– Matt Watson
It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about my personal life, so I figured it’s time for an update. I can think of nothing better to do on this observance of Washington’s Birthday. Especially since I’m off work and my Internet connection is intermittent. Time for some spontaneous reflection, which is past-due since I failed to do the year-in-review post I had planned to write in December.
Most anyone who reads this probably already knows my wife and I got divorced in 2022, but I guess I’m noting it here for those who may not have heard and to keep this blog up to date. I shared my engagement on here and other activities with my wife, so it only makes sense to note this as well.
I hate it, but that is life sometimes, I guess. All that’s left to do is make the best of things, so that’s what I’ve been trying to do since my wife and I separated on January 8, 2022. I am blessed to have had the emotional and physical support of many family and friends.
In the good news department, I got a new job at Storyware in Charlottesville, Va., as Lead Web Developer in August 2022. Contrary to what some people were led to believe from Facebook’s confusing user interface and auto-timeline posting, I did NOT move to Virginia. I’m living with my Mom and brother in Byram and working remotely, so no need to miss me or anything.
At Storyware, I have been learning a different architecture and devops setup, although still ultimately the LAMP stack and WordPress. New things include Cloudways, Envoyer, Themosis, and an interesting open source project we maintain called WPFluent, which we use extensively to access native WordPress objects more easily.
When I switched careers in 2016, I was pretty sure I made the right decision, but I didn't know many people who had made such a dramatic switch. Not only has my decision been validated by the awesome experiences at these companies, but I've since seen at least two friends switch to web development and also not regret it. Seems to be the thing to do these days.
A web dev's life is not complete without side projects. I didn't have many going on in 2022, but I did work with my brother on a time tracker app we've been using for a while now and a website dedicated to our grandfather's written stories.
Timetracker is the creative name for an open source time tracking app I originally wrote in 2019. It is a PHP application written so that anyone can maintain their own instance of it on their own server, but I've never really considered it finished and stopped doing official GitHub releases a long time ago. It works great as a little home-cooked app that my brother and I add features to on a whim. In 2022, we
Not too shabby for a weekend of work here and there.
Roy's Stories is a site built mostly by my brother with a static site generator called Eleventy. I helped a little with coding and proofreading. My mom had typed up all the stories a while back from old newsletters my pawpaw used to send to family throughout the 80s, 90s and early 2000s. I remember him telling a lot of these, and the one important aspect we were not able to reproduce on the website was how Pawpaw laughed at his own jokes in such a manner that you couldn't help but laugh with him.
"Uncle Jeff and the WPA" is one of my favorites, but I remember Pawpaw delivering it much better and with more setup than how it reads. He really liked his Uncle Jeff and Aunt Reba stories. They were real relatives of his, but I only ever knew them as comedic foils as epic as Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, or Lucy and Ricky Ricardo. Another good Jeff-and-Reba one is "Uncle Jeff and the Lamp Chimney," but again, to hear him tell it was far more entertaining. When Uncle Jeff takes his "unbreakable lamp chimney" that he bought from a snake oil salesman and slams it on the floor to impress Aunt Reba, the written word doesn't convey near as much action as the oral delivery.
I really hope to code more in my free time this year and learn new technologies. One of those things is an idea I've been toying around with since 2016 but have only recently felt confident enough to undertake. The idea is a computer-assisted translation tool built in Electron that will, if completed, be similar to OmegaT, which I used to use quite a bit in my translation days. I plan to put it up on the App Store hopefully. I haven't dedicated much time to it as of today beyond starting to learn the basics of Electron and getting used to the idea of making a native app instead of a web app. So wish me luck. Maybe blogging about it will inspire me to work on it harder.
Two weekends ago, my brother and I built a so-far unpublished website we plan to use to receive application forms from personal care assistants (PCAs) next time we are hiring, as we are both disabled and very often short-staffed. My brother has been receiving them from a WordPress website using Gravity Forms for many years, but there were specific features he wanted and did not want to buy a plugin for. We started talking about it on a Friday, and before we knew it, we had spontaneously built a website with some nice little form and admin features by that Sunday evening, using Fat Free Framework. I'll be interested to see how it holds up when we actually put it to work. There will likely be more work to do on it when the time comes.
And then there's continuing to maintain my two existing side projects – Timetracker and HolyRosaryOnline.org. On Timetracker, I would really like to build CSV exports of the different reporting views if only because it seems like it would be fun to build. On the Rosary site, I would really like to improve the crucifix and medallion artwork, which I did quickly and uglily years ago. I'm not sure what to do, though, because that is already the height of my drawing abilities, and cropping out professional art to put there doesn't look right either. The rotation animation of the beads seems too jarring or almost jittery on mobile devices. Just me putting about in my garden, and I'm pretty sure my user base for these two projects is collectively 1.5 people, so I'm not in any rush. But again, maybe blogging about it will inspire me to do it.
There are some books I want to read, but the most ambitious set of them I've planned for this year is a five-volume set of the complete works of St. John of the Cross in Spanish. A lot of it is preface, and I should probably just skip to the major works, but my OCD is kicking in and telling to read every page, so I'm not sure how far I'll get before the end of the year.
My last post on this blog was a summary of John Climacus' Ladder of Divine Ascent, so I guess this will be the next installment in that category, if I take enough good notes and get around to blogging them. A friend of mine recommended St. John a few months back, especially since I can read it in the original Spanish. I read excerpts from the saint in a Spanish course at Mississippi State years ago and was at least superficially impressed by his mystical spirituality, which I hope to be more joyful than St. Climacus. I know there's the whole dark-night-of-the-soul thing, but still… "On a dark night, / Kindled in love with yearnings," etc. doesn't sound all that bad really. Not that Climacus was bad; it was just a tough, almost physically uncomfortable journey.
I'm also reading the Bible for the third time in a row this year. Gotta keep the streak going! It started with Fr. Mike Schmitz's Bible in a Year podcast in 2021, and I've kept on from there by reading different versions of the Bible on my own.
I would like to branch out and read more non-overtly religious books, but I don't have the time or energy. I could continue my more-than-a-decade-long attempt to read the Harvard Classics, but something tells me I'm not going to make much headway on that soon. I haven't kept up with novels, so I'm not sure what's out there. I'm halfway considering reading whatever my brother's doing for his work book club, just to force myself to read something I didn't pick.
I have a bunch of tech books I've collected over the years. I could crack one of them open for once. I am particularly interested in The Imposter's Handbook by Rob Conery.
We'll see. I still might fail at finishing any and all of the books mentioned here.
I could keep rambling, but I'll arbitrarily end here. Just wanted to talk a bit about what I'm up to before a full year of no blogging rolls around. Happy Monday.