a blog about stuff.

  • Yesterday I booked a flight to California.

    My uncle passed away last week, and so I’m escorting my mom down to the memorial service.

    On my big long list of “things to accomplish on my career break” I’d actually listed “take a weekend trip with one or both of my parents” and as it turns out I’m taking a weekend trip to California with one of my parents. It wasn’t exactly the getaway I’d envisioned three months ago when I was drafting that idea list, but life has a funny way of twisting around and mapping out realities for each of us.

    I just wrote a different post about quantum mortality and free will and my intention in that post was to steer my little essay into some words about fate and coincidence and all that jibber-jabber, but in the end I don’t think it’s super-relevant: with a big enough data set on a long enough timeline, coincidences become statistical likelihoods.

    In other words, if I had created a list called “3 things to do on my career break” and one of those things was “travel to California with my mom” … and three months later I was booking flights to an unexpected funeral for a sad but important visit to see the family, then yeah we could be gaping in awe at the coincidence. But I made a list that actually has one hundred and two things on it, and some of them are pretty vague, so the fact that one of those has manifested into reality is a scenario that could have played out in hundreds to the power of ten interesting ways, so… almost inevitable, right?

    So, I’m going to California.

    And then a few weeks after that I’m going to Illinois.

    And we just kinda got back from the UK, France and Italy.

    And for a guy without a job and no income, I somehow am getting around the continent and the world these days.

    Coincidence? Nah.

  • I’ve been reading a book about quantum physics that I picked up from the Kindle store discount rack last week, and in a chapter on the concept of quantum immortality I traced a parallel thread back to my own experiences in mapping out my path through the murk.

    The theory goes something like this: given the theory of infinite multiverses basking in the quantum foam bubbling away below the surface of our perceived reality, uncertainty speculates that for every potential alternative reality that exists a universe also exists where that alternative plays out. Realistically this plays out at the infinitesimally small quantum level of electrons and photons, but electrons and photons have ways of interacting with biological or neural tissues in a manner that sometimes causes alternative realities to play out in our decision making or health. This has huge philosophical implications for free will and mortality, and the concept of quantum immortality plays out along the line of thought that if the universe happens to branch along a path where in one universe we survive and in the other we do not, our consciousness will forever and always track the one where we survive, obviously. The result is that from our own point of view, our consciousness will hang onto a path through the multiverse that is most likely to result in our personal survival, an optimal path for the longest possible life, and thus a kind of “from my point of view” I’ll live a very long time, but only from my point of view. Other players may exist in other long divergent universe threads where I’m long gone. Weird, huh?

    The rabbit hole goes really deep on this one if you start pondering the implications for what this means for any individual personally. Like, the old adage “everything happens for a reason” starts to take on new meaning when you put it in the context of our personal perception of the multiverse and contort it around the notion that our personal consciousness is tracing the optimal route for us personally through the foam.

    Again, weird, huh?

    It got me thinking about decisions and other things, and bordering on some new age hooey-type thoughts about how things work out around larger decisions. Specifically, I’ve made some lists and plans around this career break and life events seems to be manifesting in a way that not only did I kind need this time off, but this time off has become something immensely useful and well timed in the grand scheme of my life. Is that confirmation bias, or am I adrift in the quantum foam and following an optimal path to ensure the personal longevity of my own consciousness.

    Weird, huh?

  • I stole that pun from the bag of cement mix that I picked up at the hardware store this morning during my first “outdoor activity” appointment.

    Yesterday I wrote that I’d be slipping into an effort of timeboxing my unscheduled days to ensure that I wasn’t slipping into a post-employment slouch pattern involving too many video games or regretfully considering that I should be doing one thing while I was occupied with another.

    As a side note there should be a term for that: feeling like you should be, say, practicing your musical instrument while you’re instead walking the dog, or pondering the idea of, say, mowing the grass while you are instead reading a book. Both are valid options, but you feel guilty for doing one versus the other so much that you don’t commit to the one you are doing and instead pine for the other, sometimes so debilitating that you end up doing neither: like, Waffling About Relative Productivity, or WARP.

    I was WARPing too much, so I set up a schedule (see the previous link) and so now I can go off and focus on a “creative session” or a “dog walk” or a round of “yard work” and stop thinking I should be over there doing that instead of doing what I’m doing.

    That’s a long way of saying that I timeboxed being outside which led me to going to the hardware store and buying a four by six by ten foot fence post and a bag of cement mix called “Post Haste” presumably because it is (a) for fence posts and (b) sets quickly. Hardy-har-har.

    About fifteen years ago when my previous-previous neighbour built his section of fence around the rest of his yard (not our adjoining properties) he decided that the section I’d built two years prior along the property line was not long enough for his tastes. I’d built it about four meters past the back corner of my house towards the front and capped it closed. He added another meter and a half to the length (closer to the front) and capped his side closed. In effect, we were left with this two different fence lines facing the road, though I’ve been excessively lazy and couldn’t have cared less about the aesthetics of the whole thing.

    Except, it occurred to me a couple months ago that for the cost of a single fence post I could repurpose the wood from the little end cap and extend my side that extra meter and a half closer to the front.

    Am I explaining this in a way that makes any sense?

    In effect, I just put a new “front” fence post in to align with where my (long since moved away) neighbour put his “front” fence post, which until today were offset by about a meter and a half. I’ll unscrew the boards and move them to the new post. Voila! The fence is now aesthetically improved, and I have an extra meter and a half of space inside my fence line for storage and stuff.

    And thus my first timeboxed day of yard work has been very, very productive.

  • As I work to get my sabbatical in order, I’ve been contemplating various strategies.

    The first thing I had done was to make a long list of things I wanted to accomplish. At the risk of undermining that effort, I do think the list is almost impossibly long. It’s as much aspirational as achievable, but it does give me a tremendously well-framed starting point for how to spend my days. If ever I am sitting thinking “hmm, I’m bored today, what should I do?” then I have no excuse but to turn to the list. Or, I can proactively tackle things on the list. Either way. Strategically planning ahead.

    A second strategy I’ve been thinking about is timeboxing. Having just come back from a vacation and then having spent a few weeks filling my time with post-vacation, summer-parenting actions, I haven’t been able to effectively build a solid plan into my days. But as the weeks of August start to melt into a proper fall push of what will effectively be the core four months of my career break, I think I really need to use a solid strategy like timeboxing to shape my days.

    For example, on any day that doesn’t have a big, full day plan my first attempt at a timebox for the next while will be:

    early until 8amcoffee, breakfast, social media, dog walk, news
    8am – 9ammorning chores, clean up, laundry
    9am – 10amcreative session one
    10am – 11amoutdoor activity
    11am – 12pmreading, media, gaming
    12pm – 1pmlunch, dog walk, casual free time
    1pm – 2pmafternoon chores, yard work
    2pm – 3:30pmcreative session two (or) cooking, baking, etc
    3:30pm – 4:30pmreading, media, gaming
    4:30pm – 5:30pmdinner chores, meal prep
    5:30pm – 6:30pm dinner, clean up, dog walk
    6:30pm – 8pmoutdoor activity, running (or) family time
    8pm – 9pmcreative session three
    9pm until lateunwind, reading, mindfulness, etc

    The caveat to all this, is that if I happen to have some other structured plan, a coffee meetup, a lunch, or something scheduled in my day… well, it just crosses out that slot and the thing I NEED to do replaces the thing I BOXED to do.

    Now, to some people this might look uncomfortably structured, and to them I would say that I really kind of need to find some structure in my days or else I’m going to lose track of this opportunity faster than I can blink.

    To some other people, this might look far too vague and random and a little too full of “fun time,” and to them I would suggest that I don’t see the need to over-structure, like to box myself into fifteen minute increments nor do I think it is the goal of my career break to work myself silly for sixteen hours a day just to feel like I’m making good use of the time. It is a “break” after all.

    And so it goes.

    I write this now not only because mentally I think I’m ready to put this kind of structure around things, but logistically tomorrow, August 15, is “on paper” my last day of drawing a salary from my old job. At the end of the day tomorrow there is one last transition into joblessness and that is the final day of my “using up my banked vacation” and into the free, clear, and yonder. As of tomorrow at 4pm the final tether back to that old life is officially cut. Time to take control of things.

    And so it goes. And so it goes.

    Wish me luck.

  • I’ve created my share of niche CMS software in the past.

    Content Management Systems are just tools that manage the input of things like text, links, images, and other files for an author (like me) to create content and then post it in a readable, consumable format for a user (like you) to enjoy.

    It is something of my go-to coding project.

    Want to create a website for simple news stories for kids (which I built about 10 years ago) then write a CMS to do that.

    Want to create an Instagram-like photo sharing tool (which I built about 18 months ago) then write a CMS to do that.

    Want to write a novel but you’re working across three different computers and occasionally on a phone so an online system would be perfect, then write a CMS to do that. I’m building something like that now, and as they say, piecing together the plane while flying to my destination.

    I’ve used writing software in the past, but figured the added challenge of swapping between writing code and writing words would be an interesting career break distraction.

    The MVP is a basic online text block management tool that lets me write, save, organize, snapshot, and append notes, characters, and other details to a story project.

    My goal is to refine through need: in other words, I write story and then say to myself “hey, it would be handy/useful/vital for the software to do such-and-such” so I take a break from writing and make the software do such-and-such… then I go back and write some more.

    Rinse. Repeat.

    And and the end I might have both a finished story, and a groovy piece of software that is effectively a novel-writing CMS.

iteratively improving
stay tuned