Monthly Archives: February 2014

Thoughts on my SCaLE Talk

It went well. This one was actually harder than other talks I’ve given, because it feels awkward to talk about myself. That was why it ran short. I intended to let the attendees go ten minutes early, not twenty.

Lessons learned for next time: Attach Impress to a key combination, so that I don’t have to struggle to find the main menu on the big screen. Also, turn the screen saver off. The title slide advertises the talk, and let’s people know they’re in the right room. Don’t cover it up.

Slides for my SCaLE 12x Talk

Here they iz. They don’t make much sense without my narration, but if they’re of value to you, I’m glad to share them. Hopefully, you will come see me in action with them in room Los Angeles A at 4:30. You’ll be glad you did.

Hacking the Kernel, Hacking Myself (.odp)

Hacking the Kernel, Hacking Myself (.pdf)

Meanwhile, here are the links I put in them:

Gnome Outreach Program for Women

OPW info at Gnome Wiki

Google Summer of Code

I Don’t Do That Anymore

Success isn’t just about what you do. It’s at least as much, perhaps even more, about what you don’t do. There’s a lot that you have to hold back from doing to be successful, and I don’t just mean the things you know are wrong. A lot of good things, worthwhile, exciting things, have to be put aside so that you can focus on the handful of things that matter most.

I feel that pull constantly. Android is one of the things that pulls me. I remember that killer Saturday I spent at the Google campus, or I pull my phone out of my purse to read while waiting in the grocery line, and I remember all the app ideas I brainstormed, and how easy it is to adapt an application’s layout for different screen sizes. But I know I need to work on my kernel project for OPW, and I know why the kernel is a better path for me.

A thousand little day to day shoulds pull me in a thousand wasteful directions. One of the tires on my vehicle is slightly low. I’m probably wasting gas, but I don’t care. I’m a month into my new officer role with my main Toastmasters club, and I’m doing a crap job. So is mostly everyone else. They have lives, too. Inbox zero? You’ve got to be joking. My kitchen. OMG my kitchen. You don’t want to know.

These things add to my life, but they have to be kept in their place. My future employer won’t care about that puddle of oil on my pantry shelf. While she might care a little about how well I ran my club’s educational program, what she will really care about is how well I can code. The sweetness of that job, and of the completion of my project, will be remembered long after the mess in the kitchen (and the huge tip I give some neighborhood teenager to clean it up for me, once I’m hired) is forgotten.

Spinning Gears

During the OPW application period, I was running on nervous energy. I had a lot of reasons to be nervous: I had quit my job, with no assurance of finding another; I was hiding the fact from certain important people, on whom I was dependent; and I had never truly tested myself as a coder before. The terror of it would jolt me out of bed and into the computer chair. I was aware of what I was doing, and I knew that it was not sustainable, not for the internship or for a permanent job. It’s just for now, I told myself, and once the application period is over I’ll change.

I was not aware of how deeply ingrained the habit was and is. Well into the internship, I’m still relying on my dysfunctional patterns to get myself into a coding frame of mind. I haven’t yet found another way to do it. It’s not a simple matter of “I’ll get to bed on time tonight, and start work early tomorrow.” That leads to a half day of Sudoku and gray fog.

The habit becomes obvious when I look back over the history of my Toastmasters speeches. Time after time, even if I had an outline for the speech weeks in advance, I’ve put off practice until the eleventh hour. I needed that pressure to get the creative juices flowing. Once I even stayed up all night watching the BND logo trying to get wired up (not the screaming version, I haven’t gone that far down the rabbit hole yet), and finally shifted into gear at 3:30am for the 7am meeting. The speech rocked. The rest of the day was a waste.

If there was an emotion that I could ascribe to the swapoff system call, it would be nervousness. It digs into its work at the most obvious point, instead of the most logical one, and flails about covering the same ground over and over until it finally finishes the job out of sheer effort. It’s my job to break it down, see how it’s spinning its gears, and use my knowledge of the big picture to create for it a new life of order and peace. The kernel isn’t the only thing I’ll be updating in these three months.