Bye bye birdie!

Last night i decided to do a digital reset of sorts. Ok, well maybe it was thrust upon me because silly me forgot to do a backup before i flashed a new custom rom on my phone. ALWAYS DO A FULL BACKUP FIRST!!!!

I usually do a backup. But i’d flashed this particular rom on several previous occasions and it had always worked flawlessly. Enter Murphy and his annoying law. This was at about 11pm. You know that sinking feeling you get when something really REALLY bad has happened and you’re not sure you can fix it? Ya, that’s what i felt when i was looking at my blank screen. Welcome to “you’ve been bricked”.

After several hours of frustration (at 2am i finally gave up, resigned to having to get a new phone soon – wasn’t that going to be a fun conversation to have with the wife. $$$). But wait, the story has a happy ending. Bear with me. I crashed, and woke up early (it’s impossible to sleep in with young school aged kids in the house). And within about 30 minutes my phone was humming along nicely. Moral of the story? Well. 1st moral: ALWAYS BACKUP before you do something potentially dangerous. 2nd moral: Never try to solve complicated tech problems at 2am.

Sadly, since i hadn’t backed up recently, the best i could do was restore an older backup from 2 months ago. Which might not seem all that bad. But … 2 months of angry birds 3 star levels lost? Seriously. That’s what i was most worried about. Everything else i could either get back through “the cloud” or my other backups. But my angry birds data was irretrievably lost :(

But as the day went on and i starting bringing things back online one by one, i realized something. Probably 90% of the “stuff” i had on my phone was digital clutter that i didn’t really care about. I hightly doubt i’ll miss it (including the angry birds, angry birds rio, angry birds seasons, angry birds space, and bad piggies games that sucked so much of my time). I’m curious to see what i do end up putting back on. Liberation!

The ‘kiddies’

This afternoon i stayed home from church with my youngest who was sick. Her two older sisters went by themselves. After church was over, i left to pick them up. As i was leaving, she asked me where i was headed. ‘To pick up the kiddies’ i said. Well, she gets a big smile and goes “ooooohh, how many are you getting? Can i have one in my room?”. Obviously thinking i’d said “kitties”. Well .. who am i to dash a young girls dreams? I said sure, i’ll let of the kiddies sleep in her room. I didn’t tell her it would be her cute little redheaded sister…

A few minutes later i arrived home with the kiddies in tow. Cute little girl – rather than be all said and disappointed (apparently she did nothing but talk about the new kittens while i was gone), she goes “ahhhh DDAAAAAD, you tricked me!”, with a big smile. Which naturally was the reaction i was hoping for :)

the blinking cursor

Recently a friend of mine sent along an article i found quite fascinating. Normally i’d have read it and moved on. But this one really caught my attention. The basic synopsis is the author talking about a young kid in the 80’s who got his first computer and became a self-taught programmer. (Sounds a lot like me). Then the author goes on to state how he tried to become a self-taught programmer and failed miserably time and again. This article is his analysis of how he finally succeeded.

But the part that really resonated with me? It’s how he describes this young man getting into computers in the first place. It was like i was looking into a mirror while i read this.

When Colin Hughes was about eleven years old his parents brought home a rather strange toy. It wasn’t colorful or cartoonish; it didn’t seem to have any lasers or wheels or flashing lights; the box it came in was decorated, not with the bust of a supervillain or gleaming protagonist, but bulleted text and a picture of a QWERTY keyboard. … On the whole it looked like a pretty crappy gift for a young boy. But his parents insisted he take it for a spin … And so he did. And so, he says, “I was sucked into a hole from which I would never escape.”

It’s not hard to see why. Although this was 1983, and the ORIC-1 had about the same raw computing power as a modern alarm clock, there was something oddly compelling about it. When you turned it on all you saw was the word “Ready,” and beneath that, a blinking cursor. It was an open invitation: type something, see what happens.

That’s also how my adventure began. When i got my first computer, i sat there for hours going through the old manual, making blips and bleeps, and little guys running across the screen. Humble beginnings – but hey – it paved the way for my eventual career in computer science.

The rest of the article is worth reading too. It talks about the author and how he came to learn the ins and outs of computer programming (and more generally – basic logical problem solving).

His first several attempts consisted of buying a big fat textbook – you know, one of those “teach yourself in 21 days”. The 1500 page dry boring texts that even _I_ can never get through – and i’ve been a programmer for decades now. Finally he discovered an online ‘teach yourself programming’ course that was put together by a now grown up Colin Hughes.

What’s interesting is how he goes about it. Learning doesn’t have consist of dry, boring, sterile sets of facts, rules, and procedures. It can be fun, engaging, interactive. Almost gamelike. The majority of the article talks about the procedure of making learning fun for the student so that they WANT to explore a little more, and then a little more, and then before you know it, they’ve mastered something along the way.

If you’d like to check it out, you can read it here

Update:

My mom sent along some pictures of our 2nd computer (she’s right – the first was an aquarius, soon followed by an Atari 130XE – which is where i really started to program).

Random snippets of my life

Watching the auroras during a night of skywatching in Wisconsin while visiting my in-laws. Beautiful, green/white slowly undulating waves of electromagnetism in the sky.

Watching the sun set next to the lake while camping up Provo canyon with Luann and some of her clients (from the developmental center). There was a large oncoming storm and a shimmering yellow/orange wall – droplets of fire – rapidly approaching us from the west.

Driving home late one night on State Street in Orem when a storm rolled in and gobbled up the mountains. One moment you could see them, the next moment a giant “nothing” quickly engulfed them in a rolling, boiling mass of dark stormclouds.

Walking down a street in Florida on my mission. Dry as a bone, hot, humid. 3 feet in front of me – the sidewalk is soaked and the rain is pouring down. I stay where i am and remain dry for a few minutes before whipping out the umbrella and braving the storm.

Seeing the rings of Saturn and the cloud bands of Jupiter for the first time in my telescope.

Watching flames dance in the air 30+ feet high as they engulf the trees on the mountain-side a few miles to the east of our house.

The mesmerizingly deep blue and perfectly crystal clear pools next to the big lake in Yellowstone.

Seeing a tuft of curly red hair as my 3rd is born.

Taking a tour of a “proper castle ruin” (Rhaglan) in the UK countryside while taking a break from a business trip.

Driving in and out of a thick fogbank that goes on for hours as we’re driving home from St. George. Trees covered in ice crystals. Ghostly shapes fleeting by just out of sight.

On a family road trip, stopping off at Mt. Rushmore. On the self-guided walkway there’s a small offshoot which leads to a rock with a hole in it. Looking up through the hole the sky is clear and blue and all you see, framed by a rough-hewn black oval of the rock, is the face of George Washington, hundreds of feet up and larger than life.

Looking out the window of an airplane while the family is flying out to Washington/Oregan (job interview with HP i think?). Seeing the wind blowing across the top of Mt. Hood leaving a billowing snow trail thousands of feet long.

Wandering the mountainsides in Northern Utah with my dad on a deer hunting trip when we hear something big moving in the trees nearby. Being startled at just how huge a full grown moose really is when you’re standing 10 feet away.

Thanking God for the extra protection affording a hard working missionary as he’s walking along a muddy road in rural Florida when a 6 foot gator suddenly rushes out of the bushes right by your feet and slithers into the swampy stream next to the road.

A birthday party at our old condo with lots of family and friends around (is it Alex’s 1st?). Walking into the kitchen to grab something, looking up and being stunned by the beautiful girl who’s profile i’m seeing. Her name is Luann.

Before rolling out of bed

I recently read an article that a growing percentage of people check various news and social networking sites before they get out of bed. Funny – I was reading that on my phone in bed after waking up.

I check the weather, the news headlines, Facebook, twitter, email, and then sometimes a few blogs. All before I roll out of bed. I wonder how many others do this.

Life is an adventure – Just say YES

I was just reading an interview with Richard Garriott (the first 2nd generation astronaut) in which he was talking about his trip into space. But he also spent some time discussing how he got to be in the position he’s in. As a young boy his dad was an astronaut with NASA and flew aboard Skylab! (He also did a shuttle mission later on). His mom was an artist. He was an impressionable teenager when Dungeons and Dragons came on the scene and the first personal computers made an appearance. He was perfectly positioned to become what he’s become – the premier fantasy game designer of the 80’s and 90’s.

He’s gone on African safaris, jungle adventures canoing down the Amazon, hunting for meteorites in Antarctica, visited the Titanic at the bottom of the ocean — just to name a few. Add now he’s been to space. But it’s not just his opportunities that have given him this chance. Sure – he had the silver spoon, so to speak, but he didn’t just sit around and go to Harvard. He decided to say “yes i want to do all this crazy stuff.”

It reminds me of the movie that came out last year (2008) with Jim Carrey – “Yes man“, in which Jim’s character goes to a seminar and afterwards says yes to every opportunity that comes his way – no matter what it is. It changes his life.

In my own life, i’ve had some opportunities. Nothing as spectacular as “hey, do you want to go into space” maybe, but still – chances to do things. It’s sometimes hard for me to say yes. I like the status-quo. I’m not super adventurous. But i want to be. Maybe not to the extend Jim Carrey was (i mean, the old lady next door? *shudder*), but more so than i am. I think i’ll work on saying yes a little more often and see what kind of adventure life takes me on.