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Week 272

I got a new phone, which is literally the most exciting thing that happened this week, so take of that what you will. It’s a Pixel 3, so of course, the main thing is having to retrain my thumb to do whichever arbitrary change their UI designers have made to task switching. This time, it’s removing the whole button. Joy. Also, turns out some folks don’t know that you can control a lot of things about Chrome by using chrome://flags – like, for example, getting rid of the bloody news feed and recent bookmarks. I do like the wireless charging, though, this feels closer to the future I was promised.

I picked up a book a couple of weeks ago about felting (it’s in Japanese, I can’t read it). I’m not intending to get into felting – I simply bought it because the photos were so cute – but then I accidentally bought some felting wool. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

It’s all bird felting projects, too.
Very cheap daiso felting wool
Giving this week’s some halloween vibes

Week 271

Yesterday, I went to a conference for the first time in ages (HeavyBit’s DevGuild) and it was actually professionally useful to the problems I’m facing at work. I’m not sure why this is so shocking to me, but maybe for the first time I’m actually in the right place. We announced our series B funding on Tuesday, so lots of congratulations all around.

Bee hoop

I had another crafternoon with Monica, and made a small bee embroidery hoop that I’m quite pleased with. Starting to get the hang of satin stitch.

My Anki Vector robot arrived and it’s honestly adorable (I was a KS backer, so I had a pre-order). I’m looking forward to the updates they plan for it – especially hooking it up to Alexa or Google home so he can be come the cutest robot butler.

Also, from a kickstarter this week is a little QSun UV tracking device. It’s rubbish. I mean, yes, it tells me how much UV there is via some lights, but it feels physically awful (maybe for some technical reason I don’t understand, it’s surface is made of a material that feels like black grit that flakes off) and the app doesn’t seem to be able to remember my location or who I am. I can’t even be bothered to write about it for my under-loved IoT blog. C’est la vie.

 

QSun texture. Also, I cut my thumb.

And of course, some flowers.

More autumn ikebana

Week 270

This week started off with Alex’s birthday. We went to Alameda for a daft brunch and a walk around a piece of shoreline we have newly discovered called crab cove.

I saw zero crabs.

We did pick up a bunch of comics and graphic novels, the most interesting of which I read this week called “Wytches“, which has a beautiful art work style. It’s very ink heavy and dark, and uses layers of watercolour over the top to add extra grit and texture.

Wytches page

For ikebana this week, I made this moribana freestyle arrangement.

Ikebana Moribana

Week 269

A slow week in terms of things to show for it, but felt busy regardless.

Things I made

Embroidery. I don’t recall ever having done any before (maybe cross-stitch?) but I had bought this little jellyfish kit a while back and had some friends over on Saturday afternoon for a bit of a crafternoon, so I made it up. It’s a really relaxing thing to do. I drew up my own pattern yesterday to start another.

Jellyfish embroidery

Ikebana follows the seasons – the plants you work with change over time, reflecting the year. Autumn definitely arrived this week with a green to orange two material shoka.

2 material autumnal shoka

Things I saw

There’s a podcast I listen to that was recommended to me by Jake earlier this year called All Killa No Filla. It’s by two women who chat about serial killers, but actually mostly just talk nonsense to each other about their lives. I love it. Not least because I miss the pub-like banter of British people, so it’s very homey for me. On Wednesday, Alex and I went to see them record live at Cobb’s Comedy Club, and it was rad.

Things I’ve been doing

Mostly meetings. It’s the end of a quarter and we’re embarking on the OKR process for the first time at this company.

Week 268

Instagram story of bird rescue

I love my neighbour birds, but sometimes they’re a challenge. The scrub jay couple that live in a big tree near us wake us up every morning at the bedroom window, waiting for peanuts. Sometimes, they literally sit on the windowsill and just yell.

This week started with one landing for a peanut and the other being too hasty to go in for his (for some reason, they can’t both just sit nicely together), so a brief scuffle occurred resulting in one coming into the bedroom, flying into the glass door, twice, then hiding in my wardrobe. Chasing a bird around at 8am in my PJs is not usually how I like to start a new week.

The rest of this week has been fairly uneventful. Alex has been away on a work trip to Shanghai, so I’ve mostly been filling my time catching up on horror flicks. I watched a few oldies, but the most interesting recent one was Hereditary, which ended up not being exactly what I expected, but actually somehow better. It’s got some really inventive shots and a nice slow build and doesn’t rely on a lot of exposition. I’ll probably watch A Quiet Place tonight.

This week’s ikebana class consisted of a 3 material, 7 stem shoka and a more traditional moribana style freestyle arrangement. Teacher said I should be receiving two diplomas next month!

Moribana freestyle ikebana arrangement

Week 267

San Francisco on Wednesday night

I started my weeknotes when I moved to the USA, and I lost count somewhere along the way, but I think we’re at week 267.

XOXO
This week started with me at XOXO 2018. For various reasons, it wasn’t my favourite. It was roughly 4x larger attendee wise and I think that’s way beyond my human crowd size limit. Art + code were standout highlights, with basically everything in that track being fascinating (I would go to a conference that was just that sort of thing exclusively, tbh). The main stage conference track was a bit too one-note/preaching to the choir for me, but Open Mike Eagle was excellent, as was Hari Kondabolu. I really missed being in Portland, too. This year everything was under one, very large, roof, rather than scattered around an area of Portland. We could have been in any city.

Ikebana
I’m 10 months-ish into my ikebana practice at the JCCCNC. This week I made a 2 material, 3 piece shoka and a freestyle arrangement in class. Related, our class is supposed to be taking a study trip to the Ikenobo school in Kyoto in February so I’m working on my language lessons again, both for that and so I can understand more of the tut-tuts I receive in class.

Freestyle ikebana arrangement

Day job
Work is workin’. Lots to do, interns start next week!

Walked ~30.6 miles.

Birds

A couple of months ago I read Jenny Odell’s transcript of a keynote she gave at a conference. It’s a good talk and well worth a read/watch, but the part about her bird encounters caught my attention the most.

I ended up reading “The Genius of Birds“, which she mentions and that book referenced some sections of “Gifts of the Crow” which I read immediately after. The latter covers a lot of the same topics as the first, but focuses on Corvid research. Since reading them, I’d say I’ve become mildly obsessed with crows and their kin – I generally have nuts in my bag now just in case I meet a friendly one.

I highly recommend at least reading The Genius of Birds – it’s an easy-going read in a light-hearted tone and just generally full of fascinating little stories about bird research and their obvious intelligence and charm.

I just moved house, and it turns out that a member of the corvid family already frequents my yard – a pair of bright blue Scrub Jays. On just the first day of my hanging out with them, they already know what the deal is. So happy about my new neighbours!

Making a comic

I made a comic for my dad’s 60th birthday recently. It’s the first time I’ve made a comic and the first time I’ve ever really dealt with making something in print. It was a lot more work than I expected, so I’ve got a whole new appreciation for comic book artists, inkers, colourists and writers. I basically learned a bunch of stuff that in hindsight should have been really obvious.

I screwed up:

  • My margins. I just assumed that if I worked on Bristol board with an even margin on everything, I’d just be able to make it fit nicely when I scanned it and set the page. Of course, the physical paper size of Bristol board does not in fact match the aspect ratio of the classic printed comic book that I wanted to create. Thus, I have margins on the top and bottom of pages that are too large. Obviously.
  • Where to focus my energy. I thought the colouring was going to be the bit that took forever. That, and cleaning up the line work and all that fiddly stuff.  Turns out, Photoshop makes that stuff really fast if you just watch, like, 2 youtube videos and keep a simple palette (even then, I made some compositions overall too dark while others were too light). The bit that took me forever was figuring out what to actually put in the panels and then the physical act of hand drawing them. I should have applied what I’d learned from my actual career and lead with the user stories and got that bit down before worrying about the UI.
  • The subject and style. Rabbits are basically expressionless blobs. They are terrible visual subjects for storytelling. I’d have had an easier time if I’d gone more cartoony and/or more fantastical.
  • The story telling. I am not a writer. I do not know how to construct a story. I can barely string a blog post together. Comics are apparently 99% creative writing and creative writing is so, so hard.

I don’t know if I’ll ever make another one – maybe if someone gave me a story to draw? – but I’m glad to have tried it.

Naming Progressive Web Apps

I got an email a few weeks ago from a German technology magazine asking me some questions about Progressive Web Apps. I responded, but the email eventually bounced and I assume the sender never got my reply so I don’t know – can a print magazine go out of business that quickly?

I was thinking about the questions, though, and the answers I wrote. They wanted to know how we came up with the name (it’s really boring) and what I thought about native apps (meh), and would there be hybridisation (probably, inevitably).

I accidentally helped name this thing because it’s essentially core to Alex’s work these days. I’m more of a sounding board / humaniser than an active designer of the thing. Ultimately, we talk about it because I really care about the web – the open web – and sometimes I wonder if it’s too late to save it – which we find a depressing topic, but one we dwell on a lot.

I mean, we can’t even reliably do email still, apparently (I know they’re not the same), and we’ve got bullshit things like AMP essentially screwing up what it even means to have a website at all. AMP is a symptom that someone, somewhere, thinks the web is failing so badly (so slow, so unresponsive) for a portion of the world that they want to take all the content and package it back up in a sterile, un-webby, branded box. That makes me so sad. PWAs, to me, are a potential treatment.

I keep seeing folks (developers) getting all smart-ass saying they should have been PW “Sites” not “Apps” but I just want to put on the record that it doesn’t matter. The name isn’t for you and worrying about it is distraction from just building things that work better for everyone. The name is for your boss, for your investor, for your marketeer. It’s a way for you to keep making things on the open web, even those things that look really “app-y” and your company wants to actually make as a native app, 3 times over. They don’t want you to make websites anymore, but you still can if you’re sneaky, if you tell them it’s what they think they want.

It’s marketing, just like HTML5 had very little to do with actual HTML. PWAs are just a bunch of technologies with a zingy-new brandname that keeps the open web going a bit longer, that helps it compete with the proprietary, the closed, until the next thing (and hopefully the next thing) comes along to keep it sharp and relevant. It’s for the next billion users who come online and open a browser and go looking for what’s out there, for those users who have to pay per mb for their downloads, who have old shitty phones, who don’t want to, or can’t, be on a native-app-based operating system.

Remember, this is for everyone. The name isn’t.

Americanized

I became a US Citizen today.

I’m still British. It turns out that it’s actually relatively difficult to lose your British status – you actually have to apply to give it up. “Dual-citizen” is one of those weird international legal grey zones, but at least it’s understood and known to be a thing in both countries. Here’s hoping I remember which passport to use when.

It’s not a popular time to become American, not that being British (with all the colonial baggage that comes with it) is really that much better. The leadership in both countries is somewhat up the creek without a paddle at this point, but at least now I can actually vote (and yes, I am voting in tomorrow’s UK General Election).

Plus, now Alex and I share a nationality and that security feels good. It’s the end of a long administrative process we started in 2013 to ensure that we could always stay together.

I recognise the immense privilege I have to obtain a second nationality in another first world democratic country. You don’t generally get the choice in your first nationality, and getting the opportunity for a second is basically winning some kind of life lottery.