Monday, January 5, 2009

Looking Ahead... 2009

My retrospective on 2008 naturally led me to pondering what goals I hope to achieve in the coming year.

Professional goals:
  • Setting up my own continuous integration box specifically for my PEAR development is an open item I've had for myself for a good long time. One thing that's complicated this dream of mine is that since I want it specifically for my PhpDocumentor development work, I want to have testbeds for many different PHP versions available, potentially even additional operating systems. New variables appear in this idea each time I dig into thinking about it. Keith Casey's Advent post was the kick in the shins that I needed to remind myself that I don't have to "do nothing until I have enough time to do it all", which has been the key mental deterrent for me.
  • Earn the Zend Certification for PHP5. I've already attended Paul Reinheimer's ZCE course online from php|architect, and I have the ZCE prep book (by Davey Shafik and Ben Ramsey). I just need to test my current skills against some practice tests, brush up on any areas I don't do well in, and take the plunge.
  • I have many bug reports to tackle for PhpDocumentor. I'd like to get these squared away, getting PhpDocumentor into a maintenance mode, before moving on to...
  • Build a new PHP 5.3 level PhpDocumentor for PEAR2. I fear this task is beyond me, but I still intend to attempt it.
  • Attend php|appalachia and php|works again this year, if they are repeated.
  • Submit an article to php|architect. I've not actually approached anyone there about this idea, but since I had entertained the idea of submitting a talk for php|tek but didn't manage to do so, I'm thinking an article submission might be the next best thing.

Personal goals:
  • Drop 20 lbs in preparation for tennis season.
  • Participate in a USTA tournament somewhere in southeast.
  • Transfer my inherited horde of VHS home movies to DVD. The earliest footage I have dates back to around my senior year in high school, so there's a fair amount of family history there, with footage of several family members who have passed away since then.
  • Finally finish Stephen King's "Dark Tower" series. I still haven't read the final book in the series, as I wanted time to reread the previous six in succession as a refresher leading right into book seven. As soon as I finish my current repeat pass through the Harry Potter series, I'll be starting the Dark Tower set from its beginning.

Extra points:

Looking Back... 2008

After first entering the PHP world in 2006, then getting involved with PEAR via PhpDocumentor in 2007, I'd say 2008 was my big PHP year, though I hope to go farther in 2009.

Big steps
  • I was elected to the 2008-2009 PEAR Group during the summer.
  • I became a technical reviewer for Travis' Git book over the fall. While not technically a "PHP moment", the experience has infected me with a "get published" bug that will most likely only be realized in the PHP arena.
  • I attended the php|appalachia campference in Tennessee in October. Since I didn't stay at The Beast, I missed the serious professional networking that occurred in the evenings. This was my very first face-to-face meeting with anyone in the PHP community, and I came away with my first taste of the community feeling. I highly recommend it.
  • I attended the php|works conference in Atlanta in November. In addition to seeing my new php|appalachia friends again, I met even more folks that I'd only previously known online, particularly in the PEAR world. After becoming vocally involved in both Travis' PHPT tutorial and then Helgi's PEAR2 talk, I realized I felt no significant stage fright talking in such a crowd. I think it was at this point that I first considered that a future talk of my own might be feasible.
Small steps
  • I adopted some orphaned XML packages in PEAR. I've made some level of contributions to them, but at the cost of being distracted from PhpDocumentor. Granted, my initial rationale for involving myself with these packages was because of PhpDocumentor's dependencies on them.
  • I attended Paul Reinheimer's ZCE course from php|architect in September.
  • After my experience at php|works, I entertained the idea of preparing a talk, or even a tutorial, on PhpDocumentor at the upcoming php|tek conference. The CFP deadline was way too early for me to seriously put a plan together, though. Perhaps I'll be able to bring this idea to fruition via the next php|works. I do appreciate the encouragement I received from everyone on #phpc to try this.
  • I started this blog. I'm not a compulsive writer by any means, but I do enjoy talking tech when I have something that someone might be interested in hearing about. I can set my plush penguins and wax elephants on my desk, and pretend they're listening happily (now, if only I could get my hands on a true elePHPant). Unfortunately for me, Mr. Vader never has anything constructive to say, so I tune him out.
  • I didn't make the time to establish the continuous integration box for PEAR that I'd talked about.
  • I didn't find any time to get PhpDocumentor work done over the last half of year. At least I do have my PEAR Group and XML package work to point to as worthy distractions.
  • I haven't yet followed up the ZCE course with self-study or the exam. This is mainly my fault, but in an unexpected way. I had thought the course came with free practice exams, so I waited a good while after the course ended for info about the practice exams to arrive, thinking I'd get deep into it once I had all the pieces (course review, Ben and Davey's book, and practice exams) in hand. Someone then explained to me that I didn't earn those free practice exams, because the course had been a freebie as part my of my php|works registration. I had completely missed that caveat about the free course. It's funny how you don't realize you've fired that bullet into your foot until someone actually points it out to you... makes me think the Bugs Bunny cartoons might be correct about how gravity only acts on you if you realize you're supposed to be falling off that cliff.
Happy moments
  • I keenly enjoyed my one-and-only all-night-hackathon building a full PHPT test suite for the XML_Util package. This was my first foray into PHPT, as well as my learning curve work on understanding XML_Util. I was able to build off this experience by doing more PHPT work with XML_Parser and XML_Serializer. Given that PHPUnit is capable of running PHPTs (thanks to Christian Weiske and Sebastian Bergmann), I can wrap the PHPT suite with a PHPUnit test suite file, and run the suite via either means.
  • I had a very enjoyable contract with SugarCRM over the last half of the year. In truth, this was probably the key factor in limiting my quantity of PEAR work, as it took nearly all of my personal time, but it was a worthwhile trade-off to me personally. It was very refreshing to work purely in the continuous integration area.
Clearly the most enduring accomplishment for me in 2008 will be the new friends I've made in the community, most keenly at the conferences I attended. As much as I gleaned from the talks themselves, the networking of friends seems to me to be the key benefit of attendance. My utmost thanks to the conference organizers for their efforts to bring the community together. My additional thanks to the PHP community itself for accepting me into the fold. For anyone that's considering attending php|tek but not sure of its worth, I can only say "GO GO GO GO GO!!!!!!" Who knows, if enough registrations are received with "The Nazg convinced me to go", they just might come kidnap me to get me there too.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Seven Things - Tagged By Jeff Jones

Whoa, someone actually did tag me. And there I was thinking I'd managed to get myself shunned by the #phpapp/#works crowd as punishment for not getting an talk idea in for #tek ;-P

So then, my Seven Deadly(-to-my-rep) Nazgbits:
  • Due to being a "Jr" named for a middle-named "Richard" that goes by "Dick", I had the memorable experience of my dad proclaiming to my extended family right after my high school graduation, "My oldest has now finished high school... he's now a man... hereafter, I shall be known as 'Big Dick', and Chuck shall be known as 'Little Dick'".
  • I listened to mostly hair metal bands in the '80s, namely Van Halen, KISS, and Motley Crue... I remember my mother actually grounding me from my Hysteria CD in '88 because I was playing "Pour Some Sugar On Me" too often. I unexpectedly migrated to old country in the '90s, due to a long stint playing bass in a country band of musicians twenty years my senior... we were playing old Merle Haggard songs that I had never heard before, and discovering these songs for the first time, I found I really liked them all. Nowadays, I mostly listen to John Williams movie scores, acoustic guitar instrumentals, and occasionally a particular string quartet that makes me think of docblocks for some reason.
  • I had long hair most of the '80s and '90s. I'd never ever heard the term "mullet" until long after mine was gone, but mine certainly was one... it was called a "punk" in Alabama in the '80s when I had my first one. When I finally decided to have it cut short, I had it pulled into a pony tail, snipped off (actually felt eerily like losing a finger), put it in a gift bag, drove to Tennessee, and presented it to my parents, saying "Mom & Dad, for your 25th anniversary, I've gotten you both something you've wanted for years".
  • I was one earring away from missing my opportunity into the career path that got me where I am today. My first real job was as an electronic tech at BellSouth, a union job where my long hair and earring were a non-issue, but the only career path upward was by moving into management. By the time I started submitting resumes for management openings, I had short hair (see previous bullet) but still sported a gold Playboy bunny earring at work every day. On my way to the key interview, I can remember only having a ten-second mental debate about taking the earring out... the interviewing director knew I wore it, had seen me in it every time we'd met previously, and I was wearing my tech uniform to the interview since it occurred right after my workshift that day. In short, no clean-cut appearance, and the earring was already a known quantity. I suppose my instincts did kick in, as I took it out just before getting out of my car. About seven years later, that director told me with a smile that she remembered thinking before I got there, "if he walks in wearing that Playboy earring, there's no way I'm giving him a job". It was in this job that I learned Unix, thus beginning my path to where I am today.
  • I'd never seen one line of PHP when I started my current job as a PHP programmer. In my previous job, I'd worked in Java, Perl, Tcl, and lots of Korn shell. I really liked Tcl, really hated Perl, and mostly enjoyed Java. Come to think of it, I'd never seen one line of Java, Perl, or Tcl when I started that previous job.
  • I've collected all the FX lightsabers from Master Replicas. I keep them in a gun cabinet that my dad had built for my grandfather back in the '80s.
  • I'm obviously a big Tolkien fan ("ash nazg" after all), but I love "The Silmarillion" a million times more than I do LOTR itself. Along with a Daniel Moore print of Alabama's national championship from '92, the key wall decor in my office is my signed print of Ted Nasmith's painting of the city of Gondolin. If anyone can put their hands on any original Nasmith paintings themselves, I can only say my birthday is next week ;-)
I reckon I'll pick on these kids in the hall next:
- David Coallier, who eluded my Pick-On-Canadians jokes by moving to Ireland;
- Joe Stump, for taking a far-away trip that has me imagining him walking around asking "whadda we get for ten dollars???";
- Josh Eichorn, because he looks so much like my roommate from my single days that I need some proof they're not the same person;
- Brett Bieber, because SimpleChannelServer can't possibly be requiring any of his time;
- Ken Guest, because he still hasn't sent me any Irish dark chocolate;
- Till Klampaeckel, for starting the "Fans of The Nazg" group on and putting my country song on the map by playing it on repeat every morning for months;
- Tony Maro, for being the one person I know from the North Alabama Linux Users group (no idea if he flies in from West Virginia for the monthly meetings in Huntsville), and because I know being tagged will result in him finding five more cool apps in the Ubuntu repositories to talk about.

Here are the rules for my taggees:
* Link your original tagger(s), and list these rules on your blog.
* Share seven facts about yourself in the post - some random, some weird.
* Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
* Let them know they've been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs and/or Twitter.