Tom Pittman's WebLog

(or something like that)

2004 May 20 -- Reflection

Here I am at the end of the semester, the end of perhaps the last paid employment I will ever be able to get...

Did I learn anything? I think so:

I learned that Operating systems are really hard to write. Everything I had done before was in the context of embedded systems (computer inside a box that pretends to be something else, like a burglar alarm, and not appearing to the user as a computer). That was pretty easy, but putting in all the features that made the Mac system so usable is hard. Oh, I knew that user interface is hard, but somehow I didn't make the connection. The students struggled mightily. Only one gave up. If I had not been so wrapped around my own troubles, I might have taken notice of that soon enough to mitigate the problem. All the rest got As and Bs. They earned it. More relevant to my own situation, I was thinking of doing a "Mac-like" operating system to build future software on. It might be prudent to scale back that ambition.

I learned that Unix is a really bad system. I always knew that, but mostly from a distance. This semester I got up close for a change. The students had a hard time with it. It's a system designed by geeks, for geeks -- and not for real people. Oh how I long for the Mac! But it's gone. sigh

I learned Don't believe the Mission Statement. Mottos are a wonderful goal to aim for, but a lousy expression of what really happens. They are written by thoughtful people carefully thinking about what they want the world to see. They are implemented -- or rather not implemented -- by angry people with an axe to grind. Think about it: did you ever meet a person saying "Trust me" who was worthy of your trust? In view of this insight (and in the hope I am not alone in it), I will try never again to promote a self-congratulatory corporate motto like "Christ-centered". If Christ is at the center, they won't need to say so; if he is not, saying so is a lie.

I learned that There is no protection from relational meltdown. When the previous situation collapsed, I learned that I cannot prevent the problem (oh how I tried!) so when I interviewed here I specifically asked about institutional policies and procedures for conflict resolution. They had them, and I read them before deciding to come. But when the rubber hit the road, the policies were not followed. Duh. Face it, when there is conflict like that, it is because of sin. What sinner is going to stop and say, "Oh wait, the right thing to do here is follow the (Bible-based) procedures"? I won't stop trying to make things right, but it's no longer going to be a consuming priority. For most of my life I just walked away from catastrophe; in retrospect, that's not such a bad policy.

I learned that Reconciliation is possible. When relationships melt down, the other party always insists that "reconciliation is impossible" (their words). I never believed it. In this one case, the other guy had similarly given up, but because he was stuck with me for the rest of the semester, I was able to keep pushing him in the direction of reconciliation. It worked. There are still unresolved issues, but the situation is far better than it was six weeks ago. That is a definite plus. Reconciliation really is possible, but both parties have to want to. It's not easy.

I already knew it, but God works all things together for good. Sometimes the path is rocky, but the result is worth it. I have yet to see it on a large scale, but I still believe also in justice. However, that is God's prerogative, not mine, and I can trust Him to make it happen in His time. Meanwhile, I have fun and useful things to do.

God put eyes on the front of my head to see where I am going, not on the back to see where I've been.

Forgetting those things which are behind, I press on to the mark of the high calling which is in Christ Jesus -- Php.3:13,14