Fueled By Death Cast Ep. 84 - CHUCK FIELDS

Chuck Fields looking at a cloud


"What can I do to make an impact? Cut out all the clutter, and focus on what's important." Chuck Fields, host of Your Online Coffee Break Podcast





This week we welcome fellow podcaster and software engineer, Chuck Fields to the show. Chuck is a fan of all things space as well and met up with Jeff at the recent NASA Social Event where Death Wish Coffee was sent to the International Space Station. He is also the host of Your Online Coffee Break podcast. Chuck talks about his background and what led him to start his podcast and some of the amazing guests he has had on his show already. 


This week on Science, 12 new moons have been discovered orbiting Jupiter, and one is a lot weirder than the rest.  Then both Jeff and Dustin get really angry about people putting vegetables in their coffee on The Roast, and check out a Black Sabbath inspired T-Shirt on The Update.


Stephen Mahieu is the Death Star this week, and he has some interesting ideas for future things from Death Wish Coffee. You can meet Stephen in this week's show right here:


Jeff: We have not done this enough on our show, and I just want to welcome you to our show because a fellow podcaster ... It's somebody that we want to talk to more on our show and we haven't done enough of.

Dustin: Yeah.

Jeff: And I want to start there because I love your show.

Chuck: Well, thank you.

Jeff: It's short, concise, it's easily digestible, it has coffee in the name.

Chuck: Of course.

Jeff: It's everything we love about a good podcast. But I want to ask, what got you into podcasting?

Chuck: Well, it's funny, I had the idea for quite some time and it's only been like seven months. It's amazing just how much life has changed in seven months. I started off as a ... You know I'm a tech geek, I'm a software guy and I thought well let's just ... Lots of people have problems in technology let me do some nice podcasts on just sit down technology world. And that was going okay, but there was something missing. And I just remember going on vacation with my wife and I was talking about it and she said, "Well you know it's an online coffee break, you can talk about whatever you want." And I thought, well same thing as you there, Jeff.
I thought well I'd really like to this one astronaut I know. There's Dr. Story Musgrave and I thought, well let me just reach out to him. I reach out to him and literally 15 minutes after I reach out to him he says "Oh yeah, I'll do it." And then I got back from, just a few days later, from vacation. He had his scheduled. And then I got an email from astronaut Scott Kelly's agent. And they're like "He can do it in two hours". I was like, "Okay!"

Jeff: Wow!

Chuck: So all of a sudden, I had two astronauts and just the rest is history. I just started reaching out and said, the way I viewed it is I want to reach people that I would want their autograph.

Jeff: Yeah.

Chuck: Honest people who have really changed the world and I might not be able to meet them and physically get their autograph, but I can have the next best thing. I can have a conversation with them and then share it with the world. That's kinda what got me into it.

Dustin: So what kind of direction do your questions go for somebody like an astronaut?

Chuck: Well, being a fan of space, I always want to know what is it like, you know, when you go from gravity on earth to zero G ... A lot of people get sick, and I didn't realize that a lot more astronauts get sick than I thought. I thought these were tough people. They get up there, they're fine, no worries. But even veteran astronauts can have a moment where they all of a sudden get nauseous up there, and I thought, "Wow, that's kinda neat." So I love that, and then just looking down. It's gotta be a different perspective right? You're up above the earth, looking down, see how small everything is that we make a such a big deal of in our everyday life. That's just the beauty of it. So, that's what amazes me.

Jeff: So, knowing all that, would you shoot yourself into space if you had a chance?

Chuck: Oh my gosh, I'd be the first one there. Absolutely, absolutely!

Jeff: That's great!

Dustin: And you've talked to some musicians on your show. You've talked to some astronauts, like you said, some scientific people. Like, in fact just on a recent one you talked to a guy directly involved with the opportunity rover on Mars.

Chuck: Yes Dr. Jim Rice.

Jeff: I listened to that episode, and he was talking about how right now there is a sandstorm on Mars and so opportunity is in the basically a sleep mode. But they're getting, they're trying to get, data back from it and he's talking about how they are trying to contact it just the day before. Like, does that blow your mind that like seven months ago you didn't have this podcast and now you have a podcast where you're talking to people who are literally manipulating things on other planets?

Chuck: It's amazing! Who'd have thought, you know, you'd get to this point? And you got that too with the guests you guys have. It's amazing. And then just yesterday, oh my gosh, I talked to Andy Weir, the writer of The Martian. And it was just, again, I'm a software guy, he's a software guy and then he went into this totally different career and I just love it. So yeah, the people are amazing and then the people who are actually making positive change for the world in some ... Like, controlling rover on Mars, that to me just blows me away. So, I can't believe it. I pinch myself, but ... Doesn't seem true.

Dustin: It's awesome. And that's why we try to talk about podcasting more, and again I thank you so much for being on our show because -

Chuck: My pleasure.

Jeff: I really want to put you know podcasting out there more into the world. Somebody that I respect a lot is Kevin Smith, and Kevin Smith has an adage that if you want to do something, go do it. That's it. That's the end of the sentence.

Chuck: Don't hold back.

Jeff: Don't hold back, you know. And you're a testament to that because you know like you said, seven months ago you were like thinking of this idea and you were like, instead of mulling it over, you're like, "I'm just gonna do this, I'm gonna reach out, I'm gonna see where it goes." And now seven months in you've got already an aray of guests that are impressive.

Dustin: Any white whales on the radar there? Anybody that you would love to get that you haven't gotten yet?

Chuck: Wow. You know, I guess what's amazing me is virtually, I don't want to say 100 percent but, most of the people that I reach out to, I get them and if I don't right away, I keep trying again. So I can't say there's anyone, cause I literally ... Dr. Jim Rice, talked about him. I reached out to him on the fourth of July. He came out with an article and by that evening he's like "Oh yeah, we'll do it". And we had it scheduled for the fifth of July. So, sometimes it depends on what's going on. I just have the philosophy of if we don't ask, the answer is always no, but if we ask, there's at least a chance of a yes.

Jeff: Exactly.

Chuck: So, I don't intend to stop asking anytime soon, that's for sure.

Jeff: That's awesome. So, let's talk about your love of space. Where does that come from? Where did that start?

Chuck: Well, I tell yeah, I really got into astronomy when I was like 12 years old, and before that, I remember, I think when I was, well I'm a lot older than you guys, but I was five years old in 1972 and I looked up at the moon and one of my friends or my parents said, "There are people walking on that." I said, "Really?" I was just blown away. And sort of the interest waned a little bit.
But, when I was twelve years old ... I guess I gotta share a little bit of a story. I had a sister who had leukemia, and she was older than me. And for some reason I knew that her time was limited. And I just remember asking for a telescope that Christmas. And unfortunately she passed away on Christmas Eve and I got that telescope on Christmas Day and I was just, it was different to me. I don't know if I was looking for her up there in the skies but it sorta gave me a way to cope with it and I took the telescope and I just looked at the beauty of what was up there.
I mean I looked at the moon, the craters, I saw the rings of Saturn and I was just blown away by just how beautiful everything is. You know we see the pictures, but to me it's something different about actually seeing it with your own eyes and looking through that telescope and seeing these things and knowing wow, this is real. This isn't a fake thing on the end of the lens. It's just an amazing universe out there. So I love the discovery aspects of it.

Dustin: Yeah, that's severely touching.

Jeff: Yeah.

Chuck: Now that I've depressed all of your listeners.

Dustin: No, it's motivating. That's not depressing. That's taking you know ... We all deal with dire situations in life. It's gonna happen, life gets hard sometimes. And if you can benefit from that, if you can find a way to motivate yourself from that, like you've done, I mean that's where you find the best discoveries in life. That's where you really find achievements that mean a lot to you.

Chuck: Yeah, and I was fortunate too. I had a lot of great mentors too as I was learning it. You know, I was this young kid who was really into it. I had all of these adults that were, you know, how can we encourage this kid? So they taught me and in turn, when I got older, I wanted to sort of give back. So, I wanted to be the mentor. So, I had this really cool job after college. I worked at some museums, and between my daily duties, I would actually go down and help teach astronomy shows or plantarium show or take them up to the telescope or take them on a dinosaur tour. So I just fell in love with discovery, just everything in life. We can do it, how we can spread that enthusiasm.

Dustin: That's so cool.

Jeff: Speaking on that, this is a thought that I've been mulling over ever since our incredible adventure down at NASA with the rocket launch. People from your generation, when ... I've asked a lot of them the same question, you know like, "Where do you get this love of space and space exploration?" And almost unequivocally, to some degree, they have the answer that you gave something about the Apollo missions. You know, those missions to the moon, those first missions of men in space actually living and working out there, which was incredible. What do you think will inspire this next generation? Do we have anything in place to inspire the next generation? Because, this younger generation doesn't have, in my mind, doesn't have an Apollo mission, you know ... Those were heroes, to you, to our generation. Larger than life figures, and, do we have that anymore?

Chuck: Well, it was sad for a while, cause I've gotta admit, I thought we'd be so much farther by now. You know, they talked about going for the moon to Mars, and I thought, "Okay what's gonna happen?" And then we had the space shuttle, which I'm not gonna put down, it was an amazing program, but it just wasn't that ... The adventure wasn't too exciting from I guess kids' point of view. You have a lower spacecraft and they do experiments. Hey that was necessary for us to learn that. But I think what's happening now with, oh my gosh, with SpaceX and Blue Origin, they're doing so many amazing things. And just look at the SpaceX launches, how they're being responded to. So I think that's going to be the motivation of the generation. It's a shame, but I think the private space industry is really gonna help motivate us and push us in that direction of exploration cause I think we're destined to explore.
You know, we're curious creatures. And there's so much more than playing on the phone. We love social media, I love it too, but there's such a big universe out there. And I think we're gonna see some exciting things over the next couple years. I mean, hopefully we'll actually see Americans going into space from actually American soil in the next couple of years. That would be awesome.

Jeff: Well, thanks to people like you and also Jeff Bezos, you know hopefully at least again, people again who were enamored by those early missions and now have billions of dollars ... Hopefully are gonna help us achieve those goals, which I think is incredible.

Dustin: Well that leads me to this question. I'd love your perspective on this. Elon Musk, technological saint or evil genius?

Chuck: I am on the technological saint kinda guy. I like his story. There's a couple of books I've been reading and they just talk about his history growing up, his childhood. He was bullied. I didn't know he was bullied until I read this book. I think one time he was thrown down the stairs at school and he was at home recovering from his physical injuries and that's where he got into reading and computers and just learning. And I just love that. The fact that he, again ... Why set those limitations on yourself, why not have that vision? If we don't dream then we are not gonna get there. I think he dreams and he says, "Why not?" And he makes it happen. So I really think he's done some incredible things for just our whole generation and the future.

Dustin: I totally agree and it's definitely a mentality that we take here at Death Wish. You know, we're always coming up with crazy ideas and it seems impossible and it's like how, why and it is why not? Let's go for it, just because nobody has done it before, that's pioneering. That's what it's all about, being a human.

Jeff: Going back to your background, I'm very curious ... As your love of space, your love of all that, but you also have mentioned that you are in software. Can you speak a little bit about that, like how you got into that field? 'Cause that's a very innovative and interesting field as well.

Chuck: It is fun, it goes back to the discovery too. When I went to college, not to bore you to death, but I actually went into the marketing field and really liked that field but it was in the late '90s and I worked for a pretty large bank and this is where websites were coming along, for the first time, believe it or not.

Jeff: I remember the like newscasters being like, what is a website?

Chuck: Exactly. And our CEO was too and he looked at me, and I was the director of marketing, he said "Marketing, give us a website." And I said, "Okay." So we were paying this company this outrageous fee to do our website and to update it each month and I thought you know there's gotta be a way we can do this ourselves so I started teaching myself HTML and just fell in love with it. And then, to me, I came from that business background where I thought, if we can save time by using this technology, how can I use it to increase our bottom line. So I just fell in love with it. And it just went more and more into it. And then all of a sudden, I don't know about five or seven years later, whatever, I'm full time software. I just love it. Again, I like doing it to make a difference. If I see processes, or things ... I say process, such a boring word. But when I see ways to just save our time by making things a little more efficient. We can do that with software, why not?

Jeff: Wow, yeah and you said ... You started this out in the '90s at that internet boom. And you're teaching yourself HTML, has it been a challenge as the landscape has changed?

Chuck: Oh my gosh, yeah it's changing so fast. You just have to love to learn in this field because there is always something new, there's always some technology new. Also, can be overwhelming.

Jeff: It's overwhelming for someone like me looking from the outside. For me, it's like I'll never understand any of that.

Dustin: I'll just stay ignorant and happy, thank you.

Chuck: I feel like that half the time because no one knows it all. There's certainly a lot of people out there who act like they know it all, but there's so much to learn, you can't know it all you just have to pick areas of focus and just be the best that you can be at those. But I love to learn and there's always something changing and I always get to learn on it so it keeps me challenged. To say the least.

Dustin: So how long before we achieve singularity?

Chuck: Probably about 3.14 years.

Jeff: Good answer.

Dustin: Touche.

Chuck: Actually, Jeff, remember this, there's a guy Brett Greenstein that we met down at Kennedy Space Center and he's the VP of Watson. Actually did just get to talk to him the other day. He talks about the future of Artificial Intelligence and how that just comes down to basically just understanding all the data that we have in the world and sort of predicting behavior based on data. Just gonna be amazing, almost exciting to me as space travel is just where Artificial Intelligence is going to take us next few years.

Jeff: For someone who's in the industry and someone who has a little bit of a hand knowing that kind of thing, do you think the ways we are dealing with Artificial Intelligence and the leaps that we are making with Artificial Intelligence do you think we're doing it in a right way? Or is it -

Dustin: Are we being responsible?

Jeff: Yeah, or are we going to get an artificial -

Dustin: Or is this the end?

Jeff: Uprising?

Chuck: I think we are doing it responsible. I think we're just taking baby steps. I really think that's all we can do. You know I don't think we're going to all of a sudden have some terminator out there that we've it's gonna take over the world or anything like that. Everything is so basic right now. And we're just, again, like an infant taking these little steps, learning a little bit at a time, a little bit more powerful. I mean we haven't seen anything yet that's hit or really blown us away, I don't think, technologically. But it is neat. I mean I still get a kick out of my Amazon Echo when I ask it to turn on music or something it does it instant, so I like that. But again voice activation, isn't where we want it to be. Half the time they don't understand what we are saying anyway, so it's getting there.

Jeff: It's the same with face recognition and that type of thing. The iPhone X now with the face recognition.

Dustin: It's still pretty simple.

Jeff: It's still pretty simple. Do you think there's a threshold that we'll hit when there's a line that we can cross, like, "Hey, we're taking baby steps, and oh no now AI is - "

Dustin: We baby stepped off a cliff?

Jeff: Yeah, do you think there's a line or do you think it's a gradual increase?

Chuck: Google came up with ... I think it was Google ... They had something lately where they had Artificial Intelligence voice calling, where you could have an assistant and you could [inaudible 00:16:33] or schedule a haircut, and it would try to schedule it online. And if it couldn't get through online, it would actually voice dial and then carry on a conversation as if it was a really person asking to schedule a reservation, an appointment, or whatever. And it even understood like, me I stutter a lot, and when we go, "Um, and er," it understood the context of the conversation. And the people on the other end were oblivious that they were being called by an AI robot. They had no idea.
That to me, is a little scary.

Jeff: That's a little scary. Especially when you're not given that information in the beginning. That's kinda the line I'm talking about. It's like, we know we're working with the Artificial Intelligence when we're working with Artificial Intelligence, but when we have a moment like you just described when we're interacting with an AI but we don't know it's an AI -

Dustin: What's the name of that test? The ...

Chuck: Oh, I know what you're talking about.

Dustin: I can't think of it. It's the test, it's a dude's name of ... That's the test of -

Chuck: Obviously none of us would pass that test.

Dustin: That's pretty much the threshold of when we're convinced that well, we can't tell the difference between Artificial Intelligence and intelligence. And I think we're starting to approach that a little bit, and thing that scares me, yeah, with voice recognition on our end that's one thing, but what happens when we start setting our text messages to auto-response? And it knows our speech patterns and our typing patterns and how we will respond to certain things. It's watching us for years and years and years and it's able to get data enough, and also you have to say to your significant other, "Hey, turn your auto-response off, and talk to me. What are you doing?"
And we're just losing touch with conversation. And I think that's why podcasts are so important. Because it is just delving deeply into the art of conversation which we're all kinda starting to lose touch with, with all the social media and technology.

Jeff: I agree.

Chuck: I totally agree with you on that. Although, one could say, could you imagine doing a podcast with an AI?

Jeff: Oh, whoa.

Chuck: Actually, I did ... One of my first episodes I actually interviewed the Amazon Echo device.

Dustin: Oh, weird. How did that go?

Jeff: I haven't heard that one yet.

Chuck: She was very responsive to me. And it was before Christmas time last year. She was very cordial, and she answered every question exactly how I wanted her to answer.

Jeff: Wow.

Dustin: What do you know?

Chuck: It's amazing.

Dustin: The thing that I'm kinda excited about is augmented, or virtual, reality, and podcasting. I think being able to be in that room with all your favorite podcasters and have conversations with them, even though they're on the other side of the world ... That'll be the next step of podcasting, I think.

Jeff: I think so too.

Chuck: That'd be incredible.

Jeff: We have a friend of ours who works for a VR company actually, and he's done some tests of that, and it's interesting. I've actually been in one before where he hosts it like a podcast, but it's a virtual campfire, and we all have virtual avatars, and we're all there in a conversation in a 360 degree environment, but it's completely augmented and virtual. It's a little surreal.

Chuck: Can you smell the marshmallows?

Dustin: That's what I was thinking!

Jeff: Yeah, smell-o-vision is a little different.

Dustin: That would be so cool. How would marshmallows taste like?

Jeff: So, I gotta ask you the question we ask everybody. With everything that you do, especially the nine to five side with your software, and your love of space, your hobby, the incredible podcast that you put out, what fuels you to keep doing that? To keep doing these things? To keep getting out there and creating this kinda stuff.

Chuck: Well, I tell you, I do love discovery and I love learning. I would say, when I wake up in the morning what fuels me is that I just wanna experience whatever I can that day. I'm a big nature lover too, I've got to backcountry camping lately too, and I just love getting out in nature whether it's to view the stars or just hiking to the woods. To me, I don't want to offend anybody, but I just feel one with God, one with nature, just it motivates me. What can I do to make an impact and do what's really important in life? Cut out all the clutter, and focus on what's important. Of course, it comes down to, my family, but again I think it comes down to family and discovery, and just seeing that there's so much in this world to discover and explore. We just need to do it. You know?
And stop holding back and stop giving ourselves those man-made barriers where we're like, "No, I can't do that." You stop saying can't, and just do it, and plunge forwards. You never know what's gonna open up, like doors to go to. NASA [inaudible 00:21:15] It's amazing.

Jeff: Yeah, awesome. Very cool. And finally, just back on the podcast side, outside of your awesome show, do you have other awesome shows that you listen to on the regular?

Chuck: Wow, well. Let's see. I've definitely been listening to you. I've been ... I've been listening to the NASA podcast. A good friend of mine does a Lost in Space podcast -

Jeff: About the show, or just about -

Chuck: He actually goes back and he does, it's Laen August, Lost in Space podcast, they actually started with the original classic series, and each episode, episode one, two, is based on the actual original series.

Jeff: Excellent.

Chuck: They analyze each episode. For geeks, it's really awesome if you love Lost in Space. And that's what brought us together. One of my favorite interviews I've mentioned was Talking with Netflix this year. I got to talk to the executive producers before Lost in Space came out, and I love the reboot, and I do love Sci-Fi, and I thought that was so cool. So I do like listening to that episode as well.

Jeff: Full disclosure, as a space and science nerd as I am, with the reboot I went into it angry. I was like, "I'm going to hate this because it's not gonna be my Lost in Space. They're gonna CGI it up, and all that stuff." I was pleasantly surprised with that new series.

Chuck: Good.

Jeff: I went in it going, "I'm not gonna like this," and I left it being like, "I can't wait for season two."

Chuck: See, I thought the same thing too. It was really well done, all 10 episodes.

Jeff: Yes. They changed some stuff up. They gave you some little twists and turns for it that you're not expecting if you're a fan of the original series -

Dustin: And you got the line. You got the line. "Danger, Will Robinson."

Jeff: Yes, you did!

Dustin: I was just waiting for it the whole time. [crosstalk 00:23:00] He's gonna say it, I know he is! Yes!

Chuck: That was a great show, they did a great job. Just stuff like that makes life more fun. Why not? Just have a little fun with science fiction.

Jeff: That's awesome.

Dustin: Speaking of science fiction, very important question here, Chuck.

Chuck: Yes?

Dustin: Very important. Star Trek or Star Wars?

Chuck: Oh, man.

Dustin: You gotta pick one, none of this like -

Jeff: That's not true. You don't have to pick one.

Dustin: You have to pick one!

Jeff: You don't.

Dustin: No bullshit!

Chuck: Alright, well, I'll geek out with you. It's a really tough decision because I literally just read about the Star Wars opening up at Disney World coming up, and that looks really cool. Probably, I have to say, Star Trek, just because I was there first. It was there with me, in the original. That's probably what got me interested in Star Wars. So, it came first. I thought it was truly innovative. I do love the original series. One of my, I guess heroes, was Captain Kirk and Mr Spock. I just think they're awesome.

Jeff: One of the manliest men ever to roam the cosmos was Captain Kirk. Dustin's bringing this up just to piss me off, because I -

Chuck: I can tell.

Jeff: I mean, I am a Star Wars nerd, but I constantly tell people that this is not an argument. It really isn't.

Chuck: It's not.

Jeff: Star Wars and Star Trek are not an argument. Star Wars is fantasy, Star Trek is science fiction, and you can love them both. I personally love them both. Captain Kirk, Captain Picard, some of my heroes as well, just like Han Solo and Boba Fett. I mean -

Chuck: There's enough love in the world to go around. We can love them both.

Dustin: Such a cop-out. You gotta pick a side. It's us versus them.

Jeff: Oh my gosh. Chuck, I can't thank you enough for being on our show today. And, finally, for our listeners and viewers, can you just run down where the best way to find your show, and the best way to maybe find you on social media as well?

Chuck: Sure, sounds great. Our website is onlinecoffeebreak.com, please feel free to go there. We're also pretty heavily promoting on Instagram, so that's instagram.com/onlinecoffeebreak. I'm there as well. I actually have a pretty good following being in the software world on LinkedIn, so just search under Chuck Fields on LinkedIn, you'll find me there.

Jeff: Excellent, I'll put all those links in the show as well. And, I hope all of our listeners become your listeners, because your show is really a lot of fun to listen to [crosstalk 00:25:25] And I can't wait to see the next batch of guests you're gonna get, 'cause I'm sure they're gonna be great.

Chuck: Awesome, I can't wait. Thank you, gentlemen. I really appreciate it!

Dustin: Yeah, man.

Jeff: Awesome, cheers. That was it.

Chuck: Cool!