Hard To Go When You’ve Stayed Too Long

kday grand canyon

I’m leaving my job. I’ve spent 9 years here. I could have finished high school and college again in this time. My coworkers are from all over the world and are some of the smartest people I’ve been around. Some are among my closest friends. I get free lunch.

But just a few months ago I wrote this: (more…)

Three Dots

three dots


I remember walking over to my dad after a particularly bad track meet in high school, head down, angry, and looking up at him with a proud smile on his face. “I cannot believe how fast you looked on that runway!” Pole-vaulting is a mental and physical Rube Goldberg machine. Each phase is a crucial state initializer to the next, and worthless in isolation.

He followed me around to all my meets, rooting for me, encouraging me, even regularly making the 5 hour trek up to Ann Arbor when his body was starting to fail him when I was competing in college. As far as Big Ten pole-vaulters go I was pretty middle of the pack, firmly in the “Athletes Who Go Pro in Something Other Than Sports” category. Eventually though Dad got more sick, classes got harder, things more complicated. It takes a bit of mental gymnastics to start sprinting towards a metal hole in the ground holding the end of a 15 foot pole convincing yourself that this is going to end well. It was tough to keep the machine running as consistent as I wanted, so I had to turn it off.

2015 felt kind of like jumping 13 feet at Sectionals. Good speed, high plant, long trail leg, but I can’t really say it went like I’d hoped. I’m not sure I can summarize 2015 any better, which is probably why it’s mid-February and I’m just now trying. There were plenty of pieces to be proud of but I feel like I spun my wheels a bit.

I’m trying to look at this year like my dad would though. I see flaming out just after opening height, but I’m trying to look for the parts that made it meaningful. Here are some highlights:


You Won’t Get 36 Books By Sending 1

By now you’ve probably seen lots of people on Facebook inviting you to a book exchange that requires you to send 1 book to a child in return for 36. Sounds great! Exponents though, they have a way of blowing up in your face.


These schemes aren’t new, but they don’t seem to be going away. The short story is that this is a pyramid scheme, except with books instead of money, and dressed up as a fun way to get some great books for you child. In this iteration you find 6 people to sign up under you who in turn move your name up a list that they each give to 6 additional people. The 36 people two layers below you are then supposed to send a book to the first name on the list (yours), add their name to the bottom, and repeat.

In practice, things break down quickly. Success first depends on each of your 6 recruits to fulfill their obligation of recruiting 6 additional people, rotating the list correctly, and not forgetting to send it out. For every 1 of your recruits that fails a step, that’s 6 books out of the 36 that you are guaranteed not to receive. Of your 6 recruits that do send out their lists, you still have to rely on each of their 36 participants to follow through with mailing you a book. Keep in mind, to take part you are asked to fill out your name, kid’s name, age range, and mailing address to inform who and where the book should be sent to. This information is eventually passed on to 36 strangers who you haven’t met.


Lemon Confit

This post is part of my ongoing charcuterie project. See my original writeup for further background.

So I’m in the part of the book that I don’t really consider charcuterie but is designed to show some extreme examples of the power of salt. It’s a little annoying to be wasting my time with lemons when there is meat looming but I’m committed to not skipping anything. So let’s go.

Lemons, and salt, and time. And a bit of water to make sure the salt has complete coverage of the lemons. That’s it. We’ve seen this before.

lemon confit


Time for Espresso


I have a co-worker who spends obscene amounts of money on computer hardware. I mean, since I’ve known him I’d say it’s a figure that is easily approaching six figures. No one really knows exactly what he does with all this stuff, just that he has his own little data center running in his apartment. I suspect the reason is mostly “because I can”, and so that if any of his little side projects take off he doesn’t have to bother worrying about scaling – it’s already built out to his best-case scenario. Lean startup this is not. Whenever new shipments of hardware show up at the office his somewhat joking refrain is usually “Hey, it’s a one time expense!” The application is wrong, but the theory is to buy the best up front so you don’t have to deal with the consequences of not doing so in the future.

Let’s get this out of the way: making espresso is not cheap. You can make espresso for cheap, sure, but your upside will be severely limited – quality, reproduciblity, reliability, etc. It’s a finicky art that is extremely sensitive to changes in variables so naturally the better you can control them the better your results will be. Beyond that though, I think espresso may be one area where it really is too expensive to buy cheap. It’s a pretty brutal way to make coffee, really. High pressure and high temperatures are not the friends of cheap materials, and a pile of finely crafted metal may very well outlive you. It’s tough to stomach, but for this hobby I’m invoking The Creed of the One Time Expense. (more…)

Upgrading my ZFS Box

This was me trying to debug my file server:

Over the last few years I’ve made a strong effort to decommission as many of my machines and virtual machines as possible in favor of hosted solutions. Ultimately while it can be fun to control the entire stack, it just ends up not being worth it when things go wrong and it’s you who is on the hook to fix it. I still maintain a file server that runs ZFS on FreeNAS though, since I still have use for a large pool of redundant local storage for backups and a large media library.

What started with some crashes while initiating a Time Machine backup ended up leading me down a fairly expensive rabbit hole. This particular kernel panic was easily reproducible by attempting to delete a folder of large files (Time Machine backup shards). Since the ZFS scrub was clean, I assumed hardware.


Beef Jerky

This post is part of my ongoing charcuterie project. See my original writeup for further background.

With the exception of salt pork, beef jerky is probably the most straight-forward thing I’ve made as part of this project so far. One would assume I would be immune to screwing this one up. Noooooope.

jerky ingredients


2014, and 30

I remember one particular lie I told in 7th grade. I was in art class and I told some people that I had a wakeboarding photo shoot that weekend. The truth is that it was my mom driving beside me on a jetski taking pictures with her camera. I’d eventually go on to ruin one of her cameras this way, accidentally getting too close and spraying it with water. In my wildest dreams as a 7th grader, I was a professional wakeboarder, traveling around, living that life.

I turned 30 in 2014. Sometimes I find the easiest way to gauge how I’ve changed over the years is to think back on things I’ve said or done that I’m the most embarrassed about. Opinions I’ve held, things I’ve said out loud, old email threads I go back and read – some of these things make me cringe. I’ve long since given up any ambition of being a professional wakeboarder. But this year I did buy a self-flying drone with a GoPro mount on a stabilizing gimbal. The purpose? To fly along side me and film me when I wakeboard. In some ways I can’t recognize myself anymore, but in the best version of the reflection turning 30 has caused me I’m just a better iteration of my 7th grade self.


Coffee, One Year In.

I’ve been drinking coffee for a little over a year now. I’m self-aware enough to know how annoying it may be to hear a guy who has only been drinking coffee for a year say that most people are doing it wrong. I’m going to do it anyway. This shouldn’t be surprising though – the majority rules but is usually wrong. The largest beers by market share are terrible and I can’t imagine drinking them on purpose. People still give money to Comcast. Justin Bieber is a billionaire.

I’ve been pretty thorough this past year though. I’ve experimented extensively with nearly every method of brewing coffee, visited tons of roasters, and tweaked and tweaked. Like most crafts, a lot of what the experts say absolutely matters doesn’t end up making a difference to me. A lot of it turns out to be really important. The work is in teasing out the fluff and introducing more rigor into process. Everything else is subjective. Coffee can get wine-ishly snooty in a way that makes me a little uncomfortable. Obviously drink what you like. But with even just a bit more effort you can drink coffee that is more than just a tool. If you want to drink good coffee, here are the non-negotiables: (more…)