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A neighbor worth visiting

Proxima Centauri is not just the closest star to our solar system. It’s turned out to be a fascinating system of its own, with now two planets like those we find in our own system.

I remember the disappointment I felt when I realized the stars of science fiction would probably remain unreachable, and that it wasn’t really clear that those we might reach some day would be worth visiting.

The last 10 or 15 years of astrophysics and planet hunting has thoroughly dispelled the idea that our solar system is one of a kind. It’s one of the most exciting discoveries made in my lifetime.

I hope we’re not one of a kind either.


I used to listen to iTunes U stuff mixed in with podcasts to get my non-fiction fix. Trying Audible today as my non-fiction source. Immediate reactions: audio quality is terrible, app is mediocre, books are less good than lectures for learning via audio, but this still may work.


📗Read: Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. At the start of this book I thought, “What is going on and what is everyone talking about?” By the end of it, I was confident it would be one of my favorites of the year.


Child poverty is our nation's shame

Our schools can be improved. In too many places, the quality of instruction and quality of operations is far from great. I don’t think we have to fix poverty to fix schools.

But if we shift focus to quality outcomes for kids and not quality systems of education, it’s quickly intolerable that one in six kids live in poverty, many more live on the margins, and our social safety net is as byzantine as it is inadequate.


It’s been two weeks since I’ve had to go to work so naturally this night is the one I choose to be totally absorbed in a book way after bedtime.


I don’t agree with all of the remedies, but hard to disagree with the diagnosis.

Today, I would not be admitted to a good school, wouldn’t be able to start a business due to crushing student loan debt, wouldn’t be able to buy a house, invest in stocks, or start a business.


Even though I read more books and pages than ever before this year, my habit wasn’t exactly consistent. I basically flatlined to end the year. Let’s hope for a similar quantity next year, but more evenly distributed. Reading is a habit that I want to nurture, not a binge activity.


This is a great entry into the housing cost conversation. I think it’s a little tough on YIMBYs, who are often advocating for missing middle housing, but does a great job laying out the challenges of supply-side policy. Here’s the rub— US construction costs are a huge problem.


The First Ten

My life will be defined by the last decade. How could it not be? In 2010 I graduated from a fifth-year master’s program and entered the workforce full time for the first time. Elsa and I started dating in 2010 as well. I began both my career and family life with the decade.

These were the first ten years of my adult life.

Author’s Note: Each image is a thumbnail. Please click through the galleries– there’s quite a bit of this story being told in their titles and captions.



In 2011, I bought a condo, Elsa and I got a dog, Gracie, and moved in together.


In 2012, I quit my first job and started a fellowship with like-minded education data professionals. For the first time, I had a meaningful professional network. I left my first job for all the right reasons. I had learned a lot but could see no opportunities for growth or change on the horizon. My boss would hold his job for at least another 7 and maybe 10 years. I wasn’t sure I’d want his job anyway. I was trusted and respected, and already had opportunities to work in almost all parts of the organization and choose the projects I wanted to contribute to. I had a great job, but it would be that same job forever. Meanwhile, three years out from finishing my undergraduate degree and a couple of years out from graduate school, I saw many of my classmates switching jobs into new and exciting opportunities that they came across through the professional networks they were building. I was building no network— we had no money for professional development, a complete travel ban unless required as a part of a grant, and I worked in a state agency in a small state. It a was hard decision— I did enjoy my job, but I needed to leave to grow.


In 2013, I struggled professionally. I left a supportive, if limited, environment and found myself unready for the rigors of independence. I had two bosses in two different organizations, both of whom saw me as self-motivated and self-reliant, My work was largely long term projects. I went from working in a cubicle on many small projects always on a team to working alone in a quiet office or from home if I chose to do so. While I had a professional community through my fellowship, in many ways, my daily professional life was quiet and lonely. I made steady progress but had a hard time building day to day motivation. I had long thought I might get a Ph.D., but it became horrifyingly clear that managing an independent, long term research project was draining, not invigorating. I enjoyed teaching and being a part of an academic community, but I knew the long odds of getting a tenure track position. Now joining academia not only seemed unobtainable but also undesirable. What was I going to do?


In 2014, I asked a question that changed my life, leading me to meet Jess and become one of Allovue’s first employees. I still can’t quite believe the series of events that conspired to put us in a room together that day, for me to ask a conference panel a question, for her to hand me her card, and for me to know just enough to realize that a once in a lifetime opportunity fell in my lap. I met my future boss, mentor, and a dear friend through a chance encounter 2000 miles from home. During my interview, Jess told me she saw “C-level potential” in me. I didn’t understand what she meant, or what she saw in me that I did not see in myself. I guess she was right, a pattern that continues until today, because…


In 2015 I became the Chief Product Officer. I formally left behind a role defined by data analysis to one defined by product management. I am not sure I knew what product management meant. I’m still figuring that out. 1 That summer, we released our first product, Manage. The night before a major product demo and our “announcing” we were in the market with our first customer, everything was broken. I was shaking I was so nervous. At every moment, it felt like I was about to be more proud of what we had accomplished than of any other thing I have done in my whole career or like we were about to fail in some irrecoverable way and this ride would be over. We got it fixed, it worked, we made our first critical sales, and Jess was able to raise our Series A round that fall.


In 2016, a family health issue led us to leave Providence and moving to Baltimore, where Allovue is based. Elsa’s mom moved in with us and brought along with her our second dog, Brandy. Moving was hard. We had just completed redoing our kitchen and bathroom and everything at our condo was just how we liked it. Although Elsa decided to leave her job and was looking for work, the last two years we had started to feel established in our community in Providence. We had solid personal and professional supports. Providence became the home we built together, but it was time to go. In retrospect, I’m glad we left.


In 2017, we lost my grandfather. I turned 30, and I started to take working out more seriously because years of work travel and neglect made me feel bad. I wanted to get back some of the healthy habits I had built a few years prior when Elsa and I both lost a fair amount of weight. Allovue’s CTO Ted left, and I was put in charge of development in addition to design, product management, and data integration. Although we weathered that initial transition well, I think it’s only in 2019 that I truly began to feel comfortable with my new role. We also released our first version of our Budget tool, our second major software product. We bought our house in Hampden, Baltimore. For the first time, we have enough room for family and friends to visit and stay with us and we can host holidays. I love our new home and we’re building a nice life here. Some of my heart remains in Providence, but Baltimore is nudging its way in. I still don’t feel I’ve built the strong emotional ties to Baltimore I had for Providence, but I’d like to get there someday.


In 2018, after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, my Uncle Doug died. I left two weeks later for a wonderful trip with Elsa and visited East Asia for the first time. When I came home, my grandmother had passed away. A month later, my Uncle Marty, who lived with me throughout my childhood, was gone as well. It was the worst two months of my life. The rest of this year is a blur.


In 2019, Allovue doubled in size. We acquired Equiday. We started to put a lot of work into scaling our people and processes and started to work on some still-secret projects that I believe will be the core of our next decade of success. Elsa and I took a wonderful trip to Spain. I failed to keep up with any meaningful physical health routine, but my mental health improved. 2019 is one of the best years I have had in a long time. I rose to meet some major challenges. I traveled more for fun than I have in years. I felt more secure in my friendships, and I felt more secure in my ability to do my job. It took a decade, but at the end of 2019, I’m feeling pretty good about the adult I am still becoming.

A Fitting Finale

At midnight, 12/25 we got engaged after nearly 10 years together.

  1. Ted, our CTO who has since left Allovue, was a huge mentor to me those first three years. He was always generous to my ideas and experience managing software and technical integration projects in a dramatically different environment and helped me to understand how software was built differently in product companies and software consultancies. He always respected and elevated my technical skills, both within our private conversations and with colleagues. I still struggle with feelings of inadequacies in this area, but Ted never hesitated to lift me back up and remind me we all struggle with imposter syndrome. He never made me feel not up to the task, but instead like I had someone to work with to get better. I think it was his idea that I should be made Chief Product Officer, or at least I know that he was strongly consulted about my growing role at Allovue. And when he left Allovue in 2017, he was clear that he felt comfortable doing so in part because of his faith in my ability to take on the leadership of the team he worked hard to build. [return]

Using GLightbox with custom Hugo shortcodes on Micro.blog

I am working on writing a “decade in review” blog post for here and decided it would be cool to include some image galleries. Inspired by Steve Layton’s post, I thought GLightbox sounded like just the thing I was looking for.

But whereas Steve’s clever trick was to use Javascript to add the right structure to all the images on his site, I decide to go a different route and write a custom Hugo shortcode to support using GLightbox. Custom shortcode? Shortcode? If you’re not familiar with this part of Hugo, the static site generator that powers Micro.blog under the hood, well you’re not alone. A shortcode is a Hugo-specific extension to your Markdown posts so that using a specific syntax you can dynamically create complex HTML content. For example, you can use a Hugo shortcode for YouTube videos so that you only have to supply a small ID slug and the proper embed HTML is generated.

Since getting GLightbox to look right with images requires a fair amount of HTML markup, I wrote the following in my custom Micro.blog design under layouts/shortcodes/glightbox.html:

Check out my post on Vertigo comics worth reading to see GLightbox in action using this short code on my Micro.blog site!

Now that I’ve shaved that yak, I can get back to writing my decade review and finding the pictures I want to use for it.