This is an experiment. I think I should say that before anything else. I don’t know what it will look like or how it will work, if at all. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Hi, I’m Lamar. We’ve met before. It was a different time, for a different purpose, through a different blog. I’m a CS grad student, working and studying at the University of Chicago. A couple months ago, my ladyfriend moved to Russia for a school program, and my best pal returned to California to get a job. This leaves me with an abundance of time and a dearth of things to do. As my mind is rather restless, it has invented several potential projects to keep me busy. “Idle hands,” etc.

Unfortunately, self-assigned projects have little by way of deadlines, so the motivation it takes to make any progress is hard to come by. That’s where this blog comes in. It is going to be an attempt to self-manage: laying out goals, monitoring progress, and reporting on deliverables. The theory is that as long as I am answerable to someone (even if it is my own attempts to elucidate technical details), I will be more committed to the projects, and thus more likely to produce something.

I don’t really expect much by way of readership — why should you, world, be interested in my pfutzing? But for those of you who find yourself here through familiar connection, an accidental Google search, or a misguided thought that I’ll actually say something entertaining (bless your heart, really), I plan to make these posts as accessible as possible. User friendliness is the goal. I’ll always try to explain what I’m doing, with what tools, for what purpose, and what the hell some of the technical jargon actually means. Knowing me, I won’t be above posting a recipe for good food now and then, either (though I don’t intend for this to become an extension of Post Collegiate Cooking).

I think that’s enough to get started. Let’s talk about the projects themselves.

MUNUC Mobile
Yes, the model UN organization that has already devoured so much of my life is coming back for another helping of my soul.

Backstory: last year, I took a course on iOS programming (eg. iPhone/iPad app making). For a final project, I decided to replicate MUNUC’s AdvisorWeb (online interface for delegation advisors to maintain their registration details) as a mobile app. For in-class purposes, it was pretty nifty, and good enough to get me an A in the class. But in the harsh state of existence I call “reality,” I consider it a bug-riddled, half incomplete mess. Though it may be salvageable, I’m going to be a good dev: I’m scrapping the whole thing and starting from scratch. Using the lessons I learned from the first attempt, I plan to make a fully functional app for both iPhones and iPads that functions as a mobile equivalent to the online AdvisorWeb webapp.

Austin Live Theatre Redesign
My father is an awesome man. You might think that after a couple decades of service in the US Department of State, he would enjoy a quiet retirement. In that, you would be mistaken. Instead, he has moved to Austin, TX, where he promptly established the city’s premier theatre & performance review website: Austin Live Theatre. He’s also started to translate Swedish (& potentially Norwegian?) novels professionally (a language he picked up on a whim), but that’s a different story.

Many years ago, I helped him move from his old blogspot platform to his current website, maintained through the content management system called Joomla!. Nice as it was, that system has outlived its use; its convoluted backend and awkward WYSIWYG editor have made it the bottleneck in Dad’s whole production. Besides, let’s be honest: the site desperately needs a facelift. No offense, Dad! But as a web developer by day, I have high standards.

The goal here is to implement a new frontend design, and to streamline the administrative backend. I’ll be exploring what I can do with Joomla!, but depending on what I find, it’s entirely possible that I’ll recommend a change to Drupal (another open-source content management system). This project will be interesting in another way, besides the technical stuff: I’ll have an actual client. And not one I can get rid of if the collaboration becomes difficult! Ah well, at least the man’s a diplomat, if nothing else…

Unnamed Web & Mobile app
This one is “unnamed” because I’m still thinking through some of the details, and therefore, haven’t been too concerned about its title. I’ll leave a more thorough introduction for a later date, but the high level overview is that it will be recording & rating system for drinks with a social network aspect. Ideally, I will produce both an iOS app and an online interface, and allow the two to operate independently, but sync up when possible. Suffice to say, this will be the most thorough project that I plan to attempt. It’s also the one that excites me the most. We’ll see what comes of it.

So there you have it. As I said, this is an experiment, and I have no idea where it will end up. But I thoroughly expect some interesting things to happen along the way. So grab a beer and some pie, and let’s see what happens…