2015: The Year of Awe

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Project

As 2015 comes to a close, I thought that I would jot down some words to reflect up what can only be called an incredible year.

In April I will celebrate the end of my third year as a Community Engineer Developer Evangelist, and it has been filled with more firsts that I ever thought I would experience.

January 🇺🇸✈️🇧🇪🚆🇩🇪

The year started out pretty standard with PHPBenelux (not that one could ever even suggest that PHPBenelux is anything but an extraordinary event!), but was then followed by the first of three WurstCons, which was actually a mini-tour of Germany.

Yitzchok Willroth (the [in]famous @coderabbi), Beth Tucker Long, and of course, the esteemed Jeremy Mikola and Daniel Cousineau, our organizing team, myself, as well as a host of other folks joined together for the saga that was: WurstCon EU.

ICE Train

We took the train from Brussels to Köln, where we spent two nights and visited a local Biergärten, an experience in and of itself. Here, I tried blood sausage for the first time (which some might find strange, as I am British), as well as pork knuckle.

WurstCon EU

Cologne Cathedral

From Köln, Yitz, Beth, and myself took another train to Frankfurt, while Jeremy flew to Berlin. We spent one night in Frankfurt, before Beth went off, leaving Yitz and I to carry on and meet Jeremy in Berlin.

Frankfurt

Frankfurt Love Locks

February 🇩🇪🚆🇧🇪✈️🇺🇸✈️🇨🇦✈️🇬🇧✈️🇺🇸

After 3 days in Berlin, and 6 days total in Germany, I took the train back to Brussels for FOSDEM.

Belgian Waffle

Brussels

After FOSDEM, where I got to hang out with the irrepressible PJ Hagerty and a surprise visit from Eamon Leonard, I flew back home to sunny Florida where I was greeted by the newly printed Zend PHP 5 Certification Study Guide, 3rd Edition.

Next up, was ConFoo, where I unfortunately had to rush through (one talk before lunch, one talk after, and then a flight 2 hours later…) on my way to PHPUK where I was giving my first keynote.

I cannot thank the PHPUK folks enough for allowing me to have such an amazing experience. This was a professional goal of mine for many years, and I finally realized it on a stage that, being in my home country, made it all the more special. Plus, my mum got to come!

March 🇺🇸✈️🇦🇺✈️🇺🇸

March started with me knocking another two items off my bucket-list: I made it to the Southern Hemisphere, and specifically, to Australia, for PHPAustralia. In Sydney, I got to put my feet in the other side of the Pacific Ocean for the first time, as well as see Koalas, Tasmanian Devils, Wallabies, and even take a Quokka selfie with Jordi Boggiano at Taronga Zoo.

Koala at Taronga Zoo

I saw the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbor Bridge, another bucket list item (the Opera House is much smaller than I thought!), and the Three Sisters.

Sydney

I even ate Kangaroo (both in Kebab, and steak form, very yummy!), as well as Crocodile (tasted like salt water…).

Kangaroo Two Ways

Most importantly, I met some amazing new people, like Jack Skinner, and my long-ago co-author, Ben Dechrai. These folks in particular are doing amazing things for the tech communities in Sydney and Melbourne (respectively). I also met the fantastic Katie McLaughlin who taught me that we all need a place to hang out hats.

April 🇺🇸✈️🇺🇸✈️🇺🇸

Following on from my longest trip to date, I then took one of the shortest, in what was my least busy month of the year, to one of my favorite conferences, Lone Star PHP. Once again, Lone Star delivered, and I have the nice comfy t-shirt to prove it. I also experienced my first Tornado Siren. That was not on my bucket list.

We also enjoyed one of the best outings for PHP Karaoke for the year. I think this picture from Ben Ramsey captures it pretty well:

I also saw this great talk by Heather White on Teaching, which changed the way I do my slides and I’ve been getting compliments ever since: Thanks Heather!

On the way home from Lone Star, I actually ditched my checked luggage in Atlanta and went to hang out at my first RailsConf, and in fact, my first Ruby-related conference. I had a great time, met some great people, and got to hang out with PJ again. Oh yeah, and Phil Sturgeon turned up too. More karaoke happened.

RailsConf Badge

May 🇺🇸✈️🇮🇹🚆🇮🇹🚆🇮🇹✈️🇺🇸✈️🇺🇸

May was another month for knocking out bucket-list items, I took my wife along to Rome, Italy where we got to see the Vatican City and watch the Pope speak (neither on my bucket list, but highly recommended), I also got to see The Colosseum (the oldest item on my bucket list, I actually cried), Palatine Hill, Trevi Fountain, and much more. From here, we took a train to Venice, another bucket list item, and got to see the islands of Murano (famous for its glassware) & Burano (famous for its brightly colored painted buildings), as well as Piaza San Marco, and some beautiful sunsets and canals views.

The Food of Italy

Our final stop in Italy, was of course Verona, for phpDay, a great little conference, in a lovely town with it’s own historic arena (which is apparently older than The Colosseum), as well as Juliets House, and I got to see the old city for the first time at the speaker dinner.

Italy

From there, I headed on to Chicago, for php[tek], always a good time, and in fact, the last time it will be held in Chicago. I am excited to see what St. Louis brings to the table, and how we will ever replace Shoeless Joe’s. I think I will always remember watching The EuroVision Song Contest with a small group of people on my phone in the Club Lounge after the conference ended…

June 🇺🇸✈️🇺🇸✈️🇲🇽✈️🇺🇸✈️🇳🇱✈️🇺🇸

After a quick trip to Boston, MA, I headed down to Mexico for MagmaConf, an amazing polyglot conference that is only eclipsed by it’s location. If you ever get the chance to go, take it. I had an amazing time for my first time in Mexico (other than the port of Cozumel on a cruise, which I’m not counting) — I flew into Colima, and then, after giving a workshop, took a bus through the hills to Manzanillo on the Pacific coast. MagmaConf happens at Magma Village, a coastal resort where you share a villa with a number of other [random] folks attending the conference. I swam in 7 different pools over the 2 days of the conference, hanging out and meeting new people.
Mexico

I then ended the month at the DutchPHP Conference, this was my second time there, and it turned out to be my last talk for Engine Yard. This was actually quite an emotional thing for me — after almost 4 years, I was no longer a Yardee.

My Last Audience as a Yardee

July 🇺🇸✈️🇹🇷✈️🇺🇸

But, thanks to that quick trip to Boston back in May (Cambridge, actually), I was moving on to a new gig at Akamai Technologies. I then experienced yet another first, this time, Istanbul, Turkey. This was my first experience of a country that didn’t use the Latin alphabet (except Egypt, before I could read 😋), which was quite an interesting experience, and it would not be my last time this year.

Food of Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul was another amazing city, with so much history and culture. I got to see the underground Basilica Cistern, and sunset from Galata Tower, among other great sights, and attended another great conference, PHPKonf. This was also the first time speaking where I was translated in real time, which was fascinating.

Istanbul, Turkey

August 🇺🇸✈️🇳🇿

August was the start of my longest travel period ever. Starting with a family vacation on the 24th, I was on the road non-stop till October 9th.

Considering I started the year never having been to the Southern Hemisphere, I — much to my amazement – got to go a second time. This time, I headed to beautiful New Zealand, and while I didn’t get to see Hobbits, I did get to enjoy a lovely drive along the coast, and had a fantastic time catching up with friends new and old at the New Zealand PHP Conference.

New Zealand

September 🇳🇿✈️🇦🇺✈️🇺🇸✈️🇧🇬✈️🇿🇦

While in New Zealand, I submitted my first patch for PHP 7.0, adding a few constants to ext/curl for HTTP/2 multiplexing.

Contrary to popular belief, I did not write the patch for T_SPACESHIP in 7.0. I wrote and proposed the T_SPACESHIP against 5.6, and it was re-written independently by Andrea Faulds. She later took on the T_SPACESHIP name after finding my original patch.

P.s. it’s one of these, not a Tie-Fighter or anything else!)

From New Zealand, I headed back to Sydney for a few days, where I got to speak at the SydPHP User Group, and gave my first talk on HTTP/2, a topic that would become a major focus for me for the rest of the year (and hopefully, beyond!). Next, I headed back to the US, to Seattle for the first time, and to meet up with my wife and son, for the inaugural Pacific North West PHP, where I was once again fortunate to keynote.

Beautiful Washington State

Following the event was my second WurstCon of the year, WurstCon NW, at Pike’s Place Market, where we shut down the restaurant for our impromptu private party (thanks to the gracious staff for that!)

WurstCon NW

I enjoyed this conference a lot, and apparently enjoyed Seattle so much (especially the drive through Mt. Rainier National Park) I’m planning to move there this upcoming February where I’ll get to hang out with awesome folks like Margaret Staples and Tessa Mero.

I then flew back to Europe, to Sofia, Bulgaria, my second non-Latin language country of the year. Now, let me stop for a moment and give a special shout out to this conference, easily in my top 3 for the year. The organizers of this conference were so amazing at making the speakers feel welcome, and safe in a country where all but two of us couldn’t even read the alphabet, and the event itself was just top-notch. I absolutely have this one my must-do list next year. Also, I climbed a fricken mountain. And the group hug at the end was epic. Oh, and let’s not forget, so much food meat, including my first time eating Horse thanks to the nicest guy I know, Damiano Venturing.

Thank you to the entire crew at Site Ground, but especially Dima Peteva for being my handler, and for even translating some Cyrillic receipts via IM for expenses after I got home!

From Europe, I took my third and final trip to the Southern Hemisphere for the year for PHP South Africa.

October 🇿🇦✈️🇺🇸

PHP South Africa actually comprised of two events, the first in Johannesburg, and the second in Cape Town. Johannesburg while fantastic, couldn’t have prepared me for our 2-day stop before heading on to Cape Town: Pilanesburg.

Here I got to take another item off my bucket list: we took not one, but two safaris. Despite the bug in my room larger than my head (my wife who was on FaceTime with me at the time I discovered it — and deafened by my high pitched scream — says I’m exaggerating), and losing one of my lenses, this was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. Seeing Elephants, Rhinos, Lions, Leopards, Hippos, Antelope, Zebras, and more in the wild, was beyond words. No photo, zoo, or wildlife park can do them justice.

Pilanesburg Safari

And yet… even that didn’t compare to the majesty of seeing, and ascending Table Mountain in Cape Town. Although Jordi and Derick actually climbed the mountain, myself, Raphael Dohms and his wife Tiscilla took the cable car to the top, where we were treated to amazing views of the end of the world, and after being joined by the hikers, we enjoyed watching the sun set over the water1.

November 🇺🇸✈️🇨🇦

My final event took me back to the frozen slightly cool North, this time to Toronto for TrueNorth PHP and the final — arguably the best — WurstCon of the year, at Wvrst in downtown Toronto, where I got to split a multi-sausage meal with Margaret and Mr. WurstCon himself, Jeremy Mikola (and we were joined by a bunch of other great folks).

We started with duck, pheasant, venison, bison, and guinea fowl:

Followed by kangaroo, lamb, rabbit, wild boar, and elk :

And finally, ending with Oktoberfest (with beer), Kaas (with cheese!), and then the more traditional Bratwurst, Berkshire, and Tamworth varieties:

And of course, I participated in this work of art:

The Last Sausage

Unfortunately, I was supposed to also speak at RailsIsrael (how this event isn’t called Israils, I have no idea!) but had to cancel due to safety concerns — this also means I didn’t manage to achieve my goal of hitting every continent2.

I also started my first real RFC for PHP 7.1, adding — you guessed it — yet more HTTP/2 feature support to ext/curl, this time in the form of HTTP/2 Server Push support.

December 🇺🇸✈️🇬🇧

December is the first month this year without any travel for work, and I’m looking forward to a full month with my family, to enjoy Christmas, and reflect on the year passed.

Also: my RFC passed with flying colors!

2015 In Summary

This year, I visited 13 countries, covering 162,862 miles (262,101km) on 79 flights via 28 airports. I spent 15.5 days in the air. That’s equal to more than six and a half (6.54) times around the world, and over half way (68.2%) to the moon!

I also tried many new kinds of meat: Kangaroo, Crocodile, Horse, Kudu, Ostrich, Springbok, Guinea Fowl, Pheasant, Venison, Bison, Wild Boar, Elk, Rabbit, and Veal!

2016

As we head into a new year, I’m looking forward to a continued focus on HTTP/2, as well as web performance at all levels of the stack. With that, I hope to attend many different events for 2016, hopefully a lot of polyglot events, but also general web development, frontend, JavaScript, Python, Ruby, and of course, PHP events.

I hope to see all of you again next year, somewhere, and I look forward to meeting new people, and learning even more than I did this year!


  1. You can see an even better time-lapse by Jordi, here 
  2. At least as far the UN 5 inhabited continents model goes!