Archive for October, 2004

fire alarm

October 28th, 2004

Today was guest lecture day, a guy working as IT project manager, head of system development for Statoil, Norway's biggest private company had a talk about methodology and architecture at Statoil. Then in the middle of it the fire alarm goes off. And this reaction I thought was quite interesting. First of all there was no rush, no urgency whatsoever. And looking around the auditorium everyone including the guest lecturer and the two professors had this look of irritation and indifference on their faces. As if to say "oh crap not this now". So very very slowly we start walking out of the room, going down the stairs and outside in the parking lot. On the way out we pass a janitor in the hall, he was going down to the basement. After a few minutes the fire department arrives on the scene, again no urgency in their conduct. It was a dull event, no smoke seen anywhere, the chemistry institute is right next door from us so presumably they messed something up. But just to see the reactions of the people was interesting, a universal contempt for something that would disturb their day without having any inherent significance to it other than to annoy them.

My instinct reaction was thank goodness that alarm bell they have every few doors down every hallway is not my alarm clock.

tears

October 28th, 2004

I'm not going to speculate on where it originates from, I can't be bothered today. But one thing is for sure, crying is not socially acceptable behavior. It makes people uncomfortable, maybe that's why everyone shys away from it. Whatever the reason, crying is definitely perceived as a sign of weakness, the ultimate expression of weakness in fact. It's a taboo, people who cry don't want others to see them cry, they feel weak and vulnerable.

Well I'm taking a stand right now. I've been crying everyday for the past week. Now go knock yourself out.

parents know

October 25th, 2004

They may not understand much because they're in a completely different phase of their lives but parents do know the simple truths of life. As a kid my parents used to tell me to cherish my family, because they are the only ones in the world that are going to be there for me. Other family would say that too, at the annual family gathering where everyone is there for once, they would emphasize how great this family is and how lucky we all are to be part of it. At the time I thought that was a little exaggerated, I had good friends, I'm sure they would want to help if I really needed it. And it's also that the relation between family and friends changes over the time, many people grow up feeling closer to their friends than they do to family. To the extent that some portion of young adults barely keep in touch with family while they spend lots of time with friends. I didn't quite believe that prophecy at the time but I wonder how many more times they are going to prove me wrong.

As a child, I remember getting really excited about things. Vacations, weekends, Christmas, my birthday, presents, toys, people visiting etc. But as life goes, sometimes you're in for a big disappointment. I suppose as disappointment accumulated that strain was taking its toll and at some point a mental reaction occured. As a child you learn to not get your hopes up, that way you won't be disappointed. That's really a very valuable lesson and if you happen to forget it, soon enough life will remind you of it. At the extreme level, you expect nothing, I suppose I have never felt that. But as far as getting excited about stuff goes, it's practically unknown to me. Since I learnt that lesson properly in childhood, I never get really excited about anything anymore. It's not worth it. Because too often what matters most doesn't work out. So the result is a life of indifference. Days go by but there is little purpose to it. Boredom is being dealt with every day.

A closely related matter is that of trust. As a kid when you get attacked by peers, you learn to defend yourself. Some people fight back physically. Some find a way to bond with the perpetrators so that the situation resolves itself but it takes a bit of self confidence to approach the matter in that way. Finally some do what I did, they zip up, shut down and never let anything slip that could potentially be abused. You go to class with a bunch of people but they don't know you at all, a couple of years later you see them on the street and they don't even remember you. It is amazing how with little effort you can keep in touch casually without ever discussing anything more important than the weather. So that makes you feel empty then, because there's nothing genuine about talking to these people, it's politeness and sometimes necessity, it's not intent. So once the threat decreases, you think to yourself I should try and give a little of myself because this is meaningless. But it takes a lot after all those years to be more open and show people who you are because you're so used to holding back that it's become a second nature. Little by little, you learn to do it and that allows you to get in touch with people that really seem worth the effort. It's such a liberating feeling to trust at least a few of chosen people and not have to hold back all the time. But then the lesson of childhood comes up again. You may just think that finally you know someone who really cares, after all they're willing to spend that much time with you, this could be something special. But then you make the cardinal mistake of getting your hopes up. And you forget what your parents taught you. A person filled with optimism does not think rationally, judgement is clouded by the desire to get whatever it is that you want. And so sooner or later you're in for a big disappointment.

If I could give up all the other times I've proved my parents wrong and trade it for being right on this one, I would.

guest blogger: Erik!!!

October 25th, 2004

Following closely in the splendid footsteps of the eminent Andre, I was nothing short of astounded when Erik announced he might like to guest blog over here. Well on the upside noone's gonna read it, all that effort wasted.. Oh well

We go back a long time, Martin and I, though we didn't actually really meet until last summer. We planned a holiday in Stockholm, Sweden and all I really remember of that first day was how uncomfortable I was and how Martin wasn't helpful at all because he kept bitching about my British accent.

He is a must-have friend if you're into Seinfeld though, I swear, the man is like a walking database or something. You go to the supermarket to buy milk; he gives you some expiration date bit. You go to the beach and, like always,
you stick your wallet in your shoe and he'll give you a ridiculing look, saying "What criminal mind could penetrate *that* fortress of security?"

Which I didn't get back then but who am I. That's actually the way he likes the situation most though; if you don't know Seinfeld you'll think it's actually his own sense of humour that supplies him with these jokes.

But whatever you do, don't let him guide you through the city. If he insists on keeping the map, steal it from him in his sleep. I had a solid marathon training that week and though it's good for my already impressive physique it's not exactly what I want to be doing during my holidays.

It would prove to be useful exercise though; you need to be in the best shape of your life if you're going to digest his cooking.

If you can manage to get him on your side, however, he's the best friend you can have. Anyone that doesn't mind getting on a boat with me rules, whatever your perspective is. Wouldn't trade him for the world, though he might disagree with that after this guest blog(!)

Erik

human relationships

October 11th, 2004

Imagine you're driving a car.. you stop at a red light and another car pulls up alongside you. Now you're drag racing, both drivers are impatiently waiting for that green light. Now, of course drag racing makes no sense unless the cars are comparable in performance, otherwise it would be a blowout. So there you have it, two different cars, but similar in performance, waiting to start the race. Finally comes the green light, both cars speed out burning rubber. It's neck a neck in the race, both drivers shifting gears to reach that top speed.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is where we extricate ourselves from this very dangerous and very illegal practice of drag racing. Now let x go from zero to infinity as we imagine a straight road of infinite length. The two cars are both going at top speed and their speed is the same. Now imagine that we tie a piece of string, attached to the mirror of one car, going toward the other and fastened there around the mirror once again. These two cars are now bound by a thin piece of string, they are tied together.

If you've seen the title, you've no doubt guessed that the human relationship is represented by the piece of string. The two persons involved are both quite solid, consistent individuals who are set in their ways and appreciate that a systematic approach to a relationship is what will earn you success. But that also mirrors their attitude in other aspects of life, people are mostly static, they don't change much over time, even if they do change sometimes, those changes are then carried over for long periods of time. Thus the potential which exists in trying to match up two people who share enough common ground to make a relationship meaningful is quite significant. But once this relationship is established, it will go on to suffer from a plethora of unforeseen problems which prove extensively difficult to get around.

Let's head back to the drag race. If you can imagine two cars racing, their only incentive being who will cross the finish line first, as they are in fact racing along an infinitely long track, you can imagine that their respective paths will be identical. There is a piece of string holding them together but if either car was to make the slightest turn outwards, that string would snap immediately. So if people grow apart, find out that they no longer share enough common ground for a meaningful relationship, it will be in jeopardy. But that's rather the unlikely scenario. Much more likely it is that the two cars are in fact not identical, one may accelerate faster than the other. Perhaps one is aerodynamic and subject to little air resistance, while the other is bulky in shape, causing the mirror holding the string to shake feverishly. Perhaps one has exceptional suspension while the other jumps at every bump in the road. It is the sum of all these specifics that makes the string dance in the wind with a very great risk of snapping.

It is the sum of all these specifics that makes a relationship a highly volatile compound. While the persons involved are stable, static entities, the bond between them is not unlike the flame in your fireplace, it has no defined state because the sum of all possible states is infinite. And because no two people are equal, it will never be stable. It will always be affected by 3 factors listed in order of likelyhood: (1) the people don't match at the required level of precision, (2) the environment in which the relationship exists is highly dynamic and prone to affect it negatively and (3) the people grow apart/change.

Is it then logically correct to conclude that the human relationship is an atrificial construct, an ill coneived conception at best, a fata morgana? Do we not all strive for highly robust and functional relationships? Who is content with 25%? Ah, but herein lies the obstacle. We may all strive for perfection, but we will never have it. No matter how much one person may want to achieve these lofty goals, the result is entirely dependent on both individuals, both of whom have different philosophies, different values, different approaches, different minds.

Is it then inevitable that in the course of this race toward infinity one of the drivers will fall asleep and end up in a ditch, perhaps crashing the other car in the process? If not, what is the likelyhood of both making it? 1%? 1.5%? Are we kidding ourselves to begin with?

Here's the essence of it.. even if you think you have a strong relationship, you will never know that until it is truly tested. Here's the pitfall.. at times it seems as if the string had been replaced by a thick, solid steel beam welded right into the chassis of both cars. But the steel beam is not real. It is there because we want to imagine that it is. But taking a closer look, there is nothing more than a string in its place. And even though the beam doesn't undergo the shocks that the string would, it does instead accumulate that energy over time, to the point when it has to be released. So if we rely on a beam holding the cars together instead of a string, it is only pushing back the inevitable, sooner or later there will be a release of energy strong enough to snap the beam in half just like the string could snap at any time.