Married, moved, and getting it together.


December 9th, 2006

In the past three months I’ve been making a concerted effort to make better use of my time and energy. For a very long time now I feel as though my energy has been unfocused and ill-spent.

One of the large issues for me has been the incredible amount of email I receive. A big part of that was the many email newsletters I subscribe to. Well, was subscribed to. For the past month or two whenever I get one of those emails, I stop and consider whether it materially contributes something to my well being, financial well being, friendships, or family life. If no, then POOF, it must be unsubscribed from.

It’s been a great boon to me to not have a steady stream of promotional material and news come to my email inbox. Having items not insistently demand my attention has been wonderful.

Another issue I’ve had is keeping up with San Diego. I love San Diego very dearly. My favorite place on the planet is La Jolla Cove. I have much family there. But being the responsible party for my San Diego sites [1,2,3] was a side drain on my time that was part of a cohort of projects that diluted my focus. So they had to go. Last month I was able to sell them. I was able to make some money for them, which was quite useful, but more, they went into hands that will continue them in a form I feel and think will be positive.

These are two factors which have left more time for me. And a nice chance to rediscover the temporary nature of some projects. It’s also great to take stock of the things I’m doing and be able to evaluate why it is I’m doing them. Mind you, some projects one can’t simply sell or abandon.

One thing I’ve done is started reading RSS and Atom feeds again. I use Google Reader to organize and read blogs and anything with syndicated content. This is a great way to keep track of things, but to be “the decider” when it comes to when I look at them. I organize them into categories: ours (blogs leah and I work on or maintain, flickr feeds of ours, etc), people (blogs in a voice more or less by one person), writers.laish (blogs by people in leah’s nascent writer’s group), forsale (craigslist feeds for “for sale” items), group (blogs like metafilter or boingboing, which don’t really have a single person at the helm), jobhunt (feeds for job postings), links (link blogs like waxy’s links and larger link sites like fark), and sandiegobloggers (a holdover which i don’t beat myself up about if i don’t read, there are many). For several months I simply gave up reading blogs or keeping up with feeds, because I was so busy with work, but I ended up even more frustrated because there were people and information sources that I ended up checking anyway, and doing it ad hoc took more time than simply reading them in an RSS reader. I tried bloglines for about a minute. And I had been using NetNewsWire, which is great software, but is not nearly as mobile as I am. When Google Reader got good recently, I jumped in and have not looked back. It’s all very “Web 2.0″ of me, I’m sure.

Checking on blogs can be every bit as compulsive as checking email, but having one-stop shopping for my reading (with the exception of blogs without feeds: I’m looking at you Tom B!) is great. It allows me to scan with a different kind of emphasis.

That emphasis, and thinking about that emphasis, has been a chance to look at what I enjoy, and why I enjoy what I enjoy.

So I’ve been reading and watching with a more discriminating eye.

I already talked about Cat and Girl the other day. Now I’m going to talk about two other folks who make me happy to read. And moreover, who are making me smarter.

The first is from the same comics and animation category Cat and Girl come from. It’s animating genius John Kricfalusi. I think I discovered his blog either via Coop or BoingBoing, either way, he’s great. His blog, titled “All Kinds of Stuff” is really rather focused on animation, animation history and illustration technique. Just in the past two days he’s had two great posts: first, here’s an excellent IM dialogue about a copy of an illustration — I’m not actively illustrating, but I am an avid doodler. I love to doodle in meetings, and I just know that the drawing jones is going to hit me real soon now. And here’s a post about a background painter from Hanna Barbera that includes wonderful commentary about the history of HB cartoons. Now, John K is the man behind Ren & Stimpy, which despite the fact my wife does not like them, and the fact that I typically despise potty humor, really caught my eye when they came out in the 1990s. Much of what John K does these days is too ribald for my tastes, but he remains a helluvan animator. The thing that really stands out to me is that he’s really articulate about what he likes, what he does not like, and why. Here’s a brief history of Hanna Barbera:

1958 – adventurous, radical, experimental, fun. Every cartoon feels different.

to 1960 – still very professional yet more conservative (leaving out the first season of the Flintstones which I will talk about later)

1962 – conservative, bland and repetitive, HB starts recruiting young inexperienced artists who never animated.

1965 – ugly xerox lines, Iwao Takamoto reluctantly imitating Ed’s design style, Saturday morning executive interference.

1967- Iwao and his crew starts to design harder to animate characters in a pseudo 60′s Disney style-which are impossible to animate well with a low budget.

Gang cartoons start which further hampers the chances to animate well.

1969 – Scooby Doo-absolute crap. Ugly design, sloppy amateur execution, not written by cartoonists anymore-the ugliest BGs ever. The end of the world.

I really appreciate the curmudgeonly aspects of that, but more, I really love that John K. points out the stuff he LOVES.

That matters, it’s inspirational, and keeps me coming back for more. Okay, I’ll point out another post of his, here’s a quote:

Without contrast or punctuation you have monotony. Controlling contrasts is very difficult and I’d say even impossible for weaker artists or actors or writers. Today’s prime time cartoons are extremely monotonous because they have no punctuation or contrasts in any of the creative aspects of them. Everything just drones along at the same pace, volume and evenly spaced design. Nothing is more important than anything else. It all just lays there and expects you to weed through the morass to find what the entertaining parts are.

I love that. He also includes copious examples of what he likes and does not. “Show, don’t tell” they tell you in the screenwriting courses. Maybe that’s true for blogs sometimes as well.

Speaking of show and tell, the other expert I have come across is Douglas Crockford. With zero doubt, he is the most articulate speaker on JavaScript I have every heard. I came across him because I subscribe to the Yahoo User Interface Blog. As far as I can tell Crockford has no blog. But because of the YUI blog, I found him. There are two multipart videos worth your time here: “An Inconvenient API: The Theory of the Dom” and “Advanced JavaScript

For me, these are the first articulations of some of the oddnesses of JavaScript — and how she is spoke — that I’ve ever read. The first set of videos blew my mind, because they articulated, simply and effectively, what constitutes best practice in JavaScript. As I study object oriented programming, and come to understand more fully, the insights are that much more incredible.

I just went looking for a Crockford website and blog, and found his blog and his site. Oh, and check this out: javascript.crockford.com and holy cow! He has a great little intro essaylet called “JavaScript: The World’s Most Misunderstood Programming Language” here’s an excerpt:

The Java- prefix suggests that JavaScript is somehow related to Java, that it is a subset or less capable version of Java. It seems that the name was intentionally selected to create confusion, and from confusion comes misunderstanding. JavaScript is not interpreted Java. Java is interpreted Java. JavaScript is a different language.

JavaScript has a syntactic similarity to Java, much as Java has to C. But it is no more a subset of Java than Java is a subset of C. It is better than Java in the applications that Java (fka Oak) was originally intended for.

JavaScript was not developed at Sun Microsystems, the home of Java. JavaScript was developed at Netscape. It was originally called LiveScript, but that name wasn’t confusing enough.

The -Script suffix suggests that it is not a real programming language, that a scripting language is less than a programming language. But it is really a matter of specialization. Compared to C, JavaScript trades performance for expressive power and dynamism.

It looks like there’s lots to like there.

I’m simmering with ideas.

It’s a great day.


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