Joseph Hallenbeck

Journal

November 03, 2020

New in the Garden
(Sprint 24, 2020)

Filed under: Journal

Continued work in the Digital Garden.

On Unit Testing
Insights into when to use Test Driven Development (and when not), how to write good unit tests, and how to write tests that test behavior instead of implementation details.
Bullet Journal
Notes on my Bullet Journaling routines. The syntax, and how I apply it myself in my overall personal management scheme.
Annual Review
Very rough outline of my annaul review which will be coming up during the first two weeks of 2021.
November 03, 2020

New in the Garden
(Sprint 22, 2020)

Filed under: Journal

Continued work in the Digital Garden.

Quarterly Review
Step-by-step note on the quarterly review process used for summarizing the previous quarter and goal setting for the next.
Docker Networking
Detailed notes on how to navigate between the external and internal networks of local docker containers as well as configuring Docker for firewall management on Ubuntu using UFW.
Docker Sendmail for PHP
How to get sendmail for PHP working inside a local development docker container for testing outgoing e-mail from the application.
October 05, 2020

New in the Garden
(Sprint 21, 2020)

Filed under: Journal

Continued work in the Digital Garden.

Personal Productivity Routines

Added several new notes under the Personal Productivity Practices index including:

Nightly Review
Step-by-step note on my daily routine tha has evolved over the years from the basics of Getting Things Done by David Allen.
Fortnigh Review
Step-by-step note on a periodic review conducted each fortnight where I evaluate the past two weeks and plan out the next two weeks.
Five Line Journal
A method for quick daily logging that allows for reviewing not only today, but the events of the (up to) last five years.
Bullet Journal
Began a stub outlining the syntax behind my bullet journalling
Knowledge Management
A longer note detailing some of my research behind knowledge management – extracting, storing, and maintaining records.
Fibonacci Spaced Repetition
A quick back-of-the-hand technique for doing Spaced Repetition (SRS) that I am employing in my Japanese language studies.

Learning Japanese

Additionally, I started doing a deep dive into the Japanese language which has resulted in several notes outlining my techniques and learning thus far.

Strategies for Language Learning
Outline of strategies employed with my language acquisition
Japanese Hiragana
Mnemonics and resources for learning Hiragana.
Japanese Kanji
Mnemonics and resources for learning Kanji along with a dictionary of Kanji that I have learned thus far.

History and Outline of Damasca

Last, I worked on outlining my memory of the Damasca project – it’s precursor (Graal Online) and current efforts to revitalize the project.

History of Damasca
An outline of the Damasca project from 1999 to today.
Graal Online
A bit of a memoir covering my memory regarding the precursor to Damasca, Graal Online.
Damasca Classic
A little bit of a reference regarding the current conversation about where to go with Damasca.
October 05, 2020

New in the Garden
(Sprint 20, 2020)

Filed under: Journal

Continued work in the Digital Garden.

Currently Reading
Updated with the thirty-one articles that I read in Sprint 20
German Potato Salad
Added a recipe for German Potato Salad to the Cookbook
Kraut
Added a recipe for making home made kraut.
Language Studies
Added a note about the tools I’ve been using to learn French and now Japanese
Feature Flags
Added a note on the ins and outs of using Feature Flags to gate incoming features in application development
September 09, 2020

New in the Garden
(Sprint 18, 2020)

Filed under: Journal

Continueing to brain dump into the new Digital Garden this last sprint.

Currently Reading
Added a note with my current and completed reading list of the year and began logging articles that I read to completion in the sprint.
Home Lab
Finished documenting the tech in my home lab.
Best Practices in PHP Web Application Development
Detailed notes on thoughts on creating Repository, Model, and View classes
Cookbook
Added recipes covering Borscht, Shepherd’s Pie and Cornbread
February 02, 2018

Week One on Mastodon

Filed under: Journal

Mastodon

Giant scattering of random thoughts over the first week using Mastodon:

  • God this interface is confusing. Local, federated timelines?
  • Local timeline is just everyone posting publically on the instance
  • Federated timeline is all posts on the instance plus any posts from federated instances that my instance are interacting with
  • This is actually quite fun. The local timeline really encourages me to just reach out, favorite, “boost,” or reply to any public post that strikes my fancy.
  • There’s a lot of really great conversation going on, particular about the nature of social media, technology, art.
  • Advertising this as a “Twitter” clone missing a lot of the point. This is more like an async or threaded version of IRC. There’s quite a firehose of comments on the local timeline, each inviting me to just hop in and start chatting away on the topic.
  • I’m actually having a lot of fun with this, more fun then I’ve had since the old BBS days. The social barrier (the thought that someone is going to judge you for hoping into their feed) is rather low.
  • I realize that my initial impression with Twitter was, this is a really boring platform. Everything is empty. The platform is encouraging me to follow some celebrities or news organizations. The emphasis was on becoming a follower high-volume “influencer.” It’s another consumption platform. I quickly felt like if I wasn’t a celebrity or obsessive interested in growing my following then I had nothing to say on the platform and should just shut up and listen. Most of the big names were insipid or posted so much that I couldn’t keep up. It took a long time to fine tune a list of eighty people to follow before I started to find the platform useful. I’ve probably posted more on Mastodon in a week then I have posted on Twitter in the two years that I actively used it.
  • People are nice. They reply to your random interjections into their threads. The community is generally friendly. There’s a progressive vibe, but not the kind where people are screaming their frusterations and outrage at the state of the world constantly.
  • You know what. Let’s just perma-block Twitter and Facebook. Still need the later for people stuck on Messenger, but if I’m going to be wasting time on a social network, I think I know which one I want to be spending time on. Love that multilingual is the default.
  • Traditional social media seems so balkanized – I have to intentionally leave the Anglosphere. As someone whose spent years trying to learn French and Spanish, its nice to not have to intentionally go hunting for it. Love seeing Arabic and the east-Asian scripts as well. Not turning them off. Can’t read them. But seeing them will make me want to try someday. Makes me feel much more cosmopolitan. The internet of the last decade has grown far too provincial. Whereas my early online friends hailed globally – the UK, Finland, Norway, Australia, Japan, France, Germany, Brazil the recent fashion has been to push people into regional or cultural groupings.
  • On one hand, don’t worry about federation. On the other hand, its all about the federation. Federation maintains the small community feel. There may be 1 million Mastodon accounts out there, but there will only be a small handful of active accounts on your instance. Names quickly become recognizable. Reputations, interests, etc. mill in much as they would on a small community bulletin board or an active chat room. What federation does though, is allows you or ot her community members to reach out to other instances and invite interesting people to participate in your local conversation. Thus if someone from your instances likes or boosts an article off the federated timeline, then it gets promoted to their local followers. And if someone follows a user from another instance, then that users public posts populate into your instance’s federated timeline. The dynamics of this system were not obvious to me at first, but quickly becomes apparent in it’s ability to create small social hubs, like a virtual pub where “everyone knows your virtual name.”
  • One thing that I now realize is just how tense my online precense has become with the fear of judgement, that words flung into the void would come back to haunt me. I have become very precise, almost shy in the expression of ideas. Mastodon brings back a kind of immediacy that melts away very quickly. Rapidly, I am posting off the wall thoughts, engaging in deeper conversations with people, offer to help, doing things that I never imagined on Twitter or Facebook which have both become such public-you-are-a-brand style interfaces
January 01, 2018

2017 In Review

Filed under: Journal part of Annual Reviews

We started 2017 with the simple goal of settling into our cabin in Alpine, exploring the nearby trails and outdoor opportunities, and reconnecting with side project long abandoned to hiatus. As the year progressed, it took on an increasingly fever pitch that left us longing for that empty stretch of winter duldrums.

Sprint Highlights

Sprint A
Hotelled at the Wigwam Village in Holbrook, AZ
Sprint B
Started waking early and walking three miles each morning
Sprint C
Explored downtown Raleigh, NC
Sprint D
Spent the weekend at La Posada in Winslow, AZ
Sprint E
Spent the sprint sick with norovirus
Sprint F
Exploring creating a single-player Damasca using Solarus
Sprint G
Visited Wisconsin for my niece’s baptism
Sprint H
Visited my grandparents in Cleveland, OH
Sprint I
Investigating growing Orchids
Sprint J
Camping trip to Blue Crossing
Sprint K
Writing retreat at Cottonwood Campground, Reserve, NM
Sprint L
Jess visited Portland
Sprint M
First time playing Dungeons & Dragons in five years
Sprint N
Cabin trip in Bluff, UT
Sprint O
Converted my blog to Jekyll with a new design and posts
Sprint P
Attended funeral for Grandpa James in Cleveland, OH
Sprint Q
North American Mycological Association Regional Foray in the White Mountains
Sprint R
Backpacked West Mount Baldy Trail
Sprint S
Jess on Fire
Sprint T
McBride Mesa Trail #26 (13+ Mile/16 hour Hike of Doom)
Sprint U
Quarterly Vacation to Durham
Sprint V
Clint Visited & Apache Box
Sprint W
Katie Visited
Sprint X
Grandma James’ Funeral in Cleveland, OH
Sprint Y
Zend Framework Fundamentals Class
Sprint Z
Christmas in Spearfish

Personal Highlights

Q1

Whale skeleton in the NC Natural History Museum

  • The most relaxing quarter. Found time to play – games, films, reading; and to pick up time for writing and pursueing creative projects.
  • In exploring, found George’s Lake Trail. A beautiful oak glade at the base of Escudilla and just outside of town (indeed it’s within a half mile walk of the house). A complex of old roads in the area affords over six miles of hiking end to end.
  • Started the year at over 215 lbs in weight which puts me into the obese category for my height. Started the RealAppeal program, offered by my health insurance and through my employer, with a goal of dropping to 180 lbs. Dropped my weight to 194 lbs at it’s lowest, but spent most of the year at 198 lbs.
  • Explored a lot of culinary delights: crawfish casserole, shrimp in pesto-tomato sauce, turkey breast with almonds, butter chicken, celery and sausage frittata, lentils and rice, squash and browned butter pasta, chicken scarporiello, caldo verde, creamed spinacha nd cauliflowr soup, lamb chops, and miso chicken
  • Replaced the single-pane windows on the house and officially became a resident of Arizona, although saddly not in time to put in for an Elk tag (need six months of residency.)
  • Started a dialog with Dart Zaidyer about the Solarus Engine and its potential for creating a single-player Damasca game. He converted the old Magrathea maps into the Solarus engine format and we began working to fix linking them together as I researched Lua and the API that powered the game engine.
  • Home adventures included hotelling at the Wigwam Village in Holbrook and La Posada in Winslow, AZ as we explored the delights of North-Western AZ.
  • Followed Jess to a training session in Flagstaff
  • Started taking extra time in the Quarterly meeting to really explore the Triangle area. If I am to be flown across the country, I ought to take the chance to look into museums, buy souvenirs, attend concerts and such.
  • Dana visited and we took her to Sante Fe.
  • Ended Quarter with trip to Rhinelander for Felicity’s baptism followed by my last trip to see my Grandparents before their funerals later in the year.

Q2

A beagle cools off in a mountain stream in the shade of a boulder

  • Culinary delights continued: quinoa pasta and burnt butter sauce, french onion stratta, schnitzel and beat sandwiches
  • Continued exploring and hiking, cover over seventy miles and adding Lamphier Trail, Juan Miller Road, MS Mountain Trail, Pueblo Park Interpretive Trail, Indian Creek Lookout, Cottonwood Canyon, Bonanza Bill, and Goose Point road to the list of trails that I explored.
  • Rewrote joehallenbeck.com from Wordpress to Jekyll including a new mobile-friendly design. Implemented a system for updating the site, analytics via a personal Pikwik install instead of Google spyware, and several new posts. Took down the Wind-Up blog and imported the posts into my Portfolio site. Started working on a similar treatment for Dreamscapes, but never got around to it.
  • Played D&D at Flying Rook Games while Jess was out in Portland, but just couldn’t find the time to make the commitment to the three-hour round trip biweekly to attend.
  • Picked up zazen over lunch and kept at it through the summer, although tailed off by Q3. It is a practice that I have long wanted to make routine, but also find that my life is plenty busy without adding another daily item. I have been interested in the Zen center in Silver City, and perhaps if I could make it down there, I could find instruction in the matter and better practice. As such, I’ve put meditation on the back burner of things to do, time permitting.

Q3

Basket of wild foraged mushrooms

  • Completed the third year of a “social media fast,” with several interesting introspections coming from it. Namely the observation that Social Media creates the illusion of being connected to friends. That smaller, more tight knit communities create better interactions. That I ought to spend more time seeking friendships among my immediate peers, or at least maintaining relationships through direct contact. Also, that I largely get nothing from Facebook. Find Twitter and Hacker News amusing, but ultimately distracting. That I would be better
  • Found time to regularly play Team Fortress 2 with Will and Clint
  • Celebrated our sixth anniversary with a trip to Bluff, UT to stay at the Comb Ridge Bistro and explore Bear Ears National Monument (our interests in the area pre-date the creation of the Monument).
  • Grandpa James passed away, necessitating an emergency trip to Ohio to attend the funeral.
  • Attended the Regional North American Mycological Association Foray at Sunrise Ski Resort. Learned a ton about mushroom collecting in the area and set about amassing thirty-some pounds of mushrooms (pre-dried). Signed up for a membership with the organization and looking forward to future mushroom hunting next year.
  • Moved into the house as I disposed of three bags of the prior owner’s linens. Purged an exsessive amount of old paperwork to the fire bin. Decorated the Arizona room.
  • Ended the quarter with a two night backpacking trip to the top of Mt Baldy via the western trail. Sprained an ankle.

Q4

Winding mountain road descending through juniper covered hills

  • Got cat, Tilde!
  • Started the quarter with a 13.5 mile all day hike of the McBride Mesa Trail. A volunteer activity for the Forest Service as we checked the trail conditions and determined the true path of the trial via multiple GPS unit.
  • In total we hiked a 100 miles this quarter, and according to my Garmin, took half a million steps.
  • Jess came along on the Quarterly trip to Durham this time. We saw a Robert Cray concert, toured the triangle area and had a generally good time.
  • Clint visited. Took him on the grand tour of the area.
  • Katie and Ben flew out to visit.
  • Grandma went into hospice and for three long weeks we wondered about her condition. She passed away in November on Thanksgiving Week. This necessitated a wild drive across the country to Cleveland, trailer in tow, for a second funeral.
  • Returned home for two weeks before needing to leave again for our Christmas plans in Spearfish. Two days driving up, celebrated over the weekend, two days driving back, and then back to work.
  • Ended the year with lobster at the Foxfire in Alpine

Professional Development

  • Peopleware book club
  • Started a Modern React and Redux UDemy Course; took a deep dive into the React ecosystem but really I don’t do enough front-end UI/UX work these days to keep on top of it or make much use of it on a daily basis.
  • Abandoned Pomodoro, it isn’t an appropriate technique for development except as a means of breaking a procrastination cycle.
  • Big research into accounting platforms, from Quickbooks, Freshbooks, Zohobooks, and their integration pain-points for a business interested in offloading a bespoke accounting system (integrated into a software monolith). The particular painpoints where the need to export over ten years of pre-existing accoutning data, and also create an automated platform that could record a large volume of daily orders from an external system. Found Zohobooks perhaps the easiest platform for this use case. Would spend the next two quarters implementing this integration.
  • Create a self-sylalbus for studying Machine Learning. Started with reading and completing the example problems in Statistics in Plain English and Statistics: A First Course. Read through the Tensorflow documentation. Completed the first half of Coursera’s Macine Learning course.
  • Work signed us up for Zend Fundamentals I. Completed the course before the end of December.
July 28, 2017

Bullet Journals and Traveler Notebooks

Filed under: Journal

If Goodbye Trello, Hello Todo.txt didn’t reveal my roots as a day-planner fanatic then I’m sure this post will.

This week, I sadly retire the Franklin Planner that has been by my side for the last twelve years. I never really followed the Franklin method, and over time my personal day planning strategy has relied less and less upon it’s features. The notes pages were never quite large enough to fit the reams of notes that I need for my work. The hourly planning lacked the ability to schedule in twenty-four blocks (who in this day and age keeps strictly to 9-to-5?). And the hundreds of detailed todo items, reminders, and recurring calendar events are best rendered computationally rather than by hand. Over the years, the Franklin Planner saw less and less use until it eventually become an afterthought to my daily planning regiment.

As of late, I have been trying to consider alternative solutions to GTD in order to get a more fluid style of day planning that respects the flexibility in time scheduling and necessity of play in creative work. The rigidity of keeping to a fixed hourly schedule, and a general movement towards a kind of fixed daily routine, has left me thinking of my time less in hours and more as four to five work blocks; an hour for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and bed respectively; and a single block of after-dinner time for creative or cultural pursuits.

Bullet Journaling

My attention has turned Bullet Journaling as a planning method that incorporates a the kind of looseness and play that I am looking for in my planning. The Bullet Journal does not replace the todo.txt cli, but rather augments it. A large part of my day is routine and need not be recorded other than to generate an automatic reminder and be marked done. There are perhaps twenty to thirty items each day, varying by day of week or time of month that appear magically in my todo list. Likewise, managing my backlog of some three hundred house chores, creative projects, and writing prompts could fill several hand written journals.

The Midori Traveler’s Notebook

Bound Traveler Notebook

I received, form my birthday, a Midori Traveler’s Notebook. This wonderful, passport-sized leather notebook solves so many of the Franklin Planner’s problems: it’s light and pocket sized so I can carry it on me at all times, the pages are 25-lines high and open to my creative interpretation on how they will be used, the classic band-bound design allows me to easily store loose sheets of paper such as receipts or printed and folded shopping lists. Once more, it just looks and feels great to have in my hands. My passport-sized item has two bullet-guided notebooks inside (my estimate is that each notebook ought to last me roughly a month), and I carry a binder clip to hold it open to my schedule for the work day.

My Method

The method that I am about to describe is highly experimental. Over the next two months, I am forgoing the Franklin Planner to see if some form of bullet journaling could take it’s place.

The bullet journaling method needed some adaptation for my usage. First, I am not attempting to create a journal of all my tasks in a day. Such would merely be replicating the logging that I get from using Todo.txt. Rather, this is a birds-eye view of the most important tasks that I want to complete or progress in the day and a simple layout of those tasks into my block schedule.

The general bullet journal idea of placing a topic on the page with subsequent sub-items remains and will fill in the side pages. As will an index at the beginning of each notebook. The small size (remember we have only 25 lines to work with) of the notebook necessitates brevity and focus on only the most important items.

Syntax

The bullet journal syntax remains close to the original. We have three types of items: a task, an event, and a note. I add to this, the project which is a kind of aggregation of tasks. Each is marked in the journal as such:

  • (•) A task
  • (+) A project
  • (o) An event
  • (-) A note

Each of these items can then take one of five states:

  • ( ) Incomplete, not occurred, or null
  • (•) In progress
  • (✓) Completed
  • (x) Canceled
  • (>) Bumped, but not scheduled
  • (<) Scheduled

The Daily Template

The Daily Template

The daily template is a full spread in the journal, except for the weekend days of Saturday and Sunday (and probably holidays or vacation days) which make use only of the right page.

The Right Page:

  • The full date in the upper right along with the day of the week
  • The page is divided into three sections of six lines: work, chores, and fun
  • The spread is numbered in the lower left

Experience tells me that it is better to keep a short list (typically five or less) goals for a day than a long list of goals. Short lists make the anxiety of what to focus on vastly easier. Likewise the three contexts of work, chores, and fun are easily separated in my routine. I am either working, getting some bit of necessary drudgery out of the way (chores), or I am free to do something fun. Also, if fun isn’t expressly earmarked then I am often given to letting chores expand until it uses up all of my time. Putting some bit of fun (a movie, continuing a book or game) on the same page as work and chores gives it the same level of import and thus I am more likely to put away my tools at the end of the day and leave time for leisure.

The Left Page:

The left page is broken into nine blocks of time with each work block and post-dinner getting three lines and all others getting two lines:

  • Planning Block (Roughly 08:00-10:00)
  • Work Block A (Roughly 10:00-12:00)
  • Lunch Hour (Roughly 12:00-13:00)
  • Work Block B (Roughly 13:00-15:00)
  • Work Block C (Roughly 15:00-17:00)
  • Work Block D (Optional, roughly 17:00-19:00)
  • Dinner Hour (Roughly 19:00-20:00)
  • Post Dinner Block (Roughly 20:00-21:30)
  • Evening Wind Down (Roughly 21:30-23:00)

Beneath each header, I jot very briefly the main task be it from the right page or perhaps some routine item on my Todo.txt list that I hope to complete or progress through that period. I may also note specific meetings or appointments that begin or cross that block and their times found in my calendar.

May 11, 2017

Pen Obsessed

Filed under: Journal

Pen Haul

Lately, I have been thinking a little too much about my writing implements. You see, I have always been slightly picky about my writing tools and a little to amused by nice paper and inks. The stationary aisle in any store is my treat. As such, I have collected far too much odd-and-end pens and pencils over the years. An assortment of half-filled notebooks before I moved on with anticipation to a fresh clean notebook. So for several years now, I have resisted the temptation towards new notebooks and now, as I open my paper drawer and see only a handful of fresh graph and memo pads, it is time to venture out in search of fresh supply.

Concerning Pens

Fountain Pens

From top to bottom: Lamy 2000 Makrolon EF, Lamy Al-Star Italic 1.1mm, Lamy Al-Star EF

My writing implements, I am most particular. Namely, I like a pen or pencil to have some heft or volume to them so I can feel them in hand. My daily writing pen needs a fine nib. Scratchy is alright, but really my vowels tend to mush into the same loopy shape, so extra fine is a must. On a pencil, I judge them by how frequently the lead breaks and how consistent the line.

In college, I switched from roller-ball pens to fountain pens. My first, was a Lamy Al-Star that I unfortunately lost at Jewel Cave. Since then, I’ve followed up with two more Al-Star pens, each with their extra fine nibs. The lines on the Lamys seem equal in fineness to my old roller-balls, run smoothly, and create a consistent line.

Two unfortunate side steps in pen purchasing. First, I got a very nice Parker Sonnet when I graduated. The Parker, despite costing five times as much, was vastly inferior to my cheaper Lamy pens. The pen looks beautiful, but the nib struggled to provide consistent flow. Eventually, I gave up on it. It remains a desk-drawer bound pen. The later mistake was to purchase a Noddler Ahab. I thought the tinkering would be fun. Yet, again. The nib either flowed too much or too little. In to the desk drawer it went and I back to my Lamys.

Recently, I stepped up to a Lamy 2000 Makolon EF. At it’s price point, it probably will never leave my desk while the Al-Stars remain my field pen. I feared that, like my experience with the Parker, that the additional cost would be wasted. Yet, the extra price on the 2000 was quite worth it. The EF is finer than the Al-Star EF, yet just as smooth. The built in pump vastly less messy. The uniform, line-less body beautiful. The heft, and volume of the pen comparable to the Al-Star.

Inks

From left to right: Noodler’s Black, Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Black, Waterman Black

Ink wise, I would shy away from the Waterman inks. They seem to bleed and are rather lustless. Yet, for years I switched between Waterman and Pelikan based on the price at hand. Pelikan, was vastly the preferred ink. I could always tell a piece that had been inked by one or the later as it always seemed darker and more refined on the page. That said, I am venturing into other inks. Noodler black seems to be highly recommended, although I have not tried it.

Concerning Pencils

Pencils

From top to bottom: Uni Kuru Toga Roulette Gunmetal Black, Uni Kuru Toga Starter, Pentel Clic eraser, Palomino Blackwing 602, Tombow Mono

Concerning mechanical pencils, I always write in nothing wider than 0.5mm. I once carried a GraphGear 500 by Pentel. The pencil feels very solid, but the tip of the lead is often crushed. By chance, Research Square gave me a very nice mechanical pencil when I started. A Uni Kuru Toga, starter. The Kuru Toga writes very consistently, and I rarely break my lead with it. The only downside is that for the longest time I could only find the flimsy plastic version in stores. It lacked the heft that I wanted in a writing utensil. Fortunately, I found a metal version for sale on Jet Pens, and am now very pleased.

A last note on mechanical pencils. I have given up on using their erasers which must be changed out too frequently and whose replacements are hard to find. Rather, I carry Pentel click eraser which is just is just a handling tube containing a four-inch long extendable eraser.

Wooden drawing pencils are another matter. In my art courses, I favored Tombow’s wood drawing pencils. They feel better than what could be found at Hobby Lobby. Yet, they do not match up with the Palomino Blackwing 602. Once I purchased those, I was completely sold on ever wanting another drawing pencil. Honestly, I still have a lot of Tombows around, and do use them on the rare occasion that I’m not inking a drawing. At this juncture, if I want to draw with a pencil, I reach for the 602s.

Concerning Brushes

Brushes

From top to bottom: Winsor and Newton Series 7 Size 0, Winsor and Newton Series 7 Size 1

Last, there are brushes. In these, I use for inking drawings, ink washes, and watercolors. Oil painting always seemed like too much of a production and the aesthetic of oils unappealing. A great deal of texts recommended the Winsor & Newton Series 7 as an excellent brush. Yet, a lot of reviews online are mixed suggesting that the quality for Series 7 can be rather variable. That, and they’re nearly impossible to find in a local store. I stumbled upon them in Seattle’s university district when I was unemployed and shouldn’t have been spending such money. Yet, I walked out with a number of the brushes. The quality, in comparison to your run-of-the-mill Hobby Lobby brush does show. Whether they are better than other Kolinksy Sable brushes out there, I wouldn’t know.

Concerning Everything Else

Then there are those instruments that fill my drawing drawers: erasers of various sizes and types, Copic markers, colored pencils, charcoal, vine charcoal, acrylic paints and brushes, highlighters, permanent markers, watercolor paints, brush pens, and dip pens. Only the last item do I have any kind of opinion on and that being that I have longed used whatever nib holders were available and favored the extremely finest speed ball nibs. Yet, I have long suspected that better nibs and holders could be found if I put a mind to it.

The Breakdown

Solid Writing/Drawing Implement Recommendations

You simply cannot go wrong with the following tools.

Writing/Drawing Implement Suggestions

These items I like, yet am not completely certain on.

I have heard nice things about the Japanese Pilot fountain pen series. Namely, that they are even finer than the Lamy EF nibs. Yet, their prices have kept me at bay.

Implements Under Exploration

These items, I have yet to really explore or have any kind of solid favorite, or even a vague notion of likes and dislikes, but would like to get a more solid foundation with:

  • Dip pens (inks, holder and nibs)
  • Brush pens
  • Watercolor paints
  • Colored pencils
  • Charcoal
May 05, 2017

2016 In Review

Filed under: Journal part of Annual Reviews

My annual retrospective is running a bit late this year. Probably because there has been so many big life-changing developments in the last year. This has inspired a great deal of introspection and anxiety. I describe 2016 as a very necessary year. Not an enjoyable year, but a year where I was mostly reactionary to a long sequence of unavoidable events that started with the totaling of Ford Explorer in late 2015 and leading up to the eventual first-home purchase.

Personal Highlights

Existentialism

The year of necessity has become my description of 2016. Everything happened because it had to happen. There was little agency involved, but rather a great tide swept me along. It took me from Wyoming to Arizona. It took me from Clifton to Alpine. It put me into a mortgage. It put me into a car loan.

In between, I found some time to read, game, and watch thirty some films. Somewhere around the midsummer I fell into a kind of fugue where all my hobbies and activities started to feel more like chores than entertainment. I read, gamed and watch films out of habit rather than enjoyment. Nihilism set in, I looked ahead on life and just saw an infinite number of books to be read and realized that the act of reading was itself meaningless. Life seemed an infinite set of tasks, each task leading to yet another task, and no task itself intrinsically meaningful.

Since settling in Alpine, my mind seems more settled and at ease, but one thing that came of this is a realization that there is simply too much to do in adulthood and not enough time to commit to all of it. More importantly, my time is often consumed not by what I want to do, but what I need to do. That I would be better off setting aside all commitments and evaluating them. Do I receive commiserate value for my time in work (existentially that is, not monetarily). Would that time be better spent in some other pursuit? How much enjoyment do I get out of a perfectly folded closet?

Redundancy in Task Management

I like lists. I like checking things off lists way too much. This can, at times become overdominating to my lifestyle and at the start of 2016, I started to realize that I was drowning in lists!

A couple years back, I started to keep a daily work log to remind myself of the work that I had done over the year. I consolidated that work log each sprint into a sprint log, and each quarter into a quarterly log and each year into an annual log. I documented the work I did both in TimeKeeper, in Trello/Todo.txt, and then again in my summarizations.

The redundancy had to be eliminated. With this in mind, I stopped keeping a daily log. Now, I keep my lists in Todo.xt and my time in TimeKeeper. I do make a very short Sprint review every two weeks but I focus on only documenting extraordinary events and future plans instead of the minutia of everyday living. The quarterly log is a summary of those extraordinary events and the annual review a further summarization. There is no need to go back and review past todos and past sprint logs.

One of these days, I will write a nice, long post about my task management and note-keeping systems.

The Permanent Southwest Trip

The move to Three Way could best be described as an adventure. We started on brisk -26 degree evening in Jackson, WY. My trailer jack broke off in my hand. I was able to lever it onto the hitch using a spud bar only to have it bounced off in heavy traffic in Salt Lake.

Three-Way was our new home on the intersections of Hwy 78 and 191. Home to a corner store, the USDA and the Department of Transportation. We lived for the first two months out of a Fema Trailer. At thirty feet long, it felt cozy but at times also claustrophobic. Jess walked the hundred yards to work each morning. I worked off a cell tower. In the evening we walked the dogs down to the Airport and back trying our best to avoid the occasional rattle snake and overly curious horse.

Come March, we found housing on a six acre property just a short walk away from the Gila River. As a condition of renting, we put in a floor and signed a six month lease hoping to make a more permanent home for some time.

Greenlee County, of which there is only really two towns: Duncan and Clifton proved a strangely magical location. Through the spring we were visited by all kinds of exotic birds, lizards, snakes, tarantulas and insects the like of which I have never seen before. I killed no less than dozen scorpions in the house and one rattlesnake that wandered too close to the porch. At night, javelinas roamed about in the yard. The summer proved far too hot for me – reaching 120 on one day. I confined myself to the office, the only room with an air conditioner, and slept through most of the afternoons while working late into the night. The August rains helped some and soon the washes around the house swelled and flowed.

In the end, Greenlee County proved a short lived adventure. A promotion was in store for Jess moving us up the Mogollon Rim to higher elevations, cooler climates, and more familiar surroundings. For the long-term this is perhaps best, but Greenlee is a mere two hours away at any time, inviting us back to the deep desert whenever we tire of mountains and prairie.

The Alpine House

Greenlee was exotic, exciting, but altogether too hot and alien of a climate for me to see any extended stay. We found ourselves, by midsummer, looking northwards to Alpine, AZ. There, at an elevation of 8,000 feet the climate was far more temperate. The summer reached only the low nineties, the nights stayed cool, and in the winter there was snowfall. The hiking was excellent, the forest a mixture of aspen, oak, and ponderosa much like my beloved Black Hills.

Jess applied, and was offered a promotion in the district. The town, of a mere 100 people in the winter, proved a tough nut to crack for rentals. However, we quickly fell in the love with the area. Springerville proved a treasure trove for shopping. Between Safeway, Western Drug, and two hardware stores we were well set. The location, a perfect basecamp for the southwest. In five hours we could be in Moab, Sante Fe, Tuscon, Silver City, or the Grande Canyon. In the winter, we found snow shoeing available above 10,000 feet at Hannagan Meadows. If we grew tired of Winter, a twenty minute drive put us in the Blue and a two hour drive put us on the desert floor.

By luck, we stumbled upon a cabin that was in our price range. Built in 1962, it sat on the back of a quarter acre lot a mere quarter mile walk from the Forest Service. Three bedrooms, a single bathroom, and an expansive Arizona room that looked out over the valley and up to South Mountain. Only minor work required, a new metal roof, a wood stove added to the living room, venting for the bathroom and dryer and it was soon ready for the long term.

Granted, we first had to run the gamut of the mortgage which proved a nightmare that consumed two months of my summer. An employment paid move from Three Way up the hill, unpacking, and the long run of house guests who always arrive shortly after such ventures.

Chickens

May was occupied by chickens. A strange thing to occupy a month. We picked up six chicks from Tractor Supply near the end of the season. In the spare bedroom we set up a brooder made from cardboard boxes. There the chickens grew for another month while I busied myself with building a coop.

I got a design off of Catawba Coops detailing a nice A-frame style chicken coop and made some modifications for the climate and potential threats. The wooden roof, I swapped out with metal. The fencing I made smaller to keep the snakes out. The project consumed the weekends for over a month. In the end, we got five hens and a rooster out of the mix. The rooster died before fall, but the hens started laying eggs around September and kept up almost until Christmas.

The Places I Did Go

The change of region brought with it the opportunity for exploration. Sadly, we found little time for camping trips, nor extended hikes. We tasted a lot of our new home but left many a trail for deeper exploration in years to come.

Greenlee County was our first campaign. Starting with hiking the State Lands around the Airport. We made regular trips up Willow Creek Wash and cold Water Canyon. The area was ripe with slot-like ravines that proved both fun hike down and clamber about. From the desert plane we descended down into one wash, walked it until we met up with another, walked up the new wash then climbed out to cross the plateau back to our truck.

The BLM’s Black Hills Byway proved a continuous source of amusement. We spent many weekends on Goat Camp Road, Tank Road and Black Canyon. East of Three Way we discovered Apache Box, a bizarre formation where Apache creek plunged down through thick layers of rock from the Colorado Plateau down to the valley floor.

We mixed with the community. Attended birding classes. Attended container gardening classes. Helped with creek clean up and met our neighbors. We were sociable in ways that we never quite found in the stuffiness of Jackson nor the closed community of Ashton.

Then there comes the trips. We made several passes to Silver City. First to explore the Gila Cliff Dwellings, then later to stay at the Bear Creek Cabins.

Come September we made our way up to the old stomping grounds in Idaho Falls. There to polish off a few day hikes. We hit the Aspen trail, which we had tried the prior spring but found too muddy to attempt. Then we hit Wind Cave, which I had wanted to see for some time. The entrance of the cave is a massive gash through the cliff face. A cold river runs out of it’s mouth and it seems like such a place that dragons would be found.

We made trips up to Sante Fe. Ate at their many good restaurants, hiked the Dale Ball and La Tierra Trails, and witnessed the miraculous staircase. We talked for some length on the idealism of Sante Fe as a city. It’s walk-ability. It’s historic architecture. Yet, after a week we found ourselves pleased be home and away from the crowds and rush of traffic.

I made way to San Diego for my Grandmother’s eightieth birthday. A good “workation” as I like to think of them. Taking advantage of the opportunities of remote work to visit relatives without the need to use PTO. The same was done for Christmas, as we ventured north again to Portland. This trip proved vastly more complex than intended as we hit snow storms on both the going and coming delaying us considerably. Yet, it was fun to drive across Nevada, a state that I have hardly seen. It’s big open bowl, empty rocky landscapes that stretch out to slowly rising mountains. The state excites me and I hope to return to really wander it appropriately.

Professional Development

Fossifying My Workflow

Last year, I took a huge step back from my personal workflow to evaluate just how much SAAS and licensed applications have slowly infiltrated my work. Slowly my daily task-management regiment went from the wonderful Todo.txt to Trello. Synchronizing my working directories between my two desktops, laptop and phone had gone from a series of duplicity scripts to Dropbox. My note taking had gone from text files, paper and pencil to Evernote. My development platform had slipped away from Vim and into PhpStorm.

First, I gave up PhpStorm and went full-on terminal. I don’t regret it. PhpStorm and Xdebug never really played well together. Once I really had all my Vim plugins put together, I replicated every piece of functionality that I wanted. Tmux, I finally grokked. Writing on the terminal is vastly more distraction free.

When I look back through my archives, I find files that go all the way back to the nineties. Some of these files are binary media files for applications long dead. Yet, a lot were simple text files that I can still open and read today. Some people delete everything on their computer, my habit is to just keep everything. I enjoy being able to go back and retrieve a file from a decade ago.

SAAS and proprietary binary file formats breaks this. It imprisons my documents, my ideas, my notes. Trello might be happy to let me download an archive today, but will it in ten or twenty years? Will it even exist in twenty years? They make no guarantee of the accessibility of your archives.

My fears are already confirmed. Trello was sold to Atlassian. Evernote changed up it’s free and premium plans shortly after I jumped ship. It is clear that notes created in Evernote are not my notes, not in the same sense as a markdown note on disk is my note. Both Trello and Evernote can take their ball home at any time leaving me without a historical archive.

Thus, I switched back from Trello to Todo.txt. I copied all of my notes out of Evernote and turned them into markdown files. I even wrote a script that went through every binary document file in my home documents directory, converted it to markdown and then archived the binary document file. At this juncture, every document file that I work on, with the exception of spreadsheets which are in the OpenDocument file format, are markdown or latex files that I typeset to pdf, html, or Docx depending on the consumer. In large though, I have greatly gone by the hand-written word. Design notes on graph paper are vastly faster, and more expressive then any computer document.

I did not go back to Duplicity for my synchronization. Duplicity always proved too limited in scope when dealing with more than two devices needing to sync. There was a need to manually run the script and confirm the overwrites. The lack of file watching proved an issue if I edited a file on one device, then switched devises and continued editing without running duplicity then I ended up with two conflicting files. Sadly, I have not found an open source solution to the problem. Dropbox has that NSA-friendly, integrated into everything, creepy factor going on. It lacks a lot of the power-user attributes that I want. I don’t want a “Dropbox” folder. I want a home directory, multiple file-system synchronization process.

While not open-source, Reslio Sync, will at least let me pay a one-time fee for the binary application, and then run it across all of my devises. It does all the power-user things that I want. Selective syncing, arbitrary file locations for syncing files, renaming files, and the ability to control synchronization so it stays inside my local network. If one day the binary stops working, I’m just out the cash that I paid for it. I can drop it any day for a OSS solution if a solid one ever shows up.

There are a few pain points that I have yet to fix. Mostly, on the cell phone. The Todo.txt application don’t seem to support the full scope of possibilities that found on the desk top. I miss being able to quickly add a new todo when on the road. Instead, I jot them down on a notepad and add them all in when I get back to the home office. Likewise, shopping lists have gone back to the pad-and-paper method. I am also, still on Lightroom for my photo editing, but will probably never upgrade to the Creative Cloud.

Learning New Tools

Docker continues to allude me. I have read through the documentation. Read through a great number of tutorials. I have docker containers running on my system and continue to experiment with them on side projects. Yet, it just feels like an unnecessary layer of abstraction on top of an already fine ecosystem. Coworkers continue to praise Docker, and I assume that at some juncture Docker will just click. A large chunk of the praise seems to be due to a synergy created by using Docker and various AWS services. I am not a huge fan of AWS. It feels like another form of vendor lock-in where their services, while amazing useful, also create an interdependency between the software and the availability of their stack.

A second tool I worked on this year was the Go Language. I picked up a copy of The Go Programming Language and worked my way between the covers. While I did a lot of little practice problems that really demonstrated the power of the language, I had no deeper side project to work on with it and am still more excited about Rust’s potential (not that I have anything that I want to build with Rust either!)

Last, I picked my way through the documentation for React and Redux. React’s documentation and platform has stabilized a lot since I last investigated it two year’s ago. Where once there was poor documentation and only a smattering of conflicting blog posts there is now a much more solid foundation to start with. Redux though, still seems to be in a transitive state. The libraries used in a React-Redux stack still in transition with documentation often lacking. The choice of libraries still varied and shifting with the ecosystem. Yet, I can say that this seems like the most stable direction that the Javascript library has embarked on and worth further investment.

2017 In Resolution

The Four 200 Hundreds

I made a strange discovery last year. Focusing on personal projects instead of time working on personal projects results in personal projects never shipping. A few years ago, I shifted to working on personal projects the way that I worked on work-work projects. I broke the projects down into actionable, measurable tasks. Itemized them like I would user stories in Jira. Filed them away in my todo list. Then lost all passionate energies to actually complete these tasks.

Each sprint, I added the same actionable items for my personal projects to the list. At the end of each sprint, I moved them to the next sprint. Structuring a personal project in this way made it just feel like more of my day job instead of a form of play.

So instead, I’m switching away from managing my personal projects. Instead of focusing on “finishing” a project, I’ll focus on “spending time” working on whatever I am moved to work on that day. I will track time spent on projects rather than milestones of projects.

So far, this seems to be working. After two years stalling on the rewrite for this blog, I actually got the Jekyll skeleton into place and all of my posts exported. I started playing around with the Solarus engine and tinkering with some old Damasca files. I started reading OSR books and putting together a rewrite of my campaign settings. All back-burner projects that have languished for years.

I call it the Four 200 Hundreds. Four subject areas, each with a dedicated block of 200 hundred hours for the year. This works out to 50 hours a quarter or roughly eight hours per subject a sprint. The subjects are writing, arts (music, game development, drawing), reading, and audio-visual media (games and film).

The One Thousand Miles

The second item is, fitness. This summer will be six years since the cave days. Since then, I’ve packed on weight. I do hit the gym, and get my three to four mile walks in several times a week, but I don’t do it with any kind of enthusiasm. The last time I really got into shape it was on my bicycling tour of Ireland. Four to eight hours on a bike for three weeks was a great way to lose well over twenty pounds. Coupled with an active employment, I kept the weight trimmed down for a while.

What I really want to do is a through hike of the PCT. That’s 2,650 miles over 4.5-5.5 months which is going to work out to 16 to 18 miles daily under load. Such a project would require considerably greater physical capacity then I am at now where a ten miler, unloaded, is around my maximum range.

In the heart of the four 200 hundreds, I thus have fifth goal: the one thousand miles. I want to have hiked, that is focused walking activity and not just meandering about the house, one thousand miles by the end of the year.

August 07, 2016

Social Media Fast 2.2

Filed under: Journal

So we are going into the first week of the Social Media Fast. Said my goodbyes to Facebook and Twitter on Monday and hit the road for the wild open web. I get a weird sense of excitment about the project. Odd thoughts about all this new free time I will find in the next couple months. What exciting new web comics or blogs will I uncover trying to stem my boredom?

The first step for our great fast is to set up a /etc/hosts file to block out the most time consuming of the social networks:

127.0.0.1 facebook.com
127.0.0.1 www.facebook.com
127.0.0.1 m.facebook.com
127.0.0.1 youtube.com
127.0.0.1 www.youtube.com
127.0.0.1 twitter.com
127.0.0.1 www.twitter.com
127.0.0.1 m.twitter.com
127.0.0.1 reddit.com
127.0.0.1 www.reddit.com
127.0.0.1 m.reddit.com
127.0.0.1 slashdot.org
127.0.0.1 www.slashdot.org
127.0.0.1 m.slashdot.org
127.0.0.1 news.ycombintor.com
127.0.0.1 disqus.com

Already added one new domain to the list, disqus.com. Disqus has become a kind of centeralized, outsourced commenting system that a lot of blogs and news sources have started to use. Even my site! So, I found myself reading an NPR article and skimming to the bottom to read the inflamatory comments. Well, that’s no better than just reading Reddit. So I nuked the domain which generally kills the plugin from working on most sites. Now, I don’t have a distraction from reading the original author’s article. Dumping comments altogether is hard.

But it is one thing I want to do on my own blog. Comments tend to be very low value and off the cuff. They devolve into nonsensical arguements that are attactive and easy to get caught up in but reveal very little value. If someone really wants to say something they should think it through, write it up, and publish it on their own website.

What is not on the list yet is Google. I really wanted to switch over to Duck Duck Go or Qwant for my search engine. But it appears that many of the more off-the-beaten-path search engines don’t really have integration into browsers. I would need to install a Qwant extension for my browser. So this will take a little more effort than just editing the hosts file.

Then there is the phone. Google search is majorly integrated into the OS.
Editing hosts on the phone appears to require rooting the phone, which I haven’t done nor really have plans to do. So instead, I realied on deleting my bookmarks to social media sites. Still, found myself on a couple of ocassions absent mindedly punching in Facebook. Even spent some time on Youtube when I got back from a trip and hadn’t quite gotten the hosts in to place.

The first positive results are a sudden feeling of spare computing time. A greater desire to read articles all the way through on the few posts that come up on my RSS feed. And a greater desire to read general news sources versus a concentration on computing news.

July 16, 2016

Social Media Fast 2

Filed under: Journal

A year ago, I did a fast from Social Media. From July 2015 until the end of September I went without Facebook, Reddit, Slashdot, Twitter, and Hacker News.

I never really did much of a post mortem for the project.

There is a lot of very interesting writing going on these days about the topic of social media and information overload. We see bottomless bowls of information designed to operate like skinner boxes while providing little real value. The age of distraction. Which has a direct effect on our ability to concentrate. And a nagging feeling that the internet has gone from a wonderful, magical, freeing community, to another platform for solidifying traditional power and mainstream culture. Maybe this is why I find myself hanging out on freenode late at night these days argueing with other aging weirdos.

Others who have tried to cut themselves off from the internet reported finding a sudden abundance of free time. Yet, as they went along they simply found other ways to procrastinate. Eventually returning to their previous level of productivity. Maybe the new distraction was more meaningful. Or maybe it wasn’t.
But it does reveal that a great deal of your productive hours are really a measurement of your own willpower.

I found a similar effect. The first month was filled with an abundance of free time. My day job became that much more productive. My evenings had much more time for reading. Then two things began to slowly fade in (1) I began to cheat on the fast. Slowly Reddit slipped in. A quick peak at Facebook. (2) I began to find that my productivity gains slowly faded, filled instead with just idle distraction. If I wasn’t distracted by Reddit, then I was at least distracted by a sudden urge to organize my pens or muddle through my day planner.

Here is the thing that I found most interesting. Facebook really wasn’t that bad of a culprate. It was easy to cut Facebook out. It was easy to start reading Facebook again. Facebook was, ultimately, still rather useful with regards to keeping up on the lives of friends and family. My major gripe with Facebook a year ago was the sheer amount of promoted content. The feed was full top to bottom with clickbait articles and random nonsenses being shared endlessly. It made me miss the endless parades of baby pictures. Yet, it seems someone at Facebook realized that this was bad for business and started to turn the ship around. There is still random promoted content on the feed. But I am happy to say that I am starting to see more and more content contributed by friends. Which leads me to being willing to keep Facebook around for yet another year.

News aggregators though? Sheer evil. Might as well be a slot machine for internet addicts. Every refresh of Reddit brings up new articles, memes, and comments. Hacker News and Slashdot are at least a little more professionally orientated but they too form a kind of bottomless bowl. Once you take a hit of Reddit, an hour or two is gone instantly.

Post fast, I realized that Reddit just had to go. Hacker News and Slashdot were managable. I’ve weened myself down to only reading Reddit on the phone when I truly, truly have nothing better to do. The common demoninator on Reddit today is the absolute bottom of the barrel. The shilling is through the roof. There isn’t a post that doesn’t have some viral web marketer squatting on it trying to hawk their wares. The last thread I read was some stupid joke about balding dominated by comments sounding eerily like ad copy, promoting this or that product to bring back your hair.

Which brings me to the amazingness that is the RSS feeder. RSS turns the relationship of the news aggregator upside down. Rather than the news aggregator pushing news to me. The mob, or more likely an army of marketers, deciding what news ought to be read. I can instead pull the news to me. I get to decide the writers who I will read. The topics to be read.

This breaks the addictive quality of the new aggregator, but also allows me to stop wasting time reading low-quality comments and low-quality posts. I can focus my attention on particular publishesr, such as NPR, BBC, or local newspapers like the Jackson Hole News & Guide and the Silver City Daily Press. I can pull in international feeds like L’actualite and Le Monde. I can also focus my attention on a particular author like Will Wheaton, Stephen Fry or Brad Warner. I can create huge collections of slowly updated blogs that post long form essays once or twice a year or faster blogs that publish once or twice a day. I can pull in writers on esoteric topics that interest me like Rust development, Zen, Asian History, Anime, or Roleplaying. I can even add Slashdot and Hacker News – get the article prepackaged without the temptation to waste time wallowing about in the comments.

Essentially, I very quickly found myself thinking more and more about the types of things that I read online, the topics that interested me, and seeking out a diverse selection of the best writers in those topics. I stopped browsing whatever popped up in front of me. It became a much more intentional relationship with the media.

Round #2 of the Social Media Fast

My thoughts are, to do this again. Make it an annual thing. No social media for three months! August. September. October. Which will be great. I’ll miss all of the election nonsense. Read the articles on my RSS feed. Make my own call on the whole business.

The sites that are verboten:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Slashdot
  • Hacker News
  • Youtube

And any other site that has characteristics that resemble any of these sites.
StackOverflow gets a pass. I can’t do my job without StackOverflow.

But let’s take this one step further this year. Google has gone evil. So let’s cut out google.com as well and switch to Duck Duck Go or Qwant for my search engine. I’m still giving the various other google products a pass: e-mail, docs, drive. Those I, unfortunately need for work. But I can intentionally choose to try using a different search engine for three months.

February 17, 2016

2015 In Review

Filed under: Journal part of Annual Reviews

Time for the annual retrospective. We can look back on last year’s and reflect on the last year and my resolutions for this new year. This last year was truly a year of unexpected surprises from switching employers to totaling my precious Ford Explorer after eleven years of use, to a wild last minute wintery move from Jackson, WY to a small trailer in Greenlee County Arizona.

Professional Development

The new year brought with it a new employer, Research Square, where I joined a dedicated team of professionals working on both the website and internal tooling of a medium-sized, fast growing company out of the Research Triangle area of North Carolina. The best part was that it was still telecommuting, so my old office was my new office: home.

The new team brought with it the opportunity to really dig into becoming intimate with a lot of the best-practices that I had, until now, only really read about: domain driven design, agile, code reviews, unit and integration testing. It also brought with it a new set of tools to learn: Silex Framework, Zend Framework, Doctrine ORM, Elastic Search and the variety of services provided by AWS. In total, I scored probably another two dozen buzzwords to add to my resume.

Throughout the year, I read a solid stack of business texts and DDD texts such as Domain Driven Design, Impelementing Domain Driven Design, Remote, The Lean Start Up, Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Drive and Good to Great. At home, I attended a variety of tech related meet ups hosted by Spark, my co-working office and in North Carolina, I made it to my first conference, the All Things Open conference in October.

Unrelated to my day-time employer, I finally gave up on hosting my own e-mail server and shut it down. My e-mail provider is now G-mail. I also went through the process of forming Joseph Hallenbeck, LLC in my home state of South Dakota, formally establishing a separate business account for the odd gigs that I accept and began a very slow discussion of the idea of on-the-side consulting.

Personal Highlights

Travel

We had some delightful trips this last year. It started with a few nights in McMenamins in Oregon with Jess. A beautiful hotel grounds with hidden little pubs all over.

Come spring we embarked for our third trip to the Southwest. This time we explored south of Moab in what turned into a long car trip circling south into Arizona, New Mexico and up to Taos. We certainly planned too much for that event and are looking forward to revisiting many of the places we saw the year prior.

Nearer to home, we rented a cabin in Pinedale for a four day weekend of snow shoeing half-moon lake and the surrounding area. Latter in the season we would also rent a cabin on Slide Lake for a night and venture back to our old stomping grounds in Island Park to polish off a handful of trails. In early spring we also ventured into Beaverhead-Deerlodge to pick our way out to a campground.

Caver Classic came in the summer where I ventured back to Custer, SD with Clint Augustson for some exciting caving adventures. We finally tracked down Cave 41 and as a bonus hit Onyx cave. Classic-lead events included the Club Room in Wind Cave and a trip out to Japanese Gardens in Jewel.

An unexpected trip came after the All Things Open conference when I had to drive from North Carolina to back home in Wyoming after buying a new truck after the conference.

Nights of Relaxation

Having little success at finding companionship in Jackson, I turned to recruiting my friends to play through Borderlands 2. We ended up meeting up nearly once a fortnight through the entire year.

Alternatively, I took to taking quite long lavender baths, an old fashioned in one hand as I worked my way through such series as JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Mushi-shi, Kids on the Slope, Gatchaman, and Parasyte.

I also enjoyed liberal use of the gym. Jess finally talked me into a membership and I found that I rather enjoyed hitting the gym for my lunch break. There I could sit back and watch some American animation: Rick & Morty, South Park, and Adventure Time all while burning through six to eight hundred calories.

Later in the year we discovered HIIT training which did wonders for preparing for Caver Classic.

Cooking, Figure Drawing, Fence Building, Fiddling & Jazz

One thing that I did not fail on was cooking. I canvassed the world this year with recipes from India and Italy. I cooked kraut, lamb leg, curry, turkey meatballs, duck, tapanade, Tuscan papa al pomodoro, paprikash and expensive saffron flavored fish soups. We roasted our own coffee beans on a wood stove and made cakes in dutch ovens.

In the Winter and Spring, I hit up figure drawing at the art center. I went fairly regularly until the weather was too nice to be spending the evening couped up in doors. But I did fill a whole book of newspaper print with drawings. I photographed them, but haven’t had the time to prepare them for a blog post.

Once the snow cleared, I took to building a fence around the property that we were renting so the dogs would have a proper yard to run about in. One weekend later we had a four-foot tall fence running from T-stakes around the yard. A fence the dogs never once found a way out.

Watching Kids on the Slope and attending the Teton Orchestra inspired me to dig back into my music days. I sorted through all of my old sheet music, broke out the fiddle and started playing away at all the old songs. I kept it up well for a couple of months. I even bought the Fake Book and started listening to a long list of Jazz greats hoping to work out their pieces on the fiddle. The madness that was Autumn took this away, and I hope to return to playing soon.

Completing the Day List in Jackson

One of the first things that I did when we moved to Jackson was to draw up a big list of everything that we wanted to do. The list included every campground to camp at, every day hike to hike, every backpacking trip, every outdoor activity that I could imagine. While we moved out leaving a lot of the multi-day hikes still on the list, we pretty much cleared the day hikes.

In the winter we hit on snow-shoes half-moon lake and the trails in Snake River Canyon. Once the snow melted we hit Mosquito Creek and Red Top Meadows were we explored Munger Mountain. Closer to home we cleared out Hagen’s Trail, Woods Canyon to Crystal Butte loop, Goodwin Lake and Wilson Canyon.

The regular bicycling to Spark slowly sparked a reemergence of my interest in bicycle touring. I found myself in reminiscence and slowly drawing up plans for yet larger, bigger trips. In the end, I decided to start doing S24O, that is sub-twenty-four-hour-outings by bike, but by then the winter snows had already set in and I had to wait until the spring thaw.

Volunteering

One odd item was a highlight of my summer. Volunteering for the Lion’s club in Jackson. We helped with a hot-dog feed for kids at Kid’s Fishing Day and latter they hit us up to help with a breakfast feed at the County Faire which we helped out with great zest.

A Feast of Films & Books

We feasted regularly on manga, non-fiction, anime, and a pile of films. But this deserves it’s own separate entry.

Zen & Simplification

Jackson is a very restless community. A place that truly inspires you to constantly be going, always amping up the stress. To combat that, I bought some zafus and zabutons, read a long list of articles online on how to sit zazen and gave it a try. In the meantime, I read through The Three Pillars of Zen and skimmed through half a dozen other texts related to the practice. I am not quite sure if it has helped or not yet. For a time, it certainly encouraged me to take some time in my crazy day to just sit.

A second thought also began to bug me. That I was simply drowning in stuff. I had boxes and boxes of notes from college, books that would never get read again, cloths I would probably never wear, broken computer parts and duplicate tool sets. I started trying to organize everything and most importantly started gathering more and more stuff to dump into the grand box of donations. By the time we moved, I unloaded one entire pickup truck load of stuff. The result is a feeling of being so much more mobile, so much more free. When we moved, everything we owned fit into a single U-Haul and we did it all on just a little over two grand. That is a sense of freedom I am just not willing to trade.

The Wild & Unexpected

Two big unexpected events happened to me this year.

First, the Beast hit a deer outside of Boise. As a sixteen year old vehicle, it was totaled. I took my insurance pay out of three grand and walked. It was a really sad event for me. I had that explorer since my second year of college. My first car and one that I practically lived out of for some time. I immediately started looking for a new vehicle and came upon a craigslist add for a 2014 Toyota Tacoma in North Carolina. It fit everything that I wanted: manual, V6, tow package, low miles. I flew out for my conference and called up the owner to schedule a test ride that night. Bought it and drove it all the way home to Wyoming.

Second, after a great deal of discussion we decided that Jackson simply was not the place for us and we wanted to move on. Particularly, Jess really needed to advance in her career just as I was doing in mine. So she started the job hunt, and unlike past job hunts, found immediate success. In no time at all our Christmas plans went from simple, to packing up and moving. We landed in Greenlee County Arizona in a little trailer in an unincorporated community along the New Mexico border. What surprises life throws us.

Abandoned Projects

Unfortunately, I got to very few of my projects that I enthusiastically proposed last year. In my wake, I left a constant growth of crazy ideas and half-implemented works. This is pretty much becoming my annual tradition.

Announce a bunch of fun projects. Put them on my to do list for a few months.

Then scratch them off and go read a book.

The Searchable Lovecraft

An elastic-search powered searcahable index of Lovecraft’s works. Type a query get back the stories and lines that query was found on. I intended this to be a meet up demonstration for a talk that I never gave.

The Menu

A cookbook containing all my favorite recipes and a complete collection of what I consider my “repertoire” of cooking delights.

The Photography Review

I started the process of going through all of 2015s photographs in Lightroom.

However, after a month of digging through files, I really started to lose a lot of interest in photography overall. There is just so many photographs being taken these days and other than tagging them and forgetting about them, I really was not in the mood for post production at any point in time through the year.

The 30 Year Review

My shelves hold hand written journals going all the way back to grade school.

One crazy idea that I had was to type up the last eighteen years of journals in to a giant document then typeset and print it out in hardcover. I got through my first year of college and then lost interest in the pain of data entry.

Magic Cards

Sometime in the summer I realized that there was a game store in Rexburg, a short two hour drive away and lost myself in the daydream of getting back into playing magic. I picked up my old boxes of cards from home, bought a couple hundred dollars of the cards from the current sets, went to one Friday-night magic and lost interest.

Rusty Centipede

Rust went 1.0 this year and yet I haven’t touched Rust since it’s beta. Last time I tried to compile the Rusty Centipede it broke in maddening ways and I never was able to get the build to work.

… and NaNoWriMo, The Weird Tale, my blog in general, the Renaissance Man project, blog re-write, interactive travel-map, link-posting website, and updating my campaign setting.

2016 In Resolution

Once I really start to look over the year, go from thinking that I really got nothing done to wow, I really took care of a lot. My only regrets would be that I abandoned a lot of larger projects and spent very little time knocking out more of my multi-day hiking trips that I had previously planned out.

So what would I want out of this next year? I would want to settle into Arizona and truly explore the new countryside. I would want to find some social connections, find a group to roleplay with, look into the local grotto and make professional contacts in the local community and in Tuscon. I would want to keep up the reading, gaming, and film watching.

Cultural Goals

I already have a reading list prepared and would add on to it a desire to watch one film a fortnight, two seasons of shows a quarter, and set aside some serious gaming time in the new house.

  • Watch more films (try for once a fortnight)
  • Watch more shows (try for two seasons a quarter)
  • Complete the reading list
  • Play more video games

Get Out More

One of my regrets in Jackson is that I let the community make me very claustrophobic. The rush of tourists. The brisk attitudes of the locals.

Eventually, I just didn’t want to go out anymore. This time around, I want to really take advantage of my telecommuting opportunities. Take time to work from Starbucks or a local restaurant. Maybe commute from camp or a nice picnic ground. Take a few more times to go out alone and really contemplate the world.

Spend more time out on the trail. Spend more time going to the movies and exploring nearby communities. Start actually working towards that big out-of-the-country trip.

  • Work away from home more often
  • Quarterly writer’s retreat
  • Get out to the theater be it film or stage
  • Get out of town once a month
  • Attend tech, roleplaying, and caving meet ups in Tuscon
  • S24O Bike Tours
  • Some trip ideas:
  • Alaska
  • Puerto Rico
  • Mexico
  • Train Ride to Durham

Write More

Last year, I said I would do 12 blog articles and set out to do that right away.

In the end, I just stopped writing altogether through the spring and most of the summer. When I returned, I found how much I had missed it! Yet, I never did do that weird story, write for NaNoWriMo or shuffle through my campaign setting the way I had said that I would. Somehow, I forgot all about it. This year, I want to write more. I want to write more blog articles. I want to write more short stories.

Create More

Besides just writing. I want to create more. I want to spend more time working on my drawings. More time playing the fiddle. More time just creating new things be it cooking, carpentry, or programming. I already have some crazy ideas like building a camper for the truck and updating my blog.

  • Play my fiddle
  • Spend more time drawing
  • Build a truck camper
  • Rewrite TimeKeeper
  • Rewrite back end in Rust, Go, and Python
  • Rewrite the front end with React
  • Add Google account authentication
  • Build up my consulting business
  • Rewrite my blog as a static website

Waste Less Time

Waste less time, or better put waste time better. One thing that I realized in Jackson was that I tend to deffer to spending time poorly. Instead of hammering through work I wander about the house cleaning things that already clean. I waste hours procrastinating on projects that I don’t have any interest in really doing and would be better off simply scratching off the list altogether and moving on to something better. I spend too much time organize the altogether too much stuff that I own. I spend not early enough time watching the sunrise, sitting zazen, and really listening to music.

  • Less procrastinating on my day job. Less twelve hour days with four hours of intermitent, unneccessary chores
  • Try to see the big picture more at work
  • Cut back on caffeine and try to get more energy in the day
  • Make the social media fast an annual thing
  • Sit zazen and exercise daily
  • Simplify all the “stuff” in my life
  • Waste less time procrastinating on projects I don’t want to do and more time working on the projects that I’m passionate about.
  • Figure out what the above means.
February 15, 2016

2015 Reading & Media Review

Filed under: Journal part of Annual Reviews

So folks seem to be doing this: jotting down a list of the books, graphic novels, and films read or watched in 2015 with a short review of each. A few surprises hit me in looking through the list. First, I read a lot of non-fiction. Much more then typical in any given year. Second, I read very few novels: only three. While I read a great deal of graphic novels. What is not shown here is the vast number of short stories that I’ve been reading. I remember a teen being bored with short stories. How were we supposed to really connect with a character over twenty or thirty pages? These days it seems like even the novella is just too long. Who has time to read through twenty thousand words of prose? Hopefully next year will see a return of the novel to my reading.

The other thing I find interesting. I also seem to be paring down my need for novelty in my reading. I am going back and rereading good books that I had read as a teenager. In fact, the three novels I did read? I have already read each of them at least three times already.

So let’s kick this off.

  • Re-read

Fiction Read

Total: 3

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

After watching the film, I immediately felt the need to revisit the novel. Now The Hobbit was one of my favorites as a child and one that I read several times more then I ever read The Lord of the Rings.

On The Road by Jack Kerouaca

My third pass through Kerouac’s masterpiece. This is one of those novels where each read leaves me thinking differently. My first read had me completely caught up in the sense of wanderlust. My latest read really seemed to put me into thinking about just how disgusting Moriarty is as a human being and yet just how easy it must have been to want to get caught up in his self destruction.a

Dune by Frank Herbert

A revisit to Dune, an annual read of my teenage years. Upon revisiting this novel, I’m amazed at just how much my political ideology was shaped by Herbert. Particularly the message that when you ask others to do for you which you could do for yourself, you are inviting them in to have power over you.a

Non-Fiction Read

Total: 10

Remote by Jason Friend and David Heinemeier Hansson

A text that Research Square gave me upon joining. This is a rather light read, one that you could probably finish in a single reading. I don’t think it really said anything that isn’t rather obvious to anyone who has teleworked before.

The Lean Start Up by Eric Ries

Another text that Research Square asked me to read before starting. This is a rather great read, particularly in the sense of how big of an impact the thinking from this text has hit the tech sector over the last decade.

Beyond the Wall by Edward Abbey

A collection of Abbey’s essays. Some good. Some bad. It’s rather a mixed bag as I am one of those rare breeds who prefers Abbey’s novels over his non-fiction.

Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

Really got me thinking about what is teamwork? How we approaching working in groups is a notion that has started to slowly interest me the last few years.

Domain Driven Design by Eric Evans

A huge solid read. This gave me so much insight into how many larger applications are structured.

Implementing Domain Driven Design by Vaughn Vernon

A more hands-on look then Domain Driven Design. Although, I felt like it was starting to get padded out by the end.

Drive by Daniel H. Pink

An examination in the obvious. I’m seriously amazed that it took this long for business’s to realize that people are motivated by things other then just gathering up pretty pieces of cotton paper.

The Philosophy of History by Hegel

It’s Hegal in all of his racist glory.

The Three Pillars of Zen by Philip Kapleau Roshi

If you were to go into a used book store and look at the new age section you will find a copy of this book. Buy it. I always thought it would be a bunch of rubbish but it’s actually a very solid read and perhaps the best introduction to Zen that I have found at this point.

Good to Great by Jim Collins

A not particularly interesting examination at the steps taken by businesses to move from being middling to great businesses. Yawn.

Manga Read & Graphic Novels

Total: 10 (If Counting Volumes)

A Drifting Life by Yoshihiro Tatsumi

Third pass through this wonderful autobiography by Yoshihiro Tatsumi. I randomly read a handful of his shorter comics as well during the same time. I am always impressed by his struggles and the wonderful depiction of post-war Japan.

Galaxy Express 999 Vol. 1-2 by Leiji Matsumoto (French Translation)

One of my most exciting feats this year was to read the first two volumes of Galaxy Express 999 in French. I have waited over a decade for Viz to get around to translating this work into English. It’s been out in French for years! Well, I figured French is easier than Japanese, so I bought the whole series from Amazon France and learned French! These comics are just as wonderful as the Anime.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin Vol. 7-9 by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko

Continuing to keep up on The Origin as volumes are released. This year, I finally caught up with with the publisher’s release cycle and had to start waiting.

A Bride’s Story Vol. 5 by Kaoru Mori

This is an odd one. I find the story to be extremely dry and slow. The character’s plod along through very routine life events. Yet it’s drawn so beautifully that I just have to pick up each new volume.

Star Power by Michael Terracciano and Garth Graham

It’s been years since Dominic Deegan ended. I tried to start reading Star Power when it first started but found the release too slow to grab my interest. I gave it a year for the archive to fill up and then plowed through it with great enjoyment.

Johnny Wander by Yuko Ota and Ananth Panagariya

I have a folder where I stick comics to read. Johnny Wander was randomly selected from that folder. The comic is great, although lately published at a rather random or slow pacing so I have already lost track of it.

Insufficient Direction by Moyoco Anno

Dumped into the donation bin. It took two tried to read through Anno’s book. The inside humor probably works for anyone who is really, really into classic anime, but it just doesn’t work for me.

Films

Total: 14 (*6 in Theaters)

The Hobbit

Since I prefer The Hobbit novel to The Lord of the Rings, I found that I just could not get into this film. The Hobbit novel is a light hearted children’s adventure. The film, is a serious action-adventure flick. Pass.

The Imitation Game

A solid biopic on Alan Turing that did a rather good job of portraying the man in all of his facets.

The Zero Theorem

Terry Gilliam can do no wrong in my book. The Zero Theorem was just a solid watch and a great summarization of the ideas presented in his other works with all the same quirkiness that I would expect.

The Cabin in the Woods

This was on my list of films that I watched, but for the life of me I don’t recall actually having watched it this year. Ah well, a solid film. I think satire of the typical horror film really didn’t get in the way of the film being good in it’s own right.

Mr. Holmes

Saw this showing in the local theater and just had to take Jess. A rather touching mystery worth a watch as Ian McKellan does a great job at portraying an aging Mr. Holmes.

Mad Max

The blockbuster of the season. Easily the best film that I saw this year. Completely lived up to the hype.

They Live!

Starting off our movie classics for the year was They Live which I just had to watch after listening to a piece by Zizek where he used the film as a starting point to launch into a discussion on Western politics.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Saw it twice before it moved on from the theater. The first time, I just couldn’t get over my critical nostalgia. By the second watching I could just sit back and enjoy it for what it was worth. The last act had some massive plot issues, but the characters were interesting and I feel Kylo Ren is going to end up being just as interesting of a villain Vader.

James Bond: Spectre

The first Daniel Craig Bond film that I caught. Made me want to go back and watch the rest of his Bond films, or even further back to watch them all. Nothing really new here. Bond is Bond is Bond.

Fall of the House of Usher

On Halloween we got into a bit of a Vincent Price kick. House of Usher was definitely an interesting watch. Particularly if you put on your feminism goggles. It’s amazing how much society has changed.

House of Wax

Part two of our Vincent Price kick. I don’t really find Price frightening. I find him kind of lovable.

Les Yeux Sans Visage

Now this was a good creepy film. Beautifully shot. It was interesting that the week after watching this film it was announced that someone had succeeded at performing the horrifying procedure depicted in this film – transplanting a human face.

The Martian

The good reviews reached my ears regarding The Martian so we ventured out to the theater and bought our popcorn. A really solid science fiction film that will probably end up being this decade’s greatest contribution to the “hard” category of science fiction.

Blood Sport

I got to love my grandfather’s love of bad films. I am amazed at just how many martial arts films came out in the eighties. No wonder kids of that decade grew up to watch Anime.

Anime / Animation

Total: 11 (Counting Seasons)

Mush-shi Season 2

Mush-shi is just as beautiful in the second season as the first. The only sad thing is that it should come to an end. Each atmospheric episode was a wander and highlight of my week.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Season 1

Could never quite get into nor drop this series. The fact that Yes is their soundtrack just made everything awesome.

Death Parade and Death Billards

Caught this series while on a trip to Ohio. Death Billards was a great stand alone and most of Death Parade was easily on par. The only thing that ruined Death Parade was a misplaced need by it’s creators to escape from just being an episodic examination of people’s lives and to try to give it a running plot. Had it just gone the way of Mush-shi, it would have easily been a perfect ten.

Gatchaman Crowds Season 1

Bobduh over at Wrong Every Time seems to love Gatchaman Crowds so I gave it a whirl. While I sympathized with it’s message, I thought it was completely lost in the show’s over-the-top camp. After the first season, I dropped it.

Kids on the Slope

If you want to get people to listen to Jazz, show them this show. This is perhaps Watanabe’s second greatest series (after Cowboy Bebop). The characters just feel so very real.

Hanamonogatari

Bakamonogatari was a visual splendor that I devoured. Since then each subsequent series seems to end up less and less enticing and yet I feel as though I will probably end up watching them all.

Parasyte

A good show, not a great show, but a very solid good show.

Adventure Time Season 1

This show is just plain non-serious fun. Rapidly became my go-to show to watch while exercising or just needing some low-commitment time to burn.

Rick & Morty Seasons 1-2

I saw a few clips from Rick & Morty when season 1 came out and thought it funny buy never looked it up. Man, I haven’t binge watched a show this hard since college. The nihilistic ennui. Woo.

South Park Season 19

South Park was hitting all of the right spot’s this year. Particularly living in Jackson, WY where the whole gentrification and yuppie take over is in full swing. This could have been a documentary about my life.

February 09, 2016

A Brief Note on Moving

Filed under: Journal

Mount Clifton

There have been some requests for more information about my recent move. We found out that Jess had an offer for a new position in the Forest Service in Arizona near the end of the year. So we packed up our trailers and hit the road making our way south on 191 to our new home in York valley – roughly the middle of Greenlee County, one of the least populated counties in Arizona.

New Home for Two Months

Unfortunately, we had no housing immediately lined up. So we ended up living in a FEMA trailer behind the Forest Service. It’s a nice little place with two bedrooms, a kitchen and bathroom. All of our stuff went into storage, and for the last month I’ve tried my best to work remotely off a tethered cell phone. Surprisingly it works. Stands ups on google hang outs consume roughly 0.1MB of data a day, and my work route averages around 0.5MB per day. So taking off from computing on the weekends gives us roughly 23-1/3 work days per month or 11-2/3GB of data usage. Strategy use of the local library and Starbucks means I can pretty much do all of my work on a 12GB ($80/mo) Verizon plan.

Spectacular views from Three Way in York
valley

After some time exploring the countryside, we found a nice house for rent. $600/mo for 900 square feet on roughly six acres of land. The wash it sits on gives us an easy walk to Jess’s work if we go up it, and a nice put in for fishing an canoeing on the Gila if we go down. We just need to put in a new floor and tidy it up a bit on the inside. Moving in the first week of March.

The New House

Oh, and the best part of all? It has a saguaro cactus in the front yard:

Saguaro!

July 01, 2015

A Social Media Fast

Filed under: Journal

I’m taking a quarter off from Social Media – namely Facebook, Reddit, Slashdot, Twitter, Hacker News. I would unplug entirely from the Internet, but considering the Internet is my job, I don’t think my employer would be too hot on the idea on me attending sprint planning via post.

My reason for this is simple: my information channels are becoming rather siloed. Facebook curates my news feed such that it is just an RSS feed of

same two people over and over again. I don’t know why Facebook has decided that I want to hear every one of their posts and it isn’t that I don’t enjoy them, or share in your cultural opinions but I have a rather diverse and eclectic collection of Facebook friends and yet I do not hear a diverse collection of views. The hive mind of Reddit and Hacker News also curates it’s own content to follow a very narrow line of acceptable opinions.

I find myself concerned with how much of the pot of ideas that surround me are my own – come upon by reason and experience and how much is just the echo chamber of my silo. A self-selected confirmation bias just regurgitating and re-enforcing the same normality time and again.

So my idea is to spend the next three months avoiding any form of social media or curated feeds. Get away from the content pushers and get back to being a content puller. Go back to hunting down my own news, essays, and articles through relaxing dives into Google. Find some high quality bloggers to follow who aren’t just trying to push some product or spin up a lazy article on the controversy de jouer for some easy ad views. Get through my backlog of technology articles in my pocket waiting for me to peruse.

For those where this is the only way they know how to get a hold of me: I will still be available via Facebook messenger thanks to Pidgin and via GooglePlus since there really isn’t anything on GooglePlus anyways.

See you all in October.

February 07, 2015

2014 In Review

Filed under: Journal part of Annual Reviews

It is that time of year again, time for my retrospective. A look back on last year’s goals and a reflection on what I would like out of this year. It may be a month late for New Year’s resolutions, but I do get to them eventually.

One thing that I started up last year was a much more rigorous interpretation of David Allen’s Getting Things Done. I used a similar process towards breaking down and getting to tasks in the past, but this last year was one where I focused much more on continuously revising my goals, recording what I got done, and asking myself what I needed to do next. Some time, I will get a series of essays put together to discuss my process.

Professional Achievements

2014 closed out with my last day at 44 Interactive, and I hope a permanent move away from the marketing side of web development and into the more fulfilling realm of application development as a Software Engineer with my new employer, Research Square out of Durham, NC. I am still remote, having moved from Ashton, ID up to Jackson, WY – a town much more my style and now working out of Spark, a nice co-working spot that has encouraged me to once more shed my outer humbug.

While working at 44 Interactive, I developed a bespoke shopping cart that saw itself launched on Dakota Golf and Warriors Never Giveup. This project implemented the entire workflow that user’s expect of a shopping cart: adding products, customizing product details, checkout, payment collection and processing through Authorize.Net or PayPal, and shipping.

A few fun features I developed was a reworking of the underlying models of our CMS to use the Eloquent ORM, integration with Composer and Bower for pulling in libraries, building out a re-occurring events module for calculating things like “occurs on every last Thursday of the month” or “repeat every Monday.” One showcase item is the HTML5 Canvas powered course tour on Dakota Golf whose administrative tools allow for drawing arbitrary polygons and detecting when a mouse enters a polygon.

In the brochure realm, I launched McDoctors, SDN Communications, Dakotastour, Wings of Thunder, Howeinc, and All-About-U Adoptions.

With my change of employers, I am hanging up my System Admin hat, which was a fun one to wear for a time. No more debugging package conflicts, no more reading PCI reports, or writing new rules for mod_sec. I do delight in the fact that I consolidated servers costs by 50% during my tenure and brought up time to 99.9%.

Continuous Development

I am committed to continuous professional development in my field. I do this via reading and writing blogs, reading technical manuals, as well as investigating topics in computer science that might only be orthogonal to my day-to-day life.

In the last year, I read Miracle Man Month and Code Complete. After a short affair in learning LateX last spring, I turned to devour every article and online book I could find on the Rust language and began following the language mailing list as well as subscribing to frameworks like Piston. I wanted to really make some open source contributions, but never quite found a niche where I could step in and help out.

After some consideration, I released the DropFramework and my TimeKeeper application onto Github. The first, I do not take seriously as anything more than a learning project and the latter is a really helpful tool that I use every day.

Oh, and those projects I promised last year? I started on a lot of them, then lost interest. Instead, I started Rusty Centipede – a Centipede clone using Rust.

Rainbow over Island Park, Viewed from Bishop
Mt.

Personal Projects

What about outside of work?

I had some great outings this last year. Helped out at the Ashton Dog Derby, snowshoed to Warm River Cabin in Caribou-Targhee National Forest, visited Gallatin National Forest, backpacked the Escalante area of Utah, hiked the St. Anthony Sand Dunes, backpacked the tallest of them: Juniper Hill, attended a field class on native plants, stayed at Bishop Mt. Cabin, canoed Big Springs, caved the Civil Defense Caves, camped at Granite Hot Springs and Grassy Lake. Not to mention all the day hikes up Crystal Butte, Cache Creek, Teton Pass, and the Gros Vertre since we got out into the Teton National Forest area.

Oh and all these links to my blog posts. Last year, I set a goal of 12 articles and right now, I count 15!

Tried my hands at roleplaying via Skype. Just never got the hang of it, and fell out of doing it after a couple of months. Never did get up the courage to show up at Friday Night Magic and Jackson, unfortunately does not seem to have much of a gaming culture going on.

Took way too long of a break from playing any kinds of games. According to Steam I didn’t play a single game from December of 2013 until November of 2014, almost an entire year. My burst of gaming lately is an attempt to make up for that with games like Bastion, Trine 2 and fun times on Terraria with friends.

Had good times with some friends. Keegan dropped by almost unannounced from Death Valley. Clint came out and stayed with us for a month in June. I got out to the Black Hills and Sioux Falls to hang out with friends on multiple occasions and even made a trip out to San Diego, Portland and Rhinelander to hit all the major family holidays.

At home, Jess finally talked me into a gym membership and I’m starting to shed all the stress pounds that I’ve put on since the cave days. And, I’m making a good dent in my student loans while feeling much more financially stable. No more big rental houses that eat up each week’s paycheck.

My to-read bookshelf is considerably emptier. I caught up on my backlog of National Geographic, read Mishima’s Death in Midsummer, Kawabata’s Snow Country and Thousand cranes, Mobile Suit Gundam Origin volumes 1 through 6, A Dance with Dragons, Dungeons and Dragons fifth edition, Westward, Traveler and Exalted. I started a larger stack of books that I never finished though. In film and television, I watched Kill-la-Kill, Galaxy Express 999, Battleship Potemkin, Dexter, Monogatari, Mushi-shi, Ping Pong, Her, Under the Skin, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Hobbit, Mardy, and Terror in Requiem.

I started to study French and have, at this point, some what of a grasp of the written language. I never got around to working on the Weird Tale, NaNoWriMo, or Architectural Drawing. I am quite far behind on processing my photographs.

2015 In Resolution

If there were any regrets that I have this last this last year it would be that the later half of the year was entirely eaten up by progressing my career – job hunting, working on side projects to develop my skill set, and reading, reading, reading up on sound development practices. I started 2014 on a good role with healthy exercise, outdoor activities, calm reading at the lake shore. I am looking forward to spending this year easing into my new job and finding time to delight in my non-programing hobbies.

More Reading, More Anime, More Games

I had a good list of shows and books that I read last year but it’s nowhere near when I was in college and could put away a novel a fortnight, an Anime a month, and get four or five good games in each season. So above all else this year, I want to spend some time clearing out my “to read” pile, getting more books off my Amazon wish list, and more Anime’s off my “Plan to Watch” list on MyAnimeList.

More Hiking, More Caving, More Camping

Camping died out in August for me. Just too much going on, but this year I want to see a return to the South West, I want to spend weeks out at camp and come in to the coworking office. I have a laundry list of hikes, camping trips, canoing trips, and a handful of local caves that I must out to this Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall.

Keep Studying French

Last year, I took up French out of frustration that the Manga for Galaxy Express 999 has languished in Viz’s control. This year: Keep working on it.

Photography

Catch up on my backlog of photos from 2013 and 2014. Really get out into the back country of Tetons with a D80 or a new DSLR and tripod. Get a gallery showing somewhere calm, like Ashton.

Blog

Aim for another 12 solid articles.

Journaling

I used to Journal a lot. An hour a day. I cut back on it as my career progressed. Ran out of time. This last year, I started a 5-year journal. Six lines a day every day. It’s a great way to get back into journaling.

NaNoWriMo & The Weird Tale

November is in the clear this year, nothing to get in the way for churning out a quick novel. Also, there is little excuse for my draft of “The Weird Tale” to still be sitting on my desk. Time to get it done.

Campaign Setting & Roleplaying

There has been several requests for me to update “The Rinn,” my Celtic, otherwordly campaign setting and then to run a new game using either the D6 or new D&D rulesets.

Figure Drawing

Jess got me a membership with the Art Association of Jackson. Now, I can get back to working on my figure drawing and dreaming of that graphic novel I will never get around to writing.

The Renaissance Man Project

This is an odd project that I came up with – to research what modern to contemporary writers and philosophers have written about the concept of the “Competent Man”, the “Renaissance Man,” or the “Polymath” and then compose (1) a series of essays considering these thoughts, (2) whether it is possible to be a modern Renaissance man and what criteria would encompass this feat, and (3) what is laking in my own self development to be a well-rounded, competent individual.

Ghostify My Blog

Okay, I can’t help it, I do have some technical projects to work on – get this blog off WordPress and on to Ghost. Export all my articles, build in discourse, and finally get this theme to be 100% responsive bootstrap.

Rusty Centipede

I started making a Centipede clone last year using Rust. My goals right now are to keep on top of PHP, Rust, Javascript, and Python as my four languages of choice. PHP and Python for work. And Javascript and Rust for making fun little arcade games in my spare time.

August 18, 2014

Weekly Round Up #2

Filed under: Journal

Tech News and Tutorials

Super Pi Boy

I have plans on creating what I call the “Raspberry Arcade” – a Raspberry PI with emulators to play all the old NES and Atari games of my youth that don’t work. This is just an amazing mod of a game boy and Rasberry PI into one.

The Internet’s Original Sin

Email Is Still the Best Thing on the Internet

I think a theme for myself this week is really inter-operable protocols. These two articles really belong together since they are both discussing the essentially same thing. A transition from an internet where we paid for our services – email, hosting, premium access – to an internet where we are spied upon and monetized. I don’t really know how we could get back to the “old” internet of desperate home pages, fan pages, and self-curated, self-hosted sources where the author pays to host not because they want ad revenue but because they want to share their particular passion with the world. What other medium allows such a broad audience with the only gateway being a $5/mo VPS?

Know How to Roll (Your SSLCertificates)

This is just a good read, not because installing SSL certificates is hard, but it that it is quite easy to forget to check in on them.

July 21, 2014

Weekly Round Up

Filed under: Journal

This is a new series I’m thinking of creating. It’s more for my use than it is for anyone else. A weekly list of all the blog posts, articles, videos, etc. that I uncover through the week that I found interesting or worthy of sharing.

Tech News & Tutorials

Using Bootstrap the Right (Semantic) Way

An excellent look at how bootstrap is in some ways a regression back to table-based html and away from semantic html. This is something that has always bothered me a little about bootstrap – just how much it looks like a recreation of tables.

Granted, I’ve solved the problem by breaking the page up into views and composing them using PHP. The un-semantic bootstrap goes into “layout” level view which in turn loads semantic views that are free from the bootstrap’s representational classes. The result is that I can change out the layout views, or remove them entirely to get a semantic html document or swap out the CSS framework without impacting the semantic views. This might be a good topic for a new article.

The Codeless Code

The Tao of Programming

I love how programming tends to inspire people towards reflecting on Eastern thinking. It is true that programming is a very meditative activity. The Tao of Programming, I just found this week, but I’m also adding the Codeless Code since that is a site that I do like to begin my work days.

Disruption? Not if you are making the same people rich…

Being in the Midwest, I stopped really paying attention to the West Coast’s tech environment. It simply didn’t feel like something that would involve me much. Now that I’m out in Jackson, I’ve really started to put my mind towards thinking more about the West Coast tech and what it would mean to get involved in it.

A Nationwide Gentrification Effect is Segregating Us by Education

I don’t think I really noticed this effect until I moved to Idaho. The Dakotas are such a vastly educated group for their rural upbringings. Sioux Falls is overflowing with degree holders. Something like 80% of my high school class went on to college. Going on to college was something that I just assumed everyone did and that the majority of people had at least some collegiate experience. Not so in Idaho, it was a complete inversion. Most people just finished high school, if they had any college experience is was for an associates not a Bachelors or graduate degree. Suddenly, my typical “ice breaker” small talk of where did you go for school, what as your degree in, etc. was completely useless.

Whatever Happened to Programming

This seems so true about web programming. I have met far too many people who think installing wordpress (or the CMS du jour), editing config files or xml is the height of development. I fear that I am just a marginal step above that with my frameworks, high-level scripting languages, and package list libraries. Over time, it seems like there is less and less of a distinction between the programmer as scientist and the programmer as technological bolt turner in the modern assembly line.

Entertainment

New Weird Al Video

Hey, what I can I say. I like Weird Al.

Sword Art Online: Aincrad Review

Kathryn Hemmann’s Contemporary Japanese Literature blog is a new addition to my RSS feed. I love her assessment of Sword Art Online, and I’m amazed that series has gone on to produce a second season. I could hardly stomach watching the first six episodes.

Tiki Hangover: Unearthing the False Idols of America’s South Seas Fantasy

I must be honest: I haven’t read through this entire article yet. But the first few paragraphs just seem like a wealth of information about architecture and Americana-tiki.

How tall can a Lego Tower Get?

Just a fun article examining how much pressure a lego brick can withstand and how that would add up to a theoretical lego tower of 375,000 bricks.

Massive Masaaki Yuasa Art Book Will Be Published Next Month

God, do I love the work of Massaaki Yuasa. Enough that I might even be tempted to order this from Japan. If you don’t recognize the name, you probably will recognize the anime: Tatami Galaxy, Kaiba, Cat Soup all three on my list of must haves for anime. I haven’t started watching Ping Ping (maybe next week), but from what I’ve heard, it should live up to the hype.

January 02, 2014

2013 In Review

Filed under: Journal part of Annual Reviews

In the spirit of the season, I hope to do a little navel gazing. So, if reading through a pile of narcissistic schlock wherein I attempt to showcase just how amazing my life is, read on. Otherwise, it would be best to skip this. Honestly, I would not blame you at all.

Professionally this year has held quite a roller coaster of changes. I changed firms, moving over to 44 Interactive. This brought with it a much wider range of responsibilities and opened doors into expanding my skills into a avenues that I had not yet explored.

Bogun

At the new firm, I switched to developing 100% on Linux (Ubuntu and CentOS). It was a rocky first month, but now I would never switch back to working in the Windows environment. I oversaw a major revision of production servers at the new firm, getting things PCI compliant and automating a lot of processes using Python and Bash – two languages that I picked up last spring.

I picked up a lot of new tools with the move as well. I started doing regular development in Code Igniter, expanded my knowledge of Lemonstand, and wrote an internal toolset using Silex. I modernized my front-end skills – working with LESS, HTML5, and building increasingly more complex ajax sites with a much more solid understanding of modular/pseudo-classical JavaScript.

I worked on our custom CMS, normalizing it’s database structures, introducing a number of design patterns to enhance re-usability, getting it into a repository, and wrangling out a lot of cruft as it became a leaner, more focused application.

As for personal projects, I rewrote the templates for my portfolio and “culture” blogs, moved them onto my own VPN, started hosting my own e-mail server, and got onto Linkedin and back into regularly blogging. I started to revise my old coursework in C and daydreaming of making some small game projects in C/Python.

2013 saw me move four times. I started with a move to a new house in Sioux Falls on the first of the year. I split my time at that house with traveling to a second rental in Hullet, Wyoming. In May, the rental in Hullet went away and I began dividing my time between Sioux Falls and Island Park, Idaho (and later on another move down the mountain to Ashton, Idaho where I began to telecommute 100% of the time).

All this moving gave me quite an incentive to cut down on my possessions. It is amazing what a couple years of sedentary life can do for property. When I moved to Sioux Falls a couple years past, all I owned fit in my trailer. This year, it took me six loads to haul it all out to Idaho.

Oak Table

The new house, in Sioux Falls, lacked counter space, so I took this as a challenge to take up carpentry. I built a fine Oak butcher-block style table that now resides in my home office as a standing desk.

In Sioux Falls, I made it to figure drawing nearly every week that I was in town, amassing quite a collection of drawings and sketches.

In Idaho, I explored Craters of the Moon, backpacked the Jedediah Smith Wilderness Area, dipped my toes in Bear Lake, explored half a dozen different day hikes throughout the area, and am now regularly snow shoeing along old rail road right of ways. All of this resulting in a pile of nature photographs that I am just now starting to compile and process.

I had a bit of a health scare in Idaho. A false appendicitis lead to all kinds of new experiences with the American medical system. A sciatica afterwards left me crippled for nearly a month. In the end, I found myself resolved to get back into shape by switching to a standing desk and waking early for a heavy dose of aerobics before work.

Through the year, I discovered Black Books, read Chomsky, the translated works of Yoshitiro Tatsumi, Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, re-visited Kerouac, and the poetry of Allen Ginsberg. I played Fez and Shelter. I began the Prince of Persia series and Zelda Twilight Princess.

I made it a point to try to put 30 minutes each day into reading a text about computer science, be it a volume on patterns for Python, pointer arithmetic in C, or artfully designing databases. I feel that I have reached the point where I just “get” it when it comes to development. I can sit and read across the field and generally understand the content and feel confident that I can apply the techniques in the texts without misinterpreting them or misapplying them.

2014 In Resolution

So, I suppose now that I have sat down and covered the many highlights of the last year I should address myself to the upcoming new year and the good things that I want to bring about.

I am going to keep reading. I am going to keep putting that 30 minutes of personal development in CS each day, but I also should set more time aside to just sit down and game. Two hours for two nights a week and maybe a couple binges – lets say 160 hours by the end of the year which would put me through four decently sized games. Now that we’re on the new console generation it is time to pick up a PS3 and the backlog of exclusive titles along with all the Wii titles that I let slip.

I hope to pick up a role playing group for one evening of the week, and challenging myself to finally break down and go to Friday-Night Magic.

I want to challenge myself to bike to Driggs and back this summer (80 Miles). I would also like to backpack Targhee Peak via Coffin lakes, challenge myself to complete the backpacking trip to Jedediah Smith Wilderness Area, snow shoe to Warm River Cabin, canoe Warm River to Snake River, and spend a week backpacking in Escalante.

The big thing is going to be the projects for this next year. Items, I really am excited to see. I just have been so busy the last couple of years to really focus any of my attention on some personal projects other than the occasional essay.

Pecunia

I’ve already addressed Pecunia in this blog. This is my open-source financial planner/budget maker built around Silex (although, I am now leaning towards Laraval4). I envision this as a multi-user website that will allow users to create budgets, log expenses, and keep track of their personal finances. Oh, and it will be completely open-source and available for review on my BitBucket account. (Personal Deadline: Spring 2014)

PyGame

This is a much more vague idea, because I just have not sat down to flesh it out. I want to sit down and make a small collection of old-school arcade clones in Python, and slowly work my way up to creating a nicely polished 2D platformer. (Personal Deadline: 2015)

The Weird Tale

I have this short story that has been in the works for three years. In my day planner, it’s noted down as “the weird tale.” It’s a Lovecraftian tale of monsters and madness. I really need to finish it. (Personal Deadline: Rough Draft Summer 2014, Final Draft Fall 2014)

Blog

It’s nice to be blogging regularly again. This year, I aim for 12 solid articles.

Architectural Drawing

I have spent the last three years working on figure drawing. It’s time to return to architectural drawing. Once it gets nice outside, I aim to take the easel outside and start sketching out each of the buildings in this small town.

Photo Showcase

An annual addition to the list, since I still haven’t done it. I really need to get a gallery showing put together of my photos. The issue is always that by the time I have a good enough collection of photos for a given place, I move. (Personal Deadline: Fall 2014)

NaNoWriMo

I’ve been off NaNoWriMo since somewhere around 2007. It’s time to get back in there and write a new one. So this year, let’s be serious and put it on the list.

Inevitably, more projects will probably arise in my mind through the year, and I will address them as they appear, but for now that’s the whole list.

September 14, 2013

Galleries are Broken

Filed under: Journal

I just noticed today that a combination of the newest version of the nextgen-gallery plugin with my custom jQuery and lightbox code succeeding in completely breaking support of both such that neither the nextgen galleries used in the Art and Photography sections nor the lightboxes used in various blog posts really work.

If I have some time this weekend this will all be fixed up shortly.

Updated: The problem seems to be documented already with the 2.0.21 build of NextGen. Since there is no fix for the problem and since I already have a lightbox solution installed in the theme for automatically adding lightbox to any non-lightboxed image in a post, I decide to just disable NextGen’s implementation of lightbox and add a little javascript magic to solve the problem.

August 18, 2013

Steam Summer Sale 2013

Filed under: Journal

Outside of a select handful of console titles that I absolutely adore (Zelda, Mario, Shin Megami, Okami, Team Ico), most of my gaming goes on via the PC.

The Steam sales are thus regular points of interest in which I indulge myself in buying far more games than I could realistically play through in a year.

To save myself from myself, I established a series of simple rules that I (mostly adhere to) where Steam sales are concerned

  • I may only follow the summer sale.
  • I may only make one purchase per day.

So here’s my list of this year’s purchases:

  • The Witcher 2
  • Just Cause 2
  • Ys I & Ys II Chronicles
  • Borderlands 2
  • Torchlight III
  • Dust: An Elysian Tail
  • Civlization V Gold
  • Alan Wake Bundle
  • Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition
  • Tomb Raider Collection

So there’s 10 purchases for 10 days! (Although Alan Wake gave me Alan Wake and American Nightmare and Tomb Raider gave me the entire 10 game series).

A year ago, I promised a complete site overall. “It all has to go!” I said as I started revising stylesheets and pulling apart templates.

Then suddenly, I took a year break from blogging.

The thing was, that as I started to revise the site I began to realize that the whole thing lacked the certain kind of voice and insight that I had hoped to achieve. It felt rather forced.

The site itself did not help much. The template was a kludge of spaghetti code hammered together over a drunken weekend in college and looked nothing like the simplicity of modern design. Indeed, the style-sheets were endless reams of overrides and the Wordpress dashboard a mess of conflicting plugins.

I knew that I could do better, but I had no time for it. Disheartened, I stopped blogging altogether.

It helped, that at the same time, there was a sudden rush of crunch time at work, family weddings and holidays. My girlfriend getting a job first in Hulett, Wyoming and then Ashton, Idaho. In all of this, I found myself back on the job market trying to find a better position to cover the housing costs in what is a rather expensive Midwestern city. I landed at 44Interactive who promptly put me to work as a back-end web developer.

I found myself graduating from building modules for off-the-shelf CMSes (Joomla and WordPress) and into the realm of MVC frameworks and Dev-Ops. I took up the reins of Systems Administrator, switching my OS to Ubuntu, cracking my head against the Linux Documentation Library and straightening out a series of complex system of servers that had grown organically for far too long. I set up PCI compliant production servers, I created Dev servers for users to work off, and mastered working off a local LAMP stack and organizing my GIT flow to integrate into the new teams work.

Meanwhile, I spent my weekends driving through each of South Dakota’s winter storms to see Jess and then into the Spring and Summer making the longer commute to telework from Idaho. Even today, I am moving piecemeal out to the Caribou-Targhee area were I will be permanently teleworking from now on.

Through all of this, I felt like I had no time to write, no time to draw. But then this last month, I picked up my pens and realized how very much I missed them and the tranquility of sitting down to simply create.

The New Sites

The site you see comprises my last two years of professional growth. A new modern design emphasizing a better typography, white-space and subtleties in a well structured Word Press template. All the articles have converted to markdown in order to give them a uniform look and to escape from the trap of trying to design new layouts for each article. Comments now use the Disqus system to provide single authentication logins and to hopefully encourage greater user interaction – which until now has been mostly non-existent.

My hosting has also moved. I am putting my Linux administration to good use and hosting this off my own personal VPS provided by Digital Ocean. Kynda.net now serves as my primary host managed 100% by yours truly. The bowlich.com domain is now retired with my existing and future projects ( Dreamscapes and The Wind Up Blog moved to subdomains of our new host.

Likewise, The Wind-Up Bird features the same template and markdown improvements as my main blog and Dreamscapes will be ported to a custom Silex CMS whose design I plain to layout over the next few months.

To the right, you will find links to my LinkedIn profile and Bitbucket accounts, the latter which I hope to begin slowly incorporating new OSS projects.

Expect a complete overhaul of this site’s pages, and a return to regular articles. Particularly, I hope to address Javascript architecture, the pitfalls of Code Igniter, tips for administering CentOS/Ubuntu servers, a series of articles laying out how to quickly mock up a simple CMS using Silex, and my adventures exploring independent game development using the PyGame and PyGlet frameworks for Python.

The concept of feature creep is pretty well understood in the tech community. But I wonder what we would call the opposite? Feature decay? Feature half-life? Feature death?

Since I started working full time in the tech industry, I have had precious little time to devout to revamping my personnal sites. This makes me sad, because I have learned so much and yet have no time to apply any of this newfound knowledge to these little side projects!

So I set out with a plan. New templates for the portfolio and the webcomic. Also, I would spin my “Photo Journal” posts off into a seperate site tied into Fotomoto and attempt to market prints off of it.

Well, right from the start things hit a rocky start. If I wanted to do a photo website, I would first need to sort through the back catelog of 10,000 photos and figure out what exactly I could feature on the site.

Two months of sorting, tagging, scoring, and fixing up photos later – I concluded that (a) I was sick of editing photos and (b) I was not a productive enough photographer to populate an entire site with quality photographs.

So scrap that idea. How about doing the new templates? I set that on my agenda and watched the weeks pass. The problem? Every night I get home and the last thing I want to do on a summer evening is sit down at the computer and do more coding.

The end result was a massive descaling of the project. Instead of all new templates, I went for fixing up some of the padding and font issues on the sites. This site went to a sans-serif font and added Google Ads to the blog page. I also updated the photography page with new photos from late 2010. My resume is now up-to-date and I scrapped the website design / development portfolio pieces because they were out of date and with how rapid my skillset changes these days, I doubt I could keep up.

The the comic site also got a big rebranding as I changed the name from “Drifting on the Sea of Nihilism” (a reference to the ongoing story I was trying to tell) to a more generic “Dreamscapes.” I archived the tale of Ivan and filtered out the filler art into a sketch blog where I plan on showcasing my current attempts at bad art. Ivan, may continue or I may spin off into working on a different story. The backend of the wordpress template is rather new. I can now create storylines that will allow pagination one comic at a time instead of having all of the entries piled into one long feed.

So there we are, very ambitious plans turned into “change some fonts and rearrange the feeds and call it good.” Ah well, at least I can check it off the list of summer projects.

My fourth, and perhaps last, season at Jewel Cave came to a close on September 10, 2011. I started at JECA in 2008 as a college summer job and I was surprised when I found myself going back to the cave again for three additional seasons. Leaving the park service was a sad, but necessary move, and although I forswore the city of Sioux Falls when I graduated college – it looks like I’m back again!

A lot of items have been on my plate over the last two months and only now am I starting to get a small breathe of air and an itch to get back to the creative projects such as The Wind-Up Blog, the webcomic, or some larger fiction and roleplaying projects that have gathered dust over the summer.

But what’s eaten up all my time?

GAGE E-Services offered me a position as a web developer at their Sioux Fall’s firm in July. I was hesitant to leave JECA mid-season, but they were willing to let me telecommute and work at JECA. This put me on a schedule of working a sixty-hour work-week through August and the first third of September putting together the news site of KVRR of Fargo, ND. On top of this is all the other mess of life - a new relationship, apartment hunting in Sioux Falls, enjoying the last summer in the hills, tending to various visitors, moving, unpacking, and learning the handle of a new job. The result is not a moment of peace these few months and when things did start to calm, I decided that I ought pause for a moment, play some games, read some books, and just chill.

I am not good at chilling.

After about a week, I was ready to poor myself back into labors: clean the apartment, unpack, update these blogs, update resumes, and start writing! So, expect to start seeing an outflow of material from my sites, and my mailbox once more.

First and foremost, I would like to announce the launch of the Wind-Up Culture Blog, my newest blog with a focus on my eclectic taste in film, literature and games. I hope that this (broader) topic will draw a larger audience of readers than my last failed attempt at creating a blog. Anyways, check over there as I hope to keep it regularly updated with reviews, critiques, and commentary about popular art in general.

You may notice some minor changes to this site. First, I’ve moved all of my sites from JustHost over to a shiny new space at HostNexus and as promised, the portfolio is now completely dynamic. The old-design used static web-pages so that I could distribute the portfolio on CDs without needing to include something like Server2Go. Since then, I’ve yet to find a studio that wants a disc version of the portfolio, most demand an online website. The new site also has some refinements to the text-size (it’s now relative for better accessibility), cleaned up CSS, and better handling of white-space to be more appealing. I debated the use of serif fonts, but decided to keep them despite the superior online display of sans-serif text.

I also refocused the purpose of the site. Since right now, I’m searching for full-time employment, I feel that I ought to move away from giving the impression that I’m looking for contract work and to instead focus the portfolio predominately as a place to represent my completed projects, ongoing skill development, and ongoing creative projects. If I decide to make a serious attempt at contracting, I will compose a studio site and formally charter a business.

February 02, 2011

Field Report

Filed under: Journal

The campaign continues as I work to spread my resume about to those employers who would take me. Nonetheless, morale weakens and I find myself dabbling more and more in various research projects. I assessed my skills over Christmas, and found myself rather diverse. I am a writer, graphic designer, photographer, and programmer. Fitting all of those into one job title is difficult. Fortunately, I find that a lot of rural areas I’m looking at are looking for weird hybrid web developers. Rural organizations are more likely to want someone who can design, code, and draft content for a site – an all-in-one package like myself! (Now, if only they would hire me.)

Last year, I devoted myself to working on art and writing. The result was the successful publication of some poetry, the creation of a few blog sites, and the income of $16.85 for four months of work.

Perhaps blog writing won’t pay the bills after all. Than again, picking something as obscure as cynical philosophy was a poor choice. The people who understand the humor of cynical philosophy are few. The people who will misinterpret cynical philosophy, and think me mad, are many. Thus, I decided to retire thedoggedphilosopher.com to subdomain hell, and will soon replace it with a new blog focusing on providing cultural commentary for such geeky subjects as comics, games, anime, film, and literature.

Speaking of geeky, my webcomic “Drifting in the Sea of Nihilism” will begin regular biweekly updates starting next Monday (now with improved writing and art).

I would be happy to fall into any one of the careers that use my abilities. I would be ecstatic to make a living off comics and writing. Nonetheless, looking at the job market for Montana I see only one of my skill-sets that regularly pops up: web development. Well, if this is what the people demand, than so be it!

My regiment for this year is rigorous. I want to get atop the entire web development field and get myself into the cutting edge of skills. I set up a reading list including everything from discrete mathematics, design patterns, and new web technologies to items like business and project management. Already I reread my texts on PHP, MySQL, Apache, Illustrator, and Flash (in one month), and I have new texts on web security, ajax, and PHP design patterns in the mail.

I have some killer projects planned out for the following months – projects that will test my skills and serve as ideal portfolio pieces. Here’s a list of possible ideas:

  • A complete overhaul of  the portfolio site to incorporate more CMS and flash elements (seriously, this place is two years old and no longer represents the range of my creative skills)
  • A database-driven ticket and invoice system for freelance design work
  • A database-driven browser-based multiplayer game
  • A facebook app that uses web services to create a virtual bookshelf (I know, I know, this already exists. However, the current implementation of this app is bad, I can do better)
August 27, 2010

Remodeling

Filed under: Journal

Right now, I’m finishing my work with Sunset Office Cleaning and I hope to see their website live by the end of September. After that, expect some remodeling around here. I’ve decided that this particular site attempts to focus on too many of my activities at once. Ergo, I’m going to break into a sequence of sub-domains with each site focusing on a particular aspect of my work: web design/development, print design, photography, and writing. (I also hope to increase my output for Drifting in the Sea of Nihilism once the site development is done.

Speculation continues as to where I’ll be come October. I drew a list of places to move to, work to do, but all of it hinges on a lot of unknowns right now.

Cheers.

August 10, 2010

Hitting the Road Again

Filed under: Journal

Ploughshares says “no” to “Model Crow.” So once again, I’m off to the market to see where else this story might go. I discovered (to my chagrin) that many publications close their doors to submissions through the summer months, so although I sit on a nice stack of poems and stories ready for the slush pile, I’ve no where to send them.

In the meantime, I concentrate on my website work. I began the process of splicing together Sunset Office Cleaning’s design and setting up the proper style sheets that will display their website brilliantly across the net. Once this is off my plate, I hope for some more opportunities through the coming winter months to continue to expand my repertoire.

July 21, 2010

Summer Update

Filed under: Journal

Amongst caving, hiking, and all that fun under the summer sun, I somehow find time to update this portfolio. A quick update on what’s going on right now:

  • Drifting in the Sea of Nihilism celebrates one month of persistent updates! (consequently, I also celebrate twenty-five years of avoiding death).
  • My short story “Model Crow,” is beginning to make the rounds to magazines. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping someone picks it up.
  • I retooled large sections of the portfolio to reflect my growing push towards graphic design in web and print media. This includes updated resumes, an expansion of my photographic samples, and the inclusion of sketches and additional design samples.
  • At Jewel Cave National Monument, I’m starting to wrap up the first draft of our 2011 newspaper! Its been a good summer, with a very exciting team of talented writers to work beside.
  • Speaking of JECA, my season will come to a close sooner than I expect. September 18 will see me returning to either fulltime writing, or some new job. I’m currently looking for either a winter season position (hopefully with publication related duties) or a fulltime design position somewhere in the north-western quadrant of the U.S.

Somnaire

I discovered webcomics back in high school, but my love of comics went a long ways back. I’ve collected comic books since grade school, loved Bill Waterson’s Calvin & Hobbes and Gary Larson’s Farside. I recall wanting to be a cartoonist in the third grade, and now it seems I’ve started to make that come true. Yesterday was the launch of Drifting in the Sea of Nihilism: Experiments in Comicking, my first stab into the world of webcomics. Drifting will update on Tuesdays and Thursdays following two separate storylines and possibly more as I continue to hone my skills at the craft (which are rather crude to say the least).

Self
Portrait

VLP USD Dakota Hall 212 414 E Clark, Vermillion, SD 57069-2390

In other news, my time in the lovely city of Seattle is at an end. I elected to return to my post at Jewel Cave National Monument for another exciting season of leading visitors through the cave. Monument staff have already asked me to do a follow up of last year’s Jewel Cave Scout Ranger Booklet in the form of a new publication: The Jewel Cave Jr. Spelunker Booklet.

I am excited to announce that my first professional publication for the National Park Service is now available. I got a call yesterday saying the print copy of the Jewel Cave Scout Ranger Activity Booklet is back from the printers and is now available at Jewel Cave National Monument. My copy is still in the mail, but if the test prints indicate anything, the final print will be one of the highest quality free publications the park service offers. If you are a scouting or youth organization planning a visit to the Black Hills of South Dakota, please take time to visit the cave and inquire about the publication. The booklet covers the history of the area, the formation of the cave, and the role that the National Park Service plays in its preservation. It is a full color print with beautiful photographs of the cave, cave explorers, and surrounding flora and fauna. Did I mention it is a free publication?

In other news, these past months have been extremely busy for me.

In January, I made the move to my new residence in Seattle, WA. and continued to develop my personal creative projects. I finished editing a collection of seven poems, which are now making the rounds to publishers. Two short stories (“Lapis Lazuli” and “Centaurs with Newspapers”) will soon join the poems in the ethereal void between my desk and the trash bins of editors. I am would also like to announce that I am starting construction of a website for Alt.Real, a weekly webcomic launching in March 2010.

January 22, 2010

A Statement of Purpose

Filed under: Journal

My experience in blogging indicates that without some statement of why the blog exists or what the blog will cover the blog will gradually sink into a meandering journal of the author’s random thoughts. I know this, because I have blogs filled with my random musings. Let this one be different. Let it focus more on informing others rather than introspectively informing myself. What might you find here in future entries?

  • Announcements relating to my upcoming publications, current writings, and work.
  • A highlight of my photographs and artwork
  • Short essays on philosophy, travelogues, and art reviews