Part 15 of 15 in the series distracted by haiku

chaos is in me
one step closer to the edge
trying not to fall

chaos confuses
wraps word order wrong and fails
to stop the echo

chaos surrounds me
closing in fog and laughing
when i disappear

Wish I could take your pain away
Wish I could take you out in the sunny day

Wish I could make you stronger
So you could come home for longer

Wish I could hurt instead of you
I’d give anything to make that true

Wish I could hold you and make things right
Wish I was there with you tonight

Hope you are having a happy day
I’m there with you, in spirit anyway

You are the best mom, I know it’s true
Can’t wait ’til the next time that I see you

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!

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!

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!

Once again, it is Autistics Speaking Day. I want to write a post about the positive aspects of autism, but at the moment, it is hard. It has been almost 8 years since I found out that I was autistic. At first, it freaked me out because there is no cure. Eventually, I started to see the positive aspects and realized that I would be a different person if I had a neurotypical brain. I do not want to be a different person, at least, not for the most part. I used to wish there was a magic pill that I could take to make me “normal”. I still wonder if I would take it if one existed.

Even though things have improved quite a bit over the years due to medicine, learning coping skills, and most of all, help from people that love me, there are still times that I want that pill. I want it so bad. Sometimes I hate being autistic. I am not sure that it is okay to say that in the part of the autism community that I participate in most.

Over the past few years, the autism community has become divided. A VERY simplified explanation is that there are organizations like Autism Speaks, that do not have any input from autistic people and are very invested in searching for a cure. There is much more than that. Please do not support them.

On the other end are self-advocates who do not believe that autistic people need to be cured and who advocate for legal and societal change that will help them receive the services and accommodations that they need. As a perspective for people reading this post, I would definitely consider myself a self-advocate.

If there were a cure, I think individuals should have the option to choose for themselves if they want to be cured or not. That is a slippery slope when it comes to children, so honestly, I have no idea how something like that could actually work.

I am sometimes discouraged by the rift in the community, and sometimes confused by it. Sometimes, I wish that the conversation was more civil. I don’t think it is “us against them”. I don’t think that parents desperately looking for a cure for their child are evil, even if they hate autism. I do think that they need to be educated by autistic people and hope that there will be time when that will not be necessary anymore.

Autism can cause pain for both the autistic person and for their loved ones. It can be horrible and seem impossible to deal with at times for both the autistic person and their loved ones. There are also many positive things about autism and autistic people. We are a necessary part of the world. We think differently. Someone has to. It is hard to navigate a community where things sometimes seem so black and white. I think autism is gray.

My life is usually pretty good. Even when I was younger and things were so much harder, I was still lucky to have parents who loved me. In the 70’s, autism was not a common diagnosis. My problems were blamed on bad behavior, antisocial attitude, being lazy, not trying, whatever. In the 80’s, these diagnoses changed to things like schizophrenia, depression, anxiety disorder, etc. It wasn’t until the 90’s that someone suggested to me that I might be autistic and until 2005 for me to accept the idea as a possible reality. I think autism education, especially by the self-advocacy community is changing the way people think about autism in a good way, and that it will make it much easier for people to be diagnosed early and to get what they need. Maybe someday when parents get the news that their child is autistic, they will not automatically panic, fear the worst, and do everything they can to “cure” their child. Maybe they will accept it as a part of who their child is.

When I was younger, I would have done anything to be cured. I think my parents would have too. Even now when my life is so much easier, there are times when I just can’t stand it. I can’t stand being a prisoner of my own brain. I can’t stand not being able to socialize normally, read regularly, think clearly, and sometimes even speak at all. I do not know how to explain what that is like. A while back, I read a post by Savannah in which she used the phrase “A thousand hard things”. That is a good description of what it is like.

I really wanted to write a post for today. I think these posts and this day are very important. I hate that part of me had to think about the possible negative reaction from the people I consider part of my community, but I realize that the fact that I did makes it even more important for me to post it.

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By Karen Hillman

Uprooted by PurpleLorikeet @ flickr

Note from LB: This article was originally published on the Autism Women’s Network website and is reprinted with permission from the author. It is about Karen’s and my move here last year from Oakland, CA. We are both still learning to adapt to our busy lives here, and for the most part, we have both managed to find ways to recharge and have fun along the way.

As some of you may know, last year my partner Lori, who is on the autism spectrum, moved with me from Oakland, CA to Baltimore, MD so we could be closer to my aging parents. There have been a lot of ups and downs. The biggest “down” that has had lasting repercussions was that Lori lost her SSI (Supplemental Security Income). With everything going on, we didn’t think about the fact that co-owning our house would be considered an asset. What this has meant is that she’s had to work more than full time hours to expand her freelance web business. That has put immense pressure on her to take on way too many things at once. For those of you on the spectrum, you can imagine how difficult this has been. It’s way too much for her to handle and yet she is handling it probably way better than she (or I) thought she could. I think the “up” is that she sees how capable she is of running her business despite the challenges. That said, it’s still way too much. With SSI she was able to work more or less as she needed for the most part. I don’t think things are sustainable the way they are – she’s working too many hours without getting time to relax and turn off. Her brain needs a break. The other “up” is that now people in this area are starting to value her services and get to know her and I think that is a good thing. Sometimes I have to (almost literally) drag her kicking and screaming to things I know she will enjoy, even when she is overwhelmed. Fear not, this rarely happens and I try hard to pay attention to whether I can push or not – sometimes I’m wrong and I blow it.  I just know it’s important for her to sometimes be around people she can relate to whether it’s others on the spectrum or other web developers.

Some unsolicited advice to you NTs out there with partners on the spectrum considering a giant life change: do your research – financial stuff especially but also what supports are available where you are moving? What can you do to make things as comfortable as possible? If your partner is on medication and diagnosed “officially” or not and gets some kind of services, what can you do to help ensure your partner can continue to get his/her needs met for meds, counseling, etc? What resources are available in the new area? Be extra gentle, compassionate and understanding that uprooting may have an especially big impact. Get support for yourself – of course, this is a big life change for you too and you have needs as well. Try to find breaks in the action – do some things together that aren’t about pre or post-moving tasks, regroup. Help your partner find his/her way around the new place in the way your partner learns best. Spend some time exploring together. Try to build new routines as soon as possible if your partner finds that helpful. Help your partner understand and become accustomed to the norms of the population in the new area. Remember that your partner also has a lot to offer. Be honest and communicate clearly about your own stress and what you need. Most of all, give yourself and your partner time to settle in.

Please feel free to post about your experiences with life changes and what has been helpful/not helpful for you.

I remember when I was younger, thinking that 45 was very old. The past few days, I have been thinking about what it means to ‘get old’. Is 45 old? 40? 65? 85? Does it matter? I don’t think it is a bad thing, and considering the alternative, it is an awesome thing!

I am not one of those people that wishes that I could be young again. It was hard enough the first time. There is definitely something to be said for ‘older and wiser’. There is no way to be younger and wiser because much wisdom comes from experience, and experience is something that is accumulated over time. I think age does matter, but somehow the reasons why have been strangely twisted.

It makes me sad that being old has to be such a bad thing in our society. Our culture is one that values youth over experience. There is a multi-billion dollar industry built on the idea that being old makes someone less valuable as a person. There are creams and treatments and washes and spas and even surgeries that can help people appear younger. The fact that it does not actually make them younger does not seem to matter. This is something I have never understood and something that really drives me insane if I think about it too much. Other cultures honor their elders and value the contributions they have made and the experiences they have to share. Why don’t we do that?

Going to stop thinking about that now. I had a great 45th birthday yesterday! Karen and I walked around at the harbor and saw lots of boats and big Navy ships. After that, we had birthday cake and played Skyrim for a while. Later, dinner of wine and pizza at Joe Squared. Awesome day, awesome night 🙂 I think I am the luckiest person in the whole world.

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In a word, 2011 has been CRAZY! I’ve had some crazy years in my time, and while this year is not nearly as crazy as some have been, it definitely holds a place on the “Craziest Years Ever” list.

A Brief Summary of 2011:


Karen and I gave up hopes of selling our house after waiting 3 years for the economy to improve so we could move to Baltimore to be closer to K’s parents and help them out. Lorena and Tess offered to live in our house, pay mortgage, etc. so that we could move. Thanks Lorena and Tess! Karen quit her long time job that she really loved (and found a new one in Baltimore), and in April we drove approximately 3007 miles away from Oakland, CA to Baltimore, MD to live in an awesome apartment that K’s friend Lisa found for us. Thanks Lisa!

Baltimore Life

Living in Baltimore has been a challenge to say the least. When we got here, we went to the local SSI office to officially switch from California to Maryland. While filling out the paperwork in the office, we found out that I am no longer eligible to receive SSI because we no longer live in our house. It is only okay to own a house if you live in it. Surprise! That was a pretty huge blow which has been hard to recover from. So hard, that we have not recovered from it yet. Karen had to take a large pay cut as well because jobs generally pay less here than in CA.

I still do not have a Maryland driver’s license, even after going to the Maryland MVA 3 times and waiting 12 weeks for New York State to clear my record in the National Driver Registry for something that was taken care of in 1984. One more trip to the MVA should do it.

Next was The Dentist. In August, I had an appointment for a “simple root canal” that would take 1/2 hour. Maybe I should have taken it as a sign that the day started with an earthquake, but I went anyway. It did not take 1/2 hour. It is 4 months, 9 dentist/endodontist appointments, and one emergency room visit later, and I am still dealing with the aftermath. I have 2 more appointments in January to (hopefully) finish the job. Some damage may be permanent.

Work has been pretty good. Luckily, my business is portable, and I can still work for my clients/colleagues in the bay area. Even more luckily, before moving here, I met an awesome woman on LinkedIn who has hooked me up with some jobs, introduced me to some people, and let me share her office. Thank you M!

It is not all hard. I love living here. I love the city. I even like the people. K’s friends are awesome and it is good to live near her parents so we can visit them and help them out. In general, I find that people are much more down to earth here than in the bay area. I like that. Our apartment is a block away from EVERYTHING, and I found a great place to do karate. I missed the east coast. It took me 20 years to miss it, but I am glad to be back. I love the changing seasons and the chill in the air. I am comfortable here. It is also nice to be so much closer to my family!

No year is complete without a few bulleted lists:

Favorite Apps 2011:

  • Komodo IDE 7 – I have been using Komodo as my main code editor/IDE since 2009. Both the free editor and commercial IDE get better with every version. Komodo 7 is in RC1 right now and should be released soon. Some bugs that were in the alpha and beta are fixed in this version and performance is improved. This version also includes my chalkboard color scheme as a system default called Dark_Chalkboard 🙂
  • Dropbox – There are not enough good things I can say about Dropbox. Now that I am working with 3 computers and an iPhone, it is hard to imagine getting along without it.
  • Moom – A relatively new window management app for mac. I have used several of these apps over the years, but Moom is my favorite one yet. Customizable keyboard shortcuts like the others, as well as a nice visual popup when hovering over the ‘maximize’ button on any window. Definitely worth $5.

Favorite Websites 2011:

  • WPCandy – Early last year, Ryan Imel relaunched WPCandy and it has quickly become my favorite place to keep up with the crazily fast moving world of WordPress news. Thanks Ryan!
  • Facebook – There are many things to hate about Facebook, but no matter what annoying things they do, it has still allowed me to have more human interaction than ever before in a way that does not overwhelm me (or if it does, closing a browser window fixes it).
  • Pinterest – I have recently discovered Pinterest and have been using it as an alternative to Tumblr. I like that it is limited to visual things.

Favorite Places in Baltimore:

  • Baltimore Harbor – I miss the San Francisco Bay more than anything else since we moved. It is really great that Baltimore has such an awesome harbor. Great place to walk around aimlessly and lots of fun things to do.
  • Charles Village Pub – One thing that always seemed to be missing from various places I lived in the bay area was a local pub. Now, we have one down the block. A great place to stop in and have a beer or to meet people at.
  • ETC – AWESOME place for the local tech and business startup communities. This is the place where the local WordPress and PHP meetups are held, as well as the place where I share office space. It is also the home of Beehive Baltimore, “… a coworking community of freelancers, entrepreneurs, and other creative professionals sharing a common workspace in Baltimore, Maryland”.

I am hoping that 2012 will be an easier year for us. I am happy to be here and glad we made this decision and finally got to make it happen. For the most part, we are very lucky! We have jobs, an awesome apartment to live in, a great city to live in, close proximity to our families, and are surrounded by great people.

Happy New Year everyone!

I have been running my freelance web development business for over 15 years, the last 8 of which have actually involved a business license, paying taxes, and making money. Each year, I do a little  better than the last.

Running a business can be challenging to everyone, and as with most things, can provide extra challenges for autistic people. Also, as with most things, we may have skills and abilities that give us a greater chance of succeeding despite the extra challenges.

In honor of Autistics Speaking Day 2011, I will write about my personal experience of running a business with these challenges and benefits. I have been very lucky and have had a lot of help along the way and would be very happy if I could help someone else looking to follow a similar path.

First, a  few words about luck:

I do not have the business skills to run my own business. Before Karen was my billing manager, I often forgot to bill people and could not keep track who had paid even though I use software to keep track of such things. Software is useless if you forget to supply the needed data. Every month, Karen makes sure that clients are billed and follows up when someone has not paid. Needless to say, this has had a huge impact on the success of my business!

I have also been lucky to have a community of web designers and developers that send work in my direction. Most of this community is in the San Francisco Bay Area and I miss them a lot. I have not yet met that community in Baltimore, but I have met some really great developers at local PHP and WordPress meetups. I have been especially lucky to meet one woman who has welcomed me to Baltimore with open arms, sent great jobs my way, and shares her office space with me!

For the most part, when I work with other internet professionals (designers, developers, consultants, marketing people, copywriters, etc.), I have much less client contact than I do when I am working directly for a client. If I had my way, I would have a partner who takes care of the business and non-technical client management side of things all the time.

Challenge/Benefit #1 – Communication

When I was a new freelancer, I did not yet know about the client phenomenon known as “one more thing”. “One more thing” is when a client thinks a task is very simple, when in fact it may take several hours or days to complete. “Can you just [insert complicated time-consuming job here]?”. I am often expected to do this for free, because it is part of the website that I am building for them. No, I can not just do that. It will add 3 days to the project time and cost $1000.

It is a skill to communicate to clients what is involved in creating the things they are asking for. In most cases, it is best not to be too technical because most people do not understand the jargon of web development. Why should they? By attempting to simplify things into terms that a client can understand and relate to, the amount of time and work necessary to complete a project can seem like it would be much less than it actually is.

I like to have honest relationships with my clients. I do not generally ‘read between the lines’ and I never speak between them. I am autistic. My communication skills are limited, yet for the most part, my clients seem to like and respect me a great deal. Some will become frustrated with me at some point or other due to a communication (or lack of communication) issue, but all have appreciated my honesty, attention to detail, and dedication to giving them the best site possible within their budget.

Challenge #2 – Organization

Every morning, I look at my todo list, get overwhelmed, and start my work day. The list is always long. I use software to prioritize tasks and to view them in very focused ways. Otherwise, I would not have any idea what to do first. If I have to think, I am doomed to spend hours in a state of confusion while rapidly alternating between hundreds of things for 30-60 seconds each. Very bad for productivity to say the least.

Challenge #3, Benefit #2 – Hyperfocus

When I am not serially uni-tasking at rapid speeds, I can usually be found doing the exact opposite, hyper-focusing on one thing for hours at a time, usually code. In general, this serves me well, but sometimes there is a need to come out of the code and attend to something else. I find this very hard to do at times, to the point where I can not give my full focus and attention to something because I can not let go of the code. The amount of confusion that occurs while trying to shift can be very painful and disorienting to me and very annoying and frustrating to a person trying to pull me back.

Hyperfocus can also be a benefit when learning new skills. I work in an industry where there is a need to be constantly learning new technologies and keeping up with older ones. The ability to become so engrossed in something that it becomes all-consuming makes it much easier to keep up.

Benefit #3 – Helping Each Other

At some point, I would like to work with an autistic intern/apprentice and teach them the skills that I have learned in a way that they can understand and in an environment that they can be comfortable in. I have a similar wish to teach karate to autistic people someday.

In the past 5 years, the autistic community on the internet has grown exponentially and brought thousands of people together. This has expanded to “real life” communities, government action, education, and many other areas, but it is still not enough. It is our voices that will lead the way to a better future, whether those voices be vocal or assisted by a device or person. It is our voices that will allow us to reach out to one another, help each other, and share our unique views of the world with the people who’s world is sometimes a mystery to us. It is our voices that will tell the world that we have voices.

  1. It is preceded by an earthquake
  2. It takes 2.5 hours
  3. It involves numerous shots of novocaine and other random things that burn
  4. It can not be completed and you need to go back again.
  5. Your face swells to the size of a grapefruit and you spend the next morning in the emergency room.
Root Canal

Numerous thanks to Karen for picking me up at the dentist last night and accompanying me to the emergency room this morning even though she has about 10 schmillion other things going on right now!

Baltimore Row Houses
Baltimore Row Houses - Photo by mariozama

Things got off to a rough start, but I think I am starting to get used to living here. I thought I was busy in Oakland, but somehow seem to have gotten way busier here. It is wearing me out.

Business has been great since I got here. Working on 2 projects now, one from a new local business woman I met here and one from San Francisco. I still have not found the geek/webdev community here. It makes me kind of sad, but hopefully I will find it eventually. There is a WordPress meetup that I would really love to go to, but it doesn’t seem like anyone is organizing any meetings.

Besides from my todo list being about a mile too long, I think I like living here. It is a beautiful city with lots of things to do. I love all the bricks. I found a karate school that I really like. The pizza is much better than in California. My friend Kim lives here. Karen’s friends are great and the people here seem to be very friendly in general. K likes her job. It is also nice to live so close to Washington DC.

I am glad we can be near K’s folks and help them out. Also nice to live much closer to my family. I think I will adapt to living here someday. Right now, still feels kind of surreal. There is not much time to explore. Walking around aimlessly is how I usually adapt to new places, but even though there is hardly any time for that, things are starting to become more familiar and I am feeling less lost in general.

Have to get back to work. One of these days I will post some links, videos, and code snippets that are hanging around in my ‘things to post on’ list.

Maryland State Flag
Welcome to Maryland?

Things started off so well. We made good time to Baltimore, got here to find an awesome apartment, a great landlord, and a neighborhood that has everything you would ever want within a few block radius. What could go wrong? Glad you asked. Please, let me whine for 3 paragraphs…

If I were more paranoid, I would think that the Maryland government hates me. That actually did cross my mind for a moment, but in reality, the events of the past 2 days have nothing at all to do with the fine state of Maryland. On Tuesday, Karen and I went to the DMV (aka MVA). On the first try, we didn’t realize that we needed 2 proofs of residency, so had to go back home and get them, then go back to the MVA. We registered our car, got our new plates, and Karen got her Maryland driver’s license. I was not so lucky.

24 years ago, I had my license revoked in New York due to getting 3 speeding tickets. Very shortly before it was revoked, I got a driver’s license in Florida.  I paid my giant fine in NY and assumed everything was taken care of. 4 years later, I moved to California, got a driver’s license and renewed it 4 times with no problem. I have had that license for 20 years, and it is still valid today. Still, Maryland would not give me a driver’s license because the record from New York and Florida was never cleared from the system. In order to clear it, I must mail a $25 check and a letter requesting that they clear my record to NY. There is a 10-12 week wait time for processing it. When that is done, they or I must fax the clearance to Florida, and Florida must fax it to Maryland. Not exactly sure what the point of having the whole country hooked up online when you still have use snail mail and fax to get anything done. Thank goodness my California license is good until 2013!

“What else could go wrong?”, you may ask.  Yesterday, I lost my SSI because I don’t live in my house any more, so now it is an asset. I have been trying very hard to get off of SSI for several years now, but was hoping to do it when I was making a more steady income and could afford health insurance (and rent). Luckily, Karen’s new workplace has benefits for domestic partners so I will still be able to get my medicine.

Yesterday, both me and K were in pretty bad spirits. Maybe it was all the red tape and rejection, or maybe it was because we went to both the DMV and Home Depot 2 times, but things were looking pretty bleak and we were completely exhausted. I think we are both in better spirits today. Our bed and furniture from IKEA is assembled and we can now start unpacking for real. Best of all, I can start to set up my office and hook up my big computer!

It will be good to start working again. Suddenly I feel the need to re-market my business to focus on things that bring in steady monthly income, like web hosting and website maintenance. I still have job requests coming in, so predictable income will have to wait. Hopefully I will hook up with the web development/geek communities here soon. Luckily, most of my business is done on the internet, so I will still be able to work with my current clients and colleagues. Karen will be starting work in a couple of weeks, and I am guessing that is when I will really find out what it is like to live and work in Baltimore day to day. Until then, I am hoping we can have some more fun times and adventures before we are both crazy busy again with work/life/etc!

I hella heart Oakland

We are moving in 12 days and I am starting to freak out. Our house is full of boxes. Everything is different. I will miss our house terribly. We have lived here for 8 years and I have loved every minute of it.

Karen is very busy seeing people before we leave. I have seen a few people. There are more I want to see, but probably won’t because there are so many things going on and I can barely even stand to think about adding more things.

Things keep breaking. As if there weren’t enough things to do, we have added waiting around for repair people to the list. Our washer broke one day before the warranty expired. It was a weekend, but Sears let us use it because we called before the expiration date. That was very lucky. We were not so lucky about our freezer. That one expired in December. It has been leaky and not freezing things as it should. Tomorrow is the day for that repair. Spent 3.5 hours at Costco yesterday waiting for tires. Considering we will be driving almost 3,000 miles, I think it was worth the wait. Hopefully we will get out of here before we spend all our money on repairs.

Mostly I am freaking out because I can not at all picture what it will be like to live in Baltimore day-to-day. I don’t interact with very many people here, but over the years, I have managed to not be completely isolated from the outside world.

There are 3 ways that I can interact comfortably with people I don’t know very well:

  1. Geek events – meetups, conferences, cons, camps, etc. It is easier to talk to people at these events because we share the same interest and excitement about whatever technology we are celebrating at the moment.
  2. Beer – I like to drink a beer with people sometimes. Maybe even a scotch or Jack and Coke. Still not terribly easy, but definitely takes the edge off.
  3. Martial arts – Even though I have such a hard time talking to people, for some reason, I usually have an easy time fighting with them. I think this is strange, but I don’t really care.

I am not worried too much about having a beer. I think that will happen on its own. I have been researching Baltimore geekery and found a few meetups, including WordPress. Hopefully I will meet new people to work with and talk shop with. I have met some really great people here through WordPress meetups and I will miss them a lot. I have also been looking for a new karate (or other random martial arts) school with weekday daytime classes. If it wasn’t for karate, it is very likely I would have no human contact for most of my waking hours.

I am lucky to know some people in Baltimore already, one of whom I am especially excited to be living near again (that is you Kim, if you are reading this). Over the years, I have met lots of Karen’s friends there and have always had a good time with them. They are very welcoming and down to earth and strangely easy to be around. Thanks K’s friends!

As each day passes, we are doing more and more “lasts”. It is possible we will do all those things again someday, but probably not for a very long time. Today might be the last time I go to San Francisco before we leave. Karen will go back next week to party with her friends. It is all very strange. I don’t like it. Still, I am looking forward to new adventures in Baltimore and am very curious what life will be like a few weeks from now.

We are moving in 18 days! I can hardly believe it. In honor of the occasion, I did what I do for just about every occasion and built us a website to track our drive across the country and further adventures in Baltimore. Karen and I will both be posting stories, maps, pictures, etc.

There is not much there yet, but if you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and visit us at 🙂

When I was in grade school, kids used to call me “44” because the big serial killer of the moment (1976-77) was David Berkowitz, aka “Son of Sam”, aka the “.44 Caliber Killer”. For those of you missing the connection, my last name is Berkowitz. My birthday just passed on January 28th and I turned 44. For obvious reasons, this has reminded me of my old nickname. It was one of the nicest nicknames I had during grade school. One other observation that I have had concerning my birthday is that it is pretty cool to turn 44 in ’11. Not sure why.

I had a great birthday. Highlights of the day were Macworld 2011 (regardless of the iPad-centricity), birthday cake with a bee on it, and champagne 🙂 (Thank you K!)

The night before my birthday, Karen was kind enough to join me at an HTML5 meetup in San Francisco where Paul Irish, an awesome front-end development genius, was speaking about HTML5 Boilerplate, “A rock-solid default for HTML5 awesome”. If you are very sad that you missed it and would like to see it now, here it is!