Friday, September 8, 2017

On Quick & Dirty Email Attachments in Unix

Need to export a file from Unix/Linux via email? Got uuencode? Do you even remember uuencode? It's how we used to encode files for file sharing, back before you were born.

Here's a handy one-liner that will wrap your file up as a UUEncoded attachment and mail it to the address you specify. The email should come through with a properly formatted attachment that you can then download.

Just do this:
% cat file.zip | uuencode file.zip | mail recipient@example.com

Or you can get a bit fancier and add a subject line and a proper from address (if your system doesn't add one already):
% cat file.zip | uuencode file.zip | mail -s "Export of file.zip" -a "From: Me <sender@example.com>" recipient@example.com

Or you can do it as part of a shell script, with bits that look something like this:

FROM="Just Me <sender@example.com>"
TO="recipient@example.com"
FILE="file.zip"
cat $FILE | \
uuencode $FILE \
mail -s "Export of $FILE attached" \
-a "From: $FROM" \
$TO

I know there's probably some better way to do this, but this simple example has saved me endless amounts of time lately. Hope you find it useful, too.

Monday, August 21, 2017

On Nasty Women Week

Samantha Bee has proclaimed this week to be Nasty Women Week. To celebrate, I suggest that you pre-order the new book NASTY WOMEN: FEMINISM, RESISTANCE AND REVOLUTION IN TRUMP'S AMERICA, edited by Samhita Mukhopadhyay and my wife, Kate Harding.


Monday, August 14, 2017

On Working From Home

I've worked from home the whole time I've had my current job--a pretty long time now.

It's not so much that I intended to work from home. But when I got this job offer, I had just moved to a new city, and wasn't able to just pack up again and move a second time. The person hiring me was also based in another city and knew that it was possible to be a productive member of a team and organization even if you're not based in the same city or office as your coworkers.

Since then, I've had family issues that tied me to one city, my wife has had a job opportunity that tied us to another city, and she's likely to have another one of those in the future. Relocating to the city where the office is located really just isn't in the cards. And besides, if I later switch companies, it would mean that I'd have to be moving again. This isn't like working in a restaurant, where I can just go down the road and apply at the next place in town. I work in a very specialized area inside of a technology company.

My intent wasn't to avoid the office. It wasn't to avoid meeting people in person. I understand the value of water cooler knowledge transfer. But I've been working remotely for a long time, and I know that it can work. I know that I can set a schedule, get up, and be productive. I interact with clients every day. Via phone calls, online meetings, and email messages. I help them solve problems, and I answer their questions.

I manage my team remotely. Most of them are based in one city, but that doesn't really help me any, because I'm not in that city. The vast majority of my team management interactions are via phone, email, online meeting, or online chat. I make a point of connecting with each team member at least once every day or two (notwithstanding the organic interactions that usually bring us together daily). I make sure that I reach out to them with positive feedback and good things to say. Not just complaints. Nothing's worse than a boss who only calls you when something bad has happened. It would make anyone afraid to answer the phone. So I try to be aware of it and try not to be like that.

Dealing with management has been pretty good overall. Most managers have understood that it's about the work, not which desk you sit at. Sometimes that has been a bit of a challenge, but those who talk most about team collaboration having to be "in person" might not understand exactly what my team does or what we're working on. Or that the team we collaborate with most often is actually located in another country.

I'm lucky that my employer offers this as an option and sees the value in it. Compared to say, Marissa Mayer's tenure at Yahoo, during which she made headlines by banning remote work. This article pointed out that operational teams don't necessarily benefit from in-person collaboration (which might be more necessary for development): "But there are other kinds of jobs that are operational -- rather than creative. For example, a person who helps solve a technical problem with Yahoo! Mail does not come up with new business ideas -- whether he works at home or in an office with other customer service people."

She even went on to say that "working from home" itself wasn't the problem -- and it sounded to me like there seemed to be a broader cultural issue relating to employee interaction.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

On Crab Claws and Cocaine

An idiot's observations of Miami and Miami Beach:
  1. Just before we moved, we asked somebody for restaurant ideas and they opened their response by saying Miami used to "known only for crab claws and cocaine." I think this was meant to insult some chapter in the Miami's history, but the phrase amuses me. I've adopted that as my mantra -- whenever somebody asks me what the deal is with Miami, I now explain that it's all about crab claws and cocaine.
  2. There are a million "sushi and ceviche" restaurants. Why this combination? Probably because it's two ways to use raw fish, so perhaps less of their fish goes to waste. My wife and I like this, because I like sushi but not ceviche, and she likes ceviche but not sushi.
  3. There are pretty darn good locals specials during the week in Miami Beach. Can't beat $10 steak night at the Brazilian place.
  4. Dry cleaning/drop-off laundry is really expensive here. I got spoiled in Chicago, where it was actually cheap and affordable. It's now almost cheaper in Miami to just buy new cheap shirts and throw them out after one wear. (Just kidding...for now.)
  5. They aren't kidding about flooding. The sea is going to reclaim Miami someday soon. I can't believe there is anybody here who doesn't believe in global warming. 
  6. When it rains, it doesn't mean that the temperature is going to drop. It's going to be just as sweaty after the rain as it was before.
  7. So far, rainy season means it rains every day, but only for some small or medium part of the time. Meaning there's still a lot of opportunity to get out and walk around, which is great. But when it rains, it really comes down. If you get caught in that rain you are going to get crazy drenched.
  8. Every single grocery store or chain has different prices, and those prices are all over the map. There's still Aldi (and some other chains with low prices, like President Supermarket), but there's also really high end grocers where you can end up paying $10 for a (raw) chicken breast. One really has to pay attention to prices if you want to try to save money at all.
  9. Toll roads as far as the eye can see. Almost like every other highway is a toll road. Why? Because there's no state income tax, I assume. So they have to get the money from us to pay for the roads some how. So you think you're saving money on income taxes but you end up paying it back in user fees instead. And it's effectively a regressive tax, because it probably hits poorer people hardest. Somebody who has to drive to work at a low wage job gets hit a lot harder than somebody like me, who makes more money and works from home, so I can actually choose not to drive on the toll roads most of the time. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

On Moving to Miami

So, we've decided that the town of Ithaca, New York, was not for us. When considering where to move next, my criteria was that I wanted to "move aspirationally." What I meant by that was, I want to move to some place where we like being, is someplace we've been and have had fun before, and is maybe some place where life would be really different for us. Someplace where we both have thought, "gosh, we really wish we lived here" during previous visits. And with Kate leaving her day job, and my job allowing me to work from anywhere, we thought that we really ought to take advantage of the freedom that this allows us.

So, after a lot of thought, we decided on Miami as the place to move to. We have been visiting Miami for years. We love the weather, we love the palm trees, we love walking around and exploring the parks, the beaches, and the culture. And we are tired of winter. We have friends and great memories from both Minneapolis and Chicago, but it's time to try taking a break from the snow.

We're in the midst of that move to Miami right now. We've secured an apartment in a great area, one near water with a ton of walkable amenities nearby. We're working on filling the new place with furniture, and we're winding down our old place back in New York state.

Furniture shopping in Florida has been a challenge. We were initially delighted to see that Miami has an IKEA. We tried to buy nearly a whole apartment's worth of furniture from them (can't beat their prices), but we had so much trouble trying to get their delivery partner XPO to actually deliver what we purchased, that we were forced to give up and start over. We're still smarting a bit from that. It was quite a snag and we are saddened that IKEA didn't come through for us. I think it'll take some time before we feel like giving IKEA another try.

But, our apartment is great, and we're loving the neighborhood, and the weather -- while a bit soupy during rainy season -- is still pretty great. And we can't wait to see how the weather is come this winter.

The sheer number of restaurants in our neighborhood is amazing. It's a bit of a touristy area, which for us means there are some good specials during the week, when things are a bit slower for them and they're eager to get locals to come through the door. And there are a ton of hotels, which means it'll be easy for friends to come and visit us (our place being too small to house friends directly).

I'm really looking forward to this next year.