Waxing Mathematical

I've been looking in the dictionary this week for the word "code-freeze" to see if anyone actually does know what it means. I naively thought it meant the date that you stopped adding stuff to the code of a project, and stopped playing about with it to see if you could make it do anything else useful, and instead concentrated on fixing the bugs and making it run faster. Just goes to show how much I know about developing stuff. I suppose it comes from the same dictionary as "documentation lead time", "production cut-off date", and "release date". Maybe there is a whole book full of these words designed for use in meetings and project planning documents, yet having no real correspondence to actuality. I probably need to buy a copy so that I will see them coming next time.

All this vague rambling comes about, as you can guess, from my experience on a few recent contract projects. I've come to the conclusion that the time span allocated to documentation can be calculated from the following formula:

          PL = DT + TT + WT + DCT


Of course, some of these variable aren't actually variable, and some have that special property I call "Uponlyness". For example, PL is usually a constant, as is DCT. So only DT, TT and WT are variable, and in most cases, DT and TT exhibit strong Uponlyness. The result is that the only way you can get the equation to balance is by reducing WT (and if it actually turns negative, you have a real problem).

Notice also that the equation fails to follow the usual rules of arithmetic, in that the order of the variables affects the values of those following. I call this effect "Forewardsqueezeness". What it means is that the variables nearer the start of the process get the best chance of increasing, causing those later in the process to shrink by a corresponding amount. Of course, this shrinking effect cannot occur for non-variable variables (I'm thinking of DCT here in particular), so the only one that can shrink is WT.

And guess who does the WT...! No wonder I'm going gray young.

Still, at least something went right this month. For once, I beat the system - a rare occurrence - by renewing my passport a week before they announced a 29% price increase to cover the inclusion of biometrics (actually, a digitized photo). And, amazingly, mine does have a little chip in it - so I got my biometrics for free! Mind you, it comes with all kinds of warnings about damaging it. Probably the first time it gets within a yard of my mobile phone, or I leave it in my bag when it goes through the X-Ray machine, it will explode. Seeing as it's got about 20 yards of aerial wire bonded into the page around the chip, they'll no doubt be able to track me from space as well now. I wonder if I have to declare it as electrical equipment when I check in.

And, in a clever linking of topics, my new passport also exhibits Forewardsqueezeness. You pay for 40 pages (I'm too mean to pay nearly double the price for an 80-page one), but you actually only get about 30 you can use. The rest are filled with warnings about standing too near your mobile phone, and how much trouble you'll get in if you lose it (the passport, not the phone). In fact it says that it (the passport, not the phone) doesn't actually belong to me. It belongs to the Government. As the Queen technically owns the Government - they supposedly have to get permission from her to do things, though you wouldn't notice it - she must have an awful lot of passports. Maybe that's why she travels so much.

OK, so I don't jet-set as much as I used to these days (I'm waiting for them to build planes with me-sized seats), but did you know that you can be refused entry to a country if you don't have an empty page for the entry stamp? I read in the paper about some people who were refused entry to Zimbabwe for this reason. No doubt I'll be the lucky person to find the US Immigration Officer who enforces the rules just as strictly.

Anyway I've also got a good reason for being so late writing this month's diary entry. We gained two new babies (furry ones) last month, and so I no longer get peace and quiet all day while I send my wife out to work. Don't you just hate those people who insist on putting pictures of their pets on the Web? But who could resist Molly and Alfie... (and let me be clear right away that the names aren't my responsibility. I wanted to call them Bev and Kev)

"I think there's a comma missing here..."

Molly in stupid mode. They say she'll grow into her ears.

We don't get many birds in the garden these days.

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