The federal government has far too many elected represetatives right now that should be retiring. I realize giving up power is hard, but Feinstein and McConnell clearly aren’t all there. I also realize they were voted into their current term by their constituents. If there isn’t going to be an age cap to hold office, they should remove the age gate on the lower end as well. Let the 20 somethings run for president. They can campaign on Tik Tok.
Cameron is an 18 year old cat that spends most of his time either sleeping in his bed on my desk, or demanding I feed him. My wife and I have had him since he was a kitten. It’s been hard to watch him get older, knowing that he is experiencing a slow decline kidney function and continues to lose mobility. He is a source of frustration, joy, and love. I know the next few years are likely his last with us. I try to remind myself to appreciate the time we have left together. I’m not looking forward to the day that I gain some space back on my desk.
I’m pretty sure it’s safe to declare Amazon a hostile work environment. For the CEO to give such a stark ultimatum against what seems to be pretty firm resistance from employees is a bit shocking. The cynical take is this is just the ultimate passive aggressive move to further shrink the corporate labor force. If there was solid data that showed Amazon staff were more productive in office, why not publicize it? Tone deaf statements are only going to intensify the aggression between labor and management.
I have in my mind that I’m going to bike 3,000 miles this year. That will be a 20% jump from last year’s total mileage. I’m on track to do so, but I can already foresee the challenge will be wanting to bike with my kids more and do more mountain biking. Both of these activities will come at the expense of total mileage, and I think it might be worth it. Getting on to more single track has been mentally and physically challenging in a good way. Riding with my oldest daughter is deeply satisfying. She’s the same age now as I was when my Dad starting including me regularly in his rides. Being able to share your hobbies with your kids is one of the small pleasures of parenting.
My cycling focus has shifted over the decades and come back full circle somewhat. I started out like most kids, riding a BMX bike and getting yelled at by the cops to stop jumping dirt piles at construction sites. I gradually shifted to road riding and doing endurance events in my 20’s. My late 20’s and early 30’s saw a shift to triathlons, culminating with a Half Ironman. Triathlons no longer hold any interest for me, and in my 40’s I’ve shifted my focus to exploration. Mountain bikes and gravel bikes are my friends. I may or may not have cut through some construction sites this summer, and my joy on a bike has certainly come back to where it started. I just want to get out, explore, and have fun.
I thrive on routine and ritual. (I am not a unique snowflake in this regard.)
Wake up before sunrise. Make oatmeal, add honey and PB2 powder. Brew coffee. Listen to the Axios Daily podcast. Solve the day’s Wordle.
This is what allows me to function for the day.
One of the themes of 2023 has been the strong return of people paying for experiences. Ticket sales to sporting events and concerts are way up, and it’s still near impossible to just walk in to state parks to camp. The major driver of this behavior is finally getting the pandemic in the rear view mirror, but I also wonder if the looming threat of climate change isn’t driving it as well. I suspect nihilism will be a strong influence in many human behaviors over the next few decades. It’s unlikely any miracle technology is coming to save us, and incremental improvements in reducing our carbon footprint isn’t going to get us where we need to be. I do hope there are enough people on the planet who are driven to improve things.
As someone who loves to code I think having personal projects is important. They don’t have to be complex or fancy, they just have to be yours. I have a few projects that I’ve used and maintained for over 7 years now, and it’s to the point that those codebases have outlived code I’ve written at work. These projects aren’t subject to business needs, deadlines, competing egos and priorities. They are just projects that are a joy to work on to meet my needs. I don’t think professional software developers should be required to have a portfolio to be employable, but in the modern technology industry I do think personal projects help keep us sane.
This year has been measured by my growth as an amateur bike mechanic. I’m to the point where I can replace all the consumable parts on my bikes: chain, cassette, brake pads, tires. I’ve also gotten more comfortable with doing a full alignment of my rear derailleur to address minor shifting issues. It’s empowering to know that I can fix issues on my bikes where ever I might be, and don’t need to be dependent on having a bike shop nearby. Next up is getting over my hesitation to touch my bottom bracket and wrap my own handlebars.
Your hobbies should bring you joy. There are too many things you must do on a day to day basis for a voluntarily pursuit to be a joyless affair. I stopped running and training for triathlons in 2020 during the pandemic. It did not bring me joy anymore. Once I had accomplished my goals with triathlons there was nothing driving me to run 15 miles a week. So I stopped. I still bike multiple times a week and I love it. The feeling of being on a bike is deeply satisfying to me. I hope that never changes.
It’s block party season in our neighborhood. The same converation comes up every year as the party winds down, “why don’t we do this more often?” People realize that reclaiming the street for people and coming together as a community is wonderful. The block becomes this open communal space for kids to play and neighbors to socialize. The street is no longer this barrier of parked cars and far too fast traffic. We should make residential streets more narrow, just wide enough that delivery trucks can fit. I’m not sure how to solve the need for street parking, but finding ways to make residential streets less appealing to through traffic would certainly be a start.
I managed my first minor crashes on the mountain bike today at Palos. Luckily the worst that came of it is a knot on my shin from my pedal. Apparently decades of biking has taught me how to bail out on instinct. I’m always a bit surprised when my clipless pedal and shoes detach without any conscious thought on my behalf. Considering I went over the bars once I’m a bit shocked that I walked away from it and the bike was fine (beyond needing to recenter my bars). Now, am I researching flat pedals and shoes? Absolutely. I suspect the tradeoff in power would be worth the ability to use my foot to stabilize myself.
Despite Labor Day being a few weeks away still I find myself looking forward to fall. Summer has run its course and I’m ready for cooler temperatures and changing colors. The lure of the fall bike tour is strong. Bike the Drive is on Labor Day weekend again this year, and with Lakeshore Drive freshly paved it should be a spectacular Sunday morning. Century rides should start in earnest next month. Come October I suspect I’ll be finding every spare moment I can to go ride the forest preserves. Biking during peak fall colors is one of my favorite weeks of the entire year. I’m excited.
Bookending the summer with trips along the Michigan lakeshore is wonderful. It is one of my favorite places to visit. What I find interesting is how the small tourist towns along Lake Michigan are dealing with homes being converted into rental properties. The concern is legitimate. The popularity of spending summers along the lakeshore in Michigan continues to rise, especially for those of us who live in Chicago the rest of the year.
My suggestion to these towns is to find a way to meet demand. Some towns like St. Joseph do not have many options when it comes to traditional hotels. The hotels that do exist close to downtown are in dire need of rehab. It’s no surprise that people are seeking out nicer short time rentals on AirBnB.
Tailwind CSS causes people to have really strong emotional responses. This is just an extension of people having really strong opinions about CSS in general. Over the past 15 years I’ve found there is no easy mode with CSS on non-trivial projects maintained by a reasonably large team. People have tried: SCSS, Less, Stylus, Boostrap, Foundation, BEM, CSS-in-js, and Tailwind.
If you asked me to enumerate the specificity rules for CSS selectors from memory in the correct order I would fail badly. I’m likely not alone here. The “cascasding” part of CSS is what makes it both powerful and full of unexpected surprises.
I think the complexity of specificity rules is what is allowing Tailwind to achieve such rapid uptake. Developers only have so many brain cycles when creating a web UI. The modern frontend stack has a lot of moving pieces, of which css styling is only a small part. Giving developers back some mental capacity is a gift.
Does React have it’s warts? Absolutely. But to declare it outdated in comparison to the next interation of frontend frameworks? How quickly we forget as an industry.
For the past several months it has seemed like my 3rd gen Airpods have been dying. My other headphones confirmed I did not have rapid hearing loss, so I figured it was just another case of disappointedly disposable technology. Last night I got out a toothpick, q-tips, and an unused toothbrush. I also have a spray bottle of isopropyl alcohol in the workshop for cleaning disc brake rotors on my bikes.
I was shocked a thorough cleaning worked. The bass response returned, and I could drop the volume by 25%. Apparently I just need to make this part of my routine in taking care of the things in my life that see daily use.
A practical answer to the question: How many bikes should you own?
Seeing this headline this morning made me laugh: 80% of bosses say they regret earlier return-to-office plans.
No kidding. The lack of empathy and understanding about why employees want to retain their WFH flexibility is dumbfounding. This isn’t about productivity, this is about control. Even if employees aren’t more productive when working from home, they are happier and more likely to stay. There are real costs to hiring and training. The labor shortage is not going away any time soon as the unemployment rate continues to go down and wages continue to rise.
If you’ve watched the The Last Airbender series you’re familiar with the intro. At the end Katara says, “I believe Aang can save the world.” I feel the same about bikes. Bikes are the perfect transportation at city scale. They are compact, quiet, zero emission, and can carry a ton of stuff. They force you interact with your environment and other people because you’re not encased in a steel and glass box. They have significantly less impact on the roads and require less infrastructure. They make you healthier and keep you in better shape.
Cars are super useful, they aren’t (and shouldn’t) go away. But I imagine a Chicago where everybody chooses to make 50% of their trips by bike and I smile.
Everybody should also watch the The Last Airbender. It’s the perfect TV show, especially if you need something to watch with your kids.
I’ve been a morning person for a very long time. Recently that feels like its been taken to the extreme. I’m frequently up around 4:30am, and find myself sitting down to get something done around 5:30am. It’s to the point that the cats just expect to be fed around then.
I kinda love it though. The daily news is there, new podcasts are ready, and the world is quiet. It’s the few hours of the day when I am fully rested, able to focus, and unbothered by the constant little interruptions of life.
Here’s how you carry a bike up and down stairs:
Grab the rear brake level and wheel the bike up onto its rear wheel, so the handlebars are in front you at shoulder height. Grab the stem with one hand and around top tube near the seatpost with the other hand. Now lift the bike up and put the top of the saddle against your belly button. Now you can walk up and down stairs without having to awkwardly carry the bike at your side, and your core will support a lot of the bike’s weight as it pushes into your stomach. This is especially effective on narrow stairways with a turn or two.
At a previous job, many years ago, I was appauled when I started at the hardware and software engineers were given. Low res 20” monitors that could barely produce color (good luck looking at color coded diffs). Old Dell laptops with spinning hard drives. The glacial pace of development was not surprising. The few of us in high prestiege roles were given MacBook Pros with twice as much memory and large SSDs. We proceeded to buy our own 27” high res monitors and handed the shitty monitors back to the IT dept. We also paid for our own IntelliJ licenses and refused to use the random assortment of free editors the rest of the teams were using. This started a minor revolt when the rest of the engineers saw how comparatively nice our setups were. Within a month we were informed that we needed to expense our monitors and IntelliJ licenses, and within the year the rest of engineering received the same upgrades. That was one of my first experiences with using soft power in a non-managerial leadership role.
When you are a profession software developer having a hobby that doesn’t involve coding is really important. There’s a reason you encounter so many devs that cycle, brew, woodwork, etc. The mental strain of attempting to solve problems in a space that is not tangible is significant. Being able to shift focus to an activity that does not involve a computer screen and requires direct physical interaction is restorative. I even find bike maintainence refreshing. Finishing an hour in the workshop with greasy hands is deeply satisfying. (Except when having to align disc brakes with new brake pads. That is maddening.)
This article in the Guardian about Jeff Goodell’s new book is sobering. What struck me is the idea of air conditioning being a “technology of forgetting”. It’s a perfect way to frame how we rely on A/C. Despite only being in the 70’s yesterday we closed windows and turned on the A/C because we didn’t feel like dealing with 90% humidity in the house all day. It was an easy solution to dealing with a minor discomfort, since we don’t have to deal with any immediate effects of using more electricity. As long as there are easy solutions without immediate consequences we will use them as a society.
I’m bearish on generative AI. It’s going to be very, very good for Nvidia, but I’m not sure how much the current state of LLMs is going to change state of modern business. Every problem is a people problem, the technology tends to be the easy part for most businesses. Until ChatGPT can truly understand people I do not think it will make significant inroads into our daily lives at work. You can also get so far with generative bullshit.
Why do we feel guilty about taking breaks at work? Fear of not looking like we’re a hard worker? I think this is one of the important reasons people like remote work. It frees us from the guilt of taking necessary breaks. When I am not being productive I get up from my desk and I go do something else. Yesterday I took my kids to the park and got them some much needed exercise. When I got back, barely an hour later, I sat down and wrote more code in 30 minutes that I had the previous 2 hours. I find the dichotomy between salaried employment and measurement of activity over results infuriating at times.
The vast majority of the code I’ve written during my professional career no longer exists. This has been a powerful motivator in how I spend my time. I’m certainly not ready to go be a soybean farmer, but it does help put into perspective how transient code is when written to serve the needs of a business. Something to keep in mind before going to battle over subjective opinions on code quality and style.
I’ve seen people fail up many times in my working career. The seeming lack of consequences for so many people in corporate America is infuriating. I certainly hope there are real consequences for Donald Trump with the indictment that was announced yesterday. For such brazen crimes over the course of a presidency, and for there to be absolutely no consequences almost 4 years later, there has to be consequences. The resulting cynicism alone from the voting citizens in this country would be staggering where all these court cases fizzle out. The precedence it would set for all the current and future sociopaths holding elected office would be extremely dangerous. I have literally no idea what happens between now and November 2024.
After 4,000+ miles and a few multi-day road trips with a Tesla Model Y I’m certainly over my range anxiety with an electric car. The longest we’ve been at a supercharger is 25 minutes, and we used all that time for bathroom breaks and getting food. While there are still plenty of cases where gas engines win, when you’re never going to be too far from the interstate charging has never been something I devote a ton of brain cycles to. I’m optimistic that electric vehicles will continue to replace the existing US auto fleet.