I was only twelve years old when the first man placed his foot on the surface of the moon. Like most people at the time, I also remember exactly where I was and what I was doing at the time. I was sitting in the middle of the back seat of the car my mother was driving with each of my two sister on one side of me. We were headed south of San Jose, California on our way back home from a visit to my aunt and uncle's house (Jeanine and Dick). If I remember it correctly, we were just about to drive through and underneath the huge clover-leaf overpass where the highways 880 and 280 meet. At the time, this was an impressive unfinished monument to mankind, an impressive structure with highways bending every which way across the sky. At that point in time, my mother turned on the radio. The news reporter announced that Niel Armstrong had become the first man to set foot on the moon. My memories of this important event are also in black-and-white for some reason, and that moment in time remains clear and focused in the back of my mind. Just another of a million events which have intersected in time with my movements.
So I finally finished the (thin) book called "Freedom From The Unknown" by my spiritual hero Krishnamurti, and I must admit that I found it a fairly entertaining and useful read. The whole book is only a little over a hundred pages long, but by reading each chapter slowly, and then rereading each chapter over and over, and then going back to reread a previous section again and again, this short piece became a long piece to peruse and to cherish at the same time. Afterall time is nothing isn't it? I love to read books, and this one provided me with the necessary spiritual escape from the doldrums of my present day-to-day life. At times the book was a little too repetitive and on the predictable side, how one must look within and ignore the external reality when searching for one's true self. Reject authority and theologies that are unnecessary burdens which need to be thrown off. However, the essence of the book was very difficult for me to appreciate, as it is contrary to common thought. Alot of not this and not that, rather than focusing on the true positive nature of what is. Makes me wonder why I am even reading the book in the first place. Afterall, isn't the act of reading based upon understanding facts in the form of words and sentences?
"It is very important to understand from the very beginning that I am not formulating any philosophy or any theological structure of ideas or theological concepts. It seems to me that all ideologies are utterly idiotic. What is important is not a philosophy of life but to observe what is actually taking place in our daily life, inwardly and outwardly... Having realized that we can depend on no outside authority in bringing about a total revolution within the structure of our own psyche, there is the immensely greater difficulty of rejecting our own inward authority, the authority of our own particular little experiences and accumulated opinions, knowledge, ideas and ideals."
So whatever happened to the last page of the big long thick novel? In fact, the whole last chapter is missing for some reason. There you go on reading and reading and then the whole plot drops into nowhere. Like an unexpected crevice into black nothingness. The strange part is that you just stop dead in your tracks and do not fall in there, the tips of your shoes barely hanging over the edge. So the best thing to do is put the heavy book down, lay it down to the side or behind you, but do not forget to stick the nice bookmark in place. Even if it is the (premature) end of the long and drawn out story anyway. On a hunch, flip back to the very beginning, the first chapter which seems like only yesterday. Now you can understand it more clearly, really clearly as if it almost seems to make sense again. No use trying to figure things out when you can go back to where you started.
This afternoon I was supposed to fix the washing machine. Lately it has started to rattle pretty loudly, and during spin cycle it vibrates so violently the the whole house is shaking. My theory is that the machine is not properly balanced, so I volunteered to take down all the shelves and piles of junk on top of it so that I can tip the machine back enough to adjust the heights of the four little round metal twist-thingies at each corner on the bottom. But I was hesitant and have decided to postpone this risky venture until the weekend. You see, the last time I tried to repair our washing machine was around ten years ago. Rather than an aggravating vibration, the problem was awful stink. We figured that a sock had gotten wedged somehow inbetween the metal barrel and the inside of the washing machine. As the weeks went by, the sock started to rot away and the stench was getting worse and worse. So what did I do? Well, I put two chair close together with a slight space between them, lifted the heavy washing machine and turned it over so that it was resting upside-down on these chairs. The idea was that the sock would just fall out and the problem would be solved. No luck though. Feeling that there was no harm done, I just turned the washing machine back around to the right-side up. No harm done did I say? Well, the next time I filled the washing machine with clothes and turned it on, there was this explosion and then a sudden burst of smoke which came out the top. The powerful motor which had earlier been safely positioned on the inner support chassis had been dislodged due to my grand upside-down theory. That meant that the motor could no longer spin freely and collided with the sides. Boom and explosion and smoke. So you can imagine my hesitation to fix our latest washing machine. Thea even warned me "remember what happened to the other washing machine?!" I will just wait another day before mustering up enough courage for the next attempt at stardom.
"It's hard to stay mad when there's so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once...and it's too much. My heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst. And then I remember... to relax, and not try to hold on to it. And then it flows through me like rain. And I can't feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life. You have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm sure. Don't worry...you will someday. "
-- Lester Burnham (from the film American Beauty)
This evening it was my turn to bring Marlies to some party her girlfriends were having. On the way there, I was supposed to picked up two of her friends. I was warned (threatened) in advance of all the things I was not allowed to do. Not being able to remember the extensive list which kept getting longer as the ride continued, I decided that the best thing to do was keep my mouth shut, not say a word nor make a sound. On the way to the first friend's house, I put on some favorite Neil Young tune of mine from the Zuma album in order to make the journey more bearable. "It's a fallen situation when all eyes are turned in and a love isn't flowing the way it could have been..." Marlies got impatient, accusing me of listening to old-fashioned grandpa music. Grandpa music, can you believe that?! For me it seems like only yesterday that I was her age and this was the kind of music to which I always listened. Back then it was cool and a blast and groovy, sometimes mellow and all in all great man. Not anymore, at least no for the future leaders of the world. Some day my generation will have to make room for these youngsters. In fact, if I think about it more closely, I realize that we old fogies are already giving way today. Prepare yourself.
Does a good honest background combined with a solid level of knowledge and experience give one any advantage during this day and time? The way I see it, my mind is a sort of gold mine of information which can be used in a number of creative and perhaps also lucrative ways. That is what can become pretty frustrating in the long-run, e.g. not be able to use one's many assets as they were always meant to be. So one can easily imagine how it is very difficult not getting totally disheartened with not being able to land a job. Alot of energy spent on zero results (at least at first glance). The tendency is to become very cynical about everything and play the victim, but that would just be an easy cop-out. So what else is a young man like myself going to do besides hanging around and trying to remain alert and useful? Stay positive and open-minded, hang in there, and believe in oneself. The philosophy of living day by day is a good one but it is also an outlook on life which is exceedingly more difficult to follow as the days roll by. One, two, three, ..., one hundred and one, one hundred and two... Should living day-by-day be dependent upon the number of days? Is the passing of one day into the other some kind of cycle which does not repeat itself? Time and money is running out, and I better figure something out or else. Or else what? Well, or else I will have to figure something else out. Figure something else out, please.
Although it is now freezing outside, I am still going to rough it out and go running. The die-hard that I am. For the first time this year, the temperature has dropped down below freezing. But I refuse to let such trivial matters like the temperature prevent me from remaining fit and keeping my dashing and youthful figure intact. I better go before it gets too dark. I might accidentally step into a pot hole and end up breaking my ankle. That would be a real drag. As there happens to be alot of water in the surrounding area, e.g. canals, lakes and ditches, the moisture has condensed just above the ground. The laws of nature interact and give the world an eerie and mysterious look. Like some painting which is slowly dripping upside-down. So here I go, I will disappear into this magical world of thick white mist, and maybe I will never come back. Never ever. When and if I do get back, I will see if I have enough energy left over to finish off this entry with the final and real results. Yet another adventure in my unpredictable roller-coaster life. Give me about forty-five minutes please...
The boss asked me to come into his office again, for the third time that week. I was a little bit nervous, but knew why he wanted to talk to me. I sat down, and when he looked at me with a long a cold stare, I couldn't help but hanging my head low and looking at some slight smudge on the carpet next to his desk. Looked like an old piece of bubble gum that had gotten stuck there somehow, imprints of the carpet and the soul of a show. "So you are at it again are you? You know that..." I could only nod my head up and down like a shy little boy who had been caught again by his menacing elementary school teacher. At the same time I did not care one iota about trying to defend myself, no need to go into details. Call it passivity or whatever you want because I do not care. They always win anyway, they are always right and that is how I felt in my dream. Strange how even in the dreamworld you cannot break out of it, the extensions of the realworld which is supposed to be better. "I thought I had told you quite clearly to stop doing it..." A common problem at work nowadays (in the dreamworld as well as in the realworld) is that employees are becoming less and less productive. Needing escape from the doldrums of company life, these poor souls turn to surfing on the Internet, chatting, emailing and having cyber sex all over the place. But not me, I was different or so I thought. "I am very disappointed in you, there was so much you could have accomplished and you blew it..." I figured in that dreamworld of mine that I would be creative and inspired and therefore productive. Also escaping the so-called doldrums but in a different and better manner, perhaps acceptable in an unacceptable world. Too bad my boss could not distinguish between the noble efforts of my creative work of writing in my blog and the mundane and useless chatting of my fellow colleagues. "I am very sorry to tell you this," the boss told me without really even trying to look sorry. But I knew what he was going to say, so before he finished his sentence I stood up, turned around, and left. Went downstairs and out on the street. Crossed the street and looked back at the big bad successful company I was leaving. Maybe ten stories high or it could have been a hundred, tall windows from the bottom to the top reflecting light. And to think that it was all for some lousy blog of mine. Noble efforts did you say? But it was an addiction of mine, and no one understood, there was no respect for this unknown disease of the mind. Oh well, I was fired, and so what?
"Writing software should be treated as a creative activity..." says Richard Gabriel, who is a Distinguished Engineer at Sun Microsystems. In the article The Poetry of Programming, he discusses the finer points of writing good software and how the latest methodologies have influenced the way we look at the fine art of programming. Richard believes that a better way to train computer programmers is to train them like poets and other artists are trained. Creating while reflecting. In fact, he is currently working on developing an educational program that is probably going to be called something like a Master of Software Arts.
"Writing code certainly feels very similar to writing poetry. When I'm writing poetry, it feels like the center of my thinking is in a particular place, and when I'm writing code the center of my thinking feels in the same kind of place. It's the same kind of concentration. So, I'm thinking up possibilities, I'm thinking about, well, so how do I reinvent the code, gee, you know, what's the simplest way to do this."
-- Richard Gabriel.
We both went to Stanford around the same time, but I do not remember seeing him in the Quad when I was cycling to my classes. Back then they started this experimental class called "Computer Science" of all things. Sounded just too esoteric and weird for me, and all I remember is a bunch of nerds sitting behind glass, eating donuts and pounding on the keyboard the whole day. Or did they have keyboards back in those days. What a shame that I missed the boat then, so close and yet so far.
I am always glad to see members of the older generation (still young at heart though) playing an influential role in the development of the art of programming, the Internet, etc. Sometimes I lose heart sitting around just programming and doing all kinds of computer stuff, when my friends and neighbors keep telling me to get a hold of my life and do something more commercial (worthwhile) with my life.
You might also want to visit his website called Dreamsongs where one can find an extensive collection of essays, poetry and other really good stuff. Richard, if you happen to read this, thanks alot and keep up the great work!
On rare occasions which usually seem to occur during the coldest nights of winter, the stars above appear sharp and magnificent and very very close that you get the feeling that you can almost touch them if you reach up high enough. As habit dictates, this evening while I was bringing out the trash, I was looking for my favorite constellation called Orion. Something else to the side happened to catch my attention instead. I had never seen them so clearly before in my life! This was truly amazing. The Pleiades is a white star cluster also known as the Seven Sisters. According to ancient Greek mythology, these were originally a group of innocent nymphs who for seven long years were chased by Orion, a greedy hunter who fancied them so much that he decided to pursue them all over the place. Seven years is a pretty long time. Poor Orion must have been pretty sexually frustrated by then, such a long wait with no results. So you can imagine how unbearable this constant chase had become for these virgins of the woods. So good and true and yet big bad Orion ruined it all with his lecherous chase for sex. Zeus decided to give the seven sisters a break by turning them into a flock of doves. That way they could fly away from this earthly misery. The only drawback was that they had to spend the rest of eternity up there in the night sky. Five hundred light-years from the Earth is pretty far away if you think about it. Nice view though. You can imagine how let down they must have felt years later when Orion died. In order to honor him and his infamous chase properly, good old Zeus decided to put him up there next to the seven sisters! Their escape had only been temporary. If you look closely you can only see six of the seven sisters with your bare eyes. The so-called lost Pleiade was really Electra who hid her face when Troy was burned down to the ground. I think she fled due to some shame and guilt feelings caused by this disregard for earthly suffering. There are various other so-called scientific theories about the cluster and the star that we cannot see, but they make little sense when compared to the more viable other mythological explanations across different cultures. At least that is my honest opinion. It is all in the mind anyway, part of the collective consciousness which is based on ancient myth. All in the mind. From the very beginning.
As the temperature drops, the ice thickens. And as the ice gets thicker and thicker, I am put closer and closer to my promise. It seemed at the time a safe enough statement to make, but in the long run you cannot postpone the inevitable forever. Eventually nature will catch up, and now it nearly has. Just nearly. Should I have made the promise at all? The weather man says that tomorrow the ice will be thick enough in most places to be able to go ice-skating pretty safely. I had bragged one evening last week to the kids while at the dinner table that when and if there would be enough ice, I would take up skating for the first time in my life. "Not much different from inline skating," I had bragged to the kids at the dinner table, "there's nothing to it!" I hate it when my toes, fingers and tip of my nose freeze, but a promise is a promise. Despite the warnings from the weatherman to wait until tomorrow, there are already many neighbors skating outside. Parents and kids and old folks etc. I can see them from my spot here in the new room, and it looks like they are having alot of fun. They can skate pretty well, and so far no one seems to be falling that much. I wonder how well I will fare when that fateful first step is made. Tomorrow is the big day. I hope I survive with only a few scratches and bruises.
Well it is that time of the year again, meaning that I have to write and send off loads of Christmas cards. I really hate writing these cards as they seem so impersonal, and does anyone read them anyway? This year I ended up making no less than eighteen, each one a unique variation on the theme, hand-written and full of really meaningful remarks. I am sending them off early because mail to America usually takes at least ten days during the busy holiday season. Do I really have that many family and friends? Not that I mind sending cards to my immediate family, my efforts are certainly well worth it for them. No doubts about that. My problem is that I find cards with nothing more than a signature and/or some printed newsletter in especially bad taste. As if you are receiving a card not out of personal attention, when in fact it is due to nothing less than an automated regurgitation of some address list stowed away in a hidden drawer or coming off of the computer. So in order to practice what I preach, if I send off a card I want to write something personal. That is what I do and that involves alot of extra work. Couldn't I be just like all of the others and sign them off one after the other in quick repetition? Life would be that much easier, but need a challenge to keep me going. Just wanted to send you our warmest wishes for a fantastic holiday season. Hope you have been doing well this year. They say that the year 2003 will be an especially wonderful year. Wishing you lots of good health and happiness. Hoping that your business picks up next year. Let's be sure to keep in touch. Best regards from K. et al. Now tell me if this really is any more personal than a scribbled down signature? Oh well, it is the idea that counts isn't it?
So what if I spent the whole day practicing the fine art of CGI-programming by fine-tuning and improving my Top Referers script? Sometimes a man just wants to make himself feel challenged whether or not the actions taken are in the end anything but challenging. Don't believe me? Well you can check it out yourself and tell me what you think.
It would only be fair for me to give due credit to the fine folks at Solution Scripts whose scripts I decided to hack and tear apart and put back together in order to get it exactly my way (again). Sometimes if you are not satisfied, it is necessary to go to bizarre extremes to accomplish your goal.
As the temperature rises, the ice thins. And as the ice gets thinner and thinner, skating for me seems to be more and more out of the question again. Too bad, like I was really looking forward to making a fool of myself. As I sit here in the early morning, there is this regular crack, crackle and then a loud explosion. Blocks and thick slabs of ice loosen, slip and then fall off from the house. The sides, the windows and the roof. Sometimes these frozen pieces fall to the concrete patio steps. They crash like some giant expensive vase which has fallen off of the roof and shattered into a million pieces. Like shards of glass. Other slabs fall off to the side onto the softer dirt with this thud that sound like a unconscious human body pounding the ground with intensity. I look out the window, and by the end of the morning I can see a whole array of differing shapes of ice which have scattered all over the place. This is a weird but amazing site to see. A miracle you might say. As if nature is coming alive and spitting out shimmering crystals it cannot digest. Motion in an otherwise cold and motionless world. Crack and kaboom! There goes another one. Each time it happens, the sudden noise scares me out of my wits. Even though it has been happening all morning, and I should be getting used to it by now. It is just the cascading vibrations and the bizarre cacophony of sound that trigger some hidden demon inside of me. Whose purpose is to shake me awake so that I will not forget. Never forget or else. Will I be saved from the frightening prospect of having to skate or not?
Some more geeky stuff I pulled off today can be found at the recently modified page on my homepage. What one can accomplish when one gets one's act together never ceases to amaze me. Even if it is me trying to be the most famous CGI-programmer on the face of this planet.
When I was around twelve or so, I developed an interesting though bothersome neurosis. One of many at the time, but this one sticks out the most clearly in my mind. When I had to go to bed, I could not sleep if there were any slight noises. So if my parents walked by in the hallway, for example, and there was this unexpected squeak on the floor, or if they whispered too loudly, I would freak out and start yelling at them. Be quiet, I am trying to sleep! Now who did I think I was, some king or something? The worse sounds by far were those that were erratic and unpredictable, but even the more rhythmic sounds which repeated themselves would get on my nerves if this cycle continued for too long. When will it ever stop! Take for example one evening when it was raining. There was this rain pipe that ran down the side of the house, and it was right outside my room. Due to some fluke or other, this rain pipe was so perfectly vertical that each rain drop which ran down the gutter of the roof to the hole at the top would plummet downwards without touching the sides of the pipe. This unabated free fall resulted in an almost explosive crash when this drop splattered ever so loudly at the bottom of the pipe. Unbearable to say the least. When would it ever stop?! One evening late I got so very insane with this unbearable cacophony of dripping that in desperation I went outside in my pyjamas. It was pouring down rain. I had grabbed a piece of cloth from the kitchen, and I wadded it up in my fist, shoving it in the hole so that it was wedged in tight. There we go, water-tight. That should take care of things. Well, what a relief that was! And I went back my jolly way to bed looking forward to the wonderful slumber without sounds. Unfortunately, as the drips kept falling and collecting at the bottom of the pipe, the cloth absorbed all the moistness quite efficiently until it became too much. Really wet. The cloth became saturated and the drops which fell started to slap the wet surface of the cloth with such violence that it was even louder than the original situation before I had stuck that wad of cloth in there in the first place. I thought I was going to go crazy! So I had to go out there again and repeat the whole process, replace the cloth with a dry one, etc. I think this cycle of desperation repeated itself perhaps five times until out of pure exhaustion I somehow fell asleep. Those childhood neuroses came and went and there were many and many inbetween. Fortunately, I somehow survived to become an adult, at least that is what I think.
When it comes down to trying to explain something about the computer to a poor soul who is completely in the dark about the whole thing, I am a lousy and impatient teacher. Maybe I am also a little insecure, but when someone does not understand what I am explaining, rather than trying to rethink thinks and take a different more obvious approach, I tend to think to myself that I am dealing with a complete ignoramus. I get frustrated and tend to assume a tone of voice which can be easily interpreted as critical and degrading. Especially early in the morning when my usual attitude is way below satisfactory. You would think that by now they would know how to do it. It all seems so obvious, don't you think? How is it possible in this modern day and age there are still folks out there who cannot figure out even the most basic actions? Double-clicking on a link when one click is sufficient, selecting text and then wondering where it all went when typing in the next letter, looking at a web site and freezing in terror not knowing how to find what you are looking for, etc. To me it is all so obvious and part of adapting to new technologies. But I should also realize that such flexibility is not really inherent in the human condition, and that often enough there are huge psychological obstacles to be overcome. Shame on me for thinking that I am above all of this.
There is still hope, and now it seems that there are enough micro devices out there, don't you think? The friends and allies of Sun Microsystems have completed a second version of Java software for cell phones. There are many challenges in moving towards this new and exciting technology. Up to now, Sun has not been very lucky with Java in its fight to overcome Microsoft's desktop dominance. However, this is one especially attractive market segment where Microsoft has been pretty weak. The Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition (J2ME) offers much hope, and I am currently investigated this new technology in the hopes of writing up a half-decent business case for myself. Rumor has it that Java will be the dominant handset platform, so I better get my act together or else.
For those kind folks out there who are interested in learning more about this exciting world, more information can be found at the following places:
Whenever I get rejected from yet another company, I feel a little letdown of course. On the other hand, I also try to remain as positive as I can. Not easy but necessary for survival. I make it a habit to call the person back as quickly as possible, thank him for the time and trouble, say that I respect and can understand the reason for his decision, and request to have my information filed for possibilities of another job opportunity which might come up in the near future. You never know. This is a nice formal way for me to wrap it all up in a symbolic and spiritually completed way.
Imagine spending your whole life dedicated to the pursuit of a certain belief, only to have that cherished belief dashed to the ground right in front of your eyes at the very end of your life? That is exactly what happened to poor Freud, and it is easily understandable why he felt pretty letdown about the whole matter. As if he had wasted a whole lifetime for nothing! You see, he had researched tons of patients and written piles of research papers under the preconceived notion that all neuroses could in the end be traced back to some childhood sexual trauma(s) or other. In fact, even though he could not remember it at all, he was convinced that his own personal psychological problems were rooted to the fact that he had been sexually abused by his father because he was secretly in love with his mother (also known as the Oedipus Complex). So brainwashed by his own convictions and so much energy spent with zero results. Slowly but surely, Freud realized this ominous stroke of bad luck, but he could not muster up enough courage to admit this to his colleagues. This shortcoming of his theory became more and more obvious, eating way at him, and Freud became quite desperate and depressed. What was he to do? This is where the unexpected and the miracle of life comes into play. Suddenly, he realized something, and it was this new insight that was about to save his face. What Freud figured out was that it was not the "actual" episodes of the past which were the causes of neuroses, but one's "fantasies" about these episodes! A kind of meta-awareness in which one manipulates the subconscious in such a way that fantasies are used to reform and make repressions more acceptable to the mind. The mind does not want to be burdened by things like guilt, sadness or anger, so these feelings are cloaked in the more acceptable attire fantasy. Upon closer inspection, one quickly realizes how easy it would be to confuse the actual events with fantasies about these actual events, so Freud isn't really to blame for his near failure. In fact, he has become a kind of super-hero for having discovered this very fine boundary between the real and the unreal. To the human mind fantasies seem real, very real. But actually they are not real in themselves, only in the manner in which one uses these tools in order to pry into the subconscious world. Freud was not wrong at all, and boy did he feel relieved. There is always hope no matter what.
Just when you thought you had finally managed to balance all the financial stuff for the rest of the year. That is when the washing machine decided it would be a perfect time to break down. For a couple of months now it has been emitting especially annoying sounds and vibrations, during spin cycle as well as when switching over to the next settings. On occasion it has randomly decided to stop altogether, and then for no reason at all starting again. With what one could call a hopeful denial, we had accepted these idiosyncrasies thinking that as long as the washing machine kept on working forever we would be happy enough. That is not the case, however. With a last gasping click our washing machine heaved its last sound and died, poor thing. Four kids can generate an amazing amount of dirty clothes, so it is paramount that a replacement be found within short notice. This morning I drove down to the store with a list of requirements: no more than 85 centimeters high, strong pump, large door opening (to the right), spin rate of at least 1200 rpm, preferably a Blauknecht, and not too expensive. I was able to adhere to all but the last severe requirements, making us just that much poorer until the end of the year. Will just have to re-balance my financial discomforts as creatively as I can.
Strings, threads, ropes, ribbons, wires, strands and even more. They were all coming out of my body and I was completely entwined in the grand mess of it all. To wake up one morning and discover this again was certainly a lousy way to start yet another day. Disturbing to see all these long and elongated sinews of the mind, which started from inside of my body somewhere and radiated outwards going right through my skin like nothing was going to stop them. This had happened before, and I knew it had to be rectified somehow. During earlier visits to the doctor, I had been warned repeatedly that something had to be done soon or it would be too late. I was so very afraid of surgery, because I was convinced that the chances of something going wrong were high. Or so it was that the aging doctor conveyed to me with his unconcerned and stoic face. Then it would go away for a long time, if I just ignored it, so I felt relieved. This morning as I lay in bed all entwined and worrying not accidentally to tug at the strands and inadvertently pulling off a section of my skin with it, I decided that by not moving at all for let's say three hours or so, it would all just go away. Hopefully, as I lay there waiting, no one would enter the bedroom and discover me in this awkward predicament. I would sure hate it if my children saw me like this. The best thing would be to do nothing and let the passing time take care of things.
Hey guess what? I decided that I deserved a Christmas present like all the rest. So I just purchased a new domain name:
"I wanna tell you something Mark, something you do not yet know, that we K-PAXians have been around long enough to have discovered. The universe will expand, then it will collapse back on itself, then will expand again. It will repeat this process forever. What you don't you know is that when the universe expands again, everything will be as it is now. Whatever mistakes you make this time around, you will live through on your next pass. Every mistake you make, you will live through again, & again, forever. So my advice to you is to get it right this time around. Because this time is all you have."
-- Prot (from the file K-PAX).
I have always been a really big fan of indie music once it got started, and I would listen to streaming MP3 Internet radio all the time when life was simpler, pure and unadulterated. Then came the big swoop of the axe when the small webcaster settlement act h.r. 5469 (SWSA) was passed and all of a sudden independant non-profit folks (like myself) were banned from this activity. Like having one's hands chopped off. But that has been awhile ago, and slowly but surely and one by one, a number of brave souls are rising back up again. One of these is called Grrl Radio and it is is back up and running! Listen to Grrl Radio for the best selection of indie bands, unknown artists and my faves from the '80s -- everything from 800 Cherries to Tones on Tail. You might also want to check out Bonnie's GRRL website. By the way, I subscribe to her phreaky phriday phun linx newsletter.
Other links of interest:
One can choose to hang around forever just waiting and waiting for the inevitable to happen or better yet one can take one's life into one's own hands and do something bigger and better. Before it is too late.
In case you did not realize it already, the new year is coming up quickly. One of the favorite things to do during this preparatory period is to make one or more resolutions. That is exactly what I have done for myself. The economic situation is extremely bad nowadays, and the chances of landing a job in the near future seem to dwindle and disappear unless I do something. Receiving rejection letters everyday is not my idea of having a fun time. Let's just say that I am seriously thinking about going into business for myself.
At the time this seems the best step for me to take.
So this is how the story goes. Inside my head somewhere there is a treasure chest of knowledge and experience, a veritable goldmine filled with valuable jewels and other glimmering priceless objects. I would be crazy not to use these. The way I see it, there are many folks out there that would find these glimmering objects of hope with excited wide-open eyes. A lucrative option it would be to borrow some of this keen knowledge to help improve matters in their own backyards. For a small minimal charge of course.
So what's the deal? I want to go into business for myself. Yes you heard me right. I want to become a freelance professional under my own company. I want to rise and shine as a future-famous business consultant (sounds better than a freelancer). Senior technical consultant, wireless applications adviser, principal consultant of this and/or that. After doing alot of research and contacting a number of distributors and resellers of computer products, I am feeling pretty cocky and confident that I can manage it.
A possible name of this organization might be something like Kiffin-dot-org and the official web site would be Kiffin.org. But am I being overly vane by including my name in all of this? Could be seen as one of the most important unique selling points.
Pretty exciting, don't you think?! Life never ceases to amaze me with the endless possibilities and the infinite potential of rising up again. Now I first have to break out of this bubble of ecstasy and make it happen. The first step will happen right about now.
To all of you fine readers out there who have taken the time to visit my blog and come back once in a while:
So what does a good father do the day after Christmas? You are absolutely right, he fixes the home network so that the PCs can once again communicate flawlessly with each other, share each others files and use the same printer. Sound easy? Well, it's not. For a long time this was not working at all. I have been putting off this boring chore for about six months now, but it has to be done. Either the one computer could see the other, or the other could see only part of the first, or none at all or they just crashed, etc. So I did a big cleanup, removing all the network stuff from the older Windows 98SE computer and reinstalling it. I also reconfigured the Windows XP computer using the good old home network wizard. I was just about ready to give up when I discovered quite by accident that the stupid Windows XP firewall was enabled. Watch out for that bugger! Start » Control Panel » Network Connections » Local Area Connection Properties » Advanced » Internet Connection Firewall. Make sure that this is unchecked unless you really know how to configure this monster. My day is made, I have accomplished much, and as a reward I will put on my running outfit, go downstairs and stretch with the kids, and at last go jogging as fast as I can. Need to work off some of that excess Christmas dessert I munched out on yesterday.
In The Psychopathology of Everyday Life Freud recalled that in "the days when I was living alone in a foreign city ... I quite often heard my name suddenly called by an unmistakable and beloved voice; I then noted down the exact moment of the hallucination and made anxious enquiries of those at home about what had happened at the time. Nothing had happened." Freud stated, "I must confess that I am one of those unworthy people in whose presence spirits suspend their activity and the supernatural vanishes away." This is untrue, both of Freud and of his institution. Even this denial gives itself away, in Freud"s awareness of telepathic messages from phantasms of the living and in his reference to the Spiritualist argument that the presence of sceptics disturbed the spirits. Freud knows not to know; a perfect instance of disavowal.
You could say that I kind of blew my stack pretty bad the other day. Now that I am of sober mind and can look back on the episode like a distant and objective observer, I feel a little bad that it ever happened in the first place. How could I have allowed this to happen? Shame on me, I seem like such a nice down-to-earth kind of guy, but that can be deceiving. However, at the same time I understand what went wrong and believe that it was destined to happen one day sooner or later. That was just the day it was supposed to happen, always going to happen no matter what. All that energy and frustration building up inside, hot steam needing an escape, tension ready to snap and bring down everything else with it. Too bad I had to fork out a ton of euros for repair costs, even more to come next year when the glass people finally come by. That is my punishment. The law of retribution will always catch up with you and level you from behind, even if you do not expect it or if you are foolish enough actually to think that you can escape the throes of nature and its balanced ways of keeping everything even and fair.
You see, this is how it went. I was having one of those busy and frustrating days, feeling overly chaotic. Like I was not getting any where useful, kind of hanging around, but at the same time in continuous motion the whole time. How was this possible? Like those dreams where you are running a race and your two feet are stuck to the ground and cannot move. The day had been non-stop in and out and throughout, with so much to do and arrange, and even more to do after that. I had risen extra early that morning to get up and running while I could ahead of time. Check out all my emails and filter through the lists of potential employers, send off another handful of applications (only to get rejected again after a couple of weeks but that's life), clean the house and take care of the kids, fix certain fixtures over there and other broken objects over here, do the groceries. All the while that the wife and mother was away so that she could bring home the bacon. Sensitive subject, so I will not go into the details. Men are kind of weird in that regard. The perennial bringers home of good old bacon.
So what does my wife say when she gets home? I am not sure at the time if it is intentional or it just slips out, but that does not matter. It happens and that is enough to launch me into the land of no return. Some (snide) remark about how I have nothing else to do the whole day and why I had not done this and/or that also. Just cannot figure it out. Like here I am without work so I have so much free time to do everything and ontop of that even more than everything, including the stuff I just happen to forget about because I am caught in the spin cycle of chaotic incompleteness. I had kindly asked her earlier on a number of occasions to "please" not say that again because it upset me. Please think about it will you? But she had forgotten about the tinderbox of a husband she had been stuck with the last four months. She went on and on diatribing as if it were completely normal. "I just cannot figure it out..." she mumbled while she shook her head, "...you don't have that much to do."
As if slamming the front door wasn't hard enough to get my non-verbal point across, I decided to slam it a second time really really hard. As hard as I possibly could. Actually I was so enraged (almost crazed) that I could not have decided, it just happened. With one quick swinging arc of nearly one hundred and eighty degrees it just happened. The glass in the door shattered all over the place. The lock was all bent and messed up so badly that the door would no longer shut properly. If that had not happened and shaken me awake, I probably would have kept on slamming the door again and again and again. Hey Dad, what's that guy doing over there?! C'mon little Herman let's get out of here and go back home where it's safe.
The locksmith came this afternoon and fixed the door so that it can be shut properly. That was sixty-five euros down the drain what a waste. Before that, the guy for the glass came, yanked out the splintered pieces the best he could, glued a glass sheet ontop of the shattered shards just for safe-keeping, and hopefully by the end of January someone can come by and replace the mess. My wife told the kids just to say that someone kicked a ball there by accident. As if some kid's ball could generate such collateral damage. I tell them just to tell the truth, that their crazed father slammed the door too hard by accident. So what happened to the door? I guess I just shut it too hard (shoulder shrug).
So how do I feel about all of this? Not good, because it was a waste of time and energy and money. Bowing your cool is not very cool at all. Bad father, bad husband, shame on you. You must be alert and on your toes day in and day out so that you provide a constant role model for your children. Someone they can cherish and look up to. In that regard I failed, and my image was shattered just as badly as that glass in the door. And what do the neighbors think? To be honest, I could care less. I did get my point across though, but I could have done it a better more civilized way.
Too bad the kids still think that I am crazy. Maybe I am. All that broken glass all over the place.
Everyone knows that Sunday is officially the so-called day of rest. So that is exactly what I decided to do. Just rest and rest. In order to make this seemingly distant goal appear even closer than it normally should or ever could be, I made a symbolic gesture, one having to do with restfulness in its very essence. That is, I finally fixed our creaking bed which has been making so much noise lately that sleeping became a challenge. It has been getting worse and worse after all these years, and with the many countless episodes of kids jumping up and down on it, the squeaks and peeping sounds have only gotten worse. Took the whole bed apart and rebuilt it, tightening each and every screw as well as I could without breaking the handle off of the screwdriver. Working hard but also pretending to rest since it is Sunday by the way. Once the mattresses were put back on top of the bed frame, I hesitated and lay down ever so gently to test it for good measure. And it worked, not a single squeaky noise-like sound. Now slumber will be as silent and restful as it was always meant to be.
In preparation of going freelance, I have been ruminating about a number of developing ideas. Like the key to success, a viable company mission, that sort of thing. Here are a few notes I have collected:
"My role at KIFFIN.ORG would be a flexible balance of technical, commercial and leadership aspects required in today's fast-paced and challenging economy. Flexible in that I would remain open to react to the needs of the day-by-day requirements, and balance in that the various named aspects compliment and strengthen each other so that I am well prepared to react pro-actively to the various customers and their unique environments. One could call me a diplomat whose role is to bridge the gap between the endless possibilities of (Internet) technology and the specific wishes of the (potential) customers, a translator and an enabler, one who inspires.
If I had the good fortune to choose my own exact function and title, it would be something like Business Developer and/or Senior Technical Consultant. I listen with an attentive ear, I carefully collect and analyze the needs of the customer, and I discuss the possibilities with creative members of the team before reporting back to the customer. Proposals must be based on the facts, reflect what is required and be implemented quickly and efficiently. I am a very representative person, realistic though willing to take calculated risks if required, and I hold to my goals and promises at all costs. I use my knowledge to build up respect while developing long-term relationships, which is very important to me. I am assertive enough if certain decisions have to be made, I can coach and offer advice where required, and above all I realize the utmost importance of being customer-centric in every fiber of my body.
Ten years ago it was normal to dump products at the customer site and wish him good luck: read the manual and see you later. Today the customer has become smarter and therefore more demanding. He defines ahead of time the product himself, the way he wants to use it and the way he wants to profit from it, financially as well as organizationally. My role would be to enable this process, to accelerate it and to prolong it. Let the customer concentrate on his core business by relieving him of the technical details of improving his underlying business processes. Short quick-and-dirty projects are all right with me, and believe me I have had enough experience in this area, but my real strengths and skills are based on logical and long-term thinking based on building relationships.
Like I said, I am a firm believer in the customer-centric approach. The success of a good flagship product and/or product suite depends on its ability to fit in seamlessly with the existing infrastructure of a customer site. This means understanding the customerís business thoroughly, scoping out the areas of improvement, e.g. focusing at first on those processes which can be improved the most with minimal impact on the overall organization. In the beginning of a good relationship, concrete results must come quickly and they must work. Strategy and vision of the customer play an important role, and this is the framework upon which a product needs to be built and integrated.
While the economic situation may not be optimal now, customers remain willing to invest (limited) money if they can be convinced that they profit from this initial investment within a reasonably short period. Short-term successes like these lead to long-term customers. As the customers grow and improve their business processes, KIFFIN.ORG grows with them through the exchange of information that is based on trust. Trust above all else.
With a solid background in databases, Internet technology (mobile) and web design, as well as experience in project management, I would pride myself in going out to the customer sites to define requirements, customize and deploy (within 2 weeks). Inspire customers and make them successful. Count me in to help out in any way possible, wherever and whenever required."
Unique Selling Points:
Let's just say that these are the core themes which will give me a big advantage over the competitors in this challenging yet lucrative market.
Two days before New Years, all the Dutch folks get all excited and prepare themselves for the big event by going out and purchasing tons of fireworks. Per year more than tens of millions if not billions of euros are shot off into the night sky. This is a tradition that dates back many many years, and each year as a parent I find it extremely difficult with which to deal. There are always articles and news reports of people getting their hands blown off, losing one or both eyes, even a couple poor fools who get themselves killed. Of course, tradition with this family dictates that the father drive out to the fireworks store towards Haastrecht so that each and every child can personally pick out his or her favorite collection. Now all the kids of the neighborhood are outside tossing fire-crackers around, sometimes an explosion high in the air, it almost sounds like there is a war going on some place. The best I can do I guess is just trust my children to use their common sense and be very careful. The two smallest kids have grown up and refuse to buy those nice kids packets with sparklers and stuff, and now they prefer the hard-core big kid explosions. Oh dear, I will just have to cross my fingers and hope for the best. New Years is a time of looking back and celebrating the future which is still to come.