Letting go of expectations

Craig Maloney - Wed, 03/28/2018 - 23:01

One thing that I have heard often in practices of Mindfulness (and Buddhism) is that desire and attachment are the causes of suffering. And that all seems well and good (surely if you don't desire anything then it stands to reason that you won't suffer in wanting anything. Problem solved! Yay humanity!) But I think there's a little more to it that can become part of the practice of developers.

Too often I have sat frustrated in front of a piece of code because one of the following things happened:

  • It didn't behave like I wanted it to behave
  • It wasn't as simple as I thought it would be
  • The code became much uglier than I wanted it to be
  • The problem eluded me longer than I wanted it to take
  • It wasn't as fun as I had hoped it would be

All of these problems aren't the code's fault. Nothing about the code or the computer could care less about how I feel about it. What I brought to the session were my desires of how it would turn out. My wants precluded me seeing things for how they were and taking them at face value in that moment. My frustrations arose from wanting things to be different and realizing that no matter how hard I tried, or how much I begged, the session was going to do what it would.

Getting mad at the computer wasn't going to make the bugs pop out quicker. Feeling pressured by the deadline wasn't going to make my mind think any clearer about the problem at hand. Fretting that the code that I was generating wasn't the most beautiful code I'd ever written wasn't going to make the code any better. What I brought to the whole exercise was how I wanted things to be and when those didn't happen I suffered for it.

I've been working on recognizing this tendency in my work. Rather than bring my expectations for how easy or quick or unbelievably awesome something will be I choose instead to agree that I will work on whatever it is that I'm working on and see where it leads. Rather than bring my preconceptions for how things will be I instead see how it is and work from there.

It's not easy. There's still times where I bring my old habits of frustration and anger to bear. But I've noticed that when I act with more curiosity that things tend to work out better.

There is still the intention of getting work done as well. It's not just unfocused sessions of sitting in front of the keyboard hoping that I'll write something amazing. I still have to understand what it is that I'm working on. But it happens on a more gradual scale and is driven by curiosity of how things will play out.

Categories: LugNut Blogs

12 Questions About My Job (from 2008)

Craig Maloney - Tue, 03/13/2018 - 12:12

I just noticed that I'd saved a questionnaire from 2008 about my job and computers. I think this might have come from my college as a way to help prepare students for entering the computing workforce. Back then I was working for a car company doing Perl and Java. Some things have changed since then (I'm no longer doing anything with Perl or Java and I'm OK with that. Also starting salaries have hopefully increased since 2008). But what's more striking is how some things haven't changed (I still want to help people. I still use vi via vim) and how computers have intruded in our lives (smartphones, smart TVs, and the Internet of Things).

So here it is, typos and all; a glimpse into what I was thinking back in 2008 about my job and computing in general:

1. What do you like about your job?

I like the daily challenge of the job. I love solving problems and working out puzzles. I enjoy working with computers and seeing them do amazing and cool things. I enjoy helping out people whenever I can.

2. What dont you like about your job?

I dislike it when the technology or political issues get in the way of helping me help out people. I hate the politics that can come in any corporation, especially if they make no technological or other sense.

3. How did you decide to go into that profession?

I've always enjoyed computers, ever since I was little. I would see computers on the television doing amazing and incredible feats, and knew I wanted to be a part of that. I would read the World Book Encyclopedia and look at the pictures of computers and dream about building or working with those machines. Unfortunately the encyclopedia we had was several years out of date, and the pictures I associated with computers being mammoth, room filling machines were quickly replaced by pictures of Apple ][, Commodore VIC 20s, Timex Sinclairs, and my first computer, the Atari 400. The idea that I could own a computer and use it was foreign to me, but I quickly got over that and pestered my parents at length to let me have a computer.

4. How do you use computers in your job?

I use them to maintain and develop web-based software. I use UNIX, Perl, and Java to help provide financial and performance information for a major automotive company.

5. How have the computers changed since you have been working?

I started working in 1993, and the machines have changed dramatically. In 1993, the SPARCStation 20 was the machine to beat, and the 486 machines were the fastest processor most home users would have. I gravitated to UNIX and Linux early on, because they were similar to the machines that I had used in college. At that time it was unheard of for home users to have UNIX at home. Now, it's more commonplace for people to use UNIX-based operating systems. When I started working, computers were seen as single-tasking machines. You brought up your word processor, and that was it. Now, you can have multiple programs running simultaneously on a machine without even thinking about it. Viruses were a common problem on DOS and Windows machines, but you had to pass around a floppy in order to be infected. Now, it takes 15 minutes for a Windows machine to be completely compromised. When I started working, the network was a scarce resource. Now, the network is considered to be ubiquitous.

6. What types of software do you use?

I use vi, Perl, Linux, Solaris, and Apache for Development. I use OpenOffice, Lotus Notes and Lotus SameTime for office communication and groupware.

7. How does using computers make your job more efficient?

With the right scripts and programs, I can take a mound of data and turn it into something useful in a matter of seconds. I can use the computer to help my task management and methodologies for improving my work flow. I can send mail to several people to ask for their input without leaving my desk.

8. What type of degrees do you have?

I have a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science.

9. What would be the best way to get starting in a profession like yours?

Curiosity. You can't learn everything from a book or from school. School gives you the discipline, but finding out the answers yourself and from other mentors is the only way to really hone your skills.

10. How much is a typical starting salary?

$30-$40k.

11. What is a typical task you do on the job?

I do paperwork to handle the corporate policy changes. I fix a little code here and there when it breaks, and handle customer requests for new features.

12. Do you think computers will be forever changing?

I think there will come a point when we won't consider computers as a separate instrument anymore; they'll be so ubiquitous that we won't think about using them, we'll just use them. Television and radio hit that state a while back, yet they still are in constant metamorphosis. Computers found their way into many electronic devices we take for granted, like cable boxes, microwave ovens, and desktop calculators. I think we'll see more and more innovative uses for computers as time goes on.

Categories: LugNut Blogs

Designing a Well Lived Life: Checking In (March)

Craig Maloney - Sun, 03/11/2018 - 13:17

Checking in for March for my "Designing a Well-Lived Life" blogging. This is about making small changes during the year to make larger changes.

  • Writing more / designing more: I let myself get wrapped up in work-related stuff and this completely went by the wayside. By the time I'd finished up my work for the day the last thing I wanted to do was write or design. I need to bake more of this into my routines and block off some time to make this happen.

Unfortunately this leads to another thing, which is that I don't take my own schedule seriously. If I put something on the schedule that involves another person I will do my best to make it happen. But if it's just for me? Well, I don't make it as important because usually it was a shot-in-the-dark anyway to put it on the calendar and my stuff isn't as important anyway. It's a dangerous habit I've gotten into and one that I need to adjust.

  • Programming more: I did more programming for work so that got attention, but I also need to advance myself in larger application design. I've done applications from the ground up but refactoring other folks code without keeping to the original design is something that I've not been so good at. I need to learn how to assert my own thoughts in code in order to make it better. I also need to learn how to build more applications from the ground up.

  • Engage more with people, not things: Somewhat of a success but not really. I'm still a bit of a hermit outside of Coffee House Coders and MUG, but a lot of my social interactions are either on IRC or Mastodon (My G+ usage has dropped off significantly).

  • Blogging more: Well, at least this keeps me blogging. blush.

  • Getting out of debt: Seems whenever I see the edges of the hole something gives way and we're plunged back into darkness. Need to focus on finding other means for getting income in this age because the era of having one stable job for me seems to be long past.

  • Supporting creators in sustainable ways: Outside of Patreon and Liberapay I haven't figured much to help this front.

  • Physical health: Does breathing count? That's about the only thing I've really focused on.

  • Kindness: Being kind to myself is more of a struggle that I would like to admit. Still focusing on being kind to others and trying to see more sides to things.

  • Mindfulness: Still meditating.

More to come in the coming months.

Categories: LugNut Blogs

Musings on Regret

Craig Maloney - Sun, 03/11/2018 - 13:16

(I posted this on Mastodon and decided it needed a more permanent location).

Regret is useless if the only thing you take away from it is that you are somehow inferior for the decisions you make. Regret is a disservice and an attack on the decisions that got you here and they discount your tender heart and your about to choose in the moment on what is best for you with available information.

Wishing that you had done something different to have a better life takes away from the beautiful gift you have now, here, to learn and do better.

Categories: LugNut Blogs

You can't please everyone

Craig Maloney - Sat, 02/17/2018 - 00:27

There's the old saying "you can't please everyone". Usually folks take that to mean that there are certain people who will never be pleased with what you do so don't bother trying to reach them. But there's a secondary way to read this phrase that I'd like to explore and that's the idea that it is exhausting to please everyone and everything that you really care about.

Over the years we accrue many friends, acquaintances, interests, fandoms, and things that mean something to us. And for the most part we can keep on top of engaging with each of these things. But over time we gain so many of them that we can no longer keep up with them in the same way that we used to engage with them. Those few hours with someone at a position we've held become sporadic contact because our job changed. That really cool thing that we found on the internet lead to several other really cool things on the internet and now engaging with all of them becomes physically exhausting.

We have to step back and realize which interactions are still bringing us joy and which ones are there because we feel an obligation to keeping these connections alive.

But there's the tendency to want to keep everything alive; to keep all of the plates spinning with the same intensity that we had when we first engaged with it. But keeping all of those plates spinning wears us out. We can't keep spinning all of them at the same time. Eventually the plates won't have enough momentum to keep going and they wobble and fall off their posts.

And that's OK, as long as we are conscious of which interactions we're letting go of for now. As long as we know which ones we want to keep and engage with them fully we can be OK with the ones that are no longer bringing us joy.

(This post is just a few notes to myself to remind myself that it's OK not to be all things to all people all the time. It's OK to let things go and let the plates fall where they may. And perhaps someday when I'm ready those unbroken plates can take the place of the other ones that have lost their momentum).

Categories: LugNut Blogs

Designing a Well Lived Life: Checking In

Craig Maloney - Wed, 02/07/2018 - 22:12

2018 is in full-effect and January has already sped on by. Where has the time gone. Last I checked in it was Christmas-time and much like my neighbors that leave their Christmas lights up way too long I managed to leave the last post up for far too long without checking in.

Figured I'd check-in with my progress on Designing a Well Lived Life and the intentions that I have for 2018:

  • Writing more / designing more: Unfortunately I've been a little busy at the moment with work-related things so this intention has taken it in the teeth. It's been a bit of frustration to me with how little I've managed to create but I am thinking of ways to make this more of a priority. Also I've been procrastinating on one major project that I need to complete sooner than later that's related to my current infrastructure so that's been taking precedence.

  • Programming more: I've done a little bit here and there to help sharpen my skills but this too has taken a back-seat.

  • Engage more with people, not things: This has been helped a bit by some of the social activities I have (Coffee House Coders, MUG, etc.). Also I've been culling my social media presence to only a few different services (I've completely cut off Twitter and deleted my account).

  • Blogging more: Ummm... Here you go. blush.

  • Getting out of debt: Slowly but surely. This has been the area that I've been most focusing on, and it's still a bit of stress for me in how long the journey will be. But I'm starting to see some small results.

  • Supporting creators in sustainable ways: Not much to report on this at the moment.

  • Physical health: haven't focused on this.

  • Kindness: I've been more kind to myself and hopefully this has extended to others.

  • Mindfulness: I've been working on meditating but I've also noticed areas where my mind is not present in the moment.

So there's the first of the promised check-ins. Hopefully I'll do this on more of a monthly basis.

Categories: LugNut Blogs