On Friday, Ralph J. Roberts passed away at 95

My thoughts and prayers for his entire family and to all who have known him. Comcast has been a great place to work, and has been great for family, and to give back to my community, and I know that springs in no small part to its founder.


Comcast: Ralph J. Roberts, Comcast Corporation Founder and Chairman Emeritus, Dies at Age 95

Philly.com: Comcast founder Ralph Roberts, 95, dies

Billy Penn: Ralph Roberts: From selling milk and playing poker to founding Comcast and building the cable giant in Philadelphia

Philadelphia Magazine: Ralph J. Roberts: My Philadelphia Story

On Mindfulness

I’ve just finished an eight week mindfulness course and I’ve been asked a few times if I got anything out it. Yes I have: I improved my card playing technique.

Hear me out.

There is a card playing metaphor me and my little brother have shared through the years to help get through difficult times: The goal is to play the hand you’ve been dealt, to the best of your ability. Don’t think too hard about the hands you’ve been dealt in the past, or worry about the cards which may come in the future, they are are out of your control.

If you spend too much time looking at the past, or worrying about the future, you will not make the best choice you can in the moment.

People who know me well, know I quote this quite a bit. It sounds so simple, but think of your own experience, and you know it is anything but.

The next few hands might mean winning or losing everything, and this day has been nothing but work, work, work, and you’re always losing these things so why are you sitting there anyway, and.. well.. Your adrenaline is probably pumping, and the moment you’re in might feel like the most critical moment EVAR. What happens next is what matters… right?

Hold onto that for a moment while I shift gears. I promise to return to this.

But first, let me ask you, doesn’t time start to really fly as we age? Blink and days, weeks, even months seem to zip by.

That’s because most moments, maybe this one if you are skimming (you probably are, lets be honest), are not an examined moments. Intentionally or not, as our experience grows, so do the stories we mentally collect, to filter our world by.

It is absolutely necessary. We need to do it to survive. Pondering the rain can keep you from seeking shelter and avoiding a lightning strike, and lightning rods are awesome.

It is probably the advanced pattern matching ability we have that differentiates humans from most animal life. And from one another.

We see someone react well, or poorly, under certain circumstances and we think that it is a sure sign of their innate intelligence, or their innate resilience. When, underneath it all, the truth is, they’ve had some experience, some teaching, some lesson that got absorbed.

Watch children play before they get too caught up in thinking before acting. They are experiencing the moment fully and learning from it. Sight, smell, sound, everything is getting recorded for pattern analysis and reuse. That’s why time moves so slow for them. Each moment is a learnable moment. Forming connections, stories, experiences that will get used in future situations. There is a lot of input getting written to memory. Absorbing that takes time and energy. So time moves slow.

Eventually all kids start to think about the future and the past, and that removes them from the current moment. How is school going suck tomorrow? Why didn’t my so called friend call me back? Time moves faster as the now is less and less examined. It does that because they no longer are in the current moment. They’re elsewhere.

When this becomes habit, whenever they are in a moment where there isn’t flooded with new stimuli (even though all moments are unique, how quickly we lose that!), you’ll hear, “I’m bored”.

So, full circle, back to the metaphor, the card game. The class has given me some techniques to get my head in the moment, to strengthen the quality of my attention, and to do so non-judgmentally. So I can hopefully see my hand of cards and recognize my mind’s attempts at zipping to the future or the past, to see the moment as a teachable one, once again.

Hearing classmates share their own struggles and journeys helped me to realize I wasn’t so alone. As our instructor shared, we may all have different paths, we feel similar things. We weren’t as isolated as we may think.

Being non-judgemental is key. It’s necessary in order to observe those stories, those filters, that might have once been all important, when now they limit the choices I might make, or the enjoyment I might feel, if I let myself take in something fully.

As a child might, with a beginners mind.

And it’s not easy. It’s not about relaxing or positive thinking. It’s work to take your head out of your ass once it gets used to being there. It’s forming new habits to replace the old.

That means practice, one day at a time. One moment at a time.


Ferris Quote

(Shit! This is deep wisdom now isn’t it?)

Watch: Jacob Kaplan-Moss Keynote at Pycon 2015

35 minutes that are absolutely worth it. Watch Jacob Kaplan-Moss at PyCon 2015 explain why he is a ‘mediocre programmer’ and why we need to take a hard look at our industry, how we define our careers, and the myths we tell, because they are flawed, and we are all the lesser as long as it remains so:

IGN: 7 Reasons Star Wars Rebels is Superior to the Prequels

If the Prequels damaged your enthusiasm for Star Wars, and you look to the new movies with dread, give Star Wars: Rebels a try on Disney XD. They feel as if they were written in the same spirit as the originals. We’re enjoying them immensely, but don’t just listen to my thoughts on them, check out what IGN is saying:

Reading “The Practice of Cloud System Administration”

In distributed systems, failure is normal. Hardware failures that are rare, when multiplied by thousands of machines, become common. Therefore failures are assumed, designs work around them, and software anticipates them. Failure is an expected part of the landscape.
— Thomas A. Limoncelli, Strata R. Chalup, Christina J. Hogan, “The Practice of Cloud System Administration”

Reading “The Practice of Cloud System Administration”

It is human nature to look for patterns and to assign them meaning when we find them. Kahneman and Tversky analyzed many of the shortcuts we employ in assessing patterns in data and in making judgments in the face of uncertainty. They dubbed those shortcuts heuristics. In general, heuristics are useful, but just as our manner of processing optical information sometimes leads to optical illusions, so heuristics sometimes lead to systematic error. Kahneman and Tversky called such errors biases. We all use heuristics, and we all suffer from biases. But although optical illusions seldom have much relevance in our everyday world, cognitive biases play an important role in human decision making. And so in the late twentieth century a movement sprang up to study how randomness is perceived by the human mind. Researchers concluded that “people have a very poor conception of randomness; they do not recognize it when they see it and they cannot produce it when they try,” and what’s worse, we routinely misjudge the role of chance in our lives and make decisions that are demonstrably misaligned with our own best interests.
— Thomas A. Limoncelli, Strata R. Chalup, Christina J. Hogan, “The Practice of Cloud System Administration”

Reading “The Practice of Cloud System Administration”

To manage a large distributed system, one must have visibility into the system. The ability to examine internal state—called introspection—is required to operate, debug, tune, and repair large systems.
— Thomas A. Limoncelli, Strata R. Chalup, Christina J. Hogan, “The Practice of Cloud System Administration”

Reading “The Practice of Cloud System Administration”

A typical response to a risky process is to do it as rarely as possible. Thus there is a temptation to do as few releases as possible. The result is “mega-releases” launched only a few times a year. However, by batching up so many changes at once, we actually create more risk. How can we be sure thousands of changes, released simultaneously, will all work on the first try? We can’t. Therefore we become even more recalcitrant toward and fearful of making changes. Soon change becomes nearly impossible and innovation comes to a halt.
— Thomas A. Limoncelli, Strata R. Chalup, Christina J. Hogan, “The Practice of Cloud System Administration”

Seven Habits Reread

Correct maps will infinitely impact our personal and interpersonal effectiveness far more than any amount of effort expended on changing our attitudes and behaviors.
— Steven Covey, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”