October 15, 2016 16:05 +0000  |  Self Reflection Strangers 1

Much of this blog recently has been a collection of elaborate updates, so allow me one post just to assemble some thoughts I've had over the past few days.

I made the unfortunate mistake yesterday of leaving for a trip to Brussels without my passport. I mean, it's just Belgium, why the hell would I need a passport to go to Belgium? Unfortunately I forgot that I live in "The America of Europe", a nation of the terrified and proudly uninformed -- they're not keen on open boarders here.

My feelings about the British aside, it remained that I wasn't about to be allowed on the train, so I had to go back to the ticket booth and try to exchange my ticket for one running the following day. The woman behind the desk was friendly and helpful, and in the end, my stupidity only cost me £60. In fact, I'm on the newly-booked train right now and expect to be arriving in Brussels in about 2hours.

Before I walked away from the counter though, it occurred to me that the tiny cupcakes I'd been carrying around for the last hour would never make it to Brussels, and I certainly wasn't going to eat them all, so I offered them to the nice young woman for being so helpful. Her eyes lit up: "Really? I have a colleague who's leaving the company today and he's my favourite person in the world. He's leaving right now. Here are your tickets, I gotta go!"

She hopped up from her desk and raced to the back of the office, disappearing through a staff door. I heard some shouting and cheering, and lots of other happy noises, and then I checked my phone for my route back to Cambridge.

When I knew where I was going, I started out of the station only to hear the sound of frantic footsteps coming in my direction. The woman was still so excited, but now she wanted to thank me properly. Gushing, she hugged me, afraid she was going to cry. Somehow, those nine tiny cupcakes had deeply affected her. I hugged her back and continued on my way.

We all have the tendency, occasional or otherwise, to forget that every person around us is in fact a living, breathing person, with a story of their own and deep emotional connections to people we will likely never meet. I know that I'm personally guilty of this more than I'm comfortable with, and this experience surprised me, so I wanted to share.

January 12, 2013 23:46 +0000  |  Activism Self Reflection 0

I never knew Aaron Swartz. We'd never met in person, or even traded emails. In fact, I didn't even know his name until I read about his death today on Reddit.

You know that site that pushes billions of pages per month out to the entire world? The one that lead the charge in the fight against SOPA, and other toxic legislation like it? Yeah Reddit. He co-founded it.

But Reddit wasn't the end, it wasn't even the beginning. His first world-changing achievement came when he was only 14 years old and helped write the spec for RSS 1.0 -- You know how you can keep tabs on dozens of news sites and blogs with Google Reader? Aaron Swartz did that. RSS was an enabling technology that helped build the collaborative web we know today.

He co-authored Markdown, a markup engine that, among other things, powers this site and millions of others, and he developed a Python-based web framework whose code has made its way into projects everywhere... including many of the ones I've developed.

He also founded Demand Progress an organisation dedicated to the pursuit of civil rights, civil liberties, and government reform, and staged an act of epic civil disobedience in his uh, liberation of gigabytes of data locked up by academia. All of this before he was 26.

And that's all we'll ever see from him now, because on January 11th, he hanged himself.

Now I don't want to comment on his suicide or the tragedy of it all. That's between him and whatever gods he worshiped. But I do want to suggest that we all think about this for a second: In the span of 12 years, Aaron contributed more to the betterment of the world than most people do in a lifetime. He built useful tools that made communication easier, and fought the Good fight, enlisting literally millions of people to join him. It's his work that we all stand on when we attempt to do things both great and simple. What have the rest of us done in the last 12 years? The last 24?

Reading about Aaron today hit me harder than I thought something like this would. It's made me think back to the conscious decision I made a few years ago about being more selfish... at least for a while. I opted to do the things I wanted to do, rather than the things I felt needed doing, and honestly, the time between that decision and today has evaporated from my memory. It's the selfish days that blur together, while the hours of conflict and doing right are burned into you. I need to do better, be better.

Aaron was just a kid, and yet he managed so much. His life, while short, should be a lesson to all of us regarding our vast potential.


January 07, 2012 03:07 +0000  |  Family Friends Netherlands Self Reflection Travel 4

I suppose blogging in general took a big hit in 2011 eh? I mean, everywhere you look now, people are using tumblr, Facebook, or even Google+ for blogging these days, and the old-fashioned site-as-blog has more or less evaporated. But I've always been part futurist and part luddite, so I've no intention on following suit. This blog may have become sparse over this past year, but it's still the one place where I can post anything I want, on any topic I want, and still retain control over my content. I'll likely keep this up and running right until Diaspora becomes more portable/accessible, or some other similar project comes along and does a better job.

But this post, I couldn't skip out on this one. It's the annual recap post. It's like the Christmas Card I never sent to anyone that recaps what's happened in my life this past year. Like all of its predecessors, it's a long one, so you might want to grab a beverage ;-)

An Unhappy Start

2011 started out pretty down for me. I'd been laid off from my less-than-enjoyable gig at Work [at] Play and had, on the advice of my good friend Chris Rhodes, decided to take the opportunity to look for work in Europe. I had moved out of my $1300/mo apartment in Vancouver's West End, and into my grandparent's basement in Delta, and was actively looking for work overseas: France, Germany, and the Netherlands were all candidates, and Japan & Korea were both pie-in-the-sky hopeful locations. I got three interviews in Europe, two in Munich and one in Amsterdam, and from them, two offers. Unfortunately, I didn't much like the prospect of those offers, and the 3rd company wasn't interested (I wasn't sufficiently enthusiastic about Perl). I was unemployed, in debt, and living in my grandparent's basement. I was 31.

But then Shit Got Real

Things started to look up though after I had an interview with a Dutch company who offered me a gig literally 15minutes after the phone interview. They offered to handle my visa and arrangements for my initial lodging, and wrapped this in a six month contract for a rate that seemed reasonable. I was set. I was moving to Europe.

I said my goodbyes to my friends, and then to my family, packed all of my worldly belongings into three bags, and got on a plane. It wasn't scary, rather I had gone into that "autopilot" mode I have, where the future is committed, there's no sense in worrying about it. In retrospect though, I'm still surprised that I managed it with so little stress.


Just when I thought that money was going to get super-tight, I stumbled into two $5k cheques: one from the Canadian government, a tax refund for the six years I'd been putting off doing my taxes, and the other for my involvement with TheChange. Together, these two helped pay off my growing credit card balance and finance my move into a new, unfurnished place here in Bussum. Kids, never let it be said that money is the problem. It's not. If you line up everything else, it always seems to work out.

Five Weddings in Five Cities

Then there were the weddings. Jesus Christ people, did you all have to get married all in the same year??? I'd missed Annie & Desmond's nuptials back in 2007 and will regret it forever, I wasn't going to let that happen again with some of the closest people in my life. Shawna & Michael had their ceremony in Yeosu, Stephen & Irena had theirs in Toronto, Chrystal & TJ had a reception in Vancouver, while my brother & Shawna got married in Kelowna, and Noreen & Craig rounded out the year with their wedding in Honolulu. If you're curious, that works out to roughly 35,653kilometres (about 1/10th of the distance to the Moon), about $5507CAD (before carbon credits, Mother Earth hates me) and 26 days off work (105% of my vacation)... and I'd do it again. Each wedding was an exciting experience and a milestone in the lives of people I love. I can think of no better way to have spent my time and resources this past year.

Politics and Missed Opportunities

Somewhere in there, Canada got a new King government, a new NDP Official Opposition (yay!), and the Green Party saw it's first MP elected (more yay!). Politically, it was a HUGE year in Canada and I really felt left out of it all. There are days, on this side of the Atlantic, that I feel like I gave up on a life I could/should have had when I left Toronto, or Vancouver, and I wonder if it was the Right thing to do. What would it have been like to work with Adriane Carr on her campaign? Could I have helped enough to see her take a second seat? If I'd stayed in Toronto, could I have helped keep Ford out, or even just helped another candidate take a council seat? Would I be running for a council seat in the next election? I suppose that the biggest lesson learnt from this year so far has been that each decision commits you to walking through one door to the exclusion of others, and that commitment requires a certain acceptance of this fact.

Rounding it all Out

I ended the year with a trip home for Christmas with the family, paying off my student loans, and closing my account at CIBC. I entered 2012 100% debt-Free and unsupportive of big banks. I even managed to ditch Facebook.

The bulk of the rest of the year was filled with weekend trips to different cities and towns around the Netherlands, a pair of trips to London and Paris, a short romantic relationship with a lovely girl that turned into a wonderful friendship, and a few more friends on top of that -- all of this wrapped in a cloud of shell shock, excitement, and frustration that comes with living in a new city, new country, new continent, and new culture. It's been good for me I think, and I'm glad I've made the decisions that brought me to this time and place in my life.

March 16, 2011 20:20 +0000  |  Self Reflection Television 2

It's been a few years now since it came out, but I finally got around to seeing Six Feet Under in it's entirety. Five seasons of exceptional acting, framing and lighting, and I really can't say I enjoyed it.

The finalé though, that's what everyone talks about, and now I know why. I've never seen the finality of life so brazenly captured, the truth of mortality so very clear. It made we want to live better, live fuller, and it made me question everything.

I'm a wreck right now, and just figured I should share. If you've seen the series to the end, you probably know exactly what I'm talking about, and if you haven't... then perhaps it's time you checked it out.

I promise I'll post about living here soon.

September 09, 2010 03:58 +0000  |  Self Reflection Solitude 3

I saw this the other day and wanted to share. I don't think I've ever heard this framed better.

June 25, 2010 20:12 +0000  |  Career Green Party My Future Politics Self Reflection Travel Why I'm Here Work [at] Play 9

I had a rather enlightening conversation with an Old Friend over lunch yesterday. John, a former co-worker at Work [at] Play and I meet for lunch every few months, mostly to catch up on each other's lives and talk about how things are going at my present employer. He's since moved on to be the COO at VirtualDoubloon but we got along so well, that I figured the friendship was worth the maintenance.

This time around, we didn't talk about my current employer so much as how my life was moving in general. I was on the verge of my 31st birthday and coming out of both a romantic relationship and a (thankfully unrelated) business co-founding partnership and "what's next" was the primary topic of discussion.

He asked about my political career, specifically whether I'd run in the next election, and I explained that I'd love to if the riding association in North Vancouver-Seymour is unable to find a candidate, but outside of that, every topic we hit on didn't produce any enthusiasm from me. The truth is, I haven't been motivated by much since I moved here. I've been unable to get excited about the activist scene, and frankly my job stopped being interesting over a year ago.

This line of thinking gets worse when I consider that about six months ago I was in the very same position I am now. I was re-evaluating my whole reasoning for being in Vancouver and was so desperate for something to hold me here that I jumped at the chance to start a company with a stranger -- which for the record is not a good idea :-)

Since our conversation though, I've come to realise that too many of my decisions in this life so far have been ones governed by how those actions might affect others. This isn't to say that I've been a terribly selfless person, rather that I've let my own happiness be hindered by whether or not decision x was a Right decision, or whether it would make people I love unhappy.

I'm not going to do that anymore.

This can mean a variety of things. I might take dance classes, or join a choir, or even take this job. I might move to Stockholm, Amsterdam, Berlin, or Seoul too... I'm not sure yet. I'm just done with letting my happiness be governed by externalities.

31years in... I guess it's better late than never.

March 16, 2010 05:40 +0000  |  Personal Life Self Development Self Reflection Stephanie Work [at] Play 3

I thought that I might take this opportunity to post a little catch-up. I've been neglecting this blog for a while now and since it serves a number of purposes, not the least of which is personal record given my shoddy memory I should at the very least keep it up to date with what's going on in my life.

I'm busy. Incredibly busy. Some time ago Shawna pointed me to an article about how busy people live a sort of half life. We never do anything completely, are never able to invest ourselves in something whole-heartedly because we're constantly juggling too much. This has always been a problem for me, but at least now I'm starting to recognise it. The next step of course is to do something about it... suggestions are welcome :-)

So, lets chronicle this latest incarnation of "busy" shall we?

Let's start with the awesome. There's a girl. I've mentioned her before, but now that we're officially together (Facebook says so!), I want to gush a little more again. All that stuff in the aforelinked post is totally true. My heart skips when she smiles and she gets excited about the coolest, nerdiest things. We have a lot in common and this has led to a number of fun conversations and potentially a new project or two. It's all that good stuff that a new relationship is supposed to be, with the promise of some staying-power to boot. I'm going to work really hard not to screw this one up :-)

There's also the paying job, a.k.a., my role as senior programmer at Work [at] Play. They've got me doing a lot of Drupal work lately (boo!), but in the wake of my trip up to DjangoSki, there's a chance that we'll be doing a big project in Django soon (yay!). This is rather exciting, since I'm probably the best versed Python/Django person in the office, so I'd be working in more of a mentorship role rather than just a grunt programmer.

Then there's my new company: Bigger, meaner than a job, starting a business is exhausting work. I suppose that it wouldn't be so rough if you could build the company 9-5, Monday-Friday, but when you have to eat, it's a little more taxing. We have 3hour meetings now, twice a week, after I've been working for a previous 8, and we've broken down the "stuff to do" list into 5 (well, 4 now) week increments in preparation for our Big Public Launch in April. Annalea is super-hardcore, and an amazing person to work with... I just don't know if I have the energy some days.

Lastly, my father is working on a project of his own that he hopes will help my parents retire. It's a complex machine that requires, at the heart of it, a Sheevaplug running software I've written to handle talking to a PLC and magnetic card reader. It's some fun and crazy code, and so far, it's mostly worked... mostly.

Outside of the above, much of my former priorities are fading away. My involvement with the Greens has tapered off considerably, though that's due in large part to the absence of an election (or sitting government) for some time. My work with the VPSN pretty much died over the summer with our last cataloguing of the CCTV cameras in the city. I don't really miss the VPSN stuff, but my work with the Greens was really rewarding.

I suppose that somewhere in there, I'm supposed to find some personal time, but if I ever do, it always ends up being an evening of me wrestling with the fact that I could(should?) be working on our site. Mentally, I'm rather worn out of late.

And that's it for me. I'll do what I can to come up with something super-exciting for my next post. ...or maybe it'll be a lame meme. I haven't done one of those for a long time. Suggestions?

January 12, 2010 09:13 +0000  |  Passing Thoughts Self Reflection 9

A lot of people have read this thinking that it was an exercise in self-loathing or a cry for help of sorts. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was purely an existential question based in the thinking that at the core, humanity hasn't changed that much through the course of our history. New titles, different roles is all. Anyway, thanks for the support everyone, but I'm fine, honest :-)

You know how in that movie, George Bailey finds out just what the world would be like if he'd never existed? The moral of the story is supposed to be how significant your own minor contributions have been to the tapestry of your life, but I was just thinking...

In the grand scheme of things, the unremarkable of us (that is to say, pretty much everyone but a remarkable few) don't really have lasting effects on the world as a whole. Rather, our greatest effects, if we have any at all, are usually on those we care about, those to whom we are closest.

Given this reality, is this idea that we are somehow integral to "the world" in our own small way, really just a egocentric fantasy? How different would the world really be if one of us never existed? Wouldn't it be more honest to say that the tiny part of the world about which we care the most would be different? Isn't it a bit presumptuous to think that every one of us is integral to the balance of society?

Humanity hasn't changed much in the last few thousand years. Sometimes, I wonder if any of us really matter at all.

January 01, 2010 12:58 +0000  |  Family Self Development Self Reflection 1

I noticed a number of people posting on Twitter today with the tag #10yearsago and it got me thinking of my actions over this past decade. I started asking questions like what was life like for me back in 2000? What's changed in the world, and what's changed in me over the course of these ten years? More than anything, my father's voice keeps coming up, telling me how life moves so fast. "Blink", he says, "and you're ten years older", and he's exactly right.

Ten years ago, I was still living with my parents in Langley. I claimed to be an environmentalist, while driving 33km to and from work every day and was dying to get the hell out of this province and into the world. My understanding of who I was, and what I wanted was still quite fragile, but at least I was beginning to comprehend that knowing these things was important.

Since then, I've run away from this place and seen the world -- admittedly only few pieces of it, but more than many people around here bother to see in a lifetime. I've lived in the biggest city in Canada, embraced volunteerism and politics and furthered my understanding of the answers to those two important questions.

To be honest, it's hard not to look back on the last ten years of my life and not be pleased with my experiences. I've made a good many mistakes (even made the same ones more than once), but on the whole, I think that I've done good for this world and been true to myself and those I care about. I've learnt more about who I am and what I want than I thought possible, and have no doubt that there's still a great deal more to take in. If my next ten years are as rich as the last, I will be a lucky man.

My concern however is rooted in my father's voice. Indeed, this time has passed quite quickly: I remember having lunch with my father days after 9/11 like it was yesterday, and some days it feels like I'd only recently abandoned Vancouver for a bigger, better life in Toronto... How did I do all of that in just ten years? How much time is left?

There is a life that I want out there, a person I want to be -- is there time remaining to become that man, to build the life I want? Is it folly to try to do both at the same time, or even to convince myself that that life can be achieved? And what if the needs of the various parts of that life are in conflict? When 2020 rings in, and I am 40 years old, will I be able to look back on these next ten years as favourably as those that just passed?

It's a hell of a thing to ask so much of a mere passage of time, but this is who I want to be and what I want out of this life. It may not happen. It may all go sideways. But the path will be mine.

February 10, 2009 21:58 +0000  |  Family Self Reflection 25

My mother sent me this personality test today asking me to use it to learn more about myself. Based loosly on the Myers-Briggs test, it was pretty short so I did it as a break from my day. As it turns out, I did a similar test years ago where I scored INFJ, but this time through though I scored differently:

Introverted (I) 75%Extraverted (E) 25%
Intuitive (N) 64%Sensing (S) 36%
Thinking (T) 65%Feeling (F) 35%
Judging (J) 59%Perceiving (P) 41%

Looks like I've gotten colder with age :-)