Managing a Growing Project

I am no Project Manager in even the loosest sense of the word. Despite that I find myself learning more and more of the processes of PM. This is especially true when projects start to expand and grow. Specifically I am speaking about the NHL API project I started almost two years ago. This lead me to the rabbit hole that is permissions and how to manage the project overall going forward. The projects roots are very rough, even today I still generally commit directly to master. Now the repository has grown to over 70 commits, two distinct files and 17 contributors.

Balance

I am constantly trying to be cognizant of is becoming overly possessive of the project. While it may have started as a one-man show I want and enjoy contributions from others. The converse of worrying about becoming possessive is that there are times when steering is necessary. One of the instances that comes to mind is the suggestion of including example code. The goal of the project is documentation, so I declined such suggestions. Unmaintained code becomes a hindrance over time and I don’t want to add that complexity to the project.

Growth

There is often a pressure to grow projects, to make them expand over time and change. Its a common thing for businesses to always want growth and it seems that mentality has spread to software. Something like the NHL API is a very slow changing thing, just looking at the commit history shows this. Weeks and months will go by without new contributions or even me looking at the API itself. I dabbled with ideas such as using Swagger to generate more appealing documentation. Every time I tried to add something new and unique I realized it felt forced. This ultimately forced me to accept that growth will not be happening, the project has likely reached its zenith.

Looking Forward

The next steps are likely small quality-of-life things such as the recent Gitter.im badge. Things that make it easier for people to interact but don’t change the project overall. My knowledge of the API makes for fast answers so I try to help out when I am able.

Home Gardening in the Apocalypse

So if you listen to the news and social media we are in a very slow collapse it seems, where things are never going back to normal but we totally shouldn’t panic just yet because they are going to devalue the living hell out of our currency with multiple massive multi-trillion-dollar stimulus packages. Well this got me thinking that if it were to go as bad as that nagging little voice says then perhaps its time to actively start sustaining myself with food. This leads me to a home garden in my super limited space at the townhouse. Between the fiance and I we love eggs so we had about 3 cartons laying around that we repurposed into vessels for starting our seeds.

Redundancy is key, 3 pods of each seed type and multiple seeds per pod

This is only a portion of what we plan to plant, basically a phase one with the seeds we were able to source locally, the larger shipment of seeds has been slowly winding its way to us from across the US and should be here within a day or so. The overall plan will includes a mix of common herbs such as Rosemary, Cilantro and Basil alongside edibles like Kale, Cucumbers and Tomatoes to help reduce our costs at the grocery store; less time spent at the store means less potential exposure and saves us money while increasing freshness to something not really possible in a grocery store.

The current layout of the seed starting tray

And an aside to the garden project is my long term fruit tree effort, last year the fiance and I bought a Key Lime tree and a Myers Lemon tree at the local garden store and put them out front of my townhouse. They flourished since it was the middle of summer with tons of light and regular rains, but as I moved them inside the Myers tree took a turn for the worse, losing a lot of its leafs when I moved. I tried more intensive watering in case the dry conditions of the house were evaporating more water than I realized. I rotated it a few times in hopes of the sunlight coming through the window pulling it back to a normal vertical position but that also failed to improve its conditions. Eventually I even resorted to a boost from some fertilizer steaks a few weeks ago but those failed to really change things. Finally I stumbled upon my plant light and timer that I had packed up when I moved so I relocated the tree so that I could point the light at it and set the timer up for about a 12 hour sun cycle and within a few days I was greeted with unmistakably fresh shoots in that vibrant green you cant mistake as well as possibly more fruit developing!

It is amazing what a little supplemental sunlight can do and I am hoping that the 12h cycle I have the seeds on ushers forth even more green in the house so that eventually we will have fresh herbs, veggies and fruits in a few months

Still Moving

Slowly but surely I am getting my stuff set back up, the computer was the first part as I am currently searching for a job and need access to my resume files and my email in a manner other than my phone or tablet. Speaking of tablets I am really enjoying my 6th generation iPad that I got recently with the LTE option on it. After some talk with a buddy of mine (mikep) and getting blink-shell on the app store I gotta say its a fantastic ssh experience on iOS. I have been using it to decent success to work on a few side projects like my youtube-dl front-end.

It is pretty wild how much stuff accumulates over the course of 5 years and nothing quite puts it in focus like moving and having to drastically downsize. My office had 3 different desks, 3 computers and 6 monitors ranging in size from 23″ to 27″. To say the heat could get excessive in there was an understatement, I ran a box fan in the hallway to help circulate the air. In the move I have downsized to just a matched pair of 24″ screens and a single desk, hopefully this more focused environment will let me be more productive when it comes to projects and work.

On the topic of work it seems like the more moving I do the more I just want to lock myself away and code, I have ideas for tweaks to existing projects like the hockey-info website and new stuff like YeRP which needs a big push to get to a point where I am ready to release it to the internet for general use. I wonder what it is about absence of coding that makes me want to do it more?

A lot of fountain pen writing

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Thought I would share a picture of my personal obsession, namely fountain pens. I started writing a little bit each day with a normal pen (Zebra F-701) and realized I really enjoyed it and somehow fell into fountain pens while browsing Reddit at work. Next thing I know I have somehow amassed several hundred dollars in pens, ink and associated paper supplies. Just today I added the blue notebook to the pile which usually is stored inside the wooden chest, but that doesn’t make for a very good photograph at all. Probably my favorite pen so far is my TWSBI Eco Clear with a 1.1mm stub nib which has allowed me to lay down 78 pages since the 17th of May this year in a larger notebook and has helped to improve my writing significantly by encouraging me to write slower and think about what I want to put on the page.

This love of manual writing has even started a project which I think will push me to write better both in content and style; I am planning out a family history covering things that I already struggle to remember clearly even at my relatively young age. Surprisingly the planning of what to write is much easier than the part where I have to chose the ink, pen and notebook to commit the information to since there are so many options which seem quality but don’t hold up under proper scrutiny.

Snowmageddon 2016

So most of the east coast is currently buried up to its nether-bits in snow in case you haven’t been keeping up with things.  I figured this would be an ideal time to slap my newly purchased GoPro up in the window and let it take time-lapse pictures of the snowfall as it started to come down yesterday.  Unfortunately I found out after I had filled up the 32gb memory card that it was only able to take pictures at half second intervals so I didn’t get anywhere near the amount of data I wanted to create a cool looking timelapse of the snowfall, however I did mange to cover the first maybe hour or two of it and process it to a video for the enjoyment of the masses.

Cliche End-of-year Introspection

I was just kind of aimlessly scrolling around making sure things worked right after having to restore from a mangled updated and I realized that this blog has been up for five years now. The first post I made was in September of 2010, and since then I have managed a whopping 102 posts over the course of those five years. Doing some napkin math that works out to about one post every 17 days if things were spaced out evenly, though I suspect its anything but. Kind of surprising to think that 5 years have passed since I puzzled together how to slap WordPress up onto a Digital Ocean droplet and start spouting off my random stupid thoughts. Most days I don’t even think about the blog, hell most days I try not to think at all if I can help it.

It is however amazing to think that I have this little slice of the internet to myself to use as a personal soap box and sometimes portfolio of my various attempts at programming something interesting or useful. Back in the day it was an Angelfire website I posted Duke Nukem 3d maps to which then evolved into teenage angst on Tripod as I learned a little more about things like HTML and CSS while perpetrating absolutely horrifying graphic laden designs that have thankfully been forgotten for the most part. Along the way I have managed to learn a few things, like how to fill my basement with loud computers that sometimes do what I tell them and give me a place to try out things that might otherwise bring down actual production systems at work. I can safely say that I can write terrible code in PHP and Python both, and I bet I could make some awesomely inefficient shit in Go given enough Wild Turkey. I can sometimes understand the difference between DELETE and SELECT when writing MySQL queries and I understand that Salt not only makes my heart die a little bit but also lets me ruin multiple VMs at once in my lab.

So I guess maybe I have learned a few things over the past few years, but most days it sure doesn’t feel like it; I’ve been told that is a sign of actual wisdom but I’m not convinced just yet. Its far more likely that I am just a very clever impostor who has somehow wormed his way up from renting movies in a dying video store to being allowed to assume the mantle of Technical Support Engineer and get paid far more than my pathetic knowledge and lack of skill is really worth. Most of the time I feel tired, confused and quite often way more stressed than a single 32 year old male with no kids or pets should be, and unfortunately I don’t think that is going to ever change no matter how much money I make or fancy titles I get.

The grass is NOT always greener.

I really can’t place what it is that bothers me so much, maybe it is the overall lack of oversight and overbearing micro-mangers that makes it hard for me to feel at home here. It could be from the clean and relatively new work-space, all that cleaner getting to my head or something like that. Heck it could even be that I don’t have to lug the computer with me everywhere yet (eventually I will have to participate in the on-call rotation) reminding me that I am basically a company’s property. That might seem like hyperbole but when you work for a Managed Service Provider you are the IT version of a prostitute, you answer to your Pimp and do what they say or you get curbed so fast your head spins at a solid 7200 RPMs. All I know for sure is that after a month and a half I still don’t feel like I belong here and I barely grasp any of the specialized things that I need to in order to carry out the job I have been hired to do.

Sure it might seem premature to be considering another move already, but the fact is that after my previous four years I can’t imagine spending several years in a place where I don’t even feel like part of the team. Rapid movements in the IT field often are looked down upon, but being miserable is a quick way to burn-out and depression and often end up completely ruining you as a person. At the end of my previous gig I found myself unable to care about much of anything and honestly considered just outright quitting without notice, when you reach that point you know something is seriously wrong. The only misgiving I had about outright quitting was the people I worked with; I at least wanted to say goodbye to the various friends I had made over the years
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Even attempting to throw myself into projects to keep my skills sharp seems to be less than useful, I end up not having much time to spend on them during the week and on the weekends all I want to do is veg out and not think at all. I think that’s another part that bothers me, I had lots of leeway at the last job in that we oversaw the whole OS as opposed to these selective appliances at the new place that only do one task and our hands are largely tied because the development team controls it all. Not that I have anything against that kind of model on the whole, just that it makes for a very restrictive environment to adapt to coming from a place where we had full authority over servers right up to various software like Oracle where we would hand off to the DBA team.

The main thing I have learned over the past few months is that the grass might look green as hell on the other side of the fence but you can’t see all those sharp nails and shit buried underneath it. Don’t rush into changing jobs just because you don’t like the direction your current employer is taking because you might find yourself in a gilded prison of sorts, trapped by the money in a box made of very solid walls.

Four Years of Conditioning

So I just started a new job and its made me realize a few things. First is that I was at the previous gig for far too long, just over 4 years to be precise. That is an awful long time now that I actually sit down and think about it, four years of driving an hour each way to get paid enough to make ends meet and buy a house along the way. A whopping 49 months of dodging crazy drivers on the highway, sitting in traffic behind an accident and twitching at every deer on the side of the road at night.

Despite that long duration its taken only a few days at the new place to realize just how badly I have been messed up by the previous employer. Its not even that the direct supervisor or manager were bad people, to be honest their hands were mostly tied by the corporate structure in place that moved at the pace of drunken dinosaurs in tar. One of the biggest things is the change in lighting, the new office is so bright it sometimes bothers my eyes if I don’t look at something dull like a piece of paper or my matte black new Dell laptop. While I’m thinking about laptops let me contrast the previous with the new; HP Elitebook i5 w/ 4GB of RAM and Windows 7 x32 (with a flat out refusal to update to x64) versus a brand new Dell i7 w/ a 256GB SSD and 8GB of RAM and an x64 version of Windows. You would think over 4 years the hardware would have been updated but somewhere along the line a policy was put in place that you had to justify updated equipment, so instead of getting a new machine at 3 years I was told to suck it up.

Without going through every little difference the main point I am making is that I didn’t realize how bad I really had it at the previous job until I finally left. Sure I miss the people I worked with, they were probably the only reason I managed to make it to the four year mark. But now I can’t help but shake this feeling that the other shoe is waiting to drop at the new job, that some dark secret or terrible truth is waiting to spring free when I finally let my guard down and accept that not every employer is a monolithic behemoth of bureaucracy that that treats its employees more like prison inmates than actual free people doing a service for them. This of course is not healthy in the least bit, but it is what it is and I have to fight every day to not let that negative voice inside my head be the loudest.

Food for thought

I stumbled across this on Reddit, and its certainly worth reading at least once. All too often I see people claim that they don’t give a shit about the NSA or any other government agency spying on them because they have nothing to hide, but they never seem to consider the larger picture…

I live in a country generally assumed to be a dictatorship. One of the Arab spring countries. I have lived through curfews and have seen the outcomes of the sort of surveillance now being revealed in the US. People here talking about curfews aren’t realizing what that actually FEELS like. It isn’t about having to go inside, and the practicality of that. It’s about creating the feeling that everyone, everything is watching. A few points:

1) the purpose of this surveillance from the governments point of view is to control enemies of the state. Not terrorists. People who are coalescing around ideas that would destabilize the status quo. These could be religious ideas. These could be groups like anon who are too good with tech for the governments liking. It makes it very easy to know who these people are. It also makes it very simple to control these people.

Lets say you are a college student and you get in with some people who want to stop farming practices that hurt animals. So you make a plan and go to protest these practices. You get there, and wow, the protest is huge. You never expected this, you were just goofing off. Well now everyone who was there is suspect. Even though you technically had the right to protest, you’re now considered a dangerous person.

Read moreFood for thought

Home isn’t there anymore

Its kind of weird to move out of a place you have lived in for half a decade with the same people, same neighbors, same everything really. Unfortunately it couldn’t be avoided as the roommates have different directions to go now and the landlord wants to sell the property. So now I find myself staying with friends until my new place to live will be ready (its currently under construction now) and living as close to a nomad as I have in a long time. No lab equipment now, no comfortable place to sleep with the soothing sound of electronics humming along. I would be a lying shit if I didn’t admit that I feel more than a little lonely at the idea of no longer getting to see the people I lived with for years. Of course there were the promises to keep hanging out after going separate ways as friends always do when parting but the reality of things is that we are different people with different schedules who quite likely will never cross paths again once business with the now former landlord is concluded. Some have budding relationships leading them towards things like marriage and children, some have changing career paths to take them to new places.

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