Tired of this phase

Posted by Steve just before lunch on Monday the 8th of October, 2007

Ben has publicly challenged himself to not waste his pre-work mornings by sleeping through multiple alarms.

Whilst I don’t intend to mimic his goal (I already get up at 6:30am thankyouver’much), I have a habit of not doing things (posting here, writing for Web Typography, exercising, and the list goes on) for similar reasons. I bemoan a lack of time, a fear of failure, a lack of knowledge… Anything, in fact, to excuse myself from doing things that might challenge me and require me to put effort into something.

So, to echo Ben’s sentiment:

This week, I’m taking the “don’t be so pathetic” method to not being shit at stuff.

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Happy New

Posted by Steve in the wee hours on Tuesday the 2nd of January, 2007

Since the day it was launched, nascentguruism was forsaken. When I started designing it, I had a limited understanding of design and so faced a massive learning curve. Because of this, most of my efforts went into working out how to translate the concepts and feelings I wanted to convey into a working site, along with understanding how to achieve what I wanted in the tools I was using (Photoshop).

In hindsight, it’s entirely logical that the first version of nascentguruism’s design would turn out to be everything I made it and nothing I wanted it to be: I was learning about design by observing and experimenting, and so would quickly lose focus on the overall design, becoming preoccupied with whatever details I wanted to introduce at that moment in time.

After ten months’ toil, the site launched with a whimper and, because of the shoehorning that had taken place to include all the extra details, I quickly became jaded: the format of the site didn’t appeal to me, and so I was unwilling to write. As time passed, my interest waned.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Shortly after SxSW in March–around June, if memory serves–I was inspired to play with some ideas for a redesign of nascentguruism.

Rather than pressuring myself to continue working solidly until it was ready to launch–as I had with the initial ten-month design–I decided simply to get all my ideas down on paper into a PSD before taking time to mull over what I’d come up with. After a while, I’d start anew, creating a design from scratch, building upon–or, in some cases, replacing–what I’d done in the last iteration.

This process continued until mid-October, when I finally felt that the design could go no further without transitioning to markup. Throughout, I refused to do any work–design or markup– unless I was compelled to do so.

I think this relaxed approach to the design and implementation has served me twofold: the design and implementation was less forced, and so the final site has a more relaxed, open feel to it, and this design is something I positively want to work with, to the point that I’m practically itching to post new content to it (and have been for the last month). Further, the iterative, throwaway-prototype approach to designing allowed me to incorporate new ideas effectively, without compromising the design as much as I might before.

Typography

One of my primary focuses in this new design was to experiment with typography, using some of the ideas gleaned from reading Robert Bringhurst’s ‘The Elements of Typographic Style’ and working with Rich on Web Typography. I’ve tried to blend more widely used ideas (like working with vertical rhythm using baselines) and more playful ones (like ornamented indentation), and will continue to experiment and integrate ideas put forth in Web Typography.

Some of these experiments are very reliant on using modern CSS techniques, such as generated content and pseudo-elements and, as such, may not display as expected on all browsers (Internet Explorer, I’m looking at you). Further, most of the font-size-related typography has been optimised for WebKit-based browsers on Mac OS X and, as such, there may be sizing issues with other platforms or browsers. Or maybe not. Everything should be usable, at the very least.

Style

As it stands, the CSS is very clearly showing signs of the hap-hazard approach I took to developing it; in the very near future, I plan to rework it–possibly using YUI reset and fonts.

Support

I couldn’t have achieved everything I have in this redesign if it weren’t for the help of a two notable individuals:

These two deserve more gratitude than I can express here–or in beer form–thank-you both.

There are, however, others that have supported me throughout the process, who also deserve thanks:

Fin?

nascentguruism is far from complete–during this redesign, I’ve come up with many, many ideas for future work on the design and implementation. Most importantly, however, I have a renewed excitement for blogging and a few ideas for future posts in mind.

Only time will tell if it lasts, I suppose.

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Where was I?

Posted by Steve over lunch on Tuesday the 2nd of May, 2006

Apparently, Elly tagged me with this ‘where was I?’ meme, so I suppose I ought to follow it up:

Where was I… one year ago?

This time last year, I was working with Ben at Fujitsu Siemens Computers. As Ben noted, we would have been working on a Microsoft-SharePoint-based document management system. Unfortunately for Ben and I (and our other team-mate, Steve Hayter, who appears to have fallen off the face of the earth), we had short deadlines and large workloads.

As such, we were working long hours on hard problems, pushing one another to our mental limits. I recall one week in particular that I worked something in the region of seventy hours in five days. As one could imagine, trying to push my friends to work this way was a double edged sword: I wanted the work to be done, but I also didn’t want to have to make Ben and Steve do the stupid hours it would require.

Where was I… five years ago? (or ‘How to make Steve feel old’)

It took me a while to work this one out, but it seems that five years ago I would have been coming to the end of my first year at university. I’d met a bunch of people I now feel privileged enough to call my closest friends, spent lots of time avoiding work, and generally doing what university students do (well, other than the getting dangerously drunk part).

Where was I… ten years ago? (or ‘How to make Steve feel really old’)

I was coming up to the ripe old age of fourteen and would have been in year nine at Mill Chase Community School, four months from starting my GCSEs. I wasn’t big but, for my age, I might have been clever.

Who am I tagging?

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Mac OS X Keyboard Layouts on Windows

Posted by Steve mid-evening on Sunday the 19th of March, 2006

Image courtesy of Ben

A while back, Ben was trying to replicate certain keyboard niceties from the wonderful Mac OS X in Windows. As a fellow superhero with an alter egoMac user by night, Windows user by day and utter pedant, I was intrigued, so decided to dig further into the problem.

Continue reading…

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Four Things

Posted by Steve in the early evening on Monday the 23rd of January, 2006

Apparently, Ben’s poked another meme in my direction. Without further ado, here are my lists:

Four jobs I’ve had in my life

Four movies I can watch over and over

Four TV shows I love to watch

Four places I have lived

Four places I have been on holiday

Four of my favourite dishes

Four websites I visit daily

Four places I would rather be right now

Four bloggers I am tagging

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Carson Workshops Summit

Posted by Steve mid-evening on Monday the 28th of November, 2005

My d.Construct write-up is coming, honestly: it’s taking a bit longer than I expected, but it is on its way.

Another month, another conference booking. This time, The Boy WonderBen and I will be attending the Carson Workshops Summit on the 8th of February, 2006, with The JokerFatty in tow.

Rumour has it that Jeremy, Andy, Richard, and The Jon will be there, not to mention the speakers: Mister Mint, a Signal, and someone predictable, to name but a few.

Add to that the fact that it’s Ben’s birthday the day after, and it should make for an altogether good day/evening.

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What’s in your folder of shame?

Posted by Steve over lunch on Tuesday the 8th of November, 2005

I just noticed Jeff Veen’s post about his folder of shame (via Ben, surprise, surprise) and, much as I’m still very new to this here blogging malarky, I too have a folder of shame. Currently, it contains:

As I’m still pretty new to the game, my folder actually seems to contain things I’m seriously working on, but haven’t yet finished. This, though, is mostly because I’m still very much trying to find my feet in the world and get the hang of writing things for my mumthe world to see. 

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The musical baton

Posted by Steve over lunch on Sunday the 30th of October, 2005

Back when I was still known as Stevie ‘no blog’ Marshall, Ben passed me the musical baton. Well, I’ve finally decided to pick it up and run the final stretch.

As Ben noted, all those months ago, the baton is something akin to a chain-letter but, via the medium of blogging, seems rather pleasant, as opposed to the innumerable forwarded e-mail quizzes that garner instant deletion. I also think it would be rather intriguing to have some kind of auto-generated map of who passed this to whom. Granted, that would be hard to manage when Johnny-come-latelys like myself are involved, but it would be interesting, all the same.

As I’m so late to the party, I’ve decided to take a little more time and care over this, with a little more detail and information.

Anyway, here’s the meat:

Total volume of music on my computer

I’m currently trying to enable Unison synchronisation between my two Macs, so that I don’t have to worry about manually synching my music. When I get it working, expect a post on the subject. Until that time, don’t.

I currently have 38.95GB of music on my PowerMac, which I manually copy to my iBook whenever the whim takes me. If iTunes is to be believed, that’s about 20.2 days’ worth of non-stop noisemusic. That’s mostly made up of 192kbps-encoded mp3s, with the occasional non-conformist track from other sources.

That’s enough that I can’t quite fit it all on my 40GB fourth-generation iPod (black and white screen with click-wheel); this is a source of much discomfort.

The last CD(s) I bought

I’ve actually not bought any music within the last fortnight or so, which is incredibly uncommon for me.

The last CDs I bought, though, were Fighting With Wire’s ‘Cut The Transmission’ EP and their ‘Machine Parts’ single, when I saw them live at the Wedgewood Rooms on the 10th of October.

As I was able to buy both of those for a handful of change, though, I feel compelled to include my next-most-recent full-price purchase: Jimmy Chamberlin Complex’s ‘Life Begins Again’.

Fighting With Wire

The two Fighting With Wire CDs comprise 6 tracks, which sound somewhat akin to a combination of Foo Fighters and another, more metal-y band I can’t quite remember the name of.

Considering I hadn’t even heard of Reuben, the act that they were supporting when I saw them, until the day before the gig, I’m very impressed to have come across such a promising group. I was also suitably impressed by The Mascara Story, but their CDs had sold out by the time I went to get one.

Jimmy Chamberlin Complex – ‘Life Begins Again’

The Jimmy Chamberlin Complex album is an altogether different beast: the debut album of Jimmy Chamberlin, the former Smashing Pumpkins and Zwan drummer, was something for which I had very high expectations.

As a huge Pumpkins and Zwan fan, I had many preconceived ideas about what a Jimmy Chamberlin album might be like. This album broke all of my preconceptions, and it broke them beautifully. Whilst the album has echoes of his contributions to the Pumpkins (and highlights his input on their style or, perhaps, the effect his time with them had on his style), it is very much distinct from their works.

A word of warning, however: this album is a little more prog-rock than that of the Pumpkins – it focuses heavily on Jimmy’s work on the drums (obviously), and is very instrumental. If you need something to sing along to, this isn’t necessarily the best choice (or give this a try and see if it changes your perceptions and tastes; either way is good).

All that said, I love this album.

The song I’m playing right now

Portishead’s ‘Sour Times’ has just started playing. I was introduced to Portishead a few months ago when a friend sent me their debut album, ‘Dummy’, as a gift for no apparent reason (not that I’m complaining – any CD I don’t have to buy is fine by me).

Whilst I didn’t actually choose to play this song (iTunes party shuffle, how I love thee!), it’s a bloody good choice, all the same: haunting, melancholy, ethereal, and, at the same time, soothing and refreshing.

FiveSixSeven songs I listen to a lot, or that mean a lot to me

Writing this list is incredibly difficult for me. As with most people who are passionate about music, pinning myself down to a handful of songs that I would find it hard to be without usually results in a list that’s longer than my actual music collection. Also, this list will probably change to some degree if you were to ask me the same thing next week, or in a year’s time, so don’t hold me to it. Make that ‘this list will change within a minute of me posting it’.

That said, here goes (in no particular order):

‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ by Marvin Gaye, from ‘Motown Heartbreakers’

Whilst this may not, technically, be Marvin Gaye’s best song, it was Motown’s biggest selling record. More importantly for me, however, this song reminds me very much of my childhood – it epitomises my mum’s (somewhat limited) taste in music, and makes me think of long journeys as a child to visit my grandparents.

It’s also of note that I have this song on three different albums: ‘Motown Heartbreakers’, ‘Motown Chartbusters: Volume 3’, and ‘The Very Best Of Marvin Gaye’. I chose to mention ‘Motown Heartbreakers’ specifically because that is the album I would have listened to as a child: the others are far more recent acquisitions.

‘Show Me How To Live’ by Audioslave, from ‘Audioslave’

I simply cannot get enough of this song (or, in fact, the rest of the album). I spent about 15 minutes just trying to decide which track from the album to list. Audioslave’s music is hard-as-nails, but intricately crafted and with awesome vocals from Chris Cornell. I listen to this album at least once a week and, without fail, I end up screamingsinging along.

‘Whenever, Wherever, Whatever’ by Maxwell, from ‘MTV Unplugged’

Maxwell is one of those artists that I think doesn’t get anywhere near the respect he deserves. He has one of the richest, most satisfying voices I’ve ever heard. His songs are romantic without being trite, intellectual without sacrificing accessiblity, and, above all, just damn good. Not only does this song define the way I feel about the people I care about, it exudes an intimacy and tenderness rarely found in other songs (especially so in the live version I’m referring to, but the same holds for the original studio version).

‘Baby Let’s Rock!’ by Zwan, from ‘Mary Star Of The Sea’

This is another track where I could substitute it for any other from the album. Beautifully crafted, sweet with just enough rockiness, the whole album rarely has time to finish before I’m playing it again.

Zwan’s work is an altogether different beast from that of The Smashing Pumpkins, the band from which half their members originated, but just as good.

Speaking of Pumpkins…

‘Silverfuck (Live In London) / Over The Rainbow’ by The Smashing Pumpkins, from ‘Earphoria‘

What can I say about a thirteen-and-a-half minute rendition of ‘Silverfuck’ that has a rendition of ‘Over The Rainbow’ in the middle, for good measure?

Fuck me, it’s good!

That’ll do just fine. When I got ‘Earphoria‘, I already had most of the Pumpkins’ back-catalogue, so my expectations were high. ‘Earphoria‘ delivers, and then some, until you get to ‘Silverfuck‘, whereupon you spend the next thirteen-and-a-half minutes thinking holy shit, this is the most insane thing I’ve heard in years. Or maybe that’s just me.

‘Brighter Hell’ by The Watchmen, from ‘Silent Radar’

Another beautiful, intricate, sensual song. The story goes that, to make their ‘Silent Radar’ album, The Watchmen spared no expense, to the point that they used a $10,000 vocal microphone! That may sound excessive but, if ‘Brighter Hell’ is anything to go by, it was more than worth it. (And yes, I realise that money doesn’t equal talent, but money plus talent can often make wonderul things.)

‘No One’s Gonna Hurt You’ by James Iha, from ‘Let It Come Down’

Yet another soft one, again from a former Pumpkin. I’d explain why this one means a lot to me, but the person it’s for knows who they are and why it does, so that’s all that matters. Just trust me that it’s a beautiful song, and, as with Jimmy Chamberlin, you can see Iha’s influence on the Pumpkins, and how they influenced his work.

I could continue this list for hours, but I think it’s for the best if I leave it at that.

‘Brighter Hell’ was added to the list minutes after I originally posted it, for anyone that cares about such things.

So was ‘No One’s Gonna Hurt You’ (although significantly after the fact)…

Passing it on

As the rest of the Internet (or as near as damnit) has already had the baton, I think there’s little point in me trying to pass it off to anyone, so I won’t bother. If you feel like prising it from my hands by all means do, but leave a note in the comments so I can add a link to you as someone I ‘passed’ the baton to.

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The inaugural journal entry…

Posted by Steve mid-evening on Wednesday the 19th of October, 2005

Well, it’s finally here!

After 10 long months, countless hours slaving over html and css, and more procrastinating than even I would have thought possible, nascentguruism is finally a real website!

First and foremost, I’d like to thank Ben for all his help and support. Were it not for his inspiration, assistance, and, frankly, constant whinging that I just needed to get on with my site and get it live, nascentguruism wouldn’t be half the site it is now. Thanks Ben, I owe you, big-style.

So, welcome to nascentguruism, one and all. If you’re interested in who I am or how the site is made, then you probably want the about and colophon pages, respectively.

A word of warning: the site is still very much a work in progress. I’m going to be tweaking and sprucing up pretty much anything I can think of over the coming weeks (well, from a techie perspective, at least – the look of things should remain fairly constant). As such, if you see something that looks a bit odd or that you think needs work, don’t hesitate to let me know, either via the comments here, or via e-mail

Update: One of the first errors I’m going to try to crack is visible on the about page for those of you using either Firefox up to 1.0.* or Safari – if the image isn’t loaded quickly enough, the css-positioned corners don’t end up in the right places on the page. Any suggestions are much appreciated.

Also, if anyone uses Opera and has any idea how I can fix the fact that it doesn’t correctly handle absolutely positioned elements with width: auto and left and right positions, then that would be nice.

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