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Weeknotes S04E08: C a f f e i n a t e d

The punctuation has never been so caffeinated.

I have had a mixed week, friends. Pulling out a theme is proving difficult, other than the weird way the body reacts to a lack of sleep brought on by hay fever.

As a side note, waking up in a cold sweat and unable to breathe is way sexier in movies. I did it twice this week and it’s probably my second least favourite way to wake up.

Here are some things that happened this week

1 Deep work. On Thursday, out of a total of 8 hours at work, I did 6 hours of pure coding. I got a lot done. I’ve got some clear ideas about what needs to be done next. I frequently forget how incredibly powerful long, interrupted chunks of work can be for productivity. I think it helps that on Thursday I go across town to another government building full of HR professionals where I know no-one. As a result it’s remarkably easy to sink into a sustained period of focussed, efficient, valuable work. I really enjoy it. I’m confident that I’ll soon have enough to deploy the application and get the team working on it day-to-day. Just as well, as I’ve only really got another three days to work on it. Yikes.

Even if nothing else comes to fruition this mission, I am immensely proud of this thing that I’ve built by myself. It’s a tool that’s internal to the team, but you can see plenty of screenshots in the merge history, like this one. It’s got huge potential and I hope it meets the stated need: to prove the need for small, well-organised database-backed applications instead of masses of spreadsheets.

2 Culture, of the solo kind. I absolutely smashed through Cloak and Dagger on Amazon Prime. The protagonists are thoughtfully, carefully written with existing power structures in mind. The same can’t really be said of the villains, who all just seem to be of the one-track “I want power, for it shall make me powerful” villain arc. Either that or just transparently awful: we know who the low-level baddies are because they’re the ones saying and doing racist and/or sexist things. Despite this I found it a fantastically enjoyable story and strongly recommend it.

Ditto Circe and Song of Achilles, both by Madeline Miller. She presents a fresh and really fantastically enjoyable retelling of two Ancient Greek stories, and I cannot get enough of her wonderful style. Get them, read them, wonder where the time went.

3 Flat woes continue. I’ve been noticing recently that it’s been taking up more and more of my mental energy as the deadline for completion got closer and the company continued to ignore me. I finally got through to someone. Turns out they had my email address wrong and at no point thought to get in touch with me and ask why all these emails were bouncing. At this point I’ll point out that this is a company that stands to earn more than a quarter of a million pounds from a transaction with me, a fact that grants me unanswered voicemails and despairing emails that disappear into the void.

Contrast this with the lovely folks at Union Roasted Coffee, who get £12 a month to send me very nice coffee and who sorted out an issue I was having within a day. Can you imagine what would happen if this company gave even half as many fucks as the start-up that sends me ground beans? But no:

A Bayeaux Tapestry style embroidery, on which is written 'Behold! The field in which grow my fucks. Lay thine eyes upon it and thou shalt see that it is barren"
There is not a single one

Anyway, completion is pushed back to August. At this rate I’m likely to lose my Help to Buy ISA bonus. My opinion of people who build buildings is about as low as it can get; beaten only in the stakes of my contempt by people uninterested in why these emails they’re sending keep bouncing back.

Still, at least I’m now feeling less pressured about having to pack up my life in the next three weeks. My landlord’s been incredibly understanding and let me stay, which is a relief because frankly commuting from my parent’s house would probably kill me – although maybe an hour on the train per day would give me some more of that precious deep work time…

4 I have an interview for a job that is miles, miles and miles, away from my current role. I’m swinging between nervous and blasé; between wanting the position and loathing anyone who’d go for it. It feels interesting, and I love interesting things. I’m still on the hunt for a loan or secondment as well: nothing is complete before everything’s complete, after all.

One of my mentees is going great guns and has started working on Flask, a very lightweight web framework for making database-backed web applications. I strongly believe in project-based work, even if it’s at odds with what’s practical. This presents a real struggle for people learning how to code in a work context. People early in their career need a safe space to build things, mentored by someone senior, while also building something that matters. This all feels complex and difficult to manage, because the thing-that-is-built has to either be a throwaway thing that doesn’t really have much meaning or a thing that they’ll need to upkeep for the next five years, and neither of these feel like good approaches.

I’m closing out with the Cloak and Dagger playlist and heading to bed with an anti-histamine.

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