the blog of Brandon Gandy

An Iterative Approach to Problem Solving, Part 1

I’ve always been a fairly methodical person. As evidenced by this blog, I have a tendency of breaking down things I tend to take for granted and examining their constituent parts, then creating systems around them to ensure consistent results. I mean, that’s the whole point of this problem solving series.

The path from finding a problem to finding its solution can sometimes be obscured by assumptions, vague wording, and misunderstandings. What follows is the first part of an iterative approach to clearing the path before you set out on it, so your journey to the solution is unobstructed and free from distraction.

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Review: Bird Box

During New Year’s Eve I had some friends over who berated me for dismissing one particular movieBird Boxout of hand. Rightly so. All movies deserve a chance. But after seeing more than the normal share of memes and retweets, I grew skeptical and contrarian. I cynically assumed the movie was the product of The Algorithm, designed and churned out by The Netflix Machine for maximum meme-ability and profit (and even more cynically, I assumed the memes had been bought and paid for and propagated by some mysterious group of meme machines).

After a few drinks one of my friends challenged me, with money, to actually watch the movie and record my thoughts on it. I typically refrain from writing movie reviews because, to put it simply, the last thing the Internet needs is a straight white man spewing his opinions about movies into the ether. There’s not much I could say, in my opinion, that would truly add to The Discourse, so I usually don’t say anything at all. Just this once I’m obligated.

For a quick seat-of-the-pants summary of my thoughts, you can see my Letterboxd review here. For an even quicker review, I would say Bird Box is a perfectly fine movie, decent for streaming on a quiet Friday night, but don’t expect to it to leave any lasting trace.

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#NaNoWriMo 2018: Post-Mortem

It’s official: I’m a NaNoWriMo 2018 winner!

Four attempts at NaNoWriMo itself, and many more attempts at writing a novel in general, and this is the furthest I’ve gone. While the story itself isn’t complete, I at least have finished the challenge, written the words, won that Winner’s Badge.

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How to Learn SQL on the Internet for Free

Learning SQL can be one of the greatest career decisions you can make. It’s a highly sought-after skill that will open doors for you. But more importantly, when you learn SQL you also change how you think about information. You learn how to separate data into its constituent parts and how to think about the relationships between these parts.

Doing this is one of the things that helped me boost myself into working as a software developer. I didn’t go to night class or spend any money on books or a Lynda subscription or any of that.1 There are countless highly intelligent people on the internet willing to share their knowledge and experience for free! So why not take advantage of some of these resources?

Below are the first steps to installing the tools you need to start learning, and links to free resources from best-in-the-biz websites and experts. Time to start learning.

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#NaNoWriMo2018 – Day 19

The month has flown by. There is no Idea Series post this week, unfortunately, because a) I have been too into writing and my own head to remember to do anything else and b) I bought Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and spent the entire weekend playing it without break.

But there is still progress to report!

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10 Ideas for a Better Life

Not to be mistaken for “how to live a good life.” I am not equipped to define what a Good Life even is, let alone dispense any type of advice for getting there. Simply put, these are personal rules for improving life incrementally.

Progress is made by accumulation, not random bursts.

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The Idea Series – Week 7

#NaNoWriMo is wreaking havoc on my life. For three days in a row I wrote nearly four thousands words every day. When I close my eyes I see my keyboard and an empty page. All I smell anymore is Starbucks.

So doing these lists has now turned, perversely, into some kind of respite from the madness. A daily meditation. A thought exercise that is somehow less work than everything else I’ve been doing.

Let’s see what that looks like.

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How To Be Super Effective Using Daily Personal Notes

The majority of my time spent in Support, I was one of two people on a team. The software we supported had a fairly large suite of tools, covering a wide range of business cases, each with unique and specific logic behind them. If something wasn’t working correctly, it often wasn’t a clear-cut problem. Was it broken completely, or just off a little bit? Were we missing data? Was the design wrong?

Chances were, if we couldn’t resolve the issue right then and there on the phone, then it would turn into a research project. It involved collaborating with the customer’s business team (and, often, the IT team), our own developers, and each other.

Being a small team, we often had a great many open tickets at once that required us to spend time researching, following up, and writing documentation. Even so, I was able to always deliver on time. Partially, this was done by managing expectations (something I will be writing a couple of posts on, most likely). But what helped me the most in succeeding was my notes.

Taking an extensive and detailed set of notes every day helped me keep on top of my tasks more than any other software tool I could use. It helped me stay on time. I was able to keep anything from ever falling through the cracks. I always made sure my tickets — both bug reports and enhancement requests — were thoroughly detailed. Even today, having been away from Support for years, I still do this.

The best part of all was it required almost zero effort to maintain. How? I’ll show you.

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#NaNoWriMo18 – Day 5

I’m going to be completely honest: I missed a day and a half, and have only caught up today. My “side” project has been untouched since Day 1, at least by my own hand. My co-writer has been plugging away at it, thankfully, and we are still making progress!

More after the break.

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The Idea Series: Week 6

#NaNoWriMo18 has started, and I’ve spent the majority of my past two days at a keyboard typing. In this time, I’ve written almost eight thousand words. My fingertips feel like they should be bleeding, but thankfully most of a lifetime of this behavior has hardened them to such trauma. If only the same could be said for my mind!

Anyway, let’s jump in.

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