Orange Fire

On August 22nd I wrote that my cat might live another week or another year. Crushingly, it turned out to be one month.

Even though her last month was filled with worry and tears and ER visits and more medication than I thought possible for a small cat, there was also so much care, so much love, and so many purrs. I will forever cherish those last few weeks I got to spend with her.

She was the smallest in the household but arguably had the biggest personality. She was orange, brave, curious, loving, and a true friend. She lived life on her terms. We always saw her as very independent, yet going over the thousands of photos, it struck me that she was always there, whether we were working, cooking, renovating the house, or watching a movie.

I’ve been reading about grief and this bit seems like a good lifeline for me right now:

The process of healthy grieving is not to “get over” the death of a loved one, but to integrate the experience of loss into present life.

We put her down a few days ago but it’s still a shock to talk about her in the past. She’s still everywhere in the house, everywhere I go, everywhere I look. So it will take time. No life is too small to touch you in profound ways.

She will be with me forever in my heart and memories, and I will miss her orange fire forever.

I’m sad that the Green Party of Canada has been self-disintegrating since Elizabeth May stepped down. I care much more about issues than political parties and I’ve been using The Green Party for years as a way to vote symbolically for action on climate and social issues. If they fall apart, I worry who I will vote for.

What makes some workplaces fond of acronyms? I regularly see or hear phrases at work that are so full of jargon as to be incomprehensible if you’re not “in the know”. It makes me feel like it’s a private club, and new hires have to pay the price by constantly asking what they mean or risk not being in the loop. Why not optimize for clarity and call things what they are?

The redesigned remote that comes with the Apple TV 6th generation is such a large improvement over the previous version. Every aspect that was bad has been made pretty much perfect: the weight, the size, the interaction, the buttons. And they managed to keep and improve what was good about it: the touch pad. I love to see industrial design done well.

A Million Purrs

On Friday night, our 8 year-old cat was struggling to breathe and wouldn’t eat or drink. We called all the veterinary ERs and none could take her. At our wits end, I was resigned that she might die. It was a tough night but somehow she made it to the morning.

However her respiratory rate was alarmingly high. We finally found an ER that had room, only to learn that she was in congestive heart failure and the prognosis wasn’t good. We were devastated, considering whether to put her down. But the veterinary doctor got on the phone and convinced another hospital with an ICU to take her.

After a nail-biting drive where I thought she would die in the car, they put her in a box with oxygen and a load of medication. They told us we had to wait and see. I was emotionally exhausted. We went home Saturday dreading the phone would ring with bad news.

We did get a call Sunday morning: finally she was improving. By the afternoon, her respiratory rate was normal and she had started eating. We went to see her. She was drowsy and weak but purred loudly when I took her in my arms.

She continued improving through Monday, and with much relief we took her home by end of day. After everything that happened since Friday, I’m amazed she’s home.

At the same time, I must come to grips with her new condition. A few days ago, we still had several years ahead of us with her in our lives. Now, she could die next week, or next year. The doctor did not dare say any longer. It’s now about medication, managing her stress level, and luck.

Still, I will enjoy whatever she has left. Any other time is a million times better than last Friday.

I’m not proud of how long it’s taken me to finally do this, but today I scheduled my first blood donation. I have no excuse but I’m looking forward to it. I created an account with Canadian Blood Services and installed their app in the hope that this will remind me to do it regularly.

What spurred me to finally do it is the frequent radio ads they run. There is currently a real urgency for blood across Canada. Combined with the alarming hospital staff shortages, and how helpless I feel, donating blood really seems like the very least I can do.

Here’s a take that is not going to be popular in my circles: I don’t understand computing anymore. A windowing system in 2022 that cannot run on anything less powerful than an M1 is over-engineered, pure and simple. Come on, it’s overlapping windows. We’re not sending rockets to Mars here.

I had to request an M1 at work because Xcode was threatening liftoff every time I built our app on Intel. That is not progress. We get all this power, and instead our software becomes ever more bloated, because look all the CPU we can use now! When Java IDEs launch and build faster than Xcode, you know we missed a turn somewhere.

What a waste.

Intriguing:

[T]he most intractable problems of the modern world, from climate change to political polarization, result in large part from an imbalance between the left and right brains.

Surveys are the new spam.

“How did we do?”

Every. Single. Time. You. Buy. Something. Online.

Guess what, everything was fine until you sent me that freakin’ survey.

The people developing and maintaining Mastodon have my gratitude for creating this sensible and people-centric alternative to the ongoing big-business Internet shit show, aka Twitter et al. So I joined Mastodon’s Patreon. It’s about time that I start putting my money where my mouth is.

I started using the beta of the DuckDuckGo browser for Mac a couple days ago. So far I love the speed. I’m actually impressed how snappy it feels compared to other browsers. I already have all manner of tracker and ad blockers with other browsers so it’s not that.

Aside that it’s low on features but it hasn’t been an issue so far. Back to basics, in a good way.

Airlines don’t worry about viruses, but boy don’t they worry about so many other things:

Two hundred strangers in a small tube in the sky, and any of them could be carrying a new variant of a deadly virus we still don’t fully understand? Who cares! A bottle of shampoo larger than 3.4 ounces? Put your hands in the air and don’t fucking move. That bottle could be carrying anthrax, or worse: expired shampoo.

I love McSweeney’s. 😄

It’s been over 3 years since I cut down my meat consumption in favour of mostly vegetarian and vegan foods. The most surprising thing to me is how normal it all is. We make the same food as before, just with different ingredients. It’s not complicated or weird and it tastes just fine.

War crimes is an odd concept. What the fuck are you talking about?

If two guys decide to settle an argument outside the pub, they get arrested for disturbing the peace, but if guys in suits decide to send young people bomb each other it’s fine?

Give me a fucking break. And don’t get me started on “crimes against humanity”. As if what we’re doing to the climate wasn’t one.

I don’t talk about it much, but the lack of critical sense in journalism is something that I think is really damaging to society:

[P]rominent national journalists relentlessly conflate things that annoy me […] with things that threaten democracy […]. While I understand the conflation on a human level, on a journalistic level your literal job is knowing the difference.

I’m five months in with the M1 Pro MacBook Pro. I haven’t heard the fan yet. I haven’t felt it warm yet. I can go for a few days without charging. That’s working with it daily in Xcode and Android Studio, often simultaneously, among other things.

This is the computer definition of not breaking a sweat.

Looking for a simple, no-frills, no-nonsense device I ordered a Murena phone with /e/OS pre-installed. Let’s see how that goes.

So here’s how I came to the realization that using oil for energy makes no sense.

We use oil because we can burn it. We make energy by burning it. That’s all it is. And you know when we started burning things for energy? Thousands of years ago. Thousands of years of evolution and technological advancement, and we still go around in our fancy cars by making repeated little explosions. Wanna go faster? More gas! More explosions! Queue in the Neanderthals.

Seems ridiculous when you think about it this way.

As a society, 0ur collective obsession with “the best” is getting out of hand. Sure something may not be the best. But idealism and looking for perfection is not the solution to most problems. A better question is, is it better than the current option? And we all know that there is always something better coming down the pipe anyway. Incremental progress is good. Let’s embrace it.

With all the problems that the world is already experiencing, Putin decided that invading Ukraine, killing innocent people, and adding to the suffering was what he had to do. What a shameful, reprehensible, disgusting, and sad excuse of a human being he is. I’m worried for my friends and the people of Ukraine, I’m sorry that the sensible people in Russia who don’t want this are going to pay a price, and I hope everyone is safe.

Here we go again. Climate shadow instead of climate footprint, yadda yadda yadda.

The people-are-responsible-for-climate-change trope has been more present in the media lately. It may be well-intentioned, but the larger and more important story is that business and industry cause climate change, not people.

I can change my habits but that won’t mean a dime if business and industry doesn’t change.

Since 2018, I’ve been posting both my social media quips and long form pieces to my own web site steveroy.ca.

I do cross-post the social media bits to other platforms, never forgetting to engage with people there. But ultimately, the source of truth for everything I post is my self-hosted site, where I own and control my content.

This last part is why it’s baffling to me that people and companies take residence on platforms like Facebook, ceding ownership and control of their voice.

I heard recently a saying that perfectly encapsulates this: Never build your house on someone else’s land.

Anyone doing creative work constantly has to fight the feeling that their work is no good. Even The Beatles.

I like this quote from The Banality of Genius. A great read.

A good song or album – or novel or painting – seems authoritative and inevitable, as if it just had to be that way, but it rarely feels like that to the people making it.

Speaking of white privilege, here’s a confession. A couple weeks ago I was standing in front of the first aid section at my local pharmacy. I don’t know why then, why now, but it struck me that all the band aids are white. And I wondered what do people of color do? So I looked and indeed found (a few) appropriately coloured bandages.

I wasn’t seeing them until I thought to look.

Something to think about.

This title caught my attention today: All Your Favorite Cartoon Characters Are Black.

My white brain did not comprehend what was happening until I was half way into the article. I have never considered that people of color will perceive color in places where white people are discouraged from seeing it, imagined or not.

Untraining is a slow process.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. It also happens that I’ve been developing software professionally for 25 years. I thought I knew what I was doing then, which could be said for both love and work. I can see now that I didn’t, not really. And that’s OK.

I may not be one of the cool kids anymore. But here’s one thing I’ve learned.

You have to allow for change. For yourself, definitely. But most importantly, for others around you. Especially the people you love and care about. One of the greatest gifts you can give someone you love is the freedom to change. Allow for them to try out ideas, evolve who they are, and even change their mind. Let them challenge you.

And when that happens, step up to the plate. Keep learning something new every day. Stay curious, challenge your assumptions, avoid stagnation. And that’s true for love and work too.

Don’t Look Up Is Not Supposed To Be Good

I watched Don’t Look Up on Netflix recently. It’s taken me a while to digest the movie and I’ve been struggling to put my thoughts into words. I still don’t know whether it’s all well-formed in my mind, but I do know that I would regret waiting any longer and remaining silent. After all, the climate is one of the things I spend the most time thinking about, and certainly one that I’m the most vocal about online. Honestly, I just don’t want to look back later and see that I failed to underline what is happening.

There are already plenty of good reactions out there for you to read, so I don’t intend to bore you with my take on the movie itself. If you’re curious how serious climate activists feel who have been begging the world to do something for 40 and more years, George Monbiot’s piece in The Guardian is a good place to start.

What I would like to do instead is take a step back and consider whether a movie about a civilization-ending catastrophe is supposed to be good in the first place.

The fact that critics don’t like the movie is completely irrelevant. Some things are just not meant to be evaluated and ranked. This isn’t meant to be a great film in the artistic sense. Criticizing its artistic value is like criticizing a real life event. Of course the characters’ reactions don’t make sense. Of course the plot is incredibly frustrating. That’s the whole point. Because what it portrays is what we are doing right now in real life. As the climate crisis becomes ever more dire every week, what gets media focus doesn’t make sense, and the people trying to raise the alarm feel incredible frustration.

Don’t Look Up is holding up a mirror and asking us to take a good long look at ourselves. If you have any doubt about that, the very fact that we are criticizing the movie is itself a meta reflection of the satire portrayed in the film.

Don’t shoot the messenger, the saying goes. In this case, it would be laughable if it weren’t so tragic that we are debating the artistic value of the messenger, instead of debating what to do about the message itself.

That mirror the movie is holding? Guess what, you’re not going to like what you see in it. Yes, many times while watching I felt like grabbing the closest object—the remote, the dog, the Christmas tree—and throwing it at the TV. It made me sweat, it made my heart race, it made me want to scream. And in that sense, Jennifer Lawrence’s character made perfect sense to me. If you care at all about what we’re doing to the Earth, this isn’t a comfortable movie to watch. You’re not supposed to enjoy watching it. If you do, you don’t get it and we sincerely hope a light goes on in your head. Because a sensible reaction would be to ask yourself questions. A good start is something along the lines of “what the fuck are we doing? What is wrong with us?!”

Questions. There are lots of them. I found myself wondering about the movie’s effectiveness. Is this the right movie for right now? If the goal is to wake people up—at the very least the oblivious people who are just cruising along while our way of life destroys the very air, water and soil we depend on—does it succeed at doing that?

The plot is definitely Americanized, the rest of the world being mentioned in passing with a lot of hand waving. Of course, considering the unprecedented craziness and navel-gazing we have witnessed coming out of the United States over the last 5 years, it’s arguably fair and well-deserved. But in this age of siloed Facebook nonsense, how many polarized people will actually be touched by such an angle? How many people will choose to sit through an anxiety-inducing watching experience, except those who are already sold to the magnitude of the problem?

I hope it’s more people than I think. Climate activism is very much about grinding away at the problem, in the same way that wind and water very gradually erode hard rock. Gaining traction is a slow process. Today we are nowhere near where we want to be in terms of mass awareness and societal action, but there has been constant progress nonetheless. If you had told me 10 years ago that the climate crisis would now be mainstream news instead of the purview of tree huggers and niche groups, I would not have believed you. Yet here we are considering a Hollywood movie on the matter.

So in that sense, yes, definitely, every single little bit that chips away at the problem is welcome. It’s not one single thing that will trigger the wave of awareness and willingness to act that we need, it’s a lot of small repeated ones. And if Don’t Look Up contributes to that, then it’s A Good Thing.

I have wondered whether the movie is accurate in its portrayal. I don’t know that “accurate” is even the right word here, but let’s run with it. Is Don’t Look Up accurate enough? Does it show us the true science? Are the shallow TV hosts and narcissistic politicians too over-the-top? Some people, critics certainly, if not people in the media, think that Don’t Look Up is at worse an exaggeration, at best a satire of our reality. And sometimes I agree. But then, I don’t.

You only need to read the reactions of a few professional scientists and life-long activists to know that, for some of us at least, this is all too real and dire. These folks are worth listening to. Just like other great people in the past whose convictions brought change we now consider obvious.

An angle I didn’t see coming, in the movie, is the fact that technology is pitted against science. Tech is described as the “big guys” and scientists are considered amateurs. It’s a revealing angle that underscores how, overall, we don’t really—or not completely—value science. It’s the nerd we all knew at school. It’s the mad scientist who plots to take over the world in our stories. It’s never glorified. That is reserved for the likes of Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, our tech lords. But tech would not exist without science. Tech is only how science manifests itself in our daily life. And too many people don’t know that.

The treatment that the scientific method gets in the movie is especially frustrating. The scientific method is absolutely vital and central to everything that science represents, the very least as a tool for continually refining and polishing ideas. So the fact that the layperson doesn’t know about it, as mirrored in the movie, points to an important lack in our communication of what science is and how it benefits us. Maybe it’s time to realize that science is not the enemy.

In retrospect, I was reminded of Tomorrowland, the movie. At the end, David Nix from the future reveals that they tried to warn people of what was coming. But the people gobbled up the apocalypse with a large bowl of popcorn, and asked for more. That is an effective criticism of our love of catastrophe stories, but few people paid attention to that message.

Is Don’t Look Up a good movie then? No, not in that sense. But is it what we need? Is that how far gone we are? Well, maybe it is.