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On Turning 26

My friend and colleague Orta does a series of blog posts on his site whenever his birthday rolls around. I haven't written anything self-reflective for a while, so I thought I'd do the same. This post isn't really for you – I feel it's for me.

Today I turn 26 years old.

In the past year, I've upped my game in terms of open source contributions, having merged pull requests in projects that I feel are very important, as well as introducing a few of my own. Because of the generosity of Teehan+Lax, I was able to participate in a very exciting project called Upcoming, where I learned a lot about ReactiveCocoa. That's key, since I started doing community events surrounding that framework. I wrote a book on it. It's become a big deal in my professional development.

Turning 25 a year ago happened around the same time that I got my WWDC 2013 ticket. I was ecstatic, having barely made it into the system in the 71 seconds I had to buy one. Teehan+Lax sent a coworker and I down and we had a great time, learning all about the new iOS technologies. I've been very fortunate to get a ticket over the past few years, and every time I go down to San Francisco, it's a fantastic learning experience.

Midsummer, I got into film photography with the help of a coworker, Brendan. He helped me buy my first real SLR in New York, a used Canon AE-1. Of course things haven't stopped there. Brendan also leant me one of his Leica M-series film cameras (an M4-P I believe?) and I was hooked. Film rangefinders connected me to photography in a way that I never previously conceived of. I felt "closer" to the subjects. Making a photo felt more intimate.

Eventually, I sold my DSLR and went mirror less full-time, using a Fuji X100S as my digital camera. I shoot mostly film now, developing it myself. I expect in a year from now, I'll be planning on buying a used Leica M 240. We'll see.

In the Fall of 2013, I was sent down on Teehan+Lax business to assist one of their clients, Prismatic build their iOS app. This turned out to be a critical moment for me, since I was introduced to Aria Haghighi, their CTO. He and his team use a functional language called Clojure to build some seriously awesome stuff. They take that same approach to building iOS apps, too. I learnt a tonne. Most importantly, Aria gave me the advice that if you duplicate more than two lines of code, there is probably a better abstraction to assist what you're doing. It's advice that I took to heart.

Let's see. I look around and see what I've done with my life in the past year, and I'm thinking it's pretty OK. Not fantastic, but OK.

See what I did there? I actually have a lot to be proud of. Above is what's called negative self-talk and it's a big part of my past year here on this Earth. I have depression and over the past year, my progress has more or less stagnated. I was making some great progress with medication. I told my parents about it – hell, I told the world about it. But then progress slowed. I started the negative self-talk again.

Depression is an inflammatory illness, and it became hella inflamed when last December, Ashley and I decided to move to Amsterdam. Our lives have been upside down and I've managed to hang in there, so I'd say that I'm doing pretty good. Great, even.

So yeah, things are up and down, but I moved to freaking Amsterdam. I think that warrants some happiness right there.

Things are looking up.

What else happened ... oh, I had that kerfuffle with my job. I ended up in Paris because our apartment was under renovation. Last week I started working with a group of really talented people at Artsy. And that pretty much brings us up to where I am now.

At the moment, I feel a little lost. I'm still fighting depression, and things didn't turn out at all how I thought they would in Amsterdam. However, I love where I ended up, so how can I be angry or disappointed with the circumstances that lead me here?

In the next year, we'll very likely be moving to New York when our Dutch visas expire. We're going to enjoy Amsterdam while we're here and explore the rest of Europe as much as we can afford to. I'm going to continue shooting photos and continue learning. I've got plans to visit New York, San Francisco, Basel, and Berlin, all in the next eight weeks. Yikes!

I probably won't write another book for a while, since it's so exhausting, but I've got a great series of talks lined up, and I'm going to keep up at least one of my podcasts.

Thanks again for reading.

/Ash Furrow /Comments Off
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Psychology of Happiness

I just watched a really interesting TED Talk on happiness. In it, the speaker (who is pretty hilarious) talks about goalpost moving. For example, we think that we'll be happy when we achieve X, but then we do achieve X and then we think we'll be happy when we achieve X+1. This is a concept that I've written about before.

Instead, we need to turn things around and take a look at what makes us happy now. I highly recommend you watch through the video and take a look for yourself.

/Ash Furrow /Comments Off
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Pod5

Pod5 is a new, minimal podcast launched by my Artsy coworkers Orta and dB. It discusses what's new in the iOS/Objective-C world. Go check it out.

/Ash Furrow /Comments Off
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Deckset for OS X

Deckset, an app for making beautiful slide presentations out of simple markdown files, has finally launched. I've been beta testing this for a few months now and have fallen in love with it. It's a fantastic app that let's you focus on the ideas of your slides instead of the presentation of the content itself. At $20, it's a steal.

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New Job

Yesterday I started at Artsy as a mobile developer. It's a great team doing great work for a great cause – to make the world of art more accessible. If you have any questions, please drop me a line!

/Ash Furrow /Comments Off
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On Fear

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield gave a TED talk on fear. I highly recommend it.

It's interesting because he describes the NASA training astonauts undergo in order to prepare for things going wrong. To paraphrase, they don't just practice when things go right, they practice when things go wrong, too.

It's a great talk – you should check it out.

/Ash Furrow /Comments Off
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Job Hunt

As I announced on twitter this morning, my job in Amsterdam hasn't worked out. I don't like going into details on these matters, but it suffices to say that I feel like I'm not a good fit for them. Knowing what I know now, I would not have accepted an offer from this company (I hadn't – and won't – name them).

On the surface, leaving this job might not sound like a rational decision. But I've been at jobs before that have cost me my mental health and relationships with my friends and family. I've developed an intuition when something isn't going to work out, and I've learnt to trust it.

So I'm on the job hunt. And I've got a list. The company I end up working for must:

  • Respect me.
  • Respect my coworkers.
  • Challenge me.
  • Exist at the intersection of design and technology.
  • Do good in the world.

I have found a company that appears to meet my criteria and I am eagerly waiting to hear back from them. Hopefully it works out. Wish me luck.

/Ash Furrow /Comments Off
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Doubling Down on Mirrorless

I wrote recently that I had purchased a Fuji X100S. At the time I reviewed the camera, I really liked it. In the weeks that followed, I've grown to love it. Since moving to Amsterdam I've taken it everywhere. Literally everywhere I go.

Only once have I even brought out my 5D with my 50mm f/1.4 and 24-70 f/2.8 lenses. I just didn't need them because the X100S did everything I needed.

I figured spending two weeks in a new city is about as photographic as I'm going to get, and I only used my 5D once. Once. What the fuck is wrong with me?

The X100S is simply a better camera for me. Fantastic quality in a tiny package.

So I sold my 5D and canon glass.

Crazy I know, but the 5D has always been too much camera for me. I love shooting on primes, and the 35mm equivalent lens on the X100S is a great angle for me. Besides, when I need an interchangeable lens system, I have my Leica M6. Film, sure, but I've been shooting about 50/50 on film since I got here anyway.

/Ash Furrow /Comments Off
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Film vs. Digital

I read a really interesting essay on film vs. digital last night. It reflected my own views that there is no winner, they're just different. They have different qualities, a different process for making a photo.

However, I just feel more alive when I'm shooting film.

/Ash Furrow /Comments Off
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Bad News

I heard the news recently that my grandmother is sick in the hospital, and the news isn't good. It's got me thinking a lot. My paternal grandmother passed away when I was a kid. It was hard on me.

I've been thinking about growing up with my grandmothers and how important a role that they both played in my life. They inspired my love of literature, the importance I place on social justice, and my scientific intrigue. I can honestly say I wouldn't be the person I am today without their guiding help.

The prospect of losing my grandmother is terrifying to me, especially as I'm so far away from home. I still remember the last time we spoke on the telephone. Everything is happening so fast.

I'm hoping for the best, but I don't know how to prepare for the worst.

/Ash Furrow /Comments Off