Seattle public transit: you’re a usability nightmare

I waited 20 minutes at the bus stop this morning and apparently missed two of the busses I wanted. Why? Because they weren’t labeled with the route number. One simply said “downtown” and the other “ryerson base”. The first one is ambiguous, many buses go downtown then peel off and go elsewhere instead of to my stop. The second tells the rider nothing — it’s not on the posted sign at the stop or the online app OneBusAway. Fucking ridiculous.

That combined with the confusing “do I pay when I get on or when I get off” and “routes change numbers mid-way through their run” nonsense makes the use of Seattle public transportation challenging for the uninitiated (and non tenacious) and impossible for tourists and visitors.

I’m a huge advocate of public transportation, but the Seattle system has massive usability challenges.

Dawg Dash (or Huskies don’t know what “10K” means)

Yesterday I ran the Dawg Dash put on by the UW Alumni Association. It was a joint 10K run and a 5K run/walk. I was going for the 10K run, along with Jeff, Jonobie, and Adam. Jess and Kaitlin did the 5K walk. Zach was slated for the 10K but wasn’t feeling well.

It was a sea of purple. Lots and lots of purple. Just last Thursday I was bemoaning that I didn’t own a purple shirt to wear for Spirit Day and thanks to the race swag, I now own one. I, however, showed up in a red shirt not at all thinking about the UW / WS rivalry. Whoops!

It was slightly overcast and earlier it had rained making for a wet route, but overall it was perfect running weather. The 10K and 5K racers all started out together. Jeff and I started out in the 7- to 8-minute mile pace group and maybe for the first time in a race people were pretty accurate: we didn’t have to dodge people who were obviously overly-optimistic about their pace time.

The course itself was very pretty and winded through the UW campus. I’d never been to the UW campus before and was impressed with all the green and the architecture. I was distinctly unimpressed with the hills (my glutes are killing me today). The course was odd as towards the beginning it doubled back on itself with signs to stay left on the first pass and right on the second then the 5K and 10K separated, then later joined back together, separated again after running down a short set of stairs (on which I almost bit it as I hit the split wide, planted my foot to aim for the other route, and watched my right floot slide 3 feet on the wet concrete before catching myself), and joined back together before crossing the finish line.

All of this joining and splitting must have confused the poor Husky race designers, because the 10K wasn’t the expected 6.2 miles. Instead it was somewhere around 5.75 miles. The official results were reported assuming a 5.77 mile course although given they don’t know how the course got shortened, I’m not sure there’s a lot of confidence that is the right distance.

I didn’t do as well as I wanted (which was to maintain my best 5K time of a 7-minute mile or 43 minutes for a 10K; 40 minutes for 5.77 miles) but considering the course was much hillier than any of my other training runs, my finish was pretty respectable:

  • time: 43:43
  • pace: 7:35
  • 199th overall (out of 1372)
  • 46th in my division: Males 30-39 (out of 196)
  • 158th in my gender (out of 635)

For this distance, this is a new personal record. I feel confident that I could have maintained that pace for the last 0.43 miles of a real 10K, so I’m marking this up as an overall success.

Congrats to Jeff, Jonobie, Adam, Jess, and Kaitlin for finishing and thanks to Chris for coming out to cheer me on!

Maybe next year those Huskies will learn what “10K” actually means.

Hadoop OutOfMemory errors

If, when running a hadoop job, you get errors like the following:

11/10/21 10:51:56 INFO mapred.JobClient: Task Id : attempt_201110201704_0002_m_000000_0, Status : FAILED
Error: Java heap space

The OOM isn’t with the JVM that the hadoop JobTracker or TaskTracker is running in (the maximum heap size for those are set in conf/ with HADOOP_HEAPSIZE) but rather the separate JVM spawned for each task. The maximum JVM heap size for those can be controlled via parameters in conf/mapred-site.xml. For instance, to change the default max heap size from 200MB to 512MB, add these lines:


I find it sad that this took me a day to figure out. I kept googling for variations of “hadoop java out of memory” which were all red herrings. If I had just googled for the literal error “Error: Java heap space” plus hadoop I’d have gotten there a lot faster. Lesson learned: don’t try to outsmart google with the actual problem.

48% of LGBT workers aren’t out at the office

According to this study (PDF), only 52% of LGBT workers are out at the office. Of note from the study:

  • LGBT employees who are not out reported significantly greater feelings of being stalled in their careers and greater dissatisfaction with their rates of promotion and advancement.
  • LGBT employees who are not out are 40 percent less likely to trust their employer than those who are out.
  • Employees who remain closeted and isolated are 73 percent more likely to leave their companies within the next three years.

This is sad. Like I blogged about just three days ago for National Coming Out Day, I’m fully out at the office and have been for about a decade.

I remember what it’s like to not be out in some areas though – it’s like living a double life. In your ‘out’ life you can be yourself. You don’t filter what you say or how it’s phrased. Your attention is on the task at had, be it work or play.

In your ‘not out’ life, you’re constantly filtering everything you say. You play “pronoun search and replace” in all verbal and written communication. If you’re seeing someone you might even change their name to the opposite gender in some circles. You abstain from work parties where spouses are welcome. Oh, and through all of this you’re also suppose to focus on your work tasks and be productive. Sound like a lot of work? It is.

And before someone helpfully chimes in that “everyone should just leave their personal life at home — there’s no need for them to bring it up at the office”, let me call it: bull shit. I challenge anyone to go through a week at the office without somehow bringing up your friends, your family, or outside-of-work activities that somehow indicates what team you play for. It won’t happen.

In addition to the social aspect of coming out at the office (“how will my coworkers treat me”) there’s the more serious issue: in 29 states it’s perfecty legal to be fired just because you’re gay. (Yet another reason why I’ll never move back to Texas — as if I needed another.)

All of us gays who work for supportive companies owe it to ourselves and our community to be out at the office. We have no excuse. To those who are out in the 29 states who don’t work for supportive companies: thank you for being brave.

And maybe most importantly, to all the straight allies who make it easy to be out at the office: thank you for making who you go home to a non-issue in the workplace.

Closets are for clothes, even at the office

Today is National Coming Out Day. Last year I blogged about the humorous story of coming out to some of my IBM coworkers shortly after I came out to myself. This year I wanted to talk about being out in the workplace.

I’m very fortunate to work in the tech industry which is one of the most accepting industries of LGBT individuals. Virtually all of the major tech employers have LGBT anti-discrimination policies and domestic partner benefits. Most of them have LGBT diversity groups as well. Many of them also support LGBT organizations like HRC and PFLAG.

IBM is a global leader in this field — they score 100 on the HRC Corporate Equality Index. EMC, as an entity, isn’t that far behind — they score 95. Granted, when I accepted the job at Isilon, they weren’t yet EMC.

Being out at the office is very important to me so I was up-front with HR and my hiring manager when talking about the offer to come work at Isilon. Because I was married, domestic partner benefits were very important to me and was an easy way to “break the ice” about the topic. I was also sure to poll my friends who already worked there (Zach, Matt, and Adam) to see if they felt it was an inclusive work environment, and they thought it was. As I hoped, no one has batted an eye with it comes up in conversation. Before B and I separated, I brought him to the office to give him a tour and introduced him to my coworkers as my husband. Together he and I attended the company holiday party and felt like we fit right in (or at least we fit right in as someone who had only worked there for 4 weeks could fit right in). Had I gotten an inkling that Isilon would not have been an accepting place to work, I wouldn’t have taken the job. Period.

Why is it important to be out at the office? Because it’s exhausting to filter everything you say. Simple questions like “what did you do this weekend” can turn into a mental minefield as you evaluate what the person knows about you and what you want to reveal. John Martin’s Will and Ned’s Excellent Adventure poster sums it up nicely.

I don’t wear my pink boa to the office (and truthfully I don’t own one) but I’d have no problems doing so at Isilon should I be so inclined.

Screwed up shoulder, take 2

I screwed up my right shoulder again during my upper body workout last Thursday. I felt great about the workout as it was happening, it was only later that my shoulder became cranky. It has remained cranky ever since – going so far as to protest when doing simple things like picking up my gym bag.

I really need to both ascertain what is aggravating it and then do focused, appropriate, exercises to prevent this from happening again.