My Own Clock

Most of my life I lived unaware of My Own Clock. I am not sure how, but I never seemed to see it. As a kid, I was somewhat bothered by the odd pulsing sense coming from some invisible thing deep inside. It was weird and I preferred not to dwell on it. Instead, I learned to listen to others’ Clocks. Early on, other people appeared big and important. Listening to the tick-tock of their Clocks was just the logical thing to do. I even got pretty good at carrying the beat of others’ Clocks, almost as if they were my own.

It wasn’t easy. Everybody’s Clock is different, with their own drifts and skips. Synchronizing all of those Clocks was work. At first, I was excited to learn and master it, because being in sync allowed me relate to other people and appreciate their being. But I kept noticing that occasionally, the rhythm of another’s Clock would resonate in magical ways. Something inside of me would match that rhythm–just briefly–and the world would become a bit brighter. Like rays of light, little by little, these blips of resonance revealed that carrying others’ Clocks wasn’t just work. It was toil.

Boy, those were tough times. I felt lost, realizing the misery of existence that is just fitting into others’ Clock beats. I felt betrayed, let down by the insight that all these Clocks, however well-adopted by me, can never be part of me. And yet, this insight is what nudged me to a wondrous discovery.

I am not exactly sure how, but one day, I saw a glimpse of it. While reflecting, I was startled to see My Own Clock. Not a precisely-executed replica of my Father’s Clock. Not a beautifully-crafted myriad-piece orchestra of The Society Clock. Rather, My Own Clock. Clicking its own rhythm. The rhythm that way back then, would briefly resonate with others’. A barely audible tick-tock. And yet, my own, unique rhythm.

That glimpse was a profound and energizing experience. Now I knew that it’s there. It is there. I still can’t always find it, and I still confuse it with the other clocks. It’s a struggle to unlearn the habit of falling into the rhythm of another’s Clock. But every day, I strain to look and listen. And every day, get a little bit closer to living by My Own Clock.

From HTML5 to Gibson’s Matrix?

I shouldn’t admit it, but — what the heck. I haven’t read the Sprawl Trilogy. Until this weekend. After falling prey to another round of the seasonal crud, and with the long Memorial Day weekend in sight, I dove in.

The books aged extremely well. It was too easy to ignore the awkward artifacts of the 80’s culture and go with the smooth and intricate flow. It felt just right. Not the mind-boggling, monolithic Stephenson’s universe that pounds you with all its kilo-page might. It was gentler and more focused on the characters, rather than the surrounding gadgetry and sound reasoning behind its existence.

Anywho. I walked away inspired. The Sprawl was a tantalizing illusion, my brain spinning in a vertigo of subconscious attempts to fill in the missing engineering details. But in riding this high, I also felt disappointment. It’s 2009, for crying outloud. Where are the AIs? I mean those that can reasonably fool a Turing test? Where are the consoles that connect you directly to the full sensory representation of the Internet? And hovercrafts?! I want my frickin hovercrafts!

How is it that we are still tinkering with a 10-year old hypertext format, asymptotically trying to make it work right on our respective rendering engines, bolting new steel plates on the old wooden boat as it creaks, sinking further under the weight of our add-ons? How come there’s a whole echelon of computer industry burning midnight oil congealing bits of CSS, HTML, and JS into the scary, scary nonsensical frankensteins that we call Web sites? And how come it is so hard to build and grow these sites — not to mention use them?

Where have we gone wrong? Perhaps it was the naive notion that HTML wasn’t just an accidental leader of the rising wave, that it was somehow special, because it was just like text and thus “easy of use?” I shudder even typing these three words. Or was it the idea that the Web is what it is and shouldn’t break it? Or maybe it was us, proclaiming that content is king and that the vehicle didn’t matter? We’ve become content with what we’ve got. Even new aspirations, however alien, look suspiciously like the same old stuff.

But yes, we are where we are. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be anywhere. Right? Riiight. We have this spec, called HTML5 and we’re trying to make it work. It’s better than what we have today, and it is a step forward. But on the big scheme of things — is this what we need? Small, painful incremental steps on the burning coals of the Web as we know it? Is this taking us somewhere? And if it is, are we there yet?

Are we there yet?

Lucky Chrome

How can you explain this sheer amount of luck? Are there any special terms for it? I have no clue.

To illustrate — this year, yours truly:

  • After long 14 years finally got his green card
  • Moved to California
  • Landed a job at Google
  • … on the Google Chrome team!
As my good friend put it: “Wear your seatbealt. You have used up all of your luck”.

Thank You, Birmingham

It’s been a long time. I remember driving down I-59 for the first time and suddenly seeing you, lit up, silent and magical in the damp summer heat of 1995. I remember the shock of first encountering the true Southern talk at a McDonald’s drive-through and not being able to comprehend a word — or even make out a syllable. This was a whole different world. This was a whole different time.

Over the next 13 years, I learned lots of things. I learned that driving expensive German cars is not at all what I really want from my life. As a side effect, I learned how to get in debt up to my eyeballs and how to get out of it. I learned that parents will love you no matter what and that their hearts will bleed as they watch you making the stupidest mistakes on your path to comprehension of life.

I also learned that you can’t “fix” people or change them to your liking, no matter how hard you try. I learned that things will happen in most unpredictable ways and a beam of light would shine in the darkest of the night to reveal a new path. I learned what it means to be a family man and exactly how little sleep young fathers and mothers need to keep going.

Along the way, you were there for me. You cheered for my successes. You helped me deal with failures and consequences of poor choices. You taught me about serendipity, resilience, dedication and faith. And most of all, you taught me what it means to truly love someone.

You opened my eyes to the complexity and depth of the racial and cultural divide of this world and gave me hope that this divide can be overcome, even if one person at a time.

Thank you, Birmingham. Thanks for my friends, the opportunities, and the impeccable Southern hospitality. Thank you for your wisdom and willingness to embrace this quirky Russian.

On August 1, we part ways. True to your old-fashioned ways, you stay where you are. But a little part of you will move on with me and my family. Mountain View, here we come. Looking forward to meeting y’all out in California.