I’m a hard person to travel with, I think, because once we’re on our way somewhere, it’s all destination for me: how quickly can we get there? That aphorism about how it’s not the destination but the journey? Mostly bogus.

Today I was conscientious about not rushing, and on the last day of our vacation we had a leisurely breakfast, a nice walk and an easy drive. So maybe I learned just a bit about relaxing today.

But dang I wish I was on vacation still.

Also, I learned that I can freehand a pretty adequate Hawkman mask for a five-year old superhero.


Today I learned about a nice and functional clipboard manager for iOS: Copied. I used it several times today, including in writing up this quick post. Among its best features: it has a share sheet extension, so using it is nearly as easy in iOS as the native copy function. Good stuff.


Learned a lot today about VACATION OWNERSHIP (in its substance as well as the deeply aspirational tools used to sell sell sell it), which learning was the price of our deeply discounted resort stay this week. Ninety minutes of my day? Sure. I’m still not ready to buy.


Tonight I drove to the town where I went to grad school, saw two dear friends and a Josh Ritter concert.

We made it home at 1am — home in this case being Phoenix, where we are spending a few vacation days — and I thought for a few minutes about what I learned today — okay, officially, yesterday, because I could barely see straight anymore at that point. This is what I wrote down for myself:

Endlessly supportive wife; I am a particular kind of music listener; I can still get lost in a performance; I am utterly transported by some. Few things meet my anticipation and excitement but today did.

What’s the thing I learned there? I don’t know, exactly. But something about the right experiences and futures being out there and I should overcome my reluctance to set my sights on them. Sure, a couple of days of vacation going well is different than a multi-yearlong project meeting a vision of success; but don’t they all start with starting? So I’m going to keep on trying to do that.


I’m on the road for a short bit of vacation, and had a thoroughly nice day that started with a great workout in my home town and ended with a late stroll back to the hotel with my wife after dinner in cool weather (but not the wintry cold and snowy weather at home!). A day like today it’s hard to pause and reflect much, even though I had good conversations and listened to some podcasts I enjoy and appreciate. I suppose today’s TIL is that it’s hard to make this time, but it’s valuable… Even if the outcome is just a realization that I’m working at it and some days come with more challenge than others.


Today I read up on the state of Bitcoin via this article by Mike Hearn. My PhD work was on alternative physical local currencies, so I’ve always been interested in Bitcoin as another kind of effort to build a medium of exchange. The apparently now-unsolvable technical issues underpinning Bitcoin, combined with failure of its community to address them when it could, is a pretty strong lesson in the organization of collective action. Money is hard, gang.


Today I saw just how proud and lit up my son’s face is when he comes back from the floor at his preschooler gymnastics class.


It’s tough to write here about things I learn at work; I’m intentionally oblique about my work so as to keep a clear distinction. But I spend a lot of time there, so many of the things I’m finding in this month of daily learning challenges naturally come at the office.

Today’s TIL: I reached out to actively pursue some relationship building, and it felt successful. I need to do that more.


It feels like I’m learning and thinking a lot about goodbyes lately. I spent a good chunk of yesterday in my headphones listening to David Bowie, sort of absorbing a lot of sound as well as the tributes and memories that were filling my Twitter stream.

Thing is, I’m not a big David Bowie fan. I like him and much of his music quite a lot, but I don’t know it or feel like I know him the way I know my favorite artists. But listening and reading through the day was sort of profound. I don’t think I had appreciated his impact.

I continued to process this all today, and listened to an impromptu episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour discussing him and the remarkable way he controlled his artistry, literally to his final hours. It’s striking and I will be learning from it for a long time.


Today I started learning the ins and outs of a new application at The Job. I’m part of the team driving the implemenation of this thing, and this is my first time digging in to the configuration enough to start getting a really good mental picture of how all its pieces work together.


Today we disassembled all the components of our TV and media center, moved a new cabinet into place, and then put everything back together.

There are a lot of cables. Also, that reassembly will always take twice as long as I estimate it will take.


There’s a bagel shop in town, Biff’s, whose walls are covered with framed photos of dogs — pets who have passed on. We’ve gone there for years, and my routine on most Saturdays is to work out in the morning and go for breakfast afterwards.

In October, our dog Uinta tripped and broke her leg. She was sixteen and a half years old, and I’ve had her since she was a puppy. She was very frail, and we made a hard decision to let her go rather than put her through a surgery and painful and confusing recovery. Last week I brought a framed picture of her to the bagel shop and offered it to the woman at the counter, after I had my breakfast.

Today her picture is up on the wall, surrounded by hundreds of other beloved and fondly remembered pets. Holding tears, I asked one of the owners for a moment to talk, thanked her for making a special place for these animals whose short lives sometimes inexplicably and surprisingly become a part of hearts. Then I went and cried in the car for a few minutes.

So today I learned a small bit of just how hard it is to really say goodbye.


Today’s #TIL is that on snow days I can get a surprising amount of work done by getting up at 5am to power through some things before everybody else’s day really gets started. Of course it throws off my exercise schedule, but it’s not too bad. I’m also hugely fortunate that on weeks like this (third day in a row of school closures…) I can be flexible without fear of losing my job and pay. That’s another repeat lesson, really, and reminds me to taker some deep breaths when the district closes schools again, anticipating six more inches of snow, and we get just a dusting. Ack.

Gotta shovel the roof a little, too.


Today I learned just a bit of the tremendous imagination bubbling in my son’s head. It’s wonderful to watch him play, listen to the stories he tells himself, and watch him draw pictures of what he imagines.


On snow days I can get a surprising amount of work done by getting up at 5am to power through some things before everybody else’s day really gets started. Of course it throws off my exercise schedule, but it’s not too bad. I’m also hugely fortunate that on weeks like this (third day in a row of school closures due to snow…) I can be flexible without fear of losing my job and pay. That’s another repeat lesson, really, and reminds me to take some deep breaths when the district closes schools again, anticipating six more inches of snow, and we get just a dusting.


Today I learned just how much a wool hat will shrink when put through the dryer. Pro tip: it’s a lot.


Here’s something I learn periodically, then forget and occasionally re-learn: I have a lot of allies at work, but I need to remember to engage them. As a pretty introverted person who is also very much a processor who needs time to think through things before leaping into action, I don’t always look for the help that I sometimes need. But invariably, when I do reach out, I not only get the feedback that I’m looking for, but am invigorated by the interaction. That’s something to remember, perhaps so I don’t have to keep learning it.


Today I learned that a five year-old who got used to staying up a little later and sleeping in during his winter vacation is hard to rouse early on the first day back to school. But, when the time comes, he’s ready for bed that night!


The grin on my son’s face, watching Star Wars (IV) for his first time, that first time X-Wings take off, is pure magic.


According to Strava, my mountain biking climb total in 2015 was 32,408 ft, and the largest single ride climb I made was 2600 feet, on Fathers Day. That sets a pretty good goal to beat in 2016, I think.

This is among the information from my years’ worth of exercise numbers. I wrote a year ago about how taking on a regular workout routine was one of the best things I started in 2014. Well, I continued in 2015, and added a lot of biking to the mix as well. It was invigorating to feel stronger and stronger as I went through the year.

Among the other numbers from my year in exercise: 36 spin sessions for an estimated 27,000 cals burned while trying my best to beat up the spin bike. I did 127 gym workouts, many of which I could never have done when my shoulders were hurt (also learned throughout the year that I can still way overdo it; so I focus on challenge by choice, or being very conscientious about how hard I’m working and making sure that’s the right level that I want to push — not surprising, this applies to lots of things beyond just exercise). It feels really, really good.

So let’s do it, 2016.


This isn’t a particularly profound TIL day. I did have a rather moving experience from which I’m taking some lessons, but I’m not quite ready to say I’ve learned it yet.

So today’s TIL is: I am secretly teaching my five year old son to count using Forza on the XBox. He’s watching me race, calling out my position, and telling me what position I’ll be in after I pass the car ahead of me. That’s pretty cool.

(Also, this is a fun and gorgeous game.)


Yesterday, I made a big pot of pho to share with family and friends tonight. We have had a relaxing, easy almost-two weeks of winter holiday and going back to work and school will be something of a challenge.

We celebrate the winter solstice for the slow return of morning light that its passing promises, but secretly I love those long, dark mornings, where I can imagine, long after waking, that I am the only person moving in the world.

I work out several times a week, and log those workouts to Runkeeper (because data!). Lately I discovered a small bug in the iOS client, in which a previously set equipment type (treadmill) was persistently being sent with my workouts, even though it doesn’t make sense for the workout type (that is, not running). Thing is, the Runkeeper client does not any longer offer the option to set that equipment type for the workouts I’m doing — this is a nice simplification of the interface, but I can’t get rid of the existing flag for treadmill.

This started to nag at me. I’ve long thought about building a workflow to quickly log my sessions rather than tapping through the app, but never got around to seriously looking into it until now. From working with Slogger, I already have an application registered with the Runkeeper API and am reasonably familiar with working with it, but until this weekend had only done so using scripted curl commands. Works great, but does not hook into iOS very well. I could build an ssh command to execute a curl command from a remote server, and kick it off from workflow or maybe a drafts action; this would have taken me ten minutes, but would have felt kludgy.

So on Saturday morning I downloaded Xcode and looked up iOS development tutorials on iTunes U. And there went my weekend.

Approximately one million browser tabs full of google searches, errors and compiles later, I have this: a tiny app preprogrammed with my two regular workout types (strength training and spinning), an array of scheduled session times, both of which I can cycle through via a pair of buttons (starting with my default of 6:15am). I also have a few extra fields to log additional data about the workout. The auth field is for my app’s token, and allows me to change it if necessary. This is a really basic replacement for a more full featured OAuth workflow, and I’m in the process of figuring out how to move this over to a settings screen so it’s out of the way most of the time; for now it’s also a convenient place to output the result of my http request to the API: if after a submission I get a 201 there, then I know the request was completed successfully.

Oh my gosh, Internet, I made an app1! I have to say, that first time it ran approximately like something I intended it to be, I was thrilled, like over the moon that I made something with buttons I could push and interact with on my phone.

So what have I learned?

I learned how to make https requests to an API using Just; how to make buttons and UI elements and hook them to actions in my code; how to use cocoapods (minimally, anyway); how to break my project using source control in Xcode sufficiently to require bringing the whole thing back from Time Machine (thanks, Synology); and how to redraw my content as the keyboard is revealed and hidden.

What get better at, among other things: I have not successfully triggered an activity spinner while my API request goes though. Fortunately it doesn’t take too long, but I want to read up on the asynchronous dispatch or whatever thing. I also really don’t know much about the schemes, targets, and so on that make up a project structure. Should also probably brush up on that little source control issue, and make more sense of the MVC thing. But hey, not bad for a weekend project.

This was fun. I have something I will use almost every day, which does lots more than scratch my original small itch about submitting the wrong equipment type. And I have a much fuller view than I did, of this world of applications that are such a big part of my life. Cool. Maybe next weekend I’ll come up with another itch.

  1. Recent changes in the Apple Developer Program allow for deploying an app to a local device without going through the App Store and its processes and costs. [return]

Autumn is a good season for night skies, here. It’s starting to dry off, so there’s less monsoon weather to chase us back indoors, and our Dark Sky City designation means there’s an attempt to keep city light from flooding out the stars. I signed up for a night sky photography workshop with Stan Honda, who is opening an exhibit at a community art center.

After a couple of hours of slideshow and demo of night sky techniques, we trooped outside and joined the nearby Dark Skies Star Party, an annual stargazing event aided by the likes of Lowell Observatory (Pluto, yo), the Naval Observatory and the university. We found a quiet stretch of paths and set up our tripods.

I started shooting with my old Pentax for the wider field of view its lenses give, but its low-light sensitivity just can’t compare to the Fuji, so I traded out quickly and spent the rest of the night experimenting with composition, ISOs, and exposure times. When I finally retreated, cold — I had forgotten my jacket in the warmish evening — I hoped I had a few keepers. With some adjusting in Lightroom, this is what I came up with.


One of the things that resonated most from Stan’s slideshow were the descriptions of the event of some photos, particularly an expedition to the near-Arctic to shoot a solar eclipse. He showed some photos of the lineup of viewers to the eclipse and I liked the story that the photo told, so I experimented with a few of my own in the same theme. This is of one of the telescope stations at the star party, with viewers coming and going in the dark, with their red-lensed flashlights, beneath the stars.


Looking back toward the main path from my spot in the fields, moon shining over us.

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Stars over the San Francisco Peaks are really something. One more reason I’m happy and lucky to get to live where I do.

Via this writeup in Fast Company, Dear Data is such a cool project. Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec are spending a year exchanging a postcard per week, in which they each draw a representation of a specific behavior or facet of their lives. The front side of the postcard is the drawing itself, and the back side describes how to read the visualization.

Both images by Giorgia Lupi from “Week 38: A Week of Negative Thoughts

One of the things that really makes me love this is the intentionality and immediacy of it. I used Reporter for several months, but fell away from it; it started to feel like something that would add value someday, but in an undefined way that didn’t keep me with it. By contrast, Stefanie and Giorgia are deciding on something very particular, measuring it and then drawing it all within about a week. Unlike so much “big data” they aren’t looking for a long-term pattern or a huge number of observations. Their illustrations are colorful and capture sparks of their personality while describing whatever they chose to measure; and the differences between their drawings are a reminder of the many ways to tell a story with a common theme.