October 15, 2016 17:05 +0100  |  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.

August 10, 2013 14:50 +0100  |  Self Reflection Therapy 2

I had an interesting experience this week in therapy that I thought I would share. Jane asked me to imagine a Being Erica -esque situation (though she didn't use that phrase, she's remarkably short on pop culture references) in which I could travel back in time and relive my life from childhood. How would things be different?

I responded, without hesitation, that I would find every one of the little shits that tortured me as a child and young man, and knock their teeth out with a wooden baseball bat. I would hunt them down even before they knew me and bludgeon them within an inch of their lives. No one would would be allowed to fuck with me again.

This was no surprise to her really. We've spent a lot of time going over the terrible things people did to me when I was young. Some of it psychological, a lot of it physical, all of it horrible. From teachers, to students, to kids and counsellors I met at summer camp, these people inflicted damage that shaped who I am today: bitter, angry, distrustful, and suspicious. It's the source of a lot of my own conflicts when it comes to understanding my own emotions and believing those of others.

But then she suggested something interesting: Imagine instead that rather than going back and reliving my life with the memories I have now, what advice would I offer Younger Daniel for his years ahead?

This presented a problem: without all of the years beatings, fear, and bullying, what kind of person would that Daniel become? Would he have had the courage to uproot his life not once, but four times and build a life on the other side of the world? Would he have been strong enough to run for a seat in the BC Legislature, or campaign on national television against CCTV? Saving Young Daniel from the fate of my childhood meant reshaping his future -- and I couldn't do that to him.

I am forced to accept that the person I am is the result of those terrible years, and so I wouldn't spare Young Daniel any of it. Instead, I would offer him the following advice: "The world is shitty and full of assholes, and if you're going to prosper, you're going to have to accept that and move on. They will always be assholes, but you will be better."

I like me. I like my life, and who I am. I like my bitterness, my anger, and my distrust. It's given me strength in areas where I've seen others buckle. I won't claim that I have everything figured out, but knowing this about me is something new, and 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.


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 04:58 +0100  |  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 21:12 +0100  |  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 2

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 :-)