Beyond “Responsive Web Design”

As our office’s sole web developer, my role is to be a one-stop shop for all of our programs’ basic web communications needs. Except in cases where one of our programs demands a web application that requires specialized computer programming, people in my office come to me when they need a website made start-to-finish, soup-to-nuts. In this sense, I’m a generalist.

But even generalists have specialties, and mine are the ones I’ve found serve me best as a one-stop shop—namely, the kinds of skills that fall under the umbrella of Front-End Development. Things like visual identity, marking and branding, layout design, user interaction design, and the HTML/CSS/jQuery coding needed to realize these things.

Why the CV? Just to tell you a little about what flavor of web-guy I am: the kind that cares, really cares, about the side of the website that real people really see, use, and interact with. That’s me! (more…)

Evolved Altruism

I hear the same question asked again and again in different guises. Why do we spend our valuable tax dollars on international aid? (See Edin’s post on the topic.) Why should we, as a people, spend resources on Food Stamp programs, Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and/or any other of a host of ways we help out people who can’t (or, in a worst-case scenario, won’t) minimally-thrive without it? Why should I help that guy; what has he done for me (lately)?

Well, I aint no politician (if you’ll pardon the vernacular). And I aint no scientist, per se, but for questions like this I tend to fall back on my philosophy degree, which had an academic concentration on psychology and thus included lots of psychology classes. I’m fascinated by the relatively young field of evolutionary psychology. (more…)

A Day in the Life of a Web Developer: Improvise!

Friends, family, and work colleagues all know that I have a passion for music, but rarely am I able to get across just how much the things I’ve learned through my musical adventures are directly applicable to my career and everyday life. I’ve written on such topics before (links at the end of this post), and today I have a fresh (to me) perspective to ponder with you.

I’ve just gotten back from what is turning out to be an annual vacation to a week-long singing workshop led by Bobby McFerrin and 5 of his long-time associates (Rhiannon, Dave Worm, Joey Blake, Christiane Karam, and Judi Vinar). It seems that I tune in to some different aspect of vocal performance each time I go. This year, one of the things I noticed has a lot to do with one of the main foci of the workshop—the nature of improvisation.

Improvisation is simply making things up (musically or otherwise), but it is rarely as simple as that. To improvise well, you’ve got to have a firm grasp of the “language” you’re improvising with, and the structure of the kind of improvisation you’re doing. In music, that means things like scales, rhythms, chord progressions, meters, longer-scale forms, and different varieties of improvising formats. Perhaps the analogues for web development are the code languages (HTML, CSS, jQuery, PHP), design competencies (color, typography, layout), and design/dev tools (Dreamweaver, Photoshop, WordPress).

But improvisation also needs a certain sensitivity and discernment. Something along these lines: “…here’s a musical moment coming up. Given all I know about this kind of music, I can imagine these options for what I can make up to add to it. Which do I pick?!?” Perhaps there are several musicians improvising together; how do you know when to jump in, when to lay back? (more…)

Music Theory 000.1 – Part 6: I’ve Got Rhythm

This is part of my series on Understanding How Music Works. If you haven’t yet, you may wish to start at the beginning.

I think it’s well past time we talked about time, y’know? As I first thought (months ago) about writing this post, I realized that music, of all the arts, has a special relationship with time. I also realized that my goal here was to explain things simply, thereby understanding it well enough myself. And I have not always kept it simple. So I’ll break this post up into the abstract/philosophical part (to get it out of my system) and the simple/practical part. (more…)

What is Circlesinging, really?

(Here’s hoping I don’t get myself into too much trouble with this one, because it isn’t really my term to own or define. I’m going to attribute and refer heavily, but first, to business:)

Here are two definitions of Circlesinging which amount to the same thing: it is a community-singing practice that emphasizes the music-of-the-moment; and, it is a music-invention method that makes use of a chorus for help. Whether you experience it as more the former or the latter may depend on your vantage point. (more…)