Weekly update, September 14, 2020
Howdy internet friend, welcome back to my blog and a huge thank you for taking the time to read this! In this weekly update I’m going to write a little bit about Black Lives Matter, and then discuss the personal and professional things I did last week. Then, because it ended up being a big enough chunk of the personal section, I broke out a mini section for the stuff I’ve been reading this week as well. Mostly the professional stuff will be ranting (no great shock to regular readers) and without any further adieu, let’s get down to business.
Black Lives Matter
As I try to mention every week, Black Lives Matter! This week I am going to suggest you find at least one black person on Twitter who works in your field, and follow them. If you are not on Twitter, replace it for your social media of choice. If you do nothing else this week, try to spend some time just listening to a black person. For many white people, this might not be something you would regularly do during the week, which isn’t great but it’s a place to start from. I think it’s important to do this work on your own, because the benefit will be much more applicable to you that way. Even if you don’t find someone from the line of work you have now, perhaps better to find three people in the field you want to work in to follow. You could even go a step further and reach out and ask them some questions, but for starts just be part of their audience.
Honestly, it is really important that white people make more of an effort to listen to people that are not white. Not only black people, but indigenous people, other people of color, and women. Frequently white men find ourselves in an echo chamber of other white male voices. It’s not cool or alright to do that in 2020, we need to be better!
It seems to me that listening is often the most prudent place to start. In that spirit, I’m going to stop writing on this subject and let you think about how you can engage with what I’ve written above.
Last week was long, as it frequently seems like the short weeks always are! I’ve been cramming for the AWS Security Specialist exam for the last month and a half or so and on Saturday I was ready to sit the exam. Unfortunatley, the laptop I was using was not. Despite seeing myself in the web cam application, the proctored exam application detected neither my mic nor webcam. I delayed the test by an hour to try and fix the problem myself, but was unsuccessful.
Then I got to spent two hours waiting for the tech support chat agent, who was not helpful at all.
Most excellent use of a Saturday. /s
I rescheduled the exam for tomorrow morning before work. Hopefully I can figure out the laptop situation and sit the exam. If you can’t tell from my tone, I am still pretty frustrated by the whole thing. It doesn’t make me want to take more AWS exams, that’s for sure!
Other than that bit of nastiness, last week was the first week in a long time where I didn’t write a line of code. I made the decision quietly that I was going to take a break from programming for a while. It hadn’t been fun for a long time and I had too many other things that were getting neglected so I could make time to program and hate it that I decided to stop until I hated programming less.
Partially this was because some of my near-term goals aren’t going to require me to write as much code as I previously thought. Partially it’s because I have much more writing that I need to finish, and I am starting to run up against deadlines that are inflexible. As such, it’s been more important to me to spend my morning time to be spent writing and reading to finish this big project.
One final note, I reached out to five or so Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) on LinkedIN to connect and pick their brain. I have been thinking about future career goals and kicking around the idea of trying to reach the CISO level one day. I’ve not decided if I actually want to do it, but it makes sense makes sense to reach out to people who already have the job and ask them questions. Even if they don’t have time to answer my questions, so far every CISO I’ve requested to connect with has accepted the invitation so if nothing else I am building out a bigger network on LinkedIN, which is supposed to be good.
I feel like I pretty much had the opposite personal week as I did professional. I learned heaps of stuff about woodworking and am making really slow and not all that steady progress in my mallet-building project. Despite the bullcrap with the AWS testing, my wife and I managed to have salvage a great weekend. Saturday night we watched Mean Girls and then half a standup special by Jim Gaffigan and I laughed until I cried! Sunday we went to a few antique shops and I found a Yes record, a Cream 45 (if you are a younger person and/or don’t dig classic rock, Cream was a rock band that Eric Clapton was in, and a 45 is a record but instead of being an entire record, like with a few songs per side, it’s just a single - one song on each side of the record), and two woodworking tools that I have been looking for. While at one of the antique places we met a dude who gave me a line on a place to get some good lumber, something I’ve been struggling to find. It’s also becoming increasingly clear that my next car is going to be a truck, since we need something to not only haul lumber and the furniture I finish making, but there have been already multiple instances where it would come in handy to have a truck.
If you are wondering why I am making such a big deal about this, it’s because I used to hate trucks. It annoyed me to no end to see people who (I figured) clearly don’t need or use them driving around in a truck. One thing I’ve already noticed in two months of home ownership is that there are SUBSTANTIALLY more situations that require a truck than someone in an apartment. I’m also not planning on getting a giant, lifted truck. Instead I’m looking for something smaller, just two doors and a manual transmission, and a big enough bed that I can haul lumber and the occasional bit of furniture.
Sunday I got to spend special time with my son. We call this time “Rude Dudes” and we usually play Fortnite, build two projects from this Kids first electronics kit, eat lunch really rudely, and watch a TV show or movie. This week I introduced him to Start Trek: The Next Generation and we watched half of the first episode. He is only seven, so he thought it was boring which, you know, he isn’t entirely wrong. It wasn’t a great episode. That’s alright though, I am proud of him for trying something new twice (he also ate an egg salad sandwich with mayo, and he did so without arguing and said it was good)! I love spending special time with him every week and am really glad it is on the calendar.
Unfortunately, I was too busy to hang out with my great friend Acetolyne on Sunday, but there are only so many hours in the day. Next weekend I am hopefuly to be able to catch up with him and find something cool to do.
At first I wasn’t going to create a sub-section for this. However, once I started thinking about it and writing, it got way too unruly and I quickly realized it needed to be it’s own section. I’ve mentioned a few times recently that I am working on a really long essay. When I last checked it was over twelve pages and approaching double-digit footnotes. I’ve mentioned before that it is one of the most important things I’ve ever written, and I am putting in substantial time researching and writing it. It’s a big part of the reason I needed to cut out programming, I really need the extra time to focus, read, and write this essay.
I started reading a bunch of stuff by Paul Goodman to get started. First it was The Paul Goodman Reader and some of his essays on political philosophy. Then it was Drawing the line once again: Paul Goodman’s Anarchist Writings that was occupying my time. Even though the binding of that book was falling apart, there are some very interesting things included therein. Since I was having grad school flashbacks already, I started reading a second book while I was working through the Goodman essays. That was the autobiography of Dorothy Day. In that book, she wrote about how important Tolstoy and Dostoevsky were to her, which reminded me of one of the greatest novels I ever read, What is to be done by Chernyshevsky. This got me thinking of some of the other awesome novels I’d read from Russian literature while in graduate school and found a copy of The Brothers Karamazov for like six bucks online. That came a few days ago and I started reading that as well.
“Dave, it sounds like you are reading three books at the same time.” You are almost right, dear reader - I’m actually reading four books at once. My son and I are on book six of the Chronicles of Narnia series, The Silver Chair. If your next question is, “how do you keep all those stories straight?” I imagine it’s a bit like watching multiple TV series at the same time. Whenever you come back to one, you remember more or less where you left off pretty quickly. Also I am reading different things for different reasons. This seems to me to make it (maybe easier isn’t the right word but) more straightforward to keep everything square. It’s possible you might also be wondering, “why don’t you finish one book before reading the next?” I would also suggest that this is because of a similiar response as before, that I am trying to read different things for different reasons, and thus it’s easier to pause an essay in the middle and come back later. I also get bored really easily and while I might want to finish a book, I don’t have the attention span to concentrate on it long enough to finish it, so I read bits of one, move on to the next, and so on.
Anyway, one thing I’ve noticed from the increased time in the garage working on wood and the time spent reading is that I am feeling much less stressed than usual. It’s really hard for me to turn my brain off, but when I’m reading a novel or working on a project it’s possible for me to focus only on that. Instead of thinking about a hundred other things, just focused on one thing. What word am I reading? Do I understand it? In the garage, what am I going to chisel off next? How hard to push the wood? Should I make one more pass before wiping the sweat from my brow and taking a little breather? All of these things are much more enjoyable to think about that going over any number of scenarios and thoughts about the future. Plans, goals, dreams - while fun to think about, can also be stressful.
I guess I will just end this section on reading by encouraging you to keep reading. You read this blog post which is awesome and I greatly appreciate! Now I propose you go out and find a novel to read. Personally I love Russian literature (I think I mentioned that earlier) and I would absolutely recommend What is to be done because it is fantastic! There were parts that made me laugh out loud, while also having sections that were tremendously thought provoking and interesting. Basically I have nothing but good things to say about that book. So far I would also highly recommend The Brothers Karamazov but it’s substantially longer to read. Also I think I saw something about how there is a little kerfuffle about the name of the book, but this post is already long enough so perhaps that will be a rant for another day. :)
People to follow
As I do every week, here are some tech and non-tech people you might consider following on Twitter.
Martin Luther King III - The son of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Bernice King - The daughter of Dr. King
@cetolyne - great friend, awesome programmer, super helpful!
@blenster - cool maker, very positive, well worth a follow!
@GWeessies - very smart person doing interesting research!
Marley - first place champ! Marley is one of the best on Twitter!
Null Coder - another awesome person to keep an eye on!
@EvilMog - creator of the DC MUD and an interesting person to follow.