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21st-Oct-2016 06:03 pm - New PR!
weights, deadlift
I finally hit 210lbs on the deadlift today. I've tried to lift 210 a couple of times before, and was only able to get the bar a couple of inches off the floor, so to be able to actually lift it was quite satisfying.

Making a bit of progress on the push ups, but it's still very slow.
21st-Sep-2016 04:49 pm - This is amazing!
calm, metal
I can't remember whether I mentioned it here before, but I bought a new phone recently. I got an iPhone SE - I was pretty happy with my old iPhone 5 and I probably wouldn't even have bothered to upgrade for a while except that the screen was falling off. When I bought the iPhone SE, I was pretty much expecting to get an iPhone 5 with more storage and a somewhat better camera, and I was happy with that.

However, on Monday, I went to a concert at the Oakland Metro, and I discovered something that completely blows my mind. I took some video of the headlining band, because I wanted to show Daniel a little bit of what the show was like. Now, most cell phone videos taken at concerts sound like crap, because the music is just so loud that it overloads the sound inputs and you get tons of clipping. So, I was very pleasantly surprised when I played the video back and it sounded like this:

Somebody in Apple marketing is missing a trick somewhere. Because if someone had told me, "Get an iPhone SE and you can record listenable concert video even in the second row at the Oakland Metro," I'd have upgraded ages ago.
I was woefully underprepared for my Toastmasters Club's "humorous speech" competition today. I'd sketched out the outlines of my speech, but hadn't really had time to practice it or flesh it out. And I'd actually intended to bow out of giving a speech, but my fellow club members persuaded me to give it a go. Then I won the contest by virtue of being the only entrant. So, I'm going to represent my club at a local competition in a few weeks.

Then I gave an impromptu table topics speech that was substantially funnier than my half-prepared speech, so I'm going to use that material in my reworked speech. So when I do go to the local competition, I will actually have something funny to say.

Actually, the experience was very much like workshopping the first draft of a short story, except with the added adrenaline of being entirely unsure whether I could bring my speech to a successful conclusion.
bannakaffalatta, short
I'm heading to the VMworld conference tomorrow evening, and the current list of electronic devices I'm contemplating taking consists of: 2 laptops, a digital camera, an iPad, an iPod, a phone, and a Kindle. Oh, and a Fitbit. That means I'm going to need to remember 6 distinct power/charging cables.

I probably ought to throw a power strip in there as well.

I think I can fit it all in the super-cool electronics bag my mother got me after I managed to mislay both a laptop power cord and a Kindle during a single 3 day trip. We'll see.
Director: We could hire a professional services consultant to explain how X works to us.
Me: Nah, let me and [colleague] do a little research first. I bet we could figure it out ourselves.
Director: I love your DIY spirit.

My DIY spirit was forged largely in grad school, where literally almost everything was more expensive than my own labor. Why spend what could end up being thousands of dollars on a consultant when maybe we could just do it ourselves? The only thing I need to remember is that I'm not paid like a grad student anymore and neither is [colleague]*, so it is possible to reach a point where the consultant becomes the cost effective option.

Until then, I'm gonna DIY it. Punk rock doc, y'all.

*Come to think of it, [colleague] is also a former grad student, which might explain part of why we work so well together.
18th-Aug-2016 11:57 am - Guided meditations
bannakaffalatta, short
My on-again off-again meditation habit is currently on again. It seems to be doing me good, but one thing it does bring home is just how very noisy the inside of my head can be. (Sample impression:"Okay. Breathe in. Breathe out. Dammit, Moonspell. Okay, focus on the breath. Wow, my L5R character is so much better at this than I am. Well, my L5R character is a monk. Which reminds me, next session - no, focus on the breath. Breathe in. Breathe out. Hello, Moonspell. Focus on the breath. Actually, this would make a hilarious post. Focus. on. the. breath." And so on.)

Then I happened to stumble across a playlist of guided meditations on Spotify, and it made me wonder if having something else to focus on would make it easier to let go of my thoughts. So, I've been throwing in a different guided meditation from Spotify's playlist every few sessions.

Mostly it's been working wonderfully, but I have a piece of advice to offer - if you start your guided meditation, and you think, "Wow, this guy's voice is a bit irritating, but I'll just go with it." Do not go with it. Bail and pick another meditation. Because by the end of 15 minutes, "slightly irritating" will become, "I want to crawl out of my own skin." Especially if you are a little bit suggestible, and Mr. Slightly Irritating breaks out "You may feel slight sensations of discomfort, such as an itch. Just hold that sensation mindfully in your awareness," which causes your entire body to itch.

I will not be trying any more guided meditations from Mr. Itchy.
17th-Aug-2016 01:52 pm - Advice on interviewing a developer?
I've been asked to interview a potential candidate for a tools developer on my team at work. The job posting is here.

I've worked with plenty of developers, so I've got a pretty good notion of what I want in a candidate. I'm not planning on asking a lot of technical questions - there are other people on the team who will do that. Also, I really care much more about a hypothetical candidate's problem-solving abilities and their ability to understand the user mindset well enough that they'll build things that not only meet the technical requirements but actually help us do our jobs better. (In theory, translating writer requirements into language that developers can understand is part of my job. In practice, I've found that that's nearly infinitely easier to do with a developer who is willing to meet you halfway.)

Anyhow, I know that many of you are developers or regularly interview developers. I would love to hear about your favorite interview questions, or things you look for as red flags, or whatever. Please, give me advice.

Also, if you know anyone who would be a good candidate for the position, send them my way. The current candidate looks quite promising, but it never hurts to have a larger pool to choose from.
11th-Aug-2016 08:21 pm - Miscellaneous gym observations
weights, deadlift
A scoop of Optimum Nutrition vanilla flavor whey powder plus a teaspoon of matcha powder actually makes a tasty enough protein shake that I might be tempted to drink it even if I didn't think that it would help my lifting performance and recovery.

My push ups progress has kind of plateaued for a while, so I'm changing things up a bit - trying things like more reps with my hands elevated higher, more negatives, etc. It's too early to tell if it will actually increase the number of push ups I can do, but my triceps are growing, which is kind of nice during tank top season.

Deadlift continues to come along nicely. I got really close to lifting 210lbs last week - I got the bar about 2 inches off the ground and then couldn't pull it any higher. Soon!
2nd-Aug-2016 04:14 pm - R.I.P. Seymour Papert
So, when I tell the story of how I ended up working in tech, I sometimes start it this way, "When I was very young, my father was a professor at M.I.T. for a while. While he was there, he met Seymour Papert, who told him all about his work in teaching computer programming to very young children. And my father said, 'Hmmm, I have very young children...'"

It's quite likely that I would have been interested in computers and that my parents would have encouraged that interest even if my father had never met Seymour Papert. But Seymour Papert helped stack the deck in favor of that, and for that I'll always be grateful.
cooking, food
I threw this together when I had some boneless, skinless chicken thighs that needed to be used up. I've been taking the results to work as part of my lunch for the past few days, and the results are tasty enough that I wanted to make note of this for future reference.

I did not measure anything in this recipe.
What you need: ~1lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, some fresh ginger, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, Sriracha sauce. Some minced fresh garlic probably would not go at all amiss, but I didn't use it.

Grate or mince a thumb-size piece of ginger finely. (I used a microplane grater). Put the ginger in a bowl or dish large enough to hold the chicken. Slosh in about equal parts soy sauce and rice vinger. Dribble in a few drops of sesame oil. Add Sriracha to taste.

Put the chicken in the marinade you've just made, and stash it in the fridge for an hour or so. (Or longer, if you've actually thought to plan in advance.)

Preheat the broiler to high and line a broiler pan with foil. Put the chicken thighs on the pan, drizzle with a little extra marinade, and broil until they're done, flipping them over halfway through.
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