March 26, 2014

Farewell, Alpha

alpha donnie

A good portion of my summers as a child were spent on a porch with these lovely folks. Alpha and Donnie Hume were the "neighborhood grandparents" near my cousin Katie's house, and while spending time together we'd often end up paying them a visit. They welcomed us with open arms and treated us like their own family, and while I was never as close to them as Katie was, the time I spent there certainly made an impact on my life and helped shape who I am today.

I was very sad to hear that Alpha passed away on Friday. She was one of the sweetest human beings I've ever known, so this is quite a loss for her family and the world.

March 25, 2014

Reviving my old laptop

photoTonight, I powered up an old laptop of mine for the first time in six years. Running Windows XP, the eight-year-old Compaq Presario C304NR has seen better days.

For the record, this is the machine I used for most of the work on my first web startup, so it holds a weird, geeky brand of sentimental value.

After booting (which, by the way, was a loooonnng process), I was prompted to enter a password that I'd long forgotten. That didn't matter, though, because even moving the cursor across the screen was more than I had patience for.

I decided to install Ubuntu on the system to see if I could squeeze any performance out of it with a lighter OS, and it's now running like a new machine! Well, not new... but not eight years old, either!

However, following the hour and a half that went into this little restoration, Ubuntu kindly notified me that "hard disk failure is imminent," and that I should back up my files and replace the drive immediately.

Maybe if it wasn't 1 a.m., and if it was a different (read: newer) machine, I'd put more work into it.

Oh, well. I'll find something to do with it while it lasts.

March 22, 2014

Fooling ourselves

Back in 1974, Richard Feynman, one of the most famous physicists of the 20th century, gave a commencement address at the California Institute of Technology. He called it “Cargo Cult Science” (PDF). It contains what I think is the best succinct summary of the scientific process:

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool.

He then said, “it's easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that.” The entire structure of science—in universities and journals, online and offline, and in the principles of being able to repeat experiments, disprove theories, and predict results—is an attempt to keep from fooling ourselves about reality.

This is a clear demonstration of how hard it is to avoid being foolish: scientists and the rest of us still fool ourselves all the time. But the process also does a good job at correcting our mistakes, so our foolishness doesn’t last long. Being that it is a human system, science isn’t perfect, but it does well at refining our knowledge, allowing us to weed out imperfections in our understanding of our world and the Universe.

Say Something

Quite often, music videos have little to do with the songs they represent. That’s not the case with “Say Something” by A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera.

When I first heard this song on the radio, I didn’t give it a second thought. But the gorgeous vocals paired with this powerful video took my breath away tonight, indeed bringing me to tears.

The song itself is beautiful in its simplicity. It begins with a four-chord piano accompaniment, later adding an orchestral backing, and finally climaxing with a heartbreaking duet.

The lyrics are open to interpretation, of course, but the video depicts two distinct scenarios:

The first is a couple lying together in bed, clearly amid a mass of tension. She turns away from him as the hook pleads, “Say something, I’m giving up on you.”

“And I am feeling so small. / It was over my head, / I know nothing at all. / And I will stumble and fall. / I’m still learning to love, / Just starting to crawl.”

The second involves an elderly man whose wife has just died. The hook returns as he gently strokes her forehead: “Say something, I’m giving up on you.” He loses control, giving his love one last hug.

“And I will swallow my pride. / You’re the one that I love, / And I’m saying goodbye.”

The song climaxes with both men walking away from the respective beds, each having lost the love of their life.

The message? One of those losses was preventable.

This was an awakening for me, because although I always try to make Sabrina feel loved and cherished, I do sometimes take her for granted, forgetting how lucky I am to have her. I couldn’t ask for more, but I could certainly give a little more.

Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, so make today count. Tell that special someone you love them. Do something kind. Show someone you care. Say something.

March 3, 2014


As human beings, we tend to not like change. We have a certain attraction to what's familiar. But inevitably, that comfortable familiarity melts away, leaving behind mere memories of the life you once knew, the people you once knew, and the self you once knew.