Now, 24th May 2020

A Now page is a dated update about what I’m currently focused on.

Thinking about
I am one of the lucky ones. My employer mandated everyone who can work remotely should do so, as of March 16th. I’ve done ten weeks working from the table in my craft room and business has largely carried on as usual for my division. We have excellent healthcare and our employer pays the lion’s share of the costs. We don’t know when we will go back to our offices, but we have a corporate update every other week telling us we won’t go back until we can do so safely, and that it will probably be months from now.

Inputs
Biggest influences recently are Janelle Shane’s book “You Look Like a Thing and I Love You: How Artificial Intelligence Works and Why It’s Making the World a Weirder Place,” and Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson’s book “Remote: Office Not Required.”

The first book made me look into data science and machine learning as a possible study avenue, so I’m watching PluralSight classes on data science. The second book I read because I wanted to check I was doing remote work right. Turned out there was a lot I could improve on.

Craft and Creating
My 1914 Singer sewing machine was made in Clydesdale, Scotland, between January and June of 1914. I oiled it thoroughly and used it to make face masks and drawstring bags. After hearing we will be home for months, I got a Babylock Presto 2 electric machine, and I’m amazed to see the innovations in a hundred years of sewing machine technology. The new machine will thread the needle itself! There’s a lever for that now.

I’m carving a cooking spoon for a friend in New York from maple wood. It is a right-handed spoon with a shallow bowl and a right-angle corner on one side to reach into the edges of pans and jars. Sawing it out took a while because I couldn’t go to Perennial and use their band saw.

Finished three dishcloths on my loom from kitchen cotton using a pattern with a pick-up stick, which is a new technique for me. After that I warped to make a pair of kitchen towels. Found a new way of messing up the warp by leaving it loose and floppy, fixed it and the loom is back in business again.

Started knitting a 1950’s inspired bolero from Mongolian wool I got from a Kickstarter last year by ULA + LIA. The wool winds well with no knots or tangles, which is a treat.

Husband has been watching Asian bread videos with subtitles, we have made carrot buns, caramelised apple buns, and tomato cheese buns so far, all were delicious. There’s still regular sourdough bread baking going on.

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.

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.

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.

Now, 11 November, 2017

Thinking about
Recruiting, training, and how to propagate a good company culture across locations so you get siblings instead of clones. I would like to see offices that incorporate the best of the local area and the home office culture.

Stimuli and input
Chewed through “The Rook” by Daniel O’Malley to get a fiction fix. I stopped listening to Robin Dreeke’s “The Code of Trust” because the superlatives about his code didn’t feel justified and I felt like the book was getting arrogant in its delivery. Finally finished Seneca’s “Letters from a Stoic” in paper, it is on my re-read list.

Craft and unnecessary creating
I am a weaver! Got a 20in Ashford Knitter’s loom with a 7.5 dent heddle and I’m experimenting with different gauges of yarn in the warp and weft. Christmas knitting is completed.

Exercise and health
This year I have gone from not being able to do proper pushups, to doing 20 of them, now I’m working on pushups from my fists with knees on the ground. That feels like progress. I’m also ten pounds lighter than on August 2nd when I started experimenting with a mostly Paleo diet.

Now, 12 August, 2017

Thinking about
Public speaking, I have stuff to say! Co-presented a talk at the company internal conference, ‘Free cookies and usability for all,’ and baked nine dozen cookies for it. I never want to smell cinnamon and brown sugar again. Solo speaker on a lightening talk, ‘Agile for better mental health,’ which is a subject I care a lot about. Both were well received.

Submitted two talks to Dev Up, a local tech conference in October. I’m terrified they will accept one, or both. This is the first time I have submitted talks to a conference. Two years ago I would never have done that.

Stimuli and input
Finished ‘Incognito, the secret lives of the brain,’ by David Eagleman, and I have lost all confidence in memory, vision, and decision-making. It’s a fascinating book, only the second one on Audible I’ve got through. The next book on Audible is Eric Barker’s ‘Barking up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong.’ Liking it a lot so far.

Still working through ‘Letters from a Stoic’ by Seneca, and ‘Difficult Conversations’ by Stone, Patton, and Heen. Both are good, and I’m taking my time.

Craft and unnecessary creating
Christmas knitting. That is all. And some sourdough scones. And a ridiculous amount of cookies for the ‘Free cookies and usability’ talk.

Exercise and health
I think it has been over a year since I have sparred with a non-black-belt at karate. I feel like I am fighting better, I’ve picked up a bunch of new moves and tweaked old ones to nail the technique.

Experimenting with a Paleo diet, with sad results: I’ve lost weight and I really miss cheese, dairy, and bread.

If you want to kill off a sugar craving, bake six batches of the same cinnamon sugar cookies and give them all away at a conference talk. By batch five, you will be craving salt, celery, veggies, and meat. And bacon. All the bacon!

Now, 2 July, 2017

Thinking about
Still noodling on distraction and focus, also considering the system one and system two thinking that Arthur Doler laid out in a useful and informative Lunch and Learn at work.

Picked up a copy of Cal Newport’s book “Deep Work,” it seems to tie in well with what I’m thinking about now.

Stimuli and input
Seneca’s “Letters from a Stoic” is the main book I’m reading, adding in “Difficult Conversations” by Stone, Patton, and Heen for the QA book club at work. I made a list of all the books I’ve read because of the Farnam Street blog, there are ten titles so far. I used to live on Farnham Street, so the name gives me a little trouble.

Also need to learn some Angular.js and Protractor.js for testing it.

Craft and unnecessary creating
I’ve been a lifelong English scone baker, but I discovered a recipe for sourdough scones and I think it is better than my original one. The scones come out lighter and fluffier, with more structural integrity. Experimenting with adding in coffee flour (made from the fruit of the coffee berry), and unusual flours (sprouted wheat, oat flour, cornmeal).

Exercise and health
My karate instructor has been working me back through the coloured-belt techniques (orange, purple, blue, and green for Tracy’s Karate). It’s surprising how vicious they are!