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Hey, so, raise your hand if you actually enjoy assembling IKEA (or ikeaesque) furniture? I can't possibly be the *only* one.
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Back from my first for-reals business trip, which was incredibly busy and pretty fun. Turns out though that after interacting strictly with coworkers for a couple days, my sketchy-under-normal-circumstances view of appropriate work etiquette takes a turn for the even-worse: because sometimes writing it down stops me from stressing out about it. )

On the awesome side though -- and there was lots of awesome -- we went by the SF office and rode the slide (how come we don't have a slide?), I met tons of awesome and relevant people, I got to spend not-at-a-computer time with my coworkers who really are pretty fantastic, I had a delicious and tremendously expensive meal (yay, expensing it!) in which I actually liked a piece of lobster sushi and had the most amazing rare kobe beef ever and tried bacon-wrapped scallops (mmmm yum) and sake (not bad) and roe (seriously awful, but I ate it) and talked to people terrifyingly many levels up the corporate food chain from me, and also had several other really good meals, and heard interesting talks, and rode a bike across the campus of the mothership, and did lots of walking around san francisco, and got to be the competent one about sf public transit, and did not crash and burn while demoing our product, and all sorts of other good stuff. Whee!
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Things I like about my workplace:

While the following conversation might happen on an email list:
A: "I am looking for a magazine to give to my 14 year old niece who likes science."
B: "How about Popular Science?"
C: "Popular Science might be good for a nephew but might not be appropriate for a niece"

-- while that may happen, it is promptly followed by people of both genders smacking down person C, "stereotypes" and "bite me" and "shame on you" and "uhhh, why not?"

And then the offender at least semi-apologizes, and then the discussion of science magazines for science-inclined teens continues in a mature and grown-up fashion.

It's nice to know that sometimes large groups of people interacting over email *does* work right.
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Oh, and next time I am hating everything about debugging, this is what I will think about: "At least the reproduction steps for my problem do not begin with 'encase product in epoxy'."

SO glad not to be a hardware person. :p
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Going to take a moment here and bask, because I am pretty happy with myself.

So the performance review stuff I was stressing about all through March came back, and I am totally framing the feedback I got and hanging it on my wall. On the comment box for things I can improve on, I was anticipating things like "she could be more professional sometimes" and "should be more aggressive in communication with other teams" and "spotty estimation of timelines" and all sorts of other whatnot -- and all I got was "should keep on becoming more experienced, which she is doing" and "should speak up more" and "should look for opportunities to take leadership roles". None of which is surprising, and all of which are kind of halfway to secretly being compliments: we want to hear from you (we think your opinion is worth it) and we think you should lead stuff even though you are about two seconds out of college. Yay!

The comment boxes about strengths and accomplishments were very nice too (although being me, I immediately skipped to the things-i-need-to-improve section and didn't look at the positive things till later). Once I went back to those, though, I got positive feedback on things that I didn't necessarily think were getting noticed, which was incredibly gratifying, and on things I didn't know if I was doing well at, which is reassuring.

All in all, it actually wound up being really flattering and also motivational, and totally worth all the worry I put into it. (Actually, going back and reading what *I* wrote about myself, even that doesn't suck too bad.) I'd really like to ping the people who wrote me reviews and say thanks for the time and the thought, and it was helpful and also made my day (made my week, even, so far), but it seems like that might be a breach of etiquette -- the general modus operandi seems to still be sort of "the first rule of performance review is that we don't talk about performance review". Which is too bad from my perspective, but I guess it might let people be more comfortable being frank. Meh.

Annnnnnnd my window box is sitting on my floor waiting to be filled tomorrow, and we're also going to make jam! Life is good.
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Upcoming project: I've discovered that I appear to have supports for a windowbox outside the window of my bedroom. This is clearly the best thing ever. I suppose I should probably ping my landlord before I do anything too outrageous, but I've already got my heart set on the window garden idea, which has progressed from "pretty flowers" to "food". Think I could pull off tomatoes in a two-or-three-foot window planter, or should I stick to herbs? The Roommate thinks that hot peppers would be a great idea ("they're really pretty!") but I am unconvinced, largely because I don't particularly like hot peppers...
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So I went by my dad's house the other weekend to pick up some of my old stuff so that they could repurpose my old room. I'd had to do this at my mom's ages ago; it turns out that the second time around it's way easier to distance from the emotional "oh my god I don't live at home anymore" impact and move on to the sheer hilarity inherent in the stuff as I sort it out this week.

For instance, I have just found a bunch of dearly beloved old CDs. I have a pretty decent memory for lyrics (though nothing else) so when I pull out the Celine Dion that I totally adored in fifth grade or something like that, I definitely can belt out every word. Which really helps amp up the total epic drama of this CD -- I'd forgotten the sheer quantities of sound effects in "It's All Coming Back To Me Now". (And also the fact that that song is like seven minutes long, seriously.) I can definitely see how ten-year-old me listened to this practically daily.

In fact this has been so much fun that I'm really half tempted to rip the old spice girls cd to my work laptop for listening tomorrow. Has it been long enough yet that I can pretend to be liking "Say You'll Be There" ironically?
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So I know part of why I make the medium-sized bucks is ability to take a loosely-defined goal and turn in into solid achievable tasks. (Can you tell it's performance-review season?) But I gotta say, after a long night at work, it is sort of relieving to come home and face a clear task with obvious measurable completion.

Case in point: I came home tonight and took out the trash. It took like five minutes and it's clear that I really knocked that task out of the park. Kind of satisfying. That trash will never ever be back to haunt me again. On the other hand, the really stupid layout problems that I was fruitlessly chasing at work tonight (and pretty much all last week) -- I'm not sure if I solved them in the correct fashion, and I can pretty much guarantee that I haven't seen the last of them. Gaaah.

On the other hand, the IE bugs don't smell bad. (Although some of my solutions are distinctly fishy.)
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Having a group of people to play Dungeons and Dragons with is really awesome.

If you rolled your eyes at that sentence, skip to the last couple paragraphs now.

However, I have discovered that in order for my life to be truly complete, I need a second group of people distinct from the first who also appreciate D&D to tell the lame (AWESOME) stories about our campaign to. Sadly I have not yet found this second group.

I do realize that "oh my god, let me tell you about this *hilarious* thing that happens in my game last night..." is in fact one of the dorkiest ways to start a story, especially when the following story is about abusing game mechanics, so I have lj-cut this part for your protection.

Read more... )

I'll admit that this game does also make me want to gather friends and start running my own game, because I haven't done this since I used to play in high school with my brothers and I really forgot just how much fun it is -- cooperation and competition, luck and strategy, storytelling, joking around, getting all excited when you figure out exactly how to line up loopholes in the rules, debating and cajoling over creative answers to situations.

To take a step back -- I think part of the reason why hanging out with and joking around with smart MIT people or lots of the engineers at work is that everyone has this fundamental base of knowledge that we share and can immediately build interactions on, and the people are quick enough on their feet to immediately apply that foundation to seemingly-unrelated interactions. I think of when half of my dorm hall was taking 6.002 (intro to circuits) and we all learned about metastable states and it was the best joke and metaphor and explanation for everything for a while. I think of talking today about a coworker's food allergies (poor guy) and in rapid succession comparing it to the 12-ball problem (a common interview-type brainteaser question) and talking about it in terms of bug repro steps (and how much it sucks when one of your steps is "continue for two weeks") and debating what interactions would have to be possible for it to be an NP-hard problem. And lots of our conversations go like this -- because even though I'm ten years younger than these guys and I've only known them a few months, we all have this common foundation. In the middle of some random conversation I can make a joke about multiple inheritance or NP-completeness or collapsing waveforms and everyone will have the background to catch the reference and the brains to understand the connection, catch it and run with it, riff on it further. And because the human brain totally works on analogies, there's this immense store of patterns that we all share that we can easily use to discuss other things and very quickly cut to the interesting parts.

I'm sure this happens in other groups too, anywhere you've got smart people with common knowledge -- certainly you see it in the arts, listening to music where the composer can riff on another theme that the musically-literate will recognize the melody or harmony of, reading books by authors who like allusions is all about this (in my bus reading this morning, a pulp mystery novel, describing a mazelike government building: "Maybe if I'd had a pretty girl and a string." Which is of course a reference to Ariadne and the labyrinth of Greek mythology, and a joke and a potent illustration all in one.) It's part of what makes gaming so damn fun too -- you have this set of concepts that you're all familiar with, a common structure to play with, such that everyone understands why it's awesome when the punchline is, "And on top of all of that, he got combat advantage out of it!"

Which is all part of the joys of having common interests with people, I suppose, or even a subset of that. I suppose the conclusion is that when I go out and meet people and attempt to make friends and all that, I should lead with really dorky and absurdly specific jokes, and go straight for the people who laugh. :p
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phase one: delicious cookie recipe

phase two: [livejournal.com profile] blueeverglades says she rolls them in sugar and a little sea salt for extra bonus awesome

phase three: I try this, doesn't come out quite right for me. "Cinnamon," says the roommate and baked-goods-guinea-pig. "Cinnamon?" I say skeptically, but add some. Mmmmmmmmmmm. Serious win.

... Also, I think there is a great joke with a tremendously limited audience in this cooking/software methodology analogy. Although the punchline might just be "...and this is why I will never ever be able to do pair programming."
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Periodically when I carry the pager for my project at work, I get messages that I can only assume were intended for the previous person to have my phone number. "Rick do u or mike track lots once alex leaves?" and "all is well w tbh203 fyi. thx." Clearly not relevant to me, and somewhat mystifying.

I tend to just ignore these, especially when they come at times I'm busy with other things. Once though I showed one to an adjacent coworker. He looked at it. "You should respond with 'Fuck you, I quit'," he said. I didn't, but every time I get one, I am seriously tempted.
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Favorite part so far of taxes: "Box 5. An amount in this box means the fishing boat operator considers you self-employed."

Fortunately (?) this box is not checked.

What's good music for doing taxes to?

[Edit for followup: "Box 7 may show cash you received for the sale of fish." I feel like I'm looking at the wrong form.]
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Accomplishment this weekend:

From miscellaneous


(Only one so far, but it's a start.)

I am tremendously proud of myself -- previous knitting projects have all been rectangular and roughly summed up as "[k] till out of yarn".

I was kind of hoping to re-read Watchmen too -- evidently work is taking a field trip to see the movie on Friday, and you guys know how much I love covers and adaptations and pretty much any kind of media reworking -- so all in all I was hoping to get my inner-liberal-arts-geek compare-and-contrast on, but it looks like I have loaned my copy to someone and forgot who. Oops.
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Me on May 14: "I haven't pulled an all-nighter in a while, but it's scary how fast it comes back."

Me today, and also yesterday, 11ish: "*yaaaaaaaaaaaaaawn* oh god I am not functional after 10."

Less than a year, seriously, what happened? I swear I used to be more hardcore than this.

-

In non-whiny news: my brother has loaned me his sax, so now I have a borrowed alto and a borrowed c melody to mess with, and the alto even works consistently. Might be time to supplement teaching myself with a few real lessons. I've never had real lessons on an instrument before, but hey, why not?

It's interesting -- I can choose interesting things to play and I can learn the scales and whatnot, but the sax seems to have a lot of interesting wrinkles that make it way harder to teach yourself than guitar or bass or piano. If my B is always flat, how come? What makes that octave jump happen accidentally sometimes? And so on. Vibrating columns of air are way less intuitive than vibrating strings, it seems.
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Man, punk songs are so BORING to play. Great fun to listen to, but boring to play. Not necessarily easy -- for instance lots of bass notes really fast but really steady is actually more difficult than it looks, I was just discovering -- but boring. Power chords are boring too. I like things with more than one trick to them.

Actually, maybe what I really mean is that punk is boring to play sober and by yourself (which is my situation generally). Anyone got brilliant counterexamples that I should go check out?
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Today at lunch, my team had a discussion of an engineer on another team which led to a couple interesting observations. Let me stress here that said engineer is not me, and I am totally not just saying that in the "oh, *my friend* was wondering..." way, it's seriously not me, but still I was listening closely. Said engineer is totally brilliant, very competent, a senior engineer on his team, only a few years older than me, and works totally insane hours.

Anyways. Observations.
  1. Guys totally do gossip. (Not that I didn't already know this. But still.)

  2. More seriously -- a conversation snippet. "You know ... if you're young and single and working sixteen hour days, and you keep on working sixteen hour days, the only part that's going to change is 'young'." Which progressed into a discussion of how having a family both supports and limits crazy work habit choices.
    I don't think that having a significant other is the be-all end-all of life, but I think the "single" idea stands for any number of potential other passions and commitments.

  3. "This is his first job, right?" says D.
    "Yeah, it is," J agrees, and they share a knowing look.
    I bite, as I always do. "What do you guys mean?"
    "After your first job -- well, I guess it depends on how you leave your first job, but still -- after a job has broken your heart..." D says, sardonic and serious both.
    "You don't give it away as easily again?" I say, flippant.
    "Right."

So there's that.

Please note that I *am* posting this from home. Meaning I am not at work, meaning I left work before 7 (well, maybe 7:08). Comments off because this is something I am figuring out for myself, and I am likely to react pretty negatively to anyone I perceive as judging my choices, probably way out of proportion to the actual maybe-offense, and you guys are too awesome to yell at for stupid reasons.
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You know how there are people who make you feel like you could do anything, and people who make you feel like you can't do anything? (Whether it's colleagues, friends, significant others, family, teachers -- anyone you let affect your life.)

Work has a number of people who make me feel like I could do anything, and that's pretty awesome.

Uhoh

Feb. 10th, 2009 12:07 am
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Totally just spent money as stress relief. Is it good or bad that I can admit it but did it anyways?
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Dear Universe,

FORGET IT. I'm not going to do ANY of the things I'm supposed to this weekend. That'll teach you.

--Me

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