Thirty Five

This is my fifth tetrahedral number birthday and me second consecutive semi-prime birthday. As a multiple of five, it’s also a “round number”.

Thirty Four was a year that I continued my growth as an artist. I regularly painted, sketched, and played with colors and shapes. I’ve started experimenting with block printing, and set up¬†to be the home of my art. I have art hanging in my friend’s homes. As a thirty five year old, it would be cool to have someone I don’t know own my art. Seems like a good goal.

From a professional perspective, Thirty Four was mostly a stable year. I spent time launching a new brand and relaunching another. My contributions to WordPress continued, but at a much slower pace. I helped organize the flagship WordPress conference¬†and a new event focused on the intersection of WordPress and Publishing.¬† The next one is accepting speaker submissions for the next few days. Most importantly, I’ve set Thirty Five up to be an incredible year on the professional front.

One of my biggest personal accomplishments was being elected to the board for a non-profit I’ve volunteered with since I graduated college. Additionally, I got to see a childhood best friend get married at an amazing camping wedding, become an uncle for the first time (I can’t express how happy I am for my brother and sister-in-law) and had my first Christmas Morning celebration with two amazing kids and some of my best friends.

I’m excited for Thirty Five on so many fronts. I’m excited to see more amazing art as I work on my 2018 goal of seeing everything at The Met, while continuing to enjoy MoMA and making it to some of the other museums in town as well. I’m excited for the art that I’m going to make. And I’m excited for everything I have lined up from a professional perspective. Cheers to 35 years with me. I’m going nowhere but up!

I’ve previously blogged 34, 32, 29,¬†28.

A week with a Chromebook

I’m an idiot.

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Saturday, I would like a redo

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Not really, but I knocked my tripod into my laptop, busting the screen and logic board in the process. For the past ~2 years, I’ve been primarily a one laptop person, using my MacBook for both work and pleasure. I have a large windows machine that mostly collects dust since try as I might, I can’t get used to developing on Windows and a Chromebook¬†that I keep near my couch for things that I want a bigger screen than a phone, but its use has been lessened as I try to be screen free at home as much as possible.

With these two options, I decided that the Chromebook made more sense for me to use, primarily because it’s about 1/3 the weight of the windows machine. I wanted something more than just a basic shell I could ssh into other machines for though, so I used Crouton¬†to return to developing on Linux for the first time in a few years.

Overall, switching back to Linux was easy. Since I normally develop on the command line and with Vim, all my dev tools were available to me. The only thing lacking was 1Password which meant I needed to manually enter passwords.  As someone who has been using a password manager for a few years, it was a reminder of why people use bad passwords and use the same password everywhere. Manually entering 50+ character passwords is hard.

The only other areas of issue for me were that High Five video calls didn’t work that I never got the wifi switcher to work in XFCE (I admittingly spent like 3 minutes on this), so I had to bounce back to Chrome whenever I needed to connect to a new WIFI. In many ways, going back to Linux was like returning to an old friend. It’s where I started to code.¬†

Thankfully, I’ve been reunited with my macbook and the screen is good as new. Despite it going in just needing some screen repairs, my hard drive needed to be whipped.¬† So I’m thankful for having backups of everything important, though I’m regretting not having pushed a few branches in git.

Let this serve as a reminder: Laptops are not invincible, backup your data. 

A Sabbatical from Speaking in 2018

Normally, when a year comes to a close I start to brainstorm about talks and presentations I want to give in the coming year.  I copy over a doc in Simple Note and start pruning off talks I've already given or ideas that no longer excite me and add in new ideas where I feel like I have something to add. This year is a bit different since I'm going to focus my energies elsewhere and will not be giving public presentations in 2018. I still intend to contribute to the conversations around technology, but in a different way (read on to find out more).

What's driving this decision

I came to this idea after spending some time re-evaluating how I spend my time. The talks that I prepare generally involve about an hour for each minute I present. In 2017 I gave presentations at WordCamp Lancaster, Pressnomics, WordCamp DC, and WordCamp Philidelphia. Overall, I spent nearly one hundred hours preparing for and delivering these talks. When I think about my hopes for how the web moves forward, I wonder if those 100 hours couldn't be spent doing something with a bigger impact.

Additionally, I don't bring a lot of diversity to the table. I'm a mid 30's cis-gendered white-passing male.  There are plenty of us in technology. If I move out of the way, that can hopefully make space for someone to bring a different viewpoint to the conversations.

What I'm doing instead

I still love public speaking and want to help some newer speakers give great talks. I thus intend to volunteer and donate my time helping some speakers. If you have enjoyed any of the presentations that I have given and think I might be able to help you, please send me a DM on twitter (my DMs are open). I'm going to give preference to people that bring some diversity that I don't bring to the table. I'm hoping that as 2018 comes to a close, I can say that I spent 100 hours helping new voices in the conversations around technology.

Thirty Four

Today I’m still three years away from another prime birthday, but this is my ninth semiprime birthday and my ninth¬†Fibonacci birthday.¬† That last Fibonacci¬†birthday was a bit of a bigger deal though.

I didn’t publish my post about thirty-three. I spent the day fairly exhausted after having my brother visit, and¬†for a while when I get exhausted I tend to get fairly down emotionally. I need to get better with sleeping. Maybe I’ll try that as a thirty-four-year-old.

As a thirty-three year old, I really threw myself into making art. I painted, I drew, I burned wood. ¬†I often struggle to love anything I create, but every once in a while I do. Lately, I’ve mostly been doing watercolor sketching in bars, painting with a brush attached to a Dremel, and burning small pieces of wood. It’s fun to experiment with things¬†that are so different than how I spend my days. It’s important to step away from the computer. I’m glad I found an outlet for me to do that in 2016.

Professionally, thirty-three was the year I was honored¬†with the opportunity to be the deputy lead of a WordPress release. Helping do that will forever be an important accomplishment and one of my most important contributions to WordPress. ¬†I also switched jobs (again), moving back into media and publishing. I’ve also added to new events to my volunteer schedule, taking a (broader) role in WordCamp US and being a part of the inaugural¬†team around WordCamp for Publishers. The role I have as a part of the Model UN I help organize has evolved yet again and I’ve switched into a senior staff role that is less focused on the day to day running of a department and is now completely focused on photography, technology, and helping where it is needed during the actual event.

Thirty-three had challenges. Every year does. These challenges won’t magically go away with me turning a year older. Today is really just another day, it just happens to be the anniversiry¬†of the day I was born. ¬†So I guess I’ll drink to that. ūüćĽūü•ā

Aaron’s Rule for Better Meetings #6

An addendum to my initial list of rules for better meetings.

  1. All Meetings where product decisions get made need to include a designer and an engineer. It’s important to provide multiple perspectives when making product decisions, and none of those decisions should be made without engineering and design having an opportunity to explain their perspective on benefits and costs.

photo: used under a Creative Commons Attribution license. Original: #WOCinTech

My Three Headphone Strategy

For a few years, I’ve lived with what I call a three headphone strategy. It’s an understanding that I use headphones for multiple different purposes and it is near impossible to have a single pair of headphones that fit all purposes. I wear headphones while working, while on the go, and while traveling.

On the go

While Walking around the streets and transiting, I often have headphones in. Lately, it is mostly listening to podcasts, but I also listen to music and occasionally talk on the phone. So I need something that won’t get in my way, gives me quick access to volume and pausing, and also doesn’t completely block the world around me. I also want something that iff I lose, I’m not going to be too upset. I’ve used both wireless and wired headphones. ¬†My current headphones are the¬†JLab Audio Epic Bluetooth 4.0 Wireless Sports. They do a good job of holding a charge, pair quickly, and the sound is good.¬† I also have a pair of¬†Panasonic ErgoFit In-Ear Earbuds Headphones with Mic/Controller RP-TCM125-A¬†as backup. ¬†I’ve had multiple pairs of the Panasonic earbuds over the years, mostly due to a constant ability that I have of losing them. ¬†¬†

At My Desk

Working in an open office means there are constant distractions and having headphones helps. Here, portability is less important than¬†quality sound. I tried multiple pairs a few years ago, and ended up with the¬†Sennheiser HD448 Closed Circumaural Hi-Fi Headphone. These have held up for five years of office changes and still sound great. ¬†Part of the reason they sound good is that I also use a¬†FiiO E7 USB DAC and Portable Headphone Amplifier.¬†It’s one of the best investments I made towards high-quality listening. This setup is much more stationary than any of the other times I wear headphones.

On an airplane

When flying, I care most about blocking out sounds, with quality and portability still being important. For me, the¬†Bose QuietComfort 25¬†are by far the best option in this regard. They pack up into a case that easily fits in my bag and include space in the case for extra batteries. Without batteries, they still sound great, but the active noise canceling no longer functions. Since I added these to my travel bag, I can’t imagine flying without them. To me, they are as neccessary as something to read. They are comfortable enough that even on long flights I don’t need to take them off and I can also fall asleep with them on.

That’s my headphone strategy, what’s yours?

Fall Conferences – PHP Madison and WordCamp NYC

Today I get to announce two conferences that I’m speaking at this fall. The first is here in NYC and is the 2015 WordCamp NYC. ¬†I’ll be giving a talk entitled:
Lessons from Science Fiction and Fantasy we can use in Creating Websites.  Here is a short synopsis.

Science Fiction and Fantasy can teach web creators many valuable lessons. From seeing how Daleks with too narrow of a goal always fail to understanding the Klingons value of honor, to hundreds of other we can become better web creators by borrowing lessons from Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Next, I’ll be traveling to Madison, Wisconsin for the first time in almost 10 years to present “How Not To Build A WordPress Plugin” at Madison PHP. ¬†A short synopsis of this talk is

WordPress has a powerful plugin architecture that enables you to build almost anything on top of WordPress. This power though can lead to anti-patterns that slow down sites, confuse users, and make it hard to scale. Let’s look at the wrong way of building plugins so you can avoid these traps.

Tickets for both events are on sale.  If you are either one, make sure to say hi!

Thirty Two

For the fifth time, I’m an integer power of 2. I don’t remember much (or anything) from when I was 2, but I’m sure I was excited to play with trains. I also don’t have many memories of being 4, but I know I attended the Niles Park District pre-school and owned pretty awesome linen suit. When I was 8 I was excited to fall asleep with my clock radio listening to the White Sox games. I also started the 3rd grade, my last year at Stevenson Elementary. At 16 I started working as a lifeguard. That summer I went to my first outdoor concert and got my driver’s license. It was the first summer where I regularly stayed out late and was also the age I first heard about Northern Michigan University. Power of 2 years have been pretty good.

31 was also a good year. It was the year I moved in with my love, the year I spoke overseas for the first time, and the year I was trusted with commit to WordPress core. On both personal and professional levels, 31 has been a good year.

32 is shaping up to be another good year. Professionally, I’m going to be giving the keynote at WordCamp Philly (and speaking at some other exciting places to be announced), and will be working on some exciting things. Personally I’m excited for all the travel I have planned and to spend my first summer as a Jersey resident heading down to the shore.

This is going to be my last power of two birthday for a while which makes me wonder what things will be like when I’m 64.