Ship it!

Drink like a localAnother day, another hobby… As most avid readers know, I’m a bit of a craft beer nut.  Whenever we travel, we try to fit in as many local breweries as we can, and I’ve been known to frequently visit Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, Sarasota, Dunedin, Punta Gorda and other “local” (read: less than 3 hour drive) locals to hit Florida breweries.

But you can’t travel everywhere, and you can’t try every beer. If only I could ship Florida beer in exchange for local treasures in other cities and states!!

In my internet travels, I’ve discovered Untappd, BeerAdvocate and BeerFests, and now my new addiction, TheBeerExchange.

So far, I’ve traded a total of 5 times.  Thanks to BEX, I’ve had the pleasure of dealing with Chris and Tim in south California, Mike in New Jersey, E. in Michigan, and Ross in Louisiana.  For local favorites like Funky Buddha, Cigar City, JDubs, and Big Top I’ve received over a dozen different local favorites from 4 different cities for just the cost of shipping a box!

In the spirit of furthering the cause, I decided to share some of my beer exchanging tips. (Additionally, there is a fantastic document on how to pack and ship beer here.)

Wrap it up1. You are not shipping beer. Shipping alcohol requires an over-21 signature on the sending and receiving end. And it’s generally a lot more expensive. On the outside of the box, or if they ask, write/say “glass candles” or “liquid yeast samples” (not technically a lie).

2. Good advice for many activities, Wrap it up! Be sure to wrap each can/bottle individually and then all together. Remember, if one bottle breaks and leaks, most shipping companies will throw out the whole box. So one ziplock type bag per can/bottle is a good idea.

3. Using rubber bands instead of taping the bubble wrap is handy for the receiver, because he/she can use the bubble wrap again!

Include extras and a note4. Give your box a good shake. Nothing should clink, shift, or move around.  If it does, use packing paper or more bubble wrap.

5. Beer traders are awesome people. Include a few extras! I always include a few additional Florida beers in the box, and a nice note for that “personal touch”.

So, get out there and score some local beer, and then sign up on TheBeerExchange (it’s FREE).

Be sure to look me up when you get there, as expected I’m “KeyboardDevil”. Also, be sure to drop my new friends Chris, Tim, Mike, E. ,and Ross a line.  They’re great traders and will take good care of you.

Forget about waiting on the big distributors, let’s make local beer accessible to everyone right now!

In Soviet Russia, gay hates you!

In Soviet Russia...In the event you’ve been away from your TV for the past few weeks, the media is cranking up about the 2014 Winter Olympics that are slated to take place in Russia.  There is a lot of talk about Russia’s so called “ban on gay propaganda“.  A ban which many have claimed is just poorly shrouded anti-gay hate-mongering.  And it turns out, they’re probably right.

Far be it for the United States to step in and start crying about a country disliking the gay lifestyle.  Drowned in a sea of an admittedly Christian population has set up an understanding in this country that there are just some people here who don’t like gay folks.  And that’s fine, it’s America…  To each his own.  But that’s not the point here, and to claim a equivalence is a completely invalid argument.

This isn’t propaganda legislation.  This isn’t a law to protect children.  The law isn’t even a good cover story.

Much of our media, including the President, have come forward with reasons not to boycott the Olympic games.  Many of the claims site Jesse Owens‘ amazing accomplishments in the 1936 games, and although I can appreciate the similarity, this is not a valid reason to encourage the games, and ignores the obvious atrocities that are taking place in Russia RIGHT NOW.  In hind sight, America would have nothing to do with the 1936 Summer Olympics in Germany.  In fact, I would venture a guess that, knowing then what we know now, there would have been no games in Germany.

I’m not gay.  The gay lifestyle has nothing to do with me, or anyone in my family (as far as I know).

But I’m not Jewish or black either.  And not being Jewish or black or gay are not valid reasons for a country and a government where human suffering is taking place.

Have a look America.

Have a look at your money being spent to support human suffering:

Russia russia2 russia3 russia4
russia5 russia6 russia7 russia8

Ignore the President. Ignore the media. As human beings, we have a moral imperative to boycott human suffering in all of its forms.

Beyond the Mouse

It wasn’t an easy decision, I’ll give you that.  But now enough time has passed to where I feel like I can speak (or blog) candidly about… That place I worked that one time.

OK, so almost candidly.  But you’ll get what you get, and you’ll like it.

Way back in 2005, I started an exciting career at (REDACTED), when the entire department had less than 8 developers.  When I finally hung up my giant white gloves and moved on, there were over 150 of us on-site, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 225+ when you included off-shore contractors.

fishAt every job before this one, I was the prodigy.  At first, it was amazing.  I was the youngest developer ever hired by my first company.  And it was awesome.  But after a while, it felt like an intense weight on my shoulders.  When I moved on to other companies, the weight continued to amass until it was unbearable.  I was a big fish flopping around, and my pond felt like a spilled glass of milk.

Then, by some weird stroke of luck, I was downsized right out of a job.  I spent a month hanging around the house, and then another month doing contract development work and living the easy life, but I was bored.  Finally, an unexpected call led me to an interview with one of the most famous companies on the planet.

Truth be told:  I didn’t feel like I belonged at this place.  The other developers were really smart, and I was a small fish in a HUGE pond just trying to get noticed.  I remember a conversation with my mom when I told her that this job wouldn’t last.  We were contractors, all of us, and we were told we’d be competing for full time positions.  I told her I was in way over my head, and the other developers were eventually going to outshine me, right out of a permanent spot.

Everyday I walked into that office it felt like a gift.  Never, in my career, had I worked with so many amazingly talented people.  I know people use the word all of the time, but it was, truly, awesome.  The department had no idea what they had their hands on.  Everyday, project managers would fight over which developers they got for their projects, and we were kings.  There was a magic about that “kingdom” that I thought was irreplaceable.  Thinking back…  Maybe it was.

The last day of my 6 month contract, I was extended to 9 months, and then a year.  Then finally, late one evening, while chatting with another developer outside the kitchen, I was approached by my manager and pulled into a conference room where he told me they wanted to offer me the full-time job.  It was an 11% pay cut, and honestly, I would have accepted if it had been 20.  To date, it was the greatest accomplishment of my life.

unknown technologyOver the next 6 years, using a language no one had ever heard of on a server no one knew existed (and, no one would ever miss) we created websites that upped revenue (in just one case) from 500 million to over 1.8 billion dollars, and another that redefined the way restaurants were booked for a massive family of locations.  Before agile and JQuery, we created process where there was none, we wrote a syndicated code base used across thousands of travel websites, and fostered the environment for a development family like none other I’ve ever witnessed.

After a few years, I knew every site like the back of my hand.  I had built big chunks of it, after all!  But, at the height of my career, the tide started to shift.  We were bringing in more and more contractors, and taking on more and more work.  It was an exciting time to be a part of the senior staff but, at the same time, the writing began to appear on the wall.  One by one the original development team began to disappear.  We lost one talented developer to Oakley, one to YouTube, a few to start-ups across the country, and another to a credit union just starting their web business.


I moved from project team to project team, and finally settled in on the operations team as a senior level mentor and trainer.  By this time the technologies had begun to change.  We were moving in the direction of a new language, a new web server, a new JavaScript library, and a new direction for the sites all together.  Had it been just languages that changed, I could have survived.  But the greatness of the team had disbanded and the personality of the department had shriveled up and became that of a giant, code pumping machine.  The Nerf guns were banned, the holiday parties were long gone, and the annual indoor golf game was lost to memory.  Long forgotten were the days of “Dev Chat” meetings, and off-site gatherings you could fit at a few small tables in a local restaurant.

We had become a world-class development shop who had completely forgotten that we weren’t a development shop.

I wasn’t even looking for a job when I got the first call.  In fact, I dodged the hiring manager, the HR rep, and the vice president of eCommerce for two weeks while they pursued me in the evenings and weekends.  But, finally I agreed to drive down to south Florida to meet the team, and get a feel for the company.

Reluctantly, as there was no longer room for me to grow, I decided to pull the plug on my relationship with the mouse and begin anew.

Literature saved my life?

Reading the book Fahrenheit 451 was a huge moment in my life.  In my early teens, with very little direction and no future plans for my life that didn’t include skateboarding and punk rock, one of my favorite teachers lent me a copy of the book with the promise “I think you’ll like this”.

And I did like it.  I loved it.  Shortly there after I read Martian Chronicles and I Sing the Body Electric.

Within the pages of those books, Ray Bradbury would change my life forever by encouraging me to chase a degree in literature which later changed to “mass communications” which opened my eyes to the then-still-emerging world of the internet, and got me hooked on programming for the web.

Thank you, Mr Bradbury.  Thanks for the incredible stories, and changing my life.

Take a minute and listen to this recording of Ray talking about typing out the first draft of Fahrenheit for $9.80.

Ray died today at the age of 91.

Stupid Earthlings

Out in space two alien life-forms are speaking to each other.

The first spaceman says, “The dominant life forms on the Earth planet have developed satellite-based weapons.”
The second alien, who looks exactly like the first, asks, “Are they an emerging intelligence?”
The first spaceman says, “I don’t think so…They have them aimed at themselves.”

Great joke, but not mine.  Original post was here

“Rights” vs “responsibility”

It finally happened.  Last night on the way back to my car from the ATM someone approached me with a knife.  We both stopped short of each other at about 20 feet when he asked me if I “[had] any cash”.  When he asked the second time, I noticed his knife.

I have a small Winchester “ParFive knife” I carry all the time, I took it from my pocket and flipped it open and we started a staring contest.

I’m not sure if he expected me to drop my wallet and run away, or maybe his flight-or-fight response took a second to kick in, but we froze there for a good while before he headed off toward the back of the parking lot at a slow jog.

Not interested in sticking around to see if he had friends or another weapon hidden wherever he was heading, I got in the car and got the hell out of there.  I called the cops once I was comfortably back on the road.

The words I keep hearing from friends are “you did the right thing” or “you handled the situation well”.  But none of that is true, I just got lucky.  He wasn’t as motivated to hurt me as he could have been.  He didn’t have a gun.  He didn’t have another “robber” with him.  He didn’t try to use that knife.  The more I think about it, the more lucky I feel.

With all of  the senseless killing over just about anything (or nothing at all), there is literally no reason that I am still alive.  I am convinced that if I had been a woman, or an old man, or just not holding a knife at that moment, things could have, probably would have gone much differently.

So now we get to the meat of the matter.  I have a concealed weapons permit and own a collection of firearms that allow me to carry just about anywhere, generally I choose not to.  Once in a while, the girlfriend and I will conceal guns and head out for dinner, or maybe a short shopping trip.  But, truth be told – we’re not expecting any trouble at the local Publix.  We carry because we can, not because we’re planning to need to.

A concealed firearm brings with it a huge amount of responsibility.  As a firearms instructor once said to me “there’s a lawyer attached to every bullet”.  More importantly, there could be a life attached to each one as well.

Would last night have gone any differently if I had a gun instead of a knife?  Probably not.  But what happens next time?  What happens if the parking lot is full of people?  What if there are kids getting into mom’s minivan behind the thief, do you trust your aim and endanger the lives of innocents?

I’m actually pretty upset with myself this morning. I had ZERO situational awareness. I had NO IDEA if someone was standing behind me, how many friends he may have had hiding out nearby, which direction he came from, or where he was headed after he ran off.

I was depositing a check at the ATM, not making a withdrawal.  I just keep thinking about 3 dollars and 30 cents. That’s how much cash I had on me. That’s what my life would have been worth to this guy. 3 one-dollar bills and 3 dimes.

On fundamentalism, fear, and genocide

Norway, July 22nd 2011:  A self-described “Knights Templar” and “Freemason”, Anders Behring Breivik murdered 68 people in a combination explosion and shooting spree in Utoya and Oslo respectively.

More important (for the purpose of this blog) than the crimes themselves, is the motive.  Breivik posted over 1500 pages of his “manifesto” in which he describes the “deconstruction of Norwegian culture and mass-import of Muslims“, encourages Christians to “embrace martyrdom” and calls for others to see him as “the savior of Christianity“.

In my years of study, I can’t remember a single time I’ve seen Christian crusaders cast as heroes.  Even in the oldest, most fundamental sects of Christianity, do you rarely even hear a mention of the crusades as they are almost universally an embarrassment to the church.  But that certainly didn’t stop Breivik from idolizing them.  In a twisted propaganda video he posted to YouTube just before the attack you can begin to see the depth of his devotion and eventual madness.

There can be absolutely no doubt that religious fundamentalism, weather Christian, Islamic or otherwise leads to murder, torture, and the continued suffering of the entire human race.

Thousands of years have passed in which we spend countless time, monies, and effort in effectively eradicating each other based on which “God” we believe in.  Haven’t we, as a human society had enough of pointless murder?  Isn’t it clear yet that genocide doesn’t “solve” any problems?  Why can’t we see that RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM is the cause of all of this pain and loss?

In memoriam

Passion is expensive.  Being involved in an “extreme sport” like motorcycle racing is a taxing and time-consuming endeavor.  But, more important than the investment of time is the investment of love.  Pouring your heart and soul into something that can ultimately kill you, and the ones you love takes fortitude that most people do not possess.

My regular readers are convinced at this point that I’m blogging about a fellow rider lost to a tragic accident, but they are wrong.  I apologize for the misleading sub-text.  After a 9 year battle, Dave’s body finally gave in to cancer last week.

Dave Brichler was a great guy, a good father, and a friend to many.  Just how many might surprise you, it certainly surprised me.  If the measure of a man can be determined by the number of people who grieve for him when he dies, then Dave was one of the greatest.

Goodbye my friend.

Religion is anti-humanist

Something I’m sure we’ve all noticed in organized religion, is the idea of abstinence, abstinence before marriage, intercourse for procreation only, or just plain guilt associated with sexuality.

Why do we do this?  The answer, actually,  is quite simple.  It’s baked right into our DNA and psychology.

The “Good”:
Buddhists, Catholics, and other religious sects practice self-denial (even self-injury) in the effort to “connect” themselves to their God.  Human nature and basic psychology dictate that we are unable (or unwilling) to subject ourselves to stories of suffering, strife, or peril of our deities unless we too, can share the burden of self sacrifice.

The Bad:
People are human, that is to say, that we are imperfect by design.

Where there is no way, we will find one.  We don’t even need to get into the Catholic priests (again) to discover that Christianity’s view of sex is slanted.  But even seemingly “strict” religions, like Islam for example, where followers (who are almost always “fundamentalists”) are willing to “die a thousand deaths” to be holy has excellent examples of good-old human behavior.

“To deny our own impulses, is to deny the very thing that makes us human.”
– Andy and Larry Wachowski

The irony here is that our very nature of existence causes both the inability to be abstinent, and the self-edification to crave it.