Clarity through writing

Really random everyday thinking. Not everything needs to be a formed thought.

Goodbye my friend

03 Feb 2021

It has been a long time since we've seen each other. The last time was at an airport where you worked a long while ago. I thought about you recently a month ago, over the holidays. It is hard to believe that you're gone.

I've avoided everything by focusing on work for the last two weeks. Admittedly, I'm not the best at dealing with situations like this to be honest with you. Not my best quality, that is for sure. But I took some time off work to see you, even if it was only for a few minutes. It was the first time since I saw you at the airport 10+ years ago. I'm ashamed to say it's been that long.

During your viewing people started sharing about you.

They reminded everyone of the same thing. It seems like you stayed the life and center of all your friends, the first person on the dance floor, and the guy surrounded by happiness.

A genuine person who radiated a kind of energy that pulled friends from different circles together. This was also evident from the number of text messages and phone calls that contacted me over the last few weeks to chat about you. Different people from different walks of my life: A close friend who now lives far away, my sister-in-law, an old church group friend, an old band mate, and even a co-worker.

My memories of you will always revolve around your old Acura Integra, serving in YFC camps, far travelled SFC conferences, and late night talks with your guitar in hand. A deep and insightful thinker. A thoughtful and fiercely loyal friend.

It has been hard the last few days. I hope you have peace wherever you are. I'll miss you man.

Keyboard shortcuts, payloads, and some Arduino learning

10 Sep 2017

I've been a software guy all my life. I love building software systems. Things that store data in large databases, you login, and the system does something. I've never really understood hardware. So when the Arduino and the Raspberry PI came out I ignored them for the most part. Lately though I've been seeing things through a different lens.

Hardware and me

If you scour the googles for projects for the Arduino, you'll see a lot of weather stations. You will see a lot of lights turning themselves on and off. There isn't much excitement there (and yes I understand that this is mostly to entice beginners). I saw a bunch of infosec focused Youtube videos emulating devices like keyboards and something clicked. I caught myself saying, "Wouldn't it be cool if..." a lot. For example, I saw our beta fish aquarium and said, "Wouldn't it be cool if there was a fish feeder that had more precise controls to manage the small pellet fish food?"

But I think it's a good idea to start small.

So, the idea

I love productivity apps. I've been using a lot of keyboard shortcut applications and macros in my day to day life. It is usually the first thing that I install on a new computer. However, that is the main drawback: the fact that you have to install something. There are scenarios where this is not possible: a corporately owned computer (with strict policies), Citrix, or the simple fact that the productivity tool doesn't exist for your operating system (like Ubuntu).

So what are we out to accomplish?

To build a device that plugs between a keyboard and a computer (ie uses the keyboard as its input device) where the computer recognizes it as a keyboard. It should function as a keyboard passthrough and trap certain keyboard combinations. There should be multiple combinations available such as ctrl-alt-0 through ctrl-alt-9. When the device traps a valid key combination it will "type out" an defined template.

Where is this at?

I'm putting this project "out there" and releasing it into the wild. Warts an' all. You can check it out through the Github project page.

Is this just a pipe dream?

~~Well, I actually have a few things working. I went out and bought an Arduino Leonardo and a USB host shield. The code posted in the repo has a working keyboard passthrough (I'm typing this post using the hardware) except for a few weird things with the shift key (I'm not sure if it's this keyboard or something wrong with my code) and holding down keys do not work... yet.~~

~~The rest of the functionality is missing. There was a short attempt to get an SD card shield working this morning but it didn't quite work. There is a bunch of reading to do on that topic me thinks. I'd also like to learn how to print a 3d case for this eventually.~~

So it isn't a pipe dream. I actually have a good working model that I'm (generally) happy with. I switched to the Arduino YUN for a bit so I can have the USB Shield and an available SD card, but I wasn't happy that you had to wait to boot things up. I was also getting inconsistent behavior.

Now, I've gone back to the Leonardo, cleaned up the files and included some instructions on how to modify the payloads.

Here's a high level idea of how to get this up and running.

  1. Buy Arduino Leonardo and USB Shield
  2. Connect two together
  3. Install Arudino software and configure for Arduino Leonardo (get the blinkity blink sketch to work and you're good)
    1. Clone the repository, open the Untitled.ino file
    2. Rename the Templates.h.example to Templates.h
    3. Modify the data in the Templates file
    4. Compile and upload the sketch
    5. Plug in your keyboard into the USB host
    6. Start using: ctrl-alt-0 to ctrl-alt-9


While this is an endevour of learning for me, if you're a hardware expert and have some ideas I'd love to hear them even if you see a big huge glaring mistake (ie. Yo! This hardware is really the better one to use). "Untitled" can only go so far as a project title, I've also learned that me + name choosing really don't mix. So if you'd like to help me pick a name, I'm open to suggestions: [email protected].

Some thoughts on books

09 Aug 2017

Here is a stream of conciousness / opinions / reviews on the books that I've read in 2017.

A recurring goal of mine has been to read more. This year I've been trying to keep this particular goal top of mind (more on that on a different blog post). In addition, I've accepted that I'm lazy and would rather have someone read to things to me rather than just consuming things the more traditional way: translating symbols on pages to words in my head (even that sounds very exhausting). So I've been successfully listening to more books rather than reading.

Here is my list:

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

Ok look, my family and I are far from living the minimalist zero-waste lifestyle. My wife loves her fashion, the kids love their Lego and I love my toys. That said, there is value in looking through your living space and tossing out items that have passed their time with you. This book gives a nice process that helped me go through my clothes, electronics and my office items. I didn't think I had a lot of things, but there were 3 big black garage bags of clothes to donate (just my clothes) and I sold $500 worth of electronics and toys via craigslist. The poor kids had no choice.

Scrappy Little Nobody

The best audio books are the ones that are read by the authors who are either funny actors or comedians. Anna Kendrick is the former (Kevin Hart mentioned later is the latter). There are a lot of interesting stories on her life from broadway all the way up to the success of Up in the Air. Interesting read that made me re-watch some of her movies, but not Twilight. I don't think there is anything that would make me rewatch that series of movies.

A Life Without Limits

I aspire to be a triathlete (I'm actively working my way towards that multi-year goal). While I ride on the bike, I usually put on past recordings of the Hawaii Ironman trathlon. During the years of 2007 - 2009 and 2011, Chrissie Wellington won the world Ironman championships. She was sick in 2010. Every time she has raced, she's won. The book was an interesting and honest autobiography where she filled in answers to a lot of questions that the broadcasts didn't. Questions like: How did she go from a government job to a professional triathlete? How sick did you have to be to miss the 2010 world championships? Why is she always smiling?!

Seveneves: A Novel

A friend recommended this and the premise (as he described it) was really interesting. Humankind has taken to space to survive, ultimately ending up with only 7 women who had different approaches and philosophies for the future of the human race. Fast-forward some years later, and humans have evolved based on those choices. Interesting right? Good book, but there are a lot of long drawn out explanations of the science. Almost to the point that I feel like these are things that already exists. Bill Gates (yup! THAT Bill Gates) actually had a really good write up of the book and I pretty much agree with his assessment of it.

American Gods

I came about American Gods in a very round about way. One of the first autobiographical audio books that listened to was Kristen Chenoweth's. A few months ago I was scanning my Instagram and saw that she posted this. That visual was so intriguing that I got so caught up googling it. I ended up reading through the book before the TV show. I'm generally ok with Neil Gaiman's works I think his story premises are incredibly clever and this was no exception. Gods living among men, with new and old gods competing for the worship and attention of people.

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House

I got this because it was part of a discounted Audible sale. I looked her up and immediately became fascinated by her Wikipedia page. You never really think about how much work it takes to coordinate the calendar of a sitting president and how much power that person wields. They would prioritize who you would meet with, coordinate changes in schedule and prioritize according to goals and values of the administration. It was good insight and very interesting. Being in Canada, it's hard to relate to some of the politics.

I Can't Make This Up: Life Lessons

Ok, don't listen to this audiobook while you're on a treadmill or you might end up face planting from laughing. There are a lot of stories out there on YouTube on the process of comedy but getting a first hand account is always interesting. It's very honest and just a fun book.

Armada: A Novel

As you'll read below, I re-listen to the Ready Player One audio book a lot. Mostly because of Wil Wheaton's narration. So I've been wanting to check out this novel by the same author. It has similar amount 80's references peppered throughout but the premise of this one is a bit too close to The Last Starfighter which is one of my favorite cheesy movies. I admit that not the best judge but I found that the plot was a bit predictable with some of the relationships not developed enough for me to care about them.

The 5 Second Rule: Transform your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage

The tricks in this book helped find me the motivation to write this and other blog posts through out this year. She expains the science behind it in the book, plus offers up some tricks on how to apply it to more complex situations. That said, I found Mel and her technique through this YouTube interview. The technique itself is embarrassingly simple, but surprisingly works.

Unshakeable: Your Financial Freedom Playbook

Ok, there are a lot of mixed feelings about this one. It is very US focused, I feel that the tips are very much focused on their market and way of thinking. I'd have to do a bit more reading on how the advice is applied in Canada before saying any more. The anecdotes are interesting and the psychological perspective has a lot of value.


The next set really shouldn't count, but I included them because I did read 'em this year.

Ready Player One

I re-listen to this audiobook alot because it is one of my favorites. it was a recommendation by a friend and mentor that kinda surprised me. A part of me likes this book because of the glorious 80s references. I've revisited / watched / learned a lot of things as a result of this book: The Pac Man pattern, War Games (I never actually watched it) and a whole bunch of robots. Wil Wheaton does such an excellent job narrating it in the Audible version and there is a weird and meta line in the book where he talks about himself and Cory Doctrow which was amusing in itself. By the way, this is (hopefully) coming out as a movie in 2018! Personally, the casting of Simon Pegg as Ogden Morrow is also something that I didn't know I needed in my life.

The Daily Stoic

I don't think this should count because it's one of those books that you read a 1 page thought every day (sometimes it's 1/2 a page, other days it's 1 and 1/2 page). That said, by the end of the year if I'm diligent (which I've been so far) this book will count toward my annual books read total.

Born to run

I listen to this when I run. This is also the book that got me into running. 'Nuff said.

2017 notes to myself

01 Jan 2017

Nice to meet you 2017! Glad to see that you've made it here safely. I'm trying to be more honest and open so let me tell you about a few things that I wanted te put on the burner this year and why.

Also just a note, I've left off the 'how' part of this post because, well I'm a bit more embarrassed of that. :) Mostly because the Internet will see that I'm severly dehydrated (i.e. Drink a minimum of 2L of water a day) or vain (i.e. Weigh myself everyday and use the Garmin app to track it). So with that said, let's start!

In 2017, I will focus on creating things of value for people, putting some positivity back into the world, and rebuilding Ritchie (me).

I want to feel in control of my destiny. To be comfortable with my insecurity and feelings of inadequacy. I will become a person that works and hustles every day to create or build value. Don't be a jerk. I want an expanded circle of friends and building deeper relationships with my close friends and family. Rebuilding good healthy habits to make sure that the body feels strong, active, and never lazy. I want to rebuild my mobility and become a triathlete in the long term. Finally, I want to know that I am a competitive candidate as an IT manager and a developer.

I will say 'yes' to more opportunities that come my way and finish things that I start successfully.

Find more time to spend with my family and friends

In 2016, I learned that taking vacations with family and friends weren't bad at all. It was the first year of #BestBudsVacay! Our family went to Hawaii to celebrate Cheryl's 40th orbit around the sun. In the past, vacations weren't big for me; work and career always took priority. I want to do more of it.

Create more things and put it out there into the world

In 2016, we launched Nucleoid and sadly pulled it back because we didn't feel like it was ready. So we'll work on it more and relaunch it back in 2017.

Vlogging has been a fascinating experience. It reminds me of the old days of the online publishing and the excitement of being at the turning point for something big.

Photography is also something that I've rediscovered. I haven't bought a digital camera in years (I've been inheriting my DSLRs from my father-in-law), but buying a new camera is exactly what I did in December with a promise to take more pictures.

Become healthier

I definitely feel like I've lost track of my health in 2016. I've been plagued with running injuries and sickness which really put a damper on plans. I've made a goal to rediscover triathlons in near future and work towards that. Finding my motivation and selfless reasons for being healthy in 2017 is my big priority.

Rediscover my career

I've been at my company for a long time (a little less than 20 years)! I've changed job title, moved to different roles but it's hard not to question the validity of my skillset. For example, how well do I stack up as a developer to others out there in the field? Have I stagnated as an IT manager? A little investment of time in this area wouldn't hurt.

So there you have it. Let's do this!

The website exists again! Hello there old friend.

13 Jan 2016

This blog has gone through some schizophrenic episodes throughout the years. Looking back, there were a bunch of messed up times where maintaining this web space caused a tonne of anxiety. I didn't know what to write anymore. I think that I even put up a "sponsored post" about cars at one point (hummm I don't think I even got a cheque for that).

So hey you! Yea, the one staring into the browser screen reading my words. Sit down (or stand up) and let me tell you how this blog came back to existence.

Kill it! Seriously.

There are way too many blogs out there. A good chunk of these really good blogs also have really good writers behind them. Some have really interesting (and well researched) information in them too. I used to read 50 blogs in my RSS feed reader. Great blogs!

Then the age of the listicle came with BuzzFeed and everyone seemed to follow suit. You know what I'm talking about, the type of website content that had mostly top 10 lists like "The top 10 disney fairy princess represented by breakfast plates". They were interesting for a (short) while. Soon afterward, some of my favorite blogs started doing top 10 lists just to keep up with the readership. It marked the decline of the written word on the internet.

When I started writing lists on my website, I realized that I needed to kill my blog. My regular 250 word post about me and my experiences turned into product reviews and opinion pieces. Admittedly, that wasn't my style of writing and the blog was taken to the back alley and murdered. And in it's stead was a simple message that "there were a tonne of reasons why a website isn't here anymore." [in-editing]God! That is so melodramatic! But there is a lot of truth in that.[/in-editing]

Work, think. Work, think and journal.

I feel like a kid admitting that I keep a journal of sorts. So let me get a few things out of the way:

  • No, I don't write in it regularly
  • I don't publish it anywhere
  • I use Dropbox, date my files and just write
  • I use FocusWriter / iaWriter, but most days I just use good 'ol Vim
  • It's mostly just therapy and usually a last resort

My internal monologue really runs out of control, and people around me do really weird things. Most things that don't make sense to me at all. Some I end up laughing off, others really stress me out, a few that invoke murderous feelings and there are some incidents that cause some late nights tossing and turning. I find that for any of the latter ones, one thing that helps is if I just get up from bed, walk over to my computer, put on some music (maybe Adele) and write. [in-editing]Dear lord! I sound like an emo teenager in high school (maybe I should just grow out my hair, slick it forward and pull it over my eyes, wear tight jeans and carry a Hershel backpack).[/in-editing]

I promise you that in my journal I don't (always) start things off with "Dear journal".

Things and stuff

I feel like I obsess a lot about so many different things. In the last month, I've debated resource and process management in the iOS Fallout Shelter game, my black friday search for the best deal (and how I didn't buy anything), bike trainers and fat adaptation for athletic performance. ~~While I'm writing this, I'm finishing a~~ When I wrote this, I was finishing a Netflix produced Anime (Seven Deadly Sins). I obsess over things in the same way teenage girls post comments on their friend's Instagram selfies, "Gorgeous WTF! Your a bitch!". (God! It's YOU ARE, not the possessive unless you own the female dog and that doesn't even make sense!)

I live in my head a lot. So I needed a place to obsess.

Social media?!

When I talk, I need more than 140 characters. I can't tell a story just by a picture and I suck at lighting video. I absolutely hate the sound of my own voice. I really wish that I had a british accent or something then maybe I could put a podcast or vlog up. A filipino accent is grating and we sound like we're always trying to barter for a lower price.

Pictures in my instagram account are always poorly lit and terribly captioned, "Here is the spam, eggs and rice that I had for breakfast on a Saturday afternoon." And I don't und