Reflectrospective: Year Four of Independence

§ March 20, 2014 22:58 by beefarino |

4candlesMarch marks the passing of a personal milestone: four years of working for myself.  So this is the point where you make jokes about my boss being a jerk or the fact that no one else would hire me.  S’ok, I don’t mind.  It’s why I’m here.

This past year was crazy.  By design really.  I didn’t end up doing all the things I planned to do, but hey, “the best laid plans …” and so forth.  Besides, being able to pivot as I see fit is one of the first reasons I’m independent, and I am pretty happy with the way things have turned out. 

Here are some of the highlights from the past year:

  • I’ve pushed six new highly-targeted open source projects.  And there are more coming in the next year, spanning automation and discovery frameworks for business intelligence to some nifty shell-aware data visualization tools.
  • I’ve released several major revisions to StudioShell, including support for Visual Studio 2013, a version specifically designed for the Nuget package manager console, along with an example of how to use it in your own Nuget packages.  So, you know, go on and use it.
  • I’ve published two new Pluralsight courses (log4net and PowerShell Gotchas!) which, if I do say so myself, are very well done.  In addition I have another course in the works which should be out in the next month or two on publishing custom performance counters in your applications. And it too is very well done :)
  • I’ve learned more about scaling application data layers and SQL server than I really ever cared to.  Still, it’s been an interesting and view-shifting journey, which I always enjoy.
  • I’ve expanded my speaking horizons with soft-skills, architecture, devops, and of course software development talks.  Moreover, I hope the coming year will find me speaking to new, larger, and wider audiences as well – for instance I’ll be presenting three sessions at the upcoming PowerShell Summit in Redmond next month.
  • I’ve started fiction writing again.  I don’t do it very well or very often, but I’m learning to enjoy doing it poorly and infrequently.
  • I opened up about a dark part of my life; not for commentary, not for attention, but out of gratitude to those who support me and concern for those looking for their own support.
  • I’ve learned a new instrument – the ukulele.  I love it – it is impossible to be angry or stressed while playing a uke.  And it seems to please the right people and annoy the crap out of the others.  So you know, win-win.
  • I’ve crocheted four baby blankets, one massive ugly afghan, and countless hats and scarves.  Currently working on baby blanket number five; seriously, y’all need to stop making them babies.

Of course it’s not all rainbows and unicorns.  I know there are things I need shore up and put real focus on.  Businessish things.  And I’m working on it.  Seriously, shut up about it.

At this point I would make some statements about what I plan to do in the coming year.  Outside of what I’ve already mentioned, I’m not doing that this time.  Instead, let’s just say I’m heading where I need to go at the pace I need to travel. 

Which is, after all the point of all this responsibility and effort right?

Kind of a Thing with Me

§ December 6, 2013 15:17 by beefarino |

Frosty leaves Free PhotoThis post was painful to write.  I’ve mulled it, hashed it, reworked it many times.  I started it over Thanksgiving, trashed it on the advice of a trusted friend, left it for dead.  Then another friend posted something on facebook that triggered it all again.  So here goes…

Most of you know me as a very calm, positive, and productive dude, with a wry sense of humor and a boisterous laugh you can hear three states over.  I like being that guy.  Actually, I love being that guy.  I look forward to it.  But it’s not always that way with me.

So, I’ve never enjoyed the holidays.  Not even as a kid.  My family jokes about it, but it’s not funny.  This time of year makes me feel sad and lonely, even though I’m lucky enough to spend it surrounded by people I love and who I know love me in return.  I don’t know why, never really understood the seasonal affective thing, but I know my mom suffered from it later in life as well, after surviving her first bought of cancer.  Even then, neither of us could put into words what happens.  The wet shoes, numb fingers, naked trees, the world seems to crawl under its covers of damp leaves and wood smoke to die and I just sort of absorb that through my skin.  And sweet baby Jesus, then there is the peppermint-scented carol-cacophonic circle-of-hell that is shopping in December - the avarice, the incessant advertising, and the wants and entitlements people get for …. well, just things, things that frankly no one needs.  Some days I could wad up December, throw it in the bin, and never miss it.

And this has never really been a problem, I’ve managed to muddle through my 40-or-so holiday seasons on this Earth without ruining it for everyone else.  The real problem began when I started to feel this way about the other 11 months of the year as well.  One year was spectacularly stressful – filled with birth, deaths, job changes, and isolation. 

Then it rolled into a second year….

.…and then on into a third….  I could not get my feet under me before hitting the ground again.  So I stopped trying, to put it briefly.

I eventually worked my way out of it, with a lot of help.  Lots.  Of Help.  It was a bumpy road.  It still is, if I’m being honest.  And the thing is … I’m thankful for all of it.  Every letter in the story – even the parts I cut out at my friend’s review.  Every choice made.  Every second of every minute of every hour that lead up to this moment here, with me writing this sentence and you reading it.  Through it I’ve made strong and earnest friends that I now rely on for daily mental health – some that make me laugh until my cheeks hurt, some that are brutally honest, some that kindle ideas, and some that rightly put me in my place. 

I love them and can’t imagine life without them.

Of course I would rather have skipped a lot of it, but there are lessons you can’t learn without that level of strife, lessons that are simple, universal, and vital, but are so banal and obvious that they require that nuclear explosion to draw your attention.  I’m thankful for these lessons too.

Here, let me share them with you, although the effect won’t be the same:

  • Making things better for yourself mandates effort on your part.  If you don’t feel like you have the energy for it, that’s a serious problem.  It’s time to ask for help.  Being strong is a good thing, but there are weights no person is expected to carry alone - needing help isn’t a weakness; not asking for it is.
  • There is always an option.  I honestly believe the core of depression is rooted in a belief that there is no option available to you.  But this is never true.  There are options you haven’t considered.  You may need to scour for it.  And when you find it you may not like it, it might be scary, or the option might not be what you want.  But it’s your option and you have the power to choose it or not.  You cannot always control what happens to you, but you can always control how you react to it.

So in that vein: thank you, for getting me this far along.  You’re awesome and I hope you have a happy and safe holiday season.

Edit – 09.12.2013

I really appreciate all of the personal comments I’ve received on this post; I’m choosing to not display them, simply because it’s a bit overwhelming to do so.  Like I said, you all are amazing.

Marking Three Years

§ April 2, 2013 11:19 by beefarino |

Yesterday was a great day – no foolin’. 

First, I have been renewed as a PowerShell MVP for my third year running.  This is a great honor and I hope I live up to it.   

Second, I was reminded that my third anniversary as an independent business owner and software consultant occurred in March.  It feels a lot longer than three years, but I think that speaks to how much I’ve accomplished in that time.  Business is good, communities are growing, my life is my own, and I’m doing what I want to do.  What else could I possibly want?

So what will year four look like?  Here’s what I’d like to accomplish:

  1. More Iron Scripter! competitions.  I have yet to formalize the website that drives these games, I’d like to spend some time doing that so we can start organizing brackets, have coordinated wider competitions, and special events.
  2. More free software.  Code Owls is about ready to push out a beta release of a skunkworks project named “Polaris.”  This is an integration of Windows Explorer and PowerShell that strips down the workflow for extending the windows file explorer to a few lines of script.  It quite literally turns Windows Explorer into a PowerShell-driven dashboard you can use to monitor any data PowerShell can provide.
  3. Licensing Code Owls frameworks.  I’ve dumped a ton of effort into building a base framework for creating PowerShell providers and hosts quickly and without fuss.  While these frameworks are available as open source software, my plan is to fork these projects into commercial libraries that include support and customization services.
  4. Another PowerShell Saturday.  This time I want more help.  Drop me a line if you’re interested.
  5. Maintain speaking engagements.  I still love speaking and want to continue doing so, but this year I’d like to try speaking less about technology and more about career and life management.  We’ll see how that plays out.
  6. Maintain volunteer hours.  I spend a lot of time in the local public schools, helping out with tech issues and lending a hand in the classroom.  I love this time and find it very rewarding, and the staff are immensely appreciative.
  7. Finally, I want to pick up fiction writing again.  I haven’t touched this hobby in a decade or so, but my father was kind enough to enroll me in a 12-month online workshop for hobby writers that should help get the pen moving.  My hope is to participate in the National Novel Writing Month this year.

Yeah, all that.  So this is me, hanging on for the ride….

CodePaLULza Caption Contest Winner!

§ March 26, 2012 11:40 by beefarino |

imageWell, I left the caption contest up for a week, and as promised I’ve chosen a winner.  The choice was hard, not because y’all are terribly funny but because most of you chose to go the obvious route and focus on my hair or make some off-hand reference to illicit substances.  No offense, but after 25+ years of looking like a ragamuffin I’ve heard ‘em all.

And the winning caption <drumroll />:

"OK, on to your code review...Oleg and Dimitri here are about to gang audit your code."

The winning caption was supplied by Marc Lyon, who wanted me to link to the website for his employer.  Congrats Marc!