Programmer Part II

I am going to reattach the label of “programmer” to myself. The last time I was serious about programming was approximately eight years ago when I was selling desktop-apps on the Mac App Store. Nothing fancy, just little programs I whipped up.

On one hand, I’ve always been fascinated by programming. But on the other hand, I was never able to create something significant enough to manifest a satisfying career. So after a bunch of years going nowhere, I got fed-up and quit.

As an idealist, I imagined creating the most awesome-est software possible that generated tons of passive-income as I sat there raking-in all the profits and praise. When that didn’t happen, I said “Gah, what’s the use!” and gave-up.

Now I’m setting my sights a LOT lower. My current definition of programmer is: someone that writes and runs code — that’s it. And that’s all I plan to do for now: write and run code. Sure, anyone can type in some pseudo-code, but not everyone can get code to compile.

As I was recently reacquainting myself with programming, it was just sooo familiar. With such an intimate knowledge, how can I not have programming in my life? It’s like family. “Hello C#! So good to see you and .NET again! We should totally reminisce later! Oh hey PHP, ha yeah… you look just like I remember you… ooh who’s that over there!? Hey Godot! Wow, haven’t seen you around, but it seems like I know you already. Hello WebGL, wow you seem like a powerful backend for browsers!”

To me, programming is mostly a means to paint pixels on a screen. Even the text I’m typing is just painted-on pixels — a series of ever-changing specks with varying hues. So my task is to make those little dots dance — and by the power of programming, I shall.

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End of Spring 2019

Big things happened in the last twelve months.

For the seven years prior to that, I sat on a big green bean-bag chair located in the corner of our mobile-home’s second-bedroom. It was there where I earnestly confronted my inability to extract enjoyment from life (this blog stems from that). But of course, this is life, and life is meant to be lived — you can’t sit in quiet contemplation forever.

So about eleven months ago, we moved. We sold our mobile-home (for about the cost of a low-end luxury vehicle) and left for a completely different climate. By that point, my wife despised cold, snowy, desolate winters. We moved back to the hot, humid, and happening place we had once lived. Although it was super-hot, it felt good to be back.

The first order of business was finding a place to live. We tried a realtor in town, but nothing suited us. We almost rented an apartment in a far-off area, but my wife wanted something near the school. Being a magician, she found an obscure listing for a condo located exactly where she wanted. We barely met the requirements for renters — but here we are.

On my son’s first ever day of school, and every subsequent day, we were able to walk him across the street to his school. Prior to that, I had homeschooled him for Pre-K and Kindergarten. So now he got to experience a classroom full of kids and field-trips and all that stuff. He even tested into the gifted-program — such a bright little guy.

My personal goal for these twelve months was to actually appreciate and enjoy the experiences I was having. Like I mentioned, we had lived here once before, about a decade ago. And although I recognized how nice things were, I simply couldn’t appreciate my surroundings. Looming-doom and the feeling of inevitable loss were too much in my mind.

This couldn’t be real, and if it was, it couldn’t last. There I was, a software-developer working from my home-office inside of a luxurious top-floor condo, mere minutes away from my childhood happy-place, with a beautiful wife that cooked the most delicious meals I ever tasted. I did it: Success! But as I “predicted”, it crumbled. Or more likely, it was self-sabotaged.

So this second-time around, I was determined to enjoy my surroundings. We picked a nice place to live, we got furniture, we watched fireworks from our balcony, we got annual passes to the amusement park, we walked our son to and from school, we ate at restaurants, we went for leisurely walks, we went trick-or-treating, we got a Costco membership — the suburban dream.

And honestly, yes, I’ve been able to enjoy and appreciate it. BUT, this has literally been my full-time job. I’m such a misanthropic naysaying pessimist, that it took my full concentration and efforts to enjoy myself. Overall I’m pleased with the results, but it leaves me in an awkward position at the end of these twelve months. And that is: can I stay here?

Once the lease is up, I’m not sure what’s going to happen. Although it could’ve caused me worry, I never felt it. In a lot of ways I’ve passed the test. Whereas last time I strained to get here and stressed-out once I arrived, it ultimately didn’t work-out because of my bad attitude — so I’m not going to repeat that mistake. I’m not going to stress and strain because it only leads to a bad-time.

I literally did nothing to get here the second-time around — I simply went along for the ride. It was my wife’s idea and she handled everything. She did most of the realtor stuff, planned our road-trip down, procured our dwelling, and got all the school stuff set. I mainly did the heavy lifting when it came to packing. Last time, I handled everything and made a mess of things.

The less I attempt to impose my will, the better things get. And so, as the twelve months come to a close at the end of next month, I will continue to have an attitude of hopefulness for what’s to come. I spent this year appreciating and developing an ability to enjoy experiences while not countering them with constant criticism — and I believe I succeeded in that endeavor.

Here’s to whatever comes next! Cheers!

Eighties Kid

The 80s!? Yeah, I was there man. I was just a kid, but weren’t we all. I was sportin a velour shirt with corduroy pants, my hair a bit too long, and sneakers fastened with newly invented Velcro straps. Those were the times man! It’s what we were wearin. Yeah I rode my bike around the neighborhood unsupervised. That’s what we did, children of the Moonwalk era — there were glitter gloves and copious amounts of hairspray spewing from large aerosol cans. Yeah I sprayed that stuff all OVER my hair! What of it!? The ozone-layer is overrated anyway.

The 80s were like, totally awesome, like, you know? That’s just like, how we spoke. Everything was awesome. And if you were from where I was from, anything better than awesome was wicked-awesome. We’d head down to Papa Ginos and play Pac-Man or Space Invaders while waiting for our pizza. The cola-wars were heating up around this time too: Coke or Pepsi. Though really, we just ordered whichever they served.

I remember going over to my neighbor’s house to play Atari. Eventually we got a ColecoVision console of our own. I even remember Pong. And TV?! TVs had two dials that cranked from U to 13 and 14 to 83 — but only like 7 channels had any shows on them — and you had to adjust the rabbit-ear antennas to get anything to come-in. Sure, your cousin had cable-TV but she lived in the next town over, and your town didn’t have cable yet — those were the breaks.

Kid-culture propagated through sleep-overs, out-of-state cousins, and summer-camps. When it came time, everyone knew the incantation to perform: “Light as a feather, stiff as a board…” or how to play “Murder in the Dark”. Otherwise, we learned stuff through music and movies. We all knew the “King of Pop” and E.T. We rebelled with our hair, our clothes, and of course our music. You don’t understand, OLD MAN! This is OUR time!

Ronald Regan was the president and my sister received Wonder Woman Underoos for her birthday. It was underwear that made you look and feel like a superhero underneath your clothes. Now that’s… wicked awesome! Sure, we had the threat of nuclear annihilation to ponder as we laid our heads down to sleep at night, and we dreamt of post-apocalyptic hell-scapes — but those were the times man. Well it was either that, or we had nightmares after watching Poltergeist or a Freddy Krueger movie.

In the 80s, phones weren’t something you carried around with you, they were hard-wired to the wall. And if you wanted to call someone, good luck! It was a shared device amongst an entire family and the person you wanted to contact needed to be in the right place at the right time. And more than likely, some random family member would answer. And the only game you played on the phone, was making prank-calls. Back then, you didn’t know who was on the other end of the line until they told you.

The food? Breakfast began with a box of Lucky Charms poured into a bowl, followed by a splash of milk, alongside a Dixie-cup filled with orange-juice not-from-concentrate. The prize/toy from the box was already gone, you’d have reached your entire arm inside when your mom first brought home the cereal-box from the supermarket. Lunch was bologna (pronounced “baloney”) on factory-made white-bread with a squirt of yellow stuff, and a box of sweetened colored liquid to wash it down (it wasn’t juice).

I’ve never been nostalgic about the 80s, and I sure as hell wouldn’t start now. The 80s began almost four decades ago — it was my introduction to Earth as a little kid. People were dressed in outlandish outfits, had wild teased-up hair, and applied an over-abundance of makeup (women AND men). I didn’t know what to make of it. The 90s made a lot more sense to me: widespread cable-TV, Grunge music, plain-looking clothes, computers, and of course the Internet.

Lack and Limitation

We had just moved down to central Florida. I had the resources of my newly retired parents, but all I could understand was lack and limitation. For whatever reason I strictly budgeted myself and refused tickets to the parks for awhile. We went around to all the places on property that didn’t require an entrance fee. Disney-on-a-Budget I called it.

But free and unrestrained access to the resorts? That seemed too extravagant, too easy, essentially cheating. You must pay to stay in order to play. Those weren’t the rules, yet they were MY self-imposed rules. You can’t have fun without limits, that’s indulgence! And indulgence needs to be paid for with punishment.

When I finally moved out of my parents’ house, I had a job that could afford the lifestyle I was looking for. But it wasn’t enough. I stayed at the computer all day and night whether I needed to or not. Even though the work was relatively easy, I made it as hard on myself as possible. I couldn’t have fun. I barely made it to Disney anymore. I barely made it outside of my apartment.

I made it so difficult in fact, that I finally cracked and gave-up on my software-development career altogether. We left the state in a self-imposed exile to the north amidst the dead of winter. We arrived to snow and cold. We dared not leave our tiny shack for fear that our little car couldn’t hack it.

Thinking back, I can see that my attitude was atrocious. It’s embarrassing in fact. What an idiot. On any plane of reality you wish to accept, my actions had no valid justification. I was paranoid. I was an extremist hell-bent on maintaining a belief in lack and limitation and I made sure I suffered at every turn. Sick.

Let me reiterate this point: even though I had EVERYTHING I wanted, I couldn’t accept it, I couldn’t appreciate ANY of it. It was a classic Greek tragedy. I had a wonderful wife, a respectable career, I lived in a town I loved, right down the road from my childhood happy-place — yet it was all a source of pain. So much so that I had to leave — and enter into the literal pain of an isolated snowy winter up north.

Deep breath. In… Out… It’s a little rough to contemplate and convict myself of such stupidity. It’s undeniable though. But through grace I am forgiven. It was about an 8-year exile. I’m back now. I’m not in a perfect situation but I’m attempting to appreciate it nonetheless. I am attempting to eschew any thoughts or feelings of lack and limitation.

With my consent, my friend is taking the wheel this time around, so anytime I’ve tried to pump the brake she kicked my foot away. My goal nowadays is to make amends for my gross and unacceptable attitude. I apologize to life itself as well as to my dear friend that’s always been there for me. The only restitution I can offer is a commitment to better myself.

To that end, I seek to enjoy my time on Earth and help others do the same. I seek to develop an authentic appreciation for life, fully realizing the gift I’ve been so lovingly given. I seek to make trust my default. I seek to be a worthy friend and father. And of course I seek to rid myself of my long-time addiction to negativity. Goodbye fear. Goodbye lack and limitation.

My Mid90s

Mid-90s for me was late high school. I could sense my sentence coming to an end. I began to isolate myself. I quit band and lacrosse and barely socialized at lunch. Even though it was almost over, it wasn’t relief I felt. What was I going to do now? At least in school I had a set-place to go, assigned things to do, I had acquaintances.

But f*ck school, man. Just a piece of sh*t prison by another name. Well that’s how I felt anyway, a suburban kid in an upper-middle-class town near Boston. On the outside, this is an uninteresting story — it reflects a boring motionless time — but on the inside, an intense adventure raged on.

I was visited by the triptych of fear, uncertainty, and doubt. And on top of that, more loneliness than I ever felt. My time was spent wrestling with those feelings and the dour images they inspired. I ended up continuing school in the form of college. To belabor the prison analogy, I was sentenced with a combination of house-arrest and probation for the next few years.

In college, I knew no one. There was no time to form acquaintanceships. But do you know what happened in the mid-90s? Windows 95 was released. And do you know what happened not long after that? An explosion in the popularity of personal-computers — the PC era was born. And do you know what followed that? An explosion in the popularity of online-services (AOL, Prodigy, CompuServe). And you obviously know what happened next? THIS. The Internet became a global phenomenon.

But back to online-services. Within those silly-little text-boxes, I was able to chat with people from around the country. I could finally interact with people in a way that felt comfortable. And I did just that, for a few years at least. It was at the end of the mid-90s when I met my friend (on an online-service, in a chat-room of course).

So the narrative I experienced in the mid-90s can be summed-up as this:
1. Self-isolation and the resulting loneliness.
2. Discovery of a new platform of communication.
3. Awakening as a communicative being.
4. The foundation of a lifelong friendship.

That’s a tidy little narrative don’t you think? How can something like that happen within a physical-world based on random-chance? Sounds a little too coincidental, no? My character’s lack fulfilled by a deus-ex-machina-level intervention? Hmm. But I appreciate it, without doubt. My life after meeting my friend was much improved.

Remedial Fun

I wasn’t fitted with receptors that derive merriment from actual merriment. No, I derive no fun from singing and dancing, or any party-type atmosphere. My fun begins when a reveler begins to question the what and why of what she’s doing. She obviously can’t talk to another party-goer that’s in the midst of having fun, no, but there’s me over in the corner sitting silently.

And so it happens, the conversation begins. The questions that only recently started passing through her thoughts, I’ve thought about for years. I can relate and validate. And those complaints about other party-goers? Why I agree, in fact here are some more. And in the questioning of our condition mixed with a bit of shared distaste — we find common ground.

That was my character and how he interacted with the world. If you wanted to complain about existence, I was there to listen and agree. Now? Not so much. When I hear and see disparagement of life I tend to react defensively. I see the complainer as an ungrateful brat not even trying to appreciate all the good things that have been graciously provided.

Of course that convicts ME and I realize how pessimistic I’ve been all these years. I’m the brat times ten — the one always pointing out the worst of everything. Well, I apologize. But an apology is meaningless unless I keep trying to rectify my wrongdoing. And so in my actual life I’m currently committed to enjoying my surroundings. And so far, things are going well.

Just yesterday morning I took my bike out and rode all around town. I had a great time just cruisin’ along the nice little neighborhoods, lookin’, enjoyin’ the sensation of movement. I never did that in the seven years I lived at my previous place for instance. And the day before that, my mom commented how much she enjoyed her time with us over at Epcot.

Boy was it hot out that day, but we made it over to Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie, the bakery at the French pavilion — one of my favorite stops in all of Disney. I had a Napoleon, a chocolate Eclair, and a Palmier — tres bon! The World Showcase is definitely one of my favorite aspects of Disney World. (Okay one complaint, just one!!! They need more shade-trees.)

So that’s my life now, learning how to have fun. I guess that’s cool. I was in need of a change anyway.

School Days

My little boy recently started school for the first time. And instead of fretting all day, I went to Epcot and had a great time with my wife. We haven’t not had him around us for six-and-a-half years — no date-nights, babysitters, daycare — nothing. But when we sent him into school, I never worried once — I dared not, lest my worry come true. And it turned out, he had a great first day as far as I could tell. He seemed like he had fun and could finally hang around some other kids his own age.

A number of months ago he decided he’d rather go to a regular school instead of home-school. As his homeschool teacher, I wasn’t even insulted, he’s welcome to live his own life. While homeschooling him, I always did so with the potential that he’d switch over to a regular school at some point and always told him what teachers expect and how to behave and all that. I think he went-in pretty prepared — right into first grade and he didn’t seem to miss us at all.

I think if we had put him into kindergarten a year ago, there might have been some separation anxiety issues, but now it seems like he was ready. And that’s been my secret to parenting, not forcing him to do something too soon — simply wait until he’s ready, and voila! — smooth as silk. Also, part of the reason we moved to a new town was because we thought it had a better school-system than the town we previously lived in — and we picked a home only three minutes walking-distance from the school.

At the end of the first day, all the kids were swarming out of the gates. In the distance I saw his little face and I waved. He seemed a bit overwhelmed by the crowds of kids but he smiled and waved back when he saw me. His mom and I walked him home and he told us all about his time in class. It’s neat to witness a little human growing up, I see it as an honor to be able to observe it from the vantage point of a dad. Speaking of which, it’s a new day and time for my wife and I to go have some fun!