February updates - goals for 2024

Good Morning,

I’ve had a productive weekend this weekend. Felt a lot more focused and on track than I have been in a long time. Starting to finally feel more aligned towards a defined goal instead of jumping between 20 different arbitraty things like a rabbit on crack.

- Health

As I get older, the importance of living a healthy lifestyle and taking care of your body is becoming more and more apparent to me, and the contrast between the 2 ways of living is becoming more extreme as well. I no longer have the young elastic body and mind that can take a beating and still churn out useful shit.

I’ve made a couple of changes in my daily life that have helped sharpen the mind and reduce the issues I’ve been having the last few years. For one, I’ve quit smoking weed, even though it’s been very small quantities, the fact it was happening daily affected me whether I wanted to admit it or not. I have nothing against weed and people who smoke but you have to also be aware of the consequences it has on your mind and your body. Weed will also ruin the quality of your sleep. this is another change I’ve introduced to my daily life, sleeping earlier. I always had the habit of sleeping late as a means to hold onto the last few moments of the day, partly to hope to get something accomplished, but i would just end up binge watching youtube instead, and partly to avoid going to work the next day. Other changes I’ve implemented are just better eating habits, taking vitamins to also help with possible lack of nutrients, and exercising regularly.

- Plan9

I’ve started to play with / explore / learn the Plan9 operating system from Bell Labs, and It has contributed a considerable amount towards my newfound focus and dedication. One of the symptoms of my erratic brain behavior was that I was on a constant search for quick wins and dopanie rushes. I wanted to learn and do so many things but I felt rushed and I was continuously looking for the thing that would yield me the most reward in the least amount of time, and each time I would start a task, the moment I hit any sort of friction, I would immediately shift focus towards something else hoping that it would bring a faster turn around. looking back at it, it almost feels like an addict looking for the next hit wherever they can find it, looking for that immediate temporary pleasure instead of building a better path moving forward which would feel a lot more sustainable and rewarding down the line.

- Frustrations with technology

I was growing ever more frustrated with the bloat and excessiveness of modern technology, the constant bombardment of media and visual noise of the internet and social media and the news and AI doom and don’t get my started on how messed up modern web development is. I was yerning for a more minimal, streamlined experience. A place where it would bring me peace. A place where you had what you needed and nothing else, free of distractions or shiny bells and whistles.

Plan9 offered me exactly that peace and quiet. It attracted me because of how novel and unique and alien it is, yet it has a very welcoming and charming personality (perhaps due to the cute mascot glenda?).

It was a turning point for me. It was a completely new experience and I felt so lost and so confused, my efforts to find “quick wins” or “copypasta solutions” failed quickly and I realized I had no choice but to humble myself and start from scratch, I guess this is how Linux feels like to non tech people.

It helped me recalibrate my learning brain and readjust my perceptual time frames. it made me slow down, take the time to dig deep, read man pages, read papers, re-examine trully what i thought i knew and observe the difference between knowing and understanding.

There is so much to say and praise about plan9, unix and the legends at Bell Labs that built the literal foundation to the entire modern computing world as we know it today, but I’ll leave it to you, wandering traveller, to explore more of the history yourself.

- Newfound focus and drive

I’ve since taken this newfound mental clarity and focus and started applying it to other relavent projects I wanted to learn and explore. for example, Even though I’ve used linux and / or a unix based system for over 10 years now, I never truly knew much of the fundamentals of how it works or how it’s put together. You can definitely get away without knowing any of these details because there are higher level of abstractions that will do it for you and present you with a more “hand holding” experience. But I no longer find this adequate. I’ve really become aware that this lack of fundamental knowledge is holding me back from exploring multiple creative projects I’ve been interested in, plus I just have this obsessive need to understand as much as possible the things I care about. There is a quote I’ve recently learned of that I find resonates well with me on the matter:

“What I cannot create, I do not understand.” - Richard Feynman

This is what has always driven my obssessive need to learn and educate myself. The thirst for knowledge is deep and unquenchable.

- Updates to 256klabs.com

This weekend I’ve also started restructuring my website using the jekyll template currently setup to add more static pages relating to my knowledge explorations. Inspired by Devine’s wiki website, I will be keeping some living documents with notes, thoughts and snippets of my various projects as a refernce to myself first and foremost, but also to any wandering traveller that I could possibly pass the baton of inspiration to.

I’ve also decided to try and do monthly updates on this log, instead of random “on a whim” posts. I have no idea if anyone actually reads any of this, most likely not. but this is mostly my way of documenting my life and also somewhat me shouting into the void. aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

- Organization and note taking

I’ve begun using Notion to keep track of projects and ideas and references to documentaion and bookmarks categorized by projects. This is also something that has helped remove some contextual load in my brain. knowing that I have a certain brain dump somewhere I can go reference is anxiety reducing for sure. This is a very new practice for me, something I’ve struggled with a lot and never really found a solution for, but seems like this Notion website is the perfect balance of ease of access and input and availability to really make this a consistent routine rather than a failed attempt. Eventually perhaps I would like to move towards a more handmade solution but I’m not going to rush it and I’ll just embrace the positives for now.

- C programming

Lastly I’ve started focusing on doing more C programming projects again, this time really starting out with small steps and not searching for immediate glory, which would end up in failure and burnout as usual, but taking the time to practice small parts everyday so it becomes a much more natural experience much like how javascript has become now, after many years of daily usage.

C is the glue that glues all of this together, I don’t think there is a language that perfectly symbolizes this yearn for understanding that I’ve had for a long time now like C does. C is at the heart of everything and it is, as they say, the lingua franca of computing today. It is a beautiful minimal but powerful tool that can do anything and everything. nothing represents “knowledge, power and understanding” more than that.

I’ll leave you with another quote. It is a motto that I’ve used and leveraged to help motivate myself so many times in the last few years, I hope it can bring you some inspiration as well.

“A year from now, you will wish you had started today.” — Karen Lamb

Riding the waves of motivation and despair

I’ve always been interested in programming since i was a teenager and used to hack on visual basic with my friend Fredo. We used to setup our beige desktops in his room for the entire summer and write little trojan servers and send them to our friends in school disguised as images or other innocent files and then have access to their entire computer. We never did anything malicious, we mostly would mess with them by opening and closing the CD tray, flipping the screen upside down or changing the direction of the mouse. We never actually peeped through the personal files but never the less, everyone at school knew never to accept anything either Fredo or I would send them. Remember something called SubSeven?, pepperidge farms remembers

coding has always been part of my life one way or another, albeit not a major part for the longest time. I had other interests. Music, photography, sports. I wasn’t your typical computer nerd that only cared about computers, and perhaps this is why i have a hard time today with programming, because i wasn’t embedded enough into it from a very young age. i can get by hacking shit together but anything more elaborate than that, is beyond me.

Thank the deities for the internet, am I right? i owe my entire career to the internet and free knowledge sharing. What a wonderful miracle of humanity! The internet is truly a beautiful thing even though there are a lot of rotting spaces in it right now due to external factors cough late stage capitalism /cough

lately, as I’ve previously shared before on this blog, I’ve been fascinated by programming, but not your typical modern day programming paradigms, I’ve been very much attracted to the history, the heritage of programming. a thirst to understand the context in which all of what we know now has been born. I never liked not knowing the fundamentals of something that interests me, regardless of whether it would be practical to learn it or not. I don’t like to memorize things, i like to fundamentally understand it so it because just a natural thought process. This is likely what drives my insatiable thirst for knowledge in any field that remotely interests me. But sadly i’m no longer the young and carefree teenager i once was, having all the time in the world, no responsibilities and all the energy to deep dive into things and follow through. Between work, home life, the bills to pay, the chores to keep on top of, passion projects have very little time dedicated to them, and whatever time i have to allocate mostly gets spent just in rest from the mental strain of this daily life. it’s not pretty. Don’t grow up kids! they lied!

A side effect of this lack of time, and quite possible some undiagnosed mental conditions (a la ADHD with a dash of OCD), whenever i have some time off, some energy to spend, and the motivation to invest into a learning or doing something, my brain gets flooded with ideas and goals and desires. You would think this is a good thing, but what ends up happening is i get spread waaaaaaay too thin, i focus on too many things at the same time, i keep jumping from one thing to another, chasing the task that has the perfect mix of satisfaction/fulfillment and minimal time to accomplish.

Let me tell you, this is a recipe for burnout. i’ve been there a few times. Time management has never been my strong suite, i always went at the whims of my brain, and for the most part that served me well, but i’m coming to the realization that I am no longer able to function like that. Things keep getting worse, my attention span and focus keeps shifting with the smallest friction point, chasing a better path to get that sweet sweet dopamine rush that finishing a goal can give you, except no goals ever get accomplished, and you end up stranded there with a million open projects and nothing to show for all the time and mental effort that you spent.

learning 10 things at once will expend MORE energy than learning 1 thing but without any of the rewards and yet my stupid brain just keeps wanting to learn new things.

My Brain rides on waves of motivation and subsequent burnouts and despair.

I’m still on the lookout for the 1 project that will give me that satisfaction i’ve been craving for so many years now, perhaps some admiration from colleagues, or at least will reduce my incredible impostor syndrome that I suffer from every day.

the world can wait

If we don’t stop and smell the roses we lose our humanity The world can wait while we take in the beauty of life

art is not the end goal

You will never like your own art. By the time you are finished, it’s already obsolete to you. As artists what we truly seek is not the end product, but the experience of creating something. We cannot go on in life without the act of creation. It is an intrinsic drice that we all have within us, a drive that forces us to create regardless of whether the end result is good or bad. We can’t help it. It’s more powerful than us.

We must create, or else we die.

00s nostalgia

I miss the old monome website and community

I miss the optimism and the feeling of a better future ahead of us

I miss the sounds of sine wave music and the happy melodies of the postal service

I miss the glossy white electronics and the isomorphic UIs of the mac OSX

I miss the simplicity of life

I miss my dad.

Learn Fundamentals

I am a self taught web developer. jumped straight into javascript essentials then moved into frameworks. after 5 years started feeling like I really didn’t know what the fuck I was actually doing and was burnt out on javascript and the whole web dev industry in general. was ready to call it quits. then I got interested in learning about the absolute fundamentals of computing, since I have a faily good understanding of electronics, I started studying the link between software and hardware and how a CPU got its instructions and really really down the core fundamental binary/hex/assembly level and logic gates. then I started going back up through that to learning C and understanding programming from a much closer level to the metal as they say, I’ve also taken tangents to learn less common programming paradigms and languages (lisp, functional, some esoteric stuff, just for fun) and while it’s a vast sea of knowledge that i’m only starting to learn, I finally found the passion for coding back. and I can already tell that applying that knowledge and understanding to my code has made a drastic difference in the way I think and see the code.

I recommend everyone that went through a similar learning / career path as me to take the time and go back and learn the fundamentals of programming. how a computer even is, how does it work. what are your variables actually doing to the memory chip and how are you accessing it. learn the history of computing. learn about bell labs and lisp machines and turing complete. Learn about brainfuck and skI and haskell. go explore the history of computing and explore all the different ideas taht people had to solve the problems of the time and look at why they succeded or failed.

My biggest regret today regarding programming is that I never studied the fundamentals and theory of it all to get a deeper and larger view of the its world. I am very grateful to the meritocracy of the development industry and to all the amazing learning resources available out there. without those I would’ve had a much harder time finding a good career path that I actually enjoyed but now is the time to truly turn from the impostor that I am, to the developer I aspire to be.

Vintage Language Design

I’ve been having a wonderful time lately, learning about the history of computing and the lesser known (sometimes forgotten) programming languages and paradigms that came along with it. The more I learn and study these different languages, the more i’m starting to appreciate language design as much as I do product design. I see these languages and they instill in me the same feelings that I get when seeing those beautiful vintage product designs of the same era.

Something that’s very obvious to me is how much we’ve lost “good design” for nothing else than beauty’s sake. Now it feels like it all depends on either how cheap a product can be designed and made or how efficient it can be at all costs. While there is also beauty in the latter sometimes, I really miss having things be designed just to look nice, even if it makes it less pratical.

I look at languages like smalltalk, or lisp, and I see a beauty in them akin to the beauty of a 1960s designer toaster or a mid century piece of furniture. There’s something truly elegant and refined about some of these older languages that while they might not have been the most efficient utalitarian language to use for the job, they are a pleasure to use and to at least look at.

I’ve been more and more fascinated with the whole personal computing mindset of that era and the attempts at making soething truly personalized from individual to individual, rather than just have the same piece of gear and OS that all do the exact same thing with some trivial aesthetic changes to “personalize” it.

There is something truly magical about the 50s and 60s. There was so much hope and optimism in the future. Technology started to become mainstream and quality in design was still the most important factor. When you bought a product it lasted for an entire lifetime, and it was yours. You see so much of that influence in the design language of that era both in the actual product design and also in the language design.

Sadly, efficiency and praticality won, and took over the entire industry. While that efficiency and practicality opened many technology doors for all of what we have now, the other side of coding died out and almost no one cared anymore. Everyone converged onto that same path of eficiency and moved away from these “wacky” languages.

I hope that now with the abundance of tech and massive amounts of information available for free to anyone and everyone, more people like me will get interested in these lesser known paths again and explore the alreanate reality of those mindsets. While I doubt any business will pivot from running major corporate language stacks to brainfuck, I encourage everyone to explore those languages as a creative meduim for express themselves and expand their minds.

P.S. I’m only just starting this journey, and I still have much much much to learn about it. Let’s say I might just be inthe honeymoon phase, but if nothing else, learning about all of these things has rejuvinated my love for all things programming and computing.

The 00s

The early 2000s had a certain vibe. It felt hopeful, optimistic, utopic. The future outlook was positive. Technology was advancing but day to day life still felt calm, more sparse. There was a sense of zen.

Knowledge is power

The modern Library of Alexandria in Alexandria, Egypt.

Knowledge is mankind’s greatest weapon. it is what sets us apart from all the rest of the animals. Learning from our predecessors and building on top of their work has allowed humans to evolve into something more powerful than any other animal on the planet. Yet, our human nature presists and inbetween all this knowledge are long periods of forced ignorance and domination and voilence.

One of the biggest losses of human knowledge came at the time of the burning the great library of Alexandria. At the time it was the world’s biggest collection of books and scrolls that spanned civilizations behind in history. So much of the ancient civilization’s secrets, documented for prosperity and education for the generations to come, lost forever to the mysteries of time.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

Now we face another problem. too much information. because of the internet and it’s great depths of information, it’s become weaponized against us in the form of misinformation and confusion overload. People don’t know what to trust anymore so they end up not trusting anything. this is a great danger as it targets our greatest strength as humans.

The pessimist in me sees this as a point of no return, a collection of circumstances are currently interplaying a quite dark view of the future for humans. The internet is the modern day information revolution, like the printing press x10000, but sadly we don’t have the luxury of time to iron out the kinks as previous generations had, due to the exponentially increasing doom of global catastrophy caused by the climate damage we are still causing.

The optimist in me thinks that humans will prevail non the less, our quality of life might get worse, it’s already getting worse for everyone, some parts of the world moreso than others. Not caring about global climate crisis is a first world privilege that people don’t realize and because of the constant bombardment of information we constantly get subjected to (and actively seek out and consume almost as a drug at this point) we have no mental capacity to process what is going on in the world and what matters most.

I’m grateful for the infinite amounts of knowledge available on the internet, i owe it so much, my career, my hobbies, my friends, even you, dear reader. Let’s hope we can all wake up from the information overload and finally be able to parse out the important and truthful information as part of our new survival instincts.

Life, roots and values

Sometimes, in order to move forward, we must first go back to the beginning.
Use the knowledge aquired and move forward again.

Recently I’ve implemented some drastic lifestyle changes to my everyday life. this push came after hitting a pretty low point where I was really questioning a lot about my habits and my projected future. It was clear to me that things were going bad and that drastic changes needed to be applied or else I was risking losing a lot of what I spent years working towards.

Perhaps this is a symptom of a midlife moment, perhaps it’s the result of a depression spiral instigated by both covid and my father’s death which has affected me tremendously. regardless of the catalyst, the changes have been applied and will keep getting modified and improved upon and so far I feel much better. For the first time in quite a while I honestly feel ‘good’. I had to say a (possibly temporary) goodbye to a lot of the things I loved, or at least thought I loved. a lot of the things that almost were part of my own identity. I had to perform a complete paradigm shift towrads another world view it feels like. Funnily enough it feels more like i’m going back to my roots rather than going into a even farther direction. certain aspects of my culture and family and traditions that I once despised, are now becoming part of my identity. and it feels good. it feels right. Moving the Canada 11 years ago at a pivotal age gave me a lot of things to learn about and explore and through which open up my mind towards and improve with. the downside of this is, who I was started to become more and more of a blur, a shapeshifting blob that would constnatly adjust and adapt and, sadly, reinvent itself letting go of what it used to be in order to get along or be accepted or just fit in. in the process I lost who I was at the beginning. the bedrock on which I was supposed to improve upon instead of throwing it all out and changing again and again.

The grain of change/realizaion was planted back in May when I went back home for the first time in years in order to handle all the paperwork regarding my father’s passing. It really reminded me of where I come from, and it also emphasised some weaknesses I had and how far I had diverged from the values that I did in fact hold at some point in my life, but for some reason let fade away. I will try to avoid any specific labeling or descriptive wording in order to avoid any unintended offence or irritance from certain people, I might have some antiquated terminology in my head due to my age and my origins, but the importance is the end result and the actions that a person takes.

This will for sure sound very vague and completely incoherent to some people. If you are reading this, you might be even asking yourself at this point, “why am I reading this?”. Well I apologize. this log was never meant to be for the entertainment of the subscribers, rather, a space for my own reflections put out into the world.

Thank you for coming along with me on my journey.

we are nothing and everything

For quite a while now I’ve been feeling like my life is out of my own control. That I am simply a passenger in my own life car. I don’t know if it’s a post 2020 feeling or if it’s my father passing away last year or if it’s simply just an inherent flaw in the way I’m put together, or even if there’s even such a thing as “being in control”.

Meditation helps, so does having some routine and structure to your schedule. I have neither. I struggle to force myself to adopt healthy habits and get back into the driving seat. Perhaps it’s just resistance to change, or fear of failure, most likely both.

I think about the world and society and our place in the universe. The cosmos brings me serenity. Thinking about how small we are in the grand scheme of things really humbles me. every society, every historical figure, every modument erected for marking history and screeming to the future “WE ARE HERE! WE ARE SOMETHING!” will disapear just as fast as it appeared. It really makes all the daily stresses and egos and disputes and wars seem so petty. I really wish more people could see this. The cosmos is my religion, it is the only true way to experience “God”.

The cosmos is also within us, we’re made of star-stuff. We are a way for the cosmos, to know itself. - Carl Sagan

This quote always resonates me with deeply. It saddens me to see how much time we spend in the rat race, fighting against each other and putting so much of our most precious resource, time, in the pursuit of a “better” life, yet our lives are constantly filled with stress and anxiety and fear, how is that in any way “better”?

Losing my father has awakend something in me, this realization that life is more than working and making money and buying stuff. I’m very grateful that my parents sacrificed a lot for me to be able to leave Egypt and start my life in a “heathier” society, That I was able to establish a decent life and eventually allow my parents to also leave Egypt and move next door, and I still can’t get over the heartbreak of losing my dad. After 10 years of living across the planet from each other, 1 month after moving next door, he gets diagnosed with cancer and I spend the next 6 months watching him slowly fade away.

Is it better to work your entire life and save for retirement? in the hopes that you’ll still be able to actually enjoy it, or do you choose a life of adventue and risk while you’re still able to and just die young? Why are arists, artists? what is this deep desire to create? Where does it come from? Does everyone have it? Can one aquire it or is it only embedded in your being?

I look at my wife and her own artistic aspirations and endavors. A great photographer, she eventually gave up on it after a series of expositions. she often says she would like to write or draw or have another form of creativity, but she never seems to have same fire for creation I constnatly have.

I’ve tried many times to quit. but the need to create burns hotter than any normal logical decision can control. sometimes it feels like it physically hurts me when I go on long periods without creating. I’m not good at any of it, but the end result isn’t as important as the actual act. Simply creating something or expressing something through art is satisfaction enough. And yet this deep (what feels like) fundamental need is pushed down all the way to the bottom of the daily life priority list.

I often day dream about selling everything and moving to the beach in the Mediterranean sea and live in some artist commune and spend all day creating art and experiencing life. is this escapism? am I just running away from my problems? Or am I prioritizing a healthy life away from the artifical needs created by western society? How does one reconcile the two?


autumn colors

Something magical

autumn leaves and the crisp air

fragile, passing time

autumn  colors