Notes for Jan 13th 2023

  • An Post, the national postal service for Ireland has some weird and silly UX for parcel tracking. When a tracking code has been initiated, but the parcel hasn't hit the network yet, they direct the tracking page to /no_result. Which means you can't leave the page open to refresh later.
    • More irritatingly, they don't maintain parity or parse tracking codes from other services when a parcel is handing over. DHL will link to an An Post page, assuming that they can keep the tracking in-tact, but then An Post will simply go back to the old reliable /no_result.
  • I received delivery of my Panic & Teenage Engineering collaboration in video-games, the Playdate. Which is wonderful, simple and high quality.
    • 2022/23 truly ushered in a new era in mobile gaming. Between Playdate, my Analogue Pocket & in particular, the Steam Deck, I'm more than satiated and almost have no need for a PS5, let alone a PC.
  • My wife's grandad is deeply sick and unlikely to make it through the next few days. As I write this note (on Jan 7th), my wife and her brother has travelled down to Cork to be there as he likely sees out his final days at home. 93 is an unbelievable run at life.
    • Interestingly, he is terrified of death. He has had deep physical issues as a result of being a stone mason as a working man. That work means he has a very broken body; particularly his knees and back. And sucking down dust for years means his lungs aren't in good shape. Still, he lasted this long which is a testament to his determination as well as modern science. But despite his physical ailments, he is in great shape mentally. Which is why he's able to process and think about death, which is scary.
    • He told me about 5 years ago that being old "isn't worth it." Which was a signal to me to make sure I maintain a positive level of health, and actually visit doctors. A stitch in time saves nine.
    • I'm delighted that my children managed to meet him. He lived a wonderful life, raised a multi-generational family that are talented, smart and good humoured. My youngest child is named after him; albeit we went down the road of using the Irish name. They'll always have photos of their great grandad to cherish.
    • Update before publishing: he died at 2.20am on Jan 9th. RIP.
    • Funeral service was very well put together. Sad, obviously, but the family are very pragmatic so it wasn't dramatic.
  • 2 people died in Dublin this week as a result of dangerous driving. And on my way home from Cork in our car, I noticed a car in a ditch. Post-pandemic, I feel like our driving standards have plummeted. Likely due to attention being given to phones, and a penchent for speeding broadly.
    • Cities shouldn't have cars at all outside of public services (taxis, buses, delivery vans, etc.), and it should be mandated that those are EVs to reduce harmful emissions.
    • Active travel and public transport should be the only real options. Investment is badly needed across cities everywhere, but Ireland is lagging because it's only recently become a modern society. Yet we'll invest in silly things like horse and dog racing instead, while people are killed by shitty driving.
  • Elon seems to have turned off more services at Twitter, impacting third party apps. I started on Twitter using Tweetie (which was eventually acquired and became the 'official' app) and moving to Tweetbot. I would argue that I wasn't a big Twitter user at all, as I rarely got new features (including ads!), but I was a heavy Tweetbot user. Which is why I'm delighted the TapBots team are working on Ivory as their client for Mastodon.
  • We're currently doing annual reviews at work. And while the process is worthwhile 2/3x per year, I feel like it's very HR-centric, rather than IC-centric.
    • Self reviews, manager reviews, peer feedback and calibration to stack-rank teams against future potential are all great ideas. But when it hits into a system crunch todo list, the point of giving & receiving feedback gets dropped fairly quickly.
  • Our youngest kid, 1 year old next month, started crèche. Which brings unimaginable pressure to the household finances (we now pay more than twice our mortgage rate for 2 kids to go to crèche). It's temporary, but still difficult to swallow. And worse, it's why my kids are developing really quickly and someone without the money or support structure won't benefit from it. We've built a ridiculous two-tier society and our society (in Ireland, at least), is barely 2-generations old in the current post-war, financially stable, state.
    • I think the government should pick up substancially more of the tab for services that have overall benefits to society. Public transport, education (including early years), etc. As it stands, we pay enormous amounts of tax and fit the enormous bill for the services that receive tax investments.
  • I built my mechanical keyboard (mentioned last week) and it was a great experience. Soldering is a lot easier once you do it a little bit and pay attention. But a mistake can be costly, especially when you then have to bute-force stabilisers that were slightly out of place afterwards.
  • I'm enjoying this format for "blogging" but do have some draft essay/notes that expand more on ideas.
  • There's more of a push for companies to get workers back in the office. As someone who mostly works from home, and has done pre-pandemic, I agree with this. Nothing beats the connections, work done and culture gains that can be had when you're in the same space as people working together. Zoom is fantastic, but it's artificially social.
    • That said, any company shirking "hybrid" work will lose employees. We work better on certain things when alone, in comfortable spaces, or just in different environments. People are complex, so giving them the optionality to do work in different spaces/places/environments is just human centric design.
  • I've been Adobe-free for years with photo editing work. And have settled into Affinity for the last few years. So I snapped up the second iteration of it over the holiday window. Right as I noted lots of anger towards Adobe, who is opting everyone into their odd machine learning systems to take photos automatically, and process them on their end to spit back "better" stuff.
  • I read some productivity notes from an engineer who had two wonderful anecdotes
    • The first is the "OODA" loop for getting things done: Orient (shift course), Observe (learn), Decide (what's the next step?) & Act (make the next step)
    • Dandelions allow you to make as many copies of an idea as needed, and iterate between generations. While an elephant stays around for as long as possible, teaching & learning from new offshoots.
  • I noted in my tabs for this week that there was an autopilot failure that caused a pileuip in SFO this week. As I drove my car, on "enhanced autopilot" from Cork to Dublin, I was thinking about it. It is by far the best driving assist system I've ever used. It's genuinely incredible. But it is absolutely not flawless, or reliable enough to hand over to most drivers.
    • It's easy to take back control, but I know how to because I've used Teslas for years. I don't recall there being an easy-to-follow tutorial or certification to take before being given access to the system.
    • Your car is in "autopilot," but as a driver you need to effectively be ready to take control at any time. It does weird things sometimes. Examples of weird things include:
      • Randomly braking. I assume because the camera sees a puddle, line or flash and assumes that it's something it isn't. Or in busy traffic (where I wouldn't rely on autopilot) it thinks a car up ahead is encroaching on your lane.
      • Not knowing what straight ahead is. So imagine coming towards an off-ramp. You're going to go straight ahead and not exit the motorway. Regularly, the Tesla system will panic about the change in painted lines on the road and indicate right to say "I'm staying in this lane," (note I'm in Ireland so we drive on the left-hand-side). That's got to look mental to a driver behind me. It has also started braking at some exits. I've no idea why.
      • Not completing lane changes. Regularly, when changing lane, the car will simply stop doing the manover and try to go back to position-1. It just gives up, with no explanation as to why. I tend to take control to complete the manoever because it's almost always when pulling from overtaking lanes into the driving lane. But again, to someone behind me, it looks like I've had a few pints.
    • I think some of this is solved by forcing drivers to take a certification, and not allowing "beta" software to be road tested IRL by inexperienced regular drivers (time behind the wheel != ability behind the wheel). I also think having some reason given to the driver as to why autopilot bailed out of a manoever, hit the brakes or did something unexpected would help the driver better prepare and expect blips in the system.
    • Despite all of this, it is still remarkable as a system. It's just not what it markets itself to be.
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