Sleepless Continuity

I’ve fought sleep for as far back as I can remember. When drowsy, I’d find a way to keep from drifting off, some sort of stimulus or distraction. I don’t know why. Even nowadays when I lay in bed at regular times I can’t remain asleep — I wake up throughout the night. “Huh!? Wha!? Oh, I drifted off… got caught slippin.” What’s going on?

I would hypothesize that fighting sleep is due to a fear of what’s to come. If every morning brings with it a brand-new day, and I distrust this world, then I’d be petrified of the sunrise. I’d want to maintain the continuity of the previous night. Late at night everything settles down and I’m at ease, the world around me is calm and at rest.

But next morning… BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! Alarm clock! GO GO GO! The deadline is TODAY!! Your appointment is TODAY!! New challenges begin TODAY!!! Holy sh*t!! Last night, before sleep, things were so quiet, so peaceful, nothing needed to be done, nothing was due. I could sit back and relax in solitude while experiencing a complete lack of engagement.

I would speculate then, that I won’t sleep well until I trust that life isn’t out to get me. I must believe that every morning isn’t a new opportunity for the world to torment and harass me. I must have faith that each day brings with it the gift of a good life. It’s not about finding the right concoction of pills or potions — it’s about developing a positive and appreciative perception of this place.

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Tool Search

As previously mentioned, I’m on the hunt for a tool, one I can document or create. But funny enough, that quest leads me back to here. What is the most advanced tool we interact with on a daily basis? A tool so complex that it’s barely understood despite regular use? A tool so important that we can’t live without it? That tool… is the mechanism responsible for our existence. Dun, dun, duuun!!!

That’s right, I’m talking about the “simulation”, the thing that provides inhabitants with the experience of “life”. For the past seven years, I’ve been documenting this tool. Who’s to say I should stop now? It certainly seems like a plausible option: the system is certainly complicated enough to warrant documentation — and the steady stream of new users require up-to-date materials, refreshed for the times they’re in.

In short, I’d be a preacher for the modern era. Instead of deities in the sky, it’s engineers in the ethernet. I’ve come up with this idea many times in the past but never committed. My interests tend to be split between in-world technology and the philosophical underpinnings of reality. Basically: “Wow, cool gadget!” versus “What is this place and how does one get through it?”

Por que no los dos? And yes, I could potentially pursue multiple interests. Either way, I do seem to be more of a documenter than a creator. I like to consume complex topics and break them down into digestible bites. And programming is basically that: organizing complexity. Okay dear diary, that’s where I’m at, thanks for listening.

Crafting Code

Computer programming is the art of organizing instructions. To practice this art, a programmer arranges and tidies code while fixing whatever’s broken. At its start, every program is essentially broken — it doesn’t function properly — in fact it doesn’t do anything at all because there aren’t any instructions yet. So the programmer adds instruction after instruction until the program behaves as expected.

Because a program is a giant list of instructions, the code itself must be organized in an easy-to-understand way. A programmer can get lost in a mishmash of jumbled code and never find a way out. To deal with this inherent complexity, many different styles, languages, libraries, and frameworks exist. Each programmer must find his or her preferred way of organizing instructions, discovering a method that makes the most sense.

What drives a programmer is the need to repair something that doesn’t work correctly. Whether it’s hours or days, the programmer researches and experiments until a particular problem is resolved. As the programmer grows in experience, a catalog of techniques and solutions accumulate but that doesn’t mean programming gets easier. A programmer simply gravitates toward harder projects and the challenge continues.

Plus, programs are never really complete. Aspects of functionality can be overlooked, tiny mistakes can accumulate over time, larger mistakes can remain hidden until revealed by obscure conditions, or the platform on which the program runs can change and cause errors. And thus programming remains an art whose output only approximates something concrete. What appears as a window is in reality tiny dots dancing across a screen.

Finding Goals

As I mentioned previously, I believe life presents us with a constant slew of challenges. And if we so choose, we can pick the domain from which those challenges arise. I’ve been too long allowing my meandering mind to pick stupid stuff, so I’m finally going to focus on a specific path — that path is computer programming. The next step is to come up with a goal to pursue. And in order to do that, I’m going through an exercise detailed below:

Compile a list of people whose careers would potentially satisfy you. These aren’t icons you admire per se, but real people with real careers that seem pleasing to you. So although I like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos — I don’t want their high-flying intensity-fueled careers. Although I appreciate the bigger fish, I prefer to live in a much smaller fish bowl.

But that’s not to say that these real people aren’t famous in their fields. For example, Brian Kernighan co-wrote The C Programming Language, the seminal book on the subject. To play such a large role in the birth of Unix and C is a big deal in the computing/programming world.

Then there’s guys like Guido van Rossum and Rasmus Lerdorf, the founders of Python and PHP. Or Anders Hejlsberg, the lead architect of C#. And Miguel de Icaza of Gnome and Mono fame. Or even Charles Petzold, author of Programming Windows, the definitive book on Windows programming (which I purchased on Oct 16, 1999 according to Amazon).

Now from that cast of characters, what common themes can I discern? It seems that I picked people that were founders and/or documenters of new technological tools. So either my goal can be to create a new tool OR document and explain an emerging tool. Hmm, that sounds like something I can work with.

The next step would be to find that tool. A tool I can pick apart and explain to others in a clear and succinct way. Or, a tool I build myself and present to others as a new way of doing things. So now I must be on the hunt for such a tool, and once found, my goal should be to create or document it. That doesn’t sound too bad.

Lights Camera

“It’s Friday the 13th!!! There’s a full-moon!! Bad luck AND strange happenings?! All at once!?” THAT my friend, is histrionics. When I wake up each morning, I often wonder what the day will bring. I look out the window to see if the sky or landscape reveals a clue about what’s to come. “I sure hope nothing bad happens today…”

Which of course is the line that precedes something bad happening. I’ve been noticing all the theatrics going on around me lately. It’s embarrassingly obvious when you look for it. But I’ve realized that I’m not really a fan of drama, so I’m trying to ween myself off of dramatic acting. And to do that, a substitution needs to be found.

I suppose that’s why I’m deeply involved in computer programming right now, it serves as a creative endeavor that occupies my time and interest. It seems true of life, that you’ll face a continuous barrage of challenges. BUT if you so desire, you can choose the form of your challenges. IF you don’t choose, challenges will be chosen for you.

Therefore, it’s best to specifically pick the problems you want to pursue. Most of the time, I don’t purposefully pursue a path, I simply meander down the road and let my wandering mind choose for me. That’s a bad idea because my mind can only come up with scary-stuff and overly dramatic nonsense — a real amateurish approach to life.

To live life as a soap-opera, is a poor quality experience in my opinion. The more mature approach, is to pick a creative path — to delve deeply into a personally satisfying topic. Life presents all these options, a buffet of engaging pursuits — it’s dumb not to select SOMETHING wholesome and pursue it as far as you can go.

Nowadays when I wake up, I try to replace mindless drama with thoughts of programming and the current projects I’m working on. When drama comes knocking, I say: “Sorry, that’s not my department, I’m a programmer and unless this issue deals with code, I’m neither interested nor qualified enough to handle it. Buh-bye.”

Theatrics Theatre

Imagine designing a more perfect human. What would improve? Better memory? Instantaneous learning? Enhanced physical capabilities? Zero bodily defects and an indomitable immune-system? Perhaps amplified intuition with an ability to analyze and comprehend one’s surroundings? Sounds pretty sweet so far, huh?

WRONG! It would be a failed experiment. We know this to be true because no system within our current world works this way. Instead, nothing works quite as it should at all times. The theme here is theatrics. And for drama to happen, stuff must go wrong. If perfect-working-order was a desirable aspect, we’d have it — but we don’t.

EVERYTHING we do here has a flare of the dramatic added into it. “Woe is me!!! The common cold! I’m sick! No, I’m dying! Nay, I ought to carry this burden heroically!!! I must endure! I will show this world who is master and what I’m made of!!! By the Gods, I swear upon this day that I shall persist against mine foe and overcome all odds!!!!!”

Our entire day is simply a string of monologues both internal and external laden with histrionics. From gossip to soliloquies, we always get our daily dose of drama. And NOTHING is wrong with that by the way. It has been described to us for centuries: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players” — Shakespeare.

We all don costumes and recite lines appropriate for our roles. Though admittedly we tend to overdue the dramatics. The trick is in NOT keeping in-character at all times. It’s important to sit-back as an audience member and enjoy the ongoings of the wider performance — even laughing at yourself and appreciating your own silliness.

There you have it, our world in a nutshell: an absurd comedy of errors. A realm in which you CANNOT improve upon the characters lest they cease to behave as characters. Without the marrow-of-mistakes that forms our core, the fun would fizzle out. So appreciate this farce and play your part in this “tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Playful Experience

To me, the Generation X experience consists of snickering at all that’s wrong with the world. It’s being paralyzed by idealism — unable to participate in a system so flawed. And all the while, the joke’s on me — I’m the straight-man unaware that he’s part of a comedy act — my genuine deadpan makes others roar with laughter.

But pessimism is a one-way path with no way out. When everything looks wrong, there’s no right ways left — everything’s a trap, a disappointment waiting to happen. So the challenge for the Gen X mentality, is in developing a faith in goodness. It’s trusting that blue skies actually exist beyond the ceiling of gray clouds.

The challenge also deals with finding an appropriate role to play. How can a naysayer invest in a flawed facade? “Life’s a joke! And those that pour themselves into it are deluded fools!” But sitting on the outskirts of the performance and hurling insults at the actors is ultimately an unsatisfying position.

And so, the Gen Xer must find a way into the fray, convincing himself that his initial impressions are misguided. The constant stream of negativity must be reined in. “The world is as it should be: an adventure filled with all sorts of activities and challenges — and I too will play my part in this epic escapade.”

It’s not a horrific quest after all: the deletion of derision, the cessation of scorn — putting an end to mockery as a way of life. It’s accepting that there’s delight to be had in the genuine experiences provided by this world. It’s an absurd endeavor as my character attempts to take life less seriously while engaging wholeheartedly in the act of play.