Cultural Review 2022
I no longer write separate reviews of books and films for each year, instead
see the Currently Reading 2022 note in the Digital Garden for a
list of what I read and watched in 2022 which included 19 books, 49 films, 5
single-player video games, and 4 shows.
I watched so many movies last year that I became sick of the entire medium and
struggled to find movies that piqued my interest. That said my list of films
worth obtaining physical copies has grown to over 50 films and I hope in 2023 to
focus on sourcing and re-watching them instead of seeking new film experiences.
This is the third year of the Covid-19 pandemic and the first full year in which
we had a vaccine available. That said, the disease continued to spread and
develop new variants. Our protocols have relaxed somewhat: we go shopping in
stores when needed, visit friends and family, see doctors, have contractors into
the cabin, travel and stay in hotels. We still haven’t returned to conferences
or gone into the office. We chanced dinning in a handful of times. We still mask
everywhere with quality N95s and have kept up on each booster when it became
available despite the fevers they induce. Nevertheless, mask mandates were
lifted and accurate case tracking went out the door and the population resumed
The year started with celebrating at Hot Well Dunes outside of Safford with
Clint, who would soon depart for a new ranger gig in northern California. Once
again, our friends would be scattered and my social life confined largely to
online chatter. The winter would prove to be warm and dry, but the monsoon would
hit early and hard. Jess’s courses would be in-person this year, and so we
picked up a small townhouse in Las Cruces, NM. I would divide my time over the
rest of the year between New Mexico and the cabin.
The bathroom asbestos abatement began in earnest in February. A crew removed all
materials except for the fixtures. I would be without a shower for nine months.
Electric and plumbing would get done later that spring. The project would result
in replumbing the entire cabin and replacing a third of the electrical circuits.
Drywalling and tiling wouldn’t begin until August. Televera tiles and sink from
Juarez were used to decorate the shower and counter tops. Slowly the cabin is
moving from an “Alpine” vibe to “Southwest.”
A Master Gardener workshop in Duncan inspired reinvestment into the idea of
building a robust garden at the cabin. I began experimenting with a winter
container garden of potatoes and later expanding into the yard with a sixteen by
four foot raised bed protected by a seven-foot tall deer fence. The containers
also spread to the front porch where I constructed “the lounge,” a sitting space
lit by strings of light and covered in plant containers growing potatoes, beets,
In February, Russia began a bloody and pointless invasion of Ukraine breaking
decades of peace in Europe. Although their initial advances were halted, the
conflict would continue through the year draining resources from Russia and
causing energy shortages globally.
Meanwhile work kept at a pace that slowly wound down with each passing quarter.
I felt dreadfully burnt out and tired of the entire PHP environment. The only
respite came from opportunities and to train and mentor new developers bringing
them in, and up to speed on payment projects that I had developed over the
previous two years.
Come may we left on our first trip of the year: to Wisconsin to visit family for
two weeks. This would be my first trip to visit family since the pandemic began.
We were able to get out to Apostle Isles on the first boat tour of the season
when the islands where still encrusted with winter ice and riddled with snow
Returning to New Mexico, Jess went to an archaeological field school outside
Albuquerque until late July. I tended to the garden and prepared for our second
trip of the year to New York. Originally planned as a trip to HOPE and to drop
in on east-coast hackers, I eventually got cold feet and we instead rented a
cabin in the finger lakes area of New York, visited relatives for three weeks
and then returned home stopping only in Eureka Springs, AR to stay in a haunted
The monsoon was in full swing upon our return and that meant mushroom season.
Heading up to Mt. Baldy in between the rains revealed a treasure trove of exotic
mushroom varieties but most importantly chanterelles of which I basketed some
twenty pounds over a two week period.
Throughout the year I struggled with making zazen a habit. My sutra reading and
participation with online zen communities that began had flourished in 2020
began to fade. At the same time, my hiking dropped off and I put on weight.
Depressive episodes came and went but I chiefly began to feel expressly tired
all of the time and I developed a feeling of discomfort. A sleep stud in the
fall would show I had sleep apnoea, and probably have had for some time.
The final trip of the year was to the Washington Coast to house and dog sit for
three weeks. This would be my first plane flight in four years. The coast was
foggy and hikes were often shrouded in darkness with only the footpath to
accompany me. I explored all around Williapa bay eating seafood, hiking trails,
and buying up souvenirs. Realized that after twenty years of visiting the PNW, I
don’t actually care for it and will probably not return for some time.
Upon returning, I felt restless to find a project to work on. I had written, but
not published many notes in the digital garden. I began typesetting my Ireland
travel adventures in an early effort for writing a novel. Upon reflection I realized
that I missed the long-form journaling that I once had as a nightly habit.
Resuming the routine was delightful.
Folks visited for Thanksgiving but it was another virtual Christmas from the
cabin rounding off the year with a feast of homemade kraut, uska and borscht.
Continued work in the Digital Garden, but I keep forgetting to push my
changes out the wide world. So here’s a dump of new articles over the last six
months added to the garden and now pushed to the public.
- The Internet Zeitgeist
- Added several notes covering different areas I’ve notice influencing the
- One item in the zeitgeist: permacomputing, the exploration of computing in a
post-collapse society and the design of computers for long-term survival.
- Solar Punk
- The alternative literary body to cyberpunk
- Digital Nomadism
- Added a note examining the practice of digital nomadism and outlining my
reading on the topic.
- Added research note on the Alpine.js front-end framework.
- Notes on the Svelte front-end framework.
- Notes on changes in PHP 8
- Productivity Advice
- Notes regarding productivity
- Added my research notes regarding Georgism
- OSR Daurlands
- Started outlining my old D&D campaign setting
- Bigos Stew Recipe
- Recipe for Bigos Stew
- Bouneschlupp Recipe
- Recipe for Bouneschlupp
- Proziaki Soda Bread
- Recipe for Proziaki Soda Bread
- Kraut Cakes Recipe
- Recipe for Kraut Cakes
- Winter Garden
- My latest project to grow tubers over the winter indoors
Updated the list of Best Films
Continued work in the Digital Garden during the last two quarters, although,
I fell far behind on pushing updates to the public repository.
- Styling and References
- Worked on improving the template styling for links, code samples, and inline
- Added new recipes for Shredded Chicken Poblano Soup and a section for recipes
that I want to try.
- Japanese Resources
- Added a note covering resources for learning Japanaese including tools that
I’ve been using, links to other sites covering learning techniques, textbooks,
- Begining to dive through the vast resource that is the MDN to try to “catch
up” on developments in front-end web. My career has gradually drifted more
back-end centric and there’s been new developments in terms of the flex and grid
Including that we are no longer constrained to
var and can now use
const. Additional notes on how
await work. Researching
fetch API. Working on getting both side and work projects away from jQuery
- Breakdown of the major frameworks out there and their architectural
- Unit Testing
- Extensive updates to my notes on Unit Testing to cover the different shapes
and kinds of unit tests that can be applied to a problem.
- Code Reviews
- Researching into the question of what are good and bad code reviews.
- Vim Grimoire
- Added notes in the grimoirie for marks and registers.
- Brag Sheet
- Breaking down an idea proposed by Julia Evans for creating a formal document
of your accomplishments throughout the work year.
- Small Web
- A summarization of the ideas behind the proponents of the “small web”
- Debug Nvidia POP OS
- Because my Nvidia card doesn’t work with newer kernals and POP OS keeps trying
to update me and kill my gaming fun time.
- The Heart Sutra
- One of my annual goals this year is to familiarize myself with the major
sutras referenced in Zen Bhuddism. The first up is a dive through various dharma
books and readings on The Heart Sutra.
- Travel Flightlists
- Added checklists for backpacking, weekend travel, and world travel.
- Currently Reading
- Still keeping my currently reading list up-to-date with books, films, games,
and the endless deluge of online articles.
Continued work in the Digital Garden during the first month of the new year.
- Best Films
- Consolidated my lists of films (300+ movies in the last ten years) into a list
32 33 “best” films I watched in the last decade that I
highly recommend watching.
- Book Clubs
- Notes on research I was conducting around running technical book clubs,
particularly in anticipation of the #TechniColorRainbow book club restarting
reading Hacking the Art of Exploitation.
- Notes on exploring the space around promises, async/await in modern
- Pantry Spices and Sauces
- The essential list of spices and sauces to keep available always in the
- Personal Productivity: Annual Review
- Deep dive into my annual review process, updated with new notes as I conducted
it for 2021.
- Personal Productivity: Quarterly Reviewa
- Deep dive into my quarterly review process, updated as I conducted it for the
- Currently Reading: 2020
- Ended my Currently Reading list for 2020 with 21 books, 29 films, 7 shows, 4
games and however many articles. Ranked for the end of year by recommendations.
- Currently Reading: 2021
- Created a new reading list for 2021. Tracking books read, films watched, games
played and a running article list for things I found interesting online.
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
- 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.
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.
Continued work in the Digital Garden.
Personal Productivity Routines
Added several new notes under the Personal Productivity Practices index
- 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.
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
- Damasca Classic
- A little bit of a reference regarding the current conversation about where to
go with Damasca.
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
- 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
Continued work in the Digital Garden.
- Currently Reading
- Updated with articles read in Sprint 18 and 19
- Waky Cake
- Added Wacky Cake to the Cookbook
- Dutch Babies
- Added Dutch Babies to the Cookbook
- The Programmer’s Stone
- Continued my notes on reading The Programmer’s Stone.
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
- Added recipes covering Borscht, Shepherd’s Pie and Cornbread
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
- 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
- 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
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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- Ended the quarter with a two night backpacking trip to the top of Mt Baldy via
the western trail. Sprained an ankle.
- 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
- 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
- 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
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.
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
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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:
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.
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
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.
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
The sites that are verboten:
- Hacker News
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- 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:
- Puerto Rico
- Train Ride to Durham
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
A huge solid read. This gave me so much insight into how many larger
applications are structured.
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.
It’s Hegal in all of his racist glory.
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.
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)
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
Total: 14 (*6 in Theaters)
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.
A solid biopic on Alan Turing that did a rather good job of portraying the man
in all of his facets.
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.
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.
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.
The blockbuster of the season. Easily the best film that I saw this year.
Completely lived up to the hype.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Part two of our Vincent Price kick. I don’t really find Price frightening. I
find him kind of lovable.
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
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.
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 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.
Could never quite get into nor drop this series. The fact that Yes is their
soundtrack just made everything awesome.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A good show, not a great show, but a very solid good show.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Oh, and the best part of all? It has a saguaro cactus in the front yard:
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.
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
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.
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,
Dakotastour, Wings of
Thunder, Howeinc, and
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%.
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.
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
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.
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.
Aim for another 12 solid articles.
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.
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.
I started making a Centipede clone last year using Rust. My goals right now are
arcade games in my spare time.
Tech News and Tutorials
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.
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?
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hey, what I can I say. I like Weird Al.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
the translated works of Yoshitiro
Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of
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
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
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)
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)
It’s nice to be blogging regularly again. This year, I aim for 12 solid
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.
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)
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
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.
I just noticed today that a combination of the newest version of the
nextgen-gallery plugin with my custom
lightbox code succeeding
in completely breaking support of both such that neither the
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
- 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)
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.
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.
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
- 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
- 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.
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).
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.
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
- A highlight of my photographs and artwork
- Short essays on philosophy, travelogues, and art reviews