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Crazy Rich Asians

I had told myself earlier this week that I needed to go see Crazy Rich Asians during opening weekend, especially as I heard an interview from someone who went to one of the early screenings, and how there was something about them clicking with some of the experiences portrayed and feeling the commiseration in a theater dominated with Asians.  I even made an exception to my having to read the book before I see the adaptation rule.

First things first, it's just a solid rom-com.  There's lots of interesting sub-plots and fun characters, and many of the themes are universal - i.e. strong matriarchs, having to balance family and individual, respecting your cultural past vs. modern values, whether appearances matter, etc.

Even without being Chinese (or Singaporean), there were tons of bits that I feel did resonate with me more from being Asian-American: there's a tiny joke in the beginning about how to spell protagonist's Rachel Chus name (Choo, Chiu, Chew, Chu), which made me laugh as I thought about the various ways my last name can be romanized.  Nick being the first son and being told by his best friend that he could do no wrong reminded me of how Aimee keeps referring to me as the "favorite", and that no matter what I do, my parents won't get mad.  And no disrespect to my step-mother Angela, but there is more than a passing resemblence between her and Eleanor.

Definitely a movie I want to see again, especially with Leia, as I'm sure much of culture shock that Rachel experiences as she meets Nick's family is somewhat similar to her experience.  Even the bits of Michael and his attempts to maintain his identity while not being the breadwinner in the family hinted at what it might be like for me one day.
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TedXPortland 2018

I went to the local TEDx event yesterday. All day event, split over four sessions. The morning sessions were particularly impressive. Video doesn't look like it's online, but some quick notes:

  • Kevin Cavenaugh talked about the contrast between having enough and Friedman economics. He talked about reducing the CEO to employee pay gap, starting at his company of 5 where he's flattened the pay so everyone is equal, as well as giving each employee 0.27% equity in buildings for each year they're at the firm. He also talked about a housing project that he crowd funded, with 5 of the 11 single-residency occupancy (SRO, dorm-room style) rooms being reserved for Street Roots vendors. It's a rad example of the solidarity economy, and something I wish I had known about so I could have invested in it.

  • Colleen Yeager gave an impassioned talk about her experience as the mother of a 7-year old transgendered son, talking about how amazing kids are, e.g. "I always though Nora was a boy" and worrying about how there were now more boys than girls in the class as Nora was now Eli.

  • Tyrone Poole spoke about being a non-traditional tech entrepreneur and how his personal experience with being houseless has led to, which sounds like it's essentially a rental application clearinghouse. He talked about how even though he had qualified for a housing voucher, but he couldn't find a rental as he kept getting rejected due to things like a past eviction, debt, etc (he had ended up in the hospital/traction for 6 months due to an accident while training to be a firefighter). Definitely an inspiring story, and a reminder that tech is only part of the solution - the best ideas often come from non-tech folks.

  • Albert Chi and Johny Matheny talked about the Modular Prosthetic Limb, which is freaking incredible. As an engineer, it's rad to see so many disciplines coming together for this kind of work - prosthetic arms that folks can feel through, that individual fingers can be manipulated, etc. Gripe about military funding all you want, but even at $120 million dollars of DARPA funding, this kind of research is amazing. Looks like Chi has also done some other cool things like this 3d-printed prosthetic working with Enabling the Future

Excited to see the talks go online. Even though I was feeling super introverted yesterday, and sat alone, didn't interact with anyone, etc, it was a pretty amazing experience, and definitely one I'd like to do again.
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4 Days with a Dumb Phone

Lots of thoughts after 4 days using this phone.  Let's talk about the phone first:

  • The upper-left and upper-right keys are confusing.  Those two key caps actually cover two buttons each, with the top of the key being different from the bottom of the key.  This took me 3.5 days to figure out as I was wondering why sometimes I'd be going back in a menu vs. turning the phone off, struggled with hanging up on calls, navigating menus, etc.

  • The middle-button and directional-pad are hard to use. They make me really miss the Blackberry Curve and it's wonderful trackball.  The middle-button isn't recessed enough or the edges of the directional-pad are not raised enough, to the point where I end up misnavigating and mis-selecting all the time, often having to resort to using a nail to use the menu

  • It's crazy that there are not physical volume up and down buttons.  This was one of the best part about these old school flip and candy bar phones, that you could easily switch the ringer volume or turn on vibrate or whatever.  To switch the volume on this phone, I have to:
    • Press the middle button to power on the display
    • Press the middle button again to select Unlock
    • Press * to confirm the unlock
    • Press the down arrow three times to navigate to the settings icon
    • Press the middle button
    • Press the upper portion of the upper-left key
    • Press left or right to change the volume

  • The phone only has ~32 MB of storage available (out of 128 MB total).  I thought I was going to copy some music on to it before I realized this.  It does have a microSD card slot, but I haven't gotten around to trying it.

  • Battery life is good.  I haven't charge this thing since I got it, and it's still showing what looks like 1/3 the battery.  Unfortunately, I think the battery display only has 3 segments, so it's not really clear how much battery I have left.

  • The shame of the phone encourages me to fiddle with it.  Not quite a fidget spinner, but I do find myself turning it in my hand, running my fingertips over the keys, etc, and am reminded of first year design students in my undergrad having to shape pieces of wood to be emblematic objects.

So, what have I learned about my phone usage/behavior?  I'm still carrying my iPhone, using it for:

  • podcasts - this is mainly as I walk around town

  • pedometer (and location tracking) - I really like the data Moves gathers

  • Checking in - While I'm not checking in anywhere near as often as I did before, I do find myself checking if there's wifi and checking in via Swarm

After the first day or so, I realized the biggest difference for me was the lack of notifications.  I'm pretty sure when I go back to my iPhone, I'll be turning off most of the notifications, probably keeping only a selective few.  I still find myself reaching in my pocket and pulling out the dump phone, checking if there's any text messages or anything, as well as wanting something to fiddle with. 

I did finally figure out how to turn on predictve text, so that's helping, but it's amazing how hard it is to type out text messages.  I've found myself falling back to the iPhone and iMessage when I'm having longer conversations with Leia.  In fact, typing on the phone was so hard that I ended up actually just picking up the phone and calling Aimee when she was trying to text with me.

I do find myself a lot less distracted, but I also find moments of boredom.  I tend to eat out alone somewhat frequently, and it's amazing how long those time gaps between sitting down, ordering, and receiving your food can feel.  On the other hand, the shorter periods of time, like that ride on the elevator when I would have checked my phone for messages or what not, are much more relaxed with not having a smart phone to distract me, and I definitely find myself much more present.  When I went out for drinks earlier this week, I wasn't texting or checking my phone to see what was happening on Twitter or what not.  It's also made me much more aware of when other people are doing this.

I'm also having to improve my mental map of Portland.  When we went to ZooLights earlier this week, it was definitely nice that Leia had her phone and was able to use it for navigation.  I think I could have managed without it, but the traffic data and alternate routes was a definite nice to have.
buzzed, B&W

Dumb phone

So, I'm trying out using a "dumb" phone for a week, mainly to try and be more present and have less distractions in my life.

The phone I'm using is a Nokia 3310 3G, a phone that's trying to cash in on the nostalgia of the classic Nokia candybar phones.  I actually would rather have a simple flip phone, but apparently most of the flip phones on the market don't work with 3G networks.  I got the phone last week, and then had to give it another few days before I got a nano-to-micro SIM card adapter.

While I was waiting on the SIM card adapter, I had played around with the phone a little bit, trying to see if there was an easy way to import contacts. An online search turned up this post and video, but the phone I have doesn't have those options.  Digging into the Contacts, the only option is "Sync Android via Bluetooth".  I tried exporting the contacts via Bluetooth several different ways from an old LG Android phone I've got (running Lollipop, 5.1.1), and got mixed results, but still only have partial contacts.  I figured it'd be good enough, but the two people who've texted me so far and the one I needed to text today, I didn't have contacts for.  I had Leia in my phone, but only because I used her info to spot check the import (and I had to manually sync her contact explicitly).

In any case, lunch today really highlighted how dependent I am on my smart phone:

  • I forgot about my lunch appointment (that my phone would have reminded me of due to it's syncing with my Google Calendar)

  • I remembered half way out the door, and then checked my phone, seeing a text message from someone saying they were running late.  I assumed that was the friend I was supposed to be meeting, but didn't know 100% since the contact wasn't in my phone

  • I figured I'd grab a Car2Go or ReachNow since I was running behind, but then realized I didn't have my phone so I couldn't find or unlock a car.

  • I thought I'd grab a Biketown bike, but not seeing one and not having my phone, I went back upstairs to my office to check the website to find out where a bike was (you can unlock the bikes using a combination of a member number and a PIN)

  • I finally got the bike and rode across the bridge, and realized that I didn't remember exactly where Kalé was.  I fumbled through using the version of Opera on the phone and got an address and then got there.  Whole thing took me close to 20 minutes.

Other things I've thought of that I'll run into issues with are the various sites and logins that I've got two-factor authentication enabled, generating VPN keys, etc.  Other uses of my smart phone that I can't do well on the new phone are podcasts, step-counting, checking in on Swarm, and who knows what else.  I think the plan now is to keep carrying the iPhone, though it'll likely stay in my pocket for everything except podcasts and checking in on Swarm if there's wi-fi.

While the lack of notifications has been nice, this week is definitely going to be painful.
buzzed, B&W

Observations from a ska show

There's nothing like that pure joy that makes you grin from ear to ear when you hear one of your favorite bands play those first few chords, before busting into one of your teenage anthems.  I went and saw Less Than Jake tonight, and man, was that a fun show.

A few observations:

  1. Whoa, I can afford beer at shows now

  2. It's a bit surreal that the band is celebrating 25 years

  3. The audience is full of throwbacks that just make you reminisce - hoodies and teeshirts for Op Ivy, Skankin' Pickle, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Alkaline Trio, etc

  4. Circle pits are exhausting when you're pushing 40

  5. You've gotten old when the band is suggesting going across the street to Ground Kontrol (one of the members is celebrating their 33rd and they've talked them into staying open till 3) and all you're thinking is "I'll be sound asleep"

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Silence is acceptance

I've seen a few of my friends link to this raw and powerful post about racism experienced as an Asian-American, and not sure how to respond.

It reminds me of a time when I was at Northstar, heading to my car, and there's an Asian couple walking in front of me, and suddenly there's a few snowballs thrown at them and someone yelling out "Go back to your country" and some other racist slurs. I look over and it's some elementary age children, and I'm thinking to myself how sad it is that they've been raised this way and find myself wondering about what kind of behavior they must have seen modeled, but I don't say anything. A random snowboarder yells something to them . . . I don't remember exactly what he said, but he was chastising them.

Also reminds me of the time a guy said to me "A girl like you shouldn't be with a guy like him. Gook.".

In both cases, I took the path of least resistance, and didn't say anything, biting my tongue and moving on, thinking it's not worth forming a scene around. The blog post is a good wakeup call that silence is acceptance, that it's important to speak up, to shine light into the dark corners
buzzed, B&W

CAST 2016

I just got done attending the Conference of the Association for Software Testing 2016 (aka CAST 2016).

It's been a long 3 days and nights (mainly since for some reason I go all extrovert at conferences and go out in the evenings with other folks).  In any case, I think this was technically my first tech conference as well as my first software testing conference.  Some quick thoughts:

  1. The actual sessions/presentations were less interesting than I'd hoped.  While there was a fair amount of breadth in the topics, the depth really felt lacking.  I was familiar with most of the stuff already, and the stuff I wasn't really felt like I could have read a blog post and got about the same takeaway.  My gut feel is the content would have been great for junior testers.

  2. The conference stated they "focus on the confer part of the word conference."  This is stressed with the presentations being about 2/3 speaker, and 1/3 group discussion/Q&A/etc.  The group discussion is interesting in that they use a mechanism called K-Cards. Everyone has a stack of 3 cards, and if you want to participate, you hold up the appropriate card:Interesting mechanism and it seemed to work pretty well.

    • Green: Please place me on the new thread list

    • Yellow: Please place me on the same thread list

    • Red (or pink): Oooh, oooh, I must speak now (or important admin issue: e.g.: I can’t hear)

  3. This was a small conference (I'd guess less than 150 attendees?), which also helped with the confer aspect

  4. International aspect was good - got to interacted with folks from Ireland, New Zealand, Canada, Croatia, etc.

Hopefully more complete thoughts to come later.
buzzed, B&W

Sufficiently Advanced Monitoring is Indistinguishable from Testing

Listening to a Test Talks podcast this morning about Terrible Testing. The guest, Todd Gardner, talks about bad test practices.

There's a slightly interesting bit where he talks about how the test pyramind isn't always a good model, but he bases that statement on the fact that the number of tests is what the test pyramid shows. Gardner goes on to talk about how risk should guide test and how test coverage can actually become more of a burden than a benefit (since writing new code might require updating a lot of tests). I don't think the test pyramid is necessarily reflective of number of tests nor effort, but just a mental model - make sure you've considered the risk and write appropriate unit tests, then move on to service level, etc.

The more interesting bit was when he said:
I can’t remember where I heard this quote, and I’d love to attribute it to somebody, but I’m just going to repeat it anyway and say that it wasn’t me but it’s really clever. “If you have a sufficiently, any sufficiently advanced, automated testing system is indistinguishable from monitoring.”
A little bit of digging, and it looks like the original presentation is from Ed Keye's 2007 Google Test Automation Conference presentation Sufficiently Advanced Monitoring is Indistinguishable from Testing (super short, quick presentation).

Overlaps a bit with some discussion we recently had at work about QuickCheck and property based testing, especially when Keyes starts talking about how generalized monitoring tests have to be.

There's clearly a lot of challenges for most web applications - e.g. how to trace a single user session/transaction from start to end, what to check for besides HTTP status codes, etc

We've definitely got some new monitoring stuff going in at work, so it'd be interesting to use writing checks against that output would be a good way to learn that. Not likely that I'll have the time to go down that route any time soon, but definitely could be fun.
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Context matters (communication is still hard!)

Do you understand what's going on or do you just like watching people beat the crap out of each other?

So that's the embarrassing question I asked a co-worker on Friday when they mentioned they were watching a lot of boxing lately. Their response was an offended look and "That's an interesting question - would you ask a guy that question?" At that point, I was confused, as I hadn't even considered that this could be taken as a sexist remark, and I didn't even realize that that's what they were saying to me.

Part of it is that I ask these off-putting questions frequently, with these false dichotomies. They're generally meant to be teasing, a bit of a verbal riposte. To me it's the same idea as when someone asks me "do you really like your vest (car, shirt, glasses, etc), or do you only wear it because it's orange?" Another example might be when I tease one of our vegan coworkers about how I think his choice to be vegan really isn't socially responsible, e.g. " . . . but think about the cattlemen and their families."

I think I asked the question because through my lens, boxing is a gigantic mystery and a bit absurd. I don't understand it as a sport. I get watching it as a social activity or appreciating it technically - the conditioning to go all out for 3 minutes a round, the displays of speed and strength, etc, but it's very different from when I watch soccer, tennis, or golf. But I just don't get the appeal of watching two people try and hit each other repeatedly, with the goal of disabling/outlasting the opponent.

On the other hand, it's quite possible that I did ask the question because she was female, that maybe I've got an unconscious association/bias, and my asking this question highlighted that women can't be boxing (sports?) fans. I don't think that's the case, and there wasn't any intentional malice (besides some playful ribbing).

In a more general sense, the question "Do you like football or are you just watching the Super Bowl for the commercials?" has become pretty common, and I've never considered the implications behind it, e.g. "I don't think you're a sports fan . . . " Coming from a non-sports fan to another, there's probably no cross wires. A face-painted/jersey wearing fan asking a woman this question could definitely be seen as judgmental and biased. In my non-"sportsball" social circles though, this question is just a question.

Even flipping the question around, e.g. "Do you just like the commercials or are you hoping to watch the game?" changes the tenor of the dialogue . . .

It's amazing how much subtle shifts and changes in context can change the whole conversation.