Week 345 / Sheltering in Place

I mean, I think it’s 345. Honestly, I have lost all sense of time and believe I could be off by a week. Let’s just say I’ve survived March and April began at some point recently and I’m still inside my house.

I don’t have anything exciting to report – just after my last week notes, SF declared “shelter in place” for 3 weeks and the State followed suit. SF extended shelter in place until May 3rd for now, but who knows, I am expecting it to extend again. I do gather from the data (from people who tweet that data) that us all being cooped up has flattened our local curve, so that’s nice to know.

I’ve been filling the weeks with nothing particularly extraordinary. A little work here and there, but not enough to really force a proper routine – so I’ll be honest that I’ve not been setting morning alarms most days and that’s meant I’ve been up out of bed late, and therefore going to sleep late. I’ve not really been sleeping well and I’ve been on the melatonin, with mixed results and crazy dreams. I’m a bit untethered, but that’s the worst of it.

Here’s some things that I’ve been consuming, though:

  • Animal Crossing New Horizons! Thank goodness this little slice of escapism came out when it did. It’s been so lovely to visit real friends’ houses, both near and far, even if it’s just to wave and steal a few peaches.
  • Oculus Quest! The only way I’ve been getting any sort of real exercise (other than fitness boxing which I’m starting to get quite bored of) is playing Beat Saber for about an hour a day until I sweat enough that the lenses fog up. Gross, but quite gratifying.
  • Podcasts! I had subscribed to a bunch of interesting science podcasts at the start of the year, but I had to ditch them all because they all just talk about COVID-19 at the moment. Instead, I’ve been listing to radio plays. For example, I like NoSleep for short horror stories that feel very Twilight Zone/Tales from the Crypt. Also enjoyed Body Horror from Radio 4 and Blackout (it’s got Rami Malek in it).
  • Tiger King!
  • Books! Still working through The Expanse novels. I’m just now caught up with the TV show, so doing well. There’s so much.
  • Cooking! Like, not good cooking, but not ordering take away constantly. I have a pretty decent end-of-the-world pantry and I sort of enjoy trying to use up what we have. Honestly, though, our local fancy corner store has everything except bread so we’re FINE.
  • Art! Well, not consuming, but outputting. Finished one not-great watercolour and did an illustration for a game that Monica is making.

I don’t have anything else to inform anyone. I’m worried sometimes and I’m pretty sure I’m constantly low-key stressed, but who isn’t?

Week 341/342 / Housebound

Week 341 was destroyed by jetlag after getting back from Japan. I just could not get into the grove of the timezone at all that week. Fortunately, I had some early morning Public Digital client meetings that forced the issue. I started to make plans for week 342, but I had to cancel a couple of social engagements and evening class, since I picked up a cough and didn’t want to risk it (especially just coming back from Japan).

But, since then the general advice has gone from “stay home if you feel sick” to just “stay home”, so that’s what Alex and I have been doing.

Alex works from home 4 out of 5 days most weeks, anyway, and I work from home most of the time, too, so it’s not a huge change for us. I’m definitely one of those introvert meme illustrations of “Oh no, I have to stay home? Quelle horreur!” But even I usually have reasons to leave the house, like work client visits or appointments or evening classes, but that’s all stopped for now. I should have been in Sacramento at the time I’m writing this, and a trip to NY in two weeks is postponed and another trip to London at the start of April is cancelled.

So, the week was pretty empty. I again had some early morning work video meetings, but not a lot else. I cleaned up the garage emergency preparedness stuff we have (we were already prepped, because it’s earthquake country and I sort of love doing it) and itemized foodstuffs in a new spreadsheet. I also did a bit of painting and a couple of friend video chats which have been nice for a bit of venting and sanity (I’m especially anxious about the UK’s current approach to the virus, and worried for friends and family back home who are likely to suffer for it).

I’ve also been making a point to sit outside on the back deck for at least some portion of the day (I’ve been teaching the scrub jays to come to a bowl in my hand for peanuts) and I’m back on Nintendo Switch Fitness Boxing for some physical activity. I’ve got about half a dozen 75% complete craft projects around the house that I might try and get to completion this week coming.

We’ve really got no reason to have to leave the house, so we won’t be. So, I suppose this will be the diary of a homebody for a while. Stay safe, everyone.

New normal? Virtual hangouts with Dana.

Week 340 / Japan

Just got back from 2 weeks in Japan. In week 339, we (Dana and I) were supposed to be attending the Ikenobo World Seminar with 4 days of classes, but it was cancelled due to Coronavirus outbreak, which is fair enough. We already had our Kyoto airbnb and flights booked, so we thought heck… let’s go anyway.

It was very cold in Hiroshima

Kyoto was lovely and much less busy than usual (both because lower season and little travel out of China) so we visited some of the more high-traffic temples that we’d have skipped before. We also took a day trip out to Hiroshima and a trip out to Nara (I petted a lot of deer!) and Osaka (fried food on sticks!). The JR railpass really is a good motivator to get out and about.

If you bow at a Nara deer, it bows back in exchange for a treat

Second week was just me and Alex in Tokyo. He worked some of it. That was a much less busy week, mostly eating and shopping. We’re thinking about doing 6 weeks in Tokyo this year or next, so we wanted to scope the new location for his office (they just moved) and get a sense of that neighbourhood, in case we decided we wanted to stay longer-term near there.

Tateyama from the castle

I took a day trip down to Tateyama by the sea, and visited one of our flower gang’s homes there, as well as the castle and pier. It’s very cute and highway buses are great.

Fuji-san on the train to Tokyo

Week 336 / 337

I wrote this once, on mobile, and accidentally closed the browser and it lost everything. Computers.

336 was my last week at Netlify. Folks were generally very kind and nice about my leaving. I like those people.

Also:

  • Went to Sacramento
  • Hung out with Public Digital folks James, Dai and Stacy. It’s basically GDS Goes Abroad.
  • Visited lovely California Alpha Gov team. They’ve got all that wonderful energy and I can’t get enough. Particularly enjoyed the user research stories and show and tell.
  • Amtrak’s great. No one takes it, the WiFi works and the scenery/nature is very pretty. I even saw kingfisher!

337 has been in London (I say “has” because we’ve not quite left yet). Alex and I have accumulated a lot of British Airways points and we managed to spend them on an LHR to SFO flight, so we just decided to last minute, so that meant…

  • Lovely birthday dinner at Pollen Street Social. Very cute special cake and clockwork music box presented for the occasion by the dessert kitchen.
  • Went to a Celebration of Europe party on Brexit night. Alex and I won the EU-topics quiz with the low score of 3/15, which might be presented as a possible reason why so many people voted to leave the EU.
  • Read some more library books:
    • Wilding Girls – has a very pithy short review by some as like Lord of the Flies-but-girls, but I did not get that take away unless you’d only read the first chapter. It’s actually quite a lot more sweet and sentimental than that. I would definitely read a sequel if the author decided to do more world building.
    • The Procrastination Equation recommendation by… I forgot (remind me if it’s you) and it is basically some common sense and thank you but can someone agree to be my accountability buddy for some un-time-constrained goals I have?
    • The Testaments. Alright but sort of contrived and it’s all pushed into a certain direction because of the TV show, but it puts a neat bow on the whole Gilead thing.
    • The last half of Caliban’s War and the first half of Abaddon’s Gate. They’re good sci-fi and I’m playing catch-up with the show still (The Expanse) but I’m determined to get ahead so I can be that smug git with the spoilers.
  • Visited the Public Digital offices twice. Once for actual work and once to take advantage of their printer. Good lot, though, and I’m happy that I’m working with them a bit.
  • Just generally lots of lovely beers and cups of teas with lots of lovely people. The main reason to visit London, really.
  • Had 3 Greggs vegan sausage rolls and they’re great and will now be the main thing I complain about not being able to get in the States.

Fruit salad: a scrum estimation scale

When I first joined Netlify over 2 years ago, I took over sprint planning for a while.

As many teams do, they were doing a sort of scrum-lite. They didn’t have an estimation scale and we all agreed at various times that the traditional scrum scales of t-shirt sizes or fun bucks didn’t really capture the concept of scoring complexity.

So, I came up with a scale I thought captured complexity better and used emoji. Fruit! The idea is that as the score increases, the complexity one might expect about how to prepare and eat the item of fruit increases. So, you declare a fruit for a task, and build up a fruit salad of a size the team can handle (eat!) for a sprint.

1 🍇 A grape. Trivial, very quick, no brainer.

2 🍏 An apple (green, specifically, so it stands apart from the tomato emoji). Most people know how to cut up or bite into an apple and eat it. You know generally what needs to happen for the task, but it might take a little bit of time.

3 🍒 A cherry. Pretty easy to eat, but sometimes has that troublesome pit in the middle you either need to extract or spit, and certainly try not to bite or swallow. So, you know most of what needs to happen, quite straight-forward, but there’s some unknowns.

5 🍍A pineapple. Does anyone really know how to cut up a pineapple? Cutting pineapples isn’t something I do often, so I’m a bit unsure about where I’ll start. There’s some parts of the task still to work out, no major unknowns, but it’s still meaty work.

8 🍉 A watermelon. OK, now this is a real wild card. Do I have to have a machete to cut one open? What about the seeds? Do they just get left in? There’s lots to work out, some unknowns, and it might get messy.

?? 🍅 A Tomato. Apparently you’re a fruit, but you certainly don’t belong in a fruit salad. Declare tomato when you really have no idea about the task and it needs more info/breaking down before it can be estimated.

🥑 An avocado. Also a fruit, but it goes bad really quickly. Work that’s not scope-able because it’s a chore or something that just takes a fixed amount of time.

Week 335

  • The most notable thing about this week was that I gave my notice at Netlify after just over 2 years.
  • People assume you quit because you’re mad or something went wrong, but sometimes it’s really just that you’re leaving because you feel like you’ve done what you can and want to do something else more now (more on that another day). That’s where I am and that’s OK.
  • Netlify was my first true VC-startup experience as a full-timer. I learned a lot about how these sorts of companies work (partially because I’ve been able to have a good friendship with the founders and they’ve been very transparent with me about the mechanics) and it’s been very insightful. I think I lucked out with the team being so great more than anything, though.
  • Netlify taught me that I really like being a “fixer” moreso than having a stable, predictable, workload. Like, throw me any random operational problem and I will figure out how to solve it or do it or figure out who should do it. The generalist nature of doing that when a company is still small is really fun.
  • I don’t know what that job is when a company gets bigger, but I’d be interested to find out if someone knows.
  • Other than that bombshell, I went to a Sketchfest show for the 20th anniversary of Galaxy Quest. Very good.
  • Saw 1917. Not really a war movie fan, but unsurprisingly for a Mendes movie, it’s more of a character drama than an action flick. I found it very gripping and it’s wonderfully made.
  • We had a shinnenkai party at my ikebana group.
  • By the way, I’m now a grade 5 ikenobo ikebanist which means I can be a teacher’s assistant*.
  • *This basically means being allowed to clean up leaves and nothing else, tbh.

Week 334

2020!

  • Took two weeks off for Christmas and New Years and it started decently but I’m on day 10 of a winter cold.
  • Christmas dinner this year was hosted by a friend and was extremely vegetarian. Mushroom pie, potato pavé, couscous, hummus, fancy labneh, sous vide parsnips, and many other things. Extremely successful.
  • Saw Star Wars IX. It’s like, actually decent in terms of an entertaining thing to watch for a couple hours. Obviously, you can’t think too hard about the details, because a lot of it doesn’t make sense (Who built all those ships? Where did the staffing come from? Why did what’s-his-face wait until she had all her powers to pick her up, rather than grab her while she was solo-running around junk yards?).
  • Relatedly, I read a few extracts from The Princess Diarist which sort of puts a dreamy but sad reality check on the original movies. I hadn’t really ever thought about how young Carrie Fisher was then.
  • Did nothing for new year’s eve (see previous note about cold) but it turns out that if you stand on the very top of our backyard deck shelf thing, you can see the SF fireworks all the way downtown.
  • Apparently fireworks are actually super bad for the environment so we should probably stop doing them, generally.

Week 331

  • Doing well on the “do some exercise every day” thing. I’ve been able to fit in some Switch Fitness Boxing for 18 days in a row (bar one, the election day… I just couldn’t bring myself to do something nice).
  • I’m very weak but I’m now scoring better on the fitness games, so maybe becoming less so?
  • I wrote an article for 24ways about mobile web users. It’s actually my second article for 24ways – I wrote another about documentation approximately 1 million years ago.
  • From the library, I read The Girl With All The Gifts (yes, I’ve seen the movie) and Lies, Incorporated. The former is quite good and I’ve got The Boy On The Bridge, set in the same universe, to follow-up with. The latter, well, I had read The Unteleported Man at some point in the past and didn’t realise this was the “complete” version of that story with the mad LSD trip in the middle until after I’d finished it. It’s… confusing.
  • My boss asked me to read The Advantage which is a bit of a haha business book, but I might learn a thing, so I also snagged that from the library.

Week 329

In to the home straight of 2019.

It has been 15 weeks since my last week notes and in that time I…

  • went to London with Dave Guarino, then Bucharest and Amsterdam with Alex.
  • went to a bunch of conferences (Fronteers, JSCampRO, JAMStack San Francisco, Chrome Dev Summit) and generally hung out with more nerds than I have for a while. Probably don’t need to go to anymore for a year or two, tbh.
  • hired some very wonderful new folks at work that start in the new year for the front-end team.
  • created a “life hack” that consists of using android’s “focus mode” as a way to turn off all work related apps on my phone after 5pm. The mode is supposed to be used to turn off all the fun things you do on your phone, but actually it’s not the fun things that are the problem – it’s mostly Slack chipping slowly away at the last of my sanity that I need to do away with.
  • got a library card! I think that means I’m a local now. I don’t know if this exists back home in the UK, but here you can rent e-books from your local library and read them on your kindle for free without ever having to actually go to an actual library. It’s brilliant, but I’m curious about how Amazon is taking advantage of this otherwise very friendly social feature.
  • got Switch Ring Adventure, which looks completely stupid, but it’s REALLY hard and I’ve been using muscles that I’ve definitely never used before. It’s much harder than the Switch Fit Boxing that I’ve been doing so far (and this month I’m challenging myself to do one or the other every single day in December).

The term “Responsive Web Design” has failed

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and although Alex’s recent slide is a bit full on, it’s not entirely wrong.

I think what he should have said was that Responsive Web Design alone has failed so far in keeping the web at the forefront of users experiences where most users are most of the time — on mobile. Of course, that’s much more nuanced than he had time for in his talk, but if that is a goal of RWD then it has failed. If the goal of RWD is just to be a practice to making things visually work on different screen sizes, then gold stars all around.

Responsive web design in and of itself is a really smart way to think about developing sites, assuming that you’re taking it from the mobile-first strategy. It’s been a while since I’ve come across a major digital service that hasn’t had a mobile-optimised layout of some nature, so I think on the whole that’s worked. Although, I have to ask where the “so focused on mobile they didn’t bother with a desktop optimisation” crew are – I sort of expected that to happen, but I’ve not yet hit a serious site that has a mobile-only view and presents that to it’s end users on desktop as a fallback. I have, however, seen buckets of splash screens that block me entirely and point me at the native app as the exclusive and only way to access their content and services. That’s scary.

What’s lacking about the responsive web design story is it has always focussed so heavily on the visual, dimensional, aspects of digital design. What are the snap points? How do we scale the images, the text? Can we trim content for some or enhance for others?

As a movement, it’s failed to capture the true otherness of being on a small screen. The fact that CPU, memory, network speed, storage and so many other aspects need to be first-level concerns. I’d argue that for most sites, the compromise for small screen devices has gone about as far as the ever-maligned hamburger menu and largely stopped there.

What I think I, and folks like Alex and Jeremy, who are fearful of the future of the Open Web really want to see is the sort of design work that Jad spoke about at Fronteers. That deep, close, observation of what our users _really_ expect on their devices – given that a majority of their experiences are with native apps and we’re trying very much to slip in our non-native experiences and pass them off as as reliable, integrated and valuable as those. RWD also isn’t taking us into where people find their online experiences (app stores). It could, but it needs to be tightly coupled with a strong PWA game with Trusted Web Activities, for example.

Jad’s excellent Fronteer’s talk

So, in short, RWD didn’t fail so much as it stopped short. Let’s not bicker about the specifics and just focus on getting out of our doom loop, eh?