Sunday, August 25, 2013

8/25 - Now THAT's over with...

Ever since my anxiety went away a week or so ago, when I had that epiphany about not getting fired if I work hard enough, I've found it nearly impossible to put in work after hours. I've brought my laptop home every night, but only actually worked on homework one night in the past week and a half.  I think this might be part of the cause:
 I've worked on homework at work, while also working on cards (a little). I'd like to say I've been busy accomplishing other things, but most nights you can find me glued to my phone, playing this:
Important stuff, right?

It doesn't help I've been fatigued this past week. That might be due to how hard I'm pushing myself physically, and maybe to how poorly I'm sleeping (again).

I did get quite a bit accomplished this weekend. Superman and I have started running from each others houses for our long runs. He drives my car home, then runs to his house while I run home from his place. It's pretty much exactly a 13 mile run door to door. I get the easy route, which has like a 400 foot elevation drop. He gets to run all uphill. Lucky for me he likes punishment like that. I'll have my chance to get good at hill work when my runs get closer to marathon length.

After the run, I got all my grocery shopping done, then did a lot of cooking. I normally do my cooking for the week on Sundays, but I was supposed to spend the afternoon with a friend today. She bailed at the last minute, which actually worked for me because I had to find a dress for a wedding next weekend. 4 hours of shopping this afternoon and I found the perfect dress. It's cute, summery, hides my belly, and cost all of $13 (marked down from $70). Some days the shopping gods just smile on down on a person. I won't even have to buy new shoes!

I came home with the dress, then did a lot more food processing. The shopping gods smiled down on me yesterday while grocery shopping too. I scored at least $15 worth of green peppers and tomatoes for $3. I made tomato soup yesterday. Today I cut the peppers, then vacuum packed and froze them. I did laundry and dishes, puttered in my garden, and basically took a rest day.

I don't have anything to laugh at today. Instead I have something that's been bothering me for a while now.

I normally don't have any difficulty finding my moral compass. I live by the rule "an it harm none, do as you will." I try not to judge, and I try to behave in ways that are true to myself. When I start doing things that make me uncomfortable with myself, I look at why, then work toward getting back into balance.

I'm currently doing things that make me uncomfortable with myself, in relation to a friend of mine. He's not a "empty my bank account for you" type of friend. It's more a "hang out every once in a while and have a few laughs" kind of relationship. This friend has of late become quite exhausting to be around. I guess it's a good thing he's comfortable enough to be his true self around me, which from what he's told me has not been the case for most of the time I've known him. His true self, however, is somewhat inappropriate and a bit demanding. The last time I saw him, he talked at me non-stop, preventing me from talking with anyone else in the room for the entire time I was there.

I find I'm now avoiding this person. This is the part I'm uncomfortable with. I don't like planning things around trying not to see him. On the other hand, I get the impression telling him he's inappropriate would only egg him on to be even more so. I'm also a little afraid of his reaction, as he's indicated he has violent thoughts. I don't know how valid my impression of him is any more. I don't know what he's capable of, and I no longer trust his behavior.

I also don't know what my responsibility is to this person. The "friendship" was based on who he presented himself to be, which is apparently not who he really is. Do I try to talk with him and let him know why I'm no longer hanging around, or do I just stop hanging around where he is? The latter is not all that difficult, since I'm unhappy hanging out where he is for other reasons. The only real draw at this point is to hang out with someone else, who appears to be content moving the hang-out spot as well.  (how convoluted was THAT sentence?!?)

I'm probably going to have to confront him at some point, which is not an appealing option. I can't keep avoiding him though, and I don't want to hang out with him any longer. Telling him is really the only option left. I guess I knew that, just didn't want to admit it to myself.

See, there are benefits to writing this stuff out. Thanks!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

8/20 - ADD Girl strikes again (aka As Always, A Work In Progress)

Another quote that doesn't necessarily fit the mood of the day, except it kind of sort of does. I'm far happier after last week's epiphany. I'm more relaxed, I'm doing things I enjoy instead of work work work work work. At the same time, I'm still working hard to get where I need to be skills-wise. It seems I've turned a corner of sorts.

ADD Girl (I totally see myself in purple spandex tights and a rainbow tie dyed cape when I say "ADD Girl.") <Strikes impressive pose> <Hey Look! A chicken!>

I'm currently researching my SaaS paper, trying to fix the Synergy interaction between my work laptop and my desktop, and obviously blogging. This is not the most split my attention has ever been, either.

I don't know who Lord Chesterfield was, but he wrote a note to his son that actually fit the moment (and my life):
“There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time.”
Too bad my brain don't work that way. I understand things take longer when you're taking time out to do other things. I also understand those who multitask are actually not as productive as those who focus on a single thing at a time. I am personally less productive when forced to focus on only one thing for long periods, because my mind wanders. I miss information while wool-gathering, and have to drag myself back to the present. I realize I could probably get better at this focus with discipline, but man is it hard!

I'm starting to like my job. Actually getting to do some work yesterday helped. Having my card pass on the first QA today, helped. Not being anxiety ridden helps. Taking pages and pages of notes on how to do things in the program, then being able to recreate those things while I transcribed the notes definitely helped. So did sharing some of the notes with another member of the team. I'm helpful!

I spent part of the morning completing the notes transcription, then dove into my Learn Ruby the Hard Way exercises. The Hard Way, according to the author, is the way programmers used to learn. It consists of:

  1. Going through each exercise.
  2. Typing in each sample exactly.
  3. Making it run.

I've gone through 4 lessons, one of which was how to install the necessary programs on my machine. So far I'm liking this method. It doesn't presuppose I know anything. I've had to do some research on Google, but having to research and find an answer helps me to remember that answer later. I didn't get as far as I'd hoped, but that doesn't matter in the long run. The suggestion is that I spend at least an hour a day practicing. I'm not sure I can commit to that much time, but I can certainly try.

The afternoon was spent revisiting the Ruby Fundamentals class. This time it was taught by the person who put together the curriculum. While it lasted 2 of the 4 scheduled hours, unlike the last time I took this class it did not feel at all rushed. I was able to ask my questions. My understanding is deeper. Still not where I need to be to write comfortably, but I'm getting there. Hopefully I'll be close enough where I need to be before next week, when I understand I'll be taking 4 hours a day of a combination of Ruby and Gherkin. I'm supposed to be able to use the Ruby in those classes. At this point I haven't been invited to those classes, but I expect if they're happening I will be included.

I went to take the Tap Out class after work, but no one else showed up so I just played with weights. I was pleased to be able to increase my dumb bells to 15 lbs., from the 10 lb. weights I used last week. I'm curious to see what my arms feel like in a day or two, after 2 sets of 20 reps each on all the exercises I could think of. There are 3 exercises I did with 5 lb weights, because 10 was too much and there are no 8s at work. There was one exercise I started with 10s and bumped up to 15s. There was one exercise I started the 2nd set with 15s and knocked it down to 10s. I did full push-ups. They were ugly but they were deeper than I've been for a long time.

In case you didn't notice I'm quite thrilled to be feeling stronger. I'm seriously thinking of adding a 3rd day of lifting to my week. I'm thinking about watching P90X videos again, or studying YouTube for new exercises. I don't want to do the full classes, but I do want to move in different ways. I don't want to get into a rut.

I'm still trying to figure out how best to get my running in too. I like running more than I did a year ago. I've changed my gait, which has eliminated most of the issues I used to deal with. I certainly like being able to say I ran. I still have trouble actually getting out the door during the week though. This is not a good thing when it adversely affects my weekend long runs. As always, a work in progress.

Monday, August 19, 2013

8/19 - Random ADD blatherings

This quote doesn't have anything to do with anything, except it's one of my favorites. While I was in Support I printed it out and had it on my wall, with a tag line at the end saying "Everyone is just trying to get stuff done." It helped on the days the world was full of angry.

It's been a crazy whirlwind couple of days around here. Not so much drama and excitement as just jam-packed with one thing after another:
Friday was an unsuccessful struggle to convert more Python to Ruby. It was also dinner and FroYo with Monkey Boy and Superman. 
Saturday was a harder-than-it-should-have-been long run, grocery shopping, and dinner with the Goddess and son for her birthday. Saturday was also a stop at the computer store for a book on C#, and I found an on-line course in Ruby too. I haven't done anything with either of them yet, but it makes me feel better to have them. Odd little security blankets, I know. 
Sunday was a rush to get all my weekly cooking done before spending the afternoon with my Mom, house hunting. We saw one house I wouldn't mind living in, even if it is more house than my mother has right now. We got an idea what she needs, size wise, and what is available. Now comes the hard part of getting her house ready for market and her stuff ready to move. Toward that end (kind of), Sunday night was also a trip to both Mom's and Superman's with a jack-of-all-trades contractor. 
It doesn't sound like a lot, but it kicked my buttocks.

I completed another card at work today, learning things about both Bacon Patrol and Powerbuilder in the process. I was able to see at a glance when one of the form boxes had a field in it similar to a mail merge, where it inserted the name of the form instead of having it hard typed in. I'm working my way through the required on-line courses, taking notes, and basically doing what I do to learn. It's very nice not to have the past month and half's anxiety beating me about the head and shoulders.

Tonight I meant to do several things that didn't get done. I wanted to get a couple miles in. I wanted to study Ruby and get a start on the newest SaaS paper I have due. Instead I went from Wal Mart to Wal Mart looking for an affordable juicer, only to decide I can't afford one and I'm not even sure I'd use it. I'm getting better at being gadget girl... at least some days.

I wanted a juicer because I want to stop drink soda (again!). I've actually mostly stopped, except instead of soda I'm now drinking a Monster (or two) every day. It goes well with my iced tea, you see. I don't like the tea straight and I don't like just water all day every day, so I'm looking for something to spike one, the other, or both. I thought fruit juice would be good, but there's all sorts of added crap in store bought juice. That brought me to the juicer, but I just can't bring myself to spend the $$. I have a little plastic hand held citrus juicer, and decided to give that a try to see if this idea will even work. My first attempt at tea with it, I made the mistake of changing both the number of tea bags and the juice instead of Monster. I'm thinking either more tea bag or more juice. Since it's already a full grapefruit of juice, I'm hoping the teabag will suffice.

I also spent time making salads for the week. I'm surprised at how much food I actually need in a day. Need? Want? Am hungry for? All I know is lately it seems I'm not bringing enough to eat. I end up either buying at the cafeteria so I'm not hungry trying to work out after work, or going hungry and most times just not working out.  Neither is a viable solution. This week I'd purchased salad fixings, but decided I didn't need them. Today changed my mind, so I put all that together for the week. Now I'll have enough to take me through my exercise class, and will only need the cup of homemade tomato soup and a handful of strawberries when I get home. At least that's the plan.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

8/15 - Feeling better

I'm just going to keep telling myself this...

I don't want to jinx it, but this has so far been a pretty good week. I worked with the training coordinator to take several completed tasks off my to do list today. I completed a card for the team and learned some more about the PowerBuilder program. I'm being given the opportunity to retake the Ruby class (scheduled for Tuesday) and the Bacon Patrol overview class (scheduled for Thursday).

I also found out more about why Jesus got fired. Turns out I really do have nothing to worry about. I am not about to be fired for skipping training sessions and telling my manager "I didn't want to go." I'm not about to be fired for not handing in homework, for spending 7 of my 8 hours at work on Magic the Gathering forums and watching Batman videos. I'm certainly not about to be fired for skipping my 1:1 meeting with my manager, where we're supposed to communicate about how I'm doing and how I feel about what I'm doing.

So yeah. Add together last night's realization that they won't fire me if I work hard enough and continue to show improvement, with today's new information on why exactly we're now down a man, and I'm feeling a palpable reduction in stress levels.

That said, I didn't make a whole heck of a lot of progress today. I knocked another on-line class off my list. Then I spun my wheels for about 2 hours trying to convert a new Python homework program to Ruby. I'm missing something, and I'm not sure yet what it is. I'm not clear enough on how and when to successfully use classes and/or variables. I may just need to memorize a bunch of methods. I may need to dig deeper into more complex examples. I'd planned to spend time tonight on CodeAcademy, going back to the beginning to see if I missed anything, but that didn't happen. I know I need to continue working hard toward catching up, but I don't have to work every waking hour. Just like I need rest days from working out, I took a rest day from stressing out.

I did have a good hard workout today. Tuesday and today I started by playing with 10lb dumb bells. I know several exercises from P90X videos, so I just did them each 20x. Then I took the Tap Out class, using 3lb weights for all the punching sections. I will probably move up to 5 lb weights for that, pretty soon. I refuse to do most of the floor work because it hurts my back, so I modify by doing something similar in a standing position. This equates into quite a few knee ups, and I'm ok with that. I do try to get as many pushups in as I can, even if most of those are still on my knees. I felt my arms all day today, from Tuesday's workout. I feel them now from today's, so tomorrow and Saturday should be fun.

Superman sent me this smile yesterday:
I love me some pumpkin spice. Not sure how I'm going to get to enjoy it when I'm gluten and sugar free, but we'll see what happens.

I haven't talked much about my current food plan. I've been working at gluten free for a while, and have been successful for over a month now. The sugar free has lasted 3 weeks, except for last Friday when I got trashed on mango margaritas. I'm obviously more inclined to make an exception on the sugar front than I am the gluten one, and I still can't envision my entire life without sugar. I'm leaning very hard toward Paleo (pretty much defined here, though I still eat cheese) as the most sustainable for my particular needs.

The gluten free is supposed to help keep my auto-immune thyroid disorder in check. The sugar free is supposed to help keep me from binging. The paleo is because I like the idea of whole, non-processed foods, and because it fits in with the gluten and sugar free restrictions.

I don't know how well the gluten free thing is working yet, and won't until I've been gluten free for longer than a month at a stretch. I'll need blood tests and probably at least 6 months to a year before I'm convinced it's working, or not. As far as sugar free goes though, other than late night "I'm tired looking for energy" binges (which have been confined to nuts and the occasional peach), I've been doing much better. I don't eat everything in sight. I don't always eat everything on my plate, or that I bring for lunch. As far as I can tell the scale hasn't changed any, but with my thyroid disorder water weight is a constant. I'm mostly comfortable with my current plan, which is mostly what's important. We'll see what my comfort levels are once the pumpkin spice hits the shelves, though...

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

8/12 - Following my dream and bubble therapy

Following this dream is hard....

My manager suggested Monday that I start taking the Python programs I'm writing for the MIT Introduction to Computer Programming class, and convert them to the Ruby language. I don't need to know Python. I just need to understand the concepts of computer programming. I also need to know Ruby, in part so I can complete upcoming courses in my training. At the time I didn't think I was ready for a challenge like that. Somewhere between Monday and yesterday I changed my mind, at least enough to be willing to give it a try.

This seems to be a theme, by the way. Someone suggests I try something. I immediately say "I'm not ready for that." Then, soon thereafter, I'm trying to figure out how to go about whatever they suggested. If I can curb that initial outburst of uncertainty, I think I'd look more like a go-getter and less like the nervous wreck I feel inside. Just a thought....

Yesterday I decided to try converting some of the homework. I didn't get very far, instead watching a 4 hour video and catching up on assessments and tests I hadn't know were required on some of the classes I've already completed. I also found I was missing a component of SQL Server Management Studio which was listed as a class. That meant I needed it. I spent some time researching how to get it and why I didn't have it, but was unable to install the missing program before leaving for the day.

This morning I woke up thinking I would not only convert the programs to Ruby, but also to Visual Basic. I need to learn the .NET environment, and that requires either Visual Basic or C#. Before I even left for work I'd been up and down on my emotional roller coaster several times, excited about the idea of converting the programs, but concerned over learning 3 languages at once. I imagined what some of the people at work would say, and it wasn't supportive in my head. Of course, by the time I got to work I was feeling overwhelmed and behind schedule again. That seems to be the norm lately, at least part of every day.

I started the work day by visiting another team's stand up meeting, which is part of my new hire requirements. I have to visit all the teams' stand up meetings, eventually. As I was leaving that meeting I heard one of the new hires talking about an intro to C# video training he was taking. A light bulb went off. I talked to one of the trainers on my team, the one who taught the .NET class. He convinced me C# would be better than Visual Basic to learn, for multiple reasons. I now had a plan. I would convert the programs to both Ruby and C#, learning all 3 languages as I went.

First I wanted to get that program I was missing installed onto my machine. Turns out I'd installed the Express edition of SQL Server Management Studio. Express not only doesn't come with SQL Server Profiler, it also prohibits installation of Profiler for some reason. I tried several fixes suggested by various people on the internet, before realizing I really needed to uninstall everything having to do with Management Studio. I was hesitant to do this because I had connections to several databases, plus Powerbuilder, I didn't want to lose. I tried every other suggestion I could find first, but finally admitted defeat and uninstalled Management Studio. Only then could I reinstall the program complete with Profiler. This took the better part of the day, what with uninstalls and reinstalls.

I didn't twiddle my thumbs while my machine was chugging away. I watched some of the intro to C# video. I had a few meetings. We found out the other new hire on my team was let go, so there was a lot of talk about that.

Yes, they fired Jesus. That freaked me out a bit too. I'm not sure who the hell I am anymore, with all this uncertainty and insecurity. Several people had to reassure me, both subtly and outright, that I have nothing to worry about. Of course I'm still concerned I can't learn what I need fast enough, but I'm confident if I continue to work REALLY hard they won't fire me too. Jesus was fired for spending too much time on Magic the Gathering forums, watching cartoons, and doing math equations instead of work. I know he was warned. We meet with our managers every two weeks, one-on-one, specifically to go over concerns on both sides. He was given opportunity to change, but from what I gather he opted not to. This makes no sense to me, but I guess at this point it doesn't matter. He was an irritation to me, and even more so to other members of the team. Now he's gone and I have one less distraction. I'm not doing a happy dance, but part of me is breathing a sigh of relief.

I rode the "they fire people who can't cut it!" wave of anxiety all the way home though. Superman was very supportive, as he has been through this whole roller coaster ride. I sat down after dinner and banged out Ruby and C# interpretations to the first homework assignment. I expected the programs to take much longer than they did, which was a happy surprise. I'm sure as the problems become more challenging, the conversions will too. For now though, I have something to hand in and show for my efforts. Progress is being made, which is important in keeping my job.

I did not indulge in bubble therapy, though I have bubbles at the ready if necessary.

Monday, August 12, 2013

8/12 - Exhaustipated

Today was a good day, though it didn't start that way. After 3 nights averaging around 5 hours sleep, plus physically exhausting myself more than expected at yesterday's race, I was on the low end of my emotional roller coaster. On the way to work I was tired and stressed, feeling behind again with only one homework assignment completed and one video watched to show for the weekend. I was not looking forward to work, where I don't feel I'm working. 

I can see the pattern where I feel better when I actually get stuff done, when I'm not feeling quite as behind. I handed in the homework I completed yesterday. I wrote and handed in my SaaS paper today, which has been hanging over my head for almost a week. I watched today's MIT lecture, and realized the concepts I thought I had to watch the recitations for were covered in the following lecture. While the recitations are good for reiteration, all the concepts appear to be covered in the main lectures, which reduces the hours of video I need to watch by 12. It would still be good to watch them, but if I'm short on time I don't HAVE to. I didn't get the 4 hour Plural Site video watched, but I also don't have any new classes on my schedule until Friday. All this was enough to reduce the stress I'd felt on my way in this morning.

By the end of the day I thought I had to redo two classes, one because the assessment I took did not register and the second because I could not find how to take the assessment. I figured out the first I just needed to page through the entire online "class" again for my score to count. The second I actually will have to take over because, once I figured out how to take it, I failed the 6 question assessment twice. I got two answers wrong on something I watched a week ago, taking the test while my team was in the middle of a loud joke-a-thon and I was barely awake enough to remember how to breathe. Silly me. (As an aside, I cannot WAIT for the noise cancelling headphones I ordered to arrive! Hopefully they will be here by the end of the week.) I'm not stressing about this assessment because the site insists I wait a month before I can try again. I'll worry about it then.

I had my 1:1 with my manager today, which also helped me feel better. He is comfortable with my progress and obvious dedication, and is happy with the daily updates I've been sending out. We talked about how to apply the Python knowledge to Ruby and .NET. I need to expand my focus to learning Ruby, which I plan to do through the CodeAcademy site. The Python classes should help with the actual programming concepts, but I have a 4 day session coming up which I'll need to be able to code in Ruby to get through. I was able to complete the homework for the Ruby class I took, but I am not exactly fluent. I would fall behind without practice beforehand.

We talked about the other classes I have to take. I made it clear he should not refrain from signing me up for technical classes, just because I don't have experience coding. For instance, I should be fine in the XML class, having read and worked with XML files in Support for the past year.

This was me by the time I got home. Not just for seniors any more! I left work early, immediately after my meeting with my manager. Let me tell you how much I enjoy the freedom of a salaried position that way. I come in anywhere between 8:30 and 9:15, so long as I'm there for the 9:15 stand up meeting where everyone on the team talks about what they're working on that day. I take a lunch if and when I feel like it (I don't usually feel like it). If I feel like it, that lunch can be 15 minutes or an hour and a half, providing I don't miss any meetings. I leave anywhere between 5:00 and 6:30, depending on how involved I am in what I'm doing. They get their hours from me, but I don't feel I'm working a full day because I don't have to take lunch out of the middle. If I'm too tired to function, like I was by the end of today, I tell my manager I'm leaving early and just go. As Monkey Boy would say, Boom Boom.

I came home and took a nap. I thought I would get more homework done after, but that's not happening. I'm heading back to bed here shortly.

But first, today's laugh. I received this comment on yesterday's post:
Dear Hannah,
I'm happy you're glad to have stumbled onto my blog. Did you actually read any of it? If you did, you would see I've only been blogging on this site for about a month, and besides my sister and my mother you are the only person to comment. For all I know, besides my family you are the only other person to read anything I've written. This blog is a completely narcissistic brain dump of my days, a public diary with little content anyone besides my family would find interesting. Why in the world would I feature guest postings?

This was not spam in the literal sense. There was no link to some erectile dysfunction or knockoff handbag site. There was no link to anything except Hannah's profile, which had no information whatsoever. It was the oddest thing, and random enough to make me laugh out loud.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

8/11 - Just another weekend

I'm not certain I have the stomach for introspection either, lately...

The stress is back again. I discovered Friday there's an extra 12 hours or so of lecture I need to watch in the MIT course. I didn't think the recitations were important, because at first glance they appeared to be video-taped study group sessions. Turns out they cover whatever the professor didn't get to in class, and oh by the way they reiterate what he did cover, too. Since it's a teacher's assistant the material is presented in a different way, and the more times I hear it explained the better off I'm going to understand. Looks like once or twice a week I have to double up on the video watching, to make sure I get all the info.

I also discovered the training coordinator wasn't planning to schedule me for anything until I get through this course, which of course makes me feel like I'm falling behind again. I looked at the schedule for one of the other people I've been in training with, and informed the coordinator he can put me in most of the same classes. They are all Plural Site, which means death by PowerPoint and not instructor led. This means I'm not wasting anyone's time if I have to visit Google U to understand a concept. However, I have been exposed to XML, HTML, and I've seen a few CSS too. I think I can handle these. I'm a little annoyed with the idea that, since I don't know coding, I apparently don't know ANYTHING.

When I talked with the coordinator about it, he told me he'd send me the list of classes I need to take, from which I can cherry pick those I think I can handle. This is probably the best approach, though I get the feeling he's getting tired of me. He was visibly exasperated, at any rate. That's another stressor. I don't like being a special case.

I know my manager said he expected it would take longer for me to get up to speed, but I was kind of counting on not being the only one on the short bus. Turns out the person I thought was in the same boat is apparently not, so much. He was able to figure out and hand in the java homework, which is awesome for him. The training coordinator basically told me as long as this guy can hang, he's going to continue scheduling him in the classes. Implying again that I can't hang.

I'm not particularly fond of the training coordinator right now.

I planned to do homework all weekend. I had the problem set from the MIT course, plus 4 hours of death by PowerPoint on Agile Team Practices with Scrum. I was supposed to watch that earlier in the week, but it got pushed off to figure out what my training schedule should look like. I also had the hour of MIT Recitation lecture I didn't think I would need. I still have a paper to write on two different ways to scale a web application, too.

Somehow, all of that did not get done. I pushed the 4 hour death by PowerPoint class off until Monday, before I even left work Friday. I did watch the recitation, and finished one of the MIT problems. I didn't realize there were a total of 3 problems from this assignment. I did some research on the paper, but it was little more than article gathering. I haven't actually read any of the articles yet, to get the info in my head well enough to write about anything.

I can't even tell you what I did yesterday. Errands. Grocery shopping. Dishes and laundry. Very little in the way of homework. I can tell you what I'll be doing most nights from now on. You guessed it. Homework.

This morning I had the Perfect 10-Miler race. Blah Blah Blah didn't sleep well. Blah Blah Blah upset stomach. Blah Blah Blah can't run the first 2 miles of any run lately, because my ankles and shins HURT. I'm fine once they loosen up, but I have no idea how to loosen them up any faster. It's very frustrating. I tried walking and stretching before the race today. That didn't work. I've tried walking a full mile, which helped some. Even slow running does not work. I ultimately have to walk until they loosen up.

So I did a lot of walking the first 2 miles. You can see by the graph below though, once I found my pace I pretty much kept it regardless of hills. Also, upset stomach. The dip in the middle at the top of the hill was a porta potty stop - the first I've ever taken in a race.
Not my best race, but I wasn't in it to win it. However, it was the motivation I needed to get running regularly again, and I'm still focused on my marathon next year. I plan to sign up for it right after this year's marathon in October, so I have that same deadline motivation I had for this race. I have a training plan worked out, though it will of course change over time. I'm incapable of sticking to a plan long term, and Superman asked today if I wanted to go back to yoga come September. The answer to that is a resounding YES, but it will mean shifting my long runs to Sundays, which means I might not be able to run on Mondays like I am now. I might switch to Tuesday Thursday runs, with the workout classes at work on Monday Wednesday and Yoga on Saturdays. Maybe. We'll see how it all plays out.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

8/8 - Just a day

I pretty much got nothing today. I went to work, learned a little about programming, completed the card I picked up yesterday (I'm getting REALLY good at forms), and started trying to find info on the scalability paper I'm supposed to write. I came home, ran 4 miles (took over 2 to get the kinks out enough to really run) then had dinner with Monkey Boy.

It was just a day. Albeit a good one, but just a day. I hope I have more like this, soon!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

8/7 - Surreal

Photo Credit
After the stress and drama of the past few weeks, as I fought to stay afloat and on top of the learning curve at work, today was downright surreal. I walked in on time (not early like I said I would be) and immediately got started on my stored procedure homework. I found a few mistakes in the one stored procedure I'd already written, then wrote the other I needed for my Database Programming homework. No stress. No distractions. Just came and in put in work. It's amazing what a plan of action and concrete direction can do for my psyche.

I handed in the stored procedures and moved on to the MIT Intro to Computer Programming course. I am even more convinced this course is what I'm missing, after today's lecture. It covered objects, data types, and I wrote my first little Python program. I had to figure out how commands differed between the version of Python in the lectures, which are from 2011, and the version I'd installed on my machine. I had to figure out how to make my program run. I accomplished all that, and understand the concepts underlying the assignment. I forwarded my completed assignment to the Sr. Engineers who are supposed to review and make recommendations for me to aid in my learning.

I also completed about 98% of the card I'd picked up. I have one more edit to make, which the QA person found while I was making the other edits. I also completely reformatted one of the forms, and have to figure out why it's rendering 2 pages wide in addition to the 3 down it is and should be. I might have to ask someone for pointers on where to look for that, but I'm expected to ask questions.

Overall, it was a normal day, or at least as normal as my days are SUPPOSED to be. Refreshing, that. I didn't even bring my laptop home, for the first time in weeks. I had absolutely no intention of working tonight, and have spent the evening playing a mindless jewel game.

Of course, now the stress and drama are seemingly over, my body is reacting to it all. I was exhausted for no apparent reason, all day. The exhaustion made me apathetic about running, so I took another rest day today. I'll certainly have kinks to work out before Sunday's race, but I'm not stressing about it at all. It's just another long run, albeit with a crowd of people and a festive atmosphere.

I'm not stressing about anything right now, except how to beat this level on my phone.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

8/6 - I think we have a plan

I'm not sure riding a bicycle is the appropriate image for this quote, but this quote is certainly appropriate for my state of mind today. I have to do the work in order to learn. After meetings yesterday and today, I now have a plan to 1) do actual work in the program I will be supporting, and 2) do actual programming in python, which should fill in the missing gaps in my knowledge.

I didn't realize until today how much being behind on my training has made studying and learning more difficult. Questions and concerns pop into my mind when I'm trying to listen to lectures or focus on what I'm reading. I found myself on that merry-go-round again this morning, in the SaaS class I was scheduled to take. More than once I found my brain drifting off to how I was going to get caught up, to what I still have due, and to where the holes in my knowledge lay. I also found myself worrying about whether my predicament will color how the team and management see my potential. I do not want to get dinged on this come year end review time.

Following up on yesterday's meeting with my manager, I came in this morning and picked up another card from the work in progress board. Sink or swim it is! Turns out it's the same card I'd picked up on the 25th, which I'd had to put on hold. The other new engineer picked it up and submitted his changes, but the QA failed the card because there were at least 19 things missed. Considering how many forms and changes this card covers, that sounds about right. Anyway, I pulled it from the failed column and have marked it as mine. I told my manager I'll be cherry picking from now on, trying to find easier cards until I get more confident in the program. My current goal is to successfully complete at least one card a week.

I had a meeting with my manager and the training coordinator this afternoon, to make sure we are all on the same page regarding what to do about the holes in my training. I wanted to make sure we all have the same expectations regarding what I'm doing and how long it takes me to do it. The biggest outcome of that meeting is I will be taking the MIT Introduction to Computer Science and Programming course, which is offered free online.

This course is 26 lectures, each approximately 45-50 minutes long. There is homework, to be completed in Python, after each lecture. The training coordinator at first thought I could just listen to the lectures all day every day, get through the course in a week, and be where I need to be. I had to explain that was not a good idea, that I would quickly get burnt out, would not retain the information, and would not have time to do the homework on a schedule like that.

The end result is I will watch 1-2 lectures a day, depending on my other classes. Add in working on cards and other team meetings, and I'm thinking this will be a lecture a day. I'm supposed to do the homework, which will be checked by the Sr. Engineers. I'm supposed to take notes and let the training coordinator know if there's anything I could have skipped over, in case they need to send anyone else through this course. I'm also supposed to continue on the current training path, and catch up with the programming homework as I learn enough to do so.

I made sure to reiterate several times in the meeting that I have no problem with learning, that I enjoy learning and do it well. What I had a problem with was trying to teach myself visual basic to do the .NET homework,  then trying to teach myself the fundamentals of programming to do the Ruby and Java programming. Spending so much time and energy on teaching myself these fundamentals meant I couldn't focus on other homework, like the SQL Database Programming, which I know how to do.

I'm afraid I might have said too much about lying in bed at night, wondering what I got myself into. I probably should have left that unsaid, but for some reason I'm all about open foot insert mouth lately. I can think of at least 4 things I've said to various people in the last month that I wish I hadn't. I'm not usually so much a stream of consciousness person, but apparently this is who I am right now!

My plan for this week is to finish the one stored procedure I need to hand in the Database Programming homework, write the paper from today's SaaS course, take one of these lectures (plus homework) a day, and spend any time left on the card I picked up. I started coming in about 15 minutes earlier, and will leave a little later in order to get it all done. I really do not like having homework I know how to do hanging out there, so I need to make time to get it handed in. Apparently getting it done in the evenings is not working out for me, because I've brought my computer home several days in a row and barely even logged on. This is actually a good week to focus on catch-up, since I only have one other scheduled class (a 4 hour Plural Site death by PowerPoint I plan to complete on Friday).

I opted not to attend the Tap Out class today, in part because I wanted to finish the first lecture in the MIT course. In part because when I woke up today my whole body was yelling at me to take a rest day. Also, my lower back has been tender and I don't want to push that too hard when I have a race this weekend. I ended up walking 4 miles after dinner, which I think was a perfect alternative. I worked out some stiffness but didn't stress anything already stressed. I'm taking each day as it comes, when it comes to working out this week. I'm not taking the race seriously, but I don't want it to be a slog or the worst long run ever, either.

Monday, August 5, 2013

8/5 - A sigh of relief (or "another turn on the merry-go-round")

Several hours of death-by-PowerPoint classes later...
I've been stressing all weekend about the list of things I need to know before I can even begin to work in my new job. I came in this morning and immediately asked my manager if he had a few minutes to talk. I felt they shouldn't have hired me as an engineer, if they were going to presuppose all new hires have a level of knowledge I told them in my interview I did not have. I'm not stupid enough to suggest that, though. I wanted to let him know the MIT classes I'd found were 26 hours, each. I wanted to ask him how the math majors they'd hired in the past were brought up to speed. We talked about how much of this training I'm really going to need.

I told him how it worked in Support, with our one week of training before hitting the phones. I suggested sink or swim might be a valid choice here. I'll learn whatever they want me to know, but I let him know I was concerned they would get tired of waiting for me to get up to speed. I suggested I could cherry pick some of the easier cards, just to get experience actually working in the program. Ultimately I wanted assurances that, providing I continue to work very hard to get where I need to be, they will continue to give me the time needed to get where I need to be.

It was a good conversation. Turns out the math majors spent months in a conference room with an engineer, being taught .NET. Turns out at least my manager is not going to be concerned if it takes me another month or so to get up to speed. He even suggested I don't try to set any speed records in learning everything.

My manager must have then talked to the training coordinator, because I had an impromptu meeting with HIM later in the day. He said he understood how frustrated I must be with this training experience. I told him it wasn't the learning I had a problem with, it was the fear I wasn't learning fast enough to absorb everything they were throwing at me. He told me not to worry, that they are taking me out of the existing program until I can learn what I need, then they will put me through the program again.

I think I mentioned some of the fun I've been having with my insurance company, since finding my policy covered a car I haven't owned for 6 months. I had them put the new lease vehicle on my policy the day my car was flooded. Shortly after, I received a refund check for $.53. Yes, 53 cents.

The person I talked with that day suggested I call the following Monday to get a refund for the amount of time I'd paid for insurance on a car I didn't own. After much conversation, it was determined a refund would result in a 6-month period of time where I was uninsured, which would result in an increase in premiums. Instead, they suggested they could change the policy from the last 6 months to operator only, where I was insured but there was no car listed. This resulted in about a $200 refund, which satisfied my outrage at having paid over $400 for nothing.

I received the final check for this refund over the weekend (2 checks, because the time frame covered 2 policy payments). Because I hadn't been notified differently, I checked my policy and found I am now the proud owner of an operator only policy. They did not put the lease vehicle back on, so I attempted to put the lease vehicle back on. For some reason the on-line tool wanted to charge me $100 more than I had previously paid?!? I called the insurance company today, and after 20 minutes of wrangling was told the cost would be $100 more because I am coming from an operator only policy.


So basically, I went from potentially getting a full refund but having to pay extra for not having insurance over the last 6 months, to getting a partial refund and having to pay extra for not having a car over the last 6 months.

I am rather proud of my reaction. I was angry, and I let them know I was angry. I did not, however, yell. I did not swear (which I have done in situations like this in the past). I maintained my stance of righteous indignation. I told them I felt I was being robbed, and if they insist on charging me this rate that I will take my insurance needs elsewhere. Over the course of the conversation the agent said something about the fact that I was, in fact, covered the whole time. At that point I said I wanted to file a claim for the water damage, which I had been told I couldn't do because that car wasn't covered. I'm certain they will tell me, because I was covered but the car wasn't, that the claim will be denied. The agent wanted to talk to the person who actually converted my policy, saying the fact they gave me a refund indicated they were accepting culpability.

I spoke with that agent again later in the day, and the story didn't get any better. He insisted  the car dealership started calling the insurance company on 2/11, asking if I had coverage for the new car. That would be a full 2 weeks before I even went in to look at new cars. He told me they called several times, and were told each time I did not have coverage on the 2013 lease. There was no talk of filing a claim, accepting a claim, or adjusting my rates back to where they were.

I'm claiming bullshit, and have spent the evening looking up insurance quotes. I actually found two quotes that are less than I was paying. Now I just have to decide if I wait until the operator only policy runs out before changing companies, or if I get real coverage now. Technically I'm covered, it's just the car that isn't. The question is, how much am I willing to gamble? I'm also seriously considering reducing the insurance I carry, since it's obvious the car dealership doesn't care if I carry what they told me they wanted. They were apparently told several times that I didn't have coverage, but never called me or did anything about the coverage deficiency.
I visited my favorite park after work today, for 4 much-needed shake-out miles. My quads were still tight from Saturday's run, so today started out a little rocky. I kept pushing though, and by the last mile was flying. I really love the feeling of flying!

I'm not sure how to taper for a race I don't really care about, except that it was an excuse to get me running. I've pretty much decided not to taper at all, other then reducing my Saturday run to a 3-miler since the long run will be Sunday's race. I'd planned to push the mileage back the following week, but now I'm excited about trying to run home from Superman's again. I guess I'll play it by ear and see how I feel. The one thing I'm NOT willing to do is let myself get injured again. I know I have a year before my marathon, but I believe I need every week of that time to adequately prepare.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

8/4 - starting to wonder

Random geek stuff. Learn more here.
I had a blog post written in my head on Friday, but got caught up writing a stored procedure for my Database Programming homework. It's nice I can get caught up in the work like that. It kind of felt like the "flow" I used to get when working with clay, where I lost track of time and was hyper focused on the task at hand. I think the ability to find flow in these work related tasks is important. It means 1) the tasks, while challenging, are not completely out of my range, and 2) I enjoy doing them enough to get lost in them. This bodes well for a future in development.

Friday afternoon I attended a JavaScript class, where I was slightly less lost than in previous programming classes. I'm starting to recognize lambdas, and to understand things like calling functions. I still struggled, and had to have most things spelled out for me, but once spelled out they made sense. I'm still at the building block stage, able to write a few letters, maybe a word or two. This is to say, while I still don't know a programming language, I'm beginning to learn the language of programming.
This is about where I am in writing code. I know a few words (like Me, which starts the sentence above). I may not put the letters in the correct order, but I can sound out a word or two (like ADN above). I even know a few things like the sentence should continue on the next line, instead of say wrapping around the page. I'm at a kindergarten level, but I'm learning. However, I'm still stressed about learning fast enough. 

There was another newly hired engineer in the JavaScript class. This person knows SQL very well. He transferred in from our SaaS department, so has quite a bit of other computer knowledge. He came from the company where we purchased the program I used to support (and is on that team in PD). He also has no programming language. This newly hired engineer is finding himself in the same position I am, struggling to understand what they are trying to teach, unable to display what we do understand without a language to express the concepts in. I understand why management hired us, but at the same time I'm starting to think it was a mistake to hire us as engineers.

It's sad, but it made me feel better to hear him ask, repeatedly, "Are you sure there wasn't a prerequisite for this class?" I don't wish this frustration on anyone, but it reduced my stress levels a little to know he will experience similar issues. This way, management HAS to see it's not just me. It's not that I am too stupid to get it.

The good news is, when that senior engineer expressed concern about my apparently obvious struggles, management and the training coordinator had a meeting to determine what I would need in order to get up to speed. They want to create a training plan for people like me, who have no computer theory background or programming language. I'm told they have brought in math majors in the past, though I'm not sure how well those people fared or how they were trained. This whole training program thing is rather new.

The bad news is, the list of what I need to learn to catch up is extensive. I am the guinea pig, and have been tasked with finding the materials to train myself. I'm supposed to share what I find so others can benefit.

Oddly enough, there is no introduction to any programming language on the list.

This is what I spent Saturday evening doing: searching Google, Youtube, the free MIT training courses, and Wikipedia for information on the list I was provided. It's a somewhat terse list, so I'm not certain in all cases that I have found the information to which they refer. However, I have a combination of videos and MIT courses that cover the majority of what they want. In all, it should only take a month or so to catch up.

A month. *sigh* I'm already starting to chaff a bit for not actually learning about the program I'll be working with. When I started in Support, they gave us a week of training then put us on the phones. We knew the bare bones, the basics, and even that not well. We learned on the fly. I'm starting to agree with the Sr. Engineer who was pushing me to get into the program. I believe I'll learn more on the fly than I will in all this disparate training on things I likely won't use anytime soon. I'm planning to have a conversation with my manager first thing tomorrow, to see what his thought process is on the whole thing.

Meanwhile, I'd hoped to have the Database Programming homework done this weekend, but that didn't happen. I worked on it Friday, worked on the list they gave me yesterday, and today I went to a Medieval Faire.
The Faire was fun, though I'm not as obsessed as some of the people we saw. There were quite a few people in costumes of various eras. There were a lot of merchants, some good music, and a few funny acts. Definitely more than could be seen in a single day. I think the day would have gone over better if I hadn't spent the first few hours trying to find the friends I was supposed to meet there. This was made even more challenging by 1) no maps, and 2) no cell signal. Ultimately we did find each other, but by then it was almost time for Superman and I to leave. He has a very early morning tomorrow and needed to get home to prepare. I hoped to get more homework done, but somehow that didn't happen. Instead, I did some cooking and caught you all up on my weekend. 

On the running front, Superman came up with the idea that I would run home from his place. He would drive my car home, and run back to his place. This is a 13 mile run, which fit in pretty well with the 12 mile run I'd planned through the park. I figured I'd walk the first mile to warm up and avoid some of the issues I'd experienced in my last few long runs. That actually worked, for the most part. Unfortunately I failed to fuel properly so this run did not go as well as last week's. I did get 9 solid miles in, on some hilly terrain. I also get to think about how best to fuel for next week's race. This is a good thing, since I hadn't really thought about it until now. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

8/1 - Nothing can bring down this good mood

This is what happens when I'm in long meetings where I don't have to take notes, just listen to someone talk for 2 hours. It is the doodle I've done pretty much my entire life, in all classes and on all school notebooks. It's not fine art, but I think it's pretty and it qualifies as today's creative outlet.

In a complete and utter departure from my normal self, I woke this morning and actually liked my body. Specifically, I admired my core, which is the first (and usually only) place I look before I start hating. It's not like the belly has gone away. I still carry far too much weight. There is still a network of stretch marks and scars. For some reason though, it looked flatter - more toned - more attractive. I didn't believe the scale that isn't mine, which said I'm down a couple pounds. I don't believe, even if the scale was right, that it will stay that way. I don't know what is different about these days, few and far between, where I don't hate this vehicle I live in.
I like to think I live by Hunter S. Thompson's view:
so I don't know why I let it bother me that my body is not pristine. It has been broken. It has healed the best it can, and I am still working on the healing process. It has been used, it has given me joy and babies and strength and satisfaction. It makes me sad that I can only appreciate these things on the days when I don't see my belly protruding too far, or when I catch the view in the window only under a certain light.

I'm attributing today's perception to the gallon of liquid I drank yesterday. My theory is drinking that much flushed out the excess water I normally carry. I have no idea if this theory is based in any type of reality, but I'm going with it and shooting for a gallon a day every day. This may not be possible, depending on my saturation levels when I started yesterday, which were likely lower than they are today. It's a goal though, one I will achieve again today.

I did not spend the entire day feeling like a sexy beast. Reality came crashing down and I no longer felt attractive and svelte. The glow remained though, enough for me to see myself without my normal shit-colored glasses. Reality is I am overweight and I have a belly. Reality also is that the excess weight does not turn me into an ogre. It does not make me ugly or unattractive.

-- heal --


Nothing can bring down this good mood. 

After walking in to work all confident on several levels, feeling attractive and intelligent enough to complete my Ruby homework, I proceeded to spin my wheels most of the day on my Programming homework. I did ask the instructor to help me narrow my focus, as I seem to have a tendency toward thinking too much about these assignments. I make them more difficult than they need to be. For some reason I resisted taking his advice, which was to create a stored procedure for a single unit order. I want to create one that can handle multiple products. I know it can be done, and have even seen posts on how to do it, but I haven't quite figured out how to write mine to successfully do so. Yet.

I also had a major attention to detail fail, where I completely missed the multiple notices that today's afternoon class required I read 3 chapters beforehand. I used to be a word processing reviewer, which means I'm trained and practiced in attention to detail. I've been floundering the last few weeks, finding time after time that my attention to detail is currently AWOL. I saw this notice in my calendar about 5 minutes before the class started. Yeah, not enough time for 38 pages. I had to ask to be pulled from today's class and rescheduled for the next one in several weeks time. This, after calling someone who's name I know by the wrong name, and showing up for a class half an hour early this morning. I can't even blame lack of sleep, because I slept very well last night, thank you very much.

THIS made me laugh today. This is our cafeteria, and the guy behind the counter is known as "Dad." His collection started with 5 little duckies. One walked away when someone brought their kid in for lunch one day, so I contributed the big black one (who is now known as "Mother Ducker"). I came in today to find the brood has doubled in size! I was quite amused.