Oakbox

Not just answers, the right Questions
Fever dreams in the living room

My wife went out with friends for coffee last night and my son was out with friends. Imagine it! Two or three hours of video games or picking my nose and farting (in the middle of the week!) were opening out before me, a vast ocean of relaxation and being lazy.

So of course, I sat down in the living room comfy chair and fell asleep.

Instead of relaxing in the Borderlands and blowing up bad guys. Instead of baking a cake or watching a movie. I dreamed that I was working as a comedian on a cruise ship and Jerry Seinfeld was berating me for fucking up.

And I got a terrible crick in my neck.

What the hell! Betrayed by my dad ability to fall asleep instantly anywhere!

45 Exhaustion

I am going to admit that listening to podcasts, voting in the last election, endlessly biting my tongue when talking with my parents, is getting the better of me. “The only thing that evil requires is that good men do nothing to combat it.” Yes, that is true, but I think that leaves out the bit about being able to KEEP fighting, every day. That is the hard part, the relentless river of lies and double dealing from the administration of 45 and the army of people (both real and Russian troll farmed) backers is overwhelming. It’s hard to stand up every day and call out lies only to be told by a large part of the populace that, “Lies?! You’re just being a liberal snowflake” and “Everybody lies, our guys are just better at it!”

And does it matter? I’m half a world away. I have been living in a liberal democracy for 18 years now, I’m fine, why can’t I just let it go and let someone else worry about it? Does it matter to me if my family and friends are now sliding headlong (some of them gleefully!) into an autocracy?

Yes.

Bifurcation

Is this website for business/professional life or a personal journal?

A bit of both, I think, and both are inevitably influenced by whatever I happen to be reading at the time. Right now, that would be Susanna Clarke’s, “Jonathan Strange and Mister Norrell”.

The most melancholy sound escaped me this morning. A mixture of the very great emotional weight that rests upon me and the need to suppress this turmoil from breaking out into the wider world and washing away everything in a torrent. What good is it if a man find temporary and fleeting relief by revealing his inner strife only to find that, in the aftermath, he has lost all of the things he sought most to protect? No, this is not something that a man may do. He must also be mindful of the very great pressures that stoic denial may create, a building and redoubling that will turn inward and destroy the vessel that ought to contain them. And we all know that a vessel, once broken, may indeed be repaired and made to look whole again, but the breaks are there forever and will thus weaken the vessel for future use.

So I must conclude that the melancholy sound served the same function as the release valve of a pressure cooker or the whistle on the spout of a tea pot. An early warning that the pressure has reached a maximum and that immediate action is necessary to avoid, what I fear, would be a disaster. Oh! What an abominable state! To be required to be both strong and to deny the possibility of weakness, or indeed to even acknowledge that fragility of spirit is even possible. To be told, by people with the best of intentions, that I should reach out for help and in the next breath remind me that they most require my fortitude and strength of resolve.

How is a solution to be found? I must admit that all of my judgement on this topic is most appallingly compromised. I will put this forth to my friends and hope that they might advise me on the correct path to take.

Dunkin’ Donuts in the Netherlands

As an expat American living in the Netherlands, I am kind of thrilled when a taste of America shows up on the shelves in the grocery store or a restaurant opens up with promises of remembered delicacies. For example, when I first got here, I could go to Burger King (which tastes the same as it does in the States) or McDonald’s (which doesn’t) to get a little frisson of “home”. I don’t drink soda, so the aisles of Coke at the grocery store offered no solace and the many products marketed as ‘American Style’ were uniformly disappointing imitations.

I was thrilled when Subway opened up a shop in my home town. And then I ate there and remembered why I didn’t eat there when I lived next to one in North Carolina.

There’s a KFC which is too yummy and, thankfully, a 20 minute bike ride away.

Taco Bell showed up earlier this year, but it tastes different and doesn’t offer the only thing I really REALLY wanted to have, a 7-layer burrito.

Basically, when American stuff shows up here, I am torn between my hope that it will hit my taste buds in just the right way to remember happy times from childhood and my pessimism that some corporate hack won’t screw up perfection by trying to ‘fit’ their product for the Dutch market.

So I was pretty stoked when Dunkin’ Donuts opened up a few locations in the Netherlands. A great donut is a great donut. Once you know how to make donuts and have a winning combination, you wouldn’t futz with that, would you?

I had to take an hour long train ride to get there. But the lure of Long Johns and Crullers and Donut Holes and that Dunkin’ Donuts coffee was a siren song . . . irresistible temptation!

I made that journey.

I arrived in the gleaming new Dunkin’ Donuts in Eindhoven at 7:30 this morning, hoping for fresh donuts and looking forward to a severe sugar and caffeine overdose to start my working day.

No Long Johns.

No Crullers.

No Holes.

This was what I was hoping for:

What I got was some over-decorated donuts with lots of sugar glaze and none of the flavor of their American brethren. A small scattering of donut types and flavors that would have a tough time battling what you could find in any American truck stop. I got a few to try, anyway. It was a journey and I didn’t want to leave empty handed. They did not taste better than they looked.

Heartbreak and desultory donut eating on a train.

I gave half of them to people in the office.

I just couldn’t bear the crushing weight of my crushed expectations.

Bitter.

 

 

Trumpism is a form of Fascism

I cannot emphasize enough how much I appreciate Cody Johnston’s ability to clearly explain some pretty complex concepts with examples (SO MANY EXAMPLES), citations and excellent timing. If you have not had a chance to look at Some News on YouTube, this episode is a good jumping in point. It is part 2 of a series explaining that Trump isn’t Hitler, he’s just a fascist.

My Dutch coworker tried to cheer me up about this stuff (the rise of American Fascism), but for every olive branch he offered, I had a counterpoint.

“The courts will stop him from doing illegal things!”

– Nope. The Republican controlled House and Senate are on a record breaking pace in appointing Federal judges. Right-wing idealogue judges. With the ascension of the newest justice, the court is now as extremely right as it has ever been and the new justices are young, so that tilt will last for the next 40 years. Gorsuch and Cavenaugh do not believe in upholding previous decisions and only overturning those decisions in overwhelming situations (Brown vs Board of Education and overturning Dred Scott). This is known as stare decisis. They will deny that congress has the right to give authority to agencies (this is called ‘Chevron Deference’, write that down) and will appoint themselves (the now right-wing bench) as arbiters of what they think the congress meant. Also, Roe v Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges are going to be overturned as soon as any remotely relevant case is brought before the court.

“The people of America will rise up, only a minority of America support him!”

– Nope. What was the percentage of the German population that were members of the Nazi party? That was only 9%. Hitler took power with only 33% of the vote. It doesn’t matter what percentage you have against you if you have all the power.

There were more, but just typing this has depressed me.

 

 

Dutch Perl Workshop 2018

The Dutch Perl Workshop is an chance for Perl developers in the Netherlands to get together, meet old acquaintances, make new friends in the community and share some of the cool things we have learned and developed in the language. This year was lovely, despite the very high (for the Netherlands) temperatures. We were treated to presentations on everything from Perl on embedded devices to the inner workings of the Hash mechanism in Perl6 to suggestions for streamlining how Perl performs in extremely high traffic situations. Great stuff.

We also got a moving talk from Elizabeth Mattijsen on her experiences with Perl and the community around it and suggestions on how to grow into the future. Liz has been a driving force in Perl development and advocacy and is now spending much of her time working on Perl6 functions. Her talk was about the current “rift” between Perl 5 and Perl 6 and how to think about this division going forward. Great stuff all around!

 

After the talks and lightning talks and final thanks for the sponsors (Booking.com, cPanel, and Perl6.org) it was time for Barbeque, refreshing beverages, conversation and games. Wendy brought a whole bunch of board games and Mark Overmeer asked me to bring a game I recently created, “Merchants and Pirates”. I made this game for friends and family and it was a hoot to share it with my Perl friends!

Alas, all good things….  So, I caught a ride to the train station (thanks John van Krieken!) and it was back to Breda. Slightly soused and looking forward to the next time I can get together with this awesome group of people!

 

Trump is Successful!

This was put to me as a defense of Trump, recently. And I had a good long think about it, because in the moment my brain flooded with all of the counter-factuals (ie: Numerous bankruptcies, inability to manage a casino, an airline, a university, a steak company…. an inability to actually RUN any company not founded on real estate or fraud). It’s obvious that Trump is NOT a good business man, but how to explain that having money doesn’t make you good at business…

So, after my thinking about it, I came up with the following truth:

There is a difference between a ‘Successful’ businessman and a ‘Good’ businessman.

A Successful business man can just point at his bank balance and say, “Yup, right there, I have the high score.”

So, let’s take that as a given: ‘Success’ is measured in coin and by that measure, Trump is a successful business man.

If that is true, and if that is all that matters, then any rich person is worthy of admiration and has an ingrained ability to sit in the President’s chair. But this is not true because if the bank balance is all that matters, I have several drug lords, swindlers, crooks, despots, and assholes that would suddenly jump under that umbrella.

We need some further evidence, something beyond that ‘money only’ view of success. What sets apart the drug lords and swindlers and crooks from Trump?

I don’t think Trump has been accused of killing anyone. And he is famously anti-drugs.

Anything else?

(crickets)

No, that’s it. He is a monumental swindler, crook, fraud, and cheat.

“But he has a lot of money in the bank!”

He got it the old fashioned way, he inherited and borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars, had a few strong successes and used the bankruptcy courts to dodge the losses of his many failures. He didn’t pay suppliers and didn’t pay back loans and dodged the fallout of those actions by suing and hiding behind a web of LLC’s.

 

 

Emotional awareness

8 years ago I was working on a psychological testing system based around the Dialogical Self. There’s a ton of theory and thought behind this concept (and the project) but that’s another story. What I took away from it, and that stayed with me, is a Post-It note of questions.

I read this often, because something in my mind just will not hold these questions in place. I have to re-read the list and be confronted, each and every time, by there obviousness and utility. So, if you are like me and have the emotional self-awareness of a sponge, here are some not so simple questions you can stop and ask yourself. Feeling down? Feeling happy? You know, just FEELING in general? Take a moment and answer these questions:

  1. What is your name for this emotion?
  2. Was it a sudden onset emotion or a more enduring mood?
  3. How long did it last?
  4. Did you have any bodily sensations with this emotion? (take a moment and be aware of your body, what’s it doing right now?)
  5. Did thoughts come into your mind? Where were the thoughts about, were they about the past, the future, the present?
  6. Did you act or feel like doing something or expressing this emotion?
  7. What brought on this emotion or mood?
  8. Describe the situation, was it an internal event?
  9. What kind of information is your emotion giving you?
  10. Is it telling you something about yourself, a relationship, the world?

This list has not completely altered my emotional landscape, but it HAS made me aware that a landscape exists. This is good and has helped in my personal interactions, it has helped me ask the one question I never thought to ask:

What am I missing here?

Why is anybody surprised that Trump is a racist?

I was asked this question today by a co-worker, “It’s obvious that he’s a huge racist, why is anybody surprised by this?”

And I had to think about that for a few minutes. I feel like I have an answer.

You see, Americans thought that with the election (and RE-election) of Obama, that American society had reached some kind of racial tipping point. There were still racist and bigots in society (all societies generate them), but that they were now in the definite minority. American society wasn’t exactly post-racial, but it was definitely on the correct side of the moral arc, we were getting better.

The events in Charlottesville was a shock to the system, a clear indication that racists were not only still around, but gaining confidence and power under the Trump administration. All of those dog whistles during the election cycle have turned into foghorns and Trump is showing his bigotry for all to see. Equivocating nazis and KKK members with those that oppose them (Trump’s statement that there was violence and hatred on both sides) shows just how far America still has to go on their journey to racial equality, and it was painful.

Most of the estimates I had seen about the future put American hegemony failing around the year 2030. I think Trump’s administration has accelerated that decline. American power is only partially based on its military might. Diplomacy and Economic power were the other pillars and Trump is undermining them so fast it’s hard to imagine that it’s just an accident. By leaving the State Department largely empty and abrogating international agreements just because he ‘can’, Trump is destroying the basis of America’s greatest powerbase. By attacking the education that is the basis for future innovation (both military and economic), Trump is weakening America’s foundation for the future.

I feel sick.