JSConf US 2015 and Future Conferences

In a couple of weeks, I will be heading to JSConf US 2015. I was going to talk about this, I will still talk about this more, in my next podcast. Given the quickly dwindling time remaining before the conference comes up, I wanted to share a quick heads up. Any reader or listener who will also be there, please feel free to shoot me a quick note if you’d like to meet.

I have one other possible work related conference, AWS re:Invent, that I have tentatively agreed to attend later this year, in October. Again, if you are going to be there and want to hang out, let me know.

I am enjoying being at a gig that is well resourced. While I got to travel at times for my last job, it was feast or famine. Either I was traveling a lot, too much really, or not at all. Now I have some discretion. If you know of any conferences you think I might be interested in, let me know about those too. I can always ask and I think within reason can expect to go to some of the more interesting and relevant tech conferences for the foreseeable future.

So you know, and I’ll unpack these more in a future podcast and/or essay, the technologies I am currently using, learning or interested in include React/Reflux, Node, Scala, microservices, reactive/concurrent programming, Docker, continuous delivery, and automated testing. I can probably make a case for less tech specific but still work relevant conferences like ones that bear strongly on agile as I am currently a scrum master for my day job. Anything else, while it may be of interest to me, I’ll have to foot on my own dime.

Touching Earth

I used to hate travel for work. I’d be stuck in the pressure cooker of modern air travel with people with whom as often as not the only thing I had in common was a job. Can you imagine, long spans of either awkward silence or endlessly rehashing work? For those jobs of the past, the purpose of any given trip was likely to involve some customer glad handing, a chore under the best of circumstances. The destinations were always uniformly nondescript, beige, corporate, even industrial.

The first weeks of the job I took a little over three and a half years ago gave me reason to reconsider. I went to my first conference in several years specifically for work, the Personal Democracy Forum. Many of the talks were life changing, electrifying, provocative. I got to spend time with colleagues with whom I’d only ever interacted online. I had many conversations with a friend who I still see but rarely, our time together as much a function of our respective travel schedules as anything.

Right after that conference, I got to take my very first trip to Europe. Ever. In my life, then almost forty years long.

I spent a week in a reclaimed, run down space in an urban neighborhood in Budapest. A bunch of local makers had made it their home and were hosting another bunch of makers, who travelled from all around the globe. We formed teams and worked during the day on building something, in my team’s case a smart and social door, to present at the end of the week. When we weren’t working, we ate where the working people of the city did, in open air courtyards. We were very lucky to have an almost native guide who helped us form a very authentic impression of the city. We didn’t see any kind of tourist place until the very end of the week, when we walked to the Open University, by the river, for some plenaries.

Unfortunately, after that first year, I made a choice to accept responsibilities I thought the organization needed me to fill at the time. If I encountered an opportunity to travel or to speak, more often than not, I delegated to one of my staff, to give them opportunities to grow professionally and personally. At the time, it didn’t feel like a huge sacrifice. There were tons of other demands on my time dealing with strategy, staffing, budgeting, and managing. I grew in my own way in response to those demands on my abilities and characteristics.

I made a decision recently, to leave my job. I do not yet have something else lined up though I am working almost full time on doing so. My co-workers know of this decision, I was asked to share it just a couple of days after I spoke to my bosses. I have no idea how much more widely it has been communicated and to be honest, two weeks on from my decision, I am not concerned if this is news to the wider world.

A large part of my thinking was that I need to touch earth. I actually didn’t know the origin of this expression and had to look it up, finding it even more apt than I realized. When the man who was to become Buddha was in the midst of his trials before enlightenment, he was set upon by a demon. He touched his hand to the earth, in response the earth roared, causing the demon to back down. There is a gesture, a mudra, that is apparently common in depictions of the Buddha, that demonstrates this act, a renewal of resolve.

For me, it is how the earth is touched as much as it is that renewal. I realized I had been cutting myself off from those things that best charge my resolve–writing, speaking, making, and even travel. Arguably, my intentions were right but I put myself in a position that was untenable in the long run. The more I needed to touch earth, the more it felt like other responsibilities were dragging me away from doing so. In retrospect, my own trial by demon I suppose. Right or wrong I felt that in order to make the opportunity to renew my own resolve I had to introduce a concrete break.

Since my decision, I have written more, coded more, and as a consequence felt a greater resolve than I have felt in a long while. I am also about travel more, definitely in the short term and hopefully more ongoing, for both personal and professional reasons. I have touched earth and am optimistic at my prospects, that the opportunities I am now pursuing will allow me to maintain these very critical connections, for my own well being.

The most promising opportunity on which I am working will allow me to re-connect with the world, in addition to focusing so much more on making and sharing, to once again wear off a little shoe leather touching earth in some of the greatest cities on the planet. I didn’t realize how important that was to me until this chance came along, unrelated to my decision, unrelated to anything other than the voice I have cultivated here, on this site, and through my podcast. However my next steps play out, I am glad of my decision and the renewed resolve I already feel.

Ohio Linux Fest 2014

I have only been to a couple of Linux fests and I have enjoyed every single one. Ohio Linux Fest was my first, three years ago. I was very privileged to meet a few long time listeners there, make some new friends, and meet some of the Hacker Public Radio crew for the first time. I am finally going back to Ohio Linux Fest in a couple of weeks and am very much looking forward to it, especially if it is at all like that first time.

The first day of my first OLF, I of course immediately scoped out the local beer scene. I staked out a stool at the bar of the brew pub across the street from the Columbus Convention Center. As I sipped on my first beer, waiting for my lunch order to arrive, I heard someone at the end of the bar recommending my podcast to someone else. I recognized the voice from audio comments I had received. More immodestly than I would have done if it was a complete stranger, I interrupted and introduced myself. It remains one of the more humbling and surreal moments made possible by my podcast.

I hung out with that listener a lot that weekend. We accumulated a couple of new friends, as well, who often joined us as I continued to explore the beer scene. Downtown Columbus is…well, bare may be a bit strong but right at the convention center, that brewpub is a bit of an oasis. I hope it is still there. Despite that scarcity of obvious points of interest, we found a handful of respectable beer spots.

Later in the weekend, I was wandering the small but excellent exhibit area. One table was run by a musician who had CDs out as well as some headphones to sample his wares. I was immediately struck by the sound and the story I heard when I put the headphones one. I started chatting with the artist, int 0x80 as it happens, part of the amazing rap duo, Dual Core. The song was “Painting Pictures” which tells the tale of a fan of the pair who was deaf from birth. As the song progresses, int 0x80’s rap tells the story of, as he puts it, “an amazing little girl” who through the internet makes connections she never would have otherwise and ultimately ends up researching cochlear implants. With the support of her family, the first song she finally hears is one of Dual Core’s. The track still moves me.

I interviewed int 0x80 shortly after meeting him. When I was at DEFCON this year, I happened to run into him. I was surprised because I didn’t think to look for him. I wasn’t really surprised as so much of his early work with c64 is about playing hacker conferences, just like DEFCON. He remembered me and catching up with him was one of my favorite parts of my first, and so far only, DEFCON.

I am sure these experiences set unrealistic expectations. The quality of the programming means it doesn’t matter. I will have a good time attending the talks. Even though my podcast has been a bit quiet lately, I trust I will still bump into people I recognize. Better yet, I hope to meet some new people, make some new friends. If going to Linux fests has taught me anything, it is to be entirely open to that.

In Paris Now, Returning to London Soon

As you’ve no doubt noticed, blogging has been light, even of the daily gathering of interesting links. As of Wednesday, I was traveling, with an overnight flight that day from Washington, DC to London. I had one heavy working day, Friday, but otherwise some time to relax and enjoy my first time in the city. I have a few days on the end of the trip just for vacation so will be saving most of my toursity pursuits until then.

I caught the Eurostar through the channel tunnel, another first time experience, to Paris this morning. I will be here in Paris with a much more hectic schedule through Tuesday night when I catch the Eurostar back to London. While I am doing some light preparation work today and have all day meetings the next two days, I should be able to stay on top of my feeds so may be able to get a little bit of blogging done.

Once I am back in London, I do have some evening plans for a couple nights but if you are a reader or listener in the area and would like to meet for a pint, let me know. I’ve already visited The Lamb and rather enjoyed it. I certainly would not mind checking out more of the better pubs in London.

Oh and I will try to sit down and record one of my audio travelogues this evening since I tend only to do those when visiting some place new, to share my thoughts and impressions. I may try to record a few more later in the week, we’ll see how it goes.