Words of a garuda

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Categories: musings, Tags: , , ,

The splendid isolation I have  sought has crumbled. I need Grimnebulin, Grimneulin needs his friend, his friend needs succour from us all. It is simple mathematics to cancel common terms and discover that I need succour, too. I must offer it to others, to save myself.

I am stumbling. I must not fall.

—China Miéville, Perdido Street Station


Sunday morning revolution

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Categories: musings

This morning I read that police in Michigan are extracting data from phones without a warrant, even for routine traffic stops. The Department of Homeland Security has ordered half a billion bullets.  Supreme Court Justices are squinting at careful penmanship.

Sitting in my hotel room, I stop thinking about the eggs Benedict at the cafe across the street. My eyes linger on things close to me: the Doric shaft of the lamp on the table, its patina of spatterings. A label on the base says: 120V 60Hz 5 Amps Max. The auxiliary electrical outlet is upside-down, perhaps to confuse me into reading the accompanying text.

I force my eyes to walk around the room, and they wander through the bedroom doorway. The jerking shadow of a tree branch on the white curtains still drawn startles me. I cannot hear the wind moving.


Cats and coding

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Categories: tech, Tags: , , ,

This is why I love reading good coding books: the colorful examples that trick you into understanding the material without thinking too hard about it. Check out this section from Modern Perl I just got to today:

Second, a method call always involves a dispatch strategy, where the object system selects the appropriate method. Given the simplicity of Cat, the dispatch strategy is obvious, but much of the power of OO comes from this idea. Inside a method, its first argument is the invocant. Idiomatic Perl 5 uses $self as its name. Suppose a Cat can meow():

package Cat
    sub meow
        my $self = shift;
        say 'Meow!';

Now all Cat instances can wake you up in the morning because they haven’t eaten yet:

my $fuzzy_alarm = Cat->new();
$fuzzy_alarm->meow() for 1 .. 3;

Cats are something I understand. Now if only I could so easily reprogram my own fuzzy alarm….


A conversation about learning while walking home


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On the train home from work today, I was reading a book. I was lucky to catch the express, so I only had a single stop commute. As I was leaving the subway station, I kept reading, passively listening to footsteps around me and letting those in a rush get by, timing my egress through the pipe-cleaner vertical turnstiles so I didn’t get mashed. A young man sidled up beside me, and said, rather gregariously, “That must be some good book for you to keep reading while you’re walking like that.” I told him it sure was (it wasn’t, and still isn’t), and kept reading. He asked what book it was.

At this point I was convinced he wanted something from me, but I looked up from my book, and into his eyes for the first time, and we began to talk. It went very nearly like this.

I said, “Well, it’s actually not my normal fare. I mean, it’s good writing, but the story—”
“What’s your normal stuff, then? What you usually read.”
“Science fiction. Lots and lots of science fiction.”
“Oh yeah? What’s that? Like, what kind of books? Which ones?”
“Well, have you ever read the Dune series, by Frank Herbert?”
“I’m not sure. Yeah, I think so. I think I did.” (Here I could not quell my smile.)
“Check it out. I guarantee it’ll treat you well.”

We were above ground by this point, and discovered to our mutual pleasure that we were serendipitously walking in the same direction. (West on Girard Ave from Broad St., for those interested.) Something else was said, and I asked him where he went to school. He lifted up his jacket, which he wore unzipped, and showed me the emblem on his shirt.

“HOPE. It’s a charter school.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard of it.”
“Man, it sucks there. It’s a terrible school. I got all As and Bs, but it’s not hard. I’m in the highest grade—well, not the highest grade—I’m in ten—but they just go over the same stuff all the time. For everybody else, it’s like they don’t get it or something. Maybe it’s because most of them smoke weed.”

Yes, there’s likely an association there, I said. I told him to stick to his studies. I started in talking about work—I’m that person, all of a sudden—and gave him some stories about adults I know who have spent too much time with drugs and regretted it, and are only now going back to get a GED, at 35 or 45. That seemed to validate his perspective, and he smiled at me.

I said, “Don’t ever stop learning. When I was little, I read a lot. My mom worked a lot when I was little, so I would read. She’d come home, pretty tired, of course, and I’d ask her about some words. I wanted to know what they meant. Every time, she told me the same thing: ‘Look it up!’ Every time!”
“She wouldn’t tell you? Really?”
“Yeah. But she was right, because now I feel like the only mistake I haven’t made is being sure that everything—that thing over there, or this, whatever—is learnable. I can learn that. I can learn this. You know?”
“Yeah. Sometimes, like if I’m at the library or something, I like to sit there and just think. I don’t always read, sometimes I just listen to music and think.”
“It seems to me that very many people are terrified of situations where all they can do is think. Sometimes people structure their life in activities so that they don’t have to think, and when they’re confronted with a situation where thinking is all they can do, they get scared. No one personality flaw hinders a person more than this, but everybody has it! It’s just a matter of when you shed it. I don’t know, but it seems to me like maybe you shed it a while ago.”

It was around this time that we’d reached an intersection where he needed to turn, and he asked for my “card.” I laughed and said that I had none, but that I’d happily share my email address with him. I did so, and he thanked me. He said he knew someone with my name who went to another high school in Philadelphia. I said I thought that was cool.


Two dogs on the couch on a sunny winter day

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Categories: musings, Tags: ,

Poorly placed bookends with simple dreams modestly better than life. Surely he remembers me! When he wakes, his eyelids part slowly, and he looks to me soon after, but seems puzzled with what he finds. I’m somehow different than he remembers, either more man or more dog than the dream would have him believe. A quick stretch to tie the thoughts together, and again he rests his head. When I dream, will I follow him? This brotherhood is not enough. I can’t shake the thought that we both miss running together, in truer shapes than these! But the snow outside the window calls me back, and back again. Now I remember why we sleep.


The golden age


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I am out to dinner with Ray Bradbury. It’s raining hard outside. My entree is gone, and I’m left with coffee, a book in my lap, and my phone in hand.

Learning is something I’ve never figured out. I am a laggard, a loafer, and an idiot.

I want to be dragged across life like a messy paintbrush. Knowing you, you might scoff or smile at my using passive voice there, but I don’t think stars or quarks worry about where they are going in life, and from what I can tell, they’re having a hell of a time.

Some day I’ll have children, and I’ll pray. My hope is that my son will hold an ear of corn all afternoon, turning it over and over in his hands, deciding with every breath to wonder more.

This evening I harbor the suspicion that there are wanderers, and wonderers, and wandering wonders: the widening gyre. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll wake at dawn to discover the first midden heap, the anchor, the memory. But I doubt it.

My mind is open, my lips are parted, but my heart is lost in some deep wood.

Someday I might know why rain makes me feel old. Now, I hide from the knowledge.

The day we understand is the day we die.



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Categories: life things, Tags: , , ,

Life has been more splendid than I ever thought possible lately.

After a grueling medley of jobs stretching through last summer and on into the fall, things have been settling down. I’ve started working as a computer instructor. At one job, during the day, I teach computer literacy in a recovery program. The individuals to whom I teach at this job vary widely in skill level; some people have never used a mouse before, whereas others are proficient with office applications already. It’s a job that requires a lot of adaptation, patience, and love of learning. Being present for someone’s first Google search has been one of the most illuminating experiences of my life—compellingly, far more so than my own first Google search!

My life-long dream of being an educator is slowly materializing. The opportunities to teach are frequent and meaningful. Already I’m working on projects to expand the programs I’m working in, so that we’ll be teaching a far broader scope of material to a great number of people.

In my free time, I’m tackling an unprecedented number of personal projects. In the past few months, I’ve written several utile Python scripts to get work done around the house, so to speak, and I’m back on the horse with improving my guitar technique. After a few more weeks, I should be ready to start sharing the fruits of these labors on this blog, like I used to in the good old days.

All in all, I have never felt so at home.

The doormat my lovely girlfriend bought for me on my birthday

(See the Flickr page for story of the doormat.)


On the nature of belief


Categories: musings, Tags: , , , , , ,

From Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather (1996):

“Well, you brought some magic into that little life,” said Albert, as the next child was hurried away.
It’s the expression on their little faces I like, said [Death].
“You mean sort of fear and awe and not knowing whether to laugh or cry or wet their pants?”
Yes. Now that is what I call belief.


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