Five years ago I had been living in Chicago for less than a year. I'm still here, on the northside a few block's walk from the lake - living on the same street for the four of those years, two in the current apartment. Today it's bright spring sun outside and we're all starting to dream about the trees budding in a month or two.
Two and a half years ago I went on a first date with a friend of a friend I'd met a few years before. Last October I asked her to marry me, and we're now hip-deep in planning the big celebration that will take place this September.
I went back to work in the fall of 2007, for an old-school consulting company in the suburbs where a friend from the local Python user group had started a unit focusing on open source web development. They'd arranged a placement for me at an online marketing / customer-acquisition company a short train ride up the shore, where I stayed for the next 3 years, hired on by the client after a year. A really wonderful shop that had a strong tech focus and a passion for good development practices - the first time I'd seen agile iterative development work well. Test-driven, continuous integration, automated repeatable deployment, all simply in the air we breathed, and we had the capacity to build all manner of supporting tools for testing, deployment, and monitoring. Also a big help: strong supporting ops and qa teams.
I spent most of that time as a team lead on the main line of business there, and started to transition into managing technical and project management folks. Still kept a hand on the technical architecture side of the project and nurturing the team's development practices. Two large architecture migrations went mostly smoothly. We transitioned from subversion to mercurial, distributed version control changes your brain in a wonderful way.
This year makes 10 years that I've been doing Python web development professionally, mostly backend web service type stuff and managing/massaging the boundary between frontend and backend teams. I'm getting pretty good.
A year ago non-technical things at work were getting pretty heated. Lots of friction between us and the client-management teams and the analytics department through a couple re-orgs and attempts from my boss to push some big changes in how the company thought about getting work done. I was leading a significant part of this push, and just burned out from all the politics I was inserting myself into. I gave notice in June. Unlike previous departures, I'd matured enough not to burn the place down, they're doing better now and I'm still on good terms with my old boss.
The final push came as an offer from my former boss to come build a new backend and develop a Python team with good practices at his new job. At an incredibly fun retail company, with an incredibly immature tech team and an old (but not mature, just cranky) tech platform. A rocky start from zero, to say the least. For a while I mostly worked by myself, building up tools & infrastructure and goodwill. Nine months in, and things are improving: the team is now excited about most of what I'm trying to do, the initial project I built is out in the world (new resume addition: automated cloud deployment).
When I started this job the office was a 5-minute bike ride away. Almost another perfect lazy summer. In the fall they moved down to the west loop, so I'm back on the train. As the weather improves again I'm going to try to bike it down here, a 7 mile trip that I'm hopefully up for daily.
Extra-positively, that first project is entirely focused on supporting non-profit causes, so I haven't had to deal with nearly as much underlying moral wavering as when I was supporting big construction or big consumerism. My boss knows me well.
Five years ago I went to central China for two weeks - not even close to enough time, and I was trying to rekindle something with the woman I last wrote here about, but beautifully strange and good food everywhere. My love for spicy food has only increased. Saw the terracotta warriors. Had a very drunk man bite off the top of a beer glass in an attempt to impress us.
Four years ago work sent me to Abu Dhabi and Dubai for 10 days. I didn't actually have any work to do there besides fail to acquire a reasonable hosting setup, but we were flush and a bunch of us went over to wine and dine with connected people there. It was otherworldly. I did not go skiing in that mall.
Two and a half years ago I went over France and the UK for two weeks, got to meet some of our fine London representatives for too many beers. Visited my parents who were vacationing near Marseilles. Spent two days with a college friend who is finishing up his PhD in Wales. Traipsed through the parts of South London I remember as a kid. Got to ride the Eurostar and TGV and get very frustrated with my almost-non-existent French.
A year ago I spent two weeks in Rio with my old college roommate from there and his wife and my now-fiance. Highlight of the trip was 2 days on a sailing yacht around Ilha Grande with his mother and her sailing-instructor boyfriend. Lazy tasty times.
My fiance is finishing up her PhD in Latin American history, Mexico in the 1940s, so we've spent a fair amount of time there. Right after we started dating she went to Oaxaca for four months, I visited her twice then and began to love Mexico City. Last February she spent a month in Morelia, and I came along for the first two weeks. Monarch butterflies from all over North America winter there, we took the hike up to see them crowding onto the fir trees. Like an insect snowglobe, there is a constant sound of wind from all the wings flapping.
We're headed back to Mexico City next week for a quick one-week archive trip.
Enjoying music and music festivals has been a steady improvement over these last five years. A year after moving to Chicago a college friend who loves trivia and indie rock moved here and brought me along to the Pitchfork Music Festival here, and then to the Touch and Go Records 25th Anniversary block party at the Hideout. Started paying attention to things that weren't on the radio, and paying attention to individuals across the bands they've played. Subscribed to emusic which at the time was cheap and due to the monthly use-it-or-lose-it got me to listen to 5-10 new albums a month.
I'd been to Bonnaroo in 2003, and in subsequent years a couple of good Wisconsin friends started making it a tradition. This summer will be the fifth year we've gone together; it's a week long camping extravaganza at this point, we'll be exploring the Smokies again the preceding weekend, then roll into Manchester, TN early Wednesday, and then haul all our stuff up to the tent-only camping area right by the main gate early Thursday morning. We've also added Summercamp (rural Illinois in May) and Lollapalooza (downtown Chicago in August) as mostly-regular yearly events. I like to dance in the sun. Looking forward to Decembrists, Gogol Bordello, Florence + the Machine, Ratatat, My Morning Jacket, Bela Fleck, Girl Talk, Bassnectar, Pretty Lights, Skrillex, etc etc.
We subscribed to the Chicago Symphony for a block of jazz shows this year, so far we've seen Regina Carter (amazing), Esperanza Spalding (less so but good), and Wynton Marsalis (double amazing).
Non-festival shows coming up this spring so far include Godspeed You Black Emperor, The Count Basie Orchestra, El Ten Eleven, and Battles. Chicago's been good to me for live music.
is good. Has been great many times over the last five years, on an upward trajectory still. I've accumulated a solid collection of Chicago friends in addition to keeping a whole bunch from college and such. Wedding things are upbeat and exciting and threatening to consume everything except for all those other things. We're making plans for post-wedding, post-PhD, post-Chicago living while enjoying the moment.
I've been happily lurking here consistently for most of these five years, love you all.
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