another year passed and i like to share interesting statistics and thoughts from the year so here they are in no specific order
over the past year i slept in or spent the night in forty different beds, five couches, four planes, three busses, twice in my car, one beach, and on the floor of one of the old Voice of America radio stations. that’s fifty six different places to spend the night for an average of more than one different locality per week.
although i was on the run most of the year several of my travel statistics are down from the past few years: i visited ten countries (including the US) and about forty places total but only flew around 60,000 miles. because of their loyalty program I flew almost exclusively with American Airlines; it’s nice to have a reward status with an airline.
my reading and writing metrics are off the charts even though i have only shared a smidgen of what i have written; there’s been an abundance of quiet alone time.
despite that, i went out of my way at least fifteen times in order to visit and spend time with dear friends of mine.
oh, and i got on two separate boats for the express purpose of eating.
it was a year of many adventures and experiences.
on route from London to Paris i rode in a bus in a train in a tube under the English Channel – talk about multi-modal transit.
in Vancouver i had the privilege to board an 1956-vintage seaplane and fly around the mountains; the mountains in Vancouver are incredible.
adding one more “darkest places” to my list i drove to Mogollon, New Mexico and up the mountain in the pitch-black darkness. it’s one of the darkest places in the US and the air is dry and clear. chunks of the extremely narrow one-way road were missing at tight bends and piles of rocks had fallen in random places; a steep cliff dropped off to the side. the last thousand feet of elevation took about half an hour to drive through. this was one of the most stellar places i have ever slept: it was silent, uninhabited, and the stars were so relatively bright that they cast shadows on the ground.
another beauty of the southwest was a drive through Page, Arizona during the night high up on the edge of a 2000ft plateau with fog so dense the visibility was about twenty to fifty feet at most.
it was actually frightening for that thirteen-mile journey. going into it i was tired but that sustained jolt of adrenaline kept me alert for quite a while after getting down below the fog (actually i don’t think it was really fog at all so much as normal low-hanging clouds).
this was really a year of cars for me. i drove across the US by myself which is something i never thought i would do. turns out that Texas is really big.
in Montenegro my friend and i turned a two-hour drive into a one-hour drive at like 3am. no more details are really needed there, but i will say that when we got out of the car we were greeting with the smell of burnt metal, presumably from the brakes.
wow. that’s a lot of crazy driving. i made it though. there were other adventures less risky (like waiting hours and hours on a parked bus to get through customs at the Singapore/Malaysia border).
in Malaysia i was reminded that i know nothing about and was taught nothing about Asia. this was particularly evident in Malacca which was has been a multi-cultural trading port for over five hundred years. there’s a great bit of world history in South Asia i wish i knew more about.
for most of the summer i lived in Steiglhausli, a three-hundred-year-old home in the heart of Germany’s Black Forest. this was a most-valuable retreat for me filled with working, hiking in the lush forests, and spending time in nature. my half-finish half-german host, her two kids, and her programmer brother basically adopted me into their family and i couldn’t have asked for a kinder bunch. along with the people i spent time with five cats, three rabbits, two horses, a number of cows and sheep, and uncountable gnats and mosquitos. as good as it was to duck away from urban life i was relieved to once again be able to sleep without getting bitten everywhere.
my time in the mountains directly followed my time in Paris and the contrast was so stark. everywhere you go in Paris you are surrounded by large and obnoxious advertisements. the modern advertising industry has mastered making people feel inadequate. beyond the constant shouting that you need to buy more stuff if you want to be cool and loved, the posters were just ugly and made an otherwise beautiful city feel a bit too much like late-night paid-programming on the telly.
in nature you just are. the kids ran free. the animals roamed around. nobody was there to tell you how bad you are. there were no signs to tell you what to touch and what not to touch, where to go and what to buy. in the forest there was quiet – a quiet not possible in the noise of busy urban life.
also, i didn’t shave.
this was the source of one of my greatest pranks on my coworkers ever, who not only didn’t recognize me when they saw me but also again mid-week during our all-company get-together when i cut it off.
time in the mountains was refreshing. during the year i became increasingly critical of how we as the software industry govern ourselves. two new expressions have become my mantras leading me in my programming habits
computers were a mistake
we haven’t been responsible with computer technology. we haven’t done a good job of communicating the ways in which technology and the internet are fundamentally different from all life and social interactions before them. there’s hardly any room for ethics in technology and that’s a major problem. instead of building useful tools with our computational abilities we have instead mastered the art of manipulation (without people knowing they are being manipulated), distracted people from meaningful relationships and creativity, and accelerated the redistribution of wealth away form those without and to those with.
the “web” if there ever was one is dying and corporate profit is the driving force behind it, or maybe it’s best to phrase it as profit with reckless disregard of ethics and accountability.
computers aren’t going away and they weren’t really a mistake but this year impressed upon me how important it is to work for making the world better through software instead of tolerating making it worse for the hope of personal gain. there are many wonderful and valuable uses of technology.
coincidentally i noticed while writing this post that another prominent developer in the community lamented yesterday about this very exploitation of peoples’ insecurities that we in the software industry have mastered.
rip it out
this has been my work mantra. we attempt to do too much and end up doing it poorly when we need to be doing a few things well.
i certainly don’t want to think about the software i’m using any more than i want to think about the tools i’m using when baking a cake. while i might admire the tools and care for them, my actual objective is to build something, write something, bake something, or do something entirely unrelated to software. if i were to take a guess at why our software applications are so in-your-face then i’d probably wager that it’s because we developers think that what we do is so cool that we want to make it a thing unto itself.
further we have this tendency to program with blinders on. when we encounter new problems we try to solve them by adding more stuff into the system. it’s easy with software to keep adding because we don’t have to do things like buy more steel or acquire more land rights. our costs though are furtive and unless we pause for reflection we repeatedly end up wondering why our projects are confusing, slow, and full of errors.
corporations are getting away with the worst kind of offenses online and i usually hear it justified by talking about revenue, growth, and profit. i guarantee you that a number of standard operating practices we have in the web and technology world today will be punishable with jail time in some future where more people understand what’s actually happening.
i miss providing electricity to people. there are engineers right now as i write that are in Puerto Rico bringing back clean water and heat to people in need by rebuilding the power grid.
politics have been an adventure. all i want to say is that i encourage us all to think critically about what we hear and read and to step back and remove ourselves from the picture as we try to understand and form our opinions.
it’s not about the economy, it’s not about jobs. money is not the solution to our problems and it’s definitely not worth it to put others aside in hopes that we might get personal gain.
in unexpected ways this past year i grew to understand what family means. my childhood left me with very mixed notions of blood-relations but i felt quite humbled by how supportive my brother and sister and cousin have been for me. further, i’ve done nothing to win the love or admiration of my nieces and nephew and yet they get excited to see me and give me this love i can’t explain. i haven’t been very present in their lives and one of the great opportunities i had was to be able to spend more time with them in normal life settings beyond quick visits. it was a great pleasure of mine to get together with my brother’s family and my sister’s family in one place and have a good time. without getting into it too much, this is not something i never imagined would happen, let alone casually so. i do not know why they show me this love and i am blown away by their support and acceptance and am grateful for it.
in 2017 i started my digital sojourning, i wandered and sought out. i wrestled with emotions i’ve never faced. i grew in ways i never should have never needed to grow in and i grew in ways i should have grown as a ten-year-old. i lost and was abandoned. i grew grateful and found god faithful. i kissed despair and i clung to hope. i pushed hard and i pushed the limits. i made mistakes and i made the difficult right decisions. i made it through the year and i hope you did too.
and here are some more random photos from throughout the year
and of course…