Hack Retreat

IMG_5099I imagine most people are familiar with the concept of a ‘hackathon’ at this point: a semi-cloistered block of time dedicated to writing as much caffeine-soaked code as physically possible, by one or a few people, also usually in the context of other groups hacking on their own things.

I’d like to describe another time-boxed structure for focused productivity: the “Hack Retreat”. I did this during one weekend in November to focus on a specific project, and I’m easily two months of ‘nights and weekends’ ahead of where I was when I embarked on the retreat. (Full disclosure… this concept was initially inspired by an article I once read about Jon Carmack, so I can’t claim full credit.) Continue reading

Valour’s “Divine Mandate”

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Dumnorix’s successor as chieftain of the Aedui is a playable character in Valour!

Last night, I headed to Denver to see one of my favorite bands live — Eluveitie. Their “Folk Metal” brings elements from Celtic tradition into the metal genre; for real: There’s a woman in the band who can simultaneously play the hurdy-gurdy and headbang. No joke.

One of their most popular albums, Helvetios, was my soundtrack when training for the Highland Games (both times), but most importantly for this post, working on Valour. Embarrassingly, it took a number of episodes of Eluveitie-fueled late-night hacking through Valour rules and/or Creative Suite documents of boards and cards to realize that the album is actually also a retelling of the Gallic War, just like Valour.

The album’s track list includes so many of the same references as Valour that I’m clearly an idiot for not picking up on it sooner: Helvetios, Alesia, Uxellodunon…! But once I realized this, it definitely became official. Any time I go heads-down to push through to a milestone, this is what I put on.

I don’t go to many concerts, but when Songkick told me these guys were coming to town, I bought tickets that minute, from my phone, at the bar at Root Down in the Denver airport. While the show would have been a sick way to get pumped for this year’s Highland Games, the timing actually ended up being perfect.

Sometimes a concert gets you right in the feelers in a way that seems cheesy to relate in retrospect; but that’s exactly what happened to me last night. I attended the show with a hardcore ‘fuck it’ attitude, as part of a recent attempt at slaying my mammoth. After forty-five minutes in the mosh pit (in a kilt), I was sufficiently out of my comfort zone to start thinking about the deeper questions about life and all that shit.

Eluveitie’s false-finale is a song called Alesia, an alternately brutal and wistful retelling of The Battle of Alesia, fabled turning point of the Gallic war, when Gaul’s defeat became inevitable. In my shields-down state, the sadness and loss in this song really got to me. I spaced out through the encore, and left the show trying desperately to hold on to the feelings that hearing Alesia live had invoked, in the face of driving all the way home, and sleeping in so I wouldn’t pass out at work today. I had something important to remember.

My conclusion was this: the world needs Valour to ship. The profound sense of loss expressed by Eluveitie, and the historic indignation of Terry Jones can’t be expressed in enough different media, to enough varied audiences. No matter what setbacks or obstacles: This must happen.

ps: I’d be incredibly pumped if the band were to see this post, or hear about the board game. If you could share this, or the tweet I sent during the show, that would be so cool :D.

Rise and Shine

Recently my friend Nick sent me this video, during a discussion about staying motivated through the hard parts of building our dream projects. I’d forgotten how much I loved it when it first came out ahead of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Such an amazing motivational piece. I’ve bookmarked it; it now lives right between my 2015 Roadmap, my Catch Sheet, and all my bookmarklets for this site. Thanks Nick!

Watch it whenever you need a little extra push to finish that next task, or to get after it first thing in the morning.