s3e21: That Is Interesting, Isn’t It? 

by danhon

0.0 Station Ident

Still going with the Contact quotes, although potentially getting a bit more obscure. I am, yet again, attempting some sort of yak-shaving manoeuver in terms of to-do lists because I’m the kind of person who, in the absence of a hard external deadline, will leave the thing that I’m supposed to be doing until the hard external deadline is right up in my face and completely unavoidable. One of the methods of dealing with this (although perhaps somewhat unrealistic for most people) is for example to be a creative director at an advertising agency on a large account. From my experience, what this means is that your day is relatively fully scheduled (there are instagrams and Flickr photos, I expect, of various redacted shots of various Outlook/Exchange calendars of my day) with meetings and reviews and other meetings and other reviews and you are shepherded and/or pursued by a combination of a) assistant, b) someone else’s assistant, c) your account director, d) account supervisors, e) project managers, f) producers and so on and physically moved from one place to another and presented with a number of Decisions You Have To Make, with the hope that at least part of the time your response is marginally more useful than saying “Try Harder” or “Can You Make It A Bit Bigger”.

But now I have succeeded – ha – to the extent that my work is self-directed and people ask me to do things and we haven’t necessarily negotiated hard deadlines other than “it would be great if you did this” and I’m not surrounded by a visible web of social obligations. So, there’s two things I’m trying with the to-do lists this time.

1) I can’t put everything in one to-do list. This is because I can sit here and think of everything that is to be done and I get that there are only so many configurations of baryonic matter in this universe but it sure *feels* like my to-do list could at least conceptually be infinite so it’s really hard to see getting *a thing done* as progress against the inevitable heat death of the universe.

2) I fall into the trap of being biased toward Unimportant Urgent Things (hey, what’s happening *right now* on Twitter and how can I be funny about it) and Unimportant Non-Urgent Things (an idea for a tumblr that I have that I haven’t done anything about). When things come to a head I am confronted with the Important Urgent Things (and have learned how to use the Urgent pressure productively, but now appear to be asymptotically approaching some sort of Maximum Urgency Maximum Anxiety mode which, let’s agree for the sake of argument, is probably not conducive to my long-term health), and *even worse* I find the Important Non-Urgent Things (like, say, getting life insurance – which, finally, I have done! – or things like Eating Healthily and Exercising for Future Dan) *really* hard to do. So, I’m trying to organize the things I do across the four axes shown in the Procrastinator’s Matrix[0].

3) I also have three new lists! “This Month” which is essentially all the shit that needs to get this month, or even after that because really who can think more than a week in advance, “This Week” which is a slightly shorter list of stuff that I’m mildly anxious about, and “Today” which is a holy-shit-I’d-better-get-this-done-today list.

[0]  The Procrastination Matrix – Wait But Why

0.1 Station Ident, Redux

I started writing this episode about two weeks ago – probably around 9th May, and now I’m picking it back up again. Somewhere between Minneapolis St. Paul and Washington, DC (albeit a lot nearer to MSP than DCA) after having disappeared for a while. I’ve been out in Australia: Canberra, with the wonderful Web Directions folk, speaking at their first Web Directions Transform conference where I helped spread the gospel of government digital services that meet user needs, and then hopping down to Melbourne at the invitation of Seb Chan at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image where we had what would probably be best described as a Newsletter Live with me mouthing off on the sofa. This week: off to Washington, DC for work (a Child Foster Care hackathon at the White House!), and then a little bit of family holiday before back to Portland for work.

1.0 Customer Support, How May I Help You?

My wife was helping her dad with a tech question (the broad strokes are a Windows 7 laptop, an HP scanner and, well, that’s all you need to know, really) and texted me to share her frustration. It used to be that I was fairly confident at doing remote tech support for Windows for parental units but these days, after a good 15 years of OS X usage and not really having to deal with Windows (and Windows itself having changed a whole bunch in the interim), I now have no idea what to do unless I’m sitting in front of the thing. If I *am* sitting in front of the thing, I can normally figure it out because computers are computers and they’re all stupid, but now, I just really can’t do the remote tech support thing anymore.

Which made me realise: there’s that bit in The Martian (sorry, spoilers) where Watney happens upon a piece of old hardware on Mars and, of course, there’s an exact duplicate of that old hardware at the Jet Propulsion Lab and the team uses it to figure out how to talk to Watney. One day, I hope “hexadecimals!” will become this generation’s “A unix system!”

Anyway: I’m now at the point where I’m seriously considering having an exact copy of familial computing environments just so that I can adequately perform troubleshooting when required. It’s almost like (well, it *is* like) a sort of forensic archaeology where you can’t have access to the original environment so you set up a duplicate and try to recreate everything that’s being done remotely on your own system. So: next time I’m at the parents, I’m severely tempted to at the very least dump a virtual image of the Windows laptop so I have a parental-computing-unit-in-a-box.

2.0 Things That Are Infrastructure Now

I had a conversation with Ben Hammersley over Twitter shortly after SpaceX stuck their third first-stage landing and their second automated spaceport drone ship (the good ASDS Of Course I Still Love You) landing. This one came in hot, hard and (maybe?) heavy, having come back from delivering the rest of the Falcon on a geostationary transfer orbit. It was one of those things where I think I accidentally managed to watch it live, taking advantage of a frankly unreasonable amount of technological innovation known as “the internet” and everything attached to it. But the conversation with Hammersley was a bit like this: are first-stage landings boring now?

The answer, of course, is no, they are not boring. But there was an argument made (and I desperately wish I could remember who had pointed this out, but it’s super hard to cite at 30,000 feet and I realise this is totally a first-world problem where you’d love to cite someone but you’re impatient because the SKY WIRELESS INTERNET is too slow) that landing rockets is infrastructure now. To which I responded that I’d love to see a page on wikipedia entitled List Of Things That Are Infrastructure Now. Here’s some of my nominations:

* landing rockets
* landing rockets on drone ships
* looking for planets (more on this below)

and I bet you lot can think of a lot more.

Anyway. Hello. How are you? I’m just going to send this episode that’s been stuck in my drafts folder and unblock. I have a bunch of super interesting stuff to talk about next episode. Have a good weekend!

Best,

Dan