On Thursday, I adopted a 45 pound pit bull mix from The Oregon Humane Society. He was a stray in California that was brought up to Portland and was listed without much history. Jackson, I named him due to a flecking of white spots across his black face, like loose paint splattered by a painter. He was calm and friendly at the shelter, a quiet solid dog disinclined to distraction and play. His only obvious problem a swollen scrotum as a complication of his neutering contained a hematoma, that I was told was unlikely to be an issue.

On the…


Last time I ran around Loowit, last July, I got lost at Windy Pass, meandered off trail through the blast zone, lost a water bottle, got super dehydrated through a long afternoon of 95 degrees in full sun, and eventually finished back at June Lake humbled by the trail.

The Loowit Trail feels to me like a negotiation with a landscape that is unsettled. A lap around a mountain that turned a forest into a pumice desert less than forty years ago. …


A friend died last week at the age of 38. He had his first and last heart attack.

Death is something that tempts us to make sense of. It tempts us to say things about how someone could have lived longer if they were not who they were. Or if there was a cure for their condition, they would still be with us. Death tempts us to defy death, the finality of it, the injustice of it.

My friend talked about death a lot. He was afraid of death like nobody else I know. He was afraid to die by…


The Radical Mycology Convergence is a biannual gathering of mycophiles that moves around the country, but this year happened to be a short drive from my house in Portland, Oregon. I registered without much of an agenda because it looked fun, affordable, and likely to be a like-minded community. Rather than write about specific facts I learned, or specific things I did, I’m going to reflect on some themes and feelings from the event.

Apologies up front for not citing who presented specific ideas. I didn’t take any written notes the whole time. …


During the process of deciding to move I’ve had a lot of people ask why, and in almost every case, because I’m a bad or impatient storyteller, I summarize that I want to live somewhere with more access to the outdoors. This is true, but its not a satisfactory answer for how unnatural it is to move away from a comfortable life in a nice city near most of my family.

Over the last few years, I’ve read a lot of accounts of people moving away from Chicago. Away, being the operative tone, as though Chicago has wronged them. Chicago…


Four months ago I made it my new years resolution to make empathy a core trait in my engineering. Here are some things that I’ve done since:

  • Formally made WCAG (web content accessibility guidelines) a requirement for all Vokal web projects and worked with design and QA to make sure everyone was on board. This will guarantee the team’s work is accessible to the broadest audience.
  • Rolled WCAG validation into CI for web projects at Vokal which included publishing protractor-axs to npm.
  • Opened a pull request to fix WCAG violating contrast issues on nodejs.org. This fit in nicely with the…

In art, it is hard to know when you are done. After all, what does it mean to be done creating something when you can just keep on creating more of it? Artists, like software engineers, do not finish, but only decide to be done when their work is in balance.

Most of the artists I know make sketches before moving into their final medium, whether that is paint or sculpture. Sure, some geniuses seem to just sit down at their canvases and knock out great paintings, but that isn’t common. …


Back in the day, I was really into art. I’d spend lunches in high school painting in the art room while I ate. Then, I went to Savannah College of Art and Design to study computer art, which was mostly 3D animation. For the most part, I have not used the specific skills I acquired in art toward building software, with one notable exception.

I build software the way that I was taught to draw and paint. My first goal with software is always to create a sketch. That usually looks like some specs, or a rough test plan. From…


Let’s admit that if you don’t have a new email in your inbox right now, you will in 30 minutes. If it is a work day, maybe that is more like 5 minutes. You get a lot of email, and you have to look at all of it to figure out if it is important. Most email you just delete, because it is junk or some heads up that doesn’t require any reply.

If your job requires any skill, then you are more productive when you can work without interruptions until you reach natural breaks. …

Jarrett Widman

Nerd

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