Work journal

2021-05-05 work log: self-development

AuthorMark MacKay

Yesterday I spent most of the day working on a feature for Method Draw, the feature involved a pet-peeve of mine: bitmap clipboard paste. I was quite advanced in the implementation, but the code I produced was messy and repetitive, and it left me with the sense that it could be done much better. At the end of the day, I reverted my changes and undid an entire day of work.

There have been many times in my career (especially in the pre-OSX days) when my work has been lost because of computer crashes. Most people throw a tantrum when this happens, I usually shrugged, because the conclusions I reached were still valid, and these had not been erased from memory, and I could replicate what I had already built in a fraction of the time, and since I was rebuilding it, I could improve on what had already been designed.

It seems that the difference between creative people and efficient people (though these two are not ends of a single spectrum) lies in the willingness to “waste work”. In creative endeavors, no work is wasted work, because creativity requires exploration, and though one may reach dead ends, the value of work resides in the territory explored, not in approaching the destination. Efficient people want to take the shortest route, creative people want to understand the map.

I see a parallel in spiritual development, where a person may seek instruction by a teacher, or instruction from the world. The teacher may find you off the path and tell you to get back on it, when the teacher is the world it requires you to attune to the environment so that it reveals where the path is.

Yesterday I was listening to a podcast with Daniel Schmachtenberger in which he was discussing spiritual development. He said that the great danger in spiritual development is that it is trivial to mimic, not only to fool others, but to fool ourselves. If we think of a spiritually developed person—well, let’s drop the “spiritual” moniker, and simply think of a developed person—how would he or she be? Would they be compassionate? Would they be healthy? Would they be creative?

In the post-modernist conception of reality, there would be no such thing as personal development. The hobo, the gang member, the pimp have the same development as a statesman, the head of family, or the healer. I think the differences between the examples that I chose are that the people in the second group put their gifts into the service of others.

Coming back to the mimicking example by Daniel, it could be argued that “putting your gifts into the service of others” is easily mimicked, or the egoic impulses can be concealed and dressed as altruistic action, when it reality it serves the person. But it can also be argued that every action eventually traces back to our own sense of worth: we help others because it eventually benefits us, even if it is simply because it helps us think highly of ourselves.

I am reminded of a dictum that a developer friend told me: the measure of seniority in developers is how much the senior member helps other team members become better. This seems to resonate with the essence of becoming a “developed” person. In humanistic psychology it is said that the natural impulse—despite all of our misgivings—is to become better people. We don’t yearn for conflict, poverty, or hardship, we might desire pleasure and the things that take our mind off our struggles, but deep down the spirit knows when there is alignment in one’s actions and in one’s vision of a better world.

When these spontaneous mini-essays sprout from my writing activity, I wish to find an actionable task to put into practice. Putting myself in the position of helping others—I wonder, would be development mimicking? People don’t want to be saved or rescued, even offering help can sometimes backfire. The secret to this conundrum seems to be: support the direction in which the person is heading. If a person is happily exploring off the path, support the exploration. Don’t tell them to come back unto the path. Every one of us is unfolding in different ways, assist the unfolding.

Work journal

2021-04-29 work log: Paid-work and Play-work

AuthorMark MacKay

Yesterday I was about to write my work log at 11:30pm, but then I notice that when I am tired I am also uninspired, and so I wish to finish early and leave a lot of thoughts unfinished, as if in a dazzle, rambling because I don’t want to expend intellectual effort in putting my inner-house in order.

So I decided to write my work log in the morning, but a similar thing happened: I woke up pretty groggy and it took me an hour of mindlessly navigating the internet to finally come to my senses and think: this is like watching TV, I better write my work log.

Sometimes I think I would be better off deleting the first two or three paragraphs of my work logs, and in fact, sometimes I do, because the purpose of these introductory paragraphs is to simply frame the text that I’m going to write, to find a place where thought can flow, and thus hold very little informational value, it is like a youtube video where you skip the first 20%-30% because the speaker takes a while to get to the point.

But today I will leave it here, as evidence of my own process of writing.

Yesterday I had a call with a future client for a small customization of Method Draw. She has a logo creator site in which existing logos are available for customization with SVG-Edit. I have the sense that this kind of work is drudge work but necessary at this time. I have not been able to work on the “caret game” because of my financial responsibilities, and so the eternal conundrum of paid-work vs play-work is put into evidence.

What would be play-work at this time? I have a project which is currently half-baked, but I could release perhaps in a month of full-time dedication. Nobody paid me for this project, it arose from a sustained inspiration over the years, and also from my own need, because it saves me time and it helps me reason about and implement color schemes.

This client wanted a custom color scheme for her version of Method Draw, and I was elated that somebody asked for this, for this was a nice intersection between paid-work and play-work, this bridging the gap between these kinds of work. As I write this I realize: I ought to do this for myself, to make play-work pay the bills, yet the formula remains elusive and the temptations to sell out are great.

For the time being, this is idle thought, because I must meet my professional commitments before even thinking about how to be more creative with my own time. The problem is: once my professional commitments are completed, I will find myself in the need to seek more paid-work, because I cannot sponsor myself more free time for my creative pursuits.

Instead of complaining of my lack of creative freedom, I will appreciate what this lifestyle brings me: total flexibility of time, zero meetings, total geographical freedom, a sense of sovereignity in which I only hold myself accountable to myself. The geographical freedom is a bit illusory: even though I can work from anywhere, in practice I must live where I live because I don’t pay rent, and thus I’m bound (and privileged, frankly) to live in the house of the family (on my own, fortunately).

When I contemplate the situation by comparing to a fulltime position within a company, I can observe that—according to my own values—I am in an advantageous position, because my appreciation for money or a steady cash flow is less than my appreciation for freedom and flexibility. These values change as our life station changes, and I’m sure if I had children, the order would reverse.

I have written during 30 minutes. It is time to put myself to work.

Work journal

2021-04-28 work log: What is Method Draw

AuthorMark MacKay

It’s been a while since I timed myself writing. It is 11:24, let us say that we have until midnight to write. I have set the timer for 30 minutes, and I will now allow myself to describe the work that was done.

These things are best described in images, but I am too lazy to produce screenshots when these will change tomorrow. Instead, I will describe what was done under the hood to support modals.

I wrote myself a really modest modal library so that I completely understand what is happening under the hood. This is reinventing the wheel, but what I am building is a cart wheel, not the standard metal rim with a tire.

My modal needs are very modest, fortunately, and pretty quickly I was able to replicate and extend current functionality. I debated wether I should just publish it with placeholder text, but in further thought I have decided to write the content tomorrow. But, why leave something for tomorrow, when you can do it today?

What is Method Draw

Method Draw is a simple vector drawing application. It is open source and you can find the source code at GitHub. Method Draw was originally forked from SVG-Edit several years ago in an effort to provide a simple vector editor for an online course on design, and when the online course execution fell through, this product remained.

My goal, at this time, is to make Method Draw something I use for myself. I confess to using Sketch for my graphic design needs, needs that should be well covered by using Method Draw. I will scratch my itch for some time, and this should bring good things.

This text is uninspired. I shall resume work tomorrow.

Next day:

Method Draw is a simple open source vector drawing application. Method Draw was forked from SVG-Edit several years ago with the goal of improving and modernizing the interface.

At this time (2021), the author (Mark MacKay) is working on improving stability and improving the codebase, which contains a lot of legacy practices. The goal is to make something the author uses for himself.

Work journal

2021-04-27 Work log: Emails and attachments

AuthorMark MacKay

Some days of work involve writing emails. Some people are quick and to the point. Others enjoy a bit of narrative. I enjoy responding to both kinds of people in a thoughtful way, both ways of expression are an art in itself. How to be as concise as possible? How to be warm to a kind client? Ends of a spectrum in which the middle way is often the wisest choice.

This, I guess is more related to the act of writing rather than an act of writing emails, for both are the same. I write this work log in stream of thought, and this could be an email, to myself, I guess. How do I communicate with myself? Well, that depends on the situation, if I find myself in a place where I am in need of order, I put myself tasks to complete, but this is an executive mode that is best trascended by the way of inspiration.

How do we inspire ourselves? Sometimes I sense there is a great person in me, yet I put it down, why? Oh these existential conundrums must be forgotten, The Way suggests flowing to what is experienced in the moment. Let us resolve this difficult mystery: if the sage ought to be satisfied with the state of the world, how is he qualified to design it?

Any action undertaken in the bonding of attachment, resolving out of one’s own inspiration rather than desire of outcome. This is the most difficult of tasks. To bound one’s actions to an economic outcome is a very tricky proposition, because the desire for monetization shapes the product in pretty overt ways, and thus to remain faithful to inspiration, it is at this time of no concern how something might be monetized, except by narrating a story as a product is built and relying on donations from people who support “the process” without attachment to the result of it.

The fact that “unattached” money reaches an aim makes the process a bit more spiritual. In a world accustomed to transaction, I sell you a product with which I am inspired at this moment, I aim not to resolve need, but the small things that enter my locus of attention and that I may even use as a way of becoming…

And the ego stepped in. It is more simple than that: a well-designed product produced through inspiration can only be demonstrated in action. I must pursue some discipline to make things happen.

I responded to many important emails today and sometimes that is enough work. Until tomorrow.

Work journal

2021-04-22 Work log: Caret game

AuthorMark MacKay

Today I mocked a very quick prototype of the caret game, I will begin referring to the project by this name, even though I don’t know if it is final. I wanted to share this quick prototype as proof-of-work, however, setting up something publicly is a hassle, unless I used a replit for it. Let’s give it a try…

Great! That was easy, now let us see if I can embed it in an iframe here…

Great! Works too.

The purpose of this quick prototype is to get a feeling of the mechanics of the game. If you know how to jump word by word (Alt + arrow keys) it seems somewhat satisfying, but to really gauge the potential of this game, I would need to further develop some ideas.

For today, my time has run out, but I will continue exploring this potential game tomorrow.

Work journal

2021-04-22 Next game inspiration

AuthorMark MacKay

I come to sit down seeking inspiration, as intended yesterday. Inspiration for what? The next game, and to do so with the same intention as always, because it seems to sprout out of me.

I grew tired of that damn blinking cursor and set the blinking cursor to a fixed state. I am liking it so far. If we are to get serious about text, we must document what can be accomplished with the keyboard and a simple text-box, in MacOS for the time being.

Do I miss the non-blinking cursor?

Would it be better off a bit more fat?

I guess I would be fiddling too much, but this would be the purpose of the game. To follow a ghost cursor around, repeating what one is doing and typing? Well, I guess the first question is, will this be a game of writing? But I must be as “normal” as possible, will this be a big challenge? First I must approach the problem in the simplest way possible, which is to set up a simple experiment to understand how is it that the game might work. But, in order to discard useless paths, let us simply play with some ideas regarding cursors and text-editing techniques with my own keyboard, because I consider myself a very cumbersome deleitante of the keyboard.

I don’t even know how to front-delete text. I have found now: Ctrl-D. But that’s awkward, fn-delete is better. I ought to teach both, or only one? The better answer is good enough, I may offer alternatives, depending on how things shape up.

The spelling and grammar dialog sucks. Not worth mentioning…

Option-Delete for deleting words, this I knew but somehow forget.

Ctrl-K is control-kill.

Fn-UpArrow scroll up one page, I never use the pagination keys, but let us try… Ah… Nice, I can see without having to move the cursor. This opens up new possibilities.

Fn-LeftArrow and Fn-RightArrow go to the beginning and the end of the entire document, great.

Fn, Shift, and Ctrl are quasimodes for keyboard control. Is Command one of them? Ah, I see, I jump to the beginning and end, so the answer is yes. So we have four quasimodes. Alt, does alt do anything? jumping words, of course, so if we explain this through a theory of quasimodes, it may make more sense to make this problem more simple, and simply focus on the behavior of one quasimode at the time. Which is most important?

Alt perhaps. But I use this because this is how I delete my own trailing thoughts, I will select and then delete, unless I type Alt-Delete. Of course, I am just realizing ways of using the keyboard. If I prototyped it, how would it look? would I have the time to complete a prototype at this time? It is almost 9pm and I would say: it is best to perform the task in times of more creative energy, the purpose of this relaxation is to write down some thoughts regarding interaction.

Let us start using the keyboard in its most common use, the arrow keys to move the cursor. What do I do to make navigation of the insertion point more interesting? I can hold Alt to jump back and for by word and by… Paragraph, the hands seem to hold the knowledge to this, I can only discover my own gaps in knowledge to what is already known by my hands.

Let’s focus thoughts.

This seems to be an interesting challenge where I hold many gaps in knowledge. If framed into a sentence I would call this the lifeboat that guarantees good port. It took me a ten meditation meditation to come up with that answer. Know that all work done in this direction is sacred, and thus treat it this way.

The sacred must be acted upon.

Work journal

2021-04-20 Inspiration needs power

AuthorMark MacKay

I originally announced the worklogs had resumed because I was expecting a significant client project to materialize, but the deal went up in thin air. What am I to do now? Finish the work I currently have at hand, and perhaps interspace it with a personal project.

Today I worked some solid hours on client work, I’m still not done, but I would like to leave those tasks for later. I’ve done enough chores for today. How does one connect with inspiration, after hours of toil?

My battery is at 5%, I just discovered I am without electricity. It will be better to resolve this and then come back to writing.

I am now at the café of CityMarket, a grocery store. My bank apparently missed an automated payment and my before-last receipt went unpaid. What great damage does menial toil to inspiration work. But the damage is double if I get mad at the institution.

Before coming here, I encountered Óscar on the street of the neighborhood. He was furious, screaming that he would pull out a gun or plant a bomb at the offices of the national ID institution, because they refused to attend him after he argued that his ID was expired when //they// said it was not. I told him we could have lunch together, but to cut off his threats.

“Do you think that by threatening to blow them up, you will get anything resolved”—“Yes of course! They will shit their pants and respect me!”. “You know that’s not true Óscar, stop making empty threats and let’s have lunch”. He eventually calmed down, and made special notice that I didn’t have electricity either. He’s been without electricity for two months now, his family had sent him money to pay the large, accumulated bill, but he squandered it buying an electric coffee maker.

He suggested to blow up the CFE, the electricity company. I suggested that we pay our bills. Never have I seen just how useless is rage when it comes to resolving problems.

And so I tried to pay online but the payment system is a mess, and did not allow me to perform the payment. I had to call the company which suggested me to head to the nearest payment station, it was not possible for me to do the payment online. Sigh. If I could only rage.

Inspiration ought to be found tomorrow.

Work journal

2021-04-13 Dealing with avoidance

AuthorMark MacKay

I sometimes wonder if writing about the way I deal with certain kinds of work simply reinforces bad habits, as if I were describing my ego and thus seeking justification for the way it behaves. I feel compelled to justify or explain my behavior because I feel bad about it, explaining it to myself might make me feel less bad, but it does nothing to resolve the problem.

What happens to me is that I often avoid opening client emails for several days. I may send work for client review, and then feel uneasy or anxious about the feedback, so instead of reading the email I go off and do many other unrelated things until no more time can be squandered in this senseless procrastination. By the time I open the email, I often find that the feedback or the response was positive, and I all the time I was dreading reading the email seems silly.

MacOS notification thingy just showed me a photo from four years ago, tangentially related to what I’m writing, and I wonder if this is enticing me to further distraction in order to avoid opening the email, or if this is something that I should write about in order to therapeutically deal with this disorder in my affective emotional state.

I will chose the second.


This picture was taken exactly four years ago.

I was walking the Vía de la Plata in Spain, near the Roman arch of Caparra, and someone told me that on the other side of some hills there was a beautiful valley called Valle del Jerte, which was full of cherry trees which were blossoming at this time of the year. This captured my imagination, so instead of doing my day’s walk, I decided to go over the hills to find said valley.

I ascended by the way of intuition, simply going up. The hills looked small enough, but this was just an illusion, as soon as I ascended enough I saw that the true height was obscured by the initial hills. Still, I kept on ascending. Along the way I saw signs for “Piedras talladas”, which means “sculpted rocks”, I knew this was a place where bronze-age herders had settled and that this referred to their sculptures, which I wanted to see.

I followed the signs but never found what I imagined would be a sort of park or museum showcasing these sculptures. I heard a chainsaw in the distance, so I decided to follow the noise and ask the person where I could find this place. Finally, I found a man trimming a tree on his property. “Excuse me, could you please tell me where are the sculpted rocks?” I asked him.

“Who told you I have sculpted rocks!?”, he replied alarmed. I eased him by telling him I was simply following some signs of which I had lost track. We entered into small conversation about my quest to cross the mountains to visit Valle del Jerte, and the man felt compelled to show me the sculpted rocks he had on his property.

He had hidden a stone tomb under some bushes, because it could be taken away if authorities found it. The tomb had a puddle of murky water and was in bad shape, but when I saw it I just knew I had to climb inside. This would be a strange request to make to the man, so I simply said that I wanted to take some good pictures of it, so I asked for permission to clean it. The man acceded on the condition that I send him pictures after it was clean. He went away while I cleaned the tomb.

IMG_2271.jpeg IMG_2281.jpeg

When I was finished, I stripped naked and laid inside, meditating upon death. I felt an outmost tranquility and I wished to look at myself in this state, without a mirror I could only take a picture of myself. Which is what happened on this day, four years ago.

These deaths are ego deaths, in which parts of ourselves strip away revealing more authentic parts of ourselves. In this action I remember that I used to have a very fragile profesional ego, and the way that I dealt with having this ego hurt was by avoidance. Nowadays I consider this ego to have died in order to give way to a more experimental fool, but the habits instilled by fragile designer ego still reside within me.

So, if I get negative feedback from my client, this should no longer affect my self-esteem, because appreciation of the self is not based on my professional performance. What is it based on now? Self-esteem is an inaccurate model for how I deal with myself these days. I do fall into the trap of praising or condemning myself now and then, but this is superficial, when I contemplate inwardly I remember that I am an inexorable and interconnected part of spirit, a great wave of sorts, and that my mistakes and successes are equal in significance towards the teleological destiny of humanity (and mostly meaningless).

I shall read the email now.

Client is optimistic about the constraints I had proposed. I must remember: avoidance (and thus procrastination) belongs to the past. What happens in life is not about us, it is the very unfolding of universal spirit.

Work journal

2021-04-12 Menial work and breaks

AuthorMark MacKay

I will resume writing my work logs as I did when I first begun writing: a registration of daily experience related to work. The first task, I think, is to define what I mean by work, because I sense that my definition is a bit idiosyncratic and I do know that sometimes I overstretch the boundaries of meaning and I encompass things which are clearly not work, so this ends up being a personal journal of sorts.

There is no problem in delving into the personal because in the end everything is connected, but sometimes I think I cease writing work logs and write personal logs instead, with an optional sprinkling of work.

What is work?

Any effort expended in the betterment of one’s life situation. Work can be inward or outward. Outward work is what I will focus resuming these work logs, because I think I over-indulge in inward work, and my purpose in this period is to reconnect with outward work. I find that writing about work helps me become more engaged in it, and I become more adept at extracting wisdom from experience when I write.

My intention is not to write about the specific work I do, but about the conclusions I reach because of the work I do. In the process of explaining these conclusions, it is very likely that I will have to explain some of the work done.

I will cease speculating and delve into the process itself.

The first task in work seems to be to remove all extraneous distraction. Things that interrupt us and will not go away unless we address them. This might seem like procrastination, but if you have pressing issues, in my case a bug report from a Method Draw user, some pressing issues from René who is releasing a writing course today, and a former client who needs a quick update to his software.

Unfortunately, entire days can be consumed by these menial, yet unavoidable tasks. Why does it seem that every project is a child that gains a life of its own, and comes back for attention every now and then? By this logic, my career will never end, because I will have accumulated hundreds of children that will claim my attention perpetually, and the only way to gain rest will be at my deathbed.

Perhaps then, my approach to legacy work is wrong: should I simply say no to maintenance work? Every effort that I put into the past is an effort that I do not put into the present. Where does maintenance work end? Right now, a reasonable pile of unwashed dishes lie in the sink. This morning I prepared breakfast and wondered wether it was more important to address the dishes or work first, but I will eventually have to address the dishes.

Sometimes I sit down to work, and when I become tired of expending this kind of effort, I go and do house chores, so I chose to leave the dishes in the sink in order to wait for the moment in which I would need a break. One cannot (or should not) work in more than three hour stretches, though it is the mind and the body that set the pace.

If you are in a state of flow, do not interrupt it because you are at your three hour mark. Pomodoro is bullshit: lose yourself in work, let the clock fly by how many hours it requires, but if the flying of the clock is lost, do not force it, take a break and wash the dishes.

Is it possible to make maintenance work into the same category as chores? If I am working on a major project and I need a break, can I switch my context and address a menial task? It seems to be possible, yet not ideal, because the context switch is not different enough to count as a break. We are working with the mind, looking through a screen, using our hands to perform a task. A real context switch would involve using a different part of our body, and a different center of being to perform a task. Thus, walking the dog, washing the dishes, making the bed, or going to the gym are good candidates for breaks from work.

Thus, I answer myself: there is no way to address menial computer work as a break from the same kind of work. I guess, if I became a digital being, that is, that my emotional and mental life happened entirely in cyberspace, I could accomplish this. And yet, I waste so much time on Twitter and Hacker News that I must concede that—for many hours a day—I am a digital being.

This is a thread that I must continue exploring. For the time being, I will complete my menial tasks in order to make space for creative work.

Work journal

Work logs will be resumed on April 12

AuthorMark MacKay

I'll jot down some quick thoughts:

--English seems to be the natural language of work. It's brief, concise, sharp.
--¿Y si me es más fácil explicarme sentimentalmente en español?
--So let practical matters be treated in English, y las cosas metafísicas: las del espíritu y el corazón, en español.
--Una lengua romance para lo romántico.
--An arguably Germanic language for practical matters. es donde he estado siguiendo mi (ahora más esporádica) hábito de escritura. Continuaré nociones románticas por allá.

This place will take on a more professional spin, because writing about work helps me connect with it, but the habitual reader will know that this is an imaginary division, all meaningful work is personal and the process of work reveals interesting things about ourselves. I am most happy when I am most working and loving. These two are somehow connected. I am in a constant process of discovery.

Until then,