Posting on Unposting

TL;DR is that I’m back in the job market, contract or full-time. Hit me up if interested.

A little over a year ago, I moved to Facebook to work again on mesh networks, among other things. This has mostly been a great experience: we have built some very large networks in parts of the world that were sorely lacking infrastructure, and we did it all on relatively low budget. The project continues and has been a great success in my book.

What has followed since then has been one of the more bizarre [1] encounters with big company bureaucracy of my career. Due to annoying residency details, all this time I have been working on a contract basis (“Contingent Worker” in Facebook parlance). My contract term, after a couple of extensions, was due for another renewal a few months ago. My manager suggested that I could transition to full time and do the same work with more benefits, get off the contract renewal treadmill, etc., and so I studied up and traveled to California for a six hour interview, and passed at level E6 [2], which came with a salary multiplier several times my going rate.

Then came news that, after being told I would need to take 2 weeks of on-site “bootcamp,” it would instead be 3. And then 5. And then 6 weeks, but I can fly back on weekends (this, the week before I was all set to leave, flights already booked). Then came news that, because I live in Canada, oh whoops, I cannot actually transition to full-time (but feel free to move to California!). So flights canceled and back on the contract I go, which gets extended another few months with hints that it would probably be extended again. [3]

Then came news that, after being told that the next contract extension was fully approved (with a rate increase!), that I have been here too long according to Facebook policy, and no, I cannot actually extend my contract, without waiting a year. The timing for this is pretty terrible; just a week ago I turned down a competitive offer from Amazon [4], having understood that my extension was a done deal.

There’s no malevolence here as far as I know. Things are always a bit weird working as an American, remote from Canada. There are two labor (labour) systems to deal with, twice as many laws and twice as many tax headaches. Yet, until now I have been able to mostly work inside these systems, or at least have been politely told “no thanks” up front. It’s hard to make plans when the story is “probably.” Things are still in flux; who knows, it might all still work out, but I am tired of hitting that wall.

[1] I use this word carefully, having used up most of the swears already.
[2] Let me state for the record that I hate the current state of technical interviews. Leetcode problems can be fun, sure, but working them out on a whiteboard under ridiculous time constraints seems completely unrelated to day-to-day work. Can we just stop this practice? It’s more a test of how many leetcode problems you did in the preceding weeks — which in my case was a lot. Also, my whiteboard code winds up being much more academic than normal: every loop somehow becomes a recursive call. And I don’t even like functional programming. I just can’t help it, sorry.
[3] This state of affairs has caused no end of confusion for Facebook systems that still think I’m joining the company. At some point every internal account of mine got deleted with no warning and I had to physically go downtown to unbreak things. I just got an email _today_ welcoming me as an employee to Facebook, a bit of a slap in the face since I also just learned that I’ll be out of here within the month.
[4] The day I got locked out of all the systems was the day I sent my resume around.

Planting time

With the terribly cold and gray winter finally starting to abate, I’m going to start my indoor seeds this week. Nearly same setup as last year: I’m sowing the head-start seeds indoors, to go under basement grow lights in a couple of weeks when they have sprouted. A new addition is this heating mat, which I had to laugh at because of the prominently featured cannabis leaves on the package. I wonder just what the distribution of carrot growers to “other” is, now that it’s legal here.

For any curious persons or LEOs reading, no, I’m not planting weed. I’ll be starting basil, tomatoes, peppers, and lettuce in flats, and hopefully it will be warm enough to direct sow carrots and radishes. Beans should come a little later. Can’t wait!

Peak 2018

I almost let the second half of 2018 go unblogged (are people still saying blog?). It’s not that nothing interesting happened in all of that time, but real life has been ultra busy. Did I mention that Sammy turned one and is on the verge of walking?

The garden delivered tons of produce this year, enough that I didn’t really keep up. I gave myself a crash course in canning, making four jars of tomatillo salsa and six jars of habanero jam. Maybe fewer peppers next year?

I harvested around five bowls of tomatoes, many of which are taking up space in the freezer right now.

And at least four of these basil bowls, mostly frozen pesto at the moment:

This is what it is all about: pizza with homegrown basil, homegrown tomatoes, and sourdough crust from locally cultured yeast.

Anyway, happy New Year!

Another one about plants

Here’s what the garden looks like right now. Compare to this time last year.

We had our backyard professionally landscaped last fall, and the landscaper decided to put in an empty bed next to the house instead of incorporating my unsightly DIY planter box into the design. But that area gets sun only half of the day, so I planted both this year, reserving the landscaper-approved bed for the experimental plants (mostly tomatillos and some extra basil). In the photo you can see the tomatillos in the background on the right: they have grown as tall as I am, with plenty of flowers but no fruits yet. Still, the pollinators are visiting so that could change:

Meanwhile, there are baby tomatoes and baby peppers everywhere, and lots and lots of basil. Having eight basil plants means making pesto every other week just to keep up. I picked my first jalapeno yesterday. Although I tried hard to label all my plants this year, I found that one of my intended habeneros was a mislabeled poblano. No worries, poblanos are great. Looking forward to stuffed peppers next month.

We have a family of wild rabbits living near the house, so I stayed away from lettuces or other rabbit-friendly fare. Perhaps I’ll try lettuce in the planter box next year since it is high enough it might evade their grasp. I planted a few onions in the lower bed to keep the rabbits away from the other plants, having heard that they hate the smell of onions. Naturally, onion stalks are the only thing they’ve eaten so far.

This is still the quiet times before the Japanese beetles. Once they show up a few weeks from now, they will require thrice-daily purges, a not so fun task.

Posting on posting

After several years of working at popular infosec startup, I’ve now moved on to giant tech company. It was pretty crazy watching the former grow from “hey, we have a cool idea” to a company with hundreds of developers — at turns gratifying to see people describe your software as life-changing, and incredibly stressful when a bug landed on the top of Hacker News.

In the new gig, I’m working on Linux wifi again, so, apologies in advance. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do a bit more work upstream now that it is kind of my job. And yes, this post exists just to break up what would otherwise be a long string of consecutive garden blogs.

Garden 2018

I’ve started my seedlings for the 2018 gardening season. On March 24, I planted jalapeno, habanero, roma tomato, green onion, and basil seeds into jiffy pods. A few days later I planted some tomatillos and poblanos in another tray. By this time everything has sprouted and the plants are under grow lights for 15 hours a day on a timer (an innovation since last year the plants got a little leggy on the windowsill). The first tray is about a week ahead of the other tray, so it’s been getting full light for a week and had its first watering this morning. The tomatoes have their first true leaves as of today.

I’m targeting planting out sometime in mid to late May. I can’t remember when I potted up the plants last year but it must’ve been some time in late April / early May. That’s at least a couple of weeks away for these 2-week old seedlings.

This year I hope to have better tomatoes by planting fewer of them and giving them more space. I was originally planning to do just two roma plants with two-foot spacing, plus one tomatillo plant. Then I learned that tomatillos won’t self pollinate so I’ll need to do at least two of those also. If those plus all the pepper plants work out, we’ll have way more than we can eat. Of course, the rabbits may still have other plans.

New Year, Old Me

2018 is finally upon us, and now is the time one would usually look back at the wonderful events of the previous year, and look forward to what great things one might accomplish in the next.

Instead of that, I’ll just write a meandering blog post.

In 2017, I leveled up on pizza and bread making, capturing and raising my very own colony of hyper-local, non-GMO, swimming-in-gluten yeast. The colony still thrives as it approaches its first birthday, and has fed us many delicious loaves. I think I have the basic no-commercial-yeast dough down now, so it is time to start tinkering with the bulk fermentation and proofing times to get different flavors and textures out of the bread.

Speaking of cooking, after 20-something years of preparing the same three proteins with not so much variation, I feel like I could use more inspiration in the kitchen. So I’ve started working my way through an Asian cookbook someone gave me for Christmas. Tip: homemade Thai sweet chili sauce (using peppers from our garden) turns out to be amazing on roast beef and aged cheddar sandwiches. Who knew?

We’re still working our way through the garden vegetables in the freezer, so I can say that the garden worked out and I will have to do it again this year. This time I probably won’t plant so many tomatoes right next to each other, and I think I’ll select pepper varieties rather than doing a mixed seed blend. I might play around a bit with controlling irrigation through an SBC or some such just to bring some nerdiness to the party.

Six years into my consultancy, things are going well enough, but this year I may start looking around for the next big gig. Lately I’ve been doing mostly infosec work and it is ridiculously draining in the age of we-can’t-even-get-hardware-right. If you’re one of the three people reading this and whose programming team needs an old, feel free to reach out. Bonus points if you are working in a language that has a compiler, and infinity points if you are sending code into space.

The crossword construction hobby grew a bit in 2017, culminating in my submitting a crossword to the NYT for publication. That one will probably get rejected, but even so it was fun to make (and perhaps as fun making the software to make it). I think with just a bit more practice and some theme inspiration, I’ll have the hang of this nascent hobby. Meanwhile, my javascript puzzle solving SPA is getting used in a few more places, including on some commercial puzzle sites; I hope that trend will continue.

Of course the biggest news in 2017 was growing our family once more. In addition to the usual resolution to be the best parent I can be to Alex, Ian, and now Sam, I also hope we can get more sleep in 2018. That would be kind of great.

In which I ate the garden

The garden is now in its 16th week, I think. Despite the fungus problem with the tomatoes, I have to say it has been a fairly successful experiment so far: the chilies and basil have done great, while the tomatoes have still produced over a dozen softball sized fruits with lots more still on the vine. The ones in containers did less well (blossom-end rot) — I think there’s no use in venturing outside the planter box next year.

The chilacas have been the big producer. I have two plants, including one that hadn’t yet set fruit by the end of July. That latter since became top-heavy enough with peppers that a couple of stems broke off in high winds last night, so I hauled in around 20 peppers this morning. Salsa-to-be.

Some chilies

Anyway, this is what we’ve eaten thus far:

  • Tomatoes, by themselves
  • BLTs, of course
  • Caprese salad
  • Chicken with sauce chasseur
  • Sausages and mushrooms with fresh tomato sauce
  • Pepper steak (bell peppers, poblanos)
  • Pesto, normal and spicy with Hungarian peppers
  • Chilaca cheese dip (chilacas, yellow jalapeno[1] and poblanos)
  • Poppers (cherry peppers, chilacas, and Hungarian peppers)

The only fruit we haven’t meaningfully consumed in some way are the Thai chilies, which are incredibly hot. I’ll probably make those into some form of sriracha or chili paste.

[1] I think? Middle of the above photo — not really sure what these chilies are but they look similar to jalapenos on the outside and turn red when ripe, but the similarities largely end there.

Garden Week 7

The garden is now jungle-like. There are real concerns that people have wandered into the garden and never returned, having lost their way out. I have a little bit of black spot on pretty much every tomato plant. My fault, I should have pruned the tomatoes more. I sprayed them with fungicide.

Even so, they have set fruit. I have a few per plant, maybe twenty in all.

Oh, I identified, and ate, the yellowish-green chili from last posting: the Hungarian wax pepper. Great sauteed in butter and spooned over salmon.