Joke Board

One of the things I’ve been doing at work, besides working, is running the Joke Board. This started out as a totally random thing: We had a small white board, and it tended to be propped up in a high-traffic area in our section. We would sometimes use it to share food with a note like “Please enjoy these homemade cookies!” Like this:
Joke Board: Lemon Bars

One day I had a joke that I thought was funny, so I wrote it on the white board to share with people walking by. Several people, walking by, read it and chuckled, or at least shook their heads as they walked away. I started writing jokes up on the board every few days, maybe two or three jokes a week.
Joke Board: Tearable

I’ve been doing this for several months, and people like it. I know because occasionally with a really good joke, I’d see people taking pictures with their phones, presumably to share with friends. Sometimes people would write up an alternative answer if they came up with a good one, or leave other comments (one time someone gave a +1 to an answer, an amusingly analog version of a digital kudos). A few times other people have even put up their own jokes:

What do you call a bear that’s gotten stuck in the rain? A drizzly bear. OR, alternative answer offered: A drown bear.
Why are there no knock knock jokes about America? Because freedom rings.

Several people have told me that they bring the jokes home and share them with family members. I know that I inflict these jokes on my biking buddies, eliciting many groans of dismay (but I know it’s happy dismay). At least two people have told me they specifically walk by every day to check the joke board for the next joke. And of course at work I see many people pause, read the joke, and walk away shaking their heads–the ultimate sign of a successful joke.

All my jokes are either puns or dad jokes. There’s not enough room to write an elaborate joke; they really have to be one-liners or a question and answer. Thanks to the Internet, I have ample jokes to keep the board going, but I now have more pressure than ever to find good jokes!

So we were humming along happily for a while, and the joke board was getting its own following.

Then, oh no! A new guy got hired and chose to sit in the empty spot occupied by the Joke Board. But when God closes a door, He opens a window (or so I’ve heard), so I took the opportunity to have the Joke Board officially hung up on the wall near our area.
Joke Board is hung up

Joke Board: Chicken coop
By the way, getting the board hung up was no joke. I had to contact our receptionist and I asked him to put in a work order with the building management company. They sent a handyman with his little cart of hooks and screws and a level, and this guy hung it up. Alas, he hung it slightly off-center from where we asked, but oh well, now it’s up and it’s official!

I was out sick for a couple days last week, and when I got back there was a new joke up. One of my team members had written a new one, and they told me that they’d even had another joke up in the interim, which elicited several participatory alternative punchlines.

Here’s today’s joke board, which I got so many laughs from–first the pun itself, and then at least half a dozen times watching other people read and react to the pun. It’s truly priceless.
Joke Board: Dyed a little inside

I’m about to do my six-month employee assessment. One of the questions is: “What are some of your accomplishments from the last 6 months?” I’m absolutely putting the joke board in that list.

At Work

I haven’t mentioned my job recently, and that’s partly because it’s been going pretty swimmingly. I like my team, I like my boss, and I really like my actual duties. It’s as close to the perfect job as I could imagine.

The last couple weeks, we had something happen that, at first, shook my trust in the company. I was afraid that it would turn out that my company was less scrupulous than I thought. But, just as I was feeling really disappointed, my boss showed some real integrity and completely redeemed the situation (from my perspective). I was deeply impressed at the way my boss ultimately handled the whole situation.

I mention this because it made an impression on me. I talked with my boss about my concerns, and he listened and took action. This may be the first time I have ever had that happen at a job. Having my voice listened to and respected made a huge impact.

So, it remains true: I feel like I have landed at my perfect job. I’m thankful every day to have the opportunity to do it. Most of all,  I’m deeply grateful that we went out on a limb and decided for me to apply when I saw the job opening last fall. 

Now, if only I could get a desk away from where everyone who walks by can see my screens…

Accomplishments

Gracious speech is like clover honey —
Good taste to the soul, quick energy for the body.
-Proverbs 16:24

I have to celebrate this occasion: I started at work January 23. Yesterday, April 7, we published my first release notes, written entirely from scratch by me. This is a big deal because release notes are one of the projects we have with a hard and fast deadline, and they can be a lot of work.

Many companies’ release notes look like this:

  1. Add new wizz to the existing functionality.
  2. Improve gadget to expand functionality.
  3. New feature: doohickey now lets you do another thing.

    And that’s pretty much it. Easy enough to pound out in an hour.

     Our release notes, on the other hand, are fairly detailed documents that include a compelling “sell” of the feature followed by screenshots and a brief description of how to use it/where to find it. To write a release note for one user story, I:

    1. Review the technical specifications, which describe how the feature should work.
    2. Go into the test product environment and try out the new feature, playing around until I have an idea of how it works.
    3. Write an outline of why and how, along with questions for the PM.
    4. Meet with the PMs individually and review all their features, ask questions, understand the feature.
    5. Write a draft of the release notes and send it to the PM to ensure it accurately reflects how the feature works. Lots of screenshots, lots of “I have a quick question.”
    6. Write more, edit more. Repeat several times.
    7. Find out the are several new stories I didn’t know about and the release notes draft is due in two days!
    8. Send out draft for review by entire technical team and upper management. Don’t sleep that night at all.
    9. Over the next week, get comments back. Hound PMs for comments on their stories and incorporate changes. Pray I didn’t make any technical errors.
    10. Receive copy edits from other writers and incorporate edits.
    11. Publish release notes to production about 5 pm and stay late at work to check everything went out correctly.
    12. WHEW! Now all I have to do is update the Help Center content with the actual new information in the next two weeks. That has to be done before the release, which is always two weeks after these notes go out.

    As you can imagine, after all this, these notes get pretty comprehensive. I’ve seen times when release note content served as the verbatim foundation for the Help Center topic.

    This was my first release writing the notes entirely on my own, and I had 13 stories to master before writing. My boss warned me that I might get overwhelmed and if I needed him to pick up some of the work, he could step in. I told him I thought I could handle it, and I’m glad I have it a shot, because now I did the entire thing on my own and I feel really proud of myself!

    Now I have two weeks of crunch time updating Help Center and trying to finish up another project I’ve been writing on the side. I may be offline for done of that time.

    I made lemon bars with Meyer lemons to celebrate. I would have liked lemon meringue pie, but alas, didn’t have time to make one. But I’ll take lemon bars and the sweet, sweet taste of success.

    Biking and Working

    I haven’t mentioned biking lately. When I started at Tamarac, I worried about fitting biking in with a full time job and time with my family.

    Biking helps keep me calm and grounded, as well as healthy and fit; it’s where I have friendships forged by shared (self-inflicted, to be sure) suffering, and I push myself mentally and physically. It brings me a deep satisfaction that I don’t find anywhere else and is one of the foundations of how I think of myself.

    In short, biking is very important to me. Before I took the job, Ian and I spent a good amount of time strategizing how to allow me to get in the biking I need while balancing Ian’s mental health time and my family time.

    It’s been two and a half months, and I think we’re finding a balance that works for now: During the week, I commute home by bike three days. I follow a training plan I put together to do intervals or other targeted riding, so it’s not just the same slogging along every time. On the weekend, I ride on Saturday, making sure to get home before Benji gets up from nap at 3:30 pm.

    When I commute, I normally ride my pink bike. I built it up as a commuter bike almost 10 years ago (disc brakes before it was cool!) and it continues to serve me beautifully in that capacity.
    Snowy Pink Bike

    Now, some of my biking buddies assert that bike weight doesn’t matter. They say it’s all about the motor (how strong your legs are), and that a slightly lighter bike doesn’t make much difference in how fast you go, especially over flats. I’ve ridden my pink commuter bike 20+ times on this route now, and I set myself a goal of averaging 18 mph on my commute consistently. When I started riding, I averaged 15 to 15.5 mph when riding steadily, a heart rate of in the 150s.

    I’ve been following my training plan, including taking rest or cross-training days and riding in heart rate zones that feel pretty easy, and working hard on my Saturday rides.

    Last Monday, riding alone on my pink bike with probably a bit of a tailwind, I averaged 16.6 mph.


    I had a kind of side-wind that may have at times been a tailwind or other times been more of a headwind. It’s a little hard to say if that helped or hindered me. But that seems pretty indicative of my commuting pace at the moment. On the long, flat Burke Gilman/Sammamish River Trail section, I averaged about 17.2 mph.

    But on Friday, I took the fast bike to work (this is my view as I approach the bus stop by my office; that’s my fast bike on the front of the bus).
    Fast Bike, Slow Bus
    I normally don’t even ride on Fridays, resting my legs for a big Saturday ride. But the weather got to over 55 degrees and not raining — how could I resist? For the first time I tried taking my fast bike on a commute. I left all nonessentials at work, including a set of clothes I now have to bring back home, and carried the essentials in a small backpack.

    While I’m sure it’s true that slight differences in weight may not matter, what I can say is that I averaged 18 mph on my fast bike, keeping my heart rate in the same zones as I normally on my steady commuting days. On the flat section, I averaged 19.1 mph, almost 2 mph faster than my regular commuter bike. And that was with some notable wind, most of it not in my favor.

    That bike is faster in so many ways, it’s hard to say if weight definitively made a difference. Whatever the case, I’m willing to keep calling my Cannondale “the fast bike.”

    I hoped to ride it this weekend, but yet again, nasty weather precluded that. My pink bike has gotten a lot of miles this winter, what with having the rainiest winter ever. On Saturday I had to be home in time to go to a friend’s wedding, so Dad kindly started our ride an hour earlier than usual. With that start time, we spent the first hour riding in rain. My feet soaked through and I couldn’t feel my toes. You’d think I’d be better at this whole thing after all the practice I’ve had this year…

    Anyway, despite the rain, three other people besides me and Dad showed up.

    I embarrassed myself by being a complete wimp, and I wasn’t able to hold the pace when everyone started riding into the mid-20 mph range. The very things that make that pink bike a wonderful commuter — the weight, the rack, the fenders, the heavy-duty tires and wheels, its very frame durability — all drag me down on a ride like that.

    Plus, later that day, I also found out that it’s not my favorite time of month… and that seems to always make it harder to ride. I read in my Bicycling for Women book that blood doesn’t transport oxygen as well at some times of a woman’s cycle. One of the things I struggled with yesterday was just feeling like I couldn’t catch my breath, or that I was breathing really hard for my level of effort. Perhaps that’s partly the deal.

    Anyway, that’s biking right now. I think it’s going well; we’ll just keep figuring things out as our needs evolve.

    Work: Week 7

    I just looked at the calendar and counted: I’ve been at my job for 7 weeks already. Time flies when you’re having fun, I guess, because it feels like just yesterday we started this crazy adventure.

    On the other hand, it’s been long enough that we’ve started finding the routine that works for all of us to do what needs doing while staying sane. Benji and I spend his first hour up together, and I make sure to get some of his prep stuff done so Ian doesn’t have to. While we’re hanging, Ian gets ready for his day. I leave the house at 7:15, and get home any time between 6:00 and 6:30, unless I have to stay late.

    This unfortunate occurrence will happen more and more frequently over the next month, I expect, as we approach April 20, the next release date. I have several hard deadlines between now and then. My boss told me “We kind of tried to let you know in the interview that this job is really stressful.”

    I’m not feeling stressed out yet. Maybe that’s ignorance, and I should start stressing, like when I did my first bike race and I really had no idea what was going on and whether I was safe or not. But I keep checking with my boss and coworker to make sure I’m doing the right things, and so far it seems like I’m on top of everything.

    The way the job works is the developers make features based on things called User Stories. We, the writers, find out which User Stories will be going out at the next release. We research the stories, reading the technical specs and trying out the features in the test environment, so we have an idea of how the new feature works. Then we meet with the people in charge of each User Story (Project Managers, PMs) and interview them about their User Stories. Then we write Release Notes, which describe not only the mechanics of the new feature, but emphasize the “Why,” as my boss puts it. We have to really sell the feature, making it sounding exciting and worthwhile.

    Release notes are my first deadline. This is a big deal, because it’s the first time my writing goes out to the senior management and all the PMs for review. I have to hand-deliver a hard copy of the release notes to the president of the company for him to read (!).

    After I get release notes written, I go into the Help Center and edit or add pages to cover details of the new features. I have two weeks to do this from the time the release notes go out to the time the actual release happens. Many features don’t require a ton of new writing, but rather expanding or modifying existing content. Unfortunately a lot of changes to the look require new screenshots, which are difficult to find and take some time to replace. But some of the changes will require me to write entirely new pages, and that takes time, too.

    As I mentioned, I’m not feeling stressed. So far I’ve certainly felt time pressure, and the need to focus and work diligently. As far as I can tell, I’ve not yet fallen behind, and if anything I’m a little ahead of where I need to be.

    Unfortunately, I do have an entirely separate, unrelated project that’s quite big and going to take a substantial amount of time, and that’s going to come due right around the end of April, too. Time to engage in some serious time management.

    I’m not sure how much blog writing I’ll do as we approach this release, and I don’t know what having a job writing will do as far as my desire to write recreationally. We’ll just have to see. Lately on my bus rides I’ve enjoyed reading Wonder Woman comics on Hoopla or library books on my phone Kindle app. But I’ve had this blog so long, it’s not going away. I’ll just update more or less. We shall simply see what the future holds. As always.

    SMEs

    At work, they have people who are “Subject Matter Experts.” These people know everything there is to know about one of our products. Of course, nobody calls them Subject Matter Experts; they’re SMEs, which is then pronounced “smee.”

    Evidently this is pretty standard in many fields, but all I can think of is this.

    Dispatch from Day 4

    I was going to share some pictures of my work space and general work environment, but yesterday I read the employee handbook and learned that was explicitly banned. Sorry, folks.

    I spent much of Wednesday do video training on various topics, with a break for some in-person lecture-style training for variety. The good thing about that is that I had some idea what was going on. The bad thing is that after spending the whole day with sometime talking at me, my brain felt overloaded. 

    Most interesting and challenging was the training on performance measurement. At my old job, I just knew we reported TWR not IRR, and that TWR stands for time-weighted return while IRR stands for… Something else. 

    Now I have actually practiced calculating those, I have a much better idea of the differences. This morning I woke up thinking, “I wonder if a flow chart would help clients understand the difference better.” Have to think about that some more, but I think in general the view is that we want to improve clients’ understanding of which to use when, and that right now it’s confusing. I may try sketching out a rough idea anyway.

    Today is shaping up to contain lots more training, some in person, some live webinars, some pre-recorded, interspersed with a few meetings about things I don’t understand. But I remain confident that I will pick this stuff up eventually, and in a few months things will make do much more sense.

    So far I continue to be excited to go learn new stuff. Just have to get my brain to assimilate it all.