A Christmas Story

by jesse in

Preamble - Memories are strange.

Memories are strange things. You don't quite know where they come from - or why a particular one is more powerful than another. They pop up unbidden - some subconscious trigger, a smell, a sound, an event causes them to come to the forefront of your mind and take over your brain and emotions.

Memories, once ingrained, are impossible to rid yourself of, good or bad. You don't get to choose which ones fault in, and you don't get to choose which ones are the most powerful one attached to a trigger.

Sometimes, no matter how much you try, no matter how many new memories you try to make to replace, or subsume a given one - one memory will always stick. It can be good - or it can be bad. You don't get to choose. When that memory is a bad one, it doesn't matter how much you stack on top of it, no matter how much you try to forget - when it comes to the forefront, that is what you see, what you feel.

We don't get to control it. All we can do is try to forge new ones and hope that they are more powerful, more pertinent and more filled with love and hope than everything that came before it, so that even if the memory that comes up is a bad one - a horrible one - there's something warm, loving and caring to fall back on and hold on to when we lay awake at night staring at the ceiling trapped in throes of the past.

A story about a boy.

This is a story about a boy. It doesn't matter who the boy is - and it doesn't matter who he is now. It is about a boy and a memory, and this story is meant to get you to think about the people around you in your life, your community and your family, neighbors and friends.

This boy was young - perhaps five, perhaps six - who knows, the exact age is lost in the morass of time - it doesn't matter. This boy lived with some people who were bad, very, very bad. They were the most vile of people. This boy lived with them as, at this age, you don't get to pick who you live with. This boy, and these evil people lived together in a home filled with stink, filth and pain.

The boy was alone; the boy wasn't afraid in the common sense of the word - after all to understand fear you have to experience something other than that to appreciate the emotion itself. Loneliness however, is something all humans innately understand without context or teaching. We are social creatures, we crave attention - good or bad - we crave to walk in the lights of others eyes and be noticed.

The boy was not noticed.

The time was before Christmas time. More than anything in the world, the boy loved an old TV show - Fraggle Rock. This was something that brought him happiness no matter how brief. He loved that show more than anything else in the world.

One day, the boy was someplace else, with a different evil person. He was sitting on a bare floor in a bare apartment that stank of cigarette smoke and old people. He was watching the television - a cold, but constant friend - watching his favorite show.

An advertisement came on. This advertisement offered something magical, something special. It was something so exciting that he had to call now to take advantage of the special offer. It was a thing tied to his friend, his joy - Fraggle Rock.

The boy had no money or wealth, and inside he knew that the evil people around him were loath to give up that which they had. The boy knew that he must have the thing he saw, and while he had nothing he knew how to acquire it.

He calmly got up off the floor, knowing that no one was around to notice what he was about to do. He opened the purse of one of the people who ignored him - he may have been alone, and might have only known fear, but he was smart. He knew that the thing on TV asked for a credit card, and he knew where to get one. He stole it from the purse, and picked up the telephone.

Some how, perversely, that boy knew where he lived. Maybe it was because he had had to walk himself to school so often, or had to be driven home by the police or a teacher from the school he sometimes attended.

He called the number he had memorized in a span of seconds. The person at the other end of the telephone, again, in a strange alignment of perversion and oddity, did not question the fact that a child was on the other end of the phone.

The boy managed to order the magical thing on TV. Using a stolen credit card in an apartment that stank of cigarettes and old people.
Before you think the boy had gotten away with it - he hadn't. As he hung up the phone, one of the bad people came into the room and saw him with the phone and credit card in his hand.

Evil people do bad things to boy; the screen goes dark and the curtains go down. The boy knew that his brief glimpse of hope and joy in acquiring that thing from the TV was gone.

The boy went back to darkness.

Christmas Day

The boy did not know, or remember the thing from the TV he had gotten so severely punished for. He knew that it was Christmas time only because other children talked so eagerly about it. The house he lived in was barren, and filthy and undecorated except for a small pine tree in a corner that stood, undecorated.

There was no party, no family get together on Christmas eve. Yet still the boy lay in his bed charged with hope that somehow, somewhere, a gift might appear for him under that barren and sad tree the next day. He might not know - he was locked in his room again, but that hope stood out.

Not because he knew what it was, but because he knew what others had told him, he knew the emotions that others had about this "special" time.

The boy didn't sleep well - not just because it was Christmas. He never slept well.

Christmas morning, let's say at five o'clock in the morning, the boy was awake as he always was. He got up with trepidation and fear for waking the evil people with whom he lived. He tested the door knob - it was unlocked.

He opened the door and looked around - none of the evil people were around, there were someplace else. He was alone - and given that this was a state much preferable to the alternative, he was temporarily happy.

He walked to the barren tree, past the trash and cat waste scattered through the house and stood in front of it. At first, his eyes didn't perceive the box underneath it. He didn't see a stack of jauntily wrapped gifts, or stockings hung with care. The boy was filled with sadness.

There was, however, a bag - the type you might get nowadays from a supermarket for reuse. The boy's eyes caught the logo on that bad.

Fraggle. Rock.

Stunned beyond comprehension, the boy walked over slowly, he recognized the logo, and in fact, he recognized the bag from the commercial long forgotten. It was the magical thing he had been so severely punished for. He looked around, ensuring he was alone, and he pulled the thing out of the bag.

It was a Fraggle Rock record player. That was all - and a single, small record that contained but one song. Shaking, he opened the record player, and plugged it into the wall. Gingerly, he placed the record on the player and through trial and error, figured out how to make it turn on and play.

The boy cried as the first notes of the one song began to play. So joyful was he in this singular moment, listening to the theme song for a TV show that all the loneliness and pain he knew was forgotten, replaced with a joy so tangible he could hold it close.

In that moment, the boy knew sadness as well, as that joy was so powerful he knew the stark contrasts in the emotions he had known. He forgot loneliness, caught up in a moment so emotional that nothing else mattered.

In that moment, the boy was happy. The house was filled with that song for hours until the people he lived with came home, and took it away. In those hours, that boy knew nothing but joy, happiness and the dark contrast of sadness.

Back to the beginning.

The boy is now a man, which man is irrelevant. What is relevant is that when the first chords of the first Christmas song begin to play after Thanksgiving - when the first Christmas ornament go up that boy is thrown back to that memory of that single Christmas day.

No memories since that day matter; none of them come up and filter into his consciousness other than that one. It takes over his psyche at random, as said before - you don't get to choose how this works.

So, why?

Why am I sharing this story about a boy, or rambling about memories? Because, despite knowing that once ingrained a memory can not be forgotten, I feel that it is true that you can override memories with stronger ones with a more powerful emotion.

I feel that joy, hope and love are more powerful emotions than fear, loneliness and pain.

I share this boy's story so that I can get you to think for a moment about the people around you. Friends, colleagues, family - the person on the street, on the bus, the people in your community and the person you only know through email, IRC or on Twitter.

I share this to get you to think about those who you don't think about all that closely. The children who live as that boy did, or those children and families that have little or nothing during this supposed time of joy.

I'm not asking you to give up wealth, or toys, or food - those are all fine things, but they are simply tangental aspects of how a memory might be created. I'm asking you to think about all of these people, even those whom you disagree with or hate, or those you never think about at all, and I ask you to take a moment to reach out to them in some way.

Perhaps a toy, a book, a warm coat or meal for those that you do not know well - something that can give them the same joy that that boy felt when that song played. Maybe an email to someone you haven't heard from in a while, or warm words to someone who you normally spar with.

Thousands of people trudge through the holidays, no matter their faith, race or creed - their choice of forums, programming language, career or school depressed and alone during this time. They're trapped by memories that should have been replaced long, long ago. Maybe they never will be replaced, but maybe they can be supplemented and temporarily displaced.

I am asking you to reach out in any way that you can to help them make new memories, ones of joy, love and caring - even if it is over the internet, or as fleeting as being polite to them and thinking of them when you bump into them on the street or in the mall.

Reach out in all the ways you can, despite times of strife and division and economic depression. Help everyone you can be filled with a memory of joy, love and caring, give them that moment the boy had even if bittersweet. Show them your grace, humility, kindness and caring.

I still cry when I hear Fraggle Rock.

PyCon 2012 Proposals Due October 12 - 14 Days!

by jesse in , ,

The deadline for PyCon 2012 tutorial, talk, and poster proposals is under 14 days away, so be sure to get your submissions in by October 12, 2011 (as always, if it's October 12th anywhere in the world, submissions are still open!).

Whether you’re a first-timer or an experienced veteran, PyCon is depends on you, the community, coming together to build the best conference schedule possible - PyCon is first and foremost about the community, driven by volunteers both on an organizational level, and by speakers.

Our call for proposals lays out the details it takes to be included in the lineup for the conference in Santa Clara, CA on March 7-15, 2012. I should note that this year we have gone away from consistent groups of invited speakers - meaning, all talks, regardless of who submits them are not guaranteed a speaking slot. All talks are judged and reviewed on the merits of the talk and the speakers themselves.

If you’re unsure of what to write about, our recent survey yielded a large list of potential talk topics, and plenty of ideas for tutorials. We’ve also come up with general tips on proposal writing to ensure everyone has the most complete proposal when it comes time for review. As always, the program committee wants to put together an incredible conference, so they’ll be working with submitters to fine tune proposal details and help you produce the best submissions. Even if you are still incubating a talk idea: submit the proposal now in rough form and we can assist you in fleshing out and refining the proposal during the review process.

We’ve had plenty of great news to share since we first announced the call for proposals. Paul Graham of Y Combinator was recently announced as a keynote speaker, making his return after a 2003 keynote. David Beazley, famous for his mind-blowing talks on CPython’s Global Interpreter Lock, was added to the plenary talk series.

Sponsors can now list their job openings on the “Job Fair” section of the PyCon site as we previously announced - providing an excellent resource for job seekers, and providers.

We’re hard at work to bring you the best conference yet, so stay tuned to PyCon news at the PyCon blog and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/pycon.

We recently eclipsed last year’s sponsorship count of 40 and are currently at a record 54 organizations supporting PyCon. If you or your organization are interested in sponsoring PyCon, we’d love to hear from you, so check out our sponsorship page.

And as always - quick thanks to all of our awesome PyCon 2012 Sponsors:

Thank you - and as always, feel free to reach out to the team or any of the staff with any questions you might have.

PyCon 2012 Sponsorship - Making the case for sponsorship.

by jesse in , , ,

PyCon 2012 already has a record-breaking 52 sponsors! I can not thank every one of them enough (but I will give my thanks again at the end of this post individually), and we are always looking for more sponsors to join the ones we have.

I wanted to take a moment to explain what makes sponsorship good for the community, and a sound investment for sponsors new and old, prospective and future.

This year, as chair, I've taken it upon myself to push and manage PyCon sponsorship (corporate, non profit, media, etc) for a variety of reasons. First, as someone who has been a sponsor in the past (and present) and as someone who spends a lot of time "selling" the Python Software Foundation, and the community to others - I feel very closely tied to PyCon and sponsorship.

Not to mention - corporate sponsorship is what allows us to keep this probably one of the least expensive international technical conferences you could possibly attend this upcoming year. Without sponsorship - and the array of sponsors we have right now for PyCon 2012, the conference could simply not happen at the size it has reached, or have a robust financial aid program, keep tickets and tutorials cheap, etc. We have, once again intentionally capped attendance at a level to allow for this, and to help keep PyCon's community feel and closeness.

Running a conference is, frankly, a dangerous game. As I noted in my blog post several months ago discussing some of the financial workings of PyCon and its financial philosophy. It is very easy to lose a lot of money, very quickly. PyCon is held / financed / backed by the Python Software Foundation. This means lack of sponsorship, low attendance, etc could - with a simple misstep - bankrupt the foundation. Sponsorship helps shore up the gamble you make signing contracts on catering, room bookings, rental of the space where the conference is held, audio/video costs, etc. Although, if you make a big enough mistake - nothing will prevent things from going south. This means careful planning, budgeting and negotiation.

Also, while PyCon has always been, and will continue to be a community focused and therefore, low cost and inclusive conference, not really focused on profiting from attendees, any revenue that comes out of PyCon (profit, if you will) goes directly to the Python Software Foundation. This money, in turn, is used to improve infrastructure of Python resources, provide developer grants for programming work, provide grants to conferences all over the world and many other community projects.

In the last few months alone the PSF has issued grants to PyTexas, EuroPython, Python Ireland, PyCon India, and many, many others. We have issued grants for porting modules to Python 3, service such as Read The Docs, etc. Any revenue/profit is flipped back into funding PyCon, and the community as a whole.

PyCon provides a very tangible entity for corporate sponsors - it's an easier "sell" than direct PSF sponsorship, and therefore is a fundamentally better conduit for funds into the PSF.

That's all fine you say: those are great things for the community, and conference - but why would a company want to sponsor PyCon? Sponsors receive tangible benefits such as recruiting at the conference, advertising and marketing, getting community involvement known (call it community karma), etc. Sponsorship isn't just a matter of asking a company to fund the conference because "it's good for the community" - it's a matter of showing them that not only is it good for the community - it's good for their goals and needs.

PyCon is an excellent recruitment tool.

If you're looking for Python programmers, a venue filled with 1500 Python hackers of all types - from web developers, to designers, to distributed systems engineers and operations people is an excellent place for you and your company to find "that special someone". I know a lot of Python hackers out there who have been hired by companies they "met" at PyCon. I also know a lot of speakers and tutorial teachers who have received jobs or job offers after speaking/teaching at PyCon.

Just as PyCon is an excellent venue for companies looking to hire, robust sponsorship allows people at the conference know what companies out there could be hiring Python hackers. Companies like Walt Disney Animation Studios, Google, Dropbox, and others as well as companies that aren't well known for being Python shops. It's a great venue for job seekers to find employers.

The Jobs Fair page we added this year for sponsors, and those looking for jobs is a logical extension of this. Anything we can do to connect people and companies is great.

PyCon is an excellent marketing tool.

If you are looking to sell something - an editor, hosting, a service, etc - PyCon's 1500 attendee pool provides an amazing cross section of people. Not just hard core developers - entrepreneurs and startup founders, IT business people and leaders. Python is a language that as time goes by - I am less and less surprised where it pops up - and more surprised when it isn't being used somewhere within a company.

It is literally everywhere - a frequently unsung hero for many companies. Sometimes, companies use it without even knowing it.

Python - and it's community - and therefore PyCon is amazingly diverse. This means when you sponsor PyCon, you are advertising to an amazingly diverse group of people. Skill sets from all walks of technology - and a surprising number of people to whom Python is a tool they use prolifically to get some other job done (like say, video rendering or controlling robots). PyCon's attendees reflect the stunning makeup of it's community. You can't go wrong getting your companies names on attendee's lips.

PyCon is a great way to raise visibility.

This is as much a sub-point of my previous note on marketing as anything else but it deserves some attention. If you're a company who is trying to get the word out, trying to spread the news about your new product or service, people notice PyCon sponsors. Not only are you listed on the website, you get signs, booths and entries in the program guide at the conference. It can be en excellent tool for buzz and discussion about and launching a new product or service.

Even if you're not selling something - and you just want to get the word out about your company's open source efforts, opinion and ideas and use of Python - PyCon is a fantastic platform to do so. It can literally be a platform you use to launch you name and brand into the community's shared mind.

PyCon sponsorship breeds good will.

I wish I had studies to show it, but people within the community and at the conference itself see companies sponsoring PyCon and understand that while those companies might be selling, marketing or recruiting - are still doing the community a huge favor by acting as sponsors. As I said before - the community benefits are many, just as the sponsor benefits are. I can not stress this point enough - the companies that help PyCon via sponsorship or attendance do it for many reasons - some of them financial, but the social aspects are something all of our sponsor from the past can attest to. Python is an open source language, with a strong open source ethos running through its community - and seeing companies give back both through code and financially means a lot to everyone in the community - even other sponsors.

PyCon sponsors help set an example for the community in terms of involvement and support.

PyCon sponsorship is a good, simple and cost-effective investment.

wish all conference had sponsorship packages as cheap and as robust as the ones PyCon has outlined in it's prospectus. Heck - a good recruiter to find talent can cost a company $30,000 or more alone - by comparison, the sponsorship levels and prices PyCon has are fantastic deals (especially when you factor in that companies under 25 people can get a 50% off discount on two of those levels). For less than a price of a good computer and monitor - you can be a Silver sponsor. For less than the price if you include the desk and furniture or software licenses? A Gold sponsor. For less than the price of a good recruiter, or Google Ad campaign? You can be a Platinum or Diamond sponsor and reach out to not just PyCon attendees but to the entire Python community.

PyCon is a professional event.

I swell with pride standing in the shoes of the conference chairs that have come before me. PyCon, while focused on the community, the language, learning, teaching, being a ton of fun for all of its attendees, and excellent location to hack and network is one of the most friendly-yet-professional conferences I have ever had the privilege to attend.

PyCon is backed by the Python Software Foundation - but it is run by volunteers - even I, as chair, am not paid. For all of us involved, it's a labor of love. It is a way for us to give back to the community, ecosystem and companies and sponsors attending or sponsoring. And while it may be volunteer based - it's 100% professional. From the website, to the program guide, from talk selection and booth assignment - everything is treated with sincerity, respect and trust.

Sponsors can look at PyCon not just as a good investment, or platform - but as a safe one - and if they can not, I have failed as chair of the conference. The same applies to every single attendee.

But too much of a good thing?

As with all things, there is a flip side to this. Sponsorship is great for sponsors, and the community - but PyCon is fundamentally community focused, and hence we must walk a line between having robust sponsorship packages, and going the "full sponsorship monty" so to speak. This means that to this day, I hold firm on the policy that sponsorship does not guarantee or provide tutorial or speaking slots to any sponsor.

At PyCon, we are all equals, especially when it comes to talks. Joe developer from nowhere, Antarctica can submit a talk, tutorial or poster session as can Bob the developer from a Diamond sponsor and they have equal chances of being accepted. If the talk is good, if the speaker is known to be a good speaker, if the content and subject are compelling, a proposal will be accepted on its merits (but even then we can not accept all the deserving ones).

Other conferences guarantee speaking slots for sponsors - I feel this runs counter to the PyCon ethos and community philosophy. Not only are we open in our source, we treat each other as equals and with respect. Ours is the meritocracy of ideas and work - and this point can not get lost or forgotten in our - my - work on our sponsors' behalf to increase the value and return on investment they see.

We also try to keep the advertising and visibility at the conference tasteful - limiting banner sizes and locations, focusing on the vendor area experience while also giving sponsors free admissions to the entire conference so they too can partake in the learning, hacking and networking. We find this to be a good balance between the needs of the attendees and the needs and desires of the sponsors.

Trust me, if I thought walking around in a NASCAR-like track suit covered in logos would help our sponsors, I just might - ask the other staff! But that's just me.

In closing - I want to encourage you and companies you know or work for, to take part in PyCon and get involved. Even if you can not, or do not want to be sponsors, I encourage you to submit proposals, lightning talks when the conference comes, attend the sprints, and recruit on the "down-low" by just talking and hacking with everyone.

I encourage you, and will work with you day and night to join us as sponsors - but I value your involvement in the community, and the conference more. Even by just attending, you are enriching us all. If you have suggestions on how to make sponsorship better for sponsors - or general comments or concerns, feel free to email me.

Giving thanks

Finally, I'd like to thank all of our current sponsors - and an a yet-to-be-named mystery sponsor:

And of course, if you want more information on sponsorship - visit the PyCon 2012 Sponsorship page.

The Standing Desk Experiment, 5 Months in.

by jesse in , , ,

My original standing desk post - "Switching to a Standing Desk" has garnered a lot of attention - and a lot of questions. I've also seen a rise in the number of people trying out standing setups due to that post and the near onslaught of new articles and people converting to a standing setups in the months since. It seems to be quite the trend now. More studies have been coming out citing that sitting as long as we (programmers, writers, etc) do is fundamentally harmful - for me, switching to standing was less driven by those facts, than needing a change - leg pain, back pain - I needed something more. I sit enough throughout a normal day.

Studies and articles:

I figured since I'm rapidly approaching 6 months into the "experiment" - I should post a followup along with my current thoughts as well as even more information on how to setup your own rig, new studies, and other articles that have come up.

My original setup was a bit of a rig: I stole (borrowed) a table from one of the kitchens in our building and hacked together something that while serviceable, had a few obvious problems - the key one being it was wobbly (I'm not a light typist). Wobbly, while annoying, was still tolerable and preferable to the back pain, lethargy and other things that drove me to try it out in the first place. Other problems included not being at the optimal arm-height (it was close) and well - lack of desk space.

Several months ago, I was lucky enough to have my employer (Nasuni) notice my experiment and we made a deal - if I stuck to the rig for a month, and still wanted to stand, they would get me an official standing desk. I exceeded the goal a bit - not only did I stand at the setup for a month - I completely ditched sitting the first week. I haven't sat in a chair in my cube since I started standing months ago. So work pitched in and got me a GeekDesk 2.0 - victory!

Here's the "perfect" setup:

IMG 2784

The transition itself from sitting to standing was pretty easy for me - given the number of changes I've made in the past year in terms of weight loss, exercise, etc at this point I'm probably in the best physical condition I have been in my entire life. So ultimately I didn't have many of the transition issues people sometimes cite (foot / leg pain, tiredness, etc) with moving to a standing desk.

The minor issues I had mainly revolved around:

  • Feet: I had to find a non-bulky, well made pair of shoes. In my case, I started wearing New Balance Minimus Trail style "minimalist" shoes - they're form fitting (meaning no socks) and have almost no sole to them. Additionally, I had already picked up a good comfort mat to stand on - that way I had something more giving than the carpet covered concrete.
  • Getting things at the right height: I chose the Geekdesk because it's got hydraulic legs that allow you to set a perfect height - one where your elbows are at a 90 degree angle when your hands are resting on the keyboard, or slightly lower than that. This, plus my standard Microsoft Ergo keyboard means my typing posture is probably the best that it's ever been. Additionally, while I have a height adjustable monitor - I used an additional monitor stand to get my monitor position at roughly eye level (I prefer the horizontal center of the monitor to be slightly below eye level - use what's comfortable). This way I'm not looking down/tilting my head an extreme amount, in most cases I'm only looking slightly down.
  • Switching positions: When we hack/get involved in something we all have a tendency to hold dead still except for our hands - instinctually even though I was standing, I would sometimes find myself standing rigid, feet shoulder width apart with my back straight. While fundamentally not bad this can just cause your body to get tired/sore/whatever. I had to start letting my more rational brain allow my body to move, force yourself to gently shift your position. In my case I've even found myself dancing to music slightly, even when deep in coding or writing because my body now knows it can move freely.
    • I've actually found myself standing with one leg bent and my foot against the inside of the opposite knee. This means standing on one foot - I didn't notice it until someone asked me if I was doing yoga in my cube. Between this and the dancing at my desk, I think the weird-o-meter is maxed out.
  • Allowing myself a break: I set boundaries for myself - I'm no superhuman and genetic aberration. My body needs rest. My agreement with myself was this - if I stand during work sessions, I will sit during lunch and take an afternoon break of 15 minutes and sit, have a snack, something. This way I give my body a chance to relax.

Nothing groundbreaking, really. Allow yourself to move/change positions (my default is back straight, feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent) - get something nice to stand on / some good shoes and set expectations. Revolutionary science and advice, I know.

After just a few weeks I noticed a change - I had more energy, I felt more active and alive, I breathed better (not hunched), I was actually calmer, more reflective and able to focus when needed. My body felt great - my legs felt stronger, my back a thousand times better, my neck better, etc. I've had all the upsides and few downsides. I lost more weight/gained more muscle in my legs and back - good times!

I will say that people get confused - people walking by, when they see a programmer/hacker hunched over a keyboard in a chair, deep in thought see a giant "do not disturb" sign. When you're standing, hacking away deep in thought people tend to have the instinct that you're more approachable. And they like to pop in for a quick chat. Nothing bad in and of itself - a break never hurt anyone. But coworkers who don't notice your earbuds in your ears might get confused when they have an entire conversation with someone who is completely checked out, standing there.

No, I'm not being rude. While I do do yoga, I have not quite reached the level of being able to sense a disturbance in the force.

Approachability works both ways though: I find myself more approachable/less hostile to people dropping in to talk. I'm more relaxed, less aggressive and ultimately more at ease when someone interrupts me, or catches me in between things to talk. I enjoy white boarding with them more, I don't spin around in my chair and snarl at them because I was elbow deep in an epic yak shaving. I just take a breath, turn around and start talking.

I feel more refreshed; and switching "into work" and "out of work" (meaning, in and out of a task) is easier/more approachable. My body feels better - so much better that sitting actually feels awkward to me. Ask my wife, any time I work at home I whine because I end up sitting. Sitting has become something I do when I want to relax, or because I have to - not something I do automatically. Not to mention, you simply burn more calories standing than sitting still. It will help you pay down that debt you had for lunch!

Don't get me wrong - I like kicking up my legs with my laptop in my lap, and beating away on my keyboard. It's just those times are different now - almost more special and valuable to me rather than the default-of-lethargy that I had before sitting all the time. I can say sitting here on a plane typing this may quickly drive me insane however.

My two second review of the Geekdesk? It's awesome - it's the perfect height, and it can carry enough weight my four year old can ride it like something at a carnival. I've stacked my mac pro/books/etc on it and the hydraulic legs don't even flinch. I can set it at any height, or drop it down to sit (although I never have). It's well build, sturdy, and had a little cable runner thing attached to the bottom of the desk where I can squirrel cables away (but as you can see in the picture - I'm much to lazy for that). The desk space is enough for me to have my notebook to one side and my laptop to the other and keyboard on the center with room to spare. It really is great.

That said - is the Geekdesk for everyone? Yes!

Is it prohibitively expensive, hence why I don't have one at home right now? Also yes!

Most people (myself included) can't find it in our budgets to finance something like this - heck, it's the same thing with good chairs - they run serious cash. Most people will look to put together a more economical solution. In most cases, you can avoid building something yourself if you live anywhere close to an Ikea - the cheapest option I've found for something that comes close to a basic set of specs:

  • Decent amount of desk space
  • Doesn't look like crap
  • Can have the main work area set to the optimal height

Is the Ikea Fredrik desk - this used to be called the "Galant" desk, and its setup allows you to put together a standing rig approaching a rational price for your home. It's also ok for proposing to bosses who would beat you with a rolled up newspaper if you suggested spending 800$ on an ergonomic desk (although - why are you working for someone like that, Stockholm Syndrome?).

The Fredrick is the best option I've found that's "off the shelf" - there are plenty of plans out there that describe how to build one - and I applaud those who have the wood working skills needed. Here are some of the various plans and pre built desks floating around out there that I cite when asked:

Otherwise, if you're stuck in a cube or office where you can't chuck the existing decor for something more civilized (meaning, it's bolted to the walls or the cube farm would collapse like a hobo village built out of cardboard boxes if you removed your L shaped cube desk) here's a set of the best "hacks"  or attachments I've seen (feel free to share your own:

Now - remember, even if your stuck in a cube in most cases, the height of the main desk area can be changed/raised - you just need an office manager willing to listen. Most desks in cubes can easily be moved lower, or higher depending on needs. Sometimes you may have to get rid of your shelves - but what do you put there other than pretzels and books you don't read? Stability, stability, stability!

For the home? I'd start trolling craigslist for podiums or lecterns if you aren't good with tools or you lack an Ikea. Or, if you can forgo aesthetics you can go the home-depot-cinderblock route. This is the easiest if you just want to experiment. Just measure what height your current desk is, then measure the height from your bent-90-degrees and standing on a comfortable mat elbows to the floor. Subtract the height of your current desk and either go to Lowes or Home Depot and buy cinderblocks and a piece of nice, sanded and pre-finished or stained hardwood to stack on top of your current desk to raise your keyboard, mouse and monitor to the needed heights, or just buy the same to place under your desk legs to move it up.

In the latter case, if you have a desk with a keyboard tray, this works in your favor as you can get the keyboard at the 90 degree angle and give your monitor a quick boost. Cinderblocks or bricks, while not looking cool, are obviously sturdy and stable. Of course, if you have a glass-topped desk at home (as I do) I would recommend against putting it on top.

Me at my setup recently:

Jesse Aug 25 11  7 of 11

Fundamentally, it's just a matter of getting your hands and eyes at the right heights while standing. Everything else is aesthetics and noise. Switching has helped me immensely and for the better. Will I never be a "a sitter" again? Never say never. I will say that it's definitely not for everyone, and while I might sound like a card carrying cultist - even I realize it's a tough thing to swallow for most hackers.

As for the now notorious study that came out recently that stated that you would suddenly develop varicose veins and die if you stood all day? The data the researchers cited disagrees with them (take a look at the hacker news thread). While I don't disagree with the fundamental message: move regularly, stupid - I don't agree with the breathless results and reporting and age-old rehashing of "perfect keyboard angle and age old ergonomics". No one listens to ergonomics experts anyway, and most companies put +ignore on basic ergonomics. Standing while you work is a perfectly good way to improve yourself in a variety of ways, not just improving how long you can sit staring at a screen all day.

Try standing - seriously. It may not be for you, but you might be surprised. I didn't think I'd be doing yoga, didn't think I'd be standing at a desk, didn't think I'd be a dad, eating Paleo/Keto and listening to heavy metal. Sometimes a change or trying something out that seems crazy or daunting is just what you need.

Other good standing desk reads: