Category Archives: Tangent

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas! Every year about this time I say to myself, why didn’t I put out a Christmas letter? I receive some from some amazing folks every year and every year, I think about and fail to reciprocate. Well this year is different. Well, kinda different. By different I mean that I’m putting this blog post up and I’m going to post it on Facebook and email it and such to reach the people that I should have taken the time to write out a proper Christmas letter to.

It’s been an interesting year to say the least. The whole family has changed and grown up in ways that I am still trying to get used to and it’s a good thing.

CollinCollin, my oldest, is 18 and in college now. He figured out that he could skip his senior year and go directly to the community college and start getting college credits since he was 18. He’s loving college and doing really well. He’s also gotten a job at Baskin Robbins. He’s closing on the weekends and seems to be enjoying at least the paycheck if not the job. It was awesome this year to watch him shopping for his siblings on his own with his own money and the pride that he took in that.

SeanSean is 16 and a Junior in high school. He’s gotten big and is, much to my dismay, borrowing my shirts a lot these days. The house, thanks to him, has become one of the social hubs for Interlake High School and is a regular drop in zone for boys and girls. He’s working on finding a job but as Collin found out for him, this is a really tough job market for teens. He, much to my pride, has come up with several ideas for startups that he’d like to pursue. I’m anxious to see which one of them sticks.

MiriamMiriam is 14 now and is in 8th grade. She’s involved in *everything*. She’s a “WEB leader” which is a welcoming committee/mentor program for the 6th graders coming into her school. She’s loving the responsibility and is adorable talking about her 6th graders and how important her work with them is. She’s also in the choir at church (Holy Family Name in Kirkland, WA), youth group, multiple sleep overs a month, anime club and anything else that she can talk us into taking her to.

MauraMaura is 11 and growing up fast. She’s in “5th” grade and is our “A” student which is funny because “A” is for “adaptive”. Many of you may know that she’s got special needs. You can read all about it on my wife’s blog at Suffice to say she’s got global delays but we’re thrilled this year that she’s outgrown her seizure disorder. She was on meds twice a day for the last 7 years of our lives but this summer we weaned her off of them and couldn’t be happier about them.

Phoebe HolmesPhoebe is doing really well here. We both miss Ireland and it’s hard to imagine that it’s been a year and a half since we moved but it has. Phoebe has finished one book which she has at an agent right now and we’re hoping that it’ll get picked up and shopped to publishers. She’s most of the way through the second but as you know, she’s already got a much stronger following than I do on her blog. I wish that I was half the writer that she is and 10% as prolific as she is with 5% as amazing material as she produces. I, and all of her followers, love her sense of humor that envelops every topic and has you laughing and crying at the same time.

Josh with his guitarI’m still at Microsoft working in TED (Technical Evangelism and Development) on a team called Strategic Engagements. It’s about as fun of a job as I can imagine. My job is, no word of a lie, to full time write open source software and I get paid by Microsoft to do it. If I rewound even a year ago, I wouldn’t have believed it but here I am. And I’m getting to play in a space called Internet of Things which you can translate as I’m getting to play with all the fun toys. Someday they’ll figure out that they’re paying me for this. 🙂 I’m still mountain biking and working on vintage motorcycles as much as possible. Someday, I’ll “retire” and do the motorcycle work all the time. I’ve got an engine to overhaul this winter and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Merry Christmas to all of you!

Following your passion…

There’s a video and cartoon that go through Alan Watts’s little speech about “What if money was no object”. The summary is that he challenges students to forget about money and focus on their passion. You can watch the whole thing on “The Mind Unleashed” ->

There is a part of this that I agree with and a ton of it that I vehemently disagree with.

The part that I agree with is that if you are simply chasing money, you’ll never be happy and fulfilled. The flip side of that is that if my son exclusively followed his passion, he’d be turn 30 still living my basement playing video games. And if expanded and everyone just followed their passions, who would build sewers, collect garbage and so on.

Passion Pay Potential TriangleThe best manager that I’ve ever had, Nathan Hancock, once drew a triangle on the board with the corners labeled Passion, Pay and Potential.

What you want to do is be dead centre of that triangle.

For example, I’ve got a tremendous amount of passion around playing soccer. And the English Premier League pays really REALLY well. But I have little to no potential.

I also have a lot of passion around being a vintage motorcycle mechanic. And I’m pretty good at it. But it doesn’t pay well enough to support my family.

I have zero passion around politics as a whole. At the higher levels it pays well and I’d be really good at but I’d hate my life.

Programming, for me, is something that I’m passionate about, if I’m on the right projects and working with the right folks, that pays well and I’m good at. What pays just as well that I’m more passionate about is software architecture and teaching people. Architect evangelist make a great job for me because it’s pretty close to the centre of that triangle.

There are lots of people who at really happy handing out on the right hand side of the triangle. This includes artists, people who run charities, the good teachers, clergy and so on. We need those people in our lives. They make us better as a society and enrich our lives in amazing ways. But that’s not everyone and it shouldn’t be anyone with responsibilities such as kids.

You don’t have to look far to see people on the left hand side of the triangle. Watch any of the reality TV shows such as “The Voice” or “America’s Got Talent” to see people who have a lot of passion and are trying to get into something that pays well but have zero potential.

There are people who choose to hang out at the bottom part of the triangle. These people have made money their passion and mistakenly think that it’ll make them happy. There are professions that are more full of these people than others. A tremendous number of lawyers for example, have done this. There are definitely lawyers who are passionate about helping people in need and serving the law is how they do that.

If I had followed my passion exclusively, I would be in a theatre somewhere and would have never tried programming to be honest. Following the money helped me find something that was in the centre of the triangle. But I didn’t just go become something that I thought would pay well. I looked for something that I love doing and continued to refine that over and over again until I found what I’m doing now. I’m going to continue to refine that over time as I continue to endeavor to be in the centre of the triangle.

In short, life is not black and white. It’s not one and only one thing that you’re passionate about and you should pursue that without regard. If you honest with yourself, you’re passionate about a lot of things. Find one of those things that pays decently and get good at it. If you do that, you’ll be in a good place.

I built a Cigar Box Guitar…

When I build the next one, I’ll do a fuller write-up but I wanted to get these pictures and video up.
Cigar Box Guitar
I built a Cigar Box Guitar. My friend Joe Rames had built one and I thought it was cool and then I saw some while in London that just looked amazing. I loved the idea and decided to build my own.

I started with a 1×2 piece of poplar wood and started trimming it down. The head needed to be back far enough to make some tension on the nut (the piece at the top that the wires run over).

And then I needed to carve out the bottom of the neck because I wanted to make a through neck and that required carving it down to let the cigar box close. This was a little tough as I didn’t have power tools and did it by hand with a saw and a chisel.

Then I pieced glued on the bits for inside the box so that it was nice and sturdy. I probably need to redo this at some point because it’s about an 1/8 of an inch short of the bottom of the box and so is not quite touching and stable. But it works for now.

The tuning pegs were the first “guitar” part that I bought. Almost everything else was from home depot, radio shack and my local cigar shop. Figuring out where to mount these was harder than it should be. My next one is likely going to be headless with the pegs inside the box so that it’s a much more compact design.

Then I carved out the cigar box for the neck to fit in. Next time the neck will likely go all the way through the cigar box and out the other side but for this first one, the neck goes through and stops just inside the other wall.

Then I installed the 1/4 inch jack for the pickup and built my own pickup out of a piezo buzzer. That was fun and it works great (watch the video)… The next step was building the amp itself.

Yeah – the guitar looks good. 🙂 but I actually had a lot of work left to do at this point. I don’t have good pictures of putting the frets in. However, that wasn’t as hard as I was afraid it would be. I found an online template maker where you enter in the measurements of your guitar and it’ll print a template for where your frets should be.

I decided at this point to build my own amp as well. I have an amp but it’s big, heavy and doesn’t travel well. Oh, and it’s not in a cigar box… 🙂


It’s a slightly different shape than the other cigar box but I think it looks class. I’ll likely switch out the green light for a red one in the near future but at the moment I like the green as well.

This was actually the first circuit I’ve ever soldered so that was a learning curve as well. Reality is that now that I’ve done it, I’m not sure what I was so scared of all those years. I started with design for a Cracker Box amp and modified it to have an on/off, the little LED and a few other little bits and bobs.

And there you have it – finished product. I’m pretty proud of it. Now to learn to play it…

Tech Parenting

I’ve got 4 kids, three of which are teenagers. And like me, they are crazy into their technology and gadgets. They are even more into gaming than I. Unlike me, however, they have a bedtime, especially during the school year. Getting kicking them off the internet across their plethora of devices (laptops, phones and Gameboys) at bedtime has always been a challenge. This is especially true as their smaller devices are normally charged in their bedrooms. I’ve tried taking the devices away but then it turns into a battle every night and it’s something that I have to remember to do and ultimately ends up failing. I’ve tried

But about a year ago, I hit upon an idea that has seemed to work for us. It’s a simple idea but works really well. I got two routers. One is for the parents and the other is for the kids. The one for the parents is what I connect to, the Xbox connects to, the Chromecast and the like. The kids don’t get this password and for further security, it’s in my bedroom.

The other router is called HolmesKids and that one is the one that the kids connect to. It has parental controls on it and among other things, the parental controls shut it off as of 9:00 every night and then turn it back on about 8:00 the next day. No fuss, no battle, nothing for me to forget, works while I’m out of town and so on. It’s just simple and clean.

This is something that even non-technical parents can set up. There are a lot of routers out there that come with parental controls and instructions on how to set it up. And once you have it set up, it manages itself (and your kids) with no further maintenance.

One word of warning, make sure that you read what the parental controls will and won’t allow you to do. For example, some of the Cisco ones only allow you to manage up to 5 devices. My kids will do 3 phones, 2, laptops and 3 Gameboys so oops – we’re over that limit quickly.

You should try it!

Obrigado BrazilJS

This past week I had the extreme pleasure of returning to one of my favorite countries to visit, Brazil, to speak at it’s premiere JavaScript conference, BrazilJS. I’ve been to Sao Paulo in the past when I keynoted PHPBrazil but while I was there, everyone told me that I needed to get down to Porto Alegre and now that I’ve been there, I agree with them. I’m going to break this down into three posts. The first about the country and the visit. The second about the conference itself called A little about BrazilJS. And the third about my talk called The Perf Doctor Is In.

Sao Paulo

Sao Paulo was, to be honest, a bit overwhelming. It’s the commercial center of Brazil with 11 million people and an absolutely insane amount of traffic. I was introduced, however, to to some unbelievably passionate and intelligent people in my short time there. I still have many friends from Sao Paulo from my short trip. I was introduced to cachaça (key ingredient in my favorite drink caipirinha – it’s sort of a Brazilian mohito), the concept of Brazilian BBQ (more on this in a bit), found out that two motorcycles can motorcycle cutting traffic in Brazilactually travel down the highway balancing a bookcase between them and fell in love with the country. My favorite day was when we got down to the beach and everybody relaxed. I had never even heard of foot volley which is volleyball with all of the ball handling rules of soccer. Continue reading


New frontiers for the Holmes clan

IE LogoIt’s with mixed emotions that I’m leaving Ireland and headed to the exciting world of Redmond, WA, USA. I’ll be moving in early May to the IE Developer Marketing team joining such great folks as Justin Garret . This is the team that’s doing some amazing work such as and to name two high profile projects. If you haven’t played with either of these, you should go look at both of them. The partnership with Atari is not only a ton of fun, it’s educational. I’ve used the material there to figure out handling touch behaviours in Win8 apps and more. The project gives you quick and easy testing of your site for IE with or without you having to run IE and advice on how to fix common issues.


The past 2+ years here in Ireland have been an amazing experience.


IrelandFrom a work perspective, I’ve met and worked with some of the smartest and most passionate people that I’ve ever had the pleasure to know and had a lot of fun. I love Ireland’s tech eco system, particularly the start-up scene which is well outlined by Frontline Venture Capital (check slide 24 – 🙂 ). I’m going to miss being a part of that scene. I’m not going to get into name dropping here because inevitably I’d miss someone and there’s too many to name but I’ve met and mentored some incredible people at companies. Some of them have ended up installing hardware and software in the Microsoft Technology Centres around the world or high profile projects for Cadbury’s or Lufthansa Airlines or have become the default mechanism for navigating Dublin or are the best way to book a tee time or listen to the radio on Windows Phone and I could go on and on and on. I’ve keynoted a number of great conferences around Europe, spoken at the local Google Tech User Group (yes, they knew that I work for Microsoft and I survived… 🙂 ), spoken at Dublin Web Summit multiple times, met Bono, run envisioning sessions with organizations from Failte Ireland (tourism board for Ireland) to the largest bookie organization in Ireland to many of the top end design firms, ran data centre tours through the data centre based here in Ireland, run international conferences from clubs here in Dublin, written prototypes for apps for banks, local government and more… Additionally, I’ve learned a ton about what it’s like working in a small country and in a small subsidiary of a large company. Both of these lessons have been very interesting, both challenging and exciting at the same time. It’s been a fun and impactful 2 years that I’ll never forget.


Mountain Biking in the SnowFrom a personal perspective, I love Ireland. It kinda goes without saying that Scotland is the only place in the world that can rival Ireland for golf. I’ve also found a new passion in mountain biking here and there’s a ton of opportunities to do that. I’ve found rugby as a fantastic spectator sport and I wish that I had grown up playing it (unfortunately my knees are too bad to do so now). But the real impact has been on my family. As you might know, my youngest daughter has special needs (my wife blogs about it at and the programs here for her have been unparalleled. The St. Michael’s programs and schools are amazing and if I ever get to an independently wealthy status, I want to try to found something like it in the US. She’s learned to swim, work safely in the kitchen, potty training and more. I could rave on and on about the systems here but my wife does a great job capturing it on her blog. My other daughter has taken up Camogie which is a brilliant, vicious and fast paced game. She’s in the theatre, dancing and has taken up a ton of other hobbies. My boys are doing very well here also. My oldest is in “transition year” which is a brilliant concept. In short, it’s a renaissance year. The year is broken into 4 modules and in each one of these they take different subjects. They try many different types of sciences, maths, arts, sports and so on. A different set each module. They take a ton of field trips to all the museums, parks and more. They are required to do at least 2 weeks of work study where they find a job in a company for a week at a time to learn what different types of companies do. My son did work in a game dev company called BitSmith Games who produces a fantastic game called Ku: Shroud of the Morrigan. He got to do a lot of testing and learned a lot about Unity game development. And my wife fits right in here. She’s half Irish by decent so she looks the part but more so her language, mannerisms and more have all taken on a distinctively Irish slant. She’s not picked up the accent but everything else is spot on. 🙂 She’s gotten involved in the PTA, run fund raisers for the school, toured most of Ireland, been on the radio, been on TV, was interviewed for an international magazine, written large portions of a book, had several blog posts go crazy viral and been very active in many different social circles.


I’m really looking forward to the challenges presented by the IE Developer Marketing team. I’ll be based in Redmond which is a new place for me. I’ve visited a number of time and it’s beautiful. The last time I was up, I went to a huge bike swap which was awesome and really endeared me to the area. From a team perspective, I already mentioned some of the things that the team does and I’m really looking forward to working with some really brilliant people. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a number of the people across the teams that I’ll be working with on a daily basis. I think I can learn a lot from them which always excites me.

BTW – I’m starting in Redmond on May 6th so I’ve got a few more weeks to catch up with folks here…

I’m going to miss Ireland but A: I’ll definitely visit (invite me to come speak at your conference… 😉 ) and B: in this fantastic digital age, it’s not hard to keep in touch. I’ll still be blogging here at I’ll continue to be on twitter at @joshholmes and I’m on LinkedIn at


Looking forward to connecting with you and staying connected,

Josh Holmes

My wife’s post

imageI don’t blog personal stuff all that often, that’s mostly the realm of my wife’s blog. There’s a lot of reasons that I don’t including that I like to separate my work and personal life to some degree. I live a fairly public life and am in the community all the time and I like for my family to have a little bit of privacy occasionally. But it’s my own rule so I get to break it occasionally and this is one of those times.

My wife, Phoebe Holmes, is a fantastic and prolific blogger. She recently posted a word that sometimes cuts deep in the Holmes household in a post titled “Being Retarded”. There are a lot of reasons that I decided to break my normal protocol and post about this.

  • She’s had well over half a million hits on this post
  • It’s attracted the attention of celebrities such as Pink, Alyssa Milano and more
  • It’s attracted the attention of some interesting press outlets such as CNN (article to be posted tomorrow sometime)
  • It’s a topic that resonates deeply with us here at the Holmes household
  • It’s obviously a topic that we thought we were more alone than we are on

She’s an amazing writer and captured the subject extremely well. My short recap of the post can’t do it justice but here it is.

People use the word “retarded” (and really many words) all the time in casual use not realizing the implications of the word on those around you. The word “retarded” has a clinical definition which accurately describes my daughter Maura. Maura is 8 years old but mentally she’s roughly 3. She’s got global delays and an seizure disorder but that’s as close to a diagnosis as we’ve got. She’s most likely going to live with us forever but that doesn’t get us down. She’s an amazing girl in her own way and makes me giggle and shine every day. We’re blessed to have her in our lives.

But casually using the word “retarded” as in “that’s so retarded” cuts deep as it trivializes her condition and the condition of millions of others.

The Special Olympics has a campaign about the proper use of the world. As some of you know, I’m a big supporter of the Special Olympics and will continue to be so. This is just one more reason to do so.

Please read Being Retarded and be considerate to all…