Yet Another New Year

Well, I survived 2021, another crappy COVID year. Three cheers for me.

2021 was marked by four deaths. The first off was my dad. He died in February of “general geriatric decline” (old age) and I have been dealing with his estate ever since. It’s mostly settled with a few irritating exceptions. Just try closing a joint saving account in another country when both account holders are deceased. The frigging Royal Bank of Canada, yeah, I am naming names, has been trying to paper-work me to death but they’re tangling with the wrong cowboy. It’s now personal, I will keep at this, even though it’s a small amount of money, just to piss them off. 

A few months after dad’s death my aunt Alberta Drake died. I wasn’t particularly close to Alberta, but it annoyed me that I learned of her death second-hand. Later I learned, by inspecting her husband Bill’s grave in Livingston Montana, that my cousins did not bury Alberta beside him. It’s dead obvious, forgive the pun, that she wanted to be with Bill. I would crawl over BLM riot debris to honor my mother’s wishes, but apparently, others feel differently.

Alberta Bernice (Eggar) Drake (1939-2021). My aunt Alberta posing in a bubble bath. Alberta died in early 2021. I belatedly learned of her death from my brother. I will miss Alberta. I know she suffered from recurring bouts of depression and spent much of her life Yo-Yo dieting. However, for me, she was a fun aunt. Goodbye Alberta.

Roger Hui was the next to go. Roger was a gifted programmer and a cocreator with Ken Iverson of the J programming language.  I knew and worked with Roger. He was my age, to the year, and, like me, a graduate of the University of Alberta. I first heard of Roger when interviewing for a job at I. P. Sharp Associates in Edmonton in the early 1980’s. My soon-to-be boss said Roger was the best coder he had ever met. He was certainly among the best I’ve ever met. I use J almost every day, so it’s fair to say that Roger has impacted my thinking more than most people on this planet. Roger died of cancer. I didn’t know he was ill, and his death bugged me more than I would have expected. Rest in peace Roger.

Roger Hui (1953-2021) cocreator of the J programming language

The last to go was my ex-brother-in-law, Ian Dubin.  Ian is the older brother of my first wife Ruth Dubin. I met Ian in 1978. He came to Barbados to attend our wedding. I liked him right from the start. Ian was generous, smart, fun, and an all-around great guy, but he had a nasty side. Like his father, he was an alcoholic. For many years the drinking was just fun. God knows I didn’t do anything to slow him down, and looking back, my most memorable drunk ever was partly Ian’s doing.  When Ian’s father died, he flew in from Hong Kong with a huge bottle of Cognac. We met him at the Toronto airport and went to our hotel where we drank until I was nearly comatose. The next day I puked up in the hearse on the way to his dad’s burial. Talk about making an impression on the relatives! After the funeral, I learned that Ian, who drank far more than me, didn’t puke up anything and was largely functional. Drinking is like everything; you get better with practice. As the years rolled on the drinking slowly ruined and then claimed Ian’s life. My last interaction with Ian was another dispute about UFOs. He was a firm believer in alien UFOs, predynastic Egyptian civilizations, and other crank notions. You couldn’t argue with him about his nutty beliefs without angering him. Near the end, I just ignored certain topics. It’s always astonished me that intelligent well-educated people can believe utter nonsense. Ian’s UFO obsession was like Conan Doyle’s belief in fairies: completely ridiculous to hard-ass skeptics like me.  We’ll miss you, Ian. Thanks for many great times.

Ian Dubin (1951-2021) on a fishing boat off the coast of Barbados in 1978.

Aside from seeing off more people than usual in 2021, I also beavered away on my little projects. I was foolish enough to publicly declare my plans so let’s go through my 2021 TODO list and eat some crow.

  1. Update JOD to handle J’s new direct definitions. Finished.
  2. Print this blog as an ISBN’ed book. I didn’t even start this task.
  3. Write at least 50 blog posts. Big miss!
  4. Upload at least 250 well-captioned images to my SmugMug picture site. I didn’t hit 250, but I came close enough. Finished.
  5. Learn more about the RUST programming language and write some RUST binaries that can be called from J or Python. I did learn more about RUST but so far, no callable binaries. Miss.
  6. Read at least twenty books. Finished.
  7. Work through at least three math-intense books. I read three math-intense books. I’m going to give myself this one. Finished.
  8. Make another pass at learning and using proof assistants like LEAN. I have set up LEAN on a macOS machine and started using it. I still have much to learn, but I’m making steady progress. Finished.

I managed five out of eight tasks: not particularly good or bad – C student stuff. I also achieved the last implied item on my list: stay alive. In my next post, I will lay out my plans for 2022. Restrain yourselves!

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