The Life of Alex King

NB: This is in response to: http://alexking.org/blog/2015/08/24/rememberances. Alex King passed away on 2015 September 27 after battling cancer for more than two and a half years. Alex was one of the original WordPress developers, and leaves a lasting legacy and impact on the WordPress community.1

Dear Caitlin,

I met your dad at the 2009 WordPress Denver meetup, a “conference created for enthusiasts, users, developers, designers, and fans of WordPress“. It was basically a time to geek out with fellow programmers, developers, and bloggers. I must have know of Alex before I actually met him because I wrote this in my blog:

“It was also great to finally meet Alex King and most of the rest of his crew (Devin, Shawn, Sean, Gordon, and Jeremy) at Crowd Favorite. They did a great job organizing the event and without them this would have never gotten off the ground. I also think that if I ever got tired of engineering and wanted to do web development full time, Alex/Crowd Favorite would be the first person I’d talk to.

Interesting side note: Alex grew up in Seattle just around the block from me. Small world, eh?” (Source: https://andrewferguson.net/2009/03/06/wordcamp-denver-2/)

This was six years ago and I was just about to graduate from the Colorado School of Mines. I moved back to Seattle, not far from where Alex grew up, and have been working at Boeing as an engineer (still not tired of it). I have continued to follow Alex and have have some interaction with him over the years, mostly support related questions. We were, at best, acquaintances.

But that’s not the point. This is:

Over the years, there have been maybe — maybe — five or so people I would go and work for blindly if they called me up…Alex was one of them.

The importance of this sentiment cannot be overstated. There was something very special about him outside of the specialness I’m sure he had as a husband and a father. He was a strong, but humble leader who had vision. He cared about those around him in a way which was empowering and inspiring. And the world was better for it.

Alex actually did offer me a job (or at least an interview…it’s been a while since that conversation, so I may have mis-remembered). I turned it down because I was already committed to Boeing at the time. I’ve always had some regret over that choice — though regret isn’t quite the right word, more a sadness and frustration that I couldn’t be in two places at once.

Respectfully,

Andrew Ferguson, PE


  1. Source: Rest in peace, Alex King 

Seattle to Heathrow: Time Lapse

On my latest flight from Seattle to Heathrow I took a stab at making a time lapse.

11420946_926047324103466_168484926_n

We were scheduled to leave Seattle at 7:20pm1, so I was hoping capture the aurora borealis during the night portion of the flight since we would be flying at at a pretty high latitude, even dipping into the arctic circle for a bit.

DAL37

Unfortunately I failed to account for the fact that during the summer darkness is at a premium which I should have remembered given my prior travels to high northern latitudes. So, we never reached night and I didn’t capture any auroras.

daylight_hours

It was still a good test and I’ve learned some things to refine for next time2. I’ll be getting a larger SD card for sure and will probably use a slightly different mounting technique so I don’t have to shoot through the Go Pro case. I also want to figure out a window cover I can put over it so A) my reflection doesn’t show up; and B) I’m not blasting the entire cabin with light while everyone tries to sleep (sorry guys!).

Gear list:

  • GoPro HD HERO2 with BacPac
  • Generic suction cup mount w/ tripod mount
  • 8GB SD Card
  • Time Lapse Assembler for OSX

  1. we were delayed a half-hour because of a gauge issue on the potable water tank 

  2. tentatively early September 

Authenticity. Stories. Integrity. My Word.

From whatilearnd.com:

A lot of the lessons that were learned by others, I felt that I had already learned in the past couple years. But I did take some notes of little reminders of these lessons. I’ll share them here – mostly because I want to write them down.

My main takeaways were these: authenticity. stories. integrity. my word.

Authenticity. We were invited to look at how we are being inauthentic in our life. Why are you holding back? What are your justifications/reasons? And what would life be like if you operated outside of these justifications/reasons? Can you be unreasonable? Can you be authentic? I think I am.

Your story. Those justifications/reasons were referred to as “your story.” We make up stories all the time about ourselves: “I can’t quit my job because…” And about other people: “he’s not calling me back because…” It’s interesting to just observe the stories you tell yourself on a given day. Mike and I call each other out now with “that’s a story.” It’s kinda fun.

Integrity. Is the foundation. As your life expands, so should your integrity. Often, it’s the other way around; we excuse ourselves for a small lapse in integrity, and as life goes on, we excuse a little more, and a little more. I’ve found that integrity is a fantastic guide for my own decisions and actions, and it’s a great lens through which to view others and determine with whom I want to spend my time.

Your word. When you give someone your word, when you say you’re going to do something, they organize their life around it. And when you don’t followthrough, you are training others as to how to regard you. Have a new relationship with your word. Be impeccable with your word.

The Bank Transfer Solution

Problem: I have a checking account at Bank A and at Bank B, and I want to transfer money between the two.

A bank-to-bank transfer takes three days and costs $5 per a transfer. There’s an option to setup an account through another interbank organization, but I really don’t want to sign up for yet another account. Plus I would have to sign up twice…once for Bank A and once for Bank B.

I received a single check when I opened the account at Bank B, but I need to facilitate these transfers several times. I could order checks, but that costs money and takes time.

Question: How can I relatively easily transfer money without signing up for anything or paying any money?

Andrew’s Creative Solution: Create a check for Bank B on the computer — I used FreeCheck: http://www.sandeen.net/freecheck/. Then using the mobile bank app for Bank A, take a picture of the check (on the screen of the computer) and deposit it. I could print it out, but there doesn’t appear to be a need for that.

Reminds me of the story about Patrick Combs who deposited a junk-mail check for $95,000 as a joke and the bank cashed it. Apparently lots of things can pass for a check.

KC-46 Tanker Prototype

For those that are curious, this is what I’ve been working on lately. I happened to be leaving work on Tuesday when N46IFT took off. I pulled the car over and she floated off towards Mount St. Helens as my eyes quickly looked over her body, stem to stern. Even in the distance I could still identify the distinct features that made her a tanker, especially my part — the Wing Aerial Refueling Pods that graced her tips.

From www.seattletimes.com:

On Tuesday’s flight, the [KC-46] prototype for the first time carried a refueling boom, a rigid tube extended back from the plane’s underside that’s used to pass fuel to an aircraft flying behind and below the tanker. The prototype was also fitted with wing-refueling pods, which are used to refuel aircraft with different in-flight fuel-docking systems that fly behind and to the side of the tanker.

Photo: John D. Parker/Boeing

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Jeffrey Goldberg at Agilebits, who make 1Password, has a great primer on why law enforcement back doors are bad for security architecture. The entire article is worth a read, presents a solid yet easily understood technical discussion — but I think it really can be distilled down to this:

From blog.agilebits.com:

Just because something would be useful for law enforcement doesn’t mean that they should have it. There is no doubt that law enforcement would be able to catch more criminals if they weren’t bound by various rules. If they could search any place or anybody any time they wished (instead of being bound by various rules about when they can), they would clearly be able to solve and prevent more crimes. That is just one of many examples of where we deny to law enforcement tools that would obviously be useful to them.

Quite simply, non-tyrannical societies don’t give every power to law enforcement that law enforcement would find useful. Instead we make choices based on a whole complex array of factors. Obviously the value of some power is one factor that plays a role in such a decision, and so it is important to hear from law enforcement about what they would find useful. But that isn’t where the conversation ends, it is where it begins.

Whenever that conversation does takes place, it is essential that all the participants understand the nature of the technology: There are some things that we simply can’t do without deeply undermining the security of the systems that we all rely on to keep us safe.

Right Hand Drive (Timelapse)

Having never driven on the left, I was actually surprised about how quickly I adapted as well as the things that ultimately tripped me up, roughly in ascending order of frequency:

  • Shifting with my left hand was pretty easy…didn’t have any problems with this.
  • Remembering to keep on the left required some mental concentration, but I only tried to drive on the right side once in the two weeks I was in the UK.
  • There were several times I almost got into the car on the left side.
  • Probably at least once a day I could be found trying to grasp at an imaginary seat belt over left shoulder. It was, of course, over my right shoulder.
  • Constantly expecting the rearview mirror to be in my upper right field-of-vision when it was in my upper-left. This took the entire two weeks to really get ironed out.