betwixt code and music

Staying Sane with a Long Commute

or Podcasts! (2 min read)

Before I get too far in, please understand how Dallas works. Everyone drives because we mostly live outside of the city proper. There is a big movement to live downtown and use public transit, but I am one the stooges who has lived in the 'burbs for my entire life.

That being said, I have a little help to offer on how to stay sane while driving 60+ minutes twice a day. Two words: Podcasts & Music.

I started listening to podcasts long ago when I was learning about the "Getting Things Done" methodology (© 2016 David Allen, Co.). As I searched for more details about getting my mental crazy walls more organized, I stumbled upon the venerable Merlin Mann and his internet web site 43Folders. I immediately liked his writing style and checked back in from time to time. I started listening to his popular podcast with Dan Benjamin called "Back to Work" on the 5by5 network right as they started. I was an early adopter to this thought technology, especially for someone living in the 'burbs in Dallas. And yes, it is ironic to listen to 90+ minutes episodes of a podcast that is nominally about getting "back to work"…that is part of the beauty of it all!

I was hooked on this medium. I tried a few pod-catchers (these technologists come up with great words!) over the last few years. I settled on the
Overcast app for iOS because it shortened the silences and was rather customizable in a few ways. I always listen at normal speed—I'm not an animal.

So…erm…I kept listening to the podcasts, and it made driving bearable. I have always been able to just look out of the window and daydream about most anything—it is a "pipes and wires" thing, or perhaps a product of constant reading/writing as a child—but this makes the time pass really nicely for me. I drove back and forth to Austin last fall eleven times while enrolled in The Iron Yard code school. Podcasts and music kept me learning on the road and thinking about design/development. I also long ago gave up trying to catch every episode of the podcasts that I follow. There is never enough time for such things! I do make time each day to listen while driving, but I let go if/when I fall behind.

Here are some of the podcasts and musics that I have been into recently. Go forth and find your own comfort voices and sounds!

Back to Work
Roderick on the Line
Road Work
Planet Money
99% Invisible
Shop Talk
Front End Five
The Dalrymple Report
HTTP 203
Reconcilable Differences
Robot or Not?
This American Life

Snarky Puppy - hard to define, funk music meets jam meets world music
Radiohead - all of it
Nerve - Jojo Mayer on drums, all electronic music made by acoustic instruments
Tigran Hamasyan - jazz meets the Balkans
Clifford Brown & Max Roach - jazz
Maria Luisa Harth-Bedoya - classical Peruvian guitar

On the Job

or Happy Three Months!

I have now worked at CEA for longer than I was in code school last fall. Today is exactly 3 months from my first day as a working software engineer. So here is my version of a State of the Job address to all houses of the blogosphere.


After twelve weeks in code school, five weeks looking for work (and constantly learning), and thirteen weeks on the job this is how I feel every day:
elated. I couldn't ask for a better team of people surrounding me at work. Every day is a fun adventure full of witty banter, inside jokes, and me "busting a beat" for my co-worker Mark. Our sister company TourConnect has awesome, awesome engineers. Our three interns are some young guns that have truly impressed me with their work ethic and ability to quickly pick up complicated concepts. You never know when a game of table tennis or a push-up circle is going to break out. Expect the unexpected. Especially when co-workers head to SxSW Interactive with a camera on their phones.

There is also the coding. As I become more comfortable with JavaScript and React specifically, I can feel my understanding of our application deepening. I tend to have imposter syndrome and feel like, "Who am I fooling? I don't know enough JavaScript yet!" However, it is coming on faster and faster after digging through many components and upgrading older ES5 syntax to the new shiny ES2015 syntax. This process has sent me searching through the interwebs for answers many times. Constantly learning!

We also recently started a new meetup in town called
ReactJS Dallas. I am the organizer for it, but it is really a concerted effort of Call-Em-All and TourConnect together. This topic came up in my interview back in December. I kept asking about it and eventually became the owner of the project. Our first meeting had almost 40 React Devs in attendance with several more on a waitlist. It is turning out to be a big hit! My favorite parts of the event were seeing Morry Kang talk about an "Introduction to React" and meeting people from all over Dallas that use React or want to learn about it. It was especially cool to meet two remote developers who are accustomed to sitting at home and working via the internet. We got those people out of the house and mingling with like-minded coders!

Making this switch from a long-time, successful band director to a software engineer has not been easy…but it has been worth it. Since starting my job at Call-Em-All, I have seen my family more than ever. I also have a career that is affording me the ability to constantly learn and stay surrounded by successful people. I am loving everything about it, and I am looking forward to many years of good times here!