There’s only one rule in Calvinball, and that rule is that you never play it the same way twice. Otherwise, you make it up as you go. You change the rules as you see fit, and arguably, if you care to find a game in the gamelessness of it, it’s a game of one-upmanship where invented rules defeat rules that defeat other rules. It is a chimera. A slippery eel. It is the search for order swiftly dissolving into the delight of anarchy and entropy.
You might have to make up a song. Or recite a poem. Maybe you go slow-motion, or turn invisible, or whirl about until you’re dizzy.
And once again it occurs to me: this is where we are.
Do the days feel like slow-motion?
Have I gone invisible?
Why am I dizzy? Am I dizzy? I’m dizzy.
We’re all touching the Opposite Pole. We’re all in the Song Zone. We’re all jumping about until we find the Bonus Box. There are no rules but the rule of impermanence. The score is Q to 12.
Calvin and Hobbes and quarantine - Chuck Wendig
Overall I’ve been fine when it comes to the lockdown. I’m very comfortable with my own company (as I joked to a friend recently “I’m built for solitude”) and I’m one of those lucky ones that has a lot of experience of working from home. My routine hasn’t changed too much.
That being said, it does start to have an effect when you know that you can’t go out, and I really miss things like hanging out in a pub with friends, going to gigs, and visiting the cinema.
So here are some things that are helping me cope when the “dark teatime of the soul” comes knocking. They might be useful for you too.
I love music. I’m not great at making it, but I devour other people’s ravenously.
My iTunes library contains nearly 30,000 songs at last count (over 80 days continuous listening, number nerds).
With a library that big it’s easy to forget what’s in there, and find comfort in the same old things. I’ve created some iTunes playlist that I leave playing through the day to help me deep dive into the collection.
One randomly plays things that I haven’t listened to in over 6 months.
If I’m feeling in an organisational mood I have one that randomly plays songs I haven’t rated yet, and another that plays anything I’ve rated 3 stars or below. It’s always good to re-evaluate old assumptions.
These lists, combined with some Alfred shortcuts to rate things quickly via keyboard shortcuts mean I can feel like I’m achieving.
And If I just fancy dancing around the house like a loon, I have one that randomly plays tracks I’ve “loved”.
As well as the weekly ritual of Cinema Under The Stairs CUTSFLIX screenings, I’ve been trying to work my way through some lists on Letterboxd. Truly, if you’re stuck for things to watch, dive into a random list on Letterboxd, they’re great.
I’m a very casual gamer, and I get frustrated easily, so I have an embarrassingly long list of unfinished games. However, with nowhere to go I’ve been picking some of those old favourites back up, and discovering some new ones.
My tastes run to the puzzle and sneak-around genres, I’ve never got on with multi-player or FPS shooters, so your milage might vary, but here are some I’ve been enjoying recently (on Xbox, but most should be cross-platform):
- Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order - A single player Star Wars game, this was a no-brainer for me, and I loved it.
- Torchlight - pretty standard dungeon crawler, but its a lot of fun and very satisfying.
- Outer Wilds - an open world mystery about a solar system trapped in an endless time loop. I won’t say more than that because I wouldn’t want to spoil it, but it’s lovely.
- Portal and Portal 2 - I must be on my 7th or 8th play through by now.
- The Witness - I love this game, but it frustrates the hell out of me and I’ve recently hit a wall of comprehension.
- Untitled Goose Game - Honk.
- Donut County - If you like Untitled Goose Game, then this might be for you.
- Astroneer - Explore planets, build things, fall down holes.
I would be getting involved with the whole Animal Crossing thing, but trying to track down a Switch has proven impossible.
I set myself a challenge at the beginning of the year to read 40 books (I managed 38 last year). Thanks to the lockdown I’ve nearly finished 20 already, which is pretty easy when you’re rereading “The Watch” and “Technology” arcs from Discworld.
I’ve started gardening. I find it equally frustrating and rewarding. I’m not sure what I’m doing (my Mum has the green fingers in the family), but things are growing. Some of them are even things I want to grow.
I do yoga now.
I’m not sure who I am any more.
More seriously, since an injury last year, jogging is completely out of the question, and the lingering effects of that injury mean that I haven’t been walking as much as I used to. I was looking around for something low impact that I could do at home, and Down Dog made their app free for March and April, so I gave it a go.
I’m really getting into it. Like the gardening, I’m not really sure what I’m doing, but the app has lots of introductory levels to get you going, and I haven’t injured myself yet. A half hour session first thing sets me up for the day.
(Although it was super weird a few days ago when the app started playing a piece from Nick Cave & Warren Ellis’ soundtrack for The Road as a background track.)
(Feels like I’ve been trying to work out how to write this post for a few months now. Damn lockdown brain.)
After attending the always excellent New Adventures Conference in January I was inspired to leave my job and find something new.
So I handed in my notice without having a position to go to.
Then all this… [waves hands] happened.
It all worked out well in the end though.
Less short version
Back in January (which feels like a lifetime ago!) I was off to Nottingham for one of the highlights of my calendar, New Adventures conference.
This years was a more sombre affair, posing serious questions about catastrophic climate change, the ever widening gap between rich and poor, inclusivity in society, and our responsibilities as designers and developers to interrogate what this means for us and the things we put into the world.
During the morning of the conference, listening to Akil Benjamin talk about the power to make meaningful changes in your life, I started to feel this itch in the back of my head. An itch I’d felt before, I’d been dissatisfied with my job for a while.
This wasn’t a people problem. My team were (are still) among the best people I have ever worked with. A smarter, more caring, compassionate, amazing bunch of human beings you couldn’t hope to find.
No, this was a matter of process and structure. Things are slow in a large multinational. I didn’t feel like I was making the kind of impact that I wanted to and I hadn’t been finding the work very satisfying.
Then Akil posted this slide.
(He’s a much bouncier and warmer person than this photo suggests)
And the itch got more insistent.
I decided was going to hand in my notice when I got back.
I’ve never left a position before without having something to go to, so I was nervous, but I knew there was a lot going on out there, and I am extremely lucky to have a great network of friends and peers, so it was a good nervous.
I (slightly) drunkenly told both Akil and Simon my plans at the after-party. A way to force myself to commit and not chicken out.
I did the deed, and my last day was set as March 20th.
I had some interviews, and was getting good feedback from everyone I was talking to, I even got an offer early on, but none of the positions felt right. Until I got an email from an old boss, saying that a friend of his was looking for a front-end dev, and would I like him to set up an introduction.
The first chat was back at the beginning of March with Dan, the CTO. A meeting that was originally scheduled for 1 hour became 3 hours in a cafe showing each other bits of code, designs, talking about the web, education, and all manner of things. An encouraging start.
Looking back it’s strange how the follow-up meetings mapped themselves onto the encroaching pandemic.
The second chat was the following week with my now (spoilers!) CEO Elspeth. By this point health advice had turned to limiting physical contact. I visited the office this time, but we didn’t shake hands, and there was plenty of hand sanitiser at the main door.
A week later I had my third chat, with Paul the Head Of Engineering, and although it was pre-lockdown, people were beginning to social distance and I was already working from home. This was a completely remote affair.
Everything went well and I was offered the position the week the lockdown was announced. I’m now the Front-End Developer at Learning With Experts.
My lovely team threw me a remote leaving party, there were lots of hats.
I hope we get to meet up for actual drinks in the future.
So, yeah. That was an interesting few months!
This thing is already too long, so I’m going to end it here, and follow-up with a post about how I’m dealing with lockdown, and things that have helped me.
As has become tradition.
- Aldous Harding - Designer
- Angel Olsen - All Mirrors
- Better Oblivion Community Center - Better Oblivion Community Center
- The Brian Jonestown Massacre - The Brian Jonestown Massacre
- Death Of The Maiden - The Girl With The Secret Fire
- Deerhunter - Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?
- Karen O & Danger Mouse - Lux Prima
- Martha - Love Keeps Kicking
- Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Ghosteen
- Sleater Kinney - The Center Won’t Hold
With a sufficient number of users of an API, it does not matter what you promise in the contract: all observable behaviors of your system will be depended on by somebody.
(via Four Short Links)
We had the second IndieWebCamp in Oxford on Saturday, hosted at the lovely Oxfordshire Central Library.
Normally these are run over two days, with a barcamp on day one, and building things on day two. Unfortunately I could only secure the venue for one day, so we had a compressed version.
I opened with a super super brief overview of the Indie Web, and then we had a quick round table chat about what people were hoping to work on. We had a good mix of first timers and old hands.
For my project I wanted to look at pulling in my bookmarks from Pinboard, using a PESOS approach to mirror them on my site. Pinboard has a great ecosystem of tools that already work for me, so there were a lot of wheels I didn’t want to reinvent.
I made some headway, building a Perch app to handle the content model and the syncing.
The app understands the content I want to pull in, and I have the code to talk to Pinboard working, but those two pieces aren’t talking to each other.
I’d like to think I have two thirds of the puzzle.
Unfortunately I had to leave before the end so didn’t get a chance to completely finish the build. My aim is to find some time in the next few weeks to finish it up and release it to the Perch community.
I’d like to thank Summer Of Hacks for inviting me to be a part of their program (I think I made them stretch the idea of “summer” a bit far), and especially Rich for finishing up the workshop in my absence, Oxfordshire County Libraries for hosting us, and Haybrook for their sponsorship.
Here’s to next year.
Some of the other attendees have written about their experiences of the day.
I’ll link up others as they come in.
I’ve recently got into Critical Role and D&D in general, so this found object from the other week was a nice reminder of the new food for my brain.
Last night I had the great pleasure of joining Sal and Joe from Cinema Under The Stairs along with Simon and Simon, two other CUTS regulars, to get all nerdy and spoileriffic on the first CUTS movie review podcast.
And what else were we going to talk about but Avengers: Endgame. Listen to us dissect scenes, answer questions like does the Soul Stone have warranty period, and generally take a huge deep dive into all things Endgame. Obviously, it’s full of spoilers from the beginning. If you haven’t seen Endgame yet, do so, then come back.
(It’s around 130Mb, so make sure you’re on a fast and uncapped connection)
Some of the things I mentioned in the podcast (also full of spoilers):
- Metafilter Fanfare spoiler post and discussion.
- The Empire Magazine Podcast featuring the Russo Brothers.
- Rob Leane’s article Avengers: Endgame: Celebrating the Unsung Savior of the World.
We had a huge amount of fun doing this, and we’ve talked about doing some more. So subscribe wherever you get your podcasts, and we’ll see you soon.
While performing a long overdue catch-up of things I’d bookmarked to read later, I was introduced to the lovely Hebrew word “Firgun” by Jo Franchetti’s talk about mentoring “Being The Help You Wish You’d Had”.
[…] an informal modern Hebrew term and concept in Israeli culture, which describes genuine, unselfish delight or pride in the accomplishment of the other.
I’ve embedded the presentation from FFConf below, and it’s well worth your time. Jo’s slides can be found on Google Docs.