This week I’ve done DNS training, presented my mentor programme software, and I read the decision that overturns a half-century of legal precedence in the United States. My unqualified opinion is that it’s weak shit. To other queer folk: they’re absolutely coming for us next. It’s not going to stop just because there’s an ocean in the way.

But let’s talk about my week!!!

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I presented my mentor programme software to a group of interested folks from across the public sector. The hard work has mostly wound down now. I think it’s feature complete now, and I’m already working on a neat extension to let users take advantage of notification software like gov.uk/notify or something AWS-flavoured or whatever the young folks are using these days.

The feedback was generally pretty positive, and I recorded it for folks who couldn’t make it. I’m going to release that on Wednesday – I’d like to do some edits and see if my second performance was any better. Reflecting on the video, I need to be better at telling folks where the software actually lives, but also at demonstrating the power of the software. At the moment I do a run-through, but what that actually looks like is me clicking “Upload files”, some files being uploaded, the system thinking for ten seconds, and then me downloading some files. I might bring back/repurpose the demo grid I made when I was convinced this would be used for the Fast Stream and get people to try to beat the computer, or send round the sample data beforehand and see if anyone can even come up with a solution. I dunno, at the moment it feels like that time when the Queen pulled a lever to start transferring electricity to the National Grid and a clock went ‘dink’. There is so much energy and complex machinery happening underneath, and I want people to get that – but maybe that’s just because I built it.

Thoughts, please.

A role has come up at work. I’m only five weeks in and already I want a new role. Well, not really. I’ve wanted a more senior role for ages and I think I made the wrong decision in taking this one. Well, not really. I made the only call I was going to make, me being me and me being in the situation I was in. All I can do now is review my situation and make the next, best possible, decision.

The worst thing about this is that I really like my team. The work we’re doing is great. The things we’re building are proper complicated with all kinds of technical challenges. And I think if I wanted, I could ask for the things I think I’m lacking at the moment – line management, more stretch, more of the wider view.

But then I’d also like to get paid an appropriate sum to do those things. A friend of mine, a comedian, says that she says no to things, that she sets boundaries, because she can – so that the next person, who doesn’t have that luxury, will nonetheless be protected by those same boundaries. It’s the same thing for me. Just because I can do this work on the cheap, I shouldn’t. It’s not helping my fellow workers, particularly those from under-represented groups.

And so my choices are to just put up with it, and find the joy – because there is joy in lots of things that we’re doing! – or to make the move. And feel crappy about it for a bit.

Yup. Yup, them’s my choices. Damn. I was really hoping another one would present itself as I wrote.

A minor gripe now. I was approached the other day by a recruiter for a large tech company. Their hiring process is basically the same as my current role, but the pay is almost double, and the work is equally challenging. I told the recruiter I was turning it down because of the recruitment process, and that’s mostly true. I’ve been working in the open for almost a decade. I admit I’ve only got one library published on PyPi, and reading through the changelog and readme of any project that’s not your own is boring.

But I’m convinced that the best way to examine my capability, as a developer, is by looking at the things I have built when I’ve had time, and focus, and no distractions. Look at them! This the quality of code you can expect!

Whereas what was being asked was three random coding tasks in 45 minutes. Is that how we work now? Two week timeboxes have been reduced to 45 minutes because of cutbacks? The amount of money this company was willing to gamble on me, and they refused point-blank to look at the actual code I had actually written in actually comparable contexts. I can’t understand it. If you wanted a portrait painted and your assessment process was “Draw me a dog in fifteen minutes” rather than a portfolio review people would rightly think you were completely mad.

Anyway. Please stop asking folks to do whiteboard tests. It’s very silly.

S10E01: Welcome to the Good Place

I have started to rewatch the Good Place with my partner. I mean, I’ve watched it before. She hasn’t. No spoilers!

New role, new season, new project that I’m not going to talk too much about. I’m going to complain, like a lot, mostly about building infrastructure with Python – there are some genius brains at Amazon – but I won’t be talking too much about what the project is about.

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S09E17: On again, off again

This has been a funny old week. I realised on Monday that, given how holidays are falling and so on, I’ve only got about a week left in my current role. I have learned so much, but I also feel guilty because I’ve not delivered anything. At least, I don’t feel like I’ve delivered anything. Maybe I’m underestimating my impact, but also I wonder if there’s value in being a bit selfish. It is a good thing to learn: it is good for me and good for my wider employer.

It just sucks that I feel guilty about being unproductive.

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S09E16: The worst curse is to get what you want

This has been a generally good week. I’ve done some strategic work and started to lay out principles for implementation. I heard back about something I’ve been waiting ages for, and I made even more breaking changes to my side-project. I spoke a little bit of Russian and drove for the first time in a long time. I met some of my fellow school governors and saw a real school in action.

However, I’m still no closer to a couple of big decisions I want to take. In fact, I may actually be further away.

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S09E14: A weird grab bag of feelings

So last Sunday I saw the most recent (I can’t say latest, it’s been out for so long you can download it legally now) Spider-Man, and something made sense. A few days before, my partner and I were at a station watching a little cluster of teenage men cracking each others backs. The process is that you cross your arms over your chest, fist to opposite shoulder, and your friend stands behind you, grips you at the wrists, and lifts you up. You can feel your vertebrae popping and it makes a fantastic noise.

In Spider-Man – spoilers ahead – one of the spiders-man does it to one of the others. Web-swinging is apparently murder on your middle back. And I was suddenly reminded of these boys, and also of this work by Barbara Kruger, which is burned into my brain:

a black and white collage of men in evening dress. They are in a semi-circle around another man, whom they grasp and tug at. Everyone is smiling and full of joy. Overlaid are the words 'You consutrct intricate rituals which allow you to touch the skin of other men'

Because it’s true, isn’t it lads? We don’t want to give each other a hug, but you’d crack a back for your bro. Because it’s about proving you’re strong, right, and doing a favour, and not at all about comfort and pressure and feeling held and feeling not alone.

And I just – I enjoyed it. I liked seeing guys looking out for each other and being brotherly in a movie that is marketed as a nice, fun, non-dramatic movie.

It’s nice to see boys just being boys.

Did you know that in scientific papers the scientific authors will scientifically enumerate the number of mice that they’ve ‘sacrificed’?

It’s a weird word to use for a scientist, I think. I think this in part because I was brought up very Christian and so the word ‘sacrifice’ has, hum, had meaning for me for a long time. The first story in the Bible is about sacrifice, and how God was not hugely pleased with the selection of vegetables that Cain offered up.

I think in modern parlance ‘sacrifice’ has come to mean ‘prioritise’, and I don’t like it, and I especially don’t like it in the context of relationships. Let me tell you how I define a sacrifice, coming as a I do from a Christian background, and then you can either explore other words we could use or ignore my definition entirely.

A sacrifice is a gift, freely given, in the hope that you will in future receive something greater in return but accept you may also not receive anything at all. It is therefore completely necessary to a relationship with God, and fundamentally unsound for a relationship with a person. For what it’s worth, I think the scientists are using this definition: every scientific endeavour is a sacrifice of time and money and sometimes lives in the hope that what will be returned will be worth more.

(Your understanding of ‘worth’ might differ from those scientists, and perhaps your definition is the one we should accept and behave as if it were correct, but for now let’s accept that folks have different meanings for this stuff)

God and I have long since parted ways, though we are still on nodding terms, so let’s talk about this definition of sacrifice in the context of human relationships. There is this phrase, “I sacrificed (thing) for you.” In my experience it does not usually mean that they burned (thing) at an altar with the appropriate prayers and rituals. What they mean is that they prioritised you over (thing), and they feel you should have:

  • noticed and reciprocated by sacrificing (other_thing) of equal value, or
  • given you the return you thought you were due, or
  • told them to prioritise (thing) over you

I firmly believe that this phrase is indicative of a transactional view of relationships (gross) and also cowardice. If you sacrifice a thing and then get mad about it, what you actually wanted was an exchange. Built into the idea of a sacrifice is that sometimes you get nothing. Sometimes you get nothing because what you’ve received is a lack-of-bad-things; that is, through the sacrifice you have avoided a piano falling on your head or avoiding a terrible disease.

Sometimes what you get for your sacrifice is the knowledge that God is “doing keto right now, yeah?”.

So sacrificing something and then becoming resentful that you’ve not received your just reward is such, such a clear sign to me that you don’t know what a sacrifice is. What you’re thinking about is a trade, and love is not governed by the Law of Equivalent Exchange.

What then of cowardice? Cowardice is the outsourcing of your choices to someone else. If you prioritised your partner and their wants and needs over yourself, then that is your decision to own. Why do you now resent them? Is it because, unbeknownst to them, you were not prioritising them: you were sacrificing something, in the full expectation that you would reap its rewards? That’s not a choice, that’s treating your partner like a piggy bank that you can smash open later.

Transactions happen in a relationship, and so do compromises: I make the dinner tonight and you wash the dishes; I will get over my thing about poop and you will accept that my nappy-wrapping won’t be as neat. We are human beings and we can make these exchanges. You can talk to your partner about what you want to trade and compromise on, as long as you can accept that you’re not always going to get your way.

But your partner is not God, nor a force beyond human ken.

They cannot know the sacrifices you make in secret, and they cannot uphold the sacrifices you declare. They can only be themselves. You have to choose, and if you choose wrong you can only choose again.

If you keep prioritising your partner’s wants and needs over your own and they also prioritise their own wants and needs over yours then, friend, talk to me please because I’m not convinced that’s a healthy dynamic.

And none of this, mind you, is to say that there are no sacrifices in a relationship. But I firmly believe that if you make a sacrifice for the sake of the relationship then it should be in the hope that it will be good for the relationship, which is this weird messy complicated thunderstorm of your wants and their wants and your potential future wants and what you imagine they will want, and so on. Bluntly, I would expect a sacrifice to be in the pursuit of some benefit to everyone in the relationship.

This piece still isn’t where I want it to be. I think there’s some wooly thinking here. But we’re getting there.

Let’s have a good weekend all.

S09E13: Scala, conflict, and grasping for control

I realised something this week while doom-scrolling Twitter, browsing Zoopla, and applying for jobs that I don’t really want.

When the world around me doesn’t make sense and seems more chaotic that usual, I try to exert control on it. I can only control my life, and I get the urge to wrench it around to prove that I still can. I’ve walked out of jobs before to prove that I could still control my own actions. To prove to whom? There’s a question.

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S09E11: Bittersweet

Just one topic this week. I need to talk about this, and it’s difficult for a few reasons, so I’ve not got energy for anything else. I am coming up against the first real professional failure of my career, and it’s hitting me really hard. Worse than that, I’m trying to work out how to talk about it without causing hurt. Please forgive me if, despite my best intentions, you’re hurt anyway.

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