Ylanathajo Family Tree

Prompt: Write a scene in which your character from your previous exercise uncovers a secret about his or her family history, including the true meaning of his or her name. End it with a cliffhanger.

Tobalen knew that he was born from an artificial uterus in one of Mother’s birthing pods; everyone was. Well, all the other human children were at least. The androids and other robots that outnumbered the organic life forms (“orgs” in the nascent parlance of Trappist-1d) were assembled in a neighboring facility, though not often these days since most of them had been put together long before the process of producing orgs could begin. What Tobalen didn’t realize was that Mother had decided that she would give all her children, carbon and silicon based, a last name of her invention. “Ylanathajo” was the last word ever received from Earth, widely believed to be the result of the communications operator’s body collapsing on the keyboard after being shot by an enemy soldier. Ylanathajo was the inadvertent swan song of terrestrial humanity and an appropriate exclamation to start humanity anew. Ylanathajo! Humanity is dead: long live Humanity! Ylanathajo! Let us never forget the errors of Earth as we build a new world together.

Of the twenty four embryonic colonization missions, only eighteen reached their destination planets and only fifteen successfully landed with their embryos intact and usable. All human life on earth was exterminated millennia ago, but now there were fifteen second chances spread throughout the Milky Way. Each command computer would transport enough genomic information to recreate a whole ecosystem and an army of nanobots designed to harvest resources and build progressively larger infrastructure to support a new civilization. By the time Tobalen was born, terrestrial orgs were established well enough to maintain themselves on seven planets, some well enough that Mother incorporated their history into her lessons.

Tobalen was a very curious child.

Anagram Character: Tobalen Ylanathajo

Prompt: Rearrange the letters of your first and last name into a new name and describe this character. 

Tobalen was conceived on Earth in 2037 and born on Trappist 1D four thousand years later from a robotic womb. He was one of the first wave of children that Mother delivered that year, though he would grow up with tens of thousands of brothers and sisters. Selected for their intelligence, health, and generally clean genome, his gene donors were a Senegalese obstetrician and a Danish triathlete and nutritionist. He was a beautiful child with light cocoa skin, inky black hair, emerald green eyes, and long slender fingers that made him a natural pianist from a very early age. Mother was still building Home City when he was young, so he spent many days learning about human history and the Universe inside a virtual classroom or playing Beethoven inside The Nursery. He spent a lot of time apart from the other children reading or wandering through the massive greenhouses with his puppy watching the many species of birds, lizards, and other creatures whose genome had come from so far away inside a tiny probe. Tobalen was particularly talented with languages so he often sat near the ponds in the greenhouse speaking to the frogs in Danish or calling to the birds in French, the language his gene donors might have spoken. Officially, Mother insists all her children learn to speak English, Spanish, and Mandarin Chinese, but Tobalen had a thirst to learn more. His interests were diverse and his academic talents impressive, though he was a very clumsy child which explains why he would spend far more time reading under his favorite maple tree in the temperate forest dome than playing soccer with other children.

Dumping Facebook

I’ve been leaning towards disconnecting from social media for awhile, especially after the Trump campaign. It seems that it has been transformed from the once novel and exciting platform it was in college to use to connect with friends and share experiences to a place full of divisive rhetoric, vitriol, ubiquitous advertising, and manicured information streams designed to make you purchase something or have strong emotional reactions. While there are still a lot of amazing features on the Facebook platform, the latest scandal with Cambridge Analytica where the data of billions of users was shared without their consent in ways that may have helped tilt the scales in the most recent presidential election allowing for the possibly least temperamentally suited man conceivable to take the country’s highest office is the final straw for me. I can’t knowingly be part of something that is having such a deleterious effect on the fabric of our society in the name of enriching its shareholders.

I know this won’t solve the problems of corporate greed, the growing income inequality, or any of the other woes that plague modern American and world society, but it is a step I can take in the right direction. It’s the little things, at the end of the day, that eventually lead to real change.

Life is but a Game

In the interest of corralling myself into meeting some life goals, I’ve started using Habitica, an Android app that turns building good habits and accomplishing to do items into a roleplaying game. I’m hoping it works as well as the research would suggest. I guess if you see more posts from me here, you’ll know it does. Here’s hoping!

Tilting at Windmills (Again)

A long while ago, I tried to jump into Don Quixote as part of my quest to conquer great literature. It didn’t go well. I found the writing a bit scattered and had a hard time identifying with the characters. I probably didn’t devote enough time to the endeavor during my first attempt, but I’m happy to report I’m back at it and I’ve read (OK, in an audiobook) to Chapter 42! There are 129 chapters in total, but I’m finally really into and enjoy the story. Once I realized that books from this time (17th Century) were essentially the Game of Thrones of their day (meant to be episodic and enjoyed over time), I approached each chapter as an episode of a TV show and this reframing made things much more pallatable. It really is a great book! It talks about human nature in comical and interesting ways and is actually a pretty decent story once you’re used to the style. It makes sense it would take some time to bridge the great span of time and literary style, but I’m so glad I did. I look forward to my adventures with the would-be hero every time I get in the car. The crazy long daily commute is good for something!

Don Quixote and Sancho Panza

A New Chapter

In mid-July, after six weeks of incredible turmoil at work during the CEO transition, I found myself suddenly unemployed. It was pretty shocking after six years (almost to the day) of dedicated service to the company, but many of the decisions made by the new CEO were suspect–the board of directors ended up “going in a different direction” a few months later appointing an acting CEO who probably should have been their pick in the first place (she certainly always was my number one choice). Regardless of how it happened, it was never a place I expected to find myself, and triggered something I can only describe as a minor existential crisis.

The three months following have been a journey of reflection and discovery. A few days after packing up my office, Scott and I had a planned vacation in Mendocino with the kids and his family. After three very emotional days, it was good to be on the opposite coast breathing the fresh ocean air and soaking up the sunshine. I needed to get away from the site of the trauma to start the healing process and be around loved ones who were totally disconnected from the situation. I felt like I didn’t know who I was immediately after leaving CHCB, but standing on the deck looking at the ocean without work e-mails or phone calls, I realized that I was not only unemployed but also unburdened. I hadn’t really had an uninterrupted vacation for six years, and I desperately needed one. By the time we were on the plane back to Vermont ten days later, I felt like I was actually reconnecting with the person I was when I graduated from Middlebury, the one not entirely consumed by the well being of The Health Centers at the expense of my personal life.

Back in Vermont, it was time to dedicate myself to finding a new job. I was lucky enough to have enough savings to live for up to six months without working, but given how hard finding a decent job can be in Vermont, I had no time to waste. Happily, I had a good network of professional contacts and was able to land interviews for a few positions in health IT relatively quickly. I had forgotten how arduous the whole process could be, but getting to the first interview was just the beginning. Between the two jobs I wanted, I was interviewed a total of a dozen times by as many people before I got to two good job offers. It took two solid months, but by mid-September, I had my pick between two very different but excellent options: a senior database administrator at a large regional hospital system or a technical services manager at the company that administers the Vermont Health Information Exchange. After six years of the managerial life, the prospect of really testing out the programming skills I’d learned over the years and through my WGU degree was pretty tempting. When the hospital offered significantly more money, it was a no-brainer with a family to support.

I’ve only just started at the hospital, but I think I’m really going to like this job. Sure, the hospital has its own challenges to work through, but I have an excellent manager, great coworkers, and the opportunity to really put my technical skills to good use, expanding them in the process. I may return to management someday, but for now, I’m excited to be learning about datawarehousing, natural language processing, and so much more. Look ma, I’m a real programmer now!

Life’s journey is far from a straight line, and though I never saw this new chapter coming in quite this way, I think it’s just what I needed in some ways. It’s the start of a new adventure, and I’m excited to see what comes next. And for the paycheck. I’m really excited for the paycheck.


A Rainy Mother’s Day in Saint A

Scott and I had planned to go up to Montreal this morning since we didn’t have the kids and we both somehow had the same day off (a rare treat). Sadly, though yesterday was gloriously sunny, today was dreary and damp. While we didn’t get to go to Montreal, we did get to spend the day together and actually got a lot of household work done that we just haven’t had time to get to. I’m actually glad it was rainy; it’s so nice to be able to get things done.

Not only am I grateful for the chance to spend a whole day at home with the man I love, I’m also extremely grateful for my mother (it’s Mother’s Day in the US today). It took my mother fifteen years to conceive me during which time she had to have operations and undergo several other fertility treatments not to mention lie flat on her back for the end of her pregnancy with me as I caused her to hemorrhage so badly at one point it could have ended both our lives. Despite the hardships, she kept going, even when her family doctor encouraged her to abort me to save herself. I’m grateful that she refused to listen and instead carried me to term; life is an incredible gift! I’m also grateful that Mom gave up her career to stay home with me and, four and a half years later, my baby sister Heather. She has sacrificed much over my thirty two years of life to ensure I wanted for nothing and could have the best possible chance at a good life. She’s helped me every step of the way and anything I have I owe to her (and Dad, of course). Today I am most grateful for my mother, a woman of incredible character, unshakable will, and the most wonderful, compassionate soul I’ve known. Thank you, Mom, for all you’ve done and continue to do to help me become the best person I can be.

Showing a Little Gratitude

We take too much for granted in life. Here in the US, we have so very much and yet we always seem to expect more. Not only is this hedonistic cycle untenable, it makes us miserable. Several studies have proven something our forebears knew all to well: you should be thankful for what you’ve got and you’ll be happier for it. I’m not sure if it’s the act of reflecting on how your needs are met instead of how they’re not that starts the serotonin pumping or just being present in the here and now long enough to realize that things are generally pretty amazing and that life is good, but I like the idea of acknowledging that I have a lot to be thankful for. For that reason, I’d like to start a gratitude journal here to celebrate just how wonderful life can be.

Today I am thankful that after all these years, I have someone to hold hands with and kiss at the movie theater. I’m also thankful for a partner who likes to go on walking adventures as much as me (though I think I’ll be even more thankful for that tomorrow). I guess I’m just really thankful I’ve got Scott in my life and that I was able to find my soulmate after so much searching. Not everyone gets the chance to know love, let alone find “the one”, and I count am grateful every day for this miraculous gift.

Confirmation Bias

I wasn’t able to read that much of Don Quixote today thanks to all the work I have to do for the KBM 8.3 upgrade at work, but what I did get through was wonderful. Cervantes definitely earned his place as one of the Great Western Writers. The older English and heavier 18th Century style can be a bit dense at times, but it’s well worth the effort to get through. At its best, it makes for wonderful reading.

In Chapter 1, the depth of Don Quixote’s delusion is revealed along with the unreliable nature of the narrator. Don Quixote is described as “witless” in many different ways, and the narrator tells us that Don Quixote holds his fantasy world as truer than reality. The thing is, it seems Don Quixote can see through the veil of delusion, he just doesn’t seem to want to. He seems to be suffering from sever confirmation bias: using any scrap of evidence to support the veracity of his fantasy world while ignoring a significant amount of facts, including everyone constantly laughing at him, that it’s not real. The pasteboard half-helmet and skinny horse turned noble steed as well as the false name for himself and pretty much anyone he meets who he needs to be a noble to support the mythology he has created, show Don Quixote’s world as a costume universe of his own making. Don Quixote essentially has made himself his own god, basing a new universe on the framework of chivalristic novels.

Chapter 2 show Don Quixote bent on glory, talking about how his fame will be preserved in various ways. This grandiose vision he has for his existence may be a byproduct of the fact that this gentleman of leisure (despite his somewhat modest fortunes) finds La Mancha really boring and has retreated into the paper world of knights and dragons. Don Quixote has remarkable transformative powers that create wondrous things out of the most mundane objects (a dumpy inn becomes a castle, wenches become fair damsels, a crooked innkeeper a high nobleman from Castilla, moldy bread and terrible stew into a royal feast). We also see that Don Quixote uses props like his papier mache armor and helmet tied with ribbons as talismans that fasten him more tightly in his fantasy land.

Chapter 3 shows the innkeeper as cretin, trying to use the “full and unimpeachable” evidence in books about chivalry to swindle Don Quixote out of a few reals. Don Quixote proves that he is willing to go to extreme lengths to protect his imagined knighthood, “smot[ing]” two young men who move his armor when attempting to get water from a trough. He also uses titles such as “knight” or “dona” to draw others into his imagined reality. This has the added effect of probably being a bit uplifting to the commonfolk he turns into aristocrats.

Tilting at Windmills

After reading a little more in A Well-Educate Mind, I’ve decided to start my epic canonical quest with the book that arguably started the whole novel form itself way before anyone else: Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes. I’m reading the author’s preface now while I wait for some documents to compile on our development server and two things struck me right away:

  1. I love the linguistic richness of the translation into 18th Century English
  2. I need to learn Latin tout de suite! It’s everywhere in this chapter (and in life).

I’ve decided to read it through first on my Android tablet as an ebook in English. I think that will be the best way to learn the facts of the lengthy story (evidently Cervantes hadn’t heard about “brevity being the soul of wit”) before reading it in my nicely bound hardcover edition of the original Spanish. I wonder what Cervantes would say if he knew his classic was freely available online (God bless you, Project Gutenberg) and could be ready on any of myriad softly glowing electronic screens. As the poor guy seems like he’s struggling just to write the preface (or so he portrays through his narration), I think ebooks might just blow his mind.

The preface seems to be about Cervantes doubting himself for not being erudite enough, not having enough sonnets by aristocrats or other great people, to support his book and his friend saying something like, “Just throw in some Latin verses and steal someone else’s quotes to give your book the appearance of authority and erudition you want. Hell, it probably doesn’t really need those things though; it’s something new that destroys the old so it needn’t impersonate it!”