03 May 2017

HELP: Happy, Evolving, Learning, Productive - Journaling template

Sometimes I go to write in my journal after lots has happened, and I find myself at a loss.  Too much has happened, I don't know what's important to record, it's all a jumble.  So I end up staring out the window and attempting a half-baked job of mentally processing things.

Here is a set of headings in an attempt to provide a skeleton for my journaling:
  • H: Happenings
  • E: Evolutions / Progress
  • L: Learnings
  • P: Plans
Or described more fully:
  • H: just neutral reporting on what random stuff has been going on
  • E: progress reports on things that have moved forward in some significant way in the last while
  • L: what you've recently learned that sticks out to you
  • P: what's coming up that has your attention
In an attempt at finding a mnemonic for HELP, I came up with the following:
  • H: Happy
  • E: Evolving
  • L: Learning
  • P: Productive
And here are some more detailed descriptions of the emotional states in the mnemonic:
  • H: just starting to write can keep you happier than not, see this post
  • E: highlighting progress, however small, turns into a sense of gratitude for me
  • L: seeing that I'm still learning is encouraging to me
  • P: putting rough plans on paper has a reassuring effect, and helps me move forward
Those adjectives have enough affinity to the headings that it might help me to remember them, and enough positive energy to help them to stick in my mind.

29 January 2017

Worry is a Signal, Not an Activity

"You look down today, what's going on?" my wife says when I get home from work.  I answer, "I don't know, I was just worrying about this project at work." What's wrong with this picture?

The mental error is that I was treating worry like an activity instead of treating it like a signal.  It's all about the self talk.  When there is some outstanding issue that needs attention, it is easy to jump straight to thinking about the issue, even though you can't really do anything about it at the moment.  The reality is that if I'm going to resolve the outstanding issue, I need my computer open, I need to talk with a team member to figure things out.  I need to write some code or run a query to see where things stand.

But if I attempt to sort things out mentally while I don't have everything I need to make progress on an issue, it's easy to spin my wheels and fall helplessly into a non-productive mental loop.

On the other hand, if the "outstanding issue" thought comes into my mind, and I call it worry (which it is), and instead of holding onto that thought, if I treat it like a signal, like an alarm bell, like a red light, then that frees me up to act on the signal.  Instead of treating the "outstanding issue" thought as an activity waiting to be engaged in, if I treat it as an self-alert, then I can move to deal with it at a later, more appropriate time.

The question becomes: "What action can I take right now to make sure that the outstanding issue is dealt with at the appropriate time and place?"  Maybe make a reminder on an index card and put it in my work pants pocket.  Maybe make a reminder on my phone.  Maybe send myself a memory jogger in email.  Maybe write a card and stick it in the Trello / Getting Things Done inbox.  It just needs to be something that I am confident will get my attention and lead me down the right mental path at the time when I know I will have resources to deal with the issue.

Any time spent on worry as an activity (beyond dealing with the reminder for the future time/place) I now believe to be worse than a total waste.  Not just worthless time spent, but also a drag on the rest of my life.  Any unnecessary, anxiety-provoking activity drags me down, makes me less capable of living my life in a worthwhile, enjoyable way.

Why did I not see this earlier in my life?  What could I have done to have learned this earlier in my adolescent / adult experience?

28 January 2017

Where I've been

It took a long while, but I believe I'm back after a knee surgery in 2015, after releasing / launching a new tree database for FamilySearch in the last half of 2016, and after coming through a difficult transition into a more positive life.

Thanks to my family who supported me (especially my wife), my friends and co-workers who were patient with me, and those who have waited for me to be a bit more positive and responsive in life.

11 July 2016

PTSD After Large Release

I don't like releasing large chunks of software at once, but there are situations where it's easier to swap out a large piece of interdependent pieces than it is to replace them piecemeal.

Except you have to make it through the release.

I worked on replacing the Family Tree database on familysearch.org with a new one.  Old was Oracle, new was Cassandra.

It started at 12:30am and extended, with various emergencies that were handled more or less gracefully by amazing people, until 6:21am.  And then it was done, and we had to start keeping it up.

After a few surprises that none of our simulations exposed, I have enough rest again and can function more or less normally.

However, the anxiety I felt during the release and the uncertainty I felt in the days just afterwards all added up to a feeling I don't remember feeling before.

Then I realized that the flashbacks and the irrational worry about keeping things working - probably some mild form of post-traumatic stress.

Certainly only a taste of what others go through who were in danger of losing their life and barely survived.  Not trying to imply that my experience is anywhere near that sort of thing.

I'm just trying to process my emotions and am hopeful this helps someone know they're not alone.

26 August 2015

Git worktree - clone but not quite

Have you ever wanted another workarea for the current repository you're working in?  Maybe you're running some tests and need the normal workarea to stay unchanged, so you can't rebase or tweak another branch in the meantime.

Options up to now:

  • $ git clone [current-repo] [temp-repo]; cd temp-repo  # too heavy-weight, have to push changes back
  • $ sleep 120; check email  # interrupts flow


In Git 2.5.0, you can do this easily:

  • $ git worktree add ../temp master


This creates a new workarea in ../temp with all the current branches.  It's the same repository!  Any git command you do in the new workarea is applied to (and uses the database of) the original repository: commit, rebase, push, etc.

NOTE: If you leave off the branch name, 'git worktree add' creates a branch named after the new worktree directory.

NOTE: If you want to operate on the same branch as the original repository, it is disallowed by default.  In order to operate on the same branch, you have to say $ git worktree add ../temp master -f'.  Also if you ever move off of the branch and want to switch back when another worktree has the same branch checked out, you have to use an annoyingly-long option: $ git checkout master --ignore-other-worktrees.  You could put that in an alias like so: $ git config --global alias.co "checkout --ignore-other-worktrees".

27 August 2014

Rubber Ducking with Git

You've heard of the phenomenon where when you try to explain a hard problem to someone else, you suddenly know the answer, and the other person did nothing but listen to you ramble.

On the C2 wiki, it's called:



The theory I have about the phenomenon is that in a problem solving situation, the human mind develops a lot of parallel ideas & possible solutions, even ones that you are not aware of.  But when you try to describe the problem and your ideas to someone else, just the act of trying to explain the situation helps you see it more clearly and links the ideas together better in a way that you become aware of more possibilities than you were able to see before.

But I've always had a problem talking to inanimate objects.  Call me less imaginative, I guess.  Or timid, maybe.

Well, I've had the feeling for a while now that using Git with small commits made me more productive.  And I just realized, I'm using my future self as a rubber ducky, and that the act of writing explanatory commit messages to explain things to my future self is a source of ideas for me.