Thursday, November 12, 2009

ice & errors

My Antarctica tour is canceled. The boat engine crankshaft broke. I received an email notifying me of this on Monday. I was supposed to fly down to Argentina next week, and make my way down to the southernmost tip to board the boat at the end of the month.

I should be singing "I'm on a boat" Antarctica-style in a couple weeks! Instead now I am scrambling to figure out alternate travel arrangements in South America.


Right now, it looks like I will be spending a week in Buenos Aires with my dad, and then a week in Santiago, Chile.

I am changing the plane tickets right now. The change fee is $200, which causes me stress. I want to make sure to research flight prices thoroughly. If I make a mistake and need to call in again, I would have to pay another change fee.

My dad likes to say that my brother and I are suited for a job where mistakes can be tolerated, like computer science. If your program doesn't compile the first time, fix the error and try again. In fact, it's rare to have a non-trivial program run perfectly the first time.

Most things in computer software are fault-tolerant. Accidentally push out bad code to your web server? Just roll it back. Faulty client code can be auto-updated (provided you did not hose the auto-updater).

An example of a job that Tom and I would do poorly at, according to my dad, would be performing arts, where it is important to deliver an impeccable performance on stage. Another example is being an athlete.

Recently I learned that being a lawyer would fall into the same category! Lawyers have deadlines by which they must file certain motions. If they miss the deadline, their client could lose the case by default. Also, if your case goes to trial, you cannot undo mistakes at the trial. If the trial ends and you discover another precedent you could've cited, it's too late.

I never appreciated how difficult it is to be a lawyer! Also there is so much guilt, if your client loses the case and goes to jail, but you believed them to be innocent. It is a tough profession.

21 comments:

Wei said...

But what if you pushed code that accidentally deleted all data and all the backups....

Niniane said...

Then you would call Jonathan Sargent.

Niniane said...

(That was an inside joke. Wei works with Jonathan.)

Wes Bigelow said...

You could hit Patagonia!

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2007/03/04/travel/patagonia_600.jpg

Anonymous said...

Doctors, rocket science...
Many jobs don't have and "undo" function.

Anonymous said...

They are hiring programmers in the Antartic - would you go there? - http://www.icecube.wisc.edu/jobs/winterover.php :)

John said...

As a former mechanical design engineer working for an aerospace company, first thing in the morning on the intranet company news would be a list of airplane accidents in the world that day, how many people died or were injured, what plane, engine and any obvious equipment failure and whether any of our stuff was on that plane. You bet every production unit that went out the door is tested...

Fast Company had an interesting articles years back about writing software for the space shuttle:
http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/06/writestuff.html

Anonymous said...

This is the second time that you plan on going to Antartica. Maybe Antartica is not the place for you to go. Seems like someone (God ?) is telling you not to go to Antartica.

Niniane said...

> Seems like someone (God ?) is telling you not to go to Antartica.

Yeah, it's starting to seem that way.

Anonymous said...

Your dad forgot to mention surgeons. The patient is dead...whoops roll back roll back -.-

David said...

These Antarctica ships certainly seem to break a lot. When they're not busy sinking, it's another kind of problem. Like Windows updates, a new one comes along soon enough, but still the problems keep happening. Is it an ancient curse?

Niniane said...

> Your dad forgot to mention surgeons. The patient is dead...whoops roll back roll back -.-

LOL. Good point, surgeons should go on the list.

Niniane said...

> They are hiring programmers in the Antartic

I looked at the page you linked to. This description scares me: "two candidates will be selected to deploy to the South Pole in early October for 12-13 months with no possibility of leaving during the winter months from mid-February to mid-October." (emphasis mine)

Also, I don't meet their qualification of "experience configuring Cisco networking hardware (specifically 3550 and 3750 series switches)". ;)

Anonymous said...

"An example of a job that Tom and I would do poorly at, according to my dad, would be performing arts, where it is important to deliver an impeccable performance on stage."

No performing artist ever delivers an impeccable performance, nor would they claim do have done so.

It is a lifetime of imperfect striving.

DF

David said...

The great thing about programming in the Antarctic is that if you have a problem with Linux you can just ask the locals to lend a hand. (This must have been said a million times before, but what the heck.)

Jill said...

I'm guessing your dad doesn't work in the performing arts? He doesn't talk like a performer talks about the work. The performers I know at every level past beginning, and definitely the professionals, talk about good and bad performances.

Striving to perform perfectly is seldom helpful for performers. Professionalism in the performing arts is about performing at a consistently high level and being someone others want to work with, not about being "impeccable".

From having talked with other musicians, read books about musical experiences, and looked at my own experiences, I think perfectionism is a very common problem for musicians. It looks to me as if everyone has some level they can get to while being a perfectionist; some people get discouraged and stop playing when they are still beginners, some people (like me) reached an intermediate level before hitting the wall, and some people are advanced players before they find they cannot advance further because of perfectionism. It's like hitting a wall, and the only way over it is to rework your thinking.

Many writers on music have addressed this inner process and how to teach musicians without encouraging this counterproductive focus on a mythical perfection. Some examples are _Perfect Wrong Note - Learning to Trust Your Musical Self_ and _Effortless Mastery_ (I have read these books but don't have any financial interest in them)

My impression is that actors are crippled by perfectionism at lower levels of skill than musicians. I'm not an actor, but every acting class I've taken and just about every book I've read aimed at actors emphasises being in the present and the importance of letting go of self-criticism to be able to work. The actors I know don't talk about striving to be impeccable; they talk about striving to be present and genuine onstage.

Adrian said...

hahah you're a real good writer Niniane.

How come everyone like you is in America?? Oh well, come to NZ if can't goto Antarctica it's the ultimate gateway (haha look, I used a computer word).

Oh and it's where Lord of the Rings was filmed too :) (without the Dark Mordor lava bits)

Justin K said...

Apparently not only must lawyers be on the ball, their secretaries must be too.

The secretary of the legal counsel of Pepsi forgot to hand a crucial letter to the counsel causing the court to grant a default judgement against Pepsi for 1.26B :P

http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1202434985019&rss=newswire&hbxlogin=1

gregbo said...

In sports, as in the performing arts, it is unreasonable for spectators to expect perfection or that athletes should expect perfection of themselves. Rather, a level of consistency is expected. Even Tim Lincecum (NL MLB Cy Young winner two years straight) gets lit up every so often. (In fact, he gave up a home run to the first major league batter he faced.)

Anonymous said...

I'd like this to work in real life: http://4.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_kr1lpnm7iN1qa6pxyo1_500.jpg

Mike Whitton said...

There is a restaurant in the Bella Vista area of Santiago:

http://www.elotrositio.cl/

If you are still there I would strongly recommend it, food was delicious, particularly the Aji Peruano Relleno...