I'm always interested to learn about people's travel experiences. I'm particularly interested when I learn that someone's been someplace I especially like (most of Europe, for example!). I like hearing about their impressions -- their likes and dislikes -- because it helps me better appreciate those things that I like and dislike. I'm often surprised at who's gone where, because I don't imagine them as being the travelling type.
The wife are going to, among other places, Amsterdam for our honeymoon. So far almost everyone who I've told has responded in one of two ways:
* "You know prostitution is legal there!"
* "You know smoking pot is legal there!"
Yes, as a matter of fact, I did know both of these. I won't be partaking in either of those activities, thank you very much. Neither of them had anything to do with the decision to stop there on our honeymoon. Paying for sex seems rather contradictory for a honeymoon activity, and if I'm the kind of person who would smoke pot than travelling to Amsterdam just to do it legally seems rather anticlimactic.
I'm intrigued that no one says "The Anne Frank House is in Amsterdam!" or "The Van Gogh Museum is awesome!". Europe in general has a phenomenal history, and I'm eager to learn and experience Amsterdam's specific cultural history. I must be weird, because no one else mentions these items until I bring them up.
We're going to try to take a train to the Hague and possibly Delft. We hope to rent bikes and do a spot of cycling in the countryside (weather permitting!). We hope to enjoy the international cuisine. Hookers and drugs are not high on the list.
It's been ages since I've updated the content on my website in any significant way. I've been evaluating various blogging packages on and off for over a year, but haven't found anything that really tickled my fancy. With the introduction of the
phpBB2 backend, I'm going to try to "blog" a bit more regularly, and I invite comments and discussions! My wife has been running a b2 blog for some time, and she seems to have the process down pretty well -- if she can do it, so can I!
Yup, I got married! Carina and I tied the knot on May 24, 2003 at 2 PM at the Whetstone Park of Roses. It was a beautiful ceremony, a terrific reception, and a wonderful start for our life together. It was great to share the day with friends and family who made the trip in. Scott was my best man, and it was especially nice to catch up with him.
So far married life is just fine! Of course Carina and the twins have been living with me for the past five months, so there's very little change in our daily routine. The hardest part is remembering to say "wife" instead of "fiancee'" when I talk about Carina!
I commented the other day to Carina how glad I was that we decided to cohabitate prior to the wedding, as that afforded me the opportunity to "practice" full-time parenting and gave us all a chance to get used to living together independent of any added stress from expectations of "married life". I am genuinely glad that we did it this way, but ....
I asked myself yesterday if anything would have been significantly different had we waited to cohabitate until after the wedding. Would I have been just a little more patient with the kids, perhaps? Would I have been just a little less protective of "my stuff"? Certainly living together was an overall positive experience (for all of us, I think), but I wonder if -- just maybe -- a few bad habits started that might not have happened had we waited ... ?
Carina and I are off to our honeymoon on Friday. I can't wait to leave the country again, and I know Carina is eager to leave for her first trip abroad. The kids are jealous, obviously, but they'll have a terrific time with their grandmother. I believe all of our hotels have internet access, so we'll be checking in via email and blog posts to share our experiences... Certainly a lot different than the traditional honeymoons of yore where a postcard was the best you could do!
I've had skippy.net online for almost three years now. I'm averaging several hundred hits a week, mostly to my linux content. I've received a lot of feedback from folks about my SMB HOWTO, and it's been a wonderful experience to interact with so many people from all over the world! I've also received a bit of feedback from folks about the rest of my site.
But today, something unique happened. Jack from Manhattan called me to share his thoughts about something I wrote. At first I was extremely taken aback that a complete stranger would call me out of the blue to talk about my website! I know some folks are used to it - but not me!
After some reflection, though, I really began to admire Jack's forthrightness. I was also extremely flattered that someone would call to share their thoughts on my writing. And in a sense, it made me feel a little better about some of the insecurities I expressed in the piece; it's reassuring to know that others - thousands of miles away - can identify, and quite possibly feel similarly.
I wasn't here when Jack called, so he left a message. He also left me his phone number (which is how I deduced that he's in Manhattan). At this time, I don't think I'm going to return his call (no offense, Jack!); but the whole experience really got me thinking.
Last weekend I spoke with a very good friend of mine for the first time. I've known Chris for - lordy! - five years, and I've not once heard his voice. We met back in the heady days of Quake, and were teammates on one of the original clans. Over the years we developed a very sound friendship online - through email, IRC, and ICQ. The other day we were trying to coordinate a game of Starcraft and ran into some technical difficulties. Shortly thereafter, my telephone rang. Chris had called me to see what was going on.
Again, I was at first taken aback - we'd never spoken on the phone before, and it was extremely unexpected. It was also strange connecting a voice to a personality that I had known so well for the last five years in text only. It's not so much that I had an expectation as to what Chris would or wouldn't sound like; it was more that I had an expectation never to find out! The thought of voice communication with Chris was simply non-existent for me - we'd been good friends for five years without ever speaking, so why should I change that in any way?
Maybe it has more to do with the style of communication in text versus voice. My friendship with Chris - indeed any of my online friends - is peppered with URLs, abbreviations, running jokes, and other small talk. Such a conversation would be strange indeed over a telephone. A telephone conversation - to me - seems to require a little more direction, a sustained continuity. This same continuity is often lacking in text conversations, as the attention-deficit inducing affects of the internet are brought to bear; and few lines of conversation last more than a couple of comments each way.
And, as I've commented on in the past, text communications are so sterile. It's safe and neutral for strangers to send text to others strangers, because they're hidden behind the phosphour glow of the monitor, the ultimate poker face. That's one of the reasons why Jack's phone call really impressed me - he had the wherewithal to reach out and make a personal connection.
All too often the internet is a completely impersonal experience. I find myself drawn more and more to those sites that really evoke something within me, or that aren't afraid to share something personal. I try to encourage my visitors to think about things that we all too often take for granted. I also try to work through things I'm struggling with, in the hopes that my thoughts and conclusions can help others.
I've been thinking an awful lot lately about perspective. Specifically, I've been thinking about how my own perspective has changed over the years, and how it differs from other people's so much.
In my youth, I was quite fond of ethnic jokes. I knew somewhere deep down that they were disrespectful, but I always rationalized it by claiming that the jokes weren't singling out any one ethnic person - they were operating on cultural stereotypes, and as such not offensive directly to anyone particularly. The logic I employed is accurate, I think: ethnic jokes do operate on cultural stereotypes. But those stereotypes were created as reactions to individuals.
Part of the reason I enjoyed such derogatory humor was my own ignornace. I never bothered to understand what it would feel like to be persecuted. I'm a white middle-class male, so a lot of the pain and suffering I read about is extremely removed from my own life. I never had a close friend who was the recipient of a racial slur from a stranger. I never had a loved one hurt (that I knew of, anyway) in any way like that. So it was easy for me to rationalize my ethnic jokes by arguing that they were abstract, and not focused on individuals.
I recently told a joke to some friends (not ethnic, but far far worse). Half a year ago, I'd've found this joke mildly funny. Two years ago, I'd've laughed myself silly at this joke. But as I was telling it, I realized that I was absolutely appalled with myself for making the joke I did. The subject matter is not something to ever make light of. Again, my ignorance and distance from the realities I was making light of made the joke funny. Now, as I'm closer to the subject matter, I realize how remarkably distasteful and down right disturbing it is to make that joke. And no - I'm not going to repeat it online here.
I have a few friends who love to make jokes of disabled people. Again, there was a time when I found these same jokes extremely funny. When I consider the lives of disabled people, though, and the lives of their parents and loved ones, all sense of humor quickly dries up, and is replaced with a strong sense of respect and admiration. How can I make light of someone else's misfortune? Just because I was lucky enough to be born with functioning limbs and organs doesn't give me the license to poke fun at those who weren't. I've known parents who's children were physically and mentally challenged, and they're great people (both the parents and the kids!). I find myself smirking every now and again when a friend retells one of these jokes. I'd like to say that my reaction is because I recognize the joke is working on an abstract impersonal level ... but then I think of a friend who has a Down's Syndrome child, and all humor quickly drains away.
In a similar vein, I've been increasingly uneasy playing Tribes 2 online because a great majority of the gaming population consistently use the term "rape" to describe what they are going to do to the enemy players / base / etc. I get physically uncomfortable when I hear that word, because it has so much pain and suffering associated with it. I was at a party once where an inebriated girl was sexually assaulted. I thank the heavens that my friend went to check on her when he did, because he walked in just before the perpetrator had a chance to do too much. And I've learned about too many friends who've suffered similar (or worse!) situations. I don't understand how anyone can use the word "rape" casually.
Maybe I'm overly sensitive to these sorts of things. More than likely, those who bandy the term "rape" around online justify it in much the same way that I justified my ethnic jokes.
I try very hard to be respectful of other people. I try very hard not to express something patently offensive to strangers, or to people I don't know very well. I do this because I think I now have a sense of perspective on where other people are coming from. I'd like to attribute this to maturity, but maybe it's just age. A younger friend of a friend recently bad-mouthed the band Everclear as a bunch of jerks because they were condescending to him at a party. This friend of a friend was drinking under age at this party, and hanging out with a nationally touring band. Whether they were trying to be funny, or just road-weary, or just plain jerks - I'll never know. I don't much care for the band's music. But this friend of a friend has been heard making sweepingly general statements about the individuals in the band all because he was treated less than he would have liked to have been treated.
My immediate reaction was to grill this kid, trying to find out how he justified making such negative statements about the band members, when he himself is less than a stellar individual (he openly admits to cheating multiple times on his girlfriend). He was quick to try to claim that his behaviour was something completely different than that of the band, so he was somehow justified in both his own infidelity and his insulting comments about Everclear. It was inexcusable for the band to treat him poorly, but he's perfectly justified to treat them poorly in response.
My goal in all of that rambling was to try to illustrate that I don't think this friend of a friend has much perspective on things. In order to have perspective, I think you need to be able to critically evaluate your own life - where you are, where you've been, and how you got from one to the other. Many people I interact with don't seem to do this too much. I wonder why.
Popular American culture is at fault, to a degree. We're forcefed all kinds of positive love your neighbor and don't hate someone just because they're different messages as children. But then somewhere after adolesence these messages dry up. Popular media shifts to situation comedies involving neighbors trying to sleep with one another's spouses, or people trying to get away with obviously inappropriate behaviour. Maybe we're supposed to infer that these are examples of things we should avoid. But such an inference is hard to make when the resolution to the situation is glossed over quickly and painlessly, only to be repeated the following week with new props.
Some television programs try to tackle the issues seriously, though. Life Goes On had a Down's Syndrome main character. And yet almost everyone I know mocked (or mocks) Corky relentlessly. L.A. Law had Benny, the retarded law clerk. Again, most folks I know provid the character with very little respect. And then of course there's South Park, with their patently offensive Timmy. Sure, I know that South Park mocks everyone, but I think this perfectly highlights how acceptable it is for people to ridicule and villify those that are different than ourselves. It's easy to make fun of the disadvantaged, but that doesn't mean we should do it.
I'm not so full of myself to claim that I have perfect perspective on things. There is still a lot about me that I'd like to change. I'd like to change how I view certain things, and how I react in certain situations. But I don't think any of that can begin until I have a solid sense of perspective on myself: why do I want to change those behaviours? What good will it do? How will it improve me as a person? I think part of having a good perspective is having an open mind.
I'm approaching my twenty seventh birthday. I've been reflecting a lot about the things that have happened to me in that span of time. My grade school years were miserable - I was literally reviled and persecuted by nearly an entire class of mean-spirited kids - and it felt like I would never get past them. High school was rough, but I managed to find a few friends, and I've enjoyed their presence in my life since. I graduated from college, and have been gainfully employed ever since.
All in all, I consider my life a success. To quote my favorite film, I can die without feeling like the good Lord gypped me. I've seen the most wonderful place on earth, been to the other side of the planet, and was quoted on slashdot. I was expelled from high school for writing an underground newspaper (one of these days I'll get that online). I am a father. I am a Big Brother. I am in love.
I find that I gravitate toward people who are similarly introspective and appreciative of the things in their lives that truly enrich them. My friends all share that trait. My parents encouraged (and exemplified) a strong sense of respect for diversity. I've fallen away from those friends I used to have that demonstrated a closed mind.
I found out today that my job is being terminated at the end of June. It was a rather unique experience, as I've only been fired from one job, and that was when I was 13. No, technically I'm not being fired. But when you're proud of your professional accomplishments it's sure hard to remember that involuntary termination doesn't necessarily mean you're fired.
I'll find another job. I've been looking for one, anyway, so this isn't that big of a deal. Skimming through monster.com shows a couple of interesting openings. But as I scroll through the job listings, I realize that I want to do something that matters. Buzzwords and market hype don't make a job worthwhile. Satisfying supply-chain fundamentals to progressive e-business initiatives while visoneering customer-friendly deliverables doesn't mean squat to the world at large.
I guess I've been affected by the human services work that is performed around me every day. It gives me a good feeling to know that the network I've built and supported directly supports people who are providing quality mental health to very troubled young people. It makes me feel proud to know that I've been able - even indirectly - to improve the quality of life for our clients. I don't think I'll get that same satisfaction from the bulk of the open positions I see.
I think I've also been affected lately by the Free Software Foundation's philosophy. The GNU Project began because Richard Stallman wanted to make a better community environment in the fledgling computing world. I really appreciate that sentiment. I really want to work in an environment that fosters that.
I'm a big fan of market economies, and capitalism, for the most part. But I don't want to spend my days supporting an operation that aggressively sells widgets to people who really don't need them to begin with.
Who knows what experiences I'll have in the next twenty seven years...
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