The first time I went to price a "proper" workstation-class computer was in the summer of 1997. This was during my first semester at college and, being a geek in a computer science track, I figured that a Pentium Pro with it's 256KB of L2 cache and better multi-processing capabilities would be ideal for my coursework. The budget was $2500 CAD, which was almost every dime I had saved while working through high school. This was enough to pick up a decently-equipped Dell Dimension with an Intel Pentium 233MHz CPU with MMX, but I wanted a workstation-grade machine. One Saturday morning, I went to a nearby computer shop that was known for building solid machines for reasonable rates and was handed a price list.

Suffice it to say, there would be no Pentium Pro so long as I was in college.

In the end I wound up putting mobility ahead of power and picked up a used IBM ThinkPad 486 DX4/75 with 16MB RAM, a colour screen and no audio card for the small sum of $2000 cash1. The machine did quite well for as long as I had it and, looking back, it was certainly better that I did not invest time in working nights to afford the more powerful Pentium Pro2.

Since the summer of 1997, I've stuck to using consumer-grade equipment for all of my computing needs while looking at the workstation-grade equipment from afar, knowing that investing the amount of money required to obtain one was simply unrealistic even at the best of times.

With the historical context out of the way, I was recently reading Anandtech's "Best CPUs for Workstations: 2020 Q1 article and thinking about what I would do with such a machine. The suggested processors were generally over $1400 USD and would require a motherboard that costs about $500 USD plus another $500 for a good quantity of RAM. Then there's the case, the power supply, cooling, a video card (or two), NVMe storage with some slower spinning disks for less-accessed data. We can't forget a decent keyboard or nor a good pair of colour-synced monitors, either. All in all, the sticker price would start somewhere north of $5000 USD for a decent workstation, which is plenty reasonable for people who spend their days on computers and tax them with a great deal of important tasks.

This had me thinking: What do I do that requires a workstation-grade machine?

In 2020? Nothing.

A couple of years ago a case could have been made that a workstation would be an ideal tool to work with the large sets of data that I was processing, but a solution was found to offload the heavy work to ephemeral virtual machines when required. This worked out to be much cheaper than buying even a Dell Optiplex with a Core i9. Now, however, the most taxing thing I ask of my computers is to transcode online lesson video once or twice a month and compile Java-based Salesforce integrations two or three times per year. Consumer-grade equipment can do this just fine given the frequency that the work needs to be done. Twenty three years have passed since I first contemplated getting a workstation. I've never owned one, nor does it seem necessary given the state of modern computing technology.

As bizarre as it sounds, I'm a little disappointed in myself. Generally when I'm provided the opportunity to use a powerful computer, I try to make good use of it. However, if I'm not even taxing the relatively generic systems3 that I have the good fortune to use, what the heck would I do with a proper workstation? The hardware would sit idle most of the time.

This is an odd thing to complain about as "I can't make full use of a powerful computer" is not something that many people have ever said. It does inject a little more reality into what it is that I find myself doing most of the day, though, which is typing words that result in various pieces of data being collated, sorted, and presented as a rational block of information. Heck, given the state of modern phones, I could probably do 95% of my job from a recent-model iPhone or Samsung Galaxy with the right dongles to connect a keyboard and additional monitors.

So much for thinking about a workstation.

  1. As a 17 year old walking to the computer shop with that kind of money, plus the ATM receipts to show that it was most likely not counterfeit or recently stolen, I was very nervous.

  2. I worked nights loading trucks at a warehouse to pay for rent and food. If I were to buy an entry-level Pentium Pro machine, overtime would have been required. This would have resulted in getting to class late and in even worse condition.

  3. The work-supplied Mac is not a generic system but, for the sake of this line of thought, it is treated as such. The notebook has an Intel Core i7 that can handle tasks with aplomb, but it's no Xeon or AMD ThreadRipper.

Five Things

For the first time in almost a month the family and I spent time with people who live in a different house; Reiko’s parents. We all enjoyed a couple of hours in a park with several dozen other families, though at a distance. Since the boy was pulled out of kindergarten for the last week of February we’ve been pretty much isolated from the world. Sure, neighbours will say hello, but we don’t stand around and chat anymore. When we’re out for a walk or a bike ride, we keep to ourselves. When I’m out in the park by myself, I’m allowed slightly more space from people who might otherwise walk past in closer proximity. While I’m plenty accustomed to feeling isolated and alone in a country of 127-million, this additional layer of segregation is not at all pleasant.

Societal partitioning aside, the family is physically healthy and enjoying some of the warmer temperatures. So, without further delay, it’s time for another Five Things post.

Parents of Young Kids Have Given Up

We’ve been to a number of large parks this past week looking for a place where the boy can burn off some of his energy while also spending time outside and, at every location, it seemed the boy was the only person under the age of 25 that was wearing a mask. Even a large percentage of the parents out with their kids were without masks, which struck me as interesting. That said, a number of conversations that I’ve overheard recently boil down to this lamentation:

Kids are less susceptible to the virus and ill be damned if my children spend every day inside the house and playing video games.

Advice from medical experts be darned, parents will let their kids out of the house just so they can be out of the house. Reiko has tried for weeks to help the boy stay entertained and engaged since leaving school a month ago, but it hasn’t been easy.

Malls Are Still Crowded

This one strikes me as odd given the tone, pitch, and intensity of the news this past year. I had figured that the malls would all be ghost towns by now but, driving past, the endless sea of vehicles shows that many people will continue to shop inside enclosed buildings with recirculated air. Pachinko parlours are seeing similar situations, likely as the result of an incredibly bored population.

Franchise Restaurants are Busy, Independents Are Not

While it’s true that people need to eat, I was expecting that restaurants would shut down or switch to “drive-thru-only” service methods as a result of the government’s recommendation to have no more than one seat at a table. Instead, it seems that chains are as busy as ever while the independent shops are shuttering their windows. A couple of mom & pop shops around here have decided to simply shut down permanently, likely due to the week-by-week revenue nature of restaurants.

Schools Are Expected to Open in April

Spring marks the start of a new school year with millions of young people getting back to their studies in the first or second week of April. There was talk that the education ministry might push back the start of the next semester to June or July then cancel the summer break, but this seems to have been kiboshed for reasons unknown. As of this evening, kids are expected to get back to school in two to three weeks. Reiko and I are not yet certain about what we’ll do about the boy’s classes, given that he’s in kindergarten and not one of the higher grades where attendance is a legal requirement1?

”Everybody” Wants the Olympics Postponed … Except the Government and IOC

Every news program has yet another sporting team, domestic or foreign, demanding this years Olympic summer games be postponed until the autumn or some time in 2021. The Japanese government is loathe to do this for financial reasons and the IOC is loathe to do this because money, money, money, money. Regardless of what happens, the people of Japan will be paying for these damned games until 2050.

Hopefully the summer heat and humidity will slow the Chinese virus.

  1. Home schooling is certainly an option for some parents. The amount of paperwork the government demands for this is incredible excessive, though.

Dog Food

Earlier this week there was an update to the Nice.Social web client to replace the a vertical bar chart with a GitHub-inspired calendar heat map. The reasoning behind this was to provide a little more context for when an account might be active as well as answer the question of "how active is active?". Both charts were designed to be scaled relative to the account as they're not supposed to encourage any sort of competition. The bar chart would always show the week with the highest number of posts as 100% and this was carried forward with the heat map so that the day with the highest number of posts has the strongest colour.

While testing the accuracy of the chart's data, I took a look at my own activity detail and saw this:

My 10C Usage

The chart will likely surprise absolutely nobody, but it did make me think about some of the developers I've read about, met, or worked with who generally did not use the tools they created with the same amount of zeal or consistency as is displayed here. One of my previous colleagues explained that he liked to step back from his work as much as possible so that he could see the big picture rather than get lost in the details. Another told me that she was more interested in how people used the platform than the software itself. Both of these approaches are certainly valid and likely lead to a healthier approach to working on projects, but it does make me wonder if I'm an anomaly in the creator space.

Colleagues have often expressed surprise when they learn about the various things that I've created and use on a daily or near-daily basis, as though the idea of having a hobby that is essentially the very same thing as the day job is alien to them. Then again, maybe it is. How many people enjoy what they get paid to do at work so much that they'll do it at home for fun, too? I am truly fortunate in this regard. However, by making so much of the software I rely on, it's much easier to appreciate so many of the excellent tools that I rely on. Applications like Sublime Text, Sequel Pro, Pixelmator, and Byword get used so often that if I were to rent the software by the hour, they would quickly cost more than the notebook I run them on.

More than this, though, by using my own software it's possible to see where things fail. People who use systems like 10Centuries or the LMS or the textbook systems will report bugs from time to time but, from what I've seen time and again, most people try to ignore bugs and curse my name without ever letting me know there's a problem. This is suboptimal, so I need to use the tools as well. This often results in me seeing things that could be done better, or differently, or fixed, or made optional. The observations get coded and deployed. People then notice the changes or they don't. My overarching goal is to make the software as transparent as possible. People shouldn't ever need to think about how the system works or why it isn't working. That's my job. People should have the benefit of being able to search, publish, and share what they choose without taking the failings of my code into consideration.

There's still a long way to go before anyone can claim that 10Centuries or any of my other projects — personal or professional — approach perfection, but this is my ultimate goal. The only way to get there, though, is to dog food the work and use it just as much — if not more — than the people who might see where the software fails.

Walking Down No. 4 With an MD Player Cranked

The summer of 2003 was an interesting time. I was just starting to get back on my feet after moving to the west coast of Canada and, thanks to steady employment and a reasonable debt repayment plan1, disposable income was no longer a pipe dream. My computer at the time wasn't particularly amazing2, but it could handle all of the core things I wanted to do at the time; IRC, Age of Empires, and PalmOS application development.

Work at this point in my life involved the day shift at a printing shop about 5km from my apartment. I would wake up every morning at 4:15am, hop in the shower, then walk to work and punch in by 5:45 and begin taking inventory of the workload for the next 20 hours of printing, binding, and shipping tasks. The work itself was quite enjoyable, though I did sometimes take it far too seriously. What I enjoyed more, though, was all of the walking that was required. For where I lived, the first bus of the day would get me to work 20 minutes late, so it was a non-option. I could ride a bike, like some of my colleagues at the time, but I didn't trust my roommate to not steal it3. Walking, however, is free and easy to do. It also gives a person time to listen to things.

Before I warmed to the idea of listening to podcasts, music was on an endless loop on the headset every time I'd go outside. In 2003 I invested some money into a Sony MD player and five blank disks, which would offer as much as 7 hours of music. There was one disk in particular that I would start every working day with; the red one.

On the red disk was fast-paced techno, trance, and other forms of EDM4. The very first track was Yoji Biomehanika's Ding a Ling and it was the best way to start the day. At over 10 minutes in length, I could cover almost the first kilometre and a half5 of No. 4 Road, the main street closest to the apartment. Power-walking along the sidewalk of this generally-busy road at quarter-to-five in the morning was always a treat. There would often be fog for the first half of the trek and the smell of the nearby ocean. The air was heavy with the scent of various coniferous trees. Traffic was generally absent until I reached the busier Cambie Road midway in the commute.

Every time I listen to this particular piece from Yoji Biomehanika, I'm transported back in time via the mind's eye to this point, when I was young and foolish and had so much free time. This happened earlier today when the random shuffle of the music device6 pulled up Ding a Ling - 2002 Scot Project Remix for the first time in ages. Being alone at the time, I turned the music up just as it was on those mornings 17 years ago and imagined power-walking to the point where my muscles ached from the strain. Through the fog. Past the innumerable conifers. Heart racing.

Who needs a DeLorean?

  1. It's interesting how quickly a person can amass debt at a young age. Soon after moving to Japan, I ditched credit cards and went with prepaid Visas and MasterCards. If I cannot afford a thing in cash, then I cannot afford that thing. It is better (for me) to wait a month or two than to carry a balance and pay interest or — worse — max out a card and pay it back over a period of years. Aside from my house, every large purchase in the last 15 years has been the result of saving for months or years, then paying with cash or a bank transfer; including my cars.

  2. I purchased a used HP Pavilion notebook with a PIII/850MHz processor and 1GB RAM the previous winter to replace the missing computer in my life. And, because it was a notebook, I couldn't really get trapped in the monthly upgrade cycle like I had been for 4 years between 1997 and 2001, which is where so much of my debt had come from. In 2001 I built a machine that was valued at just over $10,000 CAD. It was a beast of a machine … and it wound up being too heavy to bring with me when I moved from Ontario the following summer.

  3. He eventually did. He took the bike in the middle of the night claiming he had a job interview across town and needed to get there on time, which is rich given the guy never worked a day in his life outside of selling illicit substances.

  4. Electronic Dance Music, primarily from European artists.

  5. I walked very quickly back then. I still do when out on my own. Nozomi has helped me slow down over the years, but fast-paced power-walking has always been my M.O. … particularly if there are objectives to complete.

  6. The current music device is usually the tablet, which has a much better battery life than the phone, but both have access to the music library. Almost a decade has passed since I last used the Sony MD player, though I still have the palm-sized unit in a box upstairs with just one remaining disk; the red one.

Fast & Furious at 19

One of my favourite movie franchises began almost 20 years ago. This is sometimes hard to believe, given the number of movies that I've truly enjoyed that have stood the test of time, but there's something uniquely special about this particular series. Some movie franchises, such as the Bourne series, keep us interested because of the adrenaline rush that comes from seeing the main character consistently stay one or more steps ahead of his adversaries. This series, Fast and Furious, remains one of my favourites primarily because it's one of the few sets of movies where I feel it's okay to "turn the brain off" before settling in to enjoy the action. I love racing cars. When I wasn't doing it for real while young and invincible, I was busy with EA's Need for Speed franchise of racing games. There is no point in denying that — deep down — I enjoy competing directly and vicariously in this arena.

Fast & Furious — Final Race

Today, while waiting for the boy to fall asleep, I decided to watch a little bit of the first Fast and Furious movie. This was a time when everyone was still quite young. Brian was a cop. Dom drove an import. The romances we saw at the end of F8 were just in their infancy. It was a simpler time. Nobody had expectations for a sequel.

The brain was squarely "off" before the end of the Universal Studios logo. Despite not seeing this particular movie for quite some time, we know what we're in for ahead of time. In the words of the immortal Rick Sanchez: Don't think about it. As long as you don't, the movie is thoroughly enjoyable. Races feel fast and real. The obvious product placements for Panasonic, Corona, Mazda, Corona, Subaru, Corona, and NOS are just part of the story. The bad acting, one-dimensional antagonists, incontestable plot holes, asinine catch-phrases, and throwaway supporting characters barely draw any attention. Heck, even the obviously forced attempts at swearing and rage can be taken in stride. All because we know ahead of time that this is going to be a stereotypical "guy movie".

Even after nineteen years, none of this bothers me. The movie is just as enjoyable now as it was in 2001 when I saw it in theatres. Except …

One thing that has changed over the almost two decades since this movie first came out is my reaction to the gratuitous use of scantily-clad young women. When I was in my mid-20s the shots of long legs, dark skin, midriffs, and fiery eyes captured my attention just as much as the Nissans, Mazdas, Subarus, and Hondas they stood beside. Now, though … I'm not at all interested in the "kids" standing next to the pimped out vehicles. If anything, they're in the way. I want to see and hear the cars, not a bunch of bimbos who — as per the script — are looking to get next to those who compete and win.

Perhaps this means I'm "old". Maybe it means I would rather just spend time with a car than a fickle sleeping partner. I'm content with either assessment. There's far more to life than sex, after all. A fast car and an open road can keep me content and mostly out of trouble for years.

This is perhaps what I like most about the Fast and Furious movies. They do the things that I would not dare do anymore, and I can live vicariously through this fiction. Running from the cops. Hijacking shipments. Screaming through a 30km school zone at 220kph. These are the actions best left to the world of make believe, and there isn't a better description of Fast and Furious than "a fantasy world where having the fastest car equates to freedom from responsibility".

May I never tire of these movies ….

Compliant Cookies in PHP

A number of years have passed since the last time that I've written about coding solutions on this site, but a number of people have asked me recently how they can have PHP record the SameSite=None attribute when setting cookies. ChromeLabs has a handy example page showing how it's done but, for people who need to have more attributes, this is how it's implemented in many of my PHP-based projects:

$attribs = array( 'SameSite' => (($isHTTPS) ? 'None' : 'Strict'),
                  'Domain'   => strtolower($_SERVER['SERVER_NAME']),
                  'Expires'  => {unix-formatted expiration time},
                  'Max-Age'  => {number of seconds},
                  'Path'     => '/',
                  'Secure'   => $isHTTPS,
                  'HttpOnly' => true,
setcookie( "{cookie name}", "{cookie value}", $attribs );

This little bit of code uses $isHTTPS as a boolean to understand if the site has an SSL certificate1. Expires needs to be passed as an integer in order for PHP to set the value to the correct 'D, d M Y H:i:59' format as outlined in RFC6265.

But My Server Isn't Running PHP 7.3 …

The problem with the solution I've outlined above is that it will not work if a server is running PHP 7.2 or older. In this situation, the solution becomes a little more complicated. For the sake of visual clarity, here it is broken up across lines:

$cookieStr = "Set-Cookie: $key=$val;" .
                        " Expires=" . date('D, d M Y H:i:s', {unix-formatted expiration time}) . " GMT;" .
                        " Max-Age={number of seconds};" .
                        (($isHTTPS) ? " Secure; Path=/;" : "") .
                        " Domain=" . strtolower($_SERVER['SERVER_NAME']) . ";" .
                        " SameSite=" . (($isHTTPS) ? 'None' : 'Strict') . ";" .
                        " HttpOnly";
header( $cookieStr );

This resolves the warnings in browsers like Chrome and Firefox that developers will see when testing their work and it ensures that cookies will be properly read and saved by browsers going forward.

Fun, huh?

  1. This is important in my development process, as my local tests are done without SSL certificates, whereas the live servers are all HTTPS.

Active When Bored

Over the last couple of weeks there has been an increasing number of once-idle websites coming back to life as people sit down to write — sometimes for the first time in years — blog posts lamenting the loss of liberties as a result of the global spread of the Wuhan virus1. The message seems to be the same regardless of where the writer lives: restrictions suck, working from home, and wash your hands. Few of the posts seem to have very much positive to say, even when a person has the opportunity to work from the comfort of their house on a temporary basis, and the stress people are feeling can certainly be gleaned from the word choices used. All in all, I'm quite happy to see many of the old RSS feeds show signs of activity in the reader after such a long absence, but I do wonder whether writers will choose to continue blogging for the foreseeable future or if their sites will go idle once again when governments declare it safe to resume our lives.

Is blogging now something that people do when they're bored? Or is it seen more as a semi-formal medium where ideas that appear worthwhile are explored, unlike the ephemeral posts that dot many highly-interactive social platforms.

Either way, I do hope that some of the bloggers do stick around after the pandemic comes to an end. There are a lot of really insightful people who used to put out solid articles every couple of days or once a week that often explored an idea that I knew little about or from an angle that I hadn't considered. These posts were the highlight of my commute many years ago and would often give me a lot to think about afterwards. Hopefully this isn't simply a case of writers being bored and choosing to vent frustrations as a one-off exercise.

  1. Otherwise known as COVID-19; "the coronavirus".


Jeremy lives in Rome and recently wrote about some of the changes that have come about to his everyday routine since the Italian government instituted all kinds of rules in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus. It’s easy to appreciate the luxuries we take for granted when we’re denied access to them. Things like morning cappuccinos, proximity to others, and the freedom to head outside without carrying any form of documentation are not the sort of liberties we expect to be deprived of in our modern world of plenty, but here we are. Jeremy’s biggest challenge, however, stems from Mayor Virginia Raggi‘s decision to deny access to all of the parks in the city.

Yesterday evening it really struck me how much this one small change had affected me. For the first time, I felt really depressed about the whole business. I need my walks, morning and evening. They are what make working at home doable. It isn’t just the exercise or the change of scene, because the scene on my walks remains the same, bar the changing seasons. No, it is something deeper than that, something about over-reacting, something about not understanding what at least some locked-down people need.

Indeed. Here in Japan we’re still permitted to use the public parks, though there has been talk about limiting access to these green areas … somehow1. Given the other restrictions that are in place, and given the number of parks in the neighbourhood2, closure of these green spaces would be devastating. Not only because Nozomi needs a good green space in order to stretch her legs and answer the call of nature, but because I need the green spaces as a reprieve from the day-to-day.

Without access to the various parks in the area there would be a great many more joggers on the paved walking paths that wind through the four local neighbourhoods, which would put more people in close proximity to each other. There would also be fewer places to sit and watch the world go by. There would be fewer (designated) places for kids to be kids. The consequences would be felt almost immediately.

Hopefully the various levels of government elect to keep the parks open. The constraints and restrictions that people are expected to endure already have a lot of neighbours looking for some sort of escape. Fewer options will lead to nothing good.

  1. Public parks generally have a large number of entrances with no gates or other means of preventing access. If a government were to try and close them, city workers would be limited to using thin ropes tied around trees and traffic cones with laminated notices taped to them. It’s been a while since I was a young boy, but I’m pretty sure there isn’t an able-bodied child anywhere in the country who,wouldn’t just walk around the rudimentary obstruction.

  2. There are 8 really good parks in the area; five of which are within 350 metres.


Since writing a short post on what will be missed when I eventually leave the day job, I've been thinking about what I perceive as the underlying question that Rachel Kroll was asking: What do you find valuable?1 The question is exceedingly important for people who are working towards a series of goals, be it personally or professionally. When I think about what I find valuable at the day job, the immediate response would be the people, which then prompts the follow-up question of "Why?" Again, the answer is immediate: I learn new things from people and, in turn, they challenge me to do something with that new information.

Can the question translate just as easily when examining hobbies and personal projects, though? What do I find valuable about the 10Centuries platform? This is something that I've worked on as a publishing platform since August of 2012. While there have been droughts of effort on occasion over the last couple of years, the ultimate goal remains the same2. What do I find valuable about the effort?

The Community

This goes without saying. There are not nearly as many people using the service as in the past, but the people who do find value in the 10C platform are incredibly valuable to me. They provide the incentive to continually build and improve the platform while keeping it accessible and simple. Everybody is quite unique, too, making the eclectic group my favourite community by far.

The Challenges

How can performance be maximised when running a web server on consumer-grade equipment? What sort of SQL query can be crafted to reduce the number of database calls from many down to one without any performance degradation? What tactics can be implemented to reduce the amount of spam that is received by the contact forms on the various sites? What is an effective way to handle content-scraping bots that choose to ignore the standard robots.txt rules?

All of these questions — and may more — are tackled on a regular basis as no solution is a panacea. The challenge of pushing the platform in multiple directions and leveraging the tools that have been refined for years across numerous projects is part of what keeps it interesting for me. This interest is incredibly valuable as it often requires learning about a problem, seeing the solutions that others have tried, and then building on their efforts to devise an answer that best suits the platform without unnecessary resource expenditures. Every function that is created must follow the Unix philosophy: do one thing, and do it well.

The Rewards

In 2015, 10Centuries came the closest it's ever come to breaking even, with about 85% of the annual operations cost being earned through subscriptions. Over the last five years people have left the platform and income has diminished to cover about 30% of annual costs. Despite this, the non-tangible rewards for the service far outstrip any financial gain that might exist. There is an incredible amount of pride for what's been accomplished over the years. Sure, I've made a number of mistakes that have resulted in people losing interest and leaving the community, and every loss resulted in learning something new. Ideally these lessons have meant that subsequent updates have actually improved the system and, looking at the last six months, I can honestly say that Version 5 today is far better than it's ever been before. Is there more work to do? Absolutely. This seemingly endless To Do list is just one of the rewards, as it's diverse and long enough that I'll not get bored for years to come.

The Education

The running theme across this article involves education; my education. There's a lot that I didn't know when 10C started out as a simple Evernote-connected blogging platform and there's a lot that I still don't know today. That said, there have been a million little lessons learned throughout the development of the platform. 10C is currently running on the 5th major version of the core framework that powers so many of the systems I create meaning that the first four attempts to have a universal API and web presentation tool have not been sufficient enough to solve all the problems. v5 comes closest, though, thanks to the feedback received and patterns observed. The knowledge gained here is distributed to the other projects just as the lessons learned elsewhere are incorporated here. If I ever stop learning, then that will be the end of the project, as it means the effort has become boring.

Ultimately these four things are what I find valuable about 10Centuries and are why I continue to invest countless hours into making the platform a viable option for anyone who might find it of value themselves.

  1. For the sake of this blog post, the question will remain five words in length, allowing it to be vague enough to think through the variables.

  2. Yes. I still endeavour to have the publicly-available content accessible to people for at least 1,000 years. As the web continues to evolve, this becomes less unrealistic.

Five Things

Today is the Ides of March, which is historically when people in the Roman Empire were expected to settle their debts. While we don’t have a specific deadline for this activity anymore, it’s something that could make a good deal of sense for those who seem to always be in debt. This describes the entirety of my 20s, with student loans, credit cards, and the typical monthly bills that come with living on your own. It would have been nice to be mostly debt free, if only for a couple of days a year. That said, now that I have a mortgage to pay down, being devoid of debt is something I will not be able to declare until some point in my 60s.

Such is life in the modern age.

Lamentations on debt aside, it’s time for another Five Things blog post where I get to ramble about more than two topics in a single article.

Ubuntu 20.04 Is Almost Ready

Despite being well into middle age, I still find the LTS releases of Ubuntu Linux exciting. The platform has come a very long way over the dozen or so years that I’ve been using it and there is a great deal of buzz over many of the features and updates that are part of this next release. While the servers I run will remain on 18.04 until the fall when 20.04.1 is released, the development notebook will be upgraded on the first day.

Still 2019

The older I get, the longer I seem to write the previous year in SQL queries and on documents. There was a Pickles cartoon in the paper some 25-odd years ago where Mrs. Pickles is at the bank and filling out a deposit slip, then says something akin to “Oh, shoot. I wrote the wrong year again.” The teller says that people usually need a couple of weeks to adjust, to which Mrs. Pickles says she wrote 19741. This is probably going to be true for me, too. By the time 2040 rolls around, I’ll still be writing 2027.


Generally when we make our way through crowded areas, we try to calm ourselves and be patient with others. Not everyone will move at the same pace, or with the same manner of intent, or even pay attention to their surroundings nearly as much as we might. So rather than get angry and push people out of our way for what can certainly be classified as willful ineptitude, we give people the benefit of the doubt that they are just distracted or physically unable to quickly complete a task. This is particularly true when it comes to children and the elderly.

Unfortunately, my patience has all but run dry over the last few weeks on account of the isolation that’s been recommended by the government, the frustrations at work, and the hassles involved with doing just about anything outside. When the opportunity to head out for a quick walk does avail itself, the last thing I want to see are oblivious Pokémon Go players blocking walkways and otherwise being hazards on the pedestrian park trails.

Phantom Vibrations

The phone hasn’t vibrated in months. The tablet doesn’t vibrate. The notebooks do not vibrate. Everything that did buzz and shake with every notification has been subsequently silenced so that I might actually be down during the weekend downtime. Despite this, there are still vibrations at certain parts of my body as though the phone received a message.


Despite all of the challenges, responsibilities, and activities that arrive throughout the week, an overarching feeling of boredom permeates my mood by mid-morning, every morning. I can stave it off from time to time by changing the activity that I’m doing, but this isn’t always feasible. Boredom in and of itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but in excess it can lead to some reckless decisions.

Hopefully the mental rut can be broken in the near future.

  1. Why I can remember this comic strip from a newspaper a quarter century ago but not important things from meetings last week, I just don’t know.