Category Archives: Navel Gazing

Weight is a Number

I am entering my second year of living alone as an independent adult human. I am trying to sort out taxes and get my house cleaned to the point where I can have a party.

One thing I have been passively struggling with is my weight.

The last few years have been very difficult. I have commented on this blog before about the unstable food situation I have had. I have also dealt with a lot of stress and not knowing how to cook my own food. I thought that when all of those issues went away the situation would take care of itself. I didn’t want to try doing a diet and exercise plan because, honestly, I was having trouble just keeping my head above water so it wasn’t a priority.

I don’t think I have lost any weight since I started living alone. I think I had an unhealthy bloated look that has gone away and I feel like I look healthier, but I recently started buying all of my clothes a size larger to be comfortable while I am working.

I was very skinny as a child. The other kids would not go on the seesaw with me because I was so light that I would just hang up in the air. I was consistently ten pounds lighter than everyone else in my class up until puberty hit. Then I developed an eating disorder and I was mad that I didn’t lose any weight. I was freezing all the time and used to pass out, but I didn’t lose weight, so I was demoralized.

I feel a little like a failure because I feel like I had a natural body type that was not very heavy and I am now technically overweight. I don’t feel like doing all the stuff I would need to do to lose the 20 pounds I feel like I should lose to go back to being normal.

I remember being skinny.

You know what? Being skinny really sucked.

I do not remember a time in my childhood where I could tolerate any amount of physical activity.

The worst day of the school year for me was when we would have to run the mile. I would start out thinking I would try to run just this one time. Within a hundred feet I would be gasping for air clutching my side because I felt like I was being stabbed. I got used to my time just being over fifteen minutes because trying to do any better than that was just too hard. I had one year where I didn’t feel well and it was over twenty minutes and they had me do it again.

I hated athletics and sports because I totally sucked at anything physical.

I have noticed since moving out of my parent’s house that my eating habits have changed. My dad makes inedible food. The food he makes is somewhat nutritionally vacuous. He does a lot of bread and rice. One reason he and my ex would get into fights was because my dad wanted his meals to be mainly bread and cereals and my ex wanted his meals to be mainly of meat. Supposedly there should have been common ground between them to eat a lot of vegetables, but shockingly for some reason neither of them actually did that.

He has struggled with his weight most of his adult life. He likes to gorge himself and feel full, which means he tries to make a lot of watery soups that take up a lot of volume, but don’t provide calories or nutrients.

I think back to being a kid and eating turkey sandwiches on whole wheat bread with nothing else on them, not because I was picky, but because we didn’t have anything else to put on them. We had a lot of rice and steamed brussels sprouts and skim milk and iceberg lettuce salads with non-fat dressing washed down with cold glasses of Crystal Light Strawberry Kiwi Lemonade.

My dad had an aversion to fat and he replaced it with carbohydrates. We didn’t do a lot of vegetables and we didn’t have a lot of protein. Most of our food was nutritionally vacant. I am pretty sure my brother, who still lives with my parents, is suffering from scurvy.

I will cop to the fact that when I was starving myself I was making my body weak. I was working against myself by not taking care of myself properly. But as I have been angry with myself for abusing myself, I keep thinking back to the times when I wasn’t abusing myself. I think about how when I was seven I had to ask my friend’s mom for a ride less than a block because I would be winded trying to walk that far.

I might have been skinny, but I sure as hell wasn’t healthy.

I know I should do more than I am doing now. When it’s warmer outside I go for hour long walks and I find them enjoyable. I started running on and off the last few years and I find more joy in it that I ever thought I would because I associated it with feeling like I was going to die and being made fun of for being weak.

Recently I helped my 64-year-old mother move a mattress to the basement. She has arthritis and couldn’t grip the mattress, so I helped my dad do it. She didn’t want me to because she thought if she couldn’t handle the mattress there was no way that I could. Do you know how pathetic it feels to have your retired mother be shocked that you can do normal tasks because it’s something she doesn’t think she can do??

My dad keeps making passive aggressive comments about my “unhealthy” food that has “flesh” in it. He keeps trying to pawn watery lentil and squash soup on me. When I turn him down he keeps telling me that I picked up some bad habits from my ex and comments how skinny I was when I ate his food.

Yeah, starving people tend to be skinny. But being skinny isn’t the best tool that we have to gauge health. If I have to be overweight to be able to actually go hiking and running and not constantly feeling like I am going to die, then cool. I would rather deal with the ten or twenty vanity pounds I would like to lose than go back to how I felt when I was skinny but thought I was fat.

Are you a Developer or an Engineer?

Last month my boss, Daniel Pasco, posted this thought on Twitter:

developerEngineer

Developers focus on making great code.
Engineers focus on making great things.

This really struck a chord with me. I have observed a few behaviors that I didn’t really have any context to express and I feel like this quote sums up a lot of things that trouble me about the programming community.

Hipster Coding

“Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
– Yogi Berra

I went back to school in earnest to learn programming in 2012. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to find whatever would work best for me in the long run. I initially went for Java because I knew there was a lot of demand for it, but I didn’t realize there was also a lot of supply and it was difficult to find an entry level Java job because most of them demanded 3-5 years of experience. I couldn’t break through the layers of bureaucracy and I just stopped trying.

I initially got involved with the Ruby community. I knew a lot of people who were active there and it seemed like it was the new up and coming thing.

I would talk to people about how to get into Ruby and I would be asked what open source projects I worked on. I didn’t really understand open source and would ask for help about how to get into open source. Their looks would immediately change to a combination of disdain and pity and they would stop talking to me because I wasn’t a contributor.

I struggled with this a bit trying to break into Ruby, only to discover that all the people who had been doing Ruby had moved on to Clojure. Then they moved on to Haskell. I think they were interested in Swift for a bit, but I have lost track of whatever the new hot language is. Might be Go…

I think a lot of people feel like they missed out on the Gold Rush of the iPhone. I know that I do. By the time I started taking iOS programming classes in 2012, the whole point of having an app out on the store was to use it as a resume builder to find an actual job. We were being prepared for the world as it exists now/over the next few years where there is less contracting and more enterprise development.

I feel a sense of chasing after something that doesn’t exist anymore. We still have the dream of writing a killer app and making mad bank, but that is growing more and more difficult. I feel like any time Apple releases a new piece of hardware, like the Apple Watch or the Apple TV, people feel like they need to immediately mark their territory on it because they think that if they get there first, they can strike gold and move on before everyone else gets there.

This has created a situation where we have platforms that seem to be abandoned by developers because there is something newer and shinier that has come out and everyone wants to be the first one there.

I Have a Screwdriver and Everything is a Screw

My introduction to programming was back in 2008. I was kind of loafing around unemployed because I had no idea what I was doing with my life. My dad would take me to work and I would go and hang out with the weird IT guy. My nickname for this guy was Jesus because he looked like Jesus if Jesus wore a shirt and tie.

He was really into programming and told me that learning programming was a valuable skill. He set me up with a book and a laptop in the corner. He showed me where the Terminal was and taught me how to write code in TextEdit and compile it on the command line.

All of this was done in Perl.

The book he gave me was the Llama O’Reilly book from I think 1998. He told me that the language was stable and didn’t change, so it was okay that the book was old.

I started telling people that I was learning Perl and I got horrified looks from people telling me no one uses it anymore. I was told to learn PHP because that was the future.

I talked to Jesus about that, and he told me not to bother learning PHP because everything that I want to do I can do in Perl. Perl does everything.

Replace “Perl” with “JavaScript” and that is exactly what we have now for a fairly large portion of the programming community.

I am not going to get into an argument about whether JavaScript is “real” code or not. That isn’t the point I am trying to make. JavaScript is a tool. It has its uses. If I want to write a website, I can’t do that in Swift with the Cocoa frameworks.

What worries me is that I see a lot of people treating JavaScript the way my friend Jesus treated Perl. It’s the thing they know, so they want to make it work for every single possible thing that exists.

There was a great blog post I read recently saying that the state of web development is static right now. Large companies like Yahoo are basically rewriting their websites over and over again in whatever the new hot JavaScript framework is.

I think I read recently that someone created a framework on top of JQuery, which is it’s a framework on top of JavaScript. I think someone tried to create a JavaScript framework to do server back end work. It’s a web language! It was designed to do one thing and one thing well. It’s being convoluted into weird, abstract shapes because people don’t want to learn new things.

Fleeting Fame

fleetingFame

“ObjC culture carriers were people who’d been building products for years using it. Swift culture carriers see a chance for fleeting fame.”
– Graham Lee

When Swift first came out, there were a lot of prominent members of the programming community that were incredibly anti-Swift. They had invested 15 years in Objective-C and saw no reason to pick up this goofy new language and get knocked back the the beginning of the board with everyone else.

A lot of us scoffed at these people and told them to get with the program because Swift wasn’t going anywhere.

It’s nearly two years later, and we’re now seeing that a lot of these people have come to terms with the fact that this language isn’t going anywhere.

This doesn’t mean that they are sitting back and figuring out the language. On the contrary. Many of them are just as loud and opinionated about it as they ever were, but now they’re actually trying to use it.

I have noticed a shift in the last six months or so where the people talking about Swift aren’t the early adopters who were coming from Haskell backgrounds who wanted to share their functional programming knowledge. Instead, we’re getting people who feel like they need to have an opinion about Swift to feel important.

Lots of people want to post tirades about how Swift should be done. They don’t want to listen to people who have been working with it for the last few years. That defeats the purpose. They want to be the one who can go and write a convoluted piece of code to break the compiler and have everyone tell them how clever they are.

A lot of the sense of community that I felt back when we had Objective-C has evaporated. Back then, new people could enter the community and have seasoned professionals give them a hand with understanding things. Now, everyone feels like they have to establish themselves as an expert and no one is willing to ask actual questions that would make them better Swift programmers. Their shouting is drowning out everyone else’s thoughts and opinions and making it even more difficult for beginners to actually learn Swift.

How We Should Be Doing Things

I worked for Brad Larson for a year. We spent that year porting a legacy code base from Objective-C to Swift. There were two important reasons for doing this:

  1. The code base was fragile and at a point where we could not go in and add or change anything without breaking it.
  2. There were problems that we had encountered over the years that would not have happened if we wrote the code base in Swift.

There was a point when I was working with Brad where he showed me this crazy code that was full of functional programming stuff. I felt very depressed because I didn’t think I could ever come up with something that interesting or complex. It bothered me, so I kept talking to him about it.

After doing this for a while I figured out the right question: What problem is this code solving?

When he started to tell me about how unsafe our previous code was because of the constraints of Objective-C. He had spent years trying to figure out a better solution for his problem and he understood what needed to be done intimately.

Brad is an engineer. He didn’t set out to use all the new toys in Swift because he was looking for an excuse to use them. He had problems he needed to solve and wanted to find the most elegant way of solving them. That solution just happened to include a lot of functional programming concepts. I think he actually rewrote the code a few times because he realized there was a better way to solve the problem.

Code exists as a tool to solve problems. It isn’t an end in and of itself. You can write the most insane Rube Goldergian piece of code imaginable that will work, but why bother?

Writing an app or an open source framework or anything is a little like adopting a puppy. It’s a long term commitment. I don’t think that the people who released the first apps for the iPhone realized they might be on the hook for supporting them for close to a decade. No one anticipated that.

Now that we have a better understanding of that, it’s important to spend time thinking about what your app will solve and how to maintain it long term when it stops being cute and starts peeing on your floor.

One of my goals this year is to release an app. I have done other projects like books and talks, and as such you can take what I say with as many grains of salt as you want. I have been hesitant to produce anything because I worry about the long term maintenance of what I am doing. I know I should just put something out there and learn from my mistakes. We’ll see.

I want to find one, solid piece of functionality that I want to see out in the world. I want to start with whatever the smallest bit of that is and work out from there. I want to keep the scope small and make sure that each piece works and can be built off of to add functionality.

I know that I want to be an engineer. I want to solve problems. I don’t care if no one buys my app or if it is just a tree that falls in the woods where no one can hear it. I just want to know that designed and implemented something well. The problem I need to solve right now is getting over my fear of fucking up and to just do something.

What Happens After Burnout?

Over the last year or two Jaimee Newberry has been doing a series of talks about burnout. She talked about how she went through a period where work went from being her motivator and her escape to this thing that she just couldn’t tolerate doing without feeling sick. She had to take a step back and take some time off to recover from this.

What happens if you don’t do that? What happens if you work through burnout? Good question. I have the answer!!

Humans Are Not Unlimited Resources

I have been going at 150% since the middle of 2012. I figured out that if I just put a lot of time into learning something, I could get over a hump and actually figure out stuff that was confusing at first. This was a magical revelation to me. I knew that if I put enough effort into something, I could do anything. Nothing was impossible.

I had school through the end of 2014. I started coding 80 hours a week to try and speed up the process of learning things as fast as I could. I had time to make up for. Everyone else had been programming since they were 12. I was in my 30’s and I was a woman. I needed to make up for lost time so I could be on the same level as everyone else. I could back it off when I got a job.

I got my first job and we were encouraged/expected to work at least 60 hours a week. I was the oldest person at this company by a decade. I was surrounded by guys in their twenties who were all on Ritalin who could work 24 hours without sleep. I was the only girl. I had to prove that I could do what everyone else could.

About a week before I got fired, I was so stressed out from this job that I had a panic attack and had a car accident that nearly totaled my car. I knew that this was not good and started trying to figure out what I would do after this.

I wound up working on a contract with Brad Larson for Digital World Biology. I was working on an OpenGL project with two other programmers who had at least ten years of experience. I was the only person on this project who hadn’t gone to graduate school. I had to work really hard to try and keep up and not just be a burden on everyone.

After that I worked on a book. Then I worked for Brad for a year. Then I worked on another book. Then I took a part time job. Then in the same month I switched my full time job. I did conference talks. I traveled a lot. I kept thinking I could manage my time and do more and more things.

I also kept telling myself that I would eventually get a break.

“When I finish this book, I can take a break.”

“I just need to finish this one set of conference talks, then I can take a break.”

“This side project isn’t that hard. It will help me network and it’s almost like having a break because it’s not coding!”

I started falling apart around June.

I didn’t want to admit I was falling apart. I made commitments to people and I didn’t want to let them down. I didn’t want to get a bad reputation as someone who couldn’t be counted on. I have mental health issues and I didn’t want to say I can’t do something because I assumed that everyone else was able to do more than I can and I wanted to work twice as hard to prove that I could do what everyone else can.

Used to just have a day every month or two that I couldn’t function. It usually happened on weekends, so I would just get annoyed that I lost a day or two to work on my side projects.

This started happening more and more often.

A while ago I got really sick and it took me a month to get over it.

I could feel myself falling apart, but I was in denial over it. I did things like getting my subscription food service to deal with things that triggered my break downs. I worked around them. Until I couldn’t anymore.

Last week on the last day of the year, I had a total breakdown. I could not sit at my computer without falling over. I felt like my head was full of white noise. I was sent home early and told to relax the entire long weekend.

I expected the enforced vacation would fix me up like it usually does. It didn’t. I could feel myself not getting better. It was like the forced rest was a tourniquet on a limb that was cut off. I knew if I took the tourniquet off that the bleeding would start back up again.

I had to go through intensive guided meditation therapy yesterday for two hours to get stable enough to continue working today. I have to go back in two weeks. I have been told that this isn’t a magic bullet. If I keep doing what I have been doing for the last three years this will keep happening to me and it will get worse and worse and the therapy will be less effective.

I was told that I need to cut back on everything I am doing immediately. I can continue working, but anything beyond that is pretty questionable. I was told if I work at this I can be close to normal in three to six months.

I wrote recently about tech being a casino and how bad start up culture is. I want to emphasize right here that I do not work for a company like that. I work for Black Pixel. Everyone there has been incredibly supportive of me. My boss Janene saw that I was burning myself out and really tried to get me to take care of myself before things totally collapsed. I think it’s rather sad that so few companies in our industry treat their employees like people and actually care about what happens to them. I wanted to make sure I gave them a shout out for helping me through this difficult time.

I keep being asked how I have time to do all the things I do. I used to say that I could do this because I don’t have a family and I live in the middle of nowhere. I made this my life. But that’s not the whole answer. I have been overclocking myself for a long time and I haven’t done what I need to do to ensure I have a long and fruitful career.

I think that overclocking myself for the first bit of time was necessary. I needed to apply some lighter fuel to my barely smoldering career fire to get it to catch. After it caught, I needed to stop applying lighter fuel, but I didn’t know how. I was paranoid about the fire going out that I thought I had to keep poking it and feeding it and tending it at the expense of taking care of myself. There comes a point when you need to walk away. Not permanently, but long enough to sleep or take a shower or eat something. If you built your fire well, it will still be alive when you wake up the next morning.

Going through this total collapse has really frightened me. I felt like I was omnipotent a few years ago when I realized that I could do anything if I put enough work into it. I am realizing that I took things too far.

I think we need to be better about talking about burning ourselves out. With the pace that our world is changing, we are the weak element here. No one can keep up with all the changes. It’s impossible. As long as we keep thinking there is some mystical full stack developer out there that can keep up with every new framework, device, language, etc… that comes out, we will be causing a lot of unneeded suffering and mental anguish.

We are not infinite resources. There is no shame in stepping back for a while to recover from a sprint. A sprint is not a sustainable pace. It’s necessary to implement periodically, but know that at a certain point you need to slow down and take a break.

I had a lot of success in a short period of time. That came with a cost. I think the cost was worth it, but I need to stop for a while.

My Resolutions for 2016

I woke up on the last day of this year completely non-functional. I am used to having a day or two of non functionality, but I can usually target it for weekends so that I don’t have to tell anyone I don’t feel well or miss work. Wasn’t able to do that a few days ago.

I really tried to make it to the long weekend, but my body gave out on me before then. The wonderful people at my work told me to take off early and get some rest and not to do any work this weekend. It’s a good place and I am happy that I work for people who want me to take care of myself.

Since I am not supposed to code or do any work right now, I have been thinking about what my goals are this year. I know most people are resolving to work out more often or lose weight or whatever. My goals are going to be a little different.

  • I am not working on another book
  • I am going to release an app or an open source project
  • I am going to clean and organize my house
  • I am going to make more of an effort to entertain at my house
  • I am going to cook a complicated special meal once a month
  • I am going to make complicated special dessert once a month
  • I will go on a real vacation this year

I am not working on another book

I can’t do this any more right now. When I worked on my first programming book, I was between jobs and I was able to dedicate all of my time to working on it. There was a period of overlap, which was incredibly difficult. I wasn’t planning to work on one this year, but a series of events lead me to work on the Swift Apprentice.

Working on that broke me.

I would sit down to work on it and feel my head filling with white noise. Even thinking about going to work on my computer made me want to curl up in a ball and cry. I missed a lot of my deadlines and I felt horrible for not doing what I promised to do. I was supposed to do two chapters but I could only pull myself together enough to do one.

I don’t know why this project was the one that broke me. I had worked on other books and wrote articles for Objc-io, but this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I have been trying to recover from it ever since.

Everyone on the Swift Apprentice was incredibly supportive and understanding. I do not want this to come off in any way like I am blaming anyone there. I had no idea what my limits were until I went over them. I actually wrote a long pitch to Ray about a Metal book on the way home from 360iDev. I had only gotten about three hours of sleep a night for a week and a few hours after I wrote him that pitch my body gave out and I nearly passed out several times on my trip home. I slept for two days after that.

I think when I am about to crash I go into denial and try to add even more work to myself because I don’t want to admit that I am spent. It’s taking me longer and longer to recover from a crash and they are happening more and more often.

So I am not going to work on anything extra this year. I just can’t. I will keep blogging and doing other writing for myself, but I am not taking on anything with a deadline for someone else this year. I just can’t do it right now.

I am going to release an app or an open source project

Going along with the previous resolution, I need to do some work for myself this year.

Most job postings require you to have published an app to be hired. I have gotten around that by working on books and talks and working for very intelligent people.

So far in my career I have never done anything for myself or on my own.

I found it hard to justify working on my own things when I had so many opportunities presented to me. It astonishes me that I have written a book with Chris Adamson and worked for Brad Larson and have had the incredible privilege of joining the Ray Wenderlich team. I keep waiting for someone to tap me on the shoulder and tell me that I am living someone else’s life and it’s time to go back to my actual one.

It bothers me that I have not finished something of my own. I pushed it off to the side while I tried to establish my career. I know that doing something of my own would establish it further, but stuff kept coming up. I kept thinking I would work on it when this current thing was over, but then another thing would come along and another.

I know this is totally a first world problem that I have too many good opportunities. I took a lot of them because I found it hard to say no. I need to do that this year because I need to focus on what I want to do and be known for.

I did the writing and the speaking because I wasn’t super comfortable with my programming skills. I was a beginner and I needed to find a job to support myself. Doing things I already had experience with helped me jumpstart my career. It was the right move to make at the time.

Now I want to focus on showing that I can code. I want to find something that hasn’t been done before and I want to figure it out. I want to do this for me. I don’t care if an app I write makes a penny, I want to make it because I want to know I am capable of doing so.

I am not putting this off any longer. I am doing something for me this year.

I am going to clean and organize my house

I have written in the past about my house. I started organizing and cleaning it a month or two ago. I noticed over the last week or two that it’s been sliding back into chaos. That should have been a warning to me that I was heading for a crash.

One problem I have is that I don’t have an organizational structure. I can’t put anything away because there is nowhere to put anything away to. I have been boxing things up and storing them in the basement.

2015 was the first year where I had to actually pay bills and budget stuff. I was terrified of running out of money, so I didn’t really invest in things for my house for a while. I was also gone most of the time and it was easier to just not think about it. I had two rooms in my house I never went into because I was never home.

Now that I work from home, it bothers me to see how messy everything is. I have never gotten to decorate my home before. I didn’t think of this as my home until recently and I have started to become mentally unfrozen about it.

I am hoping to budge out an amount for shelves for my books and my geeky toys. I want to pain the rooms of the house in colors I like. I want to organize the kitchen and finally figure out what stuff my ex left for me.

I don’t want to sleep walk through my life anymore. I want to be actively engaged in world around me, including the place I call my home.

I am going to make more of an effort to entertain at my house

I live in the middle of nowhere. I also like to plan things and cook. I always wanted to have parties, but neither my father nor my husband would let me do that. It also wasn’t like I had anyone to invite over anyway.

I don’t want to get too isolate out here on my own. I would like to be able to have people come over here and enjoy themselves. The idea of being able to actually plan out a menu and feed people and have people come over here makes me really happy.

I don’t want to be ashamed of the place that I live. I would like to have people come here and enjoy themselves. I would like to have an excuse to dress nicely and have a good time with people. This also gives me an incentive to make sure I clean my house properly periodically and not let it slide into chaos.

I am going to cook a complicated special meal once a month

I wrote recently about having a subscription food service. I like to cook, but I find grocery shopping to be overwhelming.

My weekly subscription is really awesome for feeding myself every day, but the meals are by its nature simplified for busy people who don’t have a day to prepare a meal.

There are a bunch of things I want to figure out how to make that are complicated.

I want to actually organize myself by choosing one complicated thing a month that I will make. I will have a targeted list of ingredients so I don’t just randomly start buying things with the idea that I could make a lot of different things.

I think by planning a day, like the second Saturday of every month, to do something special and to have a targeted list of things I want to do, that I can organize myself enough to do something special.

I could try to coordinate this with the entertaining resolution. I would love to have a dinner party. I know no one does that anymore, but I want to do it and I think it would be fun.

I am going to make complicated special dessert once a month

One thing that has disappointed me as an adult is not being able to bake things. My ex took up the Paleo diet, which doesn’t allow for any kind of baking at all.

This sounds totally stupid, but I grew up thinking that I would be able to bring cookies and stuff to work for my co-workers. I haven’t had a job like that since I worked in the call center. Right now I work from home so I don’t have an office to bring things to. At my last office I was discouraged from bringing food in. I brought in doughnuts once and no one would eat them.

I am bothered by how touchy everyone is about food. Everyone is on a perpetual diet. Everyone thinks that if you eat a brownie you are a bad person with no willpower. It really fucking sucks.

So I am going to make something every month. Hopefully I can find people to pawn it off to. If not, I just want to make it for myself. Hopefully I can freeze it. Hopefully I can serve it at something.

It sucks investing time in making something to have people turn their noses up at it and feel virtuous because somehow they are better than you are because they don’t indulge in things that are bad for them. I made stuffed mushrooms for my parents for Christmas Eve and my dad would not keep the leftovers because I put bacon in them. He talked down to me about how I was going to die before I turned forty because I eat bacon a few times a year.

Life is short. Eat cake. Not every day, but sometimes.

I will go on a real vacation this year

The last vacation I went on was in 2013. I went on a cruise during my winter break between semesters at school. My ex and I spent most of the cruise drinking. He discovered that he loved scuba diving. I discovered that the idea of putting my head underwater threw me into a panic attack.

I wanted to spend the whole time laying around the adults-only pool area relaxing and reading programming books. I was forced off the boat at each port. I didn’t get to do anything that I wanted. I got screamed at at least three times. It would have been a wonderful vacation if I had been alone.

I want a real vacation.

I have gone on trips to conferences. I sing for my supper and they’re all working trips. I have gotten to see a lot of amazing places and met a lot of amazing people. It’s been great, but it’s also been exhausting. The last trip I went on I was awake for 24 hours straight.

I wanted to speak at conferences so I could afford to attend a lot of them, but most of the conferences I went to in 2015 were so overwhelming that the only session I attended was my own. I would spend long periods of time hiding out in my room because I was too spent to leave and see others speak.

I have thought about doing vacations before, but the effort for planning one and the cost have been overwhelming to me. I don’t know how people do cheap vacations. If anyone has advice I would be happy to hear it. The cheapest flights I have been able to book are $350. Then it’s hard to find a hotel for less than a hundred bucks a night. If you are gone a week, it’s at least a grand to just get there and be there. I am sure there are cheaper alternatives, but I have been too mentally exhausted to deal with it, so I haven’t looked into alternatives. I have just written off the idea that this is something I can do.

I would like to either do a cruise or an all-inclusive resort. I want to step off the plane someplace warm and not have to think about anything for a week. I want to not worry about feeding myself. I don’t want to worry about finding alcohol. I just want to be able to set somewhere I can relax and do whatever I want when I feel like it. I want no friction. I don’t want to feel bad that I am not going out and visiting historical places or going to museums. I don’t want to have to figure out where I am getting food. I just want to relax and do whatever I feel like.

If anyone has any suggestions for resorts or cruises they liked, I would appreciate it, especially if it’s targeted at singles. A cruise would be twice as expensive for me to travel as a single person. It might still be the best option, but I am open to suggestions that are different.

Rest and Renewal

I am figuring out the hard way that I can’t work all the time. I have been running myself into the ground for the last three years. I needed to do that for the first couple, but I can’t keep doing it anymore.

I have been afraid of backing off at all. I saw people who have been doing the same thing for fifteen years and have gotten complacent that things will never change. They think their jobs will always be there. They don’t try to push to move up or evolve their jobs.

I picked the handle Red Queen Coder because the Red Queen had to run as fast as she could just to stay in one place. If she wanted to get anywhere, she would have to run twice as fast as she was. I have been running twice as fast for the last three years. It’s time to step back to just running and staying in one place. I need to rebuild my energy for the next sprint.

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.

Nope.

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.

Introverts

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.

Olive and the Forever Home

I don’t write or tweet as much about Olive as I do about Delia. I have been thinking about her and my story of how she came into my life.

The Arrival of Olive

Delia, Olive, and Boo chilling on Ehren.

Delia, Olive, and Boo chilling on Ehren.

For much of our marriage, we had two pugs: Boo and Delia.

Boo was my ex-husband Ehren’s pug. He made the mistake of telling me that he bought Boo to win back an ex-girlfriend he had wanted to marry. This probably should have been a red flag, but I didn’t pick up on it at the time. I insisted that I wanted my own pug and we wound up with Delia.

For those who have never interacted me with me before in any meaningful way, I love Delia. Delia is my familiar. I go through a lot of pain when I have to leave her. Working at an office for a year was torture to me because I had to leave Delia every day.

I started to get worried about my attachment to Delia. Even though she wasn’t very old, I was perpetually terrified by the concept of her inevitable death. I was terrified that when she died I would be catatonic and be unable to leave my bed and care for myself. I decided I wanted another dog so that when she eventually died I would be forced to get out of bed to take care of the other pug and I would not be completely destroyed by it. (Yes, I know this is extreme and I have issues.)

I kept wanting to adopt pugs from the Humane Society, but my ex said we could not. Eventually the pugs would disappear from the site and he told me they found a good home and not to worry about them.

Then one of my friends made the profoundly stupid mistake of telling me that the Humane Society kills dogs after a week if they are not adopted. I found out later this wasn’t true, but I felt consumed with guilt. I started yelling at my ex that we had allowed all those poor pugs to be murdered because we didn’t adopt them. I told him there was probably a nice pug at the Humane Society right now that would die if we didn’t adopt it.

Someone is just a little crazy.

Someone is just a little crazy.

I went to the site and I found Olive.

Ehren was kind of tired of me demanding another pug, so he told me to go visit her and fill out the paper work.

I nervously walked through a hallway of cages that were mostly full of big pit bulls looking for Olive. She didn’t have a picture on the site, so I didn’t know what she would look like. I knew she was black and she was a mix, but not much else.

Finally I got to the end of the hallway and I saw this tiny ball of furry energy throwing herself at the door of the cage. I knew the second I saw her that she was destined to be mine. Then I saw that someone else had already filled out adoption papers and I got very sad. I was told to fill out papers for her anyway in case the other family didn’t work out.

I asked the people at the Humane Society if they knew Olive’s story, why she was at the pound. They told me that a couple had adopted her to try and save their relationship, but it didn’t work, so they dumped her at the pound. The lady told me that the girl in the relationship had wanted to keep her, but couldn’t find an apartment that let her keep pets.

This upset me a lot. I think of the dogs as family. The idea that anyone would either just dump a dog like an old shoe they didn’t want anymore or be forced to part with a member of the family really bothered me. I couldn’t imagine having to do that and it made me feel a lot of sadness for Olive.

The other family didn’t work out and we got to bring her home on St. Patrick’s Day 2013.

For a really long time, it was difficult to integrate Olive into our lives. We each had our own dog, so we didn’t really know whose dog Olive was. We both liked her, but we didn’t feel particularly attached to her. I felt very bad for bringing her into the house and not making her feel loved the way I loved Delia.

divorce —
nobody wants
the dog

Who is going to keep me??

Who is going to keep me??

When my ex-husband and I filed for divorce this year, we had two things we needed to deal with: Who would keep the house and who would keep Olive.

Neither of us wanted the house.

We bought the house six years ago with the idea that this was a starter house. I would start working and Ehren would earn more money and after a few years we would sell it and buy something larger.

We fell on some hard times and this plan never materialized. Neither of us wanted to live in the suburbs. For a while, Ehren wanted to live in the middle of nowhere, but then when he started working downtown he wanted to live in a more urban area.

I never wanted to live in Wisconsin. One reason I majored in journalism was because I wanted to be able to move to a lot of different places and I thought I would be able to do that if I was a journalist. I never quite got it to work because I didn’t know how to find jobs in other places.

When I became a programmer, there was always the possibility of working for Apple and moving out to the Bay Area. I had a lot of difficulty finding an iOS job in Madison and I was very angry and being stuck here and not being able to explore jobs in Chicago or somewhere else because I was stuck with the house and with my husband whose job kept him here.

Neither of us wanted the house.

I am watching you. I know what you think.

I am watching you. I know what you think.

I kept the house because the mortgage is a loan from my parents. We separated in winter and we knew we couldn’t just sell the house. Someone would have to stay with it and possibly never leave. Because I wanted the divorce, I took on the burden of dealing with the house.

Then there was the problem of Olive.

Olive is very crazy and energetic. She can’t live in a condo. She needs a large space to run around in. Anything else is simply not fair.

We decided that whoever kept the house would also keep Olive, so I wound up with both.

The Forever Home

A few months after Ehren moved out, Olive jumped into my lap. She jumps into my lap a lot, but she acted different this time. She grew very still and she gently placed her head in my lap in a submissive gesture.

I can be cute when I want to be.

I can be cute when I want to be.

This really freaked me out. I could not figure out what was going on.

Then I remembered.

Her earliest memory was of being adopted by people who broke up. The guy moved out of the house, the girl couldn’t keep her, so she wound up at the pound.

Olive had been waiting for months for me to take her back to the pound. She never grew attached to either of us because she assumed this was not her real home or family. She didn’t want to be hurt when she went back to the pound. Earlier this year she realized that she was not going back to the pound. She realized that Delia was her sister and that we were going to be together always, no matter what. She let herself bond to us and we’re now a family.

I realized I was doing a similar thing with my house.

I never thought I would be here for very long. We thought we were going to sell the house and move in a few years. I thought I was going to move out when I left Ehren. I thought I was going to accept a job at Apple or in Chicago or something and that I would leave. I never thought of this as my home.

One reason I let things get to the state they were in was that I didn’t know what I was going to do. I didn’t think I would stay here, so I didn’t get invested in making this house into my home.

Been spending a lot of time recently thinking about things.

I have been trying to escape from my life. I keep thinking I should be doing things that other people are doing. I keep thinking I should live in a city and go out drinking all the time and spending time with people my own age. I keep thinking I should join an online dating site. I keep looking at these idealized “Sex and the City” versions what I think my life is supposed to be.

I don’t like it.

I like being alone. I like spending my evenings cooking and drinking wine in the bath. I should probably drink less wine, but I like being by myself.

I like making things. I would like to get back to working on my electronics, but right now I am enjoying the time I am spending cooking.

I like my pugs. I like my little house even if it is in the middle of nowhere.

For better or for worse, this is the life I have chosen. I can’t escape it by moving somewhere else because I am not fixing the underlying issue of myself which is that I feel unfulfilled and stressed out. Going somewhere else and making superficial changes isn’t going to fill the void I have within my soul.

I am working to fix up my house because I let it get bad because I couldn’t think of it as my home. It was the temporary place I was using to hold all my stuff and where I was sleeping. I am now committed to staying here.

Olive and I have both found our forever home.

Best Friends Forever.

Best Friends Forever.

Plague of the Damned

The last two months have been among the most stressful I have had since I started programming. It has been more stressful than writing my first book or working at my first real programming job or even as stressful as when I essentially dropped out of school due to a nervous breakdown.

In September, I took over the Swift tutorial team at RayWenderlich.com. Part of the reason for my decision taking over the team was related to my previous job. At the time, I worked for SonoPlot. I had worked for them for a year and I was trying to figure out where my career was going. I had spoken about this with the company a few times, and it was pretty well established that there was not exactly a lot of growth potential for me there. Most companies have management as a potential way for people to grow within their jobs, but at a company with a few people, that wasn’t exactly an option. Also, SonoPlot is a hardware company. Our software wasn’t the selling point, it was a peripheral. I was trying to figure out some way of staying there without feeling like I was just stuck in a dead-end job, and doing a part-time gig managing a team on the biggest tutorial site for iOS seemed like an ideal compromise. I would get some exposure, work with really smart people, and have a chance to impact the way that people learn this new language! Awesome.

Things did not work quite the way I expected…

I received an offer I could not refuse from Black Pixel. I had dreamed of working for Black Pixel eventually, but I didn’t think “eventually” meant “right now.” While I was talking to them, I realized I would be a fool if I didn’t accept the job. So in September, I started two new jobs, while also trying to finish working on a book.

I tried to get my start date to be after I finished a week of speaking at two conferences in two different states, but that was not considered an acceptable option. I have never traveled to and spoken at two conferences in the same week. I was home for only two days between them. I was really looking forward to doing what I always do after a conference, get right back to work and focus on getting things done.

This is not what happened.

My mom is the best. She brought me some medicine. And some stupid DayQuil.

My mom is the best. She brought me some medicine. And some stupid DayQuil.

A few days after I got home, I got sick. I mean REALLY SICK. I had had migraines in the past and just generalized exhaustion, but usually my body had the grace to have these things happen on weekends so I would just be annoyed that I didn’t work on my side project because I was stuck in bed.

I would wake up in the middle of the night coughing my lungs out. All of the muscles in my back spasmed. I was working from bed because trying to sit with my back muscles spasmed was just too painful. I took cold medicine that did nothing and I had to ask my mother to go to the liquor store for me to get some honey whiskey because drinking hot tea with lemon, honey, and a good slug of whiskey was the only way I could stop coughing for a short period of time. I finally reached a point where I simply could not work anymore and I had to finish my week early and take a weekend to get better.

That weekend was not enough.I was told to go to the doctor after that weekend to make sure I didn’t have pneumonia. I didn’t have a fever, my lungs were clear, and my weight was ten pounds over what my “overweight” marker is. I was not a happy ninja.

Don't mess with the Janie Ninja! She is sick and cranky.

Don’t mess with the Janie Ninja! She is sick and cranky.

Even though it’s good that I didn’t have pneumonia or consumption, it was kind of like, seriously? I feel like dying here and there is nothing you can diagnose me with that sounds really scary so that I am not just a wimp? I was offered prednisone, but that stuff scares the living shit out of me and I refuse to use it unless I am dying without it.

This past month has really sucked and been completely demoralizing. I am upset that my first month on my new job was taken up with me being gone then having the Plague that Would Not End. I am mad that I spent a weekend in bed trying to get better when it didn’t work and I couldn’t just start the following week bright eyed and ready to go. I am mad that I am still kind of sick and this will not fucking go away. I am traveling in a few days and I am afraid of picking up another bug that won’t fucking die. I am sad that the people I am working for have a bad first impression of me because everything I have been doing all slammed me all at the same time and my stupid body gave out and wouldn’t let me do anything.

I am grateful and appreciative of all the people I work for who were incredibly understanding about this situation. I know I have let people down and that vexes me tremendously. No one has made me feel bad about this. I am making myself feel bad because I hear myself giving this constant stream of excuses about why I am not getting work done and I hate this person I am being. I don’t have anyone to blame but myself and I am angry that it has taken this long to get better.

Here is what I am doing about it.

I am organizing myself. I am taking responsibility for the things I have not done. I am going through and trying to take stock of what I have let slide. I am working to fix it.

Take two pugs and snuggle in the morning.

Take two pugs and snuggle in the morning.

I have been pushing my body to its breaking point for the last three years, figuring it was just a crunch. I need to crunch to learn enough programming to get my first job. I need to kill it at my first job to avoid being fired. I need to kill it at this book to get a better job than that first job. I need to kill it so that I can learn all this awesome code from my programming mentor…

I can’t do that anymore. I need to make taking care of myself a priority. Yeah, it might mean that I miss out on some once-in-a-lifetime side project app opportunity that will only happen once that someone else might do or might just go away. I might miss out on an amazing conference. I might miss out on insert-cool-thing-here.

One reason that Xerox missed out on the computer revolution wasn’t just that they didn’t recognize the opportunity. They didn’t have the structure or the bandwidth to take advantage of it. Their business model and structure didn’t allow them to easily adopt producing personal computers. One reason Apple succeeded at this was because they gambled and went all in. Xerox could have done that, but it would have been a terrible business decision.

At some point, you have something to lose.

When I took up programming, I had nothing to lose. I had time. Time is important, but considering the return I got on that investment, it was a good decision. Right now I have basically made it. I am working at the company that was my dream job and I get to work with the people who taught me programming and to have an impact on how this new language is taught. I have career investments in things and as cool as it would be to learn virtual reality or electronics or even Metal, I need to offset the risk with the bandwidth it takes away from the things that are working for me now.

I am not going to give up on this stuff as a hobby. I simply have to acknowledge it for what it is and not think of it as an investment in my future. Making sure I have food and that my house is clean is more important right now than writing my own app or starting another book. I have people counting on me to do my job and I need to take care of myself so that I don’t let those people down and burn out.

Remind me of this in a month when I will inevitably talk about the next book I want to write.

One of these days I will play all of Mass Effect.

One of these days I will play all of Mass Effect.

Dutch Ovens and the Inevitable Heat Death of the Universe

Le Creuset

I have written about cooking on the blog before. I have also talked about my complicated relationship with food and my efforts to try and destigmatize food for the people I interact with.

Trying not to be super repetitive here, but I feel like some of the previously mentioned things bear reiterating.

I started teaching myself to cook back in the spring. I went out to Costco and looked for what packaged food I wanted to eat that week to find I had no appetite and nothing looked appealing. Everything in my life felt grey and dead. On a whim I picked up boneless, skinless chicken thighs. I felt like an idiot going back to my car because I figured they would languish in my freezer because I would never have the energy to cook them.

Not only did I cook them, but I cooked them enough that I got tired of them.

No more curry!! I can't do it anymore!!

No more curry!! I can’t do it anymore!!

For a few months, I basically made the same dish over and over again with a few slight modifications. I made a base chicken stew, then I would add Japanese curry roux to have curry. Or I would add Berbere to have Ethiopian Doro Wat. Or I would add peanut butter and tomatoes to have Sweet Potato Stew.

This last time I made Japanese curry, I was thoroughly tired of it. I wound up freezing half of my last batch because I just don’t want to eat the same thing anymore.

The last few months I have been craving braised meats. Roast beef, pork chops, skin-on, bone-in chicken with skin cooked crispy and then slowly cooked in wine and broth.

I used to have this a few times when my husband cooked, but he always made these things in our Le Creuset Dutch oven and braiser. When we were divvying up the kitchen stuff, he took most of the good stuff with him. He was the one who did most of the cooking and he had specially picked out everything that we had in the kitchen. I let him take most of the good stuff because I didn’t think I would be cooking anyway. I also didn’t get to pick out the color of the Le Creuset stuff and I didn’t want our ugly black ones.

My new little Le Creuset family.

My new little Le Creuset family.

The last month or so I have been seriously tempted to go out and buy replacement Le Creuset stuff. I hadn’t because that stuff is expensive! I just couldn’t justify the cost to myself of buying even one of those things because it seemed like a waste of money just so that I could make braised pork chops perfectly.

Finally, a few weeks ago, it occurred to me that I don’t have to buy any of these things new. They’re designed to last forever. I could buy used ones that people were selling. I went on eBay and went a little crazy. I was hoping to get one Le Creuset thing, but I wound up with four. One was even brand new in the package and I paid less than half the retail price for it.

These are the reason I am writing this post. They are lovely, beautiful things, but I hate them.

Marriage

I went through a divorce this year. The last few years of our marriage were this terrifying time of extreme dieting and extreme falling off the wagon.

On one of our first dates, my ex-husband made dinner. He had taught himself a bunch of French techniques and actually cooked things in butter, which was something my carb-nut father would never do, and still doesn’t.

No, this is mine that I bought yesterday. Why am I this person?

No, this is mine that I bought yesterday. Why am I this person?

He knew how to break down a chicken. He could make steaks that tasted like the ones you get at the steakhouse. He could make anything (except for baking, he was terrible at that).

My ex-husband has always been interested in cooking. We used to go to each other’s houses when we were kids and make cookies and sponge cake. It was a thing we did when we were friends. Instead of playing video games, we would cook. When we reconnected as adults, I was looking forward to doing that.

I only got to cook for a few months of our marriage. My ex-husband made it clear to me that he didn’t want to eat the food I prepared. I got busy with things and since he already knew how to cook, I just kind of let him take control of the cooking duties.

He did all the grocery shopping, so I never really knew what we had in the house. If he left, I couldn’t just cook something for myself because I never knew what we had around. I used to marvel that he could just open the fridge and make something out of what we had. I didn’t realize that he also knew everything else we had in the house and had a catalog of meals and techniques he knew how to do.

Then, around the time he turned 30, things got rather nightmarish.

This is "unhealthy." It has sweet potatoes. :p

This is “unhealthy.” It has sweet potatoes. :p

All of a sudden, everything in the house had to be organic. It had to be fancy. Above all, it had to be low carb. He went from making smoothies in the morning to eating a pound of bacon because it was “healthier.”

He wanted to lose a hundred pounds, but he wanted an easy answer. He thought if he just ate bacon cheeseburgers without the bun that the pounds would melt off and he wouldn’t feel deprived. Except it doesn’t work that way.

Eating low-carb takes a lot of time. You basically have to make a new meal every night. We both would get busy and tired and more often than not, the thought was fuck it, let’s cheat tonight. Since we’re cheating, let’s get lots of fried and greasy Chinese food. But we’ll definitely behave when this is gone. Totally. Not.

We rarely had chicken or steak anymore. Pasta and potatoes were banished from the house. Suddenly we belonged to a meat CSA and our freezer was full of lamb chops. He ordered organ meat online and had packages of sheep testicles in the freezer. For about two years we had an whole pig head in the freezer. It was wrapped in paper so you couldn’t see it’s lifeless eyes staring out at you, but I knew it was there, lurking under the paper.

Why I Didn’t Want to Cook

Baby peppers are a bitch to process. So why do I do it?

Baby peppers are a bitch to process. So why do I do it?

When he moved out, I told myself that I would not cook. I did not want to be consumed with collecting $400 counter top sous vides so that I could make rare, gelatinous pork. I did not want to spend hundreds of dollars on weird organ meats and doing weird French cooking.

I didn’t want to have a meat CSA for the sole purpose of telling strangers I met on the street that I had one to make it sound like I was more posh than I was.

I feel like the cooking thing reached back into another personality trait my ex-husband had even when we were kids: The need to feel better than other people.

We went to the prom together when we were sixteen. He and his friends rented a limo for the prom. In the back they brought along bottles of non-alcoholic white zinfandel. I asked them why they had the bottles. My ex’s best friend said that they were training their palettes. They said they were all planning to be rich and that one requirement of being rich was that you knew how to appreciate fine wine. I didn’t ingratiate myself to them at all by pointing out that no oenophile would consider any vintage of White Zinfandel to be fine wine.

New knives and bread book

New knives and bread book

I feel like my ex’s life was a giant performance art piece to try and convince everyone that he was better than they were. We had to buy art every year at the Art Fair on the Square so that he could casually drop in conversation that we had extra money to spend on art. He was angry when I had a prolonged period of unemployment when I went back to school because he couldn’t tell people that we went cruising every winter anymore.

I associate my Le Creuset cookware with all of the things we bought not because we liked them, but because we were showing off to people about how much better we were than them, even though we weren’t.

I noticed the longer our marriage went, the worse my ex’s food became. He started out cooking it because he wanted to make food he enjoyed. Towards the end, it became something he did to show off how much better he was than everyone else. Cooking is an expression of the soul. If your soul isn’t in it, then it shows.

The Best Laid Plans

I didn’t want to cook. I spent years trying to carve out time to work on programming or any of my other hobbies. I gave up on cooking. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I wanted to learn electronics and build robots in the basement. I wanted to join the local maker space and hang out with guys who built rockets and soap box derby racers. I had plans. These plans have not happened.

I am angry.

I am angry that I want to cook. I am angry that I just spent hundreds of dollars on cookware so that I could cook my chicken perfectly. I am angry that I bought new knives so that I don’t cut my finger off while processing a sweet potato.

Books I rescued from the basement. Still need to find the other Ruth Reichl one.

Books I rescued from the basement. Still need to find the other Ruth Reichl one.

I am angry that I wasted a bunch of time this morning looking through all of the books that my ex boxed up because he didn’t want my things in his house to see if he had gotten rid of my Ruth Reichl books. I found one, the other one is still MIA.

I am angry that I feel myself turning into this weird shut-in lady who doesn’t want to leave the house. I am afraid the neighbor kids will start saying I am a witch and that all the stray cats are going to show up at my house because I am going to be the weird crazy cat lady who lives alone. I am hoping the pugs help keep the cats away, but that opens up an entirely new possibility of accumulating a grumble of pugs.

I am pissed off that I have no one to cook for. I felt like there was an implicit agreement when I got married that my ex would agree to eat my food and not banish my cookbooks to the basement. I am angry that I have not gotten to bake a cake in years because I know no one who will eat it except me. I am angry at our society for telling people not to eat cake because I like making them and I would desperately love to share it with people who do not judge me for eating cake. I am angry that I want those things and I can’t have them.

When did I become a grown-up who eats salmon and brussels sprouts without being forced?

When did I become a grown-up who eats salmon and brussels sprouts without being forced?

I am angry that my brain and my body wants to do this right now. I wanted to want to go to the gym before going to the maker space and soldering circuit boards, but I don’t want that right now. I am tired. I am sick. Leaving my house drains all of my energy. I think the mailman hates me because I order canned tomatoes and flour from Amazon because I don’t want to put on a bra to go drive an hour to the grocery store to get those things.

I am angry that I haven’t lost any weight since my divorce. I am angry that even though I am going back to eating a normal diet with food I prepare myself, I am still heavier than I want to be. I am angry that it doesn’t bother me and I actually like how I look right now even though I know I should probably want to lose weight.

I am afraid. I am afraid this will never get any better. I am afraid I am pathetic. I am afraid to say I want this stuff because I am afraid it will make people think I am not the cool girl who builds robots and drinks scotch. I am afraid to stop going to conferences because it is the only time I am forced to interact with people and put on make-up and make sure I don’t just devolve into an animal. I am afraid that I go to too many of them and that it will affect my job. I don’t know how to explain to people that I need this in order to not just allow myself to be trapped in my own little world with my pugs.

I hate my new cookware. I hate everything it represents about me. I hate feeling this way and being this person, but I know it’s who I am right now. I know that eventually I will snap out of it and want to do other things, but that time is not now. Now I need to wallow in my own self pity and braise chicken thighs. I hate the fact that this is who I am right now, but it is.

Minimum Viable iOS Engineer

Parable of the Shrew

My father works at the Botany Department at UW-Madison. When he was a graduate student he worked as a naturalist at a state park in South Carolina. When I was growing up he told me a lot of stories about this park. One story that he told me in particular has stuck with me most of my life. I have been meaning to write a blog post about it, and I feel like now is the time.

One day while he was working at the state park, he found a shrew. A shrew is a small rodent that eats crickets. My dad captured it and took it back to the office with him. He knew it ate crickets, but wasn’t sure how many or how long it had been since the shrew had eaten. He wanted to be safe, so he put the shrew in an empty aquarium with a hundred crickets, figuring that would be enough.

He came back the next morning to find the shrew dead on its back with all four little furry feet in the air. It was surrounded by dead crickets. The shrew was so fixated on killing every cricket in the aquarium that it forgot to eat any of them and it starved to death surrounded by food.

Resist the Temptation to Be the Shrew!

Yesterday Apple had their announcement of the new tvOS, along with a lot of other new toys that made my head spin.

I noticed a lot of people dropping the watchOS stuff to pick up the new tvOS stuff because it was the new thing and they didn’t want to get behind.

I want to say something that is going to make you feel bad. Take a deep breath. Relax. Here goes.

We have reached a point with the platform where we can’t know everything.

When I started programming I figured I would learn a few languages to cover my bases and give me options for when I went looking for a job. I realized that this was a bad tactic so I picked the one I most wanted to work with. I have further specialized to more and more specific areas of Apple development.

Every time that something new and shiny is announced, I feel compelled to learn something about it. I have Ray Wenderlich’s WatchKit by Tutorial on one of my computers and I don’t know if I have ever opened it. I also have their Animations, Core Data, and several years of iOS By Tutorial in a folder on my computer unread. I feel an incredible amount of panic because no sooner do I hear an announcement about something, my Twitter feed explodes with people who have dug into the docs and are sharing what they read. I have barely processed that something new has come out and already people are doing something with it. It gives me tremendous anxiety and makes my head spin.

I have been working myself into a tizzy just trying to keep up with what I am doing at my job. I have not used the iOS frameworks in about a year. I have a book out on iOS development but I don’t use it every day and it’s basically gone from my memory. I know if I had to use it every day I would pick it back up again fairly quickly, but it still disturbs me that I just don’t remember this any more.

I keep feeling like I need to know Core Data and Networking to stay marketable. I have a list of things that I think I need to know because if I don’t know them then I am not a real developer and people will shun me when they find out. This fear leads me to work all the time. I regularly suffer from exhaustion. The last two weekends I spent two days in bed internally screaming at my body for giving up on me because I have deadlines I need to meet and I don’t want to let people down.

I can not continue this way. If you are going through this, you can’t do it either.

This year at 360iDev there were a lot of talks about the death of independent development. We’ve moved beyond the point where you can make an app in your free time on nights and weekends that is going to be a minimum viable product. Believe it or not, this is a good thing.

Back in 2009 when the platform was relatively new, you could know everything. It was possible. The reason it was possible was because the platform was incredibly limited. There were a lot of things you couldn’t do, or couldn’t do easily. Now we are living in an embarrassment of riches where almost everything is possible, which means YOU CAN’T KNOW EVERYTHING!! Stop trying!

What is the Bare Minimum You Need to Know

I celebrated my first work anniversary on Tuesday. Before that I worked at a start up for two months, worked on an OpenGL contract application for three months, coauthored a book, and did over a dozen conference talks. I have a shocking amount and diversity of experience for a developer who has less than two years of experience.

I don’t know Core Data. I don’t remember most of iOS. I haven’t worked with Interface Builder in a year even though I intended to specialize in graphics and design for iOS.

I think that the amount of things you need to know to be a beginning iOS developer is smaller than most people think.

I talk to students at the tech school I attended and all of them think they need to know a lot of stuff. I would argue that you don’t need to know a lot of stuff, but the stuff you do need to know you need to know well.

Here is my list of what I think you absolutely need to know to have an entry-level iOS job:

  • Some fundamental understanding of either Objective-C or Swift. Both of these languages have a lot of unique aspects and I would argue it is important to have enough of a grasp of one of these to understand why you don’t program them like Java or some other language.
  • The MVC design pattern. This is a fundamental pattern that permeates all of iOS. If you do not understand this pattern, you will not write good iOS code. It is vital to understand this.
  • Know how to use the Apple documentation to look up how the frameworks work. You can’t know everything, but you at least need to know how to learn what you need to know.

I think knowing Core Data or Networking or any of the other multitudes of things are nice career embellishments, but I think if you are looking to bring on an entry level person and train them, this is what they need to know.

I don’t know how to do Networking. I have never had to know it for any job I have had. Same with Core Data. I know a lot about things most people never need to use like how to connect to a FireWire camera and how to parse LibXML2. These are things I learned because I needed them for the job I have. If I were looking for another job I am sure knowing Core Data would make me more marketable, but I wanted to find the right job for me rather than being qualified for a lot of jobs that aren’t really a good fit.

I don’t think not knowing how to do NSURLSession or how to make an Apple Watch app makes me an impostor or a bad developer. They haven’t affected my ability to get a job yet and I don’t think they ever will. If I need to learn them for something I am doing, I know enough that I can teach them to myself and if I forget them again, then I wasn’t using them.

I worry about people spending so much time learning “superficial” stuff that lets them build an app but does not teach them how the app works so it can’t be applied to anything else. I think instead of creating an aura of fear at not knowing everything, we focus on what is the essential amount you must know and enable people to learn the things they need to know to specialize or that interest them.

Specialize

At 360iDev last year Saul Mora and I were discussing the possibility of setting up something like a co-op for developers. If you had an app idea where you needed to know something you didn’t know, you could post it on this message board and if someone knew how to do it, you could negotiate working with them on it. I don’t particularly want to learn a bunch of stuff I don’t care about to make something and I would love to work on someone else’s project only doing the things that I want to do.

Like all good ideas that are formed by committee, this got bogged down in a lot of implementation details and forgotten. I still think this is the only way for independent development to move forward.

If you have a group of four people with different technical skills working together, you can put out a really nice app in your spare time. The gold rush is over, but I would hope that some people are involved in app development because they enjoy it and have ideas they want to share with the world.

I feel that Ray Wenderlich has embraced this idea. He has a large team of people working together on the tutorials because it simply got to the point where he couldn’t do it alone. We have a large pool of knowledge and resources and we are able to accomplish more than any one person could. I think he’s a great example of what you can do if you start trying to think cooperatively rather than singularly.

I think we need to move away from the idea of the solitary developer working in their basement over a weekend and move towards the idea of having a team of friends you can work with and share ownership of a product with. Even if the app never earns a dime, the act of working with your friends to make something you are proud of is a goal in and of itself.

So, to everyone feeling shitty because you can’t keep up with the new and shiny, stop it. Go easy on yourself. We’re at a turning point where things are going to be different and you can’t hold yourself to those standards anymore. Focus on the fundamentals and what is important to you and you will be fine. The platform has matured and it’s a good thing.

Newton’s Third Law

Summer 2008

“Janie, you know everyone hates you here, right?”

I looked up. The boy who said this to me was sitting in the middle of the recording studio. The room went silent. All my classmates immediately stopped talking and their heads swiveled around to look at me.

I gazed at the boy. I barely knew him. I only knew his name because he missed the first week of class because his lung collapsed and he was in the emergency room. I don’t think I’d exchanged one word with him in my entire life.

Everyone’s eyes darted back and forth between me and the boy. A few people cleared out of the middle of the room. There was going to be a fight.

Janie at 13

As long as I can remember, I identified myself as a feminist. If my teacher picked a group of people with more boys than girls, I would accuse them of being sexist. I wanted to be the first woman president. I was angry because I knew I was out of step with my peers and I knew they didn’t respect me. I wanted them to respect me.

Like the good 80’s child that I am, I decided I wanted to learn karate. I wanted to learn how to be physically powerful because I wanted to go through life without worrying about losing in a fight to anyone.

My small town in rural Wisconsin did not have a karate dojo. We had an Aikido dojo. Aikido, for those who don’t know, is purely self-defensive. We didn’t learn fancy punches and kicks. We didn’t learn to flip people over. Instead, we learned how to deflect physical attacks. We learned how to direct an opponent’s energy away from us.

I thought this was bullshit.

This was stupid to wait around for someone to punch you and then to just move their arm away. What was the point of that? If someone had the audacity to come after you, they deserved to be punished. They should have their ass kicked.

I stuck with Aikido for about a year until I started attending a Catholic school out of town and I didn’t have time to keep going. Honestly, I didn’t see the point. It takes forever to advance in the belt system and you don’t learn how to beat the crap out of people, so why bother?

Sensei

My sensei, Mark Uttech, passed away recently. He fought cancer for a year and lost his battle. He was a kind, good-hearted soul. He always had a mischievous energy about him. I can’t imagine what he was like as a young man because he had an old soul. He was peaceful and accepting of everyone. He encouraged not only non-violence, but non-combativeness.

I intended to go back to the dojo back in 2013. I attended one or two classes, but this was around the time my marriage was falling apart and I had dedicated myself to programming. I deeply regret not being able to learn from him during this time.

Janie at 26

At some point when I was 26 I just got sick of being angry. I had been fighting people my whole life and none of it made any difference. I was tired of battling everyone I knew. I was tired of being pissed off and carrying around my anger. Anger is heavy. Anger is expensive. It takes energy to hate. Everything I did was ineffective. The battles I fought with people left me scarred and did nothing to affect any kind of positive change.

I began to discover Zen Buddhism. I found that I had made a logical fallacy in regards to my interactions with others.

I thought that any time I saw what I perceived to be injustice, it was my duty to go and fight over it. Not every slight needs to be fought over. Not everything is a slippery slope on our way to the Nazis taking away the Socialists. If you make an issue over everything, then really egregious behavior loses its context.

Actions and Reactions

I thought if someone did something I thought was wrong or they challenged me, that it required me to fight them. It’s Newton’s Third Law: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. If you punch a wall with your fist, one of you must break. If you use enough force and commitment, the wall breaks. If you falter, your fist breaks. There is no other way.

Except there is.

Just because someone insults you doesn’t mean you have to fight them. I am saying this a person who has been privileged enough not to be doxxed online or forced to flee my home, so take my thoughts with a grain of salt.

Aikido is about redirecting violent energy in a way that renders it harmless. Rather than having a zero-sum game, where either the fist or the wall must break, you can take that energy and direct it in a way that hurts no one.

I know, you think if someone throws a punch at you, it’s your obligation to make sure they never hit you again. If you redirect their fist away from you and neither of you is harmed, they will just keep coming after you. Let them. Keep redirecting their energy and eventually they will stop. They tired themselves out and they don’t get the satisfaction of breaking your face. You don’t stoke their anger by provoking them back by causing them pain. They will grow tired of trying to hurt you and they will leave you alone.

I didn’t have the patience to understand this when I was younger. I was angry and I wanted to set the world on fire. I wanted to burn people. I thought that backing down from a fight made me weak or cowardly. I didn’t realize that it was braver to look an assailant in the face and to decide that you would not let them hurt you or themselves. There is more than one way to win. Winning means you walk away without harm, not that you beat your opponent.

Be the Change You Want To See In The World

I have been asked why I go to conferences. They are a lot of work and they are quite tiring. Why do I go?

I am trying to bring an energy to our community that I would like to see more of. I want everyone to love and accept one another. I want everyone to have an understanding and an empathy about where someone else is coming from.

I spent half of my life learning how to make people feel like shit. Then I spent the other half learning how to make people feel good. Making someone feel good about themselves feels better than destroying someone. It takes more care and effort to build someone up than it does to tear them down.

I want to show everyone that you can be successful without being an asshole. I have contributed a lot of negative energy to the world and I would like to show people that there is another way. There is forgiveness. There is self acceptance. There is understanding. There is peace.

Epilogue

Everyone watched us with baited breath. What would I do? Would I deny it? Would I cry? Would I appeal to them to prove that he was wrong? What would I do?

I smiled at him and said, “I know.”

He looked like I punched him in the face. He looked stunned. He shook his head and cocked it at me, thinking he must have misunderstood me. “You know?”

“Yes, I do.”

“And you don’t care?”

“No, not really.”

He stared at me. Of all the reactions he was expecting, this wasn’t one of them. He didn’t know what to do.

“Well, I just thought you should know that we all hate you.”

Everyone was disappointed. They were looking forward to a fight. They went back to what they were doing. I went back to reading my book. It’s like nothing happened.

As everyone went back about their business, I smiled to myself. I had won.