I attended Mountain West Ruby Conference this week. I sat down next to a guy and introduced myself. Right as I was sitting down, he mentioned something about getting over a cold. Would it be rude if I just walked away? Maybe I’m uber beta, but I sat down, shook his hand and told him my name.

“I’m Jamis,” he said.

Wait…I stare at him.

“I shaved.”


We shared some jokes. The platinum sponsor of the conference, Instructure, had hired me as their first employee, but Jamis was their first choice. He wanted to work for this tiny company nobody has heard of, 37Signals. What a mistake! (And it clearly didn’t work out for him either.)

So, what is he up to? He’s just finishing his book on mazes. I had heard he was almost obsessive about those. How quaint, right? Well, I look up the book and it’s in Beta from the Pragmatic Publishers. Hmmm.

Meanwhile, I was trying to get past the pleasantries to think about a graph traversal algorithm I needed for Castle.io. I’ve been having a blast with this company. I’ve been building out machine learning algorithms to figure out site security. The founders of Castle and I spent the week last week in San Francisco at Launch Festival and had a blast talking with potential beta customers and more investors. Now I was home and had to change a few things so we can migrate the code for scalability concerns.

So, I’m sweating it a little. Things are working, but I can’t see what I haven’t seen yet. It’s really important that I handle this right.

Fast forward to last night. I’m pretty tired. It’s been incredibly productive lately, but I’m more than a little frazzled.

Why don’t I check out Jamis’ book?

I see this in the introduction: “You’ll discover yourself brimming with ideas, perhaps the most effective cure there is for a programmer’s block, burn-out and gray days.” That’s exactly what this frazzle is all about.

I purchase the book, and I can’t put it down. He has me playing with paper, implementing ideas, doodling with code, producing images from my mazes. I’m loving this. Then we get into solving mazes and Dijkstra’s algorithm…these are things I’ve done a lot before. These are things I have in the Castle code. But I’m seeing it all from a whole new light. Things are simple. Having taken time to traverse grids and graphs and recognizing things I can adjust, I have a whole new appreciation for what’s going on.

More importantly, I’m at rest again. Having a gentle walk through code has unlocked my mind. I’m more me than I’ve been for a few weeks.

So, takeaways? Yes, buy the book. If you’re a programmer, it’ll take you back to where you want to be. Also, people is where it’s at. There’s so much good that comes when we get out from behind a screen.

And, here’s an incredibly rudimentary, but fun maze I made with just a little bit of code:

Simple Maze

Thanks Jamis for your hard work and contribution to my life.