Sunday, July 27, 2014

Fuck stuff

Every now and then, the slow but steady "don't burn yourself out" 15 minutes every couple of days of removing useless shit just doesn't work. You've re-reduced again and again and there's that one little thing you just can't do for each space you have.

A pair of ridiculous pants. They still make you smile though.

Craptastic incandescent light bulbs in a box, that you've replaced and never intend to buy the like of again. City of Seattle will take them in the trash, "but they still work!" Who wants to waste their hard-earned money paying for all that extra electricity?

Desk drawers that you had nearly empty last year. But the top of your desk is finally clear, what can you do?

Books you never intend to read, or in some cases never intend to read again. But they're from family and you just know that someone would keep them, because other people have many shelves of books.

Stuffed animals full of memories (and dust. they kind of smell!)

Which ones will end up going?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

7.5 Years

This was written in December 2013!

Due to the limits of my lifespan, I've only lived in a couple of places for over 5 years, let alone worked at them. And yet, I find myself having worked at Microsoft for about 7.5 years. This is a lot of time to some people, and very little to company-man careerists who stayed in one company for 25 years.
I am leaving for ArenaNet to try being a technical producer instead of a publishing producer. I'm terrified and hopeful. All normal job stuff.

Things I learned: 
  • (large company) Form friendships with people you don't work with directly. If you have to make an effort to see them now, you're more likely to later when you leave.
  • No matter what you sign, you have a right to discuss your salary. See "sec. 7".
  • (Microsoft specific) Sort your email with rules. And then, once a quarter, sort your sorting. Get off of noisy distribution groups, delete irrelevant email rules, and clean that shit up. It's a mess when you finally leave anyway, but you can mitigate this. So many DGs and SGs. :)
  • (Microsoft specific) Read mini-msft but never ever comment. It's frequently cynical, often not applicable to your group, and quite dated.  That said, I've read all of the posts and I started reading them before I worked at Microsoft. I don't find that the blog aligns with my experiences within the company, but I can sometimes tell who does when I meet them and that in itself is valuable. 
  • Spend a bit of time with the company review system, whatever it is. At the least it will provoke conversations with your boss about what you can do to progress. 
  • Hard work should be rewarded, but hard work and a little visibility is much more likely to be rewarded. If you have a boss who rewards hard work, 
  • Love the company. Microsoft, especially, is fucking amazing. Not so hard, see?
  • Don't burn bridges. You leaving is about YOU. For example "I would like to try another company, specifically a game dev, as I have never done this thing before. I have also never really worked anywhere but Microsoft." This is my genuine reason for leaving. Anything negative is probably temporary and stupid to mention. Avoiding working at Microsoft ever again? Fine, but you can still be nice.
    If something terrible is part or all of your reason for leaving, then make something boring up, like "I would like to take my career in a new direction." You can silently fill in the "A new direction not full of assholes" if you like. Silently.
    Shh. ;)
  • (large company) Get to know some of the majority type at your company (eg. white dudes are the majority type in many software companies in the USA). And don't be disingenuous just to fit in, it doesn't work. Luckily I love beer and pizza. But I never pretend to love sports.
  • Try to know more non-majority-types than majority types.
  • Nothing is personal at work, even though it feels like it is. If you are taking something too personally and turning red or about to yell, it is ok to work from home because you're not feeling well. Because, hey, you aren't.

The journey ahead will reveal a lot about whether any of this is applicable anywhere else.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Fast fast fast review: John Varley - A Slow Apocalypse

Why why why do I keep reading post-apocalyptic scifi!
A gang of dogs in the street - No.

Varley takes us on a painfully slow tour of LA from the perspective of a McMansion'd middle class poser while he power-trips for his family.
Oil is gone (this is the second book I've read with oil disappearing for similar reasons) and LA goes to shit for various reasons that aren't altogether unexpected. How can things get worse? And they do.

I waited for a revelation, for a war, for a turning point. Perhaps the book was too much like normal people for my geeky taste. I prefer amazing worlds and wars to human interest.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Geeky fast reading: Timothy Zahn, A Coming of Age

Children can do things that adults can't.
They don't want to lose this ability, and their value to society changes with education once their abilities are gone.

I couldn't tell that the book was written in 1984, so it would seem some things are timeless.

Decently absorbing, character development is a bit shallow but world building and plot are pretty good.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Geeky reviewing: Blood of Dragons by Robin Hobb

Conclusion to a gritty story I have been waiting and waiting for!

Spoilers, spoilers.

Things conclude nicely, however!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Geeky thoughts reviewing 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

Explorations of environmental exploitation and 'improvement', with a heavy focus on gender fluidity.

The plot was not all I might have hoped for, even though the world building was quite interesting. I didn't find the romance that compelling, but the book may have been too socially progressive (vs. my own brain) for me to maintain sufficient suspension of disbelief.

I would like to learn even more about Terminator, the Mercury colony, or any of the terraformed asteroids herein, but I feel more like I was taken on a whirlwind tour of the solar system with the exception of a painfully slow but realistically compelling underground 'falling in love' story.

Not bad, would lend to friends without embarrassment, if I weren't a library nut!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Review words on Sechin Tower's "Mad Science Institute"

A delightful toe-dip into a slightly off-kilter world where Tesla was a bit more famous, and science is a bit more magical.

Soap and Dean fight evil, friends are enemies, and good must try to prevail!

Seriously kids (and adults) it's fun, go try it.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The earth lands on the sun

Sci fi nuts will often stumble, through no fault of their own, upon post-apocalyptic novels.

Avoid these. Go and play in the sun instead. Raise some rabbits, plant some kale, pet your dog. If the apocalypse hits, at least you'll be a little healthier and more likely to survive. Unless an asteroid destroys all life on earth, in which case you had no more or less reason to worry or be smug than anyone.
Many geek brains cannot resist the lure, however. Many of us, being sci fi readers, like to assume we're a bit smarter than the average bear. And if we're reading all of the time, perhaps we are (in a bookish way). But in our assumption we like to assume that we would be the ones to survive in post apocalyptia. We wouldn't. A good number of us are out of shape with no practical skills outside of computing.  We'd end up eating our pets and then turning to cannibalism, if we didn't get the pandemic disease, if the zombies didn't catch us right away, if we didn't freeze to death, if someone didn't shoot us so that they could eat our pets first, if if if....

If the world population is reduced so extremely by the fighting after the power stops working, what makes you so special?
. . .
Do you know archery? Swords? Can you farm? Can you do math in your head and keep some new feudal lord's accounts? I mean, really can you? Because I could in high school but I'm a little rusty and wouldn't you just want to train a smart high schooler for that anyway?

And then, of course, our geek brains overthink it. And before we know it we're trying to learn every useful skill at once.

I hope they have room for a storyteller, but in the meantime, perhaps I'll just try and avoid these books.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Bite Sized and Chunky

I was reading one of my favorite blogs, and this came up. A young couple wants to find out where to save and how to pay down debt, and they have lots of payments to make.

There are a lot of things that people can and do choose to say at a time like this, but one of the earliest comments really stood out. Track where all of the money is going (on mint) and stop it heading there.
Start small.

I've provided some similar advice to friends. When you have a sucky job, or you're in debt and spending over your head, all problems become insurmountable. Your brain conjures up a mountain of what-ifs. What if I get laid off from the new job, what if this fight I had with my friend causes drama, what if I pay off that debt and then I need cash.
And then it repeats the performance with a sizable hill of excuses. But I like my coffee, but this job is so safe and I like my coworkers, but sometimes it rains, how would I take a bike?

So start small. The best thing you can do for yourself is to get momentum to go forward. When I looked for my last job, I did it by reaching out to my network and promising to deliver an updated resume to a couple of people. After updating the resume, the step of sending it out myself on a couple of websites was much smaller. And then serious active looking could resume.

Similarly, if you can't track your money or you're in debt, the tracking step can lead to the reducing spending steps. And you'll feel victorious, which is important to continue anything at all in life.

And since I'm reducing carbs again, I started with the meals I have complete control over, and now I'm making some progress and it's much easier to resist the candy at work.

Progress causes enthusiasm for a pursuit.
Start small.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A fizz out on a journey and Haul

Whence this non-scientific spate of posts, lacking in references and extra pointers? Free me unto the internet, they say.

I'm taking time off from the most impartial posts for who knows how long. The internet loves controversy and opinion, and I have a hunch that people will flock with facts to outnumber me and attempt to disturb the zen-like state I've convinced myself I'm reaching, and really, it IS all about convincing ourselves.

For you today, a story.
No facts.
Cross posted to a friendly place.

Copyright 2013 Victoria House
Do not copy or redistribute


What is there to tell?  I’ve made a long life’s living trucking, and I suppose that’s what I’ve got to continue to do.  Nowadays I mainly haul “Safe-T’s” the SafeT cars and SUVs.  It’s much the same as hauling anything else, except now I don’t have to hide my shotgun.  My momma always told me to hide the shotgun, but things have changed a bit since poppa’s days trucking around the contiguous forty-eight.  “Sadie, you keep your gun hidden from those cops, they’ll have your head for being brown without having a gun,” she’d say.  I don’t worry much about cops anymore though.  It’s considered suicidal to drive without a SafeT anymore so I’m written off as insane, and it’s not like I could hurt anyone in one of those cars.  Inertia-dampening panels for crashes, nearly un-dentable, shiny, round disks with smooth wheels that I haven’t seen wear out yet.  I’ve heard, just heard, that people’s internal organs have smashed against their ribcages but the outside was still pretty enough after bouncing around the highway like a silver ball in a machine a few times.
My preferred route?  Nowadays is the old route 66, the major highways being too busy anymore and full of the stuff I pull behind me.  These SafeT’s are the most boring cars I’ve ever seen, but everyone wants one anyways.  Yeah, they’re heavy, and yeah this machine ain’t very efficient anymore, but it’s the best way to get the cars around since people stopped using the railroad.  You can’t steer a train out of the way at all.  And of course everyone lives in the cities where lasers zap anything not earth-lifeform or Zenox at a mile out.  Must be a bit boring there.

Reminds me of a friend of mine, Joe Clark (mayherestinpeace) drove a train cross country since the Before Times, pulling who knows what and who cares what as long as the wind was in his face.  When Our Friends the Zenox (All mighty and saving our sorry selves) came down from space, he was in the Rockies, and he didn’t hear the news till a day later than most of us.  The aliens have arrived!  They’ve got the cure to cancer!  They’ve got all kinds of technology, and they’re going to share it.  
Anyway, about 5 years later we saw the first Blade Eater and I think Joe (mayherestinpeace) must’ve seen the second that was, because one of his trains just was never heard from again.  Eaters would have done his train to nothing, with teeth that move back and forth a bit for metal grinding, it couldn’t’ve lasted more than an hour.  Like a shark on steroids, taking down a surfer after a long fast.  Luckily they ain’t big, and they have an allergy to most hardwoods.  A wooden crossbow bolt takes ‘em right out, but not oak.  Don’  I don’t suppose it was much comfort to Joe Clark (mayherestinpeace) that he got spit out after he got chewed up.  I don’t want to think about the niche they fill on the Zenox home planet, though I’ve heard there’s a bit more metal to be had.

They were good hunting for a couple of years but we got rid of them quick enough once we found out the Zenox had accidentally dropped a few, that’s probably before you remember.  There isn’t anything for them to eat outside cities anyway, besides trucks, formerly trains, and SafeT’s.  SafeT’s have a built in defense system, so they’re all right.  They’ll shoot wood, lead, silver, or sand dust, depending on the enemy they’ve detected.

Missouri.  Not my favorite state, nor my least favorite, I’ll reserve that for one of the ones I can’t get to easily by truck.  Speaking of Blade Eaters, I’m comin’ out into the boondocks, so I’d better check my crossbows too.  Can’t be too careful.  My radar ain’t scanned anything worth pingin’ for the past couple hundred miles, and I don’t like it quiet.  I’m thinkin’ my sweeps are too low, so here we - there.   There’s a flock of Purple People Eaters - two eyed, two horned, but who’s countin’ - circling the truck.  I’ll have to pull over to the side, ready to do the world a service for low pay, and ain't it always the same?  This is the button ta’ lower the truck’s metal armor over the tires and windshield.  Old tech, but it does the trick.  Cameras on and the FPPE’s have come quite a bit closer in the past minute, haven’t they.  Let’s just anchor and fire a Dummy.
My uncle one-armed-Bob (The Flying Purple People Eaters got the other arm) always used to love to tell us how to cook the bastards.  And alligator.  And shark.  A predator’s predator, Bob was.  Scars across his head made haircuts a long job.  He always says he eats enough for 5 people so it’ll take 5 birds to carry him off.  F-P-P-E’s are long and lean, and we’ve all heard the bedtime stories, but I don’t know why they’d fly.  Bob’s arm went to an old lady bird napping in her nest on the ground in Tennessee.  They’re a bit stupid really, they lay their bright purple eggs just about anywhere and roll them into the nests.  He kind of just got in the way of the beak, the way I understand.  I don’t see how they survived anywhere, but I hear the gravity is lighter where Zenox are from.  They barely get off the ground here, and though we call them people eaters, they have a heck of a time taking more than an arm at least on purpose.  They got real lucky with Uncle One-Arm.
So the Dummy is named for the dumb birds, and because it’s kind of like store mannequin but with a missile inside.  F-P-P-E’s ain’t too bright, and they’re off after it every time, ha!  I push this here, and the radio-detonation takes care of most of the flock.  Pardon me but look at that rain of purple feathers, pretty really, and a couple of floppy bodies raining down, maybe you should throw up over there or anywhere except in the truck.  I’m glad our gravity is a bit too much for 'em anyway.
And no, my truck is not a SafeT, so you can stop looking nervous or leave now and sit in the back in one of those damn useless lumps I’m dragging.  It’s all custom built by me, using new tech and lots of old as I can afford it.  I can say the engine is pretty damn expensive and efficient regardless.  I hardly have to stop for gas, though catch a SafeT stopping ever, psh.  It’ll do, unless you’re offering me money.  Didn’t think so.  So a part of the conditions for our wonderful new technology as you know, cure for cancer, living to 100, and all other good things, was that we stop fighting our “silly wars” over oil.  
Up ahead, of course using the best path available which just happens to be my road, there’s another herd of black elephants.  I’ll use this shotgun now.  There’s only about 30 here, but I’m going to have to kill one or two to scare them away, and you can wait here.  I’ll need sharp point bullets for them, and hope they hit.

Now, my momma and poppa first encountered the black elephants in Canada, Saskatchewan somewhere.  The dust they raised looked like shows you see about the Plains in Africa, the things were stampeding.  They don’t quite look like elephants, though they’re close, they don’t have the big earflaps or little tails.  They hold those trunks like snakes when they’re running. 
Well my parents came right up to the herd and stopped, watching them run across the road.  They weren’t very fast.  They weren’t very big either, about 2 feet tall by 3 feet long, with little elephant feet and wrinkled black skin.  They started taking over the plains in a big way when I was young, stealing grazing land like mad.  Luckily they didn’t want to eat any people, although they're about the only thing that doesn't.  The first group to hunt them got shot themselves from the rubber skin.  I guess that makes us glue, huh?  It’s really too bad about the wild horses and the bison.
Well anyway it looks like the sharp points worked, gun’s still good and we’re not glue today.  We’re lucky they went the other way, herding with a gun is a real pain in my butt.
Havens, well, we’ll need a Haven to sleep at.  I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, the Zenox don’t suck and those cancer cures sure are nice.  The Havens are great, and a girl can get a solid night’s-or four hour’s-sleep.  Nah, there ain’t another vehicle due for days I’d say.  But it’s safe here for as long as you like, and all the machine-generated nutri-food in hundreds of flavors you can eat.

The good end of the deal?  I dunno, my life is about the same, plus or minus a few gunshots.  And of course everything wants you dead.

What’s it like for you then, being a young big-city reporter?