Wow, this been a whole month since I published any updates. I’ve been pretty busy at work, I’ve been wasting my time at home with Battlefield 1 on the PS4 and I have been steadily riding my bike.
Besides that, I took a trip to New York City earlier this month, that was really fun!
One odd observation I’ve made, the week and the month go by so quickly. The fastest is the day though, 15-16 waking hours feel like 5-6 hours instead.
My goal for November will be to concentrate on making more time for focused activity and burn away less time throughout the day.
I’m writing this right after waking up from a nightmare so it’s fresh and as accurate as I can remember it.
I am on a call with my wife and she’s talking about cheap tickets to somewhere like Cuba or Puerto Rico. We haven’t really talked about those in a long time so it was weird that it came up. So, the next thing I notice, I’m in a tropical hotel in Puerto Rico. Tropical because the hotel had trees and beaches inside the hotel. So, I take the elevator to go up (not really know where I’m going) and I end up on a floor that’s like an amusement park, I’m looking around, it’s all beautiful and peaceful. At this point I decide to come back home. (Go figure it’s a dream).
The only thing I can think of that’s relatable to what happened next is flying on a jetski of the sky (what’s what I was thinking in the dream), it wasn’t clear to me how I was flying this thing or anything. It looked like this image above from Far Cry 4. It would be just my brain processing things if I had played this game recently but the last time I played it was almost 2 years ago!
So while I’m in the air, I take my phone out and look at the map and since it’s a dream the flying happens at light speed or something because one moment I’m taking off from the tropical hotel in Puerto Rico and the next I’m flying over California looking for a place to land. And of course, because this dream was leading me somewhere, I noticed that my flying jetski was running low on gas. This btw was not part of the thing in the game, so something completely invented by my brain.
I start descending into a beautiful and quaint looking farming town. The farming was for looks after the first minutes I looked around. There were a couple of large buildings and one sat on the farm but it was so clean and beautiful. The image above is something I googled when writing this and hadn’t seen it before but it pretty much sums of what I saw from my view when in the sky.
On landing I saw something like the following image.
So I start looking around and I couldn’t figure out what town I was in and I walk towards the hotel and I still couldn’t figure out what was happening because I didn’t recognize anything. The whole
Something just led me to a small house where I went inside because my parents were living there! Of course this was weird but since I was in a dream, I didn’t think much of it. I put my stuff down and just started hanging out.
I was eating and talking and everything was great. Then I told my mom, I wanna take a shower and get ready to sleep. I go grab a towel and go into the room where I’d be sleeping to get some of my clothes.
I turn on the light and it flickers and turns off, so I came prepared (since it’s a dream 😁), I had a backup light bulb that I took out of my bag. So I put this new light bulb in and I flip the switch once more. This time it flickers a few times but stays on but I notice something different in the room. I see a little kid (3-4 years old) standing on top of a dresser. He was playing with a toy, a kid I’ve never seen before. Nothing scary or frightening about this. He was just looking at his toy, didn’t notice me.
At this moment, I start feeling a slight “energy” or change behind me, specifically the back of my shirt. My shirt is slowly being lifted up and I look at the kid, he’s still standing there, no change in his demeanor or position. But my shirt is move up and I start getting lifted up and I look behind me and there’s nothing there. Then I’m carried outside the room, slowly into the hallway, and very quickly I’m in the living room floating in mid-air with no control over my body. My sister who’s sitting there watching TV sees me and gasps and I start screaming and this point my heart is racing and I start feeling some shaking and someone grabbing my arm. It was my wife in real life and she said “are you okay? you’re screaming!” and I woke up.
Gyrocopter image from Far Cry 4, source: https://forums.ubi.com/showthread.php/895227-15-Crazy-Things-You-Can-Do-Only-In-Far-Cry-4-Forums
So I’ve been pretty quiet on my blog recently. I also deleted social media apps except Reddit off my phone. At the beginning of September, I was mostly not on the computer after work. I was in a weird phase where I wasn’t interested in anything after work. Maybe it was my obsession with Handmaid’s Tale or maybe I was just feeling burnt out from work. Last week, about 3-4 days ago actually, I decided to open up my computer at home. And for the first time, it actually felt different. I didn’t feel like I was working at home, or just on social media wasting time, reading some Q&A sites for something new to learn about, or even just browsing Wikipedia which for me ends up being a big drain on productive things at home. I sometimes sit and read Wikipedia articles for hours and what I mean by that is after about 30 mins of reading them, I’ll get up, get something to eat, come back and start reading again. At this, you might be thinking, well that’s not so bad, you’re learning something but that’s not really learning. It’s not expanding my horizon of thoughts, it’s just more information or fact gathering that will not come into play at all for anything useful.
So after these random thoughts, I’d like to point to my recent want or need to start writing code for fun again. I have been pleasantly able to sit and work on a problem for a good 2-3 hours in one go (this again hours in the same manner as reading wikipedia). The biggest struggle I have now is figuring out where to focus my time on when I am writing code. Writing scaffolding code, boilerplate code, and reinventing the wheel will not keep me entertained or grow me as a programmer. The growth part is important to me now because I realize how often I’m not learning something new you spend more and more of your time doing the things you’ve done before to finally get to a limit of your understanding at which you can stretch your existing thought processes.
September has been a crucial month for me, I’ve become more introspective and in an actionable way instead of a mocking, regretful, depressing, or even plain negative way. Work has been a good kind of busy. At home, we started cleaning our house and getting rid of things. We had a garage sale, we donated things, we gave away things on craigslist, and finally we threw away the things we couldn’t really reuse. This led to the house being less messy, less noisy, and extremely more comfortable.
I’ve been slowing down on reading and listening to audiobooks, this is not desired. It just hasn’t occurred to me. The amount of time I spend walking around has decreased (mostly b/c it has been replaced with cycling). Walking meant I would be listening to audiobooks about half the time. So the hope for October is to increase reading books and listening to audiobooks. Why do I care about this over just reading in general? I have a weird fascination with books, I believe learning from books usually is beneficial as it hones in on a topic (typical non-fiction books, not textbooks) and then gives you a lot of different things to reinforce the topic.
I’ve started working on Bookends a bit more. I worked on getting the code on to Heroku instead of DigitalOcean. I was spending too much time on devops things instead of writing code. I got a rudimentary version of the search functionality working but the book info is not great yet. I’ll start working on getting more information to show up but I was just feeling lazy today after spending 2-3 hours debugging why my heroku deploys weren’t working and then I realized I was not copying the dist folder to heroku 🤦♂️.
This past weekend, I finished watching the second season of The Handmaid’s Tale. If you don’t know anything about the show, I highly recommend watching the first episode at least.
Before I started watching the show, I really thought it was similar to Downton Abbey because from the show’s photos and outfits on Hulu, it looks like a show set in pre-modern times. But I was very wrong. Well…not really, there is that “back to Puritanism” look but not how I expected it to be. I would describe the show as a religious dystopian drama.
Elizabeth Moss is the star of the show and her acting is amazing throughout the series.
I was hooked from the first episode. I think there is some grotesque sexual content that’s a bit too much for me but the rest of the show is what keeps me coming back.
The part that makes it eerily powerful is the flashbacks. Each flashback usually shows a regular ole American daily life event or some conversation that people have everyday all the while there’s a religious group taking over the country.
I’ve enjoyed the show so far and I hope that the third season is just as good as the first two seasons have been!
In May, Kristen bought her new bike and we made a bet to get to 1,000 miles by the end of 2018. I’ve never ridden (rode?) this many miles before so this is a big undertaking.
I’m currently at ~ 318 miles while Kristen is at ~ 375 miles. I set up a quick tool that helps me figure out how many miles I have to ride most days. I say “most days” because I wanted to be realistic about how many days I’ll actually ride, which won’t be everyday.
This is a screenshot of a recent check. “Effective days” is a rounded down number of days that’s about 3/4th of the days left in the year.
I’ve calculated at 6.8 miles per day which is doable because my current daily commute is ~ 8 miles.
You can see the code here: https://github.com/usmanity/tools/blob/master/miles_per_day.py
It’s been a few weeks since I wrote the the initial Bookends post. I’ve been taking a couple of hours every week to work on the setting up Bookends and today, I sat down and got the search working using OpenLibrary’s API.
The search works by doing a naïve search so I think right now, it’s not ready to be used as it’s not reliable.
If you look at the screenshot below, you’ll notice that there’s no way to tell which book is actually a real Harry Potter book or one that’s missing an author.
Next steps will include actually getting the search to order based on popularity. Also, I want to add more descriptions and covers before allowing people to actually play with this.
It’s been a slow progress because I’ve been thinking more and more about making the application portable from dev to production. No idea how I’m going to do caching right now and so I spend some time thinking about that right now.
Yesterday, I made the tough decision to get rid of my data.usmanity.com server, it’s been sitting idly for over 6 months and I haven’t really done much with it. I had been waiting for some time to rewrite some of the app code to handle sending different forms of data over and I just didn’t take the time to do so.
I also had data on there that was becoming stale if not useless for me since I didn’t have access to the mysql DB anymore.
Going forward, I’m planning on a different way to handle storing data and maybe something that’s more versatile.
In a conversation with a friend recently, he told me how his strategy is to not worry about creating complicated flows for personal projects, this wasn’t something I had thought about before and that’s why data has always been a neglected project because the deployment process has led me to stop using it.
During the months of May and June, I worked on a hobby project with a friend of mine called “Decide”. You can go check it out here. During development, I learned a couple of new things, technical and personal things about myself. Technically, I learned some React based on Next.js. If you’re about to start learning React, don’t pile on another piece of tech on top of it, it’ll just make things more complicated and development even slower. My friend took care of most of the deployment work and the heavy lifting related to getting the app working, he even did a lot of the styling so I was left with figuring out some minor bugs, adding some features, and eventually doing some product development. This felt odd to me, I wanted to learn more and do more during this process. Well, we figured that the project was going to be “done” soon so we should just launch it and let it simmer on the web. After about a month of being live, we have some users on it but we’re not actively working on it. I wanted to start working on something new.
This post is about that new project. I am starting working on another hobby project now and I’m hoping as time goes on, it can be more than a hobby project especially depending on how much traction it will get over time. I don’t want this to be a rushed project, I don’t want it to be a dance of git between two people, and I really don’t want it to be vaporware. So how do I prevent this from happening? Well, I’m hoping this won’t be a short-lived idea since it’s not something I want to just throw on the web and walk away. I have decided to take the development slowly. A couple of days after work during the week, maybe a few focused hours on the weekend. It won’t be a dance of git since I’m going to be the only developer on it for as long as possible. And it not being vaporware? Well…that’s going to depend a lot on how much effort I put into the project and actually make it useful for the community.
So what is this project? Bookends is an a place to track your books and discover new ones. You might be thinking, “Goodreads already exists, why another one like it?” I love Goodreads, I use it often but it’s not what I want a book tracking, readers’ social network to be, I think it can be more than what it is right now. There are so many people out there who love books and I believe Bookends can be a place for them to belong and be part of a community.
Anti-social network ideas & privacy
Most social networks thrive on the network effect and then turn around and use the same mechanism to betray or at least kindly coerce their users into paying them somehow, whether it’s clicking on ads or providing valuable gross data profiles that can be then sold to corporations, governmental agencies, and even potential employers read more about this. Sure, this might be a necessity for companies that are pushed by their investors and stakeholders to churn out huge profits but I believe people’s emotions and wellbeing should not be taken advantage of for the sake of making money. I don’t want to build a social network that takes user’s activity and turns it into revenue. I also don’t want to build a social network that acts like a layer of information for corporations to make more money.
My goal with Bookends is to provide a safe and friendly community for book lovers to connect and share ideas. It’s not to collect every action you perform on the website and then turn it into a unit of revenue.
For the privacy portion, it’s amazing what contemporary tech companies can collect about their users but they don’t always have to do that. I don’t want or need to collect user information that’s only used to build generic profiles to be sold to ad buyers. A user’s privacy means they will only share things with their circle of friends.
People should connect over books and genres they love and that’s my hope with Bookends.
What is a user?
User on Dictionary.com A user is an odd term, in my opinion, it’s technically fine to call anyone using something a user but I believe it’s a bit too abstract or if you’d like to ignore the first definition and go with the second one, it becomes a bit more weird. But I think a user on Bookends is really a “reader”. You read books, you’re a reader. So you’ll see me refer to users on Bookends as readers.
Development status and what’s in it for me
The past few weeks, I’ve spent after-work hours working on the backend setup for Bookends. I’m grateful to have a team at work as each person is great at their own role making development easy but since I don’t have a team working on this with me, it’s a bunch of googling, reading, experimenting, and spinning in circles. I do feel like I’m learning more and more about each part of the product. From putting together the landing page and pointing it to the Bookends domain (www.bookends.app) which needed to be https to getting the vue.js app working properly, I’ve been making slow progress but I’m feeling like things are speeding up.
Why would I want to build a social network for book lovers? I love books, that is a big reason. Building a place for communities to thrive is important and meaningful to me. I want to grow as a developer and having something meaningful to work on will help me do that.
Currently, Bookends is live as a landing page but the past few evenings, I’ve spent putting together the initial user interface that will feature a search for looking up books. The alpha will launch as just a search for books. The beta will feature reader profiles and the ability to track books. As things move forward, I’ll look for a way to allow making upcoming features a publicly visible thing but for now, I don’t have a good way of doing that.
Who’s paying for it?
Most startups don’t worry about making money because they’re in a hurry to collect the most users possible and then somehow figure out how to make money, that has worked out for most of them, but some just can’t figure it out (see Tumblr, Luxe, Rdio, etc.). Accumulating the most active users in a month or being the largest network of any kind is useless if the users on the network are either addicted or not adding value. That’s not my aim with Bookends, if each reader using Bookends can comfortably use the product and get something out of it, that’s worth it to me. At this point you might be thinking: “but who’s paying for it!?” Initially, the first few months, I have no plans of growing exponentially as it’s a hobby project so I won’t worry about making money in any way. This is not to say I’m going out to raise money or do anything like that. I’m still working my day job so I can pay for rent and food 😂. What I am thinking is that in the long run, it would ideally be a community funded project, something that the community can help fund and grow but I’m not concerned about that right now, first let me find that community!
Please follow along this journey and I would love feedback anything I’ve said in here and on the project itself. You can go checkout the project here: https://bookends.app.