Weeknotes S03E12: XXX

Everything is new but old but new

I’m back on my old team. We’re delivering things ahead of the meaningful vote on Tuesday. There is not very much I can say about these things.

Still, other things happened. Maybe there’s a post in them. Let’s see.

I did more baking than I’ve done before and worked out how to temper chocolate. Tempered chocolate — glossy, dark, smooth — is the most decadent, most delicious sight in the world. I love it. I love it so intensely that I tried to record it and felt immensely disappointed when it didn’t match the way it looked inside my head. I was tempering chocolate in order to win the bake-off my new team’s DM organised.

Yes, I said win. Who enters a competition without the aim of winning?


The treat I’ve made is vegan chocolate brownies that contain cherries and nuts. Early feedback is that they are amazing, but also need more chunks and possibly more umptuousness, a word that — like my brownies — is mysterious but has a wonderful mouthfeel.

I spent a full 90 minutes with a colleague who helped me understand our communications strategy, because I’m nosy and asked to learn about blogging. I think I’m good at personal blogging, but strategic blogging is a slightly different thing. I don’t think I fully agree with their viewpoint, but I’m also not an expert in this field. I’m willing to be educated, and I’m pleased and excited to work with colleagues who are willing to give up their time to explain it to someone like me. There’s also a workshop happening to bring together devs like me and professional writers like them to help us to better understand each other. This ought to make publishing easier.

Antonia and I played chess, and it gathered a small crowd. I think there’s potential for a small chess club, but I don’t want to take on another corporate objective. I do want someone to set it up though, because I like playing chess and I like getting to know my colleagues better. If nothing has changed by March I’m going to start annoying people to start it themselves, but I’m committing to no more corporate projects until I’ve finished the ones I’m on for the moment. In the interim, watch these incredible geeks play chess in four dimensions and try not to let your brain squidge out of your ears.

I scored a ticket to Hack the Police and I’m immensely excited, because I love an opportunity to muck about in a novel context. I’m also going to Pushkin House, the Russian language centre in London, to be assessed on my Russian language.

A Russian-speaking friend has given me an appraisal of “like a five year old”, so I’m confident I’m ready for the intermediate class.

These are all part of my aims: I want to be a senior developer within 18 months, and I’d like to be an interesting and well-rounded person.⁰ Daytime language courses are cheaper than evening and weekend, so I’m going to do some rejigging of my hours in the new year to swing at least half a day off per week. A whole day off a week would be even better, but that would be such a blow to my finances that — ironically — I’d struggle to afford to do anything with that day off.

Purchasing a flat continues to be the most arduous task I’ve ever had to do, and now includes legalese. I hate legalese. I hate it so much because it feels like the purpose is to obfuscate meaning and humanity.

If that is the purpose, it can get in the bin, because meaning and humanity are all we have in this universe. The stars; the wind; the earth beneath my feet. All these are cold and uncaring and have nothing in common with me except chemistry. Let’s at least be humans to each other.

If that’s not the purpose — if lawyers truly believe that this is the way people like to have their lives laid out and ordered — then I volunteer to go up and down the country to shake them firmly by the lapels of their exquisitely tailored suits and say with force that it is not, it is not, nor will it ever be.

Here follows an excerpt from something I am supposed to swear that I understand.

The Seller shall at it its own expense procure that the Property be practically completed as soon as reasonably practicable to the reasonable satisfaction of the Buyer’s or its mortgagee’s (if any) surveyors in accordance with the Specification (subject to any amendments made under this Clause 3) and in accordance with planning permission and any planning agreements relating thereto (so far as they relate to the Property) and building regulation approval relating to the construction of the Property (subject to any variations made to them and to any amendments required by any local or other public authority) and to the standard of the Warranty Provider PROVIDED THAT the Seller shall not be liable to the Buyer for damages or any loss or inconvenience that the Buyer may suffer in the event that the Property is not ready for occupation on the Anticipated Handover Date which is as a result of any delays in the Property being practically completed in cases where such delays are beyond the reasonable control of the Seller.

What absolute cock. I put it through the excellent Hemingway app and after it had recovered it told me that:

  • 3 adverbs in a single sentence is too many
  • 6 phrases have simpler alternatives
  • And 1 (out of 1!) sentences was very hard to read
  • However: there were no uses of the passive voice. Good job!





⁰ Yeah, it turns out it’s only easy to do one of these things.

S03E10: Shhhhhh!

This week is brought to you by an experiment in Library Rules

Library rules:

  • no desk meetings
  • write more, talk less

Beautiful, horrifying librarians from http://princecashew.tumblr.com/

Chess makes your brain hurt

Public digital hero and globetrotter Dan came over to play chess. We tried to talk about things and play a serious game, and found it was like trying to rub your stomach and pat your head at the same time. You can do a shallow version, but try anything more serious and your brains squidges out of your ears. So instead we played a really good game, and then we followed that with a very quick game that was full of exceptionally stupid moves.

There is some kind of lesson in there.

I am getting a little bit better at chess all the time. My rank for daily games is now apparently 1087, which puts me in the 28th percentile on Chess.com. That’s very low, so I’m going to keep plugging away. If you work around me and feel like a game, then let me know because I’d love to play more.

Completely drained

I had various deeply emotional conversations with friends this week. They’re good, but I find myself completely worn out by the end of the week, desperately keen for a bath and some quiet and solitude. Just me, hot water, and the weird gloing-gloing noise that water makes in your ears when your head’s almost under.

On Monday I was at the Foreign Office for a tour. It wasn’t hugely interesting, but then I should have known that beforehand — buildings have always just been buildings to me. On Tuesday I had a free evening so I set up a giant monitor and used it to spur me to finish my book.

No, not really. I played Civilization 5 and may have had a late night. It’s impossible not to just have one more turn on this game.

I also had a meeting cancelled on me; cancelled, in fact, twenty minutes after the meeting had started. That felt very unpleasant, but I’m trying to put a positive spin on it. All the same, I could feel all of that pent up nervous energy before a presentation still trying to escape. So I went for a long walk. It seemed to help. Nonetheless, I think that’s definitely contributed to my feeling of being drained and washed out.

Global Day of Code Retreat

I met more of my colleagues, particularly the ones who do Java. I also met lots of other new people; some people from Makers who were just starting to learn (but were still very impressive), some people who were already well established, and some people who couldn’t code but were very eager to learn. We worked in 40 minute blocks and then deleted all the code that we’d written, which was heart-rending the first time. And the second, actually, and every time after that. What was most interesting was the variety of code I found myself writing, even though the problem stayed the same. I also ate a lot of deep-fried sweet potato fries, and that felt somehow soul-improving.

I also did a tour of our offices, and that was fun because I got to use my ACTING VOICE, which is like my real voice but more confident and willing to do call-and-response.

If I met my acting voice in the real world, I would hate it and be desperately envious of it at the same time.

I also started the morning with a discussion about existentialism and stoicism, because I did a degree that does not pertain to programming except in all the important ways.

It was loads of fun, and re-inspired me to be more test-driven in my developing. I love stuff like this, particularly mentoring, because it reminds how much I enjoy doing it. Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that I’ve completely, ridiculously lucked out with this job.

S03E02: Annual leave

Getting all up in the strategy

Some things have happened this week!

My last weeknotes were only on Tuesday, so these will be brief. I say this at the outset, knowing full well that by the time you and I reach the end it could feel like longer.


1I wrote more words than I’ve ever continuously written, and it’s like edging over an enormous canyon. There are so many more words that I could pour into this thing and still never finish it.

I’ve seen a lot of family this week — more on that later — and mentioning that I’m writing a book has been a great opportunity to practice my elevator pitch.

“The second worst book ever written”

is a good hook, but then I need to get into the details and it gets fuzzy, because

“using maps to represent distance along a diffusion curve with a second dimension in terms of customer-facing value, using as metaphor climate and tactics, in order for you to produce a cogent and coherent strategy”

is less accessible. More work to be done. Writing a book is apparently not simply writing a book.

2I’ve started playing chess again, and I am having to learn it properly. There are a number of openings that you’ve just got to learn, although there’s an exciting new form of chess called Chess960 which forces players to be more creative. It looks very interesting; so far I’ve only played one match of that type:


The positions throw you off, but I found it a very enjoyable variant and closer to what I’m trying to learn and put into The Book, which is the idea that context-specific gameplay is more important than copying someone else’s ideas.

The state of the board at the end of the match. Black’s two rooks and King were placed there originally

I started looking at chess again as a way to meet people, but if I’m honest the first club I went to was just a lot of dudes who are very intense about the chess. Maybe I should stick with it.

3A friend of mine flaked at the last minute, which absolutely knocked me for six. I thought I was less emotionally raw, but apparently all it takes for me to question my self-worth is someone turning down an invite to spend time with me poking around in museums. I’m annoyed at myself at how deeply it affected me. On the flip side, though, I’m kind of glad to feel something: I was worried about numbness and drawing back. This is painful but good.

Speaking of friends: hurrah for a bonding moment on a train going through cryptic crossword clues. I picked up a book of cryptics from Bletchley, and they’re just a horrid mess of the very simple⁰ and the absolutely bloody impossible¹. It’s more obvious to me now why people who can do these had the sort of corkscrew minds required to do the work of cracking codes and ciphers.

If you have any ideas, please write in

4I mentioned my referral to someone in my family, and they said: “Oh, sure. We always thought you might be on that spectrum.” They didn’t want to explore it further because they were worried about the stigma.

I feel two slightly contradictory feels about this. The first is gratitude, because if I am, I know for a fact that having that label in school would have got me even more bullied than I was. Kids, or at least kids I went to school with, were nasty and vindictive, and autism has always been something I’ve seen mocked.

The second is annoyance, because if I am then knowing slightly earlier than now might have been helpful because then I could have found tools and coping mechanisms earlier.

In any case, no word yet on the outcome of that referral. The flowchart for treatment has a whole world of “No” in it. They called it a step by step guide though, which fits neatly into my back-to-work thinking as I prepare for work tomorrow.

5Last thing, I promise. I’ve been approached by a couple of people about spending some time on secondment with them. I’m really, really excited about it and I’m going to be speaking to my line manager tomorrow. In other work news, the person I was mentoring on technical things passed their test and will be joining my organisation! Lots of fun and I’m hoping to continue mentoring them on the technical stuff so that we can develop together.

That’s all. My only Netflix recommendation this week is Daniel Sloss’ two specials, Dark and Jigsaw. I really don’t agree with his overly idealistic ideas about love and romance, but it’s very funny material delivered by a master of the genre.

⁰ Ate three notes (3)

¹ Admit case against top player, we hear (7)