This is a career, digitized and transmitting at nearly the speed of light. It wasn’t always. Summer days in hay fields and blackberry thickets made the gentle, air-conditioned confines of the office look pretty good. Computers are a wonderful puzzle that can be an end to itself, but just as important is what they are not: needles of hay down an open collar, and vines thick with thorns. We have it pretty good here, growing this Internet, and that’s something worth appreciating.

This is an education, may it never end. What school lacked in programming classes it made up for in computers; I stumbled on to BASIC back in third or fourth grade or whenever it was and that was it. I had the good fortune of growing up with the Internet and watching <font> tags grow into CSS, HTML become XML (and back), and IE 6 sail off to the great abandonware stack in the sky. I was fortunate too to lagged behind the first movers: when the dotcom bubble imploded, I was safely removed from the blast. I’ve seen the scars, though, and subsequent exposure to Silicon Valley has left me deeply averse to speculation, hype, and fads. There are so many ideas to chase, and activities vying for our time. Some matter much more than others.

This is the uniform, a product of remote work from those halcyon days when such things were voluntary. Pulling on a button-down shirt and slacks created separation between work and life. It also kept me grounded to my education. A business-casual work uniform is one of the last artifacts of my undergraduate engineering degree, and though I’ve never been much of a capital-E Engineer I do find merit in maintaining at least a personal dress code. The details don’t matter—clean sneakers, bow tie, corduroy everything, whatever it is you do—but I do find value in having one. It says: I showed up today! Let’s do this! And changing again at the end of the day, I’m done.

This is a meal, shared with company as these things should be. Soup to warm hearts and minds on a blustery winter night; thick slices of rustic bread to sop up the last. Cooking is magic, and this meal is no exception. Onions, carrots, and celery sauteed over low heat in a stock pot and wafting fragrantly through the house. Generous additions of thyme and fresh-ground pepper, enough water to almost fill the pot, and a gathering around the warm stove as it all comes to boil. A few cups of lentils, a few more of chopped spinach, and a dash of salt round out the pot. The lentils cook and it’s ready to serve—with candles and company, the perfect departure from the winter storming outside. Is hygge edible? I’m ready to believe.

This is success, surrounded by people who never stop growing and encourage me to do the same. I’m lucky to count them as friends. Colleagues, too: in a professional setting the interest in personal learning and development becomes a near-obligation, and if my teammates aren’t growing then I’m falling short. I can’t account for everyone I’ve worked with across teams and dotted lines, but I like to believe the obligation has been at least partially fulfilled.

This is failure, an acrylic snowman with a belly full of LEDs and a USB cable protruding from one side. It still works, fear not, but it reminds me of the colleague who gave it to me after an abrupt termination. The failure was mine. The snowman sits there, gently pulsating through all the colors of the rainbow, to remind me what failure costs, and why everything must be done to avoid it.


Notes

The notes included on this site present reduced solutions to real-world problems and are released under the MIT license without warranty of any kind. Bronowski said, “in ten years, everything I’ve said will be wrong;” In software we’re lucky to get three.

Acknowledgments

In no particular order, this site’s content and production would not have been possible without:

  • The authors of the many tools and libraries discussed herein
  • The friends, colleagues, and casual acquaintances who have unwittingly offered their feedback and perspective
  • The many, many open-source contributors who enable modern computing