Humanist, vegan, minimalist, programmer, collector of labels.
36,871 words
https://lanesawyer.dev @LaneSawyer

Our Broken World

Our world is broken.

It's been broken for a long time, but some people are only just noticing.

Rampant inequality, unrestrained consumption, deregulated markets, and a Laissez-faire attitude has led to a wholesale looting of the Earth, who has responded by sending us a climate crisis in response.

COVID-19 has been a wake up call for many people, especially in the United States. We're handling this pandemic by basically ignoring it, and, as a result, the deep economic and racial inequalities have been exposed in a way that can't be ignored.

The United States still ties healthcare to employment, even after record unemployment numbers kicked people off their insurance in the middle of the 21st Century's first global, ubiquitous, pandemic. This will lead to many citizens being saddled with incredible medical debts, in addition to having no way to pay for them.

And our government has demonstrated that they don't care.

A $1,200 one-time cash payment? While trillions are handed out to who knows which corporations? Transparency wasn't a requirement of dispersal.

It's insane. We care more about GDP than human lives. Our country has become a late-stage capitalistic hell-hole, where working hard is not rewarded with a decent life.

Instead, we've allowed incredible fortunes to be aggregated into the hands of a few people. Our politicians bow to corporate interests at the expense of everyday people.

This government is not a democracy. It never has been.

And now it's ceased to even be representational republic.

I don't know what the future will hold, but there will be a reckoning. Whether peaceful, by fixing our political system to actually represent the will of the people, or by force, things will change. Money fixes a lot of problems, but it doesn't get rid of a broken, overwhelmed, and angry public when they come knocking at your mansion door.

Surviving the Pandemic: Protests, Violence, and Panic Attacks

2020 is quite the year. Whenever I think we've finally hit rock bottom, we manage to go lower.

In the last month since I threw some thoughts out there, a lot has happened.

The biggest event is obviously the police murder of George Floyd that sparked worldwide protests. Hundreds of cities in every state in the US rose up in unison to push back against the frequent violence our police inflict on citizens, especially the disproportionate violence towards our Black friends and family.

Countries from around the world showed their support through their own massive protests. It was amazing to see the swell of support, and heartbreaking to watch the hundreds of videos of police violence in response to these peaceful protests.

Seattle is having our own adventure in that regard. If you've heard of CHAZ or CHOP or Free Capitol Hill, you'll know what I'm talking about.

A little backstory though.

Before CHOP

My neighborhood, Capitol Hill, has a police precinct near Cal Anderson Park (a great park I take Kal on walks to on almost a daily basis). Back during the early days of the George Floyd protests, the police stopped a march from proceeding through the block by the police station.

The police threw up barriers and stood shoulder-to-shoulder in full-on riot gear. There were nightly stand-offs between a peaceful protesting crowd and police that used tear gas and other violent crowd control weapons that we ban in war but use on our own citizens.

The National Guard was brought in to support the police. Each night, they'd face off for hours, at least until the police decided to attack.

For example, the pink umbrella.

Protesters next to the police barriers held up umbrellas to protect the crowd from the use of tear gas, pepper spray, and other chemical weapons. A policeman on the front line decided to grab a pink umbrella (because it "crossed the barrier", but that's just a bullshit excuse for the police to start the violence). After the protesters tried to pull the umbrella back, the police cleared the area using flash-bangs, tear gas, and pushing their line forward to clear the area.

This type of thing continued for a bit, with various moments of inexcusable police violence. The one that stands out to me in particular is a harrowing video of a woman who shot in the chest with a flash-bang. It stopped her heart and she only lived because the protest medics were able to keep her alive.

Eventually, the police pulled out of the area, and that gave birth to Free Capitol Hill, also know as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), and now, the Capitol Hill Occupy Protest (CHOP).

CHOP

The weeks after CHOP formed were so much more peaceful than when the cops were attacking protesters. I could sleep again without being startled out of sleep by an errant flash-bang and my dog's very loud response to them.

Watching CHOP come together after the police pulled out was amazing. There's a huge, beautiful "Black Lives Matter" mural painted on the street, which each letter painted by a different local Black artist. A new community garden section that has popped up in Cal Anderson. Groups have brought couches and chairs to have teaching sessions for people to learn more about Black oppression and police brutality, among other topics.

In addition, organizers are out getting petitions signed and displays of CHOP's demands have been set up prominently to try to keep the focus on the task at hand:

  1. De-fund the Seattle Police Department by at least 50%
  2. Invest in local Black communities
  3. Free the arrested protesters.

It has felt very much like the usual Capitol Hill summer block party, except most people are wearing masks and the focus is on dismantling racist systems rather than having a good time.

Unfortunately, it hasn't always been a good time.

CHOP Violence

There was one shooting a week or so back where a man drove his car into the CHOP crowd, a protester pulled the guy out so he wouldn't be able to kill anyone with his car, and the driver pulled out a handgun and shot the protester in the arm. The shooter then ran over to the police line, and I believe he's since been arrested for assault.

But this last weekend there were two shootings in/around CHOP. And the worst part is, I can't tell if I'm hearing fireworks or gunshots! On Friday, there were lots of fireworks to celebrate Juneteenth, which was awesome! Kal wasn't that happy about it, but I was glad to see my neighborhood celebrating the holiday. However, the fireworks have continued late into the night, with assholes setting off M-80s and other extremely loud and bomb-like fireworks in my neighborhood (not everything I'm hearing has come from CHOP). CHOP folks have been recruiting folks to patrol the area at night on bikes to watch for whoever is setting them off so we can figure out who is doing it and why.

Anyway, the fireworks have already created a stressful situation, with Kal startling me out of sleep when the pops and bangs startle him into a late night reflexive bark session. And now we've got shootings in the mix. It's been a tough weekend for CHOP, my Capitol Hill neighborhood, and my sleep schedule.

So, first shooting. A 19-year-old recent high school grad was killed and another person is in serious condition. It happened around 2:30 AM, but there were fireworks and M80s going off up until about 2 AM that night, so I was awake and stressed already. I had been checking Twitter to make sure the bangs were fireworks, and that's when I saw the shooting being reported.

And less than 48 hours later we got another one. Again at night. Again with fireworks going off around the same time. Thankfully the victim seems to have suffered only a shoulder wound and should be okay. Again, my neighborhood and I got no sleep.

I'm relieved that the noises I heard Sunday night/Monday morning ended up all being fireworks. But my body doesn't know that, so the panic attacks came anyway.

So I'm going on a total of maybe 13 hours of sleep in the last three days. I'm more If this post makes no sense or has spelling errors, let's blame it on that.

Back to the topic at hand.

Investigations are still ongoing for these shootings, so it's impossible to tell if this recent violence has been from disagreements within CHOP, outside right-wing agitators coming in, or even the police department itself working to turn the community and city against CHOP.

And that's what is scaring me so much. I have felt completely safe during the dozen or so times I've walked through there, but now that we've gained national attention, including major mischaracterization of CHOP by both the orangutan in office and his propaganda arm (Fox News), outside folks are starting to come make trouble. The Proud Boys where here last week, rumors of gun wielding bike gangs making their way up to Washington are floating around, and Trump continues to stoke the flames.

I'm more scared of a disproportionate response from outside my city than anything we'll do to ourselves.

Fox News was literally modifying photos of CHOP to insert gunmen on its CHOP news stories. The President is encouraging racial hatred by playing to his white supremacist base. The dog whistles are easy to hear, and sometimes he says the racist stuff out loud with zero filters. The leader of our country is directing the weight of his troll army at a small section of a single neighborhood in one large west coast city.

At this point, I've got a little bug-out bag and am ready to leave my neighborhood at a moments notice, especially if Trump does something idiotic like deploying Troops to "take care" of CHOP.

Final Thoughts

This was a rambling post. I know my lack of sleep is nothing compared to the tragic loss of life from one of the shootings this weekend. I'm hoping the investigations can find the perpetrators and they can be held accountable.

Some people might call me out as a hypocrite, since "investigations" sure do sound like police work, and I'm all about abolishing the police.

But many people misunderstand what "abolish" means.

It's not that we don't need people in the community to enforce laws, resolve conflict, and protect our communities. We absolutely need all of that! But the institution of policing was originally started to round up slaves. Many officers have a toxic masculinity problem, and many are flat out racist. Many officers are also wonderful people, but the system is what enables the violence and racism to flourish, which implicates all cops.

Abolishing the police would help us reconcile the past. To finally admit, as a nation, that it's time for reparations. Abolishing the police is a chance to start new, with new names, duties, and procedures. A complete reformation, starting with burning down the old police ideologies and practices.

Think about the abolition in terms of renaming or reclaiming hateful things from the past. Names are powerful things. It's why Black people reclaimed the N-word. It's why the LGBTQIA+ community does the same thing with homophobic slurs. It's why my county, King County, in Washington renamed itself after Martin Luther King, Jr. instead of a slave-holding racist plantation owner fucktard.

Policing in the US is just too toxic. Too much racist history. Too much pain. It's too far gone.

Finally, despite all the craziness and violence and lack of sleep and panic attacks, I'm still 100 percent in support of CHOP and their goals. I'm hoping they can learn from past protests, like Occupy Wall Street, so CHOP can keep being a safe, welcoming place for the community that pushes Seattle towards a brighter future where all its citizens are treated equally under the law.

Catastrophizing for Good

So my friend and I were talking about how crazy 2020 has been. Both of us can be pessimistic at times about the direction our country is headed (or as I call it, being realistic), so we did some catastrophizing with over-the-top things so we can be wrong about some of the bad stuff coming up this year.

I ended up writing a short story! I really enjoy creative writing and need to do it more! The story below could use a bit more substance, dialog, descriptions, and all the stuff that makes a story great, but until I get around to fleshing it out, I thought I'd share the texts I sent!

The Hairpiece

I bet that Trump loses, refuses to step down, and the military backs him.

we go full on "man in the high castle"

and you and I join Antifa

we plan an ocean's 11 type adventure to steal Trump's hairpeace, removing all his power

*hairpiece lol

turns out, Trump is actually a really good fighter

so we fight him and you tear his hairpiece off

and it

turns him into a lizard personnnnnnn

and so then we're like, oh shit, Alex Jones was right

and Alex Jones bursts through the wall, Kool-aid man style

so we join his elite lizard fighting team, which we take into space

turns out they have a moon base

well, thankfully the hairpiece has the key to stopping all the lizards

we reverse engineer the cloaking technology in the hairpiece and use it to disguise ourselves while we infiltrate the moon base

we learn their customs, live among them

eventually we realize, they're just people too

but we have mission

we discover where they keep the nukes, and go plant some malware (turns out, they LOVE Windows systems so it was easy to write a good malware bot)

but we get discovered!

AHGHHH!

we fight our way back to the ship

I lose an arm in an epic sword match with the biggest lizard man we've seen yet. I dispatch him, but the move costs me my arm

we get back to the ship and launch, taking our little lizard puppy Spiky along for the ride

and it blows up epicly in the background

we take the hairpiece home and display it predominantly. Thanks to its powers, we have wonderful new tech to lead us into a peaceful, new world.

It truly was

a haripeace

Surviving the Pandemic: Part 2

Time has no meaning during an eternal present.

To mark its passage, I might as well write about how things are two months after my last post.

How am I

Overall, I'm doing okay. Between minor bouts of depression and copious amounts of self-care, I'm keeping my head above water. I'm even being productive in my free time (which I'll talk about in the Rust section of this article). I did get a 20 percent pay cut due to the economic shock of shutting down the country. That did not feel nice, but I've coped by re-prioritizing my budget and making a few tweaks to my life.

At this point in the lockdown, I have a few go-to hobbies. I read books, listen to podcasts, take long, physically-distant walks around Seattle with Kaladin, play video games, and attend online happy hours and game nights. There's nothing too exciting in any of that, but I have been loving the opportunity to voraciously consume content. I'm going to be hitting my book/movie/tv show/video game goals for sure this year!

Every so often I'll have something interesting pop up in my life. Like yesterday, I took Kaladin to the dog park. A husky stole his ball, and the owner stood there and watched as his pup tore holes in the ball, removing all the bounce. At that point, Kal and I had to go home because there was no more ball to play with. It sucked, and it was annoying that the owner didn't stop their dog from destroying someone else's toy, but on the other hand, I had a social interaction with a person! Wooooooo! Haha

That's how starved I am for people. I'm an introvert, but even this 60+ days of isolation is getting to be a bit too much.

Current State of Things

Living in Washington, I'm feeling pretty good about how things have progressed in Seattle, which I'm extremely grateful for. Our governor, Jay Inslee, isn't perfect, but he started taking this seriously early on, and Seattle and Washington in general has so far weathered the storm well. I think we're floating at around 1000 deaths right now, which is far less than our "fair share" of the current death count. That's a morbid win for my state!

My biggest concern are for friends and family in other states. Some states haven't really taken much action and are already "open" again, and those infection and death numbers keep ticking up because their state government didn't take the threat of a virus seriously.

On that note, it's been interesting to watch President Trump change his tone over the last few months and finally recognize that the virus is a real threat. Unfortunately, there's been little coordination from the federal government, especially from the President himself, who frankly shows more concern for the S&PO 500 than the health of the citizens he's meant to protect as he avoids questions from the media and issues information contradictory to the CDC and other organizations.

Outside of all the political happenings, the American people are at least doing a decent job at pulling together and supporting one another. There have been gun-toting idiots protesting in crowds to have their states opened up though, so we do have some stupid people out there spreading the virus, which will make this last even longer! Wish they'd think for a second before making big crowds...

Anyway, Seattle hasn't had much (if any) of that ridiculousness. Instead, we're getting beautiful art painted on the window coverings of buildings. It's been a wonderful splash of color in my otherwise drab life. Spring is on its last legs, and seeing all the petals falling and flowers blooming make walks around Seattle for Kaladin and my daily exercise a really nice experience.

Despite the good things, I still need this to be over sooner than later. Thankfully, it seems like Washington is on the downward slope of this thing, but even that is hard to say because this virus can scale up so quickly. It's weird thinking it's been about 2 months since the lockdown stuff started. And the virus was already on my radar for a few months before that.

This pandemic is basically a year-long natural disaster. I still think it's going to get worse before it gets better, but I would love to be proved wrong on that.

Rust

Finally, to wrap up the second of what is to likely be many "Surviving the Pandemic" entries, I wanted to talk about the Rust programming language.

As I've mentioned previously, I love Rust. It's been my hobby language for all of quarantine, and I actually have something useful to show for it!

I merged in a Pull Request to a Rust crate called clap, which is a library for parsing command line arguments. You can check out the minor change, but even though the change was small it felt good to make a contribution for a programming language I don't use professionally.

The clap crate is actually one of the top 100 Rust crates out there, so a bunch of people out there will be using my code! I love when I can write things others find useful.

I also published a new minor version of my aws_parameter_update crate. I think there's one or two more tweaks I want to make before calling that library complete, but it's still completely functional, which makes me happy because it's my first little baby library I spun into existence.

My First Crate

If you've talked to me in the past couple months, I've likely mentioned the Rust programming language. Andf if you have any sort of programming experience, I've probably given a miniature sales pitch to you on why you should learn it.

In a word, Rust is beautiful. I've never seen such a thoughtfully crafted language that focuses on the developer experience while still being blazing fast and eliminating entire categories of programming errors that plauge developers (null exceptions and memory management, to name two).

Rust is a relatively new programming language, only reaching it's 1.0 release in 2015. Compare this to languages like C and C++, which were created last century. The creators of Rust took everything that we've learned over decades of programming language design into account, and it shows.

The language is so damn good that I'm absolutely obsessed with Rust right now. Working with it over the last few months, I can easily understand why it's been the most loved language by programmers three years running.

Thankfully, I've had the free time available to be obsessed!

During this global pandemic, I don't have much to do after work, which has let me dive deep into the language, primarily through reading the Rust Book and coding up some tools that I can use in my day-to-day life.

One of those tools I created is the "AWS Parameter Update" tool, which allows the user to update any of their parameters in AWS without having to log into the AWS console.

It's not that great, and there's definitely some improvements I want to make... But it works well enough that I decided to publish it to the world!

I don't expect, or even recommend, that anybody use it, but it exists!

You can check it out here:

https://crates.io/crates/aws_parameter_update

That's about it for this post!

I just wanted to celebrate that I published my very first Rust Crate. I never published any of my JavaScript or C# code (the two primary languages I end up using for work), so already throwing some Rust code out into the world feels like the start of something new for me and my programming career.

I expect to publish more crates in the future, since Rust is now my go-to language for personal projects (and if I ever see an opportunity to introduce it at work, I absolutely will). When those crates come out, they'll likely be a whole lot better than my AWS Parameter Tool and I'll go into much more detail about the actual tool itself when blogging about them.

Until then,

Stay Rusty.

(Lol that's awful. Not gonna use that as a sign off ever again).

Surviving the Pandemic: A Rant

Since we're in the midst of a global pandemic, I figured I should write my thoughts on it. This is a strange moment in world history that I hope we'll all never experience again, so keeping some record seemed prudent for future me to look back on.

Working from Home

It's day ? of working from home. Yup, I've already lost track of the days. I started working from home a handful of days before my company asked us all to do it as well, so I think it's been about three weeks? All the days blend together now.

Maybe it's a good thing I'm not keeping track. My mind has embraced this "new normal" of working from my apartment.

I will say, working remote is difficult if you're not set up for it. I'm in a 309 square foot studio apartment right now, so there's little space to work with. My desk was already pretty packed, so it took some re-arraigning of everything in my apartment and expanding the desk (it has "wings" that can swing up) to its full size.

And now that I got a new plant today (I realized I needed some nature in my house to stay sane. More plants will definitely follow!)

My current desk setup

So now that I'm set up at home, working feels pretty normal. It's not much different than working from an office. The thing I miss most is being in the physical presense of people. The random conversations that happen throughout the day when you pass by friends and co-workers now have to be a deliberate effort in the online WFH space.

Worrying About the World

If you know me, you know I wear my heart on my sleeve. Seeing all the suffering caused by the pandemic, both physically and economically, really gets to me. I've made sure to turn down my news consumption, because things keep getting worse.

And I can't do anything about it. Well, I can't do anything more than continue to "socially distance".

A silver lining of this whole thing is that I am performing a civic duty for playing video games, reading, programming, or snoozing at home!

But other than staying home, I can't help. My skillset as a programmer is more or less useless, outside of contributing to some COVID-19 reporting projects, but all the websites with that information I voraciously consume about the virus already exist.

So I just chill at home, reading books, learning new programming languages, and playing a lot of video games (like Animal Crossing, which came out at the perfect time!).

Acknowledging my privilege hurts. My life is fine, outside of a little bit of new loneliness, but so many are facing the worst times of their life. I didn't do much to deserve the cushy life I have right now. I can do my job from home. I get paid enough to live comfortably in one of the more expensive cities in the US. I am not currently worried about losing my job (although we'll see how things develop over the next few months!)

But then I see the numbers of people losing their job (3.3 million just applied for unemployment benefits!), and with the average person not being able to handle a $1,000 emergency, we are not prepared for this as a country.

I constantly have a rage smoldering inside for the policies and laws that enabled us to reach this point.

For example, since we've tied healthcare to our jobs, all these folks being let go in the service industry will now lose the very thing that would economically protect them if they got the very virus they lost their jobs over!

It's absolutely bonkers.

I can't believe we haven't joined the civilized world in guaranteeing healthcare as a human right. We should go further, and introduce an economic bill of rights that guarantees housing, healthcare, food, and even internet acceess for all. In a modern society, we shouldn't be gatekeeping the foundational benefits of living in a society.

Right now people are literally making the decision to go to work sick or be unable to buy groceries next week. And a lot of those people are the ones making our food, cleaning our buildings, or facilitating other in-person services.

Do you want to get sick because someone was forced to come to work in order to feed their family? Or would you rather we have guaranteed paid sick leave so sick people will stay home while sick, and flatten the curve so fewer people die.

Even from an economic incentive perspective, making healthcare part of compensation reduces worker power to move to new jobs that they might excel at even more than their current one. Imagine the prosperity we could unlock if we allowed for a more fluid and free workforce! Removing healthcare from the equation would allow more people to find the jobs that fit them best, increasing productivity and job satisfaction.

And what happens for people who need treatment for COVID-19? It's gonna cost a ton, especially for severe cases. We will save people's lives, but then burden them with the weight of un-payable debt. It's asinine. People will literally forgo regular medical visits (which keep you healthy!) because they can't afford them, which leads to worse, more expensive health outcomes down the line.

We need universal health care now. We needed it 50 years ago when many of our allies were setting up similar systems.

COVID-19 is laying bare all the failings of our country.

I truly hope we wake up as a nation and learn from this tragedy. Right now, we all need to get through this together, but just as importantly, we need to consider the type of world we want to live in when this is all over. Hopefully it's one full of compassions towards individuals, and not, as MLK Jr. put it, our current system of socialism for the rich and rugged individualism for the poor.

Hello, New Blog!

I did it! I moved all of my past Medium posts over to my new blog.

It took a couple months of chipping away at it regularly, but I got all 31,996 words moved over!

Now that I can't get away with the excuse of having to move old content anymore, I supposed I should start writing new content. That's always the tricky part.

But I do have a few goals that I'm striving for:

  1. Finish my guide to effective development teams
  2. Publish some of my learnings about the Rust programming lanugage
  3. Comment on current events, political issues, new video games, and basically whatever comes to mind (like many of my past blog posts have been)

We'll see if I can get another good, long-running writing habit going again.

🤞🏻️

Tips to Reduce the Environmental Impact of your Job

Work makes the world go round. Humans putting in time and effort to create amazing things is one of the reasons we have so much abundance in this world.

But the same work we do to create all the cool things many of us on this planet enjoy also contributes to our rapidly decaying environment.

In order to save our planet, we need both systemic and individual change.

This list is compiled from my personal journey to reduce my individual impact, but it can also be used to create corporate policies that encourage a lower environmental impact.

It is still very much a work in progress, as I would like to back up each tip with a source in order to have a better argument as to why we should all be striving for these changes, but, for now, it's a place where I'm developing my thoughts on what I can do personally.

I'm an IT consultant on a travel project, so I'm sure some of the tips make no sense in your job, and I'm likely probably missing a lot of great ideas that don't explicitly apply to my own job. If that's the case, shoot me an email and let me know!

Now, on to the list:

Commuting/Travel

  • Live close enough to walk to work to avoid using motorized transport
  • Live somewhere that allows you to take the bus and light rail to avoid using single occupancy vehicles
  • Drive an electric car (or high MPG car) to reduce gas usage and carbon output
  • Carpool when traveling with other employees to reduce the number of vehicles needed to travel to and from airports
  • Avoid flying as much as possible to reduce carbon emissions

Food

  • Eliminate or reduce your meat consumption to decrease land use and carbon emissions
  • Prefer restaurants who source their food locally to reduce food transportation impact
  • Go to restaurants and eat on their silverware instead of ordering take-out to reduce container waste
  • If you have to order out, choose places with compostable or recyclable containers to reduce contributing to the landfill
  • Bring your own utensils to reduce using single-use utensils
  • Apply condiments at the restaurant or at home to reduce the usage of single-use condiments
  • Carry a water bottle with you to reduce the number of disposable cups
  • Use a coffee mug to reduce the number of disposable cups
  • If you don't have your water bottle or cup, choose compostable or recyclable cups
  • Eat fewer processed foods to reduce the energy put into making food
  • Eat fewer packaged foods to reduce contributing to landfill and recycling

Technology

  • Write efficient code to reduce energy and physical material usage
  • Shut down testing environments outside of business hours to save energy
  • Take good care of your devices so they last longer to reduce the number of devices manufactured
  • Use Linux or other streamlined operating systems when your laptops start getting slow and it will feel like new machine to get more life out of it

Hotels

  • Opt-in to green initiatives at the hotel. Some hotel chains (like Marriott) will even give you bonus points!
  • Hang up towels for use the next day to reduce water and energy usage
  • If there is not green initiative, put up the Do Not Disturb sign when you leave so your room doesn't get cleaned daily
  • Look out for greener hotels who don't use single-use plastics for toiletry supplies
  • Choose hotels close to your destination so you can walk

Schrodinger’s Apartment

Every day I come home to a mystery. Sliding my key into the lock, I pause to wonder what kind of apartment I’ll find.

Some days I open the door and my home greets me with open arms. I smile, entering my sanctuary. Where there is a place for everything and everything in its place, even if that place is scattered on the floor or tossed on the table. Living on your own means you can build you own little world exactly the way you want.

On those days my dog greets me with the wag of his tail and a barrage of kisses. I unpack my stuff, throw on some music or podcasts, and cook a tasty meal. I give far too much of it to my dog (I can’t say no to those adorable eyes!) and I savor every bite he leaves me.

On those days, I play with my dog. We do games of hide and seek, tug of war, and wrestle on the bed. We practice some tricks and I fail in teaching him to stop pulling on his leash. Then we snuggle on the couch or bed while I happily lose myself in a wonderful book, movie, or video game.

On those days, I tidy up, knock a few things off my to-do list, and fall into bed, happy to be alive. I fall asleep, relaxed and ready to tackle the next day.


Other days, my door opens into a prison.

I step into a small dark box, my senses on high alert. Loneliness oozes from the walls; a dark, engulfing sludge of nothingness. I have to be careful to avoid it, lest it swallow me up. Sometimes I’m not quick enough and it gets me.

On those days, when my home becomes a cage, I turn on all the lights but it’s never enough. I look around, swearing the space had shrunk since the last time I was here. The mere 509 square feet stands precariously balanced between being cozy and suffocating and I never know which I’ll get.

On those days my dog is a burden, and even when he licks away my tears I can’t find the strength to smile and love him back.

On those days I can barely breathe. On those days I wish I could disconnect from the world. Put it on pause. Hit fast forward. Anything to get out from underneath the sadness.

But that’s not how life works.

So I press on, hopeful for better days ahead. And better days always do come! More and more frequently lately. I know that life won’t always be this strange and dark.

Looking back on how far I’ve come, I’m struck with amazement. I can do this. I’ve already done this. Even when life gets tough, I know that my best years are yet to come. So on days when I am strong, I smile through the tears. I hug my dog. And I let the feelings wash over me in a cleansing wave of emotion.

I will get through this.

But fuck, those prison days suck.

Rainy thoughts from a rainy evening

I’ve always loved the rain.

I don’t really know when it started. Maybe when I was a little child, singing songs at church every Sunday. Songs about being cleansed from sin, just like the earth is cleansed after rain. Or maybe it was the hours spent splashing in the gutter whenever a heavy storm rolled through. Or the times I was caught without an umbrella, hurrying home to avoid getting wet but loving the feeling the rain on my face.

Now I find myself living in the prototypical rainy city: Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.

Summer is coming to a close, which means rainy days are sneaking back into my life, almost as if they never left. Tonight is one of those nights, where the evening rain steals the bright hours from the afternoon.

It’s comforting; the rain. Things are quieter. Colors are muted and the world grows dim. People stay inside, snuggling blankets, pets, and significant others while they do “indoor activities”, the kind you’re only supposed to do in poor weather. Things like reading, gaming, and cooking. Deep conversations. Snuggling with a hot beverage.

My most beloved hobbies happen to be indoor activities. Maybe that’s why I love the rain. It covers for me. Rainy weekends give me a legitimate excuse to say I did nothing but read a book for two days straight. Do that on a sunny day and people think you’re crazy. But sprinkle a little water from the sky and you’re right as rain.

But lately, I’ve started thinking that I love the rain for an entirely different reason.


I was diagnosed with depression this summer, at 28 years old. Growing up I knew I had some anxiety, but every time I saw ads for depression medicine I thanked my lucky stars that I wasn’t depressed like those poor souls in the ads.

You see, I was sort of an asshole. (Still am, if I’m being honest. But I’m getting better! I think…)

I believed that bad things didn’t happen to good people. It was impossible for me to be depressed. I was good Mormon boy, for crying out loud! My challenges in life were supposed to be fighting off the temptation to masturbate, not drink coffee, and avoid saying bad words. I clearly was not supposed to face the debilitating challenge of depression! That was only for people who sinned and did not have the light of the Gospel in their life.

In my young mind, depression was never a possibility for me. That denial came back to haunt me.

I was always a pretty happy, hard-working, social guy. While I was never anywhere close to popular, I had a really great group of friends. My life was fantastic. The hardest things I faced in life was getting good grades, not sinning (i.e. not masturbating), and wondering if I would make the varsity soccer team. I had hard times, just like anyone does, but by most metrics I had a good childhood.

I never thought I would be someone who has depression.

So when I moved to Ecuador to be a Mormon missionary, I had no idea what hell would be unleashed on my mind. For the first time in my life, I struggled. I found myself in a far-away country, learning a new language, with no friends or family to help me out. It was an incredible culture shock, and I did not adjust well.

During my nine months in Ecuador, something inside me started to break open, like a slumbering evil hatching after decades of incubation.

I don’t know if it was the cult-like rules that missionaries are forced to follow, the separation from my friends, family, and normal way of life, or something else entirely. All I know is that my body started a revolt. Aches and pains exploded at random, sometimes bad enough that I couldn’t even get out of bed. At one point I hurt so badly that another missionary blessed me and cast out whatever evil spirit was trying to take over my body.

Little did I know, the demons were coming from inside my body.

One night during the rainy Ecuadorian summers, a huge storm hit. The power was knocked out, so me and the other missionaries would gather around a few candles, reading whatever church-approved literature we had lying around.

I think this is where my love of indoor activities blossomed. It was one of the few times on my mission where I had more than thirty minutes to spend how I saw fit. Missionary schedules are generally quite busy, and you’re never supposed to be out of sight from your companion. But on rainy nights with no power, we had a couple hours to ourselves to read, pray, study, plan, or think.

During those precious few moments, I would diligently read the missionary handbooks and rules. I would memorize my favorite scriptures in Spanish. I would think about what life would be like after my mission. How I would come home, go to Brigham Young University, find a beautiful wife, and have a boatload of children.

Rainy nights like that were for daydreaming of the amazing life I was bound to have. They were also a rare moment where I could lay down and rest, with no pressure to be a missionary. Time where I could massage my screaming calves and try to relax my rock-hard shoulders.

I loved the rain for that. It gave an introvert some very needed rest from the extroverted work of a Mormon missionary.

But those nights of partial recovery were few and far between. I was exhausted, both physically and mentally. So after just nine months in Ecuador, I was sent home to Idaho to rest and recover.

The monster of depression and anxiety had won its first major victory in the fight for my happiness.

Since then, it’s won quite a few more fights.

Depression is a sneaky opponent. Until you realize it’s there, you spent countless nights wondering what the hell is wrong with your brain. If you don’t ever realize you’re under attack, it will tear you apart.

I was horrified of even the thought that I had depression, so I spent years in denial. Only after my depression threatened my job did I even start to think that something was amiss.

It took me three years after realizing I had mental health issues before I found a therapist. It didn’t take him long to diagnose me with depression. I regret waiting those three years to get help. During that time, my depression did a lot of damage. I thought I was worthless. That I would never amount to anything. At times I thought that life wasn’t worth living. Depression was a huge factor in my marriage falling apart, and it’s caused me to live with constant body aches and pains that I now accept might just hang around forever. The pain, both physical and emotional, tints my vision, casting a dull gray cloud over every aspect of my life.

For years, my world has been gloomy.

Muted.

Sad.

And that’s why I love the rain. It makes the world look more like how I see it every day.

Rain gives me an excuse to lean into myself. To do those indoor activities that I love. To write. To feel. To be me, depression and all.

I’ve spent a lot of time not being me.

I’ve tried running from it, denying the reality of my situation. I was too terrified to face the truth: That I have depression.

I finally wised up after far too many years of suffering. I’ve accepted that I’m broken. Depression is a bitch, but now that I know what I’m fighting, it’s a hell of a lot easier to punch back.

Things have gotten better lately. I’m winning that fight, at least for now. I’m doing all the things they tell you to do to keep depression at bay, and it seems to be working.

I mean, if I can get through marital separation and an impending divorce without falling into a depression, I must be doing something right.

Because I’m finally taking action, I’m starting to realize that I don’t have to be depressed forever. I don’t always have to see the world through a rainy haze.


Ah right, the rain. That’s what I was talking about.

Rain is an interesting natural phenomenon. Sad, gut-wrenching moments in movies are often accompanied by rain. Nothing screams “I AM DEVASTATED BY THIS MOMENT” as much the image of someone collapsed and sobbing in the pouring rain.

But rain is more than sadness. It’s hope and renewal. It’s nourishment and peace. It’s comfort. It’s life. Each individual raindrop is a different feeling, all mixing together to drench the world with a great symphony of emotions emotions.

We couldn’t survive without the rain, just as we can’t live without our feelings. All of them.

And for that, I love it.

One Simple Thing: Walk to Work

At the end of last year I changed projects at work, which allowed me to start commuting to my company’s downtown office instead of a client site. Since I live about a mile away from the office I started walking to work each morning.

At first it was a little tough. The distance itself is doable. But the 25 minute walk isn’t any shorter than my previous commute, so during those early days I longed to hop in my car, crank up the A/C or heater, and be there in 10 minutes.

The walk itself is generally nice. Seattle is absolutely gorgeous in the summer (unless some crazy forest fire is causing some of the worst air quality in Seattle’s history) and the mild winters means a 30 minute walk isn’t too difficult to navigate.

Untuck my shirt in the summer, throw on a rain jacket in the winter, put on a mask during the forest fires. It’s easy. I don’t ever have to deal with inches of snow or 100 degree heat.

The hardest part is the rain. I’ve had days where my shoes will be completely soaked either to an errant puddle or lack of planning.

But after almost a year of walking to work, I never want it any other way!

Walking to work is something that everybody should get to experience at least once in your life. When you walk, you are reliant on nothing but your body to get you from place to place. You move relatively slowly, taking in your environment as you stroll by. Unique social interactions take place as people navigate busy sidewalks and intersections.

Negotiating crossroads with strangers in cars is a particularly unique experience. When you live in the city, most cars understand that pedestrians have soft, killable bodies and that walkers should be given deference. Wielding that power by making four tons of steel come to a stop with nothing but a glance is addicting.

There is an inner peace that comes through the methodical steps of one’s stride.

Sometimes your steps sync to the music. You power home, the beat carrying you like the wind.

Other times, you forget you’re even moving your legs! They just keep going and your mind is free to wander while your feet take you home.

When you stop to pay attention, the regular thrum of your footstep on the concrete is a constant companion. You feel connected to the city, one of its many inhabitants moving from one place to another. You are one small piece of an autonomous organism that keeps the city’s heart alive.

Most of us don’t listen to that beat, but it’s always there. My favorite walks are the ones where I tune in and feel the city moving beneath me.

As great as that all is, there’s one benefit that rises above all the rest:

Regular exercise does wonders for your health.

And yes, long walks are exercise. Not the most intense of exercise, but it’s far better than sitting behind a desk or in a car all day.

Since I started walking to work, I have lost 25 pounds! Simply walking three miles a day gave me moderate amounts of exercise, without me doing anything other than commute! When you walk to work, you traveling the way humans have since our ancestors figured out how to stand on two legs.

That’s why walks are enjoyable and good for our health. We are biologically hardwired to do it! Our ancestors often hunted by walking after prey until it literally collapsed of exhaustion, unable to run away any longer.

I know that not everybody is in a position to walk to work. But if you have the opportunity, you should take advantage of it. I’m not sure I can ever commute any other way again (although I bet I’d love cycling to work).

If you’re looking for a way to connect with your city or surroundings or want to live a healthier lifestyle, you can’t go wrong with a walking commute.

The One Thing: Walk to work

When the words come but you’re too scared to publish: By trying to please everybody, you please nobody

Nobody will have noticed that I’ve started publishing content less frequently. That’s what happens when you’re inconsistent. There is no audience to care whether you write or not.

Today I realized that I have almost as many drafts as I have published works on Medium. While I haven’t published a ton, I had kept a fairly steady cadence over the last few years until a few months ago.

As you can see from the screenshot below, I start a lot of stories that I never finish.

Drafts vs published
My stories page, with almost as many drafts as public

Apparently I have a lot to say, but I’m afraid to say it.

Fear, plus a healthy dose of generalized anxiety, keeps me from publishing any of it. Hell, two of those drafts are about how I can’t bring myself to publish anything anymore.

What I’ve realized is that I am terrified of offending people. While many of those drafts are somewhat innocuous, the ones I want to publish most are those that might be seen as divisive or even contentious. Articles about my veganism, atheism, progressivism, and the superiority of spaces over tabs sit unpublished because I don’t want to rock the boat.

I’ve avoided publishing because I’ve already lost enough friends since college, when I transformed from an extremely conservative Mormon to a loud-and-proud social democrat atheist. Shortly after realizing almost everything I had believed for the first 23 years of my life was utter bullshit, I decided to share that revelation with the world, much to the chagrin of many of my friends and family. For those unfamiliar with Mormonism, it’s a big deal when somebody leaves the faith (and almost even more so when somebody says they are a Democrat).

Facebook was my battleground. I felt morally obliged to inform my family and friends that their religion and politics were awful, thanks in part to the missionary zeal I was originally taught as a Mormon. I had discovered the truth, so how could I not share it with those I loved most?

I realized after my Facebook crusade that the complete 180 degree swing I experienced had inadvertently severed ties with many of my dear friends, simply because we have nothing in common anymore. How was I supposed to relate to my friends who already have three kids and believe that they’ll live forever with Jesus when I’m childless and awaiting the comfortable black void of permanent death?

So in order to preserve what I had left, I limited my writing to things that are agreeable.

But I’m anything but agreeable.

I’m opinionated to a fault. When I find the “truth” I run full steam ahead with it. I research the hell out of causes I find important, and I stock up on verifiable facts that I can throw in the face of those who disagree with me. The veracity of some of those facts are debatable, but we all have our blind spots when it comes to our beliefs. I’m not special in that regard. But I do my research and try to live my life in accordance to as many truths as I can find.

But losing friends isn’t fun, even if you’re right. So I slowly stopped writing stories covering the things I cared most about. Instead, I wrote fluff pieces about backing into your parking spaces or how bidets are the shit. And while I occasionally ranted against things like gun violence, I stopped sharing my opinions on the things that matter most because I didn’t want to lose the few friends I had left.

Those opinions have been bottled up ever since, living a secluded existence in my Medium drafts folder. And while it’s clearly not prudent for anyone to share every thought that drifts lazily through their brain, I do wish I would share more of them.

So maybe I will.

Maybe I’ll realize that I will never please everybody.

Maybe I’ll realize that I can disagree but still be respectful.

Maybe I’ll realize that there is more to life than religion or politics.

Maybe I’ll realize that opposition brings growth and that while my opinion is just one of many in a vast sea of people clamoring for attention on the Internet, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try to share it.

Until then, I’ll keep racking up unpublished draft after unpublished draft, bottling up my opinions in an effort to make everybody happy.

But at least I’ve realized what’s going on. I’m not as self-aware as I would like to be, but I’m trying to do better. And even though nobody will care — nobody will likely clap for this post — I was brave enough to publish my short exercise in self-reflection.

Maybe those other drafts will get published one day as well.

Code Reviews: What they are, why you need them, and how to get started

Have you ever come across a line of code that made you pause and think WTF is going on here? You get in a huff because some careless programmer did something completely wrong and wrote poorly formatted, incomprehensible code.

Then you do a git-blame and discover that you wrote the line yourself.

Whether it’s poor logic, the use of tabs over spaces, or even a brilliantly crafted solution that is difficult to comprehend, reading code can feel like translating a cryptic language. When nobody on your team shares what they’ve coded with each other, the codebase — no matter how well architected — will quickly fall into disarray. The solution?

Code reviews!

Code reviews are a fantastic way of transferring knowledge between teammates and ensuring that quality code is being committed. Regular code reviews are one of the many processes that effective development teams need, and they play a key role in ensuring the long-term maintainability of a project.

This article will cover what code reviews are, why your team needs to be doing them, and how to get the practice started if it’s not currently part of your team’s routine.

What is a code review?

A code review is the analysis of another developer’s source code. These reviews help find mistakes and improve overall code quality. Code reviewers are responsible for making sure that only clean, well-structured code is allowed into the codebase. Reviewers look for the proper use of design patterns and coding styles, offering suggestions and giving constructive feedback when they encounter code that does not meet the expected quality level.

By both reviewing other people’s code and having your own code reviewed, you’ll get exposure to a variety of perspectives and learn a lot about what constitutes good code. As you grow in your career, you’ll figure out what type of code reviews work best for you and your team. But if you want some inspiration, check out the list below!

Things to Look for When Reviewing Code:

  • Anything not meeting the Definition of Done
  • Commented out code that could be removed
  • Descriptive variable names
  • Straightforward logic
  • Proper use of design patterns
  • The addition of unit tests covering the new feature or bug fix
  • That existing coding styles have been followed (things like spacing, indentation, putting code in the right file, etc.)
  • Descriptive comments are used where needed
  • That the code actually addresses the problem that needs to be solved
  • Front-end code is accessible and matches UI/UX designs

To put it simply, your goal as a reviewer is to enforce good coding standards so that your entire team can continue to quickly read, understand, and extend your code.

When you find some code during a review that needs to be changed, you let the person submitting the code review know about it. The original programmer then applies the fix and BOOM! Your code quality levels up!

Now before you get drunk with power, not every piece of feedback given during a code review has to be addressed. Sometimes team members have different opinions on what constitutes “good code”. While the majority of disagreements can be solved by referencing your team’s standards, it’s impossible to cover every scenario with documentation. As you participate in more code reviews, you’ll gain a better understanding of your teammate’s coding styles. As that understanding grows, negotiating code changes will become easier.

Once changes are agreed upon, the code reviewee will implement the changes and submit them again for review. This cycle continues until everyone agrees that the code is good enough to pull into the codebase. After the code is merged, the code review is complete and the developers can move on to their next task.

So now we know what a code review is, where does this review actually take place?

Code reviews can be conducted in a variety of ways. It doesn’t matter if your teammate rolls over to your desk for an informal walk-through, or if everyone submits formal pull requests using tools like GitHub or Bitbucket. Hell, you could even use a message in a bottle or share the code on Snapchat.

It doesn’t matter how you conduct the code review. What matters is that you do the code review.

While I prefer a mix of in-person and online code reviews, your team will have its own unique needs. Some of you may be completely remote, making in-person reviews infeasible. Others might prefer talking over the code as an entire team. Ultimately it is up to your team to decided what works best.

To help you make that decision, here are a few ways in which the different styles can shine, along with some limitations:

Real-time reviews give the reviewer a chance to deliver feedback in-person and give the reviewee a chance to practice their presentation skills as they walk another developer through their code. Feedback can seem less harsh because you get to hear and see the other person. The cold, starkly typed words of a comment on a pull request can sound completely different when said in person. However, pushing back on a code reviewer’s request that you believe to be unreasonable or incorrect can be difficult for some people to do in the moment.

Online reviews are useful because they can be completed asynchronously. This is great for distributed teams or for teams with busy schedules. The reviewer can look at the pull request whenever they have time. By leaving comments on specific lines of code, it’s easy for the reviewee to track what needs to be changed. These types of reviews also allow multiple people to more easily participate, since anyone can make comments at any time. Reviewees can react to comments in real time and ask for clarification or defend their coding decisions.

Now that you’ve learned what code reviews are, maybe you’re wondering why I consider them to be such a vital part of effective teams. That’s exactly what we’ll cover in this next section.

Why do I need someone else to look at my code?

Code reviews are a must. Even if you’re the only developer on your project, you should be finding someone else to look through your code. Unless you’re writing code for a side project or Proof of Concept exercise, collaboration is vital to a healthy codebase.

Remember, nobody knows everything about software development. No matter how good you are, you will never know it all. There is always something new to learn, which is exactly why you want to look through lots of people’s code and share your own. Interacting with other’s code will expand your knowledge and help you grow as a developer. We all have our own strengths, and code reviews are a way to share those strengths with others.

Even the most experienced developers have a small breadth of skills compared to what type of work is out there. It’s literally impossible to be good at everything, and anybody who thinks they don’t need to keep learning will soon find themselves out of a job.

Code reviews give both the reviewer and reviewee a chance to teach each other. Veteran developers can always find something new to learn from their junior teammates, and vice versa. Because software development is an ever-changing field, you will have a unique perspective on how to build great software only a few years into your career. Reviews are an opportunity to share and evolve that perspective.

Hopefully by this point I’ve convinced you of the usefulness of code reviews. They truly are critical to the success of a project.

But what should you do if you’re on a team that doesn’t have a regular code review habit? This next section will give you a few ways to help convince them.

How do I get my team to start doing code reviews?

Teams who don’t have code reviews will release awful products. That alone should be reason enough to get started. If your team is not currently doing code reviews, you have a phenomenal opportunity to provide a ridiculous amount of value to your team.

Code reviews result in a better product and ultimately save hours of work by insuring new additions to the system are beneficial. You can’t afford to not do code reviews. Without regular reviews, your product will become increasingly complex, unmaintainable, and inflexible. Scaling it for a larger user base will be difficult and expensive. Developers will become unhappy and their productivity will drop.

You don’t want that, do you? Then start doing code reviews.

The easiest way to get your team to do code reviews is to leverage technology. Using tools like the pull request feature on Bitbucket or GitHub allows you to easily set system-controlled rules that force explicit approval for any new code changes. This means you will not be able to merge your code unless another developer looks at the code and puts their stamp of approval on it. Your team can always get around this by clicking the “Approve” button without really reviewing it, but if that’s happening you should be looking for a new job.

However, change is difficult. You can’t just go update the settings in GitHub and expect your team to start doing code reviews. That’s an easy way to frustrate everybody.

First, help your team understand the value of code reviews so they understand why they should begin reviewing each other’s work. Show them this article or the countless others on the Internet arguing my same point. Focus on how your everyday life as a developer will get better with code reviews being part of your team’s regular routine.

Once everyone is on board, turn on the tools and let the system do its thing.

There will be rough patches. Occasionally you’ll long for the days you could quickly commit that missing semi-colon right to master, but try to resist the urge. People will complain. They may even turn off the pull request approval feature. Keep reminding yourselves why you’re doing this and don’t fight the process.

Eventually the habit will stick, and your team’s skills will improve. The code base will become more stable and deployments will get easier. Point out how much better things are getting and celebrate as you watch yourselves ship great code more quickly.


And that’s it! We’ve covered the what, why, and how of code reviews, so you’re now ready to go out into the world, confidently reviewing all code that cross your path. Even if your team already does code reviews, see if you can find an area of the process that could be improved and give it a test run on your team.

Remember, code reviews are vitally important. As you and your team read each other’s code, you’ll all increase your knowledge and skills. By regularly reviewing your code, the quality of your codebase will improve. You’ll be able to add new features more easily and even reduce the number of bugs in your system!

There’s really no excuse to skipping this vital process. All things being equal, a team that does code reviews will be much happier in the long run than one that doesn’t.

If you have any great tips on code reviews that weren’t included in this article, send me a message!

This is the third of nine articles delving into the processes that every effective development team should use. Stay tuned for more!

No. Just No. I’m not writing about this again.

It’s clear nothing will ever be done to stop mass shootings.

Just read these again. No reason to write more on the subject. Nobody in Congress is listening.

The Orlando Massacre

Thoughts and prayers are not enough

One Simple Thing: Delete 5 Todos

You read the title. Now pull out your to-do list and delete five things from it.

It doesn’t matter what they are. It doesn’t matter how many are “overdue”. It doesn’t matter if you don’t even have an actual to-do list.

All that matters is that you relieve yourself of the need to do five things.

Did you actually go delete five tasks? No?

I can wait.

Done?

Good.

Now that you’ve deleted five items from your to-do list, listen to your body. How does it feel knowing those things are gone? Maybe some relief, with a dash of anxiety? Annoyance at this random guy who is telling you do to something? Stress from seeing the thirty other things on your list that you had forgotten about?

Having deleted five things in the process writing this article, I felt a mix of anxiety and relief. It always feels good to get rid of tasks, but I’m anxious that I deleted something important. While I purposefully chose things that I knew would never get finished, I still felt a twinge of anxiety when deleting them.

Luckily I know I’m safe.

If the task I deleted was important, it will come back to me. I’ll remember it later or add it to my to-do list without ever realizing it used to be there.

Important things in life have a way of popping back up.

So don’t let that scare you when pruning your to-do list.

If you didn’t delete the tasks at the beginning of this article, go give it a try. I promise you won’t regret it!

The One Thing: Delete 5 todos


Lane Sawyer is an IT consultant at Pariveda Solutions in Seattle, WA. He enjoys writing articles like this one when he’s not working on some new project, tackling a challenging video game, or running around outside in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. You can find out more about him on his website.