Weekly Update (21w09)

Anniversary #1, tons of impulse-reading, my first few interviews, and some "funnies."

Oops, this is going out on Monday. A trial by fire of my accountability system, to be sure, and one that worked: after forgetting to write my weekly update on time, four people contacted me asking where it was! 🙃

It’s really late asI write this (almost so late that it’s early), so this will be a bit shorter than normal. Better than skipping, I figured!

I. Anniversary #1

Mattea and I got married a year (and 8 days) ago! Last Sunday (February 28) was the day, but we didn’t really do much to celebrate—so, on Wednesday, we went skiing for each of our second times. We also walked 3 miles to the nearest grocery store on Thursday, to get a tub of ice cream and make milkshakes with our expired bananas!

[I would insert a picture of us skiing here, but keep leaving my phone in the car.]

She got me an awesome gift (two, one was “for Valentine’s Day”): leather-bound copies of “Ender’s Game” and its lesser-known sequel “Speaker For The Dead” (a transparent allegory which still manages to be one of my all-time favorite books). Turns out that premium leather-bound book publishers aren’t exactly the most prompt with their on online order shipping, so they got here a week or two late—go figure.

All of it was amazing—the skiing, the milkshakes, and the books. ❤️

II. What good are books, if you don’t read them?

In a conversation earlier this evening, I was discussing “vices” with some friends here at Edyfi. Doing irrational but enjoyable things, someone argued, is the way we assert our humanity: if we let our tasks and structures and schedules and hierarchies consume us entirely, we might as well be robots, right?

I like the way that sounds. I didn’t flagrantly abdicate any responsibility I might have had in any non-work (hi, Chrisman!) realm this week… I just, um, asserted my humanity.

“Ender’s Game” came in on Tuesday morning; “Speaker For The Dead” (do I capitalize those middle words? maybe? gah!) on Wednesday. By 7:45 PM on Thursday, I’d finished both of them, from cover to cover. 5 hours each, 10 total.

For those keeping score, that means that I spent more (non-work) time reading than not reading for three days straight. It was totally worth it, too—that series continues to be a pinnacle of literature in my eyes, evidence that the English language can truly sing at unimaginable heights.

Then, because I still didn’t want to find and call a local mechanic, I picked up a copy of the King James Bible and started reading from Esther onwards (timely, as a Jewish friend here informed me—Purim was just last week). After that, I figured it’s been long enough since I read “Julius Caesar,” (right?), and Shakespeare was practically staring at me from the shelf, so how could I resist…

Impulse reading is my vice. At least I picked a good one!

III. I wonder what it’s like for interviews to go well

Last week, I’d never interviewed anyone before. Now, I’ve only never interviewed someone I didn’t veto immediately afterward! (That’s 0-3, for those keeping score.)

First up was an intern candidate for Synthesis; my job was to figure out if they were fluent in JavaScript. I picked a pretty fun question: “implement the ranked choice voting algorithm.” It’s nice, simple, and open-ended, while giving people enough rope to hang themselves if they’re just faking it.

That’s what I thought, at least. After watching an otherwise competently-presenting sophomore flounder for 1.5 hours straight, though, I decided to take my own medicine and implement the code in two programming languages. 10-15 minutes each. Hm.

Next intern. HOLY CRAP. Have you ever felt so bad for someone that you just want to curl up and die a painful death or two of shame for them? I had made the mistake of scheduling our interview for a full hour and a half—after 10 minutes, I knew it would be quite the ride. Here’s a sample of the code this candidate wrote in five whole minutes:

minVotes = Math.min(...roundVotes);

Haha, just kidding. That’s how it was after I gave them the half of the necessary syntax! Thankfully, the code environment we were sharing crashed after half the allotted time; I’ve never felt so conspicuously free before.

(I don’t think I’m being mean? Very sorry, intern candidate #1 at least (#2 had no hope at all), if my expectations are too unreasonable when starting off at this.)

I also interviewed a candidate for Edyfi’s summer houses, who couldn’t stop dropping names for 5 minutes to talk about his values or motivation. Apparently, if your dad is the [semi-important position] at [prominent US agency] while you’re growing up, you “get tired of admirals and astronauts coming over for dinner twice a week.” When someone spends more time talking about the 12 billionaires that invested in their failed startup than giving any hint of having a personality, I don’t want to live with them. 🤷‍♂️

(I feel really bad judging people—especially when it requires negative conclusions. I’d rather just stick to judging myself in the future, but unfortunately it seems necessary.)

IV. Bonus “funnies” (courtesy of nearby old lady)

When Mattea and I were on a long walk last Sunday, looping around through an unfamiliar suburb on our way back to the house, a short old lady swooped out of her driveway to walk alongside us and “tell us funnies” on the way back.

Here are some of her best jokes:

  • What’s as big as an elephant, but doesn’t weigh anything? (Its shadow)

  • Which part of your body hangs onto life the longest? (Your eyes, because they dilate (“die late”))

Apparently most people shake her off after a few dozen feet—we listened to her (it was mainly her talking) for 5-10 minutes. It feels good to spread some empathy in these lonely times! 😊