Now, January 2017

Thinking about
What habits do I want to install in my life? I’m learning the Elixir language with a tutorial and book from Big Machine, Taking Off With Elixir. It’s the first functional programming tutorial that hasn’t made me feel like I’m being hit over the head with a heavy mathematics textbook by someone yelling at me that I’m stupid (Haskell and Scala, this means you).

Stimuli and input
I started using highlighter pencils in books I was reading (only ones I own), it makes flipping back through them a lot faster. Started a questions log, to capture questions that get stuck in my head, an idea from Todd Henry’s book Die Empty. Planning to use the back of that notebook to record things I’ve learned, got that idea from an article by TrĂ© Wee, 52 key learnings in 52 weeks of 2016.

Craft and unnecessary creating
Daily doodling will return after my National Novel Writing Month novel is complete. There are three chapters to go and it seems like a decent story. I have a couple of Kickstarter books on drawing, one on figures and one on cartoon character design, that should arrive soon.

Exercise and health
I got my black belt this year, so what’s next? Thinking about a personal push-up challenge. I would like to weigh less and have more endurance.

Now, 25th July, 2016

Thinking about
My lightening talk on Risk Analysis and RFC 1149 for the first Asynchrony Labs internal conference on Friday 15th July. This is the first talk I’ve done where I’ve been recorded. There was applause, I survived.

Stimuli and input
Peter Drucker’s article Managing Oneself from the Harvard Business Review was published as a small paperback. It is the first book I remember reading with a highlighter pencil in hand, and I wrote notes as I read. Interesting book, I prefer a much shorter feedback loop than 9-12 months. My librarian soul shudders at marking up a book, but a work friend described sharing a book between their siblings, each one marking up with a different colour, so that the book becomes a conversation between them.

Craft and unnecessary creating
After a long stretch of hats and scarves, I’m working on toys. Made two of the My Little Slug pattern for work, a hedgehog for me, and an elephant toy for a friend. Looking at a mouse next, from Rebecca Danger’s book 50 Yards of Fun.

Now that I’m finished with The Focus Course (well worth, it but way easier if done in a group than solo), the morning drawing habit can come back. I’ve missed it.

Exercise and health
I deadlifted 95lb for 8 reps, two sets. I’ve never been a weights person, but it is a good workout. My personal torturer switched me from Sparkpeople to MyFitnessPal, because you can share the food diary way more easily. I confessed to the Tim Horton’s maple donut before he saw it.

Embarking on an experiment to have a set breakfast for a week to see what effect that has on my weight, if any. One sweet potato, and one roast chicken patty, protein and carbs.

Now, 4th June 2016

Thinking about
Scala. I’m new on a team doing a Scala project and learning how to write code and tests. It bothers me when training for Scala spends half the time saying how dumb and awful Java is, there’s no need for that. I felt a lot better about Scala after a day spent doing mob programming working on a REST endpoint, and then explaining my Hello World Scala code to one of the other QAs on the team. I’m back in beginner mode and it was jarring at first.

Stimuli and input
Reading The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, feels like Agile software development for businesses.

Shawn Blanc’s Focus Course is starting a June camp where a group of people goes through the course day by day. I’m looking forward to that, I stalled on day 12 on my first time through. I have a new Baron Fig notebook and some time set aside to get the course done.

Craft and unnecessary creating
Picked up Doodle Drawing by Sarah Skeate and Craft-a-Doodle by Jenny Doh, using both books to create cute aliens and monsters on sticky notes. I’m using Sharpies and ballpoints.

Been baking a lot of scones and rock cakes, refining the recipes to get something tasty. Went strawberry picking the last weekend in May and made jam, only the second time in our marriage we’ve done that.

Exercise and health
I am a first degree black belt in Chinese Kenpo! You can call me Shodan, it means “beginning level.” My instructor is refining the 120 techniques list down to ten or so that really work for me, and I’m back to getting sparring lessons.

Now, 23 April 2016

Thinking about
Ways to do my job that accommodate being a practitioner as well as a manager. I slid into a part-time gig on my old team, working under the guidance of my former apprentice and that feels fantastic. It took a couple of weeks of being there to feel back in the swing of things, but I now have a team home, I have things I can accomplish, life is good. I love the mentoring part of my job, and the interviewing is fun too, but I need to be useful on a team.

Thinking about honesty in communications, and speaking simply. When I write test code, I try to make it simple and use variable names that make it obvious what I’m doing. When I talk, I usually go for the small words, unless I want to explain what idempotence or skeuomorph means, and they’re useful and relevant to the conversation. No using big words without explaining them!

Stimuli and input
Finished some long outstanding books this month, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, and Art for Breakfast by Danny Gregory. I started Creative License, also by Danny Gregory.

I chewed through The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything by James Martin, SJ, and Mindset by Carol Dweck. Started The Servant Leader by James Autry, and Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg, I’m seeing common themes across several recent reads.

I believe strongly in the growth mindset, that your attributes, thinking process, intelligence, and skill are all malleable and improve with effort. I will give people who are learning a lot of help, but for people who will not or choose not to learn, I have little patience for them.

Craft and unnecessary creating
My sketching-every-day habit continues, over 150 days straight since I started in November 2015. I picked up some watercolour paints and I’m experimenting with painting, colour, watercolour pencils, and a water brush. I’ve started sketching real things in my craft room, not just cartoons, and I got myself a life-size skull model to work from. I named it Skulliver. It makes a good model for knitted hats.

Knitting is back in rotation, the tendinitis pain is almost gone now and the gift box is filling up.

Exercise and health
My body fat percentage is down by 2% since last June, which feels good. I’ve also lost 10 pounds. I can bench press 50 pounds now, not the 40 when I started, and deadlift 60 pounds for 10 reps.

I have a date for my karate black belt test in May! That’s both exciting and terrifying.

Now, 23rd March 2016

Thinking about
There are 36 Quality Advocates at Asynchrony Labs, in three offices across two states. It’s a lot of people and I don’t want to be a bottleneck for them getting stuff done. How do I best enable them to do good work?

About the best parts of my work day are when I get to spend a half hour with one of my team for some one to one time. It feels like a privilege to steer them past potholes I fell in, and watch them progress and grow in their careers. Kind of scary sometimes too.

I taught the Agile QA class in March to a room of fifteen people, my biggest lesson was that letting them dictate the topics to cover was a win. Also frequent breaks, several different teachers, and some wake-up activities before going back in.

Hoping to get some leadership training from AAIM EA soon.

Stimuli and input
Three more chapters to go in “The Accidental Creative” and I got to the Stimulus chapter again, lots of good advice here. Wondering how to continue the practices after next week when book club is officially over. It’s down to just me, Angie, and MaryJo.

I stalled on week two of The Focus Course and I need to get back into that. I also want to finish reading “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius. I devoured Neil Gaiman’s “The Graveyard Book” and I still haven’t found who sent it to me.

Sometime in the last few months, I stopped reading blogs on Feedly, and I haven’t missed them either. It’s an interesting data point.

The elbow pain is less, I’m knitting again, but it still hurts when I stretch. Wound a skein of yarn that I got at the 2015 Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival to make a hat, that feels good. Gave some coffee cup cozies to various friends, all were happy with them. It’s a simple little project and wool (or yak, or silk) feels nicer than a cardboard sleeve. I modified the pattern slightly (cast on 48st, decrease to 36st, skip round 4 of the decreases).

Made some of these origami bookmarks and I like the simplicity of them.

Exercise and health
Still working on the Chinese Kenpo black belt, my instructor has gone from critiquing the moves, to the focus, attitude, and confidence with which I make them. Plus the power that goes into the strikes, the expression on my face, I really hope I’m getting close to my test. My endurance level is up from circuit training in the gym, I’m always hungry and a bit tired. Possibly not eating enough. The worst thing to hear from your trainer is “No more bagels.”

My Garmin Vivofit 2 has been a permanent fixture on my wrist since I got it back in July 2015. No need to charge it, it’s waterproof, and it tells the time as its default action. The sleep tracking has been useful, pairing it with a Bluetooth chest-band heart rate sensor was a good experiment that felt more realistic than a wrist heart rate detector.

Now, year end edition

Thinking about
I’ve been doing the Elements of Focus course from Shawn Blanc, and it’s been really good. Lots of titbits on how to set tomorrow-me up for a productive day, and making today more useful. Day 15 made me think of the Cynefin Complexity model (it’s really hard to Google something when you don’t know how to spell it). Cynefin is about work that falls into one of four states: obvious, complicated, complex, and chaotic

Also pondering, how do you keep a team integrated together when they’re in three offices spread over two states? I’d like to go out to our furthest office to do interviews, would cycling people through the remote offices help or hinder progress and integration.

I knit cotton/hemp yarn too tightly and gave myself tendinitis, I can’t knit that particular yarn again, it’s going in the trade tab of my Ravelry stash. The elbow is improving, but it’s been over a month since I knit anything.

Continuing with my daily sketch habit and approaching the halfway mark on my sketchbook. There’s a definite progression from the start to now, I’m playing more with shading and smudged lines, and there’s a lot more stuff drawn from real life instead of memory.

Karate and fitness
On the downhill slope towards a black belt test. Working on getting the full set of 120 techniques and 13 kata into my head, then bringing them up to black belt standard. There are no “woman black belts” at Tracy’s Karate, there are only black belts. I have to be good and I have to be ready. I’ll be sparring anything up to 12 fights in a row after my techniques and kata, black belt tests are at least 2 hours long.

Lesson learned: don’t work out on an empty stomach. Went to the gym before breakfast and burned out early in my workout. I’ve managed a plank of 1m 8s and a wall sit of 1m 18s, but both were done before the hard part of the workout, which is three rounds of squat thrusts, lunges with 15lb weights, single arm kettlebell swings (20 lb) and rows (15lb).

Still ploughing through “Watching the English” by Kate Fox at a slow pace, I’m over the halfway mark now. Working through “Louder than Words” by Todd Henry, I’m blocked on the mentor exercise as I’m still on vacation. “One Moment Meditation” is another slow read. Maybe I need some fiction so I can read something and be done without pauses or homework assignments.

Picked up and read Oliver Burkeman’s book “The Antidote – Happiness for people who can’t stand positive thinking.” It’s definitely a British book, (“behaviour” is spelled correctly) and one that makes a lot of sense to me. The link between Stoicism and cognitive behavioural therapy was a surprise that explains why reading “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelis felt like coming home.

Now – Friday 13th October 2015

Reading: (updates and archives)
John Scalzi “Lock In” (murder mystery set in near future, with part of the population unable to communicate except online or via android stand-ins)

A small drawstring bag to carry my worry stones (things to carry and fiddle with), made from lime green Hempathy yarn. Need to be careful not to aggravate my elbow working with this yarn.

Orange Feather and Fan scarf is longer, but not done. Hitting the stage of being done with the scarf but still needing to knit another half metre of it. Perhaps I shouldn’t have started a second Feather and Fan only four months after the first one.

I have a request to make a new ThinkMat for a friend, he’s been using it and it’s wearing out. That’s a nice request to get. ThinkMats are rubber and aluminium chainmail in a Japanese Lace pattern, designed to be fiddled with.

Thinking about:
Revamping the interviewing process, getting more interviewers trained up and discussing feedback from an “Improve our QA hiring process” lunch and learn.

I’m a 2015 NaNoWriMo drop out. I need a plan to write, and didn’t get the time to put one together in October. Lesson learned, I can write this story at a slower pace.

The Skirtcraft unisex skirt should arrive in the next few weeks, it was a Kickstarter project to make a skirt with pockets. Wish usable pockets were more of a standard.

QA personal skills radar, my team did an exercise to determine things they are good at, and then things other people say they’re good at. As a team, we value baking and coffee as essential skills.

A carry-around self-soothing kit. So far I have wooden worry stones or tagua nuts, some coffee beans, and a piece of coyote fur. I find these things calming in stressful situations, or just to stop me fiddling with other things like my phone.

A daily sketching habit. I have a sketchbook next to my lightbox, and a copy of Danny Gregory’s “Art before Breakfast.” An article by James Clear says it takes about 66 days to bed down a new habit, so if I can keep this up through mid January I should be in a good place. I have an experiment to perform to test his 66 days assertion, which feels appropriate.

I have only 3 black belt techniques left to learn, then I’m onto reviews to get the 3rd degree brown, 2nd degree brown, 1st degree brown, and and 1st degree black belt techniques back up to standard (120 techniques), plus the 12 kata. Instructor is saying I will get my black belt if I want it, and I really do. So that’ll be happening. They’ve only promoted about 50 women to black belt in 40 years of Tracy’s Karate operating in Kirkwood.

Broke my plank and wall-sit records this week, 50 seconds for both, which is over 30 seconds more than when I started with the trainer in the gym.