– the blog –

The Tedium of Job Applications 28 June 2016

I'd hire me...

Greetings, [redacted] -

Year ago, back in Jr. High, I won 1st Place in the Earth Sciences division of my school's science fair. It was the crowning achievement of my early life and I have made considerable efforts to duplicate that success ever since. It has been a rough and difficult road, often fraught with peril and disappointment.  However, I have persevered and finally after much toil I believe I have reached the point at which my adult life has equaled that single achievement of a bright-eyed youth.

How? How could I have this, I hear you cry! Surely, no man could prove equal to such a task? As you sit on the edge of your seat, I shall tell you the story of how it all came to be...

For over four years, I was the CTO of EllisLab and the face of development for both ExpressionEngine and CodeIgniter, interacting with literally dozens of developers and designers every single day via email and forum discussions to discover their needs and help them further their own development goals with our software.  After leaving EllisLab, I joined Solspace and spent multiple years building them software and providing technical support for client projects.

More recently I was the CTO of a startup company called ImpactFlow and built a SaaS backend for them while also leading development and managing the technical team. Currently, I am dabbling in contract work supporting startup companies who need my expertise as a Full Stack Developer and Lead Architect. It's not as glamorous as being a CTO, but it is a significantly more relaxing lifestyle.

Looking at your site's About page, I see a few familiar names. Hopefully this Cover Letter is hitting the right notes. If not, please respond and I will compensate you for your lost time with a few of my favorite YouTube videos.

Seriously though, thank you for your consideration and please let me know if you have any further requests or questions.  Best of luck in your search–I know how unbelievably exhausting it can be.

Paul Burdick

A Nation of Mass Shootings 12 June 2016

It’s frustrating. My Senators and Representative definitely know my views and they overwhelmingly agree with me. I annually give money to organizations that work to advocate for gun control and reduce gun violence. I publicly share my views on Twitter and Facebook. Nothing changes.

There is a significant segment of our population and an entire political party that finds it perfectly acceptable for 20 children to be slaughtered in a school, 50 people to be murdered in a nightclub, and a US Representative to be shot in the head. They are unwilling to even restrict the selling of assault rifles to people on terror watch lists.

You know what. Yes, I want to take your guns. Years ago, during my EMT training, I worked in an ER on a Saturday night in Fresno, California and watched as literal pools of blood formed underneath gurneys while doctors and nurses desperately tried to save dozens of lives that were put in danger because of guns.

You are in love with a device whose sole purpose is to maim or kill another living creature. You want to feel powerful? You want to feel strong? Save lives and do the right thing.

The First Week of Summer 4 June 2016

One of the greatest difficulties with having a blog that is read by friends, acquaintances, current and former employers, current and former coworkers, and then the entire internet (who only knows you from your online presence) is that you can expound on a topic in your life with the greatest care and still befuddle or offend people. I have lost a friend because of this blog. I have definitely irritated former coworkers to the point of an icy cold war developing between multiple parties. Part of me cares, rather deeply, about those situations. On the flip side, this is my little corner of the web and if I am a bit flippant or calloused about how the words put here affect others, it is because at a certain point you have to point to a line in the sand and declare that you are only responsible for your own responses to the world, not the responses of others.

Anyhow. Now that that little introduction is out of the way, onto the quasi-bold declarations.

The past month has had a sharp uptick in the range of emotions I typically experience. And this past week, when I headed off to do adventures and became essentially homeless again, has only helped bring how uncertain my situation has become and also how untenable my psyche finds this manner of existing. There is nothing like climbing a mountain for eight hours and then spending the rest of the day recovering at a remote campsite to give you oodles of time to think. Oodles, people, oodles! One forgets how much stimulation and distraction the modern world provides until you take it all away and you spend the majority of your time unconnected and solely within your own mind. The past five days have felt more akin to five weeks.

Let's see. Where to begin. You know what? There is a list ability in this editor. Let's use it! Bold move, Burdick, bold...

  • First. And most importantly and influential. An implausible situation I daydreamed about for years has actually happened and somehow it is more amazing than I expected. It still surprises me. I am internally blown away that the Universe dropped this into my life. Part of me feels like this is fate giving me a chance at something I have wanted for a while. The more damaged and far less optimistic part of me thinks I am about to get walloped. Nerve-racking for sure. Exciting too. Very difficult being patient while it develops as I have no clear view of the outcome. Uncertainty, doubt, and a lack of pleasantly chilled peanut butter cups. Not the best combo for a relaxed Paul Mind.  ::strikes a Buddha Pose::
  • New work has been problematic. People want me to build them something but no money to pay me. Another client delayed for weeks about next steps until just before I left. A really exciting project just disappeared completely off the radar. And then a UK company that specializes in contract work for high-end clients accepted me into their community...but they have nothing for me yet as their presence in the States is still being nurtured. I know I need employment, of some sort, in the next few months. Unless The Guide magically finds a sponsor willing to bestow an abundance of dollars, I may finally have to bite the bullet and choose a job that does not allow me the outdoorsy, freeform lifestyle I desire.
  • Money. Oh, I have enough money to get through the summer. However, thanks to the unsteadiness of new work and three expenses that I was completely unprepared for, this summer will have less flexibility than I had hoped. And a client delayed paying me by a month, which put in sharp relief how life has been a balancing act these past few months. My expenses are low. Shockingly low when I actually lay it before people ("how?!"), but that means when there is a problematic two months in a row there is not really anywhere else to cut. I do not like this feeling of powerlessness and uncertainty. Leads me to start thinking I need to settle down and focus on significantly upping my savings.
  • Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics.  Three times in the last two weeks a server has gone a bit crazy for a client. ALL THREE TIMES, I have been either on a long bike ride or up on a mountain, which has made debugging impossible so I just restart the server via my phone. This server only has two sites on it. One that I built and have logging, statistics, etc. on and can track usage reasonably well. The other built on Wordpress and (having had multiple developers) is a bit nuts. That's my professional opinion. Guess which one I suspect of causing the server issues? Just a bit stressful having a site you are the lead developer for going down when you are 40 minutes from reliable internet because of something you cannot control. I hear Yoda in my head: Control! You must learn control!

Man, I write those things down and none of them seem that bad. OK, that's not entirely true. They are all addressable, let me put it that way. They are just not addressable with my current plan of being a dirtbag for the summer.

I really do want it all. The adventure lifestyle, the girl, the stable income, and a reliable work environment. (Also, Bernie Sanders for President, simply because I think it is beyond time that college becomes affordable again, we have universal healthcare, and income inequality stops being so insanely bad.).  

::drums fingers::  I am not sure this blog entry was meant to lead anywhere. Just letting a few things into the light by writing them down. One more way of gaining perspective and laying out what is causing stress or joy in my life. Also to show my inability to edit an entry for spelling or grammar mistakes before publishing, because that never gets old...right?

The Guide 2 June 2016

Ladies and gentlemen. Here is a little project that I started in the last month and am now unveiling a bit more publicly today.

The Guide!

This is an idea that has been percolating for nearly a year now and with literally nothing better to do, I am going to spend most of the summer working on it. Given the number of biking, hiking, backpacking, and mountaineering trips I do on a yearly basis, I felt I should start sharing this knowledge and experience publicly. This site is meant for advanced beginners and intermediate level outdoors people who want to do more challenging trips and want the information to carry those trips out safely. Everything from route descriptions, the maps/guidebooks needed, and suggested gear lists. All in a readable, printable, perusable, and shareable format.

Focusing on the PNW area for now and I have already compiled a list of trips that I want to photograph and document this summer. Hope a few of you find this useful/amusing/enjoyable. There is a long list of things I wish to add to this site, so if you can, please provide a bit of support.

Everything Wrong With Star Trek: The Motion Picture 26 May 2016

Link. CinemaSins does an excellent job showing how painfully bad the first Star Trek film was.  I am not much of a fan of the Star Trek reboot films, but I have to admit, they're better than this one. Thank goodness we got Wrath of Khan next.

Dissatisfaction and Dependencies 19 May 2016

The blog post "Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed" is making the rounds on social media again two years after it was written and rereading it now is pushing me to write about my own views.

In just under two weeks, I will be homeless again. Despite considerable efforts both in job hunting and searching for investors for a promising startup, nothing ever clicked. And since my last contract job is complete, I am free to shake things up.

In the past six months I have turned down three job offers and declined a half dozen in-person interviews–two that would have had me being flown to another city at the company's expense. Nothing was intrinsically wrong with any of these jobs. Quite simply I could not convince myself that they were right for me. There is no formal analysis I perform, I just ask myself three crucial questions:  a) do I care about the company/product; b) would I enjoy living in that location; c) is it a solid team of developers and executives. If I feel strongly positive about two of the three, then there is a chance. If I am merely lukewarm on all three, my personality and approach to life is unlikely to make that a tenable position.

As for funding the startup. Gosh, what a lesson in frustration that has been. The upfront cost in these matters, especially in the social/conversational realm, is exhausting. And then, they want just a bit more information or what they are really interested in is their own ideas for a company. You realize five emails and two in-person meetings later that it is going nowhere. Rinse, repeat, roll eyes.

All of this led me to just toss up my hands and stop trying. I gave my landlady notice at the beginning of May and now I need to figure out a new strategy. If only I had a Wookie. Why, yes, that was a Star Wars reference. Well done!


Part of me wonders where in the Seven Hells my life is going at this point. Homeless. Again. What is this? The third time in three years? For a guy who has the highest income potential of anyone I know, I sure seem to be wretched at finding employment and having reliable financials.

Part of me is cheering that I am once again reducing my possessions and snubbing my nose at those fully employed people who seem unhappy with their lives and spend their recreational hours drinking or purchasing even more stuff. My time will be spent in Nature or in small pockets of civilization, as I see fit. Just the bare essentials. There is a certain romantic notion to being a dirtbag.

However. Perhaps it is age. Perhaps it is because after having a ludicrous amount of savings eight years ago my funds have dwindled. But, I am finding that part less romantic and more tiresome this time around.

A friend on Facebook said it well, "My problem is that I want it all. I want to have a stable living situation, travel, and work from home so I can divvy up my time as I please."

I want a home base of my own. A little island of stability to reduce the constant low-level stress that comes from not knowing where you are living next and how you will pay for things like food and health insurance–without the compromise of being required to work 40+ hours a week at a job while having an unfulfilling lifestyle.

Crazy, right?

Right now, I have a loose plan for the next few months involving mountains, backpacking, and challenging adventures with a possible move to either Burlington, Vermont or Boulder, Colorado at the end of the summer to get residency in one of those states before attending school. School continues to being a sticky idea in my brain and if nothing changes it seems like the inevitable choice.

I might have another idea though. More details on that soon.

Between the Lines of a Reed Reunion Email 29 April 2016

Hi Paul,

Can you believe it’s our 15th Reed reunion this year?

Nope. Thanks for the reminder that 15 entire years of my life have flown by though.  Whoosh!

We’re planning a party for the Class of 2001 on Friday, June 10. Details are slowly emerging, but think: a buffet of Oregon’s bounty, including tastings of adult libations made by our fellow alumni and amazing food, catching up with long-lost lab partners and rugby teammates, and reminiscing about the semi-feral dogs of Olde Reed and the decidedly feral punk shows in the SU.

Who the what now? You mean all those people who you have not friended on Facebook and at Reunions you awkwardly look at their name tags while desperately trying to recall why they look familiar in that "Didn't we meet once at a grocery store in Des Moines way?" Also, the semi-feral joke and Olde Reed reference is a bit lame, guys. Come on, we all know it was the Scroungers that were semi-feral.

Please let us know that you will be coming to Reunions by registering. Lots of great people will be there. We’ll send more details about the 2001 party in the next few weeks, but if you have any questions in the meantime, please get in touch.

Please let us know how many people are going to show up so we do not have a 300 capacity room for 15 people.

We can’t wait to see you,

Your 15th Reunion Committee
Andrew Schpak, Chair
Breesa Culver
Lindsay Kanter
Greg McClellan
Darlene Pasieczny
Steve Seal
Katherine Woods-Morse

You should know at least one of these people–at least by reputation–unless you were a Physics major and we all know you're not coming anyway.

PS Don’t forget to make a gift to Reed in honor of our 15th Reunion as well

First, it is "p.s." since it is an abbreviation, which stands for post scriptum.  As Reedies I expect you to have higher standards when writing emails. Second, thumbs up for helping the Alumni office reach its quota for Yet Another Request for Donations–third or fourth this month, I believe. You do realize the Board still refuses to Divest from Fossil Fuels for weak reasons and Reed just built a $28 million performance arts building while the cost of attendance has skyrocketed? While I loved my time at Reed and do think the endowment could use a boost, I cannot help but believe that other causes or nonprofits are a bit more worthy of my money at this time.

UPDATE: A fellow Reedie has informed me that is perfectly acceptable to use "PS" without periods. To which I reply that you are ALL monsters!  Brother Maynard!  Fetch the Manual of Style! Relatedly, this cold is making me VERY passionate about grammar...and a bit wacky.

The Temple of Productivity 26 April 2016

Watched my first episode of Silicon Valley the other day and was completely horrified. Not by its lack of technoliteracy or its presentation of nerds as socially inept children (which still seems pretty common on television). Instead because of how realistic its tropes and themes were when dealing with technology companies.  Everything from the posturing of programmers to the heartlessness of venture capitalists who think they know best.  It was painful to watch with my housemates and sadly admit at the end of it, "yeah, that's pretty accurate..."

Silicon Valley - Show Photo

Silicon Valley TV Show


Along those lines, I have been having a dickens of a time reconciling my nostalgic for past work accomplishments with the aggravating state of development today. Without a doubt, this has been a major contributing factor in my inability to accept any of the jobs offered to me in the past few months. My tolerance for marketing buzzwords, agile development religions, and productivity apps is incredibly low.  And, if I have to hear the terms "technical debt" or "pair programming" one more time, I might just lose it.

Not everything is bad.  Test Driven Development for frameworks and APIs seems incredibly smart. Abstracting code with interfaces and using templating languages like Twig have definitely been a significant step in the right direction. These things genuinely have improved my life and made code more reliable and stable. I wish I could magically transport them back 12 years to when I first started coding.

However. There are plenty of things that I have reached the point where I give Zero Fuchs if you are using it or if you think it is the best thing to hit development since IDEs–which incidentally I am not overly fond of either.


Single page applications and front-end frameworks are both high on my list lately. They claim they make teams more productive. However, at this point they are getting so complex and so heavy that they require a team to do anything significant with them. Do they abstract common functionality and allow the creation of components? Yes.  But do they also add the subsequent overhead and complexity of a framework and its dependencies to the frontend?  Most definitely.  After building two different SaaS applications, one using Backbone/Marionette and another with Vue.js, I have decided that my current project will use neither. No more messing with routing, components, and little tricks to get everything loading perfectly.  And now the page loads are so light and speedy in comparison. I am still using AJAX and have API on the backend, but I am no longer front loading so much of the display logic since I actually have a backend that can do 90% of it effectively.

Flux Application Architecture

Flux Application Architecture


I have also completely abandoned every productivity tool that I have tried in the past three years. Websites like Trello and Pivotal Tracker only seem to complicate the process of structuring development.  Both seem to require that you have a team member tracking tasks full time. If you start letting things slide or if one person does not buy in, it completely falls apart.  Few small teams can afford that kind of overhead.

Trello Board

Example Trello Board

My current development process is the exact same one I was using 10 years ago with ExpressionEngine. A list of features for the next two major versions and then a detailed document (usually a spreadsheet) with the current version being worked on with detailed notes for each feature being added. Before GitHub issues (love 'em), EllisLab had a bug tracker that did essentially the same thing. Worked extremely well. We got work done. A pretty impressive amount of work, honestly.  Now, it seems development moves at a slower pace with oodles of more "process" in the way.


Maybe it is just me. Maybe if I worked with teams larger than 2-5 individuals these things would matter more. I just look at front-end frameworks, productivity apps, and many other development tools/apps and I cannot honestly say my life as a developer has gotten faster, better, or easier because of them. Yet, I see them mentioned everywhere in job postings and on company websites. Almost as a badge of honor: "Look! We have process! We have apps measuring our productivity!"

A bit maddening when they also claim they're innovative, data-driven web professionals and yet their site or application has no SSL certificate, is not ADA accessible, breaks in mobile, has images that are not optimized for retina displays, has page sizes that are 10MB+, includes literally dozens of JS files, etc., etc.

“A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” –Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

I, for one, will continue to try and keep my tools and techniques for development as simple as possible while still striving to build well-designed and user friendly websites and applications.  For what is development, except a process that we, as developers, design to build products?