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Ben Alman

Ben Alman works at Bocoup, where he is responsible for the development of intermediate and advanced JavaScript and jQuery training curricula, as well as the creation and maintenance of JavaScript-based tools and utilities. In addition to his training and client work at Bocoup, Ben writes articles and gives presentations advocating JavaScript and jQuery best practices.

Ben has created and maintains Grunt, along with a number of other popular open source JavaScript projects and jQuery plugins and is a frequent contributor to the open source jQuery, jQuery Mobile and Modernizr projects. As an avid photographer and funk bass player, Ben loves spending time taking photos and jamming in the greater Boston area.

Ben can be found on Twitter @cowboy.

Published Thoughts

Whistlepig vs Bulleit

So this weekend, my wife and I went to Five Horses Tavern in Davis Square, which is where we go to either try out a new Whiskey or eat the most super-amazing Brussels Sprouts appetizer known to cuisine. Or both. This time, it was both.

Based on a friend’s recommendation, we ordered the Whistlepig rye. Well, she ordered the Whistlepig. I ordered the Sazerac rye, because I’ve been meaning to try that—the previous time I ordered a Sazerac, the waitress brought me a mixed drink, apparently it’s both a rye and a cocktail, whoops—but they didn’t have it (!) so I went with my fall-back, Bulleit bourbon. Neat (of course).

You can’t go wrong with the Bulleit. It’s good tasting, fairly inexpensive and most places I’ve been to have it. I took a sip. Tried-and-true delivers, yet again.

Then I cleansed my palate with a sip of water and tried the Whistlepig.

Wow, that’s some good stuff. Flavorful, complex, and so smooth. Let me tell you that after trying the Whistlepig, it was pretty difficult to go back to the Bulleit. I mean, the Bulleit is good, but the Whistlepig is great. In some ways, it reminded me of my personal favorite, the Macallan 17 year scotch, but with a bit more bourbon “burn” up front.

At this point, after having realized that my drink had been hopelessly outclassed, the only option remaining was to slam my Bulleit, drink an entire glass of water, and try to sneak some more of my wife’s Whistlepig. Like, “Hey, is that so-and-so over there?” (sneak a sip while she turns around) “Oh, I guess not, it’s really dim in here, sorry.”

That was Friday night, we bought a bottle of Whistlepig on Saturday.

You know, it’s a lot of work to prepare forty projects and a website for simultaneous release.

I’m not exactly sure how I got myself into this situation. Ok, I know exactly how I got myself into this situation. A few years ago, I was trying to maintain dozens of very similar little projects that were all developed in very similar ways. Not just very similar ways—the exact same ways.

And I was getting sick of maintaining that handful of cobbled-together scripts and tools and who knows what else that I had accumulated to do all that stuff. So I said to myself, “self, you should build a single thing to do all this stuff—because wouldn’t it be awesome if something out there did all that stuff, but absolutely nothing does, at least not the way you want it done—and it’s time to actually get some work done already etc etc etc.”

So I started to do that. And I kept on doing that. And after more than six months of experimentation, it was actually working wonderfully. But then I made the mistake of admitting my relative success to someone, who convinced me to release that then-current version to the general public. And I reluctantly said, “ok, I’ll release it, but only if we can call this version SUPER DUPER BETA because I have a ton more experimentation to do, and don’t want anyone to think that this is a finished product, or anything.”

So I released it. And people seemed to like it.

As soon as I released that version, I started right into the next version. It’s not like I was thinking about these versions as “versions” though, this was more of a “continuous evolution” through careful (and also, maybe, not-so-careful) experimentation. So I experimented and continuously evolved my ideas for nearly a year. And somewhere during that year I realized that I was no longer the “guy who wrote all those little projects,” but I had become the “guy who wrote that thing that does all that stuff.”

And I wasn’t doing it all by myself anymore, either. There were other people helping me. I mean, REALLY helping me. Writing documentation and code, answering users’ questions, submitting and closing issues, you name it. It was like a big open source community group hug, and I was in the middle. It was pretty cool. It still is pretty cool. I mean, hugs are awesome. AWESOME. That’s all I’m saying.

So yeah, there were more people. And just like the number of people involved had increased, the number of related projects had increased as well. There were dozens of related projects. And a wiki. And a website. It wasn’t just this thing that does all that stuff anymore, it was all these things that do all that stuff. And for this new version, everything had to be published at the same time. Home pages, plugin listings, documentation, the works. It all had to get done all at once.

So we worked pretty hard, and we got it all done. Well, we got most of it done. After a while, you learn that “done enough” means “done.” Well, either that or you go crazy.

But we released it. And people still seemed to like it.

It’s still evolving, we’re still experimenting, and we’re making progress. And all that stuff? It’s getting done.

The year in review, a prediction

Only twelve thoughts. That’s all that will have been required of me.

As I will look back on 2013, the year that, then, will soon be coming to a close, I will recall seeing the list titled “Here are the dates of Ben Alman’s future thoughts” and thinking, at the time, that the dates listed therein seemed rather arbitrary. “What will be so special about the 18th of the month? Why are there three exceptions? What if I will want to have thoughts on other dates?

If this year will have been like any other year, I will have spent innumerable minutes weighing actions, reactions and consequences; I will have tried to be fair, honest and witty through careful observation, analysis and introspection. But this year won’t have been like any other year, and I will have spent numerable minutes weighing actions, reactions and consequences.

Why? Because the Pastry Box Project will have given me a reason—no, a mandate— to have only twelve thoughts. Ever again.

Despite my natural proclivity toward not only thinking but also voicing every single one of my thoughts, much to the ongoing chagrin of those around me, I will have succeeded in suppressing unscheduled or otherwise proscribed thoughts until my monthly “thought day,” much to the unexpected joy of those around me.

It won’t have been easy, however. I’m sure that I will have had to have had moments when I wrestled with the knowledge that I must learn to embrace the anticipation of thought in lieu of relying on the familiar comfort of the predictably unpredictable. While avoiding this internal debate will undoubtedly have been alluring, it is unlikely that it will have been easily dismissed, considering the appeal of never again having to think improvisationally or spontaneously.

All but twelve days of this year will have been filled with blissful emptiness, each day relatively free of thought but full of free time—time that I will have spent breathing, sleeping or perhaps even staring blankly at things I will most likely be unlikely to be able to recall.

And then I will realize that it’s all over. My twelve thoughts will all be in the past. There won’t be any new thoughts.

How will I feel? What will I do?

I won’t know, because I won’t have thought about that.