Scott’s First Law of Software Implementation

I haven’t posted in a while, but circumstances being what they are at the day job, I feel like I just have to get this First Law down on this virtual paper.

You see, I’ve been in IT a long time. Going on fifteen years. And right now, the company I work for is embarking on a major initiative to replatform one of our applications. I won’t say which, but it’s a big ‘un.

Which leads me to this First Law. I was thinking about what the reception would be when we finally roll it out, and expect it will be the same as EVERY OTHER SOFTWARE IMPLEMENTATION I’ve ever been a part of. More specifically, people will find a way to hate on it, even when they hate the version it’s replacing.

Therefore, I hereby declare this to be Scott’s First Law of Software Implementation:

The system you are replacing is the worst piece of crap God ever invented, until you replace it, and then it was the best thing since sliced bread and can I please-o-please have the old system back?

Do with this law what you will.

NaNoWriMo 2020

I’m excited to say that I’m once again jumping into the daily word count fray this year and participating in NaNoWriMo!

I hadn’t planned to do NaNoWriMo this year. I mean, what a year it’s been. Surely there were other things I should be focusing on? Between all the writing I have done that I’ve let languish, the editing that it all so desperately needs, a kid in the throes of college applications, plus the continual management of all things COVID-related or impacted—well, like most people, my plate is full and I should have just let well enough alone.

But I was speaking to a friend of mine who is doing NaNoWriMo this year, feeling the need to jumpstart his writing, and those little nagging thoughts about starting something new and shiny and distracting started to creep in. I thought, “Well, I do have a sequel to write to something I’ve already finished and got simmering…maybe I’ll get that idea cranked up and give it a go.”

Which would have been great if that was the book I was writing. But it isn’t. I’m writing something totally different and new.

So much for focus.

Too be fair, it’s not completely new. It’s actually a re-imagining of a book I started years ago but just couldn’t seem to find the footing. So I took the basic concept and jumbled it around in my head for a bit, and have come out with a completely different story using much of the same elements, but in new ways.

And damned if I’m not excited about it!

Having done NaNoWriMo two times previous, and having “won” it both times by hitting the 50k word count, I’m aiming for something different. The word count is fine, I’m not actually worried about that. It can be a slog sometimes, and there are moments when I want to give up, but I’ve hit the target the other two times I’ve participated. No, what I want out of this time is to finish the book. Both my previous NaNoWriMo book got to around 60k words, and then the energy and drive petered out, and I put the books down.

Not this time. This time, I’m going to hit the November-mandated word count, and then finish the damn thing in December. Even if the book is crap, I’m going to plow through to the end of that first draft. I may never edit it after that, but I’m sick of having half-done books sitting on my laptop, laughing at me, daring me to tangle with them again.

So wish me luck! I’m off to slay the Word Count Dragon. And this year, I’ll finish the NaNoWriMo book I start. I promise.

Excel Geeking: Finding Those Pesky Hidden Characters

A couple of years ago, a colleague at work was having a devil of a time with an Excel file. It did something with data and dates, I don’t really remember what. What I do remember is that the data was an extract from a separate system, and then that export was dropped into an Excel file, where formulas did their magic.

Except, they didn’t do the magic they were supposed to, and that was the problem.

I knew there had to be some hidden characters in there somewhere, but I wasn’t sure how I would uncover them when I couldn’t see them. They weren’t the usual suspects: extra spaces and hard returns. Which is when I decided to create a file that would do the looking for me. It’s been such a useful tool, I’ve decided to make it available to you, my friendly reader.

So, without further ado, may I represent my Character Checker!

The premise is simple. I’m basically taking the visible characters and comparing them to an ASCII table. If certain parameters are met, then we have a problem, and WARNINGS pop up.

Easy-peasy, right? It’s not a hard thing to put together, but I figured, since I already had it built, I might as well share it so you don’t have to build your own from scratch.

You can download a copy here: To use it, paste your data as values into the yellow cell in A1, and let the file do the hard work. I hope you find it helpful.

Returning Once Again…

It’s been a few years since I’ve done any active blogging. Truth be told, after the last election, and because of the incredibly divisive nature of our current politics, I needed a bit of a break from a lot of things, this blog being one of them. Not that I was ever terribly political on here, but there was the very real danger that I’d use it to start ranting, and that is not what I want to do on this platform.

I’m a little older, maybe a smidge wiser, and I’ve recently published a second book as an indie author. So, to this blog, I return once again. I’ll be blogging about writing, the process and my progress, and publishing; about MS Excel, as I’m still primarily an Excel developer in my day-job; there will be various photos I take with my phone; there may be a haiku or three; and probably even some novel reviews. So stay tuned.

It’s good to be back.

Book Review: “The Book Of Dust: La Belle Sauvage”, by Phillip Pullman

Let me preface this review by stating that I’ve been waiting for this book–any book in the His Dark Materials series, really–for almost two decades. Rumors of The Book Of Dust have been swirling out there in Publishingland for at least a decade, if not longer. The fans of His Dark Material I know wondered whether we would ever see it, and what it would be like. Pullman himself once described it as a “very big book”, which I always took to mean that it would take forever to write and that we may never get to enjoy the finished product.

Behold! The finished product has arrived!

And what an arrival it is. La Belle Sauvage is the first book in this new series, entitled The Book of Dust. I have not found a book recently that I dropped into immediately and felt comfortable being led by the nose by the author through the land of his invention, Lyra’s Oxford. And make no mistake, we are indeed led by the nose, the author’s lyric prose the golden ring to which the lead is hitched. Pullman has brought us right back to where we started, an alternative England that is by turns a steampunk world and the Holy Roman Empire. It is a world where the church exhibits tremendous authority and power over state affairs, and where the world is lit by a combination of electric light (called “anbaric”) and good old fashion fossil fuel (naphtha). It is the world of Gyptians and their strange ways and uncanny foresight of the natural world, and of the bravery of boys called upon to be heroes too young.

It is the world of unspeakably evil characters that make you desperately fear for the heroes safety.

The heroes in question are Malcolm Polstead, a boy who works in his parents’ tavern, helping as part of the wait staff and as busboy when not in school or doing homework; and Alice, the eighteen year old girl who washes dishes in the tavern. Despite their grievances toward each other, they find a away to put aside their quarrels when they rescue the infant Lyra from a flooded nunnery. The flood that comes to Oxford is a flood to end all floods, Pullman’s version of the Biblical flood, and it washes them in Malcolm’s canoe, the titular La Belle Sauvage, south toward London in search of Lord Asriel, the girl’s father. They are pursued by a madman whose calm demeanor is betrayed by the hideously maimed hyena that is his daemon, the physical embodiment each human’s soul.

If everything I’ve just said is gibberish to you, then you have not had the enjoyment of the original His Dark Materials series. Pullman spend almost no time grounding you in the world. You are plunged once more into Lyra’s world, and like the rest of Oxford when the great flood comes, it’s either sink of swim. In his trip down the River Thames with our two heroes and their infant ward, we encounter all manner of beings, fearful and fantastic, revealing in part the direction Pullman appears to be taking this new series. The second book, tentatively due out next year, is entitled The Secret Commonwealth, a reference to a book of the same name written four hundred years earlier, and detailing the world of fairies in England. The groundwork for a world of fairies is laid in this first book.

Is The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage as good as the original trilogy? If pressed, I’d probably say no, not quite, but that is my own prejudices talking. The Golden Compass, known as The Northern Lights in the U.K., is one of my favorite books, and my favorite of the series. I could argue that the second and third books aren’t as good as the first, and I would make that argument for La Belle Sauvage as well. But don’t let my silly nostalgia dissway you from reading this one. It is a fine, fine book, and one that I will likely go to again, something I reserve for a very few select titles. The Book of Dust is a marvelous book, and my autumn was made richer by it.