Better late than never? Originally this blog was posted on Friday, 31 December 2010 www.ersatzowl.com, a site I spent some effort trying to balance between a personal and professional blogging replacement to this space. It never really happened. Instead, I moved this over on May 6, 2011 and backdated it so it fits nicely into the flow. So, there it is. Just so you know.
One year ago I was eagerly preparing for the New Year. In the context of my former blog, this meant my annual, lengthy, evaluation of the year gone past. I’d done this for five years running, an-annual-and-ever-more-extended retrospective, a summary of my aspirations and accumulations, successes and failures. And in the month leading up to its publication, I’d spend more than a few hours pouring through the details of what I’d written and attempt to polish my prose for that delicate revelation of my deepest and most-heartfelt sentiments.
I don’t write that blog anymore. And, it seems, I don’t really write much at all online anymore. I’d like to correct that trend next year.
My New Year’s resolve then, might be, could be, should be to move this site – ersatzowl.com – to a new plane of existence. I’m no longer consulting, and no longer looking for work, but I think I’d like this site to remain something of a professional development nexus for me, a site to continue this conversation, whatever that happens to be, with the universe. In that way, I’m going to set out a modified version of that past-blog tradition and start a new list here as a kick-off to the re-invention of 2011, this new page, and yet another new direction on this site and its blog. And I’m going to start that with just ten questions.
The First Annual (but Sixth-Fold-Re-Invented) ErsatzOwl New Years List
First, what are you leaving behind in 2010? (q.2010)
A career path. Colleagues. Projects. Ideas. Ideologies. Hang ups. Certainties. Uncertainties. A vague feeling of self-importance coupled with a lingering taste of self-doubt. Independent anonymity. Friends. Sanity. Clarity. And, most importantly and realistically, a grandmother.
How did you make money in 2010? How might you briefly describe to others what you do for a living? (q.2010)
This was a year of transition for me. For the first few months of the year I was a contracted project manager, closing out the dwindling remains of a suite of website projects I’d designed, launched, adapted, promoted, coddled, repaired, rebuilt, re-launched, and defended. For about five months I was paid to write final reports, hone and stretch budgets, and box up five years worth of work while knowing there was nothing in particular waiting for me at the other end. For six months following that, I was a meagerly paid independent contractor, begging small bits of work from a handful of great-to-work-with companies who gave me a shot to contribute to their efforts. I worked from home or nearby cafes, toted my computer everywhere I went, and lived through the fragile connection of my smart-phone while designing websites and interfaces, graphics, icons, logos, and digital imagery for an hourly rate. For the last month of the year I’ve assumed the role of a salaried, municipal government web architect. I ride the train to work. I’ve been given a desk, a phone, a cell phone, a computer, and the keys to a very big, very elaborate, and (presumably) very expensive website for whose informational-structure and user-friendliness I am now largely — and in some ways, solely — responsible. Some days this means lots of strategic thinking, like charting, planning, and meeting with people while we plan elaborate new or revised sections of the site. Other days, this means grunt work, like clicking the mouse a thousand times to make sure hundreds of links connect exactly where they are supposed to connect when a new page is added or an old page deleted.
What do you wish you’d done more of? Less of? (q.2010)
Running. For both questions, running. Running consumed my summer. I ran hundreds of kilometers this year. I gave up weekends, burned through evenings, ached away entire days following brutal training mornings, and then ran two half marathons… but just adequately. I ran altogether too much in that part of me feels as though I ran away the summer missing activities that might have been more interesting than plodding through the same city streets. But then another part feels as though I ran altogether too little, having insufficiently trained myself to extend my body to that goal I had been so set upon reaching. I ran too much, aching still, ankle sore, and legs heavy, even as the deep days of winter see me taking longer and longer breaks. But still, too little as all that effort is little more than a blip of unsustainable fitness in the wake of a break from the training. Running. More and less. Yes.
How would you describe the world from your perspective in terms of: (q.2010)
a) technology? Diverging. Devices no longer want to do the everything we were once so wildly promised. They are all amazing, slick, and innovative, but some mostly let us consume content, while others mostly let us create content. It speaks volumes.
b) culture? Modularizing. Subcultures seem to be folding into themselves while the zeitgeist of this place and time gets harder and harder for me to define and wrap my mind around. People no longer seem broad and wide, they seem deep and narrow. This could be interesting, or divisive — or maybe both. And I haven’t yet decided if I’m happy about that.
c) politics? Micromanaging. In the wash of so many who don’t seem to understand government we seem to have elected folks who are now acting more like employed folks. Think about that for a minute. This is not how democracy works. It is both the reason the news is interesting (in a bad way) and the reason I had to get a new job (also, in a bad way.)
d) philosophy? Anomie or nihilistic. I think it’s been a tough year for a lot of people everywhere, and folks are just starting to say what-the-f while they get on with the grittiness of their lives.
e) prospects? Wary. In the wash of a year of so many dashed hopes, fallen dreams, and revealed realities, I think people seem generally more wary of the world, and uncertain of where we’ll all wind up. Sometimes, I think that’s a good thing. People take more risks, good and bad, in uncertain times.
What three experiences will always remind you of 2010? (q.2010)
1) Flipping a Switch, wherein a number of projects I’d worked on both personally and professionally were shut down, turned off, and concluded due to a complex array of private and public reasons. It isn’t necessarily a happy way to remember the year, but when I started 2010 my web-based landscape was very different from how I’m ending it.
2) NaNoWriMo 2010, wherein I plotted, planned, and actually wrote a front-to-back, fully-readable, fifty-thousand word novel between November first, and the last weekend of the month. It was called “Jack, Cubed” and is a modern, information-technology-heavy spin on Jack and the Beanstalk.
3) Interviewing, wherein I put my best face forward and sold myself (many times successfully) as both a contractor and employee, doing that most dreaded thing to most any introvert, talking about myself and my talents to strangers in the desperate hope of getting someone to pay me for my personality and skills.
What was your biggest achievement of the year? Failure? (q.2010)
A diligent but temporary effort at something called Mezzaverse Beta which was my own creation and my own stab at digital comics. Was it a success or a failure? Yes, no, and it depends on the perspective. It was a success because I took a concept and implemented it as nearly twenty fully-realized cartoon strips, drawn completely by me in a digital environment, using a piece of software I taught myself to use so well it later became the foundation of a contract I accepted and completed. It was a failure because I took a break from it and never went back: the site is still there with the message that I’ve taken a short break (and I’ll be back soon) — which is something of an exaggeration. It all depends, though, because it what I got out of it, what others got from it, and what it taught me about art, stories, graphics, and design were invaluable and transcended just the simplicity of the project itself, even though I have my doubts on if I’ll return to the project, sad as that is. So, was it a success or a failure? The answer: yes.
Did you travel? Where? (q.2010)
Budgets being what they were, we didn’t get too far until right at the end of 2010 when my daughter’s grandparents treated us all to a five star tropical vacation. In fact, I’m writing this less than forty-eight hours after returning from a full-family, week-long, first-class jaunt to the Caribbean and a glorious, tropical, sea-side, adventure-laden stay at an all-inclusive resort near Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. (And, let me just say, it was a harsh smack by reality to emerge from the plane into minus twenty Celsius Central Alberta.) Such trips, I considered and confirmed this past week, work best when one sets one’s mind towards an existentialist philosophical bend, letting things happen as they will and expecting nothing but the paradoxical unexpectedness of such trips wash over one’s days. I swam with a shark, I caught a twenty-ish pound mahi-mahi from the back of a small bobbing boat, I snorkeled around a reef, and spent more hours than I can count floating in the salty water off the resort beach. I planned none of it. I expected none of it. I anticipated little of it. And, I took it all in exactly as it was handed to me. It was great.
What three websites/movies/songs/stories/art will likely remind you of 2010? (q.2010)
1) Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is that song, you know, about the “Biggest Word You Ever Heard” sung by Mary Poppins in the 1960s movies by the same name. It’s also been sung by my three-year old daughter, daily, for the last few months. Would I ever have guessed that a three-year-old could pronounce that word? Not likely. But determination can lead to a lot of interesting things.
2) “Toy Story 3” came out this year in theatres, and while it was an okay-ish-flick, it had two significant connections that will forever anchor it in my mind. First, it was the movie where I deep-down realized I dislike 3D movies: a headache-inducing, cost-inflating, value-detracting gimmick, nothing more. And second, and more importantly, it was my daughter’s first movie theatre experience replete with popcorn, candy, and lots and lots of curiosity-triggered questions.
3) Heads-with-legs. Look up the research on children’s drawing of human figures, and one will find any number of discussions on theories of why kids draw heads-with-legs. My daughter drew countless in the last few months, and just this morning gave me a colorful version of the same (for my office) with two heads-with-legs leaning together, a shorter figure nuzzled up beside a taller figure. “This is you and me on daddy-day.” She told me. How could that not be memorable?
What was the best book or story that you read and what was your greatest literary discovery for 2010? (q.2010)
Sadly, I didn’t read nearly as much as I would have liked this year. I did stumble across a few interesting books thanks to the wide variety of digital book readers to which I’ve suddenly had access but largely I‘ve stuck with re-reading some of the stuff I’d already read in years past. It was a kind of comfort-thing, going back to the familiar and wanting something firm to hold onto through tough times. Familiar words. Familiar stories.
The year in reading was not a total bust, however, as I did step back into magazines. I was disappointed to learn that SEED stopped print publication, though I’ve been an avid follower of scienceblogs.com. WIRED still arrives at my door every month, and I discovered a relatively new periodical called Monocle that has captivated my interest. And very satisfyingly (having saddly lost my print access with my change in employment) I’ve just recently started a digital subscription to The Economist.
Then there is still, always, Audible. I’ve been consuming audiobooks at a ferocious rate, and being a little more adventurous with those titles to boot. Some might scoff at listening with the ears rather than reading with the eyes – as if it’s lazier or less significant — but I can listen and go for long meandering walks through the world, which is tougher with a novel in hand.
What is one thing you’d like your kid(s) to know about the year 2010? (q.2010)
A lot can change in a single year. Change is something that can happen to you or something that you can make happen. Change can be a verb or a noun, and until it happens you’re never sure which one it really was, if it was good or bad, easy or difficult. 2010 was a year of change, good and bad, easy and difficult, wide, narrow, deep and broad. That’s all.