Starting a Career in Software

laptop with code

I’ve written some blog posts on getting into the business of software development before. Specifically this list of books on programming, yet I had a conversation with a young engineer the other week and it made me wonder what else I could do to people get into the field. Luckily for me, this young engineer has friends who are also in college and also looking to get some information on the field.

Now, I’m famous for saying, “I’m a Zack of all trades, master of some (really few).” The truth is, when it comes to software, I’m not a super-strong master of many. I get the conceptual idea of a bunch of it, and I’m really just an expert at seeing a problem and understanding the solution. What I’m good at is finding resources to help me and understanding what the resources tell me and translating that into solutions.

Still, when I was starting, I wish there were a bunch of things people had told me. I wish I had known that literally, anything is possible in the world of computer programming if you are willing to dig deep enough to figure out what is going on. I wish I had been told some good places to start learning. I wish I had been told that it’s okay to ask any question once, but it’s really bad to ask the same question over and over again. That it is disrespectful to go to someone with more knowledge than you without even doing a google search and bringing something to the discussion.

Anyway, these are some of the things I learned. I’m curious what the knowledge gap is between those of us in the industry and those just finishing college. To that end, I’m hosting a zoom call on Thursday, August 19th at 8 PM eastern. I’ll probably have some slides prepared, but I’m hoping that most of the session is about Q&A with questions people bring. All you need to do is join the zoom.

Pensive Ruminations about Thinking

photo by Jesse Martini

A few weeks ago a coworker implanted an idea in my brain about this concept of Second Brain. The notion is that the brain is being used in ways it wasn’t designed for and we have a ton of tools at the ready to do more than ever. The notion that we are bound by the limits of our brains is somewhat false. Knowledge and ability goes beyond the our bodies now. With the internet and the use of other information, it is possible to accomplish a bunch even without being able to remember everything.

The link above is for a specific methodology of coming to a second brain. The truth is there is more than one way to do it, and the person who is teaching that class’s big claim to fame is that class. Is organizing how to teach others to organize really success? I’m skeptical. The class that he is offering is in the multiple thousand dollar range and fills up, but I’m not willing to spend that much to learn to figure out my life.

Instead I’ve decided to start reading and figuring out things for myself. I’ve started with a book called The Extended Mind. I’m still working my way through it, but already I’m enraptured with the ideas in it. The notion that our brain does not end at the organ in our heads. The fact that our brain is an organ and a muscle like we’ve all been taught. These are all compelling notions. Taking this further than the book has so far, the mind extends to all of the knowledge that is available to us. This includes all the people we know. Our knowledge then is a shared knowledge. It makes me wonder if by the definition of the book, are humans really just one brain working together? I’m not yet finished with the book (really just starting), so these are all unfinished thoughts. I don’t have a full answer to what I think about the book and this notion yet.

What I do have a thought on is the new program that I found with a little bit of searching. It’s called Obsidian. Basically it’s what I’ve been looking for but without knowing I was looking for. It is a visual representation of the notes on your computer formed in markdown. It can sync between multiple devices (though you do have to remember to save, which is annoying). You can easily link between notes and jump to other notes. You can see the notes in a graph view and see the ones that are connected. It was created as a way to foster connection between thoughts and allow for more of this second brain stuff to exist. It stores all the data in Markdown files on disk so it is accessible at any time.

I’m definitely not using it as efficiently as I could be and there definitely is a lot of work for me to do get the organization the way I need it to be, but I’m loving it so far. Unlike Bear, it allows for complete stylesheet customization. This allows you to shoot yourself in the foot or create some cool additional features if you want. There are a whole list of external plugins as well, because it is just javascript under the hood. This is my tool. Now I just need to figure out how to get all of my old notes from Day One over and start making things better.

Also of note, because it lets me override styles, I am using my favorite MonoLisa, which allows me to do very cool arrows and various other ligatures that I really like.

Unknown how the use of this program will help me in the long run, but maybe this will allow me to create more than just my own thoughts. Maybe someday I will be able to pass on my second brain to my family and anyone else who wants it. Pretty excited about figuring all of this out.

The Notebook Project

This is an idea I’ve had for a while. One of my personal missions in life is to connect people. I do this through community aspects at work, through teaching acroyoga and Thai message, but how do I get even more people involved?

I once read about a project, but have been unable to find it online, where a group of people mailed out a bunch of notebooks, asked people to hold on to them for a couple days and fill out some pages and then send them to another users. When the project was done the group had some amazing works of art.

I’ve always wanted to recreate it. I wanted a collection of art and inspiration created by a connected community. My most recent concept involved me starting a coffee shop to solve it and hiring a bunch of artists to create notebooks.

I was sharing my idea with the owner of Simple Merchant Coffee and he wanted me to maybe create an expo at his space. I told him I didn’t have the notebooks yet and so he proposed something interesting: Let’s set up a couple of notebook stands at his location and let people fill out some pages. He proposed that this morning. This afternoon it happened.

I put two notebooks out there and two mason jars of pens. Hopefully it works out well. Hopefully they both don’t get pilfered from the store. I mean, even if they do I will learn something.

I’m still interested in working with artists to create more notebooks and build out some additional notebooks. If you are interested, please let me know.

Pete’s Pirate Life

A while ago, I got into watching some YouTube creators, one of my favorite being Casey Neistat. Through my constant watching, I discovered one of his friends Peter McKinnon. I don’t know what it is about Peter, but I have a love and hate relationship with his work. His videos are sometimes cool and cover cool things, but oftentimes they are just about obvious editing things or things that Peter himself enjoys. He takes a long time to get to a point that could be covered sooner. Peter’s product shots are very much touched up. Very little of it feels genuine and real. But his style is on point in my book. His love for coffee mirrors my own, and his desire to see the beauty and be joyous is something I strive for.

So for various reasons, sometimes I will watch a Peter video and often times I’ll skip it. The same with his instagram, until I discovered Pete’s Pirate Life. This one collection of photos and products fits into what I love about Peter while keeping me away from some of the stuff I don’t. Through this instagram, Peter shows dark little corners of his life in striking photography. He also does these things called “Drops” whereby he sells fun products. Many of them are overpriced, but the limited nature of the drop makes me pretty excited to collect items. It works on me. To the best of my knowledge, no one has really put together a list of the products he releases with information on what they are and how to make your own or do something like it. I’m going to attempt to do that. Check out my product page on Pete’s Pirate Life.

Photos are from Pete’s Instagram. Not my own work.

Cataloging My Field Notes

collection of Field Notes

There is something to be said for knowing what you have so you don’t buy things you don’t need. That only partly applies to what I’m talking about here. This is clearly a luxury and a collection. At this point, none of this is necessary, and it’s more of a personal hobby.

Since 2008, I’ve been carrying around a pocket notebook and writing instrument almost everywhere I travel. Constantly in my pocket. It’s funny because I also have a smartphone, and I take notes digitally and on paper. Why? I don’t know, and I guess there is something romantic about the paper discovery process of going through old notebooks and finding ideas. I recently went to a friend’s wedding and went through my old notes to find the initial guest list they had proposed back in 2016, just because I happened to write it down in my memo pad. The guest list turned out to be pretty close to who actually came, and it was a fun moment to have the notebook, take a picture of it, and share it with my friend. Also, at the wedding, I pulled out my notebook and had some guests write Haikus that we sent to the couple on their honeymoon (this tends to be a regular occurrence for me at weddings).

My branch of choice is Field Notes. I’ve been collecting unique editions of these notebooks pretty much since the beginning. In moving my stuff back across the country, we unpacked my boxes to find a plethora of notebooks. I didn’t know what I had open and not open. I did not know what I was missing in my collection. I suppose for any collection to count as a collection, you really need a record of what you have. I’ve solved that: here. This is a link to all the available unopened packs I have in my collection. If you are obsessed with field notes and need to trade or collect, many of these are available for purchase or barter. You need to reach out to me. Let me know what you want, and we can discuss a fair trade/purchase price.

This collection has brought me immense joy and happiness through collecting. I can’t really explain it, but hoarding it now feels wrong. It feels like it is time to start parting with editions I don’t feel particularly attached to.

In-N-Out Order

I just got back from a three week long road trip across the country to move the last of my belongings to the east coast. I’m going to try to live bi-coastal, but without all the goods on both coasts.

Our last meal on the left coast before starting the 3000 mile journey back to Rhode Island was at the famous fast food chain In-N-Out. This is chain that until recently was entirely a west coast thing. They’ve slowely been creeping across the country and are as far as Denver as of this year. They are known for their unique fast food style burgers. I once read somewhere, that their burgers are almost 40% fat. They are super thin patties and allow for a bunch of customization.

Because of the unique ways you can customize a burger, everyone has their own special order. I’m no exception. My order is a two by one with whole grilled. This means, two meat patties, one piece of cheese and a slice of onion kept whole and grilled. Sometimes I will even do a protien style version of this meal which means wrap the burger in lettuce instead of a bun.

I’ve tried fries light, fries well, and fries animal style (with grilled cheese, diced carmelized onions, and thousand island dressing), but the standard fries turns out to be good enough for me.

Anyway, hope you get a chance to try In-N-Out if you haven’t. It’s worth the wait in line (though maybe not in Denver, yet).
Image Credit:



The Evergoods MHP 3.5

I love backpacks. I even bought a domain to talk about my backpacks, though it isn’t up and running. For about a year prior to Covid, I had been carrying the same backpack. This was a huge step for me, because I often switch between packs as needed. I was blissfully happy with my Patagonia Black Hole 32L in Hammots Gold (color no longer available). Then a friend of mine convinced me to try a new brand of pack, Evergoods.

It started out with a Evergoods MPL 30L V1. Which is a great pack, but doesn’t have the side water bottle holders which is a requirement for me on a backpack. Fast forward a bit and I’m a huge Evergoods fan. I have a pack from most of their lines, so when the announced the MHP, I resisted for a day or two (don’t really use hip packs that much), but finally bought one, and the TL;DR is: I love it.

I decided on a black pack over the signal blue. While the blue is cool, a hip pack is usually something I’m going to carry while hoping it isn’t noticed. I have a signal blue pack and it is loud and easily seen. Call it fear from living in the Bay Area for too long, but I don’t want things to be noticed and pilfered. There is still a patch location and sometimes I’ll throw on one of my cool patches for unique identity when I need it.

Both compartments are pretty awesome. I’ve only taken the pack out for a couple of adventures at this point, but usually, the back section is where I put my notebook, pen, pocket knife, and phone. The front pouch is where I put in a first aid kit, headlamp and anything else I need.

One downside, even though there is a passthrough pocket upfront, if I put something large, like an R1 through it, it will eat up space in the front pouch and make it harder to fit things in there. Still, this pouch would be good for a thin waterproof layer.

The MHP can be worn in two ways, as the standard hip pack or as shoulder sling. I’ve worn it as both. As a hip pack it is perfect. Functions exactly as expected and I can’t say anything bad about it. One practical thing I’ll say about wearing it as a sling, the arm that makes contact with the pack might have some rubbing. While there is a guard against the buckle, the excess webbing, while tucked up might hit your arm as you swing through it. You can adjust the pack on your back, but if it is at all loose it will be near the bottom. This isn’t a super big deal, but it is definitely noticeable if you are hiking with the pack for a couple of hours.

I’m sure my opinion will continue to evolve as I continue to use the pack (I’ve had it for a couple of weeks), but so far I’m a fan. A friend asked me if it would fit a iPad mini, so I checked and conformed that both the front and back pockets are big enough to hold an iPad mini.

If your interested, head over and pick one up at Evergoods MHP 3.5L.

For additional reviews, I found this pretty helpful:

Writing A Book

Pile of notebooks

I’ve always wanted to write a book. I remember having a teal-covered five-star notebook where I wrote my first fiction story about a kid on a boat with a computer. It made no sense, I was very young when I started, and the book didn’t have a plan. Still, I pretended it was going to be such a good book.

The dream has grown over the years. I still write some crappy poetry from time to time (see some previous posts on this blog for pest poetry), but I haven’t really started anything super seriously. I want to change that. I want to write a book. The question is, what do I write about?

They say write about what you know, but I’m actually a little excited about learning as I write. I’m hoping the experience of crafting a piece helps me grow as well. This means my topic is still open for discussion. Some of my ideas include:

  • Acroyoga Field Guide – a guide to the practice of Acroyoga.
  • Moving to and from California – a software person who went to the west coast to learn his craft and survived to make it back.
  • Field Notes – a story from a fan of the wonderful product made in the USA by a designer and small firm that has blown up to a major product.
  • What I learned from 20 years in cheerleading – a memoir of my hears in the cheerleading world and what I learned. How the sport is different now and thoughts for the future.

What I do know is general size. I want to write books in a size and format that I enjoy. I don’t want to do big books unless they are picture books. I want my books to be smaller. I’m thinking of A Drive into the Gap Size or Wildsam Field Guides. Something pocket size. I’m unsure why this is so important, but it is.

My ask here is that if there is something you think I should write, please reach out and let me know as I begin to figure out what this project will look like.


I have a choice
Of whether to use my voice

Whether to speak up loud
Or hide in the crowd

To share my ideas abound
Or take them to the ground

I choose to share
Not entirely sure where

But quiet is not me
I’ll shout with glee

There are things to say
So I start this day.

Zack’s Birthday Thai Massage Shindig, March 20th

At this time of year in 2020, I was planning my birthday party. I wanted to take over a large space and bring everyone I knew together and do a giant Acroyoga class. Of course, as COVID-19 spread, this entire idea fell apart. The last thing you can do in an COVID-19 world is touch everyone as closely as possible and do some giant super spreader event.

A year has past, and I have done very little Acroyoga. I’m super rusty. I want to dust off my practice and start with the part of the practice that I was really getting into last year, the Lunar side. Thus I’ll bring to you my plans for my birthday this year.

Doing three sessions on Saturday, March 20th! At different times throughout the day so it should probably work with you no matter what.

East Coast Class TimePacific TimeLinkFacebook Event
9:30 am to 11 am6:30 am to 8 amZoom LinkFacebook Event
2 pm to 3:30 pm11 am to 12:30 pmZoom LinkFacebook Event
5 pm to 6:30 pm2 pm to 3:30 pmZoom LinkFacebook Event

The proposed format is something like the following, but I reserve the right to revise it as we get closer to the session. I suggest switching partner, but if you can somehow convince your partner that you are the only one to receive you can get the massage sequence twice.

Time in MinutesPersonFlow
0 – 15Partner 1 ReceivesProne
15-30Partner 2 ReceivesProne
30-45Partner 1 ReceivesSupine 1
45-60Partner 2 ReceivesSupine 1
60-75Partner 1 ReceivesSupine 2 – Hips
75-90Partner 2 ReceivesSupine 2 – Hips

Zack’s Thai Massage Birthday Shindig

It’s a Thai massage class on Zoom run twice on Saturday,March 20th. There will be one in the morning and one in the afternoon/evening. Times still to be determined. Through Zoom, I’ll be guiding you through a Thai massage sequence.

For Thai massage, you bring a partner and each learn how to give and receive a Thai massage. Yes, you will need to provide your own partner. This will be run in groups of two. While Thai massage does involve touch, this does not mean you need to use a romantic partner. Your partner can be a friend or even one of your kids. 

The general format is 15 minutes for the first person to give the massage, and then you switch. I’m planning on two three rounds of switching, so the entire class will be an 1.5 hours. The way I’m scheduling it, the first section will be least invasive and easiest, and the last session will be the most difficult. The goal is to give you a taste of the experience, and if you enjoy it you can stay on. If you decide it’s not for you, there are really great opportunities to drop off throughout the class.

You will need just a little bit of floor space. You will want to lay down some sort of mat like a yoga mat. The more space you have around the mat the better, but I’m going to be doing this in my living room with about 2 feet on each side of the mat. I recommend a computer or an iPad to see the moves if you’ve never done Thai massage. Phones are great for seeing faces, but I’m going to be doing a little more involved movement. Also, if you have a small pillow for your knees, that would be helpful but not required.

Clothing wise, those sweatpants you wear to work are a great option. You might also want to bring layers and socks. When you are receiving Thai massage, it helps to dress warm because you will be very passive. When you are the one giving the massage, you tend to generate some heat, and so taking off a layer or two might be helpful.

There are several reasons, but one of them is that Thai massage is about communication. It’s about contact and touch, it’s about talking to others and being present. In this space where we have been stuck in space with a limited number of people, sometimes we don’t take the time to really listen to those we interact with. Let’s reconnect with those around us and do so with some Thai massage.

IT’S FREE!!! There is no cost to coming to the class at all. My goal is to get people into this practice. You have no excuse not to attend.

After the class, if you feel like you would like to tip me, you can do so by sending money to 826 National, which is a nonprofit that helps kids with writing, both creative and otherwise. For those of you who don’t know, I was diagnosed with a reading and writing disability in 3rd grade and was given excellent help to be where I am today. Not everyone has that opportunity, and 826 National is trying to help those with less resources. You can find out more about them and donate here.