LoriB.me

Rambling On…

2013 — 12/31/2013

2013

Craziest year ever. Not even sure what to write about it. 2014 looks to be more of the same.

So many things. K’s dad. I hope he has a better 2014 than 2013. Same with K and her mom and her sister, L. And me.

Too many things have been going on for so long, I can barely remember what is like to be able to think clearly. Tired of being so confused and tired all the time.

It is not all bad. There are breaks. Every now and again, K and I get a day, or part of a day, off. I get more breaks than K, but when she is not here, I tend to spend all my time working. This year, our definition of “a break” has changed. We were noting that having some time to scrape the ice off the car and shovel it out of the snow now feels like a break.

Work has been crazy for both of us. Pretty sure that my business will make more money than last year. Happens every year, but I still end up working very many hours for very little money. So little that it seems like madness to keep going year after year, but I am short on other options. It is very hard for me to work a “real job”.

I know my job is a real job. I know that I am good at what I do. I work very hard. My web development skills get better all the time. Having a screencast addiction helps.

But my business and organizational skills are almost non-existent. When you run a business, those skills are at least as important as being able to do your job. Maybe that is the difference between a hacker and an entrepreneur.

My gross income this year is about $5K over the 2013 poverty level. This is due to a combination of undercharging, not charging at all, and a near complete lack of project management skills.

At this point, after reading approximately a million articles about project management, business organization, and every other possible subject that may be of interest to freelancers and small business people, I am pretty sure that these are skills that I can not acquire. I need my ever elusive “Magic Business Partner” more than ever.

Some Highlights:

  • On 2/4/13, Karen and I got legally married, 13 years to the day after our first date!
  • In May, we had a great party with our families and friends at the Ottobar to celebrate our marriage. Special thanks to Chuck for making everything so awesome, to Colleen for making the best cake ever, and to everyone who came to join in the celebration, especially my parents who came all the way from Florida for the occasion.
  • Every time that Karen and I have gotten to spend time together relaxing and/or having fun. They are few and far between, but nothing is better.
  • Snow.
  • Another year with Nikkyo and Buster.
  • In July, I got a black belt after doing martial arts for 16.5 years.
  • K’s cousins came for a visit from Canada. Very nice to see them 🙂
  • Several social occasions with new and old friends. Special thanks to Kim, Tarun, Lisa, and Dave.
  • Co-working at Betamore for many months. Met some great people and got to go to the harbor almost every day when the weather was good.
  • Lease on my computer ended and started a new lease on a maxed 15″ Macbook Pro retina. It is awesome!
  • Learned Laravel. I have been learning Laravel for over a year. I will continue learning it, but I actually know what I am doing now.

Favorite Apps of the Year:

  • Once again, Komodo IDE tops the list.
  • iTerm2 – Terminal replacement for mac
  • QuizUp – Very fun mobile trivia app.
  • Bejeweled – Still an awesome distraction and mind-numbing tool.

Happy New Year everyone!

This is Autism — 11/18/2013

This is Autism

This is autism.

Sometimes I can’t talk, but I can think.
Sometimes I can’t think, but I can feel.
Sometimes I don’t fit in.
Sometimes I am just like you.

This is autism.

Thoughts crash.

Never-ending attempts to organize the world into separate parts.

The lines are blurred.

When all things are one, everything fits together.

When one thing is many, blurred lines clash, and overlap defies logic.

This is autism.

An explosion of color and light and sound and texture.

Every tiny detail is a universe I can get lost in forever.

I try to learn your ways and to teach you mine.

We all have something to learn and to share.

This is Autism
Check out the This is Autism Flashblog
Black Belt — 08/03/2013

Black Belt

After 16.5 years of doing martial arts, I finally got my black belt a couple of weeks ago. I am still a little shocked, but it is very exciting. I’ve been very close a few other times and have a collection of brown belts, but I had mostly given up on getting a black belt. I love doing martial arts no matter what color belt I am wearing, but after 12 years of wearing a brown belt, it starts to seem like you have reached the limit of what you can learn.

I am a slow learner. It can get discouraging when you are learning something with other people, and at some point, they all pass you and move on. Sometimes people who you used to teach become your teacher. Sometimes things are extra frustrating because no matter how hard you try, you can never make it to the next level.

After leaving my first school (Tuyê’t Tan dojo in Berkeley, CA) due to a change in medicine making it too hard to go to night time classes, I tried a few other schools. It is the teachers that make the school. There are many styles of martial arts, and people will always argue about which one is “the best”, but I really don’t think it matters in most cases. I think that no matter what martial art you are doing, having a good teacher is the most important thing.

I think if I kept doing Cuong Nhu, I would have gotten a black belt. Cuong Nhu is awesome in so many ways and I am very lucky to have stumbled into such a wonderful dojo with such amazing people. Those people are still my friends and I thank them all for being so patient and helpful to me for so many years.

Had some not so ideal experiences with a few other schools, but didn’t find another great school until we moved to Baltimore a couple of years ago. Palanzo Martial Arts in Pikesville. Seemed random at the time, but turns out that Karen and several of her friends passed through there at some point while they were growing up.

Once again, I was very lucky. Mr. Palanzo’s school is awesome. Mr. Palanzo, aka Mr. Joe, is awesome. Every instructor I have had there has been both a really great martial artist and a really great teacher. That is a very rare combination, even though you would think it would be a requirement in order to work at a karate school.

Mr. Joe thought I could be a black belt, and I did not completely believe him. I didn’t think he was lying, but that he really didn’t have any idea how bad I am at learning. But he found ways to teach me, just like my teachers at Tuyê’t Tan did. It takes a special kind of teacher to figure out ways to teach students who do not learn in the standard way. Just being willing to try to figure it out is a big thing, and the appreciation I feel toward these people for doing that is really more than I can express in words.

Thanks to Mr. Joe, Mr. Chris, Mr. Marcos, Mr. Tom, and classmates at Palanzo Martial Arts, and to Master Allyson, Senseis Amy, John, Raimi, and Anastasia, and Lavina and other classmates at Tuyê’t Tan. Special thanks to Karen, to my family, and to TC for above and beyond extra special awesomeness.

Happy 10th Anniversary WordPress! — 05/18/2013

Happy 10th Anniversary WordPress!

WordPress will be 10 years old on May 27th, 2013. Hard to believe it has been so long! Dougal Campbell had a great idea to start the WordPress 10th Anniversary Blogging Project. I have been using WordPress since v 0.71 and it is still my favorite way to build a website. What better way to celebrate than to write a WordPress post?!

When I first started using WordPress in May 2003…

  • I was 36 years old
  • I lived in Oakland, CA with my partner Karen
  • I had been building websites for 8 years
  • I was an open source PHP/MySQL software junkie
  • My business site was built using a Template Monster template with a Flash header (shhhh… don’t tell anybody) , which was soon to be replaced by Mambo
  • This website (formally called LBnuke) was built with PostNuke, a PHP/MySQL content management system that was forked from PHPNuke
  • I had played around with b2 (project that WordPress was forked from), but liked PostNuke a lot better
  • I was in love with CSS
  • I was a beginner PHP programmer
  • 90% of my client sites were static HTML/CSS/JavaScript

Since I started using WordPress…

  • I moved to Baltimore and legally married Karen
  • I have been building websites for 18 years
  • I am still in love with CSS
  • I am a much better PHP programmer
  • I do a lot of custom WordPress development
  • I went to the WordPress 1.5 Upgrade Party at Matt‘s apartment in San Francisco and he helped me fix my “theme” (aka index.php and stylesheet in root directory)
  • I have been to many WordCamps
  • I am still an open source PHP/MySQL software junkie
  • I converted my business site to WordPress in 2007
  • This website was converted to WordPress in 2006 after being inspired at the first WordCamp in San Francisco (and being jealous of how easy my clients’ sites were to manage compared to my own)
  • I have occasional flings with Drupal and have a huge crush on Laravel, but still like WordPress best for most sites
  • 90% of my client sites are built with WordPress

I am hugely thankful to Matt Mullenweg and all of the other people who have helped develop WordPress over the years, and to all of the awesome people that I have met in the WordPress community!

There will be plenty of celebrating going on all around the world. Find a celebration near you!

Hyperfocus — 04/10/2013

Hyperfocus

Happy Autism Acceptance month everyone! So nice to read all of the positive posts about autism. I sometimes still have a hard time seeing the positive aspects of autism in myself, but there are at least a few that I am thankful for. I think my favorite one is hyperfocus. Hyperfocus (according to Urban Dictionary) is “a theoretical state of being or ability in which one is able to concentrate and focus on a particular subject so intensely, ultimately becoming oblivious to everything else around”. I do realize that this is not always a positive thing and has been a source of frustration for most people that have spent much time with me, but it has its upsides too.

Hyperfocus | Freelance Freedom

I have been obsessed with things since I was very young. Everything from a soft blanket that I could not give up until I was way too old for that sort of thing, to dinosaurs, to the guitar, to martial arts, and to computer programming. By obsessed, I mean that I can focus on these things for very long periods of time, to the exclusion of everything else around me. It is not a choice and it is not something that I always want. It is like being a prisoner of my own brain and almost nothing can set me free. If someone is calling my name or if there is an external sound that I know is important, like a cat meowing or an alarm going off to tell me I have to do something, I can come back, but it is somewhat painful and leaves me in a very confused and uncomfortable state.

Look what a positive post this is! Okay, enough of that. It is not all bad and it is often magical and amazing. When I was first learning to play guitar, martial arts, coding, I could not grasp even basic concepts, though there was something about all of those things that kept me coming back.

With guitar, I was fascinated by the instrument and the way that the vibrations of the strings and the echo of the sound hole made such a wide variety of sounds and that those sounds could be controlled by holding down the strings in different ways. I learned some chords and could play basic songs, but they were stiff, for lack of a better word. I did not connect the sounds I was playing with music. It was all very mechanical. Still, that very mechanicalness was soothing to my brain. It was something to hold focus on that was strong enough to take me away from the chaos and colliding thoughts that were usually happening in my brain.

After a couple of years, I could do the mechanical things without thinking. It wasn’t until that point that I started to hear the music. I started listening to songs and playing along with them. At some point, I could hear a song in my head and envision playing it on the guitar. I actually started learning songs while I was sleeping or spacing out. When playing with other musicians and singers, I could listen to them and my part would almost play itself. I heard the guitar part in my head and my fingers just did it. Thinking was completely removed from the equation. That is where the magic happens.

Unfortunately, martial arts did not work in quite the same way, but it doesn’t matter. Like guitar, I love the mechanics of martial arts. I have been fortunate to have some really great teachers who have been able to explain the reasons for each technique. So much going on in even the simplest techniques. I have been doing martial arts of some kind or other for over 16 years. I do not have a black belt, although I do have a pretty large collection of brown belts. Still, it is not quite the same. My lack of short term memory makes it very hard for me to learn certain things. That, combined with the fact that I am not very athletic, somewhat clumsy, and have an annoying delay between thinking and acting, make it especially challenging. While all of those things make getting a black belt seem like a pipe dream, it doesn’t really matter. Doing martial arts, learning about the mechanics and history, and knowing that someday, some of what I have learned might help myself or someone else escape a bad situation is enough. I look forward to it and it makes me happy. You can’t ask for much more than that! Still, I wouldn’t turn away a black belt.

Coding. Programming. It doesn’t matter what you call it. Code is beautiful to me. It makes sense in a way that nothing else does. Whether the code is good or bad, no matter what language it is written in, it will make sense, even when it doesn’t work. You can troubleshoot code in a way that you can not troubleshoot other things. Line by line, file by file; somewhere is the answer. You can not parse people that way. For some reason, this does not seem to bother most people, but it is a thing that has exhausted and confused me for as long as I can remember. Hyperfocus is an escape from that.

Illogical things make my brain explode. Hyperfocus puts the fragments back together. I know there are many people who hyperfocus on things that are not logical, but I think it is often in search of logic. I used to be somewhat obsessed with World War II and read everything I could find that might explain what could make people do the horrible things that were done. I actually found many answers. I wish I didn’t. Frames of logic differ from person to person. That particular obsession did not make me less confused, but it gave me a frame of reference as to how such horrible things could actually happen. It also taught me that things are not as black and white as “logical = good, illogical = bad”. People can do horrible things that seem completely logical to them, and people can do amazingly kind and heroic things with actions that defy logic.

While hyperfocus has had its ups and downs for me, I think it is something that is needed in this world. It is the thing that allows people to tear things apart and break them down to their core components, until something finally makes some sense. Autistic people are not the only ones who experience it, but it seems to be one of the most common threads all along the spectrum. It is a valuable ability, no matter whether or not people can communicate verbally or hold down a traditional job or assimilate into cultural “norms”. It is a way to go beyond the “box” in order to think outside of it. It is a way to question the reason that the box exists at all.

Autism Acceptance means… — 04/02/2013

Autism Acceptance means…

By Karen Hillman

Fully accepting that my partner’s autism shapes her world, but does not define all of who she is – she is autistic and also a web developer, a gamer, a cat lover, a music lover, a brown-belt in karate, a geek, a great listener, a vegetarian, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a friend. Her autism does not mean that she has no empathy; in fact, she is one of the kindest, most sensitive people I know. It means that I have to rethink the way I relate to and express myself to her – I have to be clear, open and honest more than I ever had to – or wanted to – before we were together. This has been one of the most difficult and rewarding things I’ve ever done and I continue to learn, screw up, relearn, over and over…and she lets me.

Accepting my partner’s autism means that I need to socialize on my own, without her by my side sometimes. I need to watch out for her, to pay attention to make sure she feels included, is not too negatively impacted by sensory input or her environment. It means I need to be patient and understanding and that I need to try to explain things about the neurotypical (NT) world, much of which has no good explanation. Accepting my partner’s autism means that she also fully accepts me with all of my many flaws and idiosyncrasies. It means that I can revel and delight in the things that she shows to only me, because unfortunately, letting them out in an NT world can be embarrassing or detrimental to her.

Autism acceptance means that I have to understand why people who are autistic are angry, feel disempowered, and are sometimes distrustful and suspicious of NT’s. It means I have met many wonderful people with autism who graciously welcome me and teach me things about myself. Autism acceptance means I need to recognize that there are many different ways to communicate and to express oneself. I need to put myself in my partner’s world and not just expect her to live in mine. Autism acceptance has changed my life, exponentially, for the better.

Laravel Learning Resources — 03/04/2013

Laravel Learning Resources

Over the past year or so, I have become enamored with the Laravel PHP framework and have a huge code crush on the soon to be released version 4.

After attending Laracon in Washington D.C. a couple of weekends ago, I was inspired to start the Baltimore Laravel meetup group. I am compiling this resource list for our first meeting. If you have any favorite Laravel learning resources that are not on this list, please leave a comment!

Laravel on the web

Official Docs

Tutorials and screencasts

Other Resources

Books

Laracon 2013 Presentations

2012: The Highlights — 01/08/2013

2012: The Highlights

If I had to pick one word to describe 2012, it would be ‘busy’. If I had to pick 2 words, they would be ‘too busy’. Living in Baltimore is very busy. I don’t think I will ever get used to it. Work was way too busy for a while. It is great to have so much work, but also nice not to have to work every single second. Things have slowed down for the holidays and I have been enjoying the break.

So much has gone on this year, I don’t even think I can remember it all, so here are the highlights…

Karen got a very well-deserved promotion at work 🙂 It makes me very happy when she is appreciated for her awesomeness. I think she will like her new job a lot better and be able to put her many clinical and organizational skills to good use. Go K!

I finally got my Maryland driver’s license! On my 4th visit to the MVA, I finally got the license that had been held up by red tape, paperwork, and ridiculousness for about a year. Luckily my California license was valid until my birthday this year.

I got called for jury duty. I have always dreaded jury duty, but even my worst imagined scenario was better than how it actually turned out. My fears were about being locked in a room all day with no escape, being surrounded by people and noise, and not being able to speak when I needed to, but those ended up being the least of my problems except for the not talking part.

When I got to the courthouse, I found out that there was a “Quiet Room” to wait in. It was great and for the most part was actually quiet. At some point, there was an announcement telling us to report to a judge at the courthouse across the street. Unfortunately, they didn’t actually mention that the courthouse was across the street, but just gave the address and the room number. Somehow I thought the room number was the street address and walked 8 or 9 blocks to find it. When I couldn’t find it, I returned to the original building and asked a guard to help me. He sent me to the right building, but the wrong room. I returned again and was sent to the right room by another guard.

The judge stopped everything when I walked in and gave me a lecture about being selfish and disrespectful because I was so late. Sometime in the middle of the session, she started calling juror numbers, and I stood up when mine was called, prompting her to scold me even louder and longer than the first time. After more than an hour, the jurors were chosen and I was called up to the bench. My brain was too uncooperative to talk at that point, but somehow I managed to get a pen and paper to write on. I wrote that I couldn’t talk and that I thought that the room number was the building number and got lost. At some point, she stopped talking to me like I was a criminal and started talking to me like I could not understand English. Eventually, she sent me back to the first building to sign out. I never want to do jury duty again.

Snow. It has snowed a few times and even stuck to the ground and cars for short periods. I missed snow. It is so nice to see it and to be outside in the cool crisp late autumn/early winter air!

Karate. I still love my karate school. It is a great space and the instructors are all excellent. Since last summer, I have been especially lucky to have Mr. Joe Palanzo for a teacher. He is a great martial artist and a really amazing teacher. I have not liked a school or a teacher this much since my first dojo. It is 16 years later and I still feel lucky to have been a part of that school. I will always miss it.

WordCamp. I volunteered at WordCamp Baltimore in September and WordCamp Philly in October, and had an awesome time at both. I got to meet some really great people, and even pick up a few new jobs. Looking forward to next year when I also hope to make it to WordCamp NYC.

Laravel. I have been learning to use the Laravel PHP framework for the past few months and am really enjoying working with it. I am especially excited for the release of Laravel 4 and will be attending Laracon in February to learn more and to meet some folks in the Laravel Community, including my favorite web dev tutorial guy, Jeffrey Way.

Those are the highlights; at least the ones that I can remember at the moment. Thanks to all the great people here who continue to be very welcoming and warm. Thanks also to K’s parents who have treated me like part of the family and been so good to me.

Happy 2013 everyone!