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In December of 2011 I turned 50. On the way there I thought I'd make the most of the experience and give my mind and soul a good talking-with. This is what developed.
 
2011.11.25 To My Friends, half-way through a century of Jerome Yuzyk
 
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A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere.
Before him, I may think aloud.

     - Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Friendship" (1841)
It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.
     - also Emerson

On the occasion of my 50th loop 'round the sun on this big ball of dirt I want to thank you very heartily for your friendship, your wisdoms, forebearances, audiences and a great many things that would take a lot more words that I'm going to spend on other things for now.

My mother waited until she was 70 to stand up for herself and say "enough is enough". In her own way. Inspired by her, and much less patient once the idea was planted, I am going to draw my own lines in the sand on a number of levels and issues.

50 is a good time to do that kind of life janitorial work, and once realized, I could not put the idea aside. Contemplation as the big-numbered day approaches has led me to another realization that is really the basis for all others that followed and what you are about to read if you choose to continue.

I Am Dying

Not to worry though, I'm not dying specifically. I have just realized it on a fundamental level, not waiting for the doctor to tell me, but acting as though one has. I suppose the cliche "live every day like it's your last" applies, but that's too many words. :) I Am Dying - nice and simple.

So with that realization dawning on me, about a year ago, I began to treat my approaching half-century, and the time thereafter, as an exercise in living differently. None of that Bucket List stuff (for now anyway), but simple things like drawing some lines, making some choices, saying (or not) some things. I'm never going to climb Mt. Everest or cure any disease, but I'm going to stay alive and engaged in life.

Make the most of yourself....for that is all there is of you.
     - Emerson
To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.
     - Emerson

So for me at 50, the essence of life, now that my basic needs are easily met, is the allotment of my mental, emotional, physical, and social energies. Does this activity, or pursuit, or person, provide a good return for my time, money, and emotional investment? This question is not new to me: I have hand-written notes from sometime in my 20s titled "Social Economics" that tries to collect my thoughts on the same question at the time.

But now, with a limited amount of time to exercise what energies I have in me, comes some economic considerations that guide me and whatever you see here.

 
2011.12 Allergies!!!
 
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I've been very fortunate to have had a healthy life. Now at 50 though, I find myself beset by allergies. Allergies that make the soles of my feet itchy, and make me want to walk away. Things I need to avoid in my spiritual diet. Now that I've had 30 years' worth. Allergies of the aged I guess - 20-30 years ago none of these things would have affected me much, but now, well, some people can't eat cheese or fried stuff or wear wool... these things give me a reaction.

Why? I think because I HAVE BEEN ALL THESE THINGS MYSELF. Sorry to everyone who has had to put up with me. Now I know what to avoid, Promise.

  • Grumps

    While there are lovable curmudgeons in the comics, like Crankshaft , they are best left in the comics.

    Perhaps because I could be one, and I have in the past (sorry to a few ladies) veered into that territory - calling myself "realistic" and "a skeptic". I still am both of those things (without quotes :)) - but way less vocal and dickish about it.

    Guys: I know our testosterone drops and we get more estrogen-y and haven't learned to handle it like women have, but geez it's tiring to listen to the same old harrumphing about things none of us is ever going to do a damn thing more than harrumph over. Perhaps my life doesn't suck as much though. But neither does yours, really. Finding imperfections in life is a trivial enterprise.

    Critics and Recreational Nay-Sayers : Grumps that Know Better, but usually aren't doing a lot themselves worthy of much notice, nevermind critique - it's saved for everything else that Isn't Right. With the ubiquity of the Internet, useful critical review and reasoned analysis is only a few clicks away. Opinions aren't worth much anymore, especially uninformed ones.

    Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.
         - Emerson

    Crusaders : Grumps with a purpose, or so they think, tilting at windmills with impotent rage. I'm no Mahatma Gandhi and neither are you: Mahatma Did Something, not just preach and fuss and yap about inequities real and perceived. They're there, they've always been there, they'll always be there, and vocal but inactive "concern" is just emotional and spiritual masturbation.

    The worst vice of a fanatic is his sincerity.
         - Oscar Wilde

    Whiners : Grumps that Don't Understand, Don't Like, or Don't Get Their Way. Waaaaa.... By 50 we all really ought to know better, or at least have a more-pleasurable delivery for our gripes. Life's not perfect - suck it up and make something of yours to share with us.

    Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.
         - Emerson

  • Sitting and Watching a Screen

    Seems to be popular, lots of ways to do it, done it before, maybe I'll do some again when I can't do anything else - it'll all be there later. There's a reason no one makes movies and TV shows about people who sit and watch a lot of movies and TV shows - they're BORING!!!

    Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.
         - Emerson

  • Lectures

    I've always been a "good listener." That's been a good thing, because I leverage the knowledge and experience of others, to emulate or avoid. However, I left university some 25 years ago, and haven't much use for lectures since, unless it's a topic that interests or entertains me. I do prefer conversation though, because as much as I want to know what others think, I like to share what I think too - the interaction part of human existence. Otherwise I have a much more comfortable and productive method for one-way learning - I can read.

    Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.
         - Winston Churchill

  • High-Schoolers

    I graduated high school 30+ years ago. I left behind (or at least spent my life trying to) the petty and banal behaviours and interests of a wannabe adult, and carried with me the interest in learning and exploring and living that has propelled me to where I am today.

    Lots of people seem to have reversed those things though. They left behind any effort to learn and understand and grow, and carried with them the juvenile tastes, mental abilities, and social development of their teen years. The same (old) insecurities, resentments, name-calling, and misdirection of energies that were part of youth are embarrassing now.

  • Busy-Work

    I was a janitor with my Dad at a very young age. Every night Monday to Friday after dinner we'd go clean things we'd cleaned the night before. Maintenance like that is essential to running a life. A life preoccupied with maintenance is not a life though. "Doing something" because it's "better than nothing" is generally not.

  • Lazy Naïveté

    To be surprised at 20 that companies are in fact in business to make money is (somewhat) charming. Around 50 it's just lazy. To still complain about the injustice of it all is broadcasting ignorance, not "sensitivity." Likewise any of a number of other injustices. If you don't know by now, where the hell have you been all these decades???

  • Loud Mediocrity

    Is there a reason a golf driving range needs top-40 pop-noise blaring away? Like a muffler shop or hair salon would have? Are people so bored and lonely when left with their own thoughts that they need tedious but loud mediocrity to distract them from themselves?

 
2012.05.17 I'm out of GAS
 
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I've been a listener all my life. People talk to me, often without solicitation. But with the Internet exposing to everyone all the ways that things are Going to Hell, and all the things We Should Worry About, I'm getting rather tired of listening. I've read 2 newspapers every day for 30 years, and I know the ebb and flow of good and evil. It's with us, it's always been with us, and it'll always be with us.

Not everyone does though. For many the Internet, and the ubiquitously-desperate 24-hour news cycle, provides a vast and groaning buffet table of Things That Aren't Right That Should Concern Us.

Oh really now... And what are we going to do about it? Care? Just care? Just (and only) care as we sit in our comfy 1st-world lives? I think not. Care and just fuss about it while we do nothing? Ah, that's more like it. Recreational Concern. No action, but a lot of chin-wagging, as though trouble and strife and injustice are something new that would only change if we Cared. If we were Aware.

Well no... Caring is not enough. Concern is not enough. Awareness - well, who is not aware that isn't living in a cave nowadays? But there's a lot of warm fuzzy feel-good in caring and concern, easy emotional strokes that make us feel involved. Without any real involvement, mind you - too messy.

So I'm out of GAS - Give A Shit. Out of GAS on whether the Middle East is ever going to quit fighting over sand and dirt. Out of GAS on left versus right politics. Out of GAS about troubles and inequities helpfully provided to us by the Concern industries, between the ads and solicitations for our money for things we don't really need of course. Out of GAS with people who worry and fret about the state of the larger world while their own lays fallow and weedy.

Sorry... I'm out of GAS on all that - it gets in the way of living, and isn't much of a fun hobby now that it's all over everywhere all the time now.

 
2012.06.09 An Afternoon with Musical Youth
 
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Spent the afternoon with my best friend at a local music festival billed as a combo of surf and reggae under a large amphitheatre tent in a local park. I'm sure we were in the top 5% by age, and all around us we were surrounded by kids that would have been the age of my sons or daughters if I had had kids at their age.

The 2010 Olympics were the first time I started noticing that the parents of competitors and medal-winners looked a lot like me. And I started feeling something of the pride I'm sure I'd feel if it was MY kid standing up there realizing their ambitions.

It was a college crowd, pretty un-alternative - clothes and piercings and tattoos were mainstream 'hip' - nothing to even upset grandma anymore. Everyone was very friendly and didn't seem to care that I was their Dad's age and my friend wore his narc-like aviator sunglasses even though it wasn't sunny.

But I bounced around the place, not satisfied to just sit and watch the bands, and talked to some friendly people like the lady doing sound-level checks for the City, and a fellow from YEG Live rebooting the Linux-based ticket sale kiosk. He was interested in my Linux experience and asked for my card, so maybe age in the midst of youth can be a handy thing. :)

 
2012.06.11 Senile Software
 
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I've recently been doing some consulting to help a financial company implement a Windows front-end to a mutual funds trading platform. Fancy transaction-processing stuff - lots of components communicating over IBM MQ middleware to do real-time trading. Cool stuff - I've never worked in this area.

Or at least it should be. But it also demonstrates the garbage software that a market monopoly can create and maintain. It's very obviously morphed from some CA's old Visual Basic hobbyist-programming into a business trying to keep that old hack going:

  • The screens all have the cutesy coloured panels and icons from VB of old. Very retro. Not in a good way.
  • Their website is "IE Certified" - how quaint! Meaning, it was built for IE6 and held together through IE 7 and 8. But not 9. Or any non-IE browser.
  • The whole package uses 8 or so individual services. WITH NO DOCUMENTATION OF HOW IT ALL GOES TOGETHER (by their own admission - I've asked repeatedly). Or how to manage it. Or troubleshoot. Or do anything except Stop Service, Uninstall the old, Install the New, and Restart Service.
  • Some files you get from the Dealer part of the website (if you can get to it), some from an FTP site with different logins depending on the package. FTP in 2012??? Creeeeaaaakkkkk... When you get to the FTP site you're presented with a couple dozen folders and it's your job to figure out which one holds what you need.
  • Some install/upgrade procedures require long command lines. These folks have never seen a DOS manual, and embed the commands in paragraph text, in a proportional font. But they bold it so you can tell.

This thing ain't cheap: $8k to buy in, almost $2k a month thereafter. Tech support is from people whose first (or maybe even second) language isn't English, and no matter how carefully I write a help-request e-mail, it's not going to be read or answered right the first (or even second) time. And having two parties involved in the whole setup means they each get to point the finger the other way when something goes wrong. Which they do.

This weekend was a major upgrade - requiring replacement of all components within a narrow window of time to coordinate with other changes on the back-end. AND EVERYONE THERE FUCKED OFF FOR THE WEEKEND! This is a professional financial sevices software company?

But they have my client by the balls, and there's no competition. And it's the financial business where I suppose the money made justifies the turd lagoon one has to wade through to make it.

So the moral of the story for software developers: just because people buy (and keep buying) your product doesn't mean it isn't crap - they may just have to.

Definitely material for The Daily WTF.

 
2012.06.16 The Processes of Elimination
 
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I had a professor in university, Oliva Gironella, for an Intro to Social Psychology course. On the first day of class she stated that her prime objective for the hour was to talk us out of continuing with her class. This had two benefits: for us, less time spent realizing her course wasn't an easy glide to a good grade, and for her, fewer people to grade. And, the people that stayed through her dire warnings were self-selected to make the most of the course. A couple people left within the first 15 minutes. More weren't there at the next class. A win-win. She never was as hard-ass as she made out to be on the first day, not for me anyway, but it was an early and valuable lesson in the win-win of early elimination.

I've been answering people's computer questions for 30 years. I was fortunate to start when computers weren't everywhere, which meant I was a bigger fish in a smaller pond, and therefore more notable for my "wizardry." There are an infinite number of reasons why a computer may not behave as one expects. The key, as in any other field of expertise, is the ability to ignore or discard all the reasons that are NOT relevant. Knowing where NOT to look is a big part of knowing where TO look. In the modern computer world, what separates the men from the boys is knowing what to blame. Rookies either spend a lot of time looking in the wrong places, or use a blunt approach like reinstalling everything. Be glad your surgeon does not adopt this approach, by the way. :) The pros can focus in on the actual problem and deal with it directly. Too bad we can't do that with cancer yet.

In the online dating world men outnumber women by at least 10:1, and the "real" (not filler or unused profiles) men vs women by even more. So, for men the hope is that someone will be interested, whereas for women it's that someone worthwhile will be. Women can be inundated with replies, a definite case of quantity over quality. For women, the key is to exclude quickly and move on. Many are seduced by all the attention, initially, until they realize that it's mostly of a type they don't want. Delete early, delete often.

I've done some gardening. Building and maintaining gardens. With carrots, you plant a bunch in a row, let them get started, and pull some out when young to make room for the others to get larger. With trees and shrubs you cut back by up to a third each year, taking out dead branches that invite disease and reducing the mass of branches and leaves that the roots have to support, letting the sun shine through to help the Whole. The part I was always least interested in in pruning was "picking up the sticks" after. Tidying up all I'd cut away - rake, rake, rake, and rake some more. Eventually it would be done though, and everything would be roomier and ready for new growth.

 
2012.06.30 What Goes Around... Goes Around...
 
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New Music Technology!
     Remember when listening to music...was listening to music?

Millions of music lovers all over the world are discovering or rediscovering vinyl and its unrivaled sound reproduction.

Listening to a vinyl record is completely different than listening to a CD or a downloaded song. The quality of sound is noticeably better with richer tone, greater depth and wider range. A vinyl record plays exactly how an artist recorded the song with no loss of musicality in translation to a digital format.

Listening to an MP3 is generally done while doing something else and is more often than not, a background activity. Listening to a record is in of itself, the activity.

The actions of selecting the record, taking it out of the sleeve, putting it on the turntable, cueing the track and looking over the jacket and liner notes while the music plays, all contribute to the actual listening experience.

Listen for the first time...again, you'll be glad you did.

Comment on 2012.07.02:
Last year I pulled out my old albums. When my kids were small they called them the "big CDs". Many of them have appalling production values, never mind a low musical sensibility. The pops and clicks at 100 watts are very annoying, regardless of the warmth of analog. However, like opening a tube of sunscreen to evoke spring skiing or summer sailing, putting on the old LPs brings back the memorable context (both pleasant and not) in which I listened to them. And I don't care what you say, I still like Tangerine Dream.
 
 
After Now Finally (for now)...
 
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I cannot remember the books I've read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.
     - Emerson
I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.
     - Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson
 
2015.01.01 Meat Meeting Meaning Moderation
 
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Long ago one chemically-enhanced evening when I used to listen to CJSR a radio play came on that I've remembered ever since, most notably for its premise and the lines:
"They do, but what do you think is on the radio? Meat sounds. You know how when you slap or flap meat, it makes a noise? They talk by flapping their meat at each other. They can even sing by squirting air through their meat."

Reminds me of most of the Internet, and many of the tired old men I seem to know. So this morning I got Googly on it and found what it was coming back through those misty mists:

They're Made Out of Meat     original by Terry Bisson     on Wikipedia

For the YouTubular: here and here.

 
 

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