Monday, December 28, 2015

Do Unto Others

It's the selfless time of year again. Time to activate ye olde generosity and donate whatever amount you are able to give to charitable organizations doing good work. Good will toward men, women, and children all over the world.

Here are the charities we're supporting this year. They're doing work that is important to our family, helping others, spreading the love, feeding people, educating people, working towards a cure, comforting the sick and troubled among us.

We chose these charities specifically to honor our family members and close friends, past, present, and future. It is fantastic to be part of such a loving family, and even more fantastic to be able to share our family's love, generosity, gratitude, and determination to make things better with our communities, at home, and all around the globe.

If you would like to donate to any of them too, please use the links and follow through with an online donation, or write a check and mail it in. If you're reading this, you're most likely in a position to help, even if you can only afford a single $10 donation.

NAMI of Miami

The Key Clubhouse of South Florida

The Cancer Research Institute

St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital

The Schroon Lake Food Pantry
Make a check payable to "Schroon Lake Food Pantry" and mail it to:
Town of Schroon
Food Pantry
P.O. Box 578
Schroon Lake, NY 12870

The Caltech Fund

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Sun Still Shines

Nine days ago. Worst phone call ever. The "sudden unexpected death in the family" phone call. The phone call that stops everything in an instant, steals your ability to think, overwhelms you with feelings, renders you temporarily wordless. You feel disbelief, confusion, grief, despair, hopelessness, pity, guilt, rage. You're only able to name them later.

My brother and his wife, preparing and anticipating for months, expecting the arrival of their first child, already named Carter, any day now, suddenly reeling from tragedy instead. Complications during labor. Emergency C-section. Baby didn't make it.

What??? No. What? How? Why?? No!!!

This can't be. This doesn't happen anymore. Babies are just born, they don't die during birth. Oh my God! They've been so patient, they've tried for so long, they deserve a happy healthy baby, they don't deserve to deal with this! Why do I feel guilty that I have kids? F you, universe. I hate you for stealing my brother and sister's happiness!

In the days since, words have slowly returned.

I keep hearing snippets from the song "Without You" echo in my head:

The stars gleam
The poets dream
The eagles fly ... without you

The earth turns
The sun burns
But I die ... without you
The mind churns
The heart yearns
The tears dry ... without you

Life goes on
But I'm gone
'Cause I die without you

A little piece of each of us died this month. But the remaining pieces cry and carry on, sometimes plodding, sometimes starting to hope again.

My brother now says every time the sun shines, I'll think of you, my son. So now, for now, maybe forever, me too. The sun is shining outside my window right now. Little Carter, sending beams of light to help us find our way and keep moving forward.

Today. Funeral service for my little nephew. My brother asked people not to wear black to the service. "Lighter, uplifting colors would be prefered, as we want to celebrate the beautiful child that he was, and not focus on his passing."

We couldn't make it to the service, so we sent sunflowers. And I'm wearing my bright blue shirt today to honor Carter.

Carter's life reminds us: life is not fair, but it goes on. And the sun still shines.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Let x = x + 1

Let x = x + 1

The first time I saw it, my brain revolted. The math in me screamed: NNNNOOOOOO!!!!

But I kept digging, and one day found I had gradually succumbed to my present affliction: earning a living, more than full time, writing software bits.

The math part of me had learned, before I first saw this, that x is x is x, wherever it may be strewn throughout the equation. Wherever it appeared, it represented the same exact value. If it changed over there, it changes here, too, simultaneously. x = x + 1 is a mathematical impossibility.

Yet it's the way things work nowadays.

I eventually came to understand, as programmers tend to do, that x is not always x. x on the left is different than x on the right, and things which are named the same as other things are not actually the same thing. Embrace the ambiguity. Breathe it in. Let it seep down in to the very cells of your body and emit its light of illumination from within.

Let x = x + 1. The x on the left means "put the result of the stuff on the right into the spot named x." The x on the right means "use the value in the spot named x and add 1 to it to produce the result." These two xes are NOT the same, and because they are not the same, x = x + 1 is actually not a mathematical impossibility.

It's merely a Maths geek finally accepting his inner English geek.

Let x = x +1.

Forever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Infinite Amplification Potential of Smiles

Smiles propagate.

My wife recently connected with our son in a special way, exchanging links to music videos on YouTube via text message. Deeper conversations and more sharing followed. Two people, smiling, happy to have connected over something special. She shared the texts and videos with me, and then there were three...

Shortly afterwards, we had lunch with Allen and Gayle Giese, and shared the story with them. And they smiled. Hmmmm. Then there were five.

Allen and Gayle wrote it up in a blog post for Ride to Awareness and shared a link to it on Facebook. So far, 123 people have "liked" that post and 11 have re-shared the link. I don't have the stats for their blog, but let's just say "even more" people saw it there. Many many more have probably now seen it, and I bet many of them smiled, too.

Not bad, right? From 2 people smiling, to 3, to 5, to 123+, to ...?

The smiles of ordinary people can now propagate beyond the physical rooms they're in thanks to all this amazing modern technology. The amplification factor is astonishing: you can literally start a chain of events that leads to thousands of people smiling just by sharing something cool with someone you love.

So go ahead, share some smiles. :-)

Continuing the conversation, my son sent me another link to a YouTube music video just a few days ago. It has some awesome tech in it, and is a very cool piece of music, with some stunning visuals, physical effects, and super slo-mo video sequences. I posted a link to it on Facebook, and got an "IN. Credible." comment from my cousin, who immediately re-shared it, too.

Then, I'm poking around related links from the dude's YouTube video and other stuff he's done, and find him on Twitter, with an awesome retweet near the top of his recent Twitter activity. So awesome, in fact, I had to retweet it myself. It was that good. Now when I tweet something, or retweet, it automatically goes to my Facebook page, too. My daughter picked up on this one, and re-shared my retweet to her Facebook friends. And now my brother's Mom did too (sounds weird, right?, but true...), just now, as I was writing this. 2 shares, 8 likes here, a few more there ... this one actually made me laugh, not just smile.

The geography of all this, by the way, is worldwide. From New Zealand to Albany, NY to South Florida to Boston to Connecticut to Arkansas to Seattle to ...?

Smiles now propagate across the globe via the new Social Ether. Please use ALL THE MEDIA to full effect to help us all get a little bit happier...

  • Text messages
  • YouTube videos
  • Actual Lunch
  • Blog
  • Facebook
  • Web pages
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Vine

If you think something's cool, share it with somebody. You never know. You may end up making the entire world smile.

Propagate. Amplify. Smile, it's almost Friday! :-D

Monday, June 22, 2015

Summer Solstice

15:56, 15:17, 14:45, 13:44. Guess which one is the hours and minutes between sunrise and sunset for me today, here in the Miami area, right around summer solstice? You got it: 13:44. The angle between the horizon and the arc the sun follows across the sky here today will be 87 degrees, taking the sun nearly directly overhead at its zenith. I've got less sunshine than you, my northern friend, but it's more direct and intense, and we get more heat resulting from the sunshine we do get.

The other numbers apply to my friends in the Albany, NY area (15:17), Seattle (15:56), and San Francisco, too (14:45).

Enjoy the sunshine today, friends. Personally, I can't wait till winter solstice is here again...

Today's moon is waxing crescent, by the way.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

It's Time

It's time for oil and gas to die. The transition to full solar power is coming, and it will come sooner than most of you think is possible.

Why should we wait any longer? We could do it within 10 years if we focus on it and dedicate resources toward it.

The iPhone was introduced in 2007. Here we are 8 years later, and 64% of the population has a smartphone. It should be everybody, but the damn things are just too expensive for some folks.

Two things coming, for sure, better get ready: solar power as our primary energy source for ALL energy needs, and self-driving, much safer than human driven, cars.

Rock on, humanity, rock on. Achieve shit despite the dumbass politicians who think they rule the world... (Shhhhh... Don't tell them it doesn't really matter who becomes president in 2016. We gonna do this stuff anyway.)

Friday, March 20, 2015

San Francisco Has a Vibe

I love this city. There's a vibe here. I don't feel I can quite explain it in words, but this is one of the places on Earth which resonates with my soul. San Francisco. Like Seattle, Maui and Edinburgh, too. It's mysterious to me, but I somehow feel more alive when I am in one of these places. There's a combination of factors, the lighting, the atmosphere, the proximity to water, the hills and mountains, the typical weather, the aromas of the types of food around, the coffee, the bustle or complete lack thereof. Geographic love. The feeling of not wanting to go back. The desire for change of pace.

This trip, I got to re-connect with an old friend thanks to the simultaneously best and worst thing which has ever happened to mankind, this here beast you're reading this on: The Internet. It would have been extremely unlikely I think, for me to have taken the opportunity to reach out to a few of my old friends, to let them know I'd be here for a few days, without the advent of email and Twitter and Facebook.

Thankfully, however, I mentioned to two friends (and more) I'd be in SF to demo my company's work near a trade show. Andrew took me up on the invitation and came to see what I've been working on for the past two years. And I am so glad he took the time to come hang with me for an evening and grab some dinner. It was great to catch up in person after 20 or so years, and shoot the breeze about school days, friends, biking, work, kids. All the stuffs.

We talked about our kids, as parents are wont to do, and of course, the "best and worst thing" came up. How can you be a good parent if you allow unfettered, uncensored access to all the (disturbing, pornographic, senseless, racist, homophobic, myriad-other-pejorative-adjectives) bullshit available on all the servers Google crawls? Let alone just letting them connect with their own questionable peers on Facebook or its ilk. And yet, how can you be a good parent if you deny access to all the (wonderful, literate, scientific, artistic, factual, reasonable) content of the world wide web? And their own friends! The www both rules and drools at the very same time. Parenting is becoming more difficult as time goes on, because keeping our kids from knowing things "too soon" is harder than it used to be.

Used to be you could rely on the librarian to let you know if your kid was checking out (or even just checking out) a book of questionable morals... Now, there ain't no librarian between clicking the search button and instantly seeing the top 100 images on any topic 13 year olds can imagine. Access to knowledge is a great thing, but access to certain knowledge before you're ready for it is just not the best thing for kids sometimes. Parents: take good care of your babies, and help them figure it out when they are inevitably exposed too soon to something they weren't quite yet ready for.

Dinner dinner dinner. Ah, Thirsty Bear, my old friend. As I order my second beer, while he's still half done with his first, I'm reminded I can (fortunately? unfortunately?) handle more alcohol than my friends of Asian descent who weigh less than me. More sorry for them than anything really. ;-)

We talked about biking, and racing bikes, and commuting by bike. He far exceeds my own feeble attempts at bike commuting. My commute is flat and 10 miles one way. His is through the hills surrounding the San Francisco Bay Area and 25 or 30 miles one way. I do an average of 27 miles a week. He does 200. He races. I do not. But hey, I commute by bike 1 or 2 or 3 days a week, and I'm loving it. And he tells me "every ride is a good ride." I couldn't agree more.

And... since he works for Synaptics, I took the opportunity to ask him "why the fheck does my Dell trackpad suck, but my old MacBook Air trackpad rocked?" And, as it turns out, there's actually a reason for it. It's not just "all in my head." Most PC manufacturers still connect the trackpad via the old school PS2 mouse/keyboard hardware interface because they don't want to sacrifice a USB port to have a higher speed connection between the trackpad and the motherboard. But Apple, oh Apple, paragon of producing engineered consumer delight, once again trumps every other company on the planet by designing a custom interface from the trackpad itself to the board. Their higher speed interface allows them to produce the infinitely better experience of actually tracking my fingers across the trackpad accurately. I remember fondly the days when I could actually click and drag on my trackpad. Oh, to work on a MacBook again. What I wouldn't give.

As it turns out, my friend Andrew is listed as one of the inventors on something which Apple, somehow, mysteriously, after some of them saw a demo of it in action, "invented independently" very shortly thereafter. Or something like that. Wouldn't it be cool if you could have a touch-based trackpad, but like a clear one, so you could put it on top of an LCD screen and make, oh, I don't know, a touchscreen cell phone or tablet?

(Note the dates, and recall, if you will, the first iPhone went up for sale in 2007.)

Despite the obvious use of the patented technology, which, you know, could have been an independent simultaneous invention, Andrew tells me he's grateful every day for Apple and their iPhone explosion around the world. Since they won't sell their parts to anybody else, all the other cell phone manufacturers look to Synaptics to get their transparent touch screens for their phones, which turn out to have quite a high market demand these days... Thanks, in large measure, to Apple. Moral of this particular story: if Apple wants to steal something from you... Let them!

Last time I was here was about four years ago, in 2011. I attended Apple's WWDC that year, the last year Steve Jobs was alive and spoke to the conference attendees. I do hope I get to visit again sooner than four years from now. My honey's got a conference lined up out here for July. Hopefully I'll get to go with.

San Francisco has a vibe. It resonates with my very being. And I love it.