Volatile Variables (2017 Q2 Review)

It feels like Q2 went by very quickly, perhaps because I’m settling in somewhat into my team at Palantir, and many things have been relatively stable this quarter.

Looking at GitHub statistics, I merged in 29 pull requests over the past three months (one up from Q1). I think one thing that certainly has improved is the size of my pull requests, however; I’ve made a conscious effort to split up features into several reasonably-sized chunks; this includes chains of four or five PRs at times (and some of these can run into the mid to high hundreds of lines each – suggesting that we would easily be looking at a 3000-line monster again if we didn’t do this split). I didn’t check the data, but it’s quite likely I committed less code in Q2 than in Q1; some of this stems from being more involved in reviewing others’ pull requests, as well as dicey debugging (where days can be spent to figure out a very small tweak to make things work). That’s certainly not a problem though – one of the PRs I’m happiest with involved a net reduction in the size of the codebase.

Other professional goals have been going acceptably well. I’ve continued to keep on keeping on as far as interviewing is concerned. Generally technical development has chugged on, though at a bit of a slower pace; my paper reading groups have slowed down a fair bit, for various reasons (friends were travelling or otherwise unavailable), but hopefully that should pick back up in Q3. The academic side of things is a bit of a brighter spot for me as well; a paper on symbolic model checking LDLK was accepted at IJCAI 2017, and I also cleaned up version 1.3.0 that includes support for CTL*K.

I think in Q3 I would aim to merge at least thirty pull requests (I know, it’s a blunt metric). The paper reading groups should continue. I also want to continue on my “Imperial Computing Comprehensives” project; that is an extra-difficult exam paper that crosses disciplines between all compulsory first- and second-year modules at Imperial. (I think my average module mark at Imperial was probably just over 90, but I’m trying to set the paper so that I would score a low first; around a 75.)

Financially, my portfolio increased by 0.3 percent from Q1 to Q2 (would actually have decreased if not for reinvested dividends). I think I’ve actually been decently successful in not worrying excessively about the vicissitudes of the market; in early April as well as at the very end of June my portfolio took beatings of more than a thousand pounds, but I wasn’t too concerned about that. I’m somehow skeptical that the bull market will keep going, but I’m not complaining.

Focusing more on things within my sphere of influence here, notable changes in the Q2 budget involved a drop-off in transport expenditure (as I started really taking walking to work more seriously) and… not much else. There was one big luxury purchase in Q1 (laptop), as well as in Q2 (IJCAI travels). Generally, things were fairly tight though not as tight as in Q1, especially since I didn’t do any specific budget challenges (these usually take place in February). I’m planning on loosening this a little in Q3, for various reasons, including anxiety about valuations in the market, possible travel and a desire to have some better food as well. I can cost the ingredients of my lunch today at 39p!

I’ve started taking up competitive puzzle-solving in my spare time as well. These involve solving logical puzzles against the clock (both well-known ones like Sudoku, Kakuro or Slitherlink, as well as some that are written specifically for a competition – like the Odd Sums Sudoku I discussed a while back). I’m still pretty bad at these, but we’ll see how things go. Generally I find that my logical skills are decent, but my spatial reasoning is not great; I struggle a lot with loop puzzles, or toroidal sudoku (basically like normal sudoku, except regions are irregularly shaped and can wrap around). I’ve continued to practice my singing as well – those A4s are still stable; B4s and C5s are still a bit flaky.

I travelled a couple of times in Q2 – Aarhus, Palo Alto, and then Zagreb (wow, literally from A to Z – I can think of Zurich which is lexicographically later than Zagreb, though can’t think of anywhere before Aarhus). I enjoyed each trip for various reasons, though both Aarhus and Zagreb were whirlwind trips in a sense (flew in in the morning, and flew out the next morning). I’d be happy to revisit all of these places, and I think I will with quite high probability actually. All of these trips were for work though; I didn’t travel anywhere for personal recreation.

In terms of music I’ve been listening to, this quarter seemed to take on a relatively darker mood (though my Q1 review featured James Arthur’s Back from the Edge which isn’t exactly very bright either). There are parts of Lukas Graham’s 7 Years that I appreciate, including fair sections of the lyrical content. However I’ve always found the tone of the lead vocalist a little strange, and the production is awkward (there’s a part where the band is cheered, which doesn’t really make sense to me; I see the song more as one of reflection and acknowledgement of uncertainty, rather than of triumph). However, there was an acoustic piano cover of this that I enjoyed; Schuller’s voice is clean and pleasant, and I find the delivery more appropriate.

There is of course this part of the song that I identify with to some extent, though… it’s a little complicated.

I only see my goals, I don’t believe in failure

I like the ambition and drive, but it can be dangerous if said goals are poorly set. Resilience to failure is of course very important and something I’m still trying to get better at, but it’s important to respect failed attempts for what they are – and learn from them, where appropriate. I think the main lesson here is that it’s important to set good goals, especially if one intends to double down on them. (The second part is less contentious, as long as not believing is interpreted in the right way.)

Let’s push on in Q3.

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