Tuesday, September 2, 2008

What a holiday

by John D Ramsey

Nothing exposes project requirements better than jumping in – especially when one jumps in over one's head.

I volunteered to set up a website for RHE (Raymore Home Educators). Lisa knows a good deal when she hears it, so the gig was mine. I usually spend my days traversing data relationships in SQL or perhaps LINQ without regard to how the data appears. It has been too long since I have any serious web development, so it was time to dive in.

This weekend I have worked with HTML, XSLT, RSS, C#, SQL, LINQ, ASP.NET, AJAX Toolkit, Regular Expressions, and CSS. I have created a dozen or more PNG images for backgrounds and such. I have tested results using Internet Explorer 7, Firefox 3.0.1, and Safari 3.1.2. With minor variations in fonts, pages appear the same. This sounds like a résumé.

With about 10 megabytes of code and executable files in my project, it is not as if I have been slacking. Yet, I am still not finished with the first iteration. The nice ladies (and gentlemen) from RHE will have to be patient. I have worked non-stop (except for an ice cream social with some friends Sunday night), but I have to admit that after three days and three nights, I still do not see the light.

From a requirements perspective I admit that I have succumbed to the anti-pattern of low hanging fruit: that is doing the stuff that should be easy at the expense of the stuff that is harder. Of course, the most needed stuff is harder. Some of the easy stuff turned out to be hard anyway, which is why good project managers want to start with the hard stuff. The low hanging fruit included the Cascading Style Sheets. They do not add function to the site, but they do provide form. Without CSS, my web pages look like plain white paper with some random controls thrown on them. Yet, I wonder how many hours I spent tweaking pixel counts and such. I probably do not want to know. Lisa likes the way it looks, and that is something.

I showed her what the site looked like without CSS, then I showed her what it looked like with CSS, but without the background images. She had a hard time understanding the layers involved. She liked the site with the style applied and probably does not ever want to see it as vanilla again. That is okay, I like it with the styles applied, too.

Of all the things that I have done this weekend, I believe that the intensity of the pursuit is what I have enjoyed the most. Solomon wrote, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going.” Ecclesiastes 9:10 (NASB) Sheol is the grave. Solomon was telling people that whatever they planned to accomplish in life needed to be wrapped up or left unfinished.

Paul took a more optimistic approach, saying, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” Colossians 3:23-24 (NASB) If we work only for ourselves, then truly all of our efforts will come to naught when we die. If on the other hand we are working for Jesus Christ, then reward follows our exit from this stage. Working for the Lord is not always some great spiritual endeavor; sometimes it is merely doing “whatever you do.”

A few days ago, I deliberated with my family whether I was truly intense. Tonight, I have to admit that I can be. Yet there is satisfaction in hard work. Knowing that if the Lord gives me something to do, he will use it for his glory is most satisfying of all.

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