Had an idea for a thing. At the moment I’m calling it <broken poets>.


Clark was having one of his moments.

"There were roughly three thousand people using public transport that day; thirty-four where riding on the bus in question; eighteen were Caucasian, twelve were Hispanic, two were black, two were Asian; nine were wearing hats: three where dark, six were light; one of the Hispanic women was wearing gloves – it wasn't cold that day; three of the Caucasian women were wearing winter coats – it was not cold that day; and one of the Caucasian men noticed this disparity in dress before the crash that killed thirty-three of them – I should not have questioned them about their seasonally inappropriate attire so close to the end of their mortal lives."

The department store worker asked again, "do you need this gift wrapped, sir?"

"That would be nice. I could give it to someone if I chose to. It's always good to have your options open. You have a very nice choice of attire that is seasonally appropriate."

"Thank you. Just one final ribbon –"

"Tremendous! I can tell you're going to live for a long time. God doesn't take the talented or well-dressed."

The GNU/Linux Lagniappes

I’ve been enamored with free software since Windows Vista decided to disappear what I called my “trial run” Wubi install of Ubuntu. By the end of this “trial” I preferred GNU/Linux so strongly that I had forgotten there was another operating system (OS) installed on the computer.

But then there was a problem. I couldn’t boot into GNU/Linux anymore. Vista was working fine but my preferred OS was missing. I would later discover that my first real issue with GNU/Linux was created by Windows. While this situation did not give me joy at the time, it was extremely fortuitous.

The problem of a “missing” OS prompted my first visit to a support forum. I solved my own issue with helpful guidance from others. A total stranger thanked me or my efforts because they were experiencing the same issue and benefited from the solution I had discovered and shared.

I switched firmly to GNU/Linux that day.

Computing is now an activity I truly enjoy, benefit from greatly, and intend to utilize for the greater good. GNU/Linux is like a rabbit hole of lagniappes; the fringe benefits keep coming. This chain of positives is in addition to the software itself. I now know and care more intensely about computers, technology, sharing, IP law, programming, ethics, teaching, and more.

GNU/Linux changed me. It changed me for the better. There is just one problem: I don’t feel like I’ve changed GNU/Linux. I don’t feel like I’ve given back enough.1

I’ve been working to figure out what I can do to help GNU/Linux. Here are some things I’ve done for a while now:

  1. Introduce people to GNU/Linux
  2. Teach people about the value of the four essential freedoms
  3. Help people become users of GNU/Linux
  4. Donate to projects (e.g. Gimp)

In a post about UX redesign, Máirín Duffy created a graphic depicting the chasm between use and contribution. What a striking image.

CC-BY-SA 2014 Máirín Duffy.

I was left with one burning question: how do I make the jump?

While I continue actively contributing in the ways listed above, I recently came across a very different opportunity to make the leap:

It is time to open the submission phase for Fedora 21 Supplemental Wallpapers… The deadline until you can submit your artwork is the August 16 2014 at 23:59 UTC.

minor commitment: Create and submit a supplemental wallpaper for Fedora 21.

In some ways I believe that this image-based contribution will be significantly less valuable than the educational, philosophical, and monetary contributions I am currently making. It’s not that I don’t think art is important2, it is more that I don’t believe I will clearly see the impact of the contribution so as to correctly assess its value.

When I talk about the necessity of the four freedoms, specific people go away thinking differently. When I help people install GNU/Linux, I am able to see them begin to redefine their relationship with computing. When I donate to projects, I do so with the knowledge that my financial contribution is supporting those who support users. When I submit a wallpaper, I… just don’t know. I can’t imagine what the impact may be and I may never know.

That’s why I’m making the jump. That uncertainty is, for me, a leap of faith. Let’s see if I end up on the other side.


  1. In truth, I don’t know that any individual could give back enough. 
  2. I know art is vital. 

Three Things: Six

a minor commitment

Pain
– remained conscious throughout the day
– stretched frequently
– moved often

Play
– frisbee
– nice weather
– carefree time
– directed interest

Quality
– minor accomplishments along the way on small projects that add up to major accomplishments
– slowly built buy-in to more easily port success in one area to large-scale improvements in others
– proved efficacy on previous projects of a similar nature

Three Things: Four

a minor commitment

Mother’s Day
– a clean living room and kitchen
– contact with family
– space for children to play

Computing
– reclaimed an older machine I can still use
– started using the R project
– began creating a wallpaper for Fedora

Tea
– a pleasant end to the day
– relaxing body and mind
– conversational aid

Three Things: Three

a minor commitment
three things: one
three things: two

Enjoyment1
– a walk in the park
– beautiful weather
– an early start
– a park
– a snack

Books2
– a decision pre-made
– a collection pre-created
– a clear objective
– a step-by-step pathway to success

Cleaning3
– something you are interested in to listen to fedora.next
– no distractions
– a clear and meaningful objective
– tea


  1. consider making this outing one you repeat. 
  2. with many unnecessary books taking up space in boxes in basements I decided to give paperbackswap a trial run. So far so good. 
  3. happy mother’s day 

Three Things: Two

a minor commitment
three things: one

Basement Cleaning Activity1
– Loud children’s music by the brilliant Justin Roberts provided the soundtrack
– Simple objectives for my little helpers (e.g. these in the box; these on the table; these in the garbage)
– The only distractions were game-oriented and fun

Bedtime2
A combination of:
– The stories they request
– The poems of A. A. Milne — some favorites: Buckingham Palace and Independence
– Patience

Book Selection3
– You’d pre-selected them first
– You chose from the much smaller pre-selection
– They were awaiting action when you arose for the day


  1. tl;dr — fun music and clear game-like objectives won the day 
  2. tl;dr — (1) let them choose a few. (2) finish with something good that you enjoy. (3) wait. 
  3. tl;dr — remove the unnecessary 

Three Things: One

a minor commitment

Breakfast1
– The coffee was strong
– We arose to bright sunshine
– We were up earlier than usual
– There was laughter and smiles

Data2
– We put in the work — when it didn’t make sense — in order to capitalize when it did
– We honed our skills on other projects which enabled quick completion on this important one
– We pushed for a better timeline when the argument was strongest
– We worked with the relevant stakeholders

Dinner3
– Great (new!) flavors
– Quite impressively from scratch
– Rambunctious, beautiful, hilarious children
– Good friend
– Weather change: cooler, windy, rainy (brief hail), thunder


  1. tl;dr — good weather, food, and company 
  2. tl;dr — we cared early, prepped often, pushed when necessary, and collaborated 
  3. tl;dr — well-prepared new flavors and interesting weather with good friends and children makes for a great time 

Three Things

It is astounding how simple it can be to cultivate happiness. Each time I encounter another way to increase happiness and improve well-being I am awed by the simplicity of the action required and the largess of the result. Dr. Seligman, a positive psychologist, suggests the following for a better life:

“Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well.”

I’ve done similar reflections before for the purpose of synopsizing the day, reevaluating present exhaustion, mitigating negative thoughts, or simple journaling. Intuitively and experientially I know that this type of reflection is undeniably positive and that it takes a negligible amount of time. So why don’t I use this beneficial exercise consistently?

A minor commitment to myself: set aside 10 minutes to reflect on three things every day starting today.

via A Simple Exercise to Increase Well-Being and Lower Depression from Martin Seligman, Founding Father of Positive Psychology | Brain Pickings.