Category: lists

  • The Bastard Brigade – Sam Kean, 2019

    Despite being released in mid-2019, this book makes my favorites list for 2020 because that’s really when I got around to reading it. You’ll have absolutely no problems finding at least one story from this collection that will stick with you forever. Whether it’s the love of the Curie family, the sorrows the Kennedy’s faced, or that amazing feat of skiing/sabotage that the allies used in destroying a heavy water manufacturing facility – this book has the most intense science stories that you’ve never heard of. 

    I actually wrote the author of The Bastard Brigade to thank him. Looking back, I had a history teacher once tell me historical non-fiction could be way more entertaining and exciting than fiction ever could be, and I wanted to thank the author for writing the first book I have read that might make me think he had a point.

    Letters from an Astrophysicist, Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson, 2017

    I was a little unsure of this one when I picked it up. Mostly, it seemed like this was a cheap way for Dr. Tyson to make a quick buck, shelling out correspondances. What I found instead was a rich repository of interesting questions from the general public – some were unconventional, perhaps even “crazy”, but Dr. Tyson always responds in a manner which always made me feel he respects and understands his fans, even if their questions or responses were less than polite.

    I have never met or written Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, nor will I probably ever get the chance to meet him. Even given this distance, his unrelenting search for and obsession with the truth of things is what I admire about him. He makes me want to teach in the same way he teaches – with the end goal being not to change the life of your audience, but to illuminate the means by which the audience can change their way of thinking, and in turn allow themselves to better their lives.

    …That’s it

    I spent the better part of 2020 working for a coding sweatshop – I seriously didn’t have the mental energy after work for anything more than reading a few news articles then going for a workout. I listened to a lot of podcasts:

    • Science Friday
    • Star Talk
    • Science Rules
    • The Laracasts Snippet

    Even with the podcasts, I wasn’t absorbing the amount of extra information that I’m used to, so in 2021 I’m definitely making it a point to put aside at least one hour, 4 days a week, to make progress in reading. I’ll be listening to podcasts for sure, but for the most part I plan on moving back to traditional literature for 2021.


  • Inspired by Elizabeth Irgens’s note, here’s a brief stroll down memory lane where I’ll touch on previous jobs.

    The Upsell

    My first real job was working as a retail clerk for Best Buy. This was in the days before their current CEO (2020) revamped their approach to pricing and customer service. As a checkout clerk, we were held to conversion metrics such as selling a certain number of protection plans, and getting customers to sign up for terrible credit cards.

    I learned that it’s not as hard to upsell people if you instill a little doubt about the quality of the product they’re buying. In all reality, most people didn’t need the protection plans, or the protection plans that were sold didn’t offer the coverage we were told to imply.

    The Internship (absolutely nothing like the movie)

    My second job was during Sophomore year of college, and it was one of the best ever. F5 Networks offers technical internships, and I was lucky enough to land one. 

    I learned a lot of what I know about working with bash, building and maintaining server racks, and web development. I also learned a bit about office politics, and that internships don’t always lead to job placement in a company. That was a rough lesson to learn.

    The Warehouse

    Shortly after my internship was over, I started working for a medium sized business in stores/receiving, later to switch to shipping. Here I learned what a hard day’s work really was, how to stand for 10 hours on end working through freezing temperatures.

    My takeaway was that I’m not really cut out of blue collar labor on the regular. I’m an office man, through and through.

    The Money People

    I worked for a time as a database/server admin + general IT guy for a small financial advising firm. It was a stuffy business, both the clients and my fellow coworkers were mostly super conservative religious types. In fact, my boss even tried to get me to join a church so I could get free health insurance through them.

    I didn’t, and I learned a powerful lesson. These guys paid me $10 / hour in 2014 for skills that took me a long time to hone. Just because a door is open, doesn’t mean you walk through it – and if you do and the room isn’t to your liking, walk back through that door.

    The Medical Field

    After a struggle of conscience and will, I decided that I needed to dip my toes in the medical field to see if it was right for me. I became a CNA and worked in an assistive living facility. It was all pretty hands off, save getting to help with med pass.

    I highly enjoyed my time at this job, and I learned compassion for those struck by degenerative disease. I also feel pity for all people in nursing homes / assistive living whose highlight of the day is to go down to the dining room an hour early to just sit and wait for a mediocre dinner.

    The Addiction Recovery Center

    Much like my work as a CNA, working to help addicts through their recovery process was a very pivotal point in my life. It taught me compassion and understanding for those suffering from addiction, and changed my perspective in a huge way.

    Triad Behavioral Health

    Once I completed web development certs, I started to work for an e-learning company. This was my baptism by fire for Laravel, and I was really able to flex my PHP skills. I also learned how to work with people who were remote.

    I would have stayed with this company longer, but they shut our department down.

    The Dev Shop

    Almost immediately after I left TBH, I started working for a development firm in Spokane. They were on the small size, 12 employees in total, with about 7 full time developers. I learned about networking, and how to work remotely with other companies on a daily basis. Ultimately, I found that I wasn’t happy jumping from project to project, being unable to take long term ownership of any products/projects, and having to kiss ass to rude customers. 

    And onwards…


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