Holy crap. I haven’t written anything here for a long time.
Like… a long time.
But that’s okay. I like to think there’s some kind of quality trade-off here. Young me, past me, would write a lot and say very little. Present me and future me will perhaps say a bit more and write less frequently.
That might just a load of crap. I’m old and lazy. Who knows.
I still think things though. So if you’ll allow me (and even if you won’t), I’d like to write a few of these thoughts down.
A lot of things are subject to diminishing returns. Sometimes this is okay, like when you need to squeeze that last 1% out to be the best hockey player ever. Other times I find myself wasting massive amounts of time without realising it (and I’m still not very good at hockey).
For instance: News. Unless you watch the news for a living (I’m sorry you’ve got to do that), there’s really no point in checking the news more than once a day. Or once a week even. Remember no matter what news outlet you’re browsing, they have a specific length (time, words, pages) requirement they have to fill, and every day the news just happens to fill that exact requirement. The worst is probably 24 hour news stations that either repeat the same stuff over and over again, report on ridiculous things no-one could possible be expected to need to know, or worst of all just drum up news (read: controversy) for the sake of having something to report. Yet even when I check the news once a week I often find I haven’t found out anything new that I care about.
Another instance: Threaded comments on the internet. First level comments tend to be okay. Second level comments can be decent replies. Third level comments are occasionally worth reading. Fourth level and below is pedants and trolls. Yes exceptions exist. But finding those exceptions will take so much time it’s rarely worth it.
The Frustration Zone
So you know when you’re good at something but not great? And you know what great looks like but you just can’t get there? I call this the frustration zone. I have this all the time. I’m trying to do something, I’m pretty good at doing something, but not good enough that I can translate from my head to my hands. I’ve heard this called a lot of things, but I call it the Frustration Zone. It’s a really hard thing to push past — sometimes it takes a lot of work to get to a place where you can semi-accurately translate your vision into some sort of final form.
Then add something like CSS into the mix. Not only do I have to translate a design from my head to my hands, I have to do it using CSS. It’s like nested Frustration Zones. So I guess maybe this should be:
There are really only two camps in the CSS world. 1) It sucks (currently learning, aka in the Frustration Zone), and 2) It’s great (mastered it, aka in the Stockholm Syndrome zone).
I don’t know a lot about a lot. I don’t know much about programming or designing programming languages.
What I do know is if you’ve designed a thing that can’t make a box THIS big and then put another box THAT big in the middle of that box without having to resort to some hack, you’ve done something wrong. I mean, come on, margin: 0 auto;? To me (and feel free to disagree on this) this is a hacky, gross way to do things.
The fact that CSS has been around for how many years and just now they’re figuring out flexbox? Or that display:table-cell exists?
Or even that every browser can look at the spec and implement it a different way. Or that I can’t tell the browser to make a box that never gets bigger regardless of how much border or padding I add.
I could go on. CSS just makes 90% of stuff really easy (but then anything that separated design from structure would do that) and 10% of stuff insufferably impossible.
The worst is the CSS zen masters who hate it when anyone complains. They basically Bane from Batman You think CSS is your ally? You merely adopted the stylesheet. I was born in it. Molded by it. As if the fact that they’re proficient in a broken system makes the system less broken. (This is also why we don’t ask the Stalins of the world what they think of Communism.) cf. Programmers proficient in PHP.
The Broken Telephone Zone
This one I get at work a lot. Sometimes at church too. When you’re trying to get an idea from your head to your mouth to someone else’s head and out through their hands. It’s like Broken Telephone, just with 2 people. And the more people that get in the loop, the less the final product resembles what you were looking for.
Particularly with software vendors. I’ve found the only way to really get the thing that you want is to actually give them the design and get them to make it look exactly like the design (and yes, this is why I’ve been complaining about CSS). And even then… always with the things.
4 Pole Spectrum
Most of the stuff that goes on a Good > Bad spectrum has a hidden second set of poles. Music, for instance, can be plotted on Good > Bad / Simple > Complex.
Thinking about it this way (though this isn’t the only way to think about it) allows you to bring a bit of wisdom to the sort of music you want to make. There’s a different way to be bad/simple than to be bad/complex.
But I’d say it’s a lot easier to be good/simple than to be good/complex. Like 90% of the complex stuff by amateur musicians is bad.
Good > Bad is kind of a simplistic way to look at this, though. Maybe we want to look at Inclusive > Exclusive / Simple > Complex instead. Let’s say we’re designing a live band. We have a pool of 10 musicians who all fall on a spectrum of amateur > professional, beginner > master, easy to get a long with > pain in the ass… whatever you want the criteria you’re inclusive of to be. So maybe you say “this isn’t band camp, it’s not important that everyone gets to play” and you decide 5 of those musicians aren’t going to make the cut. You’re left with 5. You have to divide these 5 people between let’s say 4 performances per month (every Saturday night at the bar, every Sunday at church). The choice is already made for you. You’re going to be exclusive/simple.
Now imagine you have a pool of 100 musicians. Even if you take only 20%, you’ve still got 20 musicians. Then the choices become more difficult. Do you want 4 different bands of 5 a piece (assuming you have an even instrument distribution which is another thing all in itself). Or do you want 2 bands with 10 people? Or something else?
In the church world this is whether you want to be Hillsong or not.
My default choice is Exclusive/Simple. But that’s a choice every band leader has to make.
There are only 2 acceptable blondes in the world:
1. Kristin Bell
2. Katrina Bowden
I have to amend this list. After watching Birdman:
3. Naomi Watts
Her performance in Rabbits is also to die for.
That Time Of Year
I love this time of year. For movies that is. Not for anything else. Everything else pretty much sucks.
Imitation Game – 100% will watch
Birdman – 4.5 of 5
Selma – 100% will watch
Theory of Everything – Don’t care, won’t watch
Boyhood – Will watch, will hate
Whiplash – 4.5 of 5
Grand Budapest Hotel – 5 of 5
American Sniper – ugh, love Mr Cooper, hate war films and also Clint Eastwood generally
Gone Girl – 4 of 5 – amazing for a thriller, just decent for a Fincher film
Two Days, One Night – 100% will watch
Wild – maybe? dunno about this one yet
Still Alice – nope, just nope
The Judge – boooooring, won’t watch
Foxcatcher – eh, probably won’t watch
Into The Woods – 100% will watch
Inherent Vice – already have the ticket
Ida – got it queued up, will watch