Man. Long neglected blog once again. Really, really need to tone down the Facebooking and come here more often for no other reason than producing some longer form prose that is more than the bitchy work e-mails I crank out all day long. I kid. Sort of. I don’t write nearly enough anymore.

This mid-June entry has me done with the Chicagoland Spring Marathon, the 2011 Chicago Ragnar Relay and closing in on 2 months of maintaining a (mostly) vegan diet.

I’m glad to have completed two huge milestones in my running this Spring. The marathon in May was my second in less than 9 months. The Ragnar was my first and hopefully not last. As I approach my 40th, I’m really glad to have running as an outlet to prove to myself that I’m not dead yet and that I can still do some crazy ass shit that most people can only dream of. As I learned this weekend, there is also a lot of humbling stuff that I will never ever  be able to do. Like run the Ragnar with only 4 other teammates in pink tutus.

With those two runs behind me, and some very sore feet on the ground, I’m taking a break. I’m gonna recover for a few more days and then I plan to focus on my yoga practice with swimming, rowing and biking to keep my cardio training up. I plan on getting my core strength way up over the next couple 6-8 weeks and then starting back on race training for the Chicago Marathon in late July. Which seems far away, but is not.

 

 

Covering all my social media bases here. I’ve already been shotgunning my Twitter and Facebook accounts with requests to support The Soaring Schoolyard Eagles. We are a 12 person team of Irving parents who will running the Madison to Chicago Ragnar relay this June.

On June 10, 2011 a team of twelve Irving parents will run 197 miles in 36 hours to raise awareness and funding for the project. Follow our progress here on irvingschoolyard.com, via our Twitter feed (@SchoolyardEagle) or join us on Facebook (http://on.fb.me/eAptOM). Our fundraising goal for this effort is $5,000, which will be used to further the work of transforming the decades old expanse of blacktop at Irving into a green space for learning and recreation.

If you can to donate to the project, please visit http://irvingschoolyard.com and click the donate button.

Currently, there are two possible grant-funded projects on the horizon which the team is working to support. These are:

Wind Turbine
A roof-mounted wind anemometer– a device to measure the amount of wind at the roof level–will be installed to determine whether Irving could be a site for a wind turbine.

Solar Panel
A one-kilowatt solar panel installed at Irving would generate data on solar power and provide exciting learning opportunities for students.

Last year I decided to give my finances a break, by limiting the number of short races I participate in. The 5Ks were a really essential goal when I was first ramping up from pudgy couch potato Mattie, but now it’s really the longer races that get me out of bed at 530a on a Sunday. And, at $50 a pop, 5K is not enough. I’d rather just donate some dough to a good cause.

All that said, I can’t give up the Shamrock Shuffle. It really has become a tradition. It was the first 8K I ran and was really the one race that sparked my serious interest and started me down the path to 15K to 13.1 and 26.2 and this year 2 x 26.2.

The race is a good practice drill for the cattle call aspects of a 35,000 participant race and despite the ridiculous numbers of runners is a lot of fun after a long winter of bleak, gray, frigid and solitary mornings.

This year, for me, the run was also a test of the speed work I’ve been doing over the winter, and a successful one at that. My hard work definitely paid off. Coupled with a return to yoga practice for strength and flexibility over the winter, I’ve shaved a full minute off of my street pace and remained mostly injury free.

A 47:08 PR in the race has left me a lot more confident of my ability to run the Chicagoland spring marathon in four weeks and the Madison to Chicago Ragnar Relay in June.

Today marks the beginning of my 11th year at VSA. Fitting that it’s a Saturday and I’m going in to the office today. Definitely classic VSA. With roots in corporate annual reporting, February has always been a pretty steep month for the firm. Our offerings and experience are much broader now, but, year to year, Q1 is still full to brimming with kickoffs, project planning and putting finishing touches on projects that didn’t quite make it into the year prior.

It’s been a long 10 years for sure. In my time here, I’ve seen a lot of change. In process and approach and a whole mess of technology. In 2000, we were building sites for Netscape 3 and Internet Explorer 5 for the Mac (shudder. if you think IE6 is bad sonny, let me tell ya). Tabled graphic slice layouts in fixed size popup windows were the favorite design gimmick of the day, driven by print designers who just couldn’t wrap their heads around a media where height, width and even type size were all variable. Remember the 216 color web safe palette? DHTML? Modems?

Now, our toolbox is much bigger and more robust. We’ve got our choice of platforms, devices, frameworks and languages. The line continues to blur between developers and designers, designers and developers, marketing and application development. I couldn’t imagine a more interesting place to be. Year to year, I’ve been fortunate to always have something new on my plate. Some new toy. Something new to learn. New people to work with. I’ve got a great team and great partners to work with and a future that looks set to provide another 10 years of interesting challenges and opportunities.

I hear will.i.am on NPR’s All Things Considered last month. Every time I hear him interviewed, I get the sense that he’s a pretty smart dude, so it’s no surprise that when asked what he saw himself doing in the next 10 or 20 years he had this to say:

I’m going to be performing music ’cause I love music. I’m going to be making music because I’m addicted to making music. But I’m also going to be, you know – I love animation. I want to assemble a group of animators. I want to assemble a group of code writers. I want people to write code. I want to think of concepts, and write applications and programs based on my concepts. But to do that, you need code writers.

I include this here, because he makes a point that is spot on. I feel the intersection of coder and creative has always been very relevant to me. There are a lot of channels for creativity. Photographers, musicians, painters, sculptors, etc. all still have plenty of room to grow and create and do new and interesting things. But there is no greater medium for impacting the world than code. I love that this is where I’ve landed and I look forward to continuing to make new and interesting things.

As usual, I’m starting off the year unable to focus. I have high hopes for getting to know some HTML editing tools on the iPad to enable me to do some coding while on my commute. Those hopes have been dashed by my newly rekindled love of RSS and Twitter thanks in large part to the App Reeder. I’ve been waiting for a mobile version Of Feedly to arrive for a while now. I love having Google Reader as my central content source, and have been really happy with Feedly. Stubbornly, i haven’t even looked at any other tool for feeds on the iPad until a number of forum posts re: Feedly recommended Reeder. Now, I’m hooked. 

The UI is pretty standard fare, but good standard fare. It’s unobtrusive and easy to use, as any UI (mobile in particular) should be. It’s fast and given a decent 3G connection pretty responsive at loading articles.

In my ongoing effort to find time for doing things to keep my development skills unjustified I’m once again looking to my commute as a source of unused time. This evening finds the added boon of a two hour plane trip to Atlanta. This morning I decided I was for sure going to travel Macbookless and prepared for the trip by grabbing a selection of three of the popular HTML editing apps available for the iPad. Despite my intentions, my heavy ass lappie is in the overhead. However, I nonetheless sit here with my third Jack and Coke, my finger begreased tablet and a pretty sweet Gogo Inflight Wireless connection posting for the first time is months while prepping for some real world testing. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Och. Had to post a review on iTunes tonight to balance out all the crybabies.

I am so happy to see that Men’s Health and Runner’s World are not laying on a bunch of overblown interactive gewgaws and are instead focusing on enhancing their content in subtle, platform appropriate ways.

I really appreciate the direction the magazine is taking on this platform. I will say that the price is right over the line on what I’d comfortably pay on a monthly basis. I do understand that the iPad and other devices for rich content delivery represent a whole new game for content publishers. Yes, we’re in a transitional phase in the industry and it may take a little while for a viable, sustainable revenue model that enables Rodale to continue to produce fantastic content to shake out. It’s no different than what the video and music industries have been struggling with.

For now, if 4.99 an issue is really what it takes then I say keep up the great work, but if you could swing something closer to 3 or maybe give the print subscribers a break to ease our transition, that would be helpful. Maybe drop the price on back issues to .99?

This morning, I’m on a train to Milwaukee and catching up on Tweets and Blogs and a whole mess of interesting development arcana. Just yesterday, I was feeling frustrated by a short week with a bunch of travel for work thrown in. In particular, I was once again feeling pangs of guilt over not keeping my promise to myself to keep this blog going and my writing skills practiced.

As I was looking for the holes in my universe that are keeping me from reading more, writing more, learning more and generally just getting shit done, it’s hard to find anything that I would be willing to trade up on.

Over the last two years, I’ve been commuting on two wheels. The 2-stroke fumes and satisfying buzz of my Stella’s engine have become a daily ritual that is occasionally tedious, sometimes frightening, but mostly pretty damn cool. I’ve found close to the perfect route to and from the office, and have got to a point where I’m comfortable riding rain or shine. The only real downside of all this is that I’m now short an hour and a half of reading or more each day. The benefits of spending 8 hours a week on the CTA trains and buses are probably pretty obvious to anyone who lives in Chicago.

For a ravenous, speedy reader like myself, that 8 hours easily represents a pile of blog articles and O’reilly book or two and probably at least one 800 page science fiction novel.

On the train today, I’ve already ready a couple great articles from the Ajaxian Twitter feed and the NPR API documentation @xak posted a link to this morning. This gets me thinking that I’ve got to find a better balance. Work is for the most part non-negotiable, Wife and daughter time are definitely non-negotiable. Gym time is flexible, but tough enough to stay consistent on as it is. That pretty much leaves the commute. Ugh. I think next week, I’ll start an experimental 2 day a week train commute and see just how much I can get done, and how miserable the train experience makes me.

Those of you who are in my Facebook circle that have missed my CTA bitching status updates can look forward to a return to form on my part.

One of the more complex issues we’ve begun to run into with the flurry of requests for iPad and mobile web apps we’ve seen over the past few months is planning for connectivity loss and offline usage. The complexity isn’t a matter of the technology available to us being complicated. Rather, it’s that we find ourselves adding one more planning and development consideration to our production mix. As with any emerging technology, we’ve found ourselves focusing a lot of effort on simply building a vernacular to enable conversations about mobile with clients who don’t always have technology representation at the table.

I suppose it’s a measure of our success that we’ve gotten beyond conversations about the basic differences, strengths and weaknesses of web apps and native app and have now moved on to talking about such meaty topics as CMS publishing protocols and synching tasks.

The Ajaxian twitter feed had a link to a really nice overview of the offline technologies available to us today. http://www.html5rocks.com/tutorials/offline/whats-offline/#introduction

I imagine we’ll be seeing mobile driving a lot more discussion of new technology over the next year. Things like geolocation, checkins, camera APIs, voice-enabled and microformats, microformats, microformats are going to be defaults in everything we build.

It seems like it has only been a year or so since we started trading page-based architectures for accordions and slideshows and overlays and other richer more application-like functionality. I am amazed at how quickly we’ve sped by these new UI considerations and moved right toward a whole new pile of technology to try to grok and bring into the fold.

I’m really excited about offline and our ability to deal with local storage of binary components in particular. Browser caching has never been quite what it should be and we now have a lot more control over storing images, JS and CSS files on the client. I believe that performance is going to be a key differentiator between Web Standards evangelists like VSA and firms that are content to continue to slop together nonsense.