Breaks are Good

The pilot episode of the West Wing is one of my favorite TV episodes of all time. I love the writing of the show, and I really resonate with some of the characters on the show. In the episode, Josh’s job is in jeopardy and he might get fired by the president. There is a ton more in the plot of the episode including one of my favorite lines of the entire show “… a sudden arboreal stop.”

While all of this is captivating the last scene of the show talks about how they seem to all have been taking a break and it is time to get back to work. The president says, “breaks are good”, and then generally goes on to say it is always good to take a break once in a while to clear one’s head before resuming work. He goes on to say that the break is over and the time for action is now.


This parallels where I feel like I’ve been for a while. Some of it by choice some of it by force. Covid caused me to slow down a lot. I was in the gym every morning and doing acro or something fun every evening before covid started. I was living in California, biking a lot, swimming a little, and climbing and adventuring a ton. Taking photographs with my friends, and traveling to fun spots to take photos. With the pandemic that all ground to a halt. I moved from California back to the east coast and found some fun new hobbies, including coffee, sewing, my dog, taking care of my house, and repairing a boat (which I’ll admit, I’m not good at yet, but I will get good, and my boat will be awesome someday).

Still while finding these hobbies it was hard for me to really grow the way I wanted to grow. I have gained more projects without finishing them. I need to finish. I need to do. I need to MOVE, and I’ve started doing that. The dog makes me get up at 6 in the morning, we go to the beach and I walk a mile (yes, I haven’t posted an update on goals recently, and I’ll admit, I’m not doing great on my 1000-mile goal for the year, but I guarantee I will get more than half of that, which is still a pretty freaking big improvement from last year).

I have started a couple of businesses, one around sewing and one around technology support, both of which are just getting off the ground. It’s not like I’m not doing things, but I have felt clouded. I have felt blocked by something external. Something intrinsic to my life, but something I can’t place a finger on. Finally, I feel like it is lifting and I’m doing things. It might be connected to movement. I’ve gone from not doing much movement to doing a fair bunch. We are acroyoga-ing several times a week and it is fun. I’m walking every day. I’m going back to Crossfit.

So in short, breaks are good, and I don’t lament, resent, or discount my break, but it’s time to put my head down and get back to work!

Thinking About Themes

I’m not a visual designer, but I do like pretty things.

On the top of my mind recently has been the idea of my Purple Owl Theme. It comes from the “Night Owl” theme on MonoLisa’s website.

Blue background with a big purple highlight. Light gray as a text color. I love the theme, and I’ve tried to make a version of it for Obsidian. In doing so, I realized that actually figuring out what colors goes where is confusing. Colors that make sense on the MonoLisa site don’t make sense in my Obsidian theme. There are also a bunch of additional color and syntax settings for something like my Obsidian notes that aren’t really matched to any of the theme values from the MonoLisa site.

I look at some other themes like Monokia Pro and see that they are using mostly 6 colors and backgrounds.

There has to be a better solution to theming. Having to write themes for everything, customizing for each individual application. As we do themes at Airkit, the same thing applies. We have things like “Brand-Primary” and “Brand-Tint1” and various other colors defined within our apps.

After talking to a VERY smart coworker he turned me on to Design Tokens. Design tokens are the elements of style that Salesforce uses in their Lightning Design System (LDS). They define a set of tokens that are then used throughout their various different products. They use tools to take these defined tokens and send them out to SASS out for web products and p-lists for iOS, etc.

After looking at LDS Design Tokens, there are a bunch of things on there that aren’t exactly what I’m looking for. I’m looking for a way to define a few select attributes and have a tool interpret it into a full theme that is usable in many different applications. Looking at Solarized they only have 16 defined colors.

Anyway, I’m not done with anything yet. I’m just starting to think through this project.

Building Apps In Airkit

I work for Airkit. I’m technically a Solutions Engineer but have done a bunch of building and education for the product as well. While the company has a bunch of documentation about how to use each tool, I figured I’d write quickly about how I build an Airkit App, what some of my practices are, and generally how I go about things.

Start with the UI

My first big tip is to start by creating the UI. One of the greatest things about Airkit is its ability to rapidly prototype interaction with your end users. Create the app quickly and show it to users. Often there are use cases that are missed when initially thinking about a project and this rapid prototyping brings them out.

Variables and Types

Create types for your complex object. If the data is going to be stored in AirData, then I create an AirData object, but Custom Types are good to explain what you expect the data to look like. Knowing the format of your data is helpful when using it to fill in form details data ops.

Naming is also important. Tables are capitalized where as instance variables are lower snake case. Profile constants can be capitalized snake case. Following this convention will make things clearer to read, but is not enforced by the platform. It is useful for understanding how variables are used across the app.

Scoping of variables is also important. In general, the goal is to minimize the scope of variables as low as possible to allow for more reuse of your components. That means if it is possible keep your variable on a web page then do, because it will come when you copy and paste the page. If you move it up to the flow level you will need to copy the entire flow together to have access to the variable. The downside of keeping everything at the page level is that you might end up passing it in to a bunch of pages, which is also not good. That is the trade off.

Also of note, because of some legacy notions, variable scopes are a little confusing:

Web Builder ConceptVariable ScopeNotes
JourneySessionThis is available anywhere in the runtime, but must be passed into data flows.
Web FlowActivity GroupAn activity group is available for all the web pages and actions on the flow.
Web PageActivityAvailable only in the context of the web page.

Variants and Themes

While each individual element has its style properties in the web builders inspector, the best practice is to store things on variants for each type. Even if the variant is only used once. This gives clear intention to the way you are styling each component and all styles can be managed directly through Theme Builder. It allows them to be reused as well.

Getting Help

There are plenty of ways to get help with Airkit. Start with the support site and if you can’t find the answer there you can always post a question on the community board. If that doesn’t work you can send an email to support@airkit.com.

Down Week

This is a down week. Some of the reasons I can’t fully share, some of them I can.

My 99 1/2 year old neighbor passed on July 4th. He had been in the house the entire time my family had been in the area and he was always super nice and cool to me. He was super sharp until the end and was still working as an attorney. There is no service for him. He outlasted his family and pets, so doesn’t have a huge amount of community, but he was an awesome man.

The economy in general is starting to get pretty rough and that is not helping with work.

I’ve run into some interpersonal drama in my social circles.

My family is in town which is both awesome and stressful. I don’t really feel myself with my family. Can’t really explain.


The point is this week has been heading down. We could keep it going down or I can turn the frown upside down and start making things better. Remember there are positives in this week too. My family is in town so I’ve had lots of laughs. We got to sail a bit which was also nice. It’s a shorter week because of the holiday.

This post is rambling, but so often we see positivity in this world. It’s hard to remember that moments aren’t always positive. Sometimes they are sad, negative, hurtful, but our lives are a collection of moments. The variation in moments allow us to fully feel the positive ones. Sometimes there is nothing wrong with feeling a different emotion in a moment. Sometimes the moment ahead is the exciting one.

Zacharyc Consulting

Last week I started two new companies. One of them is pretty straightforward and so I’m announcing it here today. I started zacharyc consulting which is a technology consulting business. There are many times I’ll be in a conversation with someone about technology and they are looking for guidance. With years in the field of tech I have a diverse background in the field. My goal in this business is to help advise businesses with their technology decisions. From making a website to social media, there are many technical questions that I can help answer.

This is not a replacement for my day job, and I’m probably not going to take on any project that is too significantly large. The goal is to provide guidance to those who need it and help people avoid investing in the wrong solution.

Roe V. Wade

A friend of mine posted on Instagram the other day about how too many people aren’t standing up for this issue. I’m not sure what my track record is on standing up, but hoping to make a stand here, at least.

What has happened in this country with the overturning of Roe V. Wade is crazy. It’s crazy for a bunch of reasons. Not the least of which is stare decisis in which a decision was made a long time ago but the current make of the court isn’t standing on precedent and just overruling the existing world. While that isn’t my moral feeling on this, and morally I think we need to allow people to have freedoms, the issue of consistency of law is a big one. The law was set, and now the judges have unset the law.

Beyond all of that, the thing that gets to me is that everyone thinks of this as a 3 / 6 decision. It’s not, it’s actually a 3 / 1 / 5 decision. Also, I don’t even really know each of the justices on the court. I’d really like to change that. I’d like to understand who is an ally and who is against personal freedoms in a way that makes sense.

Judges

John G. Roberts

Chose to not agree fully with the removal of Roe V. Wade, but did think that the Dobbs law should be overturned. While I’m not a conservative, this seems to strike a middle position. Believing that the law should be overturned in Mississippi is not the same as meaning that Roe was just wrong. So while I don’t share Robert’s view on this case, his view of Roe continuing to exist is something I agree with. Nomimated as Chief Justice by George W. Bush (jr) and took his seat in 2005.

Clarence Thomas

Sided with the majority in ruling to overturn Roe V. Wade and remove the constitutional right to an abortion. Conservative judge and definitely someone whose views I’m personally afraid of. Nominated by President Bush (sr) and began serving in 1991.

Stephen Breyer

Part of the minority voted against the decision. He was nominated by President Clinton and took his seat in 1994.

Samuel A. Alito

Wrote the opinion for the majority, and in my mind has a very closed mind. Nominated by George W. Bush (jr) and took his seat in 2006.

Sonia Sotomayor

Part of the minority descent against the decision. Was nominated by Obama and took her seat in 2009.

Elena Kegan

Part of the minority descent against the decision. Was nominated by President Obama and took her seat in 2010.

Niel M. Gorsuch

Joined the majority opinion. Was nominated by Trump and took his seat in 2017.

Brett M. Kavanaugh

Joined the majority opinion. Was nominated by Trump and took his seat in 2018.

Amy Coney Barrett

Joined the majority opinion. Was nominated by Trump and took her seat in 2020.

Understanding this all

I was listening to What Roman Mars Can Learn About Con Law, and they made a very interesting point that is clear from the nominations and seats from above. This shouldn’t have been a surprise. This was going to happen based on the liberal judges that were put in place. This has been coming for a very long time.

This makes me think about some very big questions:

  • Should we put a term limit on judges now that the human life expectancy is so much longer than in the past?
  • Should there be more means to remove judges that don’t reflect the belief structure of the American people?
  • Was there really anything the democrats could have done to prevent the appointment of Amy Coney Barret?

There are questions about what should have happened in the past and what we can do in the future. I wish the path forward to really making a change was clear, but it isn’t. Do we need to move to red states where our voices will be more valuable?

I’m hunting for answers in this, and don’t have any. If you have a way to organize and do something, please share. I feel very powerless at this moment.

Zack’s Packs & Gear Repair Logo Challenge

I’m dilatory in putting together my report on my trip to Vermont in the past couple of weeks. During the trip I finalized the idea of my new side hustle: Zack’s Packs and Gear Repair. This business’ goal is to create some fantastic packs that are completely custom and bespoke, and then to repair goods that would otherwise be thrown away.

This business is an exploration work of sorts, and as such I’m doing something fun with the logo. I’m talking to a bunch of artists, preferably local people, to attempt to discover the right logo mark. I’m going to talk a bit about the company and the project.

The Assignment

Spend a minimal amount of time, preferably in the hour to two hour range to come up with a design for the project. It can be hand drawn, high res photo of a hand drawn image, or a digital asset.

Terms

You must agree to price and payment before completing a prototype of a project. I will not pay for projects not commissioned. I’m doing a bunch of these designs and reserve the right to use all work in any manner I wish including, but not limited to: stickers, website, patches, shirts, hoodies, coasters, and anything else I can get printed.

If you are interested in submitting an entry please send a note to zachary@zacharyc.com to agree on terms and timeline.

Brief notes about the company

This company will create backpacks, other bags and repair broken gear. This is designed specifically for technical gear like back packs, tents, rain jackets, etc. Several of the reasons for the business are reducing carbon footprint by fixing things closer to home. Some of the major Patagonia repairs are done in Reno so from the east coast goods end up doing a double cross country trip to get fixed. Goal being to Reduce, Reuse, and Repair.

Sample Logo

If you want to see an example of one logo already received, please see below. This design was submitted by @eliahpelletier. Here for inspiration, but nothing is required.

Back at It! Acro 365

After taking a very long break from my challenge I have started season two of my Acro365 Challenge. I guess this means the pandemic might be something we are moving past or at least learning to live with. Check out my instagram @zacroyoga for details on the challenge. I’m also working on an Airkit App to keep track of the days and who is doing what.

One of the biggest challenges is that there are not a ton of local people who are super into doing acroyoga. On the west coast I could just ask people and most people would have experienced it. Finding people is going to be a challenge.

Weekly Update 3/28

1000 Miles Project

I did not get all the miles I needed last week. This is the final week of the month and I’m at 70 miles as of this morning. I did a 5K with run / walk method in under 42 minutes so that time is improving and I’m hoping to get over 80 by April 1.

While I might not be at my goal of getting back up over 90 miles this month, I do have a chance of actually improving month over month. I’m moving in the right direction in terms of miles. Each month is more than the last. Anyway, hoping for at least 10 miles this week!

Cooking For Myself

Not winning here, but not completely losing. I’ve eaten out too much, but I did go to the grocery store again last week so I’m moving in the right direction. I just need to plan for and cook more dinners.

Cleaning the House

There was a day last week when most of the downstairs was put away. I’ve brought in more things from the van, and I”ve moved some stuff around, but the house is actually getting there. I was also surprised about how little time this actually required when I committed myself to do it. This might be a big thanks from the R&R day at work.

Getting My Life In Order

I’ll call it a win. Today at the Finance time at the coffee shop I went through a bunch of my unknown expenses in YNAB and started to label them. Thinking of budget in this way is healthy and I’m pretty excited to be doing this. I’m not sure how long it will take me to be fully successful here, but progress is good!

Clubs

Last week I started clubs at the coffee shop. No one joined me, sadly. Still, it is good to have that time set aside for me to do each of the weekly projects. Today during finance I got through all my uncategorized expenses on YNAB. I did some fun art last week and I’m excited about doing that again tomorrow. I took my camera out for the first time in a while last week and took a few frames. Progress in all these areas is fun.

Weekly Update: Birthday Week

1000 Miles Project

I’m still behind. Both in the course of this year and in the course of the month, but there were some circumstances last week that made it a little more challenging. With my birthday and hack day being on the same week there were a couple of days that I didn’t get any real miles. I tried to make it up over the weekend, but fell a couple of miles short. I’m at about 58 for the month, and about 220 miles or so for the year which is not nothing, but isn’t where I need to be.

Walking with the dog can range anywhere from 19 minutes a mile to 32 minutes depending on how she is behaving. Going to the gym and running on the treadmill means I get more than 4 miles an hour so the plan is to start shifting more of mile activity to the gym and try to get ahead in the last couple weeks of the month.

Cooking for myself

Not super great on this front. I ate out a bunch, but often keep on saving left overs so that I have more food for multiple days which is good. The real challenge is that I don’t go the grocery store to pick up food on a regular basis and I need to change that. I looked at signing up for a local milk delivery service that might also bring in produce that could start changing this habit.

Cleaning the House

The more I think about this, the more it is a matter of figuring what I want MY house to look like. It has been the family house for so long that I’m not entirely sure what a house of mine would look like. What is the art? What is the furniture? What stays and what goes? It doesn’t help that there are still things from my mom everywhere that need to be moved out.

I’m making a conscious effort to spend more time on Sunday cleaning which is good, but won’t be enough for the initial effort of getting this place the way I want. Still I’m moving along at it and at least making some real progress.

Renting the house

Cleaning the house has to come first. I have som plans for what I want to do there, but the house needs to be in better shape before this happens. I’m still waffling between getting a permanent roommate, or just renting for the summer.

New Project Alert:

I’m going to start clubs at Simple Merchant Coffee. A different club for each day of the week. This is the current plan:

MondayLife Hacking and Personal Finance
TuesdayArt (drawing and painting)
WednesdayPhotography Day
ThursdayMath (both generic and discrete math)
FridayEarth Sciences (and other sciences if needed)
SaturdayBook Club
SundayCoffee Club, discuss quality of coffee.

Step next will be to create a google form for sign up and interest in the clubs. Hopefully start a mailing list of some sort to remind people.

I’m still trying to figure out how long I want the meetings to be. A quick 15 minute gathering? A full hour seems like too much. We will figure it out.