Focus

It’s 8:52pm. I’m in the shed with just a desk lamp and the bulbs from my DAC and headphone pre-amp adding light to that emitted by my Mac’s enormous screen.

I’m listening to Kate Bush’s “Hounds of Love” through my comfortable cans and hearing it as I’ve never heard before. Eberhard Weber’s warm, lyrical fretless provides the brown satin sheets for Bush’s haunting voice.

My keyboard is responsive and having learned the lessons of 33 years of abuse, I’m using a wrist rest to keep my RSI below the threshold of incapacitating pain.

Vapour from my electronic cigarette clouds the glow from the lamp, making my desk look like the circa 1970 refugee that it is, like some aged cop show; like The Sweeney in fact.

I’m debugging a default constructor in my C++. I have been focussed today, without anxiety. Just determined, accepting, relaxed. Even if there was noise outside, I wouldn’t hear it. I have none of the tension I used to have, in anticipation of yet another London assault on the peace I’d build, minute by minute, precariously, like some greased house of rice paper cards.

This is the focus I prepared for all my life. There is nothing like it. There is no thing without it.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. I will be working. There will be progress. There will be creation. There will be peace. May peace be upon you.

Living the Dream

I love rising at 5am.

I used to rise late and spend the rest of the day chasing all the things I knew I had to do and never quite doing the things that mattered. Rising at 5 gives you clarity. Almost nobody is awake. Almost nobody is on social media. You have as close to a clean slate as you’re ever going to get. You can shape your day, and your life is shaped by shaped days.

I used to enjoy working late at night, but the downside is that before long, you feel tired and that fatigue seeps silently into your work.

A few hours after I woke and after I had got my highest value activities out of the way, I went out for a ride on my single speed Cannondale Bad Boy, a matt black bike that I hadn’t ridden for years out of fear that in London, like the seven bicycles I had owned before, it would be stolen. I don’t live in London anymore, and I’m still getting used to the idea that not only are you unlikely to have your bike stolen, you’re also unlikely to get crushed under the wheels of a lorry.

I got to snatch a few breaks with my family too. A few weeks ago, this would have been a highly improbable pleasure. It doesn’t take much time to keep engaged with your family, but it does take frequency. Like establishing flow in coding, or writing, or public speaking, quality increases with frequency.

I’ve started to set up a Synology, set up SSH access to bitbucket for my repos, made my code better, had a TV programme from the early 1970s on in the background, vaped at my desk, had an ice cold shower in the middle of the day (this helps with mood and alertness, the former has been established in studies, the latter is obvious, especially when it’s cold out!), had some accounting training, spoken to an old friend about business in Japan for developers, done some research and study and much more. This list would have been unthinkable within an office environment.

I miss my team and my colleagues from PlayStation, but I did what I did because of all of the above. There is enormous responsibility in such freedom, and I take that all very seriously — but not that seriously; fear is a potent anaesthetic.

I love getting up early and I love seizing the day and filling it with creativity and joy. I’m blessed to have this opportunity and I hope that from this wellspring will come good things, insha’Allah


Ludum Dare 34

I’m taking part in Ludum Dare 34. I have started late. I need to respect family and social commitments. So the scope will have to be minimal.

The themes of this jam are Growing and Two Button Controls. I can pick either or both. I choose Growing.

First job is to brainstorm on paper.

My tool of choice for this jam is C++ with the Cinder Library, because this is what I am most familiar with. This is no time to experiment with new or unfamiliar tools. This limits my scope as my baseline is so low, but that’s fine. My platform is Mac OS X.

My approach for this jam:

  • Keep the scope incredibly small
  • Make it fun
  • Exercise
  • Protect focus (I will post updates on my blog from time to time over the next 48 hours, but not so much Twitter)
  • Use the tools that you know, this isn’t the time to experiment with your toolchain
  • It’s better to finish, ship and learn than to try to make something fun and end up with nothing

Thanks to everyone for the good luck messages. Let’s do this!


New Life

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On December 1st 2015, I will be celebrating 10 years at PlayStation. This has been the most rewarding period of my professional life. I have had personal highs and lows and the company has supported me throughout. The last few years in particular have brought so many professional highs, that it’s been hard to take it all in.

So it might surprise you to learn that I’m planning on leaving this wonderful company. Some will want to know why, and some will want to know what it means to developers and to the amazing Strategic Content team that I will be leaving behind. Let’s start with the latter.

Strategic Content will continue. There are no plans to change anything. Our approach to developers will also be unchanged. We have many talented people across the board who work tirelessly to support developers in bringing their videogames to PlayStation. Leaving this company has been the hardest decision of my career, because I get to work with the most dedicated, friendly and inspiring people in the business. So why am I doing this? Why leave when things are going so well?

I want to make games again. I stopped being a developer around a quarter of a century ago and have seen so many changes since then, with most of the exciting ones happening in the last few years. I want to be part of that. It’s that simple. The team at PlayStation, while sad to see me go, completely understands my desire. I am privileged to enjoy their support.

I’d love to keep in touch with you as I start my new life in December and as always, you can reach me on Twitter (@shahidkamal), where I will continue to be a friend of PlayStation, its partners and its fans.

Always Believe In

“Nothing left to make me feel small
Luck has left me standing so tall”

Name that song. And if you don’t know it, first hand, as if it was being sung right in your teenage face, just for you and only you, you can’t know the joy I feel being able to unselfconsciously blast this into my untethered headphones as I am carried home on the jammed A40 feeling the wistful pangs of love for a city I loved so differently as a child.

If I were ever to karaoke, it would be to this. All gay abandon and an infinitely unfettered trail of carefree consequences.

“Always believe in”

Woodshed

I think I need a break. I don’t mean a holiday. I mean a break. Doing something radically different. Not as long as a sabbatical, but not as short as a fortnight in the sun. A boot camp for a physical and mental skill in a totally unfamiliar environment.

Like a rock tour after a fortnight of woodshedding, something like that. Ever get that feeling?

The Box

I was never any good at thinking outside the box, but that didn’t bother me because there is so much stuff inside the box that I find interesting and that plenty of other people can’t be bothered with. That said, I think it’s time I changed the shape of the box.