Here’s Another Post

I like the way that the New Post organizes posts in the reverse chronological order that they should be organized in. The more I use this tool, the more I like it. It allows me to keep a draft post in the outline and work on it until it’s ready to post and then publish it at my discretion.

I just wish I could use Fargo from behind the firewall at work. I understand the concern of our security team about allowing open access to Dropbox. It is too easy for people to think that things that they save to their Dropbox is actually secure. That would be naive but I’m sure that there are those that believe that.

Because of Fargo, I just fixed an incorrect setting in my blog configuration. I had the timezone wrong. This is great. I will have to remember to go tag my blog posts every now and then but other than that, I like blogging this way.

I Discovered the New Post Button in Fargo

Since I am trying to blog more regularly, I am using Fargo more than I would imagine. I might write something major using it, who knows. For that matter, who knows what I mean by major. Anyway, I hovered over the + button and it popped up a label that said “New Post” so I pressed it. I’m not sure how it will be different from the posts that I have been making but I do know that it helped me to get started writing a blog post for today. That is good, no matter how well I like the New Post button. So, let’s give this a try and publish it.

How I Discovered AngularJS

The other day, I decided that it was time to update my home page. It hadn’t been updated in years and many of the links on it were stale. On a technical level, it was implemented in PHP and was ugly. I felt like it was time to update the underlying technology to something a little more in line with modern ideas about development.

My first thought was to use Rails. I had done some Rails work several years ago and had found the philosophy of configuration by convention a great improvement from the tons of XML I had to write to do a Java Server Pages site. I started investigating and discovered that I was so far behind in the Rails world that it was going to take a major effort to bring myself up to speed on all the new features. It made me question my decision to use Rails for such a “small” application.

Then I found AngularJS. What an elegant way to implement a dynamic web site. I especially liked the fact that the bulk of the compute load was shifted to the browser. The server only provided the data to feed the dynamic behavior. At last someone had implemented a framework where there was a clean separation of concerns between Model, View, and Controller. What is more, the View was implemented with carefully crafted, minimal extensions to html.

And, the most important feature of all, it was fun. I haven’t had this much fun developing in years. I also discovered the Cloud9 IDE but I’ll leave a discussion of it’s goodness for another blog post.

Blogging from Fargo

Today I connected Fargo to my WordPress blog and I am testing the connection. This is the first post made using this interface.

I am trying to figure out how to embed a link into a blog post. I haven’t figured it out yet. I suspect that it may involve using Markdown but I haven’t found a description of how to do it yet.

I just figured it out. Notice that Fargo in the first paragraph is a link to the Fargo site. The way that I did it is to put an html anchor markup in the outline and then with the entire node selected type clover-`. Doing it again exposes the html for editing. Pretty slick.

I could get used to this. It gives me an easy way to write my blog posts in a tool that is far more capable than anything else I’ve used. I have to admit, I am a fan of outline processors but this one sets the bar high for a new generation of outliners.

A Process, at Last

When I started looking at tumblr, one of the first people that I followed was therealkatiewest. Katie West is a lovely young woman from Toronto that teaches English in college and takes incredible nude photos of herself and posts them on the internet. I had noticed that she hadn’t been posting much lately and wondered why. Today, she posted a short text post to tumblr and pointed to her blog. It is just what I needed to read.

She has been spending time on a Teacher and Trainer of Adults graduate certificate program and had been very busy. She was also licking her wounds from an unfortunate run in with a narrow minded and vindictive person in authority but I’ll let her tell her own story. I was inspired with her attitude toward the whole experience and the way she threw herself into becoming a better teacher and rekindling her muse.

Earlier this week I watched a YouTube video of Ron Carter, the famous jazz bassist, giving a master’s class. He said a lot of things that have affected me profoundly but the most important thing he said was to practice honestly. He further clarified that when you practice, you aren’t making art, you are refining the skills that you use to make art. When you sit down to practice you should have an objective and you should keep practicing until you have mastered the skill that was your objective.

I realized that the whole morning words exercise was practice. The missing thing was having a clear objective. At first, just writing seven hundred and fifty words a day was objective enough. Then I started refining the objective. I wanted to write the words without spending most of the time talking about how many words I had written or how many I had left to go. I sketched from life. I made lists of things that I had to do. I observed what was going on around me.

Then I decided that I wanted to earn badges. The most prominent badges revolved around how many days in a row you had written or how many words you had written since you had started. One of the badges was for not getting distracted. Another, that I am still actively pursuing, was for writing your words in under twenty minutes ten days in a row. Now that I have acquired many of the badges, I realize that I need to focus on goals that are too specific and in some cases too personal for there to be badges awarded for them. I need to set my own goals and award my own personal badges when I achieve them. I also need to start making art outside of my practice sessions.

I remember the point where I realized that I could actually play the violin. All the practice that I had done had finally paid off. I need to practice the things I love to do more so that I can hone my skills at them. But, I don’t need to practice at the expense of not creating anything.

Another spin on the whole practice thing is to practice until you get to some level of competence and then give yourself permission to fail when you attempt a piece. Keep attempting things until you succeed but don’t let the interim failures get you down. Sucking at something is a necessary step on the path to mastery.

I also thought a little bit about the process of creating. I thought about it in the context of writing but it is equally valid in other creative contexts. The origin of this line of thought was the assertion that writing (or more generally, doing) and thinking (about doing) are not necessarily the same thing. You don’t necessarily have to do them at the same time.

In fact, a little bit of thinking beforehand actually enhances the process of creation. It lets you decide what you want to say, where you are going with a piece. It’s not that doing and thinking are necessarily mutually exclusive, i.e. you can take notes (sketch) while you are thinking and you can think while you are creating. The important epiphany was that when you thought about what you were doing first it was easier to achieve the elusive state of “flow” while you’re actually creating.

I think I have discovered an artistic process that works for me. I sketch my writing with an outliner. Then, I sit down and write what I’ve sketched. The amount of effort that I put into the sketch depends on the size of the work that I am sketching. At some point though, you’ve got to quit sketching and just do it.

There is Life in This Old Blog

I am sitting at home waiting for a call from the auto shop telling me that my car is ready to be picked up. I am not a very happy camper about the way this repair has gone. I took my car in last Thursday and they still don’t have it fixed as of 12:30 on Tuesday. I don’t think I’ll be using these guys again. It may be more trouble taking the van to a shop in Huntsville but it will probably be a better experience over all.

I haven’t been writing much on this blog but I have been writing a minimum of 750 words a day on 750words for over a year now. I will start posting here again though. I just updated to WordPress 3.2. I like the auto-update feature. I got inspired to update when I was cleaning up my hosting site earlier today.

WordPress App on My iPad

I downloaded the WordPress iPad app and I’m trying it out with this post. It is about as easy as any iPad text app can be. I will probably prefer it to my Star Trek themed app. Let’s face it, writing on an iPad without an external keyboard is hunt and peck any way you slice it. If you’re dedicated enough, you could post to a blog using Morse code. It wouldn’t be much different than this.

I Can’t Seem to Break the Monthly Barrier

I just noticed that in the last post I made here I was talking about trying to post weekly. It’s been over a month and a half and I haven’t posted once. I need to figure out a process to include blogging in my daily routine. That is how Dave Winer does it and he invented blogging. Not like Al Gore invented the internet. More like the way Edison invented the light bulb. There were other people doing things that approximated blogging when Dave invented it but he put all the pieces together, named it and championed it. Thanks, Dave.

I am enjoying my experience with writing my morning pages on 750 Words and I have noticed lately that the quality of my writing has improved. I guess practice improves anything. I write my morning words as a stream-of-consciousness type of activity. I don’t try to break them up into paragraphs and I don’t worry about staying on topic. I hope that blogging will help me develop those other skills.

I keep getting notices that people are creating accounts on my blog. Are any of these accounts people that are reading the blog or are they all people promoting something (spammers)? If you are a real person reading this and you have a minute, drop me a line at my gmail acount. It’s jkelliemiller. I’m assuming you can figure out the address. After all, you are a human being, not a spam bot.

Rare Comment?

If I don’t start blogging more frequently I’ll have to change the name of my blog from Occasional Comment to Rare Comment.  I have established a habit of writing morning pages of at least 750 Words with the help of the web site of the same name. It should not take any great effort to post here at least once a week. After all, I don’t typically write more than a couple of hundred words in any one post.

I guess the major hold up is deciding what to say.  As a rule, I don’t want to write about anything here that is going to take more than a couple of hundred words to say. Many of the ideas that I have would take thousands of words to say and many hours to write. I intend to write about some of those ideas and maybe I’ll write about some of them here, but probably not any time soon. I have too many things on my plate as it is to try to take on another commitment right now. So for the short term, I’m going to try to post here once a week and keep it to two or three paragraphs per post. I know my reader(s?) will forgive me if I get a little long winded on occasion.

Time to Think About Some Goals

I forget who it was that taught me this little gem but in my experience, it has turned out to be true. If you want to insure that you accomplish things, write them down on a list. It doesn’t seem to matter whether you write them on paper with a pen or pencil or you type them into a computer. The relevant thing is that you’ve spent the time thinking about them and formulating them into words and as you write or type them, you are, in effect, programming your brain to accomplish them. I often don’t even bother to check the items off the list as I accomplish them. Just making the list is enough to focus my intent. I occasionally run across lists that I’ve made, either in old notebooks or in files in some obscure sub-directory of my Documents folder, and I’ll look at them and discover that I’ve accomplished most, if not all, of the items on the list.

So, I want to make some goals for myself. There are three categories of goals that I intend to attempt to capture today:

  • Health goals
  • Project goals
  • Financial goals

Let’s take Health goals first.

  • I want to lose at least 10 pouinds between the initial weigh in and the final weigh in of the “Scale Back Alabama” competition.
  • I want to get my daily fasting blood sugar down below 130 mg/dL.
  • I want to get my cholesterol panels all within ADA recommendations (that means boosting my HDL and getting my triglycerides down).
  • I want to stop spilling protein (that means mostly exercise, I think).
  • I want to get back on a schedule of daily exercise.
  • I want to quit reflexively eating everything on my plate.
  • Long term, I want to weigh less than 200 pounds.

Now some Project goals:

  • I want to maintain my habit of writing for at least 30 minutes a day (nominally between 10:00pm and 10:30pm).
  • I want to start posting to my blog, Occasional Comment (here) at least five times a week.
  • I want to finish the Radiosonde data analysis project for Bob.
  • I want to present at least once a quarter to the lunch and learn at work for a total of five times this year.
  • I want to write at least a science fiction short story and perhaps even a novel.
  • I want to finish the pilot of The Gentry.

And finally, some Financial goals:

  • I want to get completely out of debt.
  • I want to start a successful small consulting business to retire to.
  • I want to be able to save at least 20% of my income while paying all of my bills and having a comfortable lifestyle.
  • I want to have the money to get the house fixed up.
  • I want to be independently wealthy so long as it harms no one.

So there are my lists for now. I’m putting them out there. I’ll come back and check periodically to see how many items I’ve accomplished. I’ll probably write some more posts about them as events unfold.