The new normal

This has been a weird week for everyone. My company went global ‘work from home if you can’ starting 16th March, 2020, and I’ve never done more than one day of remote work before. Getting a home office organised, negotiating for desk space with sun-loving cats, and dealing with both Cisco WebEx and Sococo struggling under the load was tough. The quiet was deeply strange after being used to an open-door office outside the kitchen in an open-plan company.

On Wednesday, my karate studio closed. On Saturday we heard that St Louis county will be mandating people stay at home for 30 days as of Monday 23rd March 2020. We baked bread this week, and made curry and chilli and lentil soup. Hubby and I watched some of the movie Outbreak, but it struck too close to home and we turned it off. My church is doing the second week of streaming services at 10am today.

I ripped out a hat I was knitting because it was too tight, and washed and blocked a shawl from handspun yarn. I got the fibre from Punkin’s Patch at the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber festival in Lexington in May 2019 with my friend Laura H, two days of sun and chatting and wandering and animals, with a bourbon distillery visit.

We don’t know how long this new normal will last, and how much things will change afterwards. Be kind to people. Check in on your peeps.

Now, 16 January 2020

Thinking about:
Pondering my career and what I want to do with it. I’m thinking about a master’s degree but a traditional MBA doesn’t interest me enough to spend years of work on it. So what other subjects would hook my interest enough to complete a degree?

Inputs:
Reading more mysteries and thrillers to balance the business nonfiction books. I’ve always been a voracious reader, my parents used to drop me and my sister off in Ipswich County Library on Saturday mornings while they did the grocery shopping and we could take six books home a week.

Craft and creating:
Carving wooden spoons is a new craft to me, and I love it! I’m a responsible adult who can be trusted with knives, gouges, and rasps. An hour of sandpapering can transform a piece of wood from a rough-cut chunk into a smooth spoon ready for finishing. I’ve always loved wood and the curves and shapes of spoons.

Knitting is a safer travel project, and I plan to avoid buying yarn in the first six months of the year to use up some of my stash. Still weaving on a rigid-heddle loom and experimenting with using a pick-up stick to add texture.

Summing up 2019

Did a lot of reading in 2019, 61 books in total, 48 were new to me, 13 re-reads, 5 on Audible, and 11 books left unfinished. 23 were nonfiction, 39 were fiction. I’ve noticed an uptick in the number of books I read per year, going to keep tracking that to see if it correlates to my level of burnout and stress. 2017-19 were big reading years, and stressful burnout years.

I bought my first sheep fleece in 2019, at the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber festival in May. Round Barn in IL processed it into 8oz of roving and 4730yds of yarn that looks like fingering weight. For the non-knitters, that’s about enough to make a sweater for a minivan. Planning a loose cardigan and a weaving project from that. The fleece was from a sheep called Blue 620, a cross of the Bluefaced Leicester, California Variegated Mutant, and Texel breeds, which I had never encountered.

Took a class at Perennial on 14th December, carving wooden spoons. I made my first spoon there and caught the bug, I have now made five and I’m still a long way from being good at it. I like the smell of the wood, the smoothness of the knife cuts, and the sharp, sharp tools. My Kevlar safety glove has saved me many times.

Lots of work travel in 2019, to Springfield MO four times, and Denver CO four times. I spoke at three conferences, Connectaha in March, KCDC in July, and CodepaLOUsa in August. I’m accepted to speak at Connectaha again, and I’ve submitted to KCDC.

I am wondering about the future of this blog. I’ve had one since January 2002. We’ll see what 2020 brings.

Now, March 2019

Thinking about:
I spoke at an out-of-town conference, Connectaha in Omaha NE. My talk was A Hero’s Journey: Manual Tester to Automation QA. I got accepted to speak at KCDC in July, that talk will be Building a QA practice from scratch.

Stimuli and input:
Several books have been a big influence lately:
Radical Candor by Kim Scott
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett
I go through periods where all I read is nonfiction, business-related books, and a friend loaned me Thief of Time, which brought back years of happy memories reading Discworld books as a teen. Sometimes I just need to pause reading to learn and read for pleasure.

Craft and creating:
Still weaving, I have several scarves made, a kitchen towel, and my next project will be dishcloths. There’s something satisfying about using an everyday object that you made, seeing it be useful, even just putting it through the laundry.

Knitted a toy duck, planning to make a second one to fix some things I didn’t like about the first, and to make it less bulletproof and more squishy.

Exercise and health:
Switched to a standing desk and a squishy mat in work to deal with neck pain. It was not an easy transition, but now I stand most of the day.

I want to start re-learning my karate kata, they’re a good exercise I can do while travelling (except for the staff and cane ones). Going to start with my favourite, Long Two, which I did for a tournament in 2010 when I was a purple belt (the second belt of eight in my system). I won my division took home a three-foot-tall trophy.

Kitten harness training

Our eight month old kitten seems to be desperate to get outside, either into the garage or out the front door. We started harness training him so he could go outside on a leash.

Day 1: Harness sized for an adult cat barely fits 8 month old kitten. Velcro is no match for kitten ingenuity. Thank goodness they don’t have opposable thumbs.

Day 2: Dog harness fits, and kitten cannot escape the clips. Will play fetch while harnessed. Progress!

Day 3: Outside, on the leash, digging at a shrub. Success!

Day 4: In the garage, on the leash, rolling around on the concrete. What is going on in that tangerine-sized brain? Need to replace garage door handle with a door knob. Just in case…

Day 5: Kitten lunged for the front door and got it shut on his head. No apparent damage, got to be more careful.

Day 6: Photographic proof of kitten in a dog harness, on a leash.

Learning a new coding language

When I start learning a new coding language, I work through the same set of exercises each time. They are my coding kata, problems I know the answers to in several languages now, where the goal is to get the same results each time.

Exercises in ascending order of difficulty:

In a console/terminal window, display the number of days until Christmas this year, or a date that is meaningful to you.
Getting input from the user, display the number of days between two dates.
Write that output to a file, including whether the year you chose is a leap year or not.

Concatenate two user-entered words together, output to a console (string manipulation).
Count the number of a specific letter in a phrase (e.g. “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” has 3 of the letter e).
Count the number of a specific letter in a phrase entered by the user

Starting from a user-entered number, display “99 bottles of beer on the wall,” counting down to “No bottles of beer on the wall, go to the store and pick up some more.” (loops and control structures)

Display the factorial of a user-entered number (recursion)
Display the cube of a user-entered number
Display the cube root of a user-entered number

Return a true/false for if a given month/year combination has a Friday the 13th.
Count the number of Friday 13ths in a given year (always 1-3, never 0 or 4).
Display which months this year have a Friday 13th, using the system locale for month names (system information, loops).

Get the latest weather data on Mars from https://ingenology.github.io/mars_weather_api/ (JSON file access and parsing).
Display the latest Martian min and max temperatures in Celsius and Fahrenheit.
Display the current Martian Sol (a Sol is the Martian equivalent of a day).

Now, 7 May 2018

Thinking about
Back to recruiting, and also professional development. In a mostly flat organisation, how to you give people a career path? My company has more of a cargo net than a ladder.

Stimuli and input
Read “Never Split The Difference” by Chris Voss, and “How Emotions Are Made” by Lisa Feldman Barrett. Both books are in a similar place to “De-escalate: How to Calm an Angry Person in 90 Seconds or Less” by Douglas Noll.

I’m thinking a lot about communication styles, truth and trust in communication, and how to make it safe for people to give honest feedback to those around them, including up, down, and across the cargo net.

Craft and unnecessary creating
I’ve completed a 10epi (ends per inch) woven scarf with sport-weight yarn, and finished a 12epi kitchen towel in unmercerised 8/2 cotton doubled for warp and weft. Working on a 7.5epi scarf with doubled Wollmeise for warp and feltable grey worsted yarn for weft. Finished a hat for male with a sizeable noggin, which felt like it took forever but was just over a week.

Exercise and health
Still working on the pushups, I can do six full-length on my fists now. I know the next step is full-length, on my fists, one leg crossed over the other. I see my instructor doing those.