26 Years Later

26 years ago, I was sitting in Mrs. Wilson’s 5th Grade science class when a classmate across the lab bench from me asked if I heard about the bombing in Oklahoma City.

At the time, I thought she probably didn’t know what she was talking about or, at least, it was a “small bomb”, whatever that means to a 5th grader. In 1995, I had heard about suicide bombers overseas, but they never seemed to be that big.

But, of course, she was correct. The Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, two hours away, was destroyed by a homegrown, fanatic terrorist, who was convinced that the Government was out to destroy American freedom.

Six years later, 9/11 overshadowed Oklahoma City and, I think, as a country, we’ve forgotten about it. Looking right now, none of the major cable news sites or the major national newspapers mention it on their homepage. Of the sites I search, the New York Times did share a video of AG Garland speaking at a service today. But that’s it.

After the storming of the Capitol earlier this year, the idea of homegrown terrorism being one of the top homeland security concerns is fresh in my mind.

These things are linked together. The Capitol events on January 6th were shocking, but Oklahoma City was a whole other level. If we forget what Americans can do when they fall completely into the mindset of “the government is the problem and they’re coming to take away everything”, we’re going to see something very bad.

Our government works best when we all come to the table together and legitimately work together. Yes, we have different opinions and there are different parties, but we must be able to hammer out something that we all can live with.

The Oklahoma City Memorial is beautiful and heartbreaking. There is an Empty Chair for everyone who died in the bombing, positioned roughly to show where they were when they died. 19 of the chairs are small. 19 babies and children died, as there was a day care in the building. The award-winning photograph of a firefighter carrying a dying baby out should be a sober reminder of the depths of evil we can sink to when we don’t see each other as people, but as Others that are trying to attack us.

26 years later, let’s pause and remember those who died this day and do whatever we can do ensure we are not fanning the flames for it to happen again.

Happy National Beer Day

In the United States, today is National Beer Day! Today in 1933, beer became legal again during the tail end of 18th Amendment prohibition of alcoholic beverages.

What’s interesting is that the 21st Amendment, repealing the 18th, was not effective until December 1933, so why is today a day?

On this date, the Cullen-Harrison Act went into effect. The 18th Amendment was functionally enacted by the Volstead Act in 1919, which defined “intoxicating” anything with 0.5% alcohol. Which is just about anything that ever thought about a beer.

The Cullen-Harrison Act, under the authority of the 18th Amendment, changed the definition of “intoxicating” to anything higher than 3.2% alcohol-by-weight so it could be legally sold and consumed under the Federal law, presuming states allowed it. Almost nothing we see in stores today would qualify, but in 1933, 1.5 million barrels were consumed on April 7, 1933 to celebrate.

If you’re one to have a beer every now or then, today isn’t a bad day to raise a glass.

Support Rotation

At Automattic, after being hired, your first two weeks on the job is working with our Happiness teams to directly support customers. For engineers or designers, it gives you a taste of who we’re building this for. For other roles, it is a reminder that we’re all contributing toward the success of our customers in their mission to publish, to sell, to teach, or whathaveyou.

After that, we take a week a year in some form—a fully week, five days spread out over the year, whatever works for your team—to go back to Happiness to work with our customers directly again.

I spent my first five years at Automattic within Happiness so I had a lot of interaction directly with our customers, but after swimming over to the engineering side 100%, it is time again for my annual support rotation.

For a lot of non-Happiness folks, the idea of jumping back into direct support can be a bit scary. Happiness folks have to know everything about the product. Engineers just need to know their portion and lightly keep up with what other teams are doing. Customers come up with the most bizarre issues sometimes and you can’t just say “wow, that’s messed up.”

In actuality, the Happiness teams at Automattic are extremely supportive folks to their non-Happiness teammates who join them during the rotations. Happiness Engineers are helpful and supportive to the folks contacting us, but internally, they are also some of the most selfless, helpful folks in the company.

If you’re a customer of WordPress.com or Jetpack, feel free to reach out and say hello. We usually hear from the folks having problems, but if you want to write in just to say everything is working fine, that’s okay too. 😀

The Longest Lent

Holy Saturday is perhaps one of my favorite days of the liturgical year. The cruelty of Good Friday is past us and we’re in this holding pattern. We do have faith that Easter is coming, but it isn’t here yet. Isn’t that where we are now? We have faith that Jesus will return, but not yet. The major difference is we know that the Easter Vigil will start after sundown and we’re a bit clueless on the second coming.

This year it takes another meaning for me. Yesterday, I received my second COVID-19 vaccination dose. Our communal Lent—not as a faith community, but as a global community—started for most of us around the same time as Lent 2020. While the majority of the world is still awaiting vaccinations and in the midst of surges, lockdowns of some sort, and the like, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

For me, I’m feeling pretty out of it today. It’s the most common side-effect: a day of flu-like aches and soreness for a day. While the overall road is still long ahead of us, the adults in our “quaranteam” have had both doses and just a couple weeks away from being among the fully-vaccinated. As for us, Easter is a celebration and a major milestone, but the work isn’t done. Same here. Things may be getting closer to normal, but we’re going to only be “near normal” for awhile. That’s okay because it’s what gets us to the end goal.

Lent 2020 has been effectively 402 days long so far. Looking forward to Easter.

All Adults Eligible

All adults in Texas will be eligible for the COVID vaccine starting on March 29th.

In some areas of the state, demand in the priority groups is dropping, but in Austin, we’re still seeing a lot of Phase 1 folks trying to get a vaccine.

In other words, just because the state is making everyone eligible, it doesn’t mean you’ll be able to get an appointment. If you’re able to travel, the neighboring counties may not be a bad bet.

News Only on The iPad

I’m going to experiment with an attempt of a lifehack to only consume news when I’m using my iPad—not at my regular work computer.

Usually, I’ll browse the news sites while waiting for something to build or tests or run, but too often, something will be “breaking” that catches my attention. In reality, it doesn’t really need or deserve my attention. The world would be perfectly the same if I read about it after the event had ended at the end of the day on the iPad.

I’m intentionally not saying my phone either, since that’s easy to get sucked into at the wrong time too. My iPad is an everyday device, but it isn’t an all-the-time one. I only pull it out intentionally—usually to put on something to watch or listen to while doing the dishes.

I have an Apple News+ subscription (cheapest way to get the WSJ I’ve found), so the iPad makes the most sense for this experiment.

What are some hacks y’all have put in place to help keep you from getting sucked into the wrong things at the wrong time?