Progress, deconstructed

In July, we got a third dog, a Jack Russel Terrier named Myka.

A small tan and white jack russel puppy sitting on the carpet looking at the camera.
Here she is at three months.

We rapidly discovered that Myka’s philosophy on life is (not unexpectedly), “I’m gonna bite it.”

Now, it’s important to note that we have two other Jack Russells who we also got as puppies, so we’ve gone through destruction phases before.

For example, this is what Chance and Kaylee did to my couch at roughly the same age:

A plaid couch circa 2008 with a hole at the bottom where the stuffing all over the floor was pulled from
They were big on “arts and crafts”, shredding things as group activities.

And here are the two destruction experts, nine years ago, as puppies:

Kaylee, tan and white, laying with her head on Chance, brown and white, who is wearing a blue sweater with white bones on it. They look suitably adorable.
If you haven’t guessed by now, yes, I feel like showing off my dogs today.

So yeah. We thought we’d already learned how to puppy-proof a house.

But in ten years, puppy-proofing has become more challenging, and it’s because of technology.

Here’s a list of the things Myka has destroyed in six months that didn’t exist when Chance and Kaylee were puppies:

  • Jabra bluetooth headphones and a bluetooth headphone charging case. (Left on a table she shouldn’t have been able to reach.)
  • Apple AirPods and their case. (Fell out of a pocket.)
  • The charging cable for a wifi video camera (Slipped below the table it was on, so she jumped up and gnawed on it. Ironically, the camera was to monitor Myka when she was locked in the kitchen.)
  • The power cable for an LED grow lamp. (Also slipped below the same table. Fortunately, it was unplugged at the time. And before you get ideas, it was for a Venus Flytrap she later wrecked by climbing onto the kitchen counter.)
  • An LED camping lantern. (I set the camping lantern down in the yard to open a bottle of soda. She ran off with the lantern. I got up to retrieve the lantern. She ran off with my unopened soda bottle. Rookie mistake.)
  • Solar-powered path lights. (She’s wrecked a couple of them, which is why we now have motion-detecting solar powered lights on the fence instead. Upgrade!)
  • Playstation 4 controller. (There is no level of the TV stand she can’t reach, because a tv stand for a 60″ flatscreen doesn’t have a top shelf that goes over the the way the CRT tv stands did in 2008.)
  • Silicone caps for Jabra headphones.
  • Silicone caps for Apple earbuds.
  • Silicone off of literally anything she can find. She likes chewy things.
  • iPhone lightning charging cables (multiple)
  • Nintendo Switch charging cable
  • Many many smoked ostrich bones.

Now, admittedly, some of the things on this list had 2008 analogues… the Gameboy, the original iPhone cable, non-LED grow lamps, they all existed. But they were also sturdier, thicker, and harder to destroy, because we weren’t in the “micro-size everything” stage of technology we are today. While Chance and Kaylee could have chewed up a set of headphones, the chances that they’d swallow a whole one (which Myka almost did today) were pretty damn small.

Some of the things, like the Playstation controller, wouldn’t have gotten destroyed in 2008 because a TV stand in 2008 looked more like a giant wooden cabinet than a base for a large glowing slab of wall. The playstation controllers back then were kept on a shelf well above where the puppies could jump.

And yes, ostriches and smoked ostrich bones did exist in 2008, but “amazon will deliver ostrich knuckles in 12 hours” did not.

Puppy-proofing a house, inside or out, has become amazingly harder as our technology shrinks (or in the case of the TV, grows) and becomes more pervasive. We have twice as many tv-oriented devices as we did a decade ago, and that was when we owned more video game systems than most of our friends combined. We have more headphones than I-was-in-college-when-the-CD-player-became-a-thing ever dreamed of. I thank the universe that I don’t have a toddler who would swallow everything in sight instead.

Fortunately, this post does come with some good news: not everything changes.

I just pulled Myka out from under the couch, where she was tearing the bottom lining off by the mouthful.

Six-month-old jack russell curled up on the couch on top of a pile of blankets, sleeping.
The destruction machine, finally recharging her batteries

A shout-out to my awesome night shift folks

Happy New Year, everybody!

We’re getting a bit of a slow start here, and part of that is because  I’m one of those people who shifted into a delayed sleep phase as a teenager, and then never shifted back… so while most of my peers are in bed by ten or eleven at night, that’s when I’m starting laundry and doing a lot of my creative work.

Fortunately my husband’s as much (or more) of a night owl as I am, and the dogs sleep any time they want, so I’m not really disturbing anyone… especially when we were on vacation for two and a half weeks at the end of the year together and nobody has to get up for work.

Unfortunately, I’m sleeping much closer to “what my body prefers” than I was in, say, November. It’s fine to sleep 2am-11am on the Saturday before New Year’s, and not so much on the Wednesday after. Delayed sleep phase is often described as “social jet lag” because my job, my doctor’s office, my contractors, etc. are all dressed and at work when I’m in my fourth hour of sleep, and they often think I’m lazy or irresponsible for staying up late and sleeping in, as if I had a choice.

Under the category of “health issues that could qualify as disabilities” my husband and I both have bigger fish to fry. At the same time it’s a legitimate problem with a legitimate diagnosis and symptoms and all that. (It might be genetic.)  Severe cases are, in the US, considered a disability.

My sleep proclivities are one of the reasons I work in tech. I’m no nudist on the late shift, but I’m also clearly not cut out for anything that begins “Wake up at 5 am…” and web technology’s overall culture tends to be more forgiving for scheduling oddities than, say, running a daycare. My current schedule allows for a 10ish to 7ish shift, so that’s what I run on. (And even that’s earlier than my body wants me to get up.)

So thanks to good planning and good luck, I work a job that aligns better than most with my sleep schedule. This introduces a different problem: some days, I don’t want to go home at the end of my shift.

For me, the creative “in the zone” “get things done” hours happen sometime after 4pm (and then again around 11pm), and by working 10am-7pm I’m usually getting a good 3 hours of creative desk time without interruption.

If you’ve ever fallen into “the zone” where all the problems seem to be in sharp focus and everything else in the world melts away, you know how easy it can be during that time to lose track of time. At my last job I had to set alarms (multiples, because it’s also really easy to blow off an alarm when one is lost in one’s work) and even have my husband call me to remind me to come home — otherwise I’d suddenly look up at 8:30 and go “oh shit,  not again”.

But in my current position, things are easier because I’m not alone. There are roughly five of us working the 10-7 “night” shift, and we keep an eye on each other (and the clock).  Monday three of them appeared at my desk at 7:05 to remind me it was time to go home, and stayed at my desk until I’d shut down so we could walk out together. Today, I was the one who hit a good spot to break away from my work at 7 and rounded up the others (including a day shift straggler).

We take care of each other because we care about each other and know we all work better when we get away from the office. We take care of each other because we don’t want to work at a place that expects 60-hour weeks. We also take care of each other because it sets a good example for the shorter-tenured or younger members of our teams. We all end up working late occasionally, but it shouldn’t be a daily practice, and if we catch someone working late on a regular basis we start asking questions. (It helps that a couple of us are of the Tech Lead / Team Lead / Principal rank and can ask questions.)

All this to say that, because we’re all working together with the same values, we can both support the profound diversity of our teams and ensure that we’re working healthy hours, which keeps the team happier, healthier, and more efficient.

This isn’t a culture that I set, but it’s one I’m happy to actively participate in and advocate to keep. Having left a job where “do more with less” meant “do more work with a shorter deadline” and where “work/life balance” meant “please work from any part of your life”, I find it amazing  that I can solve complex tricky problems on tight deadlines with people who also believe in the value of going home and playing video games until we’re finally tired around 1am.

So this is a shout-out to Jason, Eric, and the other more-random night-shifters, who for two years now have helped me be a better person, and have endured my somewhat-gentle browbeating when they, too, got caught up in their work.

And it’s a shout out to the rest of the night shifters out there. You’re not alone and you’re not weird, you’re just outnumbered 🙂