Well, updating OSX didn't help. :( Everything's running fine on Windows, though, so I might just check in and let the chips fall where they may. If I break the Mac build, I'll pay for it tomorrow (or later tonight). I hope it's not later tonight...
I hate that I don't know why/how, but my sandbox build no longer crashes on startup. The main build does, but for some reason, my sandbox is fixed. I'm afraid to breathe on it.
I just saw a rainbow that was bigger, brighter, and more complete than any rainbow I've ever seen before. I could see the entire curve and both ends, and it was so vivid it looked like a child's painting. There was a fainter, second rainbow just behind it, too. I took a bunch of photos, but I'm not sure any of them will really capture the magnificence of it.
I'm Just Waiting on a Build
Spent most of yesterday noodling around in various bits of code. I compiled the files I'd changed, but I guess I never did a rebuild of the whole project, because when I went to run it this morning, everything was out of date. Must've been the #ifdef I added to one of the main framework files.
From The Ageless Project, 5 people who share my birthday:
From my mental archives, 1 person I've lost touch with and wonder what she's doing now: Stacia Lynds. Stacia, are you still out there? Thanks to you and to Marty for making me feel welcome when I moved to Northern Virginia back in 1990. Hope you're doing well.
The build is done...back to work.
Arrrrgh, I broke the build AGAIN! Just when I get all proud of myself for figuring out some really complex thing, I forget to check in a key file, or don't realize that I have to add the files to the Mac project as well as the Windows one. Can I just have one moment of glory, or pride always cause a fall?
More Water Woes
Plumber #2 is still working out in our front yard (2 days later), but that isn't the day's biggest water news. The big news is that it's been a really rainy spring, and for some reason, my office building has its gutter drainpipes *inside* the building rather than outside it. (You can probably guess where I'm going with this, right?) Well, for those of you who couldn't guess, here's the story:
At about 2pm today, I heard a loud clunk followed by a gushing water sound. I knew what it was immediately; when I was taking pictures of the rainbow last month, I'd noticed the drain cap and photographed it because I thought it was interesting. "Holy shit!" I yelled, we've got a flood! Call Bonnie [our admin]!" Bonnie wasn't at her desk, so Winsha ran upstairs to tell the receptionist, and Vic hollered for wastebaskets. Dan, Vic, and Debbie set up a bucket brigade as the water that had gushed out in the first few seconds seeped under Alain's cube.
Irina had the presence of mind to think of the power strips on the floor, and hurriedly unplugged everything in Alain's cube before the water could reach it. Meanwhile, a plumber was already on the premises (though it's not clear whether he was there to fix the clog that caused our flood or some other problem on the roof), so he came down, saw us running back and forth to the kitchen with the wastebaskets, and said he'd be right back with a new cap. Vic asked if we could use his plunger to try to plug the hole, and he said fine and left.
Dan plugged the hole with the plunger, and for a few minutes, everything was looking up. That is, until Dan couldn't hold back the water any longer, and it EXPLODED out of the pipe, drenching him and flooding three more cubes, including mine. Luckily I'd piled all my power strips and cords in my chair, but the idea of standing around in a puddle of water with electrical equipment all around me did not appeal. I quickly unhooked my PC laptop, locked up my Mac, and called my husband to come get me. I've been working at home since about 3:30. Hope my cube isn't all smelly and mildewy on Monday.
Photos of Dan holding back the deluge (L) and my cube after some of the water had receeded (R) by Dalbir, who had the presence of mind to document the events.
Gak, I'm having another day where I'm feeling really stupid—and really panicked about it. Finally prioritized most of the tasks on my plate, but the ones at the top are the ones I'm feeling most insecure and useless about. Wish I could be struck with a bolt of competence (or is it just confidence?) right now...
My Husband The Optimist
Al just called to see what time I wanted to be picked up from work. He started the conversation with a bright, "how are YOU?" I replied that if yesterday (a long, horrible, demoralizing day) was a 2, today was a 4. "That's twice as good as yesterday!" he exclaimed. "Quite an improvement!" I was thinking of it as "still below midpoint," but I find his attitude so cheering that I'm determined to see it his way.
My right hip is grinding a bit today. It was sore after last night's hockey game for no reason I can discern, and it definitely ached during my step workout this morning. Now the gnashing is unignorable. Wonder what's up?
Meanwhile, I've been extremely busy at work; so much so that I've barely written in any of my blogs for over a week. When you're too busy to blog during working hours, and you're spending some of your leisure hours working, you don't exactly want to flip open the laptop when you do have a chance to walk away. Or at least I don't, anyway. I've been spending most of my non-work time sketching and painting (thanks to my 7 year-old niece for getting me back into watercolors—I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed them), going to the horse races (the spring meet at Bay Meadows ends this weekend, sadly), working out, and playing golf.
Re: the golf, I'm not very good at it, and for a while wasn't enjoying it at all, but it seems to be growing on me again. My mom gave me her old Big Bertha driver a few weeks ago, and my discomfort with woods is starting to fade. I'd still rather hit irons, but I'm learning to suck it up and hit the driver off the tee on any hole longer than 300 yards, which is a start. I'll never get comfortable with woods unless I can learn to use them in an actual round and not just at the driving range. And, truth be told, I *can* hit the ball farther with the driver than I can with my 3-iron (or even my 2). Now I just need to figure out how to hit it straight...
Anyway, the good golf news isn't so much the driver as it is the fact that I've been leaving the course wanting to play another round, rather than feeling so frustrated that I never want to play again. I'm hoping to be able to get up early some weekday morning soon and play the back 9 at Palo Alto with my husband. (That's what we did on Saturday, but weekends are more crowded than weekdays, for obvious reasons.)
On the workout front, I seem to be making some progress at the gym, as I'm starting to see (and feel) muscles where they were never dectable before. I'm glad we're not going tonight (Monday-Wednesday-Friday is our usual schedule, though if we have a hockey game on Monday we'll go on Sunday instead), given the grind in my hip and the grit in my eyes, but I find I look forward to the gym trips more often than not. It's a little intimidating (and often annoying) to be stared at so much (not, I assure you, for my good looks or fine physique, but rather, I suspect, for my minority gender), but it's the price I pay, I guess, for an inexpensive, no-nonsense, weight-centric gym.
OK, both my builds are done, and there are many bugs on my plate, so it's back to the grind. Ouch!
I'm realizing that I have all these things that I'd wanted to say, and I can't quite believe that I haven't blogged about them before now. I am *so* looking forward to having some time off and being able to write daily! Actually, that's probably a good thing to mention right there: I may have alluded to it before, but to end any confusion, I am planning on being unemployed for a while when we move to Philadelphia. I've given notice at the company I've worked at for the past 7 years, and as of September 12, I will be on my own.
The plan is for me to take a month or two off to (a) find us a house, (b) get to know our new city, and (c) pursue creative interests (painting, scrapbooking, photography, framing). After that, I'm seriously considering trying to find a random, interesting, not-in-it-for-the-money part-time job: In other words, a new experience for which I never would have interrupted my career, but that might be fun to try now that my career is being interrupted anyway. Something that, at the very least, might be fun to write about even if it doesn't make me unbelivably happy. Tops on my list of possibilities are taking tickets or working the Will Call window at Flyers games; delivering flowers for a Center City florist; and selling muffins in the lobby of an office building (as long as a permit to do so doesn't cost a fortune). Al and I often joke that if me being unemployed is too much of a financial burden, I'll just have to sell more muffins. :)
Eventually I'll look for a full-time job, but I'm expecting the time off to influence the field I look in. I'll decide in a couple months whether I want to look for another software engineering job, go back to technical writing/API documentation, do web application development...or look into franchising my muffin business.
My Life in Philly?
The End is Near
Well, we announced on Monday of this week, so that of course means that the end of the cycle is approaching. Not a moment too soon, as my right wrist, and now arm, are killing me. Typing now hurts as much as mousing, so to kill two birds with one stone, I am typing up my blog entries and diddling with my style sheets in Dreamweaver as a scenario test. I'd rather not be typing at all, but it's kinda impossible to do my job without typing, so here we are.
The other end that is near, of course, is that of our time in the Bay Area. We finally have our official moving dates—September 18-20—and we should be making our one-way plane reservations shortly. This is Al's last weekend in our house in Mountain View; he'll return for the actual move, but most of that time will be spent in a hotel (what with our furniture going on the truck and all). The good news, after getting the firm moving dates, is that we'll be able to set aside some items that we need right away, and they'll deliver them to us along with the car on September 24. This is a huge relief, as it means we don't have to ship all kinds of stuff to the apartment and/or my sister's house in Maryland. We can pile up the hockey gear, some tea and cereal and warm clothes, and my scrapbooking stuff, label it NEED IMMEDIATELY, and we'll have it within a few days. Hooray!
I Have to Work At It
I'm thinking about going back to work—traditional, for-pay, intellectually-stimulating work, as opposed to the heavy manual labor I do at home for free. At the moment I'm feeling too mentally and physically exhausted after a difficult day with Austen to explain how I came to this decision (or maybe I just did :), but suffice to say it's something I've been thinking about for a while. I think I'm finally at the point where I want to describe publicly what I'm looking for, and to post my resume.
Ideally, I'd work part-time (3-4 days a week), although a full-time job where I work at home at least two days a week might suit as well. I'm leaning toward technical writing for a software/web engineering audience—API documentation, feature specifications, internal process documentation, etc.—but my experience would probably fit other positions as well. I love writing sample code, tracking down and fixing bugs, and explaining how and why things work the way they do. I love watching (and helping) ideas evolve; in my 6 years with the Dreamweaver team I wore many hats, but I was probably most valuable as a combination of devil's advocate and team historian.
Anyway, I've posted my resume [link removed] if you want more details about my work history. If you have any questions—or know of an interesting job opening—feel free to e-mail me at lori at avocado8 dot com or comment on this post. I'm obviously living in Philadelphia, but I'm open to jobs in other locations if the employer is OK with me working remotely most of the time.
Update: I've gotten a new job, so I've removed the link to my resume and closed the comments. Thanks to everyone who forwarded me openings and suggestions! -- Lori, 01.27.06
I had a dream last night that the plan to hire me back full-time at my old company had been delayed, and that in the meantime I was going to contract for them. My boss' boss asked me what I proposed for an hourly rate. After doing some quick math in my head that involved my old salary*, I came up with $6.50 an hour.
It was only after I got my first paycheck and saw how small it was that I realized I'd made a mistake with the decimal point—I should have proposed $65 an hour, not $6.50! This stupid math error haunted the rest of my dreams, even after my fast-asleep mind moved on to unrelated topics. How was I going to pay the babysitter on only $6.50 an hour? How was I going to support my family? The undercurrent of "6.50... 6.50... 6.50" kept niggling at me until it finally woke me up.
*Neither $6.50 or $65 have any relation to my old salary. Obviously my sleep mind can't do math.
I am feeling so overwhelmed by the backlog of blog posts waiting to be written that every time I get a chance to actually write one, I end up reading other blogs instead of writing in my own. So yes, I am WELL AWARE that I owe y'all (and myself) a Vacation Summary, Part 2 and an Austen @ 15 Months update, not to mention various and sundry other observations that have been piling up on little slips of paper around the house.
In the meantime, in case you were wondering, those Vanilla Sunshine Cupcakes at Starbucks are actually pretty good. Good cake, good frosting, perfect little daisy-shaped sugar disc on top. Yummy.
Oh, and the main reason that I haven't had the time or inclination to write: I'm swamped with work. Yes, WORK! And for the most part, I'm loving it. I feel so lucky to be working full-time FROM HOME, and to have Hannah coming every day. It's good for me, it's good for Austen, it's good for all of us. More on this topic later, I'm sure, but to summarize: 1. Things are good. 2. I'm very lucky.
That is all. For now.
We're in San Francisco!
Austen, Hannah, and I are all in San Francisco this week. I'm here working, and Hannah and Austen are busy climbing hills, chasing pigeons, admiring the views, and taking public transit all over the place.
It's been a nutty week so far; I kinda wish I'd skipped that hockey game on Monday night and come out last weekend. (It wasn't a particularly joyful hockey game, and I didn't get enough ice time to work up a sweat, anyway.) I would have had time to see more non-work friends, and I also think I would have gotten more work done. I didn't count on running into 5 or 6 people a day who hadn't seen me in forever and with whom I'd want to spend a few minutes catching up—it really eats into spec-writing time!
Also, traveling with the Beaner means I'm a little less flexible about where I can go and when I can get there... though I probably wouldn't have as many people lined up to see me if I hadn't brought him. I'm not fool enough to think that *I'm* the draw. :)
I haven't had a chance to take many photos with the 10-D, but I'll post what I've got when I get home (I didn't bother bringing cables, since I only have my work machine with me). I *have* had a chance to take a few snaps with my new Razr, though, and I'm posting those to Flickr as I take them.
I ended up getting the new Razr as soon as the Verizon Wireless store opened on Wednesday morning because Austen broke my old Samsung phone on Tuesday night. The bottom half of the Samsung still works, but the top half—the part with the display and the earpiece—does not. This means that, on the plus side, I have a lightweight, awesome new cameraphone; on the minus side, I've lost all the phonebook entries I had. If you suspect you were among my contacts, please e-mail me your info again. Thanks.
More Iced Coffee, Please
[Yes, I'm drinking decaf again, though I'm back to the 3 or 4 parts milk:1 part coffee ratio I thought I'd evolved from when I went to short decaf lattes*.] I love my cozy little nook of an office in what I call the gallery, a 100" x 75" (yes, ", not ') space with a window at the top of the stairs, but goddamn is it hot up here. There's an air conditioning vent just to the right of my desk, and Austen's room (the doorway of which forms the boundary of my space), with its two vents, is bearable, but I think the three laptop computers + external monitor plus whatever physical law it is that makes heat rise are working against me. Oh yeah, and did I mention that the gallery is on the south side of the house? Phe-yew!
Speaking of my office and my oodles of hardware and wiring, I'm finding it hard to get back into the grind after our vacation to Maine. I'm fixing bugs and participating in meetings and all that, but I find myself daydreaming about what life was like before I went back to work. I suspect I'm thinking more of the year I took off before Austen was born (when I did a bit of contracting, a lot of housework, and whatever else I wanted to do, whenever I wanted to do it) rather than the 13 months of SAHMhood that directly preceeded my current full-time employment, though it'd be fun to go to the playground or music class or the pool with Austen, too.
I almost think that what would suit me best in the summer is working San Francisco hours. By that I don't mean working 10am to 7pm, as I did when I lived out there, but rather hours that coincide with when my San Francisco colleagues are in the office—roughly 12:30pm to 9:30pm EST. That would give me mornings free to tool around with Austen, run errands, etc., and it would mean that I'd be in front of my computer at the time of day when I feel most productive (usually from 5pm-8pm or so). Unfortunately, those hours conflict with dinner, bathtime, and Austen's bedtime, not to mention husband and wife time. Hrrm.
*When we were in Norwood, Mass. recently, I ordered an iced decaf tall latte at the Starbucks down the street from our hotel, and the employee who took my order called it out to the barista as an "iced decaf tall lotty." I haven't been able to get that particular Bostonardization out of my head ever since.**
**I think the urge to write randomly and with even-more-random footnotes comes from catching up with Mimi Smartypants, whom I only read a few times a year, yesterday.
Another Heat Generator Arrives on My Desk
My new MacBook actually arrived last week, but as I haven't had to do a Mac build until today, I didn't bother setting it up. Now it's up and running, and man, is it FAST! It's quite a thrill to see two files compiling at the same time in XCode. I kinda want to stay up to see how long it takes to do a clean build so I can compare to the regular PowerBook, but I also want to get to bed so I can read. (I picked up The Devil Wears Prada, a book I'd never had any desire to read until I saw the movie this weekend and liked it. It made me curious about the book.)
Oh, right, I was talking about the MacBook. After a few hours of having it on my desk, I can already say I love it; it has all the great features of the PowerBook plus a built-in camera, fun PhotoBooth software, and did I mention the speed? I'm sure there's a bunch of other features I haven't discovered yet, too. The only downside I've found is that the thing runs HOT. Super HOT. So hot that it's uncomfortable to rest your wrists on it while typing (is this a ploy by Apple to get us to keep our hands in a non-carpal-tunnel-inducing position?). At the moment I've got it propped up on a little plastic container of Q-Tips, and the hotter left side is hanging off of its cardboard pedestal to allow for more air circulation on that side, but it's still super hot. I'm actually worried that the Q-Tip container might melt (another good reason to stay up and see the build finish).
UPDATE: The build just finished—in 28 minutes. That is 107 minutes faster than the best clean build time on the PowerBook. Woo FREAKIN' hoo!!
So I'm sitting here at my desk on the top floor of our house, quietly fixing bugs, when a bug of the actual insect variety suddenly FLIES RIGHT AT ME, out of nowhere. I shrieked, of course, especially when I realized it was a WASP. I finally got him with a rolled-up stack of source code printouts, but not before several misses that really seemed to piss him off. I'm still kind of freaked out. Where the hell did a WASP come from?
I can't believe I'm functional right now. I said to Al when I set my alarm for 4am last night, "watch, this'll be the night that the Boopster wakes up screaming in the middle of the night instead of sleeping until 6 or 7." Sure enough, at 3am, we heard him cry. Usually we let him settle down on his own, but within minutes his screams turned frantic, so Al went up and got him. The irony, of course, is that I'd just gotten to sleep myself when Austen woke up.
Usually I fall asleep easily and stay asleep until morning, but last night I slept lightly, if at all. Every time I could feel myself relaxing in preparation for a deeper sleep, Al would breathe funny or a car would zoom by, and I was wide awake again. Once Austen nuzzled into my shoulder I was able to fall asleep (and so was he), but of course by that time I only had an hour until the alarm went off.
My flight was uneventful, and I made it to the office in time to catch most of the weekly team meeting. I've got another meeting in 5 minutes, a code review to do for another engineer, and a bunch of bug fixes to check in (yes, I actually fixed bugs instead of sleeping for most of the 5 hr. 20 min. flight). I hope I can stay awake until at least 9pm, which is when I'm likely to arrive at the Hyatt San Jose. Unless there are some super-cool BlogHers ready to rally me when I walk in the door, I'm going straight to bed!
Short Attention Span
First, let me say: You know it's going to be a scorcher when you're forced to seek the shady side of the street at 7:30am. Phew! Second: This isn't a humorous post, and it'll probably be totally boring to everybody but me, but I wanted to write about this subject, SO I AM. Feel free to move along.
So I got to thinking on my walk this morning about attention span. Mine, when I am working, vacillates between horrifically short and "oops, I forgot to eat lunch". The former happens if I am forced to wait more than 3 seconds* for anything—a file to download, a page to load in a browser, an application to open, an executable to build—and can quickly spiral out of control. For example, if I attempt to visit a site and it takes more than a few seconds to load, I'll switch to Outlook to check my e-mail. There I'll see a message about some bug or other, and I'll switch to the debugger to check it out. Once in the debugger I'll realize that I need to sync to the head and rebuild before I can reproduce the bug, so I'll switch to Perforce and sync. This will take more than 3 seconds, so I'll switch back to Outlook and read the rest of my mail.
If I'm lucky, I'll finish reading my mail and remember that I was syncing to the head, go back to the debugger, and start a build. (Sometimes I'm not lucky, though, and I'll switch to one of my other laptops to look at my personal e-mail or a blog or to see where I left off fixing a Mac bug, or I'll get sidetracked by another e-mail.) If I press F5 (for Start Debugging) and the "these projects are out of date, would you like to build them?" dialog takes too long to come up—or worse, it goes behind another app when I turn my head to take a sip of coffee—I'll end up reading more e-mail, realizing that the site I originally tried to load has finally loaded, or go back to reading blogs before I notice that the build never started. When I finally do notice that the build never started and press OK in the sneaky dialog, I'll be all exasperated over the wasted time and then proceed... to waste more time (or, as I think of it, "do other productive things instead of wasting time waiting for a build").
Now, all of the things I've been doing while waiting for that page to load in the browser or for the build to finish needed doing (well, maybe except for reading the blogs), but because I didn't stay focused on any one thing for very long, I've left a lot of loose ends hanging. Once in a while I tie them all up by the end of the day, but not always; sometimes it takes two or three days before I reach the end of all the threads.
At the opposite end of the scale are days when I practically have my nose pressed to the screen, and I get so absorbed in coding that I don't notice that I haven't read e-mail all day or even gotten up to pee. These days are rarer at the moment because I happen to be working on features and bugs that require me to switch between Dreamweaver, one or more browsers, and MSDev constantly... and as we just learned, app switching is the quickest way to send me off on a mental tangent. I think my ability to stay focused is indirectly proportional to the number of laptops on my desk and the number of applications/windows that each machine has open, and if that's the case, at the moment I'm doomed. I've got 17 items in my Windows taskbar on this machine alone (5 Windows Explorer windows, MSDev, Jabber, P4, 3 Araxis merge windows, Outlook, Firefox [with 8 tabs open], Timbuktu, a remote access window to a machine in San Francisco that's running IE5.5, Dreamweaver, and a Trillian IM window); a similar situation exists on the MacBook Pro and on my personal laptop (which I occasionally use to reproduce bugs in older versions of some software). Add to the mess the fact that the more applications I have open, the slower everything runs, which means longer waits, which means more app-switching. Arg!
I remember back in 2002 or 2003 someone on the team sent around a link to an article about having blocks of "concentration time." If I remember correctly, it said that in order to get any real work done, engineers needed blocks of at least X hours (was it 2? 3? 4? I think 3) of uninterrupted coding time. Occasionally I get that, and when I do, I'm SUPER productive. For example, I fixed a bunch of bugs (6? 7?) on the plane to San Francisco last week under totally adverse conditions (cramped space, no external mouse, slow build times due to running on battery). What I would also normally consider an adverse condition—lack of phone or Internet access—probably worked in my favor, as it kept me from being distracted by meetings, e-mail, or blogs. I can't just unplug my network cable on a regular basis, however, as I usually need access to the bugbase, documents on the server, Perforce, etc. to get my work done. Fixing 6 or 7 bugs just based on the bug subject lines (as I did on the plane) isn't doable on a regular basis.
The good news is that my insanely productive times balance out my super-distracted ones, and I end up getting all my work done just fine. However, I'd really like to get my app-switching obsession under control. I think it's time to recognize that I'm better off waiting 5-10 seconds for a page to load or a file to download than trying to make good use of the lull by doing something else. I figure I could increase my productivity at least 50% this way, and then I'd have *more* time for reading blogs and books and spending time with my family and watching TV. I'm still trying to sort out how to do this, however. Turning e-mail off entirely usually helps (though turning off the little "you have mail" indicator in the system tray does not—I just end up switching to Outlook more often to see if I have any new mail), as does turning off Jabber and Trillian. The problem is that I telecommute, and if I weren't available on e-mail and IM, that would be Bad. Still, I might consider doing it for a couple hours a day, after all my meetings are done for the day (if Outlook isn't on, I won't get meeting reminders).
Anyway, it's probably worth thinking about further. If anything brilliant occurs to me, I'll be sure to post it here, where no one will want to read it. :)
*Can you imagine what life was like when all Internet operations happened at modem speed? I honestly can't remember how I managed my restlessness back then, though it was probably by getting up for food or coffee.
Now *That's* Cold-Blooded
Am I also cold-blooded for considering doing the same to the financial planner at Fidelity who didn't call me back after I left a message on Thursday, and who then called last night to berate me for choosing to deal with someone else at Fidelity's Philadelphia investor center instead? He actually said to me, about the colleague, "she claimed [emphasis his] that you said I never called you back." Me: "Uh, yeah. That's EXACTLY what I told her. Because you DIDN'T." He then claimed that he left not one but TWO messages for me, and that he didn't know how I couldn't have gotten them. I can't imagine where he left them, as I was home all day Thursday and Friday, was here until 3pm on Monday, there were no messages on our machine between Thursday and Tuesday, and we never once lost power during the entire span. Also, I'm fairly certain the Beaner never answered the phone and just forgot to give me the message.
All that would have been bad enough, but then he tried to just take over the account right there. "So what else can I help you with? I know [colleague] did a basic portfolio review, but I'm sure I could [blah blah blah something or other]." At this point I held the phone away from my ear and just stared at it for a second. Dude, is your pride that wounded? After the big speech about how you don't work on commission yadda yadda yadda, it's that big a deal that I pressed 0 and asked to work with the person who answered when I got your voicemail again on Tuesday? And hello, did you think to ask me if this was even a good time to talk? No! And by the way, IT'S NOT.
When I finally stopped staring at the phone in disbelief and returned it to my ear, I said, "listen, I'm actively trying to fix a bug with someone at this very minute, and it's extremely complicated, and I can't focus any attention on my IRA right now." What I should have said is, "listen, I can't talk right now anyway, but even if I could, I think I'd like to keep dealing with your colleague." It's what I want to say today. Am I wrong to want to say it via e-mail, instead of being shouted at again on the phone? I'm thinking that even if I am, it's my style. I'd much rather answer a phone call with an e-mail any day of the week. It's partly what makes me an introvert. Maybe the CEO and head of HR at Radio Shack are introverts, too.
I left for MAX2006 in Las Vegas early Tuesday morning, before The Beaner woke up, and returned last night a little before midnight, long after he went to bed. While at the conference, I attended a few CSS sessions; talked to a lot of customers (something I realized I hadn't done—face-to-face, anyway—in three or four years); took lots of notes and filed a few bugs based on what I saw and heard; battled a cold, dehydration, and noxious clouds of cigarette smoke; saw the feature I've been working on get sneaked to a crowd of about 3500; danced the night (or at least the evening) away at the Palms; got to wear the new shirt I spent a fortune on (because Al convinced me that I needed one good shirt, and damned if he wasn't right—the thing fit really well and made me feel great); walked to the Bellagio to see all the Chihuly glass and to Walgreen's to buy Airborne (both walks took waaaaay longer than I'd anticipated, due to map scale being nothing like reality and sidewalks being clogged with shuffling tourists); and got to see many old friends, many of whom I didn't realize would be at the conference. (I wish I had more photos of all the old friends and cool customers I met, but I was so busy talking to them I kept forgetting to whip out the camera.)
Meanwhile, at home, The Beaner was changing. When I called from the cab to the airport yesterday, he didn't want to sing the Happy Birthday song he'd been rehearsing with Hannah all day, but he was more than happy to tell me, "I painted choochoo train!" and "Bye bye, Mommy! I love you, Mommy!"
When I went to get him from his crib this morning (at 8:02am), he felt skinnier, and longer. He was even more talkative than when I left, and his enunciation had improved. "What happened to Baab?" he asked me when I brought him downstairs. "What happened to Buick?" I said I didn't know, I'd been away. "Here ya go, mommy. It's Big Bird," he replied, handing me his Big Bird doll, perhaps as a welcome home gift.
He laughed and made little jokey references to a new book he and Hannah got at the library while I was gone (it involves sound effects, and he'd try one out and then smile slyly, waiting to see if we noticed and could identify it). He counted his shoes for me. He yelled, "yaaay! chocolate!" when I unwrapped the 88% cacao chocolate bar that Hannah got me for my birthday (she also got me a cool mug with caricatures of women authors—including Jane Austen—on it, and some decaf Kona coffee beans). He kissed me and said, "bye, Mommy" when I left at 9am for a massage, and he gave me hugs and asked to be picked up whenever I came down to the kitchen throughout the day, seemingly more to make sure that I knew he loved me than the other way around.
It's been an amazing three days. It's good to be home.
I just got word that the patent my colleague and I submitted for some work we did recently has been filed with the U.S. Patent Office. It'll probably be 2-3 years before it's approved or rejected, but in the meantime, I HAVE A PATENT PENDING. How cool is that?
6 Paltry Bullet Points
You'd probably never guess this from reading my blogs, but I'm not very good at self-promotion. I hate updating my resume. I suck at interviews. "Focal reviews" at work make me cringe.
As it happens, my company is changing its review period to be in line with some financial reporting cycle or other (don't ask me which one; I love what I do and I'm thrilled to be contributing to the company's bottom line, but the financials confound me), which means we're going through a "mini-focal" right now. (We already did one back in March, or May, or July. I've already blocked it from my mind—and that one wasn't even too painful, since I was a new employee.) For this one I was asked to come up with a list of six major accomplishments since March... and it was a struggle.
It's not that I haven't accomplished anything (see the previous post in this category for one thing among several); it's that when I try to talk about these things, I feel silly. Tooting my own horn on my blog is one thing—somehow, I feel like y'all understand there's a self-deprecating wink, or a ridiculous grin, or some exaggerated-for-comic-effect chest beating involved, and that I don't take myself too seriously. Tooting my own horn for my official employee record feels too serious. There's no room for winking smileyface emoticons, so it all just comes out sounding blowhard-y.
I know this is how one "gets ahead" in the working world. I know that selling myself is generally essential to getting a decent salary in the first place, and then augmenting it on a regular basis. But it makes me uncomfortable.
I did manage (finally) to come up with six bullet points for my manager, who then suggested that I emphasize something that I thought hadn't really been worth mentioning in one of them. (Yeah, because why would you mention the amount of research and analysis—which you were uniquely suited to perform—that went into the project? Because you're an idiot who thought just anybody could have done it.) I edited the bullet point and sent it back to my manager, but the whole list didn't even require the reader to scroll.
So, why am I mentioning this now? Because someone else on the team also prepared a list of his accomplishments... and accidentally e-mailed it to the entire team instead of just to his manager. (The e-mail aliases for the manager and the team are alphabetically adjacent, and the auto-complete burned him.) Dudes, his list of accomplishments was three pages long. It included actual paragraphs as well as bullet points. It had categories. It gave me a serious inferiority complex.
The good news, if there is any, is that I think this person joined the team after the last focal, so this one for him is a "true focal", not just a "mini focal." It's possible he was asked to be much more thorough than the rest of us, to submit something more than a list of six accomplishments. Even if he wasn't, would I change anything in mine? Probably not. I'm (1) too lazy, and (2) too glad to be done with it to drag it back to life now. Yes, it'd be nice to get a raise. Yes, it'd be nice not to have "Lori is not working up to her potential" marked on my
report card focal review. But right now, I think those six paltry bullet points are all I can manage. I'll try to work up some chest-beating bullet points with summary paragraphs next year.
More Clingy Toddler Woes
Is it a good thing or a bad thing for Clingy Toddler Syndrome that I work at home? On the one hand, it means that The Beaner has access to me if he really needs it. On the other hand, when he needs it often, it totally interferes with my work. And then there are moments like right now, when he really needs my attention, and I need to be in a meeting. Thank god I have a headset with a mute button, because he is downstairs with both Aura and Al (who's home sick from work today) screaming hysterically right now.
Meanwhile, I'm getting nothing out of the meeting because the crying is so distracting. Would I be better off just going downstairs and trying to comfort him? I'm not really angry about the current situation, but I *am* frustrated. Incredibly frustrated. And I think if I go downstairs, the frustration will become anger... and that won't do anyone any good. There doesn't seem to be enough of me to go around, and both my work and my child are suffering. ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGHHHHHHH!
Obviously Taking a Break After NaBloPoMo
I didn't actually plan to take a blogging break after NaBloPoMo (I won prize for sticking with it, btw—yay!), but I'm actually on a roll with work at the moment, and I haven't wanted to take time out between snuggle breaks with The Beaner to convert all the notes I have on my desk into blog posts. Sorry about that.
Speaking of work, I found out last night that one of the most senior engineers on the team—and the only one in my time zone—is leaving. I'm sad for the team because he's going to be wicked tough to replace, and I'm sad for myself because it's going to mean three hours every morning when I won't have anyone to ping when I have a question. The odds of finding another engineer like him are low enough, but the odds of finding someone who'll be in my time zone are virtually nonexistant. It's hard to work remotely when you don't know the team or the product well, even if you're a superstar. Heck, it's hard to work remotely when you *do* know the team and the product well.
Oh well, at least my manager—who's also knowledgeable, patient, and willing to help whenever he's not in a meeting—gets up early most days.
The Work Dreams Have Started
How you know you're in "crunch mode" at work: Even when you're sleeping, you're working.
Last night the Beaner woke in the wee hours (I actually have no idea what time it was), went to the gate at his door, and cried loudly enough to wake one of us (this time it was me, but often it's Al. Funny how usually only one of us at a time ever hears him...). I went up to take him to the bathroom, and after spritzing a bit into the toilet, he reached for me to pick him up, and then he clung to my neck like a monkey when I tried to put him back in bed. I think he wanted to make sure I got the message that he wanted me to get in, too, which I did.
Aside: Man, am I glad I put the good (read: beech fiber) sheets on his bed this time. It made falling back to sleep so much easier. Those sheets ROCK.
So anyway, I fell asleep with the Beaner snuggling/smothering me, and I immediately went back to work. I seemed to be in the office, which is odd because in real life I work from home, three timezones removed from most of my colleagues. I was dreaming about quarterly goals; apparently I got two different sets of goals confused and turned in the wrong kind (yearly instead of quarterly, maybe?). At some point I realized I was sleeping, woke myself up, and tried to sneak out of the bed, but the Beaner caught and tackled me.
I fell back to sleep right away again, and went right back to the office. I was talking to some colleagues about the fact that my boss' boss was moving back to his home town, and how he'd only be in the office every other week now. One of the QEs said she'd miss him because he injected some sexiness into the office (and the team meetings). In the dream I totally knew what she was referring to, and I remember wondering if this type of injection was appropriate.
Next thing I knew I was reading an e-mail from a QE with whom I work closely; in it she mentioned that the boss' boss had made a remark to her in the hall and grabbed her butt once. I wasn't able to read her tone, however, and I was unable to discern whether she was flattered by the attention or considered it sexual harrassment. I was also unsure why she was telling me about the incident. Just then the boss' boss arrived to say goodbye, and he gave me a "special" goodbye hug. It seemed a little... well... affectionate, especially when he nuzzled my neck.
That's when I opened my eyes to find the Beaner half sprawled across me, with his face very close to mine. He smiled, and suddenly I was home.
Cramped and Upset
I actually have a lump in my throat right now and feel ready to cry... over mouse software. It's bad enough that MouseWorks, the software that drives my beloved Kensington Expert Mouse, conflicts with the Acrobat Connect Add-In (which I need for work). Now Logitech's MouseWare is conflicting with an application that I also need to use for work. In this case it's not causing the application to crash, as MouseWorks caused the Add-In to do, but it's severely impacting my workflow.
The solution is to "upgrade" to the new Logitech SetPoint software, which is TOTALLY USELESS for my purposes because it won't let me program my left mouse button to be double-click. The left and right mouse buttons MUST be single click and right-click (or vice versa) in SetPoint world, which doesn't work for me at all. Here's where I want to cry, and I realize that perhaps it's not clear why. Let me 'splain:
I moved to the beloved Expert Mouse several years ago, after going through weeks of physical therapy for RSI. I tried braces, exercises, massage, everything—but nothing stuck because I'd just make the tendonitis worse every time I got back behind my desk. One day the rehab doctor sighed and said, "your physical therapist has written to say that she doesn't think further therapy will produce any more improvement. The only other thing I can suggest is maybe moving to a trackball." I was like, WHY DIDN'T YOU MENTION THIS BEFORE??? I went out and got the Expert Mouse, and damned if he wasn't right: not having to double-click was HEAVEN. Not having to hold down a button while dragging? HOW COULD LIFE BE SO SWEET? My tendonitis still reared its head whenever I had to work sans mouse (i.e., using just the laptop trackpad), but whenever I had the Expert Mouse plugged in, I could work for hours on end without any trouble. It was weird to have the tendonitis improve while I was working.
Fast-forward to the discovery of the Add-In conflict. The engineer who finally diagnosed the problem suggested I try the Logitech Marble Mouse; he said that's the one he switched to when he realized the Kensington software was causing the Add-In crashes. I didn't love it, I must admit. The Expert mouse just fits my hand better, and the buttons are positioned so that they cause the least possible stress in my hand, wrist, and arm. The Marble Mouse's trackball is too far forward, and the buttons aren't positioned well for my hand, but at least I could program the buttons. See where this is going? NOW I CAN'T. My options are:
- Continue to use SetPoint, and try to get used to one of the tiny interior buttons being double-click. I can't seem to get used to the right mouse button being right-click, so I've swapped it with the left mouse button... but that means my left button is now right-click. That's not intuitive, either. I'm also having trouble reaching that tiny interior button without contorting my hand.
- Go back to the old MouseWare and have the buttons programmed the way I want them (or rather, the way I've settled for, after having to give up the Expert Mouse), but have the double-click button not work in an application I use EVERY DAY.
- Go back to the Expert Mouse and avoid using Acrobat Connect on this machine for as long as I can. (Mostly I use Acrobat Connect on my Mac, but for situations where *I* need to demo something or discuss code with another engineer, I need to use it here on my PC. In those situations, I'd need to uninstall the MouseWorks software first.)
I'm not thrilled with any of these options. #1 and #2 guarantee physical pain. (I'm actually already cramped up in my hand and elbow from the past couple days' worth going the #2 route, and less than an hour of route #1 has sent me in search of ice and Advil.) #3 will be a hassle beyond belief. But right now? I think I'm going to opt for the hassle over the pain. Hopefully that'll keep me from crying, too.
The Certification We've Been Waiting For
It's entirely possible that this will only be amusing to me and to the people with whom I work (as opposed to the people who actually read my blog), but Joseph Cooney has come up with the certification program every developer has been eagerly awaiting: The "It Works On My Machine" certification. W00t!
Zeldman Gem of the Day
What is project management?
Client: Why can't I have that right now?
Designer: Because it's not ready.
That's project management.
Sorry for the slim postings over here lately. I now have so much to say about the Beaner that I don't even know where to begin... and so I don't, because I don't have time to write a serial novel at the moment. Work, you know. Lots to do.
Things I could be writing about:
- The Beaner's Dora/Diego obsession, and the various ways it's spilling into our lives ("Starbucks, Bus Stop, Beaner's House!", "Bridge, Gas Station, King of Pizza!")
- Today's visit to the allergist, and the things we both tested negative for (but which we react to in daily life)
- The "it's all about ME" mentality he seems to have these days. (No, son, it's all about ME. Haven't you heard?)
- The ankle. Yes, it still hurts. Yes, I'm still walking around on it. Yes, I'm still icing and wrapping and elevating and taking Advil. Yes, I'm impatient—why do you ask?
- The 5 lbs. I've gained since the injury. I seem to have underestimated the number of calories I was burning just running up and down the stairs on a daily basis, walking the Beaner to sharecare, and just going about my life at a normal pace—things I'm not doing right now.
- How much I am positively PINING to start doing any form of exercise again (and not just because of the weight gain). I feel like a slug. (And yes, I'm doing a bit of Pilates, but it's not enough for me.)
- The way the Beaner just sneakily poked his head out of his door to see if I had really left him in there to fall asleep alone. Totally cracked me UP.
- The adventure we had at Wegman's the other night when I suddenly couldn't walk anymore, Al had to fetch me a Costanza Cart, and then I nearly mowed down the woman in front of me at the checkout line when the Beaner grabbed the accelerator. (Luckily, after shouting "stop! stop! stop!" a few times and thinking WHERE THE HELL IS THE BRAKE???, I managed to wrest control away from the Beaner and throw the thing in reverse.) Hoo yeah.
- How filthy my house is, thanks to the bathroom remodel and the fact that I can't drag the vacuum up and down the stairs.
- Oh yeah, the bathroom remodel. Fart.
Oops, there's the husband. He takes precedence over both work and blogging. Gotta go.
I should know better. I often extol the virtues of a workday that might include a trip to the dry cleaners when I'm feeling unproductive, and a late night of fixing bugs when I'm on a roll. I also often request that I not be congratulated as a "hard worker" for being online at 11pm; just as some people get sleepy at 3pm, I tend to get a third wind after 10. (I usually get the second at about 5pm, fwiw.)
And yet, I've found myself depressed over the past three days as the meticulous schedule of 30- to 60-minute blocks I drew up for myself went totally out the window. The problem is that my work to-do list started outpacing my (considerable) personal to-do list, and I got nervous that I'd never actually *finish* anything or be prepared for my next meeting (especially the one I lead)—hence the schedule. The problem is that this just isn't how I work. Nothing got *done* on Wednesday, and yet lots of things moved forward. I didn't fix any bugs, as scheduled, but I did catch up on a bunch of other things... and I set myself up for finishing a few things on Thursday (including two things that came up at the last minute, and thus weren't on the schedule).
I think the trick is to stay flexible, keep the list of things I'm responsible for front-and-center where I can see them (and thus know what my options are when I'm looking for something to do—because right now scanning blogs and Flickr is the default, when fixing a bug or doing a build or writing a presentation should be), and not worry too much if I spend a little time daydreaming and get off my schedule. Also? Don't automatically say, "ok, sure" whenever someone suggests me for a task. It may be flattering that I'm at the top of so many lists, but if I want to stay there, I have to be able to deliver on the tasks I'm given—and I can't do that if I'm completely buried under them.
What got me thinking about all this is the now-totally-shot-to-hell schedule, of course, but also this article in the New York Times that I happened upon while, um, reading blogs in my RSS feed. OK, you got me.
Al forwarded me this one from Boston.com: 6 myths about work. I can personally vouch for at least two items on the list:
#2. Getting a promotion is good for you, under which it is explained that
Most people who are good at their nonmanagement jobs won't excel as leaders. It takes a very specific personality type to be better as a leader than as the worker who's actually doing the work.
#6. Work hard and good things will come, whereas the truth is that
You'll actually be rewarded only if you're likable. People get hired for their qualifications, but they get promoted because people like working with them. So spend your days trying to figure out what people need and what people want, and how you can help them. Empathy makes you likable.
So I'm starting to freak out about my business trip to Hamburg... mainly because I leave next Wednesday, I have a bunch of laundry and packing to do (plus some house-cleaning and preparation for my parents' visit while I'm away), and our entire weekend, from Friday night to Sunday night, is full. (Also, I haven't done any Father's Day shopping. I totally suck.)
I'm ahead of the game in one respect, though: I finally looked on a map to verify that Hamburg is where I thought it might be—namely, in the northern part of Germany, close to Denmark. I also started trying to memorize the subway stops I'll need to know, though that's kind of a lost cause at this point. Too many German street and place names jammed into my head at the moment make for Uptbahnhofkerflufflestrasse soup.
It also occurred to me (days ago, actually, but I haven't gotten around to it until just this minute) to check the weather forecast, so I'd know what to pack. Heather mentioned that there was a heat wave going on in Berlin, but I wasn't sure if Hamburg, being both farther north and on the sea, would be as hot. The answer is no, it seems. It's just like here at the moment, only a heck of a lot rainier.
Yeah, I Know What I'm Doing
Arrived in Hamburg yesterday and made it to the office without any trouble. The cab driver was astonished when I gave him a 40% tip, though, so maybe that's not done here. (I was feeling a bit generous because he'd made such a great effort to chat with me after stating up front that his English was nicht gut.) I dropped my tip to 30% for the ride from the office to the hotel at the end of the day, but when the driver practically jumped out and kissed my hand, I decided that perhaps 30% was also on the high side.
Unfortunately the internet connection in the hotel was down, and I wasn't able to connect via wireless from the lounge, so my plan to send a number of e-mails, upload photos, video chat with Al and the Beaner, and, most importantly, get information about how to navigate the subway here were totally shot.
I now realize what a sissy I've been, traveling mostly to countries where English is the native language. Knowing a little bit of German from college doesn't help much when you're trying to figure out (a) where the subway is, (b) where to buy a ticket for it, and (c) what kind of ticket you need. Even once I found the button on the ticket machine that switched from German to English, I was lost; the instructions converted to English, but the ticket names did not, and subtle differences between them were not explained. I knew that one was a 6-hour ticket for 1 adult and up to three children, one was a 9-hour ticket, another was a 3-day ticket, and so on. I basically just pressed random buttons to see how much I would be charged for each option and figured that anything over a couple Euros couldn't be right.
I finally settled on a short-haul ticket that cost €1,30 and made my way down to the subway platform for the second time. (The first time I went down I assumed there would be a way to buy a ticket on the platform, but a policeman who knew a little English pointed me back up the stairs.) I thought I did a rather good job of figuring out which side of the platform to stand on, but I won't give myself too much credit for getting on the right train since all the trains that stop at Haupbahnhof go to Landungsbrücken (my stop).
I was two or three deep waiting to board, but finding a seat wasn't difficult. At the next two stops several people crowded the doors to get off, but at Landungsbrücken I was the only one getting off. I got out of my seat before the actual stop and stood by the door. When we pulled into the station, I waited for the door to open, but it didn't. I figured the train just needed to inch forward a bit. Next thing I knew I heard the "door closing" sound coming from another car and frantically looked around for a button to push. There was one on either side of the door, but I only had time to push one, so I opted for the one on the left.
A woman in a seat adjacent to the door noticed my distress and said something to me in German—I'm assuming something along the lines of "you have to push the button to open the door," but she was pointing away from the button I'd just pushed.... and the train started to pull away from the station. At least this gave me a second to notice, at groin level, the button that actually opened the doors, which was on the door itself.
By the time we arrived at the next station, I'd figured out the system. I pressed the button, the doors opened, and I crossed to the other side of the platform. This time there was only one person in front of me waiting to board the train back to Landungsbrücken, and I saw him press a similar button on the outside of the door to open it. Good to know for next time.
Anyway, after a 15 minute walk in which I simply followed the Elbe so as not to get lost, I arrived at the office... around 10am. Not exactly bright and early, but hey, I made it!
Yeah, I Know What I'm Doing, Part II
I have figured out the subway. I am a pro at ordering a decaf cappucino in German. I can ask whether a sandwich has only cheese in it, and I know how to get only steamed milk out of the coffee machine at work. And I just took a second birth control pill rather than my thyroid medication. Yep, I'm a regular whiz kid here.
After an intense two-day wind and rainstorm, during which the Elbe overflowed its banks around the Adobe office (a not-uncommon occurrance in spring and fall, but much rarer in summer), the sky still looks a bit threatening, and it feels more like a fog-shrouded San Francisco evening than a European summer morning. I chose to walk from the subway yesterday just in case the bridge at the Altona ferry landing was flooded, to the peril of my umbrella and the complete soaking of my pants and shoes. I would have been better off crossing a flooded bridge.
This morning the water level seemed lower, so I opted to wait for the ferry rather than walk. I guess the ride was bumpier than usual, because as soon as we took off from Landungsbrücken the front windows of the ferry were obscured by heavy sprays of water. Another indication of a turbulent ride: I'm sitting at my desk, and I can't seem to shake the feeling that the building is rocking back and forth. Reminds me of the days after our Last Hurrah Cruise, when I couldn't keep my balance on the sidewalk.
I swear, it's not the beer.
I think I could have a kick-ass future as a computer-science cartoonist. I've got the great little metaphorical stories all framed out in my head, the dialog, the actions, the gestures. I've got a wealth of material from my day job. Too bad I can't draw.
I'm back from San Francisco and eager to see if the trip helps me get through this week. I suspect it will, if for no other reason than I have some small, specific tasks to work on which will be relatively easy to complete. Many small successes are exactly what I need right now.
It was great to see some of my colleagues face-to-face, too. I often say that 90% of the time, working from home is perfect. The other 10% of the time, I miss the random conversations that happen when you're in the office. As great as e-mail, phone, and especially IM are, they're no substitute from gophering—popping up from your cube to say to a neighbor, "hey, do you know how...?" For one thing, you're likely to get an answer faster. For another—and this is the really important part—the person you ask might not be the one who answers. Instead, someone within earshot may say, "oh, I know..." And if nobody within earshot knows, someone will at least make a suggestion about who does.
In addition to gophering, there are also serendipitous conversations that happen, sometimes because someone you haven't seen in a while stops by to say hello, or, more often, because you overhear others talking about something interesting and join in. I so miss those "oh hey, I was just thinking about that, too!" moments... to the extent that when I'm visiting the office, I spend a good portion of my time daydreaming about moving back to the Bay Area. I forget that 90% of the time, working at home is perfect for me.
So anyway, I'm back in Philadelphia, and I'm looking forward to this week. Looking forward to diving back into the code with renewed vigor, to appreciating the benefits of working at home, to wearing non-waterproof mascara with confidence. Oh, and I'm looking forward to turning 39 on Friday.
My motto for the week (which may only be appreciated by my fellow engineers):
My cheerful, encouraging note to the Beaner this morning (I left for the gym before he woke up) did not have its intended effect. He was sent to the hall again today, and "doesn't remember" why.
I have so little on my plate right now (especially compared with this time last year) that I can't believe I complained to my manager about two of the things on it in our 1:1 today. I think the problem is there's nothing I can really throw myself into, nothing that is so interesting and absorbing that I lose track of time working on it. Instead, I have a few tasks that take a few hours a week each, adding up to a roughly 40-hour slate... but not a fully-engaged employee. I don't feel like I'm gaining expertise in any one area, I'm just chipping away at issues that come up infrequently. So even though nothing I have to do is very taxing, it's also not very edifying. I should come up with a plan to address this. Take charge of my professional development and all that.
I got permission to travel to San Francisco for an office visit from July 16-20, and I've registered for the Cocktail Parties Only option at BlogHer '08. Hope to see you there.
Yep, I fell off the NaBloPoMo wagon this weekend. I considered trying to keep up, but I decided that a couple days lost wasn't a big deal as long as I got back on track this morning. (The same goes for my diet, actually; I'm back logging away.)
Today I wanted to share what I and my colleagues have been up to for the past many months: Dreamweaver CS4. We released a public beta at 12:01am eastern time, so if you're a Dreamweaver CS3 user (via the standalone product or a Suite), please do download the beta of CS4 and check it out!
Burning the Candle (But Not Melting Down)
I'm on Day 2 of 7 where I'm responsible for watching the Beaner from 8:30-11:15am, then working from 11:15 to 7:15 as well as for my usual hour or so after he goes to bed. In order to fit my trip to the gym in and get back and showered before Al has to leave for work, I have to get up at 6:30am.
I know that almost any other mom reading this is probably laughing at me now; getting up at 6:30am and going to bed at 11pm, a few hours of childcare and a full day of work are probably normal for most. For me it's a bit of a stretch. Or, at least, it's a stretch when it's 90+ degrees out and humid. I'm seriously ready to go back to bed right now.
The Beaner and I walked to Reading Terminal Market this morning to buy eggs, and by the time we arrived back home at about 10:50, I was dripping with sweat and ready to flop on the floor. (The Beaner actually *did* flop on the floor.) There was laundry to be done, however, so I tackled that first, and then the Beaner and I went out back to pick some peas and eat them on the spot.
I have to say, it's awesome having a couple hours in the morning with the Beaner. He's not sad at all when Aura arrives, making the handoff easy, and it's just so nice to be able to interact with my kid at leisure. He's so articulate, and now that he's coming out of his super-rough Teenager Phase, he's a delight to be around.
I think the end of the Teenager Phase can be attributed to several factors, namely:
- Time (every phase, good or bad, ends eventually)
- The schedule change that gives Al more uninterrupted time with him in the morning, and me more uninterrupted time with him in the evening
- Diet (we're trying out a semi-Feingold program, essentially skipping the elimination of all salicylates and going straight to Stage Two, and I think we're already seeing progress. Just eliminating artificial colors and preservatives seems to have helped all of us.)
- Momentum (the better he behaves, the more patient and calm we are with him, and the better he behaves).
I wish I had the energy to fully appreciate this time. Hopefully going to bed at 10pm (I'm trying to BE FIRM with myself) will help. That, and staying indoors tomorrow. It's just too dang HOT to be running errands on foot.
Titles for this post that occurred to me in the past 10 seconds: Falling Off the Wagon, Back on the Wagon, Hitching My Wagon. Three clichés were quite enough, so I stopped there and just went with "Wagon Metaphors". So obviously the first two are a reference to the fact that I stopped blogging abruptly just after BlogHer. That was partly coincidental, partly a consequence of being (un)inspired by BlogHer. The uninspiration was entirely my fault; I did BlogHer completely backwards from how (I now realize) I should have done it: namely, I registered only for the cocktail parties and not for the conference itself. I did this for two reasons: (1) I wanted to spend Friday in the office, getting some face time with my colleagues, rather than taking the day off to attend the conference; and (2) since I blog for no other reasons than to record my experiences and possibly make someone else feel less alone (i.e., I don't have some Larger Purpose, nor do I blog for profit), I didn't expect to get much out of the sessions. I didn't love BlogHer in 2006, the last time I attended, so my main goal was to visit with some of the friends I made then and online since.
While I do not for a second regret having face time with my colleagues on Friday, I do kind of regret not going to the conference (and going to the cocktail parties). If I go to BlogHer again in the future, I'll attend the conference and decide on the parties at the last second. While I'm not really a party person in general, I suspect I'd have a better time at them if I also have hang time with other women during the day, and thus have a shared context. (Or, you know, maybe not.) My favorite moments from the parties this time: meeting Schmutzie (she approached me as I walked into the People's Party on Thursday, just after I'd had the thought, "crap, I don't know anyone in the room" and made my evening; wish I'd gotten a photo of us together); hanging out with Leah and finally meeting Joe; trying to get some dancing started—in the wrong room—with Abigail at the Mighty Haus party (yeah, see? parties are not my strong point); finally getting a GLASS OF FUCKING WATER (Pellegrino with lime, FTW!) on the 7th floor of the Macy's party; and sharing said Pellegrino, tofu tarts, and good conversation with Cecily (see us in the last photo of this post from I am Bossy, who (a) was also delightful, (b) knows how to put on a Philly face, and (c) describes the Macy's party pretty accurately).
The "Hitching My Wagon" thing is a reference to the fact that I'm going to be changing jobs very soon, and is also related to the dearth of blog posts here lately. See, right after BlogHer, an opportunity presented itself. It kind of freaked me out, because while I've been thrilled to be a part of the Dreamweaver team for the past 10 years, in my mind I was making little tweaks to my job—adjustments I thought, if they were to materialize, would make me even happier—and it turned out that the Universe was listening. The fact that the Universe was listening was, in itself, enough to cause a mild freakout, but the fact that what sounded like the perfect, no-brainer-to-take-it job was not only not on the Dreamweaver team but not at Adobe nearly sent me round the bend. What to do, what to do? Well, accept, of course, and then freak out some more—about the fact that I'm going to miss the people I work with, most of whom have become close friends over the years; about the fact that I'm going to be leaving my safe little niche for a position that is very likely to make even better use of my skills and interests but that will be decidedly less familiar; about the fact that I'll be moving to a company that's tiny in comparison with my current one, where I'll be more visible, have more leeway (and more responsibility), and will need to do more things for myself (small companies have a lot less infrastructure than giant ones).
I kept the freakout mostly to myself (and Al) for the couple days it took me to make the Final Decision and then tell my manager (and good friend) that I was leaving. After that I told the people I work with most closely, and then the rest of the team. I didn't feel like talking about it publicly, however, so I continued my silence here, thus completely blowing my participation in NaBloPoMo for July. It's difficult to continue writing about mundane things like food and parenthood when Big Things that you can't or don't want to talk about are sitting on your shoulders.
Wednesday was my last day of work at Adobe, and I spent most of the day packing up my computers and peripherals. Since I'd received my PC laptop and two monitors from my new job on Tuesday, as I removed and packed the old equipment, I set up the new. Good LORD the new monitors are huge.
When I finally finished packing, around 9pm, I had 9 boxes. (Luckily Al had the foresight to save the original boxes for all the computers and the monitor.) I printed out all the prepaid FedEx shipping labels Adobe was kind enough to e-mail me, and then tried to figure out how to arrange for a pickup. I quickly figured out that arranging for pickup would mean staying tied to the house all day Thursday, however, when I had planned to spend the afternoon doing stuff with the Beaner. I skipped the pickup option and figured I'd just take the boxes to FedEx myself.
There's a FedEx/Kinko's store 3 blocks from here, but getting the packages to the store was harder than one might imagine. I considered using my granny cart or the Beaner's wagon to tow them over there, but either would have required at least three trips, as the monitor box alone took up the entire wagon (and wouldn't fit in the granny cart at all). I finally decided, reluctantly, to drive, even though that would mean a longer trip due to one-way streets.
After wedging all the boxes in the back of our car (it has quite a bit of cargo space, but less than our old car had), I realized that it probably would have taken at least 5 trips with the wagon to get all the boxes to the store... and I started wondering how I was going to get all the boxes *into* the store in one go, considering that it took me four trips to load up the car. I figured I'd just park in front of the store and ask for a cart of some sort.
It was only when I made it around the corner onto Market Street that I realized there were no parking options in front of the FedEx store—only bus stop, a tow-away zone (because the buses need room to get around the corner), and a No Stopping Anytime taxi stand. Past the taxi stand, and really too far to walk with all those boxes anyway, all the parking spots were full.
I ended up pulling over by Trader Joe's and pulling out my iPhone to try to find another FedEx counter at which to drop my packages. The search was fruitless, however; the results were similar to those of a search for Starbucks (namely, there was a FedEx location on practically every corner, but none with parking options). I remembered that there was an office somewhere near Grays Ferry Road, but I couldn't remember if it was FedEx Ground or FedEx Express, and it wasn't clear how to get it to come up in the search (search by city instead of Zip Code?).
After about 10 minutes, I gave up and drove the circuitous route back to the front of the FedEx/Kinko's, parked in the taxi stand, and put on my flashers. I ran into the store and almost tripped over a FedEx employee who was crouched in front of the packing supplies table, restocking. "Can I help you?" he asked. Woo! Helpfulness! IN PHILLY! "Yes!" I replied. "I've got 9 rather large boxes in my car outside. Do you have a cart or something with which to bring them in?"
"No," he replied, and walked away. OK, *there's* the surly attitude I was expecting! Whew.
I went back out to the car and began the tedious process of bringing in 2-3 boxes at a a time. The monitor had to come in by itself, so I think I made a total of 4 trips, maybe 5. By the time I was finished there were boxes stacked all around the gentleman who couldn't decide how he wanted to send his package and was therefore in my way. While I waited I managed to flag down the unhelpful clerk and ask for 9 of those clear envelopes that hold the shipping labels and proceeded to match up labels with packages.
By the time I was finished, so was the waffling gentleman. The other clerk then weighed and scanned each package and gave me a receipt, and I was able to dash back out to my car a final time. No ticket on the windshield, woo! (When I called Al to tell him the story, I ended with, "and I didn't get a ticket!", to which he replied, "that you know of." RIGHT. Here in Philly, if a parking inspector spots you parked illegally and starts making out a ticket for you but is either too lazy to put it on your windshield or doesn't get an opportunity because you pull away from your illegal spot before s/he's done, you find out about the ticket only when you get a notice in the mail that you're being fined an extra $20 in addition to the amount of the original ticket for not paying the original ticket, which you didn't know about.)
OK, so TRIP TO FEDEX SUCCESSFUL, as far as I knew. After a quick shower, I had about an hour before the Beaner got out of camp in which to set up my new PC and try to get some preliminary work done for my new job.
After the Beaner pickup, we hung out for a bit at home, talked about what he'd done at camp, and then called Al to see if he wanted to meet for lunch. He did, so we walked over to Al's building and had a pleasant lunch in its new upscale food court.
After lunch we spent about an hour reading books (and buying three of them) at Borders, and then we stopped for coffee on the way home. On our arrival back at the house, I noticed a FedEx envelope on the floor by the mail slot, and as I usually do, I opened the front door to see if the mailman had left any packages wedged in the storm door.
You know what I found, right? A FedEx notice that a delivery was attempted, and that I could retrieve my package at 3600 Grays Ferry Road. Well, at least I knew the address of the place now, and that it was a FedEx Express facility. Oh, and the fact that a MacBook was waiting for me there was some consolation as well.
Fueled by Futureshakes
I'm on my second week at my new job, and it's been interesting so far. It's a bit harder to get rolling remotely when you don't already know the team and its procedures, as I did when I contracted for Macromedia from Philly and later returned to Adobe full-time after the merger, but I think I've been doing fairly well. My to-do list is huge—there appears to have been some pent-up demand for someone in my position—but I'm starting to knock things off, if not as fast as things are put on, then at least with increasing speed and confidence.
On the homefront, I've got a backlog of Beaner updates to post, family adventure photos to share, and food to describe. Taking the last point first: I've been on a shake kick lately, which seems to be both keeping me going physically, sharpening my focus mentally, and getting me out of the eat-everything-in-sight rut I'd been in. The "My Saved Meals" column on my daily plate is now filled with items such as Sir Strawberry Shake, Green Velvet Shake, Strawberry C Monster Shake, and my personal standby favorite, the Chocolate Future Shake.
The Future Shake is named after the Odwalla product that was available until a few years ago, when they ruined it (IMHO) by turning it into a high-protein shake. My version's a bit less sweet and slightly thicker, but it's very reminiscent.
Homemade Chocolate Future Shake
1 T. protein powder (I use soy-free veg, but any unflavored protein powder will do)
2 T. rolled oats or multigrain cereal
1 T. ground flaxseed
1 T. unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Trader Joe's organic)
1/2 c. crushed ice
1 c. Odwalla Mango Tango
2/3 c. plain soy milk
Spoon protein powder, cocoa powder (I tend to use heaping tablespoons of these), oats, and flaxseed meal into a blender. Cover with the ice. Pour in Mango Tango and soy milk. Blend on low speed to mix, then high speed for about 2 minutes, until the oats are sufficiently ground, or until you go deaf.
Yield: One pint + a little extra. Nutrition info: 335 calories, 7g fat, 0mg cholesterol, 146mg sodium, 54g carbs, 36g sugars, 7g fiber, 13g protein. Keeps you full for hours, and satisfies a chocolate craving. The fiber always makes me want to drink more water after I'm finished, too.
Restless Sleep, Restless Mind
I haven't been sleeping well lately, mostly due to working a bit too hard and too long, mentally trying to get up to speed with my new job, not feeling well physically (hello, fall allergy season—otherwise known as respiratory distress season for me), never quite getting back in the right time zone after my last trip to the Bay Area (see: working long and hard), and trying to do some long-term planning for the family. Oh, and the recent death of a former hockey teammate that I didn't interact with much since I moved to the Freeze (we played on the same HNA team, but different Freeze teams), but about whose passing I can't help but feel some sadness and angst. So, in short (or rather, at length), there are a bunch of reasons I'm not sleeping well.
Of course, when I don't sleep well, especially when work is one of the reasons, I tend to dream strangely, and about work-related items. To whit:
- On Sunday night, I dreamed that a male Twitter acquaintance said to me, "That's it, no more cutting your hair by yourself. You have to go back to Julius Scissor."
- On Monday night, I dreamed that I weighed only (!) 153 lbs., and that I was so thin I could wear a second pair of jeans over the pair I already had on. (NB: I weigh more than 153 lbs. at the moment, but not so much more that a drop to 153 would allow me to drop even a single jeans size.) I walked out on stage (!) and said, "look, honey! I'm wearing TWO pairs of jeans AT THE SAME TIME!"
- On Tuesday night, I dreamed that I was an accordion panel, and I had to keep bending and straightening my legs to test the smoothness of the panel animation. I think I actually did expand and collapse my body several times in my sleep, but it's hard to say for sure.
- Just now, when I was forced by extreme exhaustion to take a 15-minute catnap (I set my iPhone timer to wake me up), I dreamed that a JSON to XML converter was not what I needed after all. "If I could only get a Chaos plugin that WORKED, all my problems would be solved," I said to the newest of my recently-hired colleagues.
In the Five Minutes Before I Turn Out the Light, and the Forty It Now Takes Me to Fall Asleep
What I'm reading right now:
- Code Complete by Steve McConnell
This is surprisingly absorbing so far. I carried a copy of the first edition—which I got through work—around with me through 3 or 4 cube (and two house) moves, always intending to read it but never getting around to it. Apparently I finally gave it away, because when I looked for it a few weeks ago, I couldn't find that copy. I ended up buying the second edition for $45 or so (!), and so far I haven't regretted it. It's relevant to current projects and future endeavors.
- Dealing With Difficult People, by Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner
Shawna got this for me from the library this afternoon, and I bet I'll be able to finish it in one sitting; it's pretty slim. I got it confused with the somewhat more substantial Coping With Difficult People, which a friend gave me years ago and I never got around to reading.
- A Few Seconds of Panic by Stefan Fatsis
I started this back in August, when I was still going to the gym regularly and had a routine of reading non-fiction at the gym and fiction at home. I stopped going to the gym when I started working late with the new job, and this book languished. I need to fit it back in somewhere, because it's great. (So great that Fatsis' other recent book, Word Freak, is already waiting on my nightstand.)
- David Copperfield (audiobook) by Charles Dickens
I had to abandon this audiobook last night—I hope temporarily—in favor of the more cheerful Sense and Sensibility. I haven't read David Copperfield since 10th grade (and even then I only skimmed and didn't finish it), but already I was starting to feel sorry for the little chap, and if I remember correctly, it gets worse by the time he gets to London. It's just too sad for me right now.
One 30-Minute Slice of My Day
I plan to try a few more of these, because any one 30-minute period can't possibly represent my whole day, nor can it reveal how I manage to fit all kinds of activities in (as Heidi asked about in her comment on my last post). This 30-minute period does reveal, however, how short my attention span is. I've said often that if something takes more that 3 seconds, I'm very likely to switch to something else—which, depending on what I switch to, can either be a productivity boon or a producitivity killer. Judge for yourself in this slice of Friday, October 17, from 4:27 EST to 4:57 EST. (I didn't write down the times of all the task switches, but I did write down what I switched to each time, so you can include "writing down what I did" on the list of things that I did. :-)
- Open enormous archive I received from an Ajax toolkit developer with 7Zip. Start extracting files. (Win)
- Upload two photos to Flickr. (Mac)
- Ping colleage on GTalk about whether trunk is open for checkins. (Win)
- Check on status of archive (still unzipping) and photo upload (still uploading).
- Add a folder to SVN with Tortoise. (Win)
- Add description and tags to Flickr photos. (Mac)
- Add photo to group pool, peruse group pool. (Mac)
- Check on status of archive (finished unzipping, but attempting to open unzipped folder freezes Windows Explorer). (Win)
- Engage colleague who's now responding to my IM. (Win)
- Check on status of add in Tortoise window. Complete. (Win)
- Check Google Reader for postings in the two Aptana forums I'm responsible for monitoring. No postings. (Win)
- Read latest TechCrunch post while in Reader. (Win)
- Refresh local SVN folders so I can commit files I just added; Windows Explorer freezes. (Win)
- Check latest tweets in TweetDeck. Nothing worth responding to, no comments to add. (Win)
- Explorer still frozen. (Win)
- IM from husband reporting on status of several things we have pending. (Win)
- Force-quit Explorer. (Win)
- IMs still coming in from husband, but otherwise, machine is frozen. Can't switch apps. (Win)
- Reboot Windows machine. (Win)
- Update NPR, CNN, and Slate podcasts in iTunes while waiting for Win machine to come back. (Mac)
I'm thinking I might slice my days in other ways, too; perhaps instead of writing down everything I do in a 30-minute period, I'll try setting an alarm that goes off every thirty minutes and write down what I'm doing *right at that moment*. I hope it doesn't reveal that I'm eating every thirty minutes!
The Downsides of Working at Home
As regular readers will know, I work at home. I've been working at home since 2004—first as a contractor, and then, starting in 2006, full-time. One of the conditions under which I took this new job was that I'd continue to work from home. (I already had a job that I really liked and for which I could move back to California if I wanted, and I hadn't done so yet—so why would I move for a new job in the same area?) My husband's job is here, we live in the middle of a vibrant city, both of our commutes can be accomplished on foot, and our son's school is literally around the corner from our house. I pick the Beaner up from school on the days he's dismissed at 11:45 and make him lunch. I can do a load of laundry in the middle of the day if I need to. I can sign for packages and be around if an installer or repairman needs access to the house without having to interrupt my normal work schedule.
[I didn't list "not having to get dressed" among the benefits of working at home because I always get dressed, and I usually wear the same clothes I'd wear if I were in the office. (I do like being able to change into yoga pants if I'm feeling irritable, however; I'm not sure *why* this helps, but it usually does.)]
For all the benefits of working at home—and while the list above isn't exhaustive, I hope it's convincing—there are some downsides. The obvious ones are that it's lonely; that I miss out on cross-cubicle communication and random hallway encounters that always inform and sometimes inspire; that I have to work harder to be remembered and included. It's easy to become disconnected, even when you love the team you work with, the product you work on, and the company you work for.
Perhaps less obvious (at least to me, since it only occurred to me recently) is that working at home gives you a chance to see an alternative to feeling lonely and disconnected. You start looking around you and seeing a kid you could be playing with, a house you could be cleaning, books you could be reading, projects you could be finishing. Never mind that no one will pay you to do those things; when you're feeling lonely and disconnected, the instant and visible gratification of a hug, a clean house, or a completed book or project can seem worth more than even the largest paycheck and the best benefits. This might not be a problem on its face, but if you start pining for the clean house and the completed project, it only adds to the feelings of lonliness and disconnectedness, and there's a danger of spiralling downward and making stupid decisions.
One way I found to combat this downward spiral when I was at Adobe was to visit the office as often as possible... which, sadly, wasn't that often. Just because a trip isn't in the budget doesn't mean it can't happen, however; sometimes you can compromise and share the costs. For example, you could use airline or hotel miles to pay for either airfare or lodging, and have your company pick up the other item. (I did this once, when I was desperate for some facetime.) You could stay with a friend or family member. If you're within a couple hours' drive of your office, you could go in once a week or every other week. The idea is to remind people who you are, have some productive facetime (in both formal meetings and informal hallway chats), and get reconnected to the team and its goals. In short, to remind yourself why you work, so the piles of laundry don't start looking more appealing than your job.
Another thing that helps, for me at least, is to work on a project or feature with another engineer, a QA partner, or just about anyone else, as long as they're a full partner and not just someone you report to periodically. When I work with someone else, I fulfill what my friend Kristin identified as one of her primary needs in a job (and, it turns out, one of my primary needs as well): namely, to "feel like I'm part of a team/hive with a common goal." I definitely felt like I was part of a hive working toward a common goal back in the late 90s when we were working on Dreamweaver 1 and 2 (and I was in the office for 12+ hours a day), but I also felt that way when I was working on my feature for Dreamweaver CS3 with another engineer (who also happened to work remotely). I had someone to bounce ideas off of, to review my code, to help me get unstuck—and, most importantly, to connect me to the team and the release.
I guess what I'm saying with all of this is that I'm starting to consider whether the downsides of working at home outweigh the benefits, and whether I'm willing to change my arrangement. I think in the short term, just recognizing that I have to work harder to maintain a connection in the absence of frequent office visits and engineering partnerships will help. In the long term... well, we'll see.
I know this is my third blog post of the day (so much for forgetting to blog once the in-laws walked in the door!), but I'm so darn touched over this that I have to spew some more.
I received this tiny little trophy by FedEx today. No note was in the box, but the three little letters in the middle of the inscription were all my heart needed: QRB.
QRB stands for Quality Review Board, a term we used on the Dreamweaver team at Macromedia and that's still in use today. (Adobe folks will be more familiar with BRC, which I think stands for Bug Review Council.) In any case, QRB is all about reviewing bugs that have been reproduced by someone in QA/QE (Quality Assurance/Quality Engineering) and determining whether they should be opened (and to whom) or deferred. Sometimes we know that a bug is a duplicate of another, or that it's already been fixed and will be in the next build, and we can get the bugs off the QRB list that way.
[See this somewhat related post on Coding Horror that I happened to read today for more on bug categorization and deferral: That's Not a Bug, It's a Feature Request.]
QRB used to meet at least three times a week; there were four or five core members who participated in every meeting, and usually two guests (one engineer and one QE) per week. I was one of the core members, and I actually enjoyed QRB. I liked having the 30,000 view of the product, as it were; I had an idea of which features were wonky, which features were relatively stable, where the gaps in our feature (especially legacy feature) knowledge were.
I'd just been saying to Al recently that I missed participating in QRB... and then this little trophy arrived, as if to say that QRB missed me, too.
I don't think I've written here since my role changed at work (to something I wanted to do, that I think I'm naturally good at, and that was needed on the team). Since the change I've been busy with meetings and planning and process (and a trip to California for all three), and I can honestly say I've been having a great time. I just haven't made much time for blogging, as evidenced by the "Yesterday vs. 2008" Blog item in Things that's 6 days overdue. (I'm trialing Things on a friend's recommendation and rather liking it so far; it's handy that I can keep track of my Areas of Responsibility and all the items that fit in each area. I made Blog one of the areas so I could remember things I wanted to write about.)
I think it's especially important that I continue to blog about kid milestones as I get busier at work—without shortchanging the kid, of course. If I have to choose between spending time with the Beaner and blogging about him, I hope I know to choose Beaner time. (If that happens, I'll probably end up saving memories on little scraps of paper and blogging in bullet points, as I did on my trip to Korea back in 2003.) Looking over my parenthood archives with Al and the Beaner before my trip and watching all the videos I'd posted over the past 3 years or so brought home how easy it is to forget how things used to be. I barely recognized the kid in the train video, though I understand him better now than I did then. Perhaps there's some kind of 20/20 hindhearing when you've been a witness to the evolution of your child's speech?
When I later went to dig up (and then back up, when I realized that they weren't backed up) the videos I took in 2006 and 2007, I found even more moments that I only vaguely remembered. There were a few that I instantly recognized, even if I didn't remember recording them, and seeing those moments made me want to capture and chronicle more. So that's my long-winded way of saying that time is speeding up and I don't want to miss anything and THANK GOD FOR THE BLOG. (Even Al said THANK GOD FOR THE BLOG when we were reviewing the archives, and he's always been a somewhat reluctant supporter of my blogging habit.)
That brings us back to the "Yesterday vs. 2008" Things item, which has to do with the Beaner's recognition of the turning of the year. I know that they start Circle Time in his classroom each day by having one kid stand up and tell what day, month, date, year, and season it is, but I don't think he was really *aware* of the year until recently. He used to refer to the past as "yesterday" in virtually every situation; for example, "Yesterday Grandma and Grandpa gave me a book for my birthday," when his birthday was a month ago. Yesterday was good for two days ago, last week, last month, six months ago, last year.
Now, suddenly, his favorite way of referring to the past is, "that was in 2008!" His first real nanny, Hannah, came to visit us last week after the Inauguration (which, now that I think of it, is probably what prompted all the nostalgic video watching), and we reminded the Beaner that Hannah was his nanny when he was little and has been his friend ever since. "You mean she was my nanny in 2008?" he asked. "No, Aura and Shawna were your nannies in 2008," I told him. This is apparently a puzzler for him; just as nothing existed before yesterday for a long while, he's now unsure of what came before 2008.
Speaking of remembering, do you remember the 21st night of September?*
*Link goes to a friends & family only page on Flickr.
Come Co-Work With Me
I think I've mentioned here before, in passing, that I've been working at Independents Hall three days a week for a couple months now. If I have not yet mentioned that it has SAVED MY REMOTE-EMPLOYEE LIFE, now's probably a good time to do so.
I was really starting to lose it as a remote employee, which is why I took a leap of faith and declared that 2009 would be the year I stopped working at home. I didn't know whether this would mean moving, quitting my job and finding something local, or some other thing I hadn't considered yet when I wrote that list of three resolutions, but within a couple days of writing them, I took my second leap of faith and sent in my Basic Membership agreement to Indy Hall.
I had no idea whether co-working would suit me, and as a social-phobic introvert, I was extremely nervous to even walk in the door that first day. I'm glad I did, however. I may have felt self-conscious and dorky for the first few minutes, but after that first day I was totally fine—and after two or three visits, I knew I wanted to upgrade to Lite membership, which would give me desk space 3x a week. When I upgraded, I also put myself on the waiting list for a Full membership, which would give me a permanent desk to clutter.
There will still be days when I work at home because commuting across town to Indy Hall doesn't make sense—like I should have last Thursday, when both Al and the nanny were out of town, the bus I was on got stuck in a traffic jam, and I had to get off and run to pick up the Beaner from school before they started fining me... and I ended up tripping, ripping my jeans, skinning and bruising both knees, and missing most of a very important meeting because I couldn't hear what people were saying over the din of idling bus engines—but honestly, the commute is part of what I like about Indy Hall, and I'm looking forward to doing it every day starting in May. I LIKE getting out of my usual sphere, which doesn't extend much beyond City Hall to the east, Fairmount to the North, and Rittenhouse Square to the south, and hanging out in Old City. The restaurants, bars, and coffee shops here are all new and exciting to me, and I have some (physical) distance between my home life and my work life.
One of the things I like best about Indy Hall is that it's very much like working in the office in California—the only real difference is that the people I sit next to here aren't working for the same company I am. The place has the same startup feel that my California office has, possibly because there are actual projects/companies starting up at Indy Hall. I'm not sure that's all of the reason, though, as the community is made up of freelancers, remote employees, company owners, and others, not all of them Silicon Valley-geeky or startup-focused. I think the common thread is that we're all creatives—even the business guys. And we run the age gamut, too; I'm one of the graybeards at age 40, but I'm not the oldest.
I also like the mix of Full, Lite, and Basic members; it means that Indy Hall looks different every day. I can count on Jason, Joe, and Jonny, all full-timers, to be here most days, and Dana, who works for co-founder Alex Hillman. That's great for continuity. But for variety, there's a random mix of others who show up on different days. There's always someone to have lunch with, if you want to go out, and always someone to compare notes with if you have a question about Rails or video editing or cupcakes or parenthood.
Indy Hall is having a membership drive right now to determine the feasibility of moving to a larger space—one with more bathrooms, more conference rooms, space for more desks (and thus members of all kinds), and space for telephone booths, among other things. The current membership got a sneak preview of the new space last Tuesday night at a town hall meeting to discuss what we like and don't like about the Indy Hall community and the current space.
The new space solves most of our complaints with the current space at 32 Strawberry Street—only one bathroom, not enough spots for private phone conversations, not enough room to hold all the people who want to work here—while retaining the things I and others love: the neighborhood and its many great restaurants and coffee shops; the proximity to public transit (so many buses and trains come through here!); the cool mix of people who flow through the space.
Most importantly, there's ROOM FOR YOU if you want to come. If you're a freelancer, work-at-homer, one-person company, or even a regular employee who just wants a cool place to work away from the office a couple days a month, check out Indy Hall and sign up for a membership. The Basic level is only $25/month and includes one free day.
The First Day of Summer
Yes, I know the actual first day of summer isn't for another month or so, but I feel like my summer's starting right now, today. [Edited to add: If you were looking for the explanation that I promised "later" in my last post, this is it.]
The company I was working for did a bit of restructuring recently, and in the process my position was eliminated. I found out last Monday, and Friday was my last day. A few things to get out of the way:
- I am not sad.
- I wish the company and the people who still work there well. There are no hard feelings at all.
- It was a *really* hard decision to leave my wonderful former job to take this one (the one that was just eliminated), but I think it was a the right one. I learned a lot in the past 10 months, got to try several new things, and expanded my horizons—in other words, I met the goals of the job switch.
And now it feels a lot like school's just let out for the summer. The vacation I've desperately needed is at hand, and then I need to start working again and planning for the future. I'm actually going to do a bit of work first, then vacation, then start planning for the future (aka job hunting full time). On my to-do list for this week and next:
- Update the Freeze website (it needs help, and I've been promising to help it forever).
- Add sample code to OpenAjax Metadata Specification (I'm continuing as co-chair of the IDE working group as an individual member).
- Start poking through the Mozilla source code. It's been a while since I've written anything in C++, and it'd be fun to get my hands dirty again.
- Scan Polaroids I took this weekend in Hunter, NY.
- Participate in end-of-year events at the Beaner's school.
- Blog more, both here and on my hockey site.
- Update resume.
- Give serious thought to what I want to do next (not just what I *could* do, but what I *want* to do).
I'm also going to read some books and do some gardening, but I'd do that anyway, employed or not. :-)
Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign
My mom used to say (or maybe she was quoting someone else, I'm not sure) that there are signs everywhere; you just have to notice them. You don't need tea leaves or tarot cards to give you some help in making a decision; a newspaper will do. Open the paper (or a book) to a random page, and poke your finger at it. You just might find the answer you're looking for.
I remember when Al was trying to help a friend decide between taking a professorship at Harvard and one at Stanford. She had ties to Stanford, but the Harvard job was appealing, too. She was really torn. After a day of discussing it in depth, they went to the movies, where they talked about it a bit more while waiting for the film to start. A few college kids filed into the row in front of them and turned to look up for more of their friends, and the one who stopped right in front of Al's friend was wearing a shirt that said, "Harvard: The Right Choice."
On the walk home on the day I got laid off, two strangers on separate blocks said "hi!" as I passed, like I'd startled them with my own greeting (though I hadn't). Then, as I was walking down Arch Street, a man walked out of a bar for a cigarette, looked me right in the eye, and said, "FUCK YEAH! IT'S THE RIGHT FUCKING TIME!"
I smiled at him and thought to myself, why yes, yes it is.
Wednesday (Not Saturday)
Again I'm going to start this entry with mention of my fame (!), as I neglected to mention the conversation that followed the "I read your blog!" sighting last Sunday. Al suggested that it might be he and the Beaner that made me recognizable, and I think for the most part he's right. I have certainly been recognized on my own before, especially when my hair is pink or purple, but I think it's when people see all three of us together that they have that, "hey, I know you!" moment.
Now on to work, or lack thereof, or something like that. I actually have plenty to do, both online and off, at Indy Hall and at home, but on Monday I was very nearly paralyzed by guilt into doing nothing. Ironically, the guilt had to do with doing nothing: I felt guilty that I had the freedom to do pretty much what I wanted, when I wanted, when Al had to work. It didn't seem fair. And so I started feeling kind of sad.
Luckily Al sent me an e-mail that cheered me enough to get out of the house, because the weather was a BEAUTIFUL on Monday: about 70 degrees and Northern California dry. I took a couple (well, four, counting my iPhone) cameras with me and headed back out to University City on the #13 trolley.
I spent the next few hours walking around the Penn Alexander catchment area, taking photos of interesting signs, blooming flowers, and houses; talking to a lovely woman named Joya who was doing some square-foot gardening in her front yard; and getting a feel for the neighborhood. It was thoroughly lovely. I haven't finished the roll in the Minolta yet (and it's black and white, which won't give you the flavor of the day, which was incredibly colorful, anyway), but here are a few of the snaps I took with the other cameras:
The next day I woke up convinced it was Friday. That's when I realized that Monday's mini-depression was not a fluke: This not-working thing is definitely messing with my head.
This morning I woke up thinking it was Saturday, which I guess is at least consistent with thinking yesterday was Friday. Within a few hours I was also thinking that maybe I should tell the Beaner that I'd lost my job.
I hadn't told him yet because [a] I didn't want to freak him out, but more importantly, [b] I didn't want him to get his hopes up that this would mean I'd be staying home with him. (Did I already say this the other day? I can't remember.) I fully intend to get another job, and I figured if things just went on as they had done while I was looking, there'd be little disruption in his life.
The problem is that I started, almost immediately, wanting to spend more time with the Beaner. Looking for work is indeed a full-time gig, but but it's more like a 35-hour full-time gig, not a 45-hour full-time gig. There's at least an extra hour or two a day that I could be spending with the Beaner, even when my sort-of vacation/sort-of project time is over.
So tonight, I told him. The first thing he said was, "does that mean you're going to work upstairs again now?!", with an excited grin. (He associates me going to Indy Hall with me going to "work," which is probably a good thing.) He was a little confused about where exactly my job went and why; "the company did a bit of restructuring" doesn't mean much to a 4 year-old, so I explained further that they wanted to move in a new direction, and that they didn't need me to do it. I told him that I'd be looking for another job with a company that *does* need my services, and that I was confident I would find one.
He then asked why I was calling it a "job" when he knew it as "work". I said that he does work at school, and mommy and daddy do their work at their jobs. I'm not sure he got that one. I think he did understand that I'd still be going to Indy Hall while I'm looking for a job, but that I'd also be around a little more than usual, and that I was looking forward to spending that little extra time with him. He said he was, too.
I'm sure there will be further consequences/questions, but for now I think that went as well as can be expected. If I can just wake up tomorrow knowing it's Thursday, all will be right with the world.
Sprint 1 Retrospective
Regular readers may have noticed that I'm not coming up in their RSS feeds as often these days. It's partly because I haven't felt like blogging, and partly because I've been too busy. I'm responsible for some OpenAjax editing (we're *still* trying to finish up 1.0 of the metadata specification), hockey season has started, and I'm trying to plan birthday events for both me and the Beaner. Oh, and I went back to work (on a contract-to-hire basis, which reminds me of "try & buy" in software parlance) at the end of September.
Yep, that's right, I'm working. A couple former colleagues noticed that I'd updated my LinkedIn profile—and that I'd gone from being a developer to being a ScrumMaster—and wondered if I'd changed career paths completely. The answer is no; I got interested in software engineering management while working at Adobe (and specifically while acting as Team Lead for the development team in Hamburg, Germany), and my brief experience with Scrum at Aptana really got me thinking about software development process. I ended up taking a ScrumMaster certification course (on my own dime) over the summer, reading about project management with Scrum and software project management in general, and talking with anyone who'd indulge me about plan-driven vs. agile methodologies and individual teams' experiences with them.
Yeah, I'm a geek. I know.
I wasn't specifically planning on becoming a ScrumMaster—I played the Product Owner role at Aptana, and after taking the SM certification course, I was more sure that PO was the right role for me—but I was interested in the challenge presented by this opportunity, so I decided to try it. So far, it's been pretty cool. It's fun to realize that Scrum has an answer for most of the problems the team has encountered thus far, even if we're still not in a purely Agile environment (we're definitely trying to strike a balance between agility and the need for long-range planning, and I'm personally trying to limit the amount of radical change I introduce into a team that's already mid-project). And honestly, at this company, in this industry, and for this group, ScrumMaster probably *is* the right role for me. It gives me a chance to scratch my software development process itch and practice the encourage/inspire/remove-obstacles-to-success part of management without having to be responsible for anyone else's career goals (or write performance reviews).
I've been at it for three weeks now, and I have a few random observations to record:
- The first week was hard, and I did worry that I wasn't doing it right—and consequently I spent Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights that week Sprint planning in my sleep and waking up exhausted—but the team has been very forgiving and willing to let me learn as I go.
- Being in the office, in direct, face-to-face communication with the people I work with is great. I often communicate so much that I find myself needing some quiet time in my cube (hello, introvert!)... but then I come home and excitedly tell Al what worked and what didn't that day.
- I'm almost as excited when something goes wrong as when something goes well. So far, I've been able to see the learning opportunity/teachable moment each time. I hope that continues.
- So far, I'm not missing writing code. There was one moment where I had the urge to volunteer to help with some front-end HTML/CSS/JS development, but I stopped myself. (Al and I have an idea for a software product that I started scoping out before I went back to work, so if I really feel the need to produce something and not just shepherd production by others, I can work on that.)
- So far, I haven't brought work home with me. Last night, for the first time, I had the urge to work after hours, but I'm hoping that for the most part I can leave work at work, and that my home office with the three laptops can scale down to a writing, photo-editing, and bill-paying spot. (We'll see if I can manage the work/life balance as I become more invested in the projects and people at the office.)
- This is a great exercise in staying humble and helpful, about being the grease, not the wheel. It's bringing me more joy than I thought it would.
- Moments like this make me really happy:
For those of you unclear as to why, it's because I'm watching my team be really productive. Everyone's talking to the people they need to talk to, they're looking over each other's shoulders instead of just exchanging e-mails, they're figuring out complex issues by drawing on whiteboards. It's colocated Scrum at work.
- My commute is really convenient (a 7-minute walk if I'm wearing practical shoes; a slightly longer one if I'm wearing heeled boots and can't make forward progress as quickly, as happened on Friday), but it's not long enough to listen to audiobooks or podcasts. Consequently, I'm very much behind on my podcast consumption. Time to clean the house or do laundry so I can catch up!
- I love seeing Al during the day. (Did I not mention that I work in the same building as Al?) We were intially worried that this would be a problem, but we've found that we don't usually run into each other accidentally, and being able to eat lunch together occasionally or to walk home together (more regularly) has been an unexpected benefit.
- I miss playing golf 2-3 times a week. I'll get to golf next weekend, but I do miss the regular outings. Of course, going back to work coincided with the end of summer (and thus the peak golfing season) anyway, so it's not like I'd really be out on the course if I weren't working (especially not in 45-degree rain).
- I miss the flexibility of being able to get things done during the day while everyone else is at work; now I have to wait until the weekends like everybody else.
- I'm looking forward to football, introducing the Beaner to new vegetables and figuring out which ones he likes best, reading the Sunday New York Times, and working on Halloween costumes tomorrow; I'm also looking forward to the Sprint demo, Sprint retrospective, and Sprint planning on Monday.
- Life is good.
Something's Gotta Give
I'm not sure whether the fact that I haven't been able to get past the opening
<p> tag in a blog post until now is because (a) after being extroverted all day long I DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT; (b) I just plain don't want to talk about it, it being work and all; or (c) if all I'm going to do is write about how long my to-do list is, I'd be better off doing it than writing about it.
Probably all three.
The Beaner turned 5 today. He's a big boy now.
Agile in Action
Even more recently, a colleague came down to take some photos of us working for a presentation one of the executives was planning to give. He's a better photographer than I, so I can't wait to see what he got... and of course I immediately wished I could include his photos in my Flickr set.
Aha! I thought: I'll start a group, and I'll call it Agile in Action. Sadly, the name was already taken, but the upside is that it was taken for the same purpose: As a way of sharing the working environments and artifacts of Agile teams.
There are only 11 members of that group now, and only a few photos in the group pool, so I'd like to make a pitch to other Agile practitioners who use Flickr to join and send photos of your teams, your work setups, your Kanban boards and burndown charts, or any other Scrum/Agile artifacts you've found useful. I'm not a group owner or moderator (and therefore I can't change the generic group icon); I'd just like to share ideas with other practitioners through photographs. Won't you be my ScrumNeighbor?
Quiet as A...
Due to a schedule change with our nanny, Al and I are now responsible for picking the Beaner up from school on the days when he gets out at noon. We split duties, each taking a different day.
Last week, my day was a particularly hectic one, so instead of bringing the Beaner home and waiting for Shawna, I brought him to work with me and asked Shawna to pick him up there.
We stopped at Ralph's on 43 to get the Beaner a slice of pizza and an apple juice, and then we went back down to Awesome Central, the area in the SW corner of 15 that we've claimed for co-working for the past few weeks. Awesome Central was full, since the whole team was in the office, so I pulled up an extra chair so close to mine that I would have been elbowing the Beaner constantly if I moused on the right side.
He happily added sticky notes to the board (items like "I alweys love you mom <3" and just plain "<3"), and then he just sat there, happily eating his pizza while I tried to solve a Production problem. A few minutes later, I was describing said problem to another team member as resulting from "users pressing the buttons continuously like monkeys" (completely mixing my metaphors in the process—I was thinking of both rats pressing the feeder bar to get a pellet and monkeys on typewriters banging out Shakespeare) when the Beaner totally startled me by going, "ooh ooh eee eee aah aah."
I jumped, and the rest of the team laughed. I'd totally forgotten he was there, despite his proximity. A few minutes later Shawna txted me that she was in the lobby, so I packed the Beaner up. On the way down, I commended him for his good behavior and remarked that he was so quiet and well-behaved that I'd forgotten about him.
"I was as quiet as a chicken," he said proudly.
In my head I was thinking, "chickens make 'bock bock' noises. They're not particularly quiet." But then he clarified.
"Chickens are the quiet ones. It's the pigs who speak, right?"
"My goal today is not to be a pain in anyone else's ass."
"That's a good goal. Mine is always not to get frustrated."
"That's too big a stretch for me right now."