§Sunlight, Fresh Air, Growth, and Sunlight

(yes, I said that twice)

Every winter it happens. I think it’s all good and I can deal with a few more weeks of cold and gray, then I realize that I want to get outside and see something green and fresh and alive. Maybe it’s vitamin D deficiency, maybe it’s cabin fever, or maybe I’m just dealing with something seasonal.

March was a rough month weather-wise. It seemed like we were going to be solidly into spring by now, but three snow days later and there’s still more to melt. At least the past few days have been warmer.

Once Spring starts, we’re one step closer to staying out on the screen porch until after dark, grilling without freezing, and opening the pool. I’m glad that the seasons change where I live (northeast US) so I can appreciate them in their own way. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t go somewhere else to enjoy nice weather more often…

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§Save, and Save Often

Now that I’ve been using Hexo for about nine months I feel like I’m starting to get the hang of it. Since I don’t post often it’s pretty easy to manage the content without needing something heavier (or DB-backed) to keep track of everything.

Luckily I’m also running this on GitLab and have been committing and pushing updates regularly. Everything had been running smoothly… up until March 1st. I thought I might be a little out-of-date with some of the packages I’m using in npm so I ran npm update in my site directory, committed the changes, and pushed up to my repo.

Build failed.

Sonofa. Check the logs and see this right at the end:

$ hexo deploy
ERROR Local hexo not found in   /builds/********/********  
ERROR Try running: 'npm install hexo --save'  
ERROR: Job failed: exit code 1

Ok, easy enough (or so I thought). Just roll back one commit and I should be set. Didn’t work, more because of my lack of git and npm knowledge than anything else. I ended up fixing it by merging an older version into the master, pulling changes, and pushing back up to the repo. This happened over the course of a few hours, working on it when I had a few minutes at a time. The quick(ish) version was something like this:

git pull
git checkout -b {branch}
{edits, install correct version}
git checkout master
git fetch
git merge {branch}
{resolve a couple of conflicts}
git pull
git push

At least I’ll remember to make a new branch before updating next time - I also have the Hexo version pinned in my CI configuration (to make sure it works with GitLab pages). This was a good learning experience, and hopefully something I won’t have to do again… for this project anyway.

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§It’s Like a Parking Lot in My Head

I have a lot of ideas, and a lot of good intentions to write them down and do something with them. The problem is that a lot of the time I can’t get them down in time or fast enough, and I end up with a bunch of noise in my head.

Yes, I use (or have used) these:

When I’m able to write down more I feel like my head is definitely clearer. The problem is capturing it and trying to keep it in roughly the same place so I remember to look at it again later. The irony is that writing more means that I’ll have more ideas to try and get some piece of before they disappear into the ether of my unconscious mind.

Another aspect to all of this is reading into the bits of my mental state over the past several years. I created my current spark file in October 2012, but it has some stuff from back in 2004 from another file I used to write down ideas. What happened in-between? I don’t know, unless I can find some notebook or stack of index cards to fill in the gaps. Five+ years of ideas ends up with a lot of snippets to go through.

Having all these basic ingredients isn’t enough though. Something needs to be done with them, preferably in a coherent way that other humans can understand - not in all cases, sometimes it’s really just for me to enjoy. As good as it feels to write them down, it’s better to read them later and have that “oh yeah!” moment. Even better is to connect some of the ideas together into a whole new idea. That can’t really happen without reviewing the ideas altogether.

What do you do to capture those ideas? How do you use them later?

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From the site: In each episode, host LeVar Burton (Reading Rainbow, Star Trek, Roots) hand-picks a different piece of short fiction, and reads it to you.

§My Take

As he says in the intros, “the only thing these stories have in common is that I love 'em.” It’s a great way to listen to short stories, both by authors you already know (like Neil Gaiman) and others you may not. He is a comforting voice and very welcome before or after a long day.

Whether you grew up with Reading Rainbow or not, you’ll find something you like. There’s only one “season” so far, but I’m hoping that there will be more. The episodes range from about 30 minutes to a little over an hour - and they’re all worth every minute spent.

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Write That Down

§Pen, Pencil, Crayon, Phone, Whatever

Early in my life, I didn’t like writing. At all. I don’t know if it was motivation, or subject matter, or the people around me (teachers, family, friends, etc.), or maybe just me. If there was an assignment where I had to write more than a few sentences, I would procrastinate until the last second, and sometimes even after that.

In third grade, I remember having to write a paper on Mars. I went through all of the National Geographic issues that we had in the house after exhausting the small amount of information I had gotten from one encyclopedia at the school library. It was the night before it was due and I was up later than I should’ve been at that age, frantically scrambling (as much as I could at age 8) to make sure the paper was done enough. I woke up the next morning to find out that we had a snow day, and my mom asked at one point if I was going to work on that paper any more than I already had. Nope, it was done, I didn’t want anything else to do with it. No idea why that stands out, except for cementing the idea that I didn’t like to write.

Fast forward to high school. I wrote an essay for Mrs. Wright on how grades weren’t an indicator of anything useful other than objective work. It wasn’t how smart someone was, just that they worked hard enough to complete the assignment, and I think something about having no lasting effect. Ironically I got an ‘A’ on it, not that it mattered (right?).

After taking the first semester off after high school, one college class came along in early 1996. After all the dislike of English classes, I thought I would get Freshman English out of the way so I wouldn’t have to deal with it when I went full time. Gail Rondeau was the teacher, and she was great. She got me into writing and made sure to keep the class interested by changing topics from class to class and having us work on one longer-form piece while we wrote other assignments which would give us a portfolio at the end of the course. My final piece was how violent video games do not cause people to be violent, and in a lot of cases prevent physical violence by giving people an outlet. I remember a lot of revision and explanations through discussion, even though I don’t remember what the final result was… although I didn’t pass the class by way of not completing enough to pass. Oops.

Jump to full time classes at UNH Durham, and I had to take Freshman English. Again. This time it was with Rebecca Dawson - someone who also inspired the class and gave guidance to get us to where we were writing a few pages every week. I’ll always remember that she wanted us to write even when we didn’t think there was anything to say. It was like a faucet that hasn’t been used in a while. When you first turn it on the water that comes out might be dirty and grimy, but eventually the clear and good stuff will follow and that’s where we want to be.

I think I wrote more during that semester than I had in my entire life until that point. My final paper was on body modification, especially piercings, and I had my own anecdote to add to the story (maybe I’ll share that some other time). I ended up with an A for that class, one of only a couple that semester (it’s what I get for enrolling as a Mechanical Engineer who didn’t like taking Physics).

Those two semesters of Freshman English turned it around for me. Looking back, it also makes me wish I’d had some better influences for writing, even if that meant drawing from something within myself.

Today, I enjoy writing both personally as well as for my work in ISIT. Work-wise, I don’t mind writing technical documentation, sending messages that go out to a wide audience, and proofreading other people’s work (when they ask). Outside of work, I write a lot of ideas down, and finally started on a few stories that have been slowly building to a point where they need to be shared. I’m even working on something with one of my kids where we’re bouncing a lot of ideas off of each other. Luckily I have kids who love reading which helps too.

The more I think about it, this isn’t a matter of liking or disliking something. It was finding something in myself to ignore the outside influences and do what I wanted, even if it’s only for my own satisfaction.

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Thomas describes himself (from his About page):

I am a thinker, a speaker, a maker and a leader.

Someone once called me a hacker philosopher. I kind of like that. Others have criticized my discussions of programming as being too abstract or not practical enough. I am OK with that too. You cannot swing a search engine without hitting a post about some technology, tool or practice. There are some excellent communities that are all about discussions of those exact topics. I don’t think I have a lot to add in those areas but do think that a broader contemplation of principles and concepts becomes necessary at a certain point in one’s progress as a programmer. If that makes me too contemplative for some, so be it. I’d rather think too much about software as a practice, as a craft, than not enough. The same holds for all of the rest of the topics I delve into on this site.

He also has a great endorsement from Cory Doctorow:

“[T]houghtful, informative, and deep, a real plunge into the geeky end of the news-pool. There’s great analysis and rumination, as well as detailed explanations of important security issues with common OSes and so on.” – Cory Doctorow

§My Take

If you enjoy discussions about technology, software, leadership, communities, and more - this is a great podcast for you. Even if this isn’t exactly your wheelhouse, listen in and you’ll probably find something you like. I’ve been listening since 2009-ish (if I remember right) and enjoyed the variety of topics as well as his take on them. He also talks about tabletop gaming and other non-technical subjects.

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§…or, How Do I Pass the Time During My Long Commute?

I’ve been listening to podcasts since late 2006 when I got my first mp3 player (it was an early iPod Nano with 2 whole GB). Since then my playlist has changed quite a bit along with pretty much all of the process. Below is a quicker list of the current podcasts I’m listening to, or at least following for some that haven’t updated in a while. At some point I’ll post more about each one, especially the ones I’ve been listening to for a long time.

In alphabetical order by name, with a direct link to the feed:

§The Current List

§Newer (to my playlist)

§Less (or In-) Active

§What’s Next?

I still have so much to catch up on with these, even with my commute. Suggestions are welcome - that’s where most of this list came from, either by way of friends making recommendations or through other podcasts mentioning it.

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§…or, Why Didn’t I Start This When I Wasn’t Doing So Much Already?

(the original title reads better anyway)

It’s been a weird and rough few weeks - at work, I’ve gone from a team of two to a team of one. On top of my current role as Supervisor, I’m also doing the day-to-day work of the person who was working under me[1]. Oh, and backfilling the position, meaning that I’m reviewing resumes and interviewing people. Put all that together and my work day isn’t as inviting as it used to be, which could be why I want to speed up the hiring process. Yes, I know that it’s better to take my time and get the right person and not have to go through this again in three (or six or 12) months.

At home it’s also busy. We’ve been taking the past several months to reduce the stuff all around the house. Anything that didn’t make the cut was moved down into the garage… and once the garage was pretty full we had a big yard sale, and donated a bunch of other stuff. It felt good to get rid of a lot, just time-consuming to get to that point. Since all the stuff is out of the way maybe I can start getting the lingering projects finished and start on the other stuff that needs attention. blech.

I was really hoping I would have more time so I could write for here as well as on some personal projects. It feels like I need at least four more hours a day to get that done (factoring in time to actually get the stuff I need to get done finished). The summer feels like it’s slipping away and there’s still so much to try and cram in before winter hits.

Could I just win the lottery and have someone else do some (ok most) of the less fun junk for me?

§To Do

  • Theme
  • Layout tweaks
  • More plugins
  • Write, write, write
  • Build out project git repos

  1. Good friend, went to another place for good reasons

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§Early Days

This month, July of 2017, will mark ten years of having a beard. That’s the last time I shaved my face, the last time my cheeks and chin saw direct sunlight, and the last time I had razor burn. I had grown out facial hair a few times in my late teens and twenties, but never for more than a few months before shaving it all off.

My oldest kid is the only one to remember me beardless - my middle was only six months old when I stopped shaving. After a couple of years my wife told me, “I was looking at our wedding pictures and you look weird without the beard, you have to keep it…” (thanks?)

§Then and Now

It’s weird, back when I first grew it out, there weren’t a lot of people with full beards. Yes, there were plenty of people with facial hair - mustaches, goatees, fu manchu, soul patch, etc. etc. - but not a lot of full-on beards. My wife noticed it too, it’s almost a movement with tons more people involved.

Now it’s not uncommon to have a longer beard in the office (at least in my office it’s the case). I like that.

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Laying it Out

§…or, architecting the site before I know better

I like Hexo so far. It’s easy to work with, I’m learning a lot along the way, and almost have it set up on all of my systems (GitLab makes it easy).

Next I need to find some best practice info on Hexo, related to folder structure. It’s great that I can do whatever I want; it’s tough that I can do whatever I want.

§The What

A lot of what I’m doing will fall under the “blog” but I have other content that I want to post. Lists of Android Apps, Windows Apps, Linux apps, Podcasts, and more - across several categories for each area. There’s also writing that I’ve done and the Spark File (ok, files) I have.

Maybe the more generalized version of the breakdown is: braindump into the post entries, more organized stuff into pages. I’ll probably change my mind about a dozen times before I get much further…

§To Do

  • Theme
  • Layout
  • Plugins
  • Write, write, write

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Author's picture


Family man, big geek, awesome beard.

Application Support, ISIT