Insomnia and Getting Stuff DONE

Insomnia since 4am means I’ve gotten some stuff done and it’s not even 9 yet. I’m all prepped for my blog staff’s meeting later today, which means I got a bunch of small fixes done on the redesign and assessed the status of various projects for the next month or two.

Yesterday I finished my first little react project to the point where I’m calling it DONE as in Cult of Done and moving on to other things. I left a todo list on the readme so I can go back and clean stuff up later, but I’ve hit the law of diminishing returns for a learning project. Nothing I have left to work on there will help me learn anything new, or rather, anything I would learn I can do more efficiently as part of a different project.

You can fork that project, by the way, if you want to set up your own link directory. Check the readme for details.

Today I’m going to make a study day. I’m working through the documentation for React and Redux, which is going much smoother now that I have some experience under my belt. I might open Cuppa again and figure out next steps for that. It needs a real backend which will likely be in Node. MERN stack tutorials are in my future.

Last night I used Library Time to start poking at my next writing project. Notion seems like it will work for my needs, though I spent most of the time shuffling real pieces of paper around. I have a full binder of various attempts at wrapping my head around what this world looks like and who the characters are and what story I’m trying to tell. It’s been twelve years since I started the project and I’ve changed considerably (along with the rest of the world) in that time.

My first job is seeing what I have to work with, hence the paper shuffling. There’s a treasure trove of raw material. Somewhere in there is the heart of the story.

Weekly Focus 2018: 12.09-12.15

Studying

  • Plan next 4 weeks’ goals
  • Finish comp-sci courses
  • Read Redux docs
  • Finish React docs

Cuppa

  • Research user account options
  • Research Node/Express backend

Storybin

  • Reopen the files and refresh my memory
  • Consider finding collaborators

Resources

  • Fix user interaction functionality
  • Write readme and todos
  • Clean up Typescript

LSQ

  • Prep for blog team meeting
  • Read stories
  • Prep June subs forms
  • Push for proofreaders

Enrichment

  • Organize Astyrred
  • Organize comics, make new list
  • Finish Tiger’s Daughter

This looks like a very long list and I would agree except my day job is currently to study a lot. I’m trying to make the most of this precious time. As far as I know, I’ve got about 4 weeks left, so I’m establishing a few goals.

I’ve learned a lot about React and feel close to confident I could jump on a project and be productive. I think reading the docs for the various parts will help solidify that knowledge. The work I do on Cuppa will also help reinforce and expand what I’ve learned.

There’s a lot of LSQ work to do and a few of m plans have gotten a bit off track. I’m hoping to clean that up a bit.

Having settled on Notion for organizing the Astyrred stuff, I can now start planning in earnest. Time to play archaeologist with my own work!

Weekly Reads 2018: 11.19-12.01

Opinion | Puberty for the Middle-Aged – The New York Times
As someone already in perimenopause I can confirm this stuff is accurate, but also that it’s very frustrating that there isn’t a “What to Expect” style book for the experience. We just don’t know shit about the female reproductive system.

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Guksi – Gastro Obscura
I’ve taken an interest in woodwork and carving of late and will be adding this cup to the list of potential projects.

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This User-Friendly Menstrual Cup Is What Happens When Design Is Inclusive – Motherboard
Great piece. Not just about diversity in product design, but also about diversity in what a startup can look like.

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Front-end development is not a problem to be solved | CSS-Tricks
Hear, hear!!! I heartily agree with everything in this piece.

Don’t forget to breathe

“When you were little, you were so carefree. But these last few years, more and more, it’s almost like I can feel you holding your breath… You get to exhale now, Simon. You get to be more you than you have been in… in a very long time. You deserve everything you want.” – Emily in “Love, Simon”

This morning when I woke up everything felt tight, strained. I’m 43 and that means that things have indeed started to hurt more in odd places, but this was more than that. I felt clenched.

I turned to a guided meditation on my phone. It helped a little, enough to get the ball rolling in making me see where the clenching was coming from, or so I thought. I was looking at how stressed I’ve been lately for various reasons.

I can feel the burnout creeping in around the edges, enough that it might start effecting my work. I can taste it on my tongue and feel it in the way I interact with the word. I knew when I signed off for the day I needed to unplug for a day or so, at least from writing code and wrapping my mind in those logical thoughts, useful as they might be.

I lit some incense, took a deep breath, and started to unclench. Then the noisy neighbors came home and wrecked the mood I had so tentatively started to foster. Fine then, I’ll just watch a movie, right?

I had heard about “Love, Simon” from a friend and they were pretty passionate about it. All I knew going in was that it was a teenager’s coming out story and I was guaranteed a happy ending, which is so welcome right now.

I liked the characters, enjoyed the soundtrack, and was very much appreciating the whole thing. And then I got blindsided by that bit of dialogue above. In the moment I didn’t understand why, but I started crying. Okay, sobbing is more like it.

The words are what the mom, Emily, says to her newly outed (by another student, not by choice) gay son. A little while later, the dad says some similar kinds of things. I could not stop crying. It’s been a half hour since the movie ended and I’m still crying.

In my spiritual tradition (as much as what you can what I do a tradition) we call this kind of experience a “heart opening”. Something comes along and just breaks you wide open and the feelings are overwhelming and intense and beautiful, if a bit painful as well.

I realized how much I needed to hear those words. In that moment I realized how much I, too, have been holding my breath. Unlike Simon, though, it hasn’t been four years. it’s been more like thirty-four.

I’m queer, this isn’t news to most and definitely not news to me, but my parents don’t know. I don’t have a partner. They’re conservative. I know they would still love me if I told them, but they wouldn’t get it, I don’t think, just how like they don’t get that I’m on the autism spectrum, though I have at least tried to explain that.

They don’t know about my spiritual path or lots of other small, personal, fragile things about me, either. Being exposed to them for the better part of the day yesterday left me feeling both tired and wired. Nothing was wrong, we had a nice time, actually, but I felt that gap between us, that secret. I was holding my breath all day.

This movie hasn’t made me suddenly want to tell them. I’m not planning all of a sudden on coming out. It has made me, however, realize that I hold my breath a lot. I have all this tension just balled up in a tight coil inside me. It’s not just my queerness, my spirituality, my personal beliefs. Not just being afraid of the world we’re living in and how it all feels so wrong.

It’s about how I’m approaching things, too. I’m not finding enough joy, or making my own. I’m not taking care of my health, spiritual, physical, mental or otherwise. I’m clenched all the time, with fear and nameless (and named) anxieties. I’m not resting enough.

I’m not breathing enough.

I don’t know what the next step is from here. I’m open and raw right now and that’s okay, it’s good. I vaguely was aware that there was a barrier up around me and it’s wrecked now and that’s good, too.

As Robert Fripp once wrote, “It is necessary to know the next step, but not the step after that.” My own “next step” was to sit down and write these words, to get it down on the page and find the connections.

There’s more digging to do, as well. I’ve got unreconciled feelings of something that might be regret, but it’s waiting for now. I also know that the world will do it’s best to come creeping back in, the good and the bad and that the intensity of these feelings will fade and it’s very possible I may even forget that this evening even happened. I like to hope not, though and to also hope that I can start building from here.

Is it strange to say that I wish any of you reading this a similar experience? It’s not fun, it’s not one of those “nice” feeling things. There is a chance though that it can be very healing and will do more good than harm when you recognize it for what it is. You may even feel like yourself again, though a slightly different version, when you come out the other side.

It’s not too difficult to start. You can begin by taking a nice, slow breath…

Weekly Reads 2018: 10.15-10.27

The Architecture No One Needs
Yeah, I’m giving a big yes to this article. SPAs seem to be more trouble than they’re worth.

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Reboot, Resets, and Reasoning | CSS-Tricks
Techie, but it was interesting to read about the mostly current state of css resets for browsers.

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The Whippet #56: Enough to sustain a living hoard
Just go read the “unsolicited advice” section because it’s fabulous. Do your best not to get distracted by the platypus facts.

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How Technochauvinism Derailed the Digital Future – The Atlantic
The only way to make technology that helps a broad array of people is to consult a broad array of people to make that technology. But the computer industry has a multi-decade history of gender discrimination. It is, perhaps, the industry’s original sin.

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The Absinthe Enthusiasts Hiding Bottles in the Swiss Woods – Gastro Obscura
Never tried absinthe and I’m not a fan of anise, but the idea of it all has always held a certain mystique for me.

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The revolutionary strategy hidden in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Instagram feed – The Washington Post
The young women who have come to Congress have come to elevate, praise and admire one another. Not because they’re immature fangirls but because this coalition-building is their best hope for success in what remains, at its core, another mostly male workplace.

Weekly Focus 2018: 11.18-11.24

  • LSQ
    • Website rebuild
    • Editor’s Ephemera column
    • Issue production
    • Reading stories
  • Storybin tests
  • Studying
    • Tea app work
    • Rails api
    • Comp Sci study
    • Ruby OOP book
    • YDKJS books
  • Enrichment
    • Prep book release

Much of my focus doesn’t vary from week to week, which is part of why I don’t actually post these weekly. LSQ work continues, studying continues, and my book is due out next month as well.

On Certification

“Software Engineering”, a field of interest launched in 1968 that aimed to bring product design and construction skills to computer scientists by having very clever computer scientists think about what product design and construction might be like and not ask anybody.  – Graham Lee

The idea of certification and licensing for software engineers came up in a Slack I’m on. Of course I accidentally ended up writing a wall of text that really needed to be a blog post, so here we are.

I think those algorithm coding white board tests used by many tech companies to vet potential employees are meant to be some kind of measured standard. However, as an industry it’s been collectively decided (mostly by default rather than intent) that there should be alternate paths to a career, which makes that kind of standardization feel like more like gate-keeping.

Additionally, the vast array of technologies available make it hard to quantify knowledge like that. Are you certifying for front end, backend, general knowledge? Say you’re going to have multiple certificates. If it’s front end, are you standardizing a particular language or even framework? How long would such a thing be valid for?

Setting standards also means being able to take a step back and evaluate the industry as a whole. It would surely slow progress of new technologies, but then I don’t necessarily feel that’s a bad thing, if I’m being honest. Move fast and break things was meant to be an approach to solving problems in new ways (yes, and make money fast and easy) but unfortunately seems to have taken the discipline of writing software along with it.

It’s all something to think about, and standards, if not licensing as other engineering disciplines have, is not the worst idea I’ve ever heard. I even say this as someone who didn’t graduate college. If licensing was put into place, I’d be out of the running and at the same time I feel that so much software is built in a way that’s harmful to users and maintainers alike that something should probably change.

Weekly Reads 2018: 10.15-10.27

I didn’t get a lot of time to read interesting things recently. I had surgery and then was doing a lot of studying. Still, the pieces I did read are pretty fab.

I don’t want to get good at gaming, I want to escape the relentless pressure to improve myself | Eleanor Robertson | Opinion | The Guardian
“If I’m going to enjoy the absurd capitalist soma of video games, the last thing I want to do is feel like I’m being badgered by a superior at a dead-end job.” Yes. This. But also this whole article because I don’t want to “git gud” at video games either.

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Love, Kindness, and the Song of the Universe: The Night Jack Kerouac Kept a Young Woman from Taking Her Own Life – Brain Pickings
A beautiful tale. For all the turbulence and other problems in Kerouac’s life, this stands alone almost as a piece of fiction someone dreamed up.

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How to Make the Perfect Cup of Tea: George Orwell’s 11 Golden Rules – Brain Pickings
Orwell tells us how a proper cup of tea should be made, including some associated opinions.

Weekly Focus 2018: 10-28-11.3

  • LSQ
    • Website rebuild
    • Editor’s Ephemera column
    • Issue production
    • Reading stories
  • Storybin tests
  • Studying
    • Custom React starter kit
    • Plan tea app
    • Rails api/proxy fix
    • Comp Sci study
    • Ruby OOP book
    • YDKJS books
  • Enrichment
    • Short story draft
    • Prep book release

A bit out from surgery and it’s time to start getting all this exciting stuff done.

LSQ moves forward even when I don’t. My planning sessions earlier this fall are showing their worth now as I have some wiggle room to absorb being out of commission for a bit.

That list looks long but much of it is copy/paste work or reading or basic issue production I can do with my eyes closed at this point. A good time to get some music listening in!

I am bound and determined to get those Storybin tests finished this week. I have put them off for far too long. They don’t need to be perfect or even complete at this point, they just need to be done enough to trust the happy path.

While I’m benched at work I have a chance to get a lot of studying done. I want to try to bounce around a little and get some reading done as well. Finding the balance between practical application skill acquisition and deepening my knowledge remains tricky for me.

After all the trials last week with all my config issues on various sample environments I’m inspired to make my own projects as easy to set up as possible.

In between all of this good work, I have some writing to do. Next time I sit down with my story-in-progress I’m going to just dump out the rest of the rough draft. It can be a mess. I’ve spent so long editing my novel into shape that I need to remember how to cut loose and just write again.

Speaking of the novel, I ahve to get myself together for its release. Even if it’s just some basic planning, my author website and the book website deserve a little love this week.

I’m doing my best not to feel behind after basically taking the last week off side projects. There is always a ton of stuff to do so my best approach is just lining things up and knocking them down and occasionally I get to send something lovely out into the world.

React, Rails, and the degradation of the developer experience

The web development field is a mess. Tutorials only 6 months old are out of date. I’m dependent on stack overflow for answers to everything. I spend more time fighting config files and setups than I do writing code.

I wouldn’t want to scare anyone away, but I would be tempted to give dire warnings to folks looking to get into web dev right now. There is a shit ton of bs involved that has nothing to do with building apps or changing tech culture. Our tools are busted & confusing as fuck. It’s only because I’ve been at this so long that I can calmly navigate this quagmire.

I don’t mind learning new things, but that learning needs to feel like I’m getting something sustainable out of my time. Honestly, I don’t think “always be learning” is healthy. It’s the nature of the beast, but I don’t think we’re built for it. I just would like the industry to get to a point where there’s a sense that any of this is learnable with consistency.

I’ve literally lost interest in React before I’ve even built my first app in the framework and that’s entirely to do with the amount of learning that has to go on that has nothing to do with what I’m trying to build.

I’m just looking at all this and seriously questioning what we’re getting out of it. How is this better than the PHP apps we were building 10 years ago? It’s a slightly better experience for the end users? Maybe, but there have been other related innovations that make things faster. I mean, I built this site on WordPress for a reason. It’s fast, it’s got a stable UI, it does predictable things.

Are these web apps we’re building really anything more than html forms and pages? Is this really any more straightforward (and powerful) than what we were using a few years ago? I was working through a React course last week and the instructor half-jokingly said he called himself a “professional forms developer” which is scarily accurate for what many of us are actually doing.

There is room for innovation. I just wish it was happening a bit more slowly and thoughtfully. I think my last year of working with Rails has had a big influence on how I’m feeling about this stuff. There are changes to Rails, but it’s measured. JavaScript-land is a hot mess in comparison. The Rails apps I work on are plenty quick and responsive, even on mobile. Most of the time, there’s little to no javascript involved. Okay, fine, I’m blaming the single-page application fad.

All of this complexity is supposed to make the “developer experience” better. We’re meant to be more productive and write better, more stable code by using these frameworks. I’m just not seeing that play out so far in practice. If we’re not even having a better experience doing the work, then what is the point of all this, really?

At the end of the day, I like building things. I really do. Today is just one of those days where the barrier between what I’m doing (and where the industry keeps going) and being able to build things is very very high.