Life Hacking: Phase Two

I finished my second week on my schedule. My first week was a little rocky, but the second week worked better. I only missed one day of yoga and meditation.

I am really surprised, but my house is coming along a lot faster than I thought it would. After I started breaking it down into manageable tasks, I made a lot of progress. Knowing that I was going to give away or throw away a lot of my junk really helped.

After the initial excitement of getting house clean subsided, I was still left with an empty feeling. I thought maybe I was just lonely, but I tried interacting with other people and it didn’t go so well.

I’ve felt rather empty since I went to CocoaConf San Jose. I couldn’t really put my finger on why. I still really can’t. It might just be a new phase of the depression, but I am trying to figure out what to do to fill the hole in my soul.

The meditation and getting my house clean is helping, but I still feel a lot of melancholy about the direction my life is going.

Doing What You Love

I saw Brent Simmons talking about his reflections on getting older at CocoaConf San Jose. One thing that he said specifically really connected with me. He said to do what you love.

He said that he loves working with text and HTTP. I have things that I love that I don’t get to work with because I don’t know them well enough to really make a go of them.

I met my mentor Brad because I wanted to learn OpenGL and work with GPUImage. He hired me to come work for him, but we didn’t work with those things. We did this really amazing project where we rewrote our robotics software in Swift. It was an incredible experience and opportunity, but I felt like my iOS and Cocoa skills were atrophying. I also had to drive sixty miles a day and I had no time or energy to work on the things I loved.

I started working for Black Pixel recently. I work remotely. It’s been really nice to not have to drive two hours a day and never see my pugs, but I am still not working on the things that I love. This is to be expected. I am a new programmer and we all have to work on things we don’t necessarily love. I am not trying to be bratty or anything, I am just trying to figure out how to balance out what people need me to do with what I want to do with what I need to do to keep from falling into a depression.

I like to dream about just quitting my job and spending three months doing whatever the hell I want, but I know that wouldn’t happen. I would be okay for a day or two, then my lack of structure and deadlines and accountability would throw me into a depression and I would get nothing done. I dream about taking a coding cruise where I spend a week working on whatever I want with no distractions, but I know I would go crazy not being able to check on Twitter every five minutes.

I might be able to get to this point at some point in the next few years, but I am not there now.

I need to figure out how to put myself on a path that I want to be.

One thing a lot of people ask me is how I wound up working for Brad. I got to work for him because I was very targeted and focused on what I wanted. I had a list of five companies (including Black Pixel) that I eventually wanted to work for. I decided I would not take any job that did not further that goal.

I talked to so many of my classmates who would not just specialize and get good at one thing because they felt like they had to know a little of everything in case someone wanted to hire them to do any of them. So there are lots of people who I talk to who complain about being stuck working on Java because it pays the bills and it’s too hard to make the move to something they didn’t invest capital in, like iOS.

This scares the crap out of me. I am terrified of becoming an expert in something I hate and then being too apathetic to make the move to something I love because it’s too lucrative for me to stay with what I am doing. This is trap. This is the path to the Dark Side.

So what do I do?

Getting Back on Track

I need mental discipline. I need structure. I am starting to work with this by setting up a schedule for myself. Now that I am through the first few weeks of my schedule, it’s time to evolve it a little.

I want to be a graphics programmer. I need to spend time learning how to do it and doing projects. This is what I am adding to my schedule.

My plan is to do something every week and write it up on Sunday. I have a tentative list of things that qualify for that something:

Learning Project List

  • Make a decent OpenGL Template
  • Write custom shaders for GPUImage
  • Analyze and write-up an explanation of the math and code in a shader in GPUImage
  • Read a chapter in a book like “Metal By Example” or “iOS Drawing” and then do a sample project based on what I learned in there
  • Work through a tutorial on Core Animation, Sprite Kit, Scene Kit, etc…

I noticed that people tend to want to talk to you about things you talk/write about. Right now I am talking a lot about cooking and depression and getting my house clean. I am afraid if I don’t talk about tech that people will stop thinking of me as a tech person. I want to talk about tech that I want to be an expert in, so I need to make time for it because it is important.

I have a few larger projects I would like to work on, but I don’t want to write them here. I think last year I said I was going to spend this year building an analog synthesizer and it bothers me that I haven’t done that yet.

My goal here is to have several talks ready on graphics programming for the Spring conference tour. I would also like to be able, six months from now, to plan a vacation where I go on a cruise for a week and I actually have the mental discipline to get a sizable chunk of work done. I want a plan of attack on one of my projects and I would like to be mentally at a point where I can take advantage of that situation and be productive.

Shout Outs

I want to give a shout-out to my boss Janene at Black Pixel. I tried to talk her out of hiring me because I am a mess and she told me that she knows and wanted to hire me anyway. I am going through some issues right now that I have been avoiding for a while. I feel like running away from my life sometimes. It’s helpful for me to get toxic thoughts out of my head and she’s been very kind in letting me just get them out even though I know they sound really bad.

I was worried when I left SonoPlot that I would lose my mentor, but I gained another one. I gained one that I need right now and I appreciate her helping me figure out what I am doing with my life.

Friending as an Adult Sucks

I started working from home about two months ago. During those two months I had three trips for conference talks and I spent about three weeks being too sick to do much of anything. I didn’t really think about how to deal with human social interactions until recently.

I have noticed that generally speaking, I like being alone in my house cleaning and cooking and doing other solitary activities. But usually around Wednesday I start to feel like the walls are closing in around me and I feel the need to leave my house and have human social interactions.

Since my divorce I have not had a lot of human social interaction. My ex-husband had a friend we used to do regular games nights with who would force us to actually leave the house and do fun activities. Three years ago he went to prison and our social circle contracted by a lot.

Over the last three years while I was learning programming I lost touch socially with the people I worked with at my last job where I actually made friends. I learned programming at a local technical college that was never particularly good at fostering social ties amongst its students. It had no dorm or any emphasis on extracurricular activities, so usually the only time you see your classmates is in class.

At my last job I worked with only three other people. One became a really good friend, who unfortunately is perpetually busy and doesn’t have a lot of time to hang out with me. Neither of my other coworkers would speak to me when they saw me every day, so they’re not going to come hang out with me now.

I am finding myself in the uncomfortable situation of trying to make friends as an adult.

Maker Space

This is the incident that prompted this post.

I have been trying to join a maker space in town for the last year or so. When I didn’t work from home I had no time to go hang out there. I was really excited about joining now that I am working from home, but I am kind of shy. I know a lot of people who know me don’t think that, but that’s because they see me in a situation where I know people and I know what to do.

When I started going to conferences and I didn’t know anyone, I could go and talk to the speakers because I at least knew who they were and had something I could start a conversation with them about. Now that I am a speaker I know other speakers and I feel more comfortable about being around a lot of people I don’t know.

I went to this space on Friday because I was invited by someone I knew tangentially. He showed me around and was very nice and I had a nice time. So I figured since people had met me and that when I came back today people would be friendly.


I came in and people looked at me awkwardly. I tried to join conversations with people and I got the “why are you talking to us?” look. I wound up sitting in a corner by myself when I realized I could do that at home. It reminded me of college when I had to work at the campus radio station my senior year and the students running the radio station were very insular and did not want to make you feel welcome.

Why is it so hard to make friends as an adult?

Knowing When to Approach

There are a lot of blog posts, primarily targeted at men, telling them how not to be creepy. A large part of that is telling them when not to approach women.

I get that if you’re at the maker space because you have a really important project to work on, you don’t want to make meaningless smalltalk with an insecure and obnoxious girl who is just there to hang out. I would not want someone trying to talk to me while I am running at the gym. If you are at a place to do something, you don’t want someone distracting you from what you are there for.

I just feel like no matter where I go or what I do, there is never a point where you approach someone. There are obvious things, like if you’re at the grocery store you don’t want to be harassed, but where is it appropriate to know you are going somewhere to meet other people who are interested in the things you are interested in?

The only gatherings I have found that exist where it’s okay to approach people and it’s even encouraged is dating mixers. I don’t want to find a boyfriend, I just would like a casual circle of people I can hang out with doing something so I don’t become a hermit and it feels nearly impossible to find one of those outside of an office job.


I feel like the people who are attracted to the same kinds of activities that I like tend to be introverts. They don’t go to a meet up with the idea that they are looking to make friends. They have enough other people they are forced to deal with in their day to day lives that they aren’t actively looking for anyone else.

Whenever I have tried to join a group that is dedicated to something I enjoy, like anime, people seem annoyed if you try to talk to them. They are there to watch anime, not make friends with other people who like it. It makes it rather difficult to find people who want friends who like the same things you do. Which leads to:

Activities with Pre-Existing Friends

When I was complaining about not having friends, people suggested a meet up. I went to a board game meet up and no one wanted to talk to me. They seemed actively annoyed that they were required to be in the same room with other people in order to play games. They didn’t want to be my friend, they wanted to beat me as quickly as possible so they could move on to someone who might actually challenge them.

I realized that I liked board games because they were an activity you do with people who are preexisting friends. It isn’t a way to meet other people who like what you like, it’s a way to bond with other people you already know and like.

Which brings me to my last issue:

Gender Issues

Lots of people have been complaining about sexism with the gaming community over the last year. This is my take on things.

My first major in college was engineering. I was the only girl in all of my classes. No one would sit next to me or talk to me. If I tried talking to them, they would cry and run away.

I think that socially awkward men live in fear of behaving in ways that are creepy. I think there are a few careers or hobbies that they have retreated to where there are no women and they can let it all hang out without worrying that someone will think they are creepy.

My dad keeps telling me to go and spend time with these guys because he thinks they will be all over me because they are happy to see an actual woman. It isn’t like that. They feel like their space is being invaded. It’s like when my brother shows up at my house when I am trying to relax. I can’t just feel comfortable in my home until he leaves. Even though he’s there to mow my lawn and do things I don’t want to deal with, it makes me uncomfortable and sometimes angry that he is there and I can’t do whatever I want. He will show up while I am still in bed and I have to fumble around half asleep looking for pants so that I can answer the door. I can’t take a bath or a shower. I can’t focus on work because he’s there. It’s very upsetting, especially because he just shows up and never calls to let me know he’s coming.

I think that guys feel that way when I show up at their maker spaces or their chess clubs. They want to have one place where they feel comfortable and for better or worse, when I am there I am taking that away from them. They just want me to go away from the one place where they don’t have to worry about someone finding them creepy.

It really sucks. I get where they are coming from. I am looking for the same thing and I have yet to find it and it makes me really demoralized.

So What Do I Do?

Part of this is a problem of my own making.

I have been very tired and depressed for the last few years. I have had people invite me out who are also lonely and I have turned them down because it has been simply too much for me to deal with.

I swear that the only time people invite me to go out and do something is when I am in my bathrobe getting ready to take a bath. When people try to invite me for things like Halloween, I am usually tired and know I will be tired then and I don’t want to say yes then bail on people at the last minute because I can’t deal with leaving the house.

I need to reach out to these people and find a way of making time to do things with them.

There are people out there that I know. I don’t necessarily need to meet new people, I just need to figure out how to stabilize the social circle I already have that I have let atrophy because I have been too depressed to maintain it. There is no point in reinventing the wheel.

I am hoping to get my house in order to the point that I can invite people out here to do game nights. I got custody of most of the board games in the divorce, but I have no one to play with. I need to try to organize things better so that I can maintain ties with people I already know.

I didn’t realize how lonely and isolating it would be to work remotely. I am connected to people all over the world 24/7 through my phone but I don’t have anyone I can call to play a board game with. I don’t necessarily want people that I see constantly every day, but it would be nice to have someone to see every once and a while.

Operation Remodel: Before Pictures of My House


I have been writing recently that I am tired of living the way I have been living for the last year or so. I spoke yesterday about how I am going to try to stop myself from stressing out. Today, I am going to talk about one of the things I have been terrified for people to know about.

I have been asked how I feel comfortable talking about my struggles with depression and a lot of other things. I am less terrified about talking about those things than I am about showing pictures of my house. With depression, I can talk to people when I am not depressed and I seem like a normal enough person that it’s easy to forget I am depressed, so it worries me less than showing visceral, physical evidence that I am depressed and my life is a mess. I am tired of living this way and I have been terrified of anyone ever actually wanting to come to my house.

So, here are pictures of my house that I took this morning:

That laundry on the floor has been there for about nine months. It used to be in a large tub, but I realized I wasn’t putting it away, so I dumped it out. It actually used to be worse this morning. I spent nearly an hour putting laundry away before I realized I should document how bad things are.

This is the master bedroom. I do not sleep in the master bedroom. Right now it’s basically being used for storage for my clothes. This is the only room with at TV in it, so my PS3 and PS4 are in here along with a large chair. But this room is basically shut up and I never spend time in here.


I do sleep here. This is the only room I was allowed to keep anything in during my marriage. I would come home from class and find my things unceremoniously dumped in this room while I was gone. I got used to it being like this and I have been too depressed to do anything about it.

I have been sleeping in the bed that I have had since I was seven. You can see the pugs milling around in here. I did clear a nice path to and from the door so I don’t break my neck.


Since I had to keep everything in here and it isn’t very large, I got creative with my “organization.” When I get depressed I tend to buy a lot of books. I stored a lot of books under the bed. Sadly, since they are under the bed, I can’t get access to them to organize them or clean under the bed. There is a lot of pug fur embedded in everything because I can’t clean under here. My mom is concerned about me developing allergies to things because I sleep near this biohazard.

One of the projects at the top of my list is to clear this area OUT! I am probably never going to read 90% of the books under my bed, so I need to box them up and take them away. I have some books boxed up to take away, but I have trouble leaving my house to get rid of them, so that is another project I need to schedule. I can fill my car with books, drop them off at the used book store, then do my grocery shopping and just add it to my routine.


This was my desk in my old office back when my bedroom was my office. That desk used to be clean because I had to put my laptop there. Now that I don’t use it for anything, it’s covered in crap.

The iMac’s operating system is from like 2010. I use it for watching movies in bed.

There are boxes on the right hand side of the desk that are full of manuals from Final Cut Pro 5 and Logic 8 that I really don’t want to get rid of but I don’t know what to do with.


This is one of only three book shelves in the house. I made an attempt at organizing it at one point, but that failed pretty spectacularly. I made room for an entire shelf of Flash and Actionscript books.

I have had trouble figuring out how to organize my books because I don’t know which ones I will keep and how to separate them out. I have three general types of books: Programming/Tech, Cooking, and general reading. I would like to keep the programming books together and the cooking books together, but I don’t know where or how to do this and it paralyzes me from being about to do anything about it.


So this is my chair. It is part of a set of chairs and a couch that my ex and I bought. He took the other chair and the couch. I think he just ran out of room for my chair. It is primarily used by the pugs. Speaking of the pugs, that large box on the chair used to hold their food. I haven’t broken it down and recycled it yet.

The shelf in the background is the second shelf I have in my house. I was putting my tech books on it because it’s technically part of the “office”, but then I also started putting cookbooks on there and now it’s all discombobulated and it bothers me, so I ignore it.


This is where I spend most of my day. The large box in the middle of the room is a pink office chair I bought from an office supply store that was going out of business that I have been too depressed to put together.

From my spot by the computer, my area LOOKS nice and clean and organized because I can strategically place things in a way where I don’t have to mentally deal with the clutter and disorganization. Yay denial!


This last picture is a picture of my wall. It is covered with bare hooks because my ex-husband took a lot of the artwork we bought during the marriage. I got to keep the only piece I cared about, which was more expensive than the stuff that was taken, so it isn’t like I got screwed here or anything.

This is also the last bookshelf in the house. It started falling apart and it needs to be put back together again. So right now it’s this giant wooden piece of clutter that I mostly use to keep my stuffed animals away from Olive. I would eventually like to buy a lot of shelves for my various anime and video game figures and frame some of my nerdy art work and paint that wall. That will take a bit of an investment in planning and money that I just have been kicking down the road for a while.

Why I am Posting These Embarrassing Pictures on my Blog

I was asked by a lot of people this year how I had time to do all the things I have been doing. This is the answer. I have been working on books and conferences and a lot of other things not actually doing the things I need to do in order to be a functional human being.

It was easy to ignore this crap when I worked out of my house. I basically just used this place to sleep. I was never here and when I was here I was too tired or busy to do anything to make this place livable. I also was very conscious of my financial situation and I didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars that I didn’t have on furniture or organizational stuff for a house I never spent time at.

I used to daydream about taking my pugs to my parent’s place with my computer and for us to come home and find out the house had burned down. I hoped that the problem would just go away without me having to do anything about it. I just wanted everything wiped clean so I could get out from under this.

I refuse to believe that learning programming and writing a book are easier than figuring out how to organize my house. I have not given this the proper consideration I should have and I have to fix it.

I plan to come on here periodically and show progress in the house. If I don’t show progress then I really need some help. I am tired of living like someone in a mental institution. I am not going to turn into the crazy hoarder lady who dies because she got trapped under a pile of books.

Operation De-Stress: First Steps

Been writing recently about feeling overwhelmed and trapped in my life. I have been avoiding dealing with a lot of things over the last few years. I have spoken about my marriage falling apart. I hid from that by learning programming and throwing myself into my career to avoid having to deal with my life.

I have been alone for nearly a year now. It’s been rather difficult. I have had to learn some basic life skills like making sure I pay my bills. I have never done that before. I am slightly worried about taxes because I know they are going to be complicated.

I am incredibly disorganized. During the years of my marriage I basically wasn’t allowed to keep any of my stuff anywhere in the house except for one room. Even though it’s been a year, it looks like a crazy hoarding squatter lives in the house. I have not had the time or energy to organize my stuff because I was still throwing myself into work to avoid having to deal with my life.

There are a number of things I would eventually like to accomplish:

  • I want to organize my house
  • I want to have a regular exercise routine
  • I want to drink a lot less
  • I want to stop feeling overwhelmed by my life

I discovered recently that the best way to engage me in a project is for me to get to plan it out and write about it. If I don’t write about it, the complexity of a project gets overwhelming to me and I don’t know where to start. If I have to write about it and organize it into a story, I get more excited and engaged with actually figuring out what the first steps are. I also feel more accountable because if I don’t do anything I have to write about not doing anything.

So I am going to start a new series of posts on my blog about me using techniques from programming and applying them to getting my life back together again.

Right now my life code base is fragile. A lot of people suggested to me that I start doing exercise. I do walk for like half an hour a day when I remember to, but trying to implement a running routine was too much for my system and I crashed and burned. I would like to figure out how to fix the underlying stuff preventing me from being able to do that so that I can add running to my routine.

First Steps

Most of my physical and emotional issues are coming from stress. I have had a few periods of my life where stress has made me physically sick. I have given myself symptoms of full blown lupus and multiple sclerosis in the last ten years because of stress. I have gotten so used to the stress from the last three years or so that I don’t know how to shut it off.

I work all the time because I don’t know how not to work. If I have any free time I fill it with more work. I do this until I collapse. It used to happen at convenient times but now it’s happening all the time and it is interfering with the work I have to do rather than the work I am using to fill my life.

I also have developed a drinking problem. I have been joking about it for a few years, but I haven’t really had the energy or motivation to deal with it because there were other things that I made a priority.

Basically, the only way my brain knows it’s supposed to stop working is if I drink alcohol. I had a friend ask me if I started having lunch wine now that I work from home and I don’t because if I do then my brain will stop working. I have hardcoded a really bad habit into my brain that I need to fix before I destroy my health.

Rather than focusing on the alcohol part, I am going to focus on the learning to relax and stop stressing part. I think that is the first step to fixing all of my issues. They all lead back to that.


The first thing I am going to do is make a schedule for myself. I do a lot better on a schedule. I know most programmers don’t like them because it’s like micro-management, but I do better when I have a routine. Going on all of these conference trips has been fantastic and wonderful, but they really mess with my head. It’s difficult for me to get back on track when I come home from them and it’s difficult for me to get any work done while I am there because I have a lot of ritualistic behaviors I need to implement to focus on my work.

I have set up a few alarms on my phone that will bother me every day this week:

  • Wake up and spend some time cleaning the house (8:00 am)
  • Do 15 minutes of yoga (11:00 am)
  • Meditate (3:00 pm)

I used to do meditation before I got married, but I stopped because my pugs would crawl all over me and distract me. I am going to lock them out of my room and make sure I spend time each day not worrying.

I have a couple of yoga apps on my phone. I found a lot of the focus in yoga is to be mindful of your position and of your breathing. I really like running because I can just focus on my breathing and how my body feels, but I am not at the point where I can do that yet. So going to start small for a few weeks and try to work up to something more intense.

Said before that my house is in a really bad state. I have asked my mom to “pair program” with me to help me get the house organized. I need to buy book shelves and various other organizational structures to sort and store my objects because right now I have almost nothing. I do also have to clear a lot of crap out of my house. I have had depression and I tend to accumulate a lot of junk while I am depressed. I also get really bad about clearing out my emails. I used to keep only about 200 emails in my primary account, but I have ten times that and it’s all stupid crap like me emailing my mom that I got home from work safe after an ice storm three jobs ago.

The house part is going to be a fairly long-term project, so for right now I am going to focus on doing small amounts of things every day. Today I cleaned my toilet, emptied the dishwasher, and swept up pug fur. Hopefully tomorrow I can put the laundry away from the load I did back in February. I will spend ten minutes here and there boxing up books I will never read to give away. I still need to schedule time to get rid of the books I box up, but focusing on small steps.

Going to try doing those three things for about two weeks. I am going to try not to worry about anything beyond that. Self discipline is a muscle that exhausts easily and I don’t want to try too many things at once because I will get frustrated and quit.

I will do a post mortem at the end of this week about how often I did these things and if I feel any better. I’ll write about any challenges that prevented me from doing things on a day-to-day basis. I will also brainstorm about what the next set of challenges will be after I have integrated these into my life.

Happy Monday! Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Make the most of it.