Random Bytes

All Things Internet™ since 1999


On remembering 9/11 – 9 years ago….

Here’s a link to the decaying archives of byte.org recounting my thoughts on September 11, 2001 on the 1 year anniversary.


Email is hard

Email is hard. We get a lot of it, and if your like me, you might have a tendency to want to use it in ways that just aren’t productive.

Over the years I’ve found that less is more, although I still have a long way to go before I master this. I also try really hard not to broach new subjects via email or attempt to deal with something in its entirety. Email is good for updates, reminders, organizing and small questions. Email is really bad for conversations, debates, collaboration and relationships.

I have a tendency to think I’m a really bad emailer, and once in a while I’m pleasantly surprised to learn that other people are much worse.

Take this email written by Sarah Palin for example. It breaks pretty much all the rules. I would have thought she would be a bit more savvy and avoiding sending something like this.

From: Sarah 

To: Scott Heyworth Cc: Todd Palin 

Sent: Friday, January 06, 2006 10:19 AM 

Subject: Todd’s son 


Todd just told me you had spoken with him awhile back and reported that some law enforcement friends of yours claimed some dumbass lie about Track not being Todd’s son? This really, really disgusts me and ticks me off. 

I want to know right now who said it, who would ever lie about such a thing this is the type of bullshit lie about family that WILL keep me from running for Governor. I hate this kind of crap. I thought it was bad enough that my kids have been lied about recently regarding illegal activities that they had NO part in whatsoever. But a stupid claim like one of our kids isn’t fathered by Todd? 

I want to know NOW what this latest b.s. is all about because I want to get to the bottom of this garbage rumor mill. People who lie like this may know me well enough to KNOW THAT I WILL ALWAYS PUT FAMILY FIRST, AND IF UGLY LIES LIKE THIS ARE BELIEVED BY ANYONE AND ADVERSELY AFFECT MY HUSBAND AND KIDS I WILL PULL OUT OF THE RACE BECAUSE IT’S NOT WORTH IT—AT ALL—TO LET MY FAMILY BE VICTIMS OF DARK, UGLY POLITICS LIKE THIS. 


If you ever find yourself writing something like this, do yourself a favour and never send it.


A tie is a tie…

Reading an interview with Noel Gallagher, formerly of Oasis, I’m reminded of a very important (and obvious) and difficult to practice, lesson.

State of mind is so important.

Noel uses the example of a tie game in football…

“Let’s say you’re behind with two minutes to go and you come back to tie the game. It almost feels like you’ve won. Right? But let’s say you’ve been ahead the whole game and you allow the opponent to tie things up in the final two minutes. Then it feels like you’ve lost. But the fact of the matter is it’s still a fucking tie. The only difference is perception.”

- Noel Gallagher, Oasis

In practice, this means knowing the difference between the past and the future. In the past, you may have been leading the game, or losing the game. Now, all that matters is that the score is tied. The only thing you can change is what happens in the future.

Whether you win or lose is very much up to you.


2 Yrs 3 Mos 3 Wks 6 Days 18 Hrs 34 Mins 59 Secs*

(For some reason, this entry, originally dated December 16, 2003 is missing from the archives. Its an important part of my story, so I thought I should repost it.)

Spring, 1986. I was 14 going on 15. I had just moved to a new school and had made new friends. Like most kids that age, I was starting to figure out that the world was full of all sorts of things that I hadn’t yet experienced. I tried to take in as much as I could. And in the process, I did something really stupid.

I took up smoking.

Of course, it started out almost innocently. A puff here, a puff there, but before the school year was out, I was very much a smoker and there was no looking back.

Fast forward to fall of 2002. By my reckoning, I had smoked 6.23 miles of cigarettes over a 16 year period. I had been a smoker longer than I’d been a non-smoker. I’d spent over $52,000 feeding my habit.

In mid-September, I decided to make a change for the better. I quit four times on September 12 and just as many times every day for the next ten days or so. Going cold turkey was becoming my new habit but I realized quickly that this was the only way that I was going to make my quit stick. Soon enough, where I had been slipping every few hours, I was slipping every few days.

Until December 16, 2002.

I will never forget walking up to the office that morning. I had just come from the airport, “fresh” off a red-eye from Amsterdam and I was dying for a cigarette – or so I thought. I hadn’t had one for two days at that point, so the urge to have one was pretty high. The patch had evened out the cravings, but seeing Chuck Daminato hanging around the front door of the office with a butt hanging out of his mouth was too much for me to bear. I asked him for one, he obliged and I didn’t disappoint him.

I got about half way through the smoke and realized that I really didn’t want it – but I finished it anyways. Thankfully, that was the last cigarette that I had. Today marks one year as a newly reformed smoker. I’m not past the addiction yet – I think its a lot like alcoholism. There is no such thing as an ex-smoker any more than there are ex-drunks.

My name is Ross and I’m a smoker. I had my last cigarette 365 days ago…

The last year has been good to me. Once I quit smoking it began to dawn on me that my health was my problem and I was the only one that could do something about it. In late April when I had this epiphany, I weighed 240+ pounds. I started with biking. By the end of May I had made enough progress that I knew that I needed a new bike in order to keep making gains with my health. So I bought one – and managed to put over 1200 kilometres on it between June and the end of September.

This is a far sight better than my last attempt at getting in shape – before I quit smoking. Sometime during the winter of 2001/2002 I decided that I was going to start jogging. I got suited up, headed outside and made it less than 100 yards down the street before I realized that there was strong likelihood I was going to die before I got to the end of the block. I crawled back home and didn’t talk about it to anyone.

But not this time. Quitting smoking made all the difference in the world. I bike throughout the summer and into the fall putting on anywhere between 15 and 40 km per day, five days out of seven. With the colder weather, I just moved my exercise indoors with a gym membership. I started off simply enough – just keeping up with the cycling that I had started out with. The single activity workouts didn’t last long as I started exploring new equipment. Soon enough I was lifting weights, cycling, rowing and a whole slew of other exercises.

I also adopted a new diet. Nothing faddish or anything, just good common sense courtesy of the Mayo Clinic. Lots of fruits and vegetables and not a lot of meat and empty carbs. The new menu gave me the energy I needed to do more at the gym and also got me on the track of dropping pounds.

This morning, I got up at 5am, had a banana yogurt shake and was at the gym by 6:00. After my warmup, I did 15 miles on the stationary bike and then got right into a 5 mile run. After my run, I worked through my weight routine and was back home by 8:00. When I got back, I hopped on the scale and weighed in at 189 pounds.

I’ve been a reformed smoker for roughly 6% of the time I was a smoker. I’ve saved over $3,300. I’ve probably added at least ten years to my lifespan. I no longer feel dragged out all the time, need less sleep and have a much clearer head.

Living is much more interesting than dying. I just wish that more people would clue into this.

If you want to quit and need someone to lean on, be sure to drop me a note.

Cigarette Smoking-Related Mortality (United States)

  • Cigarette smoking is the single most preventable cause of premature death in the United States. Each year, more than 400,000 Americans die from cigarette smoking. In fact, one in every five deaths in the United States is smoking related. Every year, smoking kills more than 276,000 men and 142,000 women.
  • About 10 million people in the United States have died from causes attributed to smoking (including heart disease, emphysema, and other respiratory diseases) since the first Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health in 1964–2 million of these deaths were the result of lung cancer alone.
  • Between 1960 and 1990, deaths from lung cancer among women have increased by more than 400%–exceeding breast cancer deaths in the mid-1980s. The American Cancer Society estimated that in 1994, 64,300 women died from lung cancer and 44,300 died from breast cancer.
  • Men who smoke increase their risk of death from lung cancer by more than 22 times and from bronchitis and emphysema by nearly 10 times. Women who smoke increase their risk of dying from lung cancer by nearly 12 times and the risk of dying from bronchitis and emphysema by more than 10 times. Smoking triples the risk of dying from heart disease among middle-aged men and women.
  • Every year in the United States, premature deaths from smoking rob more than five million years from the potential lifespan of those who have died.
  • On average, smokers die nearly seven years earlier than nonsmokers.
  • Annually, exposure to secondhand smoke (or environmental tobacco smoke) causes an estimated 3,000 deaths from lung cancer among American adults.
  • Scientific studies also link secondhand smoke with heart disease.

* 2 Yrs 3 Mos 3 Wks 6 Days 18 Hrs 34 Mins 59 Secs is the estimated amount of time that I actually spent puffing on the weed to the exclusion of other activities during the 16 years I smoked. In other words, “cumulative time spent smoking”.


The difference ten years makes

I took Amanda out for dinner for her birthday tonight. Being the guest of honor, she got to pick the fare – pizza from around the corner followed by a drive out to Dairy Queen for a Peanut Buster Parfait. The stereotypical pregnant lady smorgasbord, complete with anchovies on the pizza and a request for pickles at the Dairy Queen.

We had a great time. As we ate our ice cream in the parking lot of the DQ, I asked her if she remembered what she did to celebrate her birthday ten years ago. She replied that she vaguely remembered partying in a local pub, drinking one shot for each year of her life. Ouch. I thought it was a pretty funny contrast – ten years does make for quite a difference.

Its almost 9:30 as I write this, and we’re just about to bundle up and off to bed. Ten years ago, we were just getting started.