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Calendar Decade

Created/Modified: 2019-11-13/2019-11-16

It's been a long ten years, from round number to round number.

I had a job at the start of it, which I lost mid-way through. Other than working for my own company--which I wound up part way through the decade--it was the longest period of continuous employment with a single employer in my adult life.

I lived in small town in 2010, and have changed locales twice since.

I was in a complicated long-distance open relationship at the start of it, and I'm happily and locally and monogamously married now. In between there were some interesting times and interesting people, and some difficult and painful times, too.

I helped mentor a high-school robotics team in their first few seasons. Long after my time they went on to win the world championship. It was one of the most rewarding and demanding things I've ever done, which is a fairly high bar to hit.

Hilary and I created Cindy Lou You and Songs of Albion together, to no great critical acclaim. Huge fun, though.

In what was hopefully my last medical device work, I developed for a client a new computer-assisted surgical procedure for implanting an extra-capsular fixture that serves as an intermediate step between "doing nothing" and "total knee replacement" that doesn't have the downsides of a unicompartmental arthroplasty.

I sold a house and moved to a city and lived here and there and then bought a condo just off the Drive. It was good. Good food, good theatre, good communities, good people. The traffic, air quality, and cost of living were less good.

I bought and sold a sailboat, and did some sailing in between.

I had a lot of short stories rejected, and decided to become a writer, to earn my living as a writer. I'm not there yet.

I wrote an accurate and reasonably fast simulation of the solar system that allowed me to investigate orbital effects over the past few thousand years. I also studied solar sails and some of the practical issues of using them to move between planets.

In the middle of the decade I got another job, shepherding an almost entirely green team up the learning curve of three undocumented legacy systems in three different languages, all of which were business-critical and which needed continual upgrading as new versions of their open source inputs were released. We managed to retire two of the systems and massively modernize the third to cover what the other two did, all while keeping customers happy and setting the company up for a successful future. I left on good terms when other ambitions called and the whispers of mortality started to sound more loudly in my life. The whole experience checked the "be a successful corporate executive" box on my list of "things to do before I'm dead."

The people who worked under me this decade have had generally positive things to say about my leadership after we've all moved on, which is nice. The guy I fired for non-performance is probably an exception to that.

I took courses in screenwriting, novel-writing, and short fiction at UBC and SFU. Book-learning makes a useful platform, a starting place.

Improv, acting, film, and screenwriting all occupied an astonishing and joyous amount of my time. The good people of the Vancouver B-Movie Factory, the Improv Comedy Institute, Second Storey Theatre, Blind Tiger, and Instant Theatre all taught me more than I knew I had to learn.

I helped write three feature-length screenplays, two of which are in production, and a bunch of shorts, many of which were produced, and was head writer for a web series.

Although book-learning is often a good place to start, there is no learning like learning by doing, which you can only do if you're willing to make mistakes and do bad work, which is not really an option in my day job. I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunities I've had, on all sides, and the friends I've made along the way. Friendship is a struggle for me, given the fundamental deficits I live with, and I'm especially grateful for people who are willing to take those deficits into account.

I was involved with a bunch of improv groups, and had some shows that were good and some shows that were character building.

I got an agent and did a bunch of auditioning, without booking any roles, until I ended up again living that alternative lifestyle known as "having a job", which made it impractical.

I learned to sing, and got involved in improvised musical theatre. Of all the things I did this decade, that is the one I would have least expected at the start of it. Jennifer Peilak and Peter Abando will forever have my gratitude for the magic they work.

I took singing and voice acting lessons and did little auditioning as a voice actor, also without booking any roles, although it's been useful in other ways.

I bought another boat, and got a little closer to places I've always wanted to go, but didn't quite make it on my own.

I built, used, and sold a couple of skin-on-frame boats, and bought a tandem kayak. I spent a lot of time on and in the water.

My mother died.

One of our last coherent conversations involved religion. My way of summing up our differences to her: "You have faith. I have curiosity."

I finished, published, and withdrew a novel. It wasn't up to my standards. Few things are. Myself least of all.

I went back to consulting, which keeps the bills paid while I spend more and more time on poetry and writing. It's a long game, and I hope I have another decade or so to make something of it.

I wrote a simulation of Schrodinger's equation that let me investigate in detail an idea I've had for a long time for distinguishing "collapse" interpretations of quantum mechanics from "many worlds" interpretations, which so far has not yielded any clear-cut results, although it has killed off a couple of promising ideas. Killing off ideas is a positive result, and it tends to suggest the simulation is accurate: errors usually lead to unphysical differences between scenarios that should be identical, not unphysical identities between scenarios that should be different.

There were days, rushing from film set to improv jam, fielding calls from technical clients, when I felt like some kind of low-rent Buckaroo Banzai. "Physicist, engineer, screenwriter, improvisor" isn't quite as cool as "brain surgeon, rock star, detective", but it's still fairly cool.

There was tremendous joy in that, and if I look back on anything in the past decade with a certain amount of wistfulness, it is those days, because I know they will not come again.

I read a lot of books, one of which reminded me that even though nothing lasts, it that doesn't mean nothing matters.

There was a several month period where more happened in terms of health, relationships, work, and art than I can reasonably describe, and if I did describe it no one would believe it, and if anyone believed it they would probably find parts of it offensive--though which parts would vary by person--so I'm not going to even try.

I wrote a number of long narrative poems, and sold one as a short story to Mythic Delirium. Another is languishing. The third, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Ham, is in production and will be published likely early next year by my own imprint, Siduri Press, whose website is... under construction.

As well as sailing, I did a little travelling by road and air. Parts of Canada, the BC interior, Dominica in the Caribbean.

I wrote a middle-grade chapter book, Cedar Island Dreams that still hasn't found a home with a publisher or agent, despite Hilary's beautiful illustrations.

I got married.

That is only marginally less surprising to me than learning to sing. I was planning on continuing through life alone, always falling short.

We sold the condo, moved to an island, and bought and renovated a house. Island living is good. Good people, deep forest, open sea. Dark skies, fresh air, cold water. What more could a man ask for?

My kids both completed their navigation from boyhood to manhood, and I think my job as a father is pretty much done now. In my objective and entirely unbiased assessment, I'm pretty happy with the result.

There is a certain terror in realizing your dreams. I have the time now to write, and I am writing. This month I'm focused on a musical I'm working on with Hilary's father, who is a composer. I'm also working on production of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Ham.

What if it all sucks?

It's one thing to be the kind of dilettante I've been for most of my life, bouncing from one thing to another at sufficiently high velocity to (mostly) keep a step or two ahead of self-doubt. I've always had good reasons for that. Sure I have: putting food on the table, raising my kids, achieving some professional or personal goal, answering some question I'm interested in, trying out for something that has always terrified me. It never seems to add up to much, though, and frequently falls short of anything that anyone could actually pass judgement on. My attempts have been many and modest, my successes few. I've learned a lot, and published little.

I don't have any excuses any more, and if I don't make a go of it, it is because I'm not good enough, not focused enough, not disciplined enough, not skilled or talented enough, not doing the right things, not smart enough, not entertaining enough.

I have a clear idea of what "a go of it" looks like: making a living as a writer and poet. That doesn't necessarily mean writing commercial fiction, but rather figuring out the intersection between what I write and what people will pay to read. I think there's an actual niche for long-form narrative poetry that isn't being filled, and I'm in the process of exploring it.

I also have a much scarier project in the works, a non-fiction book on the nature of god from the perspective of someone who has spent a lifetime studying a universe that, we are told, god made, or at least is responsible for in some shadowy behind-the-curtain way. If "god" is something that is beyond space and time, singular, incomprehensible, and underpinning all of what we are wont to call "reality", then studying the universe is the one way we have available to us to learn something about god from a source that has not been touched by human hands or influenced by human desires.

Does god exist? If so what is the nature of god? And what is god telling us, if anything?

The universe allows us to answer these questions more-or-less independently of human bias, because we were not there when god laid down the foundations of the world the way we were when a human being wrote the Book of Job. Scripture and revelation and logic are all human creations, and arguments about god founded in them are all arguments about human beliefs. Arguments founded in the universe are based on something humans had no hand in, and so plausibly less subject to bias.

If it's successful--it probably won't be--it will annoy absolutely everyone, from atheists to scripture- or revelation-based theists. Even "spiritual but not religious" people will be able to find things to piss them off, because god doesn't care about any of our feelings.

In the meantime, I have done more sailing, hiking, kayaking.

And with Hilary, I've travelled to those places I always wanted to go.

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