So, last week I found myself at home sitting in my favorite chair staring at the ceiling. I’d like to tell you that I was contemplating the meaning of life or something equally profound. But, no. I was just me, mindlessly staring at the patch of painted sheetrock directly over my head.
I closed my eyes and, after a short time, a calming bliss began to settle over my body as I deliberately experienced the rise and fall of each breath. Slowly in… slowly out… slowly in… slowly out… Gradually, a soothing peace returned to my soul. A smile came to my face as I realized what brought me to this point.
You see, my brain was full.
Be honest… we’ve all felt it, especially those that work in technical professions.
Engineers and scientists, accountants and medical professionals — our lives are filled with facts, figures, variables and equations. We like to believe that all this data is neatly compartmentalized within our corporate information systems.
However, we all know that, to be truly effective, this information must remain top of mind. With every day bringing new knowledge to assimilate and digest, it’s only a matter of time before the brain declares, “No more!!!” And like the Windows 2003 server that just consumed the last few megabyes of its OS drive, mental processing comes to a screeching halt.
I don’t recall exactly the first time that I experienced this type of mental shutdown. Most likely it was during my sophomore year of college.
That year I took a 20-hour quarter that included the subjects of electromagnetism, matrix calculus and static structural analysis. In particular, E-mag is one of Georgia Tech’s most infamous weed-out classes. Many students begin a promising engineering career at Georgia Tech, only to be mowed down by the gift to physics known as Maxwell’s equations.
Fortunately, I didn’t suffer that fate — I think I got out with a B — and I did fine in statics, as well. Matrix calculus — eh, not so much. To this day, I have no clue what we did in that class. How could I? My brain was full.
Currently, Microsoft is the source of my mental fullness. A few months ago I made the brilliant decision that we needed a new method of managing our cloud services. (No cynicism there — It really was an outstanding decision on my part.) Knowing that you can’t manage hundreds and thousands of computers in the same manner you manage tens of computers, this new management system must include a significant amount of automation. Anytime you combine Microsoft and automation in the same sentence, you quickly become tempted follow the path of Powershell. And as all Jedi coders know, once you start down the path Powershell, forever will it dominate your destiny.
Okay, so Powershell really isn’t that bad. However, as an old FORTRAN programmer who did most of his coding before C# and JAVA even existed, many of the constructs in Powershell are, let’s say, non-intuitive. Happy for me, Google provides the ultimate reference guide. And after a couple of months, I found myself becoming somewhat productive. I even started believing that I understood how all this Powershell stuff worked. That is, until…
Without going completely inside baseball here, let’s just say I found a small discrepancy between the documented operation of a Powershell cmdlet and its actual operation. The difference was trivial with respect to the suite of Microsoft products. However, this change completely blocked the automation I was trying to accomplish. No worries, though. When working with code, one can always devise a workaround — it might just take a little longer.
After about two weeks of intensive study (i.e., “banging my head against the wall”), a solution finally presented itself. All that was required was to completely rewrite the cmdlets using the native WMI commands and WQL queries to write directly to the database. Piece of cake, right? Another couple of weeks, and voila! Just one small issue.
My brain is full.
And so I find myself here lying horizontal, my mind fixated on a small crack in the sheetrock — nothing going in, nothing going out. I suspect that it will only take a few days for all the neurons to reset themselves and allow the natural thinking process to resume.
Until then, it’s just me, my chair, the crack in the ceiling — and a full brain. Honestly, could an engineer ask for anything more? I think not.