August 07, 2018

Thank You and Farewell

A week ago we spent our last day in the United Kingdom after five years. It’s been an absolute rollercoaster ride, particularly over the past month or so, with my emotions jumping back and forth as we’ve packed, recycled, donated, or sold everything we own. All that remains of our time here are two small suitcases.

I’ve been trying to make being and expressing gratitude part of my daily habit. I realise gratitude is best shown/felt in the moment but late is better than never. I am guilty of hoarding a small mountain of gifts that I have yet to show my appreciation for, so, though it’s long overdue, here are a few of the gifts I am thankful for since having moved to London. Each thank you is unaddressed, so if you feel a connection to one of these, then clearly, I was speaking about you; you've always been my favourite anyhow.


Thank you for accepting me as I was, then just a wide-eyed boy, and giving me your patience while I caught up. In hindsight, it’s easy to see the trail that led me to become the human being I am now, but back then I couldn’t have imagined. Without you, all of you, I wouldn’t have been able to place my first foot right and because of that support I feel like I’ve summited mountains. The momentum of the city could carry anyone along (or tear them apart, but I lucked out there), I benefited from that extra push and now I feel inspired to keep moving.

Thank you for exposing me to a world bigger than I could ever have imagined. Whether it was those kindred souls, who shared my disparate and strange interests, or those many who took different, sometimes challenging, stances compared to my own. At times I felt comfortable swimming in my tiny little milieu but each and every time I had the opportunity to expand those margins I’ve jumped at the opportunity. Disagreement became an opportunity to practise humility, because I had no idea there were so many types of people, so many backgrounds and so many voices. And I considered myself reasonably open-minded, how naive can a person be?

Thank you for your enduring friendship. The bonds we’ve formed over these past years have been the highlight of my time here. It’s your influence that made me pick up my feet and rushed towards a better version of myself. I’m grateful for the time you have spent with me, the conversations we shared and the opportunity to be included into your family and friends. I went to your wedding, met you out for dinner, shared a beer or two and spent ages jawing on about nothing—probably computers, but who’s keeping score? What a time we shared!

Thank you for making me feel so humbled and so small. At the end of it all, I was, I am, I always will be an infinitely small piece of a cosmically vast machine: the city of London reminded me of that every day. Wandering past/through everyone else’s lives, the struggles of living amongst 8 million other people and its crumbling infrastructure, you realise how strange it is to be so worried about yourself and how everyone perceives you. Between the cracks I managed to find space enough to define myself.

Thank you for never settling or slowing down. Left to my own devices, I would still be plodding along, neither flying high or scraping the bottom, but never making any kind of mark on the world. Now, I feel different. Now, I feel hunger. Hunger to move a little faster and reach a little further. I saw you pushing to improve and leave the world better off than how you’d found it and I asked myself, “Could I do that?” That’s when it happened. I discovered your final gift: a sense of ambition and a drive to be my fullest self.


I’ve expressed my gratitude in words, but after typing them out I only managed to capture the tiniest vessels that float on an unending sea of my appreciation. For now this is farewell. Farewell to a city that helped define my boundaries and farewell to the people that made me whole. I’ll be back. I mean that sincerely. But for the time being know that I’m so very lucky to have met you at all, let alone for all the gifts you’ve given me.

Until next time, pal.

AllTrails

Excited to give this app a spin now that I am back in Canada. Being in a culture that has not (yet) invested in public transportation it’s easy to get stuck indoors even when surrounded by wilderness. Also worth noting, I never once felt the pull of an app like this while in London. I must have just been content with the garbage filled sights of the Greater London area.

Dr. Seuss’s Lorax Found?

I’ve been moving and Internet access has been hit and miss. So when I opened up my stashed links and rediscovered this little gem, you can imagine my delight. An anthropologist and an english professor (walk into a bar... I’ll see myself out, thank you) teamed up to look deeper into the possible inspiration for Dr. Seuss’s apocryphal tale.

Their conclusion: The Lorax was inspired by the patas monkeys that live in West and East Africa. These creatures share the Lorax’s general facial characteristics, particularly his distinctive mustache. The monkeys’ vocalizations sound like the Lorax’s “sawdusty sneeze.” And the monkeys depend, for 80 percent of their diet, on the Seussian-looking whistling thorn acacia trees of the Laikipia plateau.

If you stop there, I’m sure that’d be enough for most of you, but let the weight this little nugget sink in:

That may seem like a set of curious but inconsequential similarities, but these authors argue that how we think of the Lorax determines how we think about his plight. Regarding the Lorax as an animal indigenous to the land of the Truffula trees “challenges traditional interpretations of the Lorax as an ecopoliceman asserting his authority.” In other words, the Lorax isn’t some tiresome scold, some shrill environmentalist who makes us want to throw up our hands and sigh, “Good-by, Thing. You sing too long.” No, the Lorax is a creature intimately dependent on the land that the Once-ler is destroying. That, the authors suggest, makes his story much more sympathetic.

Moving back to a country whose history can be ultimately defined by colonisation and the subjugation of an entire people (a people who have ultimately had their history largely erased from the contributions to Canadian society, mind you), I connected deeply with this slight shift of perspective. I’m not sure I ever gave the story much thought, but reconsidering it now, perhaps the Lorax is more relevant to me now, as a grown person-thing, than as a child person-thing.

Browsh

Alternative web browsers scratch a strange itch for me. When I came across Browsh I was immediately sold: web standards aware text-based browsing from the terminal, including approximate support for images and video. Radical.

It depends on a recent install of Firefox to do the heavy lifting and slurps out all of the text to render natively in the terminal and a screenshot which it converts Unicode block and half-block characters to attempt to render layout and graphics. A clever, yet strange, solution to a problem I didn’t realise I wanted solved. Read the brief documentation to get a handle on how it works.

Rosemary Orchard Is a Genius: the Genesis of All My Next Raspberry Pi(S)

I’m pretty pumped about my latest purchase of a Raspberry Pi 3B+ (https://trst.co/introducing-mcflurry) and have been dorking around trying to figure out what I’m going to do with it. I’ve gotten over my brief “ricing” affair. (Have I mentioned I find the term somewhat problematic? I mean… whatever) When I really boil it down, I’m just going to be hopping around in ssh, tmux and nvim, so why bother going too deep on a desktop environment?

What’s brilliant about Rosemary’s article isn’t its clarity or the sheer sensibility of the carrying around a development server itself (although, can you imagine typing that sentence a few years ago? What a time to be alive), rather the creativity to combine it with a portable USB charger and an iPad.

I have browsed right past the hardware kits for the Raspberry Pi which let you wire up a battery. I just couldn’t bring myself to think beyond the fuss. But with a battery pack that even normies tend to carry, I can finally see the light.

Thank you Rosemary for the idea. And to my darling wife: I’m terribly sorry about all of the tiny robots stacking up in our home and the cargo shorts I will eventually be required to wear. Faux pas you say? However else is a modern person-thing meant to carry all of their development branches?

July 01, 2018

(Not) Playing Catch-Up

The dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral from the Millennium Bridge.

I haven’t written lately, you may even have noticed. The truth is it’s been a busy week and England is on fire, meteorologically speaking. I can’t remember the weather being this consistently nice since we moved here five years ago. And now that we’re leaving, it feels like a gift from Mother Nature... or the Queen, she’s always been good like that.

Alongside the weather, the news cycle has begun to crawl and I’m less inspired to post my supply of daily links. Honestly, I’d rather be outside, or doing nothing than commenting on how life on the Internet is passing by. The dearth of news has provided me with time to reflect. I think my mini break is probably a good thing.

If there’s nothing to say, why force it? I’ll laze away idly, enjoying my last opportunities to partake in European heliotherapy (a term I’ve lovingly stolen from the warning signs staked into Sardinia’s beaches), until I have something ready to post.

There’s only a few weeks left until Amber and I move back to Canada. I am terribly excited to make the jump but hamstrung by my jobby-job. The flat is barren and empty, it is like living in a bad Airbnb; although, everything is familiar, the sights are mundane and the lack of AC, as always, is punishing. I haven’t given up on my digital home, but I will probably be posting less frequently, and perhaps, more personally than before.

Oat the Goat

A screen capture of Oat the Goat at the mouth of a cave

Oh my days.

Launched as an interactive story to teach New Zealand kids about acting with kindness towards others, this is a gorgeous digital picture book that I couldn’t help but read and re-read. I can’t choose my favourite elements: the art style, the animation, the playful couplets and rhyme, I love it all.


Finding this has honestly clarified what I want to do when I grow up. I wrote myself a list of goals at the beginning of the year and one of them was to draft a children’s story. It’s an honest-to-goodness goal of mine to write and illustrate my own children’s story. There’s just so much soul to a good picture book.

For someone who grew up in a house that didn’t prioritise reading and was a reluctant reader myself, the draw of illustrated children’s books has always been rather mysterious. Why the draw is so strong, I’ll never know. No matter the reason, no bookshop visit would be complete without Amber and I darting towards the children’s section and staking out a space along the floor. (I’m a pretty big cat, so I do get my fair share of side-eye from parents.)

The fact that this story looks the part and is built with web technology makes my heart flutter. I know I’m not in the right spot to take on a project like this—talk to me after I move countries again—though it won’t be long before I am, I’m certain of that.

June 20, 2018

Posting Drought

So many tabs. So many.

I’ve had trouble posting lately. Not that I don’t have things to say, more like it’s too god damned hot. Well, that and I have this horrible weight stacked up in my "read later" queue (aka my Safari tabs).

Excuses.

Om On Blogging

This piece recently made the rounds and I was a bit unsure about posting it. Yet here I am, mainly because this line has been ringing around my head:

The whole idea is to think to deliberate, and to come back again and again, to finish what was started a long time ago. But there is no end, just a pause, for a voice to start, talking again.

Anyone who makes an esoteric point usually has their finger on something, a nerve or a bustling heart beat, but not the words to fully express that experience to others. But don’t fret, I feel his point. I “get” blogs in a way that I don’t get the social stream. I don’t want to drink from the firehouse.

I am the product of a web filled with ideas, formed well before I became a target of the web of commerce or the atomic content in the web of data. I crave the tiny human whispers hidden between blog posts: those faint messages that can only be discerned through the entirety of a creative’s body of work. Voice matters, definitely, but no more than the context from which it arises. And neither of those is available after being algorithmically sorted and served.

So, I’m with you Mr. Malik. Long live the weblog.