Larry Myers

July Notes

July 31, 2023

I’m apparently one of the few people that unlimited PTO policies are perfect for. I have no qualms about taking 5-6 weeks off every year. I also realize that having an unlimited PTO policy in place only works when you work for company that trusts its staff. I would certaily be very wary of a company with unlimited vacation days coupled with vague policies about how it can be used. Frequently that ambiguity will be used to passively intimidate people into taking less vacation. Anyway, take vacation, it’s good for you. It’s good for your team as well as you reduce your bus factor and force your team to develop habits that don’t require any one person to be a critical point of failure.

July 30, 2023

Another story in the NYT about the effects of global climate change. We’re getting a preview of what the world will be like when the amount of climate refugees rapidly grows. I suspect a story like this isn’t too far away within the US borders with what the southwest states endure. Everything I read and everything I see tells me, “do not leave the Great Lakes.” I’m thankful the Great Lakes Compact exists. It is an important piece of legislation that should help protect one of the largest fresh water supplies in the world.

July 29, 2023

The victim shaming in this NYT article on eBike accidents is a rage inducing. Every since andecdotal story in the article involves a car hitting a cyclist. These are not indicents of kids losing control of their eBike and crashing into a wall. These are kids being hit by cars. There is nothing wrong with eBikes. We should be encouraging kids to get around on their own. What we need is actual consequences for drivers who hit cyclists, and better dedicated bike infrastructure to separate cars and bicycles (powered or not).

July 28, 2023

I find myself looking at mountain bikes lately. Especially hardtails that are designed to carry enough gear for self contained tours. While I own a Trek 1120, it’s too big and heavy to really do anything more than load up with gear. It still has under 1000 miles on it, which speaks volume about how limited it for anything besides big loaded off-road trips. I’d like to have a bike that can ditch the gear and still be a fun bike with front suspension to take on trails. I suspect my Salsa Warbird will still be my primary bike, but I want to get up to Wisconsin and Michigan more often. The ATV trails up north demand more than a fast gravel bike. This also means I need to clear out space and finally sell a bike or three.

July 27, 2023

I find joy in building small things when it comes to coding. If it’s possible to build the first iteration of the solution in 3 days or less that’s ideal. Even better if it can be deployed with little to no fuss. Small things are easy to revisit in the future, and easy to iterate on. Small things tend to solve a single problem for somebody, and allow the focus for solving that problem well. I wish more software was like that.

July 26, 2023

An important skill, especially for those of us who are completionists, is to accept when it’s okay to not consume content. The internet is constantly generating interesting new audio, video, and text. My RSS reader repopulates every 24 hours. I have five streaming services all pumping out new content, algorithmicly tuned to be on my homepage. I have new podcasts delivered daily to my phone. It’s okay to not to consume all this content. It’s fine just click “Mark as Read”. It will never be complete. The daily zeitgeist is already at a loud enough volume without me contributing to it. It is okay to be more selective about what content will absorb my limited free time every day.

July 25, 2023

I respect single parents that have a rock solid routine with their kids. It is tough. Every time my wife is out of town for more than few days I’m forced to step up my game if I want to keep sanity and order in the house. All the slack time and room for error are removed when you’re solo parenting. You must have a routine that your kids can depend on, and communicate it consistently. There is still free time, but you have to be on top of daily chores. On the upside, you also get a chance to build your relationship with your kids and be highly engaged. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.

July 24, 2023

This Axios/Ipsos poll suggests that millions of people in the US have already given up on ever retiring. I suspect a large percentage of the rest are wildly optimistic or ignoring the evidence facing them over the coming decades. Between growing student load debt, lack of affordable housing, and inflation it’s likely that many people are completely shut out of the common avenues that allow for retirement planning and saving. Congress has already proven itself incapable of fixing these large structural problems, so I suspect it will be up to Corporate America to figure out how to allow older workers to be productive members of their organizations. It’s sad that the broken promise of retirement might help with the economic problems posed by declining birth rates.

July 23, 2023

This summer Chicago has had around a week worth of days where the air quality was bad enough to force us to change our plans. As I read about what’s happening around the rest of the planet with heat waves and wildfires I’m thankful to live in Chicago. I will happily endure winter if it means I can have my windows open through much of the summer. I can’t see myself ever moving away from the great lakes. My hope is that our location north of the equator, and promixity to fresh water, will allow Chicago to handle the effects of climate change better than other parts of the US. While climate change has always been a “later” boogeyman, it seems as if this summer is the first where extreme weather events are dominating the news cycle.

July 22, 2023

Being able to separate your personal and work life is important. When your identity and sense of self worth gets coupled to your current employment it leads to unhealthy behaviors that are difficult to correct. I’ve experienced this personally before and it’s not an experience I ever intend to repeat. Even when I would physically leave work my mind was still there, rehashing the events that made me thoroughly miserable. These days I don’t have work slack or email on my phone, and every Friday I completely power off my work laptop. As someone who has difficulty disconnecting, being able to establish firm boundaries with work has done wonders for my mental health.

July 21, 2023

I have nothing significant to say today. I tried writing about the small pains you deal with daily as you get older. I tried writing about living with an senior cat who requires so much care, but is such a core part of your life you do it without complaint. But I’m at the three week mark of writing daily, and that feels significant. Establishing new positive habits is difficult, and writing no longer feels like such a chore. My homepage feels like an actual sustainable project, and is worth putting time into every week. That feels like a real victory.

July 20, 2023

One of the best parts of having older kids is being able to share more experiences with them. This summer my kids have been able to go biking with me, hold their own in a tandem kayak, and show real interest in watching full soccer matches. While there are moments I do miss having infants and toddlers, I’m enjoying this age far more. Being able to watch them give their own orders at restaurants and stay up a bit later for things like fireworks is pretty great. I’m determined to truly be present and enjoy this period of a few years before adolescence sets in.

July 19, 2023

Colors dance in mind,
Wordle's challenge, pure delight,
Words unite, shine bright.

July 18, 2023

When it comes to economic stability why do we lack compassion in the US? The idea that you are responsible for your own financial success runs very deep in our culture. You see it at all levels of government policy, culture, and even among friends and family. If you are consistently unable maintain the lifestyle of your immediate friends and family you are viewed as a failure, and are assumed to be failing due to personal choices under your control. I frequently forget to remind myself that capitialism is a game of winners and losers, and in the US we love to celebrate winners. We celebrate winners even when the game isn’t fair from the start. We tend not to think about consequences for the losers, or why they lost. I’m not sure the problems of homelessness, mental health, and climate change will ever improve due the deep rooted sense of individualism and capitalism that exists in our country.

July 17, 2023

I should be out riding right now, enjoying a beautiful Monday morning. Instead I’m looking at air quality maps and staring at the stream of wildfire smoke being funneled down from Canada. I could probably justify going out riding in 100 AQI, but as it touches 150 and the entire skyline is hazy it’s hard to rationalize. While I’m thankful I’m not in the southern US right now and dealing with a 3+ week heat wave it’s certainly not fun to be indoors because the air is literally harmful to breath when exercising.

July 16, 2023

I’ve determined that I do not like car camping. The amount of stuff you end up packing feels rediculous. In almost all situations that one would car camp I would rather just pay for a hotel room. If I’m camping it better be because there is no better option, and in that case the type of packing you do is likely going to be far more minimal because you are away from civilization and carrying it yourself. There’s a reason bike tours and bikepacking are popular. I enjoy the challenge of figuring out what is truly necesary to for a multi-day expedition.

July 15, 2023

Is it possible to blog, from a phone, with poor signal, in a tent, editing a markdown file directly on Apparently so. I’m not sure this is the future of publishing online, but it certainly keeps the daily writing habit alive.

July 14, 2023

This seems to be the summer where everybody realizes that climate change isn’t a future event, but something happening right now. Between the heat wave in the south that is stretching into weeks, flooding in Vermont, and wildfire smoke from Canada everybody in the US is effected somehow. It’s tough to think that this might be the new normal as the warming planet causes more extreme weather.

July 13, 2023

I really look forward to the Odd Lots podcast every week. They always manage to find interesting topics and let their guests do the talking. This week they interviewed an alfalfa farmer in Arizona, and it didn’t seem so crazy, despite all the doom and gloom about water and heat in the news. What struck me as a bit crazy was not that this very well spoken owner of a family farm was doing it in Arizona, but that all his crop was going to feed cows. There is a market for this because we eat too much meat. The era of cheap meat likely needs to end if we’re going to take a successful multi-pronged approach to blunting climate change.

July 12, 2023

After 5 months and almost 4000 miles I’m convinced that Tesla’s reputation for substandard build quality is well deserved. I’ve filed a service request about once a month since taking delivery of a Model Y. While a fun car to drive, it has fit and finish issues I never had in the 15 years I owned my Honda Fit. The saving grace of Tesla is the ability to request service through the phone app and have most issues resolved via mobile service (a tech in a Model S drives to you and does the repair at your home). If the other car manufactures ever figure out their battery and efficiency issues I’d certainly consider an alternative.

July 11, 2023

The blank website is a striking failure of modern front end development. I’m not talking about a page with nothing on it, but page that has failed to render because some client side asset has failed to load. The tell tale sign is errors in the dev tools console of the browser. The content may even be there in the DOM, hidden by a failed hydration process that cannot re-render the page with client side javascript. The more I run into this the more I become convinced that we need to return to server rendered content as the default, and stop treating the client/server separation of concerns as a foundational principle of design.

July 10, 2023

DePaul’s Institute for Housing Studies released its 2023 report on the Chicago rental market. The big takeaways for me is that if Chicago wants more affordable housing they have to incentivize builders to build affordable homes. Streamline the city’s building code, prevent downzowning of 2 and 4 flats, increase the percentage of affordable housing units required in large developments. At the end of the day it’s just too expensive to build new homes in Chicago, so builders will do the logical thing and build luxury homes that allow them to realize the most profit. The north and northwest sides of the city will continue to gentrify and become less dense as multi-family homes are demolished and replaced with larger single family homes. This has 2nd order effects on public schools and small businesses, and not in a good way.

July 9, 2023

Watching the big social media companies joust over micro-blogging users is a bit sad for me. Self-publishing for everyone seems to be one the things we’ve lost over the past decade. Instead of empowering users, people have become captive to platforms. Even the new platforms like Substack and Medium leave open the question about what level of control people have over their own content. I strongly believe one of the most important things people can pay for on the internet is a domain name. Once you control your own domain name and DNS records you have far more control over your internet presence. Communication platforms become more fungible and are just a CNAME record away from switching when a platform becomes user hostile.

July 8, 2023

Oh, tech debt discussions on HN. I vehemently dislike the metaphor because it encourages the wrong behaviors by people managing a roadmap (because debt can be a good thing when used as an effective tool). I prefer to think of shortcuts and bad practices as tech pollution. A little bit will make your environment less nice, but tolerable. Letting it go unchecked to maximize production and profit will result in an environment incapable of supporting a healthy ecosystem. Frequently the cost of cleaning up pollution is treated as an externality as well. In software development this is developers working extra time of their own accord because they never get the cleanup prioritized on the roadmap.

July 7, 2023

Chicago summers were made for morning people. Living on the edge of the time zone means even with Daylight Saving time it still gets light around 5am. The city is quiet at this hour. There is something particularly wonderful about going on a bike ride with the sun coming up over the lake, and not having to deal with the low grade roar the city produces during the rest of the day. Even just being able to to open the windows, have a cup of coffee, and enjoy the silence is a very simple form of happiness.

July 6, 2023

The term “enshittification” is getting used a lot right now. Coined by Cory Doctorow, he’s on a recent episode of Future Tense explaining it in more depth. At the end of the day I’m not sure I can actually place blame on the platforms themselves. As a society we treat wealth and status interchangeably, and are happy to get so much for free over the internet. You have VC funds juicing tech companies, growing an entire generation of young millionaires, and willing users happy to be exploited over time by paying with their privacy and attention. As long as this arrangement lasts I’m not sure if there’s a solution to prioritizing individual digital freedom and privacy.

July 5, 2023

I think people in managerial positions would be well served to read Daniel Pink’s Drive. It’s a pretty quick read and helps explain why keeping a team motivated and productive is so difficult. I’m always fascinated by the resistance to let highly compensated engineers be self driven so they can go solve problems for a business. The feature factory approach is an effective way to assert control, but it tends to quickly reduce a team’s velocity to something predictable and mediocre.

July 4, 2023

This article in the NYT on age discrimination in China really stuck with me. The US legislation on this topic has been in place since 1967, but I’m not sure how easy it is to enforce. We are still a society that celebrates youth, especially in technology. The mythos of the startup founder is always one of youth. I suspect age discrimination will cut short my career far sooner than the AI.

July 3, 2023

I’m usually very good about using vacation days to their maximum effect. I did not take today off for some reason, even though tomorrow is a holiday. I’m sure I’ll be kicking myself for not setting up the obvious 4-day weekend. Unlimited PTO is a funny thing. In my mind I think I had determined I had scheduled enough PTO already as it is. Lesson learned: always take more days off.

July 2, 2023

Twitter putting up a login wall and Reddit killing 3rd party apps has been great for my productivity. While there are some interesting discussions that happen there, by large it was just great way to waste time and doom scroll. Apollo is a fantastic app for iOS, and I hope more developers use it as inspiration for how to navigate large comment threads effectively.

July 1, 2023

The upcoming holiday weekend is truly the perfect end to a week of hazardous air quality due to wildfire smoke from Canada. After staying mostly indoors and recoiling at the horrid campfire smell permeating the air, it’s only fitting that we enter a weekend filled with fireworks and Chicago’s first NASCAR race downtown. A celebration of the internal combustion motor and chemical explosions is certainly one way to ignore the fact that we need clean air for a functioning society.