Just a small note

This post was written 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 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 /

Diary week c/ 22 November 2015

This post was written 7 years ago.
Fri, 27 Nov 2015
It is half past two on a Friday - that is, already Saturday - as I start writing. This will be short although I would have lots to write. But what I'd have to write is often difficult to express too. Mmh, why should I not, for a change, write about coding? Yes! So, two weeks ago we had our JavaScript workshop. I think it went quite well except for one quite annoying technical detail. The projector we were given had a lot of speckles on the lens which made the screen either look like a starry sky or splattered with dirt, depending on the background. It was really quite astounding. What had happened to it? Luckily it did not faze the speakers too much and they made sure that people were able to read by increasing the font-size etc. At least the wifi worked, apart from a brief glitch. The speakers and talks were amazing, and I enjoyed the whole thing even though I was the main organiser and always a bit on egde.

So now I am in the process of editing videos - that is, adding some screens at the beginning, which was fun to do in kdenlive. I am currently uploading the first one to Youtube, I am curious if it will work out well. Then I also want to do a writeup of the whole thing, as I have done the previous two years.

And then there is the biggie, I want to plan an exit strategy. I do not want to be the 'leader' of our CodeHub meetup any more. The funny thing is, I enjoyed being in the driving seat more than I'd have thought. It is just that I find certain aspects of this particular role really exhausting and emotionally draining. Part of the reason is that this whole thing is so personal. It really is a bit like a child to me, my baby, and I sometimes don't know where I end and CodeHub starts. There have been things that in themselves would not be more than annoying or stressful, but have triggered a total meltdown in my case (not in public, luckily). And it has taken up so much space in my mind that I don't actually get to the whole objective of why we founded this anymore: Learning new things and improving my programming. My mind was mostly so preoccupied with organisation (even when not actively organising a workshop) that I did not find the peace and quiet to just - code.

Another reason is that I honestly think I am not the best person to take it forward. I've since the beginning felt a bit out of my depth, especially when I realised that a lot of eperienced programmers, and also CompSci students signed up to the Meetup group. So I am neither particularly qualified on a technical level, nor do I command extraordinary social or marketing skills which could make up for that.

The question is just, will anybody want to do that? What do people see in CodeHub anyway? A lot of people must have been interested in the concept at some point because they signed up, but is that still the case? I myself totally believe in it anyway. Hands-on learning through your peers..

It is getting late.. to be continued..

--
tags: weekly_diary, codehub

This post was written 7 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 :)

Diary week c/ 15 November 2015

This post was written 7 years ago.
Mon, 16 Nov 2015
I still have not quite learned to jot down my thoughts in a notebook when they come. I have these whole narratives in my head sometimes, I decide to hang on to them and write them down later, but by the time I get to do that they are gone, of course. This one thing I remember though. I've been thinking to devide my entries into two halves. One dealing with what is going on around me - politics (global, national, local), communities, social life. The other one: things that go on in my head. As I can never become a fully factual (let alone, technical) writer, I might just as well embrace my focus on emotions, psychology, philosophy. The desperate attempt to lead a 'good' life in the double sense: To serve others and bring out the best in them as far as one can do that from the outside. And to live well, and this explicitly means experiencing both pleasurable as well as painful emotions - sometimes very painful ones. The whole range, but with a commitment to oneself, acceptance and compassion. I want to write more about that below. But as I decided to start with external events, I will begin with what has been on the news for days, the attacks in Paris.


Darkness and light

I never read up very much about the details. By now I have heard: One attack happened outside the football stadium, the suicide bombers did not manage to get inside, the bloodshed would have been much worse, had they managed. There was a friendly going on between France and Germany. The players heard the explosions outside, but kept focusing on the game. It turned out two of the French players would be affected. One lost a cousin, another one did not know for a while what had happened to his sister, in the end it turned out she managed to escape unscathed. The German team decided to stay in the stadion overnight and the French players out of solidarity stayed with them. I first heard this from my mum, and then again on the radio. It makes you feel so European. The French, our neighbours, not much different from us at all. Standing together, shoulder to shoulder. Even the English anti-French sentiment (as a German you sometimes hear "the ones that we really hate.."; are the French told the same thing I wonder?) will be nullified for now I reckon, when the French and English team play against each other in Wembley tomorrow.

But we need not only think of ourselves as Europeans but citizens of the world. What happened in France happens in other countries on a (almost?) daily basis. Some have pointed out - and I think it's a valid point - that Beirut a few days earlier, after a relatively stable period, saw similar attacks, and no sights around the world were illuminated in the colours of Lebanon. Nobody would expect that, but I can see how the outpouring of grief over French victims can leave a Lebanese person with the question: are our dead less worthy to be mourned? Are we worth less? Which might be exactly at the core of the problem, one of the reasons, why some people become radicalised.

Also, all this does not come out of the blue. We have for years lived very well, in part due to our weapons exports (at least Germany is pretty good at that, as the super exporting nation), benefitting from other countries being at war with each other, or engaged in civil war. We do not want to see our shadow sides anymore, the target is to be productive, and if we have too many negative feelings, we frantically look for a way out, we want to get rid of them, we numb them or medicate them away. I am generalising of course, but I do think there is a tendency to do that. The shadow sides exist elsewhere, in other countries, we project it all out there. We can give those people weapons, they are not us. Or we even fight a war against them, because they are evil and we are the shining light. We are the countries where the enlightenment happened, brighter, more cultural and civilised. Really?

I wish there could be a worldwide commitment to do away with weapons, and to become more aware. To not act on first emotions, not reason by emotion ("because I feel so intensely that things are this way, it must be true"), instead become aware of emotions, go through them and eventually let them go by. This is more difficult of course then just to continue hating somebody, for example. But I feel if we don't collectively learn to do that, all our weaponry will just get deadlier and deadlier and we might in the end very well just destroy ourselves. Our shadow, the monster we've helped to create, is coming back to haunt us already. How to deal with that monster, who knows what the best strategy is. In any case, we can't pretend it has nothing to do with us.

Sugar-coated pills

Somewhat related to the above, but more to the beginning of the post, some random thoughts on psychopharmaca I recently had:

I have often thought that too many people are prescribed antidepressants as a chronic treatment. I used to be a total believer in "you have to take them for at least half a year". Until somebody I know came off them much quicker.

It is a difficult path to walk. If medication can help somebody feel better, be more in charge, more functional and productive, should one deny that medication to them? Maybe not. Perhaps it is more important what choice that person themselves make. Because with milder forms of depression, I believe that it is a perfectly good choice to not take anything against it. And people should not be punished if they make that choice. If they are less successful, less productive, more tearful for a while, would that be so bad? The thing is, a state of relative unhappiness might be telling you something. If you elevate your mood artificially and become really productive, you might be missing a message.

I have not had a major depression for 18 years now. What I do have though is an often 'dysthymic' disposition. Low moods, low confidence, many tears. I feel ocasionally de-pressed, you could perhaps even call it depressive; but this depressive means 'like in a depression' and not actually in a depression. I also find myself tense and stressed quite frequently, and sometimes my body seems to turn into a Cortisol factory. I can feel it. If you believe this book, if I took Prozac or any other SSRI, there's a good chance I'd become much more stable and confident. I could very likely achieve more, be more productive. But I'd not choose to do that.

I wanted to write more about this, but it is simply getting to late now! Good-bye and good night.

This post was written 7 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 :)

Diary week c/ 02 November 2015

This post was written 7 years ago.
Sat, 07 Nov 2015
A lot going on at the moment. One good thing: After an absolute low-point in the middle of the week, my outlook is a lot more positive now. I have also decided to not be as self-indulgent to mention any potential newly-arrising crises too much anymore, unless I see in them a pattern that might apply to people in general. There's simply no point otherwise. No lamenting!


Goals

  • After having convinced myself I should 'resign' from running CodeHub before the end of the year, I think now I want to give it a go a bit longer. I'd like to take the bull by the horns and deal with what I find most difficult. Asking people for help by sponsoring us with a venue and/or food. Or we really go to a fuction room in a pub again. People used to do that all the time.
  • Run a marathon end of May next year
  • Revamp my little advent calendar

Not that much for now, will have to revisit that. I am just so tired!

The thwarted contribution

I mainly put this here, because I had this heading in the draft.. Talking of generally applicable patterns, this is something I was reminded of recently. I had seen it mentioned in Barbara Oakley's book. One of the most hurtful things in life is when you actually want to contribute something, but your contribution is not accepted, is not deemed worthy. OR you set youself some strange barriers, prohibitions, or keep self-sabotaging yourself into not achieving anything of worth to others. The latter often follows the first, I reckon.

This post was written 7 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: weekly_diary /

Diary week c/ 26 October 2015

This post was written 7 years ago.
Mon, 26 Oct 2015

This is going to be very short this time. Unfortunately, I am also not in the best mood at the moment. I feel failure is imminent. A failure to keep up the good faith in something and thereby make it work.

Although while I am writing this, perhaps, just perhaps, some strength is returning.

And still, there is a continuous undercurrent. Something sapping at my confidence day by day. When I met my husband, that was a time, one of just a few periods in my life, when I actually was confident. Compared to that, what is going on now? Rather, has been going on for years, on and off? Wtf? Wtf? Arggghhhhhhh.

There is something quite liberating about writing like that. Because it is a taboo right? I am writing personal things on my personal blog, and I am admitting that I struggle. In particular, I struggle with my confidence. The thing is, I'd so so much hoped I'd be over this, because I am really fed up with even thinking about this, and then talking to other people about it and so on, and so on.

But what if this is actually not even my problem? What if this is every other woman's problem, and what if it is every other man's problem, too? What if we live in a fucking bonkers time where every half-ways sane person, who happens to be a bit sensitive (I've come to adore those less sensitive, those who can be a rock to others), is struggling to cope? The thing is, I am not that important of course, and I know it. And what is my struggle compared to that of a refugee woman stranded in Lesbos in the wind and rain, with no food and no clothes and shoes for her children? What on earth is going on? And this is happening with the world looking on. There was an article in the HuffPost, all I could think is, is this really true? Can this really be? This is happening? And then beheadings are happening, too, in other parts of the world. What kind of world is this? - Then I read somebody saying the West is paralysed in its guilt. Tony Blair apologised. This must be one of the most pointless apologies ever to have been.

So with all this going on, it would be great if people managed to "pull together" and somehow turn this ship on the brink of chaos around. There are of course many good people helping with the refugees all over Europe, also many good people in Germany. Unfortunately, there are a lot of pretty awful people in Germany, too, and then there are people who become frightened, just because their certanties are being taken away, and they start looking for culprits and are all too willing to direct their hatred against people unfamiliar to them. This is so sad.

And in any case, it is just hard to find a rational, totally adequate reponse to the drama unfolding that everybody can just take part in. So much misinformation, and so many unknowns.

And really, what about the underlying causes. How could the Middle East have become this utter mess it is now. Even as a not very political person, I must come to the conclusion that yes, the West is to blame at least partly. If our political elites create such a mess, how on earth can we ever hope they will get people out of it?



Book Corner - Erica Jong!

Tonight I went to an event to see a woman who could actually act as quite an antidote to my or anybody else's despair. It is always a bit risky to meet your heroes, but I can say in this case my admiration is fully intact, if it has not even grown. What is so special about her? Foremost perhaps the honesty. But then of course, her wit and her convictions. And I really liked what she had to say about feminism as a movement that started in the 18th century and is not just about the liberation of women but is connected with the liberation of any minority group, and also the liberation of men (she said that a little differently I think). Also the very poignant observation that the most repressed group in the population is - children.

It is getting late now, so I will stop. As a closing line, perhaps I will just keep thinking of fearful but courageous Erica Jong whenever I feel down. Also because, among the many things that I always find lacking in myself, courage is something I have occasionally had, so I can relate to that as my role model.


This post was written 7 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 :)

Diary week c/ 12 October 2015

This post was written 7 years ago.
Mon, 12 Oct 2015
Instead of concluding the past week with my entry, I am starting the following. Just like I have a habit of arriving everywhere exactly five minutes late (if I can afford it).

Newish job

So it's Monday, and I have been working at Wiredmedia. Starting a job there a month ago has been an entirely positive thing. It was on the cards, I had really wanted to work in a team again. And it makes a huge difference, even more than I would have thought. It's great because the job is something I can do and I enjoy, and at the moment I am mainly getting faster and more efficient. This does not happen much when I work on my own, as I keep doing so many different things that there is not much of a routine being established ever.

A weird conflict

Conflicts in a family where people essentially love each other, strike me as being really weird. What better way to highlight the human condition. We just cannot totally understand one another. In fact, the question is, how far can we ever progress on the path to understanding what another person thinks and feels. I just realised that the thing one can most easily empathise with is probably physical pain, even though we cannot even be sure there, if another person feels it the same way as us. Thoughts and complex emotions? Hmm. Not much of a chance I think!

So, I have this thing going on in my family of origin, a discussion about politics/current affairs that's gone totally acerbic (and I know I have some part in it; but I wonder if I am as guilty as some people make it out to me - at least judging from the attacks that are being launched at me; I am used to these attacks too by now, actually, although I will never get used to them; a person who can't face criticism has no other way of reacting to even the slightest sign of - perceived - criticsm than by lashing out against the 'opponent', it seems)

Taming my horses

I had recently started to fall back into a really bad habit. That of staying up till really late at night. I love it soo much! It's funny, it has more appeal to me than any kind of drug could have. Maybe my brain creates a sort of drug. The stillness; being undisturbed, just drifting along, reading a good book perhaps, or following some links to blog posts. Or coding. Although I don't do the latter as much anymore. I did start some online courses, which is quite a nice way of doing something relating to code, without too much danger of going down the rabbit holes of a project.

By taming my horses I mean that I always want to do too many things at one, and I keep starting new things before having finished the old ones. Sometimes that feels like I am being pulled into a lot of different directions, when I could make much more progress if I aligned my forces to all go in one direction. Still, I find now, if you just accept that you won't finish a lot of things (or won't finish them anytime soon), instead of beating yourself up about it, it can actually be quite an agreeable state to be in. I am never bored, that's for sure. It just shouldn't be too many things, and there should be a continued effort with some.

So, I want to keep a record of some things that I actually want to follow through with. Things where I find it's important not to abandon them. Currently, that's:
  • Writing this blog (ha!)
  • Updating websites relating to CodeHub and applying for sponsoring for the JS workshop
  • Learning JavaScript, on my own, and with the JS101 study group

  • There's probably a lot of other things that I have forgotten about, but will hopefully dig out by and by

Book Corner

I just started reading a very gripping book by Barbara Oakley, whom I actually first came across because she co-hosted an online course on Learning how to learn. The book Coldblooded kindness is about the true story of a woman whith quite an unusual mind, extreme artistic talent and an urge to 'fix' people or at least look as if she was doing so. She killed her third husband with a handgun while he was drugged. There is some scientific background about empathy that I find really interesting. Also 'victimisation' and the 'sancticity of the victim' really interesting concepts. - Food for thought for me who used to see myself as a victim a lot, although I have thankfully almost entirely stopped that now. The book also highlights for me how relatively common gun delicts are in the USA, as there is another gun crime mentioned in the book which happened to a group of people connected with the protagonist.

This post was written 7 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: weekly_diary / books /

A weekly diary for the rest of the year

This post was written 7 years ago.
Sat, 03 Oct 2015
So, this is a simple challenge. Except, I don't know if it will be simple for me. It could be, or it could be not. The chances are 50/50. Writing is very important to me. But there was a time when it was the scariest thing for me. Writing something that would (perhaps) be read by others. That old fear occasionally resurfaces, and my control over it is limited. Then part of the challenge is maybe to learn to live with that discomfort. In any case, one post per week. That's the deal.

At the moment change is the only constant, and I thought it might be good to keep a record of some of what is going on. This stretches from the world of politics and economy, both on a global and national level, to the local communities that I am part of, my personal life and myself. (The change might not be massive in all cases though, and have more to do with my perception of things)

I'll start with an — incomplete — collection of things that are on my mind these days. Things that I observe with some interest, that cause me headaches or heartaches, or just sit there clamouring for attention and a solution of some kind. I start shifting pieces and numbers around in my mind, and it feels like a real-life three-dimensional Sudoku. What chances are there of ever solving anything? Perhaps the art is to restrict the solution-finding to very little things, and otherwise just try to live a half-decent live, without being on some kind of I-need-to-save-the-world mission. Observing things is a start, paying attention, and asking questions perhaps.

(Money) politics

There are a few recent events that I found striking in that a while ago I would not have thought them possible. Especially these two:
  • The Greeks voting "No" to the conditions imposed on them by the Eurogroup
  • The election of Jeremy Corbyn as the Labour leader with a majority of 60%; somebody who has principles and speaks their mind
In addition to that, it seems to me that there is a turning. Something gathering momentum. More and more people getting fed up with austerity politics and refusing to be sold that to them anymore as "we are all in this together". Honestly, who on earth would ever believe that? I am fully aware that there are still big enough numbers of well-off people who want to cling to the Status quo, so that we will not see the end of the Tories soon. And yet, my hope is that they will be gradually held in check more. Yes, Corbyn will probably not be elected Prime minister, but I think he will be fully capable of providing a strong opposition.

When the Greeks said No, I started following the reporting of Paul Mason, and eventually read his book "Postcapitalism". It made a big impression on me, and I hope to post a review of it at some point. There is something so sane and truthful about it. It is also a book that conviction and a deep interest in the matter has gone into. I am quite sure it is not a book written for the sake of making money, and it is not following some kind of blueprint.

The idea of an unconditional basic income has been floated for a while now, and in Germany the owner of a ubiquitous drugstore chain is passionately pushing it which I hope will help it gain traction — I also just realised that Switzerland will even hold a referendum on it in 2016!. I think when it comes, it will not make things easier for most people. Status anxiety will remain, and the freedom to choose might even add pressure. But it would end poverty and that is absolutely a good enough reason to introduce it.

By coincidence yesterday we watched television, which we do extremely rarely, and there happened to be Brian Eno on, giving a John Peele lecture. I did not even know these lectures existed, and I would not have thought of Brian Eno as somebody who gives lectures. Interestingly, part of it was exactly about the subject of postcapitalism and he did even mention Paul Mason's book. Before that he said something about Art which I found quite beautiful: Art is the "things that we don't have to do". And we will all produce more art, professionally or otherwise, as automation progresses. I also liked how he said that after art college he "went on the dole, because I was desperate to not get a job, because I feared I would not get out of the job anymore" The one thing I felt a bit uncomfortable with was when he said that refugees "wanted a share" of our wealth. The very last sentence of the programme, in a response to a question, was something similar again. Of course a lot of people want to come to Europe for economic reasons, but those would not be called refugees?

The growing power of women

This is somewhat connected to the first point, as I think women will play a big role in political and social change. There is so much untapped potential at the moment. For me, the way in which women have been silenced, and out of convention or habit often remain silent themselves, is one of the biggest challenges in that respect. That silence is something that does not only apply to women, of course, but to any oppressed group. It is unfortunate, because it often means that an intelligent, knowledgeable and well-meaning part of a group does not exert their power, ceding the playing field to the bullies. But once we recognize that the only reason the bullies have power is because of the silence of a big fraction, if we manage to empower that fraction of the group, all is not lost.

For me true feminism is so valuable because I had to come round to it, I had to be converted to it, I did not really know for a long time what it was. I have for so long looked to men to "rescue" me, to teach me, to make me feel good. And somehow not seen just how many brilliant, kind, fantastic women are out there. I still like men, there are as many good men as there are women. But their outlook is different on the whole (by the culture they have been brought up with, they are much more competitive and more status-oriented), and the women — as a group, of course there are exceptions, women can be power-hungry too — can bring something else to the table, something that is much needed. I just heard an interview with Erica Jong, in which she said that native Americans had a "council of grandmothers" who decided whether to go into a fight. While it was the men who did the fighting, it was the grandmothers who decided. They knew what was at stake, the value of life, because they had given birth (those were not her exact words, but it was something along those lines).

Becoming more effective

Then there is my personal progress. I will devote some space to that too. Being a woman and considering the above, I wonder in how far I can have a voice, whether my voice is of value and so on. The thing is, if you can call this blooming at all, I am a late-bloomer of the highest order. I feel I have missed some boats, career-wise and skills-wise, in the sense that I won't become as good at something anymore as my talents would have allowed me to become, had I started earlier (and been less bogged down in self-doubt!). But in some cases, I don't know if that is just a feeling or actually the truth. And then, the truth is such an abstract thing anyway. Better to cultivate a "growth mindset" and just work on the things you like. Whether they live up to some impossibly high standard, is that really an important question? I don't think so. I have a lot more choice than I think. And I want to see if I can utilize my voice in a good way.

There is much more of course, but I will have to leave it to another time!

This post was written 7 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 :)

Responsive Day Out

This post was written 7 years ago.
Tue, 23 Jun 2015
Last Friday, Responsive Day Out ("The final breakpoint") happened in Brighton, and I was glad that I had the opportunity to go there. I had listened to recordings of the previous years, but being in Brighton, hearing the talks live, catching the athmosphere and talking to other attendees is something quite different.

Quite a few talks touched on things that I had been thinking about or experiencing recently. Especially, the difficulty of naming things, and that of being a generalist. On the technical side, there was the responsive images spec which I had recently got to try out, and web components. Flexbox is for now remaining a black box to me — but that will hopefully change soon. The power of CSS selectors for applying style decisions was fascinating, as well as some of the new web APIs.

I really liked the mix of the technical, and the psychological/philosophical. There was an exchange in the first chat (after every three talks there was a brief discussion with the three speakers) that highlighted for me how the respective challenges differ. Jeremy Keith asked "Are the trickier problems the human problems?" to which Alice Bartlett, the first speaker, replied: "People problems are harder to reason about. They are also more likely to provoke an emotional response. Solving a technical problem is more satisfying, and you can more easily brag about it" I believe this to be very true, and it might explain why so many problems between people go unresolved for long times.

The first two talks where about accessibility, and this was also a topic in later talks. I really liked the idea in Alice Bartlett's presentation, of reframing accessibility not in terms of abilities that users lack, but what the service can provide. I imagine that means for example each site should have the option to be operated via keyboard, instead of saying "we need to be accessible to people who have motor difficulties". Rachel Shilcock talked about her experiences of designing with accessibility in mind, and mentioned a lot of good resources, for example HTML Codesniffer and tota11y which can be used as bookmarklets to get information about a site. Also, Contrast ratio by Lea Verou, and Color Oracle.

Naming things and modularity is hard


Alma Kholmatova gave an impressive talk about Futurelearn's approach to create a common, modular design language. "Modularity appears simple, but to implement it takes radical changes". Creating a controlled vocabulary was in her experience one of the most useful exercises. At Futurelearn, there is an ongoing effort to name things in a way that avoids duplication, but is also meaningful.

I was also very impressed by Peter Gasston's talk about web components (Slides), which had a lot of technical information while also providing background about their relative significance, and alternative techniques that achieved similar things (React, BEM, and the new ES6 modules in Javascript). Web components leave the developer with much responsibility. Because of the limitless possibilities they open up, it is also possible to make very bad ones. Which basically means, many bad ones will be created — see Sturgeon's revelation There is a gold standard which developers should adhere to "This is a big opportunity. We need to get it right."

Responsive images are here


Responsive Images have landed! Jason Grigsby said he could not let go of them, because they were interesting puzzles (Slides). "I've been obsessed with them for five years". I had only marginally followed the discussions about different proposals for the markup of image and picture element, but if I remember right it was a very heated debate. But the solution that came out of it, is really very good I think. The key thing is that all the hard work can be left to the browser. With srcset and sizes attributes of the image element, we can state rules as to which image should be used at which viewport width, and how much space it should occupy horizontally. Browsers are starting to support the new elements. If not, there is a picturefill, and with the img element there is always the src attribute to fall back to. "The picture element is progressive enhancement for images". There were interesting considerations about how to determine the breakpoints for switching between resolutions. For example, the difference in memory usage needed for resizing images, is much higher when it comes to large images, so it would make sense to put more breakpoints in at the higher end than lower.

photo last chat on stage at responsive conference
Heydon Pickering and Jake Archibald were both, in different ways, concerned with too much reliance on JavaScript. Heydon showed how much can be done with CSS selectors, which was fascinating. It comprised a lot of nth-child selectors (but not only!), and prime numbers (Slides).

Jake Archibald took an existing web app, talky.io and demonstrated how it could be improved by not having all the JavaScript being downloaded upfront, but rather asynchronously in the background. The original capability of websites, to be viewed while resources were still being downloaded, is often compromised by too many resources being loaded in a blocking way. He also showed how web workers can be used to make apps work offline, using his app SVGOMG as an example. An image I won't forget so soon: A sad disused web worker slowly disappearing into the mist. ;)

Ruth John on the other hand, demonstrated new web APIs. In this case it can actually be beneficial to switch from CSS to JavaScript, as for example with the animation API, you get a lot more control than with CSS animations. I had not even heard of many of the new APIs, for example the ambient light API. Most of them are not yet supported that well in most browsers, but as long as their functioning is not critical for the use of a website, there is of course no harm playing around with them.

Zoe Mickley-Gillenwater showed how flexbox can be used for progressive enhancement. She works for Booking.com where content inside box elements can vary widely in size. It is very beneficial in that case that with flexbox you can design without units. This is, I suppose, again an example of how a lot of the hard work — calculating where which layout should be used — can be left to the browser.

The virtuous generalist


The last three people presenting were Rosie Campbell, Lyza Gardner and Aaron Gustafson. What their talks had in common was the perspective that constraints and challenges, whether they are given by the medium or self-imposed, can actually aid creativity. Rosie Campbell presented exploratory research at the BBC around smart wallpaper, and Aaron Gustafson looked at what the future will bring in terms of accessibility and possibilities of new devices. He predicted that speech will become more important than touch as a way of operating devices, and hit home that in reality everbody has special needs when accessing the web which echoed the first talks of the day.

But perhaps the talk that most struck a chord with many in the audience, and certainly with me, was Lyza Gardner's. It was a talk about the wonder and the struggle of doing stuff on the web. The joy of finding out how to build stuff, followed by the need to keep up with new developments and ever changing demands and possibilities. How easy it is to feel overwhelmed by it all, and how easy also to dismiss what one actually knows and can do.

But I guess the main theme was how we should celebrate how much we actually do when we keep learning new things, evaluating, organising, synthesizing new knowledge. "We reserve our admiration for those how do one thing extremely well", but we should acknowledge the skill we have in learning new technologies and adapting to an ever changing environment. - Except we might not always feel we actually manage so well. But then we should still be aware of all the things we do do.

I feel many things I have heard will influence me when I go back to work, it will be interesting to see in what ways.

Thanks to everybody who made this happen, in particular Jeremy Keith and the speakers.
This post was written 7 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 :)