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Showing posts from 2019

"My pain was selfish. Because it was never only mine."

Y'all, I am so, so tired.

I mean that in a couple of ways, of course. It's been hot in the Pacific Northwest over the last week or so, and it's continuing to be hot for the next couple of weeks. Not that this is particularly surprising, because the world is literally on fire (THE ARCTIC IS BURNING, Y'ALL, AND THAT'S NOT A METAPHOR), but one of the nicer things about the PNW before the current decade was that mostly, it was temperate; summers were a highs-in-the-mid-80s kind of summer. This new highs-in-the-mid-90s is making it hard for me to get to, and stay, asleep overnight. And because harsh summers are a new thing here, almost none of the houses (including ours) have a central A/C unit, so we're trying to make do with window units. Which generate white noise, which is nice, but are also loud, which is not so nice. So I'm tired.

But this last week especially has been more than the physical tired. I'm emotionally tired. Drained, existentially tired. T…

Occasional Media Consumption: Magic for Liars, by Sarah Gailey

My niblings and I were talking, during our week-long vacation/family reunion together, about the experience of unreliable narrators. This was during our discussion of another book, and of course we talked about Catcher in the Rye, and how when I first read it as a tween I was so taken in by the experience, and how much I loved it, and how as I've grown older I've come to love it less and less. And a big part of that was realizing that every book that has a narrator, by definition, has an unreliable narrator, because books told from a point of view by necessity take on the position of the person telling us the story (which is different from the author telling us the story, obviously, but that's what parenthetical disclaimers are for, right?). So the experience of various narrators suddenly turning out to be unreliable is a trope that maybe I've outgrown in my old age. If you're going to be honest with anyone, you can be honest with me, dear narrator.

So how refreshi…

Occasional Media Consumption: Middlegame, by Seanan McGuire

The most amazing thing to me, in a book filled with amazing things, is that McGuire never addresses the title choice of the book, and yet it was perfectly, brilliantly obvious from about a third of the way in. No, I won't spoil it; I'm not an asshole. But it is amazing, and exactly appropriate for the story being told. There are a LOT of things being juggled in this book. Pairs of characters. Solo characters. Histories. Magic. The modern world. Alchemy. The hidden corners everywhere in the world, and some of the people who live there. And the places that exist in the social unconscious, that are there but not there any longer.

It's hard to talk about this book without spoiling it, because many of the choices the author makes are so outside the norm of the genre that to give them away is to take away from the ingeniousness of the move itself. But in the same way, I've also read several books that leverage exactly the same tropes and choices in similar ways, to great and…

Occasional Media Consumption: The Light Brigade, by Kameron Hurley

There's been a lot of discussion recently (well, in my spheres anyway) of whether someone who considers themselves a "fan" of SF/F should or needs to read the "classics" before really understanding the current mise-en-scène of the genre. Setting aside for the nonce what absolute garbage gatekeeping bullshit this is, the definitive answer to that question is answered by Kameron Hurley's Light Brigade, and that answer is "Fuck, no."

If you want to, then there's no reason why you shouldn't read Heinlein's Starship Troopers, and then Haldeman's The Forever War, and then Scalzi's Old Man's War before taking on Light Brigade; but that's optional. Light Brigade is sufficient unto itself as a story and also as an answer to these previous works. As I said before, because we stand on the shoulders of giants does not mean we must worship at their feet, and there's no worship in this book; just a clear grasp of the ideas and co…

Occasional Media Consumption: Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear

It entirely escaped my memory that, while on my cruise, I finished Elizabeth Bear's new novel, Ancestral Night, and hadn't managed to review it yet, because I spent so much time gushing about it while on the boat. Like, honestly, for a couple of days it was my opening conversational gambit: "Hi! Have you read Ancestral Night? Yes? Let's talk about it! No? You should read it right now!"

So yes, this is going to be a positive review, in case you hadn't guessed.

As a fan of Star Trek and Ian Banks' Culture novels, I can absolutely see the underpinnings of the Synarche (and the dark mirror of the Freeporters) present in this novel, which I desperately hope is about to become a series. The main characters in the story are two humans, two cats, a giant preying mantis, and an AI and all of them have hidden fracture-points and surprising secrets that are hidden, sometimes even from the person who's hiding them. And like the best parts of ST and Culture storie…

JoCoCruise: Remembering the Feeling

We drove up to Seattle, because there are no direct flights from Portland to Fort Lauderdale, but there are from Seattle to FLL. Here's the tricky bit: the nonstop Alaska flight from SEA to FLL is a redeye. It arrives at 6AM local time in Florida. Programming note: this was not a great idea.


I'm just too old to do redeyes; I can't sleep and I can't go without sleep and this makes me very, very cranky. Our next trip out to Fort Lauderdale will have to be done differently, for sure. The flight had several mechanical difficulties which resulted in us not taking off for more than two hours, including 90 minutes sitting on the tarmac at the gate while they double-checked everything to make sure things weren't going to break. That was actually fine with me; the longer we waited to take off, the later we landed. (I have a whole bit in my talk about Support about five nines and moving parts and the 737 so I'll spare you the repeat and let you watch it yourself here.) M…

Impending Travel Warning

I don't know if you've noticed me mentioning it on Twitter, but I'm about to go on vacation.

(Yes, that was sarcasm.)

On Thursday afternoon, my partner and I are driving up to Seattle to catch a non-stop redeye flight from SeaTac to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We'll land Friday morning, stumble blearily into a taxi, ride to the hotel, and camp in the lobby until they let us check in. Then Saturday morning we'll get up, relax, and around noon we'll head over to the Port of Ft. Lauderdale (which is just fun to say) where we'll board the MS Oosterdam for a 7-day cruise through the Caribbean with 1,934 other nerds for JoCoCruise 2019.

My partner and I did this in 2017, and we had a goddamn blast, and this time there's at least two other couples going that we'll know well enough to hang out with, which means we won't spend all of our time holed up with each other. Which is fun, but sometimes it's better to hang out with other people? Anyway, we'…

Occasional Media Consumption: The City in the Middle of the Night, by Charlie Jane Anders

In an introduction to a book once, Neil Gaiman may have written it -- I'm not sure because my google-fu is failing me right now, but that's not the important part -- where the essayist points out that while yes, Moby-Dick is about man's inhumanity and also the relationships that we have with one another and what happens to us in extremis but, most importantly, it is also a book about a whale. The point being made was, of course, that truly excellent books are about something, but they are also about something. And that's the thing I keep coming back to again and again having read Charlie Jane Anders' The City in the Middle of the Night. There is a lot of things that this book is about, but it's also a book about first contact on an alien world. And if it didn't work on that fundamental level, it wouldn't work at all.

I'm not going to spoil anything, because I'm not an asshole, but I will say this: the tone and voice and flow of this novel is com…

Vacation Planning Like A Boss

In 17 days, I and my partner will be sailing out of Fort Lauderdale on a 7-day Caribbean cruise and I will be entirely unreachable for the better part of 10 days including travel days.

When I was an individual contributor, this was fine; I made sure my work was handed off to someone, I made sure my tickets were up to date, and I told my boss I was going, and then I walked away. But now, I am the boss. There are things, including interfacing with the clients, that no one else on my team is even authorized to do by dint of corporate policy. Now, this isn't insurmountable; my boss knows I'm going to be unavailable, I'm getting everything lined up and squared away before I leave, and I'll be doing a handoff briefing before I leave.

But honestly, I now totally understand why sometimes managers have a tough time stepping away. There's a lot hanging over my head, and I definitely don't want it hanging over my team's head because they already have enough hanging ov…

Nerdy Ninth: Novels of a Particular Sort

I have, as anyone who knows me can tell you, a penchant for reading (devouring, consuming, blazing through) Science Fiction novels. Other people enjoy big thick-brick-of-prose fantasy novels where there's a fight every third page and everyone eats a lot of stew. Some folk like reading about big spaceship battles where there's a lot of lasers and dogfighting and possibly some shooting at people and to be fair, I will often read those novels, too; I'm not trying to say you shouldn't. There's a lot of great work out there and almost all of it is worth reading for someone. But the books I really love, the ones I really sink my teeth into, are what I like to call the Political Manuvering Novels.

The PMNs are, on their face, not for everyone. Let's face it, the delicate maneuvering and internal monologues of various characters as they reason their way to a solution (or more often out of a sticky situation) do not, for most people, make a tense and gripping read, nor …

Core Competencies

We talk, and I mean A LOT, about what technical roles are and what is required to succeed as an individual contributor. Core Competencies: those things you must, MUST have in order to be good at whatever it is you're doing.

As an IC, anyway.

Managers... seem like a different matter. We know, in theory, what a good manager looks like, if only by pointing at our experiences with previous or current managers and saying "well, not that; whatever the opposite of that is." But negative space with regards to core competency isn't actually all that helpful. And a big piece of whether we think a manager is "good" or not boils down to "did I like this person, and did they appear to like me?" in the end. And while that's an important part of being a manager (and arguably an important part of being a good manager), it's probably not actually how we should be measuring.

I'm not as curious about what executives think makes a good manager, because th…

Nerdy Ninth: James Spader

So ages ago, my friend Curt rolled out the idea of "Nerdy Ninth", which is where we take the ninth day of the month every month to unabashedly talk positively about the things we like. It's a positive-feedback-only idea - no yucking other people's yum, and if you have something good to say, say it with enthusiasm. If the thing being discussed doesn't roll up your socks, then skip it; go play in your own sandbox if you wanna lay turds. I like it: it gives people the space to be positive about stuff, which sometimes in modern nerditry isn't something that happens often. It was a big thing on G+ for a while, and now that G+ is going away I'm going to try and drag that over into my own blog for a chance to talk about things in a positive way. So here's a Nerdy Ninth post to get started.

This month for Nerdy Ninth I'm going to go back to my roots and talking about something I like (in this case, someone):

James Spader.

James Spader has always been an odd…

Managing Difficulties.

The single biggest speedbump on my transition from Individual Contributor to Manager is the realization that I need to hire people that have skills that I don't have, but I'm not sure how to test for those skills to make sure I'm hiring correctly.

Listen, hiring is HARD. It's hard, y'all. Interviews are difficult and as far as I can tell don't actually give a good measure of how a person is going to react or what a person knows. Technical interviews can only do so much, especially when you're hiring for niche positions. Eventually, you just have to make a call and trust you do it right. Sometimes, you get to take a chance on someone who maybe doesn't exactly fit the background, but you like their spirit and you want to give them an opportunity and so you get a great self-learner who is eager for each task and really knows her shit and is working actively to learn more. And that's great!

And then sometimes you give into time pressure and you go with …