2014-09-13

Fistful of Memes

Before I went home for the day, I took an hour's drive in Friday evening traffic to a nearby town where my parents reside. My mother had a stroke a few weeks ago, and I figured I might as well pay her a visit to get it out of the way before cleaning my flat latter in the evening. She asked me to sit beside her, patting the side of the bed where she lay, so I did. A food tube taped to her left nostril, her right side partially paralysed, water retention filling out the single large fold of fat where her neck used to be years ago, sagging breasts under floral shift, diaper visible between her legs lifted (left leg resting with sole of foot on bed). We chat about mundanities. Mostly that is where we get along - agreeing that a lot of things shouldn't matter. Her skin, I notice, is in excellent condition for her 63-some years of age. Interesting. This is where I came from, this is where I'll be some day, a lump on a bed in a semi-small town in the penis of Asia. I mention a red spider on the bed, and she complains - I tell her they are her friends, but she is afraid that it will crawl into her ear as she sleeps, so I pat the little creature (the spider, not my mother) and it leaps off the bed, running underneath. Later, I pat my mother on the head, give her a hug, and join my father for a quick supper. Father has been continuing his work in Christian circles, focusing on the spiritual formation of the church in Malaysia, then the brick and mortar aspects of economic empowerment in society, but shying away from politically sensitive topics, for now. We discuss the health and psychology of mother, and the management of some projects she can no-longer maintain. Rearranged, somewhat:
dad: isn't it time you got a better car?
me: maybe I should get a better paying job first. not a lot of money these days.
dad: i know you lost some in trading. how much was it?
me: the portfolio was about 40k when I started, at the highest valuation, it was around 90k, and when i existed it was 7k. well that was more of a study in resilience - i was trading with money i could afford to lose.
dad: well ok, if you have money to burn.
me: i did. it's training in the ability to have money, and to just let it go. poof. i had to let myself put some in high-risk assets and allow it to just, go.
dad: and what is that point of that?
me: it's training in the ability to walk away from anything. walking away from family is too easy. in order to know that you can walk away from money, you need to have some first, then let it go. in the future i'll be able to say that I did that. it's good preparation for dealing with larger sums. i can afford to do it because i don't have to make anyone else happy but myself. i certainly don't care what you guys think on this account, and I don't have a family to feed, so it's a good time for training.
dad: when are you going to think about what other people want?
me: like you?
dad: like god, and what he wants you to do with your life.
me: have you asked him what he wants me to do with my life?
dad: yes.
me: and what was the answer?
dad: [silent smile]
me: well then, let's find out the hard way.

Then I drive for an hour to my flat. Six weeks into the new job, I've managed to pull a couple of 100-hour weeks, and piss off a bunch of people. But it's been a fairly positive week, in terms of vibes that people have been sending me, so I made a point to take a half day off to go home and clean my flat. I hadn't been home in 3-4 weeks, having opted to do laundry nearer to the office, and pretty much shuttling myself between the office and a room I rented nearby. The cleaning of the flat was on my to-do list since before I started this job.

I took this job to help a friend who seemed to have had trouble hiring programmers, over the years. I was tasked with the building of a new website, already half-designed. The business value of the site was graphic refreshment, but the CTO suggested rebuilding the entire application as the existing code-base was somewhat messy and unconventional. I started with database architecture, and the selection of libraries to be used. After a month the project manager was annoyed that I had exceeded my initial one month estimate, and hit only 10% of expected delivery in his view - two weeks ago, at a meeting where I was about to explain how to take the non-technical drawings and modify them to fit our chosen styling framework, I was told to abandon work on anything but direct implementation of the drawings, as drawn. So I abandoned prioritisation of the styling framework. Needless to say, thirty pages of non-cascading styles resulted in a lot of code... about 3400 lines of SASS, including a weak attempt to reuse certain styles. He's in better spirits these days, since I've spent the last week building visible things.

Having been admonished, with my job on the line, I went about rustling up month-old leads for other jobs. Strangely enough, I happened to interview with a VC who had been considering involvement with this company. Speaking of VCs, I've seen so much press from the latest-greatest local government startup accelerator, that I've been wondering if the press is making fun of its CEO more than helping, or if the press is really helping to publicise the accelerator. We exchanged notes without ever mentioning the name of the company where I work.

These days, I've spoken to yet other women I admire. A rationalist, at a pseudo-startup. A former mathematics student, at a consulting firm. There isn't much to say. I started out by suggesting five stories, and we've reached the magic number.

2014-09-11

2004

So about a decade ago, in 2004 I stopped being able to find things that were impossible to fit into a quantitative model. I figured it'd take about ten years for me to wrap my head around it, and I'd let it rest while catching up on commercial pursuit. Here we are. Now to figure out what comes next.

2014-09-10

Accidental Compliments

TOTD: is it better to be complimented for a quality that you lack, which you successfully play? Or is it better to be brutally honest?

Is it better to be a humane liar, or a practicising sociopath?

I wrap a pillow around my head and listen to the ringing of my nerves. In the dark, the environment of my training.

2014-09-07

Abstract and Concrete Humanity

Most people don't know the first thing about humanity - they only know about themselves and the people who are near them. Humanity in general? They wouldn't have a clue. Many don't even want to have things in common with many others. This is true even among those who work in the "humanities", where notions of subjectivity in perspective dominate the landscape.

But humanity in general is not about special points of view. If you talk about the things that all humans have in common, people may say that you are being abstract. But the fact of the matter is that the thoughts of the common man are abstract - the simpler forms of thought that emerge from our animal brains, in our rich (read: complex and unquantified) cultures, results in concepts which are highly localised.

The notion of a person is a vast abstraction, but to many people, their personhood is something that they view as a most concrete thing. If you actually take a person's mind apart it falls into an array of many sensations, either externally experienced, or internally imagined. But none of these sensations amounts in solitude to more than a mark on a medium. We are composed of scratches on paper, living paper, but paper none the less.