Personal Development

Annual re-alignment

Last week it was my birthday. I am now officially, old. But last year was good: I finally ran my first competition race, I became more aware of who I am emotionally and I found employment that suits me and that I enjoy.

Looking to the future I have prioritised 3 things to concentrate on. (until I change my mind again.)


Weirdly, running has become very important to me. I never thought I would ever be a runner. Now I have to go out and run at least 5km 2-3 times a week otherwise I get cranky.

In 2020 I want to run at least one 10km competition. If they’re still having them. And be on my way to running the Bath Half in 2021. If that is a thing as well.

The year started off rough, I caught a cough that left me unable to run for 3 months, but I went for a run this week and I appear to be back to normal again.

I’m not saying it was Coronavirus / COVID-19 because I didn’t have any of the symptoms. Even the cough was the wrong sort of cough.

Analogue Offline Hobby

Since I work in the tech sector, taking time away from this is really important for my perspective. Turns out not everything is about coding, networking and Twitter!

Last autumn I discovered this artist called David Bull who had a YouTube video of the complete process of Japanese Woodcut Printing.

I became fascinated with the mix of art, creativity and technology of the process. I love the association with wood and the slowness of scraping and carving of the block. I love that there is a physical output to the whole process. It reminds me of working at the Bristol Design Forge, but analogue.

So I have been playing around with this a little in what little spare time I have to see what can be done.

The woodcut
The print

It’s early days yet, but there is no rush. This is something that I’d like to explore more and see where it takes me. There’s a sense of peace to it that I appreciate.

Game Development

I’ve always liked board games, table-top role playing games, card games and video games so I am tentatively dipping my foot into that arena.

I’m not doing it right, I’m not doing it well. But I’ve made a start and there are things to see when you go and look at Sparkwood and 21.

I promised my children that I would make them a video game each and so I have been learning how with the wonderful open-source software Godot Engine. Lovely community, great documentation.

I’ve got great ideas for tangible, physical games that are different and unusual. They’re all written down in a list in my notebook and I hack away at them as and when I find the time until they turn in to real things.

If I ever get round to completing them, I’m sure to crow about it here. So watch this space.

Personal Development

Emotional Well-being whilst Remote Working

Remote working is something that is now offered by a lot of tech companies. Organisations such as Automattic (WordPress), BasecampBufferStripe and GitLab are all fully remote companies.

The benefits of working remotely include being more productive, a better work / life balance, and a positive environmental impact. But there are downsides too, especially if you have never worked remotely before.

Feelings of isolation, loneliness and being unable to “switch off” – as well as the lack of social support – are all things you might feel whilst remote working.

Here’s just a couple of ideas that I used to acclimate to remote working.

Set up your space

Make sure you have everything you need near you: laptop, coffee, water, good light, etc. Make sure you’re comfortable sitting for a while and make sure your screen is high enough. Perhaps stick your laptop on a couple of books to help bring the screen up to a more comfortable level. Give yourself a cuddly, action figure, small robot, pet, etc to explain your code to when stuck. It’ll help.

Take breaks

Roughly every 45 minutes stand up, walk about, stretch your arms, your legs and crick your neck like The Rock does before he goes into a high adrenaline action sequence. It moves the blood about and stops you congealing.

Go outside for lunch

Go and look at trees, birds, burning car tyres, whatever your local scenery is like. But GO OUTSIDE AND GET AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER*. For at least 30 minutes. Maybe even eat your lunch outside? Or down the road at that cafe. Just GET AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER. Otherwise you’re likely to go peculiar. 

*Unless you can’t.

Get up in the morning

Actually get up and get ready as if you’re going into work. Don’t just slope into the lounge in your dressing gown and Uggs. It won’t end well. Seriously, get up, make your bed, have breakfast, shower, put on your going-to-work clothes, make a coffee and then sit down and log in. Preferably in that order.

Having that morning routine separates your work day from your not-work day and helps you with switching off at the end of the day.

‘Coming home’ routine 

Have a finishing off routine as well. It will bracket the day and help you with not having that always “switched on” feeling you might get. Switch off your laptop and put it away (even if it’s for 15 minutes and you switch it back on again – it’s the act of doing it that’s important).

The Human Connection

Call your parents to make sure they’re okay. Call you friends. It’s the CALL bit, speaking with other people will help with being on your own all day. Voice or Video. Chat on Slack (when not working / learning) and make sure you’re connected with the group throughout the day.

Final note

And remember, working from home can be a really nice way to work: you have your family, your comforts of home and all the baths you need, just right next to you.

(Duncan McKean is available for parties)

Personal Development

Courses Completed 2019 Edition

I’m a great believer in adult education. Learning should not stop once you’ve gone through school. Lifelong learning is a great way to stay current, improve oneself and to increase opportunities in life.

I’ve done a bunch of online courses this year. Quite a lot of them were refreshers to make sure I still remembered how to do stuff (Project Management, HTML, CSS, JavaScript–I’m looking at you!)

Here they are:

DateCourse Duration
MarchSide Hustle: Develop the Skills you need to Succeed3h30
AprilWhat Is Programming?2h50
Godot: Beginner to Advanced4h19
Godot Game Engine — The Complete Course6h00
Intro to Unreal Engine 40h39
HTML, CSS, and JavaScript: The Big Picture1h28
Modern Java: The Big Picture1h58
MayHTML Fundamentals2h20
Beginner’s Guide to Project Management1h40
Fundamentals of Agile Project Management1h30
Play by Play: Visual Studio Live Share0h36
CSS Positioning0h50
Python: The Big Picture1h05
Kanban Fundamentals1h31
Less: Getting Started1h11
JuneGame Character Concept Design Fundamentals1h40
Play by Play: Software Development in Swift – Beyond IOS0h51
Swift Fundamentals3h48
Responsive Websites With Bootstrap 32h53
Play by Play: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript with Lea Verou2h15
Introduction to CSS2h9
JulyJavaScript: Getting Started2h46
JavaScript for Beginners1h30
HTML5 Fundamentals3h47
React: The Big Picture1h11
Vue.js: Big Picture1h06
Angular: The Big Picture1h07
Introduction to Logic Pro X1h39
AugustAlchemy Synth Fundamentals in Logic Pro1h22
Introduction to Ableton Live 92h09
Semantic HTML1h49
Learn JavaScript from Scratch1h06
JavaScript Fundamentals3h00
OctoberJavaScript Objects and Prototypes0h48
Python: Getting Started2h59
DecemberGetting Started with Django CMS1h02
Code School: Try Django0h36

I’m fairly sure I’m going to be doing more courses and it looks like the focus is going to be on Django (because I have this idea of a web app that I want to build for myself), Python (because it can do anything–web, games, scripting for OS software like Blender, Krita, Inkscape, etc…, security, all sorts) and maybe Ruby / Ruby on Rails (because I’m impressed by the work of Basecamp and because the language principles seem to fit how I think).