London, HO!

On Friday night, I am getting on a BA flight from Logan to Heathrow to work out of our London office for a week. I love going to London, as it’s the only major city I feel comfortable moving around in without a car.

Besides work, highlights include the Victoria and Albert Museum, and possibly the Tate Modern.

If you’ll be in London next week, let me know! I will be on Skype and will have a UK number that my desk phone here in the US will be forwarded to.

Web Performance: Optimizing Page Load Time

Aaron Hopkins posted an article detailing all of the Web performance goodness that I have been advocating for a number of years.

To summarize:

  • Use server-side compression
  • Set your static objects to be cacheable in browser and proxy caches
  • Use keep-alives / persistent connections
  • Turn your browsers’ HTTP pipelining feature on

These ideas are not new, and neither are the finding in his study. As someone who has worked in the Web performance field for nearly a decade, these are old-hat. However, it’s always nice to have someone new inject some life back into the discussion.

What do you mean you don’t think this way?

One of the lengthy conversations I have had with my wife as I work my way through understanding how my bipolar works and affects my life focused on how I think, and see the world.

I am just now coming to terms with the fact that the filters I process my world through are radically different than those that most people use. This is a breakthrough for me, as I assumed that everyone saw the world as I did and do.

A lot of this comes from my family. Both sides of my family are rife with bipolar and schizophrenia. My mother has it; my father had it to a lesser degree. My family was unusual because of this. Not dysfunctional; just differently functional.

My wife filters the world in a logical, linear way. Imagine one of those orderly mass protests you see on the news. Lots of people, lots of noise, but everyone moving in the same direction, headed for the same goal.

Then there’s me. I filter the world as if there was a riot going on. People running everywhere, throwing rocks, Molotov cocktails, screaming. Troops in vehicles rushing through spraying water cannons. But occasionally, one side or the other gathers enough strength to achieve a small tactical victory, push the other side back a little.

When you step back and look at those of us who have bipolar, remember that we see your world very differently. And it is your world, designed to preserve order and organization, protect you from the “madness” in our minds.

Living with Bipolar: If you could press a button and be cured, would you?

Since August of this year, I have been exploring the insides of my mind in greater detail. If you read this blog regularly, you are pretty likely aware of the fluctuations in my mood, and the rationality of my behaviour.

If you get the chance, find and watch The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive hosted by Stephen Fry. In his open, intelligent and witty way, Fry tackles the topic of Bipolar Disorders (oh yes, there are more than one), including his own. If you can find it (you will have to try all of the usual channels to get it in North America), watch it.

So, why am I openly discussing the fact that I am Bipolar in a public forum? Why would I confess to the world, to people who may in the future meet me, or even consider hiring me?

It’s simple. Many months ago, I wrote that if you were going to hire me based on what I had done in the past, or what school I went to, I most likely wouldn’t want to work for your company anyway. The same applies to this illness, this condition I suffer from. If you or your company won’t hire me because I suffer from an illness that is beyond my control, that I will have for the rest of my life, why would I work for your firm?

I have had Bipolar for a long time. I can track the behaviours that identify the condition back into my childhood, through my teens, through until today. Normally, the cycling that I go through is benign, punctuated by periods of utter and complete hyperfocus. Most of the time, hyperfocus is a benefit for me — it is what got me through re-building the GrabPERF interface last year, and helped power me to absorb and write as much on Web performance as I have.

The manic side does have its pitfalls. My mania usually results in buying and spending sprees that have often endangered my financial stability. An example of this is my acquisition or stationery supplies, pen, notebooks and books.

Two weeks ago, I cleaned out my desk and aggregated all of the writing instruments I have purchased over the last 12 months. When I was done, I had filled a 1-gallon Zip-Lock baggie with pens, pencils, highlighters and Sharpies.

In my lifetime, I could never use them all.

I fanatically acquire notebooks. Rhodia, Moleskine, Rite-in-the-Rain, anything. How many of them have I written in? Well, lets just say that my kids will be using my blank notebook collection for many years after I have departed this world.

The spending sprees, the intense desire for the acquisition of things, is my most noticeable manifestation of manic behaviour. In most instances, the manic process starts to wind down after a while. In a few instances, it continues upward. It continues upward until my rational mind dissipates, and I start ranting and raving, making irrational and potentially destructive choices in my life. Choices that have (or could have) affected the course of my life.

I suffer from a small subset of the condition, Bipolar I. What differentiates this group from the standard “manic-depressive” or Bipolar diagnosis is that is more MANIC-depressive, with a sustained emphasis on the manic episodes. Depressive episodes occur, don’t get me wrong; but it is the intense and unstoppable mania that has shaped me more than the depression.

However, this condition is not “curable” in the standard way. It also doesn’t manifest any physical symptoms. So in most cases, people just say that I need to get a grip and get on with my life. I am grateful that I have an understanding and (in some cases) forgiving wife who is intent on helping me control and regulate my behaviour. I am also extremely lucky that my current manager understands this part of me, and gives me the freedom I need to ebb and flow with the condition.

To wrap this up (I hate long postings), I leave you with this thought. In his programme, Fry asks his interview subjects the following question (and I paraphrase it here):

If there was a button you could push, a button that cured you of this condition, and gave you a normal mind, would you press it?

Only one of the interview subjects said yes. Everyone else said that despite the pain and suffering that accompanies the condition, there is no way that they would be willing to give back the state of mind that allowed them to achieve what they had achieved.

We are not in our right mind. And I am proud of that.

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Fire? What Fire? The flames, smoke and fire engines are part of a cunning training exercise.

Homeland Stupidity is great and reminding us that the security and intelligence community in the United States is insecure and of questionable intelligence.

The military intelligence unit responsible for spying on Americans had to evacuate its Fort Meade, Md., offices Friday after a six-alarm fire broke out.

A fire broke out shortly after 3 p.m. on the roof of Nathan Hale Hall, at 4554 Llewellyn Ave., just on the other side of the golf course from the National Security Agency headquarters. Construction was underway on the part of the roof that caught fire, according to Lt. Col. James Peterson, director of emergency services at Fort Meade.

A fire is unfortunate, and yes, it occurred in a building with sensitive “intelligence” material. However, isn’t this quote from later in the post a bit odd?

Jennifer Downing, a spokesman for the post, would only confirm a fire was burning at 4554 Llewellyn Ave., deep inside the west county Army base. She directed calls to a spokesman with the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, who did not return calls.

Fort Meade’s fire chief also did not return calls for comment. And later, a public affairs officer told The Capital to file a Freedom of Information Act request. — Annapolis Capital

Ummm….

“Dude, I can see flames coming from your offices.”

“I can neither confirm nor deny that my hair and clothes are on fire. Excuse me, I must participate in the screaming in pain and running madly away from the fire exercise.”

The Office Smells

Either I have lost my mind or the building has become truly evil.

Today, the air in my office is saturated with the small you can only find in an airplane bathroom.

You all know the smell. It is one of the most unique shared experiences humans can have.

It’s evil. And it’s everywhere.