Things I won’t miss about That Horrible Gig

March 9, 2015

Once, I had a horrible gig. Because it was so bad, I wrote down this list, so that I would never forget how awful a gig can be–and, by contrast, how good I have it now.

To those who knew me then: I have changed names to avoid lawsuits, but if the shoe fits…

I have NOT changed names for tools, whose reputations precede them.

I am thankful that I have no more of this to deal with after I left That Horrible Gig (THG):

1. All-night deployments. (10 PM to 6 AM, baby.)
2. Lack of Systems Analysis by people who should have done it already.
3. Big boss blustering. (And thinking that he actually accomplished anything by it.)
4. VersionOne sucks. (And management abandoned JIRA, which is so much better.)
5. Even so, nobody uses VersionOne, so we lost critical details. All the time.
6. Email threads. (Lost critical details? Yep.)
7. “Waterfragile.” (I coined this term, but you can use it, too.)
8. Too many walls: the IT Paranoia Department, Linux Admins, Server Management Teams who don’t have root (seriously!).
9. Systems Analysts and Project Managers doing architecture.
10. One hotshot Junior Developer refactoring everything. (Beware coders who never push their changes until it’s a huge pile of commits.)
11. The best people leaving because THG doesn’t recognize/reward greatness.
12. Microsoft Lync overwriting my status update.
13. Management making crappy decisions.
14. Management not consulting the technical people who know better.
15. Monolithic legacy framework built by monkeys…in knickers.
16. Hiring people then…not training them.
17. Hiring crazy people. (Who drop off the face of the planet with hardware that contains copies of proprietary software. Until you sue them to get it back…maybe.)
18. Rootless installs, and…
19. Compiling packages, and…
20. Manually managing dependencies, because of…
21. So-called “Linux admins” who are scared of linux package managers.
22. Long-time employees laughing about having to miss holidays with family due to work deadlines. (Beware people who call themselves “crazy” all the time–they might be!)
23. Having to watch a server admin run manual commands that I give them, because I’m not allowed to run them myself.
24. Not having root access to all the servers I support.
25. All sudo access expires after 10 days max. (Just plain stupid.)
26. Thick accents that are hard for me to understand. (I’m not opposed to working with people from different linguistic backgrounds. But I got tired of fighting to understand people who just didn’t care if I understood them or not. It’s a real refresher to work with people who know how to communicate clearly–whatever language they use.)
27. Microsoft Lync’s sucky screensharing.
28. Contract renewals.
29. Reporting hours against projects that don’t match what I’m working on. (I was commanded to report my hours that way, because it made other numbers match in some report I never saw. I had to finally give up and do what they wanted. I hope they stop that particular shell game.)
30. A username that consists of a letter and 5 numbers. (Welcome to THG, “x12345″! Nothing says, “You’re replaceable,” like that kind of username.)
31. Trip reimbursement torture. (3 hours to file one trip reimbursement request. No joke.)
32. Staffing Agency often asking for hours worked because THG’s Sucky Time System doesn’t talk to Staffing Agency’s systems. (It’s an “IT” staffing agency, right?)
33. Too many layers, too little information sharing at a high level (aka, Chapter 5 Resources). (So many of the failings listed here are directly resultant from this one.)
34. Microsoft Lync dying and losing conversation history.
35. Bad data everywhere and nobody takes responsibility for fixing it.

There were a few positives that are worth mentioning:
1. My immediate supervisor watched out for me and trying to give me space to innovate.
2. There was one shining star on our team who learned and grew at an astounding rate; it was a joy to work with him and watch him take off.
3. Fat paychecks.

Was it worth it to leave? Absolutely. If this sounds like where you are, get out ASAP. Thank me later. :)


Wycliffe: a retrospective

November 23, 2013

An acquaintance asked me recently, “So, how did that whole Wycliffe thing work out?” I gave an answer off-the-cuff, but it really didn’t satisfy me. This is a better answer, I think.

There are still a lot of things about Wycliffe Bible Translators that I admire. I still find the stated mission to be compelling: to give people access to God’s Word in their heart language. (Have you read your Bible lately? In your own language?) I still like the people and admire their work ethic, humility and self-sacrificial service to God. I still have a lot of friends from my Wycliffe days. And, despite it having its own fair share of large-organization disfunctions, I still consider the overall organization to be a world-class exemplary organization. (And that opinion includes the entire “federation” of organizations involved in global Bible translation.)

So, what went wrong? Why are we (Andrea and I) not still serving with Wycliffe? After wrestling with this question for four years, it really comes down to this: For whatever reason, God in His sovereignty did not want us to continue.

Truly, Andrea and I had done our best. One afternoon in the summer of 2008, I finally came to the end. We had been living on about half of our budget for months. We had tried everything we knew to turn things around. We were worn out, emotionally and physically. I found myself outside in the back yard, unable to push the lawnmower one more step. (I didn’t know at the time, but I had contracted CMV and another virus at the same time.) During the next two weeks of doctor-prescribed bed rest, I realized that we could simply not go on any longer with the way things were. I had to say goodbye to the dream and let it go.

Beyond that, I really don’t know. But I’ve found that it’s OK to say, “I don’t know” and just trust that God does know. (And that bit of wisdom might be worth all the pain and heartache it took to learn.)

So, here’s the short answer: We would still be serving with Wycliffe, if we had had enough financial support; but God knew that, so he removed the financial support. And that’s OK.

Epilogue

Faith-based missions is two-sided: missionaries are supported by partners. We had great partners, who gave sacrificially and supported us not only financially, but emotionally and in prayer. In the large, they were (and still are) our family and friends. They “get” Bible translation, too. And they have been gracious all along as we launched, flew, and finally came in for a hard landing from the missionary flight. I will never feel like I have said it enough: Thank You.


2000 Honda Odyssey

July 25, 2013

So, I saw this thanks to Facebook friends. Here’s the original post…for as long as Craigslist lets it stay up. I’m copying it here, for–well–posterity, I guess.

van

So it’s come to this for you. Looking at used Odysseys on Craigslist. I was like you once. Thought I had given up on myself as we only had one child at the time. And there I was, certain that I was selling a piece of my soul. For what? So that I could take a child, a jumperoo and two bikes with me wherever I went? And to what end? Would it make me feel more like a man to know that my 4×8 sheets of plywood were staying dry in the back of my minivan? As it turns out. . ..yes. Yes it would.

Questions you may have about our sweet ride.

1. How many miles of pure adrenaline have you put on this baby? A: 100,000. Total is has 152,000. All heart pounding.

2. Am I giving up on myself if I drive a minivan? A: Yeah. But its not forever and you have a lot of crap to drive around and you’re tired of playing Tetris to fit everything in the car. I gave up on myself for years. 8 glorious years of transporting every last piece of baby gear, soccer gear, bikes, plywood and random stuff my wife made me bring.

3. When you say “smooth tranny” – we’re still talking about the van, yes? A: Yes. No tranny problems here. Never had a worry about it.

4. Will I need to get more friends to fill this thing like a party bus? A: No. You’re days of looking for friends are over. Friends come to you now. Why? Because you’re new nickname is Seven Passengers McGee. And everyone wants to take a ride with S.P. McGee.

5. Is there anything festive about your ride? A: You mean like a Christmas tree? You’re in luck friend. The dashboard on this car is filled with expensive and well thought out warning lights. While we’ve loved seeing the gas light come on from time to time, it carries a mere fraction of the thrill of the check engine light! Did you know what an O2 sensor was before you became an adult? After you learned, did you care? Well, as far as we can tell, its what makes the check engine light come on. And does not affect performance. So, it comes and goes and we leave it there like a little message that says – hey! The festive dash lights still work. But we can talk about that.

6. When you priced this van so low, were you thinking that you might have underpriced the cost of a dream come true? A: Yes. Yes I did.

7. Do you love new tire smell as much as I do? A: (single tear). That’s why this baby has new tires.

8. I get tired of whistling. Does this vehicle come equipped with some sort of music generating device? A: Yes. It plays one CD at a time. And is able to tune in to MULTIPLE radio stations. Eureka! Who comes up with this stuff?!!!

9. Is stopping important? A: Depends on how fast you want to get where you’re going. And this baby has never had a problem stopping. At the moment, however, it does like to do what I call a “celebrated stop”. It makes a bit of a squeal to say “We’re stopping! Hooray!” But let’s be honest here. I’m clearly a big deal. I don’t have time to be driving to Les Schwab and getting new brakes at this point in my life. Not when I have to mow the lawn. Refer to item #6.

10. The small dent in the passenger power sliding door. . ..is that included for free? A: You’re welcome.

11. I have a utility trailer in which I like to keep my mother in law during long drives. Does this come with a trailer hitch? A: Yes. What you tow behind it is up to you.

12. I feel like this Craigslist ad is unnecessarily long. Do you feel like you’ve taken up too much of my time? A: If you read the entire thing, that’s on you. You could be emailing right now to get a piece of this action and you are wasting time reading a pleonastic car ad such as this? (small sense of pride).

13. Did you have to look up the word pleonastic? A: Yes.

14. Did you have to sound it out? A: Just buy my [sic] van. It’s awesome. And it’s below blue book.

Email for details. Thanks – Chris


Good News for those in Sinking Boats

July 17, 2013

CAVEAT: This analogy isn’t perfect. And I don’t know if I’ve heard anything like this before, but please let me know if you have, so I can link to it.

We each start life in a boat, adrift on the sea. Sadly, our boats are leaky to start with (due to “Sin”, but that’s another conversation). Almost as soon as we are able to make our first choice, we start to poke holes in our boats (by committing sins). The holes make our boat start to sink, so we start bailing out the water (with good works). We think that if we bail fast enough, we’ll stay afloat…which seems like it could work, except at the same time–even while we bail–we are poking more holes.

The answer is not to stop bailing and meditate, as some religions suggest. And we really don’t have the ability to plug the holes, either–it’s just not how the boat works, though there are many people selling what they call “hole repair kits”. The answer is to get out of the leaky boat!

So, Captain Jesus pulls alongside in his leak-proof Ship. He extends a hand and invites us out of our leaky boats, into his leak-proof Ship. Here is where we make our most important choice: do we accept or reject his offer for assistance?

Atheists stop their ears, close their eyes, and say there is no offer for help. Agnostics say they can’t really tell if there is an offer, but that’s because they aren’t looking for it and instead are looking elsewhere (but I personally can’t figure out where). Some people have chosen not to accept the offer for help, and instead are busy bailing with their religious buckets (even “cultural Christians”), attempting to plug holes with faulty “hole repair kits”, or a zillion other activities which don’t address their sinking situation. Worse, some people have decided that they need to go around and throw rocks at other people’s boats (violent religions), or pull people out of their boats into their own boat, so that they are all sinking together (cults).

On the Ship, there are many people who have accepted the offer. They no longer worry about bailing or plugging holes. Instead, they think about two things, mostly: (1) the goodness of their Captain and (2) how to help others out of their sinking boats.

I say “mostly” because they are still unlearning a lot of the habits that they gained while they were sinking, so they still are a pretty unruly crowd. Some of them go through the motions of bailing or plugging every now and then, esp. when they first arrive on-board the Ship. Some of them still heave rocks at the smaller boats! But the Captain does not allow that to continue, and is very stern about that, and does not allow it to continue. (Matthew 18:6 and Acts 5.)

The end of the story goes like this:

Some people never accept the offer to join the Ship, though it is always near at hand. They choose to do things their own way and trust in their own leaky boat. And, in the end, they sink. They enter eternity without finding the Source of joy, happiness, and comfort, which is Jesus. An eternity like that is lonely, dark, and comfortless–in a word, Hell.

But those who accept the offer are on the Ship, and it does indeed dock in the port of Heaven. Here there is no weeping, no tears, no pain, no mourning. (Revelation 21)

Why wait? Don’t miss the Ship!


Medical Balance in Two Verses

October 22, 2012

I’ve often wondered why God wanted 1 Timothy 5:23 to be preserved in Scripture. Then I read it in the context of verse 22, and it makes sense now.

Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses. (1 Timothy 5:22-23)

These two verses give us Paul’s instruction to Timothy regarding…what? I believe it’s a well-rounded, balanced approach to medicine and treatment of illness.

First, illness sometimes comes as a result of sin. The guy who drinks too much, the one who sleeps around–these are examples of those whose sinful lifestyles will bring them no end of illnesses. When one of these brothers asks for a prayer of healing, perhaps he should instead receive a bit of rebuking and correcting first. If I were to overlook his obvious sin and place my hands on him to pray for his physical healing without addressing his spiritual sickness, then perhaps I would be “sharing in the sins of others.”

So, yes, some sicknesses actually respond to prayer for healing. We have all those miracles of Jesus as proof. But, not all sicknesses need prayer and prayer alone. God has given us physical, medicinal resources to use. This is why Paul tells Timothy to “take a little wine” (KJV). When we have a physical resource that can improve our lives, then we have permission to use it.

What extremes do these two verses help us avoid? First, we avoid the one extreme that says, “All sickness is entirely spiritual.” I once met a man who claimed this to be the case. I told him of my friend’s bad teeth, to which he replied, “Does she have a good relationship with her parents?” (Huh?!) “Yes, in fact, she does,” I replied. He didn’t seem to know where to go¬† from there.

Second, we avoid the other extreme that says, “The spiritual gift of healing is no longer available.” Nonsense. All the spiritual gifts are still active in the Body of Christ, including this one. When you’ve tried medicine and have purified your heart (or at least tried to), then go ask for healing prayer. Perhaps God wishes to heal you this way, as an expression of his power and his love for you. (But remember, sometimes God allows hard things into our lives to give us a greater faith…so, it’s no “magic bullet.”)

Perhaps the root of this is in the Old Testament:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.

“…and then,” as St. Augustine said, “Do what you will.” (Even with medicine.)


Truth defends itself

September 22, 2012

Gravity: what goes up must come down. Sir Isaac Newton didn’t invent it; he just stated the obvious truth.

Now, imagine that someone were to disagree: “No, gravity doesn’t exist.” Would anyone take that person seriously? Probably not. Gravity itself will prove its own existence the next time that person lets go of his drink. You will not see any huge political campaigns or religious zealots defending gravity. It would be a waste of time.

Jesus is the Truth. He said so (which is consistent). There are a lot of people who don’t believe this, but none of them can change it. The Gnostic fragment that was recently discovered has people questioning whether Jesus had a human wife or not; at the heart of that question is “Who is Jesus?” Is He the Truth, like he said, or was he just your average religious teacher, like so many others? (I say something about that here.)

In his day, a lot of people didn’t like the idea that Jesus is the Truth. Eventually, they got him killed. But death does not stop the Truth. He came back to life; and while his body was in the grave, he was still being the Truth, and doing exactly what he intended to do. Death was part of his plan, as was resurrection.

In our day, a lot of people still don’t like the idea that Jesus is the Truth. There are also some of us who do acknowledge that Jesus is the Truth, just like Newton acknowledged gravity. Sadly, the former set of people sometimes resort to persecution (of all varieties), just like those who condemned Jesus. But it doesn’t work, any more than silencing Newton would not have stopped gravity.

Only Jesus can and will prove his claims. By himself. Without any help from those who acknowledge him. We’ll see it one the grand scale when he comes back as the returning King of Revelation. But he will also do it on the small scale, for anyone who is ready to acknowledge the Truth, no matter what the consequences.

So, come and join us, those who trust in Jesus (the Way, the Truth and the Life). Even if it means someone may persecute you for a short while.


Did Jesus have a wife?

September 22, 2012

A friend asked, “Why does the possibility of Jesus having a wife rankle people….?” Here’s my response:

Someone as important as a wife would have gotten a mention. His mother did. Peter’s mother-in-law did. Also, Jesus said that it’s good to remain unmarried, if you can. (Matthew 19) I’m certain that Jesus was perfectly capable of not being married, in which case, why would he not follow his own advice?

Of course, you could say, “Jesus didn’t like his wife, which is why she’s not mentioned, AND he gives the advice not to marry.” While some other men may feel that way at times about their wives, I just don’t think Jesus (=God=love) wouldn’t be crazy about his wife.

Which brings us to the main point: If you’re a believer in Christ, you are part of his bride. And he’s crazy about you! (He died for you, in fact. And rose again!) And when he returns for his Bride, it’s going to be an awesome party! (After He deals with those who have rejected him.)

The idea that Jesus had a wife is simply a distraction. There’s no substantial evidence–never has been–and it only serves to cause pointless debates that keep us from the real question: Do you love Jesus? Have you put your faith and trust in him? Answer those questions first, then worry about the outliers.

Postscript: A recent manuscript fragment was found that has been making people think about Biblical sources. The truth is that we don’t have a pristine original, but only copies. How we treat these involves rational thinking, some forensic science, and…faith.

Sometimes, I wish it didn’t require faith. I wish we could prove everything. At the end of the day, though, it’s back to the basic question that Jesus asked his disciples: “Who do you say I am?”


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