Html lessons for life.

In yet another piece of evidence that you never really know where your life will take you, I spent much of this past week learning from rudimentary Html coding from Joe Germuska of the Tribune’s News Apps team.

The ostensible purpose has been to learn how more effectively to present data on Google Fusion maps for our readers.

And, like most new endeavors, there are potential lessons for life.

Here are some of what I’ve been able to glean thus far:

I. Precision matters.  Thus far a single “/” and a “>” have tripped me up on one of my projects.  Thanks to Joe’s able guidance, we were able to remedy and fix the issue.

This was helpful, and the point is that in coding, as in many aspects of life, details are important.

Very important

II. Coding can be an invitation to live a more intentional life:

This may sound like a stretch, and changing the commands you insert onto your page has consequences for what it looks like.  I’ve not progressed much beyond simply plugging in the variation on the map page’s standard architecture, and I’ve done enough to realize that there are ways in which you can think about every single aspect of the page.

This is similar to identifying how you want to live your life, and then setting out to bring those elements into it.

The point is not so much that you have an infinite ability to shape what you want to do, but that it is possible to go through the process of articulating, then moving toward, your deepest desires.

III. Creativity involves a combination of generating something from within inside you and being an architect of someone else’s experience. 

Joe talked about how he gets to make things all day.

Part of that making involves thinking about what hasn’t existed and bringing that into existence, and part of it consists of reflecting on how you want the viewer to approach, enter and interact with the page.

In many cases, the goal is for the person who experiences the page, the set design, the museum space, the reader or the house to not even be fully aware of the intention, effort and detail that go into whatever it is that is being created.

In many ways, though, that is the point.

IV. Learning something completely is hard, and harder when you have no previous frame of reference.

In a similar way to how beginning drivers often hold too tightly to the steering wheel-I don’t know about you, but I definitely did this when I finally got around to getting my license after my freshman year in college-I’ve been working hard this week to make sure that I absorb as much as possible.

This involves intense concentration for which my limit is an hour or two, and I felt myself at the end of the days reminded of how I would collapse on the El after many of my early days at Hoy-a period in which I similarly had to focus all my attention on the task at hand.

V. Plato was definitely onto something with “The Allegory of the Cave.” 

I first read this text in Dr. Thomas’ Semiotics class at Brookline High School, and the image of the shadows and the cave and various levels of perception has never left me.

The uplifting news is that, with each map, I feel myself learning and incorporating more and more that previously seemed inaccessible, or, more basically, of which I was completely unaware.

The challenge, of course, is how many more levels there are to learn.

VI.  You are never “there.” 

I’ve heard this statement from a lot of athletes striving for the ultimate performance or anyone engaged in an endeavor to which they have committed themselves in a serious way.

I feel that way with writing and in other areas of my life.

On some level, it means a quest for continuous improvement.

It means not being satisfied or complacent.

Yet it also means that “there” is not the point.

I’m not saying either the journey is the destination, or, like Camus, that we have to imagine Sisyphus happy.

But I am saying that both destination and the road along the way matter, and that each step is but a way station for another adventure.

Here are three of the maps I’ve done so far.

I. Florida primary:

II. The remaining states for the Republican presidential nomination:

III. Results from Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri:

Thanks, Joe, for the help.

More on Monday.


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