Last meal


Doyle and I went out for our last company meal together. CodingClan has been buying company lunches for a year or so now, which is nice because not only do we save money individually, but we also have that extra hour to talk about work. It's a good check-in time with a casual atmosphere.

Since we realized it would be the last meal of the year, and of the company, instead of heading off to our usual haunts, we decided to go out in style and went to the really expensive Italian that we've been to only twice before, and the first time was by mistake. We knew what we were getting in for, so we decided to go early and enjoy the meal.

We arrived at the restaurant at 11:50, figuring most people would arrive afternoon. We were wrong. The entire restaurant was full, and not just with big company groups. All of the small tables were full, the big ones full. After waiting a few minutes, our choices were outside (brrr.....) or at the bar, with a fantastic view of the inner workings of the kitchen.

Well, duuhhhh.

Just after we sat down, the waitress came up to ask us if we wanted anything to drink. I must have offended her somehow by saying I was fine with water, as that question was the last time we were helped in a timely manner.

At some point while I was waiting for my water, bread showed up. Not really wanting to spoil my appetite for the blackened salmon with a fine cheese and scallop sauce I was going to order, I avoided the break as long as I could, right up until the point where I had to turn my stomach inside out and start gnawing on my insides.

Eventually, the waitress returned and we ordered our meals. We then commenced waiting.

And waiting.

And waiting.

We supposedly managed to order before the big group behind us even arrived. I'm not so sure we managed that feat. I had much to ponder, as we waited. Did I mention we waited? Yeah, we waited. And waited.

We entertained ourselves during the waiting by commenting on the various aspects of the kitchen, of which we had a fantastic view. We wondered if the sandwich chef would run out of orders before he ran out of bread in the stack within easy reach. We pondered how much easier our cooking lives would be if we cooked with vegetables already cooked.

And our pasta precooked.

And our cheese presliced.

We determined we'd be much faster. So fast, in fact, that our waiting for our meal seemed out of place.

Yet, we continued to wait.

Eventually, as some point close to an hour after we had arrived, our meals arrived. Doyle's looked tasty, and he took to it with gusto.

Mine looked strange. Sure, the vegetables looked fine, and were just barely crunchy making them cooked nearly perfectly.

The risotto though? We've been here twice before and both times I ordered some risotto dish of some sort. I really really really like risotto. What was on my plate, though billed as "with a side of risotto," was not risotto.

It was a ball of rice.

A ball of no taste (well, a hint of rice taste), bland, barely stuck together rice, in a lump on the back side of my plate. I doubt I would have noticed it much if its plainness wasn't in such sharp contrast to the neon orange pile on the plate closer to me.

Why did I forget my camera today? How could I have been so dumb?

I looked closely at the salmon on the plate in front of me. Yes, yes there appeared to be some salmon under this topping. Oh, look, the topping is sorta solid. If I nudge it, hey, look, it moves a little bit, then pushes back.

Doyle and I had spent close to an hour watching these chefs in front of us. They seemed knowledgable. They knew their way around the kitchen, how back could it be? Tasty the fish.

You know that scene in Ratatouille where the first bite of that one plate, that signature plate, sends the food critic tumbling back through his life to a happy, happy moment? Yeah, well, that first bite sent me tumbling back through my life, too.

Only I landed in college dipping tortilla chips into a jalapeno nacho cheese sauce from a can.

I will swear the neon orange sauce on the incredibly well seasoned and cooked blackened salmon in front of me at that moment was indeed some Cheeze Whiz or ultra pasteurized cheese food product with some hot peppers thrown in. Could this meal get any worse?

Yes, but only because twenty minutes after I had finished the half of the meal I could stand to finish, I had to lean back in my chair with my arms crossed over the back of my head and nearly start whistling before the waitress returned to our bar area to ask if we wanted the check or dessert.

Good lord woman, it's our last meal. Bring us dessert! There had to be some redeeming quality of this restaurant to warrant the prices on these menus.

There wasn't.

I almost felt the last meal experience was a symbol for something. It was trying to tell in metaphorical terms about how it summed up the last three years working freelance and in my own company.

I couldn't hear the message, though. I was too busy leaving a crappy tip.

Oh, and in case you were wondering: that chef ended his shift with exact correct number of bread rolls in the stack within easy reach. He used the last one and, by the time we finally left, they were more-or-less done with taking orders, so he most likely made no more sandwiches. The man is skilled beyond reason in the art of bread stack counts.

Finally hit me


Yeah, so, I was wondering when it would actually hit me, when I would realize we're shutting down the company and the routines and conveniences I've built into my current life are less than two weeks from being over.

I was okay when I told Doyle. Well, mostly okay: a brief tearing but that was all. I was okay when I told the person we're subletting the offices from we were shutting down the office. I was okay when I posted the office furniture for sale, and had people come to look at the desks. Who knew selling four desks would be so difficult?

I was okay when I told people at the Mischief EYE. I was okay when I told my mom.

I was not okay today. Too much time to think about it, not enough focus on the projects I want to complete in the next fews weeks.

I cried.

Doyle was good enough not to say anything until the moment had passed. "Don't look at it as the end. It's the start of a new beginning," were his words of wisdom when he finally did say something.

Yep. Close one door. Open another.

A new adventure.

Day of contrast


My day today is a stark contrast to Kris' day today.

Where as Kris is at his company's office's holiday party, celebrating the year, toasting the successful times, planning for a great next year, I'm closing down my company after three years.

Which is not to say the company was a failure, it wasn't. It kept three people employed well for three years. We had some good projects. We hit some rough patches. I think that we all came out the other end still friends is a testament to the company, as well as the people who worked for it.

Yet, today is the day I go into work and tell Chris we're done, that he needs to look for another job. We have projects available for him, so he won't be without income if he doesn't want to be. Mike is already at working at his new company. Looks like just me at this point.

I wonder if I'll cry when I tell Doyle.

Finally fired 'im


Gah. It's the ninth of November and I've barely posted anything this month. What a disaster, as I try to catch up on all the posts that I've written but not published, or outlined but not written, or what have you. I hate posts that say, "Uh, duh, sorry I haven't written, so I'll just write about not having written." Stupid crap. No one likes to read that.

The good news for today, aside from the fact I'm actually writing, which is always a good thing, I think, is that we finally fired an impossible client today.

The client is one who has been with us for a while now. Despite our best efforts, and that's my effort, Doyle's effort and Mike's effort, we weren't able to keep the client's projects from heading into scope expansion and feature creep. We thought we'd learned our lesson with the first part of the project, and explicitly spelled out what we were going to do in the second part of the project, and hopefully make back some of that loss. I'm not sure why we thought we would able to correct the failing relationship and management this way, we weren't.

Finally, I just started saying no. Any idea how hard saying no is for me? It's hard.

So, we told the client we were done. We wouldn't be continuing working on his projects. I can't believe how much relief I felt at this. However, I'll believe it when the project is actually transferred away.

Security, my foot


Down the hall from our offices is a security company of some sort. I think it's a computer or digital systems security company, I'm not sure. I can't say I ever bothered to find out.

When the really, really loud guy at the company with offices next door to our offices moved out, we consided renting the offices so that we could expand. We had eventual plans to expand, but nothing immediate. We didn't actively pursue the offices.

The security company, however, did.

They rented the offices, then promptly installed a telephone conference system, a ginormous white board, a big conference table, lots of not-really-comfy chairs, cubicles in the second office and a keypad lock on the door.

Our offices are in the back room of our two room office suite. Their conference room is also in the back room. There is a thin door between the two rooms.

What shocks me is that, for a security company, the employees of the company are incredibly lax in physical security of their operations. We hear every conference call conversation through the thin door. We walk into their office on a regular basis to see what's up with the rooms: they leave the front door open most of the time. We're privy to many internal business decisions. We'd know a lot more if Doyle would stop cranking his music player when the conversations start.

The experience makes me more paranoid (is that possible?) about my conversations. I'm more aware of my surroundings than I used to be, though I'm sure I still say more than I should. I should probably get that switch from my brain to my mouth checked out.

Dearth of forks


What is it with the lack of forks in this office?

Every time we order lunch and eat in, I have to scramble for a fork. We have a bazillion knives, and a dozen spoons around here. But no forks. Maybe we should just go around saying, "fork you!"

The snotty answer


My desk at work is the first desk anyone coming into the office sees. I find this placement a bit tragic, as I'm probably the least personable person in the office.

When the front door opens, I can turn to see who is coming in the door, and greet him as needed. It's a double edged sword: I can greet him immediately, but I'm also the one accosted with solicitors.

The REALLY loud neighbor next door recently moved out. When they did, Doyle snagged their NO SOLICITORS sign and put it outside our door. I don't know if the drop in door-to-door solicitors is because of this sign or just a natural lull in random people who love smack-downs knocking on our door.

Today, however, is an exception to the blissful break in obnoxious people forcing us to be obnoxious back when the word "No" doesn't cause them to back down.

With no knock on a door, a man in his mid-twenties came into the office today, carrying a small box and an overly enthusiastic smile. With too much on my task list today, I immediately said, "No solicitors."

His response?

"I'm not soliciting, but thanks for assuming that, ma'am."

Without missing a beat, I responded, "Okay, what's up?"

"We're taking a survey."

Because barging into my office, occupying my time, and asking for my information and knowledge without really asking me for permission isn't any more of an imposition than trying to sell me something, right?

"That's just as bad as soliciting. No, thank you."

To his credit, he did leave immediately.

I looked over at Doyle, as my gaze was returning to my monitor, a look of incredible disbelief on his face.

"I'd think if I really wanted you to take my survey, I wouldn't give you a snotty answer to a soliciting question."

Yeah. You'd think.

Well, well, well, look at that


Even the suburbs has entertainment on some days.

Doyle and I were talking about something at work, when he perked up, pointed at me and said, "Hey! Look at that!" I took a moment's pause before I realized he was pointing over my shoulder and out the office window. That pause was longer than the one I took to grab my camera and start taking photos.

Client meeting mistakes


I went to a new client today, the one I wrote my first statement of work for. I'm very excited about the project, and not quite sure why. It could be because I have the emotional investment of "my first project start to finish."

Heading over to the client's office, I wasn't particularly nervous, so much as worried that I had prepared well enough for the meeting. I detest wasted time, and meetings are a big waste of time for many people. I shudder to think of how many tens or maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars some previous employers wasted in status update meetings where at any given time 95% of the engineers are just waiting for their turn to speak (schedule a different group to come in every ten to fifteen minutes, unless the rest of the engineers need to hear what the others are doing).

I was hoping to keep the meeting short, meet with the client, get my answers, and leave. Five of the client's employees were in the meeting, so they were as motivated as I to keep the meeting short. After an hour, I had what I needed. However, based on some of the conversations at the meeting, I messed up in a few places.

At least my mistakes were few in number: it could have been a lot worse.

My first mistake was, when bringing a list of questions to a client, not having my own answers to my question ready.

I asked for a few sites they liked, with the intent of asking what they liked about the site, which features they liked, which features they hated. The first answer was, "Let me ask you, what sites do you like and why?"

As soon as he asked that question, my thoughts were, aw, crap, I didn't prePARE! Dammit! Okay, start scrambling. Of course I had prepared, but not enough. I should have sent my questions to the client so that he could ponder the questions, also.

So, yeah, I started scrambling, and listing the sites whose design I wanted to emulate, should I ever get around to actually changing my site (such change is currently scheduled for next week, and I'm looking forward to it).

My second mistake was not sending the list of my questions to the client beforehand, so that they could prepare as much as I could. No reason everyone in the room couldn't have been fully engaged in the meeting, minimizing the amount of waste.

My third mistake was not installing and testing all the products I'm recommending for the client. I read up on a couple of modules that I was recommending for the client, but, in reality, I haven't installed them, I haven't played with them. If they don't work as advertised, I'll be eating the cost to bring them up to spec.

Even with these obvious mistakes, I think the meeting went well, and I'm looking forward to this project.

First work proposal


I finished my first work proposal today.

I started working on it Tuesday afternoon, after talking to the client. I had two proposals Mike had written for previous projects as examples / outlines, but I definitely felt like I was fumbling around somewhat ignorant of what I needed to do.

Which isn't to say I can't figure it out. I'm good at making lists, at breaking down tasks into smaller and smaller pieces. My index cards can certainly attest to that ability.

What I'm not so good at, however, is estimating time. A friend once suggested I estimate a task, and multiply by three, because that seems to be how long a task will really take. Given how cynical and pessimistic I can be about life and the human condition, the optimism I have when estimating time is incongruous.

Of course, that inability to accurately estimate how long a task will take could easily explain why I'm frequently late.

This time, however, I had Mike to help me out. He reviewed my numbers, reviewed the task list, added items and such. I look at the total and think, wow, that total is a lot of money, but each step is justified.

Writing here, I can be satisfied with my words. I can edit and adjust and, when I hit the submit button, be done. With a proposal though, it's my writing going to someone else. I can't help but wonder, did I explain everything? Was I succinct? Was I clear? Did I estimate too high? Did I estimate too low? Is the guy going to think I'm an idiot with this quote?

After a few moments of nervousness, I gave up on the internal torture, the need to be perfect and the urge to make everyone else happy. I sent the proposal off with the realization that, yes, the process will take as long as I estimated, and, yes, my time is worth the money I quoted.

If the quote is too high, well, I have internal projects to work on, too.