Life

Fall is here. I know because Trader Joe’s won’t let me forget. They’ve really bet the house on pumpkin spice. But also it’s that magical first week in October, which means it’s Fleet Week AND there’s the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival. So tons of sailors are roving in packs all over town, and bluegrass fans will soon be swarming Golden Gate Park. There’s a buzzy energy in the air right now. Biking around in this weather feels great.

I don’t think I’ll be able to go to the festival or even a friend’s birthday party because I’m dogsitting, and Hopper is pretty needy and whiney. Can’t even write this blog post! He wants attention. This is a two week gig, which I feel like I regretted immediately after accepting. I always book these sittings in the hopes of treating it like a writer’s retreat. Go hole up in a big apartment in a sleepy part of the city, be focused, and knock through my to-do list as best I can. It never works out that way. Since I got home from work today I’ve watched a Lady Gaga documentary and made a chocolate cake mug(or is it ‘mug chocolate cake’. Wait it’s ‘chocolate mug mix’, what?). Now it’s almost bedtime. Where did the time go?

Having long stretches of time where I can do anything often leads to me doing nothing. The same thing happened when I went to North Carolina with Ryan for a week. I had high hopes of working on some personal projects, but it just didn’t happen. I returned home refreshed and newly interested in paddleboarding, but also feeling guilty for squandering the time.

That was nearly two months ago!! and I still haven’t made progress on my side projects. I’m feeling worse and worse about it, which is no good. It’s completely artificial pressure. I need to figure out a more realistic way to move forward and be productive, at least a little bit every day.

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In general since about April I’ve been in a weird place emotionally, mostly due to work. April started a period of being bounced around from project to project, having to ramp myself up on a new codebase and fit in to a new team (or company!) each time. I was on Project #1 from April to June. Then for a week or two I worked at another agency, pitching in at the last minute on a high stress launch. I came back to the first project after that. Then from the end of June to August, I did staff augmentation at an entirely different company. Then at the end of August I finally came back to Grio for Project #4, but we moved offices, so that was also different.

Changing projects in April was incredibly disorienting, which I suppose was to be expected because I was on my previous project for nearly a year. Then heading in to be a contractor at other offices, it felt like I didn’t even work at my company anymore. I saw my coworkers like once or twice a week when I came back to the office for free lunch.

It takes me a few weeks to feel like I’m up to speed on a project and starting to really contribute, and when I’m changing projects every 6-8 weeks, I don’t get very much time to feel good about the work I do. Mostly I’m just stressed out trying to prove myself, I have a few weeks of rocking it, then it starts all over again. Currently I actually feel pretty optimistic about my new project. There is the usual deadline stress, but I’m working with people I like and learning React Native, so at least I’m growing.

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What else..? I was incredibly saddened when Anthony Bourdain died. My food and travel hero, RIP. I was up extra early, picking up my bicycle at the shop when it came over the radio. It just felt so surreal. I stayed away from all the news, and even now I can’t bear to watch any Parts Unknown episodes on Netflix, even though I know they’re going to take them down soon.

I still think about it from time to time, and it worries me that you can fight your whole life against depression, live what appears from the outside to be a meaningful and fun life, and still not make it. I don’t get as depressed as often as I used to thanks to bupropion, but I’m terrified of going back. What if it stops working? My depression was never that bad, but I don’t want to go through feeling down like that ever again, especially since now I know that I don’t have to.

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Travel to see friends and family has been happening steadily. Spending time with my people has added some reassurance to a generally unstable time work-wise. In July we went to the Yuba River with friends. We stayed in a really nutty Victorian house that had some terrifying bedrooms. Ryan almost drowned. Nobody got sunburned. We broke an oven door and were losing puzzle pieces down the sink.

August was North Carolina with Ryan’s family. My racism antenna was on as soon as I saw my first confederate flag on the highway. Ryan thought that these people were neo-nazis because of their license plate (looks like NO 88), but no, they just went to Duke. Phew.

There was lots of food, and lots of time in the water. Ryan and I bought a puzzle one of our first days there, and we were able to complete it by our last night.

Before we left we went to a BBQ place that according to one Google review had a picture of a grand wizard on the wall. Walked all over the restaurant very casually eyeballing every frame and couldn’t find it. The BBQ was great, so I really hope that review was bogus.

Went to Los Angeles in early September. It was fairly uneventful, I didn’t even take pictures! I guess it’s nice that seeing my family doesn’t have to be a big eventful thing. I’ll be headed back there in November and December as well.

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Puzzles. Ever since the encounter with puzzles in Oak Harbor, puzzles have been a mainstay, both on the road and at home. We’ve been ordering our puzzles off of Amazon, and have leveled up to using this puzzle wrapper thingie that lets you roll away your puzzle when you’re not working on it. You can see it below in the New Yorker puzzle. It’s pretty low tech (a big piece of felt, a cylindrical balloon and some elastic bands to hold it together), but it works! I was thinking of starting a puzzle club to share my puzzles with friends, since how often do you do a puzzle the second time?

Ryan did this insane 2000 piece Times Square puzzle all by himself.


I worked happily on most of this New Yorker puzzle. Back in 2009 the magazine was 4.99 an issue. Now it’s  8.99!

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Well ok now I reaaaaallly need to go to bed. Til next time!

Life, Travel

Back during my analyst days it was all about the reports. Daily reports, weekly reports, monthly reports, and of course, the big bad quarterly reports. Every April, July, October and January was a manic haze of work, stress and anxiety. I’ve left those days long behind me, but I still think about time in that way. It’s April, so Q1 is very much behind us. I don’t think I proclaimed any personal goals at the start of the year, but here’s what I’ve been up to lately.

Becoming my dentist’s MVP

Back in November I went to Mexico City and popped my crown out while flossing. I hadn’t been to the dentist in a year and a half since I didn’t have dental insurance while I was an apprentice, and then my dentist wasn’t covered by my work insurance, so I dragged my feet on finding a new dentist… With a broke tooth there was no way to procrastinate, and thus began four months of seeing the dentist pretty much every other week… I just checked my calendar, and I went to the dentist NINE times since December. Last week was my final dental appointment until my next cleaning, and it feels like such a relief. Now that I’m all done, I’m seriously babying my mouth now.  I’ve even stepped up and bought the trendy coconut floss my dentist recommended. It smells nice and supposedly coconut oil is antibacterial, but I haven’t noticed much of a difference. I mean, it’s floss.

Jill Visit

I visited Jill in Atlanta in January. I had to work, so it was mostly a lot of just hanging out with nothing special in mind, but I still got to see a little bit of the city, and eat a little BBQ. I became obsessed with how incredibly low food costs were, and took to regularly texting photos of our restaurant bills to Ryan.

What else… not to knock Atlanta’s interest in Paul Thomas Anderson films, but there was NO ONE at all in the theater for a late screening of Phantom Thread. It was a treat being able to have an entire theater to ourselves. I found that when I watched the movie again at home in San Francisco, the audience laughed at different parts of the film. It gave me a different understanding of how you might interpret the movie. Some films are best seen with an audience, I suppose. Films like this include: action movies (Black Panther!), Tyler Perry and Quentin Tarantino movies, horror movies.  Films best watched alone: documentaries, dramas, John La Carre movies, romantic comedies.

MoviePass

Speaking of movies, after many weeks and ZenDesk complaints, I finally got my MoviePass. Friends, it is everything they say it is. There are a few catches of course, but with San Francisco prices it’s totally worth it to sign up (9.95/month for a subscription that gives you one movie per day, while SF movie tickets run 10 – 16 dollars per movie).

Mom Visit (aka my mom runs away from her family too)

My mom visited for Chinese New Year in February. I had originally wanted to head down to Los Angeles to see the extended family, but she stressed that it would be a total mess. Instead, she wanted to head up to SF. I think she was probably right. Her visit was nice and laid back. We’ve been seeing each other a bit more often lately, and surprisingly, I think that has helped us to have more fun, since there isn’t as much pressure to cover all the big life questions. Of course this does mean that I debate the cost/benefits of purchasing a house every single time, but that’s unavoidable. 

Audiobooks

In January I got super obsessed with Call Me By Your Name. After watching the movie I had to read the book. I saw that the audiobook was narrated by Armie Hammer, so for about the fifth time, I started up an Audible subscription. Since then I’ve been listening to a ton more audiobooks. Most are from the library and through the excellent Libby app, but Audible’s frequent and generous sales have convinced me to stay a member. Favorites lately include: The Last Black Unicorn,  World War Z, Norse Mythology, Call the Midwife, and Ubik. I’ve actually been updating my books page!

March no spend

February was kind of spendy, so I did a ‘no spend’ month for things that weren’t food or basics. Normally an ‘experiment’ like this would warrant its own blog post or two, but honestly I made it through without much hand-wringing. I replaced my headphones when they broke, that’s about it. Oh, and CocoFloss. LOL. It’s now the middle of April and I still haven’t bought any non-staples. I might go on through the end of the month. Now if I had to give up eating out, that would be a real challenge. 🙂

Mission Techies

A friend of mine from school got a job as the program director for Mission Techies, a training program that helps minorities transition into a tech career. He needed some help planning content, so he asked if I could help out.

The thing that made the most sense from a time and resources standpoint was planning a site visit. I got the go-ahead from folks at work, and then all of a sudden I was planning a tour and a Q&A career panel for the students. If you know me, you might know that being the center of attention, public speaking, and event planning are all my least favorite things to do. I really wanted to help out though, so I pulled it together, and thankfully the event was a success! I’m planning to write about it more on my coding blog, but I’ve been lazy…

Let’s see… what else work-wise… I went to the ForwardJS JavaScript conference for the second time. I gave a talk about it at work, which was stressful, but went well. I’ve been debating this with friends – so public speaking is uncomfortable for me. Because I’m stressed out about it, I put in a ton of effort, rehearse, rewrite, etc. Then when I finally give the talk, it goes fine, maybe even great. I know they say you need to practice a lot to get good at things, but what if being stressed the fuck out is a key ingredient I need in order to perform decently? How terrible is that? Maybe next time I’ll try a little more improvisation.

A Little More Social Time

Last year I felt like I fell out of touch with a lot of friends. I was just busy with work. I made a bit of an effort in January to see friends even when it wasn’t convenient (because really, going to Oakland is never convenient). From there, things have kept rolling steadily, and I’ve had a lot of fun weekends. Concerts, big steak dinners, Russian festivals, dance shows, clubs, bars. It feels good to be out and about again.


Anyways, that’s it for me. Later!

Life, Travel

Spring

Last month I hit up the Codeland conference in New York. Codeland was a completely new conference run by the folks behind the CodeNewbie podcast, and I had decided to attend on a bit of a whim (you know this is starting to be a theme with me and conferences, I should really put some more thought into this). At the time when I booked everything I was feeling a bit bedraggled, and the thought of getting out of town, even for a conference, sounded good to me.

Coffee believes in me!
Battle of the bootcamps – Pros and cons of bootcamps, or… are bootcamps a scam?

It turned out to be a good choice. The conference had some really strong content, and an amazing vibe of acceptance and inclusion (it was woke as fuck, as I said in my coding blog). It’s strange. How do you create an atmosphere like that? One thing that they did do was offer tons of scholarships. I think there were 50+ programmers there for free.  It was a conference focused on new programmers, so that might have checked some  egos at the door. It was also a single track conference, which was new to me. I was stuck in the same room with a couple hundred other people 9-5 for 2 days. We should have gone insane, but we didn’t. The Bollywood dancing helped. Oh! I also ran into a few folks from my bootcamp that I recognized from their Github profiles. Great to meet people in real life.

We’re BFFs – Best Food Friends <3

I got to stay with my friend Michelle and even though we didn’t do too much, I somehow ate SO MUCH FOOD. Food bloggers, sheesh. Feeling like I should be social, I also set up a few happy hours and met up with some other friends, new and old. It was exhausting to fit that in around the conference, but the right thing to do.

Cherry blossoms @ Brooklyn Botanical Gardens === selfie time. Peep the fashion blogger in the middle. She was standing stone still while her photographer (boyfriend??) clicked away. So awkward in real life.
3 people, 3 pizzas, duh.
Taking my friend Natalie’s dog to the park for some beginner puppy training. Informative for everyone, and the pup pooped outside for the first time ever!!!

One thing that surprised me was that while I was there, I had absolutely no urge to live in NYC. Everything just felt like so much effort/so far away, and I was in Times Square for the conference, which probably was the worst possible place to be.

I also had terrible public transit luck, getting stuck on the subway during a massive power outage on my way to day one of the conference. I was stuck for a half hour, missing the first few talks. Others weren’t so lucky, and sat in dark trains for an hour or more. Then on my way out to the airport the AirTrain was busted. The unmarked shuttle bus was packed with unhappy people, and whenever we stopped at a terminal, people waiting to get on couldn’t because tourists did not want to get off or move in away from the bag rack to let others on. One lady who I guess was really late for her flight begged for people to move back to make space, but nobody moved. She became angry, and yelled at us as we puttered away. Sitting next to me was a very dapper gentleman rage posting on Facebook about the incompetence of the MTA(“This is sooo New York”). Once I got to JFK, my flight was delayed an hour. Then 2 hours. Then 3 hours. I later learned that SFO was doing some pre-scheduled maintenance of the runways, going from 5 runways to 1*. WTH. It was chaos, and flights to SFO were getting pushed back and cancelled. I didn’t get in until 2am, and had to pony up forty bucks for a cab home, which normally I would bitch about, but really I was just so relieved to be home and done traveling. What a mess!

* For 9 weekends April to June there is maintenance. It’s still a shitshow, I learned as Ryan’s flight the other day was delayed terribly just like mine. This is just going to continue, so why can’t they just reroute flights to Oakland? It’s better than a 3-6 hr flight delay/cancellation every weekend.

Drowning my transit sorrows in Shake Shack. And then there were like  3 more hours to fill.
2 am, time to find a cab

Speaking of homes, I’ve made more progress in the process of applying for a Below Market Rate apartment.  I finished my apprenticeship in April and got hired on full time as a software developer, just barely making the max income cutoff. With my income looking steadier, I was finally ready for my one on one counseling session to go over my goals and budget for househunting. The housing counselor was initially kind of hostile and challenging toward me. He was giving me shit about my proof of income, then he really wanted me to tell him about Yale, and how pretentious my classmates were, but I wasn’t biting, and hello college was forever ago man. Eventually he softened up, and by the end he was encouraging, saying that I was in a good place to buy (good income, no debt, etc.). He approved me, pushing me on to the next step. I just need to get pre-approved for a loan, and then I can start applying.

I feel a little anxiety about going to the next step, and it’s for a silly reason. I have to pick a person from the suggested list of providers, and then call and schedule an appointment. Then I have to gather all my paperwork and go there, and go over the numbers all over again. I’ve got inertia, and it’s because I don’t want to make a phone call and go to a bank to do more paperwork. Isn’t that stupid? Why can’t I just do this online, I said to myself. But no. PHONE. HOOMAN INTERACTION. I think the internet is making me socially stunted.

I still waver between “meh” and “no” on the whole buying an apartment thing, but  even if I don’t continue, it felt really good to run the numbers with an objective third party and hear that if I wanted to, I could buy an (below market rate…) apartment by myself. These scenarios involve tapping my retirement or borrowing $ for a down payment, but let’s just ignore that and say I’ve made it! Woot!

Life

January and February weren’t so hot for me. It rained nonstop, and I fell into a bit of a funk. I was tired all the time, overworking myself, and feeling disconnected from others. No bueno.  Here’s a blog post from February that I found sitting in my drafts:


In January there was a mini film fest at my local theater celebrating the work of the Spanish director Pedro Almodovar. About a week later there was also the annual David Bowie dance party at a club in my neighborhood. Bowie and Almodovar are both incredibly glamorous and dramatic artists, and most of their work revolves around sex, drugs and rock and roll. At the time I found myself longing for a bit of glamour and art in my life. Instead, all I got was druggie drama.

I think that my tweaker burnout upstairs neighbors must have made the same New Year’s resolution as I did – be more social.  Multiple times a week they stay up high all night playing dominos, golf (?????), drinking, and who knows, probably doing woodwork. Their hangouts mirror my desired sleep schedule, starting at 10pm and raging til 7 am. Sometimes they go on even longer into the day, making it who knows how long, 18+ hrs of partying. As I’m writing right now, it’s been about 14 hours of this bullshit.

Where am I going with this? I guess I haven’t felt rested in a long time.  Every  day I say some variation of  “I’m tired.” I feel stuck. I don’t want to do anything or go anywhere. I just want to sleep all the time. It’s been raining all day, every day  for months. Life seems dirty and grimy. Yesterday I was commuting to work… lately it’s been incredibly crowded because of the rain, so we were marching together like grumpy wet cattle, and as I looked down at the steps as I climbed the stairwell, I saw a GIANT naaaaasty pile of human shit. I found myself thinking “Oh no! I should warn this guy in front of me!”, but nothing came out of my mouth, not even “Holy crap!”, which would have been a great pun… Thankfully he didn’t step in it, but then for the rest of the day I just felt incredibly guilty that I couldn’t even warn somebody about shit. And I know that is absurd.

How does one break out of this jaded  and useless “I’m tired” cycle? I don’t know. Waiting for this one to pass.


Ooooooof. It’s April now, and I’m feeling better. I tried to figure out what exactly I did to break out of it, and I’m not sure. To be honest, it stopped raining everyday, and that made a huge difference. I’m biking to work most days now, and I’m back to running regularly. The exercise really helps my emotions, which makes me feel like such an animal.  I got a little bit better at my job and as a result I don’t feel like I have to take my work home all the time to “catch up.” I’ve been trying to reach out to friends more, but that’s a mixed bag. There was a point in Feb when I was getting rescheduled/cancelled on multiple times in a row. That’s life, but it was still hard not to take it personally.

You know, it’s kind of terrifying that something as simple as the weather could fuck with my head so much. I can’t control the rain, but I can plan things to look forward to. I’ve got dogsitting gigs booked out until June, and I have a few trips that I need to plan, including a trip to NYC in a few weeks.

Ummm… what else is going on…

  • I’m still obsessed with the Fat Guy (not) cycling across America, and have started watching pirated episodes of My 600 lb Life on YouTube. Don’t ask me why. I don’t know why.
  • In March my mom’s laptop screen died. After a week of back and forth texts and calls, trying to diagnose the issue of 3 different and very much broken computers over the phone, I decided to just buy her a  new Chromebook. Looked at Amazon, watched a few videos, and ten minutes later, click, new computer on the way, done. At $80 to diagnose/fix the old Chromebook, a new computer at $200 seemed like a no-brainer. It felt really good being able to throw some money at a problem without worrying at all about the cash.
  • I helped my unemployed roommate get some part time work at my company, and I feel good about that too. The whole process has been completely different than working at a larger company. It’s much more casual and nebulous. For example, there was never, and probably will never be an official job description for the contract work she’ll be doing. At my previous company there would have been so much red tape. It’s really interesting. +1 for small companies.
  • Ryan and I are going through the steps to enter San Francisco’s BMR housing lottery (mandatory workshops, counseling, looking into loans, etc.), but I don’t feel too attached to the idea. Actually, if you know me, I loathe the idea of home ownership. But hey, it’s something to do with my time. As Ryan says, at the very least I’ll have something to talk to my mom about.
Life

 

It’s the last day of the year! 2016 was okay for me. Mostly it was all about keeping my head down and working hard. Things finally paid off near the end of the year, and I breathed a little sigh of relief before I got back to the grind. It seems like it was a harder year for the people around me. I saw friends and family go through a few really tough transitions – moves, lost jobs, illnesses, divorces… And even if your personal life was fine, just on a global scale 2016 was a dumpster fire of a year, which is depressing.

I did meet my modest goals from last year:

  • Finish my program and find a job (aka the BIG goal) – Check. I finished Flatiron oh only about THREE months after my “worst case scenario” due date for finishing. I took a month off to study for interviews, then went full throttle through two months of interviewing to score my first programming gig. Things didn’t go down at all like how I’d hoped or imagined, but I’m pleased with the final outcome.  I like my new job a lot, and I feel really lucky that I get to code all day long with nice people. So yay, career change.
  • Network with the San Francisco dev community – Check! In January I met other Bay Area folks in my program, and they’ve been a great support group throughout the year. We had a few happy hours, study groups and even went down to Netflix to watch a documentary about computer science and minorities. Oh, and we went to our first hackathon as well. We got nothing accomplished, but it was so much fun. I also attended 2 conferences this year: ForwardJS in SF, and RubyConf in Cincinnati.
  • I also eased my way into the programming meetup scene. Favorite events: Women Who Code’s Beyond the Basics nights, FreeCodeCamp’s weekly study group, Code for San Francisco’s Weekly Hack Night. I went to so many events that I finally started recognizing people!
TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon with my Learn buds
TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon with my Learn buds
  • Redecorate apartment – Check! There were lots of little changes here and there, but most notably we totally redid the little room, making it into a study and guest room.

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  • Maintain and grow close relationships. – The new guest room got a fair bit of use. My mom visited several times, my cousin came for a weekend, Ryan’s brother stayed with us, and a few other friends and family members stayed as well.  I mentioned in one of my last posts that I was a major hermit for the summer and fall. That’s not great, and I can’t say I’ve been way better since starting a new job, but I’ve been trying to keep in touch with friends online at least.
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House of Prime Rib. The smallest person gets the most meat.
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My aunt Charlene was Woman of the Year!
  • Stop looking like crap – The jury is still out on this one. My company is very casual, so I don’t have much of an incentive to look nicer than normal. I’ve been having  a lot of luck with ThredUp, so at least I’m not spending much money while I try to figure out a new style.

2017 Goals

Given all the crazy sad shit happening in the world, this sounds selfish… but in 2017 I’d like to focus on self care.

  • Read daily – I renewed my subscriptions to The New Yorker and The Economist, and I’ve figured out how to listen to audiobooks from the library.
  • Drink tea daily – I am not sure how, why or when I stopped regularly drinking tea, but I’ve rebuilt my tea stash, and now I’m back in the game. TEA LIFE.
  • Do yoga daily in the morning
  • Drop some big $$$ on dope skincare – Yep, it’s finally time to upgrade to the good stuff. Serums! Retinol! Hydroquinone! Let’s do it!
  • Visit friends and family. Be more in touch.
  • Travel – Beyond seeing friends and family, I’m interested in Scotland, Cuba, Nepal, and oh yeah, going on a cruise, preferably one of those old people cruises they advertise on NPR.
  • Work – Keep learning and working hard to be a decent software developer. Be a thoughtful coworker. Hit up 2 programming conferences. Continue going to meetups.