House Arrest

Not my foot, but an incredible simulationI’ve spent the last couple of weeks locked inside my apartment, hunched over a keyboard and staring dumbly at the deadlines that keep flying by. I’ve got that sickly pallor back, I’m back on the sauce, my days and nights are completely reversed, the laundry and the dishes keep piling up, and even the cat is getting creeped out at having me around all the time.

My current theory is that it’s a side effect of my having worked exactly the wrong number of years as a programmer. At this point I’ve been programming long enough that when I first hear about a project, I can pretty quickly break it down into its component parts. When you’re first starting out, the first reaction is always “that sounds hard.” Now, my reaction is more “that sounds like a lot of hash maps, arrays, and linked lists.” Once I’ve broken it all down in my head, it feels like the hard part’s over.

And the problem with that is I never take into account how much time goes into actually making all of that work. I’ve been working long enough to know to pad my original estimates, but not long enough to remember that my original estimates are always ludicrously, ridiculously optimistic. So I basically start off behind schedule, and it just snowballs from there.

But even as I sit here, knowing all of that and having seen it play out again, first hand, it still feels wrong to me, knowing exactly how to do something and having to say, “I’ll be finished with that a month from now.” At EA you can’t swing a dead franchise without hitting a producer, so there’s copies of Microsoft Project on every screen. And if it’s possible for a man to have a computer application as his nemesis, that program would be mine. It just goes against everything I stand for. All those overlapping bars and blocks of time expressed in terms of months — just thinking about it now gives me a chill like getting a prostate exam from the Grim Reaper. Having a long stretch of work divided neatly into tasks and scheduled out is anathema to me. It just takes all the mystery out of life. There’s a reason I’m not a producer.

Anyway, today I finished a big chunk of what I’d been working on. It’s not finished, but it’s finally over the hump and the dark looming clouds have broken and I can finally start getting my life such-as-it-is back together. I walked up to the Haight this afternoon, and it was just weird. I mean, even for the Haight. Being out in sunlight, seeing three-dimensional human beings — I actually stepped out into traffic because I forgot you’re supposed to watch the signals. They say it takes a while to get re-adjusted to life on the outside.