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Scott's Column
The Spurs, The Deck and Some Work

June 1, 2003
By Scott Lewis

With the yard done the deck plans stop, then start. We'll see. Plus I spend some time writing some cool code for work. 

The Spurs

When this column goes online (June 1st if I am on time) the NBA playoffs will still be going. However, I just needed to get this out. For all those basketball fans that DID NOT want to see the Lakers win another championship... you can thank the San Antonio Spurs for being the team that finally took down Shaq, Kobe & Phil Jackson. I shouldn't feel this way, but I couldn't help enjoying watching the Lakers crying on the sidelines when they knew it was over. Phil Jackson made a big deal about the Spurs winning the championship in 1999 because it was not a real season (that was the year they had a shortened 50 game season). Well, now we have stopped the Lakers, and will hopefully take the championship back... with no asterisk for the record books. Take that Phil!

For me I have wanted the Spurs to be the team to take down the Lakers for the last three years. When they beat the Lakers in game 6 of their series by 28 points the season ended for me. I don't care if the Spurs actually win the Championship this year. They are already the biggest winners of the year. They had the number one record in the NBA, home court advantage throughout the playoffs, and they shut the Lakers down.

Championship or not, David Robinson gets to retire in style. Thanks for a great 14 years, David.

The Deck

Well, as time has been short for myself and my brother-in-law the Deck is not finished. In fact, it is not even started. I am still hoping to have the deck finished by the end of summer. For now we will walk in shoes to the pool. If the deck is done by the time school starts up in mid August, it will be very helpful for quick dips after school for my wife and kids. Time will tell.

As a quick recap without sending you to read last month's column, we are going to build a deck that will span the distance between our house and the above-ground swimming pool. The pool is about 20 feet away from the house, and there is about a 5-6 foot drop in elevation from the back porch to the TOP of the pool. Initially we are just going to have a little space around the pool for a couple of lounge chairs, a small pad for a table and chairs, a walk-way from the bathroom stoop to the back porch, and finally a set of stairs to make the drop from the porch to the pool level. Here is a rough drawing I made in Paint Shop Pro.

deck.jpg (20751 bytes)

Eventually I want to have a multi-level deck that will include a hot tub near the master bedroom (far left of the back porch in the drawing) as well as a larger area for more table and seating capacity. I expect the current spot for a table and chairs to become a cooking area and will have a built-in Bar-B-Que. I would like to have another set of stairs run from the far left down around the left side of the yard to meet up with the pool. I may even eventually want to have a walk way all around the pool... someday. Meanwhile, let's just get something there to make it easier to enjoy the pool.

Work

Work has been a lot of fun lately. I don't know how to tell you what I have done without giving out details. Basically I inherited code that "batches" orders together for printing. We put multiple orders on a template, and have to mix orders of different quantity. So, if I have one order for 100 and another for 50 I may want to put the first 50 of order one in the first "cell" of my template then the second 50 for order one in cell 2. Cell three would get the 50 for order 2. And this will go on until the template is full, then we print.

OK. I know this is hard, but we print 15 orders to a template on our printing press, and 12 orders to a template on our digital printers. I had to come up with a better way to keep orders printing together so solve a few problems.

I came up with a unique way of looping through orders filling in templates from the largest quantities to the smallest, however, I do not load templates with the smallest quantity until the end, this allows me to use them as much as possible for filler to prevent voids (cells with no orders that get printed then thrown away).

I managed to get all this working much more easily than I originally estimated. However, testing has been the biggest problem. I need to create a completely isolated test environment so we could print without mixing with production. Also, we have a mainframe system that needs to be updated. So a test main frame database had to be established so we could simulate orders going through the entire process.

You will have to wait until next month for me to tell you how well it all turned out. Our QA folks are very paranoid about moving such a large change into production and they well be spending a lot of time beating on the test environment.

As of this writing I set up the head of QA with all the software to bring orders from the mainframe to my Oracle database, and then to batch them and print out reports with the actual product. These reports can be used to look up the orders on the mainframe to make sure they would have printed correctly, and check that the mainframe was updated correctly. All the Postscript files for these test orders are being saved so we can actual print a sampling of the actual output... just to prove all is perfect.

Conclusion

Literally minutes before posting this column we decided we need to push harder to complete the deck. As it stands now, we have no easy way to stay by the pool when the kids want to go swimming. All we can do is sit on the ladder to get into the pool. No fun. So hopefully next month will have an accelerated deck building plan happening. Of course I will post a picture or two of the deck when it is complete.

Until then...

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