Life or Something Like It

Jun 17, 2011

I wrote up a nice blog post a couple weeks ago, but of course I did it on the one computer in my house that can’t connect to the internet. Since I’m too lazy to hunt down a flash drive, and my husband is too lazy to make our router work it is languishing on that laptop and not being posted.

I’m currently in the car on my way to a family reunion for my husband, so I thought I might as well rewrite some of it and finally get a blog posted.

A lot has happened since I last posted. I’ve thought about posting a lot but somehow I just never do. I guess I’ll start with our trip.

We finally took our honeymoon trip to Ireland. It’s only been a year in the works. It was an awesome trip and we were lucky enough to spend a couple days at the beginning with friends in Connecticut. I think to do the trip justice it really needs its own post with pictures, so I’ll leave it at that for now.

Another major change was that we moved two weeks after we got back from the trip. We finally said goodbye to the roommate after two years and got our own place again. It’s pretty wonderful. Our apartment is much nicer.

The weirdest part for me is that for the first time in the last 8 years of living in Utah my address is no longer salt lake city. I feel a bit like a hypocrite since I swore I would never live anywhere but salt lake while I was still in Utah. However, I’m not ashamed to say that I’m actually liking this suburban living much more than I thought I would.  I’m much happier with this living arrangement than I have been in years.

By far, however, the biggest and most exciting change has been my new job. That’s right, I am now an official professional web developer. After all the classes and hard work I feel like I’ve actually accomplished something. I’m no longer an office assistant/ receptionist or whatever else doing things I hate. I love what I do, and surprisingly I love where I do it. This is the best work environment I’ve been in, though I suppose that’s all biased by the fact that I’m doing what I love.

I started in April, and already I have learned so much. The best feeling is when I’m trying to figure something out and suddenly it just clicks and works. I’m loving finally having a real job that allows me those opportunities.

So those are the highlights of my life over the past couple months. Life is looking up right now and it’s a good feeling. I’m lucky to have the people and opportunities in my life that I do.

On a final note, I’m considering changing the focus of this site to something more personal as opposed to professional as I’ve found a job I love and don’t plan on leaving any time soon. So with that in mind I feel like I can expand the blog content a bit and hopefully I can convince myself to post more often.

Sunsets and Snowy Mornings

Feb 17, 2011

I thought I would share some pictures from the last few days. Tuesday was my birthday and I spent more time than usual out and about. And, unlike normal, I thought to use my phone’s camera. The snowy morning however was this morning. We had quite a storm last night.

Life – World Version

Jan 30, 2011

The other day I was lucky enough to catch the premier of Life in a Day on YouTube. I had not heard of the project previously, but was intrigued when I learned about it. On July 24, 2010 people all over the world were asked to film themselves and submit their day to YouTube. They thought they might get 15,000 submissions but got over 80,000.

The film premiered at Sundance on Thursday night, and they streamed it live on YouTube. I happened to be online at just the right time to watch, so while I pretended to give my full attention the World of Warcraft raid I was a part of I actually spent most of the time watching this on my second monitor.

I was really impressed by how many people submitted to this project. It is truly amazing. There was such diversity in the people who got involved. I think they said people from 192 countries contributed. I was honestly surprised by the wide range of people. For some reason when I think of YouTube “culture” I think of young adults and teens, but these people were of all ages, and cultures, and belief systems.

I feel like nowadays its so common to see conflict, and disagreement in the world. It’s all over tv and the internet. This is one of the first things I’ve seen in a long time where people strove to be part of global community and share their lives with others honestly. It was amazing to watch.

I think one of the things that struck me the most was during the Q&A after the movie. The creators said that they actually had difficulty finding clips that were dark or sad. It’s amazing that that much hope and happiness exists in the world when we rarely hear about it.

This is a very cool project and I recommend that people see it when it finally comes out in theaters or on dvd. Of course I completely realize that this type of film isn’t for everyone.

P.S. I wrote this on my phone so don’t be too offended if there are spelling and grammar mistakes. 🙂

The Computer is Trying to Eat My Brain… Maybe

Jan 17, 2011

As I was sitting at work today (yes I have one of those awesome jobs where I have free time), I was trying to get my head into the JavaScript book I’ve been trying to get through for 6 months now. I enjoy learning it and I’m excited to put it into practice…but that doesn’t stop me from getting distracted. I have my moments when I can focus wholly on one thing, but getting into that zone can be insanely difficult. I recently took up crocheting so that I could have something to do with my hands when I’m just sitting around watching TV. I’m that person.

Back to my morning. As I was reading through my book, I thought about how I wish I could concentrate better. So I Googled meditation. I browsed through a couple pages. I went back to my book. I thought about how this technological world might have an effect on concentration and put too much emphasis on multitasking. I Googled that too. I didn’t come up with anything good immediately, other than one lady in a British publication saying that technology is creating a crisis with our brains. I went back to my book again. Then I decided that might make a good blog topic, so I went to my email so I could start writing and email it to myself for later. But first I had to look at that American Eagle sale that I know I should ignore.

A lot of people say they are easily distracted by shiny things. My shiny things are apparently the thoughts in my head, aggravated by the fact that 90% of the time I have a computer within reach so I can search, play, email, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I love having information at my fingertips whenever I want it. But I have to wonder if it has an effect on my ability to focus.

I’m sure anyone can relate when I say sometimes I sit down to do one thing and 45 minutes later I can’t remember what that was but I’ve learned about origin of the phrase “blond bombshell” (1933, describing Jean Harlow in her film the Bombshell), and seen how many adorable rabbits were for sale on the local classifieds page (too many and I want them all). My husband makes fun of me for constantly having 10 or more tabs open in my browser at all times (hey, I don’t want to forget something I was doing).

Its interesting to think about the effect that technology and the digital world has on how we function. One great place to look is at the differences between what are being referred to as digital immigrants and digital natives. Digital natives are those born during or after the real introduction of digital technology to the mainstream, whereas immigrants are those born before who have taken it up, you might say. This is everything from the internet, to cell phones, to video games. I think that people my age are really some of the first to be squarely in that native category.

Even so I can’t help but compare to kids born later. My first real experience with computers was when I was 8, I owned one when I was 13 or 14. Essentially I grew up with it, as it was growing up too. But I learned to use the internet in 7th grade. I look at my nieces today, and they have never lived without it. They don’t even live in a family that is tech-centric. Their mother (my sister) barely uses the computer, but my nieces know how to get around. I have to wonder what my children will be like growing up in a house where we have three computers (for two of us, yes), and we use them all the time.

I don’t need to delve into it all, but for an interesting read check out Marc Prensky’s “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants” Part 1 and Part 2. It’s a little old but it illustrates the differences really well. One thing he brings up is the fact that my generation is used to getting information and communication instantly. I started using instant messengers in middle school. TV without a built in schedule to browse drives me crazy. I use the internet on my smart phone to settle arguments about word usage with my husband while we’re driving to get dinner. Technology is in every part of my life. And I take advantage of it.

It can be overwhelming sometimes, though. I feel almost refreshed when I finally close my browser and all its tabs and start over fresh. My mind and my workspace can get pretty cluttered. I’ve been looking for a way to get it all organized. I recently started using the task list in my gmail. So far it’s been effective. Instead of trying to remember 20 things I put them in the list, no matter how important or inane. Then when I don’t have to think about it anymore. I can put it off for another time without it nagging at me. And when I feel flustered I can get myself back on track by reading through my list. Yes I have stuff on there like, read your JavaScript book.

It seems that my concentration problem is both aggravated and relieved by the technology I use. I have to admit though, my smart phone makes everything so convenient that the thought of leaving it behind for two weeks in May makes me a little sad.

Happy New Year 2011!!!

Jan 01, 2011

Happy new year and holidays and all that!

I’m not much for new year’s resolutions, but lets just say I have big plans in the works for 2011. A couple trips, a move, and hopefully an internship. And then there are all the things I want to do, but won’t write down in case I fail and then make myself feel bad when I read this post next year.

It feels like 2010 zoomed by. It was an interesting year, both job wise and personally. Hey, it is the year I got married. Some of it was really good and some of it was pretty bad. I have high hopes for the year to come.

The Bun says Happy New Year!

Learning HTML5

Oct 15, 2010

Since my job switch I have had a bit more time to actually sit and start learning about HTML5. I had heard about some of the big changes that make the news, but I haven’t had the chance until now to sit down and see what is really changing. I like what I have learned so far.

To start out I have been reading through Dive into HTML5. It’s been a pretty good run down of not only the changes, but some web history as well.

I am of the generation of web coders that learned to code in XHTML rather than regular HTML. One of my concerns going into this was that I might have to relearn what I know. Luckily that is not the case. It looks like HTML5 is an expansion and betterment of coding standards rather than a redo. I can keep on coding with my XHTML habits and it will still be valid HTML5 code. Like anything in coding, there are a few changes that I will have to learn, but I don’t have to relearn all the habits I have developed so far, which is a relief. On top of that, it simplifies some of the more obscure parts of coding a page, like the doctype. I’m all for anything that makes it more straightforward and logical.

Admittedly I have not gotten too far in this process yet, but I like what I am seeing so far. I think the thing I like the most semantics wise is the addition of the header, nav, and footer elements among others. This is much nicer than having to assign names to everything, it’s just built right in. This change makes the whole document more intuitive and logical. It makes me happy.

Since I’m still just a baby coder there’s plenty that I haven’t done yet and have left to learn anyway, so it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that I haven’t done much work with Flash, but based on what little I have done and more importantly, what I’ve heard, I’m looking forward to learning more about the new multimedia features that are supported by HTML5. I haven’t gotten that far yet, but hopefully soon.

The most annoying thing right now (and a big reason why I haven’t actively made time to learn this) is compatibility with older browsers. Luckily there are plenty of smart people out there who have developed solutions for this, but it can be frustrating coding the same thing in different ways just to make sure older browsers will render it. No surprise, Internet Explorer is the worst of these.

Supposedly IE9 will be much better and support most HTML5 features. I downloaded the beta just the other day, but haven’t had much time to play around with it. If it’s anything like Windows 7 then maybe there is some hope. What I have heard so far has been good.

PAX Prime!

Sep 10, 2010

I spent last weekend in Seattle geeking out at PAX. I may not be the most hardcore gamer around, but it was a great weekend just letting myself enjoy everything that was offered. It is almost therapeutic letting yourself get swept up in the excitement of this subculture and escaping from the real world for a few days. Not to mention the awesome swag you come away with. This year I didn’t get as much as I did last year, but I did finally manage to snag a trial code for Aion, which I’ve been dying to mess around on for a year (not that I can afford another MMO either time or money wise right now).

This is my second PAX, I attended last year as well with my then fiance (now husband). In case you don’t know what PAX is, it’s a gaming convention (tabletop, video and computer) that was started by the two guys who create Penny Arcade the web comic. Every year it has grown bigger, and it really is an amazing event. I’ll be the first to admit that conventions are not my thing. I have never been to another, but from what I hear the community feel at PAX is pretty unique. Now my husband and I are pretty quiet people, but all it takes is asking a person one question and you can while away the time you spend in line having a pretty interesting conversation with a complete stranger.

I think one of the most impressive parts of the PAX community is the dedication to just being a group of pretty awesome people. The PA folks have created a charity called Child’s Play that donates games and toys to children who are in hospitals. There is a group of people who wander around the convention called the Cookie Brigade, that sells homemade cookies and gives all the profits to Child’s Play. The last I heard they had raised around $6000 this year. They aren’t even organized by the convention, these are just awesome people who donate their time and efforts over the weekend. It makes me proud to be part of a culture like that.

This year, unlike last regrettably, we attended the keynote. The person chosen this year was Warren Spector. While I didn’t know who he was going in, I definitely know him now. He’s a pretty impressive guy. He started in the gaming industry in the ’80s when it was just beginning. He’s now working on Epic Mickey, the new Mickey Mouse video game (which looks pretty awesome by the way). He brought up some interesting points about gaming and gaming culture. He talked about how as a subculture we tend to be pretty defensive and adopt an “us vs them” mentality. He made an interesting and pretty awesome point, however, that any “outsider” activity will either enter the main stream or die out. And gaming is definitely entering the main stream. This requires us as a culture to start being more accepting of pop culture and designing games for the masses. I agree with him. We are on that brink right now, and we have to be accepting of it. However, I think that these people I spent the weekend with are still a unique and amazing group regardless of how popular their chosen past time becomes. It’s like movies, almost everyone enjoys them, but only a few are really movie buffs. Merging with the mainstream does not have to equal a loss of the gamer identity.

Overall, it was a pretty great weekend. And did I mention it was in Seattle? Which made it all the better. I absolutely love Seattle, and the Pacific Northwest kinda feels like home to me even though I’ve spent most of my life in the deserts of the southwest.

On a final note – coffee shops in Seattle. They are everywhere. What is up with that? How do they manage to keep so many in business? It’s one of life’s mysteries…

Five for Fighting with Great Friends

Aug 28, 2010

I spent Wednesday night at a local bar watching Five for Fighting. Well let me rephrase, I spent most of Wednesday night at a local bar for the purpose of watching Five for Fighting, but spent most of it people watching. We ended up waiting over two hours for him to take the stage, and he didn’t play very long, but it was worth it.

I got to spend two hours with good friends, and watching the wide variety of people who show up for events like that. Since I don’t get out much, and have never really done the bar thing here, it was a good time.

I’ve listened to Five for Fighting’s (aka John Ondrasik, yes one guy, you learn new things all the time) music for years. I have to say though, I appreciate it more now that I’ve watched him perform live. He gives background stories for the songs he sings live, which is amazing. He seems like a really cool guy. It was fun to watch him sing a couple songs he’s well known for (Superman and One Hundred Years), and a few others I’m not as familiar with.

Did I mention it was free? Overall a great way to spend an evening, especially when your weeks are as stressful as mine have been. And if you don’t know who I’m talking about you should definitely give him a listen.

Better Than Radio – Music Online

Aug 15, 2010

I tend to get tired of listening to the radio, and eventually even listening to my own music collection. Radio stations tend to repeat songs more often than my iPod, and too often it’s hard to find a radio station that consistently plays music you want to hear. Living in Utah makes it that much harder.

When I’m at home I much prefer to listen to music online. Currently my two favorite sites are 8Tracks and Grooveshark.

8Tracks is a great way to listen to mixes created by other people. The assortment of musical genres encompass anything you might want to listen to. It’s a great way to discover new music. When one play list ends it randomly chooses another for you. Sometimes you get something good, sometimes you get something bad, but you can always skip mixes and let the randomness choose what you listen to. You can search by keyword to find mixes that might involve themes you like. I’ll admit I actually used this site to listen to potential songs for my wedding, and I found some too.

Grooveshark I actually use less, but I find it’s really great when I want to listen to a particular artist. You can create an account, build your own playlists and save them for the future. You can even have a friend list. The UI is actually a lot nicer than 8tracks, I just like the variety on 8tracks more.

Online radio and music sites are a lot more diverse and interesting than normal radio. It’s nice to not be required to listen to the same music over and over again, just waiting for the next big hit to come out.

My Experience with Online Classes and Distance Learning

Aug 08, 2010

I spent the four years of obtaining my bachelor’s degree doing it the traditional way. I went away to school, put my time in living with roommates in the dorms, took full course loads every semester and I graduated in the typically allotted time. It was a great experience and one I’m glad I had the chance to experience.

However, I quickly realized I hadn’t made the best choice for me as far as career fields went. I decided to go back to school and try a new direction – web design and administration. This time around I skipped the full fledged degree (since I already have one) and decided to pursue a certificate. The college I found with the right program ended up being on the other end of the country from me. This means distance learning and online classes. It has been quite an experience, in some ways very different from my first go around and in some ways still very much the same. The freedom from a set class schedule every week has been particularly nice, but there’s still plenty of homework (even more in some ways), and a lot of self-motivation.

Online classes are a very unique environment and overall learning experience. Time and again you will hear that it’s really up to you what you take away from online classes. The harder you work, the more motivated you are to learn, then the more you will learn. In many ways this is true. I’ve found that while I had to have quite a bit of self-motivation in a normal college environment, online courses put the burden of learning even more squarely on my shoulders. I’m at a good time in life where I can manage this, though I’m not sure that I could have at 18. I have had some great classes where I learned quite a bit, and have taken away some good practices and ideas.

The problem with this idea though, is that sometimes it really isn’t all in your hands. Like any classroom environment the value of the class depends quite a bit on the person teaching it. How much interaction they have with the class, the quality of their lecture notes and examples, their willingness to lend a helping hand to a struggling student, these are all important factors in the quality of the class. I’ve been pretty lucky, most of the classes I’ve taken have been from enthusiastic and available professors. While I may not have liked all the work or the subject matter they really encouraged the learning process.

This last semester, however, I was unlucky enough to see the other end of the spectrum. I took a class on JavaScript. It started well enough and I cruised through the first three weeks feeling pretty good about myself and excited about the material. Shortly after that the subject matter got much harder. The text book chosen for the class was a first edition that was co-authored by another professor at the college, and it had some issues, especially with balancing subject matter difficulty. The professor teaching the class decided that the text was written specifically for this particular class and therefore really didn’t need any additional teaching. Each week were assigned a chapter and our lecture notes were merely chapter summaries that didn’t do much to expand on the material. Half the class began to have serious problems following along and the only solution offered by the professor was to give a week off and supply solutions to the end-of-chapter activities. Not incredibly helpful. He was rarely available other than to post assignments at the beginning of the week. All of this is of course was compounded by the fact that I am thousands of miles from the college campus and couldn’t just drop in on him.

Ultimately my solution was soldier on as best I could and buy another JavaScript text so I could try to reteach myself over the summer. I find it unfortunate that I had this experience at all, but overall pleasantly surprised that this has been my only experience with a professor like that. I have one class left (luckily not from that professor) and I’m hoping for the best as the new semester approaches.

(And in case you’re wondering, the new JavaScript text has been gathering dust for most of the summer. I’ve finally relocated it to right next to my computer so I don’t have an excuse to forget about it anymore.)