Five Dollar Fifth, ACLU

Today is the fifth of January. I’ve started taking the position that each month I’d like to doante to something related to national holiday of the month. Not all months have holidays, but most do. This month’s is Martin Luther King Day. There are lot of charities, but I’m particular about where I want to donate. I don’t want to donate to any charity’s whose focus is about increasing one group’s “power”, or “influence”. I’m about equal rights, about getting to the point where race is not the consideration, but peopel are evaluated on more fair criteria.

This belief in supporting freedom led to me to ACLU. If you would like to join me, please visit them at:

https://www.aclu.org

Five Dollar Fifth – The Conservation Fund

I’ve been thinking a lot about the environment ever since we elected a President that doesn’t believe in Climate Change. Apparently, so has my favoriate company Patagaonia. They donated 100% of their Black Friday sales to grass roots movements to help the enviroment, totally around 10 million dollars.

For this month’s fifth, I chose The Concservation Fund this month for my donation. Found it from Charity Watch, they have an A+ ranking. If you feel like going out and exploring is important to you, maybe you can consider donating as well.

I have a podcast

I create a lot of things. I really enjoy starting projects. I’m not so good at carrying them through.

I started a podcast with my friend Evan to talk a little about climbing. We are both based out of the South Bay so we called the podcast South Beta. It’s a play on our location and route Beta. We have three episodes with no real purpose yet. That is the goal for the next episode, start putting some meaning behind it and start getting something to build for our listeners. Not quite sure what that is supposed to be.

Anyway, it’s an intersting listen and if you climb at planet granite it covers some gym related news. We also talk about going outdoors in this area and climbing tips.

If you have a chance, go to the website and check us out. You can also find us on iTunes.

Career Fair Tips

The past couple of months I’ve been doing some recruiting for my awesome company SalesforceIQ. Part of it has taken me to some career fairs. While I’ve met some really great candidates, there are several things I’d like to share from the recruiter perspective.

Firstly, there is always a hot topic of the day. Currently, it’s Machine Learning. There are several other ways of saying it, Data Science, or NLP (Natural Language Processing) for example. They all refer to the same thing. Working with large amounts of data and discerning information from it.

It makes sense because one of the biggest problems facing computer scienctists these days is how to make sense of all this data we have. It’s a big problem. It appears like a fun problem, because no one really has a certain way of solving it yet.

The issue is, everyone says they want to work on it.

As a tech recruiter in a career fair, I may talk to 30+ people an hour. If you are saying the exact same thing as everyone else, it’s going to be hard for that recruiter to remember you. If you express interest in an area that everyone else is also interested in, you are in a larger group of candidates. Recruiters will naturally find a way to shorten the stack of resumes they need to consider to make it managable. Maybe they will exclude base on degree level (in Machine Learning, PhD is starting to be something we look for). Maybe, they will look for super high GPAs. The thing is, you don’t know the criteria, and the only thing you’ve done is lump yourself in the group with everyone else. You aren’t doing anything to give yourself an advantage over other candidates. You want to find a way for the tech person to turn to a recruiter after words asking if they followed up with “that person you remembered had interest in….”

Not all remembering is good. You don’t want to remembered as that person who kept asking the same question for 30 minutes. In general, however, you do want to make a memorable positive impression on the recruiter.

One way to do this is to talk about a specific interest you have that may differenciate you. Lets say you have a strong interest in Human Computer Interaction, and you have done some research on density of information. Distilling your interest and beliefs down to a 30 second talk on the subject may be the ticket to making a positive impression which can help move you along quicker to the next step in the interview process.

Five Dollar Fifth: BCRF

It’s the fifth of the month. I started a thing a while back and have stopped doing it. I give $5 to charity on the fifth of every month. It makes me feel better. Five dollars isn’t that much.

This month, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, I’ve donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. They are rated A+ from Charity Watch.

You can donate here. You can see information about the charity here.

The whole concept behind $5 fifth is that if we all did it would make a difference. If you can, please consider donating.

The Story

This post is originally posted on clairevango.com

When I was a kid my family moved around a bit. We lived in CT, PA, KY and then back to CT again. We spent a couple summers on a boat in RI while parents handled the move between states. While my brothers and I were seperated by years, interests, and social cirlces, we found a way to coexist. We weren’t close, but we were never too far apart.

As an adult, I feel like I’ve missed something something by moving the west coast. I’ve missed opportunity to be closer to my family. I’ve missed the opportunity to see my brothers grow to be men. I know I will be missing much as they begin to start families and I’m 3000 miles away.

When my youngest brother told me I was going to be uncle, I felt emmense joy and also sadness because this was a transition in stage of life for him. I haven’t been around since he got out of the marines. I’ve never been close to him as an adult.

When the middle brother told me several weeks later that they were expecting, I realized that both of the relationships with my brothers were about to change.

I thought of the things I wish I had done with my brothers. I thought of the times I missed the most. My first thought was the long annoying road trips we used to take. From our home in Connecticut to skiing in VT. That time we traveled all the way to Maine, to visit our best friends the Beckers. At the time, these were painful experiences, but looking back on it, these were times where we learned about each other. One brother would pick the first CD we would listen to, another the next. Spencer got us into listening to the entire Harry Potter series on tape.

We learned a lot about each other on the road, stuck in a metal box for hours at a time.

These memories inspired my crazy idea:

Buy a van, build it out, and travel with them before they had their first children.

I’m a firm believer that I learn about myself and others on the road. This is the story of me, trying to learn about my brothers and myself on the open road.

Zen and the Art of Zack

This week I caught myself hunting for new sneakers. I’m in my room right now, and I can see no less than 5 pairs of sneakers in sight. I know have a bunch more around my room. The thing is, I don’t need more sneakers. I’m hunting for sneakers. I could find the perfect pair of sneakers. You know, sneakers that at the same time magnificently comfortable and also incredibly stylish and durable. Sneakers that would be great to run a marathon in or take to the tumbling gym.

This whole thought process makes me think of a TED talk I heard called: The Paradox of Choice. The general concept is that as we have more choices we get consumed by finding the best choice. This exercise is somewhat futile because even if we find something good we are consumed with the thought that there is something better out there.

This idea that there is always something better has haunted my life in all aspects. There must be a better way to train. There must be a better food, one that is both healthy and tastes like candy. There must be a better pair of pants that is both cool (in temperature) and cool (in style). There must be a shirt that fits me perfectly. There must be a better way to make this View Controller (for all you iOS programmers out there).

I’ve been consumed with the hunt for the better. While some level of striving for better is a good thing, the obsession I have with it doesn’t feel healthy. I’m never going to stop pushing myself, it is just part of my ethos, but I am going to try and accept more. Be tolerant of more. Take the steps I need to get there.

As another aside, I’d like to mention that I recently re-watched the last two episodes of Life. It is a great show, and has a lot of Zen concepts. I used to be sad that this show ended in only two seasons, but the more I think about it, the more I feel that it was the way it was supposed to be and I have to be content taking the lessons I can from the two seasons that were produced.

Reverse Quitting

I was listening to a radio ad the other week about quitting smoking. It was very compelling. The ad said that all people who quit smoking are people who have tried to quit before, failed, and kept trying until they didn’t fail. They learned each time what didn’t work, until they found what did.

I’m not quitting.

I’m starting.

I love beginnings.

I love the beginnings of each day, I’m a morning person.

I love the intro skill, the back handspring, the toss hands, the hello world program, the basic rule of thirds photograph, the empty notebook before it has been marked.

There is a lot of promise in a beginning. Somewhere along the way I feel like I mess it up. I make a errant mark in the notebook, miss the exposure or composition of the photograph, lose the technique on a harder stunt, each too much junk food by the end of the night.

I keep trying to get started and don’t make very much progress. I give up and live in despair for a couple of days, and then try again.

The problem is, that I’m not sure I’m good at keeping track of my mistakes and avoiding them the next day, the next start.

I’m going back to my “Make Something” manifesto. I’m going to stop ending each night by just watching NCIS episodes. I”m going earn each episode. I’m going to earn each nights sleep. I’m going to earn it by eating better, working on building my projects (van, travel, climbing), and taking care of my body.

I will keep trying to figure it out, and if/when I fail, I’ll figure it out and start again.

Today doesn’t feel like a failure, and I’m excited about carrying this beginning into tomorrow!

Olympus E-M5 Mark II : Part 1

Problem Statement

I was planning a trip to Germany and Italy in the summer. I had a bunch of expensive and heavy camera gear that I wanted to bring to take pictures, but the thought of carrying it all around with me sounded crazy.

I was going for a wedding so I needed normal focal length. I was also going to travel and wanted a little bit of reach and maybe some ultra wide stuff.

The most important part, though, was quality of image. I like looking back on my photos in the future and seeing where I’ve been.

Was there a solution out there that could accomplish roughly the same quality as my Nikon gear but weigh less and be cheaper?

The short answer

Yes.

The full story

I went to the store to look at the Fuji X-T1. My friend FlannelForBreakfast had bought one and traded in his Canon gear to do everything with the Fuji. While in the store I checked out the Sony, but it was almost as heavy as my Nikon and had a higher price tag. The salesman also said I should look at the Olympus. I fell in love with the Olympus almost immediately, some of the reasons are pretty silly, so bear with me.

Firstly, the E-M5ii has a fully articulating screen. This means you can turn it up so you don’t ahve the LCD in your face at all times. On digitial cameras, the LCDs are known for eating up a ton of the battery power. Hiding the LCD means better battery performance. Also, for some reason, this made the camera feel more robust.

Secondly, the camera comes in a chrome finish which makes it look like an old Olympus OM, hiding the fact that it is a digital camera. Also, I felt like this was a very cool looking color.

Thirdly, the E-M5ii is an Micro Four Thirds(MFT) mount. This means I can mount lenses made from multiple different manufacturers. When you buy a Fuji you are somewhat limited by what they offer, when you buy Sony, you have more options, but they keep changing the mount, and they don’t always develop lenses as fast. The current ecosystem of lenses for the MFT system is actually pretty diverse. Since the platform is adopted by both Olympus and Panasonic you can get some interesting combinations. For example, there is a Leica designed, Panasonic manufactured 42.5mm f1.2 lens that is just amazing.

Fourthly, the E-M5ii is weather sealed. Now, I still cover it, but it is supposed to be pretty durable. This durability is a large factor when traveling. Having a camera that can hold up to a little bit of abuse is always a good thing.

Fifthly, The E-M5ii is significantly less expensive than my Nikon. The body was just over $1000 but it is now found under $800 at times. The professional lenses all cost around $1000 compared to the Nikon lenses that are easily double that. If I lose my camera or break it, I feel less guilty knowing it costs less to replace.

Sixthly, the camera is small and light. Compared to my Nikon it is easily a third the size and probably less than half the weight. This is very handy for hiking, traveling, or just fitting into a bag. I’ve been very happy with the amount of gear that is still portable.

Lucky number seven, the camera’s pictures were close enough in quality to the Nikon that I felt I could get away with it for traveling. Now there are some cases where this isn’t the case, and I’ll get into that later, but in general, the camera took really crisp, clean pictures

To be continued. I started writing this post a while ago and while there are many more things I have to say, I decided to break it up a bit. This is only part one of many

TLog-007 Nitro Morning

This post was pulled from my TLog project, but it felt relevant enough to make it to this blog as well. Some interesting stuff about reading and writing code.


I’m trying the Nitro Cold Brew coffee from Stumptown that they just started carrying at Planet Granite. It is tasty, but I like the regular cold brew better and will be sticking to that in the future. Still, I do love coffee.

Grateful List

I was listening to a podcast the other day, I believe it was Finding Mastery with Ariana Kukors: Swim. And they were talking about gratitude practice. The part that really stuck with me was that practicing happiness is really hard. Being happy is a by-product of the world around and the best way to approach getting that feeling may be through practicing gratitude. I’m going to try and say three things I’m grateful for each day.

  1. I’m so grateful that we as humans discovered coffee. It has a profound effect on my life and while I only drink about 2 cups a day, I love it.
  2. I’m grateful that I can afford to take as many pictures as I do now. I love photography and there was point when I was in college when I felt like it was too expensive. Thankfully I can now afford great gear and enjoy using it.
  3. I’m very grateful for my climbing community. Yes, I don’t see as many of them as much as I used to, but I love having a second home at the climbing gym. It is more adult that my cheer community (not that I don’t appreciate that as well), and much closer to my house.

Reading Code

I spend a lot of my time reading objective-c code for work. Reading the basic syntax is pretty easy, but understanding what is going on in someone else’s code has always been relatively difficult for me. I’m not sure how everyone else does it, but the way I tend to read code is to go through a live example of the code and see how variables are manipulated. I like to track a path from a point I understand to a point I need to discover. The larger the piece of the code the harder it is for me discover the flow and the process.

The best analogy I have to this process outside of code is my attempt to read the Odyssey. I moved around a lot as kid and didn’t get to read greek theology in school. I have tried to pick up post school, but understanding the Odyssey or the Illiad has been very hard for me. I can read the words and understand the basics of what’s happening, but I’m not sure I can see the forest through the trees. When you are in class, you have a teacher and class to discuss the book with. The concepts in the book are discussed and you collectively discover what is going on.

When reading code, the teacher/class is akin to being able to talk to developer who originally wrote the code. Sometimes they are sitting right next to you. Sometimes they are downstairs or close by. Sometimes they are phone call or email away. Sometimes there are cliff notes in the form of a really good tutorial or ReadMe. Most of the time, though, you just have figure it out on your own. If the code is written using some common conventions (like a restful api, or common design pattern), it can be easier. Sometimes the code is all over the place and impossible to discover.

Yesterday I was working on understanding MGSwipeTableCell. It’s a pretty well built piece of code, but still rather confusing to figure out for me. I figured out what I needed to, but only after a couple hours of debugging. I wish I had done a better job reading the original piece of code from the beginning.