Fall 2022 Experiments

November 6, 2022

A wandering status check-in.

I left my job in July for a burnout recovery journey, sponsored by a supportive partner and some odd jobs.

I don’t always love the shifting sands of web development or feel like I’m meant for it. I love helping people, learning how things work, and working to create clarity and order where it doesn’t seem to exist. I don’t love merge commmits or updating dependencies or maintaining free things I don’t use anymore. Now as much as ever, I don’t know what I’m doing.

My only plan is to take a breath, try things, and pay attention.

Grand Jury

My last day of employment was followed the very next business day by a grand jury summons. I got selected for one of the grand jury groups and spent the next month hearing cases three days a week.

I’m not allowed to share details about that experience by design, but it was fascinating and emotionally taxing and easily one of the more important things I’ve done in my life. The weight of consequence sharpened my attention and demanded my curiosity and diligence, and the raw humanity of some testimony expanded my ideas of compassion and professionalism and legal systems and law enforcement.

I wouldn’t recommend it as a leisure activity for the freshly-unemployed, but I was lucky to have spent that time with my fellow jurors.

I also feel more aware of and appreciative of my community. No change for humanity, which still ranges from beautiful to awful depending on how you hold it to the light.

Twitter Exit

I’ve culled things that don’t seem like worthwhile investments of attention. I’ve never loved Twitter, and the Elon drama made it easier to let go.
I exported my account data (for nostalgia? hoarding?) and deactivated it.

If you followed me and paid attention to things I said, thank you and I’m sorry for the abrupt departure. I’ll keep rambling on over here, and you’re always welcome to write me using some antiquated technology. I’ll write you back!1

Reading

Reading more stories and long-form journalism has been a refreshing change of focus. I treasure the careful writing and craft that’s apparent in composed pieces that allow for nuance and perspective. Good writing lets me briefly inhabit another world, another life, another way of thinking.

Reading things people have spent great effort writing is a joy, and as one writer put it, “a vacation from pop culture.”

Writing

I can’t go through anything important, or truly think through something, unless I’m writing about it. I’ve been journaling and writing more frequently, but also more deliberately—collecting thoughts with more structure and intention.

Apparently a lot of novelists hone ideas for their books long before they’re published. A collection of characters, scenes, and sketches grows until there may someday be a critical mass to structure and refine and publish. I have no shortage of thoughts but rarely know what to do with them, so some of my writing goes into Scrivener books. I’d love to publish a book or novel, but the liberating part of this exercise is that I don’t have to. The purpose isn’t publishing as much as writing, so I write wherever a lump of related thoughts might have some value.

I still love Obsidian for that reason: it’s like VS Code for writing, with a universe of customization and a speed that makes it a valuable, individually-tailored daily tool. I use Obsidian for daily todo lists, but also jotting notes that may not otherwise have a place to live. When I need to write a thing, I reach for it and it’s there. Sometimes I end up lifting notes or blurbs from Obsidian, and other times they stay there and I have a way to get back to them.

DDEV Documentation

I’ve been working on improving DDEV’s documentation, after talking with Randy Fay on a podcast episode and seeing an opportunity to help. It’s been more of an editing adventure, but the work has been thorough and well-received. It’s also been interesting to see how at least one open source project is maintained, and what it’s like working on product documentation in another context.

3D Printing

I eagerly welcomed a Prusa MINI+ 3D printer into my life in April, and have since printed heaps of things with more than kilometer of filament. I’m years late to the party, which means the ecosystem is full of learning resources and products and tools.

I’ve had a blast not just printing useful and fun little things, but learning to design and print my own brackets and tools and paying more attention to how stuff is made in general. Browsing peoples’ models is fun even for things I don’t have any desire to print, because all of it amounts to creativity and a love for making and sharing things. A lot of people are meticulous with their design work, their instructions, and their photographs.

There’s a lot to learn, even with the forgiving machine I chose, and I plan on writing more about this at some point.

Cooking

One thing that immediately disappears when I feel overloaded is taking time to find and cook actual, grown-up meals. So I’ve been doing that. Nothing impressive, no well-honed techniques or deep quests to understand cabbage or anything, just the simple pleasure of finding and cooking some staples and playing with them.

You can live in any U.S. state, or any country even, and still make Texas caviar—which also goes by the name cowboy caviar. Make a lot.

Exercise

Even though research is always droning on about how worthless diet and exercise are, I am trying anyway. Aside from a season of my life where I commuted to work on a bicycle, I’ve never had much success with normal exercise. Various family and friends have always found a way, but for me it’s always mind-numbingly dull and threatened by changes in weather. I like the fitness and self-challenge and vaguely-meditative thing it can be, but I want to be in a gym about as much as I want to be in a frat house or a long line at the DMV.

I don’t want to talk about it too much because it’s so fragile, but even with snow and ice getting into the mix now, I’m having some regular success getting on a rowing machine or stationary bicycle in a spare bedroom. It’s a good chance to laugh at a podcast, and I generally feel better when I stick to it, so hopefully I can keep that a regular thing.

Astro

RSS subscribers, if there are any, may have been rudely confronted by yet another platform shift as I moved this little blog from Gatsby and Cloudflare Pages to Astro and Vercel. Some DDEV discussion stirred my curiosity about Astro, and the result is a smaller and more flexible thing that ships less front-end cruft for such a simple site.

I’ll probably write more about this, too.

Videogames

I’ve been playing Hell Let Loose on my custom-built COVID gaming PC for years, so it feels like it’d be wrong to leave out. I detoured briefly to unwind with Dysmantle, to explore space in Elite Dangerous, and sample the latest Call of Duty beta without letting the addiction take hold. I keep going back to Hell Let Loose because of the people that play it: strategic, often hilarious nerds that play together and help one another. There’s a steep learning curve and, more often than not, far more experienced players patiently explaining and demonstrating things to the new and clueless. There are bad matches and occasional racists and jerks, but it’s generally a good crowd. While it’s still pretty intense and often frustrating, it’s nothing like Call of Duty’s blazing dopamine rush that leaves me feeling like a horse that’s always an inch from the shimmering carrot.

Nothing

One thing that’s really hard for me to do is nothing at all. That’s a function of guilt and an endless list of overdue chores and things to try.

To be still, though, is hard: to do nothing more than watch trees or sit with my little dog friend and let my thoughts wander. Counter-intuitive as it may be, making an effort to just stop for a bit usually lets me listen to whatever’s floating around in my head. If I had some deliberate practice or place for it you might call it meditation, but you’re fancier than me. I’m just trying to be still and see what happens. Somehow I rarely fall asleep, even when there’s nothing stopping me—but I always feel refreshed anyway.

Might as well wander into that next thing cheerfully.

Footnotes

  1. Unless you’re trying to sell me a thing. I don’t want your loan, your list of industry contacts, your unsolicited logo design or development services, the jobs that “look like a great match” in your recruitment tool, or your crudely-marketed reproductive accessories. 

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