David Pierce Software Engineer

Hello Again

Monday, 28 May 2018

Well, here is another one of those "sorry I stopped writing, I'm really going to stick with it this time posts".

I finally have access to my "blogging engine" again and a few more things to say since 2014. Let's recap a few noteworthy things since then that took attention away from contributing to my own site. I will leave more significant events to their own posts.

Building a Blogging Engine

Rails taught me building a blogging engine was a good way to kick the tires on a new programming language. One of the first toy apps I learned was a data system to model posts and a UI to move around through content.

Fast forward a couple years, and I fell in love with Node.js. More importantly, I fell in love with the idea of modeling data as streams and writing programs as transformations on those streams. Gulp.js was emerging as a serious alternative to Grunt. Gulp offered a way to describe builds with code and boasted a rich ecosystem of plugins. The most interesting thing about Gulp was it featured streams—a concept I previously considered only within the context of HTTP or database IO. Gulp streams allowed the programmer to define a build with input streams (your source code files), describe transformations over those streams (your plugins), and pipe those streams to a final destination (your build output).

Streams can live anywhere! My current coworkers will attest to streams processing as my "silver bullet" for many problems where they make sense. Gulp taught me I could model more problems as streams than I originally thought.

So naturally, I built a static site generator and blogging engine as a streams processing library. The output of the stream transform is then streamed to AWS S3 and hosted from there. My site costs a couple dollars a year to run, and that's pretty fun.

You can read the code for the generator and the site content itself on Gitlab . It represents the kind of code I wrote in 2014, and I definitely don't recommend trying to use it yourself.

The site you're reading is an artifact of me scratching a dumb itch. It also clearly exemplifies how little a programmer values their own time if you give them the right problem to geek out on.

All that is to say: if you want to make it harder to contribute to your own blog, do it with a blog engine you built yourself and that you can only run from a computer on which you have the code checked out and access to Node.js and the right AWS keys.

I'd be lying if I said it wasn't fun, though.

Changing Jobs

My last post was in August 2014. At that time, I was Technical Director at UP Global, formerly Startup Weekend. As a community and a small team, we were doing exciting things to promote entrepreneurship as a force to shape communities and change lives. I was into that mission. As a business, we weren't doing nearly as well.

Fast forward to Tuesday, April 7 2015. I got to work and prepared for our weekly all-hands meeting and noticed I had a calendar invitation to attend the meeting in a different room. Fast forward a couple hours and the entire company learned about large, sweeping layoffs that affected many teams across the organization—including my own team and my own position.

I'll always remember that it was on a Tuesday because my second son was born Friday, April 10. UP Global was generous in giving me a month to unwind things and find a new job. I used every day of my two weeks of paternity leave to find a new job.

That's really all I need to say about that right now, but it illustrates the context: blogging was not a huge priority to me at that time. There was a little flurry of updates on my site and some polishing of my résume to prepare for my job search.

I ended up at another Seattle company working on Moz Local.

Returning to Linux

Before Startup Weekend, I was a full-time "Linux on the desktop" person. About a month into working there, it was obvious that silly X.Org issues—like being unable to move from an external monitor at my desk to a project in a conference room without rebooting—weren't going to work for me. I spend the majority of my time programming, but I tend toward roles that also involve designing, running meetings, sharing presentations, and other "business" activities.

So I switched to OSX, got over the learning curve, and eventually grew to feel pretty natural in that environment.

After Startup Weekend, I got to keep my 2013 Macbook Air and it was collecting dust in a closet. So I committed another weekend to devaluing my time and figured out how to partition the disk, replace the bootloader, and dual-boot Linux on Apple hardware.

The downside is I haven't put in the time to either figure out how to mount my OSX partition from Linux, or create a 3rd shared partition to share content between the operating systems.

That left me with a cool Linux setup, but with no access to my old content—including my website.

So that really slowed things down until I was able to make the site more “git friendly” and move the source code into the cloud.

Moving

My wife and I met in Belltown in 2009. We found a church that was committed to its downtown context, and building community in a city commonly lonely to many. We made Belltown home until 2013 when our first son was born; we could only stand sharing a one-bedroom apartment with an infant for so long.

We managed to find a new neighborhood not too far away and moved to North Queen Anne. What to me was once a "dead zone" between Fremont and Ballard became the place where we would discover a sweet community, where my oldest son would learn to walk and talk, and where we would meet our second son.

We experienced many big life moments there—both joyous and painful—and really felt like we were putting down roots. But Seattle house and rent prices are neither charitable nor sentimental. We learned we were pregnant with our third child; as exciting as that was, our non-reciprocal romance with core Seattle wasn't leaving room for us to grow our family sustainably and stay where we were.

So we looked into neighborhoods North and South of core Seattle. We even briefly considered ideas like trying out Bellingham or Tacoma. On a whim, we looked at a rental in West Seattle and finally discovered how cool this neighborhood is.

We found a house near a school that was perfect for our kids. I finally have a yard and easier access to Seattle's natural beauty to share with my children. We have space to pursue hobbies and interests I had sacrificed to fit within our space and budget.

And Now What?

Well, there was a lot I left out in the last 4 years. Those were definitely among the bigger events, but there have also been a few other life-changing and life-defining things.

I suspect I'll do more dedicated writing about that in the future. I also have a few nerdy ideas I'd like to share.

So clocking in at just over a 1,000 words, I'll close it here. Here's to hoping it doesn't take another 4 years to write again.

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