Nonfiction reading

Starting November 2013, I've been reading more books from the business, management, leadership, and creativity sections of the book store. By a wild coincidence, I took on more leadership-ish things at work around then. These are ones I've finished so far:

Jurgen Appelo "Management 3.0"
Laurie Helgoe "Introvert Power"
Sheryl Sandberg "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead"
Robert Sutton "The No Asshole Rule"
Robert Sutton "Good Boss, Bad Boss"
Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons "The Invisible Gorilla"
Steven Pressfield "The War of Art"
George J Thompson and Jerry B Jenkins "Verbal Judo: the gentle art of persuasion"
Jim Collins "Good to Great"
Sunni Brown "The Doodle Revolution"
Patrick Lencioni "The Advantage"

Currently in progress are "Emotional Intelligence 2.0" by Travis Bradberry, Jean Greaves, and Patrick M. Lencioni, and "The Speed of Trust" by Stephen M. R. Covey. Next up are "The Art Of War For Women" by Chin-Ning Chu and "Scaling Up Excellence" by Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao. Some are recommendations, some are my own finds. Most have been useful, some more than others. I didn't like "Lean In" one bit.

I'm trying to alternate business books with fiction. Too much nonfiction makes me cranky, the last time I surfaced from a nonfiction binge I tore through a bunch of Dresden Files books and didn't touch nonfiction for a while. Having ten years of book reading history is fascinating.

Goodbye FitBit, Hello Garmin

I've had a FitBit tracker on my wrist for about two years, first the Flex, then the Charge, which was a Christmas gift from Husband last Christmas. Less than seven months ago I had a brand new Charge, what I currently have is a Charge where the adhesive has failed and the tracker is pulling away from the band. FitBit customer service is sending a new one, after I sent them a picture of the damage.

The FitBit Flex was bought for me by my employer. The band broke twice, with the plastic pulling away from the clear window, FitBit replaced the first band, the other got replaced when the Flex stopped charging and they sent me a whole new Flex. Kudos to their customer service for putting things right, but the build quality of their products just isn't good enough for me. Every FitBit product I've used has broken in less than a year of use.

Enter the Garmin vivofit 2. Battery powered, so no charging, and the batteries should last a year. Waterproof to more depth that I'd get to, so I don't have to take it off to shower. Tough clasp that locks in place. I've lost the tracking on floors climbed, but that wasn't important to me, and I never knew if I'd log 9 or 11 floors on the way in to work. I still have step tracking and sleep tracking, the two features that were most important to me.

Now I have an always-on digital watch, and it's pretty nifty. Weighing in at 25g, it weighs a whole gram less than the Charge did. I gained the Move Bar, a red line that comes on when I've spent too long sitting. It's fun to get up and walk until it goes away. So long, FitBit, and thanks for all the fish.

What’s in a title?

Riffing off the sci-fi novel "Bowl of Heaven" with Husband, I was sad to find out the second book in the series was not "Spoon of Heaven," or "Weetabix of Heaven," because it would fit perfectly. We came up with some other novel titles that could be tweaked:

  • Rendezvous with Breakfast
  • Bun Diver
  • Revelation Spork

George R. R. Martin gets his own section:

  • The Song of Fire and Ice Cream
  • A Game of Toasts
  • A Clash of Crumpets
  • A Storm of Soup
  • A Feast for Croissants
  • A Dance with Donuts
  • The Winds of Wintergreen (forthcoming)
  • A Dream of Spring Rolls (forthcoming)

Then there's the Jim Butcher section (I skipped some titles):

  • Storm Fridge
  • Full Moon Pie
  • Blood Pudding Rites
  • White Chocolate Night
  • Turnover Coat

Travel lessons

Airplane travel
Some day, you and your checked luggage will be parted. Maybe for a day, maybe forever. Have enough in carry-on that you can survive a day while you get replacements for the essentials.
Medications go in carry-on bags.
If you fly more than twice a year, do the TSA Pre-Check and get a Known Traveller Number. You can keep your liquids in your bag and use the short line for screening, and it lasts for five years.

Driving for business
Classical music is not your friend. Find something with a beat that you can sing along to, especially if you're driving multiple hours.
Drink lots of water and take stops every hour. The one may facilitate the other.
Don’t be the fastest thing on the road.
Chocolate left in your car all day will probably melt, especially in summer.
Bring one book, not three.

General travel
When you’re in a new city, ask people for recommendations of places to go and places to eat. Then take the recommendations. This got me to Askinosie a fantastic chocolate factory in Springfield MO, and Farmer’s Gastropub, which is the closest thing to a British pub I’ve found in America.
Explore on your own.
Take the time to introvert and be alone.
Back to back travel is best avoided. You need a break in between trips.
Coming home is the best part of travelling.

What NOT to say to your QA

It's a feature, not a bug.
But why would you even do that?
QAs are just failed developers.
My code is perfect, I don't write bugs.
You're not supposed to do that in the app.
It's a design error, not a bug.
I'm not fixing that.
Why are you worried about that? No one ever does THAT...
QAs aren't technical, they don't need to attend to that meeting.
You're testing it wrong.
This doesn't concern QA.
Get me on %MANAGER%'s calendar for tomorrow afternoon.
It works on MY machine, so it's fine.
Load testing is for developers to do, not QAs.
We turned off all the tests.
The user will never be able to do that, so it's an invalid test.
It'll be fine in production.
You're using invalid data, that's why you think it's a bug.
This way is better.
You need to take notes in the meeting for everyone.
QA can do that admin task, they're not doing anything worthwhile.
Where are the batteries kept?
Can you hurry up? We have a deadline.
I thought you were a nice person.
So when will you be DONE?

(Some mine, others collected from Asynchrony QAs Slack channel.)

First speaking event complete

Last night I spoke at LaunchCoderGirl, an all-women group learning how to code. I spoke about what QA does in an Agile software development environment. People laughed at most of the places I wanted them to laugh, and when I was done there were several questions, then people wanted to talk to me.

This was my first ever public speaking gig. I almost ran out of business cards, and I have no idea how long I talked. My slides had a Dilbert cartoon, an xkcd cartoon, and the D&D alignment chart, plus some screenshots and links to QA resources.

Public speaking has always terrified me. I've taken baby steps with helping to facilitate our Agile QA class, and speaking at the new hire orientation session twice. Last night was not terrifying, and it was fun. And I used the green laser pointer I've wanted to get for years.

Edited to add:
I put my slides and transcript on Slide Share. I'm told I talked for about half an hour.

How to have a meeting that doesn’t suck

Have a defined end-point for the meeting, and get there as soon as you can.

Take your own notes, by hand, on paper. You'll notice what's relevant to you and the act of writing helps you recall it.

Allow audience participation, it's not a lecture or a class, it's about collaboration. Someone else knows information that's relevant and they can't speak if you never leave space for other people's words.

Count at least seven seconds of silence when you ask a question. People start squirming at that much dead air and someone will fill it. Some people can tolerate more silence than others, watch for them and ask them questions directly.

If your meeting room is a fridge, people are too busy being cold to pay attention to what you say, and they probably hate you for keeping on talking.

Multiple-hour info-dump meetings will be forgotten by morning. Multiple-hour meetings that are also cold will be remembered only as cold and too long.

Humans need regular bio breaks. Having to ask to be taken to the rest room as an adult, because you require a security badge to get back in and you're not handing those out to visitors, is humiliating. Don't be that company. If you can't get around the badge issue, schedule a break every couple of hours and get people up and moving.

If it's a meeting where people can phone in, make sure they can hear you over the phone. Repeat questions before answering them, and speak clearly and more loudly than usual.

For a video conference, have a dry run of the technology the day before to make sure everything is working OK. Do not make your meeting the first time you turn the video camera on.

If there's any way possible you can get everyone in the same room, do that.

Patience, a story in one hundred words

Rain and grains of hail bounced off her hide with a metallic ting, falling to the cobblestones below. Solidified iron draped over her crouched form, holding her in place and burning her skin every second of every day, eyes propped open, ears half-blocked, muscles aching to stretch and open her wings to fly away. She caught the scent of greasy hamburgers and fries and her claws twitched. So hungry. A teen boy pointed up at her, waving his food. "Ooh, scary gargoyles!"

One day, she thought. Five hundred seven years of her sentence complete, only nine more to go.

(This is a drabble, a story in precisely one hundred words, written for Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge.)

Recycled Firefighter Inspector review, v1 and v2

Recycled Firefighter makes wallets and notebook covers from fire hose that’s been taken out of service. It’s run by Jake, a firefighter in Kentucky, and he sews a lot of fire hose. Some products come with a back story, a note explaining which fire hose was used and why it was taken out of service. These hoses have served anywhere up to 20 years before failing a safety test and getting tossed out.

The Inspector is Jake’s notebook cover for Field Notes size notebooks. I’m using mine for a Word Notebooks mood log and my task list. This is the version 1 Inspector:

Recycled Firefighter Inspector notebook cover, v1.

Recycled Firefighter Inspector notebook cover v1.

It’s edged with Mil-Spec (military specification) black nylon webbing. It has a slightly stretchy pen holder on the front cover made from the same material that’s used inside for the two flap covers. Mine is made from yellow fire hose that’s seen serious use, it’s got scuff marks on it and some dirt for character. There’s a scuff on the spine, but I’m not expecting that to develop into a hole because this fire hose is thick and tough.

I’m not a fan of pen holders on notebooks, so I’m not using that part, but it easily accommodates my favourite pen, a titanium Mover from Will Hodges at Tactile Turn. The yellow is easy to find in my backpack, and I’ve used an eminently replaceable Field Notes Band of Rubber to hold it closed, but it’s not necessary. I like that this cover has no parts that can wear out, or get loose and saggy. My notebook is safe inside.

This is the v2 Inspector, and the orange just pops! I think this is a much younger piece of fire hose.

Recycled Firefighter Inspector notebook cover, v2.

Recycled Firefighter Inspector notebook cover, v2.

This version has a leather pen holder, I can get my Mover pen in but right now it’s a tight fit. The biggest difference between the two is that the v1 had two flap holders on the inside, and the v2 has just one, made of leather, holding the back cover of a Calepino notebook (far better paper for fountain pens than Field Notes, mine came from CW Pencil Enterprise). The v2 also adds an elastic strap to hold the cover closed, that is sewn into the back of the cover and would work like a Moleskine or Rhodia strap. The Recycled Firefighter tag is on the outside of the v2, and on the inside of the v1. The v2 is smaller and thinner, and feels about the same weight.

This is the two of them, side by side:

Recycled Firefighter Inspector notebook cover, v1 and v2.

I plan on using both, but I think my favourite is the v1. A hybrid v3 where you add a second notebook flap to the v2 (and ditch the elastic strap? Please?) would be about perfect, but for my use, the v1 feels like it was built to withstand a tank attack, where the v2 has a moveable part (the strap) with a shelf life. Also, I could fit two notebooks in the v1 if I wanted to, and the v2 can only carry the one.

The finish on both is excellent. The sewn lines are straight, there are no loose threads, the ends of the webbing are melted so they can’t fray. The leather smells great, it’s not too thick and it’s soft. Go support a firefighter, get something made by hand not by machines, and help salvage some fire hose.