Friday, December 16, 2005

Toca's Miracle

"So, Chris, how do you spend your time?" What an excellent question, dear reader! I will be happy to illuminate you.

Like most people, my schedule breaks down into weekdays and weekends. The weekdays are fairly consistent from week to week, the weekend much less so - last weekend was the first in a month that I was actually in the state.

On a typical day my alarm will wake me up around 6. A while back I invested in one of those "progressive" alarm clocks, and it actually works pretty well - it starts quiet and gradually gets louder, giving me some time to wake up on my own before it reaches a typical alarm screech. So on some days I'm up and moving before 6, on others I'll hit snooze a few times, but it's generally in the ballpark of 6.

I get up and take a shower and eat breakfast, gradually waking up with each step. Dressing is easy now that I'm in a casual environment - I'll grab a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, throw on a long shirt if it's chilly outside, and I'm good to go. I'll amble out the door at various times, depending on how pokey I've been so far, but usually around 7.

My commute is wonderful - I never have bad traffic, and from my carport to the Rocket Mobile lot takes about 9 minutes, 5 of those on the freeway.

I'm generally the first or second person in the office; Cathy often beats me there. Working early is something I started while in the War Room at Cerner, and was practically a necessity there; the place got so noisy and distracting that I could only reach peak productivity in the few hours before the place filled up. Noise is much less a factor at RM, but I still like the calm and quiet of the office early in the morning. Depending on how busy I am I will sometimes take a half-hour or more to read the (online) paper and my email; other times I'll open Visual Studio immediately and get cracking.

Another nice change from Cerner is the dearth of meetings; I average just about two meetings a month now. So my workday is pretty much mine to manage however I want. Usually that means coding, coding, coding. This is occasionally interrupted, though, by:
* Lunch runs. A few times a week some of the guys will run to Whole Foods or a carryout place and grab food to bring back and eat. For special occasions (birthdays, etc.), we'll eat at a restaurant.
* On non-lunch-run days, I'll often eat the Kimchi noodles that are always stocked here (I never ate ramen and so my appetite for noodles appears boundless) or bring in a sandwich. The kitchen is well-stocked with chips, cookies, soda, and more awful stuff, so my lunch budget is practically nil.
* I'll sometimes track down someone to get clarification on a specification or bug report, or to brainstorm ideas for how to implement something.
* While we don't have a formal design phase, I'll sit down and spend some time with a notebook (solo) or whiteboard (collaborative) and figure out how to tackle a problem.
* When there's some spare time, I'll often try to better myself through KNOWLEDGE! I have a stack of CDJs (C/C++ Developer's Journal) to go through and programming resources to be found on the boundless Internet.
* Twice or so a day, I'll walk around the building outside and marvel at the good fortune that brought me to California. Lately I'll give a moment of silence to my brothers and sisters in Illinois who are no longer able to go outside without a jacket.
So that's that. Now, the specific things I work ON can change a lot, and obviously I can't talk about that here, but the general pattern of my days remains fairly similar.

On Thursdays, between two and six of us will show up at the Southern Kitchen. Everyone will order Eggs Benedict. It tastes really good, and that relaxed time is often a highlight of my week; it's the perfect opportunity to pick the brains of the folks who've been here for a while.

I start to wind down around 5; I'll typically finish whatever I'm currently working on and make sure everything compiles before shutting down. I'm usually out the door between 5:15 and 5:30.

The drive home is harder than the drive to work, though nowhere near as bad as almost anywhere else in the Bay area. It can take a little maneuvering to get into the right lane for the Hamilton exit, and I need to deal with more stoplights on the way home. (Now that they've stopped construction onto Southwest, though, my return commute can be just as quick as the morning one.)

I'll turn on NPR (now pretty much the only thing I listen to in my car) when I get home and start preparing supper. Since I live alone, this usually means I make one new thing every week and eat the leftovers the next five days. It's fine, though, and I try to add variety with the side dishes.

I'll either eat dinner at the gatefold table while reading something (often the New Yorker) or on the coffee table while watching last night's television (often The Daily Show or the Colbert Report.) The rest of the evening is mine and can go pretty much anywhere. Lately it's been pretty Civ IV-heavy; other activities include running errands, going for a walk (only in the summer, it's too dark now), reading (books, magazines, websites), watching TV or DVDs, DDR, going to the library, going to a lecture or performance, catching up with friends via email, AIM or this blog, cleaning the apartment, going to bed early. The fun never ends!

I usually shoot for hitting bed around 9:30, although "One... more... turn!" syndrome has lately been pushing that back. I'll read for half an hour (currently either the New Yorker or my re-reading of "Reading Lolita in Tehran" (trying not to fall asleep while reading this time though). I'm falling asleep really quickly now, which is a blessing; I still remember the agony of lying awake for hours desperately wishing for sleep that wouldn't come. These days I'll usually hear the train go by once and fall asleep before it comes again, which probably means it's taking me 15-30 minutes.

Weekends are another beast. Friday I'll often stay out later, either going to something downtown or just giving myself an extra-long run at a current game or book. Saturday I'll sleep in; I usually still have an alarm set but make sure I give myself no less than 8 hours. Most often I'll go for a hike on Saturday morning. I pick all my hikes out of "South Bay Trails," a good though occasionally infuriating resource. I've never done the same trail twice and will be able to continue for over a year before it becomes a necessity. My three big criteria are:
1. Variety. I don't like to hit the same park twice in a row, and will generally opt for a region I haven't been to lately.
2. Weather. The book gives good suggestions for when to hike certain areas; the Diablo Range has very few trees and gets incredibly hot in the summer, so I'm focusing on a lot of those trails now that the weather is cool.
3. Duration. The ideal hike for me is about 4 hours over varied and challenging terrain; I've gone as high as 6 and as low as 2 depending on my energy level and what else I have to do.

I'll usually return from my hike shortly after none and fairly hungry. This is a perfect time for a tuna melt sandwich. Twice now I've tried to stop by an In 'n Out burger on the way home, but haven't been able to locate it yet.

I sometimes nap in the afternoon, though less often than I'd think. Saturday is a great day for projects and ventures. All my personal coding gets done on Saturdays; I'm usually not up for it after a day at the office. I've gone up to San Francisco a few times on either Friday or Saturday, often intending to attend one particular event but inevitably discovering other diversions along the way. All my weeknight activities are fair game for this time as well.

If I didn't take a nap I'm usually sufficiently tired to go to bed around 10 on Saturday and go right to sleep. I'll wake up early on Sunday, often still grabbing 9 or so hours of sleep. The first thing I do is walk down the street to Albertson's, where I will buy myself a Sunday paper and a donut (and, if necessary, one or two items I've run out of). I return home and have my second big breakfast of the week - eggs, cereal, donut - while reading the paper. I hop in the shower and plan my day.

I've been church-hunting on Sunday, although I haven't gone since October (due to the afore-mentioned never being in town on the weekends, plus now everyone's doing Christmas stuff which makes it harder to evaluate them). I'll usually pick out a place the night before; I like to run searches on Google Maps for denominations ("Presbyterian churches near 95126") and look at their web sites until I find one that looks promising. The closest match so far is a great city church, but I'll probably expand my circle and keep looking. I hate being a "pick-and-choose' Christian, but at the same time I really want to find a home that's right for me.

I'm back a bit before noon and usually hunker down the rest of the day. Saturday is my activity day but Sunday tends to be my relaxation day. I'll go through the paper, watch some football games if it's on and I can get a signal, lay on my back on the couch and plow through a book. I'll usually call my parents now (free minutes on weekends!) and occasionally friends as well. My main goal on Sunday is to eliminate whatever residual stress may be left (less now than at any time since high school - I love my job and I love California) and get recharged and energetic for the following week.

So, now you know! This system has been working well for me, and I feel like it balances my work obligations, personal pleasures, and need for intermittent human contact. There are two possible changes in the near future. First, I may shift my schedule forward an hour or two. While I psychologically enjoy getting an early start on the day (and, incidentally, remaining in synch with many of my Midwest friends' schedules), physiologically I am still a night person. On the rare days when I sleep in and don't get into the office until 9, I feel more alert and awake throughout the day. So I might start doing that more regularly to take advantage of my body's preferences. The other big change is my commute; a few people here bike to work, and I think I might do it as well. There's a great multi-use trail that runs most of the way between my apartment and the office, and I'm very tempted to make use of it.

So, there you go. Nobody asked for this... again, a big purpose of this blog is for me to chronicle the stages of my life for myself. Ten years from now, when I'm juggling a career and raising kids, I'm going to wonder, "What on earth did I do with all my free time when I was 25?" I'll read this post, shrug, and say, "Apparently, not very much."

No comments:

Post a Comment