Stress gap

We recently completed a house move. Well, does one ever really finish moving? We bought a newer house in the same town. So it was only 1.5 miles, as the crow flies. But it took 5 months and carried a lot of stress. Stresses including money, a storage unit flooding (long story), and my young children’s concern of the large change. All that & more rolled up into a giant stress-ball.

It’s not that I miss the weight of the stress, but I feel like something is missing. I’m replacing the stress of buying and selling a home (and closing on both on the same day no less) with fretting about paying for the TLC required in the new place.

Isn’t it funny how we rush to fill the gaps left by relieving a major stressor in our lives?

Weird in Maryland

I use Siri > reminders all the time. Mostly it gets it right, sometimes… not. Sorry Maryland, but it’s about to get weird.

Unwound

I just finished listening to the inaugural episode of Unwound. I’m already a fan of Back to Work, and Quit from Dan Benjamin’s 5by5 podcast network. This show was right in my wheelhouse for where I am today.

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about reducing my possessions, so starting a collection of things isn’t really what I’m looking to do. However, I’ve also been thinking a lot about leaving a physical legacy for my kids.

I’m “progressive” and believe in equality. I am unhappy with today’s political situation in the US, and concerned that my children are heading into their teens with a world that is so divided and not inclusive. But that’s another post altogether. It is informing my thoughts on what I want to teach my kids. How to shape them into open minded, empathetic adults who have grit and take a stand for what they think is right.

On these notes, I’ve been writing “Letters to my Daughter” and “Letters to my Son”. These might be on the blog, someday. But for now they are for my kids. They may choose to do something with them after I am gone or unable to write. This will be a written account of my thoughts, and what I believe is important in life.

If I start a collection of watches, it would be a physical archive of my story, and our story together. Also, I can fill an interest that I’ve had for years. I love watches. I didn’t grow up the son of a watch maker, but I’ve always been drawn to watches for some reason. Perhaps it’s that they are the physical representation of time.

I’m really lucky. I have resources, food and shelter, and a lot of love in my life. I don’t want a lot of things. An Audi S-8 or a Tesla, if I had to pick a dream car. But realistically, I’ve got all I need. But I like the art of collecting.

It would be nice to start a collection where I could note which occasion I received a gift of a watch. Or where and when I procured one. More importantly, I’d keep a log of which watch I wore to special occasions. I could turn this into a real collectors log.

I’d pass them on to the kids when the time was right, of course. They’d have them to remember me by, and maybe hand them down to their kids too. And so on.

So that’s what brings me to today, and this first episode of Unwound. A couple of things struck my during the episode, that brought my thinking together.

Unwinding the spring.

Mechanical and Automatic Mechanical watches are powered by the unwinding of a spring. When you turn the little crown on the side of a mechanical watch, you’re tightening that spring. Over time, it unwinds which powers the rest of the components. With an automatic mechanical watch, the movement of your wrist replaces the winding of the crown. These watches are essentially self-powered. It’s like magic.

As Dan and Seth talked about this and the magic they perceived from it, they were clearly in their geek element (as was I). All I could do was assume the name of the show was influenced by this unwinding to power the mechanics.

Time from an animators point of view

Once upon a time, I was an animator. Animation is the art of drawing motion over time. I’ve always thought my timing was my strongest attribute as an animator. Learning the art and science of animation really made me appreciate time in a new way.

I’m fascinated with time. How days and weeks and months can drag out but the years go by so fast. This might just be a parent thing. The routines can drag day-to-day, but when you snap out of it, your child is taller, older and you may have missed some really important stuff.

By being mindful of the time, I’m aware of what is happening in the moment.

Einstein’s Dreams

One of the greatest books I’ve ever read is Einstein’s Dreams. It’s a dream-diary written by Einstein in the months before he turned in his Theory of Relativity. It’s a work of fiction by Alan Lightman. Each night’s dream envisions time in a different way.

In one, time is circular, so that people are fated to repeat triumphs and failures over and over. In another, there is a place where time stands still, visited by lovers and parents clinging to their children. In another, time is a nightingale, sometimes trapped by a bell jar.

I love this book so much, and I recommend finding the “hardcover” if you can. The paper quality is wonderful, as are the fold out covers.

I think about this book most times that I look at an analogue clock or watch for some reason. I think what would happen to the time if I was at a much higher elevation (one of my favorite dreams in the book).

So, I’ve decided to start the watch collection. I need to find a great birth year watch ASAP. Thanks Dan and Seth.

I am not a Minimalist

I’ve been interested in minimalism for several years. Although I am no Minimalist. A lot of the blogs and books I read on minimalism are about living with just 100 things. Or selling everything and moving to someplace really cheap and having crazy adventures. Those people are minimalists.

I think that’s great if you can do it. But it’s not a reality for me, and I wouldn’t want it to be. I’m married, with kids and we own a home. I love where I live. I’m not going to drag my wife and almost-teenage kids around the world with just a backpack each. It would be impractical for us and not the lifestyle we want.

One of the strongest and longest running voices in minimalism is Leo Babauta. Go read his Zen Habits. I’m big fan. He’s married and has (I think) 6 kids. His posts are usually right up my alley. He’s changed many of his bad habits, or traded them for healthier ones. He’s the other end of that minimalism spectrum; another kind of minimalist.

My garage is jammed pack with crap. As is my basement. We have clutter. It’s better than it has been in the past, but I am not a minimalist. I have too many commitments and distractions. I’m working on reducing the things I have to just the essential.

It’s the journey, not the destination. So I am on a minimalism journey. That sounds better to me than calling myself a minimalist. I’m exploring what all this means in my head. I’m thinking on it, and will be writing about it. Maybe it’ll turn into some kind of series of posts.

What is your definition of minimalist?

Sips

I wrote briefly about using the MacOS Terminal and the sips command to resize images in my post on Carrd the other day. Perhaps it was too briefly.

Consider this an intro to the MacOS Terminal, and a primer on how to use sips to scale an image down.

What is the Terminal?

Every computer has a command line interface. This is not new. Before graphical user interfaces, people used computers exclusively by typing in a “shell“.

MacOS is built on a flavor of linux, and it has something called a bash shell. You don’t need to know the details on any of that, but look it up if you want to dig deeper.

What can I do in the shell?

Everything you can do with you GUI, and more. Batch processing files is a snap with the Terminal.

Isn’t it dangerous?

If you’re not careful you can delete files accidentally with the rm command. Most of the really seriously dangerous configuration changes need a super user’s password. So it’s hard to mess anything up there. Just avoid sudo until you have more experience.

And be careful before you delete anything.

The first seven commands

There’s only seven commands you really need to know when using the terminal. Once you get to know these seven, you’ll be flying around the computer and will have enough knowledge to figure out what other commands you’d need.

  1. cd changes directories. Much like clicking to open folders.
  2. pwd Print the current directory. This tells you where you are.
  3. ls List the contents of the current directory
  4. open . Open the current directory in the Finder.
  5. touch Make a new file.
  6. cp Copy a file or directory
  7. rm Delete a file of directory. There is no undo, be careful.

The Command Line Power User tutorial from Wes Bos is pretty solid for a great overview of the basics.

We’re going to use the tab key in conjunction with these commands. Tabbing is an auto-complete. You’ll see.

Resize an image with sips

I’ll walk you through the terminal and how to find and resize an images.

Find an image

Unsplash is usually my go-to when looking for an image to use for a project. They provide free, commercial and royalty free images. You don’t even need to credit the photographer, but I think it’s nice to do so, personally.

All photos published on Unsplash are licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos for free, including commercial purposes, without asking permission from or providing attribution to the photographer or Unsplash.

For this tutorial, I used this image from Braydon Anderson because I thought it was funny. The original image is 6000 × 4000 pixels and 11.3 MB. That is a large image, both in terms of width x height and file size.

I’ve been trying to reduce my possessions, and carbon footprint over the years. This includes my online footprint too. See sustainable UX for the why and how’s.

Here it is in-line, after “sipping” it down to 1024×682 and reducing its quality to 50% making it just 53K. That’s a huge difference in file size.

Go grab an image of your choosing, and download it. Saving it to your Downloads folder would be best for this exercise.

The basics

You’re going to be learning how to do some command line tricks. These have no undo, so let’s keep the original file safe, for when we break something.

Open a Terminal. I use spotlight to open apps, it’s the fastest. Hit Command + Spacebar at the same time, and type terminal, then enter. The more you do this the faster you get of course. Also the computer will learn and predict what you’re trying to type.

Type pwd to see which directory you’re in. Called a Path in terminal speak.

You’re likely in /Users/yourUserName. If not, walk away from your computer, grab the nearest weapon and flee your home. Just kidding! If you’re not in /Users/yourUserName just type cd ~ and it’ll put you there.

Now type ls and read what directories and files are in your User folder. You should see Downloads as a folder listed. Type cd Downloads and you’ll enter that directory. Type pwd again, just to be sure.

You can type cd .. to move up a directory. That’ll put you into the User Directory again. Do that now, please. We’re going to repeat this in order to get the hang of cd. Type ls to see the contents of your User Folder.

Let’s go back into Downloads, with style. Now type cd D then hit tab. Your Terminal should sort of flash, and nothing happens. Now type cd Do and tab. Again, you should see the flash, and nothing else. Next try cd Dow and then tab. Now we have it. Did you notice that the Terminal auto completed your command? This is really helpful to save time typing long file and path names.

This didn’t work with cd D and cd Do as there are two directories that start with “Do”; Documents and Downloads. In fact if you also have a directory named Downtown or anything else that starts with “Dow” it wouldn’t have worked until you typed enough info for the computer to know exactly what you meaning. You’ll get used to this, and love it over time.

Type ls and you should see a list of all the things in your Downloads directory.

Make a backup

Let’s keep the original file safe. We’re just going to copy the original file and rename the new one. We’ll need the cp aka copy command.

cp yourImageName.jpg foo.jpg

Now we’ll be modifying the foo.jpg image, so we don’t damage the original.

Resize it

OK, on with the show. Do yourself a favor and get some help. Type sips —help. This lists the help file for the sips command. You can get help on any command, it’s very … helpful. I’ll get my hat and show myself the door.

Look towards the bottom of that list of commands in the sips help. See the -z and the -Z? Those are for resampling aka resizing. The Capital Z lets you resize the width, and the height will stay proportional. Which is good for our use case here. Remember the -Z.

Sometimes help doesn’t tell the whole story, however. That’s why there’s man for Manual. Looking at the Manual, we can see that the sips command can accept a –setProperty flag with options/values. We’re going to set the imageQuality flag with a 50% value. This will reduce the quality of the image by half, and also reduce the size on disk quite a lot.

Here’s the magic: sips -Z 1024 --setProperty formatOptions 50 foo.jpg

If you look in the Downloads folder and select the original file and hit Command + i you’ll get an info window. See the image size and size values. Do the same for the newly “sipped” file. You should see quite a difference.

Video walk-through

You’ve learned a little about the Terminal, how to find good images, and save on bandwidth and thereby carbon footprint of the internet. Go you!

Carrd

Carrd is the fastest and simplest way to make a great website. I’ve tried everything, and this tool is just the best.

The creator, AJ calls it “a free platform for building simple, fully responsive one-page sites for pretty much anything.”

If you’re looking to standup a one pager for a resume, portfolio, an About or Now page, this is the tool for you.

This is a pretty good overview of the tool:

The danger of any tool and system is that the output can be generic. I think Carrd is the most full featured and best designed tool out there, and it’s flexible enough to avoid sites looking alike.

So, I made a quick demo to explore how to make “unconventional” sites.

Brutalism

There’s a trend going around called Brutalist Web design. It’s a reaction to the heavy, slick media rich (and environmentally unfriendly) websites that are popular these days. See that link for examples, or the Brutalism tag at One Page Love. For some great examples of one pagers that are a little more mainstream, check out the main page of One Page Love.

I’m demoing how to use carrd to make something very text heavy, with no images, and just a few links. I think I spent more time deleting elements than adjusting them, but that’s because of the design I had in mind. Think wall of text type of a website here, like my main site chadgmoore.com.

Here’s the demo:

Note: I used some text expansion to generate the lorem ipsum.

Design tips

I am by no means a visual designer, but I’ve picked up a couple tips and tricks from 20 years working with talented designers. These are boiled down and simple steps, not fully explored design mantras. If you’re looking to be quick and good, I recommend the following.

Fonts

No more than two is good (headline and body). Using just one is even better, as it keeps it simple and reduces load times. As for sizing, make each size down 75% of the larger size. So if your H1 font size is 3em, your body size should be 2.25em, for example.

Colors

3 colors and a gray, maximum. If you aren’t sure about colors schemes, these are great resources.

  1. Color.adobe.com is an interactive color wheel. Try picking that one color you love, and looking at the Color Rules to find great combos.
  2. Get design advice via crowdsourcing at Color Lovers. That link shows the most loved color pallets this week. The community at Color Lovers submits and votes on their favorite color combos. Pick one you like, grab the hex or rgb and plug it into the options at Carrd.

I know as much about color theory as an ant understands a bicycle, so you might want to do some research as to what emotions the colors of your website will invoke in your visitors.

Images

Unsplash is a great resource for high quality images. Resize and compress the images and always give credit. You don’t need photoshop or other heavy photo manipulation software. There are online tools, and if you are friendly with the mac terminal (or want to be) check out the sips command.

Sustainability

My colleague James Christie runs SustainableUX. He’s a great thinker on how designers can reduce their carbon footprint and improve the UX of a website. Here’s his latest article which can help you in your design decisions.

Help

I can help you get up and running, if you’d like. Send me an email to talk it over.

WTF per paragraph

Just read the Reflecting On One Very, Very Strange Year At Uber post by Susan Fowler.

I thought to myself WTF at least 10 times in the first five or so paragraphs. New metric for everyone when writing about Silicon Valley: WTF Per Paragraph.

This is clearly terrible management. DHH’s response is the best way to deal with Uber’s BS.

I am sure that this isn’t an isolated incident or contained to one part of the world. We’ve all got to be better.

Text Expansion is built into iOS

I’ve talked about text expansion a several different occasions. But all my posts have focused on the Mac, so far. There are apps for text expansion available on iOS, but it’s also built right into the operating system itself.

Head over to Settings > General > Keyboards. Make a simple replacement for your email address. On MacOS it’s best to put some kind of prefix, then the shortcut. I use ; as the prefix. But on iOS you’d have to toggle the special keys keyboard, so that would take too much time. In the example below, I used a shortcut of hhh to simply type Hello!.

Once this is set up, you can type this in any text field on your phone to have it expand to what you setup. (tip, you’ll need to tap the spacebar to execute the replacement.) See the video below.

test

Little white numbers in little red circles

I’ve picked up on the idea of better controlling my mornings from Back to Work and various other sources. I don’t want little white numbers in little red circles to push me in various directions before I’ve had coffee and time to think.

I’m thinking about how I can carve out the time and head space in the mornings to have some time to think and create. The morning routine is crazy for sure. Everyone in the family has to be out of the house by eight o’clock.

So, I’ve been trying to commit to being an early riser. I get up at 530AM for months in a row, then fall back into sleeping in. Maybe it’s just the winter causing me to sleep in. Probably not, I just stay up too late.

I keep the phone next to my bed. It’s the only place I can guarantee that there’s a phone charger in the house. The kids love to move them around to charge stuff. We have twice as many chargers as devices, but I can never find the damn things.

So my charger is on my side table next to the bed. That’s where I charge the phone. When I wake up I usually check email, twitter, and Facebook. This is clearly a bad habit, to me at least.

I’ll move the charger to at least across the room tonight. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow.

Let me tell you why I’m really writing this. On my phone I have a great app called Drafts. The basic gist of that app is to quickly write text, and send it to whatever app you need to. Instead of firing up individual apps to craft some words, just use Drafts, and shoot it to whichever app you want to publish with. Most of my text entry is done on Drafts. It’s so quick and easy. I highly recommend it.

First thing in the morning on Tuesday, I grabbed my phone to do my little white numbers in little red circles routine. I stopped myself. I opened Drafts and wrote some words that eventually became this post.

I felt good. I broke the cycle. I put the phone down and got on with my morning. I’ve heard replacing a bad habit with a good one is a great way to break the bad and grow with the good. I’ll try to use this quick jotting down of words instead of the little white numbers in little red circles routine.

Tsundoku

I am not sure where I first came across this word. Maybe I found it on Farnham Street or Barking up the Wrong Tree. But I love this word. Here’s a great article on Tsunduko.

A Tsundoku is a “Reading Pile”.

I nibble at the books around me, and probably finish 1 in 3 of the books that I start. I’m almost 45 years old and have been doing this for about 25 years. Until I read this article, and another on The Antilibrary I thought this was a bad thing. I felt bad for hoarding books and never fully absorbing each and every one. This contributed to my feelings of being a fraud. Like I was a poser. I had all the right books on my nightstand, but never read each of them fully.

Yet I’d go back to books over the years and re-read or progress. Cross reference and collate notes. Turns out, those are the exact reasons people argue you should acquire books, and not finish them linearly. To get the gist and connect the dots.

I’m in the middle of packing to move. Once we settle in, I should have some more room for a proper “Antilibrary”. I’m looking forward to that quite a bit.

Streams

Have you ever been at work and had a moment or two “nothing to do”? I had a moment like that today.

I realized that I was ignoring important but not urgent work. I could have started those documents I owe next week, but there wasn’t urgency, so I delayed.

So I fell into the twitter, reddit, newsreader circle. I even signed up for an open source twitter alternative after I read that latest “why I left twitter article”.

I couldn’t think of what to write, or do at the time, so I read the internet via those sites. Over and over. The streams are always running.

Stream

So, once I caught up with one stream, I jumped to the other until I was caught up, then the other, then back again to the first. This is a pretty great way to waste time. I’m not focusing when I do this. I skim. Find a link to read and skim it. If it’s too long, bookmark it to never read it later.

Leo’s point in the “Finding Stillness & Meaning “ portion of his Noise article hit me.

“Ask yourself what you’re grateful for right now.”

When I have these idle moments of time wasting, I will indeed ask myself this question to spur appreciation for all that I have, verses what I do not. And drive me towards ideas and more importantly, execution.

Don’t compare your backstage to their onstage

I heard a great episode of the always solid Back to Work podcast recently. In which Merlin Mann relayed a phrase he heard from the novelist Patrick Rothfuss. Rothfuss is the author of The Kingkiller Chronicle. Rothfuss takes a lot of abuse online as the third book in the trilogy has been in the works for years. Book two, The Wise Man’s Fear came out in 2013.

Allegedly Book 3 is “done” and in a state of editing. People seem pissed off about that. So this quote has some personal background for Rothfuss, I am sure.

He said (paraphrased):

Don’t compare your backstage to their onstage.

We usually only see the person’s work as it launches, gets released or published. We don’t see the hours of effort that went into producing the work. A lot of people and places online will try to sell you the 3 easy steps to drawing, making games, blogging, etc.

There are three steps, but it turns out that they aren’t easy.

To make a thing, follow these time consuming, isolating and nerve racking steps:

  1. Isolate yourself so you can focus
  2. Do the work
  3. Get feedback, and repeat

That’s it. That’s the backstage that so many people selling us things gloss over, or try to make glossy.

Do the work.

Ideas are cheap

I once told an animator that ideas are cheap. He was offended as he thought I said his ideas weren’t good. At the time, he was working with a “difficult” group of designers who didn’t like input on anything from anyone who was not on their team. So maybe he was sensitive.

I was coaching him on the fact that anyone can create ideas easily. It’s the execution of the idea that is hard. Ever seen a product or service and though to yourself “that was my idea”? We’ve all had a bunch of those.

Validating the idea and building it is the hard part. I went on to tell him that he needs to come up with the ideas, and then add notes to how valid they might be. Nothing formal, just a “risk assessment” or pre-mortem.

Here’s the checklist I gave him:

  1. Make a list of ideas. The more the better.
  2. Think of as many ways as you can for why each idea might fail.
  3. Then for the ideas without fail states, make a note for how long the idea will take to implement.

This strategy seemed to have helped him. He was better able to work with that team. To a certain extent. But thier diffculty is another story, for another day.

By the way, The Dip is a good, brief book on evaluating the amount of work required to execute something, and ultimately if it’s worth it at all.

The Dip

Kid A, Owls, and perfect pens.

I’ve been thinking a lot about change, and building habits. Seems like the single thing that stops me from doing the work is fear.

I wrote about searching for the perfect pen a couple of times recently.

I tweeted about it and my friend Alex replied:

Alex is the CEO / Chief Scientist / Janitor at Owlchemy Labs. He works in the VR space. There’s a ton of potential for VR. It’s here, now. And it’s going to be everywhere, soon. It’ll help entertain and educate us. But this isn’t about Virtual Reality.

I bring up VR as that field is changing way ahead of the curve, even for tech fields. Since it’s changing so fast and there (arguably) aren’t really standards yet. In VR, there aren’t even pens yet, let alone perfect ones.

Staying comfortable:
If you’re learning to draw, you can hide in the fear and not do the work by saying things like “If I only had that perfect pencil”. You can acquire paralysis by analysis when wanting to learn digital painting by thinking “is that new iPad and it’s Pencil a perfect tool for digital painting, or should I go buy a mac/pc and photoshop”? Which camera is best? Which table saw? Etc.

You can’t even have a conversation with yourself like that when you are in a young field such as VR. You have to live in the world of the uncomfortable to work in that space.

A lot of what I’ve been reading lately is saying the same thing about any kind of work.

Make yourself uncomfortable.

  • Turn off the digital devices so you don’t rely on Social Media, and little white numbers in little red circles.
  • Find a space that is isolated from your friends and family, where you alone can think and do the work.
  • Tell people what you are doing so you have a social commitment.

I have been lost in that search for the perfect pen for so long. How many hours I have spent tinkering with blog themes vs. writing my thoughts out? Taking an online course because it’s interesting and just abandoning it about 3 weeks in because I’m bored or scared of the commitment.

These are just the recent ones I can remember off the top of my head:

  • Abelton Live
  • javaScript
  • Human Computer Interaction
  • Python
  • Comp Sci 101
  • Writing Fiction
  • Habit change

I do have a lot of interests, but I know when I sign up for these things that I wont complete them. Fear of commitment? I don’t know. All I know is that when I do write like this, exercise and meditate regularly I feel great.

I don’t believe in a “calling”. I don’t believe you should do a job that you’re “passionate” about. I do believe that if you want to be good at something you need to practice.

Reading all the books, watching all the videos, taking all the online courses doesn’t equal doing the work. This is what I’m learning. Here’s another example.

I bring all this up to eventually talk about Radiohead. Particularly their Kid A album. Whether or not you like the band or that album in particular this is a really interesting story.

So, Radiohead had a huge hit with their record OK Computer. It was so successful that they could probably just phone in their next album and it would be nearly as successful.

But the problems were:

  • The members of Radiohead suffered burnout and songwriter Thom Yorke suffered a mental breakdown.
  • Drummer Phil Selway said Radiohead worried that the success of OK Computer had “turned us into a one-trick band.”
  • Bassist Colin Greenwood said: “We felt we had to change everything. There were other guitar bands out there trying to do similar things. We had to move on.”

All the above from wikipedia.

The band had no restrictions of deadlines. No constraints to make them uncomfortable due to their commercial success of OK Computer. Writers block, lack of direction all contributed to their lull. The band almost broke up.

Then, their producer Nigel Godrich may have saved them:

In January 2000, at Godrich’s suggestion, Radiohead split into two groups: without using acoustic instruments such as guitars or drums, one group would generate a sound or sequence and the other would develop it. Though the experiment produced no finished songs, it helped convince the band of the new direction.

Now there are some great constraints. Split the team, do not use the tools you are used to. Just create the ideas, do not edit them. Just edit the ideas, do not create them. This is how they made themselves uncomfortable and constrained themselves. This is how they delivered such an interesting sound, and reinvented themselves.

Old dog, new tricks:
My takeaway is as such: Repeatedly living in the the space just outside your abilities and comfort is the perfect pen.

I am uncomfortable, which is good.

In my quest to stop finding the perfect pen, I came across an interesting thought about making the time and space to practice. I’ve known for a while that good practice is consistent and should be uncomfortable. That’s where you learn, right on that edge of your abilities.

The new (to me) idea I just figured out is that the act of going to practice should be uncomfortable too.

Making time and space for practice is primarily emotional. Separating from your everyday life for a little while feels awkward, strange. It’s part of the process.

This note comes from the great site, Actionable Books. They’re a site that summarizes business (and other) books. The book in question here is The First 20 Hours, which is next on my reading list.

I’ve heard the term woodshedding. That’s where jazz musicians would sometime literally go live in the woodshed and practice until they came back with new skills, songs and ideas. I never really thought about how uncomfortable that might be. Certainly in the shed there aren’t “comforts of home”, but also emotionally you are totally cut off from everything and everyone.

I’m struggling to find time, space and ideas for what to practice. I feel like I need to be doing something, but I always get bored. Maybe I need to embrace everything about being uncomfortable about stopping to look for the perfect pen.

The perfect pen

I spent time on learning and trying a new tool. This consisted of reading articles, downloading and figuring out trial software.

I stopped, went outside and thought about what problem I was really trying to solve. So, turns out, I didn’t need to solve it. I can do most of the things I need to do without the tool. The ones that I can’t, well turns out that it turns out, they aren’t important anyway.

So I saved some money, and some time. More so, I also stopped distracting myself from doing the work.

I stopped trying to find the perfect pen, and started writing. Figuratively Speaking.

Premortem

I’m a fan of Daniel Pink. His book Drive is one of my all time favorites, I talked a bit about it before. He’s recently started up some short podcasts. I’ve watched a couple and this one is speaking to me most at the moment. Both in terms of my professional work as a Senior Technical Project Manager at Mad*Pow and as an idea for various side projects.
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Every six weeks

I just booked my first E6W. I am so excited. E6W is “Every six weeks”. Not sure if it was “invented” by Merlin Mann or popularized by him. Anyway, I heard it on Back to Work ages ago, and have finally A) Found the time to do this and B) gotten over the irrational fear of possibly losing the respect of the people I admire by inviting them to this crazy thing.
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Mini-disconnects

Derek Sivers wrote an interesting piece called Disconnect. In which, he discusses how he’s been the most productive when he spent months alone to really focus on a project.

I’d agree with him 100% but I’ve never really done that. But I think I’d have a similar stance if I did go woodshed on some topic for a while.
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Get to know a furnace

This week has been depressing.

In my opinion:

  • We’re not talking about Race as we should be.
  • We’re not talking about guns as we should be.
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Just the facts

I had another Broken Record conversation with my son this evening. I was hasty and a little harsh. During our conversation, my son asked me a question that gave me pause. He basically asked me What problem are we trying to solve?
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Dude, where’s my car?

By the end of the day, I tend to forget where I parked my car in the morning. I park in one of several locations when I go into the office. None are further than a half mile from my work, but they’re in different directions. Not wanting to walk around Portsmouth all night looking for my car, I made myself this little hack to help me remember where I parked.
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The Doodle

Bones

“I don’t have a creative bone in my body”, he said.

“Sure you do, everyone does,” I thought. “Maybe you just haven’t been cut deep enough or broken the right bones to find them.”

Then I reflected on my thoughts. They were poorly constructed for two reasons.
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Crazy

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” Steve Jobs

I suppose that’s true. The people who say “it’ll never work” or, and this one I hate the most, “we’ve always done it this way” don’t change the world. Self fulfilling prophecy.

Broken Records

I came home the other night from work, and the house was a mess. Every day, in the morning, I remind my kids to take care of their lunch boxes right when they get home. This way there isn’t a yogurt that they didn’t eat for lunch sitting unrefrigerated for hours. (more…)

Squirrel

Recently, this post reminded me of this great book.

I read The Laws of Simplicity a couple years ago. I noted then that this was a great (and fast) read and that I should re-read it every so often. Looks like now is that time. (more…)

Right now

I’ve been thinking a lot about Essentialism recently. What is really important to me? I’ve started a new job. I have more time in the day due to a lesser commute. Now I have the time to figure out what to focus on, and act on it. I have way too much stuff cluttering up my house and mind. Too many projects. (more…)

Never alone

I’m late to the party, as usual. But this was worth the wait. I’ve just started playing through Never Alone, and am only complete with one level. Well, I helped my kids play through it, I didn’t control anything. I’ll make a new game for myself as soon as possible. (more…)

I loved arguing with my son about doing his homework

One usually doesn’t hear a parent gush about the near yelling matches with their nine year old son. I got into an argument with my son the other night. He wanted to play video games, and while Mario Maker is awesome he did have homework to do. (more…)

Mr. Oldman stands up and expands

What do Gary Oldman, Scrum Standup meetings and odd at-first-glance technologies have in common?

Maybe nothing, other than this post.

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Single Tasking and Spotlight

I’m on Ev Bouge’s The Client List. After his really great post on what I’ll call Single Tasking (doing one thing at a time) he asked:

Anyway, what if you used a computer that gave you zero feedback? How would you be creative if the machine doesn’t tell you what to do?

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Sacrifices

Dalai Lama

Man sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. Then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; He lives as though he is never going to die and dies never really having lived.

– Dalai Lama

Something to reread when I’m looking to be more mindful of the now.

My Leaf blower doesn’t have bluetooth

The best way to simplify is to reduce. I’ve been trying to keep the thought in the front of my mind lately. I was feeling anxious Friday night and Saturday morning. It was the typical anxiety loop, work, house, finances, parenting, when am I going to be able to finally go see The Martian? All the great concerns. (more…)

Digital Portsmouth, The Art of Video Games

I was lucky enough to be asked to present at the most recent Digital Portsmouth event. This time around the topic was “The Art of the Video Game”. Here’s my recap of the event and the materials of my presentation.

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A call from out of the blue

Recently someone I didn’t know asked to connect with me on linkedin. My general rule is to use linkedin only for people I’ve worked with before. I rarely connect with people I do not know. I like to keep my social networks tidy, unlike my basement or garage. (more…)

Ask

Dana Loud, a co-worker of mine who’s an amazing artist tweeted this recently:

As a leader, there is no better way to build trust among your team than to admit you don’t know something and ask for their input. #gamedev

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Talk

A great way to share and build a following is to give a talk at a users group or conference. Maybe you don’t think you could do it because public speaking terrifies you. Or you fear that you don’t have the knowledge.

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Nerd Alert

Ever since delicious shut down I’ve been missing a good web bookmark service. I recently heard of saved.io on lifehacker and thought I’d give it a try. I’ve been using Instapaper which is awesome for storing longer articles to read at a later time. While the saving and reading experience in Instapaper are top notch, it doesn’t feel like a bookmarking service to me. Instapaper is for reading, and saved.io is for bookmarking sites I want to explore. (more…)

User Experience for Technical Artists

I met James Christie at an event at Alpha Loft some time ago. He gave an interesting talk on sustainability of the internet. He’s interested in “Making a faster greener better web”. He’s a Senior Experience Designer for Mad*Pow. I’ve been asking him questions about User Experience and he’s been patient and very helpful. I’ve also been doing some research on that role via reading The Design of Everyday things and The Elements of User Experience. I am interested in seeing what if anything about UX applies to Tech Art for Games. (more…)

Cliques and Tribes

At various points in my career I’ve bounced between Cliques and Tribes and back. While Cliques can be good to get new people up and running and do provide a strong bond between members I do feel that they are detrimental overall.
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Pay it forward

If you’ve been making games for a while you’ve probably come across someone who aspires to do what you do. You’ve met these folks at user groups, or through friends or they work in other departments at your job. These people look up to you, no matter your level or interest in helping them out. As experienced developers I think it’s our duty to help these folks out. I think this should be part of our career paths and yearly review goals. (more…)

Trust

I was in a group conversation once where I believe someone was confusing autonomy with trust. His point was that someone had to earn autonomy so that they could get more advanced and meaningful tasks. I think that everyone has to earn trust but the culture/management grants autonomy. (more…)

The three things we need at work

Dan Pink’s book Drive is great. I do believe there are three key factors to creating a productive and profitable workplace. (more…)

Four Distractions

The lizard brain is not merely a concept. It’s real, and it’s living on the top of your spine, fighting for your survival. But, of course, survival and success are not the same thing. The lizard brain is the reason you’re afraid, the reason you don’t do all the art you can, the reason you don’t ship when you can. The lizard brain is the source of the resistance.”
Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

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