In keeping to my 2015 agenda, here's my recap for the second month of the year.
February threw a number of curve balls my way, from a blizzard early in the month (#5 all-time largest for Chicago), to some accelerated schedules in the office, to my introduction to migraines accompanied with auras and localized numbness. It was a busy month for me, so let's go over these items one-by-one.
The February blizzard was relevant to my life given that I'm one of the two people responsible for making sure that our local complex keeps the snow on the walkways and the driveways to a manageable level. While we didn't get hit as hard as New England, we woke up to a couple of feet of snow on Feb. 2 to deal with. I've been pretty good about keeping the walks clean (with the assistance of neighbors) and have that down to a decent routine, so that wasn't the big deal with the blizzard. The issue we had to deal with was our alleyways. While I don't drive or use that alley, we had residents stuck at home due to being unable to get their cars our, so I burned a personal day for my first Monday to work with folks to get the alleyway clear. Over roughly a 10 hour span that included multiple "teams" hauling loads of snow out with wheelbarrows - there was nowhere else to put the snow in the alley - we cleared the alleyway. By the end of the day, I was completely spent physically, and my FitBit calculated my effort as roughly the same as a half-marathon.
Overall, snow removal took up a decent chunk of the month for me. I actually don't mind it at all - I find it kind of fun - but it did cut into a significant number of my normal morning working hours.
In the office, we've accelerated our timetable for getting participants into Intellicare toward the end of March, so making sure that things are ready and tested by April 1 has taken up a good amount of my mental bandwidth and attention in the latter half of the month. It's basically compressing down work I had intended to do over the course of a month into a couple of weeks, but the upside to the accelerated schedule is that this project will be off my agenda (other than maintenance tasks) earlier than expected. This should free up some time and mental space for me to plug in my non-work projects for the next several months.
In the last week of February, I started having some really interesting migraines that we've attributed to my caffeine consumption. I've never dealt with headaches or migraines on any sort of regular basis, so I was quite surprised during a meeting on a Wednesday to be trying to read some text from an online document and being thwarted by a visual effect that's not unlike the temporary blindness you'll get if you look at the sun, then try to look at anything else. The aura was localized to the center of my vision field, and I was able to continue with the meeting by looking at things slightly off-center. About thirty minutes later, half of my right hand became numb for about twenty minutes, and after that went away, the right side of my face felt like it had been anesthetized by a dentist. After that, I had what felt like a fairly typical headache. (It wasn't as debilitating as I've heard migraines can be.) After the effects dissipated and I looked up the details, it seemed that I was affected by a particular type of migraine. After consulting with my doctor, the cause of the incident seems to be rapid changes in my caffeine intake, which makes sense given my consumption the day before working on a project.
As folks reading my Facebook feed know, I'm a big fan of the Red Bull energy drink and it had become a useful stimulant for me to buckle down and blast through work anywhere in three to nine hour sessions. My ritual was to keep one of their largest 20oz. cans handy, crank up some 1980's rock-and-roll, and get to work. Sometime I would limit my consumption to one 20oz can, but it wasn't all that unusual for me to follow-up with another four to five hours later if I was working a particularly long day. According to some online sources, a 20oz can contains about 190mg of caffeine, which is comparable to some Starbucks drinks. So, I think the issue wasn't the total amount of caffeine, rather it was my method of deploying it - generally staying away from the stuff until working and then dumping a good amount into my system all at once.
Since the initial migraine incident, I've had two other migraines, each with decreasing severity. As a result of this, I've retired Red Bull for the moment to let my system recover. What this means from a productive capacity is that I've been dealing with increased drowsiness in the afternoon and haven't had many late nights working to get things done. This hasn't affected my day-job, but it has had an impact on my side project work. I'm waiting things out a couple more weeks hoping that once I get past the initial withdrawals, I'll find a new productive "normal".
On the project front, work for my regular job has been going well, but I'm still behind on some side projects, mainly the Well Man iOS app. Other than maintenance tasks, I've ceased work on my other apps until that is complete. This has forced me to make some good progress on the app and I'm almost to the point where I can give it to my father and start to get feedback and engage in an iterative development cycle. The major hurdles I need to address is an interface for editing data and a decent search interface. I'm looking forward to knocking these out this week and getting him set up this weekend to start using the app and letting me know what works and what needs to change.
Because of the blocker I've placed on the well app, I don't have a lot of progress to report on the Pnakotic Atlas revamp other than to say that I have some solid designs on paper and in my head, so once I am cleared to work on that, we should see some rapid progress on the Android front. Once the Android app is in a somewhat final state, I'll be working to translate it to iOS later this year, Material Design and all.
In terms of my original plan, March was to be focused on an Android redesign of Fresh Comics. I've already started some design work on that, so once the Pnakotic Atlas is in decent shape, I'll be able to jump into that and show some rapid progress. My Android toolbox is a bit fuller since the last redesign in 2013, and I'm looking forward to seeing what comes of that.
So, to wrap up, February was a challenging month and I am missing some of my deadlines. This was driving me a bit nuts earlier on, but I realized that strong progress is being made on a variety of projects and it's probably good to be failing a small bit - not to the extent of feeling like things are out of control - under the theory that if I was actually hitting all of these deadlines I've set, I wouldn't have been sufficiently ambitious in my planning. While I don't intend to use this line of thinking to keep missing personal deadlines - a few successes will demonstrate that I'm not delusional - it was a nice bit of cognitive reengineering that reduced my internal stress significantly.
Looking forward to checking in about March in several weeks.comments powered by Disqus