Posts Categorized: news + events

Musings on the Digital Life and the End of the Daily Dish


An online hamster illustrating my life from 2008-2013.

Yesterday, Andrew Sullivan of the long running blog, The Daily Dish, announced his retirement from blogging and the closing of the blog.

I like the Dish. I am not and was not too fond of all the intricate details of the Washington D.C. political scene, but I very much liked Mr. Sullivan’s perspective, breadth of blogging interests (Hello, beard of the week!), and insights into worlds and cultures that I don’t live in. And that is what the best of blogging does no matter the subject matter, it gives the reader a personal view into a world(s) or culture(s) or interest(s). In particular, Mr. Sullivan and his team gave me insights and views into many worlds. Thank you, Mr. Sullivan.

It is this quote in his going away post, that reflects a similar trend in my own life that I have not written about much here on this/my blog:

“The second is that I am saturated in digital life and I want to return to the actual world again. I’m a human being before I am a writer; and a writer before I am a blogger, and although it’s been a joy and a privilege to have helped pioneer a genuinely new form of writing, I yearn for other, older forms. I want to read again, slowly, carefully.”

I have been online daily since 1994. I have been creating websites and various bits on the web and internet since 1996. I have been receiving my primary income from web work since 2000. In the late summer of 2010, a large tumult occurred when the internet start up that I co-founded and spent up to 16 days in a row without a day off coding for failed and I had to ‘pivot’. While my pivot to mobile web and app development made a great deal of sense at the time, it took a toll. By 2012 I realized that I was burnt out – burnt out on web design client work, burnt out on bigger project contract work, burnt out on trying to get my own app ideas out of my computer, and just plain emotionally and psychologically burnt out.

In real life, I got sick – weekly or more migraines, bad environmental allergies, insomnia, bad stomach acid issues, etc – my body was sending me several large notice to cures and I felt pressured by work ethic guilt to not listen. In real life many wonderful and well-meaning friends and web colleagues encouraged me to get back up on the saddle and find another music or mobile start-up to work in or write that tech book on mobile user experience or… or…

In 2012, I traveled, I came back home refreshed, some family stuff hit the fan, I traveled again hoping to regain my perspective, then the family stuff really hit the fan. I found myself trapped in 2013. Sick, stuck, angry, stuck, working on a couple of mobile apps that would never see the light of any app store, broke, and did I mention angry and still sick?

A little over 9 months ago, I pulled the plug. I gave notice at my overly expensive apartment, I lined up a few house sitting gigs for family & friends, I stopped checking and posting to social media sites more than once a day, and off I went to figure out how to slow down, to live, create, and thrive in the actual world again.

I did something that I have wanted to do for years but never could allow myself to do in my rush to always be on and always be useful/working, I started reading fiction again – both in paper book and ebook form. And shooting film on two actual real live film cameras, as well as a weekly photo walk with my Nikon D800 DSLR. And went out to look at the stars as much as I could with my binoculars. And I discovered the wonderful world of online fan fiction.

It sounds odd but the world of online fan fiction helped me to remember what I loved so much about the internet in the beginning and middle of my life on the web: folks from anywhere and everywhere gathering together in communities over specific interests and sharing their d.i.y. creations to their online friends in those communities. The creations may not be polished, they may not be shiny, and they may never have a business plan or V.C. backing, but they are really the best of the web.

Much like Mr. Sullivan, I wanted to slow down, get off the web hamster wheel and figure out how to live again. Sorry if there has been much silence in the public facing parts of my digital life, especially on Twitter, but I don’t regret the last year of silence. Like Mr. Sullivan, I am also a human being before I am a person on the web, I am a creator before I am a web worker, and I am a creator and a human being and a friend before I am a social media __________*.

One of the things that I am looking forward to in the supposed future of the internet of things – a digital life that is an embedded, ubiquitous, and mundane part of every day life rather than a screen that demands all attention. To quote the old Nokia taglines, it is the act of creating with the technology and connection to people that makes the digital life interesting, not to be subsumed into it.

Good luck to Mr. Sullivan in his reading, writing, and personal life endeavors. Good luck to me in attempting to find a good work / life balance between creating for earth monies and creating for the love of it.

* Given how much I truly hate the words that social media and marketing industry folks use for people with high to medium numbers of followers on the major social media sites, I won’t be using the term(s) to describe myself. My hate for one particularly gross term, that starts with an ‘i’ and ends in an ‘r’, is the subject of a whole blog post to come.

Lumia Conversations Interviews Ms. Jen in ‘Out of this World’

The Moon, as shot through my telescope using my Nokia Lumia 1020

Microsoft’s Lumia Conversations interviewed me this last week about my love of mobile photography and my quest to take photos of the Moon, planets, and some stars with my camera phone in an article entitled ‘Out of this world: Meet Jenifer Hanen, astrophotographer‘.

This upcoming week, Lumia Conversations will publish my camera phone astrophotography tutorial, so that you, too, with every little gear and some gumption can go out and take photos of the luminaries with your mobile phone.

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For folks who want a little data on how I shot the Moon photo above:
Telescope: Celestron Astromaster 130eq (who knows what year, my Dad bought it used)
Telescope eyepiece: Celestron 15mm
Nokia Lumia 1020’s Nokia Pro Camera app set to 200 ISO, 1/100th shutter speed, EV -1.0, WB to fluorescent, and focus set to infinity.

I took the photo about 30 minutes before sunset, as the moon would not be so luminous / glowing. It took about 12 test shots to get the camera settings and the angle of holding of the camera phone over the telescope’s eyepiece right. ;o)

Happy New Year!

Snow on Saddleback and The Moon Snow on Saddleback Mountain - The Tiny Planet Version

Thurs 01.01.15 – The night before last we had a brief, windy, and cold storm that whipped through SoCal and dropped more snow on the local (lower) Santa Ana Mountains than on the (higher/taller) San Gabriel Mountains. Thus, both yesterday – New Year’s Eve – and today, there was a good coverage of snow on Saddleback Mountain and some of the surrounding hills. It is / was AWESOME, in the true sense of the word.

The last time I saw so much snow, so low on Saddleback was after a freak cold snap just before Thanksgiving 2004. I was so excited about this that after going to dim sum with Erika at Elite in Monterey Park, a picked up Scruffy McDoglet who went on the lam after the gardener left the gate open, and then Scruffy & I drove out Santiago Canyon Road just a bit beyond Irvine Lake to take photos of the SNOW!!! on Saddleback Mountain.

Snow in SoCal is really the best New Year’s Eve gift that 2014/2015 could give me. So Exciting.

This is Good and Too Long Coming… Cuba & the US

Today President Obama announced that the US and Cuba are working on normalizing relations. This is good that the US and Cuba are moving forward into 21st century. It is even better to say goodbye to the vestiges of the 1950 and 1960s policy that no longer fits either nation or the current state of the world.

Many kudos to Pope Francis, President Obama, Raul Castro, and all the diplomats and staff of the Vatican, the US, and Cuba who worked on the talks to make today’s announcement possible.

We trade with and can visit Vietnam, so why not Cuba. We trade with and can visit Russia. And China. And Laos, as well as other formerly and currently communist countries. It is time for us to kiss Cold War posturing* goodbye.

United States, let’s take the normalizing of relations with Cuba one more step and lift the trade and travel embargo while we are at it.

* We can leave the Cold War posturing and nostalgia to Mr. Putin, which seems to be his favorite activity the last year plus. Maybe Mr. P. should think about actually governing his country and improving Russia’s economy…

Venus and Other Planets in the Evening Sky from Larry Koehn

Venus in the evening sky 45 minutes after sunset from December 2014 through August 2015 from LarryKoehn on Vimeo.

Larry Koehn has created a great visual in the form of the above Vimeo video to illustrate where Venus, Mercury, Mars, and Jupiter will be in the evening western sky over the course of the next year! EarthSky has a wee bit more info here.

Here is Larry Koehn’s description of the video:

Each frame represents one day with a total of 238 days from December 10, 2014 through August 3, 2015. The focus of the animation is on Venus, since it is the brightest planet as seen from Earth. Last year, Venus traveled low along the horizon from the northwest to the southeast. This year, our "sister planet" is moving in the opposite direction and making a steady climb high into the sky with it peaking early next summer. From now through August, Venus will come closer and closer to the Earth with it reaching inferior conjunction on August 15, 2015. But before reaching that point, Venus will reach greatest elongation east on June 6. Around May 10th, Venus will be the furthest from the horizon.Venus will be in conjunction with Mercury on January 11th, then Mars on February 22nd, and finally with Jupiter on July 1st. Many of the dates were obtained at In-The-Sky.org.

I have inserted a small view of what you would see if you were to watch Venus through a telescope over the coming months near the green buttons. Venus starts off small and round in December. As the days progress, Venus becomes larger and closer to the Earth, and it goes through various phases of illumination much like the Moon. By the time it reaches August 2015, Venus will have a thin crescent phase.