It’s now been almost a month since moving to Boulder, and I can confidently say at this point that I’m starting to settle into a bit of a rhythm. Although I still have the occasional moment of awe and wonder when looking at the various mountains which loom ever-present on the western horizon, I’m almost embarrassed to admit that they have started to become a mere backdrop to whatever hustle and bustle is happening that day. Same with my motorcycle. What began as a thrill and adventure machine that also happened to double as a means of transport has started to become just my very fuel-efficient way of getting around. When I signed-up for this co-working space, I balked at the sheer number of seating possibilities. Now, only three weeks later, I find myself sitting in the exact same one every single day.
I don’t say this to complain—in fact, I think it’s worth honoring how quickly we can adapt to new situations, habits, and environments. If there is any single skill that I think I’ve picked up in the last few years, it’s the ability to head into a new place and make something comfortable and familiar out of it. I said when I moved here that I wanted routine
, and here it is. The jury is still out on whether this kind of routinized existence is what I want for myself at this point in my life, whether the benefits of social and financial stability outweigh the lack of novelty, but the experiment has certainly commenced, and I think it’s off to a good start.
Getting work done
The biggest beneficiary of the last few weeks has definitely been the game I’ve been developing, Subject+Predicate
. Turns out that my suspicions were entirely correct: the best way to get a lot of work done on a web application is to sit down at a desk in front of a computer for 6-8 hours every single day. Who knew!
Aside from re-doing my entire DevOps workflow to use Docker containers, I’ve also made the decision to “simplify” the game a bit by removing the competitive voting mode. For those of you who were reading this back in January when I waxed poetic about what makes a game a “game”
and agonized over how to implement a scoring system… all I can say is that application development is a bit of a rollercoaster, and sometimes that involves putting weeks of work out to pasture.
I suspect that the scoring feature and competitive mode of the game will reappear in future releases, potentially as an alternate game mode behind the pay wall. For now, however, I have decided to simplify the game and its core message, while I ruthlessly seek out its early adopters outside of my own social circles. The next few weeks are going to be a lot of social media marketing and customer “pain-point” research. Less appealing to my natural proclivities than TypeScript Interfaces and REST APIs, but this app isn’t going to get itself off the ground.
If you haven’t checked out the game in a while—please do
! It’s a great thing to pull out with a couple of friends or family members after dinner, before going-out, or any other time you want to kill a few minutes and spark some goofy conversation. If you do end up getting a chance to try it out, let me know, and I’d love to interview you about your experience. (See Nate
? I promise I’m actually going to do the customer interview thing!)
A smattering of anecdotes
Aside from work, the last few weeks have been a lot of exploring the various towns in the mountains around Boulder, trying to figure out my preferred mode(s) of staying physically fit, and trying to make new friends.
Here are some little glimpses:
My roommate Brenton and I have a friendly competition going for who can set the best time from the threshold of our apartment to the peak of the nearest mountain. While the distance is only 2.00 miles (~3.2km) from point to point, the elevation gain is about 1,250ft (~400m) of rocky trail running. Brenton set the initial pace of 34 minutes and I followed him with 32 minutes. While I was doing my attempt, I thought I was going to be stuck on a narrow part of the trail behind an elderly man (whose age I estimated to be about 70). He had two hiking poles (Austrian style) and was wearing what I can only describe as “bird watching gear.” He was really pushing it, and I felt bad about hovering so close to him on the trail, but I was on a time trial and needed to beat Brenton’s score. When we finally got to a broader part of the trail, without stopping, he turned his head to me and said: “There’s plenty of room here, you can pass me you know.” The truth was that I had been trying to pass him for the last five minutes, but couldn’t keep up with him! The level of fitness around here is incredible. It’s not unusual at all to see people of all ages casually running a marathon on a Sunday morning, or biking 60+ miles to and from work. (By the way, Brenton beat my new time with an impressive 30:02. I’m going to have to steel myself for my next attempt.)
The radio program This American Life hired me to do a recording in a town just outside of Boulder. After responding to their email and accepting the gig, I was floored to have Ira Glass personally call my phone to explain the assignment to me. The call was only 6 minutes long and featured him breathlessly explaining to me that I would be going to the home of a retired aerospace engineer who claims to have perfected the process of making an espresso. Using laboratory equipment that he himself invented and constructed over the years, he has rigorously refined his methods to the point of being confident that the shots he pulls are sublime. Every once in a while, when the stars align, he pulls the “God shot,” a shot of espresso so perfect at the molecular level that there is no taste quite as complex and refined anywhere else on earth. I was told that in addition to recording the interview, I would also be the “boots on the ground” and would get to taste this espresso shot myself.
What I was not told was that guest would be preparing a double shot of espresso, with more beans packed into the espresso basket than is normally possible because of the technical precision with which the beans are ground and the basket is prepared. After the guest pulled this highly-caffeinated shot from his wondrous machine, he proudly presented the entire thing to me and earnestly waited for me to consume it. For those of you who don’t know, while I seriously enjoy the taste of espresso, I am very caffeine-sensitive, and avoid drinking more than a single shot of espresso on any given day. Any more, and I have a negative response. So you can understand my dilemma when, after I had taken a small sip from this potent beverage and expressed my sincere approval, this mad scientist encouraged that I drink all of it, so that I could also give my opinion on the “crema” at the bottom. I hesitated a moment, but with Ira and the producer waiting on the phone and the pressure mounting, I decided to do my professional duty and drink the rest of it.
Thirty minutes later, as I was riding my motorcycle home, I noticed that I was not going to be okay. I pulled into an outlet strip mall and stopped the engine. Even though the bike was no longer vibrating, I still was. I could feel the caffeine tremors resonating throughout my entire body. I made it home and sat on the couch, almost paralyzed from over stimulation. I tried everything to make the symptoms go away, but in the end, I just had to wait for them to pass, like a bad trip. I felt sick for the next two days! If anyone from This American Life ever reads this, please admire the fact that I didn’t request any extra money for worker’s comp.
I also started taking my motorcycle out on some off-road trails, to really see what it can do as a dual-sport. The first couple excursions were little forays onto gravel and dirt roads outside of the various mountain towns in the front range of the Rockies. Nothing too technical or steep, just getting my feet (and my wheels) wet. After a few outings, I decided to seek out a trail specifically for off-road vehicles. I used the app AllTrails to search one out that was described as “moderately difficult.” I read some of the recent reviews, mostly left by dirt bikers and ATV riders, who complained that the trail wasn’t nearly as difficult as described. A perfect trail for me, I thought!
I learned a couple things from this outing. Number 1: Dual-sport motorcycles are not the same as dirt bikes. Dirt bikes are much lighter, are tuned for much more traction in low gears, and have much more clearance. Number 2: It is almost impossible to pick-up a 450 pound (~200kg) motorcycle that fell over on a steep, uneven hill. Even with two other guys helping you. Don't worry though: I'm fine, the bike is fine (looks even cooler with a few scratches), and I'm better for the experience.