Sunday, November 22, 2015

Update for Week Three

Saturday I hit the halfway mark of 25,000 words and Sunday I managed to reach 28,000 which is much more than I ever thought I would write.

The toughest part about writing is to continue writing. Often I want to go back and edit, or focus on something a bit more. But I know if I do that I will have about a few thousand words of story and many thousands of backstory. I find that I am putting quite a bit of backstory in the story, but just writing and trying to hit the 50k. Hopefully this week I will be able to focus a couple more days of 2,000 or 3,000 plus word days. Since I need 22,000 more words I will definitely need to get a few more big days.

I expect that I might be able to start editing in not too long, and Jessie already has some good feedback.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Focus has Changed

I am happy to announce that I have dropped the "blog" part of the web address in favor of my own domain: Of course this is much like a vanity plate at the moment while I figure out what I am going to do next, but I am enjoying it thanks to Google's cheaper domain name service.

It is still written on Blogger, hence the weird layout, but I am working on that too. I am looking at several options from Wordpress to hosting on a cloud such as Google or AWS. Probably Wordpress since it is so popular and maybe I can get better formats without giving up basic control over the layout. It also has quite a few plugins that I could probably figure out though I really don't want to go overboard.

But really I am more focussed on writing and work at this point, so maybe next month. Also check out my pages links over on the right. I mentioned that I reformatted the links, but I haven't gotten around to fixing the projects or the sci-fi writing links.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Weekly Novel Writing Update

Or "WeNoWrUp" for NaNoWriMo.

This week I never got ahead of the writing. I started the week with about 8000 words which was only 5000 words behind. Monday evening I pounded out 2000 words in a couple scenes that are quite important to the plot, and then followed up the stellar performance the next day by writing nothing. So this week definitely had its ups and downs.

I am slowly increasing my average words per day so that I am moving my expected date of finishing up, but I really need a few solid hours.

Last week's tirade about suffering sounds either more poignant or just ridiculous after Friday's events, probably a little flat. I could write on that sad event, but I think it would just be a bunch of righteous rage and freaking out that our intelligence communities really didn't have the group on their radar. The whole thing makes me sick.

Back to writing, normally scheduled events were not so nice to my writing schedule. Work was pretty solid including a meetup of beCraft on Thursday that talked about the Go language and a specific use case. Am I getting old that I just enjoy Python and don't really want to learn yet another language? I still find Go interesting, it has some built-ins that make it pretty good for, well, okay, aren't I writing about novels?

Back to writing, again. With a trip to see our Hawaii friend before she goes back this week, Saturday just disappeared. Not in a bad way except for writing-wise. So now I am looking at nearly a 10,000 word deficit. My best day has been around 2,000 words, so I really need a few 3,000 word days to make it a bit easier on the days that I can't sit down and write that many. And now this post is getting pretty long itself.

Let me know your thoughts about Friday, if you need a place to vent, or about languages if you understand the programming world. I am writing this early so that I might have a chance after church to put in many solid hours of novel writing. I remember back in the day when a few pages for a paper was back-breaking, now though I am pushing for a novel, crazy.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Writing Update and Other Things

I have ten things to write about that aren't part of NaNoWriMo, of course. My story isn't quite on the rocks word-wise, but I just wrote a post and have a few other things that are on my mind thanks to work and church.

Suffering is Not for the Faint of Heart - Talking about suffering, let's hope all your tribulations are small and solvable.

I also would like to write about how faith can come with writing. A small sticking point that somehow reason can't be applied to faith. Or maybe, it can't lead to faith. It is a very interesting question that I am somewhat invested in.

So I hope my unwritten words this week read my post on suffering, because they are suffering from me not writing them. Currently I have 6,987 very rough draft words. At the end of today I am supposed to be done with 13,333 words. A difference of nearly seven thousand words. Which if you read my post means that I still need to write nearly four hours today. Oof.

You can follow my progress at the NaNoWriMo site. Any encouragement welcome.

Anyway, I need to change my writing situation physically for a while. More words will come, hopefully a story with them.

Suffering is Not for the Faint of Heart

In case you haven't read my byline, I am a Christian. It doesn't mean so many of the things that people think it does, sure some of the rumors are true, but really?

Anyway, I would like to broach the topic of suffering. It's a bit scary to look for a definition to back up my thoughts and find that Wikipedia has a pretty in-depth article on suffering. Most of the time suffering is all about physical pain, Sure I have my aches and pains. Many other times suffering is about the mental issues. People are generally focused on their own problems, and many have issues that need help, and need work.

I could talk about what Christians consider suffering, being persecuted for our religion, but I think that there is a suffering that everyone is subject to in life.

This week has been a tough one for our office. Who hasn't had a tough week at work? My previous job had four years with the possibility of losing funding. Our leadership was extremely supportive throughout the whole process, but I was suffering from a few related issues, despite the support. I was tired of the island, near the end, tired of possibility that I wouldn't have a job, and just all the thoughts about where we would go and what we would do.

I did not handle it well, my work certainly suffered and I regret that I could have done more. But how can we do better? Is there a way to suffer joyfully? I would say that the answer is yes and there is a belief system that could definitely help with this. However, if you don't want to listen to that from me, there are still a few things to consider.

First: Are the people causing you suffering really just trying to make your life miserable? This is a really tough question because most people don't want to think about how the people causing suffering could possibly not be doing it intentionally. If the answer is still yes, even after you try to figure it out, then there is another question to ask: Are they trying to make me suffer just to make themselves feel better? If they are you have much deeper problems and should be considering formal action or moving away from the situation. But in both situations you need to be joyful. There is no other way. Not so obviously "fake" happy, because then you are probably going to try to take things, like revenge, into your own hands. That bent means that you are going to do ridiculous, potentially dumb things just to be able to rub their face in it.

Second: Sitting around wondering what a weird exchange means and being crabby about it is not going to do anyone good. Unfortunately I suffered from this malady on Tuesday and have been a bit slow in connecting my recent knowledge about suffering to this situation. I became overly righteous, condemning the action, not realizing that some leaders aren't leading because they are trained leaders, but rather are in the position because they were there.

Some people are born leaders, sure, some people will get training and be good leaders, some will fail and make mistakes that may seem obvious, and then there are those who will never learn but still have more power than they know how to handle. To put a leader in the fourth category right away without any thought to situation, background, training or lack thereof, and experience, is to write them off. It is not recommended as humans are not perfect representations of their own abilities at all times.

In a situation where there can be no mistakes, maybe putting a new leader in the position will solve the problem. That certainly worked well for Abraham Lincoln after how many generals? The problem is when the leader is seen to be failing at many levels and we are suffering because of it. Is there insight we could lend? Experience leading, pointing out concepts and language that might very well cause suffering?

I could go on about leading, having some experience myself, but we need to get back to suffering.

Third: Are we, ourselves prolonging our suffering because we are comfortable? It sounds strange but it is much easier for us to deal with the current discomfort than to try to imagine stepping out and changing something. I am talking positive change, though there may be suffering in it too. Can we help to alleviate suffering? Can we take the demotivation and turn it into motivation and action? Can we ask for help? Can we leave?

The reason I left the last question to last is because I am afraid of some people answering that question with a "yes." But is is a possibility. To focus on the more constructive, grumbling and moving on is one thing, grumbling and never getting over it but prolonging it just to feel better about grumbling? I am guilty. In a previous post I said that I would not complain without result. I have complained all this last week so now it is time for me to push for the positive change. Learning leaders are just human means that people suffer, knowing they are can help us to suffer joyfully and then help to change the climate.

When suffering at a small scale, such as this is, can be done joyfully, then when the true suffering comes we will have better tools to deal with it. Don't be afraid to suffer, just don't wallow in it, please?

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Growing Culture

A pre-post edit: I am finishing writing this and editing with the events of Nov 3rd in mind, which were certainly a hugely negative approach to motivating our team that my interest is a bit shaken, or maybe I just have to be more cynical, or less?

The Center for Open Science is growing, and its culture is changing. It sometimes seems like a confusing jumble of all sorts of not quite conflicting interests, but order has been coming to our controlled chaos. In some ways it is awesome, in others it might just deaden things.

I write this as one of our developers is leaving us. He was the first developer hired by the center and laid quite a bit of the groundwork that we use day-to-day. He has his reasons for moving on, but it is still sad to see him go. His enthusiasm really solidified my interest in working for COS, it was serious development, as well as being a serious cause.

I started in February when we had about 30-ish full time staff and many fewer projects going on. There was quite a bit of nebulous thinking with some really nice features that were making the OSF much more of a usable product. There was quite a range of ways to do things, different ideas and lots of freedom to learn and do.

At the beginning of the summer we brought in 35+ interns, doubling our staff numbers and blowing away any possible workflow. Some interns were working on small projects and others were working on large “R&D” projects that may never get integrated into the OSF. Essentially chaos ensued that we are still trying to dig out from under.

We hired a Product Manager and she brought more Agile methods as well as Jira and other ideas. This is certainly still a work in progress but a better definition of how a feature or a fix gets defined, worked on, and merged is a huge improvement over the previous workflow.

Unfortunately with the recent experience and some burnout starting to rear its ugly head, especially with a negative motivation speech to seal the deal and thinly veiled diatribes against the method we certainly need a moment to collect ourselves and our thoughts.

There are two huge projects that are essentially due this month. The problem is with the approach to these projects that it was not managed in such a way that makes much sense.
  • One project was given to an intern. Not that interns can’t do a good job, however, he can’t put in the time when it gets to the point where we need daily turnaround on code review response rather than weekly.
  • This project is now up to 12k lines. By far the biggest chunk of code that has been “through” code review. Why wasn’t it put through in a more piecemeal manner as it was being written? Because it was an R&D project, and though it had people signing off on the proposal, no one was assigned to help the intern bring it up to speed until two weeks ago.
  • Now they are trying to solve the crunch time by putting more devs on it. It may work, but really the fight was lost when it wasn’t converted from an R&D project earlier in the game with more code review done on top of that.
  • Also the full time dev assigned is one of the three code reviewers, meaning that he hasn’t really been able to do code review for other smaller PRs coming through the system.

So I could go on about the negatives of how we aren’t experiencing management in a good way, but I think it is not malicious, just some line of communication was not very clear, and now we are rushing to meet a deadline that we have just learned about.

So my first suggestion is that if the R&D project is ever going to possibly be more than just a learning project then it needs to have definite code and functional milestones where code and functionality can be assessed and reviewed in order for the storm to be avoided when we find out just how close we are to a deadline, at least we will know exactly how the project is going.

We also need everybody doing code review. I know most people aren’t very good at it, but that is why we have more than one level of code review. But three people looking at code that nearly twelve of us produce means that they are always falling behind. Always playing catch-up.

If we have better incremental code reviews with better chunking of the tasks, then we get feedback on smaller bits of code that can be implemented for the next chunk. When 500+ lines of code are changed in a Pull Request, it starts getting troublesome for the more thorough code reviewer to trace down all the implications.

I was going to end this, before today, with an inspirational thought about how we all need to be one of a kind without breaking companies when we leave. But I would like to focus on the more practical. We have a much better, tighter approach than we had before, but we still have some major hurdles to overcome.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Beginning of November Updates

Ran a 5k yesterday. It was a trail run, which was fun, but I am certainly not in the shape I was when I discontinued running a few years ago. Despite the varied terrain I managed a time of 32:42. Which is about the time of my first ever 5k. Definitely room for improvement. I know there has to be a Turkey Trot or something similar around here near the end of this month, so I hope to improve incrementally.

Also updated my Links page so that it actually has consistent formatting. For some reason Blogger's formatting is not very healthy. You may have noticed that my blog has changed formats quite a bit, but that is all in an attempt to keep it legible. Maybe I will have to switch back to the Magazine or other formats.

Also carved a pumpkin and gave out very little candy.

After getting home and giving the Subaru a cursory brake inspection to see if the pads needed replaced, I realized that today is the first day of Novel Writing! I almost forgot. I will start, right after this:

Here is a pumpkin picture.
Displaying _MG_2864.JPG
This is my pumpkin. It was interesting to work with a 45 lb white pumpkin.
Thanks to Jessie for taking pictures! I didn't put her pumpkin up, but she did a really good job with the patterns she chose.

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