Brian Feeney
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Eclipse 2024

For the 2024 eclipse, Lisa and I traveled back to Indy. My childhood home happened to be fully in the path of totality, so of course it was the obvious place to be. The whole thing could hardly have been better. Weather was perfect, and warm. We set up chairs in the cul-de-sac and all the neighbors joined us. It was a lovely little party.

Experiencing an eclipse is extremely hard to put into words, and we're all probably a bit tired of hearing about it by now. We watched the light turn silver. Through our glasses, we could see the moon creeping slowly across the sun. Then, with shocking speed, considering how long it takes to get from 0 to 99% totality, the light drops to late evening darkness. There's a 360° sunset-like horizon surrounding you, pink and orange and purple. The temperature cools like ten degrees or more. You can then look up at the sun where it's this creepy, flaming black circle. Much bigger than you expect it to be because what you're looking at is the full moon, not the sun. It's so so so bizarre to see with your own eyes. Unreal. A thousand years ago, any witnesses to this would absolutely believe something mystical and demonic was happening.

And then, 4+ minutes later, it's over. The sunlight comes sliding back as quickly as it had disappeared. It's likely I'll never chance to see another one, so I'm glad I put the effort into this one, to experience it with Lisa, my brother, and my parents.

I took some photos, but not many. At least, none of them ended up matching our experience. I made a conscious decision to be off my phone, to pay attention to the eclipse itself, and not lining up shots. That was the right decision.

May 05, 2024

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Earthquake!

A 4.8 earthquake with an epicenter in New Jersey happened this morning around 10:23. I'm sure there isn't a person online who doesn't know about it by now. We felt it at home in Brooklyn. Lasted only long enough for Lisa to realize what it was, and for me to register that our building really was shaking. Then it was over.

Took me another hour for my nerves to calm down. I kept expecting another aftershock, which never came. Glad to hear that so far no serious damage was reported.

Update: 6pm aftershock. Lisa and I were both in the living room together this time. Felt almost as strong as the original shake, lasting nearly as long.

April 05, 2024

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Austin & San Antonio

Lisa and I spent a lovely weekend in Austin and San Antonio. Flew into Austin where we stayed a night at The Line. Met our friend Mikey for a quick lunch and walk. Relaxed at the pool for a few hours, then dinner at Arlo Gray, hanging at the bar. 

The next morning, we went for runs along Ladybird Lake before making the short trip to San Antonio where we stayed with our ex-NYC friends, the main purpose for the trip. We miss them! Spent all day Saturday and Sunday with them and their two girls. I lost a few MarioKart races to their 7 year old, G, so I'm nursing that burn.

We then stayed a night at The Emma hotel on the canal. A treat to ourselves, as we love seeing a lux hotel. Really great bar. Super friendly staff. A+, would recommend. To cap off the trip, a morning 4 mile stroll down the canal and back.

March 26, 2024

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Downsizing and Continuing On

Two weeks ago, my company went through another round of layoffs. One of my direct reports was relieved of his job. He was a strong designer who was becoming more reliable by the day. In no way did he deserve to be axed. And it certainly won't help our company reach our stated goals. We invested a year and a half into him, and he repaid us by taking the job seriously and taking increasingly more initiative. It was exactly what you hope to receive out of a young designer. Another company is going to be lucky to have him. I know he'll be fine, in the end.

For the time being, I'm left to catch up on all the in-the-weeds details on projects I had delegated to him. He had been handling that work so well, I was only needed for the design direction. Now I'm catching up on a dozen BAU Jira tickets and reintegrating myself into the day to day of a couple teams he had been in. My workload has doubled, even if my responsibilities haven't changed. I am being provided some time from another UXA in the company, which I'm thankful for. I hear she's a skilled designer, but even so there's going to be weeks of onboarding her.

I'm also thankful to still have my own job. Thankful that at least one person looked at my name on a list and chose not to mark me as expendable. I mean, I don't see myself as expendable. I aim to provide far more benefit to my company than is listed in the job description. Is that apparent to the people running the budget? I don't know. Can you know? As far as I can tell, "work hard and be nice to people" remains the best career advice I've yet found. More than anything, that should put you on the good lists and keep you off the bad lists.

Before all of this happened, I was getting into another good rhythm with this site. Writing more. Posting more. I was feeling good about sharing more of my life, here. Then the layoffs put me in a mood. I wrote a few versions of this post which ended up in the digital garbage. When I'm feeling bitter, I find it's best to hit pause. Try to rebalance. Suss out what really happened and why. I now believe what my manager told me is true: it wasn't personal, it was a balance sheet issue. Executives set a new payroll limit which was lower than before. Simple. Mechanical. Capitalism doing its thing.

I'm convinced all of the recent layoffs in tech are the result of executives continuing to seethe about the wage gains workers made over the last few years. Low unemployment was giving laborers more strength in the bargaining. Wages were outpacing inflation. People with million dollar salaries hate that. A lot. The easiest fix is to increase the unemployment. Downsize the company, claim to be restructuring for future growth in a changing landscape, blah blah blah. The same as it ever was. So it goes.

March 06, 2024

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Robot Friend

Robot

Making friends with the robots living in the local antique shop. Beep boop.

March 05, 2024

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Dogma

Dogma

On Saturday, we met some good friends for lunch and day drinking. Bounced around a few places. Had a great time. On the way there, we passed this place where a dozen dogs were doing some hanging out, too. 

February 19, 2024

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The Office

WSJ Office

I've been going into the office more often, lately. Midtown is still a drag, but it's nice to see my colleagues in person.

February 10, 2024

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Xmas Cookies, Delayed

cookies

On Sunday night, February 4th, we held our annual Christmas cookies decorating ritual. A couple months late because of an ill-timed Covid infection in December, and someone’s visa complication throughout January. But! Elissa and Jarod finally made it over and we had a great hang. Another good year.

Icing

February 05, 2024

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The Music of 2023

I listened to 1,869 tracks released in 2023. I liked 837 of those. 237 were rated best of the year. Only 47 of them made it into my Favorites list. In the last few years, fewer and fewer new tracks seem to resonate with me. I'm becoming more discerning, and I'm aging out of the music made by the young, as naturally happens. I try really hard to keep up with The Youths, yet music made by those in their early twenties continues to reflect the lives of people in their early twenties. I'm almost 43. So it goes.

In 2023, I ended up connected mostly with the records from artists who were already among my favorites. I really dug a lot of jazz and blues from the last year, but those rarely land in my Favorites list. I'm still a pop and rock guy, at heart, I guess. It's kind of bananas how many records were released this year by my favorite musicians: Gorillaz, Blur, Animal Collective, Yo La Tengo, Wilco, Margo Price, The New Pornographers, Youth Lagoon, Belle & Sebastian, Bongeziwe Mabandla, Deerhoof, Feist, The Go! Team, two from The National, four (4!) from Robert Pollard. Not all of them ended up favorites for the year, but that's still quite a list.

My listening habits have evolved in one way, I've noticed. I've been listening a little more to songwriting, specifically. That's taken me back to country music and the catalog of older songs I had once ignored. Spent more time with records from the 60s and 70s. Payed more attention to lyrics than I traditionally had before. Lots of singles from lots of artists, but plenty of The Band, Lucinda Williams, Willie Nelson, George Jones, and the Staple Singers. I can see myself growing further down this route as time passes.

2023 was also a year I listened to a lot of Robert Pollard. I finished my trek through the full 2,500 songs of his I have access to. I have been a fan of him and Guided By Voices for 25 years now, but his music has really been hitting the spot for me, lately. Straightforward rock. Unpretentious. Made with love and playfulness. Famously prolific, he put out four records this year. His music simply speaks to me, and this year I fully embraced that. He's so good.

I made a few wonderful music discoveries this year: Sparks (which I'll probably write more about at some point), Mandy Indiana, Zach Bryan, Charley Crockett. And a few rediscoveries after closer listens: Fruit Bats, The Staple Singers, The Band. Maybe it's safe to say that my music listening habits deepened this year, rather than expanded. I'm continuing to appreciate stuff in new ways. Fewer surprises as I get older. But that doesn't mean there isn't more to learn.

That's where I am as we go into 2024. I plan to focus less on new music by new artists, and instead spend more quality time with the music I know I love.

Here are my favorite albums of 2023:

  • Blur - The Ballad of Darren
  • Gorillaz - Cracker Island
  • The National - First Two Pages of Frankenstein
  • Fatoumata Diawara - London Ko
  • Guided By Voices - Nowhere To Go But Up
  • Zach Bryan - Zach Bryan

And the Honorable Mentions:

  • New Pornographers - Continue as a Guest
  • The Arcs - Electrophonic Chronic
  • Youth Lagoon - Heaven Is A Junkyard
  • The National - Laugh Track
  • Yo La Tengo - This Stupid World
  • Sparks - The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte
  • Feeble Little Horse - Girl With Fish
  • Fruit Bats - A River Running To Your Heart
  • Lonnie Holley - Oh Me Oh My

Here are a couple playlists on Apple Music, if you're interested.

Favorite Tracks for 2023. Changed the rules for this year's playlist. It's all 47 of my faves, not just one track per artist.

Music I discovered/rediscovered in 2023

January 19, 2024

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A Small Design Success

Yesterday was one of those good days as a designer where a solution to a tricky problem falls into place, everyone is very happy with the results, and it looks good. It can be surprisingly hard to hit all three. Especially in a large organization with dozens of competing agendas.

This was for a small, repetitive piece of UI — a stack of 250px x 100px cards — each already dense with images, text, and other info. The requirement was to also include three to five new affordances; buttons for performing different actions. One of those actions would account for around 95% of the clicks, so preferably that one would be larger. After a couple dozen iterations, it all fell into place. Voilà. C'est fini.

Most of my work lately has been systems-level stuff. Cross-tooling design patterns and functionality. Or complicated workflows with numerous newsroom roles working in coordination. Or intra-department work where Editorial Tools and Consumer site design are partnering. These are all satisfying problems to solve. But there's nothing quite like the feeling when a piece of UI clicks into place right before my eyes. That's what pleases the soul of the art school student in me. Balance, weight, color, space, and purpose.

January 18, 2024

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