Jeff Geerling's blog

Sessions at DrupalCon and DrupalCamp

I mentioned this elsewhere (see: DrupalCon and DrupalCamp news), but I'll post here as well; I'm going to be speaking at both DrupalCon Austin and DrupalCamp St. Louis this year!

I've submitted a few sessions to DrupalCon Austin in the past, mostly surrounding the Honeypot module for Drupal, but this year, a session I submitted in the DevOps track was chosen: DevOps for Humans: Ansible for Drupal Deployment Victory!. I figured since I'm writing a book on Ansible, and I use Ansible to provision servers and do all the deployments for my Drupal sites, I might as well show other Drupal developers how easy it is to get started and how much you can do with Ansible!

I'll also be delivering two sessions at DrupalCamp St. Louis 2014, on April 26 in Clayton, MO (just outside of the city of St. Louis); one on Drupal 8 (a show-and-tell), and one on Server Check.in (a case study).

If you're a Drupalist, I hope to see you at one of these events!

Meetings and Introverts

Erik Dietrich's blog, Daedtech, contains a lot of great posts concerning programming and workplace dynamics. In today's post, Meetings and Introverts: Strangers in Strange Lands Erik writes about the vexing relationship between introverted people and typical meetings. In a prior post, he wrote about the general problem of social situations and introverts:

Social situations are exhausting for me because of their inherent unpredictability as compared to something like the feedback loop of a program that I’m writing (or even the easily curated, asynchronous interaction of a social media vehicle like Twitter).

Many extroverts are unaware that their introverted brethren feel this way. Social situations (parties, large informal gatherings, etc.) energize extroverts, so it's hard for them to realize the opposite usually happens for introverted people. At the end of a large party or a long, intense meeting, an introvert (like myself) is exhausted.

It's not that I don't like being in these situations—sometimes they're quite enjoyable. But as events progress, my energy gets sapped, sometimes to the point where I'm pretty tired, mentally and physically (e.g. non-productive for a couple hours at least). Once removed from the party, meeting, etc., energy slowly recharges.

Erik puts it succinctly:

Extroverts draw energy from social situations and become invigorated, while introverts spend energy and become exhausted. And, when I’m talking about social situations, I mean drinks and bowling with a group of friends. Introverts like me enjoy these nights but find them tiring.

Meetings, round-table discussions, pair programming sessions, and other kinds of interactions are often draining, and by my estimate, consume more than double the actual meeting time in terms of productivity loss (interrupting flow, sapping mental energy that could be used to work on other problems, etc.).

Often, meetings devolve into bike-shedding discussions (see: Parkinson's law of triviality) where the discussion starts focusing on minutiae, even after the 'official' meeting is complete. Everyone (especially the introverts, who aren't usually keen on being seen as rude and dismissing themselves) sticks around for the inevitable half-hour discussion, even if the meeting is officially over.

Erik's entire post is well worth a read (for anybody—not just introverts), but he sums up the ideal meeting format nicely:

Having reasoned analysis, cogent arguments, and a plan is the way to bring as much predictability (and, in my opinion, potential for being productive) to the table as possible. For me, it’s also the way most likely to keep the day’s meetings from sucking the life and productivity right out of you.

I'll add to that: keep it brief, and invite only the people who really need to be there. Do you really need an entire team to attend, or just one stakeholder who can represent the team, and get more feedback from the entire team later, if needed?

Farewell, Grandpa Charlie

Less than two years ago, my family said farewell to Grandpa Geerling. Just a few days ago, my Grandfather on my mother's side passed away.

Grandpa Charlie

He was a humble man. Grandpa won't be mentioned in history books. He didn't do anything incredible in the world's eyes, but he was a great family man and role model.

Grandpa helped my Grandma (who is a saintly woman in her own right, and still with us, thanks be to God!) raise six girls in a modest home, with a modest sheet metal worker's salary. I can only imagine what it must've been like to come home to a wife and six lively daughters every day!

He also helped care for Nana, my great grandmother, for many years. She was another beautiful woman, though I only knew her for a short time (mostly through baking chocolate chip cookies with her!).

Whenever someone needed assistance in repairing something, or needed a specialized tool, Grandpa was there to help. He helped my brother repair a headlight motor mount on his Firebird, and helped my sister with a new sheet metal duct for her microwave.

He sang with the vigor of an Irish tenor, in his parish choir, around the home, and for our entire family at many events. He led us in prayer and in music, even late into his life. When his voice became too weak to sing, his daughter Ellen would raise up her own beautiful voice to continue the tune.

He made a good friend in Joey, a man with a mental disability. He would take Joey to lunch, bring him to family events, and let him share in the joys and love of our extended family.

He would go to Mass at Marygrove every Saturday (until he was unable to attend due to a knee injury), and the Sisters of the Good Shepherd who resided there could count on Grandpa to proclaim the readings whenever another lector was not present.

He had a beautiful fedora hat with a small feather, and he'd wear it in the proper way. He would let his grandchildren—and great grandchildren—play with the hat, touch the feather, wear it on their heads, and feel the smooth hat band.

He took coffee at the end of every meal. Sometimes at the beginning, too, so he could dunk his french fries, his chicken strips, his donut... anything that fit the brim of his mug was fair game for dunking.

He had the world's largest dictionary (as far as the grandkids knew), and it was always handy by his chair at the table. Perched atop was his word-of-the-day calendar, proclaiming "cerebral", "flue", "hirsute"—or, on the day he died, "hew."

hew \HYOO\
verb
1: to cut or fell with blows (as of an ax)
2: to give shape to with or as if with an ax
3: to conform or to adhere

"Hew", because we are now hewn from his enlivening presence and strong love. "Hew" also, as he hewed to all the great traditions of familial love and strong fatherhood. He loved his Church and his country, but most especially his wife, his children, his family, and God.

These are a few of the things I know of Grandpa Charlie.

Jeff and Grandpa Charlie

Grandpa, you were an inspiration. You devoted your life to your family and brightened everyone's day. I pray that you may have quick passage into Heaven so you can meet those who have inspired you, and be in peaceful and eternal rest.

Requiem Aeternam dona eis, Domine
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Requiescant in pace. Amen.

Self-Publishing a Book (on Ansible)

I've published the first portion of a book I've been writing, Ansible for DevOps. This is my first-ever book, and I've written a little about the process of writing on Server Check.in's blog: Self-publishing my first technical book on LeanPub.

Ansible for DevOps cover image

I'm excited about the early feedback I've already received—and I haven't even finished writing half the book! I'm hoping to finish the first complete draft of the book (and continue publishing it in stages on LeanPub) by summer 2014.

Snow Bird

During last week's record-breaking snowstorm in St. Louis, I was not motivated to brave the 10+ inches of snow and -20 (and lower) temperatures to get pictures outside of the comfort of my climate-controlled home. I did, however, snap some pictures of birds eating from the feeders in my backyard, which my wife wisely filled the day before the storm.

For a while, there was only one small bird eating from the sunflower seed feeder (there were a bunch of goldfinches on the thistle feeder):

Snow bird on feeder backyard winter

I'm not quite sure if this is a sparrow or finch, as the colors and contrast were affected quite a bit by the volume of snow falling between my lens and the feeder! This picture is retouched with a ton of extra contrast after the fact.

Whatever the bird, he was quite persistent!

A new year, a new standing desk

For the past eight months, I've been working at a cubicle, sitting around 8 hours a day, at my new job with Mercy. Prior to this job, I had gotten up to about 6 hours a day standing at my home office standing desk (see how I made the standing desk), and reverting to the sitting position has taken its toll on my back and neck!

I decided to start working from a standing position at work, but was presented with a challenge: how can I work standing at a cubicle that was built for sitting? Additionally, I couldn't drill any holes in walls or modify the cubicle structurally in any way. Challenge accepted!

Standing Desk in cubicle at work

I made the above standing desk out of a few panels of wood that I cut, stained, and polyurethaned between Christmas and the New Year, and it's now helping me improve my posture and reduce back, neck and arm fatigue at work. I took pictures of the process of building the desk, and posted an article explaining the process here: Build a wood standing desk for your cubicle.

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