Recovery times may vary

I flew home from a work trip yesterday, which required setting an alarm for 2:30AM to make sure I got to the airport before a 5:15AM flight.

I knew I needed to sleep, but I didn’t want to sleep through my alarm so I skipped my usualy melatonin and then… didn’t sleep. I can’t remember the last time I stayed up all night, but it’s been years.

I was a mess all day, but I didn’t miss my flights! I went to bed at 7PM, was asleep before 8PM and then woke up around 9AM. That’s 13 hours of sleep, and I’m still tired and sore and generally uncomfortable.

I used to be able to stay up all night, go to work, be productive, get some sleep and be absolutely fine.

That’s the thing about aging. It’s not that I can’t do things; it’s that doing them requires a lot more recovery than it used to.

If you need me, I’ll be snoozing on the couch.

Stupid sleep

My alarm is set for 2:30AM, which is in less than an hour. I’m supposed to be asleep so it can wake me up. That is not going to happen, as I never actually got to sleep.

I have to get in a car at 3AM so I can get to the airport so I can get on a plane set to leave at 5:15AM so I can go home.

I didn’t take melatonin at 7:30PM because I was afraid I wouldn’t wake up. It turns out, my body doesn’t know how to get to sleep on its own anymore, so, here I am, at 1:43AM, typing this on my laptop, sitting here in my underpants, cursing the fact that I have about 18 hours until I’m home, and I didn’t get any sleep.

So, how’s your day going?

Strategic apathy

I have a bad habit at work of saying “I don’t care” without qualifying it. It comes off as sarcastic or dismissive, when that’s not how I mean it – which means I need to find a new way to express it.

Most of the time, it pops out of my mouth when my manager asks me if I want to work on something and then she gives me a look, and I have to explain myself.

Here’s the explanation: I no longer care what I work on. I’ve built one of pretty much anything I’d ever want to build, and the what just no longer matters. What matters to me is how I work, and who I work with. I alluded to this in the post about ficlets, but the individual projects blur together. The thing I remember is the thrill of building something with people. I remember the people, and how I felt while we were building whatever it was.

I still believe in constant incremental improvement, and only competing with myself. I also now finally understand that just building something that’s technically superior doesn’t guarantee success. Success or failure in the eyes of the market almost never has much to do with the code that implements it. It requires the work of everyone on the team, every discipline, and a ton of luck.

And all of that means I’d much rather focus on making sure that I’m helping everyone else on the team do their best work, and asking them to help me make sure I’m doing mine. That’s literally all that matters to me at this point. Yes, I love big meaty technical problems, but that’s a very small part of the overall solution. The most important part is the borders where disciplines meet and making sure that those borders are seamless, complementary and supportive of the rest of the disciplines involved. That’s way more complicated, and way more rewarding when it works.

Categorized as work Tagged

Bring me all the joys

I’ve co-lead Gusto’s Employee Resource Group for families for the last year and a half, and it’s been a ton of fun. It’s brought back a ton of memories from when the kids were little, and reminded me (constantly) that parenting never stops being stressful. The stressors just change over time, get more complicated and the mistakes get more costly.

And that gets even more precarious the more “sprinkles” that we discover in the lovely desserts that are our children. I love that phrase. I got it from one of the parents who leads one of our committees, and it’s just lovely.

My kids are both in the “non-boring” parts of the gender and sexuality spectrums, and it took me years to realize how much fear and worry comes with that. I am afraid for them all of the time. It never stops.

Which brings me to the joys.

I just finished Charlie Jane Anders’ Unstoppable series and I loved it. It’s full of queer teens and space battles – and joy. Joy at coming out to yourself, to your friends, and being accepted for your strengths. Read it. You’ll dig it. It was the most recent reminder that while I’m afraid, I also need to embrace all of the joys that come along with life with sprinkles.

More joy? One of the first communities I discovered when I joined Mastodon was the trans community. Seeing happy trans people, celebrating their transitions and the little victories along the way has been such a relief, in a way that I didn’t really understand for a while.

Joy is a vaccine against fear. Does it make the fear go away? No, but it makes it easier to fight and get through.

So, get out there, bask in the joy. It really does make the fear easier to handle.

Travel Tired

I used to travel for work a lot. I just started really traveling for work again, and… it’s exhausting. I’m not in travel shape anymore, and my back screams at me after every flight. Adjusting to time zone changes is harder.

I love seeing people in person, but getting there sucks and I’d like it to be more comfortable, more humane and overall less of a literal pain in my backside.

Forget going to Mars. Get me from Savannah to anywhere else and let me feel like a human being during and after.

Please and thank you.

App Defaults

Why not do an old school blogging meme for day 13? Well, that’s what I’m doing today, so… let’s go! I’ve seen it a couple of places, but I last saw it over here, which is where I was convinced that it would be today’s post.

I’m pretty much all Apple for end-user things. I’m also an Ubuntu users, but I pretty much only interact with it via the command line.

  • Mail Client: Mimestream on macOS, Apple Mail on iOS
  • Mail Server: It’s GMail all the way down.
  • Notes: Apple Notes
  • To-Do: Apple Reminders for long-term and recurring things. I use Day One for short-term to-dos and my daily work journal
  • Photo Shooting: the iOS Camera or Hipstagram if I’m feeling fancy/silly.
  • Photo Management: Apple Photos
  • Calendar: Fantastical
  • Cloud File Storage: Google Drive and iCloud
  • RSS: NetNewsWire everywhere, and I’m so glad it’s back.
  • Contacts: Google + iCloud (they’re a mess)
  • Browser: Firefox for personal stuff, Chrome for work, Safari for mobile. I’m polybrowserous and am fine with it.
  • Bookmarks: Firefox and Chrome (in profiles because you gotta keep things separate)
  • Read It Later: Pocket, but it’s mostly later because I forget to check it.
  • Word Processing, Spreadsheets & Presentations: Google Suite
  • News: The aforementioned NetNewsWire for following blogs like Talking Points Memo (which has been awesome for 20+ years), Apple News+, NY Times, Washington Post, The Ringer and The Athletic.
  • Music: Spotify and my Plex server for live shows and mashups
  • Podcasts: Overcast
  • Password Management: 1Password
  • Code Editor: VS Code, but I really miss Atom.

Proof I can maintain something

The celebration image Duolingo gave me that says "I'm on a 1500 day learning streak!"

Today is my 1,500th straight day of doing at least one lesson on Duolingo. That’s over four years of learning Spanish (and trying out Korean, Chinese, Turkish and Portugese, but I always go back to Spanish). Am I conversational yet? Oh no. Can I understand more than I used to? Yes. I can even make myself understood in Spanish if the topic isn’t technical.

I just want to remind myself that I can stick to something because I missed posting for yesterday. I have a great excuse: I felt like garbage and didn’t do much other than take a nap.

I don’t feel much better today, but here I am, trying to make sure that I only miss one day.

And that’s really the thing with habits, isn’t it? It’s not that you never miss a day – it’s that you don’t let missing one day make you miss two, then three, then stop altogether.

Just trying to be understood

If you are writing the clearest, truest words you can find and doing the best you can to understand and communicate, this will shine on paper like its own little lighthouse. Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.

Anne Lamott

The creation of all media is accompanied by a wish: to experience and to be experienced by another human mind. Above all this means to feel and to be felt.

Ze Frank

Today, you get quotes. So far, National Blog Post Writing Month has me writing longer-than-I-expected posts about things that I either wrote about a long time ago, or things that have been trapped in my head for years and I finally had a reason to write them down.

All of it is an attempt at being understood… and it’s my favorite thing about personal blogging. It’s one person, quietly sharing their heart, in the best way they know how, out into the chaos and cacophony of social media.

I’ve been doing it, somewhat inconsistently, for almost twenty-four years. This is the 2,800th post on this blog (here’s the first), and over 2,500 are mine, written by me (my wife also used to blog here once upon a time).

A lot of those posts are now kind of embarrassing. I don’t think I’ve ever gone back and deleted any (guaranteeing that I’ll probably never be able to run for office – a brilliant bit of subconscious self-sabotage). But, they provide a portrait of what I was trying to make sense of at the time, what was important, and again, all in an attempt to understand and be understood.

The mind that is not baffled, is unemployed.

Wendell Berry

People are always the problem

I’m now a very senior engineer. I don’t even know what the right title is (once I got “CTO” titles kind of stopped mattering), but at Gusto I’m an L6 and there are seven levels at the company.

One of the great things about working at a larger company is how many people I get to work with, and how many opportunities I have to mentor more junior engineers.

We spend so much time early in our careers just learning the mechanics of our immediate job: how to write code, make it maintainable, how to test it, how to make it performant, etc, etc, etc. That takes years, and is a lot. And then someone promotes us, tells us we’re now a “senior” engineer and we’re now presented a whole new scale of problems, and all of those problems involve people.

I think the industry does a pretty terrible job of preparing software developers to deal with people problems. We tell them to focus on code, which is important, because that’s the first layer of what’s expected of us.

If we think about the problems we deal with as we get more senior as layers, I think it’s easier to understand them. To me, in this very much first draft of me putting this into words, the layers are:

  • Code: We have to be good at this to be asked to do anything else (even though almost all code problems are also caused by people).
  • Individuals: We have a manager (at least one), people on our team, product managers, designers, etc. We need to deal with them individually and make sure we get what we need, and meet their needs.
  • Processes: Everything we do at work is some kind of process – the meetings we have, how we deliver code, how we get rewarded for our work, all processes.
  • Systems: Collections of processes in action – I think of them mostly in code, but “the patriarchy” is a system.
  • Organizations: Organizations are just groups of people who create systems in order to accomplish their goals. Depending on the size of your company, you may in a nesting doll of organizations and may interact with several more.

As you get more senior, you’re expected to be able to solve problems on and across all of those layers. The hard part is figuring out what layers are “crossed by the problem you’re trying to solve, and then peeling them off and solving them – because the tools you can use are wildly different at each layer and require different skills.

The good part is that solving problems across layers is extremely valuable to organizations, so if you can do it, you’ll be just fine. The bad part is that as soon as you start crossing layers, people are always the problem.