Surviving international travel as simply as possible.

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I’m here in London at NDC on a lovely Saturday morning and I have the day to myself. I just made myself some coffee and I was recalling a conversation I had last night with some friends that are here about traveling internationally, what to pack, and the little tricks we use.

I traveled for a year with my family (my wife, myself, and my two daughters aged 10 and 13) and we focused on being as minimal as possible. I learned some very interesting ways to be self-sufficient, which I’ll share below in no particular order.

Dealing With Jet Lag

I’m lucky enough to speak (from time to time) at international conferences, and without fail the first topic that comes up with fellow travelers is sleep, or the lack of it. Everyone has their way of dealing with — in fact I know a few people who don’t get jet lag at all! — but I haven’t found anything that works as well as the biohack I used last year: melatonin. …

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I had yet another discussion about WordPress the other day with a friend here at my co-work space (Impact Hub in Honolulu). I told them I was working on a deployment script for spinning up WordPress and Ghost on Azure’s infrastructure and their response was what I’m used to:

WordPress? Dude… is this new gig warping your mind?

It might be. My response was a variation of the same one I always give:

WordPress powers 30% of the entire web. I think supporting it well on Azure is a no-brainer.

I use WordPress. I like it and yes there are things that, as a developer, I wish could be different. The simplicity of the thing, however, is what really attracts me to it. So, if you’re a person who uses WordPress and you also use Azure, this post might prove useful! …

Somehow, while writing a book about PostgreSQL, I decided I needed to weave in a science fiction narrative and a heavy dose of planetary science. I ended up with ~400 pages devoted to Postgres, Cassini and Enceladus, one of Saturn’s most mysterious moons.

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The mysterious Enceladus, lit from below by its parent planet, Saturn

A Thug’s Life: Becoming a DBA

6 months ago I decided to write a book about data and databases from a DBA’s perspective. Not many people I know (read: 0) decided at the start of their career to become a DBA; they just assumed the position because it was needed. I’m sure there are people that decided to become a DBA out of school, but for the most part (in my experience) this is something that just happens.

I started out by telling my story. How out of school I became a geologist at an environmental company and was the one person on the team who knew Excel well enough to take care of the analysis results from a huge cleanup job. That dataset grew to over 50,000 results (huge for Excel at the time) so we stuck it into Access, I bought some books, and boom: I was a new DBA. …

I love audiobooks and I’m usually listening to 2 or 3 at any given time. They’re perfect for long bike rides, commutes, or just cleaning the house. My average is a 1.5 books/month, which is perfect for an audible subscription.

I was looking over this list today as a friend asked me which books were my favorite, and I had a hard time choosing. There were indeed some duds (which I’ll omit for the most part), but there are also some gems.

What makes a gem, you ask? Of course it’s all subjective, but here are my criteria:

The pace of the story. It’s easy to skim over sections of a written book (yes, I read those too) when the story slows down, but with an audiobook it’s a bit harder. Yes, you can speed up the narration but it’s likely you’ll miss something. I can usually tell the pace of things by the first hour. …

After a good year and a half of editing, polishing and shoving The Imposter’s Handbook into shape, it’s now ready for print. I’m selling it through Blurb print-on-demand and you can get it here.

A few things about this.


It’s expensive to print books and I did my best to drive the price as low as I can, but it comes in at $49 USD. That’s not that expensive, I suppose, when it comes to print books like this one.

The main reason it’s priced this high is because I needed color. Not quite picture book color, but something that would make my stellar drawings look stellar:

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I think they look pretty good!


I trimmed a little here and there to get the book size to fit Blurb’s required page limit (480 pages). …

In the course of investigating the Cassini data set, I think I found something rather interesting. It has to do with leap years and a bug that’s been in Excel for a very, very long time.

This isn’t just any data set, it came from JPL as part of their Planetary Data System. I had been digging through Cassini’s data sets (the CDA, Planning and INMS data) as part of an upcoming book I’m writing about PostgreSQL and data science. I was going through the motions of a typical ETL process when boom!

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That’s… not correct

PostgreSQL is a wonderful system. I had set the type of the date column here to timestamptz (time stamp with time zone) and when the import tried to add February 29, 2014 Postgres wouldn’t allow it, because that is not a real date. …

About 2 months ago I was fixing up a webhook receiver that goes off whenever an order is placed on Shopify. They handle all the sales for my site, I handle the downloads (most of them anyway).

I had been using Node up to that point and, as happens every year right around fall for some reason, the task of writing JavaScript was making me physically (and a bit mentally) ill. I like the language and know it well, but it can be corrosive to whatever bits of inspiration I have towards programming.

I was telling some friends this one night and they said “yeah — can’t use that language. Ruby might be old but it’s still a hell of a lot of fun.” We then shared stories about our love for that language and how it changed our lives over the years. …

I was at a tech conference once and was asked this question in a mock-serious-ha-ha sorta way:

So wait a minute. Did you like, see Star Wars in a theater when it first came out?

I’m almost 50 and I’m pretty used to this kind of ham-fisted 30-something tech industry “dude you’re old ha ha” kind of BS. This one was different though, because while the table of 30-somethings gave a bored golf clap, I couldn’t stop giggling. They had no idea!

Seeing Star Wars in the theater as a 9 year old kid was incredible. No: it was life altering. Just being asked this question lit me up and I couldn’t stop chattering about the experience. I think some of the people at the table actually listened to me for a minute or two! …

I’m a big fan of Firebase, but it takes some getting used to. I dig the document storage thing, always have, but the way they do it is not exactly straightforward.

I have a number of “helper systems”, if you will, that allow me to work with orders as they come into Big Machine’s website, which currently runs on Wordpress. This is a temporary thing, thus the need for an external place to put some data.

When a new order comes in, Firebase gets pinged and a new order is added to the db. It’s pretty seamless and is working really well — but I found the bare bones firebase package to be a bit… bare bones. …

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This post contains Rogue One spoilers — you’ve been warned…

There’s a part of this outstanding movie that doesn’t make sense to me: What the hell is Darth Vader up to? Yes, the easy read is that he’s showing up just in time to get the Death Star plans and kick some serious ass… but there’s also a different way to look at his role in this film.

Consider this dialog (emphasis mine):

Darth Vader: You seem unsettled.
Orson Krennic: I delivered the weapon the Emperor requested. I deserve an audience to make certain he understands its remarkable… potential.
Darth Vader: Its power to create problems has certainly been confirmed — a city destroyed, an Imperial city openly attacked?
Orson Krennic: It was Governor Tarkin who suggested the test.
Darth Vader: You were not summoned here to grovel, Director Krennic.
Orson Krennic: No, it’s…
Darth Vader: There is no Death Star. The Senate has been informed that Jedha was destroyed in a mining disaster.
Orson Krennic: Yes, my lord. …


Rob Conery

Author of The Imposter’s Handbook, founder of, Cofounder of, creator of This Developer's Life, creator of lots of open source stuff.

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