Last episode I shared the the email Q&A I had for an article about platform engineering. The finished article is up, much nicer edited than just copy and pasting my email. It’s part of the buzz around the SHIFT conference next week, which I’ll be at, in Zadar, Croatia.
Always use the cloakroom for your backpack at a museum. No need to carry it around.
Adding peanuts to soup is a genius move.
It’s hot all over northern Europe. They are not prepared for this at all. I was in the brand new Berlin airport for several hours and the AC wasn’t up for it. Europe is in for ten years or sweating their asses off for ten or so years until they figure this out. Now is the time to invest in HVAC, cologne, and handkerchiefs.
If you’re going to use an animated gif in your presentation, you should have it loop for, like, five seconds max. You don’t want it to run over and over for minutes as you talk through the slide. (You know, convert it to an MP4 and then you can tell PowerPoint to just play it once.)
“The secret to doing good research is always to be a little underemployed. You waste years by not being able to waste hours.” -Amos Tversky in The Undoing Project
“I knew what time it was by watching TV” Tom Hanks
Watering the Plants: “I wonder what’ll happen when I get a job I like. Will I keep these hobbies? I’ll have the knowledge, sure, but will I apply it, or go normal Jesse-workaholic mode and just throw myself into the job, ignoring all my previous escapes from reality?” And: “I used to be in the conference circuit and loved speaking all around the world at various user groups, conferences, and workshops. Speaking about tech you are passionate about in front of large, eager groups of strangers is intoxicating.”
If you’re a Java programmer in the London area, you should come check out the free SpringOne Tour conference on 12 October in London. It’ll give you a great overview of the latest in Spring, platform engineering and IDPs, and all that cloud native programming stuff:
Our Spring advocates, technical engineers, and application development experts bring an in-depth look into the beauty of open-source, with Spring Framework, Spring Boot 3, Kubernetes, Progressive Delivery and more, to strategise with you on how you can innovate faster.
I’m MC’ing it and will moderate a Q&A at the end. Come check it out - I mean, it’s free, and better than going into the office that day, right?
One day, when I write some kind of book like Confessions of a Tech Marketing Hustler, I’ll figure out a chapter on this: the dissonance between being on the road and then being at home. As she says:
The city looks pretty when you been indoors
For 23 days I've ignored all your phone calls
Everyone's waiting when you get back home
They don't know where you been, why you gone so long
Friends treat you like a stranger and
Strangers treat you like their best friend, oh well
In the enterprise tech life-on-the-road, uh, life, you exist in a spick and span world of daily showers, well cleaned and air conditioned hotels, fancy meals, and smily handshake meetings. You expense everything, and shuffle along in a TV-show-like luxury world. Then you get home, and it’s just like real life. Dirty dishes, kids that need help with homework, exhaustion at the everyday things. This is all “fine,” of course: it’s the ping-ponging back and forth that can make you lose your mind.
This is a thing where, I think, if you know it’s going to happen, you can prevent it from happening. Rather, you can see yourself getting all tangled up during this transition and say “ah! I know what’s happening here - so I’ll stop it.”
By topic-coincidence, I had lunch with my old pal Robert Brook who’d been on a multi-country train tour recently. He asked about this same problem: how does one deal with the cognitive exhaustion of so many life context switches? I think what I do is this: I make myself be OK with a drop in productivity. That is, I’m happy to “do nothing.”
When I’m traveling for work, giving a talk or having one meeting, I’m basically intensely at work for 2 hours: the 30 to 60 minutes of giving a talk, and making sure I show-up on time before that. You’d think I could fill the rest of the time with, like, writing a blog post (a newsletter?), editing some videos, making some videos. You know, just pull out your selfie stick and excoriate executives for being asleep at the wheel, or some such shit.
But, no. You will not do that. You will not have the brain power or the energy to be productive. The good news, having given a talk, having had a meeting with some prospects, having sat through a five hour EBC, dog and pony…you will have been productive. You will have done your work for the day, and you may space out. You may stare at a Deutsche Bank airport ad and contemplate the failed life.
The same is true for hectic tourism. There’s much advice about how to have a good vacation, how to be a good tourist. Here is mine:
There are three types of vacations: going to a beach, going to an event/amusement park, and going to a place (usually a city).
When you go to the beach, you do exactly that. You stay in a house or a hotel at most, a five minute walk from the beach. You wake up everyday and, if you’re someone who’s finders can automatically type out the word “productivity” perfectly, without having to do spell correct each time, you will think: “What will I accomplish today? Where do I need to go?” And then, as you figure out how to make the coffee machine work (again), your mind will kick in (rather, slink in), and say, “no, no. You are already doing it. You are at the beach. Productivity is now maxed out. You will either sit here, enjoying your coffee, or you will sit on the beach, enjoying the sun and the water and the sounds. Perhaps you’ll have a hamburger later, maybe a beer, or a cup of fruit if you’re lucky. And then, you come back here and sleep, and then away to the beach again. Golly, my KPIs will be maxed out in no time.”
When you go to an amusement park (Disney, Legoland, etc.) there is more “work” to be done, sure. But it’s like being at the airport. You just are comfortable waiting in lines and you sort of space out while you stand there. Do the kids want to eat awful corndogs, terrible fries, and other shitty fried food? Well! Let them! You are hitting your quarterly goals out of the park. You just shuffle along, going to things at whatever time they’re at, letting kids enjoy a tea cup ride or just playing in a sandbox for three hours.
When you go to a place, usually a city, there are more options. Your first goal is to get a sense for what normal life is like there. For this, I suggest walking around in a neighborhood, and spending some time in a few grocery stores. Being Just imagine what it’d be like if you lived here, and you had to get kids to school each day, figure out how to hire someone to clean your gutters, but also just sit on your stoop enjoying a fashionable rose, or lager. This is being a flâneur, which is all you really need to do when being a tourist. The second thing to do is to go a museum of some sort. You don’t need to see it all, or even the most famous things, just pick one period to look at. (The Mono Lisa is highly overrated, but all Van Gough painting are, despite their fame, very underrated - you should always see a Van Gough, each one will be amazing, no matter how many times you see it - the Dutch Masters [Rembrandt, Vermeer, etc.] are equally so, but it takes some training: no one likes bourbon or Scotch the first ten times they drink it, but on that 11th time, you think, “ah, I see what’s happening here - er, yes…well…I might just need to try it a few more times to make sure though…”). For example, you could go to Musée d'Orsay and just plan to look at the art deco interior design and furniture. Or the Rodin statues. If you happen to stroll by the other art, how thrilling for you! The third thing you should do is spend an annoyingly long time at a cafe, coffee shops (standard, or Amsterdam-style, I suppose, as your life-style dictates) restaurant, or a bookstore. Even just shopping works. There’s also, of course, nature, but that just seems like a type of walking about aimlessly.
In all of these cases, I hope what you see is that doing nothing is the goal. You can’t waste time if you weren’t looking to spend it wisely in the first place.
And, please, if you’re looking to be productive while you’re traveling for work: don’t do it. You’re just making it harder for the rest of us to look good.