Today I find myself really missing the lakes in Minneapolis. Having beautiful lakes right in the middle of the city is something that I find myself missing often. This morning I was having a look at videos of the lakes, as you do. Just thought I'd share it. I love walking and biking around the lakes, my favourite being Lake of Isles.
If you're interested in seeing photos of lakes or Minneapolis, this link will take you to my Minneapolis Flickr set.
I returned home on Saturday from a week's long skiing holiday in Bansko, Bulgaria. Going skiing is turning into a yearly tradition. Matthew and I went last year with Thomas (Matthew's brother) and our two good friends Becky and Ali. We had such a good time that we decided to do it again.
None of us are very experienced skiers so we usually pick a place where we can a great deal and lots of blue runs. Last year it was Austria and this year our bargain hunting brought us to Bulgaria.
This year I decided to go to ski school and actually learn how to ski. I had been skiing in the past, although it was only a once a year affair at Afton Alps. Last year I didn't take any lessons and although I managed to get down the slopes it wasn't pretty. After taking the lessons this year I honestly don't know how I did it last year. I learned proper techniques and how to parallel ski and I can proudly say that I got the hang of it and didn't have any major spills.
I've discovered that I really like skiing. I like how you need to be fully present in what you're doing and how you can use your body to control what you're doing on the skis. I like how some runs are just nice and easy and you can just ski down them in a zen like state and how others are more of a challenge.
One day on the trip while I was sitting at the bottom of one of the red slopes that I had been struggling to get down. It was a steep one, but one that was at the right challenge level for me.
We first went down it with our instructor and once we got the hang of it we were skiing down it no problem. As I sat enjoying a lovely glass of hot wine with apples it occurred to me that skiing was a great metaphor for life. Which I thought I'd share.
I had thought about going down the slope the day before, because while it looked steep and scary it didn't look too steep and scary. As a group we talked about trying it, but decided that we would wait until the next day when we weren't so tired and our instructor could lead us down.
The next day we went to the top and went down chunk by chunk. Our instructor was confident that we would make it, that it wouldn't be too hard if we just took it slow at first. Even as we went down the steep parts he encouraged us to continue the stand up, open, close and squat sequences and insisted on short turns instead of traversing. We all made it down and with the feeling of accomplishment we all went right back up to the top to practice.
With skiing there's a beginning and an end. You start at the top and you finish at the bottom and depending on a number of different factors how you get down that mountain will be different. You can start off a bit unsteady and unsure until you find your balance and rhythm, you can go down in a snowplow, you can zip right down, you can even slide down on your bum. The fact is that you will have to get to the bottom.
The first time I went down alone I pushed off the top and went into my first turn. I was a bit unsteady so the turn was a bit fast and uncontrolled, but I was on my way. I skied to the point that the instructor had shown us and took a moment to plot out my course.
I pushed off and stood up into the turn and I was going down. There were parts of the mountain where I was zipping along. Turning and making it down in a very beautiful way. I could feel the rhythm. I would look to where I wanted to go next instead of where I was immediately going and I was in the total state of flow.
There were times on the mountain where I felt nervous and unsteady, because of a steep part. I would then have to slow down and consider each movement to stay in control. There were also times where I could gain speed and delight in the feeling of the wind whipping past me.
There were times when skiers would zip by me at top speed and I would feel envious of their skill and experience. There were also times when it got busy on the mountain and I had to be mindful of other people around me.
And I will admit that there were times that I fell down. Sometimes I had no choice but to get up by myself, but other times someone would come and help me. I just got back up, refocused and continued on. There were times when I was able to help someone else get up from a fall.
So to me making it down the mountain is a lot like life.
There are going to be times when you don't know what you're doing, so you find a teacher.
Like in life there will be times where you are in the grove and things are going your way and there will be times where things are unsteady and you need to slow down, consider things and make a plan.
There are times when there will be people there to help you through and times when you need to help yourself.
Always help others when you can.
There are times when you feel like you're behind and other people are doing better than you.
In life you also need to be mindful and respectful of other people. Those other people who share the mountain are all at different points in their journey.
Like life you're continually getting better, gaining skills, and having fun. If you practice you will get better.
As for the part about the beginning and an end, I tend not to look at it as life and death, but more like different stages or experiences.
Sometimes you just have to go for it. Believe in yourself and just start going!
I was excited to go back to work in the new year and so far it's been great to be back. My office closed on the 23rd of December and we returned back on Tuesday. I had a great holiday break and got lots of stuff done that I wanted to. I made a dress, finally went through my gigantic bag of unpaired socks and paired them, puttered around the house, spent time with my family, read some good books and spent a lot of time thinking about how to make 2011 one of the best years yet.
There are some changes happening at work, all good and exciting. Part of that excitement might include moving to another part of town. At the moment we have a very nice office in North London, near Caledonian Road. I love the office and the building, but I am not crazy about the area. Mainly because there's not much around there in the way of shops or places to grab a bite to eat. There's a few good places, but I like a bit of variety. I usually like taking a walk at lunch time and grabbing a good cup of coffee and maybe a pair of shoes :)
I used to work up in a part of London called Harrow and Wealdstone, the very last stop on the Bakerloo line. I have to say that I probably wouldn't ever work in that part of town again. The office was fantastic, really nice, but the surrounding area was less than inspiring. Your choices for lunch were either McDonalds or Tesco Express and the Tesco Express didn't arrive until I was three months in. There wasn't a good pub to go for drinks or much of anything. Although to be fair there was a library that I used to go to once a week.
So it will be pretty exciting to work in the heart of London. The commute will be nice as well. Just one tube and a 15 minute ride, can't beat that.
There's a great energy at work at the moment and it's inspiring and there are good projects on and interesting things on the horizon.
When it comes to work I've always lived by the mentality of I do what I love and I love what I do and when you follow your bliss work doesn't seem like work at all. I hope everyone has a great 2011!
I wanted to let you all know about the January She Says Event, one that is very popular, Portfolio Surgery. If you'd like your portfolio reviewed you need to book a place and you can do that here. Also a big thanks to the lovely people at Iris who are hosting this year!
Here's the dress that I made in three days at the Oh Sew Brixton dress making workshop. I am really happy with it. It's the first dress that I've ever made and it has got a lining, a zipper and darts! It was a great experience to be learn how to actually read a pattern and make something from start to finish. I used See & Sew pattern B4977 and it was very easy to follow.
If I made this dress again, which I definitely will, I am going to tweak the sizing of the bodice. It could have been a bit more fitted, but at the point that I discovered that it would have meant that I would need to undo the entire bodice and cut it down. I decided to just continue on and Fiona helped me alter the pattern for my next project.
I had a great three days and I am looking forward to signing up for the skirt making workshop in Feb.
Just a quick post for now :) I've started a mentorship with Ian Fenn, the award-winning veteran UX specialist and Director of the The Information Architecture Institute and very kind person who has taken me on as part of the IA mentorship scheme.
Here's Ian's bio:
I'm not sure I could have been anything other than an information architect. Even the first two letters of my given name correspond with the initials of the role. My first career was in computer support at the sharp end of HCI. A second career in radio journalism taught me how to organise and prioritise information. Work as a comedy producer gave me an insight into everything else.
I've worked in the field for thirteen years now, and have been a freelance consultant for six. Past employers and clients include the BBC, BT plc, LexisNexis, Virgin Media, Sapient, M&C Saatchi, and others. I am co-founder of AXLIB, an open source library of design components for the prototyping tool Axure RP.
A regular contributor to local events in London and former UK Country Ambassador for EuroIA, I've also travelled long distances to conferences elsewhere, particularly in the USA, where I'm a regular attendee of the IA Summit. This year I attended the inaugural UX LX in Lisbon, and will shortly be at IDEA in Philadelphia. Next year I'm down for the first UX Hong Kong and hope to finally participate in UX Australia.
We met just before the Christmas break and amongst other things Ian recommended that we kick things off by me reading the book Undercover User Experience Design. I've just had a look at my email and it looks like the book will be arriving on Tuesday. I am very excited and happy that Ian has agreed to mentor me. I'll share more details about it soon, but for now I'll leave you with the manifesto from the book :) I mean who doesn't love a good manifesto?
“We believe in going undercover. We don’t mean you should skulk around in the dark. As an undercover user experience designer, your mission is to get people excited about UX without them realizing what you’ve done. Unless you’re an expensive consultant or a senior manager, you won’t do this by knocking on the CEO’s door and demanding change. User experience design is disruptive. It asks difficult questions. Good-enough managers in good-enough companies don’t want you to rock the boat; they’re busy worrying about meeting next month’s targets.
We believe in introducing UX from the ground up. Sneak UX into your daily work, prove its value, and spread the message. Results are more persuasive than plans.
We believe change comes through small victories. Putting users at the heart of a business is a huge cultural change. It takes years. But you’ll be surprised what you can achieve with focus, patience, and persistence.
We believe in delivery, not deliverables. Some people practice user-scented design, not user-centered design. They churn out documents—sitemaps, wireframes, specifications—but they’re not interested in what happens next. UX is a mindset, not a process—it lasts all the way until the site is live, and after. We believe good design today is better than great design next year. There’s no such thing as perfection in design, particularly on a medium as fluid as the web. You’re not here to impress other designers; your job is to make your users’ lives better.
We believe in working with people, not against them. Just as we empathize with users, we must respect and understand our colleagues. We reject elitism and accept that compromise is healthy. Passion is fine; zealotry is not.
We believe in action, not words. Introducing UX into your company is a lot of work. No one will do it for you, so you’d better get cracking. Remember, it’s often easier to get forgiveness than permission.”