2014-10-11

Book Burning

Someone should persuade the Malaysian church, that the way to react to "burn the bibles," rhetoric is with a "don't burn the quran," campaign.
It's the most obvious media strategy that should have been, that wasn't.

Vaca!

FFREEEEDDDOOOMMM
Todo:
- sleep
- work out
- apply for jobs
- stay lean
- work on personal projects
In that order.

Day 1 (October 8)

- waltzed down to Cyberjaya to see if there were any jobs at Magic that fit me; nada
- "Helping a small creative consultancy to build their rate-card. Anyone else need pointers?"
- swam a lot; two long, and two short laps
- went on a data-run after dinner, to VCR, and downloaded a bunch of software for interview tests/projects

Vacation. Mental conditioning.

1. Stop entertaining non-essentials. Like social circles, intimate relationships, driving, and other creature comforts.
2. Focus on studies of kinesthesia, rates of thought, reflexes and reaction times in mind, and in body. Eat cleaner, work out harder, sleep more.
3. Seek a position of strength.
Day 2

- hung out with a new software development industry friend
- reflected on salary negotiations
- attended the VCR first-anniversary bash
- poked at the DNS server setup test problem, until bedtime

Day 3

Empty the mind. Easy.
Empty the heart. Hard.
Empty the body. Harder.
Begin.
- completed the Gdnsd setup test
- pitched a retainer contract to a potential client, hardware guys looking for software development support
- routed a few friends to a few jobs here and there, and was likewise routed by others
- learnt a lot about what I don't know about algorithms; started reading an online course in discrete mathematics for computer science; following that the pathway seems to be data-structures, then theory of computation
- found a write-up on the details of Rails from request to response
- viva Svetlana. A true professional. An inspiration, and my boyish muse for a day.
- AI is now so mainstream, it doesn't seem like a hard problem anymore. I have had this on thought flit in and out of my mind over the past few days. I need a new hobby for a few years, while the dust settles, as we reap a new winter. Perhaps commerce will be that hobby. How timely.

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Vacation reflections.

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Day 4

- helped dad to drive mon's eldest sister and her husband up to Cameron Highlands
- got a refresher from dad on his dad:

Gramps was KuoMinTang military, through the civil war and Japanese invasion, and then he headed GuangDong's civil administration as number two under one of the Sungs; he believed in being a clean official - didn't like corruption, and didn't see a future in Taiwan; he moved the family to HK in 1948 - dad was a few months old; gramps thought the Communist might want his service, but wasn't sure, so he sent his wife back for surveillance; the local business owners acted like they didn't know her, so she got the message; the Malaysian police's Special Branch was looking for military experience while dealing with a Communist insurgency, so gramps took the gig; after a few years he'd saved enough money to put the family on a cruise ship (the P&O ChuSan, 20,000 tonne displacement) in 1955, and moved them to Penang ; [that was dad's first experience of corn flakes (didn't know what to do with them), "Western" food, ice cream - he also fell off the top bunk and hit his head, he was told, but never remembered it - might partly explain why he's a bit of a wonk]; when the family moved to Penang, gramps moved to work as a school teacher; he sent all his kids to mission schools under British administration to keep things apart; he used to talk at home about ethics and virtue, a lot; between those two factors, most of his kids eventually entered the Christian ministry as professionals; gramps didn't talk much about his past - some of these things were hearsay from family friends; news was back in China, some family members were tortured for money that didn't exist - it wasn't pretty.

- another empty day; allocated some time to think about it; the documentation

Day 5 

This is turning into a study day. Exploration of deficiencies in Haskell knowledge led to exploration of deficiencies in Docker knowledge.

Brain hurts, but this is so much better than being bored.

- perhaps also time to buy a first cloud host, for development; then I can rely on crappy internet connections: looking at Linode, Azure, Cloud Compute, and AWS

- MS Office on an Azure virtual machine, or just Excel Online? I think the latter will do

- outstanding aspects of toolkit for consolidation: move everything to the cloud; knowledge management of programming cheat sheets; erm

Day 6

- still haven't gotten any cloud setups done
- business development all day: (1) school management system (2) greentech monitoring system (3) trendy-audience-targeting website business needs polishing (4) training company needs overhaul

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World? Wut? Wut r u doin? World? Stahp! Please don't make me.

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Still not sure I want to do this... while I'm looking at a potentially massive dealflow, taking all the work would require me to hire a staff immediately. Most of the demand is for my time exclusively, so the money's unlikely to drop unless I make silly promises about my time.

I'm instead trying to send friends/would-be-employees in to engage with the clients directly, so that I don't have to manage a staff myself - I'm also offering to coach the employees, so that I can lend some expertise (at a higher rate for myself), while committing most of my time to only one project for a year or so... to build up enough cash reserves to fully capitalise a firm, with a small permanent staff in a year or two.

Current options: bricks to clicks transition; software development for hardware guys situation; product troubleshooting for a consumer website situation; corporate culture overhaul situation. Can't just hire one other guy to help out. Need 2-3 fresh grads with varying functions.

//

[..] AM I started the day with 10/month in potentially billings in the pipeline.

At 11pm, I had 33/month in potentially billings in the pipeline.
I can't deliver all of it. So I had to refactor.
The calculation is that... I should pick the one deal which has clearest long-term potential and stick with it as a cash cow for 1-2 years.

By which point, I should have enough resources to actually hire a staff, then go back to business development.

Chickening out, or just being safe? I'm not sure.

Day 7

- did more hook ups of suppliers/demanders in lieu of taking any work myself
- took visiting guest from Singapore to visit startup meetup in KL
- started experiments with B12 supplementation (500mcg/dose, perhaps 1-2 doses per day)
- mulled a lot
- Oh my god what a week.

Day 8

Thoughts this past day:
1. Hipsters. What did they learn from church? To stand on a stage and look pretty.
2. Malaysian programs. I grew up in graft. I expect graft. Where these is no graft, I expect stupid processes that justify graft.
3. We are entering an era of Startup Tourism in Malaysia. This is played out by both obvious and hidden parties, from the public and private sectors.

I'm 31. I read the papers till 1998, and then I stopped reading them. My view is kinda stuck there.

- more startup tourism with my guest
- more networking meetings
- bit of an Eliot Carver moment before bed; heh; all these angry people should be friends and make it up to each other

Day 9

- more helping out, and catching up with old friends at Hogwarts
- vegging in cafes
- and this

Day 10

A strangely fulfilling day, filled with many consolidations of my professional history, some sadness at idiocy, and much to look forward to. (1) In tech and political economy, a massive (well, 69 comments and counting) thread on graft, efficacy and the well-meaning of our staff at Hogwarts finally melted down into driggle of name-calling between non-entities. (2) In the consumer-facing and web sector, one which I've variously flirted with, another deal closed with the svelte in a qipao mini and glittered pumps who works for a fat cat. (3) In the management of talent and taste, the big guy bought dinner and we went over a term-sheet of sorts - had to halt the deal for the lack of a good valuation; we're still haggling on price. What next? More term-sheets outstanding. Another visit to the summer camp tomorrow. FFS. Call me Cornelius Fudge, already.

Day 11

- more socialising at Hogwarts; got to meet Dumbledore
- dead-ended at trying to get the Gcloud client to authenticate without a Javascript-enabled browser; posted a help request
- figured out Gcloud basics, with Dockerisation

An unsatisfying day.

Day 12

- more socialising at Hogwarts; then documentation of leads related to incoming projects, and potential new projects
- Hogwarts discussion thread noise-to-content ratio hits peak bullshit

Day 13

- back to work on a project;
- exit Hogwarts discussion, on prompting from various parties, including Dumbledore;
- gave an interview to a firm that specialises in a Javascript stack;

Day 14

- in a lot of pain doing boring mungy work, but that's what industrial design is, I suppose: generalists doing interdisciplinary work to solve given problems;
- also realised that I don't like consulting when it makes me frame the job as a monetary incentive to be brutally honest with someone about bad their ideas are (attacking the idea is a much better idea than attacking the person);
- Dreams? http://sextechandmergers.blogspot.com/2014/10/dreams.html

Day 17 (Oct 24, Fri)

- started reading CrunchBase emails. CrunchBase daily emails seem like a good way to get to know this ecosystem that I clearly know very little about. #bubble. I figure in 12 months I'll have a pretty good idea of what the VC market is doing - public information, that is. But I need to have a better intuition about the numbers.I like to know where the herd is going so I can stay out of its way. 
- The strategy of a lazy person is to go only where they can over-achieve, without trying to achieve anything. The default state of such a person, is therefore destructive.
The strategy of a lazy achiever is to go only where she can over-achieve, without trying to achieve anything. The default state of such a person, is therefore on a path to destruction. Her instinct for survival prevents her from destruction at a normal pace, and therefore she beats the benchmark.
Absolutely daft week. Scared, lonely, and bored. And wondering the only way to get somewhere is to flame out like ye olde' dress designers.
hehehe. such is life.

Day 18 (Saturday)

Art is harmless until the medium is other people.

TOTD: What will the "Atlassians" of the 2020s be doing?

- looked into dressmaking with Blender (heh: recreation)
- picked up gcloud+docker studies; picked up docker automated builds

Day 21 (Tuesday)

Learn all the languages : ok.
Maintain all the bad code : physically sickening
Hypoglycemia after morning swim : HARD VERY HARD

Day 22

Over-caffeinated nights - reading up on Chinese etymology, and chatting with friends about dev-ops team optimisation.
天 : product
立 : architecture
Really?

(perhaps , if the former is the market, and the latter the enterprise)

Day 23 (Thursday)

2014-10-10

Review of Quitting

This excludes short-term contracts, but includes long-term engagements without a contract.

J-0 (2014): quit, due to negative value (redundant work).
J-1 (2014): quit, due to strategic misalignment.
J-2 (2014): quit, due to negative value (high travel costs).
[2013: end of the "gradschool" era]
J-3 (2012): quit, to focus on "gradschool".
J-4 (2010): quit, due to strategic misalignment.
J-5 (2009): quit, for improved cash+learning opportunity.
J-6 (2008): quit, due to strategic misalignment.
[2007: beginning of the "gradschool" era]
J-7 (2007): quit, in order to pursue "graduate studies"
J-8 (2006): quit, for improved learning opportunity
J-9 (2006): quit, for improved learning opportunity

2014-10-09

MO

About 6 years ago, I raised my asking price at all salary queries by 7-10x my previously drawn salary, as a matter of taste (I never "expect" anything from talking to anyone). This seems extraordinary to most people, but it is one of the less interesting adaptations of my MO. The results have been interesting, in the sense that I have now several years of collected responses to this MO. It's even more interesting to study what sort of experiences it has given me - I'm a lot better at demanding quality from my environment, even if I don't expect to get any. I'm a lot harder. Of course, I work for whatever monies come my way, but never once have I found myself impressed outside the range demanded.

On we go. More data. More stories. More life.

---

The initial motivation for this was to draw a line between what would be worth working for, and what would be ignorable in favour of gradschool. Gradschool is done now, but I haven't stopped asking for what I calculate my time to be worth.

The initial calculation was based on what I would be willing to fork out in tuition fees, if I had an unlimited budget, and less time to teach myself things. I guess my inherent tendency is to quantify everything in terms of information.


Asking RM15-25k and taking RM1.5-2.5k is becoming a norm. LOL

2014-10-06

Software Engineering Management

Notes for a friend who's rising into management:

Graham, 2009, on the maker/manager schedule:
http://www.paulgraham.com/makersschedule.html

A similar perspective on splitting the day in two:
http://practicetrumpstheory.com/achieving-flow-in-a-lean-startup/

--

Don't stop coding:
http://www.drdobbs.com/architecture-and-design/engineering-managers-should-code-30-of-t/240165174

Managing people:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/13/business/13hire.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

More, on managing people:
http://www.defmacro.org/2014/10/03/engman.html

AI and the Cosmos

I'm very excited for Stamplay. I've been hoping since 2010 that more of this would come into the market. (And I haven't prioritised building it, myself.)

If you think, "we're going to be out of a job!" - no we're not.

I took this job to make this happen. We move on.

There's always more work for programmers to do. We just have to go closer to the metal. It'll be a long while before we can't tell the difference between meat and metal people (but hopefully before I die).

You know what? Meat is just an implementation of God's cosmic AI experiment anyway... ;P;p

2014-10-05

Memories Are Lies

When I was 17 I couldn't imagine what I'd be like at 30. At 31, I think I'm pretty close to what I was at 14, and I am surprised that I managed to stay this consistent.