Larry Myers

November Notes

November 29, 2023

I’d not heard of the term Immunity Debt before, but it at least supports what I’m observing with my own kids and their friends at school. Growing up I remember you’d get sick and miss a day or two of school. What I’m witnessing this fall is persistent colds and bronchitis symptoms, and things just seem to linger. Thanks to all the free rapid tests we were given we confirm that it’s never Covid, and there’s no fever to indicate the flu, it’s just some random upper respitory infection that takes forever to completely clear up.

The post-pandemic is going great so far.

November 28, 2023

The Welles Park Pool is wonderful in the winter time. The amount of natural light it gets on a sunny day makes midday lap swim deeply satisfying. Even I have my limits when it comes to winter cycling, and on days where the wind chill dips into the single digits swimming a mile over lunch is an acceptable alternative.

Wells Park Pool

November 27, 2023

Bluey, while an amazing show, certainly sets a high bar for parenting. One thing it does get right is the importance of play with your kids. As as parent you are inherently given permission to be rediculous and play. If you’ve forgotten how to pretend and be creative, it’s possible to rediscover this ability.

As your kids get older you can introduce them to your hobbies, and if you’re lucky, they’ll adopt a few. Then it’s easy. You get to share things with your kids and it’s pretty great. I certainly took a point of pride the first time my kids beat me at some of my favorite board games and video games. Getting to go on a real bike ride with your kids? One of the simple joys in life.

November 26, 2023

Gaming stores are the last bastion of the 3rd space as far as I’m concerned. The best ones in Chicago have two halves: the retail store and the gaming space. If you like playing games with other people in person there is a dedicated space that will sell you game and accessories, and provide a space to play it with your friends (or strangers who may become new friends).

It’s a good business model as well. Why would I want to buy games online when I have trusted staff at the store that will make better recommendations, let me demo popular games in person, and give me a social space to play the games I buy.

(My local gaming store, Dice Dojo, excels at this. It’s such a welcoming and fun place to take my kids and let them nerd out.)

November 25, 2023

Northern Indiana isn’t known for it’s scenery, unless you enjoy a perfect grid of county roads and endless stretches of flat farmland. It’s downright drepressing in the winter time. An infinite expanse of grey, brown, and the most bland mix of surburbia and small towns you can imagine.

If you want to buy a house, raise a family, and have access to generally good schools and low property taxes it’s ideal. If you want diversity, culture, and the ability to walk somewhere? Not so much.

November 24, 2023

Black Friday is certainly fun, and there were deals to be had, but dealing with the mental load of determining if something is an actual good deal isn’t worth it. I’d rather just spend the money during regular run of the mill sales and not have to deal with any of the crazy rush.

I’m becoming one of those people that wants to finish Christmas shopping by early November.

November 23, 2023

I should have brought a bike. It is sunny and will touch 50 degress in Indiana today. I could be banging out miles on empty county roads and the Monon Trail. You forget how much down time there is when visiting family for major holidays. At some point you can only watch so much tv, and escape into your phone. The internet doesn’t refill as quickly. Lesson learned, next time take the time to put the rack on the car, pack some winter kit, and be prepared to ride.

November 22, 2023

The AAA forecast for Thanksgiving travel underscores how dependent we still are on cars for transit. There’s a bright spot in that train travel is growing faster than car travel for the holiday, but it’s still a small sliver compared to the amount of people traveling by car. You can’t blame people though, they have no other option. Thanksgiving tends to be family gathering in large numbers, which means the person with the largest house usually hosts. That fact alone means getting out to the suburbs, car required.

Even if we could ride the Brown Line to Union Station, and Amtrak to Indianapolis, we’d still need a cab to backtrack to the northern suburbs. Round trip for my family would be $20 for the CTA, $200 for Amtrak, and $100 for Uber. All for the priviledge of a multi-modal trip at an inconvienent time requiring 12 hours of travel, instead of the 7 hours our car ride will take for the round trip. We also leave when we want, have private travel accomodations, and it’s door to door. The cost will only be around $40 of charging along the way at any of the frequent supercharger locations along the way.

I’m not sure anybody could justify 800% the cost and 170% the time to use transit over a private car for the trip.

November 21, 2023

Pro Tip: If you buy a split keyboard make sure you get one that is easy to travel with. After you adjust to the new layout and begin to enjoy it you will be ruined on your laptop keyboard. My fingers were just angry at me for briefly going back to a staggered layout and not having keys in easy to reach positions.

I will be traveling with my personal laptop this weekend, and I will be tossing my ZSA Voyager in it’s travel case as well so I have it. Might as well just start traveling with a Mac mini and a portable monitor at this rate.

November 20, 2023

The most disappointing thing for me, given the OpenAI kerfluffle of the weekend, is that there are apparently no adults in the room at OpenAI. The soap opera that played out over the weekend, and is still playing out, shows that the board and executive leadership had no idea what they were doing. Microsoft will likely absorb quite a bit of talent over the next few weeks, regardless of any actions taken by what leadership remains at OpenAI. It wouldn’t surprise me to see OpenAI get shut down within a year, without hope of aquisition, due to the superior position Microsoft finds itself in.

The real question is can Microsoft can become a dominant player in AI development, or if they will suffer the same fate as Google, due to the nature of how slow big companies move. Granted, if OpenAI was getting anywhere close to AGI slow movement of progress within Microsoft would be a feature, not a bug.

November 19, 2023

The stereotype of the mid-life crisis is misleading. The mid-life crisis is very real, but at least for me it’s a quiet subtle thing. You still have family, friends, a career and hobbies, but you are presented with a small whispered question: “Now What?“. Much of what has lead to this stage of life has been a series of shared cultural milestones, each leading into the next. Now comes the actual choose your own adventure part of the story. Nobody is there to say, “congratulations, you did it, here’s what’s next.” I suspect this is what makes being in your 40’s so strange and challenging. You are responsible for figuring out what type of person you are going to be, and there’s nobody to answer that question for you.

November 18, 2023

One of the unexpected joys of using online sites to buy Pokemon cards is getting mail. Not packages, but actual letter sized envelopes in the mailbox that aren’t junk mail. Pretty much everything we get in the mail these days is either junk mail or bills, it’s never exciting. But to see an envelope that contains trading card with nice artwork? It’s a small joy that makes the week a bit better.

It is evidence that there is still a certain quality to the physical world that will hopefully never be fully replaced by some lesser online facsimile.

November 15, 2023

The best advice I ever got from a boss was from Doug Donohoe, the CTO of Retrofit at the time: “We will not ship shit.”

It’s as simple as that. If you refuse to ship shit at the cost of deadlines, features, bikeshedding, and tech navel gazing you will make better choices as a product engineering team.

November 14, 2023

The post on the front page of the NYT today about the National Climate Assessment is sobering. Accepting that there is little to nothing we can do about the effects already baked into the climate makes it seem that much more important that as a society we attempt to mitigate the worst potential effects of climate change. I pondered a few months ago if nihilism would be a major driving factor in our behaviors. I think it is more likely than hedonism. Climate change will be such a slow, creeping influence on our lives that people might be more likely to despair than decide to indulge every impulse. Maybe it’s time to invest in entertainment companies and phamaceutical companies.

November 13, 2023

If you’re a winter cyclist let’s talk about a crucial skill that isn’t taught enough: the snot rocket. You need to stop biking, put one foot down, lean well away from yourself and your bike, and hold the well behaved nostril shut with your finger. Then with a furious burst of air you exhale through the plugged nostil and clear the sinus. If everything has gone to plan you’re set to keep biking. Maybe you’ll have to sully your glove with a quick wipe.

The alternative? Sniffling every 3 seconds while you’re pedaling.

November 12, 2023

I think the upcoming holidays will need to be a news diet for me. The federal election is still a year away and already I’m exhausted listening to and reading about it. It’s draining to observe how dysfunctional our government is, and how our elected officials just run from one crisis to the next, using each one to score points against the other party.

I may not be able to fix to our government, but I can certainly take a month off and dial down the amount of time I spend consuming the perpetual news cycle.

November 11, 2023

I think Pokemon cards are an excellent test for where VR and any attempt at the metaverse is going. Pokemon cards are insanely popular right now among both kids and even adults. There is a companion video game, Pokemon Live, while also popular, gets a fraction of the attention compared to the cards themselves. Pokemon cards are bought by collectors who never will play the actual game, and they sell for real money. Does any of this make sense? Pokemon Live is arguably better way to play the game. The rules are enforced consistently and you can build a card collection without spending any money. You don’t have hunt down single cards to build a deck, every single card is available to you. Yet there is no replacement for the act of playing a game against another person with actual cards. In person tournaments dominate compared to any online only competitive matches. I suspect VR will be subject to the same challenges, a poor comparison to any event that thrives in a live in-person environment.

November 10, 2023

I’ve been using Astro as a static website framework for over a year now. It’s what powers this site. I feel confident at this point saying it’s the best framework I’ve used for building content driven websites. It’s performant, stable, and generally unsurprising in how its functionality works. It does make some demands on how you structure your project, but is also extremely flexible in how you’d like to build and render your site. It also helps that most major hosting services support it out of the box. (I use Cloudflare Pages.)

As the discontent with Next.js increases, I hope people will give Astro a whirl. It’s certainly a more pleasant experience if you enjoy using Typescript and node.js as technologies to build with.

November 8, 2023

At the beginning of 2023 I set a goal for myself to bike 3000 miles. It is a 15% increase over my previous year’s mileage. As of today I have 270 miles to go and about 4-5 weeks of what should hopefully be reasonably good cycling weather before winter really sets in. My plan is to take every day above 50 degrees where it’s not raining and just go out and ride. It is a joy to be out riding in just an extra layer and not have to go full on winter cycling kit yet. I’ll take it while I can get it. When I put on winter cycling gear and ride in below freezing temps I do so because the only other alternative is not biking, and that isn’t a viable option.

November 7, 2023

For all the good news about the continued rollout of renewal non-carbon based energy sources, I have no idea what to do with the news that fossil fuel production is continuing to ramp up. Climate change isn’t one of those things you can just move away from to a different state or country with ideals that match your own. Without coordinated global progress on climate change all I see is needless suffering in our future on the planet. People are already exhausted dealing with the current migrant crisis in the US, and I’m not sure people have contemplated what happens when climate change ramps up that migration. Post apocalyptic sci-fi films are fun to watch, but I’m not prepared for the documentary.

November 6, 2023

We bought our house in 2021, near the beginning of the big housing price surge in Chicago. It’s strange that time ended up being the best time to buy in the city because conditions were right for sales to occur, even if they were fast and highly competitive. We mortgage rates at 8% I’m not sure economists expected prices to stay high while inventory shrank. Second order effects are unpredictable at times. Talking to friends who want to move within the city, usually to be closer to school, most seem to have given up on that happening this year. Houses in Chicago tend to fall into two camps: gut rehab and teardowns that are selling for $2M, or houses in bad shape will likely need to be a complete teardown. There just aren’t any move-in ready homes for sale right now.

November 5, 2023

Consider me firmly in the camp of people that believe daylight saving time changes need to go away. I care less about whether we would settle on daylight or standard time, but would like the time changes to stop. Most of us in Chicago would likely be happy to stay on daylight time year round, mostly because having the sun come up at 4:30am in June would be a bit crazy if we stayed on standard time. But we’d get over it, and those of us morning people would enjoy a few weeks of early sunrises over the lake in peace and quiet.

But right now I’m not excited about having to get my kids sleep schedule adjusted again.

November 4, 2023

While I remember enjoying it, even on the the initial rewatch, 13 hours is not a good movie. Michael Bay does action really well, and the battle scenes are just so, so good. But everything else in the movie is thinly veiled propaganda. The bad guys sneer and don’t say much, the ex-military contractors are all heroes that can do no wrong. Even the CIA is given a glowing pat on the back for illegal activities. It’s an action movie with bad dialogue, paper thin characters, and loses all the nuance of complicated political situations.

If you want excellent war drama, go watch Band of Brothers. That mini series still holds up so well, and does not hide the messy and complicated parts of war.

November 3, 2023

I’m not convinced the hype over AI has any real merit yet. I’m sure there will be a time in the future were we will all have well trained general intelligences running on our phones, but we just aren’t there yet with the sheer computing power required to do so. I’m not even sure there is a first mover advantage here, based on how quickly competing LLMs are being created.

I’ll be on board once an AI can demonstrate actual knowledge and basic judgement, and not just perform as the world’s best autocomplete bullshit machine.

November 2, 2023

“We’ll have time to do it when things slow down.”

This well intended lie about how to do neglected and deferred maintenance work in a technology org is something I’ve experienced at multiple companies. What we’re really saying is, “who ever decides not to spend time resting and enjoying time with their family over the holidays can do something the business as a whole does not value.” You can look at the calendar and say, “see, look, there’s two whole months to get all that debt tech cleaned up!” But subtract off vacation taken around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, and at best you have maybe a week or two were the team is capable of doing productive work at full capacity.

A more honest assessment is that if a business is only willing to devote 4% of the working year to mitigating risk incurred while building critical technology solutions, then it is okay with that risk. Just own it and then go bake cookies and play in the snow.

November 1, 2023

Last night was a very tame Halloween, we stopped having trick-or-treaters by 7:30pm. It was also 32 degrees and we had some very brief and windy snow storms earlier in the day. While the actually weather at night wasn’t too bad, it certainly made a lot of people reconsider their plans to walk the neighborhood.

I hope we still get a few more weeks of real fall weather leading up to Thanksgiving. I’m not ready to go full in to winter cycling kit just yet.

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