Monday with Dad

This is my dad. With this post, I begin a journey of caring for him while my mom undergoes and recovers from hip replacement surgery.


To my great shame, I have spent only an hour or two at a time with my dad on each visit these last few years. The emotional toll of being with him as his brain has withdrawn into the mysts of Alzheimer's has been too much for me to bear and, like a coward, I have many times made a hasty retreat onto the road home to hide my tears from him and my mother.

The Lord has arranged for me an opportunity to repent of my weakness these next two weeks. Today my mother had a hip replaced. So I met her and one of my sisters early this morning at the hospital. Dad was with them and a bit confused, but I took him to his home. Fed him and watched over him today while I also did a bit of work over the Internet. I will repeat this during the week this week and next, relieved by my sister over the weekend.

I do not complain here. Caring for my dad is a blessing and a privilege, but it is nevertheless one of the hardest things I've ever faced. My mom is an absolute hero and has earned many times over the highest of praise, as has so many who have cared for a loved one with this cursed disease.

Today I began learning, only in a very small way, what my mom goes through every day with grace and aplomb that defies all explanation except through the eyes of the purest love.

In an tenderly acute way, one must learn to put a smile on one's face even as one's heart breaks. One must learn to respond with vague and positive replies to conversation that cannot be understood. One must learn to cajole and to distract gently, to offer alternatives and suggestions.

Dad is not gone entirely. He still catches rye humor sometimes. He bounces his confusion off his shoulders with a grimace and a grin. He shrugs off the oppression of thoughts which, once formed, race away faster than he can express them. And yet he can sometimes still offer the most poignant and sincere and nearly 100% coherent prayers.

No. Dad is not gone. He is mostly hidden from ours and his own view for now.

With extreme gratitude, I offer my deepest thanks to my older brother, who arrived just as I was running out of ideas of how to keep Dad from being restless and wanting to walk out into the night. He will stay with Dad at night while I sleep in the spare room. This is truly a job for two which makes my mom an even bigger hero than I've earlier stated.

Tomorrow is a new day.

Spot the Change, Ponder the Meaning

Matthew 16:26
For what is a man profited, if he shall gain a part of the world, and lose a part of his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for a part of his soul?

Just a part? Do we justify a little sin? Do we exchange just a little part of our soul for a small crumb from the table of the world in a misguided quest to ease our way through life?

Something to ponder when next we're tempted to make just a small wrong choice.

On Being a Disciple of Christ

I am reading Paul's words to the Corinthians in his second epistle to them and was impressed by these two verses this morning. As we take upon ourselves the name of Christ and keep his commandments and always remember him, making him the center of our lives, I believe these words from Paul take on greater meaning.

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

2 Corinthians 6:16
And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

A testimony of Christ can lead us to follow him, to become more like him, to become new in him. As we do so he may dwell in us, walk in us. He will be our God and we will be his people. What a glorious promise indeed.

First Snow of the Season

The first snow of the season lays its quiet blanket of white upon all we can see, making all things new and pure, just as the Savior Jesus Christ does when we turn our hearts and minds to him, repenting and taking upon ourselves his name, keeping his commandments and always remembering him.

Feel out of place at church sometimes?

We all feel like a left shoe or a third wheel sometimes.

But consider Paul's words in I Corinthians 12 (from NRSV though I usually read KJV). We are all an important part of the church, and if we're missing on Sunday or other days when the body of Christ gathers, the whole feels it. You are needed. You are wanted.

Here's how Paul puts it:

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.
15 If the foot would say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body.
16 And if the ear would say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body.
17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?
18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.
19 If all were a single member, where would the body be?
20 As it is, there are many members, yet one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you."
22 On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,
23 and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24 whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member,
25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another.
26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

Family - What is it good for?

1. Clearing the sidewalks on a snowy day.
2. Picnics in the mountains in the summer.
3. Opening presents in jammies on Christmas.
4. Borrowing tools and clothes without asking.
5. Hot cocoa and warm blankets on a cold winter night.
6. Cleaning the basement just before company comes.
7. Hugs and encouragement when hard things happen.
8. Patience and forgiveness when none can be found.
9. Safety net against the darkness of despair.
10. Incubator of exalted and eternal beings.

Meekness - Defining Attribute of Christ

"Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls." ~Matthew 11:29

"Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me." ~D&C 19:23

"Meekness is a defining attribute of the Redeemer and is distinguished by righteous responsiveness, willing submissiveness, and strong self-restraint...

"The Christlike quality of meekness often is misunderstood in our contemporary world. Meekness is strong, not weak; active, not passive; courageous, not timid; restrained, not excessive; modest, not self-aggrandizing; and gracious, not brash. A meek person is not easily provoked, pretentious, or overbearing and readily acknowledges the accomplishments of others." ~Elder David A Bednar, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Learning to be meek is a worthy daily endeavor

How Photography Helps Me Be a Better Software Architect


I want to share with you how my efforts to perfect my semi-commercial hobby of photography help me be a better software architect.

My first camera was a Kodak Pony 135. I had no idea what I was doing, but I learned a lot by experimenting with that camera. My first computer was a Commodore 64. I was only slightly more informed about computing, having learned BASIC on a Commodore PET over two years prior. Again through experimentation and reading every Creative Computing magazine that I could get my hands on, I learned much more about computing and programming.

So now you know that I've been doing photography and computing for longer than many of my colleagues in this business have been alive. Let's see if my insights are of any use to you.

Patterns in Composition

In photography one must always be aware of the composition of the shot. How do the elements of the shot work together to draw the eye to the subject, to the story you want to tell? Learning the rule of thirds can be quite useful in understanding that, as in photography, so too in software we must look for patterns of composition to focus the user experience on the desired outcome. These patterns are often not visible to the untrained eye, just as in photography our audience may not really know why they like the photo, but they do. Software users will know they love or hate the software, but only you will know they love it because you composed it using patterns that make the magic happen.

Following a Process

We rarely get something right the very first time we try it. We're more likely to get something right when we follow a process that has led to success in the past. In photography I have learned that I must follow a process of preparation, analysis, exploration, decision taking and execution. A well thought out process in software development is equally crucial to success.

Breaking the Rules Sometimes

Once you know the rules of your process and craft, you can begin to take some risks in breaking the rules to achieve a desired effect. Only after understanding the rule of thirds in photography and knowing how and why this rule will help you compose your shot in a way that will present your subject well can you begin to experiment with breaking that rule to tell a slightly different story. The same is true in software architecture. Knowing how the rules of SOLID and design patterns will help you achieve the best outcome is crucial. Only then can you begin to experiment with small deviations to the rules to find new an innovative ways to achieve your goals.

Knowing Your Subject

In photography one must know something about the subject of the photograph. The more you know about the subject, whether this is a person, a landscape, a flower or a bug, the better you will understand how to draw out the character of your subject in your photograph. Being a software architect means knowing your subject, your users, stakeholders, the data and systems and the processes needed to make things work. The more you know about that, the better your architecture and design will be and the happier your customer will be.

Best Tools Don't Always Make the Best Work

Some photographers believe they must have the best, most expensive equipment to achieve the greatest possible result. This just is not true. I once shot with a full frame camera and now shoot with a Micro Four Thirds. Some day I'll move to medium format for other reasons, so don't discount having great tools, but don't assume that without the best you cannot produce great work. The same is true in software. We do not always need the best IDE or the most powerful laptop or the biggest amount of RAM to achieve the best result. Indeed if one focuses only on the tools, one might overlook the fact that one's work is to produce something great with the tools you have. Focus on the finished product and whine less about the tools you have been given.

Always Something Beyond Your Control

In photography you cannot control the weather or an unruly portrait subject. You cannot decide when your SD card will fail. You cannot guarantee that every shot will be perfect. There are always elements of the work that are out of your control. To succeed one must embrace the unknown and unexpected. In software architecture this is also true. There are many aspects of a project which you will have the ability to control. Time and business demands are not among them. Resource availability or team skills are not always within your control. You must learn to embrace the things that are not under your control and work as well as you're able to achieve your goals in spite of these.

Try Again Tomorrow

When I'm shooting landscapes, I often think that I've nailed it only to learn in post processing my RAW images that I failed to capture what it was I thought that I had seen when I was in the moment. These failures fall to the digital cutting room floor and push me to go back out and try again. There is a reason we have iterative processes in software development. We don't always get it right. We must continue to hone our craft and work and rework until we do get it right. Even then there is always more we can do. Sometimes the most important aspect of courage is simply to say to oneself, "I'll try again tomorrow." (Taken from a favorite saying borrowed from a friend of mine who passed away recently.)

People and Love Are The Most Important Ingredients

In photography and software architecture and development, I have learned that the most important aspect and ingredient to success is people. The people we work with will come from many different backgrounds. They will have different needs and desires. We must learn to love them and work with them. Only when we do this can we achieve our greatest success because our success depends on their success. When you love the people with whom you work, you will want to see them succeed. You will be kind but honest. You will be patient but urge them to do their best work. You will put their needs ahead of your own. Miraculously you will produce your very best work and so will they.