CodeXJourneys

Resigned from my job and gave away my stuff. Traveling the world, becoming a better coder, and learning where I can most add value. Experiencing life and totally grateful for it.

Recent Journeys and Things Learned

Fighting History

One of my major regrets is that I didn’t start a business in 2002. To be more accurate, I did start a business. I had an idea, built a prototype, went to SCORE mentor meetings, met with a great lawyer and filed paperwork. My site was getting visitors, I was getting emails from those visitors, and initial feedback was outstanding. My family, instead of being supportive, expressed concerns. Worry. Doubt. I felt their doubts creep into my head and take root. I got scared. Maybe they were right. What was I doing? I unwound all the work I’d done and put my head back down to blend in with the crowd.

I never forgot what my lawyer said when I called him to dissolve the corporation:

“If you spent as much time working on your business as you spend worrying, you’d already have revenue.”

I was young. I was far less mature than I am now. And I don’t blame my family; I blame my own reaction to what they said. I didn’t want it badly enough. I didn’t know what I wanted.

For the next 12 years, I wished I’d started the company.

This week was tough because it echoed history. I shared some good news and got back anxiety. Worry. I know it wasn’t intentional; in fact, my family has been incredibly supportive of my efforts this time around. But nonetheless, I spent the end of the week replaying my worries, reminding myself why this time would be different. Fighting my own shadows. It’s not a feeling I’m used to anymore, and not one I enjoy.

I didn’t give in. I’m different than I was. I’ve defeated far worse than some unformed doubts, and I know that the regret of never trying is more powerful than fear.

But I could use a spa. And chocolate. Possibly some flower petals and essential oils.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

Existential Roller Coaster

This week I’m riding an existential roller coaster. One day I feel great, the sun is shining, response to my stories and ideas is sizzling, compliments flow. I feel loved, at peace, my arteries unwind, my heart beats steady and I know why I’m here.

Another day I feel disconnected, bombarded by worries over shadows and trapped in my own mind, struggling to make forward progress. Wondering why I’m doing this. Feeling alone.

I knew I would feel this way sometimes when I began this journey. I was prepared for down days and fears, and I don’t let them dissuade me like I once did. This is progress. I used to live in fear.

But I tried living in fear and it does not work for me. It’s like creating a defensive sphere where days are only ever perfectly pleasant: a hazy blue sky, a light breeze, an occasional shower. No gusts of wind, no hailstorms, no lightning challenging anything; but also no brilliant sunsets, no rainbows, no breathtaking views.

I prefer life outside of the sphere. I have time to enjoy life and explore it. This is a blessing. Most days I’m thankful, ready for adventures and the good and bad they bring with them.

When gray days get me down, it’s hard. It’s hard to stay focused on doing good for others and making useful contributions to the world. It’s also hard to enjoy each moment, even though I know each one is valuable and each person I care about is priceless.

It’s a tough balance. It’s a practice, an exercise, waiting for the next sunrise.

But it’s worth it.

The Flow and the Ebb

I loved SXSW. I sat up-front center for as many sessions as possible. I introduced myself instead of vanishing after each session. And my presentation at the TechBreakfast there went great: I talked with dozens of potential users, validated my product idea, and met amazing people who I want to know for many years. I also allowed myself to enjoy serendipity. I kept returning to a Peruvian food truck because every time I went there, I met someone interesting.

Back in the NYC area, I’m completing a new course on GitHub basics and writing an intermediate course on GitHub gymnastics. I continue to sell my first course on programming concepts for true beginners. I’m speaking at a security conference in May on a topic related to my master’s thesis, and then plan to transform the thesis and the talk into courses as well. I’m continuing to build out my software, focusing on the open-source plugin and adding features requested by potential users.

And I keep doing things that scare me. My mission statement is to say YES when I’m scared and see what happens. So far I feel right about everything, even though I also feel uncertain about where the edge lies or what awaits me there. I remind myself that no one ever really knows what they’re doing, and as long as I’m adding value I’m doing okay.

Active Participation at SXSW

I’m at SXSW in Exhibit Hall 5, waiting for a presentation. I’m sitting in the second section of seats, next to an aisle and near enough to a door for easy exit, if I’m not enjoying myself at any point. I have a great view of the speaker podium and the big-screen TV where the speaker will be projected in larger-than-life. I’m thinking about the fact that I always choose this seat.

It has a great view of all the action, but it’s not really in the mix. Not pressed by crowds, not irretrievably committed to the event. It’s a perfect snapshot of my old life — the one I left behind. I’ve spent much of my career in the background, reluctant to take the spotlight or make a no-going-back move. I like to leave my options open. This seat perfectly reflects that.

In the last nine months, I’ve done the opposite: left my job, left my lease, left my stuff and committed to a major change. I’m creating things and pursuing them to their logical end. I’ve abandoned the easy-out approach to life and decided to give this period of time all I’ve got, so I’ll never feel like I didn’t try. So far I’ve done a lot and learned a lot, and I can feel this accelerating. I’m hitting the gas pedal harder, not the brake.

But I’m still sitting in this seat. Why? I promise myself, for the rest of the conference, that I will sit in the center, in the mix, and make myself part of the event instead of observing quietly. I intend to get the most out of this, too.

Drop-Ship. Pack. Pray. SXSW.

I’m waiting to board my flight for SXSW. I’m excited and plan to have fun — I’m also presenting my Plain English Programming project at a breakfast event and hope to have fun doing that too!

I feel like a mobile shipping and delivery hub. I have no printer and three small bags with me while traveling, so I sent my (thankfully simple) print order to a FedEx Kinko’s. I’ve ordered more business cards, plus project cards for my demo and coupon cards for my basic-programming-concepts course, which should be hand-delivered Friday while I’m roaming the conference. I ordered a kiosk’s worth of DIY setup items from Amazon, heading to where I’m staying and hopefully arriving while I’m home, and identified a nearby Staples that I’m using as a pickup hub for anything I forget/forgot. I’ll be surprised if everything works as intended, but if enough pieces come together — or I know soon enough which pieces won’t come together — I’ll be good to go.

This is actually kind of fun, in a shipping- and conference-logistics-hub kind of way. Not what I planned when I initially registered for SXSW, but infinitely better in its own way. If this all works out, I’ll post a DIY kiosk how-to on this blog.

Boarding soon, more later.

San Francisco in the Prehistoric Age

I found this ancient essay I wrote for Derek Powazek’s site about visiting San Francisco in 2001, just after the recession devastated the city’s economy. I’d spent a summer there five years earlier, so I wandered around for the weekend noting contrasts and taking notes.

SF Stories (my post is the long one at the top)
http://sfstories.com/post/general/index.010.shtml

I find I can’t conjure that depth of feeling for the ways L.A. has changed in the past decade. It’s different, and I could write about it, but not with so much melodrama.

What I’ve Been Doing

I spent February doing several things that are fun and also a first step toward fulfilling my Phase Two mission: Make useful things. (My Phase One mission was: Travel and learn.)

Programming in Plain English

I’m creating stand-alone software to let you program in plain English. I have a basic plugin version of the software working, which I’ll present at a SXSW TechBreakfast. If the fancier, fuzzier stand-alone software is also working well enough by then, I’ll demo that as well. It’s an iOS app and will also be a Mac app initially. Here’s a beta website for the project: Plain English Programming.

Short and Sweet Courses

I created a Udemy course called “Short and Sweet: Basic Programming Concepts in 2 Hours.” It was fun, frustrating and rewarding to create a two-hour course that presents the essential ideas of programming in real-world language, using pseudocode. The goal is to make it easier for students to learn any programming language after taking the course, and to understand good practices around program structure and refactoring. I’m happy with the end result (for now), I’m loving the ability to communicate instantly with my students and help them get past roadblocks and succeed, and I’ve made my first online revenue, which is exciting. The course is here, if you’re curious, and I’m including a coupon for blog readers: Short and Sweet: Basic Programming Concepts in 2 Hours

I’ve drafted an eBook to pair with the course and am planning my next courses in the Short and Sweet series. Initial feedback is that the concept is good: A Short and Sweet course will be the best, fastest, easiest intro to a topic — no oxymorons! I’ll be testing this premise some more and then launching my own course platform. Now that I have a course recording process down, it shouldn’t take me long to produce content.

Flashcard App Final Phase

I’ve hammered out many of the bugs in my flashcard app, which I plan to tailor as a study aid for each course I release. I’ll also release some stand-alone flashcard apps to help people study for various exams, starting with the NASM personal trainer exam, simply because it was the first test database I created for the app.

I have several other ideas swimming around in my head, mainly around how to help people learn and do more, better, faster. I’m really enjoying this phase of my sabbatical and will send updates. Apologies for the bat-cave moment on this blog, I know it was quiet here for a few weeks. I wasn’t sleeping :-)

Housekeeping Update: Staying on Task

Quick update: I decided to move the Amazing Airbnb series to Pinterest, so it doesn’t clutter up the main blog. I want to keep a balance of code/tech posts and travel/journeys posts here, and I anticipate more technology-focused posts in the months ahead. If you’re as obsessed with Airbnb as I am, you can follow my dedicated board on Pinterest here.

More coming soon!

Amazing Airbnb Number 2 – Reykjavik, Iceland

Today’s Amazing Airbnb is definitely on my someday list. I love Iceland, though I haven’t been to Reykjavik since 2006. Many apartments in Reykjavik are relatively expensive, but this one is affordable and atmospheric. It reminds me of a wooden ship near the ocean.

Cozy 101 Reykjavík apartment in Reykjavik

A cozy little apartment with an ocean veiw. Located on Reykjavíks main shopping and nightclub street in the heart of town. All the main bars and restaurants are within a walking distance from the apartment. There is a supermarket, swimmingpool, tourist information and bus terminal within a 5 minute walking radius. View all listings in Reykjavik

As a quick note, here are the criteria for an Amazing Airbnb:

  1. Relatively affordable for the area (typically $70 or less per night) or monthly rate less than $1700 USD;
  2. Beautiful and/or particularly atmospheric or interesting;
  3. Great reviews of the place and the host.

Amazing Airbnb Number 1

This series of posts will be dedicated to the most amazing, yet budget-minded Airbnbs I’ve found in my obsessive browsing of that site. I’ve stayed at some of these places; others are just on my personal someday list. Unlike most Airbnb best-of lists, all of them are relatively affordable.

Today’s Amazing Airbnb is an apartment on an organic farm in Tuscany. I stayed here and it was a great three weeks. There are two other apartments on the farm as well, but this one was my favorite:

Organic farm hills of Florence 3pax in Incisa, Florence

Apartment in Incisa, Florence, Italy. Poderaccio farm is nestled in the hills between Chianti and Valdarno Superiore, just half an hour from Florence. The guest house is a 18th century farmhouse divided into 4 apartments, renewed in 2012 using greebuilding materials. We only use rene… View all listings in Incisa, Florence