With Karin out of town, I was stuck at home with –y’know– dad responsibilities, and so I spent the better part of my evening last night doing some minor tweaks to my blog template. It’s a small thing, yeah, but it should make it a lot more “touchable.” Whaaaa..?? Well, rather than just have great big gorgeous feature imagery on my front page with itty-bitty word-titles that you click to navigate to the article, now every time there is a picture associated with an article, that whole image is clickable. It’s a bigger target for your little finger. Again… small thing, but with a big usability impact, particularly if you’re reading this blog on a tablet or a phone. Enjoy!
I’m in a mobile gaming rut and I’ve been indulging in a little grinding-type game called Pixel People. Don’t judge me.
When I get the chance –which is rare– I’ve been getting into Minecraft again.
What posts in June? Oh, thooooose thirty posts in June… again. It seems that for the fourth year in a row I’ve climbed aboard the daily blogging train and continued that monumental, multi-year writing effort to string a topic or idea across the vast reaches of years. Each day a new post on a new topic, but on the same blog-per-day topic as last year, creating another set of Those 30 Posts in June. Today, that post just happens to be:
June 17th // Something You Are Working At
Three years to the day of this exact same theme of post I’m in an almost nearly identical position as I was then.
I wrote a post three years ago today on the topic of my big project at work of re-organizing the corporate intranet system. And what I’d optimistically presumed would be a year-long project, turned into nearly two and a half years (with a short break for some other priority stuff in the middle) of effort that culminated in a much-lauded relaunch of a jumbled file system into neat-and-tidy, revitalized internal communications tool that is saving time and effort… and probably as a result tax money (but then no one specifically measures that.)
Three years later I’m heads-down, all systems go, on yet another project spin-up. You may have noticed that I’ve been focussing a lot on the mobile aspects of my own blog lately. That’s not accidental. I’ve often said that of the many reasons I tend a personal website, one reason fairly high on that list is as a sandbox for my own professional development. After all, it’s all well and good to READ about mobile design standards. It’s another thing to re-purpose a content managed template, live and on-the-fly, into a responsive design. It’s another thing to think about mobile content in the context of actual real-live webpages. It’s another thing to stumble, trip, and yet keep on running when you encounter not-so-obvious roadblocks that no one overtly mentions and you’d never think to search for…
These same systems that I tend to professionally each day — pruning, tweaking, refining, defining, organizing, and honing to the as-close-to-perfection-as-we-can-ness that we strive for — these same systems are increasingly accessed by hundreds of thousands of people on the go. On phones. On tablets. On apps.
And I’m working on another big ol’ project to make that experience a little more friendly. Or at least some pre-work to make that project a little more focused. It will take time to do it right, and as usual, it will be done as efficiently and step-wise as possible. I just hope that in more three years (or preferably much, much sooner) I’ll be talking about THIS project in the past tense, too.
Among one of the new tweaks I’d been working on (that I delayed in rolling out because of my server issues earlier this week) was a more fluid ability to post more photos while on the go. There is an immediacy of services like Facebook or Twitter or Instagram that allow you to snap something, click a few buttons on your phone, and voila… shared photo. My general process has been fairly quick, but I’ve always very much been tied to the “write a new post” model in the blog, which at best is cumbersome and limited for that in-the-moment feel. But I’ve been working on it. And while I may be tweaking it in the coming months, look for a new post type on this blog in those same months: photos.. on the go. They will appear on the main post feed on the homepage and that’s about it: you can still click, comment, whatever. But there will not generally be much content along with them. They’re worth a thousand words on their own, after all, right?
A moderate obsession with pocket games is bolstered by the quantity of time I spend on the train commuting. I really should read more, but I get locked into phases of one thing then another: audio books one week, sudoku another, magazines the next. This last week I’ve re-invigorated an obsession from a year or two previous, in the form of a Tiny Tower spin off. Enter Star Wars franchising and mash that up with the 8-bit-styled fun of everyone’s favorite apartment-building pocket game, and you’ve got Tiny Death Star. Now excuse me while I go extract some more secrets from some tiny rebel scum.
We’ve been doing a lot of thinking and planning for an upcoming vacation, and one of the things I’ve seriously considered doing is leaving my phone at home.
Not that I’ll have much choice in the matter. Where we are headed has a number of internet-limiting factors already clambering for top spot in the “how to kick Brad off the internet for a week” title:
- first, we’ll be roaming out of country which, barring any sort of precautions, equates to a giant bill about a month or two after getting home unless I voluntarily abstain;
- second, when we’re not in an airplane or in a car, we’ll either be swimming, on a boat, or swimming on a boat. True, the boat will have internet, but that price of access to that internet makes me really consider just how important that email actually needs to be that I’d pay to see it; and
- third, assuming that I could connect, there still remains the question of whether I should connect… or simply chill and enjoy the break.
I’m planning on packing my cameras, of course… three of them as it currently stands.
The Kindle is coming along — without a doubt — because it doesn’t do much more than let me read some books I’ve been meaning to get through.
But the phone? I’m wondering, seriously — and perhaps it is a sign of just how desperately I’ll be needed to unplug — how easy it might be just to pack it in a drawer, safe at home, and forget about it for about ten days.
Perhaps it’s a little bit crazy, but I’ve been drawing maps.
At the root of it is the same sort of thing that generally happens when I get involved with something: it turns techie. Not always in a bad way. This time I stuck my own foot in it, so to speak.
Mostly, I think she just meant that I should go over to the running maps website, the one that pulls Google Map data and allows you to plot a distance-measured route layer atop it and share it around. Which is fine. And for most people, it would have been good enough to just do that, save some routes and share the links around.
But then I got it into my head that I wanted a better way to organize it, and to be far less dependent on one single application platform that might suddenly stop working or put up a pay-wall or something.
Oh, and it wouldn’t it be fun to make a little document management project out of it? I do that sort of thing, you know… mostly just to keep my skills sharp.
And, oh look… now I’ve already plotted out a dozen or so of our regular routes and saved them as screenshots in a blog-like, mobile-template-ready format that we can use from our mobile phones while we’re running.
Drawing maps is not actually that tough, it turns out. I’ve got fairly proficient at using vector tools like Inkscape (that being my favourite, the Swiss-army-knife of open source vector programs.) Maps are really just lots of curvy lines and a bit of text mashed together to look nice. It’s putting the lines in the right place that’s the tricky part: Pulling a few bits of reference material from the existing screenshots and adjusting, supplementing, and amending it (from a runner’s perspective) for my own purposes, I managed to create a fairly elaborate master map of about a hundred square kilometres (which sounds like a lot, but really isn’t all that big) of the neighbourhood and trails surrounding where we run out of. It highlights major roads (those with run-able side-walks), the asphalt trail systems accessible from our start point, and some of the un-groomed trail systems we’ve been known to take in on our more adventurous runs. It also leaves out those minor roads that we don’t run on because they either (a) lead no where or (b) are not run-able.
…the crazy is beginning to pay off…
I’ve been using this master-map, growing it, adjusting it, and improving it from my own knowledge of the area where we run, then using that to highlight routes, tag them with navigable details, and then cataloguing them by distance and features in a little WordPress-based website I’ve been building. (No link for you yet, but soon…) There is still lots of work, but the crazy is beginning to pay off as the website I’ve been picking away at for about a month now is nearly ready for launch. Nearly.
(More on that… in Part 2)
Here we are, just in time for yet another rambling caffeine-fueled post written from some random coffee shop. You like those, don't you?
As of tomorrow it will already be the middle of September. Seems like its trucking along pretty fast, actually. Seems like we're not getting much of a chance to stop and catch our breath. For those who have been reading along, not only have we been a very busy family for the past few weeks, but I've been power-blogging my way through that. Partially this is a factor of my new blog template that kicks the level of inspiration up a whole notch or two and makes me feel like I'm writing something almost worth reading. The other part of that equation is that we actually have been doing a lot of stuff over the past weeks and months and I've had lots of fodder to write about. As the autumn arrives, routine settles in, and the days gets shorter and colder, there is no guarantee of that momentum continuing. In fact, I doubt it will.
I'm writing this particular post from a coffee shop a few blocks — suburb-ish-speaking — from our house. It's the same shop I used to visit to write in last winter and spring. In fact, I wrote a bunch of December posts from this very chair. And it just seems comfortably routine to come back here, despite the fact the place is still so new the view from the window is largely a construction site, open field, and nothing much else. I would drive down here because back then it really was sparkly-new and literally no-one came here. I could sit here for two hours and listen to the barristas goofing off because they had forgotten I was still here and I had been the only customer since I'd bought my two-dollar coffee and disappeared around the corner.
I must be glowing with a whole spectrum-worth of electromagnetic radiation here…
I'm trying out a new confluence of technology for this post, too. I took that photo of my iPad with my coffee with the HDR+ app on my Galaxy Note phone (yes, I'm technically in a cafe with two tablets) connected to the free wifi, waited for a few minutes for my photo library to automatically sync with Dropbox, pulled the photo off Dropbox with the iPad, and rammed it into a Blogsy-app-powered blog post. It might seem overly complex — particularly considering the hoops I get to jump through on the back-end and behind the scenes making sure the post properly populates this new template — but it got me thinking to how I used to blog years and years ago. One of the original posts on this site was written on my old University-days Pentium machine from the floor of my Vancouver apartment, hand-coded into HTML, and dumped onto the Telus free web-hosting via a dial-up connection. Over the years, I've blogged from not only a few dozen different computers, but I've also mobile-blogged from a handful of smart-phones, through a monochrome PDA, via email-scraping, even once from a pay-per-minute terminal in an airport. A dual-tablet setup with a coffee beside me is actually pretty cushy. The web-interface on WordPress still makes all this seem clumsy somehow, though, no matter how many tablets, phones, wireless connections or bumbling intersections of technology I cobble together. Heck, between a wifi connection for each tablet, a LTE connection on my phone, and the Bluetooth connecting the keyboard to the iPad, I must be glowing with a whole spectrum-worth of electromagnetic radiation here: and I do it all for you, my dear readers…
And then here we are in September again, getting ready to hunker down for another winter. And I, thinking along the lines of “wow, I have a whole morning to write” and then getting out, grabbing a coffee, and — fingers poised at my technologically miraculous confluence of wireless blogging wonderment — realizing I have nothing much to say besides a rambling meta-post about posting, and the impending winter seems that much more harsh.
I've been thinking about the content I put on here, though. The new format has had that as an interesting side-effect. It has upped the ante of perceptive value, for better or worse, and not only do I feel somehow obligated (and inspired, to be honest) to write more, but there is the feeling that the writing is demanding some sense of quality and convergence that hadn't really existed so firmly before. Again, this is a direct result of the magazine-esque nature of this new template. Yeah, it's just me pounding away at the keyboard here. But words on screen no longer just looks like words on screen: make any sense? I start to feel like I'm reporting on my existence, whatever that means, and that rather than just gurgle out some scattered posts I need to become an auto-journalist. I don't think my style will ultimately change, at least not dramatically or rapidly, but I can feel an evolution towards the notion of telling broader stories with a proper flow, or composing what amounts to regular columns and features. And I hope these are interesting. I hope you don't tune out immediately. I mean, if you don't care then you just don't care. It's not like you're paying for this and as I've been ranting about for months and months now, the long game is to just write and not try to impress anyone in the short-short term. This is an historical document, but then if no one cares now… you understand, right? I guess history is only properly interesting much later on.
I could always hide away in my basement to write
The coffee shop is, of course, much busier these days. If there is any lack of focus in this post — and there almost certainly is — it can at least partially be blamed on the parade of customers that have filed through for their morning coffee and had loud conversations a few feet from where I'm sitting here typing away, or the straggling folks with more casual agenda and time on a Friday morning to sit and have lazy conversations over a coffee and a newspaper. Who am I to judge? I'll need to drive even further South to find another such private refuge, if that is even the goal. After all, I could always hide away in my basement to write if I really wanted to avoid the distraction, no?
But then isn't distraction the point? To steal yet another cliche, this shit ain't Shakespeare. This blogging is just a gussied-up bunch of personal ramblings. And it doesn't really matter where the words come from does it? I can pepper the world with words from a Blackberry while riding the bus, or dribble text through a sketchy international data stream in an even sketchier internet cafe while on vacation, or even carve out neatly-honed chunks of text from the comfort of my own living room in my pajamas. And I can fire those words into the ether as a minimalist and stripped down feed of text and code or wrap it up to look like some kind of faux magazine drenched in vanity and the privilege of so-many-years of access and education and acquired skills: at the end of the day, this is just a blog. But I'm fine with that. And I'm fine if occasionally its just a rambling, quasi-grounded post from somewhere so unremarkable that the only thing worth writing is a navel-gazing rant about itself. No really… I'm fine with that.
Ah, June… Summer is at our doorstep, the days are (almost all of them) seeming to get a little bit longer, and for the second year in a row I am partaking in my daily blogging exercise, marginally focused along a theme I’ve simply called Those 30 posts in June. No planning. No writing stuff days ahead. Just this: each day a meanderingly vague prompt drives a meanderingly vague post… and today that post just happens to be:
June 17th // Something You Are Working At
Spending the day with the family…
… and not spending a lot of time messing around on the Internetz so instead you get a really, really short post written from my mobile phone as we drive home from a family event. Happy Father’s Day.
I haven’t written much about gaming lately. This is probably because I haven’t been doing much gaming lately. Not much, with the exception of some mobile stuff — because I can play mobile while I am mobile, and I seem to be mobile a lot.
That, and it’s summer, so gaming is kind of a winter sport around here.
So… mobile-wise, I’ve been playing a stupidly addictive little iOS game called Tiny Tower, a time-sucking, resource-farming-style game (yes, in the spirit of Farmville, et al, but with fewer virtual chickens) that takes place in some random rental-property utopia.
The eight-bit-fashioned graphics form the essense of a virtual two-dimensional office, commercial, and apartment tower-in-one. You, the (apparently omniscient) landlord are tasked with four innane tasks that can (literally) fill your days with repetitive micromanagment of your little vitual tennents lives. These include: (1) moving the elevator to correct floor delivering passengers to their desired destinations, (2) keeping the stores stocked with both goods and employees, (3) controlling the rental agreements of your bitizens (and dressing them, too, for some reason I can’t quite figure out), and (4) acquiring enough resources (gold coins, I think) to upgrade the building through the addition of new floors, better and faster elevators, paint jobs, or whatever.
I’ve taken my brother’s strategy to heart — he’s the one who introduced the mind-virus-that-is-tiny-tower into my life — and I drop by my little harmonious utopia as infrequently as possible, letting the game churn away in my absence. This means I click in during my commutes to and from work to restock my stores, shuttle some folks around, and apply any pending upgrades to the building.
I’m sure there must be something more to the game than what I’ve been doing. There is a bright green menu button that I pressed once (or maybe twice) to see what happens: a whole new screen appears with lots of social-looking features. But I haven’t been back to prod around much more with those.
Overall, it’s an evil little game. You should check it out. It gets into your skull, messing with your mind and then tapping into your phone’s notification system to send you constant phone-buzzing reminders (which I do realize I could turn off — but THINK OF THE VIRTUAL CHILDREN!) to stop in, check up on things, and “restock” the damn stores… because apparently the little virtual people can add, decorate, and furnish entirely new floors to an existing skyscraper without my help, but can’t seem to unpack a box of hot-rollers for a virtual barbershop unless I click an icon.
I think I’d better get back to real gaming soon.
The problem with mobile blogging — blogging from my super-charged Andorid phone, for example — is that mobile blogs always seem half done.
I mean, take right now for example. I’m writing about right now. I’m blogging the moment. I’m recording this snapshot in time.
We’re sitting in Ikea. It’s a daddy day (why else would we be at Ikea) eating a one-dollar breakfast. We were just out for a swim, spent an hour at the rec centre (remind me to write more on that soon) and then scooted over here for cheap food and a eating-in-front-of-the-tv at the store adventure.
But it’s only 10 am. Still early. The day is not yet half done. The adventure might be full of surprises. And now will I take the time later to write part two? Maybe. But, this post might just end up a mobile cliff-hanger with no satisfactory conclusion. I won’t have put effort into reflection, turning it into a narrative of the whole done story, just this: an inventory, a list of the day so far.