Thursday, March 31, 2011

Being a Good Person (Nevyn's Take - hijacked)

Baillie has a 3 line post (as a draft) started titled "Being a Good Person". It had me thinking. In those 3 lines she had only really related the fact that it was kind of related to some of my other posts. I, funnily enough, found myself asking for Baillie's permission (for a post on my own blog) to use that start as a basis for my own post.

What does it mean to be a good person?

I don't consider myself to be a good person. I try. I'm sure most people out there do. But then, I've said I believe ourselves to be selfish. There is something to be said from doing things from a sense of being selfless - thus being about the respect of others or feeling you get when doing something you consider selfless, or even, the concept of being a good person.

So what constitutes a good person? I don't think many would argue that Mother Theresa was a good person. So what made her a good person? Some could argue that a lot of what made her known as a good person was the media around her. There was some dispute over the medical care offered in her hospices and negative comments over her very catholic views on abortion and contraception as well as her belief in poverty as a conduit to spiritualism.

The bible (new testament, appears in 3 gospels) has a rather curious passage about what it takes to get into "the kingdom of god". (The common parts of the passages only).

"...it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God..."

Does wealth determine how good or bad a person is? And if it does, then can it then be interpreted as "the devil's" work when we work toward capitalist ideals? Working and seeking out pay rises, and perhaps even other forms of personal gain, such as reputation, could be seen as acquiring wealth. A state which makes entering the "kingdom of God" uncomfortable and unlikely at the very least.

So the question isn't quite so much are you a good person? but rather, is it possible to be a good person?

Exploring my Folly

I was rather ... intrigued? concerned? ... when grace wasn't said at a meeting I went to this week before we sat down for dinner.

I had coffee with a friend today. She brought up something that had me in tears.

What's the common link? My own folly.

My previous blog posts were done in the heat of the moment. I was angry. Writing up the posts did have a rather therapeutic effect on me. I was able to process things a little better. But the effects from it have been quite profound. Not necessarily in a positive way.

Despite not being of Christian faith, I do find saying "grace" quite comforting (though I'd rather call it "giving thanks" or "sharing anxieties"). The idea that you sit and share what is causing you some anxiety really appeals to me. Those insecurities you feel? Chances are they're shared.

And the crying... Here I am trying to deal with things in a very intellectual manner. I reason. But I haven't been dealing with things on an emotional level. Not to an extent where my mental health is being dealt with. So rather than confronting someone (given that I absolutely hate confrontation) about something, I've been reasoning my way through it.

The thing that had me thinking and crying - my sister. Here I am reasoning things out but there's just so much I don't know. Why she feels about me the way that she feels about me (which I conclude from her behaviour toward me). I'm actually quite thrown by this. Knowing that she acts the way that she does because she feels she has to doesn't stop me from feeling hurt by the way she feels.

But I think what throws me more is the fact that I'm conflicted by the endless "But she's your sister. You should just make amends." comments I often get. And the feeling of being stuck. By not making amends, I'm disappointing some of the people around me. Making amends would be discarding my own feelings and thoughts around the subject. And stuck because I don't have a couch to crash on if ever I'm desperately in need.

The question is, how do I go about dealing with things from an emotional level?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Religion and Culture - The Difference?

I know there's a difference. However, I don't think it's easy to see that difference in a lot of cases.

In terms of Hinduism, the word Hindu was never applied by themselves to themselves to denote a religion. The people of India were ... the people. The term "Hindu" came about because of a mispronunciation.

In other words, the people of India never saw it as practising a religion. It was them doing what they'd always done and would always do. It was their culture.

For me, not participating in any religious ceremonies, this is very hard. There is no differentiation between what is religious and what is just how things are done, thus I really can't relate to the Indian culture.

The idea of a separation of these terms comes across to me as a very western ideal.

So what happens when schools must be sensitive to a community's culture but the culture is indistinguishable from a religion? Rituals such as saying grace before a meal or prayers before going to sleep and/or upon waking up?

I said in an earlier post that this is a bit of a loophole for religion getting into schools. But then, it's not religion. It's culture.

I know it's very easy to sit back and say "but it's definitely religious". But then, if it's what they've always done and what they'll always do (and would probably do it even if they lost faith), then it's culture.

Within schools there is a proviso. The community ultimately dictates what is appropriate here. So if a complaint is made, the community must be consulted.

Let the heated debate begin...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Charity

The other day I was walking down Queen Street and there were people collecting for Child Cancer. The representatives were wearing t-shirts which had a logo on the breast.  It was also raining so the first couple had a jacket on, and the other I didn't want to look at the logo given it's placement.

The next lot had their buckets out so I could safely look at the cause without looking like a perve.

I was thinking about the fact that we're all probably horribly tapped out given the Christchurch Earthquake. The various fund raising events, donations to Red Cross etc. All of these other charities are going to go without or at least reduced donations...

I got to the bus stop and there was an ad for a Christchurch remembrance day. You could buy, what looked like a great t-shirt, except that it had something really naff screen printed on it for $25. All profits to go to the Christchurch Earthquake.

I found myself wondering why I wouldn't instead go down to Farmers, buy a t-shirt which I'm likely to wear and throw the $10 or so I'd have left from my $25 to the Red Cross. They could give you the option - a t-shirt for the same price but without the silly overheads of screen printing - more profits to go to the charity.


I refuse to give to the Auckland City Mission. The reason being, there's no reason we should have homeless. We're a welfare state. Our taxes already go towards this sort of thing. I would be much more interested if the money was to go into asking "where are the holes that allow people to be homeless?", "Is it a problem with the system or is this a choice?" etc.

I was talking to a friend about the fact that we all seem to be tapped out and told 'em about the Child Cancer Foundation looking awfully forlorn out there. I was a little surprised by their response. They don't support these charities. The reason being? Their data isn't open.

"Look for cancer research papers from New Zealand and see how many you can actually read without having to pay vast amounts of money".

The question is, if the money for this research comes from people on the street, but the people on the street (nor anyone else for that matter) can read the information, where is the money going? Do we really know? Is the aim of the research not to find a cure? And if this is so, wouldn't it be better if this research was shared so that others could use the results in their own research thus accelerating the research?

What is really going on here? If the aim of the research isn't about finding a cure, then what is it really about? The medical field is notorious for their use of "Intellectual Property" (I still hate the idea that knowledge is property). So the aim isn't to find a cure, but to be the first to create a cure. This stinks of ego to me. Is this really a good place for donated money to go?

So where should donated money go? Personally I like the charities which are "on the ground". Guide dogs for the blind, bandages and other medical supplies in disaster areas, the cost of a hotel for the families of children with cancer. Wheelchairs.

So how many of these charities actually exist? Are the high profile ones, those that can advertise, a complete waste of time? If they are advertising, such as they do, could that money not go towards the cause and letting people know what they're about via volunteers?

We New Zealanders are a pretty charitable lot. I'm just wondering though... are we being taken advantage of?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Religion in Schools

This post has been altered to make some information more accurate.

-=-

Firstly, the exceptions that, to my way of thinking, allows for some religion in schools:
  • Defining what would normally be seen as religious rituals as culture (I'll get onto this in another post as I think it bears some thinking about).
  • An odd little creative exception, which I'm not sure is still in effect, but certainly was when I first went to school. It is possible to officially close a classroom for a period (usually half an hour a week) for religious classes. This then allows children/parents to opt out of such classes (though in reality, I think this is a bit of a fallacy as if you were to make it opt-in, I think you would have seen something quite different).
I'm not a fan at all of religion let alone it being used in school. The reasoning being is that I think that in a lot of cases it excludes people. When I first went to school, at Newton Central School, they had bible classes. I'm not sure if I was able to opt out. I think I would have given the choice but I can't imagine my parents taking the time to object to me being in those classes. It didn't matter that I wasn't Christian by any means. I certainly wasn't comfortable sitting through it.
However, there is a place for healthy discussion. America is a prime example of what happens when these discussions don't take place. Take for example the question I was asked recently in a classroom:

"Do you go to church?".
I smiled. "No".
"Oh that's right - you guys believe in those multi-armed gods".
"Well no. I don't believe in that either. Here we go. A long theology discussion."

I didn't have the discussion which was a bit of a pity. It would have been a healthy discussion to have.

The fact that there are a lot of similarities between Hinduism, obviously Buddhism, and funnily enough, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. That the interpretation of "gods" in the Hindu faith could potentially be seen as heroes - what was needed at the time and that the concept of an all encompassing god can be seen in Hinduism and is often marked out by the blue gods (bearing the soul of that all encompassing god - confusingly referred to as "Brahman").

That the similarities could be attributed to the Indo-Aryan migration and that the further east this migration, the more ... earth bound these religions get. In other words, the similarities between the different beliefs and how an elephant headed god, although different, bears a relationship to the religion they follow.

So America - where religion is not to be discussed in schools. They're an extreme. I'm quite convinced that a lot of the racial tension in America is due to not having these discussions. The lack of understanding around Islam causes all sorts of interesting little rumours to pop up.

I remember during the Gulf war there was something about Saddam Hussein using Islam to motivate his people into war. The idea that invading Kuwait would lead to "the promised land".

A few years later when I was working in Hamilton I met an Iraqi POW who had eventually come to New Zealand where I finally understood the story. It turns out that the Americans had given Kuwait technology that made the extraction of oil cheaper giving Kuwait a huge advantage thereby making Iraqi oil less desirable. This could be a fiction - I've never really confirmed it though it does have some resemblance to one of the origins of the war cited on wikipedia. I am relating a conversation I had probably around 7-8 years ago which was what I understood of the perspective of someone who was in the country at the time so my take on it probably isn't nearly as clear as it could be.

So I believe, while religion itself isn't great in school, healthy discussions are.

And then we were talking about the idea of keeping the rituals but removing god. The reason? Let the individual fill in the blanks. So, for example, when saying grace (and while we're at it, let's rename it. Giving thanks for example), something along the lines of "We are grateful for the food which we are about to receive" rather than "We thank God for the food we're about to receive".

Sure, it's a Christian based ritual. Take the word "God" out and it can be applied all over the place. No one need feel isolated because they don't fit in to that particular religion.

One of the other particular things I don't like about religion is the number of times people thank god.

The man who wins a race thanks god that his competition aren't as well prepared as he, or one of them fell/stumbled/had a bad start etc.

Those who put their heart, effort, time etc. into something and finally achieves something wonderful, dismisses their own efforts, and once again thanks God.

So, at school, I would love to see a purely value based system. Learners would be taught to have faith in themselves. Values taught regardless of and universal to religious inclination or values. If the subject of religion is brought up, then healthy discussion forms around it.

I know there's a benefit to religion in schools. I also think there's a downside or two.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Long Threatened Religion Post

Note:
I'm doing an edit to this given a change in perspective. It's not a big change and I think it's just as un-PC as it was before. It's just that a few things needed to be cleaned up. Actually, given the enormity of the subject, I might do frequent changes to this post given that I don't think doing individual posts for individual concerns would serve this post well.

- = -

I'm finally doing it! A post on religion.

Why now? I've been thinking about doing this post for a long time. I think this is an integral part of our lives and bears some discussion.

When I look at religions I tend to see trends. The fact that they all seem to try and offer some explanation as to what happens to you when you face the scary topic of mortality for example.

I group this in with the question "Does God exist?". They're questions, but questions that I don't actually need answers to. I'd like to know. I can live without an answer. So God may exist, he/she/it may not. [edit: 28/3/2011] This is pretty much the definition of being agnostic.

In terms of death, I like the concept of reincarnation. I loathe the carrot and stick that is heaven and hell. I'd be happy to know I was going to be buried in a biodegradable casket under a tree where I would essentially be fertiliser but my memory would be marked by something alive in which case, if that's it, I cease to exist, I'm comfortable with that too.

I got told "You'll be rewarded in the afterlife".

I was greatly offended by this. This is a bit like talking computer terminology around people not in the know. If, for example, talking about the master/slave relationship between hard drives, someone may take offense. It's not meant in that way.

So I consider that statement to be rude. Talking about someone's mortality comes across as incredibly uncouth. Attaching a religious tone to that, the afterlife, assumes a shared set of beliefs, or, in the "master/slave" example above, jargon. I realise that this is meant to come across as comforting but to me it sounded as if someone was absolving themselves of a burden of respect by saying that "god" will look after it.

I have to be honest - I was hopping mad about this statement. More dramatic thoughts had come to me. It's the sort of thing you might say to a terrorist before he straps on a bomb on for example.

This is an example of how religion can drive people apart I think. The same holds for some holidays as well. Easter, for example is a taken over holiday. You can still incredibly obvious indications of this. The word "Easter", derived from the word "Eastre" meaning spring, and the Goddess "Eastur" - the Mother or goddess of fertility. However, we celebrate it in New Zealand as a Christian holiday - one of the few days you can't buy alcohol in this country.

Every year we have news about shop keepers breaking laws around opening on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. They don't feel inclined to obey these laws given that they don't celebrate that particular religion. I would hazard a guess and say that a great deal of shop keepers don't open only because of the laws and not because of their faith.

I try to show respect in regards to religion. They're not my beliefs, but they're beliefs none the same. My main problem with organised/institutionalised religion though, is that they try to dictate how you should live when all of this is intrinsic.

And the reason I think it's intrinsic? By a weird twist of fate, we have a term which sums up this reasoning: karma. I know it tends to be used in a very airy fairy sort of a way, but the way I see it, it's very material.

If I punch someone, treat them with disrespect, I lose something. I lose their respect. Hell - I lose my respect. I can be moral, and have fought for my own moral code without someone dictating what that code should be.

And the bigger prize at the end of the rainbow? When I'm old and graying sitting on my front porch on a rocking chair playing chess with another old and wizened friend or whittling away at a piece of wood, I can sit back and think to myself "I did the best I could". Being content with how I lived my life is a much better carrot for me than anything that might happen when I die.

I have respect for those who are moral, not because a religion has told them that's how to behave or they're being promised a better after life if they do so, but because they know what being moral means. It's not following a bunch of rules but rather, arriving to a set of standards in behaviour and conduct that you feel is right.

And there's something there - something really honest that can be taken from that. We are, by our very natures, selfish. We do things for respect, the feeling we get, money etc. Any sort of value. Ironically, the less it seems about ourselves, the more virtuous it seems - to me at least. However, I know my actions are about me. Thus, what can I offer? How much help is it? How do I feel about what I'm doing?

Thinking from a perspective from one's self is not necessarily a bad thing. Humans have been doing this for centuries. I love being involved with the One Laptop Per Child Project because I meet up and work with like minded people. I show concern because I'm curious. It's all about me, just as you're the star of your own movie.

I know this has been touched upon in religious contexts before. I think we should be acknowledging it more. For example, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". You would have them do unto you. It's very much from a place where you are the center again.

Religion though is quite often seen from the perspective of the practiser. This is interesting in Christianity as particular gospels, in particular John's, take a very evangelical line. Why would his be evangelical while the others take a much more passive line? I personally believe it to be a case of agendas.

A friend called up someone he liked in high school only to find she'd become quite religious. When asked what he was doing for new years, he'd said he was having a few drinks. She replied with something about alcohol destroying the soul. To this day (around 10 years later) we still toast to a good solid renovation of our souls (while laughing about water having been turned into wine. By this logic, Jesus was a nasty character out to destroy a bunch of souls). Her own experiences with alcohol or those who drink (to excess given her view on it) had lead her to back up her beliefs with the "soul".


I'm sure religions came from good places. Do you ever imagine Mohammed would have conceived of anything even close to suicide bombers? Jesus or Moses had even remotely conceived of child molesting priests?
  
But then - the religions are often pale reflections of what they should be. I asked 5 people from my family how the universe came into being according to Hinduism. Only one had a very vague idea. Most Hindu's know a bit of the Ramayana and the Bhagavad Gita but have seldom even heard of the Vedas or Puranas.

How many Christians or Muslims refer to the Old Testament?


I can't really reconcile being a good "insert religious denomination here" with not knowing an awful lot about the religion and instead following the procedures/rituals etc. of that religion.

I would argue that the intent is far more important than.... practising lent, yom kippur, the month of Ramadan or a puja. But often, people don't know or care about the intent of their chosen religion.

So my problem with religion is very seldom about the religion itself, but rather with the people who practise it and how they interpret the intent (or don't as in many cases).

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Concerning Friends

I was meaning to write this piece a little while ago. I think I had discussed it with Nev, it was in conversation about how when the Christchurch quake hit, my first thoughts were of my two favourite Stuff bloggers Margaret and Moata. Strange, because I've never actually met them, they don't  know me, I don't even really post comments on their (always excellently written) blogs. Now put down on a piece of paper (or imprinted in pixels), it actually seems a bit weird/stalkerish/crazypants. I'll give you that. The closest I can get to explaining is, that they're a bit like having  awesome imaginary friends, that you don't have to go to the trouble of making up.

The internet has created a global community which has increased every ones circle of friends*, well,  rather "people you know" and as a result has led to a greater amount of empathy. In fact, it has been quite interesting watching the twitter feeds and blogposts as people passed information back and forth  about loved ones. Letting people know you're okay, has been made more efficient by status updates on facebook. It's comforting to know, that in case of emergency, you can let your family know how you are in 120 characters or less.

*Not necessarily including Chris O'Donnell**
**Unless he's on Twitter, I really should check that out

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Fumbling Through

I think I've almost got this depression licked.

Yesterday I decided to take a crapload (scientific standard measurement) of fish oil. I know there's no scientific evidence that fish oil helps behavioural issues but you can't completely discount the placebo effect. So long as I believe, it might just work. I then started the day by going to different schools. So I was feeling a lot more comfortable by the time I got to Point England School after having walked along the point. It's a beautiful walk though it does need some TLC.

I worked on a small script to add a global connection to a Linux machine (something that allows the user to set up their wireless connection for all users without having to set it up, then go back in and tick a check box).

We had one of our "famous" Manaiakalani meetings. I didn't get what I wanted out of it - a bit of certainty. There's the certainty that I'm going to be busy for a long time. But nothing more solid than that. I really do need to get some certainty - especially given that my loyalty and reliability have been called into question which has me, initially angry, now just ... uncertain.

Anyway, at the end of the meeting we were talking about what's happening on the news. Japanese people going back to their villages only to find that they can't find a single landmark. No indication of where their worldly possessions were. No community left. Just rubble. But then someone pointed out that the natural disasters aren't as bad as people killing each other for their own agendas - such as what's happening in Libya.

While I'm not feeling terribly depressed at the moment, I am having trouble sleeping. The world is becoming an increasingly sad place at the moment. If ever there was a time to weep for the world, it'd be now.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Finding Small Victories

I spent today in a hell of a state.

My depression was having some rather negative effects on me. Wall vision making me quite easy to startle (and thus, to some extent, paranoid), a nervousness (understatement - I was having anxiety attacks) around people especially strangers, breaking out in cold sweats etc.

I just wasn't coping well.

So tonight while sat in front of the TV and having very few distractions I managed to achieve a few small successes.

I needed to set up a new computer - different hardware - with the Manaiakalani image. After trying various drivers and the like, I got this up and going with relatively little effort. The only bit I'm not entirely happy with is the fact that I had to use a more updated kernel not yet avaliable in the repositories. I suspect I'm going to have to use this same kernel for the hardware I've got out there in the wild in order to get the sound working reliably.

This could be a big deal. Indications are that the powers that be would like to move away from Ubuntu at some point - to Android or Google Chrome (the OS, not the browser. Way to confuse things Google). This could be a mistake. All of those customizations being made for the netbooks at the moment to make them work the way we want them to will probably end up changing to what Google ordain we should or shouldn't be able to do with the netbooks. Sure it's Linux - but it's their own take on Linux with their own limitations

I'm never happy when a vendor forces you to use hardware in one way or another.

But that's neither here nor there.

After sorting out that laptop I then went on to work on a program that tries to ease the transition to new wireless security protocols. Each netbook will have their own pre-shared key to get onto the network.

I've found a problem where the keyring, the bit that's encrypted and stores passwords, can corrupt at times. It then constantly asks the user for the password in order to decrypt it.

The solution to this is fairly simple - delete the keyring. But what happens when the network password is too random to remember?

So the solution? To avoid the keyring altogether and to instead make the network avaliable to all users on the computer - thus stored by the system rather than on a per-user basis.

Unfortunately network manager, the funky program that manages, surprisingly enough, the network, doesn't have a really convenient way of doing this. Sure, after setting up a connection you can go back in, edit the connection and tick the right check box, but this is a really long way to accomplish something fairly simple.

So I've written the beginnings of a small script that presents an easy way of accomplishing this. A single step process that then writes the configuration for Network Manager.

This is part of that "What it really means to run Linux" bit that I mentioned. Open source in full swing. Making things work the way we want them to work. Brilliant.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

NZ Book Month

First, a brief introduction: Hi, I'm Baillie and I'm too sporadic and lazy to write my own blog, so I'm going to guest on Nevyns. Often, when Nev writes something I have an opinion on (surprisingly frequently), I will spend an hour or so on the phone with him telling him he is wrong. Or send him a ranty email that he will post anyway. This way I can complain, and it saves time!

Anyway, yesterday Nev was talking about books, and, it just so happens that it's New Zealand Book Month at the moment. The reason I bring this up, is because I happened to get one of their $5 off bookseller tokens (if you haven't managed to get your grubby little mitts on one yet, apparently Caltex petrol stations have them). Actually, I have several, one for each person in the house who can read (sorry, Josh) so now I can gleefully skip to my local bookshop with my golden ticket in hand to purchase a shiny new book for my shelf.

But what to buy?  Unfortunately Theodora hasn't been released yet. Stella Duffy is one of my favourite authors, please read her darkly mischievous Singling Out The Couples. I kind of had my heart set on Just My Type, because I am a nerd, and I find these sort of books weirdly fascinating. Most of all, I am that person who enjoys sharing little bits of new knowledge with others. Whether they like it, or not.* I was also considering R.H. Morriesons Predicament, a bit late to the game, I know, the movie's been out long enough for a DVD release. Especially considering I live in his hometown (fancy a visit to the residence of one of NZ's top writers? Don't bother, it's a KFC now), on the plus side, I know my local bookshop still has heaps of copies of it from when Hawera hosted the  "World Premiere". Then again, the best part of going to the bookshop with book tokens to burn, is that even though I have an idea of what I might want to buy, I still may be swayed by something new.

*Did you know that the collective noun for a group of peeping toms is a "Godiva"?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Literary Pursuits

I'm watching a debate on TVNZ 7 at the moment about New Zealand books.

I can't actually think of a book by a New Zealand author that I place above others. I have loads of books that I love. Yes - love.

Things like:
  • "American Gods" by Neil Gaiman - which explores the idea of gods and how they come about and what they demand of us.
  • "Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens  - a template for all modern drama (so says I).
  • The really fun "The Hollow Chocolate Bunny's of the Apocalypse" by Robert Rankin.
  • "Good Omens" by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.
  • "Mother Night" by Kurt Vonnegut.
  • "Fight Club" by Chuck Palahniuk - without which we wouldn't have had the amazingly thought provoking movie.
  • Just about everything by Jasper Fforde. I don't think I've come across a single book of his which I haven't loved.
And these are just the ones which I tend to read again every so often.

Anyway, books are something that I read quite often so I figured it might be cool to do book reviews on this blog.

The books above get a rating of "Awesome" from me. At some stage I may even elaborate on them. Apart from Charles Dickens (not because I've not liked any of his other books but because I haven't read any others), that list pretty much describes my favourite authours. J.K. Rowling probably belongs there though I was horribly disappointed by the last of the Harry Potter series. JRR Tolkien also probably belongs there though it was only one series. I was a little gutted during the second movie based on the books when the ents were horribly hasty.

Anyway, Baillie and I were talking about the trend of e-books. This came about after talking about tablet devices and then ebook readers.

Ebook readers just aren't making huge waves, especially not in New Zealand. Off the shelf I can only think of 2 readers you can get. The Kobo and the Reader(TM). And with Whitcoulls/Borders possibly going out of business, the Kobo might not be avaliable for long.

Ebooks make quite a bit of sense to publishers. You don't have to fork out for paper and printing costs. It's a cost per book cost that just disappears. But if no one has the media in order to display it, then it's never going to happen. It's even worse when you factor in the love for books - which is a little different from the love of reading.

In one, you derive joy from just reading. The other, you derive joy also from the tactile of feeling the pages beneath your fingers - and also from browsing through other people's book shelves. I don't know about you but flicking through an ebook reader just doesn't really appeal to me.

Anyway, there are 2 ways for publishing companies to promote the use of ebook readers.
  1. Participate in a programme that gives authors more commission from their books (and market the fact).
  2. Offer a download code for the book you've just purchased (They would have to be DRM free to create a sense of value added).
Of course, this doesn't sort out the initial problem of there being very few ebook readers in New Zealand.

Love

I can imagine Ian and Baillie both rolling their eyes as they read that heading.

It's a word. The problem with this word though, is with the definition.

What brought this post about? The other night I had sent an email to someone which had said something along the lines of "One of the things I love about her...". The following day, the friend who I'd sent the email to asked me "How drunk were you?".

Despite the fact that I was, in fact, drunk, I don't think the word was used inappropriately or that I should be embarrassed by it.

For me, the word simply means I would do anything within my power to help that person even if it is at great cost to myself.

I love my sister and dropped everything in order to play babysitter (though I don't always particularly like her).

I love my best friends - if they were in dire need, I would be there in a shot.

I also love things about people or things, though I'm not really sure how my definition fits into that.

For example, I love that one of my friends is really ambitious and wants to travel the world for work. It makes me sad that she won't be around but I would be sorely disappointed if she suddenly wanted to stay in New Zealand. It's the value of that part of her personality I wouldn't want to change. Perhaps the notion of the word love in this case is used to indicate that I wouldn't want that very value to ever change.

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then the meaning of love is in the mind of the person saying it.

Welcome Baillie

Sod it! I'm using her first name. No permission granted!

Anyway, the reason I'm welcoming Baillie is that I've invited her to write on this blog. Heaven knows I'm not the most entertaining of writers and a lot of what I write comes from Baillie anyway. Great man, mediocre woman and all of that ;p

I needed to change the tag line of the blog anyway - there's no longer any cat for this blog not be about.

I had called Baillie last night. I was suddenly feeling anxious. The earthquake in Japan had me really worried. In a completely self-centered, "Why do these things happen to me?" sort of a way, I was worried about Micronesia.

Given how things seem to be falling apart on me - as described in my last blog post - this just felt almost personal. I'm pretty sure the earth didn't move just on my account.

Also there was an earthquake in China/Myanmar yesterday. The frequency of these things has me worried. 2012 doomsday predictions doesn't sound so ridiculous after all. My "I Survived 2000" t-shirt (it doesn't actually exist) is becoming meaningless at a faster rate than I ever anticipated. Ken Ring might not be, as people seem so willing to think, a complete crackpot.

My own opinion is that we should be following scientific enquiry before discounting him. He's stated a hypothesis and has used that to make a prediction. I reckon we should see what happens now. So the 24th of this month could be interesting.

Anyway, a long ramble for something really simple (and a hell of a tangent to earthquakes). I'm rather looking forward to seeing what Baillie comes up with.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A 'lil update

So much to talk about... I'll start with me being unfair.

It's come to my attention that I've probably been a little unfair to my family. For the most part, they end up on this blog when I'm angry with them or when I'm trying to discern things about myself. It's not really about them at all. It's ALL about me.

My mother for example, isn't a bad person. I think, in a very clinical way, she could have been a better mum. But then, she's one of the few people who can tell when I'm depressed. I still live at home, not just because of my financial situation, but also because I know I'd be terribly lonely living on my own. I think a lot of the things I complain about are the very same things she's experienced in her life and is frustrated by.

My sisters... well... they're older sisters. They weren't terribly happy having a younger brother. They'd always said they wanted an older brother. I was a burden. Respect doesn't come easily.

And my father? He's a really good person. We might not always get along. The truth is, we're very a like. That's not a formula for a great relationship.

I've been having a bit of a time of it lately. At the end of last week I was offered 2 weeks of work. And then at the beginning of this week I got a letter from IRD. I couldn't help but release a little snigger. They were informing me that they had asked my bank to withdraw $500 a week from my account. I sniggered because my bank accounts closed down a while back.

This hasn't really stopped the stress. As a result though, I had to take the 2 weeks work as a technician. Bearing in mind my comment about that particular title in my last post, I'm finding myself bored. I'm told I'm good at it and there were hints that they wanted to offer me a permanent role in this position. So I kept hinting that I may have a friend who might be interested.

I popped a bubble of reality.

And my sister's coming to New Zealand (she's in Australia). This is the one I don't speak to. As a result though, if I'm not in Micronesia next month, I need to find a couch or something to sleep on or something... I refuse to be a reason why my parents couldn't spend as much time as possible with their grandson.

I lack certainty at the moment. I don't know when I'm off to Micronesia. I have no idea how much I'm being paid as a technician. There's loads of pressure from IRD. Bubble's popped. I don't yet have a title. I have no idea what sort of figures I might be facing for a pay rate when I do start getting paid for my work on the Manaiakalani project and when this is going to happen. I don't know what to do about a place to stay if I'm still in Auckland at the time and I have no idea for how long I need a place.

I'm finding myself down. Those same old depression signs are there. I'm constantly tired and just want to sleep (even though I should really be ramping myself up to do both this technician job and working on the Manaiakalani project). I'm quite delicate - occasionally I tear up. I'm indifferent especially when small things are going wrong or I just don't want to do something. The smile slips occasionally and the tired sighs are frequent. I'm self-absorbed - making me quite forgetful. I feel like I'm wearing a mask often over compensating for my feeling down with smiles and enthusiasm.

So if you see me and I seem to be struggling with words or I look like I'm tearing up - it's okay. I'm just a little down. This isn't a big deal. It happens. Things always work out in the end if not always in the way that I thought they would. Most importantly, I'm okay. I quite hate the question "are you okay?" when I'm depressed. It has me thinking about it - "Am I okay?". The truth is it's self indulgent. I'm feeling uncertain and lack control (in terms of my future) and I'm really just trying to process it and gain some sense of control.

Friday, March 4, 2011

In Threes

I was at a meeting today where we went around the room introducing ourselves. I don't actually have a title as of yet. I grit my teeth every time I'm called a "technician".

The reason is, the students who are taught to image the computers for the Manaiakalani project are called technicians.

So when it came to introducing myself... "I'm Nevyn and I'm a legend". I accompanied this with fists raised over my head.

I haven't quite figured out what I am. Hopefully I'm going to be admin based to a certain degree - being the point of call for any problems and diagnosing them enough to figure out who should be looking after the issue. I'm an Operating Environment architect. I'm a technical writer. I'm a developer. I'm helpdesk. Putting all of these things in to the overalls wearing title of "Technician" just grates on me.

Being all of these things though and having praise showered upon me (except in the form of a title) doesn't mean that I don't make mistakes. In fact, the last couple of days have seen some real doozys.

1. Diagramming
While I was writing up a flow chart for diagnosing networking problems, there was a certain point that I just wasn't happy with. By default Ubuntu allows you to switch users really quickly. What happens though is that you don't really switch users so much as start a new X (graphical) session under a different user. So both users are logged on at exactly the same time.

The problem here is that network-manager can only be controlled by one user at any time. So the first user gets control. The second doesn't have any control. And given that the guest account on the netbooks doesn't have a password, it's REALLY easy for the students to log in as guest by mistake and switch to their own account.

So in order to fix my diagram, I suddenly realised that I could probably just turn off that functionality. Logged on as guest? Log out and then log in as yourself. Done. Dusted.

Of course, the mistake is the fact that here I am trying to educate the users about the problem instead of just fixing it. Sorted now. For any Linux geeks out there, it's under gconf - /desktop/gnome/lockdown/disable_user_switching.

2. What running Linux really means
So the Micronesia trip has been on hold for a little while. This is because I just haven't been happy. I've been really concerned about the specifications for equipment I got so I've been trying to untangle the mess.

Anyway, I came across a brand of wireless gear that runs Linux - Ubiquiti Networks running something called AirOS. However, I didn't see the connection. What does running Linux on this gear really mean?

And this is really simple. It means that it's flexible. Normally horribly expensive bits of gear can be replaced with a bit of software. And while it might not be quite as efficient as a black box solution, it will only improve.

3. I don't want to talk about it
I kind of do, but I don't :/ Needless to say I find myself talking in expletives around this.

Do what you've always done and you'll get what you've always gotten.

So that's my 3. Hopefully those are all I'm going to find. I fixed up a networking problem in order to make a diagram look better. I delayed because I didn't make the connection that I needed to make. I did something I didn't specify.

Here's hoping this month is going to be a little better - though - I've realised just how much work there is for me to do.
  • Produce learning materials (desktop recordings - possibly to become part of the desktop image - and documentation).
  • I need to come up with a more modern desktop which is fully functional and doesn't cause users to grit their teeth (avant window navigator needs some lovin').
  • I need to start fixing a few things around software such as being able to turn off "networking" from the network manager applet and removing the facebook options from just about everything.
  • I need to form a functional relationship between myself and a bunch of the teachers using the netbooks as without these relationships they don't get the technical support that they're going to need.
  • But most of all, I need to stop and take stock, have a bit of a break, get rested and stop making such stupid mistakes.
  • I really need to find some sort of work/life balance. Going out on Wednesday night had me exhausted for the rest of the week.
So - take all of those points, prioritise them, discard the ones which are unlikely (like being able to stop for a bit) and get on with it.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Fund raising

It's a Wednesday night and I've been to a bar for a fund raising effort for Christchurch. It was put together by a guy named Jamie from the Clare Inn - The Irish pub which I now credit for my accent (despite it being a complete lie - my accent existed well before then. It just makes a great story).

I wasn't planning on going but I'm glad that I did. I talked with someone about how this, what feels like a blood sacrifice after just having finished re-reading "American Gods" by Neil Gaiman, event seems to have brought out the best in people.

I can't talk enough about the Student Volunteer Army. Holy crapballs on toast. No one but no one expected it to be as big as it is. And the IT effort around it - they're actually working closely with the SVA to help deal with the information coming in to them - requests and the like.

And the fact that we're sort of the young brother of the rest of the world. A rolling of the eyes and exasperated expression at the best of times, but when we really need help, we get it from the most unexpected places.

So I was at this pub having a drink with friends. And we go in to watch one of New Zealand's best Irish dancer's do his thing. We've never actually seen him do his thing. He's awesome. One news is there. They turn on a spot light and pan across the pub - at me and a bunch of the people I'm there with.

I can't help but think of all of my media appearances I've had in my lifetime:
  • Back in the early 80's there was this weird thing where the zoo would take Kashin the elephant to schools. I wasn't yet at school but my parents took me to my sister's school. I had run at the front of the crowd to get to my sisters and the New Zealand Herald had taken a shot just at that moment. I don't think you could see anything of me except that I was a blob at the front of everything.
  • A few years later we attended holiday programmes at a place which we referred to as "Outreach". It's now called "Art Station". We did a play. I was one of the villagers that got dragged into the cave of the big bad monster. I'm not entirely sure what I was asked to do but I again ended up on the front page of the New Zealand Herald.
  • In intermediate school, our school was used for half a day for the filming of a comedy show called "That Comedy Show". I was selected as one of the kids to be in one of the skits.
  • They seemed to follow me where once again I found myself on "That Comedy Show" at high school where I was in quite a few scenes.
  • Before I hit 20, I was an extra on Xena. I never saw the episode.
  • When I had moved down to Christchurch I spent a great deal of my time for the first month or so at Cathedral Square. I was new to the city and looking for something to do. So I juggled behind Sugra the Juggler. I would stand there juggling 3 balls behind him and kick any balls back towards his audience - who would participate with Sugra's juggling. Cathedral Square had just been renovated and we were filmed (but not shown as far as I know) for the news. If you've never heard of Sugra, he was a juggler in Cathedral Square who would ride a uni-cycle and juggle up to 7 balls.
  • A few years later a workmate had come up to me and called me a porn star. A friend was going through a divorce and we'd gone to the erotica expo - he really needed the distraction at the time - which parts of it was being filmed. I had paid for a photo of a porn star sitting on my lap (I have a photo from a couple of years later where she'd had implants - She had actually pointed them out, and asked "Do you like them? They're new"). It seems that I had ended up on a documentary about the porn industry in New Zealand. I never got to see this either.
Fast forward to today. I can just imagine the story. "Even drunkards are doing their bit".

I'm curious - what media "opportunities" have other people reading this blog post had? Did they ever appear on What Now? (with Danny Watson or Michelle A'Court which are about the earliest ones I remember). Or unwittingly ended up in a news paper doing something really stupid like running in front of an elephant? Has a past teacher, at the time been at teachers training college, said that they still use one of your drawings as an example? (That happened to me too).

Anyway, back to the pub. I keep running into people I know. I spent a great deal of time there - it was a community. It offered me, at the low low price of $6.50 a pint for a cider (now $8.50), a group in which to belong.
It's actually kind of priced itself out of the locals. The locals no longer drink there nearly as frequently as they once did. So meeting up with all of the old faces is kind of a big deal. There are some other reasons why a lot of the old faces have since left but I don't really want to put the Clare Inn in a negative light.

People pass me and ask me how I'm doing to which I answer in the extreme positives (usually with a few expletives). Only a few ask me what I'm up to these days. I even miss a few of them.

There's one who still owes me $1,800 who I don't think is ever going to pay me back given that he spends a great deal of time when ever he speaks to me telling me about how far in the crapper he's in.

Another - takes some effort to give me his cellphone number - who I used to drink with regularly. He doesn't drink whiskey as apparently it turns him into an obnoxious drunk. Great guy. One of those who always builds you up. I do wonder if I'll actually text him.

I hang around with Miss Bird the whole time. I'm really enjoying myself with her. It's been awhile since we've been in this atmosphere together. I know her well enough that I know when she's made an effort.

Things like a birthday party of mine where she wore the most amazing dress.

Tonight it was heels. High enough that she was looking me straight in the eye.

These are special occasions things.

The whole night reminds me of a night in Christchurch. I had come back after 5 years. I had done 3 120 hour weeks in a row. Matt, the other guy who had done the same hours, and I went down to Christchurch for a bit of a break. He was back off to Scotland soonish and wanted to see the South Island. I had lived in Christchurch and wanted a holiday.

He was (is?) a very social person. So we had gone to an Irish pub and were the only people there except for a bar lass and the musician. As people came in, he met them and introduced me to them. I sat with them enjoying the evening. Horribly drunk, the people I was hanging around with and I, ended up doing a puzzle. The woman I had met was fantastic. I had even bragged later about the hug I had gotten from her.

Matt seemed happy enough. I described him later as a "retarded Fred Astaire". Matt had warned me earlier that if he finds stairs, he dances on them - that is, takes two steps forward, one back and continues until he reaches the end and then takes two steps back and one forward.

I'm still wondering about the fund raising though. Ever since seeing some people doing a sausage sizzle so that they could visit a Hindu orphanage, I find myself questioning, "Is the fund raising apt?" For me it feels apt. I'm not sure if it does for others. Is it just an excuse for a drink?