It’s been a while since I last posted and even though I’m the only one who reads this I feel the need to account for the 5+ months. It’s mainly been work with some cool travel interspersed. So here are some highlights.
March 30th was my 9yr anniversary at Mozilla. I’ve been working on all things related to search for the last 16 months. Nothing much has been released in Firefox yet but we just spent our All Hands week in Whistler planning out all the cool stuff we’re going to build the second half of this year. Also, I got to make these cool videos for the plenary. It was so much fun.
Over the spring I got to visit some pretty beautiful places. First we visited the Grand Canyon. I hiked all the way down and back up in one day with some friends. It was amazing. Then we went to Zion. It looks like some kind of fantasy Leonardo da Vinci landscape. Also amazing. Then it was another trip to Big Bend were we did the South Rim trail and then gazed at stars. Finally, we spent our anniversary and my birthday in Maui. More amazing.
Last night the clouds cleared out by about 9pm and Rebecca and I had a spectacular view of the lunar eclipse from the back deck. Our friends Pete and Carol joined us along with our neighbor Katie. It was really nice to share the event with friends and be able to step inside to warm up periodically.
Normally, I think the full moon is the least exciting moon to look at in a telescope because it looks completely flat. When there’s some shadow, you can really see the surface details. The eclipse is something totally different though. The colors are amazing and what I found particularly interesting was how it seemed to become a sphere again once it was completely in shadow. Especially in the binoculars, it looked like a little ball that you could just reach out and grab. Another nice surprise was being able to see stars near the moon. Normally they’re completely washed out. You can see one at the lower left in this photo.
I was worried that the moon was going to be too high in the sky and my telescope wouldn’t be able to track it because the eyepiece or camera would run into the mount but it turned out that I had just enough clearance to get 30+ minutes into totality. That gave us plenty of time to observe and swap the eyepiece out for the camera to get some photos. This was a 1 second exposure with a 1600 iso taken with my Lumix GX85 connected to my Celestron SE 8 and an f/6.3 focal reducer.
Our local UX meetup put on a conference last week and I talked about my experience working on onboarding for Firefox. It was really strange to be talking at a conference again. Back in my videoblogging days I did it often — including speaking at SXSW — but I haven’t done that in many years. Also, I wrapped up my work on onboarding and switched to working on our search experience a few months ago. But still, it felt good to put the things I’ve learned together in a talk. Check out the slides and my notes at Notist.
And a quick note about the conference itself — I was super impressed. It was a really nice event and I enjoyed all the speakers and getting to meet people. I especially enjoyed hearing Dr. Laura Faulkner talk about her work “Beyond the Five-User Assumption.”
Also, thanks to @ProfClayton for the cool sketch notes above.
Rebecca and I went to the Fort Worth Museum of Modern Art today. The big exhibit was new works by Ron Mueck. He creates these incredibly detailed and lifelike sculptures (mostly of people) that are either much smaller or much larger than the real thing.
I was only vaguely familiar with his work — as in it’s likely I skimmed this blog post once. Seeing it in person though was exhilarating. And the center piece, Couple under an Umbrella (2013), made me smile, and hopeful and happy. I can’t stop thinking about it.
St. Vincent’s self-titled 2014 album has the kind of cover that would have stopped me in my tracks in a record shop as a teenager. It’s the kind of cover that looks so cool the music has to be interesting at the very least. Back then (mid 80s), sometimes that was about all you had to go on. If you were lucky maybe someone said they heard that it was good or you caught a song at a club. Plunking down eight bucks on a record was often a roll of the dice. A great album cover though was a huge signal. Joy Division and New Order’s great Peter Saville covers persuaded me to buy both at the same time.
St. Vincent came to me via a 2014 version of this. “Digital Witness” showed up in someone’s playlist that I was streaming and that album cover got me. I listened to it on repeat for months.
Later that year Rebecca and I saw her in concert twice. The things that struck me right away were the rehearsed gestures in her performance.
I recognized them right away as akin to the gestural/ritual movement popular in the performance art world (at least the one I was a part of in the 90s). One of the first shows I was in was a movement piece about gay men dealing with AIDS. We had a whole section derived from a morning routine in front of a mirror and another one around bathing.
All of this goes to say that I was really excited to see her new show this past Thursday and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was just her on stage the whole time (somehow I didn’t read a review of the tour beforehand). The set consisted of curtains and lights revealing more and more of an empty stage.
After a quick blackout and costume change, she performed her latest album front to back in front of a video screen with colors and images from her new album artwork and videos. At one point a woman came out in a complete costume just to hand her another guitar (her own design). It reminded me of the time our stage manager swept the stage before the show each night, dressed in a nurse’s uniform.
Anyway, the point of all of this is that I thought this was the perfect distillation of what she’s been working towards over the last few years. It was a beautiful, singular statement — risky and bold. Apparently, this was also a bit divisive but like that article concludes, “The truth is that it was a total triumph.” And I didn’t miss the band. She’s such a bad ass with that guitar, that’s all you need.
Late last year my friend Jen proposed that we use the new year as an opportunity to make over our personal websites. It’s something that I’ve done many times – burning down the previous thing in the process. And I’m never satisfied with it because I want it to be exciting and cutting edge and unique and and and… a bunch of things. Too many things. Then I end up feeling bad about it all and I go and buy a new domain where I’ll have less pressure to experiment because it won’t have my name on it. So two months ago I got excited by Jen’s idea but I started doing the same thing I always do (unsurprisingly producing the same result). Then I thought, just let your website be simple. Let it say a little about yourself, maybe have a portfolio (still on the to-do list) and maybe even blog again (I know that’s crazy but I still love blogs).
So I’ve re-burned it all down one more time and this is the result. It’s WordPress running an ever so slightly modified version of the Intergalactic 2 theme. I spent some time writing a bit about myself and I’m using my own photos in the headers. It’s not really cool or ground-breaking or even trying to use new techniques like CSS grid. That’s ok. It’s doing it’s job and I don’t have to spend a lot of time maintaining it. I’ll save the big ambition for another project I have in mind.
The one really new thing I did while putting all this together was make a logo for myself. You may be thinking that it looks like a drop-down menu button or a scroll bar arrow and you’d be right. It also makes an “M” and a “V.” As someone who designs software and who’s initials are MV, I think it’s on brand. I also like that you can reverse it over a photo and do things like this:
So this is my new website and this is my first (in a long time) blog post. Thanks for reading.
The new camera on the iPhone X is amazing. I shot this handheld video example using the telephoto lens from the top of the AT&T Center last night. Put it in fullscreen and choose the 4K resolution. I’m blown away.