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Crash & Burn!

Posted: 04/20/2009 04:30 PM | permaLink

Tags: personal life-hack geek-love inspiration

A week ago, the hard drive on my laptop crashed.

I had managed to get a decent backup of my most important data about a week before the crash (intuition?), but I have lost several gigabytes of music, digital photos, and stock art forever.

At first I felt pretty badly; I actually had sort of a hollow, empty feeling in the pit of my stomach when I realized what had happened. I wasn't mourning the loss of data so much; I just had no idea whatsoever what to do with my time!

Hard drives are relatively cheap and it won't take me long to get the machine back up and running. So why haven't I done it yet? Well, the truth is, I am finding that not having a home computer immediately at my fingertips brings its own rewards.

Before the crash, I would typically spend one to two hours after work on the computer. That's in addition to the 7-8 hours I spend on a computer at work! I'd typically do things like check my bank account, mess around with financial spreadsheets, and surf news and current events. Occasionally, I'd piss away a whole evening on a website like Now, don't get me wrong here - I'm not blaming my PC for my own lack of time-management skills; hell, I love that machine. LOVE IT. I'm not saying it's not useful, either - for instance, I used it to create the website that you're looking at right now. It's just that with so much time daily on a computer, I tend to end up with what I call "computer head": bleary eyes, fatigue, and a seriously degraded ability to communicate effectively with other human beings.

I have survived a week without my home machine. I've had to find other ways to spend my time, and I feel much better somehow.

Now, I'm not going to get all high-and-mighty here and tell you I've begun the Great American Novel or anything; my time-management skill haven't improved at all, and I'm now totally addicted to Xenosaga III for PlayStation 2. However, I feel vitalized, more cheerful, less tired. I'm more likely to get out of the house and just go do something. Energetic and peaceful at the same time, like a zen monk who springs out of bed in the morning and goes about the morning chores, whistling all the way. Except I'm not a zen monk and there's no way in hell that I will ever spring out of bed in the morning to do chores; not without coffee anyway. But you get the idea.

Developer in Isolation Seeks Brain Candy

Posted: 03/04/2008 06:59 PM | permaLink | Comment on this entry!

Tags: development web-design inspiration

I turn 31 tomorrow! Another year gone by - and I'm still just a big kid. When will I finally grow up? Never, hopefully. I took the day off and the party begins TONIGHT.

In Need of Variety

My current job consists almost entirely of programming. I actually picked this job specifically because it would allow me to focus on development - whereas in my previous job, my duties included graphic design, web design, ASP coding, Flash and ActionScript, server administration and database administration a sh**load of stuff.

I primarily design web applications for our intranet, which allows me to play with UI design a bit, but let's face it: you have to rein in your creative instincts quite a bit in the context of a corporate intranet. While this focused environment has allowed me to improve my development skills, I find myself jonesing once again for creative web design.

For the past two weeks or so, I've been dedicating some time to trolling the various CSS / web design galleries and web designer sites; I needed to crawl out of my digital coffin, put my ear to the ground, and get back in touch with the design community. Mind you, I am NOT a professional web designer. My designs don't come close to those produced by artists with real talent and skills to back it up. Even so, the process of web design is a lot of fun for me, and it's a great way to shift gears after writing volumes of code at work. I also like to promote CSS-based design and the use of W3C standards - two concepts that have the potential to make life easier for web designers and developers alike.

One of the first questions I had as I ventured into the wild was: What new and exciting things are designers doing these days?

Some answers:

Misdirected Energy

My biggest flash of inspiration came from this article at A List Apart (WTF!?!?!? There's a Web 3.0?? I'm not used to Web 2.0 yet!!!) Zeldman makes mention of Pareto's 80/20 principle in relation to web design; specifically remarking on the success of developers who, eschewing complex development methodologies and overblown, complex application designs, instead focused on creating elegant, easy-to-use, feature-rich applications that people find fun and enjoyable to use. There is much wisdom is this...

In the process of designing the current incarnation of my weblog utility for this site, I put way too much focus on the architecure, the "under the hood" stuff that users never see. I've got pluggable data sources, via the Provider model. I'm using XML serialization to generate RSS feeds. I'm patching in to the HTTP pipline to rewrite URLs. I've got a litany of business objects that my application uses. Abstract this, interface that. Ad nauseum.

I ended up with a weblogger that is useable, even over-powered, but it's feature-poor and doesn't encourage community involvement. I focused my energy on the 80% of the work that didn't matter as much. (Is this starting to sound like a future re-write project? I think it is.) A case of not seeing the forest through the trees, perhaps.

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