Retroactive Fortune

Saturday, April 15th, 2017 04:29 pm
flwyd: (step to the moon be careful)
Cleaning out the pantry shelves, I found a fortune cookie that was at least a year and a half old (and smelled it). The fortune said You will be selected for a promotion because of your accomplishments. Sure enough, I got promoted to Staff Software Engineer a year ago.
flwyd: (spam lite)
It's my body's half birthday and my new swallowing mechanism is five weeks old. Sounds like a good time to check in. If you're just tuning in, I had surgery in February to address achalasia.

As previously reported, I took the week of surgery off from work. This was a really good move: even though I was feeling a lot better than I'd expected (and my work basically involves reading words on a computer screen, typing, and occasionally talking to people), the dedication to resting and relaxing really helped my mind reset, my energy rebound, and focus on readjusting to food.

I spent the second week working from home, which was also a smart move. I was still on a liquids-and-purées diet which was made much easier by having a refrigerator and a fancy blender fifteen feet from my desk. My dad brought over a big ring of red Jello (a food with strong Stone family associations), Lucky's Market recently started carrying nice cashew yogurts, and I had several bunches of bananas with staged ripeness. I noticed that I pretty quickly transitioned back into "Wait, there's one more thing I should do" mode while working, but since I'd handed off a lot of responsibilities, the number of just-one-more-things was fairly low.

A week and a half after surgery I drove back down to the hospital for another x-ray barium swallow to see how thing were going down. After about two swallows of barium liquid the lab tech got a worried look on his face and called a doctor in to look at the images and compare them to what they saw the previous month. After conferring and calling my surgeon's office, they announced that the study was done and I could leave. Not particularly reassuring…

I had a "review the barium study" appointment scheduled with the surgeon two hours later, so I hit up the army surplus store between the hospital and his office. While trying on a pair of nice "tactical trousers" the hospital called and asked me to return (also not very reassuring…). My surgeon showed me the imagery sequence and pointed to a pattern of liquid spreading that looked like it could be a leak. He was suspicious of this interpretation, though, because I didn't show any signs (like total misery) of having been eating with a perforated esophagus, stomach, or junction for ten days. He had me lie down for a regular x-ray and then conferred with the folks from the barium swallow. After a few minutes he came over and said "What I thought was a leak and what they thought as a leak were two different parts of the image." The additional x-ray and mutual second opinions ruled out leaks in both cases. Thank goodness for questioning data and interpretation.

The recommended diet progression is soft food for the third and fourth weeks. I returned to work since I knew I could depend on tuna salad, egg salad, and hummus in the daily lunch salad/sandwich bar and soggy Cheerios (working up to granola) for breakfast. These were my work-food staples for the second half of last year, so I was confident I'd be able to handle them. I was also very excited to reintroduce things like moist grains (rice, barley, oats, and friends), noodles, berries, and tofu. In week four I made three peanut butter, tofu, and chocolate pies for our office's π Day celebration. The puréed legume goo was a little challenging for my swallowing skills, but not problematic. I was also able to eat several folks' apple pie filling and even some flaky crust. I was able to survive some corned beef, potatoes, mustard, and lamb stew on St. Patrick's Day, though I had a regurgitation episode and concluded that was a little too ambitious.

By the recommended diet progression, I should be more or less back to a normal diet. I'm still eating slower than a normal person, but I can now finish most or all of a large lunch in an hour, which is 80% faster than I could handle a medium plate four months ago. I can get through about 75% of a meal at a restaurant before taking home a box. Spices, dry fish, and little bits that slip through without chewing are still challenging and have led to a few regurgitation episodes, but I'm able to respond to most issues by just pausing a meal and walking around. I've been fairly shy about meat that hasn't been soaked in soup, but I was able to handle ground beef today. I think I'll wait at least another week for meat that I have to cut, but I'll be trying sausage in a day or two.

I've had several intense reflux bouts, usually about half way through the night, though yesterday featured an extended before-bed adventure with mild heartburn. Combinations of Altoids, crystalized ginger, and water only sometimes help settle symptoms. When planning surgery I was aware that a significant fraction of folks experience ongoing heartburn and acid reflux. Having spent 2015 dealing with painful reflux and 2016 dealing with regurgitation and weight loss, I'd decided that I'd gladly trade the latter for the former. I need to get better at building up sleep reserves, though, 'cause I can lose an hour to three of sleep from heartburn without advanced warning.

This month I switched projects at work (still under the umbrella of Drive). We're in the "Figure out what the heck our users really need" phase which means our engineering pace is fairly relaxed and we spend a lot of time reading and theorizing, which has been helpful in continuing my "avoid stress" plan. Unfortunately, I've easily fallen back into the habit of going to bed at 1am, so I'm not making many deposits in the sleep bank, despite not needing to take a lot of withdrawals.

I've still got a "eat as many calories as you can" mindset, but I thankfully don't have to micro-optimize my decisions around it. I'm finally back to having alternating phases of hunger and meals rather than a continuous stream of slow eating and reduced metabolism. I've got way more energy than I did during the second half of last year and I don't feel like I'm in survival mode. I was able to quickly get my weight back to the low 120s but haven't been able to make progress beyond that. I guess my normal metabolism—which has basically been at late-teenager levels for twenty years—has returned. I've abandoned my "eat a pint of ice cream for dessert" weight gain plan, since it seemed to be more effective at triggering heartburn than fat storage. Maybe I should try increasing my beer intake :-)
flwyd: (tell tale heart)
As is often the case, when exciting things are happening they take up most of my time, so I don't blog about them. So what better use of a New Year's Eve at home than a recap of the annum.

My primary foci for 2015 were my wife, my job, and my esophagus.


As you may recall, I proposed to Kelly at the Temple at Burning Man 2014. Planning and executing a wedding celebration took about a year, culminating in a wonderful gathering of 150 of our best friends on September 19th. Knowing that we wouldn't be able to pay attention to everyone at a single wedding day event, we created several opportunities to spend time with people: bridal shower, game day, a hike, a storytelling evening, a union ceremony, a reception full of dinner and dance, and a Sunday brunch to recover and say farewell.

Most of the decisions we made turned out really well, in some cases being more key than we'd realized.
  • Planning and conducting the ritual ourselves
  • The yin-yang and I Ching theme and the eight friends and family that played trigram roles
  • The grand-right-and-left movement across the circle that brought guests face-to-smiling-face
  • Foothills Community Park in Boulder as a venue, even though nobody told us there would be six soccer games in the field where we wanted to set up
  • My Mom's Pie in Niwot who made 20 pies to boost everyone's blood sugar after the ceremony; much better than cake
  • The Dickens Opera House in Longmont which were very accommodating, served a great dinner, and had a great space for dancing
  • Double helix rings from Zander's Creations; I didn't expect to enjoy wearing a ring every day, but it's been really nice
  • Reusable wedding outfits; we looked fabulous for a wedding, but we can also wear them on anniversaries and other party occasions
  • Not having an expectation for wedding night sex because we might be exhausted, but being sufficiently energized that we could have fantastic sex anyway
  • A Google Sheets gift suggestion list rather than a specific store's registry; we got a wide variety of gifts that can't all be found in one place (except, now, our house :-)
  • Tracking invites, RSVPs, food restriction, chair requests, and everything else with Google Sheets

I think it's a very good idea to plan a wedding before getting married. You learn a lot about your partner and have an opportunity to get a lot of significant arguments out of the way. If you can get through all the stress and conflict of wedding planning and still want to get married, I think it's a good sign you'll stick together. Along the way, we stressed about
  • What sort of wedding to have
  • When it should be
  • Where it should be
  • How many days it should last
  • How many people should be involved
  • How the ritual should be structured
  • How the reception should run
  • Timelines for invitations
  • Making homebrew in time for the big week
  • Construction of flagpoles
  • How to move humans in lines and circles
  • Who was going to attend, even though they hadn't RSVP'd
  • Where guests would stay
  • What car to take
  • Folding chairs
  • The position of celestial bodies
  • … and probably more I've forgotten

That's all a lot of chaos for a couple of introverts, so we had a separate private commitment ceremony in advance: just Kelly and Trevor and Joan the cat and a marriage license under the blue moon. This was the yin side of the wedding: inward looking and nurturing at night, establishing fortitude before the yang energy of crowds and movement in the sun.

Rest and Recovery

The traditional follow-up to a wedding is a honeymoon. But planning a wedding is a lot of work; planning a long vacation immediately afterwards would add undue stress. Instead, we set the intention of doing little but sleep, eat, and screw for the next month. Around our mensiversary we took a four-day agave moon to Valley View Hot Springs for further relaxation and a side trip to the Colorado Gator Farm and the sand dunes.

Moon of Honey

We'd been talking for some time about a honeymoon in Iceland. Winter isn't our ideal time for adventures near the Arctic Circle, so we figured we'd plan something for the summer time. Fortunately, we got an opportunity for an early summer. I've got a business meeting in Sydney in mid-January, which sounded like a great starting point for a month of adventure in the Southern Hemisphere. Wondering if there were any interesting Burner events in Oz, we discovered that Kiwiburn is the week after my meeting. It turns out that New Zealand has a more compact set of adventure opportunities, fewer things that will kill you, and less intense summers. We're still working out the time balance between former British colonies, but it looks like we'll spend more time near the flightless birds than pouched mammals.


In 2014 we moved in with some friends in Ranger Outpost Cherryvale. Despite good intentions, the arrangement didn't work out. We got a great opportunity on a place we call Lucky Gin, with ample gardening, a nice kitchen, and plenty of space to host friends and family in case a wedding should break out. Providing a safe home was one of my key wedding commitments to Kelly, and we hope to stay here until we have the opportunity to buy a house.

Googling and Alpha Bets

One of my big work accomplishments this year was the full launch of the new Google Drive web UI. I led the handoff of production management and oncall duties to our great site reliability team. I then turned my attention to migrating the invisible and lesser-seen parts of our old and crufty server to smaller, easier to maintain homes. This led to a project of introducing an internal framework suite to our organization, evangelizing its use where appropriate, and coordinating things to make the transition feasible.

After six years on the team and my natural inclination to absorb information, my brain has become a repository for a lot of disparate parts of our system. My day to day work often involves answering lots of questions by email and reviewing lots of design documents. This means I don't spend as much time writing code as I would like, but it does mean that I'm demonstrating impact and scope, so several people have told me I should go for promotion. I declined to spend energy on that process this year because the performance review cycle was the same month as the wedding and I was busy working on my promotion from fiancé to husband. The next performance review cycle starts when we get back from our honeymoon, so it may end up feeling like an unproductive quarter.

The Esophagus is Connected to the Stomach

The least fun part of this year has been my gastrointestinal experience. Around the beginning of the year I had several sudden onrushes of an acid feeling, often expressed as tightness in the chest or pain in the jaw. They would often happen at night, waking me up and making me worry that I had heart trouble. I would also experience sudden trouble eating, finding it difficult to swallow. This was often on the third or fourth bite of a meal, but would also happen if I had a bready snack. Sugars like dark chocolate and dried papaya seemed to keep the issue somewhat at bay, and could provide relief after a sudden acid attack. At first I thought the feeling might be a side effect of wisdom teeth removal, but it became fairly clearly gastrointestinal.

Western medicine didn't do a great job on this one. I saw my primary care physician early in the year. After a suite of tests ruling out heart trouble and a variety of other issues, he prescribed omeprazole (brand name Prilosec), a proton pump inhibitor that helps reduce acid reflux. A course of that takes a while and didn't seem to solve the problem, so a few months later I saw an enterologist. That led to an endoscopy a few weeks later, in late April. That turned up partially elevated levels of an inflammation sign, but was otherwise unremarkable. So they prescribed a stronger dose of omeprazole, tapering over two months. That seemed to help a bit, but not a huge amount. In August I returned to the enterologists, who prescribed a modified barium swallow, which is basically a video X-ray of me eating. Of course the condition didn't end up triggering while the speech pathologist was working with me in the lab, but we determined that there didn't seem to be a structural problem in the throat. As the omeprazole course ended and I still had no better idea of the problem than eight months before, I returned to the entorologists. The next prescription was an inhaled steroid, with the goal of reducing the acid in the throat so it could recover on its own (IIRC). I picked up the prescription, but was wary of taking it, so I paid a visit to the naturopath who diagnosed me with a milk allergy over 20 years ago. As I described my symptoms she immediately inferred the problem: the top of my stomach stuck in my esophagus, likely from a night of intense vomiting last December (one of two likely proximate causes I mentioned on every doctor's visit). Her attempts to pull my stomach out of my esophagus were unsuccessful, though. Finally, I paid a visit to a massage therapist who's worked with my family for years. He was similarly very familiar with this condition and with half an hour of body work got my GI system in the best shape it's been all year. The problem isn't fixed entirely–I still often have trouble swallowing and occasionally get awoken in the middle of the night by an acid shock–but it's a case where a holistic approach was able to both diagnose and mostly solve the problem way faster than the western approach focused on data, hypotheses, and attacking symptoms.


Aside from marriage, work, food consumption, moving, and gardening, my time has been occupied some this year by brewing. It's a hobby I'd wanted to get into, but had put it off until owning a house so that I didn't have to worry about moving a fermenting 5-gallon carboy. My cider foray in 2014 got me started with equipment and I took the opportunity of a more convenient kitchen at Lucky Gin to get into beer brewing. In the late spring I made a by-the-recipe Belgian wit that's been well received; even some non-beer-drinkers have said they enjoyed it. In the summer I took advantage of the juniper tree and mint patch in our back yard and made a batch of ginger juniper saison. (Intended to be ginger-mint-juniper, the mint is basically undetectable.) This brew has been a hit with homebrewers who've called out the juniper aroma without it being an overpowering taste and the complex flavor profile from the ginger. Finally, Kelly and I started a batch of honeymoon mead this week. We hope to rack it before leaving so the yeast can be cheering us on from the secondary fermentation while we enjoy a more figurative honey.

In the kitchen, I also made at least four good rhubarb pies with our bumper garden crop as well as a couple rounds of banana and zucchini bread. Maybe one of these years I'll master pie crust.

I raise a glass of mead and a slice of pie to my friends and wish you all a happy new year. I'll see you on the flip side, so to speak.
flwyd: (xkcd don quixote)
... it's not the self-driving car project. But it is what I've been working on for quite a while.

Google Drive includes file sync programs for Mac and Windows; smart phone apps, online viewing of PDFs, Office documents, images, videos, and text; an updated organizational UI for the Google Docs list; a folder-focused UI; file search using OCR and Google Goggles image recognition, and a lot more. It's closely integrated with Google Docs, so you can use the same fine-grained sharing for photos of your kids, scanned tax documents, and CAD drawings as you can for a family budget or a short story.

Google Drive is a much more effective backup strategy than my previous "drag all the files from my old computer to my new computer, maybe twice" practice. By storing my old school papers and various projects in the cloud, I can access them anywhere, even if my house burns down or my laptoo gets stolen. I also took the opportunity to convert a lot of my AppleWorks 6 files to PDF to avoid proprietary format bitrot. Maybe I'll eventually gettgem up on my website.

Google Drive has been a long time coming and people have wanted it for a long time. I'm glad to have helped bring it to fruition.
flwyd: (octagonal door and path)
The feature I've been working on for the last several months launched today: Upload and watch videos from anywhere with Google Docs. From family videos to corporate meetings, videos can move from your desktop to the cloud!
flwyd: (Trevor glowing grad macky auditorium)
(Via this Coding Horror blog post):

This video is a fantastic illustration and explanation of motivation and reward. The speaker is Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. He says that money is a good motivator for mechanical tasks. If you pay people for each pound of tomatoes they pick, they'll pick more tomatoes than if you pay a flat rate each day. But if the task requires any cognitive skill, people do worse if there's a performance incentive. If you give people the freedom to do something interesting, you'll get much better results than if you offer an innovation bonus and tell them to work on something.[1] Money is a motivator, but to a limited extent: pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table.

This is a pretty good description of my motivations. My actual salary isn't particularly important to me; I'd probably be happy to do the work I'm doing for half the salary (but not a quarter of the salary, 'cause then I'd have to put a lot more focus into getting by on a tight budget). What motivates me at work is (a) interesting projects, (b) socially beneficial results, and (c) having fun.

Pink concludes that, beyond being profit maximizers, people are purpose maximizers. This jives with something I've thought for a while: economists study things in terms of money because it's easy to measure, but that lens is insufficient to capture a wide spectrum of human activities and motivations. "Purpose" isn't easily transferrable, it's hard to measure, it doesn't seem to follow mathematical rules, but it's how those crazy Homo sapiens sapiens work.

Maybe the problem with the Soviet system is that they wanted a very industrial society, but they applied a system that's suited to post-industrial creative jobs. For all Marx's focus on factories and industrial workers, he described a communist society "where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic." [Idealism and Materialism]

[1] Even worse, if you offer huge financial incentives for easily-measured results to smart investment bankers, you can tank the world economy.

flwyd: (red succulent)
Hey various people I know in the San Francisco Bay Area,

I'll be in Mountain view next Monday through Wednesday. The main purpose of the trip is to sit next to some people who know how to build part of our new feature, but I'll be free on Monday and Tuesday evenings. Anybody want to hang out?
flwyd: (Trevor Stone Character)
Much of the time, blogging is a way to work through thoughts and share ideas. So when I do those verbally in-person, my drive to do it again for a wider audience is stemmed by the fact that I've already shared it once. But for the benefit of folks with a Facebookian interest in what I've been doing:

Work continues to be new and interesting. I'm now the team expert on our corner of MapReduce land and the graphs I've been generating bear an eerie resemblance to "in theory" pictures from a stats textbook. Recently I've been making small changes to our client-side code, which is interesting because I don't consider myself as exactly knowing JavaScript. Fortunately, Google's hard-core adherence to consistent code style makes it easy for me to understand what's going on well enough to copy and paste relevant snippets.

Not surprisingly, my personality is a good fit for the Google Boulder office. On St. Patrick's Day, the office had a Can You Beat Trevor's Hat? contest. As one of the organizers told me, "I've been here for three years and we haven't had a day about me."

I rode my bike to work 41 days last quarter. I used to think Boulderites who rode in snow were a bit crazy, but now that I've got a solid bike with mudflaps, it's pretty fun. The ride home in a slush blizzard last week was an exception, but mostly because my bike didn't want to shift out of top gear. I've missed the last two weeks, but Happy Thursday cruiser rides have been growing and more fun. Being able to bike everywhere and a steady diet of good films at IFS are two of the big Boulder perks I missed in the suburbs.

I'm flying to San Francisco this weekend to attend [ profile] slyviolet's wedding, which should be a fabulous event. My Sunday in San Francisco is currently completely unallocated, though I notice The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are having a Mad Tea Party Easter gathering. It doesn't get much more iconic of San Francisco's culture than that.

On Tuesday I attended [ profile] gloomforge's last game night before he moves to Portland. I've had a lot of good moments there in the last thirteen years. I'm trying to host monthly weekend game days; combined with Zooko's monthly gathering, there're plenty of games to be had in South Boulder. Let me know if you'd like to be on The List (for mailing purposes).

I've been doing some volunteer web/IT stuff for the Black Rock Rangers and Dragonfest. Despite regular dismay at PHP's design and quirks, it's fun to hack on something with smaller scope and less demanding structure than work projects.
flwyd: (java logo)
Google's working on a lot of cool stuff, and they want to hire a few thousand engineers this year. In Boulder, we have openings for Google Docs (Java, JavaScript), Native Client/Chrome developer tools (C++), SketchUp (C++), and more. Here's the job posting. (Note that it reads as if candidates need to know both C++ and Java; either one is fine.)

Please let me know if you (or any of your friends) have any questions or if you're thinking of applying (in Boulder, Mountain View, or elsewhere. The Native Client stuff looks like it'll be a really fun and interesting project for folks into programming languages, compilers, graphics, and performance. Here's a video of several copies of Quake running inside a browser.

Ups and Downs

Thursday, February 18th, 2010 11:15 pm
flwyd: (Trevor over shoulder double face)
Recent ups:
• I've ridden my bike to work more often than I've driven so far this quarter
• I wrote a MapReduce to compute statistics on how people use our product. It feels good to say "Hey, 400 computers, run my program tonight!"
• Today I finished putting the graphing front end to those statistics together. Now when we have questions like "How many users have uploaded more than a thousand files?" or "What's the average size of an image?" we'll be able to make decisions informed by data rather than speculation.
• I've adjusted to the work environment and have been able to focus and be productive. Playing albums straight through, rather than putting iTunes on shuffle, helps.
• I'm applying my technical know-how to volunteer projects.
• My games day on Saturday will mark three straight weekends of playing games and seeing friends.
Ignite Boulder 8 last week was a lot of fun.
• The final drum circle at Witches Brew had a great turnout and lots of good rhythms.
• I watched The Bicycle Thief, La Dolce Vida, and Mars Attacks at IFS. I've had the first two on VHS for a while, but never got around to the former and watched half of the latter without understanding the point. Both were quite rewarding on the big screen. And the third? I think Mars Attacks is the second funniest movie I've seen from the '90s (behind Clerks). So many big-name actors are metafunny in it.
• Benzi is hosting a monthly cuddle party on second Saturdays at the Solstice Institute. More information at

Recent downs:
• I caught the cold going around work and was sick for about five days. I realized that when I'm sick and not being productive, the "I should go home and get some rest" part of my brain is in the spaced-out-sick area and doesn't activate properly.
• After replacing my rear bike wheel a few weeks ago, my tube's valve got a pinch-flat, which is essentially impossible to patch. After being sick last week, I was all set to ride on Thursday when I discovered the replacement tube was totally flat. My other bike also had a flat. Thwarted! I fixed the flat (piece of glass) this weekend. On Tuesday, I noticed my pressure was low while riding. About a third of the way to work, all of the remaining air suddenly left the tube thanks to another valve pinch-flat. I walked the remaining two miles to work. Fortunately, showing up at 10 AM is no big deal. I replaced the tube with a Presta valve tube, hoping the metal stem will do a better job of staying in place.
• I've been staying at work pretty late. From my experience at Tyler, I know that pattern doesn't lead to long term happiness, so I need to monitor my routine, especially once the weather gets nice.
• I haven't watched any of the Olympics, since I don't have a TV at home. I installed Silverlight, even though the license agreement says you will not "work around any technical limitations in the software." However, both NBC and CTV's videos all gave me errors. NBC has a tantalizing page with full video of curling games and speed skating runs, but to access it you have to have an existing premium cable, satellite, or Internet TV contract. If I had cable, I wouldn't be trying to watch the Olympics on your website, punks!
• I slacked on getting tickets to Les Claypool at the Fox and it sold out. Instead, my roommate took me to a small bluegrassy concert in Lyons which was fun. Sold out shows at the Fox aren't especially fun anyway.
flwyd: (java logo)
Google just announced that you can upload any file and store it in Google Docs. For anyone who's asked "What do you do at Google?" this project is the answer.

Among other things, this service will let me
  • back up all the papers I wrote and projects I did in school (in case I drop my hard drive again)
  • upload a file at home if I need to print it at work or at Kinkos
  • share a folder of images with my brother and mom while we work on a website design
  • make a Creative Commons GIMP file, share it with the world, and upload some improvements people make
  • stick a DMG with a hard-to-find old program so I can install it whenever I get a new computer
  • upload a bunch of photos from a private event and share them with the folks who attended
… all without wasting people's email quota by attaching large files. (Note: This feature will be available to your user some time between an hour and a half ago and next week or so.)

When you put it like that, "I work on the documents list for Google Docs" sounds pretty exciting. I'm part of this new "It's all in the cloud" world!
flwyd: (charbonneau ghost car)
Some thoughts kicking around my head after a conversation today. The ideas aren't new to me, but I think this is an interesting way to phrase them. Perhaps you'll find it helpful too.

When something's really bad, it's easy to make the decision to end it. Think of all the TV shows that get canceled after a pilot or two.

When something's really good, but has a clear time structure, bringing it to the right end is a situation for celebration and pride. Think of your favorite miniseries.

What's hard is deciding to end something that's got some good bits, got some bad bits, and not a lot of new excitement. Think of a TV show that was amazing when it first aired, but hasn't had a brilliant episode in a few seasons. Or think of the great movies that spawned a string of terrible sequels.

Mexican soap operas last six months and then end. U.S. soap operas go on for decades. Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side ran for less than 15 years. How long have Prince Valiant and Mary Worth been in print?

It's important to periodically take stock of your major commitments and decide if they're worth continuing. "The status quo is okay" versus "Maybe there's something much more awesome" is a tough call. The former is certain, the latter much less so. Sometimes you go in search of greater and grander and find out what you had before was actually pretty good. Other times, you look back and wonder why you stayed in Lameville for so long.

Incidentally, I decided on a date to leave my job. April 3rd, give or take a week, will be my last day working for Eagle. (I've been saying I'm leaving for two years now, so it's time to rip off the tape, dammit.) The next stop is Central America for a couple months. Then I'll have the summer to find a more awesome job and go camping a bunch. Some people say it's a bad time to not have a job. I say it's a great time to visit a third world country.
flwyd: (
From: Head of IT
To: All Employees
Date: This Morning
Subject: Automated signatures

Tomorrow morning we will be rolling out automated signatures.


If you have a signature already in place, please remove it. First thing
tomorrow morning, please send yourself a test message and verify that
all of the contact information is correct. If it is not, please advise
either Mark, Mike, or myself so we may fix the issue.


A sample signature is at the bottom of this email.




flwyd: (Akershus Castle cobblestones)
As I've said before, the freedom to leave is one of the most important. One must feel strongly about the benefits of a situation before giving up the freedom to walk away.

Sometimes it takes me a long time to leave. I'm often one of the last to depart an interesting party. I spent fifteen semesters at The University of Colorado. I lived in Boulder for twenty-four years. I've worked at Tyler Technologies for over four years.

I've been thinking about leaving Tyler for a while. I've learned a decent amount and written some good code, but I've also spent a lot of time writing boring code. Our product has some interesting solutions to typical government software needs, but in the end most of it is "Let the user enter this data into that view and store it over there. Take data X and make it look like Y so we can use the Z that we already built." Once I got that down, most of the interesting bits lay in what this and X are. And while I'm glad to have learned about legal descriptions and property appraisal, they don't hold fundamental interest for me.

I informed my manager a year and a half ago that "my time with Tyler is limited." He said he'd do whatever he could to keep me there, but I told him that the sorts of things I'd like to be working on are beyond the scope of what the company should pursue at this point.

I'd considered quitting as early as last summer, but the times at which it would have been auspicious to leave were also fairly hectic personally, so it was nice to have stable employment at which I'm appreciated (if underutilized). Before I went to China, my manager and I agreed that when I got back I'd wrap up the project I was working on (an implementation of a calculation method which proved to be 10% interesting and 90% tedious) and then work on an interesting module until I was ready to leave, "probably in May or June."

I came up with the "May or June" timeframe by intending to move out by the time my lease is up in June. I could spend March through May talking to potential employers with interesting projects in cool locations and then move in early summer... or perhaps in late summer, after traveling around the U.S. for a while.

Yet again, as the auspicious time for departure approaches, I've found reasons to put it off. My job search progress is nil, in large part because I've spent so much spare time drumming, roleplaying, hiking, and attending concerts. But there are work reasons, too.

Based on dissatisfaction from many customers, the president of our division has said that the module I'm working on is our top priority. I understand the customers' frustrations: most of the original development was focused on our largest client who, after a management change, decided not to buy the module yet. At around the same time, I was moved off that project and my time focused on Utah, sales analysis, big bugs, and other areas varying in degree of interesting. The module therefore never had a complete feedback cycle with clients who actually purchased it. And since the client we originally focused on does some things differently than the ones who are using the module, some behaviors are a bad match to user desires. After collecting complaints, we held a meeting and agreed on a two-phase approach. The first phase will deliver easy solutions to some annoying issues. Phase I will be included in the upgrade to our new release, slated for this and next month. The second phase will feature some more time-consuming but intellectually interesting solutions to some fundamental issues. I've refused to give time estimates on Phase II because I won't know what's needed until we've researched and experimented.

I told my manager and our president that I'm committed to completing Phase I. I've also said that I'm open to staying through much of the development of Phase II, leaving perhaps in September. My reasons for this delay are two-and-a-half fold.

First, I'm interested in sticking around because I take pride in my work. By completing, or at least making progress on Phase II, I'll be able to do a better job on some things I did when I was fresh out of school and didn't know any better. I'll be able to use some interesting techniques from my graduate-level courses on natural language processing and machine learning, the promise of which was one reason I was interested in this job originally. Plus, I figure if I do a good job using interesting computer science techniques I'll have something more worth discussing at a job interview with a prestigious company.

First and a half, my company is looking to hire a smart and creative someone interested in working on this module.* I'd like to work with the new developer on the existing product and design for Phase II so that I don't indirectly hand everything off to someone who spends a month going "What the smeg? Who wrote all this jibba-jabba? Why in Belgium did he do that?" As Eric Steven Raymond wrote in The Cathedral and the Bazaar, "When you lose interest in a program, your last duty to it is to hand it off to a competent successor." He was writing about open source projects; it's not as big of a deal in my case (Tyler can hire a competent successor after I depart). But I'd like to perform a quality handoff as a professional courtesy: I don't enjoy diving into weird code without advice from the author and I figure other programmers don't either.

Second, staying employed lets me spend significant portions of the summer having fun while still getting paid (instead of cashing in unspent time off for a lump sum). If I were to start a new job in June I'd only have a couple days saved up by the time the weather was cold and the nights early. I've got enough money that I could afford to put my stuff in storage and take a summer-long road trip, but I don't have a good candidate for the passenger seat in such a performance and I'd feel guilty about using all that petroleum by myself. I'll be able to spend about 20 days of vacation (that's a month of workdays) between now and September and extra vacation is on the table (along with extra money or something else I think of) as an incentive for sticking around through Phase II.

So unless someone has a compelling reason why a three month road trip would be a good idea, I think I'll go month-to-month on my lease and figure out how to spend another month of time off.

What happens to our intrepid programming hero? What sorts of vacation plans does he have? Stay tuned for the next edition of to find out!

* If you, or someone you know, is interested in employment programming in Java with a focus on extracting names, property locations, and other interesting data from semi-structured text, drop me a line. I realize that "I'm quitting because I want to work on something more interesting,** want to take over for me?" isn't the best sales pitch, but I think the opportunity is worthwhile. Phase II should involve some really interesting work, there are other cool projects that need someone to work on them, the environment is fun, and you'll be well appreciated and compensated. I'm leaving in part because I want to move to Boulder, the west coast, or somewhere else nifty. I don't have any ill will toward the company or its current employees (at least on most days).

** If you've got connections or leads pointing to computer science-type positions relating to natural language, GIS/mapping, programming language development, artificial intelligence, or unusual human-computer interaction, put me in touch. My résumé is fairly up-to-date.
flwyd: (mathnet - to cogitate and to solve)
One of my company's products is appraisal software for county assessor offices. One of our systems analysts just passed the examination to be a certified appraiser so that we know he's qualified to advise us and our clients on how to build and use the system. The director of the tax division announced a gathering to celebrate this. Here's my response:

Hello. I’d like to have a little celebration for Chris’s successful Appraisal license tomorrow afternoon at 4:30! We shall toast him, and test him on his valuation methods!

Market: Compare the actual sale prices of several bottles of Wild Turkey to determine the price per fluid ounce in a particular economic area. When someone complains about the tax on their bottle of Wild Turkey, show them three other bottles of Wild Turkey of slightly different age and size. Point out that their friend's bottle of Wild Turkey purchased in Olathe is not comparable.

Cost: Look up the distillery date of a bottle of Wild Turkey on a factor table. Calculate the instantaneous RCNLD as the bottle is consumed.

Income: Determine the price of one shot of Wild Turkey, then calculate the potential income from selling the whole bottle a shot at a time, subtracting the value of the bottle itself (five cents in many states, ten cents in Michigan).

Active Listening

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007 05:52 pm
flwyd: (bad decision dinosaur)
I've had the same cheap pair of earbud headphones at work for almost four years. Every day I bring 8 CDs to work and can often gauge my productivity (or at least the level of external distractions) by how many I listen to through the course of the day. As I'm lost in thought or plowing through code, I often chew on the wire leading to the right earbud.

Today, all that chewing has crossed a threshold. When I started listening to music, only the left channel came through. I found that I could usually jostle the wires a bit to get the right channel to come in, but if I left the wire hanging, my arms would soon bump it and the right would cut out again. But if I put the right wire in my mouth, when it cut out I could usually fiddle with it between my tongue and teeth to bring the music back. So the likely original source of the problem is also the easy solution to the problem!

On a related note, does anyone know how to set the balance of audio output using ALSA? GNOME doesn't seem to provide a setup view to do it and the ALSA command-line and ncurses interfaces don't seem to give me the ability to balance all the way to the left.

Job Openings

Thursday, October 25th, 2007 10:56 am
flwyd: (java logo)
The Eagle Division of Tyler Technologies has several positions open in our Lakewood (Denver West, adjacent to Golden) office. If you have any questions or would like a job description, send me an email at, username trevor.stone.

We are looking for
  • Software Engineer (Java)
  • Systems Analyst
  • Implementation Specialist (configure, install, train - significant travel)
  • Database Administrator (Oracle, SQL Server, PostgreSQL)
  • Technical Software Support Specialist (level 1 support)


Wednesday, October 17th, 2007 09:44 am
flwyd: (smoochie sunset)
Thrice weekly we have a stand-up meeting so that people know what others are working on. Since I'm working on calculating depreciation cost, my stand-up summary was


Thursday, August 16th, 2007 05:36 pm
flwyd: (dogcow moof!)
Yesterday was apparently the day for departures. [ profile] mollybzz moved to China (and I received several tasty items from her refrigerator and larder). It was the last day of work for my coworker who claimed he didn't know the name of the company he was switching to (and apparently their product is too complicated to explain). And I took a few hours out of the middle of the day to attend my great uncle's memorial service at Fort Logan military cemetery.

I'm very excited for [ profile] mollybzz and I look forward to hearing her fantastic stories of life in the Middle Kingdom. I'm somewhat glad that my coworker departed; while he was a hard worker and often entertaining, I've wanted to strangle him over several bits of code. And I'm glad that my great uncle was able to live and geek out (genre: model trains and planes) for close to 90 years without the decade-long slide into oblivion that my grandmother experienced.

I learned today via Slashdot that another dear friend has departed. ClarisWorks (renamed AppleWorks late in life) made creating documents easy and relatively frustration-free. Unlike the bloated MicrosoftWorks that didn't, ClarisWorks was small (throughout college I would download 2.5 MB worth of AppleWorks to print my homework), seamlessly integrated (put text in a picture! put a picture in a spreadsheet! put a spreadsheet with a picture in text!), and free of hassles (when prompted for a license code, you could enter anything and it would accept it). One of ClarisWorks's creators has an insightful history of the product. It's got some interesting insights into the software development and business cycle.

I played around a little with the demo version of iWork last year, but iDid't see an easy way to do the thing iUse AppleWorks for most frequently these days: laying out a bunch of small bits of text and pictures on a piece of paper. Maybe iShould take a look at iWork '08. Maybe I should look around for other WYSIWYG document software. I should definitely make sure I open all my high school and college essays and ensure they're stored in a format that will live on.

It's important to let good things come to an end. I'll miss them all, but I won't be sad. For such is the Way.

Office Tip

Friday, August 3rd, 2007 06:47 pm
flwyd: (Vigelandsparken circle man)
Friday morning standup meetings will be more entertaining if you bring a small jar of soap and blow bubbles in the general direction of the speaker phone.
flwyd: (what would escher do)
One of the attractions of my new apartment is that it is in biking distance of work. I'd been concerned about my health and the amount of exercise I was (not) getting, but hadn't done much about it because work/girls/wikipedia typically provided a more convincing reason for immediate attention. There's always an excuse and the excuse is usually better when you don't live near much that's worth biking to.

The first week I lived here I didn't bike because I was still moving stuff from my old apartment.

Then I went to California for two weeks. (Pictures here and here.)

The week I got back I was still recovering from a lack of sleep so didn't get out of bed much before nine.

The second week (that is, this week) I got back I was still recovering from a lack of sleep so didn't get out of bed much before nine. I was on level 3 support, so I had some grumpiness building up to mix with sleep absence to cause bickering with Tam.

Last night I went to bed a little after nine, I think. I woke up, like usual, at 7. Unlike usual, I was completely lucid for the beginning of Democracy Now! and got up at the second break. I cast about and found my helmet and water bottle. I didn't know where most of my bike accessories were, but I found the standing pump on the porch and inflated my tires to reasonable levels. A little after eight I was out the door.

This made me very happy. The only time I'd biked to Tyler was over three years ago, when I was living in Golden, when I came in to work on a weekend. The "back way" was mostly free of traffic and I hit most of the lights. I had to stop for breath for a minute or two on a fairly wimpy hill, but there are no major obstacles between points A and B. Well, no major obstacles not circumvented by an over- or under-pass.

The two-wheeled commute took thirty minutes. That's about twice as long as my four-wheeled commute (speed is directly proportional to wheel count, apparently), but it gets me far more than twice as much exercise. I was a little winded when I got to work, but after a few deep drinks of water and a support incident, I was in fine shape. A little after noon I sauntered down the road for a Chipotle burrito (my most regular form of exercise in the last year).

The afternoon was rather frustrating. It featured a coworker deleting key settings from a client's live database, a convoluted VPN process crashing my computer, and four or five "emergency" incidents filed after 4 PM on a Friday. As I was getting ready to leave, I discovered I'd agreed to run a utility for a client on the weekend. When asked a few minutes later if I'd be the on-call developer on Saturday for an install, I sighed and agreed.

Heading home, the traffic was heavier and my stop light karma was not as good. I made it over and under the freeways in fifteen minutes, then turned east for the hill that had winded me in the morning. Unfortunately, this time I wasn't the one blowing too much air. I heard a loud and sudden BANG! and I did not have a Mancato! I think I ran over a piece of glass, the net effect being an immediate end of my rear tire's usefulness. The glass didn't even have the decency to pop my tube with a Schraeder valve, though the now-popped Presta tube was the flatter of the two this morning.

I normally bike with a patch kit and a pump, but if I've unpacked those yet I don't know where I put them. Riding without anything on my back felt good and I figured I wouldn't have any problems on five miles of pavement. Maybe I should have stayed off the sidewalk.

I now know that it takes about an hour to walk between the local family Italian restaurant and my apartment. I also know that the park I was wondering about does not feature paths which go from one side to the other.

To add a sense of fatalism, after walking thirty blocks along bus routes, the 21 passed me one stop before the one two blocks from my place. Around that time, I realized I probably could have locked my bike somewhere and returned with a bike-rack enabled Subaru. Not a big deal -- exercise was the goal and even a flat tire will slowly roll.

I got home feeling tired and annoyed, but probably more of the latter. I took a gander at the fridge and decided I didn't want to expend additional effort cooking the marinating chicken, so I walked around the corner to Burrito Express and got a burrito de lengua. Pretty good for less than $4.

As I finished my second burrito of the day, Tam came home with two friends and made chicken burritos. Writing about it seems less exciting than it was in my head. Maybe it's a good thing I don't blog every day.

Final Score

Wheels: 1
Burritos: 3
flwyd: (java logo)
Excitement: "I think this project is almost done. If I stay late, I can finish the last couple pieces and commit it so people can test the changes tomorrow morning."

Disappointment: "It's a little later than I wanted to leave, but it's done. I think it's time to commit. Oh, crap. I still haven't done the part I keep ignoring because it's going to be a bunch of annoying work."
flwyd: (smoochie sunset)
(staying up until 2am) + (getting up at 8am) + (working from home) + (cats who want attention) + (lower inhibitions about using OKCupid at home than at work) + (Front Row and Apple remote control) + (hot sex with wife) = (unproductive work day).

Apparently I forgot my lesson from college to go out and have fun for a while (e.g. go sledding) and I'll work more effectively. On the plus side, I'm tired enough to go to bed now which will make getting up at 5:30 for drumming up the sun at Red Rocks more feasible.

Colorado's been on national news due to the blizzard the last few days, but it's some of the best severe weather I can imagine. My Subaru (even with worn tires) had no trouble getting to and from work yesterday. The power stayed on the whole time, so Coloradans sat at home and uploaded pictures to the Internet. Others shoveled their sidewalks and ran around in the snow.

But the best part of Colorado weather? While hurricane alley takes months to recover from a disaster, our weather just slides on by (three pictures) )

Programmer Perks

Friday, December 8th, 2006 03:12 pm
flwyd: (inner maiden animated no words)
Sure, I was at work until 11:30 last night moving a database so this morning's demo would be faster. But in what other job would a birthday/graduation cake party be followed by an over-the-cube-walls object fight featuring mouse pads, mini kush balls, floppy frisbees, paper towels, a roll of labels, rolled up napkins, and Frosted Mini-Wheat projectiles?
flwyd: (java logo)
Tyler Technologies is looking to hire an Implementation Specialist. The job consists primarily of working with clients (county government offices) on training and "go live" of enterprise software. It's a lot of travel, but you get to visit a lot of places you'd probably never thought of before :-) Developers, systems analysts, and managers are all taking steps to make your job easier.

We're also conducting interviews for programmers/developers/software engineers (whatever you want to call it is fine by me). The primary job requirements are clear critical thinking and understanding of object-oriented principles. We work in Java, but don't require Java experience or knowledge.

Most of the people we hire are fresh college graduates, so don't feel intimidated by lack of experience. Positions are based out of our office between Lakewood and Golden. Send resumes to trevor.stone (a) and I'll forward them to the appropriate managers.
flwyd: (glowing grad macky auditorium)
If I stay at work until 9:30 listening to Prince and reading the Common Lisp specification, what does that make me?

September Time

Friday, September 29th, 2006 05:11 pm
flwyd: (java logo)
I logged 192.75 total hours at work this month, including 8 hours a day for vacation and Labor Day (total 32). 69.25 were programming and 36.5 were admin, a respectable ratio.

I'm getting better at this game.
flwyd: (black titan)
Ahoy mateys! I be here to whip you land lubbin' code monkeys into shape. As soon as we find a worthy vesel from Sea Vee Ess, we'll set out upon the C. Our goal be to plunder booty from the island of Java which is far superior to the sharp C. We'll store our booty in the Sea Quell Server in our home base. If we be getin' lost, we'll ask directions on Aye Arrr Sea. We'll cast an Object as a Net and catch some Illegal Arrrrrgument Exceptions. All production booty must be bug-free. We gotta keep down the scurvy from our customer base. If any oppose us, we'll execute ot terminate! Yar.

It be International Talk Like A Pirate Day and I expect all ye scallywags to comply or ye'll be keelhauled and sent to Davey Jones's Source Repository. Arrrrrrr!

[Aye. I be talkin' like a pirate and wearin' an aye patch, shark hat, poets' shirt, and plastic cutlas at work. I love this place.]

[In a meeting this morning, the project manager (who lives in rural Kansas) asked why I was talking like a pirate. I mentioned the holiday and she said "Oh yeah... I heard about that... in church." I guess it's mainstream now!]

[Apparently LiveJournalers are talkin' like pirates too. I'm about to click on "Update Captain's Log." Look closely at the icon for [ profile] flwyd. And Frank's getting in the spirit.]

[This entry shall be updated throughout the day as I think of clever pie rat phrases.]

August Time

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006 01:31 pm
flwyd: (java logo)
I just finished my time sheet for August. I'll have completed 206 hours, 80 of which are All Purpose Leave (also known as "Vacation"). I feel a lot better about the time spent at work as well -- 70.75 hours logged in programming (and related activities like design discussions and bugzilla organization) well exceeds the 28.25 hours of admin (like reading email).

And due to my previous vacation frugality, I can take up to seven days of vacation before the end of the year, or save that up for next year.

Work Time

Monday, July 31st, 2006 08:04 pm
flwyd: (java logo)
Project Spend-Less-Time-At-Work is succeeding. I logged 193.25 hours in July which includes 8 hours of holiday and 16 hours of vacation. Also a positive development, I spent as much time under programming (which admittedly includes synchronizing, reviewing code, and wrangling bugzilla) as I filed under admin and conversion combined. More importantly, I advanced many of my social goals.
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