As part of our recent move to Scotland, I resigned from Microsoft after 13 years of being at the company and I recently started new work as a support engineer (aka Happiness Engineer) with a company called Automattic, a company that’s so different it’s hard to see a resemblance past the fact that they are both “tech companies”. I didn’t leave for any single grievance with my prior employer, it was for my own reasons. That’s mostly true.
I came across this image (from a Julia Evans tweet) last night and I was thinking about it a lot today. Although it’s about software debugging it’s applicable to hard problems of any kind.
Tool I discovered: Droplr. Since starting work at Automattic I have been getting to know and love this tool for taking and sharing screenshots and screencasts. It uploads your files automatically for easy sharing, has a bunch of surprisingly great options, and it’s fast.
Documentary I enjoyed: The Game Changers. Since going vegetarian over a year ago, Kav and I have been getting into it more and more and have no desire to go back. This made me want to go farther.
Tumblr site that made me laugh: Catalog Living. There have been a few of these floating around the office. Too funny.
Gary threw down his napkin in disgust when he realized tonight would be yet another Giant Pear dinner.
Favorite life advice of the week: Read like your life depends on it, because it does. From the always good Marcus Purvis. I also enjoyed his recent post in his Notes from a Small Country series.
Article about “work” that made me think: Asynchronous Communication: The Real Reason Remote Workers Are More Productive. This lines up neatly to my new role working for an entirely distributed, async company, so it’s right in my echo chamber but good I think nonetheless.
This highly synchronous way of working would be understandable if it produced results, but there is more and more evidence that all the real-time communication overhead makes it hard to focus, drains employees’ mental resources, and generally makes it more difficult to make meaningful progress on work.
To see what we’re up to, check out our now page. The featured image is another one I colored in with some Tombows from my small notebook:
Being a solo Dad was pretty great: But there is nothing like Mom getting home! While Kav was traveling last week I had a few things planned to keep the kids occupied, but Sam’s cold-from-hell ruined a lot of that. Fortunately it all worked out and there were plenty of toys, games, movies and crafts to keep us going, although Vivi did say she got “over Daddy’d” by the end of the week. 😂
My favorite book excerpt from the week:
Our first reaction to most of the statements (which we hear from other people) is an evaluation or judgment, rather than an understanding of it. When someone expresses some feeling, attitude or belief, our tendency is almost immediately to feel “that’s right,” or “that’s stupid,” “that’s abnormal,” “that’s unreasonable,” “that’s incorrect,” “that’s not nice.” Very rarely do we permit ourselves to understand precisely what the meaning of the statement is to the other person.Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People
More thoughts on work life balance:
Buy this car to go to work, go to work to pay for this carMetric
I know this dates me, but I’m nostalgic for that atmosphere of repose—the extended family dinners, the spontaneous outings, the neighborly visits. We haven’t completely lost these shared hours, of course. Time-use studies show that weekends continue to allow more socializing, civic activity, and religious worship than weekdays do. But Sundays are no longer a day of forced noncommerce—everything’s open—or nonproductivity. Even if you aren’t asked to pull a weekend shift, work intrudes upon those once-sacred hours. The previous week’s unfinished business beckons when you open your laptop; urgent emails from a colleague await you in your inbox. A low-level sense of guilt attaches to those stretches of time not spent working.
I couldn’t agree more.
New productivity strategies: I’m enjoying (and trying the methods within) the often mentioned Getting Things Done by Steven Allen. Although it’s advocating for what some might at first glance seem to be a rigid way of operating, I am finding it more loose and freeing than I imagined. Why do we feel so good right before vacation: because we’re cleaning up and keeping things current. We’re closing down all our open loops, getting right with our commitments. Wouldn’t it be good to feel that way on a (somewhat) regular basis? I’ll try that kool aid.
Being organized means simply that where something is matches what it means to you.
The allure of country music: Maybe it’s due to living on a farm, but I’ve been dipping more into country music as of late. This was separate from learning about Ken Burn’s recent Country Music documentary. Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Hank Williams are regularly getting played in the office. Especially The Essential Merle Haggard: The Epic Years.
The power of the project table: I set this up last week and left it going all week so the kids and I could do some art any time we felt like it. It was magic. We made all sorts of random stuff, and a special creation being a set of signs for the home office.
Something awesome: Snoop has a full-time blunt roller on staff
Snoop said the full-time position pays “$40 to $50,000 a year,” which means it’s actually a real job, and my high school guidance counselor lied to me.
I was probably qualified for this job a long time ago, but I’ve sadly let my skills atrophy.
The week before the last week: This week is my last week before going back to work full time, so last week was special. Mostly because Sam turned 3 and we had a lot of celebrating to do throughout the week. But also because I just had a lot of time to play with the kids, not worry about what time I got up in the morning, and go running, speaking of which…
A new book that made me smile: I started reading What I Talk About When I Talk About Running my Haruki Murukami, and am finding that I am relating to it a lot. There is too much to mention, but here are a few.
On being a good writer (but I think it applies to being good at whatever you do), you must have talent, concentration and endurance:
You’ll naturally learn both concentration and endurance when you sit down every day at your desk and train yourself to focus on one point. This is a lot like the training of muscles I wrote of a moment ago. You have to continually transmit the object of your focus to your entire body, and make sure it thoroughly assimilates the information necessary for you to write every single day and concentrate on the work at hand. And gradually, you’ll expand the limits of what you’re able to do. Almost imperceptibly you’ll make the bar rise. This involves the same process as jogging every day to strengthen your muscles and develop a runner’s physique. Add a stimulus and keep it up. And repeat. Patience is a must in this process, but I guarantee the results will come.
On being alone:
It might be a little silly for someone getting to be my age to put this into words, but I just want to be sure I get the facts down clearly: I’m the kind of person who likes to be by himself. To put a finer point on itm I’m the type of person who doesn’t find it painful to be alone. I find spending an hour or two every day running alone, not speaking to anyone, as well as four or five hours alone at my desk, to be neither difficult nor boring. I’ve had this tendency ever since I was young, when, given a choice, I much preferred reading books on my own or concentrating on listening to music over being with someone else. I could always think of things to do by myself.
On learning in school:
The most important thing we learn in schools is that the most important things can’t be learned in schools.
A scary-but-beautiful bit of encouragement to pass on to your partner, kids, students, and friends: Ken Burns’ mentor, Jerry Liebling, advocated learning by experience and told his daughters and students:
“Go, get out into the world. See, look around you. Do, make something, relate. You have an exchange with somebody, be. Take it in. Go, see, do, be.”
From the superb Ken Burns interview with Tim Ferriss. I did a drawing about it I liked it so much.
Revisited my few-time-a-year baking ritual: Baked a cake for Sam’s birthday and this simple sheet cake recipe turned out quite good. By the way, why is Cook’s Illustrated print edition so good and their digital stuff so annoyingly bad? I’m putting it here out of protest:
I miss regular Cheerios: You can’t get just plain Cheerios here it seems. It’s either some five grain variant or honey or something else. The kids are missing out!