Where I don't care what others think

Fog of Work

October 16th, 2016 Posted in Work | 1 Comment »

In the last ~5 years of working at my current gig I’ve grown to appreciate a certain amount of clarity. I haven’t always had direction, but I’ve almost always had a pretty clear understanding of the field and all the choices ahead of me. I’ve been able to look around, survey the seas, and set sail in whatever direction I felt appropriate.

Lately I’ve felt more uncertain, like a fog has settled in around me. I can still set sail in whatever direction I please, but I’m not long able to discern anything of value looking around surveying the seas and the stars. This is probably par for the course, I shouldn’t have expected to permanently enjoy such a long view of the horizon.

Waiting for the fog to clear doesn’t feel like a very viable plan, it’s better to be moving in any direction than floating there waiting for the fog to lift. On the flip side, I’m not sure how much supplies I have to last long sailing aimlessly. I have bouts of guidance when my gut feels strongly in a certain direction, but it takes a lot more effort to make that direction stick than it usually does. Trying to spot and follow other ships has yielded mixed results, I’m oftem not sure they’re heading to the same destination as I.

Good night moon.



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Social Dining

February 5th, 2015 Posted in College, Life, Personal, Problems, Work | No Comments »

One of the things I’ve always struggled with is eating meals in a social setting.  For many people grabbing lunch or going out to a dinner with coworkers is a pleasant break from the work environment and conversations, a more neutral setting where everyone can relax and intermingle a bit.  For me, eating meals in these settings exercises a set of my underdeveloped skills and generally makes me super stressed out.  I’d rather be under a timer trying to solve a very challenging technical problem.

When it comes to the selection of a location to eat I always feel pretty handicapped only knowing a handful of locations to eat.  I’m also a fairly picky eater but a very non-confrontational person which leads to this very strange evaluation I perform between suggesting I’m not comfortable with the food at a place and trying to identify the item I’m most likely able to appear to have eaten on a menu. In my work environment, when people go out for food it tends to upper scale restaurants which are less likely to serve some of the simpler staple dishes I can often bank on.  Instead, the menu is filled with things I’ve never heard of and it’s awkward to start googling for items and ingredients to see what they might look like.

Unlike most people, I don’t enjoy particularly complicated dishes with intriguing tastes or complex flavors.  There’s a relatively short list of things I’ll eat with no questions asked.  Beyond that I evaluate how far a dish appears to deviate from something I’m familiar with.  As an example, veal parmigiana is a short hop away from chicken parmigiana so it’s probably safe but veal marsala is a bit too many hops to be acceptable.  Most people seem to read menus looking for the dish they think will be the most enjoyable or satisfy some taste / craving, for me I’m reading the menu trying to figure out what’s going to cause me the least trouble to eat.

Aside from the food itself, conversation is a key component of dining in social settings which is an area I’m very inexperienced with.  Ramping up in college, young adults tend to eat meals with social acquaintances on a regular basis which provides a valuable opportunity to develop conversational skills.  For various reasons I didn’t really do that in college, I can probably count on my fingers the number of meals I ate with friends during my last 3 years @ RPI (insufficient data on first 2 years).  It usually didn’t bother me to be eating alone, but looking back I recognize I was missing out on an opportunity to develop some useful life skills.

At the table, this translates to awkward responses to questions that often don’t do a good job carrying conversation.  “What do you do most weekends?” will get a one word answer “work”, when I should really expand on that to describe the different projects I’m working on… or pretend to have done something more exciting.  I have to expend a lot of effort when I try to be social when it seems to come much more naturally for others, or at least it appears that way.  Any social skills I do have tend to be thrown off balance by the food / menu evaluation stage; by the time I’ve concluded that process I’ve often built up enough anxiety or self-doubt that sitting silently is the best way to recharge my risk taking batteries.

I recognize it would be good to improve but the diversity of foods I eat and my social capabilities while doing so, but I’ve created an environment for myself which perpetuates the status quo. At some point I should probably work on improving this, but doing so in a low-risk fashion feels like a significant amount of effort, perhaps something to solve tomorrow.

Goodnight moon


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Chasing Productivity

January 31st, 2015 Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

It feels like I’m always trying to be as productive as I was in a previous period of my life.  In college I remember wishing I was as productive as I was back in high school, and now that I’m a few years outside of college I often find myself wishing I could be as productive as I was back in college.

Measure the raw output or work units produced, my time in high school certainly wasn’t the point in my life where I was turning around the most stuff… but it still feels like it was one of the most productive periods.  Looking back, I think one of the key contributing factors was how few responsibilities and requirements I had.  Sure, I had to attend school for X hours a day, but outside of those hours (and a dab of homework) I was free to use my time as I wanted.  There was a very low probability that I’d be interrupted or otherwise thrown off whatever course I was on (thanks, in part, to the reliability of CATV equipment) which meant that I could spend hours or entire weekends working on whatever I pleased.

Additionally, I didn’t have to worry much about fulfilling any social obligations in high school.  Academics provided ample opportunity to interact with my peers, and extra curricular activities provided a great framework for social interactions outside of the classroom but still in a well structured form.  I like to think I excelled at this sort of thing.

In college, there was still an expectation that you would attend class but schedules were rarely back-to-back, I couldn’t get my 6 hrs of learning in for the day and have the rest of the day to myself.  There were lots of gaps and pauses, periods of time not long enough to get serious about anything but just long enough to need to do something.

Around this time my responsibilities started to rise with a growing fleet of servers in what I might describe as a hostile environment.  Things weren’t crashing left and right, but it was uncommon for a week to go by without at least one episode of multi-hour firefighting.  A weekend plan to build X may very well end up with being a Saturday resolving the system dependencies someone borked and a Sunday trying to quickly pull something together.

On the social front, college didn’t provide particularly well structured social opportunities for me.  It was now up to me to get involved and take a more active role developing a social life which I was dreadful at.  I compensated by getting better at working which helped regain some of the productivity lost to social failures but not all of it.

Now that I’m done with college and gainfully employed I expected that my productivity would recover and surpass high-school levels.  In my default work state it certainly hasn’t.  Currently I work in a extremely interrupt driven environment where the rate at which interrupts occur surpasses the available resources to address them.  I believe pretty firmly that failing over is an absolute last resort so I often jump in and help out when others aren’t available.

I certainly can’t categorize the operational environment as hostile (servers/uptime is blissful) but I didn’t anticipate the productivity that could be lost to email and meetings.  In general, people get dumbfounded if I don’t show up to a meeting because I think it’s a waste of my time.  I’ve also found that not replying to email in a timely fashion leads to confusion that takes longer time to clear up than a quick response would take.

Socially, work provides very little in the way of stimulation which means that I have to try and compensate on my own to fill my social quota.  When I was living alone in CA I just gave up on this entirely and I think my efficiency suffered slightly but I do a little better these days.  I’ve always struggled, which is a polite word for dreaded, planning social engagements / activities but I’ve realized it as a necessary component, at least in some form, to help balance things out.  That doesn’t make it any less of a drag on my productivity though, I’ve gone from showing up to a room where all my friends were everyday after school in high school, to working on projects with friends in college, to today where sometimes I’m able to think of and execute an idea.

I suppose I should really stop trying to rewind time and get back to the productivity I use to have but instead figure out actionable changes I can make to the current state to have a positive influence on productivity.

Good night moon.

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