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A Day in the Life 

I’ve been very busy lately with work, family, and friends. I thought it might be nice see what I’ve been up to rather than just read about it. Its also a great deal easier for me show rather than tell right now and I’ve been meaning to start adding some pictures to my website for a while now. This is what my life looked like a week ago today on the 11th of May.

A bowl of nuts
Rather than laying in bed, wide awake, I got up early at 4am, with a bowl of nuts, and got to work.
A backyard garden
Before everyone else was awake I snuck out to the garden to check on the beans that I had planted. It seems that squirrels have eaten half of the sprouts.
Hops on the ground
The trellis I had up last year for the hops fell down over the winter. I haven’t had the time to put up anything to support the hops aghain so they are sprawling all over the garden.
A man, latte, and wine bottles
My father-in-law and I walked around the corner from our house to grab coffee and chat at Cherry Picker.
A glowing keyboard and a computer monitor display code
I spent most of the day down in my office in the basement working. A lot of my time was spent configuring servers which is not my favorite task.
A vintage camper with tools and building materials leaning against it
I went over a plan with my father-in-law to build a deck outside of my soon-to-be office.
Two men looking out the windshield of a truck traveling down a highway
My father is the one with a truck these days. He drove us to the hardware store to buy some wood and other materials for the deck.
White gas tanks along the side of a highway
A storm was coming in the on the horizon as we drove through the rural parts outside of Springfield.
Cedar wood inside of a hardware store
I hate going to these big hardware stores but we were able to get everything we needed to build a new deck in one stop.

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Goodbye Tom Billionis 

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When my wife and I moved back to Springfield in 2009, I was in a dark place. I was feeling defeated, having to move away from a place that we loved back to a place we had already left. This also left me feeling very constrained. I had just acquired an interest in food and drink but I had little money to explore the fine things that life has to offer and no one to share my love of those things with. But then I stumbled into the Coffee Ethic one day.

The man behind the counter commented on my leather bag and then ran up the stairs to fetch his own by the same make. We chatted about how we came to be in possession of such nice bags and how it was a privilege to be able to carry something so well made around with us. Subsequent visits to the Ethic provided more conversations about nice things in life: about good coffee, good wine, good food, and about having a family. While I sat at the bar we’d try and make sense of what was left of our faith and we’d dream about what downtown Springfield could be. He’d humor my ridiculous ideas about pizza joints, homebrew shops, and butcher counters while I’d listen to him talk about creating a community around coffee.

We eventually added good beer to the list of things we’d talk about. We’d often go to beer tastings at the Wine Center or host our own at my house with spoils from recent travels. I’d get so upset at Tom and my guests for taking pictures of their food and drink instead of eating and imbibing and Tom would remind me not take things so seriously. We started grabbing beers together a few times a week and before I knew it I had a very important friendship on my hands and a love for the town of Springfield.

Tom and I played on a bocce team together a few times and we would fantasize about a life in which we were old men playing the game behind some cafe that he owned, drinking wine all day. For a long time there was a standing lunch date, every Thursday, along with Dante and eventually a few others. We started off by exploring the restaurants of the city until we settled into what ended up being our regular places. On those lunches we’d often take advantage of being self employed by taking two to three hours to eat. And, of course, we’d wash things down with a midday beer or two.

He was also that friend of mine that had a truck. He helped me move into my house. He helped pick up furniture that my wife had bought. He took the time out of his day to drive out to Ash Grove and pick up a vintage fridge to support my idea of turning it into a meat curing cabinet—something I still haven’t done. He gave my wife a job and, I suspect, kept that less-than-lucrative satellite cafe open so our family would have some extra income before our daughter was born.

Tom was extremely supportive of me and my career. He would always be sure to take his pictures with Hipstamatic and was the only one of my friends here in Springfield that used Oggl with any regularity—both are two products that I hand in making. He even sported the Hipstamatic case that made your phone look like a camera for much longer than I did myself. When I came out with my coffee app, Bloom, he told his friends in the industry about it, and even pushed it to customers of the Ethic. When I went out on my own, Tom was there to hear my terrified ramblings about being a new business owner and was always ready with sage advice.

For reasons that escape me right now, we grew apart. Maybe we were both too busy. Maybe we both changed. Coincidentally or perhaps partly because of our waning relationship I sunk back into a dark place. What ever was the cause of the crevice that formed between us the effect was that I kept driving him away and then did not have him around to help me figure things out anymore. And now that Tom was unfairly taken from us all this past Saturday I’m kicking myself for letting my grip loosen on that friendship. While I’m thankful that Tom, having taught me so much already, gave me one final lesson about the importance of being gracious and accepting, I cannot believe the cost of it.

Goodbye Tom. Thank you for all of the conversations over the years. Thank you for being a friend when I needed it. I appreciate you more than I ever told you.

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Back to Work 

A quick update to say that I am back up and at ‘em this morning from my paternity leave. I read an article while I was on leave (I can’t find a link to it anywhere) that talked about how most men don’t take any time off when their family has a new child and I am thankful that my situation lets me take some time off. Honestly, I don’t understand how you could not take time off.

So thanks to everyone that gave me a bit of space while we got to know our new son. I know there are a few of you out there are waiting for responses from me and I hope I can maintain focus enough to respond back by the end of the week. If it is urgent, feel free to ping me again.

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The First Few Weeks With a Newborn 

Here is a scene from our house this week that I think illustrates what it is like to have a newborn around again. Last night I was too tired to finish a glass of Scotch that I had poured for myself, so I did something that I’m not especially proud of: I put plastic wrap over the top of the glass to save it for another time. And then this morning I finished that glass in shower.

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Paternity Leave 

Things have been a bit quiet around here lately and that is because my wife gave birth to our second child this past Saturday morning! Its been a lot of fun, yet very tiring, having another little one in the house again but I do feel that we have a better handle on things this time around. I’m taking a few weeks off from the internet and work to support my wife and family so I may be a bit slower to respond to any correspondence sent my way.

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Dealing with Difficult to People 

I recently got thrown into a project with a particulary abrasive programmer manning the ship. He is the sort of programmer that belittles and questions every little decision you’ve made until you feel that you can’t have a thought for yourself without consulting with him first. The sort of person that judges without any thought to context. The sort that likes pile needless tools onto a project to try and make up for their own personality deficiencies.

So, as I was saying, I’ve recently had to work with a character like this and I’ve adopted a simple rule when responding to him in a diplomatic way: write a response and then walk away for five minutes before sending it. Writing my initial response is like a pressure release valve when my blood gets boiling and helps me feel a little better. Taking a short break from the situation and then coming back to read my response really helps me analyze my reaction outside of the heat of the moment. Then I am able to civilly respond to his demeanor, if necessary, or simply respond to what he is complaining about and get on with doing my job.

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What Went On Last Year 

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I didn’t do any sort of end-of-year post in December but I still wanted to jot down some of the things that I was able to accomplish last year. In September I defined some goals and I’ll revisit those first, seeing how I did. Then I’ll highlight a few changes I made to the way I work last year. Finally, I’ll reflect on the year as a whole.

  1. Working from home. Still doing this. My camper/office project is well behind schedule and with our boy being born in March I may need to temporarily find some space outside of the house to focus.
  2. Cooking every night. I’ve been awful at this. I bet if you were counting you would measure that I have cooked more often than I was, it is nowhere near my goal.
  3. Working from anywhere. I’ve done well at this. In fact, my family and I lived in Donegal Town, Ireland for two weeks and I still kept up with my clients all while pretending to be Irish.
  4. Develop a product. This has been on my mind a lot but I haven’t made any meaningful progress on this front. In fact, I’ve recently taken on a substabtial project at my consultancy so this will probably be on hold for a while. It is still something that I really want to do but I have next to no direction. I’m wrestling with the question of whether I’m even cut out to do this sort of thing.
  5. Giving back. Worst failure of the list. I haven’t done anything on this. No open source contributions. Not even volenteering to do charity work. Its embarassing. When I wrote down this goal last year I thought that I could find a way to give back by creating a product, which seems a bit delusional in hindsight. I have some projects floating around my head that would make great open source projects but perhaps I should just finish my Walden ePub project, as a start.

One improvement that I made last year that I am proud of was finally learning how to touch type. I’m not sure that my fingers had been on the home row since I was typing on an Apple IIe in the 3rd grade so it was quite the challange initially. In fact, I took a huge productivity hit at first. And while I still don’t think I’m quite as fast as I was while hunting and pecking I’m getting faster all of the time and I have the addded benifit of my wrists not hurting as much. That last benifit is huge for me as ending the work day with sore wrists was becoming more and more routine.

Another improvement that I made last year that I’m particularly proud of is my new profiency with Vim. For those reading that don’t know, Vim is a command line text editor with its roots going back to 1976. It has an interface that eschews using the arrow keys on your keyboard so it is known for being tricky to master. It is, however, extremely powerful and flexible, especially when used for programming. Vim is now my everyday editor and I feel like I am a more productive programmer because of it.

2015 was a good year for me and my consultancy. While it wasn’t our highest earning year, the income was steady and predictable, which wasn’t at all the case for 2014. This is mostly because I spread my work across multiple clients and projects instead of relying on one big project that had the possibility of the rug being swept from under it. I enjoyed hopping around to different industries and solving problems that I didn’t even know exsisted. 2016 looks like it may be back to the one-big project scenerio again, which makes me a bit nervous.

2015 was also one of the loneliest years I’ve ever had. One of my good friends took a job that requires him to be on the road all week. So our weekly Thursday night meet ups have been reduced down to once a month meetings at the pub. In 2014 I witnessed my local social circle shrink, for one reason or another, and I spent 2015 being shy about starting new relationships. I’d like to make 2016 the year I let my guard down again and surround myself with friends that I can trust.