Life as of September 2016
Welcome to my new, beautifully clean and tidy blog (and website-at-large)!
Weird as it might sound, I’d reached a state of low-level anxiety about the messy (lack of) visual identity for my previous effort. I toyed for a while with designing and building my own WordPress theme and then regained my senses – this is the place I write not the place I develop, and if I meld the two it would give me an excellent excuse to never write another bloody word!
So, I dug around a bit (it’s seriously hard to find a good blog-focused theme these days that doesn’t require parsing a massive amount of how-tos) before settling on the sublimely minimalist Nada theme by prominent internet creative Paul Jarvis.
I’ve been a fan of Paul’s for a while (his regular email newsletter, The Sunday Dispatches, is great – you can sign up on his site if creativity and making money from it appeal to you), even being one of very few people to subscribe to his ill-fated Emojibombs experiment with Jason Zook. It was good to be able to give him some more custom, and if you’re looking for a super-simple, calming theme, you can’t go wrong with any of his. I think you’ll agree that Nada is a balm for the eyes.
In other news, I’ve been rather quiet here lately. My apologies, as always.
What’s been keeping me away? Well, many things. Here’s a quick (ha!) rundown:
I left Las Palmas on the 1st of May, having had a ridiculously good time in a city and on an island that will always hold a special place in my heart. The people I met, the weather I occasionally burned in and the city itself are all amazing.
I’ve never loved walking as much as my nighttime walks on the paseo, and I’ve never consistently enjoyed so much incredible food either. Spanish people do lunches right. A few quick shout-outs:
- Is CoworkingC a contender for the greatest co-working space in the world? I’d wager it is, and Nacho would back that bet.
- And if you’re looking for good Spanish teaching, La Casita de Laura is the place to head for!
- And finally if you’re a small business in need of a nice invoice and tax management package, you could do a lot worse then head over to Carlos and the lads at Quaderno. They’ll sort you out!
Of course, nothing I write on Las Palmas would be complete without mentioning my housemate Jerome. Ladies, this is the man you want in your life (or his alter-ego Yerome Kmood, featuring an appearance by yours truly in the background, which believe it or not I only just noticed…).
After leaving LPA, I headed to Madrid for a long weekend spent exploring another great city before heading home to Ireland. I’ve been here (mostly) since, enjoying being around my loved ones for what’s been, by Irish standards, a beautiful summer.
Fortunately, the travel didn’t stop there. Taking advantage of the good weather, I was able to explore my own home island, visiting lots of amazing places that are right here on my doorstep. I’m a believer in travel broadening the mind, but it’s important to remember to be a tourist in your own home sometimes.
Is there more travel in my future? Possibly. I’ll keep you posted.
Speaking of that “mostly” being at home, a lot of that time has been spent working (at times far too much of it). I was lucky enough to get involved with some extremely interesting projects in the last few months:
- With Quaderno on their fancy new API docs and some blog posts, stretching my technical writing muscles and exploring the intersection of my tech side and writing side a lot more.
- With Teamily on their latest MVP, giving me a chance to get stuck into some sexy Riot JS-powered front end development with a great team, learning a lot and producing exciting work that I’m truly proud of.
- With Moposa, bringing new features to couples in the UK, Ireland and beyond and helping them to plan their weddings more smoothly.
- At the hackathon for The Next Web conference in Amsterdam, winning the second-place Uber prize with Gawin. Great fun and another hackathon scalp to add to the… scalp cabinet. Also had the worst hayfever I’ve had in several years while Dutching around for the day on a bike, telling everyone everything was gezellig, pretending I was a local and reading a book in lovely Vondelpark.
- With Appleberry Press, improving on their already award-winning website and trying to delight their customers even more!
- And with Ding, helping to bring some huge performance improvements to their web platform.
It’s been a rollercoaster of a summer, work-wise. I feel I’ve learned more in that time than I had for a long time before that, and that’s a great feeling. I’ve also been dabbling in React, Ruby and Elixir, helping to keep my coder-brain engaged and firing. It’s a sweet time to be in tech, bubbles be damned!
Ugh. Yeah. So, my unprecedented start to the year came to a screeching halt around the middle of March, when I had a few events happen that stressed me out to the max and impacted my ability to get myself into the chair. Stupid, but hopefully having experienced that and learned from it I’ll be more resilient in future. Then with getting super-busy (frequently working 10-14 hour days) it was hard to get things going again.
The good news is that I am back regularly writing, hitting it on average 5/7 days a week at the moment. I’m even working on something that started as a short story and has ballooned into something that could be my first novella or even novel, so I’m feeling pretty pumped about it.
A really fun aspect is finding out how I actually write long things. There are no shortage of blog posts and even YouTube videos from authors describing their process and how they wrestle longer works into submission, but they all come with a massive (sometimes unspoken) caveat that what works for them may not work for you.
Some people plot, some pants. Some write chronologically, some jump around. Some edit as they go, and some nearly stream-of-consciousness their way to a first draft. It’s interesting to find where I fall on these and various other aspects. Hopefully I’ll be able to report back on that.
What my new new commitment to writing should also mean is more posts for my lovely readers right here. I’m hoping to intersperse my writing practice with short stories as well as more non-fiction posts, so hopefully there’ll be some variety here for people to enjoy.
I’m also going to attempt to kickstart my email newsletter with some nice content, but I still have to plan that out a bit. You can sign up at the bottom of any page for a heads-up on that, and also unsubscribe at any time. No commitment necessary.
I left Las Palmas having completed a couple of phases of excellent work with the help of my good friend Shane Carberry’s programming expertise, feeling strong and powerful (albeit with the kind of niggling hip soreness that squatting three times a week will give you!).
Around that time, the first of (so far) two excellent Tim Ferriss podcast episodes featuring Coach Christopher Sommer, formerly the National Junior Male US gymnastics coach, was released. He has some very interesting ideas about training adults with Gymnastic Strength Training (GST), and as I’ve always leaned in that bodyweight direction, I decided to dive in and commit myself to his programming for a year.
This is not actually my first attempt to do so – I have flirted with Sommer’s methods a number of times before, even buying an early hardcopy edition of his book “Building the Gymnastic Body” back when I was 19. Since then I’ve never lost my interest in it, but the younger me had no patience for the oft-humbling nature of the training. Failing any kind of programmed push-ups is a bitter pill to swallow for someone who likes to think of themselves in good shape, and yet I do it on a regular basis these days.
Giving myself a year to work on it is an attempt to calm my monkey training mind, which tends to get attracted to new and shiny and bored of the current thing very fast. Just like my new simpler website theme, limiting my choices is actually a great comfort. It’s also a way to make the price of the courses worthwhile – amortised over a year it’s not crazy, especially as for three months I’ve been able to do everything without the need of a gym membership. Of course, this doesn’t mean I’m not working hard!
I’m also attempting, with his Stretch programs, to for the first time in my life give my concrete block level of flexibility some concerted attention. This is far more of a struggle, mentally, than even the anguish failing to do the requisite numbers of pushups causes me, as flexibility is an area I’m starting into with almost zero natural ability or past work. Just like my dad, I’m almost incapable of touching my toes even when warm, and I’m not remotely close to comfortably sitting in a straddle on the floor. Any kind of splits seems a long, long way away.
As a result, it’s the aspect of my training I find it hardest to be consistent with. These aren’t your grandmother’s light stretching sessions. They’re 45 minutes of brutal hard work on a par with any squat-heavy workouts I’ve done for both mental punishment and cramp-inducing physical effort. If you want to see a grown man cry, stop by my house three times a week. It takes some serious deep-digging to get myself to follow through on a workout.
On a lighter note, for conditioning, grip and power I’m mostly enjoying the simple and powerful kettlebell swing. Most days I get a hundred in either as a finisher to a workout (in which case I aim to get the 100 done in less than five minutes, or combine them with farmer’s walks for a serious grip test) or as a standalone session, often involving some mobility and some messing with other KB skills like bottoms-up presses. Again, KBs are a choice-limiter in a lot of ways, and I like the minimalism of just heaving a chunk of iron around lots of times. My glutes have never felt more alive!
It’s great to be home. I’m spending my time with those I love most and savouring it as much as I can. I get to spend time with my beloved dogs also, and there’s no doubt that their effect on my mood is profound. You can’t stay down or angry with them around.
I accidentally quit Facebook in May. There was no conscious decision to do so but I just… stopped going there. I haven’t had the app on my phone in years. My only interaction with Facebook these days is to use their Messenger app (and a version on my Mac) to chat with my far-flung amigos. Feels good. Peaceful.
It’s funny that the most important part of my life is getting the least column inches here, but by its nature personal life is just that, and I prefer to keep it that way.
I’m a happy man at the moment. Life is swell. Long may it continue!