Archive for May, 2007

Sitting in the middle of the desert

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

You know, every once in a while, you just need to drive out into the middle of a giant desert and sit for some quiet time alone (and a little personal reflection, too). This is my plan for Saturday afternoon. The further away from anyone else, the better I am likely to feel :-) No, my cellphone won’t be working where I’m going, and I won’t be reading my email either. I’ll do some writing from the desert though, since that’s one thing I don’t want to allow to slide any more than it already has.

I’m not sure I’ll make it to Vegas. I’ll probably drive to Nevada, but then I’m thinking about just doing a U-turn and driving off into the night. Driving aimlessly is a great way to deal with personal stuff. If I don’t manage at least 800 miles of completely pointless driving this weekend, I’ll be disappointed. And if I wind up lying, looking at the stars and writing poetry on the same beach in the middle of the night again, I’ll be even more disappointed with myself. But, we’ll see what happens.


Brave New Jon – Mojave National Preserve, and Vegas.

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

So I still had *way* too many airmiles sitting in my account going unused. It’s not as if I’m going to use them over the summer anyway (ever tried redeeming airmiles during the vacation period?) so I’m flying to California again this weekend, for more craziness, and will be back on Sunday night. I’m taking my laptop and will do some writing on the plane and in between hikes around the park. I’ve got a chapter to finish that will be done.

I’m was debating whether to go back to Joshua Tree National Park or to push further out to Sequoia, Death Valley, or Mojave. Mojave National Preserve seems to be winning at the moment, since Sequoia is a PITA to get to in time, given the drive, and of course, I could detour via Vegas if I really felt like it. Which I wouldn’t entirely put past me doing, for the interest (don’t worry, I’m not a gambler and that’s one of the only extremes I’m not getting into). Brave New Jon will not be stopped.

Oh, and I might swing by Malibu on Sunday for a little surfing, if there’s time.


Heartbroken – a poem by Jon Masters

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

For the second week in a row, I found myself lying on the same empty beach in the middle of the night, staring up at the stars and allowing the feeling of emptiness and loneliness to take hold, just for a moment. I felt like a small pebble on a giant shoreline – small, alone, and incomplete.

A broken heart is
lying on an empty beach,
staring up at the stars,
hoping, wishing,
things could be different.

A broken heart is
a feeling of emptiness,
a feeling of helplessness,
hoping, wishing,
to wake from this dream.

A broken heart is
wondering what you’re doing now,
wondering if you think of me,
hoping, wishing,
for one more chance.

A broken heart is
a feeling of loneliness,
a feeling of being incomplete,
but still hoping, wishing,
your every happiness.


Brave New Jon – Surfing in Ventura County – part deux

Monday, May 28th, 2007

Photo: Writing in the beach sand – pondering the meaning of it all.

Part of Project Brave New Jon.

So I’m in Ventura County for some more surfing. I had a lesson booked for 09:30 yesterday, which nearly fell through (due to a sick instructor) until we found a replacement at the last minute – a college kid who’s a good surfer, but who also reminds me that I’m 25 these days. I’m not old. Anyway. I improved a little, and after a couple of hours I can now catch waves, stand, and do a little more interesting stuff once I’m there. But I still suck at it too. Needs some work.

After the surfing, I headed to the Premium Outlets in Camarillo to buy a bunch of Banana Republic stuff at less than 50% of regular retail. If you haven’t seen one of these before, they’re crazy. I’ve previously been to a “Premium Outlet” but it always amazes me how many people will pack into a store to get a deal on a holiday weekend. I took a stroll on the beach (writing messages in the sand), went to the Harbor and Marina too. I had food in the Harbor Village before catching a movie (Spiderman 3) and heading out. It’s foggy in Ventura right now, or I’d have been watching the sunrise from the beach. Another time perhaps.


Brave New Jon – My kind of day

Sunday, May 27th, 2007

Photo: Joshua Tree National Park – A day trip.

Part of Project Brave New Jon.

So yesterday was approaching the level of craziness that I want from the new Jon. I went climbing on Friday night (my arms hurt…a lot), crashed out around 2am, got up at 5am on Saturday, hopped a cab to Logan, went to Los Angeles (via Minneapolis, delayed due to broken plane…got a free upgrade, changed flights, various other compensation…more is in the works), hacking on module-init-tools in flight. Picked up a Red Ford Mustang, drove to Joshua Tree National Park (170 miles) – detouring via Palm Springs for a coffee and some jeans. Took photos. Hiked and bouldered a little. Drove from Joshua Tree National Park to Los Angeles (170 miles), drove from Los Angeles to Oxnard (70 miles). Did the latter 240 miles without stopping (bear in mind I got my driver’s license only a few weeks ago – 400 miles in a day still seems quite impressive to little old European me!), to correct for schedule slippage on the part of North West Airlines. Explored the town until 3am. Just wait until I really get myself into gear.

Got up at 7am (on a Sunday), packing my gear for surfing. Then, planning to explore Oxnard, San Buenaventura (the Mission, mostly), Camarillo (apparently the “second best place in the world to live”), Thousand Oaks, and head down to the beach for a little writing and coding later this evening. I’ll catch a movie tonight and fly back over to the East Coast some time tomorrow.

Have a great Memorial weekend, everyone!


P.S. Andrew, when you read this – let’s organize a camping/hiking/climbing trip in Joshua Tree later this year or early next year – give me a few more months of this project to get up to the level of fitness I need to attain in order to do it.

Brave New Jon – Climbing

Saturday, May 26th, 2007

So I’ve been going down to Metrorock in Boston (it’s off the Orange line, then a drive from the T stop – free shuttle too) for a few weeks. I suck, but I’m getting a little better. Mostly, I lack upper body strength to support myself one handed while swinging and reaching, or anything funky. But still, the only way to get better is to keep trying – and I will do that. I definitely feel physically better for all the exercise I’m getting.

I’ve decided I’ll probably join a local gym after all. I’m not happy with the BSC opening hours and they’re a little too LCD (lowest common denominator) in that they’re right on my doorstep. So, I’m still looking around Cambridge for a good gym recommendation – especially one open until (or preferably after) midnight. On a related note, I’m debating about killing my cable TV subscription – I got a TV and cable to make my apartment more hospitable to visitors, but it’s just me now, and I’m not sure I really watch enough TV to have the full package – might see if I can find a way to keep Comedy Central; I can watch BBC/CNN online.

Time to pack for hiking in Joshua Tree tomorrow.


Project Brave New Jon – Summary to date

Friday, May 25th, 2007

Photo: Brave New Jon.
So, it’s 2am…and I don’t sleep much these days. I’m working on fixing some RHEL5 stuff, because I like working crazy hours sometimes, and this will free up time for hiking and exploring, and surfing, and writing on another book over the weekend. I’ve got a busy weekend planned (some of it isn’t online yet) and next week I’ve got more stuff to get sorted – writing, flying in a prop plane with a colleague cool friend of mine, and another road trip too.

Anyway, since it’s that time of day, here’s a little summary of Project Brave New Jon (named after another project some friends of mine know about). The Project started out as a means of self-diversion and distraction (from various things), but it’s rapidly morphing into something much more than that…who knows where this will go – I certainly don’t know yet. I know there’s a lot more in the pipeline though that I’ve not mentioned here yet :-) Yeah yeah…it’s a midlife crisis…riiiight. I might be old, but I’m not that old…not when you’re considering skydiving.

Project goal: Identify every single personal failing and correct all at once. Issues include diet, exercise, timekeeping, planning, efficiency, driving, and lots more.

Interim results:

* 40lbs lost in 8 weeks. An average of 5lbs per week, getting harder to maintain the weight loss now. I’m targeting fat loss without muscle impact, which is hard. I put myself on a custom diet in order to achieve this – it’s not a yoyo fad thing. It’s a well managed, carefully balanced effort to get this right one time, not again and again and again. I will end up around 150lbs or whatever point where I have no excess body fat remaining – and I’m ramping up the exercise to assist with this.

* 6 sizes lost in 8 weeks. Several complete wardrobe replacements. And I mean complete – as in, I threw out everything in there (have black bags ready for the thrift stores (UK: charity shops), and replaced all of it, in several stages. I probably need to buy stock in Banana Republic – and I’ve discovered a taste for A&F too. Currently a 30″ but targeting a 28″ within the not too distant future. I have had numerous friends and colleagues ask whether I just lost a huge amount of weight, some people haven’t recognized me…I’ve updated my online photos to assist. I own actually fashionable stuff now, complete image makeover :-)

* Learned to drive, passed my test on Friday 13th (of April), waited 2 weeks for the plastic license, drove thousands of miles in May. I’ve so far driven to New York, most of California Highway 1 (in a red Ford Mustang, and a white Mazda Miata – the car I’m considering purchasing in the not too distant future…but I’m looking at a manual, not an automatic…and the Miata kicks the Mustang’s ass), to Yosemite (before Highway 1), Palo Alto, LA, and more. I’m taking another road trip to Palm Springs and Joshua Tree this weekend, then have some more extreme road trips planned for later in the year (transcontinental is in the planning stages at the moment…requires timing, planning my schedule). I need a convertible. Now. Screw the New England weather – I know others who managed it.

* Remodeled my apartment. The white blandness of it all was a consequence of moving country and living without transportation. Getting furniture sans car is both extremely expensive and almost impractical – read: I made many many trips to Ikea when I first arrived via taxi/train – but once one has a driving license it becomes possible to pick up a rental and fix stuff properly. I’ve replaced my couch, living room furniture, finished my bedroom, and generally redone the place. I even seem to now own a shoe rack and other shocking organizational stuff. Oh, and picture frames…with actual pictures in them! Woot! :-)

* Fixed my bike and took up cycling again. I replaced the seat, tuned up the bike (it hadn’t traveled so well from the UK), and bought myself a new lock, pump, helmet, lights (thankfully mandated in Cambridge, but not Boston – though still not up to European lighting requirements) and other gear. I’ve taken to cycling around Boston and Cambridge for fun and for practical day to day activity. I have found the recycling center now too, so I am looking to cycle down with some recyclables that my apartment management company don’t seem to handle.

* Took up running. I bought myself various iPod attachments, running shoes, shorts, and other gear and have been out running in the mornings and/or evenings. I don’t yet have a regular schedule, but I’m working on it. I enjoy winding up running along the Charles and then end the run walking along Charles Street, perhaps taking the T back home after I’m done, if there’s not time to run back again. I’m only doing about 5 miles at a time, though I’ll look to bump that up toward 10 once I can think of a nice route that avoids the Cambridge traffic.

* Took up sailing again. I used to sail in high school, but I never enjoyed it as much as I do now. I bought myself various sailing gear, including some Gill Gripper deck shoes that double as very trendy beach wear. I joined the Community Boating and have been out a few times – I’ll do more over the summer as I consider getting qualified for solo sailing. I’ve been sailing in ‘frisco too quite a bit, but that’s on a much larger boat that a friend of mine owns and has a crew for.

* Took up climbing again. My gear is comically large on me now, but the harness is still safe. I’m planning to go down to the climbing gym again tonight for a party but in general will look to go once per week, and eventually take Andrew up on the offer of going climbing in the ‘dacks or other areas around here. It’ll be much easier now I’ve got a driver’s license and even easier once I buy a car and am happy to drive for 6-9 hours to meet up with folks up in Ottawa and other Provinces/States/whatever and wherever :-)

* Looking at a few other sports. I’ve been surfing a few times (going again this weekend) and several friends are interested in going out to the Cape, Jersey (UK: New Jersey), NC (UK: North Carolina), and several other places too. I might look at going surfing off the Cape next weekend, if it fits around the flying and I can find a place that rents gear/offers lessons for either myself and/or any of the other guys. I’m going to pick up some rollerblades and learn, and even considered trying skateboarding…I’ll try almost anything once (yes, there are exceptions!).

* Ramping up my exploration of the US and further afield. I’m up to 16 States now and have another 34 to go, as well as 4 Canadian provinces and 3 territories. I’m looking at a weekend in Illinois (Chicago) in the next few weeks – been through but never really hung out and seen a play. I saw a play on Broadway in NYC recently – Chicago – which gave me the idea that I could also go check out its namesake. My new rule is that I have to have more fun – it doesn’t always have to involve transcontinental flights, but that’s definitely fun too.

* Exploring music. A guitar is on my todo at the moment, as is a piano (actually, a keyboard) and some gear. I’m keeping up the violin – in fact, I bought a range of practice mutes recently to assist with that – but I’m definitely interested in being able to play some of the music that I listen to (and a violin kind of isn’t the best instrument to try doing that…I’ve tried that). There’s a local choir I’m considering singing in that apparently won’t try to pull me into any kind of religious worship (not that I care, it’s just not a good use of their time at all). I have one of the highest awards from the Royal School of Church Music (RSCM) that, right now, really isn’t getting any use. It’s mostly a question of time available to do it.

* Working on ways to make Linux drivers rock. I’ve got some funky (and very controversial) ideas that might make the Desktop experience suck a bit less, and generally get people more interested in using Linux systems – you know, people who haven’t been using it for 13 years (half of my life now!) who might want to avoid needing a degree in rocket science to get their USB foobaz device working. Just a thought. But I think this ease of use idea might catch on if enough people can be convinced to help me make this happen (more non-cryptic detail will follow later once I can go into exactly what I’m thinking of doing in a wider forum).

* Various research, reading and more. I’m renewing my interest in electronics, PLDs of various kinds, and will be writing more VHDL as I work on a few embedded Linux projects for my personal interest. I was just at a Xilinx talk where the dude wound up saying “hey, Jon, you could finish this if you want” – I worked on a lot of the stuff he was talking about and enjoyed being able to say “yeah, I came up with that idea in 2005″ a couple of times :-) But it’s all very well being the smart guy, it’s far better being the smart guy who’s helping the community – so I’m working out a way to get involved in bringing the Xilinx Linux community together.

* Renewed my commitment to various other projects. I’m maintaining various software but also working on a couple of book projects and articles at the moment. I had a period of a few weeks where I had to shut everything non-essential down suddenly to deal with some personal issues, which didn’t help with schedules. Fortunately, I’ve got some very understanding publishers these days :-)

There’s more work going on under the Brave New Jon mantra. I’m blogging about it as some of the things happen, but there’s a lot more than I can ever hope to write about here.