Open House

My soul is redlining these days but I’ve discovered a few breaths and a few minutes to write. Thank you as always for reading and affording me an opportunity to be better understood.


My House

Life’s been moving fast since I last wrote. This whole moving-on scheme took off really quickly. Erik closed on his house while we met with a local realtor and got our house on the market and looking fine. My brother came down for a fun garage sale the day it was listed. We quickly got a bunch of showings and a couple good offers. While on vacation in middle America, we eventually signed a contract on our house for a cash buyer (that was a pain to negotiate with). They dropped ten grand into escrow and had their inspection on August 15th, which was uneventful. Their realtor assured us everything was fine and they were planning to move forward.

Continue reading “Open House”

Opportunity

Work has been a bummer for me lately. Trying to help out, I took a position last August that has essentially taken away my ability to contribute. I thought supporting others would be a way to expand the impact of my passion; I was wrong. It turns out passion is rare and fragile. Through all the re-organization, cost-cutting and inequity, I lost my motivation and purpose at UCF.

One morning my passion fought back. This was not what UCF had been to me. I met many of my friends here. I lost almost 100 pounds with a smoothie diet at this walk-able campus. UCF gave me room to grow, demonstrate my value and find my confidence. UCF stood for opportunity.

For weeks I’ve been exploring campus and visiting colleagues, filming everything. I woke up for sunrises on the top of empty garages. I stalked cats, squirrels, raccoons and sandhill cranes. I interviewed peers and clients. I pulled weather cam footage and swam in fountains. In all, I shot and compressed 700+ clips to a single production, a surreal memoir of my UCF experience.

Nothing in recent memory has made me happier or has been as fulfilling or rewarding. Seeing old friends, comrades, wildlife, and the hidden beauty around campus has been overwhelming. I sincerely hope everyone reading this can feel as strongly about their purpose and passions as I have felt producing this video. Please enjoy. 🐾

What’s the Haps: Summer 2019

Hey friends! I tend to write really structured updates and the temptation to do that this time is totally there! Instead I’m just going to write about what’s on my mind and fill in the details where I can.

Work Work Work

Work blows. I’ve been a Scrum Master since last August and it’s on par with the terrible internship I had with Orange County back in the day. Lots of theoretical responsibility and a bunch of people too disillusioned and/or busy to really care about Scrum, Agile, technical quality, or me. Most days I have literally nothing to do. I’ve filled the vacuum by taking on large, team-wide server and database migration projects, team satisfaction surveys, trying to keep on top of strategy and momentum, but it all just screeches to a halt the second I have to rely on anyone outside of my office. It’s depressing as hell and leaves me feeling like a useless member of the team (and questioning my own value). Even worse, gaslighting in the form of “we’re all doing a great job” and “Scrum is so important to our success” makes me feel like I don’t even know what reality I’m in half the time.

You’d think having all this “free” time would be a godsend for me, but the cognitive dissonance is not something I’ve shown any aptitude in handling. I’m at work to do work stuff and I go home to do my stuff and I just don’t know how to flop those two. I’ve tried to take advantage of the downtime in a lot of ways: hiking (mostly successful until the heat kicked on), reading, writing (hello!), a video project (incredibly fulfilling and fun until it got down to editing 500+ clips together), working on therapy homework (pretty difficult to do in a work mindset), and most recently, playing my Switch. It works sometimes, but most of the time the feelings of loneliness, inadequacy, and worthlessness kind of push out any room for motivation or enjoyment. And there’s always that chance I could be needed or work could crop up—just enough to leave me paranoid and checking Teams / email every five minutes.

I hope it’s clear that it’s not a good time for me! I can’t complain about being paid semi-well, having vacation and getting health insurance, but this can’t be what my life amounts to.

Continue reading “What’s the Haps: Summer 2019”

Hack Day, Summer 2018

MicrosoftTeams-image

This week I participated in one of the first combined Hack Days at my workplace, which brought together IT teams from across campus that normally don’t interact on a daily basis. I’ve always loved the concept of trusting people and letting them work on whatever they find most valuable for a period of time (it is baked into my team’s sprint schedule three times a year), so I wanted to support the event and encourage my peers to do so in the future.

I’ve been acting as a Scrum Product Owner for the past year and am in the process of transitioning to a team wide ScrumMaster for the foreseeable future, so my hack day projects were centered around building two small tools to assist in the calculation of business value and effort estimation (exciting stuff!):

  • Protocalc: Not the best name I’ve ever come up with, but it works! This simple tool sucks in a JSON object of categories, questions, and answers (and weights to those categories and questions) and dynamically generates a web form out of them. Filling out this form will give you a business value estimate for any item or feature, both out of 100 and out of 20 (depending on how you’d rather round). It’s a simple way to share an understanding of what drives value on our team and removes a lot of the overhead and ambiguity in calculating some usable value indicator. The question and answer set can be easily swapped out for different teams and different value streams making it reusable.
  • Plokker: Most Agile teams regularly estimate the relative effort of items on the backlog as this scoring is useful for determining how much a team can and should commit to in sprints. A pretty popular way to do that is through “planning poker” in which team members determine their own estimates and then try to reach a consensus.

Don’t judge the JavaScript too harshly (it was a hack DAY), but it was really reinvigorating to sit down and just create with no real risk in doing so. I’m still feeling the positive effects from the experience days later. If these small tools have any real impact in our day-to-day work I’ll be sure to report back!

FSL Database / Website

“Sorry I had to run out to meet with another student. The website you built looks amazing and is very user friendly. Thanks so much for working with Cristina and IKM to move this process forward. Much appreciated. Belinda” (Assistant Vice President)

Nice to hear after a good demo!

EDIT: Another!

“Good day all, I must co-sign on Mrs. Belinda’s words. Jordan has been awesome
to work with and has brought to reality a system that will make our productivity more efficient with less human error. Those extended phone calls have been worth it, Jordan =) I am very happy we made it here together! Thank you.”

Campus Webcams (C#)

A simple site that reconstitutes single JPEG images from within the UCF firewall for outside consumption via Motion-JPEG

Purpose

We got an urgent request to recreate UCF’s Campus Webcams site, as UCF Marketing was replacing the main UCF site with a WordPress install (thus removing all of the various sub sites of that legacy implementation). We had no contact with the original developers nor any glimpse of the code that powered the previous Webcams site. In addition to reproducing the original site, it was requested that the new site also double the number of cameras viewable.

Method

I got to work quickly on an .NET C# MVC3 application, building out a default Area for the public and an admin Area for a front-end to a database that stored webcam information. I gathered data manuals on all the various camera manufacturers represented throughout our departments and discovered ways to pull single-frame data at specific resolutions from each. I wrote an Action that composes constant snapshot data into a Motion-JPG stream. Finally, after some research, I pulled down a Nuget package for an image processor to do Gaussian blurs on the images (for legal reasons).

Highlights

There is nothing quite as bizarrely satisfying as writing the raw response output of a Motion-JPG stream. It’s too bad that no version of Internet Explorer (through 10) supports Motion-JPG; any IE visitors get redirected to the raw Frame output (and a basic JavaScript refresh every eight or so seconds). It was also fairly satisfying to get into the groove of making all of my applications responsive for browsers and devices smaller than our minimum window size. Finally, just because I could, it was a blast to develop a KML feed that could display the cameras on Google Maps.

SDES Directory (C#)

  • Type: Website
  • Language: C#
  • Framework: MVC 3 and Entity Framework 4
  • Authentication: None
  • Data Source: SQL Database

Purpose

In collaboration with UCF Marketing, I developed a JSON model to store basic directory information on all our division’s departments and offices, including hours of operation, location, phone, fax, etc. JSON, however, was not designed to be stored in a flat file, so I got clearance to recreate the model as a SQL database and .NET MVC application.

Method

I designed a SQL schema to match the existing JSON model and migrated the data to the database. I then developed an MVC3 application (with a default and admin Area) to allow edits to the data, allow the public to view the data in an ordered fashion (and submit changes via an email form), and allow any public developer to read a generated JSON feed of the data.

Highlights

The app itself is pretty simple, but the definite takeaway from this application was the implementation of OutputCache on the controllers. Knowing that the JSON would be consumed by UCF Marketing and most of our sites, I was able to easily implement an application-level cache of the feed so that it loaded instantly and structured updates to the data at a set interval.

Takeaway

Small, good ideas work! Sometimes a full-on application seems like overkill for a simple idea, but if that simple idea saves hours a week, then it’s clearly worth it.

SDES Directory (C#)