Captain’s Log: 20180514.1521

At work. There was a mess this morning that turned itself into a project and I want to quickly capture some of this down to help in the future.

Last Friday, had to finish helping coworker backing up a lab  (9 devices total). Each one of these had a few terabytes of info and took between an hour to four to finish. With two My Passport Externals, we couldn’t do a whole bunch. Was late, decided to go home for the weekend (was at work 11 hours at that point).

Today, walked in to finish this work. Was a mess because turned out there were laptops involved too, not just lab desktops. Between another IT guy at their department and thinking what the hell I’m supposed to do with this project (these are their personal laptops) this quickly became a mess: I didn’t know what I was supposed to do, I didn’t know how to do it.

Manager helped me figure this out by defining the part he knew about. He didn’t know about the desktops or about the fact that they also used Dropbox in the middle of all of this, but he did know I need to get people and names, so he showed me how an excel sheet would look like. Standing there and thinking “how do I explain this is not the main issue I was having (Dropbox),” I got confidence in the part he did know. As he was looking people names up in his email and gathering information, a plan started forming in my head as to how to do that part – the part we were just talking about. I was able to think of it as a whole part inside of the rest of the undefinable mess.

This takes me back to a favorite, important quote:

..from somewhere back in my youth, heard Prof say, ‘Manuel, when faced with a problem you do not understand, do any part of it you do understand. Then look at it again.’

He had been teaching me something he himself didn’t understand all that well. Something in maths. But had taught me something far more important: A basic principle.

— The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Robert A. Heinlein

Dude. That’s the motherfucking thing. If there’s is a thing, this is it. This it the tip of the knife that cuts it all. You deal with something you don’t get. what parts of it do you get first? how do you define them? OK, what does it tell you about what’s left? OK, so can you divide these into main chunks? And then you have actionable items. And when you have these, you have motivation and less mess on your hands to work with, and chances are better to solve the whole thing. If you still can’t, at least you can look for a solution for something more definable and communicate it better than just flailing your arms around in frustration running out the door. Ya.

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