Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Help (and how to ask for it)

But before that ... so there I was preparing to go to bed around midnight last night when loud talking began to emanate from below my bedroom window. Very loud somewhat drunk talking.

It seems the boy racer in Flat 1 (directly below mine) had decided to sell this lump of excrescence he calls a car (I'm not being a snob, it may have a very noisy and growly engine, but it's a mess).

As a side issue I once dated the sister of a friend of John Baldachino who in the hey day of real custom cars (unique paint jobs, chromed engines, created by mechanics who loved their cars) was the hero of all true custom car freaks. These cars were works of art, and they had names. The stretch-mini called Princess, the standard-looking Triumph Herald with its body entirely replaced by fibreglass, completely black with tinted windows, called Innocence. Wide wheels and metal that glittered.

The rubbish they put about today are not custom cars, merely penile extensions.

ANYWAY. This guy is selling his car to some other bloke really loudly. At midnight. This goes on for some time. I can't get to sleep. Then they try the engine just to show how loud and growly it really is. And it really is very loud and growly. Eventually it all goes quiet. I fall asleep only to be woken at some point later by this moron racing the engine again.

So today at work I am very tired. This is unfortunate because the pressure is on as there's a fairly important demonstration tomorrow, and a really important one next week. Things need to be made to work, we need a joined-up website. So they install a new piece of code I've written and the whole bloody thing falls over.

As one of my team put it: "There are people who run away from problems and people who run towards them." I fall into the latter group. With various people calling, coming over and asking (concernedly) why the main version of the site is no longer working, we set to trying to find the cause of the problem.

I was tired. My first idea was that the code we'd enabled must be the problem. If I'd been more awake I'd have realised almost immediately that this could not be the case. Anyway, two others started analysing log files and eventually located the source of the problem - as it happens it was something I'd written two weeks ago that should have worked (according to the manual) but it turns out the actual database system itself doesn't like it and it was clogging up the system. I hacked together a fix in 5 minutes and the whole thing ran smooth as glass.


By the end of the day we had a joined-up website which they could use for the little demonstration tomorrow.

(At the same time I was helping to get a new member of the team up to speed, assisting the design guys handling problems, being PR-ful with the other teams, writing documentation and promising the earth and delivering. Though this time I was definitely concerned I'd miss the deadline but my copy-book remains unblotted.

Meanwhile back in the real world. Today I made friends with a guy who's going to be working on the Hotel Caledonia website. Web stuff is not his real job, he's a musician and sound recordist, in that order. We've never actually met but were put in touch by HC's director Nick Lean.

Sound recordist? You may recall that I'm having this read-through of Monsters in a couple of weeks, and I'd really like to record it but I have sufficient understanding to know that I don't have the skill, and certainly not the resources. And a sound recordist drops into my lap (metaphorically).

So in my email, after going over HC stuff, I asked for his help. When asking for help it's important not to beat about the bush, just (with a touch of apology or humour) explain the situation, and ask whether the person can help. There is only a tiny percentage of people who are so appalling unpleasant that they react badly to being asked to help. Even if someone can't help directly they'll usually try to think of a way they can help.

(Oh yes, and he is helping, if he can.)

Help is good.

What's on the turntable? "Scipio" by Sky from "Sky 2"

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