Saturday, November 3, 2007


Tonight, I found myself busy painting my wife's niece's room.

Pink. Yep. Pink.

So in between wondering how I got here and singing Talking Heads under my breath, I let my mind ponder my surroundings. Specifically, how they remind me of my experiences in testing.

Easier Said Than Done
I'm easily sold on the idea that the effort will be easy. Then, when another pair of pants are ruined, I'm reminded why it is called 'work'.

Ignorance is No Excuse/ SPEAK UP!
Our host had planned for every contingency. He had procured just about anything and everything required to paint away. And, given my ignorance about most home improvement tasks, I did not question him. No sooner was the paint can almost pried open when I inquired, "Where is the stirring stick?" The frozen look of panic on his face let me know that we had none. What to do? Well...

A quick survey of what was around yielded an item we could re-purpose. I chastised myself for using corporate lingo in what was strictly a blue-collar affair. It seems to be my MO as of late. Improvising, that is. When the whole team in trapped is the room and the customers are showing up in a few days expecting it to be done...well, these are the times when our best laid plans seem most vulnerable. And when ingenuity thrives.

You Can't Plan Everything
I felt paralyzed looking at the white wall. My admitted inexperience with painting gave me a feeling that one false brush stroke would spell disaster for this child's upbringing. It wasn't until someone actually broke down and started throwing paint up on the wall did I feel like moving forward. Otherwise, I would have stayed in suspended animation trying to figure out all possible paths. My dad always said, "Painting should never involve traversing trees". Now I know why.

Automation...My Favorite Carrot
Our host produced a whimsical device just as we got started. It was a paint roller attached to what I would only describe as an industrial straw. I guess its reason for existing was to allow the user to suck up all this paint in the "straw" and it would handle the job of keeping the roller wet with paint. Only it didn't. He spent so much time getting the apparatus to work that by the time he was able to put paint on the wall, I was 30% done with my wall using the old-fashioned paint roller. And even when he was able to, the device did not perform as it was supposed to. Splotchy and unusable. His progress was greatly hampered by another promise of our technological age.

Tools Should Fit the Environment
Because the furniture was moved to the middle of the room, our movement was greatly hampered. In fact, the miracle straw mentioned above required the user to back away from the wall due to its length - making mobility difficult. We were also forced to walk over each other in order to navigate our stations. Did it make for an inefficient effort? Perhaps. But what it did make easier was acting out on our frustrations because we were trying to work on top of each other.

Measuring Twice Does Not Guarantee a Good Cut...
...if you're not measuring the right things. As supplies began to dwindle, we recognized that we would not have enough paint to cover the rest of the walls, much less apply a second coat. Our host recanted his math, "The can says it covers 400 square feet. The room is 20' x 10' so we should be okay." He didn't take into account that 400 square feet is referring to surface area. In his defense, he'd been sleep deprived and I totally would have made the same mistake.

The Second Coat is Where the Magic Happens
Rarely does everything go right the first time. As it is in software, so it is with painting walls. My tendency was to use up all available resources in an effort to do it right the first time. Oddly enough, that seemed to waste MORE paint. Applying the first coat, allowing it to dry, and looking back over it allowed us to see more clearly the areas that needed more coverage. In other words, this was a context where my brand of simultaneous execution and analysis was a hindrance.

The End of The Matter is Better Than the Beginning
And patience is better than pride. The long story short is this: with all of us working together in concert, we got most of the work done in one night. When we have a lot of work to do, it is easy to be blind-sided by many difficulties. But nothing replaces rolling up your sleeves and getting it done...together.

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