The Unofficial Story Of My Bathtub.

08/11/09If this story reminds you of anything, I apologize. I'm only here to tell the unofficial story of my bathtub; any parallels you draw are your own.

Maybe it was allergies. Maybe it is some form of exotic malady I'm fighting off. For whatever reason, I felt the need to soak in warm water for a period of time and relax, then shower.

I filled the tub to an acceptable level. That's about roughly 4 inches below the top of the tub - I'm aware of Archimedes Principle.

As I hopped in the first sign of idiocy hit me. The overflow drain kicked in as soon as I got in. Now, before you think I'm some Goliath of a human being - I admit, I have pounds that I'd gladly send to a hungry family somewhere - I'm 5'3" and weigh in the high 160s. Maybe mid 170s, but this is fiction, so what do you care. I have big bones. Get over it. The point is, I'm not huge. In a device designed to allow people of average height and size (read: larger than myself), I should not get in and have the overflow drain kick in. So I decided to see how else it didn't fit my dimensions, much to the amusement of the supervising dog.

I sat up straight, and my feet touched the other end of the tub. Clearly, this tub was designed for people smaller than myself to luxuriate in. I flipped over, verifying - bending my knees and stretching my length out so I could get my face in the water. I barely got to do that. By this time, the overflow drain plug had stopped, so I flipped back over and pressed my size 8 1/2 feet to the other end where my toes were completely out of the water.

This bathtub was not designed for humans. It was designed for something else. And thus, I pen the unofficial story.

Invention Level/Engineering.

Our story starts with someone who wanted to kill kittens - by drowning. So they created this device, but were worried about children drowning when using the device. Her attorney (what, it can't be a her?) told her that she might get sued if a child drown while drowning kittens, so she put in an overflow drain as a safety device.

She patented it through her attorney, then had a few built to show off. She showed it to a person in marketing, and the marketing lady said, "Hey. This is a great solution for apartment and hotel bathtubs!"

The inventor grimaces. "That's not what it's made for. It's for drowning kittens!"

The marketing person grimaces, but goes out and does marketing studies with focus groups and comes back with results that the inventor/engineer cannot dispute. People like kittens. In fact, they like kittens so much they built an Internet around them. Bathing, on the other hand, was a luxurious idea that everyone wanted available though few would actually use. "We'll throw a shower on top", she said, "And you'll make money hand over fist!"

The inventor/engineer unhappily agreed. The marketer went out and wrote a brilliant ad, telling people how nice it would be to soak in water after a hard day. Women were clamoring for a nice way to sit while shaving legs (I think. I don't know much about it). Men were clamoring because women were clamoring because, for some reason, shaved legs were great but stubbly legs were evil.

And that's the story of the bathtub. Designed for drowning kittens, sold as a device to immerse yourself in while getting clean in dirty water, it did nothing but... make money for an engineer that wouldn't stick to her guns and a marketer who didn't really care if you could fit in the bathtub with more than a thimble full of water.

As I said, if this sounds like anything else, that's on you. This is the unofficial story of my bathtub.

The Trouble With Content Management Systems <RANT>

Technology is stuff that doesn't work yetBy the way, Douglas Adams quoted Bran Ferren in that image. No kidding.

Drupal. Wordpress. Joomla. Etc. These are content management systems - some even calling themselves frameworks now - that have two things in common: They have become exceedingly powerful at dealing with complicated jobs while becoming a severe pain in the ass for simple things.

Developers will tell you all sorts of things about how they're trying to solve the world's problems - because everyone, everywhere, likes to think that they are contributing to the world in a meaningful way. Some do.

But nowhere under any definition of making things better is making things a pain in the ass. It seems every time I want to write something, I have to update something on the site(s) I write on because a group of developers trying to be everything to everyone are out there making things more complex so that their jobs become more simple. Recently, before the job I have now, someone showed me this large dataset that they wanted to import into Drupal 7.

It's a nightmare of database abstraction to do an import now (yes, even with the modules) because they put training wheels on everything so the less skilled can have someone else's code do the heavy lifting. Years ago, I imported about a terabyte of data into Drupal 5 with some PHP scripts that took me half a day to write - data that, by the way, is still being used by British Petroleum to this day. It was simple enough to do if you knew how to write code and understood how to interact with a database instead of someone's stab at an abstracted framework to try to do everything for everyone... in the enterprise. And really, it sucks the byte fantastic. You can try to sell me on the hooks, the framework, etc., but the average person just wants stuff to work. They don't want to be impressed with your framework.

Drupal doesn't have the monopoly on this. I've seen it with other CMS's over the years. The KISS principle went out the window some time ago, and really, it's become exhausting. Sure, I write code; it does not mean that I want to update a bunch of stuff every time I want to write something. It does not mean that I want to have to figure out how to do things that were rather simple years ago.

There is a need for keeping things simple. Sure, we all know that the money in any projects are at the enterprise level, and we know that world domination requires money. I just don't think users, and even developers who don't want to develop when using (me) should have to suffer for it.

Yeah, it's a rant with weak points that some geeks can spend time refuting. Sure, I could spend time refuting the refutes. Sure, we can make it into a religious war akin to eMacs vs. VIM.

But it's just technology. I work with tech, have worked with tech longer than the internet has been around. I've seen entire languages come and go, hardware platforms come and go. I've seen more versions of Windows than you can find at Home Depot (and really, GEM Desktop was better back in the day). I've played with Microsoft's Speech SDK in this millenia and can report it's not much better than the Amiga's speech synthesizer in the late 80s.

The one thing outdated frameworks, languages and other tech have in common is lack of adoption or complete abandonment. I kind of see present content management systems going that way because in trying to go enterprise, they abandon their base while depending on developers to be their evangelists in an increasing economy of distaste with the products available.

KISS. Add modules for the enterprise. Some of us don't want to spend our weekends cleaning up after an overly abstracted kluge of features. If your UX doesn't involve updates and configurability, you'll spend a lot of time learning the lessons Linux is still learning. More options = bad.

Self vs Employed

weekendThe grass is always greener on the other side, typically because of the amount of manure on the other side. There are a lot of people out there dreaming of working for themselves, as well they should. There's a lot of manure. There are a lot of rewards. And there's a hell of a lot of work that, even in a good economy, doesn't always pay off.

Since I started at the new job, I haven't been writing as much. In fact I haven't written much at all because when I get down time, I do something that seems quite strange after years of working for myself.

I relax.

In talking with another co-worker with a similar (but not exactly the same) background, he described the same thing. The very idea that there is contiguous time where we know we can decompress is... a luxury.

In even accepting the position at Emergency Communications Network, it took me days to get out of what I call 'hustling' mode - where out of habit, I was always checking networks for what would be coming next. Staying on top of the arrays of technologies I'm familiar with also takes a lot - where, since you don't know what the next opportunity is, you're constantly staying on top of a diverse range of technologies where you'll the next contract will likely only use 3% of what you research. Of course, one keeps researching with a more permanent position, but it's nowhere near as pressing.

And weekends. A luxury. Sitting here, listening to Offspring while writing this. Waking up late, taking the dog for a walk, hopping over to a local spot for breakfast and deciding not to decide what to do next. Reading up a little on this and that, and griping over a whole slew of things you need to do just to write a blog entry (next entry).

It's a nice change to be able to have work and relaxation separate. I'm sure that my side projects will warm up again, but for now...

Yeah. I dig this.