What I’ve Been Up To Lately . . .

I know, it’s been too long since my last blog entry. Part of the problem is finding something “worthwhile” about which to blog.

For instance, I’ve spent a lot of my working time troubleshooting issues with CKEditor and certain third-party plugins, and although I felt satisfaction when it was finally resolved– writing about “allowedContent” strings is a boring snooze-fest for ~97% of the population.  Plus, when you blog about such topics, the typical engagement tends to be other web professionals negatively criticizing the approach you took to solve the problem– so that’s not worth my time, either.

I’ve been working my way through William Ury’s The Power Of A Positive No for my non-fiction read of the month. Some of Ury’s language choices are more “touchy-feely” than my usual reading, so it’s a bit of a stretch for me. I’m also trying to read it at a more deliberate pace because I believe I’m less likely to internalize lessons from the material if I rush right through it.

In retrospect, 2017 was about reading as many fiction books as I could during my free time, because I felt like I was behind on so many popular culture topics.  I’m trying to be more deliberate in my reading choices, approach and time in 2018 . . . although I still can’t bring myself to write notes in the margins.

Another change for 2018 was to have been doing more drawing/sketching, but that was derailed by computer issues for a little bit. For reasons unknown to me, GIMP suddenly stopped working properly with the Huion H420 graphics tablet around version 2.8.20.  Rather than rolling back to a previous version of GIMP, this past week I opted to make the jump to FireAlpaca.  It’s been a learning curve, but also an interesting transition.  I suspect you’ll be seeing blog posts about FireAlpaca in the future.

Now it’s your turn– what have you been up to in the first six weeks of 2018?

Book Review: HTML5 Applications

I picked up Zachary Kessin’s book, HTML5 Applications, at a used bookstore and tried to read it recently. It was not a pleasant experience.

To be fair, this book was published in 2011 and a lot of the specific details have changed in the seven intervening years.  The BlobBuilder() function, for example, has been subsequently deprecated. It would be unreasonable to expect a printed book to anticipate and adapt for this kind of change, obviously, and I don’t fault the author for this.

Here’s an example of the kind of frustrating problems I had with the book in addition to the material being changed:

Because JavaScript is a case-sensitive language, the correct methods should be fadeIn and fadeOut, rather than all lower case. Granted, developers already familiar with jQuery will know this and adjust accordingly, but a technical reviewer should have caught this and set it right before it got to print.

Similarly, in a later portion of the book where Kessin is explaining the filter() method, an even function is referenced– even though it is never defined anywhere else on the page. Again, an experienced JS developer will be able to infer the need to define an even() to make the code work, but expecting readers to “just know this” and “fill in the blanks on their own” doesn’t contribute to a positive reader experience. It’s precisely these sorts of omissions which make learning new material frustrating instead of enjoyable, because you feel like you’re spending more time fixing someone else’s code rather than learning new material.

The section on Testing JavaScript Applications with QUnit and Selenium were fairly decent, and some material in the New Tags chapter was helpful, but I’ve found it necessary to put notes in the margins of several pages to keep track of omissions and updates.

2017 Recap

Andrew Mills standing in front of a "Bargain Priced" shelf of books, holding up a book titled, "Andrew's Brain."

I dislike New Year’s Resolutions, but I also think an important part of mindfulness– and arguably, gratitude– is taking time to note the end of the current year and reflect upon what one has managed to accomplish. Here’s my 2017 in a nutshell, so I can stop that interior monologue of “I didn’t accomplish anything in 2017” whenever I feel tempted to compare my progress against someone else’s:

  1. ReFi my mortgage and HELOC. (This has made a significant improvement in my financial situation compared to 2016, and mitigated a lot of potential damage when interest rates began climbing this year.)
  2. Put a freeze on my credit history with all three credit bureaus (to prevent people from opening new loans under my identity as a result of the Equifax breach).
  3. Resolved the Windows 10 update/fail/rollback loop that plagued my desktop for months as a result of the “Fall Creators Update.”
  4. Had two wisdom teeth extracted after more than a decade of procrastinating.
  5. Read 41 books (including the Bone and Sandman series, so can I have my damn “geek card” back now?)
  6. Upgraded to a new Android 7 phone.
  7. Got acquainted with ECMAScript 6; also built my first Anki deck.