Category Archives: Navel Gazing

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?

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.

Thoughts on Being Single for the Second Time

About two years ago I went through a divorce. I had known my marriage was over years before I was able to finally pull the trigger on it. I had actually tried leaving once a year earlier, but I was forced to go back to my husband because I wasn’t able to sustain myself quite yet and he promised to change. He didn’t and we followed through on the second attempt.

My ex-husband had an OKCupid account set up months before we filed for divorce the second time. He had his first date less than a week after he moved out of our house. A year after he moved out he had already replaced me with another woman with long red hair, two small dogs, and mental health issues.

During the year or two after our divorce I was a complete wreck. I was in much worse shape than I thought I would be. I had wanted the divorce. Our marriage was over. I thought I would feel free to finally do all the things I wanted to do. Instead, I felt like a death had happened. I had never been responsible for balancing my own budget and I had no idea how much money I earned or how much my bills were.

I had multiple rooms in my house that I simply never went into. My house felt incomprehensibly large even though it’s actually quite small. I used to have dreams that I was walking through my house and it was a giant labyrinth of gardens and piano rooms that I never knew were there because I only stayed in one small corner of my house.

The idea of trying to date anyone during this time seemed absolutely incomprehensible. I consistently see men who have recently gotten out of relationships try to get back on the horse and date again immediately. I don’t understand how they can do that.

I haven’t been on a date since I was 16 years old. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was put on medication that made me gain sixty pounds in less than two years. My medication triggered panic attacks and caused a lot of mental health issues alongside the ones they were supposed to actually treat. I was a chubby, socially awkward woman with no social skills trying to navigate a social environment run on alcohol, which I couldn’t drink because of my medications.

I felt like having a boyfriend would give me some kind of validation that I was actually a person worthy of being liked. I used to develop crushes on other socially awkward guys who were less attractive than I was because I thought that they were low enough that I could get them. Most of them were either too socially awkward to return my advances or were appalled that a chubby socially awkward girl thought she was good enough for them while they drooled over anorexic teenagers with daddy issues.

Boys in college had been sold on the idea of the hook up. They had been told all through high school that when they got to college it would be a never ending stream of pussy. None of them wanted a relationship. They wanted to have sex with you and never speak to you again. I literally had guys come up to me and say to my face, “I hate you. I know you hate me. We should have sex. It will be fun.“

I was too priggish to give into any of these situations, but other girls I know did. They slept with guys to give themselves a sense of personal validation and were always disappointed when things never went any further.

I left college without having a boyfriend. I also left college without having any kind of stable career path. I was faced with a future alone with no meaning. Then I met my husband. We’d known one another since we were children. We were both tired of trying to find someone. I needed health insurance and to move out of my parent’s house. I thought I knew everything about him. I was terribly wrong and if you ever meet me IRL ask me about it and I’ll give more details than I am willing to give here!

After my misadventures in college, this seemed like as good as it was going to get. Sure, we weren’t really attracted to one another, but he would look me in the eye and talk to me. That was an improvement.

Things were fine for the first two years. Then he got weird. He started spending money we didn’t have on shit we didn’t need. I decided to go back to school for computer programming. I wanted an actual career and not just the menial white collar jobs I had held since we got married. I wanted a sense of self worth and to do interesting work I was proud of. I told him that if he would support me for two years that I could start bringing in four time more money than I had before. We could start a business. We could be partners. We could have our freedom and independence from The Man.

He wanted his freedom, but he didn’t want to work for it. It was the biggest disappointment in his life that he wasn’t born wealthy. This ate at his soul. He was bitter and resentful of having to go to work to earn a wage. He was always scheming about how to get rich quick without any effort. He would bully me about how I wasn’t developing the next Candy Crush. He would come to me in tears and tell me that he just needed me to earn a million dollars a year. He could find a way to be happy on just a million dollars a year.

He got incredibly paranoid. He was convinced I was cheating on him. He would follow me to networking events he previously had no interest in. He would skulk around behind me nursing a glass of scotch, watching me as I tried to network. He would go over and yell at me in front of people I was trying to connect with professionally. Once I came home from a business meeting to find him in the garage activating the GPS on my phone so he could track me down and physically bring me home. He would lay on the ground behind my car to prevent me from leaving the house.

He was jeopardizing everything I had worked so hard to accomplish and I simply could not tolerate his behavior anymore.

I feel I have been left in the lurch. I talk to other people who have built their careers on writing books and doing conference talks. I ask them for advice about how I can build this as a sustainable career while still paying my bills and I always get sheepish looks and the response, “Well, my wife has a really good job with benefits.“ I hear that and my heart sinks. I keep seeing and hearing that the career path I want to take can only be sustained by having a supportive partner who is willing to shore up the other person’s financial deficits.

I feel a great deal of anger at my ex-husband for destroying our marriage because he was unwilling to give up his $10,000 a year vacation habit. I have been borderline unemployed since September and I am just now reaching the end of my savings. We were $30,000 in debt with two incomes and bringing in over six figures while we were married because my ex couldn’t do without picking up an expensive hobby every couple of months. I had a plan that would have been mutually beneficial for both of us and now I am spinning plates frantically hoping that I can achieve what seems like the impossible all by myself.

I have no illusions about my book. I am writing about an incredibly niche topic that has almost no job prospects. I keep hoping if I develop skills around graphics programming that I can break into that area of expertise and have a long, stable career build on something most people don’t know that doesn’t fundamentally change, but I don’t know if I have enough time or runway to slog it out. I’m afraid of taking a dead end job and waking up seven years from now to find I didn’t keep up with the new changes in tech and that I am unemployable. Having the buffer of another person in case I made a terrible mistake and failed eased my mind. Having no safety net and throwing myself into a chasm right now is deeply worrying to me and I don’t have anyone I can even talk to about my anxiety because I am completely alone right now. Except for my parents. They have been fantastic, but I hate having to go to them with my hand out.

Being single at this point in my life is markedly different than it was when I was younger and I had no career. I am doing my best to not see getting remarried as an escape route for the path I have chosen to take. I would love to have a supportive partner around to help me out so I don’t have to do this alone, but having survived an unsupportive one, I know it’s better to be alone than live through that again.

I keep feeling like I am supposed to move on. Join OKCupid or Match.com. Go to speed dating. Relocate to San Francisco or Seattle to get access to a larger pool of eligible men. But I keep getting this nagging feeling that things have not fundamentally changed much since I was in college. Reading horror stories about how Tinder has basically supercharged the college hook up dynamic worries me. Seeing how many men are basically jumping into relationships to avoid being alone worries me too.

I like working. I see so many people doing frivolous crap all the time that I worry if I did move to a city and started trying to be social like everyone else that I would stop dedicating myself to my work. I would stop pushing and get left behind. It’s so hard to find another person who also likes working who is willing to just be in the same space I am while we’re both working.

I want to be with someone who wants to be with me. I would love to have someone to cook for besides just myself. I would like to have someone to build robots with me in my basement and then cuddle on the couch watching Star Trek. I don’t want that badly enough to grasp onto anything with a dick that comes along because I don’t want to be alone. I feel I have progressed from my college aged self who felt like having a boyfriend would be a validation to someone who is comfortable with themselves but would like to find another person to share things with.

I’m not willing to be with someone who did a visual assessment of me that I am just hot enough that they’re willing to have sex with me but they think I am unattractive enough to be approachable. I don’t want to be with someone who thinks that relationships are parking spaces and that you are supposed to always be parked somewhere or on the lookout for one.

As it looks increasingly like this will never happen, I am trying to accept being alone. I won’t settle for anything less than someone who likes me as a person and who I actively want to be with. There might be no one out there like that and I need to be okay with that.

Being alone sucks. But being with a destructive and unsupportive partner who doesn’t love you sucks more. It’s important to have a creative and fulfilling life rather than waiting for it to just happen to you. For better or worse, I am living a life I want to lead. I have no idea how sustainable it is in the long run, but for now I’m being true to myself. I am trying to have faith that if I do that then things will work out. Doesn’t mean I don’t indulge in feeling sorry for myself every once and a while.

Enough whinging. Back to work.

Chocolate Covered Cherries

The following is a really bad metaphor, for which I apologize and will try to explain in better context later in this post:

Pretend you are walking down the street and you see a candy store on the corner. You weren’t really planning to get anything, but after you see the candy store you have an overwhelming desire to eat a chocolate covered cherry.

You impulsively decide to visit the candy store hoping they have chocolate covered cherries.

The man behind the counter greets you warmly and asks you what you want. You tell him you want a chocolate covered cherry. He says sorry, but they don’t have those today.

You’re kind of disappointed, so you thank him politely and turn to leave.

“We have vanilla cremes. Those are like chocolate covered cherries.”

You don’t want a vanilla creme. You wanted a chocolate covered cherry. You say sorry, but that you don’t want a vanilla creme.

“What about raspberry creme? That’s even closer to chocolate covered cherries.”

You politely but firmly tell the guy you don’t want a raspberry creme, you just want to leave.

“What about this hard sour cherry candy? Or this soft cherry candy?”

You start to get upset because you didn’t even really want any candy an hour ago and they don’t have the thing you want and now they won’t let you leave. You start to get angry and frustrated and upset because nothing you say will get this person to leave you alone.

The guy behind the counter gets angry with you and becomes vaguely threatening. “Look, I don’t understand why you’re being so upset. I am just trying to help you here. You have a problem and I am trying to fix it, so why can’t you be grateful to me for trying to solve your problem for you.”

You wind up buying a bunch of candy you don’t want just to get this person to leave you alone. You feel sick and shaken. You throw the candy in the trash after you finally get to leave the candy store and the man behind the counter smiles because he feels he did a good deed today by helping you solve your problem.

Not Listening

I have had so many issues over the last few years of people not listening to me. I get that in programming people want to solve problems, but sometimes a problem is not solvable. No one wants to say they just don’t have the answer to something, so they try to get super helpful and solve your problem for you even if all you want them to do is say “Sorry, I don’t have an answer.”

I understand that everyone wants to feel helpful. I understand that a lot of the esoteric problems I muse about do not have easy answers. By aggressively throwing a billion suggestions at me that I have to cobble together you are not helping me. You are upsetting and frustrating me because you’re not hearing that I don’t want a cobbled together answer. I want a chocolate covered cherry, not three different candies that are almost like a chocolate covered cherry. If there are no chocolate covered cherries, then I would rather be able to hear “What you want does not exist” rather than “Take these five solutions and mash them together.”

I also want to be able to tell someone they are not answering my question without them getting in my face and telling me I am being rude to them when they are verbally assaulting me with advice I don’t want. I’m sorry that you’re being presented with a problem you can’t solve, but bullying me into telling you that you’re being helpful when you’re not isn’t fixing the issue and you shouldn’t get to feel good about yourself at my expense.

I have the right to my own thoughts and feelings. I am not obligated to fight with you to be understood when it’s exhausting to me. I have the right to walk away, especially if I get to a point where I am emotionally disturbed without being further harassed because you feel I am being an ungrateful bitch for not accepting your well meaning advice. If I get to that point, the only way you can solve my problem leave me the fuck alone.

Why I Won’t Work Weekends

I have found in my time in the programming community that people are somewhat mixed on the idea of working weekends. I have worked at jobs where it was explicitly stated that it was expected for you to work on weekends. I talk to a lot of people who won’t do any programming whatsoever on weekends.

I am working on a contract right now where I get work emails from co-workers that are sent out on Sundays. I feel guilty because I know that they’re doing a lot more work than I am. I feel like I should be working constantly or at least appear to work constantly so that no one thinks I am lazy. That’s bullshit.

Right now I am working on a dream project. I get to do something I never thought I would get to do. I am incredibly grateful to get to do the work I am doing, but I know this isn’t what I want to do with the rest of my career.

All of the skills I currently have are for things I don’t want to do anymore. I don’t know if it’s burnout or if I just get bored and want to keep chasing the new and shiny.

I have a lot of interests. I am interested in electronics. I am interested in 3D graphics programming. I am interested in cryptography. I am interested in robotics. I am interested in audio programming and engineering. I am interested in artificial intelligence and machine learning. I am interested in game mechanics.

I never have enough time to work on any of these things. I am afraid if I ever did get a job doing any of these things that I would figure out I don’t like them either. It’s not like anyone is actually going to pay me to learn any of these things. It’s difficult to find anyone hiring who isn’t just looking for someone who can pull data off of a server and cram it into a table view.

I keep hearing from everyone that there is no point in learning Sprite Kit/Metal/Anything outside of UIKit because no one is going to pay for an interesting user interface or functionality that isn’t available on Android.

A long ass time ago before the iPhone came out there were a number of companies that had stable businesses making Mac-only software. I refuse to believe that there is no future in indie development using the large number of frameworks most people never touch. There is a conventional wisdom that a stable business can’t be built even though I don’t think I know of anyone who has tried.

I know a lot of people who have tried to build RSS readers and weather apps and Twitter clients, but I don’t know a lot of people who have written comprehensive HealthKit apps. I don’t know a lot of people who have tried doing hardware/software integrated products. Everyone feels it’s too great of a risk and they don’t even try. There is “easy” money to be made doing boring stuff, so we all just accept the status quo.

I am one to talk. I have not released an app on the App Store, so it’s all well and good for me to knock people for not doing something I am not willing to do either.

That’s why I won’t work on weekends.

I want to spend my weekends working on something that makes me happy.

Right now I have this laundry list of things I find interesting but I don’t have any kind of context for even explaining what they do. If I tell someone I am interested in artificial intelligence and they try to talk to me about it I feel like this.

I don’t know if I am just not capable of being happy. I don’t know if there is some magical piece of technology out there that will make my soul sing in the way I think it will. I could just be a walking sack of discontent. I could spend my life chasing after something that doesn’t exist. I should be content with just finding something I don’t suck at. But I’m not.

I need to keep looking for that thing that captures my imagination. I don’t get to do that if I work on weekends. So I am sorry, but I need my weekends to try and find something that makes me happy. I don’t care if it’s the next disruptive technology or just some stupid home automation garbage I do to amuse myself. I want to feel alive and there are long periods of time right now where I do not.

The Value of a Liberal Arts Education

Ten years ago around now, back in 2006, I was beginning to realize I had made a terrible mistake.

I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism with a minor in English composition. I declared this major two years earlier. I attended my first journalism class and the teacher told us to look to our left, then look to our right. He told us that ten years after leaving college only one out of fifty journalism majors were still working in journalism and everyone else had moved on to something else.

I looked around me with a smug expression thinking “Man I feel sorry for the other forty-nine people here who are wasting their time!” Clearly I was not the brightest college student as I should have heard this statement and thought “Run for your life!!”

Here we are, ten years later, and I am one of the forty-nine. I don’t even really know why I chose a journalism major. I knew I wanted to write and I knew I didn’t want to be a high school teacher, so that kind of left journalism and getting a PhD in English and praying that by some miracle I found a tenure position or wrote a best seller. I think the best seller would probably have been the easier goal to achieve.

I kind of wanted to learn a trade, but universities don’t do that. Trades were for people who were too dumb to get into “real” college. I had a Photoshop class with a dude who was forced to retire from his paper because he was so old. He had been a film photographer for forty years so they figured he would be the guy to teach Photoshop. Another student introduced him to the Layers property. There was no hands-on anything. There were plenty of hipsters in skinny jeans gushing about Ayn Rand, however.

I got really good at writing research papers and getting on the bad side of professors who did not like being reminded that they were wasting their lives teaching MacBeth to a bunch of brain dead just barely adults who wanted to drink and didn’t really know what else they were doing with their lives.

Besides the not drinking part, I was also one of those brain dead kids who didn’t know what I was doing with my life. I knew when I was in grade school I was supposed to be learning how to make straight A’s so that when I went to high school I would have a good GPA. I was supposed to do well on the ACT so that I could get into UW-Madison and get an engineering degree, even though I didn’t know what engineers actually did. When that did not pan out, I was supposed to attend another UW system school and get a degree in something, because if I got a degree in something, then there would be a job waiting for me at the end of college.

After I was informed that I had in fact completed all of my course requirements I dutifully went down to the job placement office and asked them what I do now. They said “How are we supposed to know?”

“Um, this is the job placement office. What do you do here?”

“We tell you to put your resume on Monster and connect with the people who you did an internship for, if you did one.”

“I didn’t do an internship. Don’t you have, like, companies that reach out to you to help you place recent graduates with them??”

“Why would you think that?”

I found out later that this stuff existed, but the people I talked to had zero interest in helping me out. I was easily deterred because I didn’t know any better. I also realized I was very screwed.

I didn’t have a demo reel to show prospective employers. I hadn’t done an internship. I wanted to work for NPR, but NPR’s Madison hub was at UW-Madison and they would only hire interns from UW-Madison and if there were jobs after that they would only hire people who had already worked there.

I realized that not only was I missing a lot of requisite skills, I also was missing a network of people to call on to help me find a job.

I had been raised by my dad to believe that personal connections were completely meaningless. If someone was looking to hire, they would put out an ad in the classifieds. They would impartially look at the resumes of everyone that applied and if you had a better GPA than someone else, you would be picked.

This is complete and total bullshit.

I spent a decent chunk of time being incredibly angry that I did not get picked over less qualified people simply because the company already knew this person because they were referred or had interned there. I realized very quickly that if I wanted to get jobs I had to be that person that people knew rather than getting angry about how “unfair” things were.

I also realized these placed wanted people who actually knew how to do technical stuff that I didn’t know how to do. I hadn’t learned any of this stuff in college and I didn’t know how to learn it, so I held my nose and enrolled at a for-profit technical college specializing in audio and video technology.

I spent two years there getting to touch real sound boards and real cameras. A lot of our classes were working through the Adobe Classroom in a Book for things like Illustrator and After Effects. This is technically something I could have done from home, but I would have had to convince someone to buy copies of these programs for me and I would have had to have had the discipline to just sit my ass down and work through the book without the threat of a failing grade hanging over my head.

This place also exposed me to something I couldn’t get at my first college: Connections.

My mentor at this school was the guy that got Slipknot signed to a record label and engineered their first album. Another guy was a guitarist on a Nine Inch Nails album. Yet another worked with Michael Jackson.

This was the school where I also learned how to learn on my own. Halfway through my time there, there was a massive upgrade to both the Adobe suite and Apple’s Final Cut Pro suite. I didn’t know how to work with the new software and so I asked a teacher for help. He sat down and worked with me and showed me where everything moved.

I looked at him and asked, “How do you know this? Who taught this to you?”

He looked at me kind of confused and said, “Well, nobody. I got a copy of this a few days before class started and I taught it to myself because I had to know it to teach you.”

That was the first time it ever occurred to me that one day I was going to be on my own. That technology changes and you can’t just keep throwing out money every year to keep taking classes to learn all the changes. When you’re a professional, you’re responsible for knowing your own stuff.

After that I quit asking as many questions. I tried to find out the answer for myself before I would ask for help. Slowly over time I stopped needing to ask for help altogether because I could find any answer I needed.

I worked really hard to try and connect with these people, but I ran into a wall that would prove insurmountable: I was a woman.

As much as people bitch about how sexist the programming community is, it’s nothing compared to the music industry. There were companies expressly telling the school not to send them female candidates because they would not hire women. The guys in my class kind of treated me like a talking dog and would never take me seriously. They would all hang out at strip clubs after school and it was very clear that I was never going to be welcome into their ranks.

Well, actually, it’s possible I might have, but I think I would have been raped and drugged and generally abused for a job that pays ten bucks an hour. No thanks.

After doubling down on this bad bet, I had to find yet another thing to do, which was how I got into programming. I learned my lessons from these previous experiences in that it was really stupid to try and break into “prestige” jobs where there are fifty qualified people for every job out there. Even in something like programming, where there is supposedly a lot of demand, you have to know people and they have to know you. You can either do that by dropping close to six figures getting a computer science degree from UW-Madison or you can work your ass off networking with people and making public contributions on places like GitHub (or this blog).

Even though I never got paid a dime as a journalist, the training I received for that has proven invaluable. I learned how to distill down a lot of information into its most important parts. I learned how to ask good questions and figure out what the root of an issue was. I learned how to write very clearly, effectively, and concisely. My experience doing radio helped me tackle conference speaking, which gave me the kind of visibility I needed to break into programming.

I learned to hustle and work my ass off. I did not want to be in a position like I was ten years ago when I assumed the world owed me something just because someone gave me shitty life advice.

Life doesn’t owe you anything. People will pay you if you can do something for them that is more valuable than what they are paying you. People are more likely to pick whoever is the first candidate that is good enough and if you’re one of the first people they consider you’re more likely for that person to be you.

In spite of all the pearl clutching about how writing as a skill is going in the crapper, there is a lot of opportunity out there for people who can write effectively, especially in highly technical fields. I think it’s easier to learn the tech after the writing because if you learn the tech first, you’ll find someone to pay you enough money to not bother with learning the writing. That is never the case the other way around.

Even though things were pretty bleak ten years ago, failing spectacularly was a wonderful learning experience. I am happy I failed early so that I could have enough time to process that experience and pivot to something else before it was too late. I see people who never struggled with anything suddenly hit road bumps in their thirties and have no fucking clue what they’re supposed to do. I am proud of the person I have become and the life I have built for myself.

That is the value of a liberal arts education.

Stir Fry My Way

This is a giant, pointless, first world problems rant about food. If you’re looking for insight into tech, this isn’t a post for that.

My dad has a lot of weird control issues, especially about food.

My dad does all the grocery shopping and cooks all the food in the house. He keeps insisting my mom can’t cook and has taken it upon himself to do all the cooking in the house. He has told me that he sees it as a source of pride that he provides for his family and makes sure we have food.

I can only imagine this is why he controls things the way he does.

One thing that he does that drives me completely insane is that he won’t let anyone serve themselves.

When it’s dinner time, everyone lines up at the counter and he serves you. He cuts giant chunks of overcooked salmon and steamed brussels sprouts and deposits them on the plate and unceremoniously hands it to you.

Prepping stir fry ingredients.

Prepping stir fry ingredients.

Being handed a large plate full of food you know you’re not going to finish is really upsetting, especially when you get yelled at for not cleaning your plate. My dad will make enough food for ten people and tell my mother to eat heartily but that he doesn’t want to eat too much because he’s watching his weight. Then he yells at her for wasting the food he made too much of that he didn’t want to eat himself.

I don’t eat a lot. I never have. I also hated both salmon and brussels sprouts until I got out on my own and found out that if they were prepared properly they could be delicious.

One of the things that drove me absolutely crazy (besides being handed the wrong fork and having to fish the right fork out from the silverware drawer) was how he would dish out stir fry.

I like to put the rice on the plate first and then ladle the stir fry over the rice. That way the rice can absorb all the sauce. Dry white rice is miserable and soulless and the only way it’s tolerable is as a sponge for sauce.

My dad would never let me plate my own stir fry. He would dump the stir fry on first then place it next to the rice. The sauce would flow all over the plate and be lost forever, leaving three quarters of the rice naked and unsauced.

I know this sounds really fucking stupid to complain about how food is presented to me. I didn’t have to pay for it. I didn’t have to cook it. I should just be grateful and shut up and eat my food without complaint.

It just bothers me to see people not paying attention to details and aesthetics. Salmon does not have to be disgusting. If you cook it properly and put some garlic and salt and pepper and some butter or sesame oil it can be awesome. Cooking it for an hour with no seasoning takes almost as much work but it completely destroys the fish.

This stir fry tastes of freedom. And ginger.

This stir fry tastes of freedom. And ginger.

It doesn’t take that much thought to think that maybe if you put the stir fry on the rice it will absorb the sauce. I have known my dad for 34 years and every single time he has plated my stir fry I have had to fix and and go grab the right fork out of the drawer.

I feel like it’s almost a battle of wills. I feel like he purposely doesn’t remember that I don’t use a large fork and that I don’t like salmon and I like my rice under my stir fry. I wouldn’t need him to remember if he would just treat me like a god damned adult and let me serve my own food.

So tonight I made stir fry. I was trying to figure out how to get the rice and stir fry ratio proper when I realized that it’s my food and I can control it and do it however I want.

So I mixed the rice and the stir fry together so that none of the sauce would go to waste and I wouldn’t have to deal with the last parts of the rice being unsauced. And I ate it with the right fork and served myself as much as I knew I could eat.

I know this is a really stupid thing to complain about, but being able to mix my rice and stir fry together is one of those things I get to do that makes me feel like an adult and makes me feel awesome because I have control over something in my life and I can do whatever I want. Whenever being an adult seems too overwhelming and I worry about paying my bills or losing my job, I try to remember stuff like this to remind myself that it’s all worth it.

Publicly Available Information

Okay, I am probably going to get a lot of flack for this blog post, but I am writing it anyway and I don’t really give a damn. If someone can give me a compelling reason to think I am wrong, I am happy to hear it.

So, yesterday I posted a few pictures of packages I have received on Twitter. I had several of my friends reach out to me to ask me if I meant to post my address on Twitter.

I didn’t post it on purpose, but I didn’t think that it was that big of a deal. I understand that one of the big things that tech feminists have been mentioning people doing to terrorize them is to “dox” them by posting their phone numbers and addresses on malicious websites where people who mean them harm can see them.

I am not in any way discounting how terrifying that can be and they have every right to be upset by that behavior, but this is my take on things…

Back in 1985…

Back when I was growing up we had these things called “phone books.” They were large books that arrived in the mail each year that had a listing of the names and addresses of every person who lived in your county. If I wanted to look up a classmate’s phone number, I could haul this stupid large book out and look up their last name. Sometimes there were a few people that all had the same name and you would have to call a few of them to find the right person.

We didn’t have caller ID, so you never knew who was calling you. You couldn’t block malicious numbers, but most calls weren’t malicious. More often than not it was a telemarketer and you learned after a while that if you picked up on the first ring and there was a long pause it was probably a telemarketer and you hung up on them.

Having your address and phone number publicly available didn’t used to be a big deal.

The new phone books are here! The new phone books are here!!

The new phone books are here! The new phone books are here!!

Today

My address is publicly available. Wisconsin (for now) has open records. I went through a divorce last year and never moved. You can go to the Wisconsin Circuit Court access and look me up and find out where I live.

Back when I was starting out I was really stupid and printed my home address on my business cards. I handed these out for a while before I realized this was a really stupid fucking thing to do and got new ones printed that only had my personal phone number on them. Then I just started handing out pug stickers with no identifying information whatsoever on them.

Point is, if someone wants to find out where I live, it’s not hard.

I know there is an outside chance that someone I don’t know will show up at my door and do something to me, but that possibility doesn’t worry me very much. I live in a town in rural Wisconsin that has no public transportation. Most of the developers I am aware of who live in my area live in downtown Madison because it means they don’t have to have a car. In order to get out to where I live they have to find a car and drive half an hour to where I am. My parents live closer than that and even they don’t like to drive to where I live. That’s just the people who live here. If you’re some asshole in The Bay Area you would have to fly and drive out here to mess with me.

Every one of my neighbors has a gun. I have had my neighbors call my parents when my ex husband and I got home early from a trip and they saw someone moving around in my house.

If someone intends to harm me, it would take a lot of trouble and money for them to do so. My not publicly posting my address somewhere is not going to prevent someone who is intent on harming me from doing so. I also will not hesitate to call the cops if someone shows up that I don’t know and didn’t invite.

Risk Assessment

Of all the things I worry about, having a stranger show up at my house is pretty low on my list.

I worry about my house burning down while I am at a conference. I worry about my pugs choking on something and dying. I worry about losing my job and having to relocate to San Francisco because no one will let me work remotely.

I am willing to accept the possibility that at some point in the future someone could show up at my house with the intention to harm me. Someone could send a bomb in the mail to hurt me and my pugs. Any number of things could happen.

I just think the odds of that happening is so unlikely that I don’t think it honestly matters that much if I inadvertently post a picture of my address on Twitter.

I don’t want to spend every waking moment of my life worried that someone out there is out to get me.

My personal experience with this community has been that it has been incredibly supportive. I wrote several blog posts recently during a bout of depression and I had at least five people reach out to me personally via phone and email to support me and give me helpful advice.

I know a number of people have been poorly treated by strangers on the internet and I empathize with them. I know that a well known female developer in Madison was stalked by another developer in Madison and that was completely not okay. She went to a lot of trouble to hide her address, which was not publicly available, and had it revealed by the police to someone who had presented a clear and real danger to her. I am not trying to discredit her experiences by saying that because nothing bad has happened to me so far that her fears are irrational.

I took down the photos because enough people seemed worried about it. But I just find it strange that a bunch of people acted like I posted my social security number and my credit card number on Twitter and just trusted people to not steal my identity or show up at my house and murder me. I have found 98% people to generally be decent and respectful. I would prefer to focus on that percentage rather than judge on the smaller number who make life difficult. If I am proven wrong I will be the first to admit it. But I would like to give people the benefit of the doubt that they are not planning to attack me just because they can find out where I live.

Self Destructive Tendencies

I have a problem and I am writing about it because I want to know if anyone else has the same problem.

When I start a new project I get really overwhelmed.

My dream project for the last few years has been to write a synthesizer application. Every time I start to think about writing this application I get incredibly overwhelmed by a lot of things:

  • How much math do I need to know how to do?
  • What kind of synthesizer do I want to write?
  • Oh shit, everything is in C++. How much C++ do I need to know?!
  • Can I use this audio programming book that’s in C++ if everything in it assumes you’re using Windows?
  • How do I do the user interface?
  • How do I fit all these little elements on an iPhone? Can I lay it out differently?
  • Do I need to know OpenGL to do a decent user interface?

So I get super overwhelmed and I sit down to try to figure out one of these things.

I sit down to learn C++ so I can read the book on audio programming.

I figure out that I don’t understand the math and I get freaked out and I try to learn the math.

Then at a certain point I get overwhelmed, feel stupid, and curl up on the floor crying because I am stupid and will never amount to anything and I should just give up on programming because I am a failure and should just go back to working at Target.

This doesn’t just happen with my personal projects. Sometimes this happens at work too.

At my previous job I had to learn a bunch of stuff about network programming. I have never done network programming and I honestly never want to do it ever again. I had people telling me to play with Paw to learn network programming. I don’t know what Paw is supposed to do. If I don’t know what it is doing, how do I play with it? I have no context for anything I am doing, so I wind up in this creepy, paralyzing mental mode where I am grappling with a bunch of unfamiliar terminology that has no context and if I can’t do my job I will get fired and I can’t pay my mortgage and I will be homeless and it makes me curl up on the floor breathing into a brown paper bag.

How do I avoid this?

Learn by Doing

I know from my own personal experience that I learn better by doing.

For a really long time I learned by doing a lot of tutorials. The first time I would do a tutorial I would have the overwhelming paralyzing feeling of not knowing what I was doing, but then I would do the tutorial over and over again a few times until I got the feel for what I was doing.

Back when I was a full time student and had the luxury of time, I could do this 60-80 hours a week. It was kind of magical about how by the third or fourth time I totally understood what I was doing.

Then I went out into the job market and started to mentally feel like I couldn’t do this and have tried to find ways around it. I used to keep trying to do tutorials, but I would only have time to do them once and I would be stuck in the paralyzed overwhelming stage, so I stopped doing that.

The only way to learn and grow is to write code.

You start with a blank project and you ask yourself how to make something work. That gives you the first step you have to take to find your answer.

I know this. I have experienced this. So why does it always take me by surprise when I figure this out for the fortieth time??

Lazy Information Initialization

I noticed I tend to get overstimulated and unfocused when I have to start on something. I tend to shave yaks.

I think that I can read a book on math for 3D graphics programming and learn all about that before I start a project rather than going in and just learning what I need to know to do what I need to do.

I do things that seem like work but aren’t actually productive.

I know on some level that trying to learn this difficult way by reading math books in the bath tub is not helpful and actively causes me mental harm. But I feel guilty if I am not working and I have adopted a lot of destructive behaviors that feel like work and make me feel like I am being productive that are making me less productive.

As I have gotten more and more burned out I have worked harder and harder on these self destructive tendencies because I haven’t known how to break out of them.

I have noticed at most of my jobs there is an implicit feel that working on code that does not directly go into a project is considered wasteful. Saying I am going to set up a sample project to learn a concept sounds unproductive and people would really rather that you work directly on the code base or read documentation. (Except when I worked for Brad. He did this stuff all the time and this is where I got this idea from and I finally started getting it through my thick head.)

In my experience, those things don’t work nearly as effectively.

I am trying to be better about asserting what I need to be a productive programmer even if it’s not what people want to hear. It’s not enough to just say “I need to do these things.” I also have to put them into practice.

And part of putting those into practice is to stop doing these destructive behaviors that make me feel like I am doing something when I am actually destroying my ability to function.

I think it’s important to understand how we learn and to stick to it even when other people don’t want to hear about it. It’s really easy to do a bunch of things that make you feel busy but aren’t getting you anywhere.

I am sick of feeling tired and burned out all the time because I am doing things that I know don’t actually help me. I am trying to figure out how to be a more productive person because my career and my mental health depend on it. This is too important to ignore and wait to resolve itself.

So I am not going to exhaust myself reading programming and math books with no context. I am going to do more sample projects and I will only learn what I need to know to solve a problem with my code. I am not going to expel a lot of energy on something that causes mental friction and generates heat that burns me out. I will only use energy on things that are actively productive. I will be less tired and less hurt this way.

Acts of God

I am writing this post from an airport hotel in Irving, Texas, which is near the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. I have been in Texas for the last two days and I don’t anticipate being able to leave for another few days, at the earliest.

I am booked through American Airlines. I usually book through Delta and have found them to be very good and reliable, but this was a business trip. I did not pay for my flight and so I didn’t really get to complain about not getting on the carrier of my choice.

I arrived in Dallas yesterday evening. My flight to Madison was supposed to leave at 8:20 in the evening. 8:20 came and went. The passengers asked a lot of questions and they were not answered for a considerable period of time. The flight kept getting pushed back hour by hour.

After it was pushed back to 10:30 we were told that there was a maintenance issue with the plane and they were waiting for a crew to come and fix it. They said they were bringing a second plane in case the first one wasn’t fixed in time.

The second plane arrived and we were told that the second plane also had maintenance issues. We had two broken airplanes and no idea about when we would get to go home.

Around 11:30 the flight staff announced that if we wanted to rebook our flights for the next day, they would do it for free!! BUT… we would not get a voucher for hotel, food, or transportation if we chose to do this. Unsurprisingly, no one took them up on this offer.

At 12:30, our flight was officially cancelled. We were told that the first plane had been fixed, but that they didn’t have the right paperwork to certify it was fixed and so the plane could not be used.

The stranded passengers were scattered to three local hotels. Many of us were placed at the Super 8. We were told to call a number and a shuttle would come to get us. We called the number and were told that the shuttle stopped going out at midnight and that we needed to take a cab. Half of us were given cab vouchers and half were not. I was among those who was not.

After finally getting to the hotel, I had about six hours to sleep before I had to go back for my rebooked flight. When we got up in the morning the shuttle was actually working, so I didn’t need to line up a cab to get back to the airport.

When we woke up, it was raining cats and dogs (sadly, not men). It was seriously pouring outside. We all had a sinking feeling that we were not going to be going home on time today. We sadly piled into the shuttle back to the airport and hoped for the best.

We found a bunch of people from our flight the day before waiting around the airport. Their flights had been cancelled and they were rebooked on our flight.

Every hour or so for the rest of today we would hear that we had a gate change. We all picked up our bags and hiked from gate to gate so many times we lost count.

We finally settled down at the gate that we were at last night. We all hoped and prayed that things would be different this time.

Our flight got pushed further and further back. We watched hopefully as we saw planes landing and flying away. There were a lot fewer of them than we would have liked, but we held out hope that we would get home.

This was not to be.

Seven hours after my flight was supposed to leave (and ten hours after others were set to leave) our flight was cancelled. We frantically tried to speak to representatives both in person and on the phone. When I called, I was told that the earliest they could fly me out was Tuesday morning, which is the day after tomorrow. I asked what I was supposed to do until then. The representative told me that she would help me find a hotel and give me a special rate, but that since the flight was cancelled due to weather that I would not be given another voucher. I asked if I could get my checked bag. I was told I could and to talk to the baggage service representatives. She said if I went to them they would have my bag brought out.

One reason I took the train a lot a few years ago was because I went through a similar situation to this in 2008. I was stranded at O’Hare because much of Wisconsin had flooded and no one could fly into any of the airports there. At that point I could take a bus from O’Hare to Madison. That isn’t really the case here. I knew at that point that I probably couldn’t get a flight into Wisconsin for love or money, so instead of flailing and trying to fight with everyone else to try and book the last flight to Wisconsin, I just accepted that my best option was to take the Tuesday flight and stay at the hotel. The hotel would be much cheaper than any other flight I would book before then anyway. I work remotely and I can work anywhere. I asked if the hotel had WiFi and since it did I was happy.

I was happy until I found out I couldn’t get my bag. I have been wearing the same clothes for two days. I didn’t take my contacts out yesterday. I had no toothpaste or deodorant. The idea of keeping my contacts in for another two days was unbearable. I grudgingly realized my best option was to get a Lyft from the hotel and pick up all the stuff I needed. I was pretty sure I could find clean underwear and hopefully another shirt.

I am laying here in my room after this ordeal and I wanted to go over the personal cost of this situation to myself and to the other people on this flight.

My Personal Costs

Here is an itemized list of my personal expenses incurred by this situation:

Hotel: $130

Since I can’t get on a flight until the day after tomorrow, I had to book a room for two days. Other people from my flight looked into finding flights on other airlines. One person found one for $230. Another friend said he found one that he cashed his loyalty points into that would have cost $730.

I work remotely and have people to watch my pugs. I would like to be home, but I can work anywhere. This was the cheapest option.

I do not know if this is a reimbursable expense. When my business trip was arranged this was not part of the budget. I am working under the assumption that I am responsible for this expense.

Lost Gift: $30

When they cancelled our first flight, we were taken to a nearby hotel. I forgot that earlier in the day I bought a gift for my mother at the San Jose airport. I found some vinegars that were from a local vineyard. I wanted to show her how much I appreciated her watching my pugs and I hadn’t had a chance to go anywhere to find something special for her.

I was super happy that I found something unique that I could give her that was thoughtful. I like to give people thoughtful gifts that I think will delight them.

I got pinged by the TSA this morning because I forgot about the bottles. I couldn’t put them in my checked luggage because it was trapped somewhere in the bowels of the airport.

I was told that I could check my backpack, but I don’t want to check a MacBook Pro and an iPad Pro just to try and save my vinegar. I was told that they are going to dump the vinegar down the drain. These bottles are hermetically sealed and still in the packaging from the airport.

I understand the issue with bringing liquids through airport security, but I honestly wish that I had been given some kind of option to save my gift for my mom because it wasn’t my choice to leave the airport and have to go through the line again.

I am hoping if I go back to San Jose I can find it again.

Toiletries: $40

When our second flight was cancelled and I called to find out when I could go home. They said the earliest I could get out was Tuesday. This is Sunday.

I figured it would be okay. I was told I could go get my checked bag. I packed too many clothes, so I had a few fresh outfits to wear along with deodorant and toothpaste. When I went to the baggage help desk (that I had been told would give me my bag) I was told that they would not give me my bag. I was told it was still on the plane and that it would not be taken off and would be at my destination.

Considering that my flight was not until Tuesday, I am highly skeptical that they are not going to have a flight tomorrow or before I am flying on Tuesday.

I have been wearing my contacts for the last two days. I can’t wear them for another two days. So I had to find a drug store near my hotel.

I had to buy the following items:

  • Contact lens solution and container
  • Deodorant
  • Toothbrush and Toothpaste
  • Another Shirt
  • Underwear

If I had been allowed to take my bag like I was told I would be able to do, these days would have been a lot less unpleasant.

Transportation: $60

The first night I got a hotel voucher, but I was not given any transportation vouchers. I was told the hotel would send a shuttle, but the hotel we were placed at did not send shuttles after midnight.

We were told that we could not share cabs with people who had been given vouchers. We were told it counted as a separate fare and would cost $48 a person to go to our free hotel.

I said fuck that and contacted Lyft. I was able to bring three other unfortunate people without vouchers for one fare. Even with a large tip, it was only about thirty bucks. I tried to just cover it, but people gave me cash.

Since I wasn’t allowed to get my checked bag, I had to get a Lyft to and from a drug store to pick up necessities for the next few days.

Higher Costs Paid By Others

This situation has been an annoyance to me. I don’t get to be home with my pugs or cook my own food.

But I have a lot more flexibility than most people do. I can work remotely. I can work tomorrow as easily from my hotel as I can from my house. Even if my current contract doesn’t reimburse me for this situation, it’s not going to affect me financially that much. It just means I dip further into my savings and I will be annoyed.

There are a lot of other people on my flight who were affected far worse than I was.

The pilot from the first cancelled flight didn’t get paid for the time he was at the airport. He only gets paid if he flies. Since neither plane was flight worthy, he didn’t get paid last night. While the rest of us passengers got varying degrees of vouchers, he was on his own for providing his own hotel. I heard him calling around trying to find a hotel room and negotiate a better rate.

There was a man there who was missing his parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. He kept looking at his watch saying around 4:00 that the party they were holding was wrapping up about now.

The absolute saddest story I heard the last two days was from a soldier who is stationed in Korea. He was taking 17 days of leave to come home and see his wife. He hadn’t seen her in six months. Today is her birthday. We was supposed to be home last night. If he is in the same situation that I am in, he won’t get to go home until Tuesday. He potentially has burned a quarter of his leave hanging around a fucking airport/hotel trying to get home to his family.

If he had known that he would not be able to fly out until Tuesday, he could have rented a car this morning and been home tomorrow. He could have driven to another airport and tried to get home sooner that way. Instead, he was given false hope that home was just around the corner. It’s just another hour, then you can go home.

The man whose parents had their 50th anniversary will never get to see it because it only happens once. The soldier will never get those days back. This man is representing our country and I felt he was treated very badly.

Acts of God

I know that airlines don’t control everything. Stuff happens. I just feel that things could have been handled better and they were not because of the desire by the airline to try and not spend money.

The regional carrier model of transporting people from smaller airlines like Madison to regional hubs like Atlanta and Dallas is a cost savings measure. Regional carriers are usually owned by companies other than American and Delta. I have read a lot of bad things about this business model that I can’t directly cite and therefore do not feel comfortable referencing. Based on those things, I was not really surprised that there were maintenance issues and I was honestly a little worried about the plane even before they told us that it had broken.

Rather than telling us that we would not be able to fly out last night, they tried to con the passengers into rebooking the flight on their own rather than being up front with the fact that we were probably not going home.

Had we known that we were not going home earlier in the day, we could have found other ways to go home. Once people determined that there were no American Airlines flights until Tuesday, people scrambled to find another way home. People could have rented cars to try and get to other airports outside of the affected area.

It would have made a huge difference to me to be able to have access to my checked bag while I am stuck out here. I have no idea why I didn’t get access to it, but I think there should have been a way for me to get it.

Most of all, I think it’s terrible if we can’t do better by soldiers who are serving our country. I am incredibly upset that this man missed his wife’s birthday and possibly won’t get to go home until Tuesday. I know that we all feel like our own personal perspective is the worst, but I would like to think that someone could have taken a few extra steps earlier in the process to make sure this man got home.

All day yesterday and today, I felt like we were collectively treated like cattle. We were herded from one end of the airport to the other. We were seen as a collective herd and treated as such by the airline.

We’re not a herd. We’re people. We all have stories. A lot of people have been inconvenienced this weekend, but a number of them missed precious moments of their lives that they will never get back again.