JavaScript and other plans

This post was written 4 years ago.
Fri, 28 Oct 2016
It is very late now, but I suddenly feel this urge to write down those plans I have (carrying on from previous longwinded post which was all about just getting ready to make plans). I just want to make it very brief!

So basically, for let's say the next year, I have these two objectives:
1, Organise at least 5 events/workshops in the coming year, where the unifying principles are:
- The format: Probably 2.5 hours in the evening as a default, but could also be a whole Saturday 9 - 5 or something like that
- The topic: It should in some way help newcomers, and it could be something that you don't necessarily find in every tutorial; for example how to use the unix commandline, dev tools etc. It could also be 'soft' topics like how to organise yourself when you freelance, or how to keep physically and emotionally well; I actually have a list of topics in my head (have had that for a long time). Need to start asking people!

2, Improve full-stack web dev and in particular JavaScript as well as I can. I will measure this by hours, i.e. I will set myself a target of how many hours I'll learn. But I will measure the outcome by other objectives. There will be certain endpoints: a, Can I contribute to open source projects? b, Do I feel comfortable teaching others (formally or informally) and c, Can I build stuff without this being a massive and time-consuming pain? (Relatedly, do I manage to stick to a project and finish it off before I start a new one) I am aware that these goals don't look measurable, still to me they are hard endpoints, because I know how I feel when I've grasped something, and I know how it feels when you need just the right effort for something.
So either I will manage to achieve one or more of these endpoints, or I won't. It's an experiment. If I succeed that would be fab, because then I could really teach and could properly help people - and possibly build cool stuff! . But I am a bit skeptic whether that will be the case. The important thing is that I'll allow myself any possible outcome. As long as I stick to my plan of doing a certain number of hours a week, there will always be an outcome worth talking/writing about. And hopefully there will be some improvement. And I have to say that from when we starte our JS group a bit less than two years ago, my JavaScript has really got so much better!

If I only could always see it like that! Right, I just will from now on. - The 'full stack' aim is also interesting. I sometimes think I need to make a certain switch in my mind if I really want to succeed there. I guess the main thing is to actually believe that I can learn certain things. I took one significant step years ago, which was switching to Linux as my OS and running my own server to host things. I cannot say how glad I am that I did that. But when things become a bit more proper devopsy, that still feels like a bit of a barrier. It is difficult to say what makes sense there, should I not specialise on the front-end and PHP programming? But then, it does all interest me, and people used to do it all, and the way things are set up at work makes it possible to learn at least the basics of the different technologies you need to have a server up and running, keep it secure and sites performing well. I think I (and others) perceive it a bit as a 'guys' thing. I wonder if it's something of a cultural thing where as a woman you have been conditioned to be more careful with everything, not break things ladida. (My fear of breaking things has in the past years gone down quite a bit already though ;) )

Don't know. But as we are on this topic, here's another thing I am going to stop doing. Looking out for, or thinking too much about whether something someone said or ways in which they behaved is sexist (or agist, anti-foreigner? haha, how unusual can I get - and still, I am the urban 'cosmopolitan' middle-class and the people around me are, too, this is so far probably still the one decisive factor to make me compatible, but maybe shouldn't be?). It is such a fine line, and in the end, it is mostly history and people's habits that can lead to situations where you might feel treated differently as a woman. It is not directly anybody's fault. I do think it can become toxic, it depends very much on where you are. But it seems to me that currently, in my personal life, any subtle thing that might happen in this regard, is far outweighed by the opportunities I've been given, the super-flexible work contract, knowing so many great people in Bristol's tech community, being able to learn from others and so on. Besides that, in some regards, when it comes to the gender topic, there are things that have been problematic from my side. This has only gradually become clear to me, and it pains me somewhat, because I fear it has been a bit destructive. But that again, it is a historical thing why I behaved in certain ways, and there is no point in beating myself up about it. Main thing is, I am aware of it now.

Midlife, books and watching Adam Curtis films

This post was written 4 years ago.
Thu, 20 Oct 2016
Right. I am going to do a kind of review now. Review in the "Getting things done" sense. I have to admit, my efforts to implement GTD in my life have to date not been that successful. My brain always seems to want to take over the collecting and scheduling etc. again. My suspicion is, this is because my tasks and appointments are just about managable without resorting to a system that needs quite some energy to set up and keep going. I am still looking for the sweet spot where I can benefit from some of its aspects while keeping it lowfi enough as to not cost too much enery to follow through with it. I will keep on trying!

But let me start not so much with all my projects, "next actions" or any such thing.

I want to look at what is causing me (and perhaps others, especially women?) this thing that almost feels like a pain. This tension, which by now contains the realisation that you probably won't become anymore what you possibly could have, less than you'd been capable of. When I last went out for a meal with close friends in Germany, all women, I said at some point "I still want to achieve something". As if having a lovely family and a pretty specialised job in an area you basically self-trained yourself in, didn't count. And yet, if I'm honest with myself, I still feel the same. It must have sounded overly ambitious, competitive, as if I was after outer success, but I don't think that's what I meant.

I think it has to do with competence and an urge to be creative, while feeling you don't have the means for it; also, not feeling competent at anything in general - on the contrary, feeling pretty inadequate.

When I was a teen, I had an anthology of pieces by women writers. There was an extract from The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. It started something like "I started adding up all the things I couldn't do" and in the end, she comes to this conclusion: "The one thing I was good at was winning scholarships and prizes, and that era was coming to an end". I later bought the Bell Jar, it must have been one of the first books I read in the original English version. The similarities between how Plath was experiencing things and myself was so striking it blew me away. It was comforting, too, that I was not the only one feeling that way. In particular what she describes in that quote, that feeling that you cannot really do anything properly, has remained with me up till now; it is not always present, and occasionally I manage to convince myself that I know some stuff, but yes, it is still very strong.

By now, this is also coupled with a feeling of powerlessness on the political level. That I cannot stop nasty things from happening, not even when acting in a group. Is that true? I am not sure. It looks like we are still on a downward path, economy-wise. And then there is the poisoned public discourse which I hope has reached peak shrillness and meaninglessness now.

Returning to the above, what is interesting here, is to make a distinction between the perceived lack of competence and the real one. And while it happens with the best intentions, telling me I've got impostor syndrome does not help me that much. Yes, I might have that, because almost everybody has it, especially in tech. But that does not mean I'm not dissatisfied with where I'm at and would like to know more. Of course, I have reached a certain level of competence, I can do my work (sometimes I get a bit stuck, but by and large I can do it). If I think about it - hm, I had actually not been so clear about that, so writing does help! - in this particular area, the level I'd like to reach is where I can a, contribute to Open Source b, teach c, create own projects/use my skills in projects that are meaningful to me.

There is something else, this is again political, I am jumping back an forth. So, there is the actual competence, but then there is the entitlement, for lack of a better word. That does not really match it actually, what I mean is perhaps, being effective out of habit. Being used to being in power, used to being able to do things. I wonder if that is one of the things pupils learn at a private school. You can do things! It could also be that, for whatever reason, this message was just quite weak in my own youth (although a class-mate once actually said to me "You can do anything you want" - meaning my good grades). Knowing something, but then also using it. And by using it you get better at it..

Two more things regarding perceived vs actual competence. Another significant book in my life has been Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig. I read it in my early 20ies and then again in my early 40ies! I believe Robert Pirsig is the grandfather of all geeks and his style of writing must have influenced many tech blogs. If you read the book now, his way of writing would probably not seem that unusual but that is because it has become mainstream. One central philosophical idea of the book is that we are capable of recognising quality even if we can't define the criteria for it. We recognise good writing style, good design ect. At the ReasonsTo conference in Brighton, Stefan Sagmeister gave a good example when he showed the audience a work of art by Mondrian and a fake one, side by side. Asked to say which was the real one, by show of hands, a vast majority went for the correct one.

Then there is this about the Dreyfus model of skill acquisition, which David Moody pointed me to at the hack night. I once started reading "The Pragmatic Programmer" and really liked it, and the book this chapter is taken from is by the same people. I like the idea of these distinct stages, and I like the idea that people on a team can be at different stages, not everybody has to be an expert.

I want to make a somewhat structured effort to move along this scale, and document it as well. Again, I have to make sure that the documenting does not take up too much energy, I will just record some things that I find significant steps, things where I improved beyond what I'd have thought.

But really, if some of the above sounds a bit negative, in reality I am not unhappy at all (with my learning, world politics is a different thing!). If I look back to 5 years ago, I have already got much further than I thought I would. It took me longer than young people nowadays who decide to become a web developer (and have grown up with computers). Many times I didn't learn in a very effective way. But I'm glad I persisted, because I really do love working in this area.

I won't write so much about the Curtis films anymore, but wanted to mention them, because they do always have quite some effect on me. So, I watched Hypernormalisation on IPlayer - I then also started to watch Bitter Lake which was made about two years ago and which I had missed. But I stopped for now, as it is becoming a bit too much (I normally don't watch any telly). It is scary to think, with the many things mentioned in those films that I had not known about, how many more scary stuff is out there. But mostly, Hypernormalisation reinforced an uncomfortable feeling I (and others, I am sure) had already. We are not really ruled by politicians anymore but by corporates, the potential of technology for evil goes much further as we want to admit to ourselves, and what is presented to us as political discourse is just a spectacle that is put on to distract us. I don't really watch it anymore, just what I hear about it is enough to make me turn away in disgust. Will we ever get to some place of normality again without there being a huge catastrophe first? But really a lot that is happening is already catastrophical, that is the sad thing.

In the credits, the Massive Attack musician Robert del Naja was one of the first people - or the first? - Adam Curtis thanked. I found that intriguing and googled the two names together. I found this article in Vice about a show they did together in 2013. I think the trend they mention there, to obsess about the past, has only become more pronounced, with the Brexit vote being the culmination. And yes, entertainment these days is probably quite conservative even if it doesn't always look like it, and is capable of exerting control. And this sentence sums it all up for me, and has stuck with me: "If you like yesterday we are going to give you more of yesterday so you never get a tomorrow"

In Brexitland and 'Technikland'

This post was written 4 years ago.
Mon, 17 Oct 2016
116 days after the Brexit vote, 23 days before the American presidential election. What a weird space to be in. It feels like having fallen through a rabbit hole and wandering about confusedly, changing sizes all the time, wanting to cry pools of tears, and forever looking for an exit. Isn't it time to wake up already? - Is there going to be a point anytime soon, where we can just say "Remember how crazy that all was?" and everybody you shared this particular part of the space-time continuum with, will know what you mean? I fear it will not be until after a tremendous storm has swept over us, and I don't want to think too hard about the different shapes this storm could take on.

Occasionally, people make comparisons between this country and Germany in the 1930ies, and I always wonder how valid they are. Today, I imagined myself tweeting "You are still far far off. Your government wants to make you look more nasty than you are." But then I never tweet all the many tweet-thoughts I have. And, isn't that exactly what prompted the comparison, the government inciting people to distance themselves from their neighbours just because they are of a different origin? That is ultimately what the current government is doing, isn't it? So, yeah, they are using similar methods to an extent, and yet I'd hesitate to compare them too much. On the other hand, in Germany there's that expression "Wehret den Anfängen" which basically means "Nip things in the bud", just in more dramatic words: "Guard yourself against the beginnings" or so. It always sounded quite solemn to me, and so important to adhere to. Just how?! Everybody I know is quick to condemn the government speak, but as we know from the rederendum, it echoes around in our little filter bubble, or ends in confrontation with the opposite side and that's it. Meanwhile the nastiness trickles bit by bit into people's minds, they become more used to it and less inclined to say anything (because it won't change anything), and it finds fertile soil in those who already think in terms of the 'them versus us'. It would be the governments task to stop this kind of thinking from informing what people do, but if instead they encourage it, where is it going to end?

I had not planned to write any of this, and there is no big new insight in it, I guess I just want to pin down what the athmosphere is like at the moment, and that it all feels a bit gloomy. And the fact that it's not just Britain, that the move to the right is happening all across Europe, is all the more worrying. Britain could have been a beacon of light (alongside the new compassionate-looking Germany - that unfortunately still has a dark side, too, don't be fooled), that is what I find so sad.

The worst thing is that horrible things are happening, especially the bombing of Aleppo, which the main attention should be on, by all of Europe, all of the world. Instead, countries are busy turning themselves into fortresses, and every outrageous utterance by a certain despicable being (I refuse to write that name) is discussed at great length.



I am wondering whether to write about my original reason to write. Perhaps briefly.

While I am, for the time being, going to stay in Brexitland, I am wondering about tech land. How much sense does it make to remain there? Yes, with all the above, I still manage to have my ten zillionth career crisis. Hooray! A few days ago I read the transcript of a talk called "Mid-Career Survival for People Who Don't Want to be an Attrition Statistic When They Grow Up" It is definitely a good talk. But unfortunately, rather than being reassuring, it reminded me of how easily that could happen. My circumstances are quite different from the speaker's, I never worked for a big corporation or a start-up. And I'm not in America. But I still find some parallels.

[Edit 18 Oct 2016 - Taken out some stuff about my work - most of it was positive anyway, but think now I'd rather speak in general terms]

But possibly the thing that makes me most doubtful is not even the job, but my Meetup group. I still don't feel entitled to do the things I want to do. Last week I finally gave a workshop, on Git. I felt terrible afterwards, because I had written some of the exercises the night before and the instructions were so unclear that it became a bit chaotic. Still it seems to have been useful to people, especially the women.

The thing is, I cannot know. If I don't actually know that much about Git, could I confuse people and make things worse? Am I, instead of flying the flag for women in tech, actually damning there reputation further, by being dopey and ignorant, and pretending to know more than I do? Ha! But that is exactly what many men do so often, isn't it?! It is just nobody expects it of a woman. But then of course there are people who are very knowledgeable. And many of them are men. - I have these high standards, that I want to be like them. But if (at the moment ;)) I'm not, should that really prevent me from trying to help other people, organise events whose main benefit is the social side of things anyway? The only thing is I could look stupid. I'm developing some resilience against that. But also: I am spending a lot of time and energy that I could use on other things. That latter then, is the absolute key point. Is it all worth it?

 
I have for now decided that I will look at that question again in a year's time (given things stay roughly the same, and there are no major catastrophes). Till then, I will throw myself into it all one more time, learn as much as I can learn, teach what I can teach, help to increase diversity as much as I can, and meet lots of cool people!

Paul Mason at Bristol Festival of Ideas

This post was written 5 years ago.
Sat, 11 Jun 2016
When I saw that Paul Mason was coming to Bristol, I knew straight away I wanted to go to the talk. After following his coverage of the Greek Euro crisis last year, I had read 'Postcapitalism' and it had touched a nerve. Here was the story of how we had ended up there, and the reasons why global finance in its current form had become unsustainable. The book is about much more than that, of course. But economic theory and the history of capitalism form a big part of it, and Mason explains them really well.

It was a warm summer night, when people streamed into St George's off Park Street to hear him speak. I noticed that many in the audience were older than me, in their 60ies or 70ies, though there were also quite a few people my age or under. I wondered if all the audience were lefties -- My husband Matin once joked that what I really want to do is dig potatoes on a Russian farm (actually, no I don't). In fact, Mason's main point should be of interest to everyone, although arguably he doesn't show much love for the conservatives.

The talk was billed as "Paul Mason in conversation with Andrew Kelly", but it was effectively mostly Paul Mason talking, with Andrew Kelly giving cues. Perhaps it was done that way to make sure every planned topic was covered. And Mason did get through a lot. From the ills of neoliberalism to the question if things would have happened differently "if Thatcher had ended under a bus", from Kondratieff waves to the development of the labour market, the massive and game-changing impact of technological progress, and the impossibility to foresee social structures of the future ("Shakespeare could not talk of Dickens's London"). And more besides.

Mason started, as the book does, with neoliberalism and its consequences. Interestingly, if I understood that right, Mason sees the digital revolution as an outcome of neoliberalism. Propping up the economy by simply printing more money (fancy name: "quantitative easing") has enabled technology to progress in the way it has. Although there was a recession, the iPhone and all that came next still occured.

At the same time this technological progress enables a different economy to grow besides the capitalist model, one where people give their time freely and create products of great value (open source, Wikipedia etc.)

Festival of ideas with Paul Mason and Andrew Kelly
 
Something that came up a few times was what neoliberalism has done to people, especially workers. There was also discussion about low-paid service jobs. Many of the new celebrated business models (Uber for example) rely on exactly that. People doing service work for really low wages. A different example: "As kids we went through these big car washes and it was all exciting. Now we have five men do this work by hand". I remembered the first time we had been to one of those manual car washes and I had thought this was very unusual. But in fact, now you get almost only those. We talk about automation, but in this case the machine has been replaced by humans!

What shone through for me was that Mason really cares about people. But he also says "I'm angry". What some people celebrate as disruptive technology, to him is disrupting the fabric of our community. What was also interesting in this respect, were the different views that people have of a basic income. The idea has recently been embraced by Silicon valley, but in that version it means that social welfare is withdrawn and then needs to be bought from the money that's handed out. This really defeats the original idea of it.

Then there are the external factors that provide a 'rational case for panic': climate change, migration and an aging population. How can necessary change happen? And what changes are already happening? Besides the panic, this is also an incredibly exciting time. Mason says he wants to "liberate the 1%" which I find a brilliant phrase. About a week before the talk, this thought suddenly popped into my head: "Perhaps this is also true: Women need to liberate men from patriarchy". I wondered if I should ask a question about that - was this the case? was it still the case? - , and I thought about it on the day, but it turned out there were lots of questions already, and I was not sure of how to best phrase it anyway, not sure of my English.

There was one moment, when Mason replied to a question with "Let me explain", then corrected himself and said "No. My opinion is this.." And I could not help but think whether this was a consequence of men being accused of "mansplaining". (It actually once happened to me that a man said "and I am not explaining this" before he went on to explain something to me.) I am sure Mason gets feminism as much as he gets digital and I seem to remember there was a passage in the book about the role of women where this became clear.

One thing I found moving then, was also to do with gender. I think it was in a reply to a question. "There might be kids at your daughter's school who are 12 and transgender. When I grew up this was unheard of. I think it is a good thing that it is happening now - children being able to come out in this way. And don't you think this is a personal hobby." (he did not use exactly these words, but I hope I did not change the meaning to much)

There were very good questions at the end, and a lot of it was in fact about how change can happen. Mason was pointing to Podemos in Spain (something I still need to read up on) and that that could be a model for cities in the UK, too. - Cities are where it's all happening. "Young people love the cities, because it's like an analogue version of Tinder." - One question was about Mason's career, moving from BBC newsnight to Channel 4 and then becoming completely independent. He enjoyed it all, but had some reservations about the BBC. "When Channel 4 wants something covered it's: How many cameras do we need? With the BBC it's: How many cameras do we need and what is our line on it?"

I believe in the end, what Mason wants to achieve is to empower people, to give people agency. This is something I think about a lot, which is probably why all these topics seem personal to me.

After the talk I had my book signed. There was a woman in the queue who spontaneously said to me "There was no talk of Brexit. I think he is in favour of leaving?" I said that I thought that too, but that he'd still vote for staying because of the possible consequences at this moment (too much power to the Tories). "That's a relief", the woman said. I still decided to ask him and at the end of a brief chat I said "You will still vote 'In'?" He looked at me and paused, then replied, "Yes. Remain". And I suddenly wondered if my language had been highjacked by the leavers' take on the vote, who want to pitch it as an 'In' versus 'Out' when the 'In' has actually happened a long time ago.

This post was written 5 years ago, which in internet time is really, really old. This means that what is written above, and the links contained within, may now be obsolete, inaccurate or wildly out of context, so please bear that in mind :)

If putting one foot in front of the other was all it took

This post was written 5 years ago.
Thu, 02 Jun 2016
On the coach to Bristol, I started writing a blog post about my marathon run. Unfortunately I didn't save it and in one thoughtless swipe I closed all apps, and with it Jota, the little text-editor app I am writing on at the moment. I feel a bit sad about that, as I had written quite a bit already. So here's at least a mini summary.

It was a beautiful day, hotter than expected. There were enough water stations though and especially for the first 9 miles I fell into a comfortable running rhythm and it did not seem much effort at all. I was already becoming quite blasée ("this is easy") all the while telling myself: Hey, you have barely made a quarter yet, it's not going to stay like that!

I have to say I ran quite slowly, all the time, and I think that might be the reason why in the end I ran through the whole thing without too much difficulty. But of course I was lucky, too. I didn't have any cramps, just at mile 16 my left calf tightened up suspiciously, but it never developed any further. I got tired, but nothing ever ached too much.

One good tip I had read in my marathon book, and then also on Rachel Andrew's blog: To split the run in parts. I split it roughly in thirds. I knew that after 9 miles, after going up to Stanley Park and past the two football stadiums we would be back at the Strand and that would be a third. - My support team (my husband and children) were waiting there which was nice. My son ran a bit alongside me and offered me a 'Toxic waste' gum which I refused!

Then followed a longer stretch across town not all of which was that nice, sometimes running along traffic, where just part of the road had been cordoned off for the runners. Still I enjoyed exploring the town that way and also the bands playing along the sides.

My next target was Penny Lane at mile 18. I wondered if they would blast "Penny Lane" from the loudspeakers again as last year when I ran the half, and that was what happened. Also, here I got an energy gel again, something I'd been hoping for since mile 9 when I had the first one. I'd never taken them on the two half marathons I'd run before, and had tried my first one quite recently. To be honest I don't even know how big their effect is, or if it's more of a Placebo. But suddenly they took on that importance. When can I have the next gel? Why on earth did I refuse the offer of that lady running with us ("Does anyone need some gummi bears?") - At a later point a spectator held out a box with Haribos, and then I didn't think twice and took three at once.

So now you definitely know about all the sweets I've been offered! After mile 18 I split the race further down. 4 miles to the sea and then, once I'd made that, the remaining 4 miles would be on the sea promenade. I was going to enjoy that no matter how much I'd be hurting. And I did, although I have to say those miles stretched. The last mile led onto the road again, but there I was greeted again by my children. They'd tracked me on the app. That was really sweet. My son actually ran the last bit with me on the track and that helped to distract me. Past the finishing line, I briefly felt the exertion of it all, and I think for a moment I had tears in my eyes. But I walked on and I kept moving for a while afterwards, walking with my family, and I also had a beer. My muscles soon started to feel sore, and as predicted by @bealers on Twitter, for the next few days it would be really difficult to walk down the stairs!

I loved the race, I loved Liverpool, and might even do this again. Only thing was, being in the last wave and being slow, I sometimes got the impression people were just waiting to clean up behind us. In that sense, the half marathon which starts one hour earlier was nicer. I guess I could just become a bit faster, that would also help. My time for this one was 5 h 37 min, so a km took me just over 8 min on average. But really it was all about finishing and I even ran the whole thing (I tried walking once and immediately realised that wouldn't work), and of that I am a bit proud.

I'm glad I've written all this. I could have written even more, but at least it's something. One reason I'm glad is that it distracted me.

It was such a beautiful weekend in Liverpool, and then Birmingham with the in-laws. Then on Monday night, I took the coach from there back to Bristol. Matin and the children stayed in Birmingham for another night because Matin had to sort something out there.

I only came back because we had the JS101 group the next day. It is important to me and I think if I don't take it serious who will?

At the moment I am hurting quite a bit. It is difficult to describe how sad certain things make me feel. But there is no good way I could explain this further at the moment. I might have made an attempt if I hadn't written about the marathon, but it's better in this case I didn't.

You'll never walk alone <3 <3 <3

This post was written 5 years ago, which in internet time is really, really old. This means that what is written above, and the links contained within, may now be obsolete, inaccurate or wildly out of context, so please bear that in mind :)

Marathon

This post was written 5 years ago.
Sun, 29 May 2016
That was quick! Now I am already heading towards the start line with hundreds of other runners. There's not much time left to write.

I don't know whether to regret the fact I didn't collect any sponsoring. I am somehow glad I haven't told too many people. I decided to donate a wadge of my own if I make it to the finish line. About to start now!

This post was written 5 years ago, which in internet time is really, really old. This means that what is written above, and the links contained within, may now be obsolete, inaccurate or wildly out of context, so please bear that in mind :)
Tags: marathon / running / liverpool /

Programming and

This post was written 5 years ago.
Mon, 23 May 2016
It is 6 o'clock in the morning, last night I fell into bed at 11 which is early for me, I had again slept too little the two nights before. I had also run 14k and this time I felt pretty exhausted after it. It might have to do with the fact that I could not have a rest afterwards, it turned out I had to walk one child to her German class, and then pick up child number 2 from his friend, by bike.

But also, there were all these things churning around in my head again. A few days ago I had been so happy about how things were going with our JavaScript group, and about everything in my life in general. I had also speed-read through a book by Tara Mohr which was about how so many women are 'playing small' (the book accordingly is called Playing big ;) ) and it was great to see many conclusions I had come to recently, seen written down there, but also some thoughts and advice that were new to me.

Then yesterday came the backlash. One thing was the tiredness. Then many tiny incidents - conversations I've had, things I've read, and slow porgression with my own projects - adding up in my mind to the "you're still not very good at this" feeling once again. That is of course always true when you set the bar very high. But it's not only that. It's the fear of being 'innately' incapable of certain - quite basic, and for others seemingly easy - things.

But then again, is that not possibbly true for everybody? All of us have some weak spots, where we are challenged more than other people. I suppose it depends a bit on what those are. Some weaknesses create more difficulties (but perhaps also chances?) than others. Also I wonder, how much of it can you change, even if you've spent your whole life with those 'disabilities'.

For example, one thing I find difficult: Continuity. I keep starting and - often accidentally - abandoning things. Which again, might be true for most people. But it is anyway something I struggle with. It is linked to other things. Being interested in too many things, wanting to do everything. Not being able to say 'No'. Not because I find it awkward to say No to somebody, but because I actually want to do everything. And the result of it is, to not be achieving much. There's an interesting concept of a 'motivated underachiever', meaning people are motivated not to achieve.

I will finish this post now. The title might not make much sense, but I will leave it now. It is something I've been wanting to write about, and this entry is simply going to be the start of it. The thing is, programming and everything that goes with it take up a dispropertionately big part of my life. It will always be important if you do it as a job, but it is not that. It might not even have to be a bad thing, but I sometimes wonder how much sense it makes. Anyway, have to go now. To be continued.. ;)

This post was written 5 years ago, which in internet time is really, really old. This means that what is written above, and the links contained within, may now be obsolete, inaccurate or wildly out of context, so please bear that in mind :)
Tags: mind_stuff /

Just a small note

This post was written 5 years ago.
Mon, 09 May 2016
I feel a real urge to write though there is zero time now. I am about to go to work and it is already quite late.

It is just of all the habits I could introduce, writing seems to me the most valuable one, alongside running which I hope is an established habit by now. The past week I have let it slip a bit though, and that after I went on a 30k run last Sunday.

I spent a lot of the weekend making some CSS work, it was an interesting process, looking at the Semantic UI framework and also an application called Fractal which helps you to create a collection of components. I didn't use that yet, but it looks good. My endeavours to get a certain interface right, a very small thing, while not using a framework, was quite painful but ultimately worth it I think. I took inspiration from semantic UI, dropped in some grid styles and, at 2pm last night realised that I could write some decent CSS on top of that myself, without framework - even to just prototype.

Otherwise, it was the elections that were on my mind this weekend, and that should really have come first. I cannot write more now, hopefully more tonight. I am anyway happy for Marvin Rees to be the new Mayor of Bristol and wish him much luck.
This post was written 5 years ago, which in internet time is really, really old. This means that what is written above, and the links contained within, may now be obsolete, inaccurate or wildly out of context, so please bear that in mind :)
Tags: Bristol / coding /

Helping the slacker along

This post was written 5 years ago.
Fri, 22 Apr 2016
Three random things I've been thinking about during the last two weeks, possibly loosely connected.

Help versus support

I heard about this distinction first in an Osho video about bringing up children. I watched it last year after a friend had told me about her times as a sannyasin. It immediately made an impact, and I found I agreed. When parents help their children, it often means helping them along the way that the parents think is right. While the kinder thing to do would be to let the child find it's own way, and simply be there for them when they struggle. Listening to them, not giving directions. Support them when they need you, not help them when no help is asked for. This is an ideal, of course.

For me, there's a parallel with charity. Traditionally, the way charity is dispensed, is all on the terms of the giver, and while this way good things can be achieved, charity can lead to dependence, and damaging interference. And even when our intentions are good, do we always know what we are doing? I once read an interview with German theatre director Christoph Schlingensief where he said: "Why do we always want to help Africa, if we can't even help ourselves?"

I also just found this quote by George Sand: "Charity degrades those who receive it and hardens those who dispense it."

Slackerdom

The other day I found myself reading the Wikipedia entry about the term slacker and I was struck by how much I identified. And yes, I remembered right, it was my generation, 'generation X' that was called the 'slacker generation'. Not surprising we turned out that way. Spending our childhood at the tail end of flower power and anti-authoritarian education, who would have been there to drum any discipline into us? Except of course some parents or other figures of authority still did that, but not in my case.

It seems I was a somewhat gifted child. Not highly, but gifted enough to sail through school without so much as lifting a finger (leaving much space for, in turns, daydreaming and contemplating in depth my social inadequacies). Did anybody push me to make the most of my talents? Did I push myself? Nope. And thus a perfect slacker was made.

It is quite curious to be a slacker these days. It's unusual and totally counter the spirit of the times. Of course, I am not really a slacker anymore. But equally I cannot completely get it out of my system. Also - and here I honestly don't know if this is a good thing or bad - I might have already passed on a good portion of slackerdom to my children. But I must be careful not to label them here. Let's put it that way, if they ended up spending 5 hours a day training for the Olympics, they will not have got that from me. (I used to dream of being in the Olympics but somehow didn't make the connection that you'd actually have to work for it.)

As for me, I am trying to unslack myself a bit these days. I have already 'worked hard' many times previously, but the difficulty is knowing what a constructive working hard looks like, as opposed to just working long hours. But I am getting there.

On the other hand, I believe when enthusiasm finds the slacker, they can develop an enormous creativity, joy and tenacity, to a degree that a busy bee might not.

The thing is, as I've said before, I am very happy with where I am now. And though not an achievement in numbers, I can finally see it as an achievement no less. It is partly my inner slacker who's brought me here, so I've definitely made my peace with her.

Marathon training progress report

Good: I recently ran 17 km and did not feel very exhausted, I could have gone on. (But I did feel my legs the next day!) Bad: My speed is not improving. Also, I don't run as frequently as I should and as was the plan. I was meaning to run a half-marathon distance today. Instead I made a cake.

This post was written 5 years ago, which in internet time is really, really old. This means that what is written above, and the links contained within, may now be obsolete, inaccurate or wildly out of context, so please bear that in mind :)
Tags: slacker / marathon /

Starting the diary again

This post was written 5 years ago.
Sun, 10 Apr 2016
With this post, I will finally give up any ambition to turn this into a technical blog. - I do write about technical things, but elsewhere; currently mostly in form of discussion posts on github

I will pick up from where I left it, just before the end of 2015, and simply write about what occupies my mind. Mostly in the form of observations, ideas and questions. It won't be anything refined, more a scrapbook of ideas, and well, a diary.

I feel very ambivalent about the news, or rather newspapers and their websites. There is so much manipulation going on. I'd never claim I'm immune to it because I see through it. I know they will manipulate me and that's why I hesitate to expose myself to the news. I'd still like to know what is going on though. At the moment I learn about most news through Twitter. But there's of course a lot of filtering going on. I read this book 'The information diet' which points out ways how to counteract the bias, I think I should have a look at it again. It involves effort though to have a balanced intake, of course - just as with food.

So when I mention headlines, it will often be with some kind of irony and sense of absurdness.

For today, I'll just summarise our Easter holidays. They seemed very long somehow, and pretty active compared to other holidays. The kids spent loads of time outside playing with their friends. And I, I finally picked up my running again and I registered for the Rock'n Roll Liverpool marathon on 29 May.

My mum and sister were here for 5 days. We went to the Cheddar Gorge one day which was great. I also during that visit managed to see "Anomalisa" (with my sister) at the Watershed and, in the Bristol Old Vic theatre, "A long day's journey into Night" (with mum, sister and Matin). Both were strikingly little cheerful, but also brilliant, while I felt Anomalisa had some sexist overtones.

Especially Long day's journey made a huge impression on me. So much to relate to, so well observed. It also gave you some insight into American society in the early 20th century.

It seems like I have become vegetarian. My daughter had suggested going veggie for lent, and we both did, but I want to keep it up. I was astounded that I don't miss meat at all, and I really see no reason why I should go back then (I might still eat meat on occasions though, for example when invited somewhere, but will otherwise completely avoid it).

Also, I've set myself some challenges, which I might write more about some other time. Especially becoming a bit more organised. We will see how that goes..

I just wrote this whole post on my phone with the Jota text editor, then saved it to Dropbox. It worked so well. Regular posts might really be a possibility then!

This post was written 5 years ago, which in internet time is really, really old. This means that what is written above, and the links contained within, may now be obsolete, inaccurate or wildly out of context, so please bear that in mind :)
Tags: diary /