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Windy City Rails – Choose Your Own Adventure with Aaron Kalin

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Recently, our very own Aaron Kalin gave a great and unique talk at Windy City Rails. He talks about everything from Ruby on Rails, his family history in the bar business, and the different paths we can take as web developers.

His talk is both insightful and engaging. Aaron is one of the leaders of the Rails community and having the opportunity to hear him speak is a treat. We hope you enjoy it…

Choose Your Own Adventure – Aaron Kalin from ChicagoRuby on Vimeo.

Video Transcription

Aaron: All right. So, this is Choose Your Own Adventure. My name is
Aaron Kalin. I’m that red-haired guy who’s been wandering around the
conference, you might’ve seen me, my hair kind of stands out. So, has
anyone else dyed their hair red today for Ruby, in support of it? No? I’m
the only guy? I feel so lonely up here.

So, before I get into this talk, has anyone ever been to this
style of talk before? Have you ever heard of a Choose Your Own
Adventure talk, by a show of hands? All right, all new people.
Oh, you have? Okay. All right.

So, before I really get into it, I need to kind of – I’m up on
stage here, and there’s like a lot of lights and I’m getting
blinded here. I’m elevated above all of you, so it’s kind of
intimidating. So let’s get a bit more comfortable here. Let me
come down here. There we go. This is a lot nicer, not so bright,

So, my name is Aaron Kalin. My Twitter handle is @martinisoft.
That is me in a Stormtrooper costume. There is a talk about
that, if you’re curious. So, I work at Treehouse. Actually,
that’s an old logo, too. I forgot to replace that. Oops. But we
do online teaching for web design, development, and now, mobile
development. We just pushed Android, so that’s up there now too,
along with iOS. So come check it out. If you are curious about
signing up, please see me after the talk. I would love to talk
to you.

So to get a little bit more out of the way because I want you
guys to know about me, but I also want to know about you. So
first, about me, I started programming at around age 11. I’m one
of those kids that you don’t give the expensive toys to because
I’ll take them apart and they won’t necessarily work when they
go back together, just because I want to see how they all
function. The big thing there, too, along with this there’s more
talks that go into this, but I spent about five years in retail
to become a better people person, and also being up here on
stage is kind of my therapy. So you guys are all helping me,
inadvertently, from all this stuff, and I’ve got a talk about
that, as well. So, spending some time at GameStop and Apple, I
was an Apple Genius for three and a half years. It taught me a
lot about people, technical stuff, like repairing things. So
that kid who broke all those toys, at least I learned how to
repair some of them.

So, the other thing, too, my family owns a bunch of bars here in
Chicago on the North side, so I grew up in the restaurant and
bar industry. So if I seem unusually comfortable around alcohol,
that could be why. I don’t really consider myself an alcoholic,
though we’ve had that in the family, so I have good examples of
what not to do with alcohol. So that’s also where some of these
talks come from, and also the fact that I may be carrying
alcohol on my person sometimes. We’ll get into that later.

Also, I’m a huge sci-fi nerd, if you couldn’t tell from the
previous picture. Speaking of sci-fi stuff, has anyone checked
out today and seen the really cool logo? Trekkies
Unite. Any Trekkies in the audience? I know that there’s at
least one. Yeah, there we go. Props. My people. All right.

So before I really get into the meat of this talk, there’s still
a wall here I feel. We need to really get friendly here. So,
let’s talk about you. So, I’m going to make you guys do some
exercises. This is the exercise portion of the program, and I
want you all to get up. Come on. I’m sorry, some of you guys
might be doing work on your laptops. All right. So, if you’re
standing next to someone, I want you to introduce yourself, even
if you already know them. If you already do know them and you
work with them every day, I want you to turn around and
introduce yourself, and when you do, I want you to have a short
conversation, maybe 2 1/2 minutes. All right? Hang on, guys,
don’t start yet. I’m going to give you 2 1/2 minutes, and I want
you to learn something about that person that’s not programming-
related. Do they like music? Do they play an instrument? Do they
like sci-fi? Find that out. So, 2 1/2 minutes, guys. Find that
out. If you’re by yourself, go find someone.

[Introduction period]

Welcome to the talk, guys. All right, guys, start wrapping up
those conversations. So, you guys who just got here, we’re
introducing each other, so stand up, and if you guys already
know each other, then meet someone new and find out something
about them that’s not programming-related. If you want, wander
around. You guys have got about, less than a minute.

All right folks, start wrapping up those conversations, and stay
standing for me, and start winding it down, winding it down.
There’s a lot of conversation going on. There’s got to be a lot
of information coming out of this one. All right folks, stay
standing, but stop talking. Come on. Let’s quiet it down. Stay
standing. All right. Let’s calm it down. Enhance your calm.
Enhance your – there you go. All right, cool.

So, stay standing, but I want you guys to shout out, just start
shouting out some cool things you learned about – actually,
let’s start it off with did you guys meet someone new?

Man: [indiscernible 07:19] bad sense of humor.

Aaron: Yeah? Bad sense of humor?

Man: Yeah.

Aaron: Oh, okay. Cool. Keep shouting out some more stuff. I want to
hear some more things.

Man: [indiscernible 07:29]

Aaron: Does anyone have some cool hair, beard?

Man: [indiscernible 07:33] learn how to tie his shoes.

Aaron: Learn how to tie his shoes? Okay. That’s new. Alright, I’m
hearing too much from this side of the room. How about this side
of the room?

Man: The guy I met is into cooking.

Aaron: Into cooking? All right, cool. I love cooking, too. How about –
anyone over here?

Man: [indiscernible 07:49] swimmers.

Aaron: Both swimmers? All right. Sweet. How about back there?

Man: [indiscernible 07:56]

Aaron: Huh?

Man: [indiscernible 07:58]

Aaron: Oh, Civilization? I love Civilization, and I love the shirt you
have on right now. I might be a little biased there. Cool.

All right, so, I’m trying really hard right now to kind of break
this wall down, so I want you guys to – I’m not hearing enough
of you guys really like shouting out at me, because a lot of
this talk – this will suck more if you guys don’t talk and yell
at me. So I want you guys to – like, I’m up here and everything,
but this whole talk gets guided by you. So this whole adventure,
it’s your adventure. So when you guys shout out a topic –
because I’m going to put 10 topics up on the wall here for you
guys to look at – I want you guys to shout out the topic you
feel really strongly about, and since I just got you guys to
introduce yourselves a little bit, I want you to find some
allies who really like that particular topic. The more you start
yelling out that topic and the louder I hear it, that’s the one
we’ll go over. During those topics, I want you to, if you’ve got
a question, a statement, you want to comment on something, say
it. There’s no question section at the end of any of these. You
guys are all part of it.

So you can sit down, sorry about that. I got you all standing
because this is after lunch and all that, I don’t want anyone
sort of passing out on me. I don’t feel any wall here, and I
love how I can have a wireless mic, so I’m going to wander
around the crowd here, too.

So, what do you guys want to talk about? I’m going to put the
topics up on here, and before I really start taking the
responses from you guys, I’ll explain a few of the topics so you
kind of know what’s there. All right? So, choose wisely.

I’ve got Polyglots, Documentation and You, I mean, a lot of
these topics are self-explanatory. So if you’re curious about
the whole stormtrooper thing, I got that up there, Better
Presentations, Customer Service.

Man: [indiscernible 09:43]

Aaron: Huh?

Man: Is that PowerPoint?

Aaron: This is not PowerPoint, but it does look like that. So, I
apologize for the crappy slide work on this one, but…

Man: Bartender tips.

Aaron: Bartender tips? All right, we’ve got a bid over here for
bartender tips. How about this side?

Man: Polyglots.

Aaron: What?

Man: Polyglots.

Aaron: Polyglots? Polyglots, Bartender Tips. Who said Bartender Tips
over here? Raise your hand. Come on down. You are now a
contestant on, not quite, The Price Is Right. And who all said,
was it Polyglots? Polyglots, come on up.

All right, what are your names here?

Tom: Tom.

Aaron: Tom. Everyone say hi to Tom.

Audience: Hey, Tom.

Aaron: This is what it’s like to be up on stage, too. Isn’t that

Tom: Yes. It’s great. [indiscernible 10:26]

Aaron: And we’ve met before, but what’s your name again?

Blake: I’m Blake.

Aaron: Blake. Everyone say hi to Blake.

Audience: Hey, Blake.

Aaron: Alright. So, like in show business, they’ve got stage right and
stage left. So I’m going to put you on your respective sides
here, because we’re going to play a game of rock-paper-scissors.
Do you guys know how that works? Yeah? Cool. All right, Blake,
come on over here, because you’re going to cheer for this side.

Blake: Okay.

Aaron: Alright. So, this side, I want you to chant, ‘Blake, Blake,
Blake.’ Let’s get it started. Blake, Blake. You want him to win,
right? You want Polyglots, don’t you? Don’t you guys want to
hear Polyglots? Come on. Let’s get behind Blake.

Audience: Blake, Blake, Blake…

Aaron: Come on, this side of the room, do it louder. There we go. All
right, this side of the room, I want ‘Tom, Tom, Tom, Tom, Tom.’
There we go. Tom.

Audience: Tom, Tom, Tom…

Aaron: Yes. This feels like Fight Club, almost. All right. So, guys,
single elimination. I’m just getting you guys warmed up on that,
sorry. They’re actually going to be doing the rock-paper-
scissors now. So, come on up. I know the light’s blinding. If
it’s too much, then let’s move off to the side here. I want you
to do rock-paper-scissors. All right? We know the rules of this?

Man: Generally.

Aaron: Yeah, cool. That’s fine.

Man: Are you throwing a lizard or a Spock? I don’t know what’s
[indiscernible 11:40]…

Aaron: A lizard or a Spock, we’ll just – let’s keep it simple, all
right? So I want you guys – it’ll be a single elimination, all
right? So I want you guys to go, one, two, and then on three –
all right, rock, paper or scissors. Cool?

Now, while these guys are doing this, while they’re going, I
want to hear ‘Tom’ from the side, and ‘Blake’ from this side.
Cool? Alright? Let’s go.

Audience: Tom, Tom, Tom…

Audience: Blake, Blake, Blake…

Aaron: Oh! All right, Polyglots it is. Cool. Thanks, guys. You can go
back down.

Give a round of applause for Tom and Blake. All right, let’s see
if this works. Oh, yeah. Oh, God, does that look gorgeous. I
need to get down. I don’t know how much pantone it can actually
show. So, polyglots. I’m glad Doc talked and touched on this,
too, in his talk, as well. Polyglots is kind of an important
thing to me. I’m going to be looking from the lens of just
programming in general, polyglots really talks about language in
general. So if you’re going to learn other languages and be
multilingual, this is not that talk. Sorry.

So really, polyglot, let’s look at the definition, knowing
you’re using several languages. Does everyone know what polyglot
is? You can say, yeah.

Audience: Yes.

Aaron: Cool. All right, so, I mean, in Rails, what do we use? We use
Ruby, right? Cool. What other stuff do we use? What are the
languages and stuff do we really play with, right? HTML, right?
To put out a view somewhere, right? Unless you’re doing APIs.
That’s a different thing, it’s not in this talk. CSS, right?
JavaScript, there’s a coffee script thing that’s in Rails now,
as well, right? YAML, SQL. There we go, cool. There’s a whole
lot more. I’m going to stop right now with this slide.

So really, guys, you guys are polyglots. Congratulations! Yeah!
Woo Hoo! Do you guys know what this is, actually? This is a
Friday Hug. I don’t know if you guys know tenderlove on Twitter,
Aaron Patterson. He’s one of the Ruby on Rails core committers,
and I notice that we haven’t done -it’s Friday, and we haven’t
done a Friday Hug. So, do you guys want to do a Friday Hug?
Spread some love to Aaron? Yeah? All right. So, get on up. I’m
going to take a picture from up here and I’ll tweet it to him.
So, all you really have to do is just that, like you’re giving a
really big hug to the Internet. Now, the last thing I need is
for my phone to crash, so this is that live demo portion they
tell you not to do, right? Let’s see if I can do it with the
projector in my eyes. There we go. All right. Let’s see if I can
even zoom out here and get a decent shot. Monty, do you want to
come up here and take some more shots? All right, guys. Say, 1,
2, 3, it’s Friday.

Audience: It’s Friday.

Aaron: There we go. All right. I will tweet that to Aaron after the
talk. Thank you. Thank you for being very nice to me. All right.
Cool. Where did I leave that? All right.

So, really, I’m just kidding. I’m sorry about all that. So let’s
make some fun out of this, all right? Let’s see how much of a
polyglot you are. So, shall we play a game? Does anyone know
where this came from?

Audience: WarGames.

Aaron: Yeah. My people. I love it. So, let’s play a game, all right?
Let’s check out the stuff. So do you guys know what that code
is? Do you know what language that’s from? You can yell it out.
For me, the double dash is a tell. You can yell it out. Say it.

Man: [indiscernible 15:20]

Aaron: It’s not Haskell or Eiffel. Close.

Man: [indiscernible 15:23]

Aaron: Huh?

Man: [indiscernible 15:25]

Aaron: Whoa. No, none of those. Wow. I’ve played a lot with this
language recently, so I’ve been kind of in love with it. This is
just an . . .

There we go. Who said Lua? Woo hoo! Yes. I owe you a drink, sir.
Come find me after the talk. If you’re not old enough to drink,
we’ll figure something out. So, yes, that is Lua, folks, and
also this is my excuse to use really cool effects in slides. All
right, let’s move on. Okay, Grouponers, shhh. You too, Evan.

Man: [indiscernible 16:04]

Aaron: You can yell it out.

Audience: Clojure.

Aaron: Yes, it’s Clojure. I’ve been playing around with this. It’s
pretty neat. It’s nice to get your head into functional
languages. I’m trying to give functional and declarative and
stuff a little bit of love in all these slides, so that way
people can’t say you didn’t show Clojure, and then yell at me.
I’m probably going to get someone else yelling at me on twitter,
like, you didn’t show such-and-such language. Sorry.

So, how about this one? This one’s a little weirder. There you
go. Yes, you Go. All right, how about this one?

Man: [indiscernible 16:37]

Aaron: Yes, all the way in the back. Haskell. And, this one is
incredibly esoteric. I’ve been playing . . .

Man: [indiscernible 16:47]

Aaron: Close. Not quite. It’s really obscure. I’m really fucking with
you guys in this one.

Man: [indiscernible 16:54]

Aaron: Close. It’s a language called Small-C. It’s actually scriptable
C. If you look at that thing here, [nu 17:02]. This is really
weird. So, it’s like a scriptable C, but not quite. It’s called
Small-C, or the new name is Pawn. I play around with this a lot
to hack on game servers. It’s one of my little stock in trades.
It’s an interesting language to play with, because it compiles
on to bytecode and then you can jam it into a C Runtime, if you
want to. So, you can kind of script out pieces of it if you
need. So, if you play with that one, why not?

All right. So, let’s get into like crazy, brain-fuck mode. How
about this? Anyone know this one?

Man: [indiscernible 17:34]

Aaron: You got it, Piet. So, this is actually a stack-based language,
but it uses color. So, you actually start – I don’t have a
diagram for it, but there’s an arrow that starts here, it’s a
pointer that’s going in this direction, and changes in hue give
it different instructions. So, it’ll point down, point out some
of them, do print. It adds things to the stack. It’s sort of
like if you took Assembler, in a way, and turned it into a
pretty picture. So, this is actually Hello, world on Piet. It’s
a lot of fun.

Man: [indiscernible 18:05]

Aaron: What’s that?

Man: Is there a colorblind mode?

Aaron: Oh, that is a good question. I don’t think so. That would suck,
actually. But, hey, if your machine can understand it and it’s
not colorblind, then your machine should be fine.

So, did you know any of these languages, or some of them? I’m
sure Pawn was really like the crazy one, and I threw that in
just to troll you guys. I’m sorry. But, did you know any of
those languages? You know, you should get out of your comfort
zone. I know we love Ruby and the Rail stack and all that, and I
am at WindyCityRails, so I’m being nice to that, but the big
point here is that you should really check out some other
programming languages. They’ll expand your brain, especially
this functional stuff. You know, when get into that, it’s an
entirely different setup of it. Even if you don’t really
practically use it in your job, it’s still fun to know.

You know, even before I got into Ruby – who else came into Ruby
and Rails from another language? You can yell it out, or just
raise your hand. All right. See all the hands around this room?
If you are new to programming, look at all those hands. So, we
all came from something else and we had our brain in other
places, but it doesn’t mean you stop here when your day job is
Ruby and Rails, right? So, that’s like the big message I’m
trying to get across here. So, really, just get out of your
comfort zone with that.

So, let’s move back to the menu. But see, the other thing too –
I kind of want to throw out a corny joke because I’m going to
admit now that I kind of wrote some of these slides while I was
a little bit intoxicated. I won’t say who I was with at the
time, unless you check my twitterfeed, but remember, learning is
a – you can throw in a word here. I’m going to say journey. No,
not that journey. This journey. There we go. It’s Journey. Yeah,
that’s me throwing in a really corny joke. I’m sorry.

So, make sure to expand your brain, folks, and try one of these
languages. You know, Clojure, Go, Haskell, Lua, Pawn, Piet,
something other than what you do in your day job, just to keep
your brain active, because that’s really how, as far as a
craftsmanship movement and everything goes, you want to keep
learning new things. There’s always something out there to
learn. Really.

So, what’s next?

Man: [indiscernible 20:15] Bartender Tips.

Aaron: Bartender Tips. I’ve got a bid here.

Man: Stormtroopers.

Aaron: Stormtroopers. Do you guys want to rally more people to your
cause, or should I make you face off again?

Audience: Stormtroopers. Bartender Tips.

Aaron: Stormtroopers is coming up. Stormtroopers. Bartenders,
Stormtroopers. There might be some drinkers in the crowd? All

Man: [indiscernible 20:34]

Aaron: Maybe. Well, I will give you a hint here. In two of these
talks, one of them I had to consult my attorney because of the
legal ramifications of it, and the other one, I brought in a
prop that may get me arrested because this is run by the Chicago
Park District, but hey, whatever. I’m sure you can guess which
one that could be, right?

Man: [indiscernible 21:00]

Aaron: No, not customer service [indiscernible 21:01].

Man: Meeting people.

Aaron: Meeting people? Okay. That’s all right. So let’s do a face-off
between – because I heard Stormtrooper and Bartender Tips. So,
let’s get some more people around either one of those. Let’s see
if I can get a barometer of which you guys really want to hear
of those two.

Audience: Stormtroopers. Bartender Tips. Stormtrooper. Bartender Tips….

Aaron: Yell louder.

Audience: Stormtroopers. Bartender Tips. Stormtrooper. Bartender Tips….

Man: Hey, baarrteeender.

Aaron: Okay. For that, I’m sorry, folks, he won the prize. So, the
prize would be Bartender Tips. And by the way, this is one of
those ones that involves props, not quite like Gallagher, but
something close. Yeah, speaking of crazy people besides me. No,
in my world, this is my hot bartender that runs my bar, in my

So, yeah, bartender tips. This talk I gave at ChicagoRuby and
stuff, and it’s a lot about being a customer in a bar, and also
just kind of peeling back the curtain of what really goes on
inside a bar. So if you’re ever curious about how you can kind
of take advantage of what’s at play inside there, this should
help you. If you’re not a drinker, sorry. The loud alcoholics,
possibly, are in front.

All right. So, just to refresh my brain on the talk here. All
right. So, let’s take away that banner. What you’re looking at
here is a typical bar set up, actually. I mean, this is straight
out of a movie, but this is a typical bar set up. So, when you
walk into a bar, you’ll see this hot bartender there, and then
when you’re looking at that, there is a set, there’s actually
some marketing going on here. So, those bottles behind him,
anything that’s above the waistline that you can see clearly
when you walk in, are called ‘call drinks’, because their labels
are facing out for a reason. In fact, this is marketing at work
here. So, when you go into like a retail store, too, the same
thing happens. There are companies that pay to be on a certain
level of shelf, so it’s easier for you to reach for their
product. And this is the same exact thing that happens in most
bars. A lot of these companies will say, well, we want to
promote such-and-such this week, so if you put it lower on the
shelf for people to see, we will give you an extra case of
liquor, or something like that. When you also hear the term ‘top
shelf liquor,’ that’s also where that comes from.

So the other half of that, too, what you don’t see, and when you
call for like a regular type of spirit like vodka, gin, brandy,
cognac or scotch, that sort of thing, it comes from this area
called ‘the well.’ Some bartenders call it ‘the rail’ because it
looks like that. It’s not like a rail, for WindyCityRails, that
sort of thing, but the well drinks are what you call the regular
sort of alcohol, without naming the brand. So, those are
generally cheaper, too, as well, unless you’re in some high-end
bar, where everything is $15. I’ve seen that in New York. It’s

So, ordering lingo. Who here is a – you can sheepishly admit it,
if you want. Who here is an aficionado of Starbucks and kind of
knows what a triple grande blah blah blah, three shot, yada yada
yada? No one wants to admit that here, I bet. Some people are
sheepishly raising their hands. I’m guilty as charged, right?
So, there’s a whole ordering lingo that happens at the bar,
right? So, when you first start out, there’s the short or tall.
They could be called the ‘rocks’ or ‘highball’ glass. The tall
glasses and everything, are called ‘Collins’ or ‘pint’ glasses.
So, if you say like double-tall, that means I want it in a giant
pint glass because I want to get drunk, or if you just want a
very large Coke. That’s also possible. So, it looks, in the
glass, sort of like this. So if you do like a short or tall –
like, short glasses is really this guy, and when you hear like
‘rocks glasses’, that’s sort of what they’re talking about. It
gets a little fuzzy here because some of the terminology is a
little bit different in certain countries, but I’m just going by
what I know from the business in Chicago.

So, the other part is my favorite. This is up, or martinis. So,
if you look at my handle, martinisoft, you know, from Martini
Software, I’m a little fancy with those glasses, but they look
like that, if you haven’t seen them before. So, when you order
something up, it means strain it into a nice martini glass and
make it look pretty.

Then, there’s also – any scotch drinkers, cognac drinkers? There
you go. You guys probably order your stuff neat, right? Which
means don’t mess with it. Do not put a single cube, I don’t want
anything to touch my alcohol. Pour it straight from the bottle
into a smaller, shorter, what they usually call ‘highball glass’
or sometimes it’s a ‘snifter’ if it’s cognac. There’s all sorts
of weird glasses for that stuff. I’m being really short with
this, too, because there’s a ton of different glasses, but these
are the typical ones that you’ll order with when you do that.
So, if you say, I would like a vodka martini, up, that would be
one way to do it. You could also do it ‘on the rocks.’ Some
people do that. So that’s just to give you an idea of what that
sounds like if you put it all together.

So, are there home brewers in the audience? This is starting to
take off. Only a couple of people? Wow. All right. I know
there’s some more home brewers out there. You guys just aren’t
admitting it. So, pouring a beer, do you guys know how to do
this? You can yell it out if you do.

Man: [indiscernible 26:19]

Aaron: Yeah? So, there’s four steps really to doing it. Now, the big
thing is you want to start off at a 45° angle, and you want to
aim for the bottom third of the glass. The reason why is you
don’t want to agitate the beer too much because you want to
build up what they call ‘the head,’ that foamy part on the top
of the beer, and that’s where a lot of that flavor comes from.
So when you drink that beer, you’re also inhaling with your nose
and that creates the flavor profile those brewers are really
after. So if someone serves you a flat beer, you’re kind of
missing out.

So you want to aim for that bottom third of the glass and open
up the tap, and when you do, once you’re about halfway full, you
want to slowly start tilting that glass upright. Just slowly
bring it up, because you want to really reduce the agitation as
much as possible. By the third step, when you’re almost full,
you want to go straight up, so that way you can start creating
some agitation because the beer is going to go straight into the
top part of the glass and it’s going to start getting a little
crazy and foamy and it builds out that beautiful head that
everyone loves. Then, when you’re full, stop, back away from the
tap, and you will be there.

So would you guys like a demo of how that works?

Audience: Yeah. Sure.

Aaron: Why not? Plus, it gives me an excuse to drink on stage. And of
course, I’m going to do this with my Ruby on Ales glass, because
that’s just fitting. I brought a beer with me that I won’t
advertise, just in case. I’ll do it down here. If anyone can’t
really see, you’re welcome to come up front.

Actually, you know what, I’ll get up on stage so you guys can
see me better. This beer smells fantastic, by the way.

So, I’m going to run through the steps really quickly. So just
keep an eye on me, I guess. So, you want to go to the bottom
third. Now, this is a stout, so I need to be really careful with
this one and also agitate it a bit more. Plus, it’s warmer, so
it’s going to be really foamy a lot of the time here. There we
go. Bring it up. Look at that.

Audience: [Applause]

Aaron: Live demos can work, sometimes.

Man: Are you going to share it?

Aaron: Yeah, there’s still some left in this glass. Come up after the
talk, and also, I might need to ID some of you.

Also, the rule of thumb with heads on a beer, about two fingers
length. That’s about where you’re aiming for. This is pretty
damn good for a live demo. So, I’m going to leave this up here,
actually, let me – oh, yeah. That’s about as good as I remember.
It’s a little warm, though, but this one tastes better when it’s
warm, believe it or not.

Let’s see here. Where did I leave – okay. So, that’s pouring a
beer, but the other big thing about this too is customer
service, folks. So, customer service, it’s a two-way street. So
when you go into a bar, if you’re going to be an asshole to the
bartender, if you’re just going be really mean to them, even if
the bartender is also kind of an asshole to you, still try to
treat him with kindness. They deal with a lot of stuff. There
are a lot of people who are really, really mean to them, and
really nice customer service goes a very long way inside a bar.

So two easy tips on being a customer. Start off with introducing
yourself to the bartender. Try to get on a first name basis if
you can. Know what the first name of the bartender is. So later
on, if you’re at these drink ups -I know Groupon’s doing a train
after this whole thing and we’re going to end up at a bar
somewhere – so imagine 300 people in a bar all asking the same
bartender or bartenders for a drink. That’s going to be a little
slow, right? There’s going to be some issues with beer flow
there, right? So when you get your first drink, introduce
yourself, shake their hand and say hi, and get on a first name
basis with them if you can, especially if it’s going to be a bar
you’ll end up coming back to. You’ll be surprised how later on
really nice generosity pays off in the end.

The other big thing, too, tip well. People in the service
industry get fucked a lot. I’m just going to go right for that
and say that. Really, they do, and a lot of their tips are
taxed, at least the ones they declare, and with that, you want
to make sure that, especially if they give you good service – if
it’s okay service, still tip them – if they give you really
good, exceptional service, better than you’ve had elsewhere,
make sure you repay that kindness. All right?

So that’s the things I wanted to get over in that talk there,
besides drinking beer. There was a really good excuse for doing

Let’s get back to the topics list, because that’s the end of it.
Did you guys learn something, at least, about drinking?

Man: Yeah.

Aaron: Yeah?

Audience: [Applause]

Aaron: That’s cool. A round of applause works. All right. So, let’s
see if this gizmo works. There we go. So, we’ve covered
Polyglots and Bartender Tips, and I remember there was a huge
calling for becoming a Stormtrooper. So do you guys want to hear
that one now?

Audience: Yeah. Stormtroopers.

Aaron: Yeah? Alright, why not? It’s an excuse to put more Star Wars on
the screen, so I’m all for it, because I see a bunch of people
with Star Wars shirts. So, I’m just going to take creative
license and go for it.

Okay. Becoming a Stormtrooper, here’s that same picture from
before. Let me double check my notes on the slide here. Okay.
So, I’m part of a group called the ‘501st Legion.’ We’re a
nonprofit Star Wars costuming group, so we do all the bad guys.
We have a sister group called ‘The Rebel Legion,’ so all the
rebels and stuff like that are over there, but we still work
with that group as far as doing like charity work and stuff like
that. So, like I said, we’re nonprofit, we do a lot of charity
work. We’ve gotten a lot of accolades over the years.

So has anyone played Clone Wars at all or watched the Clone Wars
series from Star Wars? It’s not Episode – those episodes that
won’t be named, because they really don’t exist in my head. So
it’s the ones that happened in between some of those episodes,
the Clone Wars stuff. Well, in there, there is a detachment
called the 501st Legion, and it’s actually Lucas kind of giving
a nod to us for all the charity work that we’ve done. So, that’s
a really cool thing. We actually got a nice letter from him for
the whole Legion and all that stuff, and we’re also, as far as I
know, the only outside costuming group to ever be allowed inside
of Disney. So if you ever go to Disney during the Star Wars
Weekend stuff, if you see Stormtroopers there, if you see a
large parade of them, that’s those members.

So, there’s like 9,000-ish members, I don’t know what the
current number is right now. The last time I looked, there was
like 9,000 members worldwide, and there’s a whole contingent
that’s part of Chicago in the Midwest and all that stuff. This
is part of my way of giving back, and also, I love Star Wars, so
it’s a great excuse to do both. I get to do a lot of community
service stuff, and I’m going to show you guys some of the cool
stuff that I get to do.

I actually covered all the stuff in the slides, so nonprofit
Star Wars costuming group. We’re all volunteer. We don’t take
any money, as far as that goes. If people try to give us money
for coming to an event, we make them donate it to something.
Yeah, 5,800+ active members. It’s probably something closer to
9,000 now because this is a really old slide.

So some activities that we do, charity events is a big thing
that we do. It’s the ones that I prefer to do, so that way I’m
at least doing something for coming out there, and as a nice
gesture, a lot of those charity companies and groups will
actually give us some cool things like free water. Actually,
you’ll see some of the cool stuff that we got to do through the
charity events. We go to conventions and conferences. I’ve been
to – there’s a Star Wars one that just happened called
‘Celebration’, so there was a ton of us there, just because it’s
Star Wars. Why not?

We also do any sort of Star Wars-based promotions. So, the big
thing that we got to do was like, any of the – when those first
episodes came out, you know, the prequel things that I won’t
mention, we were at a lot of the movie theaters and stuff, and
Lucas sort of sanctioned us to go there and promote those
movies. So we got to see it as many times as we wanted to, which
was really cool. So being a Star Wars nerd, it’s fun to watch a
movie like 10 times.

So some of the cool things we’ve done, this is me at a parade in
Florida. So we actually got to march. This is in a parade called
the ‘Santa Parade.’ So you can tell this is Florida, this is in
the middle of winter in Florida, and you can see some of the elf
hats and all that stuff there. So you’ve got Santa Claus and
reindeer and all that stuff, and then you’ve got Darth Vader and
a whole bunch of stormtroopers behind him. This is also me kind
of being really nerdy. So I’m sorry if I get a little weird

Also, I got to be on TV. So this is at Fox 13 studios in Tampa,
as well. They were actually doing a whole thing about families
that celebrate Star Wars and all that, so they had us as sort of
props in the background.
And I’ve got to say, those studio lights are hot, like really
hot. I was taking off my helmet like every 5 to 10 minutes, like
in between the breaks. It was like – it’s so hot.

So this is also – remember that promotion stuff I was talking
about? This is Episode III. This is us very kindly arresting one
of those rebel Legion members. It’s a lot of fun to do. Then,
also, again, charity. This is for – I can’t remember the event,
I think it was Autism Walk. That’s what it was. So there’s a
little kid being – I know we were the bad guys of Star Wars, but
we try to really break that down and say, hey, we can be
friendly, too. That’s one of my favorite pictures.

So this is the other cool stuff that we get to do. Any Sox fans
in the house? White Sox? Yeah, sorry, not Red Sox. Sorry. Wrong
Sox. Yeah, I’m from Chicago, so I say Sox, and usually
Chicagoans know what it means. So yeah, this is at what I know
as Comiskey Park, but it’s U.S. Cellular Field now. The cool
thing we got to do is we raised, I believe, $10,000 for Stand up
to Cancer because all of us showed up, in fact, more than they
expected showed up, and the neat thing was that we got to go
into the sort of players area. There’s like a tunnel inside of
the whole stadium, and we got to walk out onto the field. So
that’s Darth Vader rolling out to center field. And we got to
parade around inside there and then hang out where all the
players hang out and stuff and meet some families. And then
you’ll also notice during the whole time as the innings go on
the adults become the children, because they start drinking so
much. So by the seventh inning, we’re all done because the
adults are getting crazier than the children are. In fact, the
children are usually well behaved.

So, a lot of people ask me questions, too, about this whole Star
Wars thing. Does it get hot in there? Hell yes, especially on a
hot day, and do you remember that parade thing. Man, if it’s 80°

Man: [indiscernible 36:53]

Aaron: Huh?

Man: How do you go to the bathroom [indiscernible 36:55]?

Aaron: How do I go to the bathroom with all that stuff on? In my suit,
it’s very difficult. I pretty much have to take part of it off.
Some have modified it because of that, but yeah, it’s difficult.

Is it heavy? At least the stormtroopers stuff, it’s about 20, 25
pounds of plastic, and when you start sweating in it, it gets
another 5 pounds heavier. We used to call it ‘The Imperial
Weight Loss Program,’ because you’re sweating everything out.

Aren’t you a little short be a stormtrooper? I hear that one all
the time.

Man: [indiscernible 37:36]

Aaron: Huh?

Man: Who gets to be Darth Vader?

Aaron: Whoever shows up with the costume first. We actually try to
limit what we call ‘face characters.’ So, Darth Vader, Boba
Fett, Jango Fett, those would all fall under what we call the
‘face character group.’ Some events, they really don’t care.
We’ll have like several of them, but Darth Vader is one of the
most expensive costumes to do. The cheapest one I’ve heard of is
$6,000. Yeah. We’re nerds and huge fans, let me just put it that

But yeah, that’s me in the suit, giving another Friday Hug.

Audience: [Applause]

Aaron: Thank you. All right. So, we’ve got time for one more, I think.
Because I’ve timed these at about 5 to 10 – oh, that went to the
wrong slide. The whole live demo thing, right? There we go.
Okay. So, we got all that stuff off the table. What do you guys
want to hear now?

Audience: [indiscernible 38:42]

Aaron: Documentation? Bid her. Documentation? Documentation? Breakable
Toys? Breakable Toys? Toys?

Man: Meeting People.

Aaron: Meeting people. Let’s get some unification here. Come on.

Audience: Toys.

Aaron: Toys. Toys. There we go. All right, I think it’s Breakable
Toys, folks.

Man: I thought you said drinkable toys.

Aaron: Drinkable toys. Oh. Oh, you mean this thing?

Man: Yeah.

Aaron: All right. Thank you for that drinkable toy. All right, so you
guys want to do Breakable Toys then?

Audience: Yeah.

Aaron: Why not? Actually, this is another thing that Doc I think
actually in another talk touched on this stuff. Oops. That
drinkable toy is not for you, my friend.

So yeah, breakable toys. And this picture is really perfect for
that stuff. But yeah, breakable toys, it’s a concept I’ve also
heard as side projects, too, but I really like the term
‘breakable toy’. A lot of people ask me, hey, Aaron, how can I
get better at programming Ruby, JavaScript, et cetera, anything
sort of programming-related? And I say, oh, it’s easy. It’s
simple. You’ve just got to make a breakable toy. And they’re
like, huh? And I say, well, you know, it’s a small project that
teaches you something you didn’t know before, because you’re
trying to demonstrate a concept usually. So the big thing is
it’s an experiment. Do you remember that breakable part? It’ll
help you apply concepts to learn something new. That’s the
really big thing there. So, they don’t need to be perfect. That
breakable part, remember, that word ‘breakable’. It’s okay if
you fail. It’s cool. We’ve got Git for that, right? Yeah? No
reaction from the crowd on that one? So, remember, go simple. I
really mean it. Go simple. Really simple. It’s got to be a fun
project, something you’re interested in.

Do you want to know how Redis works? Build out like a little, I
don’t know, something that caches tweets about you in Redis or
something, and then pull it out later. I just thought up that
idea on the fly. You know, take a risk. Is it something that you
kind of do in your day job? Have you kind of done it before? Go
farther out than that. Go way out of your comfort zone. So maybe
try an entirely different language and make something in that.

So, remember I talked about the polyglots thing before? So,
consider open sourcing it, too. You may inadvertently help
someone going into the same problem as you, especially if it’s
something really silly and simple. All right? The big thing
there is that you can, you know, when you help someone learn
with the open source stuff, don’t worry about breaking it,
especially in those commits. They seem really weird, especially
when you’re posting it online. People are going to see the swear
words you throw into your code. That’s fine. They’ll at least
learn something along the way, right? So, if you do open source
them, maintain them, please. Go back to them, dust the cobwebs
off, and the big thing there is when you do that, you get to
reapply those concepts and see what you’ve learned since then.

Reinventing the wheel is okay. I hear a lot of talk and chatter
and sort of negative comments towards like, oh, that’s been done
before, dude. Why are you doing that again? That’s fine. Don’t
listen to them at all. Do something that you really want to be
interested in, something that could be really simple. It may
already be out there. There could be some source code you can
pull down right now that’s the exact thing you’re doing. The big
thing is you’re doing it and you’re learning it. So, maybe that
person who wrote that project didn’t really show all their work.
They didn’t show how they got to where they got to, right?

So, I’m going to show off some of my breakable toys. Why not?
I’m up here. This one is called ‘Snitch,’ and I named it aptly
so because it queries your airport router to find out who’s in
the office. It actually like grabs your Mac address, and I very
stealthily grabbed the Mac addresses of all my coworkers. I
deployed this at Hashrocket when I was working for them, and it
would – you can query it via Hubot. The reason I heard about
this was because GitHub was mentioning they have a thing that
does this in their office. So you can say like, hey, Hubot,
who’s in the office, and it will actually say who’s currently in
the San Francisco office, even by their iPhone, based on the
fact that they’re on the wireless there, which is really cool.

And I learned a lot about SNMP, which is really an insane
protocol. It blew my head back. I still don’t know a lot about
it, but I learned enough to be able to build Snitch, and I also
played with this cool little framework called Renee. It’s like a
really tiny rack framework. Neat. I never really played with
rack apps before until that.

Funnies, I built this while I was at Hashrocket doing an
apprenticeship, and this is my breakable toy. Like, they were
really big on making sure I had something to play with, and I
really love web comics. Are there webcomics fans in here? I know
I’ve seen some xkcd shirts. Yes. So, if you guys like webcomics,
check out my project. It basically goes and scrapes those
comics. I know there’s some weird copyright stuff, so this is
why I’ve had to talk to my attorney a few times because I’ve
done stuff like this. It’s like, there’s some copyright issues
there. But I do go out to the webcomics and say, hey, is it cool
that I scrape your content and redisplay it in one RSS feed? And
a lot of them are really cool with it, especially the xkcd ones,
like, as long as you link me, dude. I’m like, all right. Cool.
So, I learned a lot from that.

Listbotto is a PHP front end. It’s like one of the first times I
really worked with it in like a major API. This was back when I
did PHP, so I’ve actually put it up on GitHub for anyone to
check out. It’s not great code, but it’s up there, and someone
can check it out. There’s a lot of weird comments. I think I’ve
sworn in a few of the comments. I was sort of a weird programmer
back then. Scriptular is something I’ve renamed originally from
– it’s like a Rubular, but offline, and I’ve been working with a
few guys, including @Jobmagic on Twitter, to basically build a
local version of Rubular that also does JavaScript and Ruby. So
you can play around with that, in case you can’t get to
for whatever reason. So really go check out those breakable
toys, if you want to see examples of some.

Let me recap a little bit here on this breakable toy thing. So,
breakable toys, they’re an experiment. Remember, go simple.
Seriously, go simple. Make it fun. Take a risk. Remember that
breakable part. Go make your breakable toy, folks.

I think we’re out of time, right? Or just shy of it? Or do you
want me to do one more talk? I don’t want to like infringe on
Yehuda’s time. Finished?

All right, thank you for your time, folks.

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