Biff Rambles on About … Not Rambling, Crossing the Equate-er, and Receiving Clemency

Biff Hiking #4

It has been quite a while since I’ve done one of these rambling post. It has been almost exactly six weeks (less one day).

Well, that’s just too long! I used to always be able to count on a good ramble to cure me of writer’s block. Let’s hope this time is no different.

Putting the Blah in Blase

It has been a busy week here in Biffville (population: teaming).

And by busy, I mean “ordinary”. I went to work, I came home, I did a few chore-type activities in the evening, though mostly I sat around and stared at my computer wondering if I’d ever be able to write anything of quality ever again.

And I know some of you are wondering the same thing.

I can’t blame you. My output has been quite low lately. I blame it on the high pollen counts. They make me sneezy, dopey, grumpy, and Lethargic (the uncredited and largely forgotten 8th dwarf).

How to Live With a Calculating Engineer

I did have one moment of excitement this week at work.

Today I wrote what might possibly be the world’s longest equation in an Excel spreadsheet. A team from Guinness are looking it over now and if I end up winning, I will let you know.

The equation uses values in a two-dimensional matrix to index into a 3-dimensional matrix on another worksheet to determine the factors necessary for yet another calculation. It is dynamic, so as the matrices update, the calculation adjusts itself accordingly.

It took me over two hours to write and debug it. It was mind-bogglingly complex.

Out of curiosity, I copied the equation into a word processor and did a character count on it, and it clocks in at an impressive 381 characters!

Now, you might be saying, “Biff, wouldn’t it have been easier to write a quick script in VBA to look up the value?

And the answer would be “Yes, but …“.

The thought did cross my mind briefly, but my stubbornness kicked in and it became a personal challenge to get the equation to return the value.

And which is more personally satisfying?

[A] Twelve lines of simple, straightforward, easy to comprehend VBA code?

or

[B] a mind-bogglingly complex Rube Goldberg equation that no one will ever be able to unwind and decipher?

If you chose [A], you don’t know engineers very well.

Weather Beaten

It has been a very strange late-May here in north Texas. Normally by this time all of the pretty wildflowers are dead, the landscape is parched, the colors washed out, and we are already flirting with the 100 degree mark. (37 C)

However, we have had a ton of rain over the past two weeks. The wildflowers are still blooming. Everything is green and lush. The temperatures have been quite pleasant, with the highest daytime temperature peaking out at less than 90 degrees (31 C). There are birds everywhere. People are riding around with the windows down on their cars. People are actually sitting in the outdoor seating areas at restaurants (something normally unthinkable this time of year).

Many people have begun repenting of their sins, thinking that the end times are near.

Others have been busily stocking their bunkers with canned goods and ammunition, believing that the apocalypse cannot be too far away.

But whatever it is, I plan on enjoying it as long as possible. Which will probably be for another day or two.

The Dismount

Well, that’s about all I can think of to ramble on about for now. I’m still recovering from a severe bout of writer’s block, so you’ll have to forgive this coughing, anemic little post.

I shall get stronger and stronger every day until, finally, I will be able to stare at the blank screen blankly and not write anything, but with much more vigor.

27 comments

  1. Know what you mean about engineers. Programmers can be that way too. I remember, years ago, learning about an “obfuscated C” contest, where programmers would attempt to come up with some succinct but nearly unintelligible string of C code. In my vague memories, the pointer references alone for a three-dimensional array of strings would make my brain spring a sprocket.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I used to love reading the entries in the “Most Obfuscated C Code” contest! It was a must-read back in my younger days. I actually used to read about it on UseNet. (Remember that? I am really dating myself with that one!)

      I used to love writing C. It was such a powerful language, but so inscrutible. Where else but in C is the following a legitimate line:

      int ****************Fubar

      And of course, if you start casting, then things get really weird.

      Anyway, you’ll be glad to know that the Obfuscated C Code contest lives on. Just Google it.

      I also remember another contest from antiquity in which the contestants had to write a fully function text editor using only one line of C Code. You can imagine the yuks that that resulted in!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t know if I was ever geeky enough to enjoy Obfuscated C, or really the language itself that much – although it was powerful. (And speaking of inscrutable, I always hated trying to guess what someone else’s macros meant.) I used it for 6-7 years back in my Unix phase. I’ve now mostly forgotten it, and C# too. (The joys of retirement.)

        I suspect many people think the Internet started with the World Wide Web, and that they’re the same thing. UseNet does kind of date you…

        Liked by 1 person

        • I, too, have forgotten far more C than I’d care to admit. And programming in general. I am hoping that it is like riding a bike and that one never really forgets how. I still have a dream someday of getting back into “real work” and leaving behind this management nonsense.

          I envy your retirement and I hope you’re enjoying it to the fullest. I still have another ten years or so to go before I can retire to my nice refrigerator box under a freeway overpass.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Congratulations on the spreadsheet. I do hope you win something from Guinness. Meanwhile in Canada, we have record breaking cold weather every month since October. 90 would be a heatwave, one that we would welcome. The battle of the thermostat is on, it goes from heat to AC, back to heat, in any given day. Thanks for the post, enjoyable as ever.

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  3. I always love other bloggers’ descriptions about weather in their area; it’s one of my favourite things. Loved the factoid about it normally being impossible to sit outside at a restaurant β€”Β due to extreme heat already in May! β€” hard for some of us in more moderate climes to imagine and this brings it home. Also the bit about folks repenting their sins and stocking their bunkers (lol but also not so lol).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Nadine! I’m glad I was able to oblige you. πŸ™‚ Frankly, whenever I write about the weather, I always feel like I’m cheating or being lazy or something. I always assume no one cares about the weather here. But now that I know you do, I’ll try to write more about it. πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Biff. I do love vignettes about people’s weather. πŸ˜†But as I’m sure you know, it’s always best to write what you feel like writing about. Readers come and go. #saysfrompersonalexperience. You’re the main act here. πŸ˜‰

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thank you so much, Nadine. I’ve never been a main act before. πŸ™‚ That is very uplifting to think about. And you’re so right about readers coming and going. Things seem to be so transitory here on WP.

          I hope you had a terrific weekend!

          Like

    • As I get older, I’m becoming a bigger fan of colder weather. I find I’m less able to handle the 100+ degree days here in Texas. Of course, I’m sure I don’t need to explain to someone from down under about heat. πŸ˜€

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  4. Ooh! A fellow blogger from Saskatchewan left a comment. We do need some rain on the prairies, while in the east, they’ve had about all they can stand for awhile. You certainly lost me on that complex equation thing. Congrats on your brilliant Excel talent!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Aha! That’s where all our rain is landing. Some of those clouds were supposed to stop and dispose of their contents here in Saskatchewan, not drift south to Texas. It’s all the fault of fickle la Nina, showering favors on her newest admirer!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi, Christine! You are so right about the fickle la Nina … and her mischievous brother, el Nino. They wreak havoc with us quite often, either washing us away with floods, or parching us with drought. Here’s hoping you got some rain soon!

      Liked by 1 person

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