Hey, kids, watch how I tie those two topics together!

So, I woke up this morning and realized it’s almost August. Which means it’s about a month until Labor Day. Which was when I was originally thinking I might be ready to wind down the sabbatical and go back to work.

Silly me.

By now I expected my Swift app to be fairly far along. In reality, that project stalled long ago and I’ve never found time to focus on it and push it forward. I figured I’d be writing here regularly. I’d expected to have really pushed forward my exercise program and taken a chunk of weight off.

What I hadn’t planned for was the secret To Do list — this is that list of things you need to do that you don’t even bother to put on the To Do list because you know you’ll never get to them. So I stopped working to free up time, and that worked great — and that time was sucked up into projects I had to complete before I could really sit down and focus on the projects I thought I was going to do.

The big complication has been the house. In some ways, it’s not about time but focus: I find it incredibly hard to focus when the house is full of people running around banging on stuff and wandering by because there’s another decision I have to make. 3 weeks of electricians, about a week with the plumbers, etc etc etc. That turns into a lot of days where I feel a lot less productive than I hoped, but because we were being productive in other ways.

The work definitely needed to be done, and it’s the kind of thing that I’m really happy I was able to schedule it in at a time when it wasn’t interfering with a real job. The electrical work, especially: we had issues in the house that could have led to a serious fire if they failed in the wrong way, and now they’re resolved and the house is safe (and the permit inspection signed off…). So I’m not complaining.

But I’m looking back at the last few months and realizing what I’ve been doing has been all of the things on the To Do list that had to be done before I could focus on the things on my To Do list.

And I’ve described it this way to people over the last few months, but folks: this is what happens when you let technical debt build up unresolved. When you finally realize you need to dig in and clear out the backlog, it can simply take over and pull you away from what you thought your priorities were until you finally get the stable properly mucked out.

Not done yet

The house is far from done, but after next week, we’re putting new projects on hold for a while. We’ve upgraded electrical and plumbing, replaced a few damaged windows, replaced all of the window coverings (I had put up Home Depot generic mini-blinds when we moved in to give us privacy screens until we decided what to put up permanently. I did that almost 20 years ago. Needless to say, none of the new window coverings are mini-blinds. Or white).

I’m a strong believer that you deal with the foundations and infrastructure before the cosmetic. Wall color doesn’t help if the electrical shorts and the house burns down, and you don’t want to finish painting everything only to have to tear open a wall to fix something and then have to paint again. Lots of people get this wrong and regret it. And now, 2/3 of the house infrastructure has been looked at, fixed up, upgraded to modern standards and we shouldn’t have to think about it again for 20+ years — in other words, it’ll be someone else’s problem.

There’s still a lot to be done: carpets, paint (inside and out), HVAC. New kitchen. redo the main bathroom. Next week the last bits of the current phase will finish: the furnace exhaust flue we found was beyond not up to code (and which required custom parts be ordered), the one replacement window that’s broken twice in transit, the last of the new window coverings. And we’re going to put a hold on this for a month or so and take a break. Really, really happy with the work done and the people who did it (I’ll write about that soon) but I’m looking forward to some quiet.

And that will allow us to circle back to some of the projects on the real To Do list, rather than the secret To Do list. And most of what was on that Secret To Do list has either been done, or is now on the real To Do list where we can prioritize them.

I guess the best way to describe the last few months is that I got a lot accomplished, just not what I thought I was going to do going in. A classic idea of planning to drain the swamp, but first, about those alligators…

Looking forward

None of this should be construed as complaint. I’m happy with the last few months and what’s been accomplished. I’m happy with my progress in other areas, I’m now involved with both organizations I wanted to find a role with in ways that allow me to help them prosper and which will be sustainable for me once I do go back to work. Getting those in place simply never happened when I was trying to do it around work. Even better, a project I’ve been working towards for literally two years got initial approval about a week ago, and now I have to go write the business proposal for it to get it formal approval so I can get started on it. Assuming that happens, I’ll be busy for the next year to 18 months in a very interesting and positive way — that I can’t talk about quite yet.

I’ve made good progress on learning swift, even if I haven’t on the app I want to write in it. So no, time to sit down and make code.

The Prime Directive

All of that kind of ignores the primary reason I decided to go on sabbatical: to work on building up my exercise program and start getting this excess weight off. And how am I doing?

I’m up three pounds.

My activity levels (thank you Apple Watch) are up about 10% in that time, from incredibly dismal to less dismal, but clearly not what I’d hoped. I’ve had some challenges, the big one being foot pain that’s at times made extended walking difficult. I’ve been trying some things to try to get around that with mixed success.

So last week I sat down with the doctor to look at that and what we’re doing, and we decided to make some changes. The big one is a medication change: I’ve been managing the diabetes using Metformin and Actos, but one of the common side effects of Actos is water retention, which I started seeing about 8 months ago in the legs and feet. And that causes swelling, and that seems to be a major source of the foot pain.

There’s also growing evidence that Actos encourages weight gain in patients, beyond the weight gain caused by the water retention, of which at least two of the above is caused by. welcome to my world. There were scary headlines about Actos and cancer a year or so ago, but when you look at the data behind it my research indicated the numbers were small and not well correlated and mostly the sort of thing predator lawyers care about.

As of today (just took my first dose) I’ve switched that protocol and dropped the Actos, replacing it with Victoza. This is a relatively new drug with some interesting properties; it works to stimulate the pancreas to increase insulin production. An interesting side effect is that it slows release of food out of the stomach into the small intestine, so there’s a tendency of users of it to eat less and lose weight; typically ten pounds the first year if they change nothing else.

The downsides? It can cause nausea, which my doctor smiled and said I should consider another way it can encourage weight loss. If you fail a critical fail on your health check dice, you can get pancreatitis, which is no fun.

And it’s an injectable, which means needles, and I’m not a fan of needles. But to be honest, the engineering of the delivery system is fascinating and the pin needle is tiny, much smaller than the lances I use to test my glucose 2-3 times a day, and I literally didn’t feel it going in this morning. Some impressive product design here.

And so we’ll see what happens. I’ve more or less blocked out the next week from things too many things while my body shifts to the new drug and the old one exits the system and I start adapting to it. The new drug needs refrigeration for storage and doesn’t tolerate hot temperatures, which complicates travel a bit, and it’s more expensive, but I’m looking forward to seeing what might change.

Between this, and the addition of the treadmill now living in the study, I’m hoping I can start pushing the exercise and weight loss forward. And I’ve moved enough things off the To Do list that I have fewer and fewer excuses not to. Hopefully feet hurt too much to walk will soon be off it, too.

And if everything moves forward as hoped, in a couple of weeks I’ll take a couple of days off and go hide somewhere; haven’t decided the location yet, but I’m ready for a couple of days out of town, and Laurie and I are looking at a longer trip together a bit after Labor Day. We’re thinking maybe a long-delayed return to Victoria, but that’s undecided right now.

And the sabbatical?

My original thought was that I’d start winding up the sabbatical around Labor Day, because I felt I’d have most of what I wanted accomplished done by now. That’s clearly not the case, although I’m quite happy with where things stand.

Beyond that, I find I haven’t started feeling like I’m missing having a job. I do miss my old team and the camaraderie of working with those great people — but I don’t miss working. Yet. And I feel I’m not motivated to insert myself back into the job market yet.

So for right now, I’m adjusting my plans to stay on sabbatical through the end of the year. That’ll give me time to keep pushing my personal initiatives forward, and the ability to put some nice time into my work on the central valley refuges this winter with some mid-week visits and perhaps do some other photography things like a fall trip to Yosemite or a workshop of some sort. No firm plans on any of that yet.

That said, if the right situation shows up, I’ll definitely take a close look and if it makes sense, I’ll jump into it. I have been casually talking with one company where I knew the recruitment cycle, if it went anywhere, would take a while, and where it was about creating and building a community management team for one of their product categories. the potential really interested me, and that discussion continues quietly in the background. And I’ve talked to some others where we didn’t pursue it because my sabbatical didn’t sync up with their timing, and in a couple of cases I pointed them at others I thought would fit the role.

Ich Bin Ein Community Manager Nerd

After a lot of thought, I’ve decided I still really like the community management space, whether in a technical role or perhaps shifting back towards consumer (or even into non-profit land? depends on the opportunity), or some kind of marketing role that would leverage my knowledge and skills. If you have a role you think I might be a nice fit in, drop me a note and we’ll chat.

I’m also seriously considering whether it’s time to hang out a shingle and start consulting rather than go back in as an employee. At least for now, I’d be open to taking on something closed-end that way if you have projects or a need that I can fill.

So let’s talk. Happy to buy the coffees.

Remember office hours?

Yeah, remember when I announced office hours? Been a couple of months since I published one. I’ve been continuing to make my trips out for coffee once a week or so (on average), but most of them have been with people where I’ve been talking to about these various projects I’ve been getting going. This week was with an old friend I’ve known forever here in Silicon Valley where we haven’t actually found time to sit and talk for about 15 years, and it was definitely fun to catch up.

But it’s definitely time to get these back on the calendar, so next week, I’ll set one up and post it to the blog. I guess I can’t guarantee weekly, but I’ll try, and I’ll try to not skip more than one week. And if you’re interested in coffee with me here in silicon valley, let me know and we can look at setting up a time…