2002-05-30

I am running across the grass towards the house. The storm is at my heels. My father speaks to me. He suggests that I fly and it seems so completely natural. I focus my mind and relax completely and the wind lifts me from the earth. Arms flung wide, I soar upwards.

I feel the storm behind me and I turn into it. My entire body is wrenched by the shock of the wild wind. Huge gusts fling me into the sky, far from the ground. I laugh for the joy of it. I soar and glide and ride the swift currents of air. I swoop down to skim the grass and spiral up around an enormous tree.

The air caresses me sweetly, no longer threatening. Snow and rain whirl around me. The ground is left far behind, invisible now as I rise through the clouds. Lightning rips the air apart, thunder squashes it back together. Finally I emerge above the storm. The light is everywhere, reflecting from the blinding white clouds below, pouring warm and wonderful from the sun above. I cease my headlong rush and drift in the calm, gentle air.

I was born for this. This exhilaration, this joy, this ecstasy. I soar ever upward, forever free, forever light.

2002-05-29

I'm exhausted. I've been working all night. It's now after midnight and I finally think I can stop and go to bed. But I don't think I can actually go to sleep now. It's only Tuesday and I already feel like it's been a busy busy week. I worked (or at least tried to) most of the weekend too. I wrote some software a couple of months ago and it needed what I thought were a few little tweaks. Like hell. I managed to break it quite substantially on Saturday and have spent the rest of the time since then getting it all repaired again. Sometimes I wish I were a gardener. But I suppose if I were I'd just whine about bugs of a different kind.

I started learning Tamil a little while ago. Tamil is spoken mostly in South India, which is where my great-grandparents came from. I grew up speaking English almost exclusively and I decided it was time to explore my cultural heritage a little bit. It's only been a couple of months, interrupted by my visit in Chicago, so I haven't got very far yet. But it is really excellent. Tamil is very different to most other languages I've encountered. It isn't part of the large Indo-European group of languages, but is out on it's own limb somewhere. We've been spending a lot of time recently learning the alphabet, which is very beautiful and elegant, but it takes some getting used to. Unlike the Roman alphabet, the Tamil one has a symbol for each consonant, vowel and for each possible combination. This could be frighteningly complicated, but fortunately there are a few patterns that make it all fairly simple.

The one thing I do find that is encouraging is that the pronunciation of words comes easily to me. To Engish-speaking ears the sound of Tamil can be very strange, but what little exposure I've had to the language seems to help. There a couple of sounds that simply don't occur in English and most of the ones that do are pronounced quite differently.

I can't wait until I can speak and read Tamil with some degree of confidence. I would love to visit India. See where the family comes from. Do a Roots type exercise :)

I love the idea of learning new languages. It opens whole new worlds to you. Places you you can go. People you can speak to. Literature that you can read. Tamil is just the first on my list. Next will have to be an African language, probably Zulu. And then, who knows. Chinese would be good, but I've been told by many people that it is extremely difficult to learn. Most people agree that learning languages is best when you're extremely young and that it gets more difficult as you get older. But what the hell, I can at least slow the inevitable atrophy of my brain.

2002-05-23

I don't know why exactly, but I am rather out of touch with what's happening in the world at the moment. While I was in the US, I must have watched more TV and read more newspapers and browsed more Web sites. Or something. I felt a lot more like I knew what was going on. Since I've been home, I hardly turn on the TV any more, I have gone completely off newspapers and even my Web surfing has reduced dramatically.

I don't know what's brought it on, but I seem to have entered another very introspective phase. I seem to be paying much more attention to what is going on with me and my immediate surroundings than in the far-flung corners of the world.

I don't know why, maybe, but I quite like it. I usually only go into an introspective phase when I am thoroughly depressed. And then I find the worst horrors of my dark side lurking around every corner. I'm thankfully not chronically depressive. But I am subject to fairly common short, sharp, shocking episodes when the bottom falls out of my world, leaving me trapped at the bottom of the abyss. I generally recover in a week or two and the last time I got suicidal was around twelve years ago, so the depressive episodes don't bother me too much. This time it's different. I'm not depressed and yet I'm being introspective. This makes for a pleasant change. For once, the things I find in my psyche are quite positive.

For instance, I was very very angry at the venture capitalists who funded the software company I started a few years ago with some friends. It all ended in tears at the end of last year and I came as close as I ever have to positively hating the evil bastards. Well, that's how I thought of them at the time. But now I find that it has passed. I don't like the way the do business and would certainly not do business with them again, but somehow they don't seem so evil now. They are simply people doing their best to make their way in what they see as a hostile world. I find the way they choose to live in a world filled with fear and loathing sad and pitiful, but hardly evil. I had a telephone conversation with one of them yesterday, which is no doubt why this comes to mind, and it was actually a pleasant experience. He was being his usual manipulative self, but it didn't touch me in the slightest. Instead I had a sudden mental picture of him as an actual human being, as opposed to the corporate robot I'd always seen him as. Maybe I'm starting to grow up. Maybe it's about time.

2002-05-21

I think Blogspot's gone Buddhist on me. I visited my blog for the first time in a couple of days to find that it had disappeared. All it said was "Page not found". A nice little lesson on the impermanence of things, I guess, but just a little bit disturbing. Some day I'll be able to afford to host my own site. Until then I'll just suffer quietly.

It's been a slow and frustrating couple of days at work. Trying to get programs written in different languages to talk to each other is an effort at the best of times. But when one of them is COBOL, which still hasn't had the decency to crawl off to the fabled dinosaur graveyard and expire quietly, and the other is Java, which is positively Nazi in its attempts to prevent any contamination by lesser languages, you're just begging to have your head whacked repeatedly against a particularly solid wall. So I have a sore head and not much else to show for two days of effort. Damn.

I haven't been blogging much either, but this is the time to end that, I think. I decided when I started blogging that I would sit down and write for at least an hour each day. I managed to do that while I was in Chicago, but since I've been home, I've been way too busy. But now that the rush of reconnecting with everyone I hadn't seen in a while is over, I can take some time to do this.

Writing every day is a remarkable exercise. I wouldn't have believed it before, but just sitting down and writing is incredibly cathartic. Well, it is for me. All kinds of stuff just pours out of my head. I disappear into a kind of trance state in which nothing exists but me and the keyboard. It's a weird kind of meditation, but it works for me.

When I'm writing, I try not to edit what I've written. That breaks the flow and it just feels wrong. I also try not to place any limits on what I write about. When it's all over, I go back and edit it. Quite a lot of it never makes it onto the blog. There are some things I don't really want to discuss in public. Someday maybe, but right now, no. Very often, what I've written surprises me. At first, I was deeply suspicious of these surprises. Now I welcome them. It is so good to discover how I really feel about things.

I also realise now just how much I enjoy writing. I can't believe that it's taken me this long to get around to actually doing it. I've entertained vague notions of writing for years, but there was always something more important to do. But now, I can't wait to sit down at my computer and immerse myself in the flow of words.

This "writing meditation" started as a pleasant side effect of maintaining a blog, but now it has become the purpose. Having stuff to post is now the side effect. Also a pleasant side effect, but even if Blogspot decides to lose my blog forever, I'll still be here every evening, writing myself into existence.

2002-05-15

I've been taking some time to consider the future of my blog. Now that I don't have an official reason to maintain the blog, I've been forced to face the terrible reality that I may now be an addict. I've managed to hold out for nearly two weeks, but I can't any longer. Life as we know it may end, but the blog must go on. Anyway, someday I may have something interesting to say. Even if it is in an alien tongue.

I've been very busy settling into something approaching my normal life after two months away. It was disturbing to arrive home and find that everything is more or less the way it was, but subtly different. People too, are subtly different to how they were a couple of months ago. The really scary thing is realising that people change more or less continuously, but slowly enough that I don't notice changes from day to day.

I took a four-day weekend and headed south to the fairest Cape. Wonderful amazing place. It does have far too much scenery for its own good, though. It would be just so easy to drive off a cliff edge while entranced by the sheer wonderfulness of it all. I mosly went to visit Charmaine, who I hadn't seen for far too long. It was a weekend of excellent decadence and delight.

There was also the first ever real-time meeting of South African bloggers. More will no doubt be said about this later, but I will say that I have verified first-hand that Mike Golby does in fact exist, despite there being some question about that recently. Six hours is a long time for a single conversation, but it was still way too short.

I got back from the weekend to find that the doppelganger I'd left in charge of things had got me embroiled in a war of hideous proportions. Bullets go screaming by. Bits of metal keep falling out of the sky at high velocity. Men in skirts keep showing up at the door, yelling incomprehensibly. I think they're asking for directions, but it's hard to be certain. I have gathered that You Know Who has escaped from the jungles where he had been safely trapped and is attempting to take over the world again. He must, of course, be stopped and the world made safe for democracy again.

Propaganda and disinformation abound. It is very disconcerting to read that one's Commander-in-Chief is really one of them. I don't believe a word of it, of course. It's an obvious attempt to undermine the morale of the glorious and heroic Vanguard of the Revolution. All fabricated by the devious and demented PorridgeBoy. Quite sad, really.

2002-05-02

I'm home again. Over the last few days I've rediscovered so many things I love about being here. Looking up into the infinite African sky. Being warm, even if it is officially winter. Seeing friends and family who I missed so terribly. Discovering that the cats still love me. Driving on the left side of the road. Feeling the huge wet drops of an African thunderstorm. Being in my own home. Walking in my garden, dry autumn leaves crunching under my feet. Being among my own people, in all our chaotic glory.

The flight back wasn't as bad as I expected. Despite the crowded cramped plane and the four hour wait for my connecting flight in Amsterdam. Even despite the squalling children and the little girl who took an unseemly interest in my meal. It's really difficult to eat while someone is staring fixedly at you from across the aisle. A kindly jetstream gave us a helping hand across the Atlantic so we arrived in Amsterdam an hour earlier than scheduled. It would have been even earlier, but Dutch citizens refuse to be woken before six by planes landing at Schiphol.

I had four hours to kill at the airport and I anticipated being bored to tears. But that didn't happen. I tried to take a nap - flying east meant that my brain was convinced it was late at night and I had no business being awake. But the bright spring sunshine soon put an end to that plan. So I wandered about the airport and discovered that there is a casino lying in wait for unsuspecting jet-lagged passengers in transit. I can't be bothered with casinos - a moment of thought will tell you that the odds must be loaded in favour of the house and I'm not much of a masochist - but it was interesting watching half-asleep people stumble into its gaping maw, never to return.

I sat in the lounge, sipped a Coke and chatted to some fellow lost creatures. Eventually there were three other people at the table and they all had fun and interesting stories to tell. Even just where they were travelling to was interesting. I was suddenly struck by how global a society we live in. I knew this in an intellectual sort of way, but the situation was a perfect Aha! moment. There was me, travelling to South Africa. There was the Swede, on his way home from the US. There was the American, on his way to India. There was the Iranian, on his way to Venezuela. Four strangers off to the four corners of the earth, having a friendly chat in an airport in Amsterdam. Wow.