Rocket Science

§ October 14, 2014 15:01 by beefarino |

So, funny story in honor of Ada Lovelace day.

My first job was pretty amazing.  I worked with a bunch of really smart people doing really smart things.  Space things.  And optics things.  Now my role on this team was fairly meager – I basically helped the documentation team try and capture all of the smart things the other smarter people were doing – but it was still amazing to be around that stuff.  Space telescopes, satellites, cell phones, automotive components, this team helped design all sorts of useful and interesting crap.

Anyway, one woman on the engineering team – we shall call her Mary although that’s not her name – had a very sharp sense of humor and keen hearing, both of which come into play in this tale.  One evening we were out celebrating …. something – a release perhaps?  maybe a project wrap-up?  There was drinking and nogoodnicking.  One of my outside-of-work friends from my previous stint in grad school was there – let’s call him Joe.  This evening Joe happened to be hitting on Mary.  Hard.  I watched from my bar stool several meters away while he strutted about her like a peacock with a spare ego.  Mary was unimpressed and Joe eventually took the hint.

So Joe politely adjourns from Mary and joins me at the bar.  I asked him, “So, what do you think of Mary?  She’s kind of awesome, right?”

Joe sighed and said, “Yeah, she’s cute.  But she’s no rocket scientist.”

I started laughing.  That loud obnoxious laugh you may know.  Joe wanted to know why.  So I turned around and shouted, “Hey Mary, what is it you do for a living?”

She finished her beer, slammed the stein on the table, stood up to look Joe square in the eye and as she was leaving, she said:

I’m a fucking rocket scientist.

And the best part?  It was true.  100% honest.  She did rockets for a living.  A literal rocket scientist that sends things into space.  Ego Joe never stood a chance.


So originally this post was a bit different.  It wasn’t a story, it was a rant.  I didn’t like the rant so I wanted to turn it into something positive. 

Here’s the thing – Ada Lovelace is important, and I’ve told my girls about her because I want them to know that women have had a profound impact on society.  Having that history is vital for them I think – I do believe the technical contributions from women are under-celebrated and often deliberately downplayed.  So I want them to know about Ada and what she contributed, and that we can literally thank her for my career and our family’s happiness.

But I know that won’t do anything real for them.  I mean, why should I expect stories of Ada to have a significant impact on my girls, when similar stories about C.S. Babbage had fairly milquetoast effects on me when I was their age.  Interesting, perhaps necessary, but it won’t light their fuse.

Which is why I spend so much time finding Marys.  Living people my girls can see doing real and amazing things, people they can talk to about wonders and interests.  Sure I want them to know that “once upon a time there was Ada,” but I think knowing that there is Mary right here, right now, doing really amazing stuff, is far more important to their mindset.

My biggest fear for my daughters is that they will come to believe that they can’t do something because of their gender or sex.  My biggest tool to counteract that fear, is to show them someone who can – someone like Mary.

Changes. I have them.

§ October 10, 2014 12:02 by beefarino |

As many of you know by now, I’ve accepted a position at Pluralsight as Curriculum Director. I can say honestly that I’ve never been more excited about taking a new position, and I’m really looking forward to being able to make a positive contribution at a fantastic organization. 

This represents yet another career shift for me.  Instead of slinging code day-to-day, I’ll be working to help others teach how to do so effectively.  As different as this will be, I feel like this position is the appropriate destination for my crooked and wandering career path.  My professional background didn’t start in technology; rather, it was cognitive psychology – specifically researching human perception and learning.  During that phase of my life, I came to love both learning and teaching. 

As I entered a technology career, I carried this with me; the opportunities to mentor for someone with no experience were limited of course.  It took years before I was comfortable sharing what I was doing with others, but I got there.  I started speaking at user groups, publishing open-source software, and eventually, I reached out to Pluralsight to see if they would be interested in having be as an author.

I didn’t end up producing a lot of content – all said and done, I will have four courses in the library.  And nothing terribly popular – but that’s not why I did it.  I missed teaching.  I wanted to get back into it somehow, the royalty model Pluralsight offers made that a reasonable avenue to follow, and frankly it was fun.  Thing is, as I worked through my courses, I noticed that I really enjoyed working with everyone on the Pluralsight side.  Every interaction with them was positive – even when they were turning down a course idea or pointing out my use of …. “sailor words.”  They seemed to appreciate the effort I put in too – eventually they folded me in as one of their peer reviewers, and for about two years I’ve been providing feedback on other courses as my schedule will allow.

Making the change from working for myself to working for someone else is something I honestly thought I would never choose to do.  I love the independent lifestyle, but there are some hard choices to make there.  Code Owls exists, in a nutshell, to allow me to manage my own time.  I want to be home for my kids to hear about their days, help with their schoolwork, and be their dad.  This new job doesn’t take me away from that – I still work primarily from home, my schedule is very flexible, and the company has a strong cultural focus on living a balanced life.  Moreover, growing a business by yourself is really hard.  I believe I could keep paying myself through Code Owls indefinitely, but I don’t think I could ever expect a raise unless I hired on, which is a hassle I don’t want and, frankly, can’t find the financial gain in doing so in today’s climate.  This shift represents a huge growth opportunity for me – one that would only be possible as part of an established organization.  That said I’m not closing Code Owls – I still plan to do things through this entity…

So what does this mean for the dozen or so open source projects I’ve pushed out there?  Honestly I think it means I will have more time and mental energy to devote to this area.  With clients consuming my tolerance for code, the production you see on my github page represents what is left over.  I fully expect to keep maintaining and growing StudioShell, and producing random PowerShell modules that only a few of you will actually use (wink-wink).  I also plan to keep speaking, after all, my love of teaching landed me this new amazing new gig, so why mess with that?

My official start date is November 17, 2014.  Until then, I’ll be putting bows on clients and projects in situ.

Oh, and before I forget – let me say THANK YOU to those of you who mentored me through this decision.  You know who you are.  And also a shout out to everyone for the well-wishes and kudos – the response to my initial announcement was overwhelming and I can’t respond to everyone individually.  Y’all have humbled me once again…

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.

Spam Male

§ February 6, 2013 11:33 by beefarino |

spammaleI was walking my dog this morning, mulling over the kerfuffle on the interwebs lately about the overly sexual behavior of men at tech conferences, and I came to a realization.

These guys are spammers.  They’re Spam Male.

There is no better description – think about it:

  • their goal is singular and self-serving;
  • their lack of creativity and intellect makes it statistically improbable that they will achieve their goal;
  • ergo, they must throw themselves on as many instances as possible in the hopes that someone, some day, will prove the exception and help them achieve their goal.

Spam Male has a lot in common with Spam Mail.  No one really wants it around, it gets marginalized and ignored, and eventually, it’ll get rooted out and sent to a special place where no one will ever pay any attention to it again.  I’m working on that last piece, by the way – and not just for Spam Males, but any community spammer who takes it upon themselves to ruin a good thing for everyone.  A proof of concept is in the works, and with some support I think I’ll have something working in short order.

And truth be told it isn’t just the men – I know women who act completely inappropriate at these things too.  But mostly it’s men.

The Sex Part

All humor aside, let me put something out there that will probably not go over well with my fellow men:

Sex isn’t that important to me.  I have better things to do and better ways to form relationships.  Because I’m a fucking adult.

Sure I love sex – it’s fun and helps me feel close to my spouse and relieves stress, but it’s not something I live for.  I don’t put it on the calendar or keep a tally to make sure I’m getting it.  And it’s certainly not something I’ve ever wanted to do with someone on a whim.

I’m sure part of this is age – I turn the big 4-0 in a month – but to be perfectly honest sex hasn’t been an all-the-time-on-the-brain thing with me. since I was … what … 16?  Guys supposedly think about sex every few seconds; I can’t say that isn’t true, but I can also attest that it doesn’t take much to get past those thoughts and act like a decent human being. 

Yeah, it really isn’t difficult to not act like a booby-coveting 16-year-old mouth-breather around my female peers.  In fact, I’m doing it now.  See?  Easy.

The People Part

As I write this my brain is throwing back memories of my own juvenile behavior – much of it as recent as last summer.  The difference between me and Spam Male?  My behavior is focused squarely at me.  I might make myself look like an ass, but I would be mortified if I made someone else uncomfortable.  In any fashion.

And of course I have done so in the past – more times than I care to admit or remember - and I’ve apologized.

Because I’m a decent person.  And that’s what people do.  They make mistakes and make amends and learn and move on and get forgiven and do the forgiving.

The thing about people – they’re people, first and foremost.