Back to LiveJournal

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I have basically stopped posting here due to the fact that I simply cannot find a decent cross-posting solution between Movable Type 4.0 and LiveJournal. Earlier this year I found myself unable to simply walk away from using my LJ as my main blog; the community I've built up there over the years is too strong. It's home. (And one doesn't move house simply by walking defiantly out the front door one day.)

I have been regularly posting to The Gameshelf and the Appleseed blog when I'd like to put on a somewhat more "professional" voice to hold forth about game studies or software development, respectively. The Gameshelf's managed to pick up more than a handful of subscribers, relieving some of the self-consciousness I've felt earlier about having "only" an LJ account, versus a fancy-pants, running-on-my-own-domain blog.

Now, I could make my own damn MT-to-MJ plugin, but I just don't have the resources to spare right now. There are too many higher-priority things on my plate. (Appleseed, for one thing. And then there's Project X.)

So, this blog takes a nap (and I get to definitively cross out the "research cross-posting solutions" item from my to-do list). I'll re-point the "Journal" link on to my LJ. Should I come across a cross-posting solution later, I'll babble about it over there, and then posts will start appearing here again. I also reserve the right to repeat truly earth-moving news about myself and my affairs here, should any arise. Until then, good night and good luck.

Announcing Appleseed

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I am pleased to announce the public debut of my latest professional identity, Appleseed Software Consulting LLC.

The website is pretty spare right now; there are at least two major sections, including a new blog, which aren't ready yet. But the remainder makes for a fine public web presence, and so up it goes today.

Yes, the domain name is a little fiddly, but what can you do? I also nabbed and, but I figure that the version with the hypen in it looks best in print. It's what's going on the business cards.

Radiolab, and new crap headphones of joy

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Two delightful, apropos-of-nothing but related events:

First, a new season of WNYC's Radiolab launched the other day. This is my favorite of the podcasts that I discovered last year. It's a science show not quite like any other, keenly intelligent and inquisitive with a fun and conversational attitude. It features two good-humored hosts and a wide range of interesting guests. What really sets it apart, though, is its surprisingly high audio production values. They make the experience of listening to an episode full of delightful surprises, continually mixing in subtle and original sound effects, and making sparing but creative use of actors' voices for occasional dramatizations.

The audio is so good, actually, that I wouldn't let myself listen to my freshly downloaded copy for several days because the left speaker on my earphones blew out, meaning that what I have come to think of as my semiannual headphone subscription needed a renewal. (And why is it always the left one? Eh.) One ear was good enough for most of my other mostly-talking podcast subscriptions, but not this one. I finally got to hear it today, when I swung by CVS for a new pair.

And this leads me to the other small delight today, the Philips earbuds I selected. First of all, at six dollars, the price is right; if they can hold out for six months I'll be happy with them. More than that, though, was the packaging. Like most small electronics nowadays, its blister-pack was constructed of apparently bulletproof packaging. Even though I wanted to go get cuppa coffee first, I was resigned to needing to schlep back home and further dull my kitchen scissors in order to pry the thing open.

Just to make sure, though, I examined the package as I started to walk home, and imagine my delight at discovering that its cardboard backing was perforated, with a friendly little "press here to open" tab, like a box of detergent. So I did, and within a minute I was listening to Radiolab in both ears and had deposited the remains of my purchase (as well as my old headphones) neatly into a sidewalk trash bin. And from there, I went to go get coffee and a cupcake. I tell you, I could not be happier.

Word UIs

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I used the word "disinterested" in a blog comment last night, and despite its tiny probable readership I find myself worried that people who do read it will read it incorrectly, that I meant it to mean "uninterested" instead of "taking a neutral stance". I bet dollars to donuts that most users of the English language think it has only the former definition, when they encounter it.

Certain people like to get angry that other people are stupid and English is doomed when they encounter evidence of readers taking the wrong meaning from words like this. And they remind me of nothing so much as hardcore Unix geeks belittling everyday computer users for getting something wrong in a command-line invocation and erasing half their hard disk.

That's right: I'm saying that that "disinterested" is an example of a word with a terrible UI.

Thank you,

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I just pulled up the article about Barack Obama to quote at my mom over the phone, after she said said that she was worried "not so much about the black as the fact that he went to school at one of those, er, uh, what-you-calls." Sheesh. (She was thinking of "madrassa".)

The Gameshelf Blog

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Announcing The Gameshelf Blog, a new community of intelligent-if-eclectic game news and discussion. I hope that it will fill out the long and dreary spaces between new Gameshelf episodes with interesting game-related tidbits that share the show's spirit.

I've invited everyone whose name has appeared in an episode's credit roll to join the site as a contributor. I went by memory so it's entirely possible I overlooked you (or your mail client ate the invitation as spam); if that's the case, and you want to help, please contact me!

Yes, it's the same URL that the show has held for years. I quietly replaced the static site with blog software a few months ago, and more recently redesigned it so that a link to the most recent episode will always appear at the top. The blog and the episode videos have separate RSS feeds, too. (Rather, one's a subset of the other.)

Getting Getting Things Done Things Started

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I was surprised at the amount of response I got on another blog when I asked if anyone I knew was a fan or foe of Getting Things Done. There was much love for it, while the the most negative comments was "meh, it's not for me". So it definitely seems worth looking at.

Have bought Allen's book, and waded around in for a while, so I have a pretty good idea now how the system works now. Yes, the core idea is quite attractive. (Get everything-and-I-mean-everything out of your head, and into a trusted external system.)

I have downloaded OmniFocus, a just-released Mac application specifically designed around GTD, with a lot of input from the 43folders people. I have been a big fan of the Omni Group's stuff since I started with Mac OS X, and look forward to sinking into this.

Things are all right.

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I've been meaning to note for a while that I am no longer in hell, and am once again happy with my work situation. I say this fully realizing that I also said this last summer before I fell flat on my back. But I know exactly what I did wrong then, and it's a mistake I won't make again.

In short, I ran a business with no marketing and a single customer, who was under no obligation not to simply wander off when they felt done with me. Leaving me with no income and no plan to attract new customers. It turns out that customers aren't employers.

After six harrowing, empty-cupboard weeks of full-time, unpaid work I had some marketing in place and a small corral of active customers. That interim was really rough, but knowing that I pulled myself out of it through my own strength (with assists from my excellent friends) is awesome. My confidence in my ability to do business as well as sling code shot up tremendously, even before I started actually collecting money again, just from witnessing my own success at finding and connecting with new customers.

Gord willing, I now have a heightened awareness of pitfalls that I haven't fallen into yet. Not too long ago I was talking with some friends on the train. One, who had just landed a lucrative full-time job, said he was tempted by my stories of the independent life, but was also made quite wary by my little time of troubles. I said that I had learned my lesson from all of that, and I don't foresee any other terrible things happening to me. "Unless someone sues me," I mused. Suddenly, I felt very cold. "Yes, that would count," said my friend.

So that is why I am moving forward with this reorganization plan, primarily as armor against any future legal blows. (No, I'm not expecting anyone to sue me. And really, that's the point.)

I am seriously considering writing a book, or something bookish, about my experiences. There's a lot of spilled ink about becoming a consultant, and far more about embracing the freelance life in general. But I haven't encountered any works targeted specifically towards software professionals, coming to them with the message that there is another way and offering advice on how to break free and get started.

I discovered the lifestyle by accident, by way of launching an unrelated startup, and later looking for supplemental income without having to go back to a job. After a year of trial and error I finally have an idea how it works. And from this vantage point, I continue to feel surprise that I know tons of software people, but only one or two work for themselves. It's certainly not the life for everyone, but for me it is without a doubt the best job I've ever had. I probably could have started years before I actually did, had I only known it was possible. The message needs to get out more.

Speaking of SF

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I have a totally bomb-ass mystery hunt plot idea. I have already shared it on my team's mailing list - somewhat ill-advised, since by the time IIF wins some of our current team is statistically likely to have migrated to other teams. On the other hand, any actual implementation of the idea will almost certainly end up looking quite different. (Julia and I have already been chatting about interesting variations.)

I'll just say that it's high time for another SF-themed hunt. ACME (containing, at the time, the core of today's IIF) did a bang-up Matrix hunt in 2003, and 2005 had a light-hearted superhero hunt. I really wanna help put one together in 2010!

Astronauts report it feels good

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There is a Star Trek movie teaser trailer coming out. I'm too lazy to link to it because it's basically nothing, just enough to confirm that the film's in production, and to signal the fanboys to commence the freakout. (Its audio is samples of Apollo mission radio chatter that you can hear in any dime-store trance mix, for pete's sake. OK, and Nimoy. All right, fine: here. Sheesh.)

If JJ Abrams can tell an entire SF story that has a satisfying ending in the length of a single feature film, all shall be forgiven. Until then, I'm skeptical.

Meanwhile I find myself really out of touch regarding movies. I saw a friend complaining in an IM status message that someone named Cloverfield made her feel sick, figuring it was a co-worker who should have stayed home.

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