Work journal

2020-01-22 log: Impromptu Sabbath

AuthorMark MacKay

Yesterday I drank a large coffee before going to my night yoga class. It proved a great booster of asanas, but when it came time for bed the mind remained alert, never attaining deep sleep. In the morning I fed the dog, the roosters and myself and then felt sleepy again, so I went back to bed to meditate.

A good directive in meditation is: if you fall asleep, accept it too. It means you needed more rest. Yet, I couldn’t fall asleep again. I became deeply absorbed in my body, which is completely sore from a session of deadlifts yesterday at the gym.

I had made a vague commitment to work from my dad’s office today, and my meditation was being interrupted by urges to prepare the journey. They say: in meditation put these kind of away, don’t attend prompts from your mind, this is not the time to think about it.

And so I put my urges away, and eventually gave way to a long meditation session in which I recognized that my body wants a break. The last week I’ve been going daily to the gym and to yoga, this would be my first rest day.

Instead of putting my tattered body on the bike and take my sleep-deprived brain to work, I chose to clean the house, which was sorely needed. I washed dishes, wiped surfaces, cooked for the week, cleared stagnant water because it rained recently, and so on.

I realized: how privileged to be able to take a spontaneous day off. If flexibility were a measure of wealth, I’d be quite wealthy. But it’s not, and now that I’ve seemingly recovered from the coffee and exercise hangover, I put my hands and my mind available to the project that has been consuming me for the past few weeks.

I will write about it when the time comes.

Nothing ought to be forced.

Work journal

2020-01-20 log: on chivalry

AuthorMark MacKay

I saw a couple walking on the narrow sidewalk of a bridge. It wasn’t wide enough for them to walk side by side, so the man walked on the road as he held his girlfriend’s hand. When the cars started coming towards him he positioned himself behind her, but still using his arm so that she would be protected.

“How strange it is to observe these things after years in Europe”, I thought. But it was endearing. European women tend to feel uncomfortable with this kind of treatment, “I can take care of myself, thank-you-very-much[not]”, they will say.

It is interpreted as an assertion of weakness or powerlessness from the man towards the woman. But it is not this, it is simply a dance that you learn when you begin dating. Early on your girlfriends will gently guide you towards walking on the correct side of the sidewalk, they will stand in front of a door waiting you to open it, they will expect you to order for them when the waiter comes to ask what you want for lunch.

It becomes a habit which does not translate well to more egalitarian cultures. But, to confuse chivalrous with chauvinist is a mistake. It is possible to be chivalrous and egalitarian at the same time when you realize that safety and comfort is something everyone appreciates, so our deference in treatment should be extended towards everybody, not only towards the opposite sex.

And deeper down there’s a deep cultural loss when chivalry is banished. To be egalitarian is not to banish these gestures, but to allow the opposite sex to preform them too, and to be graceful about it. What a wonderful culture would it be where women and men can open doors for each other without feeling offended.

Work journal

[Intermission] One year ago...

AuthorMark MacKay

I’m lost in work, but the details of work have been throughly explored with the Boolean Project, and I feel I would be repeating myself by writing my work logs as I was doing last year.

Let us confirm this as a fact. Let us see what was written one year ago, on January 17, 2019:

Today I don’t feel like writing the work log, the day was partly frustrating, but I look at the reasons and they are not worth a grumpy mood: I spent most of the day trying to resolve a nasty bug in which callbacks weren’t firing at their expected time. The animation library I had chosen wasn’t doing what I expected: having simultaneous animations firing dynamically seemed to require a pattern I couldn’t wrap my head around, and in the end I gave up and replaced the library for anime.js, which worked like a charm.

Then I went to buy a DisplayPort to HDMI adapter in order to use the 4K monitor I have at home, but the inventory at the store was not the same as their website. I went to another store, same story. Then to a third one, same thing. I came back home and placed the order on Amazon.

I sense the events didn’t cause the mood, but I woke up sensitive to frustration and it grew from there. I came back home and had a nap, then meditated. I felt better and put an extra hour towards fixing more bugs. Grand scheme of things: awesome. Day: crappy. Accept and move on.

My day today was perfect. It included a little bit of everything:

I went to yoga early in the morning.
I went to a café and treated myself to coffee.
I implemented the offline version of [secret project].
I hit the gym.
I came back home, investigated on the api we’ll use for [secret project].
I lighted up.
I did landscaping work.
Beers with my cousins.
Back home to write about it.

How strange is mood and disposition! The work log has always been acceptance about what comes out. If I’m not on the camino and greatly inspired, the inspiration comes from a different source. Work and the body is where my attention is focused at this moment, and it is worth writing about. I will officially resume the work logs next Monday ☯️

Work journal

2020-01-13 logs paused

AuthorMark MacKay

The past few days have been a blur of activity.

Everything is flowing so fast, I cannot register all of it.

The wave broke and I’m surfing on it.

Partly excited, partly serene and focused.

I will pause the work logs until the wave has exhausted its power.

Then I will write about it.

Until then.

Work journal

2020-01-11 log: Designing from the Spirit

AuthorMark MacKay

Last night I had a long back and forth live email thread going on with René. Many ideas about the course platform and the ways things fit together begun to glean on us, and we exchanged paragraph-sized ideas over the course of an hour or so.

We then continued the conversation this morning. I was deeply engaged with the conversation and the flow of ideas, but at a certain point I felt something strange: it is unnecessary to speak anymore, I understand the vision, the product, the direction, the meaning of what we are building here.

What is it that which we understand when things click in product design? It could be said that you understand the system, that you understand the syntax, but I think sometimes it goes beyond. I would call it spirit. The product does not possess the spirit, it was passed as a breath of life from the creator into the product.

I’m just noticing these things. There seems to be a different way of designing which comes from neither mind or heart, it comes from spirit. But because in modern times we’ve done away with the conception of spirit, very few people have stumbled upon it.

Some products are incarnation of spirit (spirit made matter). Most products are incarnation of ego (intention made matter).

I will keep on exploring this question.

Is Designing from Spirit the opposite of Design Thinking?

Are most worthy things incarnation of spirit?

Where is the sprit when we say a product is a spiritual successor to x product?

I said I wanted to explore the intersection between design and spirituality and it is proving very difficult to write about, but I shall do just one thing today: define Designing from the Spirit.

Designing from the spirit is breathing life into a product, and then giving care and attention so that the product may fulfill its potential.

Work journal

2020-01-08 log: computer repair technician

AuthorMark MacKay

Today I was biking back home when my neighbor stopped me.

“¿a qué te dedicas?” (a more polite form of what do you do for a living).
“I work on the computer”, I answered.
“I have a computer and I don’t know how to write the at symbol, and I would like to clean it from viruses”, she said.
“Is it a Mac or a Windows?”, which is my exit strategy when people need help with their computer.
“A Windows”, she answered.
“Oh, I don’t know much about Windows. But I have a cousin who knows them inside out. I can tell him about it and I’ll get back to you”.

I pinged my cousin to have lunch with him. He wanted me to pick up a roasted chicken for him to have lunch, and I was concerned because he’s not very proactive about paying his part of lunch. I’m beyond a tight budget: the chicken would cost 50% of my entire capital at this moment. I bought it anyways.

Over lunch I explained that I had a neighbor who needed an easy maintenance task, but as I was explaining the situation to him I realized this is exactly the kind of easy money I should be seeking at this time. Instead of offering the job to him, I asked him what malware removal tool he recommended.

How was it that I couldn’t see this opportunity that was in plain sight! It is the ego: computer maintenance jobs are menial tasks for which I am overqualified. I am a computer pilot, not the maintenance dude. I don’t run software, I create it.

What nonsense! I am what the circumstances of life ask from me. I am a gardener when I walk into my garden. I am a brother when I am with my sister. I am writer when I sit down to write this work log. I am a computer repair technician when I need to make a quick buck.

And so tomorrow I’ll tell my neighbor I can repair her computer.

Work journal

2020-01-06 log: Riding waves

AuthorMark MacKay

Every couple of months I sense a big inner change is coming. It is felt as a strong pull, like the ocean does when a big wave is coming, it sucks all the water and then releases it, rushing forward in a big wave.

Sometimes the sensation fades away without effect. It feels like the wave passed through and I didn’t ride it either because of fear of because of lack of skill. Sometimes I ride the wave for a bit but then crash. Other times I ride the wave successfully.

When you wait for a wave there is a split second when the pulling and pushing forces of the ocean come to a standstill, raising you up instead of pushing or pulling you. It is in this split second that fear is heightened: it is too late to pull out of the wave, so it is either riding it or crashing it.

I sense this standstill at this very moment. I’m up high on a big wave, and looking downward is cause of vertigo. The mind always thinks “this is the wave”, but the soul knows all too well the real possibility of failure. Failure is the wrong word, for a rider of waves does not fail. He either rides the wave or not, and if he does not ride the wave he simply waits for the next one.

Work journal

2020-01-02 log: accessibility

AuthorMark MacKay

Yesterday a cousin who is in a wheelchair came visit the house. I hadn’t met her before, nor had I handled a wheelchair before, yet because of our situation (my uncle can barely walk himself and needed assistance from his partner) I would need to handle my cousin and the wheelchair.

My cousin has cerebral palsy. She came out of the car by herself, I brought the chair and positioned where I thought it would be easier for her to sit in, and then instinctively grabbed her by the arm pits so that she wouldn’t fall into the seat. I let her down gently and then apologized “I’m sorry if you didn’t like that, I really have no experience handling a wheelchair and you’ll have to help me out a bit”.

She smiled and said it was OK. As we went through the house I noticed just how many spots are inaccesible, little steps everywhere are an annoyance and normal steps a challenge. I made a commitment that when I have the equipment I will build some ramps.

Finally we reached the backyard and they commented on the swinging rope hanging on the tree. From seeing my cousin help me with the wheels of the wheelchair I knew that her strength was enough to hold herself on the rope. I asked her if she wanted a swing. “Yes, that would be nice” she said.

We got her to the rope and then I lifted her up so that she would wrap her legs around the knot, and she held tight to the rope. I let go, and she was able to hold herself on her own. I swung her to her delight and her parents, and after a while she complained about being dizzy, so I helped her back into the chair and then we went for lunch.

I sensed: in this environment of political correctness it is taboo to help people with different capabilities. Helping others is a way of saying they can’t do it themselves. What nonsense!

Every person is different. Observe at the situation. Admit ignorance. Ask when in doubt. Have a lighthearted approach to accessibility challenges. Use your intuition, not fixed rules, to treat the person. Being afraid of making mistakes put you into the biggest mistake of all: the mistake of inaction.

Writing exercises

Devotional writing

AuthorMark MacKay

Exercise: write your day as if you were a devout person
Purpose: to be discovered

By God’s grace I opened my eyes in the morning. The first minutes of the day must be dedicated to the lord, so I incorporated into my seated praying position, to which I confess is more pleasure than penitence.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me

I say as I perceive the all encompassing compassion behind the veils. Should I be able to remove the one hundred veils detailed by Attar of Nishapur I should go blind. In his infinite wisdom he put enough homework for a lifetime. It is a long journey, is it not?

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me

I feel power between my legs, at the root chakra. My body seems confused: this is a contemplative and not taoistic practice. And sexual energy sensing is not something I would feel comfortable writing about. Would I?

Ahhh the ego made it’s presence. Come back to prayer. Open your eyes. Observe the perfection of creation. God in his infinite mercy made this just for us. Allow us to begin the day…

I just realized the foolishness of the endeavor: though I actually enjoy writing like this, any attempt at devotional writing that does not come from the heart is foolishness.

If you are one of those rare ones who sings songs of devotion from the heart, know that you are a treasure to this world.

[Edit minutes later: Quoting Wikipedia]

Practicing the Jesus Prayer is strongly linked to mastering passions of both soul and body, e.g. by fasting. For the Eastern Orthodox not the body is wicked, but “the bodily way of thinking” is; therefore salvation also regards the body.

Work journal

2020-01-01 log: tales of fire and devotion

AuthorMark MacKay

Yesterday I was writing in the living room when I heard a noise: a small mouse was walking among the bookshelves. For some days I’ve been encountering these unwanted visitors, but this time I found their hideout.

It was within a hollow pillar with an opening at the bottom and the top. I glued a wooden board to the bottom and put a couple of glue traps on the top, then I lighted a ball of toiled paper with alcohol and threw it over the opening on the top, expecting the mice to run away from the fire to fall into the glue traps.

It didn’t turn out as I expected. Nothing came out from the top. I shrugged and continued working. Noise again, this time it was a large mouse mouse with two juvenile ones on the bookshelves. They had avoided the glue traps on the top and now mother mouse was helping her children escape from their compromised nest. I locked eyes with the mother and I had a brief moment of compassion. My mind seemed to search for an alternative to death, but there was nothing practical that could be done at the moment. I quickly fetched a broom but this only frightened them back on to their beleaguered nest.

Again, I threw a fireball into their hole, this time lining up the top entrance into the pillar with glue traps. Again, my enemies refused to come out. I continued working until it was time to go to bed. The siege was set up and it was only a matter of time before they would try to escape it.

The next morning I woke up to find the two juvenile mice glued to the traps, already dead. I threw them away and continued working. Noise again. Mother mouse was panting on the bookshelves. She looked tired and though I moved closer, she made no attempt at escape. She was conceding defeat and I knew it was my spiritual task to put her out of her misery.

I bludgeoned her with an improvised mace just once, saw that she was still breathing yet immobilized, so I put her into a bucket of water, and saw bubbles emerge from the bottom. Spontaneous spiritual poetry emerged: the hand that put you out of your misery is the same hand that will put me out of my misery, for we share the same fate. I shall join you too little friend, to become one with The One.

Today, on the first day of 2020 I was enjoying breakfast outdoors with my mother when we saw a cloud of white smoke pass over us. We went outside to find a fire on a pile of leaves where the gardeners leave green refuse in the park in front of the house. Some neighbors had already noticed and were busy carrying buckets of water to put it out. The fire was of considerable size, but it was quickly controlled. Putting out the fire completely took us much longer, as we had to make sure there weren’t any pockets of lighted leaves under the pile.

I was quite amazed at the self-organization of such emergency: a human chain was formed to carry water from the nearest source, the people most knowledgeable with fire would receive the buckets and pour them over strategic locations, and generally everybody was busy without having to be told what to do.

The gray water that I collect to water the plants turned out to be of great convenience, as well as the direct access I have to the water storage tank, since I could fill buckets in an instant. When we thought we had put the fire out I went through the leaves with my bare hands, feeling any pockets of heat that would indicate that there was fire still taking place in the pile.

The tidbit of wisdom extracted from the event was this: in an emergency it is best to observe for a couple of seconds rather than spring directly into action. People would arrive wanting to throw buckets of water at the already steaming pile of leaves but their efforts were a waste of resources because they had no knowledge of the hot spots of the pile, or they would ask what needed to be done, but since everybody was so focused on their task they would just reply bring more water (which was the best answer given our state of ignorance).

A couple of seconds of observation are enough to understand where the improptu fire fighter team is lacking muscle or knowledge. A couple of people were walking with flimsy tennis shoes on the smoldering pile. I told them to get out because they can melt on your feet, and I went to put on boots. The prompt get out because your soles can melt on your feet got people much more careful about where they stepped. I got into the pile and poured water at strategic locations along with another older man who obviously had experience with fire.

In the end we put it out throughly. Everything was soaked wet. We congratulated each other on overcoming our first challenge for 2020.

My extended family organized a New Year’s Eve party. I was asked to provide wood, to which I spent a considerable time chopping up. As I’ve been doing a lot of manual work, I feel my right (dominant) side of the body is becoming stronger than the left side. I inverted my axe stroke so that I would use my left side to address the balance.

How instructive it is to use your non-dominant side to perform manual tasks! Movement seems to escape reason, it must be experienced by the body so it can sense the movement and learn how to repeat it. My first strokes using my left side were as timid as a child. Then, gaining some confidence, I stroked harder but with appalling accuracy. Slowly, as my muscles got used to the movement, accuracy and strength was gained.

Though the experiment took me a considerable amount of time, in the end I came out more or less the same, because when my right side became tired I would use my left side. I intuit a parallel in the mind, but I’m still to discover it. I will continue exploring using the left side of the body and of the brain.

In the end I overshot the need for wood, but I was glad, because enthralled children would throw in as many sticks as they could, growing the fire to considerable dimensions.

After dinner an uncle brought out a large home made doll of an old man which he filled with matches and poured in oil. The doll represents the old year and it is a tradition to burn it (I have no idea if this is a Mexican tradition only). I held it with a stick over the fire and it promptly became a fireball.

2019 brought amazing experiences. I released the Boolean Game. I walked the Camino two months straight. I completed an important project with a great studio. I lived a short but intense romance. I moved back to Mexico. But that is the old man, and the old man must burn in order to make space for what is new.

A great sense of expectation. Just one day into this year and life has already brought great lessons, but I must stop writing about the past in order to face the present.

Until tomorrow.