I’ve been fortunate enough during the almost 30 (!) years that I’ve been part of the workforce to have worked mostly with people that I’ve gotten along with, or at least was able to tolerate. There have been a couple of standout occasions, though, that I have had the misfortune to have to suffer through during the past few years. One of them involved a manager on another team; in the end, he and I were able to at least come to an accommodation that ended in a sort of mutual respect.

The second occasion I still find myself shaking my head at to this day, partly due to its’ relative recentness and the fact that I view the offender and I responding to strikingly similar circumstances in startlingly different ways.

I’m no stranger to being “the new guy” on a team. Given the fact that I’m expecting to change employers at least every couple of years or so (as well as my recent conversion from a full-time employee to a contractor), it’s pretty much a given at this point that I’ll be “the new guy” from now until the day I either retire or establish my own business. That having been said, in my role as a Software Developer who writes programs that break other programs, I do hold some quite strong views on both Software Testing and Development. I’ve seen (and continue to see) what I consider to be egregious errors being committed in both realms. Yet, time and guidance have taught me several  things when it comes to expressing my opinions regarding said errors, namely (1) explain my case as to why I feel errors are being made, (2) seek to convince others that my suggestions will make things better, (3) listen to the team when they state their concerns, (4) don’t be so intransigent that compromise is unachievable, and (5) when you are the new guy, you are not the one who needs to be convinced, but rather you are the one who needs to prove her case. Failing to follow especially the latter will cause a lot of bad feelings – case in point.

I guess I’m writing this down now because I’v recently made quite a few changes to the existing code base for the project that I am working on, and, looking back, I can see the difference between myself and the offending individual in how we communicated the changes that we wanted to make. There is the “I want these changes made; now you convince me that things should stay the same” approach, and then there is the “I want to make these changes; now let me show you why I think this will make things better and take  things from there” approach.

Now tell me – which one would you want on your team? Hopefully, I represent that person.

The past couple of weeks have been, to paraphrase an oft-worn Chinese saying (and to rip the title of a book from one of my favorite authors), Interesting Times. Not even a week after we get back the computer brain that controls our cars’ braking system decides to retire to Binary Heaven, leaving behind a silicate shell that is barely capable of stopping the vehicle. I took it in to  the the dealership to get repaired; normally, I would have probably just went to the Firestone that is just down the street from us, but six years ago when we first bought our trusty Prius Carrie and I had decided to shell out for the extended warranty just in case something like this happened. Which it did. So I drove five harrowing miles (yes, hyperbole, I know :) ) into downtown so that the repairs would be covered.

More on that in a minute.

After dealing with the lack of a vehicle for a week, fate decided to reward us for our perseverance by giving Carrie a case of pneumonia. Fate, deciding that it wasn’t being generous enough, also decided to (a) have the insurance inspector drag his feet in getting out to look over our car, and (b) when he finally does decide to put in an appearance, insist on further diagnosis before rendering his judgement. I’m guessing that the three-word description of the problem that I had presented (Brakes. Don’t. Work.) did not offer enough clarity into my dilemma. But I digress. At least we got the insurance company to cover the cost of a rental vehicle for us on that Friday so that we would not have to go the entire weekend without a car. But then Monday rolls around, and, after reviewing the results of the further diagnosis, the inspector decides that, since he did not see all of the codes that would normally indicate ABS failure in the readout, our claim is not fully valid and is therefore denied, meaning that we would have to pay upwards of $3k for our car repair.

“There was a man in the land of Seattle who’s name was Charles….”

Again, hyperbole, yes, I know. I mean, throughout all of this, our friends have been pretty amazing, looking after the kids, taking them to preschool and bringing them home, helping out in cleaning our house, and bringing over entire meals. And, in the end, I ended up calling the insurance company directly, and after asking “So, what you are telling me is that if I drive this car off the lot it will be perfectly safe?” they pretty quickly agreed to cover the cost of the inspection, repair and rental car.

So – one down, one to go.

Carrie is still feeling sick. She’s in much better shape  than she was this time last week, but she’s still a ways to go before she gets back to where she was. I’ve been trying to take the boys out during the weekends so that she can enjoy some quiet time. Yesterday, I took them out to see “How to train your dragon” at the Ark Lodge in Columbia City, and the four of us went to Tutta Bella for some pizza and flatbread (I splurged on a Comparisoda with a lemon twist); today, I took the kids to Alki and then out to Spuds.2014-03-23 10.50.54 2014-03-23 10.51.06

And here I am, ending this weekend on a hopeful note, wishing that the next one will be even better :)

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For the second time in as many weeks, I made the flight from Seattle to San Francisco; instead of going alone for business reasons, however, this time was for fun: Carrie, the kids and I travelled from Emerald City to the City by the Bay to visit my aunt Pigi.

The trip didn’t start off well; due to thunderstorms and high winds in the Bay Area, our flight was delayed for over five hours. What was to have been a leisurely afternoon arrival followed by a ride on the BART and Cable Car to our hotel room in the Embarcadero followed by dinner turned into a tired late evening arrival followed by a grumpy taxi ride to our hotel room in the Embarcadero followed by us crashing in our beds. For all of their travails, though, Gabe and Ollie were superstars, handling the numerous and ever-ongoing delays with unprecedented grace and patience. Hooray the kids’ play area at Sea-Tac, and hooray a year and a half at the Rainier Valley Cooperative Preschool :) And special kudos to the people on hand at Virgin Airlines – not only did they let us book a later flight at no cost, the cabin crew eve invited the kids to the cockpit so that they could try their hand at flying the airplane (while it was still on the ground, of course ;))

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The first full day that we were in SF was the fullest one. The boys got to ride on a cable car, and my aunt met us at the Exploratorium in the morning, and the kids (especially Gabe) took to her immediately. We spent a couple of hours there, then took got a couple of hot dogs for the kids before we went on a cruise beneath the Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz.  On Sunday, Carrie, the kids and I went to Mama’s Cafe close to Washington Square in North Beach for breakfast and attempted to find our way to Golden Gate park (loathe as I am to admit it, it was my fault that we didn’t) before taking my extremely generous aunt up on her offer to watch over the kids at our hotel room while Carrie and I went out to eat at the simply amazing Seven Hills in Nob Hill.

All in all, day of the flight notwithstanding, the trip was a good one. Having spent a good portion of my twenties there, the Bay Area will always occupy a special place in my heart, and I was glad to be able to share a portion of it with my family. I’m looking forward to Carrie and my returning there again in the near future – with and without the kids :)

Afterthought:

San Francisco and Seattle are vastly different. I’ve always thought of San Francisco – with its buzz and bustle and its urban compactness and urbane attitude and an honest-to-goodness mass transit that honestly-to-goodness negates the need for an automobile for all but the most dire of circumstances – as an East Coast city that just happens to be west of the Mississippi. Seattle, on the other hand, exemplifies a left-coast laid-back-ness that is (at times annoyingly) combined with sensibilities that are (almost) provincially aligned along neighborhood lines. After two trips in two weeks to San Francisco, I had thought that I would return to (what now seems to me as being sleepy) Seattle and be left wanting. However, one thing that I have come to realize is this: even the romanticized San Francisco of my memories cannot compare to my present Seattle-based reality. While my experiences in the Bay Area have done a lot (for worse and for better) to shape who I was in my twenties, it has been Seattle that has done even more to shape who I am in my thirties and forties. It has been in this city that I have met the love of my life, and it has been in this city that the two other most precious people in my life came to be. My love of not just eating well, but cooking well came to me whilst in Seattle, as well as my greater appreciation for fine coffee and home brewing. I’ll always enjoy a visit to San Francisco so as to see how a place from my youth has changed and stayed the same (as well as for a chance to see family), but, after twelve years in the Puget Sound, I can say that I honestly enjoy making my life here.

Addendum to afterthought:

Of course,  it would be after I implied that I didn’t mind living in a city in which having a vehicle was a (albeit greatly reduced) necessity that our trusty Prius’ computer brain forgets that the car is equipped with these nifty things called “brakes” and has to go to the dealership for (what has now been a three (about to be four) day long) re-education course. *great* :(

In anticipation of the Hackathon, I developed a proof of concept (POC) application that demonstrated a potential use for our API. Basically, it’s a Facebook Application that looks at the location of your friends and generates a random package (hotel + flight) to that person’s location (if several of your friends live in the same city, it groups them all together) if that person does not live in the same city as you do. For the you, the application generates a random “StayCation” deal at a hotel in your current location. It still has a few issues, but I think that it’s a pretty good POC that was ready to share with any of the Hackathon attendees who may need inspiration.

Working on this application not only gave me an opportunity to use the product that I am testing from a client’s point of view, it also gave me a chance to play around with the Facebook API and Google App Engine. I had uploaded applications to Google App Engine before, but they were nothing particularly forward-facing, and certainly did not offer the sort of tight integration with another service (Facebook using Oath for authentication) that goSeeFriends does.

hangin at the hackathon

Sleeping
Today is my last day at the Hackathon. It’s also my last day in San Francisco – for 5 days :) Carrie, the boys and I are coming back next week to spend some time with my aunt Pigi.

This trip has been fun but tiring. I find myself more than a little bored with continually eating out and sleeping in a bed that is not mine. Mostly, though, I find myself missing my family and the area that has been my home for the past twelve years.

I’ll be back soon. Then we’ll be leaving again :)

hackathon

hackathon 2

Day two of the my trip. I helped out at the Hackathon yesterday afternoon and early this morning. Despite the pictures, I was actually being chatty, smiling and being as helpful as I could be, given the fact that I’m a relative newcomer and have had to ramp up on my knowledge of both the framework that I am responsible for testing and others. Seeing as how there is a strict “no in – out” policy being enforced for the contestants, I’m seeing plenty of sleeping bags and cots around here. I’m also seeing plenty of ad-hoc standing workstations being fashioned by placing (a) a chair on top of a table, and (b) the computer on top of the chair.
Random thoughts
1 – Last night for dinner I went to Sweet Woodruff. I had their “The Burger”, which is a small beef patty with Havarti cheese, a Dijon aoli, pickled onions and tomato jam served with an arugula side salad. While the food tasted alright, I found to bun and the overall size of the burger to be a bit underwhelming for a dish that I had to pay $8 for sans waitservice.
2 – This morning I treated myself to a breakfast place that I had wanted to visit the last time I was in SF (last Spring) – Dotties in SOMA. While the outside is nondescript, the inside is warm and inviting. Their menu has loads of temptations on it, but I went with the Pulled Pork Scramble and a side of Bacon. The scramble was a tad underseasoned for my liking, but the bacon was cooked to perfection.
3 – En route to the Hackathon, I stopped off at the target=”_blank”>Sightglass Coffee roasters on 7th Street in SOMA. They seem to be San Francisco’s equivalent of Victrola in Seattle. The vibe of the roastery is certainly the same – sunny, airy with an industrial look and feel to it. The macchiato that I got from Sightglass was (happily) on par with what I’m accustomed to in Seattle :)
4 – I find evangelists of any stripe to be creepy.
5 – Capitol One has a 3D printer set up on the table next to us. Pretty cool!

Today, for the first time in close to 20 years, I find myself on a business-related trip far from home.

While I was stationed overseas in the Navy, I used to do “fly-aways” in which I’d accompany other repair personnel to a remote port at which there were no repair facilities available to help fix problems. I travelled to both the mainland and Sicily (I was stationed on Sardinia during this time), as well as Greece and Israel during these repair missions.

Fast forward 19 years, and I find myself here in San Francisco representing my Expedia team for an upcoming Hackathon during which I will be providing on-site technical support for an API that the hackers can use in coding their own apps. I’m enjoying being in another city for a few days; I’m not enjoying being away from my family :(

Random thoughts:

1 – Hearing all of the news regarding the rampant income inequality in the Bay Area (as evidenced rather ostentatiously by the nigh-ubiquitous Google Busses and Ferries), I was expecting to walk about not in the rough-and-ready San Francisco of my Navy days but rather a bleached out version that had become over-gentrified a la Ballard in my hometown of Seattle (or Bellevue, the city in which I presentlyt work). I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were still plenty of neighbourhood haunts, at least in the section of Nob Hill in which my temporary residence, Hotel Vertigo. As a matter of fact, I had the pleasure of grabbing a delicious half-Cuban sandwich at Bread and Cocoa, a marvellous barbecue chicken wrapped in a spinach tortilla at Sutter Pub (along with a draft pulled pint of San Francisco’s own Anchor Steam ale, which is something that I’ve not had in years), and breakfast this morning at Lori’s Diner. Unfortunately, I think that I got food poisoning from Lori’s :( But still…there are so many neat looking places to try in the neighbourhood that I’m taking this advantage to not stop off at McDonalds for a meal or Starbucks for Coffee! :)

2 – I went for a run this morning. I decided to scope out the actual event site so that I’d know where it was for future reference. I started in Nob Hill, passed through the Tenderloin and ended up in SOMA – none of which are the very best parts of town. It struck me to see so many homeless people milling about and sleeping on the street. What struck me even more was the fact that the police officers were engaging in cleanup efforts that seemed to be less about transitioning these people to a shelter of some type than about moving them from one part of town to another with less cachet. “Not my problem, Not in my backyard.”

3 – The Expedia office down here is less a proper office and more of an co-work style incubation space. Open, loud, and raccous. Never thought that I would be on a business trip to San Francisco and miss working in Bellevue ;)

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