The website of Adrian Lebar

A Rain of Frogs is written, designed and built by Adrian Lebar, a twenty(!) year veteran of web design and development. He is currently managing the web and mobile development teams at Canada’s largest media site, The Toronto Star.

He is a father, sailor, snowboarder, skier, cyclist, writer, artist, graphic designer, classically trained musician and afraid of heights.

Adrian is not currently available for freelance and contract work. Learn more.


How could this happen? 285 days ago, 0 comments

I was recently asked how I got where I am. It took me long enough to explain that I though I better write it down.

How did a musician and graphic designer become a digital strategist and manager of a team of highly skilled digital technologists at one of Canada’s largest media companies?

I could trace it back to when I got my first account with an Internet Service Provider and my first 28.8k modem in 1994, but it actually goes further back than that.

It began when I was five or six years old, but really got going when I was about nine.

The Blue Computer

Almost as far back as I can remember, we had a computer in the house. I was very young when my father built what I always considered the ‘Blue Computer’ – a foot-tall rack filled with circuit boards and ribbon cables. This was a project he worked on with several of his colleagues at work, electrical engineers and HAM radio operators who could see the future was going to be in bits and chips, not in analog circuits.

It was an 8080 based computer. I know this because there was a 12 inch by 12 inch circuit board dedicated to the central processor, which clearly had the numbers 8080 stamped on it. Several more boards were dedicated to grid upon grid of memory chips, which totalled something like 16 kilobytes of RAM. There was a board dedicated to interfacing with a very clicky keyboard, and another board dedicated to running the tiny monochrome CRT monitor. The rack that housed this monster was painted blue, which is why I thought of it as the Blue Computer.

My father had hauled this computer from Toronto to the interior British Columbia in 1980 when we moved there, and set it up next to all his Heathkit HAM components in his radio room in the basement of the townhouse we lived in there. He packed it up again and moved it back to Toronto in 1981 when the economy collapsed and he had to give up on his western dream in the hard light of needing to feed his family. He had several 4-inch binders filled with photocopied manuals detailing how to program in Assembler.

So I was comfortable with the concept of computers from a very young age but the fact is that I never really did anything with the Blue Computer. It was something my dad played with from time to time, even showed me some of things he could make it do, but it never had much impact on my life other than knowing in a vague way what assembler was. I went on drawing pictures and building increasingly complicated Lego scenes in my basement playroom.


All that changed in 1982 when my father came home from work one evening with an unmarked cardboard box. My curiosity was piqued when he opened it and started pulling out it’s contents.

First came a bag of capacitors, in all sorts of different sizes, shapes and colours. Then an even larger bag full of resistors, hundreds and hundreds of them. Then other things I couldn’t properly identify: sockets, bus bars, spools of wire, ribbon cables and many different connectors. Then a box came out of the box. A low, lean square that, when opened contained several bare circuit boards, each individually wrapped. Then came the piece de resistance: a beige wedge shaped box.

I wasn’t entirely sure what I was looking at at the time, and then he handed me a thick binder full of schematic diagrams and documentation. On the first page was a striped coloured apple with a bite out of it, and futuristic text that said Apple ][+

My father and his colleagues had purchased Apple ][+ clone kits. They were inexpensive compared to the real thing, and even other clones because they came as a box of parts that had to be assembled. They also didn’t come with an official Apple name plate or anything like a ROM chip. Apple hadn’t been able to protect their electronics from copying, but the ROM was covered by copyright so clone makers couldn’t sell them legally. It turned out that this wasn’t going to be an issue for my dad and his friends.

He spent a few weeks pottering around, soldering and building until at last we had something that looked like a computer, missing only that precious ROM chip (and an official name plate, which it never got). But the ROM was being taken care of too. Unlike most consumers or even avid technicians, my father and his colleagues had access to something rare and useful: They had access to a EEPROM (Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory) programming machine.

They were able to not only copy the ROM chip from a borrowed Apple ][+ but even modify it slightly. Once inserted into the socket on the main circuit board (and I swear I heard a choir of angels) my dad snapped the lid closed, ran the RCA cable to the selector switch on the back of the television, and flipped on the switch. The television immediately burst into light, and then almost total darkness. Centred at the top of the screen in place of the stock ‘Apple ][+’ was the word ‘APPLEBAR’, a silly play on our last name. Not only was this now a functioning computer, it had a dad joke displayed on screen every time the thing was turned on.

At the time in order to actually load software onto the computer, one had to attach, via a 1/8” mono audio cable a standard run-of-the-mill cassette player. To say this was slow would be an understatement. This wasn’t good enough for him, so my father acquired a full-height 5-1/4” floppy drive and got it hooked up. With two additional modifications, this clone became the most transformative piece of electronics to ever happen in my life.

First he added two telephone jacks to the ‘chin’ of the machine, to which two ‘paddles’ could be connected via standard telephone cables. These paddles consisted of two bare metal electronic kit boxes with potentiometers and momentary switches. Together they acted as a joystick, one controlling the vertical axis and Button 1, and the other the horizontal axis, and Button 2. This enabled my sister and I to play games like ‘Choplifter’ jointly, though it did take a lot of yelling at each other and teamwork to get any good at it.

Later my father built a real joystick with which both axes could be controlled by one person, and gaming became a different and wonderful experience. I was the first of my friends to have a computer of their own, and we gamed extensively. Lode Runner, Wavy Navy and Transylvania were personal favourites, as were the Ultima and Wizardry games.


I loved digital gaming, but what really fascinated me was the idea of computer graphics. I wanted to draw pictures on the screen like those I saw in games. After pestering my father about learning how to do so, he one day came home with a thick binder again full of photocopied pages. It was a manual for Apple BASIC, and my first introduction into programming.

I spent weeks learning BASIC, and weeks more figuring out how to use it to draw pictures on the screen. I would draw pictures on graph paper, then program out the individual pixels to produce my first digital art. I got pretty good at BASIC too. Control structures and subroutines were interesting. I started writing short text games that mimicked Zork. They were silly, but they were fun and I learned a lot. It was a powerful feeling, being able to make the computer do something I told it to.

Before long several of my friends had computers in their houses too. One of my friends had a very sexy Apple ][c which I always coveted for its tininess and its pretty white case, but most of them had Commodore 64s, which had similar capabilities but a far different operating system. One time a friend and I spent three hours on the phone relaying Sargon chess moves to each other while my Apple ][+ played against his Commodore 64. It was always close, but the Apple won every time. In between moves we talked about how cool it would be if computers could just talk to each other over phone lines instead of him and I needing to translate the moves and type them in. We talked about how we could avoid long distance charges by chaining a bunch of computers together.

Rock Lobster

By 1987, the Apple][+ was no longer enough for me, and I took years of earnings from my newspaper route and with my dad’s assistance purchased an Amiga 500. For those who don’t know their computer history, the Amiga was a groundbreaking combination of hardware and GUI software at a time when monochrome DOS and a clunky keyboard were the primary way people interacted with computers.

It came complete with ‘high-res’ monitor (736×483), 512k memory upgrade to 1MB, a second external 3-1/2” floppy drive, a mouse and an Epson dot matrix printer. And it was code-named ‘Rock Lobster’, which sounded cool to a 14 year old. I remember my dad asking me if I was sure I wanted to spend this much of my money on this kind of computer, one he didn’t know very well. Maybe I would be happier with an ‘IBM compatible’ like the ones he used at work? I assured him this was what I wanted and spent two hard years worth of earnings without a moment of regret.

Several of my friends had upgraded to Amigas from their Commodore 64s so the Amiga was wan easy choice. We could share tips and tricks and not least of all software. It didn’t take us long to figure out how to pirate video games by using an external floppy drive that allowed us to duplicate disks track by track, defeating most common methods of copy protection back then. It wasn’t right, but we were young. At least we figured it out ourselves. One friend even ran a BBS on his Amiga, and we would call into it on our 1200 baud modems to leave messages for each other and play early versions of MUDs.

No line numbers

It was with my Amiga that I was first introduced to the C programming language, and then very rapidly to C++. I had two friends who were heavily into programming and they started showing me the ropes. After coming to grips with the idea that there were no line numbers, I began to catch on. I wasn’t as fast as they were – they were taking computer science classes while I was studying art and music. But I did get it.

I continued writing small text games, which were now a little more involved than my first efforts in BASIC. I also wrote several small utilities that made my computer even more useful. But there were distractions too. With the Amiga, I had access to a painting program called ‘Photon Paint’ which allowed me to draw incredible bitmaps at unheard of resolutions and colour depths on screen without having to write code. This was a major revelation for me, and I created a lot of digital art, which was where my heart always lived. But it did mean I wrote less code.

Adolescence intervened, and I wrote even less code. Music had always featured in my life, but instead of just playing classical music on a piano, I discovered guitar and bass and most importantly rock and roll. That meant less code. A couple years after high school I went to college to study graphic design where I was introduced to the Macintosh. The Amiga was arguably a better computer, but the software on the Mac was better for what I wanted to do – which was create graphics and design. Photoshop and Illustrator were tools too delicious to ignore. Less code.

The thing is, you never really forget how.

What’s this WWW thing?

In early 1995, I had finished college and was looking for graphic design work, along with a million other recent grads. I was offered a job doing design work for the “World Wide Web”. Not being 100% sure what it was all about, I did some research and decided to take the job. Given the state of the economy at the time and the lack of graphic design jobs available, it seemed the right course of action. The design work was easy enough, as was the basic HTML available to us at the time. Testing was done in the predominant web browser of the time, Netscape 0.98b. They were good times. It felt like the wild west, and anything was possible.

When Netscape released LiveScript and then renamed it JavaScript later in 1995, things got really interesting. We were finally able to start scripting the front-end of websites, the part people interacted with. Because of my previous C++ experience, I was asked to do most of this JavaScript work. I didn’t have a lot of trouble picking it up. I was now officially a ‘web developer’, though still more often called a ‘web designer’. I even wrote a few simple and painful CGI backends for sites in Perl.

JavaScript led to more complex JavaScript. HTML led to dHTML and later XHTML and HTML5. Standards compliancy became a thing. Accessibility became a thing that I cared a lot about. AJAX happened, enabling the front end of a website to interact with the back end in a new and powerful way. New languages were learned, from Java to PHP to Ruby to Python. Best practices were discovered and optimized and Web 2.0 became a thing. These were exciting times for the web, and exciting times of professional growth for me. We were both coming of age.

Eventually I had been around long enough to be considered a ‘senior’ front-end developer. I was hired by one of Canada’s largest media companies to help modernize and innovate the front-end of several high-traffic sites. My grasp of graphic design was considered a bonus, because it meant i didn’t have to check back with the designers to clarify potentially vague concepts in their design work.


I didn’t know until I had started there that the morale of the development team was very low and turnover was exceedingly high. In fact on my first day I was informed that both the people who had interviewed me three weeks ago had quit yesterday. My boss was fired less than a month after I started there and I was asked, as one of the senior developers on the team, to help hold the fort down until a new Director of Development could be hired. A week later, I went to the CTO and told him that I was interested in applying for the position. After five interviews with various stakeholders, I was given the job.

Having been part of the team and understanding where developer frustrations were coming from, I made some changes to the way we worked. Some of those changes were subtle, some were as seismic as changing development paradigm from traditional waterfall to an agile process. These changes stabilized the turnover rate and morale improved. In my entire time as Director there I had no voluntary turnover and grew the team to full capacity for the first time ever. Productivity skyrocketed. I didn’t get to write as much code as I would have liked, but I learned to delegate to and trust in other talented developers and oversee things from a more strategic point of view. I learned how to help those developers grow and achieve their ends. I guess I learned how to be a manager. Instead of building websites, I now built teams that built websites.


I’ve been a manager for seven years as of this writing, first at that newspaper and then at a startup where we did some amazing work with some excellent people. Eventually I came full circle and am back at The Toronto Star, the same newspaper I had delivered when I was a kid. Now I manage a technology team comprised of designers, developers, QA specialists and cloud operations experts. I am part of the larger leadership team dealing with digital strategy. And I’m loving every second of it.

There it is. Drawing pictures on a television screen using Apple BASIC to leading digital strategy in twenty simple steps.

I wonder what the next twenty will be like.

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Solomon 1999-2014 355 days ago, 0 comments

We had to put our beloved little panther kitty down tonight. He will be a sorely missed member of our family.





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Possessed 622 days ago, 0 comments

I am restless. I have been restless before, but usually I don’t know why. Sometimes I do, like this time. This time I am restless because I can feel the story coming.

The stories come to me, streaming through the aether so fast and with such purpose that sometimes I can almost hear their passage.

When they come, it’s like being possessed. I am possessed by stories. They want – need! – be told. They come at a time of their own making, driven by some cosmic imperative they come and possess me like demons in a medieval child. I have no control over this.

The stories do not rest until I’ve told them, they do not let me rest until they have been told.

Some catharsis is achieved in the telling, some sense of completeness. When I’ve finally formed them to the best of my ability, they are exorcised, they are released. And then so am I.

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Boundaries 624 days ago, 0 comments

It’s 6pm and it’s finally stopped raining, but that’s life on the West Coast. As I sit here sipping Primativo from the oversized glass you brought me earlier, I can see the sun burst through the low clouds and light the surface of the water. It looks very biblical with the visible rays of light shooting down from the grey clouds and turning the sea into a million million dazzling jewels.

I’ve been writing all day, which has been hard. I always find it hard to write on these gloomy afternoons, but when the story demands to be written, I am it’s slave. No matter how much I hate these dismal days and just want to sleep. I am a creature of the light, and it refreshes my soul to see the sun. Or maybe it’s the wine refreshing my soul. In any case, I am refreshed.

The wide expanse of windows on the water side of the cottage supply a view that can only be described as breathtaking no matter the weather. Out through the glass the water meets the mountains, and they rise up to touch the sky. I have always loved being at the edge of where things meet, at the boundary condition. Here that condition can be seen through what feels like acres of glass.

Behind me the fire crackles in an oversized stone fireplace. It’s been burning for days nonstop, heating the main living area of the cottage and drying the air. The smell of the smoke hangs in the warm room, comforting like a down blanket on a cool night.

I hear your bare feet on the floor behind me. I feel your hand caress my neck. You reach past me and refill my glass, and I can smell your hair and feel the stirrings of arousal. Your scent has always had that affect on me. You set the bottle on the table and I grab you by your waist to pull you onto my lap. I kiss the nape of your neck. You taste of salt, just a bit, and I am aroused all the more.

You turn in my embrace, rubbing your body against mine suggestively and putting a knee on either side of me to settle down on my lap. The big old chair we’re sitting in is just wide enough for this. You wrap your arms around my neck and stare into my eyes. I start to pull your camisole off. The cottage is so remote that you rarely wear more when we’re alone and not expecting guests.

I undress you, you undress me. We kiss, tasting wine and desire on each others lips. We make love there in the chair, in front of the pictures windows for all the world to see, if only there were anyone out there on the water. What a show they would have. We are good together, slow, deliberate in our exploration of each other, but burning with almost tantric intensity.

Afterward you snuggle against my chest. I pick up my glass and sip thoughtfully. We haven’t spoken a single word, but we haven’t had to, our wants and needs match so closely. Eventually you look up at me and smile, and whisper something I can barely hear.

Out on the water the sun has set behind the mountains. It is dark, both inside and out, the only visible light coming from the fireplace behind us and the slow pulse of my sleeping laptop. I am a creature of the light, but you have brought the light inside me. There in the dark I bend down to kiss the top of your head and answer.

“I love you too.”

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Chemistry 634 days ago, 0 comments

The blonde woman swirled a tasteful but enormous glass of red wine in one hand, a cigarette dangling languidly from the graceful fingers of the other. Behind her the bustle of a typical Paris evening went about its way. The French did as the French did, no matter who might think otherwise. If there was anything that never changed, it was the French, thank god. Though she was quintessentially and elegantly French in appearance, she was Canadian by citizenship, a fact that only became apparent when she spoke.

“What do you know of passion, of the chemistry between a man and a woman?” she asked.

It was a teasing question and she knew it. He was a deeply passionate man, who poured his feelings into everything he did. It was this that first made her fall in love with him so long ago.

He leaned back from the small café table with a smile. The adjustment was flattering, his broad shoulders clearly defined by the crisp linen shirt he wore. What did he know of passion? Of chemistry? After toying with his own wine glass and pondering the question, he answered her.

“Ma belle, let me tell you a story about men and women.”

She settled back, a coy half-smile on her red lips. She loved his stories, loved the way he told them. She loved the way his eyes sparkled when he was remembering something from his past. From hist stories she had learned far more about him over the years they had been meeting at this café than she ever had by searching for information about him online. “Please, do tell. I am aflutter with anticipation,” she said.

“I was, in my youth as I am today, a musician,” he said, beginning his tale.

She nodded acknowledgement of his musicianship. He was in fact quite a well known musical artist in many parts of Europe and Canada. Not a star, by any means, but certainly no penniless unknown either.

“There was a time early in my performing career, when I regularly played music in a student-frequented bar in a university town. Covers of popular music. I did this with my good friend and talented musician Gareth. I think you’ve met him once. He’s quite tall, which always made for comedy while we were on stage. People liked this contrast between him and I, his height, my lack of it. I think I was maybe 27 years old.”

He paused to sip his wine and think.

“I was still married to my first wife at the time. Back then I was still young and beautiful,” he said, then smiled, “I was also in the band, a fact that often seems to have an intoxicating effect on young women.”

She smiled at this. He was still quite handsome, and the fact that he was a musician had an intoxicating effect on not-so-young women too. He caught the glint in her eye and continued.

“At this bar, a student bar I believe I mentioned, was a bartender named Lisa. She was a beautiful woman, which helped when it came to collecting tips at the bar. The boys who frequented the bar loved her. Many speculated about her relationship to me as we were close and easy, they assumed that Lisa and I were having an illicit affair, but they were wrong. Lisa and I were close, in the way of brothers and sisters, not as man and woman. There was no attraction between us, just mutual support and well-wishing.”

As he told this story, the sun slid across the divide between evening and night, lighting the buildings across the way and colouring the clouds above like a Monet painting. He took his sunglasses off his head and placed them on the table. Then he leaned forward, so he could look more deeply into her eyes, her beautiful eyes. He remembered the first time he had gazed into those clear pools. The memory brought a smile to his face.

“But you asked about passion and chemistry, not of filial love. Lisa’s best friend and roommate was a young woman named Cordelia. She was maybe four years younger than I was at the time. Certainly no more than that. The first time her eyes and mine met I was thunderstruck. People talk about their heart skipping a beat. Mine didn’t. Mine stopped cold in my chest. I felt like I was dying, but what a happy death!”

A pang of envy raced through her but she scolded herself. This relationship had spanned more than a decade, and was as solid as the foundations of the earth. She had nothing to fear from this spectre of the past.

“From that moment on, whenever Cordelia and I were in the same room, it was as if there was an invisible bolt of lightning between us, connecting us to each other. A thing of raw energy and chemistry, almost a magical thing. When Gareth and I played our music, she danced. When we were on break between sets, her and I sat and talked, or danced if the music was good. When we sat, sometimes she sat on my lap and held my hands. There was no doubt she could feel how she aroused me. There was no doubt she was enjoying it.”

“When we danced, nothing but our clothes separated us from each other. When we danced, those dancing around us became more aroused, desperate for the attentions and affections of their partners, almost as if they could feel the wild magnetism that joined Cordelia and I. Like they were infected by it. This was very intense.”

“I remember one night,” he said, the memory bringing the smile to his face that melted her heart and made her fall in love with him all over again,” after Gareth and I had finished playing and the bar had closed. This was maybe three or four in the morning. Gareth and I, Lisa and Cordelia, we had climbed onto the top of a bus shelter, where we sat smoking cigarettes and talking. It was a warm autumn evening and the stars were blazing in the sky above us.”

“Being near Cordelia was as easy as drinking cool water on a hot summer day. Not having Cordelia was hell.”

By now the sun had set and night had come to the City of Lights, and the cafe began to fill up for the dinner hour. The magic of his story wrapped them in calmness so the two of them became an island in the river of revellers and tourists that plied the street behind her. She could tell by the sparkle in his eyes that he was close to the heart of this story, close to the kernel of truth he had carried with him since he was young.

“One night, during the break between our second and third sets, Cordelia and I were dancing along with many of the patrons of the bar. It was a slow song, something meant for lovers. I had my arms around Cordelia’s waist, and she had wrapped her arms around my neck. Her cheeks were flushed and her breath ragged. She ground against me gently, and I held her tight to me. Her eyes glistened with intensity. The sexual energy between us was almost unbearable.”

“She put her head on my shoulder and closed her eyes. We danced, and there was nothing in the universe but us. I shivered with her every exhale, feeling her warm soft breath against my neck. Then she pressed her lips against the soft skin at the curve of my shoulder. Her kiss was like an electric shock that ran through my body. For the first time, one of us had crossed the line between desperately wanting to do a thing and doing the thing.”

The blonde woman smiled and said “It’s a wonder you didn’t climax right there, with that much sexual tension built up between you.”

He laughed and answered “Indeed. It is a wonder. I don’t know how I didn’t. In my memory, the feeling of her lips against my skin is as intense as an orgasm. But I digress. With that kiss, Cordelia had changed the nature of our relationship. From longing friends to potential lovers, and then she changed it further. She lifted her head and whispered into my ear ‘Will you come home with me tonight?’ The war inside me in the aftermath of that question was fierce. My mind, my body, wanted to be with Cordelia. But you see, I was a married man.”

He looked across the street at the river, seeing the lights of the city dance across its surface. She had seen him like this only once before, when he told her about the death of his best childhood friend. Her heart ached to see that look on his face. Then he regained his composure and looked into her eyes.

“It took every fibre of my being to disappoint Cordelia when she asked me that question, every shred of energy in me. To this day I do not know how I said no. When I whispered it, she didn’t answer. She tipped her head back up and smiled at me, still looking at me with those beautiful eyes, those beautiful fuck-me-please eyes.”

The sudden harshness of his language didn’t surprise her. She had heard it before, was indeed capable of the same level of crass talk. Nonetheless she shook her head in mock reproach and waited for him to continue.

“She put her head back down on my shoulder, and we stood there for some time, perhaps forever, saying nothing. Then she bit me.”

“She… bit you?” Her incredulity was palpable.

“Yes. She bit me. Right here,” he indicated the junction between his shoulder and neck, “Very hard. It left an incredible bruise that took weeks to fade. And then she flipped her hair, her beautiful, wonderful hair, turned on her heel, and left the bar.”

He paused for a sip of wine. She could see he was digging deep to tell this story, and loved him all the more for sharing it with her, opening himself to her. He closed his eyes and rubbed his temples for a moment.

“I never saw her again. The next day she had left, moved to Vancouver with no forwarding address. If Lisa knew where she had gone, she never shared that information with me. The bruise was hard to explain, so hard in fact, I didn’t even bother trying. What was even harder was not knowing what Cordelia had wanted from me that night. A one night stand? Did she want me to leave with her? I’ll never know. Can never know.”

He sat back and looked into her eyes, as he had a hundred times before.

“What do I know of passion, ma belle? Of the chemistry between a man and a woman? Maybe nothing. Maybe nothing at all.”

It was closing time. Even though the story he told was short, time seemed to have slipped away from them. He rose and circled the table to pull her chair out like a true gentleman should. She stood, excited and flushed from the story he told and her love for him. He took her arm and they stepped into the river of bustle that was typical of a Paris street on a summer evening.

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Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that's creativity.”
- Charles Mingus


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