h-notes ∈ November 2022

Firing someone

This month I had the unenviable task of firing someone. It’s not the first time I’ve had difficult conversations with someone at work, but it’s the first time I’ve had to be part of telling them that they’re not going to continue in their job.

I wrote up what I wanted to say in advance, so that I knew I was covering all the relevant points about why we were letting them go. I found it quite hard to get the balance right between taking some blame for not setting them up for success but also making it clear that their performance was a key factor regardless. I didn’t want to wing it, but at the same time, I didn’t want to just read from a script when we spoke so I read it over a few times and distilled it down to a few bullet points. My major concern was that they’d find the whole thing a huge surprise, but in the end they said they had been expecting it a bit.

A part of me was thinking, “but if you’ve been expecting it, why haven’t you changed your performance or behaviour?”. On reflection though, why should they change? I don’t think they were a bad developer, but they weren’t suited to the way we want developers to work, or the way the company is organised to support our developers. I think that’s fine, not everyone is suited to every environment.

It feels good to have gone through this. I can’t say I enjoyed it, but it was a useful learning experience for me. I hope I don’t have to do it too many times in my career, but I now know it doesn’t have to be terrible when I do.

Not hiring someone

In other sad work news, this month I got excited when a friend said they were keen to join. I put a referral in for them only to find out a week or so later that they didn’t make it through the interview process. I wasn’t involved, as is right and proper, so I had a dig through the feedback in our hiring platform1 to see why they didn’t make it. Nothing huge really jumped out, and I felt a little bit like “oh, well, I’d have probably given them a bit of the benefit of doubt on that” - which of course, is exactly why I shouldn’t be included in interviewing people I know.

It’s something that’s bound to come up more and more as we grow and become a place people want to apply to. The London ruby and tech scenes are small, and I’ve been involved in them for a while, so it’s increasingly likely I’ll have to recuse myself in the future. It’s also increasingly likely I’ll need to know how to navigate those “I would have hired you, but…” conversations when not everyone gets through, no matter how much I wish they would.

The other feeling this triggered in me was a concern that our process wouldn’t let me through the door anymore. Is that fine as we should be hiring people we think are better than ourselves, or is that just the old imposter syndrome talking? That’s one I’ll have to keep mulling over.

Handing someone over

It never rains but it pours – to complete my sad work trilogy, this month also saw me hand over a bunch of my direct reports to a new EM. I found it surprisingly emotional. I’d been managing them for different spans of time; some recent joiners for only a few months, but in one case it was someone I’d managed for my entire time as a manager so just over 3 and a half years. Despite the difference in time I’d built up a rapport with each of them and was upset to realise “I won’t be hanging out with you every week anymore”.

I’ve lost reports before when they’ve left the company, and that has been emotional too, but there was something different about losing these reports. In part, there’s a scale issue – I lost a bunch in the same week and that meant I went from one final 1-to-1 to another as the week progressed. The last one of these felt much worse than the first just because of the weight that had built up. Secondly there’s a difference in how the relationship continues with handovers vs. leavers. Whether someone leaves the company or is handed over to another manager I no longer get to play a part in their career progression. The difference is that when I hand someone over, I get to keep watching their progression without being involved in it. It seems quite selfish to begrudge someone their career progression because I didn’t take a part of it, but I guess my heart feels what it feels.

Grasping for a silver lining though – it did feel good to have more time to myself this month. I even managed to scratch off a bunch of writing projects that had lingered in my todo list. Of course, it’s a short reprieve as we’ve done quite well at hiring and December and January are shaping up to bring my number of reports back up again. It was nice while it lasted I suppose.

Moving digital house

I will admit that the rapid decline of twitter the company as soon as Elon Musk took over took me by surprise. I expected there to be changes in the content and tone of the service, but didn’t really expect much to change at the company itself. It would seem I’ve just not been paying attention to the situations at other his other companies.

Seeing the exodus and quietening of my network on Twitter meant I logged back into the mastodon account I setup a while back on the ruby focused instance that James runs. I need to build up a network again, but it’s making me think about what exactly I want from a social network.

When I first joined twitter it was a place to hang out with friends, but over time it became a place to understand what’s going on in the world, albeit with a particular slant based on the network I’d built. Mastodon, at least at the moment, is much more like the original twitter so it’s not a immediate replacement. I do need to put in some effort to curate my network again and get what I want out of it. I’m just not sure what I want out of it. For all its flaws, I do think I’ll miss twitter if it goes fully away. Partly I’ll miss some of the fun I’ve had on there2 rather than any specific enjoyment I actually get right now, but I will miss it.

Strictly Obsessed

R is obsessed with Strictly Come Dancing3 and it consumed the majority of her TV watching this month. She would watch the current series on iPlayer as it’s just too late to let her stay up for, unless we want to pay for it with tiredness-induced bad behaviour the next day. She was delighted to find out that all of last year’s show is on iPlayer too and so she will mix it up by watching that too. She’s adept at navigating the Apple TV now and will happily find the episode she wants, and even advance to particular dances she wants to see (obviously we have seen each episode multiple times). She has even incorporated dance contests into some of her imaginative play. There are worse things she could be obsessed with, but it is tiring to be subjected to the exact same glitz and glamour every waking moment that R is allowed to watch TV. Particularly pre-school over breakfast – it’s not really a calming morning show to ease you into the day.

Increasing decrepitude

This month I spent a lot of time stretching and trying to ease pain in my increasingly decrepit body.

  1. Earlier in the year4, R pulled my arm in a surprising way and I managed to irritate the rotator cuff in my left shoulder.
  2. I woke up one morning with twinges in my lower back making it painful to bend or crouch.
  3. I forgot to stretch properly after my half-marathon (spoilers) and my thighs were stiff.

For my shoulder I went to the GP as it was quite painful at the time and they said to try ibuprofen gel twice a day and some stretching. So I’ve been doing that in the evenings. At this point I’m not having trouble with the shoulder in particular, but it’s still occasionally catching and it feels like I’m back to square one.

For my back I found some lower back exercises and have been doing those in the mornings. In comparison to my shoulder, it only took a few days of stretching for my back to feel normal again. Occasionally if I twist wrong, or don’t move about much I can still feel a twinge, but basically, I feel like this problem is solved.

For my legs I just repeated my standard post-run stretches and by the Wednesday after the Sunday of my half-marathon, I was loose enough to run again and going up and down the stairs wasn’t a problem at all by the next day.

It’s annoying that for each of these ailments I need to put in drastically different amounts of time and effort into fixing (or hurting) myself. It does make me wonder if I need to do some different, preventative, exercise or movement, especially as I get older and my body slowly turns to dust.

So edgy

I watched Cyberpunk: Edgerunners this month. As a teen I roleplayed the heck out of Cyberpunk 20205 and the idea of watching something set in that world I knew so well was one I couldn’t set aside, even if the trailer for it made it look awful. I don’t think the show shares any creative DNA with Love, Death, & Robots (a show that I have moaned about previously: S2 & S3) but it has the same hyper-violent and what-if-these-characters-were-naked-tho’ aesthetics as that show. Even more so than Love, Death & Robots I hesitate to recommend it unless you also played the RPG (or recent video game for which I understand it is a direct prequel) and even then …

What I will heavily recommend is one of the key songs from the soundtrack: “I really want to stay at your house” by Rosa Walton (this video probably has spoilers for the show). It’s a surprisingly great piece of synth pop that is used to great effect in the show. It also has weird vocal effects stuff in it that reminds me of SHODAN from the System Shock games – finally making good on a long held belief of mine that there should be music inspired by this specific aspect of these games.


Last month I gave a talk at LRUG and I published the transcript of it this month. Not usually a particularly interesting part of the story, except this time I didn’t prepare the talk well enough in advance so I couldn’t just tidy up my presenter notes and publish those. We use zoom to get a “free” recording of the talks and I hoped I’d get a transcript for free too. We either haven’t paid zoom enough for that, or just haven’t enabled it on the meetings, so no joy there.

I was sure there must be some free tooling I could use to generate a transcript from the video and sure enough, after some googling I found hear. This tool lets you use the dictation tools on your mac and generate text. It can either work entirely from your local machine, or send the audio to Apple for better results. The README suggests that sending to Apple will likely truncate long audio and I couldn’t be bothered working out how to chunk it up so I just ran it locally. The results weren’t great, but they were much easier to edit into something workable than trying to manually transcribe.

For example, it generated:

I offer that was on by default and Ruby 2.7.0 he was offered the fox iPhone 5c noisy by Ruby 2.7.2 and we running baby to pretend that sex right getting on buddy for return the morning we start killing our logs

which it was “trivial” for me to turn into:

Because although that was on by default in ruby 2.7.0, it was off by default because it was too noisy in ruby 2.7.2 and we were running ruby 2.7.6, so we weren’t getting them by default. We turned them on and started tailing our logs. Luckily, because of all work we’d done, there weren’t that many so we didn’t have much more to fix.

(see slide 23)

After I’d worked all this out and tidied up about 2/3rds of the transcript I heard people talking about whisper and how good it was. Maybe next time I’ll try that.


8 times!

Many of these were long runs as I built up towards the half-marathon at the end of the month.

All my training runs had me on track for over two hours so I was pleasantly surprised that on the day I got round the course in 1 hour and 47 minutes. The course was very switch-back-y and corner-y which meant you were always able to see the faster runners ahead, but until the last few kilometres, you had no idea if they were just ahead of you, a several kilometre loop ahead of you, or fast 10k runners on a completely different route.

I judge events on the quality of the goodie bag and this one was pretty good. After crossing the finish line we got handed our medals and then ushered past tables with 3 different snacks and 5 different drinks options. It would have been better if there’d been a bag as it was hard to actually carry it all and I had to pass up on at least one canned drink option I just didn’t have the hand capacity to add to my stash. Turns out it was an alcohol-free beer that I would have much preferred to the bottle of alkaline water that’s still lurking in my fridge.

Unfortunately, the following days revealed to me that I hadn’t done my post-run stretches properly and I hobbled around the house and cursed myself each time I climbed up the stairs (spoiled).


4 books

1 comic via Marvel Unlimited and 3 actual physical books. I made good use of my commute time from a few days in the office and my “daddy time” while R is at her Saturday morning ballet class.

The comic was Johnathan Hickman’s “House of X / Powers of X” - I remember hearing how good this was when it was coming out so I had high hopes. It is good, and manages to invigorate the characters by changing up the status quo drastically, but in terms of telling a story, it’s fairly unsatisfying. It’s a great piece of world-building, but it’s really just set up for a relaunch of the whole mutant line of comics and doesn’t really go anywhere. I’m not sad I read it or anything, but I think the bigger payoff would be if I kept on reading the rest of the run to see how this world works longer term.

One of the physical books was Dave Grohl’s autobiography - a Christmas present from last year that finally bubbled up to the top of my to-read pile. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I found myself a little frustrated by it. It’s very detailed about his escapades growing up, and his first bands, and his adventures post-Nirvana, but the Nirvana stuff seems fairly glossed over in comparison. Maybe if I was more of a fan of his post-Nirvana output I’d have been into it more. It did make me listen to a bunch of Foo Fighters though, so maybe it’s achieved what it set out to do.