A body at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted upon by an external force.

-- Newton's First Law of Motion

I've traveled more this year than when I was at my cap for accruing "use it or lose it" PTO. London, Manchester, Liverpool, Amsterdam, New York City. Maybe more as the year continues. Wanderlust is a real thing, a thing I forget isn't just something that Instagram made a platitude. After all, curiosity and exploration have long contributed much to human success as a species.

I would do well to be grateful that my privilege has allowed me to stoke such fire. Good to know that those embers still burn. For a while, I was convinced I was all but ash.

I spent around 5 years in Corporate America, playing the role of that guy who never went on holiday. I made a relentless work ethic part of my identity because I revered hard work, and wanted to live in a way that spoke it. Looking back, I realize that it might have been a case of toxic workaholism.

I lived for work, and dismissed "work/life balance" out of hand because I was convinced that I didn't have a life. Single, no dependents. Introverted, and gradually losing my grasp on social interaction. My eyes are so accustomed to scanning code for those goddamned stray semicolons that I can feel myself have trouble maintaining eye contact. My unsteady footing in human interactions gave me new anxieties, its missteps gave my speech a weird rhythm, and feeling this off beat and out of place has made me generally and perpetually uncomfortable.

I'm coming to terms with the notion that this isn't healthy, thanks in no small part to hindsight, which is why blogging is good for you. I became an inert object, uninteresting and deteriorating. Friends stopped nudging me because I resisted, and it wasn't long before it was lonely when your reputation includes "is busy, don't bother."

And then I wasn't busy. And I had no idea what to do with myself.

I hear from many different social circles that travel is good for you, and that broadening your perspective helps to calm existential anxiety. Helps you see your place in the world. Lets you find yourself.

No such luck here. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

But I do feel differently for having made good memories in places far from home. Saw the London production of Hamilton (it is as amazing as you think). Had a pretty notable tea at a cafe in Manchester, during which I learned the Swedish word fika. You can explore a lot of Liverpool in a few days, but you can only start to understand Liverpool after a few bevvies. Familiarized myself with the sound of Nederlands, and now I can hear all of those Rembrandts from those art history classes back in college. First professional sporting event I've attended is now the US Open, which might have been too high a standard to set for my perception of sports.

Of course, travel experiences entail more than just a few sentences. I'm being curt because I don't think there's anything I can say about travel that hasn't already been said by people more perceptive and eloquent. I started writing this thinking that I'd learn a lesson about myself, and after 500ish words you will notice that I haven't learned anything, and all I have to show for it is a metaphor about physics.

Maybe lessons aren't the point about writing about travel. Some travel writing is very to-the-point in stating "this is what it was like, here's me doing that, here's a thing I found, isn't that neat?" And you know what? Yes, it is neat. It was a pleasant 15 minutes to learn about something that made you happy. It didn't change my worldview, and it didn't need to. You take that memory and keep it somewhere safe so you can smile when you remember. I can support that.

So travel is good for you in that it stimulates your brain and spirit in often unexpected ways. It improves your chances of getting un-stuck from a rut, even ruts you've willingly dug yourself. Travel is worth noting and remembering and treasuring, as even the misfortune can teach us new things. Travel does not let you run from your problems for long, because you can't run away from yourself.

I knew these things before setting out earlier this year. I'm betting you also knew these things, even if you aren't a seasoned traveler.

But these messages feel different after they've become tangible. And they wouldn't have been within reach if I had kept waiting to be acted upon by some external force.

And why did travel make me feel better? It wasn't the cities themselves, even though the tourism is more than enough to shake loose those gears in your head that might be screwed on too tightly.

My memories aren't city sights or sounds or tastes. They're experiences shared with friends, real friends, people who have no obligation to be so generous to forgive my missteps because they see through my idiocy and into my heart and know that I mean well. It was a ragtime piano bar speakeasy. It was a homemade cookie in my jacket pocket. It was watching a hilariously rowdy group of locals hang from the rafters while singing Livin' on a Prayer, and me asking "So, this is just a Tuesday around here?" It was time travel by way of museum, and ruminating about how there is no certainty how far into the future the things we make will last, all we can do is keep trying to make cool shit and hope that that's enough. It was picking the name "Axolotl" for trivia and feeling seen when I heard "Oh, that one's definitely Nico."

These are some my memories. This blog is my somewhere safe.

And this is me, smiling, because I remember.

Hello, Blog

Dear Blog,

I hope this finds you well. Do you remember a time on the internet when socializing was done via dotcoms and not through social media? We used to open our blog posts with an apology for being away for a while, and it never meant anything because nobody cared how long you were gone. Everyone would just be glad that you were still around. I almost committed to an apology at the beginning of this paragraph, but in 2018 I bet we're past that.

Blog, you've made substantial contributions to my life. You taught me the foundation for what I know about web development. You taught me PHP and JavaScript and jQuery and LESS and SCSS and WHM and cPanel and to be generous to other devs and scatter <!--these traffic cones--> in front of the potholes in the hazardous streets of codeland.

But I haven't been working with WordPress lately. My last few years have been a mixed bag of CMS's. WordPress was in there, sure. But the large part of those years was with a flat-file CMS, and I must say, I did greatly appreciate the security and flexibility of not having to tangle with a database. I did not miss MySQL. The whole keeping a CMS updated and patched-as-needed and secure and sanitized is just a never-ending game of cat-and-mouseover();.jk, js, this was CSS.

Here's the thing: I'm just an okay coder. Not quite mediocre, as web dev is an industry that requires being quick and efficient. If I already know the documentation, love the rush of a good code sprint or debug fumigation. But you can't always be up to date on your documentation if you need that time for production. And if StackOverflow doesn't know the answer, you can't simmer on that problem for too long before you have to get back in there and >git init a plan B. The show must go on.

Another excuse reason for my spending so much time away is that, uh, wow, you just kinda propped up a lot of my bad writing for the world to see, didn't you? Sorry to have made you go through that. The sentiments are sincere, but the execution is just a little too purple and downright angsty for my recent tastes. I've made many of the posts private for now. I'll maybe pick through them later to see which ones are appropriate for public display and which ones to sweep under the rug because they are, oof, ah, echo $facepalm;. But given time, who knows? I have new perspectives after reaching my mid-30's that are not completely congruous with those of the Me™ of the past. I'd like to think I'm now wiser, but I'm also wise enough to know I am never as wise as I think I am.

The short of it is that I have a maximum capacity for how much cringing at myself I can do, and a close look at my past work pins that pressure gauge in the red. I don't want to spend all of my time rolling my eyes when I can be looking forward.

I'd hate for anyone to be the same person for far too long. It would be a shame to not want to always grow into a better self.

The same goes for you, too, blog. I have developed a taste for markdown and YAML and flat-file life, but still prefer the hooks and documentation and extensibility of WordPress. Maybe if you work with me we can come up with a compromise. Maybe I'm totally wrong, and that I should return to working with MySQL to be standards compliant. Maybe someday I'll put something together and someone will fork the idea on github. Don't let your dreams be dreams, the internet told us. We will heed.

WHOIS tells me you've been part of my life for just over a decade. So you've seen all of it. In the latter half of that decade, I disappeared into corporate America and forgot about blogland. I forgot what you've done and can still do for me. You introduced me to the people who would help shape my career, and to the web languages I would use to communicate with them. If you can't help me figure out my next move, nothing can.

In our first post, you helped me say "Hello, World!" I am remiss to have not returned your salutation.

Good to see you again.

Let's get to work.

Level Up

So, I turned 30 recently.

I do have a way to explain my feelings on this, I think. Yet again, video games are my analogy of choice for explaining how the world works. Oh, shut up, you knew what you were getting into when you started reading this.

If life were like videogames (an aside: This poses a problem in the way of art imitating life imitating art, but that's another conversation), then growth is measured by leveling up when a player has earned enough experience points to acquire a new level in a skill or skills, often accompanied by the ability to wield new weaponry, access new places, or begin new assignments.

So let's say I just turned Level 30. Have I been granted anything new?

  • Wield New Weaponry - Do I have a weapon? If you count my guitar as an "axe", then there's no finding out what I can wield until I can get my hands on a new guitar, but I honestly don't feel like getting another guitar; the guitars I already own have been more than sufficient. Hm, but what about a bass guitar? Interesting.
  • Access New Places - I now live in and have access to NorCal.
  • Begin New Assignments - I relocated for a job. It's a new assignment by its very nature.

And come to think of it, 30 is gaining steam much differently than that of 29. 28 and 29 saw some dark days. 29 saw me the poorest I'd ever been, facing some of the most challenging professional decisions I'd ever made. It was a year that tested my retention of optimism. I came out of those years able to say, "As a full time independent contractor, I've been dragged through the dirt and raked over hot coals. I have seen some shit. There is nothing you can do to hurt me."

I repeatedly told the world to "bring it on." I got what I wished for. I got kicked to the curb, got kicked while I was down, got kicked harder than something that gets kicked really hard.

I lived. And the reward? New job, new city, new life.

Fancy that. This really was like a video game.

I guess that means if I'm alive, I gotta keep moving.

After all, this game isn't going to beat itself.

Airplane of Love

Ah, love. Sometimes — and in shojo series, it's very frequently — it's entirely one-sided. When a character encounters that certain special someone who's totally out of their reach ("takane no hana"), a conveniently timed airplane flies by, and the unrequited lover spends several seconds staring at the airplane as it flies off into the distance, forever out of reach. In fantasy or historical series where there are no airplanes, a bird appears instead.
-TV Tropes

To be clear, I'm not in love since I haven't yet been patched to handle such capacities[1. We tried it in beta and it threw a bunch of errors, so we're slating it for a later release.], but after moving to California's Silicon Valley very recently[2. O HAI, DID I MENTION I MOVED NORTH?] I've found that when I take a break to smoke a cigarette, I often find myself staring at an airplane. In contrast to the smog of LA, the skies here are very much on the clear side, and since the San Jose Airport isn't too far off, these aircrafts are easy to catch.

As a fan of symbolism, I can't help but feel that staring at these airliners is supposed to signify something, but as it's portrayed in fiction (fine, in anime, specifically), the allegory doesn't really apply to me. However, the wandering daytime reverie still seems to fit the bill.

I'm longing for and missing something, but I'm not sure what it is.

Actually, you know what? I've not had legitimate internet access for a week now, and using my phone to tether an internet connection is slowly driving me to the brink of tears. Also, my furniture has yet to ship up here so it looks like I'm squatting in my own apartment.

All things considered, things up here are going way better than expected and it's only the first week. Silicon Valley has so far treated me very well, passing smiles and unsolicited good morning's and sincere excuse me's, and I'm still very much a stranger out here. So there's that warm welcome -- but concerning these airplanes, maybe the earnest desire I'm feeling is the unrequited love of NOT SLEEPING ON THE DAMN FLOOR.

The Box Of Forever

Every time I move, which seems to happen every 2-3 year interval since the age of 18, I have to reevaluate my possessions and compartmentalize the containers for the things I absolutely must keep with me. A lot of people know how that goes -- and I can only assume that a lot of those people experience the same kind of autobiographical reductionism.

Throughout all of these relocations, all shuffling around the vast labyrinth that is Los Angeles, I have kept with me a small wooden box that contains cathected items from various periods of my life.

There is a photograph of me, in overalls, as a baby, under a Christmas tree.

There are microcassette tapes. The recordings are just me babbling and screwing around as a child that span 6 years.

There is a drum key from my very first drum kit, a 1980's Pearl Export.

There is a photo I took in Trafalgar Square.

There is a set list from my band's tour through the American southwest.

There is an invitation to the funeral of my old boss, mentor, and friend at the bar in Little Tokyo.

And among others, there are also some things relating to bloggers. Yeah, you guys.

Because, you know, it's good to hang on to things that change your life.

So what are some of the things in your boxes?

The Path Of The Shadow


When I was younger, ninjas (and their related turtle manifestation) were heralded as the epitome of cool. In looser terms, to be considered a ninja is to be regarded as deftly talented and, where applicable, so damn good at what you do that other people don't notice.

As I grew older, ninjas were less revered and more relegated to myth and even cartoony caricatures. That's fine, after all, how realistically applicable are ninja principals? Who uses martial arts or cryptic Eastern fortune-cookie-esque philosophy in their day-to-day lives?

When I became a musician as a teenager, the name of the game was glory. It was to learn how to compose and perform music that spoke to people's souls, a truly transcendent kind of communication. And those who were best at it were well-regarded, revered, and their popularity spoke to their effectiveness and importance. It was a proportionate measure of worth. And in the same way, the same reverence for talent in music is true of art in general, and especially true when I became a blogger. On the Internet, the art was the written word. The best bloggers used their words and social interaction to affect the world in a way that really connected with others on a human-to-human level - to transcend the limitation of monitors and keys and get at the human condition behind all of the tech. To become a wordsmith on the web gave you the ability to render someone across the globe to become awe-struck.

Personally, regarding these kinds of awards or even blogging in general, I'm gonna admit here and now that I always kind of feel left out of that kind of social circle. I'm not one to garner recognition - features, promotions, awards, a pat on the back -- those aren't in my repertoire.

I guess I'm supposed to be involved in those circles, but blogland treats me very differently. Word gets out that I know how to make and fix websites. My method of communication is often emails and gchat, private backchannels outside of the glory-reaping, crowd-facing part of blogging. I stay outside of the public eye, and incidentally that is exactly how I conduct my professional life. I realize that for business development I should be promoting myself, making myself more visible, but I am realizing that I am actually kind of uncomfortable with self-aggrandizement which makes little sense since I'm supposed to be a blogger and talking about myself is part of the point.

Working in the background behind a soundboard at the venue, or working behind an FTP account among lines of code -- those are both thankless tasks.

However, without the support of a sound tech or a coder, musicians and bloggers (respectively) would not be able to get at that sought-after recognition.

These days, I realize now that I was never set on the path to glory.

I was always intended for the path of the shadow. 

And you know what? I think that's pretty cool.

Forcing Good Thoughts

When I'm having rough days and I'm feeling helpless, I try to remember little things I've done to feel accomplished.

This one time, a street solicitor asked me if I had a few moments for gay rights. I retorted, "I think you mean civil rights." She smiled, we talked, I couldn't give much. But it was a proud moment of quick wits.

Good stuff, even if only for a brief moment.

And now, back to the sulking grind.

In Which My Past Returns To Haunt Me

Being distracted with the inconsistency that is my life, or rather its relationship to work work work, I forget that there was a time I was a different person.  That Nico wasn't worried about finding roommates to make rent, pulling all-nighters to meet deadlines, getting debilitatingly drunk on weekends to wash away the stress, and trying his damned-est to find a free moment to hang out with friends (or to blog!).

What freaks me out is that I can't even remember what it felt like to be that guy. Oh sure, there's blog entries from that era and I can read about it, but from what I do remember, all I can really say is he wrote a lot of prose and poetry despite getting only a handful of things published, he played guitar incessantly despite having only 2 to 3 shows a month, and he did a lot of drugs despite not really having the income to support it.

That, and he let the world get to him despite having every reason to be content; but that's what happens when guys like that get dumped.

No, don't RSVP for the pity party because it's not even booked.

It's been so long that I forget that there was this time in my life where I was all but broken after that one girl left me.  It was a 3 year relationship (on and off during some portions).  But in the end, she got involved with a guy that actually turned out to be a way better fit for her than I ever was.  Of course, one is never able to see these kinds of things at the time of their occurrence, but an interesting added element to that heartbreak you can only get in this age of the interwebs was that I discovered the entire time I was with her, I played the villain.

No, I never hit her, you sick bastards.

I'll start from the top:  The Better Man, as we'll call him because I like Pearl Jam, had his eyes on her for as much of the time as I did. Come to think of it, she must have really turned heads when she first moved in to my college as a freshman, a year and a floor below me. I was with her for a while, much to the distress of many other suitors who were likely better matches for her.  I just happened to make the first move.  I had no idea this would lead me to be the envy of every other guy until it was all over.  And now that I can remember that time vaguely, I remember some acquaintances saying, "Let me know if this is out of line, but your girlfriend is hot."  It's no wonder so many other guys treated me like an asshole.  I just chalked them up to socially awkward experiences, but it now makes sense that there was a collective resentment being held against me.

And what is villain Nico like?  And what is the hero like?  Where I'm a musician, he is a writer. Where I have a portfolio, he has teaching credentials. Where I am amazingly useful, he is amazingly charming.

Yes, I just described Better Man as charming. What? He is.  And how would I know this? Only in the age of the interwebs can I begrudgingly have become a fan of his at the same time as my relationship beginning to deteriorate. The quality of his work with the pen (keyboard?) far exceeded that of mine and this was an initial source of jealousy when they first got together.

But like a lot of things in life, I got over it eventually.  Things are civil between her and me; friendly to an acquaintance level, even.  I became a fan of Better Man's writing.  So much so that when he was feeling down, I would be rooting for him.  When he was up on a cloud, I would imagination-five him.  And this is a startling paradigm shift, especially since there were days when he used to characterize me as the biggest douchebag evar.  Not in any malicious way, just as an effective hyperbole.  And his audiences would agree.

All of this is to say that in a recent post, Better Man regrets that he hadn't beaten me to the punch - to have those extra three years to add to his relationship.  In a sense, that's sweet, but it also got me thinking about what I would be like if those 3 years I had spent with her were all of a sudden taken away from me.  It also brought to mind those other girls that I had outright rejected because I was in a relationship at the time... what if I had been single?  What if the memories I have involving her, that will stick around with me for the rest of my life, were with someone else?  That one dancer from New York?  The adorably nervous freshman girl that gave me some flattering compliments after having played a show at a party?  The girl who sat with me for a couple of hours on my couch while it was still on the lawn while I was waiting for my roommate to help me carry it in?

The thought stunned me into a daze, and my entire college experience blew up into a giant flow chart of possibilities that grew until I had to shiver to shake the image out of my brain.

Better Man says he regrets not having been with her sooner, but I think that if she hadn't been with a musician, she might not appreciated Better Man as much as she does.  After all, the "I wish I did" regret isn't something you can learn from as much as the "I wish I didn't" regret.  But knowing how good they are together now, I think I am okay with the thought of him being there for her first.

Imagination is a powerful thing...

I always tend to toast to the future.

It's because the past freaks me out.


I remember my first memory, which is getting up out of bed to play.

I remember, at first, having an unreasonable fear of ninjas.

I remember, at a very young age, getting upset upon the discovery that that Math was not my strongest suit.

I remember discovering how to hit record and play it back, and never stopping since.

I remember finally being conversational with the first girl I ever had a crush on, and getting in an argument with her before I moved to Pasadena.

I remember being very fond of Sonic the Hedgehog.

I remember my first day at a private school being foggy.

I remember trying to play sports at recess, and not really enjoying it.

I remember keeping sketchbooks.

I remember starting a band before I knew how to play.

I remember the day I got my first musical instrument, playing it way too loud, and having my foot tap an imaginary kick drum pedal ever since.

I remember the death glare of the first heinous bitch I have ever met in high school occurring in a Latin class.

I remember the awkward and difficult task it was to grow my hair long in high school.

I remember being able to play Hollywood's Whiskey-A-Go-Go with my first high school band - just as much, I remember a member of that band climbing on top of an amplifier during a song -- and falling off of it.

I remember prom being actually pretty darn fun.

I remember moving into college wearing a Weezer ringer tee.

I remember travel to the Philippines, Europe, and Scandinavia.

I remember starting a band in college with some friends and taking it on the road.

I remember road trips to Mexico and California's Bay Area.

I remember the look of utter disappointment as my parents took me home from the hospital after an overdose on a drug that does not show up in tox-screens.

I remember failing comprehensives due to simple omissions I should have paid attention to (like ending clauses with a preposition).

I remember getting dumped without closure, and crying the distance on the 134 from the 2 to the 210.

I remember the day of my interview at my current day job, a group of girls from the office walked past me as I smoked a cigarette - and all of them smiling.

I just remembered some things I forgot to list, and I wonder if I will remember this moment of unique clarity; one lined with cigarette smoke and the hiss of nearby surface streets.

I hope I do.

For I, ladies and gentlemen, am forgetful.

Hello World!

I've read somewhere that 50% of new blogs are abandoned.

Will this one stay in the half of the updated?

I guess there's only one way to find out!