#ROW80 Round 1, 2014 Goals

It’s the start of a new round!

Click on the picture to link to the website!
Click on the picture to link to the website!

I’m in the midst of one short-term project (the portfolio website, to complete by the Martin Luther King’s Birthday holiday on January 20) and one long-term project (The Year of Ideas that ends December 31). Plus, I’m entering the labyrinth of applying for SSDI this week, and have three online classes (Advanced HTML, Ajax programming, and one called “Monte Carlo Methods in Finance” that I’m taking just because I thought it looked interesting) starting next week.

Do I really need to be doing ROW80? Probably not.

Do I want to do ROW80? Absolutely. I have lots on my plate, but I want to add a few other things:

  • Write 30 minutes a day. Writing has taken a backseat amid a job hunt and the Christmas holidays, and I want to get back to it. I can find 30 minutes a day to write. I just haven’t been.
  • Read 30 minutes a day. I’ve had this on the list for a while, and maybe this time I’ll actually do it. Let’s just hope that I can wrestle my Kindle away from Mary…
  • Decrapulate my office. I think I’ve explained that “decrapulation” is “cleaning.” It’s been a good couple of years since I cleaned the place up, and I’m sure it’s interfering with my creative process.

So, onward, full speed ahead, into 1Q14, as they say in the business world!

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The Year of Ideas Begins Today!

Yes, it started two weeks ago, when I came up with the idea for this. But the year starts officially today, and as such, so does the Year of Ideas. I spent too much time today trying to use GIMP to design a logo. That’s why I’m getting to this late…

Anyone remember the movie Night Shift, with Henry Winkler, Michael Keaton, and Shelley Long? Keaton, as Billy Blazejowski (or “Billy Blaze”) walks around with a tape recorder, and when he gets an idea, he records it…

I can probably record notes with my iPhone (and maybe I should), but… nah… I look crazy enough as it is.

And that last sentence shows exactly what my problem is: I’m rejecting the ideas as fast as I can come up with them. Before I can even give it a second thought, rejected out of hand. Last week, in reply to my ROW80 end-of-round post, Eden said that my count was probably higher than the ten or twenty that I was reporting, simply because I wouldn’t always consider something an idea when I thought of it. And, like everything else I don’t record (either on a note in Stickies or Notes, in an email to myself, in a note on Springpad, or even a voice recording of the idea), those ideas are lost. And the reason I don’t record them is that I’m judging them before they get that far, and deciding, nah, that won’t work.

It’s the Inner Critic (or the Committee, or Sister Antagonista Mary, or Mom, or whoever). Roger von Oech calls it The Judge, and says (in A Kick in the Seat of the Pants) that it’s one of the four roles we play when we’re being creative. Besides the Judge, there are the Explorer, the Artist, and the Warrior. (They’re all listed here, if you’d like to follow along.) He says that each of these roles is important and contributes to the creative process, but all in their own time. The Judge’s place comes after the Explorer’s (where data are gathered) and the Artist’s (where the data are massaged, contemplated, and formed into specific ideas).

My whole creative process hears this regardless of what I’m doing….

I’ll be working the next two weeks on being an Explorer and an Artist, and staying out of court. Everything that the Explorer and the Artist come up with are first drafts, and we all know about those.

Hope to have great things to report in two weeks. Forward march!

Two for Tuesday: Count Basie

For our first Valentine’s Day as a married couple, Mary and I went to the Park West in Chicago, to see the Count Basie Orchestra with Sarah Vaughan. At the time, there were some private tables, but most of the seating was at long tables that you shared with whoever was seated near you. We got there early enough that we were seated at the table right in front of the stage. Right in front of the horn section. I thought the seats were great, as did Mary, after she got used to the volume.

Most of the musicians were onstage before showtime. Precisely on time, the Count walked onto the stage with his long-time guitar player, Freddie Green. They both sat down, and when the applause died down, the two of them looked at each other, and seemingly without a signal from either of them, started playing together. I was immediately blown away.

William James “Count” Basie was from Red Bank, New Jersey, and learned to play from his mother. He played in a local movie theater before moving on to Harlem in 1924. In 1929, he joined Bennie Moten’s band in Kansas City. After Moten’s death in 1935, Basie formed his own orchestra, and for almost fifty years played behind some of the greatest singers, including Billy Eckstine, Big Joe Williams, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and Sarah Vaughan.

Our first selection is “April in Paris,” one of their theme songs, the other being “One O’Clock Jump.” If you remember the movie Blazing Saddles, this was the tune the band was playing when Bart rode up on his way to Rock Ridge. For some reason, the person who put this on YouTube has a picture of Miles Davis to go along with the music; I haven’t found any evidence that Davis played with the orchestra.

Our second selection is “Air Mail Special,” where you get a sense of what they were like in concert.

Count Basie, your Two for Tuesday, December 31, 2013. Happy New Year!

#ROW80: Round 4 2013 summary

Click on the picture to link to the website!
Click on the picture to link to the website!

I had an okay round. Not great, but not awful. Based on performance, I’d give it a C-, below average, but not much. In terms of making some long-term decisions, I’d give myself a B. Maybe even an A-.

Let’s take a look at my objectives this round and compare them to what I actually did:

  • Generate 50 new ideas a week: While I came close a few weeks, generally I got to maybe 10. Looking back over the quarter, one explanation is that I was throwing away a bunch because I thought they were stupid. Including those, I’m probably closer to 15 a week, and I got as high as 25 one week.

    Last week, I decided that I could do better, so I’ve designated 2014 as my Year of Ideas. My object will be the same (50 new ideas a week, good, bad or indifferent), and I’ve pledged to report on my progress every other Wednesday, starting next Wednesday. If I’ve done this right, my last report will be next December 31. My writing and my job search demand that I produce more ideas, certainly more than I have up to now.

  • Complete the Ultimate Blog Challenge in October and National Novel Writing Month in November: Yes to the former, no to the latter. I was able to come up with the requisite 31 posts in 31 days (though not necessarily one a day) for the UBC, but couldn’t write my 50K-word novel in the 30 days of November. As I said when I decided to abandon the three projects I had considered, I had more important things to do. Next year, I’m not even going to try. I’m not a novelist.
  • Read 30 minutes a day: I did okay here, but nowhere near 30 minutes a day. This past week, I re-read Roger Von Oech’s A Whack on the Side of the Head. It gave me a lot of insight into what I was doing wrong with my attempts at idea generation. It also gave me an idea for a blog post, maybe even a series of blog posts.
  • Build a portfolio site: A portfolio has become as important to finding work as a web developer as a good resume. Maybe even more important. Ergo, I need one. And, well, I haven’t put one together. I spent a lot of time trying to do something impressive, where I should have focused on just getting the damn thing out there and adding the impressive-as-hell things as I acquired the skills to build them. Silly me. I’ve set a deadline of Martin Luther King’s Birthday for getting something out there.
  • Join FlexJobs: I did this at the beginning of December and have used it in my weekly job search since then. So, yes.

I assume that the next round starts January 6. Happy New Year, everyone, and I’ll see you soon.

Three for Christmas: Chicago classics (encore presentation)

NOTE: This is my Christmas post from last year. I decided to rerun this instead of trying to come up with a new one. Merry Christmas! I’ll see you Thursday. – JCH

I debated making today’s Two for Tuesday about Burl Ives, but then I thought “nah, share the Christmas videos.”

I grew up in Chicago (which I’m sure everyone knew) at a time when locally-produced children’s television was at its peak. One of the key programs of the day was “Garfield Goose and Friends,” on WGN, starring Frazier Thomas and featuring several puppets, particularly Garfield, a goose who thought he was the King of the United States.

The cast of "Garfield Goose and Friends": Romberg Rabbit, Beauregard Burnside III, Garfield Goose, Mackintosh Mouse, Frazier Thomas, and Christmas Goose. (Image courtesy Wikipedia)
The cast of “Garfield Goose and Friends”: Romberg Rabbit, Beauregard Burnside III, Garfield Goose, Mackintosh Mouse, Frazier Thomas, and Christmas Goose. (Image courtesy Wikipedia, from a postcard that WGN-TV sent in response to letters from viewers)

The day after Thanksgiving, in the days when only the employees of department stores called it “Black Friday,” WGN would start playing one of today’s videos every day until Christmas on Gar’s show, typically in the order shown here. The first, “Hardrock, Coco, and Joe – The Three Little Dwarfs,” is the story of Santa’s three main helpers: Hardrock, who drove the sleigh; Coco, who navigated; and Joe, whom the song tells us Santa had really no use for, “but takes him ’cause he loves him so.” The second, “Suzy Snowflake,” is the whimsical story of a snowflake who brings hapiness whenver she comes to town. Years later, I realize that some of the lyrics have an unintended double meaning. These were filmed using stop-motion animation by illustrator Wah Ming Chang for a company called Centaur Productions around 1953. The third, “Frosty The Snowman,” was cartoon produced in 1954 by United Productions of America (UPA), creators of such cartoons as “Gerald McBoing-Boing,” “Dick Tracy,” and “Mr. Magoo.” No one knows who the quartet who sang this was, but I really wonder if this cartoon inspired The Manhattan Transfer. (On a more personal and somewhat bittersweet note, this was the cartoon shown on “Garfield Goose” the day my brothers and I saw our father for the last time, in 1966.)

Merry Christmas!