Status Update for July 2021

Long time, no write. I got the idea for doing monthly status updates from a couple of programmers I follow: Drew Devault and Simon Ser. While their’s focus on mostly their work, I’m expecting mine to to be a more varied snapshot of my life.

The last few months have been strangely hectic. I got vaccinated in late April/early May, moved in early June, and spent most of the month settling into life in my new apartment, living on my own for the first time in a couple of years. Things in my corner of the world mostly went back to normal for a while, though with the delta variant causing local COVID cases to be on the upswing, those days may be numbered. Thankfully, the vaccines seem to be working. But still, the weather is (sometimes) nice and I would like to enjoy that while I can.

Just like everywhere else in the world, climate change has come to New England. We had a week of very hot weather, then a couple weeks of continuously cloudy skies and lots of rain, and then as things were starting to improve, we got a few days of haze, I suspect from the fires on the west coast. All that being said, we’re doing much better than some parts of the world, and there have been a number of really nice days: warm, but not hot, bright blue skies with generous helpings of mostly white clouds.

This reminds me that it really is the small things in life that matter most, like a good tuna sandwich, or earbuds that pause whatever is playing when you take one of them out of your ear. I suspect this will be especially true as the world continues in a state of political, socio-economic, and environmental upheaval.


I’ve been noticing that whenever I feel down, blocked, uncertain, or confused, I come back to the same things to help me feel grounded and stable: a morning routine, a solid gym workout, a day’s work in a beautiful environment (like the Boston Athenaeum), a couple pieces from my favorite authors where I notice something new every time I read them. Maybe I’m just getting old, and ossifying around the same things, or maybe these things resonate with core parts of my psyche. In any case, I regularly come back to Craig Mod’s interview in Offscreen Magazine. All of it is worth reading, especially the part about respect for life itself:

So I ask myself regularly: Am I maximizing this so-called respect for my being alive or not? Does my work pay dividends in making me more empathetic, more curious, kinder, smarter? And the best way I’ve found to say ‘yes’ to this somewhat ridiculous question is to ask if the work, my day to day, moves my heart.

In the end I’ve found that understanding how you define respect for life itself is a really good organizing function for thinking about how to live, how to spend your days.


Also like Mr. Mod, getting thoughts out of my head and into words is an important way in which I process my experience of the world. In particular, it is very easy for me to get stuck in my own head for an extended period of time, which is no good for me, or the people around me. Unfortunately, I’ve been doing far too little of this for the last few years, and I fear my life has been dimmed as a consequence. So I’m trying again to make this a regular practice. I will probably fail at this (again), but as my meditation practice has taught me, much of life is simply getting up and trying again.

Part of my growing reluctance to write online is that WordPress, that powers this blog, is becoming increasingly unsuitable. It’s become more focused on being a content management platform rather than a writing tool, evidenced by the “write” button being shoved up into the right hand corner. I have mixed feelings about the block editor. While my own writing tool is far from ready for production, I’ve been looking into Write.as as an alternative, any may start at least mirroring some posts there. There’s a 14-day trial of the Pro version which seems suitable for my needs.


That’s all folks! This month has honestly been mostly devoted to resting, settling into a new environment, and enjoying the weather when possible. Next month should be a more typically productive month.

Sunday Selection 2018-10-14

Around the Web

After 5 years and $3M, here’s everything we learned from building Ghost

I’ve never used the Ghost platform, and though I’m still on WordPress, I’ve become a fan of more programmable publishing platforms lately. But this was still a very interesting read, and it was particularly heartening to see that the people involved had put their money where there mouth is and made the company behind Ghost a non-profit foundation. On the other hand, it was disheartening to read about GitHub’s negative influence on open source, and how hard it continues to be to fund good journalism, especially when we need it the most.

Grit: Bringing Passion Back

Grit has been the subject of much psychology research, TED talks, and I suspect pop-sci books in the last few decades. But much of the work appears to be focused on the self-discipline component of grit, whereas Angela Duckworth’s original definition of grit includes both self-discipline and passion. This articles makes a case for why the passion component is so important and points to recent studies that are looking at it.

In Praise of Mediocrity

I’ve never done well with hobbies. I played violin for a few years, and loved to draw as a kid. I haven’t kept up with either of them, probably in part because I started taking formal classes in both of them, and I quickly felt like I had to do well in the classes, rather than enjoying the activity itself. I’m only starting to unlearn those lessons and trying to come to terms with being only mediocre at some things.

Rams

Rams is a new documentary out about Dieter Rams—creator of some of the most easily recognized consumer product designs of the 20th century. The documentary is brought to you by Gary Hustwit, who you might know from previous documentaries such as Helvetica, Urbanized and Objectified.

Rams is currently showing at special events and will be released digitally in December. Hustwit has also partnered with Field Notes to produce a limited edition 3-pack of notebooks that I think captures the Rams aesthetic quite nicely.

FN_Rams

Sunday Selection 2010-08-22

Reading

The James Franco Project This has nothing to do with computers, technology or programming. James Franco is an actor who is leading a very full life — he’s acting full time (on multiple projects) while working on multiple graduate degrees at different places around the country. Certainly not something that’s recommended for everyone, but it goes to show just how much one man can do if he puts his mind to it.

Media

Dieter Rams – More is Less The design of technological objects has always fascinated me and Jonathan Ives might be the design man of the current times, but this video shows off Dieter Rams’ work and some of his key insights and you can see them reflected in the modern gadgets that we consider to be attractive.

Software

Foursquare I’ve just recently started using Foursquare (yes, I know after Facebook announced places) which is an iPhone, Android and Blackberry app that lets you “check-in” to places you visit and gather points for traveling and visiting. It’s a fun little utility and makes for interesting games with friends (and probably helps generated revenue for local businesses). I’m hesitant to say if it’s actually useful, but it’s definitely worth trying out.

Note: I find that I’m starting to explore less and less and am considering retiring the software section in upcoming weeks. Let me know if you have any suggestions.