Good Coffee in an Instant

At some point in February 1995, while attending high school, I started drinking coffee. Winter was cold that year and I was generally the first person to wake up in the morning, meaning it was my job to prepare the first pot for my parents. They drank fine-grind Maxwell House and, because that's what they had, that's what I had as well. As one would expect from a teen, my caffeinated beverage would contain a bit too much milk and far too much sugar1. The first cup would be ready a little after half-past four in the morning2 and then I would bring a travel mug with me on the bus to school. Almost a quarter century has passed since I started drinking the addictive liquid, and it remains one of my pleasures to this day.

Earlier today, while performing a quick image search for "a good cup of coffee", I stumbled across this post that offers a suggestion on how to make instant coffee taste better and was curious to know what they might suggest. As I'm the only coffee drinker in the house, my coffee is an AGF instant brand called "Blendy". It's quite smooth and not too bitter. Of all the instant coffees I've tried in Japan, it's by far my favourite3. What's interesting, though, is how many people roll their eyes or scoff when they hear — or see — that I drink this particular coffee. Despite people's opinions, however, I've managed to work out a pretty good method to consistently have great coffee. So what could this random article on the Interwebs suggest that might improve my daily joy?

What you do: Pour 1 tablespoon of cold water into your mug, then add the coffee grounds and stir until fully incorporated. Fill it to the top with hot water, stir again and enjoy.

Well that was a disappointment. Who doesn't do this when mixing a drink from a powder?

What I do is similar but, rather than use cold water, I use cold milk; the only thing permitted in my coffee.

  1. Pour 1 finger's width of milk into the coffee cup
  2. Add 1 heaping teaspoon of coffee
  3. Stir for 30 seconds while the hot water comes to a boil
  4. Pour the hot water into the continuously-stirred coffee-milk mixture until the mug is about ready to overflow
  5. Lift the spoon out of the cup while still stirring, stopping only after the utensil has completely escaped the steaming liquid

Not including the time to boil, a mug can go from empty to "peak-sunshine" in under a minute, and it's both cheaper4 and more enjoyable than anything from the chain or boutique coffee shops that pepper the region.


  1. By "far too much", I mean "more than zero". Haven't had sugar in my coffee for about 20 years now, and there's little chance I'll go back to putting that stuff in my cup ever again.

  2. I used to get up really early back in the 90s.

  3. Blendy is also one of the cheaper instant coffees, generally selling at 350 Yen for 220g, which is good for about seventy-five 350mL cups of coffee. I know this because my coffee mug can hold the contents of a 355mL canned beverage without spilling over thanks to the magic of surface tension. When I make a cup of coffee, I fill the sucker right to the brim … but just shy of relying on surface tension.

  4. A cup works out to 4.6667 Yen in coffee, 2.75 Yen in milk, and some amount for water and electricity. This works out to less than 10 Yen per cup. I have no complaints.

A Lifetime of Content

While in the shower today I started thinking about what sorts of challenges a person might face when their personal website contains a lifetime of content. For people who are prolific writers who cannot go a day without putting words down somewhere there are bound to be issues that are somewhat unique to their use case1 but, for the most part, the issues they face would be universal enough to think about realistic methods to organise and present several decades of posts.

An obvious way to look at the problem is to see what large sites do now about their burgeoning collection of articles. Newspaper sites will have tens to hundreds of thousands of items that people can search and sift through. Professional bloggers like John Gruber will have thousands2. If a typical person were to write 200 semi-long items per year then two decades of effort would result in 4,000 posts and five decades of effort would be 10,000. Would a person with ten thousand posts with images, links, tags, and other meta data stick to a reverse chronological telling of their life? Or would something better be needed? Would ten thousand posts be a tipping point, encouraging someone to instead present their writing in a magazine format? Or as some sort of summary? Or perhaps with "most popular items" on a landing page, then a running list of recent posts on a separate page and in RSS?

These questions popped through my mind today while thinking about some of the older blogs that I've read over the years and the incredibly long list of months that generally sit in a sidebar. People who write in a paper journal generally use coloured tags and sticky-notes to mark important items or pages that they'd like to celebrate. The closest simile I an think of in the blogging world would be "pinned posts", but this is hardly something a long-term blogger would want to do as the landing page would become an almost-static list of the past as more and more posts become pinned.

With a magazine format it would be possible to have a carousel with a random selection of pinned posts, with newer items around it. For browsers that do not have JavaScript enabled, the list can be presented in a flattened, less dynamic manner. But is this the answer?

Perhaps for some, but it's not what I'm looking for on my site.

With over 3,100 posts of my own, not to mention the 96,497 social items or the 167 quotes, there are really just two ways to find items on here:

  1. Via Search (either on here or via a search engine)
  2. The Archive page

This is like a game of chance. Will anyone find the items we wish to share for any length of time? And, when a person has an entire lifetime of content to share, what is an effective way to prioritise?


  1. I dislike using the term "use case", but can't think of a better one. Situation? Circumstance? Preferences? All of these are captured by the umbrella term "use case".

  2. A rough estimate says that he has 1,565 posts on his site as of today, which was determined by using a search function to count the number of date strings. Not an exact figure, but close enough.

In Search of Answers

Yesterday evening my database server let me know that there were a couple of updates available that would fix a few bugs in various pieces of software and, because the updates looked tame enough, I opted to skip any sort of testing. A quick series of keystrokes later, the machine was quietly updating itself. Generally when there are just a handful of updates available, the entire process finishes in under a minute and the system just keeps on going. Yesterday, however, was different. This update required almost two minutes and, after completing, all of my web-based tools were terribly slow. Something was clearly wrong.

The culprit was quickly narrowed down to an upgrade for MySQL that brought it up to version 8.0.19. I quickly started looking around online for possible reasons this might happen, but nothing jumped out for this particular version. The general advice was all so generic: rebuild the tables and recompile the stored procedures. Unfortunately, neither of these suggestions made any difference whatsoever.

In time I was able to narrow the situation down to the following condition:

When a stored procedure is populating a temporary table through a source query that uses a CROSS JOIN within a nested query, performance dramatically drops.

By drastically, I mean something that generally takes 33ms in isolation would take over 7,750ms in the stored procedure … which is almost 8 full seconds. Considering the stored procedure in question is called about 40,000 times a day, this was something that needed to be fixed right away.

Fortunately a quick little rewrite of the one query brought performance back across the system and everything was good to go. I'll use this as a reminder to not use a CROSS JOIN to cheat when building dynamically-sized tables that requires a sequential ID.

Technical solution aside, though, an odd parallel is happening in my personal life as I seek answers to questions that run very deep.

For the better part of six months I've been re-introducing religion into my life by reading a great deal of books that analyse and discuss the books that built western civilisation, primarily the Christian Bible and the Jewish Torah. In my youth I had studied both Christianity and Islam to a certain extent, but not enough to lead a decent sermon. The problem that I faced was similar to one that a lot of people recognise as they begin to specialise in a subject: the more you learn, the less you think you know. This was certainly the case with these two religions, as the depth and breadth of study is so vast that a single person could not hope to learn everything in a dozen lifetimes, let alone when they're still a child1.

What I seek is a direction to travel.

My family consists primarily of armchair Christians, some of which will attend Sunday services most of the year. They will say they are Christian, then immediately do something that blatantly contradicts the statement. The friends and acquaintances I've had over the years who have called themselves Christian are similar in many regards, the one exception being Pentecostal Christians. The services I've attended at Pentecostal churches have left me marvelling at the level of devotion some people displayed while also feeling terribly inferior as a result of all the questions that I had at the time.

Later I tried Catholicism, joining a church and being ordained as a deacon. There were studies that had to be performed, ceremonies attended, masses conducted, and people met. The rigid structure of the church seemed like something I might thrive in, but this was not to be. While the worshippers were generally genuine people, the politics in the organisation soured the perception of sanctity. No House of God, in my mind, would tolerate petty squabbles for decades at a time between people in an attempt to curry favours and accumulate power, after all.

Modern Canadian Christianity and Catholicism just didn't seem to work for me. I needed something different to better understand the universe and my role in it.

A few years after moving to British Columbia I had made friends with a number of Muslims who were some of the most honest and down-to-earth people I had ever met. We would often meet for coffee and talk about world events and, of course, religion. I wanted to learn more about Islam and how it differed from Christianity. In time I started to attend discussions, prayers, events, and khutbahs at musallas and mosques. This was an interesting time but, as I started to participate more, there was an expectation that I commit more. However, in the back of my head, there was a voice saying "this isn't for you".

In the end I left the community, then later the country.

Here in Japan I've gone the better part of a dozen years of "quietly observing" the basics that I was taught as a child. Prayers before eating. Resisting temptation as much as possible2. Obeying the precepts that align with the version of Christianity I was taught as a young child. So long as one follows the Ten Commandments and does what is deemed right, they're good … right?

Many people can lead a good life, either as an agnostic or atheist, and be perfectly content. For a while I could, too. This past year — and perhaps even longer — I've felt that there's something I'm not doing. It's as though I am missing a fundamental piece of me; something important.

So I'm reading books on religion again, looking for answers to the questions that have been unfulfilled for decades, and trying to find the most accurate source of wisdom and God. Oddly enough, I might have found it.


  1. I don't think I became an adult until my late 20s or early 30s. It wasn't until the boy came along that I actually started to feel like one, though.

  2. Not very well, mind you. Temptation comes in many flavours.

柴胡加竜骨牡蛎湯

Over the last couple of years I've found myself battling a number of persistent issues that I have generally considered to be related to stress and anxiety. Irritability, hearing problems, an inability to understand words, dreams about work, and an utter loss of appetite are just a few of the conditions I considered to be caused by the endless tensions felt throughout the day. There's no denying that work certainly contributes to the matter, but there's no logical reason for it to generate the full list of qualms that lead to the barely constrained rage that has started to reappear. There must be more to it.

A little over a week ago Reiko suggested I try some Chinese medicine to help with the unhealthy levels of anxiety that I was feeling by lunchtime every working day, and 柴胡加竜骨牡蛎湯1 specifically. This particular mixture is said to help alleviate the feelings of anxiety that contribute to stress that result in all sorts of consequences. We found some at a nearly pharmacy and picked up a box to test it out.

There are a couple of things to note about Chinese medicine. The first is that it does not work like western pharmaceuticals. So a single dose will do very little to alleviate any particular problem. The amount of time a person needs to take a mixture will vary on a number of factors but, generally, I have found that 3 days is the requisite amount of time required before the effects can be noticed. The first pouch was taken on Saturday after lunch and by Tuesday night I was feeling pretty good. Wednesday was even better and one of the first nights in months where I didn't dream about work. On Thursday the normal day-to-day things that would have me foaming at the mouth by 3:00pm were of no serious concern to me. And Friday was an incredibly productive and positive day.

The medicine with the 11-syllable name was incredibly effective.

This past weekend had a slightly different schedule on account of the boy's birthday, which meant that I missed some of the dosage times. Ideally the medicine should be taken immediately after a meal or right before bed. Every time a dose was missed, I would have problems with my hearing within three hours. When there are problems hearing, I get irritated. Irritation turns to frustration. Frustration escalates.

So clearly the stuff is having a positive effect on my mental health and ensuring that the people around me can have a pleasant day as well. A win-win scenario for the low-low price of 83 Yen per dose.

But is this tenable in the long run?

The first box of Saikokaryūkotsuboreitō packets is almost empty so we'll get some more on order right away. There's a vendor on Amazon that has the very same brand and strength that I'm using now for about 1,350 Yen per box, which makes each dose 56.25 Yen; a slightly better proposition for long-term consumption. If this mostly-natural remedy resolves one of the longest-standing issues I've had as an adult, then I'll owe a giant debt of gratitude to the generations of herbalists in China who concocted the mixture. There are enough real things in the world to be upset about. There is no point letting the mind blow little things out of proportion simply because there is always so much to do and less time to do it in.


  1. さいこかりゅうこつぼれいとう - This would be pronounced "Saikokaryūkotsuboreitō" … which is more than a mouthful.

1,095 Days

Three years ago today — just 1,095 days ago — the word responsibility took on a whole new dimension as the boy exited the womb to begin a life all his own. People are justifiably nervous about becoming a parent. Raising children is never easy and most of us are painfully aware of our own flaws which can lead us to wonder just how poorly we'll prepare a new human for the challenges that await them in life. Fortunately children don't know just how often their progenitors are flying by the seat of their pants. Or, if they do, they're incredibly forgiving … at least until adolescence.

Anticipation

My parents used to say that they learned just as much from their kids as we learned from them. This struck me as odd 30 years ago, given that parents have generally already lived through a childhood and have nothing to learn from witnessing another one. However, as my perspective has broadened over the years, it's easy now to see what they meant. There's a great deal the boy has taught me in his short time on the Earth, from the universality of "universal" symbols to the ease at which people can navigate crowds when they're a metre tall to the joy one can feel just by playing in some water. My parents would often say bizarre things that had me wonder if they were ever children at all, like "Kids don't get headaches" and "But you like liver" and just about anything that started with "Back in my day …". Now I hear myself say variations of these things1 more often than I care to admit.

Hopefully the efforts Reiko and I have made to ensure he's on the straight path to being a good person have paid off, though. Next week, on his 1,103rd day of life, the boy will attend kindergarten for the first time. There will undoubtedly be many tears, friends, fears, laughs, and a myriad of firsts on that Monday, and it will also be the day when he begins to truly explore what this world has to offer. For three years Reiko and I worked to prepare him and we're nowhere near finished with this responsibility. But he generally knows how to behave in public, how to read the three basic character sets used in Japan2, how to use utensils when eating along with the basic etiquette that is expected. He's been practicing using the toilet and dressing himself with a fair degree of success. He can speak both English and Japanese like someone a full year older, too3. Hopefully one of the first things he learns during the first few months at school is the freedom that comes with a little independence.

These last three years have gone by in what seems like a flash. As the boy continues to develop into his own person, I hope we can continue to enjoy some slow moments together.


  1. I don't force my kid to eat liver. Heck, I won't eat the stuff, so why in the world would I foist such a thing on him? No … he will not be forced to eat any food that I myself will not eat no matter how "good" it might be for us.

  2. These would be Hiragana, Katakana, and the English alphabet.

  3. Reiko loves to talk. The boy has clearly inherited this trait, which has resulted in a kid with the ability to report every activity he does in two languages without any need to stop for air.

Five Hundred Days

Today marks the 500th consecutive day that I’ve both written and published a post to this site. The daily effort started out innocently enough, then quickly became a personal mission based on a decade-old post from Jeremy Cherfas. Hitting 500 has been both a complete accident and a personal desire to improve the quality of my off-the-cuff writing. While an argument can certainly be made that the bulk of what is published here has not improved over the last sixteen months, I would like to think that there have been a higher frequency of posts that effectively communicate ideas … regardless of how many people might agree with them.

As one might expect from anything a person does for any length of time, there have been a number of lessons learned from this little endeavour, foremost of which is the importance of an effective writing tool. For me this has turned out to be Byword, an application that I use on my phone, tablet, and notebook. The fact that it works across these devices has been it’s primary selling feature, though this could change in the future as I continue to move more of my notes into Evernote. However, Byword’s minimalist approach to the writing process has been very much appreciated over the six or so years that I’ve used it, which makes it hard to give up.

Another lesson is really more of a confirmation in the idea that anyone who chooses to publish daily will need to write more than one post in a 24-hour period if they are to release just one item before the clock strikes midnight. Based on the number of semi-written posts that litter iCloud, it’s safe to say that there have been well over 1,000 posts abandoned in various states of completion since September 2018 when this unlikely streak began. Looking at the ones that were completed but never put online, I can see a very clear pattern for what topics I’ll censor myself on. The thread that ties these forsaken posts together is the ongoing reintroduction of Christianity into my life, which has resulted in a number of essays that analyze bits of wisdom contained within the ancient texts and how a better understanding of the stories 20 years ago would have led to a very different outcome during certain events in my life. I find this absolutely fascinating as it shows that despite all the cultural, societal, and technological metamorphoses the world has seen over the last few thousand years, the human condition is very much unchanged.

Having maintained the blogging streak for this long, I hope to keep going to one thousand and beyond. Though there will undoubtedly be legitimate reasons to miss a day or two in the future, I’ll make the effort to put something out every day. Even when battling a serious illness or helping family overcome their challenges, there will be the opportunity to turn an idea into structured words. The words will develop sentences, which will build paragraphs, which will resolve into a blog post. There is still a long way for me to go with improving my writing and, so long as I invest the time without making excuses, progress will be made.

Here’s to the next 500, and the 500 after that.

Another Trek Begins

The latest addition to Star Trek became available this week and there's quite a buzz around the show given that it centres around arguably one of the most well-respected characters in any work of fiction known to humanity: Jean Luc Picard. Today I had the opportunity to watch the first episode of the series and, I've got to say, the show has all the markings of something imminently enthralling. There are layers to the story, depth to the characters, and a certain level of realism that simply wasn't possible in the early 90s when Star Trek The Next Generation was in production.

Star Trek: Picard

One of the many things I appreciate about this new Trek is the complexity that it offers. While growing up I would watch the episodes and read the books with aplomb, imagining myself as a member of the crew rather than as a spectator. This was generally easy because the structure of a 44-minute episode or a 350-page book was always the same. It wasn't until I was in my mid-20s that I started to see the repetition and lack of complexity for what it was, which pushed me away from investing the time in "keeping up". Some time around 2012 I started reading the books again, though, and found that most of the authors had adopted a different structure that allowed for a better story to be told. The same problem-struggle-twist-complication-resolution pattern was present, as it is with a lot of mass-market sci-fi, but the nuance and depth added to the characters, places, and cultures gave the book more weight. The books went from being suitable for a 12 year-old to suitable for an adult with a little awareness of recent history1. Star Trek Picard strikes me as being the same.

As the show will not suffer from the same constraints that afflicted Discovery2 the writers should have a great deal of flexibility to create an updated universe3 that explores how the political powers have evolved and what that means to the citizens of those star-spanning nations. More than this, though, it will be interesting to see how the famed captain of Starfleet's flagship pulls himself out of retirement to solve yet another mystery that is closely linked to people from his past.


  1. Compare and contrast the books written by Peter David with those from David R. George III.

  2. Prequels create so much mess in the canon and unnecessary complaining online.

  3. Not sure why people talk about the Star Trek Universe when everything is limited to the Milky Way galaxy; and a segment that doesn't even cover half of it!

Comfortable

In a strange quirk of development complexity, I find myself regularly reaching for a previous notebook to answer questions and solve problems. This could be wholly avoided if I were to install two applications and add some lines to the /etc/hosts file1 to my current development machine but, for reasons I'm not 100% clear on, I'd rather just turn my chair 90˚ and use the MacBook that built so many of the tools that allowed me to live the life that I have today2. It's like running into a good friend that has been with you through thick and thin and is always happy to see you.

My MacBook Pro

Having the option to use the previous machine does not mean that I don't appreciate the new one, of course. Nothing could be further from the truth. Both machines have their strengths and weaknesses. The new machine, perhaps because of its potency, cannot get more than five hours from a full battery charge. This is well below the advertised expected time and likely the result of the Core i7 processor and large screen. The previous notebook can still deliver 7 hours on a charge despite being a 2015-era model with half its battery reporting as defective. Despite the complaints about Apple's "Butterfly keyboards" on their recent notebooks, I like the reduced travel and distinctive sound while typing. The older notebook was from before the switch, meaning the keys are smaller and need a bit more effort to push. Then there are the differences in screen size and clarity, storage space and speed, device ports, and a myriad of other little details that most people never give a second thought to but mean the world to anyone who spends the majority of their working time interacting with and relying heavily on their tools.

My grandfather3 used to say that a useful tool is worth its weight in gold. He worked with his hands endlessly and was a master carpenter for most of his adult life. His workshop was full of tools in every shape and size imaginable, enabling him to build just about anything a friend or family member asked for. I remember asking him why he had so many "spare tools" in his tool chests.

Every tool you see in this workshop has a story and every tool you see in this workshop still has value. Never throw away something that can solve a problem tomorrow.

Over time I thought of a number of holes in that logic, particularly when it comes to hoarding "junk", but the reason has stuck with me for most of my life. If something is useful, then it only makes sense to ensure it remains useful. If I had put the previous notebook away in a closet after unpacking the new one, then it wouldn't be a useful device. It would be a paperweight with sentimental value. By keeping it beside me while working, it can continue to be a useful tool that contributes to the overall success of whatever it is I might be doing, be it a professional endeavour or otherwise. What's more, by having it close by, I can be reminded of all the "impossible" challenges that were solved with the help of that machine and a little bit of human creativity.

Every so often, when I'm feeling the pressures of the day job and just want to switch off for a while, I'll reach for the older MacBook and fire up ByWord, the application I generally use for writing, and hammer out a blog post or two. The keyboard may not be as comfortable as the newer versions, but there's a certain degree of comfort that comes from hammering out 5,000 characters on a machine that has likely processed several million keypresses over the years.


  1. This is a file that I should really stop modifying. I have so many custom domain routings that it might be simpler to simply use the DNS server upstairs to keep track of them. These routings allow me to do a bunch of development and testing locally without too much hassle.

  2. Yes, I do believe that tools can enable a person to effect change in their life. It might sound silly, but I highly doubt I'd be where I am if I had stuck to using Windows machines. The recent success and good fortune came about from the things I learned by using Apple devices and pushing Ubuntu to its limits, then applying that education to the software that I have created at the day job. The software isn't perfect, but it's a heck of a lot better than the stuff I used to create when I had stuck to Microsoft's ecosystem.

  3. Yes, the same one that I tend to talk about all the time. I should probably write more about some of the family members on my mother's side, but we never really got to know each other outside of one or two family visits per year.

Incentives

Would I do what I do for the day job if I weren't paid hourly? This thought crossed my mind today when a colleague who works to the letter of their contract said that it didn't matter how much overtime they might put in, their salary for the month would remain the same. Sticking to expectations makes a great deal of sense, too, as it pretty much enforces a seemingly realistic work-life balance. When overtime is required for whatever reason, the hours are subtracted from another day in the same pay period. Every month sees an almost consistent 160 hours of effort rewarded.

Could I do this job on a salary rather than Base-plus-OT? Probably not.

When this week is over I'll expect the cumulative time to reach about 75 hours in total. There are still three weeks to go in the pay period. An average month sees about 6 weeks of work reported with all the supporting evidence required to ensure an audit of my recorded hours aligns with reality. The way 2020 has been going so far, January might just see seven weeks of work performed.

If I were paid base and nothing more, there is no way that I'd want to maintain the amount of effort that's put forward. If I were paid base plus hardware1, I might put in a couple of hours extra per week, but it would be difficult to maintain for the long term. Base plus hardware plus overtime seems to be the reason I'm pushing so hard … and the ego boosts that go along with solving complex problems encourage a great degree of effort as well.

One of the positive benefits of all the overtime is that I've come to value my personal time at a much higher value than ever before. If the day job really wants me to work on a weekend because they're in a pinch, I can do it. But it will come at a price that makes it worthwhile not only for me, but the family as well.


  1. I'm fortunate that the day job has provided quite a bit of hardware that allows me to perform all of the tasks that I need to complete, and then some.

Rage

In my youth I was a very hot-tempered kid, often angry, and very easy to set off. As one would expect, this occasionally resulted in some fights at school followed by a trip to the principal's office. Once there was even a 3-day suspension doled out because I took on a bully for being a jerk to a friend of mine. This particular event had a rather large impact on me because it was the only time I was suspended from school and it was because I did what I felt was right; standing up to someone my own size to protect someone who was physically much smaller1. Doing "the right thing" resulted in the very same verdict that was handed down to the aggressor. This unfair form of justice showed me that the only real way to defeat a bully was to do so in the shadows, away from authority, and away from witnesses who might call out to that authority.

Over time the anger became controllable to a certain extent, but it never went away. When puberty hit and the rolls of fat around my waist disappeared to be replaced with muscle, physical violence became much more problematic. Consequences would be much more dire and juries far less forgiving. To this end, I reigned it all in as much as I could, releasing anger through video games and the one sport I was halfway decent at; baseball. This helped immensely as the rage could be effectively channeled and used in moderation. The hot-temper continued to exist, and things could still set me off, but I knew how to bury most of what might have been released and to keep it at bay. Violence was never an appropriate answer, after all.

This control remained pretty consistent right into early adulthood. While I would occasionally lose my temper and shout or — in one egregious instance — punch a hole in a wall, the rage was never, ever directed at a person.

Something changed in the fall of 2006 while I was working at a printing company just south of Vancouver, though. While at the day job I was called into a managers office to hear how his people had to work extra hard to do something that a computer could do with greater speed and accuracy. The manager was correct, but the development team just didn't have the resources to build the requisite functionality fast enough. There were a myriad of other priorities that had to be tended to first, and my boss had made it very clear that none of the developers were supposed to make exceptions for a couple of months until we had caught up on the core business needs; a completely reasonable expectation. I attempted to communicate this to the manager who was asking for help and he made an offhand comment that went something like:

We don't complain about all the buggy software you guys release. The least you could do is invest an afternoon to help us out.

Not cool. Understandable, but not cool. I gave my obligatory "I'm sorry we can't help you any sooner" response and left the room to grab a coffee from the cafeteria. As my anger continued to boil, I kicked the wall in an effort to release some of the pent up rage.

There are two things that should be conveyed before continuing. While I was developing software at a printing company, I would often head out to the shop floor to communicate with people, test hardware, trial updates, and the like. This meant that I had to wear steel-toed shoes when at the office. Also, the way the office layout was designed, everyone had to walk past the manager-in-question's office to get to the cafeteria. Kicking the wall to the left would result in a thud heard in the men's washroom. Kicking the wall to the right would result in a thud heard in the manager's office, and quite possibly enough of one to shake some wall-hung photo frames.

I kicked the wrong wall.

The manager wasn't going to have any of my attitude. He was next in line to be Vice President of manufacturing, after all. I was just a punk with an attitude. So he called his good friend, who happened to be VP of the company, and complained as though I'd just pooped on the hood of his car. By the time I was back at my desk, I had a very angry C-level executive storm in the development lab and ream me out in front of the other developers. Knowing this was a no-win situation, I said nothing and let him scream and shout until he had said his piece and left. Soon after I called my boss to let him know that he might receive a visit and then I put the phone down …

… and lost it.

I ripped the keyboard from the computer next to me and smashed it in two over my knee, grabbed my coffee cup and hurled it against the wall and, before my tantrum could continue, something odd happened. There was a pop in my head that was both felt and heard. Almost immediately my rage dissipated and I was enveloped in a very odd calm. My colleagues were all staring at their screens, pretending to ignore me, but I knew I was way out of line. I apologised softly, picked up my notebook, and left the office for the day.

The memory is still quite vivid despite the passage of time, quite possibly because of how odd it was that in the middle of a rage, the anger vanished. Since that time, I've not had a tantrum of any real sort. Sure, I've been angry and frustrated from time to time, but never to that degree. It is almost as though whatever popped in my head — whether real or imagined — was the source of the excessive anger that could propel me into a blind rage.

Now let's skip forward fourteen years. The rage that I haven't felt in any meaningful way since I was a punk kid seems to be coming back. Working from home means that the people I care about are unwilling witnesses to an ugly side of me. The anger is contained as much as it can be, and I will never direct such raw emotion towards any of them, but it's not something that anyone should see. It stresses Reiko and the boy. It worries Nozomi. It is unproductive and unhelpful.

It needs to go away.

Generally when the anger gets to be too much, I try to leave the house and go for a walk to a nearby park to sit on a hill and watch the cars go by. If the weather isn't too cold, I'll even pick up a couple of cans of citrus-flavoured vodka to help take the edge off. Doing this helps me drop the anger and approach the world properly. Respectfully. And with good humour. This remedies the situation for five to six hours before the previous anger returns, albeit to a much lesser extent.

This isn't cool. I don't like this at all.

There is just so much wrong with this whole picture, and the source is completely internal. I've written at length over the last couple of years about how I take the wrong things way too seriously, about how I never seem to take time off properly2, and how frustrated I am despite all the good that has come about over the last four years.

What I need to do — and what I will do — is take some time off work so that I can refocus myself. This might be through meditation, or engaging in a hobby, or just catching up on some reading, but it needs to be done. I owe it to my family to be sane. I owe it to my colleagues to be professional. I owe it to myself.

Rage has its place. It's time I put it back there.


  1. I was a fat kid in the 80s. This probably doesn't mean much anymore, given cultural changes in the last 30-odd years, but that's besides the point. The friend being bullied was a recent immigrant from Pakistan who was as thin as a rail. He could handle himself with speed and agility, but there are limits when the attacker is substantially heavier and can land a much harder punch.

  2. Taking days off work only counts when I don't check email, the chat applications, or any of the servers. It also helps if I do not think about any of the projects I'm working on and the next steps required.