2016 in review… (WIP)

2016 is coming to an end and with it another year of balances and patterns found, goals achieved and other goals appearing in the horizon for the first time and some other things both unexpected and others expected but unwanted.

I'll do the review in reverse chronological order to make it easier to get the bad things out of the way and move on to the good, the awesome, the incredible.

Holiday Season

THe holiday season has never been a really pleasant one. I don't like the idea of gifts and I have to contend with having lost my dad for one more year every holiday season. He passed away from complications of cirrhosis of the liver and that has always factored in what I do and how I do things. This year it hit me hard; I don't know if it was the dismal political season and the eye opening revelations about some of the people I considered my close friends but it has also made me wonder about something that popped in my mind as I started writing this (12/23) and it has to do with where my dad grew up and where he lived most of his life.

Antofagasta is a small city (compared to Santiago) and if you're popular (at least during dad's high school years) you were known everywhere and by everyone in your group. Moving to Santiago must have been a shock to his system where he had to start all over again without family support, being younger than most. Don't know the details but I do have to wonder how much of an impact, if any, this life had in him.

I posted it elsewhere but there were two instances where I lost faith in him. When he declined the PhD scholarship to Spain and when he decided to stay single by choice. As it happened with mom years later it would have benefited me, doing high school and maybe a year or two of University in Spain would have led to a very different path but that's another story better told elsewhere.

Q4 (October through December)

Since late November I've been goofing off and writing and researching technologies that I had put on hold when I realized that I couldn't do much of the work I wanted at the quality I wanted while working my ass off.

I got some travelling and conferences done this year too 🙂 I was in london for 2 weeks. Part to go to the Polymer summit, part to make up what I didn't make in September (more later) and part to travel, have fun and relax. I documented the trip and the adventures, the learning and the fun.

I documented the trip on my personal blog (Post filed under London 2016 and London Calling in particular)

After I came back from London I spent a week recovering and working on the get back to the grove of things before jumping into conferences up the wazoo. I was absolutely exhausted but the payout for the three conferences I attended was huge.

An Event Apart and Books in browsers opened my eyes to possibilities and potential of how do we move forward and merge all these awesome technologies to create experiences that will have large impact on our ussers.

Chrome Dev Summit is a strange beast to me. On the one had it's a great place to learn about the way Google sees the future (at least the coming year) of the web and the technologies it embraces. On the other hand it's Google's vision and it's not necessaily shared with other vendors. Most of the time it's ok... Microsoft and Opera are mostly aligned to the same vision and Mozilla and Apple have proved it's not really worth it as developers to fully interact with them...

We'll have to see where things go in this area 🙂

Q3 (June [actually July] through September)

This quarter was my dream come true. I worked at Google developing curriculum for an ILT program for progressive web applications.

It wasn't expected and it wasn't something I anticipated. It was serendipitous and it was random. Udacity posted a job offering for Google... I applied thinking I wasn't going to get it and let it sit there for a few days... thinking it was going to turn into a rejection or not hearing anything from them at all as it happened many times before.

This was also shortly before memorial day so I knew it was going to be a while before I would get my rejection. Imagine my surprise when I get an email from my manager-to-be asking if I'm interested... long story short, I'm asked to submit samples of Github repos and followed up the next day saying I was hired.

I guess I should put this in some context beyond the "fuck yeah, I got the job". Ever since I moved to california Google had seemed like the unattainable goal... the one thing I wanted that I was never going to get. Over the years I realized that working for Google was a means to an end and not an end in and of itself (and it wasn't the only means to the end I had in mind.)

It was an awesome experience. I got to travel (first time in London) and I got to enjoy working with an awesome team and doing something I was really passionate about.

The most ironic aspect of this whole "work at Google" thing is that it happened when I had given up hope on ever working at Google... go figure

Q2 (April through June)

Even though I got the book in January I didn't start reading When Breath Becomes Air until I had calmed down from the "NTT Stress Nightmare". I actually tried to read it a couple times earlier in the year but stopped as I wasn't ready.

When breath becomes air and Being Mortal by Atul Gawande both make the case that how we die is just as important as how we live and in learning how to die well some of people learn to make choices to give them the best quality of life, however long that life may be.

For me this is both a reminder of my dad passing and how much I remember the quality of his remaining days went from acceptable, to bad, to worse, to he's dead and how long (or short as you may choose to use) it was between the different stages. It was about 3 months total.

Being Mortal in particular has also taught me to cherish the living here and now. There is no reason to save yourself and your life for later. The things you'll regret are not the things you did but the things you didn't do.

What life is all about

It is around this time that I started looking for work again. It didn't pan out until the end of the quarter but when it did it did so in very unexpected and rewarding ways.

Q1 (January through March)

By this time it had been 2 weeks since I had left NTT and the Juniper project. I hadn't realized how harmful that project was until I was already out of there. Just like when I left FireEye 2 years earlier I realized that I had no real reason to be there.

I did put the hours and I did put the work but it went unappreciated, I was criticized for things that were fully my right to do and had little to no support from my managers.

It was a very sobering thought that, when I first started considering if I should leave or not, I realized that I left too late to do me much good. I tried hard not to burn my boats but it was very tempting to ask "why am I still here if I'm performing so poorly" when I was criticized because I was not online... apparently when I was too busy trying to get shit done for the same project to pay attention to whinny bitches... it made me think a lot. It made me think and it made me question where my priorities really are.

What I've Learned and Moving Forward

These two quotes summarize better than I ever could what 2016 has been for me. One is new and talks about how short life is and how much we don't make full use of it.

“Everyone succumbs to finitude. I suspect I am not the only one who reaches this pluperfect state. Most ambitions are either achieved or abandoned; either way, they belong to the past.

The future, instead of the ladder toward the goals of life, flattens out into a perpetual present. Money, status, all the vanities the preacher of Ecclesiastes described, hold so little interest: a chasing after wind, indeed.”

— Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

The other one is not so new but I've discovered a new dimension to it. Regret is a very powerful force and it will eat you if you let it... the only way to beat regret is to live life to its fullest and without regrets.

It’s not the things we do in life that we regret on our death bed, it is the things we do not.

— Randy Pausch, Carnegie Mellon Commencement Speech, 2008

Going forward

You can't really be joyful if you can't be true to yourself, who you are and what you stand for. A lot of the time I fall back on principles and convictions as a way to avoid taking responsibility for our lives and actions. What story am I looking for in others that my own stories are not telling?

I'm finding that, more and more, the quality of presence that I seek to cultivate is being true to yourself and respectful of differences in opinion and character. I may not respect you as much as I once did but will listen to what you have to say and then move on with my decision.

Specifics

2017 includes the possibility to go back to work with Sarah and the team at Google... don't know if it'll be the exact same team but the possibility sounds really intriguing as did the compliments I got when I asked about possible projects.

If Google falls through then what? The two ideals kinda fell through and I'm not going to get my hopes up that either of them will happen. Will follow up with both of them this week (week of 1/2) and see if anything develops from there

EBay fell through because I refuse to commit to anything for more than a year without re-evaluating where I'm at and if I'm still happy with what I'm doing and how I'm doing it. I need that ongoing feedback loop and I don't know how much of it I'd get if this was a long term project.

What story do you want to tell?

10 years blogging… and I didn’t even notice

The first post in this version of the blog is dated September 4th, 2006. I remember living in my second Chico apartment as I typed it. The blog had lived for a year before in a Movable Type installation that I found to hard to manage and even harder to configure (much later I learned that I was running it incorrectly but oh, well...).

Going back through some of the posts it's also interesting to see how much has changed and how many things have stayed the same

Gate A-4

Gate A-4
Naomi Shihab Nye, 1952

Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning
my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement:
“If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please
come to the gate immediately.”

Well—one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.

An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just
like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing. “Help,"
said the flight agent. “Talk to her. What is her problem? We
told her the flight was going to be late and she did this.”

I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke haltingly.
“Shu-dow-a, Shu-bid-uck Habibti? Stani schway, Min fadlick, Shu-bit-
se-wee?” The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly
used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled
entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for major medical treatment the
next day. I said, “No, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just later, who is
picking you up? Let’s call him.”

We called her son, I spoke with him in English. I told him I would
stay with his mother till we got on the plane and ride next to
her. She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just
for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while
in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I
thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know
and let them chat with her? This all took up two hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling of her life, patting my knee,
answering questions. She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool
cookies—little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and
nuts—from her bag—and was offering them to all the women at the gate.
To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the mom from California, the
lovely woman from Laredo—we were all covered with the same powdered
sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookie.

And then the airline broke out free apple juice from huge coolers and two
little girls from our flight ran around serving it and they
were covered with powdered sugar, too. And I noticed my new best friend—
by now we were holding hands—had a potted plant poking out of her bag,
some medicinal thing, with green furry leaves. Such an old country tradi-
tion. Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and I thought, This
is the world I want to live in. The shared world. Not a single person in that
gate—once the crying of confusion stopped—seemed apprehensive about
any other person. They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women, too.

This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.

moments

I saw this poem in a friend's page and it made me think. It made me think about the price of remaining silent. It made me think about being afraid when I go out on the street and how to reclaim the streets and my own life. It made me think that confronting fears is not an extraordinary thing but an everyday event and something that may help who you least expect... you.

moments :: mary oliver

There are moments that cry out to be fulfilled.
Like, telling someone you love them.
Or giving your money away, all of it.

Your heart is beating, isn’t it?
You’re not in chains, are you?

There is nothing more pathetic than caution
when headlong might save a life,
even, possibly, your own.

What’s life? What matters?

For some reason this Medium post anoyed me to no end.

I think the essence of what annoyed me so much is summed up in the fragment below

So I didn’t buy the ring. We didn’t get married. She moved out. We moved to different cities. I called her once a few years later but now she’s not even on Facebook and we haven’t talked since.

I forgot everything about her basically.

That sums up the 20s — EVERYTHING you think is important and meaningful has absolutely no bearing on your future life.

I started writing the angry reply below:


And none of those things that are not true anymore influenced you of today?

So the 5 or 6 non serious books didn’t motivate you to write the good books you’ve been writing “seriously” in your 40s?

If you hadn’t become so good at “bouncing back” in your 20s would you be able to throw yourself completely at things?

Nothing matters? I’ll definitely call bullshit on that one.

Life matters, what you do and don’t do matters. What you regret and what you wish you could still do matters

If you’re going to be that cynical why should we follow you? after all what you have to say doesn’t matter either


But then it made me think about why it bothered me so much

Maybe it's because it wasn't until last year that I reclaimed my 20s and what they represented and what they meant to me. All the changes, all the good and the bad things that have happened since have molded me into the person I am today and I wouldn't change my life in the last 22 years for anything in the world.

Or maybe it's the fact that if I accept the fact that nothing I did in my 20s and 30s has any meaning on who I am today then who I am today doesn't have any meaning either. Ever since I've remembered I've searched for those things that give meaning to my life and if I were to accept that nothing I've done and none of the people I've loved in the time I've been in the US matter then what's the point on living? (philosophical point... I am not suicidal)

My passion was theater and I didn’t realize how much I missed it until almost 20 full years went by and I got to engage with it again in a very different context. Something that made me curious about it again and made me want to experiment with theater in a different way and in a very different context and to really appreciate what it is that made me love theater in the first place.

Epilogue (for now): Airports and the transitory nature of life/travel

I’m sitting in Heathrow as I get ready to return to the US and move on to whatever comes next. I know, I know… I have 4 hours waiting time before I have to board the sardine can for the 10 hour flight home.

I’ve always loved airports. There is a sense of impermanence and transition. Everyone in here is leaving a place, is in a place and is going to a place. They are not of the place they left, they are not of the place they are in, and they are yet to become of the place they travel to.

There are thousand of ephemeral moments that happen once and are gone. The people, the smells, even the screaming brats are exclusive of the moment. We take refuge in the familiar or we go our of our way to take risks and push for the unknown.

And then we arrive and act as if nothing had changed. Or maybe everything did

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