Scott Hanselman

Burnt Day - I need a Do-Over for Monday

July 15, 2009 Comment on this post [34] Posted in Musings
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33_15_10_prev Whatever you do, don't tell my Boss because I'm just sick about this. Like physically ill. I have a confession to make.

I got nothing done on Monday. I need to call a "do-over" for the entire day.

The whole day was a comedy of errors and meetings. I had meetings (phone calls, virtual camera things) from 9 to 11, and I'd blocked 11am until 5pm to work on something specific and important. (Hence the blocking off of time.)

For whatever reason, I was totally unable to log into my laptop. It's never happened before, and I'm pretty technical. ;) I ended up having to drive an hour to the local Microsoft Portland office to try logging in while plugged into a real network.

This got me part-way there, and at this point we're pushing past noon. I then spent the rest of the day messing with my laptop that apparently has a bad video card (it's a hybrid laptop with two cards, one from Intel and one from ATI/AMD) because I was getting video corruption, lockups and general evil. This is what I get for running Beta ATI drivers, of course.

I literally fought with this until 4pm. I could have used VMs, my backup laptop, etc to get my work done, but this was my main machine we were talking about. I couldn't let it go and put it out of my mind.

By 6:30pm I'd missed dinner with the family, fixed my laptop and got nothing done.

I just feel SO bad when I burn a day like this. It seems like it happens about twice a year.

I wanted to get this off my chest and declare this post an "open thread."

Dear Reader, please, regale me with stories of how YOU have burned entire days so that I might some how justify my own toasted day.

* Fire Photo from

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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July 15, 2009 1:53
Burnt many a day reading blogs... like yours. ;) Mondays are for happenstance.
July 15, 2009 1:59
I've days like these! Or more like little bits and pieces like death by a thousand cuts. At my office we have been adding WCF services with impersonation/delegation. It worked beautifully but then after about two weeks we started getting "permission denied" errors on random DLLs used in our project. A reboot would always clear it and a refresh of the app pools or just editing the web.config would do the trick. Some days it would happen once and some days it would happen several times.

Each time we had to drop what we were doing and go into debug mode. Of course this would mean "re-learning" the error and looking at notes. And once we were done we would "try" to go back to the former levels on concentration we had before being called away. Meanwhile projects are not being worked on and other issues would pile up. Morale was starting to fade...

So... in the end I started looking at the fusion logs and noticed that permission errors were related to the temp ASP.NET directory. We allowed other users to write to this and so far no problems. Still not sure why it worked sometimes and not others BUT... it is working and now I'm working on that pile.

July 15, 2009 2:00
Only two out of the year? Scott you are to far removed from business America. We only get things done two days out of the year. Don't feel to bad.

July 15, 2009 2:07
While working on bringup of a new ASIC, I accidentally set the lab on fire. Just a small fire really, hardly worth trifling over...

Needless to say, it resulted in nothing useful getting done that day.
July 15, 2009 2:31
When I went to see the new Startrek at the cinema a while ago I come home to a none functional computer. Not only had my Lenovo W500 completely broken down but my 1 TB external and another external also stopped responding. My gigantic external drive I just put in a drawer. I refused to format that one. My entire life is on it. Anyways I spent 3 days trying to recover. One of my hobby projects is lost forever :(

The good thing is that my 1 TB Seagate started working again after a few weeks in the drawer. I still don't have a clue about what happened but I believe a USB hub might be the cause of my troubles. Now I have an online based backup solution. :)
July 15, 2009 2:56
I once spent an entire day troubleshooting this run time error I was getting in a Visual Studio project. I was getting frustrated because the error kept appearing at random places in the code base and I couldn't figure out why.

I started going around to the other developers on the team and NO ONE was getting it. I searched all over the web, I asked all of our resident experts and no one had any clue. I couldn't even run the project so coding was out of the question until I fixed it. I spent all day trying to figure out what was going on

Finally at the end of the day I did what I should have done in the beginning when experiencing and odd error that no one else is getting...I restarted Visual Studio. Errors all gone and so was my day.

That's the first thing I try now when hunting some crazy buy. Like to just eliminate that right away and save myself a day of frustrations chasing ghosts. Nothing like trying to fix problems that aren't even there.
July 15, 2009 3:06
I am having that day today with svn failing over n over due to some temp entries on our build machine.
July 15, 2009 3:10
Only twice a year!?
July 15, 2009 4:55
I just spent two weeks trying to find an error in my code, to the point of completely rewriting my project from scratch, doing unit testing, and debugging libraries just to prove to myself it wasn't my code. When I finally gave up, a colleague found the problem within about 10 minutes. To be perfectly fair, it was because of some unexpected behaviors in Javascript. Still...... Wasted a day? Pshaw. That happens a couple times a month. If I can find a way to make an app screw up in such a way that nobody can fix it, I will. It's a talent.
July 15, 2009 5:05
Only 2 days per year? I just wasted 2 weeks debugging some strange NHibernate behaviour and it was the result of an old build of the Castle project. Why 2 weeks? It wasn't obvious that it was related to the Castle Dynamic Proxy until I had done many divide and conquer debug sessions on the application.

I would hate to see how you feel if you worked a day like the average person does! That would be enough to slip you into a depression!
July 15, 2009 5:18
I hate to say it, Scott. But you deserve it. Microsoft even deserved it.

This is the price we all pay for having consumer-based Operatating Systems at our fingertips and feeding the Microsoft way of accepting technology after technology before the current technology even matures.

I love Microsoft products. I use them daily. But they've basically shot themselves in the foot with making everything so darn easy with point-and-click and wizards and GUIs and everything. C'mon, lets have a reality-check here.

Should Windows even be allowed in the workplace for production, enterprise-based applications, especially e-commerce and banking? Yes, they're good and they work, but anybody with half a brain that knows how to log into Windows XP things they're a "server expert".

I have mainframes that runs months and months without an application/driver causes it to crash constantly or randomly reboot. I have real enterprise applications that run 24/7.

Then on the flip side, I have Microsoft Operating Systems running crtical data processing and item processing applications daily that frequently require server reboots, or get funky DCOM errors, or get resource errors when somone tries to logon and printing doesn't work and finally after a reboot, life it good again.

I don't know -- I think Microsoft needs to get serious and stop trying to force new technologies down our throats and start fixing their existing issues/problems and let things mature. It's down right ridiculous.

I have hundreds of servers, Windows 2003 and R2 and Windows 2008, and they're all basically crap for how we use them.

I'm tired of support reps that think they know how to use their PC, thinking they know enough to remote into Windows 2003 server and tell me to bring up Task Manager, and go to Services, etc. ,because that's what they do on their machine.

Bring back command line and lets start writing our code for Server Core going forward.

I'd be perfectly fine if Windows 7 and Windows 2008 were the last Operating System from Microsoft until 2025.

July 15, 2009 5:20
Now ask a real personal question for anyone that has a Windows/Microsoft Operating System:

How many times have you installed Windows in the past 15 years?

What was the primary motivation for reinstalling Windows on existing servers?

I think your answers prove my point.
July 15, 2009 5:44
Dude, those last two comments were a total buzz kill on the comment reading. I was looking forward to more...
July 15, 2009 6:29
Visual Studio assembly reference issues and TortoiseSVN/AnkhSVN refresh and merge issues seem to conspire to consume the better part of most of my days at present. When those items are all resolved it seems that the Cisco software VPN client refuses to connect to the company network. When those kinds of things happen too frequently its hard to feel like the company should be sending a paycheck. I know, not quite so glamorous as hardware issues or fires ...
July 15, 2009 7:10
dm3281 - Wow, sorry you're upset, but I'm not sure how your story about Operating Systems relates to my having a bad video cards. My story could happen on any OS, and has.

I'm sorry you're upset or bitter about Microsoft OSs. I came to work here to change things, but If you don't like them, I'd encourage you to stop using them. I meant that truly, with a full heart. If the shoe pinches, wear different shoes. Sounds like you'd like PowerShell as a command line person, so perhaps you should spend you time using PowerShell on Server Core.

Thanks for taking the time to write such a detailed comment!

July 15, 2009 7:22
Seriously, I have to echo the same surprise as some of the other commenters -- only two days a year?

For me and for pretty much anyone else I know, 2 days a month would be more accurate.

Hell, I spent two days just last week upgrading a desktop from XP to Vista. Spent two days in back in June trying to get some legacy web apps running on IIS 7. Back in May as I recall, it was a couple of days messing around with data bindings on a stupid WPF app. April? Hard drive crash.

Shall I go on?

July 15, 2009 7:24
OK, OK, moving around. A couple of days every once in a while. This day just SUCKED. I can see burning an hour or two, but this stuck out as a complete, discrete, single DAY.
July 15, 2009 7:53
Would you believe: trying to get a Corillian web service (ASMX) to work with a WCF endpoint? Thought it would be a five minute solution, just import the WSDL and call the one function in the web service.

Not! Ended up spending a day and a half and never got it working. Since you are ex-Corillian, I was wishing you were watching over my shoulder that day, Scott. Even your blog post about hacking the WSDL was no relief for me.
July 15, 2009 8:52
This happened to my boss and myself the other day, with the unfortunate ending of the laptop not working.

My boss had this old laptop permanently plugged in at his desk. He kept it for demo purposes, it has a few demo versions of our software on it that he can use to demo to clients.

One day he decided that I should set up one of the demos for a potential client, so he moved the laptop to a desk closer to mine. I tried running the demo, but it wouldn't connect to the local SQL Server instance. There was an Event Log entry saying that the SQL Server version was incompatible with XP, I needed to install a hotfix or a service pack. So I copied SQL Server 2000 SP4 onto a flash drive, then ran the setup on the laptop. Very early on in the setup, it crashed with one of those generic, "unsearchable" error messages.

Not knowing what the culprit was, I figured I should just reboot the laptop and try again. So I rebooted it, and now we can't get the laptop to boot at all. Windows blue screens or randomly restarts whether we try to boot into it normally or in safe mode. Trying to repair Windows by booting off the disc fails (hangs) when it gets to the point of examining the hard drive.

I spent half the day trying to get this demo to work, and the other half of the day trying to resuscitate the laptop. I failed on both counts. The laptop is now being looked at by someone, but we have our doubts.

I know how it feels to lose a day like that. I was already in the zone, coding away happily when my boss interrupted me to work on this demo. It was early in the morning, so I don't think I got even one hour of useful coding done. Bam, day gone.
July 15, 2009 9:31
I get those days too... :)
July 15, 2009 9:58
Ahhhhh Mondays,

first, i split a favorite pair of pants jumping into my car had to run back into the house at friggin 0635!!
Ironed another pair which i must say was better got to work at 7am. figured out how to to upload the friggin
dividends to the banking app but for some obscure reason excel kept suming the 500 rows to 54,351. this was
for over two billion worht of dividends!! by 730 i realised frigit, i don't need to sum it, the net will be auto debited.

i uploaded the file then discovered that the einstiens in headoffice while giving me rights to upload to unix, GAVE ME NO RIGHTS TO UPLOAD TO FINACLE!!! no big, i ran upstairs, taught a manager the whole concept of shares, dividends and the whole general concept of banking it was 830. manager reads little slip glue to bottom of top drawer and logs into banking app. HE HAS NOT RIGHTS TO PERFORM BANKING BECAUSE HE IS BUREAUHONCHO AND ONLY PUSHES PAPER!! no big, ran down to branch manager downstairs asked him to do the needful. "jake you from good family we trust you. here i've logged in do whatever you want". okay, transfer 10million to my personal accoutn quick dash to atm and i'm gone? nah

"FILE NOT FOUND OR ZERO BYTE FILE" it was 930. deeeeeeeeep breath (WOOOOOOOOOOOOSAAAAAAAAAAAAH find zen center. i am peace i'm cool. mental pictures of running streams.) run upstairs back to my garret, reupload to unix (server on another continent) upload done 940. teach immediate boss every thing about dividends (i have it down pat done it once already!!) he tries to to run the upload to finacle (InfoSYS, i love you) "FILE NOT FOUND OR ZERO BYTE FILE". Ooookay log call to helpdesk (headoffice IT manager loging support call. humiliating). 1000

loud whining from clearing dept something about no apps working. i'm at a loose end waiting for my support call to be parsed, translated to hindi and the response (normally "huh? can you give netmeeting?") to be translated to english and sent back to me so what the heck, i'll go down to clearing.

CONFIKER!! FRIGGIN CONFIKER!! i spent most this year shoring up my defenses on the interweb pcs and someone still managed to bring confiker onto the internal network!! now it is 1145 and i'm doing the spiderman thing on the walls. oooookay, company has kaspersky on portable drive. will just run down install use latest updates and "Bob's my uncle"!! Naaaaaaaah the pc infects my drive with raila, mazebati, and loads of crap then kills every last exe i have run!! 1400

okay, raze the frig to the ground and repave it. no big. first, i need to get the databases and data files off the pc. 1430 and nooooo. access denied to C:\ no big will go straight to program folder. noooo access denied to programfiles. no big, will go straight to borland. NO NO NO NO NO. at this point i am stamping on smashing peoples flashdrives like the vermin they are (it is cathartic!!). deeeeeeeeep breath (WOOOOOOOOOOOOSAAAAAAAAAAAAH find zen center. i am peace i'm cool. mental pictures of running streams.) it is 1700

okay, send clearing dept to offsite recovery center (yeah, got mean continuity of business skills.) manager driving can't drive stick so backs into taxi while trying to set off (IT doesn't do everything!!) spent four hours disinfecting my flash drives and external media (whatever happened to the write locks on flash drives?).

got home 2130ish was in "the word" by 2300 and stayed there till 0500. i am a very pious monk i am ("the word" is what i call my bed. people tend to hang up quickly if you say "i am in the word").

top that anyone
July 15, 2009 11:57
I once drove 3.5 hours for an open day, to find out that they'd rescheduled for the following week. I received the notification in the post a few days later. Sacrificing seven hours to the road is enough, but for no reason of your own too.

If you can vent your spleen at someone else does it make a burnt day any better?

Tomorrow (Thursday) a colleague and I have dedicated an entire day to rebuilding our dev machines. It's almost like an annual day of hope that you've backed everything up and hope that when you get Outlook installed again you don't have too many emails waiting for you.
July 15, 2009 15:23
That is quite a bad day and I know the feeling.

I'll tell you about a day I had last week, even though I shouldn't as it seems so unprofessional and lazy.

I am a freelancer and I have one major website to build and I am currently integrating the designers html and css into my MVC app. Nothing to hard I know.

I am also launching an online food ordering website as my 1st business which requires a lot of tasks than just programming.

Anyway on thursday I sat at my desk and by the end of the day I had not wrote anything at all. Nothing. I checked Email a few times and some blogs. Even thought about implementation details but still no work done.

That obviously doesn't sound good especially if my client or future clients were to read this but I just had a strange day.

Maybe burn out? I have been doing a lot this past few months.
July 15, 2009 16:51
Oh Man! A sense of humour in adversity is an absolute necessity.

I have wasted hours if not days on stuff I have read in blogs. Only recently I tried to get Tim Heuer's silverlight 2 media controller working. Definitely a method of fail in my case and I still have no idea why it won't play my videos. On the other hand the standard silverlight media control works great with a single drag and drop.

Then there was the shenanigins with silvelight 3. I read The Gu's blog. Installed the two items he suggested. I still don't have any evidence that SL3 has been installed in my VS2008 SP1 environment.
How can I tell?

I have expanded on these situations in my own blog but when you are a developer working on your own, you do not have the luxury of driving to MS Galactic HQ to have things fixed for you. Either you find a solution in google, in the blogs you read, or the replies you get from blog posts like these, replies to your own blog posts, or from your twitter buddies. As backup to these resources I also have MSDN!!! and Safari online.

Of course, I am still using XP SP3 32-bit system, unlike some who have 64-bit windows 7 boxes and still complain when they lose a day :)

The upside to all this is that, if I lose a day, then there is much less work lost than if Scott loses a day :), apparently.

July 15, 2009 18:36

I have one of those days! I call it the series of unfortunate events. The best thing one can do is to calm down and be patient.

July 15, 2009 19:43
Friggin' slacker . . .
July 15, 2009 19:44
just kidding, not really scottgu - just encouraging some humor you appear to need :D
July 15, 2009 20:28
I work for a government department, we have a lot of those days, we call them weekdays.
July 15, 2009 23:35
I'm pretty sure, everybody gets these days. You either are stuck with meetings all day or there's one problem following the other and at the end of the day you feel like you got nothing done.

When this happens, I try to remind myself that it just happens, it's not my fault, and it's definitely not worth worrying about. Rather forget about it and look forward to the next day.

Only recently I had to reset my computer. Even though we had an image with the main applications installed, it still took me half a day to get everything else set up and all the tiny little applications and tools up and running. So there went four hours of the day. Most of the rest was spent in meetings. Yep. It happens.
July 16, 2009 11:45
Only twice a year? Lucky you!
July 19, 2009 15:35
I can't remember from where - but I've heard days like that described as 'Captain Ahab' days! The days you spend banging your head against the wall - reacting to things you've neither planned for nor that are entirely under your control.

..."the white whale has also been seen as a symbol for many things, including nature and those elements of life that are out of human control"

July 21, 2009 4:14
@"not really scottgu" -- nicely played ;-)

And there's a little bit of Captain Ahab in all coders, refusing to let a small problem get the better of us until eventually we kill ourselves trying to defeat it.

@Dean -- you're sounding a little bored and depressed, maybe a little socially isolated. You want to make it a priority to get on top of that. Wait a second... is this a blog comment or a therapy session. Best of luck.


July 23, 2009 22:39
I've had 4 of those days over the past month, all due to hardware issues. But...wait for it...they are iMacs. New ones. I think that the Plaza Kansas City Apple store (yeah, we've got an Apple store...2 actually!) got a bad batch of iMacs.

Spent all day bootcamping and installing Windows and all my tools. Finally went to install Office...and the optical drive stopped working. Booted into Mac, same problem. Took the machine back in and said "give me another!" They did, but it was close to 7 PM so I just went home. Came in the next day and repeated my actions.

Flash forward 1 month, and harddrive dies. I take it into the "Genius" bar, and they take it away from me. Give it back in a couple of hours with a new harddrive. I bring it into work, and the fan runs. All the time. Take it BACK to the "Genius" bar and they take it away again, give it back in a couple of hours, and say, "all fixed!"

It was not fixed.

Back in AGAIN to the damn store the next morning, they bring it out and say, "All fixed!"

It was not fixed.

At this point I don't care anymore and figure I'll just have the coolest computer in the office. Install windows and all my tools, etc.

4 days I'll never get back. Unbillable. All due to Apple's declining (in my extremely limited opinion) standards of hardware, and my boss' Apple fetish that makes me run Windows on an iMac instead of getting me a Dell for 40% of the price.

February 26, 2010 18:26
Hey Scott. Today is actually Do Over Day in Canada, no kidding. Feb 26th is the day you can set aside to do over, repair or just re experience some emotional remnant of your otherwise spiritual existence. Just thought I'd pass that on...

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.