Post Book Stress Disorder

In sports there is a concept known as The Yips. It’s a condition that affects experienced athletes where they develop spasms in fine motor movements that impact their game in a profound way. It’s generally in culture ascribed to the athlete letting their head get in the way. They begin to overthink things too much. It interferes with their movements, causing them to do poorly. This creates a negative feedback loop where they are doing badly because they’re thinking too much, which causes them to think even more and do even more badly. It can completely destroy an athlete’s career.

Back when I started with tech, I didn’t have a lot of experience with programming, but I did have a lot of experience with writing and speaking. I delivered radio news for three years. I had a journalism degree. I knew that I could present and deliver information in a clear concise way. The big problem I had was that I was limited in what information I understood that I could present.

I had the opportunity to write several books early in my career that I felt very proud of. These were generally introductory books, which contain information that tends to be easier and more fun to present.

That changed two years ago when I was given the opportunity to write a book on Metal. I felt very strongly that I could learn and explain Metal in a way that was understandable because I was coming at this as a beginner. Everyone I spoke to who knew Metal was someone who was very familiar with OpenGL and didn’t really understand what a beginner would not know about. There was a lot of unfamiliar terminology that you need to have a good grasp of in order for Metal to be useful. I had a lot of confidence that I could present this information in a presentable way to people with no graphics background.

During the process of writing the book, I didn’t really have time to think about what I was actually trying to do. I was laser focused on accomplishing one task at a time until the book was done. It was an intense but satisfying experience to watch as my small steps added up to a full book.

I needed a break from writing, so I didn’t blog much or work on a book in 2018. During that year, I had some time to think. And the thoughts I had weren’t very pleasant.

When I completed the book I was proud of what I was able to accomplish in the time I had available. I felt that it would take two years to write a good book on Metal. I had about ten months. I didn’t have time/resources for the number of graphics I wanted for the book or the amount of sample code I originally planned for. When I finished I felt that I had had the minimal amount of time to write a book that I would not be embarrassed by. But not being embarrassed by something is vastly different from being proud of it.

There are several chapters of the book that my tech reviewers were deeply disappointed in. One of them has blocked me on Twitter. The other one will not speak to me. I don’t know if this is a reflection on them or on me. I don’t really understand socially what happened and it upsets me to know my peers do not like or respect me.

I have begun second guessing myself on the book. I don’t know if I presented the information well. I keep worrying that people who read the book are judging me and deciding the book was bad and that I exposed myself as a fraud who doesn’t know what I’m talking about.

I finally began reading through the book the Wenderlich’s published on Metal after having to get over my fears of it being far better book than my book was. I think it’s a better book than mine and they cover a lot of the material in a much more comprehensive manner than I cover my material, but I also feel the book is incredibly dense. I only understand the material presented because I took off nearly a year to fully understand Metal to the point of writing my own book. I don’t want that to come off as bitchy or dismissive of their book because it’s full of a lot of great information. It’s a great book for me and I am grateful that it exists, but I do wonder how much help it is to people without the same background I have.

I have begun to worry that this material is completely unpresentable. That there is no way to simply explain things to new users. This is causing me to second guess my ability to present any information about anything. I don’t know if I actually was ever good at presenting information or if it was just hubris on my part.

I am considering writing another book on a far less complex topic than Metal, but I am wondering if I have anything to contribute to that topic. I am wondering if I should bother writing anything because I don’t know if I can present information clearly in a way that people find useful. I also don’t know if anyone gives a crap about the things I want to talk about because it’s not about algorithms or cross platform JavaScript frameworks or network protocols. This is causing me a lot of depression and anxiety.

I don’t know if I should take this as a sign to give up on writing technical books or if I need to jump back in so that I can get over this. I keep going back and forth. Some days I am super enthused about the idea of writing a book from my own perspective. Other times I feel like I am just copying work other people have done but in a much less compelling way.

I feel the urge to hide. I don’t want to talk to or deal with anyone. I want to be left alone. I want to just work on crappy little projects that will never earn money that I do for myself because I have given up on the idea that I have anything of value to contribute to the tech community.

I keep trying to tell myself that completing the Metal book was an accomplishment. I wrote that book in less than a year. I wrote it by myself. I got up every day and stuck to a plan and shipped something. It’s not perfect. But for better or worse it’s presented in the way I felt it should be presented. This was a challenge and I don’t know if there is a right or wrong way to present difficult materials.

My hope is that anyone who reads the book and is disappointed by the content that they at least understand that I worked hard and did what I thought was right. I did the best I could under the circumstances that I was given. I don’t know if I would have done things any differently had I to go back and do it over again. But now I have to deal with wondering where I stand and what I have to contribute to the community.

2018 Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

Happy 2019 readers! This blog has been on something of a hiatus for the last two years and I would like to rectify that in the coming year.

2018 was a time of some rather big changes for me. At the end of 2017, I moved in with my boyfriend. We fell into a rather comfortable routine. My job allowed me enough down time to work on side projects, such as my game development blog and a new third-party framework.

As 2018 progressed, I left that job and began a consulting contract. I had a year to complete the contract and I was slightly burned out, so I worked that part time. This allowed me to continue to work on the third party framework, which I had hoped to complete the port of by the end of the year.

But, life gets in the way.

In March my loving boyfriend asked me to marry him. I joyfully accepted and we set a wedding date for September. I had already planned out what we were going to do. The wedding would be quite small. I figured that it wouldn’t disturb our routine that much and I could continue work on my side projects.

Let’s just say this did not go to plan…

Beyond the actual wedding, there were a lot of things that needed to be taken care of. There was paperwork and deadlines. I had to go through various processes to get my name changed. There were dress fittings and meetings with the minister. All of my mental energy that I had been using for my side projects went into the wedding/marriage.

The whole family at the wedding. Mazel tov!

I think I have written on here before about the depression I suffered after my first marriage officially fell apart. I thought when I got my ex-husband out of my house that all of my mental energy would be free to work on projects and do things I care about.

I didn’t realize that the huge change in going from being married to being single would be a tremendous shock to my system. I had never paid taxes before. I hadn’t paid the water bill before. I had no idea what any of my expenses were because I never saw them before. I now had to handle those things and budget for them and figure out how to feed myself. This threw me into a shock and it took a few years to shake off.

Even though the wedding was a nice disruption to my routine, it was still a disruption. I had a lot of trouble getting motivated or focused on my side projects because I kept worrying about something I needed to do for the wedding. I knew it would be over soon and when it was that we could get back to our routine and I could continue with my projects.

Again, that turned out not to be the case.

When I moved in with my husband, I wasn’t really comfortable with the house. It was his house and even though I gradually made it feel like our home, there were some issues with it. I didn’t have a room that worked well as a home office. I converted a bedroom to my office, but it was still a bedroom. It had closets and was in an upstairs corner of the house. We couldn’t open our window shades because the houses next door were within touching distance and we didn’t want people to look in. We had basically no yard, so that was hard on the dogs.

Instead of weekends spent lovingly working on game and graphics projects, we attended open houses and got our hopes up on homes that didn’t pan out. It was mentally and emotionally exhausting.

My new dedicated office space!!

We found a lovely new place that suited most of our needs perfectly. The ones it didn’t were improvements we could implement as opposed to ones that could not be changed, like the size of the lot and the nearness of the neighbors.

So instead of spending nights and weekends working on projects, we spent that time cleaning our house to put up for sale. After the sale, we spent that time cleaning and packing for our move.

For about two months it was close to impossible to work on anything I didn’t absolutely have to because of the sheer mental exhaustion of just planning out everything that needed to be done before we could move. I couldn’t even get involved in my usual cooking projects because I knew that I should be packing up the kitchen for the move and it made no sense to buy a bunch of food that would need to be moved from one place to another.

Around the time we started putting the house up for sale, my consulting gig got a bit more serious. I discovered there were a bunch of required features I had been unaware of and the client wanted the project completed by the end of the year. I started working on that full time and had literally no time for anything else I wanted to work on. The third party framework has languished for months and people are beginning to ask if it will ever be completed.

Three days after Christmas we moved out of our old house and into the new one. It was an exhausting day, but we made it work. We’re still surrounded by boxes and I still have trouble finding clean underwear in the mornings, but we’ve weathered the worst of it and we’re beginning to take stock of where to go from here.

I have a few goals I would like to accomplish in the first half of 2019:

  • Make GPUImage 3 have feature parity with GPUImage 1. I feel badly about not updating the framework for so long and I want people to feel comfortable knowing the framework isn’t abandoned before integrating it into their projects.
  • Blogging. I have let all of my blogs languish because I have been too overwhelmed to think about what to write. I would like to go back to blogging about graphics and getting more comfortable with Metal in general.

It’s not a first half of 2019 goal, but I have the same goal for 2019 that I have every year: Ship an app. I have shipped books and held interesting jobs, but I have not shipped an app of my own. Technically the consulting project I am doing is an app that will ship that I essentially wrote on my own, but it’s not mine. I learned a lot from the experience of building that app and now I want to make one of my own and be my own client. I have not decided if it will be an iOS native app or a project created in Unity.

I have a few possible projects on the horizon that have not been committed to yet, so I won’t mention them here.

I know that there is something of a backlash against New Year’s resolutions. Most revolve around losing weight and going to the gym, which is hard to sustain. I think it’s nice to have a delineating beginning to a span of time where you can take stock of things and say “I don’t like how things are right now and I want to change them.”

I love my husband and I love our new home. I would not change that for the world. But right now I need a mental change. I am tired of my side projects being packing my life to move from one place to another. I miss having a thing I am making for myself that I will feel proud of. I keep worrying I will never get back to that again. I want my own life. I want my own projects. I want to look at things I have produced and feel pride that I did something this year that I couldn’t do last year.

Professionally I feel like 2018 was a wash. I didn’t accomplish anything I wanted to. I don’t feel I progressed in a meaningful way. I guess I have mostly completed an app by myself that should ship, but that doesn’t feel like progress to me. I want to learn from these experiences so that I can use my time better this year on things I care about.

I don’t think we’re going to have a wedding or a move this time around.

2019 Speaking Sabbatical

I gave my first conference talk in February of 2014. It was on sound design for mobile applications. I didn’t practice it enough and didn’t realize how scary it would be to speak in front of 200 people I didn’t know. I have about twelve minutes of material and completely bombed my talk.

The organizers were very kind people and understood this was my first talk. They said I didn’t do that bad and that I could come back from that and do better.

As painful as it was to completely bomb the way I did, it really lit a fire under me to do better. I attended conferences and saw Daniel Steinberg speak and come away inspired, but also devastated because I didn’t think I could ever be as good as he is. Which is true, but still.

I told myself that I just needed practice. If I did more talks, they would make me less nervous. I would have more professional experience and my talks would be better. Even if I couldn’t do as well as Daniel, I could develop my own style and be a better speaker.

For a few years, that seemed to work. I did a lot more conferences, got more comfortable with speaking, and did much better. I personally feel the best conference talk I have ever done was this talk at CocoaLove. This was the height at which both my speaking and professional lives have been at.

Shortly after this talk, I had a complete nervous breakdown.

I lost my ability to code due to burn out and PTSD. I would walk into my office and break down in tears at the thought of trying to work there. I had to redecorate my office in order to begin to work there again.

I developed a speech impediment and became very shaky. When I would attend or speak at conferences I would have to hide in my room for most of the conference in order to not completely bomb the talk I was giving. This was around the time I got Delia certified as a service animal. She helps me tremendously, but I still have a lot of difficulty going to conferences.

One major reason I decided to write my book on Metal was because I could no longer work and I needed a placeholder in my resume. During this time I basically became a shut in. I couldn’t leave my house. I started a meal subscription service so that I would not starve. The once a month or so that I did leave the house to buy alcohol would completely exhaust me for the rest of the day.

I stopped feeling human. I would wake up at the same time every day. I would work until about 3:00 in the afternoon, at which point I could no longer function. Then I would take a bath, drink gin, and watch Project Runway while cross stitching. On days where I was too burned out to work, I have no idea what to do. I couldn’t leave the house. I didn’t have friends to visit. I couldn’t focus on anything else. Do I just start drinking gin at 8:00 in the morning? I got a lot of stuff done, but I didn’t feel good.

I am disappointed the book didn’t turn out better and that so few people have read it. I know that had I been given a little more time, it could have been what I wanted it to be, but I am not ashamed of what I produced in the time I had to produce it. Writing the book helped me recover from the burnout and PTSD I suffered from, but I was still not back up to where I was a year earlier and this bothered me.

I decided at the beginning of 2018 that I would not submit to any calls for papers this year. If people invited me to speak, I would accept. I had several offers. I accepted all of them, but had to back out of one that was too overwhelming for me to deal with.

I have not been happy with most of the talks I have given this year.

I have gotten so anxious about traveling and putting together my talks that I have procrastinated working on them. I have so many things I want to say while I am doing my talks, but I get overwhelmed and lose my ability to speak. I get confused and upset and have to soldier on. I feel I am letting down the people who come to see me. I worry that they are wondering why I keep being invited to speak at places when I suck at my talks and they’re not very good.

I have reached the decision that I need to focus on regaining my mental health.

I have a few conferences I would like to attend next year, but right now it is my plan to do a hard reset on my brain to see if I can go back to how much better I was two years ago.

I got into speaking because I thought I could offer a unique perspective on various aspects of technology and give funny, interesting talks. I have been failing at this for a while now. I need more spoons to put together the kinds of talks that I would want to see. I need a break.

I have one single exception to this decision for 2019. I would be willing to speak about autism. If someone invited me to do a keynote about autism, I would happily accept that. I feel that there is a lot of misunderstanding about this in our community and I feel that this is a topic I could offer a unique perspective on. If no one is interested in hearing what I have to say about autism, that’s fine.

I have been afraid to take time off from speaking because I am afraid people will forget that I exist. I am afraid that if I leave and try to come back that everyone will have moved on and no one will care about what I have to say. I am hoping that when I am in a better mental state with better information to share that there will be people who want me back.

I have also been afraid that I have alienated people while I have been having mental health issues. There are several people who have blocked me on Twitter that have taken me by surprise. I had an incredibly negative reaction from someone I considered a friend that I knew for four years and I don’t understand what happened. I don’t know what I did to anger them to the point that they have cut me off. My overarching goal in my career has been to try to be a happy and positive influence in the community. If I am not achieving that goal, then I need to step back and recharge so that I can be the person I want to be.

Thanks for reading this post. I hope that when I find something I want to talk about that an audience will be there to listen. I also hope that my delivery of it will be worth listening to.

Late Summer 2017 Conferences and Availability

A little over two weeks ago I finally was able to submit the final chapter for the rough draft of my book. I started the book back in October and it’s been a real trip. One thing I have not been able to do during the time I have been writing the book is have a stable full time job. Book writing is a full time job in and of itself, but it sadly doesn’t pay super well. One of my goals in the next few months is to line up a job so that I can start digging myself out of the hole I’m in.

I have two months to line something up. I am going to be speaking at a lot of conferences and doing a lot of traveling over the next two months. If you’re interested in seeing me, here are some of your options:

  • That Conference: That Conference is a spin off of Code Mash. It is a multi-platform conference that takes place at the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells. My talk on graphics programming will be on August 8th, which also happens to be the same day the final editing pass on all of my chapters is due. Busy times.
  • 360iDev: After missing the conference last year due to various work commitments, I am looking forward to coming back and seeing all my old indie friends. I will be doing a similar talk on graphics to the one I did at That Conference, but more tailored for iOS. That will be on August 16th in Denver, CO.
  • iOSDevUK: I get to take my second trip across the pond, both this year and in general, at the beginning of September. This conferences is in Aberystwyth, Wales and I will be presenting a two-hour pre-conference workshop on ARKit on Monday, September 4th.
  • Strangeloop: My final conference will be another multi-platform conference, but this time about cutting edge technology. I will be giving a talk on GPGPU programming on the iPhone using Metal and will try to talk a bit about CoreML. Strangeloop is in St. Louis, MO.

The book is set to release on December 4, 2017. I am working on the sample code that will accompany the book. My focus in writing the book was to provide more conceptual information about how Metal can be used rather than just cataloging the API. One of my frustrations in trying to learn OpenGL was the focus on the API with the assumption that everyone knows what a texture is and what Euler angles are. It is my intention that anyone buying the book use the sample code I am creating as canon since both Metal and Swift change so rapidly. I will maintain it and keep it up to date and I hope to add to it as new features become available.

I feel incredibly lucky to have had a chance to write this book. From the moment Metal was introduced in 2014 I felt like it was my thing. I worried I waited too long to get involved with it, but it seems like it’s been rather difficult for people to approach it due to the vast amounts of other concepts one must be familiar with before one can use Metal. I am hoping that this book helps open Metal up to other iOS developers.

I am planning my next steps right now. Beyond just finding a job and getting a paycheck, I have a few goals over the next few years that I would dearly love to fulfill. I will be sure to post more about them when they become more tangible. So far over the last ten years things have simply worked themselves out. I am hoping that this streak continues and that I know my next step when I see it. Until then, I am going to focus on the tasks ahead of me and do my best.

The Fallacy of Logic

Over the last 24 hours I have had several upsetting exchanges with people. I was dumb and responded to a notorious Twitter troll because I had just woken up and was angry and behaved impulsively. Later that day, I had someone I didn’t know call me out on it and demand that I logically defend my behavior. They told me if I was going to state my opinion online I should expect some backlash and be prepared to defend my point of view.

I got very upset and told this person that if they thought I was an irrational bitch that was just fine with me. This person got incredibly offended and told me not to put words in his mouth. He continued to fight with me until I broke down upset. In order to preserve peace with the rest of the people in the chat room who had witnessed this exchange, I apologized to them for engaging in this argument. The person who started it misunderstood who the apology was for and thanked me for apologizing to him. This action has made me physically ill and prevented me from sleeping much last night.

I have been rolling around in my head why this exchange upset me so badly. I wonder if I am unreasonable. I wonder why the hell this person felt that verbally attacking me on a chat room was perfectly fine but me implying he thought I was a bitch was simply beyond the pale and a bridge too far.

I have had a number of these kinds of exchanges over the last year. I noticed that people became incredibly hostile during the 2016 Presidential election. I had hoped that things would die down after that, but if nothing else, they’ve gotten worse. I had to deactivate my Facebook account because I was being attacked by people for not sharing their exact specific political beliefs. I have left multiple Slack rooms this year because one person out of 50-100 will lay into me about how my observations of sexism and discrimination do not fit in with their experiences as young white men who have computer science degrees who live in San Francisco.

None of these people are evil. I know several of them are generally nice people, but the way they engage me upsets me greatly. I feel like a rattlesnake frantically rattling my tail to warn them not to step on me. I don’t like being stepped on and biting them takes a lot out of me. They’re always surprised when they get bitten and decide that I am not behaving rationally and they get quite angry. I cut a lot of these people off because I simply can’t deal with them anymore.

I have been told that some of these people I have cut off are saying I am paranoid. They are saying I am mentally ill and I am destroying relationships with all my allies and one has gone as far as to say I am a sociopath.

I don’t want toxic people in my life. Life is short. I love cooking. I love my dogs. I love to write books even though they stress the living crap out of me sometimes. I feel like the world is this vast sea of endless possibilities and things to learn and explore. Then I get dragged down by the reality of trying to interact with other people who want to fight with me about Swift equivalents of vim versus emacs. These people drain all of my optimism and turn me into an angry bitter person that I don’t like being.

I have been trying to figure out why I am not allowed to simply withdraw from interactions I find unpleasant. I am not allowed to simply retract whatever the offending statement is. It is demanded that I defend it to the death and give up my precious spoons arguing with someone who is never going to be convinced that they are wrong.

I believe it is a fallacy of logic.

My ex-husband was an atheist. He said he would not believe in anything that couldn’t be proven with science. He said if Neil Degrasse Tyson says it’s true, then it must be so. Once he verbally assaulted me in the car to the point I was planning to jump out of the moving vehicle for saying “God bless you” to a stranger in public.

I am not an atheist. I would consider myself a Christian except I do things like read Tarot cards that I am pretty sure Christians see as witchcraft. I get very strong feelings about things that I know to be true but I have no evidence for their existence. When I was an atheist for ten years I would ignore these feelings and ignoring them always got me in trouble. I had a stranger talk his way into my dorm room and even though I had a bad feeling about him, I couldn’t think of a logical response to his argument that I should let him in. He raped me so badly I now have PTSD. My life was not on a good track and my world felt quite grey and empty. I decided ten years ago to believe in God, even though I had no evidence for his existence. I decided to trust those gut feelings i had been ignoring for ten years because they weren’t rational and to have faith that they were leading me to a better place.

I read a book many years ago called “Blink!” by Malcolm Gladwell where he talks about how our unconscious mind works much faster than our conscious mind does. It’s like having a background thread and a main thread. We can instinctively know something without being able to consciously and verbally explain it. I have faith in these feelings in spite of lack of evidence and I believe in them deeply. I have discovered most people in tech are not like this.

Emotions are not rational. We have been trained as a society to scorn anything that isn’t rational and can’t be explained very simply with logic. Any time I have a discussion with someone who doesn’t agree with me, they have a long list of talking points with very simple ideas that they use to try and convince you that you’re wrong. A lot of these people are simply unwilling to believe that you can see where they are coming from and still disagree with them.

I remember in college having boys try to logically explain to me why I should have sex with them. I was dumb and at the time I thought I could reason with them, but any arguments I made with them only gave them another argument point they could use to try and reason with me about why I should have sex. I would tell them I found them unattractive. They would say “Well I don’t find you attractive either! But sex is fun!” They were so invested in getting the result they wanted that it was completely useless to argue with them and the only course of action you had was to just walk away and hope they found someone else who is less work.

That is what the tech industry feels like to me some days.

I am not allowed to have my finely honed sense of intuition about anything because everything must be an argument. I can’t say that I don’t want to interact with someone who persists in arguing with me about nothing because that makes me a bad person. It doesn’t matter that these arguments destroy my ability to function. I am expected to have them because if I simply refuse no one knows how to respond.

Everyone is invested in believing that whatever they believe is right and correct and they have constructed intricate logical facts around supporting that believe. If someone doesn’t agree with them, they feel it is a personal attack on their core sense of self. They defend it to the death and feel that they are doing nothing wrong in behaving this way.

There was an interesting study recently that showed that most men will say that rape is wrong. They will swear up and down that they would never rape anyone. But then laster in the survey they admitted to forcing a woman to have sex that they knew did not want to have sex. There is a fundamental disconnect in their brains between the word “rapist” and what it means to rape someone.

We have a lot of labels for people that are not nice. Racist. Sexist. Rapist. Nazi. No one wants to be associated with being a racist even if they have racist beliefs. Calling someone a racist is seen as being similar to calling someone a bitch. It’s lost all meaning other than as a name you can call someone to try and make them feel bad about themselves. They don’t want to be called a racist. They think that their racist beliefs are rational and can logically be explained and that someone who is a racist hates for no reason and therefore can’t be them.

I hate to break it to you, but feelings are irrational. We feel the way we do based on things we can’t really explain. We are a result of decades of experiences and neurochemical reactions. I know people who got slighted by someone when they were seven years old and that one experience still angers them to this day. My father is still angry at being slighted by someone forty years ago who died in a terrible car accident thirty years ago.

We’re all giant bundles of irrational behaviors. I just wish that we were better at accepting that sometimes there isn’t a logical explanation for why we feel the way we do. We’re all entitled to our own perspective on something without feeling like the existence of a different perspective threatens our own.

If someone is triggering my PTSD symptoms and doing something I find threatening, I am entitled to end that conversation. I should not have to suffer flashbacks because someone finds it fun and engaging to get involved in an endless argument over nothing. You don’t get to argue with me that what you’re doing wouldn’t bother 99% of the rest of the population. It bothers me. If you persist in behavior that I perceive as threatening I have the right to cut you off to protect myself mentally. If you know that what you are doing is upsetting me and you persist in doing it, you are harassing me. My right to feel safe is greater than your right to argue with me. I don’t care if you agree with me or not. I am entitled to my own perspective just as you are entitled to yours. Agree to disagree and get a beer with me later. Or call me a bitch. I would vastly prefer that to the death of a thousand cuts of being forced to explain why I feel differently than you do while looking for a way to escape.

What Will Your Verse Be?

Yesterday was the conclusion of WWDC 2017, and what a WWDC it was. It felt like everyone got what they wanted. Most developers got better stability in tooling and not too many changes to the core frameworks. We also got some breathtaking graphics and games APIs, like ARKit, along with easier integration for machine learning models, such as MLKit.

I watched the keynote in awe, my brain exploding with everything that was now possible in iOS. I had augmented reality on my wish list, so that thrilled me. But seeing how much love Apple gave Metal really touched me deeply. I have spent the last eight months working on a Metal book and I had feared that it would land with an unceremonious thump and no one would care about a three year old technology framework. The keynote gave me hope that Metal would be a continuing important part of Apple’s future for the time being and that my efforts were not wasted.

I downloaded the Xcode 9 beta with the intention of diving into ARKit. The beta still has not been extracted from its .zip file. I got home and immediately became overwhelmed by everything. There are so many new things. I tried to look at the docs but my head swam and I couldn’t deal with it.

The next day I started to see people posting their own AR efforts and a few days after that I started seeing ML efforts. I got very depressed. I left the keynote feeling like I was ahead of the curve and now I was already behind it again.

I feel we in the Apple Developer Community have been trained to jump on every new shiny thing Apple announces immediately. We all remember missing out on the Gold Rush when you could put out an app that you made over a weekend with some new piece of technology that Apple created and earn $10,000 in a week. The new Photos stuff allows us to do a vast but limited number of things and if you want your Photos app to be the top dog you have to get it out before anyone else does because you all have access to the same tools and the barrier to entry is low.

I want to be emphatic about this point: That is not the same situation with ARKit or Core ML.

My background is in the creative field. I wanted to be a film director and do sound design. My dream since I was a child was to have the Back to the Future experience of getting a box of books on my doorstep that had my name on them and to know I wrote a book. I have had that experience several times now and I feel quite blessed that I got to have that experience.

Anyone can write a book. We all have access to the same tools. There are fancy authoring tools like Ulysses and Scribner that cost $50, which is basically nothing compared to the cost of being an iOS developer. There are self publishing sites everywhere that will allow you to publish your book if no one else is interested, or if you don’t want to give up 50% of your royalties.

Just because anyone can write a book doesn’t mean everyone will write a book. Also, it doesn’t mean that someone else is going to write your book.

We still read stories that were written hundreds of years ago because they speak to something foundational about how we see ourselves as human beings. I read Tarot cards and the cards haven’t changed for a hundred years in spite of all of our changing circumstances because even though we all have iPhones and can connect at any given moment, what makes us human has not changed. We all worry about money. We all strive to advance in our careers. We all crave love. We all desire to have some kind of family, even if that family consists of friends and a grumble of pugs. Those aspects of ourselves don’t change.

A story by Jane Austin still resonates with us because we know how difficult it is to find another person you are willing to spend the rest of your life with. Romeo and Juliet still appeals to hormonal teenagers to whom every little bump in the road is the end of the world and for whom every relationship is forever. Unfortunately, the same applies to Twilight.

One reason so many people are appalled at the behavior of the Republicans right now in trying to strip tens of millions of Americans of their health insurance is because it goes against our script of what we think people should be like. Atrocities like the Holocaust speak to us on a deep level because it goes against our human nature of the way that we think people should behave. And it keeps happening. This is one reason The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter have such staying power. They speak of ordinary people being placed in extraordinary circumstances, facing incredible odds, to attempt to defeat evil. The evil of Lord of the Rings was a different evil than we have now, but evil is never truly defeated. If you wanted The Legend of Korra, you know that light and dark are in an eternal battle where one can never truly vanquish the other.

Yin and Yang. Darkness and Light. Good and Evil.


Augmented Reality has me excited because it opens up another medium to tell stories. You could create an AR app that takes you around the Tower of London while you investigate the disappearances of the Princes in the Tower. You can stand on the site that Anne Boleyn lost her head and see the crowds of people observing the event. It makes these old sites and dusty facts come alive in a way that they can’t if you’re just reading about them in a book.

Technology in and of itself doesn’t make something compelling. Every Jurassic Park movie has dinosaurs, but only the first one truly feels special. When I think about Jurassic Park, I don’t think about the dinosaurs. I think about the characters and their story arcs. The overarching story arc is a tale of human hubris where a con man with a bunch of money is able to cobble together extinct animals by buying enough technology other people developed in order to create an amusement park to make money. He doesn’t think through the consequences of what he’s doing and is brought low by his own hubris.

The secondary arc of the film has to do with Alan Grant. The first thing you learn about him is that he hates computers and technology. Nothing in this movie is going to change that opinion. The second thing you learn about Alan Grant is that he doesn’t like children. So of course he is the one that is stuck watching the children after the park goes to hell. He goes through a fundamental change by having to interact with actual children and at the end of the film they snuggle with him as Dr. Sadler starts ovulating. It keeps Dr. Grant from just being the crabby guy who loses all of the good one-liners to Jeff Goldblum.

We’ve seen many other films in the last 25 years that have dinosaurs, including the most recent Jurassic Park last year. But none of these films have the satisfying feeling that the first one does. It has an encapsulated story and a grand theme of human scientific hubris. Everything goes to hell the way it’s foreshadowed. The park is destroyed by the unnatural force that was brought into it, and all of the people we actually care about survive. It’s a satisfying story that is enhanced by the use of special effects that are actually used quite sparingly.

One reason Pokemon GO was so successful was because it was building off of an experience that people have been emulating for 25 years, which was to pretend to live in a world where little pocket monsters live in the tall grass and can be captured and made into your friend. There is a sense of wonder about Pokemon GO in that you can take it into the normal world that you inhabit and you can lift the veil on the normal world and expose a fantastical world you never knew was there. Most people agree that Pokemon GO was rather repetitive and the game play wasn’t great, but it created an experience that was wanted by a large number of people. The same thing happens when people visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park.

One thing these have in common is that they are pre-existing properties that have large and established fan bases. Most developers aren’t going to be able to go out and create their own Doctor Who augmented reality application because of licensing issues. So that means that there really isn’t a hurry to go out and do whatever the first few AR apps are going to be. If a company like Warner Bros wants to release their own Harry Potter AR app, you can’t stop them. But you can think about what story you want to tell.

AR is a tool that is made or broken by the story that the creator wants to tell. You can create an interactive murder mystery or a tour of a museum. There are so many unexplored avenues of AR that the limit is what you can imagine and how much work you’re willing to put into creating that experience.

We have such tools to create and express ideas, yet few people seem to. I am guilty of that as well. I do hope that the barrier to entry gets low enough that I can spare some time to create some experiences for the joy of creation. But please do think about creating something for the joy of creating it and not because you assume that there are a wealth of new AR related jobs or a limited number of AR apps to be created and you must pursue the money train on this. That train goes over a cliff. We have so many media for self expression and no time to do it and no stories to tell. Life is filled with possibilities if you lift the veil on the real world and reveal the hidden one.

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry, because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering — these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love — these are what we stay alive for.

To quote from Whitman: ‘O me, O life of the questions of these recurring. Of the endless trains of the faithless. Of cities filled with the foolish. What good amid these, O me, O life? Answer: That you are here. That life exists and identity. That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.’

What will your verse be?

Goals for 2017

We’re about halfway through 2017. WWDC starts on Monday. I have been working on a book on Metal since about October. My life has been on hold since then as I knew I couldn’t really work a full time job and write a book on Metal at the same time. Metal is incredibly mentally comprehensive. It’s a multidisciplinary skill as you don’t just have to understand the framework, you have to have a large base of knowledge around linear algebra applications in order to have it do anything useful. Half of my book is about graphics and half is about machine vision/learning and GPGPU programming. So trying to learn all of these things and distill them into something that’s actually coherent to other people has been incredibly mentally exhausting. It’s been rewarding as well. I honestly don’t think I could do this while also working full time concurrently.

I am getting to the end of my time on the rough draft of the book and I need to figure out what I am going to do when it’s over. My plan was to try and knock this book out as quickly as possible and then hope I could use it as a portfolio piece to find a decent full time job that would hopefully allow me to work remotely. As I nearing the end of this process, I don’t really want to do that yet. Don’t get me wrong, if someone offered me a decent full time job that let me work from my house right now, I would accept it immediately. But right now that’s not what my main career goal is for the near future.

One of the wonderful things I got to do this year was attend GDC. I got to meet a lot of awesome game developers. As an iOS developer, I meet a lot of people who think game development would be cool, but it doesn’t pay anything, so they stick to learning Core Data and doing boring things that will keep them employed and pay the bills.

I don’t have an app out on the store. I have published multiple books (and yes, I do know how to code!) and have worked on many long term projects with a team of other people. But it bothers me that I have never published an app. Specifically, I want to publish a game.

I have been toying with game development for a few years. I have tried working through a few books on game development assuming that game programming would be exactly like iOS programming. It’s not. There are a lot of design patterns that are fundamentally different between iOS and game programming. Also within game programming, there are a lot of foundational differences between a platformer game and an RPG. Just knowing some foundational SpriteKit information is helpful, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg for creating something interesting.

I see game development as being similar to Metal in that just learning the framework isn’t enough. You have to have an idea about what you want to do with it in order for it to be truly useful. A lot of Apple’s frameworks are very Lego-block like in that you have a bunch of built-in methods to do whatever it is you want it to do. That can be satisfying to throw together, but it doesn’t give the same feeling of creation you get from doing something outside the box.

As of right now, I have two goals I would like to accomplish in 2017:

  1. Publish my Metal Book
  2. Publish a Game Made With SpriteKit

I know that my first goal will be accomplished. I don’t know about the second one. The second one depends upon me being able to line up enough part time contract work to pay my bills while also leaving enough time for me to dedicate to game development.

I am talking to several people who have created successful consulting companies about trying to figure out how to do this successfully. I have been consulting for the last year or so, but it’s been rather haphazard. I have been fortunate enough to know someone who needed a contractor at exactly the right time I needed to begin something else. I don’t want to continue to rely on getting lucky in order to sustain myself. I know if I want to do this long term I need to put time and energy into it.

So why am I writing this blog post?

I believe in manifest visualization. I have noticed that many people have amorphous goals that don’t really line up with what they actually want to accomplish. I went to school for audio engineering and a lot of people wanted to be rap stars. They didn’t want to be rap stars because they enjoyed making music, they wanted to be rich and famous. Being a rap star seemed like the easiest way to get rich and famous and they assumed that being rich and famous would make them happy. This lead to a lot of people being put into exploitive situations that did not make them rich, famous, or happy.

I believe having concrete goals you want to accomplish with no extraneous strings attached to them is the best way to approach accomplishing anything. My goal with the book was that I wanted to learn Metal and I wanted to have a book on Metal with my name on it out in the world. I have no illusions that it’s going to get me hired by Apple or propel me into a job where I make fuck you money. I don’t have any illusions about it out-earning my advance. If I never see another penny from it and it doesn’t change my career, I am still happy I did it because it’s something I wanted to do.

Right now my hope is that I can line up part time contract work (~ 20 hours a week) through the end of the year so that I can publish my game. I am hoping that by focusing on what I want to accomplish and having concrete ideas about how to do it that I will be able to reach my goal. I don’t think my game is going to earn any money and it will probably look very amateurish and get lots of one-star reviews, but I want to create it because it’s something I want to know I can do. I am praying that I can find a way to add value to someone’s company as a contractor that also allows me enough free time to pursue my own passions and interests.

I don’t know if I will be able to pull off what I want, but I at least have an idea about what that is. It does no good to get everything you ever wanted only to find out you wanted the wrong things.

The Metal Programming Guide Pre-Order

After many long months of work, “The Metal Programming Guide” is available for pre-order. Many people have been asking me questions and here are the answers to the most frequent ones:

  • The book is in Swift.
  • I don’t know if this will be available in an eBook format. I would be greatly surprised if it wasn’t. Every other book in the Red Book series has a Kindle or a PDF version available. If the book is available as an eBook, I believe it will be accessible.
  • I will be taking into account what happens at WWDC. As of today, the rough draft of the book is 75% complete. That translates to 15 chapters completed and five to go. I have a placeholder chapter for whatever new and shiny thing may be introduced at WWDC.
  • There is going to be sample code. I had some really tight writing deadlines and it was not possible for me to write the code concurrently with writing the book. I intend to spend the time between when the book is completed and when it’s released to ensure there is good informative sample code. I hope to continue to add to this sample code and maintain it as Swift and Metal evolve.
  • The overall composition of the book is about 50% graphics and 50% GPGPU programming. There are a few chapters in the graphics section that you will need to read if you’re only interested in GPGPU programming. Those are detailed at the beginning of that section.

One thing that I have learned while working on this book is that it’s impossible for this to be everything to all people. There are chapters in this book that have entire books dedicated to them. It wasn’t possible to write all of the implementation details of complex operations such as facial detection. My hope with the book is to basically prime the mental pump. I hope that if you encounter a topic you find interesting that I am giving you just enough information about it that you can somewhat wrap your head around it and seek out dedicated resources for it.

One of the biggest questions I have gotten over the last year is “Why should I know Metal?“ I am hoping that my conceptual chapters do a good job of answering that question for you.

I’m incredibly excited for this book. This is the book I have wanted to write since WWDC 2014. I thought that I waited too long and I missed out on being the person to write this book. I feel incredibly grateful for having the opportunity to take a year and really dive deeply into Metal. I knew since I started programming I wanted to learn and understand graphics. Getting to take that knowledge and apply it to thinks like data analysis and machine learning.

I loved math as a child. I felt like it was the language that helps us understand the Universe. I strayed away from it as a young adult because I had a bad experience with it and figured I was stupid and that it wasn’t for me. By bashing my head against vectors and matrices and seeing how you can use them to do amazing things has been a mental renaissance for me.

In life you don’t get a lot of opportunities to work on something you’re passionate about. I have been fortunate in my career to have several of these opportunities and I cherish every one of them.

Legitimate Complexity and The Art of Teaching

I have been working on a book on Metal for the last several months, since October. I am entering one final push and trying to complete the rough draft of this book by the end of June. That gives me about a week to write each chapter, which is really stressing me out and upsetting me tremendously.

The thing that is stressing me out is that I feel like learning Metal is like zooming into a fractal. Every time I think that I have a good grasp on the material, I realize there is a much more complicated layer of complexity underneath what I just learned. The complexity grows exponentially.

Metal is multi-disciplinary. It’s not just the framework. It’s all the things around the framework that you need to understand in order to actually create something useful. There are a lot of math concepts and a lot of 3D graphics concepts that most books on OpenGL don’t focus on because no one wants to write a 2000 page book that contains everything you need to know that absolutely no one will read.

I am frantically trying to edit myself enough to present a coherent chunk of information in each chapter without getting overwhelmed with all the things I don’t have time to explain or learn.

I’ve been an iOS developer for the last five years. I learned a lot of programming from Ray Wenderlich tutorials. Those tutorials are fantastic, but I feel like they give a false impression that anything anyone wants to do can be broken down into a 3,000 word step-by-step tutorial.

Right now I am trying to work through their 2D Games by Tutorials book. This book is a monster. It’s nearly 700 pages long. I have only ever gotten through the first 150 before I got overwhelmed and given up. I managed to get further than I had before, but it’s still incredibly dense. If you asked me what they could have gotten rid of to make it less overwhelming, I would be hard pressed to tell you.

A lot of things we do, especially when we’re starting out, are small and easily encapsulated. This lulls us into a false sense that everything we do will be simple and easily encapsulated. We develop sound byte memories where if something can’t be spoon fed to us in ten pages or less, then we get muddled and confused. This severely limits our ability to work on anything more complicated.

I am absolutely not picking on Ray’s site. It’s an amazing resource and the reason the tutorials are set up the way they are is because of this issue of us only being able to handle a certain amount of complexity. His site is working with how we process information rather than being a source of bad habits. I have nothing but admiration and respect for the writers on that team and I do not want this to come off as me bashing them or saying people who learn from that site are not real developers. I am simply talking about how for the last few years I have lulled myself into believing that everything can be broken down into easily digestible chunks when not everything can.

At this point I am trying to figure out how to expand my brain’s bandwidth so that I can tackle more complexity than I am used to. It’s incredibly difficult to do so. Not only am I trying to figure out something incredibly complex, I am also trying to process and package it into a digestible chunk by another person.

I have been reading a lot of graphics books and gotten frustrated at how abstract they are. I get frustrated that certain things are assumed and that nothing seems to be explained. I am now beginning to understand that once you reach a certain level of complexity there is a limit to how well you can convey that information.

This is an issue we are currently dealing with in our political sphere. Take the tax system for example. The tax system is an incredibly complex system that most people don’t really understand. When we go to vote for our representatives, it sounds good to say “Reform the tax system to make sure everyone pays their fair share,” but how to actually implement that is complicated. Something that is simple and sounds fair usually winds up being worse that the current system that is too complicated to explain in a 30-second sound byte on the evening news.

In programming we talk about precision and elegance. Those are concepts that do well in incredibly controlled and contrived situations. When you have to deal with things in the real world, stuff gets messy. There are edge cases. Things don’t behave predictably.

For a “simple” example, look at dates and times. There are 365 days in a year, 24 hours in a day, sixty minutes in an hour, and sixty seconds in a minute. Except when there aren’t. Every four years our year has 366 days. Then you get into leap seconds. Then you have Einstein’s Theory of Relativity where clocks that are shot into space are slightly off from their counterparts back on Earth. Things get wibbly wobbly awful damn fast and this should be a straightforward example.

I get that the world is so hopelessly complex that if we tried to understand the full scope of just how little is standing between us and total anarchy our heads would explode. We simplify complex systems as a means of being able to just cope with every day.

Right now I am frustrated because I am just beginning to grasp something that is hopelessly complex, but I don’t know how to package it in a way that is accessible to a group of people. I want to write a Rosetta Stone where someone can read through my book and totally understand a complex system, but that really isn’t possible. It would take a hundred pages to walk a reader through creating every piece they need to get a minimum useful thing up and running.

I am doing the best I can to present the information to someone in a way that will help them figure things out. I am trying not to be hard on myself for not being able to do an impossible thing. I know with several years of practice and working with this, that I can master it. I have to accept that there is no magic book that will intuitively teach you everything you need to know in order to do something legitimately complicated. I can just try to do my best to present what information I think your brain can handle and hope that you can find the next step to figure out the rest for yourself.

Moneyball: The Art of Scouting Programming Talent

Back when I was in London I suffered from a nasty bout of food poisoning. I wound up spending a lot of time in bed hiding in my hotel room. I got bored and looked for something to watch on TV. A channel was playing the movie Moneyball.

I am not a huge baseball fan, but I am interested in data and statistics, so I started watching it not really knowing if I was going to like it or not. It wound up captivating me in a way I didn’t think it would.

It was less about the statistic and more about the story of the central protagonist, team manager Billy Beane. Billy was scouted for the major leagues as a high school student and signed to join the Mets at age 17. His career was lackluster and he never really lived up to his potential.

The movie only briefly covered this backstory, but it fascinated me. Why had he not lived up to his potential? Did he just peak too early? What happened?

I finally bit the bullet and bought the book the movie was based on and I got a better overall explanation of what happened. Billy Beane was one of the most intelligent kinesthetic learners of the century. He was capable of doing things no one else thought possible and making them look easy. His physical talent and capabilities were beyond question.

The issue was his mind.

He never learned to cope with failure. As a high school student, he was always so much better than everyone else that failure was never something he thought much about. When he started playing against people older and more experienced than he was, he would strike out and his batting average dropped. He was unable to cope with this failure, so it manifested in explosive rage and he developed an inability to perform. If his first at-bat went poorly he was done for the rest of the game. He was afraid of embarrassment. He modified his batting to try and not strike out as often, but it worked against his natural athletic gifts. The only person keeping Billy from being a super star was Billy himself.

This story really strikes a chord with me. I speak somewhat openly about having mental health issues. I have had multiple jobs over the last few years where the work environment destroyed my ability to function. I would sob because I knew the programming knowledge to do a task was locked away in a safe somewhere in my mind and I could not access it because my mental health was in shambles. It’s so hard to tell someone that this isn’t you. You know you can do better, but you just can’t right now because your mind is interfering with your ability to function.

Over the years I have learned some coping skills. I know how I work best and I try as best I can to tell people I work for how I work so that they don’t break me. Some of them respect that. A lot of them don’t. I honestly don’t understand why a company would spend so much money on programmers and then make dick moves that destroy their effectiveness. The only explanation I have is that they don’t think of programmers as people. We’re a disposable resource. We’re like race horses. They are all excited about us until we break a leg, then they take us out back and shoot us and go out and buy a new one.

There was another aspect of the book that resonated with me. I have had very bad experiences with jobs where I feel like the people who hired me are waiting for me to fail. They look for any indication that I misrepresented myself or that there is some reason I can’t do what they want and they cut their losses and let me go. I see other people who are completely incompetent who linger forever and continue to get another chance in spite of their past record of failures.

One of the points of the book was talking about how baseball scouting has always been done. A bunch of guys will travel around watching high school baseball games looking for talent. They have a preconceived notion of what a star baseball player looks like. He has to be tall and muscular and have the right look. He has to have the right tools. He has to have a presence.

There was a whole chapter about the scouts sitting down with the economist who did the statistics going over who the scouts wanted and who the economist wanted. Most of the players the economist wanted horrified the scouts. They were all too fat, or not tall enough, or they would throw funny. It didn’t matter what their past statistics said about their ability, they didn’t have the right look. The scouts couldn’t imagine them being the next big thing.

Billy Beane was allowed to languish in baseball for ten years in spite of a poor track record of success because he had the right look. Everyone was waiting for him to shake off whatever was wrong with him so that he could be the player everyone imagined he could be. Baseball scouting is less about what someone has done and more about what you can imaging them becoming.

This applies so much to technology as well. We have the myth of the 20-year-old programmer in a hoodie who writes code that changes the world. We have ingrained in ourselves what we think a programmer is and how they’re supposed to look and act. If you’re a venture capitalist, you’re not looking at a track record of past success, you’re looking for someone that feels right. You look at what you imaging that person can be rather than who they are.

Having several failed start ups is seen as a bonus, but only if you’re the right kind of person. People are willing to keep giving you chances because they have a gut feeling that you are going to become something even though you have no past track record to back it up.

If you’re black, or female, or trans, or some other underrepresented minority group, it’s harder for venture capitalists to imagine what you could become. It doesn’t matter as much if you have a solid business plan or if you’re doing something no one else is doing. If it’s something that is outside of their scope of understanding, you’re not going to sell them of the fantasy of being Peter Theil investing in Facebook.

This is a larger problem even beyond the scope of who gets funding and who doesn’t. We are sold on the idea that a programmer looks and acts a certain way. Everyone has to be a 10x programmer. Everyone has to work 80 hours a week. Everyone has to be passionate. Everyone has to keep learning the next hot thing because if you don’t you’ll be left behind. Everyone has to be under the age of 30 because young people are smarter.

No one can ever be wrong. No one can ever admit to not knowing something.

I think one reason we have so many toxic hostile arguments about code is for many of the same reasons Billy Beane did not pan out as a baseball player. People can’t ever be wrong. People can’t fail. Our self worth is wrapped up in being the smartest guy in the room. We can’t tolerate ideas that are different from our own because if we’re wrong, then who are we? Are we those losers who refused to learn object-oriented programming in the 90’s who can’t find jobs now? Are we those people we make fun of who write JavaScript and copy and paste code from Stack Overflow?

I think we make the mistake of thinking that a lot of the toxic behaviors we see come from a place of strength. It’s quite the opposite. It comes from a place of fear. We fear being displaced. We fear being wrong. We lash out at minorities because we benefit from looking like what a programmer should look like and the fewer people we have to compete with, the easier it is to be at the top of the heap (or the stack).

I have had people who are less talented than I am sabotage me at work because they see their job as a zero sum game. You are either the smartest person at the office or you are not. It’s a competition. If someone knows more than you do, then it diminishes your sense of self and you must get rid of the person who is challenging your identity.

We are limiting what people are capable of by forcing them to put on a facade that they are never wrong. We are creating a more toxic environment by conforming to these ideas of what a programmer is supposed to look like. We think we’re special unique snowflakes, but we’re not. This is a problem everywhere.

We need to stop breaking people by trying to force them to conform to a mold that was set fifteen years ago. We need to be open to people who look different and have different ideas. We need to stop making people feel inadequate if they are not the smartest person in the room. We need to stop being hostile to people who are different and waiting for them to fail while giving a pass to the people who look like us because we imaging what they could be. That’s a fantasy, not reality. They’ll never become what they’re capable of if we don’t challenge them to think differently.