the version that worked but correct in the version that didn’t. I replicated it in the version that didn’t work as it appeared in the version that worked, and then looked at it through Firefox: my jaw dropped as I noticed the JavaScript now worked.

Now there’s a dilemma! If I respect standards compliance with regard to the DOCTYPE declaration, my script won’t work in Firefox, which normally is a gazillion times more compliant than IE. So straying from compliance for Firefox and Netscape is out of the question. Therefore, I looked at what I wanted to accomplish from a different angle and implemented a different script and navigational concept that works just as well and requires the same amount of work on the server side. In fact, I just had an idea — it’s always good to “sleep on it” — that would streamline the required database querying, so I’ll look into that later today. I could very well leave it as is, based on the saying that it’s good enough for the boys I go out with. But I tend to think that if I don’t do something right the first time, it’s going to come back to bite you in the ass eventually, so might as well… even if that means taking longer to reach the finish line.

Two Trips Home in a Week?

Here I went for months without going to Moncton for a weekend because my two jobs kept me too busy, and now I’m looking at going to New Brunswick twice in a few days.

Some of you may remember my aMMusing co-blogger, Poupoune. Well, she called me last night to tell me that her mother had passed away just a few hours before. She had been frail for many years, and two years ago Poupoune’s family thought they were going to lose her then, but she rebound (relatively) …until last Wednesday when she had a serious heart attack from which doctors gave her less than a 10 percent chance of recovering. All her children were by her side when she died around 8:45 last night. I’ll be attending the funeral in northern New Brunswick, some three hours north of Moncton, if it occurs on Tuesday and I get permission from my day job to take the day off, but if it’s any other day this week, I’m afraid I won’t be able to go because I have commitments from which I can’t back away unless it were an immediate family member. At any rate, I should be hearing back from Poupone sometime today, at which time I’ll find out what her family wishes are with regard to flowers versus donations.

Meanwhile — and on a much happier note — I was already slated to go to Moncton this coming weekend for what’s being dubbed an “Ability Club reunion.” Back in 1981, which was the UN’s International Year of the Disabled, my oldest (in terms of years known) friend The Quad co-founded a social and activist group for the physically disabled community of Moncton. I was right there by his side through it all, even serving on the executive one year at the tender age of 16.

As difficult as it may be to imagine today, back then, the disabled were largely invisible and not integrated into society as they are now, with a few exceptions like The Quad and his Club co-founder who were always out and about. What’s more, lack of awareness back then was such that it was assumed that someone with a physical disability was also mentally challenged.

The genesis of the Club was a well-intentioned activity for disabled persons organized by the city. The eventual Club’s co-founder and president, who was a trained social worker, was rightly insulted and pissed off at the event when she was given crayons and a pair of scissors to make Valentines. However, that event is where she met The Quad, and within days they started the Ability Club.

The Club instantly grew to become one of the most active and high-profile volunteer community groups in the city. Within months of being formed, the Club entered and won first prize in what was known back then as the “Subway Paint-In.” There’s an old concrete train overpass in Moncton’s downtown, the pillars of which served as large canvasses. In the early summer through the 1970s and ’80s, the city closed off the subway to allow groups to paint their entry on the year’s designated theme, which of course was the IYD in 1981. The Club’s entry consisted of a group of people, including one in a wheelchair, all of them reading except one. So the captions read, “Q.: One of these people is not like the others,” and at the bottom, “A: The lady in the back in not reading.”

Anyway, one of those who was involved in the Club had the idea of holding a reunion on the 11th. Among the attendees will be BeeGoddessC, The Quad, and possibly a freshly minted lawyer at the time who is now a sitting judge. In some cases, I haven’t seen some of these people in 23 years, so it’ll be quite the gathering.

The rest of the weekend, I’ll spend getting Junior’s winter tires installed and spend as much time as I can with Poupoune if she’s back from northern New Brunswick. I’m not sure when my next trip to Moncton will be; I know that my mother is planning to visit my sister in Ottawa again this year over Christmas, plus I have to work between Christmas and New Year’s. And really, I’m not crazy about driving in the winter unless it’s in day light, and even there…

Addendum: I just heard from Poupoune and the funeral will be on Wednesday at the soonest, so I won’t be going.