Posts in the 'Personal' category

The posts below all relate to the topic you selected.

Trying Something New

posted 4 years ago in Personal

I'm trying something new in my career, going in a relatively new direction, but doing something I've loved doing my entire career. Everyone I've told about this new role has an a-ha moment, following up with comments like "I can't believe we never thought of this before." My new role is in the technical product marketing team at Microsoft, in a small team (we call ourselves the Fantastic Four) who contribute to the creation of demos for conferences like Build, Connect, and others.

When I learned of this position from a colleague and that I'd be working with some familiar colleagues like Erika Ehrli, Craig Kitterman, and Omar Khan, with whom I've worked in my engineering and evangelism roles at Microsoft it was obvious coming to work every day would be a pleasure. These people are just - they're awesome, creative folks who love the product and the engineers behind it and feel honored to demonstrate what can be done with our products. This team contributed to the inspiring demo Scott Hanselman did focusing on diabetes tech, IoT, Azure, and more, and maintain the Bike Sharing demo from last year's Connect event.

Once we got together and chatted, it felt right, so I'm taking a dive into a new area of the developer experience from the marketing perspective, where my role will be to help create these amazing demo experiences. I'll also be working with some great event planning and engineering folks on the Microsoft Tech Summit events.

i love docs

The past year, my sixth at Microsoft, I worked for an exciting team of folks building the next generation of developer and product documentation on the docs.microsoft.com team. The experience was rewarding, with lots of hard work that paid off for our customers. The team has evolved under the leadership of Jeff Sandquist and Dan Fernandez to include some exciting new areas, like developer advocacy. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience working with peers like Rob Eisenberg and Den Delimarchi and with developers like Duncan Mackenzie, the content of whom I've been reading since college.

The past just-over-a-year included activities like working closely with my old team in the Azure SDK world to use Swagger to document REST APIs, to use various code-commenting techniques and conventions to output rich reference documentation, and so much more. I'm proud of the docs.ms.com team, and I'm excited to see how the team of talented Cloud Developer Advocates will round out my old team. I was also able to see the sheer, massive amounts of heroic work the team does to deliver amazing content in so many languages.

It isn't ever easy to leave a team of talented people, especially when the product you've built is so obviously valuable to customers.

But sometimes, your aspirations evolve, and you learn things. Or, in my case, you remember things.

i love conference excitement more

I can't sit still. I walk around in meetings - motion creates emotion, and I find it easier to focus and get engaged in the conversations in meetings when I'm not staring at my computer. This sort of excitement-lust is great for being conference-driven. Being conference-driven in engineering is hell, being conference-driven in content is the seventh ring of hell. But you can't deny though all the stress they cause, that conferences are a great way of driving excitement in the products and offer our community an opportunity to meet the heroes behind the products.

That excitement drives me to come to work every day, and I'd missed it in my role in content as it wasn't really a component of my role. So after a few road shows after a year's hiatus from them, learning about the technical product marketing demo team seemed like a message, a hint that I should try this one out.

what changes?

In terms of my blogging, there'll be more, as it'll be more of a component of my role and not something I feel guilty doing for fear that I'm missing a deadline - the blogging, demo-creating, event planning, and conferencing is the role, rather than it being a side component of an otherwise already-full role.

I'll still be contributing to the Azure Tools for Visual Studio Code extension, which may be evolving due to some internal team adoption opportunities. It has been great to see how folks like Matt Hernandez and Jonathan Carter have supported the ATVSC and how we're working together to create a reusable set of components rather than sioling ourselves. The organic growth of opportunities for Azure tooling work in Visual Studio Code are evident and strong, and as long as the real heroes building the products will let me tinker, I'll tinker.

let's do this!

So keep tabs on my twitter, this space, and I'll keep you posted of new things in devops (a new area where I'll be focusing), and all the great tools that'll help motivate you to keep partying in the cloud.

 

Hello 2017

posted 4 years ago in Blogging Personal Working

Over the past however-many months this blog has been inactive in spite of the volume of my activity. One could argue that the blog failed to emulate life but instead suffered from it. A few folks asked me why I'd been so quiet, so I wanted to answer that question. The post evolved into a recap of the past year. Even more, it provided a cathartic first post using a new blog engine I'll tell you more about in a moment.

What have I been working on?

I haven't not been busy. Here's a quick run-down of what I've been up to since my last post.

Visual Studio App Service Tools

I helped design and implement a number of changes to the Visual Studio Azure App Service Tools extension and helped customers and partners understand the opportunities these tools provide by speaking at a few conferences and writing a few release blog posts as we churned out numerous SDK releases.

docs.microsoft.com

Though I truly enjoyed the tooling world a great opportunity opened up in the docs.microsoft.com team working with some of my heroes and I changed roles. Together we're changing the way Microsoft does documentation. It hasn't been easy, but it has been rewarding to work in the team that inspired me when I was a graduate student reading MSDN SiteBuilder every week. Since I've joined the team I've been helping overhaul numerous reference experiences for topics such as:

Here I am with my my new teammate Rob Eisenberg (I'm so not worthy of these colleagues and constantly suffer from impostor symdrome) in our fancy team room:

Rob with Brady in his cave

Azure Tools for Visual Studio Code

I created the Azure Tools for Visual Studio Code extension using Node.js and the Azure Node.js SDK. Two of my goals for 2017 are to improve the Node.js reference documentation for the Azure SDK and to learn more about Visual Studio Code extension development. So late in 2016 I created this extension in the hopes of forcing myself to learn Node.js and to use the existing documentation from the perspective of a truly n00b customer so I could better ask our awesome developers on the team to make a great Node.js SDK documentation experience. Below is a screen shot of the commands made available using the extension.

Azure Tools for VS Code

In the last weeks of 2016 started working on a new blogging engine. More on this in a moment.

How's the family and Seattle going?

One of the other reasons I've been so busy is that my family and I have thoroughly been enjoying the Puget Sound Area, Seattle, and all the amazing sights and natural majesty the area offers:

In addition to all the work I've been doing I've also been familying and really enjoing it. Our first few years in the area were - well - weird, but we've gotten stronger out of it and really work together as a great team.

As if the global news, radical uptick in people-you-grew-up-with dying in 2016, and the stresses of work and personal life weren't enough, I had some personal tragedies as well. My father died, as well as a few other family members. It wasn't easy, but in the case of my dad, neither would be watching someone I love suffer for much longer.

In spite of the numerous explosions of the year it was an amazing year of change in our family and we're optimistic about the future. We moved into a cute little neighborhood after living on a scarily busy street and life has been a lot better as a result. The entire family has gotten involved in soccer, so we have numerous matches each week. Mostly indoor. Yes, it does rain here a little, but in spite of that it is an amazing and beautiful place to live and the whole family has been finding new people and places to enjoy.

I've gotten into MIDI

Since my last post another thing that's taken a ton of time has been that I've gotten back into producing music at home and have learned a lot about MIDI and how to use it to create music. By omitting a computer from the recording and creative process altogether I was forced to learn more about using the actual devices and building a decent rig of hardware. This has become quite a passion, as has been coming up with strange new sounds in the home office.

Home studio

One of my failed goals for the year was to write a blog series on these devices, how I made the decisions I made, and how to make interesting things happen with your devices. Again, the blog was neglected, even though I so badly wanted to sit down and write about it I got blocked each time.

I wrote a new blog engine using ASP.NET Core and Markdown

The truth is, I've been fickle with blog engines because I've been using blog engines written by other people who have different goals. My last engine, Miniblog, has far and away been my favorite. It is so convenient with a simple-to-use WYSIWYG editor in the browser, and even supports Live Writer. I can't say anything bad about MiniBlog, but we had to break up. It isn't MiniBlog, it's me. You see, I'm a creature of habit and I finally admitted I prefer the way I blog using Markdown and git to the way MiniBlog enabled me to blog. I realized my enjoyment of writing on my personal blog had been waning because everything about the writing process was different from what I'd gotten used to. The worst part was that I have a ton of work-related pet projects like the Azure Tools for Visual Studio Code extension and my MIDI tinkering, but my engine kept getting in my way. So, I started working on downr.

Most of the blogging and content publishing tools I use at work make use of Markdown. The open-source engine we use for docs.microsoft.com, DocFX, makes great use of Markdown, and our publishing systems support it. Additionally, Markdown is my medium of choice for all my open-source projects.

Some friends had also told me about Ghost, but it seemed a little too large for a single developer blog's need. There are numerous awesome options out there that would enable my desired workflow, but it seemed there wasn't anything that would be precisely what I was after written in ASP.NET Core. Though I've demonstrated a ton of ASP.NET Core things and done a ton of Web API work, I'd not built a custom site or web app in some time. I'd also wanted to do something a little more interesting with Grunt, so I took the opportunity of a greenfield project to use it to automate the build.

So in the final hours of my holiday vacation, I set out to create a blogging engine that I would use. I took inspiration from the tools and processes I use at work but made things a lot simpler and geared towards bloggers than comprehensive documentation. Then I converted my blog to use it and wrote a converter to migrate my content to my new engine. This blog is now using the downr engine, which you can learn more about in my Introduction to downr post.

2017 will be awesome

The turn of each year always offers promise and hope, and this year's turn is probably the most glaring example of this in recent memory for me.

We have some amazing new projects and ideas for documentation in the team and we've refined our process, made improvements to our tools, and have some new ideas for documentation next year that are sure to be exciting.

My pet projects - the Azure Tools for Visual Studio Code and the new downr blogging engine - are also great outlets for me to try the products I work to make easy to use for our customers.

Good luck to you in the new year!

 

Dear Charlotte,

Tomorrow's the day my family leaves Charlotte for Seattle. So, the timing is perfect for the "buh-bye" post, and this is it. If you've been a part of my network you might want to read this. Then again, maybe not. There's going to be some good stuff and some bad stuff, and I hope everyone gets what I'm trying to say and that this post fails to burn any bridges. That's not my intent. My intent, as it always has been, is to empower Charlotte. 

Good News First. You're probably in this first list if you're reading this blog post, and you're probably going to blush at some point because I'm going to name names in this section. You have done good, groundbreaking work, made my professional life in Charlotte livable and memorable, and you deserve to have a light shined on you. This is in no particular order aside from the order in which you popped into my head tonight, so don't take your list placement personally, for your list placement has no relevance on your list placement in terms of your effect on my career and ways of thinking. Sorry if this sounds like an Academy Awards acceptance speech or suicide note, as that's not the intent. The intent is to thank you for the awesomely positive impact you've made in my life here in Charlotte and for seriously reducing the suck factors, which will be discussed later in the post. These folks have been the gold stars in my lives for the past 8 years, and they all deserve to be reminded. 

  • My wife. She is the most patient and amazing person I've ever met, and has initiated a sacrifice of astronomic proportions to move across the country in support of her husband. If you see her, applaud her. I do not make it easy for her and she keeps on smiling and supporting me no matter what, and willfully agreed to move 3000 miles from everything she's known for 20 years. That's amazing. It's also her birthday, so happy birthday, love. 
  • Jim Christopher. Thank you. Thank you for finally convincing me that I really could do good stuff, for being my friend and teacher, and for challenging every single thing about the way I code. Seeing your code at that place and realizing I was actually learning syntax for the first time in a decade in a language I consider my second language was a humbling experience and a motivational experience. Knowing there was that much more to learn re-invigorated me and I owe that to you, as I owe the countless hours of psychological debate most find quite boring. 
  • Rick Sammons. Thanks for the countless hours of tough love and reminding me that yes, there is bullshit in the technical world but we can change it. Thank you especially for keeping on me to remember we needed to change it in small buckets, not with a hurricane of resistance. 
  • Mike Linnen. The robot master. He laughed at me when I set speakers on fire, then showed me how not to do so the next time. He helped me save Eddie and demonstrates time and again that a geek can still be a cool dad. Mike's an inspiration.
  • Roger Johnson for being the best sport and best support network a guy could ever need. He took the pill right after I did, and I am happy to be working with Roger again, even if we're not really working together again. You're the most humble guy I know, the most honest an genuine dude in my network, and your fooz skillz can make grown men weep. 
  • Dennis Kuntz. Because he put up with me and taught me that sending professional emails does not mean sending boring emails. He also believed in me, and that's just rad. Also, I thank Dennis for all the political discussions and inspiration to learn more about how awesome America can be if we just try to make America grow a pair and look after itself again. 
  • Mark Wilson. You brought me back to the Guild and made me feel welcome there. Thanks, that meant a lot to me. 
  • Brian Hitney. Because you referred me, reminded me I could speak in public, and gave me the opportunity to do so, then referred me and made one of my career dreams a reality, even if you kind of regret doing so sometimes. I'm sorry on behalf of myself and Jim for being those guys in the back of the room that night at your MVC talk at the Guild. 
  • Dan Thyer and everyone else at Logical Advantage for letting me speak on your behalf and for being the most promising consulting company in Charlotte. 
  • My family at MobileHwy, for sticking together through thick and thin and for supporting one another for goodness-knows how many years and situations.
  • Chris Halligan, for getting me out of a bad situation, then giving me an opportunity, and for knowing what Charlotte needs and for making it happen. 
  • Jim Van Fleet, for being the guy who made me think about things differently and who reminded me that, even in Charlotte, small business can thrive and flourish. You and your wife are bringing Charlotte into the future, listening to it kick and scream in resistance, and not taking no for an answer. Charlotte listens to you, so keep screaming, talking, teaching, and pushing. Please don't ever stop starting-up. 

Bad News Last. If you don't want to read this, stop here and just be happy.

Not everything in the Charlotte technical industry is as it should be. I won't name names, but trust me, there are some folks here, some companies here, who need to remember that they got into technology because they liked to solve problems and make things easier, not because it was an easy industry in which you could find a niche' and become complacent. If you think I'm talking to you, then maybe you should stop doing it the way you're doing it because you've broken it already. That's not to say it can't be fixed. Some rules of the road first, based on things I've seen happening in the Charlotte technical world that I don't think I've seen anywhere else or at least not in the velocity and repetitive nature I've seen here. I want to be a lesson-teacher, so hopefully you'll take these points as positive criticism and guidance and not just bitching. I know it isn't just me bitching, because I know Charlotte technical folks want to and have the capacity to fix Charlotte the technology industry and some are already proving it to me. 

  • Don't be complacent. I said this before. Consider this a reminder. Complacency is the opposite of motivated, and you have to be motivated to solve problems that arise in computer land. If you think I'm talking to you, just stop reading this post now, stop using the approach or toolset you're using, and try something new. 
  • Don't hide behind your process, because your process will eat you like the Rancor, sans malice. Process is good, but only when you've already thought long and hard about how to do things and analyzed what works and what doesn't work. If your people suck, don't process them into oblivion, because your process will be built to make people suck less, and people who suck that bad continue to suck. 
  • Reactionary thought is bad. Don't do it. If you're worried about how decision X or decision Y will impact your business, you're doing it right. If you're reacting to how decision X or decision Y blew you up, you should probably just do your best to fix it, sunset it, and in the process of fixing it, find the next best thing and double the amount of time you spend planning before sinking another ship.
  • Be transparent and be honest, and don't worry so much about what did or didn't work 4 technologies ago. Chances are, technology X from 1998 was a good idea given a context that is now irrelevant. Deciding not to do something in a certain way because doing it that way blew you out of the water in 1998 might feel like "trying not to repeat history," but it's actually kind of insane, because 1998 called and wanted to let you know "things are completely different now and you should forget about the way technology functioned in 1998 and do what you do in 2012." Context is everything, and 1998 usually fails to reflect context upon 2012 because 1998 had no idea what 2012 would need. 
  • Go to user group meetings and pretend you can be heard. Complain. Ask questions. Don't stare. Staring convinces the speaker and the 4 guys asking questions at every meeting that you don't really care about technology. 
  • And the most important thing of all. When you do go to a user group or a technical meeting or an interview, don't stand there with your arms crossed the way the guys at the edge of the mosh pit stand around at a Minor Threat concert and make people feel like you know more than they do. You know what? All that posturing makes you look like a jerk, and people who don't know as much as you do won't ask you what you know because they're scared of you. If no one ever asks you any questions, you're posturing without proving anything, without serving any purpose. You're just an ineffective statue who should have stayed at home and told yourself how smart you were in the mirror all night long. 

Take this harsh aspect of the email with a grain of salt, Charlotte, and remember. I love you as a town and wanted to live here since the first time I walked into the 1313 club to see Soundgarden in concert, and I knew it the first time I saw a Panther run a touchdown across the goal line. I know Charlotte can do some amazing things. Just forgive your own mistakes, forget your bad memories, remember your passion, and use it to make things improve. It really is up to you, not the guys on the 100th floors of those buildings uptown. Those guys wouldn't be on those 100th floors if they didn't need 99 floors of good people like yourself, who have passion, motivation, and love for what you do. So flex your muscles, ask the ones with bigger muscles and thicker glasses how they do what they do, and when they start answering your question, don't ignore them in anticipation of what you plan on saying next. Actually. Hear. Them. And try to comprehend how their wisdom can aid in your progression. 

And above all. Code with happiness and remember how you felt the first time you solved a problem. Guess what - it could happen as often as it used to if you let it.

 

The Red Pill

posted 8 years ago in Personal

You may have noticed I’ve been getting into Azure recently. You could say my head’s going to be even more in the cloud than usual, because I’ve accepted a position with Microsoft as an Azure Technical Evangelist.

Admittedly, I was relatively late to the Azure party. I’ve been seeing so many colleagues do amazing things with it - Brian Hitney with Rock, Paper, Azure, Mike Linnen with his Netduino/Service Bus/WP7 solution, and Mike Diiorio’s presentation at the Richmond Code Camp . Once I dove in, I couldn’t look back, and now, I’ll be finding just how far the cloud goes.

Building 24 My team is amazing and I’m honored to be a part of it. I’ll be working with/for Wade Wegner, Nathan Totten, James Conard, Drew Robbins, and a lot of other bright, talented folks in Building 24. I’m not sure what specific Azure areas I’ll focus on out of the gate, but API’s and SOA’s are areas of interest to me and I hope to focus in those areas. Right now, I’m just thankful to have the opportunity and look forward to getting started.

The next few months will be interesting, to say the least. The position is based out of Redmond, so after years of wanting to near Seattle (my favorite city so far), my family will finally have the opportunity. We’ve started investigating our options and preparing ourselves, and we have been overwhelmed at how hospitable and helpful Microsoft is being to help in the transition.

 

Job Hunting Update

posted 8 years ago in Personal

Things are going well. I'm finding a good deal of leads and getting back into the technology I've for so long enjoyed only to have been forced to abandon for the last year in my daily work life.

I've gotten back into the web browser and I have to say I'm enjoying it, as much as I'm enjoying learning about NHibernate, Ninject, and a host of other topics I've somewhat disregarded as a result of being pretty sure they wouldn't be of much use to my previous job anyway. I actually discovered Ninject some time back when it was still under initial development and didn't give it the time it deserved so I'm excited to get into it now to learn.

Ultimately, I'm happy I'm no longer working in an environment where my own professional goals aren't totally in accordance with those of my employer and I feel pretty certain I'm going to have an exciting few weeks getting re-acquainted with the technologies I've been bookmarking and finding interesting, only to lack the ability to put to use in my work life.

Through this rough first week of unemployment, my wife has been amazingly supportive. This is nothing new, she's always been a rock in my life and in the lives of so many other friends and neighbors. I am really lucky to have such a wonderful wife and child, and though we're entering a relatively scary time together I know we're entering it together, and that's all that really matters in the end. I'm pretty sure I tell her often enough to make sure she knows how confident I am that I'd fall on my face without her, but it never hurts to put it out there to make sure she's reminded as often as possible. 

Bottom line is that I'm happy in spite of the stress of looking for a job. I have an amazing network of peers, colleagues, and good people on my side. Each call I make to my network instills in me the faith that I've built a good one, and that they're going to do everything to repay the help I've tried to give them for the past few years. I've always known that looking out for recruiters and colleagues would pay off in professional karma in good time, and right now I'm seeing evidence all over that I was accurate in my faithful estimates.

My departure was a blessing, and I look forward to the next steps I'll take in my career. 

 

The Best Part of Waking Up

posted 8 years ago in Personal

Anyone who knows me knows darned well that I'll be a coffee fan to the end so it's not surprising that I'll start a post like this. Granted, the first thing I do in the morning on the way through through the kitchen is to push the little green button on the front of the coffee maker. The second thing I do is to fill this little metal pot we have next to the kitchen sink with warm water. Into this water I place an 8oz. bottle - excuse me, bobbiez - where it sits, warming for a few moments while I execute the greatest part of my morning. 

This best part, like my good friend Scott, is when I get to wake up my kid, Gabe. Granted, I'm not the first one out of the bed every single morning, but seeing Scott post and realizing that the morning involves Gabe's best mood of the day, has inspired me to do my best each morning to be the one who gets up first. At 7 AM, Gabe is usually lying in his crib talking. The walls, the posts, the mattress, the animals on the wall, we're not sure. Either way, he's lying there talking. When I go into his crib I open the blinds, watching him the whole time because it's quite adorable to see him cover his eyes. Then I say "where is GAY-BREE-UHL?" really loudly, and he reveals his face. We usually play this game for a few moments while I prepare myself for the gift I'll be removing from his diaper (this takes courage some mornings, when I know from the smell that's found it's way into the kitchen what awaits. We remove nighty, change diaper, all the while talking and rubbing the animal stickers on the wall next to the changing table. He stares up, he waves, he kicks, I gently hold his legs and put them into the legs of his little jeans, sweatpants, or cargo pants. I pull his shirt over his massive grape (head) and we play peek-a-boo again. Then I pick him up and bring him into the kitchen, where mom is usually up and rubbing her eyes or pouring the now-brewed coffee into at least one of our mugs. She sits down in the arm chair with him and the room-temperature bobbiez and I at the kitchen bar with my laptop (and coffee) and the three of us kick off our day. 

Another good friend told me to enjoy this time, to hold him and play with him and to let him giggle and what-not because the times wouldn't last long. That is so true. Now that I'm at home more, I love the time I get to spend with him in the morning. He is in his absolute best mood at 7 AM - and sometimes in his worst mood 12 hours later, which for the first few months of his life was about the only time I would see him. These mornings are awesome and start me off in the best possible mood. He is absolutely amazing, the best, most complicated, most rewarding thing I've ever done. The best part is that I consistently find myself remembering that he's something I can bank on for the rest of my life, something I can depend on. It is truly a blessing to be a parent (and to have such great friends and family who inspire you to be better)!

 

book cover : ahwosg every now and then you hear of a new book. a friend tells you about it, you read about it on someone else's web site, or amazon spams you and you find a gem or two within the lines of the message. a co-worker dropped dave eggers' ahwosg (i'm using the abbreviation eggers himself uses frequently) on my desk and said "it's depressing, but really, really good." the co-worker in question is kind a west coast, ex-surfer, scientific kind of guy who never really gets excited or rapid-fire about anything really. he's just a mellow beach bum who meanders about his day coming up with new inventions and electrical doodads. so the fact that he didn't get too excited about it didn't raise any alarms. i took the book and started reading it that night, having no idea what the book was about, the author's style, the subject matter - nothing. within the pages of the book i found a truly discomforting catharsis. as i read eggers' never-ending rant about death, loss, and dissatisfaction, i felt relieved; in the moments when his pain and anguish over the loss of parental figures and the frustration in having to care for his little brother are most obvious, my own demons - the loss of my mother some two years ago - were inexplicably made tangible through the characters' behavior and vocabulary. the anger his characters embody as a result of their loss is truly felt throughout the book, as is the confusion and disenchantment with most everything the characters are forced to withstand. the most notable affect, though, was the humility i felt and the realization that i'd been a whining, self-centered child. eggers' characters' pain is only matched by their selfishness and inability to see the forest from the trees at times. throughout the book are exemplifications of rage that is misdirected - at loved ones, immigrants, co-workers, the system, the man - everywhere but at the source. throughout my own grief i have felt what eggers makes concise throughout the text - that the loss of a parental figure (or in the worst of imaginable disasters, both parental figures) - can thrust even the most well-adjusted child into a confused, selfish frenzy during which nothing makes sense. it is during those moments when eggers' rage humiliated and enlightened me. enlightenment as a result of the reminder that everyone has the capacity to feel just as i had felt for nearly two years. that, in the face of the loss of a parent everyone is filled with fear, with the despair that your protector has been taken away and that the shield you have had to hide behind has been forever withdrawn to leave you standing naked and defenseless. this was the first part of the catharsis for me - in remembering what i was told by those who had already been through it and wanted to let me know, to warn me, that it was acceptable that i feel these things. the second aspect of the catharsis was found in the humiliation. the humiliation that i hadn't listened to these people, who had come to me in my darkest hour to allow me to feel the pain and the loss. and in my selfish, pious moments of loathing and despair that i had turned away their friendly gestures and instead, relished - wallowed, more like it - in my own guilt and abandon. that i had become a self-victimizing soul that embodied eggers' "screw you if you haven't been through what i've been through" attitude, and who relished the opportunity to share his pain with the world through any of the various methodologies (screaming, kicking, complaining, whining, or just plain hiding under the covers until noon). through this very humiliation i found the most powerful catharsis since the loss of my mother - the feeling that i'd really been a spoiled little brat who had been wallowing in it because it just felt damn good to wallow in it, to remember it, and to complain about it because i'd not moved past the venting frustration and rage associated with it. in a sense, i'd forgotten what it was like to not worry about, to not think about, and to not be frustrated about, death and loss. and in that humiliation i realized the true point of his work. that the main character, like myself and many others, have the potential to engage in self-indulgent battles of self-loathing, which drives the discovery of more avenues and directions for their anger to be thrust upon and that the battle for properly placing the blame never quite stops. the humiliating part was that, in reading his descriptions of my own actions, i saw just how pointless the behavioral patterns can be and how selfish and completely self-involved the process of grieving can make anyone - even the most giddy of souls - become. in a sense, that grief contains the power to make the most childlike person turn into and embody the most childish of traits. and in those late nights, reading by the light of my nightstand and listening to the crickets outside in the yard, i felt as though eggers' work - a work truly deserving of the title's inclusion, of staggering genius - had been the gatekeeper to the prison i'd placed myself into. that this book had served as a mirror into the behavior isolating me for so long and that in that reflection my own idiosyncrasies became visible.

 

best birthday ever

posted 8 years ago in Personal

first of all, the birthday story. it was, without a doubt, the single best birthday of my life. we had a meeting early in the evening with the pastor who will be presiding over our wedding. the gentleman was in town doing a seminar on a group he oversees. this group does work for families in nicaragua. it's mission-focused, Christian in nature, and all-around very rewarding. turns out the guy needed a web site for his initiative, so g and i will be helping him get one set up and designed. Once the conversation and info session was over we headed to our friend norm's new bar for a drink with friends. turns out there was a little more than that in store for me. when i walked into the joint, everyone i know in this city was there awaiting our arrival. g looked at me and said "you said you'd never had a surprise party.... so...." all of our friends were there, and they all toasted me and my birthday. we laughed a lot about how shocked i was, took pictures, and all that typical surprise birthday stuff. (i say typical, but this was my first ever surprise birthday party and i loved every minute of it) at one point late in the night, the whole crowd began to sing happy birthday to me and a cake appeared with one burning candle. i prepared to blow out the candle by closing my eyes in preparation for wishmaking. and then i heard someone behind me say "wait, you forgot something." i turn around and see g hunching over, holding what appeared to be... no, it couldn't be... but it was - a guitar case with the word "fender" on it. i couldn't believe it. i opened the case and saw the holy grail of gifts - the mark knopfler signature series fender stratocaster . gina got me a guitar. for my birthday. and not just any guitar, mind you, but THE guitar - of my dreams. i could have never guessed this was coming, but from the looks on all of my friends' faces, they'd all known - and kept it a secret, something that i couldn't imagine being able to do on my own - for weeks. so i've had the best birthday ever. i got a few other gifts - some technical books and an awesome mogwai cd from my amazon wish list, to name a few. but i'll tell you, nothing could ever top this. all of the guys agreed, "you've got the perfect girl, man. you'd better be good to her." amen, i say. she's the best. she made it the best. thanks, babe!

 

i remember hearing orson scott card speak while an undergraduate student at appalachian state university. this small "college-within-the-college" residential program called watuaga college that took one of those neo-70's hip-ducation angles, with social commentary and philo-socio-techno-analysis as focii of the faculty and reading material. these people had ecotopia as required summer reading, if that gives you any better picture of the type of scene. not that that's a bad thing, mind you, it's just really frickin liberal and forward-thinking. almost bold. balls.., yeah... education with balls). anyway, orson taught - and still teaches, i think - a really interesting novel-writing class in the asu new york city soho loft for watuaga college. a week with the guy, writing a novel. getting torn up by him and your peers. i heard good things, but always thought i had "better" things to do with my spring breaks than spend them writing. (who'd-a-thought?) well, we read a now-legendary book by the name of enders game by card, and it was amazing. i've been meaning to read the others in this series for some time. the really funny thing is that, just a few days ago we went to pick up some take-out at the pizzeria nearby. while there this little kid sat down next to me with a copy of one of the books in the series. i told him i'd met card and he got all excited. talking to a super-bright tot about ender and card... that's cool, i tell ya. turns out that someone somewhere's gotten a great idea and taken the amazing tale of a gifted child who - whilst thinking he's playing a game designed to train him in the ways of cosmic warfare ends up saving the universe - can be used as something just shy of a methodological plan of execution for the training of the military . i just noticed that this article's over a year old. weird that i'm finding it now by way of a more recent link i spotted over at slashdot .

 

Transgressional Fiction

posted 8 years ago in Personal

I got to speaking about interesting Fight Club assignments this morning with a peer over the Internet. Given that I think FC is about the best work of the past 10 years, the most groundbreaking idea to hit the minds of any penis-enabled individual this generation, and pretty much seeing as how I consider the ties that bind us to be self-imposed, I found the definition of Transgressional fiction to be of interest. Albeit ironic that there's a terminology for this literary style, one must appreciate the feasibility of the human psyche's inability to deal with things that can't (or refuse to be) labelled and thereby deal with the fact that labels are requisite for communication, even when the mere act of labelling something refutes the very point of it in the first place. Camus said that to "define yourself as an existentialist would refute the term itself," since no man is anything but himself and should never allow labels to be accepted. Camus, being obviously an idiot, couldn't have imagined how fucking vapid and idealess we as a modern culture could have ever become. We need labels, because labels group us into categories that make understanding where YOU are in your process via a simplistic comparison to EVERYONE ELSE. Therefore it seems obvious that self-definition is impossible, and that the only truths are those that arise from comparison. Pretty sad if you let yourself think about it. So don't. Just do your own thing. But however you do it, read at least one of these books. Then, come back and we'll chat.

 

Yo, Pat! I'm the one from CNN

posted 8 years ago in Personal

This morning I found out that our old confused little friend Pat Robertson is up to his old antics again, spewing his own form and flavor of [what he refers to as] Christianity. I didn't like what I heard, so when asked by the television (CNN, specifically) to send in via email my thoughts on the matter, I did so with furious vigor. A few minutes later I heard my name come out of the television and looked up to see that my letter was being read aloud! So if you missed it, here's the transcript, which I'm not ashamed or afraid of admitting is my own writing.

Pat Robertson has, as many other Christians have, lost his way. At some point he and his political cohorts and their respective, collective agendas have taken precedence over their spiritual backgrounds. He is not - repeat not - a voice that I or any other Christian should have speaking on our behalf. No Christian should support assassination, or practice hatred, or greed.

 

If I was a make-a-wish kid...

posted 8 years ago in Personal

I know exactly what I would wish for. I would wish for Rick Rubin to work with me, to educate me on how things work in the music industry, and to help me better understand my capabilities as a musician myself. Not really because I am totally in love with Slayer, or the Peppers, or Danzig. I mean, I do like all those cats. Not even because of the fact that I consider the Cult's Electric to be the single most influential album of my childhood. I just feel this thing for Rick Rubin, like he and I kind of share a few opinions about music, how it is supposed to sound, and what it is supposed to do for people. Quotes like this one from an interview I found online make it abundantly clear that Rick Rubin and I share a few opinions and outlooks about how music is and can be created.

And then the actual work of having to get it there is just going through the process. Once you hear it in your head, it???s like being a carpenter???trying to build the thing when you already know what it is.
I've tried for months to describe how it feels to be in front of my instruments and my computer, with a concept in my head. A whole opus raging between my ears, while my fingers work frantically to reproduce the imaginary sounds before they're gone. This quote sums it up perfectly for me, and makes me want even more than I did before (which I considered damn near impossible) to have coffee, a jam session, a walk on the beach, or a five-minute chat with Rubin. I know I'd learn from it. Maybe he'd even make a cool new friend!!??!

 

Not too pleased with National Post's Review of John From Cincinnati's Finale . I wasn't that pleased with the finale either, to be frank.

At first the show definitely caught my attention. It lost my wife's after episode two, but I was committed at that point to see where David Milch would take me. Admittedly I would find myself coding through most episodes by virtue of having been lost in the meandering dialogue. I was pleased by some of the plot twists and symbolism that never actually twisted into anything of any consequence (the dead guy from the room, the corpse, Shawn at the bar). So at the end I felt Milch tied things together rather well. I don't think one could refer to Milch as a cop-out by ending so abruptly because to cop out one must first actually direct one's self in a particular direction, something Milch refused to do with this series. If the god-head or devil-head was the point of the show why make it so obvious that the series should have ended during the second episode? Likewise, if Milch had intended on inferring dramatic symbolism from time to time in creepy, noir scenes, why just allude to a meaning and never make a legitimate attempt to tell us the point?

Not sure I can answer those questions nor that I can admit to not being if even a teensy bit annoyed at the whole thing. But, I can say this - he kept it interesting enough to give my friends and I something to chat about with a good deal of passion and enthusiasm. That's a lot more than 99% of the "reality" television, game shows, and ridiculously depressing news programs that repeat themselves between deafening commercials every two minutes. Like, the birds . Please spare me the confusion and just tell me about the birds. Were they simply harbingers of un-death or vessels for departed souls once close to the cast members? I still want to know what in the hell was with those teddy bears . If I ever make a horror movie I swear I will find those two bears to use as cast members. I can just see them sitting in the corner rasping out choruses of "RED RUM!!! RED RUM!!!"

John also gave us some really catchy phrases and inside jokes. You haven't lived until you've seen my friend Renee's impression of John's repetitive phrase "I don't know Butchie instead." Despite the comedic tone and laughter our trivia team shared the night she started her displaying her impression skills, we all agreed to have no idea what the phrase actually means. We really believed that in no time at all - this week, for sure - we'd have some better idea of how the whole puzzle that is Imperial Beach was supposed to fit together.

And that hope - that there had to be some point or meaning to it all, even if that meaning was dictated purely by Milch - was what I think kept us watching for the past 2 months. Maybe Milch was the god-head the whole time, by sending us all those mixed and confusing messages only to leave us hanging at the end with little more clue than in week one. Maybe John, with his sideways, shit-eating grin and inability to actually express himself except for through the words of others is (as National Post hypothesized to a degree) is the manifestation of Milch, who is repeatedly forced to express himself and his film via the actors who implement his visions?

Who knows.  At least Milch gave us some excellent surfing shots, a litmus test to define the lowest possible expectation for acting ability (no naming of names please), and the inspiration for my friend Renee's impression.