Cobolhacker, aka Robert J. Young, died on December 6, 2010 with family by his side. He will never be forgotten.

Robert J. Young
December 22, 1973 – December 6, 2010

With many thanks: Marcy, Erik & Wil

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The Pattern

Phil Collins once wrote:

There’s too many men
Too many people
Making too many problems
And not much love to go around
Can’t you see we’re in a land of confusion?

He wrote that in the 80s but it still rings true to this day.

I’ve never really admitted it to anyone until recently but one of my hobbies is trying to find The Pattern. I’ve been at it since the early nineties.

I first started to identify this ‘thing’, a pattern of behaviour the human race seemed to have. There is no official name for it – I just call it “The Pattern”. It’s little malfunctional practises the human race seems to have regarding society which are slowly destroying it.

At first, I hung around on a BBS with similar minded types who thought the world was going down the toilet. Some of them hippies, some of them commies, some of them tin foil hatters. Still, lots of good ideas there. But as the years went on their numbers dwindled and finally the admin decided to shut the board down. His wife was expecting and he just didn’t have time anymore. His last words to me were “Don’t worry. Keep your head down and stay busy.” Been so long now I don’t even remember his name.

Those words haunt me. I’ve been obsessed with uncovering the riddle of The Pattern ever since. At first you could find plenty of people to talk to, but after a time all I could find were political types, religious goons, nutters, and full-on fucking fuckwits. Now and again you do find someone insightful, but for the most part, people tend to keep their heads down and stay busy. I was effectively working alone.

Look at the world. It is fucked. War. Economic hardship. Pollution. Terrorism. Fanaticism. Quarrelling over diminishing resources. Bailouts. Austerity. Politicians fancying themselves as movie stars. It never seems to get better, why?

You can’t solve the problems of the world, Bob. This is the standard response of a health care provider. I’m sure they even have a name for my ‘condition’ and a bunch of cute little pills to make it go away. It is what they’ve been taught to say and do. Pattern right there. They have to do those things, otherwise they get fired.

I refuse to believe I am wrong. You can’t just ignore it, I want to, everyone wants to, but I can’t. Someone has to at least identify the problem and then maybe a solution can be found.

All kinds of people claim they are trying to fix the world but it’s for politics, religion, power, fame, cash. I don’t want any of those things. I just want to help. But my time on this planet is running out.

For 15 years I’ve poured over reports, news articles, charts, tables and the like and I’ve come up with little. I’m not smart enough. I’m starting to lose the will to go on. It would seem The Pattern is winning. It knows I have doubts. It is taunting me to keep my head down and stay busy just like everyone else.

I talked to an old hippie associate I know and he said it was pointless these days. He didn’t use these exact words but what he basically said was “Just keep your head down and stay busy.” All the heavy shit he went through in the ’60s and he’d given up and figured I should do the same. How bad is that?

I will not stop trying to find a solution. Not until I’m dead.

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The Bleeding Cop

I have this nightmare every now and again.

It’s night and I’m fooling around with a telescope down by the visitor centre by the river. The moon is full and the sky is clear. The telescope is not mine, it was just set up there. It’s also not calibrated properly so I’m trying to fix it so I can look at the moon. A bicycle policeman shows up.

He’s friendly, I explain that the scope is not mine, but I was trying to fix it, wasn’t trying to steal it. He accepts this answer and suggests we pack it up and take it to the station and call the owner, though I don’t know how he could know that. We start to break down the scope and pack it up in its bag.

I notice his right hand is cut in a number of places and bleeding. Hey, you’re bleeding, mate. I’m dressed as I usually do at work, so I pull out a shop towel out of my right top pocket and give it to him. He puts it on the wounds. The towel is quickly soaked in blood. He looks puzzled and in distress.

The blood starts to really gush out and soon he is bleeding from previously unseen cuts everywhere. He falls to his knees and I try to help him but his body quickly falls apart into a bloody pile surrounded by his gear and uniform. I can feel the blood soaking into my pants and clothes.

Then I wake up from the nightmare.  No idea what it means.

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The things you can't fix

It gets harder to get up every day.

Every bump, every cut, every effort… you look at yourself in the mirror in the morning and realize that it is all starting to pile up. I look at my beat up hands, slashed from a recent job, and look at the person in the mirror. He looks so tired, so sad. Is that me? That can’t be me.

The warmth of the shower makes you feel good, but only for a while. My wife joins me there. It’s not a sexual thing per se, she just likes to have me wash her hair and hold her while the warm water pours over us. Intimacy… Bliss… but you have to get out at some point, and then you feel cold and alone again.

I have a job to do today. I should be happy about this, but I’m not. It’s a bullshit gig and should have never happened in the first place. But hey, it’s 150 bucks and I need the money.

The body is tired, even though it’s slept for 9 hours. Putting on my uniform is tough. I never used to think of it like that, but it is. The heavy jeans, t-shirt, work shirt, safety boots, hat; I realize I wear the same thing every day. Practical, I guess. I carefully load all of my stuff into my various pockets. Ready to go.

It is an effort to get out of the chair. Not physically, but mentally. I don’t want to deal with it today. But I must. There are no holidays for me, just work.

Only work.

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Festival Hydro Stole My Sharpie

Getting back from a very physical job I’m tired and find a Festival Hydro truck parked in my spot. Great. It means two things: I now have to park in someone else’s spot and that there is probably something fucked with the electricity in the building. I see this older electrician dude.

“What is broken?”

“Oh nothing, I’m just changing the meters to a new smart ones. I’m about to do this ‘Chamber of Commerce’ one next,” he said.

Chris, the Xerox guy (yes, his office is in the electrical room), looks bored.

“That’s mine, actually. They haven’t been here in 10 years. Before you drop it let me open the shop and turn off a few things.”

He agrees to this so I do it and tell him. Meter gets changed. Afterwards, the electrician suggests that we put proper names on all the cabinets. He asks for a marker so I give him the one I keep in my right breast pocket and tell him to drop it off at the shop when he’s done.

I went back and slogged in my chair. 10 minutes later I realize that the guy has not returned so I go to rear hallway and the truck is gone.

“Chris? That guy left?”

“Yeah. Why? He went to see you, yeah?”

“No he didn’t. He just stole my Sharpie! You don’t do that to a guy.”

Grrr. That marker and I had a lot of good times together. I have plenty of other sharpies, but loosing that one was like loosing a friend. So Festival Hydro – you owe me a new Sharpie!


(no worries hydro guy, I’ve got plenty more markers).

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The Danish Girl

I walk past the Small-Mart and notice a pretty, brown-haired girl opening it up so I ask her, “Are you new?” I like to keep track of who works in the building, not necessarily by name, but visually, just in case I find them wandering around the building. That and all the Small-Mart girls are easy on the eyes.

But then I realize, she’s not new, she just changed her hair. “You used to be blond, didn’t you?”

“Yes. A friend and I dyed it,” she said, but seemed pleased that I noticed. Ah, Canadian girls, always changing it up. I thought little of it and went to work.

A few days later I was doing random building cleaning stuff and she started setting up their displays. She seemed a bit grim (I thought) so I gave her a compliment, “I have decided, you look better as a brunette.”

She thanked me for that. I asked her if they intend to leave the doors in the hallway open during the winter because I don’t want to shovel snow out of here.

“I don’t think so, but I’m only here for four more days. Then I’m going back home.”

“Where’s that?”


I’m absolutely stunned by this, I always just assumed she was a local. She looks like a local. Talks like a local. I said to her, “You don’t sound Danish. Your language and accent are impeccable.”

We got to talking and she explained that Danish children are taught English at a young age along with Danish. She actually knew something like five languages. I ruefully told her they tried to teach me French once, but failed.

She was now feeling quite talkative. Even though she was all of 21, she was a seasoned world traveller. She had come to Canada on a work visa to be with her Canadian boyfriend. She told me about Denmark, all kinds of things, their Royal Family, the land, taxes (she was puzzled about the HST, I guess in Denmark taxes are built right in). I also learned that Denmark has liquor laws like Nevada – you can drink wherever you want. She had made the mistake once of buying a drink at the LCBO and drinking it while walking down the street. In Denmark this is apparently what you do when you walk to a friend’s house for a party (pubs are expensive there).

She intends to go back to Denmark and work, taking her boyfriend with her (at least until his visa runs out). They can stay with her parents, rent free.

I told her about some of my world travelling experiences but that I preferred Canada. She really liked Canada, though found the politics odd and didn’t realize that Canada had a monarchy too.

“This is in part because our government is dumb. Queen is nice, government is dumb.”

I enjoyed the chat-up but both of us had to get to work but she did leave with a smile. So, you still got it Bob, even with European girls.

On her last day I realized I had no idea what her name was so I asked and she told me.

“I finally get to know you and you’re leaving the country, what a bummer. They should throw a party for you,” I said

“Oh no, they don’t need to do that… I’ll be back next summer.” And she smiled.


Don’t worry nameless boyfriend, I’m not going to steal your girl (I don’t think she realizes I’m nearly old enough to be her dad, anyway). Still, you might want to hold on to her.

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45 things to know about the future


1) It’s going to get worse

No silver linings and no lemonade. The elevator only goes down. The bright note is that the elevator will, at some point, stop.

– Douglas Coupland

Way too much of this article rings true to my ears, almost like Douglas and I are sharing a brain in some strange way.  A good number of things in there are the very things in my nightmares.  Don’t read it if you get upset easily.  But read it if you want to be prepared.  Then read this if you really want a slightly more optimistic take on the future.

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