Aaron N. Tubbs bio photo

Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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I’m Doing Fine

It’s easiest to deflect “How’s California? How’s the new job? How are you?” queries with platitudes. It’s not that my interest is obstreperosity. The reality is it’s just hard to distill down to a quick response. Or even a long one.

Comparing emotional states and experiences to roller coasters is silly. Roller coasters begin where they start. Worse yet, there are variable stops between runs, they usually shut down overnight, they break down for maintenance, and there might be an off-season. The analogy is really just an imprecise way of saying something has ups and downs.

A pendulum, too, has ups and downs. Or at least pluses and minuses relative to an arbitrary reference plane. The average state is consistent but only ever visited instantaneously. Sadly, the pendulum also suggests lingering at the extrema and extremely uniform oscillations. That won’t do. Plus there’s friction loss and the heat death of the universe. It too provides a shitty analogy.

I will be honest in stating that I do not know why I am being pedantic about these things. Folks have a thirst for a simple description or easy analogy to explain how things are going. There isn’t one. This week the average slope is flat, perturbed by Brownian with amplitude correlated to a diurnal cycle. I think my average point on the curve is a lot higher than it was on the east coast, but any simplistic conclusion that it’s better or worse misstates reality.

Coming Into the Country

Easy access to wine country has been fantastic. We’ve been up a few times already. Easy access to San Francisco is fantastic. Not living in San Francisco, too, is fantastic. Not dealing with the traffic of the valley, too, is fantastic. By any reasonable stretch of the imagination we live in an incredibly undesirable part of the peninsula, but I continue to think it’s as close to perfect as we’re going to get for the short term.

We’ve explored but a small number of destinations. Many remain within easy reach and numerous remain a short trip away. It’s not unique to have access to a lot of interesting destinations, but most of them are new to us. We could spend years just working through them. It’s nice.

Finding friends is trickier. No shit, right? We’ve spent more time socially with extant friends that have come to visit than with new ones. This will take time, but it’s certainly a challenge.

Fleeting Thoughts

I forgot one of my godson’s birthdays entirely. I forgot that my brother and friend are now fathers and I should reach out to them, too, on father’s day. The hypervisor is still running fine but the resident images are a little overwhelmed.

It’s Like Soap

Soap is a funny thing. When young, it is important to be told to wash hands with soap and warm water. It kills germs. Germs are evil. We should kill them. With soap. It is magic and good.

In school, it becomes clear that soap is, generally speaking, a combination of a lipid and a strong alkali. Combined with a tacit understanding of hydrophilic and hydrophobic properties, there’s enough knowledge to pass an exam. Soap is simple.

With more age, my understanding of soap is, again, simplistic: It is an emulsifier. The gunk on my hands is made soluble in a slurry of water and soap. With more water, that slurry is diluted and rinsed away, and “the solution to pollution is dilution.” It’s not perfect or magical, but in most cases it’s good enough.

While the last concept of soap is still quite simplistic, I believe it’s also the deepest and most nuanced understanding of soap I’ve had. It pulls together experiences and knowledge and practicality that I lacked earlier in my life. Of course, these transitions were not in fact this discrete. And then there’s the problem of instant hand sanitizer.

I am getting older. My body is getting worse. I am getting better at some things. Some are rather obvious: I am being taught new things and am practicing this new knowledge. I better understand push-ups now because my personal trainer has been teaching me about form and posture. This should not be confused with suggesting I am good at them or that I can do a lot of them. However, three and a half decades into my life, I now better know what a correct push-up is and why.

Years ago I spent time in physical therapy after a bad ankle sprain. One exercise is to walk down the stairs. I naturally do this like most people: I shift my weight forward, loosen a foot and let it follow ahead, allow a controlled fall to start, and let the next step arrest the fall. Physically lowering each leg while descending the stairs turns out, at first, to require an extraordinary amount of control, strength, and thought. But, it’s something that can be learned, understood, and practiced.

To interrupt this stream of consciousness with a bit of a point, I believe I am learning more effectively than I once was. Perversely, there are things I am picking up more quickly and with more intuition than I did when I was in college. While reviewing textbooks prior to interviewing for my current job, I found them easy to digest. A simple example: Reading a UNIX systems programming manual from cover to cover was a joyful weekend-long experience and I retained more of it than I ever have before. Studying material on parallelism and concurrency is more straightforward and resonant than it ever was. It does not come easily and I am no savant, but it is rewarding realizing I’m not done yet.

Thus, on balance, I’m starting to find joy in aging: My education has not stopped and my understanding is both increasing and becoming more relevant and meaningful. What I learn I seem to learn better. What I learn I appear to better know how to leverage. My access to information has not changed, but there has been some gradual shift that I have a hard time communicating. I appreciate it.

Work

Adjusting to a new role and employer has been challenging. Per se, the return to individual contribution is like a comfortable return to some well-worn shoes. This week I reach the three-month mark at my new job. I have approximate knowledge of many things. The more I know, the more I know I don’t know. It is as it should be. I am nothing. I have not yet been fired.

Each time I get a code review with a bunch of criticism (i.e. every single one), I feel stupid. It’s not that I feel insulted or attacked. I feel stupid for not realizing something. For not having found a thing. For not remembering a step in the process. Rookie mistakes.

Objectively, I realize this is, in fact, learning and teaching in practice. Code reviews are about communication and distributed mentoring as much as consensus and standardization and error detection. Still, I subjectively feel like an idiot more often than not. The impostor syndrome is alive and well and at times has rather sharp teeth. Maybe this will pass. Maybe not. The associated mood swings if nothing else I hope will attenuate.

I grew out of touch in my last job. Being a full-time manager for half a decade may have been a mistake. I don’t think it was the wrong choice for my role and position. Indeed, I continue to believe it was crucial. Time will tell, I guess. I can say with some conviction that it left me at a disadvantage in my current role. I lost half a decade.

Mechanically speaking, I appear still to be capable of reading and writing code. I guess time will tell if I can do so at a senior level. The hobby coding I did to keep the edge sharp was not the same as coding in anger. Coding professionally. Whether I can function and perform at a promotable level remains a concern. If I have one confidence, it is that I am not ready yet to return to management. My fear that I would suffer immediately suffer some sort of Ellsberg effect turns out to be unfounded. This pleases me but I retain concern about the avenue in which I can ultimately contribute the most. For now, I fear I am not emotionally prepared to head down that path again in the short term. Walking away from my last job took a heavier toll than I anticipated.

So where does that leave me, on balance? It’s good to remember that where I now work is just a job, like any other. The perks are nice. Some approaches are novel. Working here brings me pride. There are smart people. More or less, there are most of the same good and bad things as at any other good company. I’m reminded of driving a Ferrari. The difference between a Porsche and Ferrari in quality of experience, if not flavor, is milder than I think most would anticipate or admit. That said, it’s nice to be in the Ferrari.

Stupid Car Shit

Speaking of cars, registering my $20,000-something Subaru in California was nearly $2000. That sucked. Next time I’m selling the car and buying a new one when I arrive.

To add insult to injury, it developed a suspension quirk shortly after it arrived here. The dealership refused to investigate the issue because I had non-OEM wheels and tires on my car. It did not matter that the rubber positioning was within 2 millimeters of the original arrangement and that the only practical difference in the rims themselves was a decrease in unsprung weight of 5 pounds per corner. I was told I could appeal to Subaru of America. I did. Subaru said they were with the dealership; return the vehicle to stock.

Returning the vehicle to stock had two problems: First, the OEM wheels were remounted with winter tires, since the stock fitting of summer-only tires would have been bad news in Connecticut’s winters. Second, the wheels were still in Connecticut.

I spent $600 buying new summer tires. Over $400 packaging and shipping my rims from the east coast. Another $250 to get the summer rubber mounted to the OEM rims and replace the TPMS sensors (two of which showed cracks while remounting).

I returned to the dealership. They raised the car up and immediately determined there were faulty strut mounts on the car. Faulty struts too. Manufacturing defect. Not my fault.

For a company that regularly promotes pictures of genuinely modified cars, to fight me this hard on doing warranty service on faulty original manufacturing because I’m using in-spec (they actually better match the geometry of the OEM wheels than the optional STi wheels, mind you) non-OEM wheels was a bit of a shock. And very expensive.

The story has a somewhat happy ending. Subaru of America is apparently now cutting me a check for $1253.63, my entire out-of-pocket amount. I’ll give them credit for that. It doesn’t make up for the time and frustration of three dealership visits to get the car repaired, but it does make up for the money I wasted.

I’m still never buying another Subaru.

Health

I’m back into personal training at the office gym. I haven’t gotten into the habit of exercising regularly during the rest of the week. On the upside I walk to and from work most days and that still gives me 20-30 minutes of walking at least.

My new trainer is very different than my last. He’s very focused on time efficiency and working multiple muscle groups at once. Why do a chest press when you can do a chest press while balancing on a ball instead? It makes for a pretty intense hour each week. The end result is probably better for my general health but likely means less muscle bulking. The weights are never heavy and I’m not setting any records or maxing anything out. That’s probably okay too. The biggest problem I run into is a lack of any particular accomplishment other than surviving an hour without dying.

The new trainer is also focused on form. It’s sort of distressing realizing how bad my form was before. Explained how my last trained destroyed both of my shoulders.

I’ve been on two hikes but various injuries and conditions have kept us from getting out much beyond that. The hiking here so far is interesting; lots of vertical elevation and insane wind and temperature swings along the way. I found it refreshing versus being literally in the woods the whole time, but time will tell how I feel about it in the long run.

The weather out here is inexplicable. I never thought this is something I would say coming from southwest Michigan, but I really can’t comprehend it. The forecast (and measurements) can be 55-65 and overcast two days in a row and on the first day I need a hoodie and have the chills. The second day I’m sweating and miserable. It’s deeply confusing. This is not to say I dislike it; cool to moderate temperatures and regular sunlight is pretty damn amazing.

I think that’s all for now.