balance check

I don’t want to dwell on it too much, but my hopes that the stress would dissipate after jury duty haven’t worked out so far.

There were videos a few years ago of Boston Dynamics testing their BigDog robot’s balance by shoving and kicking it while it was trying to walk. It would stumble and catch itself each time, but one couldn’t help feeling sympathy for the robot and frustration on its behalf. “This is how the robot uprising began,” some said.

I feel kind of like that robot. Each time I’ve felt like I caught my balance at work and was making progress, someone would want something else.

The actual work isn’t horrible, don’t get me wrong. Some of it is outside my previous experience or perspective but nothing I can’t figure out eventually. It’s more the frequent interruptions and the general pile-on.


  • One dev meeting per week or two, typically less than 20 minutes.
  • Either a well-defined list of tasks for each 2-week sprint — some assigned specifically to me, some unassigned but to be done when I’ve finished the specific ones — or a general list of things from which I have free picks — or a bit of the latter after finishing all of the former. 100% of it programming, mostly C++ and a little C#. Mostly in areas of the code that I’m already familiar with!
  • Occasional code reviews for K. (whose code was usually immaculate and didn’t require any commentary), or for M. (whose code is usually pretty good) if K. happened to be on vacation.
  • Occasional questions from an engineer via email or chat. But not very often, and almost always about something I’ve already worked on.

Recent changes:

  • Dev meeting that I am supposed to host 1/3 of the time. Longer because we have to coordinate more.
  • Product Team meeting, 1 hour a week, where I’m supposed to offer a long term perspective that I have never had to worry about before.
  • IT meeting, another hour a week?
  • We may need to have semi-regular meetings with QA as well.
  • Reviewing half of M.’s code and half of P.’s code. P. is new (to us; he’s an experienced coder) so his code needs a closer eye and more commentary; he also has questions about how things work and needs occasional help. Also I feel like my own checkins need more commentary from me for the benefit of M. or P. reviewing it rather than K.
  • Reviewing code from the engineers.
  • Answering pretty much all the questions Engineering has for development about support issues etc.
  • On a rotating basis: running the Dev meeting, adding tasks to the sprint schedule, monitoring the automated build/test servers and diagnosing failures/coordinating with IT to fix issues. (This is one thing that got me pulled into the IT meeting.)
  • A project to configure new build/test servers running on a different platform, which I specifically expressed that I did not want to have to deal with.
  • A contract project that I volunteered for because I like that it’s a medical application that will directly improve some peoples’ lives, but then I learned that it’s going to be kind of an ugly series of mostly-not-programming puzzles to work out. If/when we do get the contract (it’s kind of a strong rumor at this point).
  • In a few months we’re going to try to hire another developer. Which is good, but that puts me on the spot as the primary person screening them and training whoever we hire, and I cannot express how much I don’t want to think about that right now.
  • On a good day I might have a 2- or 3- hour stretch to work on the actual programming tasks that are assigned to me.

I’m also frustrated that the one thing I was known for — getting a lot of programming tasks done quickly and efficiently, including debugging some difficult stuff — is not going to be possible anymore because my time is so divided.

Mental context switches take time and energy. If I’m working on a logic problem or rebuilding a user interface, and I have to stop for 10 minutes to answer someone’s question about an unrelated thing, it probably takes another 10 minutes after that to get back up to speed on what I was originally doing.

I don’t have any ideas for dealing with it or adjusting to the new normal any faster.

I’ve booked time on an automated massage bed this afternoon. A fancy thing that scans your spine and does all kinds of massage techniques with heated rollers, which has been getting pretty good reviews. The place is less flaky than some of the other massage/sauna/float places around here — no paying $40 to sit in a room full of pink salt and breathe, no non-medically-necessary IV “therapy”, no cryo fat removal or whatever, just some far IR saunas and these massage robots. While it probably won’t do much for shoulders and neck, my back has been a mess for a while and maybe this will help reduce some tension and pain.

And in a month I’m going to take a few days to drive down to visit my parents, who I haven’t seen in ages. Hopefully that will be relaxing too.

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