October 15, 2016 18:05 +0200  |  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 13, 2013 00:46 +0100  |  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.


March 16, 2011 21:20 +0100  |  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 05:58 +0200  |  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 22:12 +0200  |  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 06:40 +0100  |  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 10:13 +0100  |  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 13:58 +0100  |  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 22:58 +0100  |  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 :-)

February 06, 2009 08:46 +0100  |  Environment Family Friends Self Reflection Suburbia Why I'm Here Women Work [at] Play 14

People have been sending these my way for days now and the activity seemed so very contrary to my usual behaviour, that I thought that I'd give it a shot. I'm not going to "tag" anyone to do this though since this is my blog and not bloody Facebook, but if you want to share your own, you can post it or link to your own post here in the comments.

Here's the deal. This is a list of 25 random things about me. They're personal, so if you want to know more about me, this might be a scary place to start, but it's your call:

  1. I am a very private person. This may come as a surprise to someone who doesn't know me, as I do after all maintain a blog and all kinds of online profiles. Look carefully though and you'll realise that there's nothing all that personal about me anywhere. I don't share. I'm going to try to make this post an exception.
  2. I'm happy to listen to others though. People like to talk to me -- gods know why. I like to think that I'm a pretty good listener and that my lectures are often helpful.
  3. I never used to care about the environment. In fact, when I moved to Ontario, it was the furthest thing from my mind. It wasn't until I realised that so many people still burned coal to make electricity that I got involved.
  4. As part of a seventh grade public speaking exercise, I wrote a speech titled "Why Does Everyone Talk About Saving the Environment, but No One Does Anything About It?" (or something to that effect). I was then voted as the one to give the speech in front of the whole school. I was so terrified that I skipped a complete paragraph from my cue cards.
  5. I was, and still am, terrified at the prospect of public speaking. In recent years, I've actively combated this fear by repeatedly putting myself in situations where I must speak publicly in one form or another. It's working.
  6. I don't try to save the world out of guilt, or a feeling of responsibility. I do what I do purely out of a sense of principle: I honestly believe that there is a Right way and Wrong way to interact with this planet, and I fight to ensure the former. As Mark Twain said: "Always do right. This will gratify some and astonish the rest".
  7. I am seriously afraid that I will waste away here in Vancouver. Most days I feel as if any ambition I had was left behind in Toronto.
  8. It is because of this fear that I've avoided doing things "for me" in the past like joining a choir. I've always felt like I have a responsibility to act on the aforementioned principles and forgo my own wants until those goals are achieved, but the hollowness and lack of purpose I've felt since returning have caused me to consider some selfish options. I still feel that this is a mistake, but I don't know what else to do.
  9. I love my job. I love the work, the fact that it's constantly challenging and that I'm being given the power/responsibility to write some really fucking awesome code.
  10. I often burn 90% of my work day spinning my mental wheels trying to get my brain out of its funk. I believe this to be related to my poor diet and sleeping schedule... at least I hope that's the case.
  11. I'm so afraid of what it might be if it's not diet or rest that I won't talk to a doctor about it.
  12. I'm constantly concerning myself with others' impressions of me. Alone, at home working on my computer, walking down the street, writing a blog, or deputing at City Hall, the question of how my words may be construed 20years from now is a serious concern to me.
  13. I often catch myself reliving or daydreaming about past or potential future conversations. What was / could've been said, or what will be / should be said, and the rebuttals for each. These conversations sometimes cross over from the mental space into real out-loud annunciations for my part of the exchange -- though this is usually only at home as I'm getting ready for work.
  14. I've developed deep emotional attachments to a number of people scattered around the world. These feelings aren't romantic, but rather almost familial and definitely protective.
  15. I think that my unwillingness to share is likely directly connected to my inability to commit emotionally to someone. Either that or I just haven't met the right girl yet.
  16. My childhood was really quite horrible. My family was wonderful, but my school life in Langley has probably damaged me permanently. Don't raise your kids in the suburbs folks, it doesn't do anyone any good.
  17. My single bastion of sanity in high school was choir practise with Mr. Thompson and Mr. Rahn. They gave me something into which I could pour myself at a time when all I wanted was shut the whole world out. Had it not been for Thompson Tran, the guy who dragged me into choir in the first place, I think that I would be a very different person today.
  18. My parents actively discouraged me from taking music, art, shop, or drama classes in high school. I was told that such activities were for the dumb kids and that I, as a smart person shouldn't waste my time with them. I'm not bitter about this, it's just unfortunate that I missed such an opportunity for a creative outlet for so many years.
  19. I honestly do think that I'm really fucking smart about a lot of things. I don't care if this makes me appear arrogant, condescending or superior. The way I figure it, so long as I'm open to the possibility that someone out there is smarter than I am and I embrace their opinions when I meet them, then it's all good.
  20. I'm attracted to people who are smarter than I am, or have an understanding of the universe drastically different from my own.
  21. I have an image in my head of the girl I'm supposed to be with. I've had dreams about her for years. In these dreams she has long, straight, brown hair and wears a long, stretchy, cotton grey dress. She sings and plays guitar. I am aware that harbouring a fantasy image of a non-existent mate is counter-productive and I don't care.
  22. I'm sometimes frustrated by the maintenance a friendship requires. My feelings toward people don't change with the distance between us or the time between our visits, yet many of my friends seem to think otherwise and try to reconnect repeatedly. I don't begrudge them this, but it's also really hard to make time for everyone as well as myself.
  23. I vividly remember dozens of instances where I've been wrong about something. In all of these cases, I've been sure and was later proven ignorant. This is a serious concern for me so I usually use non-committal fragments in my sentences to assure my position as a non-authority on a topic... Unless I think that I am an authority, at which point any mistakes haunt me permanently.
  24. I cannot tolerate being called "stupid". It's a trigger word for me. I'm alright with naive or ignorant, though these words do flare me up a bit -- usually enough to get me to ask question after question until I'm no longer worthy of either word.
  25. I use the regret model for my decision making: I imagine how I would feel looking back on a situation 20years later and then decide to go with the option that I would likely lead to the least regret.