Monday, January 15, 2018

By the Numbers

One of the management fads of the 1990s (which maybe had a Q in the name but I can't really remember) included the mantra "There's no quality without metrics". The point of it, which I actually agree with until it's taken to the extreme in a management fad, is that you have no idea whether you are making things better or worse if you don't make objective measurements to monitor your progress toward goals.

So here are the metrics for today's run:
  • Miles run: 6.4 (excellent!)
  • Average split time: 12:32 (pretty good for me)
  • Number of dogs taken with me: 1 (the little dog is not a distance athlete)
  • Number of loose dogs that ran up to us: 3 (argh!)
  • Number of dogs George got in a fight with: 0 (yay! also another reason not to bring the little dog...)
  • Number of emus seen: 7 (George thought they were veeerrryy interesting.)
  • Number of squished opossums encountered: 1
  • Number of attempts to eat squished opossum: 1 (by the dog obviously)
  • Number of times I started laughing remembering all the people who have expressed surprise that my dog can run six miles: 4 (guys, my dog is waaaaay more athletic than I am)
  • Number of post-breakfast, pre-run ice cream cones consumed: 1 (see previous note about athleticism)
  • Number of regrets about post-breakfast ice cream: 0
Anyhow, I am maybe in training for a 10k in March. I haven't signed up yet. We'll see.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Time to Dust Off the Resume?

Remember back about a month ago when I said it would be funny if I took over the unused internal blog of our group at work and started posting things on it? The idea was that I would post something funny but at least marginally work-related and see how long it would take anyone to notice.

So today I had to explain to someone why the data wasn't what she was expecting. It's something that I'm sure is going to keep coming up, so I thought "hey, this is the perfect thing to write a blog post about". Then, when the next person asked me the question, I could just point them to the blog post. Great idea, right?

I wrote the entry, titled something along the lines of "Why these fields aren't correct" and in it I explained where the data was coming from, so if it wasn't right the person complaining could go fix it themself and stop bugging me. I think I may have even used the phrase "It's your fault". The snark level was probably about 7/10 -- a little high for corporate America, but not completely rude and I figured nobody would ever see it anyhow.

So I finished it and clicked on the "Publish" button and started working on something else.

About five minutes later I had to call my boss to ask him about something unrelated and he answered the phone laughing. "I'm not done reading it yet, but it's really funny."

Scooter is contemplating my life choices

Turns out that it sends mail to people when a new blog post is published. I thought maybe it was just going to the people in the region, but while I was on the phone I got a notification that someone from New York I'd never heard of had "liked" the post.

Anyhow, my boss told me that he wouldn't be the one to fire me over it. Then when we finished the conversation he said he'd see me on Monday assuming I still have a job by then.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

How to Drive Writers Crazy (In Three Easy Steps!)

Step one: Be a NYC literary agent with a large online following. Be especially encouraging to new authors.

Step two: Host periodic flash fiction contests. (There may or may not be real prizes, but bragging rights are a definite thing.) Better yet, host a multi-part flash fiction contest over the holidays. For part one, make the contestants write a 30 word story including the word "bird". Four days later part two is a 25 word story including "ring". A few days later part three is a 25 word story including "colly". (Yes, you've read that correctly. Colly. Go ahead. Just try to casually throw in "colly" or "collywobbles" in a story with only 25 words. I'll wait. Waiting.... Still waiting... Yeah, it's not easy is it?)

Step three: Announce the parameters for the fourth and final part (20 words, "sent"). Announce the deadline (1/1/2018 6am Pacific). And then -- this is the important part for driving everyone crazy! -- don't open the comments at the start time so nobody can enter the fourth part of the contest. Tada! Achievement unlocked!

Anyhow, I have my fourth entry done even if it's not submitted. There are nearly 100 people doing this. Some of the entries are pretty amazing. I can't say I'm particularly good at flash fiction but this whole thing has been fun.

And yes, I used "colly" in round three. I think I deserve a prize just for that.

"Now, careful. Walk on the left side."

Happy New Year!

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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Back to Winter

Last night in my southern California hotel room I had to turn on the air conditioning because it was humid and 73 F in the room and there was no way I was going to sleep in that heat.

I went for a 4+ mile run this morning in a t-shirt and running pants -- the fog burned off and I spent the second half of the run wishing I'd brought shorts with me. But really, who thinks to pack shorts for the end of December?!

Then I got in my car and drove a really long time with all of the other people fleeing southern California. (Seriously, I-5 was insanely busy today and there weren't any accidents to blame it on.) When I got to Sacramento the temperature was 50 F.

That's the kind of winter I like.

My pet sitter left a note that the cats were affectionate and "the birds were noisy until they were fed". I laughed. Really? My birds? Noisy? That doesn't even begin to describe it. Still, I guess that was the easiest way for her to tell that they were doing well.

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Friday, December 29, 2017

Never Play Scrabble Against Someone Who Has Memorized All The Two Letter Words

No visit to my parents is complete without the ritual humiliation of a game of Scrabble with my mom. Luckily this time I made up for my lack of skill by picking some good tiles, so while I lost, I only lost by a small amount and didn't need to go on a seven year journey to regain my honor.

(I used all seven tiles one turn and got the extra fifty points [see comment about getting good tiles above] and still managed to lose. Oh well.)

And because I know I'll lose the picture again and the internet never forgets, here is the magic stollen recipe as made by my mom with my "help". I've included the picture of the cookbook (The Spice Cookbook) so if anything looks really wonky you can check it, but there are modifications to be made.

Stollen

2 envelopes active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (110 - 115 F)
2 tsp sugar
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1 cup scalded milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) soft butter
2 large eggs
6 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp grated lemon rind
1/2 c currants
3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup glaze cake mix (the weird candied fruit mix)
1 1/3 cups chopped almonds
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
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1/4 cup butter
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar


Place the first 3 ingredients in a mixing bowl large enough for mixing the dough. Let stand until yeast softens. Cool milk to lukewarm and add to yeast along with the 1/2 cup sugar and butter. Mix well. Beat in eggs. Stir in 3 cups of the flour, together with the salt, nutmeg, and lemon rind. Beat until batter drops in sheets from the spoon. Stir in remaining flour, raisins, currants, weird candied fruit mix, and 1 cup of the almonds. Turn onto a lightly floured board. Knead and keep retrieving all the fruit that keeps falling out until dough is smooth and satiny like the sheets from the honeymoon suite in Las Vegas. Put dough into a greased bowl, turning to bring the greased side to the top. Cover and let rise in a warm comfy place (80 - 85 F) 1 hour or until dough has doubled in size. Punch down dough. Get all your aggression out. Go on! Cover and let rest 10 minutes.

Divide the dough in half. Roll each half into a rectangular sheet 1/2 inch thick and about 12 inches long. It's okay that you apparently can't divide things in two even pieces. The world will not end although you may have to bake the humongous "half" a little longer. Mix the 1/4 cup sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle it, together with the remaining almonds, over the dough. Fold sides of each piece of dough to the middle and stretch to make long loaves, thick at the middle, narrow at the ends. Somehow I missed this part when I was "helping" and just folded them in half lengthwise and it worked just fine. Place each on a greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise in a warm place (still 80 - 85 F) 45 minutes or until double in size.

Bake in a preheated moderate oven (375 F) 25-30 minutes or until browned. Cool on racks.

When ready to serve, brush loaves with melted butter and sift confectioners' sugar over the top. This makes a big mess but is totally worth it. Enjoy!


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Thursday, December 28, 2017

Resolutions

It's almost time for New Year resolutions. Traditionally I've been against the idea, partially because I think it's stupid to tie a bunch of new behaviors and goals to something arbitrary like the position of the earth in orbit around the sun. (I realize that probably doesn't make much sense to anybody else -- just go with the flow here.) But the other reason I hate resolutions is that I can never come up with concrete goals.


This year, though, I think I'm going to be more general. I'm not going to claim to be getting in shape, or losing weight, or improving my mind because I'm just planning on continuing on my current path.

Instead, I'm planning on making more mistakes and failing.

If I'm screwing up, that means I'm trying new things. I have all kinds of things I would like to try (starting with querying a novel with agents) and there's a whole list of ways everything can go sideways, some of which I can control and some of which I can't. But either way I'd like to be more comfortable with the possibility that things can go wrong and it can be because I messed it up.

Maybe I'll come up with a mistake-o-meter with the number of times I've screwed up in the past week. Or... maybe not. I guess that could be the first mistake.


An example of a mistake. It turned into my favorite page of the Christmas calendar I made for my parents.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

I Want A Recount

First off, this is what you get when you have a family of engineers who refuse to spend money on something new when they already have something that sort of does the job. Sure, the tripod isn't really designed to hold a phone, but that's what clamps are for.

It worked just fine.

Yesterday my brother Jeff got extra brownie points for finding the oven light switch. Today he was trying to get the china down from the top shelf and the step stool he was using (for we are a mighty but short clan) slid out and he dropped the container that held all the big plates, breaking five of them in one fell swoop.

One would think that might lower his rankings, but my mom was so glad he hadn't hurt himself that somehow he ended up with bonus sympathy points despite breaking my mom's china. It's like he just can't lose. I'm going to have to study his technique...

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