Sunday, January 29, 2006


Random memories from years 9-12: This would be grades 5-8. Mr. Harris' science classroom. Starting my own paper-sundial business. Drawing comic strips. All-night nintendo marathons. Recording synthesizer music.

Saturday, January 28, 2006



What I remember from years 5-8.

Grade 1. St. Joseph's. I remember the little squares on the linoleum and the wooden and metal stacking chairs.
Grade 2. St. Michaels University School. Interview with Mr. John Schaffter. The two calculators pictured above. School supplies. Smell of freshly sharpened pencils.
Grade 3. Mrs. Pollard. Mealworm project. My green gym bag. The huge gymnasium. Recess.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


Today someone shewed me a kindness, and I refused it, because I wanted to exercise the freedom to decline a gift. But I then felt remorse, because in hindsight I would have valued connection more than freedom/autonomy, at least in this case. So I missed choosing the higher good.
Ah well.


I'd made a couple of resolutions in the new year. One was to exercise more, and to trick myself into doing it I bought some nifty software - Yourself!Fitness which is a virtual fitness instructor. So that one's going alright. I only committed to three 15-min sessions a week, and it's such a small amount of time that I'll see if I can do it daily. But to do this will require more effort on my second resolution ...
... and that is getting enough sleep each night. First week I did this very well -- weeks 2 and 3, not so much. I really want to shift from 1-9 or 12-8 (which itself would be an improvement) to 11-7, just to give me that extra hour to do stuff in the morning - a bit of prayer, a bit of exercise, heck maybe even reading rss feeds over an orange juice.


It's hard to remember what life was like when I was four years old. Or earlier than that. I think I have just one memory - that of people moving the piano into the family room. I must have been three years old. Sunlight streamed into the doorway, silhouetting the people moving the piano. Maybe I'm not remembering this correctly, but I seem to recall them setting the piano down on the floor before it was carpeted, when it was still concrete. They set it down on a sheet of wood.
Actually there seems to be another memory, but I may be imagining it, from my third year. I peered into the doorway of our neighbour's townhouse and saw their stereo system against the far wall, housed in a brown wooden cabinet.
And that's it - I can find no other memories from years 0-4.

Two questions

Two questions for myself. First, what have I been asking for this week? I haven't been praying for anything this week. I think I was hoping to pray by osmosis. Anyway, hopefully I can answer that one better next week.
Second question - What am I grateful for having received (this week)? I'm grateful that my foot is getting better (though slowly). And for Gail Sheehy's book (Passages), which has taught me a bit more about what to expect as I grow older. And for this day off to rest. And that I finally had something useful to contribute through my main blog (the sorted konfabulator widget list).  

Friday, January 20, 2006

Worked hard today. Did cool stuff. Tired. Foot still aches. Want to go to bed an hour earlier. Want to wake up an hour earlier. Want to leave more time for myself in the evenings - for catching up on email, catching up on feeds, meditating, learning.

It seems to me we are always either doing, learning, or meditating.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


Well, hard to believe, but I'm back in Victoria now, back in the chilly Canadian wilderness, making my way to Starbucks as I have a couple of hours left in the weekend. Ahead of me is a leafless garry oak tree, which perfectly embodies this place -- cold, stark, beautiful in its own grey way. Contrast this to sunny Palo Alto and its perpetual springtime, with energetic students buzzing in sidewalk cafes.

Happy times as a child. The big bucket of legos -- spaceship legos and castle legos, with sunlight streaming into the family room. The marathon Super Nintendo sessions with Mort and Kwan. Art class. The GI Joe Amphibious Transport, the Space Shuttle rescue missions, the yellow submarine with its orange pincers. Grandiose dreams of creating a video game on my Apple IIc. Choose Your Own Adventure. Fantasy and multi-sided dice. The model aircraft and cars that never looked quite as good as the box. Playing soldiers in the bunker while waiting in the car. The perennial desire to build a fort. The love of candy. The Cosby Show, Star Blazers, and Captain Draw. Inventions of paper and wood. Word 2.0 and Corel Draw. Word 6.0.


Today, as on every Sunday, I went to Mass and received the Eucharist (God in the form of a piece of bread). Anyway, how is this going to change me in the coming week? May God be at my side this week when I make things, create things. May God be at my side in moments when I am with my family -- may I be granted presence, awareness to cherish my family. May God open my eyes this week to opportunities to do some random act of kindness for someone -- someone I know or a stranger.

So I suppose that when people eat the bread, it strengthens their ties to God, and God decides to be especially "by their side" during the week, nudging their decisions, drawing their attention to various things. I'm no theologian -- just critically speculating.

Critical speculation -- we need more of that. Making the effort to think things through a little bit harder, or to dream things up, or at least try to. To push a thought slightly further than what is easy. It's easy to be pulled along by other people's ideas. But to create new ideas -- no matter how small -- or even improving on the ideas of others -- this is one way to add value to the world.


I'm reading Gail Sheehy's "Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life" because I want to understand what lies ahead, what pitfalls to avoid.

"deserve" = past, "need" = future


Lazy Sunday, just the way I like it. Actually I had a pretty rough sleep -- my body doesn't seem to handle sugar in the evenings well -- I can't seem to fall asleep.

Today I am headed back to Victoria. The week was pretty productive, due in no small part to getting a good night's sleep rather than working into the early mornings (ironic in a way).

Goal for the day: just observe my surroundings. I live inside myself so much that it is refreshing to carefully the people, places, and things around me. From the pattern on my PDA case to the spots on the ceiling tiles to the shuffling gait of the person in the turquoise sweater. Trying to guess the emotions and needs of a person walking past.

I have learned from my past mistakes, and so for today's trip I have equipped myself with consumables: half a bottle of orange juice, jalapeno Mrs. Vickies, and a large chocolate-chunk cookie.

Yesterday was supposed to be a good day. I had a little 1-day project, very doable, with likely success (though a small amount of risk). I had relaxing environments in which to work - the hotel lobby with background jazz music, or my room with sunlight streaming through the blinds.

And yet the experience was harrowing. Beset with complications and slow progress, I barely finished before the 5 PM presentation to the CEO. No amount of jazz music or shafts of sunlight could alleviate the intense stress bearing down on me those hours. The only thing that could have alleviated it would have been time -- twice as much of it.

Anyway, it had a happy ending. Finished in the nick of time (funny how it always happens that way). The experiment worked.

Lack of sleep is never desirable, but it has one redeeming quality, for me at least. On those days I am hardly a productivity machine, but I am more pensive, conversant, meditative. Jon the efficient engineer fades away and Jon the poet philosopher steps in for a spell.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Weird. In PHP, 360.1-360 = 0.10000000000002

Thursday, January 12, 2006


I am sitting in the lobby of the Cardinal Hotel. You would think it would be fun to recline in an elegant chair, sipping hot chocolate with a book in hand. I don't find it particularly stimulating for some reason. I suppose I do most of my living inside, paying little attention to my environment. And the inside is not a peaceful place -- it is either anxious about one thing, or another thing, or bored, or unconscious.

They come in short cycles -- days of inspired creativity, followed by weeks of routine. I'm guessing the best way to break the routine, to hopefully return sooner to inspired creativity, is meditation/reflection. And learning.

The lights dim in the lobby of the Cardinal Hotel. Half an hour until bedtime. Options: hit the sack early, read some more, meditate, mediblog.

The next big thing in software: anthroprogramming

I wonder what the next big thing in computers will be. First was the personal computer, then came the web (remarkably refined over recent years). What's the third stage? The word "mobile" pops into my head. Nah.

What attracted me to computers before the web? The software. So after software came web apps; and after web apps come ... robots? After the floppy came the modem; after the modem comes ... immersive environments? Transporters? The PC extended our mental reach; the web made us omniscient; the next thing will make us ...compassionate? Technology has assisted our mental capabilities; is the next dimension to be power-assisted the emotional/social? The spiritual? The physical? Or will it mainly be ever increasing focus on the mental dimension?

Perhaps the PC was the mental assist; the web was the social assist; and the two future assists will be the physical (robots/transporters/immersive reality) and the spiritual (?). The spiritual - maybe that's it. How will the next big thing in computers be spiritual? (and I don't mean anything gaudy, or much to do with the web, but some new, unobvious combination of technology and spirituality/compassion).

Perhaps we will be able to beam hearts at each other. Seeing someone particularly gloomy, we can aim our laptop's iLove at them and these red floaty things get emitted from the iLove, smacking them and causing them to feel immediately pleased, or inspired, or smart, or whatever else they need. They are little computer programs that we shoot from our laptops into people's bodies. We send them across the internet into people halfway around the world. This reminds me of something I saw in The Matrix -- a computer program ingested through a piece of cake (though in this case it was for evil ends). And this seems to be more physical than spiritual.

So perhaps the next fun/frightening stage in computers is writing software that controls our minds/bodies. Like the first two stages, there are dangers and drugs, and good as well. Like the first two stages, it will be exhilarating, and frustrating.

Quote from Gail Sheehy

"During each of these passages, how we feel about our way of living will undergo subtle changes in four areas of perception. One is the interior sense of self in relation to others. A second is the proportion of safeness to danger we feel in ourselves. A third is our perception of time -- do we have plenty of it, or are we beginning to feel that time is running out? Last, there will be some shift at the gut level in our sense of aliveness or stagnation." [Sheehy, Passages]


Typing this from 30 000' on a Boeing 737. w00t! My first laptop usage on an airplane. Well it's not as cool as they make it out to be. Actually the guy in front of me just started leaning back, and I heard a distinct crack as the laptop screen was compressed. Ouch!
A bit turbulent at present, but not as much as the little plane before this one. I think the bigger planes have a bit more stability, what with their larger engines and wings (and price tag).
Starting to feel nauseous with all the shaking. Laptopping on a plane is alas not all it is cracked up to be. I will stop here before I vomit.
The guy in front of me has the right idea. I heard him crack open a can of pop. I will be sure to bring some snacks the next time I board a plane.


The web was a real surprise for me.
I've been into computers since Grade 4, when my mom bought me an Apple IIc. Those were beautiful computers -- the keyboard has the same light touch as today's Macs. Anyway, programming Basic on that thing was a heck of a lot of fun. My goal was always to create some complex video game -- either a racing game a la Pole Position, or a Wolfenstein-like 3D game.
And then for me came BBS's. For you youngin's, BBS's were a precursor to the web (though definitely not as cool). You would dial one up with your modem and choose files to download. It basically gave you a list of files, together with descriptions of each file. How many nights I stayed up late searching for the very best freeware.
Funnily enough, all that effort came to nothing in the end because along came more powerful computers and the www. The freeware that I so diligently searched for, freeware to last a lifetime, quickly became unnecessary, or paled in comparison to today's open source software (Inkscape -- you gotta try it). How quickly things change. It's not worth striving for perfection in one environment, because the environment changes every 5 years.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

misc turning points

- mom buys me my first computer in Grade 4 (Apple IIc)
- emotional conversation in Grade 9 - led to dramatic improvement in academic performance
- high school girlfriend (re)introduces me to Christianity
- entering yubnub in ruby on rails contest - led to career shift

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

insomnia, decaf

Dang, I can't get to sleep. And I was hoping to be fresh for my first day in the office tomorrow. I did have a couple of coffees today, but both were decaf. I guess decaf doesn't mean 100% decaf. Anyway I found a good link on dealing with insomnia, so I have a plan. I'm going to crank through some emails, and if that doesn't get me tired, I'll do a bit o' reading.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Landed safely

Wow, hard to believe I'm in Palo Alto again! This time I'm going to try to have fun while I'm here. Mainly an attitude change - whereas last time was about overworking and sleepless nights, this time is going to be about getting enough rest, still working hard of course, but noticing that I'm working alongside extremely talented (and nice) people, deep in the heart of the Silicon Valley. Wow!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

An American Adventure Redux

Well, I am off to the Silicon Valley for a week (hard to believe I can say that - it gives me goosebumps). I'm sometimes torn about travelling - on one hand it's exciting to be in a technology hub like Palo Alto, working side-by-side with people who are both amazingly talented and (gasp) nice; on the other hand, I do like the peace of picturesque Victoria, and I love staying close to my mom.
Though I wish I could say it is truly peaceful. Just beyond my computer monitor is a view of the backyard - birch trees and garry oaks set against a sky that is by turns blue and grey. But rarely do I notice these things -- mostly my attention is riveted on some computer code on the monitor; my heart is drawn deeply inwards, away from the sunlight and the seagulls, silently brooding over puzzles of logic on the computer screen.
There is so much in life to be noticed - beautiful moments, pathetic moments, lost in the whirlwind of routine. Even the intricate programming that receives so much of my focus has a beauty that I often do not notice - and their solutions especially have beauty that I neglect to savour. There is so much potential joy in what I am doing and yet it is often in danger of being smothered by the details-oriented, anxious part of me. The key is to be joyful in the details.

Memoirs of a Geisha (movie)

Saw Memoirs of a Geisha today with mom. It was a bit slow-moving, but I didn't mind that too much. The ending was reasonably satisfying, though not immensely so. It was alright.
What I took away from it was the idea of a person's past glory - a time when one was on top of the world, yet a time that is long past. And the pathos of trying to recover that past glory in its old form.


We can live in the moment, or in the future.

Similarly (but there is a subtle difference) we can live *for* the moment, or for the future.

I'm going to try to live in the moment, but for the future.

Not to live in the moment, for the moment - I have great dreams for the future.

Not to live in the future, for the future - to drift along life in a trance.

Not to live in the future, for the moment - that moment will never come.

But to live in the moment, for the future. Savouring every hour of life, but at the same time living for a greater purpose. Tactical and strategic.


Some people frown upon nostalgia and sentiment, but I find it valuable to peer into one's past, recalling glimpses of childhood. They are rare. For each of my childhood years, only two or three images remain. It is deeply satisfying to reach back and find these lost moments.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

New things

A couple of new things I am trying

- Music. For the longest time I had little interest in listening to music. But Chris Schmidt (hi Chris!) gave me an idea - listening to music you're really familiar with - stuff from the past. So I've been downloading all sorts of songs from my childhood (and a few new ones, like Norah Jones).

- Exercise. Found a couple of fun geeky ways to exercise, the first being Dance Dance Revolution (people talk about it so often), and the second being Yourself!Fitness (the virtual fitness instructor - a taskmaster I might add). Recovering from a minor foot injury, so DDR will have to be put on hold for a bit, but Y!F is certainly motivating.

- Also got a 20" monitor from Dell. It's a beaut - my hope is that it will increase my productivity in my work. Though I am drooling over the 30" monitor that just came out. That thing is massive.


Finally I have some time to blog on my personal blog. It's been a hard-working week. I have done my best to exercise and sleep well. I have laboured diligently each day. And now I am entering upon the one day that I set aside for rest. May I spend it well, and not waste it.

Each day goes by so quickly. It starts with a rushed breakfast, then work, lunch and a short story, then more work, dinner, catching up on information, then bed. It's quite a pleasant way to pass the time, but I also feel uneasy about not living consciously. The day speeds by, and I don't notice it, savour it. Only in those infrequent pauses like this one do I introspect and retrospect. I wish I were more conscious throughout the day, appreciating every minute (or every few minutes) of existence. As it is, weeks go by between comings up for air.

The mission that I identified for myself some months back was to make things that make life wonderful. Making web technologies in particular, but I didn't want to limit it to that so I left the door open. There is much to do in the coming week, so as with recent weeks there is little time for making technologies. But as I write this I sincerely hope I do get to make one neat thing or a few neat things this week.

I like how Google employees spend 20% of their time on personal technology projects. When my Saturdays free up a bit more perhaps I will use Saturday for making neat things. It's good for the brain, frees it up to stretch its wings a bit beyond the everyday.

Plans for Sunday. Sundays are always special for me because I give myself permission not to do my usual work on this day. There will be Mass in the morning, and a movie with mom in the evening, and perhaps reading library books in the middle. Writing that, I see the day is already full. Maybe nothing in the middle then but conscious living, sitting at the foot of the waves or, like now, observiblogging. I am usually so restless to be doing something however; may God keep me from blowing the day on surfing the internet.

At the moment my body is so relaxed and my mind clear - this must be the effect of regular sleep. May I maintain it for the rest of my life.

So life is currently simple - this is good. The bad is that I am not living it consciously. Wake up! Open your eyes!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Hello Unapologetic

(email to Unapologetic Catholic, which seems like a fascinating catholic blog)

Hi Unapologetic - I really like your blog's tagline - "Doubts, thoughts, problems and issues of an uncertain Catholic coming to grips with the Church today." I'm looking for "real" catholic blogs - ones that honestly document the struggles and successes of concretely living the catholic life. Do you know of any other blogs that fit this?

(The catholic blogs I've been finding seem to be theological rather than real-life, or prayerful without being honest about the struggles).

Why is there so little material on concretely living the Catholic life? I wish someone would write a compelling book or autobiography on how they are living it -- compelling being a key word here -- and someone in my circumstances. Some person who has a job and a family and a housel, living an inspiring Catholic life, describing their struggles with prayer, money, temptation, and other real-life issues.

Something like Augustine's Confessions but written by a yuppie.

Come to think of it, perhaps the Catholic Bloggies has an award category for "living the life" ... let's see ... a couple of blogs that seem to keep cropping up are Open Book and Saintly Salamagundi - I'll try those for now.

I must say, I'm quite good at getting anxious about anything. I must be one of the (many) extraordinarily sensitive and creative people whose imaginations foresee every conceivable pitfall, danger, and failure scenario. Probably a good skill in the context of computer programming, but in other contexts fairly debilitating.

If I shut my mind to these persistent mental alarm bells, I believe the task at hand could be bearable, or dare I say enjoyable even. I will leave future concerns to those visionaries who can cut through nagging naysaying thoughts; as for me, I will focus on the present, which is a lot more fun without stressing out over the future.