The recent awful happenings around the Indian Ocean have brought many people of many different nationalities and cultures – even long-time enemies – together in a concerted effort to help those that are now in dire need. This is fantastic, although we all see how great the need is, and how long it will take that area to get back to any semblance of normality.
However this also raises larger questions of how we can and should act and react to our neighbours. Whether those are neighbours just down the road or neighbours across the globe, we all have responsibilities to each other to minimise hatred, maximise understading, and maintain the world we all share in a wise and gracious manner. I’ve been thinking a lot recently of what I do to help those less fortunate than me. I am pretty fortunate: I live in a safe and very wealthy country; I have a good job and lots support from people who love me; I have, in world terms, a small fortune at my disposal every month. So how do I use my advantages to help those that don’t have access to these things?
The truth is I do very little. I use low-power lightbulbs, try to conserve water and try to buy fairly traded products. However that is nothing compared to what I could be doing. The very helpful We Are What We Do website shows some other simple ways that I can make the world a better place. It sounds ethereal and hippieish, but I’m convinced this will make some kind of difference. I can’t travel to Africa or South America and work on the streets, I have family commitments here that I have responsibilities for, but I can do something. And this year I will.
Look around the Wibsite, there are other links on there that may help. Perhaps donate a portion of your monthly income to charities you want to help, have a spring clean and give as much as you can to local charities. The important thing for me is that I stop talking about the problems I see and start to be part of the solution.
I have heard it said that the best presents are those you buy yourself. While I don’t think this is entirely true, in some cases there are occasions that we all set our hearts on something. Going and getting that thing is, therefore, a time for celebration. Things are even worse when you’re a geek and toys are being paraded in front of your eyes on a nearly daily basis.
Take the Line6 Variax guitar. It’s a gorgeous piece of equipment, not just a great instrument but a great application of technology to produce something useful and stylish. And I’ve got one, which fills my heart with joy. Not just because, finally, I have a decent guitar to play (after years of borrowed and dodgy instruments) but also because of the incredible array of sounds it gives me.
So, that is a fantastic present to myself, and makes this Christmas an even better one (it was going to be good anyway, as I’m spending time with the people I love). As ever, I thank la inamorata from the bottom of my heart for the permission to get the Variax. Me, under the thumb? Never.
What a joyous time of year this is. The shops are bursting with gaudy tat and over-tired people with over-stretched credit card limits. The weather hasn’t let us down, at least here in the North of Englandshire. It’s been cold and rainy for weeks. And we’ve got another month (at least) of frankly stupid people decorating their houses so they resemble a minature version of the Chernobyl explosion. Bah humbug, as one bloke put it.
However there are good points. Firstly I’ve managed to wangle a goodly amount of time off this Christmastide, in fact I’ve only got another 4 days work to do before the 4th January. So that means a) I can stay in bed rather than wake up at 6:30am every morning, b) spend time with my nearest and dearest, c) drink rather a lot at pretty much any time I want and d) get all those jobs done that have been niggling at me for months.
So, while other people are making lists of presents they want to receive, and family members they don’t want to see, I’m making lists of web projects I want to finish. The fact is I probably won’t finish anything, but because they are on a list and I’ll have done something with them means I won’t feel I’ve totally wasted my time off. Saying that, though, I’ll just be glad to spend some time with la inamorata, and living a bit less of a double-life than I usually do.
So, in case I don’t make it back to these hallowed pages before That Day, have a good Christmas. I would insert some twee platitude here for your edification, but to be honest we all know what’s really important at this time of year, and it doesn’t come in packaging.
I have had a day off today. Not that you could tell, I’ve spent most of the day inside a friends computer, or wrapping myself around a hard drive upgrade for his SkyPlus box. I have another day off tomorrow, but I have planned to design a flyer and business card advertising my wares, and continue with several projects I have on the go.
At this rate I’ll be glad to get back to work for a rest.
To be honest with you, I don’t feel like a geek. I get called one a lot (in fact la inamorata recently said this very blog was so boring that I should stop doing it), and I act like one a lot (staying up until 1:30am writing recursive directory parsers and mod_rewrite functions in PHP is not the sign of a healthy mind). But still … do I qualify as a real geek? I have no qualifications in anything technical, have little experience other than my employments over the last 5 or 6 years, and certainly wouldn’t be able to stand my ground against “real” geeks in the realm of application programming, processor architecture or the intricacies of Linux.
The other thing that sets me apart from a lot of other geeks is my acceptance of the spiritual side of life. Normally geeks, like lots of other groups, are very logical people. They have to be – if something doesn’t work there’s a reason why it doesn’t work. And if there’s a reason, there is a solution. It might take weeks, months or even years to find the solution, but it’s there. Please avert your eyes from the gross generalisations, I’ll tidy them up when I get time.
So in the area of spirituality, geeks are at a disadvantage. Understanding the spiritual side of life is not a logical thing, it questions, bends or even breaks the rules that would otherwise givern the geeks life. Rules like time, the finite universe, even (depending on which strand of spirituality you follow) evolution itself. In fact, that’s an interesting point – evolution is inherently logical. Person A is more suited to their environment than person B, so person A is the one who (over time) will prosper. It makes sense, it works, we’ve seen evidence of it happening time and time again. But, just occasionally, that logic breaks down – the exception that proves the rule. Let’s take a geeky example – internet browsers. Look at the differences between Microsoft Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox. Byt rights the program with a huge multi-national company putting it on 95% of the worlds computers for free should be enough to assure market dominance. And that has been true, until now. We could be experiencing the first rumblings of a whole new era of computer history.
Anyway, back to spirituality. I’m not going to get into specifics and beliefs for several reasons. What I will say is geeks who use their logical, formula-driven brains to come to the conclusion that there is nothing more than the mechanics of what we see around us are missing an important point. After all, any system developer can see beyond their source code to the final functionality of a program. Surely the developers of Terragen must see beyong the clever bits of code to the beautiful images it can create. Maybe the analogy is a bit poor, please accept my apologies for that. However the truth is that what we see, the source code, isn’t the end of the story. At least it isn’t for me.