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Bill Gates touched my MacBook Pro


[ personal ]

I remember the year I turned 29. I kind of freaked out because that meant I was only a year away from being “old”. But when I turned 30 I was like, meh, no big deal.

The same thing has happened every decade since. Last year I hit 59. Oh my god, I’m going to be 60 soon. Four months have gone by and as usual I’m starting to get used to the idea and even embracing it. Sixty. Hell yeah!

When I was young and went to my grandparents house every weekend, they were in their 60s and I thought they were OLD. I do not feel as old as I thought they were at the time. The man in the mirror looks pretty good for his age. But sometimes I see a picture of myself and I’m shocked to see my grandfather there instead of me. Funny how photos and mirrors seem so different. Some kind of psychology going on there.

Physically, I’m doing pretty damn well. I’m actively running. My weight is stably in the best place it’s been ever. BMI in the right place and all that. Just had my annual physical and the blood pressure and all the blood chemicals are just where they should be. The usual complaints here and there, but if I’m honest, no worse than any other decade. I certainly feel FAR better than 16-17 years ago, when I was 60 pounds heavier than I am now.

Mentally I think I’m pretty good. I find my memory isn’t the photographic wunderkind it used to be. And I struggle to find the word I’m looking for more than I think I used to. But that’s all normal stuff.

But, more and more I have to face the fact that I’m not immortal. Maybe I have another 30 something years left. More likely 20 something. That seems startlingly few. But I was way more obsessed with my mortality and how long I had left when I was in my 30s and 40s than I am now. More than being afraid of dying I am sad that I will eventually have to stop experiencing life. Because life is an amazing gift and even thought it’s not always perfect I love being part of it. This sentiment is expressed succinctly by Hemingway in For Whom the Bell Tolls in an untitled chapter often referred to as “Sordo’s Last Stand”. Sordo is a guerrilla fighter in the Spanish Civil War. He and his group are under attack and surrounded on a hill. He knows there’s no way out. He will die on this hill.

Dying was nothing and he had no picture of it nor fear of it in his mind. But living was a field of grain blowing in the wind on the side of a hill. Living was a hawk in the sky. Living was an earthen jar of water in the dust of the threshing with the grain flailed out and the chaff blowing. Living was a horse between your legs and a carbine under one leg and a hill and a valley and a stream with trees along it and the far side of the valley and the hills beyond.

I’m not religious, so I don’t believe in heaven or hell. As to what happens after, I have no idea. But it’s nothing I worry about. If anything, I’m just jealous of all those who will go on experiencing life after me.

Anyway, this post wasn’t supposed to be morbid. More of a memento mori. Knowing that I have limited time here makes me appreciate what time I have left even more. And I’m trying to make that time mean something. Sometimes I think about wanting to leave some kind of legacy. That’s hard in technology where everything changes so fast. I’ve written a bunch of books, but most of them are out of print and based on a language and platform that no longer exists. That’s why I try to write more in pseudocode these days. The concepts and algorithms will live a lot longer than the syntax. In any case, I know that my writings and videos and open source code and courses and conference talks have helped many people. It still brings me a lot of joy when someone reaches out these days and say that my work helped them started in tech, or helped them get through school or in their first job. And I hope that some will pay it forward and keep it going.

There’s a lot of messed up things in this world and a lot of bad things to protest and fight against. Sometimes I fear that we’ll all be so focused on fighting the bad that we’ll forget to do good. It’s not the same thing. Going around punching Nazis might be necessary, but it doesn’t - by itself - make the world a better place. Someone has to deliberately pump some positivity into the world as well. Weeding your garden doesn’t do any good if you forget to actually plant some flowers or vegetables too.

So I continue to try and learn and share what I learn in a way that hopefully lets the next person learn that thing with a bit less effort than it took me to learn it. In fact, now that I just wrote that sentence, I realize that’s kind of been my mission statement for the past 25 years. So I’m going to keep on doing that as much as I can for as long as I can and hope that one or several people not only learn something but get inspired to do the same.

So we’ll end on a bright spot!

Photo by Hatice Baran

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