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Reflections on life in marriage, microbiology, and meditation

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Last Wednesday Olga and I had our first experience of the Linux community, and we loved it. We found out Linux users in Groningen have set up a working group, especially for helping newbies like us (google for "Linux werkgroep Groningen"). They meet every third Wednesday of the month, so we were there, just to try our luck. To our amazement one guy spent the whole evening typing arcane commands into both of our machines in order to get our Internet connection going.
So it's true: you will find idealistic enthousiasts in the Linux community.
When we got back home, Olga's computer made the Internet connection straightaway, while mine did not. After a lot of fiddling -- by me -- it now works: this post is done from Linux, which has been running since yesterday morning.
We're having a lot of fun, as the message at startup predicts.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Been trying to install Linux on my home computer: I still haven't got it running properly. No sound, wrong monitor parameters, and no access to the Internet.
Those modern operating systems share a treacherous property. Superficially, they look delightfully simple and intuitive, so that one is tempted into thinking that one is a programmer. As my daughter Olga says, they respond very well to bluff. But that is only the surface presented by the enormously complex contrivance underneath, and it only works as far as it works. When it doesn't, there's tons of gobbledygook to wade through. There's TCP/IP gobbledygook, sh gobbledygook, package managers, configuration programs; a needle in a haystack.

If any version of Windows had caused me so much trouble, I would have cursed Mr. Gates and tossed it out the window long ago. What then makes me put up with Linux? I guess it's ideas: Linux is supposed to be stable, secure, nearly bug-free and the gate to a glorious world of free, powerful software developed and maintained by a worldwide community of idealists, whereas Windows has an uncanny knack for collecting ugly stereotypes.

I live in reality through my representations of it, and sometimes I doubt their accuracy.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Episodes of turmoil are a resource: looking back on one, one can see the things that led to it. In this case, quite simply, I had been on duty for two consecutive weeks while many others were away on vacation. And at home, everyone who was not down with flu was either giving Christmas concerts or rehearsing for them. Makes one tired, yes? And why-should-this-always-happen-to-me angry.
It's quite obvious why this happened to me: I neglected to shout things like "No! I can't manage!" at the right time.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Did it help, or didn't it? Yes and no. I was using a heart rate meter, and I could see my heart rate going up from slow run 140 to slow run plus rage 165 -- and down again in a few minutes; and up again when I relived the incident. It made me realize that something completely unrelated to me could get me raging mad in seconds. What use to hold on to such a state?
There's an Indian story about a disciple asking a sage how to let go of one's ego. (I guess it was ego, but it might just as well have been anger, there's not much difference). The sage stood holding a branch, and he replied: "I'll answer you as soon as this branch lets go of my hand."
Letting go is/is not/is/ (pull the petals from a daisy) an act of will. Perhaps this anger wants me to learn something and perhaps it will come back until I have learnt it. But it's a paralyzing state to be in.
This Christmas season somehow finds me angry. Positively choking on anger. So much for eudokias.
It did not help when I was running my training round and some biker yelled at me: 'Idiot!' Took me far too long to realize the poor man was introducing himself. L'esprit de l'escalier, the French call it.
Anyhow, running and that strange incident -- I have no clue what Mr Idiot could have been objecting to -- did much to help the anger evaporate somewhat.
Thay advises me to embrace my anger and to look deeply into the nature of my suffering. That's what I'm going to do.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

That's too bleak a view, of course. Knowledge and ability do come in somewhere.
I'm supposed to be an expert in, say, the serological diagnosis of Lyme disease. Now, this is very difficult, meaning that we cannot do it as well as we would like, and that we do not know as much about it as we would like to. In contrast, very good tests exist for the diagnosis of other diseases. They are part of my daily work too, but I don't consider myself an expert in those fields. So, what are the elements of expertise?
Inability and ignorance, that's what.
An association: in Mark Epstein's book _Thoughts without a Thinker_, the sense of self is viewed as originating from, built up around, holes in early emotional experience.
It seems we go to great lengths to hide our deficiencies.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Went to work anyhow, but took things easy.
Someone asked me to make a small adaptation to a computer program I had written a few years ago. What a joy that was, to let go of the little day-to-day silliness for once and do what I'm good at! Makes me wonder: isn't it high time for me to learn a proper profession?
I can't keep wondering what I will do when I grow up, can I?

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Three of our family of six are down with a virus, myself included. Long live impermanence!
Strange: a lot of publicity is given to the idea that somatic complaints can hide psychological problems, but the reverse: an infection masquerading at first as general dissatisfaction with life, is seldom mentioned.
I hope we have enough person-power left to keep things running until I'm well again -- in a few days.

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