November 22, 2012
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Let us turn to nature and study complexity in living things, instead of the dead works of man. Here we find constructs whose complexities thrill us with awe. The brain along is an intricate mapping, powerful beyond imitation, rich in diversity, self-protecting, and self-renewing. The secret is that it is grown, not built.

So it must be with our software systems. Some years ago Harlan Mills proposed that any software system should be be grown by incremental development. That is, the system should first be made to run, even though it does nothing useful except call the proper set of dummy subprograms. Then bit-by-bit it is fleshed out, with the subprograms in turn being developed into actions or calls to empty empty stubs in the level below.

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— Fred Brooks - No Silver Bullet - Essence and accident in software engineering (1986)

August 7, 2012

I have often wondered what it would be like to be a special forces operator and go through the intense training members of those units must endure. Unless something drastically changes in my life the chances of that happening are slim to none. That being said, life has found ways to give me a similar experience. After watching several documentaries on special forces training around the world, enduring a few intense basketball camps, competing as distance runner, attempting to earn a PhD directly after a Bachelor’s degree, and attempting to start a company while still in school, I have realized that all of these very difficult things serve one important purpose - to develop our character.

Any kind of high level performance requires expertise. There are skills you have to master to be able to perform at a high level and yet there is another whole aspect to performance that we sometimes miss. It is our character. In enduring, in finishing, in doing difficult things, we are faced to look way deep in side of ourselves. In the hardest moments of competition, we come face-to-face with what we are made of. Our character is exposed. Naked. Our true nature is revealed. It is this that I think is so difficult. Physical training or acquiring certain knowledge is one thing and is relatively easy. Dealing with your mental and psychological issues is another thing all together. I have often wondered what separates the good athletes from the best. On the surface, you can’t really point to much. Everyone is strong, fast, and skilled. When a person watches a performance by elite athletes (like I have been for the last week or so with the Olympics) there is clearly a difference. There is a mental toughness, a focus, an iron resolve that drives them. Strength and depth of character is what separates the good from the great. Little decisions summed over many years result in the person who competes for their nation in the Olympics, or serves their country on the most secret of missions.

Skills count, but they only get you in the door. Character is what keeps you there.

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July 15, 2012
The Organic Life - Beginnings Cont’d

A physics class will teach you that an object is at rest when it is not moving. Yet even if a person is not moving it doesn’t mean they are at rest. Rest is something that encompasses the whole of a person’s body. We often think of rest as inactivity, but there is more to it than that. At this point in history computer technology, and computer enabled communication plays a prominent role in everything we do. Computers are these wonderful multi-purpose devices that can programmed to handle everything from the sending of short text documents, to the display of detailed medical images. Computers are everywhere in everything, and are not going away anytime soon. Depending on who you ask computers might be thought of the archenemy of rest. Technologies purpose is to enable us to go faster, be more efficient, get more done right? Maybe.

With this article, we are making the transition to the next section of these essays. The next section, as you might have guessed, is on computer technology and its role in our lives. I am looking forward to this section as designing, implementing, and analyzing computer technology is what I do for a living. I hope you will find the questions compelling and that they will provoke you to examine the way you interact with the digital world.

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June 17, 2012
The Organic Life - Beginnings cont’d

As many other type A, high functioning people, I lived a good portion of my life in my mind. In junior high school I was the master of the subjects where you could memorize all of the answers, where you put all the pieces together and “know” that you were right. The food I cooked in Foods class was executed like a finely engineered building. Most of the time it tasted good too, but only because I followed the recipe I was given. Even as I did that something was still missing. There was a longing deep inside of me for something more adventurous, something more expressive, something more risky. Then something happened. I took an art class and all of the sudden I couldn’t figure things out in any more. Sure, I could learn different principles of design, but knowing them alone left my work feeling rigid and unnatural. There was no feeling in it.

At this time I began to process the disconnect between creative expression and my life. Watching Finding Forester in Grade 9 helped fuel that process. If I am honest with you, I am still learning my creative voice. Fortunately, I have found enough of one that I can share with you some of what is locked deep inside - like these essays.

What I, over time, have learned about creativity, expression, rational thought and the facets of person is that in our cultures we are good at isolating and exalting one aspect of a person over the others. To be a person is to have three distinct facets. You and I would scarcely argue that we all have a physical body. This we take for granted. We also have a mind, or the intellectual center of our person. And we have a soul, the emotional and spiritual center of our person. Yet even though we have different facets, we are one substance. You cannot separate one from the other. Our emotions affect our “rational” decisions. Our souls are affected by the acts of our bodies. To live organically is to recognize that as a human, a person, we are the composition of body, soul, and mind. To emphasize any one facet is to ignore the other and to create a deficit within ourselves that will have a significant impact on the way we live.

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June 10, 2012
The Organic Life - Beginnings

For as long as I can remember I have enjoyed going on long walks in nature. I was fortunate to grow up in a neighbourhood that was adjacent to the city ball diamonds and great big park. My love a good walk was probably cultivated by my need to walk for my paper route. Three times as week I would walk my paper route delivering flyers to every house. On Fridays I would deliver the weekly city newspaper. I lived in a neighbourhood with big old trees and neighbours who would talk to you.

After delivering papers for many years, I had a strong connection with the neighbourhood. I knew who had just moved in, who was on holidays or who hadn’t paid their rent. Somedays, I got to chat with one of the retired men working in his yard about his time as a youth.

I think the organic life is one lived in community.

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June 3, 2012
The Organic Life - Introduction

Somewhere in the early 2000s, in the transition between junior high and high school, the idea of organic living began to resonate in my mind and heart. This was long before the organic foods became popular, and environment was so heavily in the spotlight. Grade 9 was a significant turning point in my life. It was when I began to find my creative voice. After watching Finding Forester, I remember making the decision to learn to be more artistically creative. I identified with Jamal a ton. I played basketball, but had this bubbling desire to write that was slowly beginning to turn into a surge. It was at this point I started journalling. Up until that point in my life, I did not consider myself very creative. I was excellent in math and science, but wasn’t great at thinking outside the box. I loved clear instructions and could follow them with precision. Yet with all of the success that comes from being excellent following instructions, an element of my life was missing. I began to feel the weight of being a highly structured, type A, overachiever. I craved something more wild, away of life that included dirt between your fingers and deep engagement with the world. I craved the organic life.

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