• The End

    My sabbatical is officially (almost) over. It’s time to drop the habit of spending 6 hours a day reading and commenting on Hacker News and other sites, stop playing those video games, and reading books. I’m happy that I finally finished the 10 realms books last night…

    This sabbatical has been a fantastic joy. It’s a reminder of my childhood summers, spending time with friends, wandering the world, and learning things you’d never learn in any kind of institution. I managed to complete a few goals, including some private ones. Somehow, I didn’t manage to ever get around to gardening… so there is currently a jungle in the backyard, complete with grapes and everything.

    I’m looking forward to being back at work and meeting up with my teammates over the next couple of days in Slack and Zoom. I haven’t dared to step into my old office in months, but I did take a peek. It’s a disaster area in there, so that will probably be my first task of the day. Cleaning up my office and figuring out how to boot up my work computer.

    Will I do this again? A once young, now old (ha!) teacher once said: “we are only the memories we leave behind.” I find that the free time I had really let me spend some quality time — maybe too much at times — with the people I love. So, I’m going to have to say, “maybe.” My son will be 13 going on 14 the next time I have this opportunity. At his current age, he actually wants to hang out with me and do things together, so I will truly treasure the memories we’ve made this summer. In another 5 years, I highly doubt he’d want to spend so much time together…

    So, we’ll see.

    Anyway, I still have 45 minutes left of my sabbatical. Time to go back to that game I really shouldn’t be playing…

    Love you all,


  • 3 weeks remaining

    There are only a few weeks of my sabbatical left, most of which will be spent in Ireland.

    I haven’t been around to type too much, heh; even my coding basically stopped, and the open source projects I was helping out with were starting to wonder where I’d gone off to… Well, I was still alive. I hope that is obvious as you’re reading that 🙂 but I tore a tendon in my arm. That basically made most typing fairly difficult, so I just stayed away from typing and played video games instead.

    Also, the last half of my sabbatical was dedicated to my family and friends. I’ve spent a ton of time with my family. My sister even made it here for a week … and holy hell, was that an adventure.

    Time has flown by, and I’ve sincerely treasured having a “summer vacation” as my 30s start winding down. I can’t wait to see what this is like in my 40s.

    There are so many stories from the last few months … I’ll have to tell you them over a few beers; just ask me about the stink bomb.

  • 1/3 gone…

    If you’re expecting a long post, you might want to skip this one.

    My sabbatical has been a blast, but I can feel the time trickling through my fingers. I’ve been up to some really fun things and I’m currently working on an RFC for PHP, the language. Stay tuned for that.

    Other than that, my son and I have been building a really cool Minecraft world. We’re almost finished with a gigantic castle.

    Life is chill.

    I can’t complain.

    The next couple of months is going to be insane, where there will be a lot of traveling. I’m looking forward to it.

    See you all again in a few weeks…

  • The first real week

    Today marks the end of my first week back home, and just chilling on sabbatical. Don’t get it twisted, though; I’ve been pretty busy — cough, I just got back from the local equivalent of Turkish Baths, chilling in warm pools all day, cough…

    Seriously though, I entered the sabbatical knowing I would be working on at least one of five projects I’ve had in my “things I would do if I had infinite time” list. In this case, it’s been working on a “new” (as in, nobody has ever actually tried implementing it before) way to do witness encryption. It’s the equivalent of putting something in an envelope and giving it to a trusted third party to give to someone in the event X happens: only with witness encryption, a trusted third party isn’t required. The encryption is basically programmable such that you can only decrypt it when X happens, instead of requiring a secret key.

    Witness encryption is nothing new (it’s been around at least 10 years), but existing implementations have many problems, and I have a few ideas I want to explore. Maybe it will work out, and that would be pretty awesome … or perhaps it won’t, and I learned a ton about some math I’ve always had my eye on.

    I almost thought my idea wasn’t going to work, and I gave myself until 2 am yesterday to figure out why I was getting nonsensical results. I managed to find and resolve the issue at 1:59 am. I spent all day and long into the night just hunting through code, looking for what I knew to be an integer overflow issue. I just managed to spot it as I was closing my laptop … after reading it 1,000 times.

    This project has until next Wednesday to come through, then it is on to another “infinite time” project, which I’ve been curious about for nearly a decade. If that works, you’d literally be able to go to the moon on a tank of gas (or a fully charged Tesla) and have flying cars. There’s no way to prove it does or doesn’t work with physics because it causes a division by 0 if you try to work it out. But anyway, I really want to see what happens… according to a simulation I wrote nearly 5-6 years ago, it works. I feel it won’t work in the real world, though, which is how it got on this list… I just have to see what happens now that I have time to dedicate to trying wacky ideas. Who knows, maybe it does work?

    If this cryptology project does pan out, I’ll probably write a paper, do a cryptoanalysis, create a website, and open-source it. That’ll take more time than until next Wednesday.

    In reflection, I found this first week interesting and “lonely.” I’m used to interacting with my team daily, helping people solve problems, and being part of a community at work. That community is “on hold” for the moment, and that’s where the “loneliness” comes from. I know I’ll eventually find a new community to be a part of; it just takes time.

    Speaking of time, I feel like time has flown by. In just a few weeks, my sister will be visiting, and then a few weeks after that, we’ll be going to Ireland for a couple of weeks, and then it is back to work. It’s crazy how time flies!

  • Starting in a whirlwind

    Starting in a whirlwind

    Today, as I type this, I’m sitting in my friend’s kitchen in Charleston, South Carolina; the first unplanned day of my sabbatical. In just six days, it has been a whirlwind of travel, family and friends, and so much more.

    Just this past weekend, I watched my youngest sister get married. It was so nice to spend some time with the parts of the Landers Clan that could make it. I just wish we could have spent more time together! Especially my brother, sister-in-law, and their son.

    From there, we made it to Charleston for my wife’s birthday yesterday. That was a blast! She really enjoyed spending some time with friends.

    There are still a few more days to go here, when my wife’s family arrives. I’m excited to see my in-laws (which is a pretty rare sentiment lol).

    If you follow my blog, you may recall that we originally were planning on only spending a year in the Netherlands when we moved nearly four years ago. Well, today we went to our storage unit and started going through boxes. There were quite a few emotional moments when we stumbled on some of our son’s old toys. He was three when we moved, so he wasn’t really interested in any of them today. But damn, seeing that stuff was an unexpected punch in the gut. There were entire memories that had gotten lost in the sands of time.

    I managed to collect my drill bits and some other tools, along with a few electronic guts from my airplane drones (like the remote camera equipment and GPS electronics — about $1k worth of wires and circuit boards). I’d really love to get back into that since moving to the Netherlands put that entire hobby on hold. I have no idea what the regulations are there, but that is what Google is for.

    Most people like to fly the little helicopters, but me, personally, prefer leisurely flying high up, just crusing around. There’s nothing quite like putting the goggles on and seeing the ground far under your feet.

    Beyond all the things I’m looking forward to in the next few days, I’m especially looking forward to being home.

  • T minus 2 days

    I find it rather funny that just over a week ago, I had no idea what I’d be doing. Yet I’ve spent most of every evening in the last week trying to implement an algorithm specified in a paper from 2016, that was technologically impossible in 2016. Today, it is technologically possible, at least in theory.

    So, I’ve been reading the papers it references while trying to wrap my brain around latices, prime order finite fields, RFC 3526, and various other random details (that’s a pun no one will probably decipher). I’ve always been fascinated with encryption, but never from an implementation perspective. Implementing an equation as code is some of the most fun I’ve had in decades.

    I guess I know what I am probably going to be doing on my sabbatical now…

    Not long ago, people at Automattic would take regular vacation leading up to their sabbatical. I totally get why people would just go early. Maybe someone(s) abused it or something, because that is no longer allowed. Basically, I have Monday to get anything done I want done. After that, it’s very impractical to start anything my last day. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a few things I want to get done and/or settled before heading out, but if I really, really wanted to, I could have gotten it done last week. Yet then, I’d have nothing to do on Monday/Tuesday. 🙂

    With the general winding down and preparing for sabbatical, I’ve come to realize just how burnt out I actually was. I’d been running on fumes for quite awhile now, and didn’t even bother to let myself know. It’s been refreshing to not really think about ‘the next project’ and 100% decide for myself to tinker with something vastly different than web software.

    That feeling of rejuvenation — and I’m not even on sabbatical yet — has overwhelmed my original feelings of trepidation. I’m really looking forward to be doing something that is pure fun and no strings attached. If I fail to implement this paper, I walk away with a wealth of interesting knowledge about some obscure niche in cryptology. No one is counting on me completing this, except for me.

    I’m just glad I found something to do on my sabbatical. I’m going to try very hard not to play video games the entire day, every day. Although, I won’t be all that surprised if that is exactly what happens… at some point.

  • Two weeks to go

    In exactly two weeks, I’m not sure what will happen. But for the first time in decades, I won’t have a job to go to. No, I’m not quitting my job and no, I didn’t get fired. For three months, I will be on a paid sabbatical.

    There will be no work for me. There’ll be no waking up, getting a coffee, and sitting down to stare at a screen. There’ll be no team meetings to laugh through. No coworkers to laugh with, no semblance of what life currently is. That both terrifies me and invigorates me.

    When I first started planning to go on sabbatical, I saw it as a “summer vacation” that I haven’t had since 2006. It isn’t a vacation, I can see that now. On a vacation, you fill an itinerary with things to do, people to see, and places to be. No. A sabbatical is a break. It’s a break from the day-to-day, a period of non-work so long that it is impossible to plan. It’s a time to wander, to wonder, and try something new.

    For me, I still have no idea what I’ll be doing. I know there will be a few key moments as I watch my youngest sister get married; a few visitors coming to stay with us; and a few adventures. But I hope to be truly bored at some point.

    I go by the handle withinboredom for a reason. I get bored so very easily, and in that boredom, I solve problems Google has no answer for, explore places most people never bother to go, and most importantly, share those experiences with the world.

    This blog will be that place I share with the world. If you’re going on a sabbatical, this can be your place too, just send an email to rob@sabbaticals.blog and I’ll set you up. But for me, I’m going to try to write here at least weekly. I make no promises… it is a sabbatical afterall.