Mentorship, Parenthood, My Tattoo and the Spousal Karma

Mentorship, Parenthood, My Tattoo and the Spousal Karma

An overnight decision 20 years in the making. It’s my kid’s initials in binary.

I’m getting a lot of blank stares with this one, so I thought I blog it.

geek nerd math tattoo peterborough dolishny rick binary

Indulge me while I take a moment to explain this one. Family, friends and colleagues are finding my latest project a little unusual and out of character, and I’m struggling to describe the orgin and motivation for this body art on the fly.


Since going through the PMI mentorship program during my recent career pivot as a digital project manager, and now as a mentor with the New Canadians Centre and Dreamcatcher Mentoring, I’ve found I can identify a few mentors in my life that have made me the person that I am today.

Going way back to the 90’s, I was privileged enough to attend a workshop sponsored by Softimage Montreal hosted by Tim Miller from startup animation studio Blur from Los Angeles. Blur has just broken through with a few groundbreaking animated project that shook up the industry. Here was a startup with real guts and edge, and it was headed by the colourful language boss Tim Miller. ‘Gopher Broke’ and ‘In The Rough’ were doing the festival circuit, and I as thrilled to get a seat at what I remembered to be a fairly exclusive workshop. Long story short, what I remembered most was his creativity, work ethic, near celebrity personality, and his tattoo.

Best shot I can find of Blur’s Tim Miller’s tattoo.

I had seen tattoos along the arm before, but his was a real standout. From under his shirt to his wrist, but most of all being in the audience I noticed the elbow to the wrist. Since then, I noticed similar artwork on the right (or left, if a southpaw) arm of many visual effect artists I worked with. Most did a line, or incorporated symbols to create the illusion of a line, but the idea was that anyone watching a VFX artist work would be drawn to his arm. Most of time you sit next to the artist, and that might be all you see of him or her.

Desire Fawn’s Oxytocin… and tea.

Additional credit is due to Peterborough businesswoman and doula Désirée Fawn for her amazing chemistry tattoo (right). I forget the chemical, but it’s what’s released into the bloodstream as a woman is giving birth. I’m looking for a link to a picture of it online. I understand this is the chemical a woman’s body generates during child birth. It’s truly is astonishing.

Another Peterborough business owner I admire is David Blondel, and his fascinating sleeve artwork. I have to ask him the origins of his work.

Taken to an extreme is the late artist/coder/developer/body art evangelist and personal mentor Shannon Larratt. While his piercings, body manipulation, and tattoos were unsettling, I admired his creativity and technical proficiency and blogged about his work myself, and was saddened to hear of his reported suicide.

Finally as a mentor myself, I coach students in Canada’s far north, and I’m paired with students with a penchant for art or creativity. If they’re not pursuing video game development (which I endorse 100%), the second most popular career consideration is tattoo artist.

Tattoos keep coming back into my mentoring life. In fact, the more I think of people I respect and admire, what’s common with most if the existence of a prominent tattoo.


I’m not exactly sure how the idea of a series of numbers, and binary at that, came to be. But the origins of being able to read and write and do binary math and so forth definitely goes back to my days as a Computer Science student at Assumption High School in Windsor. Programming in assembly language on the PET and Commodore 64, required a knowledge of 1’s and 0’s and PEEKing and POKEing the values to move a program forward.

Then in about 2004 with all of my kids born somewhere I made the connection of a tattoo line, initials, and binary code. When I told people I had a ‘retro’ computer code idea they thought of vintage computer logos (like the original Apple logo), or (heaven forbid) a QR code. I never considered that. I knew all along it would be binary, my kids would work into it, and it would appear like a line from afar.

Then I was involved in a car accident in May of 2014, and I took inventory of some of the things I’ve always wanted to do. The tattoo came up again (my wife has known about this idea forever) and she was totally on board with everything (see below).

What Does My Tattoo Mean?

This is defined as a 2D array data type. By this, there are 2 dimensions. In my case, my tattoo consists of one dimension as the parent, and the 2nd dimension are my kids. Thus:

R[B, M, J]

… is an array called Rick made up of the first inital of my kid’s names. The square brackets are important as they tell the compiler we’re dealing with an array and not a mathematical function.

In programming, if I wanted to find out the name of the 2nd child of Rick, I’d define A as:


… and the result would be ‘Kid Number 2’.

Keep in mind this is 6502 Assembly and may not be entirely correct at that, but it’s how I remember it. A check with Wikipedia confirms my spotty math.

So, taking my logic into one level of obscurity, we get the initials:


… and ASCII equivalent in decimal further convolutes the message:


… and finally in machine-ready binary:


The Curse of the Spouse Tattoo

Until the night before I struggled with creating possibly a 3D array, enveloped by me, then my wife, then the kids. Or just my wife and kids as a 2D array, modified. But I admit I scared myself out of that one, not for fear of regret (we’re celebrating our 20th anniversary this year after all) but I didn’t need the bad karma to come. After all, this is in reaction to some pretty bad news after that car accident. Some tattoo artists won’t even do your spouse. So rather than risk the potential future bad luck, I swapped out the S for an R. This tattoo is a celebration of success and happiness, not something to blame a future unknown problem on.

Susan’s happy, and in fact she got the kids initials on her own design the same day. I’m really proud of her for going through with it, and being brave with her decision to use the inside of her wrist: a very painful part of the body we now know!

As for me, I loved the tattoo experience. I almost fell asleep it was so enjoyable and comfortable.

I’d like to thank Justin at Mike’s Tattoo in Peterborough for his excellent work, keeping things straight, and respecting my need to keep the numbers accurate.

I dare say I’d do it again!

EDIT: while researching the back story I came across this recent (2014) video tour of Blur’s new studio, with plenty of Tim. Funny, I hear him talk here and it reminds me of that animation demo many years ago. And the tattoos look great.

Chaos Group Studio Tour: Blur Studio from ChaosGroupTV on Vimeo.