I was recently reminded that some 12 years ago, during an ice breaker at camp, I was asked to draw my life goals. I drew a beach with a hammock strung between two palm trees and a typewriter. I didn't really know what I wanted at that point beyond an ocean, some cool stuff to read and something to write with. and so I find my slightly lopsided swagger bringing me back to where I've already been yet again.
"He awoke each morning with the desire to do right, to be a good and meaningful person, to be, as simple as it sounded and as impossible as it actually was, happy. And during the course of each day his heart would descend from his chest into his stomach. By early afternoon he was overcome by the feeling that nothing was right, or nothing was right for him, and by the desire to be alone. By evening he was fulfilled: alone in the magnitude of his grief, alone in his aimless guilt, alone even in his loneliness. I am not sad,he would repeat to himself over and over, I am not sad. As if he might one day convince himself. Or fool himself. Or convince others--the only thing worse than being sad is for others to know that you are sad. I am not sad. I am not sad. Because his life had unlimited potential for happiness, insofar as it was an empty white room. He would fall asleep with his heart at the foot of his bed, like some domesticated animal that was no part of him at all. And each morning he would wake with it again in the cupboard of his rib cage, having become a little heavier, a little weaker, but still pumping. And by the midafternoon he was again overcome with the desire to be somewhere else, someone else, someone else somewhere else. I am not sad."
--Jonathan Safran Foer from Everything Is Illuminated
au milieu de l’hiver, j’ai découvert en moi un invincible été.
in the depths of winter, I discovered within myself an invincible summer.
— albert camus from return to tipasa
in general, 2013 was a great year of sporadic bouts of madness. reading the rum diary again in january properly set the tone for much of the year. I had several stretches in boston with fantastic co-workers, a few stints in portland, a great many in DC and of course an epically bad visit to vegas. outwardly, 2013 was about stumbling into random situations with varying degrees of sobriety and sorting things out on the fly. careening through life and trusting that things would sort themselves out if you did your best to be good. to be sure, sometimes things didn't sort themselves out completely and needed a little help, sometimes we needed a little help ourselves.
in the first third of the year, another great relationship gradually came apart. it's worth mentioning because this one highlighted a lot of aspects of my personality I tended to dismiss or disregard as insignificant. I can be critical and unfair, unnecessarily snappy and sarcastic, generally moody and hard to please. I can also be optimistic, hopeful and extremely supportive. I learned that sometimes I need to consciously choose who I want to be to people I love instead of letting temporary stresses, frustrations or agitations choose who I'm going to be. I learned a lot about what I'm like in a relationship and began to discover more about what I'm like outside of one as well. I'm thankful that we still remain very good friends.
the second half of 2013 became more about self-discovery and internal development. I think I became a bit more scattered than usual. travel (and probably endless drinking) began to take its toll. without a significant other to anchor me in place, I think I mentally and existentially drifted much more. I read a lot about work, programming and social subjects I'm interested in. I wrote in private journals and blogs. I was surprised by the fact that it was the first time in 16 years that I was single on my birthday. the realization made me think a lot about how I've changed my trajectory for various people in my life and made me wonder more about what I'd like it to be in the coming few years. I still don't really know, but my resolutions are adjustments to habits that will hopefully push me in the right direction:
create: the same woman who had that camus quote asked me what I created. I think I replied with some platitudes about writing and code as art, but the more I thought about it, the real answer should've been "not enough of anything in particular." this year I want to make more public posts (of varying lengths), take more pictures, code more random projects, learn a few more recipes and maybe even play more music. more tinkering and more noodling in general.
consume: I find when I revisit places that I have a tendency to resettle into previous routines. the same set of bars and noodle joints, the same hotels, the same places to get food. to be sure, I think repeated visits let me savor things in different ways and I think periodically resting in habit--especially given so much travel--is necessary. but, I also think I can rest somewhat less than what I've been doing. I can explore more, eat more (maybe eat healthier too), read more and listen to more music.
connect: I've started doing this already and want to continue it in 2014. I love connecting-- moving past the standard social barriers and formalities and being close. this isn't to say that I don't have or don't believe in boundaries and privacy. I mean that my favorite moments are ones of "resonating" with another. being. evoking emotion. it can be a great word jam, jazz session of a conversation, it can be a shared excitement over a miraculous meal or it can be simply (silently) absorbing incredible piece of art together. I love talking to cab drivers and bartenders, acquaintances and close friends. I like meeting new people and hearing random life stories. I think I can feel even less hindered to do so moving forward.
privately or publicly. in person, online, with many, few or every solitary, whatever the case may be, I think 2014 will be about finding that indomitable warmth and spirit within myself and others. cheers to discovering an invincible summer.
I recently finished re-reading On the Road, I'm a little wired on coffee and a lot of out of practice with writing. in short, this mess will be a word jam of tenuous ideas and unfinished thoughts-- all seeming full of fleeting, and terrible import in these moments, but acknowledged to be merely a stretch and light jog for an old tired mind looking to get back into fighting shape for more aggressive sport later.
as more time passes, the patterns of my life become much more apparent. I've always oscillated between hammering down on the gas and coasting along in neutral. sometimes I push, struggle and clutch for control of my life and other times I'm content to ease off and drift. the times of hyperfocus and aggressive productivity have been rare, but I am ever coming terms with myself and learning to loosen my grip during these times of teeth-grinding strain. more often I've been too lax and then become frustrated with my laxness which leads to paralysis and more laxity. these last years, I've learned to more gently nudge myself forward when my impulse is to melt into a luscious couch.
and so I spin along as a narrowing, but still scattered constellation of impulses and interests-- various fascinations coming into momentary focus as sometimes I flail and flounder, and as sometimes I flow and touch the miraculous, ecstatic lightning rod of joyous existence.
I first came across the term "blinking twelve problem" in stephenson's remarkable essay "in the beginning was the command line." there was a time when power outages would create houseful of blinking twelves-- VCR, microwave and alarm clocks would all complain about no longer knowing the time. in my parents' house, this blinking could go on for several days until my siblings or I got annoyed enough to fix them. my dad tended to ignore the clocks because he was usually wearing a watch. my mom, on the other hand, couldn't figure out all the different interfaces. stephenson mentioned the blinking twelve problem as a gap between a technological solution (e.g. a device can tell time if set properly) and the user's ability to make use of it.
because the VCR was invented when it was--during a sort of awkward transitional period between the era of mechanical interfaces and GUIs--it just had a bunch of pushbuttons on the front, and in order to set the time you had to push the buttons in just the right way. This must have seemed reasonable enough to the engineers responsible for it, but to many users it was simply impossible. Thus the famous blinking 12:00 that appears on so many VCRs. Computer people call this "the blinking twelve problem". When they talk about it, though, they usually aren't talking about VCRs.
in my mind, the essay highlighted gaps-- for instance between problems and solutions and between implemented solutions and the knowledge and ability to use these solutions. stephenson primarily focused on GUI's and operating systems as means of bridging technological gaps. I saw applications of the idea beyond human-computer interfaces. the term resonated enough with me (or I was impulsive enough) that I ended up registering the domain name in 2001 with no particular purpose in mind.
I began with using the site as a medium to catch my miscellanous, snobby nerd rants. though my internship the summer before had taught me to use dreamweaver, I was lazy enough that I couldn't be bothered to create an entirely new page for each passing quip. my moments of cleverness tended to quickly fade amid random frustrations generated by cleaning up random code. so, paradoxically, I coded more so I could code less. with the finest balsa wood and elmer's glue I could find (read: learned perl), I pieced together a rudimentary content management system (read: blogging progam) which could support the rants and ramblings of me and a few of my angry and weird friends.