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November 16, 1999
a year ago

Workin' at Home

Working from home is really, truly cool.

It's so good to have so many things available and the peace and quiet of being by myself without interruptions and without anything to distract me other than the things that are around me every day anyway. Being completely self-sufficient is nice, and without the network I don't get interrupted by email, don't have the tempatation to go check the stocks every other minute, and don't have ebay auctions making me wonder what's going on there as well.

It's very easy to *not* do what I'm supposed to do when there are so many things that are available to do. At home there really isn't much that is as interesting as work. Okay, a bit of herb maintenance, Fezzik to pet now and again, good tea to make to sip while I work and that's about it. So I spent the morning thinking through a massive architectural change I was about to make to our central data representation and then started going through the steps to do it. One thing after the other, a step at a time.

When I'm involved with the steps, I don't worry about the shape of the whole journey and it doesn't paralize me with just how huge it's going to be. So, step by step, I got somewhere significant.

Then at 12:30, the main GUI group in San Jose called me. I was supposed to give them a presentation about the techniques one can use with customers in order to engineer usability into a graphical user interface, and I was a bit nervous. I'd done the slides and everything last Friday and sent them around to the whole group that was interested; but it's hard to talk with a whole group of people over the telephone and not be able to see their expressions or body language. The great good thing was that Jeanne, my software buddy from Chicago, was the person to call me in order to patch me in. I'm used to her voice and used to interacting with her solely by telephone, so it was very good in setting my comfort level for talking.

Usually, when I do a presentation, I watch the audience to see how they're reacting. I guess that that is one of the best things about my Chinese upbringing, is that I can detect nuances quickly and how people are taking things by their body language as much as by what they say. These guys didn't say anything that I could hear. So every three or four slides I'd solicit responses verbally for my own comfort level. We went through 15 slides in 30 minutes, which is phenominally fast, and was mostly due to very little feedback on my part; but the questions at the end really showed that they were listening, and were thinking about what it would mean to them. Problem was that some of the questions made me think that they really didn't think that this kind of seeking user feedback wasn't really an engineering pursuit, when, for me, GUI's can't really work without it, so it's really a part of our development and design.

I think that this difference in thinking was really want was intriguing to them, as engineers. That there really were engineering methods for dealing with something that is as demonstrably subjective as 'how a GUI ought to work'. That it wasn't just hit and miss and there were ways of collecting data on how to get the functions to work better.

That was cool.

But I was pretty depressed after the call hung up because I didn't hear any of that until later. So I went on a walk with Fezzik, who was really stiff to start, but eventually loosened up to the point where he was forging steadily ahead of me. So I had to put a leash on him to keep him with me. He stayed cheerfully by me and enjoyed the novelty of a mid-day walk. When I got back, I ate lunch of leftover curry and watched a little TV and then called John because I was so depressed about how things went with the presentation...

John, being the direct person he is, wrote Arun to ask how it went.

Later in the afternoon, he called me to tell me that Arun thought it had gone really well, had sparked thought and a creative process of how these things might work for them, and that they were all impressed with how much material I'd gone through. All of which I hadn't even thought of as being possible. Negative me. Feh. So it really was a bit of a holdover from the last week or so; but with the direct method of communication and asking for feedback, John circumvented it to the point where I could go back to work.

I then finished the structural changes that I thought would take a week to do, and in the last compile ran into a bunch of problems that I knew were going to happen, were all listed in the build output and which I knew would be a good jumpstart for tomorrow. I wouldn't get anywhere without dealing with them in the morning and it was mostly a mechanical process that I didn't really have to think too much about. Good morning fodder.

And I finished this just as I really should have been out the door to get to my massage appointment, so I ran around like crazy to get ready for that. Got out the door, got past Fezzik, opened the gate, got out and closed the gate, and then zoomed off to Erie, only a few minutes away and then I went to the little office building and got out and ran to the place it was supposed to be.

She was there waiting. Not for long, though, and the place had a heater blasting away, and she had me fill out a little near-medical form and we talked while she went over the sheet as to what my present problems were. Mostly the lower back and shoulders were the worst. Then she had me take my clothes off and lie down on the massage table between some sheets while she went out with her cute little agile dog and when I was done, I just lay there for a while, warming up and relaxing.

She came back in and then she worked me over for the next hour, about three-quarters of it on my front, where she worked over my legs, the muscles in my butt that were compensating for my lower back going out and then a bit of my lower back. The shoulders were using all kinds of other upper back muscles to help compensate for their continually bunched and tensioned positions and I found out about a ribbon of muscles between my spine and shoulderblade that was just a ribbon of pure pain. The poor thing was completely strained. The last quarter had me on my back and she used gravity as an aid in getting a bit more pressure against tensioned shoulder tendons. Yeesh.

I hadn't known just how messed up my body was until she went through my entire body and muscle by muscle got some inventory. My right calf has a huge knot in it, much as it has had since I had my surgery. The calf really can compensate for my quads on that leg and it has since I started physical therapy. I had just gotten used to it. She loosened so much in my body that it was exhausting.

She had me drink a pint of water before even leaving the room, and I really needed it. She advised me to drink a lot tonight and tomorrow, because she'd loosened up a lot of things that were trapped in the muscles and the only way to wash it all out was to drink a lot of water. I felt a little lightheaded, but then I've felt that way after extensive massages as well, so I was a bit careful. It was also so thorough that when I paid for my session, I also bought John one so that he could get loosened up as well, possibly after the end of the month's dropdeadline. I knew that not everything had been worked out, and asked her how often I should be coming in and how long it would take and she answered that it should be about a session a week for four weeks if I could afford it and wanted to do it. After the four weeks it was time to assess how things were going and see what to do from there. This sounded reasonable; but I didn't schedule a session right there because I knew I wasn't thinking too clearly.

I drove home feeling everything she'd found in my body. This wasn't particularly comfortable, but it was very clearly a first step towards balancing things out again. Somethings was discombobulating my body and I am starting to think that it is long-term stress from the move, from the completely new environment, and from stress about the upcoming deadline all dovetailing into my body. This is to be expected and I am realizing that I really have to do something, perhaps long-term, to help my body out.

John was a super sweety and had bought pizza, salad, and yummies for dinner. He'd gotten Abo's pizza, which is my favorite and just a few slices so we didn't overeat and we just munched happily. That was wonderful to just relax and eat and I gave him his gift certificate. Maybe I should have saved it for his birthday, but it was fun to give it to him for him right then and there for helping me through my first try and helping me get there and do something about the pain that bothered me but probably bothered him as well becuase it bothered me so badly. It's hard for anyone to get me to take care of myself and he's gone through some heroic efforts these last few weeks to get me to simply be content again.

We went to bed soon after that. But with the pollution in the air and such, John was snoring like crazy. Every muscle that had been massaged, on my body, was sore and aching and I didn't really think to take a painkiller. So neither of us slept well at all and one of us waking up woke the other one up and John spent about two hours in the middle of the night staring at the ceiling, unalble to get back to sleep. Ugh.

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