10 min read

Slow and steady wins the race even if you are so exhausted you fall on your face

I spent a year in the school at the agency trying to do a technology class for the kids; they just aren't into it man. It isn't even remotely interesting to them, and I can't motivate them about what I actually do for a living. Nobody wants to be the kid that got picked on in high school.
Slow and steady wins the race even if you are so exhausted you fall on your face

When going through Unsplash photos (to reduce your reliance of having to manually move images around when you switch hosts and upgrade your CMS deployments) they have all of these diverse super professional looking stock photos of 'developers' who are all smartly dressed hipsters with cool IDE themes.

Developers working hard
Photo by Tim van der Kuip / Unsplash

You can't have enough stock photos of ethnically diverse/mostly women 'technology' workers and whiteboards with smartly colored notes when the fact is that while there are an incredible number of far more talented female technology workers than I will ever be, there's so few who are interested in the field because SURPRISE the toxic masculinity in society really has a fun way of manifesting in men that normally are so autistic (which is not always a bad thing) that their social inadequacies combined with stupid degrees of entitled privilege men ooze in the industry combined with the insane financial compensation allowing them to pretty much get away with whatever... has left me with an experience where I would say almost every one of my female engineering colleagues has been ten thousand times better than me. They have to be, or else they wouldn't want to do the Godforsaken work!  

I wish I knew how to make furniture.

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com / Unsplash

I only saw one of old fat hairy depressed guys with signs of obvious existential dread and ennui all struggling to not fall asleep next to each other watching a keynote about the brand new thing they have to learn overnight after a thirty year career which never gets exhausting, not at all!

Developers, database administrators, technologists, many in the US on H1-B Visas to work, mostly men, some US citizens, some Canadians, during a Town Hall company meeting, "Design Thinking: because it betters us in our disciplines", Bellevue, Washington, USA
Photo by Wonderlane / Unsplash

Where are the stock photos of exhausted and burned out haven't slept in a year types? I looked and couldn't find any.

Oh well, I can at least say that I made something that is finally a 1.0 release lolz, but it only took me years of trying to get there.

Terraform Infrastructure-as-Code project deploying the Ghost CMS to AWS Lightsail instance secured by Bitnami behind Cloudfront CDN distribution requiring an ACM certificate and A record in public ...
I did a thing


Photo by Timur Romanov / Unsplash

Well, it probably doesn't matter to you at all, and it would take too long to really explain unless you were into it. My honest-to-God missional goal for my life is to teach technology skills to kids like I was when I was growing up either at the agency or through some kind of ministry/outreach program my wife and I kicked around talking about dreams when we were younger had ambitions beyond being able to sleep eight hours a night and not have to leave the house on the weekends. My ability to execute on what I feel is a calling of mine, however? Well, today was the first time I think, honestly. It felt really good.

I started my Terraform adventure nearly three years ago with the goal of deploying the Ghost CMS to EC2 and you would not even believe as a newcomer to Cloud/Dev Ops and CI/CD pipelines how much of a ride I was in for. I came back to this project after hitting a pretty big wall with it and it is actually pretty remarkable how much I still struggled with it even with all the fancy new AWS services, like Lightsail, that are specifically intended for quickly prototyping/deploying/set-and-forget 'simple' hosting for stuff like personal blogs and MVP/test environments and the like.

I certainly learned a lot of fun lessons, but you would not believe the thousands of blog posts with random little code snippets and half of what I was actually trying to do that just looked like fodder for 'look ma, I have marketable tech skills and really care about this stuff so give me a job as a full stack developer please!'

Gosh, after a 20y ops career not even being able to code my way out of a bag and the ugliest little bash scripts you ever did see amounting to all of my 'coding' experience before going on this journey... well... I really needed a lot of help to even wrap my head around these concepts.

me irl
Photo by Sammy Williams / Unsplash

Because so many of these technologies and practices are really esoteric and end up in the Stack Overflow or wonky Git commit messages that you intend on squashing later to make it look all neat and professional, demonstrate to the world you are competent, and try to summarize it all into as few words as possible... well, that doesn't work for me. This shit is hard, man!

The only thing harder than doing the actual work though is having to explain it to people who never will care about it or really, honestly, care much about you because you don't have anything else interesting to talk about

I wanted to make sure that my run at this problem not just of finding someone who even would want to attend a lesson of mine, but trying to keep it fun, engaging, and helpful yet still comprehensive enough that someone else could get this up and going with relatively little effort at least with my tutelage as the hundreds I spent figuring out how to do it... so after I finally worked out the kinks enough that I trusted the idempotence, I unleashed it upon a friend who is a wicked smart woman trying to get into a technology career who I met on the Discord, and walked them not just through the vagaries of Terraform, Git, CI/CD workflows, registering a domain, and using an IDE - we streamed the experience and you will find links to the videos (my internet cut out for a minute) below demonstrating the wailing, gnashing of teeth, and even some time just pontificating about the vagaries of life and tech. If a single person watches this I will be impressed, but it is a real jump-start on getting up and running with enough knowledge to be dangerous and start tinkering with the skills people really want you to have.

Part one!

Part two!

I don't have any illusions I'm going to be winning a Capture-the-Flag or working at a FAANG type place freaking ever even if the opportunity were presented to me lol, but I do know these technologies are not going away and I have spent years of my life now trying to become a "cloud/dev ops practitioner" to pretty much no avail, honestly. There's just such a vertical learning curve and what I like to call infinite recursion of infinite dependencies that it takes to even OODA yourself into a position where these practices can help your deployments or the organization you are at, but so very few of us are spending time in community with each other working together to try and solve the knowledge and learning problems that leads to the huge workforce shortage with the interest rate up and the stock market down as Hank Jr. would say.

I've seen so much money come and go in my life from the whole being a drug addict/bipolar/autist/barfly who thought he was pretty edgy by reading all the Beat generation authors and partying until I was homeless, but now I just want to do something to help someone, anyone, really. I'm never going to be a 'real' technologist by my standards, but I can hopefully mentor some people into at least breaking into the industry and getting hands on with stuff. I don't want to do it as a "life coach," entrepreneurial 'code warrior bootcamp,' or any kind of motivated-by-money thing - I want to help those who are actually needing of it... which tends to be older folks who are tired of crap jobs with low pay and are willing to cram studying tech into their busy lives with kids and jobs and crap. I spent a year in the school at the agency weekly trying to do a technology class for the kids, and they just aren't into it man. It isn't even remotely interesting to them, and I can't motivate them about what I actually do for a living. Nobody wants to be a fat, disheveled, sweaty, probably pre-diabetic/way too much caffeine intake equivalent of the kid that got picked on in high school. I'm sure I did some good just with the relationships, but not once were any of them really interested in the content.

Took some photos at a local tech event.
Photo by Hello I'm Nik / Unsplash

It might sound like I'm getting too down on myself, but fact is - I reconciled with the fact that I'll never be 'cool' in my life decades ago, and threw myself into technology with the wild abandon only possible by someone with something to prove and nothing else he was good at. I'm never going to be a Twitch affiliate or make $5 from YouTube, but I'm trying to create cool content on my website https://www.phillhocking.com and stream/archive just the process of doing the work, and I would love to help you with your stuff if you think I could. There's a super cool Discord community where I found the kind of camaraderie, patience, and selfless acts of kindness that I remember used to be so fun and awesome about the internet of the 90s, but now going to even support communities facilitated by big organizations with billions of dollars... you can't ever find people who are willing to talk you through a problem. God, the Hashicorp Terraform Gitter is probably the worst example of this I can fathom.

Team actively working on a sprint to achieve the sprint goal
Photo by Lala Azizli / Unsplash

Here is an invite to The DevOps Lounge Discord community that has been so helpful for me, and I hope that you show up there and just engage in fellowship with other technologists and enthusiasts regardless of your skill level. Even though I hardly can hold a candle to millions of folks doing this work, there really are only a few million out of a few billion who could even tell you what a CDN is or why you want to have an application stack fronted by one and regularly updated by folks with engineering resources like Amazon/Bitnami, or why it is so much easier to maintain/redeploy/maintain high levels of service and scalability by using these technologies. At least, if there really are a deluge of y'all, I'm sure not finding them on Stack Overflow or Gitter! :D

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We are really nice and helpful, I promise!

So welcome to my content, I hope my lighthearted and irreverent while frequently vulgar/downright silly antics and long autistic rants about things nobody except Unixbeards care about is the sort of thing that will get three viewers in a four hour stream, and that maybe someone will find the "Phill's Notes" version of how to do things like install Git for Windows, use CLI tools inside a terminal, set up Terraform Cloud workspaces, and even register a domain as something that can be not just interesting - but of real value - because everyone out there making bay area salaries grinding it out don't have the time to hold my hand and tiptoe through the tulips with me, which is why I have taken years to even have something worth putting out there that I am somewhat proud of.

And the clunky bullshit where there has to be an external A record in public DNS... for chrissakes Amazon, or someone who is more clever than me, please figure all of that out!? When I saw that Lightsail had a Ghost blueprint I thought that would be way the hell easier than trying to template a template with Terraform (not a configuration management tool) or try and run Saltstack on the public internet or a masterless setup, plus, I can't Jinja at all but can kinda Terraform... so like, I ended up taking the most circuitous and time-wasting route to find that you can't even use a Lightsail resource with the compute.internal dns and I'll be damned if I was going to give up on Cloudfront or try to add VPC peering/whatever to this whole stack of nonsense I barely managed to kick off.

Photo by Torsten Dederichs / Unsplash

Hit me up with questions, please dear God send helpful PRs that might teach me how to not be a complete buffoon after years of doing this, and on the really really real... hit me up and see if I can help you with your stuff just so I can go through the process of learning. I didn't squash my commits so everyone can see how many millions of hours I wasted of my life to get to this point lol!

And if you somehow made it this far and didn't even understand a damn word I said, well, neither did Catherine until this afternoon.