So, this place has been getting pretty dusty, hasn’t it?
There’s a reason why my attention has been elsewhere the past year and a half, and I’m finally ready to talk about it.
I’m transgender. From a very young age, I have always felt a profound and deep disconnect between my inner and outer selves. But until I left the religion that was such a huge force in my life, I was too afraid to do anything about it.
Over the past year, I’ve gradually begun living openly & authentically as myself for the first time in my life. My partner, co-workers, and close friends & family all call me Rye. Our kids go back and forth between “Dad,” “Mom,” and a nickname my youngest came up with, “Adre” (like Spanish madre or padre, without the first letter). Which I rather like. 😀
I realize this may or may not come as a surprise, and honestly, given the increasing visibility of trans people in our culture, it may not mean much to you (which, to be clear, is a good thing!). But it means quite a lot to me, and I felt like it was time to stop hiding.
As you may have surmised, this is not a decision I’ve come to lightly. It’s not a phase, not a whim, and I’m not jumping on a trend.
Chances are you don’t know me personally, but I suspect some of you may know me on Github, Twitter, or elsewhere. If and when we do interact, I’d ask that you call me by my new name, Rye, and use female pronouns (she, her, hers) when referring to me. I realize for some people this will take more getting used to than others, and I expect people may mistakes. As long as people respect me and try to get it right, we’re good.
Now that this is out in the open, I may have more time to blog here, or more to say. Expect some blog posts in the coming weeks, maybe even the resurrection of an old project or two. I invite you to join me on this journey, but if, on the other hand, you feel compelled to tell me I’m sick, perverted, confused, etc… instead, close your browser, hug your loved ones, and enjoy a hot cuppa. Life is too short for hate and intolerance (and I’ll block/ignore you anyway, so you’d be shouting into the void).
Just like Matt in this strip, I have things I've been meaning to work on, but professional and family obligations keep me busy right up to the point of exhaustion. I'm loving it, but it means that nearly all of my side projects are on hold (there's a notable exception, but that's the topic for another day). I fully intend to get back to work on some of this stuff eventually, but only time will tell.
Anyway, the truth behind the joke remains — my summer has breezed right past me, and I find myself standing on the precipice of autumn (whatever that means in northern California). To say I'd hoped to have done more here on the blog this summer is, probably, stating the obvious.
Things at work have been as crazy as you'd expect life at a startup to be, but all in very positive ways. I feel like we're building something really cool, and I keep waiting for the green light to actually talk about why. I suspect it'll come soon. Meanwhile, we're hammering away at the mountain of backlog tasks in Jira, and it's such interesting work, I even find myself doing it in my down time at home: precisely when I used to work on Tangle, MUGEN, and my other side-projects. I kind of knew this was a possibility when I left my last job, which was secure but a little technically unexciting. My side projects were always there to give me something intellectually stimulating to work on when I wasn't always able to scratch that itch in the office. Now that I'm on a team and in a role where that itch is being constantly scratched, well, I guess you could say it's harder to task-switch.
So the big question at hand, then, is what I'm going to do about it. I do have a lot of things on my back burner, and am trying to mentally clear a place to work on some of them. I'd like to get back on the "One Game a Month" horse. I'd like to get back to work on my outstanding MUGEN projects. I would LOVE to get my groove back on Fenjin. In the interest of taking baby steps, and with the idea that incremental progress is better than no progress at all, I've updated my Games page, including links to several of the in-progress things I'm playing with.
Some of which I haven't blogged about yet — stay tuned.
Some of my readers may recall that a few months ago I left my former position to take a leadership role with a Silicon Valley startup. Now, after several months of cross-country flights and a ton of frequent-flier miles, the kids are out of school for the summer. That means it's time to make a cross-country move: cleaning and renting out our Maryland house, finding a home for our chickens and superfluous furniture, and moving ourselves and the rest of our worldly possessions nearly 3000 miles west.
Which adds up to my blogging and side-projects taking a backseat for a few weeks. Maybe you've noticed.
That said, I was looking at the landing page for my TangleJS game library this afternoon, and realized it was kinda hideous. So I set aside an hour, rolled up my sleeves, and cleaned it up a bit. It's not going to win any design awards, but I'm a lot happier with it now. YMMV.
So... no other way to say this than to just say it.
My last day at Novetta Solutions (formerly White Oak Technologies) will be this February the 28th.
This isn't a decision I've come to lightly. I have grown tremendously in my 4 and a half years with WOTI, have worked with a ton of great people, and done, I hope, a lot of great work.
... a lot of which, sadly, I can't really talk about. :|
Honestly, that's one of the reasons I feel it's time to move on. Due to the nature of most contract work for the Unites States Government, there's very little I can actually say about what I've done over the past four years. I can say I'm a Senior Computer Scientist, and have been working on standards-based web development, but that's about the extent of it.
For a lot of people, that would be fine. "Leave work at work," they might say. I'm not defined by my profession, any more than my Dad is defined by his career as a truck driver, or my cousin by his law degree. And that's true.
Except if I'm going to spend 8-10 hours a day, 5 days a week, doing something, I want that "something" to matter. To make a positive impact in the world. To leave a legacy. There are certainly things I've been part of at WOTI that have done this, and I'm grateful to have had a role, however modest, in those accomplishments. But outside of a very small circle, nobody knows about them.
I'm not saying I need public adoration for the work I do. But I really want to be able to share my successes with my wife and kids. They are so much a part of who I am, it pains me a little to have to exclude them from nearly a third of my waking life.
When my sweetheart and I were newlyweds, we got involved with some friends in a network marketing venture. Although we never really built it up much, the vision it instilled in me, one of being able to include my family in my life's work, has stuck with me. Now that our kids are growing up, they're wanting to be more involved in the interesting things I'm doing on the side (Fenjin, casual games made with my Tangle library, that kind of thing). I'd love to be able to share the "day job" stuff too... my daughter's only a few years shy of being able to intern somewhere, and I think it would be pretty neat doing that together (almost a "take your kid to work day" kind of vibe).
Challenges and Growth
Something else I've been keenly aware of lately has been my need to grow, to tackle the next big challenge. There's been some of that over the past 6 months or so, but when I look objectively at my team, and at the company as a whole, I haven't seen the kinds of challenges and opportunities for growth that I feel I need, personally or professionally. Don't take that as a reflection of the company—far from it, they're on an aggressive growth path right now. Rather, it just feels like we're moving in a slightly different directions, and the distance will only get further with time.
Better that I walk away while my head's still in the game.
Thank you, WOTI
I've never felt like my feelings and opinions weren't important. The company leaders I've worked with have always made an effort to stay tuned in to what was going on in my head. I want to specifically thank Chris Hagner, who, from my first interview up to now, has always gone out of his way to make me feel like an important part of the team. Mind you, he's like 3 or 4 levels above me in the org chart (depends on the reorg), but I've never felt like there was any kind of unreachable gulf between us. Despite his many responsibilities and very busy schedule, he'd occasionally make time to talk with me one on one to make sure that any concerns I had were being met, and that I was feeling good about the role I was playing within the team.
He also sometimes stopped me in the hall to comment on things he'd read on my blog, so I've always known that at least someone thought there was value in what I had to say here. Thanks, Chris.
I wouldn't be the person I am today, personally or professionally, without everything I've learned these past few years. Nor would I have had the opportunity to work with such a talented group of crazy-smart people on such crazy-hard problems. For that, I'll always be grateful.
I'm going to miss my team. You guys are great, seriously. I'll be watching to see where you all take things from here.
So, what's next for me?
Ironically, given everything I just said about secrecy, I can't tell you yet.
Last month, I was approached by a very early-stage startup in the Silicon Valley area, who were looking for a couple of people to start building a front-end team for a platform they've been building in stealth for a few months now. It's an incredibly ambitious idea, with far-reaching implications if all goes as expected, and the more I talked with their team about what they're doing, the more excited I got. Expect me to talk more about this soon; I really think it has the potential to be huge.
This past Thursday, we celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday here in the United States. I had sufficient PTO accrued to take Wednesday through Friday off, but as we didn't have any travel plans, I've had a lot more down time than usual. I've been able to both spend extra time with my family, which has been nice — I've probably played Super Mario Brothers Wii with my son more often this week than I have in the past 3 months, and have had extra time with my wife & daughter too. This has reminded me of how grateful and fortunate I am to have them in my life.
I've also had more time than usual to devote to my personal coding projects, which is always great. In a loooong overdue move, I recoded all the base pages of my site from standalone, hand-coded HTML files to dynamically-generated streams via the h2o template engine. In the process, I also fixed my long-broken Projects page, and even salted in a little responsiveness (I haven't extensively tested it yet on the vast constellation of available devices, but I expect I'll do that soon). Now when I'm ready for a redesign, I've saved myself a ton of copy-pasting.
Then, this morning I started working on adding some missing administrative functionality to ConfSwag (my hand-curated conference coverage aggregator) to make it easier to curate new events, add new swag to sessions, and so on. Partway into this process, it occurred to me that since the time when I first launched this project a year and a half ago, Lanyrd has added essentially the same capabilities: event and session curation, user-submitted attachments (what I call "swag": videos, liveblogs, code repositories, etc) for sessions, and mobile-friendly conference schedule display for attendees. I'm proud I got there first, but I'm just one guy doing this in my spare time, and Lanyrd's got VC backing and a team of developers and designers. Hard to compete, and honestly, I don't think I want to.
So I'm wondering if there's really any point in me continuing to work on ConfSwag at all.
I've thought about some things I can do to improve the site so that it's got features that set it apart from Lanyrd, instead of just being a feature-poor clone:
automatic swag identification from backchannel (i.e. Twitter)
add ability for authenticated users to liveblog directly from an event
add a near-realtime "dashboard" for an in-progress event: all current sessions, backchannel, live stream of swag additions
But given all of the other half-finished projects I've got laying here on my virtual workbench, I may hold off. I'm interested in feedback from community — are there things you'd like to see in a conference-coverage aggregator that aren't currently captured in any other tools? Let me know on Twitter or Google Plus.
Earlier today, esteemed software dev blogger Scott Hanselman wrote a blog post titled Your words are wasted, in which he argued that all the talk of the "walled gardens" of the social media giants is moot, since the solution is easy: blog more.
Those few of you who've read my blog for a while know that I agree with this sentiment. It's why I stopped posting my professional content to Blogger a couple of years ago (I still have a blog with them for hobbyist stuff, but at some point I may migrate that away too).
Basically, I just wanted to share this here on my blog, since I saw it shared (ironically enough) on one of the social networks he calls out for its walled-garden policies. I think they have their place (sharing links to interesting content, for example), and I certainly don't plan to stop using Google Plus, Twitter, or Facebook anytime soon (I'm on the fence about Tumblr), but anything worth talking about in more than a sentence or two is worth blogging about... so there you go.