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.

New Mac build

I got a shiny new Mac laptop for work use this week, and was thinking about the stuff you put on a machine to make it useful. This is my current set of necessary-for-work software:

Homebrew (to get everything else)
Chrome
Firefox
Git (to get code in progress)
Node.js (to get npm, and all the other hundreds of node modules)
Java (trying v9)
Gradle (was a PITA to get working, needed manual config)
IntelliJ IDEA community edition (to make sure Java and Gradle are both working, took some tweaking)
Visual Studio Code (nifty for JS work)
iTerm2
MS Office and OneDrive
The Slack app

It is a very different list to a few years ago. Android Studio isn’t currently needed on the work machine, Sublime was supplanted by VS Code, and Node is a relative newcomer.

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.

Norfolk Rusks

Back in the distant past in Britain, there was the Yorkshire Television company, who had a show called Farmhouse Kitchen. I went to university with two volumes of recipes from that show in books that were copyrighted in 1975. This is an adaptation of one of those recipes to be more Paleo-friendly.

Ingredients

Makes about 13 rounds

  • 10oz almond flour (might need a bit more if dough is very wet)
  • 0.5 tsp salt plus a “good pinch”
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 2.5 oz butter
  • a beaten egg

Mix the dry ingredients, then rub in the butter until you have a breadcrumb-like mixture. Add the beaten egg and fork the dough around until it is one lump. Roll out the dough to about 10mm thick and cut into rounds. The dough will be sticky and resist rolling, I put some all-purpose flour on the work surface and that helped.

Put the rounds on parchment paper on a baking tray. Put the baking tray in the freezer for 10 minutes to chill the dough. Set the oven to 400F.

Bake the rounds for 15 minutes, or until golden brown on top and bottom.

These turn out as pleasant, buttery, slightly crumbly, savoury cookies. You could add herbs (rosemary, or Herbes de Provence) to add flavour. I was craving cookies and these are a gluten-free version.

Eclipse 2017

Using a tree as a pinhole camera, these were taken a bit before the eclipse and fifteen minutes before totality.

Traffic stopped, everyone was out and looking at the sky. Even though the sun was down to a tiny sliver, it was still almost full daylight. Then the light dimmed and it looked like dusk right after sunset. It wasn’t pitch dark but the lights at the gas station across the street suddenly looked a lot brighter.

We got a minute and a half of totality, then a line of sun was visible and we were back to almost full daylight.

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!