Sunday, November 28, 2004

Living simply

For the last year I've been trying to simplify my life.

This effort was inspired by a couple things:

Reading about long-distance sailing ("cruising"). In blue water, you have to be ready to maintain everything on your boat. Things break, and you're on your own. You can't take it to a repair shop, or have a new one sent by FedEx. Having a lot of money will do you no good!

There was a point in one of the books where the author met another blue water sailor, a Swedish doctor. Doc had outfitted his boat with all the latest gadgets. Author asked him if he enjoyed sailing with all that stuff. Answer: "No, they keep breaking & I'm always repairing something". It seems that the amount of time you get to spend actually sailing is the time left over after keeping everything working. Conclusion: sailing enjoyment increases as complexity decreases.

Question: does a similar phenomen appear ashore?

Maintaining computers at home. In my home I had:
SERVER - domain controller, file server, DHCP server, DNS server
HTPC - home theater PC
Wife's computer
JAY1: For everquest
JAY2 - For another everquest session that I mostly ignored (trader in the bazaar)
JAY3 - web
browsing, doing work while at home & playing EQ
Rio MP3 receiver - brings music to the kitchen
work laptop
a Virgin WebPlayer

When there was a new virus threat, I had to go to each of these machines & make sure they were correctly up to date. Hard disks, memory, or powersupplies would die at times. Sometimes it was on the machine hosting the printer, so no one could print. Or the server would fail to boot after an automatic update, and I wouldn't notice until DHCP leases expired. I shared My Documents across all machine, which added additional complexity. I would regularly get a call at work from the wife saying that something or another was broken.

Let's face it, being a network administrator is a full time job!

Now, I love computers, so building & maintaining this was a lot of fun. But eventually I noticed that a lot of time was going to these tasks, and not enough available for some of the other things I wanted to do. I was especially missing out on time with my family.

The stuff you own owns you. I had 3 motorcycles, 2 of which didn't run. No time to fix them up. No time to ride. I had tools to maintain them, but I they were in a big mess. I had lots of screwdrivers, so that I could always find one when I needed one. With so many tools, I had no idea what I had. I couldn't keep track of them all. I had tools I had never used. I had tools I had never opened!

As I started to look around my home, I realized how much the stuff I was was costing me the my most precious resource: time.

So since then I've been working on getting rid of as much stuff as I can. I started with the junk. By removing it, I can navigate my house & stuff in it with less difficulty. Next is the stuff I that I don't use much or at all. My rule is that if I haven't used it in the last year, and don't expect to use it in the next year, I should get rid of it. I can afford to buy a new on when the time comes.

The big challenge is getting rid of the stuff that I do use. This is actually about changing how I live. I haven't made much progress on this yet, but I'm looking forward to it.

I'm down to 3 computers + Rio + work laptop on weekends.

Technology & community

Bonds of individuals, families, and community require work. Technology gives us the opportunity to live without doing this work, thereby missing out on these bonds.

When I say "technology" I don't just mean computers. For example, the telephone enables us to coordinate with each other from a distance, so we don't need to live as close together. Same with the car. We are able to live in isolation, wthout the complications of human contact.

I like girls. A lot. So I managed to date & get married, despite my technology habit.

But for most of my life I have avoided forming deep bonds in community. In fact, I don't think I know how to do that, or even to figure out what a community is. But I'd like to figure it out.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Relationships take work

This isn't very novel. I'm just putting it here to establish a base for future posts.

All relationships take work. Most of the work is in connection. Sharing how you’re feeling, and understanding how they feel. I’ve found that
NVC is an excellent tool to help me connect with the people I care about.

The more value we want out of a relationship, the more work we’ll have to put in. My relationship with my family is the one that I want to work hardest at. Spending a lot of my time at work means that I have to be very deliberate about connecting with family.

Sometimes we forget to work on an important relationship, and it starts to sour. If we’re not careful, we respond to the bitterness with resentment before we recognize the need for work, and the relationship will head in to a downward spiral. Various stresses can make this worse.

If we notice the need for work before the relationship is completely destroyed, then we have a chance to put in that work & start to do repair. It can be really hard, and very painful, but that’s what it takes, and it’s worth it in the end.


Last night I cooked a real meal for my family, based on this recipie.

We eat out pretty often, and I worry a lot about the food we get. It's usually very salty, but my American palette just says “Yum!”. It’s also safe to assume that restaurants cook with hydrogenated oils. The produce has pesticides & wax. The pre-made stuff has preservatives. There’s artificial colorings. And some entirely manufactured “foods” that have no nutrition at all, like soda.

We eat out because it’s tasty, and it’s easier that cooking at home. (The difference isn’t so great when you add the challenge of parenting in a restaurant.)

So it was cool to make last night’s meal with almost all organic ingredients. It included a salad of broccoli, yellow carrots, mushrooms, hard-boiled eggs, and crumbled bleu cheese.

Thanks to my wife for keeping the kitchen stocked with healthy, fresh, organic ingredients. It’s hard enough to keep a family fed; it’s even harder to do it right.

Organic produce from Pioneer Organics. Organic lamb & other items from Azure Standard.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Bush supports Amnesty International

I originally wrote this on my professional blog, but heard from a lot of folks that it wasn't the right forum.

I toned it down quite a bit in the first place. I plan to go in to more detail here later.

The comments were quite impassioned. I invite you to read them.

For now, here's the text of the original post:

I'm pretty pissed off about a lot of things that I see my goverment doing right now. For example, we claim to be fighting a "War on Terrorism", but we're missing a few important facts:

  • The US is the #1 perpetrator of terrorism world-wide
  • After Sept 11, the US took steps to increase suffering world-wide
  • Groups like al-Qaida see no point in negotiating with the US; they believe we will only respond to displays of force.

Since the start of the "War on Terror", the world has become a less safe place. Our use of force sets a precedent for, and distracts attention from terror at the hands of other oppressive regimes. We give them license to commit evil.

In the middle of all this, the Bush Administration announced that the government was issuing a tax refund. We got a check for $600 last year.

What better way to use that money, than to support the human rights that our government's actions are destroying.

So yesterday I went to the Amnesty International web site & made a donation for $600. I hope it helps.

Dear Mr. Bush: Congratulations on your recent re-election. I want to encourage you to continue sending refunds my way, so I can send them right to AI.

[1] Chomsky in October 2001

[2] AI on the War on Terror


For a while I've been writing a professional blog, but there are some topics that are perhaps not appropriate for that forum. That's why I've created this one.

Some interesting questions appear:

- Will my writings on this blog have an impact on people's perceptions of my professional blog?

You read here that I'm an ultra-radical, or a womanizer, or that I like to be rude to strangers on the street. Will I lose professional credibility?

- Can what I say here get me in to trouble at work?

Suppose I say I like to give cigarettes & heroin to 12-year-olds. And you got to this blog via a link on my professional blog. How would that go?

- Will my professional blog become dull if it lacks personal content?

What's the difference vs. writing documentation for the softwar I work on?

We'll see...
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