The Word “But”

When I was a freshman in college, my life was cheer. I did cheer breakfast lunch and dinner and loved it. I was committed to a level that generally exceeded most interests on the team. Not saying the team wasn’t committed, I just took it too far.

I was often very convinced of my own correctness. I would have conversations about issues with stunts and always have something to add. I’m not saying I wouldn’t listen to other people’s perspectives, but I always had to add my own two cents:

other cheerleader: I think the stunt came down because the feet were too far forward
me: That sounds right, but I’m pretty sure that is because you we weren’t on the right timing.

During my sophomore year in college, I had a coach who explained it to me. The problem with my communication was the word “but”. Using it made it sound like I wasn’t hearing the discussion from the other person. What my teammates had been hearing was “but … you are wrong and I’m right.” Sometimes, I felt this way, but nearly as much as I was communicating.

My coach asked me to try and stop using the word “but”. He suggested I use the word “however”, or pause where I would have said but.

This was 20+ years ago, so my memory may be foggy, but I recall this being pretty hard for me to change. Still, it had a pretty profound effect on my relationships with my teammates, and my ability to communicate and be heard.

It’s still something I’m sensitive to it today and impart the same advice to people when I catch them “but-ting” me.

Learning and Thinking

I’ve come to the conclusion that my brain has started to work differently in recent years. I have grown, and my writing on this blog has evolved. It used to be that most of the content was uniquely interesting tech pieces. Notions in C and C++ and ruby and tons of other things technical. Over time I’ve developed a more personal feeling to the blog and there has been much less tech. What has been tech-related is largely code-independent.

I miss thinking about code. I miss thinking in a way to give back to people. I’m hoping to change that slowly over time. The thing I’m talking about today is one example in that direction.

A little while ago a coworker of mine asked me about my thoughts on the second brain. I have to admit, I had NO clue what he was talking about. So I did some research. I found this course about creating a second brain. The course is $3000 or so.

I don’t want to speak directly about the value of the course, because I haven’t taken it. The notion behind the concepts is particularly interesting, and it turns out Forte Labs aren’t the only ones capitalizing on this idea. There are a bunch of other resources out there about creating this collection of information.

The premise: collect thoughts so they are easy to find; organize them in a way so that you can connect related concepts; spend time organizing them when needed.

While some people’s goal is to create something for them, my goal is beyond that. I would like to put together a library of thoughts and learnings that I can then pass on to friends, family, and others to share the information I have learned throughout my life.

Enter the program I use: The more I think about this, the more I have been living some version of this idea for years. Before Obsidian, I was using a program called Day One. I have also spent some time working in Bear Writer. Each of these programs has interesting parts for me, but Obsidian has recently won out because:

  • It is available everywhere I need it: Desktop, Phone, & Tablet
  • Has a good methodoly for inter-note linking.
  • Fundamentally uses Markdown as a way to edit notes, meaning I can include more complex HTML elements if I really want to.
  • Because it is an electron app and there is a lot of documentation on it, I can customize it as needed. I have even created my own theme.
  • It exports notes to markdown. This means I can still view the notes outside of the app if I ever need to.

Honestly, Day One started out more like this, but over time moved to a less Markdown version to make more people happy. Markdown is not for all, but as someone who is relatively technically inclined, it works pretty well for me.

It doesn’t matter what program you use. What matters is that there is a way to link related content and it makes sense to you. Many people use, some use Notion, and others use Roam.

I’m still at the relative beginning of this process. I’ve started reading some about Zettlekasten and taking smarter notes. I’ve got a bunch of work to do on growing this knowledge base, but I’ve started. The idea is that our brains are not great at remembering specific details, but are good at ideas. How can we help ourselves be more thoughtful and offload the responsibility of memorization?

More to come on this as I figure it out.

TLog_0021 – Bringing it back – Mac tools

Like the great Mr. Neistat, I have taken a very long break from writing daily. Having something important to share with the world is hard, and honestly, I don’t. There is nothing overly important about me. Nothing super unique about the way I think or what I experience, so finding something to write and share is not easy.

So on with the unimportant things I can share with you. Lets talk about the tooling I use every day on my computer that helps me get through all the work I do every day. These are tools that I’ve come to trust and when I go to another machine that doesn’t have them, I can get very frustrated. Here’s a list:

  • Flycut – This is a keyboard manager that allows me to have a history of my text clipboard. This is super useful when you might need to copy multiple things.
  • SizeUp – This is a window manager. I have they board shortcuts managed. Only gripe is that the up spaces gets in the way of the Xcode change between .h and .m so I have delete that mapping. Other than that, this piece of software is a saver.
  • Sublime Text – This is what I wish the Mac text editor app was. Sometimes I even use this as a pass through to paste things into google or excel so it looses the format. I used to use text mate, but switched to sublime text and now it is a requirement.

There are many other little pieces that I use on a daily basis, but these three tools make the a Mac usable and without them I have a pretty hard time. Some other things worth noting:

Rom Coms

February is the month of Valentines Day. If there was a RomCom (Romantic Comedy) month, February would be it. To that end I spent some time thinking about my favorite RomComs. Below is a list of my favorite RomComs. I was trying to put them in order, but they each have a special meaning to me. If there is one you feel is missing leave it in the comments.

  • Roxanne
  • 10 Things I Hate About You
  • 27 Dresses
  • Wedding Date
  • Along Came Polly
  • Love Actually
  • Wedding Crashers
  • Failure to Launch
  • How to Lose a Guy in 10 days
  • Serendipity
  • Definitely, Maybe
  • Grosse Point Blank
  • The Princess Bride

For more information on RomComs feel free to check out this great episode of This American Life: Rom-Com.

Spelling my name

Many of you will note that my name is Zachary. I spell Zachary with an ‘H’. What you may not know is that many of my friends call me Zack. Notice how I spell Zack with a ‘k’. There are many reasons for this, but lets just say that Zack with a ‘k’ sounds more correct to me. Sorry for any confusion.

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:

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.

Break Time

When I first started this blog many years ago, my intention was to publish here regularly. I have never kept that schedule. My posts are sporadic at best. I’m often quite busy and when push comes to shove writing hasn’t been as big a focus for me. Sometimes I take my notes in paper journals, other times just in my head. Well, I’m going to make an effort to return here. Make an effort to contribute more. I’m also going to make an effort to consolidate my different personalities here. I have a bunch of websites where I post photos. I have a several places where I post personal thoughts. I’d like this place to be a hub for all of it. Hopefully you will be hearing a lot more from me soon.

Break time… is over. 

I Work For Flywheel

Over a year ago I switched roles in the software engineering field. I started working as an iOS developer for a company called Flywheel. We are a start up in the transportation industry. Our goal is to provide safe, reasonably priced rides from professional drivers with the entire hailing and paying process handled from your personal mobile device.

flywheel logo

The goal is to make the experience as seamless as possible for the end user. You take out your phone, find a pickup location, the app hails available cabs, and you are notified when a car is on it’s way. When you get to your destination you can adjust the tip or just leave your default. Your credit card is automatically billed so you can worry about what you need to do next.

Making this process simple is a lot more tricky than it sounds. We’ve been working hard to make the experience better for the passenger and there will continue to make improvements over the next couple of months.

We have a blog that covers our feature set on a higher level as well as current promotions. I hope to cover some of the more interesting technical challenges and solutions we have run into.