Friday, September 09, 2016

Live, love, forgive, learn... and have fun!

What's the meaning of life?

...simple: To live!

Whether you understand it or not, whether you accept it or not, you chose to be here... and every day you spend here is a choice.

Within the constraints of time and space, a unique set of experiences and perspectives are available to you. Enjoy them!

To do that, start with a fundamental question, "What do you want!?" Discover your talents. Discover what matters to you. Play. Have fun! Help others.

If you do nothing else, love.

Within the limits of time and space, you may find it difficult to feel God's love. But, the love of others is immediately accessible. And, through that love, you're able to glimpse the love that God offers.

Too many ask "What is love!?" or "How will I find love?" or "How will I know I'm in love?" Too many confuse sex drive, romantic attraction or attachment to another as love. These are all powerful drives. But they're biological -- evolution's agenda -- they're not love. So, what is love?

To love, is to share our time, touch, words of affirmation, gifts and service to another without expectation. Gary Chapman's book The Five Love Languages sums it up beautifully.

Most of us have been fortunate to love and be loved at some point ...the compassion of a stranger ...her smile and the light in her eyes ...a hug from a new friend. Everyone has a story. Something simple that means more to them than they fully understand... A depth of connection that they can't explain.

During and immediately after birth, touch is our first experience. The beauty of touch as an expression of love is that it's reciprocal.

On the couch, with my six week old daughter sleeping soundly on my chest, tears streaming down my cheeks, I finally experienced true love for another. Eventually, I struggled to put words to the experience... To me, the best way to describe the feeling was to say "I had fallen in love with my daughter." But for the first time in my life, I had fallen in love in a way that didn't involve sexual attraction, or romantic attraction, or attachment. I was feeling something entirely new.

It would take another 24 years, and several more children, to fully understand... But, eventually it finally clicked:

To be "in love" is to open our heart to another with the hope that they will offer us their love through their time, touch, words, gifts or service.

As our heart is filled by their love, we feel love... "you'll just know it!" is true... unhelpful, but true. You'll also know it by paying attention to their actions: Do they spend quality time with you? Do they touch you lovingly? Do they offer words of affirmation? Do they bring you gifts? Do they offer acts of service?

And, all too often, sadly, once we have opened our heart to another, we will experience "The Void" -- the ache that comes from the lack of love from that special other... Whether it is temporary or permanent, the longing, desperation, and deep sadness that comes from having opened our heart to another only to feel it left empty is overwhelming. It causes us to question everything about that love, and our choice to be loved...

Forgiveness is the answer

Inevitably, we will have the need for forgiveness, and we will need to forgive. Forgiveness to another enables our heart to heal. Through our forgiveness, we let go.

Are there people who have hurt you? Are there people who make you angry? Forgive them. You have nothing to lose. Forgiving them doesn't "let them off the hook." Forgiving them doesn't mean that you have to forget. Forgiving them doesn't mean setting yourself up to repeat the past. Forgiving them is simply letting go of the past, living in your moment, and embracing your future free of the wounds of the past.

Asking forgiveness is the first step toward rebuilding a damaged relationship. If you have caused harm -- in any way -- there is always a way to feel sorry, to sincerely offer an apology, and to ask for forgiveness. A true apology is offered without expectation; you should not expect to be forgiven. But, to help the other to heal, you can acknowledge your mistake, you can offer to make amends, and you can honestly express your desire to heal the relationship. If you are refused, you have the opportunity to forgive them and be patient. Time is often the answer.

Live and learn

For decades, I've said "You can learn the hard way or the easy way. Listen to me, and I'll teach you the easy way. Keep doing what you're doing, and you may learn the hard way."

What I haven't said is that learning the easy way is a very slow process. Although a lot can be understood at an intellectual level, deep learning comes from experience. And, there's nothing like learning the "hard way" to translate experience -- rapidly -- into a lesson learned.

For my part, I chose "both." There are some lessons that are worth learning the hard way. There are a few lessons that can only be learned the hard way.

To me, it seems that lessons involving emotion can only be truly learned through experience -- the hard way. "Tis better to have loved and lost than to never to have loved at all." are terrific words, but it's only after losing love that they'll truly resonate. At that point, many of us find ourselves bitterly disagreeing. Love lost is a very hard lesson... but there doesn't seem to be any other way.

Likewise, courage is splashed across the big screen in the latest spate of war movies, but too few of us truly understand what bravery and courage feel like. There is no easy way to learn and deeply understand courage... you have to face the circumstance, feel the fear or the terror, make hard choices, and push through the experience... at the end of it all, we call it "courage." But, in the midst of it, we explain it only as "I did what I had to do." "...I did what anyone else would have done."

Ultimately, reflecting on the question "What do you want?" I suspect that all of us can realize that we're here to learn something. Certainly the need to live, love, forgive are common to us all. But, there's something in particular you're here to learn.

For my part, it has always been easy -- revealed in my very first words: "How's it works?" Although I wasn't conscious of it at the time, I'd spend the next two decades of my life exploring the mechanical and electrical world to understand "how's it works?" Cars, trains, planes, TVs... anything with buttons. Anything that moved.

In 1979, electronics, integrated circuits, the microprocessor, the computer would capture my attention. In 1984, philosophy and theology were added to the list. But, they weren't new, at four, I wondered about the nature of infinity... the limits of time and space. If you go to the limit, and then go further, what then? With the August 1985 cover of Scientific American, the image of the Mandelbrot Set renewed a fascination with mathematics, and ignited a new appreciation for how deeply math is woven through the fabric of our reality.

In 2003, I learned that my answer to most things is "both" or "all of the above." That has made focusing a challenge for me. What do you want to learn? Everything. But, the touch-stone has always been "How's it works?"

Have fun!

As a game developer, there is a particular irony to me that we live in the most extraordinary simulation ever invented. Whether you attribute that invention to God, or the spontaneous evolution of the properties of this universe following "The Big Bang", it's undeniable that the limits of this reality -- our time and space -- afford an extraordinarily vast playground.

Although we are radically constrained by our bodies, in this era we are fortunate to be able to use technology to extend our capabilities. Throughout history, we have explored through our imagination. With science, we have explored with our technologies. And, increasingly in this era, we are able to explore with our spirits.

What are we here for? ...the simple answer for me has always been: To have fun!

Sure, there are loftier pursuits: helping others, creating beautiful works of art, saving the world, making the world a better place. But, whatever you chose, if you're not having fun, you've probably chosen the wrong pursuit. ...I don't mean that every moment will be fun. I mean, when you look back on the last day, week, month, or year and say "What do I love!?" If you're not doing *that* with some portion of your life, you should be looking more carefully at your alternatives.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Blog post for Melissa

A friend was asked "What do you do?"  Answering on her behalf, from my experience, this is the answer I see:

Q: What do you do?

A: I guess what I do depends a lot on your perspective. To some, it might seem that I just spend weeks away from my family talking on a microphone to a bunch of tourists on a bus. To others who know better, it's clear that what I do is far more subtle.

To them, I'm a teacher. I share my knowledge of the people, places and cultures of New Zealand, Australia and Fiji. While many of my students sleep, or tune out with their earbuds firmly embedded in their skulls, a few of the students, and many of the parents, listen attentively and learn.

In the end, they may not retain many of the facts I've shared. But they all share in the love for these beautiful islands and their people.

But, for me, it's about more than being a teacher or a guide... Through my passion, my time, and my attention, I share my love for the people and places we visit -- and offer my love to the people I guide. Many appreciate what I offer and return that love, saying that their lives have been enriched by the time I've shared with them. We are a global family; my brothers and sisters, my children... Many, I'll never see or hear from again. But with a special few, I stay connected. Although we may never see each other in person again, the time we've spent traveling together has formed a rare and special bond.

I love what I do. I'm good at it. My life and the lives of those I touch are better for the work I do.

You don't have to understand... But if you really want to, why don't you come see for yourself?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

ALS findings - what do we know?

Amid the flood of ALS bucket challenges, I thought I'd take a moment to google for what's known. Here's what I found:

What is ALS?

A-myo-trophic comes from the Greek language. "A" means no or negative. "Myo" refers to muscle, and "Trophic" means nourishment–"No muscle nourishment." When a muscle has no nourishment, it "atrophies" or wastes away. "Lateral" identifies the areas in a person's spinal cord where portions of the nerve cells that signal and control the muscles are located. As this area degenerates it leads to scarring or hardening ("sclerosis") in the region.

As motor neurons degenerate, they can no longer send impulses to the muscle fibers that normally result in muscle movement.


What causes ALS?

August 21, 2011 - Ubiquilin2 in spinal and brain system cells is supposed to repair or dispose of other proteins as they become damaged. The researchers discovered a breakdown of this function in ALS patients.

When Ubiquilin2 is unable to remove or repair damaged proteins, the damaged proteins begin to pile up in the cells, eventually blocking normal transmission of brain signals in the spinal cord and brain, leading to paralysis.


April 4, 2014 - "Like the studs, joists and rafters of a house, the neurofilament is the backbone of the cell, but it's constantly changing. These proteins need to be shipped from the cell body, where they are produced, to the most distant part, and then be shipped back for recycling," he said. "If the proteins cannot form correctly and be transported easily, they form tangles that cause a cascade of problems."

Zhang's research group found "the disease ALS is caused by misregulation of one step in the production of the neurofilament," he said.


What is causing the protein transport process to fail?

January 05, 2012 - ...a serendipitous trail of clues led him to discover that a tiny toxic molecule, beta-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA), believed to be from cycads on Guam, was in fact produced by cyanobacteria, and not just on Guam, but around the world. More astonishing, he and Banack discovered that BMAA had accumulated in the brains of humans who’d died from ALS, Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s — but not in the brains of people who’d died from other causes.


March 31, 2013 - ...folks with ALS have more heavy metal exposures like lead.

In addition, people with ALS have more hydrocarbon exposures like jet fuel, as well as paint strippers, cutting, cooling and lubricating oils, stock-piled anti-freeze, de-icers or coolants like propylene glycol and even dry cleaning agents, auto exhaust, and chlorinated hydro­carbons like pesticides.

Fang F, et al, Workplace exposures and the risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Environ Health Persp, 117:1387-92, 2009

Kamel f, et al, Lead exposure as a risk factor for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Neurodegen Dis, 2:195-201, 2005

Homer RD, et al., Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis among 1991 Gulf War veterans: evidence for a time-limited outbreak, Neuroepidemiol 31:28-32, 2008

Ritchie GD, et al, Effects of repeated exposure to JP-8 jet fuel va­por on learning of simple and difficult operant tasks by rats, J Toxi­col Environ Health A 64:385-417, 2008


Saturday, March 29, 2014

What's next?

FTLapps has been growing for over two years now!  We have five product lines on the App Store, and thousands of fans around the globe.  We've built apps for the iPhone and iPad... and, soon, hope to have TrackDay for Android out at last!  And, we're aiming to have a sixth product line (a new game!) out on the App Store next month!

But, this update is inspired by consideration of some of the greatest (or at least, most visible) technological advances of the past decade or two.

In no precise order, virtual technologies:

  1. The Internet and the Web (and email and HTML5 and JavaScript...)
  2. Google Search
  3. Blogging in general (and Blogger in particular)
  4. Wikipedia (and within the movie information space, an honorable mention to IMDB)
  5. Facebook (sorry... MySpace, didn't make the cut)
  6. Open Source in general... Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP, jQuery, WordPress and all the other thousands of amazing projects and everyone who has ever contributed
  7. YouTube (
  8. Google ...everything... Maps, Gmail, Analytics, AdWords... (just to get started...)
  9. "Meritocracy Portals" (e.g., Amazon, eBay, App Store, Google Play, Kickstarter, Kiva, TopCoder, shapeways)
  10. Apple Xcode and iOS (in spite of the chaos the iOS 7.1 release has caused in Sprite Kit!)
  11. Learning Portals (
  12. TED (
  13. Facebook (again?  ...yeah, but now, with Oculus Rift and internet laser drones...)
  14. Twitter (...referenced by TV commentators like it actually counts as a news source!?)
  15. Netflix ( 1999 they belonged in the list below, but today, they are increasingly virtual...)
  16. Stack Overflow (...redefining what it means to be an "isolated" software developer)
  17. Microsoft Visual Studio Express (...haven't actually used it, but kudos to MS for putting it out there for free!)
  18. Epic Unreal Engine Technology (...C++ source code too! ...for just $19/month...)
  19. Minecraft (

Physical technologies:

  1. iPhone and iPad ( that a super-computer in your pocket?)
  2. GPU-based rendering in PCs and Consoles (
  3. GoPro (
  4. Wing suits (
  5. Jetman (
  6. 3D Printed organs (
  7. Google's Driverless Car (
  8. Bionic legs (
  9. Bionic eyes (
  10. 3D Printing (The Diamond Age begins with... The Plastic Age?)
  11. Industrial Robots (
  12. Hobbyist Robotics (
  13. Personal Robotics (
  14. MotoGP Premier Class motorcycles (

...don't like my lists... share your additions here!

The question remains.... What's next?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

FTLapps, Inc. is next

What's next?  FTLapps is next!  Incorporated on December 21, 2011, two of our apps are in the app store today, and three are in Beta for release in May and June.  We're on facebook (, and have our own website:

Both on iTunes and in the App Store, check out

And, follow us at for regular updates on what's next!

Monday, August 15, 2011

What's next?

May was an extraordinary month for me.  The process of building AOL's open source strategy in 2011 had been fantastically inspiring.

On Monday, 5/16, on the way to lunch, I concluded that the only way to build the five products I had imagined over the past week would be to start a company. And, in the few steps between the car and the restaurant, I concluded "I am going to start a company."

Friday of that same week, taking a break from work at Graydon Manor during AOL's 2011 Monster Help Day, I facebooked:
  • Favorite quote of the day: "I thought you'd given up on that." -- "I don't give up on anything."
  • Lessons learned: I can do my job anywhere.
  • Lessons learned: You don't have to plan ahead. You can help anytime, anywhere, if you ask, and you listen.
  • Lessons learned: It's ok to make mistakes.
  • Lessons learned: Use the right tool.
  • Lessons learned: everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Work with your strengths.
  • Lessons learned: Working as a team, we do great things, and help the world.
  • Lessons learned: When helping others, we help ourselves. Aka, what goes around, comes around.
  • Favorite quote: are you using Kanban or agile? Kanban. Is that better than agile? I think it depends on the team?
  • Quote of the day: "We start a project; we finish a project!"
  • Lesson learned (2004): "I joined AOL to work with a wide array of people, learn from them, and grow as a person."
  • Lesson learned (2009): "I joined AOL to learn about leadership."
  • Lesson learned (2010): "I joined AOL to learn about working with large teams."
  • Lesson learned (2011): "I joined AOL to learn about leading teams effectively; helping them to realize their potential."
  • Lesson learned: You don't have to do all the work; you don't have to finish the job yourself. Just making a problem clear (e.g., making a big pile of leaves) can be enough to encourage others to work together to solve the problem for you.
  • Lesson learned (2011): I joined AOL to learn how to start, and run, my own company.
By the end of May, I had documented eleven product ideas that I was excited to pursue.  Today, the count stands at fourteen.

In June, I had reaffirmed my commitment to AOL and was poised to continue the effort to take our open source strategy to the next level.  But, the Universe works in mysterious ways, and on 7/20, it was clear that my final observation from 5/20 would be tested sooner than I had imagined.

Stay tuned for what's next!


What's next:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Farewell to AOL

For AOL co-workers, AOL Alumni, family and friends I have been unable to reach -- Monday, 8/1/2011 will be my last day with the company.

After seven great years with AOL, it is time for me to ride off into the sunset.  I joined AOL in July 2004.  While posting status updates to facebook during our 5/20/2011 Aol Monster Help Day, I noted: "I joined AOL to work with a wide array of people, learn from them, and grow as a person."  As I continued to update my status that day, it became clear to me that that goal had been accomplished many times over, in new and more spectacular ways every year I worked with AOL.

I have had the opportunity to work with four CTOs, a range of EVPs, SVPs and VPs, and much of the Technologies leadership over the past few years.  The range and depth of experiences as Chief-of-Staff, Technical Director, and Program Director have surpassed my wildest dreams.

This year, I have been very fortunate to be able to reconnect with many of my colleagues from across the Technologies organization, and to meet many new colleagues.  It has been my pleasure to work with you all.  And, it has been an honor to be able to share in the effort to turn AOL around. 

But, the time has come for me to move on; new adventures await.

As I head out, I'll close with a few thoughts – those I offered just last week in the recent "Great Place to Work" survey – if it were left to me, AOL would be ranked #1.  I have been accused of being an optimist; and for my vision of the future, I suppose that is true.  But, those who have worked closely with me know me as a pragmatist.  I believe that both attitudes are present in this response to the survey:

> Is there anything unique or unusual about this company that makes it a great place to work? Please give specific examples.

With Tim Armstrong's arrival in 2009, it was clear that AOL would finally change in meaningful ways; ways that would lead the company, its employees, products, and customers forward into the future. 

With the mission "to connect, inform and entertain the world," a clearly defined set values, executive management accountability, a clear brand strategy and effective portfolio management, and clear business and product strategies, as a public company in 2010, AOL was finally poised to become the greatest turn-around story in the history of the Internet. 

In 2011, with the refinement of those strategies, and increasingly effective execution to bring great products and services to life, AOL is more alive than ever before. 

> If you could change one thing about this company to make it a better place to work, what would it be? 

Show, for consecutive quarters, significant revenue and profit growth to finally prove to the world that the AOL turn-around is complete!

If we’re not already connected, you can find me at:

I wish you, AOL, our leadership, and all our employees nothing but the best.  I am proud to join the ranks of AOL Alumni.  And I know that you will all continue to do great things with AOL!


Sunday, April 24, 2011

History repeats

"FDR embraced policies that aimed to stop prices and wages from correcting and embarked on the boldest federal intrusion of the private sector in the history of the U.S.—all justified by a crisis made worse by previous attempts to stop prices and wages from correcting.  And when his policies didn't cause the promised happy days to return again, the golden tongued-FDR could be counted on to shift the blame—to Hoover, the Republicans, greedy businessmen, flaws in the free enterprise system."

There was a better answer, once...

As President, Reagan sought to inspire renewed confidence in the nation.  In his Inaugural Address, he declared, "Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem."  Reagan also sought to inspire a belief in freedom abroad, especially among those living in Communist countries.  During his second term, Reagan and his counterpart in the Soviet Union, Mikhail S. Gorbachev, negotiated reductions in nuclear arsenals and helped bring about an end to the Cold War.

Distinguished by his charisma and oratorical skills, Reagan is considered one of the most influential Presidents of the 20th century.
- U.S. Postal Service, Ronald Reagan Centenial Stamp

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What do you want to be?

When I was 5 years old, my mom always told
me that happiness was the key to life.  When I
went to school, they asked me what I wanted
to be when I grew up.  I wrote down "happy".

They told me I didn't understand the assignment.

I told them they didn't understand life.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

60 Ways To Make Life Simple Again

I didn't create this list. But, I'd like to think I could. Excerpted from

Life is not complex. We are complex. Life is simple,
and the simple thing is the right thing.
- Oscar Wilde 
  1. Don’t try to read other people’s minds. Don’t make other people try to read yours. Communicate.
  2. Be polite, but don’t try to be friends with everyone around you. Instead, spend time nurturing your relationships with the people who matter most to you.
  3. Your health is your life, keep up with it. Get an annual physical check-up.
  4. Live below your means. Don’t buy stuff you don’t need. Always sleep on big purchases. Create a budget and savings plan and stick to both of them.
  5. Get enough sleep every night. An exhausted mind is rarely productive.
  6. Get up 30 minutes earlier so you don’t have to rush around like a mad man. That 30 minutes will help you avoid speeding tickets, tardiness, and other unnecessary headaches.
  7. Get off your high horse, talk it out, shake hands or hug, and move on.
  8. Don’t waste your time on jealously. The only person you’re competing against is yourself.
  9. Surround yourself with people who fill your gaps. Let them do the stuff they’re better at so you can do the stuff you’re better at.
  10. Organize your living space and working space.
  11. Get rid of stuff you don’t use.
  12. Ask someone if you aren’t sure.
  13. Spend a little time now learning a time-saving trick or shortcut that you can use over and over again in the future.
  14. Don’t try to please everyone. Just do what you know is right.
  15. Don’t drink alcohol or consume recreational drugs when you’re mad or sad. Take a jog instead.
  16. Be sure to pay your bills on time.
  17. Fill up your gas tank on the way home, not in the morning when you’re in a hurry.
  18. Use technology to automate tasks.
  19. Handle important two-minute tasks immediately.
  20. Relocate closer to your place of employment.
  21. Don’t steal.
  22. Always be honest with yourself and others.
  23. Say “I love you” to your loved ones as often as possible.
  24. Single-task. Do one thing at a time and give it all you got.
  25. Finish one project before you start another.
  26. Be yourself.
  27. When traveling, pack light. Don’t bring it unless you absolutely must.
  28. Clean up after yourself. Don’t put it off until later.
  29. Learn to cook, and cook.
  30. Make a weekly (healthy) menu, and shop for only the items you need.
  31. Consider buying and cooking food in bulk. If you make a large portion of something on Sunday, you can eat leftovers several times during the week without spending more time cooking.
  32. Stay out of other people’s drama. And don’t needlessly create your own.
  33. Buy things with cash.
  34. Maintain your car, home, and other personal belongings you rely on.
  35. Smile often, even to complete strangers.
  36. If you hate doing it, stop it.
  37. Treat everyone with the same level of respect you would give to your grandfather and the same level of patience you would have with your baby brother.
  38. Apologize when you should.
  39. Write things down.
  40. Be curious. Don’t be scared to learn something new.
  41. Explore new ideas and opportunities often.
  42. Don’t be shy. Network with people. Meet new people.
  43. Don’t worry too much about what other people think about you.
  44. Spend time with nice people who are smart, driven, and likeminded.
  45. Don’t text and drive. Don’t drink and drive.
  46. Drink water when you’re thirsty.
  47. Don’t eat when you’re bored. Eat when you’re hungry.
  48. Exercise every day. Simply take a long, relaxing walk.
  49. Let go of things you can’t change. Concentrate on things you can.
  50. Find hard work you actually enjoy doing.
  51. Realize that the harder you work, the luckier you will become.
  52. Follow your heart. Don’t waste your life fulfilling someone else’s dreams and desires.
  53. Set priorities for yourself and act accordingly.
  54. Take it slow and add up all your small victories.
  55. However good or bad a situation is now, it will change. Accept this simple fact.
  56. Excel at what you do. Otherwise you’ll just frustrate yourself.
  57. Mature, but don’t grow up too fast.
  58. Realize that you’re never quite as right as you think you are.
  59. Build something or do something that makes you proud.
  60. Make mistakes, learn from them, laugh about them, and move along.