I moved my blog to a new system. Instead of Squarespace, I’m now hosting it myself on Amazon S3 and using a system called Hexo to manage it. I really liked Squarespace but I couldn’t justify spending money on a blog I don’t really update. I do plan on updating more often but I also wanted a little project. Hexo lets me write code to do cool stuff so I plan on doing that more often.
The XOXO conference of 2014 was literally life changing for me. It was my first visit to Portland and it was what convinced me to want to move here, which we’ve now done. Dan Benjamin of the 5by5 podcasting network interviewed a bunch of attendees (including me, randomly) and I joked to my wife about the interviews just being 50 people saying the conference was inspirational in different ways. That was no different this year, with the exception of this year being kind of the most inspirational bummer I’ve ever seen (in the best way). Rather than try to put the whole 3 day whirlwind into a narrative, I’m going to get on the journalistic bandwagon of recent years: the list.
Some things that happened to me at XOXO 2015
- I briefly met Merlin Mann, a personal hero. I didn’t get to explain how important his work has been to me because I wanted to tell him his backpack was left alone after we vacated the table he left it near, but I was helpful so that’s good.
- I didn’t want to bug Kathy Sierra about how influential and important her work has been also but her talk was magnificent.
- I overheard a guy saying he was glad he didn’t have much student loan debt, only $70,000. Wow.
- My kids talked to Phil Fish (creator of the incredibly popular and awesome game Fez) for like 10 minutes. I thought with all the crap he gets online that he might enjoy just talking to some kids who love his game and I was right. I’m thankful to him for talking to them like they were people, not dumb kids.
- I talked to a number of people about my side project, CastFu, and they were pretty excited about the idea of it. It’s given me a renewed sense that this could be something that helps people.
- I got to show Andy Baio, a big Suck.com fan, and Carl Steadman, freaking co-creator of Suck, my ancient Suck.com membership card and foldout explainer thing I got a million years ago. Turns out the cards were Carl’s idea and he was even the one who wrote the membership numbers on them. Turns out.
- Spent a bunch of time at the podcast meetup sitting with and talking to Jason Snell, of The Incomparable and other affiliated podcasts. He’s a great guy and knows a lot about a lot of stuff. I learned a bunch.
- Also at the podcast meetup I talked to 2 great guys about Kickstarter, comedy, and geeking out about internet famous people. Good times.
- I met a ton of people on the XOXO Slack setup and thought that would mean I’d be able to talk to a bunch of people in person. For sure, I did talk to a lot of people but it was still really hard and I didn’t do it as much as I should have.
- Last year I regretted not talking to Kevin Kelly, but my shyness got the better of me in that case. This year, a similar thing happened with Zoe Quinn. I couldn’t figure out anything I would say that wasn’t “I’m a big fan of your work and also how you have impossibly withstood this year-long monsoon of morons abusing you and wrecking your life for no reason” since I thought that would be too weird. Anyway, she’s great and her talk was amazing.
- I got 2.7 billion points on Attack From Mars pinball at Ground Kontrol. You earn an extra game at 2.2B so I think that’s pretty good. One of my faves.
- I’m so glad we get to expose our kids to such awesome and creative people. They were probably most excited to see the creators of Baman Piderman although we all laughed like mad people at Hello From The Magic Tavern, which we hadn’t heard before.
- My wife and I met a number of people that our 10 year old son had befriended first without us, which was hilarious. He was also kind of the king of the Tinder Box indie arcade one night, including the awesome game Shitty Voltron (imagine a multiplayer QWOP). My wife and daughter also fell in love with 2 Rooms And A Boom, a fun group game.
- On the last night we had the kind of lucky experience that is kind of typical of XOXO. My wife had made a friend at a meetup and when we all started talking, we ended up being extremely similar and had a great time talking outside, which turned into dinner. It turns out her and her husband run a pretty well known internet service that we’ve used, and they have very similar thoughts about running their business and building cool stuff. It’s hard for me to make new friends sometimes so when it happens randomly like this it’s really great.
I’m sure I’ll be writing more about XOXO later, after it all stews around in my head for a little while longer. If you want to read more specifics about what the speakers said there’s a bunch of really good posts about that on Medium.
One of my favorite internet people, Merlin Mann, had an episode on his Back To Work podcast program where he talked about the idea that you only get so many Saturdays in your life. Saturdays being the days that we usually use to do fun stuff, hobbies, cleaning, things that aren’t work. I liked this idea a lot and it got stewing around in my head. Eventually I came up with the idea to visualize this concept of a limited number of Saturdays. To keep the visualization manageable I thought about tracking the number of Saturdays in 10 years. 10 years from now my wife and I be in just past our mid-forties and my kids will either be in college or just out (theoretically). Other than that, who knows?
So as a concrete project, I came up with storing 10 years worth of Saturdays as marbles in a jar. Every Saturday you move a marble into a different jar. I used WolframAlpha to figure out how many Saturdays there are in the next 10 years (taking into account the vagaries of the calendar) and came up with 521. I found somebody selling 500 marbles on ebay for a good price (Which seems to only be possible on ebay. Bulk marbles sites are weirdly expensive.) and filled out the rest of them at the dollar store. I had my kids count the marbles and remove the broken ones, then put them all in a container so I could figure out the size of the glass jar I’d need. I estimated the volume of the container, then went to Michaels and found basically the perfect jars which you can see in the picture.
I really like the way this turned out with the cool square jars. I’m looking forward to seeing the one jar fill up. I think it’ll help us be mindful of time passing and remind us to make good use of our Saturdays.
I’d love for this idea to appeal to somebody else so I can see how they do it. If you make something like this, please let me know! Thanks for reading.
Update: I made an Instructable for how to build your own version of my project. It’s basically the same as this post but now it’s also my first Instructable. :)
I’ve been getting into wood turning thanks to my wife’s interest in it. I’ve made a couple of pens and a pencil that turned out pretty well. Some friends asked for a video on the process so I finally made one of my most recent pen.
I’m also starting to sell the pens and mechanical pencils I make. If you’d like one, contact me at the Contact link at the top of the page. Right now the price is $10 but that will probably go up soon. The pens write really well and the pencils use standard leads so you can use your favorite.
[When Vonnegut tells his wife he’s going out to buy an envelope] Oh, she says, well, you’re not a poor man. You know, why don’t you go online and buy a hundred envelopes and put them in the closet? And so I pretend not to hear her. And go out to get an envelope because I’m going to have a hell of a good time in the process of buying one envelope. I meet a lot of people. And, see some great looking babes. And a fire engine goes by. And I give them the thumbs up. And, and ask a woman what kind of dog that is. And, and I don’t know. The moral of the story is, is we’re here on Earth to fart around. And, of course, the computers will do us out of that. And, what the computer people don’t realize, or they don’t care, is we’re dancing animals. You know, we love to move around. And, we’re not supposed to dance at all anymore.
Thanks to Merlin for that.
An overview on 2013, which on twitter I called my favorite year yet.
I read about 36 books, but I also read hundreds and hundreds of comics. This included the entirety of Preacher and a full re-read of Sandman, both of which are on my favorite comics of all time list. The list of books I read is on Goodreads. Warning: It includes a lot of Star Trek books. I regret nothing!
I helped in an extrememly minor way to put on the first San Diego Maker Faire. I’m happy to have gotten involved with that group and the whole family will be helping more to put on future Maker Faires for sure.
I made a resolution of sorts to do and document 100 creative things throughout the year. I failed miserably on that front because I didn’t document anything. I did a lot of creative stuff but not 100 things for sure. This year I’m trying something a little different which I’ll talk about more later.
I helped my wife coach my daughter’s Lego FIRST Robotics team, which was awesome fun. It was amazing watching these 5th & 6th grade girls go through a lot of the challenges faced by professional programmers/engineers. They all had a ton of fun and learned a lot I hope. They also won a trophy at the big regional competition, taking 2nd place in the Teamwork judging category.
I personally think I kicked ass at work. Shopzilla has been a super great place to work. My first 2 months I was on a regular site team doing website features. Then my coworker and I were made into a team building up a new part of the organization. Then we reorganized and since then I’ve been a one-man team (one programmer anyway, with business/project people) again doing new stuff. This has been really fun and I’m learning a ton.
As usual, I played a lot of Minecraft off-and-on. That game still surprises and gives me ways of spending hours on it. I also bought and built a lot of Lego sets.
I started running and ended up running the Disneyland Half-Marathon in August. This is still a mind-blowing idea to think about as someone who used to joke “I only run if the cops are chasing me”. I’ve been a slacker since then but I’m going to get back into it. I’m probably going to the Disneyland race again and I’d like to do other 5k or 10k races also.
I did a presentation at SoCal Code Camp called ‘Intro To Not Sucking At Presentations‘. People seemed to like it.
And now, for 2014, I’ll let the poet Jay-Z speak for me: “I move onward, the only direction. Can’t be scared to fail in search of perfection”.