Jach's personal blog

(Largely containing a mind-dump to myselves: past, present, and future)
Current favorite quote: "Supposedly smart people are weirdly ignorant of Bayes' Rule." William B Vogt, 2010

Honest Products

What makes me want to pursue a particular line of work, or not? A lot of things ultimately weigh on my moral calculus, including a very powerful "need money now, don't care" switch that can override many so-called principles...

One of the dimensions is the idea that my work is directly for making an "honest product". But I don't have a full definition of this thing... Sometimes it helps to look at the product's relationship to the company. Why is it being made? Just to make a profit, or some other reason? Perhaps it's a loss leader? Perhaps it's "free"? Does the company make anything else? Get its money from other products, or from other entities that aren't even products?

I currently feel I work on an honest product. Someone wrote a book about it, even. It's not my company's bread-and-butter, but we do sell a separate license (or licenses -- the book knows better than me!) for it. The people who purchase the product make use of it in a variety of ways, but it's all for direct purpose, which I think gets closer to what I mean by "honest".

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Quote dump on perfectionism

I once wrote a ramble on the idea of "the best is the enemy of the good enough". This is a common phrase to try and get people out of "perfection paralysis", where they never do anything or show anyone anything (not even explicitly labeled work in progress!) because it's not perfect or at least "done". The idea is to ask, is it at least "good enough"? Then ship it!

My rejoinder then, and now, is a warning against the common phrase. "The good enough is the enemy of the better." But seeing that, we also see that "the best is the enemy of the better" as well. We have three values, and they're all enemies of each other, which means you need to evaluate the tradeoffs when deciding what level you want to achieve for any particular thing. Here are some of my current thoughts about the three.

The good enough: it's some artifact you've put out there. It might not measure up to your tastes, but it's something. It may not be perfect, but you don't always need perfect. Maybe you can make it better later, but it might just be good enough that you can abandon it and move on to something else. If you always settle for the good enough, though, you'll never create a perfect magnum opus. But maybe that's fine.

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Does anime need a gateway drug?

I got into anime really late. Oh sure, I'm a 90s kid, I watched Pokemon after school and on the occasion I was somewhere with cable (most commonly my dad's) I'd enjoy watching Dragon Ball Z on the evening Toonami list (or renting episodes from Blockbuster/Hollywood Video). I watched Yu-Gi-Oh for a time, too, and a few others at random on the public networks. But I preferred American cartoons. Extreme Dinosaurs, Street Sharks, Arthur, Simpsons... And many more (on both public broadcast and when you get into the cable networks like Nick). Notably I've never liked Sponge Bob, which I use as evidence against me being a "millennial". 90s kid!

I have chat logs from June 2009 (just before I moved out onto my own for college) of a friend saying: "Maybe I'll watch Neon Gensis Evangelion."
My response was a condescending: "I'll pass on this annie may."
"Ooh, nice show. I'm watching Japanese version. Not dubbed."
"*needs dubbed*"
"Father is baaad. Hasn't seen son in 3 years. And now he asks him to come so he can pilot some machine thing. That he doesn't know how to. And might get killed."

Well, I never got around to watching it at that time. I was pretty anti-Japanese-the-language then too. My high school even offered Japanese classes, much raved about even by fellow slackers because a lot of time was spent watching anime in class, but I took French and Latin instead. Not for practicality, really, but for intellectualism.

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Ramblings About Love 3

Deciding to publish here, too, because I'm nuts... The layer of indirection has already been broken before (it's not a secret) but breaking it further is still almost like removing an extra layer, and this just increases the probability of its breakage being nothing but a self-inflicted footgun wound. Oh well. I'm near the point where such things can't matter, anyway.

With some shenanigans this might end up being later grouped into the July month, but it was August. So much of my introspective writing comes from August for some reason, a lot of (though not all) references to "late summer" or "early fall" are just encoding around late-July/early-August. Anyway the idea is to encourage me to write a few more posts in August that aren't so conveniently grouped with this one by month, and maybe push this guy off my front page, where to be honest it's unsightly...

The content's probably not going to be that surprising to anyone who's read my about page in its entirety, but the about page is dense for a reason, and the outcome of having it more widely read is probably just a similarly self-inflicted footgun. Oh well. YOLO? Maybe something good will happen.

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Why you should fear your automatic refactoring tool

Okay the title is clickbait. I actually encourage people to not let themselves succumb to fear-driven development. Fear is the mind-killer, stop fearing!

No really. All too often I come across people or comments about being too fearful to change software until they had "some tool" or process. The tool and processes vary, but the fear doesn't. I argue that even with no tool but your brain, you can code fearlessly. This isn't to say that tools don't help, especially when it comes to boosting confidence in correct results. I am saying that the physical sensation of fear that plagues certain programmers is entirely to do with their psyche.

If you're possessed by fear unless you have some particular tool or process, ask yourself, what if I took that tool or process away? And said you can't have it back? What are you going to do? Will you be able to move forward? The art of fearless coding is to change your perspective from an emotional one to a logical one. Instead of being fearful about the effects of some possible change, ask yourself instead how confident you are that this specific change will produce good effects over bad effects. How can you improve your confidence? Maybe you think back to the tools I took away -- what if you don't have those particular tools, how can you improve your confidence?

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Driving a manual

Sometimes you find something that articulates so many feelings in one place about something and you can't help but share them all. From a comment on driving a stick:


I love stick and go out of my way to make sure the cars I own use them. It was a pain back in 2005 when I got my current car, and now that the baby is over 200k miles, when the time comes, it's gonna be even more of a pain to find one, but hey.

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Jury Duty

I had the interesting experience to be called for jury duty this week. Well I was called last year but I was able to defer until this week. Since I was dismissed on Tuesday, I thought I'd write about some of the interesting things and some of the disturbing things.

It's important in any dealings with the government to not lie. If speaking the truth would be inconvenient, you should say nothing. Worst case then is that you enter a situation where you're compelled to speak, which is rare, and you can weigh the consequences of the truth vs. continuing to say nothing. This is much better than perjury.

I'm leading with that because most people don't actually want to be on a jury or even be in the jury selection process, me included. I think my time is best used elsewhere. However if you also prefer the outcome of getting dismissed over actually having to sit and deliberate, as I do, you have to make sure your reasons to make that case are truthful. If you're caught in a lie, not only is that bad for your own epistemic hygiene, you might face criminal charges if you lied under oath.

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