I started a new gig this week, after a somewhat excruciating job hunt. This one will be challenging, with some organizational stuff up front to sort out. I've got about the same number of direct reports that I've had in previous positions, but a bunch roll up to them so it's a big org. I'm going in feeling confident but cautious and with humility. I think that's the ideal way to approach any new job.
I feel like I have to learn how to work again, for a number of reasons. The biggest thing is that I'm mostly on-site for this one, something I haven't done in four years. I'm sure there will be days here and there where I work from home, or maybe even a regular rhythm, but I doubt that will be the case in the near term. As such, that means having to plan for the commute, which as I used to do, I shift early. It means no more showering around lunch time, or Epcot lunches with Diana. I'm sure I'll miss Simon coming home from school the most, but I'll manage.
The flip side to this arrangement is a certain amount of awareness that I most certainly lost working remotely. I was putting in pretty ridiculous hours (that sure was stupid), and that added to stress. I should have taken the hint when Simon would knock on the door at 6 and ask when I was going to be done, 10 hours after I started, but for some reason I just let myself get into that mode. When you have to drive somewhere, and you're optimizing the drive to avoid the worst parts of rush hour, it definitely changes your awareness around how much you're working. The ride home in particular almost seems to firewall you between work and life. I only cracked open my work computer once at home this week!
The harder part is going to be figuring out the activity level. Again, with no drive, it's easy enough to take a lap around the neighborhood before you start. I did lap Lake Eola once this week, but I'm not sure if that counts (and walking at noon in summer in Orlando is a little rough). I also have to rethink lunch, since I don't have my own kitchen at my disposal.
Remote vs. co-located is not controversial to me, and I would only slightly give the advantage to remote for various strategic reasons (real estate costs, recruiting geography, distraction rates). They're just different, and I'm good doing either one. Part of my shock to the system might also be not working for two months. That sounds awesome, but it gets a little boring.
I figured it was only a matter of time, but Lego finally delivered a bona fide roller coaster model of its own last month, and it's very cool. After two carousels, a Scrambler and a Ferris wheel, this was an obvious choice.
The roller coaster is another huge set, weighing in over 4,000 pieces and retailing for $380. I think it was last year that they released a Joker/Batman themed set with track around it, so I wondered if they would go all out, and they did. There's also a smaller 3-in-1 pirate coaster they recently released, so they're going to get mileage out of these new track molds. This set does not include a motor, though I bought one for the carousel, so I had one handy. Simon prefers to use the manual crank anyway.
Mechanically, this is another interesting model without being super complex. A crank on the front of the station connects to a shaft that pulls the chain at the bottom of the lift, with an elegant tensioning mechanism. A gear at the top of the lift then drives a series of three kicker wheels that move the train around the first turn toward the drop. A proper storage track sits uptrack of the station, sliding back and forth (missed opportunity here for a maintenance shed!), and another crank is one-way geared to a kicker wheel to drive the train out of the station. The wheel slides out of the way, so you can let it keep cycling under power, otherwise it acts as a station brake.
There are a ton of minifigs in the set, including the ride operators wearing Lego logos and charging $100 for a ride, or an on-ride photo. Many of them have the two-faced heads, so they can be happy or scared. They can navigate a beautifully themed queue that twists under the structure. After passing by the ticket booth, there are garbage cans, a water feature and a juice bar before the stairs leading into the station. There you're greeting with a control panel and air gates for each of the three cars. There's a very extensive series of "no" signs in the station as well, which seems kind of negative. The ride itself has a nice sign, flags, an on-ride photo camera and landscaping around it. There's also a cotton candy cart with a creepy old man and his $100 bill next to it, where the one minifig that's too short to ride hangs out. Those are weird choices in the instructions.
The build took me close to 8 hours, I think, but I really took my time on this one. The column building can feel slightly repetitive, but it goes fast. There's a lot of variation in building the station, mechanical bits and scenery, so it doesn't get to be as tedious as, say, the decorations on the carousel. Again, the mechanics aren't super complicated, but it's really satisfying to see them come together. You will want to count out the chain links, which as a last step is agonizing, but it's important to get it right so the tension is correct
It's a great big set, and quite lovely. Honestly, I look forward to building it again, even though that means I'll have to tear it down.
I've mentioned in many posts how I finally got to the finish line with regard to a new release for POP Forums, my little forum app that powers my sites. That project is open source, which if you didn't know, means you can get the source code for free and use it for free, and I'll even take contributions back into it. When you have a community around an open source project, and people make meaningful contributions to it, that's awesome. For my project, I haven't had a ton of contributions, but there were some really important, non-trivial efforts to translate it. It's available in a total of six languages.
My priority has always been to build the app for myself, for my communities, but making it open source means I get to share it. The source gets downloaded about 50 times a month, which is surprising, but presumably someone is using it. For that reason, I've tried over the years to make it easier for people of moderate ability to spin it up and use it. That means I added some setup stuff, and I've done a bunch of stuff for the sake of scale that I don't personally need. There are also concerns about how someone might integrate with the app.
It's the extra stuff that proves time and time again to be... extra. The app, right now, works exactly as I need it for my use. However, the setup is absolutely broken. It's broken in part because of the way that I decided to implement loading user information, logging, etc. This prevents me from doing a formal release, because frankly there's some friction to getting started if you don't have some knowledge about how it all works. You can imagine how motivated I am when it's not something that benefits me, but I'm still haunted by the idea that I may not be doing something in an ideal fashion.
These are the sores of my open source, and it's not easy to find the time to heal it and do it right. These sorts of issues typically lead to resolution when I get away from them for awhile, and in this case, I suspect that'll happen because my bandwidth is a little constrained at the moment.
I went back to work Monday, about two months and change after I found myself suddenly looking for a job. It was rough at times, awesome other times, and surprisingly not that restful for a period of non-employment. A lot happened though, and I did spend a lot of time in my head. Prior to this, I haven't really had the mental bandwidth to be reflective, but it was good.
First off, the achievements:
Points of discomfort:
Realizations and other thoughts:
I'm more than ready to get back to work. In fact, while long periods of leisure and exploration are soul enriching, I'm starting to wonder how people can be retired.
Yesterday, Simon saw a photo of Gideon, our recently deceased cat, on the TV screensaver. He responded that he missed him, and we had to explain that he was dead. A very emotional meltdown occurred.
Here's the thing, I'm not opposed to talking to my kid about death, what people believe or anything of that nature. He knew that Gideon was dying as the tumor grew, finding it harder to get around on his gimpy leg. But what we told him the day he died, before he went to school, was that he was going to stay with the vet because they could take better care of him until he died. I don't think that this is unreasonable, because while talking about death and the circle of life is something I want him to understand and learn to deal with, I can barely reconcile euthanasia myself, let alone explain it to an 8-year-old with ASD. All I need is for a kid who takes everything literally to think that maybe he, or one of us, won't come home from the doctor's office one day.
It is a strange practice, this practice of killing our pets, even if I do accept the moral premise of it. I mean, we also eat animals to survive, so it's not like I can't understand that we necessarily place different values on different forms of life anyway. It's just that pets have personalities and relationships with us, so it's different. If anything, it makes me think that the right-to-die controversy among humans is not nearly as horrible as its opponents make it out to be. The morality doesn't strike me as that different. I've never really thought much about it.
The other two cats are 12 and 16, so I imagine it unlikely that we don't have to say goodbye to another within a year or two. Maybe I'll have some clever way to explain what's really going on by then.
Starting early Monday morning, my body entered into a total implosion. I haven't endured anything like that in about 17 years. I'm talking the barfing, the diarrhea and the fever. Gross, right? I generally don't get sick all that often, and seemingly less so since moving to Florida, but it's usually the generic fever/ache thing, sometimes with the respiratory crud. But this was many magnitudes of more awful.
My brain gets into these weird loops of things that aren't real when I have a fever. This time, it was some weirdness about how my blankets were... something related to the music I had playing. It's so not really a thing that I can't explain what it is. There was something else about certain colors not reacting to other objects of the same color, and between these two things, I couldn't sleep.
There are other slightly more logical, if not rational, things that come up. This time, I was fixated on an interview clip I saw from Kevin Smith recently, talking about how he didn't have any of the typical heart attack symptoms, but he threw up a bunch before they took him to the hospital. So my brain was in the mode of, "Crap, what if I'm having a heart attack (for six straight hours)?" And that was coupled with the fact that I'm not insured until next week, so that created even more anxiety.
Does everyone have this kind of thing with fevers? I'm sure that some of it is caused by dehydration, and boy did I lose a lot of water (down five pounds in 48 hours).
I think I've been relatively lucky in terms of health, and that may add to my anxiety over the idea that something more serious could come up. My weight, cholesterol and blood pressure have been a little higher than normal the last few years, but at least the latter two have improved. The heart disease thing really makes me nervous, even though I've never exhibited any specific risk conditions beyond the above numbers and some family history.
It seems like I've had intermittent home improvement spurts over the last few years. When we moved back to Cleveland in late 2011 I did the great fake brass purge of door knobs and light fixtures. In 2014, when we moved into our first build in Orange County, there were many ceiling fans and such. Then again late last year, with OC house v2, it was the fans and curtains and light fixtures. But I kind of stopped there, and didn't install any kitchen hardware, or replace the crappy cheap kitchen faucet that the builder installed.
Eight months later, I finally got the hardware in and the faucet. Mind you, the hardware delay was at least partly the result of indifference toward everything we saw. I was ready to just do the same thing we had at the previous house, but then Diana found something we both liked, and for $73 we magically obtained what the builder would have charged us a grand for, if they would have even had it as an option in the first place (they didn't). This covered 19 drawer handles and 25 door pulls (or something like that), for which drilling gets pretty old after awhile. It's not complicated, it just takes a few hours and careful attention so as not to make some holes you'll regret.
The faucet probably only took a half-hour to replace, and most of that time was spent trying to figure out how to route the hose so the counterweight didn't catch on the horribly placed plumbing. (Sidebar: All of this plastic plumbing in Florida houses bothers me for some reason.) But alas, I disposed of the hideous chrome cheap thing, and all is right with the kitchen.
I'm surprised at how much joy it brings me to enter the kitchen now. I mean, the work wasn't particularly hard, the result isn't really fancy, but every time I tug on a drawer now or wash a dish, it feels like I made some meaningful contribution to the place. This is the kind of home improvement work that fits best in my skill level, which is to say it's very, very low. It's gratifying and simple, and it's nice to have simple victories.
My relationship with alcohol has always been, let's say, cautious. My family tree has enough alcoholism and addiction in it that it's only prudent to be a little careful with the stuff. Even in college, I generally avoided it until late in my junior year, and after college, I largely limited consumption to parties, family gatherings and vacations. These days it's much the same, though I'll enjoy a few beverages on date nights, too. At the same time, what I'll drink has been reduced. Some years ago, beer started causing me great gastrointestinal distress. I took up cider, but then all of the American varieties started adding tons of sugar, so I shifted to dry white wine (I feel like you can't go wrong with Riesling). I've generally not messed with liquor beyond the mai tai recipe I make for parties once a year, and perhaps a rum and Coke before a show at the theater. The bottom line is that I'm just not much of a drinker.
Then last fall, when Diana and I finally embarked on a no-child cruise, we met this guy, Bonny, a bartender from India, and man could that guy mix a drink. If that weren't enough, his history and knowledge around spirits of all kinds was extraordinary. We learned that his drinks were not for slamming, they were for sipping (unless you wanted the next day to be a little difficult). And you definitely wanted to enjoy them, anyway. Sure, these beverages make you "happy," but they're not for getting drunk.
To that end, I'd like to experiment a bit with trying to recreate some of the things we encountered in the mixology class we took on our last cruise. Not all of them, because liquor is expensive, but I'd like to try two or three of them. For example, he did a drink that was equal parts Malibu, Midori and pineapple juice, with whip cream, shaken over ice and poured. It's crazy delicious.
Mixed drinks can be a fun, social way to spend some time with people, or even a night in.
I'm not sure why it has been such a hot topic suddenly, but people are all atwitter on the Twitter about using GitHub as a measure of software developer awesomeness in the context of hiring. (Perhaps it's because Microsoft just bought GitHub, which has generated a lot of emotional reactions reminiscent of 1999.) Some people insist that this is an important thing to look at.
My take is that it is important, it's just not the only thing. If you just anecdotally look at various profiles, including my own, you'll see a very spread out and inconsistent graph of contributions. I'm at 69 as of this moment, and 19 of those are just in the last month, when I've had unanticipated free time. I also haven't been a full-time heads-down developer since a short contract in 2013. So what does that graph really tell you about me? Now consider someone who works for a bank or in defense. It's not likely that anything they do in their day job will end up online, and they may even be prohibited from contributing to open source as part of their job. Does that make them substandard developers? Of course not.
Of course, I love to see developers to contribute to open source, but you'd have to be a little crazy to overlook someone because they haven't, or can't (or simply don't have time) contribute. There are a lot of reasons not to disqualify people, but many reasons as a whole to let someone pass deeper into your hiring funnel.
There's one other disqualifier that bothers me, and it's not limited to my industry. Sometimes people set up abstract scenarios or role playing in an interview, with the intention of finding a specific "right" answer. This is dangerous, in part because abstract and contrived situations can't possibly result in real life interactions, but worse, if you're looking for specific answers to abstract situations, what you're saying is that you're not interested in people who may bring something new and different to your organization. Few things can cause atrophy like hiring clones. The world and your business will change whether you want it to or not, and not bringing new ideas by way of new people can result in a lack of self-awareness.
The bottom line is that there is no silver bullet that can predict who is best for your team, or what is indicative of success. You can't distill it to one thing, so you have to consider many things. A GitHub profile is just one of many things to consider.
Yesterday we took delivery of the Tesla Model 3 that we reserved more than two years ago. (We also sold the Model S the day before.) We were eligible to order one fairly early in the ramp up, because we were previous owners, but with the delays in selling our previous house, we had to wait until everything settled so we could shift the money around and clear the title on the previous car to sell it. Unlike the Model S, which we had a chance to test drive, we never drove a Model 3 before we took delivery. Heck, the first one we got to see up close was just two months ago when my BFF and her husband got theirs. That's all fairly absurd for a big ticket item like this, but when the first reviews came out late last year, and they were largely along the lines of "drives like a Tesla," I wasn't horribly worried about it.
A lot has changed in three years. After being enamored with the Nissan Leaf we leased (and still have), we labored over the decision to buy the Model S but we were so into going all-EV. Tesla has since sold around 200,000 cars, closing in on the 250k sunset of federal tax credits, and most of those cars were the $75k+ Model S and X. The data and reporting seems to suggest that a lot of people buying those were like us, and not ordinarily customers who would spend that much on a car if it wasn't an EV. The promise of the Model 3 was to open that market further by introducing a $35k car, but Tesla has only sold it so far with the premium upgrades and larger battery, meaning there was just one configuration: The $50k version. You pay an extra grand for anything not black, and may buy bigger wheels, but that's it. The reasoning makes sense, in that having one configuration means a simpler manufacturing ramp up, which they need because of the approximate 400k reservations they need to build. Because of the tax credit, there's little reason to not buy now and save that $7,500. The 2009 version of me would still find a price tag of $42,500 for a car absurd, but after justifying the Model S, to be a part of the progress and science of EV's, this one was way easier. Three years of not going to gas stations is a lifestyle change you don't reverse.
Our Model S was an amazing car that performed flawlessly, and we covered a lot of ground from North Carolina to Florida in it. My only serious complaint about it was that it was too damn big. I think I just got comfortable parking it after three years! The Model 3 is smaller and about a thousand pounds lighter, and you can feel it. Having driven Corollas and Prii for 18 years, I prefer smaller cars. The 3 still isn't a compact, but it's a really great size for my perferences. It has a much smaller "butt" than the S.
The driving feel is very similar to the Model S, in that you have the always available torque and the regenerative braking. You don't need the brakes beyond the final stop. The cornering feels different because this one isn't AWD like the other one. It doesn't slip in a turn, but accelerating out of the turn feels less controlled. That's all new to me, because I've never had a rear-wheel drive car. I've only done a launch twice, and the first felt weaker because it was slightly up hill. The second felt "different" than the S, presumably also because it's not AWD. On paper, the 70D did 0-60 in 5.2 seconds, and the 3 does it in 5.1, though some measured track times have reported 4.6. Considering the car only had 9 miles when we picked it up, I bet the battery has no calibration or algorithmic "break in" that I'm sure it has to do.
The design is a similar to the S, though with a shorter body, the cargo area is not as large. They ditched the motorized door handles, which reduces cost and number of things that can break, but the new ones are still flush with the body, and they trigger an electronic release. Opening from the inside is push-button, though a well disguised release lever is also there. The mirrors still fold in when you exit the car, but annoyingly, they only tilt down but not in when going in reverse. There is no sun roof, another "downgrade" for us, but I learned that opening it in Florida mostly leads to sunburn. Still, it's glass, front to back, and it's part of the reason the back seat seems so enormous. The front of the car is similar to the newer S cars and the X, and I like it, though I came to like the "black bubble" of the "old" S as well. The wheels are alloy, but have covers that make them more aerodynamic and add significant miles to the range. They're nerdy, and I like it.
The inside of the car is super comfortable. It retains all of the adjustments we had on the S that pair with a driver profile, so no matter who drives it, I can always get the seat and steering wheel to exactly where I had them. They added a seat belt height adjustment, which I like because I felt the S was a little high. They're using a fake seat leather now that is super convincing, but no alcantara on the headliner, only a section of the doors. The back seat is pretty roomy for average size adults, and they added USB outlets on the back of the center console. You also get three individual heated seat zones, and all have weight sensors to nag you about unbuckled people there. The doors and seat backs have pockets. The only button not on the touch screen is the hazard lights, which is overhead between the lights. The mirrors on the sun visors are covered by an iPad-like magnetic cover that, when pulled down, turns on lights.
The trunk is a little smaller, and it's not a true hatch like the S. The only thing I can think of that I've put back there in the last three years that wouldn't fit is the 4-foot beanbag chair I moved a few times. It still has plenty of room for suitcases, and the well is slightly larger than before, while the side cubby to stow your cable no longer empties into the well. The frunk is just slightly bigger than what we had before, but I suspect the area behind it is just open space where the forthcoming AWD model will have its second motor. Again, consistency in manufacturing keeps the cost down.
The center console gets all its own discussion, because Tesla finally figured out how to balance functional space with minimalist appearance. Our S just had a big pit there with some rubber strips to keep stuff from moving around, while individually sliding armrests slid back to reveal cupholders in a totally awkward place. Now there's a substantial single armrest with storage under it, always available cupholders in the perfect spot, another pit covered by a door, and a door that reveals a no-look place to dock your phone, which is amazing. It shipped with one USB-C and one Apple Lightning connector, but I've already ordered a replacement so we'll have two USB-C connectors in there for our Pixel 2 phones. The whole thing is really elegant, though the top surface is that "piano black" surface that I'm not fond of. There are some nice 3M wrap products I may consider to cover it.
The Model 3 has no keys or fobs, and instead uses either your phone or a card to unlock and start the car. The card works by holding it up to the B pillar, then placing it near the cupholders to start. Otherwise, it uses the Bluetooth of your phone, along with the app, to unlock as you approach and lock as you walk away, and operate the car when you're inside of it. This generally works pretty well, but the Android version (on the Pixel using the Oreo version of the OS, at least) requires that you make a tweak to the power settings so the OS doesn't try to "optimize" energy usage, otherwise it doesn't work until you unlock the phone and start the app. I was concerned about how this might affect phone battery life, because you can never really get away from the car while in the house, but the OS reports only 1% usage of Bluetooth throughout the day.
The controls have been a source of controversy since the start, but software updates have mitigated some of those complains. The S and X used stalks for shifting, turn signal, cruise/autopilot and windshield wipers. The latter two are gone. The wiper control is now on the touch screen, if in fact you want to pull them out of auto at all (we'll see how that goes... the S could mostly work that way). I think the muscle memory will build fast enough, but it's still a strange choice and potential safety issue. The cruise/autopilot is less of a big deal. Tap the shifter down once to engage cruise control, twice for autosteer. Once there, the right dial on the steering wheel scrolls up and down to adjust speed, left and right to change adaptive distance to the car in front of you. What I don't like is that the right dial on the S controled fan speed for climate, which I liked, but maybe the auto on that is better too.
The rest of the setting and control tweaks are organized similarly in menus to the S, though some things are arbitrarily hidden behind a settings menu opened by a gear in the upper right. Because of the single center screen, the left third always shows what used to be in the dash. As a former Prius driver, having the speed there doesn't bother me. The rest of the screen defaults to navigation, though you can pull up the read camera any time, or slide up the audio player from the bottom. The bottom still has "hard" screen buttons for temperature, front seat heaters and front and rear defrosters.
If there's anything totally weird, it's the dash vents that you can't see. There is a UI you can open up to change how they blow on you through the series of slits and channels, but honestly they still don't make a lot of sense to me, and I can't tell that it's even changing outside of the sound. Will have to play with those more.
The navigation isn't that different, but the tweak that I do like is that all of the background colors, including the bodies of water, are shades of gray. That leaves a red arrow for you, blue lines for direction, and the usual thin lines for traffic. It's subtle, but it really does focus on the visually important data.
The radio is a sore spot, if only because it doesn't do SiriusXM. The built-in streaming services are OK, but it's not the same. I've always liked AltNation and Lithium, with DJ's. It was annoying in the S, too, because you had to get the sunroof to have the antenna for XM. On the plus side, the sound is really, really good. The subwoofer is clean and the speakers really blend in.
Even with the 240 mile range of our S, we never had range anxiety. 310 is absurd even. We set it to charge at 80%, and on Diana's first commute, she arrived with around 220. In practical road tripping terms, the high range means we can not only visit either Florida coast, but have ton of cushion. Drives up the Atlantic mean skipping superchargers. And remember, these are the edge cases, since 99% of your usual driving is local, so you leave the house with a "full tank" every day.
The charging at home still puts on about 30 miles of range per hour, even though it only draws 32 amps instead of 40, like the S. The battery is 75 kWh, so to get 310 miles is a huge leap in efficiency compared to our S, which did 240 miles on 70 kWh. I'm pretty excited about how this may all play out once we have the solar installed, because I think in the summer we may avoid any grid draw if I'm getting home at a decent time. Our average price for electricity right now is 13 cents per kWh, but only because everything over the first 1,000 per month is more expensive, and we're flirting with 2,000 per month now (because air conditioning). This car doesn't have the "free" supercharger access that the S did, and Florida chargers are priced at 22 cents, far about the retail price, or even a lot of the Chargepoint spots that do 12 cents. It's still way cheaper than gas, and public charging is still the 1% scenario for charging.
Overall, the Model 3 strikes me as just as capable as the S, though for performance and wet road driving, I still wouldn't mind having the AWD version instead. It's mostly a silly want, not really a need, but it won't reduce my enjoyment of the car. We're looking for an excuse for a little road trippin'.
We did another cruise, this being the planned 5-night we booked months back. Some parenting challenges aside, it was among the most relaxing days I've had in awhile. It really gave me time to think and be present.
If you know me in real life, you know that I've endured a fair amount of stress the last few months, for a lot of different reasons. I was starting to feel it physically manifest itself, which is something I've only really experienced a few times in my life (9/11 and divorce, basically). I'm not sure how to describe it, except to say that there was a feeling that my body was becoming intolerant of the stress. It wasn't my blood pressure, because I was checking it, but something just didn't feel right.
In any case, I've been able to manage it, and in the last two weeks have felt a lot better. While sitting on the beach, tropical breezes blowing between me and a big umbrella, I enjoyed some moments of presence that I've honestly not practiced much in the last few years. I'm proud of this, because I know a lot of people can't do it in the best of circumstances, let alone when they've encountered difficulty. Maybe it's a variation on mediation, but to be somewhere, and feeling your environment without the mind storm of pressures, lists and challenges distracting you... that's an amazing feeling.
You may laugh about this, but I had similar experiences when we were in New York in April. I remember walking down 42nd toward Grand Central, and despite being in this ridiculous city with all of the noise (and cold), nothing about life intruded on that experience.
Vacation can be a useful therapy like that. Sure, if your life is generally so terrible that you feel like you need to escape it, you probably need to make some significant changes. But life can still have very challenging waves that prevent you from living in the moment and gaining the perspective you need to be a smooth operator. I think part of it is that vacations grant you a personal exemption from having to provide for and prioritize others. That's generally the thing that makes you a good human being, but you do need to look out for yourself.