2009-01-27

However, I am an Honourable Man

"hhhhonourable?"

One of the things I notice when I come here is that the mid-atlantic accent comes out.

Accents are kind of funny, since they are basically memes in the inflection (rather than the 'cant') of how people talk. When's the last time you heard someone (apart from T) say 'mega'? It fell by the wayside, a bit like 'begorrah', and awesome words like 'prithee' (which is why prego is one of my favourite words in any language. It's Italian for "I am being polite". It's basically an artifact of accent, or inflection.).

At a fundamental level, people want to talk like each other, because they appear more successful by fitting in, and imitate the accents of people they admire. I used to get pulled up for subconsciously imitating the accents of the people I'm talking to, and I still do it. I attribute at least part of my success at work with my ability to do that (of course, now that you all know, my career is ruined). Some of the most 'charismatic' people I know are the best at impressions.


In general, when you interact with someone, you want the most interesting thing to be what you say rather than how you say it. Therefore, to take the example of going to a foreign country where it's expected that you speak the language, you don't want the fact that you're opening your mouth and potatoes are coming out to distract from the fact that what you're saying has a profound and inimitable brilliance to it (although I suspect I would encounter resistance to the idea from the lady at work who, with a theatrical wink, told me that I could "Just keep on talkin' in that accent, honey").

Accents are malleable, and amending your inflection or manner of speech slightly, so that you're not some sort of space alien is far from disingenuous or dishonest. On the contrary, it's akin to using business speak to grease the gears a little. But, that's a topic for another day.

2009-01-24

At Least I Know I'm Free

Packing today, to head off to California for a couple of weeks for work. This time, it took about 20 minutes. I suspect that at this point, I could probably stow some clothes under a desk over there and get away with it.

Two weeks per quarter doesn't sound like an awful lot, but when I do some rudimentary maths, that's one sixth of the time. I've had ample opportunity (to the point where I've had an office 'reserved' for me) to spend more, or most, or all of my time there. I've not really wanted to, for a number of reasons. A lot of these reasons started to go away last tuesday, but are still quite a ways away from being gone.

It's very fashionable to make fun of America these days, especially in the last few years. They've done some monumentally dumb shit in the recent, and not-so-recent past, which means it's easy to draw attention to its failings. I wouldn't be proud to be American right now. However, I'm similarly unproud to be Irish. We've spent the last 30 years or so, by all accounts, sitting back and taking it from some of the most openly corrupt individuals that have ever been put in charge of a country. However, bigger picture, there's a lot to be proud of. We have one of the best reputations in the world. My Irish passport means I'm welcome pretty much anywhere. Same can't really be said of a US passport right now.

What I'm trying to get at here, is that in my extensive time spent in the states, I've come to experience firsthand what I would class as the collective attitude of americans. This applies to most people I've met or ran into, and is common to lefty, righty, religious, non-religious. It boils down to this:
  • You Can Do Whatever You Want If you Want It Hard Enough


Case in point. Check this shit out. You don't get the idea to pull that off overnight, and you don't do it without being a fucking crazy person. Much as you can scoff at some of the nutty things Americans get up to, another effect of the general nuttiness is the above. There is a collective consciousness that dictates that You Can Do Whatever You Want. If you want to build a freaking space shuttle that can blast through the atmosphere, fly around in space, and then come back and land safely, you'll get it done if you want it enough.

When I say that this applies in a few ways, of course, I mean that it also applies to fat, lazy people who want to watch Oprah. Fat, lazy people exist everywhere, of course. It's just that the lifestyle is an awful lot easier to lead there.

The reason why I like the American way of life is because there is equal focus on self-discovery/self-improvement, and taking one for the team. It's a country that's been prosperous for long enough that people have started realising that the self is as important as the material. Ireland's been quite prosperous for about 10 years now, and we never really got past the "More more more for me and fuck the sick and needy" stage. I reckon that would come in time.

Of course, my crackpot theory on this is that it may be partially genetic. Studies suggest that there may be genetic traits that encourage aggression, individuality, adventurousness, and the like. The vast majority of Americans are descended from people who chose to move half-way across the world to seek out a new life, to leave everything they knew behind and sink or swim. This is weakened a little nowadays, since if I wanted to I could move halfway across the world in a few days and come back if I wanted to, so I don't have to be quite so batshit insane.

A crazy person I admire, Spike Milligan, once said "Blessed are the Cracked, for they let in the Light". Crazy people are essential. They make it so space shuttles, gold rushes, nuclear power, moon landings, and the crazy shit that advances humanity in bigger leaps and bounds, because that shit is insane.

Of course, I'm talking on a macrosocietal scale here. I'm not implying that all americans I've met are charmingly insane (or even charming). I am saying that it's a society infinitely more conducive to doing insane shit because you believe you can.

Also, you can't get good fondue in Dublin, whereas you can here. Fuck yeah. Italics.

2009-01-22

Peh

This always gets done wrong.

In more auspicious times in a few years, I guess I'll look back at this entry as a reference point for how I write a few years ago, and what I was thinking about, and how petty it probably seems. I assume it'll be more auspicious times, but we'll get to that.

I've been on Livejournal for a few years now (seven, to be exact), and I've gone and made private a bunch of old entries. Livejournal is okay, in that it hasn't completely rebranded itself to be a social networking site, which is great. Of course, I blame that fact that it's written in perl. Perl has a way of introducing demons into any system written in it that scares mere mortals away. But, we'll get to that, too.

However, the social aspect of Livejournal is what it's more about for me, certainly. It's a way of keeping up with friends who like to write, rather than update. Methods of keeping up with friends online for me fall into a number of categories, in terms of latency. Something like:

Occasional

There are still some folks who email me. There are maybe three at this point, and this has dwindled. These are mainly my self-enforced luddite-buddies, or relations who were introduced to the internet in the days before you proposed to people via Bebo. Almost as many people use IM to keep in touch, anyway, and I reckon e-mail is probably going to die out. Not completely, it'll be relegated to postal-system style beurocratic necessity, since I highly doubt a bank is going to want to write your statement on your facebook wall any time soon.

Frequent

Livejournal is where I get most of my frequent updates from people. It's the new letter-writing, certainly in terms of where I imagine letter-writing was in people's lives before the internet happened. For me, it's increasingly become pigeonholed as "that thing where I tell people what I'm at", or "where I put a funny picture of a goat". Most of my actual real-life status updates go into the OCD gategory these days, so the line between "I Made Soup" and "I Have Had An Amazing Idea" has become blurred a bit. It's not where I 'blog' any more, really.

OCD

My two main sources of OCD input these days are Facebook and Google Reader.

Facebook is fantastic for what it does, which is basically a decent, few-annoyances (since the pirate/ninja/zombie apocalypse ended) way of keeping up with people. I've bumped into people I've not met in person in 15 years (and have no intention of meeting again), ad it's quite decent.

Reader is the news aggregator I wrote about 3 times before I discovered it. I'd written an assload of scripts in the past to grab all the webcomics I read and present them on a page (I think the forst one I wrote was back in '99 or so when I interned at Netscape). This basically gives me all my information in a giant puddle, ahich is great, since if I don't feel like reading news, I can just mark it all as read. The sahring is nice, also (see my shared stuff here).

So, why am I here?

Perspective - I've recently gone back and read a bunch of my old LJ entries. I have done an awful lot of stuff in the last few years, and it's good that it got 'chronicled'. However, the nature of LJ is that it's a lot more 'I Made Soup' then 'Here Is What I Thought Of The Soup'.

I drove across a desert from Phoenix to Sedona, and stopped at a roadside rest area, and I watched the sun set. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life, and to this day, I can't listen to Death Cab For Cutie without thinking of the desert.

I walked around the campus of Berkeley, and I knew this was where people had fought, and learned, and made humanity a better place, and I'm not that good with words. It is beautiful. You can sense the history from the very stones.

You come home to your friends and your family, and when they ask what you did, you say "I Went To A Desert". You do not say "I Went To A Desert And It Was Beautiful. Here Is Why".

Here is where I don't tell what I've done. Here is where I tell you what I think. I think a lot of things, about the internet, about programming, about management, and about life. It doesn't go on Livejournal, it doesn't fit in a Facebook status. It's not chronological. I'm going to write about things that happened years ago, and later still I might write about stuff that will happen in a few years.

A very close and dear friend once said to me that I'm alright once you get to know me. I hope I can do that for you, the reader. Not for any therapeutic reason, or because I think that what I have to say is somehow more interesting that the millions of other people who blog. I'm doing it for a bullet-pointed list of reasons in my brain, that I've been trying to get onto paper but can't. Maybe if I just do it, it'll become obvious what I get out of it.