Balance is crucial
I try to create balance between the 4 main areas of my life:
- My wife and family
- My profession as a technical architect and software developer
- My enjoyment of sport, especially mountain biking and hill walking
- My newfound artistic interest in photograph.
Each of these focal points to my life are separate, especially in how they relate to each other. However, I constantly find more and more cross cutting concerns between them and I'd like to share a couple of these aspects.
The constant pursuit of simplicity
Most of my hobbies have (albeit maybe through a process of complexity) gone through a simplicity revolution. When I started hill walking, maybe 8 years ago or so, I saw fellow walkers carrying large 45 litre rucksacks filled to the brim with various bits of equipment. Yes, some of these possessions are important; first aid kit, warm clothes, water, food. However, I viewed these heavy, bulky rucksacks as a status symbol - just look how strong and fit these people must be to carry these loads up and over hills.
I also remember the early days of my hill walking where I'd spend the evening before a walk packing, and repacking my rucksack. Shall I take this fleece, or that coat. Gaiters? Suntan lotion? GPS? A mat for sitting down to enjoy lunch? Then, on arrival at a countryside car park the following morning, I would repack based on changed weather, or route.
Well, after a while and a couple of knee operations, and countless hours faffing over kit, I realised that the thing I liked most about hill walking was, well, the walking. Not buying and packing gear. Not the status symbols of carrying a full pack over hills. No, just walking. All this kit was adding load to my joints, and preventing me from walking as far as I'd like. Every lunch stop was a faff having to unpack kit before I could get to my cheese sandwiches. Instead, if I took less items, I could use a smaller rucksack. There would be less to forget, less to pack and finding things would be easier.
I follow this same approach to my mountain biking and software development. My bike is (well was) a singlespeed Oracle P7. I love singlespeeding because you don't have to worry about gears. Yes, it might be less efficient. Yes, I can't climb really steep hills. Maybe fast descents are slightly impaired. But I love the simplicity. Unfortunately, I'm recovering from patella tendinitis following last years Welsh Ride Thing, and thus am running a 1 * 10 setup - again as simple as my knee will allow. However, as soon as my knee has healed, the gears will slowly be removed again.
Software development is full of complexities. Requirements, interactions with other systems, team dependencies and relationships, and technology itself. I try to reduce this simplicity using agile and lean concepts like Just in Time, emergent design, lightweight project management to ensure that only the smallest amount of complexity will affect a project. This counters waterfall development that commonly focuses on a wider set of requirements and risks and ensures that project planning and software design caters and mitigates them all. This is a terrible waste as many of these risks need no mitigating as they are related to requirements that simply aren't needed.
Rule of thirds
I'm a geek. A software geek. I'm a logical, methodical kind of guy. I like coding simple elegant solutions. I like optimising algorithms based on experiments. When I've worked in web development, I've always focused on the server side components; databases, business logic and client side interaction. After all, I'm no artist.
Well, I still don't consider myself a great artist, but I've certainly explored art through photography. Guidelines like the rule of thirds, layered composition and use of shapes have been amazingly powerful lessons to learn and I've started to apply these both in photography and also in web design. When I put this website together, I originally decided to use a template so I wouldn't have to worry about visual design. However, with this new found interest in aesthetic, coupled with using great resources like Bootstrapping Design and 320 and Up, I've managed to put a decent design together in a short amount of time. Best of all, I've thoroughly enjoyed the process and have used it as another excuse to learn.