Uncharted Waters


January 22, 2012  10:18 AM

Taking a Journey – with Corey Haines (Part II)

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

Last time I interviewed Corey Haines about his journeyman lifestyle — leaving the day job behind and travelling the country on a pair programming tour in trade for a place to crash and maybe “fifty space bucks for lunch, gas and tolls.”

We’re back for part II of the interview, where we covered Corey budgeted and planned for his tour, how the tour actually took shape, what he did … and what he learned.

Continued »

January 20, 2012  5:16 AM

Taking a Journey – with Corey Haines (Part I)

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

In my previous article I interviewed J.B. Rainsberger, a sort of traditional globe-trotting-consultant turned early retiree living the life of the itinerant IT consultant.

His story is inspring, but even as I wrote it, I could hear the comments in my mind. “But Matt”, you’d say “I haven’t written a book, founded an international series of conferences, or have the cachet to command high rates for short-term consulting.  What’s a guy like me to do?”

Meet Corey Haines, that’s what.

Continued »


January 16, 2012  8:54 PM

Citogenesis

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

In this classic XKCD comic strip, we see a bit of everything: Humor, enlightenment, system dynamics … real life.

The term the author uses is “citogenesis”, a clever pun on “cytogenesis”, that actual real-life term for the process by which living things are created.

It seems that on the internet, and even before that, legends are born when respectable people or organizations make respectable claims that sound like they are true – or at least, sound like they should be true.

Comedian Stephen Colbert calls this “truthiness“, a term that, ironically, has made it’s way into wikipedia, where it is described as: a “truth” that a person claims to know intuitively “from the gut” or that it “feels right” without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts.

Yes, some Wikipedia author put “truth” in quotes to indicate just how true it needed to be. (Hint: Not very much).

Citogenesis isn’t just for mythbusters; it can affect us at home, at the office, or out shopping.

Here’s how to spot it – and what we can do about it.

Continued »


January 10, 2012  3:19 PM

The Singularity Signal

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

I’ve been enjoying the series on career directions, but it’s time for a bit of a break — so let’s take a coupe of posts for something completely different.

Have you heard of the Singularity?

It’s an interesting sort of technological apocalypse — you can see it’s ideas on the big screen in The Terminator or The Matrix; that eventually machines will become self-aware and rise up to rule over their human overloads.  To introduce the subject properly would take a book; Amazon tells me that there are thousands of books on the subject, so I’ll make mine very brief.

It is also easy to dismiss Singularity as Science Fiction inspired by an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie from the 1980’s, but let’s dig in a little bit.

The most compelling observation I know of for the singularity is that Computer Clock Cycles and Processing Power keeps increasing, roughly doubling every few years in accordance with Moore’s Law, while we humans are at best, facing small gains over millions of years through natural selection.

The thinking goes like this: Eventually computers will catch up, have some sort of “divine spark” event, and go past us.

That thinking has been smacked down in the media:  Right now, today, we could create a three-dimensional grid, 100x100x100 of the strongest CPU’s in the world together, something like the Department of Energy Project ASCI Red, and get a computer that strong, but we know what it would do: Execute instructions it was fed in serial order.   The “divine spark” is a question mark, a huge one, one that can’t be ignored.  Without it, we have no singularity.

But here’s the thing: We don’t need one.

Continued »


January 3, 2012  3:41 PM

On A Boat — With Adam Yuret (Part II)

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser
This is the boat. For Reals.

This is the boat. For Reals.

Last time I introduced my friend, Adam Yuret, and the story of this three-year boat trip from Seattle, Washington, down to Mexico and back.  (Perhaps I should say, his one year trip, which he took three times.)

You would think this would sink his IT career, yet Adam, who has no certificates, no degrees, and did not complete high school, is doing just fine.

We’ll pick things up this week, to talk about how the trip went, how it impacted his career, and what’s next for Adam.

Continued »


December 23, 2011  3:41 PM

On A Boat – With Adam Yuret (Part I)

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

So far we’ve heard from J.B. Rainsberger and David Hoppe, two technologists who quit left the day job behind in order to have a more fulfilling life.

That’s great for them, you say, but it’s not your goal.

Hey, I understand.  Some of us like the places we live, or at least we want to come back.

Perhaps the trade-off of forty hours a week for a pay check and benefits is one you are willing to make, or at least one we are willing to make for eleven months a year.

Or ten.  Or nine.

It may have occurred to you to take a year off; to travel, then come back to the eight-to-five.

Of course, you are worried about your tech career.  It doesn’t look good to have a hole in your resume and all that, right?  I mean, those big gurus who have written books might get away with it, but how about a little guy, or a guy with no impressive credentials?

Meet Adam Yuret, a self-educated technologist who dropped out of high school when he was 16.

He and his wife took three years off to sail on a boat down the Pacific coast, from Portland, OR to Mexico. Adam and his wife bought an old fixer upper sailboat which they spent nearly 2 years rebuilding before they headed out to sea. What followed would be a tumultuous, sometimes highly challenging occasionally amazing adventure. Due to various critical mechanical failures they ran out of money after 18 months. At this point they adjusted their plan from a Pacific crossing to a summer exploring the Sea of Cortez. After that summer they hauled the boat and came home to earn more money before taking another attempt 18 months later. They never crossed the Pacific but they learned a lot about each other and have no regrets. (You can read about their adventures on their 2 blogs: Part 1 andPart 2.

Yes, he had to take the trip in several segments.  Instead of a Cruise ship vacation at $700 per per person per week, they sailed their own boat at a cost of, well … approximately every penny they had.

Along the way, the boat broke down.  They ran out of money.  There was struggle.

And they got some great stories to tell the kids, eh?

Let’s hear what he had to say.

Continued »


December 19, 2011  10:20 PM

Going Independent – with J.B. Rainsberger

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

It’s been two weeks since I did my post on the Jimmy Buffett Life.  Some of the ideas, like radically downsizing our lives and embracing an itinerant career, really resonated with people.

But they had, you know, concerns.  As one friend of mine wrote “The only thing that bothers me is that it sounds fantastical, even though I know people who’ve done it.  It would be so cool if you had a few quotes from people who’ve tried it.”

Other concerns I heard were along similar lines.  Things like “That could never work for me”, “I wouldn’t know how to start”, “That’s too risky”, or, perhaps, more honestly, “I’m too scared to think about it.”

Diving into a Jimmy Buffett lifestyle (or even moving in that direction) can be a scary thing.

So i’m trying to introduce you to a few people who have done it, and done it well.  Last week, I interviewed my colleague and friend David Hoppe.

It’s Time to Meet J.B. Rainsberger

Continued »


December 15, 2011  12:29 AM

This could be your life — with David Hoppe

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

For most of us, life after high school is pretty easy.  You get some education, then you go get one of those ‘job’ things.  In some cases, you repeat.

The job trade-off is pretty easy:  Forty Hours a week for a steady pay check.

Like I said, though, that only holds true for some people.  For others, not so much.

That “not so much” — going independent — has been a recent theme on this blog.

I think it’s time you met my friend, David Hoppe.

I knew something was odd with David in 1998, shortly after I met him, when I asked if he was working, and he replied “A little bit.”

A little bit?  Really?  Isn’t having a regular 8-to-5 like being pregnant?  I mean, you are or you you aren’t, right?

It turns out that David was an independent technologist.  He builds systems, he fixes systems, and he even writes a little bit of code here and there.

What he ain’t got is one of them job thingees.

I kept in touch with David over the years, and eventually went independent myself last May.

For those of us facing corporate downsizing, offshoring, and re-organization, escape from the cubicle may seem like a fantasy.

In that case, well, this could be your life.

I’ll let David tell his story.

Continued »


December 7, 2011  12:09 AM

The Jimmy Buffett Life

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

In an earlier article, I suggested that the half-life of a tech career is fifteen years.

Now that doesn’t mean that your career is over at fifteen years; it means half the people who started in technology have gone on to something else.  By fifty, that number is likely 25%.  By sixty-five … you get it.

Let’s say you like technology, and want to stay in it, or at least stay around it.  What could you do?

Here’s one option: Take a lesson from this guy.

The Jimmy Buffett Life

Imagine your life completely different.  No apartment rent, no heating bill, no car loan, no commute, no lawn mower, no lawn, no stuff to maintain.

Imagine ditching it all, and getting all of your time back.

Get on a boat and move to somewhere warm year-round — somewhere with a beach.  Get a job playing music in some dive bar for tips, free food, and beer.  What more do you need?

It turns out that all that stuff is a huge anchor, a big money-sucking machine.  The cost to crash at friends places (or the beach if you need to), to have a suit cases worth of stuff — well, you can earn that in three shifts a week at a dive bar.

And it is a choice that many people make every year.

Unless you are lucky enough to be reading this in your earlier twenties, though, you are probably saddled with the under-water mortgage, the piles and piles of stuff that you can’t untangle.  What’s more, you have real commitments; friends and family you see not as holding you back, but as partners in making a better life.  I hear you.

This blog post is for you.

Continued »


December 2, 2011  1:18 AM

Michigan Works! … Except when it doesn’t.

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

In order to qualify for unemployment benefits in the state of Michigan, you need to do a few specific things.  First, you need to walk through the doors of a “Michigan Works!” office and do some paper.  Then you need to create an account on Michigan Talent Bank.

It sure seems like a brilliant idea.  I mean, have every person who is looking for work register with their skill set, then give any employer access to the database.

Shrink job searches, eliminate all the folks in the job market just to get a counter-offer, shrink the welfare budget by getting people back to work, and, let’s face it, help companies save on employee costs by hiring folks who are the most hungry.

Everybody wins, right?

Like I said, it’s great theory.

Continued »


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