Well? What’s it to be, punk!

English: Santa Claus with a little girl Espera...

English: Santa Claus with a little girl Esperanto: Patro Kristnasko kaj malgranda knabino Suomi: Joulupukki ja pieni tyttö (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As is traditional at this time of year, we took our nieces to see Santa Claus. The eldest enjoyed it and the youngest is just about over the trauma now. The elf at the front gate confessed to us that more children hated Santa than liked him. Thank Goodness we didn’t go to a Winter Wonderland attraction that recently had to shut down. The attraction sounded great in the promotional material. Reindeer, sleigh rides with real huskies and Santa’s grotto. What could possibly go wrong?

It’s as if the organisers had a checklist. Working to a tight immovable deadline (i.e. Christmas), they just about managed to tick everything off. But because they were running out of time, they had to cut corners. They only had two Reindeer and they managed to look suspiciously like cows with stuck on antlers. The sleigh rides had some real huskies (well 2 to be precise). For some reason, the Santas weren’t available until late in the day. Even when they did turn up, they were thin not fat and their outfits were the cheap see-through plastic kind you get from pound land. The ice rink had no ice. The magic tunnel of ice was a few fairy lights dangled among the trees.

A funny thing happens when you are running out of time and still try to squeeze everything in. Because there isn’t enough time, corners get cut and quality slowly starts its inexorable slide downhill. In this example, the collateral damage was mainly financial, but there will be many children out there for whom the magic of Christmas has been tainted somewhat. But when the same thing happens with software, it can be catastrophic.

When a software project starts to overrun, you have a number of choices. You can slip the deadline (i.e. just accept that delivery will take longer than originally thought). You can slip the budget by putting more people on the project but there is a point where this just makes things worse (read the mythical man month by Fred Brooks). You can slip function (by accepting that you won’t deliver as much). For those who think they can deliver despite the overrun by questioning every estimate and applying pressure, then you end up in Winter Wonderland with only one reindeer and an anorexic Santa.

The default option if you try not to slip anything is quality. And poor quality in software means bugs, glitches & crashes. It also means unhappy clients and unlike Winter Wonderland, most software is around for a very long time.

So what’s it to be?

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

English: Santa Claus with a little girl Espera...

English: Santa Claus with a little girl Esperanto: Patro Kristnasko kaj malgranda knabino Suomi: Joulupukki ja pieni tyttö (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I find Christmas is a bit like dragging a brick across a table by a bit of elastic. Nothing happens for a long time and then bang! It all hits you at once. Christmas always seems like it’s ages away then suddenly, it’s upon us like a rabid tiger. I try and fend it off with my inner “bah humbug!” but it’s no use – it’s inevitable.

Even though it’s still November (admittedly only just), time seems to be creeping away. I keep seeing updates on Facebook from people who have already put their Christmas decorations up. Down in Cornwall, the old people’s home opposite even had them up two weeks ago.

I don’t mind the inevitable Christmas dinners. I usually have three or four – there’s the office one, the London office one, the partner one and oh yes – there’s Christmas day too. Opening presents is fun too and I enjoy seeing kids faces when they open presents from us.

The bit I find really challenging is choosing presents for everyone. My wife says – what shall we get your Mum this year?  What about your Dad – and my mind goes blank. Not a good sign when they are usually the first two she asks about and that’s before I’ve chosen something for my wife. Of course we eventually get there every year, but it’s a lot of mental anguish in between all those Christmas parties!

christmas tree

christmas tree (Photo credit: peminumkopi)

I have a pathological hatred of wrapping presents – so much so that I bribe one of Julie’s friends to wrap mine for me every year. The princely sum of a bottle of wine usually secures her services and she wraps them with gusto!

Then there’s the question of what we do after Christmas – shall we go away or shall we stay here? Will we have a party? Who are we going to invite. With the kitchen one floor, several worktops, tiles and many doors short, I find it hard to imagine it all being ready in time.

Like everyone, I suspect I enjoyed Christmas a hell of a lot more as a child. Not that I ever believed all that Santa Claus nonsense – I quickly worked out that it was mathematically impossible for him to get to every house in the UK overnight, let alone the rest of the world. We’ve never lived in a house with a chimney and Dad’s assertion that Santa squeezed down the central heating flue sounded very unlikely seeing as every effigy of Santa looked so fat that you’d be forgiven for thinking he’d eaten a reindeer.

Still – ’tis the season and all that – Ho bloody ho!