Saturday, September 13, 2008

Do I Have Horns?

I must, because I think I'm in hell.

For the past several months I have been eyeball deep and beyond at work compiling data and prepping political mailers, along with building several websites, and many other things. As the the Primary election approached, I soon became burned out on data. I needed a serious vacation.

The day of the Primary election, I let out a sigh if relief, because I figured the pressure was off, and that I would get a few weeks reprieve from political data.

Exhaled too soon.

I got no break at all from it. In fact, it got about ten times worse. I have been consistently working 12 to 14 hours a day, usually with no lunch. It is a constant barrage of "I need this right now!"

Over the last week or so, we have been working on the "Yes for Marriage" campaign ( We have been working on a huge mailing (500,000+ addresses), and I was responsible for laying the address info and voter data on the pieces. I got that going, then as I lay awake one of the nights, I had a nagging feeling that something was wrong. It got so bad that I called my boss at 1:00 am and woke him up. We met at work, and discovered that there was indeed a problem. I had accidentally run a batch of 100,000 records through twice, which would have resulted in that many duplicate mailers going out. With that, we only lost about five hours production time.

After we had already printed 150,000 of the mailers, I had another awful realization. I had made and error combining names from same households together. (up to 2 people from one house on a mailer.) The result was that names from completely different counties were being put together on some of the mailers. I had this thought during the day, and we quickly did some figuring and found that a little more than 36,000 of the mailers were bad because of this. CRAP CRAP CRAP!

To my boss's credit on both of these, he remained very calm, and we worked through the problem. He did however point out that these mailers cost about a buck apiece, so that little oversight cost the company a little over $36,000. CRAP CRAP CRAP!

So together my boss and I figured out how to determine which mailiers were bad, and how to get them pulled out of the stacks before they mailed. (Luckily, I found this before any mailers went out).

So I fixed the problem, and started production over again, confident this time that I had covered my bases, and that the product I was generating was accurate. I got to think that for a whole day I think.

The woman in charge of our mailings came into my office and told me (as I heard it) that the barcode in the mail panel was wrong. I happened to have a Sharpie in my hand at the moment, and I threw it. It bounced off the edge of my desk and flew across the room. I sort of kind of yelled. "Don't you tell me there's another problem!"

Once we talked about it a bit, it turned out that my barcode was correct, but the city state and zipcode above it was not correct in some circumstances. AAAAUUUUGGGHHHHH!!!!!!

So, I went to the boss expecting a directive to fill out my own pink slip and kick my own butt out the door. The three of us got together and discussed the problem. It turned out it wasn't as widespread as I initially understood. The mail woman took a batch that had some of the non-compliant pieces to the post office, and they all made it throgh without being rejected. WHEW!

The next day I apologized to her for my outburst. All is well I thought.


Later she was back saying that another problem had surfaced with the city state and zipcode. The data I used for the barcode was run through a system that gives the most current zipcode. The city state and zipcode, came from year old data. The problem that surfaced was because of growing areas and zipcode splits. Pieces were showing a city and zipcode but the barcode referenced a different city and zipcode. (one city merged into another larger city, and therefore no longer existed).

I pulled the boss out of a meeting on that one. The question was: does the post office actually look at the city state and zipcode, or does their machine simply read the barcode? Once again, the post office trip became necessary. And once again, the pieces passed. WHEW!

We purchased a newer version of my production software that is server based that allows us to produce the pieces a lot faster. So I took the remaining 278,000 records on with that, fixed the mail panel problem, and finished the job.

Holy cow what a ride! I am so tired I can't stand myself.

The past two days have been spent catching up on all the work the got set aside to get this giganto mailing out. So needless to say, everyone needed their stuff done right then, and they kept letting me know that. I worked from 7am to past 7pm most days, and skipped lunch to get caught up.

Yesterday, I knew I had to leave at 5:00 because our neighbor was getting married at 6:00. I had a list of 7 or eight projects to get done in order to make that deadline. Of course nothing wanted to cooperate. I skipped lunch again, and plowed through. I knocked most of it out. A couple of the jobs got delayed because I didn't have everything I needed to finish them.

This whole run has been exhausting and incredibly stressful. I know that Monday and Tuesday will probably still be a bit nuts, but I think I may be on the down slope of my sleigh ride through Hades.

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At September 26, 2008 12:55 PM, Blogger Jaime said...

What a nightmare!!! That is unreal. I hope things have been better since!


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