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Showing posts from 2014

It's Not My Raid

Some people like to dress up in special clothes, get together with like-minded individuals, and then spend 90+ minutes running back and forth over a hundred-meter rectangle of grass. Others like to wear scarves and yell at the first people. I confess to not being fit enough to do the first thing nor dedicated enough to do the second, but as I said before, Some People Juggle Geese.
What I do for fun, a couple of times a week, is to sit at my computer and coordinate with between 15 and 20 other people for three hours trying to make certain pixels last longer than other pixels on the screen. This is called "World of Warcraft Raiding" and it is not terribly common as a pastime, but it's something that my partner and I enjoy doing together with a number of our friends across the world. My partner actually has her own raid group that she leads, and I'm lucky enough to have a spot on that team, but that group is currently on hiatus for various reasons, so we have been parti…

Wash Speaks For Me

"Some People Juggle Geese."

If you don't know the reference, it's from Firefly, the Joss Whedon show back in the early Oughts that spawned some pretty hardcore fans. Wash, the series hero and my personal favourite character, is trying to explain to his wife and some of the other crewmembers of their spaceship that sometimes, people do things for fun that don't sound like fun to you. And that is OK.

It's become a shorthand for me, a reminder that my tastes are not universal and my idea of fun is not the ideal against which all others should be measured. And that is OK. It applies to a bunch of other things, too, things not about fictional entertainment modes in short-lived science fiction TV shows.

For instance, the iOS/Android divide? The particular tribalism that crops up in both camps that insists a position of superiority simply due to the brand and operating system of a pocket computer used? That's a position I don't understand. There are things a…

Do you know what today is?

Today is a Monday, and that means it's time to do something new.

Mondays get a lot of guff, much of it entirely reasonable guff; going back to work or starting a new week can often be difficult, especially if you're looking at another week of 'more of the same' of whatever it was that had you looking so longingly towards Friday last week. Mondays are when things seem to loom before you, when the work seems grindy and the leisure time seems very, very far away.

But Mondays are also a chance to shake things up; to plan the rest of the week and break everything down and divide and conquer. They're the strategy day, the day when you find out what happened last week while everyone was racing for Friday. Mondays are when stuff gets planned (and if you're doing your planning on Sundays, shame on you and more importantly shame on your boss, because it's hurting your productivity if you're working on weekends). Mondays are when teams can assess their load and di…

Antici...

There's a really tough part to the grind of being unemployed: the waiting.

The UI department doesn't care that it's Thanksgiving. It doesn't care that I've had a couple of phone interviews with a place, or that I'm waiting on a callback. It doesn't care that my stomach is tied up in knots and I'm having trouble sleeping.

It only cares that I've looked for work, and that I haven't yet been hired.

In a way, it's been really good training for working on issues and getting myself used to the idea of managing my time better, and good practice at applying Kanban in places other than the workplace, and how organizing myself makes things easier (significantly easier, as I get older). I have had trouble in the past with writing things down, on the belief that I could just "remember" things, despite never, ever being able to remember anything at all. I once forgot my own name. So practicing the process is good.

The set goals and determined t…

Comparative Lifelines

It's weird to think about the fact that, when my father was my age, his life was completely different from mine. Like, entirely different in nearly every way. 
When my dad was 39, he had four kids, one of them under 5.  He'd been married to my mom for more than 10 years. He had had a dozen jobs by this point, including a short-order cook and a shop steward for a long-haul trucking company repair depot. His jobs were transitory, though, because my dad had a career, and that career was union organization. Whatever job my dad had, he was always focused on improving things for the workers around him, via collective action and collective bargaining. I know it cost him at least one job. I know it also got him at least one job. I don't know if that constant fear of losing a job at the cost of his career was part of why he drank. From our (very sparse) conversations about it, my father drank because he was an alcoholic, just as his father was an alcoholic. By the time he was 50, m…

Rejection

Rejection sucks.

Here is a really interesting job. It sounds really cool and it feels like a great chance and a great fit. Except someone else doesn't think so, it turns out. And so you get an email (sometimes), and they've gone in another direction. All the cool stuff you thought about, all the nifty ideas you had, are going to have to go somewhere else. Sorry, try somewhere else.

Is it personal? Did I talk too fast? Did I get my words mixed up? Did I answer something wrong? Do you feel like I'm a bad fit for some reason? No idea. There's no exit survey for job hunting, just a stream of "no" until hopefully you find a "yes" somewhere. It's a grinding, brutal, dehumanizing experience where the productivity and joy can be sucked out of you one sip at a time. The average unemployment period for someone in my industry is 9 months. The average unemployment period overall is 8.5 months. Two-thirds of a year of grinding, pulverizing rejection.

Rejecti…

Self Care

Today I set up the burn board and powered through a bunch of chores around the house. I did this because another day of jobhunting seemed less appealing than scrubbing the stovetop and vacuuming the carpets (which in and of itself says something about jobhunting, I think). As a joke, a assigned points to my chore list based on how long I thought each thing would take, and then powered through them, marking them done as I went along. My partner asked how long my sprint was (one week, obviously), and at that point it became a running joke that we're now an Agile Household. Given that we both think this is hilarious, it's likely to go into the in-joke repertoire with "Stand Back Six Pack" around the house.

Today was a back-to-work day for both myself and my partner, as we had both basically taken the last week off to play videogames and just be present with each other. Which is important in a relationship. And then I promptly forgot about taking care of myself today.

I …

The Mistake of Hierarchy

I was having lunch with a friend the other day and they were selling me on applying for a position in their company, which I was totally up for and interested in and in fact had already done for a couple of other positions. And the point we kept coming back to was the idea that I was "overqualified" or that somehow putting in for this job would be "beneath" me. Now, this is a customer-facing position in a software company where the users are generally going to be relatively bright engineers or sysadmins, so it's not exactly a Comcast Helpdesk job, but there was still this stigma, this idea both in their head and in the culture in general that a customer-facing role, any customer-facing role, is somehow less than a job as, say, a developer, or a devops job, or something like that.
I worked in a technical support role for six years, the last three or so in a supervisory role (mostly because if I'd've taken the "manager" title, my salary would…

What I Did For My Winter Vacation

(Or: the BlizzCon After Action Report)

Friday and Saturday my partner and I went to BlizzCon. I may have mentioned that. Here is what we did.

Thursday: Flew in early to LGB(T), a great little airport which happens to have a JetBlue direct flight from PDX. PDX is also a great little airport, which makes the experience of flying the PDX-LGB route one of the more pleasant experiences you can have while flying these days. Even the TSA people are unfailingly polite and positive. We then grabbed our rental car and got In-n-Out (because In-n-Out). We ran a couple more errands getting various electronica we'd managed to forget to pack, and then we were off to the Anaheim convention center to get our BlizzCon badges and goodie bags. Some folk had lined up for hours to be the first through the door at registration; we showed up at around noon, strolled straight through the line, and never stopped walking until we were back at the car, loot and ID in hand. This will be a theme for the whole …

The Limits of Human Endurance*

* - a very specific human, i.e., me.

This past weekend was BlizzCon, the gaming convention for all of those people out there (like my partner) who like to play videogames made by Blizzard with friends. I'm not as hardcore as some other players (like my partner), but as a "filthy casual" I did enjoy both the spectacle of going to BlizzCon and the chance to meet up in meatspace with folk who I've been friends with for a while. We had a fantastic time doing random stuff both at and not-at the convention, and it was, for the most part, quite enjoyable.

The trick is, I'm anxious in crowds. This didn't used to be a thing, but somewhere over the last ten years or so I've developed a pretty serious anxiety problem in groups of people; where there are crowds of any sort, I tend to not do terribly well, and when the crowds get loud and random, I get even less functional than normal. Thinking about it, when I was younger being up on stage in front of people would te…

Early to Rise

Tomorrow at 7 AM I board a Jetblue flight to Southern California for an extended-weekend vacation with my wife, who (by virtue of being gainfully employed) is financing all of this (along with some very generous friends). We're going to meet friends whom I've known for quite some time. Some of them I've met in-person before, and I'm looking forward to reconnecting. Some of them I've never met or seen, and I'm looking forward to putting a voice and a face to the personality I already know. Some of them I consider colleagues and heroes and I just want to give them whatever support and cheering I can.

It's odd, though, because as I get older and grayer, I get more interested in playing games and thinking about the games I play, and less interested in identifying as a "gamer" as a significant indicator of my personal identity. Honestly, I'm not sure I'd make the grade, as it were, as a gamer in most circles: I came to videogames pretty late in…

...Or I Will Replace You With A Very Small Shell Script

Once again I remain convinced that there is no problem that is insurmountable when a possible first-draft solution includes a hacked-together bash script.

I spent the better part of an hour trying to bang my head against Windows, gave up, and grabbed my Mac laptop, opened a terminal, and accomplished the end-goal in 10 minutes, which included writing my own hacky first-draft do_the_thing.bash file. More and more, my solutions (including production-ready solutions in some cases) start life as do_the_thing.bash, and eventually evolve into a proper script with error conditions, failure modes, self-checks to prevent multiple runs, etc. But mostly, they start as do_the_thing.bash, which I blame a developer friend for doing in front of me and thereby teaching me terrible habits.

My own personal goal, after I get back from my convention trip, is to throw away do_the_thing.bash and rewrite the entire process, soup to nuts, in python (including checking for ruby and installing it if needed, am…

Listening

Friday night I was very privileged to be able to hang out with my wife at her place of employment; it's a very cool, very forward-thinking place to be working and I'm extremely grateful that my wife gets to work there (not the least of which because it means that my night-terrors about being out of work aren't money-related). I've met a number of really nifty people who work there, but that night was special. That night, I was surrounded.

Specifically, I was surrounded by enormously talented, confident, intelligent women who work in development, engineering, and operations. It was not exactly brand-new to me; I've taken to trailing along to PyLadies with my partner and it's where I met some really fantastic people I'm very happy to know. But this was an environment where everyone knew one another; everyone was relaxed and open and laughing and having a good time and talking about nerdy stuff and the energy was just fantastic.

I tried very hard to be quiet. …

Driving and Riding

I spent yesterday not going out.

This was deliberate, because I spent Wednesday with way too many people trying to kill me.

Now, normally, I like to keep the number of people trying to kill me as close to zero as possible, excluding my ex-wives, but sometimes you have to leave the house and run errands or whatever, and when I do that I do it on my motorcycle. I have a Suzuki Boulevard C50T, which I bought brand new a couple of years ago and really love riding. It's comfy enough for daily riding, it's big enough I'm not worried about taking it up hills or on the highway, it's nimble enough that I'm comfortable in traffic, and it's small enough that I get pretty good gas mileage (on the order of a VW TDI, and it's easier to park).

Riding a motorcycle is great, even in the rain; if you're geared properly, the rain isn't even that big a deal: just take a little more care, give yourself a little more space, and be aware of your temperature, and you'r…

The #OpsLife In Action

I am currently, as they say, a "gentleman of leisure" in my career. That is, I am between gigs. Which is to say, I'm currently unemployed.

This is weird for me, honestly; I've been more-or-less continually employed in one sort of job or another since I was 14 and got my first job doing the breakfast shift in a Hardee's Drive Through. I did some time as a security guard for a while after high school, and then I read this amazing book: Microsurfs, by Douglas Coupland. I think for anyone who was inside the IT industry at the time, it's hard to understand the draw of this somewhat-cartoonish story, and for anyone outside the industry at the time, it's hard to understand the appeal of the industry in any way, but for me, a 20-year-old living in the bleak winter wastes of Kansas, the life described in the book was exactly, exactly, the life I wanted for myself.

So I packed all of my shit (and all of my wife's shit) into a rented U-Haul, abandoned everything…

Thoughts on Shootings (and the stuff that went down in Ottawa).

There's a scene in the pilot episode of Life (the TV series with Damian Lewis and Sarah Shahi) that I still remember as being the moment where I fell in love with the show. It was the moment that carried me through the really fantastically bad parts of season two (and there were some really fantastically bad parts in season two). 
It's a pretty normal moment for a police procedural: our detectives have tracked down the bad guy and are kicking in the door because that's what cops on TV do, and there's a shootout and the bad guy gets shot and dies, and we in the audience are all supposed to feel good about it because the bad guy was a bad guy and the cops are the good guys.
That's not the thing here, though. We've been told the bad guy is a bad guy. He's in an apartment with enough coke to get a good chunk of the LA Metro Area high, and it's pretty clear that the bad guy killed a 9 year old to show how much of a bad guy he was. But anyway, there's a sho…

LISTEN.

I was thinking about commenting in another thread on feminism but realized that given the question and the subject matter, my best bet and best method of being feminist was to shut the fuck up and get out of the way. There are places where my voice can be an important one, but this was not one of those places.

Mostly, as a white male feminist, my job is to listen. I must, must,must remember that. 

The Secret Service As A Service

Because I'm a white guy in America, I'm going to weigh in on something over which I have no control and about which I have strong opinions, because Privilege. In this case, it's about the Secret Service.

A couple of important things to remember right off the bat: first, the Presidential Protection Detail is a very small part of the duties of the Secret Service; mostly, the SS is involved in counterfeiting and other types of currency fraud. Whether they should be or not isn't the question at hand; the truth is that the PPD is just the most public face of the Secret Service, and the one getting kneecapped in the press and in Congress right now. Second, the PPD includes both the guys in sunglasses and cheap suits you see and a bunch of uniformed guards you mostly don't. The Uniformed Division of the PPD is made up mostly of ex-cops, some of whom have served in other parts of the Secret Service, some of whom were hired on special. Thirdly, all of them are on government …