Date: Mon, 24 May 2004 19:59:54 -0400
From: David C Lawrence <tale at dd.org>
To: spring-fling list
Subject: Re: making fire
In-Reply-To: <2A751E7F-ADD1-11D8-A6E3-000A958B60B8@groupwbench.org>

Jim Franklin writes:
> I leave you guys alone for a year and the fire dept gets involved? What 
> happened?

Observe the source code to Fire Version 1.0:

Rupert Galea

It was produced as a proof-of-concept by contractors ["not us"] who are actually only passingly familiar with the Visual Fire programming language. Under internal audit Fire 1.0 is found to be riddled with flaws including, but not limited to, an obvious case of code bloat, the likely discharge of toxic chemicals into both the air and water, the entirely unnecessary bell of one ex-Christmas tree, and gross noncompliance with the relevant governing standards document.

[One or more club members built the giant pile of wood before we got there. Mike was told something which I, not being Mike, understood to be along the lines of "We got a permit for you, and put some stuff for you to burn out back." Looking at that pile, we naturally assumed that it was the "something" and that said permit was to cover a construction debris burn, since the pile included pressure-treated lumber, painted wood of apparently ancient provenance (thus suggesting lead-base), and veneered, pressed particle board. The permit was, in actuality, for "one small brush fire".]

Despite its unpolished appearance and questionable engineering, when the pseudorandom flame generator was seeded, the demo surprisingly ran:


Rupert Galea

[That's Newbie Tom proving himself to be a worthy new pyromaniac in the fold by adding large heapings of coals from the ex-BBQ to start the fire. Note the clever use of particle board as the transfer device.]

As long as you could put your sense of engineering purity aside and could ignore the likely harm the product was doing to the host system, it outwardly seemed to be running pretty well:


Max Kotchouro

But then someone from middle management, fresh out of Fisher Price Business School with a sparkly MBA, got word that what might be an unauthorized demo was taking place and he had to stake out his turf.


Rupert Galea

Most of the gathered technical staff, being entirely unaccustomed to what lawyers and PR flacks look like outside of their usual attire, didn't photographically capture the initial sniffing that arm of the organization did when it was first informed of a demo that might be outside the range of the initially approved parameters.

Rob Castro's intervention with management elicited, in classic "management never really means what it says" style, an understanding by the techs that perhaps we could make the work we contributed to Fire 1.0 not be completely for naught by diking out the most offensive bits of the code. Thus management would have felt like they've done something and we'd still have had a fun little program to play with until the entire product line is cut. The techs set to diking:


Max Kotchouro

PR and lawyers always supersede newbie MBAs though, so they pretty much ignored that effort and brought in the Damage Control Machinery:


Rupert Galea

It is highly suspected by the cynical technical staff that this action had nothing to do with actual damage control but was rather all about flexing muscle and getting to play with the instruments of the law that fall under Title XVII, commonly known both as the "My Fun is More Important than Your Fun" act and the "My Hose is Bigger than Your Hose" act.


Max Kotchouro

The lawyers made sure that all the original intellectual property involved in Fire 1.0 was reduced to a steaming pile of useless shit.


Max Kotchouro

With all branches of management apparently satisfied that they had let the engineers know who really ran the show, they departed. Fortunately before so doing it was established as best as could be hoped for in the hazy communications void that separates management from techs that the product line was itself not cut and could be restarted as long as it was kept within approved parameters.

[The permit was not rescinded, we could make another fire as long as it did not include the painted or pressure-treated wood, was no more than six feet side-to-side, and no more than three feet high (unclear if this was flame height or wood height; I feigned ignorance of intent and adopted the wood height metric).]

Freed from the constraints of working with the code from the prior bletcherous project, Fire 2.0 was built from scratch:


Max Kotchouro

The demo went flawlessly:


Max Kotchouro

The staff gathered in celebration:


Rupert Galea

Management was never heard from again and they all lived happily ever after.


Photos by Rupert Galea and Max Kotchouro.

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