On Leaving W3C

Today is my last day at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). It’s been an amazing experience working there for the past almost-a-decade (9 years and 6 months). In the time-honored tradition of reflecting on your last job as you leave it, I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts. It’s hard to know what to say… building Web standards has been so much of my identity, so central to how I approached the world, for so long, that it’s hard to unpack it all.

It’s pretty common for people leaving the W3C Team (as we call W3C staff) to take a negative attitude toward W3C. That’s fair; it’s a political atmosphere, and most of us pour ourselves into the importance of the mission, so we accumulate a strong emotional charge, and leaving releases that potential energy. There’s also the frustration of living in the bureaucracy (and sometimes inertia) that comes from painstaking stewardship, and wishing it could work better. But I’m making a conscious effort to focus also on the positive aspects of W3C… not just what it’s doing wrong, but how well it’s doing many things. And there’s a lot of good there, more good than bad.

For me, there’s also the regret of things left undone.

But it’s always left undone. It’s time to turn the page.

Continue reading “On Leaving W3C”

Topic of Cancer

I’m now officially a cancer survivor! Achievement unlocked!

A couple weeks ago, on July 27th, during a routine colonoscopy, they found a mass in my ascending colon which turned out to have some cancer cells.

I immediately went to UNC Hospital, a world-class local teaching hospital, and they did a CT scan on me. There are no signs that the cancer has spread. I was asymptomatic, so they caught it very early. The only reason I did the colonoscopy is that there’s a history of colon cancer in my family.

Yesterday, I had surgery to remove my ascending colon (an operation they call a “right colectomy”). They used a robot (named da Vinci!) operated by their chief GI oncology surgeon, and made 5 small incisions: 4 on the left side of my belly to cut out that part of the right colon; and a slightly larger one below my belly to remove the tissue (ruining my bikini line).

Everything went fine (I made sure in advance that this was a good robot and not a killer robot that might pull a gun on me), and I’m recovering well. I walked three times today so far, and even drank some clear liquids. I’ll probably be back on my feet and at home sometime this weekend. Visitors are welcome!

There are very few long-term negative effects from this surgery, if any.

They still don’t know for certain what stage the cancer was at, or if it’s spread to my lymph nodes; they’ll be doing a biopsy on my removed colon and lymph nodes to determine if I have to do chemotherapy. As of right now, they are optimistic that it has not spread, and even if it has, the chemo for this kind of cancer is typically pretty mild. If it hasn’t spread (or “metastasized”), then I’m already cured by having the tumor removed. In either case, I’m going to recover quickly.

My Dad had colon cancer, and came through fine. My eldest sister also had colon cancer over a decade ago, and it had even metastasized, and her chemo went fine… and cancer treatments have greatly improved in the past few years.

So, nobody should worry. I didn’t mention it widely, because I didn’t want to cause needless grief to anyone until after the operation was done. Cancer is such a scary word, and I don’t think this is going to be as serious as it might otherwise sound.

I’ll be seeing a geneticist in the coming weeks to determine exactly what signature of cancer I have, so I know what I’m dealing with. And I want to give more information to my family, because this runs in our genes, and if I’d gotten a colonoscopy a few years ago, they could have removed the polyp in the early stages and I’d have never developed cancer. (And because I’m otherwise healthy, I probably wouldn’t have gotten the colonoscopy if I hadn’t had insurance, which I probably wouldn’t have had if Obamacare didn’t mandate it. Thanks, Obama!)

Yay, science!

Future Plans

So, the cliché here is for me to say that this has opened my eyes to the ephemerality and immediacy of life, and that I’m planning to make major decisions in my life that prioritize what I truly value, based on my experience with cancer.

But the fact is, I’ve already been doing that recently, and while the cancer underscores this, I’ve already been making big plans for the future. I’ll post soon about some exciting new projects I’m trying to get underway, things that are far outside my comfort zone for which I’ll need to transform myself (you know, in a not-cancerous sort of way). I’ve already reduced my hours at W3C to 50%, and I’m looking at changing my role and remaining time there; I love the mission of W3C, which I see as a valuable kind of public service, so no matter what, I’ll probably stay involved there in some capacity for the foreseeable future. But I feel myself pulled toward building software and social systems, not just specifications. Stay tuned for more soon!

I’m optimistic and excited, not just about leaving behind this roadbump of cancer, but of new possibilities and new missions to change the world for the better in my own small ways.

Update:

Today (Friday, 26 August), I got the results of my biopsy from my oncologist, and I’m pleased to announce that I have no more colon cancer! The results were that the cancer was “well-differentiated, no activity in lymph nodes”, meaning that there was no metastasis, and I’m cured. This whole “adventure” emerged, played out, and concluded in just a month: I heard there was a tumor, was diagnosed with cancer, consulted an oncologist, had surgery, recovered, and got my cancer-free results all in 30 days. It felt much longer!

Bordering on Factual

Yesterday, a cool-looking map showed up on my Facebook feed, shared by a friend; it depicts the North American continent with the historical political boundaries of the native Americans. It listed clear boundaries for separate states of the First Nations: Anasazi, Apache Empire, Arawak, Aztec Empire, Beothuk Empire, Cherokee Soverignty, Cheyenne, Chickasaw, Chilcotin, Chinook, Chumash, Comanche, Cree Federation, Creek, Crow, Dogrib, Flathead, Great Sioux Nation, Haida Gwai, Hopi, Huron Supremacy, Inuit, Iroquois Confederacy, Mayan Empire, Mi’kmaq, Mohican, Navajo, Ojibwa, Olmec Kingdom, Pawnee, Pequot, Pomo, Powhatan, Salish, Shuswap, Slavey, Tlingit, and Ute.

Facebook post of Native American map

I’d never before seen such a clear depiction of the geopolitical boundaries of pre-Columbian America, and it was a stark reminder of how we, as a people, systematically invaded and destroyed a continent of cultured peoples. We wiped away their cultures, their languages, their history, and even the memory of them, leaving only scraps behind, and we protect our current borders of land they used to live on. The American Indian Wars ended in 1924, less than a hundred years ago, but it’s not even part of the American political dialog. And we’ve whitewashed our pogroms against Native Americans, in the same way we’re presently sugar-coating slavery in history courses.

The original person who posted the picture on Facebook also included this commentary,

America before colonization…. I’ve never seen this map in my entire 25 years of formal education. Not in one history book or one lesson. This is not a mistake… Representation matters!!! #NativeHistory #BeforeAmerica

Well said. And others agreed… the post has over 150,000 shares as I write this!

But something smelled wrong to me about the map itself.

Continue reading “Bordering on Factual”

Divide and Conquer

I have Libertarian friends who think Ron Paul has a chance at the GOP nomination… My intuition is that they are engaging in wishful thinking. My best guess is Romney will take it, but I’m hoping for Cain, for 2 reasons:

  1. It would be kind of awesome to have 2 black candidates for President of the United States; and
  2. I like the idea of Obama going up against McCain and then Cain… it would confuse future schoolchildren.

But should my guess prove correct, and Paul lose the Republican nomination, where would that leave him? He’s garnered quite a lot of support in some polls, and that might encourage him enough to consider splitting off again to run as an independent. After all, he is 76 years old, and may not have that many more chances to run (though he’s pretty spry), so he may as well throw it all in the ring for 2012. (Why independent and not Libertarian? He’s already got the Libertarian vote, and independent status might get him a few people who wouldn’t vote strict Libertarian… it’s a safer label.)

I would love this.

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Speaking in the Third Person

This is just a simple essay on how I see the world, and how I came to that view, the first in a set of posts I’m labeling philosophy. There’s no real point to it, no political or technical agenda… just some reflection and thinking out loud. I’ve never formally studied philosophy, and I’m sure these thoughts are probably not particularly original, but I arrived at them organically through my own life, in what passes for wisdom. Megan, my wife, laughs at me whenever I start a sentence with “I have a theory…”; apparently, I have a lot of theories. I have an active imagination, and I’m very opinionated; I like to try to figure out how the world works.

The way the mind works fascinates me in particular, and my understandings and beliefs about it have changed and evolved significantly through my adult life. I’m recording these thoughts now for the entertainment of some future me.
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Recharging Roadtrips

Last week, Megan and I went to the opening ceremony of the first electric vehicle charging station in North Carolina, on the corner of W. Hargett and Dawson in Raleigh.

Megan wrote up a short blog post about it, and we talked about what this might mean for the future of our national infrastructure.

We have a Prius, so if we got an electric car (I like the Nissan Leaf, and not just because they use SVG on their site), we would probably use the hybrid for longer trips, so we could refuel easily. But in 10 years, that might change. Since it takes around half an hour to fully charge modern electric cars using the class 3 charger (the heavy-duty one), and 4-6 hours using a class 2 charger, electric road-trippers will need something to do while they wait. Megan mentions this in her blog:

Would owners of this type of business be motivated to install charging stations as a way to attract customers and hold them captive while their car is charging?

I could see a whole new class of businesses that cater to waiting customers, that charge the charging, so to speak: movie theaters, theme parks, mini-zoos, gaming parlors (multiplayer videogames or casinos or both), strolling gardens… activities that emphasize a more leisurely pace of travel. The return of the roadside attraction!

Here’s to the retro-future!

No Glee for Atheists

The theme of last week’s episode of Glee was religion and atheism. To their credit, they approached it playfully and even a bit irreverently, with Billy Joel’s Only The Good Die Young and one character making wishes on a Grilled Cheesus like it’s a djinni bottle. They even revealed that two of the characters on the show were atheists, which is an unusual and maybe even brave move, even if only as a plot device.

So, kudos to Glee for even raising the topic of atheism. It’s a topic that most shows, especially ones that take themselves more seriously, avoid like the plague. They even raised the problem of theodicy: if there really is a loving, merciful, all-powerful God, why is there such profound misery and suffering in this vale of tears? Maybe the lightness of the show in general let them risk pushing some buttons in this apparently very religious country. The episode was timely, too, on the heels of Pew Research Center’s recent U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey, where atheists came out on top in knowledge of religion, and the atheist characters in the show certainly had the most eloquent refutations of religious faith.

So… that’s what I liked about it.

(Warning, spoiler alert!)
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Successful Launches

Today has been a good day for launches! In my last post, I mentioned the successful launch of the W3C Audio Incubator Group, which I’ve been working on for a few weeks.

The second launch is a bit more visceral. When I realized that there would only be a few more space shuttle launches, Megan and I decided that we would try to see one if we could. This occurred to me about a month ago, but I wasn’t sure we could fit it into our schedule. But this week, Megan had to cancel a long biketrip, and that opened up a spot for us to drive down. So, we drove ten and a half hours to Cape Canaveral, slept a few hours in a cheap hotel, and got up early (for us, 8:00 AM is really early) to drive to Jetty Park, which was already crowded by the time we got there.

But we still landed a good spot right on the waterfront across from the launch site. A few low clouds threatened the launch early on, but it cleared up by early afternoon. A passing Korean car cargo ship gave us a little anxiety, fearing it might block the view, but it cleared in plenty of time.

Finally, the countdown blared out of someone’s radio, and the whole waterfront chimed in. 5… 4… 3… 2… 1…

We were pretty far away, but the rocket flame was impressively bright in person, and when the sound reached us, we could almost feel it. This is the final flight of the Atlantis, which makes me a bit sad. I’m ambivalent about retiring the shuttles… single-launch rockets are probably a cheaper option… still, it’s drawing to the end of an era, and I hope we keep pushing forward. Gauss-gun launch rails, anyone?

So, it was a successful launch, which makes me glad. Definitely worth the trip.

We did come away from it with reddened, painfully sensitive skin. I assert that this is rocketburn, not sunburn. Need a higher Rocket Protection Factor next time.

Sonnet to Liberty

For the Fouth of July, America’s Independence Day, here’s a poem by Oscar Wilde, from 1881:

Not that I love thy children, whose dull eyes
See nothing save their own unlovely woe,
Whose minds know nothing, nothing care to know,—
But that the roar of thy Democracies,
Thy reigns of Terror, thy great Anarchies,
Mirror my wildest passions like the sea,—
And give my rage a brother——! Liberty!
For this sake only do thy dissonant cries
Delight my discreet soul, else might all kings
By bloody knout or treacherous cannonades
Rob nations of their rights inviolate
And I remain unmoved—and yet, and yet,
These Christs that die upon the barricades,
God knows it I am with them, in some things.