Larry Myers

January Notes

January 29, 2024

Microsoft managed to achieve a $3T market cap this past week. Much of the focus is on their investment in OpenAI, which is fair. My viewpoint is that Microsoft’s current relevance in software development is nothing short of spectacular. Around 2010 Microsoft was all in on .NET, and was mostly relegated to backoffice large enterprise software development. Today Microsoft owns the supply chain for modern software development. GitHub, npm, vscode, Typescript. All part of the open source community and generally highly regarded by the community. That is shocking. It’s a complete reinvention and turnaround for Microsoft and their relationship with the community. This was a company who at one point was reviled for IE6. Their browser now runs on Chromium. I would have never expected such a large company to be able to repair its relationship with its users and reclaim its title as one of the most important technology companies on the planet.

January 26, 2024

There’s media kerfuffle about how the Barbie movie was snubbed during the Oscar nominations. Barbie was a just okay movie. My wife and I watched it on streaming, and as the credits rolled we looked at it each other and said, “that’s it? That’s what all the media coverage was about?”

If you want to talk about a snub for Oscar nominations, where is the outage that Across the Spider-verse is going to get its token award for Best Animated Feature and that’s it? One of the best movies of the year, and one of the best films I’ve seen in a while, does not get any acknowledgement because it happens to be animated. The same thing happened to Spirited Away. Thankfully the Oscars become less and less revenant every year.

January 24, 2024

For winter biking I will head out in two of the following: cold, wet, windy.

So far January has provided all three in the extreme. I’ve barely ridden my bike due to a polar vortex with extreme windchills, multiple days of rain, snow, and ice, and winds gusting above 30mph. Hopefully the weather turns shortly and I can salvage some miles and start building a base to get into spring training.

January 21, 2024

There is value in writing API clients yourself when integrating with a web service that follows a standard protocol. It forces you to understand the spec and get a deeper understanding of what you’re doing. Sometimes it can be deceptively easy to just pull in a 3rd party library that already has done much of the work for you. The other downside of using a 3rd party library is the amount of transitive dependencies you might pull in, as well as introducing another maintenance cost to your codebase.

Recently I wrote a small integration with Fastmail’s JMAP API (it’s how I’m posting this). There are 3rd party clients already, but it really wasn’t that much work to write a simple client. It only ended up being about 170 lines of code for my needs, and I don’t have to worry about yet another dependency. They add up so quickly when using node.js.

January 20, 2024

One the better changes I’ve made in the past year is the adopt the mindset of “default yes”. When asked do something I need to have an explicit reason to say no, otherwise the answer is yes. It’s always easier and safer to say no, but you miss out on so much. Saying yes as a default response felt awkward as I got used to it, but eventually it felt more natural. I’m convinced “default yes” leads to more experiences, especially the unexpected ones, and better relationships with family and friends.

January 18, 2024

Swimming is an acceptable alternative to cycling in the winter. It allows me to work on muscle groups that don’t see as much use on the bike, and it allows me to retain some base level endurance fitness. Going back and forth in a lap pool isn’t amazing, but when faced with -20F windchill it’s just about the only alternative. I do not do well on treadmills or stationary bikes, because they feel like such poor approximations of the actual thing. I am extremely thankful Chicago has high quality indoor pools through the parks district and very cheap lap swim passes.

January 16, 2024

Listening to this morning’s Ezra Klein podcast does not inspire confidence for this election year. I’m already trying to figure out how far south I need to travel for the weather to be warm enough for an early November week long bike ride off grid. You know why every rational person is hoping for Nikki Haley to be the Republican presidential candidate? Because if she wins the morning after feeling will be disappointment instead of despair. That’s it. She’s somebody that we can live with for four years as president. I do not want to have to deal with a political climate that is all out war until 2028. There are just too many global problems that need solving for us to lose more time over culture wars.

January 14, 2024

First polar vortex of the winter, and so far it’s about par for the course. You get reminded why you own all those merino wool base layers, and quickly relearn how to layer properly. The one upside about this weather is that it’s too cold for clouds, so you can sit in front of any south facing windows and enjoy some sunlight.

Fortunately it looks like the worst will pass in a few days and Chicago will return to perfectly acceptable winter biking weather. Nothing a few layers, cycling boots, and some toe warmers won’t solve.

January 11, 2024

It’s been awhile since Chicago has had proper snow. All we’ve gotten this week so far is damp icy slush. I have happy and vivid memories around February 2021, in the middle of the pandemic, tromping through over a foot of snow with my kids through the forest preserves. One of the ponds had frozen over so thoroughly that people had cleared off the snow and created a makeshift ice rink for skating and hockey. The freeze had been so sudden that you could look down through the ice and see frozen green plant life in the shallow sections. The snow was white, fluffy, and everywhere.

Right now we’re just stuck with this thin layer of icy slush that melts and turns everything into a muddy mess. You can’t even take a mountain bike out on the trails because there hasn’t been a proper freeze yet to protect the trail conditions.

So this Friday, while I realize it is going to be an inconvenience to everybody that actually has to get places, I’m hoping for snow.

January 10, 2024

Endurance sports are refuge for the mind. It is impossible to let the daily anxiety of the world eat away at your sense of calm when you are exercising for long periods of time. As your breathing and heart rate settle in to an endurance pace it is possible to relax.

I’m at a point in my life where I do not think I choose to go on a morning bike ride, or swim over lunch, but I do so because I must. My wife will freely admit that I am not a nice person to be around if I have gone more than 3 days without some form of endurance level exercise. It is a necessity that allows me to cope with the always connected, always on world that is constantly collecting the data of my daily life and shoving itself back at me through a recommendation algorithm.

January 9, 2024

I’m not a huge test driven development proponent, except when it comes to fixing bugs. If you are fixing a bug the first step is to write a failing test case that proves the bug exists. That test asserts you actually know what the correct behavior of the system should be. It also gives you a place to set a break point when debugging so you can figure out exactly where the bug is if it’s not obvious. If every bug fix came with a test case more codebases would be resilient against regressions and wouldn’t have so many bug fix commits based on hope.

January 8, 2024

The first day back to work after a long vacation is always tough. My brain isn’t ready. I’m not ready to work on other people’s problems yet. The best part of vacation is getting to solve your own problems and pursue your own passions when they overlap with your career. I absolutely wrote code on winter break, and it was code that I needed for myself. The likely lesson here is that I need to continue to set aside time to code for myself, and not wait for vacation again. There is a pure joy that comes from writing code that isn’t for somebody else’s roadmap.

January 7, 2024

As a pragmatist to my core I appreciate charity organizations setting up safe spaces for people to sleep in their cars. It’s a direct and immediate solution to people who are homeless, but have a vehicle as their only property that can serve as housing. I applaud solving the immediate problem and providing people a little relief.

That is so depressing that the homelessness crisis has come to setting up safe parking lots that help reduce the criminalization of homelessness. The solution to the housing crisis is not more safe parking lots, it’s building more houses. It blows my mind that I live in a country that prioritizes supporting overseas geopolitical conflict before the basic needs of our own citizens.

People should have a safe place to sleep, running water, and a toilet. They should not have to sleep in their cars. Try car camping once and you’ll realize that all the YouTube streamers glorify a fairly miserable experience.

January 6, 2024

The WSJ is reporting the tech industry was essentially stagnant in 2023 with respect to job growth. Unemployment in tech is still below the national average, so this isn’t the crash of the dotcom bubble. Talented software developers will still have jobs. But it suggests the industry isn’t sure what’s next. It might be AI, or it might be the continued slow automation of the business world.

I sympathize with new grads though. It hurts to enter the workforce during times of low or no growth, and you have to work so much harder to recover any lost wage growth during the course of your career.

January 5, 2024

I was prepared to bemoan how awful Chicago is in the winter, but here we are in early January and it’s consistently above freezing during the day, only down in the 20’s at night, and the roads are dry. I’ve certainly had to bundle up to go on rides, but I haven’t had to go full winter armor yet with the balaclava and insulated bike boots.

I’m not sure if this is a good thing or bad thing. It certainly makes it easier to get in miles on the bike, but it does make me wonder if this is what climate change has in store for us. Without the lake freezing over, or any snow or ice cover, it has real effects on the water table in the region. It only takes a few odd warm days for plants to get confused and bloom too early.

January 4, 2024

Building things for yourself is the most satisfying type of programming I do. At this point my personal projects have outlasted most of the paid work I’ve done for the past decade. I’d be surprised if any code I’ve been paid to write has survived more than a decade, and it certainly wouldn’t surprise me to have code that has lasted less than 3 years. The best part about writing code for yourself is you get to solve your own problem, on your own timeline, with the technologies you want to use, with the level of quality that you find acceptable.

I suspect this is why so many of the solo technical entrepreneurs tend to be happy despite long hours and the odds stacked against them for success.

January 1, 2024

Goals for 2024:

  • 3 multi-day bike tours. One road, one gravel, one single track.
  • 3000 miles on the bike.
  • Combined 300 miles running and swimming.
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