Merry Christmas

What did you want this year
… and get?

Too much.

As I was wrapping up my work email for the holiday break yesterday, thumbing through my last few messages, a long thank you note rolled in from the president of a company with which my team does a significant amount of business.

It concluded with a bit of an explanation:

“We had thought about sending out our usual gift baskets this year,” he wrote, “ but with the logistics of everyone working from home we decided not to do that.”

”Instead,” he continued, “we have made a large donation to the food bank in the names of all our clients.”

I remember in past years when over the last week before the Christmas break a few big boxes of chocolates or candies would appear and everyone would pick away at them as the last few days wound down to vacation. As much as I know the work I do is appreciated by some, the mundane and behind-the-scenes nature of being a technology professional means a lot of it also goes unnoticed. It’s nice to be appreciated, and a bix box of treats definitely helps.

It’s a weird thing to miss, but then again there a lot of things missing these days, huh?

I hit the reply button and typed something back, thanking him and wishing him a Merry Christmas.

We miss the sweets, but most of us are doing the kind of work we do to make the world a more interesting place, not for the Christmas baskets.

I got too much of the things I thought I wanted this past year, but seeing a simple little gesture like that, as basic and seemling obvious as it is reminded me that what I really wanted this year was for the world to be a little gentler, more caring, and generous to each other.

So, I guess I got a little of that, at least.

Thirty one topics. Thirty one posts. Not exactly a list… but close. In December I like to look back on the year that was. My daily posts in December-ish are themed-ish and may contain spoilers set against the backdrop of some year-end-ish personal exposition.

Not Created Equal

Not all websites are created equally.

Take this site. As a real estate analogy, this is a cabin in the woods. This blog is the digital version of a weekend getaway, stuffed with comforts and curiosities, eclectic bits of cookware, and eccentric tchotchkes piled onto the shelves to add an atmosphere of warmth while still giving it all a human touch.

What made your job
interesting in 2021?

On the other hand, the website that I oversee for work is a large glass-paneled government skyscraper downtown, with elevators speeding between the floors and strict rules for how the queues to each service desk are designed, and careful attention to detail given to the colors of the wall paint and the placement of the signage pointing out everything from the washrooms to the lost and found to the exit.

I don’t write about my work, at least not often, because there is such a stark contrast between what I am paid to build over there and what I build for fun over here.

And I think buried in that explanation is a little of what makes my job interesting, too.

Not everyone understands websites, and less so do people understand the vast chasm of differences that are buried beneath the design, purpose and function of those websites. Maybe that is a broad assumption, but I see evidence of such a conjecture if not daily, then multiple times per week.

We need to think more like Starbucks. Someone will say.

I reply that Okay, yes… we can learn from Starbucks but Starbucks is a little shop on the corner that sells coffee and fills its humbly lit spaces with warm, inviting leather chairs and groovy popular jazz. We are required to use plastic seating and provide ample lighting. How can we translate that vibe into something useful?

The analogy breaks down quickly, obviously.

People see something that works and while they are not wrong in the simplification, they are also often unaware that there is a huge gap — technically, functionally, even philosophically — between what our corporate website does versus what Facebook does versus what that food delivery app does versus what a little blog in the winter wilderness (quietly run by one and the same person as the first) is meant to be… and do… and say.

And in that they are not wrong but merely interested in a design problem, the part of my job that becomes interesting in return is attempting to take the energy of such a vision and translating it into a plan for someone else to write code that can be uploaded and integrated and activated into a tool that, say, sells bus fares with the same fluidity that Starbucks dispenses lattes.

Meanwhile, I can write and say and post and design this little cabin in the wilderness exactly the way I want to. Right here. Warm, cozy, curious, and inviting.

Thirty one topics. Thirty one posts. Not exactly a list… but close. In December I like to look back on the year that was. My daily posts in December-ish are themed-ish and may contain spoilers set against the backdrop of some year-end-ish personal exposition.

Work-Life-Balance

I’ve had a busy week.

While this blog tends to be a great outlet for me to find some balance between my time at my desk and my time in real world, sometimes that balance tips too far to one side and I find myself sitting on a Friday evening with not much to write about because I haven’t done much worth writing about over the past week.

Today is kinda like that.

Balancing Screen Time

With dozens of readers coming to this blog every day you may be wondering why I still need to work.

But seriously.

I have a great job with lots of flexibility for time off and to live a life where I can sleep in my own bed every night. I’m grateful for that.

That said … said job is ninety-five percent spent in front of a screen.

So you blog in your free time? You ask. On a screen?

I enjoy having a place where I can be myself and do something similar that I do for others, but do that thing for myself. But yes, not every day do I find myself savoring the idea of another few minutes in front of another screen.

How does one balance?

Balance comes from a having a plan, or so I find. Balance is the result of having something to do that pulls you away from the easy thing to do … too easy, like flipping open your phone and scrolling, or flicking the remote and queuing up the next streaming show.

Balance comes from doing the things that you need to do in proportion to the things you want to do. Not everyone has that luxury, of course, but it is something that we all seek and for many a thing that we will spend much of our lives working for, looking for, striving for.

I’m here on a Friday afternoon after completing a very long list of things I needed to do.

Meetings. Reports. Emails. Managing.

I’m hoping my weekend holds an equitable list of things I want to do.

Wandering. Cooking. Running. Creating.

That’s my work-life balance.

Kinda Secret Projects

I haven’t been entirely forthcoming with my friends and family.

In fact, there are very few people who I know in real life who also know that I write in this blog.

Maybe… say… five people.

I have no real good reason for not self-promoting other than that I wasn’t ready yet. Creativity and personal expression, particularly as you get older, is this balancing act between newfound not giving any effs, and realizing that your interests are straying further and further from popular culture and mass market interests. There is also the whole risk equation tied back to personal and professional reputation, but that’s a blog post for another day.

Also, simply, I wanted to get my legs stable under me before I went telling everyone that “hey, look over here… I’ve been writing a blog you should all check out!”

I’ve done that more than once in my life. Posting to the internet for twenty years often means you’ve racked up many projects and over-tapped the good will of friends and family.

I’m not the only one who does this … is doing this kinda-secret-project thing right now … or so I found out.

One of my colleagues, a guy who reports to the same boss as I do, revealed to the team yesterday that his New Year’s resolution made and kept was to start a podcast.

He has posted nearly twenty episodes of a self-produced audio program… in secret… since the start of the year. The link went low-grade viral around the office chatter and I think he multiplied his subscriber rate by insert-coworker-count-here… speaking of, ahem, professional reputation.

I was momentarily tempted to stick my hand up and say “hey, wanna read my blog anyone?” but the moment passed and he was in his moment, and maybe mine will come, too.

Or whatever.

I’m kinda enjoying my kinda secret project for now.