Exploring New Things
Last month, a few days before my birthday, I decided that I needed to acquire some new skills and do some new things, while broadening my knowledge of things I already know (i.e. software development). More importantly, I wanted to not spend as much time in front of the computer. Instead of posting about it and then hoping to follow through, I decided to do the opposite. I started the process and am now happy to report that I have made good progress in five areas:
1) Building Stuff: I love working with tools and making things. My first project was to build a swing set for my daughters. I got lumber from Lowe’s and built one from scratch. My kids love it and it’s great not having to drive down to the playground every day.
My second project is to build earth boxes, five to be precise. Savi wants to grow vegetables and the earth boxes are the perfect solution. It’s labor intensive to build one, but not very difficult. I have completed one and am working on the rest.
2) Baking: I love bread but rarely find bread I like at the store. Solution — bake my own. Savi got me a bread-maker for my birthday and I love it. So far I have baked a loaf of plain, white bread and yesterday, I baked a walnut-raisin loaf. I am not much of a cook and making eggs is the extent of my culinary expertise. But after baking this bread, I am beginning to see why so many people love to cook. It is quite relaxing and to have an end product that family and friends can enjoy is quite rewarding.
3) Mixing: As I have mentioned on this blog before, I am an avid fan of A/V. Until about 2003, one of my favorite things to do was to V.J. parties and weddings for friends. I never did it for money as then it would become work and stop being fun. After moving to DC in 2003, I never did any gigs until last week. Friday (8/8/08), my friends Todd and Diana got married in Napa. My daughter Gia was the flower girl and I had the honor of providing the entertainment for the wedding. Since I did not want to abandon the wife and kids during the reception, I did something novel (for me) — I created a video mix on DVD for the entire evening’s entertainment. Everything from the bride/groom dances to the various dance sets were all on DVD and all I had to do was press Play. I used an 80’s theme and mixed lots of music videos from the decade along with an intro scene from “Back to the Future,” Todd’s favorite movie. I enjoyed making the mix so much, that I am now motivated to create more DVD mixes of my kids photos/videos for family back in India.
4) Software: This item is more about broadening my skills beyond ASP.Net and DotNetNuke. I have been an avid fan of Google AppEngine since the day it went live. Since I had no prior knowledge of Python or Django, I had to come up to speed fast. I attended a few meet-ups at Google and picked-up a copy of Python Power. Between the book and the meet-ups and just tinkering with code, I now have progressed far enough to create fairly advanced apps on AppEngine in Python. I plan on continuing to learn more advanced concepts and focus on developing a single application that will also be the basis of my AppEngine presentation at the DotNetNuke OpenForce / SDN Conference in Amsterdam this October. More about this application in a future post.
5) Teaching: I love to teach kids. It doesn’t matter what the subject matter is, it’s just fun to be able to share and help them learn. This summer, I have undertaken to teach my 12-year-old nephew how to program, continuing indefinitely. After researching the topic, I settled on Phrogram as the language to use for instruction. So far, I am quite impressed with everything about the IDE and the language. I setup a virtual machine, put it on a DVD and mailed it to him (he is not allowed to use the Internet other than for class assignments). He was able to install VPC, get the virtual machine up and running and write his first Phrogram. I will have some detailed blog posts about my experience on this in the near future also.
Yes, it’s true that three of the five things require time in front of the computer. But they still represent a shift and have helped me achieve my goals.