2002-09-30

I find myself spending less and less time online. It's strange. There was a time when I would happily spend hours sitting at my computer in the evenings, but that just doesn't seem to happen all that much anymore. I still read the occasional blog when I'm at work, but I haven't written a thing for weeks.

Somehow, I just seem to have way too many things to get done when I get home. Also, I've started reading again. I managed to lose the habit in the last little while and I'm obviously making up for lost time. Most of my reading has just light entertainment. A bit of SF, a couple of murder mysteries, that sort of thing. I'll read more substantial things again soon, but my mind has needed to be in pure escapist mode lately.

I've been working like a demon recently. The project I'm working on is rapidly reaching the halfway mark, I would guess. We're delivering the software in smallish incrememnts, which has the advantage of producing deliverable software early enough to make the client see actual progress. It also has some downsides. The most obvious one at the moment is the number of little deadlines we have to meet. The fact that they're little doesn't really make them any less stressful. We've been working 12 hour days and weekends to get the work done. It's starting to take it's toll too. I've been a lot more irritable of late. I haven't been studying much Tamil either, which is not at all ideal.

One of the nicer things that's happened at the office is that the group of people I work with has finally gelled into an actual team. It took a while, but we're finally working well together and the office is usually full of people having fun with the work. Morale and commitment levels have been at record highs recently. We have learned (the hard way) not to have too many discussions about sex, religion and politics, but it works.

Last Tuesday, 24 September, was a public holiday, Heritage Day, and we had decided that if we met our Wednesday deadline the previous Friday, we would have the Monday off and have a very long weekend. We cleared this with the project manager and the CEO and all seemed well. On Friday, we were close enough, we thought, and the project manager agreed with us and so we had a long weekend. It was a great weekend - I spent most of it gardening and generally catching up with things I'd been neglecting. The weather was glorious and I was all refreshed at the end of it.

On Wednesday morning, however, we discovered that the CEO had decided that Monday actually hadn't been a day off, so we would have to deduct it from our annual leave allocation. No explanation or any suchlike thing. I felt like I was back in the Dilbert Zone. Queries got back some vague replies about miscommunication and other such wishy-washy bullshit.

I don't know exactly what happened, but I can tell you that the team's morale has plunged. If you ask any of us to work a 12-hour day at the moment, you're going to get laughed at. I find it inexplicable that someone could be so short-sighted as to destroy something that we'd worked so hard to achieve. We had pulled out all the stops to meet the deadline and we richly deserved some time off. Effectively, we've been told that we didn't deserve any such thing and, worse, we had tried to steal a whole working day from the company.

How stupid can you get? Anyone who's worked with a team of software developers knows that nothing motivates programmers like the prospect of time off. Not cash, not team t-shirts, not cool toys, not anything. By doing this, the company has told us that there's no way we're going to get time off when we meet our deadlines. Worse, it has told us that management is not to be trusted. Of course, the more cynical will point out that management can never be trusted, but that just leads to a situation where nothing real can be achieved. Management is going to have to work really hard to rebuild that trust. And I'm not convinced it can ever be fully restored.

2002-08-29

Welcome to the World Summit on Sustainable Blogging. Tens of thosands of people crammed into my study. Hardly enough space to move my fingers as I type. Sirens going mad as motorcade after motorcade speeds through my garden, ripping up the poppies as they go. Not to mention the tables groaning under their loads of caviar and lobsters and whatnot.

Hey, it's Joburg in 2002. Suddenly the world's attention is on South Africa again. We're all under strict orders from our government to be on our best behaviour -- no running around mugging foreign dignitaries and so forth. Of course, this doesn't apply if you're a sex worker. Pity I'm too old to go back into that line of work.

Joburgers have largely fled the city. Driving to work is a pleasure (if you don't work in Sandton) as most schools seem to have moved their spring break forward to coincide with the Summit. And if you do work in Sandton -- you probably deserve it for being the corporate slave that you are. Mike, sorry about all the hideous Gautengers cluttering up the beautiful streets of Cape Town at the moment.

The Summit has got a lot of attention lately. I've been staying the hell away from Sandton. I really can't take the chance of being shot by some over-zealous bodyguard. So all my news has come from newspapers and the web and talking to people at work. It's been interesting stuff too. The Sun, of course, does the typically tabloid thing in focusing on what delegates are eating. Bizarre that. If that's the only scandal they could rake up, it's pretty good going for the organisers. Others tend to take a slightly less desperate-for-sensation approach and even approach the actual issues, however obliquely.

Some (South Africans especially) focus on how terribly inconvenient it is to have the Summit here. They talk about the cost of upgrading infrastructure to cope with the influx of people. They go on about all the police guarding delegates instead of protecting their precious suburbs. They talk about the horror of "riots" on Saturday when several protest marches will be taking place. I don't buy it. Sure, it's cost me some tax money to have the Summit here, but I'm pretty sure all those dollar-spending delegates are happily pouring lots of cash into the local economy. And then, if the upgrades hadn't happened, these same people would be complaining about how terrible it was that they hadn't. If the police presence wasn't so strong and somebody took the opportunity to rid the world of someone famous, these same people would be complaining about what a pitiful police service we have. And, of course, it's a peculiarity of white South Africans to say "riot" when they mean "demonstration". It's obviously some kind of hangover from the bad old days when any public gathering of more than two people qualified as a riot and was reported as such by the state-controlled media.

Still, there are some who actually talk about the Summit itself and what it may or may not achieve. The jury's still out on this one for me. I hear that many expected delegates haven't actually arrived. I hear there is still vast disagreement on important points. But for me it can't be a waste of time to even attempt to address these issues. I hope with all my heart that the result of this Summit is actual concrete commitment to do something about the scary state that we've got the world into. I hope that it's not just more spewing forth of hot air coupled with short-sighted refusal to address global issues. Maybe I'm insane for even being able to contemplate such hope. But my insanity makes me happy and the world is full of sane and unhappy people.

2002-08-28

In the immortal words of Sam Gamgee: "Well, I’m back." It's been a wonderful few months. Months of being so in love that nothing else seemed to matter. Nothing could compare to the sheer wonderfulness of it all. Months of being in a state so rare in my life that I couldn't help but devote all my attention to it.

Of course, it's over now. Greg, beautiful Greg, wonderful Greg, brought my worst nightmare to life last week. Why? I'm still not entirely sure. I guess he's realized that he's not quite as in love with me as he'd thought. And of course we'd got to the point in our relationship where we either had to make some kind of commitment or run away screaming. Greg chose to run.

The last week has been tough. I spent a lot of time wondering what I had done to make this happen. I had to face the horrifying possibility that I may not be as wonderful as I'd like to think. I felt rejected and lonely. All my insecurities came to the surface clamouring for attention.

I've been told many times, have read in many places that the essential me, my essential self, is beyond such hurt, such pain, such suffering. On a deep and fundamental level, I've been told, nothing can disturb my bliss and tranquillity. But somehow, I've never quite got that. It has always remained an idea, rather than an experience.

One bleak evening last week, I realised that truth of it. I could look at my situation and somehow, none of it could touch me. I could even laugh again. Life is still wonderful and beautiful. I can still dance through the dahlias, even if Greg decides to stop and rest. That lesson is worth the pain and the disappointment. Oh it still hurt, but it didn't matter nearly as much.

I went away for the weekend to a little town in the mountains, to spend some time with two very good friends who had rented a cottage there for a few days. It was amazing. The clear air, the springtime garden, the warm lazy days and the joy of being with people who surrounded me with love and caring lifted me out of my unhappiness and hurt.

Last week I didn't like Greg very much. This week I see that he's still beautiful, still wonderful. I do still love him and I'm very grateful that I could share this time with him. I called him yesterday and told him so. I expected there to be some awkwardness, some discomfort. But there wasn't. It was an easy, open conversation. I think there may be hope for our friendship yet.

2002-07-28

I spent last weekend at a Zen retreat. From Friday evening until Sunday afternoon, almost the entire time was spent in one or other form of meditation. Most of it was plain old sitting meditation, but there was also walking meditation, work meditation, chanting and bowing. Even meals were a meditation. The entire time was also spent in complete silence.

It was not an easy thing to do. Sometimes I felt like I couldn't sit still for another minute. Sometimes my knees and hips hurt from sitting cross-legged for what felt like aeons. Last weekend was also the coldest two days yet this winter. I spent the entire time wrapped in at least four layers of clothing. Waking up at five in the morning was scarily difficult. All I wanted in the mornings was to go home and spend 15 minutes or so under a hot shower that twelve other people were not waiting to use.

It wasn't easy, but it was one of the best weekends ever. I loved the silence. Silence is an amazing way to direct your focus inwards, to see exactly what you are thinking, without being distracted by what other people are saying or being sidetracked by having to come up with gems of wit and wisdom all the time. I loved spending that much time meditating. The purpose of meditation (at least one of them) is to develop awareness or "mindfulness". To become aware of your thoughts and emotions and actions. To be awake in the present moment. The different forms of meditations were wonderful, because it became easy to see that everything you do in your life can be just the same. Every action can be a meditation. And every non-action too. It's an amazing way to be.

I like that idea because I often see that people confine meditation to the fraction of their day that they set aside for it. There's no point if the only time you are focused and aware is when you're sitting doing nothing. There's no point if you meditate religiously every morning and then go to work and say ignorant and hurtful things. Or if you spend your whole day thinking about the job you'd like to have someday. Or lash out in anger when someone expresses an opinion that's different from yours. Or deny somebody's humanity if they have a different skin colour or religion or ethnic group or accent or whatever.

I'm a long, long way from complete awareness, but to me it's something worth striving to attain. I've tried to pay attention this past week and discovered, to my horror, that I'm shockingly bad at it. Ah well, we all have to start somewhere.

BTW, it seems like my template is back. It needed some repair, but it all looks OK now. I've been thinking that this entire template could use a revamp, but that will have to wait for another day.

2002-07-16

No, I haven't become completely aesthetically challenged: Blogger's lost part of my template. Damn and blast. I do hope my links and archives show up again sometime soon.

Maybe they've been confiscated by the US government. Some blogger participating in Operation TIPS found something they didn't like, perhaps? Or was that RATS. Hey all you sensible Americans, wake up. I know you're out there. This is serious. The US is starting more and more to resemble somewhere in Eastern Europe a few decades ago. Corrupt business and police informers. Do something now, or it will all end in tears.

2002-07-15

Dammit Alka. Every time I try to leave a comment on your blog, enetation decides that it shouldn't let me. Anyway, what I was going to say is that I'll see you at tomorrow's Johannesburg breakfast blogmeet.

I discovered that Mike has found another South African blogger, one Farrago. Damned South Africans are popping up like weeds all over the Net. I'll be watching this one with interest. I couldn't help wondering though, as it became clear that Farrago is also a resident of Cape Town, if Farrago is yet another of Mike's interminable series of alter egos. It would be quite an odd one this time, but I quite like it.

As for me, I am still in the throes of being in love with Greg. This has to be the most wonderful, bizarre way to be. I don't know what exactly happened, but it's like someone flipped a switch inside me. I don't know what I'm doing half the time. And it really doesn't matter. I'm probably badly neglecting everyone else in my life at the moment, but I'm hoping they will forgive me. Eventually.

Sometimes I get terribly paranoid about this relationship. This is also bizarre, because I'm usually the most unparanoid person around. But every now and again I find myself thinking: This is too easy. Something must be wrong. Stupid, yes. But it is there. Every time I feel that way I know that it is completely idiotic, but there's little I can do but wait for it to go away. Scary stuff. On some detached level, I can see myself setting myself up to cope with the almost unthinkable idea of things falling apart. I don't like to think that I might do such a thing, but I can't deny that I am.

On the other hand, I am very, very happy. Still dancing through the dahlias, prancing through the pansies or whatever. I woke up in the middle of the night a few days ago. It must have been around three in the morning. I don't know why exactly and it was only for a minute or two. I was lying in bed, Greg curled around me, fast asleep. I could feel his breath gentle on my neck, his body warm and close and I realised right then that I had never felt happier than at that moment. An odd moment to choose, perhaps, but I've been called odd before.

2002-07-07

Good grief! All this talk about anger is enough to piss a guy right off. (That's a joke, please step away from the flamethrowers.) But it is a great topic. And such an amazing range of opinions. I love it. Thanks to Burningbird for setting it all in motion.

It's an interesting thing to think about. I find that I both agree and disagree with almost everyone who's posted about anger. In one sense, I don't understand what all the fuss is about. For me anger is just another emotion. It's not a Bad Thing, nor is it a Good Thing. It just is.

The discussion that Shelley's post has generated demonstrates quite nicely that anger has become largely socially unacceptable. Anger gets a bad name because people so often allow their anger to take over entirely. People often express anger in terrible destructive ways. But that doesn't mean that anger itself is bad.

Many people seem to think that anger is a Very Bad Thing and must be avoided at all cost. But you can't get way with denying anger. Denial and supression of anger is dangerous. The trouble is that it tends to accumulate and fester and it will show up later, usually in destructive ways. Recognise it as it happens and deal with it immediately. It's a way that works for me most of the time. There is the slight danger of runaway escalation, but that will happen only if you're not paying attention. If you are, you can stop it as fast as you started.

Anger is an amazing way to become motivated. It provides a huge energy boost. The trick is to use it in a way that is constructive rather than destructive. You can get angry at a something and try to destroy it. Or you can step back for a moment and find some other way to change the situation. Beautiful things are possible through anger. South Africa's transition to democracy was motivated largely by the anger of millions of people. Of course, the opposite is also true. The hideous killing of many people by necklacing during the struggle was also the product of anger. Anger itself is not the issue, it's whether people allow themselves to become mindless or not.

I don't believe anger is necessarily the product of fear. Anger can arise from many causes. The oppression of others can inspire a deeply compassionate anger, for instance. The result of your anger can be working to make their lives better, or trying to make their oppressors suffer in return. The choice, as always is yours.