Missed yesterday’s day note – I almost put off writing this as things are busy, but let’s see if I can’t make it that 5-10 minute check-in that I was originally aiming for last week.
Since last time:
Long but good weekend away, seeing the folks, and then a day looking after the boys while the school was striking (solidarity!) – a bit frazzled currently (possibly an understatement), a mix of late nights, being extroverted and conversational for a few days, driving, and context switching.
Wrote up some Board minutes Tuesday afternoon, but really trying to balance looking after my energy with pushing myself to get on with things. So trying not to put too much pressure on myself – my instinct is to plan things out, but even deciding to do that can be extra pressure sometimes.
Spent a good day yesterday starting to familiarise myself with a new codebase I’ll be working on soon. Well, 3 or 4 codebases really. Slightly wide-eyed, crash course moment of checking out the repositories and scanning through all the tech stacks in use. I still find myself wondering how others cope with juggling frameworks and tools. Still, I can load up docs and get a rough idea of what a tool is for quite easily before touching any of the code itself. Maybe that’s a sign of experience?
Staring at docker logs to figure out why docker-compose up wasn’t working isn’t too fun after an hour though.
Left the house and have come to the Skiff co-working space to decouple from domestic clutter for a day. I’m pretty sure nobody has got their head round what the whole Working From Home movement actually means, socio-psychically speaking.
Handy meeting that covered network architecture for the codebase above, and agreeing some initial steps. Exciting stuff and made me feel a bit more awake! I do like that spot between technical architecture design and business needs, and the process of making decisions about tools based on stakeholder needs across the whole system.
Going to do some of that planning I talked about and get my time scheduling a bit clearer.
Finally getting in touch with some frameworks I haven’t really looked at yet – Vue, nuxt, Laravel Doctrine. Feel a bit like Willow absorbing the books of magic.
End of week check-in. Yesterday was about as busy as expected, and today is a wrap morning before heading off – sans les enfants! – for a weekend away. Actual gasp.
Quick round of feedback on the work for client. Had a brief look into whether the changes were easy, and turned out seemed to be, so I proactively made some changes in under an hour, and got rough quotes prepped in my head. Timelogging spreadsheets are a godsend sometimes.
Had our first Board Meeting for Writing Our Legacy with a new Board member, which was late in the date but went well. It’s going to be interesting to let/help the Board find a new ‘rhythm’ for its (volunteer) members, alongside a fair bit of change and structuring within the team itself, now that we’re an ACE NPO. But it’s a good team, I think we’ve got this.
Tried out using my Bluetooth keyboard to write notes onto my phone, as an experiment in more portable writing (ie not having to fetch the laptop from upstairs). Works well (Logitech K380.)
Decided to pick up Sigur Ros’ new digital version of the Kveikur album, with digital book, through their Heimr community. I’m intrigued by what they’re doing, and as a long time fan (over 20 years since the Brighton gig now? wow) it’s fascinating to watch them evolve, creatively and technically at the same time. I figure there are lessons there for how any creative organisation runs over time. It’s also really intriguing to see what role blockchains and NFTs can play, especially now the hype has died down.
Ordered a few more Pokemon cards. The kids and I have really got into the TCG (The Card Game) in the last few months, especially around deckbuilding, and so it’s become a bit like buying in Lego pieces to make that model you can really see working. More thoughts on deckbuilding and life another time.
Also an extra one to mention – you know that time of the night when everyone else has gone to bed and you’re brushing your teeth and the strapline for what you want to do and be pops into your head and you have to go back downstairs and turn the lights on and find a pen to write it all down? Yeah, that.
Writing up Board meeting notes
Getting ready for the weekend, which is a whole nother to-do list.
An ever-clearer vision for where I want to take myself in the next few years. And a sense of brash confidence in the idea that you can actually do a broad range of things rather than specialise, so long as you can tell a decent (and succinct) story around it.
Project work – some slightly delayed, but some I think is closer to finishing that it would have otherwise been.
Pet user story peeve: When delivery companies give you the option of setting a back-up location for if you’re going to be out, and then say it WILL be delivered there. Really not clear if the option is for if they try my house first, and I’m not there at the time, or if they’ll just deliver straight to the second option.
Really enjoying doodling notes on the new Pretendo Miiverse replacement. Not figured screenshots out yet, but here’s a couple of photos of recent efforts…
Schools on strike today, appreciate the slightly slower start, but carefully trying to balance the emotions of everyday disruption with the flailing state of the country in my head/heart. Is it a coincidence that both ‘head’ and ‘heart’ start with the same 3 letters?
A great meeting/chat with fractals.coop – not often I get to ramble haphazardly about all the thoughts in my head with people actually listening and strangely interested. Not sure we got much focus but it was good fun, and we’ll see if we can get something out of it.
Got the deployment of some work for client on to an updated staging server, and sent out for feedback. Some small comments back – should be fine, but just need to balance a few threads going on, and make sure I’m not deciding other people’s priorities for them based on my own judgement. I’ll aim to "check my technicals" today for feeding into prioritisation, shouldn’t take more than a few minutes now I know my way around the plug-in and code being used.
Picked up a different project for a different client again which has been sitting around for a few weeks due to holiday and other work. Started to dig even more into the IA, and the legacy framework, and pretty confident around the possible routes here now, I think. Development on it is definitely getting easier and faster.
An old Uni friend popped into my Discord server, which was lovely. There are usually 3 of us chatting irregularly in there, as a bit of a relaxed WFH distraction.
Managed to acquire food and children successfully. A lot of context switching from lunch onwards, and was mentally phasing out by 8.30pm.
Started writing daynotes!
Stayed off coffee and alcohol! Been trying this a bit more recently, but never in the same day. I think coffee does send me to sleep though.
Going to try to carry on with the legacy code again now that I’m back in there.
But also check over feasibility of making changes after yesterday’s feedback – bit torn on whether to do that first, but it probably make sense to get it out of the way.
Going to see if I can help out on parental duties with the kids off, even if it’s just hanging out a bit with son 1 while he mooches around at home.
Got a Board Meeting for Writing Our Legacy early evening. I think I’ll be tired again after that, so no badminton for me this evening. Got a longish drive tomorrow anyway, so early bedtime would be good.
Delivered first round of development.
Small tweaks around legacy code project.
Explained and expanded out larger-scope, longer-term thinking, probably for the first time with someone else.
Photo of Arbor Low stone circle, visited recently on holiday:
Vague structure taking its lead from what I’ve been using in paper form for over a year now:
Left side: things happening and tasks to do. Right side: Things I’ve appreciated or that have gone well. Excessive use of exclamation marks for these is intentional, and possibly tongue-in-cheek, TBD.
Finished up some usual maintenance tasks for client, started dusting off an old staging server. Didn’t quite get the deployment in place due to needing log-ins, SSH keys and WordPress file permissions in place beforehand. Hit some syncing issue that meant ACF didn’t want to offer a sync option for fields, but worked around it by importing the field file, as it’s a whole new field group.
Followed up with various people to let them know about changes being applied. Lining up some background work to dig into 2FA logins which some people use and some don’t, but aware of how thorny login security can be still, in this day and age.
Got the Miiverse version of Pretendo working on a Wii U, so I can connect to random people and send weird sketches. Will see if I can export the data out some time. Initial impressions: Feels like a very, very niche social media platform. Oddly relaxing.
Had a quick coffee with the wife.
Exciting totally off-work-topic chat with fractals.coop, nice to have a bit of a no-pressure brainstorm session lined up instead of goal-focused time.
Get that deployment sorted out.
Move over to next client work which needs some time and attention.
… but also grab dinner and pick up son 2 from school?
I was going to start with the deployment, but I jumped into the Miiverse (the OG metaverse?) and did a Captain Toad doodle which I’m kind of proud of.
Also found this amazing 60s architect sketch of a brutalist design for St Patrick’s Cathedral in Rochdale, which was never used.
Well here we are, I’m sitting at a keyboard and the date is 2023. It’s quite a nice year to type to be honest, a certain flick of the fingers to it, and slightly easier than the repeated keypresses of 2022.
I ended the year in a gentle fashion. Once the rains of yesterday morning had wrapped up their charade, I went for a short walk along Eastbourne’s seafront, out of town and down past the wooden groynes to where the cliffs start.
I walked by myself, in and out of my own thoughts and other people’s dogs. Many years ago, I read that the most important meeting you can have is with yourself, and I let my mind wander of its own accord as I pushed through the strong winds ahead.
Two "realisations" remained with me as I walked back into town with the wind at my back.
First, I am actually more … "fiercely individualistic" than I would otherwise think. Not that I hate other people, or working with others – quite the opposite. More that I desire some level of control over my own life, in terms of both the creative side of what to do, and the structural side of how to do it.
It feels somewhat "selfish" to admit this, perhaps, but at the same time it’s important to understand what drives oneself, and also helps explain a lot of my own philosophy, including leaning to a liberal-anarchist politic, through to the importance of mutual respect, mutual aid, and distributed and equal learning and opportunities. This quote from Errico Malatesta sums it up well:
“By definition an anarchist is he who does not wish to be oppressed nor wishes to be him self an oppressor; who wants the greatest well-being, freedom and development for all human beings. His ideas, his wishes have their origin in a feeling of sympathy, love and respect for humanity: a feeling which must be sufficiently strong to induce him to want the well-being of others as much as his own…” — Errico Malatesta
Over time, I’ve ended up working in smaller and smaller companies, and going freelance feels like a continuation of this trend. It’s been hard work mentally at times, to not have a lot of the safety net of an employer, but I can’t deny that I enjoy setting my own destiny and not having to negotiate a lot of daily routine with bosses and HR departments. That is a shift that I’m profoundly grateful for, whatever else has happened.
Doing and not doing
Second, I had a realisation that productivity when you’re self-organising is much more a matter of thinking "I will" rather than "I must", "I should", or "I want to". This last year, I’ve spent too much of my time thinking and planning in the manner of "Oh, I should do that", or "I’d love to do that", but a pattern I notice in people I follow and admire is a different intent, one in which you "do or do not, there is no try".
If I had a new year’s resolution, it would be to simplify things somewhat. I’m bouncing around a lot between contexts and tasks and projects and thoughts and content to read and watch and play. All of that can often leave me feeling somewhat bewildered, tired, and like I’m running in circles. Some of it is necessary, of course, but a lot of it isn’t.
I wish I was more able to retain just one project/book/game at a time, for instance – my brain has always jumped around a lot but I’m at a time of life, and humans are at a point of societal evolution, where this is easier than ever, and it’s no excuse to let a naturally busy brain be exploited by an unnaturally busy culture.
At 11.59pm last night, I ritually and ceremoniously finished off a bottle of whisky. Not just any bottle of whisky, this was a leaving present from OCSI, and so it had been on the go for the last year at least – I’ve been sipping from it when I hit certain work-related milestones, such as first client, first payment, first tax return, etc.
With the 2021-22 tax year out of the way (barring some minor admin tasks), I wanted to stop looking backwards. I have an excitedly progressive feel about 2023, but I realise that in order to really jump on my own bandwagon, so to speak, I need to bring my full self and my whole energy to it. I need to use those meetings with myself to fire myself up, check myself over, and really make sure that what I want and what I’m doing are, if not totally defined, then at least in alignment.
I’m also "secretly" positive about 2023 in general. I know it’s not particularly easy or fashionable to feel positive about the world, hence the "secret". But at the same time, I’m a great believer in Hope, and believe that without it, we sink rapidly into bitter depression and uselessness – something I’ve been repeatedly close to as I’ve watched the news in 2022.
So I think there must be an inherent mental resilience that hangs on to that – "Hardcore Hope Negotiation" as I put it – even if others tell you that things are so, so awful right now. We need a productive form of optimism right now, both spiritually and societally. And we need tools and practices to encourage and capture that, which channel imagination and creativity into the world.
For every tablet and smart speaker expecting us to buy something, we need a blog post that kicks back and publishes something fresh. We need games that deliver new ideas, and music tracks that break economic models. We need to think outwardly more than inwardly. To have confidence that we can produce something around the nugget or an idea, a feeling, a thread of humanity.
Change is coming, whether we like it or now – governments will be forced to work out their (within and between state) details one way or another, and they will do it among a background of increasing difficult weather patterns that get harder to ignore. The future is already here. And it’s better to get ourselves prepared, and to be on its side.
I have a vague desire to transform, maybe pivot this blogspace a bit. What started out as a place to publish and reflect on the week feels like it needs to evolve in line with my own circumstances. That link between the structure of a space (a digital space, in this instance) and the needs of the inhabitant (myself as writer, more than you, as reader) feels more acute than ever.
To say this is to reframe the practice of weeknoting itself. It is to speculate and accept that the form and cadence of weekly reflections feeds the need of some sort of routine cycle to begin with. It slots neatly into a pattern that – rightly – embraces incremental change and regulated planning. It is a good tool to fit in with regular sprints and fast-paced calendars, for instance.
(Which isn’t to say it isn’t useful in other contexts – just that there is a synchronicity of rhythms there, which may or may not be naturally true in other patterns such as longer reflection cycles, or less repeated and regular approaches.)
Rule #1 is particularly related to weeknoting: "Art is no longer to be made mysterious". We have reached a state of knowledge working and the attention economy where there is more value in showing how you work, than in keeping secrets. Sadly though, technology is still becoming more complex and more opaque, a trend which seems to be increasing with each extra tool and acronym that gets released.
This, and the other 6 rules, all strike me straight in the heart and chime with my own relationship not with structural engineering, but with software and hardware engineering.
It is hard for me to read sci-fi (extending to solarpunk) these days, for instance, and rule #2 digs at this somewhat: "It’s impossible to imagine formations and formal transformations if you don’t know how to do them." – that is, imagination is tied to a pragmatic concept of being able to build something. As an engineer, I’m aware that ideas are cheap, and implementation is where the magic lies. Time has run out for wishful thinking.
Rules #5 and #6 deal with destruction and beginnings, and the revolutionary need to believe in yourself as a creator rolls forwards into rule #7. This is Mendes da Rocha’s relationship with dreaming, and with the forces that drive us to face truths, to invent, and to re-invent.
"Those who don’t know don’t even ask; don’t even know what to ask. So, what we are talking about here is the possibility of trying to show something whilst working within that confused and erratic context."
That quote sums up where this blog is at currently – my contexts (both individual and global) have perhaps never been more confused and erratic.
Finding some hope in the chaos is often like looking for a shell buried among a beach of stones. But it’s still in there, and there is still the possibility of finding it.