Archive: January, 2018

Chief Wahoo is emblematic of an American problem

posted by Jeff | Monday, January 29, 2018, 11:17 PM | comments: 0

The Cleveland Indians baseball team announced that they are retiring the Chief Wahoo logo. It has been a source of controversy for a long time, which makes you wonder why it's even still a thing.

When I was growing up, it was normal for a white kid to play "cowboys and Indians" in the neighborhood. Heck, the Indians in Peter Pan were the bad guys, not to mention the stereotypes in various cartoons. But even in the late 70's and early 80's, you started to learn in school that the Native Americans were here first, and they were nearly erased from North America by European settlers. As a kid, on camping trips to Allegany State Park, in Western New York, we would visit the Seneca-Iroquois museum in the neighboring town. And of course, at some point you start meeting actual Native Americans. (Admittedly this was somewhat unremarkable for me, growing up in a largely Puerto Rican neighborhood and going to mostly-black schools in the desegregated Cleveland system. Diversity has always been my normal.) Experience starts to force a change in perspective.

I was never much of a baseball fan, but in my late 20's, passing the stadium every day on the way to work, I always had a squeamish feeling about the name, to say nothing of Chief Wahoo. But it's pretty easy as a white person to just brush it off and chalk it up to tradition. The problem is, America has made racism a tradition for its entire history, and we're long overdue to stop doing that. You can chalk Wahoo up to tradition, or the opposition to "political correctness" or some such shit, but if you really approach it logically and let go of whatever nostalgic attachment you have to Chief Wahoo, you know in your heart that this is really about basic human respect.

In the last few years, I've been continually amazed by the lack of empathy on the part of a subset of white people. Just calling it out puts people on the defensive. "I'm not racist!" they say. I theorize that the disconnect is that lacking racist intent can somehow excuse you from something that is in fact racism. I don't think Indians fans standing behind the logo hate Native Americans (maybe that's naive), but it's easy to not see racism if you can't stand in someone else's shoes. The lack of intent doesn't give you a pass for what the race in question finds universally offensive. Certainly, a pro sports team doesn't get to decide what is offensive to a minority.

My hope beyond hope is that this is being sorted out generationally. Not every Gen-X kid had my experience, but when I see the diversity that my son experiences in school, I have hope. It's up to every generation before his to set them up for success, and get over America's oldest problem. Basic human respect has to win over tradition, regardless of intent.

Does easy access to Walt Disney World ever get old?

posted by Jeff | Sunday, January 28, 2018, 3:28 PM | comments: 0

We visited Magic Kingdom yesterday for the first time in a while, and in a rare move, hopped on the monorail and did a lap around Epcot for the first time in a month. We inevitably talk to other families while on the monorail or in a queue, and it often comes up that we live just outside of the Disney property. This generally leads to comments like, "You're so lucky," and I refrain from saying, "We all make choices," but as we close in on five years of living in the western part of Orange County, Florida, is it still a big deal to visit Walt Disney World?

Frustratingly, Simon has no idea how lucky he is. He doesn't know how lucky we are to see Toad The Wet Sprocket during the Food & Wine Festival, or that the biggest reason for riding Space Mountain today is that it's Tuesday. Mind you, the ASD colors his perceptions a little differently than most kids, but I'm trying to figure out some way for him to understand that this isn't normal for most people. I think when he gets a little older, getting him into some volunteering at Give Kids The World or United Against Poverty will help. For now, he does view every lap on certain rides as the best time ever, especially Test Track.

The bookends of the year make it special for us. The day after Halloween, the parks are transformed with Christmas decorations. This is about the time we start to have some cooler days, so in lieu of full-on winter, the decorations with jacket weather help us feel like it's Christmas time. We try to make every park once during that period, but this year we missed Hollywood Studios. We didn't get out much at all, relative to previous years. The week after Thanksgiving in particular is typically very quiet and an ideal time to visit. With Simon in regular grade school, it's harder to do it on school nights. Then we hit the two weeks of black out dates for our passes, and we go without for a bit, which makes me appreciate visiting more after that. It was awesome to be in Epcot last night, and hear some live music (Disney on Broadway running right now).

We hit a relative lull in attendance late spring (though Magic Kingdom is rarely not busy any time of year), and then summer rolls in. Believe it or not, sweating my ass off at the parks in summer reminds me of when we moved here, which is a good memory. I don't mind it at all. When we turn the temperature corner in late September, I'm grateful for it, but Big Thunder Mountain on a hot day followed by Dolewhip is a great way to spend an afternoon, even though the crowds suck.

The Food & Wine Festival at Epcot is the best time of year. It's now two and a half months long. Last year it was the last day of August through mid-November. What makes this amazing is the food and beverage, which is actually in reasonable gourmet portions, and then the Eat To The Beat concert series. Sure, a lot of the bands are nostalgia acts, but last year I saw Toad, 10,000 Maniacs, Everclear, Sugar Ray, Postmodern Jukebox and American Authors. I never get out for shows anymore, so this is a great opportunity. I can load up on a cider or wine flight, enjoy a crazy good dessert and hear live music, a couple of miles from my house. Oh, and this is also when we do Epcot lunches, while Simon is in school. When I can make the time at work, we can round-trip it in 90 minutes, and put 7,000 steps on the Fitbit in the process.

So if it gets old, we're definitely not there yet. It's not that I'm particularly huge Disney fan or anything, but I do like good food, drink and entertainment. Despite the increases in cost, I still feel like we get that. I hope that when Simon is an adult he'll appreciate how great he had it. Another great perk is that most everyone we know, from every period of our life, eventually finds themselves visiting here. There aren't many places you can live where that's true.

Anti-social media

posted by Jeff | Sunday, January 28, 2018, 11:36 AM | comments: 0

One of the few things that I don't like about the Internet is the way that it has enabled attention whoring. It's not a new phenomenon that came with Facebook and YouTube, it's been around since the start of the commercial net. Social media has definitely made it worse, and the funny thing is that there's nothing really "social" about narcissism because it's totally a one-way interaction.

It's one of the reasons that I don't get the ephemeral features (or entire point) of some of these platforms. Snapchat in particular, but also stories on Instagram and now Facebook (which with one minor UI tweak, people are now using). What's the point of a drive-by post that disappears? That's a very one-way interaction. What am I missing?

The way I use Facebook has changed a lot since having a child. What I post is generally intended for friends and family that are not geographically close, so they can see what we're up to. Conversely, I look for the same from them. My "friend" count hasn't changed much the last few years. Where years ago I'd try to keep up with everything from everyone, chronologically, now I submit to the algorithm or use my "close friends" list to make sure I don't miss anything from those folks.

The biggest thing though is that I find the site to be a great historical record. Life has involved so much change for me in the last decade and change, but it's even more dramatic when you have a young child. Pretty much every year is different. I get a lot of value in seeing that change because it makes me appreciate life more. That context makes for a happier me.

Am I being a judgey hater for people who crave likes and shares? Yeah, but that's OK. Everyone needs to be loved, it's just that most well-adjusted people seek that from someone other than anonymous strangers. I don't think that human behavior has fundamentally changed with the advent of electronic social opportunities, I just think they're amplified.

State of the CoasterBuzz, 2018

posted by Jeff | Saturday, January 27, 2018, 2:00 PM | comments: 0

This is something I sent to the CoasterBuzz mailing list, and also posted in the forums there.

It has been awhile since I've written you. This is typical of winter, because there isn't much going on with roller coasters, but this year I've been even more disconnected because of my professional and home life. Indeed, there are a lot of things that lean personal that I'd like to share with you.

For those of you who have been visiting CoasterBuzz since the beginning, you'll recall that one of the site's primary goals was to connect to you to all of the amazing content that people were creating. In the wild west days of the Internet, it seemed like every park had unofficial fan pages, and there were even pages for seasonal employees at some parks. Sure, the sites sometimes looked terrible, and the photos were bad, but there was a lot of passion. CoasterBuzz had a directory with hundreds of links, organized by park, and the news that was posted frequently promoted those sites. By 2008, the site directory was gone, and the news shifted almost entirely to mainstream sites.

The consistent thing throughout the site's history has been the community. This is where things get weird. CoasterBuzz has been growing in the number of users almost every year since its inception. With the exception of 2010, there has been growth every year, and in fact the site sees 35% more users on a daily basis than it did 10 years ago. The problem is that they don't engage the same way. I'm sure in the age of social media and mobile devices this doesn't surprise you, but visits are short and people post less.

The revenue story is much worse. Half of our traffic is mobile now, which is harder to monetize unless you use really obtrusive and obnoxious ads (and I refuse to subject people to that). Where we used to have four ad companies filling the inventory, there is mostly just Google. And if that weren't enough, Google keeps cutting about a third of their payout, saying it's for "invalid traffic," which of course no human at Google can ever explain to me. Club membership revenue is down too, in part because there are fewer big events, and when Coastermania stopped being free, that negatively impacted us as well. On the plus side, hosting is fairly inexpensive compared to what it was in 2001, when it was more than a grand per month. Still, I have to spend about $3,000 per year on hosting and related expenses to make sure the experience is awesome, and that doesn't count software and hardware of my own to build and maintain the stuff.

I'm not even going to pitch joining CoasterBuzz Club specifically, but I would encourage you to spend a little money with any site or app that you find valuable. I still pay Vimeo $60 every year, even though I probably only upload two or three videos a year, because I love the community and quality of the things that I find there. I probably spend about $300 a year on subscriptions, because I want those resources to be around. Compared to the cost of cable TV, I think it's a great value. For small and independent publishers, it may be the difference between carrying on and shutting down.

With all of that out of the way, I've worked hard over the years to make sure the technical experience is awesome. CoasterBuzz went all-secure almost two years ago, it works great on mobile and most pages come to you in under a quarter-second. About every six or seven years, the platform the site is written on sees some significant changes, and I'm about at that place again where I have to port the whole thing. That work is already in progress, and it should result in even more speed.

This leaves the bigger question: What do you want CoasterBuzz to be? Product development is what I do in my day job, and my first rule is always to not assume you know better than your customers in terms of what they want. I'm leaving this totally open ended, and I'd like to get your feedback in the forums under the "State of the CoasterBuzz" thread. For more than a decade I've assumed that you want a forum, news, a park and coaster database, and lots of photos. Please challenge my assumptions.

Thank you for being a part of CoasterBuzz!

Positions, not parties

posted by Jeff | Monday, January 22, 2018, 8:00 PM | comments: 0

Continuing on the theme of crappy political discourse, I'm sure you notice that if you were to criticize a politician on the Internets, you're already, in the mind of someone who doesn't agree with you, playing for one team or the other. Now, I realize that the party system forces elected folks to tow the party line (well, it doesn't have to, but it seems they don't have the spines to stand up for anything on their own terms), but there really isn't a lot of incentive for you as an individual to sign-up red or blue. As I've said a hundred times, you can't treat politics as a sports rivalry. Trust me, I'm originally from Cleveland, and I know what aligning yourself with losers is like because of the Browns.

Consider this: You're a thinking person with diverse experiences, and you're taking in new information every day. The inevitable outcome is that your thinking will evolve on various issues, because that's what having an engaged brain does. You can change your position, and deviate from the party because you're committing to the position. This also frees you from having to associate with a particular elected person if they happen to be immoral in some way, like a racist or a someone who has admitted to assaulting women. Taking a position without the party says, "I have strong feelings about this, but I will not align with everything some party has to say."

Besides, both parties do the same silly shit. The Republicans want you to be scared of brown people, the Democrats want you to be scared of rich people. The former spend money on unfunded tax cuts, the latter on social programs. You don't need to pick a side with equally crappy ideologues.

I find this arrangement convenient, because the third party I really want doesn't exist. As I said back then, you can't pick and choose civil liberties. I think health care is a right, but not a college education. Unions are great for safety advocacy but unrealistic for wage advocacy. You can't engage in these seemingly diametric positions if you pick a team.

Careers, before we met

posted by Jeff | Sunday, January 21, 2018, 7:22 PM | comments: 0

Diana and I were talking the other night about various work things prior to us meeting. We met a bit late compared to most couples, in our 30's. I was married before, and in some ways, she was married to her career.

People are often surprised to hear that Diana was a stage manager, working in New York and Cleveland. When I say she was married to her career, I mean that because anything in the theater is a lifestyle, not just a job. You work nights, and when you're not working nights, you're spending all kinds of intense time ramping up for a show. It's not that she didn't date, but that arrangement is not very conducive to a regular social life. In any case, she left that life before I met her, so I never had a chance to see her in that element, calling shows or telling people to head toward their first positions. These days she works part-time in a front-of-house position, but the old life is still every bit a part of her, and I get to hear the stories.

I minored in theater for a year, and gathered enough tech knowledge to be dangerous (or at least kick ass in lighting and sound for community theater), but I landed in a field that was similarly poor in terms of pay and lifestyle: Radio and television. I started in commercial radio at the end of my junior year of college, but it only lasted about nine months after school. A year after graduating, I landed in a government TV gig with no equipment and a tense few months justifying my existence while I waited for the gear to be legislated into existence. I'd end up doing that for about three years before leaving for software and the Internet. Fortunately, Diana has seen me behind a microphone, when I went back to my college to do a few shifts for fun, just before we went to Seattle. I've sort of stayed in video by doing the occasional mini documentary or whatever, so she knows I can do it.

It's weird that we had these fundamentally different professional lives before we met, and while we know about this different life, we weren't there for it. That's so weird, knowing someone that well but not having been there during those times. I'm glad she works in the theater now, even if it is in a different kind of role, and I'm glad I sometimes bust out the gear to make stuff.

Actually, Trump is your president

posted by Jeff | Saturday, January 20, 2018, 11:55 PM | comments: 0

Political discourse in the United States has been, you could say, worthless the last few years. It seems like people don't care about reality, facts or each other. That's about the only way you explain how a reality TV star got elected as president, despite doing and saying things that would disqualify most of us from even the most simple jobs. Seriously, you couldn't work in fast food part-time if you went around telling people you "grab them by the pussy" or insult the service record of veterans. And yet, here we are.

A friend of mine, that I love and respect, has made a number of posts pointing out the absurdity of this all, and often concluded with some variation on the phrase "not my president." I found myself taking issue with that, and we argued a bit about it, too. It's a divisive thing to say, and not constructive, because it serves only to further drag down the discourse. It's the same kind of thing that got the guy elected in the first place.

More to the point, the person in the White House is your president, and to reject that is to release the president from accountability and excuse yourself from engaging in the process. It's apathy disguised as outrage, and again, exactly the reason that we're in this situation. There is no evidence that anything resembling a majority of Americans are OK with this toxic and undignified behavior, and Facebook activism isn't going to make a difference.

Outrage is easy, action is harder.

American citizenship comes with a civic duty to engage. It's not just voting, it's holding your congresscritters accountable, and letting them know what you believe is moral and just. It's encouraging others to ask hard questions and apply the same standards to all parties, even if you insist on picking a "team." Donate not to PAC's, but civil rights charities and individual candidates. Volunteer for on-the-ground campaigns.

Trump is the guy representing you as president. Denying that doesn't make it less true. Hold him, and those that support him, accountable.

Loving your child is exhausting

posted by Jeff | Saturday, January 20, 2018, 7:08 PM | comments: 0

I think it's fair to say that one of the things most people live the most for is love. (You wouldn't know it by looking at social media.) Before you have a kid, it's all first kisses to getting married and having anniversaries. Once you're a parent, you're introduced to a new kind of love that is completely different, and significantly more intense.

Simon is almost 8, and on most days I can't wait to give him a squeeze and talk to him about whatever it is he wants to talk about. I'm completely horrified that he's not the tiny little boy I could put on my shoulders and carry around anymore, and equally horrified that he now has opinions. He has some additional challenges, specifically with the ASD and ADHD, which adds to the stress. All anyone really wants is for their kid to grow up happy and be functional. I don't have many doubts about his success, and that's mostly because he has an excellent mother.

Still, I struggle. When I was a kid, it seemed like most adults were trying hard to limit my time using computers or playing video games, and I find myself doing the same thing to Simon. I never know what the right level of accommodation is for him when he struggles with something, and I have internal battles about letting him struggle or giving him an easy way out. When I do lean toward the struggle, I almost always feel like a dick, even though I know he needs to have that experience. I get impatient with him when he can't stay on task, which I know is sometimes because of the way he's wired. I get super pissed when he starts yelling at us over something relatively unimportant, and I respond by yelling back at him, which is totally counterproductive.

At the end of the day, Simon still loves me, and I'm grateful for that, but I know the impact that parenting has on a child. I've found it hard to change and get over my own flaws rooted in childhood experiences, and that's not lost on me now that it's my turn. It's exhausting. The weird thing is that I can't imagine life without that love now. Indeed, sometimes you don't appreciate the joy without the struggle.

CodeMash 2018 was awesome

posted by Jeff | Thursday, January 18, 2018, 9:14 PM | comments: 0

Way back in 2010, when I was working at Microsoft, my team/officemate, Aaron, went to this conference called CodeMash. I was amused by this because I had just moved from Ohio, and he was going back to it for a week. He's originally from there too. Over the years the conference has grown to be an impressively large event in a place most would consider the middle of nowhere, an hour west of Cleveland in the Sandusky area. Most people know it for Cedar Point, which of course if the subject of a little hobby I've co-owned for almost 20 years called PointBuzz. But this clever non-profit also knows that conference space and rooms come pretty cheap in January in Sandusky, and the gigantic Kalahari facility in particular is a great place to land 2,500 attendees plus another 1,000 spouses and kids.

I've been kind of recreationally been thinking about doing more speaking beyond the annual Orlando Code Camp and local user group stuff. Career development and improving the quality of the developer workforce in the US is a serious passion of mine, and I believe that sharing what you know is key to that improvement. I was on the mailing list for CodeMash at some point, so when the call for speakers came up, I jumped on that and submitted a few proposals. They invited me, and with the hotel room covered by them, and work paying for my flight, it's a relatively inexpensive development opportunity for me.

The first two days are long-form sessions that do deep dives into stuff. The sessions available were varied, but I made a mistake in that I expected to kind of half-work during this time, including guide a deployment for a new customer. That wasn't smart, because deep dives require you to pay attention. What I did end up doing was drift in and out of sessions and still get some better feels. I learned about the latest "official" language/environment for Android is about, drone racing, process and professional development topics. If I go back, I'll commit the time and turn off Slack.

The third and fourth days are the more traditional hour-ish sessions, and that's what I presented. What was unexpected was the depth of the professional development stuff, but the few other sessions I dropped in on were really solid (API's, design patterns, microservices and other buzzwordy sounding things). It didn't feel like this conference was chasing trends as much as others, though it's hard for me to quantify exactly what that means.

My own session went really well, with around 50 or so people attending, and at least the initial star ratings were good. They'll get the legit feedback to me in a few weeks. The group was really engaged and seemed into it, and the conversations continued with three of attendees in the hallway. I love that environment.

The parties and entertainment were great too. The food was good. I really enjoyed the exclusive water park time. As it turns out, my friend Aaron was also there, so we had a chance to catch up and swap work stories. We've seen a lot of stuff in the last seven years. It was also interesting to hear that the work we did back then still holds up today, relatively unchanged.

CodeMash was awesome. I was getting jaded with conferences because of the hyperbole and egos that often go with them, but I didn't get much of that at this one. I would consider doing it again if they would have me. It was so well organized and executed, start to finish, and better than the events that are run by the big national for-profit companies.

Adjusting your career path is not compromise

posted by Jeff | Monday, January 15, 2018, 9:53 PM | comments: 0

Still haven't entirely written about Codemash last week, but being a speaker at the event meant I got to talk to a lot of people. Not surprisingly, many of those conversations were about career development, which is one of the reasons for such events to exist. It's why I enjoy speaking at events, because career development is the biggest problem we have among software developers. There aren't enough people who are good enough at what they do to fill the available jobs, and it's only going to get worse.

One of the things I frequently do hear is that a particular job isn't quite what they want it to be, or the company they work for isn't what they hoped, or their career isn't even what they want to be doing. This isn't unique to any particular field. We can all feel this way. Certain personality types have it worse, because the over-achievers create lists early in life, boxes to check, and deviating from that path is something akin to failure or compromise. Others will land somewhere quite randomly, and not even realize that their distaste for the gig isn't a personality flaw, it's because they really don't fit there.

Let me interject something here before I get into it. We all have learning to do, and it never stops. There is a lot of it to do early in our lives, so it's important to understand the difference between feeling entitled and not having the direction that you need to move forward. What that means is that having a degree doesn't entitle you to a corner office or a particular salary, and your job shouldn't be easy. What your job should do is be contextually relevant to what it is you want to do in the long run. My first "real" job after college didn't pay much at all, but it did eventually give me two things I knew would serve me: fiscal responsibility and one employee to supervise. The money sucked, the hours sucked, but it was absolutely something that would move me forward and build the skills that I wanted to have. Staying in that job was not a compromise.

However, it is entirely possible to land in something that does not move you forward or build you skills. You may work in an industry that wasn't as great as you thought. The work might be dull and meaningless to you. This self-awareness shouldn't be met with the notion that making a change is compromise unless there is a survival angle in play. I worked for a year and a half at a job once that didn't flex any of the muscles I was good at using, and ended up having to get laid-off to realize it. That was my "a-ha" moment to actively manage my career, and not look at a change as some kind of failure.

Strangely enough, this kind of realization can come in the opposite extreme, too. A good friend of mine was in what she thought was her "dream job" about a year out of college. Indeed, her response at that point was, "Now what?" She could have easily done this job for years, and been really great at it. But believing that trying something else would be selling herself short would have inhibited her potential.

The idea that changing your mind is compromise is a silly ideal. Not changing your mind about something when you have more information isn't compromise, it's stupid. Only politicians are supposed to arbitrarily stick to something even when they know something to be contrary. Just kidding, they shouldn't do it either. If you're not getting better at what you're doing, and the environment is the cause, it's not unreasonable to figure out how to improve the environment or find one that makes you better. Self-awareness is key to success.

My story is an example of making hard decisions. I ended up in my current job not because I was particularly unhappy at the last one, but because I wasn't able to stick to a specific product long-term. My career goal is to commit to a product over the course of years, from nothing to a bona fide business. I've had a bunch of short-term successes, but I wanted to prove to myself I can be a part of something bigger. What are your goals? How will you pursue them?

I have to rant about the weather again

posted by Jeff | Sunday, January 14, 2018, 9:45 PM | comments: 0

Last week I was in Sandusky, Ohio for the outstanding Codemash conference (post forthcoming), and the weather was pretty typical for Northern Ohio. Schools were closed the morning I arrived because of ice, and I was reminded about how to drive in it after a five-year absence. By Thursday it reached 55 degrees, only to plunge into an icy mess again by Friday afternoon.

Five years ago was about the time it was obvious to me that we couldn't live there anymore. Living in Seattle for a few years opened my eyes to the idea that I didn't have to settle for living anywhere I didn't want to (specifically Cleveland). It's one of my few life regrets that I needed a whole lot of life upheaval to realize this, and 15 years into adulthood, no less.

As I pulled away from the rental facility, I started sliding around pretty quickly until I got on to the freeway, which was in better shape. As I drove down I-480, through North Olmsted, the crappy weather and general grayness sucked me back into late 1995. It was near the end of what turned out to be my short radio career, and I worked at a CompUSA in that town. The ice scraper left on the seat brought back memories of scraping my windshield. And in a strangely specific memory, I remember going to a show with some of Stephanie's floor mates from school, embarrassed that my passenger had to kind of keep her feet up to avoid the coolant pooling on the floor from the leaking heater core behind the glove box.

And then there were the countless years of shoveling and/or blowing snow. The depression and strong desire to hibernate through the winter. The terrifying instances where I managed to drive through and avoid accidents. The car accidents of friends and family. The time in college that the furnace died while I had a ridiculous fever.

Are there good memories? Mostly of that first significant snowfall every year, but that's about it.

I'm sold on sunshine, even if I have to put sunscreen on any time I leave the house in the summer. I get to eat lunch outside in January under a blue sky. Life's challenges can still get me down sometimes, but weather isn't one of them here.

Shithole countries

posted by Jeff | Friday, January 12, 2018, 2:11 AM | comments: 0

This week I've been attending a conference called CodeMash, in the completely unlikely location of Sandusky, Ohio, an hour west of Cleveland. It's a resort town that enjoys the success of Cedar Point, the greatest amusement park in the world, which is obviously not open in January. I kind of know this town because of a site I've run that has paid homage to Cedar Point for nearly 20 years. It's kind of a big deal.

I've been to a lot of conferences, because that's what software development people do. We work in a completely underserved profession, and get away with higher than normal salaries because there just aren't enough people around to do the work. In fact, there are so few people that often we're not above hiring people in India or Ukraine or where ever to do the work we can't hire for. Even then, we hire immigrants from around the world on-site, because there aren't enough corn-fed Midwestern white boys to do the work.

For as long as I've been in this work, almost 20 years now, I've worked with women, immigrants, people of color, LGBT folks and any other minority I'm not immediately thinking of. This is my normal. If I had any prejudices against any of these groups of people (I don't), I'd have to let them go anyway, because there's too much work to do to filter people out based on race, religion, gender or nationality. Heck, this is apparently the best job in United States right now.

So when the President of the United States, elected beyond any rational thought, refers to people wanting to immigrate here as being from "shithole countries," I'm sad, embarrassed and ashamed. Just in the last few years, I've called people coworkers or neighbors from Albania, Macedonia, Uzbekistan, India, Pakistan, Syria, Brazil, Chile, and of course, the United Kingdom. They are the most beautiful, excellent people that I've worked with or lived next door to. They've made great contributions to our nation and our economy, and they're my friends. They're every bit as valuable to our nation as the guy who grew up near me in Clyde, Ohio, then worked with me.

This is important, my fellow Americans. We are a nation that seeks entitlement as a birthright, instead of opportunity. We're a nation founded and built by immigrants, and now we shun them. We're a nation that, after two centuries, can't get civil rights and equality right. This isn't OK. Our founding principles are being corrupted with this fucked up sense of nationalism and protectionism that is not only immoral, but impractical.

Know this, my immigrant friends. You are every bit my brothers and sisters as the people born along side of me at Fairview Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. I value you as human beings who bring our average up. We will continue to embark on a journey together that makes humanity better, regardless of borders. We know this is the path forward, because in our self-awareness, we know this is the only choice there is.

My guess is that I'm about three generations removed from immigrants on my mother's side, probably four or five on my dad's side. I'm about as much a "native" white guy as there is. But this young nation was founded by immigrants, and that's not something up for debate because it's the honest truth. Despite centuries of discrimination against African-Americans, Europeans, Asians and countless other racial and ethnic groups, the truth is that they all moved us forward. Together we'll all move forward, because all boats rise with the tide.

President Trump is a fucking racist. Racism has no part in our culture or national agenda. We've been half-assing the obliteration of it now for more than two centuries. Reject this nonsense. We're better than that. Our path forward does not marginalize the people who are not like us, whether they were born in the United States or not. Please join me in the insistence that this is not OK. Some of my dearest friends are counting on us.

Front-end development, I'm doing it wrong

posted by Jeff | Friday, January 5, 2018, 11:17 PM | comments: 0

This week, between my various duties as VP of Puppies and Rainbows at work, I took a story to wire up notifications between some of our back-end processes and our UI. These are some long-running things that are triggered from the UI, but then we have another thing actually doing the work. The app used to do this by spawning a thread and disregarding you from there, so that there's any indication that something is working at all is new.

I'm actually writing more code at this job than I did my previous two gigs, and more work in general. When I have written code in the last three years, it has mostly been around said back-end processes. For whatever reason, I ended up handling a lot of performance problems, which is cool, and it's certainly among the most satisfying stuff I've done. For this story, the back-end stuff I pulled together pretty quickly, and was stoked because I was beating my estimate. Then I had to get the last mile done in the UI, which is wired up using the front-end framework Knockout.js, which I haven't used, and given its infrequent development, wouldn't choose going forward.

The time I gained on the back-end stuff I lost doing the front-end work. Some of it was my non-familiarity with KO, but also with some poor decisions made before my time. Part of it was also the fact that I just haven't been in enough real-life situations where I could work with front-end stuff. So much of the time lost was just to stop throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks, and learn how this particular tool works. (Did I mention I'm not impressed? At the hackaton we did at Intuit, we tried Vue.js and I found it super obvious and easy to use.)

This takes me back to a conversation that I had with my first boss at Microsoft about eight years ago. (Eight years?!) We spent a lot of time talking about career development, and it's funny how much of that stuck with me. He suggested at the time that there would likely come a time when I simply wouldn't be able to be as hands-on as I was accustomed to, because too many other things would demand my time. Some months later, when his boss was appointed, I met with him to find that he was doing all kinds of bleeding edge stuff in his spare time, and he wondered why more people in our line of work didn't do something like my side projects. (To be fair, this was a guy who also learned Spanish just because and had a kid in his 50's.) I don't know how he did it, but I thought, shit, this guy's got street cred even at twice my salary.

I walk away from today's experience with new knowledge, but it's for something we're probably going to ditch in the long run. Honestly, my hires in the last year were strong in part because they have more experience with current front-end stuff than I do, so we're covered, but I'd really like to get my hands dirty with more of it. I imagine it's a lot like anything else, I just need to prioritize it. It just seems to get harder as I level up in career and parenting. I could really use a new science project, too.

Cold is no joke

posted by Jeff | Thursday, January 4, 2018, 9:00 PM | comments: 0

We're into our fifth winter now in Central Florida, and we haven't had a really crappy cold spell since the first year. The last few days have been pretty terrible, with 100% cloudy days, rain, high winds, and then starting last night, the temperatures bottoming out in the low 30's. Naturally, I can have a solid bitch/moan about this, and everything is back to normal within a few days. I get to see the dynamics of a smart thermostat and a heat pump system in action, which appeals to my nerdistic side. I'll be having lunch outside again within a few days, and probably open the windows.

That said, I've noticed through the magic of the social media that people complain about winter, or express extreme shock, every year. And mind you, that's people who grew up in the Midwest, so it's not like they've never seen it before. Part of this, I think, is some amount of rightful awe at weather and what it can do. Extreme weather is impressive because the only thing you can really do is shelter from it. Even if it is routine, I'm not sure it can be less impressive.

I also notice that when people complain about it, it doesn't seem to occur to them that they can choose to get away from it. I admit, it took me about a decade and a half of adulthood, instigated by all kinds of life-chaos, to realize it, but you know, you don't have to live in a crappy winter location. When I stop and think of a childhood of boots and layered clothing for school, or walking through downtown Cleveland in the snow from parking to work, or having to fire up the damn snow blower just so I can leave the house... none of that is fun. Those aren't good memories. I sucked it up because it was my situation at the time, but unless someone intends to double triple my salary, I'm in no hurry to go back to something like that. No thanks.

I was already aware of this living in Seattle, and it's amazing how the threshold for snow affects your entire weather m.o. The PNW is not a place of climate extremes, with monthly average highs covering only a 28 degree span, and snow is rare until you get to higher elevations. Cleveland spans 49 degrees, it rains more annually, and that's not even counting the snowfall. The November to January drizzle around the Puget Sound can be kind of crappy at times, but it doesn't exclude sun or require you to shovel white stuff the way Cleveland does for an even longer period.

So yeah, making this choice, to live here, was among the best adult decisions I've ever made. Y'all keep visiting and spending money here on vacation, but ask yourself what's really preventing you from living here. If you insist that you like seasons and whatever, then don't act surprised the next time it's cold and snowing where you live. I will absolutely remind you of your love for seasons!